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Newsline - June 8, 2000




GOVERNORS VENT...

In a discussion characterized by Russian media as emotional and angry, members of the Federation Council voted on 7 June to amend legislation pending in the State Duma that would reform the upper legislative chamber. According to Interfax, senators want to reserve the right to recall representatives they select for the council and to retain their parliamentary immunity after they cease to be members of the council. They also want the chairman of regional legislatures to retain their seats in the council. Tyumen Governor Leonid Roketskii, who earlier criticized President Putin's plan to restructure the Russian federation, said he is "outraged that governors are going to be chased from the Federation Council and made absolutely dependent [on Moscow] and stripped of their rights" (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 7 June 2000). Tula Governor Vasilii Starodubtsev described the draft laws proposed by the Kremlin as an attempt to destroy Russia's power structure. JAC

...AS NEW OPPOSITION GROUP TO PUTIN FORMED?

Ryazan Governor Vyacheslav Lyubimov was more direct, saying "it's like them telling us...we have the noose all ready and [are] waiting for you." "Kommersant-Daily" noted the next day that despite the harsh rhetoric, the governors did not "resort to any radical measures," adopting only an appeal to the president asking him to initiate a consultative procedure on how to form the Federation Council. In addition, according to the daily, which is owned by Boris Berezovskii, the amendments they adopted did not differ radically from what was recommended earlier by the Committee on Legislation. "Moskovskii komsomolets," on the other hand, concluded that a new "style of relations" between the upper house and presidential administration has emerged and that the "honeymoon" with Putin is over. "Moskovskii komsomolets" is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. JAC

VOLOSHIN CRONY GETS APPOINTMENT...

Former presidential envoy to the G-7 countries Aleksandr Livshits has been named a nonstaff adviser to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on economic matters, Interfax reported on 7 June. The next day, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Livshits's appointment to head Rossiiskii Kredit has been confirmed (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 7 June 2000). Also appointed were Aleksei Volin as deputy head of the government apparatus and Aleksandra Levitskaya as first deputy head of the government apparatus. Volin is a former chairman of the news agency RIA Vesti, while Levitskaya previously worked as an assistant to the head of the presidential administration, Aleksandr Voloshin, "Segodnya" reported on 8 June. According to the daily, unofficial government sources say that they are already calling Levitskaya "our Voloshin" and that they expect her to act as Voloshin's "eyes and ears" in the government. "Segodnya" is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most Group. JAC

...AS ANOTHER PROSECUTOR WHO PURSUED BEREZOVSKII IS SACKED

Besides confirming the appointment of seven new deputy prosecutors-general on 7 June, the Federation Council approved the dismissal of senior prosecutor Mikhail Katyshev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2000). Katyshev had authorized searches of offices in the presidential administration seeking information about bribes and kickbacks in the scandal involving Mabetex and then Kremlin facilities directorate head Pavel Borodin, according to "The Moscow Times" on 8 June. Katyshev also signed arrest warrants for Boris Berezovskii and banker Aleksander Smolenskii. Commenting on Katyshev's dismissal, former Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov said "there is a trend of pushing the most honest and principled servicemen out of the Prosecutor-General's Office." JAC

FLAT INCOME TAX RATE CLEARS ANOTHER HURDLE

State Duma deputies on 7 June approved in the second reading legislation creating a flat income tax rate of 13 percent. The vote was 266 in favor and 114 against with two abstentions. Before the vote, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov said that the cut in income tax will "lower the fiscal burden, make the tax system understandable and predictable, and allow economic growth." Under the current system, individuals earning more than 150,000 rubles ($5,300) a year pay the maximum rate of 30 percent. Discussion in the lower house of the controversial single social tax is scheduled for 9 June. JAC

CENTRAL BANK HEAD CRITICIZES ECONOMIC PROGRAM

Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko told reporters on 8 June that he believes that parts of the economic program authored by the Center for Strategic Research should be reworked, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the program contains too much detail and "incorrect provisions" regarding the Central Bank. The previous day, Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told Interfax that "not a single part of the program had been developed by foreign experts," although some Western economists were consulted to "prevent mistakes and incorrect moves." According to "Izvestiya" on 8 June, the program will be discussed by the cabinet on 22 June. JAC

MOSCOW PROTESTS CHECHEN OFFICIAL'S U.S. VISIT

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on 7 June that it lodged "a most radical protest" with the U.S. Embassy the previous day over the presence in Washington of Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov, AP and Interfax reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry statement condemned the U.S.'s acquiescence to Akhmadov's presence as "unfriendly and contrary to the spirit of Russian-U.S. relations" and as violating bilateral agreements on combating international terrorism. LF

CHECHEN SUICIDE BOMBERS KILL TWO RUSSIAN POLICE

Two Chechens exploded a car bomb in Alkhan-Yurt, southwest of Grozny, on the evening of 7 June, killing at least two OMON special police officers and injuring five more, Reuters and dpa reported. Chechen spokesmen said the Alkhan-Yurt detachment had been targeted because its members last week blew up a house belonging to Chechen field commander Arbi Baraev. Also on 7 June, Interior Ministry Colonel Valerii Konovalov, identified as deputy commander of the Western Group of Forces in Chechnya, was seriously wounded when unknown men flagged down and opened fire on his car on the Urus Martan-Gekhi road, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

