Saturday, April 30, 2005

Walesa Says He Averted Ukraine Clashes

GDANSK, Poland -- Former Polish President and Nobel peace prize winner Lech Walesa has claimed personal credit for averting a bloodbath during Ukraine's 'orange revolution' last year.

In a remarkable account of the behind-the-scenes tensions, Walesa says that he convinced Viktor Yanukovich, who had declared victory in rigged presidential elections, to revoke an order to the armed forces to crack down on tens of thousands of protesters in Kiev's main square.


Lech Walesa (l) with Viktor Yushchenko at Independence Square

At the time there were fears that violence could spark a civil war in Ukraine, where the mostly Russian-speaking east backed Yanukovich, while Kiev and the west of the country hosted huge demonstrations in support of his eventual usurper, Viktor Yushchenko.

'[Yanukovich] said an order had already been given to the security forces,' Walesa told The Observer yesterday. 'I told him: "You will lose. You have no chance to win. The only choice you have is between defeat with bloodshed and defeat without".'

Throughout the crisis, Yanukovich publicly insisted on a peaceful resolution, but events were on a knife-edge, with no one sure of the loyalty of the security forces.

As Moscow and the West backed different candidates, Ukraine was paralysed and thousands ensconced themselves in central Kiev, waving the orange flags of Yushchenko's party.

On 23 November, Yushchenko invited the former shipyard electrician - Poland's President from 1990 to 1995 - to mediate with Yanukovich. Walesa arrived as the Yushchenko camp was emboldened by the Ukrainian supreme court's decision to postpone recognition of the disputed election results.

Yushchenko's allies claimed that Russian special forces troops were already in Ukraine, waiting for the order to crush the protests. A Ukrainian Interior Ministry officer said 10,000 of his troops were on standby.

'If you don't withdraw your orders, you will lose after bloodshed, and perhaps eventually be hanged from a lamppost,' Walesa warned Yanukovich. 'I said: "Here, with these witnesses in this office, will you tell me that you will order those people on the streets to be beaten, or not?". After this talk of bloodshed, he said he would withdraw the command.'

Walesa won Yanukovich's promise to open negotiations with Yushchenko, 'for the sake of Ukraine'.

'So I went to the people in the square and told them: "In this situation, the real threat is provocation, so don't let yourselves be provoked'."

A member of the presidential press service could not confirm the details of Walesa's meeting with Yanukovich, but acknowledged the contribution he made to initiating the round-table talks that broke the deadlock.

Source: The Observer

Kuchma in Danger - Melnychenko

KIEV, Ukraine -- Former Ukrainian personal security officer Mykola Melnychenko said that ex-Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma might be assassinated.

"Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko urgently needs to pay special attention to the security of Leonid Kuchma and his accomplices, who survived the death of [former interior minister] Yury Kravchenko," Melnychenko said in a statement circulated by Ukrainian media outlets.

"Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky, in collusion with some Ukrainian government officials, is trying to falsify the investigation into the murder of Georgy Gongadze. In exchange for this, Berezovsky is extorting $1 billion from Kuchma," Melnychenko said.

"The investigation into the criminal case is being falsified as regards the identification of the organizers of Gongadze's killing, and this is connected to the wishes of Kuchma's clan. According to my intelligence information, after Viktor Pinchuk [businessman and Kuchma's son-in-law] carries out all financial dealings, the racketeers will help Kuchma find a decent way out of the situation similar to Kravchenko's death," Melnychenko said.

Melnychenko also suggested that his murder is also being planned.

Source: Interfax

'Velvet Revolution' Crisis Between Ukraine and Belarus

ISTAMBUL, Turkey -- Hundreds of Belarusian opposition activists and youth-movement activists from Russia and Ukraine held a demonstration in downtown Minsk, Belarus on 26 April, the 19th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, in order to threaten Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. His government has been described as "the last true dictatorship in Europe". Riot police dispersed the demonstration and arrested some young protestors and two journalists.



The incident in Minsk, which caused an international crisis, brought Ukraine and Belarus "in the revolution list" face to face. While Ukraine wants Belarus to release those arrested immediately, the Russian opposition harshly criticized the Kremlin. Moscow has announced that it is closely watching the developments. Liberal circles describe the arrest of youth activists as "a warning to the Belarusian opposition, which wants a velvet revolution". Belarusian velvet revolutionists, who are organized abroad due to internal pressures, are also supported by Ukrainian youth.

Five Ukrainian, 14 Russian and 13 Belarusian youth activists, who were arrested on April 28, were sentenced to jail for 8 and 15 days. Starting a "hunger strike" at the prison, five Ukrainian demonstrators said that the police subjected them to violence. Belarusian youth activists, who were arrested, also started a strike.. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry requested a medical check-up in order to determine whether or not the young demonstrators had been subjected to violence or torture.

Belarusian officials accuse the youth activists, who organized a demonstration without permission, of making "provocations". Russian journalist Irina Halipova, who has been to Minsk, implied that Moscow might have backed the incident. She claimed that the youth group participating in the demonstrations in Belarus had returned to Moscow the same day and planned to gather in front of a court, where a case against an arrested Kremlin opponent businessman Mihail Hodorkovski; is taking place. However, this was prevented in "far abroad". Among the youth activists, who went to Belarus, there are members of the youth-movement activists of the Russian liberal party SPS and a youth organization called "Walking without Putin".

While it is wondered where the next Western-backed velvet revolution in the former Soviet republics will be, the US Secretary of State Rice had described Belarusian President Lukashenka's government as "the last true dictatorship in Europe". Lukashenka, who has been in office since 1994, rules with "an iron hand" in his country in order to prevent a "velvet revolution". Through a referendum, he has guaranteed his stay in office until 2012.

Source: Zaman Online

Ukraine Ranks 57th in E-Readiness Survey

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine ranked 57th in an annual survey of the world's Web-savviest nations by aggressively rolling out broadband and wireless Internet connections. As compared to the previous survey, Ukraine gained 3 places.

The United States and Switzerland boosted their rankings in the survey. The United States, which had slipped to sixth place in late 2003, recovered to rank No. 2 in late 2004, according to an annual study published on Wednesday by U.S. computer company International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM - news) and the intelligence unit of British magazine The Economist. Switzerland climbed to fourth place from No. 10.

Denmark remained No. 1 in taking advantage of the Internet, both connecting citizens securely over broadband and wireless networks as well as using its near ubiquitous hook-ups for Internet banking and government services such as tax returns.

Denmark has also established a government Web site that pulls together ministries and other organizations, in which citizens and companies can access public services.

This year's study put more emphasis on security: laws and technology that protect users against viruses and fraud, a factor that hurt many users.

"Today's top performers may well lag behind in one or two years if they don't embrace the latest Web innovations." Korsten said. "It's a tough, continuing battle out there," he added.

Countries such as Singapore (11th place), Austria (14) and Spain (23) fell several places, while Australia (10), New Zealand (16), Israel (20) and Japan (21) and most eastern European states climbed several spots.

Mexico (36) gained several positions after major government investment in Internet community centers and a rising number of Web cafes, reminiscent of initiatives in Sweden five years ago.

Of the 65 countries surveyed, Azerbaijan remained at the bottom of the list with just 2.72 points, up from 2.43, only slightly worse than Pakistan with 2.93 points.

Source: Computer Crime Research Center

Yushchenko Gets Audio Recording Incriminating His Predecessor

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has received audio recordings incriminating his predecessor, Leonid Kuchma. Ten CDs containing 700 hours of recorded conversations, have been handed over, via a presidential agent, by Alexander Goldfarb, chair of the Civil Liberties Foundation, set up by the Russian media tycoon Boris Berezovsky.

Speaking Tuesday to the Novosti-Ukraina news agency, Goldfarb said the handover had been preceded by lengthy negotiations, with foundation officials trying to arrange it in such a way as not to be accused of meddling with Ukrainian politics again. The possibility of such accusations being brought against the Foundation seemed a likely one as the "political and legal potential" of the incriminating materials was quite high.

The recordings were made in Leonid Kuchma's office from November 1999 through September 2000. Only half of the recorded conversations have been transcribed by now, Goldfarb said. He would not reveal the name of the agent to whom the recordings had been handed over, identifying him only as a high-ranking Ukrainian government official. He said it was up to the Ukrainian side to decide when and how the details should be made public.

It was Major Nikolai Melnichenko, of the government's bodyguard service, who had been recording Kuchma's conversations with senior government officials and influential politicians. The recordings got into the spotlight after a Ukrainian journalist, Georgy Gongadze, had gone missing on September 16, 2000.

His body was found in the woods outside the capital, Kyiv, a month-and-a-half later. Suspicions were then raised that President Kuchma might be involved in a conspiracy to kill the investigative journalist.

Source: RIA Novosti

Hard Times for Akhmetov and Pinchuk

KIEV, Ukraine -- The richest man in Ukraine Rinat Akhmetov left Ukraine. The second richest man, Victor Pinchuk seems to be destined to face the same fate since he’s selling his property in Ukraine.

Both are ex-oligarchs. Having saved their incomes, plants and steamers, TV channels and newspapers, they lost the most important thing. They have no impact on the authority. Not anymore.

The story began with the rumors that Akhmetov stayed too long in Moscow. Then this information was marginally proved in his football club.

The source has informed that FC “Shakhtar” employees couldn’t reach their boss by phone and know nothing about his whereabouts either. The official phones of FC “Shakhtar”, his press-service in particular, have been dead for two days already, says Donetsk web-site Ostriv.

Later on, Interfax-Ukraina managed to find out that Akhmetov was in Spain. At the same time Akhmetov’s company “System Capital Management” makes no comments saying Akhmetov can be in three countries at the same time, that’s of common practice.

It’s interesting that just before the disappearing of the most influential oligarch in Ukraine the stock-holders of the Central and Southern ore mining and processing enterprises has taken up surprisingly unexpected decision to channel the bulk of the income to dividend payments of more than 800 million UAH. At the same time the stock-holders of “Northern ore mining and processing enterprise” agreed to spent 95% of the year income on dividend payments.

