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RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 4, No. 6, 12 February 2002

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


U.S. EXPERT SAYS MELNYCHENKO'S TAPES ARE AUTHENTIC. On 7 February, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service broadcast a live program with the participation in the RFE/RL Washington studio of Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksandr Zhyr, the head of the temporary commission of Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada dealing with the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, and Mykola Melnychenko, a former major of Ukraine's State Protection Service, whose secret recordings made in President Leonid Kuchma's office provoked the "tape scandal" in Ukraine. There were also a group of Ukrainian journalists on a live link in the RFE/RL Kyiv studio. The program -- "Evening Liberty" -- was moderated from the RFE/RL headquarters in Prague. Below are excerpts of a discussion in that program, translated from a transcription that was subsequently placed on the "Ukrayinska pravda" website.

RFE/RL: "In a few minutes, we will begin a news conference devoted to the conclusion of an expert examination of Mykola Melnychenko's audio recordings. The examination was conducted by the specialized U.S. firm Bek Tek, which is cooperating with the FBI, following a request from the temporary special commission of Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada dealing with the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze....

"Mr. Zhyr! I'm asking you to inform us and our guests about the author of the U.S. expert examination, about the firm that conducted this examination, and about its results and legal consequences for both Ukraine and the main heroes of those recordings."

ZHYR: "Good evening! Indeed, I have before me a laboratory report from the Bek Tek firm, which examined recordings passed to our commission by Mykola Melnychenko. I underscore that these were only the recordings pertaining to the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. The manager of this firm is the world-known U.S. expert Bruce Koenig, a specialist who worked with the FBI for 25 years, including 20 years as a leading specialist for analysis of audio and video materials. Anybody willing to get [more] information about this person may look at the 'Ukrayinska pravda' website. I only underscore one thing -- at present he is participating as an expert in the UN war crimes tribunal that is hearing [former Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic's case.

"What was subject to the examination? The recording devices that were used for making recordings relating to Heorhiy Gongadze, as well as other materials that needed to be examined....

"I am not going to read all conclusions -- we will do this in Kyiv where we will make public the entire report. I have a translation [of the conclusions] into Russian. [Therefore] I'll read some excerpts in the Russian language: 'The samples of the recordings that were submitted for examination are a clone of the originals, and they are unbroken [Russian: tselnye] recordings without any traces of changing or editing of audio information in the five given cuts of the two files. The flow of speech in the five given cuts testifies to the fact that no fragments of phrases or sentences were joined together by means of separate sounds, words, or short phrases.'

"Then three points of these conclusions follow. I want to say that yesterday, when I obtained these conclusions from Bruce Koenig, we had a comprehensive conversation. I was interested in the main question -- is Mr. Koenig ready to testify at any court hearing that the conclusions made by his firm are true?

"Mr. Koenig answered me that he more than once testified as an expert in various criminal proceedings, including in those connected with the impeachment of presidents. And no court has cast doubt on expert examinations made by him. Therefore, he is ready and he has agreed to testify before any court or any organization, including the UN tribunal, and to prove that these conclusions are true and that the recordings he analyzed were not doctored in any way...."

RFE/RL: "Thank you, Mr. Zhyr. Do you think that the Ukrainian judiciary will recognize the validity of this examination or, perhaps, one will have to use some international measures regarding its legal recognition in Ukraine?"

ZHYR: "Dear friends! I will voice my position once again. I would like the investigation into the Gongadze case, as well as those into other resonant take place in Ukraine. I have spoken about this more than once, and I emphasize this today that, having today Mykhaylo Potebenko in the post of Ukraine's prosecutor-general, we will never be able to conduct full and objective investigations into these criminal cases. Because his voice is heard in [Melnychenko's] recordings, and today nobody -- at least I and those colleagues in the commission I spoke to -- doubts that it is the voice of the prosecutor-general, that it is not doctoring. And those conversations testify to the fact that the deeds he did were far away from the protection of rights of Ukrainian citizens.

