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Newsline - June 16, 2000




PUTIN CALLS MEDIA TYCOON'S ARREST 'EXCESSIVE'...

Two days after the arrest of Media-Most head Vladimir Gusinskii, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters in Germany on 15 June he thinks that Gusinskii's jailing was "excessive" and that "it would have been possible [instead] to insist that he not leave the country." Putin added that while the detention may have been excessive, he "could not prevent it" since the Office of the Prosecutor-General is independent. Putin also drew attention once again to Gusinskii's unpaid loans, noting that "he is not a journalist, but a businessman. He takes loans all the time from different banks and rarely pays them back" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2000). Meanwhile, agencies and newspapers in Siberia and the Far East report that Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov has steadfastly refrained from any comment on the case, although journalists have dogged him through most of his travels from Ekaterinburg to Novosibirsk and Sakhalin. JAC

...AS GUSINSKII SUGGESTS RUSSIA RETURNING TO THE BAD OLD DAYS

Gusinskii, meanwhile, issued a statement through his lawyer on 15 June, saying that his detention is "a political intrigue that has been organized by senior members of the government, for whom freedom of speech is dangerous, and interferes with the realization of their version of the 'new Russia'; in fact this is a return to our totalitarian past." A chief investigator of the Gusinskii case, Valentin Nikolaev, told Russian Television that official charges will be brought against the media baron on 16 June. Nikolaev also did not rule out that Gusinskii would be released pending trial. JAC

MORE INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT EXPRESSED FOR GUSINSKII

Fifty-two U.S. Congressmen have asked U.S. President Bill Clinton to press the Russian government to explain the detention of Gusinskii, Reuters reported on 15 June. The letter stated that "considering the history of anti-Semitism in Russia, we fear that the targeting of Mr. Gusinskii, who is president of the Russian Jewish Congress, may be a threat to the Russian Jewish community at large." The same day, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak called for Russian prosecutors to reconsider the arrest, and the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe Walter Schwimmer called Gusinskii's case a "matter of concern," AFP reported. JAC

RUSSIA, GERMANY LOOK TO FRESH START IN BILATERAL TIES

Speaking after his initial meeting with Russian President Putin in Berlin on 15 June, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder announced that Germany wants to make "a truly substantial new beginning in bilateral relations" and has an interest in a "truly strategic partnership with Russia." Putin, who had arrived from a visit to Spain overshadowed by the Gusinskii case, responded in the same vein, saying that Germany is the "most important economic partner for Russia in Europe." Germany is also Russia's largest creditor, and the restructuring of the Russian debt to Germany is expected to be one of the main topics of the two-day summit. Later the same day, the Russian president addressed a group of German businessmen and sought to assuage investors' fears about developments surrounding Gusinskii by arguing that foreign business should welcome, not fear, a "dictatorship of the law," Reuters reported. JC

PUTIN CONTINUES PROMOTION OF JOINT ABM SYSTEM...

At the same meeting with German businessmen, Russian President Putin pushed ahead with the promotion of his proposal to establish a joint European anti-missile defense system. Warning that U.S. plans to set up its own limited national defense system could lead to a new arms race, Putin commented "together, we can avoid that. Every European country must have the opportunity to take part in European security policy." He added that Russia believes that a joint European system is possible "technically and technologically" and noted that Moscow has concrete technical proposals. "All we need is the political will," he concluded. Germany has recently expressed its reservations about the U.S.'s plans for its own national defense system. On 16 June, ahead of further talks between Putin and Schroeder, dpa quoted a senior German official who requested anonymity as saying the chancellor believes Putin's proposal is "worth considering." JC

...RECEIVES SUPPORT FROM FRANCE, OTHERS

Also on 15 June, President Putin discussed missile defense with his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, in a telephone conversation. A statement issued by the Kremlin said that the two leaders "noted with pleasure the closeness of their positions on questions of strategic stability, confirming as well the necessity of preserving and strengthening" the 1972 Anti- Ballistic Missile Treaty. Meanwhile, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii told Interfax from Sweden that Putin's proposal on a joint European anti-missile defense system is gathering interest in Europe. Yavlinskii noted that he discussed the proposal during his meetings with the Swedish prime minister and defense minister. JC

MOSCOW POSITIVELY ASSESSES KOREAN SUMMIT...

Moscow has welcomed the results of the recent summit between Pyongyang and Seoul and offered to help promote dialogue between the two sides. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov told Interfax on 15 June that Russia is "very optimistic" about the agreements reached at the summit and that while those accords are of a "rather general nature," they nonetheless constitute a 'very positive step." Russia, he added, is "ready to do what it can to contribute to a settlement of the Korean problem." JC

...BLASTS DEL PONTE FOR NOT INITIATING PROCEEDINGS AGAINST NATO

In a statement issued on 15 June, the Russian Foreign Ministry criticized Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor at the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, for not investigating NATO for its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia last year. Amnesty International had recently called for such an investigation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 14 June 2000). Noting that the human rights organization has shown no "notable sympathy toward Yugoslavia in the past," the statement said this bears witness to the fact that Del Ponte "made a tendentious and politicized decision." JC

MUSLIM CLERIC SHOT DEAD IN CHECHNYA

Umar Idrisov, imam of Urus Martan Raion, was killed by two shots in the head late on 15 June, Caucasus Press reported. He was a supporter of Chechen Mufti Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, who had announced that day his intention to step down as mufti in order to take up the post of interim Chechen leader, according to Interfax. Kadyrov said he will convene all Chechnya's 435 imams to elect his successor. LF

AGREEMENT MERGING TWO PARTIES DELAYED...

