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Newsline - May 24, 2000




RUSSIAN GENERAL ENDORSES CALL FOR STRIKES AGAINST TALIBAN

Colonel-General Viktor Kazantsev, whom President Vladimir Putin named last week as his representative in the North Caucasus, on 23 May expressed his support for presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii's statement the previous day that Moscow might consider air strikes against Taliban bases in Afghanistan in response to the Taliban's alleged agreement to provide arms and manpower to the Chechens, ITAR-TASS reported. Yastrzhembskii said that agreement had been reached last week during talks in Mazar-i-Sharif between representatives of the Taliban and of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Saudi-born terrorist Usama ben Laden, and Uzbek Islamist leader Djuma Namangani. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, however, condemned Yastrzhembskii's suggestion as "irresponsible," while State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said he believes it was made spontaneously, and does not reflect official Kremlin policy. LF

PACE CHAIRMAN REJECTS YASTRZHEMBSKII ACCUSATIONS

Lord Russell-Johnston told AP on 23 May that he had informed Moscow both orally and in writing of his ongoing telephone conversations with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Presidential aide Yastrzhembskii had said in Moscow the previous day that Russell-Johnston was guilty of "collusion with terrorists" in conducting "secret talks" with the Chechen leadership, and he had quoted from a transcript of one such telephone conversation on 10 May. Russell-Johnston, for his part, said the conversation in question focused on the release of Russian prisoners. LF

CHECHENS TARGET RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVE

A helicopter in which Russian government representative in Chechnya Nikolai Koshman was travelling came under fire from Chechen fighters in the Argun gorge on 23 May, Interfax reported. None of the passengers or crew was injured. Koshman and other members of the Russian government commission for reconstruction in Chechnya were returning from an inspection visit of Chechnya's southernmost Itum-Kale Raion. Earlier this month, Chechen fighters opened fire with grenade launchers on the local administration building in Shatoi Raion 10 minutes after Koshman's departure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2000). LF

TAX POLICE RAID CARMAKER...

Tax police raided the offices of the carmaker AvtoVAZ in 26 different regions on 23 May, seizing $50,000 and various eavesdropping devices from the office of its deputy director in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. A Federal Tax Police spokesman told the agency that the raids were connected with an investigation into charges of fraud, withholding foreign-currency proceeds from exports, and tax evasion. JAC

...AS REAL TARGET DEBATED

Andrei Pointkovskii of the Center for Strategic Studies told AFP that he sees the raid as the "first visible attack on [Boris] Berezovskii since [Russian President] Putin's inauguration." Pointkovskii points out that the cars AvtoVAZ produces are distributed through Berezovskii's LogoVAZ, which also controls the AvtoVAZ bank. However, one of Berezovskii's newspapers, "Kommersant-Daily," reported on 24 May that the likely target of the raids was AvtoVAZ head Vladimir Kadannikov in a "campaign to remove" him. "Segodnya" reported the same day that tax police had raided AvtoVAZ's headquarters in Tolyatti (in Samara Oblast) in April 1999 and had uncovered several schemes for embezzling funds from the factory there. JAC

ORT WINS FIVE-YEAR EXTENSION

Russian Public Television (ORT) has won a tender to operate Channel 1 for another five years, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin announced on 24 May. TV-Tsentr is also competing for a license to continue operating Channel 3, but it was not known as of mid-morning Moscow time whether it had succeeded. Prior to the tender, analysts told RFE/RL that ORT was unlikely to lose its license and was included in the tender primarily to create the impression of fair competition. Both companies were forced to compete for their licenses because they had received two warnings from the Media Ministry for improper election coverage. Protestors had gathered in Moscow on 19 May to support TV-Tsentr's bid, saying that station has been unfairly targeted in a crackdown on free speech. TV-Tsentr is controlled by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. JAC

NEW FEDERAL DISTRICTS TO HAVE OWN PROSECUTOR

Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov has announced the establishment of prosecutor-general's offices in each of the newly created seven federal administrative districts, Interfax reported on 24 May. Work in the districts will be overseen by the deputy prosecutor-generals, according to the agency. "Izvestiya" reported the same day that the new presidential representatives will also have personnel from the Federal Guard Service assigned to them. Previously, about half of the presidential representatives had such protection, but this was not provided for by law, according to the newspaper. JAC