PUTIN SAYS KARELIA WILL REMAIN RUSSIAN

At their first meeting since becoming heads of state earlier this year, Russian President Putin and his Finnish counterpart, Tarja Halonen, focused on Russia's relations with the EU. Putin told journalists after their 7 June meeting that Russia intends to strengthen its ties with the union by forging closer ties with its EU neighbor, Finland, dpa reported. He also said that there are no outstanding territorial disputes between Finland and Russia, noting that the question of the status of Karelia, which was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, "is closed and finally decided." According to AP, Halonen responded only that Russian-Finnish relations have improved to the point where even such contentious issues can be discussed publicly. Finland, meanwhile, is to invest $10 million in the construction of a lumber plant in Karelia that will produce some 150,000 cubic meters of lumber annually. During her two-day trip to Moscow, Halonen also met with Prime Minister Kasyanov and governors of Russian regions bordering Finland. JC

PUTIN'S ABM PROPOSAL TO BE EXPLAINED IN BRUSSELS

Interfax reported on 7 June that at the upcoming meeting of the Russia-NATO Council in Brussels, Russian Defense Igor Sergeev will offer "explanations and put forward concrete proposals on the issue of developing" President Putin's suggestion that Russia, Europe, and NATO set up a joint anti-missile defense system, with the support of the U.S. Sergeev is scheduled to depart for Brussels on 8 June, according to the news agency. JC

IVANOV RECEIVES YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER

Milomir Minic, the speaker of the lower house of the Yugoslav parliament, met with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Moscow on 7 June to discuss the situation in the Balkans, particularly in Kosova, Interfax and Reuters reported. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement issued after their talks said the two sides expressed "serious concern...about the growing tendency to draw Kosovo away from the framework of the Yugoslav Federation and about the constant terrorist attacks of Albanian separatists against the province's Serbian population." Minic told Interfax that Belgrade expects "the early signing of a free trade agreement with Russia and that Moscow and Belgrade agree that the "process of creating a union state between Russia, Belarus, and Yugoslavia" should be expedited. The visit to Moscow last month by Yugoslav Defense Minister Dragoljub Ojdanic, an indicted war criminal, triggered sharp criticism from the international community (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 25 May 2000). JC

RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS TO REMAIN IN KOSOVA...

The Federation Council voted unanimously on 7 June to approve President Putin's proposal that the mandate of the some 3,600 Russian peacekeepers in Kosova be extended. According to Reuters, the upper house voted to prolong that mandate until 10 December. In the past, Moscow has threatened to withdraw its troops from Kosova if Yugoslavia's territorial integrity is threatened and if KFOR does not do more to halt attacks by ethnic Albanians on the Serbian population of the province. JC

...AND TO HEAD TO SIERRA LEONE

Also on 7 June, the Federation Council approved sending Russian troops to take part in the UN peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone. Last month, President Putin had submitted a bill providing for Russian peacekeepers to be sent to the war-torn African country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2000). JC

CONTROVERSY BETWEEN KREMLIN, JEWISH COMMUNITY CONTINUES

Following earlier reports of Kremlin interference in religious matters, a member of the Russian Jewish Congress, Tancred Golenpolskii told AFP on 8 June that the Putin government "for the first time since the Soviet era has stuck its nose into religious matters." This involvement started, according to Golenpolskii, when the Kremlin invited members of a rival organization, the Lubavitch Federation of Russian Jewish Communities, to President Putin's inauguration, while Rabbi Adolf Shaevich was initially not invited. This was reportedly aimed at exploiting the differences within the Jewish community and weakening the position of Vladimir Gusinskii, Media-Most head and president of the Russian Jewish Congress. Meanwhile, Shaevich told reporters in New York on 6 June that he was not asked directly by the Kremlin to step down; however, he did send a letter to Putin asking for a meeting with him and Russia's Jewish leaders, ITAR- TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). JAC

PATRIARCH GRATEFUL FOR PUTIN'S RESTRAINT

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II told reporters on 7 June that he is highly appreciative of President Putin's understanding of the problems in the relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). Alexii said "an invitation to the Pope, who is both the head of state and head of a church, to visit Moscow should also be made by Moscow's Patriarch" as well as by the head of the Russian state. Aleksii charged that the Catholic Church is trying to "expand [its influence] into Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine." A new round of talks between the two Churches is scheduled for next fall, at which time the issue of Catholic proselytism in Russian and Western Ukraine will be raised. JAC

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER CLAIMS DENIED ACCESS TO PUTIN

In an interview with "Vremya MN" on 7 June, Russia's Human Rights Commissioner Oleg Mironov charged that he has not been able to meet with President Putin "for a very long time" and that letters and petitions have been ignored. Mironov said that he considers "all federal bureaucrats as [his] allies"; nevertheless, presidential administration officials have prevented him from meeting with Putin. JAC