"I do not rule out that if no appropriate decisions are made in Ukraine in the near future, I will be one of those who will initiate civil and, possibly, criminal cases outside Ukraine's borders in connection with facts included in Melnychenko's recordings."

MELNYCHENKO: "...I was informed about the results of the examination a little earlier than your listeners. I'm glad that the truth has finally found its way into the world. I regret that such a high-level professional examination was not made a year ago. Then its consequences for the Ukrainian people would have been much better. I myself feel well. As people say, my enemies won't see the day when I feel worse."

ARTEM SHEVCHENKO (ICTV TELEVISION): "What is your opinion about the conclusions of the Kroll [Associates private investigative agency, in September 2001] regarding your work; in particular, those asserting that you could not make the recording in the way you told about to [Ukrainian lawmakers] Shyshkin, Zhyr, and Holovatyy? I mean, that [it was impossible to make recordings] on a dictaphone placed under the sofa [in Kuchma's office]. Judging by Kroll's conclusions, you lied. But if you did [the recordings] in some other way, why did you lie?

OLEKSIY STEPURA (KYIV-BASED JOURNALIST): "Which specific episodes do you have in mind?"

ZHYR: "You will learn more details [when we come back to Kyiv]. These are episodes where Leonid Danylovych Kuchma talks with former Interior Minister Kravchenko and Mr. Lytvyn [presidential administration chief], where Leonid Danylovych expresses his wish that Heorhiy [Gongadze] be moved to Chechnya. That is, the episodes that are known to everybody."

GENDER ISSUES IN ELECTION CAMPAIGN. In the late Soviet era, fixed quotas ensured that one-half of seats in local councils and a third of the seats in Ukraine's Supreme Soviet were allocated to women of the Ukrainian SSR. In Ukraine's three parliaments elected in 1990, 1994, and 1998, women's representation initially declined and then slightly increased from 2.9 to 4.6 to its current 8 percent, but it still lags far behind that of the Soviet era. Nevertheless, women's issues continue to remain marginal to the concerns of mainstream politicians in Ukraine.

In the March 1998 parliamentary elections, only one party -- the All-Ukrainian Party Women's Initiative (VPZhI) -- campaigned on a gender platform. Its result of 0.58 percent of the vote placed it 22nd on the list of 30 blocs and parties competing in that ballot.

In contrast, Women for the Future (ZhzM), one of two election groups in the current election campaign with a gender platform, has scored far more impressive results in opinion polls, which have averaged between 6-7 percent. These figures ensure that the group will easily pass the 4 percent voting barrier to qualify for the distribution of 225 seats contested under a proportional system. According to a January poll by the Ukrainian Institute for Social Studies, 10 percent of women and 2 percent of men will vote for Women for the Future.

Within Ukraine's 130 registered political parties, five are devoted to women's issues. The VPZhI, registered in October 1997, is the oldest of these. It is also the only party based outside Kyiv, in Kharkiv. Three others are also small parties -- the Women's Party of Ukraine (registered in March 1997), the Women's People Party United (September 1998), and the Solidarity with Women Party (December 1999).

Women for the Future's rise to third place in popularity among the 35 election blocs and parties has been meteoric. Its registration on 30 March of last year was suspiciously only a day before the deadline for parties to be registered to ensure they could compete in the 31 March parliamentary elections. Within less than a year, Women for the Future has managed to allegedly attract 320,000 members within 500 branches, an impressive figure when compared to the Communist Party's 140,000 members.

Women for the Future is led by individuals with ties to the former Soviet Ukrainian nomenklatura and to Leonid Kuchma when he was prime minister in 1992-93. According to Professor Alexandra Hrycak, a Western expert on gender in Ukraine, the ideology of Women for the Future is Soviet and not in tune with gender issues and the women's rights movement in the West. Women for the Future does not oppose the Soviet-era stereotype of women's role in politics being confined to areas such as maternal and child-welfare issues.