Not bad, huh? Probably Akhmetov decided to “cut the crop” preferring cash in the situation you plants might be taken away any moment.

Northern ore mining and processing enterprise is a part of “Ukrrudprom” which privatization was to be reviewed by the new authorities.

Though FC “Shakhtar” press service claims Akhmetov is on a business trip there are enough reasons to think this leave will be prolonged. He is not likely to play the role of Ukrainian Khordokovsky.

Obviously the law machinery is ready to pose Akhmetov a number of certain questions. He was alarmed by the detention of his closest companion-in-arm Borys Kolesnykov. It’s a fact of common knowledge that Akhmetov’s brother together with FC Shakhtar” ex-head Zhygan Taktashev and Akhmetov’s assistant Serhiy Kyi are figurants in Kolesnikovgate.

But it wasn’t just Akhmetov who had problems. His nearest competitor in The Richest Top 10, Victor Pinchuk, is going on to get bad news, just one after another.

On a Wednesday Government meeting Yulia Tymoshenko cancelled the decisions that led to state property loss in the insurance company Oranta.

The thing is that as a result of additional emissions Victor Pinchuk got the control over the company. Now this resolution is cancelled. It’s a trifle for Pinchuk, but an annoying one. But together with the land taken away in Koncha Zaspa and in the Crimea, with “the stolen dream” of the museum of contemporary arts, with the problems with the land in Boryspil, it is a tendency.

Russian Vedomosti writes that the part of Pinchuk’s empire is on sale now. Some Russian businessmen were addressed with the offers.

The stock-holder of a Russian metallurgic company told he was offered to buy “Ineripe” for $1 billion. “It was more expensive before”, - said the businessman in surprise.

According to the source close to “Interipe” Pinchuk offered to buy his metallurgic business to a number of Russian companies.

These companies refuse to comment on that but some employees confess they were offered Pinchuk’s property.

The employee of a large investment bank told Vedomosti that he was addressed by the clients who got offers from Pinchuk adding that the price was 3 times less that the one estimated by the bank taking into account the risk factor.

Russian investment banker who works with Ukrainian companies says that Pinchuk’s metallurgy business is $1.5 billion worth. One of Russian businessmen estimated it $2.5-3 billion.

”Interipe” makes no comments on the situation. They just told Pinchuk read Vedomosti but he was reluctant to talk about that.

According to the periodical, Pinchuk seems to be going to sell not just his metallurgy business. Two sources close to Pinchuk told he was going to sell Ukrsotsbank and Alfa-Bank.

By the way, mass media wrote that Kyiv department of Alfa-Bank was looking for the clients to buy Nikopol ferroalloy plant.

Well, Akhmetov and Pinchuk are really in trouble. Everything “saved, working hard” is going away. They do not want to be ordinary citizens, even the richest ones. You cant’ privatize anything for nothing, for instance a 144 hectare Japanese garden.

Political scientist Kostyantyn Bondarenko tried to ennoble Pinchuk. First he assumed Pinchuk as well as Akhmetov would leave the country, having sold their actives. Then he added: “The authorities want them to repeat Gusinsky’s and Berezovsky’s fate”.

I wonder who will play Berezovsky’s role?

Source: Ukrayinska Pravda

Gorbachev: Russia won't follow Ukraine

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia won't follow Ukraine's democratic "Orange Revolution," former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said Friday.

Gorbachev told an audience at Moscow Lomonosov State University that he believed the scenario of the Ukrainian revolution from November to January was unlikely to be replayed in Russia, according to an Interfax news agency report.

"I believe the chances for such processes to develop are little," Gorbachev said. But then he added, "I think something of the sort might happen here as well. This is possible if the government continues to act like this. The country has been stirred up, and protests have broken out in different regions."

The ex-Soviet leader criticized the Russian parliament and the law replacing social benefits with monetary compensation. "There is no opposition in the parliament today, and United Russia (the faction of President Vladimir Putin) has thrown aside all restraint. Proposals to have medical and educational services be made (only) half-paid (by the state) have been considered, which is against the constitution," he said.

"The people's patience can't be endless, though the Russian people are super-patient," Gorbachev said.

Source: UPI

Yushchenko Has Fired 18,000 Officials To-Date

KIEV, Ukraine -- In an interview with the newspaper "Ukraina Moloda" (Young Ukraine), president of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko reported that 18 thousand officials were removed since the new administration has come to power.

According to Yushchenko he is glad that almost all new appointments are the right candidates. He does not exclude the possibility of mistakes. "When the question is about such large employees’ rotation, one cannot do without mistakes. I would not make a tragedy out of it," said Yushchenko.

In general, according to the president, the question of appointments is almost closed. "New appointments remain to be made in the spheres of education and medicine, in Ministry of Internal Affairs. Not all the chiefs of regional departments of the Security Service of Ukraine have been replaced," said Yushchenko.

Source: ForUm

Corruption "A Function of the State" in Kuchma's Ukraine, Expert Says

WASHINGTON, DC -- During its short term in office, the new pro-reform government of Ukraine has moved quickly and aggressively to root out widespread corruption in the country, according to an expert on Ukraine. Roman Kupchinsky, Coordinator of Corruption Studies for RFE/RL, told a recent briefing audience that the large number of high-level cases reveals the staggering range and scale of corruption in Ukraine. The criminal prosecutions demonstrate, Kupchinsky said, that "corruption was the function of the state."

When discussing corruption during his campaign for the presidency last winter, current Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko vowed to "lock up the criminals." Kupchinsky noted, however, that the government's ability to meet this promise may be more difficult than anticipated, because many of the criminal activities "may be linked to leadership in Russia." Since Russia does not extradite its citizens for trial, Ukrainian prosecutors and courts may ultimately be stymied. Nonetheless, Kupchinsky thinks that the prosecutions will proceed. "The Ukrainian street wants blood," he said, "It believes that the root of corruption was [former President Leonid] Kuchma," and other officials within his regime.

"Everything exploded with the departure of the Kuchma regime," Kupchinsky said, when reviewing the criminal cases brought within the last two months. One example noted by Kupchinsky was the Georgiy Gongadze case, which has galvanized the opposition to Kuchma since the young journalist's decapitated body was found in fall 2000. The case to prosecute his kidnappers and murderers in part revolves around secret recordings made by Mykola Melnychenko, the former head of former President Kuchma's bodyguard detail. Kupchinsky said that, "if accepted as genuine by the Ukrainian courts, these recordings will open a huge Pandora's box" that could provide evidence to charge Kuchma, at the least, "as an accessory to kidnapping in the Gongadze murder." The case has already seen the death of a key witness, former Minister of Interior Yuriy Kravchenko, of an apparent suicide on the day he was to be interrogated by the prosecutor in the Gongadze case, Kupchinsky said.

Other cases brought by Ukraine's Prosecutor General include the arrest on extortion charges of Boris Kolesnikov, the head of the county council of the Donetsk region and a political ally of the defeated presidential candidate former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Kupchinsky said that Kolesnikov's arrest "might destroy the chances of the [new] opposition in the 2006 parliamentary elections," which Kolesnikov had hoped to lead and would have far-reaching effects for other corruption cases. The investigation into the poisoning of then-candidate Yushchenko now includes named suspects who belong to the Russian Club in Kyiv and have links to neighboring Russia, Kupchinsky said.

Prosecutors have also announced indictments in cases of large scale money laundering, fraud, the misappropriation of international loans and government subsidies, as well as illegal privatizations conducted without public tenders or rigged tenders during the Kuchma era. Kupchinsky said there will also be "blowback" from the investigation of various "[natural] gas schemes" that made available over $600 million dollars for influence peddling and illegal campaign slush funds.

The proliferation of criminal cases opened by Ukraine's Prosecutor General has convinced Kupchinsky that his own earlier research on the extent of corruption in Ukraine "far underestimated the reality of what is being discovered today." Even so, he believes enough progress will be made rooting out corruption that the critical 2006 parliamentary elections will be difficult to undermine or "falsify." The "overall climate in Ukraine is changing for the better," Kupchinsky said.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Friday, April 29, 2005

Slight Drop For Yushchenko In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Fewer adults in Ukraine are satisfied with Viktor Yushchenko, according to the Ukrainian Barometer released by Interfax. 58.5 per cent of respondents say they have confidence in their president, a 4.4 per cent drop since February.

Yushchenko won last December’s presidential election in Ukraine, with 51.99 per cent of the vote in an unprecedented third round against Viktor Yanukovych.


Yuschenko (l), Lytvyn (c) and Tymoshenko (r)

On Apr. 25, the president’s office issued a decree, establishing Ukraine’s goal of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). The document refers to NATO and the EU as the "guarantors of Europe’s security and stability."

The confidence rating is lower for Supreme Council speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn at 52.5 per cent, and prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko at 50.5 per cent.

In March, Yushchenko called for the formation of a single electoral coalition to contest next year’s parliamentary election. The group would conceivably include the president’s Our Ukraine (NU) party, the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc and the People’s Party of Lytvyn.

Polling Data

Do you have confidence in the following politicians? (Positive responses only)

President Viktor Yushchenko
Apr. 2005 - 58.5%
Feb. 2005 - 62.9%

Supreme Council Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn
Apr. 2005 - 52.5%
Feb. 2005 - 58.3%

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko
Apr. 2005 - 50.5%
Feb. 2005 - 50.4%

Methodology: Interviews to 1,798 Ukrainian adults, conducted from Mar. 30 to Apr. 8, 2005. No margin of error was provided.

Source: Ukrainian Barometer/Interfax

Minister of Internal Affairs Could Question Kuchma

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Minister of Internal Affairs (MIA) Yuriy Lutsenko does not exclude the possibility that ex-President Leonid Kuchma will be questioned by the police.

In a comment to journalists, Lutsenko said: "We are worried about the transfer of land property and a huge facility in downtown Kyiv to Kuchma's charity fund."

"Therefore it could happen that Kuchma himself will be invited for questioning. He, according to some documents, personally took part in the formation of the fund and the transfer of the land ownership."

