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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: September 12, 2001

12 September 2001, Volume 3, Number 34
LUKASHENKA CLAIMS LANDSLIDE VICTORY. Central Election Commission head Lidziya Yarmoshyna on 10 September said Alyaksandr Lukashenka was overwhelmingly re-elected for a second term in the 9 September presidential ballot, Belapan reported. According to preliminary results that do not include data from polling stations abroad, Lukashenka won 75.62 percent of the vote. Unified opposition candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk obtained 15.39 percent of the vote and Liberal Democratic Party leader Syarhey Haydukevich 2.48 percent. Some 6.15 million Belarusians took part in the ballot (83.85 percent of eligible voters). Yarmoshyna said the ballot was conducted "irreproachably."

Meanwhile, some four hours after the completion of the presidential ballot on 9 September, Hancharyk said the vote was conducted with gross violations of the election legislation and its results were falsified by the authorities. Hancharyk was speaking to some 2,000 opposition activists who gathered under heavy rain at a Minsk square to express their support for him. Hancharyk claimed that according to an independent count, Lukashenka won 46 percent of the vote while he took 40 percent. "We appeal to the international community to support our just demand to hold a second round of elections," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service quoted Hancharyk as saying.

"Unfortunately, these presidential elections did not meet international standards for free, democratic elections," AP quoted Kimmo Kiljunen, vice president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and coordinator of the OSCE's monitoring mission in Belarus, as saying on 10 September. "Maybe the election process was somewhat free, but clearly it was not fair," Kiljunen added.

The same day, the OSCE issued a statement condemning the election campaign. "There were fundamental flaws in the electoral process, some of which are specific to the political situation in Belarus," the statement said. The OSCE added that the Belarusian authorities did everything possible to block the opposition, including ruling by decree, failing to insure the independence of the election administration, failing to properly control early voting, and creating a campaign environment that was seriously detrimental to the opposition. The statement noted that the authorities launched a campaign of intimidation against opposition activists, domestic observers, and independent media, and a smear campaign against international observers.

LUKASHENKA SLAMS WEST, OPPOSITION IN ELECTION CAMPAIGN ADDRESS. More than 2,500 people participated in a meeting with President Lukashenka in the Palace of the Republic in Minsk on 4 September. Most of them were bussed in to Minsk from all over Belarus and accommodated for two days. Asked by RFE/RL's Belarusian Service how it was possible to organize such an election meeting for a mere $14,000 (the sum allotted by the Central Electoral Commission to each of the three presidential candidates for their campaigns), presidential administration chief Mikhail Myasnikovich said it was not Lukashenka's re-election campaign meeting but the incumbent president's "report to the Belarusian people delivered on the first day of early voting." Lukashenka, too, told the forum that he was not campaigning for himself but holding a "tough test" before the people. The Belarusian president's two-hour address was broadcast on Belarusian Radio and Belarusian Television.

Lukashenka said that under his leadership Belarus has witnessed a period of considerable economic growth. He informed the gathering that in the past five years Belarus's GDP has grown by 36 percent, and industrial output by 65 percent. Lukashenka promised that the average monthly wage in Belarus in 2005 will increase to $250. According to the president, this year the population's real incomes finally reached the Soviet level of 1990, and even exceeded it by 6 percent.

However, the most emotional and appealing portions of his address Lukashenka devoted to pouring scathing criticism on the West -- represented by the U.S., NATO, the OSCE, and Poland -- and on the domestic opposition in the context of the 9 September presidential election. Lukashenka's well-orchestrated speech was repeatedly interrupted by applause. Below are some highlights of that speech, translated by BBC from Belarusian Radio.

On reasons for Western "pressure" on Belarus:

"A pertinent question: Why is Belarus under pressure at present? Because first, Belarus has not allowed the West to set up a Baltic-Black Sea hostile corridor around Russia.... The second thing.... The Belarusian leadership in a strict and principled manner stands against the international political monopolism and hegemony of one state. It is not fair when one country -- although it is a strong country -- sets the rules of behavior for the whole world...."

On whom the West supports in Belarus:

"It seems that foreign politicians standing for lawfulness and against embezzlement should have assessed our strict stance correctly at a time when we detected financial machinations, strengthened legislation, and proved the guilt [of those responsible]. The thieves who had fled abroad started heart-rending cries about political persecution in Belarus. Those who were feeding near the swindlers were echoing them.

