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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: August 8, 2000

8 August 2000, Volume 2, Number 28
MORE FUSS OVER KWASNIEWSKI'S LUSTRATION. Last week, Wieslaw Walendziak, head of the presidential election team of Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski, sued for libel his counterpart from President Aleksander Kwasniewski's election team, Ryszard Kalisz. Kalisz had suggested that Walendziak may have pressured the State Protection Office (UOP) to provide the Lustration Court with documents alleging that Kwasniewski was a communist-era security service agent (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 1 August 2000). The sides reached a settlement whereby Kalisz agreed to make the following statement for the media: "I publicly state that I never claimed and do not claim that Wieslaw Walendziak issues or has issued instructions to the State Protection Office."

Walendziak and Krzaklewski's election staff accepted this apology from Kalisz, but the latter on 4 August resumed his attack by saying on Radio Zet that he is still waiting for a reply from Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek to questions asked on 27 July: "Who now gives instructions to the UOP? Is this person the head of Marian Krzaklewski's campaign, Wieslaw Walendziak? Who prepared these materials? What is Jerzy Buzek's knowledge about this dirty business?"

Walendziak retorted the same day that "Citizen Kalisz will meet citizen Walendziak in court." Buzek's answer was short, too. He referred to former findings by the parliamentary Committee for Special Services (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2000): [The committee] has stated that there have been no irregularities in the lustration of the presidential candidates. The UOP is under the authority of persons constitutionally entitled to fulfill such functions."

Andrzej Olechowski, an independent presidential candidate, suggested his own explanation of this continued hassle over Kwasniewski's lustration:

"It is difficult to avoid getting the perverse impression that there is some sort of plot, a conspiracy between the staffs of Messrs. Kwasniewski and Krzaklewski, who are through their mutual activities trying to draw attention to themselves, to cause the public to believe that the competition is [only] between them. And that, fortunately, is not the case, since I have the second place in the polls," PAP quoted Olechowski as saying on 4 August.

Olechowski admitted in his lustration statement that he had been a collaborator of the communist-era secret services but said that he had dealt exclusively with economic intelligence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2000). The Lustration Court confirmed that Olechowski told the truth in his statement. The admittance of the collaboration does not entail any legal consequences for presidential candidates. On the other hand, if the Lustration Court finds that a candidate lied in his lustration statement, that candidate may be excluded from the presidential race and banned from holding public posts for 10 years. Incumbent President Aleksander Kwasniewski and former President Lech Walesa--who both declared that they did not collaborated with communist secret services--are now involved in lustration trials, trying to put paid to allegations by the UOP that they were secret agents.

WHAT'S NEXT, AFTER EUROPE'S REFUSAL TO SEND OBSERVERS TO ELECTIONS? A delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which visited Minsk last week, concluded on 4 August that there are no "adequate conditions necessary for holding free and fair elections" in Belarus this fall and added that it will not recommend the PACE to send observers to these polls. It is expected that the PACE, the OSCE, and the European Parliament will make a joint decision by the end of August on whether or not to send international observers to the 15 October legislative elections in Belarus. Given the regime's refusal to comply with the OSCE's requirements to democratize the Electoral Code, give the opposition access to the state media, expand the powers of the current legislature, and stop political persecution in the country, the Belarusian opposition as well as most commentators expect that the European organizations will not send their observers to the elections and, consequently, will not recognize them as democratic and fair. Such a development would mean a small victory for the Belarusian democratic opposition, which has announced that it will boycott the 15 October vote. However, the main concern--what next?--will continue to confront Belarusian oppositionists.

"Today Belarus has a hand-picked parliament, which is actually not a parliament. It is not recognized by anybody. If Europe says that the conditions for fair elections have not been created, this means that the parliament elected on 15 October will not be recognized, either. Nothing will change for Lukashenka. Unfortunately, nothing will change for Belarus, either," Alyaksandr Dabravolski, deputy chairman of the opposition United Civic Party, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 4 August. Despite its name, Dabravolski's party has no unity regarding the 15 October ballot. Stanislau Bahdankevich, former party chairman, believes that the party should participate in this fall's elections even if they are not democratic. Bahdankevich argues that the party will become marginalized even further if it continues to abstain from participating in public political activities. Leanid Zlotnikau, the author of the party's economic program, recently quit the party and announced that he will run in the 15 October elections.

