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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: January 26, 2005

26 January 2005, Volume 7, Number 4
DIPLOMACY AND DEBAUCHERY IN BELARUSIAN-CZECH RELATIONS. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on 21 January expelled Czech diplomat Pavel Krivohlavy, accusing him of depraving minors and inciting them to "antisocial behavior," Belarusian Television reported. "To put it plainly, Czech diplomat Pavel Krivohlavy made juvenile boys drunk in order to subsequently try dragging them into bed," Belarusian Television alleged. The network's main news program "Panarama" on 21 January broadcast secretly recorded footage showing Krivohlavy purportedly drinking alcohol with and kissing young men in what appeared to be cafe or a restaurant.

In response to Krivohlavy's expulsion, the Czech Foreign Ministry the same day expelled an unidentified Belarusian diplomat from Prague. Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Savinykh commented on Prague's diplomatic retaliation by saying that the Czech authorities misunderstand the principle of reciprocity. "Pavel Krivohlavy had to leave Belarus in connection with a properly documented and evidenced violation of law punishable under two articles of the Criminal Code of Belarus," Savinykh said. According to Savinykh, as quoted by Czech Television and Nova Television, Krivohlavy had sexual contacts with persons under the age of 16 in Belarus.

Belarusian Television's comment on the diplomatic scandal linked Krivohlavy's behavior in Minsk with the activities of the Czech Foreign Ministry's Department for the Struggle Against Undemocratic and Totalitarian Regimes, which supports the Belarusian democratic opposition, and the Prague-based committee For a Free Belarus, which includes former Czech President Vaclav Havel among other Czech political figures. "You'll certainly agree that our neighbors' understanding of democracy is peculiar: intoxication of youths, debauchery, and pornography," Belarusian Television commented on "Panarama" on 21 January. "Do they have the moral right -- they who are spreading the worst, vile predilections in our country -- to teach us how to live?"

According to Belarusian Television, to Western sponsors of democracy in Belarus -- including Czech diplomats -- freedom and permissiveness are one and the same. "After the [2004 parliamentary] election and referendum, the opposition, coordinated from abroad, tried to organize mass disturbances in the streets," Belarusian Television commented. "They called on juveniles to take [to the streets], promising them free beer and strong alcoholic beverages."

The network stressed the particular role of Czech politicians and diplomats in their contacts with the Belarusian opposition. Specifically, Belarusian Television said that Czech parliamentary deputy Svatopluk Karasek read a message signed by Havel to a "raging crowd," presumably in Minsk. The network also recalled that former Czech Ambassador to Belarus Ales Fojtik held numerous meetings and consultations with Belarusian opposition leaders at both at their party headquarters and the embassy.

"Why has the Czech diplomatic mission [in Minsk] engaged in such an activity?" Belarusian Television asked, immediately answering: "The point is that Washington and Brussels want to do the dirty work with the hands of their satellites in Eastern Europe, in order to hide their involvement in destabilizing the situation in Belarus." And the network had one more jab for the Czech Republic: "By performing the role of a disseminator of democratic ideas [and] searching out petty incidents of human rights violations, the Czech leadership is trying to force alien principles and standards of social and political life upon Belarusian society."

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has had good reasons to turn the current diplomatic row between Minsk and Prague into a wider opportunity for lashing Prague before his compatriots. He has surely not forgotten that one of the greatest international snubs in his 10-year presidential career came when the Czech Republic denied him a visa for a NATO summit in Prague on 21-22 November 2002. Then-Czech President Havel uttered a memorable phrase on the occasion, saying that the visa denial was not intended to offend Belarus but was "an expression of aversion toward the authoritarian manner of rule represented by Alyaksandr Lukashenka." Since that time, the Czech Embassy in Minsk and the Belarusian Embassy in Prague have been headed by charges d'affaires, not full-fledged ambassadors.

The 21 January Belarusian Television feature on the Czech authorities' allegedly sinister exploits in Belarus appears to be part of a media campaign "to reveal the true face of the West to Belarusians," as requested by Lukashenka shortly prior to the 17 October 2004 referendum that cleared the path for him to serve as president for life. "[Show to our people] how they [the West] try to make prostitutes out of our girls, what they do here, how they feed our citizens with narcotics, how they spread homosexuality in Belarus," Lukashenka said during a televised meeting of the Security Council on 28 September. "Begin with Germany, the wisest and the best."