Valentyna Dovzhenko, the head of Women for the Future, also heads the All-Ukrainian Voluntary Fund of Hope and Good (VDFND). She is also the former head of the now-defunct Ministry of Family and Youth Affairs, which was established in 1997. She is currently the head of the parliamentary Committee on Family and Youth. The head of the controlling committee of VDFND and the president of another NGO, the National Fund for the Social Defense of Mothers and Children, is Lyudmyla Kuchma. The VDFND was established by the Soviet-era Union of Ukrainian Women led by Maria Orlyk, a leading member of Women for the Future.

The answer to the question of why the Women for the Future party has managed to become so popular so quickly is access to "administrative resources." "Administrative resources" or closeness to centers of power, such as the executive, ensure high popularity and victory in Ukraine's elections. Independent and thereby genuine women's parties, such as the four women's parties other than the ZhzM, stand little chance in elections when Women for the Future has executive support and -- more importantly -- the backing of the country's first lady, Lyudmyla Kuchma. The only other registered gender party for the elections, the Women's Party of Ukraine, has no access to these resources and has been unable to attract any popularity.

Women for the Future was created especially to ensure that another pro-presidential faction would exist in the next parliament. It will therefore play the same role as the Greens in the 1998 elections, who were able to win 5.43 percent of the vote by targeting floating voters, the undecided, and those disillusioned with party politics. In this sense, Women for the Future campaigns on a platform of hostility to the very idea of the worthiness of party politics. The platform of Women for the Future and its traditional campaigning style appeals to women aged between 30-40 and centers on such issues as women's rights, health (e.g. breast cancer), and domestic violence. Women for the Future's closeness to Ukraine's first lady has also drawn comparisons to the Yugoslavian United Party of the Left led by Slobodan Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovich.

Women for the Future has been defined as an "albino" by the weekly "Zerkalo Nedeli/Dzerkalo Tyzhnya" because it is devoid of any ideological platform. The party's popularity has not grown because of advertising or rousing speeches in defense of women's rights. On the contrary, its members have instead traveled around Ukraine distributing material assistance at schools, military bases, and factories. In Sumy and Kharkiv oblasts, foodstuffs have been distributed free of charge. In all rayons in Chernivtsi Oblast, "Photos for Mother" actions were undertaken in each school, kindergarten, library, and cultural clubs -- free photos were made of children standing next to Women for the Future party symbols. Afterward, presents were distributed free of charge to poor and needy families. Dovzhenko has denied that this is tantamount to drawing on "administrative resources" or that there was anything immoral in doing this.

According to the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, a third of the distribution of free assistance by election blocs in Ukraine is undertaken by Women for the Future. Grandiose concerts by Ukrainian and Russian pop stars in towns and villages throughout Ukraine organized by the party cost some $100,000, according to "Zerkalo Nedeli/Dzerkalo Tyzhnya." Yet, the party is vague about the sources of the funds to finance the high cost of running such a brash campaign by Ukraine's newest women's party.

Women for the Future is likely to enter the next Ukrainian parliament. But, this is not likely to advance women's rights, in the sense understood by women's movements in the West, because of the Soviet ideological influence on the party. Instead, Ukraine will obtain another pro-presidential faction in parliament that differs little from other oligarchic factions led by the opposite gender.

"The Ukrainian economic model is more similar to that of Latin America than of Europe. We are in debt up to the neck." -- President Leonid Kuchma to his ministers on 8 February, ordering them "to correct" the economic course so that Ukraine can join the EU in 2011; quoted by Interfax.

"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.

Ukraine's president, Leonid Kuchma, failed on 4 February to persuade visiting Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller to oppose the building of a new gas pipeline linking Russia and Western Europe but bypassing Ukraine, Xinhua reported. Miller said that only after reviewing Russia's proposal could Poland outline its own position. The pipeline is planned to run from Russia through Belarus and Poland. A team of Russian officials are due to visit Poland in mid-February to discuss the issue. Ukrainian Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh said the current gas pipeline that runs through Ukraine conveys 120 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe a year, far from its annual shipping capacity of about 170 billion cubic meters. Ukraine would not allow the amount of transit gas to fall and would protect its strategic interests, Kinakh stressed. He believes that Poland and the European Union will side with Ukraine on this matter. (JMR)

