Posted by MM on March 02, 2001 at 12:34:39:
Soros calls on Kuchma to step aside, make way for Yushchenko
KYIV, Mar. 2 (Ukrainian News) - Major international financier George Soros in a letter published by the Financial Times on Friday called on President Leonid Kuchma to step aside pending the outcome of an official investigation into the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze.
State prosecutors ruled Gongadze’s death a murder this week after DNA tests showed a 99.9 percent probability that a headless body found in the outskirts of Kyiv last November belonged to the journalist.
The letter from Soros is the latest in high-profile appeals that Ukraine clean up its act with respect to democracy, the rule of law and press freedom.
U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday also sent a sharply-worded verbal message to Ukraine, delivered by United States ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pasqual.
In the message, the U.S. warns Ukraine that the financial aid that the U.S. has been doling out to the economically-strained ex-Soviet state since it gained independence was at risk due to repressive measures by Ukrainian authorities against democratic processes.
In his letter, entitled "Step Aside, Mr. Kuchma," Soros calls on Kuchma to hand over his duties to Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko while the investigation into Gongadze’s murder goes forward.
"If Mr. Kuchma cares about Ukraine's survival as an independent democratic state, he must take responsibility for his actions and hand over his duties to the Prime Minister ... pending the results of the investigation," Soros said in the letter.
According to Soros, an objective investigation into Gongadze’s murder and other crimes that Kuchma has been accused of was not realistic unless Kuchma stepped aside and allowed the investigation to go forward.
Audio recordings made secretly in Kuchma’s office appear to implicate the president in engineering Gongadze’s disappearance, in addition to other alleged criminal acts.
Soros also said that Kuchma's recent letter to the Financial Times showed that Kuchma "takes any opportunity to lash out at his opponents."
"If Mr. Kuchma remains recalcitrant, continues to harass political opponents and the media and drags his feet on the investigation, he risks relegating Ukraine to the same fate as neighboring Belarus..." Soros said.
In his letter Soros recalled his last meeting with Kuchma. Soros said he was "taken aback by the president's scathing, virulent remarks about Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine's prime minister, and Yulia Tymoshenko, the former deputy prime minister."
"And later I found myself in the uncomfortable position of urging Mr. Yushchenko to accommodate the president," Soros wrote.
George Soros heads the Open Society Institute, which has held several philanthropic programs in Ukraine in the past few years.
Soros also pointed out in the letter that he had been deeply involved in Ukraine by trying to help it make the transition from a closed to an open society by creating the Ukrainian Renaissance Foundation and giving Ukraine more than $100 million in support.
Read the full text of Soros’s letter published by the Financial Times at http://navigation.helper.realnames.com/framer/1/1/default.asp?realname=Financial+Times&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eft%2Ecom&frameid=1&providerid=1&uid=30013336
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