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Newsline - June 12, 2000




MOSCOW WON'T SEEK TO SWAY PYONGYANG OVER MISSILE PROGRAM

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, speaking to journalists in Moscow on 9 June, said that when President Vladimir Putin visits North Korea, he will not try to persuade its leaders to halt their missile program. "President Putin will be going on a visit to a friendly country, and he does not intend to talk anybody out of anything," Ivanov commented. Putin is to visit both Pyongyang and Beijing just before a G-8 meeting in Japan beginning on 21 July, deputy head of the Kremlin administration Sergei Prikhodko said on 9 June. The same day, Putin and U.S. President Bill Clinton held a telephone conversation, but AP quoted a U.S. official as saying that North Korea was not discussed. Meanwhile, Russian-North Korean contacts were given a boost when Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov met with the North Korean Ambassador to Russia Pak Ui Chun to discuss maintaining strategic stability, including the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement. JC

PUTIN CHALLENGES U.S. OVER PERCEIVED THREAT FROM 'ROGUE STATES'

In an interview with Germany's "Welt am Sonntag" published on 11 June, Russian President Putin said Russia is "convinced that the missile threat from so-called problem countries in the Middle East or in the Asian region referred to by the U.S. does not exist, neither today nor in the near future." Putin added that the U.S.'s plans to implement a limited national defense system is "a serious strategic miscalculation" that will significantly increase threats to the U.S., Russia, and other states. And he stressed Moscow's stance that a "reasonable" and "responsible" approach to the issue would be deeper cuts in nuclear armaments under START-3 while abiding by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and "consolidating the system of non-proliferation." JC

SERGEEV BRIEFS NATO ON PUTIN'S ABM PROPOSAL

Defense Minister Igor Sergeev was in Brussels on 9 June to brief his NATO counterparts on President Putin's proposal for a non- strategic, joint European missile defense system. That proposal foresees "boost phase interception," whereby missiles would be shot down immediately after launch rather than intercepted in space (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2000). According to Sergeev, such a system would not "compromise in any way the ABM treaty." NATO Secretary- General Lord Robertson declined to comment on the Russian proposal, saying that questions have been asked and must first be clarified. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen commented that boost phase interception would not offer "the kind of reliable, long-range protection America is seeking," Reuters reported. The same news agency quoted Sergeev as telling reporters after the briefing that Moscow also has "hardware" proposals but experts must first assess potential threats. JC

IVANOV SAYS START-3 AGREEMENT POSSIBLE THIS YEAR

Speaking to journalists in Moscow on 9 June, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov said he believes that Russia and the U.S. could reach "concrete agreements" on START-3 as early as this year. In 1997, the two sides agreed to reduce the number of warheads to 2,000-2,500 each, but since then, Moscow has proposed slashing that figure to 1,500. Russia and the U.S. are due to continue talks on START-3 later this month, Ivanov noted. JC

DUMA PASSES CONTROVERSIAL TAX BILL

State Duma deputies on 9 June voted by 256 to 137 with four abstentions to pass in the second reading the bill on a single social tax (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). Under the bill, employers would pay a rate of 35.6 percent for employees whose annual wages are below 100,000 rubles ($3,500), 20 percent for those earning between 100,001-300,000 rubles, 10 percent for those whose wages are between 300,001 rubles and 600,000 rubles, and 2 percent for those earning more than 600,000 rubles. According to Interfax, the government had originally asked for a minimum rate of 10 percent payable on annual wages of 300,000 rubles and above. JAC

GOVERNMENT CLASHES WITH CENTRAL BANK OVER THE RUBLE

At a meeting of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs on 9 June, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that the government is taking steps to prevent "the groundless strengthening" of the ruble. If the ruble continues to strengthen, he said, it will strangle the economy and return the country to the situation it experienced in 1998. The previous day, Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko said that the ruble should remain strong for some months. He added that weakening the ruble to boost exports would increase the cost of living while making it more difficult for the government to service its foreign debt, according to AP. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 June that Kasyanov's presentation to the union of the government's economic policies also differed considerably from the economic program drawn up by Minister for Economic Development and Trade German Gref. Boris Berezovskii owns a controlling interest in "Kommersant-Daily." JAC

MEDIA MINISTRY DECIDES TO ENFORCE OLD LAW...

In an interview with "Obshchaya gazeta" (No. 23), Media Minister Mikhail Lesin revealed that all newspapers and magazines in Russia will soon need not only to be registered but also to have a license. Lesin said that print media organizations will be notified of licensing procedures in two to three months and given a deadline from six months to a year to obtain their license. Previously, the Media Ministry has not enforced a 1998 law on licensing that requires publishing activity to be licensed. Lesin noted that "if one strictly follows the letter of the law, we could have shut you all down a long time ago." However, he promised that the ministry does not "want to take tough measures against violators" and that he "guarantees that no tough measures will be taken now by the government." JAC

...AND ANALYSTS FEAR NEW PRESSURE ON MEDIA

However, Andrei Richter, director for the Center for Law and the Media, told "The Moscow Times" on 10 June that the licensing requirement is "a very serious police club. Simply no one paid attention to it before and now they want to use it." The daily also reported that a lawyer with its parent company, Independent Media, had tried several times to apply for a license but was told by the ministry that it did not need one. On 7 June, the Federation Council approved an amendment to the law on mass media that forbids any news outlet to disseminate information on the production, use, and sale of illegal drugs. One unnamed official with a needle exchange program in St. Petersburg told "The Moscow Times" on 9 June that a dearth of in-depth information about drugs in the media might "make the nation more ignorant, and therefore, more vulnerable to drug abuse." The official noted that "in order to fight a problem, one needs to know exactly what the problem is." JAC

