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Newsline - May 2, 2001




RUSSIANS CELEBRATE MAY DAY...

The Russian Interior Ministry announced that more than 750,000 Russians (organizers said more than 1 million) took part in public marches and meetings on the occasion of May Day in some 1,046 cities and towns across the country, Interfax reported. Workers marched for higher pay and better pensions, communists demanded the resignation of the current government, and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev marched in a parade in Moscow for the first time in a decade. His group, the Russian Unified Social Democratic Party, said that its participation in a May Day rally was a first for social democrats since 1917, Russian agencies reported. PG

...IN A VARIETY OF WAYS

In Kamchatka, mountain climbers and skiers ascended to the top of the Koryakskii Volcano to mark the holidays, while in Ryazan a crowd of about 2,000 people gathered in the city's center to listen to a speech by Communist Party Obkom First Secretary Vladimir Fedotkin on the country's social and economic problems, according to ITAR-TASS and Interfax. In Kazan, some 4,000 people took part in May Day celebrations and to demand the payment of back wages and improved working conditions, according to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau. Many Russians throughout the country used the day off to spend time with families and friends, but one place where the holiday was not marked was the Chechen capital of Grozny, Interfax reported. There, the streets were empty of both people and cars. JAC/PG

PUTIN, BUSH AGREE TO DISCUSSIONS ON NMD, DISARMAMENT

U.S. President George W. Bush telephoned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on 1 May to assure him that Washington will not make any unilateral decisions on missile defenses, Reuters reported from Moscow. In a 12-minute conversation, the two leaders recommitted themselves to more discussions about disarmament and other nuclear issues. A day earlier, Putin had sent Bush a message responding to Washington's proposals about a settlement of the Karabakh dispute, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin said that progress on that issue is "a good example of how our countries can successfully cooperate in solving complex regional problems." PG

NEMTSOV SEES SINGLE SPS-YABLOKO PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

In an interview on TV-6's "Itogi" program on 29 April, Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov said that he believes that his group and Yabloko will agree on a common presidential candidate in the next elections. Former Soviet President Gorbachev similarly said on 1 May that he does not exclude the possibility that his Russian Unified Social Democratic Party might combine with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Fatherland party, Interfax reported. PG

NEO-NAZI DANGER IN RUSSIA GROWING

According to an article in "Vek," No. 17, "radical right-wing youth groups have become an integral part of Russia's political landscape," and this neo-nazi danger is growing. The article suggests that social dislocations following the collapse of the Soviet Union are the primary cause and that the problem, which the journal suggests should not be exaggerated, should be tackled by addressing those dislocations rather than increasing the use of police power. PG

MOSCOW SYNAGOGUE TO BE REOPENED

Russia's Chief Rabbi Adolf Shaevich said on "Ekho Moskvy" on 30 April that there will be a ceremonial reopening of the Arkhipov Street synagogue on 15 May. He noted that the synagogue will be guarded after it reopens. PG

U.S. SAID READY TO HELP RUSSIA WITH 2003 DEBT PROBLEM

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said in Washington on 30 April that the U.S. has expressed willingness to help reschedule Russia's foreign debt in 2003 to help Moscow avoid problems with massive repayments scheduled for that year, RIA-Novosti reported. Kudrin made these comments after having met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill the day before. Kudrin also met Vice President Dick Cheney to discuss preparations for a U.S.-Russian summit. PG

PUTIN EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT IRAQI DEADLOCK

In a letter to Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah that was released to the press on 30 April, President Putin said that he is concerned that the current "deadlock in the Iraqi settlement is assuming a dangerous nature and has an ever more negative impact on the situation in the region," ITAR-TASS reported. "If we do not step up efforts to look for mutually acceptable solutions now," Putin said, "we may once against face serious destabilization." Meanwhile, Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky called for the lifting of sanctions against Iraq, the Russian news agency reported the same day. Zhirinovsky is in Baghdad to take part in a Russian-Iraqi business roundtable. PG

PUTIN CONGRATULATES NEW JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER

On 30 April, President Putin sent a message of congratulations to Junichiro Koizumi on his election as Japanese prime minister, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin said that he looks forward to ever better bilateral ties, including negotiations on a peace treaty ending World War II. Meanwhile, Moscow police said that two hooligans attacked the second secretary of the Japanese Embassy in Moscow on 29 April, Interfax reported on 1 May. PG

U.S. SAID BEHIND INSTABILITY IN UKRAINE

Mikhail Delyagin, the head of the Russian Institute on Globalization, has concluded that the United States benefits from instability in various parts of the world and appears to be behind the current problems in Ukraine, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 28 April. Delyagin said that as a result, Ukraine could soon fall victim to what he called "the Yugoslav scenario." He said that Moscow must do everything in its power to prevent this from happening. PG

LATVIAN MISSION IN MOSCOW ATTACKED

A Moscow resident threw paint on the walls of the Latvian Embassy in Moscow on 1 May, apparently to protest the conviction in a Latvian court of several Russian National Bolsheviks (see Part II below), Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Dmitrii Rogozin, the chairman of the Duma International Relations Committee (People's Deputy), told Interfax on 30 April that the sentences handed down by the Latvian court were unacceptably harsh: "With us in Russia," he said, even for murder the sentences are less. [How can anyone get] 15 years for hooliganism?" PG

MOSCOW CONDEMNS ATTACK IN MACEDONIA

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 29 April that Moscow "decisively condemns" the Albanian attack on Macedonian security troops the day before that left eight of them dead, Russian and Western agencies reported. "Without any doubt," he said in reading a ministry statement, "this is yet another wake-up call for the international community." PG

BLACK SEA ECONOMIC COUNCIL PUTS OFF EXPANSION

Citing "informed sources in Moscow," Interfax reported on 30 April that the 11-member Organization for Black Sea Economic Cooperation will not consider the applications by Yugoslavia, Iran, Macedonia, and Uzbekistan for membership for at least six months. PG

