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Newsline - June 30, 2000




DUMA DELIVERS PUTIN ANOTHER VICTORY...

State Duma deputies on 30 June approved in its second and third reading a bill giving the Russian president the right to dismiss governors or regional leaders who violate federal laws more than once. Regional legislatures may also be disbanded for similar violations of federal law. The vote in the third reading was 339 in favor, nine opposed, and three abstentions, Interfax reported. JAC

...AS KREMLIN WILLING TO COMPROMISE ON UPPER HOUSE LEGISLATION...

Following a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on 30 June, State Duma deputy (Agro-Industrial Group) Nikolai Kharitonov told reporters that Putin is willing to allow governors to remain in the Federation Council until their terms expire rather than vacate their posts by 1 February 2001, as is required under the current draft of the law reforming the Federation Council. That law was rejected by the council on 28 June. However, Kharitonov added that Putin opposed amending the law at the current stage in the legislative process or establishing a conciliatory commission made up of members of the two houses to draw up a final version of the law. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev also said that Putin will sign the law if the State Duma overrides the Federation Council's veto, but he "is ready" to introduce a bill amending the legislation. JAC

...AS VOTE PROMISES TO BE CLOSE

According to Kharitonov, Putin still supports the idea of setting up a State Council, composed of regional leaders, to discuss declarations of war and drafts of the federal budget. Head of the Russian Regions faction Oleg Morozov told reporters on 29 June that he believes the Duma is likely to consider the bill reforming the upper house on 5 July. Morozov added that obtaining the "300 votes [necessary to override a rejection by the Federation Council] is not as easy as some people think. Everything depends on the left-wing parties." According to "Kommersant-Daily," which tallied members' sentiments as of 30 July, 222 deputies are in favor of the bill, 128 opposed, and 96 still undecided. JAC

PUTIN SAYS LAW WILL BE OBSERVED IN NORILSK NICKEL CASE...

In his first public comment on the legal challenge to the 1997 privatization of metals giant Norilsk Nickel, President Putin said on 29 June that the situation vis-a-vis the company must be considered objectively and according to the letter of the law, Russian agencies reported, citing presidential spokesman Aleksei Gromov. The previous day, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that the government "can in no way agree to a revision of property ownership." He continued that "even though [some privatizations] were not absolutely perfect from today's point of view, revision of the results of privatization is out of the question." Commentator Yulia Latynina concluded in "The Moscow Times" on 28 June that the suit against Norilsk Nickel was simply "a small episode in an industry war" and is unrelated to the arrest of Media-Most head Vladimir Gusinskii or to any more generalized attack on Interros Group head Vladimir Potanin, since it would have been easier to attack his troubled Oneksimbank. JAC

...AND DEFENDS PROSECUTOR-GENERAL

Also on 29 June, Putin declared in a speech to prosecutors from CIS countries that he objects to double standards being applied to the work of federal and local prosecutors. He said "sentiments are common in our society that the prosecution service is expected, on the one hand, to adhere to the law [and] on the other, to make political decisions." He continued, "if we demand that the letter of the law be observed, then prosecutors must proceed in this direction." Analysts suggested that Putin was likely referring to criticisms of Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov following the federal prosecutor's 13 June arrest of Media-Most head Gusinskii. The State Duma recently rejected an appeal sponsored by Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces to dismiss Ustinov. JAC

DUMA GIVES STATE OF EMERGENCY BILL INITIAL APPROVAL

State Duma deputies on 29 June approved a draft law on states of emergency first submitted to the lower house by former President Boris Yeltsin during his term in office, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill passed in its first reading, with 395 votes in favor and two against. According to "Trud," a second reading is scheduled to take place this fall, after the parliamentary recess. According to the bill, the president can decree a state of emergency under which the Security Council would run the country, "The Moscow Times" reported. The president's decree must be approved by the Federation Council within 72 hours. Duma deputies recently approved a proposal by Fatherland-All Russia head Yevgenii Primakov that President Putin "initiate the formation of a body for drafting constitutional amendments" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2000). Primakov favors amending the constitution so that the Federation Council no longer can approve declarations of states of emergency. JAC

RUSSIA CLAIMS SERZEH-YURT FIGHTING OVER

Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, who commands the joint federal forces in Chechnya, told journalists on 30 June that the four-day battle with Chechen fighters near Serzhen-Yurt is over and that the Chechen detachment has been destroyed. In Moscow, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii repeated that claim. But Yastrzhembskii added that earlier reports that Chechen field commander Arbi Baraev was killed in the fighting have not yet been confirmed, nor has his body been found, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 30 June, a Russian Interior Ministry official in Gudermes told AFP that more than 40 Russian troops died in the fighting in Serzhen-Yurt and not 12, as claimed by Defense Ministry spokesmen. LF

