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06KIEV1111, UKRAINE: IN FAR WESTERN ZAKARPATTYA, LOCAL LEADERS

March 23, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV1111 2006-03-23 04:42 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Kyiv

 

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KIEV 001111 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: IN FAR WESTERN ZAKARPATTYA, LOCAL LEADERS 
EXPECT "OUR UKRAINE" TO WIN ELECTIONS 

(U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Please handle accordingly. 
Not for Internet. 

1. (SBU) Summary.  In March 9 meetings in the far western 
oblast capital Uzhhorod, local government, party and NGO 
representatives noted the relative peace between political 
factions in the oblast and attributed it to Zakarpattya's 
long history of political, cultural, and ethnic diversity. 
All seemed to agree that Our Ukraine would win upcoming local 
elections by a plurality, and that the once-dominant SPDU(o) 
was in decline.  Local government and NGO officials outlined 
the challenges of border security in an oblast that borders 
four nations.  Ambassador raised concerns about alleged 
abuses at the Pavchino illegal migrant detention facility 
with the head of the western division of the State Border 
Guard Service.  Ambassador also toured the Journalism 
Department at Uzhhorod National University, participated in a 
press roundtable with local media, met with representatives 
of a refugee law clinic, and visited a local Windows on 
America center.  End summary. 

Governor says democracy live and well 
------------------------------------- 

2. (SBU) Zakarpattya Oblast State Administration Head Oleh 
Havashi was sanguine in his expectations for democratic 
elections in March.  He highlighted that in Zakarpattya a 
multitude of political parties were expressing their views in 
the media and attributed their fairly peaceful coexistence to 
Zakarpattya's history of diversity.  (Note:  Zakarpattya is 
Ukraine's westernmost oblast, bordering Hungary, Slovakia, 
Romania, and Poland, and has a diverse population of ethnic 
Ukrainians (the majority), significant minorities from 
bordering nations, plus small Roma and German populations. 
Since the 11th century, control of Zakarpattya has rested 
with various powers, including the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 
the Czechoslovak Republic, Hungary, and the Soviet Union). 
Presidentially-appointed "Governor" Havashi expressed belief 
(echoed later by local political scientists and party 
leaders) that President Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc would 
receive the most votes in the oblast, followed by the 
opposition Party of Regions and the pro-government 
Socialists, while the SPDU(o) (note:  the once-powerful party 
of ex-President Kravchuk) would not reach the 3% threshold to 
enter the oblast council. 

3. (SBU) When asked about measures to fix technical problems 
with voter lists and polling station commissions, Havashi 
responded that problems with voter lists were caused by 
computer error and were not deliberate.  Regarding the dearth 
of election commissioners, he noted that commissioners were 
resigning due to a lack of structure in regional political 
party branches in local districts (rayons).  Havashi 
recommended political parties conduct roundtables to find 
solutions to solving this problem. 

Refugee management a problem 
---------------------------- 

4. (SBU) Ambassador raised concerns about smuggling and 
corruption in the oblast and reports of abuses at the 
Pavchino refugee detention facility.  Havashi said that 
combating smuggling was a central government problem, not a 
local problem, and that the situation had improved, partly 
due to coordination meetings with customs, border guards, and 
the security service (SBU).  He expressed belief that the 
Pavchino facility should be closed. 

5. (SBU) Chief of the western regional State Border Guard 
Service (SBGS) office Oleh Valkyv further outlined the 
challenges in a region bordered by several nations, answered 
questions regarding the refoulement of individuals fleeing 
Chechnya, and defended the conditions of the Pavchino 
detention facility, denounced by NGOs as a den of abuse and 
forced labor and raised as an area of concern by the European 
Union.  Valkyv said that the SBGS has been increasing the 
level of cooperation with neighboring nations' border guard 
services.  Valkyv blamed large numbers of illegal border 
crossings on Slovakian laws that easily granted refugee 
status; many illegal migrants, he said, used Slovakia as a 
jumping-off point to other European countries.  When asked 
about the refoulement of Chechen refugees to Russia, Valkyv 
said that Chechens detained at the border who did not claim 
refugee status had to be returned to their country of origin 
pursuant to Ukrainian law, and that almost none requested 
refugee status.  Ambassador expressed hope that the SBGS 
would work with UNHCR to insure Chechens were not being 
forcibly returned to Russia. 

