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Newsline - May 11, 2001




PUTIN NAMES CHERNOMYRDIN AMBASSADOR TO KYIV

President Vladimir Putin on 10 May announced that he has appointed former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to be the Russian ambassador in Ukraine, Russian and Western agencies reported. In making the appointment, Putin said that "the time has come to approach seriously the development of relations with one of our basic partners -- Ukraine, and for this we must create the necessary preconditions, including in personnel." Russian commentators and political figures generally praised the move and suggested that the naming of this political "heavyweight" will help resolve problems in bilateral ties between the two countries (see Part II for Ukrainian commentary). PG

IS GORBACHEV A FUTURE APPOINTEE?

Citing "an informed source," Interfax reported on 10 May that the appointment of Chernomyrdin as ambassador to Ukraine reflects the Kremlin's desire to make use of former officials who have immense experience and who have "not lost their political weight and personal connections." PG

MOSCOW LOSES CONTROL OF MILITARY SATELLITES AFTER FIRE

A major fire at a ground relay station near Kaluga resulted in the loss of contact with four military satellites, Lieutenant General Anatolii Perminov, the commander of Russia's recently established Space Forces, told RTR on 10 May. Once the fire is fully extinguished, he said, "restoring permanent contact with these satellites will be technically possible." At the same time, he added that "the entire satellite control system is working normally." PG

PUTIN CALLS FOR SIMPLIFYING CAPITAL EXPORTS

President Putin on 10 May directed the government to come up with a program to simplify the export of capital from Russia, Interfax reported. He also said that recent positive tendencies in the development of the country's economy are continuing, including the growth of GDP and the expansion of production, bank reserves, and domestic trade, Interfax reported. On the same day, Putin visited former President Boris Yeltsin, the news agency said. Meanwhile, a member of the group headed by Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress that is charged with drafting programs for debureaucratization said that body has proposed demonopolizing the country's electric energy system, Interfax reported the same day. PG

LESIN SAYS NTV CASE HAD POSITIVE EFFECT ON MEDIA

Media Minister Mikhail Lesin said that the transfer of ownership in NTV has had a positive impact on the country's media scene, RIA-Novosti reported on 8 May. Lesin said that the shift has succeeded in "reducing the politicking of the mass media and making them reassess their own positions on many questions, above all, those regarding their economic and financial independence." As a result, he said, they will be able to avoid problems like those at NTV in the future. PG

MEDIA MINISTRY WARNS TNT ON STAGED KIDNAPPING

Media Ministry officials criticized TNT television on 10 May for staging the disappearance of one of its journalists, Gennadii Grigoriev, in Nizhnii Novgorod last March and then blaming it on the government, ITAR-TASS reported. The ministry warned TNT not to violate the laws governing the media in the future. Officials at the station said they do not know exactly what the Media Ministry plans to do to TNT as a result. Backing up the ministry was presidential adviser Sergei Yastrzhembskii, who said that the ministry's warning is "absolutely warranted." PG

PROSECUTORS VISIT EKHO MOSKVY OFFICES

Investigators arrived at the offices of the Ekho Moskvy radio station on 10 May, ostensibly as part of their investigation into the activities of former First Deputy General Director of Aeroflot Nikolai Glushkov, Interfax reported. But station officials said that it appears that the prosecutors were primarily interested in the market value of the station. On the same day, a journalist from the station was summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office for questioning, Interfax said. PG

KOVALEV SAYS DUMA NOW IN POCKET OF KREMLIN

At a joint meeting of Russian and Belarusian human rights activists in Moscow on 10 May, Duma deputy and human rights activist Sergei Kovalev said that "the Russian parliament is just as much in the government's 'pocket' as the Belarusian parliament is in that of the Belarusian regime," Interfax reported. Kovalev added that he is especially concerned by the likely consequences of the upcoming combination into a single party of Unity and Fatherland. PG

UNION OF RIGHTIST FORCES CONFIDENT OF ATTRACTING 20,000 MEMBERS

Boris Mints, the chairman of the executive committee of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), told Interfax on 10 May that he is confident that the party will attract a minimum of 20,000 members by the time of its founding congress on 26 May. In other comments, he noted the success of SPS candidates in local elections, including the victory of Valerii Nekrasov in the mayoral race in Sosnovyi Bor, and suggested that the group is the strongest and in many cases the only party outside of Moscow. PG

LEAKED TRANSCRIPTS SHOW OFFICIALS CURRYING FAVOR WITH KREMLIN

In a 10 May report, the "Electronic Telegraph" reported that leaked transcripts of conversations between Russian officials and presidential Chief of Staff Aleksandr Voloshin show "the sycophancy and cynicism of Russia's establishment under President Putin." Among the callers seeking favors is Yeltsin's daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, who admits on the tapes that her father's recent illness is far more serious than earlier reported. PG

SELEZNEV UNHAPPY WITH WORLD SECURITY SITUATION

Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told visiting OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Chairman Adrian Severin on 10 May that the security situation in Europe and elsewhere "cannot be deemed satisfactory," ITAR-TASS reported. PG

DELYAGIN URGES GO-SLOW APPROACH ON WTO MEMBERSHIP

In an article published in "The Russia Journal," 4-10 May, economist Mikhail Delyagin said that Russia should move cautiously and deliberately in its approach to joining the World Trade Organization. He said most of the arguments in favor of rapid accession are ideological rather than economic, and he argued that Russia needs to consider its own needs very carefully before making the kind of concessions that membership would require. PG

PUTIN CALLS Aliyev WITH BIRTHDAY GREETINGS

President Putin on 10 May telephoned Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev to offer his best wishes on the latter's 78th birthday, Interfax reported. The news agency said that the two also discussed the upcoming CIS summit in Minsk. PG

MOSCOW EXPRESSES REGRET OVER ATTACKS ON LATVIAN EMBASSY

The Russian Foreign Ministry has formally expressed regret to Latvia over what it called "hooligan attacks" on the Latvian Embassy in Moscow during the last week, Russian agencies reported on 10 May. The ministry said that Russian agencies are investigating the attacks and will bring those responsible to justice. PG

EU TO BUILD NEW KALININGRAD CHECKPOINTS

The European Union will help construct two new border-crossing points in Kaliningrad, one on the border with Poland and the other on the frontier with Lithuania, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 May. The EU also plans to help finance the construction of several other customs facilities in northwest Russia over the next few years, officials said. PG

