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Newsline - May 16, 2001




RUSSIANS VIEW PUTIN AS THE ANDROPOV OF TODAY

A poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 15 May found that 37.5 percent of Russians consider President Vladimir Putin to be unique and not at all like any of his predecessors. But 18 percent said that he is similar to former CPSU General-Secretary and KGB leader Yurii Andropov. Smaller percentages said that Putin resembles Boris Yeltsin, Peter the Great, Mikhail Gorbachev, Vladimir Lenin, Bill Clinton, and even Mahatma Gandhi. PG

UNITY FACTION FALLS TO 82 DEPUTIES

With the acceptance of the resignation of Aleksandr Fedulov from Unity on 15 May, that faction now has 82 deputies and thus is in second place to the 85 members of the Communist Party group, Interfax reported. Unity presumably will soon lose another deputy now that Viktor Chernomyrdin has been named ambassador to Ukraine, the news service said. PG

SELEZNEV AGAINST DRASTIC CUT IN DUMA COMMITTEES

Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev has sent a letter to the leader of the People's Deputy faction, Gennadii Raikov, saying that he opposes cutting the number of Duma committees from 28 to 12, Interfax reported on 15 May. Seleznev said that he believes the number can be reduced, but only to 16-18. PG

STROEV AGAINST CHERNOMYRDIN-TYPE APPOINTMENTS

Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev said on 15 May that former Prime Minister Chernomyrdin will undoubtedly do well in his new post as ambassador to Ukraine, but added that making use of such political heavyweights into "a whole system" would be unfortunate, Interfax reported. Stroev said that it is necessary instead to work hard to develop and promote new cadres. Meanwhile, Chernomyrdin himself said that he is not afraid of a wave of compromising materials that several Russian politicians have suggested may be directed against him, the news agency reported the same day. PG

PUTIN MAY CREATE A RUSSIAN FBI

Dmitrii Kozak, the deputy chief of the presidential administration, has presented proposals to President Putin for the creation of a new law-enforcement agency, the Federal Investigative Service (FSR), RIA-Novosti and Interfax reported on 15 May. The FSR would unite under one roof all pretrial investigative functions for major crimes. VY

INTERIOR TROOPS MAY BE PUT UNDER DEFENSE MINISTRY

The Russian government is considering the transfer of troops currently under the control of the Interior Ministry to the Defense Ministry now that it is headed by "civilian" Sergei Ivanov, "Profil," No. 18, reported. The journal said that Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov has no objections to the plan, which would rationalize support functions while adding to the clout of the new defense minister. VY

AIR FORCE PILOTS GET LITTLE FLYING TIME

Insisting that Russia will always have a significant air force, the commander of that service, General Anatolii Kornukov, said on 15 May that Russian pilots are getting far too few hours in the air to remain proficient and that only half of the force's aircraft are ready for flying at any one time. PG

BORDER GUARDS IN NORTH, FAR EAST CANNOT DO THEIR JOBS

Vladimir Grishukov, the co-chairman of the Russian Border Group and deputy chairman of the Duma's Committee for the North and Far East, said in an interview published in "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 15 May that as a result of inadequate funding, border guards in the North and Far East are unable to protect the border. He said that the resulting "privatization" of the border, by which smugglers have more resources than border guards, is "absolutely illegitimate." PG

PATRUSHEV DOES U-TURN ON DATE FOR END TO CHECHEN FIGHTING

Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev has told President Putin that he cannot say when the "counterterrorist operation" in the North Caucasus will be over because "a situation that deteriorated for 10 years cannot change and become a positive one all at once," the Military News agency reported on 15 May. On 27 April, "Moskovskii komsomolets" had quoted Patrushev as saying that the situation in Chechnya is "stable" and that the security services can "neutralize key rebel leaders without [significant] losses." The paper predicted that the Russian government was intending to announce on 15 May the end of its "counterterrorism operation" in Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2001). VY/LF

PEACE IN CHECHNYA PETITION GAINS SIGNATURES

A petition drive is taking place in Vologda calling on President Putin and Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov to stop the war and establish peace in Chechnya, Interfax North-West reported on 15 May. PG

TOURIST VISAS TO BE ISSUED IN ST. PETERSBURG AND AT SHEREMETEVO

Russian officials announced on 15 May that foreign tourists who arrive by air in St. Petersburg or at Moscow's Sheremetevo Airport will now be able to purchase a visa there valid for a three-day visit, Russian and Western agencies reported. The officials said that such visas will be less expensive that those acquired at Russian embassies and consulates abroad. PG

PUTIN TELLS ANNAN RUSSIA SEES UN AS KEY TO WORLD PEACE

President Putin told visiting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 15 May that Moscow believes the United Nations is the key institution for supporting peace and stability worldwide, Russian agencies reported. Putin noted that Russia is participating in 11 of the 15 UN peacekeeping actions now taking place. One Russian peacekeeper died in Kosova on the night of 14-15 May, Russian and Western agencies reported. According to Russian and Western media, the Russian leader gave no indication as to whether he will back Annan's re-election as secretary-general. PG

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PRAISES RUSSIAN PRESS

In an ORT television program on 14 May, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said that the Russian press covers developments in his country objectively, adding that there is no reason to say that the Western media could do better, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 May. Meanwhile, at a conference in Kyiv on Russian-language media, Mikhail Seslavinskii, Russia's first deputy media minister, said that Moscow is prepared to provide material support for the Ukrainian-language press in Russia, Interfax reported the same day. PG

RURHGAS, LUKOIL TO EXPAND COOPERATION, BYPASS UKRAINE

Germany's Ruhrgas company will continue its strategic partnership with Russia's Gazprom, officials told ITAR-TASS on 15 May. The two gas companies will consider building additional pipelines allowing Russia gas exports to Europe to bypass Ukraine, the news service reported. PG

RUSSIA MAY WITHDRAW FROM STEEL ACCORD WITH U.S.

Following an American decision to leave in force antidumping penalties on the import of ferrous metals from Russia, Maksim Medvedkov, the first deputy economic development and trade minister, said that Russia may decide to withdraw from the general agreement with the United States on trade in steel, Interfax reported on 15 May. PG

RUSSIA LAUNCHES U.S. SATELLITE

A Russian Proton rocket carried an American Panamsat communications satellite into orbit, Interfax reported on 15 May. The Boeing-made satellite is to provide telecommunications links for countries around the Indian Ocean for the next 15 years. VY

LITVINENKO SAID TO GET ASYLUM IN BRITAIN

Aleksandr Litvinenko, a former FSB officer who is wanted on a variety of charges in Russia, has been given political asylum in Great Britain, his lawyer told Interfax on 15 April. Litvinenko attracted international attention when he said that he had been ordered to "kill Boris Berezovsky." The British government has neither confirmed nor denied that it has given Litvinenko asylum, Western agencies reported. PG

MOSCOW INTERESTED IN RESTORING DANUBE NAVIGATION

Transportation Minister Sergei Frank said in Moscow on 15 May that Russia is interested and will actively participate in restoring navigation on the Danube River, Interfax reported. Navigation of the river has been blocked since the NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia. PG

ANKARA SAID AIMING AT TURKIFICATION OF RUSSIA'S REGIONS, CIS

An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Regiony" on 15 May said that the Turkish government continues to pursue a broadscale program of attempting to Turkify both many of Russia's regions and CIS states in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The article suggested that Turkey uses commerce, scholarship, and other means to engage in a variety of destabilizing efforts aimed at expanding its power and influence in these regions at the expense of Moscow. PG

