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Ukraine Detains Ex-Riot Police in Protest Shootings, Russia Nullifies Kyiv’s Gas Discount

Also, eastern EU states still have the most dangerous roads, and export obstacles are keeping fish in Estonia.

by Ioana Caloianu, Barbara Frye, Marketa Horazna, Annabel Lau, and Erin Murphy 3 April 2014

1. Berkut officers held in shooting of Kyiv demonstrators


Twelve members of Ukraine’s Berkut riot police were detained 3 April on suspicion of shooting protesters during the anti-government protests in February, a spokesman for the country’s general prosecutor told Reuters


Among those held was the “head of a company in the Berkut riot police who allegedly handed out weapons for use against demonstrators,” the Associated Press reports.


Ukrainian riot police by the building of the cabinet of ministers in Kyiv in November. Photo by Ivan Bandura/Wikimedia Commons.


More than 100 people were killed in February on Institutska Street, a thoroughfare near the protest zone that is now informally known as the Avenue of Heaven’s Hundred, according to Reuters.


Shortly after the killings, former President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kyiv. His supporters say it was the then-opposition leaders, some of whom are now in government, who organized the shootings, the AP writes.


But acting Attorney General Oleh Makhnitsky said the gunmen were members of a unit within the Berkut that was “overseen by the presidential administration,” Reuters reports, citing Interfax Ukraine.


“Their task was, they explain now, but we do not fully believe them, to shoot at attacking protesters and allow the Berkut's main forces, who were unarmed and had only non-lethal weapons, to retreat along Institutska Street toward Bankova," Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Bahanets said, according to Interfax Ukraine.


A special commission was to hear the results 3 April of a preliminary investigation into the February killings, Reuters reports.


2. Ukraine loses Russian gas discount as Moscow scraps Black Sea fleet deal


Russia has hiked natural gas charges for Ukraine by backing out of the lease deal that allowed Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet to dock in the formerly Kyiv-controlled Crimean port of Sevastopol.


Moscow unilaterally invalidated the pact 2 April, arguing that its annexation of Crimea last month made it moot, RIA Novosti reports. Under the agreement Russia provided a discount of $100 per thousand cubic meters of gas, paid Ukraine an annual fee of $530 million to use the Sevastopol base, and forgave $100 million of Kyiv’s debt, all of which terms have now been canceled.


Sevastopol, home of the Black Sea fleet. Photo by Leszek Kozlowski/flickr.


On top of the $100 hike, Russian state-run energy giant Gazprom said it would raise the price of gas from $268.50 to $385.50 per thousand cubic meters to account for a $1.7 billion natural gas debt Ukraine owes Russia. However, Gazprom will also raise by 10 percent the fee it pays to Ukraine to ship gas across its territory, The Wall Street Journal reports.


The original, 20-year Sevastopol lease was signed in 1997. An agreement signed in 2010 by then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych extended the deal until 2042.


The law nullifying the lease was unanimously approved in Russia’s lower house of parliament on 31 March, according to Voice of Russia. President Vladimir Putin signed it on 2 April.


3. EU roads getting safer but eastern countries still see most deaths


Even as traffic fatalities drop across the European Union, Eastern European countries continue to have the bloc’s deadliest roads, with Romania’s leading the pack.


Poland, Luxembourg, Latvia, and Lithuania follow Romania as the EU’s most dangerous places to drive, according to a recent European Commission report, which found that across the bloc about 26,000 people were killed on the road in 2013, down 8 percent from 2012.


The EU’s safest roads are in the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Denmark, according to the study, which covered the period from 2010 to 2013. There were 52 traffic deaths per 1 million  EU inhabitants last year, compared to 62 three years earlier.


Romania saw 92 road fatalities per million in 2013, down from 117 in 2010.


Following a jump in the number of deaths on Romanian roads in the 2000s due to decaying infrastructure and a doubling in the number of vehicles, the figures have decreased in recent years.


Romania and Croatia registered the highest percentage of victims on urban roads, which the report said tend to be less severe than accidents on highways and rural roads.


Slovakia saw the greatest improvement in road safety with a 24 percent decrease in fatalities from 2012 to 2013, moving it ahead of Malta and Finland in the rankings. Lithuania witnessed a 15 percent drop last year, the second best improvement, but it remained among the most dangerous countries overall.


4. Russian block, Ukraine turmoil hit Estonian fishing industry


Surpluses of Baltic sprat and herring are piling up in Estonian warehouses due to political instability in Ukraine and a trade interruption with Russia and its Customs Union partners.


The mild winter and early spring have allowed Estonian fisherman to quickly fill quotas, according to Estonian Public Broadcasting, but they have fewer places to send their stocks.


The turmoil in Ukraine resulted in some closed highways and roadblocks, and drivers have been unwilling to haul fish there, The Baltic Course writes, quoting Mart Undrest, chairman of the Union of Estonian Fishermen.


Undrest said the union’s board is trying to restrict fishing and looking to rent new storage space until the situation in Ukraine improves.


Additionally, Russia imposed a ban on imports from eight Estonian fishing companies in December over labeling that had incomplete information on production and storage. The ban, which also stopped exports to Customs Union members Belarus and Kazakhstan, was lifted for two of the companies in January, according to The Baltic Course.


Fish accounts for nearly 25 percent of Estonia's food exports, The Baltic Course writes. Fishing and aquaculture were worth about 27 million euros in 2013, according to the country’s statistical office.


5. Albanian mine idle for 23 years to reopen under new owner


A defunct copper, gold, silver, and cobalt mine in northern Albania will be reopened under plans by a Canadian-Albanian firm. The Perlat mine was worked from 1979 until the collapse of communism in 1991 and was closed down six years later, according to a press release from Arian Resources, which completed its acquisition of Perlat on 1 April.


Exploration from 1986 to 1992 found 4.7 million tons of likely reserves, although some of that was mined before production stopped in 1991, the company said. Production statistics from the time are unavailable.


Arian did not say how many workers the reopened plant would employ or when production would start.


Albania has been trying to revive its mining industry since the mid-2000s. The country was “a powerhouse of chromite production and an important exporter of copper, iron-nickel, bitumen, etc. and their processed byproducts” from the 1970s until 1990, according to Albania’s investment development agency. It says mining is the fastest-growing industry in the country, with output increasing by about 10 percent annually for the past five years. Foreign investors have been the biggest players in that turnaround.


Arian purchased the Perlat (sometimes written Perlati) mine from Balkan Resources Inc., another Canadian-Albanian venture, for $4 million and 5 million shares. Arian will pay another $2 million when the mine starts producing smelter-ready materials, plus a bonus of $3 million or 3 million shares if that happens by the end of 2018. The deal requires the new owner to spend $13.2 million on exploration over a three-year period.

Ioana Caloianu is a TOL editorial assistant. Barbara Frye is TOL's managing editor. Marketa Horazna and Annabel Lau are TOL editorial interns. Erin Murphy is an outreach and development officer at TOL. 
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