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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Ministry of Foreign Affairs promises payment for the Tu-154 incident next year

29 October, 2002 - 00:00

“We are speeding up negotiations so that relatives of those lost in the air catastrophe over the Black Sea can receive compensation in the coming fiscal year,” State Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs Oleksandr Chaly announced on October 22. At that time the second round of two weeks of consultations came to end between the Ukrainian and Israeli delegations on this question. According to both sides the meetings proved to be sufficiently productive. In particular, the diplomats discussed the text of a future Ukrainian-Israeli bilateral agreement setting the formula for compensation payments.

Neither Chaly nor Alan Baker, who heads the Israeli delegation, mentioned anything about total compensation. Earlier, Kyiv announced that the payment would be equal for the Russians and the Israelis. It is well known that during the last round of talks this question arose again. Meanwhile, however, according to Chaly, it is inappropriate to speak of anything specific. Both countries hope to reach a clear agreement on this occasion during the next round of consultations to be held in late November in Jerusalem. Mr. Baker expressed hope that this round “would be the last.” Yet. nothing is really known about the agreement, which will regulate the future payment of compensation insofar as the document is at the preparatory stage. The day before the last talks it was announced that Kyiv intends to suggest to Tel Aviv “concrete juridical mechanisms to regulate questions of compensation payments” for the relatives of those who died in the Tu-154 incident. Evidently, all compensation procedures will be ordered in the schedule for the signing of the document. In the coming weeks Ukrainian experts are to arrive in Israel who together with Israeli colleagues will “complete work on the text,” while during the Jerusalem meeting the leaders of the delegation are to sign the agreement.

Thus with payment to the Israelis, everything is more or less clarified. Meanwhile the situation regarding the compensation of Russian citizens remains foggy. Russia has held talks on two levels; with Tel Aviv on a bilateral political level, as well as on a judicial level. On the one hand a Russian government delegation exists. On the other, according to information from the Russian press, twelve suits from families of the deceased crew and thirty suits from relatives of passengers have now been filed in Ukraine. The judicial hearing of just one case, that of the family of teenager Valery Laptev, has taken place. The respondent and the Ukrainian Minister for Defense moved for a continuance of the case pending the announcement of the definitive results of the investigation of the catastrophe by the Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office. For this reason the Laptev case has been postponed twice. One can understand the Russian side completely. Since the destruction of the plane by the Ukrainian rocket more than a year has passed, while visible results in the case of compensation have not been reached. On this occasion, incidentally, the relatives of the passengers appealed to Russian General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov on October 21. They requested a criminal case be opened concerning the murder of 78 people by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defenses, as they believe that Ukraine has deliberately procrastinated on any decision to pay compensation. One can understand the Ukrainian side, although at a distance. Maybe there is no money. Maybe somehow the Russian side is to blame in that for a long time it did not hand over lists of relatives of the deceased. However, this is not always the occasion for an announcement like that which Minister for Defense Vladimir Shkidchenko made at the beginning of this month about the need to wait for the conclusion of the investigation. It is clear that such an investigation is necessary. And undoubtedly it is not only Kyiv that is interested in its results. However it is worth remembering the results of the Ukrainian commission’s investigation into the cause of the catastrophe of the Tu-154 plane, which was published December 28, 2001, that is to say, they must have been a starting point for talks. In other case the compensation consultations will appear, as Russia asserts, drawn out.

Meanwhile the situation appears different in Kyiv. During a meeting with the press on Tuesday, Oleksandr Chaly actually noted increased progress in the talks and the discussion of concrete questions. Incidentally, next month, as he put it, a Ukrainian-Russian consultation is slated on compensation payments. It is possible that they will dispel suspicions regarding Ukraine’s procrastination. The leader of the Israeli delegation, incidentally, thanked his Ukrainian colleagues for “the positive atmosphere created during the talks.” He noted that during the last round of consultations a representative of the General Prosecutor’s Office was heard about the progress in the investigation of the air catastrophe. On his part, Chaly expressed gratitude to the Israeli side for its determination “to settle the situation at an intergovernmental level, not running to judicial suits.”

By Serhiy SOLODKY, The Day