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Newsline - June 6, 2001




RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS U.S. EXIT FROM ABM WOULD PUT OTHER ACCORDS AT RISK

Sergei Ivanov said on 5 June that if the U.S. withdraws from the 1972 ABM Treaty, Moscow will consider itself free of the obligations set in 32 other strategic arms accords, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that in that event, the world would "enter a phase of total unpredictability." And he welcomed American willingness to continue consultations. PG

$100 BILLION LAUNDERED IN RUSSIA IN ONE YEAR...

Pino Arlacchi, the chief of the United Nations Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention, told an international conference on the shadow economy in St. Petersburg on 5 June that up to $100 billion was laundered in or through Russia during a recent 12-month period. Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov called for the adoption of uniform anti-money-laundering legislation around the world. Gryzlov said there are now 451,000 registered drug abusers in Russia, but Arlacchi said the actual number is more than 1 million. PG

...AS BLOOMBERG REPORTS MOSCOW MAY BE DROPPED FROM MONEY-LAUNDERING BLACK LIST

Interfax-AFI on 5 June reported that according to the Bloomberg agency, the G-7 countries recognize that Russia is working hard to combat money laundering and may consider dropping it from the list of countries considered to be world centers of such activity. PG

PUTIN ATTENDS TOP SECURITY OFFICIAL'S FUNERAL

President Vladimir Putin on 5 June took part in the funeral services for German Ugryumov, the deputy director of the Federal Security Service, Interfax reported. Ugryumov suffered a fatal heart attack in Chechnya last week. PG

KASYANOV WANTS ACCELERATED INTRODUCTION OF SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 5 June that the Russian government must work harder to translate the discoveries of Russian scientists into practical economic activities, Interfax reported. He said that such an acceleration would improve Russia's economic position and export potential. PG

FINANCE MINISTRY PRESENTS 2002 STATE BUDGET

The Finance Ministry on 5 June presented the outlines of the 2002 state budget to the cabinet, RIA-Novosti reported on 5 June. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said the plan anticipates a surplus of 1.26 percent of GDP, and GDP of $300 billion. Its working assumption is based on an oil price of $22 a barrel. But even if oil falls to $17 a barrel, Kudrin said, the government will end the year without a deficit, as Putin has promised . VY

PUTIN DECREES REORGANIZATION OF INTERIOR MINISTRY

Interior Minister Gryzlov told ORT television on 5 June that President Putin has signed a decree reorganizing his ministry. The decree divided the ministry into three parts: the criminal militia service; the public security service, which will include the traffic police, fire brigades, and passport and visa registrars; and the logistics service. The reorganization will immediately result in the dismissal of 500 people, Gryzlov said. The changes also call for the Interior Ministry to appoint all local police heads, something Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov immediately objected to, Interfax-Moscow reported the same day. VY

UNITY GAINS ANOTHER DEPUTY

Gennadii Lemeshov has been accepted as a member of the Unity faction in the Duma, Interfax reported on 5 June. He had been elected on the list of the Zhirinovsky bloc. In the first Duma, he worked as an aide to a deputy; in the second, he was an Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) deputy. Lemeshov's defection prompted LDPR leaders to introduce legislation that would give electors and parties the right to declare a vacancy when a deputy changed allegiance. Meanwhile, in an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 5 June, Yevgenii Trofimov, the deputy chairman of the Unity political council, said that both Unity and Fatherland will gain support by cooperating and lose it if they do not. PG

'FEDERATION' TOLD JUDICIAL REFORM NEEDED FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH

Dmitrii Kozak, the deputy head of the presidential administration who is supervising judicial reform, told members of the Federation group of the upper chamber of parliament that the prompt adoption and introduction of judicial reforms are preconditions for future economic growth, Interfax reported on 5 June. He said that fact should be enough to overcome both criticism by various groups and resistance by prosecutors and judges. PG

AGRARIANS THREATEN DEMONSTRATIONS AGAINST LAND CODE

Nikolai Kharitonov, the leader of the Agrarian Industrial deputies' group in the Duma, said on 5 June in Nizhnii Novgorod that his organization plans to stage mass demonstrations to protest the adoption of the land code proposed by Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, Interfax-Eurasia reported. He said that the free buying and selling of land could mean that 98 percent of Russia's fields would be sold off, often to foreigners. PG

'THREE COUNTRIES -- ONE PEOPLE'?

