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UKRAINE

ANTI-KUCHMA PROTESTERS DECLARE READINESS FOR TALKS. Yuriy Lutsenko, a coordinator of the Ukraine Without Kuchma protests, told journalists on 8 February that the protesters are ready to begin talks with the authorities about the conditions on which President Leonid Kuchma would be prepared to resign, Interfax reported. Lutsenko added that Kuchma has so far not responded to the proposal to discuss his exit. "Our positive program [includes] the building of a democratic European state with parliamentary democracy, freedom of expression, and guarantees of all human rights," Volodymyr Chemerys, another anti-Kuchma protest leader, told journalists. Meanwhile, a founding group of the "Forum of National Salvation" public initiative begun discussing the state of Ukrainian democracy in the parliamentary building on 9 February. The group includes a number of lawmakers and Ukraine Without Kuchma protest activists. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February)

LUTHERANS DENIED RENTAL OF THEIR OWN CHURCH. Registered in 1994, the Lutheran parish in the Crimean town of Sudak is comprised of Germans who returned to Ukraine after their Stalin-era deportation. Since 1994, the Lutheran parish has fought to regain ownership of its church building confiscated in 1930. On Christmas Eve, Lutheran Pastor Gennady Freier was told that his parish is no longer allowed to rent the building, along with an Evangelical Christian/Baptist congregation; neither group infringed its rental agreement. (Keston News Service, 7 February)

NO COOPERATION WITH KYIV ON MILITARY ROCKETS. Security Council Secretary Ivanov said on Russian television on 12 February that Moscow has ruled out any cooperation between Russia and Ukraine in the production of rockets capable of delivering nuclear weapons, Interfax reported on 13 February. PG

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS AZERBAIJAN. Visiting Baku on 13 February, Irakli Menagharishvili met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Vilayat Quliev and with President Heidar Aliev, Turan and Caucasus Press reported. Issues discussed included cooperation within the GUUAM alignment, to which both countries belong together with Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Moldova, the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, and how to promote peace and stability in the South Caucasus. Menagharishvili stressed that the latter objective cannot be achieved without Russia. He also briefed Aliev on Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's visit to Turkey in late January. Aliev is scheduled to travel to Ankara in early March for further talks on the Baku-Ceyhan project, Turan reported on 13 February. The Azerbaijani daily "Millet" reported on 10 February that Aliev will also undergo a medical examination at the Turkish military hospital in Ankara where he was treated in 1999 and 2000. LF

UKRAINE'S TOP LEADERSHIP PLEDGES TO SUPPRESS 'DESTRUCTIVE FORCES.' President Leonid Kuchma, Premier Viktor Yushchenko, and parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch on 13 February issued a joint statement pledging their determination to use "all legitimate means" to quell the current political unrest and "destructive forces" in the country, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. According to the three leaders, Ukraine is witnessing "an unprecedented political campaign with all the signs of a psychological war." They also say the recently created Forum for National Salvation (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 13 February 2001) is not seeking salvation for the nation but "for themselves from political bankruptcy and oblivion...[and] criminal responsibility." The statement warns that "the attempts to stir up passions and use methods of provocation to deepen the split in society and prompt the use of force by the authorities constitute a real threat to national security." JM=20

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTORS ARREST FORMER DEPUTY PREMIER... Ukrainian prosecutors arrested former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko on 13 February, Interfax reported. Deputy Prosecutor-General Mykola Obikhod said Tymoshenko was arrested because of "new circumstances" in her criminal case: she is suspected of giving $79.6 million as a bribe to former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko. Last month the Prosecutor-General's Office indicted Tymoshenko on smuggling and document forgery charges related to her job at Ukraine's Unified Energy Systems, which she headed from 1995 to 1997. President Kuchma fired her from the cabinet last month because of the indictment. JM

...WHILE SOME SAY ARREST IS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz commented that one of the reasons for Tymoshenko's arrest is her involvement in the opposition movement against President Kuchma, including her participation in the Forum for National Salvation. According to Moroz, another reason for the arrest is the authorities' intent to force the parliamentary caucus of the Fatherland Party, which is led by Tymoshenko, to remain in the so-called parliamentary majority. Ukrainian Popular Rukh leader Yuriy Kostenko told Interfax that Tymoshenko's arrest signals the authorities' intent to use force in dealing with the political opposition. Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko expressed his doubt that Tymoshenko is in opposition to the ruling regime, adding that "the idea of opposition among people involved in big business is abstract." JM

OPPOSITION WANTS TO ANNUL KUCHMA'S ACCORDS WITH PUTIN. The Forum for National Salvation Civic Initiative will seek legislative invalidation of the agreements adopted during President Kuchma's recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Dnipropetrovsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 February 2001), Interfax reported on 13 February, quoting legislator Taras Stetskiv. According to Stetskiv, the Kuchma-Putin talks signaled Ukraine's "unambiguous reorientation toward Russia." "A serious step was made toward [Ukraine's] capitulation to the Russian partner, primarily in the economic sector," Stetskiv added. Legislator Oleksandr Hudyma said the Kuchma-Putin accord to couple both countries' electricity grids threatens Ukraine's "national energy security system." And parliament deputy Yuriy Kostenko noted that Putin's visit to Dnipropetrovsk intended to pull Ukraine into a "military-political union" with Russia. Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko commented later the same day that political issues were not discussed in Dnipropetrovsk. JM

EU ENVOYS DISCUSS MEDIA, GONGADZE CASE WITH UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT. An EU delegation led by Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh discussed the media situation in Ukraine and the investigation of the Gongadze case with President Kuchma on 13 February, Interfax reported. Foreign Minister Zlenko said the interlocutors agreed that it is necessary to "conclude the investigation in the Gongadze case...and focus on the search of guilty ones." Lindh said: "It is very important that conditions for the media in Ukraine are improved and that the fate of journalist and regime critic Gongadze is finally clarified. The Gongadze case must be seen as a test of the democratic development in Ukraine," AP reported. JM

KOSOVARS AMBUSH SERBIAN CONVOY, SERBS RIOT. Ethnic Albanians opened fire on a Serbian civilian convoy between Ferizaj and Shterpce on 13 February, killing one Serb and wounding three individuals, AP reported. Peacekeepers arrested five ethnic Albanians. Up to 700 angry Serbs then rioted in the dead man's hometown of Shterpce, burning three UN jeeps and destroying three additional KFOR vehicles. Some 200 peacekeepers from Poland, Italy, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, Greece, and the U.S. brought the riot under control. PM