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Newsline - April 10, 2000




DUMA TO RATIFY START-2 BY MONTH'S END?

In an interview with Reuters on 7 April, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott revealed that Moscow has told Washington the State Duma might ratify the START-2 treaty before Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov visits the U.S. capital at the end of April. "The Russians continue to assure us, including in the last 24 hours, that the process of ratifying START-2 in the Duma is under way," Talbott commented. With regard to START-3, he noted that the U.S. would like to see progress toward its ratification "continue and even accelerate," adding that such a position is "quite consistent" with the need to adjust the 1972 Anti- Ballistic Missile treaty so that "both sides can deal with a new problem, which is the proliferation of ballistic missiles." Russia has repeatedly rejected any changes to the ABM treaty. JC

PUTIN TO PROPOSE 'POLITICAL PLAN' FOR CHECHNYA...

One day after the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) moved to suspend Russia's membership in the council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2000), President-elect Vladimir Putin told Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Moscow that he will announce a "political plan" for Chechnya later this week. The Kremlin's spokesman on Chechnya, Sergei Yastrzhembskii, hastily clarified that this "plan" deals with creating "a system of authority" in the republic, while Kremlin sources stressed that Putin did not discuss a "settlement" to the conflict in Chechnya, Interfax reported. Yastrzhembskii also noted that Moscow does not intend to impose direct presidential rule, adding that "this formula has no legal basis" (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2000). JC

...INTENT ON DEVELOPING TIES WITH EU

At the start of the same meeting, Putin remarked that Russia will continue to strive for closer ties with the EU. He added that Moscow "welcomes" the enlargement of the union but hopes that it will "not hurt in any way" Russia's relations with those countries aiming for EU membership. Meanwhile, Javier Solana told "Vremya MN" of 8 April that while the EU considers Russia's behavior in Chechnya "unacceptable" and will maintain pressure on Moscow, "the discussion about sanctions is over." Solana explained that "we are pragmatic and need a permanent dialogue with Russia." EU foreign ministers are due to meet in Luxembourg on 10-11 April for a meeting expected to focus on EU relations with Russia in light of the ongoing military campaign in Chechnya. JC

PACE MEMBERS NOT TO RECEIVE VISAS FOR CHECHNYA

Kremlin spokesman on Chechnya Yastrzhembskii said on 7 April that following PACE's decision to move toward suspending Russia's membership in the council, Moscow has decided to end all visits to Chechnya under the aegis of PACE, including visits by its leaders. While PACE had until now been able to play a "certain role" in the processes taking place in Russia, "this door has now been slammed shut," he added. Meanwhile, EU foreign-policy chief Solana remarked after his meeting with Putin the same day that he, Gama, and EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten are tentatively planning to visit Chechnya on 13-14 April. JC

U.S. SAYS CHECHNYA IS ISOLATING MOSCOW

U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said on 7 April that Washington understands the decision of PACE to move to suspend Russia's membership unless "it improves its human rights record in Chechnya," Reuters reported. He added that "the world is increasingly concerned" by Moscow's approach and that "hopefully at some point the calculus in Moscow will change." Meanwhile, French President Jacques Chirac on 8 April telephoned Russian President-elect Putin to urge him to seek a negotiated settlement in Chechnya, AP reported. PG

MOSCOW PLANS NEW CHECHEN DETENTION CENTER

Deputy Justice Minister Yurii Kalinin told ITAR-TASS on 7 April that the Russian authorities will open another detention center in Chechnya in late April or early May. The new center will be located in Grozny and will supplement the work of the Chernokozovo site. He said that 89 people are currently being held at the latter site, including the leader of one rebel unit. PG

MILITARY FEARS REBELS WILL RETURN WITH REFUGEES

An unnamed military source told ITAR-TASS on 7 April that "it is not ruled out that militants and foreign mercenaries might come back to Chechnya together with refugees." Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman on Chechnya Yastrzhembskii reported that 146,993 refugees have now returned to Chechnya. Moscow officials said the same day that approximately 76,000 refugees remain in Ingushetia, but Ingush leader Ruslan Aushev said that the number is 207,000, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. PG

RUSSIAN MILITARY ADOPTS GUERRILLA TACTICS

NTV reported on 9 April that the Russian military "is starting to use the tactics of partisan war--that is, a tactic that corresponds to what the fighters are doing." In what the station said was a fundamental change in strategy, Russian troops are now dividing up into small groups rather than remaining concentrated. This shift, the station said, is in response to Chechen tactics. Meanwhile, Russian air strikes continued against suspected Chechen concentrations in the south of the republic. PG

DID WEST SUPPLY MOSCOW WITH INTELLIGENCE ON CHECHNYA?

Citing German government sources, the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" reported on 8 April that following the spate of bomb attacks on Russian cities last year, U.S., German and other Western secret services supplied Russia with information about suspected Chechen "terrorists." Reuters quoted the weekly "Der Spiegel" as saying that German and Russian agents swapped "low-grade intelligence" on whether Chechens were receiving funds from international Muslim groups. The same report said that other countries, including the U.S., Britain, and France, gave "much more precise data." JC

PUTIN DROPS BY GAZPROM...