MOSCOW SUGGESTS JOINT MEETING WITH TWO KOREAS

Duma Speaker Seleznev told visiting South Korean parliament speaker Lee Man Sup that the Russian authorities would like to hold a tripartite meeting of South Korean, North Korean, and Russian legislators in Nakhodka to discuss the construction of a rail link between those two countries and Russia's Trans-Siberian mainline, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 May. PG

JAPAN HARDENS LINE ON KURILES

Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka said on 15 May that Tokyo opposes any step-by-step return of the Kurile Islands, dpa reported. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Moscow is willing to continue its dialogue with Tokyo looking toward the conclusion of a peace treaty, but that the Russian government hopes the new government of Japan will not change its position on key issues, Russian agencies reported. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the State Fisheries Committee told Interfax the same day that the transfer of the southern Kuriles to Japan would cause annual losses to Russia of $1 billion, Interfax reported. PG

MOSCOW SELLS HELICOPTERS TO INDONESIA

Aviaexport has sold 10 used MI-17 and MI-2 helicopters to the Indonesian navy, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 May. This is the first such deal between the two countries since Jakarta suspended purchases in 1997 due to its financial crisis. VY

ENTERPRISES SAID TO OWE 1 TRILLION RUBLES IN BACK TAXES

Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev said that the tax indebtedness of Russian enterprises now stands at approximately 1 trillion rubles ($33 billion), Interfax-AFI reported on 15 May. He said that the rate of increase in this debt has slowed but that the amount owed is still increasing. PG

MOSCOW TO INVEST HEAVILY IN TRANSPORT, CORRIDORS

Transportation Minister Frank on 15 May said that the Russian government plans to invest 450 billion rubles ($15 billion) over the next nine years to upgrade the country's transportation network, Interfax reported. He also announced that his ministry has created the Euro-Asiatic Transport Union to promote north-south and east-west transportation corridors across Russia. PG

ZYUGANOV WARNS OF DISASTER IN FAR EAST, NORTH

Speaking in Khabarovsk on 15 May, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that Russia's Far East and North have "fallen into a catastrophe," Interfax-Eurasia reported. He said that "all 150 patriotically inclined deputies will vote for government support of the eastern and northern territories," adding that "without the Far East and the North, Russia will not survive." PG

RABBI LAZAR RESIGNS FROM RUSSIAN JEWISH CONGRESS

Orthodox Rabbi Berl Lazar announced on 15 May that he has resigned from the Russian Jewish Congress over what he called that body's secret decision-making approach since the resignation of Vladimir Gusinsky as its president, Interfax reported. Russia's Chief Rabbi Adolf Shaev told the news service that he considers Lazar's action to be part of "a political game" intended to divide Russia's Jewish groups. PG

MISSIONARIES SAID TO BE SPENDING FAR MORE THAN ORTHODOX CHURCH BUDGET

In an interview published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 15 May, Archbishop Aleksandr of Kostroma and Galicia said that missionaries from foreign sects spend $150 million a year in Russia, several times more than the budget of the Russian Orthodox Church. He said that these "totalitarian" sects represent a threat to society and that the church has set up several rehabilitation centers for young people who have fallen under their "spell." PG

PSYCHO-NEUROLOGICAL ILLNESSES INCREASE AMONG YOUNG

Officials at the Health Ministry said on 15 May that the number of children under 14 being treated in psycho-neurological clinics has increased by a factor of four over the past decade, Interfax reported. As a result, some 760 children out of every 100,000 in the population are undergoing treatment, the officials said, noting that the real number of children who suffer from such illnesses may be as much as 10 times that number. PG

2001 GRAIN HARVEST PREDICTED TO BE 65-69 MILLION TONS

Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev told Interfax on 15 May that this year's grain harvest will total between 65 and 68 million tons, only slightly better than last year's take of 65.4 million tons. But he acknowledged that such predictions are anything but certain. PG

LUZHKOV WANTS WEALTHY TO PAY FULL COST OF RENTS

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said that his city government is compiling a registry of the city's richest residents and plans to charge them the full cost of rents and communal services, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 May. "Moscow should become the first in the Russian Federation to adopt a resolution on 100 percent payments for those whose incomes are big enough," he said. Meanwhile, Moscow appears set to lose its right to collect federal taxes from its wealthiest residents, Interfax-Moscow reported. The federal government will now collect those taxes directly. PG

NO NATIONALIST CRIME IN ST. PETERSBURG

Veniamin Petukhov, the head of the Main Administration of Internal Affairs in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, told Interfax on 15 May that there are no crimes being committed out of nationalist feelings in that region. He acknowledged this does not mean everything is fine, "but we are open for dialogue and are carrying out significant work with the leaders of the diasporas" in the city. PG

AUDIT CHAMBER EXPANDS ITS REACH

Audit Chamber chief Sergei Stepashin on 15 May called for expanding the status of financial control organs in the subjects of the federation and setting up Audit Chamber branches in the seven federal districts, Interfax-ANI reported. PG

GERMANS, RUSSIANS MEET TO DISCUSS OVERCOMING TOTALITARIANISM

Scholars and officials from Germany and Russia met in Moscow to discuss how each has worked to overcome its totalitarian past, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 May. PG

GORBACHEV AIDE DIES

Georgii Shakhnazarov, one of the founders of Soviet political science and a longtime aide to former Soviet leader Gorbachev, has died suddenly at the age of 77, Interfax reported on 15 May. PG

PSKOV WANTS MUSICIAN BANNED FOR ADVOCACY OF GAY LIFESTYLE

A group of representatives of the intelligentsia in Pskov Oblast have appealed to the region's governor, Mikhail Khoronen, asking him to ban the visit of Moscow rock musician Boris Moiseev because of the latter's "propaganda of gay culture," Interfax North-West reported on 15 May. The group also called on Pskov residents not to purchase tickets to Moiseev's show if he is allowed to perform there. PG

EXAMS OVER, MISS RUSSIA PLANS TO WIN 2002 MISS UNIVERSE PAGEANT

Oksana Fedorova, Miss Russia 2000, was unable to take part in the Miss Universe pageant this year because she had to pass examinations at the Interior Ministry training school, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 May. But she plans to take part in the competition in 2002. This year's Russian runner-up, Oksana Kalandyrets, finished in the top 10 of the contestants in this year's Miss Universe competition. Fedorova told the news service that "if the vice Miss Russia was included in the top 10 list [this year], then Miss Russia is obliged to win [next year]." PG

SHOWDOWN LOOMS IN KRASNOYARSK KRAI?

Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed and Russian Aluminum General Director Oleg Deripaska failed to reach agreement on 15 May on the conflict between Krasnoyarskenergo and the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum factory, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 2001). Sources close to the governor told the agency that Lebed believes that Krasnoyarsk Aluminum needs to pay its debt to the local electricity supplier. Lebed said "earlier the factory belonged to [Anatolii] Bykov and the brothers Chernye, now it belongs to Deripaska, but in principle there is not much difference between them -- only the image is different." JAC

PARTS OF SIBERIA, FAR EAST THREATENED BY FLOODING

The flooding situation in Irkutsk Oblast and the republic of Sakha has become critical, Russian agencies reported on 15 May, citing the Emergency Situations Ministry's press service. In Sakha, a significant part of the city of Lensk has been completely flooded because of water flowing over dams on the Lena River, causing one of the strongest floods in the last 100 years, according to RFE/RL's Russian service. More than 5,000 people have been evacuated. The village of Khandyga has been almost completely flooded. In Irkutsk Oblast, around 500 homes and 5,000 dachas have been flooded. JAC

TATARSTAN PRESIDENT WEIGHS IN ON CONFLICT BETWEEN ENVOYS, KREMLIN

Mintimer Shaimiev told ORT and RIA-Novosti on 15 May that it would be more efficient to strengthen the presidential administration's Main Territorial Administration rather than creating "additional micro-capitals" with ever larger staffs, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. Shaimiev added that harmonization of local legislation with federal laws "cannot be a one-way street if we really want to live in a democratic society and to share powers in a civilized way." JAC




ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER BRIEFS PARLIAMENT ON KARABAKH PEACE PROCESS

Vartan Oskanian briefed a 15 May session of the parliament's Foreign Relations Commission on the ongoing Karabakh peace process, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Parliament speaker Armen Khachatrian said after the meeting that deputies are "satisfied" by the explanation Oskanian offered for his use in a TV interview on 9 May of the term "occupied" to describe territories in Azerbaijan currently controlled by Armenian forces. That formulation provoked a storm of protest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2001). Other deputies who attended the session told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that in response to tough questions about the government's stance on a compromise solution of the conflict Oskanian said the Armenian leadership will not sign a peace accord that would leave the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic a part of Azerbaijan. Oskanian also said that the Armenian leadership concurs with the main points of a statement adopted on 27 April by all parties and factions represented within the parliament and which terms unacceptable any Karabakh peace agreement that would not lead to "Nagorno-Karabakh's reunification with Armenia or international affirmation of its independent status" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2001). LF

ARMENIAN GROUPS DEMAND PROBE INTO SUSPECTED AID FOR PARLIAMENT GUNMEN

Three Armenian political groups -- the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), the Communist Party, and the parliamentary group of the Yerkrapah Union of Veterans of the Karabakh War -- issued a joint statement on 15 May calling on the parliament to set up an ad hoc commission to investigate the possibility that the five gunmen currently on trial for the killings of eight senior officials in October 1999 are receiving "illicit legal counseling," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The statement also accused unnamed Armenian politicians of seeking to minimize the seriousness of the shootings and to portray the gunmen as "Robin Hoods." The HZhK and Yerkrapah are both convinced that the gunmen acted on orders from persons whose identity has not yet been established, and that their leader, Nairi Hunanian, is under instruction from those persons to prolong the court proceedings by giving lengthy, detailed, and even irrelevant testimony. LF

RUSSIAN OFFICIAL COMMENDS SECURITY COOPERATION WITH AZERBAIJAN...

Russian Security Council Chairman Vladimir Rushailo arrived in Baku on 14 May, accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov and Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Trade official Igor Kareev, Turan and Russian agencies reported. Meeting on 15 May with Azerbaijan's President Aliev, Rushailo named as one of Moscow's main priorities strengthening the security situation in the South Caucasus. He described bilateral cooperation in combating terrorism as satisfactory, noting specifically the arrest in Azerbaijan and subsequent extradition to the Russian Federation of "dangerous terrorists," but said it could and should be made more effective. Aliyev for his part said that Baku and Moscow have "an identical understanding" of the threat posed by terrorism. Also discussed were preparations for a planned summit in Minsk in late May of the presidents of Russia and the three South Caucasus states, at which the Karabakh peace process will be discussed, and an official visit by President Aliyev to Moscow. Rushailo was also scheduled to meet with Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev and with the influential head of the presidential administration, Ramiz Mehdiev, but not with Prime Minister Artur Rasi-zade. LF

...SEEKS TO EXPAND ECONOMIC, MILITARY-TECHNICAL COOPERATION

Rushailo also told Aliyev that Russia wants to participate in the modernization of industrial enterprises in Azerbaijan and in the privatization of enterprises in the fuel and energy sectors. He further proposed consultations on the modernization of Soviet-made weapons and military equipment and the training of Azerbaijani military personnel in Russia. LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT RATIFIES GAS EXPORT AGREEMENT

Parliament deputies voted unanimously on 15 May to ratify the 15-year agreement signed in Ankara in March by President Aliyev and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Necdet Sezer on the sale to Turkey of natural gas from Azerbaijan's offshore Caspian Shahdeniz deposit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March 2001), Turan reported. Under that 15-year agreement, Turkey will purchase 2 billion cubic meters of gas in 2004. That amount will rise to 6.6 billion cubic meters in 2006 and as much as 20 billion cubic meters thereafter. AP reported from Baku on 15 May that Ankara will pay between $70 and $120 per thousand cubic meters of gas. The price will be determined by both sides jointly and reviewed quarterly. LF

RUSSIAN DEPUTY PREMIER HOPES FOR WESTERN FINANCING FOR TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM GEORGIA

Visiting Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov held talks in Tbilisi on 15 May with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili on the optimum time frame for the closure of the Russian military bases at Akhalkalaki and Batumi, Russian and Georgian agencies reported. Klebanov told journalists after the talks that Russia has offered to vacate those bases within 15 years. he said doing so would cost 4.3 billion rubles ($140 million), and the closure could be expedited if the West would contribute toward that sum. Russian military experts said last August that the closure would cost some $50 million. The U.S. last year offered $10 million, and the U.K. $160,000, toward the cost of the Russian withdrawal from Georgia. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Kosovan, who accompanied Klebanov, pointed out that it will take 3-4 years to construct new bases in Russia for those troops withdrawn from Georgia, according to Interfax. Shevardnadze said the date for completing the Russian withdrawal from Batumi and Akhalkalaki will be set only after the signing of a new framework Russian-Georgian treaty, which is currently still at the discussion stage. Klebanov said that the ongoing Russian withdrawal from the bases at Vaziani, near Tbilisi, and Gudauta, will be completed on schedule by 1 July. LF

ABKHAZ OFFICIAL IDENTIFIES PUTATIVE MURDERER

Abkhaz Prosecutor-General Anri Djergenia said in Sukhum on 15 May that the investigation into the murder last summer of Zurab Achba, a consultant on human rights (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2000), has identified as his putative killer a Georgian, Samson Darsania, currently residing in Bransk, Apsny Press reported. Djergenia said Darsania is wanted by the Russian police. He said two other suspects have been detained in connection with Achba's killing but they have not been charged with murder. LF

GUUAM SUMMIT POSTPONED AGAIN

The summit of GUUAM member states (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) scheduled for 26-28 May in Yalta has been postponed until June at the request of Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, Ukrainian presidential spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko told Interfax in Kyiv on 15 May. The summit was originally scheduled for March but was postponed at the request of Aliyev and then-Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 2001). LF

KAZAKHSTAN, JAPAN DISCUSS INVESTMENT

Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev proposed at a session of the Kazakh-Japanese committee for economic cooperation in Astana on 15 May that it is time to proceed from Japanese loans and grants to Kazakhstan to direct Japanese investments in the Kazakh economy, Interfax reported. Japan has lent Kazakhstan $580 million since 1992. But Japanese charge d'affaires Akira Tateyama singled out as an obstacle to expanded bilateral cooperation the unpaid debts of the Karaganda Metal Works to Japan's Itochu. He appealed for Toqaev's help in ensuring repayment of that debt, the size of which both Toqaev and Tateyama refused to specify. LF

