Accessibility links

Newsline - May 25, 2001




PUTIN PROMISES MASSIVE AID TO FLOOD-RAVAGED AREAS

After flying over flooded areas in the Lena River valley, President Vladimir Putin said on 24 May that the Russian government will provide massive assistance to help restore the area, Russian and Western agencies reported. Putin said that "the damage inflicted by the flood is huge." He said officials have generally done a good job, but called for an investigation into possible shortcomings. And before departing for Armenia for a summit meeting with regional leaders, Putin said that Russia's diamond company ALROSA should sell some of its stock to provide money for the flood victims. Meanwhile, the region faced another crisis as oil storage tanks ruptured and spilled petroleum into the flood waters of the Lena. PG

DUMA APPROVES PARTIES BILL ON SECOND READING

By a vote of 261 to 58 with one abstention, the Duma on 24 May approved on second reading a slightly modified version of the government-backed bill on political parties. According to that draft, a political party must have at least 10,000 members, with no fewer than 100 in each of half of Russia's federation subjects. It must also regularly field candidates in elections, for which only parties may nominate candidates. No one can be a member of more than one party. Individuals and groups may contribute to the parties within limits -- individual contributions cannot exceed 3,000 rubles ($110) a year --- but the state will provide a subsidy for only those that gain at least 3 percent of the vote. The parties will be supervised by the Justice Ministry rather than by prosecutors. Meanwhile, in an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on the same day, Republic Party leader Vladimir Lysenko said that the measure will place all parties under the control of the government and eliminate the provinces as political players. And a poll conducted by VTsIOM and published in "Vremya MN" on 24 May found that 22 percent of potential voters would support a Union of Rightist Forces (SPS)-Yabloko slate of candidates and 36 percent of voters would support a pan-democratic bloc. PG

GUSINSKY SAID TO HAVE BOUGHT INFLUENCE IN U.S.

According to an article in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 24 May, exiled media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky has used American public relations and law firms to provide funds to American politicians who are prepared to support his positions. Because of his success in purchasing influence in this way, the article suggests, Gusinsky sees the U.S. State Department and the Congress as "his own resources." The article then details what it says has been the role of Congressman Tom Lantos (D-California), who the paper says has "handled Project Gusinsky" since 1995. Meanwhile, the Duma International Relations Committee asked the Russian Foreign Ministry and other agencies the same day to clarify whether various Russian "oligarchs" were involved in the dissemination in the U.S. Congress of what they called the draft "anti-Russian resolution" that calls for Russia's exclusion from the G-8, Interfax reported. PG

KOVALEV SAYS HANSSEN CASE AN AMERICAN PROVOCATION

General Nikolai Kovalev, the deputy chairman of the Duma Security Committee and head of the parliament's anti-corruption commission, said in an interview published in "Trud-7" on 24 May that he very much doubts that former FBI agent Robert Hanssen ever worked for Moscow. Even if Hanssen did, Kovalev suggested, he would have done little damage to U.S. national security. Instead, Kovalev said, the charges brought against Hanssen were part of a effort by the new U.S. administration to demonstrate its competence and legitimacy. He said that such a dramatic step was needed because George W. Bush came to office with less than a majority of the votes cast. VY

STATISTICS COMMITTEE SAYS INFLATION IN MAY MIGHT BE 1.6 PERCENT

Officials at the State Statistics Committee said on 24 May that inflation in May will be 1.4-1.6 percent if current trends hold, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, in an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 24 May, Mikhail Zadornov, the deputy chairman of the Duma Budget Committee, said that money emissions are again on the rise. Meanwhile, presidential economics advisor Andrei Illarionov told Interfax-AFI the same day that the government is overly optimistic in its predictions about inflation and growth. He said that he expects inflation to be in the 18 to 20 percent range and growth to be in the 2-3 percent range. PG

SPS PLANS CONFERENCE ON MEDIA FREEDOM

The coordinating council of the SPS has decided to hold an international conference in Moscow in July on the problems of press freedom and the mass media in Russia, Interfax reported. SPS leader Boris Nemtsov said that media magnates Gusinsky and Boris Berezovskii could take part via a telebridge from abroad. PG

NTV CHIEF PROMISES NO CUTS IN NEWS STAFF

In an interview published in the 25 May "Izvestiya," NTV General Director Boris Jordan said that he will not reduce staff in the newsroom even as he works to cut costs. "NTV will remain an information channel -- this is our unchanged position," he said. He also said that he is not now seeking investors, preferring instead to put the company into good working order. PG

FORMER KGB CHIEF CALLS FOR YELTSIN'S INDICTMENT, TRIAL

Vladimir Kryuchkov, a former head of the Committee for State Security (KGB) who participated in the failed August 1991 coup attempt, said in an interview published in "Vechernyaya Moskva" on 23 May that former Russian President Boris Yeltsin should be charged with crimes against the people, despite the immunity his successor gave him. At the same time, Kryuchkov said that Putin speaks a language Kryuchkov understands on political questions and is creating what the ex-KGB chief said is "a normal government." VY

DUMA BACKS ANTI-MONEY-LAUNDERING BILL

On 24 May, 258 deputies voted to approve on first reading the government proposed bill on measures to combat money-laundering, Russian agencies reported. But many parliamentarians were critical of the bill and said they will seek to amend it when it comes up on second reading. PG

OTHER DUMA ACTIONS

On 24 May, the Duma also adopted on first reading a bill defending the rights of entrepreneurs, it scheduled a vote on a resolution calling for the inclusion of Moldova and the Transdniester Republic into the Russia-Belarus Union State, and it expressed concern about the publication in the media of tapes of conversations between presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin and others, Russian agencies reported. The deputies also voted to override the veto of the Federation Council of a bill that allows pensioners to work without losing their payments. PG

AGRARIANS APPEAL TO REGIONAL GOVERNMENTS

The Agrarian Party has issued an open letter to legislative bodies in the federation subjects asking them to help the party block the government-backed draft land code that would allow for the buying and selling of land, party leader and Duma deputy Mikhail Lapshin said on 24 May, according to Interfax. PG

RUSSIAN, BELARUSIAN CAPITALS AGREE TO COOPERATE

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Mikhail Pavlov, the chairman of the Minsk city executive committee, on 24 May signed an agreement calling for expanded ties in the economic, scientific-technical and cultural areas, Interfax-Moscow reported. PG