The agreement to join the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and Yabloko will be signed on 21 June, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 June, quoting State Duma deputy (SPS) Irina Khakamada. State Duma deputy speaker Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko had announced earlier that the agreement would be ready for signature on 14 June, but according to the daily, various problems arose (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2000.) JAC

...AS NEWSPAPER PREDICTS MORE PROBLEMS AHEAD

Officials from both parties said that nothing strange had happened and the delay was purely technical; however, the newspaper, which is owned by Boris Berezovskii, argued that problems of some kind or another are more or less inevitable since the two organizations are structurally quite different. According to the daily, Yabloko is a party with a strict unified management structure, while SPS has positioned itself as a loose coalition of several organizations that has trouble reaching common decisions. In addition, Yabloko has always identified itself as in opposition to the Putin government, while SPS deputies ran under the campaign slogan, "Putin for president, SPS for the Duma." JAC

U.S. SENATOR PLEDGES TO BLOCK LOAN DEAL FOR RUSSIA

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman (Republican) Jesse Helms has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright promising that he will block a $485 million loan refinancing package for Russia to protest the military campaign against Chechnya, AP reported on 15 May. The U.S. State Department had announced last month an agreement to reschedule the $485 million Russian debt to the U.S. Helms said that he is objecting not only to the "brutal military campaign" in Chechnya but also to the Russian government's continuing financial support for the regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. JAC

ROKHLIN MURDER CASE TO RESUME IN THE FALL

The murder case against Tamara Rokhlina, wife of late General Lev Rokhlin, State Duma deputy and leader of the Movement in Support of the Army, was postponed on 15 June to 25 September because Rokhlina has a new lawyer, ITAR-TASS reported. Rokhlina is accused of murdering her husband in July 1998. She at first confessed but later recanted, saying that she made the confession because she feared for the lives of her children (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 1998). JAC

RUSSIAN PRISONS GET MORE CROWDED

During the first four months of 2000, Russia's prison population rose by 28,000, compared with an increase of 40,000 people for the entire year of 1999, according to deputy head of the Justice Ministry's department for correctional institutions Aleksandr Zubkov, Interfax reported. Zubkov continued that "if the trend continues--and we have no reason to believe otherwise-- our prison population will grow by an additional 140,000- 150,000 during the second half of the year." He added that the prison population was 1.1 million as of 1 January, compared with a planned capacity of only 700,000. JAC

RUSSIA'S FREEMASONS CONVENE

The Grand Lodge of Russia on 10- 12 June hosted an annual gathering in Moscow of the 12 Russian Lodges, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 June. That gathering marked the fifth anniversary of the return from decades-long exile in France of representatives of Russian free masonry, which was outlawed in the Soviet Union in 1936. The Grand Master of Russia, whose identity the newspaper did not divulge, said that the Freemasons' relations with the Russian leadership are based on "absolute non-interference in the politics of the state and the authorities' activities." LF

BACK ON EARTH--INDEFINITELY?

Cosmonauts Sergei Zaletin and Aleksandr Kaleri returned to Earth early on 16 June, following more than two months spent on the "Mir" space station (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 4 April 2000). It is unclear whether another mission will be sent to the aging space station. AP quoted a Russian space official as saying that MirCorp, a private company that financed Zaletin and Kaleri's trip into space, has provided enough funds to keep the station in orbit until 1 November. If no more money is forthcoming, he added, "Mir" will have to be discarded. JC




ARMENIAN ENERGY OFFICIAL DOWNPLAYS CHARGES OF EMBEZLEMENT

State Energy Committee Chairman Vartan Movsisian on 15 June dismissed as "too categorical" the findings of a parliamentary commission that alleged that Armenia has incurred financial losses totaling some $200 million due to corruption within the energy sector, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2000). He said the commission's findings, unveiled the previous day, need to be professionally verified. Also on 15 June, Hrant Bagratian, who served as prime minister from 1993-1996 (the period when much of the losses were said to have occurred), denied the allegations, claiming that the present authorities are seeking scapegoats to mask their own failures. LF

IRAN PROTESTS ASSAULT AGAINST ITS AMBASSADOR IN ARMENIA

The Iranian Foreign Ministry has lodged an official protest with its Armenian counterpart following an 8 June incident at Yerevan's Zvartnots airport, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 June. Newly appointed Iranian ambassador to Armenia Mohammad-Farhad Koleini was assaulted in a limited access zone by a security guard after leaving the aircraft in which he was scheduled to fly to Tehran and whose takeoff had been delayed. LF

ARMENIA, KARABAKH AT ODDS OVER CONFLICT SETTLEMENT?

