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Newsline - March 12, 2001




PRESIDENTIAL AIDE SAID TO HAVE PUSHED DUMA DISSOLUTION SCENARIO

"Obshchaya gazeta," no. 10, said that it has learned from "a well-informed source" that about ten days ago, "presidential administration leader Aleksandr Voloshin convened in the Kremlin a small group to examine scenarios for the dissolution of the State Duma." The group then recommended to President Vladimir Putin taking steps to bring this about, arguing that elections would be more likely to have a favorable outcome for the president than elections held as difficulties known as the 2003 problem mount. The paper added that it has learned that Unity leader Sergei Shoigu protested "the fact that his party members are being used as provocateurs and ordered about." But, the paper concluded, "the secret plan has been struck; they're off and running in the Kremlin; the deputies are very angry; and things are heading toward a big scandal." PG

RUSSIA SPENDS 60 PERCENT OF REVENUES ON DEBT SERVICING IN FEBRUARY

The Russian Finance Ministry said the Russian government spent approximately 60 percent of its budget revenues in February on serving foreign and domestic debt, Interfax reported on 11 March. Payments on interest and principal during that month amounted to 58.73 billion rubles ($2.1 billion). As a result, foreign debt declined by "more than $400 million" during the month, but domestic debt rose by 4.78 billion rubles ($170 million) over the same period. PG

MOSCOW AWAITS ARRIVAL OF IRANIAN PRESIDENT

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami is scheduled to arrive in Moscow on 12 March for meetings with President Putin and other Russian officials, with subsequent visits planned to St. Petersburg and Tatarstan, Russian agencies reported. In advance of the trip, Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi said that the two presidents will sign a declaration on the status of the Caspian Sea, identifying it as "a sea of peace and concord," ITAR-TASS reported on 11 March. Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said the two will also discuss military-technical cooperation, including Russian arms sales to Tehran, the news agency said. In a briefing on the eve of Khatami's arrival, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov stressed that "there is no question of a strategic partnership between Russia and Iran -- there is no such proximity of positions," Interfax reported on 11 March. PG

PUTIN 'DIDN'T WANT TO GO BACK TO RUSSIA,' EAST GERMAN AGENT RECALLS

A former East German policeman who worked as an agent under control of then-KGB officer Putin said in an interview published in London's "Sunday Times" on 11 March that the only time Putin lowered his guard with his colleagues was just before he returned to Russia in 1990. "He didn't want to go back to Russia," the policeman, who was identified only by the code name M, recalled. "He was worried about the political situation back home and had become accustomed to living in Germany." The policeman also said that Putin had learned quickly and overcome his "typically Russian" lack of punctuality. He concluded that Putin "must have a weakness, but I don't know what it is." PG

MOSCOW PROTESTS DENIAL OF BAIL TO BORODIN

The Russian Foreign Ministry called in U.S. Ambassador James Collins to protest the failure of a New York court to release on bail Russia-Belarus Union Secretary of State Pavel Borodin, who is being held on an extradition request by Switzerland, Russian and Western agencies reported on 10 March. The previous day, Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Yurii Ushakov said that Moscow is prepared to give both "political guarantees" and financial ones to secure Borodin's appearance. But U.S. Magistrate Viktor Pohorelskii said that the risk of flight is "a risk that I cannot ignore." Borodin himself told ITAR-TASS that he believes his case has been politicized. On 11 March, Borodin told Interfax that he has been experiencing health problems and has been treated with oxygen. PG

MORE CHARGES AGAINST TOBIN POSSIBLE

Andrei Makarov, the senior investigator in the case of American graduate student John Tobin, who was arrested in Voronezh on 1 March, told Interfax on 11 March that the Russian authorities may bring more than drug charges against the American. In any case, Makarov said, he has no plans to release Tobin on bail. But the regional office of the FSB said its officers see no reason to charge Tobin with espionage, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. PG

FOREIGN MINISTER DISMISSES U.S. MISSILE DEFENSE NAME CHANGE...

After earlier saying that President George W. Bush's dropping of the word "national" before missile defense could be "a nuance" that would provide an opening for talks, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in Stockholm on 9 March that a statement by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that the term "national" will not be used with the missile defense system does not change the essence of the concept, Interfax reported. PG

...OUTLINES MOSCOW'S IDEAS FOR START-III TALKS...

Foreign Minister Ivanov said Moscow is prepared to discuss tactical nuclear arms during future strategic arms reduction talks and proposes that Russia and the United States agree not to base nuclear weapons on any territories but their own, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 March. He suggested that this would be "a very important step in the interests of stability and confidence." PG

...AND REGRETS LACK OF RESPONSE TO MOSCOW'S IDEAS ON OSCE

Foreign Minister Ivanov on 9 March in Stockholm also expressed regret that other members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have not responded to his 8 January proposals calling for the OSCE to focus on broader security issues and work more efficiently, ITAR-TASS reported. In January, Ivanov said that the OSCE focuses too much on human rights issues and not enough on security issues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2001). PG

COURT REVERSES VOTING BAN ON NTV SHARES

The Moscow arbitration court on 11 March reversed a decision by a Russian bailiff who had said that the 19 percent of shares in NTV transferred to Media-MOST as collateral for a loan could not be voted in an upcoming shareholders meeting, Interfax reported. The decision is subject to another appeal. PG

MOSCOW REGIONAL JUSTICE HEAD MURDERED

NTV reported that Yurii Vlasov, the head of the Moscow region justice department, and his driver Dmitrii Gruzdev, were found strangled to death early on 11 March. The police later in the day announced that they had taken suspects into custody, Russian agencies reported. PG

YELTSIN RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL

Former President Boris Yeltsin was released from the Central Clinical Hospital on 11 March, ITAR-TASS reported. He had been treated for pneumonia, his doctors said on his release. Earlier, his aides said he was being treated for the flu. PG

NEW DRAFT LAWS TO HELP RUSSIA JOIN WTO

Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Maksim Medvedkov said on 11 March that his ministry is promoting a new set of draft laws on customs, protectionism, and state subsidies to industry to help Russia meet requirements for joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), ITAR-TASS reported. Medvedkov added that Russia and the WTO have made progress in talks about import tariffs. PG

