RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 2, No. 45, 5 December 2000

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

LUKASHENKA WHIPS KGB INTO COMBAT SHAPE TO WARD OFF ANTICIPATED NATO ONSLAUGHT. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 28 November met with KGB senior officers to introduce them to Leanid Yeryn, the newly appointed KGB chief. During the meeting, Lukashenka touched upon a broad range of domestic and international issues. Following are excerpts from his address to the KGB forum, as quoted by Belarusian Television in its "special report" on 28 November.

On the KGB's efficiency: "If you get no results, get ready for layoffs in the KGB. I don't need a muddleheaded [intelligence-gathering] system that gives no result. This refers to your analytical work, too. Hence the task [is] to obtain timely information about the plans and intentions of foreign centers--I mean secret information that can by obtained only by a special service--and to actively enlighten [those] abroad about the situation in Belarus according to [your] means and capabilities. I don't need analyses of the press. I can read perfectly well and I read all newspapers."

On spying on Western diplomats in Belarus: "It is necessary to establish a tight counterintelligence watch over foreign diplomats in the country [and ensure that they observe] Belarusian law, as we are required to do in the West and other states, [and] to actively record their illegal activities, which are in abundance. Possibly, you record them. Alas, I don't know anything about that."

On the feeling of guilt for the disappearance of people in Belarus and on an anticipated "impalement": "All the fraternal media in unison with Western well-wishers are trying to blame me, the president of the country, for the disappearance of people, well-known people. The latest disappearances are those of [Russian Public Television cameraman Dzmitry] Zavadski, [former National Bank Chairwoman Tamara] Vinnikava, [police officer Aleh] Baturyn. And those three earlier ones [ed. note: Yury Zakharanka, Viktor Hanchar, Anatol Krasutski]. They are shouting unanimously: Lukashenka is to blame! They [call themselves] democrats. They are posing as democrats! They have already convicted me without trial. Me, the head of state. Thus, in order to prevent journalists from feeling discomfort because of all those high-profile cases and crimes, I want to say the following: Yes, it is me who is to blame for what has taken place in the country. Me. Because I am the president. Therefore, do not look for culprits. I am fully responsible for [those disappearances]. I emphasize once again: do not look for culprits, I am the only one to blame. But I will be tried by those who are attempting to [try me] now, only when the people refuse to trust me and when [my opponents] seize power. Then they will impale me without trial and investigation--you know it well--to the music of approving howls from Western teachers of democracy."

On alleged NATO attempts to depose him: "The statement of a NATO official that Belarus will be the next country [to experience NATO interference] (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 28 November 2000) was not [a surprise] to us, thanks to you and your intelligence work, and thanks to the Russians, too. This has not been a secret for us for at least six months, or more precisely, since the Yugoslav conflict and war [in 1999]. Therefore, that chatter of his [NATO official Jamie Shea] was not a slip of the tongue, it was an intentional leak to wag a finger or shake a fist in order to intimidate the president and the Belarusian people-- look out, be submissive, or else you'll get it [just] as Yugoslavia [did].... This was an intentional leak in order to put me and others in [our] place. The $108 million that, as we have disclosed jointly with you, [was allocated by the West] for the parliamentary and presidential elections [in Belarus], is now circulating among the opposition. You are witnessing the activation of its aggressive actions.... The opposition, Western institutions, and their branches in Belarus have united and are behaving without restraint.... The conclusion: [all this is] direct evidence of foreign leverage and interference, to the point of military intervention, even if for the time being [only] in the form of blackmail, as well as the desire to destabilize the situation. The dress rehearsal and trial of strength has already taken place--the parliamentary elections. They have lost and now say: he created a totalitarian machine that trampled [us] with its caterpillar tracks. They [the regime] elected whom they wanted to. They [the opposition and its Western supporters] thought that they would triumphantly march into Belarus as [the Nazis did] in 1941, only using different methods."

On the preparation of the military for NATO intervention (with a flashback to Slobodan Milosevic's downfall): "Realizing and knowing this, I decided as early as this summer, in the month of May, it seems to me, to inspect the armed forces. This was the main reason why I began to visit troops. We have done a great deal, a colossal amount of work, owing to that inspection. We have spurred the armed forces on. We have brought into an ideal condition everything that they have there. Today all the armored equipment is combatready, the aircraft that are now being repaired will return to their units in a battle-worthy condition in the first quarter [of 2001]. We have earmarked huge sums to equip primarily the Air Defense and the Air Forces. You know Yugoslavia's experience. And you know that I sent [Security Council Secretary Viktar] Sheyman to Yugoslavia, [as well as] my son and a group of specialists, possibly someone from the KGB was there, too, in order to study what was going on there. We got into there on purpose and studied every meter and centimeter of the war in Yugoslavia. I presented a pattern to Milosevic, according to which he was going to be thrashed. Everything took place exactly as I told him, including the [recent Yugoslav] elections.... I knew that I myself might be confronted with such a situation. But I was right when I said that [NATO and the opposition] were too late. There will be no Yugoslavia in Belarus."


