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Newsline - April 27, 2001




KASYANOV: DUMA APPROVAL OF PROGRAM WILL MAKE RUSSIA 'A DIFFERENT COUNTRY'

After a meeting with Duma members, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 26 April that if the Duma passes judicial, land, and pension reforms now being presented for consideration by the government, Russia will turn into "a different country" by next year, AP reported. Kasyanov said that the spring session of the Duma may be extended to allow lawmakers to consider all of these measures. In other comments, Kasyanov criticized the security ministries for insufficient financing for energy consumers and said that he will demand that security at Russian nuclear power plants be increased, Interfax reported. PG

DUMA VOTES TO SET LIMITS ON FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF RUSSIAN MEDIA...

The Duma voted 332 to 22 to approve on first reading a bill that would allow foreign investors to own no more than 50 percent of electronic and print media outlets, Russian and Western agencies reported. Deputy (Unity) Pavel Kovalenko said "if we don't introduce these limits, then one fine day we'll find that [Rupert] Murdoch and [Ted] Turner will be the ones electing our president or our parliament." PG

...FAILS TO PASS RESOLUTION CONDEMNING ANTI-SEMITISM...

Only 129 deputies voted for a resolution appealing to President Vladimir Putin to work against all manifestations of anti-Semitism, Russian and Western agencies reported on 26 April. Seventeen deputies voted against the measure, and 303 did not vote at all, Interfax reported. Approval required 226 votes. Unity deputy Aleksandr Fedulov told Interfax that he plans to reintroduce the measure. PG

...ON A BUSY LEGISLATIVE DAY

In other actions on 26 April, the Duma approved on third and final reading the Emergency Situations Law by a vote of 306 to six, with six abstentions, Interfax reported. The deputies also approved amendments to the pension law on second and third readings; tax relief for regions issuing bonds; antipiracy rules; and military obligations, Russian and Western agencies reported. The Duma also adopted a resolution on the social-economic situation on the Kurile Islands; asked Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov to make the payment system for soldiers in Chechnya more effective; and urged OSCE countries to support the signing of a Balkan Security Pact, Russian agencies reported. PG

GUSINSKY COMPARES RUSSIA TO CONCENTRATION CAMP, PUTIN TO MILOSEVIC

Before flying to Israel, embattled Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinsky compared Russia to a concentration camp and President Putin to former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, "Izvestiya" reported on 26 April. Meanwhile, in an interview published in "Obshchaya gazeta" on the same day, media magnate Boris Berezovsky said that he believes that the Russian security services were behind the attack on NTV. PG

'SEGODNYA,' 'ITOGI' AVAILABLE ONLINE

The old journalistic collectives of "Segodnya" and "Itogi" have issued their publications online on the lenta.ru portal, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 April. PG

FOREIGN SPIES FOCUS ON DEFENSE, IRANIAN TIES

Foreign Intelligence Service (FSB) spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich said on 26 April that Western intelligence services are stepping up their efforts to gain access to Russian defense secrets and also to track Moscow's ties with Iran, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, other FSB officials said that the Russian navy may sue former U.S. businessman Edmond Pope and his Russian accomplice for the 700 million rubles ($2.5 million) in damages the American agent allegedly inflicted on the navy, Russian and Western agencies reported. Zdanovich concluded that Russia "will continue fiercely to protect our secrets." PG

LUZHKOV NAMED HEAD OF UNITY-FATHERLAND COALITION COUNCIL

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov was confirmed on 26 April as chairman of the coordinating council of the Unity-Fatherland coalition, Interfax-Moscow reported. After assuming the position, Luzhkov said he does not believe the two groups will have any ideological disagreements. He also announced that a competition will be held to name the new party to be formed from the two existing political groups. PG

KOMI NAMES FEDERATION COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVES

The State Council of Komi on 26 April confirmed Yurii Volkov, 46, to be the republic's representative in the Federation Council, Interfax Northwest reported. Volkov had been the head of the administration working with the organs of power of the subjects of the Northwestern federal district. PG

PAVLOVSKII SEEN PROMOTING CHUBAIS

Presidential media adviser Gleb Pavlovskii is promoting Anatolii Chubais as a "tame" opposition leader, "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 26 April. But Pavlovskii is doing so, the paper said, only as part of a broader strategy in which he seeks to have himself named head of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) in place of Chubais. PG

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL, DIFFERING WITH PUTIN, APPEARS SET ON POLITICAL CAREER

According to an article in "Vremya MN" on 26 April, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov has put himself at odds with President Putin on several aspects of the Kremlin-proposed judicial reform program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," "End Note," 25 April 2001). The article suggested that Ustinov appears to be positioning himself for a political career. But an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on the same day suggested that the Kremlin and Putin himself will not overlook this breach. PG

MATVIENKO SAYS MOSCOW FACING SOCIAL PROBLEMS IN NEW WAY

"For the first time in 10 years," Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko said on 26 April, the Russian government is designing social policy by taking into account the interests of individuals rather than working as "a fire brigade" in response to particular problems, Interfax reported. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY SAYS UN LAW ALLOWS RUSSIA TO LIFT SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ

Duma Deputy Speaker and LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said on 26 April that UN provisions allowing any state to opt out of sanctions when participation in such measures imposes "special economic problems" could allow Moscow to withdraw from international sanctions imposed against Iraq. Russia needs the money Iraq could then pay in order to meet Moscow's debt obligations, Zhirinovsky said. PG

U.S. BUSINESSMEN SAY BUSH MUST BACK PUTIN

The American Chamber of Commerce in Russia on 25 April said that U.S. President George W. Bush must back President Putin's plan for economic reform, Reuters reported. PG

CENTRAL BANKS SEES RUBLE-DOLLAR EXCHANGE RATE HOLDING AT 30 TO 1...

