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Newsline - May 29, 2001




PUTIN SEES NO 'LIGHT AT THE END OF TUNNEL' IN ECONOMY

President Vladimir Putin said on 28 May that the government of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov is working "intensively every day," but that "there are no results," ITAR-TASS reported. Consequently, Putin said, "there is no light at the end of the tunnel." The Russian president said that the government must be honest: "We should not make promises we cannot keep. It is better to tell the people that we have failed to do something." Putin also said that there needs to be "a clear division" of responsibilities at all levels of the government, that implementation of housing and utilities reforms must be done with "great care," and that he is in favor of selling diamonds but not gold to help rebuild flood-ravaged Yakutia. PG

PREMIER SEEKS POSTPONEMENT OF GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE

Prime Minister Kasyanov said on 26 May that he will ask Putin to delay a government restructuring and reshuffle for one to two weeks, Interfax reported. He said that he is seeking the delay in order to focus on economic questions. Kasyanov also said that Russia will decide whether to make future debt payments in terms of their potential impact on the country's economy. PG

PUTIN WARNS ABOUT TERRORISM IN CAUCASUS

In a message to a Moscow conference attended by Russian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian analysts and officials, President Putin said that the four countries must work together to combat terrorism in the Caucasus, Interfax reported on 28 May. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov underscored Putin's concerns, saying that "the Caucasus is an absolute priority for Russia, and it should be turned into a zone of peace, stability, good neighborly cooperation, and prosperity." Meanwhile, a U.S.-Russian foreign ministries working group concluded that Central Asian countries may soon be threatened by terrorism from Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 May. PG

PUTIN SIGNS OPEN SKIES TREATY

President Putin signed the law ratifying the 1992 Open Skies Treaty on 28 May, Russian and Western agencies reported. That accord, originally negotiated by NATO and Warsaw Pact countries, allows other states to conduct surveillance flights over participating states. The U.S. ratified the accord in 1993, but the failure of Russia and Belarus to ratify it has prevented the accord's implementation. Belarus still has not ratified the treaty. PG

PUTIN GREETS NEW AFRICAN UNION

President Putin on 25 May sent a message of greeting to the 36 African countries that on 26 May formally converted the 38-year-old Organization of African Unity into the African Union, Russian and Western agencies reported. The group has committed itself to forming a common defense policy and to resolving all conflicts among its members peacefully. Putin said the new group will promote "strategic and regional stability, reduce gaps in levels of socioeconomic development, neutralize negative manifestations of globalization, guarantee human rights, and put up a reliable shield against the spread of international terrorism." PG

PUTIN PERSONALITY CULT ASSESSED

Three leading Russian commentators -- Yurii Levada, the director of the National Public Opinion Research Center, Academician Yurii Ryzhov, and Aleksei Kara-Murza, who heads the Academy of Sciences Institute of Philosophy -- note that there are many signs of a Putin personality cult, but disagree as to its significance, "Obshchaya gazeta," No. 21, reported. Levada suggested that the personality cult so far "is like a portrait hiding a hole in the wall. Behind the portrait, there's nothing but the hole -- no organization, no ideology, no program." Ryzhov suggested that a personality cult can only emerge in a hermetically sealed-off country, something he doubts could be recreated. And Kara-Murza suggested that the risk remains that Putin's personality cult could lead to "trouble." PG

STATE COUNCIL SETS UP INTERBUDGETARY WORKING GROUP

The presidium of the Russian State Council on 28 May set up a working group for interbudgetary relations under the chairmanship of Altai Governor Aleksandr Surikov, ITAR-TASS reported. The group is to report to a June 2001 council session on that subject. PG

FEDERATION COUNCIL SEEN PLAYING LARGER FOREIGN ROLE

As its membership is renewed with full-time members, the Federation Council is assuming a more active role in Russian foreign policy through delegation visits abroad, "Vremya MN" reported on 26 May. PG

EURASIAN GROUP FORMED IN DUMA

Approximately 20 deputies from Unity, the Communist Party, the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), and Russian Regions, together with some independent deputies, have formed the Eurasia interfactional union, Interfax reported on 25 May. Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov called for the rebirth of the Russian nation on the basis of "collectivism," the news service reported the same day. Zyuganov outlined his views in a new book, "On the Border of Millenia: The Fate of Russia in the Contemporary World." PG

SPS BECOMES A PARTY...

At a constituent congress on 26-27 May in Moscow, the SPS adopted a program, elected Boris Nemtsov its leader, and chose five co-chairpersons -- including Anatolii Chubais, Sergei Kirienko, Yegor Gaidar, Irina Khamada, and Nemtsov -- for its political council, Russian agencies reported on 27 May. The party pledged to defend "the gains of young Russian capitalism and the developing Russian democracy," and to work to integrate Russia into the international economy. It said it will devote much attention to winning the votes of the 2 million Russian citizens now living abroad. It pledged to cooperate with other groups similarly inclined, but its leaders indicated that SPS will not merge with Yabloko. PG

...SEEN SERVING AS 'KREMLIN'S TOOL'

According to an analysis in "Novye Izvestiya" on 25 May, the Kremlin will be able to use the new Union of Rightist Forces party as its tool: first, "to convince 'our friends in the West' that there is no dictatorship in Russia"; second, to provide a home for economic experts; and third, to serve as a place for the public to vent its dissatisfaction with regime policies in a way that will not threaten the regime." Meanwhile, an article in "Vek," No. 20, speculated that the Kremlin may try to create a center-left pro-government party in the near future. PG

MORE PARTY MOVES

Yabloko and Democratic Russia have agreed to set up a union of democratic forces, "a democratic coalition," Interfax reported on 25 May. Meanwhile, Unity party leader Sergei Shoigu said that Unity is not considering self-dissolution as part of its moves toward forming a coalition with the Fatherland party on 1 June, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 May. PG

FOREIGN POLICY EXPERTS DOWNSIZE RUSSIA'S AMBITIONS

A survey of Russian foreign policy experts conducted by the Russian Independent Institute of Social and Ethnic Studies with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation found that fewer of them believe that Russia can remain one of the top five powers than those who held that view eight years ago, "Izvestiya" reported on 25 May. Increasingly, the survey found, they look to Asia and Europe for partners rather than to the United States, and they view Islamic fundamentalism, a lack of economic competitiveness, and NATO's eastward expansion as the main threats to Russia's future. PG

MOSCOW HASN'T HEARD REPORTED U.S. NMD PROPOSAL

Foreign Minister Ivanov and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on 28 May that Russia has not received an offer from the U.S. to purchase S-300 antiaircraft missiles as "The New York Times" reported the same day, Russian and Western agencies reported. But both ministers pledged to study such an offer should it be forthcoming. Russian defense experts interviewed by Russian news agencies said that the idea might be a useful one. PG

