Soros Conference Goes Ahead in Crimea after President Intervenes


UNIAN news agency, Kiev
30 Mar 04

An international conference attended by financier George Soros has
opened in Crimea as planned a day after it was reported that the
proposed venue had withdrawn permission for the event. President
Leonid Kuchma reportedly issued an order for the conference to go
ahead in the Livadiya palace. On his arrival in Crimea on 29 March,
Soros said that Kuchma’s administration was behind the problems with
the venue. His comments came after allegations that the Ukrainian
government is waging a smear campaign in the media against Soros, a
prominent critic of the Ukrainian government. The following is the
text of a report by Ukrainian news agency UNIAN:

Simferopol, 30 March: An international conference on human rights has
opened in the Livadiya palace (in Yalta) with the well-known US
financier and philanthropist George Soros in attendance, the director
of the programme “Integration of deported Crimean Tatars, Armenians,
Greeks and Germans into Ukrainian society” (which is funded by Soros’s
Renaissance Foundation), Oleh Smyrnov, has told journalists. He said
that in the early hours of 30 March President Leonid Kuchma issued an
order on making the palace available to hold the conference.

More than 100 people are taking part including representatives of the
authorities, the deputy heads of the Crimean Council of Ministers,
Edip Hafarov and Volomymyr Kazarin, as well as representatives of

The schedule for Soros’s visit to Crimea today includes working
meetings with representatives of NGOs and of Crimea’s ethnic groups,
including Crimean Tatars at the Hasprynskyy library in Simferopol.

Soros will talk to journalists before flying to Kiev today.

(Smyrnov said on 29 March that the administration of the Livadiya
palace had withdrawn permission to hold the conference on a
“ridiculous pretext” even though the venue had already been paid
for. He said that a civil-defence exercise was held at the palace on
29 March, after which civil-defence services closed the palace to the
public until 1 April.)