MOSCOW SAID TO WIN ANNAN'S SILENCE ON CHECHNYA IN EXCHANGE FOR VOTE

Anna Politkovskaya argued in an article published in "Novaya gazeta," No. 34, that President Putin will support the reelection of Kofi Annan as secretary-general of the United Nations in exchange of Annan's silence on Chechnya. The agreement reached last week "was in the best Soviet traditions," Politkovskaya said. "The deal was done at the top." Moreover, she adds, this approach is being used by Putin in Russia's relations with other international bodies as well. PG

COUNCIL OF EUROPE GIVES RUSSIA MIXED REVIEWS ON CHECHNYA

Council of Europe Secretary General Walter Schwimmer said in Moscow on 24 May that Moscow has made some progress on improving the state of human rights in Chechnya but its investigations into charges remain "insufficient," Russian and Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, a group of Duma deputies met with representatives of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in Prague to discuss the Chechen conflict, CTK reported. PG

MOSCOW FINDS SUPPORT FOR INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCIES AGENCY

Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Mikhail Faleev said on 24 May that more than 60 governments have officially declared their support for Moscow's call for the creation of an international agency to respond to emergency situations, Interfax-West reported. PG

SELEZNEV SAYS BELARUSIANS SHOULD BE IN OSCE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY

Speaking in Dublin on 24 May, Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev argued that Belarusian parliamentarians should be full-fledged members of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that it is "unfair" that they do not currently have that status. PG

RUSSIANS DON'T WANT MOSCOW TO INTERFERE IN UKRAINE'S POLITICAL CRISIS

According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 24 May, 51 percent of Russians do not want Moscow to get involved in Ukraine's current political crisis, 16 percent say Moscow should support the Ukrainian opposition, and 12 percent say that Moscow should support President Leonid Kuchma. At the same time, however, only 13 percent of the respondents said they trust Kuchma, while 41 percent said that they do not. In response to another question, 72 percent of those polled said that they view Ukraine as another country, with only 8 percent saying that they regret that it is now a foreign one. PG

KREMLIN SAYS WARSAW EXPLOSION A PROVOCATION

The presidential information administration said that an explosion set off in Warsaw near the hotel where Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov is staying represented "a provocation" against Russia, Interfax reported. But Russian and Western agencies noted that the "bomb" had been nothing other than the work of police seeking to deal with a suspicious car (see Part II below). Polish officials said there was no trace of Chechen involvement. Kasyanov is in Warsaw to discuss a gas pipeline that would bypass Ukraine. PG

BELGIAN VISA SCANDAL LINKED TO ILLEGAL ARMS FLOWS

Russian security agencies have concluded that the recent visa standoff between Belgium and Russia, in which Brussels briefly suspended issuing visas to Russians, had nothing to do with the propensity of the latter to request asylum, "Vremya novostei" reported on 24 May. Instead, the Belgians took this step after discovering that former KGB agents were organizing the illegal shipment of arms from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine through Belgium and on to Africa and the Balkans. VY

MOSCOW WELCOMES MITCHELL REPORT ON ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 24 May that Moscow views the recommendations of the commission headed by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell concerning the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation as a good basis for a settlement, ITAR-TASS reported. Yakovenko stressed that Israel must meet all of the commission's recommendations. PG

MOSCOW SETS TERMS FOR TALKING TO AFGHANISTAN'S TALIBAN

First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov said in Washington on 24 May that Moscow does not object in principle to unofficial contacts with the Taliban movement but that the Russian government will talk to that group only after it closes down camps where Chechen fighters are being trained, ITAR-TASS reported. Trubnikov was in Washington to take part in the third meeting of the Russian-American working group on fighting terrorism. PG

RUSSIA, AUSTRALIA TO BUILD ROCKET LAUNCH SITE

Russia and Australia will begin construction of a space launch facility on Christmas Island, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 May citing officials at the Rosaviakosmos agency. The site will be used to launch satellites for international customers beginning in 2004 or 2005. PG

MOSCOW HOPES FOR RESOLUTION OF EMBASSY PROBLEM IN ARGENTINA

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yakovenko said on 24 May that Moscow hopes media reports that the Argentinian government will allow the country's courts to seize and sell a building in the Russian embassy compound in order to settle an unpaid water bill are not true, ITAR-TASS reported. Yakovenko added that the Russian Foreign Ministry hopes that the "tangled situation" will be resolved quickly in the tradition of "traditionally friendly" bilateral relations. PG

KREMLIN AIDE CALLS FOR NEW MANAGEMENT AT GAZPROM

A senior Kremlin official who spoke to Western reporters on 24 May on condition of anonymity said that the management of Gazprom must be changed, including company head Rem Vyakhirev, AFP reported. The official said that Moscow will announce on 26 May whether it will use its five votes on the 11-member Gazprom board to demand these changes immediately or whether it will wait for a while. PG

KOZAK SAYS RUSSIAN FBI WILL BE CREATED

Despite reports that President Putin favors a go-slow approach in creating a Russian central investigative agency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2001), Dmitrii Kozak, the deputy head of the presidential administration, said on 24 May that a federal investigation service will be created, Russian agencies reported. PG

NEW CHARGES IN SUPPLY AGENCY CORRUPTION CASE

Prosecutors on 24 May said that they have completed the investigation of the corruption case involving senior officials of the Federal Supply Corporation (FPK) in 1995-96, Interfax reported. The Corporation's officers mishandled funds intended for purchasing food products for the military and other services. As the result of the investigation, former FPK General Director Vladimir Chaplygin, former FPK deputy head and also former president of Soyuzkontrakt Yurii Lysenko are among those who have been charged with taking bribes, misusing their official positions, and theft. PG

50 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS THINK BORDER IS WELL PROTECTED

A poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 24 May found that 50.8 percent of the sample believe that the Federal Border Service is reliably protecting the country's borders. But many others -- 39.9 percent -- disagreed. The poll was taken in advance of border guard day to be marked on 28 May. PG

