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Newsline - June 14, 2000




MEDIA OLIGARCH THROWN IN PRISON...

Media-Most head Vladimir Gusinskii was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement on 13 June. According to a statement from the press center of the Office of the Prosecutor-General, Gusinskii is suspected of fraud to "deprive the state of assets worth at least $10 million" from the state company Russian Video. One of Gusinskii's lawyers, Pavel Astakhov, told Interfax that by law, official charges must be filed against his client within 10 days. Gusinskii is being held at the 18th-century Butyrka prison in Moscow, Russia's grimmest detention center, according to "Kommersant-Daily." Media-Most Vice President Igor Malashenko said there are "no legal grounds" for arresting Gusinskii and suggested that the arrest was "a show of strength by the new regime." He added that "these are the methods they will employ against those they find inconvenient. Either this must be stopped now or else a strict authoritarian regime awaits us in which no one will feel safe." JAC

...AS PUTIN PLEADS IGNORANCE

When questioned about the arrest in Spain, where he is on an official visit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on 13 June that "if it's the Prosecutor General [who arrested Gusinskii], they are independent and make decisions on their own. I don't know anything about it." Boris Berezovskii's "Kommersant-Daily" noted the next day that the absence from Moscow of not only Putin but also Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, who is presenting his new prosecutors in the seven federal districts, "is allowing authorities to distance themselves as far as possible from the investigation." On 14 June, Putin promised that on his return he will look into the Gusinskii case. If the law has been broken, he said, those who have broken it will get "an appropriate response from the president." He also denied that the arrest had any political aspect. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov defended the arrest on 14 June, saying that "I think that, probably, the Prosecutor-General's Office carefully weighed all the evidence before reaching such a decision." JAC

SOME DOMESTIC POLITICAL FIGURES, GROUPS CRITICIZE ARREST...

State Duma Chairman (Communist) Gennadii Seleznev took a similar position to the government's on the Gusinskii case, noting that "the prosecutors must have considered the issue a hundred times before deciding to seize Gusinskii," Interfax reported. However, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said on 14 June that Gusinskii's detention is "an attempt to frighten the media and society" and is also a move against Putin. Union of Rightist Forces head Boris Nemtsov condemned the action, saying on 13 June that it "seriously discredits Russia," while Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais also criticized the move, admitting at the same time that he personally does "not have simple relations with Gusinskii." On 14 June, the Union of Russian Journalists slammed Gusinskii's arrest as "a political act," declaring that the government has "begun the destruction of the independent press and free speech under the pretext of establishing order." JAC

...AS U.S. SAYS IT'S WATCHING CLOSELY

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said on 13 June that "we are going to want to take a look at this [detention] and understand the details, but we are quite concerned about some of the steps that have been taken against the free media." U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said "this new action against Mr. Gusinskii will obviously draw the closest scrutiny." Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii predicted that more arrests are forthcoming: Gusinskii is not the "last one on the list. It is only the beginning. Oligarchs, former ministers, former deputies and governors will be next." JAC

BEREZOVSKII COMMENTS ON RIVAL'S FATE...

Oligarch Boris Berezovskii told Interfax on 13 June that his "personal attitude to what has happened to Gusinskii is very negative, whether he's guilty or not." One of Berezovskii's newspapers, "Kommersant-Daily," quoted Berezovskii the next day as saying that "Gusinskii became a victim of his own machine." According to Berezovskii, Gusinskii hired "some of the most experienced people from the KGB" and "sooner or later this machine was going to turn against him." Meanwhile, Spain's "La Razon" reported on 12 June, citing local police and intelligence sources, that President Putin visited Spain secretly at least five times last year as a guest of Berezovskii. JAC

...ARGUES OLIGARCHS INEVITABLE BY-PRODUCT OF CAPITALISM

Berezovskii also opined that "Russia chose the path of a market economy--this means that in the country there will be oligarchs. As in any country that develops along this path. The relationship between the oligarchs and authorities is always complex, but at the same time it is always partner- like. If that comes to an end, it will only be with the beginning of Soviet power." JAC

U.S. JEWISH COMMUNITY PROTESTS GUSINSKII'S ARREST

The executive director of the World Jewish Congress, Elan Steinberg, told Reuters on 13 June that he is afraid the arrest of Media-Most head Gusinskii is a sign that Russia is sliding back to Soviet-style repression. According to a statement issued jointly with several other U.S. Jewish leaders, "the Jewish community has noted with distress the ongoing attacks by government-owned and other media against Gusinskii and the Russian Jewish Congress." Gusinskii is president of the Russian Jewish Congress and vice president of the World Jewish Congress. JAC

ATTACK ON GUSINSKII EXTENDED TO RELIGIOUS REALM?