WORLD BANK AGAIN WARNS ARMENIA OVER ENERGY NETWORK PRIVATIZATION

Salman Zaheer, who is a senior energy consultant with the World Bank, told journalists in Yerevan on 7 June that the Russian firms seeking to gain control of four Armenian energy distribution networks are not as qualified to develop that sector as their Western competitors, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Other senior World Bank officials warned last month that disbursement of further loans to Armenia is contingent on the privatization of those networks by one of four Western companies shortlisted in the tender (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April and 15 May 2000). Armenian parliamentary sources told RFE/RL last week that the two Russian companies concerned have proposed abandoning the tender and creating joint ventures with the Armenian government. Speaking on Armenian National Television on 5 June, Orinats Yerkir party leader Artur Bagdasarian condemned the bank's attempt to dictate the terms of the privatization as unacceptable and an obstacle to developing the Armenian economy, Groong reported. LF

ARMENIA, IRAN, GREECE ASSESS COOPERATION

Attending the second session of the industry and technology committee of the Armenia-Iran-Greece economic grouping in Yerevan on 7 June, trade and industry officials from those three countries sought ways to boost trilateral economic cooperation and trade, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital reported. They noted that previous agreements aimed at increasing ties have not been implemented despite the "strong political will" of the countries concerned. Armenian Industry and Trade Minister Karen Chshmaritian stressed the need for a solid legal basis for such cooperation, according to ITAR-TASS. In a joint memorandum, the three sides singled out the chemical, pharmaceutical, and construction sectors as promising areas for future cooperation. A group of Iranian businessmen attending the meeting proposed to open a number of manufacturing enterprises in Armenia with the financial assistance of their Greek and other Western partners. LF

NEW GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT HOLDS FIRST SESSION

President Eduard Shevardnadze chaired the first session of the new government at the state chancellery on 7 June, saying that the cabinet's priorities include solving social problems, restoring Georgia's territorial integrity, and meeting budget revenue targets, Interfax reported. Shevardnadze criticized reappointed Minister for Tax Revenues Mikhail Machavariani for his inability to achieve that latter goal. Machavariani was initially appointed six months ago. Bakur Gulua, whom Shevardnadze proposed as minister of agriculture, was reportedly asked to leave the session as parliamentary deputies had rejected his candidacy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2000). LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY, MINORITY STILL AT ODDS OVER PREMIERSHIP

Parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania and Union of Georgian Traditionalists leader Akaki Asatiani on 7 June failed to reach an agreement that would permit a debate on Asatiani's proposal to amend the constitution to reintroduce the post of premier (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 17, 28 April 2000 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2000). Asatiani told journalists, however, that Zhvania does not reject the restoration of the premiership but considers it inappropriate at present. Majority Union of Citizens of Georgia faction leader Mikhail Saakashvili similarly told journalists on 7 June that the reintroduction of the cabinet of ministers at the present stage would reduce the parliament to "an appendix" to the executive and thus result in "a non-democratic authoritarian regime." But he said that model could be reintroduced within six or seven years. LF

GEORGIAN GUERRILLAS REVERT TO OLD TACTICS?

Two observation posts of the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia's Gali Raion were subjected to machine- gun fire on 7 June, but no casualties were reported, according to Caucasus Press. It was the second such attack since the beginning of this month. Between 1994 (when the CIS peacekeepers were first deployed in western Georgia) and 1998, Georgian guerrillas systematically targeted the Russian peacekeepers, killing more than 60 of them. But in recent years they have concentrated their attacks on Abkhaz police patrols. LF

KAZAKHSTAN TO MONITOR ARMS SALES

President Nursultan Nazarbaev has instructed Kazakhstan's Security Council to set up a special body that will endorse planned sales of armaments to buyers abroad, Interfax and Reuters reported on 7 June. In addition, an inventory will be conducted by the end of this year of all weapons kept at Defense Ministry depots, Defense Minister Sat Tokpakbaev said the same day. He said there had been 12 cases of thefts of weaponry from such facilities in 1999. Also on 7 June, the Security Council approved a new draft military reform concept and a state program of military construction from 2000 to 2005, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 2000). LF

WILL MOSCOW DEMAND TERRITORIAL AUTONOMY FOR RUSSIANS IN KAZAKHSTAN?