DUMA DEPUTY SAYS KYIV MUST ACCEPT RUSSIA'S PROPERTY CLAIMS BEFORE OBTAINING DEBT RELIEF

Sergei Shishkarev, the deputy chairman of the Duma International Relations Committee, told ITAR-TASS on 11 March that Ukraine can only secure the restructuring of its debts to the Paris Club after recognizing Russia's right to all Soviet property abroad. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia assumed all former Soviet debts in return for acknowledgement by non-Russian republics of Russia's ownership of Soviet property abroad, but despite that accord, Shishkarev said, Ukraine has continued to make claims on some of that property. PG

'SEGODNYA,' 'ITOGI,' MAY BE FORCED OUT OF MEDIA-MOST

Mikhail Berger, the chief editor of "Segodnya," said on Ekho Moskvy that his newspaper and "Itogi" may be forced to leave Vladimir Gusinsky's Media-MOST empire in order to continue to print what they want, AFP reported on 9 March. Both publications are part of the Sem Dnei publishing house owned by Media-MOST. Gazprom has demanded that "Segodnya" leave the company as part of its settlement of Media-MOST debts. PG

MOSCOW RESERVES RIGHT TO PUT NUKES IN KALININGRAD

Speaking in Stockholm on 9 March, Foreign Minister Ivanov said there are no nuclear arms in Kaliningrad at the present time, ITAR-TASS reported, but he added that "by the way, Russia does not have an obligation not to place nuclear arms anywhere on its territory." PG

RUSSIAN SMALL BUSINESS LEADERS MEET POWELL

Some 100 small business leaders from Russia met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on 9 March, ITAR-TASS reported. Powell told them that the meeting confirms that the time of confrontation between the two countries has passed, and that Washington supports democratic and free market development of Russia. PG

EU UNHAPPY WITH RUSSIA'S FAILURE TO DESTROY CHEMICAL WEAPONS...

Swedish diplomat Stefan Noreen said in Brussels on 9 March that the European Union is "disappointed with the slow pace of Russian destruction" of chemical weapons, Reuters reported. But Noreen added that "there are signals coming out now that it could start next year," if Western governments provide sufficient aid. PG

...AND IRAN WITH RUSSIA'S SLOW PACE IN BUILDING REACTOR

Assadoulah Sabouri, the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, complained in a television interview in Tehran that "Russian experts fully master nuclear technology...but their management and planning is not on a level with their technical quality," Reuters reported on 9 March. Sabouri said that Russian enterprises have not met scheduled completion dates for the construction of the nuclear power plant at Bushehr. His comments come on the eve of Iranian President Khatami's visit to Moscow. PG

PLANNING CONTINUES FOR RUSSIAN-JAPANESE SUMMIT

Despite political turmoil in Japan, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Losyukov told ITAR-TASS on 11 March that Moscow continues active preparations for a summit in Irkutsk on 25 March between President Putin and Prime Miniser Yoshiro Mori. Losyukov said that "we proceed from the assumption that Yoshiro Mori will stay in his post until the end of March and that the Russian-Japanese summit will take place." PG

NAZDRATENKO WANTS TO CLOSE OKHOTSK SEA TO FOREIGN FISHING

Yevgenii Nazdratenko, the former governor of Primorskii Krai and the current chairman of Russia's State Fisheries Committee, said in Vladivostok on 11 March that the resources of the Sea of Okhotsk have been severely depleted and that the sea should be closed to all foreign and most domestic fishermen, Interfax reported. PG

NAZDRATENKO BACKS DEPUTY ENVOY IN GOVERNORS RACE

Former Primorskii Krai Governor Nazdratenko told reporters in Vladivostok on 11 March that he is giving his support in upcoming gubernatorial elections to Gennadii Apanasenko, deputy presidential envoy to the Far Eastern district, ITAR-TASS reported. Nazdratenko repeated his earlier pledge that he will not run in this ballot, but suggested that "this does not mean that I cannot run for the governor's post another time." Nazdratenko's support for Apanasenko is somewhat surprising, given that Apanasenko's boss, presidential envoy to the Far Eastern district Konstantin Pulikovskii has been an outspoken critic of Nazdratenko (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 12 March 2001). Meanwhile, Apanasenko has not officially registered as a candidate, although he told reporters earlier that he does not rule out doing so (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 21 February 2001). JAC

CRIMINAL CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST YAROSLAVL JOURNALIST

For the first time, a journalist in Russia, chief editor of the City Television channel in Yaroslavl Oblast, Elvira Mezhenna, is facing charges of libel and defamation in a criminal rather than a civil court, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 11 March. According to the bureau, the charges stem specifically from an editorial comment made some 10 months ago in May 2000. In a report on President Putin's decree reorganizing the administration of the Russian Federation, Mezhenna remarked that "it is no secret that in our oblast federal departments are in fact subordinated personally to the governor" and that "practically all locally based federal level officials are indebted to [Yaroslavl Oblast Governor] Anatolii Lisitsyn for their appointment." As one example, she cited the head of the Control-Audit administration of the Ministry of Finance, Nina Ryzhkova, who received not only her job but also other "gifts," and as a result, decisions "contradicting the will of the oblast authorities" are never taken. Ryzhkova complained to the local prosecutor and charges were brought against Mezhenna. JAC

'KURSK' RECOVERY DELAYED UNTIL FALL

Deputy Prime Minister Klebanov said on 11 March that financial problems will delay efforts to raise the "Kursk" nuclear submarine, which sank in August 2000, Interfax reported. Klebanov said that the cost of raising the "Kursk" will total $80 million. The delay is likely to spark new controversy in Russia because experts there have suggested that if the submarine is not lifted before the time of autumn storms, its recovery may become impossible. PG

