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Newsline - June 28, 2000




SENATORS REJECT BILL DISBANDING UPPER HOUSE

Members of the Federation Council on 28 June rejected the bill reforming the upper legislative chamber. The vote was 129 against and 13 in favor, Interfax reported. The ballot was held in secret and followed harsh criticism of the law by a majority of the senators present, according to the agency. Before the vote, Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak and Deputy Speaker Vladimir Platonov both called for the creation of a coordinating commission composed of members of Russia's upper and lower legislative chambers to rework the law, Interfax reported. However, senators also rejected that call. Prusak, who has been almost slavishly supportive of President Putin even before he was elected, also recalled that "the president was elected with the governors' help" and cautioned that "there should not be a confrontation between the president and the governors." JAC

ANOTHER MEDIA-MOST OFFICIAL GROUNDED

First deputy chairman of Media-MOST's Board of Directors, Igor Malashenko, was prevented by border guards at a Moscow airport from leaving Russia on 28 June, Ekho Moskvy reported. The guards told Malashenko that he has temporarily been banned from leaving the country, but they gave no reason. Malashenko, who was scheduled to give a speech in Austria, said the real reason is clear and is "a continuation the campaign of intimidation against Media-MOST and the mass media." He also suggested that the move was "a gesture of revenge," since he has given several speeches lately condemning restrictions on press freedom. Malashenko's boss, Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii, was detained early this month and charged with embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2000). Gusinskii is also forbidden to leave the country. JAC

RUSSIAN TV JOURNALISTS SAY EUROPE SHOULD NOT SPEAK OUT ON MEDIA...

Addressing members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 27 June, NTV Director-General Yevgenii Kiselov and Russian Public Television anchorman Sergei Dorenko spoke on the issue of freedom of expression in Russia. Dorenko, who is considered close to business magnate Boris Berezovskii, warned of the approach of totalitarianism in Russia, noting that "in a year or two there will simply be no public institutions. That is, you will be talking with one entity, the state machine," "The Moscow Times" reported the next day. According to "Kommersant-Daily," although both men spoke of encroachments on press freedom, the main theme of the discussion was that trying to pressure the Russian government about freedom of the press would have the opposite of the desired effect. Kiselov explained to Ekho Moskvy that "right now the level of anti-Western, anti-European sentiment is very high in society, the level of isolationism is very strong." NTV is owned by Gusinskii's Media-MOST and Gazprom. JAC

...AS CE MINISTERS RECOMMEND RUSSIA RETAIN PACE MEMBERSHIP

Following a visit to Chechnya by Council of Europe Secretary- General Walter Schwimmer on 23 June, the Council of Europe's Ministerial Committee announced on 27 June that it will not suspend Russia's membership in PACE (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2000). A statement issued by the ministers declared that "the Council of Europe has an essential contribution to make in restoring human rights in the Chechen Republic. At the same time, it recognizes that this contribution can only be made if Russia is a member of the organization," Reuters reported. The ministers also said that sanctions imposed against Russian deputies in PACE should be lifted soon, according to dpa. JAC

NEW FIGHTING UNDER WAY IN SOUTHERN CHECHNYA

Russian Interior Ministry forces have been engaged in heavy fighting since 26 June with some 150-200 Chechen fighters and Arab mercenaries subordinate to field commander Khattab near the town of Serzhen-Yurt at the mouth of the Vedeno gorge south of Grozny. Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii denied on 28 June Chechen claims that more than 30 Russian troops have been killed in that battle, putting the number of Russian fatalities at 12, with 16 wounded, according to ITAR- TASS. On 27 June, Russian Presidential Representative to South Russia Colonel General Viktor Kazantsev said in Mozdok that the "main phase" of the armed operation in Chechnya is over. LF

RUSSIAN GENERAL ADMITS UNDER-ESTIMATING CHECHEN STRENGTH

In an interview published in "Trud" on 28 June and summarized by dpa, First Deputy Chief of Russian Army General Staff Colonel General Valerii Manilov said the Russian military greatly underestimated the resources in manpower and equipment that the Chechen fighters are receiving via Georgia. He claimed that 2,000-3,000 fighters are currently gathered on Georgian territory waiting to enter Chechnya and that despite "long and painful" talks with the Georgian leadership, the latter has failed to crack down on that traffic. On 21 June, Major General Vyacheslav Borisov, who is deputy commander of the joint federal forces in Chechnya, estimated the number of Chechen fighters remaining in Chechnya at 2,300, according to Interfax. LF

CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS VOW TO FIGHT 'TO THE LAST MAN'

Meeting in southwestern Chechnya on 27 June, an unspecified number of Chechen field commanders denounced as "traitors" three of their number who have pledged their support for interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, AP reported. They vowed to continue fighting "to the last soldier." LF

