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CIS EXECUTIVE SECRETARY OPENS OBSERVER MISSION IN TAJIKISTAN. CIS Executive Secretary Vladimir Rushailo met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov in Dushanbe on 25 January and officially opened the CIS observer mission for the 27 February parliamentary elections, agencies reported. In his meeting with Rakhmonov, Rushailo discussed the observer mission's activities, as well as CIS counterterrorism efforts, ITAR-TASS reported. For his part, Rakhmonov said that recent agreements with Russia and Russian investment plans in Tajikistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2004) mark a new phase in bilateral ties. Rushailo told a press conference after the opening of the CIS mission in Dushanbe that the total number of CIS observers will likely exceed 100. When queried about the possibility of a "Georgian" or "Ukrainian" scenario in Tajikistan, Rushailo replied that a repetition of those events could take place both in CIS countries and elsewhere, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. DK
TREATMENT OF CHORNOBYL-AFFECTED CHILDREN IN BELARUS SEEN AS INEFFECTIVE. Uladzimir Tsalko, head of the Belarusian government's Chornobyl Committee, said last week that the medical treatment and recuperation of children residing in the country's areas affected by the fallout from the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear accident has been inefficient, Belapan reported on 25 January. According to Tsalko, only 40 percent of children in affected areas are treated at children's health establishments, while the rest are sent to poorly equipped facilities. He revealed that since 2001 the incidence of thyroid cancer among children residing in contaminated areas has increased by 250 percent. Tsalko also said that, as of early 2004, the incidence of malignant tumors was 13.9 cases per 100,000 children, while the incidence of endocrine system diseases in radioactively contaminated areas is 20 percent higher than the country's average. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VISITS STRASBOURG, SAYS DEMOCRACY IS HERE TO STAY... Viktor Yushchenko addressed a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg on 25 January and vowed to make democracy irreversible in Ukraine, Ukrainian and international media reported. "As the president of Ukraine, I will do all I can to secure the irreversibility of democratic changes in my country and to make the fundamental principals of the Council of Europe -- protection of human rights, pluralistic democracy, and the rule of law -- prevail in my country," Yushchenko was quoted as saying by his personal website (http://www.yuschenko.com.ua). Yushchenko also pledged to make every effort to assist the investigation of the murder of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze in 2000. JM
...AND CAMPAIGNS FOR UKRAINE'S EU MEMBERSHIP. President Yushchenko also made clear at the PACE session on 25 January that Ukraine's strategic goal under his leadership will be to join the EU, Ukrainian and international media reported. "I have a clear plan of transformations in our country for the next five years and a team that can carry it out," Yushchenko said. "I will not speak about its details now; I will only say that it is based on the realization of our strategic foreign policy goal -- membership in the European Union." Yushchenko welcomed the EU's intention to work out a "new strategy of relations" with Ukraine. "I'm convinced that [this strategy] should foresee a prospect of [EU] membership [for Ukraine]," Yushchenko added. EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana told the European Parliament on 24 January that a new type of agreement with Ukraine will be put in place in early 2008. Yushchenko said in an interview with the BBC on 26 January that Ukraine may apply for EU membership in several weeks, after a new government is formed in the country, Interfax reported. JM
PRIME MINISTER-DESIGNATE UPBEAT ABOUT HER APPROVAL. Yuliya Tymoshenko, who was recently designated by President Viktor Yushchenko as Ukraine's acting prime minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 2005), said in an interview with the Moscow-based "Izvestiya" on 26 January that she will be approved in her post by the Verkhovna Rada with "many more" votes than the minimum 226 necessary for this procedure. "I have spoken with virtually all parliamentary forces; they are ready to back me," Tymoshenko said. She said the new government's key priorities will be to change Ukraine's taxation system and to reduce the shadow economy. "The main problem right now is not how to divide [government] posts," Yushchenko said. "The basic question is where we are to find so many honest, patriotic, and devoted...professionals in order to fill the posts that will be vacated by the old team." JM
TRANSDNIESTER NEGOTIATIONS REMAIN STALLED. Consultations held in Odessa on 25 January did not succeed in breaking the stalemate around the resumption of negotiations on the Transdniester conflict, Infotag and Flux reported. The consultations were held at the initiative of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and were attended by Moldovan Reintegration Minister Vasilii Sova, Transdniester "Foreign Minister" Valerii Litskay, and representatives of the three mediators -- Ukrainian Ambassador to Moldova Petro Chalyy, Russian Special Representative Valerii Nesterushkin, and William Hill, head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's mission to Moldova. A similar attempt to resume the negotiations failed in Varna in November 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 12 November 2004). Flux cited Sova as saying the attempt failed due to the "mediators' passivity and Transdniester separatist leader Igor Smirnov's lack of will to reach an agreement." MS
RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
A Survey of Developments in Belarus and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team
KREMLIN WARY OF NEW UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT. Newly inaugurated Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko traveled to Moscow on 24 January to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a gesture designed to mollify Moscow's concerns that Kyiv has turned decisively to the West. By keeping a campaign promise that his first official trip abroad would be to Russia, Yushchenko helped Putin save face after a Ukrainian election campaign in which the Kremlin -- and Putin personally -- threw complete support behind former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.