YAKOVLEV WANTS SOVIET VICTIMS ENUMERATED

Former Soviet official Aleksandr Yakovlev was quoted by Toronto's "Globe and Mail" on 9 March as saying that he wants to compile a formal count of all the victims of Soviet repression. Yakovlev says that he believes that there may have been as many as 35 million victims shot or killed as the direct result of Soviet decisions. In his new book, "Maelstrom of Memory," Yakovlev writes that "Russia is covered up to its horizons with bones and nameless graves. It's high time for us to think about it, to repent, to apologize to those who survived, to kneel before the millions who were shot, to wake up our sleeping consciences and to understand that it was us who helped the regime to enslave us." He adds that "I am personally ashamed that we, the older generation, allowed those monsters Lenin and Stalin to kill us. We informed on our neighbors, applauded our 'leaders,' and shot our own countrymen. We were people without dignity." According to Yakovlev's findings, more than 41 million Soviet citizens were imprisoned between 1923 and 1953, there were more than 884,000 children in internal exile in 1954, and more than 85,000 Orthodox priests were shot in 1937 alone. Yakovlev is now seeking Kremlin backing for a study to verify his estimates. PG

GREF SAYS SUBSIDIES TO KALININGRAD MUST BE REVIEWED

At an 11 March meeting of leaders in Kaliningrad, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said that "many of the breaks and subsidies given to the region have not had a positive effect on the economy there and consequently should be reviewed," Interfax reported on 11 March. PG

SHAIMIEV BOOSTS SMALL BUSINESSES

Tatarstan President Mintimir Shaimiev held a meeting for 11 March with the leaders of small and mid-sized businesses in his republic to discuss a development strategy for the next few years, ITAR-TASS reported. Shaimiev pointed out that every third adult in Tatarstan is employed by a private company; consequently, "there is not a sector where private entrepreneurs do not work. They have fully mastered areas like trade, public catering, and services," he said. PG

RUSSIA'S GREEKS HOLD CONGRESS...

On the 10th anniversary of the foundation of Moscow's Greek Society, Greek public associations from across Russia assembled on 10 March in the Russian capital for their fifth congress, ITAR-TASS reported. They seek to promote both the welfare of their own communities and ties between Russia and Greece. There are approximately 100,000 ethnic Greeks in the Russian Federation, including 7,500 in Moscow, 30,800 in Stavropol, and 28,300 in Krasnodar. PG

...AS PRAGUE CALLS FOR BETTER TREATMENT OF RUSSIA'S CZECHS

The Czech Republic's Ambassador in Moscow, Jaroslav Basta, told CTK on 9 March that the 1,500 to 2,000 ethnic Czechs in the Russian Federation had "only dared last year to contact" the Czech Embassy. He said that prior to 1929, the Czech community in Novorossiisk had shops, a school and a Catholic church, but that under Soviet conditions, they suffered reprisals because of their origin. Basta said that many were sent to the Gulag, and others kept their ethnic identity secret. In August 2000, Basta said, the Czechs of Russia formed the Nazdar Association, prompted to that action by the influx of displaced persons from Chechnya into their area. They now seek to expand ties with Prague. According to Basta, "these Czechs differ from other Czech communities in the former USSR in their refusal to move from the region they inhabit." PG

UN SAYS 300,000 RUSSIANS HIV INFECTED

Russia's State Sanitary and Epidemiological Service Center in St. Petersburg told ITAR-TASS on 10 March that United Nations surveys suggest that there are "at least" 300,000 HIV-infected people in the Russian Federation. The center said that 93 percent of those infected used drugs intravenously. It added that the rate of new infections is increasing rather than falling, something it said was not "hope-inspiring." PG

FUGITIVE SHIP FINALLY CAPTURED

Russian coastal border guards have finally apprehended a poacher ship, the "Komsomolets-Nizhneamuriya," which first fled to a Japanese port and then departed in an unknown direction a week ago, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 5 2001). PG

CHECHEN COMMUNITY IN MOSCOW CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE PEACE TALKS...

Participants at a conference of Chechen political organizations held in Moscow on 10 March called on the Russian government to start a dialogue, without preconditions, between the Putin and Maskhadov administrations on a "civilized political settlement" of the Chechen conflict, Interfax reported. They also called for a referendum among citizens of the Chechen Republic on the region's future status, and for the UN and OSCE to act as guarantors of a future peace agreement. But a further resolution calling for the deployment in Chechnya of armed peacekeeping forces from neutral countries passed by only four votes. Participants also disagreed on whether Aslan Maskhadov remains Chechen president: he was elected in January 1997, apparently for a four-year term (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 5, 2 February 2001). Shamil Beno, the Moscow representative of pro-Moscow administration head Ahmed Kadyrov, said at the conference that representatives of that administration must be allowed to attend any talks between Maskhadov and the Russian leadership. LF

...AS DISPLACED PERSONS DISCUSS NOMINATING INGUSH PRESIDENT FOR NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

A congress of Chechen displaced persons held in Ingushetia on 4 March set up an initiative group to support nominating Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev for the Nobel Peace Prize, Interfax reported on 11 March. Aushev has incurred Moscow's displeasure for his expressions of support for Maskhadov and his alleged tolerance of Chechen armed groups on Ingush territory (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 7/8, 23 February 2001). There are currently some 147,000 displaced persons from Chechnya in temporary camps in Ingushetia. LF




ARMENIA, NATO DISCUSS COOPERATION

Admiral Guido Venturoni, who is chairman of NATO's Military Committee, met in Yerevan on 8-9 March with Armenian leaders to discuss the domestic political situation and the prospects for greater bilateral cooperation. President Robert Kocharian characterized Venturoni's visit as a "new step" in Armenia's ties with NATO, according to Snark as cited by Groong. Both Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian expressed the wish to expand Armenia's participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, stressing at the same time that the Russian military presence in Armenia constitutes a factor for stability in the South Caucasus rather than a threat to neighboring countries. Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian characterized cooperation with NATO as "an integral part" of Armenia's national security system, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

FORMER ARMENIAN DISSIDENT CALLS FOR ANNULMENT OF TREATY OF KARS

Presidential Human Rights Commission Chairman and former Soviet-era dissident Paruyr Hairikian told a press conference in Yerevan on 9 March that his Self-Determination Union demands the return to Armenian jurisdiction of Azerbaijan's enclave of Nakichevan and the Turkish territories of Kars and Ardahan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Those lands were placed under the control of Azerbaijan and Turkey respectively under the terms of the Treaty of Kars signed between Kemalist Turkey and Soviet Russia on 16 March 1921. Hairikian condemned the present Armenian leadership for neglecting the issues of those lost territories, and called on all Armenian political parties to join a campaign to demand that the treaty be annulled. Hairikian also condemned what he termed Russian Communists' complicity in the genocide of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey. LF

