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Newsline - April 26, 2000




PUTIN SPEAKS OUT IN FAVOR OF REGIONAL SOLUTION TO LAND QUESTION

On a visit to Orel Oblast on 25 April, President- elect Vladimir Putin called for the passage of a basic law establishing the right to own land while the degree of freedom to pursue this right is determined by each region individually, Interfax reported. He added that at the local level "residents and the leadership are more familiar with the conditions of agricultural production." He noted that in Orel Oblast, "an individual can be a landowner but the right to dispose of the land is limited." Putin also praised Orel for being "an example for reform--reform in the necessary direction, carefully, cautiously, and in the direction of the market." Last month, Putin had his presidential representative to the State Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov, postpone discussion of the draft Land Code so that legislators and the government could continue working on it. JAC

RUSSIA CONTINUES TO PRESS CASE ON ABM TREATY...

In his meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton on 25 April, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov repeated Russia's assertion that it wants to keep the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in its present form. Ivanov told reporters after the meeting that Russia's position is that its "security will be better protected if the treaty is kept intact." U.S. National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said that Clinton stressed that it is "important for Russia to seize the opportunity to accelerate economic reforms." He added that Clinton and Ivanov did not discuss their differences over Chechnya. Clinton will visit Moscow on 4-5 June. According to Reuters, during his visit to the U.S., Ivanov is also expected to meet with Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush Jr. JAC

...AS START-III CONSULTATIONS BUMPY

Unidentified Russian diplomatic sources told Interfax on 25 April that U.S. and Russian officials expressed significant disagreements during consultations held last week on START-III in Geneva. Russia insisted not only on a more drastic reduction in the number of both sides' nuclear warheads but also that a provision be included in the treaty requiring a reduction of submarine- based cruise missiles and limiting the U.S. anti-submarine activity in areas neighboring Russian territorial waters. At the same time, the U.S. expressed its desire to re-equip submarine-based ballistic missiles so that they turn into non-nuclear weapons, while retaining the right to restore their capability to bear nuclear warheads, which Russia opposes. "Itogi" (no. 16) reported that some experts believe that if START-III is not concluded "by 2007, when the last Russian heavy missiles are removed from active service, the U.S.'s numerical superiority in warheads will turn into a quantitative advantage." JAC

RUSSIA EXTENDS ITS NUCLEAR UMBRELLA OVER BELARUS

"Vremya novostei" reported on 24 April that the main difference in Russia's new military doctrine from the previous version is that now Russia, in the words of the doctrine itself, is "implementing a common defense policy with the Republic of Belarus, coordinating with it activities in the sphere of military construction, development of the armed forces of Union [of Belarus and Russia] countries, the use of military infrastructure, and taking other measures necessary to maintain the defense capacity of the Union." President-elect Putin signed a decree approving the new doctrine on 22 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2000). The daily concludes that the new doctrine guarantees a place under Russia's nuclear umbrella to other countries from the former Soviet Union, provided that they also establish a special relationship with Moscow. JAC

RIVALS WARN CHECHEN PRESIDENT AGAINST PEACE TALKS WITH MOSCOW

Chechen field commanders Shamil Basaev and Khattab have threatened to kill members of President Aslan Maskhadov's family if Maskhadov embarks on peace talks with Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 April quoting a member of the Russian federal command in the North Caucasus. There has been no confirmation from Chechen representatives of that claim, or of Russian media reports on 26 April that Maskhadov may resign and surrender. The first deputy chief of Russia's Army General Staff, Colonel-General Valerii Manilov, and the commander of the combined federal forces in Chechnya, Colonel-General Gennadii Troshev, rejected any peace talks with Maskhadov on 25 and 23 April, respectively. LF

RUSSIAN PAPER REPRIMANDED OVER MASKHADOV INTERVIEW

On 21 April, Russian First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii warned "Kommersant-Daily" that the publication in its issue for that day of an interview with Maskhadov in which he was quoted as having ordered a unilateral ceasefire constituted a violation of Russian legislation on the media and on combatting terrorism, according to Interfax. LF

GANTEMIROV PROMOTED, WITHDRAWS RESIGNATION

Pro-Moscow Chechen militia commander Beslan Gantemirov was promoted on 22 April to the rank of army lieutenant-colonel, Russian agencies reported. The chief of Russia's Army General Staff, Colonel-General Anatolii Kvashnin, personally presented Gantemirov with his new epaulettes. The following day, Gantemirov acquiesced to a request by the Assembly of Peoples of Chechnya in Grozny to withdraw his resignation as first deputy to the Russian government representative in Chechnya, Nikolai Koshman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 21 April 2000). Gantemirov is to travel to Moscow for talks with the Russian leadership, possibly including President-elect Putin, Kremlin Chechnya spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told journalists in Moscow on 24 April, according to ITAR-TASS. Yastrzhembskii noted that "Gantemirov has his own political interests and goals," adding that "he will play a significant role in the political process in Chechnya." LF

MORE CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS CAPTURED, ONE SURRENDERS

The North Caucasus anti-organized crime directorate apprehended the brothers Abu and Apti Yukhigov in the Chechen town of Shali on 21 April, Russian agencies reported the following day. Interfax quoted a senior Russian Interior Ministry official as saying that a third field commander, whose name he refused to divulge, was also captured. On 24 April, Lom- ali Vaisugorov, identified as a former section head within the Chechen presidential administration, surrendered to Russian law enforcement officials and offered to hand over his section's records to investigators, Interfax reported. LF