TURKEY SEIZES DOCUMENTS IN 'BLUE STREAM' CORRUPTION CASE

Turkish police have seized documents from the state-run pipeline company BOTAS as part of an investigation into possible corruption involving that firm's deal with Russia's Gazprom to send Russian gas to Turkey, AP reported. Turkish analysts said that the investigation could implicate several senior officials in Ankara, including Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, who as premier in 1997 co-signed with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin the agreement to build the Blue Stream pipeline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 1997). PG/LF

MOSCOW RECTOR WORRIED ABOUT 'BRAIN DRAIN'

Viktor Sadovnichii, the rector of Moscow State University and the president of the Russian Union of Rectors, warned on 24 May that the "brain drain" resulting from recent university graduates going abroad is hurting the country, Interfax reported. He said that the state does not have the right to limit the freedom of graduates to choose where they will work, but argued that the authorities must "create conditions" so that the best graduates will continue to work in Russia. PG

INTERIOR MINISTER GETS ADVANCED DEGREE

By a vote of 19 to one, the philosophy faculty of St. Petersburg University approved the kandidat degree defense of Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, Interfax-North-West reported. His thesis topic was "Political Parties and Russian Transformations: Theory and Political Practice." PG

RUSSIANS DIVIDED ON IMPLICATIONS OF DEMOGRAPHIC CRISIS

A poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 24 May found that 58 percent of Russians have heard of the demographic crisis in Russia. Forty-one percent say that it is the result of an uncontrolled decline in fertility, 2 percent say it is about the aging of the population, 1 percent connect it with immigration, and 1 percent said that the demographic crisis is a crisis of democracy. PG

2000 AVOID SPRING DRAFT IN MOSCOW, MANY TO BE CHARGED

Lyudmila Shvetsova, the first deputy prime minister of the Moscow city government, told Interfax on 24 May that the spring draft in the city was only 66 percent fulfilled. Moscow should have supplied 5,500 draftees, but some 2,000 avoided the draft. Moscow city military officials said that 30 of those now face criminal charges and that charges may be lodged against approximately 300 others. Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies are exploring how a deserter who turned out to be mentally retarded was ever drafted in the first place, the news agency said. PG

100,000 RUSSIAN OFFICERS LACK HOUSING

Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Aleksandr Kosovan said on 24 May that approximately 100,000 officers in the Russian military lack housing, Interfax reported. He added that some 17,300 apartments have been built for them in the last few years and that another 5,000 officers have been able to acquire housing as a result of the president's state residence certificates. At the same time, he said that by the fall of this year, all officers and soldiers in the army and interior forces now serving in Chechnya will be provided with adequate quarters. PG

SOLDIERS WHO TRIED TO SELL ROCKETS CAUGHT IN STING OPERATION

Police posing as buyers from the Caucasus arrested two Tula soldiers who had sought to sell a large number of S-8 helicopter-launched rockets, Interfax reported. PG

TAX BREAKS FOR LOCAL MEDIA MAY BE PRESERVED

First Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov said on 24 May that his ministry does not exclude that existing tax breaks for local and especially rural media outlets will be preserved, Interfax reported. He said that the ministry is discussing whether to extend the breaks that had been scheduled to end on 31 December 2001. Shatalov also said that the government plans to eliminate the tax on purchasing foreign currency by 2003-2004. PG

INCREASED CHARGES FOR RADIO, TV BROADCASTING APPROVED

The anti-monopoly policy ministry has approved a 30 percent increase in charges for broadcasting state radio and television through state broadcasting facilities and uplinks to telecommunications satellites, RIA-Novosti reported on 24 May. A ministry spokesman explicitly said that the increased charges will not apply to privately-owned electronic media. Meanwhile, Russian Aluminum said it is prepared to invest $10 million in the creation of Siberian TV, Interfax reported. PG

25TH ANNIVERSARY OF MOSCOW HELSINKI GROUP

Lyudmila Alekseeva, the president of the Moscow Helsinki Group, has formally presented three new books about her organization that marked its 25th anniversary this month, "Izvestiya" reported on 24 May. PG

TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF NOVO-OGAREVO PROCESS NOTED

Zigmund Stankevich, who in 1990-91 worked on the staff of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, gave an interview to Interfax on 23 May on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of what became known as the Novo-Ogarevo process intended to save the Soviet Union by preparing a new union treaty. Stankevich shared a previously unpublished stenogram of the meeting with the news agency. PG

'VESTNIK EVROPY' TO REAPPEAR

A literary journal founded by historian Nikolai Karamzin and in which Aleksandr Pushkin's first publication appeared will resume publication, Interfax reported on 24 May. "Vestnik Evropy," which came out from 1802 to 1830 and again from 1866 to 1918, was one of Russia's most important "thick" journals in the 19th century. Among the organizers of its renewal are the All-Russian State Library of Foreign Literature and Yegor Gaidar of the Institute of Economics of the Transition Period. PG

SCRAP STEALERS EXPOSED TO RADIATION

Four unemployed men sawed off the shield of a radioactive thermoelectric generator that supplied power to a channel signal buoy in the White Sea in hopes of being able to sell the non-ferrous metal for scrap, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 May. But their exposure to radiation forced two of them to seek hospital treatment. The news agency said that there has not been any radioactive contamination of the environment beyond a zone of 800 meters from the site of the now inoperative buoy. PG

OSSETIANS THWART INGUSH REPATRIATION

Some 400 Ossetians blocked a border crossing with neighboring Ingushetia on 23 May to prevent the return to the village of Ir in North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodnyi Raion of some 87 Ingush families who fled the district during the fighting on late 1992, Russian agencies reported. At a subsequent meeting, North Ossetian Prime Minister Kazbek Kardinov and his Ingushetian counterpart Akhmet Malsagov agreed that 10 Ingush families will return to Ir every week, Interfax reported. The North Ossetians have systematically sought to prevent the return of any Ingush to Prigorodnyi Raion. LF




