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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: August 1, 2000

1 August 2000, Volume 2, Number 27
WALESA, KWASNIEWSKI SUSPECTED OF BEING COMMUNIST SECRET SERVICE AGENTS. Former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, who is running in this year's presidential ballot, appeared before the Lustration Court on 26 July to confirm his lustration statement. In that statement, he had declared that he did not collaborate with the communist-era secret service. However, Poland's current secret service, the State Protection Office (UOP), has presented communist-era documents saying that in 1970 Walesa signed a document pledging to collaborate with the security service and received remuneration for his services from 1970-1972. According to the UOP allegation, Walesa had the code name "Bolek" in the secret service's files.

Walesa testified that in 1970 he signed a document promising only that he would keep silent about what was discussed when he was interrogated. He denied that he was an agent. He also said the documents supplied to the Lustration Court by the UOP are falsified. Walesa's testimony was broadcast by Polish Radio. The following is an excerpt:

"This [document] was about talk of some kind of collaboration. One of them was, or so it seemed to me--it has very similar handwriting in any case--the kind of document that described events. As I well recall, a similar document was found during a search. I was describing a strike for Radio Free Europe, for somewhere in the West. This was a description of what December was like in 1970. And this description was found during a search at my home or else I gave it to [activist Bohdan] Borusewicz and it was found at his home. In any case, it is a description of the events and the strike actions. But there are three sentences added that change this description into something else, as if it were a denunciation that had been produced by me. So, it is very craftily done.

"Everything agrees, the top agrees [with the documentation I once saw], but the last two sentences are falsified, added to match. In any case, all of these materials are more or less done this way.

"When I was president, I looked at this documentation. This documentation was completely different. This documentation had no rubber stamps, it had no reference numbers. And today I have been presented with documentation that is numbered and referenced. And this, again, is strange. And that is why at one stage I sealed all of this [in an envelope] and wrote on it: do not open, only the president may open this. Because I had had enough of constantly different documents. On every occasion, I had different documents supplied. Now, too, I see documents that I did not see earlier. I saw other documents, although they were similar in content.

"This means that somebody is manipulating things here. There were replacements in the State Protection Offices and all these various groups. And so here there is some kind of manipulation, only the problem is as follows: Who is doing this?"

The following day, Adam Michnik, chief editor of Poland's influential and liberal daily "Gazeta Wyborcza," was scathingly critical of the lustration of Walesa. Once a prisoner of the communist regime, Michnik was Walesa's political ally in the early 1990s. In an editorial in his newspaper, he wrote that calling into question the sincerity of the man who became the "symbol of Solidarity" is tantamount to attacking the entire democratic opposition movement in the 1980s. "It is thanks to his determination, judgment ,and courage that Poland is free today. The accusation against Walesa is aimed against the entire Solidarity tradition, the entire tradition of democratic opposition.... Poland is being humiliated in the eyes of the world for the sake of a miserable political game.

"What are you going to prove, Messrs. Lustrators? That it was communist security service agents who overthrew communism?

"I think one can be a political opponent of Walesa. But I am sure that one cannot agree to the public smearing of the man who become to the world a symbol of Polish freedom," Michnik wrote.

The same day, there was another development fraught with potentially grave political consequences. Aleksander Kwasniewski, who is seeking re-election in this fall's presidential ballot, appeared before the Lustration Court on 27 July to testify that he had not collaborated with communist-era secret services. However, the UOP supplied the court with documents suggesting that Kwasniewski may have been a secret service agent--under the code name "Alek"--when he was pursuing a career in journalism in communist Poland. Next week, the court will question a former security service officer who allegedly maintained contacts with Kwasniewski. "I hope that this matter is not a planned component of a political game by those who cannot win against me in an honest fight," Kwasniewski commented.

Kwasniewski's lawyer, Ryszard Kalisz, said the documents submitted to the court have nothing to do with Kwasniewski, and he suggested that the election team of Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski might be responsible for staging a "political provocation" against the incumbent:

"Marian Krzaklewski's political camp has realized that it is not capable of winning the presidential elections through democratic procedures. Marian Krzaklewski's political camp is conducting a dirty game against candidate Aleksander Kwasniewski.... We publicly ask a question of the prime minister of the government, Jerzy Buzek: Who now issues instructions to the UOP? Is this person the head of Marian Krzaklewski's campaign, Wieslaw Walendziak? Who prepared these materials? What does Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek know about this dirty game?," according to PAP.

