Accessibility links

Newsline - May 14, 2001




MOSCOW HELSINKI GROUP MARKS 25TH ANNIVERSARY

Yurii Orlov, Natan Sharansky, Lyudmila Alekseeva, and other Soviet-era dissidents assembled in Moscow on 12 May to mark the 25th anniversary of the formation of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Russian and Western agencies reported. Speakers noted both the progress that had been made over that period and the problems still remaining, with Alekseeva stressing the need to work with the government in order to defend human rights. PG

ANOTHER MOSCOW JOURNALIST ATTACKED

Interfax-Moscow reported on 12 May that unknown young people had attacked and robbed television journalist Aleksandr Livanskii in the southwestern section of the city. Meanwhile, Aleksei Venediktov, the chief editor of the radio station Ekho Moskvy, assessed the chances for successful talks with Gazprom-Media at "50-50," Interfax reported the same day. He said that searches at the station's offices by prosecutors were part of a campaign of "psychological pressure" against its broadcasters. On 11 May, the Media Ministry issued two warnings to the newspaper "Russkie vedomosti" for articles allegedly inciting "interethnic hostility," Interfax reported. And in another media-related event, a Moscow court has postponed until September 2001 hearings against the Gazprom-Media takeover of NTV, AFP reported on 10 May. PG

PUTIN PRAISES ENVOY SYSTEM

Russian President Vladimir Putin on 12 May praised the work of the seven presidential envoys to the federal districts he established one year ago, Russian and Western agencies reported. He said they had accomplished a great deal in creating a common legal space and had ended the threat of the disintegration of the country, but he said that they must be careful not to encroach on the powers of governors and must do more to promote the standard of living in the regions. PG

BEREZOVSKY PLANS NEW PARTY

Embattled media magnate Boris Berezovsky plans to finance a new political party to oppose President Putin, "The Washington Post" reported on 11 May. "Putin is really destroying what we created in the last 10 years," Berezovsky told the paper. He added that he plans to provide financial support to 163 organizations in Russia to help promote civil society there. PG

PLURALITY SAYS MULTIPARTY SYSTEM UNNECESSARY

According to the results of a VTsIOM poll reported by "Vremya MN" on 11 May, 46 percent of Russians consider that Russia does not need a multiparty system, while 41 percent of Russians believe that their country should have one. PG

LDPR OUTLINES FOREIGN, DOMESTIC POLICIES

At the 12th congress of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Duma Deputy Speaker and LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky outlined the party's views on foreign and domestic policies, Russian and Western agencies reported on 12 May. It called for the restoration of a "United Alliance of Free Republics" to serve as a counterweight to NATO and for redirecting Russia's foreign policy focus to the south. At home, the LDPR backs a unitary Russia with 30 gubernias -- the name used by tsarist authorities for most territorial divisions of the Russian empire -- whose leaders would be appointed by the president; the extension of the terms of both the parliament and the president to five years; and greater state control of the economy. The party also favors the death penalty. And Zhirinovsky himself said that he is "glad" about the changes at NTV since Gazprom-Media took over. President Putin sent his greetings to the meeting, and Zhirinovsky assured him of the party's support, Interfax reported. PG

'LIKE IN STALIN'S TIME'

According to "Vremya MN" on 11 May, President Putin, "like in Stalin's time," will become the first Russian leader to have a bronze bust made and distributed during his lifetime. The growing Putin cult, the paper said, has already lead to the distribution of pamphlets and movies about the president as well as the organization of pilgrimages to sites connected with his life. But those will now be supplemented by an 8 kilogram bronze bust 25 centimeters high suitable for placement on a desk, the paper said. But on the same day, an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" questioned whether the pro-Putin "Walking Together" meeting of young people on 7 May had really helped the president or whether it represented an attempt by unnamed people to force the Putin government to adopt an ideology and one that rejects the West. PG

NO NEED SEEN FOR DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER FOR MOSCOW

Aleksandr Muzykantskii, a Moscow city spokesman, said on Ekho Moskvy on 12 May that the city sees no need for the establishment of a special deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation for Moscow city affairs. He stressed that "the chief source" of the authority and influence of the Moscow mayor is the mayoral election. PG

CASES AGAINST FORMER PROSECUTORS DROPPED

The Prosecutor-General's Office on 11 May announced that it has closed corruption cases against two former prosecutors-general -- Aleksei Ilyushenko, who served in that post from 1994 to 1995 and Yurii Skuratov, who was prosecutor-general from 1995 to 1999 -- Russian and Western agencies reported. Both had been charged with corruption. PG

ONE RUSSIAN IN SIX SEES POSITIVE FEATURES IN FASCISM

According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 11 May, 16 percent of Russians believe that there are positive aspects to fascism, but three-fourths of those surveyed say that Russia must adopt laws to prevent the growth of fascist groups in their country. PG

PUTIN CALLS FOR EXPANSION OF OSCE ACTIVITIES

In talks with Adrian Severin, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), President Putin called for expanding the scope of activities of the OSCE, noting that "the OSCE is the key organization in ensuring European security," ITAR-TASS reported on 11 May. In Helsinki, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that developing Europe's general security architecture rather than allowing for the expansion of NATO ought to be the priority for today, the Russian news service said the same day. And in a related move, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu on 12 May called for the establishment of an international agency to respond to emergencies, Interfax reported. PG

MOSCOW DOESN'T WANT AID, EXCEPT WHEN IT DOES

Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told visiting European Union officials on 11 May that Russia seeks equal trade opportunities rather than aid from the EU, Russian and Western news agencies reported. But the same day, Moscow officials said Russia will need billions of dollars from the West to implement a just ratified accord on converting nuclear weapons plutonium into civilian reactor fuel and more money to help destroy chemical weapons, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, also on 11 May, ITAR-TASS reported that more than 455,000 tons of humanitarian assistance from 40 donor countries had gone to 88 regions of Russia last year. PG

PATRIARCH CONDEMNS POPE'S PLAN TO VISIT UKRAINE

Patriarch Aleksii II and visiting Greek Archbishop Christodoulos on 11 May issued a joint statement saying that Pope John Paul II should have secured the approval of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine before planning to go there, Russian and Western agencies reported. In other comments, they said that "the future will show whether the pope was sincere" in his apology for past Roman Catholic actions against the Orthodox, and they criticized efforts by Universal Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to involve himself in what they called the internal affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine and Estonia. On 12 May, some 1,500 people in Moscow assembled to protest the papal visit to Ukraine, Interfax reported. One of the organizers was arrested, the news agency said. PG

CHERNOMYRDIN SEEN HAVING 'UNPRECEDENTED' POWERS

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 11 May said that President Putin has given newly appointed Russian Ambassador to Ukraine "unprecedented" powers to resolve the economic and political ties between the two countries. "Vremya MN" said on the same day that Chernomyrdin will undoubtedly focus on gas debts. But "Kommersant-Daily," also on 11 May, described the appointment as meaning that Chernomyrdin "has again become prime minister but now the Ukrainian one." PG

U.S., RUSSIA CONSULT ON MISSILE DEFENSE

First Deputy Defense Minister Anatolii Kvashnin met with visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz on 11 May to discuss American plans to introduce an antiballistic missile system, Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said that the talks were "rich in content" but that they had raised more questions than answers. PG

MOSCOW CRITICIZES U.S. CONGRESS ON UN PAYMENTS

Yakovenko said on 11 May that Moscow is "concerned" by the decision of the U.S. Congress to partially block American payments to the United Nations in the wake of Washington's loss of a seat on the UN's Human Rights Commission, Interfax reported.

