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Newsline - June 19, 2000




MEDIA BARON SAYS OTHERS LIKELY TO BE ARRESTED...

Media-Most head Vladimir Gusinskii was released from prison on 16 June, having agreed not to leave Moscow. Earlier the same day, Gusinskii was charged with massive financial fraud under Article 159 of the Russian criminal code, Interfax reported. After his release, Gusinskii told "Newsweek" he believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin knew about his arrest in advance (see ). Gusinskii gave credit to other journalists, the support of his fellow Russian businessmen, and the "strong stand" of U.S. President Bill Clinton's administration for his release. He added that he has "reliable information" the Kremlin is considering other arrests, such as "LUKoil's [head] Vagit Alekperov and some executives from Yukos." Last month, Gusinskii accused presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin of having tried to bribe him with $100 million to tailor Media-Most's campaign coverage of the December 1999 State Duma elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2000). JAC

...AS RUSSIAN POLITICIANS HAIL GUSINSKII'S RELEASE

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov responded positively to news of Gusinskii's release, telling Interfax on 17 June that "the public is outraged not so much by the Gusinskii case itself but by the fact that the free press was imprisoned." State Duma Chairman (Communist) Gennadii Seleznev called Gusinskii's release a "present" for President Putin so that he "will be less bothered by the subject." State Duma deputy (Unity) Vladimir Ryzhkov called the event "good news, one that all normal people were waiting for," while Duma deputy speaker (Union of Rightist Forces) Irina Khakamada said that the release "indicated that the influence of President Putin on the Office of the Prosecutor-General is very serious." JAC

RUSSIAN-GERMAN RELATIONS 'NOT IN THE SAUNA' YET...

At a press conference in Berlin on 16 June, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Russian President Putin discussed the results of their two days of talks in the German capital. Schroeder announced that the German government is prepared to resume the export credit guarantees that until 1998 it had offered German companies investing in Russia. He indicated that a final agreement is likely to be reached within a few weeks, once various "technicalities" have been resolved. Other accords included deals worth a total of $1.7 billion that the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom signed with four German companies, including Wintershall, which is to invest $1 billion to develop an oil field in Russia's North. Summing up the nature of current Russian-German relations, Schroeder joked that "We're not in the sauna. I don't have one. But it could come," dpa reported. Schroeder and Putin's predecessors, Helmut Kohl and Boris Yeltsin, enjoyed especially cordial relations that had included joint visits to the sauna. JC

...BUT GERMANY RECEPTIVE TO PUTIN'S ABM PROPOSAL...

With regard to President Putin's proposal for a joint European missile defense system, Chancellor Schroeder said the two sides had agreed on the necessity of preserving the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. He said Putin's proposal is "really worthy of attention" and suggested that it be discussed both in the NATO-Russia Council and in bilateral talks. Putin, for his part, invited European countries to take part in the early warning center in Moscow initiated by Russia and the U.S. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2000). Reuters quoted him as saying that "Russia would be glad to see representatives of united Europe as a third working party" in the center. JC

...AND TWO SIDES AGREE TO RESUME TROPHY ART TALKS

Following four hours of talks in Berlin on 15 June, the German and Russian culture ministers, Michael Naumann and Mikhail Shvydkoi, announced that talks on the restitution of art works looted during World War II will resume this fall. Both, however, were cautiously optimistic about those talks' prospects. While noting that President Putin showed "new willingness" to discuss the return of German art treasures, Naumann warned that the negotiations would be "tough." Shvydkoi, for his part, said he saw "no problems" that could not be resolved in an "open" dialogue but noted that "much hard work lies ahead of us." In late April, the Russian State Duma passed a law on trophy art stating that cultural valuables seized from Nazi Germany and now located on Russian territory should not be returned to former "aggressor countries." Shvydkoi, however, pointed out in Berlin that the law provides for the return of those items earlier looted by the Nazis or belonging to religious communities. JC

GAZPROM HEAD ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT DATE

Rem Vyakhirev, 66, announced in Berlin on 15 June that he is ready to retire in 2001, Interfax reported. He added that "if someone is very eager, I am ready to retire even now.... But I don't see a need to leave my post until my contract expires in 2001, because so far there is no person who can efficiently replace me without damage to Gazprom." However, Vyakhirev also said that he has a successor in mind "from within Gazprom, but [that individual] has not matured yet." "Kommersant-Daily" speculated the next day that Mezhregiongaz head Valentin Nikishin is the most likely candidate, having strengthened that company significantly over the past two years. JAC

INTERIOR MINISTRY INVESTIGATORS PAY LUZHKOV A VISIT

Interior Ministry investigators questioned Moscow Mayor Luzhkov on 16 June over the activities of the former head of tax service of the Moscow government, Lyudmila Lazkova, Interfax reported. Lazkova has been charged with taking bribes. Luzkhov's press secretary, Sergei Tsoi, denied that the investigators' visit had anything to do with the recent case against Media-Most head Gusinskii, a Luzhkov ally. JAC

ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCHER WINS ANOTHER VICTORY IN COURT...

