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Newsline - May 2, 2000




PUTIN TO GO TO TOKYO

President-elect Vladimir Putin met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in St. Petersburg on 29 April, ITAR-TASS reported. The two avoided discussing the most contentious issue between them--their territorial dispute over the Kurile islands--but vowed to meet four more times this year, including a Putin visit to Tokyo in late August. And they said that they will reach a peace agreement by the end of 2000. Meanwhile, India announced that Putin will visit that country in early October, Reuters reported, and a South Korean official extended an invitation for Putin to visit Seoul "at a time convenient for him," ITAR-TASS reported. PG

PUTIN WELCOMES RETURN OF AMBER ROOM RELICS

President-elect Putin on 29 April welcomed the return to St. Petersburg of the remains of the Catherine Palace's Amber Room that were seized by German troops during World War II, Interfax reported. Putin said that "one of our national sacred objects is returning home thanks to the efforts of our German friends" and that "people in Russia understand, value and treasure Russian-German relations." Following the ceremony and his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, Putin left for a three-day vacation in Sochi, Russian agencies reported. PG

PUTIN SEES EASTER STRENGTHENING RUSSIA'S 'SPIRITUAL FOUNDATIONS'

In a message to Russian Orthodox believers at Easter, President-elect Putin said that the growth in the observance of Eastern "in recent years" is helping to revive the "spiritual foundations" of Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 April. Without such a foundation, Putin continued, "the development of the country, the strengthening of law and efficient state power, peace and welfare are all inconceivable." PG

MAY DAY MARCHES ACROSS RUSSIA

Some 410,000 people participated in 838 May Day events in 74 of the subjects of the Russian Federation, the Interior Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 1 May. In Moscow, there were two marches, one led by the city authorities and trade unions and one by the communists. More than 69,000 police and interior troops were on duty to ensure that there was no violation of the law. PG

PUTIN REACHES OUT TO MILITARY PAST AND PRESENT

On 28 April, President-elect Putin elevated in rank World War II-era officers below the rank of colonel, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko announced that the 2000 federal budget includes over 3.5 billion rubles ($115 million) to improve the living conditions of invalids and other veterans of World War II. Also on 28 April, Putin conferred the title "Hero of Russia" on 11 people, including ten who had fought in Chechnya, the Russian news agency said. PG

SELEZNEV URGES MOVING DUMA TO ST. PETERSBURG

Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev on 29 April chaired a meeting of that body in St. Petersburg and urged that it be moved to Russia's second capital, ITAR-TASS reported. Seleznev said that Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov had failed to provide land for a new parliamentary center there and that St. Petersburg would be much more convenient. Other officials, including Luzhkov and Federation Council Vice Speaker Vladimir Platonov, opposed the idea. Platonov said that it is already hard for the executive and legislative branches to find a common language, a problem that he suggested would be exacerbated by such a move. President-elect Vladimir Putin said through a spokesman that "it is up to the parliamentarians to discuss it and adopt decisions," the Russian agency said. PG

SELEZNEV SAYS PUTINS ELECTION ACCELERATING CIS INTEGRATION

Speaking in St. Petersburg on 29 April, Duma speaker Seleznev said that the election of Vladimir Putin as president of the Russian Federation is accelerating the integration of the Commonwealth of Independent States, ITAR-TASS reported. "Everybody understands that Russia should be a locomotive, and Russia is sending signals that it is ready to develop the CIS," Seleznev concluded. PG

COMMUNISTS TO SUPPORT YAKOVLEV IN ST. PETERSBURG

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told Ekho Moskvy on 1 May that his party will support incumbent St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev in the 14 May elections there. Zyuganov said that "we believe that Yakovlev is a sound economist who knows the city well and tries to improve the situation in it tangibly." PG

PUTIN REPORTS INDUSTRIAL GROWTH OF 10 PERCENT

Speaking in St. Petersburg on 29 April, President-elect Putin said that industrial production expanded by 10 percent in 1999 and that the country's GDP increased 7.2 percent during the same period, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that "we do not feel euphoric, but we have achieved stable growth in the country," and that "we expect the G-7 leaders to give a boost to further development" at their meeting this summer. PG

PUTIN MERGES TWO SPECIAL EXPORTERS

President-elect Putin on 28 April signed a decree merging Promexport and Russian Technologies into a single entity, Interfax reported. The newly- merged enterprise will join Rosvoorozhenie as the government's weapons exporting arm. Sources at Rosvooruzhenie said that this move will strengthen presidential control over military cooperation agreements. Promexport and Russian Technologies were created in August 1997 when Yevgenii Ananev was named to head Rosvooruzhenie. Ananev told Interfax at that time that the reorganization was aimed at "formalizing and simplifying the system of concluding [defense] contracts" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 1997). PG/LF

IVANOV SAYS MOSCOW WOULD RESPOND TO ABM DEVELOPMENT WITH NON- POLITICAL MEANS

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that if the U.S. decides to set up a national missile defense system, Moscow will respond "not by political but by other means," Interfax reported on 29 April. He said that Russia has "the money and capability for that, and the Americans know it. No doubt, this is a very bad scenario but we are ready for it as well," he said in an interview published in "Novye Izvestiya" on 29 April. PG

