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DEPUTY PROSECUTOR: FALSE STATEMENT ON INTERNATIONAL GONGADZE COMMISSION. During a 25 January interview with Interfax, Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksiy Bahanets announced that the Council of Europe had decided not to create an international commission of inquiry into journalist Heorhiy Gongadze's disappearance and murder, because it would be contrary to Ukrainian law. According to the Paris-based media watch group Reporters without Borders (RSF), the deputy prosecutor-general's statement is false and his announcement as another ploy by the Ukrainian authorities to delay identification of Gongadze's murderers. Although Antanas Valeonis, chairman of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers and Lithuanian foreign affairs minister, acknowledged that Ukrainian law currently does not allow for the creation of a commission of inquiry, he has not said that such a commission would not be created. Three Ukrainian members of parliament are currently drafting a bill to create the needed legal framework to enable foreign investigators to work in Ukraine. Moreover, on 24 January, Council of Europe Rapporteur for Ukraine Hanne Severinsen wrote to the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers asking that a swifter process to form the independent commission of inquiry. RSF recalls that on 27 September 2001, the Council of Europe recommended the creation of an international commission of inquiry and noted that such a commission would have to be ratified by the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers in order to be efficient. Furthermore, Bahanets announced on 28 January that he would ask the German authorities to carry out a third expert evaluation of the corpse that was found in Tarachtcha. He did not specify the identity of the organization that would perform the autopsy, nor did he indicate when the autopsy might take place. RSF believes that a new autopsy will not serve as a substitute for a genuine independent investigation of the journalist's disappearance and murder. For further information, contact Jean-Christophe Menet at or see (Reporters without Borders Press Release, 30 January)

OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER CONSTRAINED TO CHANGE PRINT SHOP. "Ukrayina Moloda" reported on 26 January that the Kyiv-based newspaper "Vecherniye vesti," which is linked to opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko, has been forced to look for a printing house in Lviv since the editorial staff could not find a printer in the capital. "Print shop directors spoke to us in a normal manner by phone until we named ourselves. The name of our newspaper automatically meant an end to the conversation. Some promised to call us back, but it was obvious that they would not," "Vecherniye vesti" Editor in Chief Oleksandr Lyapin commented. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January)

U.S. SANCTIONS AGAINST UKRAINE OVER CD PIRACY TAKE EFFECT... The previously announced U.S. trade sanctions against Ukraine for its inability to curb compact disc piracy took effect on 23 January. The Ukrainian parliament on 17 January hastily passed a law regulating the production of CDs. UNIAN quoted Kenneth Fairfax, an official from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, as saying that the U.S. authorities received the text of the law on 21 January and are currently analyzing it. Fairfax said the sanctions may be lifted in time if the law satisfies the United States. Fairfax said, however, that the adopted law provides for "insignificant penalties," adding that "they will come as no more than an irritation for those who make millions of dollars annually" from CD piracy, STB Television reported. Under the sanctions, the U.S. will apply higher duties on $75 million worth of metals, shoes, and other goods exported from Ukraine. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January)

...WHILE KUCHMA DECRIES THEM AS 'PRESSURE.' Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told journalists on 22 January that he is inclined to sign the recently passed bill on the production of CDs in Ukraine, Interfax reported. At the same time he said, "No country in the world has the kind of law the U.S. is demanding from us." And he added: "So what is it? Cooperation or simply pressure? I regard this as pressure." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January)

UKRAINE TO DISCUSS TRADE SANCTIONS WITH U.S. OFFICIALS. Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Rohovyy and Finance Minister Ihor Yushko are to hold consultations on the U.S. trade sanctions against Ukraine with U.S. officials during the World Economic Forum in New York next week, AP reported on 24 January. Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko told Interfax the same day that Kyiv is currently "clarifying" the reaction of the U.S. side to Ukraine's law against CD piracy that was passed earlier this month. The U.S. trade sanctions over what the U.S. sees as Ukraine's inadequate measures to curb CD piracy took effect earlier this week. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January)

MINISTER PESSIMISTIC OVER U.S. TRADE SANCTIONS. Economy Minister Oleksandr Shlapak told ICTV Television on 24 January that the U.S. sanctions over CD piracy will cost Ukraine $51 million and "thousands of jobs." Shlapak added that U.S. trade sanctions from the Soviet era, which are still in force, suggest that there will be no swift end to the sanctions even if Ukraine fully complies with the demands of the international music industry. "The [Jackson-Vanik] amendment was passed by the [U.S.] Senate in 1974. It was aimed against the Soviet Union for violating the right of its Jewish citizens to emigrate. But this problem has long been solved in Ukraine, while the amendment is still in place. This shows how conservative the Americans are on economic issues," Shlapak noted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January)

INDIAN COMPANY ACQUIRES ONE-YEAR LEASE OF ARMENIAN CHEMICAL GIANT. The Armenian government has granted the Indian-owned company Ramsalt management rights to the debt-ridden Nairit-1 chemical plant for a period of one year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 31 January. Ramsalt has for several years been one of the main purchasers of Nairit- 1's primary product, synthetic rubber. Industry and Trade Minister Karen Chshmaritian said on 31 January that a contract will shortly be signed with Ramsalt under which Ramsalt will purchase a majority stake in Nairit after the one-year term expires and invest some $20 million in the company. That news implies that earlier talks with a Ukrainian company that had considered purchasing Nairit have collapsed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November and 4 December 2001). LF

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VETOES BILL ON COMPENSATION FOR DEVALUED SAVINGS. Leonid Kuchma has vetoed a bill on state guarantees to compensate depositors for their devalued savings, Ukrainian media reported on 31 January. The bill, passed by the Verkhovna Rada on 10 January, obliged the government to pay 9 million hryvni ($1.6 billion) this year in compensations for devalued savings, whereas the 2002 budget provides only for 500 million hryvni to be spent for this purpose. Ukrainian banks owe depositors nearly $24 billion dollars in lost savings, which is equal to approximately three times the country's annual budget. JM

UKRAINIAN JUSTICE MINISTRY EXPLAINS REJECTION OF MELNYCHENKO'S ELECTION BID. The Justice Ministry has concluded that former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko does not fall into the category of individuals resident in Ukraine in the last five years and therefore may not be registered as a candidate in this year's parliamentary election, UNIAN reported on 31 January. The ministry's state secretary, Oleksandr Lavrynovych, told journalists that, indeed, the definition of permanent residence in the election law covers Ukrainian citizens' stay abroad under active international treaties signed by Ukraine. Lavrynovych added, however, that the ministry analyzed all of Ukraine's international treaties and reached the conclusion that this clause applies only to businessmen and tourists. Melnychenko's stay abroad, according to the ministry, cannot be categorized as such. The Central Election Commission refused to register Melnychenko, and the Socialist Party election bloc has filed a complaint to the Supreme Court. JM

UKRAINIAN ENERGY COMPANY LOSES SUIT IN RUSSIAN COURT. A court of arbitration in Moscow has ruled that a Ukrainian company must pay 452 million rubles ($14.7 million) to the Russian Defense Ministry in debt for supplied gas, New Channel Television reported on 31 January. The defendant in this case was the Ukrainian company Bosfor, while the third party in the claim was the industrial-financial corporation United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU). The debt arose from gas supplied by Russia to UESU in 1996-97. The Ukrainian companies are accused of failing to deliver under a barter agreement signed with the Russian Defense Ministry in 1996, when the UESU was run by Yuliya Tymoshenko. JM