Moscow plans to convene a congress on 23-24 June of ethnic Kazakhs living in the Russian Federation, which will discuss the creation of a Kazakh autonomous formation centered on Orenburg, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 7 June, citing APN. Western observers conclude that the only explanation for creating such a territorial unit is to provide the rationale for Moscow to demand similar autonomy for the Russian population of northern Kazakhstan (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2000). LF

TWO KAZAKH OPPOSITIONISTS FINED

An Almaty district court on 7 June fined two members of former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan 2,900 tenges ($20) each for participating in an unsanctioned demonstration in Almaty on 31 May to commemorate victims of political oppression, RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported. LF

KYRGYZ ROUNDTABLE IN JEOPARDY

The Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan and the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan both announced in Bishkek on 7 June that they will not participate in the roundtable discussion between government, opposition parties and NGOs scheduled for 8-9 June, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Their decision raises to six the number of opposition parties boycotting the session, according to Reuters. Jerzy Wenclaw, who heads the OSCE's Bishkek representation, told the news agency that the OSCE will not send a representative to the discussion as the format under which it will be held is no longer that originally agreed upon in March by the OSCE and the Kyrgyz leadership. LF

COURT OVERTURNS RULING AGAINST KYRGYZ OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER

The Bishkek City Court on 8 June overturned the 31 March ruling by a Bishkek district court sentencing the independent weekly newspaper "Res Publika" to pay a 50,000 som ($1,000) fine for insulting the former chairman of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2000). The newspaper ceased publication in late March after being fined 200,000 soms in another slander case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2000). LF

IRANIANS DETAINED IN TAJIKISTAN FOR ALUMINUM SMUGGLING

Police in Turzunzade Oblast in western Tajikistan, the site of the country's largest aluminum smelter, detained on 6 June three Iranians suspected of trying to smuggle a total of 21 tons of top grade aluminum out of the country, ITAR-TASS reported. According to a Tajik Interior Ministry official, since the beginning of the year its personnel have intercepted more than 600 tons of aluminum intended for illegal export (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 1999). LF




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST FAILS IN BID TO HAVE ASSAILANTS PROSECUTED

A Minsk district prosecutor has refused to instigate criminal proceedings against four policemen who beat up Yuras Belenki, deputy chairman of the Christian Conservative Party of the Belarusian Popular Front, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 7 June. Belenki complained that he was harshly beaten during the 25 March rally (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March 2000), was traumatized, and then spent three days in jail, where he was denied medical care. Belenki said more than 10 people witnessed his beating, but the prosecutor refused to interrogate them or view a police video on which the incident was filmed. "The prosecutor [refused to file suit] citing the reports of two riot policemen who wrote that they did not use any special means to arrest me but took me gently by the arm and led me away," Belenki noted. JM

GOVERNMENT TO SUPPORT BELARUSIANS LIVING BELOW POVERTY LINE

The government has resolved to provide financial support to those citizens who live below the poverty line, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 7 June. According to official data, some 47 percent of Belarusians fall into that category, which the government defines as being equal to half of the subsistence minimum. Belarus's subsistence minimum--the value of goods and services necessary for the existence of a family of four per head per month--is now $25. The government's resolution obliges the Ministry of Social Assistance to subsidize those Belarusians with the lowest incomes in order to bring their earnings up to the level of $12.5. JM

U.S. TO CONTINUE HELPING UKRAINE AFTER CHORNOBYL CLOSURE

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer on 7 announced that the U.S. will continue to provide financial aid to Ukraine even after the Chornobyl nuclear power plant is closed down, AP reported. "On 16 December, the U.S. is not going to walk away from Chornobyl," he said, adding that Ukraine can also expect assistance from the G-7. The closed plant will need some $30 million to unload its nuclear fuel. Reinforcing the sarcophagus over the collapsed reactor will require $360 million. The closure will also result in the loss of 3,000 jobs at the plant, and 4,000 service staff in nearby towns will be left without a livelihood. The U.S. recently pledged $78 million for the Chornobyl sarcophagus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). Pifer said the American Export- Import Bank will also come up with a "substantial" contribution to finance the plant's closure (see also "End Note" below). JM

UKRAINE'S TYMOSHENKO DENIES COMPLICITY IN MONEY- LAUNDERING...

Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko on 7 June denied she was involved in former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko's money-laundering schemes, as reported by the 6 June "Financial Times" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2000). "I have never in my life conducted any operations with money-laundering," she told Interfax. "It seems to me that some corrupt circles in the shadow energy sector in Ukraine...disseminate various news reports in the world in order to get rid of the government that is putting an end to their shady deals," Tymoshenko added. JM

...SAYS RUSSIA NOT TO PAY FOR FOUR-MONTH GAS TRANSIT

Tymoshenko also told Interfax that between June and September Ukraine will not be receiving natural gas in payment for the transit of Russian gas via Ukrainian territory. Tymoshenko said that in payment for transit services, Naftohaz Ukrayiny in 1999 had siphoned off 5 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to which it had not been entitled "This is the dreadful situation to which we were driven last year," she added. JM

U.S.-BALTIC PARTNERSHIP COMMISSION MEETS

The U.S.-Baltic Partnership Commission held its annual meeting in Tallinn on 7 June. Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, attending the meeting, stressed that the year 2002 will be very important, even though no one knows what decisions will be taken at that time. Talbott added that "the NATO enlargement process will continue, it does not endanger anyone and no democratic European country should be left out of it for geographical or historical reasons, especially not reasons connected to the Cold War," ETA reported. Officials signed a joint communique that focused on various defense and economic issues and stated that the U.S. welcomes "bringing to justice accused war, criminals, regardless of ideology." MH

ESTONIAN CENTRAL BANK HEAD APPROVED

President Lennart Meri on 7 June reappointed Vahur Kraft as Central Bank governor, "Eesti Paevaleht" reported. Kraft, whose term in office had expired back in April, was chosen by the central bank's governing board in a third election in early June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2000). Kraft lost the first election to statistics professor Vello Vensel, who later declined to assume the post, citing poor health. MH

GERMAN CHANCELLOR IN LATVIA...

