On 18 May, about 15,000 ethnic Tatars gathered together in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, to commemorate the sad anniversary of the Crimean Tatars' 1944 deportation. On Stalin's orders, Tatars were deported because of their "collaboration" with the Nazi.
Although rehabilitated in 1967, Tatars were allowed to return to their native land only in 1989 and since then they have been struggling for the same human and citizens' rights as enjoyed by the rest of the Ukrainian population. The current Crimean autonomous parliament does not have a single member representing the 260,000 Tatars who live now in Crimea, where they constitute 12 percent of the local population.
Although the Ukrainian government has pledged to help solve the problems faced by returned Tatars, around 30,000 do not yet have Ukrainian citizenship and live in extremely poor conditions, very often without gas and proper water supplies. The rate of unemployment is also very high among working-age Tatars.
Oleksandr Tkachenko, the former speaker of the national parliament under fire from accusations that he misused state funds, will not face prosecution. An investigative team had found than UAH 50 million (USD 9.2 million) was missing, but the left wing of the Parliament claims that the investigation was a tactic to legitimate the current parliamentary leadership that took power from Tkachenko this February, supported by a so-called parliamentary majority.
An investigative team recommended that Parliament authorize the Prosecutor General's Office to review its findings and determine whether or not a criminal procedure should be started against the former speaker.
However, the Parliament failed to authorize the investigation, as only 198 out of 387 deputies supported the investigative team's suggestion. According to legislation, the margin was not enough to forward the case.
The motion was opposed by left-wing factions in the parliament.
Fourteen years after the Chernobyl nuclear power station's explosion, the fate of this dangerous plant so near the centre of Europe has not yet been decided. The Chernobyl question was one of the most important issues on the agenda of official bilateral Ukrainian-American meetings last week, during Premier Victor Ushchenko's visit to Washington (see back issue).
The international community has called for the station's closure, while Ukrainian officials stress the economic side of the problem, claiming that the country cannot survive without the Chernobyl station's supply. On 17 May, however,President Leonid Kuchma said a date for the station's closure would be determined by the end of this month.
In turn, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) produced a USD 159 million credit plan that is supposed to finance the construction of two new nuclear blocks to replace the Chernobyl station. This, the EBRD's biggest loan to Ukraine, has come in for serious criticism from GreenPeace and several European governments.
Meanwhile, wild fires in Ukraine have stirred up radioactive elements remaining in the environment since the 1986 catastrophe, raising radiation levels downwind in Belarus.
Boris Yeltsin and his wife Naina arrived in Sevastopol (Crimea) on 19 May. Yeltsin accepted a friendly invitation from President Leonid Kuchma to spend his vacation at a Ukrainian presidential residence on Crimean southern coast. The former Russian president may stay there until the end of May, taking several informal meetings with Kuchma.
Ukrainian media noted an the impressive greeting according the Yeltsins, who were met by the Russian ambassador, Russia's Navy commander, the chiefs of the Ukrainian and Russian parts of the Black Sea Fleet and Crimean parliamentary speakers at the military airport near Sevastopol.
Natalya Krasnoboka, 19 May 2000
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