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 June, the Congress of Slavic Peoples that took place in Moscow on 1-2 June assembled under the slogan "Three Countries -- One People." But the paper said that it remains uncertain whether that is an accurate description of the situation. It noted that the congress was really about reestablishing the common "psychological space" broken apart at the time of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. That collapse of a common space has been intensified by the rise of national media that often ignore one another and create separate identities where they had not existed or been very strong before, the paper suggested. The paper said that for many countries, Russia is now an unknown quantity and "for Russia, contemporary Ukraine and Belarus are also terra incognita." PG

RUSSIA PLANS TO RAISE AT G-8 HATE GROUPS' USE OF INTERNET

"Diplomatic sources" told Interfax on 5 June that Moscow plans to urge the G-8 at the Genoa summit to issue a statement condemning the use of the Internet by hate groups to incite racial, ethnic, and religious animosities. The sources noted that the number of such pages has increased 10 times over the past three years alone, from 80 such pages in 1997 to some 800 in 2000. The sources indicated that they included sites sponsored by Chechen groups in this list. PG

'SHOW' HEARINGS ON CHECHNYA STAGED IN DUMA FOR COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S BENEFIT

According to "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 5 June, the Duma staged show hearings on Chechnya for the benefit of Lord Judd of the Council of Europe. "Shows like that never fail to impress Western representatives," the paper said, but "unfortunately this is all we can show to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe." PG

KARAGANOV SAYS RUSSIA SHOULD FOCUS ON EUROPE

Sergei Karaganov, the president of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, said on 5 June that Russia should make relations with Europe the focus of its foreign policy efforts, Interfax reported. He said that choosing to focus on Asia would slow Russia's democratic transformation. At the same time, he said that Europe must recognize that Russia is not simply "ballast," but a valuable partner with which to cooperate. PG

LESIN SAYS PROCESS OF ESTABLISHING FREE MEDIA DIFFICULT

In an interview published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 5 June, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin said that the process of establishing media freedom has never been a simple matter in any country. Instead, "it is always accompanied by problems, unfortunately. And this, in our view, is a natural process." Lesin repeated that Moscow views the decision of the U.S. Congress to have RFE/RL begin broadcasting in Chechen as incorrect. "If tomorrow our Duma took a decision to broadcast in some dialect of local Indians and assigned Radio Russia to carry it out, I do not think that the Americans would consider this a correct step," Lesin said. PG

MOSCOW WORRIED BY OSLO'S PLANS ON SPITZBERGEN

Both "Izvestiya" and "Novaya gazeta" on 5 June said that Russian government officials are deeply concerned that a bill being considered in the Norwegian parliament may reduce Russia's rights in the Spitzbergen archipelago. The islands belong to Norway, but Russia is currently guaranteed coal-mining and fishing rights there. Meanwhile, Norway announced plans to spend 1 million Norwegian crowns ($100,000) to develop the Solovetskii Islands near Arkhangelsk, Interfax-Northwest reported the same day. VY

DUTCH QUEEN MEETS WITH PUTIN

Making her first ever trip to Russia, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands met with President Putin and other senior officials in Moscow on 5 June, Russian and Western agencies reported. Putin stressed that Russia is pleased by the level of bilateral trade -- now running at $5 billion a year -- and by the level of cooperation on environmental, scientific, and even political issues. VY

RUSSIAN MUFTI CALLS FOR RELIGIOUS TO WORK FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE

Talgat Tadzhuddin, the supreme mufti of Russia and the European countries of the CIS, called on religious leaders throughout the Middle East to concentrate their efforts on bringing people there together and achieving peace, Interfax reported on 5 June. PG

MOSCOW TO STUDY NEW IRAQ SANCTIONS IDEAS

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ordzhonikidze said that Moscow plans to seriously study new proposals to change the international sanctions regime against Iraq, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 June. He said that the issues involved are "extremely complex" and directly involve Russia's trade and economic interests in Iraq. Meanwhile, First Deputy Energy Minister Ivan Matlashov said that Russia has no plans to increase oil exports as a result of Iraq's decision to suspend petroleum exports, Interfax-AFI reported the same day. PG