Gerhard Schroeder continued his Baltic tour by visiting Latvia on 6-7 June. After meeting with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Schroeder reaffirmed that "there is no question" about Germany's determination to continue to support Latvia's EU aspirations, BNS reported. Schroeder also emphasized the need to improve economic ties and increase German investments in Latvia. Schroeder called President Vike-Freiberga, with whom he spoke in German, a far-sighted leader. MH

...AND LITHUANIA

Schroeder, wrapping up his Baltic tour in Vilnius on 7 June, reaffirmed Germany's support for NATO's open-door policy: " We understand Lithuania's need for security, therefore [we] believe that the alliance should be open to Lithuania," BNS reported. However, he did not suggest any timetable for possible NATO enlargement. Schroeder called for improving bilateral ties, noting that "we have a common history, which was not always smooth, and Germany is partly responsible for that." Schroeder, who met with President Valdas Adamkus, Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, and other officials, applauded Lithuania's plan for a partial shutdown of the controversial Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant. MH

POLISH PARLIAMENT APPROVES OFFICIAL TO OVERSEE COMMUNIST-ERA SECRET FILES

The Sejm on 8 June voted by 279 to 16 with 125 abstentions to approve Leon Kieres as head of the National Remembrance Institute, created in 1998 to make secret files available to victims of communist-era persecution. Kieres's appointment was secured by votes from the Solidarity Electoral Action, the Freedom Union, and the Polish Peasant Party, while the abstentions came mainly from the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance. Kieres is a senator and has no formal party affiliation. "We will be very careful, and the files will not be opened soon. I will not allow a hasty, disorganized opening of the files because it could hurt someone," AP quoted Kieres as saying after the vote. Earlier, three other candidates to head the institute had failed to gain a two-thirds vote in the parliament. JM

POLISH PREMIER REASSURES CITIZENS OVER MINORITY CABINET

In a live television address on 7 June, Jerzy Buzek told Poles that his minority cabinet does not pose a threat to the country's political and economic stability. Earlier the same day, the Freedom Union (UW) had pulled out of the 30-month-old coalition with the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS). "Since the coalition has been broken up, in accordance with the constitutional order I continue to head the government," Buzek said. He pledged that his minority cabinet's main tasks will be "to maintain Poland's image as a politically and economically stable country," to continue preparing the country for EU membership, and to remove "all inadequacies and errors" in the reforms introduced by the AWS-UW coalition. Also on 7 June, Buzek accepted the resignations of the UW's Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, Justice Minister Hanna Suchocka, and Transport Minister Tadeusz Syryjczyk. JM

VERHEUGEN CRITICIZES CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER

EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen has criticized Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus's recent proposal for a referendum on the Czech Republic's accession to the union, a CTK correspondent in Brussels reported on 7 June. Verheugen said that it is "strange" that the proposal came from someone who, as premier, had requested membership in the EU, adding that he wonders why Klaus had not at the time submitted the question of the Czech Republic's possible EU membership to a referendum. He also said he "understands" that the minority cabinet headed by Milos Zeman is experiencing some difficulty in passing legislation that would bring Czech legislation into line with that of the EU. The same day, EU chief negotiator with the Czech Republic Michael Leigh told journalists in Prague that he is "disappointed" by the delay in passing legislation on the reform of the judiciary. MS

CZECH TRIAL OF FORMER ODS OFFICIAL STALLED

The judge in the trial of former ODS Deputy Chairman Libor Novak said he may not be able to offer a verdict this week, as he had originally planned. The judge also ordered that police bring to the court former tennis star Milan Srejber, who is now a businessmen and whose lawyer said he refuses to testify, fearing self-incrimination. Srejber is currently abroad. Prosecutors say Novak was the chief architect of a forgery scheme depriving the state of tax revenues. Testifying in the case, former ODS Deputy Chairman Bohdan Dvorak on 7 June said the evidence related to that scheme was destroyed by former ODS Deputy Chairman Miroslav Macek. MS

CZECH ROMA SENTENCED FOR RACIAL CRIME

A court in Sumperk, northern Moravia, has sentenced three Roma for a "racially motivated crime," CTK and AP reported on 6 June. The oldest defendant, aged 34, was sentenced to four years in prison. His brother and another Roma received suspended sentences of three and 18 months, respectively. The court found them guilty of attacking a Czech man and severely beating him in October 1999, in what the judge said was an assault provoked by the construction in Usti nad Labem of a wall separating Roma from other inhabitants. That wall has since been demolished. MS