FOREIGN MINISTER SEEKS EXPANDED TIES WITH FINLAND

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov arrived in Finland on 10 May after a stop in Karelia, Russian agencies reported. Ivanov is seeking to promote expanded cross-border ties between Finland and Karelia as well as more Finnish investments in Russia itself. On the eve of his visit, Finnish media reported that Helsinki has identified a Russian spy in the Finnish military, but officials said that the case will not be raised during Ivanov's stay. While in Karelia, Ivanov said that President Putin plans to visit Finland in September, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

EU CONCERNED ABOUT NUCLEAR WASTE SECURITY IN RUSSIA

Margot Wallstrem, a European Commission representative, told Interfax on 10 May that the EU is concerned by the level of security at Russian nuclear waste-processing facilities and especially along transport routes. She also noted that if Russia were to clean up its air to European standards, approximately 34,000 lives would be saved over the next 20 years. PG

MOSCOW AWAITS U.S., ISRAELI ANSWERS ON GUSINSKY EXTRADITION REQUESTS

Officials of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office said on 10 May that Russia has submitted all the necessary paperwork to the U.S. and Israel for the extradition of embattled media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky and is awaiting a response, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Gusinsky's lawyers appeared at the Moscow Prosecutor's Office in response to a summons for him to appear, the news agency reported the same day. PG

U.S. DELIVERS MEDICINES TO KAMCHATKA

Some $8.5 million worth of hepatitis vaccines and other medicines have arrived in Kamchatka from the United States, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 May. The amount is sufficient to vaccinate all children and teenagers in that region against hepatitis, local officials said. PG

MOSCOW CALLS FOR ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN TALKS

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 10 May called for Israelis and Palestinians to resume talks in order to find a way back to "the reestablishment of political dialogue," Interfax reported. On the same day, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Nathan Sharansky arrived in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Interfax said that Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres will come to the Russian capital before the end of May. PG

SHANGHAI OPENS GOODS EXHIBIT IN VLADIVOSTOK

A three-day "Goods from Shanghai" exhibit opened in Vladivostok on 10 May to showcase the production of that Chinese city and to take orders for those goods, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

RUSHAILO TO ANSWER CHECHEN QUESTIONS ONLINE

From 10 to 20 May, Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo will take questions on Chechnya at the Security Council website www.scrf.gov.ru, Interfax reported on 10 May. The site will carry his answers after 25 May, his spokesman said. PG

YELAGIN ADMITS PROBLEMS IN PROTECTING AID GROUPS IN CHECHNYA

Vladimir Yelagin, the minister for the coordination of the restoration of the social-economic sphere of Chechnya, told Interfax on 10 May that the Russian authorities are having difficulties protecting humanitarian relief workers in Chechnya . PG

BORODIN TO TRAVEL ON DIPLOMATIC PASSPORT

Russia-Belarus Union State Secretary and former Kremlin property manager Pavel Borodin will use a diplomatic passport when he travels to Switzerland on 16 May to answer questions by Swiss prosecutors, Interfax reported on 10 May. PG

OIL EXPORTS UP, GAS EXPORTS DOWN

Russia exported 14 percent more oil in the first quarter of 2001 than in the same period one year ago, Interfax-ANI reported on 10 May. But the agency said that it exported 18 percent less natural gas in the first quarter of this year than in the first quarter of 2000. PG

RUSSIAN MILITARY PRODUCERS OFFER TO UPGRADE COMBAT VEHICLES IN EASTERN EUROPE

The Russian military equipment exporting company Rosoboroneksport and Siberia's Kurtganmashzavod have offered East European governments the opportunity to upgrade the BMP-2 and the BMP-3 combat vehicles they own, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 May. PG

RUSSIA'S COASTAL WATERS NOT WELL DEFENDED

Specialists at the Accounting Chamber told Interfax on 10 May that Russia's Federal Border Service is not fulfilling its tasks "completely," but the chamber officials placed the blame on inadequate funding. The experts said that foreigners are stealing some $2-2.5 billion in bioresources from Russia's coastal waters as a result. They called for building more ships and providing more funds in order to prevent such thefts in the future. PG

ONE RUSSIAN IN SEVEN SAYS LOCAL GOVERNMENT WORKING BETTER

According to a VTsIOM poll reported by RIA-Novosti on 10 May, 17 percent of Russians believe that local governments have improved their operation over the past year. A Kremlin official said that he is pleased that people feel that things are improving but explained that it is no surprise that such a relatively small number have noticed the improvements up to now. PG

LUZHKOV OPPOSES TRANSFER OF MONUMENTS TO FEDERAL CONTROL

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said on 10 May that his city is fully capable of restoring all monuments on its territory and opposes transferring control of them to the federal authorities, Interfax-Moscow reported on 10 May. PG

FUND FOR THE HUMANITIES CREATED

On 10 May, the Russian government approved the charter of the Russian Humanitarian Scientific Fund, which will use public and private funds to support work in the humanities in Russia, Interfax reported. Among its particular tasks will be to strengthen ties between Russian scholars and international organizations and institutions. PG

VICTORY DAY WRAP-UP

More than 4.15 million people took part in Victory Day celebrations on 9 May, ITAR-TASS reported the following day. There were 2,558 rallies and meetings, and more than 155,000 police and 9,400 interior troops maintained order. Interfax reported on 10 May that several artillery shells not used in the celebrations ignited and exploded after being returned to the unit to which they belonged. PG

LISTEV CASE TURNS UP FOUR CONTRACT MURDERS

The ongoing investigation into the March 1995 murder of Vladislav Listev, the first general director of ORT, has not identified his murderer yet but has led to the identification of four other contract murders, prosecutors told Interfax on 10 May. But prosecutors said that they have established "the circle of persons interested at that time in the murder of Listev." PG

GAGARIN DOCUMENT SOLD AT AUCTION APPARENTLY STOLEN

Vladimir Kozlov, the head of the Russian Federal Archive Service, told AP on 10 May that a mission report that was prepared by Soviet cosmonaut Yurii Gagarin and sold this week at Christie's in London for $171,000 appears to have been stolen from the Russian government. But Kozlov said that he did not have any more exact details on the document's provenance. Mariya Stepanova, the director of the Yurii Gagarin Memorial Museum, told Interfax the same day that she will ask President Putin to purchase the document and to launch an inquiry into how the London auction house acquired it. PG

'GYPSIES' SAID STEALING FROM MUSCOVITES

Moscow police on 10 May said that they have arrested what they called "an organized criminal group of gypsies" who presented themselves as social service workers in order to steal from pensioners, Interfax-Moscow reported. The police said that it appeared that at least some of them may have used hypnosis to force the pensioners to hand over their savings. PG

