RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 1, No. 6, 29 June 1999

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

POLAND KEEN TO KEEP UKRAINE WITHIN EUROPEAN HORIZON. The visit of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to Poland from 24- 26 June was not marked by the signing of some important state agreements, but nevertheless reflected a special significance that both countries attribute to their bilateral relations. Since Ukraine gained independence in 1991, Poland has been especially interested in pulling this former Soviet republic into the Western sphere of influence.

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski assured his Ukrainian counterpart that Poland wants to keep visa-free traffic on its border with Ukraine even after it becomes an EU member.

Kwasniewski and Kuchma agreed on cooperation in the Kosova peacekeeping mission and pledged to send a joint battalion to the Serbian province.

Both presidents also stressed the need to boost trade and investment between the two countries. In 1998 trade dropped to $1.46 billion from $1.62 billion in 1997. In the first quarter of this year trade fell to $71.2 million from $213.2 million in the first quarter of 1998. Polish investment in Ukraine totals some $400 million while Ukrainian investment in Poland is negligible. According to Polish Economy Minister Janusz Steinhoff, the largest barriers in bilateral trade include red tape, the lack of food certification procedures, frequently changed customs duties, the lack of suitable credit and finance systems of guarantees and insurance, and insufficient infrastructure at the border.

Both countries are also interested in developing the national identity and culture of their minorities: Ukrainian in Poland and Polish in Ukraine. During his meeting with Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek, Kuchma supported the Polish initiative to launch a Polish-language radio station in Lviv.

Polish-Ukrainian relations still remain overshadowed by the memory of atrocities committed by both sides in ethnic cleansing during World War II (in Volhynia and Galicia) and thereafter ("Operation Vistula" in communist Poland). In an effort to highlight positive moments in their common history, the two presidents participated in the unveiling of a monument to Ukrainian soldiers who fought on the Polish side and fell in the 1920 Polish-Bolshevik war. "Glory to the heroes in the struggle against [our] common enemy," Kwasniewski said during the ceremony.

Kwasniewski made it clear that he would like to see Kuchma as the winner of the 31 October presidential elections in Ukraine. "I hope that the great [reform] effort of President Kuchma will be appreciated by the voters," he said after their meeting on 24 June.


KUCHMA SAYS HIS PRESIDENCY MEANS CONTINUED REFORMS. Excerpts from an interview of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma with RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 22 June:

RFE/RL: How do you assess your chances in the presidential elections?
Kuchma: I am convinced of my victory. That is why I am running. In the current situation a change of political course would be fatal for Ukraine. I see my duty in continuing what I began in 1994. There is simply no other way for Ukraine. This is the main motive behind my struggle for the presidential post.

RFE/RL: It is no secret that the overwhelming majority of media in Ukraine have been unofficially made inaccessible to other presidential candidates. What is your comment? Kuchma: We have more than 8,000 print media in Ukraine. And more than 1,000 television companies. All of them are private or, one can say, non-state media. It is no secret to anybody than many of [my rivals in the presidential race] have their own private media. The president has no such media. If one looks closer at the media, one will see at once who possesses this or that newspaper or this or that channel. Thus, I absolutely disagree [with your opinion].

RFE/RL: What were your main achievements during your presidential term?
Kuchma: Let us recall the year 1994 when inflation in the country reached 10,600 percent. Coupons [the Ukrainian currency at that time--edit.] were lying scattered on the streets, having no value at all. Production in the country came virtually to a halt. Now let us look [at the situation] today or in 1998. Our currency has been stable for several years. If it had not been for the global and Russian crises, we would have seen serious improvements in our economy. I can also judge [on my achievements] by the trust of foreign investors who have gradually begun investing in our economy, even though not to the extent I would want. But reasons for that are understandable. All [investors] are waiting for political and legislative stability. And the main thing--they want to be sure that Ukraine's course is irreversible. I am not going to mention privatization, though most of the national product is produced today not by state-owned but private enterprises. ...A zone of stability has been created around the country. I have in mind such fateful treaties as those with Russia, Poland, or Romania. Ukraine today is known in the world; its opinion is taken into account to some extent. ...

TKACHENKO CLAIMS TO LIVE MODESTLY ON MARXISM AND WOMEN. Excerpts from an interview of Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko with the 19 June "Zerkalo nedeli":

"We consider it unfair and even dangerous to keep Ukraine out of the European perspective." -- Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk in Budapest on 21 June at the NATO-sponsored conference on how to ensure stability in the Balkans.

"The Russians Seized the Fleet but Gave Back Sevastopol." -- Headline in the 22 June, Kyiv-based "Segodnya," commenting on the recent ratification of the Russian-Ukrainian agreements on the Black Sea Fleet by the Russian State Duma.

"I am an opponent of the presidency in Ukraine. In accordance with the current constitution, the president personally may issue edicts, appoint government [members] and judges, control [the] media, and be the supreme commander. This is the usurpation of power. I am seeking this post only because there is no other way to change the existing political system. There should be the supremacy of law in the state, the entire authority should belong to the soviets." -- Natalya Vitrenko, chairwoman of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine and a presidential candidate, in the 22 June "Nezavisimaya gazeta."

"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.

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT LAMBASTES PARLIAMENT FOR POPULISM. Leonid Kuchma said on national television on 28 June that the Supreme Council "is turning into an instrument of political fighting in which open demagoguery and populism have become usual tricks," ITAR-TASS reported. He added that this trend has become particularly evident since the onset of the presidential election campaign. Speaking on the third anniversary of the adoption of the Ukrainian Constitution, Kuchma noted that most problems in Ukraine arise from the "improper implementation" of the basic law. He gave himself credit for issuing economic decrees over the past three years to address economic problems not covered by laws. The 120 decrees or so that he signed have helped "to soften the blow delivered by the world financial crisis to the country's economy and create the basis for its steady economic growth," he argued. JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS RALLY TO DEMAND WAGE PAYMENT, KUCHMA'S OUSTER. Only some 1,000 communist supporters gathered in Kyiv on 28 June (Constitution Day) to demand the payment of pension and wage arrears and the resignation of the incumbent president. It had been expected that as many as 15,000 would take part in the rally. One of the placards at the protest read "Kuchma, the guarantor of genocide," a taunting reference to the constitutional provision pronouncing the president "the guarantor of the constitution." JM