TWO CHECHENS CAPTURED IN AZERBAIJAN

Russian Interior Ministry officers and officials from the Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General's office detained two prominent Chechen fighters in Baku on 7 March, Russian agencies reported. The two men, who were extradited to Russia four days later, were identified as Badrudi Murtazaev, said to be a close associate of field commander Shamil Basaev, and Ruslan Akhmadov, who together with field commander Arbi Baraev is suspected of involvement in up to 30 hostage-takings, including those of foreigners, and of the kidnapping and execution in 1998 of four British and New Zealand telephone engineers. Speaking to foreign journalists in Baku on 10 March, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev said the extradition was in compliance with bilateral agreements on legal assistance, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI KILLED IN GEORGIAN MARKET RAID

An Azerbaijani woman was trampled to death on 11 March during an inspection by Georgian tax police of a market near Tbilisi, Caucasus Press reported. The tax police confiscated numerous vehicles loaded with contraband audio and video equipment, provoking protests and stone-throwing by traders. It is the second death of an Azerbaijani at the hands of Georgian officials within the past week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2001). Also on 11 March, Georgian border officials prevented an attempt by a convoy of some 15 vehicles to break through the border post without undergoing controls. LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA, OSCE SLAM ABKHAZ ELECTIONS

Over 50 percent of the registered Abkhaz electorate cast their ballots on 10 March in elections to local councils, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 7 March 2001). A senior Abkhaz security official said that the voting proceeded "smoothly." But in Tbilisi, representatives of the Georgian displaced persons forced to flee Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war staged a protest against the Abkhaz poll, and Georgian parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania said that "there can be no talk" of the legitimacy of any elections in Abkhazia until those displaced persons have been allowed to return home. The UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the Russian Foreign Ministry have all issued statements saying they do not recognize the ballot as valid. LF

GEORGIA CONDEMNS RUSSIAN STALLING ON ABKHAZ SETTLEMENT

Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Avtandil Napetvaridze told journalists in Tbilisi on 9 March that for several months Russia has blocked discussion of a UN-drafted proposal to resolve the Abkhaz conflict, which would grant Abkhazia "a high degree of autonomy" within Georgia, Interfax reported. He said Moscow considers that those proposals "do not reflect the interests of the Abkhaz side," and accused the Russian leadership for saying it condemns separatism but doing nothing to eradicate it. Tbilisi has similarly refused recently to discuss two earlier draft accords aimed at paving the way to a formal solution of the Abkhaz conflict (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 5, 2 February 2001). LF

GEORGIA URGES SOLUTION TO KARABAKH CONFLICT...

Georgia has a "vital interest" in the swiftest possible solution of the Karabakh conflict, presidential administration official Shalva Pichkhadze told the Armenian news agency Mediamax on 9 March, according to Groong. Puchkhadze recalled that Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze had said he would be prepared to try to mediate a solution to the conflict if asked by the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to do so. Pichkhadze added that "realistically speaking" only the three states that co-chair the OSCE Minsk Group are capable of "eradicating the reasons that provoked" that conflict. LF

...CONFIDENT GUUAM WILL SURVIVE

Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Napetvaridze told journalists in Tbilisi on 9 March that the GUUAM alignment will survive even if one of its five members (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) should quit the grouping, Interfax reported. He said Georgian officials prefer to refrain at present from predicting whether Moldova, following the Communist victory in the 25 February Moldovan parliamentary elections, might leave GUUAM. He said other countries have expressed an interest in joining that alignment but declined to name them. LF

KYRGYZ COURT UPHOLDS SENTENCE ON OPPOSITION LEADER

The Bishkek Military Court on 9 March upheld the sentence handed down by the Bishkek City Court in January on former Vice President and opposition Ar-Namys Party leader Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kulov was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment on charges of abusing his official position while serving as National Security Ministry in 1997-1998. The Bishkek City Court had acquitted Kulov on those charges last summer, but in September the Military Court demanded that the acquittal be reviewed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August and 12 September 2000 and 22 January 2001). LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT AGAIN AFFIRMS PRO-RUSSIAN ORIENTATION

Speaking in Dushanbe on 9 March on the fifth anniversary of the signing by pro-government organizations of the Treaty on Public Accord, President Imomali Rakhmonov again affirmed that Russia is Tajikistan's "main strategic partner," and that that partnership is a guarantee of Tajikistan's security, ITAR-TASS reported. Rakhmonov said a decree is in preparation on the mandatory study of the Russian language, which he termed a precondition for implementing joint large-scale economic projects with Russia, including completion of the construction of the Ragun hydroelectric plant. As in two recent interviews with the Russian press, Rakhmonov again appealed to Russia to invest in the exploitation of Tajikistan's natural resources (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 2001). LF

IRANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS TAJIKISTAN

Ali Shamhani held talks in Dushanbe on 9 March with his Tajik counterpart Colonel-General Sherali Khairulloev and with Tajik President Rakhmonov, Russian agencies reported. Those talks focussed on the prospects for bilateral military cooperation and the situation in Afghanistan. The two defense ministers agreed that there can be no military solution to the civil war in that country and called for peace talks between Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani and the leaders of the Taliban. LF

FORMER TURKMEN FOREIGN MINISTER NAMED AMBASSADOR TO CHINA

Boris Shikhmuradov, who was demoted last summer from Turkmen Foreign Minister to special presidential envoy for Caspian issues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2000), has been relieved of that latter post and named ambassador to Beijing, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 March, quoting the Turkmen News Service. LF

UIGHUR WRITER REPORTED MURDERED IN UZBEK JAIL

Uighur writer Eminzhan Osmanov was recently murdered in jail in Uzbekistan by Uzbek National Security Committee staffers, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 9 March, quoting Yusufbek Mukhlisi, the leader of the Almaty-based National Front for the Liberation of Eastern Turkistan. Osmanov's body, which bore traces of beatings and torture, was handed over to his relatives in Tashkent on 2 March with orders that he should be buried immediately. A former head of the Uighur section of the Writers' Union of Uzbekistan, Osmanov was arrested last year and charged with propagating Wahhabism. LF




