UZBEK PRESIDENT DECREES AMNESTY. President Islam Karimov has issued a decree granting an amnesty to an unspecified number of prison inmates, Interfax reported on 28 August. The amnesty is pegged to the anniversary of Uzbekistan's 1991 declaration of independence. Eligible for amnesty are World War II veterans, people over 60, Chernobyl victims, minors, the disabled, and foreign nationals. The amnesty does not extend to persons convicted for terrorism, crimes against the constitutional system, extremism, or inciting ethnic or civil strife. Nor does it apply to members of extremist or other illegal organizations. LF

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CONFIDENT ABOUT FUTURE, WITH OR WITHOUT IMF. Leonid Kuchma on 28 August spoke confidently of Ukraine's chances of overcoming its economic crisis, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. He said the country's living standards will improve even if the IMF refuses further credits to Kyiv. Kuchma noted that the recent $100 million payment to the IMF (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2000) may be viewed as the beginning of Kyiv's repayment of its full debt to the fund. He said that once Ukraine repays its IMF debts, the country will be able to live without foreign credits. According to Kuchma, the parliament is willing to cooperate with the government and there is no need for early legislative elections. "I will not initiate such elections myself, and I will oppose [any] attempts to do so," he pledged. JM

MASS POISONING IN UKRAINE POSSIBLY CAUSED BY MILITARY 'WASTE.' Ukraine's Main State Sanitary Inspector Olha Bobylova said on 28 August that the "most likely" cause of the mass poisoning in four villages of Mykolayiv Oblast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 28 August 2000) is "waste" from military facilities located in the vicinity of those villages, Interfax reported. Bobylova added that the Defense Ministry has declined to respond directly to the Health Ministry's inquiries about the location of liquid rocket fuel waste in the affected area, saying only that there have been no rocket fuel spills. However, another Health Ministry official, Roman Sova, said a government special commission found that soil and ground water in the area are contaminated with "products of the decomposition of liquid rocket fuel components." JM


RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 2, No. 31, 29 August 2000

A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team.


WILL UKRAINE SURVIVE THE WINTER WITHOUT PROBLEMS? President Leonid Kuchma said in Poltava on 28 August that Ukraine "will survive the upcoming winter, just as it did all the preceding ones," Interfax reported. "One should not make a problem out of this," he added.

However, Kuchma said he "does not understand" Russia's offer to sell gas to Ukraine for $102 per 1,000 cubic meters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000), noting that Western consumers of Russian gas pay less. Kuchma also voiced his "surprise" over Russia's intention to set a price for oil products sold to Ukraine at a "somewhat higher level" than the price of those exported to Western Europe and other CIS countries.

Last week parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch revealed that there was a disagreement between Kuchma and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the CIS informal summit in Yalta on 18 August. Plyushch told STB Television on 24 August that Kuchma reminded Putin at the summit that it was not Ukraine but Russia that started a bilateral economic war. Kuchma, according to Plyushch, noted the war will have no winners.

Expressing his own view, Plyushch added that if Russia continues to "undermine" Ukraine's economy, Kyiv will have to take some reciprocal steps. According to Plyushch, Ukraine could increase charges for the deployment of Russian troops on its territory or increase tariffs for the transit of Russian gas "and so forth."

"As we go forward, more and more questions appear [on the way]. If our steps were clear-cut, there would be fewer questions." -- Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch, commenting on the nine years of Ukrainian independence. Quoted by Interfax on 23 April.

"The autumn will be hot from a political viewpoint. But I hope it will be business-like." -- Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch on the expected parliamentary debate on how to introduce constitutional amendments in line with the 16 April referendum, which approved Kuchma's proposals to increase the president's controls over the parliament. Quoted by Interfax on 23 April.

RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.