One day after meeting with President Putin at a Kremlin reception on 12 June, members of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia elected Berl Lazar as chief rabbi of Russia. The federation is composed mainly of Lubavitch Hasidim. Other Jewish groups in Russia, whose members are either Orthodox or Reform Jews, say they will continue to recognize Adolf Shaevich as Russia's chief rabbi, "The Moscow Times" reported on 14 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 8 June 2000). Shaevich said that he believes that the Hasidim "were inspired by prominent politicians in the country who want to divide the Russian Jews," Interfax reported. Shaevich also said that he believes the arrest of Media-Most head Gusinskii and the vote by the federation are "undoubtedly parts of one very thick chain." Supporters of Shaevich told media outlets previously that they believed the Kremlin is exerting political pressure on Shaevich because of his close association with Gusinskii. JAC

WHY SPAIN?

Putin's choice of Spain for his first official visit abroad since his inauguration as president has generated considerable curiosity among media outlets. Besides the potential for boosting Spanish investments in Russia-- ITAR-TASS on 13 June reported that those investments to date total some $100 million--the relatively trouble-free nature of Spanish-Russian relations appears to have largely contributed to determining that choice. The government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 14 June quoted First Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev as commenting that "there are no conflicts in Russian-Spanish relations. The closeness of our viewpoints on the situation in Europe is an additional stimulus for conducting coordinated policies that would reliably rule out any risks for Europe." dpa, for its part, reported that Putin's current tour, which also includes Germany, has been interpreted as a snub toward France, traditionally a more important partner for Russia than Spain. The German news agency notes Spain's "discrete attitude" toward the war in Chechnya, which Paris, by contrast, has strongly criticized. JC

RUSSIA, U.S. DECLINE TO BUDGE OVER DEFENSE SHIELD...

U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen emerged from talks with Russian President Putin and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev in Moscow on 13 June saying that the Russian proposal for a joint missile defense shield cannot replace a U.S. limited anti-missile system but may supplement it. Cohen repeated U.S. concerns that a common European theater system would take too long to develop but said that U.S. and Russian experts will continue to meet to discuss "the nature and the concept and the technology" that might be involved in ensuring protection against "rogue states." Sergeev, for his part, stressed Moscow's position that the threat perceived by the U.S. is "virtual" rather than real and warned of a new arms race if Washington violates the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty by deploying a national defense system. JC

...WHILE MOSCOW TOUTS 'POLITICAL UMBRELLA'

Sergeev also said after his meeting with Cohen that Russia is proposing the creation of a "political umbrella" with the U.S. and unspecified other countries. That umbrella would be based on "mutual understandings and commitments covered by a verification system," Interfax quoted the Russian defense minister as saying. He also argued that such an arrangement would be "more effective, cheaper, and less dangerous" than erecting a missile shield. JC

MOSCOW HAILS PYONGYANG-SEOUL MEETING

Moscow on 13 June welcomed the summit between the North and South Korean leaders that began in Pyongyang the same day. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov told Interfax that the meeting "gives rise to hope for the start of a constructive dialogue between the two countries," adding that Moscow "is closely following the course and possible outcomes" of the current talks. Also on 13 June, Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov said he fully supports Russian President Putin's decision to visit North Korea in the near future. He called for the "so-called democratic narrow-mindedness" of the past decade to be abandoned, saying that this approach had resulted in the loss of tens of billions of rubles for Russia. Russian-North Korean relations cooled after the breakup of the Soviet Union as Moscow sought to cultivate tights with South Korea. JC

KADYROV OUTLINES PRIORITIES...

In an interview published in "Vremya novostei" on 14 June, Chechen Mufti Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov said his first priority as head of the temporary administration in Chechnya will be to put an end to military activities, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that he will not be able to accomplish that goal without the help of the Russian Defense and Interior Ministry troops, who have pledged their support. Kadyrov said that he will not reject contacts with either Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov or field commander Shamil Basaev but that he will not "speak a common language with those who made slave-trading and hostage-taking their business." Arbi Baraev, one of the few prominent field commanders still at large, has been implicated in numerous kidnappings for ransom. LF

... AS HIS APPOINTMENT WIDELY ACCLAIMED...