MOSCOW SAYS INCREASED U.S., U.K. FLIGHTS OVER IRAQ 'OBSTACLES' TO PEACE'

Yakovenko said on 11 May that the increasing number of American and British patrol flights over the no-fly zones of Iraq are making the situation there more difficult and represents "obstacles on the way" to the regulation of the Iraqi situation, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, on 12 May, Emergency Situations Minister Shoigu proposed to the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation that it cooperate with Moscow in clarifying whether Western countries had used spent uranium shells during the Gulf War, the news service said. PG

MOSCOW HOPES TO BUILD MORE REACTORS IN IRAN

In addition to completing the construction of a nuclear power station in Bushehr, the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry hopes to build up to five more such plants there and an additional one in Egypt, Interfax reported on 11 May. PG

RUSSIA TO TEST-FIRE MISSILE IN INDIA

Russian scientists are in India to test-fire a Russia OSA-AK surface-to-air missile now in service with the Indian armed forces, Reuters reported on 11 May. PG

MOSCOW CONTINUES COOPERATION WITH OPEC

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 12 May told visiting Ali Rodriguez, the secretary-general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting countries, that Russia "has good business relations" with that organization and is pleased by "the current stable level of world oil prices," ITAR-TASS reported. A day earlier, First Deputy Energy Minister Ivan Matlashov said that Russia will fulfill its promises to OPEC on the reduction of oil exports, Interfax reported. PG

RUSSIA TO MAINTAIN RESTRICTIONS ON MEAT IMPORTS

The Agriculture Ministry announced on 11 May that for the time being Moscow will leave in place restrictions on the import of meat and meat products from countries where there have been outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS RETURN OF GAGARIN RELIC

Vladimir Kozlov, the head of Russia's national archive, said on Ekho Moskvy on 11 May that the Russian government will seek the return of a document prepared by Yurii Gagarin, the first Soviet cosmonaut to orbit the earth, that was sold by Christie's auction house in New York last week for $171,000. PG

MUSLIM TIES WITH OTHER FAITHS IN TATARSTAN SAID CLOSE TO IDEAL

Gusman-Khazret Iskhakov, the mufti of Tatarstan, said in an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 11 May that relations between Muslims and other faiths in his republic are "ideal" in large measure because of the tolerance Tatarstan's Muslims show to each other and to members of other faiths. Meanwhile, on the same day, "Vremya MN" reported that officials in Tatarstan's Naberezhnie Chelny intend to open a market that will sell only goods prepared in correspondence with the norms of the Muslim shariat law. PG

ECONOMIC CRIMES AT HOME AND ABROAD

A senior Russian police official told ITAR-TASS on 12 May that there have been more than 153,000 economic crimes identified since the start of 2001, an 8.3 percent increase over the same period one year earlier. Meanwhile, an Australian newspaper reported that Russian criminal groups have laundered $1 billion in that country, AP reported on 13 May. PG

DRUGS THREATEN RUSSIAN SOCIETY, MILITARY

In a report published in the "Krug Zhizni" supplement to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 11 May, the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy said that drug use has become "a mass, all-national problem that directly threatens the state." The report says that the actual number of users has reached 2.5 to 3 million, most of them young people under the age of 30. Particularly disturbing, according to the report, is the increasing use of drugs in the military. During 2000, it said, more than 20 soldiers in Chechnya were caught trading ammunition and uniforms for drugs. PG

68 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS THINK ARMY COULD DEFEND COUNTRY

A poll conducted by monitoring.ru and reported by ITAR-TASS on 11 May found that 68 percent of Russians believe that the Russian army is capable of defending the country, with 21 percent saying that they do not believe that it is. On the same day, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that many Russian officers are concerned that the downgrading of the military dimension of the Victory Day parade points to declining government support for the military's needs and status. But on the same day, President Putin said that he plans to raise military pay and benefits, Interfax reported. A decision will be made before the end of May. Putin noted that 40 percent of those in service have a standard of living lower than the national average. PG

ATOMIC SHIPBUILDER IN TROUBLE BECAUSE OF DEFENSE MINISTRY DEBT

Officials at the State Center for Atomic Shipbuilding told Interfax North-West on 12 May that the failure of the Defense Ministry to pay more than 2 billion rubles ($83 million) has left the facility in danger of collapse. Meanwhile, in a process that "Vremya MN" on 11 May described as "deprivatization," the Russian government announced plans to reform the country's aviation industry into several large holding companies. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS TO CATCH UP WITH WEST IN INFO TECHNOLOGY

The Russian government has created a working group under the chairmanship of Vladimir Fortov, the vice president of the Academy of Sciences, to devise ways to promote the development of information technology in Russia, the "Krug Zhizni" supplement of "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11 May. According to the paper, information technology produces only 0.1 percent of Russia's GDP, compared to its contribution of 27 percent to the American GDP. PG

SEALS NOW SAID NOT TO NEED HELP

After a media blitz last week in which Russian scientists suggested that 200,000 baby seals might be at risk in the Barents Sea this spring, the captain of the Russian ship leading a rescue operation told ITAR-TASS on 12 May that the situation is not as severe as had been reported and that only 5,000 of the seals are in any way at risk. PG

DOCTORS PROTEST AGAINST RECEIVING MANURE AS PAY

Doctors at the Vacha hospital in Nizhnii Novgorod have protested against receiving their salaries in the form of manure, Russian Center television reported on 11 May. The doctors, who in recent times had been paid with food, said that they took the offer of manure as "a personal offense." PG

PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY ACCUSED OF ELECTION INTERFERENCE IN FAR EAST...

Presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district Konstantin Pulikovskii denied on 12 May that he has interfered in the gubernatorial election process in Primorskii Krai, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to Pulikovskii, the extent of his involvement in the election has been confined to expressing support for the candidacy of his first deputy, Gennadii Apanasenko. To support anyone else, according to Apanasenko, would mean to go against his conscience. On 11 May, the krai's legislative assembly adopted an appeal to President Putin accusing Pulikovskii and his apparatus of using unprecedented pressure during the course of the campaign. Also on 12 May, Mikhail Lichenko, the mayor of Dalnerechenska, denied reports that all of the heads of cities and raions in the krai intend to support Apanasenko. He said that in a meeting of the heads of municipal organizations in the krai, several spoke in support of Apanasenko but others did not, and therefore no joint position was forged. JAC

...AS KREMLIN OFFICIAL MEETS WITH TOP CANDIDATE

First deputy head of the presidential administration Vladislav Surkov met with former acting Governor and gubernatorial candidate Valentin Dubinin on 11 May, Interfax reported. According to the agency, the meeting took place at the request of Dubinin. According to "Obshchaya gazeta" on 10 May and "Kommersant-Daily" of 8 May, Surkov told deputies during his visit that Apanasenko should be supported (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 9 May 2001). The election is scheduled to take place on 27 May, and Apanasenko is trailing badly in opinion polls. Former Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov leads. JAC