KERENSKY MAY BE REHABILITATED

Aleksandr Yakovlev, the chairman of the Presidential Commission for the Rehabilitation of the Victims of Political Repressions, told Interfax on 10 May that Moscow may rehabilitate Aleksandr Kerensky and other members of the 1917 Provisional Government before the 7 November holiday. PG

CHARGES OF ELECTION VIOLATIONS MADE IN PRIMORSKII KRAI

Acting Governor of Primorskii Krai Konstantin Tolstoshein has ordered that service automobiles and mobile phones of workers in the krai administration be taken away, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 10 May. The agency did not explain the rationale for the move, but Tolstoshein charged earlier that the krai's administration had become a campaign headquarters for former Acting Governor Valentin Dubinin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2001). Meanwhile, the head of the krai's electoral commission, Sergei Knyazev, reported that his commission has received some 100 letters complaining of violations of election legislation. The most serious charges, according to Knyazev, are the alleged participation of a number of directors of Vladivostok medial services in collecting signatures to support the candidacy of first deputy presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district Gennadii Apanasenko and the alleged involvement of the krai administration's press service in distributing campaign materials for Dubinin. According to some local observers, Knyazev is, or at least was, close to former krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko. JAC

SIBERIAN ELECTRIC UTILITY AND ALUMINUM GIANT BATTLE IT OUT

Krasnoyarskenergo reduced the power supply to the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum plant on 10 May, following earlier electricity reductions on 4 May, Interfax reported. The plant has an unpaid debt to the utility of some 814 million rubles ($28.1 million), because the plant is refusing to pay a new higher electricity tariff that it has been challenging in court. Russian Aluminum Deputy Director Yevgenii Ivanov told Interfax that Krasnoyarskenergo is "trying to resort to blackmail and threats to make us pay more." Meanwhile, krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed has announced that he will not allow the energy situation in the region to worsen. JAC

RADICAL LEADER CLAIMS LOCAL BUSINESS SUPPORT IN NIZHNII

In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 11 May, National Bolshevik Party (NBP) leader and novelist Eduard Limonov explained why he plans to run for governor in Nizhnii Novgorod. Limonov said he was born in the oblast in 1944 and there is an active branch of the NBP there that has urged him to run. He added that he was in the oblast one month ago and many regional entrepreneurs expressed a lively interest in him and promised him their financial support. "This is because residents of Nizhnii Novgorod are sick of having to choose between an alcoholic and a bandit," Limonov said. Other candidates in the race are incumbent Governor Ivan Sklyarov and former Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor and felon Andrei Klimentiev. JAC




INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON INVESTMENT IN ARMENIA OPENS IN NEW YORK

A three-day conference on investment opportunities in Armenia opened in New York on 9 May, attracting greater interest than anticipated, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. In an address to the opening session read by Industry and Trade Minister Karen Chshmaritian, Armenian President Robert Kocharian pledged that the Armenian leadership will do all in its power to support foreign investors and to combat what he termed "strong bureaucratic obstruction and the evil of corruption." U.S. Minsk Group co-chairman Carey Cavanaugh also attended the opening session, underscoring the U.S. desire to resolve the Karabakh conflict as a precondition for economic cooperation between the South Caucasus states. The conference is being organized by the World Bank and the U.S. government and is the first of its kind devoted to a single country. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT AVOIDS DEBATE ON FUGITIVE DEPUTY

It is unlikely that the Armenian parliament will initiate a debate in the near future on whether to strip deputy Vano Siradeghian of his mandate, the chairman of the parliament committee on state and legal affairs, Viktor Dallakian, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 10 May. The parliament's statutes theoretically allow for doing so in the event of a deputy's "unjustified" absence from voting for a period of six months. Siradeghian fled Armenia in April 2000 while on trial on charges of having ordered a series of contract murders during his tenure as interior minister in the early 1990s after his fellow parliament deputies voted to lift his immunity from arrest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4, 5 and 7 April 2000). His current whereabouts are unknown. LF

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT TO LAUNCH SHORT-TERM EMPLOYMENT PROGRAM

The Armenian government will invest nearly $1 million in programs to provide short-term employment in the public sector for the most impoverished stratum of the population, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Jobs will include road construction and cleaning activities, and will pay 800 drams ($1.5) per day. Social Security Minister Razmik Martirosian told journalists that the government hopes to obtain additional funding for the program from international aid agencies. LF

IMF TO WITHHOLD LOAN TRANCHE FOR GEORGIA

Georgian Tax Minister Mikhail Machavariani said in Tbilisi on 10 May that the IMF team of experts that recently visited Georgia has recommended withholding until October disbursement of a $12 million loan tranche pending improvements in tax collection, AP reported. The visiting team expressed approval of the monetary policy implemented by the Georgian National Bank and of improved macroeconomic indicators, but called on the Georgian government to take more decisive measures over the next two months to reduce the budget deficit by improved tax collection and to raise electricity tariffs. It is not clear whether or not the mission advocated a budget sequester. The fund suspended cooperation with Georgia late last year but in January approved a new $141 million three-year antipoverty loan of which two $12 million tranches have been disbursed to date (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 2001). LF

STALIN'S SAMOVAR STOLEN IN GEORGIA

Thieves have stolen from the Stalin Museum in Gori a samovar that was used by the deceased Soviet dictator to make tea in the Kremlin, Reuters reported on 10 May. LF

ABKHAZ, GEORGIAN HOSTAGES RELEASED

Following talks in Chuburkhindji, western Georgia, on 11 May between senior Georgian officials and Abkhaz Prosecutor General and presidential representative Anri Djergenia, the Abkhaz side handed over three Georgian guerrillas captured in early April and five detained Georgian fishermen, Georgian agencies reported. In return, the Georgian "Forest Brother" guerrilla band released five Georgian conscripts together with an Abkhaz customs official whom they had earlier threatened to execute (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April and 9 May 2001). LF

PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY DEFENDS KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT AGAINST BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS...