Military journalist and retired naval captain Aleksandr Nikitin won a libel suit on 16 June against Nuclear Power Minster Yevgenii Adamov, "The Moscow Times" reported the next day. In 1998, Adamov had said Nikitin "was not distributing environmental information but was causing damage to his country." A St. Petersburg court awarded Nikitin 10,000 rubles ($350) in damages. Last December, Nikitin was acquitted on charges of treason and espionage for his role in exposing the environmentally hazardous practices of the Russian Navy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1999). JAC

...AS ANOTHER RESEARCHER LANGUISHES IN JAIL

Meanwhile, Igor Sutyagin of the Institute for USA and Canada Studies remains in jail after being arrested on charges of treason and espionage last October, "The Globe and Mail" reported on 17 June. According to Sutyagin's colleague, Pavel Podvig, Federal Security Service officials believe that Sutyagin was engaged in espionage for Canada. Podvig added that "they think Sutyagin was passing secret information to foreigners, but he didn't have any access to classified information." Sutyagin was hired to conduct research on military-civilian relations by two Canadian universities that had funding from Canada's Department of National Defense. Sutyagin carried out interviews based on questions asked by researchers in 12 post-communist countries. According to a York University official, Russia is the only country of the dozen "where some officials seem to have found a Canadian study of civil- military relations to be a threat to national security." JAC

REWARD OFFERED FOR DEATH OR CAPTURE OF CHECHEN LEADER

Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov on 16 June offered a reward of $250,000 for the killing or capture of Chechen Mufti Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, whom President Putin had named interim Chechen leader four days earlier, dpa and ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile the heads of 10 of Chechnya's 18 raions have written to Putin claiming that Kadyrov is not an acceptable candidate for that post and that they will not work with him, AFP and "Kommersant-Daily" reported. The 10 note that he participated in fighting against the Russian troops during the 1994-1996 war. They claim that as a result, he contributed to "the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and the destruction of the republic during the era of General Djokhar Dudaev." LF

MOSCOW WELCOMES ETHIOPIAN-ERITREAN PEACE ACCORD

The Russian Foreign Ministry has welcomed the signing of a peace accord between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Interfax on 18 June quoted sources in the ministry as saying that the agreement is a step toward solving the countries' territorial differences by "solely peaceful" means. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia is ready to continue assisting in the peace process, the source added. JC

FOR VLADIVOSTOK, NEW ELECTION MEANS NEW CONTROVERSY

The chairman of Vladivostok's election commission, Veniamin Shichayev, announced on 18 June that mayoral elections in that city can be declared valid since 26.87 percentage of eligible voters participated, Interfax reported. A 25 percent turn-out was required. According to preliminary results, acting Mayor Yurii Kopylov is leading with more than 50 percent of the votes. Vladivostok has witnessed successive failures to elect a city council or mayor, and this election is similarly fraught with controversy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September and 17 December 1999). Voting in this latest ballot began on 3 June: persons planning to be out of town on election day, 18 June, were allowed to vote early. Seven of the 10 candidates for mayor objected to this arrangement, accusing Kopylov's administration of trying to falsify election results. "The Moscow Times" reported on 13 June that busloads of teachers, doctors, and others whose salaries come from the city budget have been arriving at polling stations since 3 June. JAC

FEDERAL MINISTRY SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH SPLINTER JEWISH GROUP

The Ministry of Culture and the Federation of Russian Jewish Communities have signed a five-year agreement to cooperate on events and activities intended to restore cultural and historical continuity in the life of Jewish people in Russia, Interfax reported on 19 June. The Federation of Russian Jewish Communities has recently been embroiled in a dispute with other Jewish organizations in Russia over which organization is the most representative of the country's Jewish community and therefore has the right to elect a countrywide leader. The federation's head, Berl Lazar, claims he is Russia's chief rabbi, a position already held by Adolf Shaevich. Shaevich recently complained the Kremlin is interfering in the affairs of the religious community (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2000). When asked about the conflict, Culture Minister Shvydkoi said "we have good relations with both Mr. Shaevich and Mr. Lazar. The issue will be resolved within the religious community." JAC




ARMENIA, IRAN DOWNPLAY DIPLOMATIC INCIDENT

Meeting in Yerevan on 15 June with Iranian Ambassador Mohammad-Farhad Koleini, Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian expressed concern over the incident one week earlier in which Koleini was assaulted by a security guard at Yerevan's Zvartnots airport, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2000). Markarian declined, however, to offer an official apology, Both he and Koleini expressed confidence that the incident will not impact on bilateral relations, noting that bilateral political and economic cooperation is "one of the most important factors for security and stability" in the region. An Armenian government commission is investigating the incident. LF