Russia's Supreme Mufti Sheikh Ul-Islam Talgat Tadjuddin on 13 June expressed approval of Kadyrov's appointment, ITAR-TASS reported. The following day, the Russian Council of Muftis bestowed its blessing on Kadyrov. Fourteen Chechen imams likewise told Interfax that they believe Kadyrov's appointment will contribute to stabilization in Chechnya. Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev said in St. Petersburg on 13 June that he considers Kadyrov the most effective figure to normalize the political and economic situation in Chechnya, while Communist Party leader Zyuganov pledged his party's support for Putin's legislation imposing direct rule on Chechnya, Interfax reported. The leadership of Daghestan likewise undertook to give Kadyrov "all possible assistance" in "restoring peace and law" in Chechnya. LF

...WITH A FEW EXCEPTIONS

Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev, however, predicted that Kadyrov's appointment will make no difference to either the political or the military situation in Chechnya, Interfax reported. Aushev insisted that Moscow should embark on talks with either Maskhadov or other representatives of the Chechen resistance. Malik Saidullaev, chairman of the pro-Moscow Chechen State Council, who had himself aspired to Kadyrov's new post, termed the mufti's appointment "a profound mistake," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 June. LF

RIGHT-WING PARTIES CRITICIZE PUTIN'S CHECHEN BILL

The leaders of the Yabloko and Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) Duma factions have both criticized Putin's bill "On Organizing a Provisional System of Executive Power in the Chechen Republic," Interfax reported. SPS leader Nemtsov said the provisions of Putin's bill duplicate the draft law on emergency situations also submitted to the Duma for discussion. Both Nemtsov and Sergei Ivanenko, deputy leader of the Yabloko faction, condemned as unacceptable the restrictions envisaged by the Putin bill on press freedom in Chechnya. Ivanenko, for his part, said it "may set a dangerous precedent of forming a military-police regime on a specific territory [and] grossly violating freedom of speech and human rights." LF

DAGHESTAN RIOT LEADERS SENTENCED, AMNESTIED

Daghestan's Supreme Court on 13 June handed down prison sentences of 18 months and three years on Union of Muslims of Russia chairman Nadirshakh Khachilaev and his brother Magomed, who heads an organization representing Daghestan's Lak minority, Russian agencies reported. The two men led demonstrators who occupied the government building in Makhachkala two years ago to demand the direct election of the republic's present (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 May 1998). After the sentences were pronounced, the brothers were released from custody under the terms of an amnesty enacted by the Russian State Duma to mark the 55th anniversary of the end of World War II. LF

KASYANOV FINALLY TALKS DOWN THE RUBLE

The ruble fell sharply against the dollar in trading on 13 June, slipping to 28.4296 rubles per dollar from 28.2450 rubles on 9 June. One trader told Reuters that "the dollar rose because [Prime Minister Mikhail] Kasyanov said on [9 June] that we did not need a strong ruble" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2000). Dealers also reported that the Central Bank did not appear active in trading. JAC

CENTRAL BANK ASSETS IN FRANCE UNFROZEN

A French court on 13 June ordered the release of assets of the Russian Central Bank that have been frozen since late last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 2000). The assets were frozen following an earlier court decision in favor of the Swiss firm Noga, which claims that the Russian government owes it $800 million for goods delivered in the early 1990s, according to Reuters. The Russian government had challenged the seizures arguing that they violated the Vienna Convention on diplomatic protection. JAC

CORRECTION:

"RFE/RL Newsline" incorrectly reported on 12 June that General Anatolii Kvashnin, chief of the armed forces' General Staff, was reappointed to the Security Council. Although Kvashnin previously attended meetings of the Security Council, he was an observer with no voting rights. Putin's decree of 10 June raises Kvashnin's status to full member, giving the Defense Ministry two members on the council, rather than its previous single slot.




ARMENIAN PREMIER SAYS POLITICAL CRISIS OVER

Meeting with foreign ambassadors in Yerevan on 13 June, Andranik Markarian said that the tensions that dominated Armenian politics for the seven months following the 27 October Armenian parliament shootings are now resolved, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But he admitted that the negative impact of those tensions on the macro-economic situation is still being felt. He again pledged his government's commitment to the policy of reforms embarked upon by previous cabinets, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

COUNCIL OF EUROPE COMMITTEE ABIDES BY RULINGS ON ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN

The Political Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has endorsed its previous recommendation that Armenia be granted full membership in that organization, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 13 June. Armenia's admission is unlikely to be delayed by the PACE Human Rights and Legal Affairs Committee's recommendation that Azerbaijan's full membership be made contingent on the conduct of the November parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 21, 26 May 2000). Meanwhile, Reporters sans Frontieres has appealed to the Council of Europe to demand that Azerbaijan liberalize its media laws and halt the persecution of journalists before it is given full membership, Turan reported on 13 June. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT ENDORSES NEW AGRICULTURE MINISTER

By a vote of 152 to two, deputies on 13 June approved the candidacy of David Kirvalidze as minister of agriculture, Caucasus Press reported. Kirvalidze, who was born in 1967 and graduated from the Georgian State Agrarian University, previously chaired the parliamentary committee for agrarian affairs. LF

GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS THREATEN MASS PROTESTS

Opposition parliamentary deputy Djemal Gamakharia said on 13 June that Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia plan to stage mass actions to protest the violent dispersal by Tbilisi special police the previous day of some 300 displaced persons who had gathered outside the Constitutional Court to demand payment of their overdue allowances, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2000). Addressing members of his Party for the Liberation of Abkhazia on 13 June, Tamaz Nadareishvili, who is chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile (which is composed of Georgian deputies to the Abkhaz parliament elected in late 1991), expressed support for all actions by the displaced persons aimed at resolving their social problems. But he also warned the exiles not to give way to "provocations" intended to destabilize the political situation. Nadareishvili again called for military action to bring Abkhazia back under the control of the central Georgian government. LF

RUSSIA QUESTIONS VERDICTS ON 'SEPARATISTS' IN EASTERN KAZAKHSTAN

In a statement summarized by Interfax on 13 June, the Russian Foreign Ministry questioned whether the sentences of between four and 18 years in prison handed down last week on Russian nationals in eastern Kazakhstan are justified. The Russians were found guilty of planning to overthrow the leadership of East Kazakhstan Oblast and declare the region an independent Russian Altai Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2000). Russian politicians and commentators had earlier suggested those charges were fabricated. LF

KAZAKHSTAN, TAJIKISTAN ASSESS BILATERAL RELATIONS

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev arrived in Dushanbe on 13 June for talks with his Tajik counterpart, Imomali Rakhmonov, on the eve of the Central Asian Union summit, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Rakhmonov told journalists that he and Nazarbaev agree on the need to realize the "vast" potential for greater integration in order to raise bilateral ties to a "qualitatively new level." Nazarbaev remarked upon the positive benefits of the Tajik peace process. He also called for a speedy solution to the war in Afghanistan, saying that the situation in that country poses a direct threat to Kazakhstan. LF

TURKEY PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR REFORMS IN KYRGYZSTAN

Following talks in Bishkek on 13 June with President Askar Akaev, Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Muratbek Imanaliev, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem told journalists that he considers that Kyrgyzstan has made greater progress toward democratization and economic reform than its Central Asian neighbors, Interfax reported. He added that Turkey will continue to support Kyrgyzstan's cooperation with NATO and the OSCE. Cem also said that further bilateral talks on regional security will be held in late August. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS NO MORE MONEY TO AGRICULTURAL SECTOR

Alyaksandr Lukashenka, meeting with government officials on 13 June, discussed the situation in the agricultural sector, Belarusian Television reported. "I want to give advance notice to oblast executive committee chairmen: today you are forbidden to wail, groan, and weep," Lukashenka commented, "Remember--you have come here not to obtain money.... All the money you asked for was given to you. What is more, we have squeezed out the industrial sector to the extent that they, poor wretches, can barely stand on their feet. Therefore, no more subsidies to the agricultural sector," he said. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SUBMITS BILL ON TAX AMNESTY

Leonid Kuchma has submitted to the parliament a bill on a tax amnesty for citizens who have concealed their revenues at home and abroad, Interfax reported on 13 June. The bill proposes that private businessmen deposit their concealed cash and property in Ukrainian commercial banks, where they would be taxed at a rate of 10 percent. Under the bill, the amnesty offer would be valid for one year, but businessmen would be obliged to declare their revenues during the first six months following the law's passage. The bill includes a promise that those who declare their assets will not be punished for previous violations of tax regulations and bans officials from seeking information on the origins of income. Kuchma has asked the parliament to consider the bill urgent and include it on the agenda immediately. JM

UKRAINE DENIES ALLEGATIONS OF SUPPLYING ARMS TO SIERRA LEONE

The Foreign Ministry has rejected allegations in foreign media that Kyiv supplied weapons to the anti- government United Front in Sierra Leone last year, Interfax reported on 13 June. Those who make such allegations "not only attempt to conceal their dirty deeds but also want to remove Ukraine from the international weapons market through unfair competition," the agency quoted a ministry official as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN EX-PREMIER PLEADS INNOCENT TO MONEY-LAUNDERING

Ukrainian former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko has pleaded not guilty to charges of laundering some $114 million he allegedly stole while in office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2000), Reuters reported on 13 June. Those charges have been brought by the U.S., which is holding Lazarenko in a federal prison in California, pending the resolution of an extradition request by Switzerland. Lazarenko's lawyers have vowed to fight the U.S. charges, depicting their client as the victim of a political vendetta by his former ally, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. JM

ESTONIA LOOKS FOR REVENUE TO COVER GROWING BUDGET DEFICIT

The Estonian government intends to take a 222 million kroon ($13.88 million) dividend from the profits of the Port of Tallinn to help cover its growing budget deficit, "Postimees" and ETA reported 13 June. That amount, which represents 75 percent of profits earned by the state-owned facility in 1999, had been intended for financing improvements and expansion of port facilities. The Finance Ministry has ordered the Port of Tallinn to borrow funds needed for any investments in its facilities this year. AB

