To steal or not to steal...
"President Kuchma has categorically banned the siphoning off of Russian gas in transit via Ukrainian territory," official sources report. The President gave the necessary instructions to the Prime Minister and managers of the oil-gas sector.
However, later the Prime Minister's press secretary confirmed that the presidential command was made with a prophylactic purpose. According to the words of the Energy Minister Serhiy Yermilov, Ukraine has not stolen Russian gas since the beginning of Kuchma's tenure in office. That is why the presidential statement should be primarily viewed as a warning against temptation to repeat previous negative experiences, especially on the eve of the fall-winter season.
Today, Ukraine is almost completely dependent on the Russian gas supply. The country is looking for alternative sources in order to support the level considered necessary for national security interests. Tuesday's decision by Itera, a Russian gas company, to cut gas supplies to Ukraine a fifth of their current level, serves as additional proof of the situation's complexity.
This year Itera has become a major gas supplier to the country. According to the company's press secretary, reduction in supply is connected with the huge debts of Ukrainian gas consumers to the company.
However, as of Wednesday, Itera renewed Ukraine's supply after the national Vice Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko intervened in the conflict.
Ukraine is not Russia...
...or such was the major conclusion made by the famous American political adviser and social scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski during the round-table talks in Washington, which was devoted to problems in Ukraine.
Brzezinski believes that the United States should pay greater attention and give more substantial financial support to the republic because the level of democratic and economic development is higher than in the neighbouring Russia. Moreover, Ukraine plays an important role in the political and strategic balance and security in Europe.
Among the major positive achievements of Ukraine as an independent country Brzezinski stressed respect of human rights, ethnic tolerance, an equal language policy and a relatively low level of corruption.
Brzezinski also criticised the mainstream in the official US attitude towards the country. "I do not think that it can be a good practice for the President of the United States... to briefly visit Ukraine during his trip back home from Moscow," Ukrainska Pravda reports. The political scientist also considers that the establishment of appropriate trade relations between the US and Ukraine cannot be viewed through the prism of similar relations with Russia.
Ukrainian media are not Russian media
Recent decisions and warnings from official sources can be considered a test of Bzhezinsky's theory on ethnic tolerance and linguistic equality in Ukraine. Of course, the political and ethnic situation in the country cannot be even slightly comparable to the Russian case (although the majority of Russian media tries to present ethnic politics in Ukraine in a very dim light). However, certain suggestions of the State Committee on Information Policy and National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting do not present a highly tolerant positions towards foreign (Russian) media on national territories.
Russian print media have become the first targets of the committee. Several leading Russian newspapers that have affiliates in Ukraine have been notified about possible closure. There are no doubts that Russia views this warning as purely political and discriminatory. However, the Ukrainian side finds legal contradictions in the presence of Russian newspapers in the country. Among the major complaints, the State Committee reprimands the illegal sale of the excessive number of additional issues brought from Russia under the "concealment" of their Ukrainian branches. A second argument is connected with the language of the newspaper—most of them preserve the language of the original, meaning Russian.
Another issue is that many of these newspapers provide Ukrainian readers with Russian advertising, Russian contact numbers of their main offices and offices of their partners. By doing this, the Russian print media benefits from unfair commercial competition with local newspapers, which unfortunately very often have lower readership than their Russian counterparts.
And in other news...
- The Council of Ministers of the European Union named Ukraine as a country with a market economy. Ukraine's "fate" was discussed with that of Albania, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Vietnam. The decision brings the country one step closer to entering the World Trade Organisation and can be viewed as a huge success and intensification of Ukrainian trading power on the European stage.
- A Ukrainian deputy has been arrested in Germany. In Ukraine he is suspected of stealing money that was intended for compensation to Nazi victims. Zherditsky—who before becoming the member of the national parliament—worked as a director of Hradobank. Zherditsky is under criminal investigation after sums of money disappeared from the bank where he worked. According to the official version released by officials in Kyiv, the stolen money was put into the accounts of an offshore company in Hong Kong and then transferred to Zherditsky's private Swiss bank accounts.
- The Swiss General Prosecutor's office has transferred the money to the accounts of the Ukrainian Prosecutor's office—an amount of roughly CHF 10.5 million. This amount has been extracted from the private accounts of the former Ukrainian Prime Minister Lazarenko. The agreement was reached as a result of active cooperation between the two countries, in their struggle to contend with corruption in the Ukraine.
Natalya Krasnoboka, 14 October 2000
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Den', daily national newspaper
Inopress Ru, on-line source of foreign publications on Russia and Eastern Europe
Kyiv Post, weekly national newspaper
Korrespondent, on-line weekly
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
UA Today, on-line information agency
Ukrainska Pravda, on-line independent