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NEW INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISM DEFENSE NETWORK. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has launched an international network of nine organizations for the defense of press freedom, including the Afghan Center for the Promotion of Communication (Pakistan), the Glasnost Defense Foundation (Russia), and the Mass Media Institute (IMI-Ukraine). The RSF Network met on 22 September in Paris and agreed to exchange information; work for justice, including conducting investigations in murder cases of journalists and to take part in Sponsors Day (28 November), and International Press Freedom Day (3 May). The RSF has two new bureaus in Montreal and Moscow (plus Abidjan, Bangkok, Tokyo, and Washington), nine national branches (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Sweden, and Switzerland), and some 100 correspondents. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or see http://www.rsf.fr (Reporters Without Borders, 25 September)
ANTI-LUKASHENKA CAMPAIGNER GOES TO JAIL. Palina Panasyuk from Brest, a city in southwestern Belarus, will spend five days in jail for dissemination of the opposition newspaper "Nasha svaboda" and election leaflets during the presidential election campaign near the deployment site of a police battalion in the city, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 28 September. A judge found her guilty of "expressing political interests that run counter to the reelection of Alyaksandr Lukashenka as the president of the Republic of Belarus." ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus and Ukraine Report," 2 October)
REPORTER ATTACKED. On 9 August, reporter Vladimir Skachko was attacked by two soldiers who were AWOL from their bases. After Skachko requested that the militia bring a suit against his attackers, it sent his request to the Kyiv Military Prosecutor's Office, which turned down the request on 24 August. Skachko was informed by these military authorities, however, that he would not be sued for dissemination of "deliberately false information." (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, August newsletter, 26 September)
KYIV PAPER CENSORED? Judge Yulia Ivanenko of the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv on 27 August forbade the "2000" weekly to publish articles on certain topics or individuals. Three days later, Aleksandr Zinchenko, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information, said that he considered the court ruling to be unlawful. Meanwhile, Judge Ivanenko denies accusations of censorship and claims that her ruling was to "fulfill the plaintiff's action," while refusing to name the plaintiff. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, August newsletter, 26 September)
PROSECUTORS REFUSE TO INVESTIGATE KUCHMA OVER JOURNALIST'S DEATH. The Prosecutor-General's Office has rejected a demand from Lesya Gongadze, the mother of murdered journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, to launch a criminal investigation into whether President Leonid Kuchma and other top officials were involved in his murder, AP reported on 28 September. In a letter to Ms. Gongadze, Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksiy Bahanets said investigators have already looked into allegations made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko about Kuchma's complicity in the murder and found them to be false. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)
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
POLISH-UKRAINIAN COLLEGE OPENS IN LUBLIN. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma on 6 October attended the inauguration of the European College of Polish and Ukrainian Universities in Lublin, eastern Poland, Polish and Ukrainian media reported. The founding declaration says the college is to help create a strategic partnership between Poland and Ukraine.
Speaking at the inauguration, both presidents stressed that the college is the first step toward the setting up of a Polish-Ukrainian university. "Educational institutions are able to build bridges of reconciliation. Both science as well as culture and arts were, are, and will be stronger, more powerful than borders, visas, and passports," Kwasniewski said in Lublin. "For centuries, Lublin was a place where cultures of the West and the East were coming together, so the education of a younger generation here in the spirit of tolerance and of the respect for others and democratic principles will promote rapprochement of the nations that are on the road toward the unifying Europe," Kuchma noted.
Eighty-six Ukrainian, two Belarusian, and 16 Polish postgraduate students (who will be seeking their doctorates) were matriculated into the college on 6 September. The college was set up by three Lublin-based universities -- Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, Catholic University, and the Central and Eastern European Institute -- as well as three Ukrainian ones: the Kyiv-based Taras Shevchenko University, the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, and the Lviv-based Ivan Franko National University.
ETHNIC LEMKO WINS PRECEDENT CASE OVER NATIONALIZED PROPERTY. Last week Poland's Supreme Administrative Court passed a precedent verdict in a case over property confiscated by the state in 1949 from Maria Hladyk, an ethnic Lemko who was compulsorily resettled in 1947 from her village in Beskid Niski (a region in southeastern Poland).
