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Newsline - May 4, 2000




PUTIN CAUTIOUS ON REUNIFICATION OF SLAVIC REPUBLICS...

During a 3 May meeting with the Ukrainian and Belarusian presidents at Prokhorovka, the site of a major Soviet victory in World War II, Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin distanced himself from calls by Belarus's Alyaksandr Lukashenka to reunify the Soviet Union. "There are many forms of reunification," he commented, suggesting only that the three Slavic peoples are "such close nations" that there can be "no obstacles to the pooling of their efforts," Russian agencies reported. During the commemoration of the 55th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, the three leaders unveiled a memorial to the Kursk salient battle, and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II dedicated a unity bell at the site. PG

...CONTINUES CONSULTATIONS ON NEW CABINET...

After the Prokhorovka meeting, President-elect Vladimir Putin returned to Sochi to continue his vacation for two more days, ITAR- TASS reported on 3 May. While there, he will continue to hold talks on the composition of the new Russian government and on its policies. First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told Interfax that those talks are moving ahead and that the new government will be in place, along with a new economic program, before June. He noted that "there are many proposals on the structure and the composition of the cabinet, suggesting changes that range from insubstantial to considerable." He added that the new government will seek to reduce taxes by from 1.5 percent to 2 percent of GDP. PG

...HOPES FOR 'CONSTRUCTIVE' TALKS WITH CLINTON

President- elect Putin said on 3 May that he hopes his upcoming talks with U.S. President Bill Clinton will be "constructive," Interfax reported. He said the talks will focus on arms control issues and the G-8 summit in Okinawa as well as on more general issues related to Russian-U.S. ties. Also on 3 May, Putin sent congratulations to New York's Russian- language newspaper "Novoe Russkoe Slovo" on the occasion of its 90th anniversary, Russian agencies reported. PG

GOVERNMENT BUDGET REGISTERS SURPLUS

The government has reported a budget surplus of 27.1 billion rubles ($1 billion) during the first two months of 2000, Interfax reported on 3 May. During the same period one year earlier, the budget had been in deficit by 6.3 billion rubles. In April, the surplus rose to 16.6 billion rubles or 6.4 percent of GDP. Development Center head Sergei Aleksashenko told Interfax that one reason for the surplus was that the Finance Ministry had used the sale of palladium as "a pawn" with foreign banks. PG

UN VIEWS RUSSIAN ECONOMIC GROWTH AS SURPRISE

In a report released on 3 May, the UN Economic Commission for Europe said that the resumption of production growth in Russia was the biggest surprise, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian GDP grew by more than 3 percent in 1999, while a fall of 2.5 percent had been predicted, the study said. The UN group explained the increase by high oil prices and improved competitiveness following the decline of the ruble in August 1998. But it added that the Russian economy remains in "fragile balance" and would be susceptible to a decline in oil prices or other "shocks." PG

NEW DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER APPOINTED

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 4 May that President-elect Putin has issued a decree appointing Vladimir Chernukhin as deputy finance minister. Chernukhin is a former deputy chairman of Vneshekonombank. JC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT SAYS PUTIN HOSTAGE TO MILITARY...

In an interview published in "Le Monde" on 3 May, Aslan Maskhadov said that although Russian President-elect Putin needed the war in Chechnya in order to secure his election victory, it is currently the Russian military, not Putin, who insist that hostilities continue, Reuters reported. "If the war were to stop, the truth would emerge about bomb attacks in Moscow and other manipulations that led to it," he commented. Caucasus Press quoted Maskhadov as telling the French newspaper that mediation is needed to end the war and as calling on France, Poland, and Georgia to volunteer to act in that capacity. In Moscow, Kremlin Chechnya spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii rejected as "bluff" an AFP report quoting Maskhadov as saying that talks are under way on arranging a meeting between himself and Putin, Interfax reported. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev similarly told journalists in Moscow on 4 May that the federal authorities do not plan to conduct any talks with Maskhadov, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

