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OUR UKRAINE DOES NOT WANT THIRD PRESIDENTIAL TERM FOR KUCHMA. Our Ukraine has prepared a petition requesting that the Constitutional Court rule on whether President Leonid Kuchma may seek a third presidential term in 2004, UNIAN and Interfax reported on 22 August, quoting the Our Ukraine press service. According to Our Ukraine, lawyers from the presidential administration are currently working on a "scenario" to enable Kuchma to participate in the 2004 presidential election. Under the Ukrainian Constitution, the same person may be the country's president only for two five-year terms. The constitution, however, was promulgated in 1996 when Kuchma was already the president. Our Ukraine fears that presidential lawyers may take advantage of this circumstance and argue that Kuchma is now serving his first term, which began in 1999. Our Ukraine thinks that Kuchma's second term ends in 2004 and that he cannot run for the post of president again. Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko commented on 23 August that Our Ukraine's petition is a "provocation," adding that it may provide the Constitutional Court with a good opportunity to rule in Kuchma's favor and allow him to run in the 2004 ballot. JM

RUSSIAN UPPER HOUSE HEAD IN UKRAINE. Russian Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov met with President Kuchma and Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn in Kyiv on 23 August, UNIAN reported. Kuchma said he hopes that his meeting with Russian President Putin in Moscow earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2002) will contribute to ending the trade war between the two countries and increasing bilateral trade. Mironov and Lytvyn signed a joint statement stressing the importance of cooperation between the Russian and Ukrainian parliaments. Mironov proposed to hold a forum of representatives of Russian and Ukrainian borderland regions in Belgorod, Russia, this fall to establish closer regional economic relations. JM

NEGOTIATIONS ON OSCE TRANSDNIESTER PROJECT START IN MOLDOVAN CAPITAL. Negotiations on the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) project on Moldova's federalization began in Chisinau on 22 August, RFE/RL's bureau in the Moldovan capital reported. The three mediators -- the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine -- participated alongside Moldovan and Tiraspol representatives. They agreed to meet again in Chisinau on 28 August in a second meeting of the current round. In line with the Kyiv agreements from early July, three additional rounds of negotiations will take place this year. OSCE mission chief David Schwartz said before the start of negotiations that the mediators "have reached the conclusion that Moldova's federalization is the best solution for the settlement of the crisis in the eastern part of the country." MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER SAYS MOODY'S EVALUATION IS GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS. Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev on 23 August told an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau that credit-rating agency Moody's mention in a recently released country report of Moldova's economic successes in 2001 is "a positive signal." However, the premier added, he "categorically rejects" the agency's evaluation of the government's economic-reform policy as "duplicitous." Tarlev said he believes the evaluation stems from a "lack of sufficient information." It its report, Moody's says there is no consensus in the Moldovan leadership regarding market reforms. It also criticizes a deal under which the government has agreed to the acquisition of stakes in Moldovan enterprises by Gazprom and Ukrainian electricity suppliers in exchange for the write-off of Moldovan debts for energy deliveries. Moody's calls the bargain an infringement by the PCM on pledges to launch privatization that reflects the ruling party's "duplicity" in pursuing economic reforms. It warns that, unless structural reforms are put in place, financial assistance from the West is likely to be minimal and the country's economic sector will fall under Russian and Ukrainian domination. MS


DID A DEATH SQUAD KILL GONGADZE... Writing in "RFE/RL's Newsline" on 22 August, Taras Kuzio highlighted news on recent evidence of Ukrainian death squads and their possible involvement in the murder of Georgian-Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze in September 2000. According to Kuzio, the Kyiv newpaper "Segodnya," owned by Tax Administration and Donbas clan head Mykola Azarov, published a report on 1 August claiming that death squads have existed in Ukraine since 1996. The new Ukrainian prosecutor-general, Svyatoslav Piskun, and Interior Ministry State Secretary Oleksandr Gapon subsequently confirmed that at least one such squad exists. Gapon said the death squad comprises nine members and includes the former head of Kyiv's Interior Ministry directorate for the struggle against organized crime and another Interior Ministry colonel. The remaining members are former criminals. According to Gapon, all members of the squad are now in custody. The death squad is accused of undertaking 10 murders. According to later official information, similar death squads also existed in Odesa and Lviv. Nine former Interior Ministry militiamen are soon to go on trial in Kharkiv, accused of belonging to a death squad that operated in that city and the Donbas. That squad is accused of committing eight murders with their own service weapons. The Prosecutor-General's Office is investigating another 330 Interior Ministry personnel for a range of offenses. According to Gapon, an investigation into the activities of death squads began in 2000, but the material that was collected was only handed to the Prosecutor-General's Office this year. In 2000, the head of the Kyiv Interior Ministry department, Yuriy Smyrnov, hinted that one such death squad existed. In May 2001, then-Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko claimed that a Kyiv organized-crime boss told his office that two members of his gang had taken a Georgian, who they said may have been Heorhiy Gongadze, to a forest near Kyiv on 16 September 2000 because he owed them money. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August)