PACE STANDS FIRM OVER CHECHNYA

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe issued a statement on 29 June saying that Russia's stated efforts to tackle alleged human rights abuses in Chechnya have yet to "produce convincing and tangible results," an RFE/RL correspondent in Strasbourg reported. PACE called on the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers to consider Russia's eligibility for continued membership in the council. And it said it found "totally unacceptable" the ministers' failure to denounce Moscow's handling of the conflict in Chechnya. The vote on the resolution was 130 to one, according to Interfax. Earlier this year, PACE stripped Russia of its voting rights and called for its membership to be suspended (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2000). JC

RUSSIA, U.S. PLANNING JOINT THEATER MISSILE EXERCISES

U.S. Defense Department spokesman Ken Bacon announced on 29 June that the U.S. and Russia are planning to hold a joint theater missile defense exercise at Fort Bliss, Texas, in November or December, Reuters reported. Bacon said that the computer simulation exercise would help the two sides coordinate defenses against short- or medium-range missiles fired by any common enemy. At the same time, he stressed that neither side has budged from its position on U.S. plans to implement a limited national missile defense system: Russia has "not changed [its] opposition, and we have not changed our determination to go forward," he commented. According to Bacon, this would be third joint theater missile defense exercise since 1996. JC

PUTIN TO VISIT SOUTH KOREA THIS YEAR

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov announced on 29 July, following talks in Moscow with South Korean Foreign Minister Lee Joung-binn, that President Putin will visit Seoul before the end of this year. He added that a date for the visit has not yet been set. Putin also plans to visit North Korea in the near future, and it is thought that trip will take place before the G-8 summit in Japan. Also on 29 July, Ivanov commented that the recent summit between Pyongyang and Seoul has "further weakened the arguments" of those in the U.S. advocating a national missile defense system, Interfax reported. JC

OLD GUARD ABANDONS GAZPROM

State Duma deputy (Unity) and former Gazprom head Viktor Chernomyrdin announced on 29 June that he will no longer serve on Gazprom's board of directors. Chernomyrdin told reporters that his "work for Gazprom is a closed book." Current Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev announced recently that he will retire when his contract expires in May 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2000). Deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitrii Medvedev was elected to replace Chernomyrdin on 30 June, Interfax reported. JAC

CHUBAIS UNVEILS REVISED SCHEME FOR DIVIDING EES

Unified Energy Systems (EES) head Anatolii Chubais offered some details of the redrafted version of the restructuring plan for his company on 29 June, Interfax reported. Foreign investors in EES had objected to the previous plan, prompting Chubais to alter it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). He said that now EES will break up the country's electricity system into a much smaller number of companies than the 70 companies originally envisioned. Chubais also pledged to create a "mechanism that enables shareholders to make their complaints directly to company management." EES submitted its new program to the government on 21 June, and legislation to govern EES's restructuring will be submitted to the State Duma in the fall. JAC

COMMUNIST PARTY LEADERS SLAMS ECONOMIC PROGRAM

Communist Party head Gennadii Zyuganov on 29 June criticized the draft 10-year program for economic development, which received initial approval from the cabinet the previous day. Zyuganov told reporters that "it's a rigorous liberal variation on the [former acting Prime Minister Yegor] Gaidar theme, with the only difference being that it is more sophisticated." Zyuganov said that under the plan, "those whose earnings slightly exceed the subsistence minimum" will "be charged 80 percent of their income in rent for their apartments. This is another encroachment on those who can barely make ends meet." JAC




ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER OPTIMISTIC ON KARABAKH PEACE

Vartan Oskanian, who is accompanying President Robert Kocharian on his official visit to the U.S., told a correspondent for RFE/RL 's Armenian Service in Washington on 29 June that he believes the accession to the Council of Europe of both Armenia and Azerbaijan will have a positive impact on regional stability in the South Caucasus and on the prospects for resolving the Karabakh conflict. Oskanian also said that Kocharian's talks with U.S. leaders were likewise "very important" for the peace process in that they provided an opportunity for the Armenian side to clarify its negotiating position. He said he believes that consequently the U.S. now understands more clearly which proposed solutions could expedite a settlement. The U.S., French, and Russian co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group that is trying to mediate a settlement of the conflict are to travel to Armenia and Azerbaijan in the next few days. LF