GOVERNMENT REPORTS GRAIN RESERVE TO HIT EMPTY SOON

Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev told reporters in Tula on 9 June that by 1 July, "Russia will have almost no grain left in its reserve for next year," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 July. Gordeev declared the situation "abnormal" and noted that the grain market is "overheated." According to the daily, "not once in this century" has Russia been without a grain reserve. Ideally, the reserve should amount to 20 percent of consumption. The newspaper also reported that the government recently asked the U.S. for a credit for 5.5 million tons of grain. Last week, sources reported that the request was for 5 million tons of mostly fodder grain (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2000). JAC

ANOTHER SUICIDE BOMBING IN CHECHNYA

At least two Russian police officers were killed and one injured on 11 June when a man whose car they had halted at a control post near Grozny detonated a bomb concealed in the trunk, Reuters reported. Chechen spokesman Movladi Udugov later told Reuters by telephone that the man was a former Russian soldier who had joined the Chechen resistance. Udugov gave the number of Russian casualties as four killed and 10 injured. LF

MEDICAL PERSONNEL TARGETED IN GROZNY

Three epidemiologists were killed in Grozny on 9 June and three medical personnel injured when the ambulance in which they were travelling came under fire, Reuters reported. Police the following day arrested seven men suspected of launching that attack. LF

PRESIDENT SAYS MASKHADOV NOT IN INGUSHETIA

Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev on 9 June denied that his Chechen counterpart, Aslan Maskhadov, is undergoing medical treatment in Ingushetia for facial and chest wounds, ITAR-TASS reported. Akhmed Kelimatov, a spokesman for the Chechen Adamalla movement, had said earlier that day that Maskhadov was in Ingushetia. Aushev said he cannot confirm reports that Maskhadov was wounded earlier this month. He added that "as far as I know, Maskhadov is in Chechnya at the house of Adamalla leader Adam Deniev." That would seem unlikely, however, given that Adamalla's leadership has repeatedly condemned Maskhadov for the collapse of authority in Chechnya and has called on Moscow to install an alternative Chechen leadership. LF

RUSSIAN GENERAL DENIES HE WILL HEAD NEW CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION

Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, who commands the joint federal forces fighting in Chechnya told journalists in Khankala on 12 June that he will not agree to head the new Chechen administration directly subordinate to the Russian president, Caucasus Press reported. Russian officials have said that a military man with a good knowledge of Chechnya should be appointed to that post. Troshev, who was born in Grozny, is the sole candidate who fills both those criteria, with the exception of the controversial commander of the now disbanded pro-Moscow Chechen militia, Beslan Gantemirov. LF

HORSE THEFT SPARKS INTER-ETHNIC VIOLENCE IN DAGHESTAN

The theft of seven horses from the village of Akutan-Akushinskii in Daghestan's Nogai Raion sparked fighting between Dargins, who are the republic's second-largest ethnic group, and Nogai Tatars, Caucasus Press reported on 9 June. More than 400 people were involved in the 8 June clash, in which one shepherd and a police officer who tried to intervene were seriously injured. LF

PUTIN PRAISES AL-ASSAD'S 'HISTORIC ROLE'

In a letter of condolence following the death of Hafez al-Assad on 10 June, President Putin hailed the late Syrian president as "one of the most outstanding figures of today who played an historic role in Syria's development." Al-Assad, he added, was a "friend of our country who did much to develop cooperation between Russia and Syria." It is unclear whether Putin will attend Al-Assad's funeral, scheduled to take place on 13 June. The Kremlin press service on 11 June said there are no plans to alter Putin's travel schedule, which includes a trip to Spain beginning on 13 June. Meanwhile, the RIA news agency reported that State Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev and leader of the Fatherland-All Russia parliamentary faction Yevgenii Primakov will travel to Syria to take part in the funeral. JC

IVANOV BEMOANS BELGRADE'S 'BESIEGED FORTRESS' POLICY

Addressing the State Duma on 9 June, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov said that the administration of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is contributing to the country's international isolation. Belgrade's "besieged fortress" policy, he commented, is "not helping to normalize Yugoslavia's situation in the world." And he underlined Moscow's stance that the administration and opposition must engage in a dialogue to overcome their differences. The same day in Brussels, Russian Defense Minister Sergeev told journalists that it is impossible to discuss the future status of Kosova without involving Belgrade. He noted that in the absence of any alternatives to Milosevic, the Yugoslav president is "still a real political force [who] cannot be ignored." JC

MOSCOW RECOGNIZES PERUVIAN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE

In a statement released on 9 June, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow "respects the choice of the Peruvian people" as manifested in the recent presidential elections in that country, Interfax reported. In the 28 May ballot, Alberto Fujimori was re-elected for a controversial third term amid allegations of vote-rigging made by the country's opposition forces. JC

