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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: April 11, 2000

11 April 2000, Volume 2, Number 14
SECRET SERVICE'S INTERNET REPORT SPARKS CRITICISM. The State Protection Office (UOP) on 3 April published on its official website a report on Poland's security threats. President Aleksander Kwasniewski commented that he was surprised at the release of the report, which he said should have remained confidential. "I don't understand why this type of material, which is quite controversial and debatable, was published on the Internet and made generally available," Kwasniewski told journalists. Jan Litynski, head of the parliamentary commission for special services, noted that the report "deserves to be classified." Premier Jerzy Buzek said "This report should not have been published in this is unacceptable." He also ordered an investigation into who had approved placing the report on the Web.

UOP spokeswoman Magdalena Kluczynska commented that the report was released owing to a "misunderstanding" but did not say who was responsible for it. "It was one of the analytical texts, worked on in the course of the preparation of materials for a government report on security, and it did not reflect the stance of the government," Kluczynska told PAP. On the morning of 4 April, the report could no longer be found on the UOP website. However, the same day PAP disseminated the text.

The part of the report most worthy of censure, in the opinion of Polish commentators, dealt with Russia and national minority issues. Below is an excerpt of the UOP report disseminated by PAP and translated into English by BBC Monitoring:

"Poland continues to remain the target of the intelligence operations of various foreign special services, both due to its political and economic position in the region as also due to its membership of NATO and the military role that is associated with this. The most active functioning in this respect is that of the Russian services. A strengthening of attempts at the intelligence penetration of the official representations of our country abroad may be observed, and also of reconnaissance of the situation in the strategic sectors of the Polish economy and in the state administration.

"The basic source of potential threats to the security of Poland is the continuing unstable situation in the countries of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Changes at the top of the power structure in Russia, the war in Chechnya, and the continuing very difficult economic situation of the Russian Federation favor the growth of a superpower mood within Russian society. This is being incited by representatives of the political elite--superpower and even nationalist slogans have in the Russia of today become basic weapons in the struggle for power. In this context, the growing influence of the structures of enforcement (the special services, the army) on political life in the Russian Federation is disturbing.

"It continues to be the case that a change in the pro-Western direction of the foreign policy of Ukraine into an unambiguously pro-Russian one, which would cause a slowing down of the process of tightening of Polish-Ukrainian links of partnership, cannot be precluded.

"The following are also factors which are capable of disturbing the stabilization witnessed so far in the region of Central and Eastern Europe: the possible worsening of relations between the Baltic countries and Russia and also the continuation by President A. Lukashenka of activities contrary to the principles of democracy.

"The problems of the Polish minority in Lithuania may also negatively influence the atmosphere of interstate relations. It is necessary to assume that, despite the need perceived by the Lithuanian state establishment to strengthen good-neighborly relations with the Polish Republic, actions intended to encourage Poles [in Lithuania] to assimilate with ethnically Lithuanian society will be continued, gradually and carefully but consistently.

"A potential threat to the interests of the Polish Republic, especially in the context of Polish aspiration for membership in the European Union, may be created by actions undertaken by structures which are affiliated with expelled organizations (the Union of the Expellees). In this respect, it is possible to cite the propaganda offensive in support of autonomy for Silesia (and also implemented with the commitment of certain German minority circles and activists from the Silesian Autonomy Movement)."

DRANG NACH OSTEN? The weekly "Wprost" reported on 28 March that every year several tens of thousands of resettlers who left Poland for Germany in the 1970s and 1980s return to Poland. The weekly forecasts that in the next three to four years, half of those people (mainly Polish Silesians from the Opole region who obtained German citizenship and simultaneously retained their Polish one) may re-emigrate to Poland.

Danuta Berlinska, adviser to the Opole Province governor for German minority affairs, told "Wprost" that most of those returning are over 40 and have children who completed their German schooling and started to live on their own. "[Those returnees] prefer to spend their German marks and wait for German pensions in Poland. Financial factors, aside from nostalgia for native parts, are the most common motive for their return," Berlinska added. She said there are parts of Opole in which some 40 percent of apartments are vacant since their owners currently work in Germany. "This is why the turnout in Opole Province during elections to central or local authority bodies is lower by several percentage points than the average turnout in the whole country," she noted.

According to "Wprost," a majority of Polish Silesians obtained German passports by claiming German roots. The weekly noted that sometimes it was sufficient to show a picture of an ancestor in a German military uniform to obtain German citizenship. All of those resettlers declared to the German authorities that they had renounced Polish citizenship, since German law does not allow dual citizenship, but most of them have in fact retained their Polish passports.

Having both a German and Polish passport offers the holder a lot of advantages. In Poland he/she can buy real estate and land for small sums (in comparison with their German wages). A German passport opens the door to most of Europe and makes its holder eligible for German pensions and social benefits. Some businessmen use their two passports to avoid paying taxes: in Germany they declare that they pay taxes in Poland, while in Poland they say that they pay in Germany.

