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THE DAMOCLES NETWORK. The Damocles Network was set up by Reporters without Borders (RSF) to try to end the impunity of killers and torturers of journalists. Funded by the European Union, it sends field-investigation teams (a legal expert and a journalist) to establish the facts of a situation and works with victims and their families through national and international legal authorities to bring offenders to trial. At a Madrid press conference on 8 April, the honorary president of the Damocles Network, Judge Baltasar Garzon (who issued a warrant to arrest former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet in 1998) described the network's aims, accompanied by several Damocles board members including Paris Assize Court President Jean-Pierre Getti. Judge Garzon pointed out that for the first time judges and journalists were working together to expose people who attack press freedom and taking legal action against those responsible for the worst abuses. He proposed that the most serious attacks on journalists be dealt with as crimes against humanity under International Criminal Tribunal statutes, ratified by 60 countries. Over the past 10 years, 513 journalists have been murdered, and in 95 percent of these cases the authorities have not found or even tried to find those responsible. Damocles Network teams have gone on joint fact-finding missions to Russia (the disappearance of Vladimir Kirsanov in May last year). In Ukraine, it has joined the lawsuit being brought by disappeared journalist Heorhiy Gongadze's widow and by his mother. Judge Garzon proposed that the network protect the families of crime victims and witnesses and called on it to work closely with other international human rights networks to forge a solid front to work for the establishment of an international monitoring center against impunity. For more, e-mail: Internet: (Reporters without Borders Press Release, 9 April)

LONG-TIME BELARUSIAN-LANGUAGE NEWSPAPER GOES INTO LIQUIDATION. The state-controlled Belarusian-language newspaper "Chyrvonaya zmena" (Red Successors), which survived for 81 years, was recently ordered by the Information Ministry to merge with the Belarusian-language daily "Zvyazda" in connection with a lack of funding for issuing it as a separate publication, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. At the same time, the ministry ordered a 20 percent reduction of the "Chyrvonaya zmena" editorial staff ("Chyrvonaya zmena" appears three times a week). The Belarusian Union of Youth (BSM, known in the Soviet era as Komsomol), which acts as the founder of "Chyrvonaya zmena," has announced that it is still interested in the future of the newspaper. BSM First Secretary Ala Danilava told RFE/RL that, depending on state subsidies, "Chyrvonaya zmena" may become a weekly supplement to "Zvyazda" or simply a page in the daily. Some commentators in Belarus see the liquidation of "Chyrvonaya zmena" as yet another step in the deliberate policy of President Lukashenka's administration to wipe out all publications in the Belarusian language in the country. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus and Ukraine Report," 9 April)


NEWSPAPER ACCUSES AUTHORITIES OF STEALING JAIL VOTE. "Ukrayina Moloda" wrote on 4 April that none of the opponents of the pro-presidential For a United Ukraine bloc won a single vote in jails in Luhansk (eastern Ukraine). According to the newspaper, such suspicious unanimity of inmates points to vote rigging. "The intellectual level of those who organized this crude rigging is appalling, "Ukrayina Moloda" wrote, adding, "Even back in Soviet times, when nobody could control the bureaucrats, they did not risk declaring their 100 percent victory. There were always some .02 percent of 'renegades' who voted against the inviolable bloc of the Communists and the nonaffiliated. But here we have chemically pure unanimity: the criminal world is for the For a United Ukraine bloc." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April)

MEDIA WATCHDOG FINDS CAMPAIGN COVERAGE BIASED. On 1 April, the European Institute for the Media (EIM), a nonprofit, non-governmental research institution, published a preliminary report on its monitoring of media coverage during the parliamentary election in Ukraine (10-31 March). This was the fourth EIM media-monitoring mission in Ukraine. The project was partly funded by the European Commission. The EIM concluded that on the whole, voters were not well served by the Ukrainian media during the election period, in terms of having access to impartial and balanced information about the parties/blocs involved in the election. Media coverage on the UT-1, Inter, ICTV, and 1+1 television channels in particular was found to be biased in favor of For a United Ukraine and the Social Democratic Party Ukraine-united (SDPU-o), and against the opposition parties. The print media tended to be partisan and not distinguish between editorial opinion and news coverage. In a positive note, the EIM said the media provided voters with a wide range and large volume of information that could have assisted them in making their political choices. (For more on EIM findings on Ukraine's most-prominent national media outlets, see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus and Ukraine Report," 9 April.)