SECURITY COUNCIL HEAD STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF 'REGIONAL' SECURITY

In an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 8 June, Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov commented on the recent inclusion on the Security Council of the seven presidential representatives to the seven federal districts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2000). Ivanov noted that "in the recently adopted National Security Concept, we openly stated for the first time that domestic threats to Russia prevail over foreign ones." He continued that the threats of "primary importance" to Russia are the threats to "its constitutional and economic security, including the threat of 'self-sufficiency' of certain governors." Ivanov also criticized the former presidential representatives to the regions, saying that they "depended on the governor for their apartment and career." He argued that the new representatives will be "independent arbiters who can ask and demand and verify something through a [federal] ministry." JAC

KVASHNIN REAPPOINTED

President Putin reappointed General Anatolii Kvashnin, chief of the armed forces' General Staff, as a member of the Security Council on 10 June. According to presidential spokesman Aleksei Gromov, there are now two representatives of the Defense Ministry on the Security Council--Kvashnin and Defense Minister Sergeev. JAC

PATRIARCH AGAIN LEAVES DOOR OPEN TO PAPAL VISIT

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II celebrated the 10th anniversary of his enthronement as head of the Russian Orthodox Church on 10 June. In an interview with "Kommersant- Daily" the same day, Aleksii repeated his belief that a meeting with Pope John Paul II "cannot be ruled out but must be thoroughly prepared so that it produces real results of mutual respect and concord without hypocrisy." Prime Minister Kasyanov congratulated Aleksii on his anniversary, calling him a "wise man who has devoted his life to the service of the Church and fatherland," ITAR-TASS reported. Kasyanov also promised further cooperation between the government and the Russian Orthodox Church. JAC

RUSSIAN BANK'S OFFSHORE TRANSFERS START TO DRY UP

The director of the Russian Central Bank's currency department Yelena Ishchenko told reporters on 9 June that the outflow of funds from Russian banks to offshore zones dropped to $300 million during the first quarter of 2000 compared with $900 million during the same period last year, ITAR-TASS reported. Interfax reported the same day that Russian banks are scaling down their cooperation with U.S. banks following the Bank of New York scandal and are conducting a large part of their operations through dollar accounts in West European banks. JAC

A DAY OFF BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL A DAY OFF?

In a survey conducted by the All-Russia Institute for the Study of Public Opinion at the end of May among 1,600 adults, more than a quarter or 28 percent of respondents did not know which holiday Russia observes on 12 June, Interfax reported on 8 June. In a similar survey conducted by the same institute three years ago, only 25 percent of respondents did not know. Fifty-one percent of respondents in this year's poll thought the holiday is called the Day of Independence for Russia, while just 9 percent knew the official name of the holiday-- the Day of the Adoption of the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Russian Federation. JAC




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ENDORSES NEW CABINET

Parliamentary deputies indicated on 9 June that they will not push for a no-confidence vote in the new cabinet of Andranik Markarian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Markarian, who had presented his program to deputies the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2000), vowed to make every effort to avoid seemingly inevitable cuts in budget spending this year. He added that the ongoing stabilization of the domestic political situation is reflected in what he called signs of "an atmosphere of mutual trust" between the president, premier, and parliament. Under the Armenian Constitution, deputies' failure to challenge Markarian's program constitutes formal approval of his cabinet, which parliamentary deputy speaker Gagik Aslanian announced on 10 June. LF

WORLD BANK APPROVES NEW LOAN FOR ARMENIA

The World Bank has approved a $40 million loan for upgrading Armenia's transport infrastructure, the head of the Bank's Yerevan mission, Oweiss Saadat, told journalists in the Armenian capital on 9 June. The funds are earmarked for improving road and rail bridges, tracks, and rolling stock as well as transport connections with neighboring Georgia and Iran. It is the second such transport project the bank has funded in Armenia. LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT PASSES NEW ELECTION LEGISLATION

By a vote of 86 to three with six abstentions, deputies on 9 June passed in the third and final reading the controversial amendments to the law on the Central Electoral Commission, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Those changes stipulate that one third of the commission's 18 members will be proposed by the majority Yeni Azerbaycan party, one third by parliamentary deputies from the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front and Azerbaijan National Independence parties, and the remaining third by independent parliament deputies, most of whom tacitly or overtly support the ruling authorities. The amendments are the product of talks conducted by OSCE and ODIHR representatives with both the Azerbaijani leadership and opposition parties. The amended legislation has been condemned as unfair by representatives of opposition parties that were barred from participating in the 1995 parliamentary elections under the proportional system and are thus not eligible for representation on the commission. LF

COUNCIL OF EUROPE EXPRESSES CONCERN AT HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN GEORGIA...

Council of Europe Commissioner Alvaro Gil- Robles told journalists in Tbilisi on 9 June at the end of a one-week visit to Georgia that he does not consider conditions in Georgian prisons acceptable, Caucasus Press reported. He also called for the immediate release of former Mayor Tengiz Asanidze, who was pardoned by President Eduard Shevardnadze in an amnesty last year but whom Adjar leader Aslan Abashidze refuses to release from prison (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999 and 9 February 2000). LF

