|Sunday, 26 March 2017|
RFE/RL Newsline, 02-09-17
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 RUSSIA WELCOMES IRAQI STATEMENT ON UN INSPECTORS...Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in New York on 17 September that Iraq's statement evidently agreeing to the immediate and unconditional return of UN weapons inspectors "transfers developments around this country from a military scenario to the political plane," Russian news agencies reported. He added that it might soon be possible to discuss conditions for the lifting of economic sanctions against Baghdad. Ivanov said this development means the Security Council should not consider any new resolutions on Iraq. VY
 ...AS DUMA DEPUTY SAYS INSPECTIONS MIGHT NOT PREVENT U.S. MILITARY STRIKEDeputy Duma Speaker and Yabloko party leader Vladimir Lukin said on 17 September that the prevalent opinion in the Duma is that Iraq agreed to the return of weapons inspectors because Baghdad feared the UN would approve a U.S. military strike against the country, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported. However, he added that although the Iraqi move might make a strike more difficult, it might not be sufficient to restrain the United States. VY
 SENATOR ADVOCATES PIPELINES THROUGH AFGHANISTANSpeaking at the European Economic Forum in Salzburg, Austria, Federation Council International Affairs Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov said that Russia is interested in reconciliation and stability in Afghanistan and that one lever for achieving these goals is international pipelines through Afghanistan from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, regions.ru reported on 17 September. Instability in Afghanistan has triggered confrontation in the past -- first between the Russian and British empires and later between the United States and the Soviet Union, Margelov pointed out. He added that all countries -- Afghanistan most of all, but the countries of Central Asia, Russia, and the United States as well -- can benefit from peaceful development in the country. Margelov said that the main lesson Russia has learned over recent years is that its interests can only be advanced in the absence of confrontation. VY
 KIDNAPPERS DEMAND $6 MILLION FOR LUKOIL VPThe kidnappers of LUKoil First Vice President Sergei Kukura (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2002) are reportedly demanding a $6 million ransom for his release, "Kommersant-Daily" and other Russian news agencies reported on 17 September. According to the reports, a man claiming to represent the kidnappers telephoned LUKoil and said before demanding the money that Kukura is safe and unharmed. LUKoil has offered a reward of $1 million for information leading to Kukura's return. Investigators working on the case said the kidnappers "certainly have security-services training," "Kommersant-Daily" reported. VY
 MVD OFFICIAL TARGET OF GRENADE ATTACKThe chief of the Interior Ministry (MVD) office in the Moscow Oblast town of Ozersk, Anatolii Kamyshin, was the apparent target of an attack from a rocket-propelled grenade launcher (RPG), Interfax reported on 17 September. Kamyshin, who was riding in his car at the time of the attack, was apparently uninjured, although the report gave no additional details. In March, an MVD officer named Vladimir Sashchikhin and his wife were killed in an RPG attack in Moscow. The killers have not yet been found. Shortly after Sashchikhin's murder, the MVD issued a statement saying he had links to organized crime. VY
 MOSCOW MAYOR CONFIRMS WISH TO RESTORE DZERZHINSKII STATUE...Yurii Luzhkov told journalists on 15 September that his proposal to restore the downtown Moscow monument to the founder of the Soviet secret police, Felix Dzerzhinskii (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2002), was a "well thought-out and considered" statement, Russian news agencies reported on 17 September. In calling for the restoration of the monument on Lubyanka Square in front of the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Luzhkov described Dzerzhinskii in almost angelic terms, pravda.ru commented. Luzhkov's statement was widely perceived as a strange turnabout for a man who was within the leadership of the Moscow City Council when it decided on 22 August 1999 to dismantle the statue, an event that Luzhkov describes in his memoirs. In addition, Luzhkov energetically resisted Communist Party proposals in 1999 to restore the statue. Arsenii Raginskii, chairman of the human rights organization Memorial, told polit.ru on 17 September that Luzhkov's change of heart can be explained by his desire to fawn on President Putin and the other chekists who have come to power in recent years. VY
 ...AS DZERZHINSKII DEBATE HEATS UPThe restoration of the Dzerzhinskii monument would mean "the complete revision of 12 years of the new Russia," Yelena Bonner, widow of Nobel Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov, told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 17 September. Valerii Abramkin, a former Soviet political prisoner who is now a leading human rights advocate, pointed out that a stone from the Solovetskii Island concentration camp has now been placed on Lubyanka Square to commemorate the millions of victims of Soviet-era terror. "To erect the Dzerzhinskii monument nearby is ridiculous and to put it in place [of the Solovetskii stone] would be blasphemous," Abramkin was quoted by the daily as saying. Aleksei Molyakov, a former KGB colonel general and the former head of the FSB's military counterintelligence, said that as a person who was educated in the chekist tradition he was pained by the demolition of the monument in 1991. "But I am not sure that today we should return to the past," Molyakov told "Komsomolskaya pravda," quoting the Greek philosopher Heraclitus's observation that "One cannot step twice into the same river." VY
 DUMA IN A FROTH OVER BEER ADVERTISINGDuring the first week of its 2002 fall session, Duma deputies considered the issue of television advertising for beer. Deputies voted on 13 September to approve in its second reading a bill limiting the advertisement of beer. According to ITAR-TASS, the vote was 231 in favor with 24 opposed. Under the bill, beer advertisements should not suggest that beer consumption is an important ingredient in public, personal, or sporting success or that it otherwise contributes to one's physical or psychological well-being. Deputies also approved an amendment that would prohibit televised advertisements for beer between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. The government's representative to the Duma, Andrei Loginov, said the government opposes the amendment because it would have the effect of increasing beer advertising during morning and afternoon hours when more children are watching television. JAC
 DERIPASKA VERSUS POTANIN, ROUND 2"Kommersant-Vlast," No. 36, argues that the most striking peculiarity of the second round of gubernatorial voting in Krasnoyarsk Krai on 22 September is that it is not a struggle between two politicians or two parties but between two large financial-industrial groups, Russian Aluminum and Interros. The victor in the race will likely be the candidate who has the strongest lobby in the Kremlin, the magazine argues. Oleg Deripaska's Russian Aluminum is widely considered to support Aleksandr Uss, the speaker of Krasnoyarsk Krai's legislative assembly, while Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Khloponin is the former head of Norilsk Nickel, a company belonging to Vladimir Potanin's Interros group. According to the weekly, while the presidential administration and government have frequently proclaimed their neutrality in the struggle, the so-called "St. Petersburg liberals," such as Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, support Khloponin. JAC