President-elect Putin paid a visit to Gazprom headquarters on 7 April where he met with Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev. Putin told reporters that he is "confident" that "state interests" will unite Gazprom and Unified Energy Systems (EES), which have been feuding. He added that the companies are "natural partners and rivals." Earlier in the week, EES Chairman Anatolii Chubais announced that Russia's electricity monopoly will cut electricity supplies by 25 percent because of a dramatic drop in supplies from Gazprom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2000). However, on 7 April Fuel Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii told reporters that "Gazprom has met all of its commitments to EES in the first quarter...at the moment there is a drop in gas supplies. But it is a routine occurrence and cannot be news to EES." He added that there is no conflict between the two companies. The next day, "Kommersant-Daily" agreed, noting that the two company heads have agreed to blame Kalyuzhnii for the current crisis. JAC

...AS FAR EASTERN RESIDENTS FIND SPRING CHILLY

The press service of Dalenergo announced on 7 April that the heating season in Vladivostok may end on 10 April, Interfax- Eurasia reported on 7 April. According to the utility, fuel reserves will last only until that day and the company's current financial difficulties make it unlikely that it will be able to purchase new supplies. According to the agency, local temperatures are currently reaching highs of only 2-3 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii in Kamchatka Oblast is again without heat, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 April. According to the daily, the heating season in that city should not finish until 15 June. Local newspapers noted that energy shortages were a common occurrence in the area until the start of the presidential campaign: since the beginning of the year neither heat nor light had been cut off once. JAC

PUTIN TO TRY TO RESOLVE SKURATOV QUESTION

Ekho Moskvy reported on 7 April that according to an unidentified source in the presidential administration President-elect Putin will ask the members of the Federation Council to dismiss suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov at its next session on 19 April. Earlier, former President Boris Yeltsin tried three times to have that body dismiss Skuratov, but the senators resisted on each occasion. "Segodnya" speculated on 8 April that the Putin administration is in a hurry to resolve the Skuratov question because the latter's continued presence in that position is a "symbol of governors' willfulness." Speaking on Ekho Moskvy, Skuratov promised to give senators new information on 19 April about his investigations of the Kremlin, which led to his suspension. Skuratov ran in the recent presidential elections in which he finished ninth in a field of 11, attracting only 0.43 percent of the total vote. JAC

PUTIN ALTERS STATUS OF SECURITIES COMMISSION

President-elect Putin signed a decree on 3 April raising the status of the Federal Securities Commission (FKTs) to that of ministry, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 6 April. The decree also created within the commission a special commission to investigate violations of investors' rights. "The Moscow Times" reported on 8 April that the decree will allow the newly appointed head of the FKTs to dismiss senior members of the commission; previously, deputy heads of the commission were nominated directly by the Russian president. According to the daily, major participants in Russia's stock markets have been drafting their own proposals for governing the markets, which will be discussed by the Duma on 6 June. A state program on the securities markets is scheduled to be unveiled in mid-June after the government reveals its full economic program. JAC

ANOTHER RUSSIAN TANKER HALTED IN PERSIAN GULF

A U.S. Navy ship belonging to the Multinational Interception Force (MIF) in the Persian Gulf halted the Russian oil tanker "Akademik Pustovoit" last week. The crew of the U.S. vessel boarded the tanker, which is to remain anchored in international waters until an analysis of oil samples has been concluded. An RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported that the Royal Dutch/Shell Oil company says it owns the oil aboard the tanker and that the country of origin of that cargo is Iran. Earlier this year, MIF vessels intercepted and detained another Russia tanker in the Gulf. That tanker was found to be transporting Iraqi oil, but Russian officials denied that was the case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 7 February 2000). JC

ALLEGED U.S. SPY IDENTIFIED

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow announced on 7 April that the U.S. citizen taken into custody earlier last week on suspicion of spying is 53-year-old Edmond Pope. ABC television later reported that Pope was a retired U.S. navy captain who had worked for a long time in naval intelligence, while AP reported that after retiring from the Navy, he had worked with Pennsylvania State University's Applied Research Laboratory, developing contacts between Russian and U.S. research institutes and working on converting technology for commercial uses. No formal charges have yet been brought against Pope. JC

EMBATTLED FAR EAST POLITICAL FIGURE TO ENTER DUMA

The Central Election Commission on 7 April rejected an earlier resolution of the district election commission in Primorskii Krai declaring invalid the 26 March election of former Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov to the State Duma. According to the central commission, the local commission had no legal right to make such a declaration. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 8 April, Cherepkov has vowed to join the Duma's committee on local self-rule, where he will continue the struggle against violations of law and arbitrary rule of authorities, including in Primorskii Krai. According to Interfax, Cherepkov said that he will not join any particular group or faction within the Duma. JAC