TRIAL OF ALLEGED ISLAMIC RADICALS OPENS IN KYRGYZSTAN

The trial began on 15 May at a military court in the southern city of Osh of one Tajik and one Russian citizen accused of participating in the incursion into Kyrgyzstan last summer of a group of fighters from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Reuters and Interfax reported. That group took four U.S. mountaineers hostage. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT SAYS SITUATION ON AFGHAN BORDER 'STABLE'

Imomali Rakhmonov told ITAR-TASS on 15 May in Tokyo, where he is to attend a meeting of the UN Consultative Group for Tajikistan on 16 May, that Taliban forces are not strong enough to break the resistance of the Northern Alliance and advance on the Afghan-Tajik border. But he acknowledged that Afghanistan nonetheless poses a threat to Tajikistan. Also on 15 May, Rakhmonov had an audience with Emperor Akihito, whom he invited to visit Tajikistan. LF

TURKMEN AUTHORITIES PRESSURE IMPRISONED BAPTIST'S FAMILY TO EMIGRATE

Shageldy Atakov has been brought from a closed prison in Turkmenbashi, and his wife from her home in the town of Kaakha, to Ashgabat where the Turkmen authorities have tried in separate meetings with them to persuade them to leave Turkmenistan, Keston News Service reported on 14 May. Atakov was informed that if he refuses to emigrate he will be constrained to serve the entire four-year prison term to which he was sentenced in 1998 on fabricated charges of swindling (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 28 February and 22 March 2001). LF

NEW UZBEK YOUTH MOVEMENT REGISTERED

The Justice Ministry has registered the youth movement Kamolot, the founding congress of which took place in Tashkent on 25 April, Interfax reported on 15 May. Some 600 delegates participated in that conference. The movement's aims are to promote a healthy lifestyle, and to help young people find their place in society and fulfill their intellectual potential. Kamolot is the second public movement to be registered in Uzbekistan. The country also has four registered political parties. LF

UZBEKISTAN ANNOUNCES SALE OF STAKE IN FOUR OIL AND GAS ENTERPRISES

Uzbekistan's State Property Commission announced on 15 May the sale of 39-44 percent of the shares in four enterprises of the state-owned Uzbekneftegaz, Interfax and AP reported. The total value of those stakes is $131 million. The Uzbek government will retain a 51 percent stake in all four companies. One Polish and one Ukrainian company have already expressed an interest in acquiring a share in two of the enterprises in question. LF




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION MIGHT DECIDE ON SINGLE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE 'WITHIN A WEEK'

The Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces on 15 May discussed the upcoming presidential elections in Belarus, Belapan reported. Alyaksey Karol of the Social Democratic Party-Popular Assembly told the agency that the council is to decide "within a week" whom it will support against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the elections. According to Karol, the council favors Syamyon Domash, former governor of Hrodna Oblast, as Lukashenka's challenger. JM

PRO-LUKASHENKA MEETING TO GATHER 2,500 IN MINSK

Belarusian Television reported on 15 May that 2,500 people from all of the country have been elected to participate in the "Second All-Belarusian Popular Congress" in Minsk on 18 May. According to President Lukashenka's edict of February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February 2001), the congress is to discuss a program on Belarus's socioeconomic development in 2001-2005. According to the Belarusian opposition, the gathering is intended to advertise Lukashenka as a presidential candidate. Former Premier Mikhail Chyhir appealed to participants of the congress to request the incumbent president to give up his presidential bid because, Chyhir argued, Lukashenka failed to meet all the pledges he made at the similar "First All-Belarusian Popular Congress" in 1996. Chyhir, who participated in the 1996 congress as prime minister, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service that the authorities carefully select participants for such gatherings and orchestrate their proceedings. JM

UKRAINIAN MINISTER SAYS GONGADZE'S KILLING HAD NO POLITICAL MOTIVES...

Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov told journalists on 15 May that investigators have solved the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, noting that the crime had no political grounds. "As a minister, I consider the crime to be solved... Two perpetrators [of Gongadze's murder] are dead, and there were no organizers because the situation [the murder] was spontaneous, impulsive," Interfax quoted Smyrnov as saying. Smyrnov added that law-enforcement officers found on the bodies of Gongadze's murderers a map showing where the journalist's corpse was buried. Smyrnov also said police have arrested the murderers of Gongadze's murderers. JM

...WHILE LAWYER OF GONGADZE'S MOTHER HAS DOUBTS

Andriy Fedur, a lawyer for Lesya Gongadze, told Interfax on 15 May that Interior Minister Smyrnov's statement on the murder of the journalist was "incorrect." Fedur said senior investigator Oleh Vasylenko, who supervises the Gongadze case, told him and Lesya Gongadze the same day that the investigators have no data about who killed the journalist. "As regards the statement on versions and motives of the murder, it seems to me that it is premature to speak [about them] before the murderers have been identified, before the case has been passed to a court, and before the court has passed its sentence," Fedur added. And he asked Smyrnov through the agency: "When did the killed [murderers] tell him [Smyrnov] that they murdered Gongadze?" JM

UKRAINIAN SUPREME COURT WITHDRAWS ARREST WARRANT FOR TYMOSHENKO

The Supreme Court on 15 May ruled that prosecutors acted illegally when they imprisoned former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, now a leading opposition politician, ahead of her trial on charges of corruption, tax evasion, smuggling, and document forgery, Reuters reported. The Supreme Court ruling followed an appeal in a lower court by prosecutors seeking to rearrest Tymoshenko. Tymoshenko must still comply with travel restrictions that prevent her from leaving the country until her trial. No date for the hearing has yet been set. JM

ESTONIA ESTABLISHES LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS FOR PRIVATE SECTOR EMPLOYEES

The government on 15 May established requirements of proficiency in the Estonian language for people working in the private sector, BNS reported. The language proficiency requirement had currently applied only to physicians, pharmacists, and psychologists working in the private sector. Under the government decree, proficiency in Estonian at least at the intermediate level will be required from all employees in the trade and service spheres. Advanced proficiency in Estonian will be required from teachers of private schools and universities, captains of ships or aircraft, rescue workers, pilots, and security employees. Education Minister Tonis Lukas said that he does not think that the new requirements will increase unemployment, but will encourage non-Estonians to learn Estonian. SG

GERMANY THINKS LATVIA WILL COMPLETE EU TALKS BY LATE 2002

German Foreign Ministry State Secretary Dr. Gunter Pleuger told his Latvian counterpart Maris Riekstins during the annual Latvian-German consultations in Berlin on 15 May that Germany believes it is realistic for Latvia to complete its EU pre-accession talks by late 2002, BNS reported. The officials also discussed Latvia's desire to be invited at the Prague summit in 2002 to join NATO, and agreed that cooperation -- particularly economic -- between their states is successful. Riekstins also met with Markus Meckel, the head of the German parliament's delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and Bavaria's European Affairs Minister Reinhold Bocklet. SG

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW HEALTH MINISTER

Valdas Adamkus appointed the director of the Radiology Center at the Santariskiu Clinic of Vilnius University, Romualdas Dobrovolskis, as the new health minister on 15 May, ELTA reported. The post had been vacant since the resignation of Vinsas Janusonis in early April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2001). The Social Liberal Party earlier nominated Deputy Health Minister Eduardas Bartkevicius for the post, but Adamkus refused to appoint him, arguing that he preferred that the health minister be a qualified manager or lawyer and not someone from the ranks of Lithuania's medical personnel. Although the 61-year-old Dobrovolskis is a physician, he has had considerable administrative experience. SG

DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT DISMISSED

In a secret ballot on 15 May, the parliament voted 72 to two, with one spoiled ballot, to dismiss Peasants Party Chairman Ramunas Karbauskis from the post of deputy parliament chairman, ELTA reported. The dismissal proposal, signed by 42 deputies from the ruling coalition, claimed that Karbauskis has failed to carry out his duties of supervising the work of the parliament's committees and commissions. As supporters of Karbauskis did not participate in the vote, it was not immediately clear whether the 71 required votes would be gathered. The deciding role was evidently played by the nine Conservative deputies who participated in the vote. The parliament also unanimously ratified the European Social Charter of 1996, accepting commitments to observe 86 out of its 98 provisions. SG

SOLIDARITY TRADE UNION LEAVES ITS POLITICAL ARM

The National Commission of the Solidarity trade union has decided that the union will withdraw from the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) ruling bloc as of 15 May, PAP reported. The commission said the trade union has completed its mission in the AWS. "We say that we no longer participate in the AWS leadership or election committees [of the AWS or other groups]. All other options are allowed. If a Solidarity member belongs to a political party and it fields him as a candidate [in elections], then of course he has a free hand [to run]," Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski commented on the union's withdrawal from the AWS. Solidarity Deputy Chairman Janusz Sniadek said the trade union would like to sign a "programmatic accord" with a "broad, integrated right-wing bloc" if such a bloc emerges before the 23 September legislative elections. JM

POLAND WANTS UKRAINE TO JOIN EU MILITARY FORCE

Poland has suggested to the EU that it could include a Ukrainian military battalion in a Polish brigade to serve in the EU's rapid deployment force, PAP reported on 15 May. "Poland has presented the EU with a report on the matter, which mentions the possibility of including one Ukrainian unit in the Polish EU brigade and agreements reached in this respect with Ukraine. The report has been approved by several EU countries, among them Sweden, now chairing the EU," Polish Defense Minister Bronislaw Komorowski said in Brussels the same day. Poland's EU brigade is to number between 1,500 and 2,500 troops. The EU rapid deployment force -- some 60,000 troops with air force and naval support -- is to be operational in 2003. JM

CZECH LOWER HOUSE OVERRULES PRESIDENTIAL VETO ON PARTY FINANCING...

The Chamber of Deputies on 15 May overruled President Vaclav Havel's April veto of a law on the financing of political parties, CTK reported. Havel had sent the law back to the chamber, saying the amendment it had passed to the previous law, which was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in March at Havel's request, contradicted the court's ruling. The amendment reduced the state subsidy paid to parties from 1 million crowns ($25,458) per seat as stipulated in the law rejected by the court to 900,000, and increased subsidies paid per each 10th percent of the vote exceeding 3 percent from 100,000 to 200,000 crowns. Politicians representing the ruling Social Democratic Party and the opposition Civic Democratic Party acknowledged that Havel might yet again appeal to the Constitutional Court. MS

...AND VETO ON HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION

The chamber also overruled a presidential veto of a law declaring the construction of a highway bypass around the west Bohemian town of Plzen to be "public interest." The law had been vetoed by Havel after being approved by the chamber in February. The president said the law is an infringement on the rights of land owners who appealed the decision to expropriate their properties for the purpose of the highway construction. The law passed by the parliament allows expropriation if owners do not reach a settlement with the investor within 30 days of the law's passage. MS

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER SUFFERED 'LIGHT HEART ATTACK'

Jan Kavan was discharged on 15 May from the clinic in Washington where he had been hospitalized the previous day, CTK reported. The doctor who treated Kavan said the foreign minister had suffered "a very light heart attack" as a consequence of the bypass heart surgery he underwent last December. Kavan decided to continue the official program of his visit in New York, but his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was canceled. In a telephone conversation they agreed to meet in Budapest in June, when both will be attending a NATO meeting, CTK reported.

CZECHS WILL NOT REACT TO EU ACCESSION TALKS POSTPONEMENT 'FOR NOW'

Pavel Telicka, chief Czech negotiator with the EU, told CTK in Brussels on 15 May that the Czech Republic will "not hurry up" to react to the EU decision earlier that day to postpone from 18 May to 1 June talks with accession candidates. The postponement is due to the failure of EU foreign ministers in Brussels to agree on a common position on the free movement of labor after the accession of new members. The foreign ministers of five leading candidates -- the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia -- will meet in Prague on 23 May to discuss progress on EU enlargement and might then issue a statement on the dispute concerning the free movement of labor, CTK reported. MS

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS NATO WELCOMES PLANS FOR ARMY REFORM

Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik, speaking in Brussels after meeting NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, said NATO welcomes Czech plans for military reform and the professionalization of the army, CTK reported. Tvrdik told NATO officials that the Czech air force will buy 72 L-159 Czech-made subsonic planes, but will use only half of them. The surplus will be sold to cover some of the costs of military reform and possibly the purchase of supersonic planes, for which a tender has been announced by the government. Tvrdik and Chief of Staff Jiri Sedivy also said the Czech Republic will withdraw its contingent from the SFOR unit in Bosnia and will reinforce its participation in the KFOR forces in Kosova. MS

PRAGUE HOSTS ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER

Romanian Foreign Minister and current OSCE Chairman Mircea Geoana met in Prague on 15 May with President Havel and Prime Minister Milos Zeman, after chairing an OSCE economic forum in the Czech capital. Geoana discussed with Havel economic aspects and human rights linked with OSCE activities. With Zeman Geoana discussed possible Czech military supplies to Romania and the Czech premier assured him that no visa restrictions will be imposed on Romanian citizens "if the situation does not worsen." They also discussed EU and NATO enlargement and the Balkan Stability Pact. Geoana earlier told the OSCE economic forum that "dysfunctional, unresponsive, and nontransparent institutions...open the way for corruption and abuses, underdevelopment, [as well as] economic and social polarization," CTK and AP reported. MS

SLOVAK POLITICAL SCENE IN TURMOIL...

President Rudolf Schuster on 15 May refused to accept the proposal by Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda that Dzurinda himself take over on an interim basis the interior minister portfolio vacated by Ladislav Pittner, who resigned the previous day, CTK reported. Schuster appointed instead Dzurinda's arch-rival, Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky, as caretaker interior minister. Dzurinda announced in reaction that he is proposing the candidacy of his close aide Ivan Simko for the post, and Schuster said he will "examine, of course" the suggestion, though the constitution obliges him to appoint the person designated by the premier. MS

...AND RULING COALITION MIGHT SUCCUMB TO CONFLICTS

Dzurinda told journalists that Carnogursky and his Christian Democratic Party (KDH) have threatened to leave the coalition unless their nominee, Vladimir Palko, is appointed to the post. He said he viewed this move as a "lack of loyalty" and will not accept the demand. Other coalition parties' leaders criticized Dzurinda for "threatening the stability" of the cabinet and said they want the Coalition Council to examine the case, but Dzurinda reacted by saying "the council is no Politburo," CTK reported. MS

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER WORRIED ABOUT HUNGARIAN 'STATUS BILL'...