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT URGES POSTELECTION STABILITY... Leonid Kuchma told Reuters on 11 April that he wants Ukrainian politicians to put aside personal ambitions and work with him to create an economically thriving Ukraine. "I want to see a parliament creating political stability in the country, to see the parliament as the driving force behind the country's development, instead of being a debating hall," Kuchma said. He added that he wants to go down in history as a leader who built a strong democratic country out of nothing. "Now there is a chance of stability in Ukraine, but our country's image has been damaged over the last few years," Kuchma said. He hinted that he still has time to secure a legacy as the father of Ukraine before his second term ends in 2004, according to Reuters. JM

...REMAINS SKEPTICAL ABOUT FORMING COALITION CABINET. President Kuchma told journalists on 12 April that he foresees only insignificant changes in the current cabinet of Premier Anatoliy Kinakh, UNIAN reported. He explained that the cabinet's final composition will depend on a future parliamentary majority, adding, "We will select some figures from the [parliamentary] configuration." Referring to a possible coalition government in Ukraine, he said he is ready "to view the creation of a coalition government on the first day after this provision is introduced in the Ukrainian Constitution." But he added, "Where is the guarantee that a newly created coalition government will not fall apart after several months?" JM

FOR A UNITED UKRAINE, OUR UKRAINE FEEL OUT POSSIBLE ALLIANCE. Serhiy Tyhypko and Roman Bezsmertnyy -- political coordinators of the For a United Ukraine and Our Ukraine election blocs, respectively -- have discussed programmatic principles on which their blocs could form an alliance, UNIAN reported on 12 April. Tyhypko told 1+1 Television the previous day that he and Bezsmertnyy exchanged views on the positions of both blocs regarding "the filling of posts in the Cabinet of Ministers, the Verkhovna Rada, and oblast administrations." Tyhypko said the meeting was intended to prepare future talks between the blocs' leaders, Volodymyr Lytvyn and Viktor Yushchenko. Tyhypko believes that the appointment of a prime minister will be the most essential issue in those talks. "Everybody understands that this post is of interest for those aspiring to run in the presidential election. And everybody understands that this springboard is of extreme importance in Ukraine," Tyhypko noted. JM

ANTI-KUCHMA LAWMAKER FIGHTS TO INVALIDATE ELECTION IN HIS CONSTITUENCY. Lawmaker Oleksandr Zhyr, the chairman of the temporary parliamentary commission investigating the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, has appealed to the Supreme Court to invalidate the election in single-mandate constituency No. 35 (Dnipropetrovsk Oblast), UNIAN reported on 11 April. According to intermediate results during the vote count, Zhyr (supported by Our Ukraine) appeared to be winning the election in the constituency, but the protocol of the district election commission stated that another candidate outpaced Zhyr by 720 votes. Zhyr's proxies passed to the Supreme Court a videotape that reportedly shows representatives of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast administration instructing the heads of polling station commissions in the constituency to rewrite their protocols to Zhyr's disadvantage. Our Ukraine said in a statement that the ballot in constituency No. 35 represented a "mockery of the very idea of democratic elections." JM

NEWLY ELECTED UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER RELEASED FROM JAIL. A court in Kyiv on 12 April ordered the release of Andriy Shkil, the leader of the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense, who was elected to the Verkhovna Rada from a single-mandate constituency in Lviv Oblast, UNIAN reported. Shkil has been in jail for more than a year, facing charges of organizing violent clashes with police during an antipresidential protest in Kyiv on 9 March 2001. JM

GAZPROM, POLAND AGREE ON YAMAL PIPELINE. On 11 April, Gazprom and Poland's PGNiG state oil and gas concern agreed on conditions for financing the completion of the first section of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting Gazprom head Aleksei Miller. The agreement will make it possible to finish the construction of two pumping stations in 2003, which will increase the gas pipeline capacity from the current 20 billion cubic meters per year to 28 billion cubic meters. No decisions were made on decreasing gas supplies from Russia to Poland, which is being sought by the Polish side, or on the construction of a gas-pipeline link bypassing Ukraine, Polish Radio reported. Further consultations on these topics are to take place in Moscow in June. JM