PRIME MINISTER ASKS DUMA TO POSTPONE SUMMER BREAK

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov sent a letter to the Duma on 27 June asking deputies to extend their session beyond 7 July in order to process all pending tax reform legislation. Kasyanov explained on 28 June that it is important for the Duma to endorse those laws so that the 2001 draft federal budget can be drawn up taking into account the tax legislation. On 23 June, deputies passed in its second reading a bill on value- added tax. A third and final reading is needed for that bill and for at least two other bills on income taxes and the unified social tax. Also, the Duma's Budget Committee last week postponed consideration of a component of the Tax Code that would require individuals to declare their major purchases, "Vremya novostei" reported on 23 June. JAC

NORTH KOREAN DELEGATION MAKES STOPOVER IN MOSCOW

A delegation from Pyongyang led by Kim Yong-nam, the president of the North Korean parliament's presidium, met briefly with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov on 27 June during a stopover at Moscow's Sheremetevo airport. According to Interfax, the two sides discussed details of Russian President Putin's planned visit to Pyongyang, which is expected to take place next month, and the results of the recent historic summit between the North and South Korean leadership. Following the talks, the North Korean delegation continued on its way to Syria. JC

MOSCOW REMAINS SUSPICIOUS OF NATO

At hearings in the State Duma on 27 June, government officials stressed their opposition to NATO expansion to the east, Interfax and AP reported. "We aren't convinced by NATO's claims that its expansion doesn't threaten Russia," Colonel Yevgenii Buzhinskii, representing the Defense Ministry, commented. Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgenii Gusarov noted that Russia will "strongly oppose the alliance's attempts to play the role of global policeman." At the same time, Gusarov said it would be an "unforgivable error" to abandon cooperation "in matters of mutual interest"--a stand that Buzhinskii also supported. JC

ALLEGED LITHUANIAN SPY REPORTEDLY FREED

Interfax on 27 June quoted Federal Security Service sources as saying that the FSB has released a Lithuanian citizen suspected of spying on Russia for the U.S and does not intend to bring charges against him. The suspect had been taken into custody the previous day and, according to the FSB, had confessed to being an agent of the Lithuanian intelligence service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2000). "Izvestiya" reported on 28 June that the suspect, a 25-year-old resident of Vilnius called Pavel Ilyin, has already returned to the Lithuanian capital. The Lithuanian State Security Department has denied engaging in any hostile activities against Russia (see Part II). JC

BELARUS, RUSSIA TO COORDINATE FOREIGN POLICY

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his Russian counterpart, Putin, met in Moscow on 27 June to discuss the future of the Belarus-Russia Union. Putin told journalists that the meeting will lay the foundations of the new union statehood, while Lukashenka noted that "the fate of the union treaty will be based on decisions we take today." However, no major decisions were announced after the talks, which were held behind closed doors. Putin commented that Russia and Belarus will coordinate their foreign policy, but he also stressed that both countries "retain the right to have their own opinion on a whole range of international problems." Neither Putin nor Lukashenka mentioned the introduction of a common union currency or the creation of a 300,000-strong joint military group, which was announced by Lukashenka earlier this year. JM

CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST MABETEX HEAD IN KREMLIN BRIBERY SCANDAL

Swiss magistrate Daniel Devaud announced on 27 June that he has formally charged Mabetex head Bexhet Pacolli with bribery and money-laundering in connection with Mabetex's renovation of the Kremlin, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2000). Pacolli said last month that Devaud was planning to charge him with money-laundering and belonging to a criminal organization. Devaud has already issued an arrest warrant for former Kremlin facilities directorate head Pavel Borodin, who is now secretary of state of the Union of Belarus and Russia. JAC

FINNISH PREMIER SAYS HELSINKI HAS NO CLAIMS ON KARELIA

Speaking in the northwestern region of Karelia on 27 June, Paavo Lipponen said Finland has no territorial claims on Russia, Russian agencies reported. The Finnish prime minister was in Karelia to attend the unveiling of a monument to the victims of the 1939-1940 Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland. "The question [of Finnish claims on Russia] can be consigned to history," Interfax quoted him as saying the next day. Finland was forced to cede a large chunk of Karelia in the 15 March 1940 peace treaty concluded with the Soviet Union. Following the collapse of the USSR, it proposed that Moscow voluntarily open negotiations with Finland over Karelia. But earlier this month, Russian President Putin made it clear that Moscow considers the issue closed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2000). JC




ARMENIAN, U.S. PRESIDENTS DISCUSS KARABAKH

In a 35-minute meeting at the White House on 27 June, Robert Kocharian and Bill Clinton reviewed the prospects for a settlement of the Karabakh conflict, AP reported. A White House spokesman told journalists that Clinton had assured Kocharian that the U.S. "will do its part...to support and implement a durable settlement." Kocharian also met with Vice President Al Gore to discuss economic issues, U.S. economic aid to Armenia, and draft projects for regional cooperation in the South Caucasus, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. LF

ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN MOSCOW

Serzh Sarkisian met in Moscow on 27 June with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, and Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov to discuss military-technical cooperation and expanding cooperation in the energy and economic sectors, ITAR-TASS reported. Those talks were intended to prepare for a visit by President Kocharian to Moscow next month. Sarkisian also met with Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov to discuss bilateral economic cooperation and financing the training of Armenian military officers in Russia. LF

AZERBAIJAN HALTS OIL EXPORTS VIA RUSSIA

Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR has suspended the export of oil via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline, Interfax reported on 27 June. An unnamed SOCAR official said that the company is currently extracting only enough oil to cover the country's immediate domestic needs and stockpile supplies of heating oil for the coming winter. SOCAR stopped pumping oil into the Baku- Novorossiisk pipeline last week, citing the need for "maintenance works," according to Caucasus Press. LF

GEORGIAN STATE MINISTER UPBEAT ON ECONOMY

Gia Arsenishvili said in Tbilisi on 27 June that journalists' assessments of the country's economic situation are too negative, Caucasus Press reported. Arsenishvili expressed confidence that President Eduard Shevardnadze and the Georgian government "have the strength to overcome the crisis" and that "only one year separates us from complete success." LF

GEORGIAN MINISTER DISCUSSES PROSPECTS FOR RESOLVING ABKHAZ CONFLICT

Malkhaz Kakabadze, who is minister with special responsibilities, held talks in Sukhum on 27 June with the prime minister of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, Vyacheslav Tsugba, Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba, and presidential representative Anri Djergenia, Caucasus Press reported. The talks, at which UN special representative for Abkhazia Dieter Boden was also present, were intended to prepare for a meeting next month of the Coordinating Council that is to focus on confidence-building measures between the two sides, the repatriation to Abkhazia of Georgian displaced persons, and economic issues. Tsugba reportedly insisted on the presence at that meeting of his Georgian counterpart, Arsenishvili. It is not clear whether the new UN draft plan for a political solution of the conflict was also discussed. Kakabadze, for his part, assured the Abkhaz officials that Tbilisi will not embark on new military action against Abkhazia. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY WANTS TV PROGRAM FOR COMPATRIOTS IN AZERBAIJAN

Georgian parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee Chair Nino Burdjanadze expressed concern on 27 June that the Ministry of Communications and Transport is unable for financial reasons to air television programs for the Georgian minority living in north-western Azerbaijan, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian samizdat documents in the early 1980s claimed that minority was deprived of basic cultural facilities or Georgian-language education. LF

TWO GEORGIAN RENEGADES JOIN FORCES

Colonel Akaki Eliava has joined forces with Dato Shengelia, a former member of the Mkhedrioni paramilitary force who is now aligned with Georgian guerrillas operating in western Georgia and Abkhazia, according to "Rezonansi" on 28 June. Eliava has been on the run in western Georgia since launching an abortive uprising in fall 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 October 1998). LF

LAW ON KAZAKHSTAN'S FIRST PRESIDENT PASSED...

The two houses of Kazakhstan's parliament passed the controversial Law on the First President of Kazakhstan in the second and final reading on 27 June. As predicted by Azat Peruashev, first secretary of the Civic Party, which drafted the bill giving incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbaev life-long powers and privileges, the final version differed only marginally from the original draft. Peruashev told Interfax on 26 June that the law is needed to prevent an erosion of the country's achievements after Nazarbaev's presidential term ends. Nazarbaev had voiced reservations about the bill, saying that he does not intend to become "a khan or a president for life" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 26 June 2000). But opposition Azamat Party leader Petr Svoik observed on 27 June after the bill was passed that "nothing significant can happen in Kazakhstan without the will of the president," Reuters reported. LF

...AS OPPOSITION UNVEILS ALTERNATIVE PROPOSALS

At a press conference in Almaty on 27 June, the opposition Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan outlined seven proposals to deal with corruption and the ongoing economic crisis, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. The party termed that crisis the direct consequence of a system of government tailored to one individual, the country's president. The proposals are on redistributing executive power from the president to the parliament and government, abolishing the upper house of parliament and increasing the number of deputies to the lower house, reducing the president's powers and cutting his term of office from seven to five years, conducting direct elections for the posts of regional administrators and judges, ensuring the independence of the judiciary, making all violations of human or constitutional rights punishable by law, and barring the president's relatives from holding positions in the executive or judiciary for the duration of his term in office. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS SCHEDULED...