PUTIN PRESSES DUMA ON TAX CODE

President Putin sent a letter on 23 May to State Duma Chairman Seleznev calling on legislators to pass tax legislation before their summer recess begins on 7 July. Bills before the lower legislative house include the second part of the Tax Code as well as an amendment to the first part. According to Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, the laws, if passed, would go into effect on 1 January 2001. Seleznev said on 23 May that the first reading of Putin's bills reforming center-regional relations will take place in the Duma on 31 May. He predicted that they would be passed by early July. JAC

ROBERTSON SAYS RUSSIA COULD BECOME NATO MEMBER

In an interview with "Izvestiya" published on 24 May, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said he endorses the Kremlin's viewpoint that Russia might eventually join the Atlantic alliance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 March 2000): "When President Putin was asked if Russia might become a member of NATO, he said, "'Why not?' My position is the same. But it's not on the current agenda." Robertson noted that it is necessary for "misunderstandings" to be cleared up between the two sides over NATO's new strategic concept and Russia's new military doctrine, which, he said, has raised questions in the West, especially over the provision on "strengthening the role of nuclear weapons." He also stressed the importance of opening a NATO information center in Moscow, which is currently under discussion. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright are to attend a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Florence on 24 May. JC

ADAMOV SAYS U.S. HAS ALREADY BEGUN DEPLOYING NATIONAL ABM SYSTEM

Addressing a 23 May gathering in Moscow of World Doctors for the Prevention of a Nuclear War, Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov charged that the U.S. has in effect begun deploying a national missile defense system, Interfax reported. Today, he noted, "Russia is placed in a position in which it is compelled to beef up its nuclear arsenal." And he added that U.S. activities in particular were behind Moscow's decision to adopt the new military doctrine. Also on 23 May, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov told a visiting Norwegian parliamentary delegation that his country is concerned that the construction of the Globe 2 radar site near the Norwegian town of Varde, some 40 kilometers from the border with Russia, is "in violation of the ABM treaty." The U.S. says the station's purpose is to monitor space debris. JC

RUSSIAN BANKS CONTINUE SLOW RECOVERY

The total equity in Russia's banking system reached 145 billion rubles ($5 billion) at the end of 1999, Interfax reported on 23 May, quoting Sergei Yegorov, head of the Association of Russian Banks. However, bank equity still totals only 3 percent of GDP, compared with 5.5-6 percent before the financial crisis in August 1998. Yegorov predicted that equity will reach pre- crisis levels by the end of the year, according to ITAR-TASS. In an interview with "Segodnya" on 23 May, Yegorov called on international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, to provide financial support to the Agency for Restructuring Credit Organizations so that body can deal with issues related to Russia's 230 "problem" banks. Yegorov also called for the government to trim the number of taxes imposed on banks and eliminate the tax on purchases of foreign currency, which, he said, "pushes this business underground." JAC

APPEALS BOARD UPHOLDS MOSCOW POLICE CHIEF'S DISMISSAL

The appeals presidium of the Supreme Court on 23 May upheld Moscow police chief and Deputy Interior Minister Nikolai Kulikov's dismissal last year by then President Boris Yeltsin, ITAR-TASS reported. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who had filed the appeal, said he will challenge the presidium's ruling in the Constitutional Court. Luzhkov added that he remains convinced that regional branches of the Interior Ministry should be under the control of both regional and federal authorities. JAC

NEMTSOV TAPPED TO HEAD FACTION

Members of the Union of Rightist Forces faction in the State Duma have selected former First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov to replace Sergei Kirienko as their head, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 May. Kirienko will be leaving the Duma to take up the post of presidential representative of the newly created Volga district (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 May 2000). Nemtsov was one of the deputy heads of the faction, and his post will now be filled by Boris Nadezhdin. JAC

RUSSIANS OPPOSE OTHERS HAVING CASUAL SEX?

In a survey of 2,000 people in 41 regions, the polling institute ROMIR found that 42.1 percent of respondents consider casual sex unjustified under any circumstances, while 21.3 percent consider it unjustified in most cases. Only 3 percent thought casual sex was permissible in most cases. VTsIOM found similar results in a poll conducted two years ago: 50 percent of respondents had said they were totally opposed to adultery, while 19 percent were generally opposed, AFP reported. VTsIOM spokeswoman Natalya Kim explained that, "It's not really surprising. We smoke and yet we don't like it when someone else does." JAC

DAGHESTAN BOMB ATTACK SUSPECT ARRESTED

Police in Daghestan have arrested a man suspected of playing a major role in the September 1999 bombing of an apartment building in Buinaksk, in which 62 people died, AP and dpa reported on 20 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 1999). The suspect is said to belong to an extremist Muslim sect. LF