U.S. SENATE CHANGE NOT SEEN AFFECTING MOSCOW-WASHINGTON TIES

Aleksei Arbatov, the deputy chairman of the Duma Defense Committee, said that the shift from Republican to Democratic control of the U.S. Senate is unlikely to have a major impact on U.S.-Russian relations, Interfax reported on 25 May. He said that "changes in the American Senate mean a lot for the U.S., but much less for the rest of the world." PG

POLAND AGREES NOT TO INTRODUCE SCHENGEN RULES IN NEAR FUTURE

Prime Minister Kasyanov said after meeting with Polish officials on 25-26 May that Warsaw will not introduce Schengen visa requirements for Russian citizens until its prospects for membership in the European Union are clarified, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 May. PG

ILLARIONOV AGAINST INTRODUCING EURO WITHOUT RECIPROCITY

Andrei Illarionov, the presidential economics adviser, told Interfax-AFI on 28 May that Russian firms should not shift to the euro for settling debts with European Union companies unless the latter shift to the ruble at the same time. PG

FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR MIDDLE EAST CONFERENCE

Foreign Minister Ivanov said that Moscow wants to see an international meeting convened to regulate the Middle East conflict, Interfax reported on 28 May. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry denounced terrorist attacks in Israel, Russian and Western agencies reported on 27 May. PG

RUSSIA TO HELP MODERNIZE ALGERIAN MILITARY

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov visited Algeria on 26-27 May and reported that he has reached agreement on a 10-year program of military-technical cooperation, Russian and Western agencies reported on 28 May. Klebanov said that he made some progress in securing Algeria's agreement to swap Algerian debt for shares in Algerian oil, gas, and irrigation projects. PG

RUSSIA DENIES PLAN TO SEND ENVOY TO OPEC

Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said on 25 May that Moscow has no plans to appoint a permanent envoy to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Interfax reported. OPEC and Moscow have agreed to maintain permanent contacts but not to have permanent representatives, he said. PG

MYANMAR STUDENTS HEAD TO RUSSIA

Some 331 students from Myanmar (Burma) will study in Russia later this year, dpa reported on 26 May. Western democracies have viewed Myanmar as a pariah state, and this is the first time such large numbers of students from there have gone to Russia. PG

YELTSIN VISITS CHINA

Former President Boris Yeltsin met with Chinese leader Jiang Zemin at the start of a 10-day visit to China both for tourism and medical treatment, ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti reported on 28 May. PG

BORDER GUARDS HAVE PROBLEMS ON THEIR DAY

Despite greetings from President Putin on Russian border guards day, the guards have serious problems, their director Konstantin Totskii said on 25 May, Interfax reported. They have assumed major new responsibilities over the last decade but have not received the necessary resources, he said. Totskii also rejected as lacking foundation rumors that he is likely to be appointed deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council. PG

RUN-OFF SET AFTER GUBERNATORIAL VOTE IN PRIMORSKII KRAI

Businessman Sergei Darkin and former Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov will face each other in a 17 June run-off for governor of Primorskii Krai, Russian and Western agencies reported. Neither man garnered an outright majority in the 27 May ballot, with Darkin getting 24 percent and Cherepkov 19.7 percent. The Kremlin's apparent favorite, Gennadii Apanasenko, who currently serves a deputy presidential envoy to the Far East federal district, finished third. PG

LATYSHEV WANTS TO END OVERLAP IN CENTRAL, REGIONAL ROLES

Petr Latyshev, the presidential envoy to the Urals federal district, said in an interview published in "Trud" on 25 May that he wants to eliminate the overlap in the powers of Moscow and the powers of the regions. He said that Putin's popularity relative to the regional heads means that the latter must work harder to affect the needed changes. Latyshev also said that before becoming envoy, he "had not completely understood the depth of the divide between the center and the regions" or "what extremely negative consequences" former President Yeltsin's slogan "take as much sovereignty as you want" had had. PG

MOSCOW FAILING TO PAY ATTENTION TO TENSIONS IN FAR EAST

An article in "Rossiiskie vesti," No. 17, suggests that "the most likely candidates for separation from Russia seem to be the Russian Far East and the Trans-Baikal area." It adds that Yakutia and Buryatia pose particular challenges because they have few resources and ethnic tensions are already high. The only thing keeping the lid on in those two republics, the article continues, are their effective presidents, and now people in Moscow want to prevent them for running for re-election. PG

BASHKIR JURIST SAYS CHANGES IN ELECTION LAW UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Ildus Adigamov, the head of the Constitutional Court in Bashkortostan, told Interfax-Eurasia on 25 May that the Duma's decision to allow some, but not all, federal subjects to re-elect their heads violates the Russian Constitution and is thus a political rather than a legal act. PG

TATAR DEPUTIES INSIST ON REPUBLIC CITIZENSHIP

The State Council of Tatarstan on 25 May sent to the Duma an appeal calling on Moscow to allow each of the republics within the Russian Federation to have its own citizenship, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to the Tatar deputies, citizenship is an inalienable attribute of a state, which according to Article 5 of the Russian Constitution, is what each of its republics is. PG

LEBED DENIES RUMORS HE WON'T SEEK RE-ELECTION

Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed has categorically denied reports that he will not seek re-election but rather become a senior official of the Unified Energy Systems (EES) company, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 25 May. Lebed said that such reports are simply inventions. PG

VOLOSHIN RE-ELECTED EES BOARD CHAIRMAN

Aleksandr Voloshin, Putin's chief of staff, was re-elected on 28 May as chairman of the EES board of directors, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin was elected first deputy chairman of the EES board. PG

GAZPROM RELEASES PROFIT FIGURES IN ADVANCE OF MEETING

Gazprom said on 28 May that its profits rose 86.3 percent from 1999 to 2000, Russian and Western agencies said. Observers suggested that the figure was released to set the stage for a 30 May Gazprom board meeting where Chairman Rem Vyakhirev may be voted out of office. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kudrin said on 25 May that Moscow intends to double gas export tariffs, Interfax reported on 25 May. PG

COURT TELLS AEROFLOT UNION IT IS NOT ALLOWED TO STRIKE

A Moscow court on 25 May said that flight attendants and ground crew workers do not have the right to strike, Russian and Western agencies reported. But union leaders said they will continue to press their case in the courts. The labor dispute has hurt Aeroflot, sending its stock price down to 30 cents a share at the end of last week from 37 cents a share two weeks prior to the warning strike. PG

RUSSIAN CAR SALES SEEN RISING TO 1.5 MILLION IN 2005

AvtoVAZ board Chairman Vladimir Kadannikov said on 26 May that Russian domestic car purchases should rise from 930,000 in 2000 to 1.46 million in 2005, ITAR-TASS reported. To meet that demand, he said, his company plans to sign a joint venture agreement with General Motors and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. PG