MOSCOW PUTS TOPOL-M MISSILE, NEW SUB ON LINE

The Russian defense ministry announced on 28 April that it has added the Topol-M intercontinental nuclear missile to the country's arsenal, RIA reported. The Topol-M, known to NATO as the SS- 27, has a range of 10,000 km (6,200 miles) and is a single- warhead system. Meanwhile, the Russian navy announced a new upgrade in the Piranha mini-submarine used for reconnaisance and hit-and-run raids, ITAR-TASS reported. And the MiG aircraft enterprise announced plans for updating the MiG-29 jet in four versions, the Russian agency said. PG

IVANOV SEES SUPPORT FOR CHECHENS 'WANING'

Speaking in Washington, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov said that "the disinformation campaign, conducted by patrons of Chechen terrorists, is quickly waning out," ITAR-TASS reported on 28 April. He said that he had reached this conclusion because the question of Chechnya was "virtually not raised" either by U.S. officials or by journalists during his visit to Washington. PG

RUSSIA TO UNFREEZE NATO TIES

Colonel General Leonid Ivashev, the head of the Defense Ministry's international cooperation department, told ITAR-TASS on 28 April that Moscow is prepared to warm up its relations with NATO provided that it is treated equally. He said that the chief of the Russian General Staff, Anatolii Kvashnin, will head a Russian delegation to a 10 May meeting of the permanent joint military committee to discuss the resumption of ties. PG

ADMIRAL SENTENCED FOR EMBEZZLEMENT

Rear Admiral Vladimir Morev was found guilty of embezzlement and abuse of office and then sentenced to eight years in prison by a Vladivostok court, Interfax reported on 28 April. The court found that he and two subordinates had sold parts of a radar system to local businessmen for $3,000. PG

MOSCOW WELCOMES ELIAN'S RETURN TO FATHER

The Russian Foreign Ministry supports the reunion of Elian Gonzalez with his father Juan Miguel Gonzalez and praised the unbiased position taken by the U.S. Administration, Interfax reported on 28 April. PG

U.S., RUSSIAN BORDER SERVICES COOPERATE

Russian and American border services have agreed to cooperate in fighting illegal fishing in the North Pacific and also in search and rescue operations there, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 April. The two groups worked on the cooperative plan during a four-day conference in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. PG

U.S., SOVIET VETERANS RECALL 1945 LINK-UP

Approximately 100 veterans of the 1945 American and Soviet link-up in Germany on the Elbe met in Torgau, Germany, to mark the 55th anniversary of that event, Reuters reported on 29 April. PG

PENSIONS, PRICES BOTH RISE

The Russian government increased the average pension to 713 rubles ($23) on 1 May, Russian agencies reported. But on the same day, the Russian government permitted electricity and gas prices to rise as well. Electricity prices on the wholesale market are to increase 35 percent, with gas prices increasing up to 40 percent for power plants and 15 percent for households. PG

FIRST RUSSIAN CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST HACKERS

The Russian police on 28 April lodged the first criminal case against Russian hackers, ITAR-TASS reported. The five people charged in this case were using the Internet to steal credit card information and then misuse it. PG

RUSSIAN FOOD SUPPLY SEEN REMAINING STABLE IN 2000

Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shcherbak told Interfax on 1 May that the food supply in Russia will remain stable, even though he acknowledged that the country's agriculture remains in crisis. He predicted that some 75-80 million tons of grain will be harvested this year, and he said that Russia will not have to import grain to make up for a shortfall. PG

ANOTHER CONFESSION IN STAROVOITOVA CASE

A convict in Vologda has claimed to the Federal Security Service that he killed Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova in November 1998, ITAR-TASS reported. Several people have confessed to the crime, and the FSB remains skeptical in this case as well. PG

RUSSIANS DIVIDED ON START II, EUROPE

One-third of Russians support the ratification of START II as good for Russia, but 29 percent think it is harmful, according to a poll taken by the Public Opinion Survey Fund and reported by Interfax on 28 April. Meanwhile, 67 percent of Russians said that they are against the decision of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to start the procedure to suspend Russia from the Council. Some 65 percent said they are sure that this decision reflected a desire to weaken Russia's international position. And 48 percent believe that the attitude of most European countries toward Russia is bad, the same poll found. PG

CABBAGE JUICE CURES RUSSIAN HANGOVERS

"The Times" of London reported on 30 April that Russians suffering from hangovers after the May Day public holiday can buy Rassol, cans of salted, carbonated cabbage juice, to cure themselves. In the past, Russians had often relied on salted brine from pickled cucumbers or tomatoes, the paper said, but now they can turn to this commercial beverage. Officials at the factory where Rassol is produced said they have no plans to export the drink because it depends on fresh ingredients to be effective. PG

HAVEL CALLS FOR REFERENDUM IN CHECHNYA

President Vaclav Havel on 28 April told journalists in Szekesfehervar, Hungary, that Russia "has problems with forging its own identity" and is therefore denying Chechens to right to "make a free decision on their own country's future," CTK reported. Havel, who spoke after attending the seventh summit of Central and East European heads of state, said that "in a democratic environment it would be appropriate to ask the [Chechen] nation whether it wants to be part of the [Russian] empire or not. But no referendum has been held there. Instead, a hard military attack that targeted not only terrorists, but the whole [Chechen] nation was launched." MS