"However, instead of supporting our fight against mafia clans and corruption, and giving -- as I have already said -- a correct assessment of our strict policy toward those people, embezzlers, quite opposite processes took place. The policy of double standards prevailed. Everything that was done between Belarus and the West was reported purely in a negative light. They defended swindlers and rogues. Western emissaries rushed to Belarus, bringing in equipment and money. The aim was to undermine the situation, to split society, to sow hatred between people on religious, ethnic, or ideological grounds, and finally to destroy our state sovereignty. These are all techniques of controlled crises, the scenarios of which are worked out by Western special services, while the opposition is a bargaining chip in their plans."

On Ukraine's poor faring, compared to Belarus:

"We have managed to protect our people from poverty and trouble. Our people have not felt what is going on in other republics, where [people] are happy today with three dollars. In fraternal Ukraine, a teacher who has worked all his life is currently earning a seven-dollar pension. And the government pays it over half a year, or with an eight-month delay. Here is a leader of one of the public organizations, comrade [Petro] Symonenko [leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine]. Please do not take a grudge over this example. But this is true. I have recently talked to one of such teachers. Seven dollars! How can an individual live on this money at all, with prices 30 to 40 percent higher compared to Belarus's."

On Poland as a "bridgehead" of anti-Belarusian policies:

"When the Soviet Union broke up and the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, the U.S. and the West needed to give an example to all of us -- Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine -- how one should live. Poland was chosen. It itself strove for that. As people say, it decided to show more devotion to overseas Uncle Sam. And $40 [billion] and later $70 billion were channeled into that country. An oasis, so to speak, was created. Here you go. If you are complaisant, you will be just as brilliant and prosperous as Poland is. But they demanded strictly that Poland pursue the course the Americans needed. And Poland has become a sort of bridgehead for conducting all actions against the former Soviet republics....

"[The U.S. has] started exerting pressure through Poland. Just look: where have super-advanced intelligence devices to monitor Belarusian territory been installed? In Poland, Lithuania, and currently they are installing them in Latvia. Where are the centers working to destabilize the situation in Belarus, where is [Belarusian Popular Front leader] Zyanon Paznyak sitting now? In Poland. From whose territory is our country being showered with untrue information? From Poland. This is where Radio Liberty has doubled its airtime (Ed. note: Radio Liberty has its headquarters in Prague, the Czech Republic), this is where Radio Ratsyya and other radio stations operate and so on and so forth. This is where a flow of banned literature is coming from. Poland has become, speaking the language of the military, a bridgehead from which the invasion of the territory of the former Soviet Union advances."

On Belarus's exercises in response to NATO training in Lithuania:

"Our army is battle-worthy, but we threaten nobody. We are training and we can wage a war. We will train in waging a war. It is for this purpose that the army exists. This exercise [Nyoman-2001] was watched by all the NATO countries. [NATO representatives] stood next to me clicking their tongues. They were shocked by the actions of our armed forces. After this, I told them: You have seen this. Let us not attack each other head on. Let us not watch each other through the sight of a gun....

"So who do we threaten? We do not threaten anyone. Yes, we postponed the exercise, timing it to coincide with this period [the NATO Amber Hope exercise in Lithuania]. Yes, we deployed our western corps. Why reproach me? Who needed an exercise in Lithuania 6 kilometers away from our border? What U.S. interests are there? I could have understood the Lithuanian army holding an exercise. Why should 14 countries, including the U.S., deploy their troops 6 kilometers away from our borders?...

"I am 100 percent sure that we will never be at war, but only if they see our battle-worthy army, just as they saw it at the recent exercise. Not only will they not start a war, they will not even think of a Yugoslav or any other scenario...."

(Ed. note: On 31 August, Belarusian Television showed Lukashenka visiting the Nyoman-2001 exercises in a commander in chief's uniform -- a fancy, gold embroidered garb and a high cap. Several Russian newspapers subsequently published ironic comments on Lukashenka's taste in military fashion, while some openly ridiculed him as a buffoon and "Generalissimo Lukashenka." In an apparent attempt to blunt the sting of that media derision, Lukashenka touched upon the subject of his uniform in an interview with journalists right after the 4 September election meeting: "I am neither a generalissimo nor a marshal. The model of the commander in chief's uniform was legislatively established five years ago, but I put it on for the first time for these [Nyoman-2001] exercises. You know, [the uniform] produced a tremendous effect on the army. If the president is not afraid to dress in his uniform -- such was the conclusion -- he is our president. This also boosts soldiers' morale and influences people's moods," Belarusian Television reported him as saying. Lukashenka failed to explain whose president he was believed to be by Belarusian soldiers when he visited them in civilian clothes.)

