Accessibility links

Breaking News

Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: September 17, 2002

17 September 2002, Volume 4, Number 35
WILL ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH SPLIT? The 15 September issue of the weekly "Wprost" published an article warning that the Roman Catholic Church in Poland is facing a split into one part led by Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the primate of Poland, and the other that will follow Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, the charismatic head of Radio Maryja -- the highly influential nationwide radio station based in Torun (central northern Poland), which claims a regular listenership of 1.4 million on a daily basis and some 5.9 million per week. The article, titled "Split in the Church," is subtitled "The Torun Catholic Church Against the Roman Catholic Church." According to "Wprost," 5 million Poles believe that Father Rydzyk, not Cardinal Glemp, is the actual leader of Polish Catholics.

Last month, some Polish media reported that Cardinal Glemp has issued a decree banning as of 1 October the operation of Radio Maryja bureaus at parishes in the Warsaw Archdiocese in an obvious attempt to limit Father Rydzyk's influence on the parishioners (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 3 September 2002). Commenting on the message aired by Radio Maryja, Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, the rector of the Papal Theological Academy in Krakow, compared Father Rydzyk's activity to that of Andrzej Lepper, the leader of the radical and populist Self-Defense farmers union. Bishop Pieronek said the social movement generated by Radio Maryja is an "emanation of Lepperism in the church." "I doubt whether Father Rydzyk can subordinate himself to the church hierarchy," "Wprost" quoted Pieronek as saying. The weekly said the only person that still prevents Father Rydzyk from launching an open conflict with the Roman Catholic Church in Poland is Pope John Paul II.

"After the death of John Paul II, a split in Poland's [Roman Catholic] Church is very likely," former RFE/RL Polish Service head Jan Nowak-Jezioranski told the weekly. "Father Rydzyk has disobeyed the holy father for a long time. One can only regret that our episcopate has not decided to use its capabilities for punishing Rydzyk. Now it seems to be too late [for punishment]," Nowak-Jezioranski said.

According to "Wprost," Father Rydzyk is the most noted Roman Catholic fundamentalist in Europe. The weekly says that Radio Maryja ingrains its listeners with the belief that Catholicism is the only true religion; that Poland suffers from such afflictions as "Jews, global capitalism, representatives of other religions [besides Catholicism], and secularization"; that state institutions and state officials should be guided in their activities by religious rules and commandments rather than the law and the constitution. Radio Maryja is also leading the anti-European Union opposition in Poland.

Radio Maryja, though the most important tool used by Father Rydzyk to disseminate his ideas and views, is not the only one. The "Rydzyk empire," as "Wprost" calls it, also includes the influential daily "Nasz Dziennik" (with a circulation of some 250,000), the Radio Maryja Family (a nationwide organization with basic cells located at most Roman Catholic parishes in Poland), the Circles of Young Friends of Radio Maryja (a youth organization), the Courtyard Rosary Circles (a children's organization), the College of Social and Media Culture in Torun, and three foundations. The funds to run Radio Maryja and to finance actions organized by Father Rydzyk -- some 100 million zlotys ($24 million) annually -- come from donations, bequests, and contributions from both domestic listeners and the Polish diaspora, particularly in Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and the United States.

According to "Wprost," some 20 Sejm deputies and senators identify themselves politically with Radio Maryja. It was primarily Radio Maryja that in the September 2001 parliamentary elections helped the far-right and ultra-Catholic League of Polish Families -- a group that materialized shortly before the ballot -- to win 38 seats in the Sejm and, by virtue of this, to save Poland's right wing from a dishonorable election failure.

"Initiatives by Primate Glemp either turn out to be failures or are treated indifferently," "Wprost" wrote. "Tadeusz Rydzyk constantly remains in opposition to major political forces but despite this, or, in actual fact, thanks to this, his power and influence are still growing. Jozef Glemp has no opponents in virtually all [political] formations of importance and cooperates well with the government, but his position continues to become weaker." (Jan Maksymiuk)

WHO IS DOING A (FINANCIAL) FAVOR FOR WHOM IN BELARUS-RUSSIA UNION? President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 9 September -- the first anniversary of the inauguration of his second presidential term -- appeared live on Russia's NTV television, where he reiterated once again that neither the incorporation of Belarus by Russia nor an EU-type integration is an acceptable unification scenario for either country. The Belarusian leader also touched upon economic issues and tried to identify the "rich people" in Russia who, in his opinion, are impeding the development of the Russia-Belarus union on an equal footing and are interested in exacerbating relations between Lukashenka and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Belarusian president said Russia's Gazprom is pressing Putin into making Lukashenka more "compliant" regarding the privatization of Belarusian enterprises. "Everybody expected us to give our possessions, our modern enterprises, for free," Lukashenka said. "Nothing will go for free in Belarus. So they have started to press Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] into making Lukashenka more compliant. No one is allowed to talk with me in this way."