And indeed, before reporting on the current scandal involving the Czech diplomat, Belarusian Television aired a program about a German diplomat who, according to "Panarama," "amused himself with cocaine and drew Belarusian youths into using narcotics." The network also mentioned two U.S. diplomats, one of whom was reportedly involved in "a destructive sect" while another spent his free time in the "company of juvenile prostitutes."

Belarusian Television saved its best metaphor for the end of the 21 January "Panorama" report when it compared modern-day Belarus, which has been independent for just 14 years, to an adolescent the West is attempting to corrupt by plying it with such "democratic values" as drinking, sexual permissiveness, and pornography. The network's metaphor apparently tried to match and resonate with comments made by President Lukashenka in a 7 September speech in which he announced a referendum on prolonging his rule. "All these years [of my presidency] I have been carrying cautiously and with trepidation this bright crystalline vessel named Belarus in my hands before me," Lukashenka said in September. "I am carrying it, fearing to let it fall, because it is so fragile and vulnerable. You will surely agree with me that we would not like this purity and beauty created by us to fall into the hands of an irresponsible, casual politician."

Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said on 24 January that the reason given by Minsk for expelling Krivohlavy is not valid. Krivohlavy also denied any wrongdoing. "I have done nothing like this and I have never been notified of any accusation. My conscience is absolutely clean," CTK quoted Krivohlavy as saying. "Propaganda and the [Belarusian] KGB are capable of doing anything." Krivohlavy admitted that the secretly taped footage showing him with people in a restaurant was genuine, but added that none of his companions was so young as to justify any question of him breaking any laws. (Jan Maksymiuk)

KREMLIN WARY OF NEW UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT. Newly inaugurated Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko traveled to Moscow on 24 January to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a gesture designed to mollify Moscow's concerns that Kyiv has turned decisively to the West. By keeping a campaign promise that his first official trip abroad would be to Russia, Yushchenko helped Putin save face after a Ukrainian election campaign in which the Kremlin -- and Putin personally -- threw complete support behind former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

The Russian Foreign Ministry played up the significance of Yushchenko's visit while ignoring the Kremlin's open interference in the election campaign. "Russia and Ukraine live together side by side, our peoples are linked by thousands of bonds, and the economies are interdependent in the good sense of the word," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on 19 January, according to ITAR-TASS. "Therefore there is nothing unnatural in the fact that the first visit will be to Russia."

Behind the scenes, however, the Kremlin is indubitably wary of Yushchenko's unabashedly pro-European rhetoric and will likely seek to restrain the new president's enthusiasms. On 23 January, ITAR-TASS quoted Yushchenko as saying that he intended to propose to Putin "a new format of negotiations for the deepening of relations," but many in the Kremlin are more interested in finding ways of compelling Yushchenko to stick to the old formats of relations between the two countries.

Yushchenko's comments on the eve of his Moscow trip touched in general terms on all that the two countries have in common, while dwelling in detail on problems in bilateral relations, including particularly the need to shore up "the strategic interests of Ukraine as the major transit country for oil and natural gas in Europe." Yushchenko was even more direct in comments published in the 31 December issue of "Der Spiegel." "Our strategy aims to achieve European integration and this is the framework in which we need to resolve all problems together with Russia," he told the German weekly. "We would like to encourage mutual investments, removing trade barriers, and resolving problems associated with the influx of workers. There is, however, one condition: Putin must not block our way into the European Union."

Many in Moscow certainly chafe at hearing Ukrainian officials dictating "conditions" to the Russian president, especially with the Kremlin's setback in Ukraine coming so close on the heels of Georgia's 2003 "Rose Revolution." The nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) on 23 January held a demonstration outside the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow, with LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii asserting that "Kyiv is a Russian city and the Dnepr is a Russian river," RIA-Novosti reported. "There is no such thing as Ukraine, and a Russian governor should sit in Kyiv, as well as in Minsk. Russia's borders in the west are Warsaw and Helsinki."