...PLIGHT OF DISPLACED PERSONS, CHECHEN REFUGEES

Gil-Robles also expressed concern over the conditions in which displaced persons from Abkhazia live, which he compared unfavorably with those of Chechen refugees in Georgia. But he added that as a result of his talks in Sukhum with Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba, he believes agreement will soon be reached on the repatriation of those displaced persons to Abkhazia. Gil-Robles said that he visited the Pankisi gorge, on the border between Georgia and Chechnya, and found no evidence supporting Russian claims that there are Chechen guerrilla bases there. But he admitted that some Chechen refugees in Pankisi are engaged in criminal activities, and he called for the swiftest possible repatriation of all of them to Chechnya. On 10 June, Georgian police in Tbilisi detained four Chechens from the Pankisi gorge who were trying to exchange counterfeit $100 bills, Interfax reported. LF

UN OBSERVER ROBBED IN WESTERN GEORGIA

Four unidentified men in military uniforms robbed a member of the UN Observer Force in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi on the night of 9-10 June, ITAR-TASS reported. It is the third such incident involving UN personnel in the town. Several members of that forces were taken hostage in the Kodori gorge earlier this month but were later released. LF

GEORGIA, SOUTH OSSETIA HOLD TALKS ON RESOLVING CONFLICT

Georgian and South Ossetian officials, together with North Ossetian and OSCE representatives, held three rounds of Russian-mediated talks in Djava between 31 May and 10 June on a draft document intended to expedite a political solution of the conflict between the central Georgian government and the self-proclaimed Republic of South Ossetia, Interfax and ITAR- TASS reported. South Ossetia continues to demand independent status, while Tbilisi insists it is prepared to discuss only degrees of autonomy for South Ossetia within Georgia. Further talks are to take place under the OSCE's aegis in Vienna later this month. LF

CENTRAL ASIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS ATTEND ECO SUMMIT...

Heidar Aliev, together with his counterparts from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev attended the summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization in Tehran on 10-11 June, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Addressing the summit on 10 June, Aliyev called for establishing peace and security in Central Asia and the South Caucasus. He expressed the belief that Iran can play an important role in resolving conflicts in the region. Aliyev also said the restoration of the Silk Road, linking Central Asia and the Caucasus with Europe, will boost the economies of the Central Asian states. Summit participants, who also included representatives from Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, agreed to relax trade barriers in order to boost economic cooperation. They also discussed the transportation of energy resources within the region, AP reported. LF

...HOLD BILATERAL TALKS

Aliyev met on the sidelines of the summit with Pakistan's leader, General Pervez Musharraf, who undertook to provide Azerbaijan with military assistance to resolve the Karabakh conflict, according to an unconfirmed Interfax report on 10 June. The presidents of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan met separately with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to discuss bilateral relations, ITAR-TASS reported. Khatami and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov repeated their previous calls for a peaceful solution to the civil war in Afghanistan. LF

NEW POLITICAL PARTY ESTABLISHED IN KAZAKHSTAN

The Party of Patriots of Kazakhstan held its founding congress in Almaty on 9 June, RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported. Ghani Qasymov, a former chairman of Kazakhstan's Customs Committee who ran unsuccessfully against President Nursultan Nazarbaev in last year's presidential poll, is the founder of the party. Qasymov said his party will support democratic changes in Kazakhstan. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIAN BEGINS NEW HUNGER STRIKE IN CUSTODY

Lyubov Ivanova, the lawyer of arrested Ar-Namys party leader Feliks Kulov, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 9 June that her client began another hunger strike in detention two days earlier. She said Kulov was protesting the prison authorities' refusal to allow him to receive food parcels from his family. Kulov staged a 17-day hunger strike following his arrest earlier this year on charges of abuse of his official position when he held the post of minister of national security (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March and 12 April 2000). LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION CALLS ON OSCE TO MODERATE NEW ROUNDTABLE

Representatives of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights and the El, Kairan-El, Republican, Communist, and Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan parties issued a statement in Bishkek on 9 June condemning as a political show the roundtable discussion between the government, opposition, and NGOs that began the previous day, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. They expressed support for a proposed alternative roundtable to be mediated by the OSCE representation in Bishkek (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2000). Participants in the ongoing Bishkek protest gathered on 9 June outside the OSCE office and called on that organization to condemn the roundtable. The OSCE had declined to participate on the grounds that the final format for that gathering differed considerably from that originally agreed upon by the OSCE, the government, and the opposition. LF

MURDER WITNESS FOUND DEAD IN TAJIK CAPITAL

Relatives of Abdujabor Sayfulloev identified his body in a Dushanbe morgue on 7 June, Asia Plus-Blitz reported two days later. The cause of his death is unknown. Sayfulloev had been employed as chauffeur by the chairman of the Tajik Television and Radio Committee, Saifullo Rahimov, and was the sole witness to his killing by unknown gunmen on 20 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 2000). LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT OUTLINES PRIORITIES

In an interview published on 8 June in "Fidorkorlar," the publication of the eponymous pro-government political party, Islam Karimov said that the ultimate aim of Uzbekistan's ongoing economic reform is to build a socially-oriented market economy, according to Interfax. He stressed the importance of minimizing interference by supervising bodies in the functioning of the economy, increasing the country's export potential, and ensuring a gradual improvement in living standards and social safeguards for the most disadvantaged strata of the population. Karimov singled out Islamic fundamentalism and Western movies propagating the cult of violence as among the greatest threats to creating a society "based on high moral and spiritual values." LF




