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UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES 'CARDINAL CHANGES' IN ARMY. President Leonid Kuchma on 5 December predicted 2003 will be a "period of cardinal changes" in the Ukrainian armed forces, UNIAN reported. Kuchma added that the army's numerical strength and the amount of military equipment will be reduced, while the combat value of troops will be enhanced. Earlier this week, Kuchma ordered the Defense Ministry to work out a plan for discharging up to 20 percent of the officer corps. Under a program approved in April, Ukraine's armed forces are to shrink to 375,000 by the end of 2005. On 5 December, Kuchma appointed General Colonel Petro Shulyak as commander in chief of the country's land troops. Kuchma fired Shulyak from his post as chief of General Staff on 28 July, in the wake of an air-show disaster in Lviv that claimed 76 lives. JM

UKRAINIAN JOURNALISTS SNUB PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE IN SOLIDARITY PROTEST. A dozen journalists from several Ukrainian television channels and newspapers left a news conference by Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasyl Prysyazhnyuk in Kyiv on 4 December to protest the refusal of the Prosecutor-General's Office to accredit a journalist from the Internet publication "Ukrayinska pravda" for the event, UNIAN reported. "Because you present the position of the Prosecutor-General's Office and use the information obtained at news conferences in a biased manner, we think that our further cooperation is inexpedient," the "Ukrayinska pravda" website quoted a representative of the Prosecutor-General's Office as saying to justify the rejection. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LEADER BECOMES HONORARY PROFESSOR OF RUSSIAN ACADEMY. On 4 December in Kyiv, Yuliya Tymoshenko, the leader of the eponymous opposition bloc, received the title of honorary professor of the Russian Federation's Academy of Security and Defense, UNIAN reported on 5 December. According to Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc press service, the title came in recognition of Tymoshenko's efforts to reform Ukraine's fuel and energy sector, combat corruption in this sphere, and develop new ways to provide security for the power-engineering sector. Tymoshenko was deputy prime minister for fuel and energy in Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet from December 1999 to January 2001. The Russian Federation's Academy of Security and Defense was set up in 1999 at the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin. JM

ESTONIA BACKS UKRAINE'S ENTRY INTO EU, NATO. Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland told visiting Ukrainian parliament Chairman Volodymyr Lytvyn in Tallinn on 5 December that Estonia backs Ukraine's efforts to join NATO and the EU and is willing to share experience gained during accession talks, BNS reported. She also pledged support for Ukrainian membership in the World Trade Organization, asserting, "It is in our common interest for the continuation of day-to-day, close trade." Lytvyn arrived in Tallinn the previous day at the head of a delegation from the Verkhovna Rada and, in talks with Estonian counterpart Toomas Savi, called for closer cooperation between the two legislatures. He also met with Prime Minister Siim Kallas, who noted that Ukraine's progress in economic and government reforms is in Estonia's interest. SG

POLISH PREMIER IN ROME. Premier Leszek Miller met with his Italian counterpart Silvo Berlusconi in Rome on 5 December, Polish media reported. Berlusconi reportedly assured Miller that Italy will support a Danish proposal to increase the EU's financial aid to new EU members following the planned expansion in 2004 (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 3 December 2002). Later the same day, Miller met with Pope John Paul II and invited the pontiff to visit Poland. "God permitting, [I'll come,]" the pope replied, according to "Rzeczpospolita." JM


OFFICIALS CLAIM GONGADZE MURDER WAS A 'SETUP.' The Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's Office considers it highly likely that the murder of "Ukrayinska pravda" journalist Heorhiy Gongadze was deliberately organized by opponents to undermine the reputation of President Leonid Kuchma, reported 4 December, quoting Ukrainian Deputy Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin at a press conference the same day. In the long-drawn-out saga of the investigation into Gongadze's murder, officials facing the clamor of international and local watchdog groups for justice, as well as increasingly critical Western governments, have resorted to pointing the finger back at the opposition. In another interview with the newspaper "Segodnya" cited by, Shokin floated several theories of the assassination, including one version where rogue police agents known as "werewolves" killed Gongadze over debts. Yet another independent forensic examination of the tissue of the body found in a forest will be performed by French experts in Switzerland in January, journalists say, noting that the Gongadze has yet to be buried. CAF

JOURNALIST ACCUSES PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION OF STIFLING MEDIA... Addressing a parliamentary hearing on the freedom of expression on 4 December, the nascent Independent Trade Union of Journalists' Kyivan leader Andriy Shevchenko described a policy whereby the presidential administration effectively dictates news coverage through unsigned cues sent to media outlets, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported. He said such prompts, or "temnyky," detail what news and in what manner the presidential administration wishes to see information reported in newspapers and on radio and television. "In actual fact, television news coverage in Ukraine is made in a remote-control mode. Someone else, not journalists, edits news programs, shoots and disseminates videos, writes texts, and selects comments by governors, which are subsequently sent to all channels," Shevchenko said. "Let us admit honestly: Instead of news coverage, Ukraine gets lies. Because every half-truth is a lie, and there should be no illusions about that." Shevchenko proposed that media legislation be amended to broaden the definition of illegal interference in journalistic activities and toughen sanctions for such interference. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December)

...AND NEWS AGENCY'S EDITOR PROVIDES MORE DETAILS. Oleksandr Kharchenko, editor in chief of the UNIAN news agency, said at the same hearing that authorities have recently begun "taming" Ukrainian news agencies to encourage a certain manner of reportage, UNIAN reported. According to Kharchenko, UNIAN's pluralistic information policy has undergone change since the appointment of Executive Director Vasyl Yurychko earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 4 October 2002). Kharchenko said Yurychko has limited journalists' opportunities to present differing points of view in their news coverage and initiated a policy of publication that can be construed as politically biased. Deputy Prime Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk proposed setting up a working group comprising lawmakers, government officials, and journalists to propose amendments to media legislation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December)

PARLIAMENT MULLS FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. The Verkhovna Rada on 4 December gathered for a hearing titled "Society, Media, Authorities: The Freedom of Expression and Censorship in Ukraine," Ukrainian media reported. Deputy parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Zinchenko, who opened the debate, said the hearing should result in specific changes to legislation on Ukrainian media. More than 50 representatives from the government, parliament, and the media asked to speak at the hearing. A poll conducted last month by the Oleksandr Razumkov Center for Political and Economic Studies among 727 Ukrainian journalists revealed that 61.6 percent of them have come into contact with "manifestations of political censorship," UNIAN reported on 3 December. According to the poll, the most common forms of political censorship in Ukraine are self-censorship of journalists for fear of reprisals and removal of politically sensitive passages from texts by editors. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)