CHECHEN JOURNALIST SAYS HE SPIED FOR FRANCE

A 30-year-old Chechen journalist who worked both in Chechnya and Moscow but who lived for four years in France, has confessed to working for the French intelligence services, NTV reported on 30 April. The television network said that the Chechen, who was not named, will not be punished because he confessed voluntarily. Meanwhile, the Federal Security Service (FSB) announced on 29 April that it has lodged the additional charge of fraud against Valentin Danilov, a Krasnoyarsk researcher who is already accused of spying for China, Interfax reported. PG

IMPROVED TAX COLLECTIONS REFLECT BETTER TAX ADMINISTRATION, NOT SINGLE RATE

The Russian-European Economic Policy Center has concluded that Russia's success in collecting taxes this year is traceable to better tax administration rather than the change to a single tax rate, "Finansovaya Rossiya," No. 15, reported. The reason is that enterprises rather than individuals file most of the returns and make most of the payments: Only 4 million out of Russia's 70 million workers actually have to file a return directly, the center said. PG

SPACE TOURISM MUST BE STATE POLICY

Yurii Semenov, the chief engineer of the Energiya space-rocket firm, said on 30 April that space tourism must become a continuing state policy, Interfax reported. PG

DISPLACED RAIL WORKERS WON'T BE UNEMPLOYED

Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko said on ORT on 29 April that employment will be found for the roughly 500,000 railway workers scheduled to lose their jobs as a result of the reorganization of the country's rail system. He noted that Russia's railroads already reduced their number of workers by 540,000 between 1997 and 2000. PG

RUSSIANS AVOID READING ABOUT POLITICS

Sixty-five percent of Russians say they never read political articles in newspapers, according to a poll reported in "Versty" on 28 April, and 44 percent say they try not to discuss political questions during conversations. The poll, conducted by the National Public Opinion Research Center, found that no more than 7-8 percent read serious publications, and more than half do without periodicals completely. PG

U.S. SEEN AS SOVIET UNION OF TODAY

Writing in "Vek," No. 17, commentator Aleksei Bogaturov argued that "the United States bears such a touching resemblance to our own superpower past. The Americans have become so convinced of the superiority of everything American that they talk about it with disarmingly naive openness. For example, there is a judge in a Southern state who finds it unacceptable that foreigners can raise the price of oil." This American "arrogance" more than anything else, Bogaturov said, is behind Russia's recent shift in tone and direction. PG

MARXIST LIBRARY REVIVED, KOMSOMOL NOT

Moscow communists have set up a library of party literature to refamiliarize people with the ideas of Marx and Lenin, "Izvestiya" reported on 29 April. But surviving members of the Soviet-era Komsomol confessed to the paper that they have not been able to revive that Soviet youth organization, despite what they said is the obvious need for such a group. One of them said that today "we are standing on the ruins of a generation out of which they are making drug addicts." PG

BETTER RADIATION MONITORING URGED

Aleksei Yablokov, who served as former President Boris Yeltsin's ecology adviser, told Interfax on 29 April that Russia now has the equipment to improve its monitoring of radiation in the country and that it must take steps to ensure that Russian citizens are not accidentally exposed to this health risk. PG

MOSCOW CONSIDERING RUSSIAN SPELLING REFORM

According to a report in "Argumenty i fakty," No. 17, Russian officials are considering the introduction of new spelling rules that would lead to the replacement of the letter "yu" with the letter "u" in words like "broshyura" (brochure) and "parashyut" (parachute). PG

180 INMATES STUDY RUSSIAN AT SPECIAL CAMP FOR FOREIGNERS

The Russian penal authorities currently maintain a single prison camp for foreigners convicted of violating Russian laws, Interfax reported on 29 April. Located in Mordovia, the camp currently has 180 inmates. According to prison officials, "all of those confined there study Russian, work, and in general live a life similar to all other prisoners" in Russia. Meanwhile, "Argumenty i fakty," No. 17, reported that there are currently 1,004 Russian prisoners serving life sentences and that the authorities spend approximately 67 cents a day to feed, clothe, and house each of them. PG

HIV INFECTIONS SURGE IN ST. PETERSBURG

Interfax-North-West reported on 1 May that there were 4,712 new cases in the first four months of 2001, compared with 5,417 registered there during all of 2000 and 440 during 1999. PG

DUMA DEFEATS BUNDESTAG 1-0

On a pass from Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, Duma Budget Committee member Aleksandr Vereteno scored the only goal in a soccer match last week between the Russian State Duma team and a team consisting of members of the German Bundestag, "Izvestiya" reported on 28 April. PG

RUSSIAN SCIENTIST PATENTS CURE FOR FEAR

According to an article in "Izvestiya" on 28 April, a Russian scientist has taken out a patent for a special device that cures people of fears by subjecting them to electric shocks when they show fear and promising them that they will not be shocked if they do not show fear. PG

FLAGS ON THE FLOOR

A Yekaterinburg carpet factory is now producing rugs with the pattern of the Russian flag, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 29 April. Company spokesmen said that the special flag carpets were being released in time for the May Day holidays. PG

BURYING A COMPUTER TOO OLD TO GO ONLINE

Moscow computer students last week staged a symbolic funeral for a 286 model PC too old to go online, "Izvestiya" reported on 29 April. PG

