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Talks With IMF To Lower Natural Gas Price, The New President in Ukraine Takes Charge

The government raised gas prices by nearly a quarter in October, allowing it to secure a new $3.9 billion stand-by aid agreement with the IMF.

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Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelens
Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelens. RFERL

Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called on the country’s government and the state energy firm Naftogaz Ukrainy to hold talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to lower the household price for natural gas from May 1.

The IMF, which is helping Ukraine with a multibillion-dollar loan program, has said it wants to see Ukraine set natural gas prices at their market level.

But Zelenskiy, who has yet to take office but won a landslide election victory on April 21, said in a statement on April 24 that he wants prices to be lower.

“Let’s not just in words, but in deeds show that we can take decisions in people’s interests,” the statement on the Zelenskiy team’s Facebook page said.

“For the past four months, gas prices in Europe have been decreasing and now the price of gas for the population in Ukraine is higher than the price of gas on the European market,” it said.

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“Let’s not just in words, but in deeds show that we can take decisions in people’s interests,” the statement on the Zelenskiy team’s Facebook page said. Pixabay

The statement warned that neighboring Russia could limit energy supplies to Ukraine from June 1, and that Moscow may take steps to halt gas transit through Ukraine altogether at the start of 2020 — a move it said would result in significant financial losses and gas supply risks.

“These challenges require us to take effective and fast action,” the statement said.

An IMF spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

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The IMF, which is helping Ukraine with a multibillion-dollar loan program, has said it wants to see Ukraine set natural gas prices at their market level. Pixabay

Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman said in March that he would urge Ukraine’s Finance Ministry and Naftogaz to start talks with the IMF to try to prevent any future rise in gas tariffs.

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The government raised gas prices by nearly a quarter in October, allowing it to secure a new $3.9 billion stand-by aid agreement with the IMF.

Gas prices were due to rise by 15 percent again from May 1. But earlier this week the government and Naftogaz agreed to a slight decrease in tariffs. (RFERL)

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New York Government Pushing to Enact Statewide Ban on Sale of Flavored E-Cigarettes

The council can issue emergency regulations that would go into effect as soon as they are voted on

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FILE - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, seen in this Jan. 2019 file photo, says he's directing state health officials to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, citing the risk of young people getting addicted to nicotine, Jan. 29, 2019. VOA

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing to enact a statewide ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes amid growing health concerns connected to vaping, especially among young people.

The Democrat announced Sunday that the state health commissioner would be making a recommendation this week to the state Public Health and Health Planning Council. The council can issue emergency regulations that would go into effect as soon as they are voted on and start being enforced in as soon as two weeks, following a short grace period for retailers, officials said.

In announcing the action, Cuomo sharply criticized the flavors that are for sale, like bubble gum and cotton candy.

“These are obviously targeted to young people and highly effective at targeting young people,” he said.

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing to enact a statewide ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes amid growing health concerns connected to vaping. Pixabay

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing to enact a statewide ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes amid growing health concerns connected to vaping, especially among young people.

The Democrat announced Sunday that the state health commissioner would be making a recommendation this week to the state Public Health and Health Planning Council. The council can issue emergency regulations that would go into effect as soon as they are voted on and start being enforced in as soon as two weeks, following a short grace period for retailers, officials said.

In announcing the action, Cuomo sharply criticized the flavors that are for sale, like bubble gum and cotton candy.

“These are obviously targeted to young people and highly effective at targeting young people,” he said.

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The biggest player in the industry, Juul Labs Inc., said it was reviewing the announcement, but agreed with the need for action.

The ban would not impact tobacco- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, but Cuomo said the Department of Health would continue evaluating and that could change.

Cuomo signed legislation earlier this year raising the statewide smoking age to 21, and earlier this month signed a mandate that requires state anti-tobacco campaigns to also include vaping.

Vaping is also under a federal spotlight , as health authorities look into hundreds of breathing illnesses reported in people who have used e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.

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The Democrat announced Sunday that the state health commissioner would be making a recommendation this week to the state Public Health and Health Planning Council. Pixabay

In his first public comments on vaping, President Donald Trump proposed a similar federal ban last week.

The FDA has been able to ban vaping flavors since 2016, but hasn’t taken the step, with officials looking into whether flavors could help cigarette smokers to quit.

The global market is estimated to have a value of as much as $11 billion. The industry has spent a lot of money in states around the country to lobby against state-level flavored e-cigarette bans, in states including Hawaii, California, Maine and Connecticut.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earlier this month ordered that state’s health department to come out with emergency rules to prohibit flavored e-cigarette sales.

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Juul reiterated Sunday the agreeable stance it had taken following Trump’s proposal.

In an emailed statement, spokesman Austin Finan said, “We strongly agree with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavored products,” and “will fully comply with local laws and the final FDA policy when effective.” (VOA)