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RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 5, No. 26, 8 July 2003

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

NOTE TO READERS: The next issue of "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report" will appear on 22 July 2003.

IPN REPORTS ON INVESTIGATION INTO VOLHYNIA MASSACRES. The National Remembrance Institute (IPN) on 1 July held a conference titled "The Crimes of Ukrainian Nationalists Committed Against the Polish population in 1939-1948 in the Light of Investigations Conducted by IPN Prosecutors." The proceedings of the conference were subsequently published on the IPN website ( One of the three reports presented at the conference touched upon an investigation into the crimes committed by Ukrainian nationalists against Poles living in Volhynia (now northwestern Ukraine) in 1939-45. The investigation is being conducted by the IPN's regional branch in Lublin. The conference took place 10 days before the planned reconciliation ceremony to commemorate the Poles of Volhynia in the Ukrainian village of Pavlivka on 11 July, which is to be attended by Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma.

"The fate of the Polish population of Volhynia and eastern Galicia doubtless made one of the most tragic pages in Polish history," IPN Chairman Leon Kieres said in opening the conference. "According to historians, from 75,000-90,000 Poles were killed due to operations of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army [UPA] in these regions. Some researchers say the number of victims could be even 100,000. Several hundred thousand people were forced to leave their own homes. Hundreds of Polish villages were totally destroyed. The UPA strove to remove Poles from the areas it regarded as indigenously Ukrainian. In the opinion of many historians, the goal pursued by the Ukrainian guerrillas was to destroy the Polish ethnic group in these areas, which can legally be categorized as genocide."

Prosecutor Piotr Zajac from the IPN branch in Lublin told the conference that the investigation into the Volhynia massacres is being conducted under Article 118 of Poland's Criminal Code, which pertains to genocide. He said the investigation is viewing two probable hypotheses regarding the reasons for the Volhynia massacres, which culminated in 1943. The first hypothesis assumes that the extermination of the Polish population in Volhynia was planned and prepared in advance by the leadership of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its military arm, the UPA, and subsequently carried out by UPA units, groups of Ukrainian self-defense, and Ukrainian peasants. The goal of the action was to physically liquidate all Poles in the area. The second hypothesis assumes that the OUN-UPA leadership intended to drive as many Poles as possible from Volhynia, without resorting to outright extermination, in anticipation of an independent Ukrainian state after the war and a plebiscite on which country, Poland or Ukraine, should possess the area. The massacres that ensued were neither planned nor accepted by the OUN-UPA leadership which, according to this version of events, lost control over the situation.

The third hypothesis -- suggesting that the carnage was initiated solely by local Ukrainian guerrilla commanders and not coordinated by the OUN-UPA center -- was dropped by investigators as not corroborated by investigation materials, Zajac said.

Zajac said the investigation will probably never establish the exact number of victims, since in many cases of manslaughter neither witnesses nor documents confirming them survived. By now, investigators have identified nearly 1,000 locations in Volhynia where killings and persecution of Poles took place. The estimated number of slain Poles stands between 50,000-60,000. "The final result of the action initiated by Ukrainian nationalists is beyond any doubt," Zajac noted. "The overwhelming majority of the Poles in the former Volhynia Voivodship either were killed or left those areas."

According to a 1939 census, Volhynia was inhabited by 1.4 million Ukrainians (68 percent), 346,000 Poles (16.6 percent), and 205,000 Jews (9.9 percent). The interethnic situation in prewar Volhynia was tense. The state-sponsored policy of assimilation of ethnic minorities (which accounted for some 30 percent of the total population) and the compulsory conversion of Orthodox Ukrainian peasants into Catholicism by the Border Protection Corps resulted in local sabotages and killings of Polish administration officials, policemen, and soldiers in September 1939, following the outbreak of the German-Polish war on 1 September and the "liberating" invasion of the Red Army into eastern Poland on 17 September.