ABKHAZ PRESIDENT CALLS FOR SIGNING OF PEACE AGREEMENT WITH GEORGIA

Vladislav Ardzinba told journalists in Sukhum on 29 June that the agreement guaranteeing the non-resumption of hostilities between Georgia and Abkhazia, which was drafted in the fall of 1998 (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 37,10 November 1998), should be signed as soon as possible, Caucasus Press reported. Ardzinba complained that Tbilisi constantly finds pretexts to postpone signing that commitment, insisting instead on negotiations with the Abkhaz leadership on Abkhazia's status within Georgia. The Abkhaz say their proclaimed, but unrecognized, independent status is non-negotiable. Ardzinba also endorsed the recent Russian proposal that the Russian military base in Abkhazia should be transformed into a support base for the CIS peacekeeping forces deployed in Abkhazia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2000). He said the closure of that base would jeopardize the peacekeeping operation. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES FROM ABKHAZIA DEPOSE FACTION LEADER

The 12 members of the Abkhazeti Georgian parliament faction have voted in a secret ballot to replace faction leader Givi Lominadze and his deputy, Djanri Ezugbaya, Caucasus Press reported on 30 June. The report did not give the motive for that action. Abkhazeti last month quit the majority faction, within which it was aligned with the Union of Citizens of Georgia, to protest the parliament's neglect of the unresolved Abkhaz conflict. A faction member said, on condition of anonymity, that Abkhaz parliament in exile chairman Tamaz Nadareishvili, who advocates a new war to bring Abkhazia back under the control of the central Georgian authorities, will be elected faction leader in September. LF

GEORGIAN APPEALS COURT OVERTURNS RULING IN FAVOR OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES

The appeals chamber of the Tbilisi district court on 26 June overturned a ruling handed down four months earlier by Tbilisi's Isani district court that there are no grounds to revoke the legal registration of the Jehovah's Witnesses, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 2000). The Jehovah's Witnesses issued a press release the following day saying they will protest the court ruling. Georgian parliamentary deputy Guram Sharadze had argued that the sect's registration is illegal as Georgia has no law on religion. LF

GEORGIA TO ADOPT NEW BUDGET

A new budget for the current year will shortly be submitted to the Georgian parliament, Caucasus Press reported on 30 June, quoting the chairman of the parliamentary Committee for Tax Incomes, Vitali Khazaradze. He termed that course of action preferable to a budget sequester. The new budget is predicated on revenues of 976 million lari ($4.98 million) and expenditures of 1.25 billion lari. The original figures were 883 million lari in revenues and 1.255 billion lari in expenditures (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 8, 25 February 2000). The IMF mission that visited Georgia earlier this month made further credits contingent on a sequester of budget expenditures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2000). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ABOLISHES TELEPHONE HOTLINE

The telephone connection established by President Eduard Shevardnadze in March during his campaign for re-election to receive complaints and suggestions from the population has been abolished, Caucasus Press reported on 29 June citing "Dilis gazeti." The members of the presidential apparatus who manned that hotline have been transferred to the Ministry for Tax Incomes. Some 20,000 people called the hotline during the three months it existed. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PARLIAMENT POSTPONES DEBATE ON LAND LAW

The lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament decided late on 29 June after a lengthy discussion to postpone debate of the controversial law on land ownership until 20 October, Interfax reported. The cabinet originally submitted the draft bill to the parliament last year, but it was withdrawn after widespread public protests. An amended version was resubmitted for debate this spring; that version stipulates that only land adjacent to rural dwellings, but not all the country's agricultural land, may be privately owned. The amended draft also triggered public protests, including a hunger strike by Alash party activists in Almaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2000). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT UPBEAT ON CUSTOMS UNION, EU

Addressing French businessmen in Paris on 29 June, Nursultan Nazarbaev predicted that the CIS Customs Union, which comprises Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, will become increasingly efficient, leading to an increase in trade turnover among its members, Interfax reported. He also predicted that Russia's future foreign policy "will be pragmatic, predictable, and oriented toward both Europe and Central Asia." Also on 29 June, Nazarbaev termed "very useful" his meetings both with French leaders and with EU and NATO officials in Brussels earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2000). He said that all EU member states have ratified a cooperation agreement with Kazakhstan that will allow that country to begin exporting steel, ferrous metals, and other goods to the European market. Nazarbaev met on 28 June with French President Jacques Chirac to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, and China and the prospects for cooperation in the energy and transport sectors. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEPUTY REFUSES TO TESTIFY IN KULOV TRIAL

Film director and parliamentary deputy Dooronbek Sadyrbaev on 29 June refused to appear as a witness for the prosecution in the ongoing trial in Bishkek of opposition Ar-Namys Party chairman Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Sadyrbaev rejected prosecution claims that Kulov subjected him to harassment during the latter's tenure as minister for national security. Also on 29 June, some 300 Kulov supporters continued their picket of the Military Court in Bishkek to demand Kulov's acquittal. LF

FOUR CANDIDATES NOMINATED FOR KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL POLL