KARELIAN OFFICIALS CONCERNED ABOUT ALLEGED MUSLIM EXTREMISTS

Government authorities in Karelia, such as the republic's interior minister, Igor Yunash, are concerned about the growing public profile of the region's Muslim community, Keston News Service reported on 1 May. According to a letter written by Yunash to Karelia's President Sergei Katanandov on 28 April, Yunash complains that the some local youths are willing to take up arms to defend Islamic precepts instilled by Arab immigrants. He added that the Muslims in the republic's capital, Petrozavodsk, have proposed "the construction of a mosque practically in the center of the capital." According to Yunash, the city's Muslims are led by a Libyan emigre, Visam Ali Bardvil. Visam, who considers himself a Palestinian Arab, told the agency that there are some 6,000 Muslims in Petrozavodsk, but the planned mosque would only hold about 400 people. However, in light of the opposition to the mosque, he said his community would no longer seek to build the mosque in the Oktyabr district, for which it had filed a formal application with city authorities. JAC

RUSSIA CLAIMS TO HAVE ROUTED CHECHEN FORCE

A Russian military spokesman said late on 1 May that federal forces killed seven of Chechen field commander Arbi Baraev's men and captured 20 more in fighting near the village of Yermolovka on 29-30 April, Russian agencies reported. Baraev himself was said to have avoided capture. The Chechen military command denied that any such engagement had taken place. LF




WORLD BANK AGREES NOT TO WITHHOLD LOAN FOR ARMENIA

In a statement released on 30 April, the World Bank confirmed that it will disburse at least the first two tranches of a new $50 million Structural Adjustment Credit intended to cover half of Armenia's anticipated budget deficit for this year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The loan was originally pegged to the successful completion of the privatization of four state-owned energy distribution networks, the sale of which collapsed last month after all four international bidders withdrew (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2001). The third and final loan tranche will be contingent on the privatization of the four networks, which the Armenian government hopes to complete by the end of this year. LF

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT PROPOSES BUDGET AMENDMENTS

The Armenian government submitted to the parliament on 30 April a bill that would provide for the use of $16.2 million from the proceeds of the privatization of state assets towards servicing Armenia's $114 million debt to Russia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Moscow has rejected Armenian proposals either to reschedule that debt or to accept in partial payment a 50 percent stake in Armenia's largest thermal power station. LF

AZERBAIJAN CREATES ECONOMIC SUPER-MINISTRY

President Heidar Aliyev issued a series of decrees on 30 April abolishing the economic, trade, and state property ministries, the Anti-Monopoly Commission, and the Agency for Foreign Investment, Turan reported. In their place, Aliyev established a new Ministry for Economic Development and appointed to head it the former Minister for State Property, Farhad Aliev. LF

AZERBAIJAN, TURKEY SIGN ANOTHER MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT

Azerbaijan's Deputy Defense Minister Gorkhmaz Garaev and the head of the Turkish armed forces logistical service, Kurshud Tolon, signed a protocol on cooperation in Baku on 28 April, Turan reported. Tolon also met on 28 April with Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev and on 30 April with President Aliev, with whom he shared his impressions of Azerbaijan's armed forces and Azerbaijani military facilities he had visited. Aliyev for his part expressed gratitude for the ongoing contribution by Turkey to strengthening Azerbaijan's armed forces. President Aliyev also met on 30 April with visiting Turkish gendarmerie (Interior Ministry troops) commander Aitaj Yalman. LF

AZERBAIJAN, DAGHESTAN TO CONTINUE TALKS ON WATER-SHARING

Daghestan cabinet Chairman Hizri Shikhsaidov told ministers in Makhachkala on 28 April that talks will continue on the division between Daghestan and Azerbaijan of the waters of the Samur River, which flows across the Russian-Azerbaijani border, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 30 April. At present, Azerbaijan accounts for 90 percent of the usage of water from the Samur and Daghestan only 10 percent. Shikhsaidov said Daghestan will demand a 50 percent share of the waters as the population of southern Daghestan is already experiencing a shortage both of drinking water and of water for agricultural needs. LF

AZERBAIJANI SECURITY OFFICIAL ACCUSES IRAN

Speaking at a seminar in Baku on 1 May, Deputy National Security Minister Tofig Babaev accused Iran and unspecified Arab states of sponsoring radical Islamist sects in Azerbaijan with the aim of stirring up social unrest and overthrowing the Azerbaijani leadership, Turan reported. He claimed that to date some 7,000 people in Azerbaijan have converted to Wahhabism. LF

GEORGIA CLAIMS OWNERSHIP OF IMPOUNDED ARMS SHIPMENT

Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili said in Tbilisi on 1 May that the planeload of arms intercepted and impounded in Burgas on 26 April is Georgian property (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2001). He said Tbilisi had purchased spare parts for artillery systems from the Czech Republic. Bezhuashvili was at a loss to explain why the Ukrainian plane transporting the materiel had landed in Burgas to refuel, and why the crew said the cargo was destined for Eritrea. He also denied reports that the cargo consisted of Kalashnikovs and submachine guns. The Czech Foreign Ministry confirmed on 1 May that it had authorized the arms shipment to Georgia, but Thomas CZ commercial manager Jan Decky told CTK that his company had only sold Georgia howitzers, not the submachine guns and ammunition reported by Bulgarian media. LF/DW

COURT HEARING ON GEORGIAN COUP PLOT BEGINS

The trial of former senior Defense Ministry official General Gujar Kurashvili and nine other people accused of plotting to assassinate Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and seize power opened at the Georgian Supreme Court on 30 April, Caucasus Press reported. The alleged plotters were arrested in May 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR MILITARY

President Shevardnadze on 30 April charged the Finance Ministry with drafting and submitting to the National Security Council a special program to finance reforms that would bring the Georgian armed forces in line with NATO standards, Caucasus Press reported. Senior officers have repeatedly complained that the army is badly underfunded (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 47, 8 December 2000). On 27 April, Deputy Defense Minister Nugzar Kevkhishvili was trapped for 15 minutes in an elevator when power supplies to the Defense Ministry building in Tbilisi were cut off because of nonpayment of bills. LF

PRESIDENT DENIES KAZAKHSTAN'S GOVERNMENT WILL BE AXED

Speaking in Istanbul on 26 April at the summit of Turcophone states, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev dismissed rumors that he plans to fire the government of Qasymzhomart Toqaev, Interfax reported on 29 April. Nazarbaev said that government "will work for a long time, and not just this year." Nazarbaev had criticized several ministers on 13 April for either spending too much time in the former capital or for taking too many expensive trips abroad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2001). LF

KYRGYZ POLICE THWART MAY DAY MARCH IN BISHKEK...