RIGA AUTHORITIES GIVE GO-AHEAD TO COMPETING DEMONSTRATIONS

LETA reported on 13 June that the Riga City Council has approved two marches to be held separately later this week. National Bolsheviks from the Uzvara (Victory) organization have agreed to change their proposed march route so that they can proceed from the Red Riflemen Monument to the headquarters of Lattelekom on 16 June to hold a rally protesting the government monopoly's increase in telephone rates. Permission has also been given to the parliamentary For Fatherland and Freedom Party (LNNK) to stage a march on 17 June to commemorate Occupation Day, which commemorates the victims of Soviet occupation. AB

NEW LAW ALLOWS LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT TO SEEK COMPENSATION

The parliament on 13 June gave final approval to a bill calling on Russia, as the legal successor to the Soviet Union, to pay compensation for five decades of Soviet occupation. The legislation, which still requires the signature of President Valdas Adamkus, sets out a timetable for the government to seek financial compensation from Russia for the repression and environmental damage that took place from 1940-1990. A delegation to the negotiations must be formed by 1 September 2000 and the compensation demand must be made by 1 November 2000. Former Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas said the majority of strategic sites built in Lithuania during the Soviet occupation were financed by the USSR and constructed by all former Soviet republics, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 June. Meanwhile, a group of Russian State Duma members responsible for relations with the Lithuanian parliament has cancelled its planned working visit to Vilnius. AB

RULING PARLIAMENTARY FACTION DEFEATS PRESS TAX BILL

The ruling parliamentary faction, the Homeland Union-Conservative Party, has defeated a bill that would have applied the countrys 18 percent value-added tax to newspapers throughout the country, ELTA reported 13 June. Currently, the VAT is rebated to newspapers and other publications. The Homeland Union released a statement saying that it had never supported the measure, which had been authored by its former coalition partner, the Christian Democratic Party (KDP). AB

POLISH PRESIDENT INAUGURATES RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN

Aleksander Kwasniewski on 13 June opened his re-election campaign in Kielce, southern Poland, where he launched his successful bid in 1995. Kwasniewski visited the local technical university and was awarded honorary citizenship of Kielce by the city council. Right-wing councilors boycotted the ceremony, prompting Kwasniewski to comment that not everyone has become mature enough for democracy. Kwasniewski also announced that Ryszard Kalisz, head of the presidential chancellery, will lead his election staff, adding that his election campaign will cost no more than the previous one. Kwasniewski defeated Lech Walesa in 1995 in the second round by a small margin. This year, he is expected to win easily, given his 70 percent public approval rating. JM

POLAND'S LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO OBTAIN MORE IN TAX REVENUES

Jerzy Buzek's cabinet on 13 June adopted a bill increasing the proportion of tax revenues that will be used to fund local government, PAP reported. Under the new resolution, as of 1 January 2001 the communes' share in corporate income tax revenues is to be raised to 25 percent from 5 percent, the provinces' share to 5 percent from 0.5 percent, and the districts' share to 5 percent from zero percent. Shares in personal income tax revenues will be raised to 45 percent from 27.6 percent, to 2.5 percent from 1.5 percent, and to 4 percent from 1 percent, respectively. "We promote the economic development of the whole country by motivating local government to take care of taxpayers' interests," AP quoted Deputy Finance Minister Jerzy Miller as saying. JM

POLISH RAILROAD TRADE UNIONS SUSPEND NATIONWIDE STRIKE

Following talks with the Labor Ministry on 13 June, trade unionists from Polish Railroads (PKP) have decided to postpone a nationwide strike scheduled for 15 June for two weeks, PAP reported. The railroad trade unions demand forgiveness of PKP's $1.4 billion debt, job guarantees, and subsidies for their loss-making enterprise. Under a restructuring plan, PKP's 190,000-strong workforce is to be reduced by 40,000 by 2002. According to a trade unionist quoted by PAP, newly appointed Transport Minister Jerzy Widzyk pledged that the government will continue paying subsidies to PKP and reduce its debt. JM

EU COMMISSIONER DENIES EXPANSION TALKS STALLED

EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said in Luxembourg on 13 June that he disagrees with those who believe that the talks with countries seeking EU membership have stalled, dpa reported. Verheugen said negotiations with the six "fast-track" countries-- the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia--are on schedule and proceeding faster than did negotiations with Portugal and Spain in the 1980s. On 14 June, the six are due to begin negotiations on agricultural issues, considered to be among the most difficult because the EU already spends nearly half its budget on agricultural subsidies and concern has been expressed that new members will only add to the burden. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT WILL NOT SEEK SECOND TERM

President Rudolf Schuster told TASR on 13 June that he will not seek a second mandate, AP reported. The 66-year old head of state did not give any reason for that decision. MS