Also on 29 June, Kulov's supporters formally proposed his candidacy for the presidential elections scheduled for 29 October and resolved to begin collecting the required signatures for his formal registration, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Sadyrbaev has also been nominated as a presidential candidate, as has Social-Democratic Party chairman Almaz Atambaev and former parliamentary deputy Dosbol Nur Uulu, who is acting chairman of the Agrarian-Labor Party. But Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan leader Zhypar Zheksheev told Interfax the same day that he believes that the country's five main opposition parties may ultimately agree on a single, joint presidential candidate. LF




BELARUS, MOLDOVA TO BOOST BILATERAL TRADE

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his Moldovan counterpart, Petru Lucinschi, met in Minsk on 29 June to discuss how to improve bilateral trade, Belarusian Television reported. They signed 12 documents on cooperation. Lukashenka said he and Lucinschi will soon meet with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to resolve the problem of transit via Ukraine. "It is necessary to open a corridor from Moldova to Belarus across Ukraine in order to provide an outlet for those goods that we have always bought from you," Lukashenka told Luchinschi. JM

BELARUSIAN KGB REBURIES MINSK NKVD CHIEF

Officers and veterans of the Belarusian KGB took part in an elaborate reburial ceremony in Minsk on 29 June for Captain Artemii Vasilevskii and his aide-de-camp, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Vasilevskii headed the NKVD Minsk City and Oblast Department in the late 1930s and early 1940s, when tens of thousands of Belarusians perished in the terror unleashed by the Soviet secret services. "We are grieving that these remarkable men passed away," said the executive committee head from Talochyn Raion, where the two men's remains were found. "The best monument to our comrades will be the Union of Russia and Belarus," Belarusian KGB Deputy Chief Kulesh commented. "For me, [the reburial] is like renewing death. They were destroying people then, were enemies of all things Belarusian.... It means that we have neither Belarus nor anything of our own," Nadzeya Dzemidovich, a former Gulag prisoner, told RFE/RL. JM

TOO MANY 'TRUTHS' ABOUT CIS?

The Moscow-based CIS Executive Committee has announced that the newspaper "Pravda narodov Sodruzhestva" ["The Truth of CIS Nations"], which appears in Minsk, is not the commonwealth's official press organ, Belapan reported on 29 June. Citing sources from the CIS headquarters in Minsk, the agency said the committee has become angry with the newspaper because of its negative coverage of all CIS leaders, except Belarusian President Lukashenka. Uladzimir Kastyrka, the newspaper's chief editor, commented that he has never asked the committee to approve his publication as the CIS's official press organ. Kastyrka noted that the committee's announcement was prompted by "unfair competition." He added that a newspaper bearing the same name was granted registration in Moscow two months after he had registered his own in Minsk. JM

UKRAINE'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CENSURED FOR VERDICT ON REFERENDUM DRAFT BILL

Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko said on 29 June that the Constitutional Court "was exploited with the only purpose of giving a blessing to [President Leonid] Kuchma's draft and excluding the alternative bill" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2000), Interfax reported. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said he is "surprised" that the Constitutional Court ruled only on the presidential draft, while keeping silent about the lawmakers' proposal on how to amend the constitution in line with the 16 April referendum. "[The court] wants to push the presidential bill through the Supreme Council before the parliamentary summer recess," Moroz added. Constitutional Court Judge Mykola Kozyubra said the court will rule on the lawmakers' draft by 15 June. "It is impossible to reconcile these two draft bills,...there is a number of differences in them," Kozyubra added. JM

SWITZERLAND CONVICTS UKRAINIAN EX-PREMIER FOR MONEY- LAUNDERING

The Geneva Police Court on 29 June sentenced Pavlo Lazarenko to an 18-month suspended prison term for money-laundering and confiscated $6.6 million from his Swiss bank accounts, Reuters reported. Prosecutors earlier told the court that Lazarenko is believed to have embezzled a total of $880 million in Ukraine, with more than $170 million passing through Switzerland. However, they said they were unable to bring charges relating to other offenses for lack of resources and because the case is close to the statute of limitations. Lazarenko is currently in jail in San Francisco, facing U.S. charges of laundering $114 million that he allegedly demanded for doing business in Ukraine when he was prime minister in 1996-97. JM

UN REPORT SAYS 'HIGH HUMAN DEVELOPMENT' IN ESTONIA...

