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RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 3, No. 30, 14 August 2001

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


YULIYA TYMOSHENKO FACES CRIMINAL CHARGES FROM RUSSIA. Russian prosecutors on 8 August announced that they gathered evidence in two criminal cases against former Ukrainian Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko -- now the leader of the opposition Fatherland Party and the National Salvation Forum election committee -- and handed those cases over to Ukrainian prosecutors. Ukrainian Deputy ProsecutorGeneral Mykola Obikhod on 9 August said the Ukrainian ProsecutorGeneral' s Office has received both cases and begun an investigation.

Yurii Yakovlev, Russia's interim military prosecutor-general, told Reuters that Tymoshenko is facing charges of "complicity in bribe-giving." He refused to identify whom Tymoshenko might have helped bribe, saying only that it was a Russian official. Yakovlev said the charges against Tymoshenko are part of a larger graft case involving a senior Russian Defense Ministry official suspected of questionable dealings with other Ukrainian officials.

Simultaneously, Russian civilian prosecutors requested that Kyiv pursue criminal proceedings against Tymoshenko and her husband for an alleged attempt to smuggle $100,000 from Russia in 1995. The sum was reportedly found by Russian customs officers in Tymoshenko's hand luggage in Moscow's Vnukovo airport and confiscated.

"[This is] a cheap provocation fabricated under pressure from and to order by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma with the aim of compromising the opposition movement," the Fatherland Party said in a statement on 8 August.

The same day, Tymoshenko held a news conference in Kyiv and denied the Russian charges. She said the charges were orchestrated after a deal between Kuchma and Russian President Vladimir Putin on how to "destroy" the anti-Kuchma opposition in Ukraine.

"There were three meetings of Kuchma and Putin in the past week to map out a single cooperation strategy for a long term, and those talks produced a specific result," Interfax quoted Tymoshenko as saying. "Russia has resolved for the third time to have a stake in Kuchma as Ukraine's leader and to support [his bid] for a third presidential term," Tymoshenko added.

According to Tymoshenko, Ukraine will pay a price for this deal. "There is no doubt how Kuchma will pay for such accords with the Russian Federation. I am convinced that a strategic agreement has been achieved on the surrender by Kuchma of Ukraine's national interests in the political and economic spheres, as well as in the development of joint military programs," she said. And the abovementioned statement by Tymoshenko's party specified that Kuchma urged Putin "to open a fabricated case against Tymoshenko in exchange for protectionism and preferential access of Russian capital to the Ukrainian market."

Deputy Prosecutor-General Obikhod denied political motivations in the Russian charges against Tymoshenko. "The transfer of the criminal cases doesn't concern any political persecution, while cooperation between Russian and Ukrainian law-enforcement bodies is regulated by international documents," AP quoted Obikhod as saying.

Tymoshenko's lawyer Viktor Shvets told journalists on 9 August that she was hospitalized with heart problems, while Obikhod said Tymoshenko failed to show up for an interrogation the same day because of unspecified health problems.

Meanwhile, Oleksandr Tymoshenko, Yuliya's husband, was freed from jail on 9 August, after a Kyiv district court ruled that he cannot be held in custody any longer while awaiting trial on embezzlement charges. He spent 12 months in jail on suspicion of misappropriating state funds and smuggling Russian gas. At the time of his arrest, Oleksandr Tymoshenko was a director in the gas-trading giant Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine, which was headed by his wife in 1995-97.

In addition to the recent Russian allegations, Yuliya Tymoshenko is facing charges of gas smuggling, document forgery, and tax evasion related to the period during which she headed Unified Energy Systems. Her arrest in February spurred many protest rallies in Kyiv this spring. After her release in March, she became vigorously engaged in organizing the anti-Kuchma opposition into a group named the National Salvation Forum. Polls show, however, that many Ukrainians are skeptical of her wealth and wary of her links to the notoriously corrupt energy sector.

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.

UKRAINE'S PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SAYS PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTY ORDERED TWO KILLINGS. Mykhaylo Potebenko told journalists in Kyiv on 13 August that his office has gathered sufficient evidence to prosecute a current parliamentary deputy for ordering the killings of parliamentary deputy Yevhen Scherban in 1996 and of former National Bank Governor Vadym Hetman in 1998, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported. Potebenko did not disclose the name of the suspected deputy, saying only that the Prosecutor-General's Office will present the details of the case to the parliament in a special message. Potebenko added that those who carried out the contract killings are already dead. JM

UKRAINE OFFERS BETTER GAS DEBT PAYOFF TERMS TO TURKMENISTAN. Ukraine on 13 August offered Turkmenistan improved terms for the repayment of a $280 million debt for Turkmen gas supplies, dpa reported. Last week Ashgabat rejected Kyiv's offer to reschedule Ukraine's debt to Turkmenistan on the same terms that the Paris Club agreed to in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). JM

MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS OPPOSITION'S APPEAL. The Constitutional Court rejected an appeal by the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) against the recently approved border treaty with Ukraine, Infotag reported on 13 August. The PPCD said the treaty is unconstitutional because it infringes on the provision for the indivisibility of Moldovan territory. It said that by agreeing to yield to Ukraine an eight-kilometer section of the Odessa-Reni highway that passes through Moldovan territory in exchange for a 430-meter coastal strip on River Danube, the government "betrayed the interests of the state and the people." The court ruled that the government has not yet published the text of the treaty in the official newspaper "Monitorul oficial," having only published the law on border adjustments. It said the appeal against the treaty cannot be heeded until the treaty is fully published in the newspaper. MS