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PUTIN ASKS LEFTIST ECONOMISTS TO DRAFT LEGISLATION ON NATURAL RESOURCES. On 20 March, "Novye izvestiya" reported that during a recent meeting with Communist Party of the Russian Federation head Gennadii Zyuganov and several noted left-leaning economists, President Vladimir Putin said that he shares their view that revenues from the export of natural resources must be diverted away from the oligarchs and directed into the national budget. During the 15 March meeting, Putin also told the head of the Duma Committee on Economic Policy and Entrepreneurship, Sergei Glaziev; the head of the Duma Industry Committee, Yurii Maslyukov; and academicians Nikolai Petrakov and Dmitrii Lvov that he wants them to prepare a package of legislative initiatives that would "enable him to solve this problem." On behalf of those present, Glaziev handed Putin the "alternative socio-economic program" of the leftist opposition, including proposals for massive increases of the debit side of the state budget and of foreign investment, as well as a strategy for Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization, regions.ru reported on 16 March. VY
MOSCOW REGISTERS UPSURGE IN INFANTICIDE. Over the past four years, police in Moscow have registered over 700 cases of infanticide, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 March. The abandoned bodies of 10 dead infants have been found since the beginning of this year alone. A local police official told the paper that "there have always been such cases, but they have never before assumed such horrific dimensions." Most of the women charged with murdering their newborns are found after psychiatric examination to be mentally stable. And the majority of them are also not natives of Moscow, but market traders from Ukraine, Moldova, or Belarus, according to the daily. The maximum prison term for infanticide under the Russian Criminal Code is five years. LF
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YULIYA TYMOSHENKO BLOC TO BE OUSTED FROM UKRAINIAN ELECTION? Central Election Commission Chairman Mykhaylo Ryabets on 20 March said the commission received a complaint that the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc has violated the election law in the campaign by using resources other than those in its official election fund, UNIAN reported. Meanwhile, Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc activists, including lawmaker Oleksandr Turchynov, warned media earlier the same day that the presidential administration has issued an "instruction" to disqualify the bloc from elections. According to the activists, the reason for the disqualification may be a book about Tymoshenko that was published several months ago. They suggest that the bloc will be charged with sponsoring this publication and subsequently ousted from the election race by a court resolution. JM
RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR SAYS MOSCOW WORRIED ABOUT OUR UKRAINE BLOC... Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin said on 20 March that Russia is with those parties and election blocs in Ukraine that call for the development and deepening of relations between the two countries, ITAR-TASS reported. Chernomyrdin noted that there are also forces in Ukraine that do not pursue such a goal, adding that "this cannot but worry us." According to him, Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine is a cause for such concern. "Yushchenko himself says that he favors broad democracy and supports President Leonid Kuchma. But when we look at the structure of [his] bloc, we see who is in it and what statements they make, and this is beginning to worry us," Chernomyrdin said. JM
...AS RUSSIAN LAWMAKER WARNS AGAINST 'NATIONALIST FORCES' IN UKRAINIAN ELECTION. Dmitrii Rogozin, the head of the Russian State Duma's International Relations Committee, suggested on 20 March that if "nationalist forces" win the upcoming parliamentary election in Ukraine, Moscow and Kyiv may face problems in bilateral relations, Interfax reported. "Ukrainian nationalism has similar roots to Chechen extremism," Rogozin said. And he added: "We have encountered Ukrainian nationalists in the Chechen mountains. They are not taken prisoner as they have committed especially cruel atrocities against Russian servicemen." JM
RUSSIA SLAMS REHABILITATION OF FORMER UKRAINIAN SS SOLDIERS. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 20 March harshly condemned the recent decision by the Ivano-Frankivsk city authorities to grant combatant status to 24 veterans of the SS Division Halychyna (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March 2002), ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. The ministry said in a statement that the decision constituted "a shameful act of betrayal" of millions of Nazi victims, adding that it will negatively affect Russian-Ukrainian relations. "It is regretful that Ukrainian officials have not appropriately resisted the provocative actions by Ukrainian nationalists," the statement read. JM
Ukraine on 20 March imposed a tariff of 41 percent on Russian cement imports to take effect over the following four months, Inter Television reported. The measure was adopted following an investigation by the Economy Ministry that found that the recent increase of cement imports has significantly damaged domestic producers. Quoting the "Uryadovyy Kuryer" daily, UNIAN reported on 20 March that Ukraine also introduced an antidumping 74 percent customs duty on imports of Belarusian ruberoid (a type of roofing material) for a period of four months starting on 19 March. JM
RUKH-1 TO RUKH-2: YUSHCHENKO'S OUR UKRAINE
The Ukrainian Movement for Perestroika (commonly referred to as Rukh) was established in 1988-1989 as a popular front comprising former prisoners of conscience from the Ukrainian Helsinki Group and members of the cultural intelligentsia. Rukh became a catalyst for other opposition parties and civic groups that came on the scene during the last few years of Soviet rule.
During the 1990s, however, Rukh became progressively marginalized within Ukraine's evolving multiparty political system. In 1992, the movement divided into two wings, one led by Vyacheslav Chornovil who stood in "constructive opposition" to President Leonid Kravchuk and another that supported Kravchuk and created the Congress of National Democratic Forces (KNDS).