Arat Narmaghambetov, a leading member of the OTAN party created in January 1999 to support President Nursultan Nazarbaev, has addressed an open letter to Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General Rashid Tusypbekov, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Swiss Justice Ministry stressing that President Nazarbaev has repeatedly rejected as untrue articles published in the U.S. press over the past 18 months implicating him in accepting huge bribes from Western oil companies that were allegedly paid into foreign bank accounts. In the letter, Narmaghambetov appeals to Tusypbekov to bring legal proceedings for insulting the honor and dignity of the president against the foreign newspapers that published such articles. A copy of Narmaghambetov's letter was faxed to RFE/RL's Almaty bureau on 10 May. LF

...AS OPPOSITION CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATION INTO MONEY LAUNDERING

RFE/RL's Almaty bureau also received by fax on 10 May a copy of a second letter signed by leaders of the opposition Communist Party, republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, the Workers' Movement, LAD (representing Kazakhstan's Slav population), and Orleu among others, which was addressed to the U.S. Congress and the OSCE. That letter claimed that the recently enacted legislation offering impunity to persons who transfer back to Kazakhstan capital they had previously deposited in foreign bank accounts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 8 and 22 March 2001) has encouraged unnamed Kazakh officials to engage in money laundering, rechanneling such capital via Kazakh banks to other foreign banks. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT'S SON-IN-LAW NAMED TO HEAD NEW PIPELINE AGENCY

President Nazarbaev's son-in-law, Timur Kulibaev, has been named to head the newly created state pipeline company Oil and Gas Transport, Interfax reported on 8 May. That agency was created on 2 May on the basis of the oil transportation company KazTransOil, of which Kulibaev was president; KazTransGaz; and state shares in the shipping company Kazmortransflot. The new agency will be responsible for the marketing, transportation, and sale of hydrocarbon reserves; the organization of financing, development and feasibility studies; and the design and construction of oil pipelines. It will also participate in all domestic and foreign projects involving the transportation of oil and gas. LF

KAZAKHSTAN SUSPENDS OIL TRANSIT THROUGH CASPIAN PIPELINE

The Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) has suspended pumping oil into its recently launched export pipeline because of the absence of an agreement between the consortium and Russian Customs that would allow for the import of that oil into the Russian Federation, Interfax reported on 10 May, quoting Kazakhstan's Deputy Energy Minister Nurlan Kapparov, a former head of the state oil company KazakhOil. A CPC spokesman in Atyrau said that to date some 120,000 tons of crude have been pumped into the pipeline, filling a 248 kilometer section. The CPC has denied Kazakh press reports that Russia has refused to allow the oil to transit its territory because no agreement has yet been reached between the Russian and Kazakh governments on transport tariffs. LF

CORRECTION:

On 7 May "RFE/RL Newsline" erroneously reported that President Nazarbaev had appointed Security Council Secretary Marat Tazhin as chairman of that body. Tazhin was in fact appointed chairman of the National Security Committee (the former KGB).

KYRGYZ NEWSPAPER EDITOR FINED

A district court in Bishkek on 10 May fined Melis Eshimkanov, editor of the now defunct opposition newspaper "Asaba," 1,000 soms (about $20) for his participation in a 13 April protest against the paper's forced closure, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2001). Communist Party Chairwoman Klara Ajybekova and Socialist Party leader Omurbek Tekebaev, who is deputy speaker of the upper house of parliament, face similar charges. LF

BAPTIST CLERGYMAN FORBIDDEN TO MINISTER IN TURKMENISTAN

Turkmen security police warned Baptist pastor Viktor Korobov in Ashgabat on 7 May not to lead any further religious services in the city or to leave the city for the next six months, Keston News Service reported on 10 May. LF

EXILED UZBEK DISSIDENT SAYS PRESIDENT APPROVED PLANS FOR HIS ASSASSINATION

In a fax to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service in Prague on 11 May, Bahram Muminakhunov, an Uzbek citizen currently residing in Moscow, said he was asked in the fall of 1999 by two senior Uzbek Interior Ministry (MVD) officials to arrange through his Chechen contacts the murder of Mohammad Salikh, the exiled leader of the banned Uzbek Democratic Party ("Erk") who currently lives in Norway. Muminakhunov also said he was present at a meeting in April 2000 between those officials and Uzbek President Islam Karimov to discuss plans for the assassination. He says he has tapes of conversations with the MVD officials discussing the planned killing, for which they offered to pay $2 million. Muminakhunov then tipped off Salikh, whose relatives announced his disappearance. The Uzbek officials refused, however, to pay the full fee for the killing until Salikh's body was found. In a telephone conversation with RFE/RL and at a separate press conference in Oslo on 11 May Salikh confirmed Muminakhunov's statement. LF

UZBEKISTAN 'READY TO JOIN SHANGHAI FORUM'

Addressing a session of Uzbekistan's parliament on 11 May, President Karimov said his country is ready to join the Shanghai Forum, ITAR-TASS reported. That grouping, which comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, is to hold its next forum in Shanghai on 15 June. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS MOSCOW MAYOR TO SUPPORT HIM, NOT HIS CHALLENGERS

Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 10 May that his opponents will barely obtain any support from Moscow in this year's presidential elections in Belarus, Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka was commenting on an upcoming trip of five potential presidential candidates -- Mikhail Chyhir, Uladzimir Hancharyk, Syamyon Domash, Syarhey Kalyakin, and Pavel Kazlouski -- to Moscow on 11-13 May, where they are expected to look for possible allies and appear on Russian television. "They should not be in Moscow today, because [Moscow Mayor Yurii] Luzhkov will not support them all the same; if Luzhkov supports anybody, it will be Lukashenka," the Belarusian president said. He added that his challengers have been promised some $900 million for their election campaign by sponsors he failed to identify. Previously Lukashenka asserted that Western sponsors have allocated $500 million to support his opponents. JM

BELARUSIAN YOUTH TO SPEND 10 DAYS IN JAIL FOR MOCKING LUKASHENKA

A Minsk district court on 10 May sentenced Syarhey Pyanykh, a member of the youth opposition group Zubr, to 10 days in prison for a 21 April street show mocking President Lukashenka, Belapan reported. Pyanykh pretended to ski and play hockey on the pavement in a Minsk park, hinting at the Belarusian president's known passion for ice hockey and his alleged mental problems. Police arrested some 30 people involved in the show. On 25 April, the same court sentenced eight of them to three days in jail. Fines equal to $85 were imposed on two others. Fourteen got off with formal warnings. JM

MOSCOW TO STEP UP ECONOMIC PRESSURE ON KYIV FOLLOWING CHERNOMYRDIN'S APPOINTMENT?

