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'POPULAR' PAPER CLAIMS AUTHORITIES TRYING TO SHUT IT DOWN. The Dnipropetrovsk paper "Populyarnaya gazeta," which has been in print for six years, reported on 22 January that the Ukrainian authorities are trying to shut down the paper. The paper's staff signed a statement saying that the office of the president has signed an order to that effect. During parliamentary elections in March 2002, the paper favored opposition candidates, and since that time, the paper's journalists say, the paper has been under continuous pressure, including denial of accreditation to cover official functions. According to the paper's editor, Serhiy Lebid, the paper's computers were recently infected with a virus from a governmental portal. The paper's printer, which suddenly changed the paper's print schedule, has also refused to print issues containing articles critical of the president and his office. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 20-26 January)
A Council of Europe report on freedom of expression in the European media warns that many problems persist and that serious abuses continue to be committed against journalists and independent media organizations. The report, which was discussed by the council's Parliamentary Assembly on 28 January, points to various forms of attack against media freedoms, ranging from physical violence and killing to legal harassment, imprisonment, and government control. The document, presented by Tytti Isohookana Asunmaa, the rapporteur on media freedom in Europe, covers 24 countries, including Belarus, which is not a member of the 44-member Council of Europe.
Asunmaa told RFE/RL on 29 January that the report highlights serious violations of media freedom both in former communist countries and in some Western states. "In some Eastern [European] and Central European countries, there are difficulties with physical violence, because we know that, for instance, in Russia, in Ukraine, journalists have been killed until this year, and some other forms of harassment happen constantly. In Western countries, there are the so-called new problems arising, like in Italy, because the development in the media sector has been shut, and the media concentration is growing continuously, and the connections between politicians and [the media] business are becoming very interesting," Asunmaa said.
The report also cites cases of journalists in France, Germany, and Portugal forced by the courts to divulge their sources.
The report is the first presented to the Parliamentary Assembly after the Council of Europe, in 2001, decided to appoint a rapporteur on media freedom, and it covers events up to mid-November last year.
The document says the situation is worsening in Russia and Ukraine, calling the number of journalists attacked or killed in those countries "alarming." Six journalists were killed in Russia last year, while in Ukraine, one journalist was found hanged. The document also calls the lack of progress in the investigation of the killing in 2000 of Ukrainian reporter Heorhiy Gongadze "unacceptable." The report mentions recent instances of violence against, and killing of, reporters in Armenia, where one journalist was killed and one seriously wounded in recent months; in Georgia, where police staged an assault against journalists at a television station that had been critical of them; and in Macedonia, where a radio reporter investigating allegations of government corruption was severely beaten by unknown assailants.
The report also cites cases of journalists who have been imprisoned for their work. It points to the detention of Russian journalist Grigorii Pasko on charges of high treason after he revealed official involvement in dumping radioactive waste in the Sea of Japan, as well as the imprisonment of three Belarusian journalists. Pasko was released on parole from a prison in Russia's Far East on 22 January after serving two-thirds of a four-year sentence. The report also mentions cases of prosecution against journalists in Turkey. Legal harassment in the form of defamation lawsuits or very high fines is also mentioned as a threat to the existence of a free media in countries such as Azerbaijan, Belarus, Croatia, Russia, Ukraine, and Poland.
But the report says one of the most serious problems confronting media freedom in most countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States is tight or even total government control of television, which remains the most accessible medium in poor countries. It points to the situation in Moldova, where the Communist government last year ignored both mass protests and the Council of Europe's recommendations and adopted a broadcasting law providing for various means of political interference. A similar problem, the report says, rests with a draft law on Azerbaijan's public television.
The document also says recent terrorist attacks have been used as a pretext for new restrictions on the free access to information. It gives the example of the adoption by the Russian State Duma of restrictive amendments to media laws and the law against terrorism. But President Putin vetoed the measures, requesting that they be reformulated.