In the second half of the 1990s, Chornovil's Rukh had better relations with President Leonid Kuchma because of Kuchma's support for reform in 1994-1996 and his pro-Western orientation between 1995-1999. By 1998-1999, though, relations were beginning to sour as Rukh became disillusioned with the type of regime emerging in Ukraine, the rampant corruption, and the widening gap between rhetoric and policies. After the death of Chornovil in a suspicious car accident in March 1999, Rukh again split into two wings. One wing, led by former Foreign Minister Hennadiy Udovenko, maintained good relations with the government, while the other, led by Yuriy Kostenko, leaned toward the opposition and kept close ties with Yulia Tymoshenko's Fatherland party.Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko has transformed the faction into Rukh-2 (Our Ukraine) for the current elections. That transformation has been so thorough that the only similarity left between the old Rukh-1 and Our Ukraine is that pop singer Taras Petrenenko continues to close all of Our Ukraine's rallies with Rukh's unofficial anthem "Ukraine, Ukraine!"Our Ukraine is more popular than Rukh-1 for a number of reasons. Unlike Rukh-1, Our Ukraine has a socio-economic program, and about two-thirds Yushchenko's typical campaign stump speech is devoted to laying out this program. The Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) and the oligarchs voted no-confidence in Yushchenko's government in April 2001, despite his record as prime minister in 1999-2001, when he paid back wages and pensions and presided over Ukraine's first period of economic growth in a decade. This track record seems to be working in Our Ukraine's favor.
In Yushchenko, Our Ukraine has a charismatic leader who is able to bridge the gap between citizens and rulers, a gap that was already large during the Soviet era and which grew wider in the 1990s. Our Ukraine has managed to reunite the two wings of Rukh and the successor to the KNDS, the Christian Republican Party. Our Ukraine now includes 25 political parties, including liberal, patriotic, and Christian-democratic factions, as well as the Federation of Trade Unions.It has also broadened Rukh-1's old social base by incorporating pragmatic bankers and others from the financial sector, as well as representatives of business and state officials. Roman Bezsmertnyy, political coordinator of Our Ukraine, is still the president's representative in parliament and is a former member of the Republican Party and of the People's Democrats (NDP). Bezsmertnyy resigned from the NDP after he joined Our Ukraine and the NDP aligned with For a United Ukraine (ZYU).
Pragmatists have been attracted to Our Ukraine because it defines itself as an alternative -- rather than an opposition -- in a country where optimism for a better future has all but evaporated. If Rukh-1 could be described as romantic, Rukh-2/Our Ukraine is purely pragmatic, Ukraine's first real alternative to either a sort of return to the past as envisioned by the KPU or continued muddling along with no clear strategy, as favored by the oligarchs.
It was always a mistake for Western and Russian commentators to categorize post-1992 Rukh-1 as "nationalist," a holdover from the Soviet era, when a "Ukrainian nationalist" was by definition from western Ukraine, spoke Ukrainian and supported center-right parties. It is also a mistake to define Our Ukraine as "nationalist." Our Ukraine supports the Jewish former mayor of Odesa, Eduard Hurfits, who is now running on the Our Ukraine party list. In mid-March, Our Ukraine condemned anti-Semitic leaflets that had been circulated against Hurfits. Our Ukraine's party list also includes Crimean Tatars and ethnic Russians. Volodymyr Hrynyov, a Kharkiv-based former head of the Russophile Social-Liberal (SLON) alliance during the 1998 elections, is now supporting Our Ukraine. The hard-line national-democratic and nationalist parties have joined Tymoshenko's bloc, not Our Ukraine.
A comparison of public-opinion polls conducted by several organizations in mid-March by the Internet publication "Ukrayinska Pravda" gave Our Ukraine a popularity rating of between 24 and 33 percent, far higher than pro-presidential blocs or the KPU and an increase from 18.8 percent a month earlier. UCEPS predicts that this could reach as high as 29.3 percent, due primarily to Yushchenko's personal popularity. Unlike Rukh-1, Our Ukraine's more pragmatic program has generated support in eastern and southern Ukraine, albeit far less than in western Ukraine where polls give it 50-percent support.
Yushchenko has refrained from criticizing the government, and its only criticism is directed at oligarchic groups such as the Social Democratic Party Ukraine-united (SDPU-o) and former Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko's NDP, which is one of five parties that make up ZYU. "The SDPU-o is as likely to evolve into social democrats as sea lions into lions," Yushchenko tells his supporters at rallies. Yushchenko has also ridiculed the claim that the 1997-1999 Pustovoytenko government laid the foundation for Ukraine's economic revival, claiming that Ukraine was on the verge of bankruptcy when Yushchenko himself became prime minister in December 1999.
It is also wrong to consider Our Ukraine "nationalist" because its support for radical economic and political reforms and for Ukraine's integration into European and trans-Atlantic structures are hardly traditionally nationalist positions. Our Ukraine simply seeks to take back from the oligarchs control of a country that was propelled to independence by Rukh-1 in 1989-1991. That is what Yushenko means when he tells supporters at rallies, "This is your Ukraine! This is your Ukraine!"
Our Ukraine argues that the national revolution successfully launched by Rukh-1 needs to be completed now by a democratic revolution led by Rukh-2. One of the priorities for Ukraine is to overcome its "crisis of power" and change its "momentocracy" for a medium- to long-term plan. "Over the last 10 years, no system has been created that would guarantee Ukrainian democracy," Yushchenko wrote in the weekly "Zerkalo nedeli/Dzerkalo tyzhnya."
Our Ukraine has entered Ukraine's political arena during a generational change similar to that experienced by Russia in the late 1990s. Our Ukraine is a young bloc, with an average age of 40 among its candidates. The generation represented by former President Boris Yeltsin in Russia and Kravchuk and Kuchma in Ukraine will go into retirement in two years' time. The generation following them, represented by Vladimir Putin in Russia and Yushchenko in Ukraine, are now taking their places. If Our Ukraine does well in the elections, it could serve as a powerful launch pad should Yushchenko decide to run for the presidency in 2004.Taras Kuzio is a research fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.