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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: January 15, 2002

15 January 2002, Volume 4, Number 2
THE GREAT HOLIDAY AID ORCHESTRA PLAYS FOR THE 11TH TIME. Some 100,000 volunteers on 13 January went door-to-door across Poland to raise money for sick children in the country's biggest charity event, called the Great Holiday Aid Orchestra. Public television broadcast charity rock concerts staged throughout the country within the framework of the same event. However, most funds were expected to come from special events and auctions of items offered by people and organizations. PAP reported that by midnight on 13 January the fund-raising campaign had taken in some 14 million zlotys ($3.5 million).

The Great Holiday Aid Orchestra was founded in 1992 by Jacek Owsiak, a rock concert impresario, to help Poland's underafunded health-care system. This annual event, which is immensely popular in Poland, has raised some $35 million over the past decade for the purchase of equipment for more than 4,000 children's wards in Polish hospitals. Under communist rule, private donations for charity were practically nonexistent, apart from charity actions conducted by the Roman Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Church, however, treats Owsiak's activities with some reluctance, to say the least. Bishop Kazimierz Ryczan from Kielce appeared to speak for many church officials on 13 January when he drew a distinction between the church's charitable activities, known as Caritas, and Owsiak's Orchestra. Addressing a gathering of Caritas volunteers, Ryczan said: "You do not amuse yourself with charity,... you do not play [at] it once a year as in a theater or on a stage -- Caritas people are not actors or clowns."

Apparently touching upon Owsiak's public encouragement of free-wheeling behavior among younger generations, Ryczan noted: "Caritas does not organize Woodstock Stops [Owsiak-led annual rock concerts] where the rule 'Do whatever you want' reigns supreme -- that is, drink, have sex, be easy-going.... The Christian charity does not end up with the death of the conductor of an orchestra."

WILL MINSK PARTICIPATE IN PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS? "Our law currently in force does not provide for Belarusian army contingents' participation in [international peacekeeping] operations, but the situation may soon change and we should be prepared for this," Stanislau Smolski, the first deputy chief of the Belarusian armed forces' General Staff, told Belapan on 13 January.

According to Smolski, Belarus should take part in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in order "not to lag behind in the world trends of the development of military science and the practice of applying armed forces." Participation in such operations, Smolski said, has a political aspect as well, as this is a "demonstration of the state's flag on an equal basis with other countries in the solution of global problems."

As regards the financial expenses for training peacekeeping forces, Smolski said they will soon pay for themselves, adding that "the United Nations and the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] pay in hard currency, and it is an extremely profitable affair for small states."

Last week, Smolski headed a military delegation to Ukraine and signed a Belarusian-Ukrainian plan for military cooperation in 2002 that provides for the study by Belarusian military leaders of Ukrainian peacekeepers' experience in international operations under the UN flag, , among other joint measures.

A congress of the For a United Ukraine election bloc on 12 January approved its election manifesto and list of candidates for the 31 March parliamentary ballot, UNIAN reported. The first five individuals on the list include the bloc's leader and head of the presidential administration, Volodymyr Lytvyn; the head of the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh; lawmaker Yekateryna Vashchuk; general director of the Mariupol Illicha metallurgical plant, Volodymyr Boyko; and rector of National Taras Shevchenko University, Viktor Skopenko.

The second five on the list are the head of the Popular Democratic Party and Transport Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko; Labor Ukraine Party head Serhiy Tyhypko; Party of Regions head Volodymyr Semynozhenko; Agrarian Party leader Mykhaylo Hladiy; and the first deputy head of the Transport Ministry, Heorhiy Kyrpa.

The list continues with lawmaker Andriy Derkach; famous sportsman Serhiy Bubka; Yuris company President Mykola Onishchuk; presidential adviser Anatoliy Tolstoukhov; Ivan Zubets; the minister of agricultural policy, Ivan Kyrylenko; lawmaker Oleksandr Karpov; Industrial Policy Minister Vasyl Hureyev; Ivan Kuras, the director of the Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies; and lawmaker Ihor Sharov.

Lawmaker Dmytro Tabachnyk is No. 21 on the list, and the president of the Professional Soccer League, Ravil Safiullin, is No. 22.

The congress also approved candidates in the single-seat constituencies. The bloc's 225 candidates include parliament Speaker Ivan Plyushch (Chernihiv Oblast); presidential adviser Leonid Kadanyuk (Chernivtsi Oblast); former Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk (Mykolayiv Oblast); parliament Deputy Speaker Stepan Havrysh (Kharkiv Oblast); the first deputy head of the State Tax Administration, Ihor Kalinichenko (Vinnytsya Oblast); and the head of the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Valeriy Horbatov (Crimea).

