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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: August 15, 2000

15 August 2000, Volume 2, Number 29
KWASNIEWSKI, WALESA CLEARED OF COLLABORATION CHARGES. Last week, the Lustration Court ruled that both the current president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, and the former one, Lech Walesa, did not lie in their lustration statements when they declared that they had not been secret collaborators of the communist-era secret services. The rulings clear the way for both politicians to seek re-election in this fall's presidential ballot.

After the Lustration Court had announced a positive verdict in his case, Kwasniewski on 10 August responded by citing the well-known words of the once popular communist poet Wladyslaw Broniewski: "there are records of wrongdoing in the Fatherland that no alien hand can strike down." Polish commentators suggested this comment means Kwasniewski may take revenge in the future on those who, in his view, manipulated materials in his lustration case. Kwasniewski's lawyer and re-election team head, Ryszard Kalisz, said the next day that proof will be found against the "bad people" who supplied materials alleging that Kwasniewski was a secret service collaborator.

"The bad people know who I am talking about, they know who this is about. Let these bad people now wait. Let them worry a bit. Let society hear, let these bad people who manipulated procedures in this way, who did not supply documents and who supplied originals at the [lustration] trial a few hours before the verdict not sleep easy," Kalisz promised.

Asked who was the "alien hand" cited by his boss, Kalisz responded: "This is the hand that acts against democratic procedures in Poland, that wants to muddy things at all costs, that wants the law to be incapable of being implemented, that acts so that people do not have a choice in democratic elections."

The right-wing daily "Zycie" suggested on 12 August that Kwasniewski's threat to deal with the "alien hand" may mean a "purge" in the State Protection Office (UOP) once Kwasniewski becomes re-elected and the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) wins the 2001 parliamentary ballot.

Meanwhile, prominent SLD politician Jerzy Szmajdzinski announced that the issue of special services will be part of the SLD's election campaign next year. "The current model of special services is outdated. We believe that the idea of setting up an intelligence worth considering," PAP quoted Szmajdzinski as saying. According to Szmajdzinski, the Intelligence Agency would be a single structure made up of personnel from the current civil and military intelligence services. He added that the opposition would have a say in its operations.

Walesa's reaction to the verdict clearing him of the spying allegations was a mixed one. He said that he is pleased but added that the verdict will not dissipate all doubts about his person. "I am a little sick at heart because I had trusted in the lustration. Now I see it has no point because the whole operation did not convince anyone," AP quoted him as saying.

Walesa also said he has a grievance against former Interior Minister Antoni Macierewicz and former UOP chief Piotr Naimski, his erstwhile political allies, because they did not give credence to the veracity of his lustration statement and testified against him before the Lustration Court.

"I trusted that at least one of them would shift one way or another...but it turns out that it was all too hard. Their money, their books, and their entire philosophy and existence is based on this conviction. Now they can't go back on this: would they give the money back to those whom they tried to deceive?" Walesa commented. He added that it was former communist security service officers who testified truthfully at this hearing. "Today, they are trying to behave better than friends. Really, they are telling the truth about forged documents: we forged the documents...we manipulated. We heard all this. Would a new generation [of security officers] say this? I've got my doubts," Walesa said on Polish Radio.

Poland's largest daily, "Gazeta Wyborcza," commented on 12 August that Walesa's trial has compromised the lustration procedure in Poland. "What would have happened if a further security service document had not been found [on the final day of the trial], this time about the falsification of the "Bolek" files? Would the court then have recognized the leader of the opposition and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate to have been an agent?" the daily asked.

The stance of liberal "Gazeta Wyborcza" on the lustration is shared by leftist "Trybuna," in its 12 August issue: "Perhaps Jerzy Giedroyc [editor of the Paris-based monthly 'Kultura'] is right when he says that after so many years of weeding the files of the secret police and of intrigues built around them, when nothing is complete or credible any more, the best thing would be to burn it all in a great bonfire and once and for all liberate ourselves from the specter of the Polish People's Republic."

LUKASHENKA RESPONDS TO FOUR ELECTION DEMANDS. On 10 August, while monitoring the progress of the harvest in Hrodna Oblast, Alyaksandr Lukashenka took a break to make an emotional comment on political issues connected with the upcoming legislative elections. In particular, he commented on the four requirements of the OSCE and other European organizations to democratize the electoral process in Belarus. As before, the Belarusian president harshly criticized the West for resorting to "double standards" in its assessments of the situation in Belarus and the Belarusian opposition for what he sees as its excessive political demands. Belarusian Television promptly broadcast Lukashenka's remarks in the "Panorama" newscast program. Excerpts from that program are included below.