...AS HIS FAMILY TRAVEL TO TURKEY VIA GEORGIA

Maskhadov's wife, Kusama, and their daughter crossed the Chechen-Georgian border on 2 May and traveled to Tbilisi, where Kusama Maskhadova told journalists the next day that there is no truth to speculation that her husband sent her to the Georgian capital to ask Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to mediate a solution to the conflict. Georgian Border Guard commander Valerii Chkheidze told Interfax on 3 May that the Maskhadovs have already left Georgia for Turkey. LF

PRO-MOSCOW ADMINISTRATOR ASSASSINATED IN CHECHNYA

Unknown perpetrators dragged Alman Miziev, mayor of the town of Khattuni in Vedeno Raion, from his car on 29 April and shot him dead, AP reported on 3 May. It is the first known assassination by Chechen fighters of a perceived collaborator since the Russian military intervention last October. LF

CORRECTION:

Last week's announcement that RFE/RL journalist Andrei Babitskii has been awarded the OSCE Journalism and Democracy Prize (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2000) was made by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Copenhagen.

RUSHAILO DOUBTS CHECHEN AMNESTY WILL BE PROLONGED

Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, who is currently on a tour of inspection in Chechnya, said in Grozny on 3 May that the Russian State Duma is unlike to extend again its December 1999 amnesty for Chechen fighters who surrender their arms, Interfax reported. The amnesty was originally to expire on 1 February but was extended until 15 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February 2000). Also on 3 May, Chechen Republic Prosecutor Vladimir Kravchenko told Interfax that 40 Chechen fighters would be released that day, raising to 135 the total number of Chechens who have benefited from the amnesty. LF

INAUGURATION PLANS ANNOUNCED

The presidential administration told Interfax on 3 May that the inauguration of Putin as president will take place in the St. George's Hall and two other halls of the Grand Kremlin Palace on 7 May. The chairman of the Constitutional Court will swear in the president-elect, and former President Boris Yeltsin will hand the symbols of Russian power to Putin. The new president will then deliver an address and review a parade of the Kremlin regiment. Later, Putin will meet with Patriarch Aleksii II before attending a gala concert commemorating VE day and a reception in his honor. PG

KASYANOV SEES EXPANDED PRESIDENTIAL ROLE

First Deputy Prime Minister Kasyanov said on 3 May that the current presidential role is now much larger than previously, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the composition of today's presidential administration is "very strong" and exercises its powers within the norms of the Russian Constitution. PG

SUPREME COURT DELAYS KULIKOV CASE

The Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court on 3 May postponed consideration of former President Yeltsin's decree firing Moscow police chief Nikolai Kulikov, ITAR-TASS reported. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has argued that Kulikov was fired illegally. The hearings were postponed because of the illness of two of Kulikov's representatives. The case is now scheduled to be heard on 10 May. PG

MOSCOW REJECTS LATVIAN CHARGE

Both the Defense and Foreign Ministries have sharply criticized Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga's suggestions that Russia is seeking to destabilize Latvia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2000), Russian agencies reported. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that "the statements heard from Riga are unprecedented in their anti-Russian tone and follow the worst Cold War traditions." General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Defense Ministry's international military cooperation department, said "Russia not only makes statements that it has no aggressive aspirations toward its neighbors but is taking concrete steps toward easing tension in relations with the Baltic countries." Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, meanwhile, expressed shock at the Latvian leader's words. "This lady appeared in Latvia in a strange way, she does not know what the Soviet Union is, what Soviet Latvia was like,...she does not understand what Russia is, and she does not understand what she is talking about." PG

FOUR RUSSIANS AMONG HOSTAGES IN SIERRA LEONE

Citing a UN official who requested anonymity, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 March that four Russian citizens are among the UN workers taken hostage in Sierra Leone by the Revolutionary United Front. A total of seven Russian citizens are attached to the UN mission in that country. PG

YAVLINSKII DENOUNCES WEST'S 'DOUBLE STANDARDS'

