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Newsline - May 3, 2000




RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVE NARROWLY ESCAPES CHECHEN ATTACK

Nikolai Koshman had a narrow escape on 1 May when the building that houses the local pro-Moscow administration in Chechnya's southern Shatoi raion was attacked minutes after he had left it, ITAR-TASS reported. Koshman was touring the Shatoi and Itum-Kale districts to discuss restoration of infrastructure and relations between the pro-Moscow administration and the local population. On 2 May, Koshman said the approaches to all electric power plants in Chechnya will be mined to prevent the clandestine theft of metal parts, AP reported. LF

NEW PRO-RUSSIAN CHECHEN POLITICAL MOVEMENT FORMED

The Union of Citizens for the Chechen Republic as a Democratic Rule-of- Law State Within the Russian Federation (Solidarity) held its constituent congress in Gudermes on 1 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Chairman Amin Osmaev said the movement aims to unite those Chechens who believe the republic's economic and spiritual revival is contingent on its remaining a subject of the Russian Federation. LF

BABITSKII TO RECEIVE OSCE JOURNALISM PRIZE

In a statement issued in Strasbourg last week, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe announced the award of its Prize for Journalism and Democracy to RFE/RL journalist Andrei Babitskii. The statement noted that Babitskii "has reported on the situation in Chechnya with complete disregard for his personal safety." It also described his Chechnya coverage as "widely recognized for its objectivity and fairness." Babitskii was detained by Russian military in Chechnya in late January and released only one month later (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January and 29 February 2000). LF

KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA PRESIDENT AGAIN CRITICIZES BEREZOVSKII

Vladimir Semenov has warned that many of the republic's elders considers the actions of Boris Berezovskii, who was elected to the State Duma from that republic, as "dangerous" and violating earlier promises Berezovskii had given, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 April. Semenov did not confirm earlier reports that elders were collecting signatures to demand Berezovskii's recall, but he did not exclude the possibility that they may do so in the future (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 26 April 2000). LF

PUTIN GOES SKIING

President-elect Vladimir Putin and his family went skiing on 2 May, Interfax reported. Putin is scheduled to go to Prokhorovka, the site of a tank battle during World War II, on 3 May to meet with Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II before returning to Sochi. PG

RUSSIAN CURRENCY RESERVES RISE...

Viktor Gerashchenko, the governor of the Russian Central Bank, told an Amsterdam conference on markets and financial modernization that Russia's hard currency reserves have risen by $4 billion over the last four months alone and now stand at $17 billion, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 May. He said that "the most difficult phase of the banking crisis of 1998 has been mostly overcome," but he noted that about 200 of Russia's 1,350 commercial banks may lose their licenses over the coming months. PG

...ECONOMIC INDICATORS ALSO IMPROVE...

Also at the Amsterdam conference, Economics Minister Andrei Shapovalyants said that Russia's GDP rose by 3.2 percent in 1999 compared with 1998 and industrial production exceeded 8 percent, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 May. He pointed to three reasons for this rise: greater activity in exporting industries, replacement of imported merchandise by Russian-made products, and an improvement in the financial position of industrial enterprises. Shapovalyants said that inflation is also slowing and did not exceed 1 percent a month from February through April of this year. PG

...BUT WESTERN BANKS NOT RESPONDING

Aleksandr Shokhin, the chairman of the State Duma's banking committee, told the Amsterdam conference on 2 May that Western banks are discriminating against all Russian banks because of the poor performance of some of them, ITAR-TASS reported. "If someone is guilty," Shokhin said, "they should be punished, but cooperation with Russian businesses as a whole cannot be stopped." And he urged his listeners to face up to the fact that there is "a general assumption that doing business with Russia is fraught with undesired consequences." PG

ARTEMEV REAFFIRMS PACT WITH YABLOKO, UNION OF RIGHTIST FORCES IN ST. PETERSBURG

Igor Artemev, a candidate for governor of St. Petersburg, has denied rumors that he may break his agreement with Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces on fielding a single democratic candidate in the 14 May vote, Interfax reported on 2 May. Artemev said that these reports are untrue but may reflect the views of the current St. Petersburg administration, which, he said, "is prepared [to do] anything to ruin the democratic alliance." PG