SLOVAK PROSECUTORS SAY MECIAR'S DETENTION WAS LEGAL

The Prosecutor-General's Office on 13 June said the detention of former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar on 20 April was legal and in accordance with the provisions of the law, CTK reported. Meciar was detained after he ignored a police summons to testify in the case of the abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995. His Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has filed a complaint over Meciar's detention and has also staged demonstrations and boycotted the parliament in protest. MS

CABINET TO HAVE SAY IN FOREIGN TROOPS' USE OF HUNGARIAN TERRITORY

The parliament on 13 June passed an amendment to the constitution giving the government a say in the approval of foreign troops' use of Hungarian territory and air space. Under the amendment, the cabinet will decide whether to allow military aircraft of allied states to enter and use Hungarian airspace. It will also decide on as whether allied troops can take part in exercises on Hungarian territory. The amendment was prompted by obligations arising from NATO membership. The participation of Hungarian soldiers in either peace-keeping or combat activities and the permanent stationing of foreign troops in Hungary continue to require approval by a two-thirds majority in the parliament. MSZ

OIL SCANDAL CONTINUES IN HUNGARY

Independent Smallholders Party deputy Laszlo Pallag, who chairs the parliamentary committee investigating illegal oil dealings, has asked to meet with Prosecutor General Peter Polt to discuss cooperation in investigating allegations of police corruption related to illegal oil dealings from 1992-1996 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2000). Pallag said he wants to receive guarantees that materials transferred to the Prosecutor-General's Office will be investigated. Meanwhile, Sandor Lezsak, former chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Forum, has filed a complaint against Pallag, who mentioned his name among those who an anonymous witness claims were involved in the illegal oil dealings. MSZ




PROTESTS GREET LI PENG IN SLOVENIA

Li Peng, who is the speaker of the Chinese parliament, laid a wreath on 13 June at the site of the bombed Chinese embassy building in Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2000). Li said that the bombing was "evidence of the barbarian character of the NATO action, headed by the United States," Tanjug reported. Prior to Li's visit to the Slovenian parliament in Ljubljana on 14 June, some 50 demonstrators marched in front of the building to protest Chinese policies regarding human rights and Tibet. Branko Grims, who is a leading member of the conservative Social Democrats, said that the government should not invite guests as controversial as Li in the future, AP reported. The Social Democrats belong to the three-party governing coalition. Li played a key role in the killings of hundreds or thousands of demonstrators on Beijing's Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Foreign Minister Lojze Peterle defended the visit, saying it was in return for a previous trip by Slovenian leaders to China. PM

KOUCHNER BANS ALBANIA'S BERISHA FROM KOSOVA...

Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, told former Albanian President Sali Berisha on 13 June that he must cancel a planned trip to Kosova on unspecified security grounds. Berisha hoped to arrive in Kosova the following day. Kouchner ordered police to bar Berisha if he tried to enter the province from Kukes, an aide to Kouchner said. Police controls were tight along the border with Albania on 14 June, AP reported. Berisha said in Tirana the previous day that he would not hold rallies in Kosova but would simply "greet the people" to mark the first anniversary of the end of Serbian rule. He added that the trip to Kosova would be the "visit of my dreams," "Albanian Daily News" reported. PM

...TO THE CONSTERNATION OF RUGOVA'S SUPPORTERS

Berisha's trip to Kosova was organized by his closest political allies in the province, namely Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), the LDK's QIK news agency reported from Prizren on 14 June. LDK supporters who turned out to greet Berisha in western Kosova were very disappointed. "We are very surprised" by Kouchner's decision, said LDK Vice President Eqrem Kryeziu, AP reported. "The motives for this are completely unknown. The argument that Mr. Berisha's visit to Kosova will destabilize the situation in Kosova is a lie," Kryeziu added. Albanian President Rexhep Meidani, whose Socialist Party is close to Rugova's rival Hashim Thaci of the former Kosova Liberation Army, visited Kosova recently (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2000). PM

ALBANIAN MEDALS FOR KOSOVA FIGHTERS

On 13 June, President Meidani posthumously awarded the Order of the Golden Eagle to two Albanian citizens who died fighting Serbian forces in Kosova in 1999, AP reported. PM

DEL PONTE REJECTS AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL'S CLAIMS

Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor at the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said on 13 June that she stands by her previous decision not to investigate NATO for war crimes, as the regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has demanded (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2000). She rejected recent calls by Amnesty International for such an investigation: "I can only assume our experts are more expert than the experts at Amnesty International. And especially, my people have much more experience in [investigating]...crimes against humanity," Reuters reported. She added that Hague investigators found no conclusive evidence that NATO deliberately targeted civilians, as Belgrade and Amnesty have charged. PM

U.S. 'WELCOMES' MONTENEGRIN ELECTION RESULTS

Speaking in Washington on 13 June, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said that "the United States welcomes the peaceful and democratic municipal elections that took place June 11th in the Montenegrin cities of Podgorica and Herceg Novi. These elections mark an important step forward in the development of democracy in Montenegro, as well as in Yugoslavia. The successful conduct of these elections renews our hope that all of Yugoslavia will soon enjoy the freedom and protection of basic human rights already enjoyed by the people of Montenegro," an RFE/RL correspondent reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2000). PM