Police prevented the estimated 1,000 participants in a 1 May march in Bishkek from entering the city's central park to lay flowers at a statue of Lenin, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The march was organized by the opposition parties that aligned last month in the People's Patriotic Movement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2001). LF

...ARREST DEMONSTRATORS IN SOUTH

Police detained six of some 30 participants in a May Day demonstration in Djalalabad, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The demonstrators protested declining living conditions and called for the resignation of President Askar Akaev. Edil Korgoldoev, the local coordinator of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights, was among those detained. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT ENUMERATES PRIORITIES

Delivering his annual State of the Nation address to both chambers of Tajikistan's parliament, Imomali Rakhmonov on 30 April expressed concern at the legislature's failure to complete the draft of the criminal procedure law, ITAR-TASS reported. He said repayment of the country's $850 million foreign debt is "under control," noting that improved tax collection would facilitate both repayment of that debt and financing the social sector. He said that the government is pursuing a tight monetary policy aimed at reducing inflation from last year's 60 percent to no more than 16 percent in 2001. Rakhmonov said that Dushanbe will continue to maintain "stable, strategic, and friendly" relations with Russia. LF

OSCE OFFICIAL VISITS TAJIKISTAN

On a three-day visit to Dushanbe on 29 April to 11 May, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Chairman Adrian Severin met with President Rakhmonov, Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov, and parliament leaders. Severin noted progress toward democratization and political pluralism since the signing in 1997 of the peace agreement ending the civil war, according to Asia Plus-Blitz on 2 May, adding that he hopes security concerns will not preclude further progress in that sphere. He stressed that the economic and security issues facing Tajikistan can be successfully solved only through enhanced regional cooperation between the states of Central Asia. LF

TURKMEN OFFICIAL FINED FOR SMOKING

Kakamurad Ballyev, President Saparmurat Niyazov's press secretary, has been fined one month's salary for smoking in public, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 May. Niyazov banned smoking in all public places last year. LF




BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES BAN MAY DAY MARCH IN MINSK, ARREST DEMONSTRATORS IN HRODNA

Some 1,000 people attended a May Day rally organized by the Belarusian Federation of Trade Unions in a Minsk park, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The authorities did not allow the federation to hold a march in downtown Minsk to celebrate the workers' holiday. There were no officially organized May Day celebrations in the Belarusian capital. The authorities organized May Day meetings in regional centers: Hrodna, Homel, Brest, and Mahileu. Police arrested some 20 opposition activists during a rally in Hrodna. In Homel, several workers displayed placards with antigovernment slogans during an official May Day rally and scuffled with police officers, who tried to wrench those placards from the workers. JM

THOUSANDS CELEBRATE MAY DAY IN UKRAINE

More than 10,000 people participated in a Soviet-style May Day rally in Simferopol, Crimea, Interfax reported. Participants held placards reading: "Let Lenin's Name and Achievements Live for Centuries!"; "Sunny Crimea -- Yes, Yes, Yes! NATO and Its Followers -- No, No, No!"; and "Privatization Is the Robbery of the People!" Some 5,000 people celebrated May Day with a march in Kharkiv, which was headed by Communist Party supporters following a scuffle with other participants. There were several separate May Day rallies in Kyiv: the Social Democratic Party (United) gathered 1,500 people; the newly created Communist Party of Workers and Peasants (KPRiS) 1,000; the Communist Party 500; and the Progressive Socialist Party 500. KPRiS leader Oleksandr Yakovenko said his party aims at organizing a "socialist revolution" in Ukraine. Some 3,000 demonstrators in Dnipropetrovsk demanded that Kyiv break ties with the IMF and give Russian official language status. JM

COMMUNISTS WANT TO RUN UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT

Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko told a rally in Kyiv on 1 May that his party is ready to assume responsibility for the future of the country, Interfax reported. Symonenko noted that it was Communists who initiated the ouster of the "pro-American" government of Viktor Yushchenko. Symonenko said Yushchenko's cabinet increased Ukraine's economic and financial dependence on the West, canceled privileges to the poor, and increased housing and utility payments. According to Symonenko, "the nationalists jointly with oligarchic capitalists" -- assisted by the West -- are seeking to divide Ukraine into three parts. Symonenko added that the U.S. is currently working to make Yushchenko the leader of the Ukrainian opposition and tear Ukraine away from "fraternal Slavic peoples." Symonenko said his party might propose no less than four candidates to head a new cabinet. JM

UKRAINE'S MOROZ DEEMS ANTI-KUCHMA REFERENDUM A GOOD IDEA

Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz on 1 May said the recently proposed referendum on the impeachment of President Leonid Kuchma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2001) is a "promising" idea, Interfax reported. "This [referendum] campaign will help [us] impart the truth to people," Moroz noted. According to Moroz, Ukrainians should be consulted in the referendum not only on Kuchma's dismissal, but also on issues that "reflect our position on the need to change the power system." He added that referendum questions should also address issues connected with ensuring, in practice, the constitutional guarantees of free education and health care, as well as establishing "sensible" housing and utility payments. JM