MOSCOW TO SUPPLY ADVANCED AVIONICS TO CHINA

Russia's Aerospace Equipment Corporation has signed a contract with Rosoboronexport to sell $192 million worth of advanced avionics to China, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 June. The equipment will allow China to upgrade the Russian-designed Su-27SK jet soon to be manufactured in China under license. PG

MOSCOW WORRIED BY INDONESIAN CRISIS

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko expressed Moscow's "serious concern" about the worsening political crisis in Indonesia, Russian agencies reported on 5 June. He said that "the confrontation between the president and the parliament of Indonesia has reached a critical point" and that street violence threatens the stability of that country. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS TO INCREASE ROLE IN OAS

Yurii Ushakov, Moscow's ambassador to Washington, said on 5 June that Russia hopes to increase its contacts with the Organization of American States (OAS), ITAR-TASS reported. Ushakov made his comments at the 31st OAS General Assembly in Costa Rica. PG

TAX POLICE TO SHIFT MOST ACTIVITY TO REGIONAL AFFILIATES

In an interview published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 5 June, Mikhail Fradkov, the director of the Federal Tax Police Service, said he plans to decentralize the operations of his agency and that regional bodies will be responsible for most operations. The central office will deal with research and planning, international contacts, and budget issues, he said. PG

ALTAI REPUBLIC WILL NOT JOIN ALTAI KRAI

Semen Zubakin, the president of the Altai Republic, has rejected proposals by the leaders of Altai Krai that the two territories unite to form a single federal subject, "Izvestiya" reported on 5 June. Krai Governor Aleksandr Surikov and krai Legislative Assembly head Aleksandr Nazarchuk had earlier argued the need for such a merger. PG

KHABAROVSK HEAD CALLS FOR INCREASED STATE CONTROL OF ECONOMY

Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev said in an interview published in "Moskovskie novosti" on 5 June that the state must control the market economy tightly. He said that President Putin never chose a liberal economic approach as some have said he has done. PG

ENVIRONMENTALISTS CALL FOR PROTECTING OKHOTSK SEA

Environmental activists in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk staged a demonstration on 5 June to urge that the Russian government work to clean up the Okhotsk Sea, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Meanwhile, Japanese and Russian coast guard ships prepared for an exercise to control possible future oil spills, the agency said. PG

ALROSA TO SELL $30 MILLION IN GEMS TO HELP FLOOD VICTIMS

President Putin has signed a decree instructing the Russian diamond monopoly ALROSA to sell $30 million in unique diamonds in order to provide funding for the rebuilding of flood-ravaged regions of Siberia and the Far East, Interfax reported on 5 June. PG

PUTIN VIEWS BEREZOVSKY AS 'A TRAITOR'

According to "Novaya gazeta" on 4 June, Putin has ordered the reopening of the criminal case against Sibneft's Roman Abramovich because the Russian president is angry at Abramovich's political pretensions. But at the same time, the paper said, Putin will not move against him as harshly as he has against Berezovsky, whom Putin views as "a traitor," a term to which the paper said Putin, as a former KGB officer, affords specific political connotations, rather than simply using it as an emotional evaluation. VY

ORGANIZED CRIME SEEN THREATENING GOVERNMENT

According to St. Petersburg's "Ekonomika i vremya" on 4 June, organized crime structures in Russia have concentrated such power in their hands that they now threaten the country's political institutions. Criminal enterprises have increased their control of the economy from 27 percent of turnover in 1993 to more than 50 percent now, the paper said. Moreover, Russian criminal groups are now operating in 58 foreign countries, with significant footholds in the U.S., Israel, Turkey, Hungary, and Poland, among others. Meanwhile, in an article published in "Vedomosti" the same day, Mikhail Delyagin, the director of the Institute of the Problems of Globalization, said that Russia's natural monopolies have so much power that they are dictating to the Kremlin. VY

42 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS THINK BUDANOV WAS JUSTIFIED

A poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by "Izvestiya" on 5 June found that 42 percent of those questioned say Yurii Budanov, a Russian colonel on trial for murdering a Chechen girl, was justified in doing so and should not be punished. Thirty-two percent said the trial was arranged to smear the military, with only 11 percent saying that they believe the colonel is guilty and should be punished. PG