Meeting on 27 June, the People's Assembly (the upper house of Kyrgyzstan's parliament) scheduled the presidential elections for 29 October, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The deadline for nominating candidates is 14 September and for registration 24 September. Several opposition politicians have announced their intention to contend the poll. Incumbent President Askar Akaev has not yet formally confirmed that he will run for another term, but he is expected to do so before the end of this month. LF

...AS OPPOSITION CHALLENGER GOES ON TRIAL

Opposition Ar- Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov's trial on charges of abuse of power and forgery during his tenure as Minister of National Security opened at a military court in Bishkek on 27 June, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Only witnesses and Kulov's lawyers were permitted to attend; his wife was barred from the proceedings, as were OSCE representatives and a Kyrgyz representative of the New York- based International League for Human Rights. In an interview published on 27 June in the Bishkek newspaper "Litsa" and summarized by Interfax, Kulov predicted that the presidential poll will be "tough," but he added that he does not think any opposition candidate stands a chance of victory. He said that he will contest the poll if acquitted. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT OUTLINES ECONOMIC PROBLEMS

Addressing a special session of the UN General Assembly in Geneva on 27 June, Imomali Rakhmonov expressed concern that integration processes in the world economy create problems for countries in transition whose industrial output cannot compete on world markets and that incur mounting debts for the import of raw materials, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The most important task for the Tajik government, he said, is alleviating poverty, adding that a program has been drafted to reduce by 2003 the present 80 percent of the country's population who live in poverty. Rakhmonov added that natural disasters in recent years have compounded the country's economic and social problems, and he appealed to world wheat producers for supplies to compensate for the loss of most of this year's wheat crop owing to drought. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT EXPLAINS AVERSION TO CIS FREE TRADE ZONE

Meeting with foreign ambassadors to Ashgabat on 27 June, Saparmurat Niyazov explained that Turkmenistan declined to join the proposed CIS free trade zone because it stands to lose some $500 million by doing so. He admitted that not all goods produced in Turkmenistan would find buyers in other CIS states. Niyazov added that he does not plan to attend the informal CIS summit to be held in Crimea on 18 August. Also on 27 June, Russian President Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, discussed by telephone the draft agenda for that gathering, Interfax reported. LF




IMF MISSION ENDS 'PRODUCTIVE' VISIT TO KYIV

An IMF mission led by Julian Berengaut is wrapping up its one-week visit to Kyiv, where it discussed the possible resumption of the fund's $2.6 billion loan package. The IMF suspended that loan in September 1999. Berengaut noted after his 27 June meeting with Premier Viktor Yushchenko that the mission has had "productive" meetings and talks with Ukrainian officials. According to the "Eastern Economist Daily," the main obstacle for the resumption of the IMF loan is the too wide gap between Ukraine's budget expenditures and revenues. Yushchenko said he hopes that the IMF may restore its loan program to Ukraine by this fall. Berengaut did not comment on the issue. JM

UKRAINIAN PEACEKEEPERS GO TO LEBANON

Fifty Ukrainian peacekeepers departed to Lebanon on 27 June to defuse mines left in the area vacated by Israeli occupation troops last month, AP reported. Following last month's UN appeal to Ukraine to send a sappers' battalion to Lebanon, the Ukrainian parliament swiftly approved the deployment of such a battalion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2000). The Ukrainian troops will join the UN peacekeeping troops in southern Lebanon and operate from their own base. JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES NRG DEAL

The government on 27 June approved the deal to sell a minority stake in two oil- shale-fired power plants to U.S.-based NRG Energy, one day after the company agreed to the government's final terms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2000). After what Prime Minister Mart Laar described as "the most difficult" government session, the vote was unanimous to sell the 49 percent stake in the two plants to NRG. The deal is worth $54.5 million, and NRG has promised to invest some $360 million in the facilities. Economics Minister Mihkel Parnoja cautioned that "it is important to note that the transaction is between Eesti Energia and NRG Energy and that the state did not take any obligations [by concluding] the agreement, nor did it guarantee the agreement," ETA added. Laar recently received a letter from President Lennart Meri, who had again voiced concern over the deal. MH

LATVIAN FIRST QUARTER GDP UP SHARPLY

The Statistical Office on 27 June announced that Latvia's GDP in the first quarter of 2000 grew by 5.3 percent compared with the same period in 1999, BNS reported. MH

SWEDISH PREMIER IN LATVIA

Goran Persson, paying a one-day visit to Latvia on 27 June, noted Latvia's progress in its integration into the EU. He added that membership will place "strict demands" on Latvia and Riga may be required to change internal administration institutions, BNS reported. During a meeting with Persson, Prime Minister Andris Berzins said he hopes that during Sweden's presidency of the EU in the second half of 2001, the maximum number of negotiating chapters will be opened and the main issues relating to Latvia's membership resolved by 2003. MH

TWO CONTROVERSIAL LAWS SIGNED BY LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT, BUT NOT PRESIDENT

President Valdas Adamkus on 26 June chose neither to sign nor veto two controversial pieces of legislation. The first bill, which would grant Vytautas Landsbergis, in his former capacity as chairman of the Supreme Council that restored Lithuania's independence, a presidential pension, was signed into law the same day by the parliament's deputy chairman Arvydas Vidziunas. Landsbergis, the chairman of the parliament, was abroad at the time. On 27 June, Landsbergis signed into law the second of the controversial bills--namely, on requesting compensation from Moscow for damage caused by the Soviet occupation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2000). Landsbergis said after the signing that the bill "enshrined legally the independence of Lithuania to a maximum extent," ELTA reported. MH