DUMA PASSES TROPHY ART LAW AGAIN

Duma deputies voted on 26 April to pass in its third reading a law on art that was looted from Germany during World War II. The vote was 355 in favor with zero opposed. According to Interfax, changes had been introduced into the law in keeping with the ruling of the Constitutional Court last July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1999). The court had ruled that cultural valuables seized from Nazi Germany at the end of World War II and now located on Russian territory should not be returned to former "aggressor countries." At the same time, it said that countries that fought against Hitler as well as victims of the Holocaust and the Hitler regime are entitled to the restitution of their cultural heritage. The law will now go to the Federation Council for approval. JAC

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT SAYS TOP THREE RULE INVALID

The Constitutional Court ruled on 25 April that the provision of Russia's election law granting the Central Election Commission the right to ban electoral associations from participating in State Duma elections if one of their top three candidates withdraws from the race is unconstitutional. According to ITAR-TASS, the court's judgment does not affect the results of 19 December State Duma elections and may not serve as grounds for challenging these results. Last December, the Central Election Commission forbade Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party and the Russian Conservative Party from participating in State Duma elections because one or more of their top three candidates had been disqualified. JAC

PUTIN SAYS NEW CABINET ALREADY FORMING

President-elect Putin said on 25 April that the structure of his new cabinet will take shape towards the end of the week. He told reporters that "all deputy prime ministers have made their proposals and we have discussed specific appointments, which are, however, largely up to the new prime minister." The previous day, governmental staff head Dmitrii Kozak said that Putin will present a new prime minister for confirmation by the State Duma on or before 10 May, three days after Putin's inauguration. A favorite for the post of prime minister, First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, said on 24 April that he does not think that the government's new structure will include a deputy prime minister in charge of the fuel and energy industries. That post is currently held by Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko. However, unidentified sources told Interfax that Khristenko, who also oversees interbudgetary relations, is likely to retain his position. JAC

FIRST DRAFT OF ECONOMIC PROGRAM COMPLETED

Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told reporters on 25 April that the think-tank charged with composing an economic program for President-elect Putin, the Strategic Development Center, has completed the first version of its long-term economic strategy for Russia. He added that the strategy will be submitted to ministries and presidential staff in order "to be finalized and discussed." Last month, Putin called on the center to complete its draft by the end of April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March 2000). JAC

BEREZOVSKII ANNOUNCES FINANCIAL AID FOR HIS CONSTITUENCY

Visiting the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia on 20-21 April, businessman Boris Berezovskii insisted that he has made good on the assurances he gave prior to his election as the republic's deputy in the Russian State Duma, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 22 April. Berezovskii specifically noted that he has established two separate funds of $1 million and $500,000 to support small and medium businesses, and to help families with low incomes. Earlier this month the hitherto unknown Council of Elders had announced that it had begun collecting signatures on a petition to demand Berezovskii's recall on the grounds that since his election he had done nothing to alleviate the republic's economic problems (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2000). LF

MORE REPAIR DUTY FOR MIR COSMONAUTS

Small amounts of air are leaking into the "Mir" space station as the station's is losing altitude, Interfax reported on 25 April. Deputy flight chief Viktor Blagov told the agency that the leakage is very small and Mir's air supplies are substantial enough to maintain pressure within acceptable limits. He added that the resulting decline in air pressure on the station is extremely low and is much lower than on U.S. space shuttles. The two cosmonauts aboard the vessel located one source of the leak and are continuing to search for more leaks by disconnecting and reconnecting numerous cables and air ducts. Last September, Russian cosmonauts carried out repairs inside the airless Spektr module and rejoining two cables that had loosened (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1999). JAC




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT MOVES TO IMPEACH PRESIDENT

The Miasnutiun and Kayunutiun parliament factions, which together account for 80 of the 127 parliament deputies, decided late on 25 April to begin formal proceedings to impeach President Robert Kocharian, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. That decision was prompted by Kocharian's orders earlier that day to Military Prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian not to testify at parliament hearings on the ongoing investigation into the 27 October Armenian parliament shootings, which Jahangirian heads. Kocharian had warned on 20 April that he will no longer tolerate Jahangirian's involvement in "political processes." Parliament deputies rejected Kocharian's ban on Jahangirian's testimony as unconstitutional. But it is unclear whether it constitutes grounds for impeachment, which the Armenian Constitution allows only if the president commits "high treason" or unspecified "grave crimes." A vote to impeach the president must be taken by a two-thirds majority of all deputies and endorsed by the Constitutional Court. LF

ARMENIA'S MILITARY PROSECUTOR GENERAL TENDERS RESIGNATION

Jahangirian on 25 April submitted his resignation to President Kocharian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Jahangirian said that he did so because "I cannot become involved in the political intrigues" surrounding the ongoing investigation into the parliament shootings, according to Noyan Tapan. The military prosecutor's office sought unsuccessfully earlier this month to overturn a court ruling releasing Kocharian's aide Aleksan Harutiunian from custody. Harutiunian was detained in December on charges of inciting the parliament shootings. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DOES U-TURN ON ENERGY PRIVATIZATION

