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CASE OF DISAPPEARED ORT CAMERAMAN GOES TO BELARUSIAN COURT. Belarusian Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman has sent the case against four suspected kidnappers of Dzmitry Zavadski, a cameraman of Russia's ORT television station, to court, Belapan reported on 12 July. Zavadski went missing at the Minsk airport on 7 July 2000. The ProsecutorGeneral' s Office accuses Valery Ihnatovich and Maksim Malik, former members of Belarus's antiterrorist force Almaz, and two other persons of seven premeditated murders, including that of Zavadski, as well as of five armed assaults, two kidnappings, and other crimes. Investigators have not found Zavadski's body. In June, two former Belarusian investigators Dzmitry Petrushkevich and Aleh Sluchak accused top state officials, including Sheyman, of organizing a death squad to liquidate opponents of the regime (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 June 2001). According to Petrushkevich and Sluchak, the death squad killed Zavadski as well as opposition politicians Viktar Hanchar and Yury Zakharanka. JM

U.S. CONGRESS MOVES TO REDUCE AID TO UKRAINE OVER SLOW REFORM, MURDERS OF JOURNALISTS. William Taylor, the U.S. coordinator for assistance to the newly independent states, said in Kyiv on 12 July that the U.S. Congress may reduce assistance to Ukraine because of concerns about the slow pace of reform and the killings of two journalists, Heorhiy Gongadze and Ihor Aleksandrov, AP and Interfax reported. The previous day, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted to put a cap of $125 million next year on assistance to Ukraine under the Freedom Support Act, down from a cap of $170 million for 2001. The move must be approved by the U.S. Senate. "A key component of the rule of law [in Ukraine] is, of course, the investigation into the Gongadze and Aleksandrov cases," Taylor noted. He added that Washington will continue to support independent Ukrainian media through training, legal assistance, and monitoring programs. JM

UKRAINIAN, RUSSIAN, MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTERS DISCUSS TRANSDNIESTER. The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, and Moldova -- Anatoliy Zlenko, Igor Ivanov, and Nicolae Cernomaz respectively -- called in Kyiv on 12 July for giving "special status" to Moldova's separatist region of Transdniester, but failed to define that status, AP and Interfax reported. Zlenko told journalists that Ukraine and Russia will act as guarantors of Transdniester's "special status," adding that it should not contradict Moldova's territorial integrity and sovereignty. "We are closer to the solution of this [Transdniester] problem than we have ever been. The very important issue remains: Transdniester's representatives should determine their type of special status," Cernomaz noted. Transdniester's representatives did not participate in the tripartite meeting in Kyiv. JM

RUSSIA STAYS CALM OVER UKRAINE'S RELATIONS WITH WEST. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in Kyiv on 12 July that Russia's interests are not being harmed by Ukraine's relations with the West, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov's talks with Ukrainian officials focused on border delimitation as well as the legal status of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait. Ivanov announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to visit Kyiv in August to take part in celebrations of the 10th anniversary of Ukraine's independence. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT CONTINUES STRUGGLE FOR NEW ELECTION LAW. The parliament on 12 July adopted an amended version of the recently vetoed election bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001), Interfax reported. As previously, the bill calls for the election of 335 parliamentary deputies under the proportional party-list system and 115 in single-mandate constituencies. "If the parliamentarians once again passed the same law, then they must have some problems with their [mental] health," President Leonid Kuchma commented. Kuchma has already vetoed three election bills that intended to change the current law, under which 225 deputies are elected under the proportional party-list system and 225 in single-mandate constituencies. JM

ROMANIA 'WORRIED' ABOUT UKRAINIAN BLACK SEA DRILL. The Foreign Ministry has issued the Ukrainian Embassy in Bucharest a "verbal note" expressing its "concern" about the Ukrainian announcement that a Ukrainian-British company has discovered "commercial oil and reserves" in the Black Sea and that drilling will soon begin, Mediafax reported. The ministry draws to the attention of Kyiv that the reserves are in the vicinity of Serpents Island, and that the negotiations on demarcating the continental shelf in that zone are still underway, in line with the provisions of the 1997 basic treaty between the two countries. The ministry says Ukraine has no right to grant licenses for drilling in the zone as long as the negotiations have not been concluded. Eight meetings between the sides have so far taken place to negotiate the issue and a ninth encounter is scheduled to take place in Kyiv this month (see RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 10 July 2001). MS

MOLDOVA, UKRAINE, APPROVE ACCORD ON SWAPPING TERRITORIES. The parliaments of Moldova and Ukraine on 12 July approved the agreement whereby Ukraine will gain sovereignty over a stretch of the IzmailOdessa highway previously on Moldovan territory in exchange for Moldova's gaining access to a 430-meter stretch of land along the banks of the Danube River near the village of Giurgiulesti, where it intends to build an oil terminal, dpa reported. The villagers of Palanca, whose pastures will be now transferred to Ukraine, demonstrated in Chisinau against the agreement. The accord stipulates that the villagers will be allowed access to the pastures without using passports. The opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic accused the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists of "selling off national wealth" and "harming national interests." MS


THOUSANDS ATTEND JOURNALIST'S FUNERAL... More than 5,000 people attended Aleksandrov's funeral on 10 July, Unian and Interfax reported. (RFE/RL Ukrainian Service, 12 July)

...AND INVESTIGATION INITIATED. Donetsk regional prosecutor Viktor Pshonka has launched an official investigation. Donetsk regional Governor Viktor Yanukovich and Ukrainian Internal Affairs Minister Yury Smirnov are directly involved in supervising the investigation, according to the local press. The chief of the Donetsk Ministry of Internal Affairs, General Vladimir Malyshev, stated that revenge was the leading motive in the murder but did not elaborate, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Oleksij Shechovtsov, a Ukrainian parliamentarian, has called for an informal parliamentary committee to track the investigation, since he does not trust the Donetsk regional police, reported RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. President Kuchma has also ordered a special committee to investigate this murder, circumventing the local police, and also sent his national security chief Yevhen Marchuk to Sloviansk. Reportedly, the journalist had also been working closely with two members of an anti-corruption and organized crime unit who were subsequently fired. (RFE/RL Ukrainian Service, 12 July)

FEAR SAID RULING PRESS. The widow of murdered Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze told a RFE/RL audience in early July that authorities in Kyiv have created a climate of fear that is leading ever more journalists to censor themselves. Myroslava Gongadze, a former Internews employee, said that "in the past, external censorship prevented a free press in Ukraine," but today, "the most serious problem is that of selfcensorship" due to fear and the failure of the
authorities to investigate actions such as her husband's murder. Gongadze's husband, a persistent critic of the Ukrainian elite and President Kuchma, disappeared last September in Ukraine, and a headless corpse later identified as Gongadze's was found a few weeks later. Mrs. Gongadze rejected claims by the Ukrainian presidential administration that everything had been done to find her husband's killer and called on Western governments to establish an international commission to investigate his case. This week, Mrs. Gongadze will accept an award on behalf of her late husband from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting in Paris. The award recognizes the work of the murdered journalist in fighting for the right of Ukraine's citizens to information and freedom of expression. (RFE/RL Press Release, 5 July)