Yuschenko's fate still to be decided
On Thursday 19 April the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament of Ukraine) declared the government's performance on the "Reforms for Wellbeing" programme as unsatisfactory. The respective resolution won the support of 283 members of parliament.
Support for the resolution came from the Communists, the United Social Democratic party and the Working Ukraine group. The People's Movement of Ukraine, the Ukrainian People's Movement, Reforms-Congress party, and the Motherland party voted against this appraisal of the government's performance. Point two of the resolution instructs the parliament to consider the issue of government responsibility by 26 April.
On April 17, prior to the parliamentry vote, Prime Minister Viktor Yuschenko delivered a report on parliamentary work for the year 2000. The podium from which he spoke was surrounded by over 50 boxes containing 3.6 million signatures collected by Ukrainian lawmakers and pro-Yushchenko parties in support of the prime minister's reformist government.
At the same time, over 3,000 people gathered in protest of the government in front of the parliament. The rally was organized by the People's Movement of Ukraine, the Ukrainian People's Movement (two Rukh parties), Reforms and Order Movement, and the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists.
After the vote on 19 April, Yuschenko said that the left-wing and the financial oligarchs had "ganged up" on the government in the vote, "selling out the presidential course, the political choice and the government programme that offered a future to millions."
Yuschenko also said he is convinced that once a discussion of governmental responsibility is held in parliament the present cabinet "will most probably not be preserved." At the same time, he expressed his conviction that "this government should be preserved due to its value and effectiveness."
Following the vote, the prime minister reported that he was making his way to hospital. The prime minister's press secretary had earlier reported that Yuschenko felt his chronic spine problem had been exacerbated.
Opposition fights to keep current government
The resistance committee "For Truth" reported that it is starting a large-scale action group in support of Yuschenko. The committee's presidium is planning to picket the houses where the people's deputies who signed a document demanding the prime minister's resignation live. In addition, the committee intends to carry out strikes in educational institutions and create groups supporting the prime minister "in every city and village."
Political asylum granted
On April 13, the United States granted asylum to Mykola Melnychenko, former presidential bodyguard, who said he secretly taped president Leonid Kuchma in his office and accused him of involvement in the murder of journalist Georgiy Honhadze.
The move evoked a negative reaction from Ukraine and, according to the Ukrainian mass media, raised tensions between the two countries. On April 17, Ukrainian prosecutors said they would ask the US government to hand over Melnychenko. According to Prosecutor General Mykhailo Potebenko, Melnychenko is "a criminal, not political refugee. There is a warrant for his arrest."
Although the US authorities said the decision was not politically motivated and that it should not be interpreted as a sign of a change in American-Ukrainian relations, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko said that the decision "ran counter to the spirit of the Ukrainian-US partnership."
The same day, Myroslava Honhadze, the wife of the missing journalist was also granted political asylum in the US. At a press conference in Warsaw, Poland on April 17 she said she left Ukraine out of fear for her own safety and the safety of her twin daughters. She said that she has not yet decided whether to accept political asylum in America, and added that she strongly supports Premier Viktor Yushchenko.
Javier Solana in Ukraine
The European Union's High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana visited Ukraine on 18 and 19 April.
During his meetings with Ukrainian high officials, and at a conference on Ukrainian foreign policy and diplomacy, he warned that Ukraine's relations with the EU would suffer if it abandoned reform policies: "Ukraine should continue its reform path in order to attain entry to the World Trade Organization... If this doe not happen, it will worsen relations with European Union states."
Solana also called for "civilized" handling of Ukraine's domestic political disputes. At the same time, he refused to comment on what is "an internal political matter." However, he referred explicitly to the need to respect freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Ukraine, saying that "a mature democracy should take criticism well and protect freedom of press."
Overall, Solana recognized the key role of Ukraine in preserving stability and security in Europe. He said that the EU is very important for Ukraine, and Ukraine for the EU, and that Ukraine will benefit from the EU enlargement.
Ukraine bewildered by PACE expulsion recommendation
President Kuchma believes that the recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) monitoring committee to suspend Ukraine's membership in the Council of Europe is "an anti-Ukrainian action." He said this while meeting with the Ukrainian delegation for PACE on 18 April.
Kuchma said he was bewildered with the decision, since Ukraine has been cooperating with the Council of Europe for five years and has recently adopted a number of laws that the Council of Europe had requested. Kuchma described the position of the Council of Europe as "arm twisting."
The monitoring committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 5 April had recommended PACE suspend Ukraine's membership in the Council of Europe. Hanna Silverson, a reporter for PACE, visited Ukraine the previous week. When speaking at the PACE session she criticized Ukraine for its abuse of the Council of Europe regulations, in particular freedom of speech and mass media in Ukraine, as well as absence of progress in investigation of the case of missing journalist Honhadze. However, she expressed hope that Ukraine could remain a member of the Council of Europe.
Iryna Solonenko, 20 April 2001
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