BID TO ASSASSINATE CHECHEN MUFTI FOILED

Chechen mufti Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov told journalists in Tsentoroi, south of Grozny, on 1 May that his bodyguards had detained two men with a remote-controlled mine they had intended to plant to kill him, Russian agencies reported. Kadyrov said the assassination bid had been organized by a member of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's entourage. LF




ARMENIAN PREMIER DISCUSSES ECONOMIC COOPERATION IN MOSCOW

Aram Sargsian told journalists on 29 April on his return from a two-day working visit to Moscow that he had reached agreement during talks with Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on increased Russian investment in Armenia's stagnating industrial sector, ITAR-TASS reported. Also discussed were cooperation in the energy sector and Armenia's outstanding debts to Russia for supplies of nuclear fuel to the Medzamor nuclear power station. No details were divulged of Sargsian's meeting with Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev. Kasyanov for his part told journalists in Moscow on 28 April that "it is too early" to discuss the possibility of Armenia's accession to the Union State of Russia and Belarus (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 16, 21 April 2000). He added that Armenia's accession to that union would necessitate "mutual concessions." LF

ARMENIAN MILITARY PROSECUTOR ORDERED TO CONTINUE PARLIAMENT SHOOTING INVESTIGATION

Armenian Prosecutor-General Boris Nazarian on 28 April rejected a request by Military Procurator Gagik Jahangirian to take over the conduct of the investigation into the 27 October Armenian parliament shootings, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In a written statement, Nazarian said that the investigating team headed by Jahangirian "has not violated any provision of the Armenian code of criminal justice" and that "all [Jahangirian's] actions and petitions are justified and stem from the requirements of the law." On 26 April Jahangirian had submitted his resignation to Armenian President Robert Kocharian to protest the latter's ruling the previous day that he should not testify before parliament on the ongoing investigation into the shootings. Kocharian refused to accept Jahangirian's resignation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2000). LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY SHELVES IMPEACHMENT OPTION

After talks with unidentified legal experts on 28 April, the majority Miasnutiun parliament bloc distanced itself still further from demands expressed earlier in the week for President Kocharian's impeachment, Interfax and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Miasnutiun leader Andranik Markarian said that the bloc has not yet raised the impeachment issue with the Constitutional Court, which must endorse a parliament vote to impeach the president. But Markarian added that Miasnutiun may still ask the Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of Kocharian's order to Military Procurator Jahangirian not to testify before parliament, according to Interfax. Hmayak Hovanissian, who is deputy head of the People's Party of Armenia, the junior partner within Miasnutiun, told Interfax on 28 April that there is no good reason for Kocharian's impeachment, and that an impeachment attempt would "lead the country into a cul-de-sac." Meanwhile Kocharian on 28 April told journalists that he will shortly take the "resolute steps" that he believes the Armenian people expect from him, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He did not elaborate. LF

ARMENIAN, TURKISH UNIVERSITIES SIGN LANDMARK AGREEMENT

Senior officials from Yerevan State University and Ankara Polytechnical University signed a cooperation agreement in Yerevan on 1 May, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital reported. Several dozen members of the youth organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun gathered to protest both the signing of the agreement and Turkey's refusal to recognize as genocide the killings and forced deportations of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915. Armenia and Turkey have not established diplomatic relations. LF

KARABAKH PROSECUTOR GIVES DETAILS OF ASSASSINATION BID

Mavrik Ghukasian, who is chief prosecutor of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, told journalists from Armenia in Stepanakert on 22 April that nine people have been charged with the 22 March attempt to kill the enclave's President Arkadii Ghukasian, according to "Azg" of 26 April as circulated by Groong. The Karabakh prosector said that the enclave's former Defense Minister, Samvel Babayan, has confessed to organizing the assassination bid. He said that the perpetrators had also planned to kill two further senior officials, whom he did not name. They then hoped to pressure the enclave's government into naming Babayan as leader. The prosecutor said that Babayan had paid two of President Ghukasian's attackers some 2 million drams (approximately $3,800). He added that Babayan had also provided some $550,000 and 300 tons of diesel fuel to the Right and Accord bloc during last year's Armenian parliamentary election campaign. LF

POLICE USE FORCE TO BREAK UP DEMONSTRATION IN AZERBAIJAN...

Police armed with batons attacked participants in an unsanctioned demonstration in Baku on 29 April to demand the resignation of President Heidar Aliyev and safeguards to prevent the falsification of the parliamentary elections due in November, Reuters and RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported. The demonstrators also demanded the release of political prisoners and opposition access to the state-controlled media, according to Turan. Estimates of the number of participants range from 5,000--20,000. Dozens of demonstrators and several journalists, including "Azadlyg" editor Gunduz Tahirly, were injured or beaten, while a police spokesman claimed that 34 police were likewise injured by sticks or stones thrown by demonstrators. The ten opposition parties aligned in the Democratic Congress had convened the protest in the city center after refusing an offer from the municipal authorities to hold it on the outskirts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 2000). LF