CONTRACT TO PRIVATIZE ESTONIAN RAILWAYS SIGNED

The Estonian Privatization Agency and Baltic Rail Services (BRS) signed an agreement on 30 April on the sale of 66 percent of the shares in Eesti Raudtee (Estonian Railways) to BRS for 1 billion kroons ($56.8 million), ETA reported. The shareholders in BRS are Jarvis International of Great Britain (25.5 percent); the U.S. rail operator Rail World Inc. (25.5 percent); Railroad Development Corporation of the United States (5 percent); and Ganinger Invest, which is owned by Estonian businessmen (44 percent). BRS is to immediately deposit 100 million kroons as a guarantee and pay the remaining sum within two or three months. Ownership rights will pass to BRS only after the full sum is paid. BRS will also invest another 700 million kroons to purchase used engines from North America to replace the existing ones. SG

LATVIAN COURT SENTENCES RUSSIAN NATIONAL BOLSHEVIKS FOR TERRORISM

The Riga Regional Court found the three members of the National Bolshevik Party, who on 17 November 2000 seized the steeple of Riga's St. Peter's Church (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2000), guilty of terrorism and illegal border crossing, LETA reported. Russian citizens Maxim Zhurkin and Sergei Solovei were sentenced to 15 years in prison and Dmitrii Gafarov -- to five years. The lesser sentence for Gafarov was due to his confession during the pretrial investigation and because he was underage. A representative of Latvia's National Bolsheviks, Vladimir Moskovtsev, who was charged with helping the Russians cross the border illegally, received a suspended one-year jail sentence. SG

LITHUANIA HOSTS AGRICULTURE CONFERENCE FOR EU CANDIDATES

A two-day conference entitled "The European Union Enlargement: Benefits and Challenges in Agriculture Sector for Candidate Countries," has ended in Vilnius, BNS reported on 30 April. Its main aim was to assist EU candidate countries to deepen cooperation in agriculture, share experiences, and discuss ways to improve the competitiveness of agricultural produce in the EU. In addition quotas, problems of investment in the agriculture sector, and the implementation of the Special Accession Program for Agriculture and Rural Development (SAPARD) program were discussed. EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, and Fisheries Franz Fischler declared that globalization, membership in the World Trade Organization, and increasing trade liberalization made painful reforms in the agricultural sector unavoidable even if the states did not join the EU. Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas declared that Lithuania needs large, specialized and competitive farms for which EU experience and know-how would be helpful. Agriculture ministers or other representatives from Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey also attended the conference. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT SIGNS ELECTION BILL, SETS ELECTIONS FOR 23 SEPTEMBER...

Aleksander Kwasniewski on 30 April signed into law an election bill that had previously provoked many controversies between its sponsors (the Solidarity Electoral Action along with smaller parliamentary groups) and the opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). The bill changed the method of awarding seats in the parliament to give larger representation to parties with fewer votes. Kwasniewski said he is not happy with the vote-counting method, but had to sign the bill in order to adapt the electoral law to a new administrative division introduced in 1999 in order to avoid "legal and organizational complications." Kwasniewski praised the law for regulating party finances and banning corporate financing of political campaigns. He set the date of elections to Poland's two houses -- the 460-seat Sejm and the 100-seat Senate -- for 23 September. JM

...APPEALS FOR HELP FOR POLES IN FORMER USSR

Earlier on 30 April, Kwasniewski addressed the second Congress of Polish Emigre Communities in Warsaw and appealed for assistance for Poles living on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Kwasniewski stressed that authorities want to eliminate red-tape formalities that still hamper contacts between Polish expatriates and Poland in the spheres of tourism, science, and business, as well as the processes of receiving temporary residence permits and repatriation. The congress was marred by a statement made by Edward Moskal, chairman of the American Polonia, who accused Jan Nowak-Jezioranski, former head of the RFE/RL's Polish Service, of collaboration with the Hitlerites. While many top Polish officials spoke in defense of Nowak-Jezioranski, none of them have dared to openly condemn Moskal for slander. JM

MAY DAY RALLY IN WARSAW CALLS FOR VOTING FOR POST-COMMUNISTS

Some 6,000 people participated in a May Day rally in Warsaw, which turned into a political appeal to back the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and its allies in the 23 September legislative elections, PAP reported. "It's the first of May, but the last under the government of [Prime Minister] Jerzy Buzek... If the left wins, we will remove the damage done during the four years of the right's rule," SLD leader Leszek Miller told the crowd. Most polls suggest that the SLD can win more than 40 percent of the vote and dominate the government or even form a one-party cabinet. JM

POLISH COURT HANDS DOWN PRISON TERM TO RADICAL FARMERS' LEADER

The Gdansk Provincial Court on 2 May ordered a 16-month prison term for Andrzej Lepper, leader of the radical farmers' Self-Defense, for slandering the Polish president and two former ministers, AP reported. Judge Jacek Zielinski said Lepper was found guilty of slandering President Aleksander Kwasniewski by calling him the "greatest loafer in Poland" in 1999. Lepper also called then-Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz an "economic idiot" and former Interior Minister Janusz Tomaszewski a "bandit" for allowing police to fire rubber bullets at protesting farmers who hurled stones at police officers. Lepper said the ruling is a "shame" and pledged to appeal. Lepper won notoriety in Poland by organizing road blockades against the Solidarity-led government's agricultural policies. He has previously been fined or given suspended sentences for offending Poland's leaders. JM

CZECH JOURNALIST ACCUSED OF ATTACKING POLICE CLEARED BY COURT

Lenka Kucerova, a photographer and journalist, was found not guilty in Prague City Court on 2 May of assaulting a police officer while covering a May Day demonstration last year, CTK reported. Police and prosecutors alleged that she attacked an officer as he was arresting a demonstrator. The court ruled that, while Kucerova behaved inappropriately in pulling at the officer's jacket and striking his back, it did not qualify as assaulting a public official. Kucerova insisted that she had not had any physical contact with the officer, and that the charges were an attempt by the police to discredit her and discourage her from reporting on police actions against demonstrators. Police witnesses said they saw Kucerova striking the officer, while other witnesses, including ex-government human rights official Petr Uhl, said they saw no such incident. DW