In the UN's annual Human Development Report, Estonia was listed in 46th place and was the last country to be included in the category of "high human development." This compares with 78th place in 1998 and 54th in 1999. Director of Estonia's Institute of International and Social Studies Raivo Vetik explained that the rise in GDP was a major contributor to the improved ranking but noted that the country's rating is being pulled down by social concerns, such as low life expectancy for men (63.8 years) and the high rate of crime, BNS reported. A prime ministerial adviser commented that Estonia belongs among those countries from central and east Europe that have emerged from the so-called transition period. MH

...MILD PROGRESS FOR LATVIA, LITHUANIA

Latvia climbed 11 places in the annual UN Human Development Report, though the country was ranked only 63rd--behind Estonia, Lithuania, and even Russia. Two years ago Latvia ranked 92nd and last year came in 74th, BNS reported. The chairman of the Latvian parliament's Human Rights Committee, Antons Seiksts, warned of the growing gap between the rich and poor segments of society and noted that average indicators do not reflect how well the entire population is doing. Lithuania placed 52nd, compared with 62nd in 1999. MH

LATVIAN PRESIDENT ATTENDS OPENING OF BERLIN EMBASSY

At the official opening ceremony of the Latvian Embassy in Berlin on 29 June, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga linked the loss of Latvia's embassy in Berlin in 1940 with the loss of its independence. "It was the beginning of tragic events, when the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact split Europe...[resulting] in Latvia's incorporation into the Soviet Union," Vike-Freiberga said, BNS reported. Unexpectedly German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder also took part in the ceremony. The Latvian president also visited Latvia's platform at Expo2000 in Hanover and met with German President Johannes Rau to discuss bilateral and EU issues. MH

FRENCH COMPANY HAS ROLE IN KAUNAS HEATING DEAL

The French company Dalkia announced on 29 June that it has decided to invest in the heating utility of the country's second-largest city Kaunas, Kauno Energija (Kaunas Energy), BNS quoted "Lietuvos Rytas." A subsidiary of the French concern Vivendi, Dalkia said it wants to lease the facilities for 10 to 20 years. Originally, Swedish energy giant Vattenfall hoped to lease the heating utility but pulled out two months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2000). MH

POLISH PREMIER APPOINTS NEW FOREIGN MINISTER

Jerzy Buzek has nominated 78-year-old Senator Wladyslaw Bartoszewski as foreign minister to replace Bronislaw Geremek of the Freedom Union (UW), which quit the ruling coalition earlier this month, Polish media reported on 29 June. Bartoszewski, like Geremek, is a prominent historian and diplomat. He served as foreign minister for 10 months in the left-wing government of Jozef Oleksy in 1995. "Both are men of the democratic opposition and the post-August 1980 Poland--this guarantees that they understand Poland's interest in a similar way and that the [country's] foreign policy...will remain in good hands," Buzek commented. Other UW ministers left Buzek's cabinet earlier this month, while Geremek remained until the end of June to chair this week's international conference on democracy in Warsaw. JM

POLISH PARLIAMENT PASSES LAW ON CITIZENSHIP

The parliament on 29 June voted by 386 to two with two abstentions to adopt a law on Polish citizenship, PAP reported. The law enables Poles who were displaced or emigrated from Poland in the communist-era to regain their Polish citizenship. In particular, Polish citizenship may be restored to those Polish Jews who were forced to leave for Israel during the anti-Semitic campaign unleashed by the communist authorities in Poland in 1968. Foreigners can apply for citizenship after living in Poland for five years. JM

POLAND'S RAILROAD STRIKE SUSPENDED OWING TO LIMITED SUPPORT

The 30 June railroad strike delayed some 200 passenger trains, mostly in southern Poland, and was suspended after eight hours, AP reported. The strike, which involved some 10 percent of railroad employees, collapsed following the withdrawal of a signalmen's union that had reached an agreement with the railroad's management. Tadeusz Gawin, the strike leader, said the other strikers have demanded talks with the transport minister. Krzysztof Celinski, head of the railroad, said he doubted a full-scale strike would take place because "most workers understand it is better to talk and speed up a restructuring bill in the parliament than to go on strike." JM

CZECH SENATE LEAVES PARTIES' BILL AMENDMENT IN LIMBO

The Senate has failed to reach agreement on a bill amending the law on parties and has sent it to President Vaclav Havel "for assessment," CTK reported on 29 June. Resolutions on approving and rejecting the bill were defeated. The bill was passed earlier this year by the Chamber of Deputies. It provides for raising state subsidies for parties from 500,000 crowns to 1 million crowns ($26,400) for each seat in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate and for granting a subsidy of 250,000 crowns for each seat in the 14 new regional assemblies that are to be elected for the first time this fall. MS

MORE SLOVAK ROMA ARRIVE IN CZECH REPUBLIC

At least another 30 Slovak Roma applied for political asylum in the Czech Republic from 26-28 June, bringing the total number of applicants so far this year to 343, TASR reported, citing a spokesman for the Czech Interior Ministry. In 1999, there were only 19 such applications. No fewer than 170 Roma had applied for asylum over the weekend of 24-25 June. Although the Czech Republic has not approved any of the applications and says Roma are not being persecuted in Slovakia, at least one Czech official contradicted those statements. Roman Krystof, executive vice chairman of the government's Commission on Romany Issues, said the situation of Roma in eastern Slovakia is "desperate" and that he is not surprised they "flee anywhere they can." MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S FAMILY TO SUE DOCTORS?

