RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 2, No. 22, 13 June 2000

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

RISKING ONE'S LIFE FOR SPUDS? Ukrainian law enforcers on 3 June detained two Belarusian customs officers who had crossed the Ukrainian border into Volyn Oblast in hot pursuit of smugglers, Interfax reported on 6 June. A group of Ukrainian border guards, policemen, and security service officers-- responding to reports from villagers about gunfire near the border--discovered two armed Belarusian customs officers guarding a trailer full of potatoes some 1.5 kilometers from the border on Ukrainian territory. According to the Belarusians, they had tried to halt a KamAZ truck with a trailer at the border post, but after the vehicle had refused to stop, they opened fire and followed it in a jeep. The smugglers unhitched their truck from the trailer and escaped, while the customs officers decided to confiscate the spoil rather than continue the chase.

RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 8 June that a similar incident occurred on 28 May, when Belarusian border guards opened fire on a car that did not halt at the border and penetrated 3 kilometers into Ukrainian territory. The guards managed to capture the driver, who is now facing criminal proceedings in Belarus. The Belarusian side denies that the guards deliberately trespassed on Ukrainian soil, saying that the incident happened at a place where the border was not marked.


MOSCOW CONCERNED OVER 'ANTI-RUSSIAN ESCAPADES.' Quoting diplomatic sources, Interfax reported on 7 June that Russia's Foreign Ministry has sent a note to the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow expressing concern over "the continued anti-Russian escapades of radical right-wing forces in Ukraine." In particular, the ministry noted that radical nationalists in Lviv "organize rallies under the wild slogans 'Death for death!' and 'Beat the Muscovites!'" It also accused Western Ukraine's press of "playing into the nationalists' hands."

According to Interfax's sources, "the Lviv authorities actually manifest solidarity with the radical nationalists and are conducting a full-scale attack on the Russian language and culture." To support this statement, the informants pointed to the closure of the Russian-language station Our Radio in Western Ukraine.

A wave of anti-Russian sentiment has swept Lviv in particular and Western Ukraine in general since the death of well-known composer Ihor Bilozir on 28 May. Bilozir died as a result of the fatal injury he sustained in an attack by a group of Russian speakers who did not like his singing Ukrainian songs in a cafe (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 6 June 2000).

Yevhen Stasyuk, head of the Humanitarian and Social Policy Department and the Ukrainian Language Commission in the Lviv City Executive Committee, told Interfax on 8 June that "the Russian minority has no reason to complain about some restrictions" in the city. "It is another matter that the recent events are being used by different political forces in their own way," Stasyuk added.

Stasyuk said his commission has found that Lviv restaurants and cafes often play a "disproportionate" amount of Russian and "primarily low-quality" music. To improve the situation, Stasyuk has initiated monthly briefings for cafe owners.

Stasyuk also said the Lviv City Council will soon discuss a draft resolution on "audioecology" in the city. The document was submitted by councilor Orest Drul, who is also chief editor of the "Postup" newspaper. Drul proposes "to introduce a moratorium on the broadcasting and performance of Russian songs on Lviv's streets and squares." According to Drul, Lviv, a city with great historical and cultural heritage, "is losing its Ukrainian face." Drul maintains that "the vigorous [Russian] minority does not understand [the city's heritage] and brings Lviv down to the level of other Ukrainian and Russian cities."

"Life is difficult in our parts. It is particularly difficult when your husband drinks. And all of them drink." -- A 26- year old peasant woman from Ukraine, currently in Poland, where she works illegally as a babysitter and cleaner. Quoted by the 3 June "Polityka."

"I have not lived what you have lived.... I cannot tell you how to build your future.... But I believe Ukraine has the best opportunity in a thousand years to achieve both freedom and prosperity.... America will stand by you as you fight for a free and prosperous future." -- U.S. President Bill Clinton to some 50,000 Ukrainians in Kyiv on 5 June. Quoted by Reuters.

"U.S. President [Bill Clinton] has been recorded in history as a bloody sadist, a man with a smile on his face, a saxophone and a bomb in his hands." -- A placard held by a leftist picketer protesting Clinton's visit to Kyiv on 5 June. Quoted by Interfax.

"Lazarenko has big money. If he did not have it, he would have been back in Ukraine long ago. Who in America needs a man without money? Lazarenko will work for the U.S. economy until all of his funds run out." -- Leonid Kuchma on the prospects of former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko and the money he allegedly embezzled returning to Ukraine. Quoted by Interfax on 6 June.

"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 PRESIDENT URGES LEGISLATIVE BASIS FOR AGROINDUSTRIAL REFORM. Leonid Kuchma on 12 June urged the government and the parliament to provide a legislative foundation for reforming the country's agro-industrial sector, Interfax reported. "The state should create transparent rules of the game in the agro-industrial sector in order to help farmers stand on their own two feet," he said. Responding to criticism that agricultural reform in Ukraine was launched too late, Kuchma said that "a year and a half ago it would not have succeeded." He added that "the awareness of land ownership" has begun to return to the countryside only recently. Under a presidential decree issued last December, the government has divided the land of some 11,000 collective farms into plots and distributed them among the farms' workers. The decree obliges the government to supply the plots' owners with ownership certificates by the end of 2002. JM

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT PUTS BORDER TREATY WITH UKRAINE ON BACKBURNER. The parliament has again voted against debating the 1999 treaty with Ukraine on settling the border dispute between the two countries. Under that treaty, the two states were to exchange small chunks of territory, giving Ukraine sovereignty over a portion of a highway to Odesa that passes through Moldovan territory in exchange for a small strip of land leading to the River Danube, where Moldova wants to build an oil terminal. The Party of Moldovan Communists said it has "other constructive proposals to make," while the Popular Party Christian Democratic called the treaty "a fiasco for Moldovan diplomacy." The Ukrainian parliament has ratified the treaty, and experts cited by Infotag said Moldova's refusal to do so might result in Ukrainian lawmakers' refusal to ratify an agreement recognizing Moldovan properties on Ukrainian territory. MS