 KLIMENTIEV'S CASE TO GO BEFORE EUROPEAN COURT...The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will hear the case of Andrei Klimentiev v. the Russian Federation on 19 September, ntvru.com reported on 16 September, citing Klimentiev's lawyer Viktor Chumak. The case concerns Klimentiev's 1998 conviction on charges of swindling. Klimentiev had been elected mayor of Nizhnii Novgorod but was stripped of that office following his conviction. More recently, he was deprived of his registration as a candidate in the city's 15 September mayoral election by a local court on the eve of the ballot (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2002). JAC
 ...AS KREMLIN CANDIDATE MAKES IT TO SECOND ROUNDPollsters had been predicting that Klimentiev and incumbent Mayor Yurii Lebedev would win the first round, while Vadim Bulavinov -- the candidate supported by the Kremlin, the office of the governor of Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, and the presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko -- would fail to make it into the second round (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 11 September 2002). However, the last-minute court verdict annulling Klimentiev's candidacy cleared the way for Lebedev and Bulavinov to compete in the second round, which is expected to take place on 29 September, according to polit.ru. JAC
 BASHKORTOSTAN REVISES POWER-SHARING TREATY AGAINKonstantin Tolkachev, the speaker of Bashkortostan legislative assembly, and Bashkortostan Constitutional Court Chairman Ildus Adigamov met with deputy head of Russian presidential administration Dmitrii Kozak in Moscow on 12 September to discuss amendments to the new draft power-sharing treaty between Bashkortostan and the Russian Federation, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported, citing the Bashkir presidential press service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2002). During the three-hour meeting, the two sides reportedly "found mutually acceptable ways of resolving issues [concerning the treaty]." However, according to regions.ru on 16 September, it was suggested that a number of "corrections" be made to the agreement, in particular regarding the delegation of powers among the various levels of local government and the exploitation of underground natural resources. According to the website, work on a new version of the agreement continues. JAC
 ORT LOOKING FOR REVENUE?"Kommersant-Vlast," No. 35, reported that Konstantin Ernst, general director of Russian Public Television (ORT), and Deputy General Director Marat Gelman recently established a special "expert council" of representatives of various political parties and movements. An unidentified, but reportedly well-known public-relations specialist told the weekly that with this effort Ernst and Gelman are hinting directly "to party experts which party leader or activist needs to improve his or her image with the help of unofficial television advertising." According to the source, Russia's television channels are scared that they will lose their mega-profits from campaign advertising since "the Kremlin, rather than television, now determines the number of votes for each party." The weekly concluded that the television channel heads and public-relations consultants have had to change their "methods" under Putin's new system and are looking for alternatives to Kremlin revenue sources among those who are seeking to "sell their faces" as effectively as possible. JAC
 FORMER OIL EXECUTIVE ACCUSED OF EMBEZZLEMENTOne of Nizhnevartovsk's most famous residents and a member of the Tyumen Oblast legislature, Viktor Palii, has been charged with appropriating money from Nizhnevartovskneftegaz during his nine-year tenure as the company's general director, "Vedomosti" reported on 16 September. According to the daily, Palii allegedly intentionally raised the price of contracts for the construction of a sanatorium in the Crimea and then transferred the money to his personal bank account in Monaco. As the company's director, Palii was more influential in the Siberian city than the elected mayor, the daily reported. Palii told the paper that the case against him was ordered up by his "enemies" and that he is innocent. JAC
 POLICE SEARCH PUBLISHER'S OFFICESProsecutors on 16 September searched the Moscow offices of Ad Marginem, the publisher of Vladimir Sorokin's novels, in connection with a case against the publisher and Sorokin on charges of disseminating pornography (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2002), lenta.ru reported on 17 September. Five copies of Sorokin's novel "Blue Lard" and all documentation relating to its publication were seized, according to Ad Marginem's lawyer Aleksandr Glushenkov. He added that officers carrying out the search also presented copies of expert assessments of Sorokin's novel by the Culture Ministry and the Union of Writers. RC
 TEEN OFFENDERS ON THE RUNForty-seven teenage offenders escaped from a juvenile correctional facility near the town of Kargat in Novosibirsk Oblast on 15 September, lenta.ru reported on 17 September. Thirteen were recaptured the next day, and two others turned themselves in voluntarily. According to the report, the group -- all aged between 14 and 17 -- overpowered and beat three guards and took their keys in order to escape. On 8 September, 51 inmates escaped from the same facility, and 14 of them remain at large. RC
 NEW ISLAMIC PARTY FOUNDEDAbout 200 representatives of several Islamic organizations held a founding congress for the new True Party of Russia in Moscow on 15 September, ITAR-TASS reported. The group was originally established as the Islamic Party, but since the law on political parties forbids the mention of religion in the names of political parties, party members decided to rethink its name. According to the agency, the party is proclaiming itself a strictly secular organization. JAC
 GROZNY BOMB KILLS 18Six people, including two children, were killed outright and 12 more have died of injuries received when a bomb exploded on 16 September at a crowded bus stop in central Grozny, Russian agencies reported. Some 20 people were injured. On 17 September, Chechen officials detained three suspects whose names have not been released. ITAR-TASS on 16 September quoted Deputy Military Commandant Selim Tsuev as saying the blast was perpetrated by fighters subordinate to field commander Isa Munaev. Chechen officials said the target of the radio-controlled bomb was two military vehicles that had driven past seconds earlier. The Chechen government headed by President Aslan Maskhadov issued a statement signed by Vice Premier Akhmed Zakaev blaming the Russian military for the blast, chechenpress.org reported on 17 September. LF
 CHECHEN LEADER IMPLICATED IN ABDUCTIONSKadyrov has created his own military formation, which is engaged in apprehending not only Chechen militants but innocent civilians who are then taken to his personal jail in his home village of Tsentoroi for "trial" and "sentencing" at the hands of Kadyrov's youngest son Ramazan, according to an article by Anna Politkovskaya in "Novaya gazeta" on 16 September. The victims are reportedly then taken to a former dairy farm some 20 kilometers west of Grozny, from which no one is known to have emerged alive. According to Politkovskaya, the Chechen Prosecutor-General's Office is aware of Kadyrov's armed thugs but is powerless to take any action against them. LF
TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIA TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS AFTER 2003 ELECTIONSIn his 15 September address to the 57th session of the UN General Assembly, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said the planned referendum on constitutional amendments will take place next year, after the presidential and parliamentary elections, Noyan Tapan reported. Those ballots are scheduled for 19 February and 25 May, respectively. President Robert Kocharian stated in March that the referendum should be held only when its outcome could not be used to score political points in an election campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March 2002). LF