On the Electoral Code:

"We have made a better law on elections than that under which all those embracing [the West] were elected. All those Sharetskis, Lyabedzkas, Hrybs, and other Shushkevichs [names of prominent Belarusian opposition figures]. It is a better law. So why do you [the West] announce a priori today that you will not recognize the elections, why do you consider them undemocratic when they have not yet taken place? You have not come yet [to monitor the elections] and you do not see what's going on. This is absurd. This confirms one more time that these are double standards, this is disrespectful with regard to our nation, the nation that lost every third man in the last war and saved Europe from fascism and Nazism. What, was I to yield to [these double standards]? No. But even in this situation we have adopted [amendments to] the Electoral Code, [even if] it had already been a most modern document. Name the country in which the head of state allowed the Electoral Code to be changed only two weeks later after he had signed it. I allowed [such a thing]. These were my concessions to the West, concessions to that frenzied radical opposition. Well, I think, all right, the sociopolitical dialogue proposed 16 amendments--we adopted 10, all that what we promised. We promised 10 and adopted 10. But they say no, not enough. What else is needed? Today they raise four problems."

On non-governmental representatives in the Central Electoral Commission:

"First, [they demand] that representatives of political parties be included in the Central Electoral Commission. But the Central Electoral Commission has already been formed--half is formed by the president and half by the Chamber of Representatives. It is already formed. Under such circumstances, I say to them: OK, I expand the Central Electoral Commission with the most authoritative, honest, and decent people--there are quite a lot of them in the republic, and we know them--who will have the right of a consultative voice. Why am I to bring there, for instance, representatives of the [opposition] Belarusian Popular Front if they are not participating in the elections? What will they be doing sitting on that Central Electoral Commission? The West says that it is necessary to expand the commission. So I will expand. I answer them: no problem. Should I be afraid? I am not afraid of anything. Even if the commission has been formed, I'll expand it [with those having] the right of a consultative voice."

On access to the state media:

"The [state] media today [have to] draw [the opposition in by force], but [oppositionists] do not come. Why? Because they have nothing to say. Does Nadezhda [not identified with last name] really have to give him broadcast time and listen to him speaking in some trasyanka [name for the Russian-Belarusian linguistic mix used by poorly educated people in Belarus and sometimes by Lukashenka himself] or in his rich mother tongue [sarcastic comment made by Lukashenka in Belarusian] about what the people do not understand. Well, why does one have to give him broadcast time if he does not speak about what our people are thinking. We have made concessions even here: please, take your broadcast time, speak. Enough, they have talked themselves dry. [They have] nothing more [to say]."

On the climate of political trust in the country:

"The third question we face today. There are significant [opposition] figures like [Mikhail] Chyhir, [Mikalay] Statkevich, and others. They are concerned that they are allegedly not allowed to run in the elections [ed. note: because of a suspended jail sentence imposed on Chyhir and criminal charges faced by Statkevich]. For God's sake, all those not in prison today--please run in the elections! I'm interested in their participation in the elections. We will see if they can win these elections."

On the expansion of the Chamber of Representatives' powers:

"Their fourth demand is to expand the functions of the parliament. For God's sake, elect a new parliament, sit with a new president (or I will remain the president), and we will think about which functions should be vested in the parliament. Life changes. Why, for instance, not expand the Chamber of Representatives' functions [to give that body] a say in appointing officials and so on, for instance, of ambassadors, as was the case earlier? But if somebody expects us to return to what it was [like] in 1994, 1995, and 1996 before the [constitutional] referendum, this will not happen. If someone, under the pretext of the division of powers, wants to divide our country and push it once again into chaos, this will not happen. The parliament's functions will be objectively expanded, because many of its functions were vested in the president at that difficult moment when our society needed stabilization. Our society understood what the president wanted and generally needed [at that time]. Today it is possible to shift powers and functions. The more functions I transfer to [the chamber], the easier my work will be."

