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Newsline - May 15, 2000


President Vladimir Putin issued a decree on 13 May putting Russia's 89 federation subjects into seven administrative districts, namely the Central, Northwest, North Caucasus, Volga, Urals, Siberia, and Far East districts. Under the same decree, Putin dismissed his 89 presidential representatives to each region, explaining that he will name presidential representatives to each of the seven districts at a later date. According to ITAR-TASS, these new presidential representatives are to be directly accountable to the president and will ensure the compliance of each zone with decisions adopted by federal authorities. Moscow will be the "center" for the new Central district, St. Petersburg for the Northwest, Rostov-na-Donu for the North Caucasus, Nizhnii Novgorod for the Volga; Yekaterinburg for the Urals; Novosibirsk for Siberia; and Vladivostok for the Far East. Putin's decree came two days after he ordered Ingushetia and Bashkortostan to rescind legislation contradicting federal laws (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2000). JAC


Commenting on Putin's 13 May decree, Union of Rightist Forces leader Sergei Kirienko told NTV the next day that "the introduction of these districts is a direct example [of] the construction of a new power system in the country." He added that "it is perfectly clear the president will from now on take all the key decisions." Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov welcomed the measure, saying that "it is extremely important to restore the vertical system of authority and normal control over the country, as some of the regional leaders have actually turned into khans and sheiks." Zyuganov also noted that the seven new districts replicate the principle of the seven military districts into which Russia is already divided. Minister for Federation and Nationalities Affairs Aleksandr Blokhin, who admitted that he had not known about the decree before it was issued, pointed out that the number of new districts almost exactly corresponds to the number of interregional economic associations. JAC


Russia's regional leaders offered some words of support for Putin's initiative. On the eve of his re-election (see below), St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev said that he welcomes the reorganization and insisted that the rights of governors will not be limited. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev praised the reorganization, saying that it would prove "a more efficient instrument" than the previous system of 89 representatives, which he suggested was flawed. Lipetsk Governor Oleg Korolev told Interfax that a reform of federal structures within the regions is needed since within each region, some "40-64 representatives of the federal center operate without answering to the governor and Moscow is far away." Sergei Sobyanin, head of the Federation Council's Committee on Constitutional Legislation, added that "if the president's representatives are to oversee entire regions, then undoubtedly they must be less dependent on regional leaders." JAC


Following criticism of a police raid on the Moscow offices of the Media-Most Group on 11 May, the presidential press service announced the next day that Putin "is firmly convinced that freedom of speech and freedom of the media are immutable values" but added that with regard to criminal investigations, "all are equal before the law no matter what business they are in." U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on 12 May that while the U.S. welcomes Putin's statement, it finds it "disturbing when actions of authority seem in contradiction to the values expressed by the president and...enshrined in the Russian constitution." Boucher said that he expects the issue of media freedom to be raised during talks between U.S. President Bill Clinton and Putin during their June summit in Moscow. JAC


The Secretariat of the Union of Journalists published a statement in "Moskovskii komsomolets" of 13 May appealing to the Russian president to counter the unconstitutional actions of the Federal Security Service. The statement also expressed a lack of confidence in the leadership of Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, who "has done nothing to strengthen the freedoms of the media." The previous day, Lesin told Ekho Moskvy that there are no grounds to believe that federal powers are trying to put pressure on the media and that the raid on the Media-Most Group will not affect the operation of that holding company's media organs. JAC


Incumbent St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev easily won re-election in the 14 May ballot, securing 72.7 percent of the votes, according to preliminary results, and thereby dispensing with the need for a second round. Igor Artemev, the joint candidate of Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces, came second with some 17.7 percent backing. He was quoted by Reuters as saying he will protest the results of the election, which Artemev claimed was rigged. Turnout was put at just below 47 percent. Yakovlev, who is accused by his opponents of having links to the organized crime groups that are rife in St. Petersburg, is the eighth incumbent governor to have gained re-election since the beginning of this year (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 29 March 2000). JC


Ramazan Kadyrov, the son of Chechen Mufti Akhmed-hadji, suffered shrapnel wounds near Gudermes on 12 May when a remote-controlled bomb exploded as his car drove past, Russian agencies reported. Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov is one of the leading candidates to head the temporary pro-Russian administration in Chechnya. Also on 12 May, three bus passengers were killed and 19 injured by a remote-controlled mine near the Chechen village of Djaglari. And a Russian journalist was killed when his jeep was blown up near Grozny. LF