TURKISH DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS RUSSIA 'DESTABILIZES' CAUCASUS

Nationalist Action Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli said in Ankara on 23 May that Moscow's efforts to restore its hegemony over the Caucasus and Central Asia are destabilizing those two regions, Reuters reported. "A region of peace and stability cannot stand and watch an approach that means the effective revival of the Soviet Union," Bahceli said. LF




PEOPLE'S PARTY NOT TO QUIT ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY BLOC

The board of the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) announced on 23 May that it will not quit the Miasnutiun parliamentary bloc, in which it is the junior partner, despite its objections to the appointments of Republican Party chairman Andranik Markarian as prime minister and of presidential chief of staff Serzh Sarkisian as defense minister, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Arguing that "one should not attack the government right from the beginning," HZhK chairman Stepan Demirchian said his party will support "any step that aims to bring the country out of this difficult situation." Some members of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have similarly objected to Sarkisian's appointment. They argue that in his former position as national security minister, he failed to take measures that would have prevented the 27 October parliament shootings in which HHK chairman and Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian was killed. LF

KARABAKH ASSASSINATION BID INVESTIGATION COMPLETED

The investigation into the 22 March attempt to assassinate Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic, has been completed, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported on 23 May, citing unnamed law enforcement agency sources. The office of Prosecutor-General Mavrik Ghukasian (no relation to Arkadii), who said two weeks ago that the investigation should be completed within three weeks, declined to comment on that information. The prosecution claims that former Karabakh Defense Army commander and Defense Minister Samvel Babayan has confessed to plotting to overthrow the unrecognized republic's leadership and seize power but has denied masterminding the attempt to kill Ghukasian. "Golos Armenii" on 16 May quoted one of Babayan's lawyers as denying Mavrik Ghukasian's claim that they refused to represent him because they were convinced of his guilt. LF

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY CONDEMNS RUSSIAN DISINFORMATION

In a statement issued in Tbilisi on 23 May, the Georgian Foreign Ministry categorically denied Russian media reports that up to 1,500 Arab and Afghan mercenaries are waiting to enter Chechnya from Georgia's neighboring Pankisi gorge, Caucasus Press reported. The ministry's public relations department head, Avtandil Napetvaridze, told Interfax that such unfounded allegations "play into the hands of those destructive forces" that oppose a Georgian-Russian rapprochement. The previous day, Georgia's State Border Guards Department denied Russian military claims to have annihilated a caravan of Afghan mercenaries en route from Georgia to Chechnya. The statement termed such allegations an attempt to offload responsibility for the Russian army's failures in Chechnya. LF

DETAINED AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITIONISTS RELEASED

Police on 23 May released 11 Azerbaijani opposition activists, including Akhrar party leader Vagif Hadjibeyli, who had been detained for their participation in the unsanctioned 29 April opposition demonstration in Baku on charges of resisting the police, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2000). Those charges have not been dropped, however, and the 11 have given a written undertaking not to leave the Azerbaijani capital. LF

KARABAKH LIBERATION ORGANIZATION CALLS FOR AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION

The Organization for the Liberation of Karabakh, created in Baku earlier this year, has issued a statement condemning President Heidar Aliev's 18 May remark that "it would be insane to resume military actions in Karabakh," Turan reported on 23 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2000). The statement accused Aliyev of being concerned only with retaining power. "If Heidar Aliyev cannot liberate the occupied lands and calls the country's patriotic forces 'insane,' he should resign as president," the statement said. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY TO BOYCOTT ROUND TABLE

The Ar-Namys party will not participate in the roundtable discussion between opposition parties and the Kyrgyz government scheduled for early next month, Ar-Namys board member Omurbek SubanAliyev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 23 May. SubanAliyev said that agreeing to attend that discussion when the Kyrgyz authorities have not fulfilled a single opposition demand would only strengthen the authorities' position. He insisted that the Kyrgyz leadership should release detained Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov and his deputy, Emil Aliev. And he also said it should cease its harassment of Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan leader Jypar Jeksheev and El (Bei Bechara) party chairman Daniyar Usenov. Meanwhile, the picket in central Bishkek organized by Kulov's supporters to demand his release entered its 69th day on 23 May. LF