Kuchma's "Ukraine" fund is operating in a former MIA building on Shovkovychna St. in Kyiv, two blocks away from the Parliament and the Secretariat of the President.

Lutsenko added that the MIA continues to investigate the transfer of money to the fund from various sources. According to the minister, even the fact that Kuchma returned the money that FC Dynamo Kyiv donated does not void the illegality of this money transfer being done without informing the club's stockholders.

Ukrayinska Pravda requested a comment in Kuchma's office at the "Ukraine" fund, but was informed that the ex-President is absent until the end of the day.

Source: Ukrayinska Pravda

Cracks in Decaying Shell of Chernobyl Reactor Threaten Second Disaster

MOSCOW, Russia -- A leading Russian scientist has claimed that the sarcophagus entombing Chernobyl's broken nuclear reactor is dangerously degraded and he warned that its collapse could cause a catastrophe on the same scale as the original accident almost 20 years ago.

Professor Alexei Yablokov, President of the Centre for Russian Environmental Policy, said the concrete and metal sarcophagus was riven with cracks, already leaking radiation and at risk of collapse unless repairs were undertaken and work on a replacement urgently begun.

"If it collapses, there will be no explosion, as this is not a bomb, but a pillar of dust containing irradiated particles will shoot 1.5 kilometres into the air and will be spread by the wind." Depending on how the wind is blowing, Russia or Belarus would bear the brunt of such a dust cloud. Ukraine, where Chernobyl is located, would also be affected.

The sarcophagus is designed to keep a lid on what is left of the nuclear reactor that exploded with such dire consequences during an unauthorised test in April 1986 and is supposed to stop the mass of unspent nuclear fuel that lies beneath from entering the atmosphere.

It is estimated that only between 3 and 15 per cent of that fuel actually escaped during the explosion meaning that most of it is still trapped inside. Dr Yablokov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a one-time adviser to former president Boris Yeltsin, said nuclear reactions were actually taking place - spontaneously - inside the sarcophagus as rain and snow fell on the unspent fuel through cracks in the decaying shell.

He said experts had "seen a luminescence characteristic of chain reactions inside the giant building". adding: "Who could predict what might happen if hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete, which was hastily poured 19 years ago, tumbled down on the ruined nuclear reactor?"

His gloomy assessment corroborates that of the Ukrainian officials who manage the decommissioned power plant.

Earlier this year Julia Marusych, the head of information at Chernobyl, admitted on Russian TV that the sarcophagus was in appalling condition: "The construction is unstable, unsafe, and does not meet any safety requirements."

The sarcophagus was hastily thrown together after the explosion as a desperate attempt to contain the world's worst nuclear accident. Many of the workers who toiled on it have since died of cancer and the sarcophagus itself began showing signs of serious stress in the early 1990s.

Built to last 50 years,experts were forced to reduce its recommended lifespan to just 20 years meaning a replacement is due in 2006.

Some repair work was carried out earlier this year but progress is slow due to the fact that construction workers can only be in its vicinity for short periods because of radiation levels.

Sceptics claim that warnings about its deterioration are designed to persuade Western donors to stump up the $1bn bill. A donors' conference takes place in London on 12 May and the Ukrainian government hopes to raise $300m.

That task has been complicated, however, by recent revelations that private firms have embezzled some $185m of Chernobyl money, some of which was earmarked for a new shelter.

The first catastrophe

26 APRIL 1986:

1.23am: Reactor number four at Chernobyl nuclear power plant begins to fail. Explosion blows 1,000-ton cover off the reactor and 31 people die immediately.

5am: Fire caused by explosion is put out by firefighters who are not warned of radiation. Many later die.

Evening: Officials arrive at site and order evacuation of nearby town of Pripyat.

27 APRIL:

Disaster is hidden until workers at Forsmark nuclear plant in Sweden are found to have radioactive particles on clothes. Swedish search for the source of radioactivity leads to the USSR.

28 APRIL:

Soviet leadersadmit accident happened but full scale is not explained. First Soviet media reports: Chernobyl is fourth item in Moscow Radio's evening bulletin.

1 MAY:

Despite clouds of radiation overhead, authorities encourage locals to turn out for May Day parade in nearby Kiev.

JUNE-NOVEMBER:

Large sarcophagus made of steel and concrete is hastily constructed.

Source: The Guardian

Yushchenko at the Kennedy Library

BOSTON, MA -- Viktor Yushchenko's speech before a joint session of Congress and his award at the President John F. Kennedy Library surpassed honorary status. Each event was a symbolic, demonstrative act indicating that a country exploited for three hundred years is now recognized in its own right as a sovereign nation on the world stage.

No doubt the Kremlin and Russophiles bristled knowing that the United States welcomed someone from "Little Russia" in such a respectful, extraordinary manner. Ukraine has finally moved outside the political, economic and psychological shadow of its cold, dark, northern neighbor.



The Boston Globe quoted Ukrainian-American Stephanie Majkut who succinctly reflected, "I'm finally seeing freedom in Ukraine. We're finally going to get the Russians off our back. We won't be persecuted anymore."

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the former president, presented Yushchenko the Profile in Courage Award noting, "for those of us who are free, he has reminded us that we can never take our freedom for granted. And for people with no voice in their own government, President Yushchenko and the Ukrainian people have given them hope."

As the representative for the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of North and South America and delegate of His Eminence, Metropolitan Michael Javchak Champion, at the ceremony, I heard President Yushchenko say, "I could not calmly watch as the hopes of [Ukraine's] citizens were replaced by disillusion, as millions of people were forced to look for work abroad, as oligarchical clans stole the national wealth . . . with every cell of my body, I felt that millions of honest people were behind me, that we could win, that we would undoubtedly win."

He continued, "Ukrainians today are ready to relive the words of John F. Kennedy: 'Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.' We have the same desire to free Ukrainians from poverty and encourage justice and the rule of law. We want to make Ukraine one of the leaders of democracy."

"This is so historic," said Arnie Arnesen, a guest, long time friend and 1992 Democratic nominee for New Hampshire governor, now a nationally renowned radio and television commentator (www.ArnieArnesen.com).

Arnie, the most intellectually honest commentator in America, who takes Democrats to task equally with Republicans, was so moved by the event that she took an orange daisy from one of the many vases at the reception to dry and keep with the program booklet. I removed the orange ribbon from my lapel pinned with a trident to give to Arnie so that it would be kept with her flower.

"This is an amazing day," repeated my friend of Italian and Norwegian heritage. "Amazing, historic day." The following day Arnie had the UAOC as a guest on her radio program to discuss the ceremony and Ukraine's emerging geopolitical role in Europe and the world.

The Profile in Courage award shares the name of President Kennedy's 1957 book. The Kennedy Library presents the award to a select few who demonstrate rare courage and conscience in times of moral and political danger. Although it can be taken for granted that an event featuring a world leader receiving such an award is historic, this was different, especially when it comes on the eve of the recipient addressing a joint session of Congress.

During the reception, held in an enormous room with huge glass walls, it was difficult not to see the parallel between American and Ukrainian history at this point in time. Through the glass guests enjoyed a stunning view of both the harbor and the City of Boston. Several miles away among the streets where a large, modern city had grown patriots like Paul Revere furthered the cause of liberty. Now on this night many came to honor a man who risked his life to further freedom in Eastern Europe.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy observed at the ceremony that President Yushchenko's "story is the story of honor, decency, and the will of the people triumphing over fraud, deceit, and intimidation. Because of his great courage, the rule of law prevailed against the oppressive rule of the powerful over the powerless. At a critical moment in his nation's history, he took a strong and courageous stand for what he knew was right. He risked his life, and nearly lost it, in the ongoing struggle for democracy in Ukraine."

It has taken a long time, but Taras Shevchenko's hope as expressed in a poem has been met; Ukraine finally has its George Washington. Shevchenko is no doubt smiling from heaven. The next time President Yushchenko visits Shevchenko's grave he may wish to bring orange flowers.

Source: Brama

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ukraine or Turkey? European Opinions

KIEV, Ukraine -- According to a recent opinion-poll by TNS Sofres in the "big six" EU countries (Germany, UK, France, Italy, Spain and Poland), 55% support Ukraine's accession to the European Union. At 77%, Poles are the most eager to include Kiev in the EU "club", followed by 62% of Italians and 60% of Spaniards. In Germany, however, just 41% of the population backs Ukraine's accession bid. The study also reveals that those highly in favour of Turkey's EU membership had dropped considerably, ranging from 55% in Poland to 36% in Germany .



A closer look shows a growing divide between EU leaders and their citizens, with the former favouring Turkey and the latter Ukraine. On average, 58% of people in Europe say Kiev should be given the green light because it is natural part of Europe's geography, history and culture. 88% in Poland agreed with this statement, followed by 63% in France and 60% in Spain. UK citizens are less keen to consider Ukraine part of Europe's history and culture at just 44%, while Germans have a balanced opinion, with 50% agreeing and 39% disagreeing. The overall impression is that the President Yushchenko's "Orange Revolution" has boosted positive feelings to Kiev. However those against accession flag Ukraine's troubled economy, which would certainly complicate Europe's own woes. Others highlight the lack of rule of law in the Kiev political system.

As for Turkish membership, public opinion is really rather negative - in contrast to the political path taken by EU leaders. And this as Ankara limbers up to accession negotiation while EU leaders offer Kiev nothing more than a potential common market in the framework of the EU neighbour policy. The TNS research showed that the favourable share towards Turkey's membership is quite far from that one concerning Ukraine. In fact, except for Poland, the other members' outcomes are behind the 50% of the population, reaching only the 36% and the 37% in Germany and in France.

So what is changed since the last enlargement? Germany, the age-old motor of the European enlargement, seems to have lost its strength and the willingness to promote a new European project, with about 9 millions of jobless and widespread economic stagnation. Hence, it is unlikely that Schröder, with the 60% of the population against to the Turkish membership, will risk putting forward proposals aimed to a wider Kiev integration into the EU. Germany not only helped shoulder the burden of the Eastern enlargement but it is also paying for reunification. In corroboration of that, it is not surprising that some of the EU elite count on the negative outcome of the referendum for the constitution in France in order to block the Turkish access to EU.

