UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DECREES INTERNET DEVELOPMENT. Leonid Kuchma has signed a decree on the development of the Internet in Ukraine, Interfax reported on 31 July. That order obliges the government to provide Internet connections to scientific organizations, educational and cultural institutions, and a wider segment of the population. The government is also to draft a bill on the protection of intellectual property and copyright on the Web. The decree stipulates that by the end of 2000 the government must create websites for all central and local executive power bodies as well as for leading scientific and educational institutions in Ukraine. JM
UKRAINIAN CHILDREN TO TRAVEL FREE BY TRAIN. The State Department of Railroad Transportation has announced that all children under 16 may travel by train free of charge beginning on 1 August, Interfax reported the previous day. Under previous regulations, children under 10 had to pay only half fare, while all those over the age of 10 paid the full price. A department official told the agency that free train trips for children will be maintained until "parents are able to pay on their own" for them. JM
POLISH SECRET SERVICE BLAMED FOR 'INFRINGEMENTS' OVER PRESIDENT'S LUSTRATION... The parliamentary Commission for Special Services concluded on 31 July that the State Protection Office (UOP) did not break the law when it supplied the Lustration Court with documents suggesting that President Aleksander Kwasniewski might have been a communistera secret service agent (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 1 August 2000), Polish media reported. The commission, however, found "infringements" of the law by the UOP. In particular, the commission blamed the office for delaying the transfer of documents related to Kwasniewski's case and thus making it impossible for the court to interrogate witnesses and gather other evidence. Jan Litynski, a member of the commission, said the UOP also committed an "infringement" by concluding that Kwasniewski was a registered secret agent. According to Litynski, only the court can make such a conclusion. JM
UKRAINE TO RESUME GAS DELIVERIES TO BULGARIA. Visiting Ukrainian Premier Viktor Yushchenko and his Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Kostov, told journalists in Sofia on 28 July that Ukraine will deliver to Bulgaria 578 million cubic meters of natural gas in exchange for Bulgaria's part in laying pipelines in the 1970s, AP reported. Deliveries of natural gas started in 1998 but were interrupted earlier this year after Russia objected to Ukraine's re-exporting of those supplies. Reuters had earlier quoted Yushchenko as saying the differences with Moscow over the matter have been settled and the supplies will be resumed in August. Yushchenko also met President Petar Stoyanov, who told journalists that Ukraine and Bulgaria are "not competitors" but "partners" who "share the same Euro-Atlantic integration objectives." MS
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.
ANOTHER INDEPENDENT PUBLICATION WARNED. Adding to the slew of official warnings against independent publication initiatives in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 6 June 2000), the State Press Committee recently warned the cultural magazine "Arche" for what it called the unauthorized alteration of the publication's title and the magazine's distribution abroad. The latest issue of "Arche" came out under the title of "ArcheSkaryna" and lists addresses of the magazine's distributors in Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine. Under Belarusian regulations, two warnings within one year give the authorities sufficient grounds to shut down a publication.
(Ed. note: Frantsishak (Francis) Skaryna (1490?-1552?) was translator and publisher of the Bible into Old Belarusian.)
Valerka Bulhakau, chief editor of "Arche," deems the warning groundless. He cites the example of "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta," which, he says, continued to appear under its current name for a long time while remaining registered as "Birzhi i banki."
Andrey Dynko, director of the "Arche" publishing company, noted that the warning coincided with a refusal of the state distributor Belkniga to distribute the June issue of "Arche," which focuses on Jewish culture in Belarus. Dynko also said the state-run Belarusian House of the Press has stopped printing the magazine's August issue.
Bulhakau and Dynko link the "mild repressive measures" against their publication to the criticism--included in the "Arche-Skaryna" issue--of the government-sponsored journal "Belaruskaya Dumka." They say they will seek justice in court and start having their magazine printed by one of Minsk's private print houses.
They also noted that it is the first time that a purely cultural periodical has received a warning. "The authorities are putting us in the same category as independent newspapers --the principal target of their repressive machinery," Bulhakau told Belapan. "They consider us dangerous. It is quite an achievement for a cultural publication."
MARCHUK PINPOINTS NATIONAL SECURITY CONCERNS. Interfax on 26 July published an exclusive interview with Yevhen Marchuk, secretary of Ukraine's Council of National Security and Defense. Below are excerpts from that interview:
Interfax: What in your opinion are today's threats to Ukraine's national security?
Marchuk: I would prefer to speak not about threats to Ukraine's national security but about negative and dangerous factors that show either growing or falling trends. As regards the trends that are developing outside Ukraine and pertain to our country, there is the complex problem of debts, which shows a very unfavorable tendency.