ARMENIA UNVEILS PLAN FOR DEVELOPING MEGHRI

Koleini also assured Markarian of Iran's support for an Armenian government program to develop the southeastern Armenian region of Meghri, which borders on Iran, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That program, which was drafted by former Premier Aram Sargsian and presented to the Armenian parliament on 15 June, outlines measures to improved economic and living conditions in the economically depressed region. Those measures include the creation of a wholesale and retail market close to the Iranian border that will enjoy a particularly favorable trade regime. In recent months the Armenian leadership has repeatedly denied rumors of an impending territorial exchange whereby Armenia would cede Meghri to Azerbaijan in return for Nagorno-Karabakh (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 23, 8 June 2000). LF

ARMENIAN TV OFFICIAL ALLEGES TORTURE IN SHOOTINGS INVESTIGATION

Armenian National Television Deputy Director Harutiun Harutiunian told RFE/RL on 17 June that he has demanded a "public explanation" from Armenia's Military Prosecutor of what he termed the "brutal and unprofessional" investigation of his possible involvement in the 27 October Armenian parliament shootings. Harutiunian was arrested in January after being implicated by two of the five gunmen but released earlier this month after the two retracted their testimony and the investigators discovered no evidence to warrant his further detention (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January and 5 June 2000). Harutiunian claims he was subject to physical and verbal abuse during his five month detention. LF

NAGORNO-KARABAKH HOLDS PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

Voting took place "calmly" on 18 June throughout the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic for a new parliament, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported A total of 113 candidates representing five parties contested the 33 seats in the new legislature. Voter participation was estimated at 56.8 percent of the 84,000 registered voters, and 50 monitors from several countries observed the proceedings, the legality of which is not internationally recognized. The previous day the unrecognized enclave's president, Arkadii Ghukasian, was discharged from the Yerevan hospital where he underwent surgery following the 22 March attempt on his life and returned to Stepanakert. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION POSTPONES PLANNED RALLY

The 10 opposition parties aligned in the Democratic Congress on 16 June called off a demonstration planned for the following day after failing to reach a consensus with the Baku municipal over the route for that march, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2000). The opposition politicians said they did not to wish provoking a clash between demonstrators and police on the eve of the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that is to rule on whether and when Azerbaijan should be admitted to full membership in the council. LF

PAKISTAN DENIES OFFERING MILITARY AID TO AZERBAIJAN

Pakistan's embassy in Baku has issued an official statement denying media reports that at a meeting on the sidelines of the Economic Cooperation Organization summit in Tehran on 10- 11 June, Pakistan's leader Pervez Musharraf offered military assistance to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev in resolving the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported on 16 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2000). The statement reaffirms Pakistan's support for a peaceful solution to that conflict. It also stresses the "routine" nature of the Pakistan-Azerbaijan military training program, which is one of several in which Pakistan is engaged. Groong cited "Kommersant-Daily" on 14 June as reporting that Musharraf has offered "the whole spectrum of aid," including the participation of Pakistani military units in a new offensive to win back control of the enclave. LF

AZERBAIJAN DENIES SMUGGLING NUKES TO GULF STATES

Azerbaijan's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Elman Arasli, was quoted by the London-based newspaper "Al-Sharq al-Aswat" on 17 June as denying media reports that Azerbaijan has secretly supplied nuclear weapons and warheads to unnamed Gulf and Middle Eastern states, according to Groong. He said even prior to the demise of the USSR no such weapons were deployed on Azerbaijani territory. LF

RUSSIA, ABKHAZIA DISCUSS CLOSURE OF MILITARY BASE

During "constructive" talks in Sukhum on 16-17 June, the Abkhaz leadership and visiting Russian Foreign and Defense Ministry officials failed to reach agreement on the closure of Russia's military base in Gudauta, Caucasus Press reported. Under an agreement signed last November in Istanbul on the sidelines of the OSCE summit, Moscow pledged to close that base by mid-2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 1999). Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba expressed understanding for Russia's position but added that the Abkhaz leadership opposes the withdrawal of the Russian forces before a solution to the Abkhaz conflict is reached. The Gudauta base plays a key logistical role for the CIS peacekeeping operation in Abkhazia. LF

GEORGIA CLARIFIES DEMANDS ON RUSSIAN ARMAMENTS

Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Avtandil Napetvaridze told journalists in Tbilisi on 16 June that Georgia will not lay claim to any of the equipment or armaments to be withdrawn from Russia's military bases on its territory, Caucasus Press reported. But he explained that Georgia will demand compensation for equipment, valued at several billion dollars, removed from Georgia to Russia in the early 1990s. Georgian parliamentary Defense and Security Committee Chairman Vazha Adamia recently took issue with senior Russian Defense Ministry official Colonel General Leonid Ivashov's statement that Georgia has no legal claim on Russian military equipment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 June 2000). LF

GEORGIA SEEKS TO REPATRIATE CHECHEN REFUGEES

Napetvaridze also told journalists on 16 June that Tbilisi is in constant contact with Moscow in an attempt to expedite the return to the Russian Federation of an estimated 7,000 Chechen refugees currently temporarily domiciled in the Pankisi gorge close to the Georgian-Chechen border. He rejected as impossible those refugees' recent request to be relocated elsewhere in Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 13 June 2000). Napetvaridze said Tbilisi had appealed to both Turkey and Azerbaijan to consider accepting some of the Chechen refugees, but both had refused to do so. LF