U.S. SENATORS CONCERNED ABOUT SAFETY OF BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONISTS

Senator Ben Campbell, co-chairman of the U.S. Congress's Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright urging her to ensure the personal safety of Belarusian opposition leaders who recently visited Washington, Belapan reported on 9 June. The letter was also signed by Senators Jesse Helms, John McCain, and Richard Durbin. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 30 May charged that the delegation of Belarusian opposition leaders to Washington were seeking money to overthrow the Belarusian government, adding that Belarus's Security Council should investigate the matter (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2000). U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the same day that the State Department has received assurances from the Belarusian authorities that the oppositionists who were in Washington last month will not face reprisals. JM

UKRAINE, MOLDOVA AGREE ON TRANSIT POLICIES

Meeting in Odesa on 9 June, Ukrainian Premier Viktor Yushchenko and his Moldovan counterpart, Dumitru Bragis, agreed to facilitate transit shipments through their countries and to pool efforts in combating cross-border smuggling, Interfax reported. Yushchenko commented that the two sides agreed to modernize customs checkpoints at the Ukrainian-Moldovan border in order to make those facilities "more attractive for businessmen as well as for ordinary people." Belarusian Premier Uladzimir Yarmoshyn was also scheduled to participate in the Odesa meeting but failed to do so. A Belarusian government spokesman told RFE/RL that Yarmoshyn did not show up in Odesa because Belarus and Ukraine have not yet agreed on regulations regarding the transport corridor through Belarus. The same day, Belarusian Television quoted Yarmoshyn as saying that "the khokhly [disparaging term for Ukrainians] are going to fleece us at the border." JM

UKRAINE MAY OBTAIN $1.2 BILLION FROM WORLD BANK, DEPENDING ON REFORM

Johannes Linn, World Bank deputy chairman for Europe and Central Asia, said in Kyiv on 9 June that Ukraine may receive a $1-$1.2 billion loan package from the bank in 2000- 2002, Interfax reported. "The level of support in terms of financial assistance will depend very much on the government's ability to implement its reform program," Linn noted. Final approval will also depend on the results of an audit of the bank's previous loans to Ukraine and the government's success in passing laws the bank considers beneficial for economic development. Linn praised Ukraine's government, saying the bank has "a new sense of optimism" about the country's economic future. JM

TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN BALTICS

Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, during a three-day visit to all three Baltic countries from 7-9 June, discussed European integration and bilateral relations. In Tallinn, Cem said, "European security is not complete as long as the Baltic states are not members of NATO," adding that "this is a standpoint that we will affirm in NATO," ETA reported. Cem also said that Latvia will become an EU member before Turkey, according to LETA. MH

EU RESTRICTING RIGHTS OF ESTONIANS?

During a meeting of the Estonia-EU Association Committee in Brussels on 9 June, Estonian negotiators suggested that EU member countries are in violation of agreements by restricting the rights of Estonian citizens and businesses. They argued that by restricting the rights of Estonians to set up businesses in EU member states on the same footing as local counterparts, the EU is in violation of the association agreement signed in 1995. The two sides also discussed progress in Estonia's EU integration and other thorny problems, such as Finnish dockworkers' boycott of Estonian shipping. MH

U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY PRAISES LITHUANIAN INTEGRATION EFFORTS

William Cohen, attending an annual meeting of Nordic and Baltic defense ministers in Vilnius on 10 June, praised Lithuania's efforts to join NATO, AP and ELTA reported. "Lithuania's determination to lift its military capability and work productively with NATO and improve relations with Russia are very important steps on a long and difficult staircase to possible NATO membership," Cohen said, affirming the U.S.'s commitment to keep NATO's door open but providing no timetable for further enlargement. AB

POLISH POST-COMMUNISTS BACK KWASNIEWSKI'S RE-ELECTION BID

A national convention of the Democratic Left Alliance on 11 June endorsed the re-election bid of incumbent President Aleksander Kwasniewski. "We have achieved numerous successes together, we will win this time as well," Kwasniewski told the convention of the post-communist party, which he headed from 1990-95 and transformed into a European-style social democratic force. A late-May poll conducted by OBOP showed that Kwasniewski would win 70 percent of votes, while independent candidate Andrzej Olechowski gained 10 percent support and Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski 4 percent. JM

EU URGES POLAND TO DROP PROTECTIONIST TARIFFS ON FOOD IMPORTS

EU Agricultural Commissioner Franz Fischler on 9 June said Poland must drop protectionist tariffs on food imports if it wants to become part of a trade liberalization agreement that takes effect on 1 July for prospective new EU members. Poland increased customs duties on dairy products, sugar, meat, and grains in 1999, following protests by the country's farmers. In exchange for revoking those higher tariffs, the EU has offered to phase out subsidies on farm exports to Poland and increase preferential quotas for the import of Polish produce. Fischler said a similar demand has been met by nine other countries aspiring for EU membership, adding that "it would be unfair to those countries if we gave up this demand for the 10th country," according to AP. JM

VISEGRAD FOUR CALL ON EU TO SET ACCESSION DATE...