DRAFT RESISTANCE UP DRAMATICALLY

Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Igor Puzanov told Interfax on 5 June that the number of draftees refusing to serve in the army has risen from 443 in 1985 to 20,000 this year. Puzanov also said that the army is becoming once again "a worker-peasant" institution as the better off and more highly educated avoid service on one pretext or another. He said the government has failed to provide enough money for training. Indeed, Puzanov said, the cause of the military's problems in Chechnya is directly traceable to the shortage of funds for military instruction. Meanwhile, according to a poll conducted by ROMIR and reported by "Versty" on 5 June, 69 percent of Russian citizens do not want their close relatives to be drafted into the Russian army. PG

MOSCOW PAYS FIRM THAT WILL RAISE 'KURSK'

Russia has paid the first installment of its bill to the Dutch firm Mammoet, which is to raise the "Kursk," a Russian submarine that sank in August 2000, ITAR-TASS reported. Officials at that firm refused to say just how much the Russian authorities have paid but did say that the project is now set to raise the vessel from the Barents Sea by 20 September. PG

MOSCOW TESTING SUPER-QUIET SUBMARINE

"Izvestiya" reported on 5 June that the Russian navy has begun testing a super-quiet submarine in the White Sea. The boat will be put on active duty, possibly as early as July, once it passes its trials, the paper said. PG

$7 BILLION NEEDED TO CLEAN UP RADIOACTIVE POLLUTION IN RUSSIA

Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev said on ORT television on 5 June that Russia needs a minimum of $7 billion to clean up areas of Russia that have been polluted by radioactive wastes. He said that the only way to get money for this is to import the nuclear waste of other countries for reprocessing and permanent storage. Rumyantsev's comments came ahead of a Duma vote on the third and final reading of a bill that would allow Moscow to import other countries' nuclear wastes. PG

MOSCOW CITY TO CREATE ECOLOGICAL MONITORING SYSTEM

The government of the city of Moscow on 5 June decided to create a single system of ecological monitoring, Interfax-Moscow reported. PG

LEGAL VODKA SUPPLIES FALLING

Vladimir Yarmosh, the president of the scientific-technical association of the Spirits and Liquor Industry, told Interfax on 5 June that the closure of many distilleries on 1 June because of the government's failure to supply the necessary tax stamps is rapidly leading to a shortage of legal vodka supplies and forcing drinkers to turn to illegal suppliers. PG

RUSSIA NOW RANKS FOURTH IN EUROPE IN CAR THEFTS

Vladimir Apultsin, the deputy chief of the national central bureau of Interpol, told Interfax on 5 June that 45,000 cars are stolen in Russia every year, a figure that ranks behind only Italy, Germany, and Poland among European countries. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY WANTS EXPERTS TO COMPARE HIS WORKS WITH LENIN'S

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 5 June, Duma Deputy Speaker and LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that "by the quantity and quality of his published works" he deserves to be compared with Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin, Interfax reported. Zhirinovsky said he has already issued 55 volumes, equal to Lenin's production, and that experts could undertake a comparative study of their output. PG

PROMINENT AZERBAIJANI BUSINESSMAN ARRESTED IN MOSCOW

Fizuli Mamedov, more commonly known as Frank Alcapone, was detained by police in Moscow on 4 June in possession of 496 grams of heroin and charged with illegal possession of drugs, Turan reported the following day. Mamedov, who is 37 and has lived in Moscow for the past decade, heads a pro-Russian political party called the Union of People's Patriots-21st Century, which claims 245,000 supporters in Azerbaijan and a further 670,000 among the Azerbaijani diaspora in Russia, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 7 December 2000. The party has not succeeded in registering with the Azerbaijani Ministry of Justice. A local Russian TV channel quoted Mamedov as saying the Azerbaijani Embassy in Moscow had asked Russian police to arrest him. LF




SPOKESMAN SAYS ARMENIAN PRESIDENT READY TO CONTINUE KARABAKH TALKS...

The Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents reached agreement during their talks in Paris in March on unspecified principles for resolving the Karabakh conflict and elaborated on those principles in Florida in April, Armenian presidential spokesman Vahe Gabrielian told journalists in Yerevan on 4 June, Noyan Tapan reported the following day. Gabrielian said President Robert Kocharian is ready to continue talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliyev "within the framework of those principles." Gabrielian denied that the peace process is deadlocked, or that differences have emerged between the French, Russian, and U.S. co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group that is engaged in mediating a solution to the conflict. LF

...AS LOCAL ARMENIAN OFFICIALS PROTEST ANTICIPATED LAND CORRIDOR

Officials from Armenia's southern Meghri region have drafted a statement protesting two anticipated components of a final settlement of the Karabakh conflict, according to Snark on 5 June, as cited by Turan. They oppose both opening a land corridor across the region giving Azerbaijan access to its exclave of Nakhichevan and the deployment in Meghri of international peacekeeping forces that would protect that transport corridor, which they argue would pose a threat to the self-government and national security of Armenia. The officials say they could safeguard the functioning of a transport corridor without outside help. LF

GUUAM MEMBERSHIP NOT A PRIORITY FOR ARMENIA

Gabrielian also said in Yerevan on 4 June that accession to the GUUAM alignment (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) is not a priority for Armenia, Noyan Tapan reported. Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze had suggested on 31 May that Russia and Armenia could acquire observer status within GUUAM (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2001). LF

AZERBAIJAN HOSTS OIL AND GAS EXHIBITION

Over 330 companies from 25 countries are participating in the eighth Caspian oil and gas exhibition, which opened in Baku on 5 June, ITAR-TASS and AP reported. In an address to the opening session read by U.S. Caspian envoy Steven Mann, U.S. President George W. Bush underscored the U.S. commitment to "a commercially viable east-west energy corridor" as part of a broader effort to strengthen the independence and prosperity of the Caspian states. Azerbaijan's President Aliyev delivered a 90-minute address in which he highlighted the importance to regional security of developing Caspian hydrocarbon resources. Aliyev also affirmed that Azerbaijan's strategy of inviting foreign companies to invest in developing its oil and gas deposits is correct. LF

GEORGIAN FINANCE MINISTER DENIES WITHHOLDING DEFENSE MINISTRY FUNDING

Zurab Nogaideli has rejected claims by Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze that the Finance Ministry is to blame for the financial problems experienced by the Georgian armed forces, Caucasus Press reported on 5 June. Delayed salaries and inadequate food were among the factors that contributed to the 25 May mutiny by National Guard troops (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 29 May 2001). Nogaideli said his ministry has provided 75 percent of the amount earmarked for army salaries and 99 percent of the amount for army food supplies. LF

GEORGIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS COMPLAINT AGAINST PRESIDENT

The Georgian Constitutional Court on 5 June rejected a suit initiated by opposition Socialist Party Chairman Vakhtang Rcheulishvili, who claimed that by combining the posts of president and leader of the Union of Citizens of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze is violating two articles of the Georgian Constitution, Caucasus Press reported. Ninety-one parliament deputies pledged support for Rcheulishvili's suit. LF

FRENCH DELEGATION VISITS ABKHAZIA

A French diplomatic delegation traveled to Sukhum for talks on 5 June with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba and outgoing Prime Minister Vyacheslav Tsugba on the ongoing search for a political solution to the Abkhaz conflict, Caucasus Press reported. Also discussed was the political situation in Abkhazia following the Tsugba's resignation last week. The daily "Rezonansi" on 5 June quoted Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze as saying his ministry was not informed in advance of the planned visit. But he said it was not directed against Georgia, describing France as one of the most active participants in the Friends of the UN Secretary-General for Georgia group that is seeking to resolve the conflict. LF

KAZAKH, RUSSIAN PREMIERS RESOLVE CASPIAN PIPELINE DISPUTE

Following talks in Moscow on 5 June with a Kazakh government delegation headed by Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev, Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov said that the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) pipeline via which Kazakh crude will be exported to Novorossiisk will become fully operational on 6 August. That statement suggests that the two sides have resolved the dispute that arose due to the lack of an agreement between the consortium and the Russian State Customs Committee that forced the suspension last month of the process of filling the pipeline with oil (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March and 11 May 2001). An official for Chevron, which has a 15 percent stake in the CPC pipeline, told Interfax in late May that the CPC has submitted the required documentation to the Russian government, and that consortium members have also unanimously agreed to set up an oil-quality bank that will provide for the export of a blend of Kazakh and Russian oils to be known as CPC Blend. LF