GEORGIAN BORDER OFFICIAL SACKED OVER DISPUTED VILLAGE

Georgian State Border Guard Department head Colonel General Valeri Chkheidze has dismissed his deputy, Gela Khutsishvili, in connection with the dispute over the village of Pichvni, which is located on an undemarcated section of the Georgian- Russian border, Caucasus Press reported. Khutsishvili set up a border post in the village earlier this year without consulting his superiors, who subsequently ordered it withdrawn. Thereafter Russian border guards occupied the village, expelling the inhabitants (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2000) Khutsishvili believes the village is located on Georgian territory, while Chkheidze reportedly thinks it is Russian. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY THREATENED OVER SMUGGLING ALLEGATIONS

Georgian parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania on 16 June asked the Interior Ministry to provide protection for the family of parliamentary deputy Temur Jgushia, which has received "open threats" after accusing Georgian guerrillas of involvement in smuggling goods from Abkhazia to Georgia, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 13 June 2000). The following day, Abkhaz parliament in exile chairman Tamaz Nadareishvili, whom Jgushia claimed condones the guerrillas' smuggling activities, appealed to Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to take measures to halt the smuggling and to punish "slanderers," Caucasus Press reported. LF

KAZAKH PARLIAMENT TO DEBATE GIVING PRESIDENT LIFE-LONG POWERS

The pro-presidential Civic Party has drafted a bill, which will be debated later this month, to give incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbaev special powers for life, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 16 June. Those powers would include the right to address the nation, parliament, government bodies, and officials on key initiatives; to lead the Peoples' Assembly; to be a member of the Kazakh National Security Council; to award an annual prize for peace and progress; to make suggestions to future presidents on appointments to and dismissals from official positions; and to advise presidents on declaring a state of war or emergency. Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin condemned the draft bill as unconstitutional, according to Reuters. LF

KYRGYZSTAN MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF OSH KILLINGS

President Askar Akaev traveled on 16 June to Osh Oblast, where he and the governors of the neighboring Uzbek oblasts of Namangan, Andijan, and Fergana commemorated the clashes in Osh between local Kyrgyz and Uzbeks 10 years ago, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. According to official data, 238 people were killed in 10 days of fighting; unofficial estimates claim as many as 1,100 people died. LF

CAN KYRGYZSTAN PAY ITS FOREIGN DEBTS?

Urkalyi Isaev, who chairs the State Commission on Foreign Investments, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 16 June that the country's foreign debt currently totals $1.12 billion, of which 14.6 percent is owed to the IMF. He said that the government will no longer act as guarantor for any enterprises or organizations soliciting foreign loans. Interfax on 16 June quoted U.S. economist Anders Aslund as telling journalists in Bishkek that the optimum solution would be for Kyrgyzstan to reschedule its $220 million debt to Russia. Aslund estimated the total foreign debt at $1.5 billion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 1999 and 31 January 2000). LF

BOMB EXPLODES IN TAJIK CAPITAL

A bomb exploded in Dushanbe early on 19 June in a building used by Russian border troops, but no one was injured, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. The previous day, police had located a bomb concealed under a rail and road bridge in the city and defused it 15 minutes before it was due to explode. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT ADVOCATES SURVEILLANCE OF FOREIGNERS

Addressing a cabinet session on 15 June, Saparmurat Niyazov expressed support for the creation of a council comprising National Security Committee, Interior Ministry, and Foreign Ministry personnel that would monitor the movements of foreign nationals arriving or temporarily resident in Turkmenistan, Reuters reported. A government source quoted the president as saying such surveillance is intended to prevent violations of the law, such as the unsanctioned sale of real estate. LF




AMENDMENTS TO BELARUS'S ELECTORAL CODE REPORTED TO BE MINIMAL

Syarhey Kalyakin--leader of the opposition Belarusian Communist Party, which is taking part in the "sociopolitical dialogue"--said on 16 June that the dialogue's proposals to amend the country's electoral code have been accepted by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka only to a "minimum extent," Belapan reported. According to Kalyakin, Lukashenka rejected the amendment giving political parties and public organizations the right to fill up to 30 percent of the electoral commissions. Kalyakin also said Lukashenka did not approve the provisions that made electoral commissions' records available to election observers and imposed a stricter early voting procedure. JM

LUKASHENKA'S CHIEF OF STAFF MUSES ON INTEGRATION WITH RUSSIA

Mikhail Myasnikovich, head of the Belarusian president's staff, revealed his vision of Belarus-Russia integration to journalists on 16 June, Belapan reported. According to him, both countries should first create equal conditions for their economic entities and ensure equal rights for their citizens. The second step should entail elections to the House of Representatives of the Belarusian-Russian Union held simultaneously in both countries. The third step should be the promulgation of a Constitutional Act that would enable amendments to be made to Belarus and Russia's constitutions. Myasnikovich believes that before the third step is taken, both countries should arrive at a single or joint currency and a single or joint central bank. In Myasnikovich's opinion, Belarus will retain "full sovereignty" in such a union with Russia. JM