In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 12 May, German Gref, head of the Center for Strategic Development, which has been tasked with drawing up the government's economic reform plan, said that many of the Russian media stories leaking details about the plan are inaccurate. He said that media outlets have published "either early versions or versions that were not written by our center at all." Gref added that the program will be completed by the end of the formation of the new government. Previously, he had said it would be ready by the end of this month. Meanwhile, "The Moscow Times" reported on 13 May that according to one of the plan's authors, Arkadii Dvorkovich, numerous social benefits, such as housing subsidies and free transport, will be eliminated. The plan will reportedly also reduce Russia's graduated income tax rate to a flat one of 12-13 percent and abolish the turnover tax. JAC


Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Kolotukhin told Interfax on 12 May that Russia and Germany have agreed on terms for rescheduling payments for 1999 and 2000 on its Soviet-era debt to the Paris Club of creditors. Among the Paris Club creditors, Germany holds the largest portion of that debt. According to the agency, Russia has already reached separate agreements with five of the 18 Paris Club members, including Spain, Austria, Australia, Switzerland, and France, on rescheduling its 1999-2000 payments. JAC


Dragoljub Ojdanic was in Moscow last week for a five-day visit that was not reported by the Russian media until it was over. On 9 May, Ojdanic attended the V-Day parade on Red Square. He later held talks with both Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and head of the armed forces' General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic arrives in Moscow on 15 May for a working visit, according to Interfax. JC


The Vladivostok city administration plans to give away free lottery tickets to voters who show up at polling stations for mayoral elections on 18 June, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, local enterprises have provided prizes for the lottery, which include cars, refrigerators, television sets, video recorders, and washing machines. City officials hope that the free tickets will provide enough incentive for voters to show up in sufficient numbers for the vote to be declared valid. Previous elections for the office have failed on more than 20 occasions, the agency reported (see also "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 16 February 2000). JAC


During a five-hour space walk on 12 May, the crew of the space station "Mir" carried out what officials described as a successful experiment to seal tiny cracks in the aging station's hull using a special glue, according to Reuters. Air has been leaking through such cracks, as a result of which increased energy supplies have had to be used to maintain pressure in the cabin. The crew also inspected a broken solar panel and discovered charred cables, which ground control attributed to a short-circuit. JC


President Robert Kocharian on 12 May named Republican Party of Armenia Chairman Andranik Markarian to head the next Armenian government. Markarian, who is a 49-year-old computer specialist, served a three-year prison sentence in the mid-1970s for his membership in the clandestine National Unity Party. Meeting on 13 May with the outgoing cabinet, Markarian and Kocharian pledged to end the infighting between president, premier, and parliament, which Markarian said "undermines the foundations of our statehood." He also pledged to continue the economic policies espoused by previous cabinets. LF


Some 2,500 people attended a protest demonstration in Yerevan on 12 May to call for Kocharian's resignation, Interfax reported. The demonstration was convened by the Union of Rightist Forces, which brings together four small-center right parties that split in the late 1990s from the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 2000). In a written statement circulated before the demonstration, the union claimed that Kocharian is not a legitimate president and blamed his policies for ongoing emigration, which they termed a threat to Armenia's statehood. LF


World Bank officials told journalists in Yerevan on 12 May that the bank will release some $20 million in new loans to finance infrastructure projects intended to benefit the poorest strata of the population, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But they said that disbursement of another $45 million Structural Adjustment Credit (SAC-4), earmarked for covering approximately half of this year's anticipated budget deficit, and $11 million remaining from last year's SAC-3 program is contingent on the privatization of four loss-making energy distribution companies. Parliamentary deputies voted on 25 April to suspend the tender for that sell-off (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 2000). LF


Some 200 ethnic Armenians returned from the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti to Armenia on 14 May after being refused entry visas for Bulgaria, ITAR-TASS reported. The refugees, most of them women and children, had fled to Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azerbaijani town of Sumgait before the collapse of the USSR and possessed only Soviet passports. Nor did they have documentation proving their status as refugees. Of the more than 300,000 such refugees who fled to Armenia, only some 12,000 have acquired Armenian citizenship, Noyan Tapan reported last December. LF


