Accessibility links

Newsline - June 23, 2000




PUTIN'S LEGISLATION REFORMING FEDERATION TO HIT STUMBLING BLOCK?

The largest faction in the State Duma, the Communists, announced on 22 June that its members will vote against President Vladimir Putin's bill on reforming the Federation Council when it is put to a second reading on 23 June (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 21 June 2000). Some members of the Russian Regions faction were also expected to vote against the bill; however, all other factions have expressed their support. The bill is still expected to pass the lower house not only in the second but also in the third reading, but the loss of the Communists' support might mean that the bill will fail to become law. This is because the Federation Council is expected to reject the bill and 300 votes would be needed in the State Duma to override such a rejection. However, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 June that during the first vote on the bill, in which 362 members voted in favor, only 32 members of those who approved the bill were members of the Communist faction. JAC

PUTIN RENAMES FEDERAL DISTRICT

President Putin signed a decree on 23 June renaming the North Caucasus federal district the Southern district, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin's presidential envoy to that district, General Viktor Kazantsev, told reporters on 20 June that he had requested that Putin rename the North Caucasus okrug because it includes Astrakhan and Volgograd Oblast as well as Kalmykia, which are not part of the North Caucasus. Volgograd Governor Nikolai Maksyuta had complained about his region being placed in the North Caucasus district, saying that Volgograd was previously part of the Volga interregional economic association and the Volga is the optimal trade route for his region (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 14 June 2000). JAC

NORILSK NICKEL SUIT SEEN AS PRIVATE BID TO REVERSE PRIVATIZATION

Following the attempt by the Moscow Prosecutor's Office to overturn the 1997 sale of state shares in Norilsk Nickel, the State Duma Committee for Industry has urged Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov to take personal charge of the case, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 June. Committee Deputy Chairman Yaroslavl Shvyryaev (Russian Regions) said the committee is concerned about the Moscow prosecutor's bid to revise the results of the company's privatization. The next day, the government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" suggested that the suit was the result of a "private initiative," hinting that the Moscow prosecutor's office was acting on behalf of a private party. The daily did not elaborate, however, concluding only that "we will soon learn the real and false objective of the prosecutors." JAC

YAVLINSKII SAYS HE'S BEING FOLLOWED BY FSB

A spokeswoman for Grigorii Yavlinskii told AP on 22 June that the Yabloko leader has been shadowed over the past three weeks. "He has been followed by agents and his conversations have been bugged, Yevgeniya Dilendorf told the news agency, adding that Yavlinskii believes the Federal Security Service (FSB) is behind those operations. The news agency said that the FSB refused to comment on the allegations. Earlier this week, "The St. Petersburg Times" reported that two students at the Baltic State University claim that FSB agents sought to recruit them to spy on Yabloko's activities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2000). JC

ISSUE OF RESTORING DZERZHINKSII MONUMENT RAISED AGAIN

State Duma deputy and leader of the Agro-Industrial faction Nikolai Kharitonov has again called for the restoration of the monument of Cheka founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii at the Lubyanka square in Moscow, Interfax reported on 23 June. Kharitonov declared that the restoration of the monument would be a "first step toward the reconciliation and consolidation of society." Viktor Pokhmelkin, leader of the Union of Rightist Forces faction, suggested ironically that to finally achieve the "consolidation of society," it will be necessary to construct monuments to People's Commissar for Internal Affairs Nikolai Yezhov and Stalin's secret police chief Lavrenti Beria as well as all of those who "drowned our country in blood." In December 1998, deputies approved a resolution restoring the monument but Moscow city officials, including Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, opposed the effort (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1998). JAC

IVANOV PROPOSES RADAR COOPERATION WITH NORWAY...

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, speaking in Bergen on 22 June, proposed that Russian and Norwegian experts could work together at the Globus 2 radar station, located near the Russian-Norwegian border. Moscow fears the U.S.-built radar will become part of the U.S.'s proposed national defense missile system, but Washington insists its purpose is to track space debris. In what was perceived as a transparent attempt to call the West's bluff, Ivanov added that Russia could also take part in the further development of the radar, Western agencies quoted Norway's NTB new agency as reporting. At the same time, he noted this was not an official proposal, rather "just my thinking out loud." His Norwegian counterpart, Thorbjorn Jagland, rejected the proposal outright, saying "there's no question of cooperating with the Russians on the development of the Vardoe radar." He also stressed that the radar will not be used to undermine the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, "of which Norway is one of the strongest defenders." JC

...ASKS BALTICS TO BACK EUROPEAN ABM SYSTEM

Addressing the Council of Baltic Sea States in Bergen on 22 June, Ivanov said that Moscow is "counting on the Baltic states' support" for its proposal to deploy a joint European anti-missile defense system, Interfax reported. Ivanov noted that if the U.S. forges ahead with plans for its own such system, "nobody will be able to remain on the sidelines, including the Baltic states." He added that the designers of the U.S. ABM system "definitely have certain countries of the Baltic region in mind." He did not elaborate. At the same time, he noted that cooperation in the Baltic region is impossible if human rights are not "properly guaranteed," saying the fact cannot be tolerated that some 800,000 Russian-speakers in the region do not have citizenship. JC

