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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
KUCHMA TALKS TO RFE/RL -- PART 1
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma spoke on the telephone in a live evening program of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 3 April. Below is the first part of a translation of his interview, which was transcribed and published by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on its website (http://www.radiosvoboda.org).
RFE/RL: Leonid Danylovych, I'm very glad that you've found time to talk to us. You are speaking with Oleksa Boyarko, an employee of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. I have a lot of questions for you.
KUCHMA: You're welcome, I'm ready to openly answer them.
RFE/RL: I'll start with a general question. You know, if one listens to Ukrainian politicians today, one cannot immediately grasp what kind of a country Ukraine is. Extreme rightists say it is a bandit, totalitarian regime; extreme leftists also say it is a bandit regime.
KUCHMA: If we classify [Socialist Party leader Oleksandr] Moroz as an extreme leftist, then it is he who says so.
RFE/RL: And some say it is an autocratic regime right now. You often mention that you want to build a democratic Ukraine. In your opinion, what democratic characteristics does Ukraine already possess, and what characteristics are you going to develop in the future?
KUCHMA: In the first place, there is Ukraine's Constitution, which envisions exactly this [democratic] development pattern for society and the country as a whole, therefore all of us should proceed from the constitution in our actions.
As regards those characteristics, they can be seen, as people say, with a naked eye. In the first place, the fact that [Ukraine's] power system is divided into three branches -- legislative, executive, and judicial -- is a trait of the democratic community. And the fact that the constitution guarantees human rights and freedoms. True, they are not always observed -- to begin with living standards -- but [the constitution] is our orientation point.
Furthermore, regardless of what people say in Ukraine or elsewhere, there is freedom of expression in Ukraine, there are independent media.... It is unambiguous that there are media that are independent from the state, the government, the authorities.
Therefore, our values are European ones, we want to stick to them. You see, other countries were pursuing [those values] for 100 or 200 years, or even longer, while we [are expected] to transform one system into another within 10 years. I think it is senseless to make the same demands on the [Ukrainian] society as on Germany or France.
RFE/RL: Your opponents often say that it is necessary to limit the presidential powers in the future. You have had a lot of experience in the post of president. What is your opinion about the proposal to transform Ukraine into a parliamentary republic with a ceremonial president in the future?
KUCHMA: [My opinion is] absolutely negative. It is 100 or even 200 percent negative. [The proposal] spells a failure for all of Ukraine. It is a threat to the existence of Ukraine as a state. Let us suppose that we have a parliamentary republic -- what would happen in Ukraine?
We need not look for examples in remote parts. Under pressure from some structures, including European ones, Moldova is a parliamentary republic. What has happened there is evident to everybody. If anybody wants to make an experiment in Ukraine.... Ukraine is not Moldova, and consequences will be much more disastrous, not only for Ukraine but also for Europe. Therefore, there is no need to play a game that is not needed. Today, in the transition period, a strong executive branch is necessary.
KUCHMA: Today? It is nonexistent because of a simple reason: You have helped ruin the results of the [constitutional] referendum, prevent their implementation [ed. note: it is not clear whether Kuchma has RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service or someone else in mind]. What the referendum envisioned was the creation of a workable state power system, a European model, in which parliamentary elections lead to the creation of a coalition that assumes responsibility, including for the formation of a government. And there is mutual responsibility.
As of today, the parliament is not responsible for anything, is it? Not responsible for anything. The parliament is not structured, and the majority that was created under the influence of some factors -- including the referendum -- has now been ruined by some forces. Tell me, please, is it possible for a country to achieve successes if the government has no support in the parliament? Therefore, I would like to warn everybody against pushing Ukraine into this fatal path. For some reason nobody doubts the necessity of a strong government in France. Perhaps you will extend your wish to install a totally parliamentary republic to the United States as well, won't you?
Let us look at Europe. In every country the president is able to disband the parliament if it is not operational, while the president in Ukraine does not have such a possibility.