ANOTHER WOULD-BE POLITICAL COMPETITOR GIVEN SEAT IN FEDERATION COUNCIL

Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev selected Rafgat Altynbaev as his representative to the Federation Council, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 11 May. Altynbaev was most recently deputy agriculture minister. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 12 May, Altynbaev is the former mayor of Naberezhnie Chelny and was previously considered the most viable competitor against Shaimiev in the 2001 presidential elections; however, Altynbaev did not participate in the race. The daily concludes that Altynbaev had reached some kind of prior agreement with Tatarstan's authorities about his nonparticipation and will now be rewarded with a post as head of the Federation Council's Budget Committee. Altynbaev will join two incumbent governors who chose not to run for re-election and were later appointed as representatives to the Federation Council -- former Chukotka Governor Aleksandr Nazarov and former Krasnodar Krai Governor Nikolai Kondratenko. JAC

YASTRZHEMBSKII REJECTS BEREZOVSKY'S CALL TO END WAR IN CHECHNYA

Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 11 May dismissed businessman Berezovsky's call earlier that day for an immediate and unconditional end to the war in Chechnya, Interfax reported. Yastrzhembskii added that the current war in Chechnya would not have been necessary were it not for Berezovsky's role in facilitating the signing in August 1996 of the Khasavyurt accord that ended the 1994-1996 Chechen war. Berezovsky told journalists in the south of France, where he currently lives in voluntary exile, that while he firmly believes that Chechnya "was and remains an inseparable part of Russia," history has shown that "it is impossible to struggle with a nation by force, only with persuasion." Yastrzhembskii had similarly rejected Berezovsky's proposal last December to begin talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov on ending the fighting in Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December 2000). LF

SUSPECTED EXECUTIONER OF FOUR FOREIGNERS KILLED IN CHECHNYA

Yastrzhembskii also said on 11 May that Chechen fighter Apti Abitaev was shot dead while resisting capture in a special operation by federal forces in the town of Starie Atagi, south of Grozny, on 2 May, Russian agencies reported. Identified as an aide to field commander Arbi Baraev, Abitaev is believed to have been responsible for the execution of one New Zealand and three British telephone engineers whose severed heads were found on a roadside near Grozny in late 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 1998). LF




ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DOWNPLAYS PROTESTS OVER TV INTERVIEW...

Vartan Oskanian told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 11 May in Strasbourg that his use in an interview with an independent Armenian TV station two days earlier of the term "occupied territories" to describe regions of Azerbaijan adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh that are currently under the control of Armenian forces does not presage the signing of a Karabakh peace accord in which Armenia will be constrained to make major concessions to Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 18, 14 May 2001). Opposition Armenian politicians, however, continued to criticize Oskanian's formulation. National Accord Front Chairman Ashot Manucharian told some 1,000 supporters at a rally in central Yerevan on 11 May that Oskanian says what he is ordered to say by President Robert Kocharian. Aram Sarkisian's Democratic Party of Armenia issued a statement condemning the Armenian leadership's moves to conclude a Karabakh peace agreement, while Babken Ararktsian, who served as parliament speaker under former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, told Noyan Tapan that the accord the Armenian leadership is currently under pressure to sign encompasses far greater concessions than those advocated by Ter-Petrossian, who was forced to resign in February 1998. LF

...AS PRESIDENT SAYS KARABAKH ACCORD UNLIKELY TO BE SIGNED IN GENEVA

President Kocharian told AP in New York on 11 May that although agreement was reached during the OSCE-mediated talks last month in Key West on the broad outline of a Karabakh peace accord, it is not likely that a final peace agreement will be signed during his talks in Geneva in mid-June with his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev. Kocharian pointed out that even once agreement is reached on the content of a peace agreement, between six and 12 months will be needed for its approval by the Armenian parliament and subsequent implementation. LF

WORLD BANK CHAIRMAN CALLS FOR MORE INVESTMENT IN ARMENIA

Speaking in New York on 10 May at a conference to highlight foreign investment opportunities in Armenia, World Bank Chairman James Wolfensohn said the Armenian leadership is committed to free-market economics, and predicted that Armenia could become a "technological hub" in the South Caucasus, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported from New York. The International Finance Corporation, which is the World Bank's private investment arm, and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation on 11 May approved $3.6 million and $18 million respectively in loans and investments for the renovation of the Hotel Armenia, which is Yerevan's largest. LF

POLICE BREAK UP UNSANCTIONED RALLY IN AZERBAIJAN

Up to 1,000 police used violence on 12 May to break up an unsanctioned march in Baku organized by the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (ADP), Reuters and Turan reported. Between 12-15 of the estimated 150 participants in the protest, who also included representatives of the Liberal Party of Azerbaijan, were arrested. Several journalists were manhandled and one was knocked unconscious, according to Turan. The protesters were demanding the release of political prisoners, respect for human rights, and the creation of conditions that would permit political emigres to return to Azerbaijan. ADP Chairman Rasul Guliev has lived in the U.S. since resigning under pressure from his post as parliament speaker in the late summer of 1996. Police in Nakhichevan suppressed a similar protest by some 40 members of the local branch of the ADP on 12 May, Turan reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER DEPUTY EDITOR SENTENCED, AMNESTIED

After a four-week trial, a Baku court sentenced Shayin Djafarli, deputy editor of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," to one year of corrective labor on 11 May on charges of hooliganism, Turan reported. But Djafarli was freed immediately under the terms of an amnesty. Djafarli was taken into custody in November 2000 after a scuffle in the paper's editorial office with residents of the village of Mashtaga, who were protesting the coverage in "Yeni Musavat" of political developments in Azerbaijan. LF

AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL RULES OUT PARDON FOR IMPRISONED FORMER MINISTERS

Fuad Alekperov, who heads the department for law enforcement within the Azerbaijani presidential administration, told a press conference in Baku on 11 May that President Aliyev will pardon neither former Prime Minister Suret Huseinov nor former Interior Minister Iskander Hamidov, Turan reported. Alekperov said that Huseinov attempted a coup d'etat (in late 1994). He denied any political motives behind the trial and sentencing of Hamidov. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT OUTLINES PROPOSED RELATIONS BETWEEN BRANCHES OF POWER...

In his belated annual state of the nation speech, delivered to parliament on 12 May, Eduard Shevardnadze described his preferred model of relations between the president, the cabinet, and the parliament, Russian agencies reported. Under that model, the president will nominate a candidate for prime minister whose candidacy the parliament must approve. The prime minister then forms a cabinet which the parliament must similarly approve. The president has the right to disband parliament if legislators reject his candidate for premier. Parliament in turn has the right to vote no-confidence in the government, but if it does, the president is then empowered to dismiss the government and to disband parliament. The constitution does not, however, allow the president to disband parliament during the final six months of his term, during a state of emergency or martial law, or after it has launched impeachment proceedings against him. Shevardnadze said the model of "a strong president, a strong parliament, and an authoritative government" will further the process of democratization, Interfax reported. LF

...DISCUSSES OPTIMUM RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA

Shevardnadze also assured Georgian citizens in his 12 May address that the Georgian leadership is ready to deepen and develop relations with Russia, taking into account that country's interests in Georgia and the Caucasus in general, ITAR-TASS reported. But he added that bilateral relations must be based on the principle of mutually beneficial cooperation and on mutual rather than unilateral compromise. In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the previous day, former Georgian Economy Minister Vladimir Papava characterized Russia as Georgia's most important economic partner. Papava said he hopes that despite the current tensions resulting from Russian's imposition of a visa requirement for Georgian citizens, Russia and Georgia will remain "strategic partners." LF