DUMA BUDGET CHAIRMAN SUGGESTS PROFIT TAX TO BE LOWERED

Duma Budget Committee Chairman (Russian Regions) Aleksandr Zhukov told Ekho Moskvy on 7 April that the second part of the Tax Code must be adopted before the end of the year. He noted that the second part had been approved in its first reading by members of the old Duma, who had proposed "thousands of new corrections" to the code. However by May 1999, legislators started to look at the code with "different eyes." He added that during the discussion of the second part of the tax code, the question of lowering the tax on profits by some five points will be "seriously considered." JAC

DUMA ASKS FOR CHECK INTO ALUMINUM SECTOR TRANSACTIONS

State Duma deputies on 7 April voted to send a parliamentary inquiry to the Anti-Monopoly Ministry, requesting that the ministry check the legality of the recent acquisitions of shares in the Krasnoyarsk, Novokuznetsk, and Bratsk aluminum factories and the Achinsk metals conglomerate, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. According to the daily, which is funded by Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, deputy Konstantin Remchukov (Union of Rightist Forces), who introduced the inquiry in the lower legislative house, is an adviser to Siberian Aluminum head Oleg Deripaska. The newspaper also reported that on 13 April all deputies will be given documents relating to the ministry's investigation and the next day Anti-Monopoly Minister Ilya Yuzhanov will discuss the ministry's investigation (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 2000). JAC

ALUMINUM OLIGARCH DISCUSSES CAPITAL FLIGHT

Siberian Aluminum head Oleg Deripaska published an article in "Vremya novostei" on 10 April on the topic of capital flight. Deripaska spoke out against a general "amnesty" for capital that has fled Russia because such a policy would have negative consequences for business morale. In addition, he argued, a general amnesty would equate the capital of companies seeking shelter from high Russian taxes with criminal capital. Instead he suggested a "personal" amnesty for specific companies and individuals after their capital has been returned and invested in the Russian economy. Only this way, Deripaska suggested, can that capital be legalized. "Vremya novostei," a new newspaper, revealed earlier that it is seeking investment from Siberian Aluminum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 March 2000). JAC

KARABAKH PARLIAMENT SETS ELECTIONS

The government in the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh has called for elections on 18 June, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 8 April. Votes will take place in 33 single-mandate districts. Meanwhile, the parliament has approved a new budget for the next year. PG




AZERBAIJAN'S SOCAR TO RESUME OIL EXPORTS

SOCAR's press service told Interfax on 9 April that the state oil company will resume oil exports next week via the Baku- Novorossiisk pipeline. It plans to export approximately 2 million tons of oil by that route this year. So far this year, however, SOCAR has used this route for only three days in mid-January, pumping approximately 7,000 tons of oil. Meanwhile, SOCAR President Natik Aliyev said that Baku does not look to Iran as a major market for selling its gas. He suggested that Turkmenistan would dominate that export sector. PG

ALIEV, NAZARBAEV HOPE FOR CIS IMPROVEMENTS

Meeting on 8 April in advance of the scheduled Turkic summit, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev and Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev said that they hope the election of Vladimir Putin as president of Russia will make the CIS "a more efficient" body, Interfax reported. Aliyev noted that the CIS has so far failed to live up to expectations. PG

TURKIC SUMMIT CALLS FOR COOPERATION ON OIL, CRIME

The leaders of six Turkic-language countries--including the presidents of Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Azerbaijan as well as the parliamentary speakers of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan--met in Baku on 8 April for their annual summit, ITAR- TASS reported. They agreed to work more closely to export raw materials, particularly oil, and to fight crime and international terrorism. Azerbaijani President Aliyev said that this sixth Turkic summit (the first was in 1992) will help boost trade, economic, and cultural ties among the six. PG

TURKIC COUNTRIES MARK 1300TH ANNIVERSARY OF LITERARY MONUMENT

Representatives from around the Turkic world met in Baku on 9 April to mark the 1300th anniversary of the Turkic epic Kitab-i Dede Qorqut, generally considered to be the first literary monument in Turkic, ITAR-TASS reported. The original manuscript is in Dresden, Germany, but Azerbaijan was recently given a facsimile copy. PG

SHEVARDNADZE OVERWHELMINGLY WINS SECOND TERM

With most votes counted, Eduard Shevardnadze won a second five- year term as Georgian president in the 9 April elections. He received more than 80 percent of the vote, with his nearest competitor, Dzhumber Patiashvili, garnering only 16 percent. Turnout was reported at 70 percent. Shevardnadze's victory came after two of his opponents, including Adjari's Aslan Abashidze, withdrew at the last moment. The day before the vote, Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin telephoned Shevardnadze to wish him luck, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 April. PG

VIOLATIONS MAR GEORGIAN VOTE

The campaign office of defeated presidential challenger Patiashvili said that there were numerous violations of the electoral law, a charge the Georgian Central Election Commission denied on 9 April. But at least some of the 150 foreign observers also noted violations. One, OSCE representative Hans Gutbod, was ejected from a polling station in Western Georgia when he attempted to investigate ballot box stuffing and other violations of the law, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