EVERY FIFTH DAM, DIKE NEEDS REPAIRS

Nikolai Mikheev, the first deputy natural resources minister, said on 25 May that spring flooding may break existing dams and dikes because every fifth one of them is in need of repair, Interfax reported. PG

AUDIT FINDS $50 MILLION MISUSE OF FUNDS AT DEFENSE MINISTRY

The Russian Audit Chamber said that it has determined that some 1.5 billion rubles ($50 million) has been misused within the Defense Ministry, Interfax reported on 28 May. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ivanov said that the Russian Space Forces will be inaugurated on 1 June, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 May. He said that the forces' headquarters has already been established. PG

'KURSK' RESCUE SHIFT SAID TO REFLECT BRIBES

According to an article in "Argumenty i fakty," No. 21, Moscow decided to drop its planned contract with a consortium of Western firms to salvage the "Kursk" nuclear submarine that sank last August and chose instead a Dutch firm with little experience in raising anything from the seabed, not because the latter's price was lower but because of "a commission fee of $2.4 million" that went to some in Moscow. "There is no other sensible or believable explanation," the weekly said. PG

JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS RUSSIAN PRESS 'FREER THAN ANYWHERE ELSE'

Yurii Chaika said on 25 May that the press in Russia is "freer than anywhere else in the world," Russian and Western agencies reported. His comments came during his meeting with visiting Council of Europe head Walter Schwimmer. PG

CHECHEN LEADER CALLS FOR UNCONDITIONAL PEACE TALKS

In an interview published on 28 May in "Novaya gazeta," Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov reiterated his readiness for unconditional talks on ending what he termed the "senseless" war in Chechnya, but added that there seems to be no one in the Kremlin interested in such talks. Maskhadov interpreted the dismissal of Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev as a tacit acknowledgement of the Russian army's failure in Chechnya. He said that agreement should be reached on the future relations between Chechnya and the federal center on the basis of the May 1997 treaty he signed with then Russian President Yeltsin, Clause 2 of which states that "Relations between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic are to be built on the basis of generally accepted norms and principles of international law." LF

YASTRZHEMBSKII WANTS MEDIA THAT CARRY EXTREMIST VIEWS PUNISHED SEVERELY

Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said that the publication of an interview with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov in "Novaya gazeta" on 28 May indicates that "the time has come to amend existing legislation with provisions which would call for severe sanctions for offering airtime or newspaper space for the dissemination of extremist views," Interfax reported the same day. PG

CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD SLAMS ARREST OF DEPUTY PREMIER

Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov on 27 May criticized as "fabricated" the arrest the previous day in Nalchik of Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Khamzat Idrisov, Russian agencies reported. Kadyrov said the charges of embezzlement brought against Idrisov are fabricated, and that Idrisov was involved only in economic planning but not in politics or finance. On 28 May, a spokesman for Russian presidential aide Yastrzhembskii denied that Idrisov served as Chechen deputy premier, saying that presidential envoy to the South Russian federal district Viktor Kazantsev had rejected his candidacy for a government post. The spokesman said that Idrisov is suspected of having engaged in abductions, and that he is related to former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, whom the spokesman described as "one of the leaders of Chechen Wahhabis." LF

KREMLIN SAID PLANNING TO TAKE OVER BEREZOVSKY'S TV-6

"Tribuna" reported on 28 May that officials in the Russian president's office are making plans to take over TV-6, which is still controlled by Boris Berezovsky. The oligarch controls the station through shadow companies with headquarters in Cyprus and the government will find it easy enough to find tax evasions in both, the paper said, and then force them to yield their shares in TV-6. VY

'SEGODNYA' DIES ON INTERNET

The Internet edition of "Segodnya" was ended by the team of journalists who had put it out since Gazprom-Media took over and then shut the print version, Interfax reported on 25 May. Mikhail Berger, the editor of both, said that the journalists "stopped the publication of the Internet version because we have lost every chance to acquire the rights to publish the printed version." PG

CRIMINAL CASE OPENED AGAINST SIBNEFT

Russian prosecutors have reactivated a criminal tax evasion case against the Sibneft oil company, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 25 May. Prosecutors say that Sibneft, which is controlled by Roman Abramovich, evaded taxes by falsely saying it had sent oil to Kyrgyzstan when in fact the oil never left Russia. VY

CONFLICT STUDIES CENTER TO BE SET UP IN CONFLICT ZONE

The Russian Academy of Sciences has approved the establishment of a Conflict Studies Center in Vladikavkaz, Interfax reported on 25 May. It will focus on interethnic relations, migration processes, and refugee problems, the news service said. PG

PATRIARCHATE ANGRY BY PRESS REPORTS ON ALEKSII II

Vsevolod Chaplin, the official representative of the patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, told Interfax on 25 May that the church very much regrets recent articles about the church hierarchs, including Aleksii II. He said that reports that Aleksii had been married in his youth are "nothing other than an attempt without justification to penetrate into his personal life" and that Aleksii II like anyone else "has the right to decide what to reveal or not reveal about his personal life." PG

MUFTIATE UPSET BY TENDENTIOUS TREATMENT OF ISLAM IN RUSSIAN MEDIA

Ravil Gaynutdin, the head of the Council of Muftis of Russia, decried on 25 May the "distorted and tendentious discussion of Islam which links religion to terrorism and separatism," Interfax reported. Interfax led its story in which this statement appeared with a report that the Council of Muftis of Russia has confirmed a Muslim's right to have more than one wife. PG

WOMEN FALL FURTHER BEHIND IN POST-SOVIET RUSSIA

Women in Russia earned on average 70 percent of what men did at the end of the Soviet period, but now they take home only 56 percent of what men do, "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Krug zhizni," No. 10, reported. Moreover, women are more likely to be unemployed or forced out of the workforce altogether, the supplement said. PG

THE 12-REPUBLIC 'MISUNDERSTANDING'

Former Soviet Foreign Minister Boris Pankin said in Prague on 28 May that the dissolution of the Soviet Union did not reflect the will of the people but rather "a big misunderstanding" on the part of the last Soviet leaders and the first Russian President Yeltsin, CTK reported. PG




ARMENIA, BELARUS PLEDGE TO EXPAND TIES

Armenian President Robert Kocharian and his visiting Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed a friendship and cooperation agreement in Yerevan on 26 May, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Lukashenka characterized relations between the two countries as "amicable," and expressed the hope that bilateral economic cooperation can be expanded. Bilateral trade turnover last year amounted to only $2 million. Agreements on cooperation between the two countries' ministries of justice and education, and an agreement resolving mutual debts dating from 1992-194 were also signed. LF

