RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 1, No. 16, 14 September 1999

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

WHAT DO POLES KNOW AND THINK ABOUT ETHNIC MINORITIES? It is estimated that ethnic minorities in Poland make up 3.5 percent of the country's 40 million people. According to the estimates reported by PAP on 9 September, Poland has 700,000 Germans, 250,000-300,000 Ukrainians, 250,000 Belarusians, 25,000-30,000 Slovaks, 15,000-20,000 Lithuanians, 10,000 Roma, 5,000 Jews, and a small number of Czechs, Russians, and Greeks.

In a poll conducted by CBOS in August among 1030 Poles, respondents were asked to answer a number of questions about their knowledge of and attitude toward Poland's minorities.

Some 35 percent of respondents correctly estimated the number of people of non-Polish ethnic origin; 34 percent overestimated and 8 percent underestimated that number; 23 percent were unable to answer this question.

Asked to indicate the largest minorities in Poland, the respondents named respectively Germans, Jews, Roma, Ukrainians, and Belarusians. "It seems that the respondents overestimate the numerical strength of Jews and Roma," CBOS commented.

Asked to indicate whom they like and dislike, more than one-third of those polled declared their dislike of Roma, Jews, and Ukrainians. The most likable Polish minorities are Czechs (43 percent of respondents) and Slovaks (42 percent).

BEST TRACTOR AND HARVESTER OPERATORS TO BE PORTRAYED. On 7 September, an outdoor painting session with the participation of some 20 painters from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine began in Mahileu Oblast. It is already the fourth such meeting of artists in the oblast. The former meetings were devoted to depicting local landscapes. This one is different. According to Belapan, artists will visit the best tractor and harvester operators in the country in order to paint their plein-air portraits. The portraits will be handed to those depicted on them at this year's nationwide harvest festival in Shklou.


RIVALS SUSPECT KUCHMA OF INTENTION TO FALSIFY OR INVALIDATE PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT. Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Oleksandr Tkachenko--the four presidential hopefuls who declared on 24 August to cooperate with each other and field one of them against the incumbent on 31 October--have issued another joint statement. This time they warned that the central authorities, "taking advantage of the short-sightedness of local executive power bodies, have seized leading posts in territorial electoral commissions in order to be able to falsify the election results in an unimpeded manner." It turns out that Kuchma's representatives will head 80 territorial electoral commissions out of Ukraine's 225. The four hopefuls' representatives were less lucky: Tkachenko's people will head 16 commissions, Moroz's 14, Oliynyk's 12, and Marchuk's 10. The four argued that this situation was "created artificially" under "moral and psychological pressure from the media controlled by the incumbent president." They also suggested that Kuchma's election staff harbor expectations that anticipated protests and legal suits prompted by such "undemocratic actions" in the election campaign will make it possible for Kuchma to declare the elections invalid in the event he loses them. "We say our resolute 'No!' to these plans by the current authorities! We will prevent the elections from being disrupted and the people from being deceived through falsifications of the election results!", the four pledged in their joint statement.

"KOMUNIST" BLASTS KUCHMA FOR USING "BOURGEOIS" METHODS. "The nearer the election day, the more visible the 'charms' of the bourgeois democracy," "Komunist" wrote on 9 September. In a strongly-worded article, the press organ of Ukraine's Communist Party condemned the incumbent president for resorting to an "arsenal of election techniques from bourgeois countries" in his re-election campaign: intimidation, bribery, "monstrous" lies, slander, cynicism, and the discrediting of rivals.

The newspaper alleges that Kuchma is using another Western invention--election "image-makers"--to make his reelection possible. According to "Komunist," a group of "image-makers from the near abroad" is residing in a government-owned resort in a Kyiv suburb. When asked about their identity, they say they are "from Mosfilm" (Russia's film-making studio). "Kommunist" calls them "unscrupulous and cynical mercenaries" and blames them for advising Kuchma not to allow other candidates to appear in the state media.

"I pay no attention to Kuchma's position at all. The political pre-election period which Ukraine is going through right now is so tense that a lot of thoughtless statements are being made. ...With whom else but Russia and Belarus will Ukraine build relations? We are not needed anywhere else." -- Lukashenka on 8 September, commenting on the Ukrainian president's statements that Ukraine is not interested in joining the Belarus-Russia Union; quoted by Interfax.

"We do not make a single move without the IMF and the World Bank." -- Leonid Kuchma on 6 September, rejecting allegations that foreign loans are misused in Ukraine; quoted by AP.

"An old friend is better than two new ones. Or at least, dearer. The Soviet Union always paid highly for its friends in the international arena: the socialist camp states and a bunch of troglodyte states of the utterly third world, which pledged under a shower of Soviet money to leap from the stone age into a communist paradise. At the new spiral of history, such a nasty situation recurs with regard to Russia. [It does], even though friends are different and the form of payment is different, and even though it is supposedly we who are being paid, not paying." -- "Izvestiya" on 8 September, commenting on Russia's decision to accept 11 supposedly obsolete Ukrainian strategic bombers worth $70 million each as payment for Ukraine's gas debts.

"According to objective data, the popularity rating of the incumbent president is at least half as low as that disseminated by his journalists. Besides, it is beyond any doubt that in September-October his rating will decline still further because of the worsening economic situation in the state." -- Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko on 7 September.

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.

...AS DOES UKRAINE. President Leonid Kuchma on 13 September signed a directive providing for measures to strengthen "public security and guard technically dangerous facilities." Kuchma appealed to citizens to take in their stride any inconveniences they may experience in crossing the state border or participating in public events. JM

UKRAINIAN CABINET APPROVES 2000 DRAFT BUDGET. The government has approved a 2000 draft state budget that provides for revenues totaling 37.4 billion hryvni (some $8 billion). The government expects to gain 2.5 billion hryvni from the privatization of state property. A list of enterprises designated for sale in 2000 was submitted earlier to the parliament. JM