Once again Adam Michnik slammed the lustration law in Poland, this time in connection with Kwasniewski's screening. Michnik wrote in the 28 July "Gazeta Wyborcza":

"Poland's incumbent president, [who is] simultaneously a candidate in the upcoming elections [and] enjoys 60 percent support according to polls, is suspected of a lustration lie. This means that he can be removed from the list of [presidential] candidates. This means that 60 percent of voters will not be able to vote for their candidate. Is it possible to imagine a more drastic violation of the democratic system and the will of society?

"Do not tell me that this is [being done] in accordance with the law. There are bad and unjust laws; there are also laws exercised in an unfair way.... The lustration law--we have written about it more than once--is a bad law. It allows people to be discredited exclusively on the basis of testimonies by communist security service officers. This is a triumph for the communist security apparatus, which has again become an apparatus of danger--it has become dangerous to Polish democracy."

ANOTHER INDEPENDENT PUBLICATION WARNED. Adding to the slew of official warnings against independent publication initiatives in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 6 June 2000), the State Press Committee recently warned the cultural magazine "Arche" for what it called the unauthorized alteration of the publication's title and the magazine's distribution abroad. The latest issue of "Arche" came out under the title of "Arche-Skaryna" and lists addresses of the magazine's distributors in Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine. Under Belarusian regulations, two warnings within one year give the authorities sufficient grounds to shut down a publication.

(Ed. note: Frantsishak (Francis) Skaryna (1490?-1552?) was translator and publisher of the Bible into Old Belarusian.)

Valerka Bulhakau, chief editor of "Arche," deems the warning groundless. He cites the example of "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta," which, he says, continued to appear under its current name for a long time while remaining registered as "Birzhi i banki."

Andrey Dynko, director of the "Arche" publishing company, noted that the warning coincided with a refusal of the state distributor Belkniga to distribute the June issue of "Arche," which focuses on Jewish culture in Belarus. Dynko also said the state-run Belarusian House of the Press has stopped printing the magazine's August issue.

Bulhakau and Dynko link the "mild repressive measures" against their publication to the criticism--included in the "Arche-Skaryna" issue--of the government-sponsored journal "Belaruskaya Dumka." They say they will seek justice in court and start having their magazine printed by one of Minsk's private print houses.

They also noted that it is the first time that a purely cultural periodical has received a warning. "The authorities are putting us in the same category as independent newspapers --the principal target of their repressive machinery," Bulhakau told Belapan. "They consider us dangerous. It is quite an achievement for a cultural publication."

MARCHUK PINPOINTS NATIONAL SECURITY CONCERNS. Interfax on 26 July published an exclusive interview with Yevhen Marchuk, secretary of Ukraine's Council of National Security and Defense. Below are excerpts from that interview:

Interfax: What in your opinion are today's threats to Ukraine's national security?

Marchuk: I would prefer to speak not about threats to Ukraine's national security but about negative and dangerous factors that show either growing or falling trends. As regards the trends that are developing outside Ukraine and pertain to our country, there is the complex problem of debts, which shows a very unfavorable tendency.

Only a few months had passed since Ukraine's restructuring of its foreign debt to European creditors when the country fell $711 million into debt to Russia for siphoning off [Russian transit] gas. From the viewpoint of Ukraine's partners this means that we are incapable of rationally managing [our economy]. As a result, the country's image has suffered, important investments have been blocked, the work with international financial structures has become more difficult. All this has delivered a palpable blow to the economic situation within the country....

However, the most important aspect of this debt problem is that we provide Russia with a mechanism for exerting influence or even pressure on Ukraine. Everybody knows that the relations between Ukraine and Russia are not developing in a simple way. But quite often it is we who provide Russia with opportunities to use such unpleasant forms of influence on Ukraine as Russia's appeals to the IMF, the World Bank, and other organizations. As far as I know, the Russian side has prepared such appeals. One would wonder if Russia had failed to do that....

One more consequence of the debt problem and the siphoning off of gas are statements by Russian commercial structures about the construction of gas pipelines to bypass Ukraine, as well as a gas pipeline in the direction of Novorossiisk. This is a very negative circumstance for us. It will be necessary to make enormous efforts to stop this tendency. True, there are no reasons to expect that this can be done in a short time, given the increasing ruthlessness of Ukrainian-Russian economic relations.

Interfax: Can Ukraine influence this process, and what will Ukraine have to sacrifice to that end?

Marchuk: I would not call it sacrifice, even though the Russian side does not conceal that it wants Ukraine to repay its debts, including with property. Of course, this is a very bad situation for us, but I would not make a tragedy out of it.

