RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 1, No. 20, 12 October 1999

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


WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM THE ATTACK ON NATALYA VITRENKO? Following the grenade attack on Natalya Vitrenko on 2 October, Ukrainian media have been brimming with speculation about the motives behind the attack as well as the possible benefits and damage to Ukraine's major presidential hopefuls, particularly Leonid Kuchma, Oleksandr Moroz, and Vitrenko herself. Officially it is known that the two suspects arrested immediately after the attack are Russian citizens from Rostov who have ties to Serhiy Ivanchenko, head of Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz's local election team in Kryvyy Rih, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. The Ukrainian police has launched a search for Ivanchenko, who is suspected by the authorities to have plotted the attack on Vitrenko.

The swiftness with which official media reported the suspected perpetrators' links to Moroz prompted some commentators to assert that Kuchma has decided to take advantage of the attack in order to impair the electoral chances of Moroz, who is presumed to be his most dangerous rival in the presidential race. Kuchma himself commented that the attempt on Vitrenko's life was a "contract" attack, but he declined to say whom he suspects of ordering it.

Parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko said that the "terrorist act against Natalya Vitrenko is advantageous only to one presidential candidate--Leonid Kuchma." He also suggested that it can be linked to "the work of the incumbent president's staff." According to Tkachenko, Kuchma wants Vitrenko to be his rival in the second round of the elections, therefore the attack was intended to boost Vitrenko's rating among the electorate. This supposition has one major flaw: the means of attack (two shrapnel grenades) in no way guaranteed that Vitrenko would remain alive for a second round of elections.

Moroz argued that the attack reflects "plans of the present regime to introduce a state of emergency and thwart the elections at any cost." He admitted that it "is absolutely disadvantageous" for him since before the attack his chances of winning the elections were "absolutely realistic." And Moroz's election staff noted in a statement that the attack was a "provocation" that is "advantageous for today's regime and its servants."

Most Ukrainian observers and commentators, meanwhile, agree that the attack will boost Vitrenko's popularity and may help her reach a runoff against Kuchma on 14 November.

UKRAINIAN MEDIA EXAMINED FOR POLITICAL PREFERENCES. From 30 September to 3 October, the Kyiv-based Equal Possibilities committee, headed by Oleksandr Chekmyshev, monitored several Ukrainian media outlets to see whose side they were taking in the presidential election campaign, Interfax reported on 6 October. Incumbent President Leonid Kuchma and the so-called "Kaniv four"--an election alliance of Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Oleksandr Tkachenko--were mentioned most often in the media monitored.

According to the committee, the newspapers "Fakty," "Uryadovyy kuryer," "Nezavisimost," "Ukrayina moloda," "Segodnya," and "Demokratychna Ukrayina" devoted a "considerable part" of their coverage to Kuchma, whom they generally praise, and present the "Kaniv four" in a "negative light."

On the other hand, the newspapers "Silski visti," "Den," and "Holos Ukrayiny" promote the "Kaniv four" while providing almost 100 percent negative material on Kuchma.

Such newspapers as "Zerkalo nedeli," "Region," "Kievskie vedomosti," and "Kievskie novosti" devote a "relatively even" amount of coverage to Kuchma and the "Kaniv four."

The monitoring of Ukrainian nationwide television channels showed that Ukrainian Television-1, Inter, and NTU (Ukraine's Popular Television) tend to promote Kuchma, while TET, Yutar TV, and New Channel support the "Kaniv four." STB, 1+1 Channel, and Gravis are fairly impartial, devoting approximately equal time for Kuchma and his four allied rivals.

The total time devoted to Kuchma on the monitored national television channels was 8 hours and 25 minutes (including a 15-second negative report), while the "Kaniv four" received 3 hours and 41 minutes (including 23 minutes of negative coverage).

With regard to the preferences of local media, Chekmyshev said that the press and television in Poltava, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Chernivtsi, and Mykolayiv prefer to promote Kuchma, while the outlets in Odesa, Lviv, Crimea, and Kharkiv give relatively equal coverage to Kuchma and his four rivals.

"I don't want to accuse anyone and I don't want to protect anyone. But I think practically every one of [the other candidates] dreamed of removing me from the political stage. And I know practically every one of them gave instructions to members of his party and aggravated a hysteria of hatred against Natalya Vitrenko." -- Vitrenko on 6 October, quoted by an RFE/RL Kyiv correspondent.

"Even in Russia there have been no attempts to kill a candidate in all the times they've held elections--that's our know-how." -- Ukraine's former President Leonid Kravchuk, quoted by Reuters on 7 October.

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 ELECTION ALLIANCE POSTPONES NAMING SINGLE CANDIDATE. The so-called "Kaniv four" alliance of Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Oleksandr Tkachenko has postponed naming a single candidate to compete against incumbent President Leonid Kuchma in the 31 October presidential elections. Interfax on 11 October quoted Moroz as saying that the name of a single candidate will be made known on 13 or 14 October. Meanwhile, AP reported on 11 October that the postponement is intended to better ensure the safety of the single candidate. "We have information that attacks are being planned against our joint candidate," Oliynyk told the news agency, but he did not elaborate. Kuchma commented that he has "long said that the behavior of those four recalls an agony.... They have nothing to say about themselves, so they pour dirt [on the president]," according to AP. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS OPPONENTS OF IMF LOANS. Kuchma said on 11 October that breaking or limiting relations with the IMF--as proposed by presidential candidates Natalya Vitrenko and Petro Symonenko--would spell "catastrophe" for Ukraine, Reuters reported. According to Kuchma, there are no credits cheaper or longer-term than those offered by the IMF and the World Bank. He added that Ukraine has to pay $3 billion in 2000 to service its international debts. JM

KYIV MAYOR ALLOWS SALE OF LAND. Oleksandr Omelchenko recently decided to put municipal land in the Ukrainian capital on sale, AP reported on 11 October. The sale of land for nonagricultural purposes-which is opposed by Ukraine's leftist parliament--was made possible through a January presidential decree. According to the 11 October "Kievskie vedomosti," one hectare of land in Kyiv can be sold for 200,000-500,000 hryvni ($44,400-$111,000), compared with the average price of 100,000 hryvni elsewhere in Ukraine. JM

CZECH GOVERNMENT REIMPOSES VISA REQUIREMENTS ON NORTH KOREA. The government on 11 October reimposed visa requirements on citizens of North Korea, Cuba, and Cambodia, CTK reported. It also decided not to reintroduce "for now" such requirements on nationals of Russia, Belarus, and China because of the possible negative impact on trade with those countries. Zeman told journalists that the government intends to reimpose the requirement on Ukrainian nationals and will discuss the measure later this month. MS