"This is an attempt to establish an even stronger diktat of the Russian economy over the Ukrainian one," Rukh leader Yuriy Kostenko commented on 10 May on Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement to appoint former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin as Moscow's ambassador to Kyiv. "Chernomyrdin's appointment [means] that Ukraine has lost some part of its sovereignty," Kyiv-based political scientist Volodymyr Polokhalo said. According to political analyst Mykola Tomenko, Chernomyrdin supports "economic, not political, pragmatism" in Russian-Ukrainian relations and will promote Russian economic interests in Ukraine "more vigorously." Ousted Premier Viktor Yushchenko said Chernomyrdin's appointment is Moscow's "wonderful and reasonable step," adding that the latter's mission in Kyiv will boost economic cooperation between both countries. JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT PROMISES MORE FUNDS FOR PENSIONS

Leaders of the government ruling coalition have decided that pension reforms, health care, and national defense will be the priorities of next year's state budget, ETA reported on 10 May. Finance Minister Siim Kallas said that in next year's budget pensions will be allocated 1.5 billion kroons ($85 million) more than this year. The coalition agreed that, if necessary, the state budget could have a deficit of up to 1 percent. Prime Minister Mart Laar, however, noted that there might be no deficit because additional funds will be obtained from privatizations and the sale of Estonian Railways. Kallas and Laar agreed that neither VAT nor income taxes should be raised to obtain more revenue. SG

LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS AUSTRIA

Andris Berzins met with Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel on 10 May in Vienna and invited him to visit Latvia next year, BNS reported. Their talks focused on EU enlargement and the further functioning of the EU in Central Europe. Schuessel mentioned that Austria supports a proposal that would block citizens of current EU candidate countries from working in other EU countries for up to a seven-year transition period following their accession into the EU. He inquired about the internal political situation in Latvia and praised its political stability and good economic results, such as having high GDP growth while maintaining one of the lowest inflation rates and debt levels among the EU candidate countries. Schuessel also asked questions about Latvian-Russian relations and improvements on Latvia's eastern border. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN ARGUES WITH KINKEL OVER BALTIC MEMBERSHIP IN NATO

During his visit to Berlin on 10 May, Arturas Paulauskas had an unscheduled meeting with former German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, one of the leaders of the Free Democratic Party, BNS reported. Kinkel said that the Baltic states should become NATO members only after the rule of law and democracy becomes firm in Russia. Moreover, according to Kinkel, Lithuania's admission to NATO would isolate Russia from the creation of a common European security system. Paulauskas replied that there is no need for such a delay and that Lithuania's membership in NATO would not affect Russia's participation in a common European security system. He doubted that Lithuania's current good relations with Russia would worsen if it joined NATO. In all other meetings with German politicians Paulauskas was assured of Germany's sympathy and support for Lithuania's quick accession into the EU and NATO. SG

SOLIDARITY LEADER URGES RIGHT-WING TO UNITE BEFORE ELECTIONS

Marian Krzaklewski, leader of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) parliamentary caucus and head of the Solidarity trade union, has appealed to right-wing parties to unite behind Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski before the 23 September parliamentary elections, PAP reported on 10 May. According to Krzaklewski, such an election bloc should be headed by Kaczynski and supervised by a council under Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek. Krzaklewski said a member of the Buzek-run AWS Social Movement should head the bloc's election committee. He added that the Polish Party of Christian Democrats could be responsible for legal matters during the elections and the Christian National Union for finances. "These are the beginnings of a concept to reunite the Right," Krzaklewski said, adding that this could lead to a final merger of right-wing groups following the elections. JM

POLAND DEVELOPS NATO E-MAIL SAFETY CODES

Specialists from the State Protection Office (UOP) have developed an e-mail safety code scheme for use in NATO countries' national security systems, PAP reported on 10 May. "This is in line with the best Polish traditions. After all, it was the Poles who broke [Nazi Germany's] Enigma [code]," Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said during a meeting with UOP head Zbigniew Nowek. Nowek refused to elaborate on the new e-mail encryption system, saying only that it is better than those used in the U.S. and Germany. "We have been commissioned to train nine NATO candidates in security. This is a big distinction," Buzek said. JM

KLAUS SPEAKS HIS MIND ON AUSTRIA

In an interview with the Austrian "Die Presse" on 11 May, Chamber of Deputies Chairman and opposition leader Vaclav Klaus said Austria plays no "special role" in the Czech Republic's economy, that it must stop "demonizing" Prague over Temelin, and that the neighboring country is promoting a concept of "strategic partnership" that is "counterproductive," CTK reported. Klaus says Austria is "economically quite active" in the Czech Republic, but faces competition from other countries and therefore "plays no specific role." Instead of "demonizing" Temelin, Austrian politicians should focus on persuading public opinion to accept rather than reject the controversial nuclear plant, which Klaus describes as "a normal thing." On Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner's "strategic partnership" initiative, Klaus said the move "has no future and no significance." There already are "many empty political initiatives" in the region, such as the Visegrad Four and the Central European Initiative, in which 17 countries are members, he noted, adding that one more such initiative "is counterproductive." MS

CZECH, SLOVAK DEFENSE MINISTERS DISCUSS COOPERATION

Meeting in Brno at a military hardware trade fair on 10 May, Czech Defense Minster Jaroslav Tvrdik and his Slovak counterpart Jozef Stank said their two countries and Poland will set up a joint peacekeeping unit to operate in Kosova, CTK reported. A memorandum on the new unit will be signed in June. Tvrdik said the two countries can cooperate in upgrading Mi-24 helicopters and will continue their cooperation in the upgrading of T-72 tanks. He also said the Czech army is interested in purchasing Slovak-made Zuzana howitzers, while the Slovak army is interested in purchasing subsonic planes and the choice might be the Czech-made L-159. In related news, the Czech government decided on 11 May to allot 427 million crowns (some $11 million) in aid to several state-owned arms-manufacturing companies that are facing difficulties. Most of the money will go to Letecke opravny Kbely, which specializes in rotor helicopter repairs, and to Vojensky opravarensky podnik in Novy Jicin, which modernizes the T-72s. MS

NATO HOPEFULS SUMMIT OPENS IN BRATISLAVA...