...ARREST OPPOSITION LEADERS

Police on 30 April detained some 50 participants in the Baku demonstration, including leading Musavat Party member Arif Hadjiev, Akhrar Party leader Vagif Hadjibeyli, and People's Party leader and former Premier Panakh Guseinov, Turan reported. Those three, and 12 other people, were sentenced by Baku district courts the same day to between five and 15 days' detention. The Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General's office warned on 30 April that criminal proceedings may be opened against the organizers of the protest, Reuters reported. Speaking on national television the same day, presidential administration official Ali Hasanov said that the opposition has no reason to fear vote- rigging in the November parliamentary poll, as Azerbaijan's accession to full membership of the Council of Europe is contingent on that vote being acknowledged to be free and democratic. LF

AZERBAIJAN AIMS TO DEEPEN COOPERATION WITH NATO

Visiting Baku on 27-28 April, NATO political committee chairman Admiral Guido Venturoni discussed with Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Safar Abiev and with President Aliyev the prospects for expanding Azerbaijan's cooperation with NATO within the parameters of the Partnership for Peace program, Turan reported. Abiev specifically denied his Georgian counterpart David Tevzadze's 26 April statement that joint exercises involving forces from the U.S., Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia are being planned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 2000). He also argued that Azerbaijan's military cooperation with NATO does not pose a threat to Azerbaijani-Russian relations. LF

AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA, TURKEY CONCLUDE LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR OIL PIPELINE

In a written statement issued in Washington on 28 April, U.S. President Bill Clinton hailed the agreement reached earlier that day by Azerbaijani, Georgian and Turkish foreign ministry officials and Western oil company representatives, AP and Caucasus Press reported. That agreement addressed earlier Georgian reservations concerning Georgia's legal responsibilities in the event of damage to the Georgian sector of the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 2000). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT INAUGURATED

Eduard Shevardnadze was sworn in on 30 April for his second presidential term. Caucasus Press and Reuters reported. Pledging to become "stronger, firmer and more decisive," Shevardnadze singled out as a priority over the next five years purging incompetent and corrupt officials from the government. He further promised to pay outstanding wages and pensions arrears within a short time (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2000). Shevardnadze expressed regret that during his previous presidential term he had not succeeded in restoring Georgia's territorial integrity. He said the as yet unratified Georgian-Russian treaty signed in 1994 is obsolete, and that a new pact should be drafted. The inauguration ceremony was attended by Russian oligarchs Boris Berezovskii and Vladimir Gusinskii. Foreign heads of state were not invited because of economic constraints. LF

KAZAKH STRIKERS PLAN PROTEST MARCH

Current and former employees of the Taraz Phosphorous Plant in Kazakhstan's southern Zhambyl Oblast plan to begin a protest march to Almaty on 6 May if their demands for payment of wage arrears, pensions and other allowances are not met by that date, RFE/RL's Almaty correspondent reported on 2 May. They began a protest action and hunger strike on 11 April to demand those payments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 2000).

ISSUE OF KAZAKH OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER CONFISCATED

Bigeldy Gabdullin, editor of the opposition weekly "XXI vek," told journalists in Almaty on 28 April that the previous day's issue of the paper had been confiscated by Almaty tax police, who declined to give any explanation for their action, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. The paper has repeatedly been subjected to official pressure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 2000). LF

KYRGYZ PICKET PARTICIPANTS ARRESTED

Police in Bishkek on 28 April arrested three participants in the ongoing picket in central Bishkek to demand the release of arrested Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov and the annulment of the results of the parliamentary elections held in February-March, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. The three were charged with hooliganism. The picket entered its 47th day on 1 May. Kulov's lawyer, Larisa Ivanova, told RFE/RL on 1 May that the Kyrgyz Security Ministry has completed its investigation into the charges against Kulov. LF

OSCE OFFICIAL MEETS WITH KYRGYZ OPPOSITION

OSCE Secretary- General Jan Kubis held discussions in Bishkek on 28 April with representatives of several opposition parties and NGOs, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Those talks focussed on the domestic political situation and the possibility of an OSCE-sponsored round table discussion between the opposition and the Kyrgyz leadership. Together with Premier Amangeldy MurAliyev and Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev, on 29 April Kubis attended the opening of an OSCE office in the southern city of Osh. LF




NO MASS MAY DAY CELEBRATIONS IN MINSK

For the first time in post-war history, no mass demonstrations were held in Minsk to celebrate May Day. To mark the holiday that was called "International Day of the Solidarity of Workers" in the Soviet era, the Belarusian Federation of Trade Unions organized several picnic meetings in city parks, while representatives of the Communist Party of Belarus laid flowers at a monument to Lenin. "This year's situation with wages [in Belarus] is such that there is not much to celebrate," Mikalay Belanouski, trade union federation deputy head, told RFE/RL. Meanwhile, some 2,500 people took part in an official May Day rally in Mahileu. Police detained 13 participants in an alternative, unauthorized march that was organized in Mahileu by independent trade unions and opposition organizations, Belapan reported. JM

UKRAINIAN LEFTISTS HOLD SEPARATE MAY DAY RALLIES IN KYIV...