RUSSIAN MILITARY PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR NEW CHECHEN LEADER

Speaking in Moscow on 22 June, Russian First Deputy Interior Minister Colonel General Valerii Fedorov said that both the army command and the Russian Interior Ministry forces will "cooperate most closely" with Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov. First Deputy Chief of Army General Stall Colonel General Valerii Manilov similarly said that the Russian federal forces in Chechnya "will give every possible assistance" to Kadyrov, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, Manilov expressed concern at attempts to prevent the establishment of a constitutional system in Chechnya and at "slanderous allegations" spread by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and field commander Shamil Basaev with the aim of discrediting the new Chechen leader. But presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii predicted that field commanders loyal to Maskhadov will target those Chechen local officials who protested Kadyrov's appointment in order to create the impression that they tacitly support him, Interfax reported. LF

KADYROV ANNOUNCES AMNESTY

Kadyrov said on 22 June, in his first appearance on Chechen television, that President Putin has empowered him to amnesty within two weeks Chechen fighters who are not implicated in "serious crimes," ITAR- TASS reported. Kadyrov argued that the Chechen resistance is "neither a holy war on behalf of Islam nor a national liberation movement." He said that by attacking Daghestan last summer, Chechen armed formations violated the cease-fire agreement signed in 1996 and that therefore "the Russian army's actions in Chechnya should not be classified as aggression." Kadyrov also announced that Chechen police will soon be on duty at all checkpoints alongside Russian Interior Ministry personnel. It is not clear which Chechen police force he was referring to. The pro-Moscow Chechen militia headed by former Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov was disbanded last month (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 22, 1 June 2000). LF

RUSSIA, BRAZIL TO BOOST COOPERATION

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and visiting Brazilian Vice President Marco Maciel signed a package of intergovernmental cooperation agreements in Moscow on 22 June, Interfax reported. That package provides for cooperation in the development of bilateral trade, in the exchange of information, including on money-laundering, and in nuclear technology. Kasyanov noted that Russia is also prepared to expand its arms trade and "related cooperation" with Brazil. Meeting with Maciel the following day, President Putin said he believes it is possible to double the countries' trade turnover, which, he said, reached $1 billion last year, according to ITAR-TASS. JC

GOVERNMENT TO BRIBE WORKERS TO STOP TAKING BRIBES?

"Izvestiya" reported on 23 June that the Russian government is considering raising the salaries of government officials by five to 10 times in order to reduce corruption and attract experienced professionals into state service. According to the daily, the monthly salary of a federal government minister would be increased to $3,000 and that of a department head to $500 a month, while parliamentary speakers and chief justices would receive $5,000-$6,000 a month. The daily did not say what these officials are now earning. State officials themselves reportedly doubt that the government will take such a radical step. "Trud" reported on 14 June that although the Finance Ministry announced that it had successfully trimmed 78,000 civil service jobs in 1998-1999, in reality the total number of bureaucrats nationwide grew because local and regional structures continued to hire more people. JAC

WHO PUTS RUSSIAN HEALTH SYSTEM IN BOTTOM HALF OF RANKINGS

In a report ranking 191 countries' health systems issued on 21 June, the World Health Organization ranks Russia at 130, in between Peru and Honduras. Of the former Soviet republics, only Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan ranked lower. Russia trailed significantly behind Kazakhstan, ranked 64th, and Belarus, placed 72nd. France came first, Italy second, and the U.S. 37th. According to the "The Moscow Times" on 23 June, Health Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Zharov said the report was based on 1997 data and does not reflect the current state of the Russian healthcare system. JAC

MONEY-LAUNDERING TASK FORCE GIVES RUSSIA FAILING MARKS

An international task force on money-laundering, the Finance Action Task Force (FATF), has put 15 countries, including Russia and Israel, on a black list of countries accused of failing to cooperate in the fight against illegally earned funds, AP reported on 22 June. The FATF's list is based on 25 criteria, including the existence of loopholes in financial regulations, lack of identification of owners of businesses and bank accounts, obstacles to international cooperation, and inadequate resources for preventing and detecting money laundering. Other countries on the list are the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Dominica, the Grenadines, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Nevis, Panama, the Philippines, St. Kitts, and St. Vincent. JAC

CONTROVERSIAL RABBI DENIES CONTACTS WITH KREMLIN

In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 22 June, Berl Lazar, head of the Federation of Russian Jewish Communities, denied that he or his group has ever had any contacts with the presidential administration. He added that "we have always had good relations with the government, and I hope to maintain [these relations] in the future," but he said that he will never become involved in politics since he has "neither the time nor the desire." He declared that his group "has never pretended to represent all Jews" and that they "have no desire to remove [chief rabbi] Adolf Shaevich--on the contrary--he should continue his work." Shaevich and other members of the Russian Jewish Congress earlier accused the Kremlin of trying to interfere in matters pertaining to Russia's Jewish community through its support of Lazar and his federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 14 and 19 June 2000). JAC