In 1999, Maria Hladyk's grandson, Stefan Hladyk, applied to the Polish authorities with a request to repel the 50-year-old decision by which some 11 hectares of land (including 7.55 hectares of forest) was confiscated from his grandmother. The Agriculture Ministry satisfied his request. In last week's decision, the Supreme Administrative Court rejected an appeal by Poland's State Forests, a state-run agency that manages the country's forested areas and which had owned Maria Hladyk's wooded plot for the past 50 years. The court simultaneously confirmed Stefan Hladyk's ownership right to the plot.
This precedent verdict by the Supreme Administrative Court actually admits that the nationalization of Lemko properties 50 years ago was illegal. The verdict paves the way for other Lemkos (or their heirs) to regain what was confiscated from them by the communist authorities. According to PAP, Polish courts are currently going over some 200 lawsuits by Lemkos seeking to have their properties in Beskid Niski returned to them.
[Ed. note: Some historical background to the case. In a bid to deprive the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) -- which fought the Polish communist government in 1944-47 -- of support among Ukrainians inhabiting their ethnic territories in southeastern Poland, the Polish authorities decided in 1947 on a mass resettlement of Ukrainians to the so-called Recovered Lands (Ziemie Odzyskane) -- the former territories of the Third Reich incorporated into post-World War II Poland. The Polish army performed the drastic and violent Operation Vistula, which resettled some 150,000 people. The operation, according to the General Staff, contributed to "the final solution of the Ukrainian problem" in Poland.
The resettled people included some 30,000 Lemkos, an ethnic community with a vaguely defined ethnic identity: some Lemkos considered themselves to be Ukrainians, while some believed they were a group different from Ukrainians. Incidentally, support for the UPA among Poland's pre-1947 Lemko community was much weaker than among Polish Ukrainians.
The dispersion of Lemkos following the 1947 resettlement immensely accelerated the process of their assimilation. The Polish authorities did not give Lemkos the right to develop their ethnic identity in 1956, when Poland's Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, and Jews were allowed to set up their own ethnic organizations to pursue some educational, cultural, and social activities. Some Lemko activists joined the Ukrainian movement but many others chose Polishness to avoid being identified with Ukrainians.
In 1949, the Polish government passed a decree on the nationalization of properties remaining after the resettlement of the Ukrainians and Lemkos. Following the decree, local authorities passed appropriation decisions with regard to resettled owners' land plots and belongings remaining on their administrative territories.]
KYIV DENIES DOWNING RUSSIAN AIRLINER. Ukraine's Defense Ministry on 4 October denied the allegations -- made by some U.S. media citing unnamed Pentagon officials -- that a Ukrainian testfired missile may have caused the crash of a Russian airliner into the Black Sea. A Tu-154 plane flying from Tel-Aviv to Novosibirsk with 78 people aboard exploded at 1:45 p.m. local time on 4 October, which corresponded to the time that Ukrainian air defense troops on the Crimean peninsula were firing antiaircraft missiles at artificial targets. A Defense Ministry spokesman told Reuters that neither the range of the missiles nor their direction "correspond to the practical or theoretical point at which the plane exploded."
On 5 October, the Defense Ministry renewed its denial, saying that "the missiles were fired exclusively within a restricted zone, 30 kilometers out to sea from the shore, while the tragedy with the aircraft occurred 250 kilometers from the area where the exercises were taking place." In addition, Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk publicly demanded that that U.S. intelligence services provide evidence to Ukraine supporting the allegations that the plane had been downed by a missile.
The same day, however, Ukrainian Premier Anatol Kinakh -- while speaking with editors of the Kyiv-based "Segodnya" -- said the theory that Ukrainian air forces shot down the airliner by accident "has a right to exist." Later the same day, Kinakh's press office explained that the prime minister only meant that "several versions have the right to exist" in the investigation of the airliner tragedy.
President Leonid Kuchma told journalists in Poland on 6 October that the targets against which missiles had been launched were one kilometer up in the air and some 30 to 40 kilometers away from the firing range. "The azimuth of firing did not coincide at all with the place where the plane was," Kuchma said, adding that the 4 October missile launches from Crimea were monitored not only by Ukrainian but also by Russian officers. "Ukraine will be grateful if any country can provide satellite data, including about the trajectory of the missile's flight," Kuchma said.