MEETING BETWEEN ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS POSTPONED

Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Dziunik Aghadjanian said in Yerevan on 26 May that the meeting between President Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliyev to continue the search for a Karabakh peace accord, which had been tentatively scheduled to take place in Geneva next month, has been postponed sine die, Reuters and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. She said that "society is not yet ready to compromise, and it is hard to say" when the next meeting between the two presidents will take place. But she denied that the peace talks have come to a halt. Speaking in Baku the same day, President Aliyev again rejected calls by the Azerbaijani opposition for a military solution to the conflict. On 28 May, Aliyev blamed Armenia's "intransigence" for the failure to reach agreement during the April talks in Key West, Interfax reported. Also on 28 May, Arkadii Ghukaisan, President of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, expressed regret at the postponement of the Geneva meeting, Interfax reported. Ghukasian said that the leadership of the unrecognized enclave will continue to seek formal international recognition of its de facto independence. LF

RUSSIAN PATRIARCH VISITS AZERBAIJAN

On a four-day official visit to Baku, Patriarch Aleksii II of Moscow and All-Russia met on 27 May with Azerbaijan's senior clergymen, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allakhshukur Pashazade, and the following day with President Aliev. The two clerics issued a joint declaration calling on all peoples mired in conflict to renounce mutual enmity, and advocating interethnic cooperation, neighborliness, and the preservation of territorial integrity. They also called for a further meeting of religious leaders from Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. President Aliyev for his part asked Patriarch Aleksii to intensify his efforts to mediate a solution of the Karabakh conflict, noting that "the influence of authoritative spiritual leaders on the people is sometimes stronger than that of state leaders," ITAR-TASS reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S SON-IN-LAW RECALLED FROM DIPLOMATIC POSTING

President Aliev's son-in-law, Mahmud Mamedguliev, has returned to Baku on completion of his posting as ambassador to Great Britain, Turan reported on 25 May, quoting a presidential decree that named Mamedguliev's deputy to replace him as ambassador. Azerbaijani ambassadors are not appointed for a specific time period. Several Azerbaijani newspapers on 26 May predicted that Mamedguliev will be named either prime minister or parliament speaker. LF

GEORGIAN MUTINEERS RETURN TO BARRACKS AFTER MEETING WITH PRESIDENT

The Georgian National Guard contingent that occupied an Interior Ministry base on 25 May to focus attention on their discontent at wage arrears and adverse conditions returned to their barracks early on 26 May after a meeting with President Eduard Shevardnadze. Shevardnadze assured the men they will not be punished or prosecuted for their action, for which he said the state shared responsibility. "In normal conditions this would not have happened," Shevardnadze said. On 28 May, Colonel Koba Otanadze, who led the protest, said Shevardnadze tentatively agreed to the National Guards' request to be subordinated directly to the president rather than to the Defense Ministry, Caucasus Press reported. But Shevardnadze said the same day that the suggestion is "problematic." LF

POLICE FORCIBLY DISPERSE GEORGIAN OPPOSITION DEMO

Some 25 police officers were injured on 26 May during clashes with some 600 supporters of deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia who tried to stage an unsanctioned demonstration in Tbilisi to mark the 10th anniversary of his election as president. Three organizers of the demonstration were arrested, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DENY TALKS HELD WITH BASAEV

Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 25 May that Russian media reports that Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev arrived in Georgia two days earlier and held secret talks near Borzhomi with Georgian security officials are untrue, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. He denied that Basaev is anywhere in Georgia. Georgian Intelligence Department Deputy Chairman Levan Kiknadze likewise denied the report, which he said is aimed at discrediting Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. On 27 May, ITAR-TASS quoted the commander of the North Caucasus border guard contingent, Colonel General Yevgenii Bolkhovitin, as saying that there are a minimum of 500 Chechen fighters currently encamped in Georgia's Pankisi gorge. LF

GEORGIAN SOCCER STAR'S BROTHER KIDNAPPED

Two men in police uniforms snatched Levan Kaladze in Tbilisi on 23 May and have sent a written ransom demand for $600,000 to his family, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported on 25 May. Kaladze's brother Kakha plays for the AC Milan soccer club and the Georgian national team. The Italian national soccer team has expressed concern about the security risks its players would face during a World Cup qualifying match against Georgia in Tbilisi scheduled for 2 June, AP reported. But the Georgian national team said on 28 May it might refuse to play that match in protest against Kaladze's abduction. President Shevardnadze pledged on 28 May that Georgian intelligence will locate and free Levan Kaladze. LF

CIS COLLECTIVE FORCE GETS GREEN LIGHT

In what Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev described as a "breakthrough," the presidents of the six states that signed the 1992 CIS Collective Security Treaty agreed in Yerevan on 25 May to proceed with the creation of a joint 3,000-man rapid reaction force, Noyan Tapan reported. They also signed a joint statement affirming their readiness to repel any further incursion into Central Asia by Islamic militants, and condemning terrorism, extremism, organized crime, and drug-trafficking as crimes that impede the development of democracy and infringe on basic human rights, according to Interfax. Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan will each provide one battalion for the force, which will have its headquarters in Bishkek. CIS Executive Secretary Yurii Yarov noted, however, that the force would be more effective if Uzbekistan again acceded to the CIS Collective Security Treaty, in which it declined two years ago to renew its participation, Interfax reported. Speaking in Tbilisi on 28 May, Georgian President Shevardnadze said that Georgia's decision not to renew its participation in the CIS Collective Security Treaty was correct. LF

KAZAKH, KYRGYZ PRESIDENTS PLEDGE SUPPORT FOR ARMED FORCES

Visiting Kazakhstan's southern military district on his return from the Yerevan summit, President Nazarbaev pledged that the army will receive everything it needs to combat drug-trafficking and Islamic militants, Reuters reported. Speaking in Bishkek on 28 May at a ceremony to mark the ninth anniversary of the Kyrgyz armed forces, President Askar Akaev said the prestige of the army has grown over the past two to three years, Interfax reported. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEPUTY SAYS OFFICIALS LIED OVER CHINESE BORDER CONTROVERSY

Alisher Abdimomunov, the chairman of the Kyrgyz parliament committee on international affairs, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 25 May that statements made to the parliament the previous day by Foreign Minister Muratbek ImanAliyev and government official Salamat Alamanov were incorrect. ImanAliyev had said that the August 1996 agreement signed with China delimiting the Kyrgyz-Chinese border was in Kyrgyzstan's best interests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2001). Abdimomunov said that when China first recognized Kyrgyzstan's independence in 1991, Beijing also recognized the existing border between the two countries and made no claims on any Kyrgyz territory. Alamanov told RFE/RL the same day that in the 1960s the Soviet and Chinese governments recognized the existence of five disputed areas on what is now the Kyrgyz-Chinese border. One of those areas, Uzengi-Kuush, was the subject of a separate agreement signed in August 1999. LF