TWO DIE OF HEMORRHAGIC FEVER IN VOLGOGRAD

The Emergency Situations Ministry announced on 22 June that two people have died of hemorrhagic fever in Volgograd Oblast and nine others have contracted the disease, ITAR-TASS reported. Officials said that unusually warm weather is responsible for the large number of ticks that spread the disease. Last month, hemorrhagic fever claimed lives in nearby Stavropol Krai (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 2000). JC




U.S. DIPLOMAT SAYS KARABAKH CONFLICT CAN BE SOLVED IN 3 YEARS

The new U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, Ross Wilson, told the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee on 22 June that he believes the Karabakh conflict "can and should" be resolved within the next three years, ITAR-TASS reported. The terms of both Armenian President Robert Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, expire in 2003. On 21 June, Kocharian said on returning from Moscow, where he had discussed the conflict with Aliyev the previous day, that "we have embarked on more active negotiations, but at this point I cannot yet conclude that the [Nagorno-Karabakh] peace process is entering the final phase." "Hayots ashkhar" reported. LF

AZERBAIJAN HOLDS SEMINAR ON PIPELINE SECURITY

NATO and energy sector representatives from Azerbaijan and other Caspian littoral states attended a two-day seminar in Baku on 20-21 June within the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace program to discuss security measures for planned oil and gas export pipelines that will transit the South Caucasus, Turan reported. On 22 June, the Turkish parliament finally ratified the package of agreements, signed by the presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, that constitute the legal framework for building the planned Baku- Ceyhan oil pipeline, AP reported. LF

AZERBAIJAN, CHINA DISCUSS COOPERATION

On an official visit to Baku on 21-23 June, Chinese Assembly of People's Representatives chairman Li Peng met with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Murtuz Alesqerov, Prime Minister Artur Rasizade, and President Aliev, Turan reported. Li told Alesqerov and Rasizade that Beijing does not consider that human rights take precedence over the principles of state sovereignty and territorial integrity. He expressed his support for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity but added that all regional conflicts should be resolved peacefully, according to ITAR-TASS. Li also told Aliyev that Beijing has condemned as illegal the 18 June parliamentary elections in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Aliyev said he would welcome Chinese involvement in exploiting Azerbaijan's oil and gas reserves. Li is also scheduled to visit the Mingechaur hydro-electric power station where he worked as a young man. LF

GEORGIA, U.S. SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT

Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze and visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Edward Warner signed a plan for cooperation for this year and a joint statement on environmental cooperation, Caucasus Press reported. Warner told journalists that his talks with Tevzadze focused on the reform of the Georgian armed forces, the strength of which he advised should be reduced to 20,000 (from the present 33,000) and the control of Georgia's anti-aircraft defenses. Warner predicted that Georgia will need three to five years to bring its armed forces up to NATO standards. He also noted that budget funding for the armed forces is inadequate and should be increased. Warner also met with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, to whom he repeated earlier U.S. offers to help meet the costs of the withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgia. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT RULES OUT BERIA REHABILITATTION

Shevardnadze on 22 June said he considers "impossible" any move to rehabilitate former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's secret police chief Lavrenti Beria, Caucasus Press reported. He noted that on Beria's orders, "thousands were shot without any trial or investigation and families were ruined." But Shevardnadze did not rule out the possibility that future generations will approve Beria's rehabilitation. In late May the Russian Supreme Court's Military Collegium upheld the rejection by the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office of an appeal by Beria's descendants for his rehabilitation. At that time, former Georgian parliamentary speaker Vakhtang Goguadze argued that while Beria "does not provoke sympathies in the moral sense," his contribution to the Soviet war victory over Nazi Germany and to building "a powerful Soviet state" cannot be denied. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PARLIAMENT DEBATES EXPANDED POWERS FOR INCUMBENT PRESIDENT

At separate sessions on 22 June, both houses of Kazakhstan's parliament approved in the first reading legislation that would give President Nursultan Nazarbaev lifelong powers, Reuters and RFE/RL's Astana correspondent reported. Those powers include speaking at parliamentary and government sessions, advising on personnel appointments, heading the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan, and membership in the National Security Council. Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin condemned the bill as premature, given that Nazarbaev still has six years of his term to serve. Rakhmet Muqyshev, leader of the Civic Party which sponsored the bill, denied that Nazarbaev plans to follow the example of Russian President Boris Yeltsin by stepping down before his term ends and after having chosen an acceptable successor, according to Interfax. LF

KAZAKHSTAN DENIES HARBORING WOUNDED CHECHEN FIGHTERS

Kazakhstan National Security Committee spokesman Kezhebulat Beknazarov told Interfax on 22 June that there is no truth to allegations that 300 wounded Chechen fighters are receiving medical treatment at a sanatorium in East Kazakhstan Oblast. The Kazakhstan Prosecutor-General's Office likewise dismissed those allegations as "a lie." The deputy commander of the Russian federal forces in the North Caucasus, Major General Vyacheslav Borisov, had made those claims at a press conference at the Khankala military base near Grozny the previous day. In Moscow, First Deputy Chief of Russian Army General Staff Colonel General Valerii Manilov said he could not definitively confirm the truth of Borisov's statement, according to Interfax. LF