Heidar Aliyev has written to outgoing Turkish President Suleyman Demirel to express his support for the Caucasus stability pact that Demirel proposed during a visit to Georgia in January, AFP reported on 14 May, citing an Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry statement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January 2000). Aliyev said such a pact could be crucial in resolving the Karabakh conflict and contributing to a "permanent peace" in the South Caucasus. Aliyev also expressed his thanks to Demirel for the latter's contribution to developing Azerbaijani-Turkish relations. LF


Deputies on 12 May approved draft amendments to the law on the Central Electoral Commission in the second reading by a vote of 86 to six, Turan reported. None of the changes proposed by opposition deputies during the first reading was incorporated into the bill, which stipulates that the parliament majority, the opposition, and independent deputies should be equally represented on the 18-member commission. The opposition is demanding that the Azerbaijani authorities and the parliamentary minority be equally represented. LF


As required by the Georgian Constitution, Eduard Shevardnadze has submitted to the parliament his list of 19 proposed ministerial candidates, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported on 14 May. All but four ministers in the outgoing government retain their posts, including Agriculture Minister Bakur Gulua, who is implicated in a major corruption scandal and whose candidacy deputies had indicated they would reject. The new appointees are parliamentary Tax Committee Chairman Zurab Nogaideli as finance minister, First Deputy Minister of State Vano Chkhartishvili as economics and industry minister, Deputy Foreign Minister Sesilia Gogoberidze as minister of culture, and Georgia's ambassador to Russia Malkhaz Kakabadze as minister without portfolio with responsibility for conflict resolution. Observers had anticipated that Kakabadze's predecessor in Moscow, outgoing Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanizde, might be appointed to that post (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 19, 11 May 2000). LF


The Abkhaz leadership has rejected out of hand, and is not prepared even to discuss, a UN proposal on the division of constitutional powers between Abkhazia and the central Georgian government, Caucasus Press reported on 15 May. Astamur Tania, who is an aide to Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, said that at present Sukhum is prepared to begin talks only on economic restoration and the repatriation to Abkhazia of ethnic Georgian displaced persons. He argued that the UN has no right to impose a model for relations between Abkhazia and Tbilisi and that it is up to those two parties to reach agreement between themselves on the optimum model for relations. Tania also expressed doubt that the appointment of Kakabadze as Georgian minister without portfolio would expedite a solution to the conflict. He said Sukhum would have preferred to continue negotiations with Lortkipanidze, who is familiar with the Abkhaz problem and has a good working relationship with the Abkhaz leadership. LF


Police in Bishkek on 12 May arrested some 30 participants in the ongoing demonstration to demand the release of arrested opposition Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov and the annulment of the results of the February-March parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. The arrested demonstrators had attempted to march to the Kyrgyztelecom building in violation of a 31 March police edict that they remain on the city's Maksim Gorky Square. Charges were brought against some of those detained, but all were released later the same day. On 13 May, Kyrgyz Security Council Secretary Bolot Djanuzakov met again with the demonstrators s to ask them not to stage further marches in Bishkek (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2000). But the coalition of Kyrgyz NGOs said the same day that it will appeal the 31 March edict as unconstitutional. LF


Opposition El (Bei Bechara) leader Daniyar Usenov went on trial on 12 May in a Bishkek district court on charges of assaulting businessman Kengseh Mukaev in 1996, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The same day, Mukaev, who has repeatedly said that he bears no grudge against Usenov, formally appealed against a medical statement that Usenov caused him serious injury and requested a new medical examination, which the court rejected. He denounced the court proceedings as politically motivated. LF


General Anthony Zinney held talks in Bishkek on 10-11 May with Kyrgyz government and military officials on assessing bilateral military cooperation, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Zinney also attended a simulated peacekeeping operation by special units trained under U.S. supervision, according to Interfax. LF


In a move apparently intended to rein in the Turkmen security services, which some observers believe have become a law unto themselves, President Saparmurat Niyazov on 12 May signed a constitutional law banning searches of private homes without the prior sanction of a special commission comprised of senior government officials and representatives of public organizations and law enforcement agencies, Interfax reported. In the future, searches of private homes may be undertaken only after that body has given permission and only if there are grounds for suspecting that arms. ammunition, or more than 5 kilograms of drugs are stored there. LF