In the short term, Ukraine's accession looks rather unlikely, bearing in mind that the Balkans region is the first priority on the EU agenda. In the meantime, Yushchenko must work on reinforcing both the rule of law and the economy while tying the "Kiev issue" to a current member such as Poland. Warsaw was a key partner during the "orange revolution", with major backing not only from the political elite but also from the entire population. The key question remains: "can Poland take the place of Germany in promoting a new enlargement?".

Source: Tiscali Europe

Rebellion in the Backyard Puts Paranoid Moscow on the Defensive

LONDON, England -- Russia's residual neighbourhood watch scheme in what was once the Soviet Union's tightly policed backyard took another knock last week when Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Moldova joined forces in a new "union of democratic states". Mikhail Saakashvili, the Georgian president who has been a thorn in Moscow's side since Tbilisi's 2003 "rose revolution", said the grouping would "not act as a counter-balance or a reproach to anyone". But then he offered a reproach anyway. Friendship based on independence and freedom, he said, was very different from belonging to "an alliance like the Warsaw Pact or an empire like the Soviet Union".



The timing was probably not coincidental. Along with a host of world leaders, the US president, George Bush, will be in Moscow on May 9 to mark the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat. Mr Bush, who backed Ukraine's pro-democracy "orange revolution" last year, will also visit Georgia, where the US launched a $50m military training programme at the weekend and where it has become Mr Saakashvili's principal ally.

It is no accident, either, that the US leader will visit Latvia which, like Lithuania and Estonia, escaped Moscow's clutches in the 1990s and joined Nato and the EU. They are now viewed as role models by several post-Soviet states.

Last week's fleeting Kremlin visit by the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, was meant to smooth the way for Mr Bush's meeting with President Vladimir Putin. But her comments on regional issues, coupled with the latest machinations of Moscow's unforgiving former satellites, exacerbated Russian geopolitical paranoia.

Denouncing the Belarus government of President Alexander Lukashenko as Europe's last dictatorship, Ms Rice said it was "time for a change". She hinted that forthcoming elections there could be the next target for the US "soft power" pro-democracy pressure tactics perfected in Serbia in 2000.

Unfortunately for Mr Putin, benighted Belarus is just about the only Russian neighbour that still follows an unequivocal pro-Moscow line. Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, told Ms Rice to mind her own business. Russia's once unchallenged influence in central Asia is also slipping. The US has established military bases in the area since September 11. And, as recent upheavals in Kyrgyzstan suggest, regime change can be catching.

In this atmosphere, the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States' summit in Moscow on May 8, which includes Ukraine and Georgia, could prove a schismatic, even terminal meeting. In a country historically fearful of encirclement and fragmentation, these accelerating neighbourhood trends are seen by many Russians as externally threatening and domestically destabilising.

In his Cold Peace: Russia's New Imperialism, Janusz Bugajski said that Moscow's neighbourhood botch stems from internal weakness as much as foreign policy bungling. Russia "gained an empire before it became a state or a coherent nation", he wrote. Contrary to its vital interests and despite reduced capabilities, Russia continued to brandish regional ambitions like "phantom limbs", Bugajski argued.

But while the result has been repeated humiliations, rising hardline nationalism, and falling confidence in an increasingly dictatorial Mr Putin, Russia's leader retains several trump cards. Mr Rice admitted the US needed a "strategic partnership" on nuclear proliferation, the Balkans and the Middle East, and terrorism.

And then there are Russia's vast energy resources, on which the west increasingly relies. As at their Bratislava tete-a-tete in February, Mr Bush can be expected to balance "freedom's cause" with pragmatic calculations when he meets Mr Putin. According to Anatol Lieven, an analyst, "Putin may be an uncomfortable partner but the west is unlikely to get a better one."

Washington hopes the democratic revolutions in the "post-Soviet sphere" will ultimately spread to Russia itself. But it knows such a transformation runs the risk of a disastrous, post-Putin relapse into unrestrained authoritarianism and an anti-western siege mentality.

Source: The Guardian

Kiev Continues To Re-define Relations With Russia

KIEV, Ukraine -- While Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko cancelled her visit to Russia this month, Defense Minister Anatoliy Grytsenko and National Security and Defense Council Secretary Petro Poroshenko did make it to Moscow. Despite the exchange of diplomatic pleasantries, Ukraine is attempting to re-negotiate the parameters of Russian-Ukrainian relations in seven areas.

Perceptions. First, exactly what are "anti-Russian" policies? Poroshenko was at pains in Moscow to persuade his hosts that Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration and the GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova) group are not "anti-Russian." Poroshenko explained, "Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration can in no way carry an anti-Russian component".


Viktor Yushchenko (l) and Vladimir Putin (r)

But Russia is unlikely to believe such explanations, as it views Ukraine's movement toward the EU and NATO as leading to a severe national-identity crisis and a threat to its security. Moscow fears that "Russian national sacred places" and "its national roots" in Ukraine will be "torn away".

The leaders of Russia and Ukraine base their respective statehoods on two clashing ideological views. As Russian President Vladimir Putin declared in his March 25, 2005, state-of-the-nation address, the disintegration of the multi-national Soviet Union was a "geopolitical catastrophe." Meanwhile, Ukraine's statehood, as outlined in its 1996 constitution, is a major beneficiary of the collapse of the USSR.

Russia is also insensitive to Ukraine's perspective on Soviet history. While a new Stalin cult is being revived in Russia, Ukraine blames Stalinism for the 1933 famine that led to millions of deaths. Russia's Ambassador to Ukraine, Viktor Chernomyrdin, suggested that perhaps Ukrainians should instead blame Georgia, Stalin's birthplace.

Belarus. Ukraine and Russia are increasingly at odds over U.S. and Western policy toward Belarus and over OSCE election-monitoring missions. In his April 19 state of the nation address, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenka described the post-Soviet democratic revolutions as "sheer banditry disguised as democracy." Visibly angered by this claim, Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk praised his country's non-violent protests and added Ukraine's concerns to those of the international community over human rights abuses in Belarus. During the Yushchenko-Bush White House press conference in early April, Belarus was mentioned as a country ripe for democratic revolution.

On April 20 U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with seven Belarusian oppositionists at the NATO summit in Vilnius, where she described Belarus as "the last dictatorship in Europe". Ukraine's views on Belarus thus resemble those of the United States and the EU. Russia, however, criticized Rice and backed Lukashenka's regime.

CIS Rivals. Ukraine offers CIS members an alternative to Russian leadership. It was not coincidental that on the heels of the NATO summit, Ukraine took the lead at the GUAM summit in Chisinau while Lukashenka joined Putin in Moscow.

"Lost" Ukraine. The Yushchenko-Tymoshenko team is not naive enough to believe that Russia will accept the "loss" of Ukraine, as Moscow interprets Yushchenko's presidential victory. The editor of Russia's Profil magazine pointed out, "For the Kremlin, the hohol [a derogatory name for Ukrainians] state has become, if not the biggest nightmare out there, then definitely an obsessive one".

Ukraine now has Russia on the defensive, and Moscow does not know how to respond to Kyiv's desire to join NATO. "The possibility of Ukraine eventually joining NATO is of great concern to Russia," observed Viktor Kremeniuk of the USA and Canada Institute, as "that would spell the end of Russian dominance in the post-Soviet sphere". According to Sergei Markov, one of the Russian advisors to Yushchenko's rival in the Ukrainian presidential race, Russia may now resort to underhanded techniques such as promoting anti-NATO sentiments (e.g. "This issue could bring Yushchenko down!") or resorting to KGB-style disinformation. Already Ukrainians suspect that the political "black lists" of officials allegedly about to be arrested are fakes drawn up by Russia.

Harboring Criminals. Fourth, as long as Russia is seen as a haven for indicted Ukrainian officials, Kyiv is less than willing to play by Russia's rules in the CIS. At the summit of CIS interior ministers, Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko and his delegation -- all decked out in orange ties -- refused to sign any documents.

The reason is Russia's official refusal to search for Ihor Bakay, former head of the Directorate on State Affairs, attached to the executive, who is wanted in Ukraine on multiple criminal charges and the theft of over a quarter of a million dollars. Chernomyrdin has confirmed that Bakay has Russian citizenship. As Ukraine does not recognize dual citizenship, Kuchma's promotion of Bakay to a senior position within the executive was a major breach of Ukrainian legislation.

Black Sea Fleet. Ukraine is applying the rule of law both domestically and in its relations with Russia. Tarasyuk is demanding that corrupt activities by the Black Sea Fleet end, that the Fleet abides by previous agreements, returns property, and allows Ukrainian officials access to all regions of Sevastopol. When Ukraine points to violations of agreements, Russia complains about "unfriendly acts" by Kyiv, Tarasyuk lamented. But, he warned, "agreements must be observed. This rule applies to the Russian side also".

Free Trade. What Russia portrays as a "free-trade zone" in the CIS Single Economic Space is, according to Kyiv, actually a customs union. Ukraine is interested in a free-trade zone but rules out joining any customs union other than the EU.

Sevastopol. Russia is returning to its 1990s rhetoric to support territorial claims on the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Again, the issue relates to whether Sevastopol was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR along with the Crimea in 1954.

Tarasyuk warned that any Russian citizen agitating for separatism in Ukraine or acting as political agents in the 2006 elections could be declared persona non grata. "Any official must keep within certain limits while visiting other countries," Tarasyuk said. He went on to remind Moscow "about the limits of hospitality and the norms of international law".

For this to happen, Moscow would have to first treat Ukraine as an independent state, which is unlikely to happen under Putin.

Source: Jamestown Foundation

NTN Asks For Broadcast License During Court Hearing

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian broadcast journalists from Ukraine's independently owned NTN television station today asked the Yushchenko administration to respect the rule of law and grant NTN its broadcast license during the station's April 28 court hearing. The court hearing will determine NTN TV's broadcast status, following the Yushchenko administration denying NTN its license despite both a Ukrainian arbitrage and appellate court decision ruling in the station's favor.