Viktor Melnikov, the deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank, said on 26 April that Moscow will be able to hold the ruble-dollar exchange rate at roughly 30 to one even if the country experiences more inflation than the cabinet now predicts, Interfax reported on 26 April. PG

...BUT RUSSIA CONTINUES TO LAG IN ATTRACTING FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Cynthia Stone of the Standard & Poor's agency, said on 26 April that Russia attracted a little over $3 billion in direct foreign investment and almost no portfolio investments in 2000, Interfax-AFI reported. She said that, in comparison, China received $46 billion and the Czech Republic $5 billion. Stone added that the absence of an IMF cooperation accord, the weakness of the country's budgetary base, and shortcomings in the legal system continue to make Russia a less attractive place for investment than are other countries. PG

CZECHS RETURN EXTREMIST TO RUSSIA

Prague extradited Sergei Maksimenko to Russia on 26 April, ITAR-TASS reported. In 1997, Maksimenko created the "Revolutionary Armed Military Council of the Russian Federation" and participated in a series of terrorist acts, including efforts to blow up monuments in Russia to Peter the Great and Nicholas II. Maksimenko is now being held in Moscow's Lefortovo prison in advance of his trial. PG

ILLARIONOV WANTS $35 BILLION STABILIZATION FUND

In an interview published in "Vedomosti" on 26 April, Presidential economics adviser Andrei Illarionov said that the stabilization fund planned for launch next year should consist of no less than $33-35 billion, Interfax-AFI reported. PG

RUSSIA SEEN HAVING EDGE IN 'STAR WARS' COMPETITION

Writing in "Itogi," No. 16, journalist Oleg Odnokolenko said Moscow should trade its agreement to changes in the ABM treaty for the right to fit its Topol missiles with MIRVs (Multiple Independently Targetable Re-Entry Vehicles). He believes such a move would allow Russia to take advantage of certain technical advantages it has over the United States in a future "Star Wars"-type competition. At the very least, Odnokolenko said, Moscow must drop its insistence that the ABM treaty is "a cornerstone of strategic ability: "It isn't and won't be," he insisted. PG

MOSCOW ANALYST SAYS U.S. BEHIND UKRAINE POLITICAL CRISIS

In an article published by "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 20 April, Andrei Grozin of the Moscow Institute of CIS Countries suggested that U.S. business and political leaders have played a significant role in creating the current political crisis in Ukraine. Grozin said that they have done so because of concerns that Ukraine is reorienting its foreign policy away from the West and toward Moscow. Meanwhile, on 26 April, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that a change of government in Kyiv will not affect Russian-Ukrainian relations, Interfax reported. PG

CHORNOBYL ANNIVERSARY MARKED

The Duma stood for one minute of silence and then adopted a resolution in connection with the 15th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear power station accident, Interfax reported on 26 April. Ecologist Aleksei Yablokov said that the total number of victims of the accident should be put at 500 million, Interfax reported. And a group of people who worked on the Chornobyl cleanup complained that they have not received the special support they were promised by the government, the agency said. But Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishenko said in an interview published in "Izvestiya" on the same day that "there is no evidence of a serious influence by radioactivity on people's health." PG

KAZANTSEV GOES ONLINE

Following the lead of President Putin, Viktor Kazantsev, the presidential envoy for the Southern federal district, has conducted his first Internet press conference, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 April. Those who participated on the net or via a local radio broadcast asked about Chechnya, media freedom, and the government, and Kazantsev's personal life. The outspoken Kazantsev refused to answer only the last type of question. PG

BANKERS, NOT POLICE KEY PLAYERS IN FIGHTING DIRTY MONEY

In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 26 April, Vneshekonombank Chairman Andrei Kostin said that banking institutions rather the police should play the lead role in preventing money laundering. He added that Russia must introduce common rules for foreign and domestic investors and that Moscow has "at most" three years to implement serious banking sector reforms. PG

FIREFIGHTERS WANT TO REMAIN AT INTERIOR

In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 26 April, Yevgenii Serebrennikov, the head of the interior Ministry's main administration for fire fighting, said that his men want to remain in the Interior Ministry rather than be transferred to the Emergency Situations Ministry. He said that firefighters have special and long-established relationships with other Interior Ministry officials and warned against disturbing these ties. PG

LEAVING THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT AGAIN A CRIME

The Russian Constitutional Court has ruled that a law prohibiting someone involved in an accident from leaving the scene is not in violation of the constitution, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 April. PG

NO SANCTIONS FOR FALSE ADS

The Anti-Monopoly Policy Ministry on 25 April said that it will not impose any sanctions on newspapers that published a false advertisement in February about a nonexistent store, nor on the public relations firm that placed them, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. The ads had been placed by the Promaco PR agency both to attract attention to itself and to demonstrate the lack of checking at many media outlets. PG

BOMBER SENTENCED TO PSYCHIATRIC TREATMENT

A Moscow court on 26 April sentenced Aleksandr Biryukov for forced psychiatric treatment in the Serbsky Institute, AP reported. Biryukov had been charged with planting a bomb near a Russian secret police office on 13 August 1998. Upon earlier examination, he had been judged insane and thus incapable of taking part in his own defense. PG

RUSSIAN AVIATION TO RECOVER TO 1990 LEVEL BY 2015

Russian aviation officials said that the number of air travelers in Russia has declined 75 percent since 1990, when some 46 million Russians traveled by air, "Izvestiya" reported on 26 April. However, they predicted that the industry will recover to its previous level by 2015. Meanwhile, Moscow tourist officials said that 1 million people from beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union and 5 million people from CIS countries visited the Russian capital in 2000, Interfax reported. PG

YAVLINSKY BOOK, ALREADY PUBLISHED IN ENGLISH, TO BE RELEASED IN RUSSIAN

Yabloko Party leader Grigorii Yavlinsky's book on economic and political change, which sold 20,000 copies when it was released in English in 2000, will be translated and published in Russian, Interfax reported on 26 April. PG

THE RETURN OF CLOSED CITIES?

Krasnoyarsk's first deputy governor, Lyudmila Selivanova, has proposed placing severe limits on travel by foreigners to the Norilsk industrial district, "Izvestiya" reported on 26 April. That area had been closed to foreigners before 1990 as part of the more general program of "closed cities" across the Soviet Union. PG

CELEBRATIONS PLANNED FOR PUTIN'S FIRST YEAR IN OFFICE

Organizers have received official permission to conduct a variety of special meetings and celebrations on 7 May in connection with the first anniversary of Putin's presidency, Interfax-Moscow reported on 26 April. PG

EXPLORER SEEKING VIKING TRACES IN RUSSIA

Explorer and author Thor Heyerdahl is looking for traces of the origins of Viking civilization near the shores of the Sea of Azov, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 April. PG

CRIMINAL GROUP TRADES IN FAKE TEA

A Stavropol criminal group that specialized in trading counterfeit tea has been broken up by Stavropol authorities, Interfax reported on 26 April. PG

