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
U.S. ANALYST UPBEAT ON GEORGIAN NATO MEMBERSHIP. Bruce Jackson, president of the nongovernmental U.S.-NATO Committee, told journalists in Baku on 17 April that the North Atlantic alliance could decide as early as its summit next year to extend invitations to several aspiring new members, Turan and zerkalo.az reported. Those countries that receive invitations at that time could therefore enter NATO in 2006-07, he added. At the same time, Jackson pointed out that Macedonia, Croatia, and Albania are coordinating their bids for NATO membership, as are Georgia and Ukraine, thereby implying that Azerbaijan could risk losing out if it fails to make a formal request to be considered as a prospective NATO member. Meeting the previous day in Tbilisi with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Jackson positively evaluated Georgia's efforts to comply with NATO standards, Caucasus Press reported. In contrast, in Baku he stressed that Washington expects prospective NATO members to live up to their commitments in the sphere of democratization and human rights, zerkalo.az reported. LF
END NOTE: UKRAINE'S IMAGE AGAIN SUFFERS AS KUCHMA THREATENS
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION URGES BELARUS TO PROBE DISAPPEARANCES. The UN Commission on Human Rights on 17 April voted 23-14 with 16 abstentions to approve a resolution that urges Belarusian authorities to investigate reports that senior Belarusian government officials were involved in the disappearances of three political opponents and a journalist, Belapan and Reuters reported. The resolution expresses concern at "reports from credible sources, including statements of former investigators and senior law-enforcement officials of the government of Belarus, implicating senior government officials of Belarus in the disappearance and deaths of three political opponents of the incumbent authorities, and of a journalist." In June 2001, two Belarusian investigators who had fled to the United States charged that a secret death squad organized by authorities was responsible for the kidnapping and murder of opposition figures Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar, and Anatol Krasouski, along with journalist Dzmitry Zavadski (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 June 2001). Their charges were subsequently corroborated by the warden of Minsk's death-row prison (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 28 August 2001). JM
UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION REPORTEDLY VOWS NOT TO BLOCK PARLIAMENT. Parliamentary opposition leaders agreed on 17 April that they will not block the work of the Verkhovna Rada over the abortive votes earlier the same day on a bill providing for a fully proportional electoral system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2003), Interfax reported, quoting Socialist Party Chairman Oleksandr Moroz. Some opposition lawmakers charged Premier Viktor Yanukovych with reneging on his promise to persuade deputies from the parliamentary majority to support that bill in exchange for support from opposition lawmakers to a government action plan that was adopted the same day. Later, some opposition deputies backed down on this charge. "We don't blame any person, let alone the premier, for the failure to adopt the election bill," Socialist Party lawmaker Yuriy Lutsenko told Interfax. JM
LATVIAN PRESIDENT BACKS INTEGRATION OF NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES INTO EU. Vaira Vike-Freiberga told the European Conference in Athens on 17 April that while the planned EU enlargement will increase European security, stability, and welfare, the EU's future external borders should not "become barriers of economic development and democratization," BNS reported. She said that further EU expansion is possible both to the EU's south and east, but that the integration of individual countries depends on their ability and readiness to implement reforms. Vike-Freiberga expressed the hope that the EU's ongoing eastward expansion will help Ukraine integrate and cooperate in establishing stability and security in the region. She also noted that Belarus should not be forgotten, as it is a direct neighbor of Latvia, and that there is a need for greater dialogue between Russia and the EU. SG
LITHUANIAN, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTS CALL FOR GREATER COOPERATION. Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas and his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma discussed in Athens on 17 April the signing of the EU-accession treaties and the need to expand bilateral relations, ELTA reported. They spoke about the possibility of establishing visa-free travel for citizens of both countries, which would help increase economic and cultural cooperation. The presidents noted that the establishment of the regularly scheduled Viking freight-train route between Odesa and Klaipeda in February has boosted trade and transit. Paksas expressed satisfaction that Kuchma has accepted his invitation to visit Vilnius in early July for the ceremonies marking the 750th anniversary of the coronation of King Mindaugas. He also expressed his support for Ukraine's efforts to join the EU. SG
SLOVAK PREMIER LAUDS EU PLEDGE OF CLOSER TIES WITH NEIGHBORS. Speaking in Athens on 17 April, Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said the recent EU enlargement should not be the last, and other European countries should enjoy a chance to "join the secure world," CTK reported. He praised the declaration signed the same day by European representatives to work for closer mutual ties (see item above). Dzurinda said maintaining good ties with Ukraine, its eastern neighbor, is a Slovak priority, although the visa requirement for citizens of Ukraine imposed by his country will remain in place. He described relations with Russia as "very important" and praised the Balkan countries for their efforts to achieve EU integration. Dzurinda said he believes Croatia could catch up with Romania and Bulgaria and become an EU member in 2007. MS