MINSK INTRODUCES NEW CUSTOMS REGULATIONS

A presidential decree introduced as of 11 March new regulations concerning the noncommercial shipment of goods across the Belarusian border, Belapan reported. Under the decree, Belarusian residents and nonresidents are not required to pay a 30 percent customs duty if the value of what they bring into Belarus does not exceed $1,000. The regulations bar individuals from bringing into the country more than three liters of alcoholic beverages; 200 cigarettes or 200 grams of tobacco; five jewelry items; three articles of leather clothing; and more than one videocassette recorder or player. Mail parcels worth less than $100 are also free from customs duties. The regulations ban the mailing of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products to Belarus. JM

'UKRAINE WITHOUT KUCHMA' DEMONSTRATORS CLASH WITH POLICE

According to international media, from 5,000 to 10,000 people demonstrated against President Leonid Kuchma at the presidential administration building in Kyiv on 9 March, staging the largest anti-presidential rally in the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" series. An official police report said 4,000 people participated in the rally. The protest escalated into serious violence, with people hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at police officers. Police accused the radical nationalist Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense of provoking clashes, while the organization said the clashes were caused by the authorities, who allegedly planted provocateurs with Molotov cocktails into the crowd. Police detained 217 participants in the rally. JM

KUCHMA COMPARES ANTI-PRESIDENTIAL OPPONENTS TO 'BROWN PLAGUE'

Kuchma on 10 March said tolerating the activities of radical nationalists within the ranks of his opponents is similar to the 1938 Munich agreement accepting Hitler's expansionist policies before the outbreak of World War II, Reuters reported. "Let people see with their own eyes the signs of just such a brown plague that could just develop in Ukraine given a situation of this sort. We should be careful, as things start from small beginnings," he noted. And in last week's interview with the German magazine "Focus," the Ukrainian president said people take to the streets in Ukraine for money. "Just look at this circus with the demonstrations. People have been paid to take part. For many students it's a real business," AP quoted him as saying in the interview. JM

NEW ANTI-KUCHMA COMMITTEE EMERGES IN UKRAINE

An All-Ukrainian Public Resistance Committee "For the Truth!" was founded in Kyiv on 9 March. Interfax reported that the initiators of the committee included leaders of the student hunger strikes on Kyiv's Independence Square in 1990. "[Our main goal] is not simply to replace one president with another, but to fully reconstruct the entire system of political, economic, and social relations in Ukraine," the agency quoted Volodymyr Chemerys from the committee's leadership as saying. Chemerys was hospitalized on 11 March with a diagnosis of a brain concussion suffered in the 9 March clashes at the presidential administration building. JM

PUBLISHER OF ESTONIA'S TOP RUSSIAN DAILY MURDERED

Vitali Haitov, the publisher and main owner of the Russian-language daily "Estoniya" and weekly "Vesti Nedelya Plus," was found dead in his car in a western suburb of Tallinn on 10 March, apparently the victim of a professional assassination, BNS reported. Haitov, a 56-year-old retired Soviet naval officer who allegedly had connections with the underworld, suffered two shots to the head, and police suspect business rather than political motives for the murder. Haitov had been personally investigating the as yet unexplained shooting murder last April of his son Marian, who was co-owner and board member of Estonia's largest Russian-language media publisher AS Rukon-Info, and the senior Haitov had recently asked for police protection, ETA reported on 12 March. SG

LEFTIST PARTIES MORE SUCCESSFUL IN LATVIAN MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS

About 62 percent of the 1.3 million eligible voters cast ballots in the municipal elections on 11 March, AP reported the next day. In many districts the incumbent rightist Latvia's Way (LC) and For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK) won fewer seats than the leftist Social Democratic Workers Party (LSDSP) and For Human Rights in a United Latvia (PCTVL). Unofficial results from Riga indicate that the LSDSP won 14 of the 65 seats; PCTVL -- 13; TB/LNNK -- 11; the People's Party -- six; LC -- five; and eight other parties took one or two seats, LETA reported. In Jurmala the LSDSP won three of the 15 seats; PCTVL and TB/LNNK two each; and eight other parties took one seat. In Daugavpils, the party Latgale Light won seven seats; the joint ticket of the Daugavpils City Party and Latvia's Way -- five; PCTVL -- two; and LSDSP took one seat. In Ventspils, Mayor Aivars Lembergs' party "Latvijai un Ventspilij" (For Latvia and Ventspils) won 86 percent of the vote; LSDSP -- 7.3 percent; LC -- 4.3 percent; and TB/LNNK received 2.1 percent of the vote. In Rezekne, PCTVL won 36.9 percent of the vote; LSDSP -- 20.8 percent; and the joint ticket of LC and the Latvian Democratic Party won 14.6 percent of the total vote. SG

CLEANUP OF LITHUANIAN OIL SPILL COMPLETED

The Mazeikiai Oil company announced on 10 March that the operations for collecting and cleaning up oil spilled from its Butinge terminal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March 2001) have been completed, BNS reported. About 161 gallons (610 liters) of oil and seawater were collected in three days of operations and aircraft sprayed a chemical solution known as "Simple Green," which effectively dissolved the oil. A press release claimed that no signs of oil were found in a 50-kilometer area around the terminal during an investigative flight. Latvia, however, claimed that two to three tons of oil had been spilled, and submitted a note urging Lithuania to provide all information about the accident and steps that will be taken to avoid similar accidents in the future. Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Vladimirs Makarovs will travel to Vilnius on 14 March to hold talks on the spill. SG

