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Newsline - May 9, 2000




PUTIN TAKES OATH IN KREMLIN CEREMONY

In an elaborate ceremony in the Kremlin on 7 May, Vladimir Putin took the oath of office as Russian president. In his remarks after taking that oath, Putin said he recognized that "the head of state in Russia has always been and will always be responsible for everything that is happening in the country." He thanked his supporters and called on those who had backed other candidates to work together for Russia. He said that the transfer of power from Yeltsin to himself was "truly historic," arguing that it showed "Russia is becoming a truly modern democratic state." But he pointed out that "the establishment of a truly democratic state is a process that is far from completion." Later Putin said at a reception that "the best example" of what the president should do "is shown by the president of the Soviet Union and the first president of Russia," ITAR-TASS reported. PG

YELTSIN WELCOMES TRANSITION

Following Putin's oath of office, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin wished the new president success and noted that Russians must work together to build "a new Russia," one "less bound by the habits of the past," Russian agencies reported. He expressed pride that he had accomplished as much as he had, maintaining a deserving place for Russia in the world community" and moving toward democracy. Yeltsin concluded: "I want to repeat the words which I told you some time ago: look after Russia." PG

PUTIN STARTS VICTORY DAY COMMEMORATIONS IN KURSK

On 7 May, following his inauguration, President Putin laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Red Square. He praised the heroism of Russian soldiers and said that Victory Day (9 May) "unites and reconciles everyone in Russia, all ideological and age differences are subdued by its magnitude," ITAR-TASS reported. On 8 May, Putin visited Kursk, where he said that there should be no skimping on remembering World War II heroes. He presented 30 of the veterans with new Oka cars, according to ITAR-TASS. While in Kursk, Putin said that he does not rule out a probe into the Kursk government currently under the control of Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi. PG

PUTIN NAMES KASYANOV ACTING PRIME MINISTER

After taking the oath as president, Putin accepted the resignation of the Russian government and also of senior presidential administration officials, Russian news agencies reported on 7 May. He then directed First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to fulfill the duties of chairman of the government until the president formally nominates a prime minister after the holidays, Interfax reported. Putin said that he expects most of those serving in the government until now will be reappointed, and he asked them to continue to work until that happened. PG

PUTIN TO FOCUS FIRST ON STRENGTHENING STATE...

Speaking to a conference of regional electoral commission heads on 6 May, then President-elect Putin said that his first task will be to strengthen the government in order to be able to accomplish other tasks, ITAR-TASS reported. "When a person comes to work," Putin said, "the first thing he does is check and tune the tool he works with. This is the presidential administration, the government, and other tools of governance. This is what is called state development." Among his first moves in this direction, Putin said, will be efforts to build "a more rigid vertical of power, solving law enforcement problems, and improving the work of the presidential administration." PG

...PLEDGES TO PREVENT CRIMINALS FROM ENTERING OFFICE...

Then President-elect Putin told a conference of regional electoral commission heads on 6 May that he and his government will join forces to block criminals from gaining positions of power, ITAR-TASS reported. In other comments, he praised the commission heads and Interior Ministry for keeping the recent presidential election far cleaner than last year's parliamentary poll. "Our people, our society are sick and tired of the dirty techniques that confronted them all these years," Putin said, adding that "society almost believed that politics is a dirty business and it had no choice given such techniques." PG

...SUPPORTS CONTINUING ELECTION OF GOVERNORS...

At the 6 May electoral commission conference, then President-elect Putin said he is against making the office of governor appointive, ITAR-TASS reported. Describing the regional governors as "an important institution of power," Putin said that central control can be increased without "deny[ing] people the right to elect their leaders." Meanwhile, on 7 May, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev told ITAR-TASS that the governors will support Putin in his effort to bring stability to the country." PG

...AND MOVE TO SINGLE-MEMBER DISTRICT VOTING

Then President- elect Putin told the 6 May electoral commission conference that he favors the idea of elections based on single-member districts rather than party list voting, Interfax reported. But he added that the issue merits "discussion by the whole nation" and said that he does not intend to "impose" his opinion and "will not do so." He also opened the door to constitutional amendments to strengthen the electoral system, a position immediately supported by Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, ITAR-TASS reported. And Putin also noted that it is premature to speak of moving the Federal Assembly to St. Petersburg, the news agency added. PG

ZYUGANOV CRITICIZES DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

Russian Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov told journalists on 8 May that "nothing will be left of the country in three or four years" if the 10-year development plan being developed for President Putin's consideration is put into effect, Interfax reported. He said that its provisions "incorporate all that we have been trying to beat off for the last five years, from destroying natural monopolies and raising the retirement age to completely dismantling the state." But he noted that "everything depends" not on this document but on "what kind of team will come together" under Putin. Meanwhile, Putin himself said on 6 May that he will present his plans to the Federal Assembly, saying only that "the state should honor its social obligations, but instead of spreading its aid thin, it should reach out to really needy persons. All other citizens should be given maximum economic freedom," Interfax reported. PG