GRISLY TAPE HITS KUCHMA--AND UKRAINE. A political bomb exploded in Kyiv during Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz's address to the parliament on 28 November. No immediate casualties have so far been reported, but observers of the Ukrainian political scene predict that the toll may be heavy.

Moroz said President Leonid Kuchma ordered that independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze be "gotten rid of" and "systematically monitored" the implementation of his order. According to Moroz, Gongadze's disappearance was planned and carried out by Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko, with the participation of presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn. "It is necessary to put an end to the country's sliding into the darkness of criminality and banditism," Moroz told the lawmakers.

Following his address to the parliament, Moroz played journalists an audio recording that he said he believes to be taped conversations between Kuchma, Kravchenko, and Lytvyn about Gongadze. According to Moroz, the recording testifies to the fact that Kuchma "personally gave instructions" with regard to the Gongadze case and monitored how those instructions were implemented. Moroz said the tape was provided to him by an unnamed officer from Ukraine's Security Service (SBU). Moroz added that the officer is ready to testify in court if a trial is opened in connection with the Gongadze case. Moroz also noted that unspecified foreign experts have said the recording is authentic.

The presidential press service said in a statement on 28 November that Moroz's accusations "have no grounds whatsoever and are full insinuations, and accordingly, as insults and slander, are subject to Ukraine's Criminal Code." The statement added that Moroz made his allegations in a bid to boost his declining popularity. Ukrainian media reported that presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn has sued Moroz for slander. As for Kuchma, he commented that Moroz's allegation is "a provocation, possibly, with the participation of foreign special services."

A group of SBU officers who are responsible for ensuring security of the head of state said in a statement that it is "impossible" to eavesdrop on Kuchma's communications links or offices. But what is particularly noteworthy, no official or body have so far explicitly said that Moroz's tape is a fabrication.

The Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska pravda" ( Gongadze was chief editor before his disappearance on 16 September--published a transcribed version of the recording that Moroz had made available on 28 November. The initial transcription consisted of nine "episodes" of conversations between unidentified interlocutors. Later "Ukrainska pravda" provided identification tags that attribute individual statements to Kuchma, Lytvyn, and Kravchenko. Among other things, the interlocutors discuss Georgian-born Gongadze and ways to get rid of him. The options include deportation to Georgia and kidnapping by Chechens for ransom. The conversations are in a Ukrainian-Russian linguistic mix (popularly called "surzhyk" in Ukraine). It is particularly shocking to read the vulgar language used by the interlocutor identified as Kuchma.

Last week, fragments of Moroz's tape were available on the web in real audio format at: Dutch journalist Corine de Vries, who writes for the Amsterdam-based "Volkskrant," told RFE/RL on 29 November that she had received a copy of Moroz's tape for evaluation "several weeks ago." She sent it to a Dutch laboratory for analysis and was subsequently told by experts that the quality of the recording is too poor to draw definite conclusions about its content.

There are numerous versions circulating in Ukraine as to who or what is behind the Moroz's tape scandal. The Kyivbased "Zerkalo nedeli" in its 2 December issue listed several of them.

According to one version, the tape was passed to Moroz by "U.S. special services" in order to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, impeach Kuchma, and launch an early presidential election. Following Kuchma's ouster, the power could be taken by Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, whom the U.S. and the West would allegedly like to become Ukraine's president and, in this way, "to transform Ukraine into a real buffer between the unifying Europe and the re-emerging Russian empire," according to "Zerkalo nedeli."

Another version focuses on "Moscow's hand" in the scandal. According to this line of reasoning, Moscow has more recordings of what was being said in Kuchma's office. By publishing a part of them through Moroz, the Kremlin is blackmailing Kuchma that it may publish more unless he becomes obedient. According to the newspaper, Moscow may pursue the goal of bringing Ukraine back into the Russian sphere of political and economic influence or, in other words, of making Ukraine "a second Belarus."

