Addressing the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Victor Yushchenko has said there is no time to put off the solution of the land problem in Crimea.

In his speech, the President said the government lacked political determination and will to tackle one of Crimea’s most pressing problems, the president press office informs.

“We have not yet developed and approved land procedures for the southern coast of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. We can organize anice tour to show who owns these Crimean lands and whose projects are being carried out on the coast,” he said.

President Yushchenkocriticized the central government and the Crimean authorities for failing to implement his decisions and commands. He saidsome government officials obviously used the land problem to makeunreasonable profits.

“The government finds it profitable to do it. It is directly involved in it, its interests are there,” he said, adding that such delays resulted in illegal misappropriation and allotment of valuable coastal lands,particularly those used for recreation or to preserve wildlife.

He said no land bills and mechanisms of evaluating damage inflicted on land had been developed. Victor Yushchenko also said the government had not yet subordinated the State Inspection for the Use and Protection of Lands to Ukraine’s Environmental Ministry.

The Head of State called onthe governmentto give land to the deported Tatars. He opined: "No one can claim there is no land in Crimea to resolve this problem. Crimea has no order to resolve it.”

He also said the Tatars were seizing fewer lands than other nationalities.

At a press conference after the NSDCU meeting, Victor Yushchenko stated that the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine will quarterly monitor the land problem in Crimea to see whether the local authorities and the central government can solve it.

The President is convinced the current situation in Crimea shows that “the state has not controlled the issue over the past few years.” He bitterly admitted that the peninsula had lost a third of its wildlife preserves, while the number of land seizures exceeded 8,500. Given the fact that most of these lands have not been seized by the Tatars, he reproached to local government for poor control.

Victor Yushchenko believes their major fault is the inability to inventory the lands and formulate a proper position on land resources.

“Today’s meeting was not aimed at developing a series of new decisions but focused on resuming the implementation of the relevant decisions that we discussed nine months ago. We will quarterly monitor the implementation of these decisions,” he said.

The meeting also focused on Crimea’s language and education problems. There are about 600 schools in the autonomy, 93% of them Russian, with only 50% of Russian residents. There are 25% and 15% of Ukrainians and Tatars, with only seven and fifteen national schools, respectively. Mr. Yushchenko said the government should consider the public interest when solving this problem.

“I would like to assure you that the reason of these intentions was our desire to give the young generation a chance to enjoy access to several languages without creatingany antagonistic tendencieswhich could spark language conflicts,” he said. “I do not want to politicize these issues. […] I do not want my government to be accused of failing to help children of different nationalities to have access to language learning through various language programs,” he said, adding that the same approach was used in all the regions with such a problem.

The Head of State said the Council had also decided to provide two thousand scholarships to teenagers representing Crimea’s national minorities.

They also discussed ways to preserve the republic’s cultural heritage. Having referred to a recent ethnic conflict in Bakhchisaray, President Yushchenko said such arguments should be resolved quickly and effectively.

“So we emphasized the necessity to develop a political dialogue with different nationalities. I appreciate the ideas proposed by Crimea's ethnic groupsto stabilize the republic, and not only during the high season. We really want to see Crimea stable,” he said.

The participants discussed economic programs to develop the region, particularly transit projects to improve the region’s financial stability and create jobs. They said the existing center-to-region budget mechanism “is faulty and results in the non-transparent use of budget funds.”

“The President and his government understand that Crimea poses a particular challenge. This territory is influenced by a number of, perhaps, non-standard factors, and, considering them, the center must formulate unique policies for this region,” he said.

Responding the reporters’ questions, Victor Yushchenko told that the National Security and Defense Council had discussed defense and security provisions of next year’s budget and ways to reduce Ukraine’s armed forces.

“People transferred to the reserve should be paid sufficient compensations, and the state should also provide them with alternative jobs,” he said.

The President said the budget should focus on the development needs of enterprises producing military equipment, communication devices and weapons, which is one of the key clauses of the 2007 financial plan.

The participants of the meeting also spoke about financial means of managing military property.

Victor Yushchenko also said Ukraine had enough financial resources to build more houses for army officers.

Focusing on NATO issue, Victor Yushchenko has told reporters that Ukraine plans to join the NATO Membership Action Plan first and then consider the possibility of joining NATO.

“I do not want the country to plunge into a senseless discussion about NATO. The question is whether Ukraine is ready to proceed to another level of its cooperation with NATO, which is called ‘Joining the NATO Membership Action Plan’,” he said.

The Head of State called on politicians that are actively commenting on Ukraine’s NATO membership “not to tell lies in order to preserve the purity of the political discussion,” for Ukraine’s position is clear. He said the Law on the Fundamentals of National Security stipulated our country’s membership in the European Union and NATO, and there were also a few decisions by the National Security and Defense Councilon the fundamentals of Ukraine’s defense policy.

“Today, too many politicians have stepped on the path of controlled destabilization, speculatively using things that have nothing in common with the national strategy and our agenda, and so I see no possibility and no logic in changing the foreign course in this area,” he said.


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