In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 June, Naira Melkumian, foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, made clear that the disputed enclave will not agree to any peace settlement that entails an exchange of territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan. "No one is planning to exchange anything," she affirmed. "I think this is simply a brilliantly staged political intrigue with far-reaching goals. It is most probably an internal political intrigue set in motion in Yerevan," she added. Meanwhile spokesmen for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-- Dashnaktsutiun predict that the party may succeed in winning the majority of the 33 seats in 18 June elections to the Karabakh parliament, an RFE/RL correspondent in Stepanakert reported on 14 June. LF

AZERBAIJANI AUTHORITIES, OPPOSITION FAIL TO AGREE ON ROUTE FOR MARCH

Azerbaijani opposition parties on 15 June rejected all three routes proposed by the Baku municipal authorities for the march they want to stage on 17 June to demand free and fair elections, Turan reported. Baku police warned the following day that they will not permit an unsanctioned march along any other route to take place. Azerbaijan Popular Front Party deputy chairman Fazil Gazanfaroglu told Turan on 16 June that the Democratic Congress, which is composed of 10 opposition parties, will decide later that day whether to march on their desired route or to opt for one of the officially proposed alternatives. Dozens of people were injured or detained by police during an unsanctioned opposition march in late April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2000). LF

GEORGIA BECOMES FULL MEMBER OF WTO

Georgia officially became the 137th member of the World Trade Organization on 14 June, dpa reported. Its application for membership in that body was approved in October 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 1999), but the Georgian parliament failed to ratify that membership before the January deadline. Several prominent Georgian industrialists have argued that WTO membership is not in the country's interests. LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA SIGN SECURITY AGREEMENT

Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov held talks in Tbilisi on 15 June with his Georgian counterpart Nugzar Sadjaya, President Eduard Shevardnadze, Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili, and parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. Ivanov assured Zhvania that Moscow respects Georgia's territorial integrity and the inviolability of its frontiers, which it considers the basis for resolving the Abkhaz conflict. Ivanov and Sadjaya signed the first-ever Russian-Georgian statement on security issues, which listed as shared priorities the expansion of bilateral political, economic and military cooperation and pledged cooperation in the struggle against terrorism, organized crime, and arms and drugs trafficking. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTY REJECTS RUSSIAN STATEMENT ON WEAPONS

Revaz Adamia, chairman of the Georgian parliament's Defense and Security Committee, on 15 June rejected as "a serious mistake" a Russian Defense Ministry official's claim that Georgia has received its full share of the assets of the former Soviet military, Caucasus Press reported. Colonel General Leonid Ivashov had said on 14 June that Georgia is not entitled to any of the equipment from the two Russian bases in Georgia that are to be closed next year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2000). Adamia added that Georgia will interpret any attempt by Moscow to postpone the deadline for those closures or to renege on related commitments as a violation of the revised CFE Treaty. LF

GEORGIA TO INVESTIGATE CLASH ON BORDER WITH ARMENIA

The Georgian National Security Council has established a commission charged with investigating the circumstances of a fight at a border post on 12 June between Georgian border troops and local Armenian residents of the south Georgian town of Akhalkalaki who were returning from Armenia, Armenpress reported on 15 June. It is not clear how many persons were involved on either side or whether any were injured in the incident. LF

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION SOARS IN KAZAKHSTAN

Kazakhstan registered a 17.1 percent increase in industrial output during the first five months of this year, Interfax reported on 15 June, citing the State Statistical Agency. Extraction of oil rose by 16.8 percent compared with the same period in 1999, iron ore by 250 percent, natural gas by 30 percent, and non-ferrous metals by 15.8 percent. Production in the engineering sector grew by 50 percent and in the ferrous metallurgy sector by 40 percent. For the first four months of the year, the combined national and local budgets registered a surplus of 15.7 billion tenges ($109 million), which is equal to 2.3 percent of GDP. LF

DUMA COMMITTEE APPEALS TO PUTIN OVER KAZAKHSTAN TRIAL

The State Duma's Committee for Russian nationals abroad has written to President Putin asking him to intervene on behalf of the Russian citizens sentenced last week by a court in eastern Kazakhstan on charges of separatism, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2000). The committee claimed that the rights of ethnic Russians and Russian citizens are being violated in Kazakhstan, and it reminded Putin of his inauguration pledge to defend the rights of Russians wherever they live. LF

KYRGYZSTAN SETS DATE FOR KULOV TRIAL, PRESIDENTIAL POLL

The trial of opposition Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov will open at the Kyrgyz Military Court on 27 June, Kulov's lawyer, Lyubov Ivanova, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 15 June. A Central Electoral Commission official told RFE/RL the same day that the parliament will set the date for the presidential poll during its session that opens on 27 June. She said the likely date is 29 October, adding that the poll date must be set no later than four months before the expiry of the incumbent president's term. Askar Akaev was re-elected in December 1995 for another five-year term. LF

COURT REJECTS KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIAN'S APPEAL

The Bishkek City Court on 15 June upheld the 10 March ruling by a district court barring El (Bei Bechara) Party Chairman Daniyar Usenov from contesting the 12 March parliamentary runoff because of alleged irregularities in his property declaration, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 13 March 2000). The municipal court ruled that Usenov's property declaration was accurate but that there is nonetheless no need to annul the results of the runoff poll. LF

