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END NOTE: ELECTION CAMPAIGN STARTS IN UKRAINE
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT NAMES NEW FINANCE MINISTER. Leonid Kuchma moved quickly to replace beleaguered Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov, appointing Ihor Yushko to the post on 27 December, ITAR-TASS and AP reported. A former centrist lawmaker and senior member of parliament's Finance and Banking Committee, Yushko was promoted just three weeks after being named the Finance Ministry's state secretary on 7 December. Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh called the 40-year-old Yushko a "professional who knows the banking system of Ukraine in depth," ITARTASS reported from Kyiv. Mityukov, finance minister since February 1997, was sacked following criticism led by the president that he had failed to implement the 2001 budget. AH
EARLY CENSUS FIGURES SHOW 6 PERCENT DECLINE IN UKRAINIAN POPULATION. Preliminary results from Ukraine's census were released on 27 December, signaling a decline of 3 million people since the 1989 study to 48.86 million inhabitants, AP reported. The census put the population of Kyiv at 2.58 million, according to the government daily "Uriadoviy Kurier." Detailed statistics are expected in April, the paper added. AH
KYIV INITIALS GAS TRANSIT TERMS WITH MOSCOW. A Ukrainian delegation led by Fuel and Energy Minister Vitaliy Haiduk initialed an agreement with Russia on 26 December on terms for Russian natural gas deliveries through Ukraine in 2002, Infobank News Service reported. The preliminary agreement sets a 31.7 percent tariff hike for the second half of 2002, while Russia will increase the price of gas supplies to Ukraine by 34 percent, the agency quoted Prime Minister Kinakh as saying on 27 December. Kinakh added that the intergovernmental agreement envisages the introduction next year of an export duty on gas amounting to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters, which is less than the $140 duty initially sought by Russia, according to Infobank. Russia will pay for 10 percent of its transit gas in cash, the agency said. Supplies aimed at filling product-distribution agreements and destined for Germany, Slovakia, and other countries under the Yamburg Agreement are exempt from export duties, Infobank reported. AH
UKRAINE, RUSSIA AGREE ON JOINT MILITARY SALES STRATEGY. Representatives of state-owned defense trader Ukrspetseksport signed a deal on 21 December with their Russian counterparts from Rosoboroneksport on cooperation to boost arms sales from both countries, Infobank reported on 24 December. The companies will focus particularly on marketing in the sale of similar equipment, arms sales to third countries, and joint production. Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Yevgeniy Marchuk called the cooperation agreement important for his country, according to ITAR-TASS, adding that Ukrspetseksport will be reorganized under a plan to form a single defense trading company controlled by the state once a law on military and technical cooperation is adopted. AH
POLISH JUSTICE MINISTRY REQUESTS LIFTING OF FORMER DEPUTY SPEAKER'S IMMUNITY. Justice Minister Barbara Piwnik asked parliament on 27 December to lift the immunity of former Deputy Speaker Andrzej Lepper to allow his prosecution for slandering the country's foreign minister and five other senior officials, Western and local agencies reported. The Sejm is widely expected to comply when it reconvenes on 9 January, AP added. A Justice Ministry spokesman said the move is "fully justified" in light of an investigation that suggests "a criminal offense has been committed," AP reported. Lepper, whose radical SelfDefense Party is the third-largest in the Polish parliament, faces at least three pending cases stemming from verbal attacks on public officials or organizing roadblocks by militant farmers. The slander charges carry a sentence of up to two years in prison. He has already been removed from his leadership post in the legislature in connection with late-November verbal attacks on top officials, which included charges of accepting bribes (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 27 November and 4 December 2001). AH
UN DENIES BOSNIAN SEX RACKET CHARGES. In a statement in New York on 27 December, the UN rejected charges in "The Washington Post" that some members of the UN's police force (IPTF) are themselves actively involved in running prostitution rackets, Reuters reported. The statement said that the charges "have no substance.... No UN international police officers have been found to be involved in the trafficking of women in Bosnia." Critics charge that in one instance, two Romanian police officers recruited Romanian women by using false documents and then sold the women to Bosnian brothel owners, dpa reported from Sarajevo. Other Romanian police officers allegedly tipped off brothel owners about impending raids. The newspaper report suggested that investigators were bullied by UN police authorities, including a Ukrainian senior officer, who eventually stopped the investigation. PM
MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT UPBEAT ON FUTURE. Boris Trajkovski said in Skopje on 21 December that "we can conclude that the climax of the crises is behind us," AP reported. He added that "we still need to reestablish law and order in all of our territory, to bring back home the displaced." Trajkovski thanked the U.S., EU, Russia, and Ukraine for their help during the past year. He called for "understanding and confidence" between the ethnic groups, adding: "We have to learn to forgive and to strive to live together." He noted that Macedonia's "long-term strategic goal remains the same: full membership for Macedonia in the Euro-Atlantic family, in the European Union, and in NATO as the safest way out of instability and toward prosperity." PM
ELECTION CAMPAIGN STARTS IN UKRAINE
On 31 March 2002, Ukraine will elect a new parliament. The outcome of that ballot will determine the country's domestic and foreign orientation for the first decade of the 21st century. How the elections are conducted will determine if Ukraine's international image will improve following the death in the fall of 2000 of journalist Hryhoriy Gongadze and the ensuing "Kuchmagate" scandal. The 1994 and 1998 parliamentary elections were deemed free and fair by the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
Ukraine's revised parliamentary election law came into force on 30 October 2001, and the 90-day election campaign officially begins on 1 January 2002. Ukrainian voters have a six-cornered choice between two pro-presidential blocs (For a United Ukraine and the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine united [SDPUo]); two antipresidential blocs (Socialists and Yulia Tymoshenko); one that bridges these two hostile camps and is antioligarch but is not hostile to President Leonid Kuchma (Our Ukraine); and one that rejects just about every aspect of the present political system and Ukraine's independence (Communists).
