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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: July 4, 2000

4 July 2000, Volume 2, Number 25
GOVERNMENT TO INVEST IN PROMOTING EU BID. Jerzy Buzek's cabinet on 27 June adopted a program providing for the promotion of Poland in EU countries in a bid to convince Europeans that Poland deserves EU membership, PAP reported. The program envisages sponsoring press articles about Poland, inviting European opinion-makers to visit Poland, the participation of Polish businesses in fairs and exhibitions in the EU, and staging Polish cultural events in the union. The program will cost 84 million zlotys ($19 million) and is to be implemented over the next three years.

Meanwhile, Poland's chief EU negotiator, Jan Kulakowski, has said Warsaw will strive to complete its EU accession negotiations by mid-2001. He added that a postponement of Poland's accession beyond the year 2003 would be bad both for Poland and the EU. Kulakowski expects a qualitative breakthrough in the talks to occur during France's EU presidency, which begins on 1 July.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, who attended last week's world conference on democracy in Warsaw, told journalists that by the end of the French presidency, in December 2000, the EU will give each would-be member an accession "scenario." "We can expect from the French presidency that we will move forward to substantial problems," AP quoted Vedrine as saying. "Each candidate will be assessed according to its possibilities and its real situation. This is the only way to help everyone solve his own problems."

In addition to giving hope to would-be union members, Vedrine's remarks seem also to carry a warning to Poland, which is among the first wave of countries invited to start membership talks. EU officials have repeatedly hinted that Warsaw is moving too slowly in adopting legislation required for EU membership and that other countries may join the EU first. Some of those officials suggest that 2005 or even 2006 is a more realistic date for Poland's accession to the EU. However, the current Solidarity-led cabinet continues to say it expects the country to join in 2003.

CHYHIR'S AIDE ADDRESSES LUKASHENKA OVER TERROR. Ivan Lemyasheuski, a former adviser to Premier Mikhail Chyhir and current executive director of Belbiznesbank, has drafted an open letter to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 26 June. Lemyasheuski was prompted to take this step by a recent attempt on the life of his son Illya. The father believes that attempt was organized by Belarus's secret services. Lemyasheuski says the secret services wanted to terrorize him personally and punish his son for the latter's refusal to collaborate with them.

Two unknown attackers caught Illya at his house and pointed their gun at his heart. Illya began to struggle to break loose and the bullet missed its target. Following surgery performed immediately after that attack, Illya's parents took him home--they were afraid that his life would be threatened even in hospital.

Illya told RFE/RL that police officers "worked on him psychologically" at a district police station, seeking to persuade him to become an informer and spy on his father. "They even asked me to plant bugs in our house and in my father's car. I refused, saying that I'm not a Pavlik Morozov. The warned me: Watch out, life may become worse for you. And [they] told me that I still have time to think [about their proposal]," Illya said.

(Editor's note: Pavlik Morozov (1918-1932) was a Soviet pioneer, who in the period of collectivization denounced his father to the Party for helping kulaks [peasants who opposed collectivization]. His father was sentenced, while Pavlik was killed in revenge by peasants. Under party propaganda, Pavlik Morozov was considered an exemplary Soviet hero to be imitated by the next generations of pioneers.)

Only after two beatings by unknown assailants did Illya tell his parents about the police's attempt to recruit him. Ivan Lemyasheuski managed to secure an interview with KGB Chairman Uladzimir Matskevich and asked him to leave his son in peace.

With regard to the latest shooting involving his son, Ivan Lemyasheuski commented as follows:

"This is a political terror [campaign] that involves my son. I left the government in March 1999, when the cabinet was being purged: there was a list of officials who were told to go because, according to [State Security Council head Viktar] Sheyman, they might work for Chyhir."

Chyhir resigned in 1996, protesting the controversial constitutional referendum. He reappeared in Belarus's politics in 1999 when he took part in the presidential elections organized by the opposition. Lukashenka ordered him arrested on charges of embezzlement and abuse of office. This year Chyhir was sentenced to three-year suspended prison term, a verdict that bars him from running in next year's presidential election against Lukashenka. Rumors are rife in Belarus's independent press that Belarus's current nomenklatura has become disappointed with Lukashenka and could support Chyhir, should he choose to challenge Lukashenka in the presidential race.

MOSCOW AND KYIV PATRIARCHATES WAGE INFORMATION WAR. Believers and priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) in Crimea sought to halt a 23-25 June trip to Crimea by Metropolitan Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate), Interfax reported on 26 June, quoting sources from the Simferopol and Crimean Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). Following an appeal by Simferopol and Crimean Archbishop Lazar (Moscow Patriarchate), hundreds of people blocked all roads leading from Simferopol airport to Sevastopol. Filaret had to sneak into Sevastopol across fields.

The Simferopol and Crimean Eparchy (Moscow Patriarchate) told Interfax that its clergy and congregation also prevented Filaret from visiting Khersones (near Sevastopol), the place of baptism of St. Vladimir, the Kievan Rus's first Christian grand prince (980-1015). According to the eparchy, tensions in Sevastopol were running so high that Filaret had to forfeit the main purpose of his trip--a visit to the Institute of the Ukrainian Navy, where he was expected to bless new graduates.

Ukraine's Moscow and Kyiv Patriarchates have remained at loggerheads since 1992, when Filaret and part of the clergy split from Ukraine's pro-Moscow Orthodox Church to form an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Moscow Patriarchate anathematized Filaret and branded its followers "schismatics" (Russian: raskolniki).

The press service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) denied that Filaret's trip to Crimea had been ruined by the rival patriarchate. The press service admitted that an attempt to prevent Filaret from entering Crimea was made at Simferopol airport, but it said that "the Republic of Crimea's authorities did everything possible to prevent any confrontation on religious grounds." The press service listed a number of meetings and religious services held by Filaret during his three-day stay in Crimea, underscoring that there were no "conflicts or clashes between believers."

MORE THAN HALF OF UKRAINIANS CAN BUY ONLY FOOD. A poll conducted by the GfK USM polling agency in May among 1,000 people between the ages of 15 and 59 showed that 20 percent of respondents do not have enough money to buy foodstuffs and are forced to live permanently on credit, Interfax reported on 27 June. Fifty-six percent said they can buy only food, while 22 percent admitted that they are able to buy food and clothes. Only 2 percent said they can afford other consumer goods "without any problems."

"Democrats are sent [to stage protests] to the 'Dogs' Square' while Communists are allowed to picket the U.S. embassy."--An opponent of the Lukashenka regime from Minsk, quoted by RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 28 June. "Dogs' Square" is a nickname for Bangalore Square on the outskirts of Minsk, the only place where the city authorities allow the opposition to stage rallies and demonstrations. The U.S. embassy is not far from the center of Minsk.

"Life can be bad, a regime can be bad, but a constitution, to my mind, cannot be bad. A constitution is [only] a declaration, while all [the rest] depends on people. It is possible to write down anything you want in a constitution, but it is life that decides which provisions of this law are realistic and which remain on paper only." -- A passer-by in Kyiv, quoted by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 28 June.