GEORGIAN HOSTAGES RELEASED

Georgian parliament deputy Petre Tsiskarishvili and his fiancee, who were abducted by unknown persons in eastern Georgia on 7 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2001), were released on 13 May following several days of negotiations between Georgian police and security officials and their kidnappers and have returned to Tbilisi, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Glasnost-North Caucasus, "influential Chechen intermediaries" secured their release. LF

DETAINED GEORGIAN GUERRILLAS' LINKS WITH INTERIOR MINISTRY CLARIFIED

Georgian Interior Ministry Troops commander Giorgi Shervashidze told Caucasus Press on 12 May that the three Georgian guerrillas apprehended in Abkhazia on 7 April and released on 11 May were recently dismissed from the Interior Ministry Forces' Tkibuli battalion because they had organized a protest against wage delays. The Abkhaz side had inferred from the Georgian Interior Ministry documentation the men were carrying that, as many suspect, the Georgian authorities secretly support the guerrilla bands (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 2001). Shervashidze said that the guerrillas were severely beaten in captivity and are so demoralized that they refuse to meet with their relatives. He said they have been taken by convoy to the Interior Ministry hospital in Tbilisi. LF

NEW KAZAKH SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN OUTLINES PRIORITIES

Former Security Council Secretary Marat Tazhin, whom President Nursultan Nazarbaev named on 4 May to head the Committee for National Security, told the upper chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament on 11 May that his agency must tackle "new tasks," in particular terrorism and drug abuse, Interfax reported. With regard to the former, he said his committee should expand international cooperation with the objective of determining Kazakhstan's role in the regional security system. Tazhin also said that Nazarbaev has ordered the committee to expand its foreign intelligence operations. LF

FORMER SOVIET PRESIDENT IN KAZAKHSTAN

Visiting Almaty on 11 May at the personal invitation of President Nazarbaev, Mikhail Gorbachev argued that the former Soviet republics should align in a new alliance, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. Gorbachev was scheduled to meet with Nazarbaev on 12 May. LF

TENSIONS EMERGE WITHIN COMMUNIST PARTY OF KAZAKHSTAN

The former first secretary of the Almaty Oblast Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, Arsentii Apolimov, told a press conference in the former capital on 11 May that the party's chairman, Serikbolsyn Abdildin, frequently violates party statutes and resorts to abusive and vulgar language, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Apolimov argued that such behavior testifies to Abdildin's inability to discuss constructively the problems besetting the party. Abdildin dismissed Apolimov as obkom first secretary earlier this month, shortly after Apolimov called for preterm elections in Kazakhstan that he predicted would return the communists to power (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2001). LF

KYRGYZSTAN'S FOREIGN DEBT NOW EQUAL TO GDP

National Bank Chairman Ulan Sarbanov told journalists in Bishkek on 11 May that the country's foreign debt now stands at $1.207 billion, which is equal to 98 percent of GDP, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. The previous day, Sarbanov noted on the eighth anniversary of the introduction of Kyrgyzstan's national currency that the som has fallen in value from four to the U.S. dollar in 1993 to 49.24 to the dollar. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT CONCLUDES VISIT TO INDIA

During a three-day official visit to India on 9-11 May, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov held talks with his Indian counterpart Kocheril Raman Narayanan and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Russian agencies and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Tajik presidential press secretary Zafar Saidov told Interfax on 11 May that Rakhmonov's talks with Vajpayee focussed on economic cooperation including the possibility of establishing joint ventures in the mining and construction sectors. They also pledged to cooperate to counter terrorism and drug-trafficking and preserve regional stability. The two men discussed the situation in Afghanistan and released a joint statement calling on unnamed third countries to desist from interference in that country's internal affairs. An agreement was signed whereby India will allocate a $5 million grant to Tajikistan. LF

TWO SENTENCED TO DEATH IN TAJIKISTAN FOR ATTACK ON DUSHANBE MAYOR

Tajikistan's Supreme Court on 11 May handed down the death penalty to two brothers, Sherali and Dovud Nazriev, in connection with a bomb attack in February 2000 in which Dushanbe Mayor Mahmudsaid Ubaidullaev was seriously injured, Russian agencies reported. Deputy Security Minister Shamasullo Dzhabirov died in that attack (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2000). LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT ENUMERATES SECURITY CONCERNS...

Islam Karimov told journalists in Tashkent on 11 May that the primary reason for Uzbekistan's decision to join the Shanghai Forum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 2001) is the need to preserve stability and security in Central Asia, Interfax reported. He said that defense spending has been increased to 8 percent of all budget allocations, but that this is not excessive given the cost of modern weapons systems. He said the army will be streamlined and should be "mobile and combat ready," but that "we do not propose to fight outside the country. We must detect threats to our security and effectively protect the country from them." Karimov said that the Tajik government is unable to control parts of its territory that have become "a training ground for terrorists." The Tajik Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 12 May dismissing that claim as groundless and again denying that there are any Islamic guerrilla bases in Tajikistan, Interfax reported. LF

...COMMENTS ON PROPOSED EXCHANGE OF TERRITORY WITH KYRGYZSTAN

Karimov on 11 May described as "not a demand but a friendly offer" the proposed exchange of territories between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, a memorandum of intent concerning which was signed in February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April 2001), Interfax reported. Noting that the present border between the two countries, which was drawn in 1924, is unsatisfactory, he confirmed that Tashkent asked Bishkek for a corridor to connect the Uzbek enclave of Sokh with the rest of Uzbekistan. Karimov added that the existence of Kyrgyz enclaves on Uzbek territory "worries us and creates problems." LF




BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES BLAME ABDUCTION OF CAMERAMAN ON CRIMINAL GANG

Belarusian Deputy Prosecutor-General Mikhail Snyahir told journalists on 11 May that Dzmitry Zavadski, the missing cameraman of Russia's ORT television channel, was kidnapped on 7 July 2000 by a criminal gang led by Valery Ihnatovich, a former servicemen of a Belarusian Interior Ministry task force, Belarusian media reported. Belarusian investigators believe Zavadski was kidnapped by Ihnatovich and his group out of revenge. Zavadski filmed Ihnatovich's arrest by Russian federal forces in Chechnya and the video was subsequently shown on Russian television. "We have absolutely proven beyond all doubt who kidnapped Dzmitry [Zavadski]... We do not know Dzmitry's fate: whether he is dead or being hidden," investigator Ivan Branchel said, noting that Ihnatovich's case has already been sent to court. ORT correspondent Pavel Sheremet believes Zavadski's kidnapping was for political reasons, similar to the disappearances of Belarusian opposition politicians Viktar Hanchar and Yury Zakharanka. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH BORODIN

Pavel Borodin, state secretary of the Russia-Belarus Union, visited Minsk on 11 May and met with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and other Belarusian top officials, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. It was Borodin's first official trip following his imprisonment in the U.S. on corruption charges and subsequent extradition to Switzerland. Borodin told journalists in Minsk that it is time for both countries to work out a union constitution and create a union government and parliament. JM

LUKASHENKA'S CHALLENGERS GO TO MOSCOW FOR 'BRIDE SHOW'

Four potential challengers of Lukashenka in this year's presidential elections -- Syamyon Domash, Syarhey Kalyakin, Pavel Kazlouski, and Mikhail Chyhir -- visited Moscow on 11 May on the invitation of a Russian human rights group. Some Russian and Belarusian media dubbed the visit as a "bride show," suggesting that the four Belarusian politicians went to Moscow to look for political allies against Lukashenka in the upcoming presidential ballot. Domash told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service that they had official meetings with Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov, former Russian Deputy Premier Boris Gaidar, and "private meetings with people connected with [Russia's] presidential administration." JM