JUDGE DECLARES BREAK IN LITHUANIAN WAR CRIMES TRIAL

The presiding judge in the trial of accused Nazi war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis has halted the proceedings owing to the defendant's poor health. The trial, which recently resumed under new legislation allowing testimony to be carried out by video-conferencing equipment, was stopped just minutes into the defendant's testimony on 23 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2000). Proceedings are scheduled to recommence on 3 July. MH

LITHUANIA DENIES SPYING AGAINST RUSSIA

Lithuanian officials denied charges by Moscow that a Lithuanian agent had passed intelligence he collected against Russia to the CIA and Lithuania's intelligence service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2000). The Lithuanian State Security Department said in a statement on 27 June that "no subversive or hostile activities have been or are conducted with regard to the Russian Federation," BNS reported. The deputy director of the department, Arvydas Pocius, told ELTA that the suspect named by Moscow is a computer specialist and had consulted the Lithuanian intelligence body when he carried out maintenance on the department's network. Pocius added that the only correct fact in the report from Moscow was that the man exists. Parliamentary member Rasa Jukneviciene, a spokesperson for the ruling Conservatives, called the charges a "futile attempt to set the Russian public against the Baltic states," adding such methods have become "routine." Meanwhile, Russian media report that the suspect has been released and has returned to Vilnius (see Part I). MH

WARSAW DECLARATION PROPOSES 'CLUB OF DEMOCRATIC COUNTRIES' WITHIN UN

The Warsaw conference "Toward a Community of Democracies" concluded on 27 June with the signing of a Warsaw Declaration, which expresses the signatories' commitment to the aims and principles determined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, PAP reported. The declaration also endorses the creation of a "club of democratic countries" within the UN, which was proposed the previous day by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "Perhaps in the near future the UN will become an organization that combines democratic states, but for the time being it is only a dream," Polish Television quoted UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as saying. JM

FRANCE REFUSES TO SIGN WARSAW DECLARATION

France did not sign the Warsaw Declaration, saying that the document amounts "to a diplomatic pledge for the democratic states to act as a group," AP reported. In particular, France objected to the clause proposing a club of democratic states within the UN. French Ambassador to Poland Benoit d'Aboville noted that such a club will mean a new bloc replicating the Cold War divisions since it will exclude countries that have not yet achieved democracy. Commentators say France's refusal to sign the declaration reflects Paris's objections to U.S. foreign-policy measures to promote democracy, particularly the U.S.-led military actions in Iraq and Yugoslavia. "When democratic institutions are threatened, international organizations have not only the right to react, but there is also an obligation for them to react in the appropriate way," Polish Television quoted Madeleine Albright as saying on 27 June. JM

WARSAW'S DEMOCRACY FORUM CONDEMNS WAR IN CHECHNYA

The Warsaw non-governmental forum on democracy--a parallel event to the conference on democracy--has condemned Russia for the war in Chechnya and called for an immediate cease- fire and peace negotiations. The statement was signed by 165 out of the 264 participants in the forum. A Russian delegate, Sergei Markov of the Institute of Political Studies in Moscow, called the statement a "big political mistake," objecting especially to a clause saying that Russia "should have no place in the Community of Democracies" if the war continues, according to AP. JM

POLISH POST-COMMUNISTS WANT PARLIAMENT TO DISSOLVE ITSELF

The opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) on 27 June called on all parliamentary groups to pass a resolution to dissolve the Sejm early next spring, PAP reported. SLD leader Leszek Miller said the parliament's self-dissolution is supported not only by the SLD and the opposition Polish Peasant Party but also by President Aleksander Kwasniewski and the Freedom Union, the former coalition partner of the Solidarity Electoral Action. According to the SLD, an early ballot will mean that lawmakers will not have to haggle over the date of parliamentary elections during debates on the 2001 budget. It will also provide a stable parliamentary majority and strengthen Poland's position in negotiations with the EU, the SLD argued. JM

CZECH ELECTORAL LAW AMENDMENT MAY REACH CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

The Chamber of Deputies on 27 June announced that a new debate on the amendment to the electoral law will take place on 10 July, CTK reported. A majority of 101 out of 200 deputies is needed to override President Vaclav Havel's veto of the law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2000). Jan Kasal, chairman of the Christian Democratic Party, said the four- party coalition, of which his formation is a member, may appeal to the Constitutional Court if the veto is overridden and if Havel himself does not make such an appeal. Earlier, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia said it will challenge the law's constitutionality before the court. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek said Havel will wait for the results of the debate before deciding whether to appeal to the court. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S CONDITION 'CRITICAL'

Slovak President Rudolf Schuster's condition has worsened following complications from the two operations he underwent earlier this month, Reuters and CTK reported on 27 June. Presidential spokesman Jozef Leikert told journalists that Schuster's condition is now "critical" as "doctors are having trouble ensuring blood oxygenation." He said that the lungs, in particular, are working poorly and that "there are signs other vital organs are failing." MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT 'REGRETS' ECRI CRITICISM OF RACISM