TAJIKISTAN SOLICITS ARAB INVESTMENT

During a roundtable in Dushanbe on 12-14 June chaired by Prime Minister Akil Akilov, representatives of the Islamic Development Bank shortlisted for further consideration 18 infrastructure projects for which Arab development funds may provide financing, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Those projects include irrigation, highway construction, and construction of an international terminal at Dushanbe airport. LF

TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN SIGN 'ETERNAL FRIENDSHIP' TREATY

Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, signed a treaty on eternal friendship in Dushanbe on 15 June, together with a memorandum on delimiting the border between their two countries, Russian agencies reported. Stressing that "Uzbekistan holds pride of place" in Tajikistan's foreign policy, Rakhmonov termed further bilateral cooperation "one of the most important prerequisites for strengthening our independence." Tajik Presidential press secretary Zafar Saidov told Interfax that the two heads of state focused on the prospects for economic cooperation, including joint ventures. LF

BOMB HOAX AT U.S. EMBASSY IN UZBEKISTAN

Buildings adjacent to the U.S. embassy in Tashkent were evacuated on 15 June after an anonymous telephone caller warned of the possibility of a bomb in the vicinity, Reuters reported. Police and sniffer dogs combed the buildings in question but found no such explosive device. LF

IS UZBEKISTAN HAVING SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT GUUAM?

Meeting on the sidelines of the 10-11 June Tehran summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization with Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliev, Uzbekistan's President Karimov expressed irritation at the amorphous nature of the GUUAM grouping, which his country joined in April 1999, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 June. Karimov reportedly asked whether that grouping intends to become a formal international organization or to continue to exist on the basis of the "word of honor" of its members. He noted that GUUAM has neither a permanent executive committee nor a secretariat and that it functions "on the basis of one of its members proposing an initiative and all then gathering to discuss it." LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT 'NOT QUITE SATISFIED' WITH GOVERNMENT

Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 15 June that he is "not quite satisfied" with the performance of Premier Uladzimir Yarmoshyn's cabinet, Belarusian Television reported. In Lukashenka's opinion, the government has begun to "introduce unpopular measures--all at once." He reproached the government for what he regards as too swift a pace for bridging the gap between the multiple exchange rates for the Belarusian ruble. According to Lukashenka, real wages in Belarus have recently fallen by 1.5 percent and lag behind prices. He instructed the government to ensure a rise in real wages by the fourth quarter of 2000. JM

MINSK OSCE MISSION SLAMS PRESIDENTIAL AIDE FOR 'DIPLOMATIC INCIDENT'

The OSCE Consultative and Monitoring Group in Minsk has accused presidential aide Syarhey Posakhau of provoking a "diplomatic incident" ahead of a visit by a European parliamentary troika, Belapan reported. The troika-- consisting of representatives of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, and the European Parliament--will be in Minsk from 19-22 June. Posakhau told Belarusian Television on 14 June that Hans Georg Wieck, the head of the OSCE Minsk mission, had refused to include in the troika's program meetings with representatives of all political parties in Belarus and participants in the so-called "sociopolitical dialogue." The OSCE mission said Posakhau's statement exerts pressure on the organizers of the visit "in a threatening manner" and contravenes international diplomatic practice. The mission added that the troika's participation in the "sociopolitical dialogue" was never discussed by Wieck and Posakhau. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT HOLDS HEARINGS ON ENERGY POLICIES...

Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko said at the 15 June parliamentary hearings on energy policies that Ukraine needs $13 billion hryvni ($2.4 billion) this year to ensure the smooth functioning of the energy sector and survive through the coming winter, Interfax reported. She assured lawmakers that the government will manage to collect this sum as payment for electricity. According to Tymoshenko, the main reason for the current energy crisis in Ukraine, which experiences frequent blackouts, was last year's siphoning off of some 5 billion cubic meters of Russian transit gas. Owing to that move, Russia has stopped paying with gas for Russian supplies transiting Ukrainian territory. JM

...WHILE MINISTER RESIGNS OVER 'AGGRESSIVE ATMOSPHERE'

Fuel and Energy Minister Serhiy Tulub on 15 June announced his resignation, citing "an aggressive atmosphere" surrounding himself and his ministry, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. Tulub's resignation followed numerous disagreements with Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, who oversees reforms in the energy sector. Tulub said the government wants control over the energy sector to be given to a selected group of businessmen while avoiding real reform. Tulub also said the government ignored his numerous recommendations to regulate the energy sector, particularly the coal-mining industry. "He has done the right thing by resigning and honestly acknowledging that he cannot complete [his] work." Tymoshenko commented. JM

EBRD TO INVEST $34 MILLION IN UKRAINIAN MOBILE PHONE COMPANY

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development announced on 15 June that it will invest $34 million in the Kyivstar GSM mobile phone company, AP and the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. Kyivstar has 120,000 customers, or 29 percent of the mobile phone market in Ukraine. The bank said the investment is aimed at increasing competition in the country's private sector. Less than 1 percent of the Ukrainian population own mobile phones, compared with 8 percent in Poland, 12 percent in the Czech Republic, and an average of 30 percent in developed Western European countries, according to the EBRD. JM

CLINTON VOICES SUPPORT FOR ESTONIA, LATVIA

U.S. President Bill Clinton on 15 June met separately with the new Estonian and Latvian ambassadors to the U.S, Sven Jurgenson and Aivis Ronis. Clinton told Jurgenson that "the United States welcomes and supports Estonia's aspiration to NATO membership," Reuters quoted the Estonian Foreign Ministry as saying. Clinton also congratulated the 31-year-old Ronis as the youngest ambassador in Washington and praised Latvia's development and policies toward neighboring states. MH

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT TO FUND EUROSKEPTICS?

