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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: June 19, 2001

19 June 2001, Volume 3, Number 23
U.S. PRESIDENT SPEAKS ON FOREIGN POLICY IN WARSAW. While visiting Warsaw on 15 June, U.S. President George W. Bush made a keynote speech of his European tour last week. Below are excerpts of the speech translated from Polish Television by translators from the BBC. Polish Television broadcast Bush's speech live with overlaid Polish translation.

On the need to erase the East-West dividing line:

"Today I am at the center of Europe to speak about Europe's future. Some call this the East but Warsaw [is] in the center of Europe. Let us no longer speak about the East and the West. That was an old division, a division of a living civilization. It was not a geographical fact, it was a fact of violence. Everyone dreamed of European peace, everyone dreamed of greater unity, all leaders. The same applies to the Iron Curtain. Winston Churchill appealed for a new unity in Europe, unity of Europe.

"How far have we got through trenches, through death camps, through food shortages? Men and women built Europe, whole and free. This free Europe is no longer a dream, it is a Europe which is growing. This is work which we are to complete. We can built an open Europe, Europe without Hitler, without Stalin, without Brezhnev, Honecker, and without Milosevic. Our objective is to erase the false dividing lines which had divided Europe for too long."

On NATO's further enlargement:

"I believe in NATO membership for every European democracy which is ready to bear the range of responsibilities required of NATO members.

"The question of when this will happen may still be subject to debate inside NATO but not the question of whether this is to take place. We are planning to expand NATO and no states making efforts to become members should be excluded. They should be included in the member states' plans.

"We will no longer tolerate Munichs, Yaltas, compromises which excluded some nations from the community of all the states of the world....

"The next NATO summit will take place in Prague. The United States will prepare to announce there the greatest historic decisions to continue the process of NATO expansion."

On Ukraine in Europe:

"The Europe we are creating must also include among its nations Ukraine. It is a nation which is struggling hard with problems of transformation. Today in Kyiv we hear voices about that country's future, about its fate. If it is to be together with our people, we have to reward them, we have to extend our hand to them as Poland has already done with such determination."

On Russia:

"The Europe we are creating must also be open towards Russia. We already have a certain share in Russia's success and we must continue it so that Russia becomes a fully democratic state closely tied to the democratic Europe. Europe's largest institutions, NATO and the European Union, should and can build partnership with Russia, as well as with all the states created on the ruins of the former Soviet Union.

"Tomorrow I will see President Putin and I will be able to express my hope for Russia. These hopes are truly great. And I measure this greatness of hope with the power of democracy, the power made up of the people, the people of Russia and the national minorities which live there. I wanted and I will want to tell President Putin that Russia is a part of Europe and we need no buffer zones separating it from Europe. NATO, even as it develops and grows, will never become an enemy of Russia. Poland is not an enemy of Russia. America is not an enemy of Russia."

TWENTY-FIVE BID FOR PRESIDENCY. Mikalay Lazovik from the Central Election Commission told Belapan on 15 June that the list of those seeking to run for the post of Belarusian president is composed of 25 names. At 18:00 local time, the commission ceased to accept applications for the registration of campaign groups that will collect signatures for potential candidates. Below is the complete list of 25 potential presidential candidates (the number in parentheses denotes the number of people included in the campaign group).

Syarhey Antonchyk, leader of the Minsk-based organization Workers' Self-Help (1,160).

Mikhail Chyhir, Belarus's prime minister from 1994-96 (1,485).

Yury Dankou, businessman, member of the Minsk City Council (244).

Syamyon Domash, governor of Hrodna Oblast from 1993-94 (3,756).

Syarhey Haydukevich, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus (2,136).

Uladzimir Hancharyk, chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (4,067).

Leanid Kaluhin, director of the Minsk-based refrigerator plant Atlant (120).

Syarhey Kalyakin, leader of the Belarusian Party of Communists (2,076).

Kanstantsin Kananovich, unemployed electronic engineer (142).

Pavel Kazlouski, defense minister of Belarus from 1991-94 (1,609).

Yauhen Kryzhanouski, director of Minsk's comic theater Khrystafor (135).

Uladzimir Laptsevich, pensioner (212).

Valery Levaneuski, leader of outdoor market vendors in Hrodna (354).

Nina Labanava, librarian at Belarusian State Economic University (364).

Alyaksandr Lukashenka, incumbent president of Belarus (3,830).

Alyaksey Lyashko, director of the Homel-based company Lipen (392).

Mikhail Marynich, Belarusian ambassador to Latvia, Estonia, and Finland (811).

Natalya Masherava, member of the Chamber of Representatives (1,282).

Mikalay Myakeka, human rights activist (135).

Zyanon Paznyak, leader of the Conservative Christian Party (1,429).

Valyantsin Semak, businessman, retired officer of Belarus's KGB (300).

Leanid Sinitsyn, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's chief of staff in 1994-96 (1,976).

Syarhey Skrabets, member of the Chamber of Representatives, head of the trading house BelBabayevskoye (170).