ARMENIA, KAZAKHSTAN REVIEW BILATERAL RELATIONS

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev held talks in Yerevan on 23 May with his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian on the eve of the CIS Collective Security Treaty summit, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The two presidents gave a positive assessment to political relations and to cooperation within the framework of the CIS and of the CIS Collective Security Treaty, but acknowledged that transportation difficulties constitute a barrier to expanding economic cooperation, Noyan Tapan reported. Nazarbaev said such cooperation could extend to Armenian participation in the exploitation of Kazakhstan's hydrocarbon reserves, according to Interfax. Meeting on 24 May with faculty members at Yerevan State University, Nazarbaev disclosed that at the Istanbul summit of Turcophone states last month he blocked a proposal by Azerbaijan to include in the final communique a formal condemnation of Armenia for aggression in the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Nazarbaev said the inclusion of such a formulation would have complicated the search for a settlement of the Karabakh conflict, adding that the use of meetings of such international organizations to try to resolve political issues "is not acceptable to Kazakhstan." Together with then Russian President Boris Yeltsin, in September 1991 Nazarbaev mediated an albeit short-lived cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan. LF

ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS MEET

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Yerevan on 24 May amid tight security to participate in the CIS Collective Security Treaty signatories' summit the following day. Meeting with his Armenian counterpart Kocharian, Putin discussed the summit agenda and bilateral political and economic relations, and "exchanged thoughts" on the Karabakh peace process, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported quoting the Armenian presidential press service. LF

ARMENIA SETS NEW SCHEDULE FOR ENERGY PRIVATIZATION

The Armenian government on 24 May set a deadline of late November 2001 for completion of a new international tender to privatize four state-owned energy distribution networks, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 24 May. A previous attempt to sell off those networks ended in failure last month when the last two shortlisted bidders pulled out (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2001). Disbursement of the final tranche of a new World Bank $50 million Structural Adjustment Credit is conditional on the successful privatization of the four networks. LF

AZERBAIJAN, PAKISTAN TO DEVELOP MILITARY COOPERATION

Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev met in Islamabad on 23 May with Pakistan's leader General Parviz Musharraf to discuss developing trade and economic relations and strengthening military cooperation, Turan reported. Abiev gave Musharraf an invitation from Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev to visit Azerbaijan. Abiev also discussed with the Pakistani Defense Ministry the prospects for purchasing arms and ammunition and for training Azerbaijani officers in Pakistan. On 24 May Abiev and Pakistan's Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar signed a written pledge to develop bilateral defense cooperation, and will sign further protocols and memoranda of understanding on specific fields, Reuters reported on 24 May. LF

CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER GUNNED DOWN IN AZERBAIJAN

Magomed Koriev, head of the department for fighting organized crime within the Chechen Interior Ministry, was shot dead in his apartment in Baku late on 22 May, the press service of Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov told an RFE/RL correspondent. Koriev was shot eight times at close range. LF

GEORGIAN MILITARY UNIT MUTINIES

Several hundred national guard and army troops quit their base at Norio near Tbilisi on 25 May and barricaded themselves in an Interior Ministry facility at Mukhrovani, east of the capital, international and Georgian agencies reported. Some accounts say the troops are protesting appalling conditions and pay arrears of up to 14 months, while others quote Georgian presidential spokesman Kahka Imnadze as saying their demands are unclear; Russian television has reported that they are demanding that the Georgian government resign, according to dpa. Security Minister Vakhtang Kutateladze termed their action an attempted coup d'etat, Caucasus Press reported. The insurgents released some 40 people hostages after talks with former National Security chief and opposition parliament deputy Irakli Batiashvili. Security has been tightened in Tbilisi and the Georgian armed forces are on full alert; many troops, however, are currently deployed on the Black Sea coast where they began large-scale maneuvers on 23 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2001). LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT INSISTS THAT PERSONNEL AT RUSSIAN MILITARY BASE USE GEORGIAN CURRENCY

In a move that is likely to alienate the Armenian population of southern Georgia, the Georgian parliament on 24 May adopted a declaration requiring that the personnel of the Akhalkalaki military base in southern Georgia use the Georgian lari for all financial transactions, Caucasus Press reported. The declaration said the exclusion of the lari in the region "could be regarded as financial aggression against Georgia." Not only the personnel at the Akhalkalaki base but also the predominantly Armenian population of the region use the Russian ruble for financial transactions. LF

KAZAKH MINISTER ASSESSES ECONOMIC TRENDS

Speaking at a press conference in Astana on 24 May, Deputy Prime Minister Uraz Djandosov said that the government will in the near future revise upwards its estimates for key macro-economic indicators for 2001, Interfax reported. Djandosov said GDP growth is expected to be higher than the 4 percent originally envisaged. He added that the budget deficit should preferably not exceed 1.5 - 1.7 percent of GDP and can be financed from internal sources without recourse to international loans. The 2001 budget entails a 2.1 percent deficit. LF

ONLY ONE-THIRD OF KAZAKHSTAN'S POPULATION SPEAK KAZAKH

Only 36 percent of Kazakhstan's 14.9 million population can speak, read, and write Kazakh fluently, Interfax quoted Culture and Information Minister Mukhtar Kulmuhammed as telling a seminar in Almaty on 24 May. Almost all those 36 percent are Kazakhs, who are the largest ethnic group (53.4 percent) in Kazakhstan. More than half the total population has some knowledge of Kazakh, but 20 percent of Kazakhs are not fluent in their native language. LF

KYRGYZ PREMIER CALLS FOR GREATER CABINET DISCIPLINE

Kurmanbek Bakiev criticized unnamed members of his cabinet on 24 May for incompetence, lack of professionalism and discipline, and failure to work together as a team, Interfax reported. He warned ministers to desist from "political rivalry" or risk dismissal. LF

KYRGYZ FOREIGN MINISTER ACCUSES PARLIAMENT OF 'POLITICAL GAMES'

Speaking at a news conference in Bishkek on 24 May, Muratbek ImanAliyev said that the delimitation of the Kyrgyz-Chinese border was implemented in a way that benefits Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He added that under the agreement signed in August 1999 by the Kyrgyz and Chinese presidents, Kyrgyzstan retained 70 percent of the disputed Uzengi-Kuush region while ceding the remaining 30 percent to China. ImanAliyev accused those parliament deputies who accuse President Askar Akaev of harming the national interest and violating the constitution by signing away that territory of "playing a political game" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 May 2001). LF

PUTATIVE MURDERERS OF TAJIK OFFICIAL ARRESTED

Four people have now been arrested in Tajikistan on suspicion of the contract killing in April of Deputy Interior Minister Habib Sanginov, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 23 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 April 2001). Police are still searching for a fifth suspect. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT ACQUIRES NEW HONORARY TITLE