STREET PEOPLE SUE POLICE OVER MISTREATMENT

A group of 20 Moscow street people ("bomzhi") has sued the police for forcibly transporting them out of the city to a rural area against their will, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 April. PG

DETENTION CENTER CONDITIONS 'EQUAL TO TORTURE'

Deputy Justice Minister Yuri Kalinin said on 26 April that conditions in Russian detention centers are "equal to torture," ITAR-TASS reported. He also agreed with Council of Europe experts that these conditions must be changed and changed quickly. One measure of just how bad things have become in Russian incarceration wards, he said, is that the number of detainees infected with HIV has increased more than 20 times over the past five years, Interfax reported. PG

PARTY LEADER, AUTHOR LIMONOV TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR

Eduard Limonov, head of the National Bolshevik Party, intends to participate in the 15 July gubernatorial elections in Nizhnii Novgorod, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 April. Limonov was arrested earlier in the month for illegal possession of weapons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2001). At a Moscow press conference on 26 April, Limonov's attorney said that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Siberian Aluminum head Oleg Deripaska were behind Limonov's arrest. Last year, five young members of Limonov's party threw Molotov cocktails, which failed to explode, at the Kazakh Embassy in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2000). Also on 26 April, incumbent Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Ivan Sklyarov announced that he will seek re-election. JAC

LIMONOVITES WANT FREEDOM TO AGITATE FOR STALIN, GULAG

A group of supporters of Limonov on 25 April demanded at a press conference the release of their boss, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. The paper said that one journalist in attendance remarked that "You shout at all your meetings: 'Stalin! Beria! Gulag!' Now a Gulag is being organized in the country. Why are you upset?" The Limonovites responded that they in no way support a Gulag, but rather for the freedom to be able to call for "Stalin! Beria! Gulag!'" PG

KOMI OFFICIALS SUSPECTED OF MISAPPROPRIATION OF FUNDS

Audit Chamber officials have uncovered evidence of "serious violations" in the work by officials of local pension and social funds, "Trud" reported on 26 April. According to the daily, more than 20 million rubles ($700,000) of the republic's pension fund have been pilfered over several years. In addition, millions of rubles from the sale of humanitarian assistance from the U.S. and Europe was not directed to the pension fund as it was supposed to. The daily, which is financed by Gazprom, concluded that "it is difficult to suggest that the head of the republic, Yurii Spiridonov, did not know about the creative misdeeds of his bureaucrats, the abuse of office, and illegalities." It continued, "the complete absence of control over [these officials] is evidence of the social irresponsibility and scorn for the most important sphere of executive power, that directly affects the most essential interests of Komi residents." JAC

ANOTHER REGION OPENS CRIMINAL CASE IN CONNECTION WITH HEAT SHUTOFF

A raion-level prosecutor in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast has launched a criminal investigation into the cutoff of heat supplies to the village of Teploozersk, which affected not only residences, but also a hospital and maternity ward there, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 26 April. According to the agency, heat was restored only after four days and at the insistence of local public and law-enforcement officials. The agency did not disclose whether the heating shutdown was connected with unpaid electricity bills, as has frequently been the case throughout Russia. Last month, in Ulyanovsk, a local electric utility official was fined 10,000 rubles in damages in connection with an electricity shutoff to a village hospital, during which one patient was having emergency surgery (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2001). JAC

PUTINS DONATE $300 TO ENVIRONMENTAL CAUSE

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) official Faina Zakharova told reporters in Moscow on 26 April that President Putin and his wife have donated money from their personal funds for the planting of one hectare of trees in the forests of Altai Krai, where some 70,000 hectares were destroyed by fire in the spring of 1997, Interfax reported. The area of new forest will be named after its benefactors, Vladimir and Lyudmila Putin. The Putins participated in a WWF program under which the planting of each hectare costs $300, and each hectare will bear the name of its sponsor (see also the website, http://www.wwf.ru). JAC

INGUSHETIA'S AUSHEV WARNS OF RUSSIAN CHAUVINISM

Ingushetia's president, Ruslan Aushev, told Interfax on 26 April that "the openly chauvinistic slogans and appeals" of Russian politicians pose "an enormous danger" to ethnic peace. Aushev's comments came at the Congress of Repressed Peoples held in Magas the same day. Participants included representatives of Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Germans, Crimean Tatars, Meskhetian Turks, and others deported by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in the 1940s to Central Asia. The Chechen leader noted that some Russian leaders now insist that Stalin did the right thing while others deny that any deportations ever took place in the Soviet Union. PG

RUSSIAN CONTRACT SERVICEMEN LEAVING CHECHNYA 'EN MASSE'

Colonel General Vladislav Putilin, the deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, has acknowledged that "contract servicemen are leaving Chechnya en masse," "Trud-7" reported on 27 April. Because such soldiers form 40 percent of all service people on the Russian side, this represents a threat to the Russian campaign in Chechnya, and that is why President Putin has taken a personal interest in raising the servicemen's pay and ensuring that they are paid on a timely basis, the paper said. One indication of the intensity of the continuing fighting in Chechnya was a report by the pro-Moscow Chechen administration that said 17 Russian soldiers were killed in a 24-hour period and that 28 more were wounded during the same period, AP reported on 26 April. PG

CHECHEN 'NATIONAL CHARACTER' FORCES POSTPONEMENT OF RUSSIAN DRAFT THERE

In an interview published in "Novaya gazeta" on 26 April, Anatolii Khryachkov, the new military commissar of Chechnya, said that conditions do not now exist there to allow the Russian authorities to conduct a military draft. Among the most serious, he said, are the low educational level of young Chechen men and "problems of national character." Khryachkov said that he favors the gradual introduction of the draft and allowing Chechens to serve near their homes. PG

DEMONSTRATORS IN MOSCOW CALL FOR TALKS WITH CHECHEN LEADER MASKHADOV

Some 150-200 protesters assembled in Moscow's Pushkin Square to call for peace talks between Moscow and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Interfax reported. Duma deputy (SPS) Sergei Yushenkov called for the immediate launching of peace talks, while Father Gleb Yakunin condemned "the inactivity of the Moscow patriarchate" concerning the war in Chechnya. PG

MOSCOW BLAMES CHECHENS FOR MASS GRAVE

Officials in the Russian security agencies told Interfax on 26 April that pro-independence Chechens rather than Russian forces are responsible for the mass grave recently found in Chechnya's Utum-Kalin district. Meanwhile, prosecutors announced that they have filed charges against nine individuals for their involvement in the explosions in Mineralnie Vody and Yessentuki on 24 March and that they have completed their investigation of the 9 January 1996 Chechen attack on Kizliar and Pervomaiskoe, the news agency said. PG