 NAGORNO-KARABAKH DENIES PLANS FOR MILITARY COOPERATION WITH OTHER UNRECOGNIZED REPUBLICSIn a statement released on 16 September, the Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) said there is no truth to Georgian media reports that the enclave is planning to conduct military exercises with the similarly unrecognized republics of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transdniester, Interfax reported. That agency on 6 September quoted a South Ossetian official as saying that Abkhazia and South Ossetia will hold joint military exercises before the end of this year to which representatives from the NKR and Transdniester will be invited (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2002). The NKR statement affirmed that that republic "has a regular army that can guarantee its security and does not think it necessary to create a military coalition with other countries or to hold joint military exercises." LF
 AZERBAIJANI VILLAGERS STAGE NEW PROTESTMost of the 8,000 residents of the village of Nardaran on the outskirts of Baku attended a meeting on 16 September at which they discussed the Azerbaijani authorities' failure to address their grievances, zerkalo.az reported on 17 September. They adopted a resolution calling on the authorities to release all those persons detained following clashes between police and villagers in June, to establish an independent group composed of parliament deputies to determine who was responsible for giving the order to police to open fire during that standoff, and to deliver on promises made earlier to improve socioeconomic conditions in the village and create new jobs. Addressing the meeting, one village elder disclosed that during talks in August, Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov admitted that he had pressured Baku Mayor Hadjibala Abutalibov not to make good on his pledge to meet the villagers' demands because had he done so, other villages might have raised similar demands. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO BAKU IN JEOPARDY?. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze failed to depart on a planned visit to Baku on 17 September but may do so later that day or on 18 September, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Shevardnadze is to attend a ceremony on 18 September together with the presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey, Heidar Aliev and Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to mark the beginning of construction of the planned Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil. Interfax on 16 September quoted Shevardnadze as suggesting the repeated Russian accusations of conniving with terrorism leveled against Georgia in recent weeks may have been intended to sabotage construction of that pipeline. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CLAIMS U.S., RUSSIAN SPECIAL SERVICES PARTICIPATING IN PANKISI OPERATIONShevardnadze told journalists on 16 September during his weekly briefing that U.S. and Russian special forces are taking part in the ongoing "anticrime and antiterror" operation in the Pankisi Gorge, Reuters reported. Caucasus Press quoted National Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze as saying that the Russians had been in the district "for a long time" and are being regularly briefed on developments. But in Moscow, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Interfax he cannot confirm Shevardnadze's claim that Russian intelligence operatives are monitoring the Pankisi operation. LF
 GEORGIAN OFFICIAL REJECTS U.S. CLAIMS OF AL-QAEDA PRESENCEDjaparidze also told journalists in Tbilisi on 16 September that he excludes the possibility that members of Al-Qaeda are currently in the Pankisi Gorge, Caucasus Press reported. He conceded, however, that persons with links to Al-Qaeda may be in Pankisi. U.S. President George W. Bush had argued on 14 September that Russia should give Georgia a chance "to achieve a common objective -- and that is to get the Al-Qaeda killers and bring them to justice" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2002). LF
 RUSSIAN GENERAL STAFF DENY PLANNING INVASION OF GEORGIASpeaking at a press conference in Moscow on 16 September, First Deputy Chief of Russian Armed Forces General Staff Colonel General Yurii Baluevskii denied that the Russian military has any plans to invade Georgia, but added that it is prepared to offer assistance in neutralizing "terrorist bases" in the Pankisi Gorge, Russian news agencies reported. As for Georgia's aspiration to NATO membership, Baluevskii commented that "when the alliance decided on admitting the so-called first wave of new members, priority was given to their military and technological capabilities....I think the Georgian military is unlikely to be able to meet NATO military and technological requirements for the next few decades." But in Georgia's case, Baluevskii continued, this failing may be irrelevant. "I do not exclude that the political element will be given priority while reviewing Georgia's application," Baluevskii concluded. LF
 RUSSIA'S ABKHAZ ENVOY VISITS SUKHUMRussian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin traveled to Sukhum on 16 September to discuss with Prime Minister Anri Djergenia the threat posed by the presence of Georgian troops and Chechen militants in the Kodori Gorge, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. It was Loshchinin's second visit to Abkhazia, and his third meeting with Djergenia, within the past month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August and 9 September 2002). Meanwhile, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba met with Defense Minister Raul Khazhimba and his first deputy Vladimir Arshba to assess the situation in Kodori and the combat readiness of the Abkhaz armed forces, Caucasus Press reported on 17 September. LF
 KAZAKH OFFICIAL CALLS FOR GREATER ROLE FOR CHINASpeaking at a roundtable discussion in Almaty, Maulen Ashimbaev, who heads the Presidential Institute for Strategic Studies, argued that China should be encouraged both to play a more active role in the global antiterrorism coalition, and to establish stronger ties with the states of Central Asia in order to strengthen regional security, Interfax reported on 16 September. "None of Central Asia's regional security systems will be effective...without China's active involvement," he argued. LF
 KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT WITHDRAWS DRAFT BILL ON MORATORIUM ON PROTEST DEMONSTRATIONSPrime Minister Nikolai Tanaev has recalled the draft bill presented to parliament on 9 September that would have imposed a three-month moratorium on public protests, meetings, and demonstrations, akipress.org and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 16 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2002). First Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmonov explained that following the 12 September decision by protesters to abandon their march on Bishkek to demand President Askar Akaev's resignation, such a law is no longer needed. But Osmonov rejected a demand by deputies to annul the 7 September government decree September on urgent measures to prevent the destabilization of the situation in Kyrgyzstan, arguing that the increased activities of the banned Islam organization Hizb ut-Tahrir still pose a threat to political stability, akipress.org reported. Osmonov agreed only to remove from that decree the paragraph imposing a moratorium on political meetings and demonstrations. LF
 KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIAN ARGUES COMPROMISE WITH GOVERNMENT UNLAWFULTursunbek Akunov, who is chairman of the Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan, said in Bishkek on 16 September that the agreement signed in Toktogul on 12 September between senior government officials and opposition parliament deputies on abandoning the protest march on Bishkek is unlawful, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2002). Akunov said that residents of the village of Aksy who are demanding that those officials responsible for authorizing police to open fire on demonstrators in Aksy in March be punished did not authorize the parliamentarians to sign any such compromise document. LF