Eduard Kukan on 15 May said Hungary "must do more" to explain the "Status Bill" currently under examination by the parliament in Budapest, AFP reported. Kukan said Bratislava is "watching closely" the debates on the bill and is "worried" lest the law "introduce discrimination" in Slovakia by differentiating between citizens who are of Magyar origin and those who are not. "These issues have to be explained to us in more detail, in a more clear manner, so that those questions and worries can be put away," he commented. MS

...VISITS VIENNA

Kukan, on a visit to Vienna on 15 May, told his Austrian counterpart Benita Ferrero-Waldner that Slovakia supports regional cooperation but believes the term "strategic partnership" must be replaced with another term because "it suggests cooperation that goes too far," CTK reported. Kukan was reacting to the Austrian proposal to forge a "strategic partnership" with its former communist neighbors. He also told Ferrero-Waldner that Bratislava expects "maximum flexibility" on the German-Austrian proposal that "transition periods" of seven years be introduced on the free movement of labor upon EU enlargement. Ferrero-Waldner thanked Kukan for Slovakia's having refrained from criticizing the formation of the Austrian coalition that includes Joerg Haider's People's Party. Kukan also sought Austrian support for Slovakia's bid for a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council. He was also received by Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel and Vice Chancellor Susanne Reiss-Passer. MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY PROTESTS HAVEL SPEECH

The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) on 15 May said it was in "sharp disagreement" with Czech President Havel over the speech he delivered at the Bratislava summit of NATO hopefuls on 14 May, CTK reported. Havel said Slovakia had a good chance of being invited to join NATO in 2002 if "no tragic reversal" occurs in its political life until then. HZDS Deputy Chairman Jozef Bozik said Havel's words "can only be considered as being a gross interference in the domestic affairs of a different country." He said the statement was "undiplomatic" and "inadmissible" and served the electoral campaign of the current ruling coalition. Bozik "reminded" Havel that his own election as Czech president had been made possible by the detention by police of far-right Republican leader Miroslav Sladek on the eve of the presidential vote in the Czech parliament. MS

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS ACCUSE FIDESZ OF BREACHING COALITION PACT

Balazs Gulyas, the head of the Independent Smallholders' Party's (FKGP) Gyor County branch, told the daily "Nepszabadsag" on 15 May that "the coalition pact is no longer alive, as it has been canceled by FIDESZ." Gulyas said Prime Minister Viktor Orban has continuously ignored FKGP proposals regarding the dismissal and appointment of FKGP cabinet members, contrary to the coalition pact. Orban has recently refused to sack Environment Minister Bela Turi-Kovacs, contrary to decisions made by the FKGP leadership, and initiated the dismissal of Political State Secretary Sandor Kavassy, who had been confirmed in his post by the FKGP Steering Board. "Nepszabadsag" reported that the FKGP leadership will initiate talks with FIDESZ on reviewing the coalition pact. MSZ




MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT GIVES GUERRILLAS ULTIMATUM

Macedonia's new grand coalition government, which includes the two largest ethnic Albanian parties, ordered a cease-fire on 15 May. The truce will end at midday on 17 May, after which time the security forces will launch a large-scale operation in the Kumanovo area to "eliminate the terrorists" of the National Liberation Army (UCK), AP reported. The army will fire only if attacked, a spokesman said. On the morning of 16 May, however, the UCK attacked army units outside Slupcane and fired machine guns at Macedonian police outside nearby Opaje. PM

RED CROSS WORKS TO EVACUATE ALBANIAN CIVILIANS

International Red Cross officials said in Skopje on 15 May that they evacuated some 100 exhausted ethnic Albanian civilians from the Kumanovo area during a lull in the fighting the previous day. Many of the Albanians denied Macedonian government reports that the UCK fighters are "terrorists" using civilians as human shields. The civilians said that the fighters are their own relatives who are defending their homes and property against an onslaught, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2001). PM

KOSOVA ALBANIANS GIVE ELECTION PLAN GUARDED WELCOME...

Leaders of Kosova's major ethnic Albanian parties said in Prishtina on 15 May that they will support the UN's plan for the 17 November general elections even though it does not include the possibility of a referendum on independence, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2001). Moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova said: "Our main dispute is with the referendum question, but we will support this document." Former guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci argued that "this document will hold hostage the aim of the people, which is independence. For me, the will of the people of Kosova is a law beyond the law." Hans Haekkerup, who heads the UN civilian administration, said that he has no mandate to hold a referendum. He stressed that the plan "does not address [any] final political settlement, but...it's a stepping stone to reach a final agreement at some later stage." PM

...WHILE SERBS REJECT IT...

Several leaders of Kosova's Serbian minority said on 15 May that they will boycott the November elections because Haekkerup "caved in" to Albanian demands, AP reported from Prishtina. Milan Ivanovic stressed that "Haekkerup accepted 98 percent of the Albanian demands. It is not a wish of the Kosovo Serbs to live under President Thaci...or some other criminal." Serbian government representative Momcilo Trajkovic said: "Our minimum request is that Kosovo cannot be independent, that remaining Serbs be guaranteed their safety and security, that Serb refugees return to the province, and that a (political) solution envisage Kosovo's reintegration into Serbia." Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said of Haekkerup: "Arrogance and one-sidedness in decision-making can cause serious consequences." But in New York, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to the Serbs to take part in the elections. PM

...WITH RUSSIAN BACKING

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement in Moscow on 15 May: "The document prepared by H. Haekkerup has a whole series of faults, which the Russian side has drawn attention to... The legal framework for future self-government in the region is elevated almost to the level of a constitution... Amid escalating provocation by Albanian terrorists from Kosovo territory, which has already led to serious destabilization of the situation in Macedonia..., Haekkerup and supporters of this decision must take special responsibility for future events in the Balkans," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 March 2001). PM

WHAT DOES THE KOSOVA ELECTION PLAN SAY?

Haekkerup's plan provides for the election of a 120-member legislature, Reuters and AP reported from Prishtina on 15 May. Some 100 seats will be elected directly, while 10 seats will be reserved for Serbs (who make up about 7 percent of the population) and 10 for members of other minority groups (who make up a total of about 4 percent of the population). The legislature will elect a president, who will nominate a prime minister. Haekkerup says he will "step back" from governing, but will retain ultimate political authority, including the right to dissolve the legislature. By contrast, the Serbian parliament has no reserved seats for the Presevo Albanian minority, whose parties must meet a nationwide 5 percent minimum. PM

SERBIAN FORCES RETAKE ALBANIAN VILLAGE

Yugoslav army and Serbian paramilitary police occupied the ethnic Albanian village of Oraovica in the Presevo region on 15 May after heavy fighting with guerrillas of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2001). The guerrillas retreated into Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported, quoting "Serbian sources." PM

GERMANY OFFERS SERBIA A 'DEMOCRATIC DIVIDEND'...

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told reporters in Berlin on 15 May that Germany will help build democracy in Serbia by strengthening its economy. He said that he and visiting Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica "agree that above all else there has to be progress made in stabilizing the economy so people can get what might be called a democracy dividend. I strongly support the involvement of German firms, the German Trade Association, and the Bank for Reconstruction. It shows that we are not only talking about engagement in the region, but we are doing something about it," Reuters reported. Kostunica said that "help promised by Germany is very helpful. It is very encouraging... Economic stability is most important." The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" noted, however, that Schroeder did not give specific information as to exactly how Germany will help Serbia. PM

...BUT WHAT ABOUT THE HAGUE?