POLITICIAN SAYS SOLIDARITY UNABLE TO BEAT LEFTISTS IN ELECTIONS

Former Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Janusz Tomaszewski, who has been recently cleared of charges of collaboration with the communist-era secret services, said on 10 March that the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) cannot beat the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) in this year's parliamentary elections, but may obtain a "good" election result, PAP reported. Last month, Tomaszewski declared his intention to lead an AWS election committee. According to Tomaszewski, the AWS made mistakes by failing to create a single strong party after the victorious 1997 elections, pay more attention to the countryside, and make a lasting alliance with the centrist Freedom Union. He added that those responsible for those mistakes should resign from the AWS. A recent poll by OBOP found that the SLD jointly with the Labor Union can count on 44 percent of the vote, the Citizens' Platform on 12 percent, the AWS on 9 percent, the Peasant Party on 7 percent, and the Freedom Union on 6 percent. JM

POLISH BISHOP SAYS PUBLICITY AROUND JEWISH POGROM IS 'PROVOCATION'

During a holy mass celebrated on 11 March in Jedwabne, Bishop Stanislaw Stefanek acknowledged that "our brothers of Jewish nationality" were burnt alive in Jedwabne in 1941 (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 6 March 2001), Polish Radio reported. He added, however, that today no one would dare to accuse all the inhabitants of Berlin or Moscow of the evils perpetrated by the communist and fascist systems. According to Stefanek, "the biased publicity surrounding the Jewish pogrom at Jedwabne is a well-prepared provocation." He added: "Jedwabne is at the center of a tornado, which according to its organizers' intentions, is to whip up a new spiral of hatred." JM

TWO STRONGEST CZECH PARTIES AGREE TO CONTINUE 'OPPOSITION AGREEMENT'

After a five-hour meeting on 9 March, the ruling Social Democrats (CSSD) and opposition Civic Democrats (ODS) agreed to extend the "opposition agreement" keeping the minority CSSD government in power until the next parliamentary elections in 2002, CTK reported. According to CSSD Deputy Chairwoman Jitka Kupcova, the CSSD also promised to submit a concept of public finances within three months and proposals on fundamental reform of the pension system within one month. Speaking on a Nova TV discussion program, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said the pension reform would be "acceptable for anyone who is not dogmatic and seeks social stability and healthy public finances." DW

CZECH ARMY CHANGING SPENDING TO MEET NATO OBLIGATIONS

The Defense Ministry is revising its armament programs in order to fulfill promises made to NATO, Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy told CTK on 10 March. Modernizing the army's T-72 tanks will be one of the issues addressed, for example. He said he thinks the country has made great strides in integrating with NATO structures, but "there are still big tasks ahead of us. They concern effective investments and a clear vision of how the army will look in...10 years." He said he expects that in 10 years the Czech Republic will be on the same level as long-serving NATO members. DW

CZECH PRESIDENT, POWELL AGREE ON CUBA RESOLUTION

After a 10 March phone interview in which U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed his concerns to Czech President Vaclav Havel about the Czech resolution on human rights in Cuba, Havel and Powell agreed that the resolution "should not markedly differ from last year's text," presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek told CTK. Powell had criticized the proposed resolution's criticism of sanctions against Cuba, a section that has also drawn criticism from former resolution co-sponsor Poland and Czech opposition politicians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8-9 March 2001). Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil said Foreign Minister Jan Kavan will meet with U.S. diplomats about the resolution next week, adding that preparations for the 2001 resolution have not been completed yet. DW

SLOVAK AGENT ARRESTED, SUSPECTED IN PREROV BOMBINGS

The Prerov district court remanded into custody recently dismissed Security Information Service (BIS) agent Vladimir Hucin, CTK reported 9 March. Arrested on 7 March on charges of disobeying orders and carrying arms without permission, the former dissident is also suspected of involvement in a series of unexplained bombings in Prerov. Explosives, weapons, and ammunition were found in a search of Hucin's home and its vicinity. Hucin has denied all the allegations and claims the bombs were set by leftist extremists. He says that the BIS wants to get rid of him for his work against leftist extremists and for drawing attention to higher-ups from the communist era now in the civil service and armed forces. Hucin was dismissed a month ago for violating his terms of employment by not revealing his informants. DW

SLOVAK DEFENSE OFFICIAL UPBEAT ON NATO ENTRY PROSPECTS

Rastislav Kacer, a state secretary in the Slovak Defense Ministry, said after his talks with NATO officials in Brussels on 9 March that the alliance has intensified discussions on its enlargement, CTK reported. Kacer said he believes that NATO will clearly declare its will to admit new members and invite candidates for NATO membership for entry talks during its summit in Prague in 2002. Kacer added that Slovakia appreciates support for its integration efforts from the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, which were admitted to NATO in 1999. "They are very strong advocates of enlargement and also of the invitation of Slovakia to join NATO, and I personally view the matter with a certain optimism," Kacer said. JM

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS ASK BANK TO QUIT PARLIAMENT

The Hajdu-Bihar county assembly of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) on 10 March called on Attila Bank, the former FKGP parliamentary group leader who was recently expelled from the party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March 2001), to resign as a member of parliament, FKGP Chairman Jozsef Torgyan announced. Torgyan said the assembly, held in the Hungarian town of Debrecen, "was a genuine demonstration of unity." He said that "all participants unanimously took a stand in favor of the policy represented by the FGKP chairman." Hungarian media report, however, that Torgyan was met in Debrecen by some 100 demonstrators, who demanded that he leave politics. MSZ




MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN LEADER CALLS FOR PEACE MARCH

Speaking in Skopje on 12 March, Arben Xhaferi, who heads the governing Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), called on fellow Macedonian Albanians to take part in a peace march in the capital the following day. He stressed that "another war in the Balkans cannot be tolerated," AP reported. He argued that the recent "violence in Tanusevci jeopardized...the entire image of Albanians and threatens their natural alliance with the democratic nations of the West." Xhaferi stressed that the fighting is the work of "extremists." Out of the recent violence, Albanians have "emerged as villains, as the guilty party, and a destabilizing element for the region," he concluded. PM

ALBANIA CALLS FOR MACEDONIAN STABILITY

Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta met in Tirana on 11 March with the leaders of Macedonia's two largest ethnic Albanian political parties. Meta told his guests that "the stability of Macedonia is vital for the stability of the whole region. The Albanian government supports the attempts of your parties to promote dialogue and participate in the country's institutional life," dpa reported. Xhaferi told reporters that "we agreed that the use of violence is unacceptable and that it will only damage the image of the Albanians." Ymer Ymeri of the opposition Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) argued that "the attitude of the Macedonian government has been, and continues to be, against the Albanians, so the current situation is a result of this attitude. The number of armed people can increase if the Macedonian government continues to ignore the Albanians." The PPD was part of a governing coalition until the 1998 elections. PM