On U.S. State Secretary Colin Powell and U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Michael Kozak:

"We will not allow anyone, including the Americans, to teach us how we should live. (Ed. note: applause) Will you say that I am artificially exaggerating the situation? I have just reminded you. (Ed. note: reads from a document.) U.S. Secretary of State [Colin] Powell's statement on the 10th anniversary of Belarus's independence. For your information: This is a product concocted at the U.S. Embassy in Belarus. Powell probably did not even read his so-called statement. It was prepared by [U.S. Ambassador Michael] Kozak at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Minsk, Belarus. It was on my desk 10 days before publication, extracted from the U.S. Embassy by Russian and Belarusian intelligence. (Ed. note: applause.)....

"I will quote one more document.... Michael Kozak, the U.S. ambassador. I am reading: in the run-up to the presidential election in Belarus, yet another scandal has emerged that can damage the local opposition very much, according to journalists' assessments. What is up? A high-ranking diplomat, Michael Kozak, is maintaining that the Americans are regularly supporting President Lukashenka's opponents -- that is, the opposition -- both morally and materially. Exactly in the way Washington did in Nicaragua in the 1980s through supplies of arms and dollars to the local Contras who tried to overthrow the Sandinista [government] who had come to power. The civil war in that country had then taken tens of thousands of lives before the sides reached an agreement. Then Kozak was the ambassador there, in Nicaragua. (Ed. note: see also item below.)....

"And the last thing I would like to read to you. The refusal to take such steps [by the Belarusian government toward democratization], Colin Powell states, will mean the transformation of the current regime into a single outcast in Europe. Well, I can understand [Powell]. He used to carry a gun in his hands -- you remember Desert Storm -- and wear a uniform. Today, he has been given a diplomatic job with a ballpoint pen. He thinks it is an assault riffle or a machine gun. Is it admissible for such a high-ranking official to behave like that?"

On his intention to expel OSCE mission head Hans-Georg Wieck:

"Here is another father of democracy, [the head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Belarus] Hans Georg Wieck, the so-called observer, almost a citizen of Belarus. He is far better known in Belarus than the opposition candidate!... Mr. Wieck is trying to get himself kicked out of Belarus. No way! We will kick him out, but only after the election. And this is not a threat. He knows this himself. I told this to him and our Foreign Minister [Mikhail Khvastou] warned him about this. There is no other reason. If they had a feeling that they would win in our country, they would be sitting now like mice in the corner waiting for their victory. But once they have understood that the collapse of the single and indivisible [opposition candidate is imminent], provocation should be launched."

On Uladzimir Hancharyk, his rival in the presidential election:

"It is impossible to push nationalist ideas in a straightforward way in Belarus. So, they [the West] began to look for a replacement. They found it -- in the person of Syamyon Domash. But Belarusian journalists and authorities responded quickly, telling society who...Syamyon Mikalayevich Domash is, where his roots are from and who supports him. The West understood that if Domash is put forth -- although his rating was three times higher than Uladzimir Ivanavich Hancharyk's -- if he is put forward, a fiasco is inevitable -- 5 percent or 10 at the most -- because our people do not accept nationalism in any form....

"I hold nothing against this man. I know him very well. In the first years he kicked the door of my office open every week, as our people say. We worked together a lot, exchanged advice. He helped me in some things, I helped him a lot. But then suddenly he became a different person.... I do not want to say that he has been paid a lot -- or little. I did not count that money, nor will I. But it is a fact that the man is behaving like a traitor....

"But at the moment they want to use him as a bulldozer, as a screen. They, the West, believe that they can push Domash into power, behind Uladzimir Ivanavich's shoulders. You know that he becomes a deputy prime minister, or rather the prime minister, under the [opposition] agreement. So they can push into power the nationalist opposition, which was once rejected by the people. That is, Uladzimir Ivanavich Hancharyk is to play not so much the role of a bulldozer -- he is hardly a bulldozer, he will not be able to work like a bulldozer -- but that of a screen."

On himself as a man of the people:

"Esteemed friends, you may criticize me. I am not an ideal man. As the opposition says, Lukashenka is an ordinary man. This is actually so. I am an ordinary man like you. The distinctive features distinguishing me from the others include three qualities. I never betrayed anybody and I hate traitors. I have never robbed anyone and I hate thieves and embezzlers. I am a genuine patriot of my people and over these years I have wished nothing to my people but good. And this will always be the case wherever I work."

STATE NEWSPAPER REVEALS 'WHITE STORK' OPERATION. More Cold War winds were blowing in Belarus on 5 September, when "Sovetskaya Belorussiya," Lukashenka's central press organ, published a lengthy "analytical memorandum" accusing U.S., British, and German intelligence agencies of contriving an operation code-named "White Stork" with the aim of overthrowing Lukashenka. The newspaper alleged that Western spymasters are using the OSCE's Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk, Western embassies and humanitarian agencies in Belarus, and Belarusian NGOs as a cover for their operation. The publication claimed the operation is to culminate in a post-election night march of young opposition activists from Belarusian regions on Minsk and a possible attack on Lukashenka's residence.

The newspaper attributed the memorandum to an "influential Moscow-based center Independent Political Expertise." According to "Sovetskaya Belorussiya," analysts from Moscow passed their memorandum to Belarus's State Security Council.

Some 90 percent of the factual material presented in the memorandum was previously reported by the media, particularly by Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, and reflected events connected with the presidential election campaign in Belarus as well as with the attempts of the OSCE and Belarusian NGOs to organize independent monitoring of Belarus's ballot. Some of the facts were presented in the memorandum as confidential or secret and attributed to "sources" -- they mainly referred to meetings of opposition and NGO activists and quoted their statements. However, none of those statements confirmed the main thesis of the memorandum, namely, that the opposition wants to violently take over power in Belarus according to a "Yugoslav scenario."

The hateful tone adopted in the memorandum in regard to Lukashenka's opponents and the essentially paranoid picture of the world plotting against Belarus -- known from Lukashenka's numerous pronouncements in the past -- suggest that the document was prepared in Minsk as a propaganda material in order to play upon the population's siege mentality nourished in the Soviet era. The circulation of the "Sovetskaya Belorussiya" issue with the memorandum was doubled, and the surplus copies were distributed free of charge to voters' mailboxes.

One "analytical conclusion" in the memorandum suggested even the possibility of tectonic shifts in Europe's post-Yalta order following the ousting of Lukashenka:

"In the event a democratic president comes to power, a plan will be implemented to reform Belarusian society, transform the power system, economy, and the system of international relations. [This plan] will lead to a revision of borders in the quadrangle Germany-Poland-Lithuania-Belarus and to the creation -- at the expense of Polish and Lithuanian territories -- of a 'Baltic corridor' for Germans up to the borders of Kaliningrad Oblast of the Russian Federation. Poland and Lithuania will be compensated for the territories taken from them with Belarusian lands."

'THE TIMES' ADDS GRIST TO LUKASHENKA'S MILL. On 3 September, "The Times" ran an article by Alice Lagnado, one of its Moscow correspondents, claiming that U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Kozak "said in a letter to a British newspaper that America's 'objective and to some degree methodology are the same' in Belarus as in Nicaragua, where the U.S. backed the Contras against the left-wing Sandinista government in a war that claimed at least 30,000 lives."

Of course, such a publication could not be overlooked by Minsk. At his 4 September speech, Lukashenka fumed at Kozak, saying that he "will only tolerate the intrigues of Kozak until the election." The same day Kozak was summoned by Belarusian Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou to provide explanations.

Speaking to journalists after his meeting with Khvastou, Kozak said that as ambassador to Belarus he sent only one letter to a British newspaper -- "The Guardian," which published it on 25 August and in which he actually drew parallels between the U.S. policy in Belarus and Nicaragua, Belapan reported. "Then we worked with the Sandinista authorities, the Organization of American States, other countries in the region, and the former Soviet Union to encourage a free, fair, and transparent election," Kozak's letter in "The Guardian" said. "Today we are working with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Association of Central and Eastern European Election Officials, and OSCE member states, including the EU members, to encourage the Belarusian authorities to institute some modicum of press access for the opposition and a transparent vote-counting process. Twelve years ago, we advised the Nicaraguan opposition that the best way to pursue their political agenda was through participation in a peaceful electoral process; today we are giving the same advice to the opposition in Belarus."

Kozak emphasized that the letter did not draw any parallels with the U.S. support to the Contras, and noted that he worked in Nicaragua in 1989-1990, after the cessation of hostilities there.

"Who says this will be my last term in office?" -- Lukashenka on 9 September after he cast his vote, answering a question who might replace him in five years; quoted by world press agencies.

"This was a brilliant, elegant, persuasive victory." -- Lukashenka on 9 September, just one hour after the closure of polling stations when no official election results had yet been released; quoted by RFE/RL's Belarusian Service.

"I voted for Lukashenka because he is a kolkhoz man. I was a kolkhoz man once." -- A voter in Homel, Belarus's second-largest city, after casting a vote on 9 September; quoted by RFE/RL's Belarus Service.

"This is a falsification, this is a brazen seizure of power." -- Uladzimir Hancharyk on 9 September, commenting on the announcement of Lukashenka's landslide victory; quoted by RFE/RL's Belarusian Service.