With the kind permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, InfoUkes Inc. has been given rights to electronically re-print these articles on our web site. Visit the RFE/RL Ukrainian Service page for more information. Also visit the RFE/RL home page for news stories on other Eastern European and FSU countries.
Return to Main RFE News Page
InfoUkes Home Page
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REQUESTS DISMISSAL OF REGIONAL PROSECUTOR OVER BEATING OF LAWMAKERS. The Verkhovna Rada on 1 June adopted a nonbinding resolution recommending that Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun dismiss Transcarpathian Oblast prosecutor Yuriy Bents for the latter's role in the beating of three opposition lawmakers by a police squad in Uzhhorod on 20 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2005), Interfax reported. The same resolution urges law-enforcement authorities to punish all those responsible for the beating of Social Democratic Party-united (SDPU-o) legislators Tamara Proshkuratova, Nestor Shufrych, and Volodymyr Voyush, who tried to prevent the transfer of hospitalized former Transcarpathian Oblast Governor Ivan Rizak to a prison cell. The resolution followed a parliamentary hearing on the Uzhhorod incident. Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, who is leader of the SDPU-o parliamentary caucus, said during the hearing that President Viktor Yushchenko's government is failing to pass a "test of democracy." "Had I known in 1991 that lawmakers would insult each other in the session hall...and that there would be permissiveness rather than democracy, I wouldn't have signed the Belavezha agreement [on the dissolution of the Soviet Union]; I would rather have cut my hand off," Kravchuk said. JM
GOVERNMENT OFFERS $123,000 TO STOP 'GONGADZE VERSUS UKRAINE' LAWSUIT. The Ukrainian cabinet intends to settle amicably the "Gongadze vs Ukraine" case that is being considered by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and is offering to pay 100,000 euros ($123,000) to Myroslava Gongadze, the wife of slain journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Interfax reported on 1 June. Myroslava Gongadze claims in the case that the death of her husband in 2000 was the result of a forced disappearance and that state authorities failed to protect his life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 2005). According to Interfax, the Ukrainian government on 31 May adopted a resolution pledging to bring to justice all those responsible for the journalist's murder and offering the money to the widow in exchange for her waiving the right to make any complaints against Ukraine concerning the facts described in the current lawsuit in Strasbourg. JM
PROSECUTOR SAYS $1 BILLION LEFT UKRAINE DURING ORANGE REVOLUTION. Prosecutor Anna Tsyhanenko, head of the Prosecutor-General's Office's department to combat money laundering, told journalists in Kyiv on 1 June that some $1 billion was illegally transferred "through banks and other financial institutions" from Ukraine in November-December 2004 -- that is, during the period of the Orange Revolution, Interfax reported. Tsyhanenko said the illegal capital outflow involved "well-known people" as well as budgetary and private funds. She added that the Prosecutor-General's Office has already opened six criminal cases connected with those transfers. JM
The convictions on 31 May of opposition leaders Mikalay Statkevich and Pavel Sevyarynets represent the latest episode of what appears to be a constantly expanding series of repressive steps the Belarusian regime has aimed at opponents in the wake of the October 2004 votes and ahead of the presidential election slated for 2006.
The regime has apparently decided that repression, including imprisonment and intimidation, is the best method to pave the way for yet another "elegant" victory by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Statkevich and Sevyarynets were punished for their roles in staging Belarus's largest antigovernment protests in recent years. On 18 October, the opposition drew thousands of people to downtown Minsk to protest the official tallies, which were widely believed to have been rigged in favor of Lukashenka (the referendum conferring on him the right to run for the presidency an unlimited number of times) and of pro-government candidates to the country's lower house, the Chamber of Representatives. Police on 18 October detained only a few people in an apparent effort to avoid using force in the presence of foreign journalists and election observers in the Belarusian capital that day. But a similar rally on 19 October was brutally dispersed by riot troops, who arrested some 50 people and beat United Civic Party head Anatol Lyabedzka, who was hospitalized with broken ribs. Several smaller protests over the next few days were dispersed by the authorities, and those detained were immediately punished with jail terms of up to 15 days.
The Belarusian opposition has no other avenue for venting dissatisfaction with the government than leading people into the streets. No opposition politician was allowed into the country's bicameral National Assembly in 2004. No opposition politician is allowed to appear on state-controlled radio or television, while private radio stations remain silent over opposition activities as well as most political topics out of fear that they might lose their broadcast licenses. There are still several independent newspapers in which opposition views may be presented, but as a rule the circulation of such periodicals in small and limited to the capital and a few other major cities. The authorities' primary tactic now appears to be silencing and intimidating those who are not yet afraid to take to the streets and speak openly against the regime. That effort has intensified since Ukraine's Orange Revolution.
