RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 2, No. 5, 1 February 2000

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


TWO PARLIAMENTARY FOES EXPLAIN POSITIONS. On 25 January, the daily "Holos Ukrayiny"--which is the organ of Ukraine's Supreme Council--published statements by parliamentary speaker Oleksander Tkachenko, who leads the leftist minority, and Leonid Kravchuk, who is the temporary coordinator of the parliamentary center-right majority. The two lawmakers commented on the recent parliamentary crisis. Following are excerpts from their comments:

OLEKSANDR TKACHENKO: Today a massive attack is being launched against Ukraine's Supreme Council, which has so far remained the only state body where one can freely express one's opinions, where one can criticize any state official, where one closely follows the pulse of the people's life insofar as every deputy permanently contacts citizens in his/her electoral district....

The smearing of the Supreme Council--which has been initiated in television controlled by the presidential administration and in some other media--is one of the tactical steps to make a subservient parliament of it, a puppet that will be submissively legitimizing the implementation in Ukraine of the oligarchs' plans and of the policy of some foreign advisers who persistently defend the interests of their governments and peoples.

The second of such tactical steps is the announcement-- following an allegedly popular initiative--of a referendum on a vote of no confidence in the Supreme Council. First of all, the organizers of such an action should have taken into account the fact that there is no completed law on the procedure for holding referendums. The Supreme Council's efforts to urgently finish it were ignored. Second, less than two years ago, 22.5 million voters vested their powers and trust into 445 deputies. Each of [those deputies] has his/her own electoral district. There are leaders of parties and caucuses, who were also given the voters' trust. Perhaps, it is logical to ask people in each district how they assess the work of their deputies and not to spend in vain some 60 million hryvni ($11 million) from the meager budget?

Today, instead of contributing to the consolidation of the various political forces in the parliament [in order to take] constructive legislative actions to overcome the crisis, a game has been planned to split the parliament, to categorically disunite deputies with different political views. This is being done with an open disregard for our laws as well as generally accepted norms of ethics and human behavior....

I state with full responsibility: there is no appropriately formalized majority [in the parliament]. If one takes away the camouflaging, the eye-attracting envelope of the announced deputy majority, which is being persistently publicized by L. Kravchuk and A. Karpov, then such a majority actually ceases to exist. Yes, indeed, in the parliament there is a group of some 150 deputies (not 150, but more than 240--editorial comment from "Holos Ukrayiny") who openly oppose a more or less equal group of leftist forces. Their views on the pursued political and economic course do not coincide. This situation corresponds to the structure of our society, which placed its trust in both the former and the latter [group] during the elections.

The disgrace [that arises from] the standoff is to be found in the fact that those deputies supported by the president and the executive bodies--by means of intimidation, bribery, falsification, and blackmail--forced the other deputies to sign up to the pledge that they will share their political views and will do everything what they are told by the instigators of this standoff....

According to my deepest conviction, the politically balanced, honest deputies should do everything possible to prevent the transfer of power into the hands of dishonest people and violators of the law, who sooner or later will be held responsible for [their deeds]. We need to do everything possible to put an end to the provoked confrontation between deputies.

LEONID KRAVCHUK: On 13 January, 11 parliamentary caucuses announced the creation of a majority in the Supreme Council. The path leading to this event was difficult, thorny, [and] characterized by landmarks of confrontation and disagreement. Therefore, one cannot say that this decision was spontaneous....

Sooner or later, however, there comes, as people say, the moment of truth. The presidential elections became such a moment of truth--for us, people's deputies of Ukraine, as well as for the people and the state. Notably, in this period the confrontation of political forces at times acquired a threatening character.

The elections dotted all i's and crossed all t's. The people supported Leonid Kuchma, who is steering the Ukrainian ship toward the development of statehood.

During the election campaign I had an opportunity to visit many oblasts...and meet many citizens of our state. All were saying the same: "Yes, we live poorly, we want to live better, but we do not want to go back, because we are not seeking the communist paradise. So do everything in order to prevent the Communists from coming to power."

This is a philosophy not simply of the people but of citizens. Speaking honestly, it was the first time that I felt such a striving of the people to prevent the return of communist power....

Therefore, one can understand those who suffered defeat and are now trying to make it less bitter by looking for some excuses. However, as we see, one should not generalize. One needs to know how to lose.

Our opponents' problem is that they are unable to admit their own defeat. And democracy means that power is taken by those who won....

