1998: THE YEAR IN REVIEW
Politics in Ukraine: the games continue
Another politician, respected and admired more than most in Ukraine, first failed to get re-elected to the Verkhovna Rada in March and then lost his life to an assassin's bullet on April 22. Vadym Hetman, the first chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine and the chairman of the Ukrainian Interbank Currency Exchange at the time of his death, who was considered a level-headed, elder statesmen of Ukrainian politics, was killed after he entered his apartment building.
The reason for his murder still has not been determined, nor have any arrests been made. Ukrainian investigators contend that the killing was due either to his work on Interbank Currency Exchange board or to his private business dealings.
The assassination of Mr. Hetman — not the first of its kind in Ukraine — along with an ongoing problem with corruption, promoted the depiction of Ukraine as the wild, wild east of the post-Soviet era. That image was further enhanced by a report by Transparency International, a non-governmental organization that fights corruption in the business sector, which ranked Ukraine as the 16th most corrupt country of the 85 countries it had studied.
Ukrainian Weekly, www.ukrweekly.com/Archive/1998/529812.html
New York Times|
Thousands March in Kiev Over Political Crisis
By PATRICK E. TYLER
MOSCOW, Feb. 6 — Thousands of protesters waving Ukrainian flags and chanting, "Ukraine without Kuchma," streamed into Kiev today in a mostly peaceful protest march demanding the resignation of President Leonid D. Kuchma, who is struggling to overcome a deepening political crisis.
The crowd, estimated at 3,500 to 5,000, tried to break through a police cordon around the presidential administration building but was turned away, witnesses said. Ukrainian television reported a number of scuffles among the protesters, the police and counterdemonstrators.
The crisis is being fueled by the continuing release of recordings of Mr. Kuchma's private conversations with senior aides and political figures in which his voice is heard ordering the abduction of a prominent journalist, threatening a judge and discussing how to protect the head of one of Ukraine's largest energy companies after he had reportedly "put a hundred million, at least" into his "pocket."
The demonstration today, as with those that blocked the center of the capital in December, signals a determined effort by opposition parties and their followers, many of them camped out in freezing temperatures.
Western officials and Ukrainian political experts said they were unable to predict the course of events in one of Europe's largest countries. The United States and European states have made a major investment in Mr. Kuchma, a former manager of a Soviet missile factory, since he came to power nearly a decade ago.
Ukrainian television reported tonight that the protesters began streaming into the capital at 8 a.m. from across the country. Some had marched for days from western cities, and they were joined by protesters in the capital who set up the tent city. They have promised to stay until Mr. Kuchma resigns.
The event that set off the crisis was the disappearance in September of Georgy Gongadze, a journalist whose Internet news site, Ukrainskaya Pravda, is a frequent critic of the corruption that has plagued the country in Mr. Kuchma's two terms as president. After Mr. Gongadze's headless body was found in November, an opposition leader, Oleksandr Moroz, produced the first recordings in which Mr. Kuchma's voice can be heard ordering Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko to "get rid" of Mr. Gongadze.
A new batch of recordings was released last week that inflamed the controversy. On one of those recordings, Prosecutor General Mikhailo Potebenko reports a problem with a legal case against Sergei Salov, a lawyer in the Donetsk region who worked for the opposition in the parliamentary elections in 1999. Mr. Salov was charged with "spreading false information about the president" by handing out leaflets stating that Mr. Kuchma had died of excessive drinking. The judge hearing the case ruled that the charge should be changed to an "insult" against the president and that Mr. Kuchma should be called to testify.
On the tape, Mr. Kuchma telephones Gov. Viktor F. Yanukovich of Donetsk and says the judge should be tortured. It is not clear what action, if any, was taken against the judge.
In another recording, the head of the state tax administration, Mikhailo Azarov, reports that the chief of Naftohaz Ukrayiny, the state pipeline company, Igor Bakai, had been audited. "At a minimum, you put in your pocket a hundred million, at least," Mr. Azarov recounts from his conversation with Mr. Bakai. "I understand, of course, that I will not expose you. I give you two weeks, a month at maximum. Destroy all the papers."
Mr. Kuchma replies, "Good," and says he had spoken to Mr. Bakai, telling him that he could not expect to be protected forever.
Mr. Bakai resigned in the spring and is now a Parliament member.