Peter Schuster, son of ailing Slovak President Rudolf Schuster, told CTK in Innsbruck on 29 June that the president's family is considering filing suit against the doctors who treated his father in Bratislava. Meanwhile, Health Minister Tibor Sagat, who was blamed in the media and by parliamentary deputies for the poor quality of treatment given to Schuster in Slovakia, has again rejected such criticism, saying that the Interior Ministry hospital where Schuster was first treated is not under his ministry's jurisdiction and that treatment in the second, the Derer hospital, had been "adequate." The government has established a commission to investigate the accusations, but observers say its findings are unlikely to be objective because the commission includes only representatives of the Interior and Health Ministries. Also on 29 June, parliamentary chairman Jozef Migas and Premier Mikulas Dzurinda both denied that they intend to transfer to themselves some of Schuster's presidential prerogatives. MS

SLOVAKIA INDICTS FORMER COMMUNIST SECRET POLICE CHIEF

Chief Military Prosecutor Dobroslav Trnka told CTK on 29 June that General Alojz Lorenc, former chief of the communist Czechoslovak secret police (StB), has been indicted for violating the rights of more than 100 people, among them former dissident and now Czech President Vaclav Havel, between October 1988 and November 1999. If convicted, Lorenc faces a sentence of between three and 10 years in jail. Lorenc was sentenced by a Prague court to four years in prison in May 1993, but taking advantage of the Czech-Slovak split, he fled to his native Slovakia and subsequently served as an adviser to former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. He is now a pensioner. MS

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL IN BUDAPEST

Kofi Annan on 29 June met with Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi and praised Hungary's economic and political transformation over the last decade, Hungarian media reported. He said the Hungarian experience can be "of great use" to other countries. Annan also met with outgoing President Arpad Goencz, who urged an international effort to improve the water quality of rivers in the Carpathian region. Annan is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 30 June and will visit the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial. The UN secretary-general is married to a niece of the Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews under the Nazis and later perished in a Soviet concentration camp. MS.




SPLIT GROWING IN SERBIAN RULING COALITION?

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said in Belgrade on 29 June that his Radicals will not support the government's proposed "anti-terrorism law" in its present form (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2000). Seselj stressed that his party's deputies "will not vote for an incomplete law," AP reported. He did not elaborate. The is at least the second time within a month that divisions within the governing coalition have become public. The "leftist" forces in the government led by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his wife, Mira Markovic, represent one major traditional current in Serbian politics, while the "rightist" elements around Seselj represent another, very different one (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2000). PM

'ANTI-TERROR LAW' PUT ON ICE

Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vladan Kutlesic told the parliament on 30 June that the proposed law has been temporarily removed from the legislative agenda so that "useful suggestions" might be made and considered, Reuters reported. He did not say when the law will come up for debate again. PM

SERBIAN STUDENT MOVEMENT DEFIANT

Vukasin Petrovic, who is a spokesman for the Otpor (Resistance) student movement, said in Belgrade on 29 June that the proposed anti-terrorism law "will not stop our struggle.... The whole of Serbia cannot be arrested," London's "The Independent" reported. Elsewhere, Serbian Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic repeated the regime's charge that Otpor is a "terrorist-fascist organization...financed by the West," Reuters reported. PM

SERBIAN LAWYERS: 'EVERYONE POTENTIALLY A TERRORIST'

Branislav Tapuskovic, who heads an organization representing lawyers in Serbia, said in Belgrade on 29 June that "everyone is potentially a terrorist" under the proposed law, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Indicted war criminal and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic said, however, that "nobody has anything to fear if they are not a terrorist." In Montenegro, reaction to the proposed law could be generally broken down along party lines, as was predictable, "Danas" reported. The pro-Milosevic Socialist People's Party was the most outspoken in its support for the law. PM

IRAQ INTERESTED IN ZASTAVA?

Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh discussed improving economic links between Belgrade and Baghdad with Sainovic in the Serbian capital on 29 June. They "exchanged information on reconstruction and development...and on their struggle against the hegemony and domination of the United States in the Middle East and Southeast Europe," Tanjug reported. Saleh later went with a Serbian delegation to the Zastava automobile plant in Kragujevac. He said that Iraq is interested in cooperation with Zastava to produce passenger cars and unspecified light vehicles, Reuters reported. Zastava's products include the Yugo car, which has been widely sold abroad. PM

