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RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 3, No. 12, 3 April 2001

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

CREDIBILITY OF WITNESSES IN 1941 POGROM BOOK QUESTIONED. Two Polish historians have questioned the credibility of witnesses cited in the book "Neighbors" by Jan Gross on the 1941 pogrom in Jedwabne (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 6 and 20 March 2001), PAP reported on 29 March. Gross alleged in his book that on 10 July 1941, shortly after the town of Jedwabne in northeastern Poland was occupied by German troops, Polish residents of Jedwabne herded some 1,600 Jews into a barn and burned them alive. Gross's book, published in Polish last year and due to appear in English this month, alleges that the Jedwabne murder was perpetrated by Poles alone, without any incitement from the Nazi forces occupying the town. Gross claims his findings are based on the study of Polish court files and accounts of some eyewitnesses of the pogrom. But historians Tomasz Strzembosz and Piotr Gontarczyk say Gross's findings should not be taken for granted.

Gross wrote in his book that "the first and most precise account on this subject [the pogrom] is the testimony of [Szmul] Wasersztajn, dating from 1945." But Strzembosz told PAP that Wasersztajn could not have witnessed the murder of Jews in Jedwabne on 10 July 1941 because on that day he was in hiding some 500 meters from the site of the atrocity. Strzembosz added that files of the Lomza court from 1949 and 1953 (concerning trials of some participants in the Jedwabne pogrom) state that "Wasersztajn was not a direct witness" to the pogrom. Gross claims he had studied the same court files before he wrote his book.

According to Strzembosz, other less than credible witnesses cited by Gross are Abram Boruszczak and Eljasz Gradowski. Strzembosz told PAP that Boruszczak did not live in Jedwabne at all. As for Gradowski, Strzembosz said he was sentenced for theft in 1940 (during the Soviet occupation) and deported to the Soviet Union, from where he did not return to Poland until 1945 and thus "had nothing to do with the Jedwabne case." Strzembosz added that in the hearing of the case before the Lomza court in 1949, neither Boruszczak nor Gradowski were taken into account as witnesses by the court, since "they could, at most, have heard [about the crime]."

Another Polish historian, Piotr Gontarczyk, told the daily "Zycie" on 29 March that "in writing his 'Neighbors,' Gross based [his findings] on testimonies and accounts that were not credible." Gontarczyk added: "[Gross] chose those [accounts] which matched what he wanted."

Gross told journalists in Lublin on 29 March that Strzembosz's statement does not undermine his findings contained in the book. The author of "Neighbors" reiterated that he is convinced that there were no Germans present during the murder in Jedwabne, apart from a military police post. "The mass participation of Germans in this event is completely precluded," Gross stressed.

Meanwhile, the National Remembrance Institute, which launched an investigation into the Jedwabne pogrom last year, has found new evidence regarding the number of people who may have been the victims of the 1941 massacre. Historian Jerzy Milewski from the Bialystok branch of the National Remembrance Institute reported that, according to Soviet data, there were 562 Jews living in Jedwabne in 1940. "This data is significantly at variance with that which is in circulation," Milewski said. Gross wrote in his book that some 1,600 Jews perished in the Jedwabne pogrom.

State Archive Director Daria Nalecz on 26 March presented documents discovered in the archives of Lomza, which include accounts from 19 witnesses (of whom nine were of Jewish descent), PAP reported. Nalecz said all those accounts point to Germans as the perpetrators of the Jedwabne pogrom.


IS KUCHMA AFRAID OF TYMOSHENKO OR OF DIALOGUE? A strange legal fight over the whereabouts of former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko took place in Kyiv over the past week.

A Kyiv district court on 27 March annulled the warrant issued by the Prosecutor-General's Office for the arrest of Tymoshenko, who had been in jail since 13 February on charges of bribery, smuggling, and forgery. Tymoshenko denies all of the charges, dismissing them as politically motivated. Explaining the court ruling, Judge Mykola Zamkovenko said there was not sufficient reason to believe Tymoshenko would hide from investigators. Zamkovenko added that the arrest warrant was unnecessary since Tymoshenko had attended all required interrogations. Immediately after leaving her solitary confinement, Tymoshenko went to a Kyiv clinic for treatment -- she is reportedly suffering from a stomach ulcer.