KYRGYZSTAN, CHINA BEGIN BORDER DEMARCATION

Kyrgyz and Chinese experts have begun demarcating those sections of their common border specified in the 1996 agreement signed by Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev and Chinese leader JIang Zemin, Kyrgyz government department head Salamat Alamanov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 5 June. That agreement covers some 900 kilometers of the total 1,100-kilometer border. The experts will not mark those sections of the border covered in 1999 amendments, which the Kyrgyz parliament has not ratified, to the 1996 agreement. Also on 5 June, the Kyrgyz parliament began debating the possibility of calling for an annulment of both the 1996 agreement and the 1999 amendments, but postponed further debate until 8 June because the full texts of the two documents are not yet available. LF

TWO ARRESTED FOR MURDER OF TAJIK OFFICIAL

Two suspects in the 24 May killing of Sobir Begidzhonov, the administrator of Dzhabborasulov district in northern Tajikistan's Sughd Oblast, have been detained on the Uzbek-Kazakh border, Asia Plus-Blitz and Vavorud reported on 5 June. Both suspects are from Sughd Oblast. Reports that former Sughd Oblast Governor Abdujalil Homidov has also been arrested have not been confirmed. Homidov has lived in Uzbekistan for several years. LF

U.S. TO HELP ELIMINATE CHEMICAL WEAPONS SITES IN UZBEKISTAN

Under a treaty signed in Washington on 5 June, the U.S. will assist Uzbekistan in eliminating Soviet-era chemical and biological weapons facilities in Uzbekistan, dpa reported. A U.S. delegation that visited Tashkent two years ago signed an agreement on that issue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 1999). LF




LUKASHENKA CRITICIZES MOSCOW FOR IMPEDING RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION...

Addressing a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Russia-Belarus Union in Hrodna on 5 June, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka harshly criticized Russia for what he sees as impediments to the development of the union. Lukashenka said Russia has unilaterally decreased customs duties on imported television sets to the detriment of Russian and Belarusian producers. He slammed Moscow for introducing custom controls on the Belarusian border over goods from third countries. "Is this a common customs area? This is the ruination of the union," Belarusian Television quoted him as saying. Lukashenka also blamed the Russian government for delaying the adoption of a union budget. "I think the [union] budget should start to work from the beginning of a financial year, not from its middle," Lukashenka noted. JM

...AND FOR FAILURE TO DELIVER $100 MILLION LOAN...

Lukashenka also lambasted Russia for not providing a $100 million loan he said was due under provisions for setting up a single union currency. He said he has since rejected this loan, adding that Belarus has been offered a loan by Libya. JM

...THREATENS TO BREAK UNION OVER UNCOORDINATED FOREIGN TRADE POLICY...

Lukashenka threatened to break the Russia-Belarus Union if Moscow refuses to coordinate its foreign trade policies with Minsk. The Belarusian president said Moscow is now drafting a bill on the liberalization of foreign trade and that "if [the bill] is adopted without coordination with our side, I will say it straightforwardly...this will spell the end to our union." Lukashenka added that he, as chairman of the Supreme Council of the Russia-Belarus Union, is ordering the Belarusian and Russian prime ministers to coordinate the preparation of the bill. Lukashenka also threatened to fire the Belarusian government if it fails to obey his order. JM

...SETS UNION PRIORITY TASK

According to Lukashenka, the strategic task for the Russia-Belarus Union is to create a legal basis by the end of this year in order to hold elections to a common parliament. One of the documents to be discussed within the framework of this task is a Constitutional Act of the Russia-Belarus Union. Lukashenka proposed that Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev and Russia-Belarus Union State Secretary Pavel Borodin leave their current duties and head the union's executive and legislative bodies after the adoption of a Constitutional Act and a referendum on the merger of Russia and Belarus. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ASSIGNS MORE MINISTERS...

Leonid Kuchma on 5 June reappointed Education and Culture Minister Vasyl Kremen and Fuel and Energy Minister Stanyslav Stashevskyy to serve in the cabinet of Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh, Interfax reported. Kuchma also restored the ministry of industrial policy, which was abolished in the previous cabinet of Viktor Yushchenko, and appointed Vasyl Hureyev to head it. Hureyev was industrial policy minister from July 1997 to February 2000. Kuchma is expected to make four more appointments to fill the remaining posts of two deputy premiers, transportation minister, and environment minister. Out of the 17 cabinet members named thus far, 14 served under Yushchenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 and 31 May 2001). Notwithstanding so many reappointments, First Deputy parliamentary speaker Viktor Medvedchuk commented that Kinakh's cabinet is "a coalition government up to 40-50 percent." JM