Speaking in Prague, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii criticized the West for what he said are "double standards" in evaluating Chechnya and Yugoslavia, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 May. Yavlinskii was in the Czech capital to receive an award from the Liberal Institute for his contributions "to the development of democracy, free thinking and market economy in Russia." PG

IISS SEES 'AUTHORITARIAN REFORM' IN RUSSIA

London's International Institute for Strategic Studies has concluded that Russia is headed for a period of "authoritarian reform" under Putin, Reuters reported on 4 May. The IISS said in its annual report that "the prospects for Russian democracy and relations with the West are uncertain" but "Russia has too strong a state tradition to slide remorselessly down to third-world status, as was occurring under Boris Yeltsin." Russia's military, the IISS said, "is unlikely to be used" to threaten the West or even nearby states." And it concludes that "in an international democratic league, Russia may come to lie somewhere on a spectrum between Turkey (at best) and Egypt (at worst)." PG

YAKOVLEV LEADS IN ST. PETERSBURG POLL

A Gallup poll in St. Petersburg said that 66.7 percent of those questioned by telephone at the end of April would vote for incumbent Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, Interfax reported on 3 May. Igor Artemev, a candidate of the Yabloko party, is supported by 7.8 percent, with other candidates trailing him. PG

GAZPROM DENIES ITS COMPUTERS WERE HACKED

Gazprom officials denied on 3 May a Prime TASS report that hackers have broken into the company's computers, ITAR-TASS reported. They said that hackers tried to do so last year but have been identified. Criminal cases have been filed against the hackers, the Gazprom officials added. PG

RUSSIA ADDS STRATEGIC BOMBER TO FLEET

The Russian air force will soon take delivery of a new Tu-160 strategic bomber to bring its fleet up to 15, Interfax reported on 3 May. The air force announced that "this is the first new strategic bomber that has reached air crews from its producer, the Kazan aviation plant, over the last 12 years. PG

PRESS 'ENEMIES LIST' PROPOSED FOR RUSSIA

Igor Yakovenko, the secretary-general of the Union of Russian Journalists, has announced the creation of a new list entitled "Enemies of the Russian Press," which will call attention to those politicians and state officials who try to block the work of journalists, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 May. Yakovenko's announcement came on World Press Freedom Day. He said that "although freedom of speech in Russia generally exists, there are a lot of problems." "The secretiveness of the authorities...is hurting every citizen," he commented. In a reference to the country's 89 subjects, Yakovenko added that "as of today, 89 various political regimes have formed in Russia, which in one way or another restrict freedom of speech." Meanwhile, Oleg Panfilov, the head of the Extreme Journalism Center in Moscow, noted that more than 120 journalists have been killed in Russia in the last eight-and- a-half years, Interfax reported. PG

RUSSIAN INCOMES INCREASE, DIVERGE

Inflation-adjusted real average monthly wages increased by 23.7 percent between March 1999 and March 2000, while real pensions declined by 0.6 percent over the same period, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 May. The difference between the richest and poorest remains large, however. During the first quarter of 2000, the richest 10 percent of Russia's citizens received 40.7 percent of the country's total income, while the poorest 10 percent received only 2.7 percent, according to preliminary findings by the State Statistical Committee. PG

RUSSIAN GRAIN SUPPLIES FALL

The amount of grain stored on Russian farms and in granaries fell from 16.2 million tons on 1 April 1999 to 15.8 million tons on the same date this year, Interfax reported on 3 May. Since 1 March 2000, alone, the grain stock has declined by 13 percent. PG




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT HOLDS TALKS ON NEW CABINET

Robert Kocharian assured outgoing government ministers in Yerevan on 3 May that the composition of the next cabinet will not differ fundamentally from the previous one, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But Minister for Industrial Infrastructures Vahan Shirkhanian, a staunch supporter of sacked Premier Aram Sargsian, said he will not join the new cabinet. Kocharian's press secretary, Vahe Gabrielian told Interfax on 3 May that Kocharian's dismissal of Sargsian and Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian the previous day had not been a snap decision. Meanwhile, according to observers in Yerevan, possible candidates to head the next government are Deputy Foreign Minister Artashes Tumanian, Right and Accord party chairman Artashes Geghamian, National Democratic Union chairman and former Premier Vazgen Manukian, People's Party leader Stepan Demirchian, Central Bank Chairman Tigran Sarkisian, and business magnate Hrant Vardanian. LF