NTN Editor-in-Chief Nataliya Katerynchuk

"Ukrainian President Yushchenko's government has launched a politically motivated attack on NTN television by denying the station its broadcast rights, despite a licensing body and two Ukrainian courts mandating the approval," said Boris Iliyashenko, Managing Director and Editor, NTN TV Company. "It appears that the Yushchenko administration's displeasure with one of the owners has prompted the Ukrainian authorities to attempt a re- nationalization of NTN and to interfere in the station's licensing procedure."

NTN (owned in part by Eduard Prutnik, a former advisor to Viktor Yanukovych -- Yushchenko's opponent during the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election) applied for an increased broadcast license following the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election and was approved by two licensing organizations -- the State Committee on Communications and Information and the Ukrainian Council on Television and Radio. The Ukrainian Council on Television and Radio reversed its decision, however, after facing heavy-handed pressure from the Yushchenko administration, and refused to extend the station's broadcast license or renew the already existing license. Despite rulings in favor of NTN's licensing from a Ukrainian arbitrage and appellate court, mandating that the licensing bodies recognize NTN's existing broadcast license and approve an increased licensing application, the Ukrainian Council on Television and Radio continued to refuse and the Ukrainian attorney general initiated procedures against NTN for non-licensing, which would result in the station's re-nationalization.

"President Yushchenko's administration must not treat NTN differently from other Ukrainian television stations, which received licenses in the same process that NTN did," said Nataliya Katerynchuk, Editor-in-chief, NTN TV Company. "Preferential treatment of some television stations and politically motivated interference against others is contrary to President Yushchenko's statements during the 'orange revolution,' when he voiced his support for a free Ukrainian media."

Ukraine's privately owned NTN television station was founded in 2004. Reporters Without Borders "cautioned Ukraine's new authorities against any attempt to seek revenge against news media with ties to the old regime" following an April 2, 2005 NTN protest against the Yushchenko administration's actions. NTN's April 28 court hearing will determine whether the Ukrainian attorney general must recognize the station's broadcast license.

Source: NTN TV

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

GUUAM: Ukraine Aspires To Leadership Role In Revitalized Organization

KIEV, Ukraine -- Following Viktor Yushchenko's election late last year as Ukrainian president and Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin's espousal of an unequivocally pro-Western foreign policy orientation, many observers anticipated that the long-awaited summit of the GUUAM alignment in Chisinau on 22 April would herald a new era in that body's activities.

Speaking for the three other presidents of member states who attended the summit, Yushchenko redefined GUUAM's priorities, highlighting democratization and eventual membership of NATO and the EU. But at the same time, the discussions between participants revealed at least one major strategic disagreement.

GUUAM first evolved in 1997 as GUAM -- the brainchild of the then presidents of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine (Eduard Shevardnadze, Heidar Aliyev and Leonid Kuchma) -- on the basis of their shared pro-Western orientation, mistrust of Russia, and the desire to profit jointly from the export of at least part of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Georgia and Ukraine. Moldova's inclusion, formalized on the sidelines of a Council of Europe summit in Strasbourg in October 1997, resulted partly from concern over the anticipated impact of the revisions adopted in May 1997 to the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe; those amendments increased the amount of weaponry Russia is allowed to deploy in the Transcaucasus, Ukraine, and Moldova. Moldova was also interested in the TRACECA project to create a coordinated transport corridor from Central Asia via the Transcaucasus and Ukraine to Europe. In April 1999, Uzbekistan was formally accepted as a member of GUAM, but its participation has never been anything but half-hearted, and in June 2002 Tashkent "suspended" its membership until further notice.

Moscow's Fears

From the organization's inception, Moscow has harbored fears and suspicions that its primary rationale is to undermine the CIS and Russia's claim to a leading role within that body. Two ongoing trends have fueled those misgivings. The first is discussions of a possible military-security component for GUUAM in the shape of either a joint peacekeeping battalion or a security force to guard the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan export pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil. (The defense ministers of the GUUAM member states have met more regularly than have the presidents.)

The second is the keen interest, and later financial support, given to GUUAM by the United States, which in late 2000 allocated $45 million to the alliance's five members to be spent as they considered appropriate. Senior officials from GUUAM member states have consistently sought to allay Moscow's concerns. For example, speaking in May 2000 in Washington, Moldovan Ambassador to Washington Ceslav Ciobanu stressed that "our organization was never designed to be oriented against any other country."Yushchenko's election as Ukrainian president, and the close convergence of geopolitical interests between Ukraine and Georgia, engendered hopes that the organization could be revitalized, with Ukraine as the largest committed member playing a leading role.

While GUUAM's members made no secret of their desire for closer cooperation with Euro-Atlantic and European structures, the advantages of closer economic cooperation were touted as the locomotive for GUUAM's development. In August 2000, Yushchenko, then Ukrainian prime minister, proposed creating a GUUAM free-trade zone. That idea was endorsed by all five presidents at a meeting in September 2000 on the sidelines of the UN Millennium Summit in New York.

In June 2001, the five GUUAM presidents met in Yalta and adopted a GUUAM charter outlining the organization's basic goals and principles, which included economic cooperation, developing transport links, strengthening regional security, and cooperating in the fight against organized crime and international terrorism. But they did not sign Yushchenko's proposed agreement on establishing the free-trade zone, which Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov termed "premature." Karimov did not attend the next summit, in Yalta in July 2002, at which the other four countries gave the green light for the free-trade zone. By that juncture, Moldova too was signaling its disenchantment with GUUAM; President Voronin was quoted by Caucasus Press on 19 July as saying GUUAM's future prospects are unclear.

The planned free-trade zone and transport corridors figured on the agenda of the next summit, in July 2003. But only two of the five presidents attended -- Karimov stayed away in line with Uzbekistan's "suspended" membership, and the presidents of Azerbaijan and Moldova were absent due to illness. And only the Ukrainian parliament ratified the agreement on establishing the free-trade zone.

For much of 2004, GUUAM appeared to have lost momentum: a summit planned for Batumi in June was postponed indefinitely for reasons that were never made clear. But GUUAM leaders did agree in September 2004 to establish an interparliamentary assembly.

Revitalizing GUUAM?

Yushchenko's election as Ukrainian president, and the close convergence of geopolitical interests between Ukraine and Georgia, engendered hopes that the organization could be revitalized, with Ukraine as the largest committed member playing a leading role. On 18 April, Azerbaijani presidential-administration official Novruz Mamedov predicted that the summit would give GUUAM its "second wind," while Georgian National Security Council Secretary Gela Bezhuashvili told Caucasus Press the same day that member states have agreed to coordinate their efforts to secure membership of NATO and the EU.

Addressing this month's Chisinau GUUAM summit, President Yushchenko advocated transforming GUUAM into "a large-scale regional organization" committed to democracy, economic development, and regional security and with its own headquarters and secretariat. Although Yushchenko did not say so, the security dimension would serve to underscore the difference between GUUAM and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, the activities of which GUUAM might otherwise risk duplicating. "The idea is to create a coalition of states on the basis of GUUAM that would become the stronghold and guarantee of democratic reforms and stability in the Black Sea-Caspian region," Interfax quoted Yushchenko as saying -- a formulation that implies that Uzbekistan no longer figures in the equation.

Yushchenko also unveiled at the Chisinau summit a new seven-point initiative aimed at resolving the long-running Transdniester conflict. That step-by-step peace proposal would entail holding free and democratic elections in Transdniester under the aegis of the EU, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United States, and Russia, and the replacement of the Russian peacekeeping forces in Transdniester with international military and civilian observers. Yushchenko hinted that that model might subsequently be applied to other unresolved conflicts on the territory of GUUAM member states, meaning those in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh.

But Yushchenko's peace plan failed to win the support of other participants; Romanian President Traian Basescu objected that holding elections in Transdniester under the auspices of international organizations would serve to legitimize the existing separatist regime. At the same time, Basescu called for the swift withdrawal of all Russian troops from Transdniester and expanding the current five-sided format for mediating a solution to the conflict. Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin for his part said he was not informed in advance of Yushchenko's proposal, according to the "Neue Zuercher Zeitung" on 25 April.

The presence at the Chisinau summit of both Basescu and Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus served to highlight the possibility -- to which Yushchenko alluded -- that other states might apply to join GUUAM. In the past, Romania, Bulgaria, and Latvia have also been mentioned as potential new members.

But in the final analysis, the organization's potential and future influence, and hence its attractiveness to outsiders, might depend largely on its members' success in resolving long-running territorial conflicts that will otherwise continue to drain those countries' modest economic resources.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Ukraine Court Rules to Nationalize Russian Company’s Stake in Aluminium Giant

KIEV, Ukraine -- Kiev’s economic court ruled to return to state ownership a controlling stake in the Zaporozhye Aluminium Smelter which is owned by Russia’s SUAL group. Simultaneously, a Ukrainian state property fund official said that an 18-percent stake in Ukrtatnafta, which belongs to companies affiliated with Russia’s Tatneft Oil Company, will also be returned to state custody.

It has been little more than a month since the meeting between Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko and Russia’s top businessmen. As MosNews reported, Yushchenko promised Russian companies a favorable investment climate. But the recent actions by the Ukrainian authorities are in complete contradiction to the president’s statements, Russia’s Kommersant daily notes.



The conflict surrounding Zaporozhye Aluminium Smelter began after its privatization in February 2001 when 68.01 percent of the smelter’s shares were bought by Russia’s AvtoVAZ-Invest (AVI). Immediately after the auction AVI’s competitor, Ukrainian VTF KrAZ, went to court with a demand to revise the results of the auction. Ukraine’s Supreme Arbitration Court ruled that the deal was lawful back in 2001, but until recently a court order prohibited the new owners from investing in the plant’s modernization.

At the end of February the prosecutor’s office of Zaporozhye region ruled that the shareholders failed to fulfill the privatization conditions by not investing in the plant’s modernization. This was enough for the economic court to rule that the deal should be broken up and the controlling stake in Zaporozhye Aluminium Smelter should be returned to state custody. After that, the head of the Ukrainian state property fund said, the smelter will be re-sold to Ukrainian entrepreneurs.