LOCAL OFFICIAL MURDERED IN TAJIKISTAN

Sobir Begidzhonov, the administrator of Dzhabborasulov district in northern Tajikistan, was shot dead by unidentified assailants late on 24 May near the entrance to his apartment building, Interfax and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. LF

UZBEK BORDER OFFICIAL DISCUSSES SECURITY WITH TALIBAN COMMANDER

The top Taliban border security official in northern Afghanistan met in the frontier town of Termez on 25 May with his Uzbek counterpart to discuss unspecified security issues, dpa reported from Islamabad. LF




BELARUSIAN REGIONS WANT DOMASH TO RUN AGAINST LUKASHENKA

More that 800 delegates representing dozens of NGOs from Belarusian regions convened in Minsk on 26 May to express support for Syamyon Domash as a possible candidate in this year's presidential elections, Belapan reported. "It is evident now that it is possible to return Belarus to the path of progressive and civilized development only if a democratic professional government headed by a new president comes to power," the delegates said in a resolution backing Domash as a challenger to incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The resolution also welcomed the statement by five presidential hopefuls -- Domash, Mikhail Chyhir, Syarhey Kalyakin, Uladzimir Hancharyk, and Pavel Kazlouski -- to coordinate their activities in the upcoming election campaign (see also "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 29 May 2001). JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS APPROVE KINAKH AS PRIME MINISTER...

The parliament on 29 May voted by 239 to two, with 12 abstentions, to approve Anatoliy Kinakh as prime minister, AP reported. Kinakh needed 226 votes to get the job. According to Interfax, Kinakh was supported by the Democratic Union, Greens, Labor Ukraine, Yabluko, Ukraine's Regions, and Solidarnist parliamentary groups as well as some nonaligned lawmakers. The Communist Party decided the previous day that its 112-strong deputy caucus would not participate in the voting because, according to an official statement, Kinakh "has not clearly declared whether he will support the Communist Party's program [for how] to come out of the crisis." The Fatherland Party, Rukh (both factions), and Reforms-Congress caucuses did not participate in the voting either. JM

...AFTER HE PLEDGED COOPERATION WITH PARLIAMENT

Speaking to parliament before his approval, Kinakh said the cooperation between the government and legislators should be "permanent, systematic, and consistent," Interfax reported. He pledged to involve parliamentary groups and regional authorities in consultations with the government to a far wider extent than his predecessors did. Kinakh said Ukraine's cooperation with the IMF is a necessity but added that it should "exclude any attempts of force pressure or diktat." Speaking to trade union leaders the previous day, Kinakh promised to make "the very difficult economic reforms" easier for Ukrainians, but without veering to "social populism," AP reported. JM

ICELAND'S PREMIER CONFIRMS SUPPORT FOR ESTONIAN NATO MEMBERSHIP

David Oddsson told his visiting Estonian counterpart Mart Laar in Reykjavik on 25 May that Iceland fully supports the admission of the Baltic states in the next round of NATO enlargement, BNS reported. Laar also discussed NATO and EU expansion with President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson. Estonia and Iceland have launched gene-pool projects aimed at mapping the genes of their countries' residents, in order to use the results to develop science and to improve the people's health. It was agreed in both talks that the two countries would cooperate more closely in the study of human genes and would begin joint gene projects with concrete action programs. SG

AUSTRALIAN COURT DECIDES TO EXTRADITE KALEJS TO LATVIA

A Melbourne court ruled on 29 May that alleged Nazi war criminal Konrads Kalejs can be extradited to Latvia to face charges of war crimes and genocide, LETA reported. The lawyers of the 87-year-old Latvian-born Australian citizen, who is not only legally blind but also suffers from prostate cancer and dementia, appealed the ruling to a higher court. If extradited and tried, Kalejs would be the first Nazi war-crimes suspect tried in Latvia since the country regained independence in 1991. SG

VERHEUGEN PRAISES LATVIA'S EU MEMBERSHIP PROGRESS

EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen told Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins in Brussels on 28 May that Latvia is making significant progress in its EU membership negotiations, LETA and BNS reported. Verheugen said that he is sure that the so-called second group candidates, which include Latvia and Lithuania, will be able to catch up to the first group candidates. The officials discussed the situation within the EU ahead of the Gothenburg summit, which is expected to adopt a decision regarding the proposal by Germany and Austria to restrict the free movement of labor from newly admitted EU countries. They also discussed the transition periods and exemptions from EU standards that Latvia has requested in several chapters. SG

NATO PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY SESSION IN VILNIUS

More than 300 lawmakers from the 19 NATO member states and 16 of the 17 partner countries (Russia decided not to attend saying the action could be misinterpreted as Russian approval of NATO expansion) gathered in Vilnius on 27 May for the spring session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, ELTA reported. Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius told the session the next day that Lithuania's efforts to gain NATO membership is in no way directed against Russia's legitimate security interests. He claimed that although simultaneous invitation of all three Baltic countries to join NATO would be the best solution, the admission of at least one state would also be seen as a positive step. Assembly Chairman Rafael Estrella declared that without a clear signal from Washington the NATO Council would not be in a hurry to give the candidate states specific admission dates. SG

RUSSIA EXPECTS POLAND TO AGREE ON GAS PIPELINE BYPASSING UKRAINE...

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 25 May said he hopes that the Polish government will soon make a decision on the construction of a gas pipeline on the Polish territory from Belarus to Slovakia to bypass Ukraine, Interfax reported. Kasyanov, who was on an official visit in Warsaw, added that a new option for the pipeline route, which experts recently submitted to the Polish government, "removes Polish anxieties that the pipeline might cause damage to ecologically clean regions in the country." Kasyanov ensured his Polish counterpart Jerzy Buzek that Russia is ready to fully meet Poland's demand for natural gas. JM

...PLEDGES TO IMPROVE 'SOMEWHAT COOL' RELATIONS

Following his talks with Buzek, Kasyanov said Russia is ready to end the period of "somewhat cool" relations with Poland, PAP reported on 25 May. Kasyanov announced that both sides will soon sign a declaration on boosting trade and cooperation in banking. Kasyanov said Russia would be pleased to see Poland admitted to the EU. And he added: "The Polish leadership gave me assurances that it would not be speeding up the introduction of the visa requirement for Russian citizens." Buzek declared Warsaw's support for Russia's efforts to become a member of the World Trade Organization. JM

POLISH BISHOPS APOLOGIZE TO JEWS

Some 100 Roman Catholic bishops, led by Poland's Primate Jozef Glemp, apologized on 27 May for the 1941 massacre of Jews in Jedwabne and for all wrongs committed by Poles and Catholics against Jews in other places, Polish media reported. "We want, as pastors of the Church in Poland, to stand in truth before God and people, but mainly before our Jewish brothers and sisters, referring with regret and repentance to the crime that in July 1941 took place in Jedwabne and in other places," Bishop Stanislaw Gadecki said in the introduction to special prayers held at All Saints' Church in Warsaw. Rabbi Michael Schudrich, leader of Poland's Jewish community, said the apology has "the potential to be one more very important step" in reconciliation between Polish Catholics and Jews since the end of the communist rule in 1989, AP reported. JM