A fresh denial came from the Defense Ministry on 8 October, when Ukrainian air forces Commander Volodymyr Tkachov presented to journalists and diplomats in Kyiv video recordings of the live-fire exercises that overlapped in time with the crash of the Russian airliner. He admitted that one S-200 missile had been fired at the time of the plane crash and landed in the Black Sea about 80 kilometers from the shore, retreating from the Defense Ministry's earlier assertion that all 23 missiles fired had remained within a 30-40 kilometer zone of the launch site. Tkachov gave no reason for this discrepancy and emphasized that the plane had crashed much further than 80 kilometers offshore.
A Russian commission is currently investigating the crash of the airliner.
KYIV SUCCEEDS IN RESTRUCTURING GAS DEBT TO RUSSIA. Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kasyanov on 4 October signed an agreement to restructure Ukraine's $1.4 billion gas debt. "Russia and Ukraine put a full stop in the history of gas problems, which disturbed societies of both countries for two years," ITAR-TASS quoted Kasyanov as saying in Kyiv. "The agreement is a vivid example of a compromise aimed at ensuring long-term cooperation," Kinakh commented.
Kasyanov told journalists that the debt was rescheduled over 12 years with a three-year grace period. He added that the interest rate was set at LIBOR plus 1 percent (at present, LIBOR does not exceed 4 percent). Russia initially wanted to set the interest rate on the debt at 10 percent. Both sides recognized the $1.4 billion debt as a corporate debt of the state-owned Naftohaz company. Naftohaz is to issue Eurobonds to cover the debt.
Most Russian commentators and analysts admit that Moscow made considerable concessions to Kyiv in the gas debt problem in order to contribute to what Kasyanov called "the aim of establishing real brotherly relations with Ukraine." Apart from agreeing on the very favorable conditions for debt repayment, Moscow dropped its demand that the corporate debt of the state-run Naftohaz be made a sovereign obligation. Moreover, the agreement on the debt restructuring does not prohibit Ukraine from reexporting Russian gas -- a clause for which Moscow reportedly pressed Kyiv to the very last moment before signing the deal. "The [Russian] government has bowed down to Ukraine on all counts and in the end doesn't really know for what purpose," "The Moscow Times" quoted an expert on Ukraine as saying on 8 October.
It is not immediately clear what Moscow expects from Kyiv in return for this generous settlement. Some commentators hint that Kyiv will make concessions in talks with Moscow on the status of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine, as well as on the situation of Ukraine's ethnic Russian population.
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.
ENVIRONMENTAL THREATS SAID REQUIRING INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE. Writing in "Obshchaya gazeta," No. 40, Dmitrii Furman argued that Islamic terrorism is not the only threat to the world order that requires an international response. He suggested that disasters like the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, the "Kursk" sinking, and oil spills also will force the countries of the world to cooperate if they are to avoid "an apocalypse." PG
PUTIN DOUBTS UKRAINIAN VERSION OF PLANE CRASH. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on RTR television on 6 October that neither he nor President Putin are convinced by Kyiv's claims that the Russian airliner that crashed in the Black Sea on 4 October was not hit accidentally by a Ukrainian missile. Ivanov said that Moscow has asked for additional information from Ukraine, as well as assistance from Israel and the United States, and is launching its own probe into the crash. Meanwhile, the Prosecutor-General's Office said that it is investigating the incident under the "terrorism" article of the Russian Criminal Code, RIA-Novosti reported. VY
PATRIARCH AGAIN CRITICIZES VATICAN. At a press conference on 5 October, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II said that "the religious expansion of the Vatican in former Soviet republics does not give grounds to the Moscow Patriarchate to hope for improvement of relations with the Roman Catholic Church," ITAR-TASS reported. Aleksii was especially critical of Pope John Paul II's failure to consult with him before traveling to Ukraine and Kazakhstan. PG
NINE KILLED AS UN HELICOPTER SHOT DOWN IN GEORGIA. Five UN observers, three Ukrainian crewmembers, and a local interpreter died early on 8 October when a UN helicopter was shot down while patrolling the Kodori gorge in eastern Abkhazia. A spokeswoman for the UN Observer Force confirmed initial Abkhaz reports that the helicopter was hit by a missile, "The Washington Post" reported. Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Gela Bezhaushvili said the helicopter was overflying the Georgian-controlled upper reaches of the gorge to search for armed groups, Caucasus Press reported. But the Georgian government press service said the helicopter was shot down over territory controlled by the Abkhaz. Prime News on 8 October claimed the helicopter crashed near the village of Amtkel, which is close to Giorgievskoe, the scene of last week's fighting between Abkhaz troops and a combined force of Chechens and Georgian guerrillas. The UN Security Council condemned the incident and called for those responsible to be brought to justice, AP reported. In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming the incident on Georgia's policy of "appeasement and tolerance" toward Chechen fighters operating on its territory, Interfax reported. Groups of UN observers have been seized by unknown armed men and held hostage on three separate occasions in October 1999 and June and December 2000. LF
