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PREMIER CONGRATULATES UKRAINE'S YANUKOVYCH. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov sent congratulations to Viktor Yanukovych on August 5 following his election as Ukraine's prime minister, Interfax reported. Fradkov said that he hopes the two governments will work together to "strengthen the Russian-Ukrainian partnership and the implementation of important projects in many spheres...on the principles of mutual benefit and the market economy." PM
END NOTE: NEW ACCUSATIONS EMERGE IN UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST'S MURDER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT CONFIRMS YANUKOVYCH AS PRIME MINISTER... The Verkhovna Rada on August 4 endorsed Party of Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych as Ukraine's new prime minister with 271 votes in favor, Ukrainian media reported. Yanukovych was confirmed mainly by lawmakers from his party, the Socialist Party, and the Communist Party, as well as by 30 deputies from Our Ukraine and six deputies from the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc. "[My priorities include] economic growth, the solution of social problems. An efficient economy will open the way for solving a great number of social problems," Yanukovych told journalists after the confirmation vote. "Our country will be attractive for investment only when the situation in the country is stable. We will do everything to make sure the situation is stable, both politically and economically," he added. JM
...APPROVES NEW CABINET OF MINISTERS... The Verkhovna Rada on August 4 also approved the composition of a new Cabinet of Ministers, Ukrainian media reported. The Party of Regions' people in the cabinet are First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Mykola Azarov, Deputy Prime Minister Andriy Klyuyev, Deputy Prime Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk, Deputy Prime Minister and Construction Minister Volodymyr Rybak, Minister for Ties with the Verkhovna Rada Ivan Tkalenko, Labor Minister Mykhaylo Papiyev, Environment Minister Vasyl Dzharty, Coal Industry Minister Serhiy Tulub, Fuel and Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko, Economy Minister Volodymyr Makukha, and Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers Anatoliy Tolstoukhov. The presidential quota in the Cabinet of Ministers is made up of Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko, Justice Minister Roman Zvarych, Family and Sports Minister Yuriy Pavlenko, Emergency Situations Minister Viktor Baloha, Culture Minister Ihor Likhovyy, Health Minister Yuriy Polyachenko, and Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko. The Socialist Party has Education Minister Stanislav Nikolayenko and Transport Minister Mykola Rudkovskyy, while the Communist Party has Agroindustrial Complex Minister Yuriy Melnyk and Industrial Policy Minister Anatoliy Holovko. JM
...VESTS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT WITH AUTHORITY... The Verkhovna Rada on August 4 elected five judges of the Constitutional Court, Ukrainian media reported. The same day, 13 Constitutional Court judges -- the five elected by the Verkhovna Rada on August 4 as well as five elected by the Congress of Judges and three elected by President Viktor Yushchenko in November 2005 -- took the oath of office, thus unblocking the work of the court. The Constitutional Court remained inoperative since October 2005, when the term of former nine judges expired. The Verkhovna Rada refused to elect and swear in new judges over fears that President Yushchenko might use the Constitutional Court to overturn the constitutional reform adopted in December 2004. The Constitutional Court is composed of 18 judges; at least 12 judges are necessary to make it functional. JM
...AND PROHIBITS IT FROM REVIEWING CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM. The Verkhovna Rada on August 4 amended a law on the Constitutional Court, prohibiting the court from revising changes to the constitution adopted in December 2004, Ukrainian media reported. The measure was supported by 274 lawmakers. The political reform of December 2004 limited powers of the presidency in Ukraine in favor of the parliament and prime minister. President Yushchenko has repeatedly indicated in the past that he is unhappy with the reform and would like to question its adoption in the Constitutional Court. JM
NEW ACCUSATIONS EMERGE IN UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST'S MURDER
A close associate of Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky has claimed that Ukrainian parliament speaker Oleksandr Moroz plotted with Mikhail Fridman, the head of Alfa Group, to kill Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze in September 2000.
The claim was made by Alex Goldfarb, the chairman of the Civil Liberties Fund, an organization sponsored by the London-based Berezovsky. Speaking at a press conference in Kyiv on August 1, Goldfarb distributed the text of an affidavit by an unnamed U.S. citizen, claiming that Moroz, a member of parliament in September 2000, met with Fridman and a number of suspected Russian criminal bosses from the "Izmailovskaya" gang in Moscow to plan Gongadze's killing.
Gongadze, an investigative journalist whose articles often targeted the administration of former President Leonid Kuchma, disappeared in September 2000, and his decapitated body was discovered in a forest near Kyiv shortly thereafter.
Two of the three men arrested for killing Gongadze pleaded guilty to the crime in February 2006, but did not name the person who ordered the killing. They said they acted at the behest of their superior, Interior Ministry General Oleksiy Pukach, who is wanted by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies.
Goldfarb provided little evidence for the latest accusations, saying he gave copies of the affidavit to Ukraine's Prosecutor-General's Office.
According to Goldfarb's unnamed witness, Moroz is alleged to have promised Alfa Group lucrative energy projects if he were to be elected president of Ukraine. At this time the witness alleges Moroz was in possession of tape recordings claimed to have been secretly made in Kuchma's office by a member of the president's security detail, Mykola Melnychenko.
In the "Melnychenko tapes" Gongadze's name is mentioned a number of times by a voice purported to be Kuchma's. The president appears to be ordering Gongadze's killing, saying: "Drive him out! Throw him out! Give him to the Chechens!"
Kuchma has admitted that his voice is on the tapes, but claims they were altered. He denies the charges that he ordered Gongadze's killing. In the witness's version of events, Moroz wanted Gongadze killed so that he could discredit Kuchma by blaming the killing on him and be elected.
The latest claims do not mark the first time such allegations have surfaced. Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent, has investigated the killing for an unnamed private client. In August 2002, Levinson claimed in a letter made available to RFE/RL that Gongadze was murdered by a local group of assassins under the direction of Vladimir Kiselyov, reputed to be one of the more powerful criminal authorities in Kyiv. Kiselyov was allegedly hired to do the job by leaders of the Izmailovskaya gang, which in turn was commissioned by Alfa Group and Moroz to kill Gongadze.
When Levinson's version of events was made public, Moroz denied any role in the murder and said the theory was being circulated by Kuchma supporters to compromise him.
Fridman has denied the allegations. In a statement, he said: "It is strange that I am not being accused of attempting to murder the U.S. president in Tbilisi [a reference to an assassination attempt against President George W. Bush during his visit to Tbilisi in May 2005], of murdering Leo Trotsky, and of attempting to rob Fort Knox."
Moroz has been unavailable for comment. On August 1, "Ukrayinska pravda" reported that the
Prosecutor-General's Office issued a press release in which it stated that the affidavit it received from Goldfarb did not contain any verifiable evidence linking Moroz to the murder.
The recent political deadlock in Ukraine provides the backdrop to the recent flurry of accusations and counteraccusations. A member of the Socialist Party, Mykola Rudkovsky, was quoted by "Ukrayinska pravda" on August 1 as saying that Goldfarb's accusation was possibly an act of "revenge" by the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc to punish Moroz for destroying her chances of becoming prime minister.
Tymoshenko has often been accused of maintaining close ties with Berezovsky, and was instrumental in helping to arrange meetings between Yushchenko supporters and Berezovsky during the 2004 presidential election campaign.