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FORMER UKRAINIAN INTERIOR MINISTER APPARENTLY COMMITTED SUICIDE... Ukrainian Security Service chief Oleksandr Turchynov said on 5 March that preliminary findings show that former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko committed suicide at his dacha on 4 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 2005), Ukrainian media reported. According to Turchynov, Kravchenko shot himself twice, apparently trying to kill himself with a shot through his lower jaw the first time. "But his hand might have faltered at the last moment, and the bullet passed through his mouth," Turchynov said. "This wound was far from being fatal; it was not even serious. After that, he fired into his right temple." JM
...AND LEFT NOTE ACCUSING KUCHMA OF 'POLITICAL INTRIGUES.' Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko told journalists on 5 March that Kravchenko had left a note before killing himself on 4 March, Ukrainian media. According to Lutsenko, the note reads: "My dear ones, I am not to blame for anything. Forgive me. I have fallen victim to political intrigues of President Kuchma and his entourage. I'm leaving you with a clear conscience. Farewell." Meanwhile, Security Service chief Turchynov said on 5 March that Kravchenko's note provides "a lot of information for the investigation" in the kidnapping and murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, according to Interfax. "The note concerns particular people who are also suspects in the case," Turchynov said. "It provides investigators with a chance to plan the further direction of the investigation." JM
FORMER UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT RETURNS TO KYIV, DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN GONGADZE'S DEATH. Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 5 March returned to Kyiv from Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic where he had stayed for spa therapy since 15 February, Ukrainian and international media reported. "Before God, before the people, I have a clear conscience," Kuchma told reporters on 4 March, referring to the allegations linking him and former Interior Minister Kravchenko to Gongadze's assassination. Kuchma said during a funeral service for Kravchenko in Kyiv on 7 March that he does not believe that Kravchenko was guilty of ordering Gongadze's murder. "Under no circumstances will I believe that he [Kravchenko] could give such a felonious order," Interfax quoted Kuchma as saying. The so-called Melnychenko tapes suggest that Kuchma may at least have inspired Kravchenko to abduct Gongadze in 2000 (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 6 March 2005). JM
PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY EMERGES IN UKRAINE. More than 6,000 delegates gathered at a congress in Kyiv on 5 March to set up a party called Our Ukraine People's Union, which will provide political support to the government of President Viktor Yushchenko, Ukrainian media reported. The congress elected 120 delegates to the party's council, chose Deputy Premier Roman Bezsmertnyy as head of the council and Yuriy Yekhanurov as head of the party's executive committee. The congress also made Yushchenko honorary chairman of the new party. Lawmaker Oleh Bilorus from the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc declared at the congress that his bloc is ready to form a coalition with the Our Ukraine People's Union for the 2006 parliamentary election. It is not clear for the time being how political parties constituting the pro-Yushchenko Our Ukraine bloc in the 2004 presidential election will react to the emergence of the new pro-presidential party. JM
MOSCOW WORRIED MOLDOVAN ELECTION WILL CREATE 'ORANGE BELT' AROUND RUSSIA. The Russian Embassy in Moldova asked the Moldovan Foreign Ministry on 5 March to explain the halting at the Moldovan border of a train with more than 100 Russian "observers" and "human-rights activists" who were traveling to the Moldovan capital of Chisinau to "monitor" the country's 6 March parliamentary elections, ORT and RTR reported. Moldovan police said the train from St. Petersburg was stopped and sent back because some were "spinmasters" and people with no reason "to stay in Moldova," NTV reported. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" wrote on 4 March that regardless of the results of the Moldovan elections, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin has already agreed with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to create "an orange belt" around Russia and to reinvigorate GUUAM, the regional alliance made up of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova. "Russia is unable to formulate a strategy and policy regarding Moldova because Russia has no state interest there, it only has the personal business interests of Gazprom managers and some members of its government," RosBalt commented on 5 March. VY
DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA WILL NOT WITHDRAW ITS NAVY FROM SEVASTOPOL... Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on 5 March in Sevastopol that Russia has no plans to move the main base of its Black Sea Fleet from the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol, RTR reported. At a ceremony introducing the new commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Aleksandr Tatarinov, Ivanov said "there is a lot of speculation in the mass media about the future of the Black Sea Fleet." Russia rents the Sevastopol navy base from Ukraine in accordance with an agreement that is valid until 2017. The new Ukrainian government "has said it is not going to revise it," Ivanov said. "Yes, we are building a second navy base for the fleet in Novorossiisk, but the command and the core of the Black Sea Fleet will stay in Sevastopol," Interfax quoted Ivanov as saying. "By 2013 we are planning to launch talks with Ukraine about prolonging the Sevastopol lease," Ivanov added. On the same day Ivanov met near Sevastopol with Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatolii Hryshchenko and agreed to hold talks in Moscow on bilateral military cooperation, strana.ru reported on 5 March. VY