GEORGIA DENIES IT PLANS TO HOST FOREIGN MILITARY BASE

Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 3 May that Georgia will not make the Vaziani military base near Tbilisi available either to Turkey or NATO after Russian troops withdraw next year, Russian agencies reported. He added that his ministry regards as a priority ensuring that international monitors supervise the withdrawal of Russian forces from the military base in Gudauta, Abkhazia. On 4 May, Caucasus Press quoted Georgian Defense Ministry official Paata Gaprindashvili as saying that in talks scheduled for next month, Tbilisi will raise with Moscow its demand for a share in the assets of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. LF

ABKHAZ, GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DISCUSS GALI KILLINGS

Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze and Abkhaz Premier Vyacheslav Tsugba on 3 May agreed to set up a working group composed of police and security officials from both sides to investigate acts of terrorism in Abkhazia's Gali Raion, ITAR- TASS reported. At least 13 Abkhaz have been killed in the district in recent weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April and 3 May 2000). It is unclear how that group differs from the one Lortkipanidze and Tsugba agreed to create under the auspices of the UN Coordinating Council in January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January 2000). The two premiers also agreed to exchange lists of persons suspected of involvement in terrorist activities in Gali. The Georgian list contains 67 names, according to Caucasus Press. LF

ARRESTED KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER DEMANDS RUSSIAN DEFENSE LAWYERS

Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov, who was arrested in March and charged with embezzlement and abuse of his official position as security minister from 1996-1998, has again asked Kyrgyzstan's prosecutor-general and the minister of national security to allow two Russian lawyers from St. Petersburg to defend him, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 3 May. Investigator Ikramidin Aitkulov rejected a similar appeal by Kulov last month on the grounds that his case involves state secrets. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT WRAPS UP VISIT TO INDIA

Islam Karimov completed a three-day state visit to India on 3 May, during which he met with his Indian counterpart, K. R. Naranayan, and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Karimov's talks with the latter focused on security in Central and South Asia, the situation in Afghanistan, and fighting international terrorism. The two signed nine agreements on upgrading political and economic relations, an extradition treaty, and a declaration pledging to cooperate to counter any future destabilization in Central or South Asia as a result of developments in Afghanistan, dpa reported. Also on 3 May, the official Afghan Islamic Press agency issued a statement rejecting Karimov's assertion that Afghanistan supports international terrorism, dpa reported. It said the statement was intended to divert the attention of the Uzbek people from domestic hardships. LF




BELARUS'S ELECTORAL CODE TO BE AMENDED?

A 3 May session of the officially sponsored "sociopolitical dialogue" decided to submit amendments to the electoral code to the Chamber of Representatives, Belapan reported. Participants in the dialogue proposed including representatives of public associations and political parties in electoral commissions, abolishing the practice of early voting, and allowing public associations to field candidates. Before being debated in the legislature, the amendments must be assessed by experts in both the presidential administration and the lower chamber. None of Belarus's opposition parties, with the exception of the Party of Communists of Belarus, is participating in the "sociopolitical dialogue," which those parties argue is only a simulation of political dialogue. JM

NON-STATE PUBLICATIONS IGNORE PRESS EXHIBITION IN MINSK

All independent and opposition publications, except "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta," have ignored the exhibition organized by the State Press Committee that opened in Minsk on 3 May, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The Belarusian Association of Journalists had appealed for a boycott of the exhibition following the arrest of more than 30 journalists during an opposition rally in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2000). JM

