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END NOTE: ROMANIA ATTEMPTS TO ALLEVIATE BORDER PROBLEMS WITH UKRAINE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST HEADS PACE COMMISSION ON DISAPPEARANCES IN BELARUS. In Strasbourg on 24 September, Russian human rights advocate and Duma Deputy Sergei Kovalev was appointed to head a commission on disappearances in Belarus that was formed within the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Belapan reported. The commission consists of 10 lawmakers from Belgium, Britain, Cyprus, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. The mandate and authority of the commission will be discussed later this week during the ongoing PACE session. Kovalev told Belapan that he is almost 100 percent certain that the commission will not find those who ordered, organized, and perpetrated the kidnappings of politicians Viktar Hanchar and Yury Zakharanka, businessman Anatol Krasouski, and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski in 1999-2000. He added, however, that the commission will document Belarusian authorities' reaction to "this bloody problem" and efforts to investigate the disappearances. JM

UKRAINE DENIES SELLING RADAR SYSTEM TO BAGHDAD... Kyiv on 24 September denied that it sold a radar system to Iraq in violation of United Nations sanctions, Ukrainian media reported, quoting the presidential press service. "The Ukrainian president has repeatedly stated that his country has sold neither military weapons nor military technology to Iraq," the presidential press service stated in response to reports earlier the same day that Washington has blocked $5 million in aid to Ukraine over suspicions that the Ukrainian government may have sold a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2002). According to the statement, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry sent an open letter to the head of the UN Security Council "a few days ago," requesting the creation of a special commission to investigate Ukraine's possible role in providing arms to Iraq. JM

...BUT WASHINGTON REMAINS UNCONVINCED. "We are not certain that these systems [Kolchugas] are in Iraq. On the other hand, there are some indications that suggest it may be there and we are continuing to assess those," U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told journalists on 24 September. Boucher confirmed that the United States has assessed as authentic a recording by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko in which the Ukrainian president approves the sale of a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 April 2002). U.S. State Department spokeswoman Lynn Cassel said the same day that an analysis of Melnychenko's recording "has led us to reexamine our policy toward Ukraine, in particular toward President [Leonid] Kuchma." JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS OCCUPY PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION BUILDING... Fifty lawmakers from the Communist Party (19), Socialist Party (12), Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc (11), and Our Ukraine (eight) entered the presidential administration building on 24 September with the intention of handing President Kuchma the resolution of the 16 September protest rally demanding his resignation, Ukrainian media reported. The deputies' action took place after a 5,000-strong crowd of anti-Kuchma demonstrators moved from the rally in front of the parliamentary building to the square in front of the presidential office. Following Kuchma's refusal to meet them, the deputies declared a hunger strike and spent the night in the presidential building, which was blocked by special-task troops. JM

...FORCING KUCHMA TO MEET WITH THEM. Kuchma commented on 24 September that the occupation of his office by lawmakers is a "manifestation of Bolshevism," UNIAN reported. He added that he would not meet with them because he sees no specific proposals from their side. However, Kuchma changed his mind and met with Communist Party head Petro Symonenko, Socialist Party head Oleksandr Moroz, Yuliya Tymoshenko, and Yuriy Orobets (Our Ukraine) in the morning of 25 September. The three opposition leaders told journalists after the meeting that Kuchma refused to step down. Meanwhile, presidential administration head Viktor Medvedchuk announced that Kuchma has proposed the creation of a parliamentary commission to deal with allegations of illegal arms sales by Ukraine. Kuchma wants the commission to tackle not only the recent accusation that Ukraine sold a radar system to Iraq but also all other allegations of illegal arms deals voiced during Ukraine's 11 years of independence. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS CALL ON PARLIAMENT TO IMPEACH KUCHMA... While the 5,000-strong crowd picketed the parliamentary building on 24 September, lawmakers were engaged in a heated debate, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported. Tymoshenko, Symonenko, and Moroz appealed to the Verkhovna Rada to put aside previously scheduled legislative issues and to urgently discuss the current political situation in Ukraine as well as Kuchma's impeachment and early presidential elections. Tymoshenko said her caucus will boycott the parliamentary session as long as these issues are not properly addressed. Moroz proposed to hold an emergency parliamentary session devoted Ukraine's arms trade. "The state budget has not received a single kopek from arms sales, while nearly 3 billion hryvnyas ($560 million) filled the pockets of the head of state and his adherents," Moroz added. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko also called on lawmakers "to stop talking nonsense about laws and budget" and to address the current political crisis. JM