Viktar Tsyareshchanka, director of Minsk's International Management Institute (6,069).

Alyaksandr Yarashuk, leader of the Belarusian Union of Agro-Industrial Workers (1,210).

PROTESTS PRECEDE PAPAL VISIT. On 7 May, several hundred Orthodox priests and nuns marched through Kyiv demanding that the impending visit of Pope John Paul II be canceled. Among the antipapal slogans chanted by demonstrators, one asserted that "The Roman Pope Is The Antichrist!"

This and similar demonstrations in recent weeks led Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko last week to criticize the growing protests and call for calm during the historic papal visit, which will take place from 23-27 June.

Zlenko, who heads the organizing committee responsible for the visit, voiced concern on 11 June about the numerous reported plans to disrupt the pope's scheduled appearances in Ukraine.

Zlenko called the plans the work of "provocateurs and extremists who may not be acting on behalf of their religious convictions, but rather in order to achieve their political or other goals."

He urged all political and religious groups to show restraint during the pope's visit in order to avoid danger to any of the up to 2 million people expected to gather for masses in Kyiv and Lviv.

Pope John Paul II's visit -- the first-ever papal visit to Ukraine -- is being eagerly awaited by the country's Catholics. Composed of both Eastern-rite and Roman Catholics, they are concentrated in western Ukraine and make up just 10 percent of the country's religious believers, who are predominantly Orthodox Christian.

Ukraine's Eastern-rite Catholic Church (Uniate Church), which has strong traditional links to Ukrainian nationalism, was banned by Soviet leader Josef Stalin in 1944. Many of its clergy and faithful were either executed or sent to prison camps.

But the church continued to function underground until it was legalized again in 1989. It has since rebuilt a stronghold in western Ukraine, regaining many of the former Catholic churches taken over by Orthodox congregations following Stalin's ban. However, tensions continue to simmer between the country's Catholics and Orthodox.

Ukraine has three Orthodox churches. Two of them are Ukrainian, and have welcomed the pope's visit. The third, which is the largest and has strong ties to the Russian Orthodox Church, has condemned the trip. It says the country's Catholics are using the visit as an attempt to convert Orthodox believers to Catholicism.

Russia's Orthodox Church is also uncomfortable because of its own origins in the medieval state of Kyivan Rus, based in what is now Kyiv and the site where the region's Slavs first converted to Christianity. Two powerful symbols of Slav Orthodoxy -- the Pecherska Lavra underground monastery and the Church of St. Sophia, where the first conversions took place -- are both located in Kyiv. But with Ukraine no longer an official part of the Russian or Soviet empires, Russian Orthodox leaders there say their claim as the leading Slav Orthodox Church is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain.

The pope has said one of his goals in visiting Ukraine is to help repair the Great Schism between Catholics and Orthodox Christians that occurred in the 11th century. But his remarks have done little to soothe the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), which has staged most of the demonstrations against the pope's visit.

On 11 June, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II, who has publicly refused to meet with Pope John Paul II, said the pope's visit to Ukraine will "cause new confrontation between religious confessions there." Ukraine's Orthodox priests subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate have been using the media, as well as their pulpits, to criticize the pope's visit.

Father Gerontii is an Orthodox priest at the Pecherska Lavra monastery. As one of the leaders of antipapal protests, he said there is much to lose from Pope John Paul II's visit.

"We don't want him to come here and proselytize, to be a missionary. What do we need that for? His program is like a nightmare for us," he said. "If an enemy comes to you, are you going to keep quiet? And he is an enemy of man's souls."

Father Gerontii claimed that the pope will be stopped by demonstrators if he attempts to visit either the Pecherska Lavra or the St. Sophia cathedral.

"We will never allow him into the Lavra. The people have said that they will lie down in order to block his path, not only for one week, but two, three," he said. "Nobody will get into the Lavra, just as they will not get into St. Sofia. They're our holy shrines."

The head of Ukraine's Uniate Church, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, dismissed accusations that the pope's visit is aimed at winning Catholic converts and said the pontiff hopes to meet with all of the country's church leaders. In fact, with the exception of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), Pope John Paul II will meet the leaders of all of Ukraine's Christian denominations. Cardinal Husar said the pope will also meet with Jewish and Muslim leaders in Kyiv.

"The accusations being made about the persecution of the Orthodox in western Ukraine, or about proselytizing, are so far removed from the truth it seems to me that it is difficult to accept these are the real reasons for the cause of the disputes [between the Catholic and Orthodox churches]," Cardinal Husar said.

The cardinal said he plans to hold in-depth talks with Moscow-affiliated Orthodox Church leaders in the hope that dialogue will eventually resolve disputes between the two churches. But so far, he says, those leaders have been reluctant to engage in such dialogue.

"I would be very glad to understand the cause [of the disputes] and why such repugnance [for the Catholic Church] exists," Cardinal Husar said. "It pains me to think that we may truly be, for reasons we are unaware of, inflicting pain on our brother Christians."