MILOSEVIC AIDE BLAMES MINORITIES FOR PODGORICA VOTE

Danilo Vuksanovic, who is Yugoslav deputy prime minister and a leader of Montenegro's pro-Milosevic Socialist People's Party (SNP), said that candidates supporting President Milo Djukanovic won in Podgorica because they had the votes of ethnic Albanians and Muslims. Vuksanovic added that the minorities know that they do not have enough votes to elect their own candidates and that they regard Djukanovic as their best hope "for the destruction of Yugoslavia," "Vesti" reported on 14 June. Vuksanovic argued that the Serbian "Orthodox population sees its future in the union of Serbia and Montenegro." Milosevic's supporters have charged for several years that Djukanovic needs the votes of ethnic minorities to win elections. Djukanovic responds that his program appeals to people across ethnic lines because it rejects nationalist politics. PM

MONTENEGRIN LOSERS TAKE THEIR HATS

The two leaders whose respective coalitions lost in the Montenegrin local elections have accepted responsibility for those defeats and resigned, "Vesti" reported on 14 June. Predrag Bulatovic quit as head of the pro-Milosevic coalition in Podgorica, while Svetozar Marovic resigned as leader of the pro-Djukanovic group in Herceg Novi. PM

SERBIAN AUTHORITIES REFUSE TO REGISTER OTPOR

A spokesman for the Otpor (Resistance) student movement said in Belgrade on 13 June that the Yugoslav Justice Ministry has refused to register Otpor on the grounds that it has conducted "illegal activities." These allegedly include calling on "people to rebel and violently overthrow the constitutional order," Reuters reported. The spokesman added that the decision shows that the regime is afraid of Otpor, which will begin to pursue its campaign for registration in the courts. Meanwhile in Luxembourg, the EU appealed to the fractious Serbian opposition to unite in the face of increased repression, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

KLEIN CALLS FOR MORE BOSNIAN POLICE TRAINERS

Jacques Klein, who is the UN's chief representative in Bosnia, said at the UN on 13 June that he is well on his way to meeting a target of training 20,000 police by 2002. He added, however, that he needs additional foreign experts to finish the job. Some 10,000 Bosnian police have completed training in human rights, forensics, pathology, traffic control, and criminology so far, he noted. Klein also stressed that NATO must remain in Bosnia as long as each of the three ethnic groups maintains its own army, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. PM

ROMANIAN DROUGHT, THEFT DECLARED 'SECURITY THREAT'

Romania's Supreme Council of National Defense on 13 June called for "the immediate and energetic intervention of the government" to deal with the effects of the drought that has affected 40 percent of agricultural land in the country. Damage is estimated at more than $200 million. President Emil Constantinescu said that the damage is due not to the drought alone but also to "generalized theft." Many irrigation pipelines have been stolen as well as oil pipelines, resulting in the threat of a "large-scale ecological catastrophe." MS

BANKING CRISIS CONTINUES IN ROMANIA

Another banking institution, the Fortune Popular Bank, has ceased payments to depositors and announced it will "start liquidation procedures," Romanian media reported on 13 June. The IMF, meanwhile, has released the second, $116 million tranche of Romania's recently rescheduled stand-by loan. MS

MOLDOVANS TO NEED PASSPORTS FOR ROMANIA

As of 1 July 2001, Moldovan citizens wishing to visit Romania will need passports, Flux reported on 13 July. The Romanian media earlier reported that the measure is aimed at improving border controls in line with EU recommendations. Until now, Moldovan citizens were able to visit Romania by presenting only ID cards at the border. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SATISFIED WITH CHINESE VISIT

President Petru Lucinschi, returning to Chisinau from a five-day visit to China, said on 13 June that the results of his trip "surpassed all my expectations," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Lucinschi met with President Jiang Zemin, Premier Zhu Rongji, and other officials. A joint declaration signed by the two sides condemned separatism and noted the two countries' identical views on today's main international problems. Beijing expressed support for Moldovan efforts to settle the Transdniester conflict and to become integrated into European structures. Chisinau, for its part, said it views Taiwan as an integral part of the Chinese People's Republic. The two sides agreed on concrete measures aimed at boosting bilateral trade. MS

UKRAINE TO CLEAR DEBT TO BULGARIA BY GAS SUPPLIES

Ukraine will export to Bulgaria some 600 million cubic meters of natural gas in exchange for Bulgaria's involvement in laying pipelines in the 1970s, AP reported on 13 June, quoting Bulgarian officials. The Ukrainian side will buy the gas from Russia, which recently rejected Bulgaria's request to lower the cost of gas deliveries. A total of 200 million cubic meters will be delivered in 2000 and 378 million cubic meters in 2001. MS




OSCE URGES CENTRAL ASIA TO MOVE FASTER TOWARD DEMOCRACY


By Roland Eggleston

In her meetings with the Central Asian presidents earlier this month, OSCE Chairwoman Benita Ferrero-Waldner said her organization does not expect those countries to turn into full democracies overnight. But she said more can be done to implement the common values that underpin membership in the OSCE.