EU OFFICIAL SAYS UNION MIGHT TAKE ADDITIONAL MEASURES AGAINST TRANSDNIESTER. EU foreign policy coordinator Javier Solana, meeting with Moldovan President Voronin on the sidelines of the EU treaty-signing ceremonies in Athens on 17 April, said the union might consider taking additional measures against the Transdniester leadership in addition to the travel ban imposed on members of separatist leader Igor Smirnov's team earlier this year, Flux reported. Solana said that if the Transdniester leadership continues to apply "brakes on the process of negotiations," the EU might take economic and financial steps against the leadership in Tiraspol. He did not specify what steps he has in mind. Solana said the conflict in Transdniester has a negative impact on regional security. He also said the EU is in favor of setting up joint Moldovan-Ukrainian customs checkpoints on the border between the two countries to stop smuggling from the separatist region, and he added that European institutions could send "representatives" to man the checkpoints together with Moldovans and Ukrainians. He reiterated that the EU intends to increase its involvement in the process of resolving the Transdniester conflict, and added that an EU expert might participate alongside Venice Commission experts in the process of the elaboration of the joint Moldovan-Transdniestrian federal constitution. Voronin also met in Athens with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to discuss the Transdniester conflict, and with Romanian President Ion Iliescu for talks on bilateral economic relations. MS
UKRAINE'S IMAGE AGAIN SUFFERS AS KUCHMA THREATENS AGRICULTURAL REFORM
On 24 March, Leonid Kozachenko, deputy prime minister for agriculture from June 2001-November 2002 in the Anatoliy Kinakh government, was arrested on what are widely believed to be trumped-up charges, which he denies. Kozachenko faces up to eight years in prison for "abuse of power" (Article 364 of the Criminal Code) on charges that he deliberately lowered prices for the transport, storage, and loading of grain to ensure that exported grain was cheap in price. In addition, he faces 10 years for tax evasion (Article 212) related to charges that while working as the general director of Ukragrobiznes in 2000, he failed to pay taxes on shares he was given.
Ukraine has an extensive network of anticorruption legislation and presidential and parliamentary committees, but that legislation is selectively applied for political purposes. Yevhen Zhovtiak, an Our Ukraine deputy, said the Kozachenko "case is exclusively political." Ivan Tomych, head of the parliamentary committee on Agrarian Policy and an Our Ukraine deputy, has also protested Kozachenko's arrest.
By 2002 Ukraine had become the world's sixth largest grain exporter, and the agro-industrial sector has been a driving force in Ukraine's rapid economic growth since 2000. But the shortage of grain this year, after severe frosts destroyed 60-70 percent of the winter crop, and the likelihood that bread prices will rise, has disquieted the Ukrainian leadership. A bread-price hike is the last thing President Leonid Kuchma wants on the eve of the 2004 presidential election, as it would damage the Viktor Yanukevych government's attempt to boost its popularity. Doing so is of paramount importance, especially as Yanukevych is a potential successor to Kuchma. Kuchma has personally asserted, "Our assignment is to prevent bread prices from rising." According to sources close to Kozachenko, reasserting control over the grain market is part of Kuchma's strategy to prepare a successor for next year's election.
Kozachenko's reform of agriculture, like Yuliya Tymoshenko's reforms of the energy sector in the former Viktor Yushchenko government, inflicted considerable damage on vested, corrupt interests. Kozachenko supported the liberalization of the grain market, the adoption of international quality standards, the introduction of commodity exchanges to ensure that farmers obtain a fair price, and increased market transparency and competition among buyers. For the first time, farmers and villages -- the bedrock of support for the opposition left -- obtained large financial inflows because grain traders bought directly from them, bypassing regional governors and government-owned grain elevators. Farmers finally began to obtain income based on the real market value of their products and not from government-manipulated and corrupt bodies.
Kozachenko's arrest is expected to be followed by presidential decrees reimposing Soviet-style state regulation on the grain market and the introduction of artificial price controls. As the cabinet pledges to continue agricultural reforms, Kuchma has stated his intention to revive the Soviet system of state contracts, under which farmers are paid low prices. Kozachenko, who heads the Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation, accused the authorities in a 31 March statement of "restoring a command-management system over the agro-industrial complex."
The halt of agricultural reforms and re-centralization of the grain market will ensure that Kuchma's political allies continue to earn income from corruption in the agricultural sector at the expense of farmers. In return, the oligarchs and regional governors will likely be asked to donate a proportion of this "income" to Kuchma's chosen successor's presidential campaign next year. The authorities have long subjected honest businessmen to repression in an attempt at halting their financing of pro-reform opposition groups.