RUSSIA NEGOTIATES PURCHASE OF URANIUM FROM KYRGYZSTAN

A delegation headed by Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov held talks in Bishkek on 22 June with Kyrgyz Premier Amangeldy MurAliyev on possible purchases of raw uranium and other precious metals, Interfax reported. The delegation also visited the Djanar Electronics Plant in Bishkek and the Kara- Balta mining complex which extracts gold and raw uranium. Adamov also met with Kyrgyz Defense Minister Esen Topev, with whom he signed an agreement on cooperation to modernize Kyrgyzstan's border defenses, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. It is not clear whether that Russian assistance in strengthening Kyrgyzstan's borders is intended as part or total payment for the uranium. LF

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG CONCERNED FOR JAILED UZBEK WRITER

In a statement released in New York on 22 June, Human Rights Watch warned that the health of Mamadali Makhmudov is deteriorating as a result of mistreatment in prison and said that his life may be in danger. Makhmudov, who is 57, was sentenced in August 1999 to 14 years imprisonment on fabricated charges of participating in a "criminal society" and of insulting Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 1999). LF




EUROPEAN MEDIATORS SAY BELARUS LACKS CONDITIONS FOR DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS

"The delegation, were it to give its final judgment at this moment, would not be able to recommend the institutions it represents to send international observers to the parliamentary election in Belarus," Jan Wiersma of the European Parliament told journalists in Minsk on 22 June. Wiersma visited Minsk with Adrian Severin of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to study the pre-electoral situation in Belarus. Wiersma said the amendments proposed to the electoral code do not substantially improve the transparency of the electoral process and do not guarantee that composition of the electoral commissions will be pluralistic. He added that limited progress has been made toward giving all political parties access to the media, while there has been virtually no movement toward ensuring that the parliament's function is meaningful. JM

WILL RUSSIA PRESS LUKASHENKA TO DEMOCRATIZE BELARUS?

Wiersma and Severin urged the Belarusian government "to make full use of the limited time still available and intensify the process of negotiations with the opposition," Belapan reported. Severin said he believes Russia might still persuade Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to change his authoritarian policies. "We expect Russia as an OSCE member to undertake an important role in strengthening the democratic process in Belarus. My mood is between hope and fear," Reuters quoted Severin as saying. The Belarusian opposition proposed postponing the parliamentary elections, but administration officials replied that such a move would violate the constitution promulgated in the 1996 referendum. "The country lives by expectations of parliamentary elections and the authorities will win them," Reuters quoted presidential administration deputy chief Ivan Pashkevich as saying. JM

BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE AMENDS ELECTORAL CODE

The Chamber of Representatives on 22 June voted unanimously to amend the electoral code, Belapan reported. Central Electoral Commission Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna presented the draft amendments to the legislature, saying that Lukashenka submitted nine of the 16 changes that were originally proposed within the framework of the so-called "sociopolitical dialogue." In particular, the passed amendments regulate the status and functions of domestic observers, facilitate the collection of signatures in candidates' support, allow political parties to have candidates in constituencies where they lack registered branches, and require that candidates present their income and property declarations. The Belarusian opposition argues that Lukashenka excluded the most substantial proposals to amend the electoral code, including the opposition's right to fill up to 30 percent of the electoral commissions and the abolition of early voting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2000). JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT LIFTS IMMUNITY OF LAWMAKER LINKED TO LAZARENKO...

The parliament on 22 June voted by 229 to five with 65 abstentions to lift the immunity of deputy Mykola Agafonov, Interfax reported. The Prosecutor-General's Office suspects Agafonov of embezzling $24 million in state funds from an agricultural company he headed from 1992-1997. Prosecutors say Agafonov deposited some of the diverted money into accounts of former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who is facing trial on money-laundering charges in the US. Agafonov commented that the charges against him constitute a "political intrigue" and said he will appeal the parliament's decision in court. JM

...APPROVES SENDING PEACEKEEPERS TO LEBANON, CONGO...

The parliament voted by 268 to two to endorse President Leonid Kuchma's proposal to send 950 Ukrainian troops and civilian personnel to Lebanon and the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a UN peacekeeping operation in those countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2000). JM

...OKAYS PRIVATIZATION OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS GIANT IN FIRST READING...

