Wnierdzej, 27 ugustu 2004 o.

Polarisation around Volhynian referendum

WARSINA/WILEŃ/ŁUCK (WASP) — Tension rises in Volhynia. Last Wednesday Lithuania's prime minister Pustys already firmly denounced the referendum launched by the provincial authorities about a merger of the province with the Autonomous Region of Galicia. Yesterday, interior minister Algirdas Sznieckus said that he will use the police if the Volhynians go along with it.

Governor Paliczny of Volhynia is furious. "What do they actually think they are doing?", he said. "Using brutal force against unarmed people who want nothing but to exercise their democratic rights? Bah! This corrupt government is clearly transforming the country into a police state. Is it thát much we are asking? We have no intention of seceeding from the Republic, nor even do we intend to leave Lithuania. But if they will use violence against us, we will not hesitate to strike back."

In the meantime, both the camp of supporters of the referendum and the camp of opponents against it are growing. Already on Wednesday, the organisation of Czechs in Volhynia joined the Ukrainians in their endeavours; yesterday, the organisations of Belarussians and Polessians did the same, as well as the PKRDK1. Volhynia's two major Jewish organisations have declared neutrality in the matter.

In Galicia, the referendum has encountered less resistance thus far. The anti-Ruthenian party "Nostra Galicja", and the National Democracy (DN) have both called the Veneds of Galicia to boycot the referendum and to do whatever lies in their possibilities to stop it. But Veneda's mainstream parties seem less determined than their Lithuanian counterparts. Justice minister Kryszkot: "The whole thing is of course ridiculous. Obviously, this referendum has no legal status at all, and we are not bound to it in whatever way. But if they really want to go along with it, then let them have it. It is their own local thing, after all. Strange that they organise a referendum about usurping another state's territory, though."

It is still unknown what stance the central government of the Republic will take. Minister Petruszenko of Nationalities and Religious Affairs has expressed her unambiguous support for the referendum. On the other hand, ministers Urbaitis and Dwarionas, both members of the Lithuanian Respublikonai, have already said that no government with their support will ever go along with it.

The Sejm has appointed as special committee to investigate the situation.

1 Communist Party of the RTC.