Some 2,500 people took part in a May Day demonstration organized in the Ukrainian capital by the Communist Party and the Peasant Party. Communist leader Petro Symonenko called on Ukrainian workers to unite in the struggle against "the capitalist system that destroys Ukraine's people, statehood, and future," Interfax reported. Some 4,000 people participated in May Day celebrations organized by the Social Democratic Party (United). And a third leftist rally to mark May Day in Kyiv was organized by the Progressive Socialist Party led by Natalya Vitrenko. The 500-strong rally adopted a resolution calling on the government to break all ties between Ukraine and the IMF, and on the Constitutional Court to declare the results of the 16 April constitutional referendum illegal. JM

...WHILE SIMFEROPOL SHOWS MORE UNIFIED FRONT

"Many thousands" took part in a May Day march and meeting in Simferopol, Interfax reported. The meeting was organized by Crimean trade unions, the Communist Party, and other leftist organizations on the peninsula. The participants pledged in a resolution to spare no effort to create a "single economic area" on the entire post-Soviet territory and to give Russian the status of an official language in Ukraine. The celebrations were attended by Crimea's prime minister, parliamentary speaker, and other officials. JM

LATVIAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE DIVIDES CABINET SEATS...

Premier-designate Andris Berzins on 28 April presented a proposed division of cabinet posts for the four-party coalition, BNS reported. Berzins assigned to Latvia's Way, his own party, four cabinet seats -- including the highly contentious foreign affairs and transport portfolios. Berzins called the two "of utter importance" to Latvia's Way, adding that the party will insist on receiving those portfolios. The People's Party of outgoing Premier Andris Skele was offered five seats -- including the finance and interior affairs portfolios. For Fatherland and Freedom was offered four portfolios, including defense, while the small New Party was offered two. Berzins asked all parties to submit counterproposals by the morning of 2 May. MH

...PARTIES DISPLEASED, PRESENT OWN PLANS

The People's Party voiced dissatisfaction over the proposals by Berzins, calling them unbalanced. Party leader Skele proposed instead giving his party five portfolios--including transport--while Latvia's Way would get four separate portfolios including foreign affairs and defense. Skele told the press, "We want to see a government without any in-built time-bombs," BNS reported. Skele repeated that Latvia's Way should not hold both key portfolios -- foreign affairs and transport, and again took exception to the Berzins-proposed guideline to include no former premiers in the cabinet. The New Party voiced anger over the proposal, as party negotiator Janis Krumins told LETA, "This model is unsatisfactory to the New Party, and it is not feasible." MH

ONE SHARE SOLD IN VENTSPILS NAFTA AUCTION?

The controversial auction of state-owned shares in oil transhipment firm Ventspils Nafta (VN) apparently failed on 28 April as only one share was purchased, BNS reported. Preliminary data from the auction at the Riga Stock Exchange showed that only one VN share out of 5.2 million offered was sold, at the minimum price of 1.94 lats ($3.22). The auction has been heavily criticized for the high minimum price; VN shares closed on 28 April at 0.84 lats. MH

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT SETS ELECTION DATE

President Valdas Adamkus on 28 April announced that the next general elections will be held on 8 October, ELTA reported. Adamkus had a window of several Sundays in October for the elections, but chose to hold it on the early side. In related news, two left-wing parties--the Social Democrats and the Democratic Labor Party (LDDP)--agreed on 29 April to form a coalition to contend the poll. MH

POLAND CELEBRATES MAY DAY WITHOUT 'MAJOR DISTURBANCES'

May Day demonstrations in Polish cities took place without "major disturbances," PAP reported. Some 1,500 people participated in a march and a rally organized by the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and other leftist groups in Warsaw. As in previous years, leftist and rightist youths pelted each other with eggs as the march passed the Warsaw University building. SLD leader Leszek Miller told the rally that "people's patience is nearing its end" and that next year's elections will reinstate Poland's left wing in power. Rightist groups threw eggs filled with red paint at a leftist gathering in Gdansk. An anticommunist group in Poznan demonstrated dressed as war-painted American Indians with a banner reading: "All reds belong in reservations." Police arrested 14 anarchists in Krakow, where they were trying to stage a march on a local jail to free their comrade. JM

POLISH PARLIAMENT MARKS MILLENIUM OF 'GNIEZNO CONGRESS'

The parliament on 29 April held a visiting session in Gniezno to commemorate the millennium of the Gniezno congress, which affirmed the fledgling Polish independent state and symbolically stressed Poland's affinity with Western Europe. The congress in the year 1000 brought together Germany's emperor Otto III, papal envoys, and Poland's king Boleslaw I Chrobry at the grave of St. Adalbert, a martyr saint and an early advocate of European unity. On 28 April, Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek and government heads from Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic called in Gniezno for cooperation in building a united European continent and denounced the threats posed by nationalism, xenophobia, and totalitarianism. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT SAYS POST-COMMUNIST CIVIL SOCIETY REVIVAL DIFFICULT

In an article published in the German daily "Die Welt" on 29 April, Vaclav Havel said the revival of civil society in the post-communist Czech Republic is a "difficult process," and many post-communist politicians wrongly perceive that process as being an attack on the political system and on representative democracy, CTK reported. He said the country's post-1989 political elite had mainly been preoccupied with taking over the extensive powers that were in communist hands and "behaved indifferently" towards the reconstruction of civil society. This is why most schools, hospitals and cultural institutions that should have passed to society's control are still in state hands, and little progress has been made on decentralization because ministries do not want to hand over powers to the local government, Havel said. MS