The legislature also voted the same day by 255 to six to pass in the first reading a bill on the privatization of Ukraine's telecommunication giant, Ukrtelekom, whose assets are valued at 4 billion hryvni ($740 million). The bill calls for the government to keep a 50 percent plus one share stake and sell at least 25 percent of the company's shares. It also bans companies registered in offshore zones from taking part in the privatization of Ukrtelekom. JM

GERMANY UNDECIDED ON CONTRIBUTION TO CHORNOBYL CLOSURE

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told journalists in Kyiv on 23 June that his government is undecided on what help to give Ukraine to close the Chernobyl nuclear power station, dpa reported. Fischer said the size of the German contribution to fix the steel and concrete shelter over Chornobyl's collapsed reactor can be decided only after a G-7 donor conference meets in Berlin on 5 July. JM

BALTIC SEA MINISTERS MEET IN NORWAY

Foreign ministers from countries surrounding the Baltic Sea met in Bergen, Norway on 21-22 June and focused on increasing cooperation within the Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS). The EU's "Northern Dimension" plan and information technology cooperation in the region featured prominently in the talks. It was decided to create a faculty for European studies at Kaliningrad University as part of the ongoing program to integrate the Russian exclave with the rest of the region. The post of CBSS human rights commissioner was transformed into that of democratic development commissioner, and Helle Degn, chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Danish parliament, will take over the position from Ole Espersen, whose term in office has expired. Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorbjorn Jagland, who hosted the meeting, reaffirmed his country's support for the Baltic countries' integration with NATO. MH

FIRST CLASS OF BALTIC DEFENSE COLLEGE GRADUATES

Officers from eight countries made up the first class to graduate from the Baltic Defense College in Tartu, Estonia. The graduation ceremony was attended by Estonian President Lennart Meri, British First Sea Lord Admiral Michael Boyce, Danish military commander General Christian Hvidt and as the defense ministers of Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Sweden. The graduates come from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, U.S., Sweden, Germany, and Hungary. Next year, some 40 students will study at the college. MH

VILNIUS AUTHORITIES TO SUE GOVERNMENT IN FUNDS ROW

The Vilnius City Council on 22 June approved a motion to file suit against the national government for funds the city claims it is owed from the national budget, ELTA reported. The city believes that the government owes Vilnius about 120 million litas ($40 million), citing the government's failure to provide compensation for new government-instituted responsibilities imposed on the city. The Finance Ministry, meanwhile, has accused Vilnius of not transferring tax revenues worth 94.1 million litas to the central budget. Many analysts believe the row is linked to the general election campaign : Vilnius Mayor Rolandas Paksas is head of the opposition Liberal Union, which is currently leading in the polls, while the national government is controlled by the Conservatives. MH

POLES DOUBTFUL ABOUT SURVIVAL OF MINORITY CABINET

In a poll conducted by OBOP on 10-12 June, 50 percent of respondents said the minority cabinet formed by the Solidarity Electoral Action will not survive until the end of the current parliament's tenure, that is, until fall 2001, PAP reported on 21 June. Twenty-three percent believed it will survive until then, while 27 percent had no opinion on the issue. Forty-six percent said the activities of the minority government will adversely affect the economy, while12 percent said they will not. JM

BENES DECREES STIR NEW CONTROVERSY

Pavel Telicka, chief negotiator with the EU, told CTK on 22 June that the Czech Republic "will not mind" if the European Parliament passes a resolution calling for an examination to determine whether the 1945 Benes decrees are compatible with EU legislation on the free movement of capital and people. European Parliament rapporteur for the Czech Republic, Juergen Schroeder, said earlier the same day that the European Parliament should pass a resolution calling for such an examination. Telicka said he sees "no connection whatsoever" and commented that the German population of post-war Czechoslovakia was not expelled as a result of the Benes decrees but because of the decisions of the then great powers at the Potsdam 1945 conference. The Benes decrees, he said, were issued "to ensure the continuity of Czechoslovak legal order" after the war. MS

CZECH PREMIER ADOPTS ANTI-FEMINIST POSITION ON REFERENDUM

Holding a referendum on EU entry before knowing the conditions of the union would be tantamount to "facing the decision whether or not to marry a woman whose age, size of breasts or waist, or dowry are unknown," Prime Minister Milos Zeman commented after meeting EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen in Prague on 22 June, CTK reported. Verheugen told journalists that it is "too early now" to set a date for the accession of the best-prepared candidates, but the earliest date is 1 January 2003 and the latest 1 January 2005. He said he hopes that by then, 10 countries will have become EU members, noting Bulgaria and Romania will not be among the 10 since they themselves have set later dates for ending the negotiating process. MS

CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER WANTS INVESTIGATION OF TROUBLED BANK'S SALE

Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus said on 22 June that the ODS "insists" on setting up a parliamentary commission to investigate the circumstances of the recent sale of Investicni a Postovni banka. Klaus told a press conference that the ruling Social Democratic Party was "cheated" into the sale by "a group of politicians and financiers" who "masterminded the plan, organized it, and implemented it." He refused to mention names, telling journalists that it is their job to find them out. Klaus said the ODS refused to become an accomplice to "a bank robbery in broad daylight" that will cost "every Czech [tax-paying] family about 25,000 crowns (some $660)." In other news, after meeting with Verheugen the same day, Klaus said he and the commissioner have clarified the "misunderstanding" between them over Klaus's position on putting the Czech Republic's EU entry to a plebiscite. Klaus said that the misunderstanding had been caused by "distorted" media coverage. MS