The Russian Foreign Ministry played up the significance of Yushchenko's visit while ignoring the Kremlin's open interference in the election campaign. "Russia and Ukraine live together side by side, our peoples are linked by thousands of bonds, and the economies are interdependent in the good sense of the word," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on 19 January, according to ITAR-TASS. "Therefore there is nothing unnatural in the fact that the first visit will be to Russia."
Behind the scenes, however, the Kremlin is indubitably wary of Yushchenko's unabashedly pro-European rhetoric and will likely seek to restrain the new president's enthusiasms. On 23 January, ITAR-TASS quoted Yushchenko as saying that he intended to propose to Putin "a new format of negotiations for the deepening of relations," but many in the Kremlin are more interested in finding ways of compelling Yushchenko to stick to the old formats of relations between the two countries.
Yushchenko's comments on the eve of his Moscow trip touched in general terms on all that the two countries have in common, while dwelling in detail on problems in bilateral relations, including particularly the need to shore up "the strategic interests of Ukraine as the major transit country for oil and natural gas in Europe." Yushchenko was even more direct in comments published in the 31 December issue of "Der Spiegel." "Our strategy aims to achieve European integration and this is the framework in which we need to resolve all problems together with Russia," he told the German weekly. "We would like to encourage mutual investments, removing trade barriers, and resolving problems associated with the influx of workers. There is, however, one condition: Putin must not block our way into the European Union."
Many in Moscow certainly chafe at hearing Ukrainian officials dictating "conditions" to the Russian president, especially with the Kremlin's setback in Ukraine coming so close on the heels of Georgia's 2003 "Rose Revolution." The nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) on 23 January held a demonstration outside the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow, with LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii asserting that "Kyiv is a Russian city and the Dnepr is a Russian river," RIA-Novosti reported. "There is no such thing as Ukraine, and a Russian governor should sit in Kyiv, as well as in Minsk. Russia's borders in the west are Warsaw and Helsinki."
While such extremist rhetoric is far out of the mainstream in Moscow, the Russian capital remains a place where establishment politicians and pundits can make such inflammatory claims, which play well with a large segment of the Russian public.
However, Russia's position on Yushchenko is not unambiguous, as many analysts have argued that some key Russian businesspeople quietly supported Yushchenko even as the Kremlin backed Yanukovych. Such businesspeople are purportedly motivated by a desire to use Ukraine as a sort of backdoor for expanding their business connections with the European Union and for getting them beyond the confines of the Kremlin-controlled Single Economic Space.
Vyacheslav Igrunov of Moscow's International Institute of Humanitarian and Political Studies told RBK-TV on 27 December that many Russian businesspeople backed Yushchenko precisely because they believe he will "yield to pressure from the United States, Poland, and the EU to move away from the Single Economic Space with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan."
Yushchenko's 24 January visit to Moscow, while of symbolic importance to the Kremlin, is clearly just the beginning of a complicated period in bilateral relations and most likely does not signal that relations between Kyiv and Moscow will continue as they were under former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Russian analysts have not forgotten that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili made the trip to Moscow immediately following his inauguration and that he publicly shook hands with Putin and exchanged professions of friendship -- but relations between Tbilisi and Moscow were not made any smoother by these gestures. (Robert Coalson)
UKRAINE: ENERGY OVERVIEW (PART II) -- THE LACK OF AN ENERGY POLICY. Since independence in 1991, Ukraine arguably has had no clear and viable energy policy. It has not attempted either to diversify its energy reliance on Russia or to restructure its energy intensive economy and has often changed the rules governing the energy and, to an even greater extent, the gas sector.
This has led to rampant corruption in the sector and allowed vested interests to dictate policy. A study prepared by Margarita M. Balmaceda of the Woodrow Wilson Center called "Ukraine's Energy Policy and U.S. Strategic Interests in Eurasia," found: "The implementation of adopted energy policies has also been a major problem, which has been made worse by the power and policy interference of Ukraine's strong economic interest groups."
Avoiding a clear energy policy, the former Ukrainian leadership instead adopted an ad hoc approach to the sector that accommodated the changing demands of regional clans and sustained the subsidized metallurgical industry which, in turn, was closely allied with the administration of President Leonid Kuchma.
Throughout much of the Kuchma presidency, individuals who openly represented vested interests and insisted on maintaining opacity in the energy sector controlled senior energy posts and the state oil and gas monopoly, Naftohaz Ukrayina. This resulted in endemic corruption during the Kuchma presidency.
The lack of a clear policy was apparent when in 2004 a decision was made to allow BP-TNK to use the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline in reverse mode -- a bow to a Russian lobby that did not wish to see Ukraine diversify its oil supplies by gaining access to Caspian oil.
The same lack of policy was evident in various gas-transport schemes with Turkmenistan, and contracts with Russia's Gazprom that were not subject to parliamentary review despite the fact that the head of the parliamentary energy committee was reputed to be close to the so-called Donetsk Clan and the main fund-raiser for the Yanukovych campaign.
