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Newsline - April 23, 2001




MOSCOW DENOUNCES UN RESOLUTION ON CHECHNYA...

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 21 April condemning as "unobjective and biased" a resolution passed the day before by the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva that condemned Moscow for its actions in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement said the United States blocked efforts to pass a balanced statement and that Washington received support only from its NATO allies and those East European countries which hope to join the Western alliance. PG

...AND U.S. 'DOUBLE STANDARD' ON RUSSIAN MEDIA

Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Interfax on 21 April that the United States has a double standard when it comes to assessing media developments in Russia. He said that the recent shift in ownership at Russia's NTV television network is very similar to control fights over ABC and Disney in the U.S., but that Washington fails to recognize this fact. Meanwhile, "Novye Izvestiya" the same day carried a statement by the EU's Lord Russell-Johnson expressing that organization's dismay with the state of media freedom in Russia and saying that Europe will be "closely watching" what Moscow does in the future. Russell-Johnson's statement followed an EU statement that said recent actions against NTV and other media outlets are "damaging Russia's democratic credentials," AP reported on 20 April. PG

PUTIN SENDS BUDGET MESSAGE TO DUMA

President Vladimir Putin on 20 April sent his annual budget message to the Duma, Russian agencies reported. Among other things, it calls for a balanced budget, the establishment of a single debt-monitoring agency, and the creation of stabilization funds for raw material exports, Russian and Western agencies reported. But the same day, the Duma Budget Committee voted down an amendment to the budget code that would have allowed the Central Bank to extend additional credits to the government, Interfax-AFI reported. PG

PUTIN OUTLINES TASKS FOR TAX POLICE

At a meeting with Mikhail Fradkov, the head of the Federal Tax Police, on 20 April, President Putin outlined three tasks for that agency: improving the legal definition of that service, simplifying reporting requirements for businesses, and creating better ties between the Tax Police and other government agencies, Interfax reported. PG

GUSINSKY CONFIRMS PLANS TO SELL NTV HOLDINGS

In an interview on CNN on 20 April, media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky confirmed that he will sell his shares in NTV and that he is currently considering what to do about his stake in the weekly news magazine "Itogi." Meanwhile, Russian prosecutors insisted that Gusinsky is not free to travel from Spain because he is still wanted on a Russian warrant, Reuters reported the same day. Meanwhile, Gusinsky's lawyer, Yurii Bagraev, said prosecutors have tried to force him off the case, Interfax reported on 20 April. PG

FSB TO NAME JOURNALISTS ENGAGED IN 'INFO WAR' AGAINST RUSSIA...

General Aleksandr Zdanovich, a spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB), said his agency plans to "reveal the identities of journalists involved in waging information warfare against Russia," "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 20 April. The paper noted that the FSB officer has mentioned only RFE/RL and its coverage of, and possible broadcasting to, Chechnya. The paper said that the FSB will have to make good on its threat: "Otherwise, everyone will see that either the general is deranged, or something is wrong with Russia -- if the list of enemies of the people includes both the 'hostile' Radio Liberty and every journalist who refuses to think and write the way the FSB would like them to." PG

...AS IT ADVANCES EXPANSIVE VERSION OF ESPIONAGE

Retired FSB Lieutenant General Sergei Dyakov said in an interview published in "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," No. 14, that journalists who learn secret information in the course of their professional activities should be charged with spying if they publish or otherwise disseminate it. He also called for strengthening the country's espionage laws to cover more kinds of information, particularly in the economic realm. PG

EXPERTS SAY INFLATION MAY REACH 20 PERCENT IN 2001

Yegor Gaidar, former acting prime minister and current director of the Institute of Economic Problems of the Transition Period, said that the inflation rate in Russia for 2001 is likely to reach 18-20 percent, Interfax reported on 20 April. Meanwhile, Yevgenii Yasin, the director of the Experts Institute, put the likely figure at 16-17 percent. Yasin said that the higher than predicted rate might lead investors to avoid Russia, a view seconded by Mikhail Delyagin, the director of the Institute of the Problems of Globalization. PG

RAIKOV'S PROPOSED REDUCTION IN DUMA COMMITTEES GETS LITTLE SUPPORT

A proposal by People's Deputy leader Gennadii Raikov on 20 April to cut the number of parliamentary committees from 28 to 12 received little enthusiasm, Russian agencies reported. Unity representatives said they were not given advance notice, and even those who believe the number will be cut suggested that Raikov's proposal will be modified. Communist Duma leader Ivan Melnikov told Interfax that Raikov's proposal was generated in the Kremlin and is intended to "make the State Duma not an independent parliament but one administered from a single center." Meanwhile, Duma deputies on 20 April marked the 95th anniversary of the convention of the first Russian Duma in St. Petersburg, Interfax reported. PG

RUSSIAN SKINHEADS ATTACK PEOPLE FROM CAUCASUS IN MOSCOW

Some 150 Russian skinheads attacked people from the Caucasus who were working in a Moscow market on 20 April, AP reported the next day. No one was injured sufficiently to require hospitalization, but 53 of the attackers were arrested. The attack took place on Adolf Hitler's birthday. Five of those involved have been charged, Russian and Western agencies reported on 22 April. PG

IMMIGRATION, EMIGRATION BOTH DECLINE

The State Statistics Committee on 20 April said that immigration covered only 7.8 percent of the natural decline in population in Russia during the first two months of 2001, the lowest figure since 1992, Interfax reported. Only 29,600 people arrived in Russia from abroad during that period, down from 60,200 in the same period a year ago. At the same time, the number of those emigrating from Russia also fell to 17,400 in the first two months of 2001 as compared to 22,400 during January-February 2000. PG

RUSSIAN PARTY SYSTEM ONLY APPEARS TO BE LIKE THAT IN OTHER COUNTRIES

Writing in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 April, journalist Mikhail Krasnov argued that Russia's emerging parties system only looks like those in West European countries. There is a left, a right and a center, but that is where the similarities end. Most democracies have social democrats on the left, he said, but Russia has the communists. The center in Russia is only central because "it's in between the communists and the right." And the right in Russia isn't typical because it does not represent business interests so much as European values. Krasnov added that the right remains divided by personal ambitions and thus cannot at present fill its assigned role. PG

DUGIN CREATES EURASIAN MOVEMENT

Aleksandr Dugin, who has written widely on Eurasianism, on 21 April held a founding congress of the Eurasia Public and Political Movement, ITAR-TASS reported. Dugin said that the Eurasian idea "is in line with the interests of all ethnic groups, of all cultures and peoples of Russia." Mufti Farid Salman, a Muslim leader, said that Eurasianism represents a fitting response to "the supporters of Satanic Wahhabism" who have sought to penetrate Russia. PG

BABURIN'S ALL-PEOPLES UNION HOLDS CONGRESS

Sergei Baburin's All-People's Union held its 11th congress on 21 April, ITAR-TASS reported. Baburin called for the unity of all left-wing and patriotic forces even though he has broken his earlier ties with the Russian Communist Party. PG

ILLARIONOV OPPOSES ARTIFICIAL INVESTMENTS

Andrei Illarionov, the presidential adviser on economic questions, said on 20 April that artificial stimulus of investments would backfire, noting that an investment rate of 16-18 percent of GDP is the most desirable, Interfax-AFI reported. He also said that Russia faces a problem with aging infrastructure but that there is no reason to believe that this will reach crisis proportions in 2003 as some have suggested. PG