Kostunica said in Berlin on 15 May that "we will fulfil our international commitments to the tribunal in The Hague," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2001). He does not, however, appear to have gone into specifics or addressed the question of extraditing former President Slobodan Milosevic to the war crimes tribunal any more than he did on his recent trip to the U.S. (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 May 2001). Schroeder also did not mention specifics, saying that "it was important for me to learn that President Kostunica said the necessary conditions were being set up" so that a donors conference can go ahead with U.S. and EU participation. Washington has made it clear that it links the issues of extradition and the donors conference. PM

POWELL REMAINS FIRM: INDICTED SERB MUST GO TO THE HAGUE

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on 15 May that the Bush administration continues to insist that Serbia extradite Milosevic to The Hague (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 May 2001). Powell noted that the authorities have arrested Milosevic but added: "I certainly encourage them to understand, without any question about it, that we will not be satisfied until ultimately he [Milosevic] stands before The Hague," RFE/RL reported. Powell also said: "I am hopeful that [the Serbian authorities] will take actions between now and the time a decision has to be made on attendance at the donors conference that will allow me to remove the condition [for U.S. participation], or they satisfy the condition because they have done a lot more. I would hope that 'lot more' includes something about Mr. Milosevic, but I think that's unlikely," Reuters reported. PM

ALBANIA BLOCKS ARMS FOR MACEDONIA

Albanian police at the port of Durres seized a truck filled with an unspecified quantity of weapons apparently bound for the UCK in Macedonia, AP reported on 15 May. PM

BOSNIAN SERB OFFICIALS SACKED

On 15 May, the Bosnian Serb government accepted the resignations of Interior Minister Perica Bundalo and security chief Dobrislav Planojevic in conjunction with recent anti-Muslim unrest, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 May 2001). The government also sacked Bundalo's deputy, Brane Pecanac, as well as six high school principals. The principals were blamed for having let their students out of class to join in the riots. Anti-Muslim incidents have continued to occur in several places, especially in the Janja area, Reuters reported. PM

UNREST CONTINUES AMONG CROATS OF BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

Two bombs wrecked the offices of non-nationalist parties in central Bosnia on 16 May, AP reported. One bomb went off at the office of the Social Democrats in Vitez, while another was set off at the headquarters of the New Croatian Initiative (NHI) in Novi Travnik. Both towns are considered strongholds of the hard-line Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). The previous day, some 200 army hard-liners in Kiseljak demonstrated outside an army barracks held by non-nationalist soldiers. One hard-liner threatened those in the barracks with "blood all the way up to their knees" if they do not evacuate the facility, AP reported. In Sarajevo, the Defense Ministry has called for treason charges to be brought against three top hard-liners for urging soldiers to desert the government army. The three are HDZ leader Ante Jelavic, former Defense Minister Miroslav Prce, and deputy army commander Dragan Curcic. The hard-liners in Kiseljak have called for protests there in support of the three men on 16 May, Reuters reported. PM

FOREIGN DOMINATION OF CROATIAN BANKING?

Italy's UniCredito and Germany's Allianz have become the new "strategic partners" of Zagrebacka Banka, "Jutarnji list" reported on 16 May. Bank Director Franjo Lukovic said that Croats should think of UniCredito as a European rather than an Italian institution, since most of its investors are scattered around the continent. "Novi List" wrote that Croatia needs to break the "foreign monopoly" on its banking in order to better meet the challenges of unemployment and indebtedness in the coming years. Italy is widely regarded with suspicion by many Croats, who recall Italian claims on Istria and Dalmatia prior to 1945. PM

ROMANIA READY TO PARTICIPATE IN EU RAPID INTERVENTION FORCE

Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana and Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu on 15 May attended in Brussels the "15+15" meetings of EU foreign and defense ministers with representatives from EU candidate countries. Geoana said after the meeting that Romania is ready to "make an important contribution" to the envisaged EU Rapid Reaction Force. He said his country made "the most consistent offer" from among non-NATO members. Geoana said Romania could send to the force a large brigade and three military vessels that could be "fully operational" by 2003, Mediafax reported. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WANTS AGRICULTURE COOPERATIVES RE-ESTABLISHED

There is "no contradiction whatever" between the private ownership of land and "freely established agriculture cooperatives," President Ion Iliescu said on 15 May. Iliescu said it is "scandalous" that a country with such a large agricultural potential as Romania must import foodstuff and the situation is "to a large extent caused by the fact that after the [1989] Revolution the idea of agricultural cooperatives has been discredited," Mediafax reported. He said agricultural cooperation has roots in the "remote Romanian historical past" and is not necessarily a communist idea. "The rational exploitation of land," he said, can only be achieved when large areas are cultivated, and that this was well understood by National Peasant Party leader Ion Mihalache already in the 1920s. MS

ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE SANCTIONS OFFICERS OVER 'TIMOFTE AFFAIR'

Brigadier General Bujorel Iamandi has been forced to take compulsory retirement over his involvement in the "Radu Timofte affair" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2001). Five other Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) officers were also retired or otherwise sanctioned, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 15 May. An SRI investigation commission established that the attempt to discredit Timofte by fabricating evidence of his alleged links with the KGB dated back to 1993 but was renewed in 1998 and 2000. Timofte was appointed SRI director earlier this year. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SUES FORMER DISSIDENT

Andrei Plesu on 15 May sued Gabriel Andreescu, a former dissident under the Nicolae Ceausescu regime, for having recently alleged that Plesu had served as an informer of the Securitate, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2001). Plesu said Andreescu had slandered him. Plesu seeks 1 billion lei ($35,147) in damages. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT REJECTS TIRASPOL ACCUSATIONS OF CHITCANI VISIT...

Vladimir Voronin said in an official press release on 15 May that "as a citizen of the Moldovan Republic and as its president" he enjoys the "right of free movement" over the republic's entire territory and that the freedom of movement of Moldovan citizens is also stipulated in accords signed between Chisinau and Tiraspol, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Voronin thus reacted to the separatists' claims that his attempted visit to the Noul Neamt monastery on 13 May required the approval of separatist leader Igor Smirnov. Voronin said that in the past he had visited the region, where his own mother lives, as well as the monastery, "on numerous occasions." MS

...DECREES TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT SETTLEMENT IS 'PRIORITY TASK'

President Voronin, on the eve of his departure for negotiations with Smirnov in Tiraspol on 16 May, issued an official decree stating that the settlement of the Transdniester conflict is "a priority task" for the Chisinau authorities, Romanian radio reported, citing Moldpres. The decree states that the settlement will be based on granting the separatist region a "special status" within Moldova and the safeguarding of Moldova's territorial integrity. MS

TRANSDNIESTER SEPARATISTS OUTLAW PRO-VORONIN PARTY

A court of justice in Tiraspol on 14 May heeded the decision of the region's "Justice Ministry" to outlaw the Narodovlastie Party (People's Power), Flux reported on the next day. The authorities had demanded that the party be outlawed because, during the February electoral campaign in Moldova, Narodovlastie Party members supported Voronin's Party of Moldovan Communists. The authorities said the support was "an attack on the Transdniester Republic's sovereignty." Narodovlastie Party leader Aleksandr Radchenko said he will appeal the ruling. MS