TAJIK TRADE REPRESENTATIVE ARRESTED IN KAZAKH DRUGS HAUL

Kazakh security officials arrested Tajikistan's trade representative in Almaty on 23 May after 10 kilograms of heroin was found in his garage and 14 kilograms in an apartment where he had previously lived, Reuters and Interfax reported. Two days earlier, 62 kilograms of heroin had been confiscated from two cars, one of which belonged to Tajikistan's ambassador to Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2000). Almaty Oblast National Security Committee chief Rakhat Aliev, who is President Nursultan Nazarbaev's son-in- law, told journalists on 23 May that the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan via the states of Central Asia is "an international problem" that undermines Kazakhstan's security. He expressed "understanding" for Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii's warning that Russia may consider pre-emptive air strikes against Afghanistan (see above). LF




CIS CUSTOMS UNION FAILS TO AGREE ON FREE TRADE

A summit of the CIS Customs Union--which consists of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Russia--failed in Minsk on 23 May to reach agreement on a free trade zone within the union. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the summit decided "to give a new qualitative content to our union, to make it an international economic organization, a subject of international law," Belarusian Television reported. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said the coordination of the Customs Union members' customs and tax policies is 63 percent complete. "This is quite good, comparing it with the 80 percent [coordination] in the EU," he added. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said the summit agreed to draft by 1 September a "legal document" on free trade in the CIS Customs Union. JM

RUSSIA SAYS CUSTOMS POSTS ON BELARUSIAN BORDER 'TEMPORARY'

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said in Minsk on 23 May that the customs posts that were recenlty established on the Russian-Belarusian border are temporary and are intended "to stabilize" customs control, Belarusian Television reported. "These are purely technical elements of a temporary character," the station quoted him as saying. Belarusian Prime Minister Uladzimir Yarmoshyn said the decision to put up the Russian customs posts was prompted by "dishonest foreign trade activities" between the two countries, adding that customs control will be abolished as soon as those "activities" are eliminated. JM

RUSSIA'S CENTRAL BANK TO LEND BELARUS $200 MILLION?

Russia's "Vedomosti" reported on 23 May that the Russian Central Bank has agreed to lend Belarus $200 million to support the Belarusian ruble. The loan is reportedly a step toward Russian-Belarusian monetary unification, which is to be finalized in 2005. According to "Vedomosti," in order to receive the money, the Belarusian National Bank does not have to agree that the Russian Central Bank will be the only money-issuing institution in the Russia-Belarus Union. Belarus recently agreed that the Russian ruble will be the union's common currency. JM

UKRAINE, EU TO DEEPEN TIES

"We are prepared to significantly increase relations between the EU and Ukraine," European Commission President Romano Prodi said in Brussels on 23 May, following his meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko. Prodi did not rule out talks on upgrading relations to Ukraine's associate membership in the EU but admitted that democratic reforms in Ukraine are still lacking, according to AP. Yushchenko and EU officials said the two sides will start negotiations on a free trade agreement in a bid to consolidate E.U.- Ukraine ties, dpa reported. "In the next few months, we will try and liberalize our trade policy to the greatest extent possible," the German agency quoted Yushchenko as saying. Yushchenko said that this summer EU experts will examine whether Ukraine may be given the status of a country with a market economy, Interfax reported. JM

UKRAINIAN SERICEMEN RECEIVE PAY RISE

The government on 22 May announced it is raising the wages of servicemen in Ukraine's armed forces, border troops, and interior and civil defense forces, Interfax reported. Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk praised the decision, adding that wages will be increased by an average of 30-40 percent. The monthly wage of career soldiers in Ukraine ranges from 120 hryvni ($22) to 180 hryvni, depending on rank. JM

ESTONIA BANS ANIMAL-BASED FOODSTUFFS FROM RUSSIA

The Estonian Veterinary Inspection Department has banned imports of all animal-based foodstuffs from Russia, ETA reported on 23 May. Import licenses were suspended in April owing to an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease in some Russian regions. Since then Newcastle disease, which affects poultry, and swine fever have also been discovered, leading to the wider ban on food imports. Import licenses will be restored only when Russia has been free of those diseases for a 12-month period. AB

ESTONIAN CENTRAL BANK DISPUTE CONTINUES

The supervisory council of the Bank of Estonia and President Lennart Meri failed to reach agreement on 22 May over the appointment of the new governor of the central bank, BNS reported the next day. Meri announced that while he is not seeking the council's resignation, he wants it to present by 19 June a new candidate--one, he said, who is "honest, trustworthy, and politically independent." Meri commented that Mart Opmann is not a suitable candidate because during his term as finance minister, there were several scandals. Erik Terk, a member of the central bank's council, said that until the State Audit Office presents data proving that Opmann was corrupt, the council stands by its choice. The council has requested Legal Chancellor Eerik-Juhan Truuvali's opinion on the dispute. AB