POLTAVCHENKO DECRIES LACK OF REAL BUSINESSMEN

In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 April, Georgii Poltavchenko, the presidential envoy to the Central federal district, said that Russia's economy suffers from the fact that it does not yet have a class of real business owners. "The so-called business elite which exists today," he said, "in its overwhelming majority was formed not as a result of natural selection in a healthy and legitimate competitive struggle among those who were able most effectively to organize production, but according to the principle of closeness to state resources." Consequently, Poltavchenko continued, "insufficient investments in the real sector of the economy is not a cause but a result of the lack of correspondence of a large part of our owners to the very definition of 'owner' in the market's understanding of this word." PG

RUSSIAN ARMY DOESN'T PLAN 'TO FIGHT ENTIRE WORLD'

General Nikolai Kormiltsev, newly appointed head of the Russian military's ground forces, said on 10 April that Moscow plans to be able to fight "in two or three strategic areas" because "we do not intend to fight the entire world," Interfax reported. He added that his forces will create units capable of being rapidly deployed to "hot spots" like those in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Kormiltsev also said that in May his commanders will seek to find and arrest the nearly 500 service personnel who have deserted from their units. PG

CABINET WRITES OFF PORTION OF DEFENSE SECTOR DEBTS

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has written off some of the debts of the country's defense industries and said that Moscow plans to allow them to have greater direct access to the international arms market, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 April without giving any additional details. PG

MORE THAN 1,000 MVD OFFICERS DIED ON DUTY IN 2000

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said on 20 April that 1,059 officers of his agency died while performing their duties last year, Interfax reported. According to Gryzlov, 766 of these MVD personnel died in the North Caucasus region. Gryzlov said the same day that he hopes to use MVD retirees to help train new officers by sharing their experience with them, the news agency reported. PG

'NATIONALITY PROBLEM' WORSENED AFTER END OF USSR

In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 April, Valentin Nikitin, the chairman of the Duma Nationalities Affairs Committee, said that "after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the nationality question sharply intensified." He said that Russia's national-cultural law, which is intended to protect language and culture, should not be extended to the Russian nation. Such an extension, he said, would lead to "the politicization of the Russian question." And he warned against any sudden shift in the status of the country's national republics. PG

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER HOPES FOR IMPROVED TIES WITH WASHINGTON

Speaking in Moscow on 20 April, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that despite a rocky start with the new U.S. administration, he plans to seek common ground on ABM and arms control issues during his 17-18 May visit to Washington, Russian and Western agencies reported. He noted that "many thought [in 1991] that it was enough to declare a course for democratic reforms and a free market economy and confrontation would automatically turn to partnership. But the reality was far more complex, and it has taught us a good lesson: Foreign policy can be based only on national interests." PG

...SAYS MIDDLE EAST PEACE HAS BEEN SET BACK A DECADE

Foreign Minister Ivanov said on 20 April that "the peace process in the Middle East" has been put back "at least to the level of the [1991] Madrid Conference" as a result of recent violence, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

MOSCOW CRITICIZES LATVIA FOR 'ANTI-RUSSIA' ACTIONS

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 20 April issued a statement criticizing the Latvian government for failing to rein in Latvian nationalists of the kind who have sponsored a writing contest among schoolchildren on such topics as "Why is the Russian press a disseminator of the ideas of Great Russian chauvinism," Interfax reported. "It is evident to all healthy minded people that conducting such 'competitions' damages the already complex interethnic relations in Latvia and feeds extremist forces who dream of bringing up children in the spirit of national chauvinism," the statement said. PG

MOSCOW WANTS UN TO EXAMINE KOSOVA PEACEKEEPING

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 21 April that the Russian government wants the United Nations to send a special mission to Kosova to study the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations there and also to signal its opposition to the activities of "extremists," ITAR-TASS reported. PG

MOSCOW STRUGGLES TO GET MERCHANT FLEET OFF BLACK LIST

Aleksandr Filimonov, a spokesman for the Transport Ministry, said that the Russian government is seeking to improve the quality and performance of ships sailing under the Russian flag so that the country can be removed from the international "black list" it has been on since 1997, Interfax reported. Countries on that list, he said, see their ships inspected more often because other countries are concerned about safety and contraband. PG

NASA GIVES IN ON SPACE TOURIST

Citing a report on Time.com, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 April that the U.S. space agency NASA has dropped its objections to the flight of the first space tourist, U.S. multimillionaire Dennis Tito, to the International Space Station later this month. Tito has paid Moscow $20 million to go along. PG

NORWAY CUTS AID BECAUSE MOSCOW MISUSES IT

The Norwegian government on 20 April said that it is cutting back assistance to Russia for nuclear cleaning up in the Arctic because Moscow has used some past assistance to keep old reactors in operation, AP reported. Oslo officials said that the Russian government had agreed not to do that as a condition of receiving assistance. PG

'BIG MAC' INDEX WOULD MEAN STRONGER RUBLE

London's "Economist" said that comparing prices for Big Mac hamburgers at McDonald's restaurants suggests that the real ruble-dollar exchange rate is 13.8 because that sandwich costs $1.21 in Moscow and $2.54 in the United States, Interfax-AFI reported on 20 April. On the same day, currency markets set the rate at more than 28 rubles to the dollar. PG

51 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS FAVOR BURYING LENIN

In a poll taken in advance of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin's 131st birthday, 51.3 percent of those asked by the ROMIR agency said that they favor taking his body from the mausoleum on Red Square and burying it, Interfax reported on 20 April. Some 41.5 percent opposed taking that step. On Lenin's birthday on 22 April, about 1,000 people -- led by Communist Party Chairman Gennadii Zyuganov -- gathered at the mausoleum to honor him, and the same poll showed that 66.7 percent of Russians continue to have a positive view of the Bolshevik revolutionary, Russian agencies reported. PG

NEW EDITOR AT 'LITERATURNAYA GAZETA'

Publicist Yurii Polyakov has been selected as the new editor of Moscow's "Literaturnaya gazeta," Interfax reported on 20 April. Polyakov, 47, replaces Lev Gushchin, who left that post at his own request. PG

RUSSIAN PARENTS TAKE ACTIVE INTEREST IN CHILDREN'S SCHOOLING

More than four Russian parents out of five -- 82.6 percent -- meet with their children's teachers at least twice a year, according to the findings of a ROMIR poll reported by ITAR-TASS on 20 April. And 58 percent of the parents said they like the schools their children attended, with only 23.7 percent saying that they do not. PG

GROUND FALLS OUT FROM UNDER MOSCOW -- LITERALLY

A sudden subsidence of the ground under a Moscow building that houses the Russian Advertising Association forced its evacuation on 20 April, Interfax-Moscow reported. PG

ONE INCUMBENT LEADS IN SECOND ROUND IN TULA OBLAST...

