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UKRAINIAN POLICEMEN PICKET PARLIAMENT OVER PRIVILEGES, ANTIPRESIDENTIAL PROTESTS. Some 5,000 policemen, including many police veterans, picketed the parliamentary building on 20 March, demanding the restoration of privileges to law enforcement officers, higher wages, and the punishment of those responsible for violent clashes during the 9 March antipresidential protests, Interfax reported. In 1999 the parliament canceled privileges to law enforcement officers that covered the payment of rents, transportation fees, and vouchers for stays in sanatoriums and recreation centers. JM

UKRAINIAN INTERIOR MINISTER'S SACKING CONFIRMED, DENIED. Permanent presidential representative in the parliament Roman Bezsmertnyy on 19 March confirmed earlier media reports that President Leonid Kuchma dismissed Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko, Interfax reported. However, Premier Viktor Yushchenko told journalists on 20 March that, as regards Kravchenko and other cabinet reshuffles, "consultations are under way and no resolution has been adopted yet." JM

FORMER UKRAINIAN BANKER DETAINED FOR ABUSE OF OFFICE. Kyiv prosecutors have detained Volodymyr Bondar, first deputy head of the National Bank in 1995-99, on charges of abuse of office, Interfax reported on 19 March. The prosecutors allege that in 1997 Bondar signed an unsound deal with a bank in Cyprus, inflicting a loss of $5 million on the state. In June 2000, prosecutors instigated criminal proceedings against a number of National Bank officials, accusing them of mishandling foreign currency reserves in 1997-98. The names of those officials have not been officially released. The Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska pravda" suggests that Ukrainian oligarchs Oleksandr Volkov, Hryhoriy Surkis, and Viktor Medvedchuk are behind Bondar's detention. According to the newsletter, the oligarchs want to put pressure on Premier Yushchenko to form a coalition government. Yushchenko headed the National Bank at the time the alleged mishandling of foreign currency reserves took place. JM


RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 3, No. 10, 20 March 2001

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

NATIONAL REMEMBRANCE INSTITUTE PLEDGES TO FIND TRUTH ABOUT 1941 POGROM. Last week, the National Remembrance Institute (IPN) adopted a declaration on the recently much-publicized pogrom of Jews in Jedwabne, northeastern Poland, in 1941 (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 6 March 2001). The institute, which launched an investigation into the pogrom last year, said in the declaration:

"The task of the IPN is to determine all the circumstances of the crime in Jedwabne and to indicate its perpetrators. The IPN is led by the conviction that the murder of Jewish neighbors was not carried out on behalf of our nation. The IPN will do everything to determine the truth."

The institute also pledged to publish a white book after completing the investigation. "We desire to stress that the tragic drama of the events in Jedwabne cannot be a basis for wrongful generalizations in the evaluation of the stances of Poles during the tragic years of World War II. Declaring the willingness to commemorate the tragic drama at Jedwabne, we express the hope that the memory of this will serve the reconciliation of Poles and Jews, nations that have suffered so painfully through the genocide of the 20th century," the IPN concluded.

PAP reported the same day that the evidence collected thus far by the IPN testifies to the fact that both Polish residents of Jedwabne and Germans took part in murdering all of the Jewish residents of Jedwabne. The IPN noted that some of the witnesses it questioned were between 10 and 14 years old at the time of the Jedwabne pogrom and had not been questioned earlier.

Jan Tomasz Gross, a Jewish emigre from Poland, alleged in his book "Neighbors" -- published last year in Polish -- that Jedwabne residents burned alive some 1,600 Jews in a barn on 10 July 1941, shortly after the town was occupied by Nazi troops, without any encouragement from Germans. "The 1,600 Jedwabne Jews were murdered not by the Nazis or Soviets, but the society," Gross wrote in his book, which is due to appear in English next month. According to Gross, the participation of Germans in the crime was limited mostly to taking pictures and filming.

Apart from an indignant uproar, Gross' book has also given rise to a very important discussion among Polish intellectuals and scholars -- spearheaded by Poland's most respected daily "Rzeczpospolita" -- about the nature of Polish-Jewish relations in the 20th century, Polish antiSemitism and Jewish anti-Polonism, and responsibility for the Holocaust. There have also been important statements from state officials, most notably from President Aleksander Kwasniewski, on the need to officially commemorate the Jedwabne tragedy. Kwasniewski has pledged to make an official apology during a ceremony on the 60th anniversary of the massacre. According to Kwasniewski, the apology should be made regardless of whether the IPN concludes its investigation into the Jedwabne pogrom by that time or not.

In a move last week that signaled Poland's willingness to face the truth of Jedwabne, authorities removed a stone monument with an inscription that blamed only Germans for the Jedwabne massacre. A new monument will be erected and a cemetery will be arranged on the site of the tragedy.


UKRAINIANS IN A STATE OF CONFUSION OVER STATE. Ukraine's Oleksandr Razumkov Center of Economic and Political Studies conducted a poll among 2,037 respondents in all Ukrainian regions in late February and early March, asking them a number of questions about their political preferences. Generally, the poll confirmed what had been known before -- namely, that Ukrainians remain deeply confused about what should be done to improve the situation in the country, as well as extremely distrustful of their leadership and political elite. However, it also showed that the current antipresidential opposition -- grouped in the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" movement and the Forum of National Salvation -- cannot count on decisive social support either.

The proposal of the antipresidential opposition that Ukraine should become a parliamentary republic with a largely ceremonial president, or no president at all, was supported by 16.9 percent of respondents; 46.1 percent were against it; while 37 percent were unable to decide on the issue. The idea of a parliamentary-presidential republic was viewed more favorably: 30.2 percent supported it; 27.4 percent were against it; and 42.4 percent did not provide a definite answer.

Answering the question about who should be afraid of the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" movement and the Forum of National Salvation, 46.7 percent of respondents mentioned President Leonid Kuchma and the state officials who were secretly taped by presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko; 13.6 percent said the groups threaten oligarchic clans; 15.6 percent mentioned society in general; 11.8 percent said the threat was directed against Ukrainian citizens; and 6.9 percent mentioned state bodies. According to 13.8 percent of respondents, the antipresidential opposition is no threat to anybody, while 12.3 percent were unable to answer the question.

The center found that the activity of Premier Viktor Yushchenko is supported by 26.7 percent of Ukrainians (27.2 percent said they do not support him); President Kuchma by 11.4 percent (negative rating: 43.8 percent); the government by 9.7 percent (negative rating: 38.8 percent); and the parliament by 4.5 percent (negative rating: 49.4 percent). Commenting on why the positive rating of Yushchenko is higher than that of the government by nearly three to one, Center of Economic and Political Studies head Anatoliy Hrytsenko said "this testifies to the fact that people do not perceive the government as a team of likeminded persons."

According to the poll, if parliamentary elections were held right now, only the Communist Party would be able to overcome the 4 percent voting threshold necessary to win parliamentary seats. The Communist Party could count on support from 14 percent of Ukrainians, while other parties would obtain far less support: the Democratic Party -- 3.7 percent; the Social Democratic Party (United) -- 3 percent; the Popular Democratic Party -- 2.9 percent; the Democratic Union -- 2.5 percent; the Popular Rukh (Udovenko) -- 2.1 percent; and the Fatherland Party -- 1.5 percent. Of those polled, 36 percent said they would support no party, while 22.7 percent were unable to define their party preferences.

The poll also found that 29 percent of Ukrainians believe Kyiv's foreign policy has recently taken a proRussia slant to the detriment of Ukraine's relations with the West (50.2 percent of them assessed this fact positively, 29.7 percent negatively, and 16.3 percent neutrally).

"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.