A recent poll conducted by the independent "Novak" polling agency found that 75 percent of respondents want to vote in the 15 October elections, while only 14 percent said they will not go to the polls. This means that the opposition may fail to pull off a boycott of the vote--according to the Electoral Code, the elections are valid if turnout is no less than 50 percent.

Some Belarusian commentators say that Belarusians want changes in the country and are eager to participate in the upcoming elections to make those changes happen. The problem, however, is that under current circumstances the elections provide no real political choice for the electorate. On the other hand, the elections also do not provide a chance for Lukashenka to legitimize his regime, but it seems that he has tactically sacrificed this objective in order to reinforce his grip on the country before the apparently more important presidential ballot next year.

IF NOT A DISEASE, THEN WHAT? Belarusian Television's main newscast "Panarama"--which is broadcast at 8 pm--is notorious for its biased reporting of Alyaksandr Lukashenka's opponents, whom it often treats with harsh and insulting language. But no less characteristic of "Panarama" is its verbal imagery in reports on Belarus's kolkhoz life, especially on calamities in the collective farm system. Below is an example from the 1 August newscast:

Newscaster: The next feature was prepared by our correspondents from Homel. The event [presented] cannot fail to provoke consternation or call for an answer to the question: How could it happen? A real tragedy occurred in the "Svetly shlyakh" [Bright Way] kolkhoz in Rahachou raion. An unknown disease or infection has slain--or forced kolkhoz workers to cut the throats of--164 calves, that is, all the young cattle in one of the farm's stalls.

Correspondent: Up until a few days ago, the "Bright Way" kolkhoz in Rahachou raion had 164 young calves. They have perished, literally in a matter of days. In the morning, when the women in charge of the calves came to work, five of the calves were already dead while the rest could not stand on their feet. Witnesses say that the women, confronted with such a sight, began lamenting and losing consciousness.

For two days and two nights, the farm's specialists and subsequently those from the raion and oblast [centers] struggled to save the calves' lives. But after 25 animals had died and the others had not shown any improvement in their health, farm workers started to cut the animals' throats right on the spot. Simultaneously, the oblast laboratory hurriedly tried to find out the reason for the animals' death, but with no result. Last Saturday, specialists from the National Veterinary Inspectorate were urgently called for help. They have been examining meat of the dead calves for four days but no specific finding has been reported yet. Most likely, this is not an epidemic or disease. But then, what is it?!

The Homel Oblast Prosecutor's Office has launched a criminal investigation into the death of the calves.

NO NEED TO 'CONSOLIDATE' PEASANTS. An here is an example of how "Panarama" presents effusions of the popular love for the first president of the Republic of Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The feature was shot during Lukashenka's visit to an "experimental seed farm" in Zhodzina (Minsk Oblast) on 4 August.

Lukashenka: Well, how are you doing?

Harvester operator: Fine.

Lukashenka: And what is bad?

Harvester operator: There's nothing bad.

Lukashenka: Impossible.

Harvester operator: It is possible. As long as you are in power, nothing will be bad. It is necessary to vote for you. It is necessary to consolidate everybody.

Lukashenka: One does not need to consolidate you, you always back [me]. We have others to consolidate. Peasants always are our people. We have no problems with peasants. They have a harder life than anybody else, but they do not cry.

SURRENDER TO RUSSIA AMID ANTI-RUSSIAN SLOGANS? The Moscow-based "Vremya novostei" published on 2 August an interesting interpretation of Kyiv's reaction to Moscow's accusations that the rights of Russians in Ukraine, including the right to use the Russian language, are being infringed.