GENERAL PAVKOVIC SUPERVISES EXERCISES

General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who heads the Yugoslav army's General Staff, supervised exercises using live ammunition at an unspecified place in the "Third Army's zone of responsibility," Tanjug reported on 29 June. He visited Vranje and Nis, which is the headquarters of the Third Army. The army's zone of responsibility includes all of southern Serbia, including Kosova and the volatile Presevo valley that borders it. Pavkovic commanded the Third Army during the 1999 conflict and is considered a staunch Milosevic loyalist. The most recent exercises "by part of the Prishtina corps [included simulating] the engagement of [large] forces in securing the state border and closing tactical routes, including several exercises with live ammunition," the state-run news agency added. PM

KOUCHNER, ARTEMIJE SIGN EIGHT-POINT KOSOVA PACT

Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, and Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije, who is a leader of moderate Serbs, signed an agreement in Prishtina on 29 June. According to the terms of the pact, the Serbs agree to return to Kouchner's advisory council in return for specific pledges aimed at improving the lot of the Serbian minority (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 26 June 2000). The promises include a neighborhood watch program to improve security for ordinary Serbs, more ethnic Serbs in the police, a foreign prosecutor and two foreign judges in each district to deal with inter-ethnic crimes, increased return of Serbian refugees, stepped-up efforts to find missing persons and free prisoners, measures to ensure essential supplies to all communities, measures to promote self-government, and a committee to help protect Serbian historical and religious monuments in the province, Reuters reported. PM

PATTEN WANTS RESULTS IN KOSOVA

EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten said in Prishtina on 29 June that continuation of EU aid will depend on whether "a tolerant, harmonious, and stable community" emerges in Kosova, Reuters reported. Patten told local people that Kosova "is for us...much the biggest project that we're implementing anywhere.... In order to spend money on this scale, I have to be able to justify to Europe's taxpayers that the money is going to some purpose. I am not making threats...but people want to see not just physical reconstruction but stability as well." He added: "I will hope that local politicians rise above the level of events here--but I wasn't born yesterday." PM

TRADE UP BETWEEN MONTENEGRO, CROATIA

Vladimir Vukmirovic, who heads the Montenegrin Chamber of Commerce, said in Budva on 29 June that the volume of trade between his republic and Croatia in the first five months of 2000 totaled $7.5 million. This, he added, is more than the corresponding figure for all of 1999, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Before the end of 2000, Montenegro's Jugopetrol expects additional deliveries of petroleum products from Croatia's INA worth more than $50 million. PM

FOREIGN JOURNALIST GROUP WARNS SLOVENIAN GOVERNMENT

A spokesman for the International Federation of Journalists said in Ljubljana that the new government of Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk should not make changes for political reasons in the management of state-run media. The spokesman stressed that the credibility and image of Slovenia as a democratic country could be jeopardized if the government made such a move. The Bajuk government is the first once since independence in 1991 that is not led by former members of the Communist-era nomenklatura. PM

PRIESTS ORDANED IN ALBANIA FOR FIRST TIME IN DECADE

Archbishop Angelo Massafra ordained five priests in the Shkodra cathedral on 29 June. He said: "This is an historic day, especially for the younger generation in Albania.... [The ordinations are] a sign of hope that shows how the Albanian church is growing rapidly after so many years of state atheism and martyrdom," AP reported. The last time Roman Catholic priests were ordained in Albania was 1991. All religions were ruthlessly persecuted under the Communists, who in 1967 declared Albania to be the "world's first atheistic state." Places of worship were destroyed or desecrated after that date, and the Shkodra cathedral became a sports center. Islam, Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and the Bektashi sect have re-emerged with new vigor in the past decade but still require financial and other forms of help from abroad. Of those religions, Islam has the most adherents, but there are no accurate figures for practitioners of any faith. The four religions coexist reasonably well in Albania. PM

NEW-OLD RIGHTIST ALLIANCE RE-EMERGING IN ROMANIA

National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) First Deputy Chairman Ioan Muresan and Union of Rightist Forces (UFD) Co-Chairman Varujan Vosganian on 29 June agreed to begin setting up an electoral alliance whose members would run on joint lists in the 2000 parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Bucharest Bureau reported. The UFD left the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) in 1998, and Vosganian said the new alliance will not be a "revived CDR" because its political message must "promote rightist ideology." Vosganian and Muresan appealed to all rightist forces, "and primarily to the National Liberal Party (PNL)," to join the new alliance. Muresan said the formation of a PNTCD-UFD alliance comes against the background of "the PNL's slide toward social-liberalism," as demonstrated by the envisaged PNL-Alliance for Romania electoral pact. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, DISSIDENT BURIED

Cornel Manescu, who died on 26 June aged 84, was buried in Bucharest on 29 June, Romanian Radio reported. Manescu was foreign minister from 1961-1972. He later fell from grace with communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. In 1989 he was one of the six former high-ranking communist officials to sign a letter of protest addressed to Ceausescu and the Communist Party. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT INTERVENES IN BULGARBANK DISPUTE

