RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 2, No. 38, 17 October 2000

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


WILL KYIV MANAGE TO GET TURKMEN GAS? Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his Turkmen counterpart, Saparmurat Niyazov, signed an agreement on 4 October in Ashgabat whereby Turkmenistan will provide Ukraine with 35 billion cubic meters of gas over the next 15 months at a total price of $1.2 billion at the Turkmen border. The 5 billion cubic meters Kyiv will purchase in 2000 will cost $38 and the remaining 30 billion cubic meters $40 per thousand cubic meters. Of that sum, 40 percent in 2000 and 50 percent in 2001 is to be paid in cash and the balance in goods and services. Kyiv will pay the transit fees for transportation of the gas to Ukraine. In addition, Ukraine must make weekly advance payments to Ashgabat of $7 million in cash and $9 million in goods and services. Turkmenistan will immediately stop gas supplies if Kyiv fails to make those advance payments.

Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko told the Moscow daily "Vremya novostei" on 10 October that the price of Turkmen gas on the Ukrainian border will not exceed $60 for 1,000 cubic meters. "[The gas supplying company] Itera has clearcut prices for transit services, and we are not going to break our trade relations with this company. At worst, the transit of [Turkmen gas] will cost $20 for 1,000 cubic meters.... After the signing of the Turkmen deal, we can confidently say that the price of gas [in Ukraine] will be dictated by the market.... If we are offered the same price or a lower one [by Russia], we are ready to balance the volume of gas purchased from Russia against that from Turkmenistan," Tymoshenko told the daily.

However, Interfax on 14 October quoted a "wellinformed interlocutor from Moscow, who is close to the Russian-Ukrainian gas debt negotiations" as saying that Ukraine's Turkmen gas deal is not viewed as optimistically as it is by Tymoshenko. According to that interlocutor, the transit of Turkmen gas via Russia will cost $30-$35 for 1,000 cubic meters, so its price for Ukrainian consumers may reach $80 for 1,000 cubic meters. "Russia is ready to ship this gas through its territory but our position is that the transit should be paid for in cash; we will not accept unclear [payment] schemes," he noted.

Interfax's interlocutor also said the current price of Russian gas on the Ukrainian border is $100-$102 for 1,000 cubic meters but added that Russia may reduce this price to $80 if Ukraine agrees to pay for 50 percent of Russian gas supplies in cash and acknowledge the remaining 50 percent as a state credit from Russia. According to him, only following an agreement on Russia's current gas supplies to Ukraine, both sides may tackle the problem of Ukraine's past debts for Russian gas supplies. In particular, Interfax's interlocutor noted that Russia might accept the conversion of the Ukraine's gas debt into securities that could later be exchanged for Ukrainian property.

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.

End Note: UKRAINE'S DIVIDED ORTHODOX CHURCH LOSING BELIEVERS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

UKRAINIAN LEGISLATORS PROTEST NEWSPAPER'S CLOSURE. Leftist and centrist deputies on 17 October left the parliamentary session hall to protest the closure of the "Silski visti" newspaper for non-payment of taxes, Interfax reported. Ivan Bokyy, of the Socialist Party caucus, demanded that President Leonid Kuchma "immediately" cancel the ban on "Silski visti." The State Tax Administration ordered the newspaper to pay 1.8 million hryvni ($330,000) in penalties for not having paid income tax on property it received eight years ago. The Kyiv City Arbitration Court rejected the newspaper's appeal to cancel the penalties. "Silski visti" has been known for its leftist political sympathies and criticism of the Kuchma administration. JM

UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS ACCUSED OF HIDING INFORMATION ABOUT DISAPPEARED JOURNALIST. Lawmaker Oleksandr Lavrynovych on 17 October said Ukraine's law enforcement bodies are giving only "a part of the information" to the public about their investigation into the disappearance of opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2000), Interfax reported. Lavrynovych heads a special commission created by the parliament to look into Gongadze's disappearance. Alona Prytula, chief editor of the Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska pravda," for which Gongadze worked before his disappearance, said Security Service head Leonid Derkach and Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko "are interested in convincing" the president that Gongadze "disappeared on his own initiative." According to Prytula, Gongadze was kidnapped and "is now being kept somewhere." JM

POLAND CONCERNED ABOUT 'IMPASSE' IN LVIV CEMETERY'S RECONSTRUCTION. The Foreign Ministry on 16 October expressed its "great unease" over the "impasse" in the reconstruction of a Polish military cemetery in Lviv, PAP reported. Last week, cemetery security guards and Ukrainian policemen demolished the balustrade a Polish firm had assembled on the Polish section of Lyiv's Lychakivskyy Cemetery. Foreign Ministry spokesman Grzegorz Dziemidowicz commented that this act "embarrassed especially those circles in Poland who have for many years sought to build good neighborly relations with Lviv." The issue of the so-called Polish Lwow Eaglets Cemetery in Lviv has been a sticking point in PolishUkrainian relations for years (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 September 2000). JM


A spate of church-building since independence seems to indicate a spiritual rebirth in Ukraine. The newly rebuilt Uspensky (Assumption) cathedral in the capital, Kyiv, stands on its original ruins like a phoenix risen from the ashes. But controversy surrounds the reconstructed church's future. Ukraine's divided Orthodox churches are at loggerheads over who should use it, and the building has come to symbolize the increasing identification of Orthodoxy with political and national divisions.