In a commentary in "Postimees" on 14 June, Prime Minister Mart Laar discussed the need for a balanced debate, saying that "one-sided 'Europropaganda'" is not good for Estonia and that "we need an objective discussion of the theme." Laar asked why organizations that oppose Estonia's integration with the EU should not receive funding "via an open tender." BNS on 15 June reported that the government will allocate 200,000 kroons ($12,170) to such groups, which will have until 1 August to present projects for funding. MH

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT SUPPORTS LIMITATION OF ALCOHOL SALES

Lawmakers on 15 June passed amendments to the law on local governments allowing municipalities to place restrictions on hard alcohol sales, LETA reported. However, an attempt to link beer sales to the provision was defeated. The amendments came after several municipalities, such as Valmiera, placed restrictions on alcohol sales in the evenings. MH

LATVIAN SUPPORT FOR EU MEMBERSHIP CONTINUES TO FALL

Only 38.1 percent of Latvian residents support membership in the EU, according to a poll conducted in May by the SKDS opinion research firm and released on 14 June. LETA and BNS noted that the poll results indicate a continuation of the downward trend in support for EU membership since August 1999. The head of Latvia's European Integration Bureau, Edvards Kusners, noted that one reason for the drop is the practice among the country's politicians of citing "EU demands" when adopting painful legislative initiatives or undertaking territorial reform. In response to other questions on membership, nearly 45 percent of those polled said that Latvia should join the EU mainly to increase national security, while almost 64 percent said that the threat posed by membership to Latvia's farm economy is the main reason why Latvia should not join. MJZ

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT KILLS BILL TO LOWER DEFENSE SPENDING

By a vote of 64 to 12, the parliament on 15 June defeated a bill on shifting funds from defense to education, ELTA reported. The bill, introduced by the non-parliamentary New Alliance (Social Liberals) and placed on the parliamentary agenda following a petition drive, sought to divert about 148 million litas ($37.5 million) in budget funds from defense to education (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2000). Opponents of the bill, including the government, linked it to anti-NATO sentiments and populism, though the New Alliance has confirmed its full commitment to NATO integration. MH

FRENCH POLICE CHIDE LITHUANIAN COUNTERPARTS

French law enforcement officials have voiced concern over the problem of human trafficking and called again for improved cooperation with their Lithuanian counterparts, "Lietuvos Rytas" reported on 16 June. A high-ranking police official from Strasbourg lamented the lack of cooperation and said that relations with Bulgarian, Hungarian, and Lithuanian police forces have not improved. A police official from Nice, who wished to remain anonymous, said, "Statistics lead to the assumption that the procuring and even the raping of women virtually do not worry" Lithuania's law enforcement officials. MH

SOLIDARITY BLOC NOMINATES ITS LEADER AS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

The Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) has nominated Marian Krzaklewski as its official candidate in this fall's presidential race, Polish media reported on 15 June. According to recent polls, Krzaklewski has only 4 percent support, compared with the 70 percent backing enjoyed by incumbent President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who launched his re-election campaign earlier this week. "There are chances [that we will win]. Everything depends on whether we will be able to mobilize ourselves properly," Krzaklewski commented after his nomination. "I shall speak the truth about what the AWS is doing. I shall also apologize for those things that were successfully accomplished only in part, or involved mistakes.... This will be a campaign of truth," he added. JM

ORTHODOX JEWS PROTEST IN PRAGUE AGAIN

Nine English-speaking Orthodox Jews were detained on 15 June and released after paying a 1,000 crown ($25) fine each, CTK and AP reported. One day earlier, police had detained six Jewish protesters from abroad. In both instances, the protest was against the intention to encase part of a 13th century Jewish cemetery to allow the construction of a building that will house the headquarters of an insurance company The compromise arrangement has been approved by the Czech Jewish community but is rejected by Orthodox Jews. Last week, nine Belgian Orthodox Jews also protested the construction plans. MS

THERESIENSTADT WAR CRIMES SUSPECT DETAINED

Anton Malloth, who commanded an SS unit at Theresienstadt in northern Bohemia, has been detained by the German authorities in Munich, CTK reported on 15 June, citing the Prosecutor- General's Office in the German city. Malloth, aged 88, has been in custody since 25 May. He was sentenced to death in absentia by a Czech court in 1948, but the sentence was later quashed. His recent arrest was on the basis of new testimony, after Germany had halted prosecution procedures for lack of sufficient evidence. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT HOSPITALIZED

Rudolf Schuster was hospitalized on 14 June, suffering from high fever and dehydration, AP and Reuters reported the next day, citing the president's office. The statement said Schuster's condition has improved. MS

HUNGARIAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTER RESIGNS

Pal Pepo, a member of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP), resigned on 15 June. His resignation was accepted by Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Pepo has been heavily criticized by both governing and opposition politicians for alleged financial wrongdoings and lack of professionalism as head of the ministry. Two weeks ago, FKGP Chairman Jozsef Torgyan also criticized Pepo for demanding the dismissal of Zoltan Illes, chairman of the parliament's environment committee. Torgyan has nominated Ferenc Ligetvary, a member of the Environment Ministry's strategic planning committee, to succeed Pepo. Orban has approved the nomination, and according to Hungarian media, the new minister could be sworn in on 20 June. MSZ




SERBIA'S DRASKOVIC SURVIVES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

An unidentified gunman fired an automatic weapon into the home of Vuk Draskovic in the Montenegrin resort of Budva on 15 June. Two bullets left the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement with slight head injuries. His spokesman, Predrag Simic, told the BBC's Serbian Service that Draskovic would have been killed had the bullets struck "only millimeters" in a slightly different direction. Spokeswoman Milena Popovic told AP that "this time again, only God saved Vuk," which was an apparent reference to a mysterious road accident he survived in Serbia in October 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 1999). From Budva, Draskovic was taken to a nearby hospital in Kotor but soon released at his own request. Montenegrin police have surrounded Draskovic's home, set up roadblocks on all roads leading in and out of Budva, and are "questioning several subjects," AP reported. PM

WHAT LIES BEHIND THE ATTEMPT ON DRASKOVIC?

Draskovic has repeatedly accused the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic of using "state terror" against him and his supporters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2000). There has been, moreover, an unexplained spate of killings of prominent political, economic, and underworld figures in Serbia in recent months and years (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 7 and 15 June 2000). Many of the murders appear to be the work of professional killers. But whoever tried to kill Draskovic in Montenegro took a large risk because President Milo Djukanovic is certain to make sure that his police spare no efforts to find the would-be assassin. If the attempted killing was indeed politically motivated on the part of the Belgrade authorities, it is possible that the assassin could find shelter among local pro-Milosevic elements or with the Yugoslav forces. Helicopters as well as cars and trucks connect Yugoslav military bases in Montenegro with those in Serbia. PM

MONTENEGRO SEES 'DESTABILIZATION' ATTEMPT

Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service in a telephone interview on 16 June that Montenegro was selected as "the place of the assassination attempt...with the goal of spreading violence throughout Montenegro. It is an attempt to destabilize Montenegro, not only an assassination attempt on Mr. Draskovic." In Budva, Draskovic's wife, Danica, told reporters that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was behind the attempt, Reuters reported. "Slobodan Milosevic and [his wife] Mira Markovic, who else?" she said. PM

SPLIT BETWEEN SESELJ AND MILOSEVIC?

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj warned his coalition partners--the parties of Milosevic and his wife, Mira Markovic, respectively--not to undermine his Radical Party by publicizing a rival party with a similar name in the media run by Milosevic. Seselj noted that the tiny Radical Party-- Nikola Pasic has been receiving much publicity lately in the daily "Politika" and from the Tanjug news agency. Seselj criticized a television station recently set up by Markovic's supporters in Montenegro with the help of the army. Seselj called the station's programs a "laughing stock." PM

SERBIAN JOURNALIST TO STAY IN PRISON

A military court in Nis ruled on 15 June that journalist Miroslav Filipovic must stay in prison until his trial for espionage takes place (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2000). It is not clear when the trial will begin. Filipovic's lawyer told Reuters that "the ruling to extend detention is not [justified by] the law on criminal proceedings." Meanwhile in Strasbourg, the European Parliament condemned what it called the "climate of terror and systematic intimidation" against the opposition and independent media in Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

BELGRADE REGIME PROMISES 'ANTI-TERRORISM' LAW

Nikola Sainovic, who is an indicted war criminal and Yugoslav deputy prime minister, told a press conference in Belgrade on 15 June that the planned "anti-terrorism" law will be sent to the parliament "soon," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that it will regulate some unspecified areas of activity not covered by current legislation. The opposition suspects that the law will mean the imposition of a state of emergency in all but name. PM

SERBIAN WAR VETERANS PROTEST POVERTY

Some 30 members of an independent veterans group barricaded themselves inside the town hall in Kraljevo for two hours on 15 June. A spokesman for the veterans told AP that they intend to stage further protests until the authorities take steps to improve veterans' living conditions. The men, who fought in Milosevic's wars in the 1990s, charged the government with totally ignoring their situation. PM

NATO ROUNDS UP WEAPONS IN KOSOVA

Some 400 British and other KFOR troops launched a raid at dawn in the Drenica valley on 15 June to search for illegal weapons. A British spokesman told AP that "we have reasons to believe there are large numbers of weapons in the area and our task is to find them as quickly as we can." KFOR seized unspecified "large quantities" of arms and ammunition in the mainly ethnic Albanian region. PM