...AS INTERIOR MINISTER APPEALS TO BUILD 'DEMOCRATIC STATE.' Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov on 24 September reported to the Verkhovna Rada on police behavior during the 16 September antipresidential rally in Kyiv and appealed to lawmakers to show "exemplary respect for the law" and "make a step toward building a democratic state," the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported. Smyrnov said police have evidence that people were paid money to participate in the 16 September rally. Tymoshenko immediately denied this allegation. The interior minister also accused some lawmakers, including Tymoshenko, of assaulting police officers when they dismantled an opposition tent camp near the presidential office on 17 September. According to Smyrnov, only some 15,000 people -- not 30,000, as reported by some media -- took part in the 16 September demonstration. JM

MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT HALTS EXAMINATION OF AGREEMENT WITH UKRAINE. Moldovan Constitutional Court Chairman Victor Puscasu said on 24 September that the court has halted its examination of the border delimitation agreement reached last year with Ukraine, Moldovan media reported (see "End Note"). Puscasu said that "at this stage" this matter is not within the court's jurisdiction, adding that the delimitation process is not finished. Popular Party Christian Democratic leaders Iurie Rosca and Stefan Secareanu have protested the agreement, arguing that it violates the constitution (see RFE/RL's "Newsline," 20 September 2002). ZsM


The timing of Romanian President Ion Iliescu's visit to Ukraine on 17-19 September was not unexpected. Ukraine's "Zerkalo nedeli/Dzerkalo tyzhnya" newspaper predicted as far back as its 8-14 June edition that Romania would be pushed into patching up its border dispute with Ukraine by the impending November NATO summit in Prague.

It was therefore somewhat disingenuous of Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana to say in August that "Romania is not under any time pressure from the point of view of European and Euro-Atlantic integration." In June, Romania presented to NATO its progress in implementing its Membership Action Plan as the basis for NATO membership.

Romania's actions followed a similar pattern in 1997, when Bucharest sought to resolve outstanding border problems on the eve of the Madrid NATO summit. On 28 April 1997, Ukraine and Romania resolved their border dispute only a day before reformist President Emile Constantinescu applied for Romania to join NATO. The treaty was formerly signed in June 1997, a month before the NATO summit, and went into effect in October of that year. The Romanian Foreign Ministry complained in 1997 that postcommunists and nationalists who opposed the border treaty with Ukraine were "circles alien to Romania's interests that wanted the country to stay outside European and Euro-Atlantic structures."

After the signing ceremony, President Constantinescu said "Romania now fulfils all of the conditions to be accepted in the first wave." But, even French and Italian lobbying failed to secure Romania as a candidate for NATO membership in 1997.

Iliescu's visit to Ukraine last week came after thirteen rounds of negotiations had failed to reach a breakthrough in the final obstacle in Romania's border dispute with Ukraine. In 1997 the existing border was confirmed in the treaty, but the delimitation of the maritime border was deferred for two years. However, this has yet to be achieved.

Of Ukraine's seven neighbors, Romania has ranked alongside Russia as the most intransigent over border issues. Both the former communists led by Iliescu and extreme nationalists, such as the Greater Romania Party, opposed the 1997 treaty. Only because of a reformist president and his allies in parliament did the treaty muster support. The treaty was narrowly ratified by the Romanian Senate by a vote of 65 to 50, with three abstentions, and in the lower Chamber of Deputies by a vote of 165 to 92. Three opposition left and nationalist parties boycotted the signing ceremony (including Iliescu's party).