PUTIN WILL VISIT UKRAINE. The Russian ambassador in Ukraine, Viktor Chernomyrdin, announced in Kyiv on 4 March after talks between Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko that President Vladimir Putin will visit Kyiv on 19 March, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Ivanov said that Yushchenko told him about his desire to develop good relations with Russia and that there is "political will from both sides" on this, RIA-Novosti reported. At the same time, "there are a number of problems that we are obliged to solve in the nearest future," Ivanov added. He also said that Ukraine has a sovereign right to join the European Union and "if such a choice is made, it will not touch on our bilateral relations." VY
AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA GIVE GREEN LIGHT TO FREIGHT TRAFFIC. Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli met in Baku on 4 and 5 March with his Azerbaijani counterpart Artur Rasizade and with President Aliyev to discuss various aspects of bilateral relations, Georgian and Azerbaijani media reported. According to zerkalo.az, it was agreed that the several hundred freight cars that have been backed up on the Azerbaijani-Georgian border for up to three months will be permitted to proceed to Georgia, which has agreed not to forward cargo to Armenia. Noghaideli and Aliyev also discussed Georgia's Azerbaijani minority, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, and the prospects for reviving the GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Moldova) alignment. Noghaideli's aide, Nika Lagidze, told Caucasus Press on 5 March that an agreement was also reached on the resumption of talks on the delimitation of the border between the two countries. LF
UKRAINE STATE SECRETARY VISITS KAZAKHSTAN. Oleksandr Zinchenko met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev in Astana on 4 March, Khabar reported. Their talks focused on bilateral trade, with Zinchenko saying that the two countries can raise trade volume to $2 billion a year from the current level of $1 billion, Kazinform reported. Zinchenko noted that he proposed "a number of projects that could soon give bilateral relations a full slate," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Zinchenko stressed that the primary areas of cooperation between Kazakhstan and Ukraine are energy transport corridors and the extraction and processing of oil from Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil field. DK
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is one of President Vladimir Putin's closest confidants and who is regularly mentioned as a possible successor to Putin in 2008, made some uncharacteristic political statements in a 1 March interview with "Moskovskii komsomolets." "Only democrats, with their split personalities, could believe that we might get help from abroad," Ivanov said. "Nobody will help us except ourselves. Therefore we should be powerful and capable of guaranteeing our national security in any situation."'
He also criticized Russian liberals for viewing Russia only as "a money-making enterprise." Recent Russian media reports indicate that the Kremlin has ordered acceptable candidates to succeed Putin to increase their visibility and predict that figures such Ivanov, Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu will be making more pronouncements of this sort in the future. And the platform they seem to be developing is clearly anti-American.
Even as Putin was shaking hands with U.S. President George W. Bush in Bratislava on 24 February and emphasizing the myriad shared interests of Russia and the United States, a surprising wave of seemingly Kremlin-inspired anti-Americanism was sweeping through Russian domestic politics. Commentators, officials, and others began speaking in chorus about purported U.S. designs to install a pro-Western leader in Moscow, accusations that were buttressed by charges that the CIA had already done as much in Tbilisi and Kyiv.
When former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov appeared at a 25 February press conference with harsh criticism of the Putin administration's policies -- accusing Putin of abandoning the path of democratic development -- Putin supporters latched onto Kasyanov's admission that he had recently held talks with unnamed officials in Washington. Federation Council Chairman Mironov told TV-Tsentr on 28 February that Kasyanov has no chance of winning because he is "a pro-American candidate."
Political consultant Gleb Pavlovskii told RFE/RL on 1 March: "[Kasyanov] should tell by name who it was who endorsed his views. Let the electorate listen and decide whether they want Senator [John] McCain [Republican, Arizona] approving the views of a candidate for president of the Russian Federation." State-controlled television broadcast numerous variations on this theme, leading "Kommersant-Daily" television critic Arina Borodina to conclude to RFE/RL on 1 March that "of course there was a campaign" to discredit Kasyanov.