EBRD INTERESTED IN RIGA INVESTMENT PROJECTS

Delegates to the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's board of governors expressed their interest in financing two of five projects presented by the Riga City Council, LETA reported on 23 May. Mayor Andris Argalis told the news agency that the project for a new bridge or tunnel across the Dauguva River and a project to build commercial facilities in Mezaparks garnered the most interest from the foreign bankers. AB

LITHUANIAN DEPUTY RAISES ISSUE OF COMPENSATION FOR NAZI CRIMES

Lithuanian parliamentary deputy Emanuelis Zingeris, chairman of the parliament's human and civil rights committee, has denounced the 1996 document signed by Lithuania and Germany in which the Lithuanian government settled all claims for damages filed by Lithuanian citizens in return for a grant of DM 2 million, BNS and ELTA reported 23 May. Zingeris considers the document a disgrace to the memory of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Nazi occupation. The sum agreed on was used to build retirement or nursing homes for Nazi victims in Lithuania. Zingeris, who heads the Lithuanian government's international commission to assess the consequences of Nazi and Soviet occupations, said that the compensation to victims of the Nazi occupation could total several billion U.S. dollars. AB

LITHUANIAN TEACHERS GO ON STRIKE DURING EXAMS

Almost half of the teachers in the northern city of Rokiskis have launched an indefinite strike because local authorities have failed to commit themselves to a payment schedule for overdue salaries, BNS reported on 23 May. The 600 teachers had participated in a two-hour warning strike last week at nine schools. The strike affects students who are taking their final exams this month. The annual budget of the Rokiskis city government is 41 million litas ($10.25 million); however, the city's debts currently stand at 20 million litas. The teachers are demanding 3 million litas in back salaries from mid-March. AB

FREEDOM UNION PROPOSES CONDITIONS FOR SURVIVAL OF POLISH COALITION

The Freedom Union (UW) has proposed conditions for its ministers to remain in the government in coalition with the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), Polish Radio reported on 23 May. The previous day, the UW executive body had called for the withdrawal of UW ministers from Jerzy Buzek's cabinet because of the standoff over the appointment of a Warsaw- Centrum commune commissioner (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2000). Jan Litynski of the UW said his party could change its position if the AWS proposes a new prime minister, cancels the decision to appoint the commissioner in Warsaw, and guarantees that the AWS parliamentary caucus supports agreed coalition positions. JM

POLAND TO CUT 30,000 TROOPS

Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz on 23 May said Poland is planning to cut its 180,000-strong army to 150,000 by the end of 2003, PAP reported. Onyszkiewicz said the reduction will save 4.5 billion zlotys ($1 billion), which could be spent on modernizing the army. According to Onyszkiewicz, the reduction will not affect combat units but primarily those supporting the armed forces. JM

SLOVAK PREMIER ENDS CZECH VISIT

Mikulas Dzurinda and his Czech counterpart, Milos Zeman, said the two countries have given up their bid to have the EU accept the customs union between their countries, which will cease to exist when one of them accedes to the union, CTK reported on 23 May. But they added that they intend to intensify trade in line with EU regulations. They also noted that in 2002 the Schengen border regulations should apply to Slovakia, even if that country accedes to the EU in 2003, one year after the Czech Republic envisages its own accession. They argued that it would be illogical to invest in Schengen infrastructure control points at the Slovak borders with the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, only to have them dismantled one year later. MS

EU DISAPPOINTED BY CZECH FAILURE TO REFORM JUDICIARY

Chief EU representative in Prague Ramiro Cibrian said on 23 May that he is disappointed by the failure of the Chamber of Deputies last week to pass legislation on reforming the judiciary, CTK reported. Cibrian said completing that reform is "a condition" for Czech accession to the EU. He added that the Penal Code must be amended to allow for speedier court proceedings and the independence of the courts must be strengthened. Cibrian also said the absence of judicial reform has a negative impact on the fight against economic crime. MS

HOOVER INSTITUTE TO TAKE OVER RFE/RL ARCHIVES

The Hoover Institute on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University is taking over RFE/RL's archives, which cover broadcasts between 1950 and June 1995, when RFE/RL moved to Prague, CTK reported on 23 May, citing RFE/RL Public Relations Director Sonia Winter. The institute will make the recordings accessible to historians and students. MS

