UKRAINIAN PREMIER THREATENS TO RESIGN OVER ENERGY SECTOR CONTROVERSY. Viktor Yushchenko on 2 November threatened to resign over a report by Council of National Security and Defense chief Yevhen Marchuk saying that the government presented "unreliable" data on the situation in the energy and fuel sector, Ukrainian media reported. "If my mission here [as prime minister] is determined to be ineffective, then let it be undertaken by someone else," Interfax quoted Yushchenko as saying. Marchuk maintains that the government overstated the level of cash revenues in the energy sector as well as the amount of fuel stored for the upcoming winter. Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko previously claimed to have raised the level of cash payments to some 70 percent in the energy sector. According to Marchuk, a large part of the revenues was made up of credits granted by banks to state enterprises under pressure from the government. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT LIFTS IMMUNITY OF EMBEZZLEMENT SUSPECT. The parliament on 2 November voted by 268 to three to lift the immunity of lawmaker Viktor Zherdytskyy, former chief of the Kyiv-based Gradobank, Interfax reported. The decision allows the Ukrainian authorities to demand Zherdyskyy's extradition from Germany, where he was detained last month on charges of embezzling 86 million marks ($38 million) from a German compensation fund for Nazi victims in Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2000). Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko told the parliament that an investigation has proved that in 1995 Zherdytskyy embezzled 4 million marks. Potebenko, however, did not indicate if the embezzlement pertained to the German compensation fund. JM

POLAND NOT TO INVEST PUBLIC MONEY IN BYPASS OIL PIPELINE. Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Janusz Steinhoff on 2 November said Poland does not plan to invest public funds in a planned new gas pipeline from Russia to Western Europe, PAP reported. He added that the budget will therefore not benefit from this project, Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Poland would receive $1 billion annually for the transit of gas via a pipeline that might bypass Ukraine. Steinhoff noted that Moscow's statements on Poland's possible profits from the bypass pipeline project are "premature." He said the government has created favorable conditions for Polish private businesses, adding that they might show interest in the planned project. JM

HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY ARE DETERIORATING, RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA ARE ON THE RISE. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) published a report on 6 October for the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The report details serious violations of the Helsinki "human dimension" standards by 41 members of the 55-member international organization and raises concerns about human rights and democracy in many countries within the OSCE region, not only in states in transition but also in long-established democracies. The IHF receives reports about torture and inhumane treatment of arrestees, detainees, and prisoners by law enforcers from virtually all countries of the OSCE, and cases are detailed here in nearly half of the countries covered. The report singles out both Russia and the United States for particular criticism on their use of the death penalty. The information from national Helsinki committees, on which this report is based, suggests that racial discrimination and xenophobia, ranging from violent attacks to discrimination in work and housing (e.g. in Austria, Germany, Sweden, Slovakia, and Spain), are on the rise. In former Soviet countries, old judicial practices still exist, even where new legislation has been adopted. Long proceedings and heavy sentences contribute to extreme overcrowding in prisons in virtually all transition states. In Georgia, legal reforms were passed to gain membership into the Council of Europe. However, shortly after admission, amendments to the new Criminal Procedure Code significantly reduced the rights of those under criminal investigation. Lack of a fair trial for political opponents remains. Violence during arrest, in custody or in prison, is detailed in numerous countries in the report (e.g. in Albania, Azerbaijan, Central Asian countries, France, Latvia, Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, U.K., Ukraine and the U.S.). In many post-communist countries, ill-treatment and torture are an integral part of police investigations (e.g. in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Central Asian countries, Georgia, and Ukraine). In the West, there are many reports of excessive use of force and beating of suspects, while lack of police accountability remains a problem in most countries (e.g. France, Turkey, U.K. and the U.S.). There is widespread evidence of deliberate ill-treatment of prisoners, denying them medical care (e.g. in France) or keeping them in inhumane conditions, in most former socialist states. Uzbekistan's Jaslik labor camp for religious and political prisoners is situated in a region devastated by previous chemical weapons testing. In 1999 alone, 39 inmates reportedly died there. In Turkmenistan, a prison camp is situated near an abandoned uranium mine. Media freedom is under increased threat in many countries, where indirect forms of censorship often prove very damaging. Russia gives particular cause for concern. In Belarus, where the government has monopolized printing presses, distribution services, and electronic media, registration of independent media is routinely blocked. Official intolerance towards minority religions exists across Europe and the former USSR. Rules on registration and financial status appear to be applied on an ideological and discriminatory basis, for example in France, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine. Islamists in Central Asia face serious repression, through mass arrests, and heavy sentences, for example for possessing religious leaflets in Uzbekistan. Minorities, refugees, and migrants face severe problems in many OSCE countries. Roma face severe problems of discrimination, racism, and xenophobia in all countries. Child refugees are among the most vulnerable group of all inhabitants, yet little provision is made in any country for their special needs. For the complete text or interviews contact: Ursula Lindenberg, Press Officer, International Helsinki Federation ( (International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, 6 October)

CONFERENCE ON NATIONAL MINORITIES. Representatives of Poland's ethnic minorities discussed various issues at a 24 October conference in the Polish parliament on the legal status of its national minorities (German, Ukrainian, Roma, Belarusian, Jewish, Lithuanian, and others) in the context of the Council of Europe's recommendations. The country's minority population is estimated at some 1.5 million, or 2 to 3 percent of the population. (PAP news agency, 24 October)

CHORNOBYL WORKERS IN TULA END HUNGER STRIKE. A group of 25 people in Tula Oblast who were disabled as a result of their work cleaning up after the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster ended their hunger strike on 27 October, ITAR-TASS reported. The strikers had been protesting amendments to the law on welfare benefits to Chornobyl workers. According to "Izvestiya," the amendments would have made benefits "proportional to the severity of medical conditions rather than wages." The former workers were insisting that the new law must not worsen their situation. The chairman of the regional Chornobyl Union, Vladimir Naumov, told ITAR-TASS that the strike was called off after the State Duma rejected amendments to the Chornobyl law and after the government found a way to pay "700 million rubles [$25 million] in compensation for the damage to relief workers' health, as envisaged by current legislation." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

CHORNOBYL, SUBSTANCE ABUSE TAKE TOLL IN PSKOV. Pskov Oblast's population is shrinking, largely as a result of the poor health and/or unhealthy life style of the local residents, according to RFE/RL Russian Service's "Korrespondentskii chas" on 14 October. Over the past 10 or so years, the region's population has decreased from some 850,000 to 800,000. One main reason for the decline is considered to be contamination of the soil and water supplies and the high level of radiation after the 1986 Chornobyl disaster. Psychologists maintain that high levels of stress are due to unemployment and a pessimistic outlook on life. Alcoholism among the male population has become "the norm," while drug abuse, including heroin consumption, is growing among the oblast's youth, And while the influx of migrants from the neighboring Baltic states, Central Asia, and the Caucasus might help boost the population, xenophobia in the oblast remains strong, as does the fear that the new arrivals might snatch away jobs from the locals. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 October)


BANNED NEWSPAPER RESUMES PUBLICATION IN UKRAINE. The Kyiv-based newspaper "Silski visti" has resumed publication after it was closed for failing to pay taxes. The newspaper announced on the first page of its 21 October issue that "the 18-day blockade has finally been broken" owing to "widespread public protests, protests by other journalists, and the efforts of people's deputies who supported it," the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 25 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October)