RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 2, No. 1, 4 January 2000

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


KYIV NOT DISTURBED BY YELTSIN'S RESIGNATION. President Leonid Kuchma announced on 31 December through his spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko that Yeltsin's resignation was "a step of a courageous man who is worried over the future of his country and all Russians." Kuchma said he is sure that Putin as Russia's acting president "will continue to develop the strategic partnership" between Russia and Ukraine.

Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko stated that Yeltsin's decision was "a logical continuation of his life-long outlook" and testifies to the fact that events in Russia "develop in the context of the normalization of the situation in the country." Yushchenko praised Yeltsin as "a wise and talented man who made a great deal of efforts to develop Ukrainian-Russian relations."

Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko commented that Yeltsin's resignation was expected by both Ukrainian and Russian communists. "Most likely, clans [ed.: further not specified] have already decided who will rule Russia in the future, therefore [the succession in the Kremlin] was decided in this way," Interfax quoted Symonenko as saying.

Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz commented that Yeltsin "realizing the inevitability of this step, made a skillful and balanced move." According to Moroz, following Yeltsin's resignation the relations between Russia and Ukraine will be given "more substance."

IMF SETS CONDITIONS FOR RESUMING LOAN. Following the visit of its mission to Kyiv from 2-14 December, the IMF listed more than a dozen "urgent measures" that should be taken by the government before the IMF resumes its $2.6 billion loan program for Ukraine, Interfax reported on 31 December, quoting a source in the government.

The IMF recommends that Kyiv pass a "realistic" 2000 budget with a surplus and observe strict budgetary discipline in both collecting revenues and making expenditures.

The IMF urges the government to sharply reduce or even eliminate settlements with promissory notes in 2000, thus making a significant step to reduce barter and other "noncash" operations in the economy.

The IMF insists on the elimination of all tax exemptions and privileges and the reduction of the number of taxes.

The IMF also insists on the elimination of all export taxes and restrictions. Ukraine must also ban the introduction of new export taxes and restrictions.

Ukraine must sell for cash the gas obtained as payment for gas transit.

The IMF sees the need for the government to work out an program of privatization in order to attract key investors to important economic sectors. The government should close by mid-2000 a number of big bankrupt enterprises in accordance with Ukraine's new law on bankruptcy.

The government should also reduce the number and duration of different inspections and checks in the economic sector as well as diminish the role and number of monitoring and controlling organizations.

The IMF has so far disbursed $965 million to Ukraine within the framework of the $2.6 billion loan program which was inaugurated in September 1998. The program was suspended in September 1999.

CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM BECOMES MORE REALISTIC THREAT. The Central Electoral Commission has registered 218 initiative groups that want to collect signatures in support of a nationwide constitutional referendum, Interfax reported on 30 December. The registration followed the decision of a district court in Kyiv on 21 December, which obliged the commission to register the first initiative group from Zhytomir. The groups propose for the referendum questions connected with holding a nationwide vote of no-confidence in the current parliament, terminating the current parliament's powers by the president, reducing the number of parliamentary deputies, creating a bicameral legislature, lifting deputy immunity, and introducing a rule to adopt the country's Constitution by a nationwide referendum. According to the current Constitution, a popular initiative to hold a nationwide referendum must be supported by at least 3 million signatures that must be collected in at least two-thirds of Ukraine's regions (at least 100,000 signatures in each of them).

President Leonid Kuchma has voiced the idea of holding a referendum on the dissolution of the current parliament and the creation of a bicameral legislature during the presidential election campaign. He repeated it quite recently, in the process of confirming of a new prime minister. Most commentators considered that idea to be simply a threat in order to create a pro-government majority in the parliament. Now, however, after the registration of the support groups, the referendum idea may gain a momentum of its own.

More than 50 parliamentary deputies have asked the Supreme court to cancel the decision registering the initiative group from Zhytomir as illegal. In the opinion of parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko, the referendum cannot be held because Ukraine has no law on referendums. He also told Interfax that the country has no money for holding nationwide plebiscites.

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.

KYIV OPTIMISTIC OVER RESUMPTION OF IMF LOAN PROGRAM. Yuriy Yekhanurov, Ukraine's new deputy premier, on 4 January said the government will ask the IMF to send a mission to Kyiv on 10 January in order to negotiate the resumption of the fund's $2.6 billion loan program, Interfax reported. According to Yekhanurov, the government should implement "69 preliminary measures" until the end of January to obtain further IMF credit tranches (see also "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 4 January 2000). He said he is confident that the IMF will resume the loan program. "Everybody in the world and, first and foremost, our people should realize that [we are] a government of new formation, with new approaches, and we want such changes in Ukraine that could enable us to count on an efficient economy in the future," he noted. JM

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT OPENS TELEPHONE LINE ON REFORMS. Viktor Lysytskyy, secretary of the Cabinet of Ministers, announced that the government will launch a telephone line called "The Problems of Economic Reforms" beginning on 4 January. Lysytskyy said anyone interested in Ukraine's economic reforms can use the line to obtain information by dialing 254-05-65 or by logging on to the line's Internet site at Lysytskyy said Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko wants to use the line to obtain "prompt information from the regions" and to identify impediments to reforms in the regions, Interfax reported. JM