Petar Stoyanov said on 29 June that he wants to hear the opinions of all sides involved in the dispute over the privatization of the country's largest commercial bank before the deal for the sale of Bulgarbank is closed, dpa and AP reported. Stoyanov talked to journalists before departing for a conference in Switzerland. He is returning on 3 July and observers say this means that the deal for selling the bank to an Italian-German consortium will probably not be concluded on 30 June, as earlier announced by Deputy Premier Petar Zhotev. The opposition Socialist Party called the planned sale of Bulgarbank an act of "national betrayal." On 29 June, Bulgarbank Chairman Chavdar Kanchev said the agreed terms of the deal--350 million euros ($330 million)--mean the bank is being sold for 100 million euros below the value of the bank's assets. MS




KGB VETERANS HEAD HAS HIGH HOPES OF PUTIN


By Sophie Lambroschini

Former KGB officers want to see the statue of their founding father, Felix Dzerzhinsky, standing again in Lubyanka Square.

Dzerzhinsky founded the KGB's predecessor, the Cheka, and is credited with launching 70 years of fear and purges as well as founding the gulag camps in which millions died. When his statue outside the KGB headquarters was torn down following the failed August putsch in 1991, its collapse symbolized the end of the Soviet Union and of the repressive KGB system. The State Security Veterans Association, a club for former KGB officers, has made an official request to another former KGB officer, President Vladimir Putin, to resurrect the statue. Valerii Velichko, the association's president, says that Putin may be receptive to the idea. "The thing is that the figure of Dzerzhinsky is not a simple one. You can't paint him just one color--all black, white, red, green, as you like," he argues.

Velichko worked for the KGB's economic counterintelligence unit, tracking down alleged saboteurs. He is especially proud of the five years he spent from 1980 to 1985 hunting down Soviet citizens who fled the country. Using language not often heard in Russia these days, Velichko says the defectors were "traitors to the Fatherland." He speaks with obvious disgust of people like the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who he says wanted money more than freedom.

Among current and former secret police officers, Velichko says, the mood since Putin's election is one of cautious optimism. "Today, a majority of veterans are in the process of observing [Putin]," he commented. "We are watching what his next steps will be. And if in the next three to four months or half a year we are convinced that what he does serves the state, then he will have many supporters among the veterans. Yes, we did help him during a first stage, during the election campaign. But now, it's time to wait. Putin can go one way and continue working for the Family [the influential entourage of former President Boris Yeltsin].... Or he can work for the state. Or he can work for himself. For the moment, he hasn't shown anything yet."

One sign that Velichko interprets as encouraging is Putin's appointment of officers of the KGB successor service, the Federal Security Service (FSB), to top posts. For many years under Yeltsin, the secret police were politically sidelined, although they have slowly regained influence in the past three years. For example, Putin has appointed Viktor Cherkesov, his FSB colleague from Saint Petersburg who used to track dissidents, as governor-general for the Northwest region. Velichko praised Putin for "not letting himself be bothered by the fact that, for obvious reasons, this appointment won't please the city's intelligentsia."

Velichko hopes that Putin's reliance on secret police officers will lead him to call back to service many of those who left their posts--or were fired--after the Soviet Union broke up. "The authorities are now considering the question of bringing back the veterans.... If a year ago, someone had suggested I become an adviser to Yeltsin, the idea wouldn't have crossed my mind. But now I and many of my comrades say that we would be ready to put on our uniforms again, if we see that it would be good for the state. The thing is that, for me, going back to serving [the state security organs] would mean losing a lot financially. Nevertheless, if I see that it's in the state's interest, I am ready to give up my businesses and receive whatever a FSB general gets paid nowadays."

Velichko says he is not talking about the restoration of the Soviet system. While some communist KGB officers are nostalgic for the Soviet era, his generation of KGB officers has seen the benefits of the market economy, Velichko notes. And he adds that the annual revenues of his companies total millions of dollars.

According to Velichko, the security service was the first to understand--under the brief tenure of Yurii Andropov, a former KGB head--that the regime was doomed and had to be changed. But then, he argues, things got out of hand.

"Believe me, the KGB had enough power to crush any opposition movement at the time," he said. "But we, the officers, were Chekists who adhered to the Andropov school. We understood perfectly well...that serious changes were necessary, but we didn't expect the changes to take such a sharp turn. The ideal scenario is China's evolutionary course. It is slowly developing a market economy, while at the same time maintaining the state regime."

Velichko also argues that the FSB has an important role to play in Putin's attempts to re-establish central authority over the regions, where local leaders have frequently gained the upper hand over police, courts, and other federal bodies. The FSB, Velichko says, is the only federal institution that has resisted the governors' influence and is therefore the perfect engine to establish top-down authority. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.


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