Time for sensationalism has finally come
The disappearance of opposition Internet journalist Georgiy Gongadze, editor of Ukrainska Pravda, coupled with accusations that President Kuchma is involved in the situation, remains the major political event in the country.
This week Olexandr Moroz, leader of the Socialist Party, publicly announced complaints about the president's involvement and responsibility for Gongadze's disappearance and possible murder, adding yet another layer to the investigation of the missing journalist. Moroz also gave evidence to the General Prosecutor and presented a copy of the tape with fragments of presidential conversations, allegedly plotting Gongadze's disappearance, for further checking and detailed investigation.
Yury Karmazin, head of the Committee Against Organized Crime and Corruption, personally delivered another copy of the tape to representatives of the Council of Europe for independent analysis. Previous scientific investigation of the tape, which was conducted recently in the Netherlands by the Dutch Institute of Applied Scientific Research (TNO), declared the tape an original.
Researchers however were not able to identify voices on the tape as belonging to Kuchma and other top national officials due to the bad quality of the sound.
On Wednesday evening, President Kuchma appeared on national television with a special statement in order to comment on the situation surrounding the journalist's disappearance and the emergence of the tape. "The development of the events during last days testifies that Ukraine is pushed to the limits, behind which it will face chaos, anarchy and disorganization of the social life," newspapers quoted his speech. Kuchma also stressed that he considers the recent situation a consciously planned provocation against the country in general.
On Thursday, while commenting on the presidential speech, Moroz mentioned that together with the taped conversations of the president, he also presented to the General Prosecutor new facts that might clarify the mysterious death of the opposition leader Vyacheslav Chornovil a year ago.
Several days earlier another representative of the Socialist Party pointed out in an interview with the Russian newspaper Pravda.Ru that the Socialists possess kilometers of tape that were recorded during a three month period of time.
The representative indicated that in the event the tapes are publicly released the people of Ukraine would discover new events that are no less important and disgusting than the disappearance of the journalist.
Meanwhile, according to Korrespondent.net, three national deputies of Ukraine left Kyiv on Friday morning in order to meet an officer of the security service in an undisclosed European country. This officer allegedly recorded the "highly illegal" conversations of the president and some of the representatives of his administration and later delivered the tapes to Moroz, the leader of Ukrainian Socialists, whom he considered to be one of the few fair and honest politicians in the country. (Read this week's CER article on the crisis in Ukraine)
Lazarenko a victim of Kuchma's regime?
No less sensational was the accusation made by Ukraine's former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko who has spent the last 22 months as a prisoner convicted of corruption. On Wednesday he proclaimed himself a political prisoner who became a victim of "Kuchma's dictatorship regime owing to the agreement with certain high authorities from the White House," Ukrainska Pravda quotes his statement.
Lazarenko presented five issues in accordance with which the court cannot convict him: he considers accusations compiled against him as political persecution; the national authorities that started the process against him are now under investigation and accused of involvement in the journalist's disappearance; Lazarenko considers himself a political prisoner; the court which investigated his case (San Francisco) does not have territorial jurisdiction; this court does not have legal authority to investigate presented accusations.
Lazarenko personally asked to have a text of his statement distributed amongst media. He also added that, as soon as his criminal case is over, he would immediately use his (constitutional) right to make further statements.
As many of the national and Russian media have already stressed, there are many reasons to believe that as soon as he is released, Lazarenko will join Moroz in presenting a growing number of complaints against the president.
And in other news...
- On Thursday the prime ministers of Ukraine and Russia signed a so-called gas memorandum. The major task now is to prepare corresponding projects of the intergovernmental agreements. These agreements will define conditions of debt liquidation, gas supply and transition. Preliminary negotiations and agreements on these topics were reached two weeks ago in Miensk during the official meeting of Commonwealth of Independent States leaders. Conditions are indeed very favorable for Ukraine. According to these, the country is not only allowed to take an additional two billion cubes of gas as interest-free technical credit and five additional billion cubes as credit from the insurance fund in case of the natural disaster, but also payment of Ukrainian debts is postponed for ten years.
- The National Parliament have adopted the bill "On State Budget of Ukraine in 2001." The budget for next year will be deficit-free. Two factions of the Parliament—the Communists and Yabluko—voted against the adoption of the budget. The Socialists mainly voted either against the budget or abstained from voting. Prime Minister Victor Yushchenko thanked deputies for their support and adoption of the budget.
- At the same time, national deputies decided not to include on the agenda of the session on presidential bills suggested changes to the Constitution according to the results of April referendum. Only 197 members of parliament out of 378 registered in the session hall expressed a positive opinion about including the bill "on the status of the national deputy." 206 deputies considered the possibility of discussing the bill "on the order of the early dismissal of the Parliament." However, it was not enough to include this bill on the agenda for this session. Together with the factions of Communists and Socialists, several factions and representatives of the so-called parliamentary majority voted against these bills.
Natalya Krasnoboka, 8 December 2000
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Den', Daily national newspaper
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Ukrainska Pravda, Online independent
Facts, Daily national newspaper
The Kyiv Post, National weekly in English
UA Today, Information server
Korrespondent.net, Online newspaper
Unian, Information agency
Interfax, Information agency
Proua, Information agency
Pravda Russian online newspaper