©2001 RFE/RL, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

With the kind permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, InfoUkes Inc. has been given rights to electronically re-print these articles on our web site. Visit the RFE/RL Ukrainian Service page for more information. Also visit the RFE/RL home page for news stories on other Eastern European and FSU countries.

Return to Main RFE News Page
InfoUkes Home Page

ukraine-related news stories from RFE

PUTIN VISITS NOVGOROD KREMLIN, GRAVE OF UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT'S FATHER. President Vladimir Putin on 22 August visited the Kremlin of Velikii Novgorod as well as the cathedral and the monument to the Russian Millennium, Russian news services reported. Putin also laid flowers at the memorial of the grave of the father of current Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Interfax Northwest reported. Kuchma's father died during World War II, but his grave was located only in 1996. Putin will travel to Kyiv to take part in the celebrations on 23 August marking the 10th anniversary of Ukrainian independence. PG

MOSCOW ROUNDTABLE SAYS UKRAINIANS POSITIVE ABOUT RUSSIA. Participants in an academic roundtable discussion in Moscow on 22 August said that the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians have a positive attitude toward Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. Pollsters told the scholars that 61 percent of Ukrainian citizens have a positive attitude and 13 percent more have a "more positive than negative" one toward Russia, and that more than a third would like the two countries to reunify. Mikhail Pogrebinskii, the director of the Kyiv Center for Political Studies, told the group that 60 percent of Ukrainians believe that Kyiv should give priority to developing relations with Russia, while 25 percent say that their government should first focus on ties with Western Europe. PG

MOLDOVA TO BE INTEGRATED INTO RUSSIAN ENERGY GRID. Now that Ukraine is being integrated into the Russian electrical power system, Moldova will follow, "Vremya novostei" reported on 22 August. The paper said that Chisinau will gain from this arrangement because of transit fees for the export of power and also because of the enhanced role it will give the central Moldovan government over the breakaway Transdniester region. To secure its place in these arrangements, Moldova will hand over to Russia 76 percent of the shares in its largest electrical power station, Moldovan officials said. VY

MOSCOW PAPERS NOTE LITTLE NOSTALGIA FOR USSR IN FORMER REPUBLICS. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 22 August summed up the attitudes of the leaders of the CIS states under the headline: "The Leaders of the States of the Commonwealth do not experience any nostalgia for the USSR." And "Izvestiya" on the same day quoted former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk as saying that "the CIS has no future." PG

U.S. OFFICIAL OPTIMISTIC OVER CHANCES FOR KARABAKH PEACE. Speaking in Washington on 21 August on the eve of a trip to the South Caucasus and Ukraine, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Elizabeth Jones said she does not believe that the ongoing search for a solution to the Karabakh conflict is deadlocked, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Jones noted that "a lot of progress" was made at the OSCE-mediated talks in Florida in April, but declined to predict when a final peace agreement might be signed. She said that the U.S. is eager to facilitate the peace talks to the maximum degree. She also said the objective of her upcoming visit to the South Caucasus states is "to underscore the U.S. commitment" to their sovereignty, independence, and stability. LF

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT HOLDS SESSION TO MARK 10 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE... The parliament on 22 August held a solemn session to mark Ukraine's 10th anniversary of independence, Ukrainian media reported. The session was also attended by former deputies who were elected to the two preceding legislatures of independent Ukraine. In an appeal to parliaments throughout the world, Ukrainian legislators pledged to further develop parliamentarism and democracy in the country. President Leonid Kuchma told the session that Ukraine is far from "democracy that exists in the West," but noted that the country's leadership has made significant achievements. JM

...WHILE OPPOSITION GATHERS SEPARATELY. Some 1,000 opposition activists from the National Salvation Forum, the Ukraine Without Kuchma civic committee, the For the Truth group, and the Socialist Party gathered in Kyiv's Cinema House to mark the anniversary of independence. The opposition forum unanimously approved a manifesto of democratic forces calling for a change of the system of power in Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2001). Meanwhile, some 100 elderly communists and left-wingers picketed the parliamentary building during the solemn session, protesting the country's economic hardships, which they blamed on Ukraine's independence. "Our Independence Is Socialism!" one slogan read, while another asserted that independent Ukraine is resting on three pillars: "unemployment, poverty, and the death of working people." JM

UKRAINIAN BANKER REPORTEDLY KIDNAPPED AFTER RELEASE FROM REMAND. Borys Feldman, the former vice president of the Slovyanskyy bank, was kidnapped by unknown people on 22 August shortly after he was released from a remand center, STB Television reported, quoting Feldman's lawyer Andriy Fedur. Fedur told journalists that his client's life may be in serious danger. Feldman recently announced that he will make public the names of officials involved in a controversy relating to the bank. JM

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT LAW ON EXTENDING BLACK SEA 'EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE.' The government on 22 August approved a draft bill that would extend from 12 to 200 nautical miles Romania's "exclusive economic zone" in the Black Sea, Mediafax reported. The agency said the law is a response to the recent Ukrainian drillings around Serpents Island in the Black Sea. The parliament has yet to approve the bill, which would make what Ukraine claims is "scientific research" around the island illegal, unless previously approved by the Romania government. MS

The avenues of Moldova's capital, Chisinau, will once again be flooded by light on the evening of 27 August, when the former Soviet republic celebrates 10 years of independence.