CIS COLLECTIVE SECURITY GROUP MEETS IN YEREVAN

Representatives of the six CIS countries that signed the 1992 Collective Security Treaty -- Armenia, Russia, and four other post-Soviet states -- met in Yerevan to plan for the 25 May summit of their presidents, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. They discussed creating rapid reaction forces to counter Islamist threats in Central Asia. PG

GEORGIAN-TURKISH MILITARY TIES DISTURB ARMENIA

Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian said that "Turkish-Georgian military cooperation causes serious alarm in Yerevan because this may considerably upset the regional balance," Prime-News reported on 26 April. He said that Georgia's actions in this regard may effectively make it "a participant in the policy of isolating Armenia now being pursued by Turkey and Azerbaijan." PG

ANTI-KOCHARIAN LEAFLET CONFISCATED AT ARMENIAN AIRPORT

Customs officials seized a 500-kilogram package of pamphlets containing attacks on President Robert Kocharian, the Snark news agency reported on 26 April. PG

ARMENIANS PROTEST YEREVAN'S PRIVATIZATION PLANS

Approximately 1,000 people demonstrated in Yerevan on 26 April against the government's plan to privatize the country's national power utilities, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Meanwhile, the Armenian Energy Ministry announced that Yerevan has resumed the export of electric power to Iran, the Snark news agency reported the same day. PG

ARMENIA REJECTS AZERBAIJANI RULE IN KARABAKH

In an interview with Reuters released on 26 April, Armenian Foreign Minister Oskanian said that Yerevan "will not accept any subjugation of Nagorno-Karabakh" to Baku. He said, however, that Armenia is prepared to consider "anything on the level of horizontal ties." PG

DRAFT-DODGING IN AZERBAIJAN NOT INCREASING

Colonel Aliaga Huseynov, the country's military commissar, said that concerns about new fighting over Karabakh has not led to an increase in draft-dodging as some media outlets have suggested, "Bilik Dunyasi" reported on 24 April. PG

U.S. CRITICIZES AZERBAIJAN FOR HANDLING OF RECENT DEMONSTRATION

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said that "the government of Azerbaijan should respect its citizens' rights to freedom of assembly," Turan reported on 26 April. Reeker's comments were in reference to the dispersal by the police of a 21 April demonstration in which both demonstrators and officers were hurt. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani officials closed down a new website that condemned Baku officials and opposition leaders as being criminals, according to a statement released by the Milli Istiglal Party on 26 April. PG

IRANIAN TV DENIES BROADCASTING ANTI-AZERBAIJANI PROGRAMS

Amin Sadiqi, the editor in chief of Iran's Sahar TV, has denied broadcasting anti-Azerbaijani programs, "525 gazet" reported on 26 April. Meanwhile, on the same day, Turan reported that several Iranian newspapers have criticized Tehran's harsh policies toward provinces in which Azerbaijanis live. And in a shoot-out at the Azerbaijani-Iranian border on 24 April, an Azerbaijani border guard died when armed Iranians attempted to cross the border illegally, ANS television reported on 26 April. PG

GEORGIAN COURT ORDERS COMPENSATION FOR ILLEGAL ARREST

A Tbilisi court has ordered the National Security Ministry to compensate Giorgi Ninidze for his illegal arrest, "Rezonansi" reported on 26 April. Ninidze's lawyer said that this was the first such case in the republic. PG

CASH SHORTAGE HURTS GEORGIAN BORDER GUARDS

Valerii Chkeidze, the head of the Georgian state border guards, told Prime-News on 26 April that Georgia's ability to guard its borders is threatened by a cash shortfall that is certain to occur when the U.S. stops supplying fuel to his department. PG

TURKIC SUMMIT OPENS IN ISTANBUL

The seventh summit of Turkic-speaking states opened in Istanbul on 26 April, Turan reported. Leaders stressed the importance of Turkic languages and Turkic cooperation, but Kyrgyzstan President Askar Akaev and Uzbekistan Parliamentary speaker Erkin Halilov addressed the meeting not in their native languages or in Turkish but in Russian, the news service said. PG

KAZAKHSTAN WON'T USE BAKU-CEYHAN ROUTE UNTIL 2005

Kazakhstan's deputy prime minister, Vladimir Shkolnik, told ITAR-TASS on 26 April that his country will only begin to use the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline system in 2005-2007. He said that Astana wants to promote the development of multiple pipelines out of the region. PG

KYRGYZSTAN DENOUNCES SECRET ACCORD WITH UZBEKISTAN

Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev told RFE/RL on 26 April that Bishkek has already sent a note to Tashkent denouncing a secret memorandum signed by the two countries on 26 February. Bakiev said that the document is only a statement of intentions rather than a formal agreement and that Bishkek has no intention of agreeing on the establishment of a corridor to the Uzbek enclave of Sokh. He added that Kyrgyzstan cannot accept the strip of land offered by Tashkent as compensation for the proposed corridor. PG

KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT WITHDRAWS LANGUAGE BILL

The Kyrgyzstan government has withdrawn a controversial state language bill from parliament, Interfax reported on 26 April. The measure would have required officials and others to be tested for proficiency in Kyrgyz. PG

KYRGYZ DEFENSE MINISTRY SAYS NEW DRAFTEES WON'T BE SENT TO FIGHT

Defense Ministry mobilization chief Boris Yugai told Interfax on 26 April that Bishkek will not send any new draftees to participate in any future fighting in the south of the country. PG

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS REINFORCED IN TAJIKISTAN

Lieutenant General Aleksandr Manilov, the head of the Russian Federal Border Guard Service, said on 25 April that Moscow plans to reinforce its contingent of border guards along the Tajik-Afghan border, Interfax reported on 25 April. Meanwhile, the Moscow press was full of articles suggesting that there will be major fighting in Central Asia this summer between government forces and Islamic insurgents. PG

UZBEK POLICE DETAIN ISLAMIST GROUP MEMBERS

Uzbek Interior Ministry officials on 25 April arrested members of the banned Hezb-e Tahrir Islamist group, Uzbek television reported. The group was operating a printing press to prepare Islamist literature, the station said. PG




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION HOLDS CHORNOBYL MARCH IN MINSK...

An estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people participated in an opposition-organized march and rally in Minsk on 26 April held in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the explosion at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Belarusian academic Ivan Nikitchanka told the rally that 1.84 million people are currently living in areas of Belarus that were hit by the radioactive downfall caused by the disaster. Nikitchanka said the authorities "rob" people affected by the Chornobyl disaster, noting that budgetary spending on Chornobyl-related programs in 2000 was lower by 13 percent than the "Chornobyl tax" collected in Belarus to deal with the aftermath of the disaster. Demonstrators demanded democratic changes in Belarus and pledged to defend the country's independence. The demonstration, though unauthorized, was not attended by police forces and took place without incident. JM

...WHILE BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HE WANTED TO LEAD THE MARCH IN RADIATION-HIT ZONE...

Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who visited Chornobyl-affected districts in Homel Oblast the same day, said he had proposed to the opposition the staging of a Chornobyl commemoration rally in radiation-hit areas. "I would go first, you [journalists] would follow me as usual, and they [the opposition] would follow us in a solemn march," Lukashenka said on Belarusian Television, adding that he even ordered local authorities to clear a 30-kilometer road for this purpose. But then he noted: "[The opposition] will not go here, they do not need that, they need a picture [on television newscasts]. For such a picture, [the West] is ready to pay $500 million. But this picture needs to be accompanied by a new president in elections." JM

...AND ESTIMATES STRENGTH OF OPPOSITION

Belapan reported earlier this week that Alyaksandr Dabravolski, leader of the opposition United Civic Party, responded to Lukashenka's proposal and agreed to participate in the president's trip to Homel Oblast. Dabravolski, however, received an evasive answer from the presidential administration and visited the radiation-hit areas separately from Lukashenka. The Belarusian president commented on this development in Homel Oblast on 26 April: "I don't even know such a party [as the United Civic Party]... Why do I need Dabravolski here? I proposed to hold a march, and they are sending me Dabravolski. What am I supposed to do here with Dabravolski?" Lukashenka said the Belarusian opposition consists of communists and the Belarusian Popular Front, but suggested that their numerical strength is insignificant. "How many of them are there? They say 1,000 or 1,500?" Belarusian Television quoted him as saying. JM

OUSTED UKRAINIAN PREMIER REFUSES TO REMAIN IN CARETAKER POST...

Viktor Yushchenko, who lost a no-confidence vote in the parliament on 26 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April, 2001), said he will soon request his release from the post of prime minister from President Leonid Kuchma, Interfax reported. Yushchenko reiterated that he does not want to stay on as the head of a caretaker government until a new cabinet is formed. Yushchenko also said he intends to participate in parliamentary elections next year. It is not clear if he will join the anti-Kuchma opposition, as has been urged by some politicians. "Today we lost the best premier, but received the leader of the nation," the Rukh factions, the Fatherland Party, and the Reforms and Order Party said of Yushchenko's ouster in a joint statement. Yushchenko pledged to remain in politics, but has not yet mentioned who his potential political allies might be. (See also "End Note" below.) JM

...WHILE OBSERVERS SPECULATE ABOUT HIS SUCCESSOR

Ukrainian political scientist Mykola Tomchenko told journalists on 26 April that Yushchenko's ouster was orchestrated by President Kuchma in order to prevent the Communist Party from joining the antipresidential opposition in a bid to impeach the president. Tomchenko said the Communists, in exchange for the posts of parliamentary speaker and one deputy speaker, may endorse State Tax Administration head Mykola Azarov or Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko as candidates to head the government. The Moscow-based "Kommersant-Daily" speculated on 26 April that Kuchma has already decided to propose Volodymyr Horbulin, former head of the Council of National Security and Defense, as a new premier. The newspaper added that Labor Ukraine leader Serhiy Tyhypko and Communist lawmaker Stanislav Hurenko will be offered deputy premier portfolios. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO INITIATE DEBATE ON KUCHMA'S IMPEACHMENT

The parliament on 26 April failed to pass a motion to put the issue of President Kuchma's impeachment on the agenda, Interfax reported. The motion was supported by 206 lawmakers (the required majority was 226 votes) from the Communist Party, Fatherland Party, Rukh, and Solidarity groups, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko has announced that on 27 April the antipresidential opposition would begin working on organizing a referendum on Kuchma's ouster. JM

WEST CONCERNED ABOUT UKRAINIAN REFORMS AFTER PREMIER'S OUSTER

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on 26 April said he regrets the ousting of Premier Yushchenko and urges Ukraine to push on with reforms, Reuters reported. "I would like to insist that Ukraine will commit a very important mistake if they change the way that economic and political reforms are taking place," Solana added. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said the same day that democratic and economic reforms that were yielding "first visible successes" under dismissed Yushchenko "mustn't under any circumstances be abandoned," AP reported. Fischer added that the continuation of reforms is the "decisive condition" for closer cooperation of Ukraine with European bodies and international financial organizations. In a written statement released on 26 April, U.S. President George W. Bush said Ukraine now needs "strong and courageous leadership" as well as "real support for democracy and difficult, but necessary, reforms." JM

PACE GIVES UKRAINE TWO MORE MONTHS TO MEET OBLIGATIONS

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted by 103 to 17, with six abstentions, to give Ukraine until a PACE session in June to meet the Council of Europe's standards of democracy and human rights. "Should there be no substantial progress by June, the Committee of Ministers should consider suspending Ukraine," AP quoted from the PACE resolution. PACE backed away from an earlier resolution draft that asked for the immediate suspension of Ukraine's membership from the Council of Europe, which Kyiv joined in 1995. JM

ESTONIA HAD MORE IMMIGRANTS THAN EMIGRANTS FROM CIS COUNTRIES

Merike Jurilo of the Citizenship and Migration Department announced that in 2000, for the first time in the past 10 years, the number of arrivals from CIS countries who came to live in Estonia exceeded the number of departures, ETA reported on 26 April. She noted, however, that the more than 1,700 residency permits given last year to persons from Russia -- more than double the number in 1999 -- do not mean that the country is threatened by major immigration from the East, as many of the permits were issued to local illegal residents who registered only recently. In addition, quotas for family migration were lifted in 2000, and as a result, many people who could not come earlier to live with their spouses were able to do so. SG

