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PRESIDENT THREATENS NEWSPAPER AT NEWS CONFERENCE. In a vintage performance, President Lukashenka turned a press conference where he faced queries about allegations of arms sales to Iraq into a venue for threatening an independent newspaper, "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report" reported on 24 September, citing Belarusian media. "If a presidential fund does exist, accumulating money from power and arms sales, as you said here, I am no longer a president tomorrow. But, if not, there will be no 'Narodnaya volya,' either," Lukashenka was reported as saying in reference to a leading independent newspaper. The president also decided to elaborate on the question of the newspaper's funding: "I would like to note: Tell, how much money has 'Narodnaya volya' received from the West, how much have you spent? If you cannot [tell], allow me [to do that], I can brief you. [We] will count tomorrow all the grants, including those in the framework of humanitarian aid. I have all this on record, that's why you fiercely objected to a legislation on controls over foreign humanitarian aid. You are aware that we track all the humanitarian aid, ranging from clothes to material means, at the border. You received thousands of dollars in grants. Someone -- that man, who was the founder -- has recently raised this issue on the television regarding 'Svobodnye novosti' [newspaper].... You have grabbed a lot of money, you are basically living on this money. How much money have you put into your pockets? What cars do you drive? What house do you live in? I know all that. I am an informed person. But I have not reproached you for that. The West is feeding you, let them feed you. You are being through hard times now, [but] Russia will not help you. Bear that in mind. Excuse me, but if you continue to provoke me and behave illegally, we will not look at your masters. You will bear responsibility under Belarusian laws. You have to realize that completely and very clearly. I am telling that to you openly in front of the whole nation: You will account for that. It is no use to put pressure on us in this regard. We will protect our law, in the first place. And we will put you in the framework of the law." ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 24 September 2002)

COURT UPHOLDS 'LIMONKA' BAN. The Moscow Municipal Court on 20 September upheld a lower-court ruling annulling the registration of the National Bolshevik Party newspaper "Limonka," Ekho Moskvy reported. According to "Limonka" Editor Aleksei Volynets, the paper will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. quoted Volynets as saying that "Limonka," as of 9 September, has been registered as a Russian-language publication in Ukraine and will continue publishing from Kyiv. Volynets also said that the party has registered two other newspaper titles in Moscow, one of which is "The General Line." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)


MEDIA GROUPS DEPLORE FAILURE TO INVESTIGATE GONGADZE CASE. More than two years after the disappearance of Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, both the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have openly criticized the Ukrainian government for obstructing the official inquiry and failing to identifying those responsible for the crime, reports in its weekly "IFEX Communique" (No. 11-37) on 24 September. CPJ highlighted several impediments to clarifying the disappearance and subsequent murder of the editor of the online newspaper These include: a team of FBI homicide experts invited by the government to assist in the investigation left the country in April 2002 after being denied access to information about the case; this month, nearly two years after the discovery of the body in November 2000, Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun announced that the headless corpse was that of Gongadze; and Olena Prytula, a close associate of Gongadze's who is the currently editor in chief of and an important witness in the murder case, recently reported receiving information about unspecified threats against her. CPJ also indicated that such official moves as the prosecutor-general's detention of a regional prosecutor and his investigator for allegedly mishandling the initial inquiry into the corpse -- were seen as a government attempt to diminish the impact of the 16 September anti-government nationwide rallies against President Leonid Kuchma planned for 16 September this year. RSF Secretary-General Robert Menard traveled to Kyiv on the occasion of the second anniversary of the journalist's disappearance, where he became the official representative of the private party associated with the public prosecutor in the court action, Gongadze's mother and widow, and in that capacity requested access, with the help of an independent expert of his own choice, to all the results of the previous expert reports as well as other relevant documents. Menard also requested the public prosecutor's office to interview the four men who are reported to have shadowed Gongadze during the weeks prior to his disappearance, something that has never been done before. CAF

