Spy claims hitKuchma Berlin visit
20 February 2004
BERLIN – The Ukraine’s President Leonid Kuchma defended his democratic credentials Friday and lashed out at a former KGB general who defected to Germany after allegedly being ordered to spy on Ukrainian opposition leaders.
“I am not a czar,” said Kuchma, speaking at a news briefing with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Kuchma, who has led Ukraine since 1994, recently announced he will not seek a third term in office despite being legal under a revamped constitution.
Saying the presidency could not be passed on as in a dynasty, Kuchma said there would be elections in the Ukraine this October.
The government in Kiev however has not decided whether to downgrade the post-Kuchma presidency to a more ceremonial office – like in Germany – with critics fearing the office could be dominated by Kuchma loyalists.
Schroeder said he discussed both constitutional models with Kuchma during talks while underlining it would be up to the Ukrainian people to decide.
Ukrainian leaders have been criticized in recent years by the European Union and the United States over media freedom and issues concerning the rule of law.
Schroeder said Berlin wanted a Ukraine which was free, democratic and governed by the rule of law – but did not make any direct criticism of Kiev.
A German official said Ukraine had come under enough diplomatic pressure in recent years and the purpose of today’s meeting was to promote reform by offering a carrot.
This Schroeder did by pledging that Ukraine would soon be formally recognised as a market economy nation by the EU and that Berlin would support Ukrainian World Trade Organisation membership.
German officials also signed two agreements with Kiev on business management training and economic cooperation.
Kuchma responded by giving Schroeder two albums of 17th century etchings taken as war booty from Dresden by Soviet forces following Nazi Germany’s defeat in 1945.
A delighted Schroeder posed for photographers with the etchings and vowed to return them immediately to the Dresden museum from which they came.
But the meeting was overshadowed by the defection Thursday of a former Soviet KGB general who served as intelligence chief at the Ukrainian embassy in Germany.
Valeri Kravchenko, an employee of the Ukrainian SBU intelligence bureau and 30-year veteran of the former Soviet Union’s KGB, accused the Kuchma government of ordering him to spy on opposition leaders.
Kuchma insisted that Kravchenko had quit because he was about to be sacked.
“A process of a de-KGB-ification is taking place in the Ukraine,” said Kuchma.
“Today the security service is not run by KGB agents,” said the President, adding: “This will play a big role in democratization of the Ukraine.”
Kuchma said his country did not need a spy to keep tabs on opposition figures in Germany because anything they said could be read in the newspapers.
Subject: German news