RUSAL TO RAISE OUTPUT IN 2002 (30 January) Russian Aluminum (RusAL), the world's second-largest producer of the metal, said its output for 2002 will rise slightly but exports will decline. Chief Operations Officer Aleksandr Bulygin told Reuters, "This year's aluminum production will be 5,000 tons more than last year and will amount to 2.464 million tons." He added, "The portion of exports will be 82 percent compared with 83 percent in 2001. We are planning to channel about 39 percent [of exports] to Southeast Asia, including China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, while the rest will be distributed equally between Europe and the United States." Bulygin said he expects demand for aluminum made by RusAl to increase in the U.S. in the second half of the year, when stocks accumulated by consumers start to run out. The U.S. accounted for 11 percent of RusAl's aluminum exports in 2001, while Southeast Asia accounted for 32 percent, and Europe for the remainder. Bulygin said the company's 2001 financial results are worse than expected, due in part to lower prices for the metal and world stagnation. He declined to give figures, saying they have not yet been finalized. This year the company plans to invest $150 million in modernization. RusAl includes the country's largest aluminum smelters Bratsk, Krasnoyarsk, and Sayansk, as well as the fifth-largest plant, Novokuznetsk. It also owns alumina plants -- Achinsk in Russia, Mykolayivsky in Ukraine, and Oradea in Romania -- as well as some aluminum products plants. (JMR)

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL OFFICIAL DISMISSES U.S. EXAMINATION OF MELNYCHENKO'S RECORDINGS. "It is a subsequent slip of paper that does not mean anything for Ukraine or the Ukrainian judiciary system," presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn said on ICTV Television on 11 February, referring to a recent U.S. expert conclusion that former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko's secret recordings are genuine (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 February 2002). Lytvyn added that the publicized conclusion is a campaign move by "those politicians who may be seen as outsiders in the election race." He did not disclose which politicians he had in mind. Meanwhile, Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko commented on 12 February that the U.S. examination of Melnychenko's tapes is "a step toward the truth." JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SENDS KYIV MAYOR ON ELECTION CAMPAIGN LEAVE. Leonid Kuchma has issued a decree suspending Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko from performing his official duties until 31 March, Interfax reported on 11 February. Omelchenko heads the election bloc Unity and is seeking a parliamentary mandate. Omelchenko reportedly refused to take leave following a conversation with Kuchma on 11 February, when he asked the president whether Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh, presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn, and Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko, who are also seeking parliamentary mandates, have taken leave. Kuchma, according to Omelchenko, answered this question in the negative. JM

ELECTION BID OF WOMEN'S PARTY OF UKRAINE REJECTED. The Central Election Commission on 11 February annulled its previous decision to register a list of candidates of the Women of Ukraine (Zhinky Ukrayiny) party running in the 31 March parliamentary election in the countrywide multiseat constituency, Interfax reported. The commission's decision followed a ruling by a district court in Kyiv saying that the resolutions of the party's congress that proposed party-list candidates for the election were illegal. In addition, the court said the party has not paid an election security deposit of some $48,000, as required by the election law. Another group that registered its candidates and is campaigning with a gender platform in the current election is Women for the Future (Zhinky za maybutne) party (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 February 2002). JM

POLAND ADVISES EASTERN TOURISTS TO APPLY FOR MULTI-ENTRY VISAS. Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said on 11 February that Poland is preparing an information campaign for its eastern neighbors to convince them to apply for multi-entry visas now, PAP reported. "Today people prefer buying [tourist] vouchers to applying for visas, but we will try to convince them that in the long run [multientry visas] will be [better for them]," Cimoszewicz noted. He added that the government wants to introduce such a visa system for Belarusians, Russians, and Ukrainians, which would not make it difficult for ordinary people to travel to Poland. Cimoszewicz admitted that the question is difficult because of purely organizational reasons. He said last year 29 million people crossed the Polish border, adding that it would be nearly impossible for Polish consulates to issue that many visas. JM

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