The World Humanitarian Turkmen Association has bestowed on Saparmurat Niyazov the title "Turkmenbashi the Great," Interfax reported on 24 May citing the Turkmen press. Two days earlier, Niyazov had professed to being weary of the cult of personality of which he is the focus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2001). On 23 May, Niyazov criticized editors of media outlets for lavishing disproportionate praise on him and thereby creating the impression that there are no other topics on which to comment. LF




BELARUS NOT TO REINFORCE BARBED WIRE ON POLISH BORDER

Lieutenant General Alyaksandr Paulouski, chief of the State Border Troops Committee, said on 24 May that Belarus does not plan to either build new "engineering installations" or to tear down the old ones on the Belarusian-Polish border, Belapan reported. "Removing the poles and the barbed wire [installed in the Soviet-era] would require a great lot of money, so we just take them away as they fall down," Paulouski added. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN NOT PERMITTED TO SUE LUKASHENKA FOR SLANDER

The Minsk City Court has rejected a slander suit by Anatol Lyabedzka, head of the United Civic Party, against Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Belapan reported on 24 May. In January, Lukashenka suggested on television that Lyabedzka was a foreign spy, saying that he was trained by a Western foundation dealing with espionage. "Our home-grown Lyabedzkas and others were trained for several months or several weeks, all the opposition has been trained [by that foundation]," Lukashenka asserted (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 30 January 2001). The court rejected the suit, arguing that Lukashenka's statement only partly referred to Anatol Lyabedzka. JM

CANDIDATE TO HEAD UKRAINIAN CABINET DISCLOSES PRIORITIES

Anatoliy Kinakh, who was proposed earlier this week by President Leonid Kuchma to head Ukraine's government, has made known which priorities he would follow if approved as prime minister by the parliament, Interfax reported on 24 May. Kinakh told journalists that he would primarily tackle the problems of poverty, tax reform, and energy security. He also said it is necessary "to rethink at a very essential level" the conditions of Ukraine's cooperation with the IMF, but did not provide any details. JM

UKRAINIAN AUTHORITIES SAY GONGADZE CASE NOT SOLVED YET

Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov told the parliament on 25 May that his previous statement on the successful outcome of the investigation into the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze was "premature," Interfax reported. Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko also told the parliament he has "no grounds to state that the killing of Heorhiy Gongadze has been solved." Last week Smyrnov claimed that Gongadze was killed by two criminals who in turn were later murdered (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 22 May 2001). JM

LITHUANIAN COMPETITION COUNCIL APPROVES SALE OF SAVINGS BANK TO ESTONIAN BANK

The independent Competition Council on 24 May gave its approval for Estonia's Hansapank, the largest commercial bank in the Baltic states, to purchase 90.73 percent of the shares of the state-owned Lithuanian Savings Bank, BNS reported. Hansapank will immediately pay 150 million litas ($37.5 million) for the shares and pledges to invest another 150 million litas in the next two years. SG

COALITION AGREEMENT SIGNED IN RIGA CITY COUNCIL

More than two months after the municipal elections, the Social Democratic Workers Party and For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK) finally signed a coalition agreement in the Riga City Council on 24 May, BNS reported. With the inclusion of six small parties: the Green Party, Democratic Party, Labor Party, Russian Party, Welfare Party, and Latvian Farmers Union, the coalition will have 34 of the 60 seats in the council. The TB/LNNK refused to include the left-wing For Human Rights in a United Latvia in the coalition, but members of that party will retain the posts of deputy mayor and heads of some of the council's commissions. SG

GERMAN BUNDESTAG PRESIDENT VISITS LATVIA

Wolfgang Thierse told Prime Minister Andris Berzins in Riga on 24 May that he supports the Baltic states' bid to join NATO and the European Union, LETA reported. Thierse expressed interest in economic achievements and reforms, particularly in sectors where German assistance was used. Speaking to the Latvian parliament, Thierse noted that EU enlargement would be the greatest test for European security and stability in the post-war period and that it would be short-sighted and detrimental to pretend that the EU can admit any of the associated countries by a specific deadline. While noting that Latvia has made significant progress in various sectors as detailed in the latest report of the European Commission, he pointed out that is still much to do in the privatization, agrarian, environmental protection, and justice sectors. SG

LITHUANIAN PREMIER PRESENTS ANNUAL REPORT ON GOVERNMENT ACTIVITIES

Rolandas Paksas presented a more than 300 page report on the activities of his cabinet to the parliament on 24 May, ELTA reported. He pointed out that Lithuania has made great progress in its negotiations on membership in the European Union, having completed 15 of the 31 chapters or the same number as Poland and the Czech Republic. The most painful issue connected with EU membership is the fate of the nuclear power plant at Ignalina. Paksas said the main priorities for the future are "to achieve EU membership, NATO membership and the privatization of strategic enterprises." When asked by Conservative Andrius Kubilius to name the three main tasks his government has accomplished, Paksas listed the privatization of the Lithuanian Savings Bank, the privatization of Lithuanian Shipping Company, and progress in EU negotiations. LF

POLISH PARLIAMENT FAILS TO OVERRIDE VETO ON PROPERTY RESTITUTION BILL...

The Sejm on 25 May voted by 211 to 207 in an unsuccessful attempt to overcome President Aleksander Kwasniewski's veto on a property restitution bill, Reuters reported. The Polish parliament needs a three-fifths majority (276 votes) to override presidential veto. The Solidarity-sponsored bill provided for the compensation of 50 percent of the value of assets seized by the Communist regime in 1944-1962. Kwasniewski explained his veto by saying that the bill is flawed and would prove too costly for Poland. He suggested that claimants should seek compensation through Polish courts. JM

...INCREASES POLICE POWERS

The previous day the Sejm voted by 234 to 160 with 16 abstentions to pass a bill increasing powers of the police in surveillance and sting operations, PAP reported. Under the new bill, the police will be able to monitor correspondence as well as use telephone tapping and entrapment purchases. The bill also gives the police the right to gather detailed information about the identity of suspected criminals and other persons, including their political and philosophical views, religious beliefs and sex life. "We cannot agree to providing the police with the right to collect data on people's political views, trade union affiliation or sexual preferences," lawmaker Janusz Zemke from the Democratic Left Alliance said. "A fundamental law has been passed, consistent with the EU law and human rights," Interior Minister Marek Biernacki commented. JM