The Woodrow Wilson report noted: "The widespread prevalence of corruption, together with the lack of clear institutionalization of energy policymaking and large discretionary power of regulatory officials, increases the temptation to engage in bribe taking.... Yet corruption at all levels continues. Because they have a vested interest in delaying reform, corrupt officials and the oligarchic groups associated with them make Ukraine delay reform of the sector, making the country less resilient to Russian pressure."
In 2005, four new factors appeared on the Ukrainian political-economic scene that are destined have a serious impact on its energy sector and the economy of the country. Viktor Yushchenko's "Orange Revolution" triumphed; Turkmenistan drastically raised its price for gas sold to Ukraine (but not to Russia); a new Turkmen gas "operator" appeared on the scene; and Ukraine began repaying its gas debt to Gazprom, which had been accumulating for years.
In July, Russian gas monopoly Gazprom announced that beginning in January 2005, the deliverer of Turkmen gas to the Russian-Ukrainian border would be a firm registered in Zug, Switzerland: RosUkrEnergo (RUE), controlled by Gazprom and Raiffeisenbank, was registered the same month as the announcement.
As the operator, RUE is obliged to sign transit documents and pay the appropriate customs and other fees charged by countries through which the gas transits the region via the Central Asia "Center" pipeline to Ukraine.
For these services, Ukraine pays RUE in the form of gas. In 2004, Ukraine transferred some 13 billion cubic meters of gas to RUE's predecessor, Eural Trans Gas.
In the absence of a clear and proactive energy policy, the Yushchenko administration will be forced to maintain these existing, ad hoc energy schemes. It will also face serious pressure to avoid adopting an energy policy that would lower de-facto subsidies to energy-intensive industries. This was evident in an interview published on the Ukrainian website pravda.com.ua, with Viktor Pinchuk, the head of Interpipe, the largest Ukrainian manufacturer of rolled pipe and co-owner of Kryvorizhstal, the largest Ukrainian steel mill, who threatened to oppose the new administration if any changes were made to the existing order.
It is evident that much of the opposition to Yushchenko during the elections came from two powerful centers that are likely to continue demanding that Yushchenko maintain his predecessors' energy non-policy.
The first comprises powerful Ukrainian industrial lobbies and regional clans who did not want to see a government willing to adopt an energy policy that would impose greater energy efficiencies on industry, reduce subsidies, and subsequently lower profits for their owners.
The second is the Russian government that is vitally interested for geopolitical reasons in keeping Ukraine dependent on Russian energy resources and on Russian pipelines, which transport Turkmen gas to Ukraine.
How the new Yushchenko administration deals with the energy issue will define its commitment to reforms and transparency and, in the long run, will be a critical test of Ukrainian ambition to accede to the European Union and ensure the country's future energy security. (Roman Kupchinsky)
"I am happy that I lived to see the hour when the president of Ukraine was elected not in Moscow or Washington, but in Ukraine by the people of Ukraine." -- Ukrainian President-elect Viktor Yushchenko on 23 January, during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell; quoted by an RFE/RL correspondent.
"I, Viktor Yushchenko -- elected by the will of the people as the president of Ukraine and entering into this high office -- solemnly swear to faithfully serve Ukraine and pledge that I commit myself with all my abilities to defend the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, to take care of the well-being of the homeland of the Ukrainian people, defend the rights and liberties of citizens to uphold the constitution of Ukraine and the laws of Ukraine, to execute my responsibilities in the interests of all fellow citizens, [and] to raise the position of Ukraine in the world." -- Yushchenko taking his oath of office in the Verkhovna Rada in Kyiv on 23 January; quoted by an RFE/RL correspondent.
"Today's event once more confirms that Ukraine exists as a nation and as a state. The citizens of Ukraine achieved an honest election. The transfer of power was legitimate. This is a great national victory.... You, esteemed parliamentarians, have defended Ukrainian democracy. You have saved the unity, integrity, and independence of our nation. Sincere thanks for that.... Today I would like to extend my hand to every parliamentarian of each faction, to every leader of each faction, and ask for your cooperation. We have one goal -- a prosperous and democratic Ukraine." -- President Yushchenko in his address to the Verkhovna Rada after taking the oath of office on 23 January; quoted by an RFE/RL correspondent.
"Ukrainians will occupy their rightful place in the community of nations. Ukraine will be neither a buffer zone nor a playing field for somebody else's competition. We are ready to respect the interests of other nations. But for me, as it is for you, the national interests of Ukraine are above all.... We are greeting all of our neighbors in the East and in the West with fairness and respect. I will do everything for developing stability and cooperation with all nations. Ukraine will be a reliable partner in the fight against old and new threats -- tyranny, war, poverty, natural disasters, and terrorism.... We, with the [European] nations, belong to the same civilization. We share the same values. History, economic perspective [and] the interests of our people give us a clear answer to the question: Where is our destiny? Our place is in the European Union and my goal is 'Ukraine in United Europe'.... This place, Independence Square, is a symbol of a free nation that believes in its strength and is building its future." -- Yushchenko in his address to a cheering crowd of 500,000 on Independence Square in Kyiv on 23 January, following his inauguration as president; quoted by an RFE/RL correspondent.
"RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report" is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.