 KYRGYZSTAN CONTINUES IMMUNIZATION CAMPAIGN AGAINST RUBELLAOn 16 September a 3 1/2 month campaign got under way in Kyrgyzstan to inoculate women of childbearing age against rubella, akipress.org reported. The campaign is the second stage in a program to eradicate both rubella and measles; during the first stage, which began in November 2001, some 1.8 million people between the ages of seven and 25 were inoculated against both diseases. One child in 1,000 in Kyrgyzstan is reportedly born deaf, blind, or with congenital heart defects that can be directly attributed to the mother's having contracted rubella during pregnancy. LF
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
 BELARUS CONTINUES TO PAY COMPENSATION FOR 1998 DIPLOMATIC SCANDALThe Belarusian government has assigned 87,388 euros ($85,674) and $6,583 as compensation payments to Germany and Lithuania, respectively, for the eviction of the German and Lithuanian embassies from the Drazdy residential compound in June 1998, Belapan reported. The eviction of a dozen European embassies from the Drazdy site -- which was declared the "residence of the president of the Republic of Belarus" -- became one of the most bizarre diplomatic scandals in modern European history. The scandal was followed by a temporary pullout of Western ambassadors from Belarus and an European Union visa ban on some 130 Belarusian officials, including President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The conflict was settled by the end of 1998 when Minsk agreed to pay compensation for the evictions. JM
 YOUTH LEADER WORRIED OVER 'FAVORABLE ATTITUDE' TOWARD INCORPORATION OF BELARUS BY RUSSIAPavel Sevyarynets, the leader of the opposition Youth Front, told Belapan on 17 September that he is alarmed by European politicians' "favorable attitude" toward Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent integration proposals (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 20 August 2002). Sevyarynets and other Belarusian youth activists observed Sweden's elections between 9-16 September and met with Swedish politicians. According to Sevyarynets, Swedish Foreign Ministry State Secretary Sven-Eric Soder welcomed Russia's integration proposals, saying that Belarus should prepare for a referendum. "Attracted by Putin's beautiful words about the European Union-like integration and a referendum, Swedish and European politicians consider these proposals the best solution for Belarus at the moment," Sevyarynets said. "Our arguments that Russia is currently led by KGB descendants, that Russian television networks dominate Belarus's information space, and that independence and sovereignty cannot be discussed at a referendum remained unanswered. This is an alarming signal," Sevyarynets added. JM
 UKRAINIAN POLICE BREAK UP OPPOSITION TENT CAMP IN KYIV...Before dawn on 17 September, riot police in full gear broke up a tent camp that was set up around the presidential administration building after the antipresidential rally on European Square in Kyiv the previous day (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 17 September 2002), AP and Reuters reported. Opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko told AP that some 5,000 policemen took part in dismantling the tent camp and beat some 1,500 people guarding the tents. Police said they had no choice but to remove the protesters because court representatives arrived at the scene early in the morning and ordered the tents removed in accordance with an earlier decision banning the protests from the city center. Police said they arrested 64 protesters. JM
 ...WHILE OPPOSITION PLEDGES TO CONTINUE ANTIPRESIDENTIAL PROTESTSSocialist Party parliamentarian Yuriy Lutsenko told journalists on 17 September that the opposition will organize a "powerful demonstration" on European Square in Kyiv on 24 September in response to the dismantling of the opposition tent camp, UNIAN reported. Lutsenko added that until that day, Tymoshenko, Oleksandr Moroz, and Petro Symonenko will hold smaller street rallies in Kyiv every day to "gather people" for the 24 September demonstration against President Leonid Kuchma. Meanwhile, Our Ukraine lawmaker Taras Chornovil said the same day that Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko has joined the opposition for good. The previous day, Yushchenko participated in the anti-Kuchma rally in Kyiv and signed a strongly worded resolution demanding Kuchma's resignation (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 17 September 2002). JM
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN KYIVRomanian President Ion Iliescu arrived on 17 September in Kyiv for a three-day official visit, UNIAN reported. Among the top issues on the agenda is the Ukrainian-Romanian border dispute over Serpents Island in the Black Sea, which, if unresolved, could potentially delay Romania's accession to NATO. Iliescu said at the Kyiv airport that the signing of "a [Ukrainian-Romanian] agreement on the delimitation of sea areas is dependent on when commissions of experts conclude their work." He added that the border dispute is not an issue that needs to be tackled by the presidents. JM
 ESTONIAN PRESIDENT ATTENDS EUROPEAN ECONOMIC SUMMIT IN AUSTRIAIn a speech at the plenary session of the World Economic Forum's European Economic Summit in Salzburg on 16 September, Arnold Ruutel said Estonia has reached the final stage of preparations for joining the European Union, ETA reported. He stressed the need to find a solution that will be satisfactory to both sides in EU accession negotiations on the agriculture chapter. Ruutel discussed EU and NATO enlargement with Ukrainian President Kuchma and agreed to share his country's experience in seeking membership of those organizations. Ruutel told Finnish President Tarja Halonen that due to similar natural conditions, Estonian farmers expect treatment from the EU similar to that which Finnish farmers receive, and that Estonia should not have to pay more to the EU budget than it would receive. SG
 EU AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER BEGINS VISIT TO LATVIAEuropean Union Agriculture, Rural Development, and Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler began a two-day visit to Latvia on 16 September with talks with Prime Minister Andris Berzins, Agriculture Minister Atis Slakteris, and the head of Latvia's delegation for EU entry talks, Andris Kesteris, LETA reported. At Mezotne Castle in the Bauska District, Fischler took part in a meeting of the Baltic agriculture ministers -- Jaanus Marrandi (Estonia), Jeronimas Kraujelis (Lithuania), and Slakteris. The ministers handed him a joint statement calling for higher agricultural quotas than those suggested by the European Commission, arguing that the proposed quotas were based on results from 1995-99 that were negatively affected by Russia's financial crisis in 1998. Fischler also participated in a farmers' conference in Jelgava. He was scheduled to meet on 17 September with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, parliamentary deputies, and Foreign Ministry officials before traveling to Estonia. SG
 RUSSIAN ENVOY FOR KALININGRAD MEETS WITH LITHUANIAN PRESIDENTRussian President Vladimir Putin's special envoy for Kaliningrad, Dmitrii Rogozin, held talks with President Valdas Adamkus during a brief visit to Vilnius on 16 September, BNS reported. Rogozin said that the two sides agreed to work together to resolve the issue of travel between the Kaliningrad Oblast exclave and the rest of Russia. Lithuania will seek the most flexible solutions within the boundaries of the Schengen agreement, while Russia will observe Lithuanian commitments to the European Union. Rogozin expressed his hope that the EU will accept Russia's proposal of retaining visa-free travel for its citizens by permitting them to travel between Russia and Kaliningrad on special trains, which would not stop in Lithuania and whose passengers' documents would be checked at the border. Rogozin's Lithuanian counterpart Gediminas Kirkilas told reporters after the meeting that Lithuania will express its opinion regarding Russia's proposals only after the European Commission presents its opinion. SG