"Those who complied with the requirement of having only one citizenship and renounced Polish citizenship in Germany have virtually no chance of regaining their former [Polish] passport," a Polish diaspora activist in Germany told "Wprost." "Those who have not done that--and there are many of them--can now laugh. Several days ago I spoke with a man who is a jobless German in the Bundesrepublik, obtains an unemployment benefit, is insured, and has the right to various social benefits, while in Poland he is a Pole who runs his own business."

COLONEL DEMOTED TO PRIVATE OVER HEALTH CHECK. Colonel-General Alyaksandr Chumakou, Belarus's defense minister, has demoted 49-year-old Colonel Uladzimir Myalyushka to the rank of private for what was said officially to be "creating conditions to remove the defense minister from the armed forces," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 3 April.

Before his demotion, Myalyushka headed the General Staff's Medical Department and chaired a medical commission for examining the health of power ministers and their deputies. The commission was set up in 1998 by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who wanted to make sure that his ministers are sufficiently robust for serving in the ranks.

In January 1999, Myalyushka's commission reported to Lukashenka that Chumakou is unfit for service owing to health reasons. Chumakou said the report was untrue and threatened to fire Myalyushka from the army. However, the same month, Lukashenka extended Myalyushka's powers by appointing him to examine the health of all high-ranking officials in the government. In January 2000, Myalyushka's commission reported to Lukashenka on the health of more than 400 officials. Chumakou was again deemed unfit for the army.

Belarus's former defense minister, Pavel Kazlouski, told RFE/RL that Chumakou was saved by Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, Chumakou's pal from a military academy. Sergeev proposed to Lukashenka that Chumakou be examined in Moscow, but the two sides eventually agreed to form a special commission devoted exclusively to checking Chumakou's health. In February, that commission found Chumakou to be "healthy."

Following his demotion, Myalyushka has ceased to receive his former salary and, what must be particularly painful, has lost the right to early retirement from the army (as a colonel he had only three more months to serve). Now he can receive his pension only in 10 years' time.

There were two other victims of what is seen in Belarusian military circles as Chumakou's revenge: Professor Bova, the armed forces' main therapist, and Colonel Kirylau, chairman of the Central Military Medical Commission. Following a "six-hour harsh interview" with the defense minister, Bova's heart stopped beating and had to be reanimated. As for Kirylau, he landed in the psychiatric hospital Navinki, near Minsk, diagnosed with "deep depression," an RFE/RL Minsk corespondent reported.

BUSINESSMAN SENTENCED OVER HOAX ATTACK. The raion court in Svetlahorsk, Homel Oblast, has sentenced Russian businessman Anatolii Selivonchik to three years in prison for staging a mock attack on a Belarusian village last summer, Belapan reported on 3 April. The court found 42-year-old Selivonchik guilty of malicious hooliganism, illegal deprivation of freedom, and putting up resistance to police officers.

On 30 June 1999, 125 members of a teenage paramilitary adventure-and-survival group from Surgut, western Siberia, attacked Selivonchik's native village of Mikalayeuka in Homel. They were clad in black uniforms and armed with tear gas, firecrackers, and air guns. The attackers first captured the local kolkhoz's manager and senior accountant, tied them up, and kept them prisoner in their offices. Then they drove all villagers out of their homes, herded them into a schoolyard, tied them up, and ordered them to lie down. Those who resisted were beaten. The only resident to escape "capture" was an 86-year-old paralyzed woman who was allowed to stay at home.

The whole operation lasted three hours. Selivonchik, who masterminded and led the attack, told the villagers later that they had been participants in a "kind of training" and promised "crates of vodka" to them to celebrate the upcoming national holiday (the controversial 1996 referendum transferred Belarus's national holiday from 27 July, on which Belarus's sovereignty was declared in 1990, to 3 June, the day of the liberation of Minsk from the Nazis in 1944). However, most villagers were not amused, while 19 of them suffered various injuries.

On 3 July, Selivonchik's group was surrounded by the police in the military township of Kisyalevichy and made an unsuccessful attempt to break that cordon. The teenagers were subsequently expelled to Russia, while Selivonchik was arrested.

Judge Nadzeya Ramanava did not allow Selivonchik to address the court before the verdict was handed down because of what she termed his "disrespectful attitude toward the court" during the trial. Selivonchik told journalists that he was sentenced "by the Lukashenka regime," which "does not bode well for anybody." He said he had apologized to the villagers for what he did and his apology had been accepted. Selivonchik added that he has materially supported residents of his native Mikalayeuka for many years. He also informed that, as the owner of a ferry on the River Ob in western Siberia, he has ferried Belarusian citizens free of charge for the past five years, thus saving them some $5 million. Selivonchik announced that he would appeal the verdict.