According to preliminary results on 22 April, incumbent Tula Oblast Governor Vasilii Starodubtsev was leading with more than 70 percent of the vote in four districts, ITAR-TASS reported. Starodubtsev was competing against Tsentrgaz head Viktor Sokolovskii, who was substituted for another candidate who withdrew less than a week before the 22 April vote. Sokolovskii had also tried to withdraw his candidacy prior to the vote, and according to the website, polit.ru, Sokolovskii can still challenge the election results to the Constitutional Court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 2001). "Vedomosti" concluded on 20 April that the likelihood of Starodubtsev's victory "confirms the assumption that the federal government is not very proficient in dealings with regional leaders, and whenever it success, it is usually by chance." Starodubtsev, a former participant in the August 1991 coup attempt against then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, is a confirmed Communist and "anything but a [Kremlin] loyalist." JAC

...AS QUASI-INCUMBENT WINS IN KUZBASS

As expected, former Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev managed to regain his seat in elections held on 22 April. According to preliminary results that day, Tuleev polled more than 94 percent of the vote. According to ITAR-TASS, this was slightly less than his last victory in October 1997, when he won 95 percent of the vote. The "none of the above" category came in second with 3.33 percent of the vote, since none of Tuleev's four challengers received more than 1 percent. Tuleev had resigned last February in an effort to move the gubernatorial elections forward, a ploy that may soon be illegal under legislation passed in its first reading last week by the State Duma (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 23 April 2001). JAC

SPRING FLOODING SO FAR SEVERE ONLY IN PARTS OF SIBERIA

The Emergency Situations Ministry's Far Eastern directorate announced on 20 April that the situation with spring flooding in that district is normal, and that ice jams have been successfully blasted on three rivers in Primorskii Krai, according to ITAR-TASS. Explosions are continuing in Khabarovsk Krai and Amur Oblast, Two days earlier, the Ministry of Natural Resources announced in Siberia that spring flooding has produced a tense situation particularly in Kurgan Oblast and the republic of Mordovia. In Mordovia, the water level of four local rivers has already risen to levels higher than average and is continuing to rise. Nationwide, the ministry evaluated the situation regarding flooding as "normal." JAC

KASYANOV UPBEAT ON CASPIAN STATUS, BUT FEARS FOR STURGEON

Speaking in Astrakhan on 20 April, Prime Minister Kasyanov said he believes the five Caspian littoral states (Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan) will reach agreement before the end of this year on the status of the Caspian Sea, Interfax reported. He added that due to the "ruthless extermination" of sturgeon, Moscow might impose a moratorium on sturgeon fishing in the Caspian as early as 2002. Only 470 tons of sturgeon were caught in the Caspian last year compared with 12,000 tons in the 1990s, Kasyanov said. LF

NEW MASS GRAVE DISCOVERED IN CHECHNYA

Russian border guards discovered a mass grave on 20 April in the Argun gorge in southern Chechnya, close to the border with Georgia, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Initial reports said the grave, which is believed to date from the 1994-1996 war, holds the remains of 18 people; later estimates raised that number to 32. All the victims were shot in the head and then decapitated, according to AP. Chechen Media Minister Vassilii Vasilenko said on 22 April that the dead were believed to be Georgian workers captured in 1995 while building a road. But Russian presidential aide Yastrzhembskii the following day said they were prisoners of war, judging by fragments of camouflage uniforms found in the grave. LF

RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST INJURED IN CHECHNYA

Viktor Popkov was seriously wounded on 20 April when unidentified gunmen opened fire on his car near the village of Alkhankala near Grozny as he was on his way to deliver a consignment of medical supplies to mountain villages, Russian agencies reported. LF

INGUSHETIAN IDPS HOLD PROTEST RALLY

Between 5,000-10,000 Ingushetians congregated in Nazran on 21 April to protest the Russian leadership's failure to create conditions that would allow them to return to their homes in North Ossetia's Prigorodnii Raion from which they were forcibly expelled during the fighting in October 1992, Russian agencies reported. The participants accused the leadership of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alaniya of deliberately sabotaging all agreements signed since then on facilitating the repatriation of the displaced persons. They called on President Putin to impose direct presidential rule in Prigorodnii Raion to enable them to return there. LF




ARMENIAN ENERGY NETWORK PRIVATIZATION FAILS

The two-year process of privatizing four Armenian state-owned energy distribution networks ended in failure on 21 April when neither of the two foreign companies still participating in the tender submitted a bid, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Neither of the two companies, Spain's Union Fenosa and the U.S. AES Silk Road, offered an explanation as to why they had pulled out of the tender. Two other international companies, selected last year from a total of 15, withdrew earlier from the bidding. Announcement of the results of the tender have been repeatedly postponed, while left-wing opposition groups in recent months launched an energetic campaign to prevent the sell-off (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March 2001). Energy Minister Karen Galustian admitted to journalists on 21 April that those protests were one of the factors that had deterred potential Western investors. It is not clear how the collapse of the bidding will affect Armenia's relations with the World Bank, which had pegged the release of a key loan worth some $50 million to the successful completion of the sell-off (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 2001). LF

ARMENIAN MAJORITY COALITION MAINTAINS COHESION

Prime Minister Andranik Markarian on 21 April again rejected renewed media speculation that his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) is considering ending its alliance with its partner in the majority Miasnutiun parliament bloc, the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Following the defection in February of a number of its most prominent members (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2001), the HHK currently has only 25 deputies in the 131-seat legislature. LF

ANOTHER SPLINTER GROUP LEAVES ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY

Arshak Sadoyan, hitherto a leading member of the center-right opposition National Democratic Union (AZhM), told journalists in Yerevan on 20 April that he and his supporters will quit the AZhM later this month to establish a new political party, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said the aim of this new party will be to bring about a "radical change" in the present division of powers to reduce the powers of the president. Another of the AZhM's leading members, Shavarsh Kocharian, left the party following its most recent congress in February to found a new National Democratic Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2001). Sadoyan said at that juncture that he would not quit the AZhM in order not to weaken it any further. LF

AZERBAIJANI POLICE DISPERSE OPPOSITION PROTEST

Police in Baku forcibly dispersed an unsanctioned rally on 21 April by a few hundred supporters of Democratic Party of Azerbaijan Chairman Rasul Guliev, Reuters and Turan reported. The participants called for the release of political prisoners. Some 20 participants in the protest were detained. A police spokesman said 17 police were injured in clashes with demonstrators, and five required hospital treatment. LF

GEORGIA TO RESTORE POST OF PREMIER

A closed session of the board of the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) parliament faction on 20 April agreed that fundamental changes should be made to the country's constitution to amend the balance of power between the president, the legislature, and the executive, Caucasus Press reported. Those changes will include reintroducing the post of premier, which was abolished in 1995. At present the cabinet is headed by the president. In his traditional weekly radio address, President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 23 April that the upgraded government will have "broad authorities and wide responsibilities," he said. The parliament will acquire the right to propose a no-confidence vote in the government, and the president will be empowered to dissolve parliament. LF

ABKHAZ DEMONSTRATE FOR RELEASE OF HOSTAGES

Thousands of Abkhaz participated in demonstrations in the towns of Gulripshi, Ochamchira and Tkvarcheli last week to protest the abduction by Georgian guerrillas of five conscripts, Caucasus Press reported on 20 April. Also on 20 April, UN special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict Dieter Boden met in Sukhum with Abkhaz Premier Vyacheslav Tsugba and Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba to discuss the hostage crisis. The Tbilisi-based Abkhaz Security Ministry in exile claimed the same day that Abkhaz fighters snatched three more Georgians in Gali Raion on 19 April, bringing the total number of Georgians held in Abkhazia to 11. The ministry also claimed that the Abkhaz security forces have deployed an additional 100 police in Gali. Neither of those reports has been independently confirmed. LF

GEORGIAN OFFICIAL LAUDS EUROPEAN INPUT IN RECONSTRUCTION IN SOUTH OSSETIA

Irakli Machavariani, who heads the joint Georgian-South Ossetian commission on resolving the South Ossetian conflict, expressed appreciation on 22 April for the European Commission's willingness to help fund a program for restoration of the South Ossetian economy, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 4, 25 January 2001). On 20 April, the EU released a statement in Brussels condemning as "not helpful" the referendum conducted on 8 April on amendments to the constitution of the unrecognized breakaway Republic of South Ossetia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2001). LF

RUSSIAN SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY VISITS GEORGIA

Visiting Georgia on 20-21 April, Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo discussed with his Georgian counterpart Nugzar Sadzhaya and with President Shevardnadze the new framework treaty to be signed by Russia and Georgia and cooperation in the struggle against terrorism, Caucasus Press reported. Rushailo told journalists after his talks with Shevardnadze that both Russia and Georgia are concerned at the situation in Georgia's Pankisi gorge, where hundreds of Chechen fighters are believed to have taken refuge. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT ANALYZES POLITICAL SPECTRUM...

