RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report: excerpts

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Subject: RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report: excerpts

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RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report: excerpts

RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report
Vol. 2, No. 21, 6 June 2000
A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by
the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team.





independent newspapers, the Russian-language "Belorusskaya delovaya
gazeta" and the bilingual "Narodnaya volya," received two warnings
each from the State Press Committee. Two such warnings give the
authorities grounds to seek a legal ban on the publications. Taking
into account that another independent newspaper, the
Belarusian-language "Nasha niva," was earlier given two warnings (see
"RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 16 and 23 May 2000),
"Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" on 31 May concluded that the
authorities have begun preparations for this fall's parliamentary
elections by muzzling the independent press.

"Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" was twice warned against "stirring up
ethnic intolerance or discord." The committee detected the first
offense in two articles published in February. Those articles,
according to the newspaper, discussed how Poland and Israel have
worked "toward the truth about Auschwitz." The committee's
justification for the warning, as quoted by the newspaper, is of a
particular interest:

"To present the discussion between representatives of the Polish and
Israeli communities regarding the reception of the Auschwitz tragedy,
the newspaper used quotes from well-known or unknown persons, which
allegedly characterize the relations between the Polish and Israeli
nations. As a result of this used technique, the opinions of
individuals that stir up ethnic intolerance are identified with the
general attitude of one nation toward the other."

The second warning refers to a reader's letter published by
"Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" in March. According to the committee,
the letter "insults the ethnic dignity of those Republic of Belarus
citizens who are of Russian origin." To support the argument, the
committee quoted from the letter: "We should realize a simple truth:
the Russian Federation citizens [in Russian: rossiyane] are not a
nation; owing to a number of reasons they have not completed their
formation and do not have stable national traditions, except, of
course, great-power chauvinism and the aspiration for easy money."

"Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" responded:

"Not touching upon the meaning of this statement (particularly since
it was impudently torn out of context), we will simply ascertain the
obvious: only a blind person may fail to see that we have here in
black and white: ROSSIYANE [Russian Federation citizens]. Russian
Federation citizens, not Russians [in Russian: russkie]. So, we ask:
Where does the State Press Committee see an insult to the ethnic
dignity of those Republic of Belarus citizens who are of Russian
origin?! And why has the committee failed to see an insult, for
example, to the Tatars?"

"Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" said it will sue State Press Committee
Mikhail Padhayny, who signed the warnings, for his "absurd charges"
against the newspaper.

Ukraine's well-known composer Ihor Bilozir died at the age of 45 on 28
May as a result of the fatal injury he sustained earlier the same
month, after which he fell into coma. Bilozir was injured by
Russian-speaking attackers who did not like his singing Ukrainian
songs with friends in a cafe.

Following Bilozir's death, Lviv has been swept by a wave of
anti-Russian sentiment. Public opinion in the city believes that
Bilozir was attacked and died because of the intolerance of Ukraine's
Russians toward all things Ukrainian, including Ukraine's independence
and indigenous cultural heritage. The atmosphere in the city became
even more tense after it became known that one of the arrested
attackers was the son of a top police officer in Lviv. The other
assailant, who was released on bail, has disappeared, and his
whereabouts are unknown to the police.

Bilozir's death has been met with anger and dismay in the west
Ukrainian city. On 28 May a group of radicals demolished a Lviv cafe
in which Russian songs were being sung. Lviv Mayor Vasyl Kuybida, who
arrived at the cafe 15 minutes after the incident, commented: "Some
people have been carried away by [their] emotions." But he assured the
population that the city authorities keep the situation in the city in

The Social-National Party of Ukraine, an ultranationalist group, held
a rally in the center of Lviv on 29 May to remember Ihor Bilozir.
Interfax reported that there were no incidents, although some
participants shouted "Blood for blood" and proposed to exact revenge
for Bilozir's death.

Some 3,000 angry young radicals marched through Lviv on 30 May,
shouting "Down with the Russians!" The protesters demanded that the
authorities "de-Russify Ukraine" and sack all Russian-speaking
servicemen from the city police force. Hundreds of them later
vandalized the "Tsarska kava" cafe, in which a group of Russian
speakers had been involved in the brawl with Bilozir and his friends
over which songs - Ukrainian or Russian - should be sung there.

Later on 30 May, tens of thousands of Lviv residents participated in
Bilozir's funeral. The ceremony was well-organized and passed without

Copyright (c) 2000. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.
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.
Direct comments to Jan Maksymiuk at maksymiukj@rferl.org. For
information on subscriptions or reprints, contact Paul Goble in
Washington at (202) 457-6947 or at goblep@rferl.org. Back issues are
online at http://www.rferl.org/pbureport/
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