DOUBTS REMAIN OVER 16 APRIL REFERENDUM. It seems that the Constitutional Court's 29 March resolution to strike two questions from Ukraine's 16 April constitutional referendum has alleviated fears of the immediate introduction of authoritarianism in the country. The court ruled that two questions--one on the vote of no confidence in the parliament and the other on the possibility of adopting the country's constitution via a referendum--are unconstitutional. The four remaining questions were deemed constitutional and, if approved in the plebiscite, will be binding. This ruling, however, has not dispelled the many doubts both abroad and at home as regards the consequences of the 16 April ballot.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) recommended earlier this month that President Leonid Kuchma postpone the plebiscite until the parliament adopts a new law on referenda. Kuchma decreed the current referendum on the basis of a Soviet-era law that does not take into account the legal and political realities of independent Ukraine. Second, PACE warned Kyiv that it may seek suspension of Ukraine's membership in the council if the referendum results are implemented by unconstitutional means.

PACE's warning was clearly based on the suspicion than Ukraine's Supreme Council might be reluctant to approve constitutional amendments limiting lawmakers' rights and prerogatives, particularly stripping them of immunity from criminal prosecution. Even if the current parliamentary majority unanimously supported possible constitutional amendments, it would still be short of some 30 votes to change the constitution (at least 300 votes are needed for such a move). Thus not without reason, PACE feared that Kuchma might seek to amend the constitution by decree, as Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka had done in 1996, following a constitutional referendum of a consultative character.

Some Ukrainian commentators also point to ambiguities in the formulation of referendum questions, which may lead to tensions between the parliament and the president in the future. In particular, the questions about reducing the number of lawmakers to 300 and introducing a bicameral parliament in Ukraine do not specify to which entity that number applies--the parliament in its entirety or its lower chamber. There is also no mention in the referendum ballots of how the second chamber should be formed if Ukrainians decide on a bicameral legislature.

Many sarcastic comments have been elicited in Ukraine by the court's decision to approve the question about stripping lawmakers of their immunity from criminal prosecution. The question proposes leaving in place the constitutional formulation that Ukrainian lawmakers' immunity "is guaranteed" but simultaneously excluding the provision that people's deputies may not be tried for criminal offenses, detained, or arrested without the approval of the Supreme Council. How much is such "immunity" worth if even a police sergeant can arrest a people's deputy at any time and under any pretext, many Ukrainian publications have wondered.

There is also a conflict between the current constitution and the court's ruling that referendum results should be binding. According to the constitution, only the Supreme Council can change the country's basic law. On the other hand, the Supreme Council is a sovereign branch of power and no Ukrainian court has the right to order the legislature to approve any laws in a mandatory way.

Is there a way out of this tangle of contradictions? The easiest way would be to regard the 16 April referendum as consultative. Such an option has been suggested by PACE and would be the best approach for Ukraine, which urgently needs political accord following the parliament's approval of the ambitious reformist program of Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet. Too much is at stake now, and any further political confrontation could easily extinguish the glimmer of hope Ukrainians saw this year.

The worst scenario would be the parliament's refusal to comply with the referendum (which is expected to approve all four questions) and Kuchma's possible decision to dissolve the legislature and call for new parliamentary elections. In such a case, the country, beleaguered by social and economic problems, would once again be plunged into an election campaign that might alter the balance of power but would hardly result in any economic improvement for the pauperized nation.

"These claims should be made not to the government or the state but to the situation of [our] society. And not the head of state or the government or the parliament are to blame for this situation. Time is to blame." -- Belarusian Deputy Premier Uladzimir Zamyatalin, responding to a gathering of scientists who complained about poor salaries and living standards; quoted by Belarusian Television on 6 April.

"I cannot promise you what cannot be done. [But the government's] requirements [for kolkhoz managers] will be increased. Do not take offense at me. We will also elect parliamentary deputies at the same level [of those increased requirements]. Try not to elect them and you will see!" -- Alyaksandr Lukashenka to a conference of agricultural managers and leaders; quoted by Belarusian Television on 7 April.

"Do not think that everything is centered on agriculture. No. The state has other important issues. First of all, ensuring its security. If our neighbors and others--we today border on NATO--know that we are strong, that we have a strong authority, and that our state is physically strong in terms of military power, then we will have a [strong] agricultural sector, too. But as soon as they [NATO] get wind that we do not amount to much, they will begin tearing [us apart], as [they did with] Mother Russia, beginning with the Caucasus." -- Alyaksandr Lukashenka to a conference of agricultural managers and leaders; quoted by Belarusian Television on 7 April.

"I am against abolishing lawmakers' immunity since [that move] will be used to pressurize deputies. Businessmen in the parliament have yielded to the president's resolution to abolish immunity, because they are expecting the legalization of shadow capital. If all incomes of shadow economy businessmen are legalized, they will of course ensure immunity for themselves for cash. But opposition deputies need immunity as a guarantee of work that is independent from the [executive] authorities." -- Ukraine's Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz; quoted by the 7 April "Kievskie vedomosti."

"Lawmakers' immunity is no good at all. I tell my wife at home--I have parliamentary immunity, so please handle me with care! But she takes my salary from me all the same, so it is impossible even to squirrel anything away. The full-fledged immunity of a deputy may be enjoyed only in a grave! But I fear that there are problems with immunity even in the other world: just look at Grandfather Lenin." -- Ukraine's Green Party leader Vitaliy Kononov; quoted by the 7 April "Kievskie vedomosti."