Speaking in Almaty on 20 April at the third congress of the Otan party created in 1999 to support him, President Nursultan Nazarbaev said that Kazakhstan lacks a full-fledged system of political parties, given that those parties which do exist are "scattered and separated," Interfax reported. Nazarbaev divided those parties into four categories: those which support the government and are backed by business circles; public organizations that promote the interests of specific social groups such as pensioners or the handicapped; centers to preserve the culture of specific ethnic groups; and opposition political parties financed from abroad. He suggested that the latter category is illegal in the light of legislation prohibiting the use of foreign capital to finance public organizations. LF

...CALLS ON PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY TO SERVE AS CONSOLIDATING FACTOR

Nazarbaev criticized the Otan party for what he termed its "inertia," and called on its members to strengthen discipline within the party's parliament faction and to act as a "consolidating force" within society, Reuters reported. He suggested that Otan, which has some 300,000 members, most of them state employees, should in future aim to become the ruling party in Kazakhstan. LF

WESTERN OIL CONSORTIUM IN KAZAKHSTAN ORDERED TO SUSPEND DRILLING

The Kazakh government on 20 April ordered the OKIOC consortium to halt drilling at its Sunkar offshore rig following an oil spill three days earlier, Interfax reported. A government commission that inspected the site at the request of Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev determined that OKIOC is violating the terms of a production-sharing agreement it signed with Kazakhstan by testing a well at the West Kashagan field before receiving permission to do so. LF

JAILED OFFICIAL'S RELATIVES LEAVE KYRGYZSTAN

The wife, two daughters and brother of jailed former Kyrgyz Vice President Feliks Kulov have left Kyrgyzstan for an unspecified destination in Europe, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 20 April, quoting Kulov's lawyer Lyubov Ivanova. Kulov's brother Marsel said in late January that he and other family members hoped to receive political asylum abroad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 2001). Feliks Kulov was sentenced in January to seven years imprisonment on charges of abuse of power (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001). LF

KYRGYZ MUFTI FAILS TO MEET WITH RADICAL ISLAMISTS

A planned meeting in southern Kyrgyzstan between Mufti Kimsanbai-hadji Abdrakhmanov and members of the banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir party at the invitation of the latter failed to take place, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 21 April. Hizb-ut-Tahrir activists had pasted leaflets in the town of Djalalabad on 17 April inviting Abdrakhmanov and Jolbors Jorobekov, who heads Kyrgyzstan's government Commission on Religious Affairs, to attend a meeting the party planned to convene in the town of Kara-Suu on 20 April. Abdrakhmanov said the Hizb-ut-Tahrir activists failed to show up at the appointed time and place. LF

PUTIN CONSULTS WITH PRESIDENTS OF TAJIKISTAN...

Beginning a two day working visit to Moscow on 22 April, Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the situation on the Afghan-Tajik border, the implementation of bilateral agreements, cooperation within the framework of the CIS Collective Security treaty and military and scientific cooperation, Russian agencies reported. LF

...AND UZBEKISTAN

President Putin on 20 April telephoned with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov to discuss the latter's planned visit to Moscow in early May, Russian agencies reported. LF




BELARUSIAN YOUTHS ARRESTED FOR RALLY

Police on 21 April arrested 25 members of the Zubr (Bison) youth movement, who staged a rally called "Final Diagnosis" in a Minsk park in front of some 1,000 onlookers, Belapan reported. The event was held in support of a Belarusian psychiatrist's conclusion that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is suffering from a "moderately pronounced mosaic psychopathy" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 2001). "Dictatorship means disease. Democracy means health. Choose health!" -- performers in Lukashenka masks urged the viewers. Before their arrest, the Zubr activists unfurled a banner reading: "Let's Say No to the Idiot!" Earlier the same day, Minsk police arrested 17 members of the opposition Youth Front, who staged an unauthorized happening called "The Last March to Bangalore." Minsk's Bangalore Square, which is located on the outskirts of the city, is where the authorities usually send the opposition to hold demonstrations. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER TO BE OUSTED TOMORROW?

Leaders of major parliamentary-majority caucuses decided on 23 April to discuss the issue of a Communist Party caucus-sponsored no-confidence vote in Premier Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet on 24 April, the Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska pravda" reported. It is not clear whether the no-confidence vote will be held the same day. Meanwhile, Yushchenko has asked Parliamentary Speaker Ivan Plyushch to postpone the no-confidence vote because of the prime minister's scheduled trip to Greece on 25-26 April. Yushchenko told journalists on 23 April that he and all his ministers will immediately quit their posts if the parliament votes to dismiss them. "The relations with all partners, both domestic and foreign, will not endure such a political experiment [the cabinet's ouster], because the Ukrainian executive authorities will be deprived of the possibility to follow the logic of reforms," Interfax quoted Yushchenko as saying. JM

KUCHMA REFUSES TO BACK YUSHCHENKO...

President Leonid Kuchma on 20 April said he refuses to intervene in order to help Yushchenko survive the impending no-confidence vote in the parliament, Interfax reported. "Anything I might say today to support this or the other side may be seen as pressure or excessive support," Kuchma told journalists in Kharkiv. The president noted that "today a dialogue is needed," adding that "both sides should understand this." Commenting on the fact that 290 lawmakers voted to rate the performance of Yushchenko's cabinet in 2000 as unsatisfactory, Kuchma said he was "amazed no less than many of the deputies," and added that "there is no smoke without a fire." JM

...BUT THEN CHANGES HIS MIND

On 23 April, during his official visit in Vilnius, Kuchma said "the government's dismissal is not to Ukraine's benefit today," the Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska pravda" reported, quoting Interfax. Kuchma said he is ready to contribute to "reaching a compromise" between the parliament and the government. "Today the situation is dependent on how this dialogue will be conducted by the government, including Yushchenko," Kuchma added. Yushchenko said on 18 April that the pro-presidential majority bloc in parliament can select candidates for the vacant posts of deputy premier and minister of industry and trade, as well as seats on the oversight boards of certain ministries. In addition, Yushchenko adviser Valeriy Lytvytskyy confirmed two days later that the premier is ready to accept "reasonable compromises" regarding new appointments to the cabinet. JM

ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER DEFENDS TAX SYSTEM

Mart Laar told EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen in Tallinn on 20 April that Estonia will defend its tax system during entry talks with the EU, ETA reported. He said that in any case Estonia will defend its proportional and liberal tax system and not change it. Laar asserted: "The Estonian government intends to protect its inhabitants on socially sensitive issues that will be raised upon European Union membership." He noted that the possible rise in prices of foodstuffs and other products upon gaining EU membership is not acceptable. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN VISITS LATVIA

Arturas Paulauskas expressed disappointment to his Latvian counterpart Janis Straume in Riga on 20 April that the Latvian parliament has not yet ratified the sea-border treaty between the two states signed in 1999, BNS reported. Latvian Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis noted that the countries have common goals and that the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Vilnius in May should help increase regional security and expand cooperation among NATO parliaments. Kristovskis admitted that Latvia is lagging behind Lithuania in defense spending. After talks with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Paulauskas said that the simultaneous admission of the three Baltic states into NATO would serve as a "common umbrella" for their development. The officials also agreed that existing frontier barriers between the Baltic states should be abolished to speed up cargo movement and mentioned that the building of a high-speed railway line through the area could create a better communication climate. SG