 POLAND OPENS CEMETERY OF VICTIMS OF RESETTLEMENT TO GERMANY...German Consul Peter Ohr and Andrzej Przewoznik, the secretary of Poland's Council for the Protection of the Memory of Struggle and Martyrdom, participated on 16 September in the ceremonial opening of a cemetery at the former labor and resettlement camp in Lambinowice (Opole Province), PAP reported. According to various estimates, 1,000-1,500 people defined by the Polish authorities as Germans died or were killed in the Lambinowice camp shortly after World War II. The camp was used for herding Silesian Germans before their resettlement to Germany, "verifying" Poles among the Silesian population, and isolating people suspected of belonging to Nazi organizations during the war. "The ceremony we are attending is a great day for Opole Province, since the cemetery signifies...reconciliation for both the local minority and the majority," Ohr said, referring to Germans and Poles. A former camp commander is currently on trial in Opole on charges of crimes against humanity. He and his subordinates allegedly shot dead 48 camp inmates during a firefighting operation in October 1945. JM
 ...GETS FIRST BATCH OF GERMAN TANKSThe first batch of 15 Leopard tanks from Germany arrived in Swietoszow (Lower Silesia Province) on 16 September, PAP reported. The ceremony of receiving the tanks at the Swietoszow-based 10th Armored Cavalry Brigade was attended by President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Polish and German Defense Ministers Jerzy Szmajdzinski and Peter Struck, respectively. Under an agreement signed in January 2002, the Polish armed forces are to receive 128 Leopard tanks at a cost of 90 million zlotys ($21.5 million) and 23 MiG-29 fighters from Germany's Bundeswehr. According to the German Defense Ministry, the cost of bringing the German tanks up to the standards of the Polish brigade will be approximately 25 million euros ($24.5 million). JM
 MEETING WITH CZECH PRESIDENT FAILS TO MAKE POLITICAL HEADWAYThe leaders of the three ruling parties -- the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party (KDU-CSL), and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU) -- met on 16 September with President Vaclav Havel but failed to agree on a solution to the government crisis. Havel said after the meeting that "all the party leaders know how serious the situation is, and all would like to find a dignified and [mutually] acceptable way out of the complicated situation," according to Reuters. Havel added that he urged the three leaders to "continue negotiations within and between their respective parties." Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said the talks will continue as the parties examine new options. Earlier on 16 September, government spokeswoman Anna Starkova said Spidla was demanding the resignation of the three US-DEU ministers -- a demand confirmed by US-DEU acting Chairman Ivan Pilip, according to CTK. But after the meeting with Havel, Spidla made no mention of that demand and said the cabinet continues to work and will hold its regular meeting on 18 September, the agencies reported. MS
 RENEGADE DEPUTY RESIGNS SENIOR POST IN CZECH PARLIAMENT...Hana Marvanova (US-DEU) on 17 September handed in her resignation as deputy speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, CTK reported. Marvanova, whose vote triggered the current crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2002), said she will not heed calls for her to give up her parliamentary seat, adding that she received her mandate from voters in the June elections. MS
 ...AS OPPOSITION HINTS AT DESIRE FOR GOVERNING DEALMeanwhile, the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus said on 16 September that the ODS would not rule out some sort of grand coalition with the CSSD, CTK reported on 16 September. But ODS would agree to such a deal only with a CSSD leader who is "more realistic" than Spidla, the former prime minister added. MS
 FORMER COMMUNIST LEADERS' TRIAL OPENS IN PRAGUEFormer Czechoslovak Communist Party chief Milos Jakes and former Czechoslovak Premier Jozef Lenart went on trial in Prague on 17 September on treason charges for their alleged role in the 1968 Soviet-led invasion by the Warsaw Pact that crushed the so-called "Prague Spring," CTK and international agencies reported. If convicted, they face prison terms of between 12 and 15 years. Testifying in court on the same day, Lenart rejected the charges. Former Communist Premier Lubomir Strougal testified on behalf of the two defendants, also denying the charges against them. MS
 FORMER SLOVAK LEADER SAYS HE WILL BE NEITHER PREMIER NOR MINISTERIn an interview with the Czech daily "Hospodarske noviny" on 16 September, Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) Chairman Vladimir Meciar said he will be neither premier nor a minister in the next Slovak government, CTK reported. Meciar vowed that the HZDS will participate in the coalition formed after the 20-21 September elections and will find a way to ensure that "my personality will not be grounds for obstructing the functioning of the cabinet," according to the agency. Meciar acknowledged that past mistakes of the HZDS may have negatively affected Slovakia's chances for EU and NATO membership but added that those who threaten that Slovakia will not join those organizations if the HZDS wins the elections are also making a mistake and infringing on "the values we all honor -- freedom and democracy." He said the HZDS is "neither extremist nor fascist" but a "normal democratic party, which only has a different opinion on many things in Europe." These differences of opinion should not affect Slovakia's chances for EU or NATO membership, he said. MS
 MEDIA MAGNATE SAYS HE HOPES TO BE SLOVAK PREMIERAlliance for New Citizens (ANO) Chairman Pavol Rusko told journalists in Kosice on 16 September that he hopes ANO will be in a position to head the next Slovak coalition, TASR reported. Rusko said that if he wins a parliamentary mandate, he will transfer his shares in TV Markiza to a person outside his family. This, he opined, would be a sufficient guarantee that TV Markiza will not be drawn into politics. Asked whether he would be ready to participate in a center-right coalition with Smer (Direction), Rusko replied: "Such a coalition could not call itself center-right." MS
 DEMOCRATIC PARTY RIFT OPENS OVER PARTICIPATION IN SLOVAK ELECTIONSDemocratic Party Deputy Chairman Jan Langos said on 16 September that he is opposed to the withdrawal of the party from the 20-21 September race, TASR reported. The move was announced the previous day by Party Chairman Ludovit Kanik (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September). Langos claimed that the SDKU offered the Democrats 6 million crowns ($135,108) and the post of Social Affairs Ministry state secretary for Kanik in exchange for withdrawing in favor of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU). Langos said the source of the money is unknown and that if the Democrats accept it, he will insist that the money be returned. He also said that only a party congress can decide to withdraw from elections. MS
 SLOVAK SKINHEADS INJURE ROMANY WOMANA Romany woman was hospitalized in Poprad, eastern Slovakia, over the weekend with brain injuries and stab wounds after she and two Romany men were allegedly attacked by a group of between eight and 10 skinheads, CTK reported. Police detained two suspects. A police spokesman said they are not charged with a racially motivated crime because during the attack the offenders did not express racial hatred. They will be charged with inflicting bodily harm, the spokesman said. MS