According to the investigation, guerrilla groups -- both Soviet and Ukrainian nationalist -- first appeared in Volhynia in the autumn of 1942. The Ukrainian nationalist groups belonged to three military formations: the Ukrainian Insurgent Army commanded by Taras Bulba-Borovets (the "first" UPA" or UPA-Borovets), guerrilla groups led by the OUN-Melnyk faction (OUN-M), and guerrilla groups led by the OUN-Bandera faction (OUN-B). In 1943, the OUN-B renamed its guerrilla units into the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and subordinated UPA-Borovets and OUN-M groups to its command.

The culmination of anti-Polish actions by the OUN-UPA in Volhynia took place in July-August 1943, when some 17,000 people were killed. UPA regular units were supported by local Ukrainian peasants, armed mainly with pitchforks, axes, and scythes. The most tragic day was 11 July 1943, when the UPA attacked simultaneously some 80 Polish settlements in two districts -- Horochow and Wlodzimierz Wolynski -- of Volhynia (the Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation ceremony is to take place on this date). "In the light of gathered evidence, taking the decision by OUN-UPA leaders about the expulsion of all Poles from the eastern territories of prewar Poland -- and in the case of Volhynia, about the extermination of all Poles -- beyond any doubt," Zajac said. According to Polish investigators, the OUN central leadership decided in February 1943 to drive all Poles out of Volhynia, to obtain an "ethnically pure territory" in the postwar period. As regards the extermination of Poles in Volhynia, this decision was most likely made by OUN-B local leaders in Volhynia, without coordination with the OUN central leadership. Among those who were behind the decision, Polish investigators see Dmytro Klyachkivskyy, Vasyl Ivakhov, Ivan Lytvynchuk, and Petro Oliynyk.

Zajac said the Polish population of Volhynia sought protection from the onslaught by Ukrainian nationalists by joining Soviet partisans in the area (5,000-7,000 people) or German auxiliary police (some 2,000 people). The Home Army subordinated to the Polish emigre government in London began retaliatory actions against Ukrainians in Volhynia in late 1943. Zajac estimates that some 2,000 Ukrainians may have died as a result of that retaliation, which is far below the estimate of 20,000-30,000 people cited by Ukrainians historians. (Jan Maksymiuk)


REFORMS STALL AS KYIV STRADDLES POLICIES OF EAST AND WEST. A chilly wind blew over Ukrainian-Western relations last autumn. Kyiv was accused of covertly selling military equipment to Iraq, and President Leonid Kuchma received a cold reception at the NATO summit in Prague.

But less than a year later, things appear to be on the mend. Ukraine is committing some 1,800 troops to peacekeeping efforts in Iraq. It has set its sights on membership in NATO and the European Union. The World Bank last week boosted slightly the country's credit rating, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also praised Kyiv's pace on reforms.

But observers say little of substance has actually changed in Ukraine's political and economic life. Kyiv, they say, is still trying to strike a delicate balance between Russia and the West.

Roy Allison heads the Russia-Eurasia program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. He said any praise from the World Bank and IMF is worth celebrating, but such remarks can't hide the fact that Ukraine remains mired in economic inertia and reforms are slow-moving.

"As an environment for significant investment -- external investment, foreign investment -- Ukraine does not look very promising. Its political orientation is not seen as clear in foreign-policy terms. Some of the priorities are evident, but Kuchma is someone who seems to have lost the trust, I think, in many senses, of Western partners," Allison said.

The IMF has generally criticized drawbacks in Ukraine's tax system, as well as insufficient transparency in its privatization process and an underdeveloped banking sector. Allison said Kyiv has made little progress in these areas, and has made no headway in trying to better position itself to benefit from the 2004 EU enlargement. Concrete economic reforms in Ukraine, he said, are still a thing of the future.

Marius Vahl is an analyst with the Brussels-based Center for European Studies. He said the government is responsible for the delay in the reform process. "I mean, they are [conducting reforms] at a rhetorical level," he said. "But to a large extent they are not doing it in practical terms. And of course [the problem is] Kuchma's credibility -- [he's] been saying that he wants to do reforms for many, many years and quite little has been done, especially compared to most of [Ukraine's] neighbors."

