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ALEKSII II AGAIN CRITICIZES PAPAL VISIT TO UKRAINE. Speaking in Moscow on 11 June, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II said that the planned visit of Catholic Pope John Paul II to Ukraine later this month "will cause a new confrontation between religious confessions there," ITAR-TASS reported. Aleksii said that the Pope aims to support "Greek Catholics and members of the Uniate Church who destroyed three Orthodox eparchies in Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk, and Ternopol at the end of the 1990s." Aleksii said that "etiquette requires an invitation from the church to which the majority of citizens belong." In Ukraine, that is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and that church, Aleksii stressed, has said that the pope's visit is "untimely" and should be postponed. PG
GEORGIA HOSTS MANEUVERS WITH NATO. Over 4,000 ground and naval troops from 10 countries, five of them NATO members (the U.S., Turkey, France, Greece, Italy, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine) embarked on war games on land and at sea in western Georgia on 11 June, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. The exercises, which will end on 22 June, involve simulating a peacekeeping operation, a humanitarian operation in an earthquake zone, assistance to a vessel in distress, and refueling at sea. Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze noted at the opening ceremony that the maneuvers are the first involving NATO to be held in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who in February hinted that Georgia might relinquish its quest for NATO membership (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 6, 9 February 2001), told journalists in Tbilisi that the maneuvers testify to Georgia's aspiration to Euro-Atlantic integration and will help the Georgian armed forces achieve NATO standards of professionalism. LF
BELARUSIAN INVESTIGATORS ACCUSE TOP OFFICIALS OF POLITICAL MURDERS... Two former prosecutors, Dzmitry Petrushkevich and Aleh Sluchak, have sent a letter via E-mail to a number of Belarusian media outlets in which they accuse top officials of organizing a death squad and killing opposition politicians Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar as well as ORT cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski, the Charter-97 website and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 11 June. Petrushkevich and Sluchak claimed that the death squad was organized by former Interior Minister Yury Sivakou following an order from Security Council Secretary Viktar Sheyman. According to the two investigators, after the KGB and the Prosecutor-General's Office had traced the death squad and tried to find the body of Zavadski, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka fired KGB chief Uladzimir Matskevich and Prosecutor-General Aleh Bazhelka. Petrushkevich and Sluchak added that Sheyman then ordered the release of the arrested commander of the death squad from jail (see also "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 June 2001). JM
ALLEGATIONS OF U.S. PROBE AGAINST KUCHMA NOT CONFIRMED. Quoting an unidentified Ukrainian diplomat in Washington, Interfax reported on 11 June that the U.S. authorities are not conducting any investigation involving Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Last week, Ukrainian lawmaker Hryhoriy Omelchenko alleged that Kuchma's former bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko has been given special witness status in the U.S. after he passed to the U.S. authorities audio recordings suggesting that no less than $1 billion dollars has been deposited into U.S. bank accounts that either belong to or are controlled by Kuchma. The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington inquired at the U.S. Secretary of State's office about the probe into Kuchma's alleged financial operations and was told that no such investigation has been opened. JM
ANTI-KUCHMA REFERENDUM GROUPS DENIED REGISTRATION. The Central Election Commission on 11 June denied registration to two groups of citizens from Poltava Oblast and Ternopil, who were seeking a referendum on President Kuchma's ouster, Interfax reported. The commission said the groups committed procedural and formal violations while holding their founding meetings and preparing documents for registration. The commission also said the questions those groups wanted to put forth in a referendum cannot be proposed under Ukrainian legislation. JM
RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team
PARLIAMENT APPROVES OF FOREIGN POLICIES. Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski addressed the Sejm on 6 June, presenting a report on the objectives of Poland's foreign policy, PAP reported.
"The process of the shaping of a sovereign foreign policy for the [Polish] Republic that was commenced 10 years ago is beginning to bring specific, positive results," the minister told the parliament.
Among those results, Bartoszewski named "the inclusion of Poland in a sphere of stability in the area of defense policy" thanks to membership of NATO, the activity of Poland in "regional structures" and on a global scale, and the "finalization" by Poland of EU membership negotiations.
In Bartoszewski's opinion, progress in negotiations with the EU will depend upon the ability of the government to undertake difficult political decisions that should gain the support of parliament and the president. He added that at the same time "all changes in Polish negotiating positions must be credible both for our partners in the EU and for Polish public opinion."
Speaking on the future of the EU, the minister stressed that "a strong and efficient European Commission and a European Parliament equipped with proper prerogatives are a guarantee that decisions taken by European institutions will take into account the common good of all the member states."
Bartoszewski stressed that Poland supports the principle of "open doors" in NATO and will actively support the expansion of the alliance to include Slovakia and the Baltic states.
Bartoszewski said the United States is among Poland's "most important partners," adding that close relations with the U.S. are "one of the strongest advantages that our foreign policy possesses." Bartoszewski noted that Poland is "consistently" in favor of "an active political and military" presence in Europe by the U.S.
