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POLISH PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER WON'T RULE OUT CLOSING EMBASSY IN BELARUS. Polish Sejm speaker Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz has called Belarusian accusations of espionage by Polish diplomats "absurd" and said that Poland may close its embassy in Belarus, Belapan reported on 26 July. "If we wanted to engage in spying in Belarus, we would use absolutely different methods," he told Radio Polonia on 26 July. The threat to close the embassy follows a bitter escalation of rhetoric between the two neighbors over the past two months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2005 and "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 27 May and 22 June 2005). Cimoszewicz added that the Belarusian authorities have used the diplomatic row to divert public attention from the country's domestic problems. RK
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS LAW SUSPENDING UKRTELEKOM PRIVATIZATION. Viktor Yushchenko has signed into law a bill passed by parliament on 5 July suspending the privatization of the Ukrainian telecommunications giant Ukrtelekom, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 26 July. The president's press office announced that the suspension will continue until the government comes up with a new privatization plan. The original law allowing for Ukrtelekom's privatization was passed on 13 July 2000 and allowed for the sale of a 42.86 percent stake, with 50 percent plus one share remaining with the state. The additional 7.14 percent of shares was to be sold to Ukrtelekom employees. A tender was to have taken place in August 2004 but was suspended by former President Leonid Kuchma, who said that the sale would fuel pre-election speculation about potential buyers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 20 August 2004). RK
UKRAINIAN OFFICIAL SAYS THREE-YEAR OVERHAUL OF ODESA OIL REFINERY WILL NOT CREATE FUEL CRISIS. Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Petro Poroshenko said that an announced three-year renovation project at the Odesa oil refinery will not create fuel shortages or a price increase in Ukraine, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 26 July. "This [repair] cannot possibly cause and will not cause any deficit of fuel on the Ukrainian market," he told a press conference in Kyiv. The Odesa refinery is owned by Russia's LUKoil, the management of which announced recently that it would undertake a $320 million, three-year project to upgrade it. RK
RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service spoke with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on 26 July about some of the biggest issues facing his country. Voronin addressed the roots of the Transdniester problem and his preferred path for solving the conflict, enlisting EU and U.S. help in persuading Moscow to remove Russian troops from Transdniester, and his vision of ideal relations with neighboring Romania.
RFE/RL: Now that the legislature in [the Moldovan capital] Chisinau has adopted a law on the principles that will guide the future status of the regions east of the Dniester River, is there a risk of losing this territory [Transdniester] and of an irreversible consolidation of this area under the Ukrainian umbrella? There seemed to be an acceleration in the adoption of this law immediately after [Transdniestrian leader] Igor Smirnov's visit to Kyiv.
Voronin: No, by no means. There has been talk for a long time about the possibility that this territory of Moldova could be taken away from Moldova. If we recall some of the causes of the Transdniestrian conflict, perhaps this separation was at the heart of this conflict. But there is the 1975 Helsinki declaration about the integrity of countries, of borders; and we and the entire international community are guided by this Helsinki declaration. There is no reason why we should be afraid that after the adoption of this law, the disintegration process could develop further. [Ukrainian President Viktor] Yushchenko coordinated Smirnov's visit to Kyiv with me personally; the visit was organized to familiarize Smirnov with some of the elements of our joint Moldovan-Ukrainian declaration, which is based on the Yushchenko plan. On our request -- mine and Mr. Yushchenko's -- the European Union will soon start monitoring the Moldovan-Ukrainian border. These were the points discussed in Kyiv.
RFE/RL: How do you see, in practical terms, the dismantlement of the machinery called "Transdniester," which is controlled today by the Tiraspol KGB?
Voronin: I am relying very much on the support of European organizations, mainly the EU, on assistance from the United States; in a joint effort, we should persuade the Russian Federation to pull both its troops and munitions out of Transdniester, because the presence of the Russian military there is a political umbrella and a form of support for the separatist regime in Transdniester, even though it is not acknowledged openly. I am also relying heavily on the notions included in this new law concerning the democratization and demilitarization of the Transdniestrian regime. The fear that this KGB-style regime instills every day in the citizens of our country living in Transdniester is the biggest obstacle to resolving the Transdniestrian conflict. People there cannot openly express their opinions; they cannot participate openly in elections; nor can they participate openly in any political, cultural, social, or other activities.
As soon as we started discussing very seriously, and I would even say firmly, the issues of the Russian troop withdrawal, the weapons withdrawal, the resolution of the Transdniestrian conflict, closing the borders, identifying the smuggling and trafficking in human beings, and so forth, our relationship with the Russian Federation started to deteriorate.
RFE/RL: Several years ago, you were ready to pay for the reunification of Moldova by resigning from your post as president on condition that Smirnov resigned too. If today Moscow, in agreement with Washington, put forward such a tough condition, would you accept it?
Voronin: Any condition has to be based on something. If Smirnov and I are placed on the same level, then I want to see some arguments why I -- a president elected by the people of Moldova in free and democratic elections -- must be placed on the same scale as these carpetbaggers and criminals from Transdniester. I think that what happened four years ago, when we didn't know what fed this separatist regime, could not happen today. Today it is no longer the case that we could be regarded as equal -- no matter who the president is, it is not about specifically Voronin -- with a separatist, criminal regime in Transdniester.
RFE/RL: There has been a lot of speculation in the media that some officials in Chisinau could be vulnerable to blackmail -- and even have been blackmailed -- after files disappeared from the security-services offices. Have you tried to find out whether there is such evidence, which could allow Tiraspol to influence the decisions taken in Chisinau through such methods?
