RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 1, No. 15, 7 September 1999

A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team.


KUCHMA PROMISES TO PAY BACK WAGES TO TEACHERS. President Leonid Kuchma marked the first day of the new school year by promising to pay overdue wages to teachers within a month. He also pledged to supply all schools with textbooks that students are supposed to receive free of charge. Education Minister Valentyn Zaychuk noted that some 600,000 Ukrainian teachers are owed 240 million hryvni ($54.5 million) in back wages.

Deputy Premier Volodymyr Semynozhenko revealed that in the 1999-2000 school year, more than 1 million children will attend 17,000 pre-schools; 6.7 million students will receive instruction at 21,300 secondary schools and 152,000 at 746 boarding schools. Some 510,000 will attend 975 vocational schools; and 1.6 million have registered at 960 institutions of higher education, at which classes resume in October. Ukraine has 2,600 schools at which instruction is offered in Russian, 108 in Romanian, 65 in Hungarian, six in Crimean Tatar, and three in Polish.

KUCHMA AT ODDS WITH LUKASHENKA? Citing "trustworthy sources," Alyaksandr Starykevich, a Belarusian correspondent for the Moscow-based "Novye izvestiya," reported on 1 September that Leonid Kuchma and Alyaksandr Lukashenka recently exchanged "undiplomatic statements" during a telephone conversation. In that conversation, Kuchma revoked his former invitation to Lukashenka to participate in a Baltic-Black Sea forum in Yalta, Crimea, on 10-11 September. Lukashenka responded by canceling his planned meeting with Kuchma in Brest, Belarus, on 3 September.

It is expected that some 20 leaders from the Baltic and the Black Sea regions will attend the Yalta forum. According to Interfax, Kuchma's spokesmen Oleksandr Martynenko said on 1 September that the main objective of the forum is to "unite different countries and regions and promote their economic revival," recalling that in 1945 Yalta had hosted the conference that divided Europe into "zones of influence."

According to Starykevich, Kuchma withdrew his invitation to Lukashenka under pressure from a "number of participants" in the Yalta conference who objected because of Lukashenka's illegitimate status after 20 July. Reportedly, Norway, who chairs the OSCE this year, was particularly firm in pressing for Lukashenka's exclusion from the forum.

Belarusian independent media alleged that Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski threatened not to go to Yalta if Lukashenka were to attend the conference.

"Mikhail Chyhir openly challenged the president and his followers, who in November 1996 carried out the state coup. When in early 1999 the Belarusian Supreme Soviet decreed regular presidential elections, he showed his courage by fielding his candidacy and paid for that with his freedom. However, as can be seen from his open letter to A. Lukashenka (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 17 August 1999), he has not lost hope even in jail and is ready to do everything incumbent on him to return the Republic of Belarus to the democratic path of development." -- Exiled Supreme Soviet Chairman Syamyon Sharetski, submitting to the Supreme Soviet Mikhail Chyhir's candidacy as prime minister.

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.

KUCHMA DETAILS HIS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION PROGRAM... Unveiling his election platform on 6 September, President Leonid Kuchma said that if he had not sought re-election, "I would not have been able to respect myself," Interfax reported. The economic part of that platform, which Kuchma said was developed by the "cream of the production sector and academic circles," foresees GDP growth of 2 percent next year. Under his leadership, Kuchma promised, Ukraine would continue economic reforms to become a "socially oriented" state. He added that the country's foreign policy would be based on integration with the EU and at the same time close cooperation with the CIS. He stressed, however, that Ukraine would not join CIS supranational bodies. JM

...REMAINS UPBEAT ON FOREIGN DEBT... Kuchma also said he expects creditors to forgive part of Ukraine's foreign debt, which now exceeds $12 billion, AP reported. "It is in everyone's interests that there should be a stable Ukraine in the center of Europe and nothing like Yugoslavia," Interfax quoted him as saying. He added that a Ukrainian delegation is to leave soon for talks with the Paris Club. JM

...TOPS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION POPULARITY POLL. According to a poll conducted by Socis-Gallup in late August among some 2,400 Ukrainians, Kuchma has 30.61 percent backing, Natalya Vitrenko 23.03 percent, Petro Symonenko 19.88 percent, Yevhen Marchuk 6.52 percent, Oleksandr Moroz 6.38 percent, Oleksandr Tkachenko 2.78 percent, Hennadiy Udovenko 2.63 percent, Yuriy Kostenko 1.20 percent, Vasyl Onopenko 0.45 percent, and Volodymyr Oliynyk 0.23 percent, Interfax reported on 6 September. JM