People's Movement of Ukraine on the verge of splitting
The 11th Congress of the People's Movement of Ukraine (often referred to as Udovenko's Rukh), was held on 5 May, and could have serious implications for the future of the Party. It resulted in re-election of its former leader Hennady Udovenko and withdrawal from the Party of several of its important members.
The event was important from the perspective of the necessity to consolidate the right forces in the run-up to next year's parliamentary elections. The Congress, however, highlighted another split within the Party and new divisions within the opposition.
Out of more than 600 Party representatives, 371 voted in favor of preserving the current leader Udovenko, and less than 100 gave their votes to former dissident, and one of the Party's founders, Mykhailo Kosyv.
Taras Chornovil, the son of the late nationalist leader Viacheslav Chornovil and an active member of the anti-presidential oppositional group Forum of National Salvation, left the Party right after the Congress. Mykhailo Kosyv and Olena Bondarenko, two other members of the Party, who were among its founders in the early 1990s and who helped shape its ideology, also left the Party.
In an interview Taras Chornovil gave to the weekly Zerkalo Nedely, he said preserving Udovenko would mean leaving the Party susceptible to external forces, in particular from presidential surroundings, and open to compromise with factions that voted out Premier Viktor Yushchenko. Indeed, Udovenko has always been reluctant to condemn President Leonid Kuchma publicly, which has led to accusations that he is allied with the scandal-ridden president.
It is now anticipated that more members of the Party will exit, thus causing its split and general weakening of the right-wing opposition. Moreover, if more Party members who are also MPs leave, the respective faction in the parliament will cease to exist. Now, with the departure of Kosyv and Bondarenko, who are both MPs, the faction in the parliament will account for only 14 MPs-the minimum number of MPs needed for the alliance to exist.
Russia to put pressure on Ukraine?
On Thursday 10 May, Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed Viktor Chernomyrdin as ambassador of the Russian Federation to Ukraine. Putin said this appointment shows "how seriously we [Russia] approach development of relations with Ukraine." Chernomyrdin himself said this appointment was a proud day for him. The appointment now has to be approved by the Russian legislature, the Duma. Chernomyrdin will also serve as a special representative of the Russian president on development, trade and economic relations between the two countries.
Chernomirdin was head of Russian Government from 1992 to 1998 and before that was deputy premier for the fuel-energy complex. He is now the deputy of the Duma and is considered one of the most popular Russian politicians of the last ten years. In the beginning of 1990s he was chairman of the board of trustees of the Russian corporation Gazprom—the main exporter of gas to Ukraine. He is an expert on oil and gas issues, which are the key sticking points in Russian-Ukrainian relations. Moreover, he is the first Russian ambassador to Ukraine who has very good personal relations with Ukrainian President Kuchma.
Russian experts say the decision about his appointment was made by a small inner-circle and came very unexpectedly. However, according to them, this is simply a gesture of support to President Kuchma. Ukrainian experts have avoided making clear-cut predictions but claim Russia's policy towards Ukraine is getting more pragmatic.
According to Mykola Tomenko, a high-profile political analyst, the appointment gives legitimacy to the concept of Russian "economic privatization" of Ukraine. According to Tomenko, now the danger is that Russian oligarch groups having a financial-political inclination and, in close contact with respective Ukrainian groups, will receive support on a diplomatic level, which, will help Russia to further use economic leverage for achieving political ends with respect to Ukraine.
Controversies remain in case of missing journalist
A group of US experts have finalized the examination of the body tissue of man believed to be suspected murder victim Heorhiy Gongadze. The tests were conducted at the request of Ukrainian prosecutors. It was concluded that the body tissue is that of Gongadze. But the experts could not determine the cause of the death since the head belonging to the body was not found and because of the amount of time that has elapsed.
Heorhiy Gongadze, a well-known Internet journalist, disappeared in September of last year. In November, a headless corpse was found in Tarashcha, south of Kyiv. Although colleagues of the journalist claimed the corpse was that of the missing journalist, the general prosecutor's office has denied this information for a long time. The colleagues maintain that they recognized personal belongings of the journalist lying nearby the found body, as well as some parts of the corpse.
The findings of American experts confirm the earlier conclusion by Russian authorities that the body is indeed Gongadze's. However, it is still not clear whether the tissue examined was that of the Tarashcha corpse. German forensic examinations conducted in February concluded that the tissue, which as Gongadze's colleagues claim was secretly taken from the Tarashcha corpse, could not have belonged to Gongadze.
After the conclusion of the US FBI experts, Ukrainian prosecutors say they intend to allow the relatives of Gongadze to take the body for burial. However, Lesya Gongadze, mother of the journalist, said she would not bury the body until the cause of death is established. According to Serhiy Holovaty, an active member of the parliamentary commission established shortly after the journalist disappeared; the body given for the FBI to examine was not the Tarashcha body. He promised to elaborate further during a press conference planned for 16 May.
Iryna Solonenko, 11 May 2001
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