KOUCHNER SLAMS KILLING OF SERBS

Two Serbs were killed on 15 June when their van hit a land mine on a country road south of Prishtina that is used mainly by local Serbian villagers. Bernard Kouchner, who is the UN's chief administrator in Kosova, went to the area with top NATO and ethnic Albanian officials. Kouchner told AP that "this is a certain plan to destabilize Kosovo. They do not want us to succeed." He did not elaborate. Leading Albanian politician Hashim Thaci said that this latest in a series of violent incidents against Serbs "will make even more difficult the already unstable situation in Kosova." NATO commander General Juan Ortuno told Reuters, however, that "it is impossible to protect against such attacks--one or two people could have laid [the mine] in an hour or so last night. It was a professional job, but in Kosovo, so many people have military experience." PM

LI PENG CUTS SHORT VISIT TO SLOVENIA

Li Peng, who is the speaker of the Chinese parliament, left Slovenia ahead of schedule on 15 June and arrived in Zagreb. Li cancelled a meeting with Slovenian Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk without giving a reason. Unnamed government sources told AP, however, that LI dropped the meeting after learning that Labor Minister Miha Brejc is also head of the Slovenian-Taiwan Friendship Association. Conservative Social Democratic leader Janez Jansa said that Slovenia has trade and cultural links with Taiwan through the same sort of semi-governmental channels as most EU countries do, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. Li's visit to Slovenia was overshadowed by protests against his record on human rights and Tibet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2000). Some members of the Social Democratic Party, which belongs to the governing coalition, questioned the propriety of inviting a Chinese political leader closely identified with the 1989 Tiananmen killings. PM

OSCE BLASTS ATTACKS ON BOSNIAN MEDIA

A spokeswoman for the OSCE said in Sarajevo on 15 June that "we are becoming increasingly concerned about the stepped-up attacks on media representatives and consider the environment to be more and more perilous for journalists in Bosnia," Reuters reported. She noted that Edin Avdic of the independent magazine "Slobodna Bosna" was recently threatened verbally by a Muslim politician and later attacked physically by two unidentified men. The tax police recently searched the offices of the daily "Avaz," which had been considered close to the governing Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA). She added that the raid on "Avaz" "had an intimidating and chilling effect on the press." Earlier, a driver for a top SDA official physically attacked a journalist working for "Avaz." SDA officials have blamed the media for the party's poor showing in the local elections in April, the news agency added. PM

UN SLAMS ATTACKS ON MUSLIM HOMES IN SREBRENICA

"The UNHCR strongly believes that incidents like the one in Srebrenica should not decrease the return process in Bosnia and Herzegovina," an spokeswoman for the UNHCR said in Sarajevo on 15 June. She was referring to recent arson attacks on three Muslim homes, Reuters reported. Serbian forces drove out the town's Muslim majority inhabitants in 1995. The subsequent massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim males is widely regarded as the largest single atrocity in Europe since World War II. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT APOLOGIZES FOR 1990 MINERS RIOTS...

Emil Constantinescu said on national television on 15 June that he considers it his duty "to apologize, on behalf of the Romanian state, to all those affected by the violence against citizens in June 1990." Constantinescu spoke as some 1,000 people gathered in Bucharest's University Square to mark the date when miners went on a rampage in Bucharest in what was largely considered to be an action organized by the country's authorities. Constantinescu noted that "the authorities at that time directed part of the citizens against Bucharesters who were fighting for the democratization of the country," Reuters reported. Former President Ion Iliescu responded the same day by saying the then opposition had been the first to resort to violence on the streets. Constantinescu also said the investigation into the 1990 events must be relaunched to punish all those responsible for the rampage. MS

..SUCCESSFULLY MEDIATES CONFLICT OVER SECURITATE FILES

Constantinescu the same day chaired a meeting between the chairman of the College of the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives, Gheorghe Onisoru, and Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) Deputy Director Mircea Ghiordunescu in a bid to solve the conflict between the two institutions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2000). The sides reached an agreement under which college members will have direct access to both the catalogue of the Securitate archives and to the archives themselves. They will set up a joint commission to establish whether a file can be classified as "affecting national security." Under the legislation passed by the parliament, the content of files classified as such must remain secret. Ghiordunescu denied SRI employees are misusing data in the files and said the few who have attempted to do so have been prosecuted and severely punished. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS FORTHCOMING PUTIN VISIT 'SIGNIFICANT'

Petru Lucinschi told journalists on 14 June that during President Vladimir Putin's 16-17 June visit to Moldova, the two sides will discuss "all the complex questions pertaining to bilateral relations," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Lucinschi emphasized the importance for Moldova of economic relations with Russia, which is Chisinau's "number one trade partner." He said the talks will also cover ways to solve the Transdniester conflict and that Putin's position is "clear-cut: the problem must be solved within the framework of Moldova's territorial integrity." Lucinschi said representatives from Transdniester will not participate in the talks because they have failed to abide by the provisions of the 1997 Moscow memorandum on settling the conflict. MS