SLOVAK CABINET RESHUFFLE STALLED

Three of the four parties that make up the ruling Slovak coalition said on 23 May that talks on the Party of the Democratic Left's (SDL) demand that the cabinet be restructured have rendered no results, AP reported. Bela Bugar, chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party, said that SDL leader Jozef Migas has made no specific recommendations on whom his party wants replaced in the government. "If there are no concrete proposals, there is nothing to talk about," Bugar commented. MS

U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION SPEAKS OUT AGAINST SOCCER RACISM IN HUNGARY

The Central and East European office of the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in a letter to Premier Viktor Orban on 22 May that it is "deeply concerned" about recent incidents at Hungarian soccer stadiums. The organization said fans of teams playing against the MTK team, which received funding from Jews in the past, have shouted slogans such as "the train is leaving for Auschwitz." The ADL called on Orban and other members of the government to take strong legal measures against the offenders, emphasizing that until now existing legislation has been applied "ineffectively or too leniently." MS




SLOVENIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS PROPOSED GOVERNMENT...

Prime Minister-designate Andrej Bajuk failed on 23 May to secure parliamentary approval for his proposed cabinet. The legislature voted 45 to 45 on the government, failing by one vote to get the necessary majority. Bajuk must now submit a new cabinet list by 2 June. If parliament again denies approval, Bajuk will then have a third opportunity to form a government. Should he fail on the third try, President Milan Kucan has the right either to appoint a new prime minister or call early elections, Reuters reported. Kucan wants early elections, which he regards as the only way to end the current deadlock in the parliament. PM

...WHILE EU CRITICIZES SLOVENIA FOR SLOW PROGRESS

Jaime Garcia Lombardero, who heads the EU's team overseeing Slovenia's application for membership, said in Ljubljana on 23 May that the political stalemate has cost the former Yugoslav republic valuable time in passing necessary legislation to bring its laws into line with EU standards. Of the 76 such laws slated to be passed in 2000, the legislature has passed only 12. He stressed that the parliament will be in recess from June through August, which will mean that it will have lost a total of five months' working time in 2000, Reuters reported. PM

MASKED MEN BEAT STRIKING SERBIAN STUDENTS

Vukasin Petrovic, who is a spokesman for the Otpor (Resistance) student movement, told AP on 24 May that an unspecified number of masked men beat several dozen Belgrade University architecture students the previous day. The students had just begun a four-day sit-in strike to demand an end to the regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Referring to the beatings, Petrovic said it was "horrible" and that a local police patrol "deliberately ran away" when the students approached them for help. Petrovic stressed: "This all proves that the regime is ready to do everything just to stay in power. It's using not only police repression but also street gangs and criminals to suppress all who think differently." PM

SERBIAN MAYORS APPEAL FOR HELP

Opposition mayors Goran Bulajic of Sombor, Paja Francuski of Kikinda, and Vladimir Domazet of Nis said in Vienna on 23 May that the international community must help opposition-run cities if it wants to make the opposition credible in the eyes of Serbian voters. The mayors noted that some 60 percent of Serbia's population lives in urban areas, "Die Presse" reported. They added that the central authorities cut the allowances for Kikinda and Nis by up to 80 percent in recent years following the opposition's election victories there. Kikinda urgently needs to modernize its systems for providing drinking water and collecting rubbish, Francuski stressed. PM

DOES MILOSEVIC WANT STREET PROTESTS IN MONTENEGRO?

Milosevic recently upbraided Predrag Bulatovic, who is a leader of Montenegro's pro-Milosevic Socialist People's Party (SNP), because the SNP has not organized mass protests in Podgorica against the reform-minded government of President Milo Djukanovic, "Vesti" reported on 24 May. Milosevic allegedly repeatedly asked Bulatovic: "What are you waiting for?" The Podgorica office of the SNP denied the story, which first appeared in the local daily "Vijesti." Milosevic has made frequent use of street protests, or "meetings," over the years to get the upper hand over his political opponents. PM

MONTENEGRO, ALBANIA BOOST COOPERATION

Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic and his Albanian counterpart, Ilir Meta, agreed in Shkoder on 23 May to develop political and economic ties, despite Belgrade's objections. Key areas earmarked for improvements include trade, transportation, and telecommunications. Vujanovic placed a telephone call to his office in Podgorica to inaugurate a new fiber optic link connecting the Montenegrin and Albanian telephone systems. The two governments plan to construct a high-tension electric power cable from Elbasan to Podgorica, as well as a railway line from the Montenegrin capital to Shkoder, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Montenegro and Albania will also take unspecified steps to fight trafficking in prostitutes and drugs. PM