KLAUS SAYS 'TOO MUCH ATTENTION' PAID TO NOVAK TRIAL

Civic Democratic Party (ODS) chairman Vaclav Klaus on 28 April told journalists that the media pays "too much attention" to the ongoing trial of former ODS deputy chairman Libor Novak, who is charged with having concealed the identity of a donor to the ODS in 1996, thereby depleting the treasury of some 170,000 crowns (some $4,300) in taxes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2000). Klaus said his party has already paid a heavy price for its shortcomings in financial management, with the cabinet headed by himself being forced to resign in 1997 and the ODS having split. "We are witnessing a new attempt to force us to pay again for the same thing," he said. Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 30 April said that "some people in the ODS" try to hamper finding out the truth about the affair. MS

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS SLOVAKIA COULD ENTER NATO IN 2002...

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan on 28 April told CTK he believes Slovakia could become a NATO member in 2002. He spoke after an informal meeting in Bratislava with his Slovak counterpart, Eduard Kukan, with whom he also discussed the two countries' quest to become EU members. Kavan said that they agreed that if the Czech Republic enters the EU before Slovakia, they will have to accept the EU's position that the customs union between their two states is "unacceptable" to the union in its present form. In that case, the two countries will agree on some "concrete measures" concerning agricultural commodities, which would be the most affected by the abolition of the customs union. MS

...AND HUNGARIAN PREMIER SAYS NATO ENLARGEMENT DEPENDS ON SLOVAKIA

Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban, speaking at a conference on NATO prospects in Bratislava on 29 April, said the further enlargement of the alliance depends on whether Slovakia can "preserve its democratic course," CTK reported. He said that any further enlargement "must start with Slovakia" and that if Slovakia is not included, "there cannot be a second round" of expansion. Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told Kukan that Budapest wants Bratislava to sign the European Charter on Ethnic Minority Languages. MS

SLOVAK POLICE END INVESTIGATION OF FORMER PRESIDENT'S SON'S ABDUCTION

A Slovak police spokeswoman on 28 April said that the investigation into the abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995 has been completed. Magda Krasulova told CTK that 12 people, most of them former members of the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS), will be charged in connection with the abduction. The main suspect is former SIS chief Ivan Lexa, who faces a sentence between 5 and 12 years in prison if found guilty. She said former Prime Minster Vladimir Meciar continues to be "a witness" in the case, but "a change in this position cannot be ruled out." MS

TORGYAN WILL NOT RUN FOR HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT

Jozsef Torgyan, chairman of the junior coalition partner Independent Smallholders, on 29 April turned down his party's nomination for the Hungarian presidency, saying that taking on the post would distract him from his pledge to stop the resurgence of communism in Hungary. According to a 1998 coalition agreement with the major coalition party FIDESZ, the Smallholders were given the right to nominate the coalition's joint candidate for the post. Torgyan said he will meet Prime Minister Viktor Orban this week to discuss a new candidate. The parliament must vote for a new president at least 30 days before President Arpad Goncz's second mandate expires on 3 August. MSZ




COHEN, CLARK WARN KOSOVARS

On separate trips to Kosova on 1 May, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen and outgoing NATO Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark told ethnic Albanians not to support any insurgency in southwestern Serbia's Presevo Valley area. Referring to a new 120-member U.S. surveillance team in that region, Cohen said: "We have strengthened our capability of interrupting the flow of weapons that may be transported illegally," AP reported. Referring to the mainly ethnic Albanian Kosova Protection Force, Clark said: "We're not going to allow them to get involved in providing logistic support for any fighting. They're not going to be permitted to have a security role and certainly not a logistics role." He stressed that "people [in Kosova] have to have tolerance. They have to move out of the past, out of the 19th century and move into the 21st century," Reuters reported. PM

SECURITY COUNCIL CHIEF SLAMS RUSSIAN, CHINESE DIPLOMATS

Anwarul Chowdhury, who is Bangladeshi Ambassador to the UN and currently holds the Security Council chair, said in New York on 1 May that the UN should appoint a special envoy to investigate reports of missing persons in Kosova. "The Council cannot maintain credibility unless we address this issue," Reuters quoted him as saying. Chowdhury added that he regrets that Russian Ambassador to the UN Security Council Sergei Lavrov and Chinese Deputy Ambassador Shen Guofeng met Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on 26 April before a Security Council delegation visited Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2000). Chowdhury added that the two diplomats had every right to visit Belgrade but said it is "regrettable that the ambassadors visited with war criminals." PM

SERBIAN WORKERS HOLD PROTESTS...