...SETS AMBITIOUS 2002 ECONOMIC, TAX REFORM GOALS

In a message to the parliament released on 5 June, Kuchma wrote that Ukraine's GDP should grow 6 percent next year, including a 7 percent rise in industrial output and a 3.8 percent increase in agricultural production. According to the president, the budget should provide for more social benefits and a 5.5 percent growth in salaries. The average hryvnya exchange rate in 2002 should not fall below 5.75 to $1 (the current rate is 5.41 to $1), while exports should increase by 5 percent. Kuchma also urged the parliament to adopt a Tax Code in order to radically ease tax pressure and simplify tax procedures. Kuchma wants to reduce the overall number of taxes from 39 to 23, decrease VAT from 20 percent to 17 percent, lower the profit tax for businesses from 30 percent to 25 percent, and introduce a new income tax system with the top rate not exceeding 25 percent. JM

ESTONIA'S CAPITAL ELECTS NEW MAYOR

The Tallinn City Council on 5 June elected telecoms businessman Tonis Palts as the city's new mayor, BNS reported. He received 37 votes while opposition Center Party Chairman Edgar Savisaar received 27. In the previous round both candidates received 31 votes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2001). The council also elected seven deputy mayors with the only changes being made in the Reform Party, which replaced Ants Leemets with Andres Tsahkna and Priit Vilba with Toivo Ninnas. The council meeting also restored the credentials of Yevgenii Kogan, a former leader of the pro-Moscow Internationalist Front, by a vote of 30 to 26, with one abstention and seven deputies not participating in the vote. SG

ARMY COMMANDERS OF NINE NATO CANDIDATE COUNTRIES MEET IN LATVIA

Latvian Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis and army commander Raimonds Graube opened a two-day meeting of army commanders from eight other NATO candidate countries -- Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Slovenia, Albania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Croatia -- in Riga on 5 June, BNS reported. Army representatives from several NATO countries, including Belgium, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, and France, were attending the meeting while Canada, England, Italy, Spain, and the U.S. were represented by their military attaches. In their reports, the generals from the candidate countries pointed out the need for greater defense reforms, which would make military institutions more effective in fighting such threats as international organized crime and the radicalization of political movements. In the closing report Graube called the meeting "very, very successful and useful." He emphasized the importance of the NATO membership action plan, stating that it is the main means by which preparation for NATO accession is carried out. The army commanders were scheduled to visit the Adazi military training center on 6 June. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT POSTPONES DEBATE OF GOVERNMENT REPORT

The parliament on 5 June passed a resolution that postponed until 14 June the discussion and evaluation of the government's annual report by Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2001), ELTA reported. Deputies of the ruling Liberal Union had proposed the postponement, noting that the report had not been discussed in parliament committees as stipulated in the parliament's statutes. The Social Democrats presented a draft resolution severely criticizing the report while the Liberals offered one that praised the government's performance. Paksas later the same day visited President Valdas Adamkus at a Vilnius hospital where he is recuperating from eye surgery he underwent on 3 June. Adamkus expressed concern that the implementation of needed reforms has stalled and the World Bank is planning to suspend the granting of a $50 million loan to Lithuania. SG

POLISH FARMERS' LEADERS TO RUN FOR PARLIAMENT ON RADICAL UNION'S TICKET

Wladyslaw Serafin, the chairman of the Union of Farmers' Circles and Organizations, and Roman Wierzbicki, leader of the Farmers' Solidarity Trade Union, will run in the 23 September parliamentary elections on election lists of the Farmers' Self-Defense, PAP reported on 5 June, quoting Self-Defense spokesman Stanislaw Lyzwinski. The Farmers' Self-Defense, led by Andrzej Lepper, has become notorious for radical and often violent protest actions against the government, including blockades of roads and border checkpoints. JM

DAEWOO MOTOR POLAND TO LAY OFF 800 WORKERS

The Daewoo Motor Poland plant based in Lublin, eastern Poland, is going to lay off 800 people, PAP reported on 5 June. The reductions are being forced by poor sales of vans made by the plant. This year's plans provided for the production of 1,000 vans monthly, while only 1,400 vehicles have left the plant during the first five months of this year. Daewoo Motor Poland, which has already fired 900 workers this year, employs 2,900 people. JM

HAVEL TO SEEK THIRD TERM AS CZECH PRESIDENT?