STEPASHIN SUPPORTS DUMA MOVE TO ST. PETERSBURG

Sergei Stepashin, the head of the State Auditing Commission, told Interfax on 2 May that moving the State Duma to St. Petersburg would "seriously raise the status" of that city. But he said such a move does not mean that the Federation Council would also have to be transferred. Earlier this year, following talks with then acting President Putin, Stepashin had claimed that a program exists for moving several federal structures to St. Petersburg, including both the Duma and the Federation Council (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 15 March 2000). PG

MAY DAY MARCH NUMBERS DISPUTED

According to the Russian Interior Ministry, only 412,800 people took part in a total of 828 May Day marches and meetings throughout the country, Interfax reported. But the news agency said Mikhail Shmakov, the leader of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia, maintains that 2.5 million people took part. PG

PATRIARCH SEES RELIGIOUS REVIVAL IN RUSSIA

Patriarch of Moscow and Russia Aleksii II on 1 May expressed his hope for the further spiritual revival of Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. "Faith has never died in the hearts of our people," Aleksii said, "even when the Church, using legal language, was allowed only to perform religious rites.'" He said that today "the main task facing the Church is to renovate not walls but human souls eroded by the ideology of atheism." And he also expressed the belief that "new, respectful relations between the Church and state, relations that have never existed in Russian history before, facilitate a religious revival." PG

RASPUTIN SELECTED FOR SOLZHENITSYN PRIZE

Valentin Rasputin will receive the Solzhenitsyn Literary Prize on 4 May, Interfax reported on 2 May. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn established the $25,000 prize in 1997. Rasputin, famous for his novels about Siberia, will become its third laureate. In 1998, the prize was awarded to philologist Vladimir Toporov and in 1999 to poet Inna Lisnyanskaya. PG

76 MILLION RUSSIANS GET DISCOUNT ON TRAIN TRAVEL

An official of the Transportation Ministry told Interfax on 2 May that 76 million Russian citizens have the right to free or reduced fares on the country's regional electric trains. PG

PENSION FUNDS FALL SHORT IN ARKHANGELSK OBLAST

The pension authorities in Arkhangelsk Oblast told Interfax on 1 May that they were able to pay only 65.6 percent of pensions in April because they had not received the funds needed to meet the total amount. PG

MULTIMEDIA UNIVERSITY SET UP IN ARKHANGELSK

Russia's first multimedia university has been established in Arkhangelsk, one of the university's organizers told Interfax on 1 May. The new university, which has received some foreign funding, will teach management and computer skills. PG

THREE MILLION DRUG USERS IN RUSSIAN FEDERATION

Russian Health Minister Yurii Shevchenko told the Duma on 28 April that there are more than 3 million drug users in Russiaapproximately 2 percent of the population--and that 36,000 of them have AIDS, ITAR-TASS reported. PG




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES PREMIER, DEFENSE MINISTER...

Robert Kocharian on 2 May signed decrees dismissing Prime Minister Aram Sargsian and Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian and appointing Chief of Staff Mikael Harutiunian (no relation to Vagharshak) to replace the latter, Noyan Tapan reported. In a statement broadcast on Armenian Television, Kocharian said he was constrained to dismiss the premier in order to end a situation that threatens to "shatter the foundations of our statehood." Kocharian said that despite all his efforts, the president and government proved unable to work as a team serving the same goal. He said "political intrigues" between ministers "have become a way of life, while economic and other problems are snowballing to become a serious challenge to the country." He said a continuation of the status quo could lead to the collapse of the army. Kocharian pledged to cooperate with the parliament and begin consultations with deputies on a new government. LF

...AS COMMUNISTS PRESS FOR HIS IMPEACHMENT

Also on 2 May, Communist deputy Khoren Sargsian (no relation to Aram) told journalists that his faction has collected 21 signatures in support of a measure to impeach the president, Noyan Tapan reported. The majority Miasnutiun parliamentary bloc had raised the possibility of impeachment last week but then dropped it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April and 2 May 2000). Members of Miasnutiun, which supports Aram Sargsian, convened an emergency meeting late on 2 May to discuss his dismissal but have not yet responded officially to it. But some Miasnutiun deputies spoke out against participating in talks with Kocharian on the makeup of the new cabinet, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT SAYS BAKU DEMONSTRATION 'UNCONSTITUTIONAL'...