The hard-line Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) will more than likely again garner its steady 15-20 percent of the vote, mostly from pensioners, according to two December polls by Sotsis and Democratic Initiatives. That party's main support base is in the industrialized Russified and sovietised regions of Eastern Ukraine and the Crimea.
The Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU), once an ally of the KPU, took part in the 1998 elections with the now defunct Peasant Party. Peasant Party leader Oleksandr Tkachenko, who served briefly as Rada Chairman in 1998-1999 until Ukraine's "velvet revolution" in early 2000 that removed the Rada's left-wing leadership, has now returned to the KPU. Throughout the 1990s, the SPU moved cautiously to the right to position itself on the left of the Social Democrats and toward a prostatehood position. This move was reinforced by the key role played by SPU leader Oleksandr Moroz during the Kuchmagate affair that erupted in November 2000. The SPU's allies will be four small parties representing rural interests, dissident Greens, the former Soviet-era Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine, and Social Democrats. The SPU's main base of support is in the Ukrainophone regions of Western and Central Ukraine outside of Galicia. Mykola Melnychenko, the former Security Service officer at the heart of Kuchmagate who is now in exile in the United States may run on the SPU list.
Moroz's SPU is tactically allied with the former Forum for National Salvation (FNS) created in February 2001 at the height of Kuchmagate because both blocs support moves to radically reform Ukraine's political system, including abolishing the presidency and impeaching President Kuchma. The FNS has been renamed the "Yulia Tymoshenko" bloc to capitalize on the former deputy premier's popularity as a female politician and most voters' preference for personalities rather than blocs or parties. The Tymoshenko bloc includes her own Fatherland, two center-left parties (Social Democrats and the Patriotic Party), and four national democratic ones (Sobor, Republicans, Conservative Republicans, and Christian Democrats).
The SDPUo, which is headed by former first deputy parliament speaker Viktor Medvedchuk, has long considered former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko as its main protagonist, and he has felt the same about the SDPUo. Both the SDPUo and Yushchenko's Our Ukraine have their main base of support in western-central Ukraine and Medvedchuk orchestrated the 26 April no-confidence vote in Yushchenko's government. In the 1998 elections, the SDPUo only managed to gain seats in the Rada because the party's result was "topped" up by votes from the Agrarians to push it over the threshold to the suspiciously close 4.01 percent. While Medvedchuk has attempted to use the language card to obtain eastern Ukrainian votes, he has also sought to increase his profile among western Ukrainians by openly talking of the arrest in 1944 on charges of being a member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) of his father, who was then deported to Siberia, where Medvedchuk was born.
The loss of support from the executive for the SDPUo, as reflected in Medvedchuk's ouster on 13 December from the post of deputy chairman of the Rada, means that the party will not have access to "administrative resources" during the campaign. It is also not coincidental that the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting, headed by former Rukh Chairman Ivan Drach, withdrew the license from Inter television -- which is controlled by the SDPUo and is highly popular in Eastern Ukraine where the rival pro-Kuchma For a United Ukraine has its main support base -- on the same day that Medvedchuk was removed as Rada deputy chairman. The SDPUo leadership must be wondering if they will suffer the same fate as former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko's Hromada, which was destroyed in 1998-1999 after he quarreled with the executive. SDPUo votes may be needed by For a United Ukraine to counter Yushchenko's popularity.
