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KUCHMA VISITS RUSSIA. Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma visited the grave in a village in Novgorod Oblast of his father who died at an army hospital in Novgorod Oblast during World War II, RIA-Novosti reported on 9 May. According to the agency, Senior Sergeant Daniil Kuchma's death on 7 February 1942 was not verified until 1996. In 2001, President Putin visited the grave while visiting Velikii Novgorod. JAC
...HAILS ROSE REVOLUTION. Addressing tens of thousands of Georgians on Tbilisi's Freedom Square later on 10 May, President Bush paid tribute to Georgians' courage during the peaceful Rose Revolution in November 2003 that ousted then President Eduard Shevardnadze. Bush said that revolution served as the example for subsequent peaceful regime change in Ukraine, Iraq, and Lebanon. Bush also praised steps by the new Georgian leadership to reform the economy, crack down on corruption and build a democratic society. He affirmed that the United States supports Georgians' collective desire to "build a free and democratic Georgia." Bush also said that Washington respects Georgia's "desire to join the institutions of Europe" and encourages "close cooperation with NATO," but he stopped short of endorsing unequivocally Georgia's desire for NATO membership. In an interview two days earlier with the independent television station Rustavi-2, Bush had stressed that neither Georgia nor Ukraine should expect to be admitted to NATO "overnight" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2005). LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR 'RETURN TO YALTA.' In an editorial published in "The Washington Post" on 10 May, President Saakashvili proposed convening a new Yalta conference with three central goals: supporting the consolidation of democracy in the Black Sea region, in particular in Georgia and Ukraine in the aftermath of the Rose Revolution of November 2003 and the Orange Revolution late last year; extending democracy throughout the region, specifically to Moldova and Belarus; and "expanding the frontiers of freedom far beyond the Black Sea," including to Zimbabwe, Cuba, and Burma, "where millions live under cruel tyrants." Saakashvili did not list among the world's tyrannies Turkmenistan, to which Georgia owes some $200 million for supplies of natural gas. LF
TURKMEN LEADER HOLDS MEETINGS IN MOSCOW. Reclusive Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov took advantage of a rare trip abroad to hold a number of bilateral meetings in Moscow on 8 May, Turkmenistan.ru reported. A meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko focused on bilateral economic cooperation and the need to modernize transport systems for shipping gas from Turkmenistan to Ukraine. Talks between LUKoil head Vagit Alekperov and Niyazov examined the possibility of LUKoil's participation in developing Turkmen oil and gas fields located on the Caspian shelf. The energy sector also stood at the center of a discussion between Niyazov and Chinese President Hu, who invited his Turkmen counterpart to visit China. Niyazov accepted the invitation and invited Hu to visit Turkmenistan. DK
U.S. President George W. Bush's pronouncements during his 9-10 May visit to Tbilisi were significant primarily for what he did not say. As anticipated, Bush expressed praise and approval for the November 2003 Rose Revolution; for the aspirations of the Georgian people to build on that foundation a new and democratic state; for the new Georgian leadership's success in cracking down on corruption and implementing badly-needed reforms; and for President Mikheil Saakashvili personally, whose "spirit, determination, and leadership in the cause of freedom" Bush singled out for special mention.
Further, Bush endorsed Georgia's territorial integrity and Saakashvili's professed commitment to achieving a peaceful solution to the conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia; he termed "very reasonable" Saakashvili's offer to those regions of broad autonomy, self-government, and economic cooperation. But, at the same time, Bush made it clear that Washington cannot and will not intervene to impose a peace settlement nor, apparently, will it lean on Russia to scale back its support for the leaders of the two breakaway unrecognized republics. "This is a dispute that has got to be resolved by the Georgian government and by the folks in the separatist regions. The United States cannot impose a solution nor would you want us to," Reuters quoted Bush as saying.
Moreover, on two other key issues on which Saakashvili had made clear he hoped for a statement of Washington's support, Bush was cautious and equivocal. First, Bush said during a joint press conference with Saakashvili on 10 May that Russia is ready to work with the Georgian side on the problem of the closure of its two remaining military bases from Georgia, thereby implying that the failure during talks last week between the Russian and Georgian foreign ministers to finalize an agreement on that closure was due at least in part to Tbilisi's intransigence. Bush added that "I know that this issue is very important for Georgia, and Russia is ready to fulfill its commitments at the  OSCE Istanbul Summit related to [the] withdrawal of its bases." Saakashvili had said last week he had asked Bush to raise the issue of the bases with Russian President Vladimir Putin, apparently hoping that Bush would pressure Moscow to comply with Tbilisi's demands that the two bases be closed by 1 January 2008.
Second, Bush told Georgians congregated on Freedom Square on 10 May that the U.S. supports Georgia's "desire to join the institutions of Europe" and encourages "close cooperation with NATO," but he stopped short of endorsing unequivocally Georgia's desire for NATO membership. Similarly, in an interview two days earlier with the independent television station Rustavi-2, Bush had stressed that neither Georgia nor Ukraine should expect to be admitted to NATO "overnight." Georgia's Individual Partnership Action Plan -- the document that enumerates the measures the country must take to qualify to make a formal request for membership in the alliance -- the initial draft of which President Saakashvili presented to NATO in April 2004 -- had to be reworked extensively before its formal approval last fall.
The precise geopolitical implications of President Bush's circumspect phrasing may not have been clear to some Georgians who simply construed his one-day visit to Tbilisi as a gesture of U.S. support and goodwill. But those implications must have registered with the Georgian leadership as a warning that despite Saakashvili's definition of Georgian-U.S. relations as based on "shared values and a shared belief in freedom and democracy," for Washington, relations with Georgia do not warrant any step that could jeopardize the more important relationship Bush has forged with Russia and with President Putin personally.
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT LEADS VETERANS' V-DAY MARCH IN KYIV. President Viktor Yushchenko, after attending the Moscow military parade in Red Square on 9 May, returned to Kyiv to lead a march of Ukrainian World War II veterans in the capital center later the same day, Ukrainian media reported. Yushchenko delivered a speech to the veterans, wishing them long lives and urging them to help build a "free and independent Ukraine." Yushchenko also reiterated his earlier appeal for reconciliation between Soviet veterans and those who fought in the nationalist Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) against both the Soviet and the Nazis during World War II (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2005). JM
DID UKRAINIANS STAY IN MINSK JAIL DUE TO 'TECHNICAL REASONS'? Ukrainian President Yushchenko met with his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Moscow on 8 May, on the sidelines of a CIS summit, Ukrainian media reported. Lukashenka reportedly told Yushchenko that he failed to grant early release to five Ukrainian citizens jailed in Minsk over their participation in an antipresidential protest on 26 April because of "technical reasons" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2005). Yushchenko said Lukashenka told him that he had been unaware of all details of the arrest. "We have turned this page, and I think this issue will be removed from the [Ukrainian-Belarusian] agenda," Yushchenko added. Ten Russians arrested along with the Ukrainians on 26 April were granted early release on 30 April, while all the Ukrainians, with the exception of one, had to serve their jail terms in full. All have now been released. (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 10 May 2005). JM