LITHUANIAN POPULATION DECREASED BY 5 PERCENT IN 12 YEARS

The initial data collected during the recent census indicates that the population of Lithuania is 3.496 million, BNS reported on 20 April. This is 179,000 people, or about 5 percent, lower than the 3,674,802 people who were counted as permanent residents in Lithuania in the 1989 census. The populations of Kaunas and Siauliai decreased by 9 percent, while those of Vilnius, Klaipeda, and Panevezys declined by 4 percent. SG

POLISH, LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS SAY VISA-FREE TRAVEL FOR KALININGRAD TO END

Poland's Wladyslaw Bartoszewski and Lithuania's Antanas Valionis discussed bilateral relations as well as EU and NATO membership on 20 April in Vilnius, ELTA reported. Bartoszewski mentioned that Poland intends to end its policy of allowing residents of Russia's Kaliningrad exclave to enter its territory without visas by the end of the year, while Valionis said his country is involved in similar talks with Russia and that visas for Kaliningrad residents entering Lithuania may be required by 2003. The previous day, Bartoszewski in separate meetings with President Valdas Adamkus, Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas, and Parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas, stressed that Poland will actively support Lithuania's entry into NATO and that cooperation between the two countries should increase as both strive to become members of the European Union. SG

POLISH EX-COMMUNISTS SWEEP MOCK BALLOT

The ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance, in coalition with the Labor Union, won 46.56 percent of the vote in a straw ballot organized on 22 April in the 50,000-strong city of Nysa, southwestern Poland, PAP reported. The recently created centrist Citizens' Platform took 16.63 percent of the vote, the Solidarity Electoral Action 7.61 percent, the radical farmers' Self-Defense 6.67 percent, and the Party of the Retired and Pensioners 6.33 percent. The Peasant Party and the Freedom Union did not overcome the 5 percent voting threshold required to win parliamentary seats. Some Polish political leaders dismissed the ballot results as irrelevant because of the low turnout (29.1 percent) and the long time period before the real polls, which will take place this fall. The city of Nysa is believed to be a good cross-section of Polish society and will hold another mock ballot two weeks before the nationwide elections. JM

POLAND URGES EU TO CLARIFY STANCE IN FARM TALKS

Jerzy Plewa, Warsaw's chief agriculture negotiator in EU accession talks, said on 20 April that Poland cannot push ahead with reforms in its farming sector without knowing how the EU is planning to fit it into its Common Agricultural Policy system, Reuters reported. "The EU lacks a clear stance on direct payments for our farmers and on production quotas for milk, sugar, or meat. This is a problem for our negotiations. It has a negative impact on our adjustment process...and it is difficult for us to introduce EU-linked regulations," Plewa told a farming conference. Brussels fears that the EU budget may not bear the cost of embracing Poland within the bloc's farm subsidy system, which includes generous direct payments to farmers. Plewa stressed that Poland will not drop its demand to be granted direct subsidy payments from the moment of its accession. JM

CZECH NUCLEAR PLANT SHUT DOWN AGAIN...

A cooling system pipe leak again halted testing at the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant on 21 April, AP reported. Temelin spokesman Milan Nebesar said the plant was taken off the electricity grid after a leak in the steam pipeline forced a decrease in the reactor's output to about 2 percent of its capacity. Nebesar called the problem "minor" and said there is no danger of radiation escaping. He said he expects the plant to be reconnected to the grid at the beginning of this week. MS

...AS TRAIN WITH NUCLEAR FUEL ARRIVES...

A train carrying nuclear fuel destined for Temelin's second reactor reached the plant on 22 April, CTK and international agencies reported. The nuclear fuel was provided by U.S.-based Westinghouse and was transported by sea to the Polish port of Szczeczin, from where it was transported in secret to Temelin. Austrian opponents of the plant called the transport "a provocation" but a spokesman for the Czech Nuclear safety authority said the only reason the transport had been kept a secret was "economic." MS

...AND AUSTRIA IS DISSATISFIED WITH 'ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT' DOCUMENTS

Meanwhile, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, in an interview with the daily "Volksblatt" on 21 April, said documents provided by the Czech Republic on Temelin's environmental impact "do not meet expectations." Schuessel said the Austrian government has sent a diplomatic note to Prague demanding that missing information be added; in particular, what measures are to be taken in case of "serious accidents" and what the impact of the "zero variant" (not putting Temelin into operation at all) would be. MS

CZECH CHRISTIAN DEMOCRAT LEADER TO SEEK RE-ELECTION

Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) Chairman Jan Kasal told journalists on 20 April that he will seek re-election at the party's National Conference in May if delegates decide to elect a new party leadership, CTK reported. On the following day, the Prague local branch of the KDU-CSL nominated Cyril Svoboda, a former KDU-CSL deputy chairman and short-lived leader of the Four Party Coalition, for the position. Svoboda accepted the nomination. On 20 April, Svoboda told journalists he has "never slandered" former KDU-CSL Deputy Chairman Miroslav Kalousek, nor has he accused Kalousek "of anything." He admitted, however, that he had been wrong to use the term "investigation" in connection with inquiries into alleged irregularities attributed to Kalousek when he was a deputy defense minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline." 20 April 2001). MS

ODA PROPOSES IMPROVEMENTS IN CZECH OPPOSITION ALLIANCE

The Central Assembly of the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), a member of the Four Party Coalition, on 21 April proposed that the coalition set up a "National Assembly" comprising deputies, senators, and regional representatives of the four formations, CTK reported. The ODA also called on President Vaclav Havel to dismiss Jan Kavan from his position as Foreign Minister, saying his performance in office is "embarrassing." ODA Deputy Chairman Michael Zantovsky mentioned Kavan's involvement in the Cesky Dum scandal in Moscow and his criticism of the U.S. sanctions against Cuba. MS

CZECH INTELLECTUALS' PARTY IN OFFING?

A number of prominent Czech intellectuals envisage setting up a new political party, the daily "Lidove noviny," cited by CTK, reported on 20 April. The daily said that the party's leader is likely to be Jiri Svejnar, director of the National Economic Institute and a professor at the University of Michigan. Other likely prominent members are the former director of President Havel's office, Karel Schwarzenberg; pop-singer Michael Kocab, who in 1990-91 headed a commission supervising the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia; Vladimir Jezek, the former director of Czech Radio; Havel's former adviser Jiri Pehe; and several signatories of the 1999 "Thank you, Now Leave" initiative that was addressed to Czech politicians. "Lidove noviny" reported that the decision to set up the new formation was "accelerated" by disputes within the Four Party Coalition, and that the intellectuals want to offer voters an alternative to the power-sharing alliance of the Social Democrats and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). MS

ODS HEAD PREDICTS 2002 ELECTORAL VICTORY...