Organizers say they expect more than 2 million people will see the pope during his visit. They said last week that 600,000 invitations have already been issued for the two scheduled services in Kyiv. The pope is also scheduled to meet with President Leonid Kuchma before flying to Lviv, where 1.6 million people have been invited to attend additional masses.

(RFE/RL correspondent Askold Krushelnycky wrote this report.)

CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS UKRAINE DOES NOT DIVERT RUSSIAN GAS. Viktor Chernomyrdin, Moscow's new envoy to Ukraine, has defended the country against charges that it is diverting Russian gas. But the statement may only raise more doubts about Russia's Gazprom and the gas giant's role in the near abroad.

Speaking on 14 June at a press conference with Ukrainian Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh in Kyiv, Chernomyrdin said Ukraine is no longer taking Russian gas from pipelines that cross the country to Europe.

The statement from the former Russian prime minister came 10 days after Gazprom accused Ukraine of continuing to siphon gas and sell it to Poland illegally.

Last week, Ukrainian President Kuchma reacted angrily to the charge, saying, "Ukraine has not violated the gas delivery terms a single time," Interfax reported.

The state-owned gas company Naftohaz Ukrayiny followed with a more qualified statement, saying that it has not allowed any siphoning since last June and that none took place during last winter's heating season.

The company's statement stopped noticeably short of Kuchma's blanket assurance that Ukraine had never taken any unauthorized gas.

Last August, Kuchma told the German news magazine "Der Spiegel" that "Moscow is pumping over 130 billion cubic meters (of gas) per year to the West through our country." Kuchma asked rhetorically: "What's an odd billion siphoned off compared to that?"

Kuchma also glossed over an incident in January, when Ukrainian power companies admitted to taking Russian gas rather than submit to a complete cutoff by Gazprom's trading partner Itera.

The various versions make it hard to tell who speaks with authority about the problem that has roiled relations between the two countries for the past decade. The siphoning has also become an energy security issue for Europe, which relies on Russia for one-fourth of its gas. Over 90 percent of the fuel flows through the former Soviet lines in Ukraine.

Chernomyrdin, who once served as Gazprom's chairman, seems to have overruled current board member Yurii Komarov, who cited Ukraine for the diversions the week before.

It is unclear whether Chernomyrdin is speaking for Gazprom or only representing the interests of the Russian state, which owns a 38 percent stake in the gas giant. The Russian government often treats any debt to Gazprom as its own, while Gazprom regularly acts as a foreign policy arm of the state in the near abroad.

It also seems odd that it would take Kuchma over a week to react to the charges lodged publicly by Komarov. Chernomyrdin has been holding talks on key issues including the merger of Russian and Ukrainian power grids and joint use of pipelines, the RIA-Novosti news agency said. The events suggest that the siphoning claim is being used as a tool in Russia's bid to control the pipelines.

Moscow has been working a two-track strategy by negotiating with Poland for a new pipeline route to bypass Ukraine. Poland has put off its approval and sought concessions, while Russia has kept up its pressure on Ukraine. Moscow's message to Warsaw is that it may obtain control over the old route and not need Poland after all.

Gazprom's mysterious ways have been compounded by its accounting of Ukraine's debt. Last week, the company said that Ukraine owed it $2.5 billion, an increase over previous estimates of $2 billion. But the Petroleum Argus newsletter noted that Gazprom has not sold any gas directly in Ukraine for the past two years.

The sales have been handled by Itera, raising the question of whether Gazprom is counting Itera's debts as its own. The two have denied ownership links, despite widespread skepticism. It is unclear whether Chernomyrdin is acting in the interests of either company, neither, or both.

Chernomyrdin's son is said to owns stakes in companies that have benefited from Gazprom business. According to disclosures in Gazprom's annual report, Chernomyrdin's children are "significant" shareholders Stroitransgaz, a Gazprom pipeline contractor, the "Financial Times" said last week.

In the meantime, AFP reported that Gazprom's new chief executive, Aleksei Miller, is interested in selling up to 5 percent of the company to Royal Dutch/Shell, the leading competitor for the Ukrainian pipelines. A combination of interests could leave Kyiv with nowhere to turn.

While the questions go unanswered, Russia's strategies seem to be taking a toll on Ukraine, raising the chance that it will soon make a deal for its pipelines with Moscow.

(RFE/RL correspondent Michael Lelyveld wrote this report.)

"There is not a single person siding with the Belarusian nation among those who have declared their will to run in the presidential elections. All of them are people who collaborate with Moscow, with Moscow's politics, and they have openly declared that, they declared to develop a union with Russia. I am perfectly well aware that in this situation I'm the only candidate who presents an alternative to the pro-Moscow policy of Lukashenka." -- Zyanon Paznyak, leader of the Conservative Christian Party and one wing of the Belarusian Popular Front; quoted by RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 15 June. Paznyak has been in exile since 1996, when he was granted political asylum in the U.S.