©2001 RFE/RL, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

With the kind permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, InfoUkes Inc. has been given rights to electronically re-print these articles on our web site. Visit the RFE/RL Ukrainian Service page for more information. Also visit the RFE/RL home page for news stories on other Eastern European and FSU countries.

Return to Main RFE News Page
InfoUkes Home Page

ukraine-related news stories from RFE

Boris Gryzlov, interior minister
Andrei Illarionov, presidential economic advisor Sergei Stepashin, Audit Chamber chairman Yurii Lvov, deputy finance minister
Vladimir Kozhin, presidential administration administrator Igor Kostikov, Federal Securities Commission chairman Leonid Reiman, communications minister
Yurii Shevchenko, health minister


RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 3, No. 44, 20 November 2001

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


WHAT DID YUSHCHENKO SEEK IN THE U.S.? Former Premier Viktor Yushchenko paid a private visit -- sponsored by the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy -- to the United States on 5-8 November. The U.S.-based "Ukrainian Weekly" reported on 18 November that while in New York on 6 November, Yushchenko met with representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora, the press, and the Freedom House human rights group, as well as with George Soros. In Washington, Yushchenko spoke with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, the National Security Council's European and Eurasian Affairs Director Daniel Fried, and several members of the U.S. Congress.

Many Ukrainian media did not fail to note that the profile of Yushchenko's U.S. trip was much lower than he planned. In particular, Yushchenko expected but failed to meet Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as President George W. Bush's security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. The much-respected weekly "Zerkalo nedeli," which is rather supportive of Yushchenko, commented on 10 November on these failures in the following way:

"During the final stage of the preparation of [Yushchenko's] visit, various U.S. [government] offices received up to five telephone calls from various people. Since such moves do not raise anything but bewilderment and panic among U.S. bureaucrats, this was exactly why a number of meetings -- for example, with Bush's adviser Rice, Secretary of State Powell, and Senator [Richard] Lugar -- did not take place. Viktor Yushchenko was heartily assisted by [former Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk], the Ukrainian diaspora, the Jewish diaspora, the Ukrainian Embassy in the U.S., and even former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Mr. Miller. So, Viktor Yushchenko was tended by a lot of nurses and for this reason remained without a number of high-profile meetings with people who would have been interested in talking with him had the visit been organized in a civilized way."

Premier Anatoliy Kinakh on 12 November publicly criticized the organizers of Yushchenko's visit on ICTV television, saying that Yushchenko disappointed the nation by failing to hand President Leonid Kuchma's letters directly to Cheney or Rice. Yushchenko subsequently claimed to have passed Kuchma's message to Washington through a third party. Kinakh did not explain, however, why Kuchma chose Yushchenko as a "messenger" and did not send those letters through him, the incumbent premier, who visited Washington a week earlier, or through Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko, who went to New York for a UN session a day after the conclusion of Yushchenko's visit. "This is a very serious lesson for those organizing Yushchenko's trip. I am speaking not about personal matters -- about who should pass those letters -- but about the honor and dignity of our Ukrainian state," Kinakh noted.

With regard to the goals pursued by Yushchenko during his U.S. trip, there was no agreement in the Ukrainian media. "Kievskiye vedomosti" suggested that Yushchenko sought a Kostunica-style "blessing" in the U.S. for his bloc's -- Our Ukraine's -- election bid. Quoting political analyst Anatoliy Hrytsenko, the newspaper opined that "Yushchenko has lost."

Hrytsenko said: "Kinakh presented himself in the U.S. in such a way as to characterize himself as a serious politician who is oriented toward democratic values. He set this out in a clear, consistent, and succinct manner, unlike Yushchenko, who likes to philosophize as he speaks."

Yushchenko explained the purpose of his trip in his characteristically elusive and vague manner. "We tried to impart our belief that the 2002 elections can effectively influence the economy and democracy [in Ukraine]. In order to make these elections successful, one needs to realize that the most topical task [in Ukraine] is to consolidate all democratic forces," Yushchenko told "Zerkalo nedeli."

But he, too, failed to explain why he was asked to pass Kuchma's letters to the U.S. leadership. "Zerkalo nedeli" suggests that Kuchma is anticipating a power shift after the March 2002 parliamentary elections toward the parliament and the government, so now he is working to acquire leverage in both Yushchenko's bloc and among his political opponents.

DONETSK WORKERS DEFEND LENIN FROM INSULT. The local branch of the All-Ukrainian Union of Workers in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, has sued a local trade company for using the image of Vladimir Lenin "in a distorted and insulting form" in its advertisements, Interfax reported on 16 November.

On billboards displayed by the company, Lenin calls on Donetsk residents to buy a "truly bourgeois stove" (burzhuika). The colloquial term "burzhuika" -- denoting a small, movable stove -- was very popular in the post-October Revolution era, and for many in the post-Soviet bloc this word still evokes an image of Bolsheviks (or even Lenin himself) warming themselves beside the fire kindled in such a heater.