UKRAINE, TURKMENISTAN SIGN ACCORD ON GAS SUPPLIES IN 2002-2006

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his Turkmen counterpart Saparmurat Niyazov signed an accord in Kyiv on 14 May on Turkmen gas supplies to Ukraine, Interfax reported. Niyazov said Turkmenistan will supply 250 million cubic meters of gas to Ukraine in 2002-2006. In 2002 the supply quota will be 40 million cubic meters at the price of $41 for 1,000 cubic meters. Ukraine is to pay 50 percent in cash and 50 percent in "investments" in the Turkmen economy for the gas supplies. According to Niyazov, Ukraine's debt for Turkmen gas now stands at some $420 million. Kuchma commented that the Turkmen supplies "will meet Ukraine's gas demand practically to the full extent." JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION GROUPS DIFFER ON ANTI-KUCHMA REFERENDUM

The opposition For the Truth group will not participate in the preparation and holding of a referendum on President Leonid Kuchma's ouster, Interfax reported on 14 May, quoting lawmaker Taras Stetskiv, a leader of the group. Stetskiv did not rule out that the group's activists may join the referendum initiative as private persons. The referendum seeking Kuchma's ouster was proposed separately by the National Salvation Forum (FNP) and the Socialist Party (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 4 May 2001). Meanwhile, lawmaker Taras Chornovil said not everyone in the FNP is convinced that the staging of an anti-Kuchma referendum is necessary. "We have serious apprehensions that this referendum may backlash," Chornovil noted. JM

ESTONIA'S PRO PATRIA UNION ALLOWS TALLINN MAYOR TO KEEP HIS JOB

The general meeting of the Tallinn chapter of the Pro Patria Union party on 12 May voted 109 to 81 that Juri Mois remain in his post as mayor of Tallinn, BNS reported. The Moderates and the Reform Party, the other partners in the ruling coalition in the Tallinn City Council, have repeatedly called on Mois to resign and said that they might initiate a no-confidence vote against him. Earlier in the week 16 of the 18 Pro Patria deputies in the Estonian parliament sent a letter to Mois urging him to resign and ministers Toivo Jurgenson, Juri Luik, Tarmo Loodus, and Tonis Lukas expressed their support for the letter although they did not sign it. A no-confidence motion needs the support of at least 33 of the 64 members of the Tallinn City Council to pass; thus, if the opposition Center Party supports Mois, the motion will fail. SG

TWO LITHUANIAN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTIES UNITE

The Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party (LKDP) and Christian Democratic Union (KDS) in a joint conference in Vilnius on 12 May voted 258 to 31 with 7 abstentions to merge into a single party, which will be called the Lithuanian Christian Democrats (LKD), ELTA reported. Former LKDP Chaplain Monsignor Alfonsas Svarinskas accused LKDP Chairman Algirdas Saudargas of betrayal and with some 30 supporters demonstratively left the conference, hinting that they might form a new party. KDS Chairman Kazys Bobelis was elected LKD chairman and Saudargas and KDS member Edvardas Pabarcius were elected as deputy chairmen. Petras Grazuliis of the LKDP was elected chairman of the LKD board with Ignas Vegele (KDS) and Grazina Paliokiene (LKDP) as his deputies. Both Christian Democratic parties failed to pass the 5 percent barrier in the last parliament elections and Bobelis, Saudargas, and Grazulis are the only LKD deputies in the Lithuanian parliament. SG

POLAND'S RULING COALITION PARTIES TO RUN TOGETHER IN ELECTIONS

The Polish Party of Christian Democrats (PPChD), the Solidarity Electoral Action Social Movement (RS AWS), and the Christian National Union said in a statement on 12 May that they will run together in the 23 September parliamentary elections, PAP reported. The parties underscored their will to continue efforts to form a joint electoral committee of the right-wing and predicted that such a committee will be formed within one week. The same day, the PPChD and the RS AWS set up a committee to prepare grounds for the unification of both parties. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT CALLS FOR NATO 'FROM ALASKA TO TALLINN'...

In a speech delivered on 11 May to the Bratislava summit of NATO candidate countries, Vaclav Havel said NATO must expand to include the entire geographic and culturally historic area commonly perceived as "the West" and that this area extends "from Alaska in the west to Tallinn in the east," CTK reported. He said this is a large territory but one that is "comparable with the Russian Federation in terms of area and smaller in terms of population than the People's Republic of China." MS

...SAYS RUSSIA'S FEARS OF NATO REFLECT 'IDENTITY PROBLEMS'

Havel said that Russia's opposition to NATO expansion stems from both the legacy of the Soviet era in which NATO used to be portrayed as an "arch-enemy" and from Russia's problem with "its identity or self-understanding." He said Russia is "still grappling with the problem that has marked its entire history," namely "where it begins and where it ends; what belongs to its domain and what is beyond that domain; where it should exercise decisive influence and from which point onward it can no longer do so." Havel said this reflects a "lack of natural self-confidence" which comes to be expressed "not only in the bombastic nationalism" of characters such as Duma Deputy Speaker and LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, but also in "more cultured forms." Havel said it is "absurd" that in the era of missiles a great nuclear power such as Russia would wish to build around it a "cordon sanitaire." MS

...NATO MUST NOT INCLUDE RUSSIA ITSELF...

Havel also said he has no "aversion or feelings of superiority" toward Russia, but believes friendship cannot exist in the absence of "candor" and that Russia itself is better served if instead of "trickling" to Moscow "we act as equals and tell it the truth on its face." He said Russia should not be offered NATO membership, because it is a "huge Euro-Asian power" that will always have its own "specific role in world politics." The emerging new world structure, Havel said, will be based on "cooperation among clearly delimited regions or historically delimited entities," and Russia as part of NATO would amount to "a loss of any meaning" in which "anything could extend anywhere" and "disrupt the balance of power." Instead, collaboration between NATO and Russia must be based on the so-called Funding Act, which "creates preconditions for a true partnership." This would also be "more dignified" for Russia itself, since the act "de facto puts Russia on the same footing as the community of all 19 members of the alliance." MS

...BUT MUST INCLUDE THE BALTIC STATES

Havel said that unlike Russia, the Baltic states, "not only geographically, but also through their history and culture, consider themselves to be part of the West." He said he "fails to understand" why the Baltic states "should not be offered membership as soon as possible." Such a failure would amount to "yielding to some geopolitical or geostrategical interests of Russia" and "would amount to confirming the legitimacy of the [1939] Ribbentrop-Molotov pact," of Russia's right to surround itself with a cordon sanitaire or "with a sphere of interests euphemistically called 'near abroad.'" Havel also said that if Slovakia "is not afflicted by some tragic reversal of fortune, which I trust will not happen, I believe that it stands, together with Slovenia, a great chance of being offered [NATO] membership in Prague" [at the 2002 summit.] MS

CZECHS, AUSTRIANS AGREE ON COMPLETING TEMELIN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and Austrian Environment Minister Wilhelm Molterer, meeting in Prague on 12 May, agreed that the Czech side will meet Austrian demands for the completion of the recently submitted expert report on the environmental impact of the Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK reported. Kavan said the report will include the so-called "zero variant" dealing with the potential impact of not putting into operation the controversial nuclear power plant, and will improve public access to information on measures concerning possible serious accidents at the plant. The documents are to be submitted to Vienna by mid-June. MS

CZECH FAR-RIGHT HOPES TO REGAIN PARLIAMENTARY REPRESENTATION

The Republican Party (RMS) headed by far-right leader Miroslav Sladek believes it will return to the Chamber of Deputies at the 2002 elections after four years of absence, party official Martin Zbela told journalists on 12 May. The RMS is the successor of the former Assembly for the Republic-Czechoslovak Republican Party (SPR-RSC), which was declared bankrupt earlier this year. In the 1998 elections, the SPR-RSC garnered 3.9 percent of the vote and failed to get parliamentary representation. It was thus not entitled to receive state subsidies per seat in the parliament, but the vote gained would have made it eligible for electoral expense refunds amounting to almost 21 million crowns (some $540,000). In the summer of 1998, the tax authorities blocked the party's accounts due to its more than 17 million crowns owed in taxes. MS

NATO HOPEFULS WRAP UP BRATISLAVA SUMMIT...