EU, ALBANIA TO START STABILIZATION TALKS

Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said in Brussels on 23 May that his government plans to launch negotiations before the end of this year on a new association and stabilization agreement with the EU. Brussels wants Tirana to take steps to promote institutional stability and to strengthen the economy through structural reform as a precondition to any new agreement, dpa reported. An unnamed Portuguese diplomat hailed Albanian plans to hold local elections in October under a new electoral law. PM

INCIDENTS BETWEEN RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS, KOSOVARS

An unspecified number of Russian KFOR troops were involved in an "altercation" with Ramush Hajredinaj at a checkpoint near Malisheva on 23 May, Reuters reported. Hajredinaj is a former leader of the Kosova Liberation Army who now heads a political party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2000). Hajredinaj's and KFOR's accounts of what precipitated the incident and how the altercation developed differ markedly from each other, AP reported. On 24 May, two Russian soldiers were injured in two separate incidents in which anti-tank rockets hit a Russian camp near Kijeva. A KFOR spokesman said in Prishtina that the attacks appear to be a "reaction" to the incident involving Hajredinaj. Most Kosovars are deeply mistrustful of Russians, believing that the latter fought alongside Serbian forces in Kosova in 1999 and helped Serbs commit atrocities against Albanians. PM

EU: BOSNIANS MUST HELP THEMSELVES

Javier Solana, who is the EU's chief official for foreign and security policy, said at a conference in Brussels on 23 May on Bosnian peace implementation that "the time has come for Bosnia to learn to help itself." He added that international financial support for Bosnia "cannot remain at [the present high] level" for long, dpa reported. Foreign Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten noted that Bosnia lacks a working banking system, a market economy, functioning joint state institutions, and a joint passport, Reuters reported. Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, argued that "the time has finally come for the political and civic leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina to show real commitment to the [1995 Dayton] peace agreement and fulfill their obligations." Russian representatives are boycotting the gathering because the organizers did not invite officials from Belgrade to attend. PM

PETRITSCH SACKS BOSNIAN PRIVATIZATION OFFICIAL

A spokesman for Petritsch said in Sarajevo on 23 May that the high representative "had no other choice" but to fire Stiepo Andrijic as head of the management board for the mainly Muslim and Croat federation's privatization agency. The spokesman stressed that Andrijic had repeatedly obstructed the privatization process, particularly the work of the offices dealing with tenders, Reuters reported. The Muslim daily "Avaz" noted that Andrijic held his top post since 1997 and "cannot deny his responsibility" for the poorly managed privatization process. PM

ROMANIA PROBES SMUGGLING ALLEGATIONS AGAINST FORMER PRESIDENT

Prosecutors on 23 May opened an official inquiry into allegations that electoral posters financed by Adrian Costea were smuggled into the country in 1996. Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) Chairman Ion Iliescu had said the previous day that the Romanian-born businessman, who now lives in France, was a sponsor of his 1996 presidential campaign, but Iliescu denied that the law prohibiting foreign sponsorship was infringed, because Costea has Romanian citizenship. Also on 23 May, PDSR Deputy Chairman Miron Mitrea demanded Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica's resignation for having called on Iliescu to withdraw from the 2000 presidential race. He said Stoica's allegations against Iliescu and the PDSR amount to "interference in the internal affairs" of a political party and that the PDSR will demand that a special parliamentary commission probe the financing of all parties' 1996 electoral campaigns, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS OPPOSITION MOTION

By a vote of 115 to 102 and six abstentions, the Chamber of Deputies on 23 May rejected a PDSR-submitted motion to debate alleged corruption and political clientism in the privatization process overseen by the State Property Fund, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTER REJECTS DEMAND TO RESIGN

Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis told Moldovan television on 23 May that he will not make the opposition Alliance for Democracy and Reform (ADR) "happy" by submitting the resignation of his cabinet. He was responding to an ADR statement the previous day that demanded his resignation on grounds of poor economic performance. Braghis said that in the first four months of this year, the cabinet succeeded in collecting 32 percent of planned revenue for 2000, while the previous cabinet had during the same period last year collected only 22 percent of revenues stipulated in its budget. He said he believes the deficit will remain within budget limits. MS

BLACK MARKET ACCOUNTS FOR ONE-THIRD OF BULGARIAN GDP

Anti- corruption activists from the Coalition 2000 group said on 23 May that Bulgaria's black market economy accounts for 35 percent of the country's GDP. The activists said that in 1998, illegal exports and imports to and from the EU alone amounted to $850 million, which equals Bulgaria's defense budget. The activists say smugglers are using channels once run by the communist-era secret services, and some of those services' officers have become businessmen by "privatizing" the former secret police networks, AP reported. MS




NEW RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT MAINTAINS LINKS TO OLIGARCHS


By Sophie Lambroschini

"This government is not being formed around a unifying idea but, as always, it reflects the importance of not only public but behind-the-scenes politics," "Kommersant-Daily" remarked on the front page of its 19 May issue.