GEORGIA SEEKS EXPANDED OSCE PRESENCE ON CHECHEN BORDER

A Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman told dpa on 8 April that Tbilisi would like the OSCE to expand its presence on the Georgian-Chechen border. Tbilisi is concerned that with the coming of spring, Chechen fighters will cross the mountains into Georgia. Currently, the OSCE has 12 observers there, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

KAZAKHSTAN TO INCREASE PRODUCTION, EXPORT GAS VIA RUSSIA, AZERBAIJAN

Kazakhoil President Nurlan Balgimbaev announced on 9 April that his company may double production over the next two years and is considering exporting natural gas to Turkey via both Russia and Azerbaijan. To handle these increased exports, he said, Kazakhstan is vitally interested in the construction of a new pipeline to the West. PG

KAZAKHSTAN'S GDP UP 7 PERCENT IN FIRST QUARTER

Kazakhstan's GDP grew by 7 percent in the first quarter of 2000, compared with the same period in 1999, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 7 April. PG

KAZAKHSTAN'S NAZARBAEV PROMISES HELP FOR UZBEKISTAN

Kazakhstan President Nazarbaev said in Baku on 8 April that his country will regard actions directed against Uzbekistan as actions directed against Kazakhstan and will do what it can to oppose terrorism in the Central Asian region, Interfax reported. He said that he has information that extremists "operating under the cover of religion" plan to try to destabilize Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan officials again denied any involvement with a truck allegedly carrying radioactive materials, Reuters reported on 8 April. PG

KYRGYZSTAN FEARS FURTHER DESTABILIZATION IN SOUTH

Kyrgyzstan Security Council secretary Bolot Dzhanuzakov told ITAR-TASS on 8 April that "the danger of a new aggravation of the situation in the south of the country and of a new attack by international terrorists from outside are real." He said that "we know for sure that international terrorists are being trained in special camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and some other countries. They are buying weapons and combat equipment, including transport means." And he called for regional cooperation to "do everything for the physical destruction of terrorists who pose a serious threat not only to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, but to the entire Central Asian region." PG

CIS SECURITY TREATY GROUP MEETS IN TAJIKISTAN

Secretaries of the Security Councils of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Tajikistan met in Dushanbe on 8-9 April, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov told the group that they must work together to fight the spread of narcotics, illegal migration, and terrorism. He added that he cannot rule out "pre-emptive strikes" against terrorist groups in Afghanistan. His comments were echoed by Tajikistan President Imomali Rakhmonov, who welcomed the group to his country. PG

UN CLOSES OFFICE IN NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN

The UN mission in Tajikistan closed its last office in the northern part of the country on 7 April, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier, the mission had shut down its offices in the south. The mission is slated to complete its work in Tajikistan before 15 May. PG

U.S. FBI DIRECTOR IN TASHKENT

Louis Freeh, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, visited Tashkent on 8-9 April for discussions on cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism not only in Uzbekistan but in Central Asia as a whole, ITAR-TASS reported. He reportedly will discuss how the U.S. can cooperate in Uzbekistan's struggle "against extremism and religious fanaticism," the Russian news agency reported. PG




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS NO REFORM OF KOLKHOZ SYSTEM...

Alyaksandr Lukashenka told a conference of agricultural managers and leaders on 7 April that Belarus's collective farm system will "always" be a basis for agricultural production in the country. "In difficult moments nobody destroys or reforms things. Reforming means a lot of money, which we unfortunately do not have," Lukashenka said in a two-and-a-half hour speech broadcast on national radio. He admitted that 25 percent of Belarusian farms are "utterly worthless" but recommended that they be "affiliated" with enterprises that are doing better, rather than be reformed. According to Lukashenka, reform in the Belarusian agricultural sector is being urged by "those abroad" who want to "destroy our agriculture" and gain a market for their own products in Belarus. JM

...SETS AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION TARGETS FOR 2000

At the same conference, Lukashenka set agricultural production targets for this year. In particular, the agricultural sector was ordered to harvest 2,500 kilograms of grain per hectare (1,450 in 1999), 17,000 kilograms of potatoes per hectare (11,400 in 1999), and 30,000 kilograms of sugar beet per hectare (21,400 in 1999). He noted that he can find no "objective reasons" why these targets should not be achieved. Belarus's agricultural sector nearly collapsed last year, when it harvested only 3.7 million tons of grain instead of the planned 6 million tons. Owing to the acute shortage of forage, the country's livestock was severely decimated during the winter. "I appeal to villagers: Stop killing calves. The state will buy those calves from you and will fatten them," Lukashenka said at the conference. JM

RALLIES PROTEST, SUPPORT UKRAINE'S REFERENDUM

More than 1,000 demonstrators in Odesa on 8 April protested the 16 April constitutional referendum, AP reported. The demonstrators issued an appeal to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, claiming that President Leonid Kuchma is seeking to create a totalitarian state through the referendum. Meanwhile, the same day more than 3,000 members of the pro- presidential Zlahoda association held a rally in Sevastopol in support of the referendum, Interfax reported. The rally appealed to Sevastopol residents to take part in the plebiscite and say "yes" to all four referendum questions. JM