UKRAINIAN JOURNALISTS DEMAND LIMITS ON COURT FINES

In a 3 May action protesting what they condemned as the suppression of the media in Ukraine by courts that impose exorbitant fines, some 50 journalists on 3 May erected a barricade some 5 meters high and marched along a central Kyiv street with their mouths taped shut, AP and Interfax reported. The journalists demanded that the parliament amend the law on media to establish limits on the size of the fine media must pay if found guilty of libel or other offenses. More than 2,250 lawsuits were filed against Ukrainian newspapers in 1999 for damages totaling 90 billion hryvni ($16.8 billion). That sum is nearly double Ukraine's planned budget revenues in 2000. JM

UKRAINE SIMPLIFIES VISA REGIME FOR MANY WESTERN COUNTRIES

As of 1 May, the government has simplified the visa application procedure for citizens of the EU, the U.S., Canada, and Japan, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 3 May. Persons from those countries can now apply for business, service, scientific, cultural, and private visas without an invitation. JM

TALLINN TO PRIVATIZE WATER UTILITY

The Tallinn city government on 3 May announced it will privatize the Tallinn Water utility. The sale of a 50.4 percent stake in the company is expected to bring in about 580 million kroons ($33.14 million), ETA reported. The successful bidder would be obliged to operate water utilities in at least four countries and for at least three years in one of those countries. Those taking part in the tender must present detailed plans for the utility as well as for water tariffs over a five-year period. Tallinn plans to retain a "golden share" in the utility. Earlier the city had planned to sell off only a minority stake. MH

LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT OKAYS TELECOM SELL-OFF

The government on 3 May approved the plan to sell the remaining 35.03 percent stake in Lithuanian Telecom in public offerings, BNS reported. The offerings will take place on 12 June on the stock exchanges of Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, and London. The sale of the approximately 28.8 million shares is expected to yield a significant sum for the state, as the face value of each share is 1 litas ($0.25). The state will retain a "golden share." Currently, about 60 percent of the company is owned by Finland's Sonera and Sweden's Telia, while the remaining share is held by employees. MH

POLISH NATIONALISTS HOLD ANTI-EU RALLY

More than 300 people belonging to nationalist organizations-- Polish National Rebirth, All-Poland Youth, the Union of the White Eagle, the National Party, and the Catholic-National Movement--held a rally on 3 May at Gora Swietej Anny in Opole Province to mark the outbreak of the Third Silesian Uprising against Germany in 1921, PAP reported. Demonstrators chanted slogans "Opole's Silesia forever Polish" and "Down with the German occupation." They also expressed opposition to Poland's entry into the EU and burned the union's flag. The previous day, the local authorities organized an official commemoration of the anniversary. The commemoration was attended by representatives of the local German minority. JM

CZECH CABINET APPROVES NEW INTELLIGENCE BODY

The government on 3 May approved the setting up of the new Committee for Intelligence Operations and appointed Foreign Minister Jan Kavan as its coordinator, CTK reported. The committee replaces the former Council for Intelligence. Like that council, the new body will be part of the State Security Council, headed by Prime Minister Milos Zeman. It will coordinate the operations of the existing four intelligence services. The cabinet also approved a draft law that would simplify the process of security clearance. MS

SLOVAK MINISTER OFFERS TO QUIT

Labor and Social Affairs Minister Peter Magvasi offered to leave the cabinet if that move would help promote its restructuring, TASR reported on 2 May. Magvasi said his Party of the Democratic Left wants the ruling coalition to continue in power but is convinced that a reshuffle is necessary. He said there is no reason to have four deputy premiers and argued that many other senior government positions could be eliminated. Magvasi also said he believes Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda should be replaced by Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan. MS

MADL NOMINATED FOR HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT

With the agreement of FIDESZ, the junior coalition Independent Smallholders' Party has nominated Ferenc Madl, a culture minister in Jozsef Antall's government, as president. The 69-year-old law professor was President Arpad Goncz's opponent in the 1995 presidential elections. Prime Minister Viktor Orban welcomed Madl's 3 May nomination, describing him as "a gentle man committed to the nation, who will continue the best traditions of Hungary's history." Smallholders' chairman Jozsef Torgyan said Madl's diplomatic experience and language skills would help Hungary's European integration. The opposition Socialist Party and Free Democrats will adopt an official position later, while the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party rejected the nomination, saying Madl would probably "continue Antall-era policies." The parliament is to elect the president later this month (see also "End Note"). MSZ