The report stresses the need for the Council of Europe to continue to closely monitor the state of freedom of expression across the continent and to intervene when necessary. Asunmaa told RFE/RL: "The most important [tool] is that we keep on our monitoring process system, which we have developed, and in this context we asked the Committee of Ministers to make the results of monitoring in the field of media freedom known. And the other mechanism is to organize special hearings when it is necessary, and it concerns so-called ad hoc cases, as we have already done when we spoke about the Ukrainian situation, for instance."
The report recommends the release of all journalists imprisoned for their work, removal of legislation that makes freedom of expression a crime, as well as the revision of media laws according to Council of Europe standards. It also says that all forms of legal and economic harassment should stop and that the plurality of the media market should be ensured through appropriate measures.
Following the debate, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted Recommendation 1589, which was based on the findings of the report and which included its proposals.
Asunmaa also told RFE/RL that she hopes the assembly will hold an annual debate on the issue of media freedom in Europe. "I think that the discussion in the assembly is also very useful because we need to discuss more and more about such problems and how to try to solve the problems. And [we should also] keep in our mind that promoting freedom of expression in Europe is also [helping] to improve our democracy."
Asunmaa said that more intense and regular debate could also enable the body to influence the situation immediately when what she calls "alarming situations" are found.
COSSACKS TO UNITE. The Zaporozhian, Don, and Tersk Cossacks plan to conclude a cooperation agreement at a meeting in May in Novocherkassk, regions.ru reported on 3 February, citing Ekho Rostova. This decision was made during a meeting of the atamans of the Don and Tersk Cossacks with the Zaporozhian hetman. According to Ekho Rostova, the leaders also expressed support for the longer-term goal of uniting the Cossacks of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine into a "union government." JAC
UKRAINE CONTINUES TO DISCUSS FURTHER LOANS FROM WORLD BANK, IMF. The allocation of the second $250 million tranche of the World Bank's $750 million Programmatic Adjustment Loan to Ukraine is still subject to negotiation, Interfax reported on 3 February, quoting Economy and European Integration Minister Valeriy Khoroshkovskyy. Khoroshkovskyy was commenting on the results of last week's visit by a Ukrainian delegation he headed to Washington, D.C. The sum was included in Ukraine's 2002 state budget but its allocation was later postponed by Premier Anatoliy Kinakh's cabinet until the first quarter of 2003. Commenting on his talks with International Monetary Fund (IMF) representatives, Khoroshkovskyy said the fund is being "rather harsh" in determining conditions for resuming cooperation with Ukraine. In particular, the IMF requires that Ukraine proceed with structural and administrative reform and increase the share of private capital in the economy. Ukraine reportedly expects that the IMF's new loan program for Ukraine could be implemented within three to five years, and its size could vary from $600 million-$800 million. JM
UKRAINIAN PROSECUTORS PROBE POWER ABUSE IN OIL-AND-GAS GIANT. The Prosecutor-General's Office has initiated criminal proceedings into abuse of authority by officials of Naftohaz Ukrainy in 1998-2000, when the company was headed by Ihor Bakay, Interfax reported on 3 February, quoting Deputy Prosecutor-General Tetyana Kornyakova. She told journalists that during a recent inspection of the company, prosecutors uncovered a scheme in which Naftohaz Ukrayiny and Itera had signed a contract for the delivery of 8 million cubic meters of gas worth approximately $400 million. In operations involving offshore companies, $5 million ended up in a Lithuanian bank account registered to an individual named Yeryomin, whose identity has yet to be established. JM
POLISH FARMERS BLOCK ROADS OVER ECONOMIC PLIGHT. Some 3,500 farmers set up road blockades at seven locations in Wielkopolska Province (western Poland) on 3 February, Polish media reported, citing police sources. Protesters demanded that the parliament pass a proposed law on biofuels as well as one on a system of state support for the agricultural sector. They also protested low prices for pork and milk and the European Commission's proposed subsidy system for Polish farmers (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 4 February 2003). Last month, President Aleksander Kwasniewski vetoed the controversial bill on biofuels that, in the opinion of its authors, was intended to boost agricultural production and provide 70,000-100,000 new jobs (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 21 January 2003). "I warned time and again that these protests will erupt if the government doesn't change its economic and social policies," PAP quoted radical farmers leader Andrzej Lepper as saying. JM
PIPELINES, PROFIT, AND POWER
Russia's ramped-up oil production has made for an international of strange bedfellows, bringing together environmentally concerned Finns, economically outraged Latvians, reverse-pipelining Ukrainians, disgruntled homegrown oligarchs, and even a hapless Greek tanker.