The premiers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, meeting at Stirin Castle near Prague on 9 June, called on the EU to set a date for the completion of accession talks with the so-called fast-track candidates at its December summit in Nice. Milos Zeman, Viktor Urban, Jerzy Buzek, and Mikulas Dzurinda said they hope all four Visegrad members will join the EU by 2003. The premiers also signed an agreement setting up a joint fund aimed at financing cultural cooperation among their countries, CTK reported. MS

...WHILE CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER DOES NOT WANT 'EURO-CZECHS'

Addressing a forum of his Civic Democratic Party (ODS) in Prague on 11 June, Vaclav Klaus said there is "no reasonable alternative" to EU integration but warned against a loss of national identity. "We do not want to become Euro-Czechs or Euro-Germans, Euro-French or Euro-Italians," he said. "We want to enter a community in which, as sovereign citizens of the Czech Republic, we will be able to defend our own ways of life, habits, interests, and national prosperity." Klaus also commented that Czech people do not have sufficient awareness of their national identity, and this "leads to self- underestimation and servility toward stronger countries and allies," CTK reported. MS

CZECH PREMIER SLAMS SUDETEN GERMAN DEMANDS

"We respect our former German citizens who were active anti-fascists and fought against Hitler, but we shall never respect the heirs of those who followed Hitler and whose voices can be heard again and again. We shall never respect those who split this country and committed the crime of treason," Zeman said at a ceremony in Lidice, central Bohemia, marking the 58th anniversary of the town's destruction by SS troops on 10 June, according to CTK. Observers note that Zeman's words were directed at the Christian Democratic-Christian Socialist parliamentary group in Germany's Bundestag. One day earlier, that group had endorsed a demand by the organization representing the Germans expelled under the 1945 Benes decrees that compensation be paid to those who suffered most as a result of their expulsion. MS

SLOVAK NATIONALISTS ACCUSE PREMIER OF WAR CRIMES

Slovak National Party (SNS) Chairwoman Anna Malikova told journalists on 9 June that the SNS intends to seek criminal proceedings against Prime Minister Dzurinda for having opened Slovakia's air space to NATO aircraft during the 1999 raids on Yugoslavia, CTK reported. Malikova said the complaint will be based on an Amnesty International report saying that NATO intentionally bombed civilian targets. "Amnesty International should have used stronger words. If you violate human rights by depriving someone of his life, in Slovak we call this murder," she said. MS

FORMER SLOVAK INTELLIGENCE CHIEF WANTS TO DO BUSINESS IN SPAIN

Ivan Lexa, former director of the Slovak Intelligence Service, has applied to the Spanish authorities for a permit to do business in Spain, CTK reported on 9 June, citing Radio Twist. Lexa is being prosecuted on several charges, the most serious of which is involvement in the kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995. He cannot leave the country without receiving permission from investigators. His intention became known to the authorities after Spain requested through Interpol that Lexa's personal data be verified. MS




SPLIT VOTE IN MONTENEGRIN LOCAL ELECTIONS...

Preliminary results give supporters of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic the lead in the 11 June local elections in Podgorica. In Herceg Novi, however, followers of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic appear to have the upper hand. The first official results are expected later on 12 June. The contest between Djukanovic's For A Better Life coalition and the rival Yugoslavia-Momir Bulatovic group was widely seen as a test between supporters of Djukanovic's independent-minded reform course and supporters of close links to Belgrade. The BBC reported on 12 June that few local issues would affect the outcome and that the central issue is indeed the nature of future relations with Serbia. PM

...REFLECTS DIFFERING CONDITIONS

The BBC broadcast on 12 June added that Milosevic's supporters in Herceg Novi appear to have benefited from their campaign to depict Djukanovic as a Western puppet whose Western allies tried to buy him votes. Reuters added that the large number of war veterans and pensioners in Herceg Novi might have also tipped the scale in favor of Milosevic. Predrag Bulatovic, who led the campaign for the Yugoslavia-Momir Bulatovic slate, said: "In this election the citizens showed they were for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." By contrast, Podgorica was and apparently remains a source of support for Djukanovic, who can count on the support of most government workers. He told followers: "Today we can say for sure that Montenegro is marching on a stable, democratic, reformist path and that no one can distract it from that path. Our victory in Podgorica is much better and greater than our defeat in Herceg Novi," the president concluded. PM

KOSOVARS CELEBRATE FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF END OF SERBIAN RULE...

Some 30,000 ethnic Albanians filled a soccer stadium in Prishtina on 11 June to mark the first anniversary of the arrival of NATO peacekeepers in the province, Reuters reported. A column of 300 former members of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), who now wear the uniforms of the civilian Kosova Protection Corps (TMK), marched past enthusiastic onlookers waving Albanian flags. Many spectators, however, jeered veteran Kosova rights campaigner Adem Demaci when he said: "We should not forget that those Serbs who remain here are now living in miserable conditions..... They have been abandoned by Belgrade," AP reported. TMK commander Agim Ceku told listeners that Kosova needs a "tolerant and democratic society," but he did not mention Serbs. He added: "We have to prove to our [Western] friends that we have the ability to run Kosova after they leave." Reuters noted that everyone its correspondent interviewed saw independence as the only future for Kosova. PM

...BUT WITH SOME MISGIVINGS

London's "The Daily Telegraph" reported on 12 June that Kosovar political life has become highly fragmented and that many former UCK comrades-in-arms are now bitter rivals. The most serious challenger to former UCK leader Hashim Thaci is Ramush Haradinaj, the article added. Many former guerrilla leaders, moreover, have become involved in "brutal infighting, corruption, and mafia-style activities," which is strongly resented by ordinary Kosovars. The London daily suggested that the TMK is known locally as Tomorrow's Masters of Kosova and that many of its members have also been linked to crime (see also "End Note" below). PM