UKRAINE'S CONSTUTUTIONAL COURT HEAD SAYS REFERENDUM IS 'OBLIGATORY

'Viktor Skomorokha said on 7 April that the results of the 16 April referendum will not be "consultative" but "obligatory," Interfax reported. Skomorokha added, however, that possible constitutional amendments should be introduced by the parliament, as stipulated by the current constitution. He declined to speculate what would happen if the parliament refused to amend the constitution in line with the referendum. "I am not a clairvoyant, I do not want or have the right to speak beforehand," Skomorokha noted. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPEALS TO ACCEPT GOODS AS PAYMENT FOR TURKMEN GAS

Kuchma has appealed to his Turkmen counterpart, Saparmurat Niyazov, to accept Ukrainian commodities and construction services as payment for Turkmen gas deliveries in 1999, Interfax reported on 7 April. Turkmenistan delivered $315 million worth of gas to Ukraine last year and suspended deliveries in May. Ukraine pledged to repay 40 percent of deliveries in hard currency and 60 percent in goods but has so far paid only $8.7 million. For resuming its gas deliveries, Ashgabat demands that Kyiv make a one-time payment of $30 million in cash. JM

POLITICAL CRISIS CONTINUES IN LATVIA

For Fatherland and Freedom is considering its options following the sacking of Economics Minister Vladimirs Makarovs, a member of that party. Juris Dobelis, co-chairman of the party, said members will "slowly and scrupulously analyze" whether to support the upcoming confidence vote in Prime Minister Andris Skele and two cabinet ministers, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2000). Leaders of Latvia's Way have repeatedly said the current three-party coalition is the best possible combination, but party chairman Andrejs Pantelejevs told BNS on 8 April that the upcoming confidence vote on Skele's government is no longer binding on its members. People's Party parliamentary faction leader Gundars Berzins summed up the situation by saying that "Everybody's fate is in his/her owns hands." MH

LITHUANIAN GDP REGISTERS SHARP DECLINE IN 1999...

The Statistics Department on 7 April announced that in 1999 Lithuania's GDP dropped by 4.1 percent. Each quarter of that year registered a decline of 2.3 percent, 1.4 percent, 6.6 percent, and 5.0 percent respectively, ELTA reported. Per capita GDP in 1999 was 7,374 litas ($1,843), with the total volume of GDP reaching 42.59 billion litas at year's end. The two previous years had registered economic growth: 7.4 percent in 1997 and 5.2 percent in 1998. However, quarterly GDP has been in decline since the fourth quarter of 1998, ELTA reported. MH

...AS TRADE ALSO FALLS

The Statistics Department also reported that the trade deficit in 1997 was 7.3 billion litas ($1.825 billion), down by 12.2 percent from 1998. However, a massive drop in trade was the cause of that decrease: exports totaled 12 billion litas, down 19 percent, and imports 19.3 billion litas, down 16.6 percent, ELTA reported. The largest decline was in trade with the CIS: exports fell by 58.7 percent and imports by 17.8 percent. Meanwhile, the central bank announced that the current account deficit in 1999 stood at 4.776 billion litas, or 11.2 percent of GDP, down from 12.1 percent in 1998. MH

GENDER DISCRIMINATION ALLEGED IN LITHUANIA'S CANCER CARE

Lithuania's equal opportunities ombudsman, Ausrine Burneikiene, has begun an investigation into alleged gender discrimination in cancer care following a letter signed by some 400 individuals, ELTA reported on 7 April. The letter charges that the main breast cancer drug is fully covered under the national health service, while its prostate cancer counterpart requires the patient to foot 20 percent of the cost. Burneikiene has asked Health Minister Raimundas Alekna to investigate the charges. Noting that 1,236 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in 1999, compared with 823 cases of prostate cancer, the letter argued that there is less focus on diagnosis and awareness of the latter type of cancer. MH

POLAND PRAISES UKRAINE'S REFORMIST COURSE

Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek told his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yushchenko, in Warsaw on 7 April that the Ukrainian cabinet has begun implementing reforms "very well," Interfax reported. According to Buzek, the recently approved cabinet program and the stable national currency promise the success of those reforms. Yushchenko also held talks with President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, both of whom assured him of Poland's intention to maintain visa-free traffic with Ukraine as long as possible, according to PAP. JM

CZECH GOVERNING PARTY ELECTS NEW DEPUTY CHAIRS...

The Central Committee of the governing Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) on 9 April elected Stanislav Gross and Jitka Kupcova to fill two vacancies for deputy chair of the party, Czech media reported. Gross, who was recently appointed interior minister, replaces Zdenek Skromach as a deputy chair (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2000). Kupcova replaces Petra Buzkova, who announced her resignation from the post in January in protest against a series of agreements signed by the CSSD with the Civic Democratic Party earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 2000). VG

...WHILE SOME MEMBERS CRITICIZE LEADER

Also at the CSSD meeting in Hradec Kralove, a few members criticized CSSD chairman Milos Zeman's leadership style. CSSD parliamentary deputy Michal Kraus appeared to have been the most aggressive in his criticism, describing Zeman as "having fallen ill with power [and] surrounding himself with a glass wall of aides." Earlier in the month, Zeman described Kraus and another deputy as "cowards" and "lazy" for making critical remarks about him and the party in the media. Outgoing Deputy Chairwoman Buzkova also reportedly criticized Zeman, but she did not make her statements public. The meeting was closed to the press. VG