The 274-meter-long Greek-flagged "Stemnitsa" riled the Finns when it steamed into the Gulf of Finland on its way to the Russian port of Primorsk, where it is scheduled to pick up 100,000 tons of oil before setting sail for Rotterdam, AFP reported on 3 February. Brutal ice has plagued the region this year, with 50 centimeters to an entire meter of the stuff clogging up the Gulf of Finland, and Finnish officials fret that the hull of the "Stemnitsa" is insufficiently reinforced to cope with the harsh conditions. Memories of the "Prestige" disaster off the Spanish coast are still fresh enough to trigger fears along the Baltic, and Finnish President Tarja Halonen sternly informed national news agency FNB on 3 February, "This is not the right time and place for gambling."
Russian officials assured their Finnish colleagues that an icebreaker would shepherd the thin-hulled "Stemnitsa" through the perilous floes, RIA-Novosti reported on 3 February. Transportation Ministry representative Nikolai Monko even noted, "If necessary, the tanker can leave the port in the accompaniment of two icebreakers."
The ostensible reasons for braving the deadly ice and frosty Finns are a domestic oil glut, high prices, and stampeding international demand. One might also assume a lack of alternate export routes. Opinions differ on the last count, however. The Russian government gravely insists that nothing more can be done. Latvians, and even some of Russia's biggest oil tycoons, disagree.
Latvia's ice-free port and oil-export terminal at Ventspils can ship 16 million tons of oil a year, "The Wall Street Journal" reported on 31 January, and has plenty of experience with Russian oil. But while Russia's Primorsk battles the elements, Ventspils is cooling its heels. Transneft, Russia's state-owned pipeline monopoly, slowly choked off shipments to Ventspils throughout 2002, finally cutting off all deliveries in 2003. Transneft claims that export through Primorsk is cheaper and more efficient. Five of Russia's biggest oil producers objected vocally in mid-January, petitioning Prime Minister Kasyanov to resume exports through Ventspils. Their pleas went unheeded. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said on 29 January that the earliest the government will take up the issue is March, RIA-Novosti reported the same day.
The juicy bit is that the Latvian government is looking to sell its 38.6 percent stake in Ventspils Nafta, the enterprise at the heart of the dispute. A 47 percent stake belongs to Latvijas Naftas Tranzots. "Kommersant" connected the obvious dots on 30 January, writing that "pipeline shipments will likely resume when Russian oilmen or Transneft become co-owners of terminal owner Ventspils Nafta." With Ventspils Nafta starved for revenue, Latvian officials complained to EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, claiming that what they perceive as Russian strong-arm tactics are hardly in keeping with Moscow's oft-stated desire to join the World Trade Organization.
With all the excitement up north, one could easily overlook a pipeline going into reverse in Ukraine. On 28 January, the Pivdennyy oil terminal on the Black Sea handled its first shipment of commercial oil, "Zerkalo nedeli" No. 4 (1-7 February) reported. On its way to the port, the 90,000 barrels of Tyumen Oil Company black gold traversed a 52-kilometer section of the 674-kilometer Odesa-Brody pipeline in reverse (the section was originally intended for imports). Oleksandr Todiychuk, CEO of state-owned Ukrainian transport company Ukrtransneft, told "Vedomosti" on 28 January that contracts have been signed to move 4 million tons of oil through Pivdennyy (called Yuzhnii in Russian) in 2003. According to a 29 January "RusEnergy" article, Pivdennyy's capacity could be ratcheted up to 45 million tons in one year, as long as someone is willing to commit at least $100 million to the project.