Uladzimir Yarmoshyn on 12 May presented to the National Assembly his cabinet's five-year program, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The program projects a 24-33 percent rise in GDP over the next five years. The government's priorities include boosting exports, developing the agricultural sector and related industries, and encouraging investment. Yarmoshyn pledged to achieve an economic recovery in 2000-2001, to switch "in the near future" to a single exchange rate for the Belarusian ruble, and to reform the taxation system. He noted that Belarus's foreign debt, due to be paid this year, amounts to $290 million, including $250 million for Russian gas supplies. JM


Two opposing rallies were held at the Kyiv city administration building on 13 May in response to the city authorities' decision to nearly double prices for bread as of 10 May, Interfax reported. A rally organized by the Social Democratic Party (Unified) protested the hike, calling it "the beginning of famine" and demanding the ouster of Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko. The other demonstration, organized by workers at city bakeries, expressed support for the hike and protested "communist methods of fighting for social rights." Omelchenko told the gatherings that Kyiv has "the cheapest bread in Ukraine." JM


"We are on the threshold of large-scale military and military-technical cooperation between our countries," Interfax quoted Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk as saying on 13 May, following a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart, Pham Van Tra. The two sides plan to sign a five-year military cooperation accord by September. "Ukraine is ready to sell military equipment to Vietnam. The Vietnamese side is now determining its capabilities for the purchase of arms," AP quoted Kuzmuk as saying. The sides also agreed that 30 Vietnamese officers will receive training at Ukrainian military schools as of 1 September. JM


The Customer Protection Board is to investigate Estonia's largest insurance firm, Sampo, after the death of Narva businessman Alexander Nikolayevski on 12 May, ETA and BNS reported on 12 May. Nikolayevski, 46, doused himself with gasoline and set himself ablaze on 10 May to protest the Sampo Insurance company's refusal to award him 240,000 kroons ($14,000) in disability payments following an automobile accident last year. The Customer Protection Board, which is targeting insurance firms that fail to honor contracts, received 27 complaints last year. AB


Janis Maizitis has said that the investigation of war crimes committed during World War II are a priority for his office, particularly the cases of Konrad Kalejs and Karlis Ozols, who were members of the Arajs Kommando and are now in Australia, BNS reported on 12 May. Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff criticized the Latvian authorities for what he called a lack of enthusiasm in bringing the two to trial, AP reported. "There is sufficient evidence" to prosecute, Zuroff told AP. Responding to Zuroff's criticism, Dzintra Subrovska, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General's office, said that Latvia "is not the first country to investigate these cases. Others have taken as long as 10 years and never pressed charges." She added that Latvia is ready to charge Kalejs and Ozols "at any moment as long as we have the evidence." AB


Lawmakers on 12 May began debating a controversial initiative calling for reallocating some of the country's defense spending to the educational system, BNS and ELTA reported 12 May. The proposal, a result of a successful referendum launched by the New Union (Social Liberal Party) of former presidential candidate Arturas Paulauskas, was severely criticized by parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis, who called the New Union a "mouthpiece of the strategic interests of a foreign country." Landsbergis added that this is "Russia's policy." The proposal calls for 148 million litas ($37 million) to be taken from the defense budget and given to education. The government of Conservative Andrius Kubilius had earlier rejected the proposal. The government maintains that if the proposal succeeds, it will destroy the Lithuanian armed forces and ruin Lithuania's chances of NATO membership. AB


On returning from Belarus, where he met with President Alexander Lukashenka, Algirdas Brazauskas accepted the offer to become honorary chairman of the new electoral alliance of the Democratic Labor Party (LDDP) and the Social Democratic Party (LSDP), ELTA reported on 13 May. He had been elected to that post at a joint meeting of the two parties' governing councils. While in Minsk, Brazauskas was told by Lukashenka that opposition candidates will be allowed to run in the general elections to be held in the fall, BNS reported 12 May. Brazauskas told "Lietuvos Rytas" the same day that "Belarus cannot be ignored nor should it only be criticized." AB