POLISH PREMIER REPRIMANDS OFFICIAL OVER EU ENTRY GAFFE

Jerzy Buzek has reprimanded Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, head of the government's Office for European Integration, for questioning Poland's official goal of joining the EU in January 2003. Saryusz-Wolski suggested earlier this week that Warsaw is ready to postpone the entry date to January 2004. Buzek subsequently confirmed in Brussels that Warsaw will stick to its original entry target, while Saryusz-Wolski offered to resign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2001). "I gave a sharp reprimand to Minister Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, but I appreciate his professionalism and his dedication, and I decided to leave him in his position," Reuters quoted Buzek as saying on 24 May. JM

RUSSIAN PREMIER'S VISIT IN POLAND STARTS WITH FALSE BOMB ALERT

Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov arrived in Warsaw on 24 May to discuss trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, Polish and Russian media reported. A police dog sniffed out what seemed to be an explosive device in a car parked outside the hotel where Kasyanov was staying. An antiterrorist squad opened the car's trunk with a controlled explosion but found it empty. The astonished owner, who had parked his car in a no parking zone near the hotel, appeared moments later to find his vehicle partly destroyed. JM

TWO MORE BIDDERS WITHDRAW FROM CZECH FIGHTER TENDER...

Following the announcement by Lockheed Martin and McDonnell-Douglas/Boeing that they are withdrawing from the tender for the purchase of supersonic fighters by the Czech air force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2001), two more companies also withdrew from the tender. The two are the international consortium EADS, which produces the Eurofighter, and the French Mirage Dassault, which produces the Mirage, CTK reported on 24 May. This leaves the British-Swedish BAE Systems-Saab consortium as the only bidder in the tender. A spokesman for this consortium said in Prague the same day that BAE Systems-Saab, which produces the Gripen, has no intention of withdrawing and will meet the 31 May deadline for submitting the necessary documentation to the Czech government. MS

...AND TRIGGER SCANDAL

Also on 24 May, the daily "Lidove noviny" wrote that a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Prague has confirmed the withdrawal of the two U.S. companies from the bid and said that their decision is "final." The daily said the two companies have written to Defense Minster Jaroslav Tvrdik explaining that the reason for their decision was the tender's "lack of transparency." The daily noted that the opposition has claimed several times in the past that a decision to purchase the Gripen has already been secretly made. AP, citing a Boeing spokeswoman, says the decision to withdraw from the tender was made by the U.S. government. "Lidove noviny" expects U.S.-Czech relations to suffer as a result. Petr Necas, chairman of the Chamber of Deputies' Defense and Security Commission and Civic Democratic Party "shadow defense minister," said the government must now cancel the tender. Four Party Coalition Chairman Karel Kuehnl warned that Czech airspace "might now be undefended" for a long period of time. MS

CZECH PREMIER SAYS TENDER WILL 'GO AHEAD'

Milos Zeman, currently on a visit to Slovenia, told CTK in Lubljana on 24 May that the tender will "go ahead, even if only one offer is submitted." He said that if some of the bidders "are unable to meet the demands...they should not have joined the tender at all." Defense Minister Tvrdik told CTK that the tender's conditions were "fully legitimate and justified." Tvrdik said there is "speculation" that among the reasons for the withdrawal of bidders is the stipulation that they be paid in Czech crowns and that the documentation be provided in the Czech language. He said it was "the right of those who publish the tender" to do so and that "the foreign language knowledge of our experts" is not on a level that would "allow them to asses the complicated technical and other details of the documentation." MS

CZECH RULING PARTY CHAIRMAN AGAINST EXTENSION OF 'OPPOSITION AGREEMENT'

Social Democratic Party (CSSD) Chairman Vladimir Spidla, in an interview with the tabloid "Super" on 25 May, said he is against the extension after next year's elections of the so-called "opposition agreement" under which the CSSD minority government is backed in the parliament by the Civic Democratic Party. Spidla said that the agreement is "a disposable instrument," which was concluded "for one election term" only. Asked whether he can envisage a pre-election alliance with the Four Party Coalition, Spidla, who will succeed Zeman as premier, said that "coalitions are discussed [only] after the elections." MS

CZECH LOWER HOUSE REVISES DECISION ON TELEVISION COUNCIL SELECTION

A Chamber of Deputies committee agreed on 24 May to reassess at a meeting scheduled for 25 May its 18 May selection of candidates for the Television Council, CTK reported. The committee's earlier "filtering" of 45 out of 161 candidates for the council has met with criticism from some opposition parties, the December-January committee of Czech TV strikers, and the media. The committee must now decide whether the 15-member council is to be selected from among a revised list of 45 candidates or from among all 161 candidates. It also decided to replace two of the candidates selected on 18 May with other candidates, citing "shortcomings in the documentation" on the candidates' records. MS

CZECH ROMA DIVIDED OVER ETHNIC MINORITIES LAW

Spokespersons for Czech Roma are divided over the Ethnic Minorities Law approved by the Chamber of Deputies on 23 May, "Mlada fronta Dnes," cited by CTK, reported on 25 May. The law stipulates that the officially recognized 12 minorities may display bilingual signs in localities where they constitute 10 percent or more of the population, if 40 percent of them demand it. Minorities are granted the right to use their mother tongue in official contacts with state and local administration in those localities, and the right to be educated in their mother tongue from nursery school level. But Hradec Kralove Romany adviser Marian Erimias said it is more important for Roma to learn Czech in order to integrate in society. Romany historian Bartolomej Daniel welcomed the law, while an expert from the Brno Museum of Romany history said the law "complicates problems" because "there are many dialects in the Romany language and there are no language rules." MS

ROBERTSON ON SLOVAK POLITICS AND NATO MEMBERSHIP

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said in Bratislava on 24 May that the enlargement decision expected from the 2002 NATO Prague summit is not likely to be influenced by the outcome of the Slovak elections earlier that year, CTK reported. He said all the main parties competing in the elections are committed to NATO membership, and this includes the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), which is leading in opinion polls. Robertson said that under the previous government headed by Vladimir Meciar, the HZDS was not yet prepared to become a full-fledged NATO member, but this is no longer the case. It would be up to the alliance to decide whether there is any discrepancy between declarations of intent and actual behavior, he commented. MS