The regime closed the year 2004 by sentencing opposition politician Mikhail Marynich to five years in prison after finding him guilty of stealing computers and other office equipment that was leased to his organization by the U.S. Embassy in Minsk. Marynich claimed the bizarre case against him was fabricated by the KGB in order to prevent him from participation in the 2006 presidential election. (He was prevented from taking part in the 2001 presidential election after the Central Election Commission refused to register him as a candidate, arguing that he failed to collect the required number of 100,000 signatures -- a claim that Marynich denied.) The Statkevich verdict -- and Statkevich had already announced plans to compete in the 2006 presidential election -- eliminates him as a potential challenger to Lukashenka in 2006 or as an organizer of the opposition's election campaign.
In March, Belarusian retailers protested for more than a week against an 18 percent import duty on goods from Russia by staging rallies and refusing to work at their stalls and kiosks. It is noteworthy that the government declined to take any retaliatory measures against those vendors, whose demands were of a purely economic character, apart from jailing their leader for several weeks. The only other person punished severely in connection with those protests was Maryna Bahdanovich of the opposition United Civic Party, who was fined $2,200 for political statements made at vendors' rally in Minsk. Bahdanovich was also fined some $1,800 for organizing and participating in an antigovernment demonstration in Minsk on 26 April. Court officers have already confiscated a dozen household items from Bahdanovich in lieu of payment for the fines. "Anyone who wants to engage in politics, especially in this country, must be aware of the potential consequences," Bahdanovich commented. It is evident that the authorities do their utmost to instill fear of political dissent.
In what appears to have been another effort to demoralize the opposition, police on 15 May arrested former dissident lawmaker Syarhey Skrabets, charging him with attempted bribery of a regional official. Skrabets and two other lawmakers staged a hunger strike in June 2004, demanding liberalization of the country's Election Code. In April, Belarusian Television aired a report alleging that law-enforcement agencies have detained a Lithuanian citizen who reportedly delivered $200,000 to finance Skrabets' political activities. Skrabets commented that the report was stage-managed by the KGB to embroil him into a trumped-up criminal case. The story relating to Skrabets' alleged foreign funds appears to have waned, presumably because authorities in the meantime managed to build a bribery case against him.
The opposition's access to print media, however insignificant and ineffective, seems to be a thorn in the regime's side as well. In mid-May, the Information Ministry issued the second warning this year to the only opposition daily, "Narodnaya volya." (Two official warnings in one year can be sufficient grounds for authorities to close it.) The ministry said the daily released false information by publishing the names of five people under a manifesto of the opposition movement Will of the People, which was launched in February. Simultaneously, the five people in question have sued the daily for libel, saying they did not sign the manifesto and demanding an exorbitant sum of 250 million Belarusian rubles ($116,000) in damages. Will of the People leader Alyaksandr Kazulin suggested that the authorities might have used pressure to make the five people revoke their signatures. "People supporting [our manifesto] are pressured to withdraw their signatures by way of threats and blackmail," he said. Irrespective of the reasons behind the suit, if "Narodnaya volya" loses, it will likely have to close down because it will not be able to pay the damages.
"We do not expect that what is to take place in Belarus in 2006 will be an election -- it is going to be a political campaign with no rules," Lyabedzka, who is among the prospective challengers to Lukashenka from the opposition camp, told Ukrainian journalists in Kyiv last week. "We have strong political will, and we are determined to fight until we win. If the election proves undemocratic, we are ready to take to the streets." That the 2006 election might prove undemocratic comes as no surprise to most observers of the Belarusian political scene; but few of those pundits would argue that Belarusians are likely to take to the streets en masse following an undemocratic vote.
On 29 May, some 100 representatives of the Belarusian intelligentsia who wanted to propose their own presidential hopeful were forced to gather in a forest outside Minsk because no one in Minsk dared provide them a venue for the forum out of fear of official retaliation.
Belarusians are still a long way from being prepared for any Orange Revolution of their own making.
Russian environmentalists have called on the government to review its energy policy and give up plans to build dozens more nuclear reactors in Russia. In an open letter to the Kremlin, environmentalists said the recent arrest of former Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov for embezzlement has highlighted the corruption and incompetence that plague the industry. In such conditions, they warn, putting additional nuclear reactors into service could lead to a massive nuclear catastrophe.
More than 40 environmentalists from across Russia sent an open letter this week to President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov urging them to renounce plans for developing civil nuclear energy.
The signatories say the letter was prompted by the arrest of Adamov earlier this month. Adamov was seized in Switzerland on an extradition warrant from the United States, which accuses him of embezzling funds earmarked for the improvement of Russian nuclear security. Russian prosecutors have charged Adamov with fraud and abuse of power and are seeking his extradition to Russia.
Aleksei Yablokov, the director of the Moscow-based Center for Russian Environmental Policy, is one of the most prominent signatories of the open letter. "The nuclear field is in a bad way," Yablokov told RFE/RL. "Adamov is not the only one to have [allegedly] mismanaged funds -- there are thefts and the general working discipline in the field is below any acceptable level, and this worries us. Taking advantage of the fact that Adamov has been arrested and attention has been drawn to the situation of the industry, we are declaring that not only Adamov, but the industry as a whole is in a state of crisis."