The Slovak government on 27 June said it "regrets" that the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) did not "fully examine" the materials that Slovakia had provided before releasing its annual report one day earlier, CTK reported. Pal Csaky, deputy premier in charge of minority and human rights, said the government has earmarked large amounts in aid to Roma and is cooperating with numerous Romany organizations. But he admitted that Slovakia has to pass legislation making possible the prosecution of anyone found guilty of the manifestation of racial or other forms of hatred. Karel Holomek, chairman of the Association of Moravian Roma, said he understands the 170 Roma who recently applied for asylum in the Czech Republic. He noted that Czech Roma are also leaving the country on racial grounds but added that unlike in Slovakia, the government at least has a plan for solving the problem. MS

OECD ACKNOWLEDGES SLOVAKIA'S READINESS FOR MEMBERSHIP

Following France's veto on Slovakia's admission as a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the organization on 27 June issued a statement saying it acknowledges that Slovakia has fulfilled conditions for membership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2000), TASR reported. At the end of its annual session, the OECD's Ministerial Council said it supports efforts to "complete Slovakia's accession as soon as possible." Slovak chief negotiator with the OECD Jan Jursa said he believes that the current talks with France over meeting the French demand that Slovakia apply the EU's mandatory quota of European radio and television programs will be successful. He added that accession could follow in July. MS

WITNESS REFUSES TO TESTIFY PUBLICLY IN HUNGARY'S OIL SCANDAL

Zsolt Nogradi, who recently claimed that high-ranking politicians and police were involved in illegal oil dealings from 1992-1996 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 14 June 2000), has refused to testify publicly before the parliamentary committee investigating the case. Nogradi on 26 June insisted on testifying behind closed doors. Committee Chairman Laszlo Pallag quoted him as saying that he is prepared to make a written statement but in the future he prefers to speak with the Prosecutor-General's Office. Nogradi also said he has presented no evidence to Pallag and admitted he is able to back up his claims only with his own and other witnesses' statements. MSZ




YUGOSLAVIA GIVES DETAILS OF 'ANTI-TERRORISM' BILL...

The Yugoslav government released details on 27 June of a draft law it says is aimed at punishing people who commit "acts that threaten constitutional order," Reuters reported. The bill, which is expected to be passed by the parliament on 30 June, would allow jail terms of at least five years for any behavior deemed to endanger "constitutional order" or threaten "the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." The legislation would also allow suspects to be detained for 30 days without being charged with a crime; the current legal limit is three days, although the constitution states only one day. The opposition Christian Democratic Party said in a statement that the bill should be called "the anti-opposition law." Djordje Subotic of the League of Social Democrats said the passage of the bill will plunge the people of Yugoslavia into "darkness and fear." PB

...WHILE U.S. SAYS IT'S NOT SURPRISED

The U.S. State Department said on 27 June that it is not surprised by the proposed "anti-terrorism" bill. Acting State Department spokesman Phillip Reeker said "Milosevic's rather rancid regime has a strong history of trying to stamp out democratic movement within Yugoslavia." In other news, the trial in Belgrade of five Serbs accused of being French mercenaries and plotting to assassinate Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic began on 27 June. The five are charged with spying for France during NATO's bombardment of Yugoslavia last year and with the murders of two ethnic Albanians in Kosova. PB

YUGOSLAV DRAFT LAW AIMED AT CONTROLING BUSINESSES?

The Yugoslav parliament on 30 June is to consider a bill that would put insolvent firms under the control of the central bank, Reuters reported, citing the state news agency Tanjug. Aleksandar Vlahovic of Deloitte & Touche in Belgrade said the bill "is an efficient way to replace current management" of companies the government views as unfriendly. The draft says "a company will be treated as insolvent if it does not have enough funds to make all due payments." Critics point out that virtually every firm in Yugoslavia has debts but is not necessarily bankrupt. PB

EU APPROVES AID TO YUGOSLAVIA

The European Commission on 27 June approved allocating 61 million euros ($57.4 million) in humanitarian aid for refugees, displaced people, and others in Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. The funds are to be spent on providing better food supplies, shelter, sanitation, and health services. Some 32 million euros of the total will be sent to Serbia, and an additional 18 million euros to its southern province of Kosova. PB

MOB ATTACKS SERBIAN MONKS, RUSSIAN TV CREW

Ethnic Albanians stoned a group of Serbian Monks and a Russian television crew near the Kosovar town of Prizren on 27 June, AFP reported. UN peacekeepers said the crew was attacked while making a film on the monks at the Svete Bogorodice monastery in the village of Musutiste, some 15 kilometers northeast of Prizren. A KFOR spokesman said the Kosovar Albanians surrounded the group and demanded that one of the monks be handed over because, they said, he had committed war crimes. PB

NORWEGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SUGGESTS LONG STAY FOR NATO IN KOSOVA

Bjorn Tore Godal said on 27 June that NATO forces in Kosova are facing a long stay in the province, AP reported. Godal made his comments in Prishtina to UN officials and commanders of the NATO-led peacekeeping force. Godal said stability in Kosova would allow the troops to leave, but he added that stability "is still far away from the current situation." In other news, the body of a Serbian man who vanished last week was found in Prishtina. Police said the man, who is from Strpce, about 40 kilometers south of Prishtina, died "under suspicious circumstances." Some 500 Serbs staged a peaceful protest in front of the UN building in Strpce after the discovery of the body. PB

U.S. CONDEMNS INTIMIDATION OF BOSNIAN PRESS

The U.S. said that measures undertaken by Bosnian federation officials against the newspaper "Dnevni Avaz" are attempts to intimidate the independent press, Reuters reported on 26 June. Tax authorities have frozen the daily's bank accounts for several days, and police have raided the newspaper's offices on several occasions. Bosnian Prime Minister Edhem Bicakcic denied the claims of repression and said the checks were routine and had been made on some 70 companies. PB

MORE BODIES FOUND IN BOSNIA

Forensic experts uncovered another 24 bodies on 27 June in a cave and in graves in Sarajevo, bringing the total number of bodies found at the two sites over the last week to 82, Reuters reported. Amar Masovic, the head of the Sarajevo-based Muslim State Commission for Missing Persons, said the victims from the cave in Lisac are thought to be from the Serbian-run Omarska prison camp in Prijedor. Lisac is 18 kilometers east of Bosanska Krupa. Masovic said the commission has found the remains of some 900 non-Serb victims in the Prijedor area but was searching for another 3,227. In other news, three people died in separate landmine incidents on 26 June. One victim was a shepherd and the other two were workers attempting to clear mines. PB

SERBIAN POLICE NOT COOPERATING IN DRASKOVIC INVESTIGATION

Zoran Zikovic, a judge in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica, said on 27 June that Serbian police are not cooperating with their Montenegrin counterparts in the investigation of the shooting of Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, AFP reported. Zivkovic said the police should have brought a suspect, Dusan Spasojevic, to court in Podgorica but have not yet done so. Two men are being held in the shooting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2000), but Montenegrin authorities want to question four other suspects. PB

CROATIA WANTS WAR CRIMES CHARGES AGAINST YUGOSLAV ARMY

Croatia said on 27 June that it has sent documents on the 1991 Yugoslav siege of Dubrovnik to international war crimes tribunal at The Hague, Reuters reported. Justice Minister Stjepan Ivanisevic said that Croatia's new government has handed over to the tribunal several documents and videotapes related to the bombardment of the city. Ivanisievic said "by doing this we wanted to speed up the process of investigating and indicting" the Yugoslav army and paramilitaries. He added that "we intend to provide more material so that indictments are raised and [Carla] del Ponte has publicly pledged to [make indictments] in [the] near future." PB

ROMANIAN BANKING CRISIS SPREADS

The National Bank has revoked the license of the private Banca Columna, after the bank failed to obtain capital to pay back its creditors, AP reported on 27 June. The formal closure of the bank comes three years after it had effectively ceased operations. The National Bank also decided to begin bankruptcy proceedings against the International Bank of Religions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2000) and placed Banca Unirea under supervision. Unirea encountered liquidity problems after one of its main shareholders withdrew capital. Also on 27 June, the Prosecutor-General's Office said Romania completed the documentation necessary for the extradition from Israel of Ioana Maria Vlas. Vlas is the former chief of SovInvest, whose management of the National Investment Fund resulted in that organization's collapse. Romanian lawyers will present the case to an Israeli court that will decide on Vlas's extradition. MS

MONEY-LAUNDERING AFFAIR HAUNTS FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT

In a 27 June open letter to former President Ion Iliescu, Romanian-born French businessman Adrian Costea, suspected by the French authorities of money-laundering, refuted Iliescu's claims that their relationship was a "superficial" one. The letter, published by Mediafax, details the development of their relationship and Costea's financing of Iliescu's 1992 and 1996 presidential campaign. Costea is also demanding that Iliescu immediately settle the debt owed to one of his companies for different services to the former president. MS

NATO COMMANDER IN ROMANIA.

NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Joseph Ralston met with Premier Mugur Isarescu and Foreign Minister Petre Roman in Bucharest on 27 June to discuss the modernization of Romania's military and the country's preparations for joining NATO. Ralston said the purpose of his visit was to acknowledge the important role Romania plays in providing regional security. On 28 June, he is to meet with President Emil Constantinescu, Defense Minister Sorin Frunzaverde, and Chief of Staff General Mircea Chelaru, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

CORRECTION:

"RFE/RL Newsline" incorrectly reported on 27 June that new Transportation Minister Anca Boagiu is the first woman in the Romanian cabinet. The first woman to join the cabinet, in December 1999, was Labor and Social Affairs Minister Smaranda Dobrescu.

BULGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DEPLORES DECLINE IN MILITARY COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA

Defense Minister Boiko Noev, who is currently on a visit to the U.S., said in Washington that he "regrets" that military cooperation with Russia has declined in recent years, ITAR-TASS reported. Noev said there are two reasons for this decline: Bulgaria's determination to join NATO and unsatisfactory Russian supplies of spare parts for military equipment used by the Bulgarian forces. Meanwhile, on 27 June, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji began a two-day visit to Bulgaria that Reuters describes as being "largely of symbolic importance." MS




PARTY REGISTRATION ENDS IN KOSOVA


By Fabian Schmidt

With the recent conclusion of the registration of political parties, the OSCE has taken one step closer to organizing local elections in Kosova, which are scheduled to take place this fall. On 20 June, the OSCE submitted preliminary lists of political parties that will take part in that ballot, but it has not yet settled on a voting system, "Koha Ditore" reported on 21 June. No Serbian political parties have registered, nor have many Serbian voters.

OSCE officials explained that the list includes some parties that have not yet provided all the necessary documentation for registration and that in these cases the Central Election Commission (KQZ) will have to approve their status. The official deadline for registration of political parties was 11 June, while independent candidates and citizens' groups had until 19 June to complete their applications.

The Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), and the Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK) are the main competitors for the ethnic Albanian vote. The LDK was the strongest and most influential party of the Kosovar shadow-state, which pursued its pacifist policies under shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova between 1991 and 1998. Now it faces two big challengers that emerged from the subsequent armed conflict.

Both the PDK of former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) commander Hashim Thaci and the AAK, led by Ramush Haradinaj, who is another former high-ranking UCK leader, have adopted pro-Western political platforms. They maintain, however, that their long-term goal is independence for Kosova, an aim also shared by the LDK. The AAK is an alliance of six political parties that joined forces in order to pose a more effective challenge to the two main contenders.

UNMIK's David de Beer, who is responsible for the registration of political parties, said that the LDK and AAK are running for seats in 29 out of 30 communities and municipalities, while the PDK has candidates in only 27. Other potentially important parties include the Liberal Center Party of Kosova (PQLK), which is running in 20 communities and municipalities, and the Liberal Party of Kosova (PLK), which will field candidates in 19. The PQLK is headed by Naim Maloku--yet another former senior UCK leader-- who has gathered mainly former UCK fighters around him. The PLK, headed by Gjergj Dedaj, is a party that has its roots in the shadow-state structures and is closely allied to the LDK.

The LDK will have no candidates in Zvecan, which is inhabited mostly by Serbs, while the AAK failed to register in Zvecan, Zubin Potok, another mostly Serbian community, or in Leposaviq, a Serbian community close to the northern Serbian border.

Altogether 23 political parties, including the AAK, have filed registration applications. De Beer did not announce the number of independent candidates running but acknowledged that the OSCE has received numerous applications.

The fewest applications, however, came from the Serbian communities of Zvecan, Leposaviq, Zubin Potok, and Novoberda. Serbian political parties did not register in any district. Only six parties of ethnic minorities registered: three representing Slavic-speaking Muslims, two the Turkish, and one the Ashkali community. The last-named are a group of Albanian-speaking Muslims, probably of Romany origin, who claim to be of Persian descent. On average, there are eight parties running in each community.

According to OSCE plans, the parties are to present their candidates for each municipality (district?) by the end of July, even though the OSCE has not yet set a formal deadline. Nor is it clear what kind of election system UNMIK will introduce. This, however, must be decided before the candidates' lists can be drawn up.

UNMIK, OSCE, and other unnamed officials told "Koha Ditore" that they are leaning toward a proportional representation system, even though the three largest ethnic Albanian political parties are opposed to that idea. De Beer, however, made clear that it is up to the UNMIK's Bernard Kouchner to decide. Another open question is whether the parties will have the right to name candidates for the proportional lists after the elections or whether the lists will be closed before the vote.

Voter registration will end on 15 July. OSCE spokeswoman Claire Trevena acknowledged that the process is proceeding more slowly in Prishtina than in other parts of Kosova. As of 17 June, only 76,900 citizens of Prishtina had registered, which is just over one-third of the city's estimated population. By that day, 651,551 voters out of a total estimated population of 2 million had registered throughout Kosova, including many newcomers from Albania. But only people who were living in Kosova on 1 January 1999 will have the right to vote (this excludes refugees who left Kosova before that date).

The Serbian population has been largely boycotting the voter registration process and is also expected to boycott the elections. This, however, poses a great danger for post- election Kosova. If ethnic Albanian political parties win an overwhelming majority of seats in the city council of Mitrovica, the Serbs will refuse to acknowledge its authority. If the local government in the divided city then tries to interfere in the affairs of the Serbian-dominated north, new violent conflicts may be hard to avoid.


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