SLOVAK INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS ORGANIZED CRIME THRIVING

Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner told journalists after a 7 June cabinet meeting focusing on organized crime in the country that there are 33 organized crime gangs in Slovakia and that the police has penetrated and monitored 26 of them. He said that agents trained in the U.S. detected 13 gangs last year. At least three gangs, he continued, have a "pyramid structure," at the apex of which are seemingly "respectable people" employing a staff of lawyers, economists, and advisers. Pittner also said that even when the gangs are broken up, they easily reconstitute themselves, CTK reported. MSZ

HUNGARY DEMANDS 2001 DEADLINE FOR EU NEGOTIATIONS

Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said in Berlin on 7 June that a delay in the EU enlargement process could unleash political instability in the region. He called for a "firm deadline" for ending membership talks by the end of 2001, adding that he expects the EU to stick to its pledge to admit the first new members in 2003. During his visit to the German capital, he met with leaders of Germany's Christian Democratic and Christian Socialist parties, who expressed no reservation about Hungary's accession, saying the country's preparation for membership is "excellent." MSZ

HUNGARIAN FARMERS PROTEST AGRICULTURAL POLICIES

In a 7 June protest against the government's agricultural policies, Hungarian farmers deployed some 1,330 agricultural vehicles to cause congestion on Hungary's major roads. Agriculture Minister Jozsef Torgyan refused to talk to the protesters, saying "they bought their vehicles with government subsidies and are frightened now, as the ministry ruled that such subsidies must be repaid if the machinery is used for other purposes than those specified." Ferenc Deak, one of the organizers of the demonstration, said the government is misinforming the public by referring to successes in agriculture and government support for farmers. MSZ




SLOVENIA HAS NEW GOVERNMENT

The parliament on 7 June voted 46 to 44 to approve the center-right cabinet proposed by Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk, thereby ending a political crisis that has lasted since April. Slovenia will have a functioning government until scheduled elections take place in the fall. The new cabinet is the first since independence that is not led by former members of the communist-era nomenklatura (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 May 2000). The government's main task is to enact legislation necessary to help meet admission requirements for the EU. There is a broad consensus in Slovenian politics on the need to join the EU as soon as possible. PM

PETRITSCH SLAMS BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER

Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 7 June that joint Prime Minister Spasoje Tusevljak is a "virtual unknown" who was selected by the joint presidency and parliament in an "unprofessional way." Petritsch criticized recent remarks by Tusevljak, in which the economics professor argued that the reintegration of the various parts of Bosnia should proceed slowly. The Austrian diplomat argued that "we need to speed up the process of implementing [the 1995 Dayton agreement], not to slow it down." Tusevljak does not belong to any party. After war broke out in 1992, he was an economics adviser to former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Reuters reported. U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia Thomas Miller also said that he is "very disappointed" with the selection of Tusevljak. Social Democratic leader Sejfudin Tokic said that the new prime minister will bring Bosnia closer to Belgrade and away from Europe, "Oslobodjenje" reported. PM

SARAJEVO POLICE ARREST SERBIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECT

Police arrested Miroslav Pandurevic on 7 June in the Bosnian capital. It is not clear what the charges are, except that a Bosnian court indicted him in March for "atrocities against civilians," Reuters reported. In 1997, the Hague-based war crimes tribunal ruled that there is not enough evidence to substantiate charges of war crimes against him but that there is sufficient evidence to try him for murder, a spokesman for the tribunal told the news agency. Under the terms of the Bosnian peace settlement, any local court seeking to try a suspect for war crimes must obtain the tribunal's permission first. PM

FORMER BOSNIAN SERB POLICE CHIEF KILLED

Unidentified gunmen killed Ljubisa Savic Mauzer in a drive-by slaying in Bijeljina on 7 June. Mauzer was a hard-line Serbian warlord in the area during the 1992-1995 war but later switched his loyalties to the moderate Prime Minister Milorad Dodik. Mauzer lost his job as head of the Bosnian Serb police in 1998 after being accused of using improper methods to convict hard-liners who had killed a local police chief. PM

MONTENEGRIN TRIAL OF ALLEGED KILLER OF MUSLIMS RESUMES

The trial of Nebojsa Ranisavljevic from Despotovac resumed in the Montenegrin town of Bijelo Polje on 7 June after a break of two years. Ranisavljevic is charged with having planned and carried out the abduction and murder of some 20 mainly Muslim passengers from a train on the Belgrade-Bar route in 1993. The trial reopened because Bosnian Serb authorities recently permitted Montenegrin experts to carry out an investigation on the site where the killings took place, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

MILOSEVIC BACKERS WARN OF 'TORRENT OF EVIL' IN MONTENEGRO

In the runup to the local elections in Podgorica and Herceg Novi on 11 June, Bozidar Bojovic of the pro-Belgrade Serbian People's Party said in Podgorica on 8 June that a "torrent of evil...will cover Montenegro" if President Milo Djukanovic and his backers try to "steal the elections as [they did] in 1998," when Djukanovic won the presidency. Bojovic stressed that "you cannot build a barrier between Montenegro and Serbia without the river coming and carrying away that barrier, put there by force and not the peoples' will," Reuters reported. Bojovic warned that "in case of election fraud..., 65 percent of Montenegrins will not sit quietly with folded arms," AP reported. PM