 HUNGARIAN PREMIER HITS EU COMPETITION-POLICY WALLPrime Minister Peter Medgyessy said on 16 September in Brussels that favorable conditions for his country's accession to the EU are more important than keeping the timetable for concluding membership talks in December, Reuters reported. "While it is very important to conclude the negotiations in time, it is even more important to find good solutions," Medgyessy told journalists after talks with European Commission President Romano Prodi. Hungarian media reports said that, during talks Medgyessy held with EU Commissioner in charge of Competition Policy Mario Monti, no agreement was reached that would make possible the closing of the chapter on fair competition. The agricultural policy chapter, particularly insofar as subsidies are concerned, also remains an issue of contention. According to Reuters, during the talks Medgyessy pledged to amend the Status Law soon. MS
 HUNGARY PLANNING TO MAKE HOLOCAUST DENIAL PUNISHABLE OFFENSEForeign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said on 16 September that Hungary plans to make Holocaust denial a punishable offense, AP reported. He said the Penal Code will include several amendments, one of which will define Holocaust denial as a crime. "The objective of the modification is to close the legal loopholes used by those making anti-Semitic statements," Kovacs told journalists. Other amendments will strengthen existing provisions in the code. For example, hate speech is currently punishable only if someone reports the act to authorities. Kovacs said Hungarian democracy must be enabled to better defend itself against "anti-Gypsy and xenophobic expressions." MS
 MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN LEADER WANTS A KEY MINISTRY...Ali Ahmeti, who heads the Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), which was the top vote-getter among ethnic Albanians in the recent parliamentary elections, told Reuters in Tetovo on 16 September that his party wants one of the key ministries that was instrumental in fighting his guerrillas in 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2002). Ahmeti said: "Ministries directly affecting the integration of Albanians are the Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry. It is more than reasonable that one of those ministries should belong to the Albanian community," which makes up about 23 percent of the population. PM
 ...BUT WILL HE GET IT?It is not clear which posts, if any, Branko Crvenkovski of the victorious Social Democrats (SDSM) will offer him, dpa reported from Skopje on 16 September. Crvenkovski told a rally after the election that "this is not the time to talk politics." The Interior Ministry has been a preserve of hard-line Macedonian nationalists. Ahmeti remains on a U.S. blacklist of extremists. It is widely rumored that the war crimes tribunal in The Hague is investigating him for his possible role in atrocities against ethnic Macedonian civilians during the uprising. Ahmeti denies any such involvement, adding, however, that he will "respect [the tribunal's] decision," AP reported. PM
 INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS HAIL MACEDONIAN VOTE...The International Election Observation Mission organized by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said in a press release in Skopje on 16 September that the parliamentary elections were largely in line with international standards. OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Vice President Kimmo Kiljunen added that "The citizens of this country have achieved a successful electoral process, which could represent a major step towards restoring stability, reconciliation, and democracy in the country." Julian Peel Yates, the head of the ODIHR election-observation mission, noted that "despite a difficult political and security background, the electoral process showed commendable resilience throughout the campaign, which contributed substantially to a largely trouble-free election day." UB
 ...AS DO GREECE, NATO, EU, AND RUSSIAA Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters in Athens on 16 September that his government is pleased that the Macedonian elections "were held in a very quiet atmosphere." He declined to comment on the outcome of the vote. In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson noted that "large numbers of citizens from all ethnic communities voted...and expressed their will to take an active part in shaping their common future," dpa reported. EU security policy chief Javier Solana pointed out that all parties respected the outcome of the vote. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "Moscow respects the will of Macedonian voters and confirms that it is ready to develop friendly Russian-Macedonian relations in the interests of both countries," Interfax reported. The statement added that the peaceful vote "is evidence of growing civil consciousness of the voters, Macedonian and Albanian, whose high turnout showed that they care for the future of their country." PM
 MACEDONIAN ARMY FINDS STASHED WEAPONSA border patrol of the Macedonian Army discovered an arms cache near the border with Kosova on 15 September, "Dnevnik" reported. The cache contained more than 30 automatic rifles, two machine guns, and ammunition of Albanian and Chinese origin. Army sources said they presume that the weapons are left over from the 2001 conflict. UB
 HAGUE TRIBUNAL INVESTIGATES SESELJOfficials at the war crimes tribunal confirmed on 16 September long-standing speculation that they are investigating Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj for his possible role in war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia in the conflicts that ended in 1995, Reuters reported from Amsterdam. He has long been linked to nationalist paramilitary formations in the wars launched by former President Slobodan Milosevic, who has endorsed his candidacy in the 29 September Serbian presidential race. In some of the indictments against Milosevic, who is on trial in The Hague, Seselj is named as part of Milosevic's "joint criminal enterprise" to expel Croats and Bosnian Muslims from their homes. UN Deputy Prosecutor Graham Blewitt told the news agency that "as a member of the joint criminal enterprise, it's fair to assume he [Seselj] would be under investigation." PM
 DJINDJIC RULES OUT FOUL PLAY BY KOSOVAR ALBANIANS IN SERBIAN VOTESerbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 16 September that the worst that can happen in the Serbian presidential vote is for an "extremist" candidate to win who "tells nationalist tales," Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. He was alluding to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica. Djindjic added that he doubts that any Albanians in Kosova will vote in the presidential election even though they are legally entitled to do so. "No Albanian will mark a ballot paper, and if any do, I would like to meet them personally." PM
 YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS WASHINGTON WANTS CLARIFICATION ON BOSNIAGoran Svilanovic said in Washington on 16 September that an initiative is being prepared in the Senate requiring Belgrade to pass special legislation confirming its recognition of the 1995 Dayton agreements and the territorial integrity of Bosnia as a precondition for normalizing trade relations between the United States and Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Svilanovic added that the initiative was launched in the wake of a recent statement by Kostunica to the effect that he considers the Republika Srpska's separation from Serbia to be only "temporary" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 12, 13, and 16 September 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 August and 6 September 2002). The minister added that he considers such legislation unnecessary. He stressed that the entire controversy is related to the Serbian presidential election and the 5 October general elections in Bosnia. PM