There are also versions alleging that the scandal was prepared by Ukraine's Security Service in order to drive a wedge between Kuchma and some "oligarchs" who wield much influence in the presidential office. According to this version, SBU chief Leonid Derkach, who belongs to the socalled Derkach-Pynchuk oligarchical group, intended to diminish the political clout of the Volkov and SurkisMedvedchuk oligarchical groups as well as compromise Interior Minister Kravchenko.

Whatever the true reasons behind the disclosed tape, it is obvious that the scandal has hit not only Kuchma or some other top officials but also Ukraine as a whole. The country in which the president is blamed for ordering his ministers to liquidate an independent journalist can hardly be regarded as democratic and credible in the international arena.

"[It is not enough to say that] Ukraine has come here for a long stay--it has come for ages." -- Leonid Kuchma during the opening of a new Ukrainian embassy in Minsk on 1 December; quoted by Belapan.

"Ukraine is now being determinedly transformed into a second Belarus, and this transformation is being furthered not only by the authorities but also by society. The most significant difference between Ukraine and the neighboring state is our hypocrisy: we continue to make pretensions [of decency], while they in Belarus have long ago ceased to bother themselves with such attempts." -- "Zerkalo nedeli" on 2 December.

"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 DEBATES CHORNOBYL CLOSURE... The parliament on 5 December held hearings on the closure of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, which is to take place at noon on 15 December. The hearing was attended by foreign lawmakers, diplomats, and international lenders. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma complained that the West is dragging its feet on its obligation to compensate Ukraine for the loss of energy and jobs after the closure. Parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch, who said last month that Ukraine could delay the closure until it has real proof of the necessary aid, admitted this time that a delay is unlikely. "Further use of Chernobyl without serious investments and repairs is impossible," AP quoted Plyushch as saying. Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko told the parliament that Kuchma's decision to close Chornobyl was made under the enormous pressure from the West, adding that it will "practically ruin Ukraine's economy." JM

...WHILE WESTERN DONORS PLEDGE FUNDS. "Once Chernobyl is closed, Ukraine will not be left alone. We will be with Ukraine for many years to come," Joachim Jahncke, vicepresident of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, assured the Ukrainian lawmakers. The EBRD's board is to decide this week whether to lend Ukraine 250 million euros ($220 million) to complete two nuclear reactors in order to compensate for the energy loss due to the Chornobyl closure. The EBRD formerly pledged to give Kyiv $100 million to buy fuel for Ukraine's non-nuclear power plants, while the European Commission promised 25 million euros for the same purpose. The Chornobyl closure is expected to cost some $1.4 billion. Of that, $220 million is to come from the EBRD, $585 million from the EU, $350 million the U.S., France, Sweden and Spain, $105 million from Russia, and $160 million from Ukraine's Enerhatom. JM

SLOVAK, UKRAINIAN PREMIERS CALL FOR INTENSIFIED COOPERATION. Dzurinda met with Ukrainian Premier Viktor Yushchenko in Bratislava on 5 December to discuss bilateral trade and ways to boost it. The two premiers also discussed the Russian monopoly Gazprom's plan to build a pipeline through Poland and Slovakia that would circumvent Ukraine. Dzurinda said Slovakia wants to "safeguard good relations with our neighbors" but will "not hesitate" to participate in the project if invited to do so. The two leaders also discussed the possibility of "softening" visa requirements that their countries recently imposed on each other. They signed six bilateral agreements, including one on combating organized crime. Yushchenko also met with President Rudolf Schuster and Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan, AP reported. MS

...AS KAZAKHSTAN'S STATE OIL COMPANY PLANS TO EXPAND PRODUCTION, EXPORT. Nurlan Balghymbaev, who is president of Kazakhstan's national oil company KazakhOil, told the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament on 4 December that KazakhOil plans to increase production to 9.9 million tons in 2001, compared with an estimated 5.5 million tons this year, Interfax reported. Kazakhstan's total oil production for the first 10 months of 2000 was 31.86 million tons. Balghymbaev said that much of KazakhOil's planned increase will be sold to Ukraine for refining at the Kherson Oil refinery. KazakhOil has stated its intention to participate both in the privatization of that refinery and in construction of the planned Odesa-Brody oil pipeline. Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev, however, had publicly stated his opposition on 16 November to KazakhOil's participation in the former project, which he termed "not rational." Toqaev argued that it would be more profitable to refine Kazakh oil at the Pavlodar Oil Refinery in northern Kazakhstan. LF