Addressing a two-day ideological conference held by the ODS, party leader Vaclav Klaus said on 21 April that the ODS is prepared for the 2002 general elections and "will win them under all circumstances," regardless of what electoral system is in place. He said the ODS must persuade citizens that it does not want to "split society" but, on the contrary, "to unite it." Klaus said the ODS has been the target of "an immensely aggressive media war" and is being treated "without objectivity" by journalists. On 22 April, Klaus told journalists the ODS does not need to change its ideological orientation to win the elections. His deputy, Ivan Langer, told the conference on 21 April that the ODS must work to reform state institutions, including the replacement of the bicameral parliament with a unicameral 150-member legislature. MS

...SAYS HAVEL HAS BEEN AN ADVERSARY 'FOR 10 YEARS'

In an interview with the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 21 April, Klaus said he considers President Havel to have been one of his main opponents during the last decade, CTK reported. He said the political fight between them has been one "for the character of our country since November 1989," but that "symbolically, it can be perceived as a dispute between Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Klaus. During this decade, neither of us has fought against communism, but against the other's ideas," he commented. The interview was granted on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the setting up of the ODS under Klaus. MS

CZECHS CLARIFY TO EU POSITION ON 'SECOND RESIDENCE'

Libor Secka, Czech ambassador to the EU, on 20 April said he has handed the EU a clarification on the Czech position regarding "primary" and "secondary" residences in the Czech Republic after accession into the union, CTK reported. The document says foreigners from EU countries who work in the Czech Republic after the accession date will be allowed to purchase "primary" real estate provided they have a permanent residency permit. They will not be allowed to purchase a "secondary" residence, nor will this permission be granted to nonresidents during the "transition period." Currently, foreigners can buy real estate only if they have a registered company in the Czech Republic, or in association with Czech citizens. MS

LEADING SLOVAK MEDIA FIGURE ESTABLISHES NEW PARTY

Pavel Rusko, the former director of TV Markiza, Slovakia's most influential private television channel, announced on 22 April that he has established a new political formation called The Alliance of the New Citizen, AP reported. Rusko said the main aim of his party is to improve the country's economic situation. The alliance is to be a center-party concentrating on reducing unemployment, improving heath care and education, as well as the general security of citizens. It will seek to reduce state influence on the economy, support the private sector, and decentralize administration, Rusko said. The next Slovak parliamentary elections will take place in September 2002. MS

SLOVAK COALITION PARTY OPPOSED TO ADMINISTRATIVE CHANGE

The Standing Committee of the Democratic Left Party (SDL) decided on 21 April to oblige all its deputies to vote in the parliament in favor of keeping the country's current administrative division into eight regions, CTK reported. SDL Chairman Jozef Migas told reporters that it is not necessary for the government, of which the SDL is a coalition member, to wait to solve the dispute on how many self-ruling regions the country should have, and can begin the devolution of powers to the existing entities. The Party of Civic Understanding is also in favor of eight regions, while the Christian Democratic Party wants the number of regions to be 12. Reforming the local administrative system is one of the conditions required by the EU for accession. MS

NATO EVALUATES SLOVAK ACCESSION PREPARATIONS

Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said after talks in Brussels on 20 April between representatives of the Slovak foreign and defense ministries and the ambassadors of NATO's 19 member-states that "the general conclusion was positive for Slovakia" and that "if we continue along this road we have nothing to fear," CTK reported. The agency said the forum concluded that preparations are "going well and in the right direction," but that "there are also grounds for dissatisfaction," mainly over the structure of the armed forces and the general public support for membership in NATO. Defense Minister Jozef Stank admitted that the current state of the armed forces "does not correspond" with NATO requirements, but said the government is trying to "carry out necessary reforms before accession." Kukan said he considers it "an important task" for the cabinet to increase the level of public support for membership to 60 percent next year from the current 50 percent. MS

MORE ANTI-HUNGARIAN GRAFFITI IN KOSICE

Anti-Hungarian graffiti was again painted on the walls of a Hungarian school in Kosice, CTK reported on 20 April, citing a spokeswoman for the local police. The inscriptions read "Hungarians back across the Danube" and had a large "H" circled with a slash through it, meaning "no Hungarians." The graffiti was signed by an unknown organization calling itself "National Revival." The organization stated in a flyer that was left behind that it represents those who want to see a "definitive end to Hungarian expansionism" and protect the national interests and the national identity of Slovakia and the Slovaks. MS

SLOVAK ROMA ASYLUM SEEKERS IN BELGIUM ON THE RISE

Belgium has recorded an increase in the number of Slovak Roma asylum seekers since visa requirements were dropped in early April, the daily "Pravda," cited by CTK, reported on 21 April. It said several dozen Romany families have left for Belgium in the last 10 days. The daily said asylum requests by Slovak Roma also recently increased in Finland, Norway, and Denmark. The EU decided in March to resume visa-free travel permits for all membership candidates, although Romania must yet fulfill some conditions to benefit from the decision. MS

HUNGARY'S EXTREME-RIGHT LEADER HOPES TO GOVERN WITH FIDESZ

Istvan Csurka, chairman of the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) said on 21 April that FIDESZ and MIEP together will secure more than 50 percent of the vote in the parliamentary elections scheduled for 2002, Hungarian media reported. Csurka said "never before" has there been such an opportunity to set up a right-wing government, as the left of Hungary's political spectrum is undergoing a period of "unprecedented turmoil." Csurka added that it is a mistake to assume that MIEP's joining of a governmental coalition depends only on FIDESZ and "international forces," emphasizing that "this depends only on MIEP." Csurka has previously raised the possibility of governing with FIDESZ, while Prime Minister Viktor Orban recently refrained from categorically rejecting the suggestion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2001). MSZ

HUNGARIAN MINISTER URGES TORGYAN TO RETIRE

Environment Minister Bela Turi-Kovacs, a member of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP), told Hungarian Television on 22 April that FKGP Chairman Jozsef Torgyan "would render the greatest service to the governing coalition, the FKGP, and the nation if he were to retire." He said this would not mean Torgyan's withdrawal from politics altogether, as he would still be an ordinary parliamentary deputy. Turi-Kovacs said the present governing board of the FKGP is illegitimate, and the post of party chairman should be "made available" at the planned 5 May party convention. Turi-Kovacs and Defense Minister Janos Szabo plan to attend the convention called by Torgyan in Cegled, while Phare Funds Minister Imre Boros said he will join the "reform Smallholders" at a function in Budapest on the same day. MSZ

HUNGARIAN EXTRAPARLIAMENTARY CENTER PARTIES FORM ALLIANCE

The national conventions of two center-right extraparliamentary parties, the Hungarian People's Democratic Party (MDNP) and the Entrepreneurs' Party, unanimously backed on 21 April the setting up of a right-of-center alliance of the two formations. MDNP Chairwoman Erzsebet Pusztai and Entrepreneurs' Party Chairman Jozsef Ekes said the two parties will preserve their independent structures and will have identical rights within the alliance. The alliance will field joint parliamentary lists. The two leaders also said they intend to ask the Hungarian Democratic Forum to join the alliance. MSZ

JEWISH CEMETERY DESECRATED IN HUNGARIAN TOWN

Twenty-two headstones in an ancient Jewish cemetery in Jaszkarajeno were knocked down and swastikas were painted on them, the MTI news agency reported on 21 April. Judit Pap, spokeswoman for the Pest County police, said the desecration took place over a long period of time, but was discovered only recently. The perpetrators are two 15-year-old local youths, who were joined by children as young as eight. MSZ




NARROW VICTORY FOR DJUKANOVIC IN MONTENEGRIN ELECTION

Preliminary results suggest that President Milo Djukanovic and his Victory for Montenegro coalition won the 22 April parliamentary elections that are widely seen as a first step toward a referendum on independence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," "End Note," 20 April 2001). His margin of victory is smaller than had been widely expected, however, and he lacks an overall majority. He said that he will form a coalition government with the Liberal Alliance and with ethnic Albanian leaders. Djukanovic told supporters in Podgorica: "We will start as soon as tomorrow on making the necessary arrangements to create a government committed to an independent, democratic, and pro-European Montenegro," Reuters reported. PM

