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END NOTE: LARGEST UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER CLOSED ON CHARGES OF
KYIV PLANS TO PUMP OIL TO EUROPE VIA ODESA-BRODY PIPELINE. The Ukrainian government decided on 4 February that the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline will be used to transport Caspian oil to Europe, as originally planned, despite mostly Russian pressure to pump oil in the opposite direction, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Energy Minister Serhiy Yermylov said the pipeline, which has been idle since 2002, can transport 4 million-5 million tons of Caspian oil as early as this year. The pipeline has been the focus of a political tug-of-war, with the European Union and the United States pushing for its originally designed use and Moscow proposing a reversal of its flow (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 29 July 2003). "This will enhance the energy independence of Ukraine, and we believe that it will be a big long-term and even short-term advantage for Ukraine's oil industry," U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst said of the decision, according to Interfax. JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES EUROPEAN OIL TRANSPORT ACCORD, KYOTO PROTOCOL. The Verkhovna Rada on 4 February ratified an agreement on cooperation in integrating the Druzhba and Adria oil pipelines, Interfax reported. The agreement was signed by Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Hungary, Slovakia, and Croatia in December 2002. It allows for the transport of an additional 15 million tons of oil annually to world markets via these countries' pipeline systems, with reloading to tankers at the Croatian port of Omisalj. The same day, the Ukrainian legislature also voted to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which obliges signatories to limit carbon-dioxide emissions and take measures toward eliminating the negative consequences of such emissions on the environment. JM
KUCHMA PLANS TO SET UP UKRAINIAN RESEARCH INSTITUTE AFTER PRESIDENCY. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said on 4 February that after leaving office he will establish a nongovernmental strategic-research institute together with Anatoliy Halchynskyy, director of the National Institute of Strategic Research, Interfax reported. The presidential press service announced that the institute would engage in "fundamental research on the Ukrainian model of economic policy." JM
POLISH, UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS DISCUSS IRAQ, ODESA-BRODY PIPELINE. Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and his Ukrainian counterpart Kostyantyn Hryshchenko met in Warsaw on 4 December to discuss cooperation among Polish and Ukrainian companies in the reconstruction of Iraq and joint ventures in the energy sector, including the Odessa-Brody-Gdansk oil pipeline, PAP reported. Cimoszewicz said at a news conference that, following the Ukrainian government's decision to use the Odesa-Brody pipeline for transporting Caspian oil to Europe (see above), both countries must now take practical steps for oil to flow through the pipeline and launch talks with the EU on support for the project. Last month, both governments signed an accord on extending the Odesa-Brody pipeline to Plock in northern Poland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January 2004). JM
LARGEST UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER CLOSED ON CHARGES OF ANTI-SEMITISM
Judge Iryna Saprykina of the Shevchenkivskyy District Court in Kyiv on 28 January ordered the closure of the opposition newspaper "Silski visti" after finding it guilty of fomenting interethnic strife in an article last year on Jews in Ukraine. The article, titled "Jews in Ukraine Today: Reality Without Myths," was penned by Vasyl Yaremenko, whom Ukrainian media identify as a professor of the Interregional Academy for Personnel Management.
The court's ruling has prompted an outcry of indignation on the part of the opposition -- Our Ukraine, the Socialist Party, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc -- which believes the presidential administration was behind the closure of the largest opposition newspaper, which has a circulation of some 520,000, in the presidential-election year. While not denying that the closure might play into the hands of the government, many Ukrainian observers agree that the court's decision is fully supportable. Yaremenko's article, which was published by "Silski visti" on 30 November, can doubtless be categorized even by non-jurists as rabidly anti-Semitic.
Yaremenko's lengthy piece of writing is in fact a follow-up to another that he published in "Silski visti" on 15 November 2002 -- "The Myth of Ukrainian Anti-Semitism." Yaremenko quotes copiously from letters from those readers of his first article who supported his point of view. His main thesis is that Jews in Ukraine are a privileged national minority and actually run the country by controlling its mass media, finances, and key economic sectors. Any attempts to oppose this situation or even to point out that such a state of affairs exists, Yaremenko argues, are presented without delay in the media controlled and/or owned by Jewish oligarchs as manifestations of Ukrainian anti-Semitism and Judophobia. All television channels in Ukraine, Yaremenko says, are in the hands of "Zionists," and Ukrainians are forced to feed on "informational and spiritual products of the Jewish ideological kitchen." He includes oligarchs Viktor Medvedchuk, Hryhoriy Surkis, Viktor Pinchuk, Vadym Rabynovych, and Yukhym Zvyahilskyy in a much longer list of "Zionists" in Ukraine. According to Yaremenko, "nearly one-third" of the Verkhovna Rada deputies are Jews. He satirizes the Ukrainian parliament by saying that it is now in the process of transforming itself into an "Israeli Knesset" or Ukraine's "central synagogue."
Yaremenko's "historical" excursions are much more aggressive. He claims that Jews "organized" the tragic 1932-33 famine in Ukraine to take "revenge" on millions of Ukrainians. Moreover, Yaremenko asserts that millions of Ukrainians were killed in 1937-38 by the NKVD, which he claims was run by "leaders of Zionism" and comprised 99 percent Jews. He also says that Ukraine was invaded during World War II by German fascists along with a 400,000-strong "horde of Jewish SS men."
A lawsuit against "Silski visti" was brought by an organization called the International Antifascist Committee. The newspaper argued in court that Yaremenko's article -- which was excerpted from his previously published book -- was printed as a separate leaflet in addition to the main issue to advertise the book. Under the press law, the editors claimed, newspapers are not responsible for the content of advertisements they print. But Judge Saprykina told the 31 January-6 February issue of "Zerkalo nedeli" that there was no mention whatsoever in the 30 November issue of "Silski visti" of Yaremenko's text being an advertisement. Saprykina added that Ukraine's press law unambiguously stipulates the closure of publications that foment racial, ethnic, or religious antagonisms. Saprykina also said her ruling does not mean that "Silski visti" will cease to appear immediately -- appeals against her verdict might prolong the life of the newspaper for at least a year, if not overturn it altogether.
The "Silski visti" case -- apart from the issues of anti-Semitism and of restrictions on the freedom of expression in Ukraine's public life -- has also brought to the fore the issue of the democratic credentials of the Ukrainian opposition. It has not passed unnoticed by Ukrainian observers that the opposition, while protesting the closure of "Silski visti," did not touch upon the content of Yaremenko's outpourings. A statement signed by Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko says the closure is a "manifestation of totalitarian policy" of the government vis-a-vis undesirable media and accuses the court of following instructions of the authorities to eliminate the opposition media outlet. "We condemn the cynical reprisal against the opposition newspaper and express our support for the 'Silski visti' editors," reads the concluding phrase of Our Ukraine's statement. The statement does not include a single word of reference to, let alone condemnation of, Yaremenko's shameful article.
It is not difficult to guess that if Yushchenko remains silent on Yaremenko's anti-Semitic escapade in "Silski visti," he will risk -- at best -- a loss of the sympathy and support of many circles in the West that see him as a Ukrainian exponent of Western democratic values and principles. At worst, he might be accused of harboring anti-Semitism and trying to exploit it for his political purposes. In a situation where the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians live in glaring poverty and some of the country's most notable and fabulously rich oligarchs are of Jewish origin, it cannot be ruled out that anti-Semitism might become a political tool for mobilizing support in the presidential election for some parties in the Our Ukraine bloc. Then, the image of Yushchenko as a rabid nationalist -- which is being laboriously presented to the electorate by the Communists and pro-government forces alike -- might also be supplemented with anti-Semitic features.