Flood in Zakarpatia
On 3 and 4 March, the south-western region of Ukraine, Zakarpatia, suffered severe flooding as the result of heavy rain. According to the press service of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, 12,670 houses in 191 populated areas have been flooded. Around 11,258 people were evacuated from the territory, and five people have died.
This has been the second large disaster in the region in three years. In 1998, flooding caused heavy damages and forced many people out of their homes.
Experts have recognized that the major cause of the disaster is the cutting down of the woods in the region, which is not properly controlled. Despite the lessons learned after the 1998 flood, few measures were implemented to prevent similar disasters occurring in the future.
Flooding has also affected neighboring Hungary and Romania, and the border between Ukraine and Hungary has been closed as a means to prevent mass migration. This has caused additional problems for the local population who rely on cross-border trading as a major source of income.
Kuchma urges state officials to define their positions
On 6 March, President Leonid Kuchma told state officials and ministers to clearly define their allegiance within the week. He asked them to either publicly separate themselves from "anti-state formations of the opposition," or resign. Kuchma said that opposition within the state power must not be allowed for. This statement referred to 270,000 Ukrainian civil servants at all levels.
At the same time, President Kuchma announced that he is against any pressure on mass media and pointed out that there is no independent mass media in Ukraine.
The following day, Prime Minister Viktor Yushenko stated that in the current government "there are no ministers in opposition to the president's policy." According to him, government is in constructive collaboration with the president.
Protest actions continue
This week several protests took place in Kyiv. On 5 March, five tents in one of the central parks in Kyiv were erected. This is aimed to continue the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" protest action that was temporarily interrupted on 1 March when police destroyed the camp of tents along the central street of Kyiv.
The new tent camp, however, was demolished by police on the morning of 9 March so that the protest did not infringe upon the president's annual ritual of placing flowers on the monument of the Ukrainian national poet, Taras Shevchenko. The demolition occurred despite reports that the courts would rule on the legality of the camp that afternoon. After the ritual was over, a rally of roughly five thousand protesters took place.
Protest actions continued near the President's administration on the afternoon of 7 March. During clashes with protesters, 11 policemen were injured.
On 8 March (International Women's Day), further protests took place outside the prison where ex-prime minister Julia Tymoshenko is jailed. The action was attended by over one thousand people and was headed by several MPs belonging to right-wing and radical right-wing parties. The participants laid down flowers near the prison and greeted the prominent woman in celebration of International Women's Day.
New Energy Minister appointed
On 6 March, President Kuchma issued a decree by which he appointed Stanislav Stashevski as the new Minister for Fuel and Energy, after suspending Serhiy Yermylov from the post. The appointment was made on the recommendation of Prime Minister Yuschenko, who claimed several weeks ago that Yermylov was incompetent.
Since October 1996, Stashevski has been First Deputy-Head of the Kyiv city administration. He was also a member of Kyiv city council and a member of a committee on restoration of cultural and historical values.
According to some commentators, the appointment was clouded by political arguments as Stashevski has no work experience in the field. However, observers argue, the results of the appointment will become evident only after one or two months.
Iryna Solonenko, 9 March 2001
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