Most Russian observers have noted that President Vladimir Putin's new government, whose formation has now been completed, is little different from its predecessor. Two- thirds of the new government's members served in the outgoing government, formed a year ago under Boris Yeltsin. The most powerful ministers retained their posts, including the interior, defense, and foreign ministers and the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB). And people with close ties to the business tycoons, known as oligarchs, are well- represented in the new government.

There are, however, some new faces, most notably that of German Gref, who is economic development minister. Like Putin, Gref is a native of Saint Petersburg. He also heads the Center for Strategic Development, an institution created by Putin last fall to work out a long-term economic strategy for Russia.

Gref's center has offered an ambitious blueprint that includes a tight budget and strict tax and banking reforms. In recent weeks, media reports had claimed that Gref's role in developing economic policy was diminishing. And new Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov was said to be downplaying the importance of the economic blueprint.

But Denis Rodionov, an analyst with the investment bank Brunswick-Warburg, told RFE/RL that the appointment of Gref is an encouraging sign for the Russian economy. Another good sign, he said, is the appointment of Aleksei Kudrin as finance minister.

Other observers, however, point out that both Kudrin and Gref have ties to Anatolii Chubais, the powerful head of Russia's electricity monopoly. The government also includes many associates of another powerful tycoon--Boris Berezovskii. Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, and Prime Minister Kasyanov himself are widely believed to be close to Berezovskii.

Most observers and investors saw the energy portfolio appointment as indicating the extent of Berezovskii's influence over the new government. The Fuel and Energy Ministry had been headed by Viktor Kalyuzhnyi, who had lobbied the Berezovskii clans' interests. Kalyuzhnyi's dismissal on 20 May was hailed as a step in the right direction. The surprise appointment of Alexander Gavrin, mayor of the oil-rich Siberian town of Kogalym, as energy minister was praised by reformers such as Boris Nemtsov as well as some oil companies. But observers say only time will tell how close Gavrin is to oligarchic circles such as those around LUKoil and Chubais.

Yevgenii Volk, a political analyst with Russia's Heritage Foundation, says the inclusion in the government of representatives of different powerful clans is a sure sign that the influence of the oligarchs will be as great under Putin as it was under Yeltsin. "The appointments that were made were expected and reflect the behind-the-scenes fight for power and, especially, the economic positions of the various oligarchs' groups," Volk told RFE/RL. "Seen this way, one can call it a coalition government, since representatives of the Berezovskii-Abramovich group are included, and the Chubais clan is also present."

Yeltsin's tactic of "divide and conquer" had him playing one clan against the other, with the president as the arbitrator. While this tactic kept Yeltsin in power, it also prevented the divided government from working efficiently.

Volk says Putin seems to be following Yeltsin's example. But he says Putin is stronger than his predecessor and will probably have more success in playing off the oligarchs against one another.

Other observers, however, say the new government structure marks a departure from the Yeltsin past. Analyst Rodionov notes that the elimination of the post of first deputy prime minister may be a sign that Putin wants the government to stop its internal feuding and work as a unit. He points that under Yeltsin, "there was always a prime minister and, at the same time, a very powerful deputy prime minister who created a second center of authority, and struggles occurred between the two ministers and their subordinates. The elimination of the office of first deputy prime minister is a positive factor, indicating that the government will be more unified."

Political analyst Sergei Markov also notes that the new government under Putin will play a significantly diminished role. Under Yeltsin, prime ministers were strong, leading figures--even if they were changed frequently. Under Putin, Markov says, the center of power has clearly shifted toward the presidential administration.

"The strategy of this cabinet will not be worked out by the prime minister and his allies but by some outside strategic group," Markov commented to RFE/RL. "In this way, the cabinet becomes a coherent enough team of technocrats that will have to play the role of an effective mechanism capable of implementing Putin's ambitious restructuring plans."

Still, the presence of so many ministers connected to the oligarchs casts doubt on Putin's ability or willingness to carry out a key element of his reform plan--to weaken the tycoons' influence on policy. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.


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