UKRAINE THANKS CUBA FOR TREATING CHORNOBYL CHILDREN

In Havana on 16 June, Leonid Kuchma paid tribute to Cuba for giving free medical treatment to some 18,000 Ukrainian children who suffered radiation as a result of the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster. "The small Cuba does what others fail to do," Interfax quoted Kuchma as saying., Kuchma participated in a ceremony attended by Fidel Castro at which aid worth some $100,000 was granted to a health center near Havana, where the children had been treated. According to the agency, Castro accepted Kuchma's invitation to visit Kyiv. JM

EBRD TO HELP KYIV CLOSE CHORNOBYL, DEPENDING ON ENERGY SECTOR REFORM

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on 16 June pledged funds to help Ukraine close the Chornobyl nuclear plant but tied its aid to reform in the country's energy sector, Interfax reported. Acting EBRD President Charles Frank said the $180 million aid package would go toward completing two nuclear reactors at the Rivne and Khmelnytskyy plants to compensate for the loss of electricity when Chornobyl is shut down. "I hope that in the next 45 days we will arrive at a full understanding regarding the most important things connected with reform of the energy market," Frank said. JM

NATO NAVAL EXERCISES BEGIN IN UKRAINE

More than 50 warships from 10 NATO countries began joint naval exercises with the Ukrainian navy near the Black Sea port of Odessa on 19 June. "The Cooperative Partner-2000 naval exercise is the largest such event since Ukraine gained independence and is extremely important for mutual understanding," Reuters quoted Ukrainian navy spokesman Mykola Savchenko as saying. Savchenko said some 5,500 Ukrainian servicemen, including 900 marines, will take part in the exercises, which focuses on rescue and peacekeeping operations. Russia declined an invitation to participate in the maneuvers. "We do not understand why Moscow has given no answer [to our invitation]. This is just a peacekeeping exercise without any political context," Savchenko commented. JM

BALTIC PRIME MINISTERS CALL FOR BETTER INFORMATION EXCHANGE...

Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar met with his counterparts from Lithuania and Latvia, Andrius Kubilius and Andris Berzins in Parnu on 15-16 June for a regular meeting of the Baltic premiers. In a communique issued at the end of the meeting, the three leaders called for the improved exchange of information and views in their bids to join NATO and the EU, ETA reported. The prime ministers also reaffirmed cooperation in the energy sector and called for simplified border crossing. On 15 June, the Estonian and Latvian prime opened a new border checkpoint at Ikla. MH

...DISCUSS RUSSIA-RELATED TOPICS

The three prime ministers also discussed issues related to Russia, especially that country's stance on NATO enlargement. Lithuanian Premier Kubilius criticized statements against Baltic membership in NATO that Russian President Vladimir Putin had made during his visit last week to Berlin. "Further enlargement of NATO will guarantee security and stability in Europe and will accelerate the process of creating a free, prosperous, and united Europe," they said. The three prime ministers also said that Lithuania's claim against Moscow for compensation for the five decades of Soviet occupation is justified. Estonian Prime Minister Laar said his political party, the Pro Patria Union, has "agreed to support the idea of beginning negotiations on compensation for damages," Reuters added. MH

POLAND TO HOLD PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS ON 8 OCTOBER

Parliamentary speaker Maciej Plazynski announced on 16 June that the 2000 presidential elections will take place on 8 October, Polish media reported. Plazynski told reporters that the deadline for registering election committees is 14 August. Presidential candidates must register by midnight on 24 August. "During the 10 years that have passed since regaining sovereignty by Poland, our young democracy has experienced many an electoral argument that bitterly divided the Poles. I hope that this campaign will be calmer and that rational arguments will prevail over heated political struggle," PAP quoted Plazynski as saying. JM

WALESA MAKES BID TO REGAIN PRESIDENCY

Lech Walesa, former president and leader of Solidarity, on 18 June appealed to Poland's right-wing to treat the first round of the presidential elections as primaries and support one rightist candidate able to win that ballot. Walesa was speaking during the electoral convention of his party--the Christian Democracy of the Third Republic of Poland--which officially nominated him as its candidate for the presidential race. Walesa will lead his campaign under the slogan "Black is black, white is white." Recent polls shows that he can count on 4 percent support, compared with 70 percent for incumbent President Aleksander Kwasniewski. Kwasniewski said the same day that he hopes to win in the first round. JM

LEADING CZECH BANK PLACED UNDER 'ENFORCED ADMINISTRATION'

The Czech Republic's third-largest bank, Investnicni a Postovni Banka (IPB), was placed under the "enforced administration" of the National Bank on 16 June after facing liquidity problems earlier last week. Depositors withdrew some 1.35 billion crowns ($36 million), following rumors that the bank is facing insolvency. A statement by the National Bank said the IPB will now be "run by an administrator imposed by the National Bank and not by its shareholders and management." The bank's assets were placed under the National Bank's control, and both the government and the National Bank pledged to fully protect deposits. Also on 16 June, a special unit of police, wearing masks and armed with pistols, descended on the bank's headquarters in Prague to impose the "enforced administration." The unit left after less than one hour. MS

FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER IN PRAGUE

Hubert Vedrine met in Prague on 16 June with his Czech and Hungarian counterparts, Jan Kavan and Janos Martonyi, and with Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Ananicz. The talks focused on EU enlargement and the setting up of a joint EU security force. Vedrine denied that France intends to slow down the accession process during its upcoming EU chairmanship, saying he believes the process of reform in the EU and the union's enlargement must occur simultaneously. But he refused to specify a date for enlargement, saying that during the French chairmanship a "scenario" for the accession of the most advanced candidates must be offered and negotiations with each country will follow on the basis of that scenario during the Swedish chairmanship. The "best prepared" candidates, he added, might join the union by 2003. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT LEAVES HOSPITAL

President Vaclav Havel was discharged from the Prague Military Hospital on 17 June, having undergone hernia surgery two weeks earlier, CTK and AP reported. Havel is to recover at Lany Castle, near Prague, and doctors will decide later this week when he can fully resume his duties. MS

HUNGARY'S CIVIL SERVANTS TO DECLARE ASSETS

Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Hungarian Radio on 18 June that civil servants, police, border guards, and army employees will be obliged to declare their assets on a regular basis beginning 1 January 2001. The regulation is part of a bill on the civil service that still has to be approved by the parliament. Orban said that if such "transparent and well ordered rules" had been adopted in 1990, many current cases involving a conflict of interests would not have occurred. The rule would affect some 100,000 people, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. MSZ




DJUKANOVIC: MILOSEVIC 'EXPORTING TERRORISM'

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Venice on 18 June that the recent "assassination attempt [against Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic] has political motives," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2000). Djukanovic argued that "[Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic and his regime are taking drastic, repressive measures against our government. Terrorism in Serbia is being exported to Montenegro." On 17 June, Djukanovic, Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic, and Interior Minister Vukasin Maras visited Draskovic in Budva. PM

DRASKOVIC: SERBIA IS 'TERRORIST STATE'

In Budva on 17 June, Draskovic told reporters that Serbia is a "terrorist state" and the "Iraq of the Balkans." He likened Milosevic to the late Ayatollah Khomeini, the German weekly "Welt am Sonntag" reported. Draskovic complained, however, that the only Serbian opposition leader to telephone and express sympathy for him was former General Momcilo Perisic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

SHAKE-UP IN MONTENEGRIN SECURITY FORCES

Montenegrin police arrested an unspecified number of individuals on 16 June in connection with the apparent attempted killing of Draskovic. A police spokesman said in Podgorica that the suspects came from Serbia with the intention of murdering the opposition leader, whom they stalked after his recent arrival in Montenegro. The spokesman declined to provide the suspects' names or additional information, saying that the investigation is continuing, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 17 June. One top security official in Budva and his colleague in Bar have lost their jobs in what appears to be the start of a purge in the wake of the attempted assassination. Much of the speculation surrounding the Draskovic case in the Yugoslav and international media has centered on the fact that no police or bodyguards were present at the time the gunman struck. Draskovic is usually well guarded. PM

BELGRADE REGIME BLAMES ALBRIGHT, DJUKANOVIC, OTPOR

The Socialist People's Party (SNP) of Montenegro, which is loyal to Milosevic, said in a statement on 18 June that it deeply regrets the assassination attempt on Draskovic, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Podgorica. The statement added, however, that there "is no basis" for speculating that the Belgrade authorities are behind the attempt to kill a man "who has greatly lost political influence" in recent months. In Belgrade on 17 June, Ivan Markovic, who is a spokesman for the United Yugoslav Left of Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic, blamed U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Milo Djukanovic, and the "terrorists" from the Otpor (Resistance) student movement for the incident. An Otpor spokesman denied the charge and said that Ivan Markovic is trying to make political capital out of the assassination attempt. PM

MILOSEVIC BACKERS TELL DEL PONTE TO STAY HOME

The SNP said in a statement on 16 June that Carla Del Ponte, who is the Hague-based war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, is not welcome in Montenegro on her upcoming Balkan trip. The statement added that if she comes to Montenegro, the party and its supporters will "show her what honest Montenegrins think of NATO criminals and their accomplices," by which they meant Del Ponte, Reuters reported. In The Hague, Del Ponte's spokesman said that she regrets that the Serbian authorities did not respond to her request to go to Serbia to interview Serbs who were victims of violence in the recent conflict in Kosova. Del Ponte is slated to arrive in Macedonia on 19 June on a trip that will include Montenegro and Croatia. PM

AMNESTY APPEALS FOR SERBIAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS

Amnesty International said in a press release on 19 June that Yugoslav conscientious objectors "are still paying a high price for their convictions" and face huge legal dangers from the Belgrade authorities. AI criticized Western governments for not doing more to help the young men and appealed to those governments not to deport conscientious objectors or deserters who "face arrest, prosecution, or imprisonment" at home. PM

WAY OUT FOR MILOSEVIC?