SLOVAK PRESIDENT SAYS DEMOCRATIC PARTY INFLUENCING TELEVISION

Rudolf Schuster on 7 April suggested that the Democratic Party is influencing state-owned Slovak Television to reduce its coverage of his activities, TASR reported. The Democratic Party is a member of the governing Slovak Democratic Coalition. Schuster alleges that STV is not reporting his official trips, is giving more coverage to the prime minister and the parliamentary chairman, and is covering all public activities of certain ministers. "They have on numerous occasions blocked the broadcast of certain shots," he said, adding that the coverage of Slovak Radio is more balanced. Democratic Party Deputy Chairman Peter Zajac rejected Schuster's allegations, saying they reflect a communist mind-set that strives to control all of the media. VG

SLOVAK MINISTERS MEET NATO AMBASSADORS

Slovakia's Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan and Defense Minister Pavol Kanis met in Brussels with NATO's ambassadors on 7 April to discuss the country's progress in its efforts to gain membership in NATO, TASR reported. After the meeting, Kukan said the 19 NATO ambassadors gave the country a "positive" assessment overall. Among other things, the ambassadors were reportedly interested in the country's political stability, public support for NATO membership in Slovakia, and the situation of the country's Romany minority. VG

SLOVAK PREMIER SAYS EU UNDER INFLUENCE OF MEDIA IN ROMANY ISSUE

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said on 9 April that Slovakia had underestimated the influence of the media on the EU's assessment of the situation of the migration of Roma to Western countries, TASR reported. He said the cabinet will have to do a better job of "selling" its efforts in this area, following the Belgian government's decision to impose visas on Slovaks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2000). Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Pal Csaky said he will meet with representatives of Amnesty International to discuss that organization's recent criticism of Slovak police aggression against Roma. VG

HUNGARY DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY IN FLOOD AREA

Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 8 April declared a state of emergency along rivers in Eastern Hungary following extensive flooding along the Tisza River, Hungarian media reported. Orban appointed Transport, Telecommunications, and Water Minister Kalman Katona as government commissioner in charge of flood protection and has given him unlimited power to order police and army units to defense work. More than 100 people had been evacuated from their homes. Some 7,500 people are engaged in rescue work in the flooded area. Katona estimated that about 10.5 billion forints ($39 million) will be needed in the next 30 days to cover expected costs of dealing with the flood. MSZ

HUNGARY TO ESTABLISH GERMAN-LANGUAGE UNIVERSITY

The government plans to found a German-language university in Budapest, Hungarian Prime Minister Orban announced on 7 April in Munich. Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth said the location of such a university is a mere technicality but he did not specify when or from what funds the plan could be implemented. MSZ




CROATS, SERBS CHOOSE NATIONALISTS IN BOSNIAN VOTE...

Some 70 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 8 April municipal and local elections. Voters in some areas had difficulty finding polling stations, but international observers said that the vote was generally free and fair and without serious incident. Preliminary returns suggest that the nationalist Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) won in all predominantly Croatian areas. Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) has "swept" most areas in the Republika Srpska, "Vesti" reported on 10 April. Some observers said that the large vote for the SDS reflected many Serbs' anger over the recent arrest of prominent politician Momcilo Krajisnik and his deportation to The Hague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2000). Spokesmen for Prime Minister Milorad Dodik's Independent Social Democrats told Reuters that they are confident that their party will finish second in the Republika Srpska. Former President Biljana Plavsic's Serbian People's League and the Socialists appear headed for a "real catastrophe," "Vesti" reported. PM

...WHILE BOSNIAN MUSLIMS TURN TO SOCIAL DEMOCRATS

In contrast, many Muslim voters turned away from the nationalist Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and gave the Social Democrats control of up to 20 municipalities, including Sarajevo, Tuzla, Bihac, and Gorazde. A spokesman for the SDA conceded losing a majority in only six municipalities, VOA's Croatian Service reported. Several representatives of the international community, including U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia Thomas Miller, hailed the Social Democrats' gains as the start of a "new era" in which voters will increasingly opt for issue-oriented, civic-based parties rather than nationalist ones based on ethnicity. Social Democratic leader Zlatko Lagumdzija called the election results the "biggest change since the [1995] Dayton" peace agreements. He added that "Bosnia has risen to its feet." Complete election results are expected in the course of 10 April. PM

POLITICAL CRISIS IN SLOVENIA

Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek lost a vote of confidence on 8 April, ending his eight years in office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2000). One observer said that the result is Slovenia's biggest political crisis since independence in 1991, AP reported. Marjan Podobnik, who heads the conservative People's Party, asked his party colleague Franci Demsar to try to put together a right- of-center government. Such a cabinet is expected to consist of the People's Party, the Christian Democrats, and the rightist Social Democrats, but they will lack a majority without the support of the far-right National Party of Zmago Jelincic. Jelincic has said that he will support Demsar only in return for the Interior Ministry portfolio. President Milan Kucan must call elections for no later than mid-July if Demsar fails to form a government within 30 days. PM

IS WASHINGTON SEEKING TIES TO MILOSEVIC?