PUTIN SAYS MOSCOW-MINSK UNION WON'T HARM COUNTRIES' POLITICAL LIVES

Then President-elect Putin said on 6 May that there are no reasons to think that the Russia-Belarus Union parliament will disrupt political life in either country, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the creation of the Russia- Belarus Union parliament will benefit only the two countries. Meanwhile, Aleksandr Veshnyakov, the chairman of the Russian Central Election Commission, said that his body has drafted a bill detailing provisions for electing 75 Russian deputies to the joint parliament, according to ITAR-TASS on 6 May. PG

CHECHEN PRESIDENT AGAIN ADVOCATES PEACE TALKS...

Aslan Maskhadov has outlined a detailed peace proposal for Chechnya and again called for unconditional peace talks, AFP reported on 8 May. The agency quoted Maskhadov as saying that he has already submitted his written proposals to the Russian leadership. The first phase, which is to begin by the end of May, entails a cessation of hostilities, a cease-fire, the start of government-level talks, and a broad amnesty for participants in the fighting. Maskhadov also proposed that joint Russian-Chechen military districts be created and a civilian administration formed. During the second phase, which would begin six months later, Chechnya would be demilitarized and control handed back to civilians under the supervision of the OSCE. LF

...WHILE HIS COMMANDER THREATENS BROADER WAR...

In a statement posted on the Chechen fighters' Website on 9 May, field commander Shamil Basaev threatened to extend hostilities throughout the Caucasus unless Moscow withdraws its troops from Chechnya by the end of May, Reuters reported. LF

...AND MOSCOW CALLS ON CHECHENS TO SURRENDER

Speaking in Moscow on 9 May, Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, who commands the joint federal forces in the Caucasus. called on Chechen fighters to lay down their arms and surrender before the amnesty proclaimed by the State Duma expires on 15 May, AP reported. LF

KOSHMAN EXPLAINS RUSSIAN PLANS FOR ADMINISTERING CHECHNYA

Nikolai Koshman, who is the Russian government representative in Chechnya, told Interfax on 5 May that direct federal rule is to be imposed in Chechnya (not presidential rule, as erroneously reported in "RFE/RL Newsline" on 5 May on the basis of a dpa report quoting Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov). Koshman explained that "territorial boards," on which federal ministries will have two or three representatives, will be set up in Chechnya for a period of two or three years. Those boards will recruit staff from among the local population and will eventually be transformed into local government bodies. Koshman also said elections for a Chechen representative to the Russian State Duma will take place on 20 August. LF

THREE CANDIDATES RETURN CAMPAIGN FUNDS

Kemerovo Governor Tuleev, Spiritual Heritage head Aleksei Podberezkin, and Moscow businessman Umar Dzhabrailov have returned budget funds allocated to them for their presidential races, ITAR- TASS reported on 6 May. Under the country's electoral law, candidates who fail to get at least 3 percent of the vote must return the 400,000 rubles (some $14,200) advanced to them. PG

RYBAKOV WITHDRAWS FROM ST. PETERSBURG RACE

Yulii Rybakov on 6 May told a meeting of the local chapters of the Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko that he is withdrawing from the gubernatorial race in St. Petersburg, Interfax reported. He made that decision after Yabloko candidate Igor Artemev won the unofficial primary. Artemev will represent the reformist parties in the upcoming vote. Meanwhile, the Russian Interior Ministry's economic crimes department told ITAR-TASS on 5 May that the audit of several public funds in St. Petersburg, including the Zoosad Fund, on whose board the wife of Governor Vladimir Yakovlev sits, had nothing to do with the upcoming elections. PG

IVANOV PROTESTS U.S. CONGRESS ACTION TO RESTRICT AID TO RUSSIA OVER CUBA LISTENING POST

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 6 May protested U.S. House committee approval of a bill that would link future aid to Russia to the closure of a Russian electronic listening post in Cuba, Interfax reported. Ivanov said that the move, also opposed by the Clinton administration, "was in violation of all international norms because it constitutes interference in the internal affairs of foreign countries." He expressed the hope that "the decision will not be carried out" by Washington. PG

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY PRAISES GORE

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 5 May issued a statement praising U.S. Vice President and Democratic Party presidential candidate Al Gore for his foreign policy views. The statement said that his views coincide with those of Moscow on many issues. Late last month, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov had praised Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush Jr. for his command of international issues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2000). PG

PUTIN EASES RESTRICTIONS ON NUCLEAR EXPORTS

By a 7 May decree, President Putin eased the restrictions governing the export of nuclear materials, equipment, and technologies to countries that do not have nuclear arms and have not placed their nuclear programs under International Atomic Energy Agency supervision, ITAR-TASS reported. The decree says that permission for such exports will be given only "in exceptional cases" and only when the action does not violate Russia's international commitments. PG