BAJUK ELECTED SLOVENIAN PRIME MINISTER

The parliament voted 46 to 44 on 3 May to elect center-right candidate Andrej Bajuk as prime minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2000). The law requires him to present a government by 18 May. His program will center on preparing Slovenia for admission to the EU at the earliest possible date as well as on liberalizing the economy in order to attract foreign investment. The 56 year-old economist has lived mostly abroad. His family left Slovenia in 1945 and moved to Argentina, where Bajuk became a university professor. He has spent most of his working career at the Interamerican Development Bank. PM

BLAIR BACKS CROATIA FOR NATO PROGRAM

British Prime Minister Tony Blair told his visiting Croatian counterpart, Ivica Racan, in London on 3 May that his government backs Croatia's request for quick admission to NATO's Partnership for Peace program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2000). Blair's spokesman said that "Racan set out Croatia's aspirations for admission to Partnership for Peace and opening of negotiations on a stabilization and association agreement with the European Union. The prime minister gave his full support," Reuters reported. Blair also told his guest that the EU and NATO must help Croatia "move forward." Racan told the Royal Institute of International Affairs that "Croatia has every reason to expect the long-awaited Partnership for Peace membership as early as the end of May." PM

MESIC BLASTS CROATIAN RIGHT

Marinko Liovic, who heads the Association of Croatian War Invalids of the War for the Homeland, has threatened that his group will block various "roads, harbors, and airports" at the start of the tourist season, "Slobodna Dalmacija" reported on 4 May. The move is aimed at protesting the government's polices on economic reconstruction and on cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Liovic has the backing of several other nationalist organizations, including Ante Djapic and his Croatian Party of [Historic] Rights, "Novi List" reported. President Stipe Mesic said in Vukovar, however, that "probably only those with blocked brains want to block the roads." He argued that those "adventurists" who plan to obstruct the roads are making impossible demands on the government. The authorities will not tolerate a closing of the roads, which were closed long enough during the 1991-1995 war, Mesic added. PM

UN FORENSICS EXPERTS EXAMINE SECOND MASS GRAVE IN CROATIA

Forensics experts from the Hague-based war crimes tribunal have discovered human bones from at least 10 people at a suspected mass grave in Obradovic Varos near Gospic, AP reported on 3 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 2000). The bones are now being studied and identified in Zagreb. Investigators have begun work at a second site near Brusane, which is also in the Gospic area. The forensics experts are investigating charges that Croatian forces killed Serbian civilians in several localities during the 1991-1995 war. Recent weeks have seen much discussion in the press about who was responsible for the killings and which top officials knew about them. PM

UNHCR TO LEAVE NORTHERN MITROVICA?

A spokesman for the UNHCR said in Prishtina on 3 May that the international refugee organization may cease its operations in Serb-held northern Mitrovica if attacks on UN vehicles and personnel continue. He added that UNHCR employees are "not prepared to be sitting ducks...[if] thugs...continue to target the international community," Reuters reported. His statement comes in response to violence on 29 April in which 15 international personnel were injured, one vehicle damaged, and another destroyed. PM

SERBIAN PROTESTS IN KOSOVA

In northern Mitrovica on 3 May, some 2,000 Serbs staged a peaceful demonstration to demand the return of all Serbian refugees to their homes in Kosova. In Prishtina, moderate Serb leaders told the UN's interim administrative council that they demand that international security forces find or account for all 1,000 non-Albanians who have disappeared since the end of the 1999 Kosova conflict. PM

'NO MEDIA FREEDOM IN SERBIA'

The chief editors of the dailies "Blic" and "Glas javnosti," the weekly "NIN," and Studio B Television said in a joint statement to mark World Press Freedom Day that "there is no media freedom in Serbia," Vienna's "Die Presse" reported on 4 May. The editors added that some 30 media companies have been fined more than $2 million under the draconian 1998 media law aimed at intimidating or silencing the non-state media. PM

