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OTHER DUMA ACTIONS. The Duma on 22 June approved amendments to legislation that will increase social guarantees to the relatives and children of Heroes of Russia and Heroes of the Soviet Union, Interfax reported. The same day, the Duma rejected a proposal by Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov to create a special nonbudget fund for defense, and refused to consider a measure introduced by LDPR leader and Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky to condemn the papal visit to Ukraine and another measure that would have condemned the visit to St. Petersburg of Leni Riefenstahl, the former Nazi filmmaker. PG
PATRIARCH HEADS TO BELARUS TO UNDERMINE POPE'S VISIT TO UKRAINE... As part of his continuing campaign against the visit to Ukraine by Pope John Paul II, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II is in Belarus, not so much to mark the anniversary of Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union as to try to diminish attention to the pope's ongoing visit to Ukraine, polit.ru commented on 23 June. VY
POPE BEGINS HISTORIC VISIT TO UKRAINE... Pope John Paul II on 23 June began his visit to Ukraine by saying that he is not there to convert Orthodox Christians and asking that errors of both the distant and recent past that have split Orthodox and Catholic Christians be forgiven, world agencies reported. The 81-year-old pontiff was greeted at Kyiv's airport by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and offered the traditional Ukrainian welcoming gifts of salt and bread. "I have not come with the intention of proselytizing but to bear witness to Christ together with all Christians with every church," the pope said in his arrival address, delivered in fluent Ukrainian. JM
...PRAYS FOR VICTIMS OF TOTALITARIANISM. John Paul II on 24 June paid tribute to Ukrainian Christians persecuted during the "dark times of the communist terror" and to Jews murdered by the Nazis. "Land of Ukraine, drenched with the blood of martyrs, thank you for the example of fidelity to the Gospel, which you have given to Christians the world over," the pope said during his first mass on Ukrainian soil. Later the same day, the pope met with leaders of Ukraine's religious organizations. Patriarch Volodymyr, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) whose believers repeatedly protested the pontiff's visit in past weeks, did not attend the meeting. JM
POLL SAYS MOST UKRAINIANS APPROVE OF POPE'S VISIT. Ukraine's Oleksandr Razumkov Center of Economic and Political Studies has found in a poll held from 20 April to 3 May among 2,000 adult Ukrainians that 53.2 percent of respondents approve of Pope John Paul II's visit to Ukraine, while 4.4 percent said they want to listen to the pope during a mass, Interfax reported on 23 June. Of those polled, 31.1 percent said they are indifferent to the pontiff's visit, 6.8 percent said they disapprove of the visit, and 0.4 percent announced that they intend to participate in protest actions against the visit. JM
ILIESCU SAYS TREATY WITH RUSSIA POSSIBLE DURING HIS MANDATE. Romanian President Iliescu on 22 June also told the staff of the Institute for Political Research (see above) that he believes it will be possible to sign the pending basic treaty with Russia before he ends his mandate in 2004. Iliescu said the dispute over the Romanian state treasury held by Russia since World War I need not be solved by the treaty, as there are other channels for doing so. He also said he believes the treaty with Russia will be "far less problematic" than that signed with Ukraine in 1997. MS
This month's heated and -- at times -- violent debate on the floor of the State Duma on the Land Code has focused new attention on the prominence of one member of the Communist faction, Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev. While Communist Georgii Tikhonov received a blow in the stomach as deputy member Vladimir Bryntsalov butted him with his head during the State Duma's turbulent discussion of the Land Code on 15 June, it was Duma Chairman Seleznev who had to be taken to the hospital. In interviews conducted after the session, "KommersantDaily" reported that many deputies believed that Seleznev's illness was perhaps of a "diplomatic" nature. These sources claim that during a break in the session, Seleznev spoke on the phone with President Putin who was unhappy about the Communists marching stormily out of the hall before the voting. However, sources close to Seleznev angrily denied these allegations, insisting that Seleznev was indeed feeling poorly. Nikolai Kharitonov, leader of the AgroIndustrialists Group, said Seleznev's blood pressure was 210 over 160. They also argue that when Seleznev does not agree with the policy line that the Communist faction is taking he simply abstains from voting.
