RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 1, No. 5, 22 June 1999

A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Staff of "RFE/RL Newsline"


Suicides In Donbas Attributed To Economic Hardships. The number of suicides in Donbas, Ukraine's coal-mining region, has exceeded 700 since the beginning of the year, the Moscowbased "Segodnya" reported on 17 June. Sociologists suggest that the reason for most suicides is the depressive feeling on the part of victims that they have no prospects for the future and thus there is no reason to live.

According to the newspaper, the Ukrainian government, urged by the IMF to restructure the coal-mining sector, has brought about an "enormous disintegration" of the coal-mining industry in Donbas. "[Closed] mines have been flooded with water, hundreds of thousands of people have lost jobs and fled the region, mining towns are becoming empty, and the remaining residents pull down public buildings for firewood in [the] winter," "Segodnya" reported.

The report said there have remained only women and children in the towns of Stakhanov and Teplohorsk, while all the men have gone to Russia to earn money. A three-room apartment in Stakhanov can be bought for mere $200, while in Teplohorsk it is even cheaper and costs only $100. Long lines for bread that is distributed free of charge to povertystricken residents are a common sight in those towns, "Segodnya" noted.

Luhansk Will Develop According To Its Own Program. The government on 14 June approved a program of social and economic development of Luhansk Oblast for 1999-2000, InfoBank reported. According to the 12 June "Region," the program was worked out by "several dozens of [scientific] institutes" and a "host of government structures" and may be viewed as a model development plan for other Ukrainian regions as well. The newspaper said the program gives local authorities more levers of economic and financial control in the oblast. In particular, the oblast administration will take control of a number of enterprises that have so far been managed by Kyiv ministries.

As part of the program, the government postponed until 2005 the repayment of some 1.9 billion hryvni ($480 million) granted to the oblast as a commodity credit. The oblast administration was also obliged to draft an energy-saving program, providing for a twofold reduction of the oblast's energy-intensive production sector and services until 2010 and a 22 percent decrease in its gas consumption in 1999.

Poltava Oblast Becomes Subsidized. "In recent years Poltava Oblast was a net contributor [to the state budget], one of the very few in the country, but beginning this year it has been forcibly made a subsidized oblast," Poltava Oblast Council Oleksandr Poliyevets complained to the 16 June "Holos Ukrayiny." That change in the oblast's financial situation followed the government's decision to reduce the oblast budget's share of taxes collected locally. Thus, the oblast deduction from the income tax paid by state-owned enterprises was lowered from 70 percent to 50 percent; the share in the income tax paid by municipal enterprises was reduced from 100 percent to 50 percent; the share in the excise tax imposed on domestic commodities shrank from 20 percent to 10 percent. Poliyevets also complained that Kyiv takes all proceeds from the oblast's gas and oil extracting companies, while giving back only a "tiny bit" that in no way covers the costs of extraction.

"A regime of banditocracy has become firmly established in Ukraine." -- Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz in his party newspaper "Tovarysh" on 17 June.

"RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report" is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.

U.S., EU PLEDGE HELP IN FUNDING UKRAINE'S ENERGY SECTOR. In a joint statement after talks in Bonn on 21 June, U.S. President Bill Clinton, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and European Commission President Jacques Santer stressed their commitment to help Ukraine obtain funds for its energy sector as compensation for closing the Chornobyl nuclear plant, dpa reported. The statement, however, did not mention any new grants or credits. The three leaders called on Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to push forward with reforms, including the privatization of large industries and reforms in the agricultural and energy sectors. The statement also stressed the need to ensure free and fair presidential elections and to protect media freedom in Ukraine. JM

LUZHKOV ACCUSES OLIGARCHS OF CARVING UP THE MEDIA. In a speech to the first World Congress of the Russian Press on 21 June, Moscow Mayor and likely presidential contender Yurii Luzhkov accused the country's so-called oligarchs of carving up media outlets into spheres of influence. He said that oligarchic capital "wants to have its own press and influence it through financial methods," Interfax reported. Luzhkov also called the pressure of state authorities and large financial groups on mass media unacceptable and expressed concern about the decreasing number of Russian-language publications in the CIS, particularly Ukraine. "They have a right to get information in their own language," he said. On the same day, Unified Energy Systems chairman Anatolii Chubais denied reports that his company had provided $12.5 million to the publishers of "Kommersant-Daily" to reduce the company's debts, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC