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Newsline - April 11, 2001




NTV STANDOFF CONTINUES

Media-MOST, the parent company of NTV, filed suit in Russian courts to have Gazprom's takeover of the station declared invalid, Russian and Western agencies reported on 10 April. The cases will be heard on May 10 and May 17. Meanwhile, both supporters and opponents of the NTV journalists continue to stake out positions. A poll shows that most Muscovites back the journalists, "Vremya MN" reported on 10 April. The Union of Journalists and Grigorii Yavlinsky's Yabloko party began collecting signatures in support of the embattled journalists. In another show of support, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov called for regional leaders to purchase a share of NTV to keep it independent, Interfax-Eurasia reported. But cracks have appeared at NTV, with at least 20 of its 400 journalists having already departed, Russian agencies reported. Those departures were widely viewed as making the station less attractive for potential foreign investors like Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner, both of whom continue to discuss a possible acquisition of a stake in NTV. On the other side, Gazprom-Media's Alfred Kokh said that he would not see a decision by Turner to drop his bid "as a catastrophe" for the station, Interfax-AFI reported. And even though President Vladimir Putin on 9 April suggested that the dispute should be resolved in court, on 10 April, Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii said that he believes that the case could and should be solved by direct talks without the interference of the courts, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, commentators and journalists speculated as to what the NTV battle will mean, with most suggesting that it demonstrates how easily people with economic and political power can crush freedom. In addition, an article in "Profil," No. 13, argued that the whole affair shows the rise of a new oligarch, Anatolii Chubais, whose close associates are the winners thus far. PG

PUTIN, SCHROEDER SIGN ONLY TWO ACCORDS

Despite statements about "partnership" and expanding ties, President Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder signed only two agreements following their fourth summit: one to cooperate in space research and another calling for German assistance in the training of managers for the Russian economy, Russian and Western agencies reported on 10 April. Russian officials, from Putin on down, both as part of the summit and also in the St. Petersburg dialogue meetings, put their best face on the situation, noting that Germany has promised to help Russia reschedule its debts if Moscow faces difficulties in the future. But Schroeder called for a political solution to the Chechen crisis and, in a clear reference to the NTV affair, said that free media are a precondition for a free society. PG

PUTIN GREETS RUSSIAN JEWS ON PASSOVER

President Putin on 10 April sent a message of greetings to Russian Jews on the occasion of Passover, Interfax reported. He said that the holiday "embodies the great idea of freedom which is dear to all peoples." PG

UNION OF RIGHTIST FORCES GOES INTERNATIONAL

Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov set up a regional branch of his party in London, making it, in his words, "the first political union in the history of Russia to open regional branches beyond the borders of Russia," Interfax-AFI reported on 10 April. Nemtsov, who will head the SPS branch in the British capital, said that such branches are necessary for maintaining contact with the 2 million Russians who live abroad and who can contribute to building democracy in Russia itself. PG

BEREZOVSKY EXPRESSES REGRET FOR BACKING PUTIN

In a letter published in the 10 April edition of "Kommersant-Daily," media magnate Boris Berezovsky expressed regret that he did not consider just how important Putin's KGB background would be in guiding the Russian president's actions. PG

GORBACHEV, TITOV TO UNITE THEIR PARTIES

The Russian Unified Social Democracy Party headed by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev will unite with the Russian Party of Social Democracy headed by Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, according to an agreement signed this week, Interfax reported on 10 April. Gorbachev and Titov said that their supporters include "the majority of society." PG

UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW FOR TALKS ON PIPES

Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko came to Moscow on 10 April to meet with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kasyanov for talks about Russian plans to restrict the import of Ukrainian steel pipes, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev said in St. Petersburg that the Russian-Ukrainian gas agreement did not work well during its first three months of operation, Interfax-ANI reported. "There have not been any successes," Vyakhirev said, "only more debts." In other comments, Vyakhirev said he believes the present level of foreign investment in his company is "optimal." His comments came as Russian regulators are considering allowing foreign investors to increase their stake in Gazprom and other companies beyond the current 20 percent limit, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

RUSSIANS DIVIDED ON NATO MEMBERSHIP

According to a poll conducted by monitoring.ru and reported by Interfax on 10 April, 27 percent of Russians have a positive attitude toward the possibility of Russia joining the Western alliance while 31 percent are opposed. The more educated are more positive about the possibility, while members of the military and entrepreneurs are more negative about it, the poll suggested. PG

EUROPEAN AFFAIRS MINISTRY PROPOSED...

Konstantin Kosachev, deputy chairman of the Duma's International Relations Committee, said in an interview published in "Trud" on 10 April that Moscow should create "a special ministry or committee for European policy" in order to highlight its European orientation and increase ties with the European Union. Meanwhile, Duma International Relations Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin said in an interview published in "Krasnaya zvezda" that Europe must be at the center of Russia's policy and that Russia should seek to form "a much deeper union" with Europe. PG

...BUT EUROPEANS CRITICIZE RUSSIA

European Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten told visiting Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko that Europeans are "profoundly disappointed" by discussions on nuclear safety that took place last week in Berlin, "which actually went backwards," Reuters reported on 10 April. In other comments, Patten said Russia has also disappointed the EU by its approach to NTV, its policy in Chechnya, and its failure to further liberalize its economy. Khristenko, for his part, nonetheless said he believes that Russia-EU ties have never been so "intense." PG

U.S. REPORTEDLY TRIED TO RECRUIT RUSSIAN TO HACK INTO FSB FILES

An article in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 10 April, citing Russian intelligence services, said that American Embassy personnel in Moscow attempted to recruit a Russian hacker to break into the computer files of the Federal Security Service (FSB). The paper said that the American effort failed because the young Russian reported the incident the next day to FSB officers. According to the FSB's Administration for Computer and Information Security, the FSB computers are subject to 10 to 30 hacking attempts every day. Meanwhile, virtually every newspaper in Moscow on 10 April carried articles criticizing the U.S., and in one case even asked what was so bad about the Cold War. PG

MOSCOW HOPES SAUDIS WILL EXTRADITE HIJACKERS

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 10 April that Moscow has received assurances that the Saudi Arabian government will follow all international agreements on extradition of the hijackers of a Russian airliner in March, even though Russia and Saudi Arabia do not have an extradition treaty, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

DALAI LAMA TO VISIT RUSSIA

Aides to the Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of Tibet, said on 10 April that he will visit Buryatia, Kalmykia, Tuva, and Moscow later this year, Interfax reported. The first three spots on his itinerary are historically Buddhist centers. Meanwhile, on the same day, officials in the Buryat capital of Ulan-Ude announced that they have decided to build a Center for Tibetan Culture to house the Society of Friends of Tibet and to provide instruction on the history and culture of Tibet. PG

LAWYERS SEEK RELEASE OF BORODIN

Lawyers for Russia-Belarus Union State Secretary and former Kremlin property manager Pavel Borodin appealed to a Swiss court on 10 April to allow their client to be released on bail, Russian and Western agencies reported. The attorneys also argued that the Swiss do not have evidence to the support charges against Borodin. Borodin did not appear in court, having been taken from prison to a hospital after complaining of chest pains. PG

TWO-THIRDS OF FORMER STATE FIRMS HAVE BEEN PRIVATIZED

The Russian government sent a message to the Duma noting that, as of the beginning of this year, 130,180 enterprises formerly owned by the state have been privatized, which represents 66 percent of the total number of such firms, "Vremya MN" reported on 10 April. Meanwhile, the Property Ministry told Interfax-AFI that the government raised 5.11 billion rubles ($180 million) from the sale of state-owned enterprises during the first quarter of 2001. PG

CABINET FOR REDUCING FORCED SALE OF HARD-CURRENCY EARNINGS TO 50 PERCENT

Deputy Finance Minister Yurii Lvov told Interfax-AFI on 10 April that the Russian government is now prepared to lower the percentage of hard-currency profits that firms must convert with the state bank from 75 to 50 percent. PG

RUSSIA LAYS FOUNDATIONS FOR INFORMATION SOCIETY

Communications Minister Leonid Reiman on 10 April told an international congress in Moscow on information and the global economy in the 21st century that Russia has laid down the foundations that will allow it to become an information society, Interfax reported. He said that Russian officials are devoting particular attention to introducing information technology and training in schools and working to increase public trust in cyberspace. Meanwhile, the Kremlin press service announced on 10 April that the competition for the design of a website for President Putin has been extended until 1 June to give those who want to enter the contest more time to come up with designs, Interfax reported. PG

RADICAL ISLAMIC GROUPS IN CONTACT WITH SOME REGIONS

Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said in Moscow on 10 April that the governments of the Adygei Republic and several other federation subjects are in contact with radical Islamic organizations abroad and that his ministry plans to monitor all agreements that federation subjects have concluded with those organizations, Interfax reported. PG

MOSCOW TO FLOAT NEW EUROBOND ISSUE

The city of Moscow intends to issue new three- and five-year Eurobonds to the amount of 800 million euros ($722 million) this year, the "Financial Times" reported on 10 April. Later this spring, the paper said, Moscow will complete repayment on Eurobonds it issued prior to 1998. PG

LAW GOVERNING DAMAGE BY SOLDIERS UPHELD AS CONSTITUTIONAL

Russia's Constitutional Court on 10 April held that a law that requires soldiers and officers to pay for at least some of the damages they may inflict while on duty does not contradict the constitution, Interfax reported. PG

YELTSIN AIDES RELEASE BOOK ON FORMER PRESIDENT

Aides to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 10 April formally presented their book "The Yeltsin Epoch: Essays in Political History," Interfax reported. Among the authors of the book are Yuri Baturin, Vyacheslav Kostikov, Mikhail Krasnov, Aleksandr Livshits, and Lyudmila Pikhoya. Livshits said that the authors have written only one-third of what they know, and know only one-third of what actually took place in the Kremlin under Yeltsin. He said that "perhaps when all of us have become pensioners, we will get together and write a new book." But he said that despite that limitation, the book will be useful for future historians and also for contemporaries who are interested in the past decade of Russian history. PG

RUSSIAN ELECTRIC GRID WEARING OUT

Nikolai Sorokin, the head of the machinery department of the Industry and Science Ministry, told Interfax on 10 April that rapidly aging equipment in the Russian electricity grid and the failure to make timely investments to fix things as they break down could lead to energy shortages in that country by 2005. PG

213,000 FOREIGNERS ARRIVED IN RUSSIA TO WORK IN 2000

The State Statistics Committee on 10 April told Interfax that 213,000 people arrived in Russia in 2000 to work, 0.9 percent more than in 1999. More than half of them were concentrated in five federation subjects, including Moscow and Primorskii Krai. PG

MOST RUSSIANS DON'T WANT CHILDREN TO LIVE ABROAD

A poll conducted by monitoring.ru and reported by Interfax on 10 April found that 51 percent of Russians believe that Russia is the best place for their children to live. That figure is down slightly from the one obtained in a similar poll in September 1999. Of those who do think their children would be better off abroad, only 9 percent said that the United States would be the best place for them. PG

THREE MILLION RUSSIANS NOW USE DRUGS REGULARLY

Andrei Fedorov, the director of political programs of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, said on 10 April that approximately three million Russians now use drugs on a regular basis, Interfax reported. He said that drug use has spread to all the subjects of the federation; that the average age of users has fallen; and that the drug of choice in Russia is now heroin. Fedorov estimated the Russian illegal drug market at $2.1 billion a year. PG

DEMOGRAPHY TO FORCE RUSSIA TO ADOPT PROFESSIONAL ARMY

Aleksandr Pochinok, the minister of labor and social policy, told the Duma on 10 April that Russia's demographic situation will soon force Russia to create a professional army because it will not be able to raise forces via a draft, Interfax reported. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY OUTLINES HIS DEMOGRAPHIC SOLUTIONS

Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said on 10 April that he would prohibit abortions for 10 years and limit the right of Russian women to travel abroad for 10 years as part of an effort to improve the country's demographic situation, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, the news service reported, President Putin plans to name Zhirinovsky an honorary jurist of the Russian Federation on 11 April. Putin also plans to name Duma Agrarian faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov as an honorary agricultural worker, Interfax said. PG

