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FORMER UKRAINIAN PREMIER CHARGED WITH CONTRACTING MURDERS. Pavlo Lazarenko is charged with ordering and paying for the murders of senior state officials in 1996 and 1998. See "RFE/RL's Crime, Corruption, and Terrorism Watch" at:
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FORMER UKRAINIAN PREMIER CHARGED WITH CONTRACTING MURDERS. Pavlo Lazarenko is charged with ordering and paying for the murders of senior state officials in 1996 and 1998. See "RFE/RL's Crime, Corruption, and Terrorism Watch" at:
( Subscribe to get it via e-mail: (


EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF MAKES PLEA FOR FAIR UKRAINIAN ELECTION. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana urged Ukrainians in Kyiv on 21 February to work together to ensure free and fair parliamentary elections next month, Reuters reported. "To have free, fair, and constructive elections, everyone has to contribute -- authorities, electoral officials, parties, and citizens. I hope after the elections the country will move forward to political stability and economic reforms that will help deepen cooperation with the European Union. That is our wish," Solana told a news conference held jointly with President Leonid Kuchma. JM

UKRAINE TO WITHDRAW PEACEKEEPERS FROM SIERRA LEONE. Defense Minister Volodymyr Shkidchenko said in a telephone interview at the Kyiv-based newspaper "Fakty i kommentarii" on 21 February that Ukraine intends to withdraw its peacekeepers from Sierra Leone. The schedule for the withdrawal has not been set yet. Shkidchenko said the UN has asked Ukraine to wait until May, after Sierra Leone's election. The minister said the Ukrainian peacekeepers have completed their mission, and that there is no reason to endanger their health for money. "The climate is far too bad for our servicemen: terrible humidity, an average temperature of 40 degrees Celsius, all those insects and snakes, and so on," New Channel Television quoted Shkidchenko as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN SOCIALISTS CAMPAIGN TO CHANGE GOVERNMENT SYSTEM. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said in an election spot on Ukrainian Television on 21 February that the main point of his party's election program is to change "the whole system of unfair government." Moroz noted that the authorities -- including President Kuchma, presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn, and ProsecutorGeneral Mykhaylo Potebenko -- are afraid that "the truth about themselves" will be revealed on the secret tapes of former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko. Moroz accused the Communist Party, which placed Potebenko on its election list, of "playing the game directed by Kuchma." Melnychenko, who also appeared in the spot, said a recent U.S. expert examination confirmed that his tapes were not doctored. "Now the question is who must be held liable and when for the murder of a journalist, embezzlement, bribery, rigging the presidential election, and the April [2000] referendum. The materials that I recorded in Leonid Kuchma's office contain answers to all these questions," Melnychenko said. JM

UKRAINIAN COLONEL SENTENCED TO SEVEN YEARS FOR SPYING. "Fakty i kommentarii" reported on 21 February that Taras Bublyk, a former colonel in the Ukrainian army, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for spying for an undisclosed foreign agency. Bublyk's case was investigated in secret, and the court hearings were held behind closed doors except for the final announcement of the verdict. The report said Bublyk was accused of passing on secret information about the Ukrainian army as well as its armaments and equipment while he worked in an important military position in Transcarpathia after 1992. According to the daily, Bublyk was paid for his services with two used cars and money deposited in foreign banks. Bublyk denied the charges of espionage, saying his communication with a foreign agent was restricted to the agent's requests to buy cheap alcohol and cigarettes in a shop for Ukrainian servicemen. JM

Croatia____________2_______1_______0_______3 Bulgaria___________0_______1_______2_______3 Estonia____________1_______0_______1_______2 Czech Rep._________1_______0_______1_______2 Poland_____________0_______1_______1_______2 Belarus____________0_______0_______1_______1 Slovenia___________0_______0_______1_______1 Bosnia-Herzeg._____0_______0_______0_______0 Hungary____________0_______0_______0_______0 Latvia_____________0_______0_______0_______0 Lithuania__________0_______0_______0_______0 Macedonia__________0_______0_______0_______0 Moldova____________0_______0_______0_______0 Romania____________0_______0_______0_______0 Slovakia___________0_______0_______0_______0 Ukraine____________0_______0_______0_______0 Yugoslavia_________0_______0_______0_______0


The visits to Ukraine this month by Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who now chairs the U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI), coupled with the NDI report that emerged from Albright's mission and two new resolutions introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate reflect increasing U.S. concern at the direction in which Ukraine is heading.

Orest Deychakiwsky, an adviser at the United States Helsinki Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, said, "They all point to strong manifestations of U.S. concerns about the upcoming elections, as these will be an important indication of whether Ukraine moves forward in its democratic development and integration into Europe."