PRO-BELGRADE FORCES ENCOURAGED BY MONTENEGRIN VOTE

Djukanovic's pro-Belgrade opponents said in Podgorica on 22 April that they are buoyed by their showing, which was stronger than opinion polls had predicted. Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic said that the vote shows that Montenegro's population is almost equally split over the question of the republic's political future, Reuters reported. Pro-Belgrade leader Predrag Bulatovic said that any "referendum on independence is now an illusion (see End Note below). We can only now discuss how the future federation will be organized." Final results are expected later on 23 April. PM

GERMANY CALLS ON BELGRADE, PODGORICA TO BEGIN TALKS

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said in a statement in Berlin on 23 April that "the German government welcomes the peaceful and seamless conduct of yesterday's parliamentary elections in Montenegro," Reuters reported. He stressed that "Belgrade and Podgorica are now called on to begin serious talks about their joint future immediately, with the goal of renewing relations based on democratic principles in accordance with the existing constitutional order and heeding regional stability. Unilateral steps would run contrary to this goal." By "unilateral steps," he presumably means a referendum without prior agreement with Belgrade. The "Financial Times" quoted an unnamed EU diplomat as saying that "we really should be as neutral as possible. We cannot afford to have the results of this election fan separatist claims in the region. It is now up to [Yugoslav President Vojislav] Kostunica to choose which cards he will play." PM

BELGRADE, UN TO DISCUSS TAX-COLLECTION POINTS

Serbian officials and representatives of the UN civilian administration in Kosova will hold talks on 24 April about the UN's tax collection checkpoints on its side of the Serbian-Kosova frontier, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 21 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 2001). Hans Haekkerup, who heads the UN mission in Kosova, said that the UN must collect taxes to finance Kosova's budget. Items subject to tax include alcohol, cigarettes, and fuel. Serbia set up customs posts on its side of the border in February. Meanwhile, in Prishtina, international police arrested an unidentified person on 21 April in connection with the recent bombing in the center of that city. No details are available. PM

MACEDONIAN OPPOSITION WANTS INTERIOR MINISTER SACKED

"There will be no further talks on forming a broad coalition government unless Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska steps down," a spokesman for the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) said at a press conference on 19 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2001). Several newspapers have reported that the Social Democrats accuse Dimovska of being responsible for the alleged falsification of the results of the most recent presidential and local elections as well as for a bugging scandal that came to light earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February 2001). The main opposition party also threatens to stage street protests if the ruling coalition does not yield to SDSM's demands. "Our tolerance has limits," the spokesman said. UB

WHAT DID MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT KNOW ABOUT GUERRILLAS LAST SUMMER?

Macedonian Defense Minister Ljuben Paunovski said on 20 April that the government knew about the activities of armed Albanians on the country's northern border as early as August 2000, the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" reported on 21 April. Paunovski also revealed that due to a number of unspecified mistakes the army was very badly equipped with food supplies, medicine, and uniforms before the outbreak of violence earlier this year. "It was my fault that I did not immediately sack the officials in the ministry [who were] responsible for this situation." It is widely believed that Paunovski's problems as a minister stem at least partly from an internal party struggle between him and Dimovska. UB

BOMB FOUND IN MACEDONIAN CAPITAL

On 20 April, passersby discovered an explosive device on the Skopje-Veles railroad track in the Skopje suburb of Kisela Voda. As the Skopje daily "Vest" reported on 21 April, antiterror units were able to defuse the bomb, which consisted of two hand grenades, before it could explode. It is not clear who is behind the intended attack. UB

HERZEGOVINIAN CROATS SEEKING WAY OUT OF IMPASSE?

The Croatian National Assembly, which the international community considers a private body, agreed in Mostar on 21 April to rescind its earlier call for "Croatian self-administration" on the condition that the Bosnian Constitutional Court's ruling on the equality of Croats, Muslims, and Serbs throughout Bosnia be implemented. The assembly also stated in a declaration that it never sought to secede from Bosnia and join Croatia, Hina reported. "Oslobodjenje" reported that hard-line Croat leader Ante Jelavic is negotiating with representatives of the international community for a return of his supporters to the government and for his own withdrawal from politics. PM

CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER WARNS HERZEGOVINIANS

The international community's high representative for Bosnia, Wolfgang Petritsch, said in Zagreb on 20 April that the Herzegovinian imbroglio is "not so much about national rights. It is more about criminal activities, illegal activities that the international community must not and cannot accept," AP reported. Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan said he fears that the "conflict could escalate" and warned Herzegovinian leaders that they "bear enormous responsibility for the situation." He stressed that the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina must seek a peaceful solution to their problems through political institutions. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN LONDON...

Ion Iliescu was to address the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on 23 April, which also marked the 10th anniversary of the bank's formation, Romanian Radio reported. On 22 April, Iliescu met with EBRD President Jean Lemierre to discuss preparations for the upcoming 2002 EBRD annual meeting that will take place in Bucharest. He also met with Prince Philip, with whom he mainly discussed preparations for an ecological summit of southeast European countries that is scheduled to be held in the Romanian capital at the end of this month. In addition, he spoke with businessmen interested in possible investments in Romania. MS

...BELIEVES ROMANIAN SOCIETY 'IMMUNE' TO INTERETHNIC HATRED...

Addressing a forum on inter-regional relations in the Balkans on 20 April in Bucharest, Iliescu said Romanian society has "developed an immunity system against interethnic hatred, intolerance, xenophobia, extremism, anti-Semitism, and racism," Mediafax reported. He said Romanians are now "firmly convinced that the existence of national minorities on their territory "is an advantage contributing to the enrichment and diversification of the national cultural and scientific heritage." MS

...AND IS REFUTED BY PRM

Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM), said on Romanian Radio on 20 April that if Iliescu promulgates the Local Public Administration Law, the PRM will start impeachment procedures against him on grounds of "high treason." Tudor also accused Iliescu of having influenced the decision of the Constitutional Court to validate the law, calling that decision "shameful." Tudor said his party has asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to launch investigations against Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania Chairman Bela Marko for having participated in Budapest in consultations on the so-called "Status Law," which grants special rights to ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries. Also on 20 April, PRM Secretary-General and Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar said he will not apply the provisions of the Local Public Administration Law in Cluj, claiming that "only between 11-12 percent" of Cluj inhabitants are Hungarian, and that the January 1992 census data showing over 20 percent was "forged." MS

PRM LEADER BACK TO OLD SELF

On 20 April, Tudor also published a list of politicians who, he claimed, withdrew their deposits from the collapsed National Investment Fund because they had inside knowledge. He said the list was given to him by "Romanian Intelligence Service sources." Among those listed are National Liberal Party Chairman Valeriu Stoica, Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu, former Finance Minister Decebal Traian Remes, former Interior Minister Constantin Dudu Ionescu, and former Privatization Fund chief Radu Sarbu. On the same day, the Bucharest Court of Appeals heeded Tudor's appeal against a Bucharest Tribunal sentence obliging him to pay high compensation damages to Stoica for slander. Tudor had accused Stoica of involvement in the international trafficking of adopted children, and the Court of Appeals ruled that Stoica may have influenced the ruling in his former capacity as justice minister and ordered a retrial, Mediafax reported. MS

ROMANIAN SUPREME DEFENSE COUNCIL DECIDES AGAINST 'INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY'

The Supreme Council of National Defense (CSAT) decided on 20 April that the National Defense Law currently being examined by the council will not include any reference to an umbrella body of intelligence services previously referred to as "the intelligence community," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 2001). Presidential counselor on national defense and security Ioan Talpes told journalists after a CSAT meeting that both Iliescu and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase are opposed to a "single command" of the intelligence services and that other modalities of coordinating the work of those services will be examined. Nastase on 21 April said there "will be no single coordinator" of those services. MS.

VORONIN RE-ELECTED MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST LEADER...

President Vladimir Voronin was re-elected chairman of the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) on 22 April, the second and last day of the PCM's Fourth Congress, ITAR-TASS reported. Addressing the gathering on that day, Voronin said the PCM is not promoting a monopoly in "either ideology or the political system." He said that "the syndrome the Communist Party of the Soviet Union has become obsolete, and the PCM regards as its priorities human rights, the freedom of speech and of religion, pluralism, and other democratic principles." Addressing the forum one day earlier, Voronin said the PCM will "pursue a modern socialist ideology" and will lead Moldova into a "strategic change of its political course." Later on 22 April, speaking at a ceremony held at a statue of Lenin in Chisinau, Voronin said Moldova must "resist in face of Europe just as Cuba resists in face of the U.S.," Romanian Radio reported. MS

...IN ZYUGANOV'S PRESENCE

Gennadii Zyuganov, leader of Russia's Communist Party, told the gathering that the "return to power" of the Communists in Moldova will "restore the ruined country." He stressed that "the time has come when the peoples of the former Soviet republics begin to realize that we were separated from each other artificially and we can no longer wait on the sidelines of the globalization process." Zyuganov supported the idea of Moldova's joining of the Russia-Belarus Union and urged Chisinau to follow Belarus's example of establishing direct ties with Russian regions. He called for a "democratic and fair integration" of Moldova and Russia, "without encroachments on cultural, linguistic, and traditional differences," ITAR-TASS reported. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES MILITARY TREATY WITH RUSSIA

The parliament on 20 April ratified a military cooperation agreement with Russia that was signed in 1997, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The former parliament, dominated by center-right forces, had refused to ratify the agreement, which calls for military cooperation in navigation, supplies, transportation, intelligence, and training. The five-year treaty will be automatically extended unless one of the sides refuses to do so. The ratification was supported by deputies representing the PCM and the Braghis Alliance and opposed by the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD). PPCD parliamentary group leader Vlad Cubreacov said the treaty included a provision obliging the sides to safeguard military secrets "even if the information refers to actions and plans that could endanger European and world peace and stability." MS

BULGARIAN COURT DELAYS REGISTRATION OF SIMEON II MOVEMENT

The Sofia City Court on 20 April delayed registering the movement founded by former King Simeon II, "Monitor" and Reuters reported. The court accepted the documents for the movement's registration but refused to instantly rule on its legality. Reports say that, if the delay is prolonged, the movement might miss the 2 May deadline for registering with the Central Electoral Commission ahead of the elections scheduled for 17 June. The ruling could take as long as 30 days and will come into force only after its publication in Bulgaria's official "State Gazette," which could take an additional 7 days, in order to complete the process by which the commission can register the new party. MS

BULGARIA SEEKS MEAT, CHEESE CONCESSIONS FROM EU

An Agriculture Ministry official told Reuters on 20 April that Bulgaria will not start new trade negotiations with the EU until the EU "reviews and eases its current tough licensing regime for our meat and cheese exporters." The official said that Bulgaria is unable to fulfill even 10 percent of the duty-free quotas granted by the EU because its meat and cheese exporters are refused licenses. The EU has not licensed any of the 570 Bulgarian meat-producing farms and licensed only four of Bulgaria's 280 dairy farms. In 2000, Bulgaria scrapped import duties for 470 farm products originating from EU countries in return for reciprocal steps. It also shut down 311 meat-producing and processing farms and 230 dairy farms that failed to meet EU standards. MS




THE BALL IS IN BELGRADE'S COURT


By Patrick Moore

The Montenegrin parliamentary elections of 22 April indicate that the ethnic Montenegrin electorate is split almost evenly between those favoring independence and those wanting to maintain links with Belgrade. Since President Milo Djukanovic failed to get the ringing endorsement for independence that he wanted, attention now centers on what inducements the Belgrade leadership will offer Montenegro to maintain the joint state.

The parliamentary elections have given Djukanovic's Victory for Montenegro coalition a less than two-point lead over its rival, Together for Yugoslavia. Djukanovic will be able to form a majority government only with the help of the often strong-willed, pro-independence Liberal Alliance and of ethnic Albanian deputies.

One item on the new parliament's agenda will be to call a referendum on independence and set the rules for such a ballot. But Djukanovic may now be in no hurry to press ahead on that issue. Given that polls had suggested that he would do much better in the parliamentary election than in any referendum, the chance for success of a referendum now seems less likely than it did before the 22 April vote.

Another thing that the polls suggested about a referendum was that the wording and options it contains will be crucial to its success or failure. What kind of options Montenegro now faces -- with or without a referendum -- now largely depend on what Belgrade is or is not prepared to offer.

The crux of the problem has been that, to maintain a joint state, Djukanovic has insisted on the full equality of what would be two independent states, which would agree on setting up certain joint institutions. But no Serbian politician can agree to full equality, given that Serbs outnumber Montenegrins by something like 10-to-one. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic recently said, moreover, that if Montenegro wants independence, then it must take independence and not expect to negotiate any special links with Serbia.

Indeed, Djukanovic has not always been clear about what arrangements he would be prepared to accept with Belgrade, if any, to maintain a joint state. (In fact, in recent months he has increasingly stressed the need for independence.) At times the Montenegrin leadership has said it would agree to a joint foreign policy, but Podgorica also insists that both Serbia and Montenegro receive international diplomatic recognition and have their own seats in the UN. Djindjic and others have called this unacceptable. Podgorica has spoken of the possibility of a joint army with Belgrade, but has attached a series of conditions such that in practice it would have its own national army under Montenegrin command. And as to finances, there can be no serious talk of any joint financial arrangements so long as Serbia uses the dinar and Montenegro has the German mark as its currency.

With the Montenegrin electorate evenly split over its age-old dilemma regarding their mountainous republic's relationship to Serbia, the time seems to have arrived for creative, statesmanlike offers from Belgrade aimed at tipping the balance. Many politicians in the Serbian capital have been telling visitors that regional stability and Serbia's prosperity require the unity of Serbia and Montenegro. Well, now a situation seems to have arisen that calls for Serbian leaders to show what they can offer Montenegrin voters in order to carry the day. The circumstances call for a positive and conciliatory approach. Attempts to humiliate Djukanovic could prove counterproductive for Belgrade in the eyes of the Montenegrin electorate. The same could be said about attempts to create a climate of fear, as Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica did in recent weeks in his frequent suggestions that Montenegrin independence would lead to a wave of perhaps violent attempts to set up new, small states across the region.

Those remarks were aimed primarily at winning the sympathy and political support of the international community, which seems to have developed something of a phobia about the emergence of new states in the region. This is despite the fact that Montenegro has a very old tradition of statehood and that, as a federal republic of the still disintegrating former Yugoslavia, it has just as much a right to independence as Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Macedonia -- or Serbia. And this is also despite the fact that, regardless of what may or may not happen in Montenegro, the overwhelming majority of Kosovars have already made it clear that they want nothing more to do with Belgrade.

Immediately after the 22 April Montenegrin elections, some observers began suggesting that the time has come for the international community to drop its recent talk about using "leverage" on the Montenegrin leadership not to make "hasty" moves toward independence and instead stress bringing Belgrade and Podgorica around to serious talks about the future.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said that "Belgrade and Podgorica are now called on to begin serious talks about their joint future immediately, with the goal of renewing relations based on democratic principles in accordance with the existing constitutional order and heeding regional stability." London's "Financial Times" quoted an unnamed EU diplomat as saying that "we really should be as neutral as possible. We cannot afford to have the results of this election fan separatist claims in the region. It is now up to Kostunica to choose which cards he will play."


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