- The Washington Times - Friday, October 8, 2004

Captive nations still

Belarus and Ukraine, considered “captive nations” under the Soviet Union, continue to act like captives today, said the chairman of the congressional human rights commission.

Both are still “vulnerable” to Russia’s political and economic influence and “face serious challenges to democracy and Euro-Atlantic integration,” Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, told the Heritage Foundation in a recent speech.

Mr. Smith, chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, said Belarus is “ruled by a dictator,” Alexander Lukashenko, and Ukraine “has significant problems” in the areas of press freedom and freedom of association. Ukraine also suffers from official corruption, a weak court system and election fraud, he said.

However, Mr. Smith said Ukraine has developed some institutions that “act at least somewhat as a check” on the government.

As both countries prepare for elections this month, Mr. Smith warned that their “survival as independent countries” depends on the “full establishment of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

He held out little hope for change in Belarus, where Mr. Lukashenko is determined to push through a referendum in the Oct. 17 parliamentary elections to extend his presidency beyond 2006, when his 10-year rule is scheduled to expire. He has “almost total control over the electoral process” and is sure to get his way, Mr. Smith said.

In Ukraine, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich and former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko are running to replace President Leonid Kuchma, who has ruled for 10 years, in the Oct. 31 election.

FBI help offered

The U.S. ambassador to India is offering FBI assistance to leaders of the country’s two northeastern provinces where separatist violence escalated during the weekend.

Ambassador David C. Mulford this week wrote to the chief ministers of Assam and Nagaland to find out whether the United States could help in the investigations of attacks that left 81 persons dead and 217 injured in attacks on Saturday.

“The United States has considerable expertise in investigative techniques including, for example, such areas as forensic analysis of explosive residues,” he said.

“Should you find it helpful, the FBI would be pleased to provide technical support for your investigation.”

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told reporters in India that he would welcome the assistance if the national government approves it.

“I don’t mind taking such support from the U.S. government provided the government of India agrees to it,” he said.

The Foreign Ministry in New Delhi said the offer “will be considered.”

“The U.S. ambassador has made an offer of FBI assistance in terms of ongoing cooperation between our two countries on counterterrorism,” the ministry said.

“The offer will be considered in terms of existing guidelines of the government of India.”

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington next week include:

Tuesday

• Fayez Tarawneh, former prime minister of Jordan, and Efraim Halevy, former Israeli national security adviser. They address the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on the 10th anniversary of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty.

• Yossi Alpher, a former senior official with Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, and Ziad Abu-Zayyad, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. They address the American Task Force on Palestine.

• Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, a Chechen human rights advocate and assistant professor at Chechen State University, who addresses Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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