LATVIAN MINISTER NOTES RUSSIA'S FAILURE TO RETURN BALTIC EMBASSIES

Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins told the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly on 26 April that Russia has yet to return to the Baltic states the embassy buildings that were taken over by the Soviet Union after World War II, BNS reported. Russia had promised to give back the embassy buildings in Paris and Rome to their former owners, Lithuania and Latvia, in 1996 when it was applying for membership in the Council of Europe. However, the buildings have not been returned and are still being used by Russian diplomatic and consular services. The buildings legally belong to Latvia and Lithuania, but cannot be recovered because they are occupied by persons with diplomatic immunity. SG

LITHUANIA REESTABLISHES 1 MAY AS PUBLIC HOLIDAY

The parliament, by a vote of 63 to 24 with 10 abstentions, approved on 26 April a proposal by the Social Democrats to make 1 May (International Labor Day) a public holiday, ELTA reported. At the previous two parliament sessions, the vote on the proposal had been postponed by the requests of the Liberal Union and Conservatives. Parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas, however, presented it again as a matter of special urgency. After regaining independence in 1990, Lithuania removed 1 May from the its list of state holidays. It was restored as a holiday in 1996 by the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party, but again removed by the Conservatives in 1997. It remains unclear whether the holiday will be celebrated this year, for the law establishing the holiday will come into effect only after it is signed by President Valdas Adamkus and published in "Valstybes zinios" (News of the State). SG

POLISH JUSTICE MINISTER HEADS GROUNDWORK COMMITTEE FOR RIGHT-WING PARTY

Polish Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski on 26 April was appointed head of the National Law and Justice Committee, a group of 11 right-wing lawmakers and politicians that includes his twin brother Jaroslaw, PAP reported. Jaroslaw Kaczynski said the committee will be transformed into a political party in June, adding that this move will simultaneously mean the closure of his own Center Alliance party. Lech Kaczynski said he agreed to head the committee after "some hesitation" and mainly in view of his public popularity which, he noted, is the result of "rising public support for law and justice." JM

POLISH PROSECUTORS CHARGE 45 PEOPLE WITH COCAINE SMUGGLING

Warsaw prosecutors have charged 45 Polish members of an international cocaine-trafficking ring in what they described as the country's biggest ever drug-smuggling scandal, AP reported on 26 April. Thirty-eight people have already been arrested on the charges in Poland, while the ringleader of the operation is in a Peruvian prison. According to police, the gang sent unemployed people or students to Peru, Chile, and Colombia, from where they smuggled some 2.5 tons of cocaine to the Netherlands and Spain between 1994 and 2000. An official from the State Protection Office told journalists that the group was tracked down after the office noticed people who appeared impoverished taking costly foreign trips. JM

CZECHS GIVEN ULTIMATUM BY AUSTRIAN TEMELIN OPPONENTS

Groups from the state of Upper Austria opposed to the Temelin nuclear power plant, led by the group Stop Temelin, said on 26 April that if the Czechs did not respond to Austrian objections by 3 p.m. local time the following day, border crossings were to be blockaded, APA reported. Stop Temelin called blockades in the current situation "defense in an emergency," and that such actions are "always legal measures." Rudi Anchober, head of the Upper Austrian Greens, called on Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel to give "a clear signal that the Vienna government supports the Upper Austrian demands and strives for new negotiations [with the Czechs]" before the demonstration at the border crossing of Wullowitz, which was to be launched at 6 p.m. on 27 April if the demands were not met. Austrian objections to the environmental impact assessment report issued by an international commission revolve around the failure to consider the impact of not launching the plant at all or the effects of a serious accident. DW

CZECH REPUBLIC, IRAQ EXPEL DIPLOMATS

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan confirmed on 26 April in Prague that he had issued an order to expel an Iraqi diplomat from the country, CTK reported. Kavan said that the second secretary of the Iraqi Embassy, Ahmad Chalil Ibrahim Samir, was ordered to leave the country because the Foreign Ministry had proof that he "was busy with activities exceeding his diplomatic duties and which conflicted with the way diplomats are expected to behave in the Czech Republic." Iraq responded with a reciprocal action, ordering a Czech diplomat to leave Baghdad. Kavan said that reports in the media that Samir was working against the interests of Iraqi opposition groups "did not necessarily arise from my documents," though Kavan refused to comment further on the activities that resulted in Samir's expulsion. PB

EC SUSPENDS FUNDS TO SLOVAKIA OVER ALLEGATIONS OF MONEY MISUSE

The European Commission said on 26 April that it has suspended the preparation of new projects as well as tenders financed from EU development funds in Slovakia. The EU body's decision was made in reaction to the recent scandal involving the alleged misuse of EU money, for which Deputy Premier Pavol Hamzik dismissed Roland Toth, a governmental official responsible for handling foreign aid, CTK reported. Hamzik commented later the same day that the EU measure will not affect already approved programs, adding that Brussels will only stop signing new contracts when the money misuse allegations are clarified. Slovak newspapers have alleged that Toth obtained 60 percent of the 3 billion crowns ($62 million) provided through several development funds by the EU. JM

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS' WEEKLY ATTACKS FIDESZ

The Independent Smallholders' Party's (FKGP) weekly newspaper "Kis Ujsag" on 26 April published an article that said the major coalition party FIDESZ "has decided to annihilate the FKGP, just as it did the Christian Democratic People's Party prior to the 1998 elections." The article also suggested that delegates to the party's convention on 5 May, called by FKGP Chairman Jozsef Torgyan, are preparing for "a historic event," and criticized the "backstage machinations" of the "reform Smallholders." The article carries no name, but FKGP circles believe it was written by Torgyan. In other news, Education Minister Zoltan Pokorni accepted the nomination to replace Laszlo Kover as FIDESZ party chairman. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PUBLIC FIGURES OUTRAGED AT COMMERCIAL TV REPORT

Several Hungarian public personalities called on public opinion-makers to dissociate themselves from the RTL Klub commercial television station after the network aired a program on 23 April in which reporter Tamas Frei asked a Russian paid hitman the price he would ask to assassinate Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The hitman said for $1 million he would be prepared to murder Orban. RTL Klub Communications Director Imre Szabo Stein on 27 April apologized to the prime minister on screen. "Nepszabadsag" reported that two or three top executives at RTL Klub will be forced to leave their posts as a result of the broadcast. MSZ