PRAGUE TELLS ORTHODOX JEWS CEMETERY IS 'CLOSED CHAPTER'

Culture Minister Pavel Dostal told journalists on 22 June that the compromise agreement with the Czech Jewish community on the 13th century Prague cemetery means that the issue is "a closed chapter." He stressed that the cabinet does not intend to meet the demands of orthodox Jews who have repeatedly demonstrated in Prague to protest that compromise. Dostal also said police have "acted properly" when ordering demonstrators to leave the construction site and detaining those who refused to comply (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2000). MS

CZECH RADICAL RIGHT LEADER RELEASED FROM PRISON

Vladimir Skoupy, leader of the far right National Alliance, has been released from prison, where he served part of a one-year term for violating the conditions of his suspended sentence, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2000). Skoupy said he will continue to participate in and make speeches at demonstrations because the court did not forbid him to do so. But he added that he will respect the verdict's prohibition on promoting fascism or "defaming a people or a race." MS

HUNGARIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTRY INSISTS ON EU SUBSIDIES

Agriculture Minister Joszef Torgyan told journalists in Brussels on 22 June after meeting with EU Commissioner for Agriculture Franz Fischer that Hungary will insist on getting the same subsidies for its agricultural sector as all other EU members, once it has acceded to the union, "Vilaggazdasag" reported. Fischer told the Agence-Europe that the union will face "an impossible task" if subsidies are immediately extended to new members. MS




BOSNIA GETS NEW GOVERNMENT

The joint parliament on 22 June approved the new government of Prime Minister Spasoje Tusevljak, which has six ministries. Only 18 out of 42 deputies cast their votes for the cabinet. Ten voted against, two abstained, and 12 were absent. The controversial Bosnian Serb Tusevljak will hold the rotating chair for eight months. He is also treasury minister. He said that improving the "economy is the basic task.... We have to push to create conditions that will enable Bosnia to participate actively in European integration and business," Reuters reported. PM

BOSNIAN MINISTER STRESSES EUROPEAN ORIENTATION...

Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 22 June that the only future for the republic is as a single state integrated into Europe. He added that European integration will help encourage Bosnian Serbs to identify with Bosnia rather than with Serbia. Prlic noted that he travels "only with a Bosnian passport," although as an ethnic Croat he is also entitled to a Croatian one. Bosnia should follow the examples of Slovakia and Croatia and repudiate nationalism in favor of a pro-European orientation, he added. The Foreign Ministry, he noted, will soon add "about 100, mainly young people to its staff," and he added that the ministry is well on the way to completing the staffing of its missions abroad. He appealed to Bosnian citizens living abroad to consider coming home, saying his ministry could make use of their expertise and knowledge of foreign languages. PM

...OFFERS MOSTAR AS CAPITAL

Prlic made it clear to RFE/RL's South Slavic Service that he and the Bosnian branch of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) have broken with their Croatian-oriented nationalist past. "There's no turning back," he stressed. He said that the party's greatest mistake was to be too close to Croatia's HDZ and to have a bad personnel policy, but he did not elaborate. Prlic argued that the HDZ's greatest contribution was to propose dividing Bosnia into ethnically-based cantons as the most practical form of organization. He called for transforming ethnically divided Mostar, which the Croats of Herzegovina regard as their center, into a model community and suggested that Mostar could become the capital of the Muslim-Croatian federation. Prlic noted that his fellow Croats rejected the proposal when he made it in 1998, but he said the majority have since changed their view. PM

DEL PONTE PLEASED WITH MONTENEGRIN TRIP

Carla Del Ponte, who is chief prosecutor of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said in Podgorica on 22 June that she is glad that she came to Montenegro, despite threats to her safety by supporters of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2000). "I was determined to visit today, notwithstanding the threats made by President Milosevic in Belgrade because I knew that I was coming to a democratic country, which believes in the rule of law," she said. Del Ponte added that any deal to offer Milosevic a safe exile in return for his giving up power is unacceptable and that the only place for him is in The Hague (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 June 2000). "No deal is possible," Reuters quoted her as saying. Montenegrin Prime Minister Fillip Vujanovic said the republic has shown that it is "ready and able to guarantee safety to all who come to Montenegro, regardless of their mission." PM

MONTENEGRO APPEALS TO UN

Zeljko Perovic, who heads Montenegro's mission to the UN, sent the Security Council a document on 22 June asking for unspecified "security guarantees" for his republic because of "pressure" from Belgrade, dpa reported. The text includes several examples of Milosevic's attempts to intimidate the Montenegrin leadership. The council is slated to discuss the document on 23 June. PM

HEARING BEGINS IN DRASKOVIC CASE

Judge Zoran Zivkovic opened the court hearing of the brothers Ivan and Milan Lovric in Podgorica on 22 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2000). He ordered the men detained for 30 days pending an investigation into their alleged "criminal act of terrorism" against Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic in Budva on 15 June. PM