Kozachenko's arrest has again brought to light a problem besetting the transition process in Ukraine and elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Independent States, where the consolidation of a pro-executive oligarch class has blocked restructuring along market economic lines. The arrest is also further confirmation that the executive and pro-presidential elites are already divided and in panic, and will become more so as the 2004 presidential elections move closer. One hundred eighty-three of parliament's 450 deputies, including 24 from pro-presidential factions, have asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to ensure an objective investigation of Kozachenko's case. Meanwhile, 247 deputies, including an even larger number from the pro-presidential camp, supported the creation of an ad hoc commission to investigate the Ukrainian grain market.
The Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, headed by former Prime Minister Kinakh and in alliance with Dnipropetrovsk's Labor Ukraine clan in parliament, have protested Kozachenko's arrest. Other protests came from the Ukrainian Grain Association, Agrarian Confederation, Corn Association, and Association of Farmers and Landowners.
The impact of Kozachenko's arrest and the reversal of reform in agriculture is likely to be three-fold.
First, Ukraine's poor international image will be further tarnished. Ukraine's commitment to uphold documents it has signed, such as the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan (which has a domestic reform component), will once again be shown to be questionable. Canada, which supports two agricultural projects worth $13 million in Ukraine, has hinted that it might suspend further assistance because of the Kozachenko's arrest, a stance that led Ukraine to accuse Canada of "interference in its domestic affairs." Kozachenko is highly regarded by the Canada Board of Trade, international financial and grain organizations, and Western governments.
Second, Ukraine's hopes of attracting foreign investment will suffer. Foreign investors who began to slowly trickle into Ukraine in the last three years will again be scared off. Kempton Jenkins, president of the Ukraine-U.S. Business Council, believes that "reintroducing centralized control of the grain market would have a severe chilling effect on all foreign investors in Ukraine." The recent attempt to drive out five international agricultural companies who competed on the Ukrainian grain market is reminiscent of 1997, when the U.S. company Motorola withdrew from Ukraine after it had invested $500 million in the cellular market. Motorola lost a tender for frequencies for the GSM-900 system to an unknown company, Kyivstar GSM. The chief executive officer of Kyivstar GSM was Yuriy Tumanov, the brother of Ukraine's first lady, Ludmilla Kuchma. Kuchma's daughter, Olena Franchuk, was also a director of the company. Ironically, on the eve of Kozachenko's arrest, Tumanov was appointed in February as Kuchma's special adviser.
Third, emerging private farmers and the agro-business sector will suffer a setback due to a shortage of funds. The agro-business sector, the engine of Ukraine's economic recovery since 2000, will be negatively affected and fewer jobs will be created in this sector. Ultimately, the first attempt since the 1933 artificial famine and collectivization to raise rural Ukraine from its depressed and serf-like status is again being threatened.
The Kozachenko arrest is a reflection of the struggle at the heart of Ukrainian politics that will dominate the 2004 elections. Two business orientations exist among the rising middle class in Ukraine. One, represented by Kozachenko, seeks to support further market economic reforms and takes the national interest into consideration. The other, which has the support of the president, sees such reforms and transparency as a threat and seeks to block Ukraine's further economic transformation unless it suits personal and clannish interests.
'GOOD NEWS' A LA KYIV
On 28 January the presidential administration's Department for Information Policy began sending, on a daily basis, "Good News from Ukraine" newspapers to the Ukrainian diaspora. The first issue included a cover letter signed by the head of the department, Serhiy Vasylyev, stating that when used, "Good News" should be cited as the source (i.e., not the presidential administration).
The "news media project," as Vasylyev called it, aims to accomplish three things. Firstly, by its very title the "media project" seeks to counter Ukraine's bad international image. "Good News from Ukraine" is the latest example of Ukraine's elites attempting to undertake various projects to counter this image, all with little success to date. It follows the creation in June 2001 of the Ukrayina Cognita NGO, after Ukraine's international image took a dive during the Kuchmagate scandal.
Secondly, the Department for Information Policy was created after Viktor Medvedchuk became head of the presidential administration in May, and its policies reflect his more aggressive style. The Department for Information Policy has 38 staffers and is one of the largest in the presidential administration (the departments of Foreign Policy and of Economics have 23 and 26, respectively).