Events in Primorsk, Ventspils, and Pivdennyy are only a small part of the very large jigsaw puzzle that is relations between government and business, and the state and its neighbors. With prices high and production booming, the privately owned oil sector is intent on boosting exports and maximizing profits. The state, which jealously guards its monopoly on pipeline transit within Russia, is traditionally tempted to use the economics of energy to increase its influence, especially over its neighbors in the "near abroad."
Pivdennyy shows that profits can reverse a pipeline. Ventspils shows that politics, albeit of the mercenary sort, can just as easily shut it down. By the time Primorsk unfreezes, we might learn what combination of these two powerful forces is required to get the oil flowing again. DK
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
POLAND PROPOSES EU'S NEW EASTERN POLICY. Polish and international media reported last week that Poland, following a commission from the Danish EU Presidency last year, has proposed a paper outlining the expanded EU's new policy with regard to its eastern neighbors: Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and Russia. Polish Foreign Ministry official Pawel Swieboda told journalists that the document was sent in early January to the foreign ministries of the 15 EU, the 10 EU-candidate countries, and to the four future EU neighbors. The European Commission is reportedly expected to publish the document in mid-March.
"We postulate the intensification of political dialogue [with the four future neighbors] in the context of security and foreign policy," Swieboda told PAP. "Such states as Ukraine have a lot to contribute, for instance in the resolution of conflicts in neighboring regions of the world, including the Dniester area."
Swieboda said the document also includes a proposal for a gradual liberalization of trade between the enlarged EU and its eastern neighbors but makes this proposal conditional on economic and political reforms in the four countries. Other inducements in the paper include the "long-term perspective" of EU membership and the establishment of a "European democracy fund," which would work through local nongovernmental organizations to promote democratic values in the region. Poland also proposes the creation of an European Peace Corps, modeled on the American Peace Corps. Warsaw believes that these initiatives will help eradicate "divisions between the enlarged EU and its eastern neighbors."
Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Chalyy said last week that Ukraine was satisfied with the Polish plan for a new EU eastern policy. According to Chalyy, the plan assumes, first, that Ukraine will have an open road toward integration with the EU; second, that Ukraine may sign an accord on association with the EU in the future; and third, the document does nor preclude Ukrainian membership of the EU. (Jan Maksymiuk)
DID WARSAW COMPREHEND WHAT IT NEGOTIATED WITH BRUSSELS? The European Commission on 27 January ruled out any possibility of introducing changes to final agreements on agriculture reached between Poland and the European Union in Copenhagen in December (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 17 December 2002). The commission was reacting to letters to EU leaders from Premier Leszek Miller who expressed his concern over the difference between what the Polish leader believes was agreed to in Copenhagen and what the EU is now seeking to include in the accession treaty. The Polish side maintains that it negotiated a simplified system of direct farm subsidies based on farm size irrespective of the type of production. "Now [EU] experts are trying to persuade us into introducing a twofold system [of direct farm subsidies]: a simplified one and a standard one," PAP quoted Miller as saying.
According to what Miller triumphantly advertised in the media after his return from the Copenhagen summit to Warsaw, the new EU members will get 25, 30, and 35 percent of the full EU farm subsidies in 2004, 2005, and 2006, respectively; these sums will be enlarged with 20 percent of the money from rural-development funds, which will increase the effective subsidies to 36, 39, and 42 percent of the EU level, respectively. Miller actually negotiated the right of EU aspirants to increase these subsidies to the level of 55, 60, and 65 percent from their domestic budgets. The understanding of the Polish side was that Polish farmers will get these subsidies based on farm size, while media have recently suggested that Brussels is working on an accession treaty in which these subsidies will be paid to levels of 25 percent, 30 percent, and 35 percent based on farm size, while the remainder will be paid, if ever, based on productivity. The EU subsidizes the production of grain, oil-bearing plants, cattle, and ships but does not financially support the raising of pigs, or the growing of potatoes and sugar beets.
