Interior Minister to be dismissed?
On Saturday 17 March, leaked information saying that President Leonid Kuchma signed a decree to dismiss Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko was released by Ukrainian information agencies and the mass media.
The dismissal of Kravchenko is one of the major demands of opposition groups following the now infamous "tape scandal." Last autumn, opposition politicians published an audio recording of Mr Kravchenko allegedly accepting orders from President Kuchma to "get rid" of Georgy Hongadze, a journalist who was found murdered last November.
On Monday 19 March, the leaked information was refuted by the presidential administration. However, confusingly, some politicians have continued to say that Kravchenko was, in fact, dismissed. Roman Bezsmertny, the representative of President Kuchma in parliament, said the decision to dismiss Kravchenko had already been made. Prime Minister Viktor Yuschenko confirmed that discussions on the matter are being conducted. Moreover, Yuschenko informed some personnel that reshuffles are expected in the government.
While in Crimea on Wednesday 21 March, President Kuchma again denied the information about the dismissal, saying he did not sign a decree.
Although there is still no official confirmation of the alleged decision to dismiss Kravchenko, many believe it is just a matter of time. According to different sources, it is expected that Yuri Smyrnov, chief of police in Kyiv, will be appointed to the post of Interior Minister--if it becomes vacant. However, according to some analysts, the appointment would not bring any changes. As chief of Kyiv's police, Smyrnov bears major responsibility for the violent battles between police and opposition groups on 9 March during which several people were injured and 200 arrested.
New doubts arise about body thought to be missing journalist's
On Tuesday 20 March, Serhiy Holovaty, secretary of the parliamentary ad-hoc investigation commission, announced the results of independent forensic tests conducted by a German laboratory on fragments of the body which is believed to be that of missing journalist, Georgiy Hongadze.
The ad-hoc commission was created to investigate the case immediately after Ukrainian journalist Hongadze disappeared last November.
According to the results of the independent expert examination, comparisons of the blood of the journalist's mother and a blood sample from the journalist's medical card revealed that the body fragments tested do not belong to Georgiy Hongadze.
Many in Ukraine believe the journalist was murdered. According to an expert examination conducted by Russian specialists on the discovered body, performed on request of the Ukrainian government, there was a 99.9 percent chance that it was that of the missing journalist.
However, Oleksandr Lavrynovych, head of the ad-hoc commission, said he doubted the fragments of the body assessed in Germany were taken from the Tarascha body (said to be that of Hongadze). Olena Prytula, colleague of Georgiy Hongadze, who took the body fragments from the Tarascha morgue, said she was confident that the fragments belonged to the body found at Tarascha's forest. The fragments were kept at Olena Prytula's apartment before she passed them to the parliamentary commission's independent expert. However, according to her, it cannot be ruled out that somebody had replaced the fragments at her apartment when she was not at home.
The body found at Tarascha, near Kyiv, disappeared from Tarascha morgue after the journalist's colleagues visited it. As it became evident later, representatives of law-enforcement agencies brought the body to Kyiv.
Now Ukrainian politicians are considering the possibility of conducting additional examinations by different independent experts. President Kuchma said repeated requests have been made to the FBR asking them to conduct more complex examinations of the body found in Tarascha.
New party created in parliament
The New Regions of Ukraine party was created and registered in parliament on 21 March. The faction, consisting of 16 members, was formed by MPs who left other parties such as Regional Revival, Laboring Ukraine, and the National Democratic Party.
The leader of the party, Volodymyr Rybak, said during a press conference that the group was created in order to strengthen the parliamentary majority and to lobby interests of Ukraine's regions. Members of the group represent 7 of 24 Ukrainian regions.
The faction is also aims to strengthen representation and influence of the Regional Party in parliament. The Regional Party also formed recently and is led by the Head of State Taxation Administration, Mykola Azarov. It is anticipated that this party now has a real chance to become the third most influential party in parliament. Twelve members of the party also belong to Solidarity, another parliamentary faction.
Policemen protest in Kyiv
Around 7,000 active and retired policemen picketed the parliament building (Verkhovna Rada) on 20 March. The events of 9 March (clashes between police and opposition supporters) served as a catalyst for the law-enforcement agencies to show their disagreement with the current political and social climate in Ukraine. It is known that during the clashes more than 10 policemen were seriously injured.
The protesters also demanded higher wages and the return of social benefits for police employees. Social benefits for representatives of law-enforcement agencies were lifted almost a year ago, leaving policemen with low salaries, without special food donations, and without the right for free public transport. As a result in 2000 alone more than 200 well-reputed police specialists resigned.
Iryna Solonenko, 23 March 2001
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The Day, daily newspaper
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