Potebenko survives vote of no-confidence
Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko won a vote of no-confidence in Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) on Thursday 22 February. Despite five draft resolutions of no-confidence against the Prosecutor General being voted on, they all received around 100 votes—not enough to vote him out.
The traditional pro-presidential fractions voted against the resolutions outweighing the opposition factions with twice as many votes of confidence. The representatives of the Communist faction refused to vote.
Potebenko has come under immense pressure for his alleged connection in the case of missing journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. On 21 February the parliament decided to invite Potebenko to report his activities. Potebenko, who is on holiday, replied the same day saying that the request of MPs calling for his report is unlawful. He refereed to the Constitution of Ukraine, which, according to him, does not provide for parliamentary control of the activities of the Prosecutor-General's Office.
Following Potebenko's refusal, opposition factions including the National People's Movement of Ukraine and Reforms Congress introduced draft resolutions of no-confidence against him. Just one day before the actual vote, the majority of MPs speaking supported the claim of no-confidence in the Prosecutor-General.
Representatives of opposition have argued that the failure of the resolution suggests that a "oligarch-communist" parliamentary majority has been established. Communists and representatives of pro-presidential factions deny the establishment of such a majority.
Earlier this week, political observers anticipated that the voting of representatives of the Communist faction—the largest in the parliament—would reveal whether they are, in fact, in opposition to President Leonid Kuchma. However, the Communist MPs, commenting on their voting behavior, argued that they abstained from voting because they could see no appropriate alternative to Potebenko as Prosecutor-General.
New charges pressed against Yuliya Tymoshenko
On Wednesday 21 February the Prosecutor-General's Office told journalists that the list of charges against the former head of the United Energy Systems of Ukraine Corporation and the former deputy prime minister, Yuliya Tymoshenko—currently under arrest—now contained three more entries from the criminal code.
In addition to the charges of smuggling and the falsification of documents, as well bribing former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, Tymoshenko was charged with the concealment of currency revenues, the organization of the concealment of currency revenues and grand larceny of state property.
Representatives of opposition parties claim Tymoshenko's arrest and the introduction of new charges against her has a clear political motive. This point of view is denied by the Prosecutor-General's Office.
Deputy Prosecutor-General Mykola Obykhod also neither denied nor acknowledged information that the prosecution is considering Tymoshenko's possible involvement with the financing of the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" protest group.
President Kuchma will not resign
On 21 February President Kuchma, answering questions from readers of the Fakty newspaper during a live telephone link, said: "My voluntary resignation is out of the question. Over 16 million citizens cast their votes for me during the elections, and I have no right to betray them." The telephone link was broadcasted by the ICTV TV channel. Representatives of other mass media organizations were prevented from participating in the debate.
The resignation of President Kuchma is one of the major demands of the National Salvation Forum public initiative established earlier this month and the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" public protest group. The action groups established a tent camp along the central street of Kyiv in demonstration against President Kuchma's alleged involvement in the disappearance of Gongadze.
Headless corpse officially that of Gongadze
The final results of the expert examination of the headless corpse discovered near Tarascha has revealed that the likelihood of the body being Gongadze's is 99.9 percent. The head of the independent Russian examiners, Pavel Ivanov, announced the certification in an open letter to the Express newspaper.
The preliminary results of the examination, officially ordered by the Ukrainian side, were made public by the prosecutor-general in January, and showed a 99.6 percent likelihood that the body was that of the missing journalist.
However, after revealing the Ukrainian results, Potebenko later said that there was still a chance that the missing journalist was still alive. According to Potebenko, the medical examination gave indirect evidence, whereas there were people who knew Gongadze who have said that they saw him after his disappearance.
Ukrainian population decreases
On 22 February the Ukrainian government resolved to hold a national census between 5 and 14 December 2001. The last census was held in 1989 when Ukraine was still a part of the former Soviet Union. At that time the population of Ukraine was 51.45 million.
However, during the last seven years, Ukraine's population has been continuously decreasing, and the birth rate is lower than the mortality rate. Statistical data for the first half of 2000 showed that there were 49.5 million people in Ukraine. According to the State Statistics Committee, by 1 January 2001 the Ukrainian population shrank to 49,291,200.
Iryna Solonenko, 23 February 2001
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