 BOSNIAN SERB LEADER SAYS 'SARAJEVO POLITICIANS' SHOULD APOLOGIZERepublika Srpska Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said in Banja Luka on 16 September that Kostunica does not need to apologize for anything because he was just stating his personal opinion, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Ivanic added that if anyone should apologize for anything, it is unnamed "politicians in Sarajevo," who have made war-mongering statements and developed theories about Serbian aggression and genocide. Elsewhere, Zivko Radisic, who is the ethnic Serb member of the joint Bosnian Presidency, denied that the Presidency called on Kostunica to apologize. Radisic said the Presidency asked only for an explanation. He argued that the entire controversy is part of electioneering. PM
 BRITISH HELP FOR BOSNIAN DEFENSEBritish Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon told Beriz Belkic, who holds the rotating chair of the Bosnian Presidency, in Sarajevo on 17 September that his country will help Bosnia reform its defense system so that it could qualify for membership in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2002). PM
 BUJANOVAC MAYOR PLEDGES RECONCILIATIONNagip Arifi, who is the recently elected ethnic Albanian mayor of the southern Serbian town of Bujanovac, said at the opening of the local council on 16 September that "I will be the mayor for all citizens here and nobody need feel worried about their future," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 and 31 July, and 12 and 13 August 2002). He added that his priorities include "developing multiethnic democracy and creating new jobs for members of all ethnic groups." PM
 KOSOVARS SEEK INTERNATIONAL ROLEKosova President Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 16 September that he hopes that Kosova can become a member of the International Monetary Fund at the earliest possible opportunity, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Elsewhere, speaker of the parliament Nexhat Daci said that he wants Kosova to be directly represented in international organizations by its own officials. Its international representation is currently the prerogative of the UN civilian administration (UNMIK). PM
 PRESIDENT SAYS ROMANIA CAN ASSIST, BUT NOT PARTICIPATE IN AIR STRIKE AGAINST IRAQPresident Ion Iliescu said on 17 September in Ploiesti that Romania has expressed its readiness to "offer assistance within its capabilities" in the event of a military action by NATO against Iraq, but added that his country does not have an air force capable of actually participating in an air strike against that country, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 ROMANIAN PREMIER ADDRESSES ECONOMIC SUMMIT IN AUSTRIAAddressing the World Economic Forum's European Economic Summit in Salzburg on 17 September, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said that his country is determined to open all negotiation chapters with the European Union by the end of 2002, Mediafax reported. Nastase said the negotiations should end "within a year-and-a-half at most," and that Bucharest hopes to sign the accession treaty in the first half of 2004. EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen told the forum the same day that 2007 would be a realistic date for Romanian and Bulgarian accession. Verheugen said the EU "needs" the two countries and that the enlargement process is "irreversible," according to a Romanian Radio report. Verheugen then told Nastase that his country's progress is "visible" both economically and politically, and that it will be reflected in the European Commission's annual report next month. MS
 ROMANIAN COMMISSION FAILS TO TRACE FILES OF FORMER POLITICAL POLICE MEMBERSThe National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) leadership met on 17 September with members of the parliamentary commission overseeing the activity of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) and with SRI Director Radu Timofte, Mediafax reported. According to the news agency, in line with the legal provisions regulating the activity of the CNSAS, the commission agrees with the publication of the names of persons who "served the [communist] political police" -- provided that they did not "act in the service of national security." CNSAS Chairman Gheorghe Onisoru said the council has prepared a list of some 100 names, but has failed to trace the files of 19 of those included on the list. He said that the SRI replied that no evidence on the 19 can be found in its records and that the CNSAS has consequently asked the Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry to help trace the 19 files. MS
 MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST OFFICIAL OPPOSES PROPOSAL TO AMEND CONSTITUTIONVictor Stepaniuc, the chairman of the Party of Moldovan Communists' parliamentary group, told RFE/RL on 16 September that he opposes Justice Minister Ion Morei's recent proposal to amend Article 13 of the constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2002). Stepaniuc said he does not challenge Morei's view that "Moldovan" and Romanian are identical languages. However, he said, the "unionist forces" in Moldova are certain to use such an amendment to demand that Moldova be reunited with Romania. Stepaniuc said that, in fact, "Moldovan" is the language on which Romanian is based and not vice-versa, and that "a language can have two different names." He also said the legacy of defending Moldova and its language goes back to Princes Stephen the Great and Alexander the Good. MS
 BULGARIAN, ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET WITH THEIR GREEK, TURKISH COUNTERPARTS IN ISTANBULDefense Minister Nikolay Svinarov and his Romanian, Greek, and Turkish counterparts -- Ioan Mircea Pascu, Yiannos Papandoniou, and Sabahattin Cakmakoglu -- adopted a joint declaration at a meeting in Istanbul on 16 September, BTA reported. In the declaration, Turkey and Greece noted Bulgaria's and Romania's progress in their NATO-accession efforts and said Bulgaria and Romania should receive an invitation to join NATO at the Prague summit in November. The four countries will continue their cooperation after the summit, according to the declaration. Svinarov, Pascu, Papandoniou, and Cakmakoglu also agreed that the Plovdiv-based Multinational Brigade be operated under the direct supervision of the four defense ministers. UB
 BULGARIAN PRESIDENT, FINANCE MINISTER ATTEND EUROPEAN ECONOMIC SUMMITOn the sidelines of the World Economic Forum's European Economic Summit in Salzburg on 16 September, President Georgi Parvanov met with EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, BTA reported. Verheugen told the forum earlier the same day that 2007 is a realistic and reasonable date for Bulgarian accession to the European Union. Parvanov and Finance Minister Milen Velchev also conferred with European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) President Jean Lemierre. They discussed EBRD-funded projects in Bulgaria, such as the coal-fueled power plant Maritsa Iztok and the privatization of the DSK State Savings Bank. Velchev said that the EBRD plans to issue lev-denominated bonds, the proceeds of which would be used for loans to Bulgarian businesses, and to set up a new investment fund for risk capital. In addition, Parvanov met with Stability Pact coordinator Erhard Busek to discuss the progress of Bulgarian infrastructure projects financed by the pact. UB
 UKRAINE'S 'VELVET REVOLUTION' GATHERS SPEEDBy Taras Kuzio
Ukraine has begun its transition to the post-Kuchma era. The "velvet revolution," which began nearly two years ago with the "Kuchmagate" revelations of corruption and other executive misdemeanors, has served to galvanize popular consciousness, paved the way for a victory by opposition forces in the March parliamentary elections, and is now moving toward its climax. Ukraine currently resembles the USSR in the late 1980s when CPSU General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev struggled to keep pace with developments, instead of controlling them.