Voronin: Today the Information and Security Service of Moldova has no record of such files. There was no such record here in the times of the Socialist Moldova either, because files of this kind were kept at the KGB in Moscow. Therefore, neither the Information and Security Service of Moldova nor myself has any information on such files or on who they might concern. But I have to say that I don't exclude the possibility that somebody could be blackmailed. In any event, nothing has been proven so far, and we are watching the situation closely. We don't have evidence to this effect so far, but I don't exclude that such cases might exist.
RFE/RL: How could [Moldova's] relationship with Russia be improved in practical terms? Some analysts have said that since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Moscow has always interpreted the expression of friendship and good-neighborly feelings toward Moscow as an expression of vassality and submissiveness. I could say the same of the change in such feelings toward you after your visits --during your first years in office, you were very much welcome in Moscow, and you went there with a certain type of feelings that Moscow probably interpreted as a bowed head; but more recently you have become a sort of persona non grata in Moscow. Can Russia overcome this attitude toward the former Soviet republics, and especially toward the Republic of Moldova?
Voronin: This question has several components. Until we raised to the appropriate level and stated firmly the Transdniestrian issue, our relations were very clear, very serene. But as soon as we started discussing very seriously, and I would even say firmly, the issues of the Russian troop withdrawal, the weapons withdrawal, the resolution of the Transdniestrian conflict, closing the borders, identifying the smuggling and trafficking in human beings, and so forth, our relationship with the Russian Federation started to deteriorate. The Russian Federation has to give up -- not only in its relations with Moldova but with all the other former Soviet republics, too -- its imperial fixation, which it still brings to the present day into all forms of interaction with our countries. If they fail to overcome this imperial fixation, there will always be problems. We are not a big brother and little brother; we are an independent country, a sovereign country, and we ought to be treated by the Russian Federation as any other independent, sovereign state.
RFE/RL: Was Romania really ready to go to war in 1992, as the Transdniestrian leaders claim today, with reference to some [historical] files? Their most recent declarations in this respect were made by the leader of the Transdniestrian Supreme Soviet, Grigori Marakutsa.
Voronin: I have never heard this -- either in '92 or since then -- and I am not aware of such files. In the Moldovan archives, there are no documents that could confirm Romania's intention to become involved in the Transdniestrian conflict. On the contrary, all these years -- especially recently, since Traian Basescu was elected president -- Romania has been showing a very clear attitude toward the reintegration of Moldova and toward the issues linked to the Transdniestrian conflict, and Romania is supporting us in various international and European forums when it comes to this issue.
RFE/RL: How does Chisinau envisage a good relationship with Romania? What components should this relationship have? I personally witnessed you promise to develop much better relations with Romania than the previous presidents did.
Voronin: Romania and Ukraine are the two neighbors that Moldova has, and traditionally relations with neighbors have to be good; and our intention is to keep them good in the future, as well. We are ready, on our side, to take all the necessary steps to improve these relations. Moreover, we have no territorial problems with Romania; we don't face other problems that have appeared in other countries after the collapse of empires. In terms of the economy, cultural and social issues, aspects related to our European orientation and in many other areas -- whether it concerns the government or the fact of us being neighbors, or whether it concerns institutions operating in both countries in various areas -- we are ready to do everything it takes to develop further our relations with Romania. Romania and Moldova ought to be the most important partners in various areas of activity and development of our countries.
RFE/RL: Can we say, then, that the old page we remember -- when the former minister of justice, Mr. [Ion] Morei, was speaking in Strasbourg about the interference of neighbors into Moldova's internal affairs -- has been turned? Is this a change of attitude only in Bucharest, or in Chisinau, too?
Voronin: I can state with full responsibility that there has been a change both in Bucharest and in Chisinau, and it can already be seen and felt by both Moldovan and Romanian citizens.
RFE/RL: President Basescu recently launched the notion of "two countries, one nation." Do you accept this formula, or have you simply not rejected it officially? Or has the discussion around it merely been postponed for another time?
Voronin: Anyone in such a position has the right to express their personal opinion. This is why I don't think I should rush to respond to this opinion. This is Mr. Basescu's opinion, while I see things differently -- we have always been and will always be Moldovans, and our country is the Republic of Moldova. But I agree with what Mr. Basescu said further down the road -- that is, we are going to meet and be together in the community of European countries. This is a clear statement of truth, for which both Romania and Moldova are preparing.
RFE/RL: Could it be said that, in the context of the European integration of Romania and Moldova, the issue of unification has disappeared? This has always been a political scarecrow, and purportedly because of it the Communists and the left in general didn't accept the notions of "Romanian language" or "Romanian nation."
Voronin: I do believe that our European integration will solve a host of problems, some of which we are not even aware of today or don't see emerging in the near future. Concerning the issues of language and national identity, they will stay, because each country has its own nation, language, history, culture, and everything else that characterizes a country. The same is true of the Moldovan nation. As two years ago we declared that Moldova was a multiethnic state, we have nothing against any nation living in Moldova, no matter what it might be -- Romanians, Russians, Bulgarians, or Gagauz. This is why these issues should not be brought into a discussion today. Moreover, when we started interacting with the new Romanian president, Traian Basescu, we talked about exactly this. Such issues are up to linguists, historians, or any other specialists -- but not up to politicians. And they should not be the basis of any sort of relations.