Lukashenka said Gazprom is one of the Russian businesses that want to get hold of Belarusian possessions -- specifically, Belarus's gas pipelines -- by applying such pressure on the Kremlin. "They [Gazprom] reproach us for hampering this [privatization] process," Lukashenka said. "According to a Belarusian-Russian agreement of 1996 or 1995, Gazprom is obliged to supply us with 30 million cubic meters of gas per year, but today it supplies only 18 million cubic meters. I say: Why do you not implement this agreement? Why do you demand that we give you our possessions?"

Lukashenka complained that in terms of business and trade relations, Russia treats Belarus (its main trade partner) worse than other post-Soviet states: "Why have we suddenly become for Russia worse than Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, and even Western states? Is it because we look after Russia's interests? Is it because in 1996 I granted $200 million worth of tax breaks for Gazprom during the construction of the [Belarusian stretch of the Yamal-Europe] gas pipeline? Why do you behave toward us in such a way?"

Gazprom reacted to Lukashenka's pronouncements on 11 September. Gazprom deputy head Vitalii Savelev said on NTV that Gazprom is currently working with Belarus on a "charitable basis." Savelev recalled that earlier this year, Gazprom extended its domestic prices for gas supplied to Belarus (Belarus has to pay some $24 for 1,000 cubic meters of gas, as Russian consumers in the bordering Smolensk Oblast). However, Savelev went on, in contrast to Russian regions, Belarus does not pay for Russian gas. Savelev said Belarus's debt for Russian gas supplies has now reached $300 million.

Former Belarusian Foreign Trade Minister Mikhail Marynich added an interesting detail to the issue of Russian gas supplies to Belarus. "Irrespective of the fact that Russia introduced domestic tariffs for gas supplies to Belarus, our enterprises have not felt any [financial relief]," Marynich told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 13 September. "For our enterprises the price of gas remains the same as before: $49-$50 for 1,000 cubic meters.... It is hard to say where the sums [earned by the Belarusian government on the domestic distribution of Russian gas] are directed, but they definitely do not support the economy." (Jan Maksymiuk)

OPPOSITION LAUNCHES ANTI-KUCHMA PROTEST CAMPAIGN. Some 30,000 protesters gathered on Kyiv's European Square on 16 September to launch the "Rise Up, Ukraine!" campaign intended to press President Leonid Kuchma into resigning, along with the resulting early presidential elections. The anti-Kuchma protest campaign -- organized by the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the Socialist Party, and the Communist Party -- was finally joined by Viktor Yushchenko, who wavered and maneuvered in the past several months, trying to avoid an open conflict with Kuchma. On 16 September, however, Yushchenko led a 3,000-strong column of Our Ukraine adherents across Kyiv and converged with crowds led by Yuliya Tymoshenko, Oleksandr Moroz, and Petro Symonenko on European Square. All four leaders -- Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, Moroz, and Symonenko -- signed a strongly worded resolution that was adopted at the rally. Its text is fully reproduced below, following the "Ukrayinska pravda" website:

"We appeal to you, President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma, with the following:

"During the years of your actual one-person rule, Ukraine has lost 4 million of its population, more than 6 million citizens are looking for rescue from abroad, [and] the socioeconomic development basis of the state has been ruined. The state and society have been pushed 30-50 years backward. Corruption, thievery, violence, [and] moral degeneration have become characteristic traits of the people's life.

"You became the president of Ukraine in an illegal way.

"You are involved in criminal offenses.

"You are responsible for the catastrophic decrease in Ukraine's population.

"You have usurped power [and] created an undemocratic, criminal system of government that operates outside the boundaries of morality, law, and honor.

"More than 70 percent of Ukraine's population does not respect, trust, or support you!

"The people of Ukraine cannot, do not want to, and will not, live in this way any longer!

"We insist: Leonid Kuchma, you have no other way out except to make an act of repentance before the Ukrainian people and immediately leave the post of president.

"For this purpose, provided that some trace of conscience and responsibility is left in you, you have to return to Ukraine [editor's note: Kuchma was in Austria during the rally] and resign."

Some of the demonstrators after the rally tried to pitch a tent camp in front of the presidential administration building with the goal of staying there until Kuchma tenders his resignation. Police dissolved the camp on the morning of 17 September.

