(Washington) - United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) today expressed concern about the current political crisis in Ukraine, sparked by revelations on secretly recorded tapes implicating the involvement of President Kuchma and high government officials in the case of murdered journalist Georgiy Gongadze.
Chairman Campbell met today with the former Speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Oleksander Moroz, who first released the tapes to the Rada on November 28, 2000.
“Given the importance of our relationship with Ukraine, I am extremely concerned about the direction in which Ukraine may be heading,” Campbell said. “Reports of pervasive, high level corruption, the controversial conduct of the government in the investigation of the Gongadze case and a pattern of harassment of media are raising legitimate questions regarding Ukraine’s commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”
“I am especially troubled about rampant corruption in Ukraine at all levels, which has had such a debilitating impact on ordinary people and discourages valuable foreign investment,” Campbell added. “The political leadership of Ukraine needs to undertake concentrated efforts to root out corruption, which, if allowed to fester further, could undermine Ukraine’s democratic development as an independent state.”
The State Department Annual Human Rights Country Report on Ukraine released earlier this week cites a mixed human rights record and notes the failure to curb institutional corruption and abuse in the Ukrainian Government.
Chairman Campbell expressed the hope that the Ukrainian Government would resolve the Gongadze investigation in a serious, transparent manner that might restore confidence in its credibility. Campbell also urged the Ukranian Government to have a genuine dialogue with the opposition and encouraged the use of constitutional, democratic means to resolve the current crisis in a manner consistent with Ukraine’s OSCE commitments, including the right to peaceful protest.
The Helsinki Commission Chairman recalled President Bush’s remarks in Tuesday’s Address to Congress, where the President stated that: “Nations making progress toward freedom will find America is their friend.”
“A decade after independence, Ukraine’s progress has stalled,” Campbell observed. “For freedom to flourish, Ukrainians will have to overcome the legacy of corruption that continues to plague their nation and hold them back from reaching their potential.”