The Prosecutor-General's Office subsequently appealed against the ruling of the Kyiv district court, and the Kyiv City Court on 31 March complied with the appeal and ordered that Tymoshenko be placed under arrest once more, after which guards appeared outside Tymoshenko's hospital room. Following this development, Tymoshenko's lawyers filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, and it ordered on 2 April to suspend the arrest at least until it considers that appeal.

Oleksandr Turchynov, head of the parliamentary caucus of Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party, told Interfax that the authorities are afraid of Tymoshenko. Turchynov added, referring to "informed sources," that the order to rearrest Tymoshenko came personally from President Leonid Kuchma. Turchynov said he spoke with Kuchma about Yuliya Tymoshenko's husband, who is in jail on charges of bribery, and the president suggested that Yuliya Tymoshenko's fate depends on her "behavior." Turchynov added: [Yuliya Tymoshenko] behaved badly -- the Fatherland Party voted to pass Major [Mykola] Melnychenko's tapes to Western experts for expertise." According to Turchynov, this fact contributed to the imprisonment of the former deputy premier.

Meanwhile, the Forum of National Salvation commented that the decision to rearrest Tymoshenko testifies to the fact that the authorities are not interested in overcoming the current crisis and are deliberately exacerbating the situation. Premier Viktor Yushchenko also commented that Tymoshenko's rearrest "stops the negotiation process on the way out of the political crisis." He added that the rearrest was "a demonstration of force -- unfavorable for overcoming the crisis and arranging a normal political dialogue."

"I am worried about the fact that Russian capital is vigorously penetrating Ukraine's economy, and that this [situation] leads to increasing Ukraine's economic dependence on Russia. We have already been permanently dependent on Russian gas supplies, and now we have signed an agreement on connecting Ukraine's electricity grid to that of Russia. They say this step was caused by the need to stabilize [our electricity grid] at the frequency of 50 kHz, and now the system has started to work. But the point is that we are going to consume Russian electricity. We are not paying for gas, so now we will also not be paying for electricity. At the same time, our own power plants are not being utilized to their full capacities. Deepening economic dependence means strengthening political dependence. This is an axiom." -- Popular Rukh of Ukraine leader Hennadiy Udovenko in an interview with the Moscow-based "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 March.

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.

ACCORD BETWEEN UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT, PARLIAMENT TO BE AGREED WITH KUCHMA. Premier Viktor Yushchenko on 2 April said he and leaders of the parliamentary majority will ask President Leonid Kuchma for a meeting in order to agree on controversial issues in the currently discussed political accord between the cabinet and majority caucuses, Interfax reported. Yushchenko said the draft accord stipulates that the parliamentary majority will back the current cabinet until April 2002. However, the sides have not yet agreed on the procedure for appointing ministers and other officials. Meanwhile, Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Stepan Havrysh said the accord between the government and the parliamentary majority can be signed within a week. Yushchenko is expected to report on the government's performance to the parliament on 17 April. First Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Viktor Medvedchuk noted last week that no one in the parliament has moved to initiate Yushchenko's ouster. JM

KUCHMA, OPPOSITION TO DISCUSS MORATORIUM ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM? Presidential administration staff chief Volodymyr Lytvyn on 2 April said talks between the authorities and the opposition could focus on a moratorium on last year's constitutional referendum results. Lytvyn suggested that President Kuchma could address the nation with an appeal to postpone the implementation of the referendum for some time. Lytvyn noted that the opposition, in turn, could withdraw its proposals to change the constitution. Lytvyn added that the sides could also discuss adopting laws on political opposition, political parties, and parliamentary elections under a proportional system. According to Lytvyn, the best candidates from the authorities to conduct talks with the opposition are Anatoliy Kinakh, head of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and Viktor Musiyaka, leader of the "Forward Ukraine!" party. JM