Rallies with similar demands -- Kuchma's ouster and early presidential elections -- were held on 16 September in other Ukrainian cities. UNIAN reported that there were 10,000 people at a rally in Lviv, 10,000-15,000 in Kharkiv, 8,000 in Rivne, 5,000 in Donetsk, 4,000 in Dnipropetrovsk, 3,000 in Chernivtsi, 3,000 in Odesa, 2,000 in Zaporizhzhya, and 2,000 in Luhansk. (Jan Maksymiuk)

OUR UKRAINE SEEKS POLITICAL DIALOGUE. More than 1,200 delegates from some 50 political parties and organizations participated in a two-day forum For the Democratic Development of Ukraine that was organized in Kyiv on 14-15 September by Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine. Yushchenko told the forum that Our Ukraine proposes five steps to overcome the current political and socioeconomic crisis in the country: creating a parliamentary majority without interference from the presidential administration; forming a coalition cabinet; signing a trilateral accord on joint actions by the president, the parliament, and the government; abolishing media censorship and lifting the information blockade against the opposition; and establishing dialogue between the authorities and society. Yushchenko said he believes the authorities will move toward a dialogue with society. According to him, the current Verkhovna Rada has the largest "democratic potential" in comparison with other legislatures in Ukraine's 11 years of independence.

In a political resolution signed by 42 parties and organizations, the forum stated that the current Ukrainian power system "is inefficient, nontransparent, unstable, and gravitates toward dictatorship." Even harsher assessments were voiced by political leaders addressing the forum. "The behavior of the authorities in 2002 actually does not differ from that in 1970 -- only the Politburo of the Communist Party is now called the presidential administration," Ukrainian Popular Rukh leader Yuriy Kostenko said. "Ukraine is heading toward dictatorship, the state is facing the threat of losing its sovereignty," Popular Rukh of Ukraine head Hennadiy Udovenko warned.

In a special message read at the forum, President Kuchma, who was invited as a delegate, said he was absent because his invitation was formulated in the "tone of an ultimatum." Kuchma said he was invited as late as 13 September, adding that the invitation included neither a program of the forum nor a list of participants. "[Such an invitation] for dialogue with the head of state elected by the whole nation contradicts the practice used in civilized countries," Kuchma said. Simultaneously, the president stressed that he is ready for dialogue and pledged to study attentively proposals voiced at the forum.

During the forum, Yushchenko signed a declaration with the leaders of four parliamentary groups -- Party of Entrepreneurs-Labor Ukraine (led by Serhiy Tyhypko), Democratic Initiatives (Stepan Havrysh), Ukraine's Agrarians (Kateryna Vashchuk), and the Popular Democratic Party (Anatoliy Tolstoukhov) -- on joining efforts to create a majority in the Verkhovna Rada. The five parliamentary groups control some 200 votes in the 449-member Verkhovna Rada. Tyhypko told UNIAN that Raisa Bohatyrova, the leader of Ukraine's Regions (37 deputies), will also sign the declaration in the near future. (Jan Maksymiuk)

MIGRANTS, 'MURASHKY,' AND THE POLISH-UKRAINIAN BORDER. In July 2003, Poland will become the last Central European state to introduce visas for Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus prior to joining the European Union in January 2004. Poland has already introduced visas for most other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Despite the success of the Polish-Ukrainian "strategic partnership," the introduction of visas for Ukrainians, Russians, and Belarusians is popular in Poland. The Polish Public Opinion Research Center found in an August poll that 41 percent of Poles believe the EU should help Poland introduce visas, 23 percent think the EU should jointly guard Poland's eastern border, and 22 percent think it is to up to Poland to "efficiently guard our border against illegal immigrants" after joining the EU.

The Polish authorities are planning an extensive overhaul of their border with the CIS, which will become the EU's (and "Europe's") border in July 2003. (The Polish-Lithuanian border is exempted.) In February, Poland submitted a 92-page report to the EU outlining steps it was taking on its eastern border.

Since June, all of Poland's eastern border crossings have had complete online connections to border-guard headquarters. Poland is planning to expand the number of border troops so that each of its 94 guard posts on its eastern border will control 29 kilometers by 2006, when the Schengen agreements go into effect, which is higher than the EU norm of 25 kilometers. There are currently 85 posts controlling 35 kilometers each.

Equipment for these new border posts has been funded by the EU. This year, 10 more patrol cars were purchased with thermal-vision cameras and 50 more are to be bought. Each guard post has night-vision goggles. Land Rovers; modern motorcycles; new high-speed patrol boats; six helicopters; and five Wilga planes, each equipped with nighttime, thermal-vision cameras have been purchased. Border troops have also been issued new uniforms and modern short weapons.