Several thousand Belgrade residents held a 1 May demonstration under the auspices of the Nezavisnost (Independence) trade union movement. The meeting's theme was: "The world of work is the key to democracy," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The union said in a statement that workers had allowed Milosevic to "push them into evil and hatred," and that now "the moment has come to touch every hand that stretches out to help us. The workers in Serbia must take responsibility for their role in the democratization of Serbia," Reuters reported. Union leader Branimir Canak said: "this is the moment to wake up and say a decisive 'no' to the regime of Slobodan Milosevic." PM

...WHILE REGIME CELEBRATES IN BAMBI PARK

Pro-Milosevic unions held their 1 May celebration in Smederevo. The top leadership, however, attended a festival the previous night in Milosevic's home town of Pozarevac to mark the opening of the visitors' season for Bambi [Amusement] Park, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The park was built during the 1999 Kosova conflict with money from the Bambi cookie company, the city government, and the Madona Company, which is a business venture of Milosevic's son, Marko. Many Serbs regard Bambi Park as the ultimate symbol of regime corruption and privilege. PM

OSCE DENIES ALBANIAN OPPOSITION'S CHARGE OF BIAS

OSCE spokesman Giovanni Porta told dpa in Tirana on 1 May that the Democratic Party's charges that the OSCE supports the governing Socialists "are not fair. The OSCE has always kept an open, clear and unbiased attitude in its mediation efforts in Albania." Democratic Party officials have charged that the OSCE supports the Socialist position on electoral legislation, which, the Democrats argue, will enable the Socialists to rig upcoming elections (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report, 7 April 2000). PM

CROATIAN ADMISSION TO PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE IMMINENT?

President Stipe Mesic, Prime Minister Ivica Racan, and other top Croatian leaders visited the aircraft carrier "U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower" near Dubrovnik on 30 April. Racan told reporters afterward that he is pleased to have seen the ship "only eight days before my trip to Brussels, where Croatia expects to be admitted to Partnership for Peace." He set the date for formal admission as 25 May, "Jutarnji list" reported on 2 May. Racan will visit NATO headquarters on 8-9 May to discuss his country's prospects for admission to the alliance. The Croatian government of the late President Franjo Tudjman supported NATO during the 1999 Kosova conflict, and the former general himself sorely wanted to see his country admitted to the alliance. But NATO did not allow Croatia to join Partnership for Peace because of its record on democratization and minority rights. Mesic and Racan are firmly committed to overcoming the international isolation of the Tudjman years. PM

TUDJMAN'S PARTY PICKS NEW LEADER

Some 2,000 delegates to the congress of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) chose former Deputy Foreign Minister Ivo Sanader as new party leader in Zagreb on 30 April. Referring to the HDZ's having slipped to at least fifth place in recent opinion polls, Sanader told supporters: "The Croatian public seems to have forgotten everything the HDZ has done for this country.... But we shall return to power much sooner than a lot of people are expecting," Reuters reported. His main rival was Branimir Glavas, who is a right-wing leader from eastern Slavonia. Glavas charged that the party has failed to confront the scandals and corruption charges that cost it a series of elections at the beginning of the year. Ivic Pasalic, whom many regard as Tudjman's chosen successor, took himself out of the running for any party offices, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 29 April. Pasalic has been at the center of several scandals (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 May 2000). PM

PARLIAMENT TO VOTE THIRD TIME ON PRIME MINISTER

Legislators agreed in Ljubljana on 28 April to hold a third round of voting for prime minister on 3 May. The move came two days after Andrej Bajuk, who is the center-right candidate, received 43 out of 90 possible votes, thereby falling just three votes short of an absolute majority (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2000). Under the rules governing a third round of balloting, a candidate needs only a simple majority. Reuters quoted top political analysts in Ljubljana as saying that the outcome is too close to predict. President Milan Kucan wants early elections to provide a fresh mandate for parliament. PM

IMF DELEGATION EXTENDS ROMANIAN STAY

Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu told journalists on 28 April that after the last round of talks with the head of the IMF delegation Emmanuel Zervoudakis he is "optimistic" that the IMF will extend the stand-by agreement with Romania by 11 months, as requested by his cabinet. Isarescu also said that the latest economic data confirms that Romania is heading towards economic growth. But Zervoudakis on the same day decided to extend his stay in Romania for further discussions on the recently-approved budget. He is meeting Isarescu again on 2 May. Government spokeswoman Gabriela Vranceanu-Firea on 1 May said Romania has fulfilled 20 out of the 25 conditions demanded by the fund. The main remaining problems, she said, are the high burden imposed on the budget by wages and the arrears owed by loss-making state-owned companies. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT PROMULGATES LAW ON COMMUNIST REGIME'S 'CRIMINALITY'

President Petar Stoyanov on 28 April signed into law the recently-approved legislation on the "criminal" nature of the communist regime (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2000). Stoyanov, who earlier said he had misgivings about the law, said he was doing so because the legislation "does not grant, annul, or violate any legal rights," BTA reported. He said the law is of a "declaration type." Stoyanov also said that he is "encouraged" by the steps the cabinet has taken as of late to combat corruption, adding that "the time has come for strong statements to make room for all-out action." But he also said he does not agree with Prime Minister Ivan Kostov's proposal to curtail the immunity of judges as part of the effort to fight corruption. MS

BULGARIA REACTS TO MACEDONIAN PREMIER'S INTERVIEW

Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov on 28 April told journalists that Bulgaria hopes a statement by Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski has been "misinterpreted" by the Macedonian media, because "it would be alarming if the opposite were true," BTA reported. In an interview with the daily "Utrinski Vestik" on 22 April, Trajkovski said that criminals, smugglers and drug traders penetrate Macedonia from Bulgaria, and urged the EU not to lift visa requirements for Bulgarian nationals. "Transferring one's own problems to one's neighbors has never been a useful thing to do," Vlaikov said. MS




ROMANIA, MOLDOVA CONCLUDE PROBLEMATIC BASIC TREATY


by Michael Shafir

The foreign ministers of Moldova and Romania, Nicolae Tabacaru and Petre Roman, on 28 April initialed in Chisinau the basic treaty between their countries in the presence of the EU coordinator for the South East European Stability Pact Bodo Hombach. The treaty must now be approved by the two countries' presidents and by the Moldovan and Romanian legislatures.