In his TV-Tsentr comments, Mironov went even further, saying a candidate "endorsed by Washington does not have the slightest chance of becoming president of today's Russia." He seemed to be indicating that anti-American and anti-Western sentiments are rampant among the Russian electorate.
At the same time, the pro-Kremlin youth movement Walking Together has been transforming itself in recent weeks into a new national organization called Nashi (Ours) that has an overtly anti-American ideology. The architect of the new initiative is deputy presidential administration head Vladislav Surkov, who oversees domestic politics for the Kremlin. Surkov is a staunch anti-Westerner who in a major interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" in September said that decision-makers in the United States and Europe "are living on the phobias of the Cold War and see Russia as a potential enemy." "They take credit for the nearly bloodless collapse of the Soviet Union and want to further that achievement." He added that these external enemies are working in Russia through a "fifth column" of "pseudo-liberals and Nazis" who share "a common hatred of 'Putin's Russia,' as they call it, and common foreign backers." He specifically said that the 2008 presidential election will be a key moment in the fight against these enemies.
The events surrounding the Ukrainian presidential election have definitely given impetus to this thinking in the Kremlin, although the general trend was already in place. Walking Together organizer Vasilii Yakemenko has been touring the country for the last few months, agitating among students in the regions to organize local chapters of Nashi. According to "Moskvoskii komsomolets" on 24 February, Yakemenko told a group in Kursk that "previously [Ukraine] was a Russian colony and now it is an American colony." He added that the United States now intends to make Russia its "colony."
Russia's only major nonstate television network, REN-TV, on 2 March interviewed a number of Nashi activists in Nizhnii Novgorod and found them echoing the ideology of Surkov's interview. "We think that America is Russia's main enemy," student Dmitrii Shvabinskii said. "One must remember that we always have had enemies." Fellow student Dmitrii Lyashchev said the goal of the movement "is to stop Russia from becoming a subsidiary of the United States and a supplier of raw materials."
Several of the Nashi activists interviewed by REN-TV highlighted their selfless devotion to their new ideology, emphasizing that Russia's enemies are only interested in profit and personal gain. "Some people don't think about their country," music student Maria Bystrova said. "They only think how to eat well. Such people can sell all the secrets they know." Fellow student Kseniya Baburkina added "we must work for the idea, not for money."
ORT political commentator Mikhail Leontev, who is notorious for his anti-American pronouncements on the main state television network, wrote a 2 March commentary in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that summed up the new anti-Americanism. "The United States is not our reliable ally in any area in which it declares itself one, and has never been our ally," Leontev wrote. He added that, as they did in Ukraine, U.S. politicians intend to finance "subversive organizations" because "they dislike the political system existing in Russia." "It is no secret that so-called nongovernmental organizations are now openly financed not only by foundations and suspicious private individuals with very peculiar political views," Leontev wrote. "They are also directly financed by the U.S. Congress."
Most analysts agree that the Kremlin was genuinely shaken by the events in Ukraine and the administration fears that such a scenario could occur -- or be provoked -- in Russia. The Kremlin's preemptive measures -- including the creation of Nashi; the discrediting of Kasyanov; the creation of controlled leftist and, possibly, rightist political movements to "compete" with Unified Russia; and others -- are indications that the Putin administration is sparing no effort to make sure that the 2007 Duma elections and the 2008 presidential race are managed to its liking. And that there is no need for the kind of crude falsification that stoked the unrest in Ukraine.
At the same time, the Kremlin clearly appreciates the realpolitik orientation of the Bush administration, something that Russian commentators emphasized during the 2004 U.S. presidential race. The Putin administration clearly believes that Bush values stability in Russia more than democratic development and that Putin can only improve his international stature by appearing to be the most reliable bulwark against a seething tide of anti-Western sentiment among the Russian public. If the West accepts this notion, Kremlin analysts might well be thinking, it will ease up on criticism of Russian domestic policies -- including Chechnya, the curtailing of media freedoms, and the elimination of real political competition -- and not use economic levers such as membership in the World Trade Organization to influence Russia's domestic affairs.
By encouraging the broad perception that the events in Ukraine were nothing but a CIA-sponsored coup d'etat, the Kremlin hopes to transform its humiliating setback in Kyiv into tangible domestic and international gains.