Aleksander Kwasniewski on 14 May said the EU has so far failed to use a historical opportunity to integrate the post-communist countries with Europe's old democracies, Polish media reported. Kwasniewski said the vision of a unified Europe presented by its founding father, Robert Schuman, 50 years ago is being impeded by "short- sightedness and selfishness." He also criticized plans voiced by some EU countries to integrate Europe at two different speeds, one for poor countries and another for rich ones. Such an approach could create a new dividing line on the Continent, he said. JM


The lower house of the parliament on 12 May voted in favor of a zero value-added tax rate on farm produce, causing consternation among the government and ruling coalition leaders, PAP reported. The cabinet had pressed for the introduction of a 3 percent VAT rate. The Ministry of Finance said the rejection of the 3 percent rate would cost the state budget some 1.3 billion zlotys ($295 million) annually. The zero VAT option was supported not only by the opposition but also by 29 rural deputies from the coalition Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS). Those deputies violated the voting discipline ordered by the AWS caucus. Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said the cabinet will stick to the idea of a 3 percent VAT rate, adding that the "bad vote" can be "repaired" in the upper house. JM


Vaclav Klaus, the speaker of the Czech parliament, criticized President Vaclav Havel for statements he made about opponents of the IMF conference scheduled for Prague in September, CTK reported. Klaus, speaking at a Civic Democratic Party (ODS) conference in north Moravia on 13 May, said the ODS finds it unacceptable for the country's top elected officials to express support for "extremists." Havel said recently that he would like to "enrich" the dialogue between non-governmental organizations opposed to the IMF and fund officials. Klaus said any "flirting" with such views is "unforgivably dangerous." Several thousand protesters are expected to attend a "counter-summit" to be held in Prague at the same time as the IMF summit. PB


Some 33 senior members of an Italian drug mafia were arrested by detectives from the Czech Republic's National Drug Center (NPC) and Italy's Anti-Mafia Service on 12 May, CTK reported. Codenamed Iridium, the operation lasted more than a year. NPC spokesman Jiri Komorous said the arrests eliminate the "Balkan heroin route" through which the drug was smuggled from Turkey to Italy and then to the Czech Republic for distribution. A Prague shoe store was used as a front. Among those arrested was Antonio Melandrino, a top Italian Mafia boss. PB


German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said in Berlin on 12 May after meeting with Havel that there are "no disputed points between us..., only questions on which we must work further," CTK reported. Fischer said he fully agrees with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's view on EU enlargement and that Germany will not file property claims against Prague or make EU admission contingent upon the abolition of the controversial Benes Decrees. Fischer avoided, however, suggesting a date for the Czech Republic's joining the EU. Havel's four-day trip to Germany ended with a visit to Regensburg, in Bavaria, and a meeting with its premier, Edmund Stoiber. Stoiber has been outspoken on the issue of the Sudeten Germans expelled by the Benes Decrees but said after meeting with Havel that he supports the Czech Republic's accession to the EU and that he hopes "solutions in harmony with European values" can be found on the Sudeten German issue. PB


Thousands of people across the Czech Republic on 14 May celebrated after the country's hockey team defeated Slovakia 5-3 to win the world championship played in St. Petersburg. Supporters filled the city center, waving flags and singing and chanting slogans. It was the Czechs' second consecutive hockey world championship. In Bratislava, thousands of people in the city center awaited the early morning arrival of the losing Slovak team, who were hailed as victors for their silver medal performance. PB


Transport, Telecommunications, and Water Management Minister Kalman Katona told Hungarian Television on 14 May that if Prime Minister Viktor Orban's decision to break up his ministry is final, then he will ask Orban to relieve him from his post. Last week, Katona opposed Orban's intention to transfer telecommunication affairs to the supervision of Orban's Office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2000). In other news, the National Council of the opposition Free Democrats on 13 May announced the party will support Ferenc Madl for the presidency. Madl was nominated to that post by the ruling coalition. The opposition Socialist Party announced earlier that it will support Madl's candidacy. MSZ


Security guard Milivoje Gutovic fatally shot Bosko Perosevic at an agricultural trade fair in Novi Sad on 13 May. Perosevic was head of the Vojvodina provincial government and of the local branch of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party. This is the latest in a series of high-level murders; none of the previous killings has been solved. This was the first such shooting that took place outside Belgrade and in which the gunman was quickly identified and captured. London's "The Daily Telegraph" suggested on 15 May that Gutovic might be "psychologically troubled" or that the slaying may be the result of a "bloody turf war" between criminal syndicates. Alcohol may have been a factor determining the behavior of Gutovic, who comes from the village of Ratkovo, as did his victim, the "Los Angeles Times" added. Zarko Jokanovic of the New Democracy party suggested that Socialist hard-liners may have disliked Perosevic, whom Jokanovic described as "tolerant, educated and ready for [political] cooperation," Reuters reported. PM