MONTENEGRIN, SERBIAN LEADERS MEET

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic met in Belgrade on 26 April, Reuters reported. It is not clear how long the meeting lasted or what they discussed (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 April 2001). Elsewhere, Djindjic said that he is willing to discuss all issues with the Montenegrin leaders except the question of internationally recognized statehood, "Vesti" reported. He stressed that there can be only one state with a seat in the UN. Djukanovic wants Serbia and Montenegro to be separate, internationally recognized states, each with its own seat in the UN. For his part, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica called for talks between Belgrade and Podgorica. Djukanovic has ruled out negotiations with Kostunica because Montenegro does not recognize the federal government. Podgorica argues that the federal government is based on legislation illegally introduced by former President Slobodan Milosevic. "NIN" reported on 27 April that the Belgrade authorities are awaiting new political developments within Montenegro. "Die Presse" reported that some leading government and opposition politicians in Montenegro are considering holding new elections. PM

BELGRADE PRESSURES UN ADMINISTRATION IN KOSOVA

The Yugoslav authorities said in a statement to the state-run Tanjug news agency on 26 April that they want an "urgent meeting" between Prime Minister Zoran Zizic and Hans Haekkerup, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova. The official reason is to discuss the UN's recent establishment of tax-collection points on the Kosova-Serbian border for collecting revenues on alcohol, cigarettes, fuel, and luxury goods (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 2001). Serbia set up customs points on its side of the border in February. But Belgrade also wants the meeting "to fully examine the situation in Kosovo...and [make] joint efforts to stabilize the situation and prevent a spillover of the crisis and terrorism from Kosovo to other areas and states in the region." The Kostunica administration is seeking to return Serbian control to Kosova with the support of the international community (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 2001). PM

UN'S HAEKKERUP: MINORITIES WILL BE WELL REPRESENTED IN KOSOVAR LEGISLATURE

Meeting in Brussels with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson on 26 April, Haekkerup said that ethnic minorities will be well represented in the parliament to be elected in Kosova later this year (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 March and 20 April 2001). Haekkerup argued that "there's overrepresentation of minorities. Actually, [according to] what the draft [for the future legislative assembly of Kosova] looks like now, out of 120 members, 100 will be elected on a proportional system, but the last 20 will be distributed as 10 to Kosovo Serbs and 10 to other minorities. Also, the IDPs [internally displaced persons] who fled Kosovo in the last two years and now live in Serbia will have the possibility of voting in the elections," RFE/RL reported. PM

NATO'S ROBERTSON WARNS KOSOVARS AGAINST INDEPENDENCE

Lord Robertson said in Brussels on 26 April that "the Kosovar Albanians do not disguise their own ambition to create an independent Kosovo, but they are reminded all the time that we operate within [UN Security Council] resolution 1244 and we will not deviate from that in any direction." Britain's Foreign Secretary Robin Cook made a similar statement recently (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2001). Robertson added that "the NATO Council has stressed that the ethnic Albanian community [in Kosova] must isolate those who have chosen violence as the instrument to pursue their ambitions. Those who have opted for violence should, however, be under no illusion: NATO and the whole international community will not tolerate violence," RFE/RL reported. PM

KOSOVAR LEADER: WHY DO DEMOCRACIES DENY MAJORITY RULE IN KOSOVA?

Alush Gashi, who is an adviser to moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova, said in Washington on 26 April that "we will do our best to be a good neighbor, but there is no way we can be forced to accept Belgrade's rule any more." Gashi stressed that independence is the only alternative: "Even if [Haekkerup says] no, we don't take no for no. We have to push through a democratic process to change all existing no's on a referendum... We have to have, first of all, a timetable for [Kosova's] final status... We will offer arguments on a daily basis until we achieve our democratic goal," Reuters reported. Gashi added: "We are a little bit surprised that democratic countries are reluctant to accept the will of the people, so we will continue to work on this issue." PM

SERBIAN COURT KEEPS MILOSEVIC IN PRISON

A Belgrade district court ruled on 26 April that Milosevic must stay in jail for at least another 60 days while charges against him are being investigated, Reuters reported. PM

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: DOMESTIC TRIALS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR THE HAGUE

Human Rights Watch said in a statement in New York on 26 April that the announcement by the Yugoslav army that it has charged 183 of its men for war-related offensives is a positive development but no substitute for sending Milosevic and other war criminals to The Hague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2001). Holly Cartner of Human Rights Watch stressed that "while we would welcome fair and independent trials of these lower-ranking soldiers in Belgrade, the international community should not accept this as an alternative to the swift transfer of Slobodan Milosevic and other indictees to the custody [of the tribunal]." PM

POWELL TO MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT: GREATER ALBANIA IS YOURS TO PREVENT

In Washington on 26 April, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told visiting Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski that integrating Macedonia's ethnic Albanians into that country's social and political life is vital if Albanian nationalism in the Balkans as a whole is to be defused. Powell told reporters: "There are people in the region who have never given up the idea of a Greater Albania, and that is a very destabilizing concept. So my message to President Trajkovski was that he has to work very hard with the political elements within his governing coalition and with political forces within Macedonia to reach out to their ethnic-Albanian population and make sure those Albanians understand they are part of Macedonia," RFE/RL reported. PM

BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY CALLS FOR DIALOGUE

The joint presidency called for a "dialogue" of representatives of government, political parties, NGOs, religious communities, and the international community, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 26 April. The presidency said that members of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) are welcome provided they have not taken part in recent "antistate activity," which presumably means the attempt to revive the Herzegovinian para-state. Elsewhere in Sarajevo, representatives of international organizations criticized what they called a campaign of pressure by hard-liners in the HDZ against moderate Croats, who do not support the para-state. PM

CROATIA BACKS MODERATES IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

In Zagreb on 26 April, Croatian President Stipe Mesic said that the key to ending ethnic tensions in Bosnia-Herzegovina is to enforce the Bosnian Constitutional Court's decision guaranteeing Croats, Muslims, and Serbs full legal equality throughout the republic, "Novi List" reported. Elsewhere in Zagreb, Prime Minister Ivica Racan and Foreign Minister Tonino Picula met with Herzegovinian leaders. Picula said that Croatia favors moderate solutions to Bosnia's problems and the full equality of all three peoples, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. PM

BOSNIAN FEDERATION SEEKS TO CALM SARAJEVO SERBS

Officials of the mainly Muslim and Croat federation are seeking to calm fears of Serbs in those parts of Dobrinja slated to pass from the jurisdiction of the Republika Srpska to that of the federation, Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 26 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2001). The Serbs have been promised that there will be no arrests of individual Serbs for their role in the 1992-1995 war. Furthermore, no Serbs will be evicted for one month from flats legally belonging to Muslims or Croats. Police from all three ethnic groups will patrol jointly in unmarked cars. Elsewhere, High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch appealed to Bosnian Serb leaders not to increase tensions by starting a lawsuit over the status of Dobrinja. PM

VERHEUGEN ON ROMANIA'S EU ACCESSION CHANCES...