In a joint statement released at the end of the Bratislava summit, leaders of the 10 states hoping for accession into NATO said that the alliance must speed up its efforts to expand, as NATO continues to be "the core of Transatlantic security and European stability," CTK reported. They said next year's Prague NATO summit will provide the opportunity for taking another decisive step in the direction of fulfilling the vision of the Polish Solidarity and the Czech Charter '77 Movement that shook the communist regimes at their foundation. The statement underlines the "positive developments" in the Balkans, while at the same time denouncing violence and "destabilization attempts" by "extremists." MS

...WHILE SLOVAK PREMIER DISMISSES RUSSIAN CONCERNS

Mikulas Dzurinda said the summit's main message is that "we are able to cooperate as closely as possible." Dzurinda said he is not concerned about the Russian reaction. In a statement released on 11 May, the Russian Embassy in Bratislava called the summit "a grave mistake" and said that "without democratic Russia, Europe cannot be whole and free." Zbigniew Brzezisnki, former national security adviser to U.S. President Jimmy Carter, told the gathering on 11 May that at least three countries "and perhaps several more, including one or more Baltic states," should receive invitations to join the organization at the Prague 2002 summit. MS

SLOVAK COALITION PARTY DECIDES TO STAY IN 'CONTROVERSIAL COALITION'

The National Committee of the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP), whose chairman, Pavol Hamzik, was dismissed from the government earlier this month due to alleged embezzling of EU funds, on 12 May decided to continue membership in what Hamzik called "this controversial ruling coalition." At the same time, the SOP called on Dzurinda to "announce as soon as possible how he intends to reconstruct the government," CTK reported. The committee also said the SOP itself "needs reconstruction" and a return "to its roots -- understanding and cooperation." Hamzik said the entire party leadership will resign at the next congress scheduled for 2 June but added that he will again run for the post of chairman. The committee selected Maria Kadlecikova as its candidate to replace Hamzik as deputy premier for European integration. MS

STANK, TVRDIK, DISCUSS MILITARY COOPERATION AGAIN

The Czech Republic and Slovakia will exchange more students of their respective military academies in the future, Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik told journalists after meeting with his Slovak counterpart Jozef Stank in Kosice, CTK reported. Tvrdik said he is "pleasantly surprised" by the high level and the quality of education of pilots at the Military Air Force Academy in Kosice, and particularly by the fact that the academy provides "full education in English, which corresponds to the needs of the Czech Republic as a NATO member." The two ministers agreed that, in view of meager founding, it would be more effective to sign agreements for joint use of training facilities, instead of building new ones. Stank said Slovakia cannot expect to be admitted to NATO only as a result of a political decision, and must make efforts to fulfill all military criteria as well. MS

CZECH ROMA ASK FOR ASYLUM IN SLOVAKIA

A man, a woman and three of their children, "probably of Romany origin," on 11 May applied for political asylum in Slovakia, saying they "feel threatened by unknown individuals," CTK, citing Slovak television reported. A similar case was registered in Slovakia 8 years earlier, though on numerous other occasions since Slovak Roma have demanded asylum in the Czech Republic. The five have been sent to the Adamov refugee camp in eastern Slovakia, where they will have to spend 30 days in quarantine and await a decision on their application, which is to be made within two months. CTK said the family's chances of getting asylum are "minimal," since the Czech Republic is considered by Slovak migration authorities to be "a safe country." MS

HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER ACKNOWLEDGES FKGP CHAIRMAN

Viktor Orban on 11 May told Jozsef Torgyan that he considers him the legitimate chairman of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP), Hungarian media reported. After meeting with Orban, Torgyan said his party will not dissolve the governing coalition, adding that "the coalition is planned to last through several parliamentary cycles." Torgyan also made it clear that he is "the only chairman the FKGP has ever had," and therefore, he "will not sit among the independents" in the parliament. Last week the FKGP parliamentary group expelled Torgyan from its ranks. In related news, Environment Minister Bela Turi-Kovacs said the FKGP's support has hit an all-time low in the history of the party. He also said it is still not clear who is the FKGP chairman, as Zsolt Lanyi will challenge an earlier court ruling which said the convention that elected him as chairman was not legitimate. MSZ




MACEDONIA FINALLY GETS A GOVERNMENT

The parliament voted 104-1 on 13 May to approve a broad-based coalition government of national unity (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," and "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 2001). Despite previous telephone calls by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to party leaders to conclude the agreement, it was not clear until shortly before the vote that the ethnic Albanian opposition Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) would enter the government. PPD leaders first objected to the fact that the army's cease-fire proved short-lived. They then objected to certain passages in a speech by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, who referred to ethnic Albanian fighters of the National Liberation Army (UCK) as people "from outside Macedonia with the sole goal of destroying the country." He added that the UCK is waging a campaign "of terror and chaos under the veil of some demands for human and minority rights," dpa reported. The new foreign minister is Ilinka Mitreva, a Social Democrat. Her predecessor, Srdjan Kerim, becomes ambassador to the UN. The new defense minister is Social Democrat Vlado Buckovski. PM

GEORGIEVSKI OUTLINES MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT'S TASKS

Georgievski told the parliament on 13 May that the government takes office under "most difficult" circumstances, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. He said that this is a last chance to avoid a civil war and outlined four tasks. The first is to fight "terrorism" and set up special military units to do so. The second item on the agenda is to continue the interparty dialogue under the leadership of President Boris Trajkovski, as recommended by the U.S. and EU. The third task is to organize early legislative elections for the beginning of 2002. The final item on his agenda is to carry out basic reforms. Several leaders of other parties made it clear that they regard the government as the product of urgent political necessity and not of any enthusiasm. The UCK, with which the ethnic Macedonian parties refuse to speak, considers the government "irrelevant." PM

MACEDONIAN GUNS SILENT

The Macedonian army shelled UCK positions in the Kumanovo area on 12 May and to a lesser extent on 13 May, Reuters reported. Guerrilla leaders denied army claims that the UCK had taken heavy casualties, saying "we haven't had a scratch... Although they have heavy weapons, they haven't managed to come even close to our positions." The army's guns remained silent on 14 May following parliament's approval of the government. UN refugee officials said in Skopje on 13 May that some 9,000 ethnic Albanians had fled to Kosova since the previous Monday, AP reported. Reuters noted that Gezim Ostreni, who is a former Yugoslav army officer from Debar and a veteran of the Kosova war's UCK, is now the Macedonian UCK's military commander. He had been serving with the civilian Kosova Protection Corps (TMK), when he requested leave to go home to Macedonia "on family business." PM

NATO MEETS TO DISCUSS SERBIAN READMISSION TO ZONE...

