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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
"From time to time we in Ukraine feel that the West applies double standards [to the Ukrainian government]. This is done in the following way. First, the world declares that the regime in Ukraine is antidemocratic and that the president is being suspected of a number of crimes, including illegal arms supplies to Iraq. But as soon as the Ukrainian presidents makes one more promise (which he is not going to fulfill), he immediately becomes the best leader in the post-Soviet area." -- Ukrainian opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko; quoted by the "Ukrayinska pravda" website on 19 May.
"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.
ORTHODOX CHURCH NIXES PROPOSED PAPAL VISIT... The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church has issued a statement saying that a proposed brief visit to Russia by Pope John Paul II later this year cannot take place, newsru.com reported on 19 May. According to the Vatican proposal, the pontiff was to stop off in Kazan on his way to Mongolia in order to return to Russia the Orthodox Church's most sacred icon, the Kazan Holy Mother of God, which is in the Vatican's collection. The patriarchate's statement said an analysis by the Culture Ministry determined that the Vatican's icon is "an 18th-century work by a provincial icon painter," and not the original 16th-century masterpiece. Because the Vatican's icon is just "one of many icons illegally removed from Russia, it cannot serve as the pretext for a visit to Russia by Pope John Paul II," the statement reads. The statement further notes that there have been no talks between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church concerning the proposed visit, and added that improving relations between the two churches depends on the Vatican's willingness to curtail proselytizing among Orthodox believers and improving conditions for Orthodox believers in Western Ukraine. VY
RUSSIA HAS NO CONFIRMED SARS CASES. The State Health Inspectorate on 19 May announced that a man who was hospitalized earlier this month in Blagoveshchensk with symptoms similar to those of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) does not have the disease, ORT and RTR reported. The administrations of Primorskii Krai and the Chinese border province of Heilongjiang have signed an agreement on the timely exchange of information concerning the disease with the aim of preventing its spread and resuming visa-free travel between the two regions as soon as possible, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. On 19 May, dozens of police officers cordoned off a passenger train in Omsk while doctors examined everyone on board after a recently demobilized soldier was found to have SARS-like symptoms. Earlier, two other soldiers with similar symptoms were removed from the train in Krasnoyarsk and Novosibirsk, NTV reported. The three men have been placed in quarantine, but the train was allowed to proceed toward its destination of Kharkiv, Ukraine. Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishchenko told journalists that Prime Minister Kasyanov has approved funding to set up additional laboratories to test for SARS, ITAR-TASS reported. Onishchenko was in Novosibirsk with Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo. VY/RC
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS UKRAINIAN CAPITAL. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met with his Ukrainian counterpart Anatoliy Zlenko in Kyiv on 19 May, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. The men signed a number of addenda to a Russian-Ukrainian border treaty and pledged to work toward its speedy ratification. "We will do this [ratify the treaty] simultaneously," ITAR-TASS quoted Zlenko as saying. Ivanov said relations between Russia and Ukraine "have matured to such an extent that these two countries can set themselves more ambitious and long-term objectives." Both ministers also discussed the division of property of the former Soviet Union abroad. "The sides have already thrashed out their positions on such property in seven countries," Ivanov said. Ivanov was scheduled to meet on 20 May with President Leonid Kuchma and parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn. JM
NEW LAWMAKER JOINS UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT. Valeriy Borzov was sworn in as a Verkhovna Rada deputy on 20 May, Interfax and UNIAN reported. Borzov, who ran in the 2002 parliamentary election in the nationwide, multiseat constituency on the Social-Democratic Party-united ticket, replaces lawmaker Mykola Pesotskyy, who was appointed to head the State Reserves Committee and gave up his deputy's mandate. Borzov, now chairman of the Ukrainian Track and Field Federation, won two gold medals at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972, running the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes for the Soviet Union. The Verkhovna Rada currently has 449 deputies. The Central Election Commission scheduled a by-election for 8 June in a constituency in Chernihiv Oblast after lawmaker Valentyn Melnychuk was appointed governor of Chernihiv Oblast and surrendered his parliamentary seat. JM
POPE GIVES POLES PRO-EU SIGNAL AHEAD OF REFERENDUM... "Europe needs Poland, [and] Poland needs Europe," Pope John Paul II told some 20,000 Poles who gathered on St. Peter's Square in Rome on 19 May to celebrate the pontiff's 83rd birthday and the 25th anniversary of his papacy, Polish media reported. "I have to emphasize that Poland always was an important part of Europe, and today it cannot stay outside this community, which, to tell the truth, suffers from various crises but [also] constitutes a single family based on the common Christian tradition. Entering the European Union on a par with other states is, for our nation and for fraternal Slavic nations, a mark of some historical justice and, on the other hand, may enrich Europe," the pontiff said. "If [the pope's] words can't convince them, what then can convince [them]?" said President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who was received by the pope the same day. Poland is approaching an EU referendum on 7-8 June amid fears that turnout might fall short of the required 50 percent (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 20 May 2003). JM