©2003 RFE/RL, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

With the kind permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, InfoUkes Inc. has been given rights to electronically re-print these articles on our web site. Visit the RFE/RL Ukrainian Service page for more information. Also visit the RFE/RL home page for news stories on other Eastern European and FSU countries.

Return to Main RFE News Page
InfoUkes Home Page

ukraine-related news stories from RFE

NATIONAL GUARD TO BE FORMED BY 2005. Interior Ministry internal troops commander Army General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov said on 27 March that by 2005 the 207,000 troops currently under his command will be transformed into a 174,000-strong National Guard, ITAR-TASS and other Russian media reported. Speaking on the anniversary of his force's founding in 1811, Tikhomirov did not mention that during the Soviet era, his force was a crucial tool of control by the KGB and played a leading role in the suppression of anticommunist uprisings in the Baltic states and western Ukraine, and in the deportations of repressed peoples, including the Chechens. He did note, however, that Interior Ministry internal troops are currently sharing with the military and the FSB responsibility for ensuring security in Chechnya. He said that about 80 percent of the republic's territory is now under his force's control. VY

LOCALS URGE PROTECTION OF BELARUS'S BELAVEZHA FOREST. A group of 12 elderly people who live in the Belavezha Forest have published an open appeal to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the Belarusian legislature, and the global community to save this ancient forest and help them protect the rights of its inhabitants, Belapan reported on 27 March. The Belavezha Forest, which stretches across the Belarusian-Polish frontier, is the last fragment of Europe's former primeval forests. "Predatory uncontrolled logging is under way. Valuable timber is being carried out of the national park in an uninterrupted flow," the residents said in the appeal, blaming the administration's "greed for money" for what is happening to the forest. "With pain in our hearts, we are watching people's heritage being wasted, endless manipulations and deals making our land a lifeless area and turning us into aborigines without legal rights," the appeal reads. According to the authors, the administration exercises pressure on Belavezha Forest residents, threatening to sack them if they voice opposition to current management practices. "Hundreds of people have been fired, with experts, researchers and ordinary workers among them. They are replaced by 'alien' manpower from other regions of the country, as well as from Russia and Ukraine," the letter says. JM

COURT PLACES FORMER UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PREMIER UNDER ARREST. A court in Kyiv on 27 March formally sanctioned the arrest of former Prime Minister Leonid Kozachenko, who was detained on 24 March on charges of abuse of office and tax evasion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 2003), Ukrainian news agencies reported. Kozachenko was the deputy premier responsible for agricultural reforms in Anatoliy Kinakh's cabinet from June-November 2002. His arrest is connected with a probe ordered by President Leonid Kuchma, who has expressed concern over a shortage of grain in Ukraine and a rise in bread prices. Kozachenko told the court that during his cabinet tenure Ukraine exported 5 million tons of grain, not 12 million tons as stated in the charges against him. Lawmaker Ivan Tomych (Our Ukraine), head of the parliamentary Commission for Agrarian Policy and Land Relations, said he does not rule out that the case against Kozachenko is politically motivated, UNIAN reported. Tomych added that the probe could negatively affect the development of the agricultural sector, including this year's grain harvest in Ukraine. Citing traders and analysts, Reuters reported that local grain deals virtually halted after the investigation of Kozachenko was launched. JM

OUR UKRAINE TO HOLD DEMOCRATIC FORUM ON 29 MARCH. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko told journalists on 27 March that a democratic forum prepared by his bloc to take place in Kyiv on 29 March will discuss principles for the formation of a broad coalition of democratic forces and their possible cooperation in the presidential election in 2004, UNIAN reported. Yushchenko said Ukraine's democratic forces could tackle the problem of fielding a single democratic presidential candidate this fall. Yushchenko said his bloc invited to the forum all the parliamentary-caucus leaders, nearly 100 leaders of NGOs, as well as representatives of 40 political parties and 31 diplomatic missions. JM

POLISH PRESIDENT TESTIFIES IN RYWINGATE INVESTIGATION. Prosecutors on 26 March questioned President Aleksander Kwasniewski as a witness in the investigation against film producer Lew Rywin, who is suspected of soliciting a bribe from Agora, the publisher of "Gazeta Wyborcza," PAP reported. The questioning reportedly took place at the presidential palace. Kwasniewski told the daily "Rzeczpospolita" on 22 March that he urged Premier Leszek Miller to notify prosecutors about Rywin's request immediately after he made it last July (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 26 March 2003). Miller retorted earlier this week by saying the president could have notified prosecutors himself, thereby implying that Kwasniewski knew about the Rywingate scandal immediately after it happened in July. Meanwhile, a poll conducted by OBOP on 8-10 March found that 64 percent of Poles do not believe they will ever learn on whose behalf Rywin solicited a bribe from Agora in exchange for a favorable media law. JM

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT EMPOWERS CABINET TO APPROVE TRANSIT OF SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL. Parliament on 27 March empowered the cabinet to separately approve by special decree the transit of each trainload carrying spent nuclear fuel from the Bulgarian Kozloduy nuclear-power plant to Russia, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Moldova is to receive $50,000 for each trainload. The legislature on 28 March ratified the 1997 agreement signed with Bulgaria, Russia, and Ukraine on the transit of spent nuclear fuel, adding to the agreement the stipulation empowering the government to approve such transits. Moldovan, Bulgarian, and Russian environmentalists have strongly protested the decision. MS

...AS OPPOSITION SOCIALISTS AND RULING PARTY DEFECTORS MOVE THEIR OWN DECISIONS. In response to the draft decision moved by the governing coalition, the parliamentary group National Ideal for Unity (NIE), which was recently formed by 10 defectors from the governing NDSV, on 27 March moved a draft decision explicitly prohibiting the deployment of Bulgarian troops to the crisis region, reported. The group's decision followed U.S. President George Bush's announcement on 26 March that the coalition forces in the Persian Gulf region will soon be joined by Bulgarian and Ukrainian troops. According to NIE member Mariana Asenova, Bush's speech gave the impression that Bulgarian troops could be directly involved in the conflict. The NIE's draft decision is almost identical to that of the opposition Socialist Party (BSP), the news agency reported. UB