OPPOSITIONISTS BLOCK TV STUDIO. A group of Ukrainian opposition parliamentarians blocked a TV studio of the Ukrainian first national TV channel (UTN) from 8:45 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. local time on 23 September, Interfax-Ukraine reported the same day. At 9:45 p.m., 15 minutes before the evening news program was to be broadcast, leader of the Batkivshchina (Fatherland) Party Yuliya Tymoshenko, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko, and Socialist Party head Oleksandr Moroz, along with parliamentarians Yuri Lutsenko, Oleksandr Turchynov, and others entered the studio and stood behind the host of the news program, saying they were going to address the nation. The news program scheduled for 9:00 p.m. was not on the air, and the TV signal was broadcast from a control room, where the parliamentarians could not enter. The channel broadcast other programs with running text at the bottom of the screen saying that the news could not be released because of "the seizure of the studio" by a group of deputies led by Moroz, Tymoshenko, and Symonenko. Parliamentarian Stanislav Nikolayenko told press at the scene that the oppositionists were demanding that they be provided with 10 minutes of airtime. The deputies left the TV center after about an hour and a half. As she left the building, Tymoshenko told journalists that Ihor Storozhuk, chief of the UTN channel, promised opposition leaders they would be granted airtime on 25 September. She emphasized that the parliamentarians demanded live airtime "in line with the law on the status of a people's deputy." According to Moroz, Storozhuk said that in order to grant airtime to the deputies, he would have to consult with the person who appointed him, that is, with President Kuchma. (Interfax-Ukraine, 24 September)

KYIV PROSECUTORS OPEN CRIMINAL CASE ON OBSTRUCTION OF TV BROADCAST. The Kyiv prosecutor's office initiated a criminal case on the blockage of the operation of the Ukrainian First National TV channel (UTN) by opposition leaders on 23 September, reported Interfax-Ukraine the same day. The criminal case was opened under a part of Article 171 that deals with deliberate obstruction of lawful professional activities of journalists, and Article 341 on the seizure of state or public buildings and installations, the press service of the Kyiv prosecutor's office reported. (Interfax-Ukraine, 24 September)

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REFUSES TO STEP DOWN... Leonid Kuchma addressed the nation on the ICTV television channel on 28 September and accused the opposition of resorting to violence to unseat him. "It is one thing to express one's dissatisfaction but another thing to [try to] force a violent change of the power and social system," the president said. Kuchma called for an end to opposition protests, saying that previous demonstrations have damaged Ukraine's image and stall social progress. "[Opposition leaders] must think about whether to discharge the responsibilities for which they were elected by some 50 million citizens during the elections, or to execute the demands of close to 50,000 people who participated in nationwide demonstrations," he noted, adding that "I refuse categorically to resign...because I was elected by the people as the head of state and I feel fully responsible for all that happens in the country." Kuchma did not mention the allegations that Ukraine may have illegally sold a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq. JM

...AND ACCUSES OPPOSITION OF SABOTAGING LEGISLATIVE WORK... Kuchma also charged that opposition lawmakers are sabotaging the ongoing parliamentary session by refusing to participate in voting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 September 2002). He castigated them for failing last week to support a law on money laundering, and suggested that Ukraine's international image may be severely damaged and international organizations may impose sanctions against Ukraine because of this failure. He also lashed out at opposition legislators for not voting on a bill that would provide assistance to the families of handicapped persons. Kuchma praised the recent effort of nine pro-presidential groups to create a parliamentary majority numbering 226 deputies. JM

...AS WELL AS OF UNDERMINING ECONOMY. Speaking in Chernihiv on 28 September, President Kuchma said the recent opposition protests negatively affected the economy, UNIAN reported. "[Only] 15,000 people took to the streets in Kyiv and the same amount in other cities, but this has already caused enterprises to work worse. We have seen [the consequences] in tax [collection]," Kuchma noted. "Every...entrepreneur asks himself: What will happen tomorrow? It is natural that entrepreneurs are afraid that [Communist Party leader Petro] Symonenko or [Socialist Party leader Oleksandr] Moroz will come [to power] and abolish private ownership," the president added. JM

RUSSIA, NOT UKRAINE, SOLD RADARS TO IRAQ? A Ukrainian "leading government official" has told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on condition of anonymity that it was not Ukraine but Russia that sold Kolchuga radar systems to Iraq, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported on 27 September. He confirmed that a conversation about selling Kolchugas to Iraq actually took place in President Leonid Kuchma's office (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 April 2002), but that later "the Russians stepped in and sold their radar systems to Baghdad." JM

WARSAW CONCERNED ABOUT SITUATION IN UKRAINE. "We've been watching what is happening in Ukraine not only with interest, but also with concern, since there is a growing risk of political instability there," Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said on Polish Radio on 27 September. Commenting on the U.S. claims that Ukraine may have sold radar systems to Iraq, Cimoszewicz said that he has advised his Ukrainian counterpart to "treat this situation with utmost seriousness." Meanwhile, President Aleksander Kwasniewski said the same day that Kyiv's decision to invite UN inspectors to clarify the allegations regarding the radar sale was appropriate. Kwasniewski also said he is in favor of dialogue between President Leonid Kuchma and the opposition in the current political crisis in Ukraine. "The worst scenario for Ukraine would be murky water and tensions that last for a long time and which in the end mean a waste of time," Kwasniewski noted. JM