Deputies on 25 April passed in the first and second readings a draft bill sponsored by the majority Miasnutiun parliament faction suspending the ongoing tender for the privatization of four state-run energy distribution companies, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Armenian government last week had excluded a subsidiary of Russia's Gazprom from the tender, eliciting protests from Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 2000). Miasnutiun had earlier defeated opposition bids to halt the selloffs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 2000), and had reportedly affirmed their support for the ongoing privatization at a meeting with President Kocharian on 21 April. Completion of the energy network privatization is a precondition for disbursement of a $46 million World Bank loan that is earmarked to cover approximately half the anticipated budget deficit for 2000. LF

NEW AZERBAIJANI PROSECUTOR-GENERAL APPOINTED

Parliament deputies on 25 April endorsed President Heidar Aliev's nomination of Gyanja City Prosecutor Zakir Garalov to the post of prosecutor-general, Turan reported. Garalov was born in Georgia in 1956 and since graduating from the law faculty of Baku State University has served as deputy prosecutor and then prosecutor in several cities in Azerbaijan. He replaces Eldar Hasanov, who told "525 gazeti" on 25 April that he intends to return to academic life following his dismissal, together with his two deputies, on 22 April. Garalov told Turan on 25 April he has been instructed by Aliyev to implement "serious reforms" both in the prosecutor-general's office and in the law enforcement agencies in general. LF

GEORGIA DENIES MERCENARIES CONCENTRATING ON BORDER

A senior Georgian State Security Ministry official on 25 April rejected Russian claims that groups of mercenaries are concentrated on Georgian territory ready to cross the border into Chechnya, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. He said that the Chechen refugee community in Georgia's Pankisi gorge includes some 500 Chechen men of military age, but denied that those individuals plan to return to Chechnya to fight. Speaking in Moscow earlier that day, the first deputy chief of Russia's Army General Staff, Colonel-General Valerii Manilov, had claimed that 400-500 mercenaries are waiting on Georgian territory. A Russian military official told Interfax on 25 April that one of the groups in question consists of Arabs trained in Lebanon in sabotage. Manilov also claimed that up to 1,000 Chechen fighters are concentrated in lowland areas of eastern Chechnya ready to launch a new attack on Daghestan. LF

GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT ASSESSES FISCAL CRISIS

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told a government session on 25 April that all Georgian citizens must pay their taxes in order to eliminate the ongoing budget crisis, Caucasus Press reported. He said that at present budget revenues derive almost exclusively from taxes on the legal sale of cigarettes and gasoline, which as a result of widespread smuggling constitute only a small proportion of sales of those products. Tax collection during the first quarter of 2000 was less than during the corresponding period last year. Shevardnadze called for the drafting of a special presidential decree raising the responsibility of local governors for ensuring fulfillment of the budget. He also pledged support and unspecified assistance for Minister of Taxes and Incomes Mikhail Machavariani. Machavariani had threatened on 24 April to resign unless "cardinal changes" are made in the composition of the government. He also backed Shevardnadze's call for an all-out struggle to eradicate corruption. LF

FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER'S BODYGUARDS SENTENCED

After a two- week trial, an Almaty City Court judge on 25 April handed down labor camp sentences of 3 1/2 years to Petr Afanasenko and Satzhan Ibraev, who served as bodyguards to former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. The two men both say that the charges against them of illegal possession and storing of firearms were politically motivated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 February and 11 April 2000). A fourth criminal charge was recently brought against Kazhegeldin, who has lived in exile in Europe for the past year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 2000). LF

MORE RUSSIAN PROTESTS OVER TRIAL OF 'SEPARATISTS' IN KAZAKHSTAN

Russian Human Rights Commissioner Oleg Mironov has appealed to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev to show clemency towards the Russian citizens currently on trial in Ust-Kamennogorsk on charges of planning to establish an independent Russian Altai Republic by force on the territory of eastern Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March and 20 April 2000). Russian lawyers have been banned from attending either the investigation or the trial. On 24 April, representatives of Slavs from Kazakhstan picketed Kazakhstan's embasssy in Moscow to protest alleged procedural violations and the use of torture during the pre- trial investigation. They too called on Nazarbaev to intervene. LF

U.S. EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER PLANNED MEDIA CRACKDOWN IN KAZAKHSTAN

U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin told journalists in Washington on 25 April that the U.S. is "disappointed" by two recent speeches in which President Nazarbaev warned journalists not to abuse media freedom, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 25 April 2000). Rubin recalled that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had stressed the importance of media freedom during her tour of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan earlier this month. He said U.S. representatives intend to raise the issue with Nazarbaev "very soon." LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT PROPOSES INCREASING PARLIAMENT'S POWERS...

In a 25 April address to both chambers of parliament and to the Kyrgyz people, Askar Akaev again said that the parliamentary elections in February-March were democratic and praised the work of the Central Electoral Commission, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. But Akaev conceded that mistakes were made during the election campaign, and said a commission has been created to amend the election law in order to preclude such shortcomings during the presidential elections, which he said will take place in December. In response to questions from deputies, Akaev said that the parliament should have greater powers, especially in naming members of the government. He said a referendum on amending the country's constitution to increase the parliament's powers may be held after the presidential poll. He also said that Russian will be granted the status of an official language, a measure which he said will curb the ongoing emigration of the Russian-speaking population. LF

...CALLS FOR REFORMS

Akaev conceded in his 25 April address that reforms of the judicial system and tax system are urgent priorities, as are cuts in the bureaucracy and measures to combat corruption, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He also noted the need for creating a stable banking system and called on the National Bank to improve its supervision of the commercial banking sector. Akaev said that annual inflation in 2000 should not exceed 20 percent, according to Interfax. Meeting the previous day with a visiting World Bank delegation headed by Vice President Johannes Linn, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Amangeldy MurAliyev said that his government is drafting a 10-year Development Program that will shortly be published for public discussion, Interfax reported. LF