NEW ALBANIAN PARTY FOUNDED IN MACEDONIA

Some 500 people attended a meeting in Skopje on 11 March to found the National Democratic Party (PDK). Co-President Kastriot Haxhirexha told the BBC that the PDK's goals are similar to those of the PDSH and PPD except that it calls for recasting Macedonia as a federation with separate Macedonian and Albanian components. He added that the PDK wants a referendum on "political and cultural autonomy" as well as the right to use "national symbols." Haxhirexha denied that the new party is a political arm of the National Liberation Army (UCK) guerrillas fighting along the border with Kosova. His fellow Co-President Fadil Bajrami told AP that the PDK wants greater local self-government at the expense of Skopje. He added that the party wants Macedonia redefined as a state of "Macedonians and Albanians" with the two languages on equal legal footing. PM

SITUATION REMAINS TENSE IN MACEDONIA

Xhaferi told Prishtina's "Koha Ditore" on 11 March that the source of ethnic tensions in Macedonia is located within that republic itself and has nothing to do with Kosova. Elsewhere, Macedonian security forces fanned out in patrols along the border with Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The border crossings at Blace and Jaznice remain closed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March 2001). Macedonian state-run media stopped rebroadcasting Albanian- and Macedonian-language programs of the BBC, but did not give a reason. PM

MACEDONIAN MINISTER PROMISES CHANGES

After meeting with his Albanian colleague Paskal Milo in Peshkopi, Albania, Macedonian Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim promised to implement unspecified social and economic reforms to improve the lot of the 23 percent ethnic Albanian minority, AP reported. He stressed that "Macedonia's government can distinguish extremist groups from the rest of the population." Milo agreed with the need for reforms, adding that "acts of violence by extremist groups should not be considered as actions by all Albanians." PM

NATO DIPLOMAT STILL HOPEFUL ON PRESEVO CEASE-FIRE

Peter Feith told Reuters in Bujanovac on 12 March that negotiators from the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB) are consulting with the guerrillas and that he hopes to meet with the envoys later in the day. Feith has been trying for several days to negotiate a cease-fire around the demilitarized security zone between the UCPMB and Serbian forces. The UCPMB objects to readmitting the feared Serbian paramilitary police into the village of Trnava near the Macedonian border as part of NATO's recent offer to the Serbian forces (see below). Leaders of the region's Albanian political parties said in Presevo on 11 March that opening the zone to Serbian forces will undermine stability there, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. On 9 March, UCPMB Chief-of-Staff Shefket Musliu said that his guerrillas will "fight to the last man" because they "have nowhere to go" and will not take "orders from NATO." PM

BELGRADE MUZZLES SERBIAN GENERALS

Authorities have banned army and police commanders from making statements to the press about the situation in southern Serbia, dpa reported on 11 March, quoting Tanjug. Several top officers have recently made little secret of their desire to punish "Albanian extremists" and take the "first step" toward a return of Serbian forces to Kosova. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER UNHAPPY WITH NATO OFFER...

Speaking to reporters in Belgrade on 11 March, Zoran Djindjic joined other Serbian critics of NATO's offer to readmit Serbian forces to a part of the border safety zone where Kosova, Serbia, and Macedonia come together (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March 2001). "Our forces will be there in the crossfire. On the one side, we will have Albanians from Kosovo, and on the other side, we will have Albanians from Macedonia. Both are extremists, and we think this problem could be called a hot potato. This hot potato should be taken by KFOR and Macedonian security forces," RFE/RL reported. He added that "our interest is primarily in the part of the buffer zone around Bujanovac and Presevo," where government troops are anxious to force guerrillas out of their positions. Djindjic had just returned from a trip to Germany, where Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer assured him of Berlin's political and economic support in Serbia's transition to democracy, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 10 March. PM

...WARNS NATO IT WILL 'HAVE TO FIGHT' ALBANIANS...

Prime Minister Djindjic told "Glas javnosti" of 11 March that "the international forces need to realize that they will either confront ethnic Albanian extremism or be defeated...and humiliated." He stressed that "KFOR is facing a situation in which the baby it once nursed is now beginning to bite," AP reported. He added that Belgrade is under "no illusions" about the prospects for a negotiated peace with the Albanian fighters in the Presevo Valley, adding that "they will keep resorting to pure terrorism." PM

...SAYS U.S. CONGRESSMEN 'PAID' BY ALBANIANS

Premier Djindjic also told "Glas javnosti" on 11 March that the Western powers should demand the arrest and trial in The Hague of Kosovar leader Hashim Thaci for "atrocities" he allegedly committed during the Serbs' 1999 ethnic-cleansing campaign in Kosova. Djindjic said support for the Kosovars has been waning recently in some EU countries. He added, however, that in the U.S. "the Albanian lobby cannot be ignored. There are U.S. congressmen who we know are being paid by the Albanian lobby. That is a fact, and we must live with it," AP reported. Djindjic offered no proof of his claims. Some Belgrade media and President Vojislav Kostunica's adviser, Predrag Simic, have frequently referred to the alleged power of an "Albanian lobby" in Washington. PM

U.S. WARNING TO BELGRADE?