Police said in a statement that Gutovic, who is 50, was "beyond doubt" an activist in the Otpor (Resistance) student movement and in Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), AP reported from Belgrade on 14 May. The statement added that a search of Gutovic's home revealed "posters and propaganda material of Otpor and the SPO as well as brochures on terrorism." Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic said that "all those who perform activities against the state will be treated in accordance with the law. The time of their street demonstrations is over." He stressed that the killing "was not the work of a single maniac but an organized murder with a deep political background, with the aim of destabilizing Yugoslavia." Socialist Party Secretary-General Gorica Gajevic added that "the NATO aggressors are now putting their weapons in the hands of their servants here, to do their dirty job for them and to spread fear and chaos." Gajevic called Otpor activists "ordinary NATO mercenaries." PM


Asked if police will arrest opposition supporters if they hold a planned rally in Belgrade at 3:00 p.m. on 15 May, Matic said "that is correct," "The Guardian" reported on 15 May. Opposition leader Vladan Batic confirmed that the rally will go ahead nonetheless. "The citizens of Serbia must view this rally as the struggle for survival, freedom, and democracy," he told Draskovic's Studio-B Television. The previous day, the SPO said in a statement that "if the murder has a political background, the real culprits should be sought within the regime,...which instigates bloody conflicts." The statement also called Gutovic a "monster" and denied any links to him. Otpor's Ivan Marovic accused the regime of spreading "lies" and "political marketing tricks" in an effort to "use the crack down on political opponents," AP reported. Otpor said in a statement that "this is the last opportunity to take decisive action against a further escalation of violence that could turn into chaos and anarchy," "Danas" reported. PM


Police detained "several" anti-Milosevic activists during the morning of 15 May, Reuters reported from Belgrade. An unspecified number of busses filled with police arrived in the capital from outside. PM


Draskovic told a rally in honor of the World War II monarchist Chetnik leader Draza Mihajlovic in Ravna Gora on 14 May that the SPO "in the future will no longer defend itself from repression only with speeches, meetings, and declarations," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Draskovic added that his movement will use "all possible means" to carry out its "holy patriotic duty" against what he called "the occupation regime" of Milosevic. He did not elaborate. The themes of the rally were "Uprising" and "On to Belgrade," "Vesti" reported. PM


Serbian Security forces marked the Day of the State Security Bodies in Belgrade on 14 May. General Obrad Stevanovic of the State Security Services said that employees of the Serbian Interior Ministry have had "good results" in investigating and catching criminals over the last 12 months, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The previous day, Defense Minister Dragoljub Ojdanic noted that this year's Security Day comes at a time when Serbia is under great pressure from external enemies. Army chief-of-staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic issued a similar statement. PM


A military court in Nis freed Miroslav Filipovic on 12 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 2000). His lawyer told the private news agency Beta that "the actions of the military prosecutor and court were very correct. The military judicial system proved efficient." Filipovic denied that he had been involved in espionage and noted that he signed every article he published. PM


The trial of Milos Jokic began in Kosova on 15 May for alleged war crimes stemming from his activities as leader of a nine-member paramilitary band during the recent conflict in Kosova, Reuters reported. Jokic denies those charges and argues that there was no paramilitary activity in the area where he is alleged to have committed the crimes. His is the first war crimes trial to be held in the province. The trial was adjourned the same day after the defendant failed to appear. Meanwhile in Prishtina, a UN spokeswoman said that trials of other Serbs and Roma will begin in Mitrovica starting 6 June. She said that security preparations for the trials cannot be completed before that date. Some 30 Serbs and five Roma are on a hunger strike to demand that their trials take place as soon as possible. PM


The government on 13 May unveiled a 100-day program aimed at promoting growth and creating jobs. "Jutarnji list" wrote on 15 May that the government will have its work cut out for it. On 12 May, the parliament annulled legislation requiring the government to bail out failing banks at taxpayers' expense. The previous government is widely believed to have used the legislation to rescue banks that had made bad loans to government supporters. PM