SELEZNEV SAYS COUNCIL OF EUROPE POORLY INFORMED ABOUT CHECHNYA

Speaking in Frankfurt after a two-day conference with Council of Europe parliamentary deputies, Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said that members of the Council of Europe have "information only from mass media. They have little official information about what is happening in reality," ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. He also said that the Russian delegation is not planning to attend the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe until the fall. Meanwhile, Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer said in Washington that he does not expect Council of Europe ministers at their 11 May meeting "to reject or to accept fully" the recommendation by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that Russia be suspended if it does not rectify its human rights record in Chechnya. PG

FSB ARRESTS MAN WHO ALLEGEDLY FIRED ON U.S. EMBASSY

The Federal Security Service (FSB) on 7 May announced the arrest of a Moscow resident who is suspected of having opened fire on the U.S. embassy in Moscow on 28 March 1999, Interfax reported. The suspect was part of a group protesting NATO's operation in Kosova. FSB officials said that a criminal case has been opened and that charges are to be brought against the man in the near future. PG




SOUTH CAUCASUS PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKERS MEET

Following talks in Strasbourg from 4-6 May, the speakers of the Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian parliaments issued a joint statement pledging to continue cooperation between their respective legislatures with the aim of strengthening "the atmosphere of trust in the region," Caucasus Press reported. They also agreed on convening a workshop later this year at which representatives of all three South Caucasus states will discuss the conditions in which displaced persons currently live and the prospects for their repatriation. LF

COMMUNISTS ISSUE ULTIMATUM TO ARMENIAN PRESIDENT...

Armenian Communist Party leader Vladimir Darpinian warned President Robert Kocharian on 6 May that his party will launch a nationwide campaign to remove him from office unless he abandons his opposition to Armenia's accession to the Russia- Belarus union and agrees to amend the constitution to curtail the powers of the presidency, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Darpinian also criticized Kocharian for "decapitating the government of national unity" by his 2 May dismissal of Prime Minister Aram Sargsian. Kocharian had met on 5 May with representatives of the Miasnutiun majority parliamentary bloc to discuss in general terms the formation of the new government. Kocharian reportedly said during those talks that he will accept whichever candidate for premier Miasnutiun proposes. Vartan Ayvazian, who heads the second- largest Kayunutiun faction, said that Kocharian proposed that either he or the parliamentary majority should form the new cabinet. Ayvazian said the first of those two options would entail appointing a "technocrat" premier. LF

...AS WAR VETERANS CALL FOR HIS RESIGNATION

At an 8 May gathering at the Yerablur war cemetery attended by dismissed Premier Sargsian, members of the Yerkrapah Union of veterans of the Karabakh war. which is aligned with Miasnutiun, proposed that both Kocharian and Yerkrapah members who currently hold senior government posts should step down "so the people can decide who should govern their country," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But Yerkrapah board member Miasnik Malkhasian stressed that the veterans will never resort to force to achieve their political objectives. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY BASES NOT TO MOVE FROM GEORGIA TO ARMENIA

Noyan Tapan on 8 May quoted an unnamed Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman as denying media reports that the Russian military bases in Georgia that are to be closed will be transferred to Armenian territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 2000). LF

U.S. DIPLOMAT VISITS ARMENIA...

Carey Cavanaugh, who is the U.S. co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group charged with mediating a settlement of the Karabakh conflict, met with President Kocharian and Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian on 7 May in Yerevan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He was scheduled also to meet with Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, in Yerevan. Cavanaugh told journalists the object of his visit is to assess the political situation in Armenia and the prospects for advancing a peace settlement. He disclosed that the Minsk Group is drafting a new Karabakh peace proposal, but he refused to give any details or say when that proposal might be submitted to the conflict parties. He said he will meet with his French and Russian counterparts as well as with international agencies in Geneva on 18 May to discuss funding for reconstruction and the resettlement of displaced persons and refugees. LF

...AND AZERBAIJAN

Cavanaugh met in Baku on 8 May with Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliev, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported. He assured Guliev that the new peace proposal must be acceptable to all parties to the conflict. Azerbaijan rejected the previous draft proposal of November 1998, which envisaged the creation of a "common state" comprising Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. LF

DEMONSTRATORS DETAINED IN AZERBAIJANI CAPITAL

Police in Baku on 8 May dispersed some 60 people who attempted to picket the Prosecutor-General's Office to demand the release of opposition leaders arrested during the 29 April unsanctioned demonstration in the capital, Turan reported. Nine demonstrators were detained. Six men were fined 55,000 manats ($11), while the three detained women were cautioned and then released. Also on 8 May, representatives of the 10 opposition parties aligned in the Democratic Congress decided to stage another mass demonstration in Baku on 20 May, Turan reported. They also issued an appeal to the authorities to "stop violating national interests" and to create conditions for holding democratic elections. On 5 May, Turan reported that 11 people detained on 29 April have been transferred from a police isolation ward to Baku's Bailov jail. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY IN CRISIS