"The Sunday Times" on 9 April wrote that "there is a lot of bargaining going on at the moment" between Washington and Belgrade. The Yugoslav government of President Slobodan Milosevic wants to overcome its isolation. The U.S. State Department hopes to restore diplomatic ties to Belgrade in order to be better informed about what is happening inside Serbia, the British weekly added. The U.S. also concerned about expanding links between Serbia and China (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 16 and 23 March 2000). Russia and Greece acted as intermediaries in setting up contacts between the U.S. and Serbia, the newspaper noted. PM

U.S. DISCIPLINES CIA EMPLOYEES OVER BELGRADE EMBASSY BOMBING

The CIA has fired one employee and reprimanded six others in connection with the bombing by U.S. aircraft of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on 7 May 1999, AP reported on 9 April. U.S. officials claim that the bombing was a mistake and the result of faulty intelligence information. PM

JOURNALISTS DEMAND RESULTS OF SERBIAN MURDER PROBE

The Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia issued a statement on 9 April in which it demanded that the Yugoslav Interior Ministry publish the results of its investigations into the murder of Slavko Curuvija. Unidentified gunmen killed the publisher of the banned daily "Telegraf" and weekly "Evropljanin" on 11 April 1999 in Belgrade after a pro-Milosevic newspaper accused him of supporting NATO air strikes. PM

FRENCH SEPARATE CROWDS IN MITROVICA

French peacekeepers used tear gas to prevent some 100 angry Serbs from crossing into primarily Albanian southern Mitrovica on 9 April. The Serbs were upset over a previous incident in which three ethnic Albanian employees of the OSCE crossed into northern Mitrovica and took photos. The Serbs were also concerned about large crowds forming on the Albanian side in conjunction with a soccer game. In a separate development, a Serb who escaped arrest by U.S. peacekeepers in southern Kosova the previous week turned himself in (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2000). Local Serbs accused U.S. forces of "blackmail" by allegedly withholding escorts for Serbian convoys through Albanian areas until the man surrendered, Reuters reported. PM

CROATIA AGREES TO EXAMINATION OF MASS GRAVE

The Croatian government on 9 April gave the Hague-based war crimes tribunal permission to examine a reported mass grave of ethnic Serbs in the Gospic area. The Serbs are believed to have been killed by Croatian nationalists in 1991 solely on the basis of their ethnicity. PM

CROATIA ONE STEP CLOSER TO NATO

Javier Ruperez, who is chairman of NATO's Parliamentary Assembly, told Croatian parliamentary speaker Zlatko Tomcic in Zagreb on 10 April that Croatia has been admitted to the assembly as an observer. PM

STRIKE EXPANDS IN CROATIA

Workers at the Pik agricultural enterprise are continuing their protest for back wages by blocking roads in the Vrbovec area. The protest action began several days ago. Union representatives said in Zagreb on 10 April that workers will block the Zagreb-Budapest railway line at two unnamed places if they do not receive their wages by mid-day. Workers told "Jutarnji list" that they must continue their protest because "people are hungry." PM

MOLDOVAN POLITICIANS DISMISS 'REPUBLIC' PROPOSALS

Moldovan parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diakov on 7 April rejected recent proposals by the Republic movement on how to solve Transdniester problems as "purely provocative," Infotag reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2000). Presidential spokesman Anatol Golea said on 7 April that the head of state is open to any suggestions that do not contravene the constitution, which stipulates that Moldova is a neutral state. Golea said Republic's proposal is just one of many "extravagant" suggestions that have been made public recently. VG

MOLDOVA, RUSSIA SIGN DEBT RESCHEDULING

Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Cucu said on 7 April that Moldova has signed an agreement with Russia to reschedule Moldova's $122 million state debt for 20 years with a five-year pardon period and an interest rate of 7.5 percent, BASA-Press reported. He said the two sides also initialed an agreement on the delivery of Russian gas, which is to be signed in two weeks. In other news, former Prime Minister Ion Sturza has said that he had "a relationship" with the former Soviet KGB between 1983 and 1990, when he worked in institutions connected to foreign relations, Infotag reported. VG

BULGARIAN POLICE ARREST SUSPECT IN MURDER OF LUKANOV

Bulgarian police on 7 April arrested a Ukrainian man in connection with the 1996 murder of Andrei Lukanov, who was a top Socialist Party member. The Ukrainian citizen, Aleksandr Russov, is the sixth suspect to be arrested in connection with the murder of Lukanov. VG

BULGARIA WANTS COMMON INFORMATION STRATEGY FOR EU CANDIDATES

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova said on 9 April that the countries aspiring to EU membership should adopt a common information strategy to publicize the challenges involved in joining the EU and to clarify their political positions and strategies, AP reported. Mihailova made her proposal at a conference in Sofia that was attended by delegates from countries striving for EU membership. VG