By a vote of 79 to one, parliamentary deputies on 2 May adopted a resolution condemning the unsanctioned demonstration by opposition parties in Baku on 29 April as "an encroachment on Azerbaijan's statehood and an attempt to damage its international image" on the eve of the country's admission to the Council of Europe, Turan and ITAR- TASS reported. The statement noted that a declaration issued by the opposition on 29 April listing its demands is "a provocation that has nothing to do with the basic norms of democratic struggle." Those demands include the adoption of new election legislation to ensure that the November parliamentary poll is free and democratic, the release of political prisoners, and opposition access to the state media. The parliamentary statement warned that the authorities will take decisive action to curtail "violations of social stability" by the opposition. LF

...AS OPPOSITION CONDEMNS USE OF VIOLENCE

The 20 parliamentary deputies aligned in the opposition Democratic Bloc on 2 May condemned the police violence against participants in the 29 April demonstration as "unacceptable" and called on the country's leadership to fulfill its pledges to the Council of Europe, Turan reported. They also demanded that a discussion of draft election laws prepared by the opposition be included on the parliament's agenda. On 28 April, President Heidar Aliyev signed draft amendments and additions to the existing laws on elections and on the Central Electoral Commission. Those drafts, described by opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party senior deputy chairman Ali Kerimov as "undemocratic and reactionary," are to be debated on 5 May. LF

OSCE CHAIR SUGGESTS COOPERATING WITH UN TO RESOLVE ABKHAZ CONFLICT

During talks in Tbilisi on 2 May with Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili, parliamentary deputy speaker Vakhtang Kolbaya, and Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze, OSCE Chairwoman Benita Ferrero-Waldner said cooperation between the OSCE and the UN would be the most effective way of achieving a solution to the deadlocked Abkhaz conflict, AP and Caucasus Press reported. She said the prospects for a solution of the South Ossetian conflict are more favorable and expressed regret at being unable to visit Tskhinvali, the breakaway republic's capital. Ferrero-Waldner said she fears the conflict in Chechnya, which she described as "both a Russian and a regional problem," could spill over onto Georgian territory, Reuters reported. Asked whether the OSCE will monitor the withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgia, Ferrero-Waldner said this does not fall within its mandate. LF

GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT RESIGNS

Lortkipanidze told Caucasus Press on 1 May that following the inauguration the previous day of President Eduard Shevardnadze, all 21 government ministers had submitted their resignations in accordance with the constitution. Lortkipanidze said Shevardnadze will present to the parliament on 14 May a new government lineup in which the number of ministers is likely to be reduced to 15. He said the new government may include representatives from the Adjar Republic. Shevardnadze met with outgoing ministers on 2 May and thanked them for their work. Caucasus Press on 2 May quoted parliamentary human rights committee chairwoman Elena Tevdoradze as predicting that both Lortkipanidze and the ministers of defense and internal affairs will retain their posts in the new government. LF

TWO MORE KILLED IN ABKHAZIA

Two Abkhaz troops were killed and one wounded by shelling during the night of 30 April, Caucasus Press reported the following day. Four Abkhaz were killed last week in an incident that the unrecognized republic's authorities blamed on Georgian guerrillas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2000). Georgian Minister of State Lortkipanidze, who is to travel to Sukhum on 3 May for talks on the new wave of killings, denied any Georgian guerrilla involvement in those shootings, which he blamed on criminal elements. LF

CHINA TO ALLOCATE AID TO KAZAKHSTAN'S ARMED FORCES

A spokesman for Kazakhstan's Defense Ministry told Interfax on 2 May that during Defense Minister General Sat Tokpakbaev's visit to Beijing last week, the Chinese government agreed to provide goods and services worth 11 million yuan ($1.3 million) to Kazakhstan's armed forces. Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian had said on 24 April that China and Kazakhstan plan to intensify cooperation in fighting separatism, international terrorism, and religious extremism, Reuters reported. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT PROPOSES MAKING RUSSIAN A STATE LANGUAGE

Former Kirghiz Communist Party First Secretary Turdakun UsubAliyev on 2 May proposed that the lower chamber of the parliament begin a debate on giving Russian the status of an official state language, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. But although 47 of the total 60 deputies supported that proposal, the debate was postponed. Deputy Adaham Madumarov said the proposal was intended as "a gift" from unnamed "pro- Russian forces" to Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin on the occasion of his upcoming inauguration. LF