...AND WHY DID THIS COME TO LIGHT NOW? According to Kuzio, "there are two likely reasons why the existence of death squads is being revealed now." First, Prosecutor-General Piskun may have been instructed to clean up President Leonid Kuchma's image at home and abroad by finding a scapegoat for Gongadze's murder. Pinning the blame for Gongadze's death on organized crime would deflect attention away from the more plausible culprits in the higher echelons of Ukrainian politics. Second, when the Interior Ministry and prosecutor-general initially claimed that organized crime was behind the death of Gongadze they were ridiculed, especially after the two gangsters ("Cyclops" and "Matros") who are supposed to have abducted Gongadze produced an alibi saying they were participating in a wedding at the time of the crime, one of them as the groom. Neither of the two men are alive today. Gongadze was followed by unmarked cars for months prior to his abduction. When he reported their license plates to the police, he was told they were police vehicles. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August)

THE STRANGE CASE OF THE (SEMI-) ACQUITTED SUSPECT IN SLAYING OF UKRAINIAN TV DIRECTOR. On 20 July, Yuriy Veredyuk died in Kramatorsk in the Donetsk Oblast. Heart failure was the cause of death cited by local police. Veredyuk was acquitted and released from custody on 17 May in an appeal before the Donetsk City Court "because his guilt had not been proven" on charges he murdered the Donetsk-based TOR television company director, Ihor Aleksandrov. The Aleksandrov case has been sent for a new investigation. On 25 July -- five days after Veredyuk died -- the Ukrainian Supreme Court ruled that his case should be reexamined. The decision was taken after consideration of the appeal by the Donetsk prosecutor's office against the Donetsk appellate court decision to release Veredyuk. ("European Institute for the Media July Ukraine Bulletin," 16 August)

TV BOSSES DEMAND NEW LAWS. The heads of Ukrainian national television channels believe that the laws on television and advertising need to be amended and pledged that they will cooperate with the parliamentary Committee for Freedom of Speech and Information, according to a statement by the committee head, Mykola Tomenko, on 17 July. Tomenko said the group has asked his committee to consider new regulations on licensing, advertisements, copyright, and the status of cable television. While Ukraine currently requires that broadcasters have more than one license, Tomenko said his committee believes that only one license should be required and agree that legislation on advertising, particularly the provision on broadcasting commercials during films, should be changed. The head of Novyy Kanal, Oleksandr Tkachenko, said that Ukraine is the only European country that bans commercial interruption of films and lengthy TV shows. According to the chairman of the board of directors at Inter television channel, Vlad Ryashyn, last year Russian broadcasters received $3-4 in advertising income per viewer, while Ukrainian companies received only $1 per viewer. The deputy producer-general of the 1+1 Studio television company, Volodymyr Oseledchyk, said "the advertising market in Russia is about $1 billion today, and in Ukraine it is about $100 million." ("European Institute for the Media July Ukraine Bulletin," 16 August)

REGISTRATION OF BROADCAST COMPANIES UNDER WAY. The National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting began the process of registration of the country's broadcast companies, the press service for the directorate for TV and radio programs of the Ukrainian parliamentary secretariat announced on 3 July. One week later, first licenses were awarded to the state-run Ukrainian TV and Radio companies. During the two years of its work, the National Broadcast Council has issued licenses to 364 broadcast companies -- or over half the country's broadcasting units in radio and TV. There are now more than 200 television studios producing programs in Ukraine. ("European Institute for the Media July Ukraine Bulletin," 16 August)

NEW MEMBERS NAMED TO UKRAINIAN BROADCAST BOARD. On 24 July, the Ukrainian government made the first appointees to the 12-member Ukrainian National TV Company's supervisory board, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Semynozhenko. The "recommendations" of the newly created supervisory board are obligatory. Other members include the presidential administration head of the Main Information Policy Directorate, Serhiy Vasylyev, who is also the board' s deputy chairman; the head of the Public Relations Directorate at the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers, Volodymyr Tkach, the board's secretary; Culture Minister Yuriy Bohutskyy; the head of the State Committee for Information Policy, Ivan Chyzh; and the head of the Information and Public Relations Directorate at the presidential administration, Andriy Chyrva. ("European Institute for the Media July Ukraine Bulletin," 16 August)

STATE COMMITTEE FOR INFORMATION POLICY ADDS STAFF. According to a 6 July resolution of the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers, the Ukrainian government has increased the staff of the State Committee for Information Policy, Television, and Radio Broadcasting by 30, to a total of 155. ("European Institute for the Media July Ukraine Bulletin," 16 August)