He says the government's plan to build up to 50 more nuclear reactors in Russia is irresponsible and, considering current conditions, could easily lead to a nuclear disaster like the one in Chornobyl.
"We are saying that in the present conditions of the [nuclear] field -- when discipline is poor, thefts take place, security measures related to nuclear radiation are not sufficient -- it is madness to decide as the government did two years ago to build 50 more nuclear reactors in the long term," he said. "This decision by the government seems irresponsible to us. If it is implemented, other Chornobyls are unavoidable."
The Atomic Energy Agency's press service could not be reached for comment on 25 or 26 May.
Russia currently operates 31 nuclear reactors, but environmental rights groups say nuclear plants are poorly run and some of them are in desperate need of repair. They have repeatedly accused the Mayak plant, near the city of Chelyabinsk in the Urals, of releasing massive quantities of radioactive materials in the atmosphere and the water.
As a result, incidences of cancer and birth defects in the Chelyabinsk region have risen more than 20 percent over the past three decades, and half the men and women living there are estimated to be sterile.
Environmentalists also blame the authorities for extending the working life of aging nuclear plants without carrying out proper environmental-impact studies.
The open letter comes just days after a U.S. report said that, despite recent progress, security at Russian nuclear plants remains inadequate. It cites incidents in which guards left security doors open and patrolled facilities unarmed.
Yablokov also laments the poor energy efficiency in Russia. "There are vast possibilities to save energy," he said. "Between 30 and 40 percent of the electric power we produce can be saved. It is used badly, squandered. To be produced, one item here requires three or four times more energy than in Europe, and five to six times more than in Japan."
The United States, China, Iran, and Finland are among the other countries that are either building nuclear plants or have announced plans to do so. Most European countries are gradually turning to sustainable resources to meet their energy needs.
Yablokov says Russia should follow Europe's example and has all it needs to produce energy using alternative methods.
According to him, wind power in the Kola Peninsula, in Russia's northwest, could generate more energy than the local nuclear plant. He also notes that two tidal-energy plants located in the Far East of the country are able to provide for the total energy needs of the region.
In Russia's south, he says, attempts to use solar energy have shown promising results.
Environmental groups estimate that alternative power sources, which currently account for less than 10 percent of the energy produced in Russia, could grow to cover at least 20 percent of Russia's needs.
Nuclear plants produce roughly 15 percent of Russia's electricity, which is mainly generated by hydroelectric and natural gas and coal-fired plants.
30-31 May: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to visit Japan 1-3 June: World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum to
be held in Moscow, hosted by the Guild of Publishers of the Periodical Press
2 June: A meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, India, and China to be held in Vladivostok
3 June: Meeting of CIS prime ministers in Tbilisi 3 June: Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to meet with Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko in Tbilisi Late June: Chinese President Hu Jintao to visit Moscow 19 June: Referendum in Samara on dismissing Mayor Georgii Limanskii 20-22 June: Meeting of the Collective Security Council
(Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan) in Moscow
23 June: Yukos shareholders meeting 24 June: Gazprom shareholders meeting 25 June: Meeting of the CIS Defense Ministers' Council July: Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Astana, Kazakhstan 4 July: 750th anniversary of the founding of Kaliningrad 6-8 July: G-8 summit in Scotland 9 July: End of the Duma's spring session August: CIS summit to be held in Kazan September: First-ever Sino-Russian military exercises to be held on the Shandong Peninsula 1 September: Date by which President Putin has ordered the
government to submit its plans for the elimination of the estate tax, the simplification of individual tax declarations, and the simplification of the requirements for real-estate purchases
5 September: Fall plenary session of the State Duma opens 1 October: Date by which President Putin has ordered the
government to submit its economic-development plans for the Far East, the North Caucasus, and Kaliningrad Oblast
23 October: Referendums to be held in Kamchatka Oblast and the Koryak Autonomous Okrug about the merger of the two federation subjects
1 November: Public Chamber expected to hold first session 1 November: Date by which President Putin has ordered the
government to submit its proposals for limiting foreign-capital participation in the defense sector and strategic-resource development
1 November: Date by which President Putin has ordered the government to submit its proposals for judicial reform and combating crime, especially terrorism
Second half of November: Chechnya to hold legislative elections, according to pro-Kremlin Chechen President Alu Alkhanov
1 December: Date by which President Putin has ordered the government to submit its plans for reducing traffic accidents, alcoholism, and drug addiction, as well as its proposals for improving health care
1 December: Date by which President Putin has ordered the government to submit its plan to increase state-sector wages by 50 percent within three years
2006: Russia to host a G-8 summit in St. Petersburg 1 January 2006: Date by which all political parties must
conform to law on political parties, which requires at least 50,000 members and branches in one-half of all federation subjects, or either reregister as public organizations or be dissolved.