Computer Crime Research Center


U.S. Rejects Russia Assertion on Ukraine

Date: December 08, 2004
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: By George Gedda, Associated Press Writer

SOFIA, Bulgaria - Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) rejected on Tuesday Russian charges of Western political manipulation in Ukraine's electoral process and suggested that Moscow was acting in bad faith by retaining military forces in Georgia and Moldova. He also criticized Russia for curbing press freedom.

Powell addressed the 55-nation Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe after hearing Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggest the West was interested in a power grab in Ukraine, where a recent presidential runoff election was derided by OSCE (news - web sites) monitors as fraudulent.

Hours later, Powell told a group of Bulgarian students that U.S.-Russian sparring over Ukraine and other problems does not foreshadow a return of the Cold War.

"We have good relations with Russia," Powell said. If the situation were otherwise, he said, the two sides would not be able to talk candidly with one another.

Separately, after Powell spoke, Lavrov issued a statement that acknowledged not everything always runs smoothly between the two countries. "But we have achieved a level of partnership when we discuss all of these problems openly," he said, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

The two men held a 30-minute one-on-one meeting after their speeches.

In his address, Powell took Russia to task for alleged violations of an international treaty by failing to acquire agreement from Georgia and Moldova, both former Soviet republics, to the continued deployment of forces in the two countries.

"Russia's commitments to withdraw military forces from Moldova, and to agree with Georgia on the duration of the Russian military presence there, remain unfulfilled," he said. According to U.S. estimates, Russia has 1,400 to 1,500 troops in Moldova and 5,000 to 6,000 in Georgia.

As for the state of democracy inside Russia, Powell said the United States is bothered by developments "affecting freedom of the press and the rule of law." U.S. officials have been particularly concerned about the absence of independent television news outlets in Russia.

Despite such disagreements, the Bush administration seldom takes Moscow to task publicly, so Powell's decision to cite three areas of conflict in his speech was something of a departure.

For Powell, the OSCE was a good forum for discussing the situation in Ukraine. The organization sent 500 monitors to Ukraine for the disputed Nov. 21 presidential runoff election.

During the two-day OSCE ministerial meeting in Bulgaria's capital, delegates agreed to dispatch monitors — perhaps as many as 1,000 — for a Dec. 26 revote in Ukraine. It will again match the pro-Russian prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, against the West-leaning former prime minister, Viktor Yushchenko. Russia enthusiastically supported Yanukovych's candidacy and reacted angrily to the OSCE's fraud charges.

Lavrov said the OSCE cannot be trusted to monitor elections in good faith. "We must avoid the ever more deleterious practice of double standards in evaluating electoral processes. We mustn't allow the OSCE monitoring to be turned into a political instrument," he said.

"In the absence of any objective criteria, monitoring of election processes becomes and instrument of political manipulation and a factor for destabilization."

Minutes later, Powell struck back, albeit gently. Without mentioning Russia by name, he said, "some countries have recently argued" that OSCE monitoring activities constitute interference in internal affairs, the OSCE has double standards, and the OSCE has concentrated efforts in the former Soviet republics for political reasons.

"I emphatically disagree," Powell said, noting that the organization's rules support fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law.

At a joint news conference with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy before his speech, Powell denied that the West was playing sphere of influence games in Ukraine in the name of democracy.

"The people of Ukraine are playing democracy in the name of freedom," he said. He added that the people of Ukraine are saying: "We want free, fair and open elections."

Clearly, Russian authorities do not wish Ukraine to go the way of Bulgaria, which has become a bastion of pro-American, pro-NATO (news - web sites) and pro-European Union (news - web sites) sentiment after spending almost all of the latter half of the last century as one of Moscow's most faithful Warsaw Pact allies.

In Washington, Sen. Richard Lugar (news, bio, voting record), R-Ind., who served as President Bush (news - web sites)'s envoy to the Nov. 21 runoff vote, said that without procedural changes, "I do not believe that the Ukrainian people will have confidence in the integrity of the election process."

"Worse yet, they may be doomed to witness a repeat of the fraud and abuse that were apparent in the previous rounds of voting," Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told House International Relations Committee.

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