Gas problem intensifies
Ukrainian Prime Minister Victor Yushchenko had a meeting on Friday with his Russian colleague Mikhail Kasyanov to discuss Russian-Ukrainian gas relations. The major topic of discussion was the compilation of a special timetable that specifies how long Ukraine will have to pay off its debts to Russia. Yushchenko said the country would repay USD two billion as compensation for Russian gas consumed.
Although official results of the meeting between the two prime ministers are not published yet, this important meeting almost did not take place. Originally planned for an earlier time, the meeting was postponed because of other official visits and negotiations, among them the visit of the European Commission President, Romano Prodi to Kyiv.
At the beginning of last week the country was stirred up by an articlein a Russian newspaper that predicted the forthcoming dismissal of Yushchenko—which will allegedly take place immediately after the American elections in case of a Bush victory. The newspaper refers to a source in the Ukrainian presidential administration.
Despite the Prime Minister's spokesperson officially denying this story, the article had a big impact on the political situation in the country. Although Yushchenko's possible dismissal is not a new issue in national politics (it has already been discussed with different degrees of probability several times), the fact that Nezavisimaya Gazeta devoted its pages to it has caught the public's interest.
The Russian newspaper has, once before, predicted the dismissal of a Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs. The dismissal followed immediately after the publication even though most Ukrainians were not quite sure what would happen. What is it about the current prediction then? Did the Russian newspaper misfire or should we wait until the results of American elections are announced?
Meanwhile, two events added colour to Ukrainian-Russian negotiations. On the eve of the meeting, the Russian state gas company, Gazprom, declared that they had officially registered unsanctioned consumption of Russian gas from Ukraine.
Gazprom did not explain how illegal consumption was registered nor could they account for the amount of stolen gas, saying that until now the quantity was not too big. "However, Gazprom fears that with winter approaching Ukraine may increase the process of theft considerably," reports Russian online information source Strana.ru, quoting one of Gazprom's representatives.
In turn, Ukraine's Prime Minister faces not only problematic negotiations with Russia, but joyful moments of his family life as well. Last Tuesday his wife Katherina successfully gave birth to their second daughter whom Yushchenko wants to name Khrystyna.
Gore—Ukrainian Communist leader?
As Radio Free Europe reports, Freedom Found has conducted a telephone survey among the citizens of Ukraine. More than 800 people were asked to identify which particular statements belonged to national and international politicians.
Results of the survey are more than interesting: 65 percent of respondents were sure that a statement by Al Gore was a statement by the leader of Ukrainian Communists, Petro Symonenko.
On the other hand, 47 percent decided that the quote of George W Bush, "I will unite the nation. We will not come apart and be at odds with each other anymore. We are going to prove that politics can be better and higher," was a statement by the president of Ukraine.
Religion getting more political
After the sensational news about the Pope's visit to Ukraine next summer (see previous news reviews), national religious communities continue to surprise the country and even more Russian religious and political authorities, with the next steps toward Ukrainian independence from Moscow's religious guardianship.
On 8 November, two branches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church—signed an agreement to begin the process of unification.
This became possible through the active involvement and mediation of Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew.
Although the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate remains the most populated parish in the country—69 percent of all parishes in Ukraine are under Russian religious jurisdiction—unification of the two other Ukrainian Orthodox Churches, which together constitute 31 percent of parishes, can be a very important step towards peace between different branches of Orthodoxy in Ukraine as well as possible official recognition of a united Ukrainian Orthodox Church by other Orthodox churches.
From now on, the Russian Orthodox Church will spread its rights over Ukraine and its Ukrainian branch—the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate is recognised as the official Orthodox Church of Ukraine. This church, in turn, does not recognise the two others and even more, according to the decision of Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, the leader of the Kyiv Patriarchate Philaret was anathematised several years ago.
Patriarch Bartholomew joins in
Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew has made a serious and difficult decision to assist the unification of two national Ukrainian churches that are not in favour with Moscow. Although all Orthodox churches are considered equal in their own right, Moscow normally has a leading position.
Now, Constantinople Patriarchy, which has a Universal title, has decided to intervene in this religious and politically dangerous problem.
As a Kyiv Post article reports, last month, the Moscow patriarchate sent a letter to Bartholomew asking him not to interfere in the Ukrainian case. "The pulling of Your Sanctity into the Ukrainian conflict will not bring anything good," read the letter from the clergy council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate. "It will not only aggravate the present split, but will lead to new splits."
"Any participation from your side in this conflict may cause a crisis and even split the Orthodox world. Obviously, the split may be solved only by efforts from inside," the appeal continued, reports the Kiev Post. These words seem to be very familiar—only a week ago Russian media predicted new splits, crisis and conflict in Ukraine in the event of the Catholic Pope's arrival.
Religion is not politics or at least should not be politics. However, it is worth questioning whether Ukraine will be supported by other religious communities—primarily Orthodox ones—in its attempt for religious independence from Moscow, or, will the religious sphere face similar difficulties as with political and economic relations in trying to get rid of the very strong embraces of its northern guardian?
Natalya Krasnoboka, 17 November 2000
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Den', Daily national newspaper
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Ukrainska Pravda, online independent
Facts, Daily national newspaper
The Kyiv Post, National weekly in English
UA Today, Information server
Information server of Russian government
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Daily Russian newspaper