"This insult to the image and name of the leader of the world proletariat -- an outstanding scholar and politician, the founder of the world's first state of workers and peasants -- offends all people of all generations and, in the first place, the working people who have been brought up under socialism and adhere to Marxist-Leninist ideas," the Donetsk workers' union wrote in support of its lawsuit. It demanded $1 million hryvni ($190,000) from the company in damages to be paid to the city budget.

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.


RALLY PROTESTS CLOSURE OF BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION WEEKLY. Some 100 people took part in Hrodna on 19 November in a protest rally against the closure of the local opposition weekly "Pahonya" (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 20 November 2001), Belapan reported. Police charged "Pahonya" Editor in Chief Mikola Markevich as well as journalists Pavel Mazheyka and Andrey Pisalnik with holding an unauthorized demonstration. JM

UKRAINE AMNESTIES $2.8 BILLION IN TAX DEBTS. State Tax Administration Deputy Chief Fedir Yaroshenko told journalists on 19 November that his agency wrote off some 14.8 billion hryvni ($2.8 billion) in tax debts and rescheduled the overdue payment of 4.8 billion hryvni, Interfax reported. This massive tax amnesty became possible under a law that provided for writing off unpaid taxes accumulated until the end of 1999, and for restructuring the payment of taxes due in 2000 over a period of five years. Yaroshenko added that as of 1 November, the new tax debt in Ukraine totaled 6.6 billion hryvni, including 5.6 billion to the state budget. JM

KUCHMA DISMISSES ENERGY MINISTER, NAMES HIS SPOKESMAN AS NEW TELEVISION CHIEF. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has dismissed Stanislav Stashevskyy from the post of fuel and energy minister, Interfax reported on 19 November. Last week, Stashevskyy was severely criticized by Kuchma and the parliament for failing to accumulate sufficient stocks of fuel at power stations for the winter. Kuchma also appointed Ihor Storozhuk as the president of the National Television Company. Storozhuk, who serves as Kuchma's spokesman, will replace Vadym Dolhanov. Both Stashevskyy and Dolhanov were relieved of their duties with the formulation "in connection with a transfer to another job." JM

ANOTHER ANTIPIRACY BILL SUBMITTED TO UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT. First deputy speaker Viktor Medvedchuk has registered a new draft bill on the manufacturing, export, and import of discs for laser recorders recently submitted to the parliament by the government, UNIAN reported on 19 November. Medvedchuk said the rejection of a bill curbing audio and video piracy on 15 November was a "drawback" in the work of the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 2001). Medvedchuk added that the currently submitted bill must be passed as soon as possible and should be treated "very seriously," because the United States is threatening Ukraine with economic sanctions. JM

UKRAINIAN NATIONALIST PARTY ELECTS LEADER. The far-right radical Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA) elected Mykola Karpyuk as its new leader and changed party symbols at its congress on 18 November in Pushcha-Vodynka, Ukrainian media reported. The former UNA leader, Andriy Shkil, who is currently in a remand center on charges of organizing mass disturbances in Kyiv on 9 March, was relieved of his post but remains in the party leadership. The UNA announced that it is going to participate in the forthcoming parliamentary elections on its own and has no plans to join any electoral bloc. Some Ukrainian observers doubt whether the party will be able to override the 4 percent voting hurdle in the elections. JM

EU SEES 'NEW MOMENTUM' IN POLAND'S MEMBERSHIP TALKS. "I see a new momentum for accession negotiations," EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said after meeting with Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz in Brussels on 19 November. Cimoszewicz briefed Verheugen on Poland's new stance in EU-membership talks. Last week the Polish government accepted a two-year restriction on the free movement of labor and reduced to 12 years its earlier demand for an 18-year transition period before foreigners can buy farmland (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 20 November 2001). However, Cimoszewicz also said Poland will allow EU citizens to buy land plots for leisure purposes seven years after its EU entry, while EU farmers will be able to buy farmland in Poland for their own cultivation after a three-year lease period. This last announcement came as a surprise. Asked why the government has not informed Poles about these decisions, European Affairs Minister Danuta Huebner said "no one has asked about that in Poland," PAP reported. JM

Ukraine's Approaching Elections and Fractured Multiparty System

Ukraine's new election law, which finally came into force on 2 November, preserves the 50:50 split in how deputies are to be elected that was used during the March 1998 elections, even though President Leonid Kuchma had expressed concern that not only well-known reformist parties, but also Ukraine's largest party, the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), would gain from the retention of proportional lists.

Between the 1994 elections, held exclusively on the majoritarian principle, and the 1998 majoritarian proportional elections, the number of CPU deputies increased by 50 percent, from 80 to nearly 120. If the new election law had required that 75 percent of deputies be elected according to proportional voting, as established parties such as the CPU had pushed for, the number of Communist deputies would have risen again in the next parliament.

Ukraine's first political party was the Republicans, created in April 1990 as an outgrowth of the Helsinki Union, itself a descendant from the Soviet-era Ukrainian Helsinki Group (UHG). Since 1990, 129 more parties have been registered in Ukraine, a reflection not of the progress of democratization but of a badly fractured and manipulated political system. The parliamentary newspaper "Holos Ukraiiny" recently wrote: "The current regime controls the course of political events and is therefore preventing the different opposition parties from uniting."