BELARUSIAN NGO URGES BOYCOTT OF PRESS EXHIBITION IN MINSK

The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) has called on journalists to boycott the "Press in Belarus" exhibition organized by the State Press Committee, which is to take place in Minsk from 3-6 May, Interfax reported on 2 May. It is expected that more than 60 Belarusian periodicals and electronic media will participate in the exhibition. The BAJ explained its call by the authorities' refusal to apologize for the mass arrests of domestic and foreign journalists during the opposition Freedom March-2 in Minsk earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March 2000). JM

UKRAINE FIRES TOP OFFICERS OVER STRAY MISSILE

Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk has dismissed Missile Forces and Artillery Commander Lieutenant General Volodymyr Tereshchenko and Colonel Heorhiy Korneyev, head of the control group for the missile forces, Reuters reported on 30 April. Kuzmuk said they were responsible for the accident in which a missile fired from a training ground in Chernihiv Oblast hit an apartment block in Kyiv and killed three people (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 25 April 2000). Kuzmuk also demoted the first deputy commander of Ukraine's Northern Operational Command, Lieutenant General Valeriy Pashynskyy, for "the poor organization of the exercises and for deceiving the Defense Ministry." The missile forces initially reported that the missile had hit its target, located at another training ground near Kyiv. JM

UKRAINE, SLOVAKIA IMPOSE MUTUAL VISA REQUIREMENTS

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has notified Slovakia that as of 28 June, Slovaks entering Ukraine will need visas, TASR reported on 2 May. Kyiv's decision is in response to last week's announcement by Bratislava that it will demand visas from Ukrainians beginning 28 June. Slovakia is coordinating its visa policy with the Czech Republic, which is to cancel its visa-free arrangement with Russia and Belarus at the end of this month. JM

BALTIC STOCK EXCHANGES MOVE TOWARD NOREX

Heads of the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian stock exchanges signed a letter of intent on 2 May to join the pan-Nordic stock exchange, Norex. The three Baltic stock exchanges will begin work on harmonizing their procedures with Norex and could join the exchange as soon as mid-2001, BNS reported. Norex links the Copenhagen and Stockholm stock exchanges, while its Oslo and Reykjavik counterparts have also signed letters of intent to join. Norex President Hans-Ole Jochumsen said that all parties "will undoubtedly benefit from this cooperation." MH

LATVIAN PRESIDENT IN ESTONIA...

Vaira Vike-Freiberga visited Estonia from 1-3 May, the first state visit by a Latvian president since the restoration of that country's independence. In a meeting with her Estonian counterpart, she and Lennart Meri stressed the need for closer cultural contacts between the two countries, ETA reported. Meri also awarded Vike-Freiberga the Chain of the Cross of Terra Mariana. The Latvian president also discussed EU integration with Prime Minister Mart Laar, who reemphasized Estonian support for Latvia in this area. The issue of legal harmonization with EU norms featured prominently in a meeting with parliamentary speaker Toomas Savi. Vike-Freiberga also visited the Baltic Defense College in Tartu. MH

...TALKS TO THE PRESS

Before her visit to Estonia, Latvian President Vike-Freiberga warned that Russia might use military force against Latvia and the other Baltic states, BBC Online reported on 30 April. "Any attack on Latvia will be an attack on the European Community," she said, adding that "it will be by implication an attack on NATO," which, she noted, favors enlargement of the alliance in this region. BBC commentator William Horsley wrote that this is the strongest statement in Europe to date about Russia's new military doctrine. Vike-Freiberga also gave an interview to the daily "Postimees" of 2 May stressing the healthiness of competition between Latvia and Estonia, whom she compared to siblings. Competition provides "good stimulus" to encourage the other to do even better, she commented. MH

ABOUT-FACE FOR HARSHEST CRITIC OF LATVIAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE

In a surprise move, the People's Party of outgoing Prime Minister Andris Skele acquiesced to the cabinet lineup proposed by Premier-designate Andris Berzins. The party's parliamentary faction head, Gundars Berzins, made the announcement on 2 May, the deadline for all parties in the proposed coalition to respond to the plan. Berzins added that the People's Party will receive the education portfolio, as well as finance, economic affairs, interior affairs, and agriculture. The decision, he said, was made to prevent "instability " and to "demonstrate our good will and good partnership," LETA reported. Earlier, the People's Party had proposed an alternative plan whereby it would have received either the transport or foreign affairs portfolios (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2000). Berzins has said he might ask the parliament for a confidence vote as early as 5 May. MH

IS CUBA SEEKING TO PAY BACK LITHUANIA FOR SUPPORTING U.S.?