Nine chairs of parliamentary committees resigned their posts on 8 May to protest criticism expressed the previous day by parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania. Zhvania had criticized their demand that the outgoing government be held responsible for its failure to fulfill the 1999 budget, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 2000). Zhvania demanded that the 120 signatories disassociate themselves from that demand, which he construed as directed against Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. The initiators of the campaign have denied any such intent. Shevardnadze, for his part, attributed the move to the deputies' "inexperience," and expressed his full support for Zhvania, whom he charged with strengthening party discipline. Shevardnadze also castigated those parliamentary deputies who supported the proposal by Union of Traditionalists Chairman Akaki Asatiani to reintroduce the post of premier (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 17, 28 April 2000). LF

GEORGIAN TOWN REHABILITATES STALIN

A statue of Joseph Stalin was unveiled in the west Georgian town of Khashuri on 7 May more than 40 years after it was dismantled and consigned to storage, ITAR-TASS reported. The restoration of that monument raises to 18 the number of Stalin statues in Georgia, according to AP. LF

KYRGYZ OFFICIALS MEET WITH BISHKEK PROTESTERS

Meeting on 6 May with participants in the Bishkek picket to protest the outcome of the February-March parliamentary poll, Bishkek Mayor Medet Kerimkulov asked those demonstrators to refrain from further marches in the next few days, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. But on 8 May, 75 protesters marched to the Agriculture Ministry, where they were dispersed by police after 30 minutes. The previous day, police had forcibly dispersed some 100 picketers gathered outside the Kyrgyztelekom building. On 8 May, Security Council secretary Bolot Djanuzakov similarly asked 10 representatives of the protesters not to undertake further marches. He assured them that the Supreme Court will begin reviewing the election results on 11 May. The Bishkek picket is now in its 55th day. LF

KYRGYZSTAN MAY LIFT MORATORIUM ON LAND OWNERSHIP

Speaking in Kyrgyzstan's southern Djalalabad Oblast on 6 May. President Askar Akaev said that the free sale and purchase of land may be possible as early as this fall if parliamentary deputies consider it appropriate, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The Kyrgyz population endorsed private ownership of land in a referendum on October 1998, but the parliament subsequently imposed a five-year moratorium on implementing that decision. LF

KYRGYZ ENERGY TARIFFS REDUCED

State Energy Agency head Ularbek Mateev announced in Bishkek on 8 May that electricity tariffs will be reduced by 15 percent "soon," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Tariffs had been raised on 1 May, sparking protests by the Kyrgyz trade unions. On 4 May, President Akaev criticized the price hike, calling for tariffs to be reduced (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 2000). LF

KYRGYZ, UZBEK GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES RESOLVE SOME DIFFERENCES

The second meeting of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek inter- government commission, which took place in Bishkek on 5-6 May, resulted in agreement on the lifting of most mutual import restrictions, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. In a joint statement on 6 May, Uzbek Deputy Premier Rustam Yunosv and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Esengul Omuraliev, characterized the current state of bilateral relations as unsatisfactory and pledged to take measures to improve it. Both men termed the meeting "a kind of breakthrough" in bilateral relations. Yunosov also said during the meeting that Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov will visit Kyrgyzstan this fall. He added that the two countries may sign an agreement on relaxing visa regulations by the end of this month. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENTIAL GUARDS PERISH IN ROAD ACCIDENT

Six members of President Imomali Rakhmonov's personal guard died in 7 May and another 23 were injured when the truck in which they were travelling crashed near a training camp south of Dushanbe, ITAR-TASS reported. No further details of the incident are available. LF




OSCE WARNS MINSK AGAINST FAILING TO HOLD FAIR ELECTIONS

Walter Siegl, political director of Austria's Foreign Ministry, who visited Minsk last week along with the OSCE troika (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 2000), told journalists on 5 May that this fall's parliamentary elections in Belarus may not be internationally recognized if the government fails to make "substantial improvements" in its electoral legislation and human rights record. According to Siegl, the OSCE will send observers only if the government includes the opposition in the Central Electoral Commission and gives oppositionists fair access to the state media. "If certain of these proposals are not implemented, then there will be no observation on the part of the international community of the election in the fall," Reuters quoted Siegl as saying. The OSCE is to make a decision in August on whether to send observers to Belarus's election. JM

AUDIT SHOWS UKRAINE'S NATIONAL BANK OVERSTATED RESERVES...