Leaders of the victorious parties in the recent Zagreb municipal elections agreed on 13 May that the Social Democrats' Milan Bandic will be the new mayor and that the Social Liberals' Filip Borac will head the city council. The Square of Croatian Heroes will receive back its former name of Square of the Victims of Fascism (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 May 2000). PM


Andrej Bajuk will be finance minister as well as government head in his new cabinet. Lojze Peterle, who was the first prime minister after independence in 1991, will be foreign minister, Reuters reported from Ljubljana on 13 May. The parliament has yet to approve the cabinet. PM


Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, has decreed changes in the privatization law to protect investors in cases in which the ownership of assets are disputed, Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 12 May. His moves also clarify restitution procedures. International officials have said repeatedly that Bosnia needs investments if it is to make the transition from an aid-dependent economy to a market one and that investors will not invest until substantial reforms are enacted. PM


Democratic Party leader and former President Sali Berisha told a small gathering in Vlora on 14 May that his government's conduct helped avert a civil war after the collapse of pyramid schemes in 1997. He added that subsequent Socialist policies have turned Vlora into a "paradise of the Albanian and regional mafias," AP reported. Local officials had previously said that Berisha is not welcome in Vlora, but his relatively low-key rally passed without incident. His appearance marks the opening of campaigning for local elections slated for October (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 May 2000). PM


Valentin Dragan, a journalist for a Constanta-based newspaper and a Reuters correspondent, was severely beaten by police on 12 May while trying to photograph a "private party," the daily "Ziua" reported on 15 May. The party was hosted by Constanta county's police chief, Ion Carlig, who was celebrating his promotion to the rank of general. Dragan suffered several injuries, including a broken leg, and will remain hospitalized for some two months. According to the newspaper, Dragan received most of his injuries from press officer Major Marian Saragea. The Romanian Journalist Association protested the incident and asked for Carlig's suspension pending investigation, while the Interior Ministry said it has begun a probe into the matter. ZsM


The Communist Party faction of the Moldovan parliament walked out of the chamber on 12 May to protest the absence of Moldovan language classes at universities, Infotag reported. Party leader Vladimir Voronin said the fact that "Romanian language and literature" is listed on the curriculum of higher education institutions in Moldova but no reference is made to "Moldovan language and literature" is a violation of the country's constitution. Voronin said the Communists want the vote postponed so that the government can study the constitution. He said if the cabinet refuses to do so, the Communists will dismiss it. The Communist Party holds 40 of the 101 seats in parliament. PB


Two of the six Bulgarian medics charged with intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with the HIV virus said they confessed to the charges under duress, the medics' lawyer said in Tripoli on 12 May. The six, five nurses and one doctor, are charged with contaminating 393 children in a Benghazi hospital. Libya says 40 of the children have died from AIDS. The six Bulgarians were detained 15 months ago and face the death penalty if convicted. The trial is scheduled to begin on 4 June. PB


The government reported on 12 May that tourism in the first quarter of this year was up 27 percent compared with the same period in 1999, AP reported. Tourism suffered badly last year owing to the war in Yugoslavia. The Economy Ministry said that 506,870 people have visited Bulgaria from January to April and that it expects some $1.2 billion in revenue from the sector this year. PB


By Liz Fuller

Kazakhstan is generally perceived as enjoying a cordial relationship with Russia, not least because of its unequivocal support for the continued existence of, and greater economic integration within, the CIS. (That commitment is itself a reflection of President Nursultan Nazarbaev's espousal of the concept of Eurasian integration-- although there are grounds for suspecting that Nazarbaev's ultimate aim is the emergence of a Eurasian Union in which Russia will be merely one of a number of equal members rather than seeking to impose its will on the other member states.) Kazakhstan is a member of the CIS Customs Union, and, unlike Uzbekistan, has not allowed its membership in the CIS Collective Security Treaty to lapse. And the treaty of "eternal friendship" signed in July 1998 by the presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan is the only such pact between Russia and another CIS member state.