I am convinced: a new stage has begun in the history of Ukrainian parliamentarism. A new one, because it was the first time that a parliamentary majority was organized, registered, and brought into operation according to democratic principles.

It is sad, but until recently a completely different atmosphere prevailed in the parliament, preventing deputies from becoming consolidated and cemented. I think that the blame for such developments in the supreme legislative body lies fully with Oleksandr Tkachenko....

We are not going to bring those who lost to their knees or punish them. They are deputies, too. Like us, they were elected by the people. Consequently, the minority, too, should have every possibility to exercise its powers.

I am convinced, inasmuch as I know many Communists and Socialists, that they will work for the state, too. As a constructive opposition. What is more, our parliamentary majority is seeking to preserve the opposition. Because, speaking graphically, the opposition is a pike that prevents a carp from sleeping [in the lake]. The opposition exists in every democracy.

As a matter of fact, we have decided: one of the first legislative documents prepared by the majority should be a bill on the opposition. No single deputy from the minority will be abused by the majority because of his/her position....

At the same time, we want the destructive forces to stop casting their shadow on the opposition. I think that the opposition, too, should ponder whether its "militants" adorn its ranks. Why should those people determine the level of culture in the parliament?

"The [Ukrainian] state has declared an emergency of the highest degree. The leftists are getting ready to defend the Supreme Council to the bitter end. The rightists are getting ready to hold a session in the Ukrainian House. Ivan Plyushch is getting ready to receive congratulations [as a new speaker]. Parties are getting ready for early elections-- party lists are almost completed. The president is getting ready to issue a decree on the dissolution of the parliament. The economy is getting ready for a default. The population has been ready for anything--a referendum, mass electricity blackouts, anarchy, and dictatorship." -- The Kyiv-based "Zerkalo nedeli" in its 29 January issue.

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 PARLIAMENT AGAIN HOLDS PARALLEL SESSIONS. The Supreme Council is holding two parallel sessions: 157 deputies from the leftist minority convened in the parliamentary building, while 246 deputies from the centerright majority gathered in the Ukrainian House exhibition center, Interfax reported on 1 February. The parliament building is being picketed by several thousand people from the two camps, whom police troops are keeping apart. Some 600 people gathered in front of the Ukrainian House to give support to the parliamentary majority, which is expected to elect a new speaker, deputy speakers, and heads of parliamentary committees. JM

UKRAINE'S MOROZ SAYS PRESIDENT SEEKS DICTATORSHIP. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz told Interfax on 31 January that the current parliamentary crisis was initiated by the executive in order to introduce a dictatorship. According to Moroz, President Leonid Kuchma is looking for a motive to dissolve the parliament, hold early elections, and form a submissive legislature. Moroz added that the activities of the parliamentary majority are punishable under the Criminal Code. The president may disband the parliament if it fails to convene a legitimate session within a 30-day period. JM

CRIMEAN LEGISLATURE SLATES CABINET'S PERFORMANCE. The Crimean Supreme Council on 1 February passed a resolution saying that the work of the Crimean autonomous government, headed by Serhiy Kunitsyn, is unsatisfactory, Interfax reported. Following a long-standing impasse (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 January 2000), the 100-seat Crimean legislature succeeded in gathering a quorum of 52 deputies to open the new session. Most commentators see the current legislative crisis on the peninsula as a power play between Crimean Premier Kunitsyn and parliamentary speaker Leonid Hrach. President Kuchma spoke with both politicians by telephone the previous day, urging them "to find a mutual understanding," according to Interfax. JM

GAZPROM WARNS UKRAINE AGAINST DIVERTING GAS. Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev told Ukraine to stop diverting from export pipelines larger amounts of natural gas than it has paid for, Interfax reported on 31 January. According to Vyakhirev, Ukraine "significantly increased unsanctioned diversions of Russian natural gas" from 20- 25 January. He said that this reduced pressure levels to below optimal levels and thus impaired Russia's ability to fulfill foreign orders. PG

ARMENIA, RUSSIA TO ATTEND GUUAM DEFENSE MINISTERS' MEETING? The defense ministers of Armenia, Russia, and Romania have been invited to attend the meeting of defense ministers of GUUAM member states, which has now been rescheduled for March, Armenpress reported on 28 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January 2000). ITAR-TASS on 30 January quoted Deputy Georgian Defense Minister Aleko Mchedlishvili as saying that the defense ministers of the five GUUAM member states (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) will discuss at that meeting in Tbilisi broader cooperation, including the protection of oil export pipelines. LF