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RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team
CIVIC INITIATIVE TO DELIVER UKRAINE FROM KUCHMA? A group of Ukrainian politicians and lawmakers on 9 February set up a movement called the Forum for National Salvation Civic Initiative, Interfax reported. The main goal of the Forum for National Salvation is to depose President Leonid Kuchma and transform Ukraine into a parliamentary-presidential or parliamentary republic. The Forum declares in its manifesto "to put an end to the criminal regime, assert the truth and the law, and bring Ukraine back onto the path of European development."
The Forum's coordinating council is made up of 15 people, including Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz, lawmaker Serhiy Holovatyy, Sobor Party leader Anatoliy Matviyenko, Cherkasy Mayor Volodymyr Oliynyk, Yuliya Tymoshenko and Oleksandr Turchynov (leaders of the Fatherland Party), lawmaker Taras Chornovil, Volodymyr Chemerys (a leader of the Ukraine Without Kuchma protest actions), lawmaker Stepan Khmara.
Anatol Matviyenko said Ukraine is currently facing two dangers: "the agony of the mendacious presidential authority" and the reflux of "the wave of awakening" that rose owing to developments around the disappearance of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze.
Yuliya Tymoshenko noted that the Forum's primary goal is "to give people hope for changes for the better and to build a democratic state."
Lawmaker Oleksiy Shekhovtsov announced that the Forum will soon begin consultations with other lawmakers to initiate the impeachment of President Leonid Kuchma in the parliament.
Meanwhile, Kuchma told the "Financial Times" on 10 February that he had no role in the death of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. "I can swear on the Bible or on the constitution that I never made such an order to destroy a human being. This is simply absurd," he noted. Kuchma said the tapes provided by his former bodyguard, Mykola Melnychenko, were a montage of different conversations recorded "probably" in his office. "Maybe the name Gongadze came up in conversations, I don't remember. But I give you my honest word, I did not even know this journalist," Kuchma said. He noted that the tape scandal was staged by a "well-organized force" with "a great deal of money and capabilities" but added that "I completely reject the idea that this was done on the level of states, that it was the Americans or the Russians."
A day earlier, Kuchma noted that the current anti-presidential actions by the opposition threaten the national security and independence. "If strategic investors and serious foreign companies do not come to Ukraine to take part in privatizations -- the results will be [obvious]," Interfax quoted Kuchma as saying. According to Kuchma, some opposition leaders remind him of "Lenins" who take "not people but a herd of cattle" to the streets. He also compared the anti-presidential rally in Kyiv on 6 February to a coup attempt of Hitler and his associates in Munich in November 1923, saying on 9 February that "there is only one step from such national socialism to fascism."
"Your time is over. The political and moral failure of your rule can be seen not so much in the 'tape scandal' as in the alienation of power from the people, from their needs and spirit....[The tape itself] is a trifle. The important thing is that virtually nobody doubts [its authenticity] and no voice of real indignation has been heard -- even from your side." -- Ukraine's PEN club in a letter to President Leonid Kuchma; quoted by Interfax on 7 February.
"Let us stop playing games and get down to work." -- Kuchma on 9 February, commenting on calls for his resignation; quoted by Interfax.
RFE/RL Poland, 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.
ZHIRINOVSKY URGES ALL-OUT DEFENSE OF KUCHMA. The deputy speaker of the Duma, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, told Interfax on 12 February that Russia should do everything possible to support the victory in Ukraine of "proRussian forces" and help Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma beat back opposition groups supported by "Western special services and political centers." (See Part 2 for more on the protests against Kuchma.) PG
RUSSIA, UKRAINE TO DISCUSS AZOV SEA STATUS. Russian Ambassador Vadim Kuznetsov and his Ukrainian counterpart Yuri Kostenko on 12 February in Moscow agreed that the two countries will continue talks in April on the legal status of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait, as well as on delimiting the Black Sea, ITAR-TASS reported. PG
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT HAILS TALKS WITH PUTIN AS 'COLOSSAL STEP FORWARD.' Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Dnipropetrovsk on 12 February were a "colossal step forward," Interfax reported the same day. Kuchma is referring to bilateral agreements on cooperation in the space and aviation industries as well as to the decision to rejoin both countries' electricity grids (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2001). Putin commented that the meeting was "positive and fruitful." The two sides signed 16 documents on economic cooperation. JM=20
COURT RULES TO REMOVE PROTEST TENT CAMP IN KYIV. A Kyiv district court has ruled that a camp of some 30 tents pitched by antipresidential protesters on the capital's central street, Khreshchatyk, must be immediately removed, Interfax reported on 12 February. The court said that according to Ukraine's Land Code, the tents may not be located on Khreshchatyk as it is a historical site. The court added that the camp also prevents pedestrians from free access to the city subway system. The tents were pitched by activists of the Ukraine Without Kuchma protest, who demand that President Kuchma resign because of allegations of his complicity in the death of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. JM
UKRAINIAN DOCTOR ASKS FOR ASYLUM IN GREAT BRITAIN. Surgeon Valeriy Ivasyuk has asked for asylum in Great Britain, Interfax reported on 13 February, quoting London's "Independent." Ivasyuk was involved as an expert in the identification of the decapitated body that is believed to be that of missing journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Ivasyuk repeatedly contradicted in public the statements of Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko that the body cannot be unambiguously identified as Gongadze's. Ivasyuk told the British newspaper that following his public pronouncements, officers of Ukraine's Security Service threatened to arrest him and suggested that his life is in danger. Ivasyuk left for Great Britain last month, leaving his wife and two children in Ukraine. Ivasyuk previously was a parliamentary deputy representing the opposition Rukh. JM