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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: September 12, 2000

12 September 2000, Volume 2, Number 33
ELECTORAL MISCELLANY. *****A group of President ALEKSANDER KWASNIEWSKI's opponents threw leaflets as he entered Warsaw's Castle Square to meet with Warsaw residents on 9 September, PAP reported. The leaflets carried a distorted photograph of the president and the inscription: "Vodka, let me live." The president, who is seeking re-election, tore up one of the leaflets. "I want to tell those people who are in a tiny minority in the square that the difference between those who say what they say and write what they write and me is that you hate people and I like, love, and want to be with my fellow countrymen," Kwasniewski said. He said his 60 percent standing in popularity polls is attributable to the fact that "he likes people, wants to work with them, looks for what is good in people, and not what is bad." Kwasniewski said that when he moved into the Presidential Palace five years ago, he was greeted by a cook, his assistant, and the woman head of administration. "There was no minister nor any official figure who wanted to hand over [the office] to me, the successor," he said. According to Kwasniewski, "this resulted from the idea adopted by my predecessor [Lech Walesa] that people should be greeted or bidden farewell with the leg, not the hand."

*****President KWASNIEWSKI failed to show up at a 4 September presidential campaign meeting in Lomza, northeastern Poland, PAP reported. His election team had known since 1 September that Kwasniewski would be unable to attend the meeting because he was busy working on documents connected with the UN Millennium Summit, where he was scheduled to chair one of the sessions. However, Lomza residents only found out that they would not be seeing their president when Kwasniewski's election team head, Ryszard Kalisz, and former Premier Jozef Oleksy took their seats on the rostrum to address the crowd instead of the incumbent president. PAP reported that many of the crowd expressed understanding but some began to behave aggressively and use obscene language. "When he gets back from America, let him mend his ways," the agency quoted one of Kwasniewski's supporters as saying.

*****Former Deputy Prime Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, leader of the Freedom Union (UW), said on 4 September that his party made the right decision not to field its own candidate in the presidential elections. Balcerowicz announced that the UW leadership will determine the party's strategy in the presidential election campaign on 17 September. Balcerowicz noted that it is rather unlikely that his party will back President Aleksander Kwasniewski's re-election bid. "One can hardly find an example where [Kwasniewski] supported something important [and simultaneously] difficult. It is not difficult to gain popularity by avoiding all difficult matters," PAP quoted Balcerowicz as saying.

*****A poll conducted by CBOS from 1-4 September showed that ALEKSANDER KWASNIEWSKI has 60 percent support. The other main candidates ratings' are: ANDRZEJ OLECHOWSKI, 12 percent; MARIAN KRZAKLEWSKI, 7 percent; JAROSLAW KALINOWSKI, 5 percent (compare with the OBOP poll quoted in "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 5 September 2000).

OPPOSITIONIST DOES NOT WANT BOYCOTT IN CONSTITUENCIES WITH DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES. Mikalay Statkevich, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party (Popular Assembly), has appealed to the opposition parties that are boycotting the 15 October legislative ballot not to disseminate election boycott propaganda in those constituencies where democratic candidates choose to run for seats in the Chamber of Representatives, Belapan reported on 11 September. Statkevich and a dozen of his party colleagues are seeking deputy mandates on an independent ticket, while their party has officially declared that it is not participating in the elections. "How can we talk about the opposition's joint tactics in the 2001 presidential elections [if the democratic opposition is poised to campaign against democratic candidates]?" Statkevich asked. Indeed, it may be even more difficult to answer that question as the state-run propaganda machine steps up its coverage of the split within the democratic opposition over the legislative elections (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 29 August 2000).

POLL SAYS BELARUSIANS LESS ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT ELECTIONS. An August poll conducted by the Independent Institute for Socioeconomic and Political Studies (NISEPI) showed that 54 percent of respondents want to vote in the 15 October legislative elections. Twelve percent said they will not go to the polls, while 15 percent said their decision will depend on further political developments and 19 percent found it difficult to give a specific answer. A NISEPI poll in July found that 66 percent of respondents wanted to participate in the legislative elections.

BLACKMAILING LUKASHENKA OVER ELECTIONS. Twenty-two families from an apartment building on Gagarin Street in Barysau, Minsk Oblast, have sent a letter to the City Executive Committee and the Belarusian president about the poor quality of their accommodation. The building, completed 10 years ago, is now revealing its construction defects: cracked walls, leaks in the roof, and mold in all the apartments. The residents notified the city authorities and Alyaksandr Lukashenka that they will stop paying for utilities until their building is repaired or they are relocated to better accommodation. Additionally, they warned the president that they will boycott the 15 October legislative elections if no action is taken to improve their living conditions.

THE CITY DIGS POTATOES IN THE COUNTRYSIDE. The Soviet-era custom of using urban hands to dig potatoes on collective farms in the fall has persisted in Belarus until the present day. However, in contrast to Soviet times, when city residents--and students, in particular--were sent to kolkhozes to gather potato crops, this year Belarusians seem inclined to go to the countryside on their own. At least, such a conclusion has been drawn by the Belarusian media, both state-run and independent.

The campaign to dispatch secondary-school and university students to kolkhozes began on 4 September. The Education Ministry confirmed to Belapan that this year the education authorities are sending only those students who have volunteered to dig potatoes. Kolkhozes usually pay for work in kind, in this case, with potatoes, which are Belarus's staple food. In this way, an RFE/RL's Minsk correspondent reported, those city dwellers who have no land plots or relatives in the countryside can get food supplies for the winter.

"I study at a philological faculty. My family lives in the city. My student's allowance is very small so it is advantageous for me to go to a kolkhoz. They give food for your work there, and this mean that I can make provision for myself [for winter]," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service quoted one student as saying on 6 September.