A PricewaterhouseCoopers audit shows that Ukraine's National Bank overstated its hard-currency reserves "by an amount that varied from $391 million in September 1997 to $713 million in December 1997," the IMF reported on its official Website on 4 May. The fund commented that the amount was overstated to help Ukraine gain $200 million in loans that might otherwise have been denied. However, the audit did not find that Ukraine misused IMF loans, as alleged earlier by press reports in the West. JM

...WHILE PREMIER SEEKS TO UNFREEZE IMF MONEY

Premier Viktor Yushchenko, who headed the National Bank during the period covered by the audit, is currently in Washington in a bid to negotiate the resumption of the fund's $2.6 billion loan program, which was frozen in September 1999. Yushchenko is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Bill Clinton, new IMF head Horst Koehler, as well as officials from the U.S. administration and the World Bank. "The problem [of the overstating of the hard-currency reserves] was with the old accounting from the time of the former Soviet Union and the system of accounting that we use now. There have been different interpretations of the economic information," Yushchenko told CNN. JM

LATVIA COMMEMORATES WWII VICTIMS

Newly confirmed Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins and parliamentary speaker Janis Straume marked Victory Day by laying flowers at the Freedom Monument in Riga to remember the victims of World War II, BNS and ITAR-TASS reported on 8 May. There were also ceremonies at the graves of Red Army soldiers and German prisoners of war as well as at the Jewish cemetery. Latvian officials were joined by Ukrainian Ambassador Viktor Mikhaylovskyy and Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Udaltsev. President Vaira Vike- Freiberga, who later the same day left on a working visit to the U.S. and Canada noted the "historic contribution of the Allied forces." AB

ADAMKUS SEES LITHUANIA JOINING NATO FIRST

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus said that his country could join NATO several years before achieving EU membership, Reuters reported 8 May. Noting that it might take seven years for Lithuania to become a "full-fledged member of the EU," Adamkus said that "with NATO we are in a better position.... Hopefully by 2002 or 2003, maybe something is going to materialize." Lithuania, along with Slovenia and Slovakia, has been cited as one of the leading candidates for a second wave of NATO enlargement. Adamkus also said that while Russian officials oppose Lithuania's joining NATO, those same officials acknowledge its right to choose to belong to a defensive alliance. AB

LITHUANIA TO PRESENT BILL ON FOREIGN OCCUPATION

Lithuania's parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis has drafted legislation calling on Russia to compensate Lithuania for five decades of occupation by the Soviet Union, AP and BNS reported on 8 May. The draft law would oblige the government to seek financial compensation from Russia for repressions and environmental damage caused during the 1940-91 Soviet occupation and would be used to help deportees to return to Lithuania. A commission will be set up to calculate how much compensation should be requested. Landsbergis, chairman of the governing Conservative Party and a former president, has broached this issue before. A national referendum passed in 1992 called on Russia to make compensation payments. AB

POLAND'S OPPOSITION, COALITION EXCHANGE CORRUPTION CHARGES

The opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) believes that the current government is largely responsible for flourishing corruption in Poland, PAP reported on 8 May. "Both the Solidarity Electoral Action and the Freedom Union (UW) have dirt on their conscience. In this respect there are no great differences between the two," an SLD politician Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz noted. UW parliamentary leader Jerzy Wierchowicz responded that "we are all responsible" for the spread of corruption. "Cimoszewicz's statement is to a large degree cynical and very impudent," an AWS activist Mariusz Kaminski commented, adding that it was Cimoszewicz's government that passed one of the laws that has contributed the most to the breeding of corruption--namely, the law forbidding public officials from pursuing business activities. The SLD has suggested the signing of an "anti-corruption pact" to be observed by all forces in Poland that are opposed to corruption. JM

SOLIDARITY LEADER SEES CABINET RESHUFFLE AS CONDITION OF ELECTION VICTORY

Marian Krzaklewski, who is Solidarity's candidate in this year's presidential elections, told Polish Radio on 8 May that a government reshuffle and the "renewal" of the Solidarity Electoral Action should be key elements in a Solidarity election victory. "We are far from introducing scare tactics or tempting people with jobs, we simply mean inevitable corrections in the government lineup. Such things happen in every ruling team, especially when a crucial time approaches. Now is the time for our special mobilization," Krzaklewski noted. JM

CZECH PREMIER CONTRADICTS PRESIDENT ON CHECHNYA

Milos Zeman told journalists on 5 May that "from a legal perspective, there can be no doubt that Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation, regardless of how long that has been the case," CTK and AP reported. Zeman thus contradicted President Vaclav Havel, who recently noted that Chechnya has not always been part of the Russian Federation and called for a referendum to be held there on the region's future. Havel on 5 May said he does not question the territorial integrity of Russia. He also said he is not in favor of expelling Russia from the Council of Europe over the Chechen conflict but commented that "maybe its membership [on the council] should be suspended." Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky on 7 May told Prima television that the Czech Republic will support Russia's suspension from the council. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER OPTIMISTIC ON EU MEMBERSHIP

