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RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report Vol. 8, No. 38, 8 November 2006

A Survey of Developments in Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team.

"RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova 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.

LATVIA WARNS EUROPEANS AGAINST 'BLACKMAIL' BY RUSSIA. Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga was quoted in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of November 8 as saying that Latvia is not dependent on Russia because it is exercising its freedom of choice and is diversifying its sources of energy and raw materials. She argued that it would be "surely stupid" of the EU to let Russia have access to European energy markets while Moscow practices protectionism. She noted that "there is much Russian money" looking for investments in free foreign markets, but argued that other countries can nonetheless protect their interests by constantly seeking alternatives and not letting themselves be "blackmailed." Vike-Freiberga believes that, after the Ukrainian gas crisis of January 2006 and the recent Russian blockade of Georgia, "Europe has come to understand that it is vulnerable when it is completely dependent [on Russia] in energy matters." She also made it clear that Latvia still objects to the proposed Russo-German North European Gas Pipeline (NEPG) on the grounds that the project ignores the other six countries located on the Baltic Sea and their wishes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 30 and November 3, 2006). Vike-Freiberga noted nonetheless that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in contrast to her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder, believes in dialogue with Germany's Baltic neighbors and will keep them informed of Germany's intentions. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and Lithuanian legislators have repeatedly warned that Russia uses its energy resources to pressure and "blackmail" its neighbors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 19, 2006). PM

AZERBAIJAN SIGNS ENERGY MEMORANDUM WITH EU. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a memorandum in Brussels on November 7 on energy cooperation between Azerbaijan and the EU, reported on November 8. Details of that memorandum were not divulged, but Aliyev told journalists that his country seeks alternative export routes for its oil and gas. He specifically expressed support for the proposal to extend the existing Odesa-Brody pipeline to Plock in order to transport Azerbaijani crude to Poland for refining. The Ukrainian leadership is undecided whether to extend the pipeline to Plock or to continue to use it in reverse mode to import crude from Russia. Aliyev also held talks in Brussels with European Commission President Jose-Manuel Barroso and with EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, both of whom raised concerns about Azerbaijan's less than stellar record on democratization and human rights. LF

BELARUSIAN POLITICAL PRISONER TO STUDY AT UKRAINIAN UNIVERSITY. Artur Finkevich, who was sentenced in May to two years of enforced labor for writing antipresidential graffiti (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 11, 2006), has been accepted as a student of the faculty of international relations at the Kyiv-based Institute of Slavic Studies, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported on November 7, quoting Oleh Yatsenko, leader of the Ukrainian youth organization Student Brotherhood. Yatsenko told RFE/RL that the rector of the institute made an exception for Finkevich by allowing him to study under a special distance-learning program. "In connection with repressions in Belarus, activists of the Student Brotherhood decided to help the Belarusian students, who were expelled from universities or repressed in Belarus, in enrollment for free-of-charge studies in Ukraine. In this way we will uphold the democratic movement in the neighboring country," Yatsenko said. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HE DOESN'T WANT TO CANCEL CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM -- OR DOES HE? President Viktor Yushchenko told journalists in Rivne on November 7 that the constitutional commission he created last month does not aim at reversing the constitutional reform adopted by the Ukrainian parliament in December 2004, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website ( reported. Yushchenko was commenting on the announcement by lawmaker Petro Poroshenko the previous day that the pro-presidential Our Ukraine party will most likely initiate a reversal of the constitutional reform at its congress later this week. Lawmaker Yuriy Klochkovskyy, Yushchenko's representative in the Verkhovna Rada, said on November 8 that the need to annull the constitutional reform is the direct result of "authoritarian tendencies" manifested by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. "For a long time, the president thought that there is no sense in moving backward -- it is necessary to go forward and improve the constitution," Klochkovskyy said. "But let us be frank -- under the current political lineup no constructive change in the constitution will be supported. This means that there is only one way to salvage the situation -- to acknowledge that the changes to the constitution were made [in December 2004] unconstitutionally." JM

MOLDOVA LEAST CORRUPT IN CIS, ACCORDING TO WATCHDOG GROUP. The anticorruption watchdog Transparency International has ranked Moldova the least corrupt country in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Mediapuls reported on November 7. According to the organization's 2006 "Corruption Perception Index," Moldova is ranked 79th out of 163 countries surveyed worldwide. In the CIS, Moldova is followed by Armenia in 93rd place; Georgia and Ukraine in 99th place; Kazakhstan in 111th; Russia in 121st; Azerbaijan in 130th; Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan in 142nd; and Belarus and Uzbekistan in 151st place. Moldova climbed 14 places from Transparency International's 2005 survey. Lilia Carsciuc, executive director of Transparency International in Moldova, attributed the rise to "improved measures taken against corruption." In October, the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked Moldova's press as the most free in the CIS, although it ranked 89th worldwide (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 26, 2006). BW