FORMER RULING PARTY PROPOSES MOLDOVA-TRANSDNIESTER FEDERATION

The extraparliamentary Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova (PDAM) has proposed that the conflict with the separatists be solved by setting up a Moldova-Transdniester federation, Infotag reported on 14 June. PDAM leader Anatol Papusoi told journalists that the federation should have a bicameral parliament and that dual citizenship--Moldovan and Transdniestrian--should be recognized, alongside two official state languages: Moldovan and Russian. Papusoi sharply criticized what he called the "ultra-patriots" who advocate a Moldova-Romania union similar to that set up by Russia and Belarus. "More than 90 percent of the Transdniester residents wonder why should they re-unite with Moldova if Chisinau constantly speaks of re-unification with Romania," he said. MS

BULGARIA APPOINTS NEW CHIEF NEGOTIATOR WITH EU

Vladimir Kisyov has been appointed Bulgaria's new chief negotiator with the EU, AP reported on 14 June, citing BTA. He replaces Alexander Bozhkov, who was recently fired on suspicion of corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2000). Kisyov, who is a deputy foreign minister, served as deputy chief negotiator with the EU until now. MS




GUSINSKII'S ARREST HAS SEVERAL GOALS


By Sophie Lambroschini and Floriana Fossato



The arrest of Media-Most founder Vladimir Gusinskii earlier this week on charges of "gross fraud" came as a final blow to the Russian oligarch after months of pressure on his company by the Kremlin. Gusinskii has not yet been charged with a crime. Under Russian law, suspects may be detained up to 10 days without being charged.

According to the prosecutor-general, Gusinskii is suspected of having defrauded the state of some $10 million with the help of managers of Russian Video, a Saint Petersburg-based cinema company that was transformed into a television network. In 1996, Gusinskii bought 70 percent of the company while developing a regional television network. Two years later, prosecutors brought a criminal case against the management of Russian Video, without involving Gusinskii. The Moscow daily "Vremya Novostei" argues that this means the case is simply a pretext to allow authorities to detain Gusinskii.

The arrest sends a powerful signal to several groups. According to Gusinskii's supporters, it is part of a trend toward the muzzling of independent media and the intimidation of journalists. Independent TV Tsentr has been having trouble renewing its broadcast license, several newspapers have been reprimanded for publishing interviews with Chechen leaders, and the media minister recently announced his intention to enforce a law requiring all print media to be licensed.

But silencing a free press does not appear to be the main goal of the arrest. According to Carnegie Endowment analyst Nikolai Petrov, all the oligarchs, except Gusinskii, have struck informal deals with the Kremlin. There has been no real press freedom in Russia, Petrov says, only competing political clans that controlled their own newspapers. Gusinskii is being targeted because he is the only media mogul who continues to overtly oppose the Kremlin.

"The whole so-called freedom of the press [that existed in Russia in the last 10 years] was mainly linked to the existence inside the party of power of different clans that could each lean on its own media group," Petrov commented. "As soon as the struggle of those clans came to an end, as soon as one single group took the upper hand, and as soon as politics ceased to be public, right away, the possibility in principle of the existence of a media group or publications of relative independence, or not directly under the control of this group, turned out to be impossible."

Putin has frequently said he intends to destroy the oligarch system by submitting the tycoons to the same treatment as any small businessman caught committing petty crimes. But if he wanted to show that he would treat all businessmen equally, targeting Gusinskii first raises doubts about such intentions. Frequently critical of the Kremlin, Media-Most news organizations are a symbol of independence for Russia's journalists, and the holding's influence in the regions has been growing.

Boris Nemtsov, leader of the Union of Right Forces and deputy speaker of the State Duma, said on Media-Most's NTV television on 13 June that, "Before the elections, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin talked about the oligarchs having to be equally far away [from political power]. So, if what he did with Gusinskii is the technological implementation of this equal distance, then I think he just didn't start with the right oligarch."

Nemtsov mentioned other oligarchs that Putin could have dealt with first. Businessmen such as oil executive Roman Abramovich and financial tycoon Aleksandr Mamut, who are believed to be getting the upper hand in their fight with Kremlin insider and Duma deputy Boris Berezovskii for influence in the Kremlin, represent the major danger, he proposed.

Nemtsov suggested that Putin should dismiss Kremlin administration head Aleksandr Voloshin over the Gusinskii case. Voloshin, formerly a Berezovskii ally, is believed to have switched allegiance to Abramovich and Mamut. "Nevertheless, I don't think it is a struggle between the authorities and powerful media structures," Nemtsov concluded. "In reality, it's a fight between one group against another enemy group."

Berezovskii says Gusinskii "became the victim of a machine that he set in motion himself" by hiring former KGB staffers who were bound to turn against him eventually. But he also condemned the arrest, saying that Russian laws are so contradictory that everyone who has done business in Russia in the past 10 years has violated one law or another.

According to Kim Iskyan, a political analyst with the brokerage firm MFK Renaissance, the offensive against Gusinskii is a signal to other oligarchs that from now on any moves not cleared with the Kremlin will not be tolerated. Iskyan, too, said that Gusinskii's arrest serves several purposes, in particular to make it clear that the Kremlin is serious about centralizing power.

Media-Most's regional network, TNT, has profitable partnership agreements with private television companies in some 500 cities across Russia. Many Russian journalists have told RFE/RL that they are concerned that regional powers will now try to deprive Media-Most of some of this regional influence in order to display loyalty to the Kremlin.

The authors are RFE/RL correspondents based in Moscow and London, respectively.


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