"Kauno Diena" speculates that Cuba may be seeking to take revenge for Lithuania's position in a human rights vote in the UN, BNS reported on 2 May. The daily reported that Cuba has made an unexpected request to begin bilateral trade talks, prompting speculation that Cuba wants Lithuania to agree to free access for Cuban sugar. Lithuania itself has a sugar surplus. The daily linked the request for trade talks to Lithuania's vote for a U.S.-sponsored UN resolution condemning Cuba's human rights, quoting Deputy Foreign Minister Algimantas Rimkunas as saying it is "clear proof" that the WTO entry mechanism has been "politicized." BNS also quoted "Verslo Zinios" as saying that a group of countries, including the U.S., is blocking Lithuania's WTO entry over export subsidies and support for agriculture. MH

POLAND'S PEASANT PARTY LEADER TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT

A 2 May national convention of the opposition Polish Peasant Party (PSL) nominated PSL leader Jaroslaw Kalinowski as the party's candidate in this year's presidential elections, Polish media reported. "It is time for a change because right now both our human and economic potential is being wasted," Kalinowski said after his nomination. He added that he intends to campaign for a socially oriented market economy, free education, equal access to medical care, and higher wages for inhabitants of rural areas and farmers. Kalinowski is known for his harsh criticism of the current Solidarity-led coalition as well as for his Euroskepticism. The PSL is currently backed by 7 percent of Poles. Some commentators predict that at best, Kalinowski can count on coming third in the presidential race, behind incumbent President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski. JM

JEWS, POLES JOIN IN 'MARCH OF THE LIVING' AT AUSCHWITZ

Some 5,000 young Jews and 800 young Poles took part in the annual March of the Living at the former Auschwitz death camp on 2 May, news agencies reported. The march was led by Israeli President Ezer Weizman, his Polish counterpart, Kwasniewski, and a group of Holocaust survivors. "The story of the torture and murder of the Jews of Europe will never let go of the conscience of civilized people around the world [despite the] tireless energy of the Holocaust deniers," AP quoted Weizman as saying. "We are here together to make sure that nobody, neither people nor nations, are ever again threatened with annihilation," Kwasniewski told the marchers, calling on young Jews to put aside historical prejudice and "see Poles as friends." JM

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER TO BE SUBJECT TO SECURITY CLEARANCE

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan will undergo a security clearance process, ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil told journalists on 2 May. Pospisil said this has nothing to do with demands from the opposition that Kavan undergo the process. Rather, he said, it is the result of the recent decision of the National Security Council to appoint Kavan coordinator of intelligence services. Earlier, Kavan was accused of having collaborated with the communist secret police (StB), but courts ruled in 1994 and 1996 that he was not a "conscious collaborator," noting he had not been aware of the identity of the StB agents who contacted him and did not "fulfill missions" on behalf of the service. MS

CZECH ENVIRONMENT MINISTER SUPPORTS REFERENDUM ON TEMELIN

Milos Kuzvart on 2 May said he backs the demand of the civic organization Coalition Referendum 2000 for a plebiscite on the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK reported. He said that the public "received wrong information" on Temelin many years ago and that starting the plant will have an "enormous negative impact" in the social sphere, leading to mass lay-offs in Bohemia's brown-coal mines. Kuzvart added that the Czech Republic is already producing more electricity than it needs and that Temelin's launch will only worsen that situation. Noting that the referendum cannot take place as long as a law on the plebiscite has not been approved by the parliament, he promised to raise the issue with Pavel Rychetsky, deputy premier in charge of legislation. MS

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER PREDICTS GOVERNMENT WILL LOSE 'CONSTITUTIONAL MAJORITY'

Kukan on 28 April told journalists that Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet will lose its 92-seat "constitutional majority" in the 150-seat Slovak parliament, but will preserve a "comfortable majority" needed for the passage of legislation related to EU membership and survive until the 2002 elections. Kukan, who had just returned from a visit to the U.S., said he briefed officials there on this possibility and that Washington's "favorable and optimistic assessment" of the cabinet remains unchanged, CTK reported. MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADER THREATENS TO REVERSE PRIVATIZATION

