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END NOTE: CAN UKRAINE'S NEW DEFENSE MINISTER JUMP-START MILITARY
UKRAINIAN CABINET WANTS $200 MILLION LOAN TO BUY GRAIN. Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Mykola Azarov requested on 3 July that the Verkhovna Rada allow the cabinet to borrow $200 million abroad for replenishing state grain reserves, Interfax reported. "The current situation on external financial markets is extremely favorable," Azarov told lawmakers. "We could borrow $200 million at a 7 percent interest rate for 10 years and purchase grain for the state reserves for this sum. We would have the store [of grain] that the state needs to control such serious situations [as now]." Ukraine has seen a consumer run on grain products and considerable hikes in food prices in recent weeks, reportedly in anticipation of a poor harvest this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July and 27 and 30 June 2003). JM
UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS MAY NOT BE ARRESTED WITHOUT PARLIAMENTARY CONSENT. The Ukrainian Constitutional Court ruled on 3 July that law-enforcement bodies may arrest or detain a parliamentary deputy in criminal or administrative proceedings only with the express permission of the Verkhovna Rada, Interfax reported. The ruling came in response to requests from a group of deputies and the Interior Ministry for judicial guidance regarding some provisions of the constitution and a law on parliamentary immunity. JM
GUUAM TO LAUNCH TWO-DAY SUMMIT IN CRIMEA. Delegations from Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova (GUUAM) were gathering on 3 July for a two-day GUUAM summit in Yalta, Crimea, that was set to open later in the day, Interfax reported. Only two presidents, Ukraine's Leonid Kuchma and Georgia's Eduard Shevardnadze, are expected to attend. Azerbaijan will be represented by Prime Minister Artur Rasizade and Uzbekistan by former Foreign Minister and presidential adviser Abdulaziz Komilov. Ukraine has also invited delegations from 19 other countries, including the United States, Russia, Kazakhstan, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Hungary, and Bulgaria. GUUAM representatives plan to discuss creating a free-trade zone and endorse a number of agreements, including on customs, trade, and transport. JM
POLAND'S SILESIANS TAKE THEIR CASE TO EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg heard an appeal on 2 July by representatives of the Union of People of Silesian Nationality in connection with Polish authorities' refusal to register the group, PAP reported. A verdict is several months away, however. "The chances of a positive outcome are still 50 percent, but I am prepared for any verdict," the Silesian Autonomy Movement's Jerzy Gorzelik told the news agency. Polish authorities object both to the name of the organization and to some provisions in the union's statute that characterize Silesians as an ethnic minority. More than 170,000 people declared Silesian ethnicity in a national census in 2002 (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 25 June 2003). JM
ROMANIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST UKRAINIAN INTERDICTIONS. The Convention of Romanian Media Organizations released a press release on 1 July protesting the Ukrainian authorities' recent decision to deny entry to two Romanian journalists. The press release stated that "Ziua" reporter Victor Roncea and "Bucovina Culturala" journalist Ion Beldeanu were recently denied entry to Ukraine without cause and were banned from entering the country for five years. The media organization argued that the measures violate Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which refers to the right to receive and disseminate information regardless of frontiers. The press release calls for Ukraine's Ambassador to Romania Anton Buteyko to rescind the bans imposed on Roncea and Beldeanu. The Romanian Press Club also protested the treatment of two journalists in a 1 July press release. ZsM
CAN UKRAINE'S NEW DEFENSE MINISTER JUMP-START MILITARY REFORM?
The ouster of Ukrainian Defense Minister Volodymyr Shkidchenko last week was not unexpected. President Leonid Kuchma had upbraided him several times recently for failing to initiate reforms to modernize the country's huge but inefficient army. Kuchma had also blamed Shkidchenko for what he said was evidence of widespread corruption seen during a surprise visit to Ukrainian military units in Crimea. There also has been speculation that Shkidchenko was removed because his political enemies thought he was too pro-Western.
Kuchma accepted Shkidchenko's resignation and on 25 June appointed the secretary of the National Defense and Security Council, Yevhen Marchuk, as Ukraine's new defense minister.
