Writing about enjoyable experiences is a delicate balance for an FCO blogger. You don't want to give the impression that you spend your time in distant countries living it up. Conversely, if your host country has outstanding natural features, it seems fair and proper to tell the world about them (see eg my earlier report on the beaches of Kyiv). For example, I cannot but mention that as I write this blog before going to work on a Monday morning, two nifty, tufty-eared red squirrels have appeared in the bare branches of the oak tree outside my window, chasing around as if they know that 1 March is officially, despite the thick snow on the ground in Kyiv, the first day of spring.

So I'd like to put on record that it is possible to enjoy fine ski-ing in Ukraine. At the resort of Bukovel, in the Carpathians, a couple of dozen lifts connect up in a loop giving access to a selection of blue, red and black runs. The mountains aren't that high - they go up to 1372m - but there's plenty of snow and the runs offer a range of challenges. The lifts are modern, and you can hire boots and skis on the spot. I saw cars in the town centre with Russian, Austrian and Moldovan registrations; or you can fly direct to Ivano-Frankivsk. From Kyiv I took a 12-hour overnight train journey each way (who says the age of romantic travel is dead?). The train leaves Kyiv at 7.15 p.m. on a Friday night, allowing you to get in a reasonable day's work before you set off. And the return journey arrives in Kyiv at 0620 on the Monday morning, giving you plenty of time to get back to your desk before the week begins. All in all it makes a fine weekend break, and I'm deeply grateful to the people with whom I travelled who fixed up the trip.

Incidentally, that earlier "Kyiv beaches" blog, from June 2009, noted the views of representatives of the International Financial Institutions that it would be much easier to help Ukraine if the financial arrangements in the gas sector were more transparent. That remains the case. I'm pleased to see that one of the first acts by President Yanukovych, on 26 February, was to sign an anti-corruption decree. Improving the transparency of financial arrangements in the energy sector will be one of the best ways to fight corruption, as well as making it easier for the IFIs, the European Union and others to provide the financial resources Ukraine needs to modernise its gas transit system and other key parts of the economy.

Leigh Turner
British Ambassador to Ukraine

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Photo:  Downtown Bukovel

Ukrayinska Dumka


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