While such extremist rhetoric is far out of the mainstream in Moscow, the Russian capital remains a place where establishment politicians and pundits can make such inflammatory claims, which play well with a large segment of the Russian public.

However, Russia's position on Yushchenko is not unambiguous, as many analysts have argued that some key Russian businesspeople quietly supported Yushchenko even as the Kremlin backed Yanukovych. Such businesspeople are purportedly motivated by a desire to use Ukraine as a sort of backdoor for expanding their business connections with the European Union and for getting them beyond the confines of the Kremlin-controlled Single Economic Space.

Vyacheslav Igrunov of Moscow's International Institute of Humanitarian and Political Studies told RBK-TV on 27 December that many Russian businesspeople backed Yushchenko precisely because they believe he will "yield to pressure from the United States, Poland, and the EU to move away from the Single Economic Space with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan."

Yushchenko's 24 January visit to Moscow, while of symbolic importance to the Kremlin, is clearly just the beginning of a complicated period in bilateral relations and most likely does not signal that relations between Kyiv and Moscow will continue as they were under former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Russian analysts have not forgotten that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili made the trip to Moscow immediately following his inauguration and that he publicly shook hands with Putin and exchanged professions of friendship -- but relations between Tbilisi and Moscow were not made any smoother by these gestures. (Robert Coalson)

UKRAINE: ENERGY OVERVIEW (PART II) -- THE LACK OF AN ENERGY POLICY. Since independence in 1991, Ukraine arguably has had no clear and viable energy policy. It has not attempted either to diversify its energy reliance on Russia or to restructure its energy intensive economy and has often changed the rules governing the energy and, to an even greater extent, the gas sector.

This has led to rampant corruption in the sector and allowed vested interests to dictate policy. A study prepared by Margarita M. Balmaceda of the Woodrow Wilson Center called "Ukraine's Energy Policy and U.S. Strategic Interests in Eurasia," found: "The implementation of adopted energy policies has also been a major problem, which has been made worse by the power and policy interference of Ukraine's strong economic interest groups."

Avoiding a clear energy policy, the former Ukrainian leadership instead adopted an ad hoc approach to the sector that accommodated the changing demands of regional clans and sustained the subsidized metallurgical industry which, in turn, was closely allied with the administration of President Leonid Kuchma.

Throughout much of the Kuchma presidency, individuals who openly represented vested interests and insisted on maintaining opacity in the energy sector controlled senior energy posts and the state oil and gas monopoly, Naftohaz Ukrayina. This resulted in endemic corruption during the Kuchma presidency.

The lack of a clear policy was apparent when in 2004 a decision was made to allow BP-TNK to use the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline in reverse mode -- a bow to a Russian lobby that did not wish to see Ukraine diversify its oil supplies by gaining access to Caspian oil.

The same lack of policy was evident in various gas-transport schemes with Turkmenistan, and contracts with Russia's Gazprom that were not subject to parliamentary review despite the fact that the head of the parliamentary energy committee was reputed to be close to the so-called Donetsk Clan and the main fund-raiser for the Yanukovych campaign.

The Woodrow Wilson report noted: "The widespread prevalence of corruption, together with the lack of clear institutionalization of energy policymaking and large discretionary power of regulatory officials, increases the temptation to engage in bribe taking.... Yet corruption at all levels continues. Because they have a vested interest in delaying reform, corrupt officials and the oligarchic groups associated with them make Ukraine delay reform of the sector, making the country less resilient to Russian pressure."


In 2005, four new factors appeared on the Ukrainian political-economic scene that are destined have a serious impact on its energy sector and the economy of the country. Viktor Yushchenko's "Orange Revolution" triumphed; Turkmenistan drastically raised its price for gas sold to Ukraine (but not to Russia); a new Turkmen gas "operator" appeared on the scene; and Ukraine began repaying its gas debt to Gazprom, which had been accumulating for years.

In July, Russian gas monopoly Gazprom announced that beginning in January 2005, the deliverer of Turkmen gas to the Russian-Ukrainian border would be a firm registered in Zug, Switzerland: RosUkrEnergo (RUE), controlled by Gazprom and Raiffeisenbank, was registered the same month as the announcement.

