BALLOT-RIGGING AND ATTACKS ON MEDIA MAR UKRAINE VOTE. Election violations such as ballot-stuffing in favor of incumbent Leonid Kuchma marred the Ukrainian presidential elections on 31 October, according to the "Financial Times." "Most of the claims and counter-claims are unlikely to be properly substantiated," the paper said, "but allegations of fraud seemed more credible to international observers after the heavy-handed campaign run by President Kuchma, in which the media has faced heavy pressure and opposition candidates have been harassed." The U.S.-based International Republican Institute called the balloting "disappointing," as "it fell short of previous Ukrainian standards, and well short of the mark set by countries that are members of or are in the process of applying for membership in organizations Ukraine wishes to join." In a 28 October letter to Kuchma, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned his "government's crude attempts to censor" four opposition newspapers. In addition, CPJ wrote, Ukraine officials subjected the paper "Kryvoi Rog Vecherny" to a series of hostile tax audits, the police ransacked the editorial offices and detained an editor, Inna Chyrchenko, for 17 hours because of the paper's ties with presidential candidate Oleksander Moroz.
UKRAINE SECRET POLICE CHARGES SCIENTISTS WITH TREASON. On 16 October, SBU agents (Ukraine's secret police) raided the homes and offices of Sergey Pyontkovsky, his former wife, Galina, and Yuriy Tokarev, all of them scientists at the Institute of Biology of the Southern Seas (IBSS) in Sevastopol. SBU officers seized scientific papers, computers, money, and passports. According to an urgent appeal to the West by IBSS scientists, the trio has been charged with having criminal links with the West, transfering Soviet-era secret information, and conducting illegal currency operations such as paying the participants in their projects in hard currency. Pyontkovsky, an authority on tropical plankton and the author of some 60 scientific papers, has worked on a long list of joint studies of marine ecosystems funded by the European Union and the United States. On 29 October, the American magazine "Science" said the raid "rekindl[ed] memories of Soviet-era repression." To focus attention on the need to dismiss the charges, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has sent out a "human rights action alert."