A recent poll by the Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Studies found two-thirds of Ukrainians consider themselves Orthodox. But the study shows that Protestant and other religions are growing fast to rival Ukraine's traditional faith, even outstripping Orthodox communities in some regions.

One major reason for the growing popularity of other confessions, the study suggests, may be conflicts within the Ukrainian Orthodox church, which divided in 1992. The then Metropolitan, Filaret, split off from the original church, which is led by the Moscow Patriarch, and declared himself head of a Kyiv Patriarchate.

A third church, the tiny Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, renewed its activities in Ukraine in 1990. Neither the Kyiv Patriarchate nor the Autocephalous Church is officially recognized by either the Russian or Greek Orthodox Church.

All three Ukrainian Orthodox Churches hold identical beliefs, and the conflicts among them are the result of political, not spiritual considerations. According to the survey, most believers are not interested in the schism. More than two-thirds of those who said they were Orthodox could not or would not specify to which branch they belonged.

But adherence to the Kyiv or Moscow patriarchates increasingly is becoming attached to the idea of support for the independent Ukrainian state or for closer relations with Russia.

Kyiv Patriarch Filaret tells our correspondent: "The Kyiv Patriarchate and the [Ukrainian] Autocephalous Church support Ukrainian statehood, that is, they hold the position of the Ukrainian state. We have a common platform: Ukrainian statehood. Their position is based on state principles, from political interests, and ours from church interests--but we stand with the government, for Ukrainian statehood. Whereas, the Moscow Patriarchate, not all, but a significant part, takes the position of union with Russia."

For its part, the Moscow Patriarchate says the question of patriotism has nothing to do with which church people attend, and that the breach with the other Orthodox Churches is a problem of ecclesiastical rules that can only be resolved by the breakaway churches returning to the Moscow Patriarchate. The Kyiv Metropolitan vicar of the Moscow Patriarchate, Mytrofan, says: "We can't talk about union, but only about a return of those who left, a return to the fold. And the only way they can do that is through repentance. This isn't just a whim of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church or a whim of Moscow, it is clearly stated in Church rules. If we're true believers, we should not negate Church rules, but should carry them out. We are for a single Church in Ukraine, and [that Church] should be independent. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is practically autocephalous at present. We have our own synod, we decide our internal questions without Moscow. Our Church practically has independence, which needs to be legalized."

Division of Church property is also a cause of strife. Although the Moscow Patriarchate remains the dominant Church, with over 8,000 parishes to the Kyiv Patriarchate's 2,500, it is steadily losing church buildings and even whole parishes to its rival and to the Greek Catholic Church in western Ukraine.

Still, the Moscow branch holds part of the country's most important monastery, Pechersky Lavra. It was given to them by verbal agreement with former President Leonid Kravchuk, while the upper part, which contains the Uspensky cathedral, remains a state museum.

The Uspensky cathedral, destroyed during the war, has been rebuilt by the Kyiv city council and by state and private donations. The Moscow Patriarchate claims it as its cathedral church. But because of the cathedral's prominent historical and architectural value, whichever Church gains control of the building would appear to be the dominant Church of Ukraine.

When President Leonid Kuchma allowed the Moscow patriarch to bless the Uspensky Cathedral on Ukrainian Independence day, 24 August, it provoked demonstrations from nationalist groups. The group responsible for planning and raising funds to rebuild the cathedral is the Honchar foundation. Its executive director, Valentina Irshenko, says the fund wanted to rebuild the church as a symbol of the rebirth of Ukrainian culture and not of religion. She told RFE/RL: "As long as this conflict between confessions continues, the Uspensky cathedral will remain a state possession. After a united and single Orthodox Church is recognized, we will decide whether to hand it over to the Church or keep it under control of the state as a museum. That will be decided when the Church finds a common language. I can guarantee that, until then, neither confession will get this cathedral."

Few expect that to be soon. President Kuchma has spoken out in support of church unification, and the Patriarch of Constantinople has also said he would like to see an independent Ukrainian Church. But the Russian Church has refused even to consider the idea.

So, while the outer building is finished, the interior of the Uspensky cathedral is still awaiting completion. It remains a beautiful shell without an owner, less a symbol perhaps of Ukrainian cultural rebirth than of its modern-day crisis of national identity. And Ukrainian believers continue to turn to alternative Churches.