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, in an interview with the Hungarian daily "Magyar Hirlap" on 5 May, said that he is confident Slovakia will be fully prepared to join the EU by 2004. He said that by then, Bratislava must fulfill three conditions: to have met all requirements demanded from the other "fast-track" candidates, to have a stable political situation, and to have completed reforms. Dzurinda admitted that the present broad coalition faces conflicts. But he said that despite the "various interests" that cause those conflicts, he does not believe the need will arise to conduct early elections, CTK reported. Addressing the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Berlin on 8 May, Dzurinda warned that postponing EU enlargement would lead to regional destabilization and have a "demotivating and frustrating effect" on candidate countries, dpa reported. MS

SLOVAK POLITICIANS RESIGN PARTY POSITIONS

Jan Budaj and Juraj Svec, deputy chairmen of the Democratic Union, resigned their positions at a 6 May extraordinary congress of the party, CTK reported, citing Radio Twist. The two outgoing chairmen opposed the drive, led by Economy Minister Lubomir Harach, for the union to join the SDKU, while most delegates supported that move. The conference ended, however, without discussion of the eventual merger. Lubomir Plaia was elected the Democratic Union's first deputy chairman. Radio Twist reported on 8 May that Budaj and Svec have left the Slovak Democratic Coalition, to which the Democratic Union belongs, but have not yet decided whether to form a new party representing liberal values. They also said that Harach had "manipulated" the extraordinary congress. MS

FIDESZ CHAIRMAN REJECTS 'RESETTLEMENT' PROPOSALS

"Greater support for families is the only way to improve the demographic picture in Hungary," Laszlo Kover told a local forum in the town of Hatvan on 8 May. The state, he added, will increase spending for that purpose by 62 percent this year, compared with 1999. Kover rejected a recent study by the Academy of Sciences, which proposed boosting Hungary's population by resettling ethnic Hungarians from abroad. The government cannot support that idea, he said, because "in a cultural sense, Hungarian-inhabited areas belong to the Hungarian nation's living space, regardless of under whose authority they are," Kover explained. Regarding the resettlement of other ethnic groups in Hungary, he said the question is to what extent society can integrate them, mentioning Roma as an example of an ethnic group that would be difficult to integrate. MSZ




MILOSEVIC'S HOMETOWN TENSE BEFORE PROTEST

Serbian police detained three journalists from the non-state media and two activists of the Otpor (Resistance) student movement in Pozarevac, Reuters reported on 9 May. Otpor and several other opposition groups recently called for a demonstration in the hometown of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic at 3:00 p.m. local time on 9 May to protest the beating and arrest of three Otpor activists following their scuffle with friends of the president's son (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2000). On 8 May, police released the three activists but then rearrested two of them, at the same time as the three journalists were detained. It is unclear what reason the police gave for the arrests. On 9 May, police stepped up their presence in Pozarevac and prevented vehicles carrying opposition supporters and their technical equipment from entering the city. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION CANCELS DEMONSTRATION

In Novi Sad on 9 May, police detained opposition leader Nenad Canak "for questioning" as he was on his way to Pozarevac (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 2000). Reuters quoted an unnamed opposition official in Belgrade as saying that several opposition leaders had met and decided to "postpone" the demonstration until an unspecified date. Elsewhere, several regime spokesmen and the pro-Milosevic daily "Politika" repeated their charges that Otpor leaders are "fascists" and "foreign agents." PM

ZAGREB CITY VOTE SHOWS APPROVAL FOR GOVERNMENT, PRESIDENT

In the Zagreb municipal elections on 7 May, Prime Minister Ivica Racan's Social Democrats emerged the winners with 21 percent of the popular vote and 15 out of 50 seats. Second in popular backing with 19 percent and third in seats with nine mandates is the People's Party (HNS) of President Stipe Mesic. Third with 15 percent of the popular vote but second with 15 seats are the Social Liberals of Drazen Budisa. A second Liberal Party has six seats, the late President Franjo Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) five, and the newly formed Democratic Center three. Far-right candidates won only two mandates. Turnout was low, at about 34 percent. PM

ZAGREB MAY HAVE SOCIAL DEMOCRAT MAYOR

Budisa said that his party will support Racan's deputies in the town council and that between them, the two parties will control half of the votes, "Jutarnji list" reported on 9 May. The Social Democrats' Milan Bandic is widely expected to be the next mayor. Vesna Pusic of the HNS said she expects to be elected council president. Observers note that the HNS has ridden Mesic's coattails in recent months to rise from near obscurity to second or third place in nationwide popularity. The Zagreb vote indicates that the governing parties continue to enjoy the support of the electorate and that the scandal- ridden HDZ is but a shadow of its former self (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 May 2000). PM