Speaking before the Romanian Parliament, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said on 26 April that the EU wants to see evidence of short-term economic reforms, Romanian media reported. Although Romania fulfils the political criteria for enlargement, it still needs to take economic measures including reducing inflation, strengthening financial discipline, and privatizing state-owned companies with large debts. Verheugen said "there are no doubts Romania lags behind in the integration process," but added that Romania is "not excluded" from the process. Premier Adrian Nastase asked the commissioner to analyze Bucharest's request for financial aid intended to help secure Romania's borders, which would thus facilitate the lifting of visa requirements for Romanian citizens visiting EU member countries. ZsM

...AND ON THE ROMANY MINORITY

Verheugen also said in a press conference in Bucharest on 26 April that "the Roma minority could be called an international minority" and that discrimination of Roma is not related to Romania's political system, Mediafax reported. Verheugen added that discrimination against the minority group is due to "mentalities and traditions." He said the EU cannot expect candidate countries to solve this problem by the time they are supposed to become full members. Verheugen expressed hope that the Romanian government will soon apply a strategy for solving the discrimination problem that was adopted by the previous government. ZsM

CHISINAU, TIRASPOL PARLIAMENT LEADERS ON BILATERAL RELATIONS

Moldovan Parliament Chairwoman Eugenia Ostapiuc and Tiraspol Supreme Soviet Chairman Grigorii Marakutsa discussed in Chisinau on 26 April the prospects for solving the conflict over the breakaway region, Flux reported. Ostapiuc said the Moldovan Communists' victory in the February elections will speed up negotiations, while Marakutsa said the first steps toward cooperation should be made in the economic field. Marakutsa added that the parties have agreed to set up joint parliamentary commissions that will work on finding a solution to the conflict. ZsM

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SAYS COUNTRY MUST IMPROVE CONDITIONS FOR ROMA

Petar Stoyanov said on 27 April in Sofia that in order for Bulgaria to meet EU standards the country must do more to integrate its Romany citizens into society, BTA reported. Stoyanov, speaking at the international conference on the desegregation of Roma in Bulgarian schools, said that while there is no official discrimination in Bulgaria, there is too much "hidden discrimination." He added that the Romany community has had the hardest time of all Bulgarian citizens in adapting to changes in the transition from the Communist era. Stoyanov also praised the integration of Romany students that is going on in the northwestern town of Vidin, saying it has been a success. PB

BULGARIAN POLICE BREAK UP COUNTERFEITING RING

Bulgarian police said they have arrested a gang of forgers producing fake U.S. dollars, Greek drachma, and German marks, AFP reported on 26 April. Police said they impounded a printing press in Plovdiv that had been used to print the money and arrested 14 Bulgarians in the operation. Police said more arrests in other countries tied to this criminal ring could be made as well. The forgers also made fake passports that would have given the bearer phony French, Spanish, Israeli, Greek, Croat, Czech, or Macedonian citizenship. PB




NO CONFIDENCE IN UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER


By Askold Krushelnycky

An alliance of communists and political parties loyal to Ukrainian oligarchs on 26 April carried the majority in the parliament in a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko.

In two votes, 263 deputies out of the 450-strong parliament determined they did not have confidence in Yushchenko. The prime minister then quit his post.

The anti-Yushchenko alliance had accused the government of failing to improve the economy and leading the country to ruin.

Yushchenko promised his supporters he would fight on for the issues he believes are important to ensure democracy and economic prosperity.

He thanked his supporters in parliament and around 15,000 supporters outside parliament -- the largest demonstration Ukraine has seen since pro-independence rallies held in the late 1980s.

Yushchenko told them he would not abandon politics: "I am not going away from politics. I am going to return. I thank you again for your attention and support."

The communists had been unhappy throughout Yushchenko's 16-month tenure in office with his market reform and privatization policies and his pro-Western stance.

The "oligarch" parties turned against Yushchenko for taking action against corruption and reducing moneymaking opportunities for many of them.

The vote against Yushchenko came despite an upturn in Ukraine's economy and popular moves by his government, such as paying millions of dollars in back pay and pensions owed to those depending on state funds.

Earlier this week, Yushchenko said the desire of some oligarchs to continue lining their pockets and to secure their positions in parliamentary elections scheduled for next year is the real issue rather than the government's economic record.

"The reasons for this (dismissal) are the economic considerations and interests of groups of different (criminal) big shots in Ukrainian politics," Yushchenko said. "Those interests have become particularly aggressive recently because of approaching parliamentary elections."

After the vote, Yushchenko thanked the crowd of supporters who had rallied outside the parliament building.

He said the government had been captured by "a group which stands against the national interests" and said he would stand with the people in combating the forces which had thrown him out of office.

Ivan Lozowy, the director of the Institute for Statehood and Democracy, an independent Ukrainian think tank, said Yushchenko's removal may be the beginning of more turmoil in Ukraine. He said people realize the popular will is being ignored by parliament and that could lead to a feeling that direct action at street level is the only way to press for changes.

"We will understand the significance of this event in a little while. The removal of Yushchenko, as it happened, opens the doors to a renewed political revolution," he said.

Many observers believe Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma was instrumental in Yushchenko's removal. Kuchma has allies among the oligarch parties and it is believed he could have tipped the balance in Yushchenko's favor if he had really wanted to do so.

Earlier in the week, Kuchma expressed support for Yushchenko and in the evening of 25 April he held a meeting between him and political party leaders ostensibly to broker a compromise.

However, according to sources close to Yushchenko (who were unwilling to be named), Yushchenko refused to make compromises with his opponents and to give them a share in government by offering them portfolios in his administration.

Kuchma is himself the target of mass demonstrations because of accusations that he was involved in the disappearance of an opposition journalist and is blamed for the widespread corruption gripping Ukraine. He is known to be unhappy about Yushchenko's popularity in opinion polls, his enthusiasm for market reform, and the former premier's Western leanings.


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