Only a few months had passed since Ukraine's restructuring of its foreign debt to European creditors when the country fell $711 million into debt to Russia for siphoning off [Russian transit] gas. From the viewpoint of Ukraine's partners this means that we are incapable of rationally managing [our economy]. As a result, the country's image has suffered, important investments have been blocked, the work with international financial structures has become more difficult. All this has delivered a palpable blow to the economic situation within the country....
However, the most important aspect of this debt problem is that we provide Russia with a mechanism for exerting influence or even pressure on Ukraine. Everybody knows that the relations between Ukraine and Russia are not developing in a simple way. But quite often it is we who provide Russia with opportunities to use such unpleasant forms of influence on Ukraine as Russia's appeals to the IMF, the World Bank, and other organizations. As far as I know, the Russian side has prepared such appeals. One would wonder if Russia had failed to do that....
One more consequence of the debt problem and the siphoning off of gas are statements by Russian commercial structures about the construction of gas pipelines to bypass Ukraine, as well as a gas pipeline in the direction of Novorossiisk. This is a very negative circumstance for us. It will be necessary to make enormous efforts to stop this tendency. True, there are no reasons to expect that this can be done in a short time, given the increasing ruthlessness of Ukrainian-Russian economic relations.
Interfax: Can Ukraine influence this process, and what will Ukraine have to sacrifice to that end?
Marchuk: I would not call it sacrifice, even though the Russian side does not conceal that it wants Ukraine to repay its debts, including with property. Of course, this is a very bad situation for us, but I would not make a tragedy out of it.
I think that it is a quite acceptable mechanism for Ukraine when one-third of the property of the gas and oil transporting system is given in the form of shares to a Russian partner as debt repayment, one-third is sold to a European partner, and one-third is left in Ukraine's hands. At first glance, the idea may sound offensive. But what is better: to give Russia a 30 percent stake in [Ukraine's] refineries as well as gas and oil transporting system, ensure the viability of this system, and obtain profits from this deal--or "to fight to the bitter end" and subsequently show vacated [gas and oil industry] facilities to tourists? One should not be afraid of drawing Russia into this privatization sphere. This, of course, is only a working idea. One needs to consider all this very thoroughly and estimate [profits] for the future....
Interfax: Speaking about Russia's increasing influence on Ukraine, you mentioned the possibility of exerting counterinfluence. Does Ukraine possess some real mechanisms to influence Russia?
Marchuk: Of course, it does. They are not simple, [I would even say] very complicated, but feasible. I mean tariffs for transporting Russia gas and oil via Ukraine to Europe. These tariffs are old and very low. This is a very painful problem for Russia, since we have in mind enormous volumes of raw materials that are shipped via Ukraine. The other, but no less complicated problem is [Ukraine's] share in the property of the former USSR. Ukraine's parliament has recently held hearings on this issue, and they have been met with a very nervous reaction from the Russian side. This topic has not yet been exhausted. Today Russia receives very considerable dividends from what belonged to the USSR and should have been divided fairly, whereas Ukraine receives nothing....
Interfax: Energy resources, as earlier, remain one of Ukraine's most acute internal problems. The opinion that the situation in the fuel and energy sector is Ukraine's national security issue has become commonplace. What is your assessment of today's situation in this sphere, and what are your prognoses for the future?
Marchuk: There have been a lot of speculations around this oil pipeline--they were caused by the fact that one lobbying group in the parliament and Western Ukraine had been pushing through only a small segment of this issue.
The Odesa-Brody oil pipeline is part of an enormous project for transporting Caspian and, possibly, Kazakh oil. Its construction is impossible without [creating] a fleet of tankers, coordinating the transportation of oil with its owners, agreeing on the volume of oil transported via the pipeline (the pipeline can be profitable with a transporting (throughput) capacity of 20-25 million tons per year), and completing the construction of the oil terminal [in Odesa]. Nothing of these problems have been resolved. Today the project's financial needs total $266 million as a minimum.... To build a pipeline without resolving the above-mentioned problems means to bury enormous funds in the ground....
In my opinion, we are nearing a large investigation into the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline. Who and why, without having considered how this [oil transportation] system is going to function, buried enormous funds in the ground? I think that in August-September the president of the country and the Council of National Security and Defense will finally decide how the current segment of the oil pipeline can be perceived--as an achievement or a major failure that entails gigantic losses.
"Lviv pushed the entire country toward independence. In the 1990s everything was on fire here and look what is now happening in 2000. During [the past decade] we have lost even what we had in the Soviet Union. We lost the Ukrainian language in our daily life, we lost our unity and our will to fight." -- Andriy Shkil, leader of the ultranationalist Ukrainian National Assembly, commenting on the recent controversy over which language--Ukrainian or Russian-- should be given priority in Lviv's public life. Quoted by Reuters on 30 July.
"Russian, Ukrainian, it makes little difference to me. The time for rallies has passed. What we really want [in Lviv] is more English-speakers to come here."--A Lviv cafe waiter, quoted by Reuters on 30 July.
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.