SERBIAN GOVERNMENT FINES STATION

In the latest move against private media under the 1998 law, the authorities fined Studio B Television $10,000 on 3 May for reporting "false news." The station had reported that "four bodyguards" of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's son Marko recently beat up three opposition activists in a Pozarevac cafe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2000). The Pozarevac office of the United Yugoslav Left (JUL), which is headed by the mother of Milosevic junior, said in a statement that "hooligans" attacked local JUL members, Reuters reported. The statement added that "Marko does not have bodyguards" and stressed that the opposition wants to "create chaos and civil war in the country by a series of terrorist actions." The families of the three injured men plan to sue Marko Milosevic's four friends, AP reported. PM

MILOSEVIC BACKERS TAKE CONTROL OF FEDERAL UPPER HOUSE

Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement lost its four seats in the upper house of the Yugoslav legislature on 3 May following the party's decision to boycott the Serbian parliament, which elects representatives to the federal body (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2000). Former General Momcilo Perisic, who heads the small Movement for Democratic Serbia, said the opposition is to blame for the current political state of affairs because "they have not been sufficiently active either in the parliament or outside it," "Danas" reported. Leaders of several anti-Milosevic parties in Montenegro said in Podgorica that the latest developments show the Yugoslav federation has experienced a "debacle" and is in a continuing state of crisis, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

ROMANIAN NUCLEAR PLANT WORKERS THREATEN TO SHUT DOWN REACTOR

Several hundred workers at the Cernavoda nuclear power plant went on strike on 3 May to demand higher wages and twice as many vacation days as are currently granted, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. After Industry and Trade Minister Radu Berceanu rejected those demands, the leader of the plant's union threatened to shut down the reactor. That action might pose a threat to safety. MS

U.S. SEEKS RESOLUTION OF TRADE DISPUTE WITH ROMANIA

A spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said on 3 May that the office is in contact with Romania's Ministry of Industry and Trade to determine whether Romania is imposing discriminatory custom duties on some imported products. The spokesman said that if the talks fail, the U.S. may ask the World Trade Organization to make a ruling, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. In a written statement to the U.S. Congress earlier this week, U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky threatened to initiate actions against six countries, including Romania, for imposing high duties on imports of clothing, poultry and several alcoholic beverages, Mediafax reported on 2 May. MS

CLARIFICATION:

The 1955 Lisbon ruling, referred to in "RFE/RL Newsline" of 3 May, recognized the right of King Carol II's first son, Mircea, to bear the Hohenzollerns' family name but did not recognize Mircea as "prince." Hence, the usage of that title by Mircea's son, Paul, is misleading, as is his usage of the title "Paul de Romania."

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN CLEARED OF CORRUPTION CHARGES

Mihail Mihailov, who resigned last month as government spokesman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 2000), has been cleared of the suspicion of bribe-taking and intends to resume his duties, AP reported. Police experts said a taped conversation between Mihailov and a businessman allegedly offering him a $10,000 bribe was clearly fabricated. MS

BULGARIA CONFIDENT ON EU TALKS

Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova on 3 May announced that Bulgaria intends to complete talks with the EU on six of the 31 chapters of the aquis communautaire by the end of this year. She told journalists that "the pace of membership talks is linked directly with the course of reforms and we believe we are capable of implementing those reforms," Reuters reported. EU official Eneko Landaburu said in Sofia that the ongoing corruption scandals in Bulgaria will not affect negotiations on joining the union. "Until we receive proof, we consider all this to belong to the sphere of rumors," he said. Landaburu also announced that the EU is granting Bulgaria 250 million euros ($223 million) this year to help the country achieve sustainable economic growth by implementing infrastructure projects. MS




HUNGARIAN LEADER AVERTS INTERNATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT


by Michael Shafir

To a certain extent, the 29 April decision by Independent Smallholders' (FKGP) leader Jozsef Torgyan to turn down his nomination as presidential candidate was a patriotic gesture. In refusing the nomination, Torgyan has spared Hungary an international embarrassment, the ruling coalition inner tensions, and himself the unwelcome prospect of being rejected by the Hungarian legislature.