FOR UKRAINIANS, MOST NEWS IS LOCAL. Most Ukrainians prefer local newspapers and do not like TV commercials, according to an opinion poll conducted by the Sociological Institute of the Ukrainian National Academy of Science. The poll showed that 28.4 percent of respondents read newspapers primarily in Ukrainian, 35.1 percent read Russian-language papers, and 34.7 percent read newspapers in both languages. Only 0.1 percent of those polled read papers in other languages. The poll also showed that 22.2 percent of respondents listen to radio in Russian, 29.5 percent- in Ukrainian, 44.1 percent in both languages, and 0.5 percent in another language. Regarding television, 18.7 percent of Ukrainians watch Russian-language TV shows, 23.4 percent Ukrainian-language programs, 55.7 percent view shows in both languages, and 0.3 percent in other languages. As for newspaper preferences, in a poll in the previous week: 33.4 percent read city newspapers, 24 percent read regional newspapers, 18 percent read district newspapers, and 15.8 percent of those polled had not read newspapers for at least a week. When it came to specific television channels, 80.2 percent of respondents watched UT2 (1+1 Studio), 76 percent watched Inter and 47.4 percent watched UT1 (Era). The most popular TV news programs were "TSN" (TV News Service) on Studio 1+1, with 56.8 percent of viewers; "Podrobnosti" (In Detail) and "Novosti" (News) on Inter with 55.4 percent; and "Panorama" (Overview) and "Novyny" (News) on UT1 with 21.2 percent. In response to their attitude toward TV commercials, 39.4 percent said their attitude was very negative, 31.6 percent said it was more negative than positive, and 10.7 percent hesitated between negative and positive. ("European Institute for the Media July Ukraine Bulletin," 16 August)

TRUST LEVELS UP FOR FOREIGN MEDIA. Ukrainians increasingly trust the foreign media, whose standing rose from 6.8 percent to 8.6 percent in the 14 June public opinion poll of 2006 adults conducted by the Oleksandr Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies. The same poll revealed that resondents' trust of Ukrainian media decreased from 13.3 percent in May to 11.8 percent in June. The attitude of Ukrainians to the Russian media has hardly changed: 10 percent trusted them in May and 9.9 percent in June. ("European Institute for the Media July Ukraine Bulletin," 16 August)

CHERNIVTSI REGION JOURNALISTS CONCERNED ABOUT FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Public organizations and unions of creative professions, editorial boards, and individual journalists in Chernivtsi region have sent a letter to the National Committee for Information Policy asking that it protect freedom of speech in their region of western Ukraine. In particular, the letter expressed concern about two regional papers "Bukovinske Viche" (The Council of Bukovyna) and "Zorile Bukoviney" (its Romanian-language version). One of the paper's founders, the Chernivtsi Regional Council, has decided to withdraw its financing from the newspapers. According to the letter, the papers have undergone numerous groundless inspections by local authorities. The appeal claims that "Bukovinske Viche" has made a "huge contribution to securing self-administration in the Chernivtsi region" and "Zorile Bukoviney" has covered local government for 61 years. The authors of the appeal claim that "it is no secret" that Teofil Bauer, head of the Chernvtsi regional administration, "does not like criticism" and that the newly elected regional council makes decisions "in the absence of the persons concerned." In July, Bauer brought a libel suit against the independent local paper "Chas" for an article in April of this year which charged that local authorities rigged elections to the Chernivtsi regional council. ("European Institute for the Media July Ukraine Bulletin," 16 August)

SUIT FILED AGAINST PAPER IN CRIMEA. The Crimean branch of the Rukh movement announced on 15 July that three residents of Crimea have filed a lawsuit against the paper "Krymskaya Pravda" and the paper's editor in chief, Mykhailo Bakharyev, with the city court of Simferopol in Crimea. The claimants want the court to protect their honor and national dignity and order the newspaper to compensate them for moral damages. They were offended by an article that Bakharyev published in October 2001 in which the author wrote that there is no Ukrainian nation or Ukrainian language and that "Ukrainians are part of the Russian nation, speaking one of the Russian dialects." One of the claimants, Oleh Fomushkin, chairman of the Crimean Union of Landowners and also the leader of the Crimean branch of the Rukh movement, said such statements were dangerous since they appeared in the most popular newspaper in the Crimea. The claimants want the newspaper to publish a refutation of Bakharyev's statements and pay compensation for moral damages in the amount of 1 million hryvnyas (around $200,000) from the paper and 200,000 hryvnyas (around $40,000) from the author of the disputed article. ("European Institute for the Media July Ukraine Bulletin," 16 August)