SLOVAKIA'S MAY DAY RALLIES HIGHLIGHT DIFFICULT SOCIAL SITUATION

May Day rallies took place all over Slovakia, but they were rather sparsely attended, TASR reported on 1 May. The biggest demonstration, attended by 4,000 people, was organized by the Trade Unions Confederation (KOZ) in Liptovsky Mikulas under the slogan "Proper Pay for Adequate Work." KOZ leader Ivan Saktor criticized the government for its insufficient measures against unemployment and the planned privatization of energy and gas companies. "The Slovak premier has to work for Slovakia, not for Europe," Saktor said. CTK commented that May Day celebrations in Slovakia are gradually assuming the character of those in the First Republic (1918-38), when they were primarily used by workers and left-wing parties to call on the government to give people work and to ensure social justice. Some 20 percent of Slovaks are unemployed. JM

SLOVAK ROMA WANT MORE ROMANY CENSUS OFFICIALS

Leaders of the Slovak Roma are unhappy about the fact that of the 22,000 officials working on the national census in May only some 100 are of Romany heritage, CTK reported on 30 April. The Romany leaders want 617 Romany census-takers, one for every Romany settlement in Slovakia. They dismiss suggestions that there are not enough qualified Roma for the task, arguing that many Roma have driver's licenses, which is evidence that they are literate and therefore competent to conduct the census. The agency said the Romany leaders would be satisfied if some 300,000 Slovaks said they have Romany nationality, which would be much more than the 76,000 who did so in the previous census. Groups of volunteers are planning to travel to Romany settlements in Slovakia to help their inhabitants properly fill out census forms, AP reported. JM

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION, UNIONS PROTEST ON MAY DAY

Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs on 29 April told his party's May Day gathering in Budapest that by next May the present government will be unseated and the Socialists will be celebrating an election victory. Kovacs complained that members of the Republican Guard disguised as census takers "were peeping" into the private lives of persons who live in the neighborhood of pro-governing party politicians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2001). In other news, six trade unions protested in Budapest, claiming in their manifesto that under the present government the state of employees has not improved considerably and wages have not increased compared to economic growth. The manifesto called on employees to raise their voices against poverty and the lack of social dialogue. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER MEETS BUSH

Visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban held talks on 1 May with U.S. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in the White House. After the meeting, Orban told reporters that the U.S. considers Hungary an important NATO ally whose opinion counts on the issue of NATO enlargement. Orban also said that Hungarians who wish to travel to the U.S. must undergo "humiliating procedures" to get their visas, but he added that Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, who accompanied Orban during his two-day visit, has "received promising signals" on the resolution of the issue. MSZ




MACEDONIANS ATTACK ETHNIC ALBANIAN SHOPS, HOMES

The BBC reported on 1 May that Macedonian crowds attacked a mosque in Bitola the previous night. RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported that crowds of several hundred Macedonians stoned or burned dozens of Albanian homes and businesses. Police arrested several of the rioters. Police officials in Skopje said on 2 May that crowds of Macedonians attacked at least 15 Albanian-owned shops in Bitola for the second night in a row, dpa reported. Police added that an armed group fired on a police position near Lipkovo, northeast of Skopje, on 1 May. The government will meet on 4 May amid a security situation that a government spokesman described as a "delicate peace." PM

ALBANIAN EMBASSY IN SKOPJE UNDER FIRE

Embassy officials said on 2 May that unknown persons fired at their building the previous night. Two bullets entered embassy offices. No one was injured. The Albanian Foreign Ministry will issue a statement later in the day, dpa reported. The Albanian government has condemned the recent attack on Macedonian forces by the UCK and called for dialogue between all the political parties represented in the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2001). PM

POWELL PLEDGES BACKING FOR MACEDONIA'S TRAJKOVSKI

After meeting at the State Department with visiting Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on 1 May that he supports Trajkovski's fight against "dastardly and cowardly acts from terrorists and terrorist organizations who are trying to subvert the democratic process," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2001). Powell added that his guest is "moving aggressively" to meet the legitimate concerns of the ethnic Albanian minority. Powell said, however, that he will not pressure Trajkovski to change the constitution, as many Albanians are demanding. Trajkovski wants the U.S. to declare the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) a terrorist organization so that its members cannot receive U.S. visas or raise funds in the U.S. He and State Department spokesman Philip Reeker rejected UCK demands that the guerrillas join all-party talks under international mediation. Ethnic Albanian leader Arben Xhaferi did not go to Washington as planned because of the turbulent situation in Macedonia. PM

TWO MILOSEVIC BACKERS ARRESTED IN SERBIA

The private B-92 radio reported on 2 May that police have arrested Nebojsa Maljkovic and Milan Djurovic, who are leading members of the United Yugoslav Left of Mira Markovic, the wife of former President Slobodan Milosevic. They are reportedly in detention in Belgrade pending the outcome of an investigation of financial wrongdoing. Police have not confirmed the arrests, 1 and 2 May being holidays in Serbia, AP reported. PM

SERBIAN ACTIVIST: MILOSEVIC REGIME DESTROYED EVIDENCE OF ATROCITIES IN KOSOVA

Natasa Kandic, whom many regard as Serbia's leading human rights activist, said in Belgrade on 30 April that "our investigations [of atrocities in Kosova in 1999] produced witnesses who can testify that many people were killed, their bodies buried only to be dug up again and later moved to another place... Certainly the removal of evidence on such a large scale cannot take place without the knowledge of authorities. We have many witness accounts, many terrible stories...but the orders for these actions could only have come from high up, such as from Serbian police," AP reported. In one example, she noted that "on the night of 17 May, some 87 graves of Kosovo Albanians killed in the first half of May and buried at the Djakovica cemetery were opened." It is not known what happened to the remains after they were removed. PM

