The case of the murdered journalist still unresolved
On 16 May, Ukrainian Interior Minister Yury Smyrnow made a sensational announcement saying that the murder of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze has been solved. He said there was no political context to the case and that it was a purely criminal affair.
According to Smyrnow, the journalist's murder was a random killing and the names of the criminals who stand behind it are known—the criminals, incidentally, were also murdered.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 15 May said that investigators "have practically discovered" the assassins of Kyiv-based journalist Gongadze. Kuchma said that although he does not rule out that this crime was politically motivated, Honhadze was not a well-known opposition figure in Ukraine before his disappearance, and, therefore, his murder may not have been politically motivated.
On 17 May, however, the Prosecutor General's Office denied information that the Hryhoriy Honhadze case has been resolved. After the statement by the Internal Minister Andriy Fedur, the lawyer of the journalist's mother wrote an inquiry to the Prosecutor General's Office. In the response he received, it was said that the investigators are working on a number of versions, although none have been studied in full.
Heorhiy Gongadze disappeared in September last year. In November a headless corpse, which is believed to be that of Gongadze, was found in a forest, south of Kyiv. Ukrainian, Russian and American experts have confirmed that the body is that of Gongadze, whereas German expertise produced just the opposite results.
The disappearance was followed by the scandal in the Ukrainian Parliament at the end of 2000, when Socialist leader Aleksandr Moroz published a recording from the office of the Ukrainian President made by Mykola Melnychenko, a security guard. In these recordings, Kuchma is allegedly heard ordering Gongadze's decapitation.
The inconsistency in the behavior and statements of state officials can well be regarded as another clumsy attempt to cover up the case and cast additional doubts about it. Myroslava Gongadze, the wife of the missing journalist who was granted political immigrant status in the US, said she insists that an additional independent investigation take place.
Searching for a prime minister
On 17 and 18 May, President Kuchma held a series of discussions with parliamentary factions in order to appoint a candidate for the prime minister post. However, his consultations failed to result in the appointment of a candidate despite the fact that earlier this month President Kuchma promised to make decision by 15 May.
Since the cabinet of Viktor Yushchenko was voted out on 26 April, up to ten different candidates for the post of premier (including Viktor Yushchenko) have been cited as possibilities from different sources. Since then the number of candidates for the position of premier has shrunk.
For instance, the first deputy chairman of the Parliament and a leader of the United Social Democratic Party Viktor Medvedchuk, who was regarded as one of the strongest candidates, said on 14 May he does not want to become the prime minister, but would rather prepare his Party for the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
After the series of consultations held this week, President Kuchma said he regards Serhiy Tyhypko, leader of the Working Ukraine Party, and Anatoliy Kinakh, chairman of Ukrainian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, as the most viable candidates. Roman Bezsmertny, permanent representative of the president in the Parliament, said it's "next to impossible" to agree on one candidate among parliamentary factions. All the candidates have equal chances, yet have the chance to receive the necessary votes at the moment.
It was decided to continue consultations on 21 May. The same day the presidium of the Communist Party is supposed have its meeting to develop proposals from the Party. The voting position of the Communists, the largest parliamentary faction, will be a decisive one on the question of the appointment of the new cabinet.
Meanwhile, the position of Viktor Yushchenko who works as premier until the new cabinet is appointed is getting less definite. During a 16 May interview with journalists, Yushchenko said that he was not yet prepared to answer the question of whether he will agree to work in the post of acting premier if the Verkhovna Rada (the parliament of Ukraine) fails to approve any of the candidates proposed by the President. Earlier this month, he said he would never serve as the acting premier. According to him, he agreed to fulfill his duties only until a new government is formed.
Ukraine diversifies its energy sources
Ukraine signed a number of important agreements with Turkmenistan, when President Kuchma met Turkmen President Saparmyrat Niyazov in Kyiv on 14 May.
According to one of the agreements, Turkmenistan will supply 250 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Ukraine between 2002 and 2006. This year, Turkmenistan will supply 30 billion cubic meters of gas to Ukraine. The volume of the gas supplies will be increased to 40 billion cubic meters in 2002 and then even more each year thereafter. This year, Russia will supply 30 billion cubic meters of gas to Ukraine, and Ukraine will extract 18 billion cubic meters of gas on its own territory.
According to President Kuchma, the agreement on the supply of Turkmenistani gas to Ukraine will allow for a significant diversification of sources for the gas supply in the country and "guarantee Ukraine's gas requirements practically in full."
In response to journalists' questions as to what extent the signing of the document will reduce Ukraine's dependence on Russia for gas, Kuchma said that Ukraine and Russia "are dependent on each other, because the main pipeline to Europe goes through Ukraine," Kuchma stressed.
The energy issues, and the gas issue in particular, are in the center of Ukrainian-Russian relations. All external gas supplies to Ukraine either come from Russia or through Russian pipelines, and Ukraine's debt for Russian energy is growing every year. According to analysts, the recent appointment of Viktor Chernomyrdin as the ambassador of the Russian Federation to Ukraine is a strategic step on Russia's behalf to strengthen its control over Ukraine.
Day of mourning in Crimean peninsular
On 18 May, the people of the Crimean Autonomous Republic commemorated the memory of Crimean Tartars who were deported from their homes in Crimea in 1944 and brought to the Asian part of the former Soviet Union after the respective order by Stalin.
The biggest mourning rally took place in the Crimean capital, Simpheropol, in which around 17,000 people participated. The rally took place near the monument to Lenin, which bewildered the Communists. This resulted in a fight between participants of the meeting and the Communists.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, 258,000 Tartars have returned to Ukraine. The majority live in poverty, since they do not have homes of their own and do not work.
Iryna Solonenko, 18 May 2001
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