NATO officials in Brussels were to consider on 14 May whether to readmit Serbian forces to Sector B of the demilitarized ground safety zone (GSZ) along the Presevo valley's border with Kosova, Reuters reported. It is the only segment of the GSZ to which the Atlantic alliance has not allowed Serbian forces to return in recent weeks. PM

...AS TENSIONS MOUNT IN PRESEVO

Ethnic Albanian leaders on both sides of the border have warned of trouble if the Serbs reenter the GSZ, which has been a safe haven for local Albanian guerrillas. The Albanian leaders note that some of the top commanders of the Serbian forces are men who led the ethnic-cleansing campaign in Kosova in 1999. A NATO spokesman said on 13 May, however, that "it's not a question of if [the Serbs return] but when. We will not be held hostage by threats of violence," Reuters reported. AP quoted unnamed Presevo Albanians as saying on 14 May that one guerrilla and one civilian were killed and two civilians injured in recent fighting with Serbian paramilitary police near the border of the GSZ. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said that the Albanians want to stir up trouble on the eve of NATO's decision. PM

HUNGARY ARRESTS YUGOSLAV PILOT ON 1992 CHARGE

Hungarian police arrested Major Emir Sisic as he crossed into Hungary from Serbia at Roszke on 12 May, "Vesti" reported. Croatia had issued an arrest warrant for Sisic through Interpol, of which he was not aware. A Croatian court had sentenced the former Yugoslav military pilot to 20 years in prison for shooting down a helicopter containing five EC monitors near Zagreb in January 1992. All five were killed. Following Sisic's arrest, General Nebojsa Pavkovic, the Yugoslav army's chief of staff, demanded his release. PM

MONEY THE MOTIVE IN SERBIAN KILLING

Belgrade police have arrested Nikola Zivkovic in conjunction with the recent killing of Klara Mandic, an influential woman close to the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic, "Vesti" reported on 14 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 2001). Police ruled out any political motive for the killing. Zivkovic is deeply in debt from his business dealings and apparently killed Mandic for her fur coat and other valuables. PM

MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT TO MEET

The newly elected legislature will meet at the end of the week, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 13 May. President Milo Djukanovic's "Victory Belongs to Montenegro" coalition will have 36 seats against 33 for the pro-Belgrade "For Yugoslavia" coalition. The Liberal Alliance, which is expected to enter a coalition with Djukanovic, has six seats, while the Democratic Union of the Albanians and Democratic League in Montenegro have one each. In Belgrade, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic told "Blic" of 14 May that there are no differences between him and Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica on the subject of Montenegro. Djindjic added that Djukanovic is an "anachronism" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 April and 1 May 2001). PM

BOSNIAN SERB PRIME MINISTER: MOSQUES WILL BE REBUILT

Republika Srpska Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said in Banja Luka on 12 May that the recent anti-Muslim demonstrations will "not be repeated" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 2001, and "End Note" below). He added that destroyed mosques will be rebuilt in Banja Luka and elsewhere, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Ivanic stressed, however, that he also wants to see Serbian Orthodox churches rebuilt in the Muslim-Croat federation, adding that "so far I have not noticed any great interest by the representatives of international institutions" for such a project. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER HEADS DELEGATION TO NATO TALKS...

A large Romanian delegation headed by Adrian Nastase left Bucharest on 14 May to participate in Brussels at the annual "19+1" evaluation of the progress made by countries toward their implementation of the 1999 Membership Action Plan for NATO candidates, Romanian radio reported. On 12 May, Nastase said after the Bratislava summit (see above) that the chances for NATO to decide at its Prague 2002 summit to expand further are "about 70 percent," Mediafax reported. He predicted that each candidate country will be backed by a different regional "pressure group," saying that the Baltic states are most likely to be supported by the northern NATO members, and "Slovakia, perhaps also Slovenia" by the Visegrad Four. Nastase said Romania "counts very much on Germany" but also on the NATO southern tier, a group into which he counted France, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Turkey. MS

...SAYS HUNGARIAN 'STATUS BILL' NEEDS ROMANIAN APPROVAL

The "Status Bill" under consideration by the Hungarian parliament cannot apply on Romanian territory "as long as the Romanian authorities are not consulted and do not explicitly agree to it," Nastase said on 12 May. He said he has discussed the bill in Bratislava with his Slovak counterpart Mikulas Dzurinda. Nastase said that implementation of laws passed by foreign countries is possible only "on the basis of mutual agreements, or commonly accepted international standards," and "must respect [the provisions of the] constitution and the current internal legislation." In a reference to his Hungarian counterpart, Nastase said: "I believe Mr. Orban is aware of these facts." Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath said in reaction that he is "somewhat surprised" by Nastase's statement, since Hungary "has continuously informed Romania and the EU" [on the bill] and Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana has been personally briefed on it by his Hungarian counterpart Janos Martonyi. MS

ROMANIAN INTELLECTUALS PROTEST AGAINST CNSAS

A group of Romanian intellectuals residing in France and Germany launched a protest on 12 May against the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS), accusing it of distortedly implementing the provisions of the 1999 law that established the council. The 12 signatories say the CNSAS does not function as an independent structure but as one "under the political control of the Securitate, now called the Romanian Intelligence Service." They say the "cleansing" by the council of the "notorious links" of President Ion Iliescu and Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor with the communist secret police are an illustration of this lack of independence. The signatories also denounced procrastination on publishing the names of former collaborators among the Romanian Orthodox Church hierarchy and magistrates and the dismissal of a CNSAS staff member who made public documents on Patriarch Teoctist's alleged links to the Securitate. MS

DANUBE BRIDGE TO BE READY BY 2003

Romanian Transportation Minister Miron Mitrea on 12 May said after meeting his Bulgarian counterpart Antoni Slavinski that the new bridge over the Danube River between Giurgiu and Vidin will be completed by 2003, Romanian radio reported. MS

SEPARATISTS BAR MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT'S ENTRY TO TRANSDNIESTER

Border guards in Bendery-Tighina, acting on orders from Tiraspol, on 13 May barred Vladimir Voronin from entering the Transdniester, AP, AFP, and ITAR-TASS reported. Voronin intended to visit the Noul Neamt monastery in Chitcani, where monks are protesting the appointment by the Tiraspol authorities of Tiraspol Archbishop Iustinian as rector of the monastery's theological seminary. Following the outbreak of the protest, the separatists sent police to the monastery to verify the monks' identity papers. Voronin ignored an earlier warning from Tiraspol not to go to the monastery, saying he was going there "as a Christian and as president." He said in reaction that the move is intended to "sabotage" his negotiations with separatist leader Igor Smirnov scheduled for 16 May, and added that he will still go to Tiraspol. MS

ILASCU: PUTIN ORDERED AND SMIRNOV COMPLIED...

