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Democrats Take Over in Lvov

But bringing change to the region proves difficult as the legacy of Communist rule endures. REBELLION IN SOVIET UKRAINE

FIVE months after this region's revolution by ballot box, the winners are crying foul. The Communists, whom the ``Democratic Bloc'' defeated soundly in last March's elections for the Lvov regional council, have not relinquished many of the reins of power and are actively sabotaging the new council's decisions, says Ivan Hel, the council's deputy chairman.

``It is a case of authority without authority,'' says Lubomyr Senyk, vice-chairman of the Lvov chapter of Rukh, the Ukrainian national movement.

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Lvov, the capital of the fiercely independence-minded western Ukraine and of a region of 2.8 million people, is an important test case in the Soviet Union's continuing process of withering Communist authority.

Of all the opposition victories in last March's local elections (including Moscow and Leningrad), the Lvov region's was the most stunning: The Democratic Bloc took every seat representing Lvov region in the Ukrainian parliament. In the regional council, Democrats won 186 out of 200 seats. The city council is 85 percent Democratic. Many of the top political figures are former political prisoners, including Mr. Hel.

Speaking from his new office in a building that once housed only Communists, Hel recites a litany of examples to support his charge of insubordination:

The local KGB (secret police), Interior Ministry (which controls the militia), and television do not answer to the new local government, under a decree issued by the former government on the eve of its departure.

Directors of kolkhozy (collective farms) are not offering peasants land to lease, as instructed.

Russian Orthodox Churches are not handing over their property to Ukrainian Greek Catholic congregations, as they have been instructed to do in some villages.

In Lvov's Zolochev region, the old party apparatus ``whipped up public sentiment'' against the new regional government over use of a water pipeline, causing strikes and other disorders last month, Hel says.

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Even the building in which he sits is a point of contention. The regional party committee, under a ruling by the official arbiter of Lvov region, is to turn over the third floor to the regional council. Instead, it has appealed to republican authorities and, for now, remains in place.

Zinon Kotyk, an economic planner on the new council's executive committee, takes issue with Hel's charges.

``In essence, the party doesn't rule here anymore,'' says Mr. Kotyk, who calls himself politically independent, having just quit the Communist Party but also steering clear of Rukh.

``We're [new] here, and we're still lacking in administrative experience. So the party no longer rules, and we don't completely rule either. That's the complication of the current moment.''

Kotyk acknowledges the decree regarding the KGB and militia, but says that in practice most of the militia do carry out local orders. He also cites a ``mass exit'' from the party, in which thousands of employees of state-run enterprises are turning in their membership cards and dissolving party committees. The same process is happening in some villages, he adds.

But Hel still sees the long reach of the entrenched party structure at work in many of Lvov region's rural areas. As a longtime activist for the legalization of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic, or Uniate, Church - the main religion of the western Ukraine - he is particularly sensitive to the question of church property.

Since coming to power, the Lvov council has decreed the transfer of Russian Orthodox churches for the use of the Uniates in villages where they constitute a majority. But the decrees have not been followed and the militia are not enforcing them, he says.

``As a rule, the local village leadership - chairman of the village council, chairman of the kolkhoz, principal of the school - are all party members,'' says Hel. ``This administrative pyramid from the top obligated them to be Communists - and to be Orthodox.''

This was part, he says, of Moscow's Russification plan for the region, which Joseph Stalin took from Poland at the start of World War II. So naturally, the argument follows, these pro-Orthodox village leaders will not, without coercion, hand over property to a church that is technically still banned.

On the question of giving land to peasants, Hel says kolkhoz chairmen have marched right into his office and demanded to know how they're supposed to fulfill their quotas if they offer lifelong rent of land to peasants, as was decreed by the Lvov regional council.

``We tell them we'll just make adjustments in the quotas,'' Hel says. ``But what they're really afraid of is that the peasants will become independent and won't want to work on kolkhozy.''

Hel also complains that, in general, the policies of Moscow are suffocating local efforts to rebuild the economy. Of every 100 rubles earned, only 12 or 13 stay in the local budget.

Earlier this month, the Ukrainian parliament backed up its sovereignty declaration with a law on financial autonomy, which aims to establish the republic's own national bank, budgetary regulation, and customs service.

In the end, Hel tries to show at least some consideration for the Communists of Lvov. Even several months after the people rejected Vladimir Lenin's legacy, a giant statue of him graces the modest lobby of the government-party building where Hel works.

``It will be removed,'' he says. ``We're just trying to figure out how to get it out the door without having to break it into pieces.''

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