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UKRAINE ADVISES GEORGIA AGAINST 'ZERO OPTION'... Georgian parliament deputy Koba Davitashvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 11 January that the Ukrainian government has urged the Georgian parliament not to ratify the so-called "zero option," whereby Georgia will forfeit any claim to a share of the assets of the former USSR in return for the restructuring of its $179 million debt to Russia, Caucasus Press reported. Ukraine and Georgia are the only two former Soviet republics that have not yet formally abjured any claim to the assets of the former USSR. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has argued in favor of the "zero option," noting that ratification of it is a key condition for disbursement of a new IMF loan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December 2000 and 8 January 2001). Davitashvili argued that Georgia's share of the Soviet assets, which is estimated at between $2.5-5 billion, is enough to pay off not only its debts to Moscow but the entire state debt, which he said totals $1.4 billion. LF
UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS SLAM PROSECUTOR-GENERAL OVER MISSING JOURNALIST CASE. Serhiy Holovatyy and Viktor Shyshkin, members of the ad hoc parliamentary commission to investigate the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, have accused Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko of seeking to hide evidence in the Gongadze case, Interfax reported on 11 January. Valeriy Ivasyuk, the commission's expert, noted in connection with the Gongadze case that Ukraine "has created a forensic-medical system to annihilate people and hide crimes." Robert Menard, head of the Reporters Without Borders international group, told journalists in Kyiv the same day that he recommended to President Leonid Kuchma that Potebenko be dismissed because of the unsatisfactory investigation progress in the Gongadze case. Menard added that Kuchma "did not speak in [Potebenko's] defense." JM
PACE PLEDGES TO HELP EVALUATE 'MOROZ'S TAPES.' Hanne Severinsen, a rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), pledged PACE's help in making an expert evaluation of the "Moroz tapes" which caused a political scandal in Ukraine by implicating President Leonid Kuchma in Gongadze's disappearance. "If it turns out that these tapes are authentic, you will have a Watergate in Ukraine," Severinsen said, adding that PACE will find an institution to evaluate the original tapes made by Kuchma's former bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko. The same day, Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said Melnychenko eavesdropped on Kuchma for a total of 300 hours. And Melnychenko told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 9 January that he has taped "dozens of people" in Kuchma's office, adding that those persons can confirm the authenticity of the tapes. Prosecutor-General Potebenko told the parliament the previous day that Melnychenko's recordings are doctored. JM
...LISTS FURTHER OSCE PRIORITIES. Geoana said another main focus of activity will be Chechnya, and proposed that Romanian ambassador to Kyiv Alexandru Cornea head a new mission to Grozny, calling on Russia to grant it "all possible support." He said his first mission as OSCE chairman will take him next week to Belgrade, and the OSCE will help prepare elections in Kosova and build democratic institutions in Bosnia. The OSCE will also concentrate on the struggle against organized crime, ethnic hatred and discrimination against minorities. In 2001, he said, Romania will organize an OSCE conference on the situation of Sinti and Roma in Europe (see also "End Note" below). MS