The head of the state property fund also said that Ukraine plans to return to state custody the 18-percent stake in Ukrtatnafta which belongs to AmRuz and Sea Group, both affiliated with Tatneft. The nationalization of this stake will deprive the Russian oil company of control over Ukraine’s largest oil processing plant.

Kommersant reports that the next candidate for nationalization claims may be Russian Aluminium (RusAl) which owns a 30-percent stake in the Nikolaev Alumina Plant.

Source: Mosnews

Boullioun Announces Lease of Boeing 737-300 to Ukraine International

BELLEVUE, Washington -- Boullioun Aviation Services Inc., one of the world's premier aircraft operating lessors, today announced a medium-term lease with Ukraine International Airlines for a 1997-vintage Boeing 737-300 aircraft. This lease marks Boullioun's first transaction with Ukraine International.

Boullioun delivered the aircraft, equipped with CFM56-3C1 engines, on Friday. With its arrival, Ukraine International's fleet grows to nine modern Boeing 737 aircraft. Ukraine International provides passenger and cargo transportation from its base in Ukraine to 20 international destinations throughout Europe.



"Thanks to steady growth in passenger and cargo traffic, we continue with our ability to steadily add aircraft while maintaining our commitment to operating the most modern and highest quality fleet in the region," said Richard Creagh, Deputy President of Ukraine International. "We were fortunate that Boullioun Aviation's portfolio focus matched well with our needs, and we appreciate Boullioun's assistance in helping us add another modern Boeing 737 to our fleet."

"While much of the focus in today's market rests on the carriers in Asia, Eastern Europe also provides a positive area for growth for the airline industry, and a source of opportunity for aircraft lessors," said Boullioun President and CEO Robert J. Genise. "We're always pleased to play a part in the success of a trailblazing carrier such as Ukraine International, and we wish it continued success in its growing market."

Boullioun, founded in 1986 by aviation industry veteran E.H. "Tex" Boullioun, leases aircraft worldwide to airlines. Boullioun's portfolio contains 115 owned or managed aircraft with a total market value over US$3.7 billion. The company has 11 aircraft on firm order valued at nearly US$700 million, plus options. Since 1995, Boullioun has, on behalf of itself and third parties, placed 205 aircraft on lease with 88 airlines, concluded sale and leaseback and other back-to-back transactions involving 57 aircraft, and sold 74 aircraft to airlines and investors.

Boullioun is owned by WestLB AG of Dusseldorf, Germany. With assets of more than 267 billion Euros and AA-/Aa2 credit ratings from Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service, respectively, WestLB is one of the largest commercial banks operating on an international scale.

Source: PR Newswire

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Turchynov: Order to Crush the Orange Revolution Came with Kuchma’s Consent.

KIEV, Ukraine -- Following is an interview conducted by Ukrayinska Pravda with Alexander Turchynov, the head of Ukraine's intelligence security service - SBU (formerly known as the KGB).

What do you know about the facts cited in the famous New York Times article, that the SBU actually saved the revolution from the bloody finale when the Interior Ministry troops were raised in alarm and given an order to march on Kiev.

Certainly, everything written there is an exaggeration. Not everyone who portrayed their actions that way actually honestly performed their duties. On the other hand, efforts made by many honest officers to avoid bloodshed were crucial. They understood what would be the consequences if the first shot were fired, because we were also making serious preparations for resistance on our side …

Chervonenko claimed that opposition even had arms.

I don’t want to say that we were arming people, but there were military units ready to carry out orders issued by the Committee of National Salvation. I knew very few people who were ready to die for Kuchma, Medvedchuk or Pinchuk. On the other hand, there were a lot of patriots who were actually ready to sacrifice their lives to save democracy in Ukraine.

The Interior Ministry troops stopped only when the military people intervened: when the top brass of the Ukrainian army warned that they were ready to put themselves between the people in the square and the Interior Ministry troops moving on to Kyiv.

Only then did the former government and those who were trying to carry out its criminal orders stop.

Who, do you think gave the order to the commander of the Interior Ministry troops Popkov to march to Kyiv?

The order was given with Kuchma’s direct consent.

Who gave the order?

Popkov was acting under the Interior Ministry orders, so Mr. Bilokon must have been the one to give him orders.

What information do you have on whether there really were Russian Special Forces in Kyiv during the Revolution?

No, there were no Russian special forces. Crimean and Donetsk SWAT teams deployed at important positions and guarding, among other places, the Presidential Administration building were taken for Russian Special Forces.

Regarding the Melnychenko case, how do you, as the head of the Intelligence Service see the situation: his recordings were made with a stationary eavesdropping system in the President’s office left there from the Soviet times or he had a dictaphone or something else?

Analyzing the quality of the recordings our experts tend to agree that Melnychenko was recording using a device concealed in a remote control such as either TV or air conditioning control. Our experts come to this conclusion by analyzing the recordings by dynamics of volume change, by picking up such noise as a pencil rolling on the table, etc. That’s why we believe that kind of technology was most likely used.

It is clear that no one crawled under a sofa. If Melnychenko had to crawl under the sofa every time, that would have raised many questions among his colleagues. And such a sophisticated device as the one in the remote could have a duplicate, could be easily changed and charged again and again.

As far as the stationary devices go, which was reported were installed even during Soviet times, the secret service that “swept” all rooms in the Presidential Administration building after the incident didn’t find anything. Maybe the Department of State Security found some devices but we have no information on this.

What is the guarantee in terms of technical protection that a story similar to Melnychenko’s won’t repeat again?

Offices of high-ranking officials are “swept” periodically. The Department of State Security, which is also entrusted with protection of the President is responsible for this. The SBU is responsible for protection of information from intelligent services of other countries that might be interested in what is discussed on the Bankova Street.

The problem is that these days there are a lot of technical devices that can be used by foreign countries to collect information without crossing the state borders. It is the so-called radio-intelligence.

Have you found anything of the kind?

They are hard to find, because we are talking about powerful devices, satellites. Today the international intelligence community has made a significant progress. Now to collect information one does not need an agent in the high official’s office. To match the challenges of high technology we must have adequate financing, scientific potential. Even with our limited financing, compared to other countries, I believe we have a high level of technical protection of information.

Is SBU listening on other countries?

We are working within the law, which regulates the SBU’s activity.

Last week the speaker of the parliament Volodymyr Lytvyn claimed again, that he is still under surveillance and that somebody is still eavesdropping on him.

As soon as I heard about it on Friday I sent Mr. Lytvyn a letter asking him to pass the available information on to us, so that we could open a criminal case and conduct an investigation. That kind of surveillance is illegal because nobody can authorize it, because any kind of eavesdropping on any Member of Parliament has to be authorized by the resolution of the Supreme Rada.

Second, I asked the speaker of the Supreme Rada, who had made these allegations before, to strengthen his protection detail, to include the SBU specialists who were ready to neutralize any kind of surveillance and any technical devices. I am waiting for his answer, because without his consent I cannot dispatch any SBU officers to him.

Mr. Melnychenko says he sent you a letter with the description of possible provocations that Mr. Berezovsky is planning. You said you would check the facts in the letter. So, what is your conclusion?

We are still working on those facts. As far as I know the prosecutor’s office has called some people from Berezovsky’s entourage as witnesses. It is very important to hear from Mykola Melnychenko himself; I would advise him to finally come to Ukraine, because it is only here where we can really protect his life. His testimony in particular would allow us to make progress in the case of Gongadze.

Why isn’t he coming? Why wasn’t he interviewed in America?

There are a lot of personal factors. I think there are certain circles that want Melnychenko silent. They are the ones who are interested in that case never solved. Attempts have been made to hinder the investigation. From time to time, statements appear in the press that Melnychenko needs to be arrested.

You are talking about Mr. Sivkovych’s statements?

Several people make such public statements, which make Melnychenko unwilling to come back. A conflict that broke up between him and Berezovsky is not conducive at all… I am convinced though, that nowhere on this planet his life could be protected better than in Ukraine.

Do you think Berezovsky is planning some kind of escapade or he really wants to help?

I’ve never in my life had an opportunity to talk to him. I can only guess by reading the press. He declares that he wants to help solve this case but it is hard to evaluate all the scope of his intentions.

You were the person who visited the scene of Kravchenko’s suicide. Recently information has surfaced that it may not have been suicide.

Why?

They say the position of the body was wrong…

Only people who didn’t visit the scene could make statements like that. There are facts that that make us positive it was suicide: among them the place where Kravchenko’s body was found, absence of signs of violence. He was quite a strong man and it would have been very hard to overpower him and make him play along to stage this crime.

But is it possible for anyone to shoot himself in the head twice? They say it is impossible because of the pain shock.

Why impossible? When you are experiencing terrible pain, even if you are not trying to end your life you have a desire to stop this pain. That’s what Kravchenko did. Besides, there are cases when people shot themselves three times with a rifle and the wounds were quite serious.

Bullets that were extracted agree with the position of the body. Bloodstains confirm that the body was not moved. There is no evidence to claim that someone held him or that he was forced in any other way.

His daughter was walking outside and saw no other movements except when Mr. Kravchenko went to that shack. His house, like others in this elite neighborhood were under protection of special guards. No other movements of people were noticed – and it was early enough for everybody to see.

Moreover, imagine if you wanted to stage a suicide, do you want to make it that complicated? When someone stages a suicide they do not plan such things as the first shot that goes through soft tissues and doesn’t touch the brain. A shot like that would have caused an unforeseen reaction of the victim, great amount of blood and a danger for the likely killer. In that case the first shot would have been made straight in the temple. They wouldn’t have made it so complicated that the press now cannot stop talking about it for two months.

Did examination prove that Kravchenko wrote his death note himself?

Yes it did.

Was everything that was in the note made public?

Everything that was on a piece of paper in his pocket was read out by the Interior Minister.