Ukraine's multiparty system includes an eclectic array ranging from three rural parties, seven promoting peace and unity, five that aim to defend women's interests, four youth parties, and 21 championing narrow special interests (cars, pensioners, educators, industrialists, health, private property, regions, social justice, the sea, consumers, NGOs, private property, the third millennium, liberty, and small and medium business, among others).

The center has been completely dominated by the "oligarchs," as seen by the recent absorption of the Inter-Regional Bloc of Reforms by the Peoples Democrats (NDPU). These oligarch parties control six parties: Labor Ukraine, NDPU, Agrarians, United Social Democrats, Democratic Party, and Democratic Union. Obviously, their names have little to do with their real party objectives. What remains of the centrists includes three Liberal and four other miniscule parties while the center-left is divided among eight parties, the majority of whom are "social democratic" to varying degrees. The Greens, meanwhile, are divided among eight parties who include every imaginable combination of "ecology" or "green" in their names.

On the center-right, Ukraine's party system has three Rukhs and 14 other center-right parties espousing "patriotic" or "fatherland" interests, as well as seven Christian democratic and one Muslim party. The extreme right has five parties, three of which have illegal paramilitary formations. The Russophile-pan-Slavic wing is badly divided among nine quarrelling, small parties while the extreme left, their natural allies, have 10 parties, five of which include "Communist" in their titles.

Ukraine's older law on political parties was updated and came into force on 5 April of this year. Surprisingly, it does not stipulate any minimum number of members for a party to be registered. But by not imposing any restrictions on the registration of parties, no matter how small or ineffectual they are, the executive ensures that Ukraine's nascent democracy remains weak and disparate.

When submitting registration documents, parties do have to collect 10,000 signatures from those eligible to vote, but that is not a difficult task. To prevent the rise of regional and secessionist parties, these signatures have to be collected in two-thirds of Ukraine's oblasts, the cities of Kyiv and Sevastopol (which have allrepublican status), and the districts of Crimea. The aim of the law is to create parties that supposedly have an all-Ukrainian status, yet the law fails to ensure this as none of the 130 parties in Ukraine has an all-Ukrainian profile.

Another aspect of the law that is ineffective is its failure to enforce restrictions on the formation and operation of parties (Article 5). Parties are to be prohibited if their programs or activities aim to liquidate Ukrainian independence, forcefully change the constitution or undermine national security, encroach on human rights, maintain paramilitary formations, or if they violate Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Yet each one of these prohibitions has been infringed by one party or another.

The CPU together with small Russophile, pan-Slavic parties want to liquidate Ukrainian independence. Recently, President Kuchma branded the CPU as "anti-Ukrainian" because it uses the symbols of a non-existent state (USSR). He added that he cannot therefore understand why the CPU is allowed into parliament. In reality, Kuchma would prefer to have the CPU legally registered, as it has proved to be a convenient scapegoat both for the socioeconomic crisis (its deputies dominated parliament until 2000 and have stalled reforms) and during the "Kuchmagate" crisis when CPU deputies allied with the oligarchs against the reformist government of Viktor Yushchenko.

Only one party has ever been temporarily banned in Ukraine, the extreme right Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA), after its members took part in Kyiv riots during the funeral of Patriarch Volodymyr Romaniuk of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarch in July 1995. But this ban was revoked after two years and the party was reregistered. Although its leaders were arrested after the 9 March anti-Kuchma riots and remain in prison, the UNA is still legal.

Paramilitary formations are usually registered as innocuous sports or cultural civic organizations, not parties. UNA has always had a paramilitary formation, the People's Self Defense Forces (UNSO), which have been involved in fighting or political violence in Abkhazia, Moldova, Chechnya, and Belarus. The Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists also has its S. Bandera Sports-Political Association Tryzub, which is reportedly under the control of the local authorities in western Ukraine and is therefore not likely to be banned. Pro-Kuchma Tryzub members from Ternopil were the real instigators of the 9 March violence in Kyiv, for which the anti-Kuchma UNA-UNSO were made the scapegoats; no Tryzub members were arrested for their actions. In addition, there is the Union of Soviet Officers, whose pensioner members the Security Service accused earlier this year of planning a coup d'etat. Ukrainian and Russophile Cossack groups also exist.

The law on political parties has never been invoked to ban separatist parties in the Crimea. Nevertheless, the law has forced them to reregister as all-Ukrainian parties (e.g. the Crimean Russian Bloc became the Soyuz [Union] party). Other Crimean parties who represented the local Party of Power were absorbed into all-Ukrainian oligarch parties.

But Ukraine's many political parties play little or no role in politics and have miniscule influence on public life, a state of affairs that the executive is only too happy to allow to continue. "Kuchmagate" has nonetheless been instrumental in creating three groupings that will go into the next elections as the antistatehood left, the pro-Kuchma oligarch-dominated center, and the anti-Kuchma patriotic center-left and center-right. Yushchenko's "Our Ukraine" bloc hopes to successfully occupy the middle ground between the pro- and anti-Kuchma camps, presenting itself as a patriotic, anti-oligarch, pro-Kuchma formation.