U.S. STUDY: SERBS TARGETED YOUNG KOSOVAR MALES

Paul Spiegel and Peter Salama of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, wrote in a study published in London on 22 June that their "estimate of 12,000 deaths directly related to war trauma between February 1998 and June 1999 represents the first epidemiological estimate to be obtained for the entire Kosovar Albanian population.... Our data concur with other reports which indicate that men, and particularly Kosovar Albanian men of military age, were systematically targeted by the Serbian forces," Reuters reported. Most of the dead were civilians, they added. The findings appeared in "The Lancet," a medical journal. PM

WOUNDED SERBS IN 'STABLE CONDITION'

The two Serbs recently shot by unknown assailants in Prishtina's Mother Teresa street are in "stable condition" in a British military hospital, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement on 22 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2000). Valentina Cukic, who was hit in the chest, was wearing a KFOR press identification badge at the time of the shooting. She works for Radio Kontakt, which is the only multi-ethnic radio station in Kosova. Her companion Ljubomir Topalovic was wounded in the leg. PM

BELGRADE REGIME BLASTS 'FOREIGN-BACKED TERRORISM'...

In Belgrade on 22 June, indicted war criminal and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic said that recent incidents in the Presevo valley indicate that ethnic Albanian "terrorists are not giving up and that [police] measures must be expanded," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2000). He added that Serbian "police are doing everything...to control the buffer zone [on the border with Kosova] and with good results in view of the extent of [terrorist] training facilities and bases in the Kosovska Kamenica region and vast logistical support of U.S. forces and KFOR" to the Kosova Liberation Army. PM

...BUT ETHNIC ALBANIANS PLEAD 'SELF-DEFENSE'

A man identified only as Commander Bajram told AP in Prishtina on 22 June that his Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac Liberation Army has not launched recent attacks on Serbian property in the Presevo valley area. He argued that his forces fight only in response to attacks from Serbian forces. He admitted that his group uses clandestine routes into and out of Kosova but denied Serbian charges that it operates openly and freely there. PM

BELGRADE SLAMS EU 'WHITE LIST'

In Belgrade on 22 June, Sainovic denounced EU plans to set up a "white list" of Serbian businesses that do not pay money to the state (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2000). He argued that all businesses must pay taxes and therefore no business can meet the EU's criteria. "Who in France can sign a statement saying no taxes will be paid to the state? Tax evasion is heresy in their own countries. They [in the EU] know it is impossible," Reuters reported. Sainovic also made light of international sanctions against Belgrade. "There are no embargoes, there is only a price. Believe me, I am talking from personal experience and after eight years of sanctions," he said. PM

NO DEAL FOR MILOSEVIC

An unnamed senior official of Milosevic's Socialist Party told AP in Belgrade on 23 June that unspecified Western governments have indeed approached Milosevic with offers of safety in return for leaving Serbia. "There have been such initiatives every once in a while, but he even refused to discuss it. There's no way that he could opt for such a stupid option." The daily "Danas" added that "the current degree of state repression signals Milosevic's readiness to defend himself at any cost. The Yugoslav president has been cornered to defend not only his rule but also his skin." PM

FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT TESTIFIES IN MONEY-LAUNDERING AFFAIR

Party of Social Democracy in Romania Chairman and former President Ion Iliescu on 22 June testified as a witness in the Adrian Costea money-laundering affair, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The previous day, the Prosecutor-General's Office had summoned Iliescu for the third time to testify. Iliescu said the investigators asked about "all the issues already publicized in the media" and that he "has nothing to add" to his earlier statements. Meanwhile, the Romanian post service has launched its own investigation into the circumstances of a letter sent to Iliescu by Costea's lawyers that was damaged on reaching its destination. The letter was published in the media before reaching Iliescu. MS

TRANSDNIESTER SUPREME SOVIET AMENDS CONSTITUTION

The Transdniester Supreme Soviet on 22 June amended the separatist region's constitution to significantly increase the prerogatives of the president, Infotag reported. The change will not have an immediate impact since Igor Smirnov is both "head of state" and "premier." The amendments approved transforming the Supreme Soviet from a bicameral into a unicameral legislature that will have 43 deputies, instead of the 60 under the former, bicameral system. The legislature also approved a resolution condemning Chisinau's "infringement of the Gagauz people's economic rights" and "disregard for Gagauz interests in its internal and foreign policy," Flux reported. The session was attended by Gagauz Yeri Popular Assembly Chairman Mikhail Kendigelean, who said the autonomous region now wants to participate in the pending Chisinau-Tiraspol negotiations on "a joint common state." MS

BULGARIA, MOLDOVA, DISCUSS NUCLEAR WASTE TRANSIT

Visiting Moldovan Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis and his Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Kostov, met in Sofia on 22 June to discuss the transit via Moldovan territory of nuclear waste from the Kozlodui plant bound for Russia, AP reported, citing BTA. Braghis said the Moldovan parliament is still considering whether to approve an agreement on the transit that was signed last year. Kostov said the issue is "of particular importance, and Bulgaria expects a positive solution." MS

BULGARIA TO PRIVATIZE SECOND NATIONAL TV CHANNEL

The government on 22 June announced it will privatize the second national television channel. Bids for the 15-year license must be submitted by 1 September, Reuters and AP reported. Bidders will compete for a frequency that until 1997 had been used by Russian Public Television, which did not re-apply for a license. The signal covers 56 percent of Bulgarian territory, and the license holder will be required to expand coverage to 75 percent at its own expense. MS




TRANSYLVANIA'S LOCAL ELECTIONS SHOW NATIONALISM IS STRONG FACTOR


By Zsolt-Istvan Mato

Romania's post-communist political allegiances have been characterized by some notable regional differences: Moldova and Muntenia (except for their large urban settlements) tend to favor the post-communist "successor parties," while the former Hungarian province of Transylvania has supported the present governing coalition parties.