PROPOSED INSCRIPTION ON JEDWABNE MEMORIAL GETS MIXED RECEPTION

Andrzej Przewoznik, secretary-general of Poland's Council for the Protection of Monuments of Struggle and Martyrdom, disclosed on 28 May the text of an inscription on the planned memorial to Jews murdered in 1941 in Jedwabne by their Catholic neighbors, PAP reported. The inscription reads: "In memory of Jews from Jedwabne and the surrounding area, men, women and children, natives of this land, murdered and burnt alive in this place on 10 July 1941. In warning to future generations: May the sin of hatred fanned by German Nazism never again turn the inhabitants of this land against each other." Przewoznik said Jewish organizations were consulted over the wording of the inscription, as were representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Jedwabne town council, adding that its wording is a compromise that "will not please everyone but which reflects our knowledge and emotions about Jedwabne." Israeli Ambassador to Poland Shevah Weiss criticized the inscription, calling it "too much of a compromise." JM

CZECH CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS REPLACE PARTY LEADERSHIP

An annual conference of the opposition Christian Democratic Union (KDU-CSL) on 26 May in Jihlava elected Cyril Svoboda as the new KDU-CSL chairman. Svoboda received 162 votes in a second round of voting, while hitherto Chairman Jan Kasal received 145 votes, CTK and AP reported. Kasal was later elected as one of four deputy chairpersons of the KDU-CSL, along with Senator Zuzana Roithova, Deputy Miroslav Vyborny, and deputy Tomas Kvapil. Senator Milan Simonovsky was elected as first deputy chairman. Kasal said he intends to remain as KDU-CSL parliamentary group leader in the Chamber of Deputies. Leaders of the other three parties in the Four Party Coalition said they are satisfied with Svoboda's election and look forward to working with him. Prime Minister Milos Zeman said on 28 May that the KDU-CSL delegates elected their "most capable man," CTK reported. MS

CZECH LOWER HOUSE ELECTS NEW TELEVISION COUNCIL

The Chamber of Deputies on 25 May elected the 15 members of the new Television Council, CTK and AP reported. The council's mandate is for six years. The move ends the crisis that erupted in December 2000 when television journalists refused to work under former Czech Television Director Jiri Hodac, who eventually resigned. The new council is to appoint the director of Czech Television within two months. MS

CZECH BROADCASTING COUNCIL TO MONITOR RFE/RL

The Czech Council for Radio and TV Broadcasts approved a request by its deputy chairman Petr Stepanek and councilman Petr Zantovsky to monitor the broadcasts of RFE/RL, the daily "Lidove noviny," reported on 28 May. Both Stepanek and Zantovsky were appointed to the council by Vaclav Klaus' Civic Democratic Party. According to Petruska Sustrova, the journalist reporting on the decision, "Czech Radio Free Europe is the only public station that regularly and to a large extent analyzes both domestic and foreign developments and brings extensive commentaries. This is nothing new, and to find this out no monitoring is necessary." MS

CZECH INTERIOR MINISTRY REFUSES TO REGISTER FAR-RIGHT PARTY

The Interior Ministry on 25 May refused to approve the name change of the far-right Patriotic Republican Front (VRS) to National Social Bloc (NSB), saying the proposed name was linked with the denomination of a Dutch Nazi organization and that some NSB leaders are associated with the National Alliance, which has been outlawed. The VRS said it will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, CTK reported. NSB leader Jan Kopal also said his party has lodged a complaint against the Prague Jewish Community to the Prosecutor-General's Office. Kopal said the community's recent appeal against the upsurge of neo-Nazism in the Czech Republic amounts to "scaremongering and instigation of racial and national intolerance." MS

TEMELIN OPPONENTS BLOCK CZECH-AUSTRIAN BORDER AGAIN

Some 200 Austrian opponents of the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant on 27 May again blocked the Wullowitz/Dolni Dvoriste border crossing, CTK and dpa reported. In related news, German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin on 25 May withdrew the German observers from the Czech-manned commission on the evaluation of the plant's environmental impact, saying the commission has not verified thoroughly enough a series of malfunctions that occurred at the plant during tests. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT, PREMIER...

Rudolf Schuster, in a State of the Nation speech delivered before the parliament on 25 May, criticized the government for showing "scant interest" in the country's social problems and said Premier Mikulas Dzurinda's preoccupation with setting up his own party has caused the "internal decay" of the governing coalition. Schuster said Dzurinda is also ignoring his own initiatives and proposals for coping with problems such as surging unemployment, and compared his relations with the premier with those between former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and former President Michal Kovac. Schuster said that despite his criticism, he believes the premier and the coalition should complete their terms, CTK reported. MS

...IS REBUKED BY DZURINDA

Premier Dzurinda said the next day he is "disappointed" by Schuster's speech, although he "accepts' criticism and had "expected it." He said Schuster had "missed the opportunity to give people a message of hope" and had instead "joined the preachers of skepticism, of whom there is a surplus in Slovakia." Dzurinda said he has "never once" refused to meet President Schuster or other officials to discuss proposals, but decisions have to be taken in line with the constitution. A public opinion poll conducted on 26 May found that 62 percent of Slovaks are of the opinion that Schuster accurately described the situation in Slovakia in his speech, CTK reported.

SLOVAK MEDIA MAN OFFICIALLY ELECTED HEAD OF NEW PARTY

Pavol Rusko, former director general of the private Markiza television, was elected on 26 May as chairman of the newly established Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO), CTK reported. Rusko, who is still board chairman at Markiza TV, said he will resign from that position and entrust his shares to a lawyer's office. He also said he will resign as ANO head if the party's performance in the 2002 elections is poor. In other news, Eximbanka Governor Ludomir Slahor was elected on 26 May as chairman of the extraparliamentary Social Democratic Party (SDSS), replacing Jaroslav Volf. The SDSS is negotiating with the Party of the Democratic Left to run on joint lists in 2002.