WILL POLISH MILITARY CEMETERY BE OPENED IN LVIV? The Lviv City Council on 4 September passed a resolution whereby the Polish military cemetery, which is part of the Lychakivskyy Cemetery in Lviv, will be opened "no later than 1 October," Interfax reported. According to the resolution, the inscription on the central tablet of the Polish cemetery is to read: To unknown Polish soldiers who died for Poland in 1918-1920.

The 4 September session of the Lviv City Council was attended by Ukrainian Deputy Premier Mykola Zhulynskyy, Deputy Foreign Minister Petro Sardachuk, Ukrainian Ambassador to Poland Dmytro Pavlychko, other government officials, and several parliamentary deputies. Zhulynskyy read the Ukrainian premier's appeal to the councilors "to adopt a well-considered resolution insofar as the problem touches upon the strategic partnership of Ukraine and Poland," the agency reported. At the same time, a picket staged by the Ukrainian Republican Party and the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense demanded that the councilors make a decision on the Polish cemetery without "waiving national principles."

The issue of the Polish military cemetery in Lviv--which is known in Poland as the Cemetery of Lwow Eaglets--has been a sticking point in Polish-Ukrainian relations for several years. The cemetery contains the graves of mainly young Polish cadets who died in 1918 during fighting with Ukrainian units. The Poles fought for Lwow to be included into the then re-emerging Poland, while the Ukrainians fought for Lviv to be included in an independent Ukraine. The Polish side eventually won, and the fallen cadets were commemorated in pre-war Poland as "the defenders of Lwow."

After 1945, the Polish military cemetery at the Lychakivskyy Cemetery in Lviv was neglected. Only in the 1990s, following the breakup of the USSR, did it become possible for Poland and Ukraine to tackle the issue of renovating and preserving monuments and other vestiges of their common heritage. In tackling that issue, however, Polish and Ukrainian national interests more often than not clashed with one another.

The case of the Polish military cemetery in Lviv appears to be one of those political issues in Polish-Ukrainian relations that causes tensions between the two sides: what Warsaw sees as "the defense of Polish Lwow" in 1918, Kyiv interprets as "the assault on Ukrainian Lviv." The official opening of the cemetery was rescheduled several times. A year ago, a diplomatic embarrassment occurred when Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, poised to open the renovated cemetery in the presence of many journalists and officials from both countries, had to give up their intention at the very last moment after the Polish delegation had discovered that the inscription on the cemetery's main plaque was different from what Warsaw had expected.

Deputy Premier Mykola Zhulynskyy commented that the Lviv City Council made a "compromise" and "well-considered" decision on the Polish military cemetery. This opinion, however, is not shared by the Polish side. Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Pawel Dobrowolski said on 5 September that his ministry will "intervene" unless the Lviv authorities adhere to last month's intergovernmental agreement on the cemetery.

According to Polish media, Andrzej Przewoznik, secretary-general of Poland's Council for the Protection of the Memory of Struggle and Martyrdom, and Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Petro Sardachuk signed a protocol in August whereby they agreed to restore the Polish military cemetery in Lviv to its pre-war state. The agreement stipulates, in particular, that the inscription on the cemetery should read: To unknown Polish soldiers who died for an independent Poland in 1918-1920. (The Lviv councilors left out the word "independent" in their 4 September resolution on the cemetery.) The protocol also provides for restoring the gravestones of French and U.S. airmen who fought on the Polish side in the campaign leading to the establishment of pre-war Poland's eastern borders. According to Polish media, this clause, too, was ignored by the Lviv councilors in their resolution.

"For the [Polish] Foreign Ministry, the position of the Lviv City Council is not binding, only the agreement concluded with the Ukrainian authorities," Dobrowolski said, adding that the 4 September resolution "does not reflect the state of Polish-Ukrainian talks at government level."

"[In Poland, it is necessary] to restore the appropriate proportion of people in power, according to the principle: 5 percent influence for national minorities, 95 percent for Poles. Poland is being ruled by national minority [representatives], they are mainly people of Jewish origin who have changed their names. I do not understand how one can be ashamed of one's own name." -- Bogdan Pawlowski, a no-hoper in this year's presidential race, at a news conference in Warsaw. Quoted by PAP on 6 September.

"It is not as if all Jews are bad people." -- Boguslaw Rybicki, who failed to collect 100,000 signatures to register as a presidential candidate and now heads Pawlowski's election team. Quoted by PAP on 6 September.

"I have nowhere met with such fervent support for the Belarusian-Russian Union as from Fidel [Castro]. He is as much interested in the creation of the Union of Belarus and Russia as I and Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin [are], or possibly even more on some points." -- Lukashenka at last week's news conference in Havana. Quoted by Belarusian Television on 9 September.

"Why are we here? Why are we sacrificing our workdays for a demonstration with white-red-white flags? The answer is very simple. We want Belarus to be independent, we want our people to live freely, we want them to be able to earn their living and feed their children, we do not want our young people to go to the army and fight for the Russians, we want Belarus to be Belarus. There are a lot of us gathered here, and we hope the dictator Lukashenka will see our rally here. Long live Belarus!" -- Alla Orsa-Romano, a 1944 refugee from Belarus, now professor of chemistry at New York City University, speaking at an anti-Lukashenka rally in New York on 6 September, when the Belarusian president was scheduled to address the UN Millennium Summit. Quoted by RFE/RL's Belarusian Service.

"You will ruin the trust of people in the state. [Of those] people who have nothing except light." -- Ukrainian Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko to managers of energy suppliers on the consequences of electricity cutoffs to individual consumers who have failed to pay their debts. Quoted by Interfax on 8 September.