Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 44

On March 3, the private Ukrainian television channel STV appealed on the air to President Kuchma and the parliament to defend its journalists, citing several recent events involving its employees. In the morning of March 3, unknown assailants broke into the apartment of STV legal department head, Dmytro Dakhno. Threatening Dakhno and his wife with knife and clubs, the assailants turned the apartment upside down, but did not take any valuables. On March 1, an unexplained fire broke in the basement under the apartment of STV director, Mykola Knyazhytsky. The fire inflicted material damage, but Knyazhytsky was not injured. Earlier, Knyazhytsky’s assistant, former officer of special services, Oleksandr Deyneko, had reportedly warned Knyazhytsky that his phones were tapped and he was shadowed by unknown persons, and promised to investigate. On February 23, Deyneko was gunned down on his doorstep (STV, March 3; Den, March 3-4).

Dakhno and Knyazhytsky suggested that the incidents were connected in an earlier STV report, which apparently traced ties between Ukrainian Credit Bank and one of Kyiv’s criminal gangs. STV also suggested yesterday that it stood in the way of “certain oligarchs” close to the seat of power. No names were given, but the report was accompanied by a video showing parliament deputy Oleksandr Volkov, President Kuchma’s long-time close adviser and owner of Hravis TV. Also yesterday, independent MPs Hryhory Omelchenko and Anatoly Yermak initiated the parliamentary appeal for the Prosecutor General’s Office to intervene into the events surrounding STV. Earlier, Omelchenko, a former highly placed official in the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), had accused Volkov of money-laundering Belgian accounts (STV, March 3; see the Monitor, December 14, 1998). Omelchenko’s independent investigation was instrumental in indicting former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko for embezzlement and money-laundering.

Knyazhytsky, who founded STV, became president of the State Television Company of Ukraine (STCU) last fall. He was fired by Kuchma in November for reasons relating to company personnel policy. Knyazhytsky then claimed that the real reason behind his dismissal was his request for a business audit of the company. Knyazhytsky accused state TV bosses of siphoning advertisement money from the 1st National Channel to Hravis (see the Monitor, November 19, 1998; Kievskie vedomosti, November 20, 1998). Deyneko had reportedly been involved in checking STCU activities.

A scandal apparently involving Volkov is also developing around another private channel, ICTV. A weekly news analysis program by independent producer Mykola Kanishevsky was unexpectedly withheld from broadcast on February 28. In a newspaper interview, Kanishevsky said the program was axed because “a new boss came to the channel.” He insinuated that Volkov was that executive. Volkov, when reached for comment, denied any involvement (Den, March 2, Segodnya, March 3). Under Ukrainian law, a parliamentary deputy may not be involved in any commercial activities.

The developments around Volkov may seriously affect the presidential campaign in casting a shadow on Kuchma, who is now busy building his image as a fighter against corruption. Volkov, one of the organizers of Kuchma’s successful campaign in 1994, has been widely expected to help him again. –OV