Last week, the fiercely anti-EU League of Polish Families (LPR) requested that Sejm speaker Marek Borowski call a parliamentary debate at which the government will present the "true results" of its EU-membership negotiations at the EU summit in Copenhagen. According to LPR leader Roman Giertych, the information presented by Premier Leszek Miller immediately after the EU summit was either untrue, Miller "did not understood the content of the agreement he initialed," or "the EU is now cheating and introducing other provisions than those agreed upon in the negotiations." According to Giertych, the difference between the EU direct subsidies based on farm size and those paid under a mixed system would amount to $5 billion over two years to the detriment of Polish farmers.
Another opposition party, Law and Justice (PiS), demanded that the government make public what was agreed on at the EU summit. "We are indignant over the fact that these texts have not been made available at least to parliamentary caucus heads and the [parliamentary] Commission for European Integration," PiS lawmaker Michal Kaminski told journalists. Kaminski added that the recent Polish-EU controversy over the outcome of negotiations regarding direct subsidies to farmers should be resolved as soon as possible "because its protraction may suggest that the international position of Leszek Miller's government is so poor that it has been fooled by its partners from Brussels."
European Affairs Minister Danuta Huebner said on 30 January that the government has until March 2004 to select a system for calculating direct EU subsidies for farmers. Huebner appears to have modified her statement from the previous day, when she said the government must decide on this issue by the evening of 31 January, when editing of the text of the accession treaty is to be completed in Brussels. Huebner confirmed that the government continues to favor the simplified system but did not rule out the possibility that this stance might change. "There are ever more voices and experts' reports demonstrating the great benefits of this mixed system, [which] is, in fact, a dream come true for the Polish situation, since it would allow for the linking together of support for small farms that do not always produce for the market...with those farmers who have advanced production in the areas that are included in the direct payments system," she added. (Jan Maksymiuk)
DOES UKRAINE RETURN TO YOUNGER-BROTHER STATUS? The well-known American Sovietologist John Armstrong wrote that in the post-Stalin era Ukrainians became Russia's "younger brothers" (John A. Armstrong, The Soviet Bureaucratic Elite. A Case Study of the Ukrainian Apparatus, New York, Praeger, 1959.) As "younger brothers," Ukrainians would migrate and follow Russians into different regions of the USSR, such as Kazakhstan, Moldova, Estonia, and Latvia, where they would help entrench Soviet power. Soviet historiography had promoted the view that Kyiv Rus was the common "cradle of the three fraternal Slavs." The ultimate goal of the new Homo Sovieticus was understood as a return to this once mythical unity in Kyiv Rus.
Ukrainian-Russian relations are now returning to many of these ideological positions, as encapsulated in the slogan "To Europe With Russia!" The newly opened Year of Russia in Ukraine website is captioned: "From common origins to common goals."
Events last week at the hastily organized and poorly attended CIS summit in Kyiv confirms that the Soviet-era mindset of a "younger brother" is still entrenched in Ukraine's ruling elites. On 29 January, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma was elected head of the Council of CIS Heads of States, the first non-Russian to hold this position. Although the position is supposed to be rotated between CIS leaders each year according to the Russian alphabet, it has always been held by Russia.
On the eve of the CIS summit, Ukrainian Ambassador to Russia Mykola Biloblotskyy said in an interview in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that the Year of Russia in Ukraine should be used by both countries to "strengthen their cooperation in the international arena in the political, economic, and humanities spheres." Biloblotskyy added that, "We are moving together in one direction; true, one of us quicker and the other slower."
This ignores the fact that Ukraine and Russia have incompatible goals towards NATO -- only Ukraine seeks membership. Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin was perplexed as to why Ukraine desires NATO membership: "What does it [Ukraine] want to receive in exchange? We have no idea." Ukraine and Russia are obviously not moving together towards NATO in tandem.
Acceptance of a "younger-brother" status was only forthcoming after Russia finally recognized Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. At the CIS summit, Ukraine and Russia signed a treaty on the state border between the states. According to Kuchma, this should end all speculation about "Russia's imperial ambitions."
The treaty only refers to their 2,063 kilometer land border as both sides still disagree about the Sea of Azov. Ukraine demands that the shelf and water be divided while Russia believes it should remain as a joint "internal lake." Delimitation of the border has been taking place since 1998 but Russia has remained opposed to its eventual demarcation.