6. (SBU) Ambassador raised the issue of allegations of abuse 
at the Pavchino facility, including forced labor, stealing of 
food and packages, and granting of asylum only to those who 
could pay.  Valkyv denied that any abuses took place at the 
facility, claiming that detainees were fed and received 
supplies from charitable organizations several times a week. 
He emphasized that Pavchino was technically not part of the 
SBGS, but of the local militia, although the SBGS managed the 
facility with the support of local NGOs.  He claimed that 
information regarding the facility had been distorted during 
the recent filming of a documentary program, when detainees, 
upon discovering they were being filmed, removed their warm 
clothing and in
tentionally gave the appearance of being 
poorly clothed and abused. 

7. (U) Volodymyr Navrotsky, Director of the Carpathian Agency 
of Human Rights "Vested," opened a mini-roundtable meeting 
with Ambassador noting that the legal clinic had been a 
leader in refugee and asylum work in Zakarpattya.  The clinic 
is staffed by 15 law students who provide pro bono legal 
services to refugees and asylum seekers under the auspices of 
clinic lawyers.  The clinic enjoys a good relationship with 
immigration services, which refers applicants to their 
center.  Navrotsky mentioned an unwritten rule, prohibiting 
the Immigration Services from granting asylum to applicants 
from Chechnya under the categorical exclusion for terrorists. 
On average, the clinic provided services to 30 refugees a 
month, with summer being the busiest season.  He noted that 
local authorities were helpful in granting access to the 
courts, although favorable decisions to grant asylum tended 
to be given to refugees from Russia, while Middle Eastern and 
Asian refugees were often denied asylum.  Navrotsky noted 
that 30 percent of asylum seekers were refugees from Iran and 
Iraq, 20 percent were from the Russian Federation, mostly 
Chechnya, and the rest come from Afghanistan, Vietnam and 
other countries. 

Lunch with political observers 
------------------------------ 

8. (SBU) Ambassador hosted a lunch attended by Pavlo Chuchka, 
a local businessman and head of a pro-Yushchenko local 
election bloc; Oleksandr Ledida, head of the Party of Regions 
Zakarpattya headquarters; political scientist Viktor 
Pashchenko; Oleksandr Prystaya, head of the local Socialist 
Party; and MP Serhiy Radushnyak, leader of the local Lytvyn 
bloc.  Amid discussion of possible outcomes of the March 26 
parliamentary elections and the decline of the SPDU(o), the 
guests backed Governor Havashi's claim that the various 
groups coexisted peacefully in Zakarpattya.  Lunch guests all 
noted Zakarpattya's history of diversity as contributing to 
the relative peace between political factions. On possible 
election outcomes, Pashchenko noted that despite 
disappointment thus far with President Yushchenko's 
administration, Our Ukraine would win the March 26 vote in 
the oblast by plurality, followed by Party of Regions and 
Tymoshenko's bloc. 

9. (SBU) Ambassador noted that the SPDU(o) had lost a great 
deal of ground in a region where it formerly enjoyed strong 
support.  Pashchenko said that many of the current Our 
Ukraine membership had departed from the SDPU(o), which was a 
significant cause of its decline.  He said that although the 
SDPU(o) had garnered 33% of the vote in the 1998 elections, 
the subsequent governorship of the SDPU(o)'s Ivan Rizak, who 
was widely seen as corrupt and having abused power, and the 
perception locally that the SPDU(o) leadership was solely 
concerned with forwarding their own business interests, had 
caused people to change parties. 

Visits to journalism school, press club, Windows on America 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 

10. (U) At the Uzhhorod journalism school, Ambassador visited 
a studio supported by a Media Fund Grant and met with 
approximately 100 journalism students.  He emphasized the 
importance of freedom of the press and U.S. efforts to 
support free press in Ukraine, as evidenced by the grant that 
made possible the school's production studio that gives 
students hands-on training in broadcast media.  Ambassador 
took questions from audience members, who were particularly 
interested in the repeal of Jackson-Vanik and how that would 
effect trade relations between the U.S. and Ukraine.  At the 
Uzhhorod Press Club, Ambassador participated in a roundtable 
with local media.  At a local Windows on America center, 
Ambassador toured a U.S.-supported computer lab and library. 
Herbst

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