RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 1, No. 7, 13 July 1999

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

TRUCK DRIVERS PROTEST TRAFFIC CLOG AT BELARUSIAN-POLISH BORDER. Some 500 truck drivers on 30 June used their vehicles to block the road to the Kazlovichy checkpoint (Brest Oblast) on the Belarusian-Polish border in a protest against delays in customs controls. The line of vehicles that were forced to wait in the scorching heat on the Belarusian side extended for some 20 kilometers.

Truck drivers have long been dissatisfied with the pace of customs controls on the Polish-Belarusian border. During this latest protest, the drivers also pointed out the lack of basic amenities at the border, such as toilets, water, and shops with food and drinks.

The drivers agreed to end their protest on the road, which is the main route linking Paris and Moscow, after the Belarusian authorities promised to send more customs officers to the checkpoint. Belarusian Television reported the same day that the traffic clog at the Kazlovichy checkpoint started when border officials imposed stricter and longer cargo checks after they discovered that some drivers were attempting to smuggle Ukrainian cigarettes into Poland. However, the next day Belarusian Television blamed Polish customs officers for the traffic jam. "People of different nationalities from [the Commonwealth of Independent States] countries were convinced on the spot of Belarus's authority," one television correspondent said in a comment on how the protest was brought to an end. The reporter added that the reason for the traffic jam should be looked for on the Polish side and suggested that Polish customs officers resorted to a "deliberate provocation in order to pressure our services." Reporting on similar traffic jams on the border in May, Belarusian Television blamed NATO for ordering Poland's customs services to impede traffic from Belarus.

Belapan on 2 July drew attention to other dangers lurking at the Kazlovichy checkpoint: the previous night unidentified perpetrators cut canvases on more than 50 trucks and stole spare wheels and fuel cans from some of them. At least three explanations were offered for the incident. According to one version, the perpetrators were pimps with border prostitutes whose services were rejected by the protesting drivers. According to another version, it was just one more episode in the ongoing war between Belarusian and Russian drivers--this time featuring Russians protesting against the alleged favoritism that Belarusian customs services display toward local drivers. Some drivers thought, however, that the misdeed was committed by someone carrying out an order from truck canvas repair firms.


ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION ON THE RISE. According to the State Border Guards Committee, there are about 60,000 illegal immigrants in Ukraine. The authorities are preparing to deport 2,630 of them on suspicion of prostitution, drug trafficking, and other crimes. Most of the immigrants listed for deportation are from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and Vietnam. The committee has asked the government to allocate $1.8 million to have the immigrants put on a ship and dispatched to a port in China or India.

Since 1991 there has been an increase in the number of immigrants from poor Asian countries passing through Ukraine on their way to Western Europe. Last year, Ukrainian border guards detained some 12,000 illegal immigrants.

PRIVATIZATION OF LAND PROCEEDS AT SLUGGISH PACE. The privatization of land is taking place at a sluggish pace in Ukraine, according to the "Eastern Economic Daily" on 8 July. So far, some 27 million hectares of land have been privatized, with an average of 4.2 hectares per landowner. The main factors holding up the process are the lack of appropriate legislation and the negative public attitude toward land privatization. A recent poll found that 37 percent of Ukrainians are opposed to the privatization of land.

END OF DUTY-FREE TRADE WITH BELARUS. The Ukrainian government has abolished the regime of duty-free trade with Belarus under which the VAT tax was not imposed on goods imported to Ukraine from Belarus. The decision came in response to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's February decree imposing a VAT tax on Ukrainian exports to Belarus. The dutyfree trade regime between the two countries lasted for only one year.

UKRAINIAN RUSSIANS FORM ANOTHER UMBRELLA ORGANIZATION. A new umbrella organization of Ukrainian Russians--the Russian Community--was established in Ukraine in late June by delegates from 18 regions at a congress in Kyiv. The Russian Community founding congress pledged to defend the Russian language as well as ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking citizens in Ukraine.

The first nationwide gathering of ethnic Russians in Ukraine was held in May to establish the Congress of Russians of Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 1 June 1999). Another meeting, calling itself the Congress of Russian Organizations of Ukraine, was held in early June and nominated its head, Oleksandr Bazylyuk, as a candidate in the presidential elections.