In a message read by U.S. Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman to participants in the Bratislava summit of NATO candidate countries on 10 May, President George W. Bush said "NATO must be opened to all of Europe's democracies [that are] ready and able to meet NATO obligations and contribute to Europe's security. No part of Europe will be excluded because of history or geography." Bush praised the progress made by Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia and said they must continue carrying out necessary military, economic, and political reforms, CTK and AP reported. MS

...AS SLOVAK PREMIER EXPECTS INVITATION TO JOIN

In an interview with CNN ahead of the summit, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said on 10 May that the alliance should open its doors to as many countries as possible in its next wave of expansion, Reuters reported. Dzurinda said that "the more countries join NATO -- the better for both those states and for NATO, as well as for world security." He said Slovakia "expects [an invitation] to join during the NATO summit in Prague" scheduled for autumn 2002. MS

SLOVAK FINANCE MINISTER PLEDGES CONTINUATION OF REFORMS

Brigitta Schmoegnerova, speaking on 10 May at an economic forum in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, assured European bankers, businessmen, and politicians in the audience that Slovakia does not intend to abandon its economic reforms strategy, CTK reported. She said the "room for a reverse" of the strategy is "fortunately decreasing with every further step on reforms" and added that the government does not intend to abandon these policies to regain its dropping popularity ahead of the next elections. Schmoegnerova illustrated Slovakia's progress by telling the audience that the GDP growth projections for 2001 and 2002 are 3.2 and 3.6 percent, respectively. MS

SLOVAK HELSINKI COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN CALLS FOR 'POSITIVE DISCRIMINATION' OF ROMA

Miroslav Kusy, chairman of the Slovak Helsinki Committee, told journalists on 10 May that if Slovakia were to introduce "positive discrimination" toward its Roma population, the measure would prevent a future exodus of Roma such as the one that is currently underway, CTK reported. Kusy said he is opposed to any measure that would infringe on Roma civil rights, in reference to a proposal that passports be taken away from members of that minority. Kusy said incentives must be introduced for the Roma to see their futures in Slovakia, rather than elsewhere. He explained that positive discrimination does not mean putting other people at a disadvantage. "No Rom should be admitted to a university just because he is a Rom, but conditions must be created for Roma to be able to register at a university," he said. Kusy also proposed that companies willing to employ Roma should be granted tax breaks. MS

TORGYAN TO BECOME INDEPENDENT HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENTARY MEMBER...

Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) Chairman Jozsef Torgyan must become an independent member of parliament, this decision coming after the parliament's Procedural Committee ruled on 10 May that Speaker Ader Janos cannot reverse the FKGP parliamentary group's decision to expel Torgyan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2001). Opposition Socialist and Free Democrat members of the committee refused to participate in the vote, saying that the committee was being forced to make a political decision. The committee ruled that Torgyan's expulsion is "an internal FKGP affair." Torgyan said he refuses to become independent and that he will file a lawsuit against the FKGP group for "document forgery." MSZ

...ACCUSES ORBAN OF BREACHING COALITION TREATY

Prime Minister Viktor Orban complied with Environment Minister Bela Turi-Kovacs's request and dismissed the ministry's Political State Secretary Sandor Kavassy on 10 May. The FKGP's Steering Board, however, decided to recall Smallholder Turi-Kovacs as minister and confirmed Kavassy in his post. Torgyan said that Orban's decision "jeopardizes democracy and the governing coalition treaty." He also said that although the FKGP will not abrogate the coalition agreement, it regards Orban's action as a "serious negative development." In related news, the Budapest Metropolitan Court rejected Zsolt Lanyi's application to be recognized as FKGP Chairman, saying that the recent "reform" Smallholders' convention in Budapest was not empowered to elect a new chairman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2001). MSZ




MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTER REJECTS 'PROLONGED CEASE-FIRE'

Ljubco Georgievski said in Skopje on 10 May that he cannot agree to a "prolonged cease-fire" with the ethnic Albanian guerrillas lest it "allow the terrorists to regroup," AP reported. The ethnic Albanian opposition Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) has made a cease-fire a condition for its joining the planned grand coalition government (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 May 2001). Some other parties have offered the PPD ministerial posts and additional political enticements to join the coalition, but the party remains divided over entering the government lest it lose potential hard-line support (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2001). In Madrid, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said: "When the nation's very survival is at stake, there is no room for playing politics," Reuters reported. Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh noted in a statement that a grand coalition will "serve as a joint platform against [violence] and a forum for a dialogue." But in Skopje, PPD spokesman Zekir Bektesi called on the international community to concentrate on "creating conditions for an end to military operations" in Macedonia. PM

MACEDONIAN ALBANIANS CONTINUE TO FLEE

It is not clear whether the civilians remaining in Slupcane and two other villages are doing so of their own free will or whether they are being used as human shields by the guerrillas, AP reported from Skopje on 10 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 9 May 2001). An official of the UNHCR said in Prishtina that 8,076 ethnic Albanian civilians have arrived in Kosova in recent days. PM

SERBIAN, MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTERS AGREE TO FIGHT 'TERRORISM'

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and Georgievski, agreed in Skopje on 10 May to "coordinate" unspecified actions against "terrorism" because the "terrorists are well coordinated," Djindjic said. He did not give any proof for his allegation that the ethnic Albanian fighters in Presevo and Macedonia have any sort of joint command, nor did he specify whether Belgrade and Skopje are contemplating joint military action. Georgievski said that the two sides should exchange information in order to "stifle terrorism," AP reported. The two men agreed that "terrorism is a mutual problem" and that it has its "roots" In Kosova, dpa reported. PM

U.S. ENVOY BLASTS ETHNIC ALBANIAN FIGHTERS

State Department special Balkan envoy James Pardew said in Prishtina on 10 May that a "great tragedy" has developed in Macedonia. "It was started recently by the Albanian extremists who attacked, in an unprovoked attack on Macedonian security forces," RFE/RL reported. Turning to the conflict in Presevo, he stressed that "the United States does not consider the [Albanian guerrilla] forces in the ground [security] sector zone to be legal or legitimate. They should lay down their arms, disorganize, just get rid of their organization, and leave, because their presence there is provocative." Pardew added that "anyone involved with extremists or actively supporting them will not be allowed to travel to the U.S.," but did not say how U.S. officials will determine who should be included in the ban. PM

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT WARNS MACEDONIA AGAINST 'CHECHEN' SOLUTION

Petar Stoyanov said in Sofia on 10 May that "the Republic of Macedonia should not allow the use of the Chechen model for solving the crisis through use of force. Political dialogue is the only way to end the crisis by achieving a political and ethnic agreement," Reuters reported. He added that "a state of war is not a solution to the problem, but a step towards ethnic war. Unleashing a wave of refugees from Macedonia to Kosovo can lead to a humanitarian catastrophe." Stoyanov called for a greater international presence in Macedonia to help end the crisis. He also urged politicians in Macedonia not to exploit the crisis in the run-up to early elections expected at the start of 2002 (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 May 2001). Speaking in Bratislava, Slovakia, Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said that the situation in the western Balkans is a European problem requiring a European solution, TASR reported. PM

NATO SEIZES WEAPONS IN KOSOVA

Italian KFOR troops arrested seven people and seized "a large truck full of weapons" near Peja on 10 May, AP reported. KFOR Spokesman Roy Brown said in Prishtina the next day: "This is one of the biggest seizures in the time we have been here." He added that the haul included "52 rocket launchers, a couple of dozen antitank weapons, five antiaircraft SAM 7 missiles, [an unspecified quantity of] mortars, an 82 millimeter cannon, various rifles and a significant quantity of ammunition." The truck had Bosnian license plates. PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT SAYS U.S. ROLE IN DONORS CONFERENCE 'STILL OPEN'

Back in Belgrade after what he called a "historic" visit to the U.S., Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said on 10 May that "U.S. participation in [a planned] donors conference for Yugoslavia remains an open issue," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 May 2001). The Bush administration wants Belgrade to extradite former President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague or at least to set a date for his extradition. The most that Kostunica could offer was the promise to speed passage of a law that would allow for the extradition of Yugoslav citizens. Washington is unwilling to give its seal of approval to the donors conference without serious efforts by Belgrade to cooperate with the war-crimes tribunal. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER WANTS EUROPEAN 'GENTLE PRESSURE' ON U.S.