BULGARIA URGES EU TO APPOINT CHIEF NEGOTIATOR

A Bulgarian Foreign Ministry official said on 7 April that his country is concerned about the fact that the EU has yet to appoint a chief negotiator for membership talks with Bulgaria, Reuters reported. The official said it could be another two or three months before the EU appoints a negotiator, which, he argued, "is too slow." He added that the country fears that the delay will "not have a positive effect on the talks." VG




MONTENEGRO TO EXPAND ITS DIPLOMATIC PRESENCE ABROAD


By Patrick Moore

The Montenegrin leadership has been prudently pursuing a political framework that will enable it to develop its own democracy and economy. It is now preparing to gradually extend its activities on the diplomatic front.

Last year, Podgorica proposed a concrete set of measures for redefining the terms of the federation with Serbia. It soon became clear that Belgrade was not willing to talk seriously and was more interested in undermining the leadership of President Milo Djukanovic through local Milosevic supporters, the military, and an economic blockade. Podgorica consequently continued with its gradualist approach toward what will certainly be all but independence.

The gradualism is the result of a variety of considerations. First, Djukanovic and his team know what is possible and what is not. They know that they need the economic, political, diplomatic, and perhaps military support of the EU and U.S. if they are to succeed. Brussels and Washington, however, have made it clear that they do not relish the prospect of the further disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. Instead, they want Montenegro to stay within Yugoslavia and support the cause of democracy in Serbia.

The Montenegrin leaders are under no illusions about what they can do for Serbia. They have said repeatedly and publicly that only the Serbs can reform and regenerate Serbia. But as long as the international community frowns upon Montenegrin independence, Djukanovic speaks of a referendum on the subject only in vague terms as something for the future.

A second reason why he does not press ahead is that he does not have the strong domestic support for independence that Slovenia's Milan Kucan and Croatia's Franjo Tudjman had in 1991. The key issue is that there has never been a clear consensus among Montenegrins as to whether they are a distinct, separate people or a special branch of the Serbian nation. This problem has bedeviled Montenegrin politics since the 19th century and will not be resolved soon. It is the basic question that underlies the current dispute with Belgrade.

Thus it is not surprising that Djukanovic won the presidency in late 1997 with barely half the vote. He defeated the pro- Milosevic Momir Bulatovic only with the support of the Muslim and Albanian minorities. Public opinion polls suggest that there is still no clear backing for independence, despite two years of provocations by Bulatovic's followers and by pro-Milosevic activities by the army.

Bulatovic knows that and has sought to shore up his position. He and his supporters have sought to make political capital out of the fact that Djukanovic needed minority votes to get elected. The pro-Milosevic camp has also cynically noted cases of corruption and mafia-like activities among Djukanovic's backers, knowing full well that the two camps had not yet separated at the start of the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession in 1991 and both profited handsomely from sanctions-busting in the following years.

Milosevic's supporters have also sought to consolidate their backing among the "clans" and other people in the northern and mountainous territories that were added to the historical Montenegrin kingdom during or after 1878. People in this area tend to support union with Serbia.

But not all matters are black and white. Djukanovic told "RFE/RL Balkan Report" in Prague in October 1999 that opinion in the north is changing and that, in any case, "we have things under control." In the long run, Podgorica is counting on growing support for its policies as voters increasingly come to perceive the link with Milosevic's Serbia as detrimental to Montenegro's and to their own personal economic interests.

In the meantime, Djukanovic has been taking concrete steps. In November 1999, he introduced the German mark as a parallel currency to the Yugoslav dinar to guard Montenegro against exported inflation from Serbia. He and his lieutenants frequently go abroad and make their views known to the international media.

His latest move is to expand Montenegro's fledgling diplomatic presence. His backers argue that Montenegro has the oldest tradition of statehood of any country in today's Balkans and that the demise of the Montenegrin kingdom at the end of World War I does not change previous history. They say it is only natural for Montenegro to have its own representatives abroad, as do, for example, many U.S. or German federal states.

On 6 April, Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac was even more blunt. He charged that Belgrade's "diplomatic network does not serve the interests of [Montenegro]. Since Montenegro has great need for international cooperation and since the world is interested in supporting Montenegro to help it develop, we must establish our own state bodies and a network abroad."

Podgorica already has missions in Washington, London, Ljubljana, and Brussels. Lukovac now wants to add New York, Moscow, Skopje, and Sarajevo to the list. And certainly an office in the Zagreb of President Stipe Mesic and Prime Minister Ivica Racan cannot be far off. Lukovac stressed that "we are also interested in establishing the best possible relations with Croatia."

The main issue on the agenda for Zagreb-Podgorica relations involves Croatia's Prevlaka peninsula, which controls the entrance to Montenegro's Kotor Bay. Located there is the Yugoslav navy's only deep-water base. Podgorica has suggested that Montenegro and Croatia should quickly solve the problem between themselves, since Belgrade has shown little interest in doing so. So far, Zagreb has dealt with the federal government. That may not be the case for long.


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