The other partners named by Bartoszewski were Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, the Benelux countries, the states of the Baltic Sea region, Lithuania, and the Holy See.
Bartoszewski said Poland wants good relations with the East to be its contribution to the integration of the European continent.
Regarding contacts with Ukraine, the minister said Poland "is seeking by the means that are at its disposal to support the processes of transformation" in that country. He added that "we are seeking the greatest possible interest of the U.S. and the EU in confirming Ukraine in its European choice."
The minister termed Belarus "the difficult experience" of Poland's eastern policy. "[This is] a country located in the heart of the continent, which under the rule of President [Alyaksandr] Lukashenka is digging itself into self-isolation and drifting on the political peripheries of Europe." Nonetheless, he added, "we remain convinced of the need to continue an active policy both in relation to the authorities and also Belarusian society."
According to the minister, "the most interesting thing over the last decade" was the development of Poland's relations with Russia. "We will be making great efforts for the revival of political dialogue [with Russia] -- which expressed itself especially over the last 10 months in important statements and discussions and also visible acts of goodwill on both sides -- to transform it into cooperation by supporting the fruitful resolution of the joint economic problems, a list of which was presented by us to [Russian] Prime Minister [Mikhail] Kasyanov," Bartoszewski announced.
The following day, the parliament voted by 346 to 27, with 27 abstentions, to approve Bartoszewski's report.
INVESTIGATORS ACCUSE TOP OFFICIALS OF KILLING OPPOSITION POLITICIANS, ORT CAMERAMAN. The Charter-97 website on 11 June published a letter in the form of an interview by Dzmitry Petrushkevich and Aleh Sluchak, two investigators from Belarus's Prosecutor-General's Office, who accused top officials of organizing a death squad and murdering opposition politicians Yury Zakharanka and Viktor Hanchar as well as ORT cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski.
Petrushkevich -- who, according to the letter, was assigned to investigate the disappearance of Zavadski at Minsk Airport on 7 July 2000 -- said Zavadski was killed by a special death squad of Belarus's Interior Ministry. According to Petrushkevich, the group was commanded by Interior Ministry officer Dzmitry Paulyuchenka and included Valery Ihnatovich, who is currently under arrest. According to Petrushkevich, Paulyuchenka -- who was also arrested in the Zavadski case -- told former Prosecutor-General Aleh Bazhelka that Zavadski's body is buried near the Northern Cemetery in Minsk. Bazhelka tried to find Zavadski's body but was prevented from doing this by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who fired him and KGB chief Uladzimir Matskevich in a surprising security shake-up in November 2000 (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 5 December 2000). Belarus's new prosecutor-general, Viktar Sheyman, ordered Paulyuchenka's release from jail.
Sluchak, who formerly served as an investigator in the Prosecutor-General's Office, said in the letter that following the 1996 referendum, Security Council Secretary Viktar Sheyman ordered then-Interior Troops commander Yury Sivakou (Sivakou is now deputy head of the presidential administration) to form a group ready "to fulfill any orders, including killing." According to Sluchak, the group created by Sivakou and headed by Paulyuchenka consisted of a dozen people. The group was ordered to work out a pattern of "perfect murder." Sluchak said the group tested its killing method on several Belarusian criminals before murdering Lukashenka's opponents, former Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka and former Central Electoral Commission Chairman Viktar Hanchar, as well as Hanchar's friend Anatol Krasouski and ORT cameraman Zavadski. According to Sluchak, Paulyuchenka's death squad killed some 30 people in total. Investigators traced the group in connection with the Zavadski case after police officers found a shovel with "Zavadski's biological secretions" in Ihnatovich's car. Sluchak added that he had obtained all this information from other prosecutors and workers of the Belarusian KGB.
The Charter-97 website added that Petrushkevich and Sluchak promised to soon make public a video of their interview.
GUUAM COUNTRIES FORMALIZE THEIR ALLIANCE. During their meeting in Yalta on 7 June, the presidents of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova (GUUAM) signed a charter formalizing the hitherto loose alliance of the five states. The charter says GUUAM's main goals are to promote socioeconomic development of its members, resolve regional security problems, and fight international crime and narcotics trade.
According to the charter, GUUAM's supreme body is the Summit of the Head of States, while GUUAM's foreign ministers -- who are to gather for sessions twice a year -- are empowered to perform executive functions. The charter also stipulates the creation of GUUAM's working body, the Committee of National Coordinators, to which each member state is to propose one representative.
The GUUAM leaders, however, stopped short of signing an agreement on a free-trade zone within their alliance. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said some minor issues need to be discussed first, while Uzbek President Islam Karimov commented that the leaders recognize the need for a trade deal but added that the delay in signing the agreement is due to "formalities." Karimov noted that Moldova and Georgia, which are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), have no right to sign such an accord without approval from the WTO.
