- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

KIEV A judge yesterday ordered prosecutors to open a criminal investigation of President Leonid Kuchma after opposition charges of corruption and abuse of power.
Judge Yury Vasylenko of Kiev's appellate court told a news conference that he began the case after reviewing charges made by opposition leaders.
"The president can't be suspected of committing crimes for a long time," Judge Vasylenko told a news conference. "The best way is to know if the president is to blame or not to blame."
Opposition leaders attended Judge Vasylenko's news conference, where they repeated calls for Mr. Kuchma to resign.
"The person who is under the investigation should not carry on working. He should step down," Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko said.
"The fact that a criminal case has been opened shows that we have taken a step towards victory," he said.
Separately, U.S. and British investigators fanned out across the country to investigate charges that Ukraine sold an advanced radar system to Iraq.
Investigators were to visit facilities where components of the early-warning Kolchuga radar system are produced.
Before the visit, Ukrainian officials pledged unprecedented access in allowing inspectors to visit military sites and in reviewing related documents.
The joint investigative team is composed of 13 experts from the State Department, Pentagon and the British Defense Ministry. They are being assisted by 14 Ukrainian officials.
Mr. Kuchma told a news conference last week he "would never give an order to supply arms to Iraq, under any circumstances."
The Kolchuga system silently tracks aircraft and ground vehicles by detecting and triangulating their radio signals.
Western officials worry it could threaten aircraft in the event of military action against Iraq.
"The fact is although we are completely convinced that President Kuchma ordered, or authorized the sale of the Kolchuga radar to Iraq, we do not actually know whether or not the radar is there," Elizabeth Jones, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told a Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe hearing last week.
Opposition leaders, who have long called for Mr. Kuchma's resignation, say the veteran leader also was involved in the disappearance of reporter Georgiy Gongadze, whose headless corpse was found in November 2000.
They also accuse Mr. Kuchma of curbing free speech and normal political activity in the country of 49 million people situated on the fringes of an expanding European Union.
The radar scandal has given opposition leaders another weapon against the president.
Opposition leaders say they believe the Iraq sale took place through a Moscow-based middleman, although they have provided no supporting evidence.
The radar-system scandal has bought the relationship between Ukraine and the United States to its lowest point since the former Soviet republic became independent in 1991.
Washington has suspended $54 million in direct government aid and is reviewing its relationship with Kiev.


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