The "New York Times" reported on 19 June that the U.S. and unnamed other NATO governments are sounding out possibilities for Milosevic to relinquish power and go into exile with his "safety and savings" guaranteed. Greek diplomats and senior politicians are reportedly playing a key role in the contacts and discussions. Washington is reluctant, however, to be seen publicly as being conciliatory toward the indicted war criminal. Furthermore, it is not clear whether Belgrade is sincere about making a deal or simply "seeing how the ground lies," the daily added. The main argument in favor of a deal with the Serbian leader is that anything that helps get him out of the way quickly would be a boost for the democratization of Serbia. The article added that U.S. officials will most likely deny any report of an impending deal with Milosevic. PM

KFOR MAKES MAJOR WEAPONS HAUL

British Brigadier Richard Shirreff said in Prishtina that British and other KFOR troops operating in the central Drenica valley have made the "King Solomon's Mines of all weapons finds," "The Independent" reported on 19 June. British Major Simon Blake added that the huge stores of arms and ammunition, which KFOR will soon destroy, are "enough...to support a battle group of several hundred men for over a week." The troops also found four underground bunkers in Klecka, which will be destroyed. Shirreff said that the search will continue for at least another several days because "we're on a roll," Reuters reported. PM

CEKU DENIES KNOWLEDGE OF ARMS

The Klecka bunkers, which were filled with weapons, are approximately 1,000 meters from the headquarters of General Agim Ceku, who is the former commander of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and now head of the Kosova Protection Force. Shirreff said on 17 June that the illegal weapons are most likely "former UCK material," which suggests a "degree of noncompliance" on the part of the ethnic Albanian military, who were obliged to surrender all such stocks to KFOR in 1999. Ceku called the charge "unacceptable," AP reported. He stressed that he has no "knowledge of the origin of these weapons, or the roads and channels by which they could have come.... I want to assure everyone...that the UCK is not behind these weapons. The UCK turned in all the weapons it had," Ceku added. PM

BRITISH COMMANDER BLASTS EU FOR AID DELAYS

The loquacious Brigadier Shirreff said in Prishtina that bureaucratic in- fighting within the EU has held up the delivery of vital aid materials necessary for reconstruction of thousands of Kosovar homes in the runup to the coming winter, London's "Sunday Times" reported on 18 June. The central problem is rivalry between an administrative agency based in Greece and the Brussels-based committee that controls its funding. Lousewies van der Laan, who is vice president of the European parliament's budget control committee, described the behavior of many of the officials involved as "childish." PM

KFOR, MACEDONIA HOLD BORDER TALKS

KFOR commander General Juan Ortuno held talks in Skopje on 17 June with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski on possible ways for peacekeepers to improve security on the Macedonian-Kosovar border. That frontier has been the scene of several serious incidents in recent months involving armed ethnic Albanians and Macedonian border troops. The Macedonian authorities have demanded that KFOR improve security there. PM

ALBANIA, CROATIA TO BOOST TIES

Croatian President Stipe Mesic and his Albanian hosts agreed in Tirana on 17 June to strengthen bilateral relations. An Albanian spokesman noted that the two countries "share similar views on the problems in the region," dpa reported. Both Mesic and his Albanian counterpart, Rexhep Meidani, stressed that there will be no peace in the Balkans as long as Milosevic remains in power. PM

PETRITSCH: BOSNIAN ELITE STUCK IN PAST

Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, told the Vienna daily "Kurier" of 18 June that real progress is beginning to be made in the rebuilding and development of Bosnia's infrastructure. He added, however, that the thinking of the political leadership remains rooted in the past. PM

BOSNIAN SERB POLICE ARREST FIVE IN BOMBING

Police in Banja Luka arrested five persons on 16 June in conjunction with the car-bombing of journalist Zeljko Kopanja in October 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2000). A breakthrough in an unrelated case led to the arrest of the suspects, AP reported. PM

ROMANIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS RUNOFF PRODUCES SURPRISE IN BUCHAREST...

With some 97 percent of the votes counted, Democratic Party candidate Traian Basescu is leading in the race for the post of Bucharest general mayor, having garnered 50.6 percent backing. Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) candidate Sorin Oprescu, who had a comfortable lead after the 4 June first round, has 49.3 percent support. However, the PDSR won the mayoralties of all six of the capital's districts. MS

...WHILE ELSEWHERE RESULTS MORE OR LESS AS EXPECTED

Extreme nationalist Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar, who ran as a candidate of the Greater Romania Party, received more than 53 percent of the vote, compared with 46.7 percent for the Democratic Convention of Romania's (CDR) candidate, Serban Radulescu. CDR candidate Dorin Florea surprisingly won by a small margin in Targu Mures against incumbent Mayor Imre Fodor of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania. In Timisoara, CDR Mayor Gheorghe Ciuhandu scored a comfortable victory over PDSR challenger Simion Sultan. Iasi Mayor Constantin Simirad was re-elected with more than 60 percent backing. In Sibiu, German Democratic Forum candidate Johanis Klaus won with a comfortable 70 percent share of the vote. And the Black Sea port of Constanta will have Radu Mazare, who ran as an independent, as its new mayor. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT AGAIN POSTPONES TESTIFYING IN MONEY-LAUNDERING AFFAIR