The introduction of Polish visas will have a threefold effect on countries bordering Poland, such as Ukraine.

First, it will increase the number of illegal migrants in Ukraine. Between 1991-2000, the number of migrants in Ukraine increased from 184 to 24,000 per annum. Some 25,000-30,000 illegal immigrants are detained annually. Most are from Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In the first half of 2002, 2,000 illegal immigrants were captured by Ukrainian border troops, with 4,500 caught last year. Ukraine's location as a transit point could be seen from figures released in the first eight months of this year, which showed that 24 million people crossed Ukraine's borders in both directions.

After 10 days in custody, migrants are released because Ukraine has no extradition agreements with bordering states. In 1995, Ukraine had 300,000 illegal migrants. With no source of income, these illegal migrants often have little option but to turn to crime to support themselves. In 1996, illegal migrants committed 80,000 criminal offenses. Many of the migrants themselves bring narcotics and weapons into the country. Seventy-eight weapons were confiscated from the 2,000 illegal migrants caught this year.

This large number of immigrants breeds corruption among state officials and fuels organized crime. The Ministry of Defense's "Narodna armiya" reported on 6 October 1995 that illegal migration was already then evolving "into a well-organized criminal business, where contraband of 'live goods' is becoming a basis of income for the national and international criminal world."

The sums involved in the trade of illegal migrants are huge. A report in "Kievskie vedomosti" on 18 January discussed an Asian trafficker who annually made up to $500,000 by sending 200 migrants each month and charging anything between $5,000 and $8,000 per person. In July, a Greek court sentenced two Ukrainians to 10 years' imprisonment each for smuggling Iraqi immigrants into Greece.

If migrants travel directly to Ukraine, they often pretend to be future students and use forged identification documents. The cost of one forged document is $25,000, the Security Service of Ukraine reported. Some 30 percent of foreigners arriving in Ukraine to study are potentially illegal migrants.

Last year, several oblast heads and 20 lower-ranking officers of the State Traffic Inspectorate were dismissed for assisting illegal migration. In the first half of this year, 150 Ukrainian border troops were fired for corruption and failing "to properly organize border crossing for travelers" as part of a new campaign to improve the conduct and culture of this branch of Ukraine's security forces.

Second, the introduction of visas will halt the extensive cross-border trade. The Gdansk-based Institute for a Market Economy has calculated that this largely unregistered trade generated annually $2.2 billion-$3.5 billion in the second half of the 1990s. Visas would most affect the economy of border regions that are economically depressed, such as Przemysl. The head of Ukraine's border troops, Vasyl Sevratyuk, believes that the new visas will hurt law-abiding shuttle traders ("murashky") more than illegal migrants. In 2001, 13.5 million people crossed from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus into Poland.

Third, because Russia continues to block the demarcation of the Ukrainian-Russian border, this porous frontier is a route favored by migrants. Until last year, migrants could obtain a Russian visa and then travel to Ukraine with no visa and move on into Central and Western Europe. In economically depressed Transcarpathia, "Many locals earn their living by assisting in the trafficking of illegal migrants," "Kievskie vedomosti" reported.

The EU is to provide Ukraine with 16 million euros ($15.5 million) to improve its western border, which inherited a Soviet border infrastructure such as barbed wire and watchtowers. These funds would have been better used on the Ukrainian-Russian border to stem the flow of illegal migrants and contraband. President Kuchma admitted in October 2001 that: "We are now unable to seal our borders. Only our western borders are sealed."

Barbed wire and alarm systems are being dismantled on Ukraine's western border. Instead, there are to be border inspectors who will live in border villages and have the same powers as district police inspectors. Beginning this year, tourists from the EU, the United States, Canada, Japan, and Australia no longer need visas to enter Ukraine.

Although Ukraine is reluctant to demarcate its border with Russia unilaterally, it has undertaken some measures of its own. In Luhansk Oblast, border checkpoints have been installed every 25-30 kilometers. The number of border troops is to be increased from 45,000 to 50,000, with the added numbers to be stationed on Ukraine's border with Russia. In addition, border troops are to be relocated from Ukraine's western to the eastern border. (Taras Kuzio)

"Everybody says: God forbid Lukashenka will make an appearance in the Russian political arena. But I always say: Nothing ventured, nothing gained! If you are afraid to venture, then you shouldn't propose any [integration] variants [and you shouldn't have] anything to say about an election of a single president. Are you sure that a Russian citizen will win in an election of the head of our union if we follow the path proposed by Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin [incorporation of Belarus into Russia]? I would recommend you not be so hasty." -- Alyaksandr Lukashenka live on Russia's NTV on 9 September; quoted by the Charter-97 website.