RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team.
MASS PROTESTS NOT IMMINENT. The Ukrainian Center of Economic and Political Studies has concluded that Ukraine is not threatened by mass protests "in the near future," Interfax reported on 18 March. The conclusion was based on a poll that the center conducted among 2010 respondents in all Ukraine's regions in late January and early February.
Of those polled, 56.2 percent said they "would never participate" in protest actions, even authorized ones, while only 26.6 percent admitted that they are ready to take part in such protests. The participation in unauthorized protest actions is supported by an even lower number of respondents: 9 percent said they are "potentially ready" to protest, while only 1.4 percent admitted they have already participated in such actions. According to the poll, people between 29 and 41 years of age from industrial regions are more inclined than others to attend unauthorized protests.
Some 40 percent of respondents noted that there is no sense in protest actions "since the authorities ignore them"; 34.8 percent said "they have so far had no reason to protest," while 14.2 percent do not protest because they have no leader and 8.2 percent said they are restrained in their desire to protest by "the inertia of those around them."
However, small-scale protests do take place in Ukraine. Some 4,000 demanded President Leonid Kuchma's ouster at a rally organized by the local branch of the Communist Party in Kharkiv on 18 March. The protesters also demanded that the authorities reduce prices for bread and other foodstuffs, stop "their criminal policy in the countryside," raise wages and pensions, and reduce tariffs for utilities. A 1000-strong rally organized by the Union of Workers of Ukraine in Mykolayiv the same day also demanded Kuchma's dismissal and protested the decision to hold the 26 April referendum on the constitution.
"This march was deliberately scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. They won't be able to gather before 6 p.m., it will take place around 7 p.m. when it's already dark, when it's difficult to monitor everything. In general, I wouldn't like to monitor [the march] and send police troops, but I'll have to, because if they organize some massacre, who will be to blame? They'll say that the president has drawn them into a trap as on 17 October (ed.: during the Freedom March-1; see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 15 February 2000). If you had known that the president was drawing you into a trap, why were you going for it? Why were you going for it, like a rabbit into a boa's mouth?... This was deliberately scheduled for 6 p.m., when people go home from work. Just look at Minsk [at such an hour]--huge masses of people on the sidewalks. One only needs to unfurl banners over those people in order to report to the U.S. State Department on how 8 million (ed.: currency not specified) was spent. But in actual fact, our fighters for democracy and justice received 108 million over the year from various sources. And I am not sure whether we have counted everything.... The Americans are no fools, though. They have warned [our opposition]: If there are no results from your marches, there will not be the money that you obtained this year."
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.
UKRAINE'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT POSTPONES RULING ON REFERENDUM. The Constitutional Court has announced that its verdict on whether the 16 April referendum is in line with the constitution will be handed down at some later date, Interfax reported on 20 March. The court, which was required to make a ruling by 18 March, cited protracted open hearings in the case as the reason for the delay. JM
UKRAINIAN DEPUTY SPEAKER SAYS PARLIAMENTARY CRISIS IS OVER. Stepan Havrysh on 20 March said "the parliamentary reform has practically been concluded" and the country's parliamentary crisis is over, Interfax reported. According to Havrysh, the parliamentary leftist minority is not contesting the legality of the parliament's actions. He added that the parliament "continues to fruitfully discuss draft laws with the participation of representatives from left caucuses." JM