UKRAINIAN RESPONSE TO VIAGRA? The State Scientific Center for Pharmaceuticals and the Borshchahovskyy Chemical and Pharmaceutical Plant in Kyiv have developed and started producing a new drug designed to cure male erectile dysfunction, "Den" reported on 30 June. Svetlana Hladchenko, a pharmaceutical specialist from Kharkiv, said the drug called Yohimbex-Harmony might become an alternative to Viagra, which is produced by the U.S. pharmaceutical firm Pfizer. According to Hladchenko, clinical research has shown that Yohimbex-Harmony is a highly effective cure for erectile dysfunction in men between the ages 20 and 60. After taking the drug for three weeks, 53 percent of the patients on which the drug was tested demonstrated fully stabilized erections, while 93 percent were able to have sexual intercourse. Yohimbex-Harmony will be relatively inexpensive: a package of 20 pills will sell for the equivalent of $3 at wholesale rates.

"Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia can preserve their sovereignty and independence only in unity. If we remain on opposite sides of the barricades, we will have no independence, no sovereignty. We will simply be cracked, one by one, as Yugoslavia was recently." -- Lukashenka in an interview with Russian Public Television on 30 June.

"While the West intensively discusses the idea of writing off Russian debts, Ukraine is not mentioned in this context. This testifies to the absence of a strategy not only concerning Ukraine, but also the future of Europe." -- Leonid Kuchma on 25 June.

"The recent events in Yugoslavia have opened many people's eyes: we are witnessing the approach of a new world order in which violence will be the rule. Those unwilling to submit to a foreign diktat will suffer heavily. Mind you, this is only the beginning. As for the world government, it exists in actual fact even if some try to present it as a bluff.... The real levers for ruling the world are in the hands of 500 people--they are the world government. Believe me, the policy of these 500 will not make our country flourish. Having left the embraces of Russia, we will find ourselves in an even tighter grip from which it will be difficult to break out." -- Borys Oliynyk, head of the Ukrainian Supreme Council Committee for Foreign Affairs and CIS Relations, in the 6 July issue of "Segodnya."

"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.

RUSSIA STILL HOPING FOR KAZAKH COMPROMISE ON BAIKONOUR. Russian and Kazakh officials failed to reach agreement during their 12 July talks on the 14 July launch from Baikonur of a Russian cargo rocket intended to carry supplies to the orbiting "Mir" space station. Conditions after 26 July for launching that rocket to dock with "Mir" are said to be "unfavorable," and Russian Space Agency head Yurii Koptev told journalists in Moscow on 12 July that "Mir" may go out of control and crash to earth at some point next year unless the new navigation system to be transported by the cargo rocket is installed. Reuters on 13 July quoted unidentified Russian space officials as expressing the hope that the Kazakh authorities will permit the launch of the cargo rocket on 18 July. Both that rocket and a Ukrainian-Russian satellite due to have been launched from Baikonur on 12 July will remain on the launch pad "as long as technical resources permit," Interfax reported. LF

A DOZEN PARTIES SUPPORT UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT'S REELECTION BID. Twelve democratically-oriented parties issued a statement on 10 July expressing support for Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on the fifth anniversary of his presidency, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported. The statement noted that during the last five years, Ukraine has established itself as a state recognized by the world community. It added that "only Leonid Kuchma will be able to secure the further consistent implementation of reforms." The statement was signed by, among others, the Agrarian Party, the Liberal Party, the Popular Democratic Party, and the Party of Muslims of Ukraine. JM

UKRAINE STILL SEEKING TO POSTPONE PAYMENT TO ING BARINGS. Ukraine and the Dutch-based bank ING Barings are continuing negotiations on Kiev's redemption of an overdue $155 million bond. The 9 June deadline was extended to 9 July, but the two sides have not yet agreed on a payment scheme. Ukraine has proposed to pay off only 20 percent and convert the rest into three-year bonds. As of last week, Ukraine had $1.3 billion in hard-currency reserves, but the government wants to save those funds for other debt payments that are due later this year and in 2000. JM

MORE PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS IN UKRAINE SUBMIT NECESSARY SIGNATURES. The Central Electoral Commission has registered former Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk as a presidential candidate in the 31 October elections, after incumbent President Kuchma and Petro Symonenko. Marchuk submitted more than 1.6 million signatures supporting his signature, of which the commission accepted 1.37 million as valid. According to AP, 11 other presidential candidates had supplied the necessary signatures by the 12 July deadline. JM