PDSR chairman and former President Ion Iliescu has again failed to heed a summons by the Prosecutor General's Office to testify in the investigation launched on behalf of the French authorities into the Adrian Costea money-laundering affair (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2000). PDSR spokesman Ioan Mircea Pascu said Iliescu's agenda continues to be "heavy" and that the PDSR "intends to launch its own investigation in France" into the affair, Mediafax reported. In an interview with the French daily "Le Figaro on 19 June, Iliescu said that the affair is "nothing but a gross political manipulation" and that Costea contributed to his party's 1996 electoral campaign "out of patriotism," Romanian Radio reported. But according to an 18 June Mediafax report, the French company Groupe Saintonge Editions, which is headed by Costea, is now threatening to sue Iliescu for his failure to pay for posters and other electoral materials printed by the group in 1996. The company is demanding that the former president pay nearly 9 million French francs (some $1.3 million). MS

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT IN CHISINAU

President Vladimir Putin told journalists on 17 June after talks with his Moldovan counterpart Petru Lucinschi that he will set up a "special commission," headed by former Premier Yevgenii Primakov, to "accelerate" finding a solution to the Transdniester conflict, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He said Russia will stand by its pledge to withdraw by the end of 2002 its troops and armaments from the separatist region. Putin also said he and Lucinschi have agreed to have experts work on a new bilateral treaty between the two countries. Putin said it is in Russia's interest that Moldova's territorial integrity be respected but added that this required "the respect of the interests of all ethnic groups in Moldova and in particular those [residing] in the Transdniester region." Separatist leader Igor Smirnov was in Chisinau but was not received by Putin. He held talks, however, with one of the president's advisers. MS

BULGARIA OPPOSED TO KOSOVA INDEPENDENCE

Defense Minister Boiko Noev on 16 June told an international conference in Sofia that Bulgaria "staunchly opposes independence for Kosova...and the creation of an Albanian state" in the province, AP reported. The conference focused on the Kosova conflict and its consequences for Bulgaria. Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova told the forum that Bulgaria's trade losses as a result of the recent "crises" in Yugoslavia amount to $6 billion and that the implementation of the Balkan Stability Pact must be sped up. MS




ESTONIAN PRESIDENT PRESSES FOR 'BIG BANG' NATO EXPANSION


By Andrew F. Tully

Lennart Meri, the president of Estonia, was in Washington last week to make his case for what is known as the "Big Bang" expansion of NATO.

In May, the leaders of the nine candidates for inclusion in NATO met in Vilnius and urged that they all join the alliance simultaneously. These countries--the so-called "Vilnius Nine"--are Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

Addressing the headquarters of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on 15 June, Meri offered several reasons for supporting the "Big Bang" approach. A more gradual approach, he argued, would be long and laborious. He said no NATO candidate could reasonably be expected to try to join with a diminished armed force and added that all candidates have been stressing internal stability and good relations with their neighbors.

Meri said the "Big Bang" approach also would be good for Russia by quickly pushing it through the painful process of seeing its former satellites join the Western alliance. He likened that process to swimming in cold waters such as those of the Baltic Sea: "I find it much easier to jump in all at once rather than wading in gradually. And then the water feels fine," he joked.

Meri was asked how he thought Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, would react to the "Big Bang" enlargement of NATO. He replied, "So far we have seen that President Putin is a very predictable leader, and I have every reason to assume that he does not want to be a loser. So the very moment when he sees that the enlargement of NATO is something indispensable, he will find a way to agree with it."

The Estonian president stressed he believes the smaller countries of Europe unequivocally support the rapid enlargement of NATO. He sees resistance from the so-called "Big Three"--Britain, France and Germany--which are still preoccupied by their roles in the Western alliance. "There is some period where the Big Three are looking for their place in the NATO," he said. "I think that those are the main problems we have to face."

But the president stressed that "Big Bang" enlargement is not applicable to entry into the EU. He explained that membership in NATO requires far less precise standards. The alliance, he said, is really nothing more complex than an expression of what he called "political will." The EU, on the other hand, is technically more demanding of its members.

"The union is workable only if there is a certain level regarding the productivity, regarding the standards. Any new member must be able to fulfill some very precise criteria."

Still, Meri said he believes the enlargement of NATO and the enlargement of the EU are "organically linked" and "different sides of the same coin." Together, he said, the two enlargements would lead to what he called a "new, unified, and completed Europe."

The Estonian president said he was in Washington to mark an important anniversary for both the U.S. and his country. In June 1940, he noted, the Soviet Union took over the Baltic states but the U.S. formally refused to recognize Moscow's sovereignty over the three countries.

Meri noted that political leaders of both parties in the U.S. took this stand. He said this gave Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians the moral support to maintain their identities throughout Soviet domination and eventually to regain their independence. The writer is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Washington.


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