According to the 1998 agreement that the FKGP signed with the major coalition partner, the Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ), the FKGP has the right to propose the ruling coalition's joint candidate for president, and there was little doubt that the candidate would be Torgyan. The agreement was ambiguous enough to avoid specifying what would happen if FIDESZ rejected the FKGP's nomination--for good reason. The deal was one of the concessions made by FIDESZ during coalition bargaining, but Premier Viktor Orban was certainly not unaware that Torgyan's nomination to replace outgoing President Arpad Goncz would stir controversy both at home and abroad. The parliament must vote on a new president by 3 July. Signs had already emerged that Torgyan's candidacy would not be backed by all the coalition parties.

In fact, as early as January 2000 Orban had bluntly stated that "it would be better" if Torgyan remained chairman of the FKGP." Other FIDESZ officials were making it clear to the FKGP leader that his path to the presidency would not be smooth. But in the past several months the Hungarian political scene has turned into one quite properly described by FIDESZ chairman Laszlo Koever on 27 April as a "cold civil war" in which the forces of the center-right and those of the opposition center-left seem unable to engage in dialogue. Furthermore, there were (and still are) obvious indications of an "unwritten pact" between the center-right coalition and the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP). Against this background, a FIDESZ decision to accept Torgyan's nomination and his possible election as president with the support of Csurka's MIEP would have pushed Hungary into a situation closely resembling that in neighboring Austria following the formation of that country's new right- far-right coalition.

The contrast between the liberal-minded and internationally popular Goncz and Torgyan could hardly be greater. The FKGP chairman has often been described as a "populist," though that term is too "elastic" to have any real meaning. Torgyan is, in fact, a "radical" politician of the kind that post-communist Eastern Europe has witnessed over the past decade or so, starting with Russia's Vladimir Zhirinovskii and including Bulgaria's Georges Ganchev, Poland's Stanislaw Tyminski and Leszek Moczulski and Slovenia's late Ivan Kramberger.

Like most politicians of this ilk, Torgyan does not hesitate to indulge in demagogic rhetoric, frequently courting and encouraging extreme nationalism. He reportedly told Aurel Braun, a Canadian professor of political science who interviewed him several years ago, that Roma would be best isolated in apartheid-like enclosures, where, he said, their leaders would be held responsible for whatever misdeeds the inmates perpetrated. This "solution" was not really original (Corneliu Vadim Tudor had proposed it in Romania) and stopped just short of Csurka's more racist pronouncements.

Torgyan is a typical post-communist leader whose policies come closest to what Poland's Adam Michnik described as "post-Bolshevik Bolshevism." Like all such "Bolsheviks" in the area, Torgyan readily embraces the myth of "Judeo- Bolshevism," and some members of his party do so even more openly than he does. Within that mindset, communism was not only imposed from the outside--an argument that can hardly be challenged--but was done so mainly with the help of local Jews. The danger that this will be repeated, according to the FKGP leader, has not disappeared. Addressing a rally of his supporters in March 1996, he spoke of a "liberal-Bolshevik" danger that is allegedly "paralyzing...the powers of the Hungarian nation." But he hastened to add that "We, however, cannot be paralyzed. We are Hungarian. And come the spring season, the Hungarian manually clears the vermin away. Let us also clear the vermin."

There are many other examples of the "peasant leader" understanding how to translate alleged peasant seasonal practices into the rhetoric of daily politics. Perhaps Torgyan's "explanation" to his party as to why he chose to decline its nomination sums up his position: "I need to stand firm on the barricades erected against Bolshevik restoration," he said, adding that as president he would no longer have been able to do so.

But Hungary, as everyone knows, is far from facing the danger of "Bolshevik restoration." It is a trusted NATO member and likely to become one of the first former communist countries to join the EU-- that is, if another Torgyan does not make it to the presidency.


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