MESIC LEADS CROATIA'S ANTI-FASCIST CELEBRATIONS

On 8 May, Mesic became the first Croatian president since independence in 1991 to preside over the annual ceremony to honor the victory of Josip Broz Tito's Partisans in World War II. He addressed his audience as "dear friends and comrades," "Jutarnji list" reported. He argued that the victory over fascism in 1945 had the support of the majority of "freedom- loving Croats and Serbs," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The president stressed that "just as we opposed Nazi and fascist forces in 1941, so we opposed Milosevic in 1991." Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic added that "we must now build the society for which [the World War II veterans] also fought." Tudjman, who fought in the Partisans and later became Tito's youngest general, kept the Tito-era holiday to mark the end of World War II but did not preside over the ceremonies. PM

SUPPORT FOR BOSNIA FROM NEIGHBORS

The governments of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, and Turkey have formally written to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in support of Bosnia's application for membership in that body, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 7 May. PM

PETRITSCH EXPECTS MORE BOSNIAN ARRESTS

Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Ottawa on 8 May that he expects additional war crimes suspects to be arrested in Bosnia and sent to The Hague "over the next couple of months," Reuters reported. He noted that there were few local protests following the recent arrest of former Bosnian Serb leader Momcilo Krajisnik. It is important that key figures be arrested and brought to justice in order to "take away collective guilt" and put the blame squarely on those individuals responsible for war crimes, Petritsch concluded. PM

EU MONEY FOR MONTENEGRO

EU foreign ministers agreed in Brussels on 8 May to provide $18 million to support the Montenegrin state budget, AP reported. Javier Solana, who is the EU's spokesman for foreign and security policy, said that he hopes the money reaches Montenegro before the 11 June local elections, in which President Milo Djukanovic's backers face a challenge from pro-Milosevic parties. PM

FORMER KOSOVAR COMMANDER KILLED

Several armed men shot dead Ekrem Rexha in broad daylight in Prizren on 8 May, dpa reported. He was known as Commander Drini while serving as a commander of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) during the 1999 conflict. In mid-April, former UCK commander Besim Mala was gunned down in Prishtina (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 May 2000). Violence in Kosova against prominent individuals has otherwise been rare. PM

ELECTION COORDINATOR SUFFOCATED TO DEATH IN ALBANIA

Tirana police chief Arben Dashi told Reuters on 8 May that his subordinates are investigating the death the previous day of Joaquino Bernardo, whom unknown persons killed by suffocation. Bernardo was a Spanish citizen working for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, which is a private group contracted by the U.S. Agency for International Development to help organize the local elections slated for October. PM

POLICE MAKE ARREST IN ALBANIAN GOLD THEFT

A spokesman for Albanian police said in Tirana on 8 May that one unidentified man has been arrested in conjunction with the March 1997 theft of gold coins from the national gold reserves (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 May 2000). Police have recovered some of the coins and arrested four treasury police, whom they suspect of having helped the thieves. The spokesman said that the robbers entered the storage tunnel from "one of its rear entrances." Investigations are continuing, Reuters reported. PM

ROMANIAN MONEY-LAUNDERING SCANDAL INTENSIFIES

The Supreme Court of Justice on 8 May published the full text of the French judicial authorities' request for help in the money- laundering investigation launched against French-Romanian citizen Adrian Costea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 2000). The French prosecutors want to investigate as witnesses Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) first deputy chairman Adrian Nastase, former government minister Viorel Hrebenciuc, as well as former PDSR dignitaries, including Alliance for Romania leader Teodor Melescanu and Union of Rightist Forces First Deputy Chairman Mircea Cosea. PDSR Chairman Ion Iliescu on 8 May said the investigation is part of a plot aimed at forcing him out of the 2000 presidential race, while Nastase on 5 May said the "dossier" was "fabricated in Bucharest" and returned to Romania via France. MS

ROMANIAN DEMOCRATS REPLACE BUCHAREST MAYORAL CANDIDATE

The Democratic Party on 5 May nominated Transportation Minister Traian Basescu as its candidate for the Bucharest mayoral elections scheduled for 4 June, Mediafax reported. Basescu replaces George Nistor. The Democrats said a public opinion survey conducted by the party showed that Nistor's support was less than 3 percent. Also on 5 May, the Popular Party, headed by former Premier Radu Vasile, announced it is withdrawing its candidate for the mayoral elections and will support Basescu. Thirty-seven candidates for the mayor's post have been registered by the Central Electoral Commission. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SUBMITS DRAFT LAW ON CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

President Petru Lucinschi on 5 May submitted to the Constitutional Court a draft law on changing the political system from a semi-presidential to a fully-fledged presidential one, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Under existing legislation, the court must rule if the draft meets legal requirements. The law would change the electoral system from a proportional system to a mixed one in which 70 deputies would be elected in single constituencies and 30 on nationwide party lists. Ministers and the premier would be nominated by the president and would be responsible to him, while the parliament would exercise a "control function." The parliament would be able to dismiss the premier only by means of a "constructive no-confidence vote" such as exists in Germany. MS

BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS RE-ELECT PARVANOV AS LEADER