She told the Central Asian leaders that the OSCE is disappointed with the conduct of the elections in the region over the past 18 months. All the countries failed in various ways to meet the OSCE's standards for a democratic poll. She recommended that roundtables be organized with the participation of the government, extraparliamentary political parties, and non-governmental organizations to introduce more democracy into the political process.

In each of the five countries, the OSCE chairwoman was told that the government shares the values of the OSCE and is committed to democracy and human rights. But all the governments asked for understanding, saying it is not easy to sweep away the past and meet the standards of Western democracies. Ferrero-Waldner insisted, however, that by joining the OSCE the Central Asian countries committed themselves to moving forward on democracy. She called for steady steps forward and said her personal motto for Central Asia is "evolution, not revolution."

In Turkmenistan, the chairwoman appealed to President Saparmurat Niyazov to release four prisoners who the OSCE believes were detained for political reasons. OSCE officials said Niyazov gave a long explanation as to why the men should stay in prison. But he said one of them--Nurberdy Nurmamedov- -might be freed under an amnesty at the end of the year.

Nurmamedov is the leader of the opposition group Agzybirlik, which has been refused registration. In February he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment on charges of hooliganism. International organizations suggest his arrest was related to his criticism of last December's elections and his political opposition to Niyazov.

Niyazov told Ferrero-Waldner that Turkmenistan is creating its own type of democracy in accordance with its own traditions and at its own tempo. He argued that free media and a multi-party political system would be harmful to the secure development of the country. Niyazov repeated what he has told other OSCE leaders--that he expects "a form of democracy" will emerge in Turkmenistan in about 10 years.

Of the six Turkmen NGOs that met with Ferrero-Waldner, two represented civil society movements and the other four were environmentalist groups. Some complained about government control of the media and said lack of information hinders democratic development.

In Kyrgyzstan, the OSCE chairwoman sought the release of Feliks Kulov, the leader of the opposition Ar-Namys party, and she asked President Askar Akayev to review measures against Daniyar Usenov and other opposition leaders. Akayev said he would consider her appeal but gave no assurances that Kulov would be freed.

A meeting of NGOs charged that Kyrgyzstan no longer deserves its previous image as a relatively liberal country allowing more freedoms than other states in Central Asia. The NGOs reported instances of police abuse and religious persecution, noting that the government fails to fulfill the promises it made to international organizations.

The OSCE chairwoman said she recognizes that Kyrgyzstan has fallen short of its commitments but argued it is closer to meeting them than other countries, notably Turkmenistan. She urged the NGOs to support plans for a roundtable meeting between the government and other groups in society, saying it would be an important step in moving toward democracy.

In Tajikistan, the OSCE chairwoman told President Imomali Rakhmonov that her group welcomes the end of the civil war and will offer all the help it can in building a new society. But she said the OSCE is concerned about the rights of women in Tajikistan. She quoted an international report suggesting that 27 percent of women in Tajikistan suffer violence.

She also appealed for a review of the case against 21- year-old Dilfuza Nomonova, who in January was sentenced to death on murder charges in a trial that has drawn international criticism. The OSCE is not making a judgement on whether the woman is guilty, Ferrero-Waldner said, but it does believe she should have had a fair trial. The chairwoman said she is also disturbed at reports that the woman, who was pregnant when arrested, was forced to undergo an abortion. As a result, she became eligible for execution (in Tajikistan, pregnant women cannot be executed).

In Kazakhstan, the OSCE chairwoman welcomed the implementation of an OSCE project on penitentiary reform, which, she said, should contribute to the improvement of overall conditions in prisons, including the treatment of prisoners.

But at a meeting with President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Ferrero-Waldner also criticized the closure of some independent newspapers for political reasons. At the Kazakh NGO meeting, she was told that the state charges independent newspapers higher fees for distributing and printing.

In Uzbekistan, the OSCE chairwoman asked President Islam Karimov about the repression of opposition groups. One prominent member of the opposition, Mikhail Ardzinov, had asked her to intervene on behalf of two imprisoned members of his organization.

The chairman of the Human Rights Society, Talib Jakubov, said Uzbekistan is failing to meet its commitments to OSCE principles. He said there have been many arrests and detentions as well as reports of torture, and he asked what the OSCE can do to protect the rights of those arrested. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Munich.


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