CROATIAN, SERBIAN REFUGEES TO COOPERATE

An association of Croatian refugees from Bosnia and two organizations of Serbian refugees from Croatia have agreed to work together to solve common problems, dpa reported from Zagreb on 7 June. Croatian Serb leader Milorad Pupovac said that "this is a new philosophy of political conduct and an important step in Croatia-Serbian relations that many people did not expect." In many cases, Serbian families from Croatia are now living in the former homes of Croatian refugees from Bosnia and vice versa. PM

FORMER CROATIAN MILITARY LEADER CHARGES INTIMIDATION BY POLICE

Retired General Janko Bobetko, who was one of Croatia's military leaders early in the 1990-1995 conflict with Serbian forces, said that armed police tried to "humiliate" him by appearing in front of his home in Split, "Vecernji list" reported on 8 June. Bobetko argued that the incident was part of an alleged campaign by the current government to portray the war in a bad light and discredit the reputation of those who fought in it. He warned: "Let [the police] try to fire three bullets at me, because I'll fire back after the first one." PM

RED CROSS APPEALS FOR NEWS OF MISSING IN KOSOVA

Officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross said in Geneva on 7 June that some 3,368 persons remain unaccounted for as a result of the recent conflict in Kosova. The missing include about 2,700 ethnic Albanians, 400 Serbs, 100 Roma, and 150 members of various other ethnic groups. The officials added that the remains of some 2,000 people have been found but not identified. PM

SOLANA CALLS FOR BETTER TREATMENT OF KOSOVA'S SERBS

Javier Solana, who is the EU's chief official for foreign and security policy, said in Thessaloniki on 7 June that "the Serbian community in Kosovo has been treated in a manner that cannot be tolerated," Reuters reported. Referring to the political situation in Serbia, he called on the EU to "cooperate with the civil society in Yugoslavia." He added, however, that "the change of the political situation in Serbia is the responsibility of the people of Serbia." Meanwhile in Belgrade, the Yugoslav government issued a statement calling on NATO and the UN to leave Kosova because they have failed to ensure the safety of local Serbs. PM

SERBIAN COURT ORDERS BROVINA RETRIAL

The Supreme Court on 7 June ordered a retrial of Kosova rights activist Flora Brovina. She had been sentenced by a lower court to 12 years in prison for allegedly helping "terrorists" during the conflict in Kosova. The sentencing led to an international outcry from many human rights and writers' organizations. PM

MACEDONIA STEPS UP BORDER SECURITY

A government spokesman said in Skopje on 7 June that frontier guards "will shoot without warning at everyone who tries to cross [Macedonia's borders] illegally," AP reported. The previous day, President Boris Tajkovski told NATO ambassadors that Macedonia will have to take "unilateral measures to protect its borders, territory, and integrity" unless KFOR does more to prevent incidents along the frontier separating Macedonia and Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). A NATO spokesman said in Brussels that officials of the Atlantic alliance will soon discuss the matter. PM

U.S. AID FOR MINE REMOVAL IN ALBANIA

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Tirana said on 7 June that Washington has given the Albanian government $1 million to help remove remaining mines laid by Serbian forces along Albania's frontiers in 1999. PM

IMF EXTENDS ROMANIAN STAND-BY LOAN

The IMF executive board has extended last year's $540 million stand-by loan to Romania until 28 February 2001. Romania will immediately receive the second $110 million tranche of that loan, which will enable the World Bank to resume the disbursement of loans, Romanian Radio reported on 8 June. IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer was quoted by Reuters as praising Romania's economic performance in the last six months but said the country must forge ahead with reforms, particularly in the banking sector. MS

ROMANIAN INVESTORS CLASH WITH RIOT POLICE

More than 1,000 people who had invested in the collapsed National Investment Fund clashed with riot police outside the government's headquarters in Bucharest on 7 June as they staged a protest to demand that the government return their money. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, which became even more angry after the driver of a passing car lost control of his vehicle and ran over two protesters, one of whom sustained serious injuries. The driver ran away from the scene and demonstrators set his car on fire, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Later, a group of protesters was received by Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu. Romanian Radio said the two sides agreed that the government cannot compensate individuals for lost investments and that those affected must file complaints against the fund's management. MS

HUNGARIAN CANDIDATE WITHDRAWS FROM TRANSYLVANIAN RUNOFF

Peter Kovacs Eckstein of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, who placed second in the 4 June Cluj mayoral elections, has announced that he is withdrawing from the runoff against incumbent nationalist Mayor Gheorghe Funar in favor of third-placed Democratic Convention of Romania candidate Serban Radulescu. Kovacs Eckstein, who is minister without portfolio in charge of national minorities affairs, explained his decision by saying it is necessary to unite all forces opposed to Funar and avoid having the vote split along ethnic lines. In the 4 June ballot, he received 21 percent, roughly equivalent to the percentage of the town's ethnic Hungarian population. Funar received nearly 46 percent backing and Radulescu 11.5 percent, Mediafax reported. MS




CHORNOBYL CLOSURE MEANS SEARCH FOR STORAGE SITES, NEW ENERGY


By Tuck Wesolowsky

As expected, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma announced on 5 June that the last nuclear reactor at Chornobyl will be shut down on 15 December.

