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RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 3, No. 36, 25 September 2001

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


IS YUSHCHENKO'S OUR UKRAINE KUCHMA'S 'POLITICAL PROJECT'? Kyiv-based political analyst Volodymyr Polokhalo, editor in chief of the "Politychna dumka" (Political Thought) magazine, said last week that the Our Ukraine election bloc (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 24 July 2001) of former Premier Viktor Yushchenko is a "political project" of President Leonid Kuchma's administration, Interfax reported.

"From the very beginning, [Yushchenko] has been acting according to his formulations -- which, possibly, were voiced awkwardly but quite openly -- to the effect that any actions on his part should be coordinated with the president, as between a son and a father. This means that [Yushchenko] accepts the president's world outlook and the steps he takes in any situation.... There is no evidence that Viktor Yushchenko is an independent, self-sufficient political player," Polokhalo noted.

Polokhalo added that the presidential administration has taken every measure to prevent Our Ukraine from including forces that are in opposition to Kuchma. According to Polokhalo, neither the antiKuchma National Salvation forum nor its individual representatives have any chance of joining Our Ukraine.

"The political regime is interested in creating such blocs and such political players that are not interested in real competition and have no ideological differences that would bring this competition about," the 20 September "Den" newspaper quoted Polokhalo as saying. According to Polokhalo, Yushchenko's Our Ukraine is one vivid illustration of this thesis. Another illustration, Polokhalo added, is the planned bloc that journalists have dubbed "Tundra" -- it reportedly will consist of the Labor Party, the Party of Regions, the Popular Democratic Party, and the Agrarian Party, whose combined acronym in the vernacular sounds close to "tundra."

Yushchenko, in his turn, denies that his bloc is steered by the presidential administration. But he does not conceal that he consults his political steps with Kuchma and would prefer not to call Our Ukraine an opposition force.

In an interview with the 11 September "Stolichnye novosti" Yushchenko glibly said: "My attitude toward Leonid Danylovych [Kuchma] has been and remains honest. Neither I nor Our Ukraine are under the president's control.... I hope the that Leonid Danylovych's attitude to the bloc will be the same as our bloc's attitude toward him. Today, I am confident that the president needs constructive criticism from a bloc with a patriotic stand much more than radicalism. This criticism from our bloc is not personal criticism of the president. I will respect the president because he is the symbol of my state. Without respecting the president I will not get marks as an intelligent and educated man. This is reality and it speaks for itself. People from my bloc often say that I consult the president too much. But I would like to consult him even more. Not because the bloc's policy is under his control, but because the president plays a special role in Ukraine. It is not going easily for him now or for the country. Any bloc gets marks rather than loses them from communications with the authorities."

The parliamentary caucuses of the Ukrainian Popular Rukh, the Popular Rukh of Ukraine, the Reforms and Order Party, and ReformsCongress on 19 September announced the creation of the Our Ukraine group in the Ukrainian parliament to represent the Our Ukraine election coalition headed by Yushchenko. But it is unclear what other political parties will be in Our Ukraine. Ukrainian media reported last week that Yushchenko would like the Party of Regions led by State Tax Administration head Mykola Azarov to join Our Ukraine, in an effort to get leverage in Ukraine's eastern oblasts. But Azarov reportedly answered that Our Ukraine would be better served by joining the Party of Regions in the Tundra bloc.

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.

...PREPARES TO HINDER INFLOW OF AFGHAN REFUGEES... Lukashenka told journalists that the Belarusian authorities are preparing to counteract a possible huge influx of Afghan refugees should the U.S. conduct retaliatory strikes in Afghanistan. "You are aware of this illegal migration, and that we have been detaining hosts of people on the Polish border, deporting them -- but they keep coming there. As of today, there are about 100,000 such migrants in Belarus. Thank God, they still behave decently. But their number can increase. So we are preparing to thwart the influx of illegal migrants here, but Western Europe should understand that they will not escape this surge. A road, a wide road through Belarus, Ukraine, and the Baltic countries has already been paved," Belarusian Television quoted him as saying. JM

UKRAINE OPENS AIRSPACE TO U.S. MILITARY CARGO FLIGHTS. Ukraine's Council of National Security and Defense (RNBO) has agreed to allow the U.S. military overflight rights to the country's airspace, Interfax reported on 24 September, quoting deputy parliamentary speaker Viktor Medvedchuk. Medvedchuk said the decision was made at Washington's request. According to Medvedchuk, the RNBO decision will by confirmed by a presidential decree and does not require parliamentary approval. RNBO head Yevhen Marchuk said Washington has assured Kyiv that U.S. planes flying over Ukraine will not be carrying weapons of mass destruction, military aircraft, helicopters, tanks, or heavy artillery, since flights with such cargos must be approved by the Ukrainian parliament. UNIAN reported that leaders of parliamentary caucuses met with President Leonid Kuchma on 24 September and assured the president of their support for the RNBO decision regarding U.S. flights over Ukraine. JM

UNATTENDED NUCLEAR-WASTE STORAGE FOUND IN UKRAINE. An unattended nuclear-waste storage facility has been found near Zhytomyr, central Ukraine, UNIAN reported on 24 September, quoting the local newspaper "Misto." In the article entitled "Nuclear Bomb Near Zhytomyr," the newspaper reported that unknown people found a concrete well with wooden boxes cast in concrete. The boxes contained steel blocks marked as radioactive substance. Each steel block emits from 0.017 to 1.2 milliroentgens per hour, while the maximal permissible emission level is 0.03 milliroentgens per hour. The newspaper said a Soviet army unit that stored nuclear warheads was previously deployed at the site. The newspaper added that Ukraine's Security Service has instructed the local authorities to urgently isolate the radiation sources. JM