But even public lighting has become a luxury for cash-strapped Moldova. The streets of downtown Chisinau have not been lit since Chinese President Jiang Zemin's visit last month. For each of the two special occasions, the electricity has been donated by the owner of the local electricity system, which turned off power earlier this year because of unpaid bills.

After 10 years of independence, Moldova has become Eastern Europe's poorest state and the only ex-Soviet state to vote an unreformed Communist Party back into power. The country has also struggled with a nearly decade-long dispute with its breakaway Transdniester region.

Moldova's situation looks particularly grim when compared to the enthusiasm that swept over the country a decade ago, when it was one of the first republics to declare independence from the Soviet Union after the failed Moscow putsch in August 1991.

Moldova was part of Romania before World War II, and 65 percent of its 4.5-million population are of Romanian nationality. In the late 1980s, during the reforms launched by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a strong pro-Romanian movement arose in Moldova, inspired by the nationalist revivals that swept many Soviet republics.

In August 1989, Moldova proclaimed Moldovan -- virtually the same as Romanian -- as its state language, and less than a year later the Romanian tricolor -- red, yellow, and blue -- was adopted as the republic's official flag. Closer ties were forged between Romania and Moldova after the Romanian communist regime collapsed during a bloody popular uprising in December 1989.

Moldova's pro-democracy movement, which owed its existence to Gorbachev's perestroika reforms, felt particularly threatened when news of the hard-line coup in Moscow broke. It publicly endorsed Boris Yeltsin in his defiance of the plotters.

"Of course, we were taking a risk. We were risking a lot," said Mircea Snegur, Moldova's president at the time. "We did not know what turn events would take, what the directives and decisions from Moscow would be. But we resisted together, both during the putsch and after, and we began to think about Moldova's independence."

On 27 August, less than a week after the failed Moscow coup, Moldova's parliament unanimously declared the country's independence and adopted the Romanian national anthem. The Moldovan parliament was among the first to declare the local Communist Party illegal.

But once the euphoria subsided, Moldova's political and economic troubles resurfaced. Like most ex-Soviet republics, Moldova's agriculture-based economy was in shambles and poverty was already widespread. In addition, the pro-Russian population of the Transdniester region on the left bank of the Dniester River -- which had already seceded from Moldova in 1990 -- was showing increasing signs of uneasiness over the fear that newly independent Moldova would seek reunification with neighboring Romania.

A short but bloody war between Moldovan forces and pro-Russian separatists followed in the summer of 1992, leaving several hundred people dead. The fighting was eventually contained by Russian troops already present in the Transdniester region.

On the other side of the border, Romanian politicians feared that reunification efforts would lead to regional instability and international isolation for Bucharest. After the end of the Transdniester conflict and amid deepening economic troubles, Moldova gradually drifted apart from Romania and in 1994 scrapped the common anthem.

That same year, the center-left Agrarian Party took over from Snegur's Christian Popular Democratic Front. But reforms remained at a standstill, while poverty grew. Elections in 1998 brought to power an alliance of reformist parties but also marked the return to parliament of the Communist Party, which was legalized again in 1995.

The economic crisis continued to deepen amid lackluster reforms, while political bickering between then-president Petru Lucinschi and parliament finally resulted in early elections this year and the Communists' victory.

Upon coming to power in April, Communist President Vladimir Voronin pledged to strengthen the country's economic and political ties with Moscow and to bring Moldova into the Russia-Belarus Union. He also named as his top priorities resolving the Transdniester dispute and boosting the status of the Russian language.

But the Transdniester dispute remains unresolved despite halfhearted mediation attempts by the OSCE, Moldova now says it is ready to grant Transdniester a large degree of autonomy. Pro-Russian separatists, however, insist that they want a loose confederation of two sovereign and independent states.

Russia still has some 2,500 troops in the Transdniester and large stockpiles of weapons and ammunition. The withdrawal of the troops and the destruction of the arsenal -- estimated at 50,000 pieces of armaments, as well as 40,000 tons of ammunition -- has long been a bone of contention between the two sides.

Russia last month began the weapons destruction in line with a 1999 OSCE agreement. But the Russian troops' withdrawal -- which has been fiercely opposed by the separatists -- has yet to begin.

"As long as this problem remains unsolved, as long as Moldova cannot control its borders and cannot protect its citizens, this state is not an independent state, is not a sovereign state, and is not a democratic state." said Moldovan historian Gheorghe Cojocaru.

Economically, Moldova remains overwhelmingly dependent on Russian energy, despite its "privileged" relationship with Romania. Both Romania and Moldova -- with average monthly incomes of $100 and $30, respectively -- rank among the poorest countries in Europe, and Romanian influence on the Moldovan economy is nearly nonexistent.

Moldova owes Russia some $600 million in unpaid gas and electricity bills. It owes an additional $800 million to international lending organizations.

Communists were brought back to power by voters dreaming of a return to the relative economic stability of Soviet times. But the government has done little so far to alleviate the growing poverty that has turned Moldova into a hub of crime and prostitution.

Some positive signs, however, have recently appeared. Moldova in June was admitted into the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe. In July, it gained entry into the World Trade Organization, ahead of larger and richer post-Soviet countries like Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. And the new government's reform program was praised earlier this month by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation. The IMF mission said it will support Moldova's attempt to have some $170 million of debt canceled.

However, Moldova now appears closer to Moscow than it did 10 years ago when it declared independence from the Soviet Union. And its communist government has yet to give clear signals that it is ready to change its populist rhetoric and engage in the reforms it will need to attract Western support.