But the trial that began last month of a group of alleged Russian "separatists" in eastern Kazakhstan has served to highlight latent tensions between the Kazakhs and Kazakhstan's demoralized and rapidly dwindling Russian/Slav population. Those tensions could lead to a deterioration in bilateral relations. Until the late 1980s, Russians were the largest ethnic group in the Kazakh SSR, and Russian nationalists, including novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii, have repeatedly called for the northern oblasts of Kazakhstan, where Slavs constitute the majority of the population, to be incorporated into the Russian Federation. Some spokesmen for the Slavs have even gone so far as to claim that although Nazarbaev regularly assures Moscow of his desire for harmonious relations, his ultimate objective is to rid Kazakhstan of its remaining Slav minorities and turn the country into a Turkic state.

In November 1999 the Kazakh authorities announced the arrest in Ust-Kamennogorsk, the administrative capital of East Kazakhstan Oblast, of 22 men, 12 of whom were citizens of Russia. They were charged with planning to overthrow the oblast's leadership and proclaim the region a "Russian Altai Republic." East Kazakhstan Oblast, which borders on Russia to the north, China to the east, and Kyrgyzstan to the south, is one of Kazakhstan's regions whose population historically was predominantly Russian. The region's capital, Ust- Kamennogorsk, was founded as a Cossack fortress in 1720 on orders from Tsar Peter the Great; the area was incorporated in 1921 into the Kirghiz Autonomous SSR and became part of the Kazakh SSR only in 1937. Even today, despite steady Slav outmigration since Kazakhstan became independent, only 12 percent of the population of Ust-Kamennogorsk are Kazakh.

The Slav population of northern and northeastern Kazakhstan has lobbied in the past for a separate territorial autonomous formation as a means of curtailing overt discrimination by the ethnic Kazakh leadership. The Kazakh authorities, however, rejected that proposal out of hand. They have also refused to condone the opening of a Russian consulate in East Kazakhstan Oblast. More recently, several organizations representing Kazakhstan's Slav population have advocated the country's accession to the planned Union State of Russia and Belarus. That move, they argue, is wholly commensurate with Nazarbaev's espousal of Eurasian integration. But the Kazakh leadership announced that accession to that union is not on the cards.

Although the Russian population of Ust-Kamennogorsk may well have welcomed the creation of a "Russian Altai Republic," there are grounds for querying the official version of the alleged plot to establish one. Viktor Kazimirchuk, the Russian citizen identified as the mastermind behind that scheme, had spent several months in Ust- Kamennogorsk before his arrest. During that time, he had reportedly announced his plans for overthrowing the local leadership. But the town's security officials, who are said to be exclusively ethnic Kazakhs, had inexplicably delayed taking any measures to prevent him. And the arsenal finally confiscated from Kazimirchuk and his putative co-plotters was totally inadequate for mounting an armed insurrection, comprising only two rifles, a small amount of ammunition, wooden clubs, and some Molotov cocktails.

During the four-month pre-trial investigation, the Kazakh authorities refused to allow Kazimirchuk and his co- defendants to meet with Russian consular officials or Russian lawyers. They also refused to extradite the 12 Russian citizens to Russia to stand trial there. That refusal, in conjunction with discrepancies in the charges against the arrested Russians, engendered concern in Moscow at the highest level. Heading a Russian delegation that visited Astana in late April, for example, Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said "We are deeply concerned about everything surrounding the trial in Ust-Kamennogorsk." And in a clear indication that at some of Kazakhstan's ethnic Russians are sympathetic to Kazimirchuk's imputed aim, Seleznev warned against "making political heroes of hooligans." Another member of that delegation, Duma Committee for CIS Affairs Chairman Boris Pastukhov, expressed concern at the plight of Kazakhstan's ethnic Russian population in an address to Kazakhstan's parliament.

It is, nonetheless, very probable that the leaderships of both countries will continue to play down the plight of that population rather than allow it to jeopardize mutually beneficial economic cooperation. Over the past month, since the trial in Ust-Kamennogorsk got under way, Moscow has raised by 1 million tons the quota for exports of Kazakh crude via the Atyrau-Samara pipeline and persuaded the Kazakh leadership to export another 3 million tons of crude through the new pipeline from Makhachkala to Novorossiisk, which bypasses Chechnya. In return, Kazakhstan's government has signaled its willingness to revise the 1998 agreement demarcating the two countries' respective sectors of the Caspian Sea. That agreement left within Kazakhstan's sector a hydrocarbon deposit to which Russia's LUKoil lays claim.