Although negotiations on the treaty have lasted for no less than seven years, the stumbling blocs do not appear to have been really solved in the document finally agreed on. They were rather circumvented through compromises that make its repudiation by its opponents on both sides of River Prut a certainty. Bucharest has been pushing for a treaty that would express the anomaly of the imposed separation of Bessarabia from the Romanian state. It therefore wished the treaty to be called one of "fraternity," to speak of "two Romanian states," to include an explicit denunciation of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact that had made possible the annexation by the Soviet Union in 1940 of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina, and to be explicitly written "in the Romanian language." For Chisinau, on the other hand, a treaty that would emphasize anomalies was a treaty that would in the long run undermine its independent statehood. The famous saying "in the long run we are all dead" was quite rightly perceived to be fully applicable if Moldova were to accept Bucharest's "suggestions."

The compromise solutions, as all compromises go, are "neither fish, nor fowl", or, as a Romanian daily put colloquially, "neither horse, nor donkey." The treaty is neither one of "fraternity" nor a "regular treaty," but is rather designated as one of "privileged relations." No reference is made to "two Romanian states," but mention is made of the joint "roots in the historic past," and of a "community of culture and language." The Russian-German pact is not explicitly denounced, but is implicitly rejected by making reference to two documents approved by the Moldovan parliament and by the Romanian government in 1991, upon Moldova's declaration of independence. One must note that the Moldovan position on this point is rather delicate: the declaration of independence approved by the country's parliament in 1991 had indeed "noted" the pact's denunciation by the "parliaments of many states" but had stopped short of embracing that denunciation, for nullification of the pact would have found Moldova back to the status of a Romanian province. Not so the Romanian government's 1991 declaration, which, while welcoming the Moldovan declaration of independence, viewed it as "a decisive step on the road to peaceful obliteration of the nefarious consequences" of the pact, which was described as "directed against the rights and interests of the Romanian people." Finally, the pact does not stipulate in which language it is formulated, though it is clearly written in Romanian. The Moldovans had long insisted that mention be made of the fact that the treaty is written in either the "state" or the "official" languages (plural), for although the two are practically identical, the state language in Moldovan is defined in the constitution as being "Moldovan.".

Naturally, each side is now attempting to present the treaty in the interpretation best suited to over-ruling possible objections to it. In Moldova, President Petru Lucinschi and parliament chairman Dumitru Diacov emphasized the "regular features" of the document, which, they claimed, contains "all provisions" that a regular treaty (that is indistinguishable from other basic treaties) should include. Foreign Minister Petre Roman, on the other hand, chose to present the treaty as being one "between two fraternal states" and spoke again of "the two Romanian states" while referring to the treaty's significance." The Romanian Foreign Ministry went one step further, explaining that the "principle of inviolability of borders" included in the text does not necessarily rule out border modifications (that is, the eventual re-unification of the two states), since the Helsinki Final Act stipulates that "peaceful border modifications," with the agreement of both sides, are possible.

What, then, is "privileged" about the treaty? What made the two sides suddenly agree on the compromise? And why now and not earlier? Bodo Hombach's presence at the initialing ceremony provides more than a hint. Praising the treaty, the EU official said that the document is likely to help both Romania's quest for integration in the EU and Moldova's effort to achieve EU associate status and to become a full- fledged member of the South East European Balkan Stability Pact. Indeed, soon thereafter President Emil Constantinescu, attending a meeting of Central and East European heads of states in Hungary, apparently secured the agreement of his peers for Chisinau to be invited to their next meeting.

Romania's reasons for agreeing to the pact now can also be linked to the EU integration effort, the more so as Bucharest, though invited to accession talks recently, has little else to offer the EU than proof of its eagerness to solve standing problems with its neighbors. The "privileged relationship" at closer scrutiny amounts to no more than an engagement on Romania's side to promote Moldova's integration efforts alongside its own. By so doing, Romania has in fact accepted Moldova's position that a "re-integration" of the two countries can only occur within the larger context of European integration. But Bucharest is also undertaking to defend "Moldovan territorial integrity" and "sovereignty" in all possible forums and in practice. Roman explained that this is precisely an illustration of the "privileged relations" aspect of the treaty.

This allusion to the Transdniester conflict is one that may be problematic. The OSCE rotating chairmanship that Romania takes over in 2001 could be a forum to defend and promote Moldovan full sovereignty. But that prestigious position is by definition limited in time. And an eventual involvement by Romania in the Transdniester conflict beyond words and mediation efforts is unlikely to convince the EU that Bucharest promotes regional stability.


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