Kuchma made that statement in Kyiv during a six-hour visit to the Ukrainian capital by U.S. President Bill Clinton. The U.S. has been one of several countries appealing to Ukraine for years to decommission Chornobyl.

The nuclear plant was the site of the world's worst civilian nuclear disaster, when reactor Number Four exploded on 26 April 1986, spewing radioactive fallout across Europe. Although most of the fallout fell on neighboring Belarus, radiation was detected as far away as Japan. Today, only reactor Number Three is in operation. Number Two was shut down in 1991, and Number One five years later.

Mils Bohmer, a nuclear physicist working for the Oslo-based nuclear-monitoring organization Bellona, says it was the fading likelihood of more Western aid to upgrade Ukraine's rickety energy infrastructure, coupled with growing problems at Chornobyl, that prompted Kuchma to act now. "There have been a lot of technical problems with the Chornobyl reactor," he commented. "Since Christmas the remaining reactor has been [stopped] every other week...because of technical problems."

Tobias Munchmeyer, an anti-nuclear campaigner with Greenpeace, says shutting down the sole operating nuclear reactor at Chornobyl should be relatively problem-free. The most pressing matter now, Munchmeyer says, is finding storage for the spent fuel and other radioactive waste inside reactor Number Three. "The reactor contains [not only] spent nuclear fuel," he notes, "but also tons of light-, medium-, and high-radiated nuclear waste, and this has to be decommissioned to be stored somewhere.... The financing for this decommissioning work has been given by G-7 countries."

During his visit to Ukraine earlier this week, Clinton pledged $78 million to rebuild the sarcophagus entombing the crippled Number Four reactor. Next month in Berlin, donors from 40 countries are expected to announce they have secured the necessary $700 million to rebuild the concrete encasement, which was constructed in haste following the 1986 accident, and now has several cracks.

During Clinton's visit, no mention was made of a project that has drawn criticism from environmentalists--the construction of two new nuclear reactors, at Khmelnitsky and Rivne, known as K-Two and R-Four. Ukraine has said the two reactors, which are about 80 percent finished, are needed to compensate for the energy lost from shutting down Chornobyl.

But there is growing Western reluctance to fund the project. Among the most vocal opponents are Germany, Austria and Sweden, which have offered to fund non-nuclear alternatives.

Emmanuel Bergasse, an expert in transition economies at the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), says Ukraine will have to choose between three main fuels. The first choice, he notes, is "expensive and environmentally-polluting domestic coal, but the reform program of the present government calls for less aid to the coal sector. The second alternative is to put more emphasis on environmentally friendly gas--but...gas is imported at quite a high cost from Russia and other CIS states, and further increases in gas imports would increase Ukraine's dependence on its powerful neighbor. Furthermore..., Ukraine already has a huge gas debt [vis-a-vis] Russia. The third alternative is nuclear power, which is relatively cheap but controversial both at home and abroad and which also would increase the country's dependence on Russia for securing nuclear fuel."

Munchmeyer, Bergasse, and other energy experts say it is doubtful whether Ukraine really needs to build any new energy plants. Instead, Ukraine could meet its energy needs by better energy usage. According to Munchmeyer, "the energy problem existing in Ukraine is a fuel problem and an inefficiency problem. So on the one side, there is a lack of fuel and there is a lack of organization to get the fuel into the right places at the same time. The other thing is this huge inefficiency of the energy system. Ukraine is using five to eight times more electricity for producing goods compared to Western Europe."

Wasting energy is endemic throughout the countries of the former East Bloc. Bergasse says one of the main causes of poor energy efficiency are the high subsidies paid for energy purchases. He says a 1999 IEA study of 10 countries with heavy energy subsidies--including Russia and Kazakhstan--showed there is no incentive for saving energy whenever energy is subsidized or sold below cost of production.

"The non-payment problem which is pervasive throughout the CIS, although improving of late, is another form of energy subsidy," he explains, "So we calculated that the energy-savings potential of Russia alone is so enormous that if subsidies were abolished in Russia, Russia could save about twice the energy which Ukraine consumes today alone."

Bergasse says remodeling the energy sector is dependent on more overarching reforms. He says the three Baltic states have made the most progress toward cutting energy waste, partly because they have better defined property rights. Baltic homeowners, Bergasse says, feel more secure in making the investment to upgrade their home energy efficiency. CIS countries are still lagging behind in this regard, however. The author is an RFE/RL senior editor based in Prague.


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