KOSOVA SERBS CONCERNED FOR FUTURE

Political leader Momcilo Trajkovic called the situation of the province's Serbian minority "catastrophic," AP reported from Prishtina on 11 June. He stressed that "Serbs and other non-Albanians are directly targeted [in ethnic violence]...and if this continues, only Albanians will remain" in Kosova. Trajkovic argued that "a key problem is that the international community's strategy is still based on the view that [local] Albanians are the victims." In Gracanica, Serbian Orthodox Father Sava, who is also a leader of the local Serbs, said that he is "very discouraged" by his recent visit to the UN Security Council. He said he does not see how Serbs can continue to participate in UN-sponsored Kosova civilian councils unless the Security Council provides Serbs with written guarantees for their security in the province, Reuters reported. PM

KOUCHNER TAKES STOCK OF KOSOVA

Speaking in New York on 9 June, Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, said that the province was a "dead desert" when peacekeepers first arrived. Now, he argued, much has changed: "We have reduced by 10 times the amount of crime, but there persists too much murder, violence, arson, and actions directly particularly against the Serbs of Kosovo." Kouchner stressed that it will be a long time before it is possible for Serbs and Albanians to live together peacefully. "Until this pain is eased, until the scars heal over, until people in the [ethnic] Albanian families know if those disappeared are dead or not, what happened to their brother, their cousin, their sister, their father, then it will not be possible to create conditions for greater tolerance," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the UN. PM

KFOR COMMANDER WARNS AGAINST 'QUICK FIXES'

British commander Brigadier Richard Shirreff said in Prishtina on 10 June that he is confident that he has the necessary forces to combat terrorism in Kosova. He added, however, that "there are no quick fixes in the fight against terrorism. We are not necessarily dealing with a coordinated organization. We may well be dealing with individuals who strike when the opportunity arises. This is very difficult to get a handle on," Reuters reported. PM

LI PENG SLAMS NATO IN BELGRADE

Li Peng, who is the speaker of the Chinese parliament and best known abroad for his role in the 1989 killing of protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, addressed the Yugoslav parliament on 12 June. He said that NATO's 1999 intervention to stop the genocide in Kosova "constitutes a violation of the purposes of the UN Charter and the universally recognized norms governing international relations and poses a serious threat to stability in Europe and peace in the world," Reuters reported. Li stressed that "bombing does not bring peace." PM

TENSIONS ON MACEDONIAN BORDER WITH KOSOVA

Unidentified persons in Kosova exchanged fire with Macedonian defense forces along the border on 9-10 June in separate incidents, Reuters reported. President Boris Trajkovski subsequently ordered the army to "raise combat readiness" along the frontier, dpa reported. Macedonia recently strengthened border security in response to previous incidents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2000). PM

IMF HAS PRAISE, CRITICISM FOR ALBANIA

Speaking in Washington on 9 June, IMF First Managing Director Stanley Fischer praised the Albanian authorities' achievements in pursuing "sound" macroeconomic policies, Reuters reported. Fischer added that Albania has "GDP growing at about 7 percent, inflation at close to zero, and external reserves at a comfortable level." He noted, however, that Tirana still needs to promote structural reforms. PM

CROATIA TO APPLY FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP

Defense Minister Jozo Rados said in Zagreb on 9 June that his government will formally apply for full membership in the Atlantic alliance in the fall, Hina reported. He stressed that Croatia is anxious to meet all terms for NATO membership, including civilian control over the military. Under the late President Franjo Tudjman, who himself was a retired general, the military and intelligence communities were widely regarded as laws unto themselves. PM

CROATIAN GOVERNING PARTY BLASTS FASCIST COMMEMORATION

Prime Minister Ivica Racan's Social Democrats said in a statement on 9 June that a recent commemorative meeting by far-right activists "is in clear contrast to the policies of the Social Democrats." The Zagreb-based Civic Committee for Human Rights called the rally "a grave shame and a real danger for today's Croatia," AP reported. A group of ultranationalists met in Slunj the previous day to honor Jure Francetic, one of the leaders of the World War II pro-Axis Croatian government. PM

FORMER SECRET POLICE BEHIND ROMANIAN INVESTMENT FUND COLLAPSE?

Thirty-six out of the 40 county branch managers of the collapsed National Investment Fund are former Securitate officers, Mediafax reported on 9 June. The other four served in the Interior Ministry and in the Defense Ministry. The previous day, the ad-hoc governmental commission investigating the case said fraud was "committed from within the fund" by people with managerial prerogatives. Earlier, the government had announced that the fund's collapse amounted to a "threat to national security." MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT OPPOSES LEAVING CIS

The cabinet recommended on 10 June that the parliament reject a draft law submitted by the Popular Party Christian Democratic to abrogate all agreements with the CIS, Flux reported. The cabinet says the step would negatively impact on the effort to bring about the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Transdniester and solve the conflict with the separatists there. It also said that Moldovan trade within the CIS is growing and that leaving the organization would be against Moldova's interests. And it added that at the moment, CIS membership does not pose an obstacle to Moldova's integration into European structures. MS