ANOTHER KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIAN SENTENCED

A district court on 24 April sentenced 61-year-old Beishaly Kenebaev, head of the Djalalabad regional branch of the opposition Ar- Namys Party, to seven years' imprisonment for failing to repay a personal loan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. An Ar-Namys spokesman said the trial was politically motivated. Meanwhile some 100-150 people continued their picket in central Bishkek on 24 and 25 April to protest the arrest last month of Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov and to demand the annulment of the parliamentary runoff poll in which, according to official returns, Kulov was defeated. Also on 25 April, opposition politicians met with an advisor to President Akaev to discuss Akaev's participation in the proposed roundtable discussion between the opposition and the country's leadership, and whether that initiative should be held under the aegis of the OSCE (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 2000). LF

TAJIK LEADERSHIP NEGOTIATES WITH UZBEK ISLAMIST LEADER

The Tajik leadership is seeking to persuade Djuma Namangani, one of the leaders of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and his estimated 400 armed supporters, to leave eastern Tajikistan as he had pledged to do last October. Tajikistan's minister for emergency situations, former opposition military commander Mirzo Ziyoev, told RFE/RL's Tajik Service on 25 April that he recently met with Namangani, who promised to leave Tajikistan but did not say where he would go. President Imomali Rakhmonov has also charged Islamic Renaissance Party leader Said Abdullo Nuri with studying the situation in eastern Tajikistan, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 April. On 24 April, Tajik Security Council secretary Amirkul Azimov told ITAR-TASS that he had returned the previous day from an inspection of the region and seen no evidence that any illegal armed groups were based there. LF




COMPROMISE OPENS WAY FOR OPPOSITION MARCH IN MINSK

The Belarusian authorities lifted their earlier ban on a demonstration by those opposed to Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Reuters reported on 25 April, after the opposition agreed to stage the march in the outskirts of Minsk rather than in the city center. Lukashenka said that "I will hold negotiations with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, with Chirac, with Clinton should they so wish. But I am not going to talk to the opposition. They have only one goal--to topple the president." Meanwhile, the trial of two opposition figures--Nikolau Statkevich, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, and Valery Shchukin, a member of the parliament that Lukashenka dissolved--continue in the Belarusian capital. PG

BELARUS HAPPY WITH RESULTS OF FIRST UNION COUNCIL OF MINISTER MEETING

Belarusian Prime Minister Vladimir Yermoshin told ITAR-TASS on 25 April that the first meeting of the council of ministers of the Union of Belarus and Russia, which took place in Moscow on 25 April, reflects the progress Minsk and Moscow have already made in bringing their two peoples back together. The meeting discussed the creation of a common currency and the formation of a legal basis for the further unification of the two republics. The German press agency dpa reported that the joint council of ministers has a 2000 budget of 2.2 billion rubles (approximately $77 million). One of the places the two sides may increase funding is support for victims of the 1986 Chornobyl explosion, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

ILO SAYS UKRAINE IN DEEP ECONOMIC CRISIS

The International Labor Organization on 25 April concluded that Ukraine has sunk into a deep economic crisis and is suffering from massive unemployment, Reuters reported. In issuing this report, ILO economist Guy Standing said that "if Ukraine were not in Europe, it would be rightly called a developing country." The ILO report said that monthly income had dropped in real terms from $37 in 1998 to $25 in 1999, that life expectancy had declined sharply, that industrial firms are now operating at less than 44 percent capacity, down from 66 percent in 1995, and that approximately one-third of the workforce is effectively unemployed, a statistic which makes "a mockery of the official rate of registered unemployment." PG

UKRAINE TO SEEK NEW IMF LOANS

Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko will travel to Washington in early May to press the International Monetary Fund to resume loans to Ukraine, Interfax reported on 25 April. The IMF had blocked a loan package to Ukraine in 1999 because of concerns about Kyiv's failure to adopt needed economic reforms. Yushchenko told reporters in the Ukrainian capital that he will also press for more funds to help close the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, Reuters reported. PG

RUSSIAN NAVY BLAMES UKRAINIAN SHIP FOR MISHAP

The Russian Black Sea command on 25 April said that the captain of a Ukrainian ship damaged by a Russian dummy missile on 24 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2000) was to blame for the incident because he had strayed into waters that both Russian and Ukrainian officials had declared off-limits during a naval exercise, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

ESTONIAN CENTRAL BANK CHIEF QUITS BEFORE APPOINTMENT

The newly-elected head of the Bank of Estonia, Vello Vensel, surprisingly relinquished his appointment to the post on 25 April, BNS reported. Vensel, elected to the post by the central bank's governing board on 30 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2000) and due to take over the post this week, cited health reasons for his resignation. The central bank's deputy governor, Peter Lohmus, will take over on an interim basis. Vensel is reported to be in hospital for high blood pressure, according to "Eesti Paevaleht." The press speculated whether Vensel perhaps resigned due to skeletons in his closet or maybe due to opposition from current board members. MH