In an interview with the Flux agency on 11 May, Ilie Ilascu, who was freed from his Tiraspol detention earlier this month, said his liberation was due to the fact that "[Russian President Vladimir] Putin ordered, and [separatist leader Igor] Smirnov complied," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He added that Putin "would not have moved a finger" if Romania had not taken up his case at international fora. He said Moldova's two previous presidents, Mircea Snegur and Petru Lucinschi, had not been interested in bringing about his liberation. Ilascu also said he has no intention to withdraw his complaint before the European Court on Human Rights in Strasbourg, but acknowledged that the court might decide that hearing the case has "lost relevance" following his liberation. MS

...EXPECTS LIBERATION OF MEMBERS OF HIS GROUP

Also on 11 May, Ilascu said in Bucharest that "bargaining" is underway between Chisinau and Tiraspol on the liberation of his three comrades still detained by the separatists and that, according to the information he has, they will be set free when Moldovan President Voronin comes to Tiraspol for negotiations with Smirnov on 16 May. MS

BULGARIAN COURT REJECTS COMPLAINTS AGAINST FORMER KING'S MOVEMENT

The Supreme Administrative Court in Sofia on 11 May rejected two complaints against the legality of the earlier registration of the National Movement Simeon II by the Central Electoral Commission as a party running in the elections scheduled for June, AP reported. The complaints had been launched by the small Bulgarian Communist Party, a group of die-hard Stalinists, and by the fringe Rodolyubie 2000. After having been previously banned from running on its own, the National Movement Simeon II formed an electoral alliance with the Bulgarian Women's Party and the National Revival Party, and the Central Electoral Commission eventually approved the coalition's running under the name of the former king's movement. MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CRITICIZES BALKAN STABILITY PACT

Nadezhda Mihailova said on 11 May that the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe has failed to end the recurring Balkan crises, AP reported. "Bulgaria's government has repeatedly expressed its concern that not all commitments that the Stability Pact made for the Balkans were kept, and the evidence for that is the [current] destabilization of Macedonia," she said. Mihailova spoke in Veliko Tarnovo, some 250 kilometers east of Sofia. "We expected that the pact would provide European...guarantees, which would safeguard the Balkans" but "we see a war threat close to our western border and this worries us a lot," Mihailova concluded. MS

LIBYA AGAIN POSTPONES TRIAL OF BULGARIAN MEDICS

A Libyan court on 13 May postponed for the 12th time the trial of the six Bulgarian medics accused of willfully infecting children with the HIV virus in a Benghazi hospital, AP reported, citing Bulgarian radio. The court postponed the trial for 2 June to enable questioning of witnesses that are now missing. Defense lawyer Vladimir Sheitanov said the adjournment is a "positive sign" for the defendants and that the defense will now be able to gather witnesses it wants to question, but declined to name those witnesses. MS




WHICH WAY FOR BOSNIA?


By Patrick Moore

Some recent developments in Bosnia could serve as a wake-up call to the international community. The time may be approaching to decide whether to implement the Dayton agreements with more gusto or consider revising them.

Two recent sets of developments suggest that the tranquility of Bosnia is more apparent than real. They may tend to give credence to those observers who argue that the 1995 Dayton agreements served only to stop the fighting but did not do much more than that. Nationalists, the critics stress, are as firmly in the saddle as ever.

The first developments are those in which SFOR troops and international officials took control of offices of the Hercegovacka Banka in an effort to break the political, economic, and perhaps criminal power of the hard-line Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). The performance was less than stellar, and some reports suggest that the foreigners returned some of the crucial documents obtained in the raid after being confronted by belligerent hard-liners. Perhaps even more importantly, shutting down the bank meant that retirees and others could not get access to their pensions and savings, thereby prompting many hundreds of angry Croats to identify with the HDZ, which the foreigners are ostensibly trying to marginalize.

The second set of incidents took place on Bosnian Serb territory. At the end of April, there were demonstrations in the Sarajevo suburb of Dobrinja to protest an Irish judge's decision to assign some contested apartment blocs to the control of the Muslim-Croat federation. In early May, there followed some ugly and violent protests in Trebinje and Banja Luka aimed at preventing the reconstruction of two mosques destroyed by Serbian nationalists during the 1992-1995 war, one of which is the UNESCO-registered Ferhadija mosque. Several international and Muslim officials charged that Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) was behind the violence in all three places.

What the actions of the HDZ and SDS have in common is that they showed that the nationalists could quickly mobilize a large number of militant supporters and use them against Western officials. Moreover, police were unwilling or unable to control the violence, while SFOR troops responded with "great passivity," as one Bosnian journalist in Trebinje put it. Daniel Ruiz, a Spanish representative of the international community in Trebinje who was injured in the violence there, spoke of the "return of fascism" to Bosnia. Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija, who was injured in Banja Luka, said that the Republika Srpska and its capital are returning to their bleak wartime reputation, when Banja Luka was known as the "heart of darkness."

But are things quite so bleak? Admirers of High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch argue that he has been effective in taking some key decisions aimed at making Bosnia a viable state, including sacking obstructionist nationalist officials. Last November's parliamentary elections, moreover, took place under special OSCE rules designed to give an advantage to smaller, non-nationalist parties at the expense of the HDZ, SDS, and the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), which have held sway among their respective electorates for over a decade. Observers who feel that Bosnia is making progress at a steady if slow pace therefore argue that the recent protests are no more than a last hurrah on the part of the nationalists.

Others are not so sure. Such critics, including some insiders, believe that the international presence is chaotic, expensive, and leading to an untenable colonial situation in which many Bosnians expect the foreigners to decide things and keep the money coming in. The critics believe that the latest violence could have happened at any time since Dayton and could be the beginning of even worse things to come.

These critics maintain that the foreigners responsible for good government and law and order in Bosnia do not have a well thought-out agenda, except for identifying general goals such as stopping corruption, strengthening central institutions, breaking the power of the nationalists, launching economic reform, and promoting the return of refugees and displaced persons. The skeptics argue that the international community lacks contingency plans for dealing with worst-case scenarios and could be easily caught off guard by a Herzegovinian bombing campaign against SFOR installations and vehicles, for example.

Perhaps now is the time for the international community to take stock of what it wants in Bosnia, many observers believe. If it is indeed willing and prepared to realize the goals of Dayton, then might not a more robust approach be in order? If the foreigners intend to promote democratic ideals while at the same time weakening the role of the three parties that most voters support, then the international community should be prepared to defend its actions in a convincing manner. If it really wants to ban the nationalist parties outright, then perhaps it should do so rather than take occasional half-measures. After all, Germany and some other democratic countries have laws enabling the government to ban parties that are opposed to the democratic and constitutional order.

But if the international community is not willing to become more decisive and assertive, critics argue, then it should perhaps consider the alternatives to Dayton. The most obvious of these is a partition along ethnic lines. Bosnian supporters of this alternative argue that it is the only democratic alternative, because that is what most voters seem to want. Some foreign backers of this view maintain that there will be more wars unless the three ethnic groups are politically and physically separated once and for all. There are several arguments against this approach. One is that it would finalize the results of ethnic cleansing and suggest that robbery and murder do indeed pay. A second is that a partition would create a weak and volatile Muslim state that could become a European bridgehead for various political forces from elsewhere in the Islamic world. A third point is that partition has not led to peace in the Middle East or on the Indian subcontinent, and is unlikely to bring stability to the Balkans, either.

None of these issues and arguments is, of course, new; they have all been on the table for the better part of a decade. The point is, however, that something seems to be going very wrong in Bosnia these days. Unless the issues are looked at anew by the major players in the international community and the region, might not there be a risk that the overall tranquility of Bosnia could prove as illusory as did Macedonia's once-famous stability?


XS
SM
MD
LG