As the operator, RUE is obliged to sign transit documents and pay the appropriate customs and other fees charged by countries through which the gas transits the region via the Central Asia "Center" pipeline to Ukraine.

For these services, Ukraine pays RUE in the form of gas. In 2004, Ukraine transferred some 13 billion cubic meters of gas to RUE's predecessor, Eural Trans Gas.

In the absence of a clear and proactive energy policy, the Yushchenko administration will be forced to maintain these existing, ad hoc energy schemes. It will also face serious pressure to avoid adopting an energy policy that would lower de-facto subsidies to energy-intensive industries. This was evident in an interview published on the Ukrainian website, with Viktor Pinchuk, the head of Interpipe, the largest Ukrainian manufacturer of rolled pipe and co-owner of Kryvorizhstal, the largest Ukrainian steel mill, who threatened to oppose the new administration if any changes were made to the existing order.

It is evident that much of the opposition to Yushchenko during the elections came from two powerful centers that are likely to continue demanding that Yushchenko maintain his predecessors' energy non-policy.

The first comprises powerful Ukrainian industrial lobbies and regional clans who did not want to see a government willing to adopt an energy policy that would impose greater energy efficiencies on industry, reduce subsidies, and subsequently lower profits for their owners.

The second is the Russian government that is vitally interested for geopolitical reasons in keeping Ukraine dependent on Russian energy resources and on Russian pipelines, which transport Turkmen gas to Ukraine.

How the new Yushchenko administration deals with the energy issue will define its commitment to reforms and transparency and, in the long run, will be a critical test of Ukrainian ambition to accede to the European Union and ensure the country's future energy security. (Roman Kupchinsky)

"I am happy that I lived to see the hour when the president of Ukraine was elected not in Moscow or Washington, but in Ukraine by the people of Ukraine." -- Ukrainian President-elect Viktor Yushchenko on 23 January, during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell; quoted by an RFE/RL correspondent.

"I, Viktor Yushchenko -- elected by the will of the people as the president of Ukraine and entering into this high office -- solemnly swear to faithfully serve Ukraine and pledge that I commit myself with all my abilities to defend the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, to take care of the well-being of the homeland of the Ukrainian people, defend the rights and liberties of citizens to uphold the constitution of Ukraine and the laws of Ukraine, to execute my responsibilities in the interests of all fellow citizens, [and] to raise the position of Ukraine in the world." -- Yushchenko taking his oath of office in the Verkhovna Rada in Kyiv on 23 January; quoted by an RFE/RL correspondent.

"Today's event once more confirms that Ukraine exists as a nation and as a state. The citizens of Ukraine achieved an honest election. The transfer of power was legitimate. This is a great national victory.... You, esteemed parliamentarians, have defended Ukrainian democracy. You have saved the unity, integrity, and independence of our nation. Sincere thanks for that.... Today I would like to extend my hand to every parliamentarian of each faction, to every leader of each faction, and ask for your cooperation. We have one goal -- a prosperous and democratic Ukraine." -- President Yushchenko in his address to the Verkhovna Rada after taking the oath of office on 23 January; quoted by an RFE/RL correspondent.

"Ukrainians will occupy their rightful place in the community of nations. Ukraine will be neither a buffer zone nor a playing field for somebody else's competition. We are ready to respect the interests of other nations. But for me, as it is for you, the national interests of Ukraine are above all.... We are greeting all of our neighbors in the East and in the West with fairness and respect. I will do everything for developing stability and cooperation with all nations. Ukraine will be a reliable partner in the fight against old and new threats -- tyranny, war, poverty, natural disasters, and terrorism.... We, with the [European] nations, belong to the same civilization. We share the same values. History, economic perspective [and] the interests of our people give us a clear answer to the question: Where is our destiny? Our place is in the European Union and my goal is 'Ukraine in United Europe'.... This place, Independence Square, is a symbol of a free nation that believes in its strength and is building its future." -- Yushchenko in his address to a cheering crowd of 500,000 on Independence Square in Kyiv on 23 January, following his inauguration as president; quoted by an RFE/RL correspondent.