NEW SMALLHOLDER GROUPING FORMED IN HUNGARY

Fifteen Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) deputies on 24 May formed a new grouping called the Democratic Federation of Independent Smallholders, whose chairman is Defense Minister Janos Szabo and deputy chairman is Environment Minister Bela Turi-Kovacs. Turi-Kovacs said the members of the new grouping do not intend to quit the FKGP, but rather to give a "new civic form" to the implementation of the party's program. Meanwhile, FKGP Chairman Jozsef Torgyan asked Parliament Speaker Janos Ader to announce at the 28 May plenary session that Torgyan is not an independent parliamentary member, as a verdict of the Budapest Metropolitan Court passed last week reversed the FKGP parliamentary group's decision to expel Torgyan. MSZ

HUNGARIAN EXTREMIST PARTY MOVES INTO THIRD PLACE IN POLLS

According to a Szonda Ipsos opinion poll conducted between 3 and 13 May, the far right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) is supported by 6 percent of the electorate. In first place is the opposition Socialist Party (42 percent), followed by the ruling FIDESZ (39 percent). MIEP is followed by the Independent Smallholders and the Free Democrats, with 4 percent each. In other news, the Supreme Court on 24 May sentenced Kemal Ekrem, one of the most prominent leaders of the Hungarian far-right, to two years of imprisonment for conspiring to topple the constitutional order. In 1996 Ekrem founded the Federation of the Victims of Communism with the goal of toppling the constitutional order by force. That organization said it was continuing the legacy of Hungarian fascist leader Ferenc Szalasi's World War II-era Arrow Cross movement. MSZ/MS

HUNGARY, ROMANIA HELD CONSULTATIONS ON STATUS BILL

Experts form the Office for Hungarians Abroad and the Romanian Foreign Ministry on 24 May held consultations in Budapest on the text of the Hungarian "Status Bill" under which the Hungarian government proposes to extend benefits to ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries. The Romanian side asked for clarification concerning those provisions in the envisaged law that have an "extraterritorial character" and those that might create a "discriminatory regime" on the territory of Romania. The two sides agreed to continue the dialogue through diplomatic channels, Hungarian media reported. MSZ




MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT WANTS ETHNIC ALBANIAN PARTIES TO RENOUNCE DEAL WITH REBELS...

Boris Trajkovski on 24 May urged the ethnic Albanian Democratic Party (DPA) of Albanians and the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP) to renounce an agreement they signed with the political leader of the National Liberation Army (UCK), the ethnic Albanian rebels who are fighting the Macedonian army, Reuters reported. Trajkovski said "it will be impossible to work together" if the deal is not renounced by the leaders of the two ethnic Albanian parties -- which are part of a broad unity government. He said the two parties must show "the terrorists that they will not be allowed to participate in the decision making for the future of Macedonia." But the DPA's Arben Xhaferi -- who along with the PDP's Imer Imeri signed the deal brokered by OSCE envoy Robert Frowick -- said he "stands by the platform" of the agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2001). He added that he will leave the grand coalition government if Western diplomats insist that he distance himself from the agreement. PB

...AS NATO, EU OFFICIALS, U.S. EMBASSY CRITICIZE THE AGREEMENT

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson joined a litany of criticism of the ethnic Albanian parties-UCK agreement on 24 May, saying that ethnic Albanian rebels in Macedonia have no role in the negotiating process, Reuters reported. Robertson said "the men of violence...have no place in this process. They have no democratic legitimacy and thus no place at the negotiating table." German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer also denounced the rebel agreement with the ethnic Albanian political parties, saying that the rebel force "cannot be accepted in the political process as a partner with equal rights with democratically legitimized parties." The U.S. Embassy in Skopje said the deal is a "totally unacceptable...effort to bring this insurgent group into the state structures. There should be no accommodations made for violence or violent groups." PB

OSCE ISSUES STATEMENT OF APOLOGY

The OSCE mission in Skopje issued a statement on 24 May "reaffirming its commitment" to the international community after its Balkan envoy, U.S. diplomat Robert Frowick, was reported to have been the man responsible for the agreement between the two major ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia and the UCK, dpa reported. In the statement, the OSCE said it is committed to the "reiterated positions of the international community" made by the EU and NATO that the UCK insurgents "do not have any legal status and in the present situation cannot be considered as partners in the political dialogue." Carlo Ungaro, an OSCE representative in Skopje, said Frowick had been "acting on his own." Frowick was said to have been told by the Macedonian government that his services are no longer needed in the country and he reportedly flew to Bucharest via Vienna to report to the Romanian foreign minister, who is the current chairman of the OSCE. PB

MACEDONIAN ARMY UNLEASHES MAJOR OFFENSIVE

The Macedonian army used tanks and helicopter gunships in a major assault on 24 May in an effort to dislodge ethnic Albanian rebels from their positions north of Skopje, Reuters reported. The fighting centered on the villages of Vaksince and Slupcane, and reports said the Macedonian army was seen on hills overlooking villages that were previously held by rebels. Door-to-door fighting in the villages was also reported. Rebels are dug in at some 11 villages in the area. There were reports of dozens of rebel casualties and several civilians; four Macedonian policemen are also reported to have been injured. The Red Cross said some 1,500 ethnic Albanians fled across the border town of Miratovac into Serbia. Hundreds of other civilians fled Vaksince and some other villages and gathered at a train station at Tabanovce. PB

YUGOSLAV FORCES KILL ALBANIAN REBEL COMMANDER IN BUFFER ZONE

Serbian Deputy Premier Nebojsa Covic said on 25 May that Yugoslav forces killed Ridvan Qazimi during a three-hour firefight the previous day in the former buffer zone between Kosova and the rest of Serbia, AP reported. Qazimi, known as Commander Lleshi, was killed shortly after a meeting with Shawn Sullivan, NATO's envoy in Yugoslavia. Covic emphasized that Lleshi's death "was not an assassination. He was killed in an exchange of fire with the Yugoslav army." Covic said that there are hard-liners among the rebels who "are doing all they can to provoke clashes," most of them, he said, in the village of Dobrosin. Ethnic Albanian sources said that dozens of armed men gathered in the village of Trnovac upon hearing of Lleshi's death. Covic's announcement contradicted a statement made by Yugoslavia's "joint security forces press center" in Bujanovac on 24 May that denied its forces were involved in the incident. PB