I think that it is a quite acceptable mechanism for Ukraine when one-third of the property of the gas and oil transporting system is given in the form of shares to a Russian partner as debt repayment, one-third is sold to a European partner, and one-third is left in Ukraine's hands. At first glance, the idea may sound offensive. But what is better: to give Russia a 30 percent stake in [Ukraine's] refineries as well as gas and oil transporting system, ensure the viability of this system, and obtain profits from this deal--or "to fight to the bitter end" and subsequently show vacated [gas and oil industry] facilities to tourists? One should not be afraid of drawing Russia into this privatization sphere. This, of course, is only a working idea. One needs to consider all this very thoroughly and estimate [profits] for the future....

Interfax: Speaking about Russia's increasing influence on Ukraine, you mentioned the possibility of exerting counter-influence. Does Ukraine possess some real mechanisms to influence Russia?

Marchuk: Of course, it does. They are not simple, [I would even say] very complicated, but feasible. I mean tariffs for transporting Russia gas and oil via Ukraine to Europe. These tariffs are old and very low. This is a very painful problem for Russia, since we have in mind enormous volumes of raw materials that are shipped via Ukraine. The other, but no less complicated problem is [Ukraine's] share in the property of the former USSR. Ukraine's parliament has recently held hearings on this issue, and they have been met with a very nervous reaction from the Russian side. This topic has not yet been exhausted. Today Russia receives very considerable dividends from what belonged to the USSR and should have been divided fairly, whereas Ukraine receives nothing....

Interfax: Energy resources, as earlier, remain one of Ukraine's most acute internal problems. The opinion that the situation in the fuel and energy sector is Ukraine's national security issue has become commonplace. What is your assessment of today's situation in this sphere, and what are your prognoses for the future?

Marchuk: ...Today we see illusory improvements in the fuel and energy sector--they coincided with the joint sessions held by the Council of Regions and the government, when the frequency in the country's power grid reached [the required value of] 50 hertz. On one hand, this is really very good. But this result was achieved thanks to an additional burning of costly imported gas as well as of coal and fuel oil--this situation, in turn, has put the brakes on storing fuel for the fall and winter period.

Another reason for the "improvements" is the reduction of [electricity] consumption quotas for oblasts or, speaking in plain language, electricity cutoffs, applied not only to debtors but also to those who pay, including exporters.

As regards the preparation for the winter, today we are lagging behind in all respects. Therefore, the prospects of the fuel and energy sector for storing fuel and exacting payments [for electricity] are quite alarming. At the same time, I do not want to dramatize the situation. I think that the president, too, will not allow [the country] to enter the winter with such a risk.

Interfax: How do you assess the construction of the Odesa-Brody-Gdansk oil pipeline?

Marchuk: There have been a lot of speculations around this oil pipeline--they were caused by the fact that one lobbying group in the parliament and Western Ukraine had been pushing through only a small segment of this issue.

The Odesa-Brody oil pipeline is part of an enormous project for transporting Caspian and, possibly, Kazakh oil. Its construction is impossible without [creating] a fleet of tankers, coordinating the transportation of oil with its owners, agreeing on the volume of oil transported via the pipeline (the pipeline can be profitable with a transporting (throughput) capacity of 20-25 million tons per year), and completing the construction of the oil terminal [in Odesa]. Nothing of these problems have been resolved. Today the project's financial needs total $266 million as a minimum.... To build a pipeline without resolving the above-mentioned problems means to bury enormous funds in the ground....

In my opinion, we are nearing a large investigation into the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline. Who and why, without having considered how this [oil transportation] system is going to function, buried enormous funds in the ground? I think that in August-September the president of the country and the Council of National Security and Defense will finally decide how the current segment of the oil pipeline can be perceived--as an achievement or a major failure that entails gigantic losses.

"Over the last half a century I have visited Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and now I'm once again visiting Prague, but I have never felt a desire to come back to Belarus. The time when I lived in my Motherland has discouraged any nostalgia for it once and for all. I feel happy in the Unites States...and am glad that the NKVD and Bolsheviks are far away from me." -- 90-year-old New York resident Yanina Kakhanouskaya, who left Belarus in 1944. Quoted by RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 28 July.

"Lviv pushed the entire country toward independence. In the 1990s everything was on fire here and look what is now happening in 2000. During [the past decade] we have lost even what we had in the Soviet Union. We lost the Ukrainian language in our daily life, we lost our unity and our will to fight." -- Andriy Shkil, leader of the ultranationalist Ukrainian National Assembly, commenting on the recent controversy over which language--Ukrainian or Russian--should be given priority in Lviv's public life. Quoted by Reuters on 30 July.

"Russian, Ukrainian, it makes little difference to me. The time for rallies has passed. What we really want [in Lviv] is more English-speakers to come here."--A Lviv cafe waiter, quoted by Reuters on 30 July.