Ukraine doesn't need Russia to take it down-Kiev is doing fine destroying itself, most recently with a new tax code that doubles taxes for private gas producers and promises to irreparably cripple new investment in the energy sector at a time when reform and outside investment were the country's only hope.
The standoff between the U.S. and the EU on one hand, and Russia on the other, intensified pretty quickly late last week. The U.S. quickly slapped heavier sanctions on Russia after its annexation of Crimea, leading to a mutual escalation of retaliatory measures. However, it appears that the West gained a bit of leverage at the moment, as the Russian economy has shown some cracks amid uncertainty over how bad this is going to get.
Certainly the folks at Gazprom are having a good snicker, reveling in the mockery that has been made of what should have been a landmark Ukraine-Spain gas deal that would have loosened Russia's gas grip on Kiev.
Umag, Croatia -- Seeded players Philipp Petzschner of Germany and Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine were ousted Tuesday in the first round of the Croatia Open.
Playing on the clay courts at ITC Stella Maris in Umag, Belgian Olivier Rochus upset Petzschner, seeded fifth, 6-2, 6-3. Italian Potito Starace eliminated Stakhovsky, seeded seventh, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-0.
In other opening-round action, Andreas Seppi of Italy defeated Argentine Maximo Gonzalez 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 and qualifier Simone Bolelli of Italy beat Croatian wild card Antonio Veic 7-6 (7-3), 6-3. Other winners were Croatian wild card Ivan Dodig, Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas, Czech Jan Hajek and Frenchman Stephane Robert.
Moscow -- Russia said it's considering a gas discount for Ukraine in exchange for being allowed to participate in Ukrainian energy projects.
"One of the questions we are definitely discussing is the possibility of a [gas] discount," Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said Saturday, the state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported.
"We have many interests, including in the energy sector," Sechin said, adding Russia could consider participating in "hydro-power generation and atomic industry in Ukraine," which relies heavily on nuclear energy. "We also have strategic interests."
Brussels -- Authorities in Europe have confirmed a dispute between Russia and Ukraine may again disrupt energy supplies to Europe at the turn of the new year.
The European Commission said Russia had said oil supplies could be cut off "in the coming days," the EUobserver reported Tuesday.
In Slovakia, Prime Minister Robert Fico told reporters Ukraine had requested higher fees for oil transit through the country, which triggered the latest round of concern, the EUobserver reported Tuesday.
The European Commission said it has a stockpile of oil for the 27-member states of the European Union that would last 122 days. Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic each have at least three months of emergency reserves, the EUobserver said.
Kiev, Ukraine -- Signs of unrest are growing in Ukraine, as the economy edges closer collapse, various observers said.
Protesters have camped out in Kiev, the nation's capital. One protester, Vasily Kirilyuk, predicted "a revolt," The New York Times reported Monday.
As anger rises, Kirilyuk held a sign that pointed the blame broadly.
The sign said: "Get rid of them all," the Times said.
About 200 truck drivers were parked outside the city, prepared to block roads in protest, demanding the government help them with their debts.
As presidential campaigning heats up, however, politicians were loath to push for much needed austerity measures, the Times said.
The International Monetary Fund has suspended a $16.4 billion loan program, because Ukraine hasn't done enough to trim its budget, the Times said.
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