The five presidents told journalists after the Yalta summit that GUUAM does not intend to create its own "militarypolitical formation." They were also eager to assure that their alliance is not directed against the CIS as a whole nor Russia in particular.
Meanwhile, the Oleksandr Razumkov Ukrainian Center of Economic and Political Studies found in a poll conducted among 2,000 respondents throughout Ukraine and 100 experts from Kyiv in May that 62.6 percent of Ukrainians have not heard about GUUAM at all, 33.8 percent have heard about it but are not familiar with the alliance's plans or goals, while only 3.6 percent said they know what those plans and goals are.
According to the polled experts, among factors impeding the integration within GUUAM the most important ones are domestic political instability (59 percent) and low socioeconomic development (54 percent) of the alliance's members.
TWO RUKHS MOVE TO REUNITE? The Ukrainian Popular Rukh (led by Yuriy Kostenko) held a congress in Kyiv on 9 June, in which Kostenko and Hennadiy Udovenko, head of the Popular Rukh of Ukraine, signed a declaration on joining "a single bloc of national democratic forces" for next year's parliamentary elections. The two Rukh factions also pledged in the declaration to reunite into a single Rukh following those elections. Rukh split in February 1999 in a struggle over leadership between Kostenko and Vyacheslav Chornovil. Chornovil died in an automobile accident the next month, and Udovenko replaced him as the leader of the Rukh faction.
Apart from a delegation from the Udovenko-led Rukh, the congress was attended by Reforms and Order Party leader Viktor Pynzenyk, Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists leader Slava Stetsko, and former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko.
"This is the first step toward the unification of our parties, toward the creation of a powerful national democratic party of state-building [Ukrainian: derzhavnytska] orientation, which, I hope, will be joined by the Reforms and Order Party," the "Ukrayinska pravda" website quoted Udovenko as saying.
Yushchenko told the congress: "We have received an argument in favor of the
consolidation of democratic forces of Ukraine, and I'm convinced that it is a very important event for the future process of consolidation of political forces, that it is the beginning of a great and happy road."
Yushchenko declined to directly answer the question of whether he will head the planned bloc of democratic forces. "I will work along with others, I will make the steps necessary for the consolidation of democratic forces. As to who will head [the bloc], it is a question of trust," Yushchenko said.
While addressing the congress, Kostenko felt obliged to explain why his party is not in opposition to President Leonid Kuchma. "We have been working for democracy and reforms in our state, whereas yesterday's [Communist] Party nomenklatura that stayed in ruling posts took cover under our slogans and have remained in opposition to [the country's] independence, democracy, reforms, European choice, and national idea."
Kostenko told journalists after the congress that he does not rule out that the new bloc of national democratic forces might be joined by Yuliya Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party (which did not sent any representative to the Rukh's congress). However, he ruled out any election alliance with Oleksandr Moroz's Socialist Party. "We have not conducted, are not conducting, and will not conduct talks with the Socialist Party," Kostenko noted.
President Kuchma commented that the reunification pledge of the two Rukhs is a "farce." He said: "They call [this decision] a historic event. Is it an event if it was they alone who ruined [the single] Rukh? All this is a game, a farce, only it is covered with high-flown slogans."
READING CHINESE IN ODESA. Interfax-Ukraine on 6 June ran the following report in Ukrainian:
"A second publication in the Chinese language has appeared in Odesa. [Odesa's] Chinese community started to issue a newspaper called 'Land of China' with a circulation of 2,000 copies.
According to what Interfax-Ukraine was told by Editor in Chief Dmytro Chan, the inauguration of the second newspaper was prompted by the need to draw Odesa residents toward China's culture, traditions, and customs.
Despite the fact that the Chinese community in Odesa is not numerous and amounts to no more than 300 people -- that is, there are six newspaper copies for each Chinese -- both publications are distributed free of charge in Chinese restaurants, at outdoor vendor markets, and at the so-called 'Chinese Market.'
The new newspaper, according to kiosk keepers, sells pretty well [even] among those Odesa residents who are absolutely unfamiliar with the Chinese language."
"We have done a great deed, we have created a precedent, a tangible precedent of the unification of Slavic nations -- Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Close by, we have Moldova where normal leadership has come to power. If we fail to support it, this Moldovan leadership will perish. We are obliged -- first of all, Russia -- to support it in order to make people realize that normal leadership came to power. One must not be ashamed or afraid that communists came to power. Well, it does not matter that they are communists. All of us were communists. Normal, sympathetic people came [to power]. Ukraine is today drifting in our direction. Therefore, when we resolve [our problems in the Russia-Belarus Union], we will approach the resolution of yet another one, a very important one -- we will pull up to our union those states that we want to see here. I think Kazakhstan, too, will be here." -- Lukashenka in an address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Russia-Belarus Union in Hrodna on 5 June; quoted by Belarusian Television.
"RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report" is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.