TYMOSHENKO COUNTERS RUSSIA WITH NEW GAS SUPPLY PROJECT. Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, who is in charge of Ukraine's energy and fuel sector, disclosed in Kharkiv on 5 August that Kyiv has drawn up a plan to build a pipeline from Turkmen gas fields that will bypass Russia.

"This project was offered to Turkmenistan during my visit there on 24 July, and it was not rejected. The Turkmen seemed to have agreed with the project," the "Eastern Economist Daily" quoted Tymoshenko as saying. Tymoshenko added that "if Ukraine continues to restrict its transit ambitions, other countries will outstrip Ukraine, both in the construction of transit pipelines and in cash flows."

Tymoshenko said the proposed gas pipeline could go via the Caspian Sea or via Iran and then across Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Black Sea to reach the Crimean port of Feodosiya, where it would link up with Ukraine's pipelines. According to Tymoshenko, the project's cost recovery period would be from 6 and a half to 10 years. Tymoshenko is convinced that Ukraine could buy all the gas it needs from Turkmenistan and thus replace Russian gas imports. She warned, however, that Russia is planning to buy all Turkmen gas over the next 30 years, thus depriving Ukraine of the possibility to diversify gas supplies.

Tymoshenko said she has high hopes of President Leonid Kuchma's forthcoming visit to Ashgabat, where he will seek to reach agreement on the volume of Turkmen gas supplies and a payment mechanism. She recalled that Ashgabat offered its gas at $42 per 1,000 cubic meters on its borders, adding that the gas transporting company Itera can pump it to Ukraine for $18-20 per 1,000 cubic meters. She noted that Turkmenistan agreed to be paid in goods for 50 percent of its gas supplies to Ukraine.

Tymoshenko's scheme of Turkmen gas supplies may be nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of an ambitious politician or Kyiv's propaganda argument in the current Kyiv-Moscow controversy over the repayment of Ukraine's gas debt to Russia. It may also be an argument to counter Moscow's recently publicized intention to build a bypass gas pipeline in Poland or, if Poland disagrees, via Finland and the Baltic Sea, to free itself of its dependence on Ukraine's gas transit network. Whatever the reason, Tymoshenko's pronouncement testifies to the fact that there are other options in Kyiv with regard to bargaining over Ukraine's enormous gas debt to Russia than simply transferring part of Ukraine's gas pipeline network into Moscow's hands.

An unidentified official from Russia's Energy Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 9 August that Tymoshenko's project is "150 percent fantastic." And Itera said the same day that it has no agreement with Ukraine on Turkmen gas supplies.

It is not clear how, if at all, Tymoshenko's scheme is related to the U.S.-backed project of a trans-Caspian pipeline to move gas from Turkmenistan's Caspian Sea deposits to Turkey. John Wolf, adviser to the U.S. president and secretary of state for Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy, told RFE/RL's Turkmen Service on 11 August that the U.S is still interested in seeing the trans-Caspian project completed:

"Our position has been to continue to support the realization of the project. But there are [other] good offers on the table and it's really for Turkmenistan to decide whether or not it will go forward with the project. For our part, we are working with Turkey, because Turkey has requirements for [natural] gas and a strong desire to get gas from the Caspian. We're going to work with them to cooperate with Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan, whenever it's ready," Wolf said.

Regarding the rumors of a possible long-term deal between Russia and Turkmenistan for shipping natural gas, which could affect the trans-Caspian project, Wolf noted: "Turkmenistan made it clear as recently as this week that it still hopes to supply gas to Turkey. That was in the meeting between President Niyazov and the new Turkish ambassador to Ashgabat. We hope [Niyazov] will take concrete steps now to achieve that. The fact of the matter is, neither his sales to Russia, nor his sales to Iran, nor his sales to Turkey are going forward. Turkmenistan needs to make a choice and move forward." The Moscow-based "Vremya novostei," quoting a high-ranking official in the Turkmen leadership, wrote on 10 August that Ashgabat has not yet given preference to any potential buyer of its gas. "Having taken a monumental-statue position, [Ashgabat] does not intend to lower its asking price to any of [the bidders]--$42 for 1,000 cubic meters and not a cent less, this is Turkmenistan's lowest profitability level," the source told "Vremya novostei."

"We will cut off the heads...of those who fail to fulfill this year's state purchase orders." -- Lukashenka in Hrodna Oblast, motivating kolkhoz managers to produce larger crop yields. Quoted by Belarusian Television on 10 August.