Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 106

President Leonid Kuchma ismoving decisively to restore state authority and curb organized crime in theregion and city of Odessa. In recent days, Kuchma has used his legal powersto appoint an acting mayor in the city, as well as replacing the head of theregion’s administration.

The region and the city had long been troubled by conflicts among criminalgroups, as well as between city mayor Eduard Gurvits and the regional headof administration, Ruslan Bodelan. The conflicts culminated in a series ofassassinations and in acts of defiance of state security bodies in therun-up to the recent parliamentary elections (see the Monitor, June 1).

Gurvits was considered closely linked to organized crime. His presence atthe head of the city became incompatible with Kyiv’s plans to develop theport of Odessa as a major terminal for Caspian oil and a way station on theplanned corridor Europe-Caucasus-Central Asia. Bodelan, for his part,typified the regional potentates who took advantage of Kuchma’s precariouselectoral situation in order to force him into opportunistic deals. Aleftist and a Soviet-era holdover, Bodelan had bought immunity for himselfby promising to deliver votes to the presidential camp.

Gurvits won reelection as mayor on March 29, but the election was foundflawed and was invalidated in the courts. Kuchma has appointed MykolaBiloblotsky, a Deputy Prime Minister in the Kyiv government, to serveconcurrently as acting mayor of Odessa, pending a repeat mayoral election.Kuchma has also, in a parallel move, transferred the deputy head of thepresidential administration, Serhiy Hrinevetsky, to the post of head ofadministration of Odessa region. (UNIAN, May 27-28)