LATVIAN PRESIDENT NAMES RIGA MAYOR AS PREMIER-CANDIDATE

Vaira Vike-Freiberga proposed Riga Mayor Andris Berzins for premier on 25 April. Saying that she believes Berzins has a realistic approach to the situation in the country, Vike- Freiberga expressed hope that this government will last until the end of this parliamentary term (in 2002). Berzins has the support of Latvia's Way, the People's Party, For Fatherland and Freedom, and the New Party, which hold a total of 69 seats in the 100-seat parliament. Berzins said that he wants to "eliminate the split between state power and society" and to "restore" the people's confidence in the state, BNS reported. MH

LATVIAN WAR CRIMINAL RELEASED ON APPEAL

During an appeals hearing on 25 April, the Latvian Supreme Court released convicted war criminal Vasilii Kononov from custody on his own recognizance. The court found that Kononov is in need of medical care, and has received guarantees from Kononov that he will remain in his abode, BNS reported. The court also ruled that several issues need further investigation, mainly historical and circumstantial issues during wartime, and has issued a request to the prosecution. Prosecutor Ausma Rubene called the decision a "step of compromise" and expressed fears that Kononov would flee to Russia. Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Udaltsov confirmed that Kononov received his Russian passport and Kononov hinted that he will relinquish his Latvian passport, LETA reported citing ITAR-TASS. MH

LATVIA AND AUSTRALIA AGREE ON WORDING OF EXTRADITION TREATY

Officials from Latvia and Australia have reportedly agreed to the wording of a draft extradition treaty, BNS reported on 25 April. The document, now under review by both governments, could be signed as early as June and go into effect by year's end, according to officials. Acting Prosecutor-General Rudite Abolina said the agreement is a standard one, and has no specific provisions relating to the case of suspected Nazi war criminal Konrads Kalejs. However, the negotiations on the treaty took on an added impetus after international attention was focused on the Kalejs case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 2000). MH

LITHUANIAN NAZI WAR CRIMES TRIAL RESTARTS...

A Vilnius district court on 25 April ruled that the trial of suspected Nazi war criminal Kazys Gimzauskas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 2000) should be restarted. The case against the 92-year old Gimzauskas was suspended in February 1999 due to the defendant's failing health. His attorney argued that even with the use of closed-circuit monitors, the defendant's health condition is so poor that the trial would likely kill him, ELTA reported. The court will decide on 26 April whether to conduct a medical examination on Gimzauskas to assess his capacity to continue the trial, even in absentia, which was made legal earlier this year. MH

...ALSO TRIAL OF PRIEST'S MURDERERS

The trial of men accused of murdering Reverend Ricardas Mikutavicius for his prized art collection also began in a Vilnius district court on 25 April. Three of the defendants have confessed to killing Mikutavicius, though they accuse co-defendant Vladas Beleckas of masterminding the murder and with the theft of the collection, which has been appraised at 5.1 million litas ($1.28 million), ELTA reported. Mikutavicius was murdered in the summer of 1998, though the body of the slain priest was not identified until nearly a year later in the highly publicized and embarrassing case for authorities, which included the exhumation of the previously unidentified body. MH

POLISH COALITION AGREES TO 'NON-AGGRESSION' PACT ON EU

Poland's chief European Union entry negotiator, Jan Kulakowski, told Reuters on 25 April that the leaders of the parties in the governing coalition have struck "a non- aggression" accord on Warsaw's drive to join the EU by 2003. He noted that infighting among these leaders had delayed passage of many pieces of legislation needed to bring Polish laws into conformity with EU standards. And he said that the recent appointment of Jacek Saryusz-Wolski to head the committee coordinating EU entry preparations will accelerate the process. Because of earlier disagreements, Kulakowski said, that post had remained vacant for 16 months. PG

CRIME RATE IN POLAND HAS DOUBLED SINCE 1989

According to a report in "Gazeta Wyborcza" on 25 April, there were 1.1 million crimes committed in Poland in 1999, a 104.8 percent rise over the last decade. The paper said that the authorities had identified perpetrators in only 45 percent of these cases and that police officials hope to drop investigations of minor crimes if there appears to be little chance of an arrest. PG

CZECH COUNTER-INTELLIGENCE SERVICE SAYS LEFT EXTREMISM ON THE RISE...

Extremist groups in the Czech Republic are changing tactics and reducing "radical activities" in order to gain representation, an unnamed representative of the Counter Intelligence Service (BIS) cited by CTK told a forum on state security strategy on 25 April. The BIS says neo-Bolshevik and other left-extremist groups are converging around the idea of pan-Slavism and the number of supporters of these groups far exceeds that of supporters of right-wing extremism. The goal of these groups is to bring about CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE's reincorporation into the Russian sphere of influence, and the BIS says that such groups enjoy the support of Russian and Belarusian "official structures." These extreme-left groups oppose EU integration, display strong xenophobic and anti- Semitic postures, and reject democratic pluralism and the market economy. MS

...RIGHT EXTREMISM POSING AS LAW-ABIDING

The BIS also says the far-right oriented extremism is not primarily made up by the largely unorganized skinhead groups, but by groups whose ideology is old or neo-Nazi, and which behave as if they respect existing legislation. Groups such as the National Alliance have applied for registration as political parties and, unlike the past, they now announce rallies in advance. The BIS also says there is a danger of clashes between anarchist and far-right groups. The BIS representative also told the forum that organized crime in the Czech Republic is most often linked to people who speak Russian. MS