The situation since the March elections has changed the balance of forces in favor of the opposition, and the executive is now in a state of panic and disorientation. In Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko's words, Ukraine is in the depths of its worst political crisis since independence. Prosecutor Svyatoslav Piskun has promised to resolve within six months the murder of opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and his office has now admitted for the first time that it was a "political murder." The opposition chose 16 September, the second anniversary of Gongadze's abduction, to launch major protests.
The actions of the authorities since "Kuchmagate" have radicalized moderates in the opposition camp, particularly within Our Ukraine, whose business group Razom now supports a referendum on early presidential elections, something backed only by the more radical Forum for National Salvation (FNS) last year. Yushchenko's open letter to President Leonid Kuchma on 29 August and the 14-15 September "For the Democratic Development of Ukraine" congress organized by Our Ukraine also reflect a growing frustration and radicalization of opinion among the moderate opposition, which is threatening to completely join the radicals if the authorities continue to turn down dialogue.
The executive and its oligarchic allies have no candidate to succeed Kuchma as president in two years' time, as a viable candidate could have been only found prior to "Kuchmagate." Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Semynozhenko and oligarch Oleksandr Volkov, a former presidential adviser, have openly spoken of the need for Kuchma to run for a third term. They argue that his first term should not count as it began two years prior to the adoption of the 1996 constitution, which bans an individual from holding that office for more than two consecutive terms. Our Ukraine recently asked the Constitutional Court to rule on this question, hoping it would rule against, but even if the court ruled in favor of Kuchma being allowed to run for a third term, it seems beyond the realm of the imaginable that he could be re-elected in a free vote.
A key indication that the Kuchma regime is slowly disintegrating are defections from the former pro-Kuchma For a United Ukraine election bloc to Yushchenko. At the 14-15 September congress, the Dnipropetrovsk (Kuchma's home base) clan's Party of Entrepreneurs-Labor Ukraine led by Serhiy Tyhypko, Stepan Havrysh's Democratic Initiatives faction, and Ukraine's Agrarians all defected to Yushchenko.
The next to defect could be the Donetsk clan's Ukraine's Regions led by Deputy Prime Minister Semynozhenko, established in March 2001 and initially led by Tax Administration head Mykola Azarov. Ukraine's Regions has long-standing ties to Our Ukraine through Petro Poroshenko's Solidarity party, which was a founding member of Ukraine's Regions but then switched to Our Ukraine. Other parliamentary factions that could follow suit are Power of the People and People's Choice.
The opposition is feeling increasingly emboldened despite all manner of repressive action taken against it, including arrests and interrogations conducted throughout Ukraine over the last few days and threats by the Internal Affairs Ministry to dissuade the public from joining the protests planned for 16 September. Despite a Kyiv court ban, the protest in central Kyiv attended by 50,000 people went ahead with Our Ukraine's participation, something the authorities had not expected.
Despite the similarities with the late 1980s, Ukraine's velvet revolution is slower than those that engulfed the outer Soviet empire. The Ukraine Without Kuchma movement had already called for a roundtable with Kuchma at the height of the "Kuchmagate" crisis but the authorities refused. Nevertheless, Yushchenko, never comfortable in the role of an oppositionist, has continued to call for a "dialogue" with the executive in the form of a roundtable, hoping that the authorities will now agree to this proposal.
After the manner in which the authorities reacted to the demonstrations, with mass arrests and the tearing down of tents in central Kyiv overnight, a roundtable is becoming less likely. Kuchma was demonstratively outside Ukraine on 16 September, the day of opposition protests. Another problem is the widespread lack of trust in Kuchma's word. Kuchma shows no signs of interest in "dialogue," despite his claims to the contrary, and his actions are pushing Yushchenko into the radical camp.
The Polish roundtable in September 1988 took place because of many events and factors that are lacking in Ukraine. Specifically, it followed seven years of mass clandestine opposition under martial law, mass strikes, and protests that year. Gorbachev also rejected the "[Leonid] Brezhnev Doctrine," thereby removing the threat of Soviet intervention. Poland's Solidarity was also a nationwide movement, unlike the Ukrainian opposition, which draws its main strength from the more nationally conscious Western-Central regions (with the sole exception of the Communists who have now for the first time joined the largely national-democratic opposition).
The National Executive Commission (NEC) created by Solidarity in October 1987 included the majority of the underground opposition. In Ukraine the Forum for National Salvation (FNS), created in February 2001, only ever included the radical wing of the opposition and never Our Ukraine. The ruling authorities with whom a roundtable is to take place are also different (Communists in Poland, postcommunist oligarchs in Ukraine).
But there are also similarities. The demands made by the NEC and FNS/Our Ukraine both include an end to repression and censorship as part of a radical program of democratization. Both in Poland in the late Soviet era and today in Ukraine, national democrats continue to lead the struggle for democratization.
After the successful Polish roundtable, Tadeusz Mazowiecki headed Poland's first postwar noncommunist government in 1989, and free parliamentary and presidential elections were held the following year. The attempt to create an "artificial majority" composed of pro-presidential forces in Ukraine failed and negotiations are underway to replace it with a "democratic majority" grouped around Our Ukraine. As in Poland, the main objective is to appoint a reformist prime minister, which in Ukraine's case would be Yushchenko. In such an eventuality, with 18 months' grace during which the government could not be brought down, Yushchenko would be in the best position to be elected president in 2004.
The major loser in such a process would be Viktor Medvedchuk and his Kyiv clan's Social Democratic Party-united (SDPU-o), which Yushchenko has said will be barred from joining the parliamentary majority. Both Medvedchuk and his SDPU-o clan are feared and disliked by Eastern Ukraine's oligarchs. Radical anti-Kuchma oppositionists Yuliya Tymoshenko, against whom politically motivated charges of "corruption" would be dropped if Yushchenko became premier, and Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz could also be losers unless they agree to join the new "democratic [parliamentary] majority" led by Yushchenko and Tyhypko. Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies and adjunct staff at the department of political science, University of Toronto.