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CAMERAMAN ATTACKED IN LUHANSK. On the evening of 26 August, Aleksey Movsesyan, a 23-year-old cameraman with the independent TV station Efir-1 in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk, was assaulted and sustained critical head injuries. Although officials deny political motives for the attack, the television station for which the journalist works is known for its reporting which is critical of the local authorities. (Committee to Protect Journalists Press Release, 18 September)

UKRAINIANS MARCH TO REMEMBER GONGADZE. Some 4,000 people took part in a march and a rally in Kyiv on 15 September to remember the slain journalist Heorhiy Gongadze who went missing on 16 September 2000, world agencies reported. "The world has been concerned with the terrorist acts in the U.S., but it is much worse when the state, the authorities are using terror," Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz told the crowd on Kyiv's Independence Square. The secret recordings made public by presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko last year suggest that President Leonid Kuchma and top state officials may be implicated in the killing of Gongadze. The demonstration, organized by the anti-Kuchma National Salvation Forum, took place without incident. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)

PROSECUTOR VOWS TO SOLVE JOURNALIST'S MURDER. Speaking at a public hearing in Kyiv on 17 September, Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksiy Bahanets said the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze will probably be solved soon, STB Television reported. According to Bahanets, had it not been for the tragedy in the U.S., FBI experts invited by the Prosecutor-General's Office would have been already working on the case. "The Prosecutor-General's Office has reinforced the investigating team. Detectives who successfully solved murders in previous years -- those of parliamentary deputy Yevhen Shcherban and of [former National Bank Governor Vadym] Hetman -- are taking part in the investigation of this case," Bahanets said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September)

EUROPEAN UNION CALLS FOR IMPROVED MEDIA FREEDOM. At a 11 September summit meeting between European Union and Ukrainian government officials in Yalta, senior EU representatives called on President Kuchma to improve press freedom conditions in the country during the run-up to parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2002. At the opening of the summit, Guy Verhofstadt, the prime minister of Belgium, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, stated, "These elections must be used to show that journalists can work freely in Ukraine," according to AFP. (Committee to Protect Journalists Press Release, 18 September)

LIVE RADIO COVERAGE OF PARLIAMENT TO BEGIN. The parliament passed a resolution ordering the National Radio Company to provide live coverage of the current parliamentary session four days a week. The resolution also obliges the National Television Company to air a daily 30-minute information program about parliamentary session proceedings on the UT-1 and UT-2 state-run channels. The document requests that President Kuchma sack National Television Company head Vadym Dolhanov for his failure to implement last year's parliamentary resolution on the television coverage of the preceding parliamentary session. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September)

PIPELINE BYPASSING UKRAINE SAID TO SERVE RUSSIA'S GEOPOLITICAL INTERESTS. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said in Novorossiisk on 25 September at the opening of a new stretch of the Sukhodolnaya-Rodionovskaya oil pipeline, which will allow Russia to export oil without sending it across Ukrainian territory, that the pipeline serves Russia's geopolitical interests, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

PRIVATE INVESTIGATION SAYS UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT NOT INVOLVED IN JOURNALIST'S DEATH... Kroll Associates, a private investigative agency from the United States, said on 25 September that there is no evidence to link Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to the murder of Ukrainian Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Kroll Associates was hired by the pro-Kuchma Labor Ukraine party to conduct an independent investigation into the Gongadze case. Secret recordings made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko suggested that Kuchma may be involved in the slaying of Gongadze. "Our investigation raised questions about the credibility of the person [Melnychenko] purportedly making the tapes and the integrity of the recordings themselves," Kroll Associates said in their report. The report does not answer the question of how Gongadze was killed. JM

...WHILE ANTI-KUCHMA OPPOSITION REMAINS UNCONVINCED. Ukrainian opposition activists have dismissed Kroll's findings, saying it was a public relations exercise to lend credibility to Kuchma's statements of innocence ahead of parliamentary elections next year, Reuters reported on 25 September. "Their task was to clear Kuchma and they fulfilled it. There was no investigation; they did not find any new facts. They just discussed existing theories," Yuriy Lutsenko, one of the leaders of the Ukraine Without Kuchma movement, told the agency. Michael Cherkasky, Kroll's chief executive, said his firm interviewed dozens of witnesses, including Kuchma, his chief of staff Volodymyr Lytvyn, and some top politicians. The firm, however, failed to meet with Melnychenko as well as with former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko and former Security Service head Leonid Derkach, whom Melnychenko charged of complicity in the murder of Gongadze. JM

COUNCIL OF EUROPE URGES NEW PROBE INTO GONGADZE'S DEATH. The Monitoring Committee of the Council of Europe considers it advisable to recommend that Ukraine initiate a new investigation into the Gongadze case with the participation of international experts, Novyy Kanal television reported on 25 September, quoting the Monitoring Committee's rapporteur on Ukraine, Hanne Severinsen. Former presidential bodyguard Melnychenko has reportedly agreed to testify before an investigation commission with the participation of international experts. JM

UKRAINE QUALIFIES PLEDGE OF AIRSPACE TO U.S. A Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on 25 September that Kyiv's decision to grant U.S. military cargo planes an air corridor over Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2001) does not include transportation of arms. "The resolution makes it quite clear that there must be no arms. All freight must be purely for use in the rear," ITAR-TASS quoted the spokesman as saying. "If the U.S. requests permission to transport weapons, this issue will have to be dealt with by the Ukrainian Supreme Council," STB television quoted President Kuchma as saying the same day. JM

KUCHMA BLAMES CENTRAL BANK FOR WEAKNESS OF UKRAINIAN BANKING SYSTEM. The Ukrainian president on 25 September said the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) is responsible for the fact that Ukraine's banking system is "the world's weakest," UNIAN reported. Specifically, he blamed the NBU for past troubles of the Ukrayina bank that is now in liquidation. Kuchma recalled that when Ukrayina was declared bankrupt, having lost 123 million hryvni ($23 million) in 1998, the NBU issued a 150 million hryvni loan to it. Kuchma also made some general remarks on the way business is done in Ukraine: "Ukrainian legislation is such that whoever steals the most is right. If one has money, he will be free; if one has no money, he will sit in prison." According to Kuchma, 70 percent of Ukrainian enterprises generate losses and "unfortunately, their number is only set to grow." JM

ESTONIAN AIR SUSPENDS FLIGHTS. Estonian Air announced that it is suspending its flights from 26 to 28 September because insurance companies have reduced the maximum coverage for terrorist and war-like attacks from $1 billion to $50 million, BNS reported on 25 September. Such coverage is not sufficient, as the terms by which the company leases its aircraft require insurance of at least $500 million. The government refused the airline's request to give a guarantee for such insurance until 1 November, when a new insurance agreement will come into effect, explaining that Estonian law prevents it from giving guarantees greater than 15 percent of the state budget. The government pledged to open talks with the Danish government about widening the guarantees to Maersk Air, which owns 49 percent of Estonian Air. The airline has canceled 10 flights a day to London, Riga, Moscow, Kiev, and Hamburg, but will continue flights to Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Vilnius with planes leased by Maersk Air, ETA reported on 26 September. SG