CZECH SECRET SERVICES TO BE COORDINATED

The National Security Council (BRS) on 25 April recommended that the government set up a Committee for Intelligence Activities within the BRS to coordinate the work of the country's different secret services, CTK reported on 25 April, citing Foreign Minister Jan Kavan. Kavan told journalists that if the government approves the proposal, the committee's work will be supervised by the deputy premier in charge of foreign and security policy--that is, by himself. MS

CZECH ROMA TO ELECT RECOGNIZED LEADER

Czech Romany organizations are preparing to elect a leader who would be entitled to speak for all Roma, the daily "Lidove noviny" reported on 25 April, citing Romany representatives. The representatives said the many divisions among the Roma weakens their ability to fight discrimination. Ondrej Gina, from the Association of Romany Regional Representatives, said that the Roma want to "be headed by someone elected...whom we will be able to respect and will therefore be authorized to act in our name." Gina said that Roma in every region will elect representatives and a nationwide conference of the regional representatives will then elect one person representing the whole Romany minority. MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION MOVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE IN MINISTER

The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the Slovak National Party on 25 April officially submitted a motion for a no-confidence vote in Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner over last week's brief detention of HZDS leader Vladimir Meciar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 2000), Reuters reported. The HZDS also wants Prime Minster Mikulas Dzurinda to explain the reasons for the detention to the parliament, Reuters reported. The vote is to be held on 27 April. HZDS secretary Jozef Grapa on 25 April told journalists that a "state of terror has been established in the country" and that "Slovakia has become a police state." Grapa cited an unnamed diplomat from an EU country as saying that the police operation against Meciar shows that "Slovakia is turning into Pakistan," CTK reported. MS

MOST SLOVAKS BELIEVE THEY WERE BETTER OFF UNDER COMMUNISM

Three-fifths of Slovaks polled said they consider their personal situation to have deteriorated since 1989 and 53 percent believe the communist system was better than what followed it, the Czech daily "Hospodarske noviny" reported on 25 April, citing the findings of a poll conducted by the Institute for Public Affairs. MS

HUNGARY THREATENS TO DELAY EU MEASURES

The government will postpone some measures required for EU membership if the union delays enlargement, cabinet spokesman Gabor Borokai announced on 25 April. He said measures that are disadvantageous for Hungary should be taken at the time of EU accession, not by the end of 2002, as originally planned. The government's announcement came in reaction to a report by the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, according to which none of the prospective new members will be ready to join the EU by 2003. Measures in which delays are possible include market liberalization and border control systems, Borokai concluded. MSZ




ANOTHER MILOSEVIC CRONY SHOT DEAD IN BELGRADE

Two or three unidentified gunmen killed Zika Petrovic (62) as he was walking his dog near his Belgrade home late on 25 April. The gunmen, who used automatic weapons with silencers, disappeared into the night. Petrovic was the director of Yugoslav Airlines (JAT). He was an old friend of the family of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and, like them, comes from Pozarevac. Petrovic belonged to the United Yugoslav Left (JUL), which is the hard-line party led by Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic. The killing is the fourth this year of a prominent person in Serbia with links to the regime. None of the cases has been solved. On 26 April, police said in a statement that the killing of Petrovic is a "terrorist act." Some observers suggest that Petrovic may have been involved in shady business dealings in oil or other goods. PM

KOSOVARS STAGE MASSIVE PROTEST FOR PRISONER RELEASE

Some 10,000 mainly ethnic Albanians demonstrated peacefully in Prishtina on 26 for the release of the at least 2,000 Kosovars believed to be held in Serbian jails. Local Albanian activists say that the number of prisoners is closer to 7,000. Demonstrators told reporters that they believe that people such as student leader Albin Kurti and human rights activist Flora Brovina are being held simply because they are ethnic Albanians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2000). The protesters appealed to the international community to do more to free the prisoners. PM

OSCE TO SET UP KOSOVA WAR CRIMES COURT

Rols Welberts, who is the OSCE's director for human rights and rule of law in Kosova, told Reuters in Prishtina on 26 April that the OSCE will set up a court in June to investigate war crimes committed during the 1998-1999 conflict. The new body will take some of the caseload off the fledgling Kosova judicial system and pass the results of its findings on to the Hague- based war crimes tribunal. Welberts added that "handling such [ethnically-motivated] crimes has been the weakest link in the new judiciary, which is [compromised] by the ethnic bias of local personnel and the communal pressure on otherwise qualified local judges who feel a gun in their back." Reuters noted that many local jurists are reluctant to take on cases that could put them or their families in physical danger. PM

NATO ROUNDS UP WEAPONS IN KOSOVA

KFOR peacekeepers detained four ethnic Albanians and seized automatic weapons in each of two separate incidents on 25 April. One incident took place near Gjakova and the other in central Kosova. Peacekeepers seize illegal weapons on a daily basis in Kosova, Reuters reported. Some weapons remain from the recent conflict, while others have been brought in from Albania and elsewhere by criminal gangs. In Kosova as in much of the Balkans, gun ownership is traditional among males. PM

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES ABDUCTION OF SOLDIERS TO KOSOVA

The government faced criticism in the parliament on 25 April for allegedly swapping an ethnic Albanian warlord for four Macedonian soldiers, whom unidentified men had captured near the border and taken into Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 2000). Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski defended his actions, AP reported. He asked his critics: "Would it have been better to deal with a terrorist group threatening us with ultimatums and to have four [dead] bodies in Macedonia? Would you have been happier if the Macedonian leadership had said it would not hand over the prisoner?" The men who detained the soldiers demanded the release of Xhavit Hasani, a Macedonian-born Albanian whom many Kosovars regard as a hero of the 1999 conflict. The UN authorities in Kosova previously deported Hasani to Macedonia, where he is wanted for murder. The four Macedonian soldiers were freed on 3 April after Hasani was let out of prison on $100,000 bail and allowed to return to Kosova. PM