Djindjic said in Belgrade that he hopes that the U.S. will participate in the donors conference, "Vesti" reported on 11 May. He argued that this is "not just because of the money" that Serbia expects from the gathering, but because of the need for Western support to improve "the political rating of our country" and attract investors. Noting Washington's doubts about the conference, Djindjic said that his government will try "to exert gentle pressure [on the U.S.] via our European friends" to persuade the Bush administration to change its mind. PM

DEL PONTE 'CONFIDENT' OF EVENTUAL SERBIAN COOPERATION

Speaking at the UN in New York, Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of The Hague-based war-crimes tribunal, said: "I am confident that next week, next month, we will have positive results" on persuading Belgrade to extradite Milosevic. She noted that she has received assurances from U.S. officials that "they will do all that is possible to achieve what we are asking for," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2001). Referring to complaints by Milosevic's supporters that his health is deteriorating in a Belgrade prison, she said: "I'm sure that our prison is much better, and so I invite Milosevic to come as soon as possible. He will have very good accommodation in our prison." PM

ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER TO VISIT SERBIA

Ilir Meta said in Tirana on 10 May that he has accepted an invitation from Djindjic to visit the Serbian capital at an unspecified date. Meta stressed that the visit must yield concrete results. "I agree to visit Belgrade, but it should not be a symbolic visit... It is important to agree on concrete steps [to improve] relations between Tirana and Belgrade," AP reported. PM

MILOSEVIC ALLY FOUND MURDERED

Unknown assailants killed Klara Mandic on 10 May and set fire to her flat in an apparent robbery attempt, AP reported the next day. She was the founder of the Serbian-Jewish Friendship Society but was regarded with suspicion by many members of the Jewish community, the news agency added. Born of Jewish parents but raised by a Serbian family after the Holocaust, she was politically close to both Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. The Bosnian Serb leader wrote a poem to her, which he often read in public. PM

MONTENEGRIN COALITION TALKS BEGIN

President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists and the pro-independence Liberal Alliance said in a joint statement on 10 May that they have begun talks on forming a coalition government, "Pobjeda" reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 May 2001). The Liberals want the interior and justice portfolios as well as an agreement on a referendum. PM

PETRITSCH HOLDS BOSNIAN SERB LEADERS RESPONSIBLE

High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch told Bosnian Serb leaders on 10 May that he holds them responsible for the recent anti-Muslim and anti-Western violence in Trebinje and Banja Luka, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2001). He called on them to organize new ceremonies to launch the reconstruction of mosques in the two towns. PM

CROATIAN GOVERNMENT CALLS SOCCER VIOLENCE POLITICAL

Interior Minister Sime Lucin said in Zagreb on 10 May that recent soccer violence in Split was politically motivated and called for an investigation, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2001). He and Prime Minister Ivica Racan indicated that they hold right-wing and veterans' organizations responsible. PM

ROMANIAN LIBERAL PARTY ABROGATES AGREEMENT WITH PDSR...

The leadership of the National Liberal Party (PNL), meeting on 11 May, decided to officially abrogate the agreement signed after the 2000 elections under which the PNL backed the ruling minority Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) in the parliament, Romanian radio reported. PNL Chairman Valeriu Stoica said the PNL has respected the protocol's provisions to vote confidence in the cabinet headed by Adrian Nastase and to refrain from moving no-confidence motions against it, but the PDSR has infringed on the obligation to promote economic reform, has procrastinated on implementing property restitution and passing laws on political reform, and has stopped the reform of the judiciary. On 10 May, representatives of the PNL and the Democratic Party agreed on moving in the Chamber of Deputies a motion against the government's economic policy. MS

...BUT FOCUS ATTACKS ON THE UDMR

Stoica told the PNL leadership gathering that the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania's (UDMR) collaboration with the PDSR is similar to the collaboration between the ruling party and the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM). Both the PRM and the UDMR, Stoica said, are "ethnic, anachronistic parties" that fail to comprehend that nationhood must be understood from a civic rather than from an ethnic perspective. He said that "the idea of an ethnic party is from now forever compromised in Romania," adding that the UDMR has become the advocate of a "dangerous ethnic perception" reflected in the "Status Bill" currently under debate in the Hungarian parliament. "Europe needs no new version of pan-Germanism or pan-Slavism, this time around being revived as pan-Magyarism," he commented. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER MOVES AGAINST OPPOSITION CRONIES

The government on 11 May decided to stop any debt restructuring for both state and privately owned companies and demand that their budget arrears be instantly met, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The move, however, seems to be primarily directed against those with links to the former coalition. Premier Nastase said it is "inadmissible" that "Finance Ministry representatives that were not changed on time are granting credits to their political friends" under the mask of debt-restructuring, and a governmental press release said such credits amount to "loans with zero interest." Meanwhile, on 10 May, three former directors in the now defunct State Property Fund were arrested on suspicion of having illegally facilitated the privatization of the Bucharest Cico company in 1999 at prices below market value. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN KING TO RESIDE IN PALACE WHERE HE ABDICATED?