The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) has re-elected Georgi Parvanov as party leader, Reuters and AP reported on 7 May. Parvanov, who stressed his support for Bulgaria's integration into NATO, received 550 votes. Yakani Stoilov, who was vague on NATO membership, was backed by 100 delegates, and a staunchly anti-NATO candidate received only 30 votes. Parvanov told the 6 May gathering that the BSP must continue its process of internal reform and that "any attempt to go back is doomed." He said the party must "overcome lots of hurdles" to return to power, which he described as "fear, disbelief, and suspicion" triggered among the electorate by the party's past. He also said the BSP must try to form a coalition with the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, whose leader, Ahmed Dogan, attended the gathering and suggested such a coalition was possible. MS

BULGARIAN BALKAN AIRLINE STRIKE CONTINUES

The strike by the national carrier Balkan Airlines (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 2000) entered its sixth day on 8 May, after negotiations between the strikers and management failed, Reuters reported. Transportation Minister Antoni Slavinski had warned the previous day that the airline's license could be rescinded and its routes given to another company if Balkan Airlines failed to "fulfill its functions." The striking pilots on 8 May appealed to the government to help find a solution to their conflict with the management of Balkan Air, in which Israel's Zeevi Group owns a controlling share. MS




SPIES VERSUS OLIGARCHS


By Paul Goble

Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to use the country's intelligence services to break the power of the oligarchs as part of his drive to establish a stronger and more centralized state.

Such an effort, at the very least, sets the stage for increased tensions both between the newly inaugurated president and the oligarchs as a group, as well as between those oligarchs aligned with Putin and others linked to rival political groups.

But more than that, Putin's plan to use the Russian intelligence agencies for domestic control recalls one of the worst features of the Soviet system and could undermine the chance that Russia will move in a more democratic direction anytime soon.

A former KGB officer himself, Putin has made no secret of his readiness to rely on Russia's still powerful intelligence agencies. Indeed, he has even joked about their successful penetration of the Russian government during his watch.

But the clearest indication of how far he may be prepared to go in this direction and just what that might mean for the country as a whole came in a purported Kremlin planning document leaked to the Russian press last week.

The document was outlined in "Kommersant-Daily," a newspaper owned by oligarch Boris Berezovskii, who has opposed Putin on many occasions. For this reason, some commentators have questioned whether the document is genuine or have played down its significance.

Nonetheless, the ideas presented in the document appear both consistent with or extensions of proposals that Putin and his closest aides have made in the past. And as such, they merit scrutiny, even if Putin ultimately backs away from them.

As outlined by "Kommersant-Daily," the document calls for the fusion of the intelligence services and a new presidential political directorate. These combined forces are to be used to build a power base for the president independent of the political process by undermining any opposition to his person or polices.

Sometimes, the document is said to argue, this new agency will seek compromising information about these opponents; sometimes, it will plant unfavorable stories about them in the press; and sometimes, it is implied, it will use other, unspecified methods.

Such an arrangement, the document states, will give the president "real control over political processes in Russia," reducing the government to the executor of presidential policies and protecting his agents from the kind of criticism democracy requires.

Even more disturbing, the document suggests that this new presidential security arrangement will allow Putin to "actually manage political and social processes in Russia and in nearby foreign countries," an apparent reference to the former Soviet republics.

All of this, "Kommersant-Daily" concludes, will allow Putin to impose his preferred economic reforms, regardless of what powerful economic interests in particular and Russian society in general say they want--through the media and the ballot box. The newspaper continues that this suggests the realization of the provisions of this document will transform Russia's current "self-regulating and self-managing" political system into one resembling "Chile under Pinochet."

Such an arrangement is likely to prove popular with many in both Russia and the West. On the one hand, many in both places long for the restoration of stability in Moscow, even at the cost of democratic procedures.

On the other hand, Putin appears ready to use the enhanced power that such an arrangement might give to promote economic reforms that would challenge the economic and political power of the oligarchs to dominate the political scene.

But if Putin's plans may be greeted in some quarters, there are three reasons why they are likely to create more problems than they solve.

First, the very fact that this document was leaked suggests that not everyone in the Kremlin is happy with increased reliance on the security services. Indeed, many people within the government may try to undermine it and thereby further weaken the regime.

Second, the publication of commentary on this document highlights just one of the ways the oligarchs would fight the implementation of such a plan. Efforts to suppress that resistance would be long, costly, and almost certainly counterproductive.

And third, any attempt by a newly expanded presidential security apparatus to suppress democracy, even in the name of economic reform, would generate resistance among Putin's own supporters in the population at large.

Those Russians who have welcomed Putin's toughness vis- a-vis the Chechens are unlikely to be so supportive if he employs a similar toughness against Russian society. His support has been broad but not deep; and such efforts could erode it quickly.

That, in turn, would set the stage either for his retreat from a security-service-based form of rule or its even more rigorous application, either of which would cast a shadow on his presidency.


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