DJUKANOVIC TO VISIT ALBANIA

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic told visiting Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo in Podgorica on 25 April that he will be happy to visit Albania at an unspecified future date (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2000). Milo and his hosts signed an agreement on economic, trade, and cultural cooperation, as well as a protocol on cooperation between the two foreign ministries. "We have opened a new era in relations between our two countries and created the institutional basis for future cooperation," Reuters quoted Milo as saying. Milosevic broke off relations with Albanian in 1999 in response to NATO air strikes against Serbian targets. Montenegro seeks to improve relations with Tirana in several areas. The two countries plan to open a second frontier crossing at an unspecified future date and are cooperating on several joint projects within the EU's Stability Pact. PM

CLARK WARNS MILOSEVIC ON MONTENEGRO

Outgoing NATO Supreme Commander in Europe General Wesley Clark said in Sarajevo on 25 April that Milosevic "should know that NATO is watching, NATO understands what he is" doing regarding Montenegro. The Serbian leader "should also recognize very well what NATO capabilities are. We made sure everyone understands that forces in [Kosova] are very capable, they are very well commanded, they are very well prepared to do whatever is necessary," Reuters reported. Turning to Montenegro, Clark noted that Milosevic has brought in "paramilitary thugs" and placed his political cronies in key positions in the army in that republic. "He deployed forces on the border, he's run exercises, intimidation, he tried to take control of the airport and other facilities there," Clark continued. Meanwhile in Podgorica, the Yugoslav Second Army issued a statement saying that it is simply carrying out its duties as specified in the constitution, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

MESIC NAMES NEW HEAD OF CROATIAN COUNTER-INTELLIGENCE

In a fresh show of his determination to keep control over key appointments to the intelligence services, President Stipe Mesic on 25 April named Davor Biscan to replace Zarko Pesa as head of the Security Information Service (SIS). Pesa had been backed by Defense Minister Jozo Rados, within whose ministry the SIS functions. There is a fundamental conflict between Mesic and Prime Minister Ivica Racan over the powers of the president and the control of the intelligence agencies. Racan believes that the government must control the services. Mesic holds that the president must ensure that the agencies remain independent of the government. Under the late President Franjo Tudjman, some elements in the governing Croatian Democratic Community used the intelligence services against their political rivals. PM

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 2000 BUDGET

With a vote of 236 for, 56 against, and 10 abstentions, the parliament on 25 April approved the 2000 budget, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The budget's main provisions are a 3 percent deficit, 1.3 percent economic growth, and an inflation rate of 27 percent. Before voting on the budget as a whole, the parliament rejected proposals to postpone a 30 percent raise in the salaries of its own members until 1 November. The IMF chief negotiator for Romania, Emmanuel Zervoudakis, on 26 April begins meetings in Bucharest to review whether a resumption of loans is possible. The IMF suspended a stand-by accord for a $576 million loan after releasing its first $73 million tranche, concluding that its provisions were not respected by the Radu Vasile cabinet. MS

ROMANIAN JEWISH COMMUNITY PROTESTS REVIVAL OF FASCIST MOVEMENT

The Federation of Romanian Jewish Communities, in a letter to President Emil Constantinescu, the government, and the parliament, on 25 April protested against the revival of the fascist Legionary Movement in Romania, Mediafax reported. The federation demands that legal stipulations prohibiting the activity of extremist and chauvinist parties, as well as incitement to racial hatred, be applied to the Legionary Movement. To circumvent that legislation, the movement has not registered as a political party, but as a "cultural organization," the federation says. It has set up several so- called "nests" and publishing houses, it disseminates tapes with interwar Legionary music and has succeeded in building up a following among students and high school pupils. MS

MOST ROMANIAN PARTIES BACKING BASIC TREATY WITH MOLDOVA

Foreign Minister Petre Roman on 25 April said after a meeting with representatives of parliamentary parties that most political formations back the basic treaty with Moldova agreed to by diplomats representing the two countries. Roman said Romania's purpose in agreeing to the treaty, which speaks of a "privileged partnership," is to "draw Moldova closer to Romania in the long term." He said not all stipulations that Bucharest would have liked to see in the treaty are in the document because "it takes two to agree." Roman declined to specify when the treaty might be initialed by him and his Moldovan counterpart Nicolae Tabacaru. On 26 April Roman begins a visit to Chisinau, where Romania is to take over the rotating chairmanship of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization. MS

CIS DELEGATION HEAD SAYS WEAPONS WITHDRAWAL BY 2001 'UNREALISTIC'

State Duma CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Boris Pastukhov, who heads a CIS Parliamentary Assembly mediation mission to Moldova, on 25 April said it would be "unrealistic" to expect the Russian withdrawal of weapons from the Transdniester to be completed by the end of 2002, as decided at the 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul. Pastukhov, who visited the Russian contingent in the separatist region, said each train transporting the weapons cannot carry more than 10 freight cars and the loading must be done "by hand," which is very time consuming, Infotag reported. Pastukhov later met with separatist leader Igor Smirnov and Transdniester Supreme Soviet chairman Grigorii Marakutsa. MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT SAYS IT FOUND 'ALTERNATIVE RESOURCES' FOR COVERING BUDGET DEFICIT