Anna Malinkova, chairwoman of the opposition Slovak National Party, has threatened that her party will reverse the privatization of state-owned companies if more than 49 percent of shares in those companies are acquired by foreigners, CTK reported on 2 May. "Nothing is irreversible," she said in response to the government's intention to sell those companies to foreign firms. Malinkova spoke after meeting with Smer leader Robert Fico, who recently submitted a draft bill under which privatization of key companies would require the approval of a three-fifths parliamentary majority. Fico's proposal is supported by leftist deputies from the ruling coalition. MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW PROSECUTOR-GENERAL

By a vote of 206 to 168, the parliament on 2 May elected Deputy Ombudsman Peter Polt as Hungary's prosecutor-general. Polt was nominated for the post last week by President Arpad Goncz, following consultations with all six parliamentary parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 2000). Polt replaces Kalman Gyorgyi, who leaves office on 15 May. Also on 2 May, the new minister without portfolio in charge of the secret services, Ervin Demeter, was sworn in. He replaces Laszlo Kover, who resigned his post after he was elected FIDESZ chairman in February 2000. Demeter had served as Kover's deputy since 1998. He was a member of the Democratic Forum but went over to FIDESZ in January 2000. MSZ

ALBRIGHT PRAISES HUNGARY FOR DEMOCRATIC CHANGES

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told reporters in Washington on 1 May that Hungary is "a leading example of what is possible when a country once consigned to the far side of the Iron Curtain makes a successful transition to democracy." She told visiting Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi that Hungary is "no longer a student of democracy" but has "graduated with high honors." Martonyi urged the U.S. to consult both its NATO partners and Russia before deciding to deploy a national defense system against missiles fired by "rogue states." He said that it should be possible to develop such a system without confrontation with Russia. MSZ




UN, NATO TO AID RETURN OF SERBS TO KOSOVA

Officials of NATO and the UN civilian administration in Kosova joined Father Sava and other moderate Serb leaders on 2 May in Gracanica to form a committee to facilitate the return of Serbian refugees to the province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2000). Sava said that he hopes that the Serbs can begin to come home in June, AP reported. The UN's chief administrator, Bernard Kouchner, was more cautious: "You want to rush for political reasons... [but to ensure] maximum... safety, we don't want to take too much risk." Some 100,000 Serbs fled the province following the defeat of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's forces in 1999. PM

RADICAL KOSOVAR PARTIES FORM COALITION

Ramush Haradinaj, who, like many Kosovar politicians, was a commander in the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said in Prishtina on 2 May that four small ethnic Albanian parties have formed a coalition to work for the province's independence. The Alliance for the Future of Kosova will set up its own shadow state structure, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. The coalition will take part in the local elections slated for later this year. Haradinaj is a rival of former UCK leader Hashim Thaci, who is also a political leader. PM

DRASKOVIC'S PARTY TO BOYCOTT LEGISLATURE

Ivan Kovacevic, who is a spokesman for Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), said in Belgrade on 2 May that the party will boycott the Serbian and federal parliaments, effective immediately. The move comes in response to the failure of the authorities to identify or find the guilty parties in what Draskovic regards as an attempt on his life in October 1999, "Vesti" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2000). The Serbian parliament is slated to elect deputies to the upper house of the federal parliament on 3 May. Kovacevic stressed that the ruling coalition will dominate the vote with or without a SPO presence, Reuters reported. He argued that early general elections are the only way out of the current political imbroglio. With 45 seats, the SPO is the only opposition party with a significant representation in the legislature. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS ARRESTED

A spokesman for the student opposition group Otpor (Resistance) said in Belgrade on 3 May that police have arrested three Otpor members. They are charged with trying to kill four friends of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's son Marko. The circumstances of the incident in a Pozarevac cafe on 30 April are unclear, but one of the arrested men said that Milosevic junior's friends started the fight, AP reported. At least one of the Otpor members required hospitalization after the clash. PM

CROATIAN JOURNALISTS GO ON STRIKE

Several thousand journalists staged a symbolic five-minute strike across the country on 3 May to protest unpaid wages, which in some cases are six months in arrears, dpa reported from Zagreb. Union spokesmen blamed incompetent managers for bringing their newspapers close to bankruptcy and demanded better laws to protect journalists and their work. PM