The Prosecutor General Piskun stressed on your role in the operation when he was commenting on the arrest of Gongadze’s killers. What was your role in that operation, and what kind of operation was it?

Somewhere in the middle of February after a conversation with Georgiy Gongadze’s wife the President summoned the Prosecutor General and me and ordered the SBU to get involved in the investigation. We intensified our inquiry, got involved in investigation and in field operations.

We had a clear goal – to uncover all participants in this crime and to arrest them. We already had enough information about Pukach and his subordinates’ involvement in this case. They were the ones who were last seen pushing Georgiy in the car and driving away.

As soon as one of them was arrested the other two made an attempt to get away but were quickly apprehended by the SBU. We put them under complete surveillance and found out where they all were. Had we put this question off, at least one of the suspects could have left the country. It was a standard field operation; it was carefully organized and carried out on time. There was no shooting, no special effects …

Those people were arrested in Kyiv?

Let’s say it was there.

Mr. Pukach was then in Ukraine?

According to the information that we possess he disappeared at the end of last year.

Is he at least alive right now?

We hope he is.

Last week they reported he was in Israel. Do you think it is true?

We think he might be in any country but under a different name.

Do you think there is a chance the case of Gongadze may ever be finished, now that Mr. Kravchenko is dead and Mr. Pukach has disappeared probably forever?

I hope we will find him faster than those who are not interested in this case ever be finished. There is enough evidence to say that there are people interested in this case never be solved. If you add tapes and Melnychenko’s evidence to all this, the court will be able to pass a verdict and to punish the guilty.

Earlier in your life as a politician you directly named people who ordered Gongadze’s murder. You named Kuchma. Do you still believe that?

When I was a politician I was not a person responsible for legal definitions of an accusation. As a politician I could do that. I believe as a politician I spoke frankly and I had enough evidence to make that political statement. Now, until charges have been filed and the case is sent to the court, for me to make statement like those would mean disrespect to my office.

Have you ever been offered bribes in your new job? Interior Minister and Minister of Transport claim they have been offered.

Nobody offered me bribes. If they did they wouldn’t have left this office room!

Were any of your subordinates offered bribes?

We have a very efficient internal security system and we uncover those who break the law and those who disgrace SBU officers. People like these are brought to justice.

Mr. Chervonenko reported there was a special operation with the SBU to arrest a person ordering a murder of the head of the Odessa seaport, and this operation failed because the information about it was leaked …

I am not familiar with this statement of Mr. Chervonenko. If we were conducting the operation that person would have been arrested.

Has anybody been arrested by you for bribery since the new administration took office?

The trick is that any person can report bribery but it is very difficult to prove. You either need to be present when the money changes hands or one of the sides has to cooperate with the SBU to document the crime. And those who would agree to cooperate would have to give precise evidence in the court; they would have to say that “really I was given a bribe after a certain persuasion and by agreement with another person, or that I myself gave a bribe.” Many are put off by their reluctance to testify in the court or even by their name being mentioned in a criminal case. In spite of these difficulties we have investigated certain cases and have made arrests.

Is there any news about a story of extortion by aides of the Members of Parliament? In certain political circles it is rumored that aides to Mr. Shkil and Mr. Omelchenko were lobbying certain officials and for that they demanded payments.

I have to tell you honestly, there is no criminal connection between those aides and the MPs. We had those people under surveillance and were waiting for high officials to take bait. It was a classical SBU operation. Everything was ready for money to change hands – we knew the time and recorded all the particulars.

The charged filed against people who have been implicated in this crime are irrefutable and they practically admitted their guilt.

How was it possible that aides to two different MPs got involved in one case?

Not only these people. There was also a third organizer. Certain fictitious ID cards from the Cabinet of Ministers were used in the operation…

Mr. Shkil claims that his aide arrested in this case was 22 years old. How could such a young person pass for a lobbyist for government positions in the Cabinet of Ministers?

Those who supervised this group of criminals wanted businessmen to have an illusion of real access to power. They had identity cards, offices, access to government communication channels, etc. That’s why parliamentary aides were involved; they have small salaries but can move freely within government and parliament buildings.

I can only say this: despite the fact that these people were aides to MPs from my parliamentary block I gave the order to apprehend them because I don’t divide people into “mine” and “not mine”. Everyone should be treated equally before the law. Those who are in power are tempted more than the opposition.

Regarding the case of transit server in the Central Election Committee, who is going to be charged for that crime?

The peculiarity of this case is that all main participants in this case – heads of the CEC (Central Election Committee), its officials and high-level administrators – they were all first or second class government employees.

According to the Criminal Code we can investigate these cases once the fact of the crime has been established. When it comes to filing charges we are not allowed to charge government employees of the first or second class. That’s why we are transferring this case to the Prosecutor General’s office on Monday. They will have to file charges against the high-ranking officials in the Central Election Committee.

How was the transit server used from the point of view of technology? Was the information really channeled to the Presidential Administration?

Whether that data was sent to the Presidential Administration or any other building is immaterial. The data that arrived at the CEC server was handled improperly. There was an unauthorized access to the CEC data; high-ranking government officials were able to “adjust” it because the number of people who worked with it was limited.

There was no need to lay cables to the Presidential Administration or to the Presidential candidate’s headquarters. This information could easily be fed into a computer in the same CEC building and then sent and received on line. The “adjusted” data was entered in the CEC server again.

To hide the fact of the unauthorized access to that server and to delete evidence an attempt was made to destroy the server after the first round of elections.

Wait a moment, how were we going to have the second round of voting?

The second round was conducted with a new server. The SBU had to adjust its operations to it. Then they changed the method by which they were going to fix the elections. In the second round of voting they understood that using the server was too cumbersome and too conspicuous – falsifications were happening during counting, not during voting.

That’s why in the second round the method of falsifications was changed: they perfected their falsification techniques on the level of electoral districts and riding committees.

Has the SBU investigated the former deputy head of the SBU Mr. Statsiuk?

We are conducting investigations of certain SBU officials who are implicated in abuse of their office. It is normal – we need to cleanse ourselves. For the time being I am not going to name anybody who is being investigated.

When you just came to the SBU you said that you opened a case of illegal eavesdropping under Kuchma. Have you found recordings of your conversations in the archive?

There was no need for that. My eavesdropped conversations I could read every day on the pages of the website Agency of Tomorrow’s News. They would take my conversations, change them a little to make them funny and to create discord among the opposition members. At that time I asked the SBU to stop that, because they were not only eavesdropping but also publishing it on that website. The SBU’s reply was: because the site was anonymous they could not find anyone who was collecting that information.

Now we have done a lot to investigate it: we interviewed hundreds of people, also in different regions, and now have a clear picture of how they organized this illegal wiretapping. Because some high-ranking officials are implicated we are submitting this case to the Prosecutor General’s office, which is going to make a decision on those people.

Who from the new administration is wiretapped now?

Everyone is equal before the law and if anyone is implicated in a criminal case, then by the court’s decision we can do that. Unfortunately, today there is no established order in how this is done. Earlier only the SBU had access to the necessary technical devices – now police, tax agency, border guards, Department of State Security, Agency of Correctional Facilities and others have them as well. That makes it hard to control them.

Moreover, these days anyone can buy abroad the equipment used to wiretap mobile telephones. There are many big companies who manage their own security and have acquired, though illegally, these devices. Besides, anyone engaged in intelligence gathering activity has access to the equipment used in these operations.

The problem is that devices used to wiretap mobile telephones are very difficult to detect. They are designed to receive and not to transmit any waves – it works like an aerial. That’s why I cannot say that nobody listens to anybody. I can only confirm that the SBU is not engaged in wiretapping illegally.

Is anybody eavesdropping on you?

There are a lot of people who would like to eavesdrop on me but my office and communication lines are checked regularly.

Source: Ukrayinska Pravda

Educating Zvarych

KIEV, Ukraine -- With tensions mounting (as per the Orange Revolution) among supporters and opponents of last year's so-called revolution, a high-ranking government official came under increasing pressure to resign over disclosures that he has lied about degrees he claims to have earned during the 1980s at two prestigious US universities.

Around the capital, journalists, politicians and anti-government demonstrators were talking about the future of Justice Minister Roman Zvarych, whose academic credentials were questioned in an investigative report which appeared on the nation’s most popular Internet site, Ukrainska Pravda, on April 14.

The article, titled “One More Fake Professor?,” indicated that Zvarych did not did graduate from Columbia University in 1981 with a degree in philosophy, as indicated on his official resume.

To date, no one has been unable to find any evidence that Zvarych has ever received any degree from Columbia University, NYU, or any other US university.

On April 15, the justice ministry refused comment by telephone requesting a written query to be addressed by e-mail. Justice ministry spokeswoman Elena Iskorostenkaya again refused comment on April 16 and April 17, as did Vitaly Chepynoga, spokesman for the cabinet of ministers.

While mainstream Ukrainian media have virtually ignored the story, thousands of Internet users have commented on the imbroglio. Most of the comments appearing on the nation’s largest civic portal, Maidan have been overwhelming critical of Zvarych.

The English version of the Justice Minister's resume on the government website says that he graduated in 1981 from Columbia University, where he studied philosophy. the Ukrainian version of his resume says he worked as a professor at New York University from 1983 to 1991.

In an interview appearing in the daily tabloid Fakty on March 25, Zvarych said he received a full scholarship to Columbia University, covering tuition, room and board.

“I received a master's degree in philosophy,” he said in the desultory 3,500-word interview.

“I never practiced law in the United States, only in Ukraine. By the way, I never finished university because I applied for a doctoral program. I didn’t finish that either, but began teaching at Columbia as a teacher’s assistant. I had my own courses, conducted seminars and the like. New York University offered to make me a professor. I didn’t have the title of professor, just the rank. These are different things. I taught different subjects at NYU for seven years: law, ethics and intellectual history,” he said.

Zvarych, who has lived in Ukraine since 1991, renounced his US. citizenship in 1993 and was granted Ukrainian citizenship two years later. His ideological opponents in Ukraine have branded him an “American spy,” whereas he is known among American residents in Kiev for his anti-American sentiments and support for the US-led invasion of Iraq.