EU WANTS 'DEEDS, NOT DECLARATIONS' FROM MOLDOVA

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told visiting Moldovan Premier Vasile Tarlev in Brussels on 14 May that the EU expects "fewer declarations and more action" from Moldova in order to advance cooperation between that state and the EU. Solana said the EU is "ready to respond in kind" to Moldovan actions. On 15 May, Tarlev told NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson that Moldova wants to enlarge its participation in the Partnership for Peace Program and that this depends to a large extent on the help NATO is willing to extend for this purpose. Tarlev said NATO is an "indispensable element in the new European security structure" and that it is "natural" that some states strive to join that structure. Moldova, he said "respects that will, but believes NATO enlargement must not bring about new division lines in Europe," Flux reported. MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER URGES MACEDONIA TO START 'CANDID DIALOGUE'

Nadezhda Mihailova on 15 May in Brussels urged neighboring Macedonia to "immediately start a candid dialogue on the real problems underlying the [current] crisis." She said the setting up of the broad coalition in that country does not yet signify that the crisis in Macedonia is over, BTA reported. She said the dialogue "should involve all political forces [represented in the] parliament, [and] should target the further democratization of the political system [as well as a] comprehensive integration of Albanian Macedonians into that system." Mihailova and Defense Minister Boiko Noev were in Brussels for a meeting of foreign and defense ministers of EU member states and candidate countries, together with NATO members from outside Europe. MS

BULGARIAN COURT ANNULS RADIO CHIEF APPOINTMENT

A court of justice in Sofia ruled on 15 May that the naming of Ivan Borislavov as director general of Bulgarian state radio was made without respecting legal provisions and annulled the appointment, AFP reported. Borislavov's February appointment was contested through protests by members of the radio's staff, who challenged his professional qualifications for the job. Some 20 staff members were dismissed in the wake of the protests. The court ruled that the Union of Bulgarian Writers and Translators had not officially nominated Borislavov as a candidate for the position, and consequently his appointment by the Radio and Television Council, which was based on that nomination, was not legal. Borislavov suffered a heart attack in late February and the radio has since been run by one of his deputies. MS




LET US USE THIS CHANCE!


The following is Part II of a three-part abridged version of the speech Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel delivered on 11 May to the Bratislava summit of NATO candidate countries.

...Peace, partnership and cooperation are imaginable only among those who know who they are. Knowledge of one's own identity is a fundamental prerequisite for any good relationship with others. If I do not know who I am, who I want to be, what I want to achieve, where I begin and where I end -- my relations with the rest of the world, and with those around me, will inevitably be tense, full of suspicion and burdened by an inferiority complex that may be hidden behind pompous bravado. Those who lack order in themselves, or at home, try to impose some kind of a substitute concept of order on everybody else. Distrust of oneself and uncertainty about one's own identity necessarily generate a distrust of others, imputation of evil intentions to the rest of the world and, eventually, an aggressiveness that may result in the invasion of other people's territories, or at the least in forcing one's own domination upon those who do not desire it.

You may have guessed, ladies and gentlemen, that I am now coming to a rather sensitive issue -- the relationship between NATO and the Russian Federation.

Unlike countries such as Mexico, Sweden, or Austria, who are not members of NATO but have common borders with it, Russia -- which is much larger and more powerful than all the other neighbors of the alliance combined -- is consistently disquieted by the NATO presence and is rather displeased to see it enlarge eastward.

I believe that there are two reasons why this is so. The first lies in the inert mode of thinking which persists from the Soviet era when NATO was for decades portrayed by the totalitarian regime and its media as the Soviet Union's arch-enemy... The second reason for Russia's disapproval of NATO is, to my mind, even more serious.

It lies in the problem of Russia's identity, or its self-understanding.

It seems to me that Russia -- despite the remarkable progress it has made toward democracy and market economy -- is somehow still grappling with a problem with which, to my knowledge, it has grappled for more or less its entire history, that is, with the question of where it begins and where it ends; what belongs to its domain and what is already beyond it; where it should exercise its decisive influence and from what point onward it cannot do so. Lack of a natural self-confidence of an entity that is sure of its identity, and thus also of its boundaries, seems to be replaced by a slightly imperialistic rhetoric accompanied by a nationalist bombast, which we know so well from people like Mr. Zhirinovsky, but which appears in Russia in a more cultured form on a much wider scale. For example, I find it almost absurd that such a large and powerful country should be alarmed by the prospect of three small democratic republics at its borders joining a regional grouping which it does not control; or, that it should feel a need to build around itself an additional cordon sanitaire -- at a time when hundreds of transcontinental missiles could destroy Moscow from Nevada, or New York from the Urals, in a matter of minutes.

You certainly understand that these words of mine do not emanate either from any aversion to Russia, or any feeling of superiority; or, on the other hand, from any fear of Russia. I am simply trying to be candid, to call things by their right names and to express my concern for good and friendly coexistence. But is friendship imaginable without candor?

Unlike many Western politicians who insincerely truckle to Russia, supposedly in the interests of peace and friendship, I believe that friendship with Russia is served best if we act toward it as equals and tell it the truth to its face, unpleasant as any such truth may be. It is my profound conviction that Russia does not deserve that we behave toward it as we would towards a leper, an invalid or a child who requires special treatment and whose whims, no matter how dangerous, must be understood and tolerated. In addition to the fact that such an attitude does not help Russia at all, and actually insults it, it also strengthens Russian misconceptions or doubtful inclinations. For that matter, such policy does not help the Western statesmen either, as it leads them toward sliding into hopeless compromises.

It is true that Russia is now engaged in a quest to newly discern its true self, or its identity; to define its position in today's world; and, to determine its very own mode of existence. Perhaps this quest will take a long time. But this is still no reason for approaching Russia on tiptoe. All regions in the present-day world have problems -- Russia with its self-understanding; Africa with its poverty, famine and tribal wars; the West with the dilemma of whether it will allow the civilization that it gave, and sometimes imposed on, this planet to destroy itself during the lifetime of several generations or whether it will find -- somewhere in the depths of its knowledge and conscience -- sources of a renewed sense of responsibility for the world.

Thus, we are not in a position to reproach one another. But we should all be frank with each other.

What, therefore, should the NATO-Russia relationship be in the future?

We occasionally hear the opinion that Russia should be offered membership in the alliance, and that absence of this offer would be an expression of discrimination. Personally, I find it rather difficult to imagine Russia as a NATO member; moreover, I do not think that its membership would serve any good purpose.

Russia is a huge Euro-Asian power that will always play a very specific role in world politics. It is true that a part of Russia lies in Europe and that Russia's spiritual wealth has always had a pronounced influence on the rest of Europe and vice versa. But this does not mean that Russia should simply be included in the region that we call the West. Not because it [was] in any way inferior, but simply because the modern structuring of the world, based on cooperation among various clearly delimited regions or historically determined entities, would thus lose meaning: anything could extend anywhere; any balance would be disrupted; all regional organizations could eventually turn into countless, and absolutely toothless, replicas of the United Nations...

...The true path to peace is the path of discussion, on a footing of equality, among clearly delimited and identifiable entities within the multipolar world of today. Or were blurred borders -- that is, an uncertainty as to where entities began and where they ended -- not the most frequent cause of wars in the past?

There is the Founding Act, which creates preconditions for a true partnership and cooperation based on equality between NATO and Russia. I think that this is the right way to go -- although it has been little used so far -- and that this solution is not only much more appropriate to the general situation and to the overall distribution of power, but also much more dignified for Russia itself, as Russia alone is put here, and rightly so, de facto on the same footing as the community of all the 19 members of the alliance...


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