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ITERA TO OPERATE UKRAINE-TURKMEN CONTRACTS (7 January) Controversial Florida-based Itera Group will act as an operator of Turkmenistan gas deliveries to Ukraine in 2002. Corresponding agreements and contracts have been signed with NAK Neftegaz Ukrainy, Gazprom, and gas-transport companies from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. According to a company statement, Itera will provide for the transportation of 34 billion cubic meters (bcm) from Turkmenistan to Ukraine. Over the past three years the total volume of Turkmen gas transported to Ukraine by Itera has reached almost 47 bcm. Since the completion of its first gas project in 1994, Itera has provided for the delivery of more than 150 bcm of natural gas into Ukrainian gas pipelines.

In 2002, Itera plans to purchase up to 10 bcm of gas from Turkmenistan. These volumes will be delivered to several members of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Itera delivered about 80 bcm of natural gas to regional consumers in 2001. The company also plans to increase its recovery of gas from the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug of Russia. Itera is planning to tap about 30 bcm of natural gas this year, and by 2007 to 2010 bring its own gas production volume up to 80 billion cubic meters. (JMR)

KUCHMA APPROVES 2002 BUDGET (3 January) Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has approved and signed into law a budget for 2002. The budget, the nation's first to adhere to International Monetary Fund (IMF) accounting standards, is a key condition for Ukraine to unlock badly needed loans from the Fund. The budget envisages a modest budget deficit of 1.7 percent of gross domestic product. It follows a tight fiscal policy, which will allow Ukraine to receive the next $375 million installment from the IMF under its $2.6 billion loan program. The draft budget had been rejected several times as parliamentary deputies, facing elections in March, and voters, battling dwindling incomes and widespread poverty, clamored for higher spending and handouts for police, soldiers, and teachers, Reuters reported. The revenue target was set at 45.2 billion gryvnias and spending at 49.5 billion while the deficit is fixed at 4.3 billion. (JMR)

UKRAINE'S INFLATION HITS 10-YEAR LOW (3 January) Sergei Samoilenko, an aide to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Rohovy, told Reuters, "Monthly inflation in December 2001 was 1.6 percent, and annual inflation for 2001 was 6.1 percent." In 2000, Ukraine's inflation rate was a heady 25.8 percent, but falling food prices and the stabilizing gryvnia currency helped curb increases in the cost of living last year. Producer price rises have also steadied, climbing only 0.9 percent in 2001 after a 20.8 percent rise in 2000, Samoilenko said. In December, producer prices rose by 0.5 percent from November. The figures will hearten ministers engaged on a campaign to attract foreign investors, who have criticized that nation's extensive red tape, inflation, corruption, and opaque business laws. Foreign direct investment since 1991 totaled $4.19 billion as of October last year, or about $85 per capita, one of the lowest rates among former Soviet republics. Ukraine is also pressing for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). (JMR)

...WITH A TOTAL OF SIX IN GEORGIA, LATVIA, RUSSIA, UKRAINE AND SERBIA. In Georgia, TV reporter Giorgiy Sanaya was killed on 26 July in Tbilisi -- Sanaya's colleagues believe that the murder resulted from his professional work. Rustavi-2, the TV station, where Sanaya worked, is known for its in-depth reports on official corruption. In Latvia, crime reporter Gundars Matiss was killed on 28 November in Liepaja; Matiss, who worked for the Liepaja-based daily "Kurzeme Vards," was severely beaten and later died from a brain hemorrhage. Police cited robbery, but Matiss had not been robbed. Police investigation continues. In Russia, Eduard Markevich, editor and publisher of the independent paper "Novy Reft," was killed on 18 September in Reftinsky, Sverdlovsk Oblast. The journalist's colleagues said that he had received phone threats before the killing; Markevich was also attacked in 1998. In Ukraine, the director of independent TV company Tor, Igor Aleksandrov, was attacked on 3 July and later died in Slavyansk. Aleksandrov's colleagues believe the murder was connected to his TV program, which featured investigative coverage of corruption and organized crime. In Serbia, AP TV producer Kerem Lawton died on 29 March in Kosovo. Lawton, 30, a British national, died from shrapnel wounds sustained when an artillery shell struck his car. Macedonian military officials and ethnic Albanian insurgents denied responsibility for his death. Reporter Milan Pantic was killed on 11 June in Jagodina. The 47-yearold journalist worked as the "Vecernje Novosti" correspondent for the Pomoravlje region of central Serbia. He specialized on criminal matters, including corruption in local companies and had often received telephone threats. For more, e-mail or see (Committee to Protect Journalists Press Release, 3 January)