BOMB BLASTS BOSNIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC OFFICE

A bomb exploded on 1 May at the offices of the multiethnic Social Democratic Party in Vitez, a stronghold of hard-line Croats, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Much of the property was destroyed, "Oslobodjenje" reported, noting that it is not difficult to acquire explosives in Bosnia-Herzegovina. PM

HERZEGOVINIAN PROTEST

Some 200 employees and depositors of the Hercegovacka Banka demonstrated in Mostar on 1 May to protest the international community's decision to sack the bank's governing body, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The international community took control of the bank recently to undercut the financial basis of the Herzegovinian hard-liners. PM

CROATIAN CONSULATE OPENED IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA

Foreign Minister Tonino Picula opened his country's consulate in Banja Luka, "Jutarnji list" reported on 2 May. The office will promote Croatian business interests as well as facilitate refugee returns "in both directions." Zivko Radisic, the Serbian member and current chairman of the Bosnian Presidency, said that he knows that Croatian President Stipe Mesic would like to travel to Sarajevo by train (i.e., via the Republika Srpska) when he visits Bosnia later in May, "Oslobodjenje" reported. Banja Luka's economic links with Zagreb were traditionally stronger than those with Belgrade or Sarajevo. PM

CROATIAN LEADERS MARK MAY DAY

President Mesic said in Zagreb on 1 May that the government has not fulfilled all its campaign promises to improve the social situation during its first year in office, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added, however, that the promises will be fulfilled, but did not say when. Prime Minister Ivica Racan told the same rally that the unemployed and the poor have a right to demonstrate against his government but not those who, as he put it, "plundered" the country during their 10 years in power under the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). PM

EU'S COLD SHOULDER FOR CROATIA?

"Jutarnji list" published a poll on 2 May showing that support for Croatian EU membership in EU member countries is running at 31 percent for and 47 percent against. Among German respondents the figures are 24 percent for and 58 percent against, and in Austria the figures are 26 and 60 percent, respectively. The strongest support for Croatia came from Greece, where 55 percent of the respondents back Croatian membership. The strongest opposition is in France, where only 21 percent want Croatia to join the EU. In all EU member states, 29 percent want Yugoslavia in the EU, but 49 percent do not. Some 27 percent favor Macedonia's admission, but 49 percent oppose it. Some 27 percent want Bosnia in the EU, but 50 percent do not. PM

BUCHAREST ENVIRONMENT SUMMIT CALLS FOR REGIONAL COOPERATION

The final declaration of the 29-30 April Bucharest summit on environment and sustainable development calls for the support of regional and international cooperation for improving the environment in the region of the Danube and the Carpathian Mountains, Romanian media reported. The action also suggests that the 14 states that signed the declaration should promote initiatives for common development programs and include environmental protection clauses in their economic programs. The states should also initiate partnerships between local private companies, public administration, and NGOs. Summit co-Chairman Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, called for finding compromises so that the Danube and the Carpathians fulfil a double role: being an economic source for the region and a reservoir for biodiversity, pure water, and food. ZsM

ROMANIA, MACEDONIA SIGN BASIC TREATY

Romanian President Ion Iliescu and his Macedonian counterpart Boris Trajkovski signed a political treaty in Bucharest on 30 April aimed at boosting bilateral relations, Mediafax reported. Iliescu said the treaty facilitates Macedonia's consolidation, the maintenance of its territorial integrity, and its stability. He added the treaty sets the framework for bilateral cooperation amidst the two countries' European and NATO integration efforts. The treaty also provides for the protection of ethnic minorities in both countries. Iliescu stressed that Romanian authorities consider ethnic Romanians living abroad as "loyal citizens of the states they reside in." He also explained that the treaty uses the term "Republic of Macedonia" as Macedonia's Constitution uses that term, and that this wording does not affect the two countries' relations with other countries from the region. Greece has strongly protested against Skopje's intention of using the name "Macedonia" and the international community generally uses the term "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." ZsM

WORLD BANK TO SUPPORT ROMANIAN RURAL DEVELOPMENT

World Bank Director for Romania and Bulgaria Andrew Vorkink and Romanian Finance Minister Mihai Tanasescu signed an agreement on 1 May aimed at supporting rural development and reducing poverty, Romanian media reported. The $80 million will be used for crediting farmers for activities that bring about rural development. ZsM

ROMANIAN, MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTS ON BILATERAL RELATIONS

Meeting in Bucharest on 1 May, Romanian President Iliescu and his Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin said bilateral relations between the two countries should be addressed in a "pragmatic" way, Mediafax reported. Iliescu said "political and ideological" differences should be left behind and that bilateral economic relations should be increased. In an interview with the private ProTV station on 30 April, Voronin said Russian is not an official language in Moldova, but a second language of communication. He also said that Moldova's intention of joining the Russia-Belarus Union "does not mean a distancing" from Romania or the West, but serves his country's economic interests. Voronin also met Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and Chamber of Deputies Chairman Valer Dorneanu. Observers note that Voronin's visit comes in the wake of a visible approach to Russia by Moldova, as Voronin made his first visit abroad to Moscow on 16-17 April. ZsM

SEVERAL THOUSAND TURN OUT FOR MAY DAY PROTEST IN SOFIA

Police estimate that 6,000 people rallied in Sofia on 1 May to protest against the policies of the government of Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov, AP reported. The protesters, most of them supporters of the opposition Socialist Party, accused the center-right government of corruption and of increasing unemployment with its stringent economic reform measures. Protest organizers claim some 15,000 people attended the rally. Socialist Party member Georgi Parvanov told the crowd: "We demand a new social policy where priorities have to be set on education and health care." Unemployment stands at about 18 percent in Bulgaria. PB