There are four main reasons for the present U.S. concern over Ukraine. First, both U.S. and Russian leaders believe that Ukraine's independence is now secured, and support for the "Belarusian option" is confined to only the extreme left. A January report by the Polish Eastern Studies Center concurred, concluding that no "serious political groups" are likely to emerge in Ukraine to clamor for union with Russia.

Ukraine's leaders therefore can no longer blackmail the West by talking of the threat of "Russian imperialism." Consequently, the West has more leverage over Ukraine in criticizing its domestic policies when those policies are incompatible with its declared goals of "returning to Europe." At the same time, the Ukrainian leadership has less room to maneuver by playing off the West against Russia to extract the maximum advantage from both sides, as it repeatedly did in the 1990s.

U.S. criticism of Ukrainian domestic policies does not signify, as Ukrainian leaders mistakenly believe, that the U.S. no longer sees Ukraine as strategically important. Nevertheless, the U.S.-Ukrainian "strategic partnership" remains more declaratory than real and of more importance to Ukraine than the United States. In 2000, the U.S. only accounted for 5.8 percent of Ukrainian exports and 2.5 percent of imports.

Secondly, Western views on human rights, press freedom, and corruption in Ukraine have changed for the worse since the late 1990s. A major irritant is the Soviet-style discrepancy between official rhetoric and actual policies. This view has gone so far that, in private, U.S. officials sometimes describe Ukraine as "Kuchmastan." The Center for Peace, Conversion, and Foreign Policy, a Kyiv think tank, concluded in a January paper that the new U.S. administration "has no more faith in the assurances and declarations of Ukrainian officials about their commitment to democratic values and European integration."

U.S. assistance to Ukraine this year requires that the State Department submit to Congress within 60 days of the enactment of the aid a report on murdered journalists, including the unresolved case of murdered opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. The Ukrainian parliamentary commission headed by Oleksandr Zhyr, a member of Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine election bloc, have begun submitting the "Kuchmagate" tapes to FBI experts. The experts have concluded that the tapes studied so far have not been doctored, thereby undermining one of the main arguments used by the Ukrainian authorities to deflect guilt away from Kuchma.

The FBI experts offered to act as expert witnesses in any subsequent trial and their reports on the tapes would be accepted as credible evidence in U.S. and Western European courts. The Ukrainian parliamentary commission is now proposing to internationalize evidence found on the tapes, as it is unlikely that any trial resulting from them would take place in Ukraine. International law takes precedence over Ukrainian, including the UN Convention Against Torture signed by 118 states. Ukrainian officials implicated in the evidence on the tapes in misdeeds could theoretically be arrested in any of these countries.

Thirdly, Ukraine is being left out of the geopolitical changes that are affecting Central and Eastern Europe. Ukraine is not among the 10 countries seeking NATO membership at the alliance's November summit in Prague. Of the 10 countries, five (the three Baltic states, Slovakia, and Slovenia) will likely be asked to join NATO this year, with Romania and Bulgaria also possible candidates (Macedonia, Croatia, and Albania are generally believed to be out of the running). On 6 February, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell refused to disclose how many of the applicants would be invited to join; nevertheless, he said, "I think its going to be a pretty good-sized addition to the membership." If Slovakia and Romania were to join NATO this year, Ukraine would then share borders with four NATO members.

Ukraine has narrowed its foreign policy goals to only joining the EU as an Associate Member in 2004 and full membership by 2011, but even these goals are unrealistic as Ukraine is a member of neither the "fast" nor the "slow track" groups of future members. Poland recently submitted a 92-page report to the EU detailing how it will tighten its Eastern border with Ukraine beginning next year through visas, additional border troops, and modern equipment. In 2001, 15 million Ukrainians, Russians, and Belarusians entered Poland. As of 2004, Poland's Eastern border will be the external frontier of the EU, leaving Ukraine de facto left outside "Europe."

Fourthly, during a visit on 11-13 February to Russia's Tyumen Oblast, the main producer of Russian oil and gas, President Kuchma repeatedly complained about Russian plans to lay a gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine, as a result of which Ukraine would lose its control over Russian energy exports. Last month, Western European consumers of Russian gas pressured Poland to drop its objections to the new pipeline that will run through Belarus, Poland, and Slovakia.

Because of these four factors, Kuchma faces a fundamental dilemma. He can save himself from prosecution and obtain immunity by ensuring a pliant parliament is elected through less-than-free elections, something that would end Ukraine's chances of "returning to Europe." Or, he could allow free elections that would rebuild Western confidence in Ukraine but would threaten his own plans for a peaceful retirement after his term ends in 2004, and make it difficult for him to again travel securely to the West, now or in the future.