SOCCER VIOLENCE IN CROATIA

Police used tear gas and caused a match in the Croatian Cup final to be abandoned four minutes from time after protracted displays of ill temper and violence by fans of arch-rivals Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb. Hajduk was leading 2-0 in Split on 2 May when police intervened to stop its fans from attacking those of Dinamo. Hajduk fans recently caused another match to be abandoned by their displays of violence. Vlatko Markovic, who heads the Croatian soccer association, said that "this is a tragedy for Croatian soccer." He called an urgent meeting of the association's governing body for 4 May, Reuters reported. PM

LITTLE PROGRESS ON RETURN OF SERBS TO CROATIA

Milan Djukic, who heads Croatia's Serbian People's Party, said in Zagreb on 2 May that there has been no substantial return of ethnic Serbs who fled during the two Croatian offensives in 1995. He said that the government has not made good on its promise to enable a considerable number of Serbs to come home in the year 2000, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The government, for its part, stresses that it needs aid from abroad to provide housing, infrastructure, and jobs for returnees. PM

PETRITSCH PROMOTES JOINT BOSNIAN INSTITUTIONS

Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, discussed the role and functioning of joint institutions with the three members of the joint presidency in Sarajevo on 2 May. Petritsch in particular drew attention to the newly expanded responsibilities of the joint cabinet and the need for it to help improve the country's economic situation, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2000). PM

FIRST 'INTEGRATED' SCHOOL IN HERZEGOVINA

Some 89 Muslim pupils are attending classes in the same school building as Croatian children in Stolac for the first time, "Dnevni avaz" reported on 3 May. The two groups of pupils will attend separate classes and follow separate curricula, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service added. The Muslim children had previously received lessons in private homes. Stolac is a center of Croatian nationalism and is also known for its carved medieval tombstones. PM

ROMANIAN MONARCHY FEUD EXTENDS TO RESTITUTION PROCESS

Prince Paul, a nephew of King Carol II, is challenging in court former King Michael's request for the restitution of a building in Bucharest, Mediafax reported. Prince Paul, who is the first-born son of Carol Mircea Grigore von Hohenzollern and Romanian aristocrat Zizi Lambrino, is claiming a share in the property. King Carol's marriage to Lambrino during World War I in Odessa was nullified by the royal court, but Paul was recognized as the lawful son of King Carol by a Lisbon court in 1955. A court in Teleorman county recognized the Lisbon ruling in 1995 and the Bucharest Court of Appeals upheld that ruling in April 1999. Prince Paul, who recently set up his own political party, says he has no intention of demanding the restoration of the monarchy. MS

MOLDOVAN PARTY CRITICIZES TREATY WITH ROMANIA

Iurie Rosca, chairman of the opposition Popular Christian Democratic Party (PPCD), said on 2 May that "Romanian diplomacy suffered a serious defeat" when its architects agreed to sign the basic treaty with Moldova. He said he hopes President Emil Constantinescu will refuse to sign a treaty that "is a camouflage for...sealing off Bessarabia in line with the Russian version." In interviews with RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau, representatives of most parliamentary parties said they support the treaty. Meanwhile, the PPCD has sent a letter to Constantinescu and the Romanian parliament urging them not to approve the treaty. MS

LIBYA AGAIN DELAYS TRIAL OF BULGARIANS

The Libyan authorities have postponed for the third time the trial of six Bulgarian medical workers charged with intentionally infecting Libyan children with the HIV virus, Reuters reported on 30 April. The court proceedings against the five nurses and a doctor were postponed at the request of their defense lawyer. The defense asked to see a World Health Organization report on AIDS problems in Libya that the WHO has handed over to Tripoli. MS

BULGARIA CONTINUES TO CLAP DOWN ON CORRUPTION

The executive director of Plama, Bulgaria's second largest oil refinery, was detained on 28 April and charged with abuse of office and illegally enriching himself, AP reported, citing BTA. Evangelos Barutas, a Greek citizen, is accused of causing losses totaling 100,000 leva ($50,000) by pocketing the proceeds from the sale of petrochemical products. MS




CROATIA'S WATERGATE TAPE


By Patrick Moore

The late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman appears poorly informed and petty in recently published transcripts of a taped conversation with his chief domestic affairs aide, Ivic Pasalic. The two men give the impression that they are concerned primarily with power and influence and treat the law as something to be manipulated for their own purposes. It remains to be seen what the political fallout of the tape will be.

Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in Zagreb on 18 April that recordings of conversations between Tudjman, Pasalic, and some other aides indicate that they were involved in "robbery" in the sale of the mass-circulation daily "Vecernji list" in 1997. Deputy Prime Minister Zeljka Antunovic added that this was not the only privatization of a firm to be managed by the president's office.

Rijeka's "Novi List" called the scandal "Croatia's Watergate affair." The independent daily speculated as to whether Pasalic, who also heads the Herzegovinian lobby and currently enjoys parliamentary immunity, will wind up in jail once the case goes to court. Speculation in the media has centered on the possibility that Pasalic and one of Tudjman's sons controlled "Vecernji list."

Pasalic tried to dodge the charges or even deny that conversations about the newspaper had taken place. His final argument was that if any such tape exists, it is the private property of the Tudjman estate and not for public consumption. This did not sound very convincing.

Any doubts were put to rest by "Jutarnji list" offering a present to its readers in its Easter edition. The independent daily--which has been having a field day in recent months reporting on Tudjman-era scandals--ran three pages of transcripts of the Tudjman-Pasalic discussion about "Vecernji list" and other topics. The talks, which took place on 27 December 1997 in Tudjman's offices, included some other aides and officials of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ).

Briefly, the thrust of the conversation is that Tudjman was determined to have control over the influential daily. He wanted it to appear, however, that other individuals--far removed from the president's office and the HDZ leadership-- were the owners.

He seems poorly informed of facts and details, on which Pasalic painstakingly briefs him. Pasalic reassures the then president that "I've made a big smoke screen around the whole thing, because we can't let it appear even from an airplane that [the privatization of the daily] has anything to do with us." Tudjman tells him that this is "fine, and our interest is to have [the newspaper] under our control." Pasalic agrees, adding that "for the benefit of the outside, there will also be an illusion of democratization, privatization, etcetera."

Like U.S. President Richard Nixon on the Watergate tapes, Tudjman appears to have a Manichaean view of politics. Public life is divided between "our people" and their opponents, whom in one case he refers to as an "enemy of the state." Tudjman is determined to go after his foes and hopes to get at the opposition press by questioning whether newspapers are legally registered. He is clearly disappointed when Pasalic patiently points out to him that newspapers do not have to be registered under Croatian law. A similar exchange takes place over the right of those opposed to Tudjman's policies to hold public meetings.

The conversation then switches to one between Tudjman, Vesna Skare-Ozbolt, and some other aides about inviting foreign dignitaries to help mark the return of Eastern Slavonia to Zagreb's control. Tudjman notes that the American way of making policy is that "all [individuals] get involved at once, then they all go away, but then at the same time each in his own way maintains some influence."

Turning to other matters, the president stresses that he wants the victims of mine-clearing accidents to be honored and the remaining Serbs in eastern Slavonia to feel welcome. He nonetheless appears poorly informed about the situation on the ground, asking: "How many Serbs have gone, only a few?"

There are lighter moments as well. When an aide suggests that Tudjman send U.S. diplomat and former Tudjman confidant Peter Galbraith a personal invitation to the Slavonian commemoration, Tudjman bristles at the idea. When Skare- Ozbolt mentions that the UN's representative in Bosnia, Jacques Klein, will come because he is anxious to get out of that country, Tudjman recalls that Klein did not want to go there in the first place. The Croatian president adds that he wants to meet with Klein "because he's still involved in U.S. policy and can influence it in a sensible fashion, whereas-- just between us--[the international community's chief representative in Bosnia Carlos] Westendorp [does not have influence in Washington because he is] a European and what's more a Catholic from Spain."

It remains to be seen what will come of these and other revelations. Pressures are certain to grow for Pasalic to be stripped of his parliamentary immunity. As to Tudjman and his legacy, it is hard to avoid the impression from these transcripts that he was a man whose thoughts and values were clearly rooted in an earlier era. Like Josip Broz Tito--whose style of rule Tudjman clearly imitated--it may be well said of Tudjman that his great weakness was not knowing when to take his hat and leave the task of governing to a younger generation.


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