Besides the border treaty, the sides signed other documents on cooperation between their Border Troops, culture ministries, youth groups, and information agencies. Russian Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoi said in Kyiv that the Year of Russia in Ukraine will "preserve and enrich" the "close cultural cooperation between our peoples," adding that, "There is a great need for Russian actors, films, and music in Ukraine, and for Ukrainian ones in Russia." Ukraine already has no shortage of imported Russian folk and pop culture, books, and media publications. In Russia no such Ukrainian equivalents are to be found, even after the Year of Ukraine in Russia has ended.
Ukraine is ready, Kuchma said, to "open its doors to representatives of Russian culture, science, and business." This reflects the growing support from Kuchma and pro-presidential oligarchs of Russian investment in Ukraine's economy. Putin and Kuchma referred to their joint transitions from the same state as a reason for close cooperation. "We are strengthening institutions of democracy and civil society," Putin said. In reality, Russia's influence on democratization processes in Ukraine and other CIS states is negative, a reflection of authoritarian trends evident inside Russia.
Legal niceties did not prevent Kuchma from becoming the head of the CIS. Ukraine is not legally a member of the CIS because it never ratified the CIS Charter. Ukraine is only a "participant country" of the CIS.
What factors, other than returning to the status of a "younger brother," are behind Kuchma's election? According to Our Ukraine Deputy Mykola Tomenko, Kuchma sees the new CIS position as an escape mechanism in case he calls early presidential elections. Heading the CIS would provide Kuchma with psychological, moral, and financial support after he steps down and seeks immunity from prosecution.
Russia has given up the position of head of the CIS for the first time with a view to cementing expanding ties, such as those between Gazprom and Naftohaz Ukrayiny through the Russian-Ukrainian gas consortium. The consortium provides unprecedented access to funds that can be laundered abroad and then rechanneled back to Ukraine and Russia for use as election slush funds.
Russia continues to pressure Ukraine to join the Eurasian Economic Community (EEC) that brings together six CIS states. According to Putin, Ukraine's membership would allow the creation of the long held Ukrainian goal of a free-trade regime with Russia. As Putin argued, with Ukraine a member of the EEC, "We shall then be able to eliminate a number of obstacles and problems."
"There is nothing extraordinary [in Leonid Kuchma's appointment as CIS leader]. According to the CIS Charter, there should be a rotation of the post every year according to the Russian alphabet unless the Council of CIS Heads of State decides otherwise. In this case, it was decided otherwise. Russia should have been followed by Tajikistan. So we asked [Tajik President] Imomali Rakhmonov point blank. It was my proposal since there was a moral aspect in this, since he [Rakhmonov] is our colleague and the charter stipulated [that it was his turn to head the CIS]. If he agrees to give up his turn in favor of Ukraine, there are no problems. He agreed to that. So Ukraine will head the Council of CIS Heads of State in 2003." -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka; quoted by Belarusian Television on 31 January.
"Why did Putin elect Kuchma as head of the Council of CIS Heads of State? First, to cover Russian economic, informational, and spiritual expansion with regard to Ukraine. Second, to cast doubt in the West on Ukraine's policy of European choice. Third, to finally ruin GUUAM. To what will Kuchma apply his energy -- developing CIS or GUUAM -- while being in the post of CIS leader?" -- Our Ukraine lawmaker Ivan Zayets in an interview with RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 30 January.
"The election of Leonid Kuchma as head of the Council of CIS Heads of State is an attempt at answering the question about how to restore the prestige of Ukrainian authorities, at least, in the CIS territory.... [This is] a rather symbolic post since the CIS is an amorphous association in which declarations are not filled with substance.... As is known, the president has not signed and the Ukrainian parliament has not ratified the CIS charter. So there is [also] a question whether Kyiv's vote in the Council of CIS Heads of State is legally valid." -- Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko; quoted by the Our Ukraine website (http://www.razom.org.ua/) on 31 January.
"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.