The department was reportedly implicated in the release of "temnyky" (instructions to television stations on what to cover and ignore) in the summer-fall of 2002. Vasylyev attempted to counter criticism of growing censorship voiced within Ukraine and in the Council of Europe by organizing weekly surveys of the Ukrainian media showing how free it was in its criticism of the executive. These surveys were then sent to the Council of Europe's Hanne Severinsen. Vasylyev stopped producing these surveys after Severinsen publicly ridiculed them in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Thirdly, the aim is to influence the Ukrainian diaspora through its media outlets. The thinking behind the "media project" and the tactics used are similar to those in the Soviet era when Tovarystvo Ukrayiny (Society for Cultural Relations with Ukrainians Abroad) published a weekly newspaper in English and Ukrainian entitled "News from Ukraine/Visti z Ukrayiny," which was unavailable inside Ukraine. Tovarystvo Ukrayiny had limited appeal except with Ukrainian communist groups in the U.S. and Canada. "News from Ukraine/Visti z Ukrayiny" specialized in publishing attacks on Ukrainian nationalist emigres as well as accusations of their involvement in war crimes during World War II.
Will the presidential administration be more successful in influencing the Ukrainian diaspora than Tovarystvo Ukrayiny? Unlike when "News from Ukraine/Visti z Ukrayiny" was published, "Good News from Ukraine" is appearing during the age of the Internet. Many different news sources on Ukraine are now available and most newspapers in Ukraine also appear on the web. "Good News from Ukraine" therefore has much competition from other, far better sources of information.
Why is "Good News from Ukraine" only sent to diaspora publications? Presumably because Western media outlets, just like the Council of Europe, would find the style and tone of information produced by the presidential administration unusable. There is also an assumption that diaspora organizations remain influential within the Western media and governments, something which is highly questionable.
"Good News from Ukraine" is also highly biased towards issues beloved by the Ukrainian diaspora. These include a heavy dose of articles devoted to language, culture, nationalist movements in the 1940s (the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, OUN, and Ukrainian Insurgent Army, UPA), and steps taken by President Kuchma in honor of nationalist events or historical figures. Marco Levytsky, editor of Canada's largest Ukrainian newspaper, the biweekly, Edmonton-based "Ukrainian News/Ukrayinski Visti," finds it suspicious that "Good News from Ukraine" is so heavily slated towards the news that the diaspora so wants to read. As Levytsky asks, "If the presidential administration feels so favorably about OUN-UPA, why don't they rehabilitate them on the national level, and why don't they send these stories to newspapers in eastern Ukraine, which is where the most education about OUN-UPA is needed?" "Good News from Ukraine" published a telegram dated 13 March and sent to the family of Yaroslava Stetsko, head of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, who died the day before. Yet, neither Kuchma nor Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych attended her funeral three days later.
"Good News from Ukraine" is unlikely to be used by editors from the younger generation and those who edit non-party newspapers, such as "Ukrainian News/Ukrayinski Visti." It will, however, be favorably received by newspapers linked to the OUN-b (Stepan Bandera) or OUN-m (Andriy Melnyk) and where editors belong to the older generation. This reflects similar divisions in Ukraine that have existed within the national-democratic camp between nationalist derzhavnyky (statists) and reformist anticommunist oppositionists since 1992. The division still plagues Viktor Yushcheko's Our Ukraine, preventing it from fully moving into the opposition camp. Derzhavnyky place Ukrainian statehood above all else and see criticism of the president as destabilization of this statehood.
Only three months after "Good News from Ukraine" began to be issued, the World Congress of Ukrainians (WCU), led by OUN-b member Askold Lozynsky, issued an appeal "To Ukrainian National Central Representations in the Diaspora." This followed debates on the pages of "The Ukrainian Weekly," North America's large English-language newspaper, over how to respond to problems in Ukraine and whether criticism merely worsened Ukraine's image. The debates included letters from Lozynsky, former editor of New York's OUN-b "Natsyonalna Trybuna" newspaper Ihor Dlaboha, former head of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service Roman Kupchinsky, and others.
The WCU statement asked the diaspora organizations and media to "work towards a just and enlightened treatment of Ukraine." The WCU see Ukraine as "collateral damage" after 11 September 2001, when the U.S. allowed Russia to increase its influence over Ukraine. The WCU has been a strong critic of the "amoral" Bush administration in what it sees as its double standards towards Ukraine and in its Iraq policy. These views within the nationalist wing of the Ukrainian diaspora reflect the suspicion that Russia is behind the Kuchmagate scandal.
In a similar pattern to recent claims of double standards by the presidential administration, the WCU statement also says, "Unfortunately, Ukraine has been singled out as one of the most corrupt and abusive countries in the world," but that the West also has its fair share of similar problems. With such a similar political culture, "Good News from Ukraine" may therefore be relatively more successful than what Tovarystvo Ukrayiny ever hoped to achieve.