His apparent reluctance to become the first minister to step down from the new government comes at a time when President Viktor Yushchenko is under fire for failing to act on promises made during last fall’s presidential campaign to ensure that the nation’s new authorities tell the truth.

In an interview appearing on April 16 in the weekly Zerkalo Nedeli, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said Zvarych has attended few of the 15 cabinet meetings held so far.

“Yet it is not the government’s problem; it is the individual minister’s problem. We have very proficient deputy ministers in the justice ministry. They have made minister’s absence go unnoticed.”

In February, Zvarych threatened to resign from government after the cabinet decided to ban the re-export of oil. The threat was aired television channel 5, which is controlled by National Defense and Security Secretary Petro Poroshenko.

Oil transit - a company that re-sells Russian oil to Slovakia - was affected by the new ban. Zvarych's wife works for Oil Transit.

Source: Ukrayinska Pravda

Ukraine’s Zenit Carries Spaceway F1 Satellite Into Orbit

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s Zenit-3SL vehicle successfully blasted off from the sea-launch platform Odyssey on Tuesday, carrying DIRECTV’s Spaceway satellite into orbit, the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted the Russian flight control center as saying.

The satellite will stay in orbit for 12 years.



Sea Launch’s Zenit-3SL vehicle is to lift the 6,080 kg Spaceway F1 satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit, on its way to a final orbital position at 102.8 degrees West Longitude.

Spaceway, Sea Launch’s third mission for DIRECTV, is one of four Boeing-built Ka-band satellites that DIRECTV has scheduled for launch over the next three years as part of a historic expansion of programming capacity that will enable DIRECTV to deliver more than 1,500 local and national High Definition channels and other advanced programming services to consumers in the United States by 2007.

Source: Mosnews

Chernobyl's 19th Anniversary is Commemorated in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Hundreds of mourners laid flowers and lit candles early Tuesday before a monument in Ukraine's capital to mark the 19th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which spewed radiation over much of northern Europe and claimed thousands of lives.

As the country slept on April 26, 1986, a test at the then-Soviet Chernobyl nuclear power station went horribly wrong, causing Reactor No. 4 to explode and catch fire.

"The Chernobyl plant that was regarded as Ukraine's pride has become a symbol of the biggest ever manmade disaster," the plant's management said in a statement Tuesday, a day that is now observed worldwide as a memorial to victims of radiation catastrophes.

An area roughly half the size of the U.S. state of Colorado was contaminated by the accident, forcing the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of people and ruining some of Europe's most fertile farmland.

Ukraine has registered 4,400 deaths. In all, seven million people in the former Soviet republic's of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine are believed to have suffered health problems. Many were the firefighters, cleanup workers, soldiers and scientists sent in to help deal with the tragedy.

"They protected us like heroes of war," said Ganna Romanova, 75, a survivor of the disaster. "We must not forget them and we must tell our children about their feat."

In Kiev, some 130 kilometres south of the Chernobyl plant, hundreds of Ukrainians filled a small chapel dedicated to the disaster's victims at 1:23 a.m. as bells tolled 19 times to mark the exact time of the explosion.

Many victims have complained that their governments are doing too little to help them. In the Russian city of Novovoronezh, some 500 kilometres south of Moscow, a group of Chernobyl victims launched a new hunger strike, saying that recent social reforms stripped them of some necessary benefits, Russia's NTV reported. Specialists from Novovoronezh's nuclear power plant were dispatched to Chornobyl to help after the accident.

The most frequent Chernobyl-related diseases include thyroid, blood and other cancers.

Yuriy Andreev, the head of the Chernobyl Union, an action group that represents victims said that the Ukrainian government has decreased funds for victims every year.

"In 1992, we were receiving 12 per cent of (national) budget expenses, in 2000 - 3.3 per cent and in 2005 only 2.3 per cent," he said. Similar complaints have been made in Belarus, whose authoritarian leader has even encouraged farming to resume in areas near contamination zones.

Ukraine shut down Chernobyl's last working reactor in December 2000, but the decommissioning works continue. A Russian-Ukrainian consortium has recently started reinforcing the crumbling concrete-steel shelter hastily constructed over the damaged reactor. Meanwhile, the price tag for building a new shelter has increased by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Cash shortages continue to raise concern. Last week, the state-run company responsible for maintaining the site and decommissioning the plant warned it is facing a dangerous cutoff of energy supplies due to a debt of $6 million US in unpaid bills for gas, electricity and overdue wages.

Also Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Tomenko urged investigators to scrutinize "enormously big sums" paid to consultants and experts for environmental safety work at Chernobyl. Prosecutors have already launched on criminal case against an unidentified person for alleged misappropriation of funds.

Source: CBC News

Yushchenko Turns Focus to Southern Ukraine and Crimea

KIEV, Ukraine -- Anatoliy Matvienko's confirmation as prime minister of Crimea on April 20 follows an April 4 Odessa court decision to overturn the 2002 mayoral elections and confirm Eduard Hurfits as mayor. Both cases represent a strategic breakthrough by President Viktor Yushchenko's team, as the predominantly Russophone Southern Ukraine and Crimean regions had voted for his opponent, Viktor Yanukovych in the 2004 presidential elections.

Hurfits, a member of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc, won the 2002 Odessa mayoral election, but the courts awarded the job to his opponent, Ruslan Bodelan, who backed then-president Leonid Kuchma. Bodelan is the head of the Regions of Ukraine Odessa branch, thus his replacement represents a second blow to Yanukovych, the head of Regions of Ukraine. The head of the party's Donetsk oblast branch, Borys Kolesnykov, was arrested on April 6.

Crimean Prime Minister Serhiy Kunitsyn initially refused to resign, but was eventually enticed with the ceremonial position of presidential adviser. People's Democratic Party (NDP) leader Valeriy Pustovoitenko, who had backed Yanukovych, complained that NDP member Kunitsyn's resignation was a case of "political repression."

In reality, Kunitsyn was made an offer he could not refuse. As the Kyiv Weekly wrote, Kunitsyn had complained, "Every week 100 inspectors arrive from Kyiv. They said to me, either you leave or we'll lock you up..." Files detailing Kunitsyn's corrupt background, records that are likely available for most members of Crimea's ruling elites, were used to force his hand.

Kunitsyn's replacement, Matvienko, is a surprising choice, as he heads the pro-democratic Sobor Party, which merged with the Republican Party in 2002. Sobor was a member of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's bloc in the 2002 elections.

Western scholars and policymakers usually lump Southern and Eastern Ukraine into one monolithic Russophone geographic unit, yet the reality is more complex. The Yushchenko team understands the different regional dynamics at work in Ukraine and is strategically targeting Southern Ukraine ahead of the March 2006 parliamentary elections.

Yushchenko's strategic move into Southern Ukraine comes after his successful election campaign in Central Ukraine, the region that often decides the outcome of Ukrainian elections. Controlling Southern Ukraine could increase Yushchenko's base from the 52% he obtained in the 2004 elections to two-thirds in the next parliament.

Southern Ukraine is less industrialized than Eastern Ukraine and therefore less russified, with the exception of the Crimea. A Ukrainian Barometer poll gave Yanukovych 30.8% support in Southern Ukraine and the Crimea, only slightly more than Yushchenko's 27.4%.

In the largely agricultural Kherson oblast, Yushchenko and Yanukovych came neck-and-neck in all three rounds of last year's elections. In Odessa and Mykolaiv oblasts, which are more industrial, Yushchenko obtained approximately one-third to Yanukovych's two-thirds of the votes in all three rounds.

In the Crimean Autonomous Republic, Yushchenko's 12-16% votes were far lower than Yanukovych's 69-82%. Nevertheless, these were far better than Yushchenko's vote in Yanukovych's home base of Donetsk, where he obtained 5% or less in all three rounds.

This discrepancy between Donetsk and the Crimea was also reflected in the March 2002 parliamentary elections, which explains why the Yushchenko camp is targeting Southern Ukraine and the Crimea ahead of next year's parliamentary race.

As in Odessa, the political situation in the Crimea is now changing in Yushchenko's favor. Yushchenko's election led to the disintegration of the pro-Kuchma Stability faction in the Crimean parliament, which had numbered 85 out of 100 deputies. As Stability faction leader Borys Deych explained, "The Crimea cannot live as a separate part of the state. Everything that is happening in Ukraine spreads to the Crimea".

As in the Ukrainian parliament, many former pro-Kuchma centrists in the regions are also reluctant to oppose Yushchenko. Deych confided, "We are not in opposition to the new authorities" and we "declare our support for the president's course." The former pro-Kuchma People's Union "Stability" (38), coupled with the newly created pro-Yushchenko Power in Unity (15), gives Yushchenko a majority of 53 out of 100 Crimean deputies. Matvienko became prime minister with 61 votes. The Power in Unity faction is headed by Anatoliy Burdyuhov, chief of a department at the National Bank of the Crimea.

Ukrainian observers attribute Matvienko's rise to the most-powerful position in the Crimea to two strategies. First, it gives Tymoshenko's Bloc (which includes her own Fatherland Party as well as Sobor) a strong position from which to compete against Yanukovych's party in 2006.

Of the two pro-Kuchma forces in the 2002 elections, only Regions of Ukraine remains a potentially significant force in Southern Ukraine and the Crimea. The Communists (KPU) and the Social Democrats (SDPUo) have both disintegrated as political forces throughout Ukraine, after coming in first and second in the Crimea in 2002.

The KPU is down from 20% in 2002 to only 5% today while the SDPUo's support has collapsed even more from 6% to only 1.2%, according to a new Razumkov Center poll (Ukrayinska pravda, April 20). The SDPUo is the only party that looses potential voters when the name of its leader, Viktor Medvedchuk, is mentioned.

Second, Matvienko's appointment will encourage the Tymoshenko bloc to cooperate with Yushchenko's new People's Union "Our Ukraine" party in the 2006 elections. Yuriy Kostenko's Ukrainian People's Party, which has refused to join People's Union, had hoped to go into the elections with Sobor.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor