1 October 2004, Volume
LUKASHENKA BURSTS INTO ANTI-WESTERN RHETORIC BEFORE REFERENDUM.
The Belarusian government's propaganda machine, primarily the state-controlled television and radio channels, has been working full blast for the past several weeks to ensure that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka wins the 17 October presidential referendum on lifting the constitutional two-term ban on presidency and obtain the right to rule Belarus indefinitely. The task of government propagandists is not easy -- a referendum may amend the constitution only if it is backed by more than 50 percent of all eligible voters. It means, for example, that if referendum turnout is some 80 percent -- which is a realistic figure for Belarus -- no less than 63 percent of voters must say "yes" in order to validate Lukashenka's desire to rule beyond 2006.
Independent sociological surveys in Belarus say that only some 35 percent of Belarusians back Lukashenka's intention to rule the country longer than two terms. Thus, some in Belarus assert, the scale of vote "corrections" on 17 October could affect over 30 percent of all ballots. Technically, it is an attainable result. Three months ago Lukashenka baffled pollsters in Belarus by saying that according to public-opinion surveys, he is supported by 60-65 percent of the population. No one had heard of such polls then. But a month ago, a previously unknown, "independent" polling organization in Belarus publicized the results of a survey, according to which Lukashenka is backed by 66 percent of compatriots, that is, by nearly twice as many as routinely reported by other pollsters.
However, Lukashenka and his aides are also aware that such an extensive "adjustment" of the 17 October vote may backfire with social unrest and a political reawakening of the electorate that has been "dormant" for at least three years. Therefore, Lukashenka has mobilized all available propaganda resources to win over as many Belarusians to his side as possible. As should be expected, the anti-Western phobias of Belarusian society, ingrained deeply in the Soviet era and nourished assiduously by Lukashenka during the 10 years of his rule, have once again been tapped as a potential inciter of the needed political behavior.
On 28 September Lukashenka held a televised meeting of the Security Council at which he -- in his characteristic emotional monologue -- touched upon various security issues. The conference was held against the background of large-scale military maneuvers that were taking place in Belarus. As usual, Lukashenka warned against NATO troops moving closer and closer to Belarus's borders, vilified the opposition as marginal scoundrels on one hand and potential terrorists on the other, and congratulated himself for introducing political harmony and ensuring economic well-being in Belarus. At one point he suggested that the hurricanes that harrowed the country's Brest Oblast in the mid-1990s were actually pacified by his government's efforts.
But what made Lukashenka break into an extremely passionate diatribe was the EU's decision the previous day to ban four Belarusian officials from its territory over the unexplained disappearances of three opposition politicians and a journalist in 1999 and 2000. The ban, which was also imposed by the United States, affected Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau, Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman, Sports Minister Yury Sivakou, and Dzmitry Paulichenka, commander of an Interior Troops brigade. The latter three have been accused by Cypriot lawmaker Christos Pourgourides, a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rapporteur on high-profile disappearances in Belarus, of being involved in arranging the disappearance of opposition politicians Yury Zakharanka (7 May 1999), Viktar Hanchar and Anatol Krasouski (16 December 1999), and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski (7 July 2000).
"We won't tolerate any pricks and kicks in the back," Lukashenka said regarding the travel ban. "We won't tolerate double standards or any kind of charlatanry with regard to our officials. First, they proposed to me: 'We will close our eyes on the [17 October] referendum and elections, we all but recognize them, we will do everything if you remove these [four] officials, thus demonstrating a gesture of good will.' Tell them that they won't see it happening. The heads of the generals won't be cut off as they want." Lukashenka did not identify the persons who proposed to "all but recognize" the 17 October referendum in exchange for launching an independent investigation into the disappearances.
According to Lukashenka, he vainly tried to persuade the Belarusian officials who were questioned by Pourgourides about the disappearances not to let him into Belarus, because the Cypriot lawmaker, the Belarusian president added, came to Belarus with a "ready-made report" in order to "legalize" it and subsequently to stage a "large-scale provocation." A month ago, however, when Greece banned Belarusian Sports Minister Sivakou from attending the Summer Olympic Games in Athens over the Pourgourides report, Lukashenka told journalists that he did not know Pourgourides or read his report.
Lukashenka said the West's current behavior toward Belarus makes it easier for him to win the 17 October referendum. "The more double standards we see from their [the West's] side, the more easily we will win the referendum that they are so worried about," the Belarusian president noted but did not elaborate.
Lukashenka also said he has received "additional information" from an unspecified source that "they are planning the forcible liquidation of the [Belarusian] president." "Tell them to start implementing this point at once, because they will not manage to break me in a different way," the Belarusian leader said, mocking his purported assassins.
Lukashenka ordered that people responsible for the government's information police start "in the near future" a campaign to reveal the true face of the West to Belarusians, which is quite a horrible thing to see, according to his description. "[Show to our people] how they 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. "Begin with Germany, the wisest and the best."
Lukashenka suggested that he may stop catching illegal migrants that try to get into Europe through Belarusian territory with "nuclear weapons and nuclear materials" if Europe keeps on pressuring Minsk. "Do you want this?" the Belarusian president asked rhetorically. "Pay money and respect our dignity. And we will help you [with illegal migration]. If you don't want this, tell us point blank."
"I think that Europe will sober up and realize that it cannot speak in such language with us," Lukashenka concluded in summing up the issue of the EU ban of the four Belarusian officials. (Jan Maksymiuk)
YANUKOVYCH SURVIVES EGG ATTACK.
A series of alarming reports in Ukrainian media on 24 September focused the country's attention squarely on presidential candidate and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who is widely expected to win the 31 October election -- along with Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko -- and qualify for the run-off three weeks later.
According to press reports, Yanukovych was in the town of Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine for a campaign meeting on 24 September when he was injured by unspecified objects described as "weighty" and "hard." His bodyguards took him to the intensive-care unit of a local hospital. Yanukovych's spokeswoman, Hanna Herman, pointed an accusing finger at the potential culprits: a crowd of Our Ukraine supporters, primarily young people, she said, were behaving "aggressively" when Yanukovych arrived in Ivano-Frankivsk.
Several hours later, Yanukovych -- sullen but otherwise apparently unscathed -- read a televised statement from the hospital, in which he explicitly accused Yushchenko's supporters of attacking him. "I am sorry for those young men who did this to me," Yanukovych said. "But I have no questions for them. At the same time, I have a question for [their] leaders, for Yushchenko's entourage, who pushed the young men to do this.... Is it your policy? Is it human?"
Who did what to Yanukovych in Ivano-Frankivsk on 24 September remained unclear all that day. Immediately after the incident, a spokeswoman from the Interior Ministry said Yanukovych had been hit by nothing deadlier than a raw egg, which she said was thrown by the 17-year-old son of a local university dean. Later, however, the Interior Ministry backed down from this pronouncement and issued a statement saying that the premier had been hit by "several hard objects."
There has been no other official version of the incident, and Interior Ministry investigators were unable to locate any "hard" or "weighty" or "sharp-edged" objects at the scene of the incident, but several Yanukovych associates have offered their own account of what happened.
Lawmaker Stepan Havrysh, coordinator of the pro-government parliamentary coalition, said Yanukovych was hit by an egg in his temple and collapsed from "pain shock." Lawmaker Taras Chornovil, a Yanukovych supporter, said he watched from the upper deck of Yanukovych's bus as the prime minister was hit on the temple by a stone. Serhiy Tihipko, head of Yanukovych's election campaign, said the prime minister was hit by a battery from a video camera.
Late in the evening of 24 September, the pro-Yushchenko Channel 5 TV station aired a video of the attack. The tape shows an egg smashing against Yushchenko's chest shortly after he steps out of his bus. After he's hit by the egg, the video shows Yanukovych grimacing, as if from a sudden pang of pain, then collapsing, then being swiftly carried from the scene by his bodyguards. On TV, the sequence of events looked more farcical than dangerous.
Channel 5's egg-attack video spawned a great deal of speculation in Ukraine. Most commentators said Yanukovych's reaction to the attack was exaggerated. Some maintained that he overreacted to get publicity, as a way to divert the public's attention from the much-publicized alleged poisoning of his main rival, Viktor Yushchenko. Some have even suggested that Yanukovych was expecting a much more serious attack -- that the whole incident was a planned publicity ploy dreamt up by spin doctors -- and reacted accordingly, even though the hurled object turned out to be only an egg, which spoiled the show.
Yushchenko campaign manager Oleksandr Zinchenko said the attack was a preplanned campaign stunt. "Feeling sympathy with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who actually endured some unpleasant moments, we, however, consider that the Ivano-Frankivsk incident was a purposeful provocation against Viktor Yushchenko, which developed under a scheme tested long ago," Zinchenko said. "This scheme implies that Yushchenko is traditionally held accountable for the actions that are staged spontaneously, or following an order from his opponents, by some citizens who have no relations whatsoever to Yushchenko."
Regardless of what Ukrainian investigators may eventually discover about the egg attack, it seems unlikely that the incident will result in additional votes for Yanukovych in the 31 October elections. The sight of the prime minister's 100-kilogram body collapsing under the impact of a raw egg is definitely not tear-jerker material, or even sympathy inspiring, particularly given Yanukovych's portrayal by the government-controlled media as a man of "iron character." Yanukovych spokeswoman Herman recently told journalists that she is planning to write a book about Yanukovych titled "The Iron Master."
Indeed, the Ukrainian public reacted to Yanukovych's misfortune in Ivano-Frankivsk with a plethora of jokes, several dozen of which are circulating on the Internet. We will repeat two here, to show that Ukrainians don't seem to believe the official version of the attack, and to underscore the fact that the country's presidential campaigns, which have been marred by innumerable examples of biased media coverage and serious violations of election law, has a comic side, as well.
The first joke belongs to the so-called Radio Yerevan family of jokes, which were extremely popular in the Soviet Union during the Brezhnev era. Radio Yerevan was famous for providing sometimes silly, sometimes clever, but always funny, answers to listener questions. "Can an egg be sharp-edged?" Ukrainian Radio inquires of Radio Yerevan in the wake of the Yanukovych incident. "If it's a hedgehog's egg, it can," is Radio Yerevan's answer.
The other joke is this: Yanukovych shows up at a meeting with voters, looks around the gathered group, and asks, "Why are there only women here?" Someone offers this answer: "Because your chief bodyguard said no one with eggs could come in." In common usage, the Ukrainian word for eggs, yaytsya, also refers to testicles. (Jan Maksymiuk)DOCTORS DEBATE WHETHER YUSHCHENKO WAS POISONED.
Ukraine's presidential campaign received much attention earlier this month after the leading opposition candidate, former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, came down with a mystery illness. After treatment at a Vienna clinic, Yushchenko returned to the campaign, accusing the authorities of trying to poison him. Some of his supporters are claiming Yushchenko was the victim of an intentional poisoning with ricin -- one of the deadliest toxins known to man. The highly emotional debate is mostly fueled by politicians ahead of the 31 October poll. But what do the doctors conclude?
To Yushchenko, the cause of his recent health scare is clear, as he told parliamentary deputies in Kyiv on 21 September. "Look at my face, listen to my [poor] articulation. These are just small indications of the problem I had. What happened to me is not a problem of food or my eating habits. It is a problem of the political regime in this country," Yushchenko said.
Yushchenko's health worries began on 5 September, when he began to fall sick. Five days later, he was transported to a private clinic in Vienna, Rudolfinerhaus. By this time he was gravely ill, with a whole range of baffling symptoms.
Mykola Korpan was Yushchenko's chief physician in Vienna. He described the symptoms in a telephone interview with RFE/RL. "He had acute pancreatitis [inflammation of the pancreas], he had acute gastritis, he had acute proctocolitis, acute myositis, acute paralysis of the facial nerve, and he was [describing] different pain symptoms, for example in the area of the abdominal cavity and the thorax cavity, the breast cavity," Korpan said.
Korpan told RFE/RL the combination of symptoms made Yushchenko's case particularly challenging to diagnose. "This case is not a typical case in medicine. It's an atypical case," he said. "It is seldom that one observes in clinical practice complex acute diseases combined with neurological signs."
Korpan said a total of 20 specialists, ranging from neurologists to dermatologists, worked on Yushchenko's case. Under their care, Yushchenko's health rapidly improved. But the doctors were never able to establish a precise diagnosis.
Korpan said his patient could have suffered from an unidentified viral infection or something more sinister -- like intentional poisoning. He excluded the possibility of accidental food poisoning. "We can say that maybe [the illness] could [have been caused by a] special atypical agent, but not simple food or drink," Korpan said.
Korpan said blood tests were unable to determine the nature of the atypical agent or virus. "We sent blood for different special analyses and we received the answer that after 96 hours after the beginning of the [illness], it's not possible to confirm the special agent in the blood," he said.
Yushchenko, upon his release from the clinic, said the doctors' statements proved he had been intentionally poisoned. In fact, the Viennese doctors left this open as a possibility, but reached no definitive conclusions.
For another view, RFE/RL spoke by telephone with Dr. Marc Siegel in New York. Siegel, an associate professor at New York University's School of Medicine, is a specialist in internal medicine and has written for "The New York Times", "The Washington Post," and other U.S. publications on health issues.
First, Siegel said Yushchenko's symptoms, as described by Dr. Korpan, do not sound like ricin poisoning, which usually involves significant respiratory problems. Siegel also disputed the idea that food poisoning could be ruled out in Yushchenko's case -- especially if no final diagnosis was ever established.
"I'm going to say two things: one, I don't see how, without knowing exactly what this is, they can say for certain that he wasn't poisoned [by his food]. And two, I think that there are certain bacteria that you can get by eating bad food that can give you multisystem involvement," Siegel said.
Siegel said there are many bacteria, for example, e-coli and salmonella, that frequently cause food poisoning. He said these can produce a wide array of dramatic symptoms and affect many organs at once. "These bacteria make toxins -- campylobacter especially -- that can affect many organs beyond just the [gastrointestinal tract], so I'm not hearing anything to make me convinced this isn't food poisoning," he said.
Siegel said the fact that made a relatively quick recovery, indicates his illness may have been virus. "When he [got] better, it could be because a virus tends to get better untreated. There is no cure for a virus. Some respond to antiviral therapy, like influenza does," he said. "But most viruses just run their course, so the fact that he got better does speak to the possibility of a full-blown viral illness."
Siegel found it hard to understand why the blood tests were so inconclusive. He took issue with the contention that it was just too late for the blood tests to reveal anything.
"Well, I don't think that is so! In terms of testing for viruses, it's a perfect time to test," he said. "You're talking about serology. What you do is you test for the presence of antigens and antibodies in the blood, antibodies to a particular virus. Ninety-six hours [after the onset of illness] is exactly when you would expect to find it. So I don't think that 96 hours out would be a time when you could exclude a virus, I think it's when you would exactly diagnose a virus. And, as far as toxins that might have been introduced into the system, I certainly don't think that they would have cleared the system in 96 hours either. Most toxins are not metabolized that quickly. So it's puzzling to me that in terms of forensics, they couldn't try to track this down."
There is, however, one other possible explanation, although it sounds too simple to be true: the flu. Siegel said there are some viruses whose presence is sometimes impossible to confirm through blood analysis. Among the leading culprits are influenza strains. (Jeremy Bransten)PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION HEADING DOWN DANGEROUS ROAD.
On 31 October, Ukraine will hold its third presidential election. This election will have far-reaching consequences for the country -- either Ukraine will preserve its current oligarchic regime or it will likely embark on the process of building a viable and strong democracy.
Among the 26 presidential candidates, the real competition is between the candidate from the oligarchy, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, and pro-Western, reform-oriented opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko. Fears are widespread among the oligarchs that Yushchenko, if elected, will push for and introduce a reform agenda that will threaten their business interests -- the creation of a transparent legal and business environment would undermine the oligarchs' power base and could also lead to their prosecution. Moreover, Yushchenko as president could influence the political environment prior to the 2006 parliamentary election. To prevent this, an agreement between the oligarchic clans was reached to support the candidacy of Yanukovych, a representative of the Donetsk clan.
In recent years, political power in Ukraine was divided between the three most influential oligarchic clans -- the Dnipropetrovsk clan, the Donetsk clan, and the Kyiv clan. The foundations of the current oligarch structure in Ukraine were formed in 1996-97, two years after Leonid Kuchma first became president, and were based upon the members of the Dnipropetrovsk clan. Kuchma started his climb to the office of Ukrainian president from this clan. The core of this powerful group has included figures like former Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin, National Bank head and Yanukovych's campaign manager Serhiy Tihipko, and Viktor Pinchuk, one of Europe's richest men and Kuchma's son-in-law.
The Donetsk clan appeared on the national political stage in November 2002, when Kuchma appointed Yanukovych, former head of the Donetsk Oblast administration, to replace Anatoliy Kinakh as prime minister. This clan originated in the late 1980s and crystallized in 1995 with the formation of the Industrial Union of the Donbas (ISD). Today, the ISD consists of some 600 enterprises located in the three eastern oblasts: Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, and Luhansk. The gray eminence of the clan is Rinat Akhmetov, reportedly the wealthiest man in Ukraine.
The third clan, based in Kyiv, was established in the early 1990s with the foundation of a National Investment Fund Ometa-XXI Century and solidified its structure after founding the Industrial-Financial Corporation Slavutych in 1994. The core of the group included Viktor Medvedchuk, Hryhoriy Surkis, Ihor Surkis (the younger brother of Hryhoriy), Valentyn Zhurskyy, Yuriy Karpenko, Bohdan Hubskyy, and Yuriy Lyakh. One member of the group, Medvedchuk, became especially active in national politics. Medvedchuk is the leader of the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine-united (SDPU-o) and is head of the presidential administration.
Until the election, the status quo between the clans was secured by Kuchma's influence over the oligarchs. On the eve of this election, the clans united against Yushchenko behind the candidacy of Prime Minister Yanukovych. However, as recent events have shown, the unity of the pro-presidential oligarchic forces is only tactical and there were signs it could collapse before the election or shortly thereafter.
Specifically, on 10 September, some 45 lawmakers from three pro-government caucuses announced their decision to suspend their membership in the pro-presidential majority in the parliament (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 15 September 2004). This development directly threatened the political viability of a set of constitutional changes that Kuchma has long been urging. Passage of the proposed changes are especially important for the Kyiv clan and Kuchma. The reforms would secure their position within the oligarchic system, as Medvedchuk would then be potentially able to move to occupy either the parliamentary speaker's chair or the post of prime minister after 2006. Transformation to a parliamentary republic could also possibly mean the return of Kuchma as prime minister.
Although the passing of the reform would seem to run contrary to the political interests of the prime minister, on 20 September Yanukovych's campaign manager Serhiy Tihipko confirmed that the prime minister still supports the constitutional changes and is ready to share power if he wins the presidential election. Yanukovych's stance alone seems to demonstrate the hypothesis that Kuchma still has some influence over the clans and the prime minister. Even so, there is no certainty that the clans will not try to alter the balance of power in the aftermath of the election.
As of today, the chances of Yushchenko's victory are relatively high. According to opinion polls conducted by various sociological centers in September, Yushchenko is leading by 5-7 percentage points. In response, the oligarchs have devoted all their energy and resources to discrediting Yushchenko. The whole campaign has so far been marked by serious violations of election regulations, ranging from manipulation of media coverage of the opposition leaders to much more serious incidents such as possible assaults on Yushchenko's life. The media controlled by the oligarchs, such as the most popular TV channels, Inter and Studio 1+1, cover extensively and positively news related to Yanukovych. They overlook Yushchenko's campaign or cover it in a highly negative and ironic way (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 31 August 2004).
There have also been efforts to prevent the distribution of opposition campaign literature. For instance, on 14 September some unidentified people in police uniforms raided a printing firm and ordered the destruction of an issue of the opposition newspaper "Litsa." Out of 33,000 copies, only 16,000 survived. Similar events also occurred in the Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv regions the same day and under similar circumstances.
The opposition was also accused by the authorities of attempting to destabilize the political situation, possibly in order to persuade voters to oppose the political change advocated by Yushchenko. For instance, Inter reported that the police had arrested four people supposedly implicated in bombing the Troyeshchyna market in Kyiv on 20 August, in which one person died (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 31 August 2004). As Inter reported, the four men were members of the Ukrainian National Party, which is part of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine coalition. However, as the Kyiv-based daily "Ukrayinska pravda" later revealed, the four men were working in the presidential campaign of Bohdan Boyko, who is known to be close to Medvedchuk.
In reacting to such provocations, Yushchenko's central headquarters announced that if the authorities try to rig the election, "the people will take to the street on their own" in protest. In response, Yanukovych's representative, lawmaker Stepan Havrysh, made it clear that the authorities were ready to crush any unrest initiated by the opposition. It is obvious that the political elite is afraid of a Georgian-style revolution that swept President Eduard Shevardnadze out of office. However, such a revolution seems rather unlikely given Ukrainians' traditional deference to authority and rather low level of political activity.
The campaign has also been marked by alleged attempts on Yushchenko's life. According to the opposition, the first such attempt took place on 12 August, when a heavy truck tried three times to push his car off the road. Car collisions have claimed the lives of a few of Kuchma's opponents, so Yushchenko might be forgiven for thinking that this incident was not an accident. Another incident occurred on 6 September when Yushchenko suddenly fell ill after a campaign stop in Chernihiv. With serious symptoms pointing to possible poisoning, Yushchenko was taken to a clinic in Vienna (see item above).
Given the determination of the authorities to remain in power, the only ally Yushchenko can rely on is the Ukrainian electorate. If Yushchenko proves to be able to boost his electoral campaign a month before the election in order to convince the still undecided voters of the necessity for change, his victory is likely. However, as of today, his 5 percentage-point lead over Yanukovych does not allow analysts to speak with certainty about the election outcome.
There is still hope. Whatever Yushchenko's fate in the upcoming ballot, his very existence tells us a great deal about Ukraine's chances for further democratization. It proves that in Ukraine, currently dominated by the oligarchs, there are still some leaders able and courageous enough to put forward a political program for democratic reform.
This article was written by Elena Maltseva, a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Political Science, University of Toronto.
"They [the West] should be indebted primarily to Belarus and the Soviet Union [for the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II]. They must bow to us for the fact that we saved mankind and given them the possibility to live and develop. Only thanks to us do they have the democracy they are so proud of today. We should say it straightforwardly and frankly: They would not have been if it had not been for us. This should be understood by the German, French, American, and British people alike." -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 22 September; quoted by Belapan.
"Do not ask who is next. Each one of you will be next! When you ask why I avoided the same fate, the answer is it was the wrong dose [of poison] at the wrong time and my angels weren't sleeping. This helped me return to this world.... I was very surprised to learn that Kuchma ordered that a criminal case be opened to investigate who poisoned me. I don't believe him. I don't believe this prosecutor-general. Why, Leonid Danylovych [Kuchma], do you ask questions you are not going to answer? ...I appeal to you, my friends and fellow deputies. Achieve something small today, this very second. Rise at least 1 centimeter from your knees -- like the Agrarian Party, some of the deputies belonging to the National Democratic Party faction, some of the guys from the Center group -- and achieve a small victory, so that you will see a democratic Ukraine with free and prosperous people," Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko in the Verkhovna Rada on 21 September, in a speech accusing the authorities of an attempt to poison him; quoted by the "Ukrayinska pravda" website.
"Ukrainian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych wakes up on 1 November [the day after the presidential ballot] and sees all his campaign staff with campaign manager Serhiy Tihipko standing by his bed. 'Viktor Fedorovych," the campaigners say, 'we have two pieces of news, one good and one bad. Which one do you want to hear first?' 'Tell me the bad one first.' 'Viktor Yushchenko won 51 percent of the vote.' 'Oh! It is not just a bad piece of news, it is a terrible one. What is the good one then?' 'The good one is that you won 69 percent of the vote.'" -- A joke told to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service by Ukrainian writer Oleksandr Irvanets on 28 September.