KUCHMA: I will not conduct any dialogue with those forces that do not support this strategic course of Ukraine's development, that do not want Ukraine to be an independent country.
KUCHMA: Well, what for? Let's not touch upon specifics. If there's a need, I can tell you about specific people. [I will have no dialogue] with those forces that do not want to work within the legal framework, within the framework of the constitution, which I should sacredly observe as the president, as the guarantor of the constitution. [And] with those forces that demand the dismissal of the president or the transformation of Ukraine into a parliamentary republic.
I defend the constitution and will not sit down to negotiate with those forces that want transformations according to the pattern "somebody wants something." Otherwise, I'm open for dialogue with all forces: from the left wing and the right wing, and from the center, with anyone you like, provided they share the values I have mentioned.
This dialogue has begun. I requested the people who are respected in society [to handle] this issue. But it is not advantageous for some oppositionists. It is not advantageous to conduct a dialogue [for them], so they're making demands that cannot be met.
Moreover, who has given them the right to say that "we are the main oppositionists today"? (Ed. note: Kuchma apparently refers to the demand of the Forum of National Salvation that it be recognized as the main negotiation partner.) There is an opposition that I fought during the elections, the Communist part [of the opposition], which obtained more than 10 million votes. Is it an opposition or not? If they, too, put themselves within the same framework as the opposition mentioned before, with the same demands, then tell me, please, what will happen in Ukraine? [Progressive Socialist Party leader Natalya] Vitrenko is in the opposition, too.
I say it once again: The elections did take place, the people did make their choice, one does not need to make demands now but to work, to work within the legislative framework, to win not with stones [during demonstrations] but in the presidential elections, which are scheduled for 2004. Let them show that they have support in society, among voters.
KUCHMA: If they don't want to find common language, I'll not find it either, because of the following reason: The language of ultimatums is not a language for speaking with the authorities. I reject ultimatums. I'm not going to capitulate. I say I'm a president elected in a nationwide ballot. More than 16 million voters voted for me....
KUCHMA: I'm not [former Russian President] Yeltsin, I'm not going to resign, therefore the replacement is not the main concern for me today. The main concern [for me] is to make the system work as a whole, to make the government work [and to] cooperate with the parliamentary majority. [To ensure that the parliament] adopts legislation that is needed by society, that it fully meet its commitments to the Council of Europe and so on. [To ensure] that we be perceived as a civilized country, not as a country where the fight for a mace is continuing. I hope you know what a mace is, you haven't forgotten, have you? (Ed. note: mace [Ukrainian: bulava] -- a symbol of authority of a hetman [Cossack leader]; Ukraine's newly elected president is presented with a mace during the inauguration.)
KUCHMA: I reject this [allegation] absolutely unambiguously as an outright lie. An absolute lie. You know that I'm a business-like man, I always say: Please talk facts, not suppositions, not rotten allegations that are often voiced from the side of my opponents.
It turns out that [people] have been given freedom [of expression], but social mechanisms for using this freedom have not been created. It's the reason for this all.
Regarding some accounts somewhere, as you allege, I bestow these accounts upon you. I bestow them upon Radio Liberty, perhaps they will help you work normally, won't they?
KUCHMA: And I'm answering you: I can give my accounts to Radio Liberty.
KUCHMA: Indeed, history will record. History will put everything in its place: who is who, the role of people, including [your] radio station.
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.