Leonid Polyakov is the military programs director at the independent Razumkov Center think tank in Kyiv. Polyakov believes Shkidchenko did not have -- or chose not to exercise -- the political skills to defend himself. "General Shkidchenko stood out by his professionalism and decency," Polyakov told RFE/RL. "Therefore, I think that the main reason for the changes is political. I'm not sure about the exact reason for the change, but it seemed inevitable it would happen sooner or later because it was difficult for a military personage like Shkidchenko to remain in the political role of minister of defense. He tried to avoid politics, but the defense minister is a political role and sooner or later he was going to be sacrificed."
Kuchma says Marchuk's tasks are to bring the army under civilian control and to transform Europe's second-largest military force -- after Germany -- into a much smaller and more modern volunteer force. Presently, the Ukrainian Army is made up mainly of poorly motivated and badly paid conscripts. They live in shoddy barracks where they are often bullied and where even proper food is lacking.
Politicians and soldiers agree the Ukrainian military is grossly under-funded, which has lead to poor training and sloppy standards blamed for a string of fatal accidents in recent years. These accidents include a stray missile that exploded in an apartment block in the capital, and another missile error that destroyed a Russian civilian airliner, killing 78 people. Last year, 80 spectators died when a military plane crashed at an air show in the western city of Lviv.
In contrast to his predecessor, the man now responsible for restoring the military's reputation and introducing radical reforms has proven himself to be -- since Ukraine's independence in 1991 -- one of the country's most ambitious and skilful politicians.
The 62-year-old Marchuk has displayed not only an ability to adapt to different circumstances but extensive political survival skills, as well. Marchuk spent most of his career working for the Soviet secret police, the KGB, which he joined in 1963 after graduating from a pedagogical institute. In 1990, he became first deputy chairman of the KGB in Ukraine. From November 1991 to July 1994, Marchuk worked as the head of the newly formed Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), where he achieved the rank of general.
But the world of politics beckoned in 1994. He served as prime minister from June 1995 to May 1996, when he was fired by Kuchma.
Marchuk ran for president against Kuchma in 1999. On the eve of the first round of elections, he spoke on RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, condemning Kuchma and warning of disaster for Ukraine if Kuchma won. But after Marchuk failed to gain enough votes to proceed into the second round, he switched his support to Kuchma, who was re-elected. Kuchma appointed Marchuk as secretary of the National Defense and Security Council in November 1999.
Polyakov from the Razumkov think tank said that, at first glance, Marchuk's background suits his new job. "Mister Marchuk, General Marchuk, is an experienced and intelligent man. In principle, if other factors didn't intervene, he'd be a good candidate for the post of defense minister," he said.
But Polyakov said Marchuk is not affiliated with any powerful political grouping in parliament and that without political support, he will be unable to get the large financial resources needed to bring about significant reforms in the in the army. Polyakov said this lack of support in parliament may doom Marchuk.
"They [parliament] determine financial questions and enact the relevant legislation, and if there isn't going to be support from parliament, then what happened earlier -- when the president announced reform programs which were not backed by financial resources -- will continue. And if that continues, it will be difficult to introduce any radical changes. There might be some changes that don't require much cash, but it's impossible to build a modern army without big investments," Polyakov said.
But Marchuk is not without political clout. He controls one of Ukraine's largest newspapers, "Den," and is rumored to have influence over many leading politicians because of what he knows about them from intelligence files.
Marchuk has been one of the main proponents of Ukraine's entry into NATO since Kuchma last year announced his country's intention to join the military alliance. Marchuk's appointment has been welcomed by NATO, where he is known as an erudite and well-informed member of Ukraine's political elite. However, Ukraine has not gotten far in its efforts to join NATO, due mainly to Kuchma's battles against allegations of corruption, abuse of human rights and an offer to sell weapons to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Polyakov said other issues also make Ukraine unattractive to NATO at the moment. "It's not just a question of individuals or the issue of selling weapons to Iraq. The problem is that it's impossible to separate the military sphere from the political and economic aspects of entry into NATO because political and economic issues are the most important in this respect. And here [in Ukraine], we have dishonest elections, the abuse of power by officials and problems in the justice and law enforcement systems. So I'd say that although it's a military alliance, when NATO sees how we behave, especially in the military sphere, then there obviously isn't much trust toward such a country," he said.
Marchuk, fluent in English and German, seems at ease when dealing with international issues and has demonstrated that he is realistic about Ukraine's chances of joining NATO. He says it will take at least eight to 10 years and that Ukraine must double the amount it spends on the military before entry can conceivably occur.