...IMPUNITY STILL REIGNS... Almost no murders and assassinations of journalists have ever been solved. The people behind the murders are still free and have never been touched by the judicial system in their countries. In Ukraine, for example, the government has been obstructive in the search for the truth behind the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze in September 2000. The ProsecutorGeneral' s Office and the Ministry of the Interior are against any serious investigation. In September 2001, the Council of Europe approved a recommendation calling for "the Ukrainian authorities to undertake a new investigation into the disappearance and death of Heorhiy Gongadze and, to this end, set up an independent investigative commission," comprised of international experts. (Reporters without Borders Press Release, 2 January)

...AS DOES THE HUMAN COST... As of 1 January 2002, 110 of the world's journalists are still in prison due to their opinions or their professional activities. One year ago, there were "only" 74 in jail. In all, 489 press professionals have been denied their freedom in 2001, often with no explanations. Over 700 journalists were attacked or threatened. Whether committed by the authorities, political party activists, armed bands, or criminals, these attacks are almost never investigated in serious, sustained ways. It is no surprise that impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators increases. In many countries, political leaders are often the instigators of these violent acts, since they would prefer revenge on critical journalists rather than take them to court. In Ukraine, Russia, and the former Soviet-bloc republics of Central Asia, violence is always present, and there have been many recorded attacks. (Reporters without Borders Press Release, 2 January)


PRESIDENT VETOES BILLS ON COMPULSORY TV DEBATES, LOCAL ELECTIONS. Leonid Kuchma has vetoed a bill obliging all candidates in presidential and parliamentary elections to take part in televised debates and requiring that television companies, independently of their form of ownership, broadcast such debates, Interfax reported on 8 January. Kuchma also vetoed a bill on local elections that stipulated a mixed system in elections to oblast-level councils and a majority system in elections to lower-level councils. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)


RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 4, No. 2, 15 January 2002

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

WILL MINSK PARTICIPATE IN PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS? "Our law currently in force does not provide for Belarusian army contingents' participation in [international peacekeeping] operations, but the situation may soon change and we should be prepared for this," Stanislau Smolski, the first deputy chief of the Belarusian armed forces' General Staff, told Belapan on 13 January.

According to Smolski, Belarus should take part in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in order "not to lag behind in the world trends of the development of military science and the practice of applying armed forces." Participation in such operations, Smolski said, has a political aspect as well, as this is a "demonstration of the state's flag on an equal basis with other countries in the solution of global problems."

As regards the financial expenses for training peacekeeping forces, Smolski said they will soon pay for themselves, adding that "the United Nations and the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] pay in hard currency, and it is an extremely profitable affair for small states."

Last week, Smolski headed a military delegation to Ukraine and signed a Belarusian-Ukrainian plan for military cooperation in 2002 that provides for the study by Belarusian military leaders of Ukrainian peacekeepers' experience in international operations under the UN flag, , among other joint measures.


A congress of the For a United Ukraine election bloc on 12 January approved its election manifesto and list of candidates for the 31 March parliamentary ballot, UNIAN reported. The first five individuals on the list include the bloc's leader and head of the presidential administration, Volodymyr Lytvyn; the head of the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh; lawmaker Yekateryna Vashchuk; general director of the Mariupol Illicha metallurgical plant, Volodymyr Boyko; and rector of National Taras Shevchenko University, Viktor Skopenko.

The second five on the list are the head of the Popular Democratic Party and Transport Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko; Labor Ukraine Party head Serhiy Tyhypko; Party of Regions head Volodymyr Semynozhenko; Agrarian Party leader Mykhaylo Hladiy; and the first deputy head of the Transport Ministry, Heorhiy Kyrpa.

