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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
OPPOSITION 'SENTENCES' KUCHMA TO 'PUBLIC CONDEMNATION.' From 15,000 to 20,000 people gathered on Kyiv's European Square on 12 October for an unauthorized rally to stage a "people's tribunal" over President Leonid Kuchma within the framework of the ongoing antipresidential protest campaign "Rise Up, Ukraine!" Ukrainian media reported. In a mock trial, participants in the rally found Kuchma guilty of numerous violations of the Ukrainian Constitution and the Criminal Code and sentenced him to "the highest form of people's punishment -- public condemnation [zahalnyy osud]" for a number of alleged crimes, including corruption, abuse of office, money laundering, issuance of threats to journalists and politicians, and harmful economic policies that purportedly led to "genocide" by reducing the country's population by 4.7 million (see "Quotes of the Week"). Similar, albeit less well-attended "tribunals," were held in several Ukrainian regions.
The 12 October protest action was organized by the three opposition groups: the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the Communist Party, and the Socialist Party. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko, who participated in the 16 September antipresidential rally in Kyiv and signed a strongly worded appeal urging President Kuchma to resign (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 17 September 2002), did not show up at the "people's tribunal."
Following the rally at European Square, opposition leaders led some half the demonstrators through downtown Kyiv to the Prosecutor-General's Office, where they presented their demand to bring Kuchma to a court trial to First Deputy Prosecutor-General Serhiy Vynokurov. Vynokurov pledged to view the demand within 10 days and to announce whether a criminal case against Kuchma will be opened, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported.
Police troops were present during the rally but did not intervene. The 12 October demonstration took place without incident apart from a reportedly accidental beating of a journalist, Oleh Zavada, by plainclothes police officers. Zavada inadvertently bumped into an officer who was taking photographs, prompting other police officers to beat him. A lawmaker prevented Zavada's detention, and the journalist was subsequently hospitalized with symptoms of a concussion. (Jan Maksymiuk)
"Radio Maryja has entered purely political grounds, following the line of the extreme right wing and providing negative assessment of everything in Poland. When I hear [on Radio Maryja] that today the situation [in the country] is worse than that in the communist times, I think the station has totally betrayed the goals it declared to pursue.... Father [Tadeusz] Rydzyk [the head of Radio Maryja] is a sickly phenomenon in the organism of the church." -- Polish Roman Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski, in an interview with "Gazeta Wyborcza" on 7 October.
"President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma is guilty of violating Ukraine's Constitution and laws, since his deeds are punishable under the Criminal Code of Ukraine: Article 109 (actions oriented toward a violent change of the constitutional system); Article 110 (encroachment on territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine); Article 111 (state betrayal); Article 112 (violence to the life of a state official); Article 115 (premeditated murder); 120 (compelling to suicide); Article 129 (threat of murder); Article 157 (obstructing the execution of election legislation); Article 160 (violating the referendum law); Article 161 (violating the equality of citizens irrespective of their ethnic origin); Article 163 (violating the confidentiality of telephone calls); Article 170 (impeding the lawful activity of political parties and public organizations); Article 171 (impeding the lawful professional activity of journalists); Article 185 (theft); Article 191 (embezzlement of property, abuse of office); Article of 208 (illegal opening of bank accounts outside Ukraine); Article 209 (money laundering); Article 212 (tax evasion); Article 344 (interference in the activity of a state official); Article 351 (impeding the activity of a people's deputy and a local-council deputy); Article 364 (abuse of power and office); Article 365 (abuse of official powers); Article 368 (bribe taking); Article 377 (threatening a judge); Article 442 (genocide)." -- From the "sentence" pronounced by the opposition rally in Kyiv on 12 October; quoted by the "Ukrayinska pravda" website.
"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.
UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION SENTENCES PRESIDENT TO 'PUBLIC CONDEMNATION'... Some 20,000 demonstrators took part in a "people's tribunal" on President Leonid Kuchma in Kyiv on 12 October, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. The unauthorized antipresidential rally on Kyiv's European Square was organized by the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the Communist Party, and the Socialist Party. Participants in the rally "sentenced" President Kuchma in a mock trial to "the highest form of people's punishment -- public condemnation" for a number of alleged crimes, including corruption, abuse of office, money laundering, issuance of threats to journalists and politicians, and harmful economic policies that purportedly led to "genocide" in Ukraine. Following the rally, opposition representatives passed to the Prosecutor-General's Office their demand to bring Kuchma to court trial (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 15 October 2002). JM
...AS JUDGE OPENS CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST KUCHMA. Kyiv Court of Appeals Judge Yuriy Vasylenko has opened a criminal case against President Kuchma in connection with charges by opposition lawmakers that he violated 11 articles of the Criminal Code, including his alleged involvement in the illegal sale of military technology to Iraq and the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported on 15 October. Vasylenko said he made his decision on the basis of an appeal by lawmakers, documents from the ad hoc parliamentary commission set up to investigate the murder of Heorhiy Gongadze, and evidence included in the secret audio recordings made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko. JM
ESTONIAN PRESIDENT BEGINS VISIT TO UKRAINE. Estonian President Arnold Ruutel said in Kyiv on 14 October that Estonia supports Ukraine's efforts to integrate with Europe and NATO, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Following his meeting with President Kuchma, Ruutel pledged to develop closer ties with Ukraine after Estonia, as widely expected, becomes a NATO member in November and an EU member in 2004. UNIAN quoted Kuchma as saying that all that is taking place in Ukraine today "confirms the opinion of the European Union that it is still too early for us to [join the EU]." The two sides signed a cooperation accord on environmental protection. JM
U.S., BRITISH EXPERTS PROBE KOLCHUGA-SALE ALLEGATIONS. U.S. and British nonproliferation experts met with Ukrainian officials on 14 October at the start of a 10-day mission to investigate whether Ukraine sold a sophisticated Kolchuga radar system to Iraq in violation of UN sanctions, AP reported. U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual said the main task of the team of 13 investigators is "to determine, in conjunction with the Ukrainian side, whether there's any information on whether there has been a transfer and whether there's information we can get that would help us protect both British and American pilots who are protecting the no-fly zone in Iraq." The same day, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko denied allegations made by opposition lawmaker Yuliya Tymoshenko that Ukraine secretly imported a Kolchuga system from Belarus last week in an effort to furnish evidence that none of Ukraine's systems have been shipped to Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2002). JM
OUR UKRAINE LEADER WANTS PARLIAMENTARY COALITION WITH LABOR UKRAINE, UKRAINE'S REGIONS. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko told journalists on 14 October that he hopes a democratic majority in the Verkhovna Rada can be created around the three caucuses -- Our Ukraine, Labor Ukraine, and Ukraine's regions, UNIAN reported. "These [three] democratic forces are able to propose the idea of a democratic coalition as an open [proposal] around which other forces could group," Yushchenko said. Answering a question whether Our Ukraine is in opposition to the current government, Yushchenko said, "The force that is not in power can only be in opposition, there is no third option." JM
VIOLENT ABDUCTION OF TRAFFICKED WOMEN IN MACEDONIA. A group of heavily armed ethnic Albanians kidnapped five young Moldovan and Ukrainian women from a bar in Tetovo, dpa reported on 14 October. The incident underscored the role played by human traffickers in western Macedonia and elsewhere in the Balkans in bringing women from the former Soviet Union, Romania, and elsewhere and selling them to pimps in former Yugoslav republics and Western Europe. PM
"We can live without a tsar -- but not without a nuclear-power plant!" Under this slogan, Bulgaria's small nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO) some time ago protested against the government led by former Bulgarian monarch and current Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski. The motto reflects popular sentiment over what can be described as Bulgaria's sacred cow -- the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant on the Danube River in northern Bulgaria.
Bulgaria's only nuclear-power plant, Kozloduy produces about 45 percent of the country's electrical energy. It produces not only for the domestic market, but also ensures Bulgaria's position as a regional supplier of energy, mainly to Greece and Turkey.