The government on 25 April said after an extraordinary meeting that it has found "alternative resources" for covering the deficit caused to the 2000 budget by the IMF and World Bank decisions to suspend loaning to Moldova. The cabinet said the resources will come from privatizing the energy grid and the Moldtelcom company, as well as from closing down loss-making state companies. It said revenues of some $119 million could be generated through these measures. President Petru Lucinschi said Moldova will not be in a position to default on its foreign debt, Flux reported. A Romanian radio report said Finance Minister Mihai Manole was "skeptical" on the feasibility of the envisaged measures. MS

BULGARIAN PROSECUTOR COMMITS SUICIDE

A Bulgarian prosecutor who recently clashed with Prosecutor-General Nikola Filichev over personnel decisions killed himself in his office on 25 April, AP reported. Nikolai Dzhambov, who worked in a high court, last month blamed Filichev for reshuffling prosecutors without the requisite approval of the Supreme Judicial Council, a body of senior magistrates empowered to hire, fire, promote, and demote legal officials. Dzhambov complained that Filichev had twice temporarily demoted him for unknown reasons. He accused Filichev of creating a climate of fear and tension and said that Filichev and his associates had pressured him into withdrawing his complaints. Police said a note was found near the body but did not disclose its contents. MS

BULGARIA EXPECTS LARGE TRADE DEFICIT

Deputy Trade Minister Hristo Mihailovsky on 24 April said Bulgaria's trade deficit in 2000 is likely to be similar to that of the previous year- -$1 billion. Mihailovsky said the deficit in the first two months of 2000 was $247.8 million, although a $29.7 million surplus had been registered in trade with the EU, which is Bulgaria's main trade partner. Also on 24 April, leaders of Bulgaria's largest private business companies set up the Association of Employers in Bulgaria, which will represent business interests in domestic politics and will try to restore the country's lost export markets in the former Soviet republics and the Middle East. The association demanded that the UN lift sanctions against Iraq, which owes Bulgaria more than $2 billion. MS




Chornobyl's Continuing Political Fallout


By Paul Goble

Fourteen years ago today, an explosion and fire at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine spread a cloud of radioactive fallout over a large part of Eastern Europe and triggered a series of political developments which continue today.

On that day, the explosion of the no. 4 reactor sent radioactive dust over the Western portions of what was then the Soviet Union as well as over its East European satellites.

Initially, Soviet officials reacted as they always did before, first with silence and then with denial. But because the radioactivity also spread to Western Europe and because Soviet authorities were unable to prevent people in its empire from learning the facts about the accident, Moscow changed its approach and began to release some information about the tragedy.

That marked the real beginning of "glasnost," the policy of openness that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev used to defeat his conservative opponents but also one that made a major contribution to the destruction of the country over which he and the Communist Party ruled.

At the time, that political fallout of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster attracted almost as much attention as the radioactive kind. But since then, its medical impact--the increased incidence of cancers among those exposed, the mounting number of deaths, and the continuing environmental degradation--has attracted most of the attention.

Given the scope of these medical consequences, that is entirely appropriate. But just as was the case 14 years ago, the Chornobyl disaster continues to have three kinds of political fallout which still affect both the people and the governments of this region.

First of all, the Chornobyl accident remains in the minds of many as a symbol of Moscow's insensitivity to the dangers of nuclear power and its willingness to put Ukrainians, Belarusians, and others at particular risk.

Only a few weeks before the accident, Soviet authorities gave a cash award to an engineer in Belarus who said that Soviet reactors were so safe that there was no need to build containment walls around them. And at the time of the accident, Moscow had concentrated nuclear power plants in Ukraine, Belarus, and western portions of the Russian Federation.

Ostensibly, Moscow did so to position itself to sell electricity to its East European satellites, but many in Ukraine and Belarus have said that they believed Moscow chose to do so to put Ukrainians and Belarusians at risk should something go wrong.

Both Moscow's handling of the accident at the time and its unwillingness to help out significantly with the consequences of the accident have only further deepened the anger of many Ukrainians at what they see as the latest example of a Russian policy directed at them.

Second, Western Europe's insistence that Ukraine close down Chornobyl and its unwillingness to provide the assistance Kyiv believes necessary to create an alternative source of power have infuriated many in Ukraine and in Belarus who expected that the West would help them to recover from this most dramatic of Soviet-era disasters on their territory.

No Ukrainian politician suffered as much from this combination of Western insistence and failure to pay as did former Belarusian President Stanislau Shushkevich, a nuclear physicist who exposed Soviet duplicity on Chornobyl in his republic and who campaigned on the expectation that the West would help him clean up this disaster.

But the doubts many Ukrainian leaders already had about the willingness of the West to help were only exacerbated by this series of events, and these doubts in turn have affected the attitudes these Ukrainian leaders have adopted on other issues as well.

And third, the Ukrainian authorities themselves have suffered a loss of popular support because of their failure to find the funds to help overcome the Chornobyl disaster. Ukrainian officials say that they need to spend approximately $830 million a year just to help the victims of Chornobyl but that they have only $290 million in this year's budget to do so.

As a result--and unless something is done soon--ever more Ukrainians, Belarusians, and others are likely to be angry not only at Moscow and at the West but at Kyiv as well, a pattern of political fallout that does not bode well for either the Ukrainian government or the Ukrainian people in the future.


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