A congress of the Socialist Party on 12 January approved its election manifesto and list of candidates for the 31 March parliamentary ballot, Interfax reported. The top five on the Socialist Party's election list include Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz; lawmakers Valentyna Semenyuk and Ivan Bokyy; the secretary of the party's political council and coordinator of the now-defunct antipresidential Ukraine Without Kuchma movement, Yuriy Lutsenko; and the editor in chief of the opposition "Silski Visti" newspaper, Ivan Spodarenko.

The list also includes Major Mykola Melnychenko, who currently resides in the United States, where he was granted political asylum; he is No. 15. In 2000, Melnychenko triggered the tape scandal by releasing what he said were records of conversations in the president's office, allegedly hinting at President Leonid Kuchma's complicity in the murder of opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and a host of other crimes. Referring to a conversation with Melnychenko, Moroz told journalists that the former presidential bodyguard will take part in the election campaign on Ukrainian territory.

A congress of the Natalya Vitrenko Bloc on 12 January approved its list of candidates for the 31 March parliamentary ballot, Interfax reported. The top five candidates on the list are activists of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine: Natalya Vitrenko, Volodymyr Marchenko, Lyudmila Bezuhla, Petro Romanchuk, and Mykhaylo Sydorchuk.

A congress of the Women for the Future political association on 12 January approved its election list for the 31 March parliamentary ballot, UNIAN reported. The top figures on the list are Valentyna Dovzhenko, the association's leader; Mariya Orlyk, the head of the Union of Ukrainian Women; Iryna Belousova, the Women for the Future deputy head; Tetyana Selikhova, the director of the Dynamo-Sileyer plant; and Andriy Ivanov, a member of the Women for the Future central board.

A congress of the all-Ukrainian leftist union Justice on 12 January approved its election manifesto and list of candidates for the 31 March parliamentary ballot. The party election list is headed by poet Mykola Lukiv, the editor in chief of the "Dnipro" magazine. The party's leader, Ivan Chyzh, will run in a one-seat constituency: Khmelnytska Oblast.

A congress of the Russian Bloc on 10 January approved its election manifesto and list of candidates for the 31 March parliamentary ballot. The top five candidates are: Oleksandr Svystunov, the leader of the For a Single Rus Party and the Russian Movement of Ukraine; Ivan Symonenko, the leader of the Russian-Ukrainian Union Party; Oleh Lyutikov and Ihor Pylayev, activists of the For a Single Rus Party; and Svitlana Savchenko, the leader of the Union Party. The Russian Bloc's election manifesto calls for the creation of "a single economic, informational, and cultural area of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus on the basis of a close interstate union," and for "the equality of the two state languages -- Russian and Ukrainian," Interfax reported.

The Central Election Commission has approved the distribution of funds for conducting the 31 March parliamentary election, Interfax reported on 10 January. The 2002 budget provides for the allocation of 291.1 million hryvni ($55 million) for the balloting.

According to a recent poll conducted by the Oleksandr Razumkov Center of Economic and Political Studies among Kyiv residents, only 19.8 percent of respondents believe that the 31 March parliamentary election will be more "democratic and transparent" than previous ballots in the 10 years of Ukraine's independence, Interfax reported on 12 January. Some 59.7 percent of respondents said "no" in answer to the question: "Do you think the upcoming parliamentary election will be held according to world standards -- democratically, transparently, and without pressure from the authorities?"

According to a poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology from 11-20 December among 2,013 Ukrainian voters throughout the country, if parliamentary elections had been held at that time, the Our Ukraine bloc led by former Premier Viktor Yushchenko would have won 19.5 percent of the vote; the Communist Party, 17.6 percent; For a United Ukraine, 5.9 percent; Social Democratic Party (United), 4.2 percent; and Women for the Future, 4.1 percent. Other parties and blocs were below the 4 percent voting threshold including: the Green Party, 3.9 percent; the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, 3.2 percent; the Socialist Party of Ukraine, 3.1 percent; Yabluko, 2.9 percent; and the Natalya Vitrenko Bloc, 2.5 percent. The poll's margin of error was 2 percent.

"The U.S. has not recognized [Belarus's] local elections in 1999; the U.S. says we incorrectly held the 2000 parliamentary election; the U.S. does not like how we held the presidential election last year. If this state is going to set political requirements before economic cooperation, nothing will come out of this. We tell the U.S. through our embassy in Washington and through the U.S. Embassy in Belarus...that we are ready to begin talks on how to build our relations so that they could promote the development of our economies and contacts between people. One should not set deliberately too high requirements regarding Belarus." -- Belarusian Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou; quoted by Belarusian Television on 12 January.