TORGYAN WILL SIT AMONG INDEPENDENTS IN HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT AFTER ALL

Speaker of Parliament Janos Ader on 28 May announced before the parliament's plenary session that Jozsef Torgyan, chairman of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP), will have to sit among independents. Ader explained that the parliament's Procedural Committee had ruled that the speaker may only review whether the FKGP's parliamentary group's recent decision to expel Torgyan is in line with house rules. FKGP group leader Peter Szentgyorgyvolgyi said Torgyan's expulsion is irrevocable, but added that the matter might be reviewed after six months. Torgyan said that Ader "has become unworthy of his post" and should resign, and that he would not sit among independents, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER MEETS ROBERTSON

Viktor Orban on 28 May told NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson in Budapest that Hungary intends to continue to be a stabilizing force in the region. Orban dismissed as "unjustified" speculations that Hungary is not meeting its pledge to NATO to spend 1.81 percent of its GDP on defense. Robertson, who is in Budapest to attend a two-day summit of NATO and EU foreign ministers, said that NATO does not impose sanctions on member countries that fail to meet their pledges. In other news, Hungarian police on 28 May broke up an anti-NATO demonstration in Budapest ahead of the NATO summit. Some 40 people from the antimilitarist Alba Circle group hung a large banner on Budapest's Chain Bridge, which showed NATO's symbol and referred to it as a "Death Star." MSZ




POWELL SAYS U.S. HAS ROLE IN BALKANS

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Budapest on 28 May that there is no "big split" in the Bush administration over U.S. Balkan policy and that "we are not going to bail out of our commitments" in Bosnia and Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 2001). He stressed that "it's going to be years" before the U.S. can bring its troops home from there, AP reported. "You can continue to reduce the troop level...but it could be some time before those countries are freestanding on their own and able to handle their own business and their own affairs." He added, however, that some of the troops could be replaced by police. The U.S. has about 3,350 troops in Bosnia, out of a total SFOR peacekeeping force of 18,000. It also has 6,200 troops in Kosova out of KFOR's total of 37,500. Most of the casualties in Kosova have been British or French. U.S. allies in the region stress that an American military presence on the ground is crucial for political as well as military stability there. PM

SOLANA MISSION TO MACEDONIA FAILS

Javier Solana, the EU's chief foreign and security policy envoy, has failed in an effort to relaunch the political dialogue in Macedonia, VOA reported on 29 May. He said in Skopje the previous day: "I have to tell you very honestly that everybody I found [in Macedonia was] very committed to bridge the differences. I found good will on everybody['s part], understanding and a constructive attitude. But I have to tell you also that still some differences remain," RFE/RL reported. Dpa quoted Solana as saying that there are "great differences" between Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski and Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of the Slavic majority on the one hand, and political leaders of the ethnic Albanians -- who make up about one-fourth of the population-- on the other. PM

WHAT ARE THE TALKING POINTS IN MACEDONIA?

Before beginning his talks with political leaders in Skopje on 28 May, Solana told reporters that he has "an idea" about how to relaunch the political process. He did not elaborate. Following his meeting with Solana, Arben Xhaferi of the Democratic Party of the Albanians refused to say whether Solana had asked ethnic Albanian politicians to repudiate their recent agreement on a common political platform with the fighters of the National Liberation Army (UCK), dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 29 May 2001). Xhaferi added, however, that "the dialogue will continue. I have stated that wisdom is sometimes above principles, and that we have wanted to establish peace in Macedonia once and for all." He called the agreement with the UCK "a declaration for peace, not war." He noted that the Macedonian authorities still seek a military solution. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 29 May that Xhaferi and Imer Imeri of the Party of Democratic Prosperity maintain that Trajkovski had "encouraged" them to meet with UCK leaders. The government argues that it rules out any contact with the guerrillas, whom it calls "terrorists." PM

WHICH WAY FORWARD IN MACEDONIA?

The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 28 May that the Macedonian government's insistence on pursuing a military solution is making matters increasingly worse. The daily noted that the political process has collapsed and that polarization of politicians and ordinary citizens alike is on the rise. The paper added that recent "hysterical" statements by Georgievski have served to torpedo attempts by veteran OSCE envoy Robert Frowick to negotiate an end to the fighting on the basis of the model successfully applied in southern Serbia. In an interview with Vienna's "Die Presse" on 29 May, Wolfgang Petritsch, the international community's high representative in Bosnia, said that at the core of the difficulties in Macedonia is the belief that deep-rooted problems can be solved with military means. He added that such attitudes are the result of a lack of experience with the democratic process of compromise. PM

MACEDONIAN FORCES 'CLEAN' ALBANIAN VILLAGE...

Macedonian Defense Ministry spokesman Blagoja Markovski told dpa on 28 May that Macedonian troops are continuing to "clean" Matejce of remaining UCK fighters. He added that "fierce fighting" and "terrorist attacks" are continuing in Slupcane, Orizare, and Otlja. Helicopters attacked the UCK in the Lipkovo region. Markovski said the next day that the military is determined to drive the UCK out of several villages near the border with Kosova. An unnamed government official told AP on 29 May that "we are entering a delicate, key phase in our action. The next 48 hours will be decisive." The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" noted the previous day that the government continues to report "victories" over the UCK, which nonetheless operates in several areas. "The Guardian" reported on 29 May that an unnamed special police commander was sacked recently for ordering his men to retreat from a village after three of his men were injured. PM

...AS GUERRILLAS THREATEN TO USE 'ALL METHODS'

A UCK commander known as "Sokoli" told dpa in Prishtina on 29 May that the guerrillas will use "all methods" if the security forces continue to seek a military solution. "Our fight will continue on a bigger scale... We are ready to strike airports in Kumanovo and Skopje and we control the water supply for the town of Kumanovo." Commander Sokoli stressed that "there can be no solution [of Macedonia's political problems] without the UCK." PM

HUMANITARIAN CATASTROPHE MOUNTING IN MACEDONIA AMID TORTURE CLAIMS

Officials of the Macedonian Red Cross said in Skopje on 28 May that the fighting has resulted in nearly 11,000 persons becoming internally displaced people. Most fled their homes in May, dpa reported. An UNHCR spokesman noted that more than 20,000 people have gone to Kosova, and an additional 200 to 300 fled to relatives in southern Serbia. The "Daily Telegraph" reported on 28 May that "dozens of refugees were beaten and tortured by Macedonian forces trying to put down an ethnic Albanian uprising at the weekend. The government had promised villagers...safe passage [as well as] food and lodging. Instead, [members of] army units beat men, women, and children. At the police station in Kumanovo, suspected rebel sympathizers were tortured by masked men wielding batons... The methods of the armed forces have degenerated, with increasing abuse of civilians" in recent weeks. PM

YUGOSLAV AUTHORITIES FAIL TO AGREE ON HAGUE COOPERATION LAW

Leaders of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) and Montenegro's Socialist People's Party (SNP) were unable to reach an agreement in Belgrade on 28 May on proposed legislation regarding cooperation with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The SNP and some elements of the DOS oppose legislation that would effectively enable the extradition of indicted war criminals to the UN-sponsored tribunal. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic warned on 26 May that Serbia "faces a dark future" without the legislation, which Washington wants passed before it will agree to supporting the upcoming donors conference, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 May 2001). On 25 May, Serbian authorities charged that former President Slobodan Milosevic had ordered subordinates in 1999 to cover up evidence of his involvement in war crimes, AP reported. PM