A close examination of the 2000 local election results in Transylvania shows that the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) and the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) won that contest. While most important cities are still controlled by coalition representatives, the UDMR and the PDSR dominate the county councils, where the system for the distribution of seats is similar to that used in parliamentary elections. The main political organization of ethnic Hungarians, representing 23 percent of the region's inhabitants, came first in five of the region's 16 counties and has a majority in two counties. The PDSR, on the other hand, won in six counties but failed to secure a majority on the councils where it won.

Two cities attracted the most attention during the elections. One is Targu Mures, where in March 1990 Romanians clashed with ethnic Hungarians, leaving six dead and several injured. The city has since returned to "normalcy," but nationalist sentiments, though subdued, persist on each side. With its very large Hungarian ethnic minority, Targu Mures has been governed since 1992 by an ethnic Hungarian mayor, who in the past managed to enlist the support of some liberal-minded members of the town's ethnic Romanian majority. In the 4 June first round of the 2000 local elections, incumbent Imre Fodor was only 179 votes short of winning outright. But in the runoff two weeks later, Romanian Democratic Convention (CDR) candidate Dorin Florea won by a narrow margin of 2,723 votes, producing what is perhaps the greatest surprise in Transylvania in the local elections. Florea, until now the prefect of Mures county, conducted a campaign that clearly appealed to Romanian nationalist sentiments. He thus managed to enlist the support of the CDR's nationalist adversaries against the UDMR candidate Fodor, whose party is a CDR partner in the central government coalition. Florea now faces a UDMR majority in the city council and the difficult task of working with two Hungarian vice mayors.

Transylvania's "spiritual capital," Cluj, drew even more attention, however. Extreme nationalist Mayor Gheorghe Funar, secretary-general of the Greater Romania Party (PRM), has headed the mayoralty since 1992, when he was still a member (and then the leader) of the Party of Romanian National Unity. In the first round of this month's elections, he garnered 46 percent of the vote and UDMR candidate Peter Eckstein Kovacs placed second with 21 percent (roughly the percentage of the city's population that is Hungarian). Fearing the runoff would bring about a strong division along ethnic lines, Eckstein Kovacs stepped down in favor of Serban Radulescu, the CDR candidate who placed third with just over 11 percent backing. This prompted all parties except the PRM to form a coalition against Funar. Most local intellectuals declared their support for Radulescu, and the local media intensified the strong anti-Funar campaign they had launched before the first round.

Radulescu centered his campaign on the need to return to "normalcy" in interethnic relations and to attract foreign investors, who have been scared off by Funar's anti-Western rhetoric. Clearly convinced he would repeat his 1996 performance, when he was one of the few mayors to win in the first round, Funar had conducted a surprisingly tame campaign. But ahead of the runoff he returned to waging an all-out war against the town's Hungarian minority and Magyars in Romania in general. He claimed that should Radulescu win, Hungarian would be introduced as an official language, a Hungarian-language university would be established (as it should have been long ago, in accordance with legislation already passed), and Romanians would be "kicked out of their homes." Moreover, according to the maverick mayor, Hungarian companies would buy up local firms, and Cluj would instantly return to being "Kolozsvar," the city's name under centuries- long Hungarian rule.

Funar's tactics worked again, particularly among those Romanians whom late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu moved to Cluj to "Romanianize" Transylvania's capital. The coalition formed by the anti-Funar parties--which surprisingly included the PDSR--turned out to be "too little, too late." This took few people unawares since both the PDSR and some parties represented in the CDR have on occasion played the "nationalist card" themselves. Funar won with 53 to Radulescu's 47 percent., leaving the city even more divided than ever and with a local council dominated by the anti- Funar coalition representatives.

But if Hungarian money seemed dirty for the residents of Cluj, German Marks proved attractive elsewhere in Transylvania. In the southern city of Sibiu, the runoff resulted in the overwhelming victory of Johannis Klaus, the candidate of the German Democratic Forum, over his PDSR adversary. That result was somewhat surprising: once dominated by Germans, the former Hermannstadt now has a population that is only 1 percent German. Klaus had offered global, not ethnic solutions for the city. Observers, however, note that Sibiu voters are hoping the ethnic German mayor will help attract investments from Germany and other EU member countries. The author is a freelance writer living in Cluj, Romania.


XS
SM
MD
LG