Of course, only Seleznev's doctor knows for sure, but as the tensions between the Communist Party and the Kremlin/White House increase, Seleznev, who has an almost unblemished record of support for President Putin, may find himself trying to walk a fine line. However, if any politician can maintain such a delicate balance, it is perhaps Seleznev, who has developed a reputation for both tactical brilliance and diplomatic tact.
Although he was born in the Urals, in the city of Serov in Sverdlovsk Oblast in 1947, he has spent the bulk of his professional life in St. Petersburg/Leningrad. In 1963, he finished his studies at a professional-technical school after which he worked as a lathe operator at a defense enterprise in Leningrad. After a stint in the Soviet army, he worked his way up through the ranks of the Komsomol, again in the city of Leningrad. In 1974, he finished his professional training as a journalist at Leningrad State University, and began his quick ascent through the upper reaches of Soviet journalism, managing two of the most popular and important newspapers, "Komsomolskaya pravda" and "Pravda." He spent most of the 1980s as chief editor of "Komsomolskaya pravda." From 1991 to 1993 he was chief editor of "Pravda." In June 1990, Seleznev was elected as a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and almost five years later, he was elected secretary of the Central Committee -- a post which he had to give up a year later after he was elected chairman of the State Duma. From 1988 to 1991 he also served as secretary of the Union of Journalists.
In December 1993, he was elected to the new State Duma from the Communist Party list. In the first Duma he served as deputy chairman of the Committee on Information Policy, and from January to December 1995 he served as deputy chairman of the Duma. In December 1995, he was re-elected to the second Duma from the Communist Party list for the Far Eastern region. In January 1996 he won the Duma's top post, defeating Ivan Rybkin and Vladimir Lukin.
As a legislator, Seleznev has shown a keen interest in projects that would reintegrate the former Soviet states, prompting some analysts to view him not so much as a communist but as a Russian nationalist with a left orientation. Seleznev has frequently proposed that Ukraine join the Union of Russia and Belarus, and on at least one occasion suggested that the solution to the "Crimea problem" is to rejoin Russia and Ukraine.
In the summer of 2000, Seleznev launched the Rossiya movement, prompting scads of articles in the Russian media speculating that the Communist Party had splintered (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2000). And indeed there have long been indications of tension in the upper ranks of the Communist Party, particularly between Seleznev and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov. For example, in 1996, when Yabloko deputy Yelena Mizulina proposed putting to vote a motion to strip Seleznev of his post as chairman, Zyuganov voted with Mizulina in favor of holding the vote, according to "Izvestiya" at the time. More recently, at last December's Communist Party congress, Seleznev arrived a day late for the event and announced that he was quitting his position on the editorial board of "Pravda" because has been unable to publicize his position on the Rossiya movement.
Last summer when the Rossiya movement was founded, a number of Moscow political observers suggested that the Kremlin was in fact behind the movement's creation as a bid to weaken the Communist Party. Rumors of a close connection between Seleznev and the Kremlin began during Seleznev's unsuccessful bid to win the governor's seat of Moscow Oblast, when President Putin openly spoke out in favor of Seleznev's candidacy. Later, during the beginning weeks of the third Duma, the pro-Kremlin groups, Unity and People's Deputy, formed an alliance with the Communists and supported Seleznev for a second term as State Duma speaker.
And following his re-election as speaker, Seleznev's record of voting in the Duma and public pronouncements have added fuel to the speculation that Seleznev is closely allied to the Kremlin. For example during the initial stages of the Media-MOST scandal -- when its head Vladimir Gusinskii was arrested and placed in the notorious Butyrka prison -- Seleznev was one of the few Moscow-based politicians to not criticize the Kremlin for its handling of the affair (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2000). On other occasions, Seleznev has also managed to arrange to be out of the country during key votes on bill over which the Communists and Kremlin were at odds.
Following the recent Land Code brawl, Seleznev is likely to retain his post if only because there are so few eligible candidates to replace him. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" noted on 21 June that "most factions have already made it clear that they wouldn't mind seeing Gennadii Seleznev replaced." Members of the new pro-Kremlin majority would like someone from the Unity faction or People's Deputy group to replace Seleznev, such as Deputy Speaker (Unity) Lyubov Sliska or head of the People's Deputy group Gennadii Raikov. However, according to the daily, no deputies thought Sliska was competent enough to assume a top leadership position. And Raikov similarly has too little experience with national-level politics. So until a new replacement can be found, Seleznev may remain at the Duma's head. (Julie A. Corwin)