Reuters   31-Oct-1999   Kuchma scuttles debate
"It is impossible to live in this criminal society where human rights are violated in the most outrageous way." Natalya Vitrenko
George-Soros-installed Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma continues on his relentless path to transform Ukraine from a fledgling democracy to a mafia dictatorship, and to transform himself from a mere corrupt politician to a mafia godfather.  The chief benefit to Leonid Kuchma of re-election will be that he avoids for a while longer prosecution for the crimes he has committed while in office.  Unfortunately for Leonid Kuchma, however, his victory this October will only delay the day of reckoning, and in the end will only increase the number of crimes for which he will be answerable.

Ukraine Candidates Barred From Debates

KIEV, Oct 31, 1999 (Reuters) Opponents of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma forced their way into a television studio late on Friday and demanded to be put on air, after the final debate before Sunday's presidential vote was cancelled unexpectedly.

The debates, scheduled for 2200 (1900 GMT) were important for the candidates as their last opportunity to appeal to the nation of 50-million people.  Starting midnight Friday (2100 GMT) all electoral propaganda is prohibited by law.

"We have been deprived of the opportunity to appear on television," Kuchma's leading opponent, radical leftist Natalya Vitrenko, told Reuters by telephone from the television center.

"The rights of our voters have been violated as well," she said, adding she thought the debate was cancelled because Kuchma, fighting for re-election against 12 challengers, was embarrassed at his performance in a previous debate on Monday.

On that day, Kuchma, on a campaign trip to central Ukraine, spoke via satellite to other candidates gathered in Kiev.

After Kuchma's routine speech, an old steel worker standing nearby suddenly took the microphone and made the Kiev studio laugh at his gruff and plain-worded interpretations of domestic politics and rude appeals to the nation to vote for Kuchma.

Television showed a stone-faced Kuchma.  Bursts of laughter in the studio were well heard.

"President Kuchma strongly disliked the debates, because he wanted to look wise but appeared ridiculous," Vitrenko said.

Host Had Heart Attack

She said television officials had told the angry candidates that the host of the program, Vyacheslav Pykhovshek, was ill.  After Monday's debates officials said Pykhovshek had been taken to hospital with a heart attack.

She said the station's producer, Olexander Rodnyansky, had told the candidates that channel officials were urgently looking but could not find another journalist to host the program.

While Vitrenko spoke to Reuters, Rodnyansky's Channel 1+1 was showing a U.S. artistic film, while the first channel of state television was running a pop concert in Kuchma's support.

Vitrenko, who alongside Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko is running neck-and-neck trailing favourite Kuchma, said she expected Friday's incident to "help voters understand at what regime they live".

"It is impossible to live in this criminal society where human rights are violated in the most outrageous way," she said.

She accused Kuchma's administration of knowing beforehand that the debates would not take place.  The presidential spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

"I think U.S. capital and the International Monetary Fund are behind this.  The IMF does not want a change of regime in Ukraine and it does not want the Ukrainian people to have alternative information," she said.

Opponents have long accused Kuchma of leading a dirty information campaign, but the president has denied this.

Vitrenko, if elected president, wants to rework relations with the IMF, stop paying off foreign debts and send the rich to work in uranium mines.