The list continues with lawmaker Andriy Derkach; famous sportsman Serhiy Bubka; Yuris company President Mykola Onishchuk; presidential adviser Anatoliy Tolstoukhov; Ivan Zubets; the minister of agricultural policy, Ivan Kyrylenko; lawmaker Oleksandr Karpov; Industrial Policy Minister Vasyl Hureyev; Ivan Kuras, the director of the Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies; and lawmaker Ihor Sharov.

Lawmaker Dmytro Tabachnyk is No. 21 on the list, and the president of the Professional Soccer League, Ravil Safiullin, is No. 22.

The congress also approved candidates in the single-seat constituencies. The bloc's 225 candidates include parliament Speaker Ivan Plyushch (Chernihiv Oblast); presidential adviser Leonid Kadanyuk (Chernivtsi Oblast); former Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk (Mykolayiv Oblast); parliament Deputy Speaker Stepan Havrysh (Kharkiv Oblast); the first deputy head of the State Tax Administration, Ihor Kalinichenko (Vinnytsya Oblast); and the head of the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Valeriy Horbatov (Crimea).

"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.

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR REGIONAL ENERGY SYSTEM. In his traditional Monday radio broadcast, President Shevardnadze advocated on 14 January creating a regional energy system that would encompass Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, and the Balkan states, Interfax reported. LF

OUR UKRAINE LEADER DEFIES SMEAR CAMPAIGN. Former Premier Viktor Yushchenko, who heads the Our Ukraine election bloc, has said he is not afraid of any compromising material that may be used against him in the parliamentary election campaign, 1+1 Television reported on 14 January. "I do not feel that there is anything behind me or my family about which I would rather not speak in public," Yushchenko said. Yushchenko was commenting on the recent disclosure of his wiretapped conversation with Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko in which the two appear to discuss how to oust parliamentary speaker Viktor Medvedchuk. The tape was made public by Dmytro Ponomarchuk from the Popular Movement of Ukraine for Unity election bloc (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 January 2002). The leadership of the bloc has distanced itself from Ponomarchuk, saying he was paid by Russian spin doctors to publicize the tape in a bid to compromise Yushchenko. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT WANTS PROBE INTO ALLEGED SALE OF ARMS TO TALIBAN. The Verkhovna Rada on 15 January backed a motion by lawmakers Hryhoriy Omelchenko and Anatoliy Yermak requesting the ProsecutorGeneral' s Office and the Security Service of Ukraine to check the recent allegations by Germany's "Der Spiegel" of illegal sales of Ukrainian arms, UNIAN and Interfax reported. Quoting Russian State Duma deputy Viktor Ilyukhin in an article published on its website, "Der Spiegel" said Israeli citizen Vadym Rabinovych jointly with former Ukrainian Security Service chief Leonid Derkach and his son Andriy Derkach had sold "military equipment" to the Taliban. JM

UKRAINE TO UPGRADE MACEDONIAN MILITARY EQUIPMENT. Ukraine will help Macedonia upgrade its military equipment, Interfax reported on 15 January. An agreement to this effect was reached during a meeting of Ukrainian General Staff chief Petro Shulyak with his Macedonian counterpart Metodi Stamboliski in Kyiv on 15 January. Stamboliski told journalists that the talks focused on the equipment already delivered by Ukraine to Macedonia and ruled out any new weapons acquisitions. JM

UKRAINE'S GDP GROWS BY 9 PERCENT IN 2001. Ukraine's GDP in 2001 increased by 9 percent compared with 2000, UNIAN reported on 15 January, quoting a government official. Inflation in 2001 was 6.1 percent. JM

CROATIA MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION. President Stipe Mesic said in Zagreb that Croatia's struggle for independence was a direct reaction to the policies of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 15 January. That date marks the 10th anniversary of Croatia's diplomatic recognition by EC -- as the EU was then called -- member states and is considered one of the most important dates in modern Croatian history, Hina reported. Already in 1991, Slovenia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Latvia, Iceland, Estonia, and Germany recognized the new state. Russia recognized Croatia on 17 February 1992, followed by the U.S. on 7 April. The EC's diplomatic move followed the end of the fighting in late 1991 and confirmed what was already an established fact, namely that the former Yugoslavia no longer existed. PM