"Vremya novostei" wrote that official Kyiv has not made any critical assessment of the anti-Russian campaign in Lviv that followed the death of Ukrainian composer Ihor Bilozir (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 6 and 13 June 2000). The newspaper said the only response to protests from the Russian Duma, the Russian Foreign Ministry, and Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Ivan Aboimov was a note by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, which rejected the accusation that Russians in Ukraine are being discriminated against and provided the following statistics: 30 percent of schools and 35 percent of higher educational institutions in Ukraine instruct their students in Russian; Ukraine has 1,200 periodicals published in Russian; 14 state theaters stage plays in Russian. "Indeed, the general analysis of the linguistic situation testifies to the fact that there is no discrimination," "Vremya novostei" admitted but added that the authorities' "non-interference in the [Lviv] conflict, which is potentially fraught with bloodshed, is tantamount to its encouragement." And here is the newspaper's explanation why Kyiv is behaving in such a way:

"The Ukrainian president, regardless of what is said by both sides, is sure of the [Russian] neighbor's loyalty. Surrendering its economic independence step by step, [Kyiv] can permit itself [some games with "national" themes]. Not having sufficient strength and possibilities to counter Russia's pressure in key economic issues, Kyiv is 'self-asserting' on the national front.

"The Ukrainian leadership is convinced that it will be forgiven for any political games if it opens its locks to Russian investment in [Ukraine's] strategic industries, which allow [those in charge] to control state policies. The first signs have already appeared: four of the six Ukrainian refineries are controlled by Russians; National Security and Defense Council Secretary Yevhen Marchuk offers to Russia one-third of Ukraine's gas pipelines as repayment of gas debts (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 1 August 2000); the presidential entourage sees Gazprom as the owner of the Khartsyzsk Pipeline Plant, which enables it to build pipelines in Central Asia. And Leonid Kuchma has publicly criticized an agreement on the supply to Ukraine of Turkmen gas, which may become an alternative to Russian gas. If all those advances are materialized, Ukraine's sovereignty will become largely formal, while Russia--which is busy with 'gathering the lands' [lost after the breakup of the USSR]--will obtain what it wants. Against this background, the Ukrainian authorities, in order to save face, may take such liberties as to open Chechen information centers or keep neutrality in the assessment of the Lviv events. As for Moscow, it is conducting a sufficiently flexible policy in order to realize [all] that, and a sufficiently pragmatic one in order to support the integration with Ukraine even if it is wrapped in anti-Russian slogans."

"At some moment [in the past] I was saying that my life proves something I do not have to prove in court. But later I thought that it is I who must give an example [of how] to account for [the past]. This process has to be finished to prevent anybody from betraying or blackmailing us." -- Lech Walesa on his lustration trial, where he faces allegations of having been a communist-era security service collaborator. Quoted by PAP on 3 August.

"I have 10 times as many medals as Leonid Brezhnev [had], I have more than 100 [honoris causa] doctorates, I have two professor titles. I did not have all this [in the early 1980s]." -- Lech Walesa answering a question about the difference between Walesa in 1980 and 2000. Quoted by PAP on 3 August.

"[President Aleksander Kwasniewski] is implementing the policy dictated by Washington of favoring relations with Ukraine, but the sharp edge of this alliance is directed against Russia, which is something contrary to the Polish state imperative." -- Polish Socialist Party leader Piotr Ikonowicz, Kwasniewski's rival in the 2000 presidential race. Quoted by PAP on 4 August.

"The political class has made a stew in the heads of people, and this is a success for our leader in the field, that is, President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who has always stressed that this is the main task of himself and of his presidency. And I do blame him very much for this. The duty of the president [in promoting Poland's EU membership bid] is not to travel to Brussels and to the Greek islands, so as to encourage the acceptance of Poland [by the EU], but to travel to the vicinity of Lomza [city in northeastern Poland; metaphorical byword for provincialism] and to talk with Polish politicians so that they maintain their determination in this matter." -- Andrzej Olechowski, an independent runner in the 2000 presidential race. Quoted by PAP on 4 Aug.

"I wish I could live in a free country, in a Belarusian Belarus, even if for three years. Well, even if for a year. This is my only dream. I have two sons and a little grandson. I think I'm not too old yet--I'm 51. Possibly, I can live [to see my dream come true]?" -- Yauheniya Kazlova from Orsha (Vitsebsk Oblast), in a letter to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, quoted on 3 August.