KYIV BACKS U.S. ANTITERRORIST STRIKES IN AFGHANISTAN... President Leonid Kuchma on 8 October said Ukraine supports "politically, diplomatically, and morally" the U.S. revenge strikes against terrorists in Afghanistan, Interfax reported. Kuchma did not rule out that Ukraine's special services may render intelligence assistance to the United States, but stressed that Ukrainian troops will not take part in warfare in Afghanistan. Kuchma added that Ukraine may resume arms supplies to Uzbekistan, which is reportedly facing an attack from Afghanistan's Taliban. The same day, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry issued a statement backing the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan as a response to the barbaric terrorists acts of 11 September. JM
...AS COMMUNISTS, SOCIALISTS OPPOSE IT. The Communist Party of Ukraine on 8 October condemned the U.S. antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan as an action aimed at unleashing a new world war, Interfax reported. The Communists want the parliament to pass a resolution confirming Ukraine's neutral, non-bloc status as well as to revoke Kyiv's decision allowing U.S. military cargo planes to use Ukrainian airspace. The Socialist Party of Ukraine called on the United States to limit its operation in Afghanistan to strikes targeted on terrorist bases, adding that "an escalation of the military operation will not resolve all problems." JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST ADMINISTRATIVE REGULATION OF LANGUAGE PROBLEM. Speaking to a congress of Ukraine's education sector employees in Kyiv on 8 October, President Kuchma warned against administrative and forced methods in expanding the sphere of use of the Ukrainian language. Kuchma noted that given Ukraine's "significant Russophone population," such methods can only increase opposition to Ukrainianization and polarize society. "We should understand such lessons now when the [parliamentary] elections are nearing. Rival political forces, striving for sympathies of the electorate, are stepping up speculation on the language problem. Political stability in Ukraine will to a high degree depend on our ability to ensure the natural course of the language education process," Ukrainian Radio quoted Kuchma as saying. JM
OUR UKRAINE BLOC TO BE FORMALIZED. Former Premier Viktor Yushchenko on 6 October announced that the Our Ukraine election bloc he proposed in July will be formalized in the near future, Interfax reported. According to Yushchenko, Our Ukraine will consists of some 20 political parties and 30-40 civic groups and movements. On 8 October, five political parties -- the Popular Rukh of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Popular Rukh, the Reforms and Order Party, the Liberal Party, and the Christian Popular Union -- initialized a formal accord on the creation of Our Ukraine. Meanwhile, Agrarian Party leader Mykhaylo Hladiy said the same day that talks are being conducted on forging an election coalition of Our Ukraine with the For a United Ukraine bloc. For a United Ukraine consists of four pro-presidential groups: the Popular Democratic Party, the Party of Regions, the Agrarian Party, and the Labor Ukraine Party. JM
SLOVAKIA SAYS IT SUPPORTS ANTITERRORIST RETALIATORY ACTION. President Rudolf Schuster on 7 October said his country "fully supports" the U.S. military action against Afghanistan launched in retaliation for the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States, CTK reported. Schuster added: "Within our possibilities, we are ready to participate in achieving the diplomatic, economic, as well as military aims" of the antiterrorist action. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said his cabinet "unconditionally supports" the action and, "within possibilities, is ready to cooperate in whatever manner the U.S. or NATO will request." Dzurinda told journalists in Bratislava: "We are not a NATO member, but behave as if we already were in the alliance." Schuster said that "no direct threat" to Slovakia has emerged from the action, but added that "all precautionary measures" have been taken. On 8 October, Schuster called for increasing the safety of the border with Ukraine in the face of an expected rise in the number "of real and alleged refugees." MS
BULGARIA CHOSEN OVER BELARUS TO SECURITY COUNCIL SEAT. Bulgaria has been elected to a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council, receiving almost twice as many votes as Belarus, an RFE/RL correspondent in New York reported on 8 October. Bulgaria received 120 votes in the ballot, while Belarus, which contested the same Eastern European regionrepresenting seat, received 52 votes. Bulgaria will succeed Ukraine at the beginning of next year. MS