BULGARIA'S CHIEF EU NEGOTIATOR FIRED ON CORRUPTION GROUNDS

Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, speaking on Bulgarian Radio on 9 June, said he has asked Alexander Bozhkov, the country's chief negotiator with the EU, to resign owing to suspicions that he has been involved in corruption. Later the same day, Bozhkov complied with that request. Before his appointment as chief EU negotiator in December 1999, Bozhkov was deputy premier and industry minister and supervised property restitution and privatization. Bulgarian media have dubbed him "Mr. 10 percent," alleging he was involved in dubious deals from which he received a 10 percent cut. Kostov said he asked Bozhkov to step down after receiving a report from the Prosecutor-General's Office, AP and Reuters reported. MS

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES PRESIDENTIAL VETO

The parliament on 9 June voted by 122 to 63 with 12 abstentions to override President Petar Stoyanov's veto of the law shortening military service, AP reported. Last month, Stoyanov had asked lawmakers to reconsider the legislation in view of the military's opposition to it. Under the new legislation, as of 1 October 2001 military service for university graduates will be six months and for regular conscripts nine months. In other news, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on 10 June told Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova in Cairo that he is "committing himself" to take up with the Libyan authorities the issue of the six Bulgarian nationals accused of deliberately infecting children in a Benghazi hospital with the HIV virus last year. MS




KOSOVA ONE YEAR ON: LEADERS SPEAK OUT AGAINST VIOLENCE


By Jolyon Naegele

On the occasion of the first anniversary of the deployment of NATO peacekeepers in Kosova, the international community has sent a strong message to Kosova's leaders that the latest wave of violence is intolerable and must stop.

Serbs have been the main targets in a spate of drive-by shootings, a road mining, and a series of grenade attacks. But two key Albanian figures--former commanders of the disbanded Kosova Liberation Army or (UCK)--were also killed in the last two months.

But NATO-led peacekeepers have also been targets. A car rigged with about half a kilo of plastic explosives and a timer was parked n front of the British battalion headquarters in the center of Pristina late last week. But a British guard noticed something odd about the vehicle, and a KFOR unit deactivated the car bomb in time.

Javier Solana, NATO's former secretary-general, who ordered the 11 weeks of air strikes against Yugoslavia that ended a decade of Serbian repression of Kosova's Albanian majority, is now the EU's high representative for common foreign and security policy. He was in Kosova last week to deliver a stern warning to the top Kosovar Albanian leaders, including political leader Ibrahim Rugova and former UCK commander Hashim Thaci.

"As long as we continue with this level of violence, it will be very difficult to continue with the process of reconstruction in a good way, difficult to continue with the process of reconciliation," he noted. "And therefore I'd like here once again to make a clear appeal to the leaders of this community to lead. To lead means to talk with the people and to condemn what has to be condemned--and the violence has to be condemned."

Solana expressed "alarm and tremendous indignation" at the violence against the Serbian community. He said that the anti-Serb violence --at least 58 attacks last month--is discouraging displaced Serbs from returning. Some 150,000 Kosovar Serbs fled the province last year and most have not yet returned.

A special envoy of U.S. President Bill Clinton delivered a similar message, less harshly worded, to Rugova and Thaci on 8 June. James O'Brien said that Kosova's leaders should put themselves above suspicion of allowing or encouraging violence. "If they act properly in this regard, then acts of violence will be seen for what they are--criminal acts, committed in some cases by extremists, who hope to disrupt the political process that the entire international community has committed itself to," he commented.

O'Brien said the recent incidents are "systematic attempts to destabilize Serb communities." He declined to respond directly to allegations that the Belgrade regime may be behind some of the violence in an effort to destabilize Kosova and discredit the international community. And he argued that a professional criminal investigation is required to establish just who is responsible. O'Brien added that both Rugova and Thaci told him the violence is unacceptable to the people of Kosova, and they committed themselves to work publicly to end the violence.

Rugova and Thaci each issued statements last week deploring the violence. Rugova, in his capacity as head of the Democratic League of Kosova, termed the acts of violence, "especially those targeting the Serb community, extremely disturbing." No matter who is responsible, he said, the violence threatens Kosova's hard-won freedom, stability and peace. Rugova demanded an immediate halt to the violence, warning that further acts, "especially on the first anniversary of freedom, may take away the moral and material support Kosova has had in the international community."

In comparison, Thaci's statement, issued in his capacity as head of the Democratic Party of Kosova, was much more mildly worded. It called for "this phenomenon to disappear" and asks "all citizens of Kosova to refrain from and to denounce all violent acts" and to contribute to increasing security for all citizens of Kosova.

While the international community exerts pressure on Kosova's leaders, KFOR peacekeepers have a similar mission at the grassroots level. The commander of a British battalion currently stationed in Pristina, Lieutenant Colonel James Murray-Playfair, said his troops are talking directly to the people in order to get across " a very clear message, that violence will not be tolerated." He described the recent upsurge in violence as "a relatively small blip," saying that the long-term trend since the UCK was demilitarized in September is toward an increasingly secure environment.

Murray-Playfair added, however, that challenges still remain. The first challenge, he said, "is persuading men of violence--wherever they come from, whether they are Serbs who want to injure policemen, Serbs who want to injure Albanians, Albanians who want to injure Serbs or indeed other Albanians- -the very, very strong, resolute message from all of KFOR is that this violence will not be tolerated. And I think the challenge of security over the summer is one that we will continue to fight out." The author is an RFE/RL senior editor based in Prague.


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