Public Administration Minister Octavian Cozmanca said on 10 May that the government intends to propose that the Elisabeta Palace in Bucharest be offered to former King Michael as his official residence under the provisions of the legislation about to be passed by the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2001). The communists forced King Michael to abdicate his throne on 30 December 1947, and the abdication documents were signed in that former royal residence. Cozmanca said that if King Michael would not agree to reside there, "other options are also under consideration." MS

ROMANIAN WORKERS KILLED BY PALESTINIANS ON ISRAELI BORDER

Two Romanian workers were killed and one was seriously injured on 10 May by a bomb planted by Hezbollah-Palestine, which assumed responsibility for the attack but said it was directed against Israeli soldiers. The incident occurred near the Kissufim border-crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Israel has sent condolences to the Romanian government over the incident. Romanian workers in Israel have fallen victim to Palestinian attacks directed against Israeli civilians several times in the past. In the most serious incident so far, seven Romanian workers were killed in March 1996 when a bomb was detonated in a Jerusalem public transportation bus. MS

BULGARIAN KING'S MOVEMENT OUTDISTANCES RIVALS IN POLL

A public opinion poll conducted by the National Center for Public Opinion Research (NZIOM) shows National Movement Simeon II ahead (34.4 percent) in the race for the parliamentary elections scheduled for June. The ruling coalition United Democratic Forces (ODS) parties is backed by 14.8 percent, while the For Bulgaria electoral alliance forged by the opposition Socialist Party is backed by 10 percent, BTA and dpa reported on 10 May. NZIOM Director Lidia Yordanova told journalists that the traditional electorate of the two major rivals is dwindling away, with the king's movement scoring well on both sides of the left-right spectrum. She said only 10 percent of the respondents want a restoration of the monarchy, while 73.9 percent want Bulgaria to continue being a republic. The poll shows Simeon as the second most popular politician, trailing only Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski (68 vs. 70 percent). MS

BULGARIA TO RAISE LIBYAN TRIAL AT NEXT WHO FORUM

The cabinet headed by Ivan Kostov decided on 10 May that the Bulgarian delegation at the World Health Organization (WHO) forum, which meets in Geneva between 14 and 22 May, will raise the issue of the six Bulgarians currently on trial in Libya, BTA reported. The six are charged with deliberately infecting children in a Benghazi hospital with the HIV virus and the presiding judge at the trial has thus far refused the defense request that WHO experts be allowed to testify. MS

BULGARIA TO HOST NEXT NATO CANDIDATES SUMMIT

President Petar Stoyanov will host the next summit of NATO candidate countries on 5 October, the presidential office, cited by BTA, announced on 10 May. In an interview with TASR ahead of the Bratislava summit that he is attending (see above), Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said on 10 May that Bulgaria is expecting an invitation to join NATO at the organization's 2002 Prague summit. Kostov said he is "encouraged" by the "positive signals" received from the NATO members but acknowledged Bulgaria is still facing problems, particularly in achieving macoroeconomic stability. He said Sofia is continuing efforts to make military reforms and to reform the judiciary. The premier added that the success of the reforms will be of particular importance for the situation of "some worst-affected social groups, such as the Roma population." MS




COSSACKS CONDUCT NEW POGROMS


By Julie A. Corwin

Tensions between local Cossacks and Meskhetians in Krasnodar Krai have continued to worsen, according to RFE/RL's Krasnodar correspondent. Local Cossacks in the Krymskii Raion in Krasnodar Krai have been conducting a campaign of violence against the stores and homes belonging to Meskhetians, RFE/RL's Krasnodar correspondent reported on 25 April. The conflict started on 13 April when an old man, who was an ethnic Russian, was beaten outside a store in the village of Novoukrainskoye, and rumors circulated that the man had been attacked by "Turks," which is how the Meskhetians are generally referred to. Representatives of the local society representing the Meskhetians tried -- unsuccessfully -- to convince the Cossacks that the "hooligans" involved in the attack were not "Turks" but Azerbaijanis born in Georgia. The Meskhetian community is split between those who consider themselves Turks, and those who believe they are ethnic Georgians.

Two days after the attack, four busloads of Cossacks arrived in the town dressed in camouflage, carrying batons and gas pistols. Ivan Bezuglyi, the ataman of the Tamansk department of the Kuban Cossack forces, went up to one house where a Turkish-Meskhetian family was residing and declared that the Cossacks had arrived to check their passports. According to the correspondent, the Cossacks for the most part found that most of the adults were at work, but all the men who they did find at home were rounded up in buses and taken away. After the leaders of the Turkish-Meskhetian society finally managed to get the local police to intervene, the Cossacks released some six men of Turkish descent. They had been beaten severely, their clothes ripped and faces bloodied. And despite repeated requests, their personal documents were not returned to them by the Cossacks.

On the same day, as the men were taken away, a group of masked men from one of the Cossack buses entered a shop owned by a Meskhetian and beat one of the shop's assistants and pulled all the goods off the store's shelves. Although several Turkish-Meskhetians were treated for wounds in the hospital, so far no criminal proceedings in the matter have been launched.

According to RFE/RL's Krasnodar correspondent, the incidents are only the most recent manifestation of tension between the two communities. The correspondent reported on 24 March that Ataman Bezuglyi has demanded at numerous unsanctioned meetings the more or less quick expulsion of ethnic "Turks" from the Kuban, using as his main argument "the age-old incompatibility of Slavic and Turkish populations." The Cossacks have also accused the Turks of showing a lack of respect for their Cossack neighbors, and of providing assistance to radical Muslim organizations.

There are some 13,500 Meskhetians in the krai, according to official information, but unofficial estimates put the total at 20,000. Of this number only some 2,500 have Russian citizenship, the rest are residing with temporary registration, having become persons without citizenship as of 1 February. Aleksandr Blokhin, the federal minister for federation, nationality, and migration policy, has said that lists are being formed to send some of the Meskhetians to Turkey, Georgia, and other countries, including Canada.

Hostility toward the Meskhetians has been expressed not only by local Cossacks but also by high-level public officials in the krai. In an interview with "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 27 January, Vladimir Beketov, chairman of the krai's legislative assembly, suggested that the Meskhetians decided to settle near the strategic port of Novorossiisk "not just for the remarkable climate" but as part of an effort by a "neighboring country" -- presumably Turkey -- "to destabilize the situation in a strategically important region of Russia" and "deprive [Russia] of the most important ports and bases." Beketov also complained that the Meskhetians are taking Russian government money to return to their traditional homelands but are not actually leaving the Kuban for good.

Meanwhile, the Russian government's recent agreement with Turkey to allow the latter to open a consulate in Novorossiisk is sparking protest from local groups. A number of ethnic organizations in the krai have expressed their opposition to plans of the Turkish government to open the consulate, "Izvestiya" reported on 8 May. According to the daily, Ishkhan Khudoyan, head of the Kurdish society of the Kuban said that with the creation of the consulate the Turkish intelligence service will have a legal outpost in the krai. Also opposed to the consulate are the Cossacks and ethnic Armenians in the krai. The daily speculates that with the opening of the consulate the conflicts between the Meskhetians and the local Cossacks "could take unprecedented forms."


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