Successive opinion polls conducted since summer 2001 show Yushchenko's popularity rating at 30 percent, a figure far higher than any other politician in Ukraine, and that of Our Ukraine at 15-20 percent, according to the same two polls. The popularity of his bloc is only low in southern-eastern Ukraine (2-5 percent) and the Crimea (1 percent). This means that for the first time in Ukraine's history, the KPU is not the most popular party. The "Yushchenko phenomenon" makes it likely that the KPU will only attract hard-core supporters, while those who formerly voted for the Communists as a sign of protest against the status quo will this time vote for Our Ukraine, Tymoshenko, or the SPU. Yushchenko's bloc includes his longtime national democratic allies from the two main wings of Rukh; Reform and Order, led by old-time colleague Viktor Pynzenyk; the Liberals (the former Donbas Party of Power); the "mini oligarch" Solidarity party, whose leader Petro Poroshenko heads the bloc's headquarters; and other smaller Christian and national democratic parties.
Yushchenko has attempted to bridge the pro- and anti-Kuchma camps by making clear his opposition to the oligarchs but not to Kuchma personally. This has, however, not prevented Kuchma from openly accusing Yushchenko earlier this month of being behind "Kuchmagate." Yushchenko is the godfather to Poroshenko's daughters and has been criticized by Tymoshenko for including both him and Roman Besmertnyi, until recently Kuchma's representative in the Rada and a former member of the proKuchma Peoples Democratic Party of Ukraine (NDPU), as his election campaign manager. Kuchma is also utilizing the recently formed antiYushchenko Rukh for Unity led by Bohdan Boyko to draw away some Rukh supporters from Our Ukraine.
For a United Ukraine is Kuchma's open favorite and the nucleus of Ukraine's future presidential party. At a meeting with the regional media on 18 December, Kuchma openly admitted having instructed all levels of the state, from the heads of village councils to the prime minister, to vote for that bloc. During his two-hour meeting he never once mentioned Medvedchuk or the SDPUo. The five parties belonging to the bloc (NDPU, Agrarians, Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Party of Regions, Labor Ukraine) seemed earlier this fall in danger of falling apart, a factor that led Kuchma to delegate Volodymyr Lytvyn, head of the presidential administration, to lead the bloc. Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh is second on the list of top names of For a United Ukraine. Lytvyn sees the main supporters of his bloc as voters tied to the authorities and pro-presidential supporters.
OUR UKRAINE BLOC DENIES YUSHCHENKO'S INVOLVEMENT IN TAPE SCANDAL. Our Ukraine, the election bloc led by former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, has issued a statement to deny Yushchenko's involvement in the release last year of secret audio recordings implicating President Leonid Kuchma in the killing of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and a number of other illegal activities, UNIAN reported on 19 December. The statement was made in response to the allusion made by President Kuchma at a news conference the previous day that Yushchenko might have been behind the tape scandal, as he was the only person who was in a position to benefit from Kuchma's resignation. "[If the president] had had a nervous breakdown and resigned, [then Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko would have become the acting president]. Taking into account the situation and resources then, who would have won [early presidential elections]?" Interfax quoted Kuchma as saying on 18 December. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December)
PARLIAMENT APPROVES BILL ON MANDATORY TELEVISION DEBATES IN ELECTION CAMPAIGNS. The Ukrainian parliament on 13 December passed a bill on the holding of mandatory television debates during presidential and parliamentary election campaigns. The bill gives the right of participation in such debates to all candidates in presidential elections as well as to leaders of parties and blocs, and to all candidates in single-seat constituencies in parliamentary elections. The bill obliges all countrywide television channels irrespective of their form of ownership to hold election debates. Under the bill, candidates who fail to appear in such debates will be removed from the election race, while the television channels that fail to organize them will have their broadcast licenses revoked. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)
PRESIDENT VETOES BAN ON ALCOHOL, TOBACCO ADVERTISING. Leonid Kuchma has vetoed the bill passed by the parliament on 15 November that banned alcohol and tobacco advertising "on all information carriers," Ukrainian media reported on 17 December. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December)
UKRAINE MEDIA NEWSLETTER AVAILABLE. The November 2001 issue of the European Institute for the Media bulletin on media developments in the regions of Ukraine, the "Ukrainian Media Bulletin," was issued on 20 December. It is a regular free bulletin on media developments in Ukraine. The 12-page bulletin contains information in five categories: media news, media and government, media law, media conferences, and new media technology. This information is provided by EIM correspondents in Ukraine. For more information, please see the website of EIM's Kyiv office at http://www.eim.com.ua.