Analysts agree that political instability remains a major obstacle to real change in Ukraine. The country remains polarized between pro-government groups and a diverse and sometimes fractious opposition. Kuchma's years in office have been marred by a series of political scandals and charges of serious abuses of power.

On the foreign-policy front, Kuchma remains attached to Russia -- Ukraine's paternalistic larger neighbor to whom Kuchma has repeatedly turned when ties with the West have weakened. The Ukrainian president is also currently serving as the chairman of the CIS council of heads of state, something that brings him further into the Eastern fold.

So why has Kuchma offered 1,800 Ukrainian troops for peacekeeping missions in Iraq following a war that Moscow stoutly opposed? Vahl of the Center for European Studies said Ukraine is trying to straddle two horses at once. "This should be seen in the context of the relationship between Russia, the West and the U.S. And the problem of the Ukrainian multivector policy -- which is the foundation of Ukrainian foreign policy -- [is trying] to do both: opening toward the West and opening toward the East, cooperating with the East at the same time. When Russia and the West are cooperating this becomes the natural extension for Ukraine," Vahl said.

Vahl said Kyiv, rather than adopting an independent policy of its own, is largely reactive -- adapting its stance to reflect broader changes made by the West and Russia.

Oleksandr Sushko is the director of the Center for Peace, Conversion, and Foreign Policy, a Kyiv-based think tank. He told RFE/RL that Ukrainian foreign policy functions like a pendulum. "We can find tendencies of pro-Western policy and also the tendencies which have the opposite character. There is no ground to say that this tendency will change in the next year," he said.

Sushko added that although economic growth may be increasing slightly, the general situation remains stagnant. "There is no foundation for a serious breakthrough. Serious changes can take place only when the character of power is changed, when the system is changed, when the main personalities leave the political scene. Without that, only cosmetic changes can occur and these are the changes that are taking place now," Sushko said.

Sushko said next year's presidential elections will be a critical test for the country. "It will be interesting to see if the authorities interfere with the election campaign or let it be free and fair. The elections will show the real direction the country is heading in -- not the fact we're sending peacekeepers to Iraq," he said

Kuchma completes his second term at the end of 2004, and is prohibited by the constitution from seeking a third. Elections are to be held in October.

"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 PRESIDENT SLAMS LAWMAKERS, ARGUES FOR RIGHT TO DISSOLVE LEGISLATURE. President Leonid Kuchma said on 7 July that last week's confrontation between the pro-government majority and opposition deputies in the Verkhovna Rada was "absolutely irresponsible," Interfax reported. On 3 July, lawmakers failed to vote on any legislative issue as dispute continued over two bills on constitutional reforms, one proposed by the president and the other submitted by a group of opposition deputies. Lawmakers disagreed over which of the bills should be sent to the Constitutional Court for review. "The head of state must have the right to dissolve an inefficient parliament. This power in itself would force deputies to be more careful in carrying out their duties," Kuchma said, adding that he is pondering withdrawing his political-reform bill. Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said he will "be forced" to send both bills to the Constitutional Court if the "mutual blockade" continues in the Verkhovna Rada. The Ukrainian parliament adjourns for summer recess at the end of this week. AM

OSCE CHAIRMAN OPEN TO SENDING PEACEKEEPING FORCES TO MOLDOVA. OSCE Chairman and Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's annual session in Rotterdam on 5 July said peacekeeping forces should be sent to Moldova in the event the Moldovan and Transdniester authorities fail to reach a political solution to their ongoing conflict, Flux reported on 7 July. OSCE Chairman spokeswoman Stella Ronner said the organization wants to see a political resolution to the Transdniester conflict and that even such a resolution would have to be observed with a "small peacekeeping force, armed with light weaponry." She added that this possibility has already been discussed within the OSCE, which considers reaching a settlement to the Transdniester conflict a top priority. The OSCE is mediating negotiations on a settlement along with Russia and Ukraine. A 6 July resolution of the OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly called on the Moldovan and Transdniester authorities to "continue negotiations" on resolving the crisis "by creating a federal state." Meanwhile, a meeting of experts from both sides that was to be held on 7 July to discuss recent tensions has been postponed, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. ZsM