The "New York Times" reported on 10 March that "the United States has told the...government in Belgrade [in a three-page letter] that if it expects American aid to continue, it should arrest and imprison former President Slobodan Milosevic by the end of March, and at the same time should assist in transferring to The Hague at least one person indicted on war crimes charges, senior Western officials said today." The report added that "Washington is not insisting that Mr. Milosevic be transferred immediately to The Hague, where he is under indictment for war crimes for Serbian actions before and during the 1999 Kosovo war. But its official policy remains that Mr. Milosevic face charges in The Hague." The daily noted that "for American aid to continue, President [George W.] Bush must certify to Congress by 31 March that the Belgrade government is cooperating with the Dayton agreement, furthering human rights, and cooperating with The Hague tribunal. Otherwise, nonrelief American aid of $100 million this fiscal year will be cut off; about half of it is not yet disbursed." PM

BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMES SUSPECT SURRENDERS

Blagoje Simic, who was a senior Bosnian Serb civilian administrator, arrived in the Netherlands on 12 March on a plane from Belgrade. He is the first Yugoslav citizen to voluntarily go to The Hague in connection with war crimes charges relating to the 1992-1995 war. The trained physician was chief administrator of Bosanski Samac during the conflict. Of the town's prewar population of 17,000 Croats and Muslims, only 300 remained at the end of the war, AP reported. Before leaving for Belgrade, he said that he will prove his innocence of the charges. His lawyer stressed that Simic does not believe that all Serbs should be punished by the international community because of the misdeeds of a few. There has been speculation in some regional and foreign media in recent days that at least one indicted Yugoslav citizen would voluntarily go to The Hague in order to demonstrate to the U.S. authorities that Serbia is cooperating with the tribunal. PM

TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL SETS UP SERBIAN CHAPTER

Transparency International, which is a German-based NGO specializing in combating corruption, said in a press release on 12 March that it has launched a Serbian branch. Miklos Marschall, who is the NGO's director, said that he hopes that the new office will help contribute to bringing Serbian practices into line with European norms. PM

SERBIAN REFORMIST LEADER DIES IN CAR CRASH

Maja Tasic, who is a leader of the Civic Alliance and top aide to Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic, died in a car accident in a Belgrade suburb on 10 March. Foul play is not suspected, AP reported. PM

HERZEGOVINIAN CROATS REMAIN ADAMANT

Hard-line Croat leader Ante Jelavic said that he will ignore High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch's dismissal of him and continue plans to set up a "self-administration," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 9 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March 2001). PM

FORMER ROMANIAN KING TURNS DOWN ILIESCU'S INVITATION

Former Romanian King Michael I on 11 March turned down a surprise invitation from President Ion Iliescu to visit Romania, Mediafax reported. The previous day, in an unprecedented move intended as "reconciliation," Iliescu invited the former king to participate at the reopening of the Modern Art Gallery at the Romanian Art Museum, which was hosted by the former royal palace. Michael I declined the invitation due to "undelayable obligations," but promised to visit "in the nearest future." During Iliescu's presidency between 1990 and 1996, Michael I, now a Swiss citizen, was denied entry to the country several times. ZsM

YET ANOTHER PROMINENT PD LEADER LEAVES PARTY

Democratic Party (PD) Executive Secretary for International Affairs Victor Bostinaru on 9 March announced his resignation from the party, Romanian media announced. Bostinaru said he resigned due to recent weeks' events within PD, with internal conflicts heating up ahead of the party's Extraordinary National Convention scheduled for May, which will elect the new chairman. Democratic Party Chairman Petre Roman said he regretted Bostinaru's resignation, and called on party members to unite forces in stopping internal disputes and "yielding to narrow personal interests." Bostinaru's announcement came only days after Roman appealed to former prominent party figures to return to the fold of the PD (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March 2001). ZsM

CONTROVERSY OVER ROMANIAN LAW ON STATE SECRETS CONTINUES

The Romanian Press Club on 12 March released a declaration protesting the recently approved law on state secrets, labeling it "an attack on the liberty of the press," Romanian media reported. The law, approved by Parliament on 7 March, provides for severe sentences for anyone found guilty of publishing state secrets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2001). The declaration argues that the law, instead of protecting secrets, actually protects "abuses, frauds, and theft," and infringes on citizens' rights to information. In related news, President Iliescu on 9 March said authorities do not intend to limit the access to information. He added that he will analyze the text of the law and, if changes are needed, will send it back to Parliament. ZsM

MOLDOVA TO BECOME MEMBER OF THE STABILITY PACT?

Victor Chirila, deputy director of the European Integration Department from the Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on 9 March announced that Moldova may be admitted as a member at the next regional meeting of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Chirila, who participated in the regional meeting of the pact in Ljublana, said Stability Pact members have reached a consensus over the admittance of Moldova to the pact. In an interview with RFE/RL, Deputy Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, who also serves as deputy to Stability Pact Coordinator Bodo Hombach, said the secretariat of the Stability Pact believes Moldova's "destiny is connected to the European destiny on the whole." He added, however, that due to its problems with the Transdniester breakaway region, Moldova needs "totally special attention" from European organizations. The No. 3 in the hierarchy of the Party of Moldovan Communists, Victor Stepaniuc, recently expressed doubts about the advisability of Moldova joining the pact, claiming that behind such organizations are "NATO's weapons." ZsM

BULGARIA ARRESTS TWO FOR ESPIONAGE

A Bulgarian Defense Ministry official and a retired colonel were arrested by Bulgarian authorities for espionage, Reuters reported on 10 March. The Defense Ministry issued a statement saying that Colonel Yani Yanev, a former deputy chief of a department in the Defense Ministry's Intelligence Directorate, was arrested on 6 March along with ministry employee Lilyana Gesheva "for actions against national security. Gesheva supplied Yanev with documents that were a state secret." The Bulgarian news agency BTA reported, citing Defense Ministry sources, that Yanev was arrested outside the entrance to the Russian Embassy in Sofia. The daily "24 Chasa" quoted Russia's ambassador to Sofia, Vladimir Titov, as denying Russian involvement in the affair. PB

BULGARIAN LEGISLATURE URGES INTERNATIONAL HELP FOR MACEDONIA

The Bulgarian parliament on 9 March issued an appeal to several international organizations calling for increased engagement in Macedonia in order to end the insurgency by ethnic Albanians along Kosova's border with Macedonia, Reuters reported. In a statement, the parliamentarians appealed to "the UN, NATO, the OSCE, and the EU to keep up their vigorous efforts to prevent the destabilization of Macedonia, and, therefore, of the whole region." It added that it expects "KFOR [the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosova] to strengthen measures for control of the border between Kosovo and Macedonia, in order to curb provocations." Bulgaria has shown great concern over the border conflict and Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and President Petar Stoyanov have offered both military hardware and troops to Macedonia. PB




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