MONTENEGRIN POLITICAL AGREEMENT SIGNED

After weeks of uncertainty and political posturing, officials of the small Liberal Alliance signed a "cooperation agreement" with President Milo Djukanovic's governing coalition. The pact ensures Djukanovic's minority government of Liberal support in the parliament, AP reported. PM

YUGOSLAV SUCCESSOR STATES REACH AGREEMENT ON ASSETS

Negotiators representing Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Yugoslavia agreed in Vienna on 25 May to divide the properties and other assets of the former Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. Petritsch told "Die Presse" of 29 May that the agreement is the first international treaty signed by the five successor states. Milosevic blocked an agreement for years by insisting that his rump Yugoslav state was the sole legal successor and heir to the former federation. PM

ROMANIAN PARTIES' MERGER IN THE OFFING

The Steering Board of the extraparliamentary National Alliance on 26 May approved the merger of the formation with the Democratic Party. The decision must yet be approved by the two parties' respective national councils on 15 June. National Alliance Chairman Magureanu said the formation will be called Democratic Party but the nationalist component of his party's doctrine will be "assimilated by" the Democrats and will be reflected in the new statutes. He also said he "does not rule out" that he will be offered a leading position in the merged formation, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu, however, on 27 May said that for the merger to materialize, the National Alliance must "unconditionally subscribe to the current statutes" of the party and that the Democrats "guarantee no other right to newcomers than that of electing and to be elected." MS

DISSENTERS CRITICIZE LEADERSHIP OF ROMANIA'S HUNGARIAN PARTY

The fourth congress of the Reform Bloc -- one of several parties and organizations making up the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), on 27 May re-elected Tibor Toro as chairman, Mediafax reported. Toro criticized the current UDMR leadership, saying it allows no room for the expression of views different from its own. He called on the UDMR to do away with "single-colored structures" and to "restore pluralism." Toro, who is a supporter of Reformed Bishop Laszlo Toekes, also criticized the leadership for its collaboration with the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania. UDMR Executive Chairman Csaba Takacs said in reaction that the Reform Bloc's positions reflect "an inadmissible attempt from abroad" to interfere in the internal affairs of the UDMR. He said the Reform Bloc's positions are those of "the ruling party in Hungary." MS

ROMANIAN PENAL CODE TO RETURN PROVISIONS ON PENALIZING JOURNALISTS...

Several opposition parties on 28 May criticized the intention of Justice Minster Rodica Stanoiu to have provisions criminalizing "offense of authority," "insult," and "calumny" by journalists returned to, and stiffened in, the Penal Code. Last year the Chamber of Deputies amended the code, reducing those penalties or doing away with the provisions altogether. The Senate is about to begin debates on the amendments. President Ion Iliescu last week said journalists should not face prison sentences for what they write but that "insult" and "calumny" should be sanctioned by professional organizations representing journalists. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said the government has "not yet" discussed the draft proposed by Stanoiu. MS

...AS ROMANIAN MAGISTRATE IS PENALIZED IN APPARENT POLITICAL MOVE

Meanwhile, prosecutor Ovidiu Budusan, who was dismissed for having passed to French authorities information relating to the Adrian Costea money-laundering affair with which several officials close to Iliescu are linked, was dismissed on 26 May from the magistracy. Budusan said he will appeal the decision. MS

ROMANIA TO INVESTIGATE SALE OF PRO-NAZI, ANTI-SEMITIC BOOKS AT FAIR

The Supreme Court on 28 May asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to launch an investigation into the sale of pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda at the Bucharest International Book Fair that recently closed in the Romanian capital, Romanian Radio reported. Earlier, several Romanian publishers and the director of the fair protested against the sale at the fair of such books as Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and the famous anti-Semitic hoax "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Both books have been on sale in Romania for years alongside similar literature, despite provisions in the Penal Code against the distribution of such publications. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS DRAFT ON FORBIDDING EXTREMIST PARTIES

The parliament on 25 May rejected a draft bill proposed by the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) to outlaw the setting up and the activity of political parties "with a fascist, Nazi, or communist orientation," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The draft was rejected despite the PPCD's having agreed to the recommendation of the Judicial Commission to strike out the reference to the communists from the draft. Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) parliamentary group chairman Victor Stepaniuk said the PCM will propose another version of the bill. MS

MOLDOVAN EXTRAPARLIAMENTARY FORMATIONS DISAGREE ON WHAT THEY AGREED ON

Leaders of parties that recently set up the Democratic Forum of Moldova (FDM) on 25 May expressed opposite views on the objectives of the FDM. Both Democratic Party leader Dumitru Diacov and Party of Revival and Conciliation Deputy Chairman Victor Josu said the FDM should not be viewed as signifying the merger of the seven formations that set it up. National Peasant Party Christian Democratic leader Valeriu Muravschi, on the other hand, said one of the main objectives of the FDM was the "creation of conditions for the eventual merger of at least four or five parties," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS

TRANSDNIESTRIAN LEADER RECEIVES MOSCOW PRIZE...

IN SUITABLE COMPANY. Separatist leader Igor Smirnov received the "Mikhail Sholokhov" literary prize for 2001 in Moscow, Flux reported on 25 May. The distinction was awarded to Smirnov for the "courage displayed in the defense of the Transdniester people's interests" and for his memoirs published under the title "For the Right to Live on Transdniester's Soil." Among earlier recipients of the prize are Radovan Karadzic, Fidel Castro, and Alyaksandr Lukashenka. MS

BULGARIAN FORMER KING 'MIGHT' RUN FOR PRESIDENT

Former King Simeon II, in an interview with the Spanish daily "El Pais" on 27 May, said he "does not rule out" running for president in the fall presidential elections, but that incumbent President Petar Stoyanov "has done a good job" and "if he is still popular [by then], that will be taken into account," AFP reported. Simeon said running for the highest office is "not a priority" and in response to a question he said the restoration of a parliamentary monarchy is "neither feasible, nor a priority in the short or mid term." He said he "does not want people to think I am cooking something up." In February, the Constitutional Court ruled that Simeon cannot run for president because he does not meet the legal stipulation requiring a five-year Bulgarian residency prior to the elections. MS

BULGARIA APPOINTS NEW RADIO CHIEF

Polya Stancheva, a radio journalist, was designated on 28 May by the National Radio and Television Council to be the new head of state radio in a move aimed at terminating the months-long crisis at Bulgarian radio, AP and Reuters reported. Last month, a court of justice invalidated the nomination of Ivan Borislavov to that position. Borislavov's appointment triggered protests from radio journalists, who said he lacked the professional qualifications for the job. Stancheva said she will ask the protesters to return to their jobs. MS




There is no End Note today.





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