MAKING A PROFIT IN SPACE

Officials of the Russian space program said on 10 April that they are considering launching a special module to be attached to the International Space Station to allow Russia to earn more money from space activities, AP reported. PG

MOSCOW PLANS NEW GARAGES AS POSSIBLE BOMB SHELTERS

The Moscow city authorities plan to construct underground parking garages that could also serve as bomb shelters, Interfax-Moscow reported on 10 April. PG

PUTIN GIVES MEDALS TO MILKMAID, TRACTOR DRIVER

In a move that recalls the Soviet era, President Putin has presented medals to a milkmaid and a tractor driver in Kemerovo Oblast, "Izvestiya" reported on 11 April. Meanwhile, the Soros Open Society Institute sponsored an exhibition on what organizers called "the capital of the 101st province," a reference to a Soviet practice by which convicts were not allowed to live closer than 101 kilometers to major cities, the paper said. PG

PUTIN TO ISSUE A WARNING TO NONCOMPLIANT REGIONS

The Federal Justice Ministry is preparing a proposal calling for President Putin to issue a warning to 23 regions whose laws continue to contradict federal legislation, Interfax reported on 10 April, citing Deputy Justice Minister Yevgenii Zabarchuk. According to Zabarchuk, these 23 regions include the republics of Adygei, Altai, Ingushetia, Bashkortostan, Komi, Tatarstan, Sakha, and Tuva; the oblasts of Arkhangelsk, Voronezh, Novgorod, Pskov, Ryazan, Moscow, Kamchatka, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Chita, Sverdlovsk, and Chelyabinsk; Krasnoyarsk Krai; and the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Of those regions, according to Zabarchuk, the most serious offenders are the republics of Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, Sakha, and Ingushetia. Also on 10 April, deputy presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Aleksandr Yevstifeev said that in the majority of regions in his district, the regulations of municipal organizations do not correspond with federal legislation. JAC

GOVERNOR SUGGESTS TAX ON CAPITAL FLEEING OBLAST'S BORDERS...

In a speech marking his first 100 days as governor of Ulyanovsk Oblast, Vladimir Shamanov declared that the region could be considered "bankrupt," Interfax-Eurasia reported on 10 April. He said that in order to fulfill the oblast's budget, he is suggesting the introduction of a tax on exporting capital outside the region's borders. Shamanov also appealed to the leaders of local enterprises not to take capital outside of the oblast and to transfer their bank accounts to Ulyanovsk: "We are speaking about patriotism and love for [your] oblast." JAC

...AS LOCAL ENERGY HEAD FINED FOR TURNING OFF ELECTRICITY

In a report on 7 April, RFE/RL's Ulyanovsk correspondent provided more details about the recent trial of Ulyanovskenergo head Sergei Sedov, who was found guilty on 30 March of cutting off electricity to the village of Isheevka, affecting the local hospital (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 2001). Sedov was ordered to pay 10,000 rubles ($347) in damages to village resident Svetlana Kazakova, whom doctors had to rush to another hospital 20 kilometers away in order to save her life. Kazakova, who was suffering from internal hemorrhaging, was undergoing emergency surgery at the time the electricity was cut off. On the road her condition became critical, and doctors had to bring her back to life. Ulyanovskenergo Deputy General Director Nikolai Klyushenkov told RFE/RL that local authorities are the real guilty parties, as "they want to be considered good fellows by the people, dispense tax breaks, lower tariffs, and at the same time cannot finance their [policies]." JAC

LUKOIL PRESIDENT ARRIVES IN PERM FOR STATE VISIT

LUKoil and the administration of Perm Oblast plan to sign a cooperation agreement on 11 March, Interfax-ANI reported on 10 April. The five-year agreement will be signed during a visit by LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov to Perm. LUKoil has signed an earlier such agreement with Perm, as well as with a number of other regions (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 8 November 1996). JAC

NEW CHECHEN ACTING PROSECUTOR NAMED

Former Belgorod Oblast Deputy Prosecutor Viktor Dakhanov assumed the duties of Chechen prosecutor-general on 9 April for a period of six months, Interfax and Glasnost-North Caucasus reported. Dakhanov said he will continue the investigation of all existing criminal cases, including those that opened in connection with the discovery in late February of a mass grave on the outskirts of Grozny (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February and 1 March 2001). LF

REPORTS OF NEW MASS GRAVE IN GROZNY DENIED

"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 April that 17 bodies, mostly middle-aged men with bullet wounds, have been discovered in the basement of a building in Grozny formerly used by Russian paramilitary forces, dpa reported. Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov claimed that the men were civilians who were killed by Russian troops approximately six months ago. Speaking in Rostov-na-Donu later that day, presidential envoy to the South Russia federal district Viktor Kazantsev initially confirmed that the bodies had been found, but said one should not "jump to conclusions" about their identity or who killed them. But later on 10 April, a spokesman for Kazantsev said the latter had ordered an investigation, and that no bodies had been found. On 11 April, newly appointed Chechen acting Prosecutor-General Dakhanov similarly said that excavations at the reported burial site are continuing, but that no bodies have yet been located, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

'THIRD FORCE' EMERGES IN CHECHNYA?

Chechen administration official Shamil Beno said on 6 April that three squadrons of fighters are active in Chechnya that are subordinate neither to the Russian federal forces nor to Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 10 April. He said those squadrons have attacked both conflict parties. Beno said FSB head Nikolai Patrushev "has full information" about those detachments. LF




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT BRIEFS CHIRAC ON KEY WEST

On a brief stopover in Paris on 10 April, President Robert Kocharian informed his French counterpart Jacques Chirac on last week's talks in Key West between himself; Azerbaijan's president, Heidar Aliev; and the Minsk Group co-chairmen on resolving the Karabakh conflict, AP reported. The Key West talks reportedly focussed on "general principles" proposed by the presidents of France, Russia, and the U.S., and which Aliyev and Kocharian discussed during talks in Paris early last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 March 2001). Kocharian told Chirac that he is "encouraged" by the most recent talks, and Chirac reaffirmed his readiness to continue to mediate a settlement of the conflict. LF

MAIN SUSPECT IN ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING REFUSES TO TESTIFY

Nairi Hunanian, the leader of the five gunmen responsible for shooting eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament in October 1999, refused on 10 April to testify in court, claiming that his continued detention is illegal, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Pretrial testimony by Hunanian read by prosecutors at the 10 April session revealed that Hunanian decided to kill parliament speaker Karen Demirchian only hours before the 27 October bloodbath, following a conversation with journalist Nairi Badalian. Badalian was detained shortly after the shootings on suspicion of complicity but was released last June. Hunanian's pretrial written testimony also confirms that he had contacts with Armenia's National Security Ministry, which encouraged him to develop contacts with Turkish media. LF

BALCEROWICZ COMMENTS ON GEORGIAN ANTIPOVERTY PROGRAM MISCONSTRUED

Visiting Tbilisi on 9-10 April, Polish economist and former Deputy Premier Leszek Balcerowicz offered a cautious initial assessment of Georgia's draft antipoverty program, Caucasus Press reported. Speaking on Georgian national television on 9 April, Georgian Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili reportedly quoted Balcerowicz as giving a negative assessment of the draft and saying that donors would refuse to fund it. But in a written statement released the following day, Balcerowicz said he has merely advised amending the draft to focus more on those elements that would strengthen macroeconomic stability and create new jobs. Balcerowicz also offered recommendations for renegotiating a schedule for repayment of Georgia's overdue foreign debt repayments and reached agreement with the Finance Ministry on simplifying some aspects of the Georgian tax system. The U.S. government will pay Balcerowicz $1 million to serve for one year as an adviser to President Eduard Shevardnadze, according to Caucasus Press. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT'S ASSOCIATE ACCUSED OF MURDER

The Georgian Prosecutor-General's Office has formed a special group to investigate claims that former Minister of Culture Valeri Asatiani, who is close to President Shevardnadze, murdered one of his subordinates in 1996, Caucasus Press reported. The allegations were made earlier this month by a former assistant to Asatiani, Irakli Kereselidze, in a program aired by the independent Rustavi-2 TV station. Asatiani has denied the charges, and Shevardnadze has said he is convinced he is innocent. LF

PROSECUTOR GENERAL'S OFFICE KEEPS TABS ON KAZAKH MEDIA

Speaking in Astana on 10 April at a seminar on the media, Deputy Prosecutor-General Georgii Kim said that last year his office launched over 300 investigations into suspected violations of existing legislation by media outlets, Interfax-Central Asia reported. Most of the violations concerned infringements in registration, noncompliance with printing standards, and dubious advertising. But criminal investigations were begun into violations of the constitution by three newspapers -- "Kazakhstanskaya pravda," "XXI Vek," and "Lad." LF

KYRGYZSTAN TO REQUIRE REREGISTRATION OF POLITICAL PARTIES, MEDIA OUTLETS

The Kyrgyz Ministry of Justice announced on 10 April that all political parties and media outlets must reregister with it by 1 July, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The ministry claimed that many organizations founded several years ago no longer exist. Djypar Djeksheev, who heads the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan, said the ministry's ruling is aimed at creating obstacles for opposition parties and papers. There are an estimated 30 political parties and 300 media outlets in Kyrgyzstan. LF

KYRGYZ DEPUTY PARLIAMENT SPEAKER'S FUTURE UNCLEAR

Several pro-government parliament deputies on 10 April expressed support for a demand by deputy Isa Tokoev that Deputy Speaker Omurbek Tekebaev should resign his post, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Tekebaev last year expressed his support for embattled former Vice President Feliks Kulov, and has backed opposition calls for a demonstration in Bishkek on 13 April in support of media freedom. Tekebaev had asked to be relieved of his post on the grounds that he accepted it last spring only for a period of one year, but his fellow deputies turned down that request on 5 April. LF

RUSSIA AGREES TO PARTIAL RESCHEDULING OF KYRGYZ FOREIGN DEBT

During talks in Moscow on 2-4 April between Russian officials and Kyrgyzstan's Deputy Finance Minister Emirlan Toramyrzaev, agreement was reached that approximately one-third ($59.3 million) of Kyrgyzstan's total $150 million debt to Russia will be repaid between 2003 and 2115, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. That agreement will be formalized during a visit to Moscow later this month by Kyrgyz Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev. Also on 10 April, Kyrgyz Finance Minister Temirbek AkmatAliyev argued that by 2005 Kyrgyzstan should cut foreign borrowing to no more than 3 percent of GDP. This year the country plans to borrow $130 million, which is equal to 10 percent of planned GDP. Kyrgyzstan's total foreign debt at the beginning of 2001 was $1.27 billion. LF

TAJIK OFFICIAL ASSASSINATED

First Deputy Interior Minister Habib Sanginov, a former member of the United Tajik Opposition, was killed on 11 April when three people opened fire on his car as he was driving to his office in Dushanbe, Western agencies reported. Sanginov's driver and two bodyguards also died in the attack, which Interior Minister Khumid Sharipov described as "a terrorist strike," according to AFP. Reuters quoted Sharipov as suggesting that Sanginov may have been killed to thwart an operation he headed to track down and eliminate "criminal bands." Islamic Party deputy Khikmatullo Saifullozoda said the murder was intended "to destabilize the situation" in Tajikistan. LF

RUSSIAN MINISTER OFFERS HELP TO CONTAIN TAJIK DAM DANGER

Visiting Dushanbe on 9-10 April, Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and with his Tajik counterpart Mirzo Zieev to discuss cooperation in the sphere of civil defense and coping with natural catastrophes, Asia Plus-Blitz and Interfax reported. Shoigu and Zieev signed a joint program of measures that provides, among other things, for the participation of Russian specialists in measures to prevent the collapse of the dam at Lake Sarez east of Dushanbe. If that dam should collapse, the ensuing flooding would endanger up to 6 million people in several Central Asian states. LF

TURKMENISTAN REFUSES TO RECOGNIZE CIS EDUCATIONAL QUALIFICATIONS

Turkmenistan's president, Saparmurat Niyazov, told a cabinet session on 10 April that Ashgabat will not recognize educational diplomas from other CIS member states, Caucasus Press reported. He said tuition by correspondence does not provide an adequate knowledge of any given subject, adding that nonetheless "hundreds of people" try to acquire diplomas in this way. LF




LUKASHENKA SET TO THWART 'YUGOSLAV SCENARIO' IN BELARUS...

Addressing the National Assembly on 10 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2001), Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said the opposition is preparing a "Yugoslav scenario" in this year's presidential elections in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Lukashenka told lawmakers how this scenario will supposedly take place: "It will develop as follows: 14,000 alleged [election] monitors create their computerized monitoring system in order to announce, as in Yugoslavia, their results. And the West recognizes those results. Then those 14,000 will be transported to the residence, to the parliament; they will break a window and hang out a white-red-white flag -- or maybe our flag, a state one, in order not to scare away the population. And they will announce their election [results]." He pledged to foil the opposition's takeover: "We are not going to catch them while they are in the windows, we will meet them inside the building." JM

...AND KEEPS BUSY WITH SPY-CATCHING

Lukashenka also told the National Assembly that foreign intelligence services are very interested in the ongoing reform of Belarus's armed forces and armament purchases. "There have not been such developments over the [past] seven years. Every week I get information to make decisions on people who are not simply suspected by us, but who are involved in some elements of spying," Belapan quoted Lukashenka as saying. Lukashenka noted that the most vigorous activity in recruiting spies in Belarus is being shown by countries of the former socialist camp, which utilize the special services of "big countries" as "brokers." He added, however, that Belarus does not want "spying scandals" and prefers "to resolve these issues in a civilized way." JM

RALLY IN KYIV DEMANDS KUCHMA'S OUSTER, BACKS YUSHCHENKO...

A rally in Kyiv on 10 April demanded the dismissal of President Leonid Kuchma and a "power system change" in Ukraine, Interfax reported. According to the opposition, the demonstration was attended by 10,000 people, while police set the number at 2,000. The demonstration, which was organized by the Forum of National Salvation under the slogan "For Ukraine Without Kuchma and Oligarchs," adopted a statement calling "to stop hounding Premier [Viktor] Yushchenko and making attempts to remove him from the post of cabinet head." The statement also urges an objective investigation into the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and the immediate dismissal of Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko, Tax Administration head Mykola Azarov, and Council of Security and Defense head Yevhen Marchuk. JM

...WHILE ODESA RESIDENTS SIDE WITH KUCHMA

From 10,000-15,000 people participated in a rally in Odesa on 10 April to mark the anniversary of the city's liberation from the Nazi occupation, Interfax reported. Demonstrators held placards reading: "Our Future Is in Unity of the President and the People"; "Odesa Residents Are Grateful to President Kuchma for His Care and Assistance"; and "Odesa Is Our City, Kuchma Is Our President." President Kuchma spoke at the rally. Later the same day, Kuchma told journalists that a no-confidence referendum on the president, which has been proposed by the opposition, would not be legally binding. Kuchma also criticized as "pressure" the proposal by the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to exclude Ukraine from the Council of Europe over human rights violations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2001). JM

YUSHCHENKO TO FACE NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE?

The Communist Party parliamentary caucus has announced that it has collected the 150 signatures required to apply for placing a no-confidence vote in Premier Yushchenko's cabinet on the parliamentary agenda, the Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska pravda" reported on 10 April. Interfax reported that signatures to support the same initiative were also collected by four groups from the parliamentary majority: the Social Democratic Party (United), the Democratic Union, Yabluko, and Labor Ukraine. At least 226 votes are necessary to introduce an issue on the parliamentary agenda. The above-mentioned five legislative groups control 236 votes in the Ukrainian parliament. Yushchenko is expected to report to the parliament on 17 April on his government's performance during the past year. Deputy Premier Yuriy Yekhanurov commented that a no-confidence vote in the government may be delayed until the end of the current session in order to keep Yushchenko's cabinet in "a state of suspension." JM

TYMOSHENKO READY TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT

Former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko told the Moscow-based "Kommersant-Daily" on 11 April that she is ready to seek the post of Ukraine's president. She noted, however, that she is also ready to back another presidential candidate if they turn out to be "a real leader who is ready to give his life for the country." She added that, as of now, she does not see such a leader. She said she would assert Ukraine's position in the world and limit the country's dependence on Russian energy resources if she came to power. "I know that if I sooner or later come to power, I will very quickly build a gas pipeline bypassing Russia," Tymoshenko pledged. JM

LOWER BALTIC STATES' ECONOMIC GROWTH FORECAST

Citing the worldwide cooling of the economy, PricewaterHouseCoopers (PWC) has lowered its forecast for the economic growth of the Baltic states in 2001 from an earlier 5-7 percent to 3-6 percent, BNS reported on 10 April. PWC analyst Hardo Pajula noted that judging by last year's provisional results -- GDP growth rates of 6.6, 6.4, and 2.9 percent for Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, respectively -- the economies of the three countries are in good condition. However, the increased uncertainty on the international economic arena is sooner or later likely to effect the economic performance of the Baltic states. While Estonia has benefited the most from a weak euro, its current account deficit has increased the most from 4.5 percent in 1999 to 6.6 percent of GDP in the third quarter of 2000. The similar deficit of Latvia decreased from 10.0 to 7.9 percent, and that of Lithuania from 11.3 to 6.5 percent. SG

LATVIAN NATIONALIST PARTY BOARD APPROVES COALITION WITH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS

The board of For Fatherland And Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK) on 9 April approved the decision made by its faction in the Riga City Council to form a coalition with the Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party (LSDSP), LETA reported the next day. TB/LNNK spokesman Janis Kuzulis said the board made the decision because it was assured that the coalition agreement would contain a provision that the party would have the right to veto the selection of other coalition partners, i.e., to fulfill its pledge not to cooperate with the leftist union For Human Rights in a United Latvia (PCTVL). Sergei Dolgopolov of the PCTVL, however, asserted that the TB/LNNK will not be able to entirely exclude his party from the coalition, as he will retain his influential post as deputy mayor. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES AD HOC COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE INVESTMENTS AND LOANS

The parliament on 10 April approved a motion from Economic Committee Chairman Viktor Uspackich to establish an ad hoc commission to assess the performance of the Property and Road Fund and the utilization of state investments and state-guaranteed loans, ELTA reported. Uspackich noted that 7.5 billion litas ($1.875 billion) have been disbursed in loans -- of which 2.9 billion litas were given to economic entities -- and that outstanding loans with postponed repayment deadlines now stand at 2.3 billion litas. Uspackich also called for the replacement of all of the Privatization Commission members, including its chairman, Eduardas Vilkas. SG

SOLIDARITY BLOC FAILS TO AGREE ON ELECTION CAMPAIGN LEADER

The Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) on 10 April rejected Premier Jerzy Buzek's proposal that former Deputy Premier Janusz Tomaszewski be appointed the head of an AWS parliamentary election staff. Tomaszewski's candidacy was blocked by Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski. "If there are not yet any determined electoral alliances, it is not appropriate to impose decisions... The chief of staff must be accepted by everybody and also by our potential allies," Krzaklewski told Polish Television. According to some Polish commentators, Krzaklewski is counting on an election alliance of the AWS with the Movement for the Reconstruction of Poland led by Jan Olszewski, and the Law and Justice group, which was recently set up by Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski and his brother Jaroslaw. Those commentators assert that neither Olszewski nor the Kaczynski brothers want Tomaszewski to lead the AWS election campaign. JM

POLAND READY TO MAKE 'SERIOUS CONCESSIONS' IN EU TALKS

Jan Kulakowski, Poland's main EU negotiator, has said Warsaw is ready for "serious concessions" in accession talks with the EU, Polish Television reported on 10 April. Kulakowski did not elaborate, saying only that these concessions should not inflict too great a social cost on Poland. Kulakowski made his announcement a day after the European Commission and the EU foreign ministers failed to mention Poland during their debate on the best EU candidates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2001). JM

TEMELIN IMPACT REPORT ISSUED TO MIXED REVIEWS

Initial reactions on both the Czech and Austrian sides to an environmental impact study on the Temelin nuclear power plant released on 10 April were somewhat positive, although many pointed to omissions in the report, CTK reported. Otto Gumpinger, Upper Austria parliament member and representative of the Austro-Czech Anti-Atomic Committee, praised the report as being thorough and complex, though he noted the report lacked information on alternative energy sources. The Upper Austrian commissioner for nuclear facilities in neighboring countries, Radko Pavlovec, echoed this charge, saying "the report is strongly unbalanced when it comes to the promised points concerning the demand for electricity and alternative sources." Greenpeace and other environmental groups dismissed the report out of hand. Greenpeace spokesman Erwin Mayer said the organization's only goal is to prevent the plant from going into operation, and that the report is only part of a "seeming compromise" that has enabled the plant to be put into operation "regardless of all dangers." DW

CZECH LOWER HOUSE APPROVES MEDIA LAW

Despite criticism from all sides, the Chamber of Deputies on 10 April passed a new media bill that would enable broadcasters to extend their licenses and forbids any single individual or organization to own more than one nationwide TV or radio network, CTK reported. Culture Minister Pavel Dostal said that the bill's "automatic extension of licenses is...unacceptable to me...it is discriminatory and would lead to monopolization on our media market." Civic Democrat Ivan Langer, head of the Chamber's Media Commission, disagreed, saying the bill would liberalize the radio and TV market. He countered that "If anything discriminates against subjects on the Czech media scene, then it is the privileged position of the [public] Czech Television and Czech Radio supported by Dostal." Members of the Four Party Coalition also expressed regrets over the bill's contents, especially its failure to include the Senate in the selection process for members of the Broadcast Council. The bill was approved by 128 of the 184 deputies present. DW

TURMOIL CONTINUES AMONG MEMBERS OF FOUR PARTY COALITION

The two main parties in the opposition Four Party Coalition, the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union (US), continue to face inner turmoil in the wake of the disputes over the formation of the coalition's shadow cabinet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2001), CTK reported 10 April. The KDU-CSL Presidium, reacting to the demands of Deputy Chairman Tomas Kvapil, decided to change its conference in May from program discussion to elective, thus requiring the party leadership to stand for election after two years instead of four. Kvapil said the party's "internal purification" would not threaten the coalition, but strengthen it. Representatives from US branches will meet in Prague and Olomouc this week to decide whether the party's election conference should be moved forward from November to September, or even earlier. "We are not satisfied with the shadow cabinet lineup...we are almost ashamed in some cases," said Pavel Svoboda, chairman of the party's Prague branch. DW

KYIV PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR UKRAINIANS IN SLOVAKIA

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko on 10 April promised moral as well as financial assistance to Ukrainians living in Slovakia, CTK reported. Michal Kalinak, a representative of the Ukrainian minority, said Ukraine should particularly subsidize the minority press, publishers, and cultural associations. Zlenko, who was on a two-day visit to Slovakia, was accompanied by 30 Ukrainian businessmen seeking to boost business cooperation between the two countries. TASR reported that Ukraine's current share of Slovakia's foreign trade is only 1.3 percent. JM

SERBIAN PREMIER PROMISES AUTONOMY FOR HUNGARIANS

Visiting Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic on 10 April told reporters in Budapest, after meeting his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban, that the new Serbian leadership will grant territorial autonomy for ethnic Hungarians living in Vojvodina. In addition, Djindjic said Hungarians in Serbia will be given the collective right to use their native language, and be allowed to exercise their cultural and educational rights. He said future developments in Serbia are being favorably influenced by Hungary's expected EU membership. Djindjic said the Serbian government will soon propose a number of laws, including some related to ethnic minorities, that will meet European standards. He also asked for Hungary's help in identifying and freezing those foreign bank accounts where leaders of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's regime have deposited their money. MSZ

ORBAN DOES NOT EXCLUDE COOPERATION WITH MIEP

In an interview with Hungarian Television, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 11 April said both the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) and the leftist Hungarian Workers' Party are democratic parties that respect the country's constitution. Asked whether the major coalition party FIDESZ would enter a coalition with either of the two parties, Orban said he is not entitled to answer on behalf of the FIDESZ chairman. Orban did say that, on issues regarding MIEP, "it is unfortunate if we take into consideration what people think about it abroad." He said he "would not like [it] if Hungarians were to decide about their fate according to what people abroad would say." MSZ




ALBANIA'S MEIDANI SAYS SERBIA MUST FACE UP TO WAR GUILT...

Albanian President Rexhep Meidani said at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague on 10 April that it will be difficult to uproot the "sick nationalism" that has grown in Serbia "over the years" unless the Serbian leadership publicly condemns the Milosevic regime's policies of genocide and ethnic cleansing. He stressed that Serbia needs to face up to its guilt for starting four wars as a prerequisite for developing a new civil society. Meidani also called on the new Belgrade authorities to release all political prisoners. Turning to Macedonia, he noted that "military offensives don't resolve the problems in the Balkans." Meidani argued that the Balkan region, with its 50 million people, needs a free-trade zone with common customs and value-added taxes, which he dubbed a "mini-Schengen." Referring to his recent meetings with regional leaders in Davos, Meidani said he regrets that the Macedonian and Bulgarian presidents shy away from regional integration lest it slow down their countries' progress toward EU membership. PM

...WARNS AGAINST RUMORS OF 'GREATER ALBANIA'

Meidani suggested in his remarks at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague on 10 April that Serbia is behind rumors that allege that Albanians across the Balkans aspire to create a greater Albania. Meidani charged that "no normal person" in Albania or anywhere else can seriously seek to set up a greater Albania or a greater Kosova. To avoid providing grist to the mills of those who believe Tirana wants a greater Albania, the Albanian government has not called a roundtable conference of ethnic Albanian leaders from around the Balkans, he added. Meidani said that Kosovar moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova and other ethnic Albanian leaders are "always welcome" in Tirana. He noted that Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta met recently in Prishtina with Rugova, who has not visited Tirana for some time. Meidani added that "we see that they [Albanian politicians in Kosova and Macedonia] need our advice and...cooperation. We are trying to do this [on an] individual basis." PM

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT PREDICTS 'SOFT' ELECTIONS

In his remarks at RFE/RL Prague headquarters on 10 April, Meidani said that he expects that the 24 June parliamentary elections will be less troubled than were some of the other ballots in Albania's recent history (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 and 6 April 2001). The president stressed that the electronic media will likely play a key role in keeping the elections honest and above board. PM

ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN CALLS ON MACEDONIA TO 'FACE REALITY'

Speaking at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague on 10 April, parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Sabri Godo said that it is "urgent" that the Macedonian authorities launch a dialogue with the ethnic Albanian minority. "We all want Macedonia to maintain its sovereignty and integrity, but Macedonia will be harmed in the future if it refuses to face reality. There is no other way for Macedonia than coexistence between Macedonians and Albanians." Godo ruled out a federal system for Macedonia, which is an idea supported by some Albanian nationalists there but is rejected outright by the Macedonian authorities. PM

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT LAUNCHES COMMISSION ON ALBANIAN ISSUES

Boris Trajkovski said in Skopje on 10 April that he is setting up a commission of Macedonians and Albanians to look into charges that the 23 percent Albanian minority faces discrimination. Trajkovski added that the commission will also examine possible changes to the constitution to reflect the country's multiethnic nature, AP reported. Most Macedonian politicians oppose any changes to the constitution. Other subjects on the agenda include combating organized crime, which many Macedonians regard as an Albanian specialty (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 April 2001). Also on 10 April, Trajkovski continued his roundtable talks with representatives of the political parties in the parliament. The opposition Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) took part, but only to present its program. Menduh Thaci of the governing Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) called the PPD's behavior "childish," Reuters reported. The EU has called for rapid progress in interethnic relations in Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2001). PM

POWELL TO PROMOTE DIALOGUE IN MACEDONIA

The foreign ministers of the international Contact Group are slated to meet in Paris on 11 April for the first time in eight months. The VOA described the session as an opportunity for U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss pressing problems in Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosova with his colleagues from Germany, Italy, Britain, France, and Russia. Powell will then go on to visit Bosnia, Kosova, and Macedonia. In Washington, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said that "during his visit to Macedonia [on 12 April], Secretary Powell will encourage further efforts to move from process to progress. We've clearly supported the overall goal of these discussions in Macedonia to provide for full political participation by the ethnic Albanian minority. We do think that's very important, that can take place within the democratic context, and we'll continue to encourage that." PM

U.S. EQUIPMENT FOR MACEDONIAN MILITARY

The U.S. Embassy in Skopje announced on 11 April that the two countries have signed an agreement by which Washington will provide $3.5 million worth of tactical communications equipment for the Macedonian army. The embassy press release said that the equipment is "the latest technology" and "fully meets NATO standards," AP reported. PM

OSCE MONITORS SLAM MACEDONIAN ARMY BEHAVIOR

London's "The Guardian" reported on 10 April that OSCE monitors in Macedonia are disturbed by the arrest and beating of ethnic Albanian civilians and the vandalizing of houses by security forces following the army's offensive against the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK). In one incident, a 16 year-old boy was killed after being struck by four bullets when he and two friends went home to UCK-stronghold Selce to tend their sheep. One of the friends, who is a deaf mute, is seriously traumatized by the killing, which took place on 6 April. The Macedonian authorities claim that no civilians died in the campaign. In another incident, monitors said that soldiers ransacked and painted crosses on ethnic Albanian homes. Most Macedonian Albanians are Muslims. PM

MACEDONIA SACKS POLICE CHIEF

Police spokesman Stevo Pendarovski said in Skopje on 10 April that police General Aleksandar Doncev has been fired for making numerous, unspecified mistakes, dpa reported. Doncev has been ill recently and did not command the crackdown on the UCK. PM

KFOR HOLDS SUSPECTED GUERRILLAS

A UN police spokesman told Reuters on 11 April that German KFOR troops have detained 12 ethnic Albanian men who crossed into Kosova from Albania. The 12 are suspected of having links to the UCK. On 9 April, unidentified persons fired on U.S. and Polish peacekeepers near the Kosova-Macedonian border. No one was injured. PM

SERBIA TO OUTLAW PARAMILITARIES

Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said in Belgrade on 10 April that the government has prepared tough legislation banning paramilitary and private military formations, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

YUGOSLAV SUCCESSOR STATES AGREE TO DIVIDE GOLD RESERVES

Dobrosav Mitrovic, who heads Belgrade's delegation to the Yugoslav succession talks in Brussels, told AP on 11 April that an agreement has been reached on dividing the former Yugoslavia's gold reserves, which are valued at $440 million. The 46 metric tons of gold have been held in the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, since 1991. Mitrovic told the news agency that the gold will be divided according to a formula suggested by the International Monetary Fund. This gives 36.52 percent to Belgrade, 28.49 percent to Croatia, 16.39 to Slovenia, 13.2 percent to Bosnia, and 5.4 percent to Macedonia. Yugoslav National Bank Governor Mladjan Dinkic said that dividing the former Yugoslavia's embassies abroad will be a particularly tough task, "Vesti" reported. PM

QUIBBLING CROATIAN CABINET TO BE RESHUFFLED IN MAY?

Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in Zagreb on 11 April that the governing six-party coalition will discuss possible cabinet changes after the 20 May local elections. Public quarrels between parties and ministers over policies and even some strategic issues have become commonplace (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2001). Speculation centers on the possibility that three of the smaller parties may leave the government, which would then be run by the Social Democrats (SDP), Social Liberals (HSLS), and the Peasant Party (HSS), Reuters reported. The coalition came together in late 1999 to oust the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) of the late President Franjo Tudjman. The government is under popular pressure to make good on its promises to boost the economy and ease social difficulties. PM

BOMB OUTSIDE HERZEGOVINIAN MODERATES' HOME

A car bomb exploded outside the home of Mladen Ivankovic in Siroki Brijeg in the early hours of 10 April, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He is a minister-without-portfolio in the non-nationalist government. His brother Jerko, who also lives in the home, is a deputy in the House of the Nations of the Bosnian parliament. No one was injured. The two brothers blamed the incident on hard-liners in the HDZ. The international community's High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch also condemned the attack. PM

ROMANIAN PARTY WALKS OUT ON BUDGET DEBATES

National Liberal Party (PNL) MPs walked out on the 10 April debate on an article of Romania's budget for 2001, Mediafax reported. PNL members protested against a provision in the budget that would not include funds resulting from the privatization process. PNL Chairman Valeriu Stoica said the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania instead wants to use the money to support state companies with large debts. Finance Minister Mihai Tanasescu replied that, in the first trimester, money coming from privatizations was used to pay off public debt, and that the exact sums are included in the PSAL and RICOP programs financed by the European Union. In related news, four extraparliamentary parties called on the parliamentary parties not to vote in favor of the draft budget, as it lacks transparency and facilitates fraud. ZsM

ILIESCU ON RELATIONS WITH MOLDOVA

Romanian President Ion Iliescu said during a TV program on 9 April that Romania should continue to maintain "special relations" with Moldova, irrespective of which party is in power in Chisinau, Mediafax reported. Reacting to the U.S.-based Rand Corporation's report on NATO's further enlargement, which said relations with Moldova could complicate Romania's NATO accession chances, Iliescu said the report's conclusions are not "fundamental." He added that the Rand Corporation's conclusions are often "one-sided." Iliescu said Romanian society now has the "unique chance" to improve its living conditions. He said 2001 is a "decisive" year for the country's economic development and its potential accession to the EU and NATO. ZsM

MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS ASK FOR THE INTRODUCTION OF COMPULSORY RUSSIAN CLASSES IN SCHOOLS

Two deputies from the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) on 10 March proposed to parliament the introduction of compulsory Russian-language classes in schools at all levels, Flux reported. Accordingly, PCM deputies Victor Andrusciac and Anatol Taranov want to modify the Education Law and also want to introduce a compulsory Russian-language examination for students upon their completion of high school. The deputies argued that the current Education Law contradicts Moldova's Law on the Use of Languages. ZsM

VORONIN PROPOSES PRIME MINISTER

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin named Vasile Tarlev as prime minister, Flux reported on 11 April. Tarlev is to present his cabinet's program and structure within 15 days to parliament, which is to approve his candidacy by a simple majority. Tarlev, an ethnic Bulgarian, is 37 and politically independent. He is the manager of Bucuria, the country's largest confectionery producer; the chairman of the Moldovan Association of Producers; and was, during Petru Lucinschi's presidency, chairman of the Supreme Economic Council. ZsM

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SEES LIFTING OF VISA REGIME AS EU APPROVAL OF REFORMS

Nadezhda Mihailova walked across the border into Greece on 10 April to mark the lifting of EU travel restrictions for Bulgarians, AP reported. Mihailova, who was accompanied by reporters and dozens of citizens waving their passports, said "this act is a manifestation of strong political confidence in the reforms of this country." Vladimir Kissyov, Bulgaria's chief negotiator on EU accession, said "the scrapping of the visas can act as a springboard for Bulgaria's fast accession to the EU." Mihailova added that "freedom of movement is one of the principal rights of everyone and something that gives Bulgarians self-confidence as Europeans." The Schengen Agreement, which allows visa-free travel between all signatory states, includes all EU countries except Great Britain and Ireland, along with Iceland and Norway, which are not members of the EU. PB

BULGARIAN CENSUS RESULTS SHOW SHARP DECLINE IN POPULATION

A lower birthrate and emigration are being cited as the prime reasons for a net loss of some one-half million Bulgarian citizens over the past eight years, AP reported. Official statistics from last month's census show that Bulgaria has a population of 7,977,646 people. In the last census, conducted in 1992, 8,487,317 people were counted. The birthrate per thousand fell from 10.4 in 1992 to 9 in 2000. Additionally, an estimated 700,000 people have left Bulgaria since the fall of communism in 1989. PB

BULGARIAN DEPUTIES INTRODUCE LEGISLATION FOR DEATH PENALTY

A group of Bulgarian legislators have called for the reinstatement of the death penalty for people convicted of murdering children and pregnant women, AP reported on 10 April. Krasimir Karakachanov, the leader of the small VMRO party, said his party supports the bill because 39 children have been murdered in Bulgaria in the last three years. Some 150,000 people have signed a petition calling for capital punishment to be made legal. A moratorium on capital punishment was imposed in 1991, and the death penalty was abolished in Bulgaria in December 1998. All of those on death row had their sentences changed to life sentences without the possibility of parole. PB




There is no End Note today.





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