TWO DUMA COMMITTEES URGE APPROVAL OF CONVENTION ON MONEY LAUNDERING. The Duma Budget and Security committees on 9 April called on deputies to ratify the international convention on combating money laundering, Russian agencies reported. Meanwhile, Deputy Finance Minister Yurii Lvov told Interfax-AFI that the government will be able to set up a special organ to fight money laundering within two years. The same day, a group of Duma deputies led by Aleksei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia), Tamara Pletneva (Communist), and Nikolai Bezborodov (Regions of Russia) introduced a resolution condemning Belgrade's arrest of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, and Aleksandr Chuev (Unity) introduced legislation that would allow foreigners to own up to 50 percent of the shares in Russian media companies, Interfax reported. PG
LUKASHENKA SAYS WESTERN AID AIMS AT 'FALSIFYING' BELARUSIAN ELECTIONS... President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 10 April made his annual address to the National Assembly, which consists of the Chamber of Representatives and the Council of the Republic. Touching upon his recent decree on Western gratuitous assistance to Belarus (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 20 March 2001), he explained why he had to introduce rigorous state control over aid shipments. According to Lukashenka, under the pretext of sending humanitarian aid, the West is trying to install a system for falsifying the upcoming presidential elections, Belapan reported. "They [the West] do not need transparency [in the elections]. They ship whole systems here, beginning with [those for] falsifying the upcoming elections, and create computer networks," the agency quoted him as saying. Lukashenka added: "We don't need a [Western] computerized system for falsifying elections, we don't need [it], we will create a state one." JM
UKRAINIAN STUDENTS WANT KUCHMA TO SWEAR HE'S NOT GUILTY OF JOURNALIST'S DEATH. Some 1,000 students held a rally on 9 April in front of the presidential administration building in Kyiv, demanding that President Leonid Kuchma swear on the constitution that he did not give orders to kill journalist Heorhiy Gongadze or Popular Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chornovil, as well as other politicians and journalists, Interfax reported. Kuchma commented later the same day that he has already sworn on the constitution and is not going to do that again. "That would be a farce, and the president will not participate in a farce," Kuchma added. JM
ANTI-KUCHMA REFERENDUM INITIATIVE DEEMED PREMATURE, ILLEGAL. Lawmaker Taras Chornovil, an activist of the Forum of National Salvation (FNP), said on 9 April that the FNP proposal to initiate a no-confidence referendum on President Kuchma is premature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2001), Interfax reported. "If we now begin the [referendum] action, which is doomed to fail, we will in this way begin someone's election campaign or give a trump card to the president," Chornovil noted. First Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Viktor Medvedchuk said the referendum idea is legally invalid, adding that a law on referendums adopted in March bars no-confidence plebiscites. JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY NONEXISTENT? The Labor Ukraine parliamentary group (46 deputies) said it has halted its participation in the parliamentary majority Coordinating Council, Interfax reported on 6 April. Labor Ukraine explained its decision as being the result of last week's refusal by some majority participants -- including the Fatherland Party, Rukh, and Reforms-Congress groups -- to vote in line with the rest of the majority (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 2001). Citing the same reason, the Social Democratic Party (United) caucus said it will not sign a political accord between the majority and the government. First Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Medvedchuk said on 9 April that, in his opinion, the majority -- which is currently being reregistered -- will include the same groups that formed it a year ago, except, perhaps, for the Fatherland Party caucus. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Popular Rukh leader Yuriy Kostenko said Labor Ukraine's decision signals that "oligarchs" are set to break up the parliamentary majority and oust Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet. JM
UKRAINE, HUNGARY AGREE ON FLOOD PREVENTION. Premier Yushchenko and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban agreed in Uzhhorod on 9 April to set up a group of experts to work out a plan to prevent and fight floods in the Carpathian region. UNIAN quoted Yushchenko as saying that both sides also agreed to organize a joint battalion to deal with consequences caused by natural and man-made disasters by 1 October. JM
UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN SLOVAKIA. Visiting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko on 9 April told journalists after meeting his Slovak counterpart Eduard Kukan that they had discussed, among other things, "minimizing the consequences" of Slovakia's expected accession to the EU on bilateral relations between the two countries. Kukan said that after the accession "it is possible that the Schengen border will extend to the border with Ukraine. We take that into consideration and we want that border to be a modern, European one, not to harm bilateral relations and cooperation." Zlenko professed surprise at the Slovak position. The two ministers also discussed the planned construction of a gas pipeline from Russia through Ukraine, a project in which Slovakia has said it is interested in participating and investing. Zlenko was also received by President Rudolf Schuster and Prime minister Mikulas Dzurinda, CTK reported. MS