The construction of the six-block Soviet-designed Kozloduy power plant began in the 1970s as a pet project of the then-ruling Communist Party (BKP). The first four blocks of the VVER-440/V-230 type were put into operation between 1974-82. Later, in 1988 and 1993, two blocks of the more modern VVER-1000/V-320 type were added. In 1981, the construction of a second nuclear-power plant started in Belene, but that project was halted in 1990 because of lack of funding and protests from environmentalists.
International concern over the safety of Kozloduy and other Soviet-built nuclear-power plants in Eastern Europe rose after the 1986 Chornobyl catastrophe. Ever since, the Bulgarian government has regularly undertaken measures to upgrade the safety of Kozloduy, but pressure to decommission the outdated first four blocks of the plant remains and has played an important role in Bulgaria's negotiations for EU accession.
In 1999, the Bulgarian government under Ivan Kostov signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Commission (EC) over the future of Kozloduy. In the memorandum, the Bulgarian side agreed to shut down blocks No. 1 and No. 2 by 2003, while the EC pledged financial support for the decommissioning of these blocks. According to the memorandum, blocks No. 3 and No. 4 should be shut down no later than 2006. The memorandum thus revised an earlier decision of the EC that these blocks should be shut down in 2008 and 2010, respectively.
With the closing date approaching, the shortcomings of Bulgarian energy policies have become apparent. Because there is no alternative to Kozloduy in sight, Bulgaria's politicians -- regardless of their party affiliation -- want the lifespan of all of the plant's blocks to be extended as long as possible. The population supports this unwillingness to shut down the older blocks, as politicians have convinced them that Kozloduy is the only producer of clean and, what is more important, inexpensive energy in the country. The politicians also underscore that decommissioning Kozloduy would endanger Bulgaria's role as a regional energy supplier, as Romania recently completed a new nuclear-power plant with Western technology.
But the consensus among the politicians was recently shattered. On 2 October, the parliament unanimously adopted a decision that blocks No. 3 and No. 4 should not be decommissioned before Bulgaria becomes a full member of the EU. Thus, the parliament to some extent revised the government's position, which was to shut down the blocks in question in 2006 as envisioned in the 1999 memorandum. As the only precondition for complying with the 2006 deadline, the government demands that a safety inspection first be carried out by EU experts. The government hoped that the expected positive results of this safety inspection could make the EC revise its position.
The parliamentary decision came at a moment when Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov was in Brussels to hold talks with EC President Romano Prodi over Bulgaria's bid for EU membership. But as Parvanov was not informed about the parliament's decision, he promoted the government's position. After he learned about the parliament's decision, he changed his stance, and has since supported the parliament's decision.
The government, however, argued that there are no substantial differences between the parliamentary decision and its own stance. It is reluctant to accept the opposition's view that there are indeed differences between what the parliament decided and what the government promotes. As a result, the conservative opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS) has threatened to call for a vote of no confidence should the government fail to accept the parliamentary decision. The Socialist Party (BSP), for its part, filed a lawsuit against the government for allegedly violating the constitutional provisions that parliamentary decisions are binding for the government.
To overcome this situation, Parvanov decided to write a letter to the heads of the 15 EU member states in order to clarify Bulgaria's position on the decommissioning of blocks No. 3 and No. 4. But before he could send the letter reflecting a united stance, Parvanov had to discuss the matter with representatives of the government, the parliament, and experts.
While Parvanov's move may contribute to a clearer picture of what the Bulgarian stance over the decommissioning might be, it certainly has not triggered a public debate over alternatives to Kozloduy -- for instance over completing the Belene plant, as proposed by Prime Minister Saxecoburggotski in April 2002, or over the exploitation of alternative energy sources such as wind or water. Some commentators also demand a public debate over realistic energy prices that account for the costs of disposing of nuclear waste, and over the improvement of energy efficiency. As long as these problems remain unresolved, Kozloduy will retain its status as Bulgaria's sacred cow.