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TOP PROSECUTOR EXPLAINS CHARGES AGAINST UKRAINIAN POLITICIAN... A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office explained on 8 August the grounds for the criminal case brought against former Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko and her husband Oleksandr for bribery and custom violations, Russian news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2001). The spokesman's statement indicates that Tymoshenko gave a bribe to the chief financial officer of the Russian Defense Ministry, Colonel General Georgii Oleynik, who is currently under investigation for embezzling $450 million of funds meant for Ukrainian companies. The customs charge relates to an incident in 1995 when Tymoshenko along with her husband were briefly detained in a Moscow airport after customs officers found $100,000 in her hand luggage (see Part II). VY
...AS MOVE IS INTERPRETED AS ATTEMPT TO BOLSTER KUCHMA. From Kyiv, Tymoshenko told Interfax that the legal case against her is an attempt by Moscow to help Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma crush his political opposition. Tymoshenko heads the leading Ukrainian opposition movement Batkivshchina. As Russia and Ukraine have no extradition treaty, the only legal consequence of the opening of a criminal case against a Ukrainian citizen in Moscow is that it will possibly lay the ground for opening a similar case in Ukraine. VY
MOSCOW TV STATION TO EXTEND BROADCASTS TO UKRAINE, BELARUS, AND MOLDOVA. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced on 8 August that the regional television channel TV Tsentr, which is controlled by the Moscow city government, is planning to extend its broadcasting to the territory of Belarus, Moldova, and some areas of Ukraine, Interfax reported. Luzhkov stated that TV Tsentr head Oleg Poptsov has managed to make the station's broadcasts politically unbiased. TV Tsentr's potential audience will be about 74 million, many of whom, according to Luzhkov, will be interested in how Moscow solves its economic and social problems. In addition, TV Tsentr also intends to target the large portion of the city of Moscow's population that consists of the people from these regions. VY
...SAYS GUUAM 'USELESS'... President Lukashenka told journalists in Minsk on 8 August that the GUUAM grouping that aligns Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova, is "a pointless organization," Interfax and Tura reported. He suggested that it was created "out of jealousy" as a counterpart to the Russia-Belarus alignment. Echoing Russian President Vladimir Putin's warning at the CIS summit in Sochi last week (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2001), Lukashenka said that "I am not against regional alignments within the CIS as long as they do not split the commonwealth." But he also acknowledged that failure to implement decisions it adopted constitutes "the biggest problem" of the CIS. LF
TYMOSHENKO'S PARTY REJECTS CHARGES AGAINST HER AS 'CHEAP PROVOCATION.' Former Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party have dismissed the bribery charges filed against her by Russian military prosecutors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2001), Reuters reported on 8 August. The party statement branded the charges "a cheap provocation, fabricated under the influence of President [Leonid] Kuchma, with the aim of compromising the opposition movement." Also, the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has pressured Ukrainian officials to press charges against Tymoshenko and her husband for an alleged attempt to smuggle $100,000 out of Russia in 1995 (see Part I). DW
UKRAINE TO APPEAL FOR RENEWAL OF U.S. TRADE STATUS. Economic Minister Oleksander Shlapak said on 8 August that Ukraine will send a delegation to Washington next week in an attempt to recover the right to duty-free exports to the U.S., news agencies reported. The U.S. removed Ukraine's trade status on 7 August due to its failure to combat widespread compact disc and video piracy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2001). Shlapak said the government will try to quickly resolve the dispute, as well as ensure that parliament passes laws to crack down on the piracy of intellectual property "as soon as possible." Ukraine is considered by the U.S. to be Europe's biggest producer of pirated CDs and videos, with five illegal factories producing more than 70 million discs a year. DW
Summits seldom are about the issues their participants say they are. Instead, they typically are intended to boost the standing of one or more of those taking part. Sometimes that strategy works, but sometimes, as in the case of Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka's boosting of the recent Slavic Bazaar meeting in Vitsebsk with his Russian and Ukraine counterparts, it fails miserably.
Lukashenka had already met with Russian President Vladimir Putin six times this year, and another summit with him and his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma apparently struck the Belarusian leader as just what he needed to build support in advance of presidential elections on 9 September.
Even before the 25 July meeting took place, the International Helsinki Federation pleaded with the Russian and Ukrainian presidents not to go to Vitsebsk lest they appear to be supporting a politician who flagrantly violates human and civil rights. And Belarusian opposition groups forwarded to Putin new documents implicating Lukashenka in the activities of a government-supported death squad and the "disappearances" of his political opponents.
That certainly did Lukashenka no good either at home or abroad. Nonetheless, both Putin and Kuchma decided to attend the Slavic Bazaar. But once there, they pursued their own agendas, not his, an approach that underscored Lukashenka's isolation rather than boosting his standing.
Lukashenka should have seen this coming: Each of his successive visits to Moscow this year has prompted ever more critical comment, sometimes off the record but ever more frequently on, by Russian officials about him. And in the run-up to Vitsebsk, several Russian papers said that the Kremlin had been infuriated by Lukashenka's suggestion that no one can "whack" people left and right if he wants to succeed. People in the Russian capital took that to be criticism of Putin's remarks at the start of his Chechen campaign. And other Russian commentary was even more sneering. One paper derided "this so-called ally of ours" and referred to him as "President Luka."
Lukashenka tried to overlook this and to play up the "common Slavic roots and cultural identities of three fraternal nations." Putin's response was surprisingly cool and noncommittal and Kuchma's was not much warmer. Russian reporters immediately presented this as yet more evidence of growing personal animosity between Lukashenka and the other two presidents.
But perhaps the most striking (and to Lukashenka, infuriating) result of Russian attitudes was the fact that Russian television channels, from which most Belarusians get much of their news, did not show Lukashenka once in their coverage of the summit. Consequently, an event that was intended to give Lukashenka a boost in his campaign may have had just the opposite effect.
If Lukashenka suffered a loss at this summit, did anyone win? Clearly Kuchma was the chief beneficiary of the meeting. His bilateral sessions with Putin were positive and media coverage stressed their personal rapport. As a result, the Ukrainian president left the meeting in high spirits.
But what of Putin? He underscored the importance of Belarus to Russia by coming to the summit, but he did so in a way that limits the damage Lukashenka's antics, which have so angered the West, can do to him. Indeed, by behaving the way he did, Putin probably gained points in the West and elsewhere in the neighborhood.
So, in the end, two of the three summit participants got what they wanted, but the host had to go away with less than nothing.