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN BRUSSELS

Petar Stoyanov said upon returning from a trip to NATO headquarters in Brussels on 30 April that he is satisfied with Bulgaria's progress toward membership, BTA reported, citing the daily "Sega." Though no official statement was available regarding the visit, the Bulgarian press was sanguine on the trip and the general chances of the country gaining membership. The daily "Trud" wrote: "If the West has a geo-strategic interest in this country, an invitation for Bulgaria to become a NATO member can be expected next year." The newspaper "Demokratsiya" headlined an article "NATO Membership Cheaper Than Self-Defense." And "Bulgarska Armiya" wrote that Brussels "appreciates Bulgaria's progress toward membership." PB




RUSSIA'S JUDICIARY: THE ARBITRATION COURTS' PROBLEMS


(Part 2 of a two-part series; see Part 1 in "RFE/RL Newsline" 26 April, 2001.)

By Sophie Lambroschini

Arbitration courts are called upon to hear some of Russia most important cases -- at least in terms of money. Set up eight years ago to settle conflicts between companies and the state, or between one company and another, the arbitration courts are regularly pulled into privatization battles or takeovers worth millions of dollars. They are now key players in the process of property distribution in Russia. But at the same time, they display all the failings of Russia's ordinary courts, and that scares away potential investors.

Analysts say that arbitration judges, who formerly specialized in Soviet economic conflicts, are considered more efficient than the broad-ranging judges who hear criminal, administrative, and civil cases. But, the analysts add, the arbitration judges suffer from the same failings that undermine trust in Russia's overall judiciary.

Oleg Fyodorov serves as an adviser to two nongovernmental organizations that seek to protect the rights of Russian stock investors -- the National Association of Securities Market Participants and the Investors' Rights Association. He has followed several arbitration court cases that involved Russian or foreign investors in conflict either with the state or major Russian companies. He says that, in his experience, the courts are biased in favor of wealthier, more influential parties.

"The most important problem is probably that the court is called 'arbitration' but is not an arbitrator at all," Fyodorov said, noting that it is almost unheard of for a lesser known party - even if the law is in its favor -- to win an arbitration case against a large, influential party.

As a result, Fyodorov said, many Russian companies try to file their arbitration suits abroad. "When they really want the court to have some influence, they don't even trust our highest jurisdictions, neither the Supreme Court nor the Supreme Arbitration Court," Fyodorov said.

Fyodorov explained that while bribe-taking does exist, pressure on judges is usually exercised in a more indirect and subtle way. He says that often it's not money but administrative pressure that will make the judge capitulate.

For instance, said Fyodorov, one of Russian investors' biggest grievances is that it's almost impossible to win a case against the Moscow city government. He says that's not because the city government is paying each and every judge a bribe. Rather, according to Fyodorov, the real reason is that the city government regularly pays judges significant bonuses to supplement their very low salaries.

This financial dependence exists in most of Russia's regions as well, with judges not only beholden to local government for their apartments but sometimes also for basic utilities like electricity.

Russia's projected judicial reform, drafted by presidential aide Dmitrii Kozak, seeks to address this problem by raising judicial salaries in an effort to abolish judges' dependence on local authorities.

Another measure that should be taken, according to Supreme Arbitration Court head Veniamin Yakovlev, is that the number of arbitration judges should be increased to address their courts' increasing workload. In an interview earlier this year in the daily "Vedomosti," Yakovlev said the arbitration courts' workload has increased "since the late 1990s" by 15 percent.

But some important failings of the arbitration courts are not expected to be eliminated any time soon.

For instance, under Russia's imperfect bankruptcy laws, bankruptcy suits can be filed automatically if there's a proven debt of more than $1,400 and courts must start proceedings almost immediately, according to Yakovlev. This system, under which the arbitration courts become the instruments of redistributing property, leads to many cases of illegal property transfers, Yakovlev said.

For arbitration courts to minimize such misuse of the law, judges need to increase their qualifications in an ever-changing economic and legal environment, according to Yakovlev. He urges that arbitration judges, and courts, seek to specialize in specific areas.

Xavier Barre heads a European Union TACIS aid program that is providing instruction over two years to some 700 arbitration court judges, and calls Russia's training of judges "two weeks every two years" insufficient. But he stresses that judicial reform will not make any significant progress in Russia until it tackles a very touchy subject -- the state's accountability for its own mistakes.

"There's a lack of legal fundamentals. There's no [notion] of administrative fault, of state accountability, the way we understand it in French or in other Western law," Barre said. "And when there is no fault, it is impossible or at least difficult to convict."

He also points out that that there is no law on the state's responsibility in economic relations. As a result, he says, companies are helpless against routine administrative harassment that can paralyze them.

Kozak's planned judiciary reform is attempting at least to lessen the grip of the Prosecutor-General's Office in purely business conflicts. Kozak says the projected arbitration procedure code adopted in a first reading by the Duma in April would strip the prosecutor of his right to protest an arbitration court decision if the adversaries are private companies settling a bilateral business conflict.

But the Prosecutor General's Office opposes any reduction in its authority. Badir Kekhlerov, deputy prosecutor-general, says his office is the last barrier against court corruption

"Today we are being banned from protesting to the Supreme Arbitration Court," Kekhlerov said. "We're talking about few cases -- 100, 200 a year. But in those cases [when we intervene] all the courts have sold out [to monied parties], and we come to the conclusion that the state's interests are being violated and that it is necessary to go all the way to the highest jurisdiction." However far the projected judicial reform may go, presidential adviser Fyodorov points out that the system will work efficiently only under a new generation of judges, appointed and formed under a more democratic and more honest system. Of the present judges, educated under Soviet rule, he says: "They have the old system in their blood. and you can't overcome that with reforms or with money."

Sophie Lambroschini is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.


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