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KUCHMAGATE AND GONGADZE MURDER 'CANALIZED' BY OFFICIAL MEDIA... According to Ukrainian sociologist Viktor Stepanenko, the unsolved murder of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and the unanswered questions of "Kuchmagate" (the scandal connected with the publication of secret audio tapes made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko in President Leonid Kuchma's office) are still two of the most serious topics in Ukrainian political life. The authorities have so far managed to "marginalize" (or, to use a technical term coined by official political consultants in Ukraine, "to canalize") opposition activities and the mass political protests that resulted from Kuchmagate, Stepanenko writes. In official media outlets, the large-scale political scandal and public reaction to it have often been presented as a routine criminal case and an insidious intrigue by political opponents, who are often portrayed as "irresponsible adventurers, losers, and marginal players." The remark by Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov at a recent news conference about "criminals and mentally ill people who are attracted by the upcoming protests" is fully in line with this manipulative strategy. The official propaganda machinery has contributed enormously to making the moral and rational choice of political positions for a majority of citizens a very complicated and nearly impossible issue, he adds. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 24 September)

...AS INFORMATION ACCESS INCREASES 'POLITICAL CULTURE.' According to a poll of a representative sample of 1,800 respondents by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Sociology in March 2001, the more people were informed about Kuchmagate from various sources, the more they believed in the authenticity of Melnychenko's tapes. An analysis of the March 2001 survey also reveals a clear correlation between the level of respondents' knowledge of Kuchmagate and their readiness to take part in the "For the Truth" protest campaign in 2001, Stepanenko reports. Kuchmagate has confirmed the axiom that citizens' knowledge and free access to different sources of information increase their ability to make political decisions and develop their political culture. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 24 September)

UNIAN JOURNALISTS COMPLAIN OF POLITICAL PRESSURE, CENSORSHIP... Journalists of the Kyiv-based independent news agency UNIAN on 1 October posted a statement on the UNIAN website ( saying they have been subjected to censorship and have come under "fierce pressure regarding the formation of [our] independent information activity" since the appointment of a new UNIAN executive director, Vasyl Yurychko, a week ago. "We feel that people representing the political interests of the authorities -- in particular, those of the administration of the president of Ukraine -- are interfering with journalistic matters at the agency," the statement reads. The journalists warn that they will go on strike if "the situation does not change and if the authorities continue to grossly interfere with UNIAN's editorial policy." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)

...AFTER INCIDENT INVOLVING OPPOSITION LEADERS. AP reported that the UNIAN journalists' statement appeared after a dispute between Yurychko and three Ukrainian opposition leaders over whether the opposition could hold a news conference at the agency's headquarters. In its regular news issue on the afternoon of 1 October, UNIAN carried a message saying that opposition lawmakers Yuliya Tymoshenko, Oleksandr Moroz, and Petro Symonenko "have begun brutally to pressure" the agency. Quoting UNIAN General Director Oleh Nalyvayko, the agency said Petro Yakobchuk from "Yuliya Tymoshenko's press service" demanded earlier the same day, "in the form of an ultimatum," that the agency provide its premises at 1 p.m. for a news conference featuring Tymoshenko, Moroz, and Symonenko. Nalyvayko reportedly refused, saying it was the first time he faced "such a brazen and gross [example of] pressure on the independent media." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)

PUTIN CANCELS YELTSIN DECREE ON RFE/RL MOSCOW BUREAU. President Putin on 4 October canceled a 27 August 1991 decree by former President Boris Yeltsin that guaranteed the legal and operational status of the Moscow bureau of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Under Yeltsin's edict, the Russian government provided conditions for RFE/RL's journalistic activities "because of its role in the objective coverage of the march of democratic processes." Putin did not issue any statement in connection with the cancellation, but the Kremlin's information office said Yeltsin's decree was revoked because it had "lost its original significance," RIA-Novosti reported. According to the unidentified spokesperson, Yeltsin's decree was originally intended to demonstrate Russia's commitment to freedom of the press and to enhance Russia's image abroad. However, because of the progress of economic and political reforms in Russia since then, the decree put RFE/RL in "a privileged position compared to other foreign mass-media outlets working in Russia," the Kremlin statement was quoted as saying. Moreover, the statement continued, RFE/RL's editorial policies, "despite the end of the Cold War," have in recent years become "biased," especially those of its "Chechen" and Ukrainian services. Ever since Yeltsin's decree, nationalists, Communists, and other reactionary elements have regularly called for an end to RFE/RL's activities in Russia. The Kremlin conducted campaigns of pressure against RFE/RL in 2000 in connection with the case of RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitskii and his coverage of the Chechnya conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 2000) and this year in connection with RFE/RL's decision to begin broadcasts in three North Caucasus languages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 25 April 2002). The Foreign Ministry said that Putin's decree is purely a technical measure designed to give equal status to all foreign media outlets in Russia and does not constitute a reaction to RFE/RL's policies, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 October. VY

TURKMENISTAN BUILDING UP CASPIAN COAST GUARD. Ukraine has supplied Turkmenistan with three more Kalkan-M patrol boats, bringing the number received since May to seven, reported on 3 October. According to a gas-for-goods barter agreement signed in 2001, Ukrainian shipbuilders owe Turkmenistan a total of 10 Kalkan and 10 40-ton Grif patrol boats. Since last year, Turkmenistan has been steadily increasing its fleet patrolling its Caspian waters. AA

UKRAINIAN NEWS AGENCY SETTLES CONFLICT OVER ALLEGED CENSORSHIP. UNIAN, Ukraine's second-largest news agency, published a statement on 3 October saying the agency's leadership and journalists had reached a compromise over the recent conflict in which journalists complained of being subjected to political censorship and pressure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002). "Both sides declare that political censorship in UNIAN is inadmissible. We are unanimous in the opinion that major changes in materials released by UNIAN may be made only by the journalists who wrote them," the statement reads. The dispute in UNIAN began on 1 October when journalists accused UNIAN's new executive director, Vasyl Yurychko, of censoring their work and of refusing to run reports that could be construed as portraying President Leonid Kuchma unfavorably, AP reported. JM

UKRAINIAN NGO CLAIMS ITS LEADER KILLED FOR HIS POLITICAL ACTIVITY. The Public Control organization on 3 October claimed that its head, Ruslan Synyavskyy, was killed because of his public activity, AP reported. Police reported that an unidentified gunman shot and killed Synyavskyy, 44, late on 30 September near the entrance to his apartment building in downtown Kyiv. Interfax reported that the assailant shot several times in an attempt to rob Synyavskyy. "It's very doubtful that an ordinary thief carries a gun. We [think] this [killing] was linked to his activity in the organization," Oleh Sadanets from Public Control told AP. Public Control helps citizens defend their rights if they believe state officials abused their power or violated laws. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN INDIA. President Kuchma is continuing a four-day official visit to India that began on 2 October. Kuchma's spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska told journalists on 3 October that the two countries signed four accords, including one on mutual legal assistance in criminal investigations and another on extradition, UNIAN reported. Kuchma reportedly said that Ukraine and India "have no divergent opinions" on any international issues. JM