The Romanians were the only one of Ukraine's many national minorities who called for a boycott of the 1 December 1991 referendum on Ukrainian independence. In the early 1990s, Romania challenged Ukraine's right to North Bukovina, which has a Ukrainian majority; northern and southern Bessarabia; and Hertza and Serpents islands, which are located 30 kilometers from the Danube River and 120 kilometers from Odesa.

Soviet forces occupied North Bukovina (now Chernivtsi Oblast), Bessarabia, and Hertza in 1940 as part of the Nazi-Soviet Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. These regions were confirmed as part of the USSR by the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty. After 1945, the central Bessarabian region was added to the interwar Moldavian ASSR, which had been part of the Ukrainian SSR, to create the Moldavian SSR. The former Moldavian ASSR, lying to the east of the Dniester River, has been de facto independent as the diplomatically unrecognized Transdniester Republic since seceding from Moldova in 1990-92.

Although Romania and the USSR successfully demarcated their land border, they did not do the same for the maritime border in the Serpents Island region. By 1995 the Romanian-Ukrainian dispute over this maritime region flared up anew as Romania sought to appeal to the International Court of Justice. In a December 1995 statement, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry claimed that Romania's actions "qualify as an effort to raise territorial claims against Ukraine."

In response to Romania's territorial claims, Ukraine built up military installations on Serpents Island, although the 1997 treaty forbade Ukraine from placing "offensive weapons" there. Ukraine built a modern wharf, seismic station, wind-and-diesel power station, modernized military barracks, and a telephone communications network. The military installations are to be closed down this year. In May, the Ukrainian government earmarked 161 million hryvni ($32 million) to expand infrastructure, communications, and economic activities on Serpents Island, as well as to demilitarize it. These government plans cover improving border protection of Serpents Island's continental shelf and territorial waters.

The dispute between Ukraine and Romania over Serpents Island resembles recent disputes over similar small uninhabited small, rocky islands between Greece and Turkey (Imia in Greek/Kardak in Turkish) and Morocco and Spain (Leila in Moroccan/Perejil in Spanish). The major difference is that in the mid-1990s, 17 major oil and gas deposits were discovered in the Serpents Islands region.

Besides Serpents Island, two other problems have bedeviled Romanian-Ukrainian relations. First, the status of the 325,000 ethnic Moldovans and 35,000 ethnic Romanians in Ukraine. Geoana accused the Ukrainians of continuing to implement "Stalin's theory about the existence of a Moldovan language and a Moldovan nation," which he believes is "fiction." Romania's postcommunists therefore hold similar views to the country's nationalists that Ukraine has in reality 460,000 "Romanians" (not 135,000, as per the 1989 Soviet census). Within Moldova, only nationalists back this viewpoint while postcommunist centrists support a policy of "one people, two states" and the left sees Moldovans as a completely separate people, as in the former USSR.

The second issue is the reciprocity of rights for Romanian and Ukrainian minorities in Ukraine and Romania, respectively. The 1997 treaty included -- on Romania's insistence -- the Council of Europe's Recommendation 1201 allowing for territorial autonomy, following opposition by Bucharest to the inclusion of that recommendation in the treaty it signed with Hungary relating to the rights of ethnic Hungarians in Romania. Romania has demanded the establishment of a "multicultural" university in Chernivtsi (in Romanian Cernauti) while refusing to open a Hungarian equivalent in Transylvania.

In Ukraine, the Romanian minority has 20 newspapers, journals, television, and radio programs. Romanian-language schools exist in every region where Romanians and Moldovans reside. In Romania, on the other hand, there is only one Ukrainian-language school, which was reopened in 1997, that caters to 10, 000 Ukrainian school pupils. Ukrainian-language textbooks encounter publishing difficulties and Ukrainian television and radio programs are rare.

During President Iliescu's visit last week the two sides agreed to settle the final section of their border dispute by June 2003. It remains to be seen if they will in fact manage to do so, after the failure of the two-year period between 1997-99 set for this same purpose.