SERBIAN POLICE BEING INVESTIGATED FOR CRIMES IN KOSOVA

General Sreten Lukic, the head of Serbian police, said on 24 May that some 66 policemen are being investigated on suspicion of committing crimes against ethnic Albanians in Kosova, Reuters reported. Lukic said policemen under investigation are immediately suspended. He said the 66 are being investigated for such crimes as murder, theft, arson, and armed robbery. Lukic said: "Serbia has chosen the democratic way, the way of facing the truth, and I'm sure we'll succeed in it." Lukic was head of police in Kosova during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and his appointment in January was followed by sharp criticism in the media. Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said he "personally checked Lukic's record and found nothing wrong." PB

CROATIAN, YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTERS DISCUSS END TO BORDER DISPUTE

At a meeting in the south Croatian city of Split on 24 May, foreign ministers Tonino Picula and Goran Svilanovic of Croatia and Yugoslavia, respectively, praised their countries' current relations and expressed hopes of resolving all disputes between them as soon as possible, AP reported. Chief among those unresolved problems is the border dispute concerning the southern peninsula of Prevlaka, on the border with Montenegro. The UN recognizes Prevlaka as part of Croatia and has administered the peninsula since 1991. "Croatia is our neighbor that we care for, and we want an active trade with it, which, of course, means that we should solve our disputes, including Prevlaka," Svilanovic said. DW

CROATIAN PREMIER SAYS INCOMPLETE VICTORY WILL STRENGTHEN GOVERNMENT

Ivica Racan told Reuters on 24 May that the failure of his ruling coalition to win outright in the 20 May local elections will actually strengthen it as it tackles tough political and economic reforms in the coming months. Even though his coalition of six center-left parties defeated the nationalist Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in two-thirds of the counties, none of the parties won decisively enough to form a government on its own. Racan said this would only bind the coalition parties more closely to each other and improve discipline. He called the results a "clear warning" to his coalition, adding that there will be no more "double standards." "We will have to make everybody in the government take equal responsibility for all our moves." Racan said his government's hardest task will be the reform of social benefits, which has seen the government's budget swell to 50 percent of Croatia's GDP. DW

BOSNIAN EXILE FOUNDS HISTORICAL LIBRARY IN SARAJEVO

In keeping with Bosnian Muslim tradition of the wealthy building public works to be remembered by, Bosnian exile Adil-Bey Zulfikarpasic on 24 May opened a library and art center in Sarajevo, AP reported the same day. The $10 million complex of galleries and libraries will be the most complete archive of Bosnian history to date. "I have built this institute...with the intention to allow every Bosnian with good will and curiosity to accept it as his own," Zulfikarpasic said, adding that he hopes Bosnia's Croats, Muslims, and Serbs will find evidence of their common identity through his memorial. DW

LEAFLETS URGE MUSLIMS TO LEAVE BOSNIAN SERB TOWN

Two leaflets displayed in the town of Doboj in Republika Srpska on 23 May warn Muslim residents to leave, and call on Serb residents to prevent the reconstruction of the Trnjak mosque, SRNA reported the next day. One leaflet urges "all Muslim nationals to leave the Serb town of Doboj, especially those who have recently moved into the area around the mosque and set up their shops there." The leaflets are signed by the "Serbia as far as Tokyo" and Greater Serbia organizations, neither of which are known to have previously operated or existed in Doboj. DW

ROMANIA TO HAVE NEW LAW ON STATE SECRETS

The parliament's commission that supervises the activity of the Romanian Intelligence Service decided on 24 May to initiate a new draft of the law on state secrets, RFE/RL's Bucharest Bureau reported. The Constitutional Court has ruled a previous version of that law to be unconstitutional (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 2001). Commission chairman Ion Stan said that Romania currently lacks legislation on protecting state secrets, although it has pledged to pass such a law as part of its preparations for NATO accession. He also said that in preparing the new version of the law, the members of the commission will take into consideration NATO expertise as well as U.S. legislation. MS

BREAKAWAY REPUBLIC INTRODUCES OWN PASSPORTS

Igor Smirnov, leader of the breakaway "Transdniester Moldovan Republic," has signed a decree replacing Soviet-era passports with documents issued by the separatist authorities. Smirnov's decree was issued on 11 May but was released for publication only on 24 May. Infotag says this means that Smirnov has succeeded in "trapping" Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, who signed an agreement with Smirnov in Tiraspol on 16 May on the mutual recognition of documents issued by the Chisinau and Tiraspol authorities. The new "Transdniester passports" are to be issued in Russian, "Moldovan" (written with Cyrillic characters) and Ukrainian. MS

MOLDOVA APPOINTS SUPREME COURT CHIEF

Former Justice Minister Valeria Sterbet was appointed by the parliament on 24 May to be the country's next chief of the Supreme Court of Justice, Infotag reported. She replaces Victor Puscas, who has been appointed a judge on the Constitutional Court. Sterbet was backed by 72 deputies. One deputy voted for another competitor for the job, while two candidates ended the race without any support. MS

BTA SURVEYS MAIN BULGARIAN ELECTORAL COMPETITORS' ECONOMIC PLATFORMS

All three lists heading opinion polls conducted ahead of the June parliamentary elections forecast high economic growth if they win the ballot, according to a BTA survey released on 24 May. The ruling alliance of the United Democratic Forces (SDS) believes the growth will be 5 percent, and the Socialist-dominated For Bulgaria alliance between 5 and 7 percent. The National Movement Simeon II promises 10 percent growth. The SDS says it will aim for a 2 percent budget deficit or less, the former monarch's movement wants a "zero deficit," and the leftist alliance says it will keep the deficit "moderate." The SDS promises an average monthly salary of 420 leva ($185) by the end of the four year term and expects pensions to reach 160-170 leva by 2005. The For Bulgaria alliance has very similar expectations, while the movement has failed to produce specific figures, though it promises high wages and pensions. MS




There is no End Note today.





XS
SM
MD
LG