The German daily "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (FAZ) on 5 June wrote that circles close to President Vaclav Havel, often called "The Castle Party" by Czech media, are considering the possibility of Havel's running for a third presidential term, CTK reported. He is barred from so doing under the present constitution, but according to reports cited by FAZ, the "Castle Party" is considering an initiative to amend the constitution and have Havel elected by popular vote in direct elections. The constitutional amendments envisaged would also grant the country's president expanded prerogatives. Havel's term runs out in early 2003. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT BACKS PURCHASE OF SUPERSONIC FIGHTERS...

Havel said during a visit to the Rakovnik military base in central Bohemia on 5 June that he believes the Czech army should have supersonic fighter planes, CTK and dpa reported. Havel said "only a few countries do not have a supersonic air force" and that "our geographic position, at the center of Europe, is such that a war or a [military] confrontation would not spare us." He said the purchase of the planes would also "contribute to our being perceived as a full-fledged NATO member." Havel stressed that this is a personal opinion and that the matter should be decided by "experts, not politicians." To be the supreme commander of the armed forces, he said, "does not mean that I should decide how many cannons the army should have." MS

...AS TENDER BIDDER REVEALS DETAILS OF OFFER

A Prague-based spokesman for the British aerospace giant BAE Systems and a spokesman for Saab in Sweden on 5 June released details of the bid of the two companies, which jointly produce the Gripen fighter, for the Czech Republic's tender to purchase supersonic aircraft, dpa reported. BAE's regional managing director for Europe Julian Scopes said the purchase of 36 Gripen fighters would cost the Czech Republic 75 billion crowns ($1.9 billion), far below the 100 billion crowns expected by the Czech government, and less than half the cost mentioned by Czech politicians who oppose the deal. Scopes said the price would include training and spare parts for three years. He also said BAE is prepared to buy steel and other supplies from Czech manufacturers under the Czech government's offset program. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on Czech television on 5 June that the withdrawal of two U.S. companies from the tender can "by no means be attributed to the tender's lack of transparency." MS

HAVEL REITERATES OPPOSITION TO LUSTRATION LAW

Before visiting the Rakovnik base, President Havel was briefed at Lany Castle near Prague by Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik and Chief of Staff Jiri Sedivy on the plans for the modernization of the Czech army, CTK reported. Tvrdik said after the meeting that due to a "shortage of time" the screening certificates affair, (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 4 and 5 June 2001), has not been discussed. Havel refused to comment on the affair, saying he "only has information from the media." However, he told journalists that he continues to believe that the lustration law might have served a good purpose when it was passed, but now Czech society "needs other instruments to cope with its totalitarian past." Havel said that as formulated in 1991, the law often "hits people who bear no responsibility...and who had been forced through blackmail and threats to sign some papers." In 1991, Havel signed the lustration act into law, saying he was doing so "with reservations" because the law was "based on the principle of collective guilt." MS

NATO 'LACKS INFORMATION' ON SCREENING CERTIFICATES AFFAIR

A NATO official in Brussels told CTK on 5 June that NATO "has no details" on the screening certificates affair. Yves Brodeur said the case has "not been discussed at NATO headquarters." Brodeur and another NATO official both declined to speculate on the potential consequences of the issue. MS

CZECH REPUBLIC LIKELY TO AGREE TO TRANSITION FOR FREE MOVEMENT OF LABOR

Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky said in Brussels on 5 June after talks with EU commissioner in charge of enlargement Guenter Verheugen that the Czech Republic will "probably" agree to transition periods for the free movement of labor. He said the EU is offering a "sufficiently flexible regime" that would allow each new EU member to work out specific agreements on the length of the transition periods, CTK reported. Rychetsky ruled out the possibility that, like Hungary, Prague would ask for "reciprocity" on the free movement of labor. "If [foreign] capital shows an interest [in investing in the country], we shall not ban [its] managers from coming to us," he said. He also said Verheugen has assured him that neither the problem of the Benes decrees nor the dispute with Austria over Temelin will play a role in the accession negotiations. MS

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER ENDS DAMASCUS VISIT

Foreign Minister Kavan told journalists on 5 June at the end of a two-day visit to Damascus that Syrian President Bashar Assad has agreed to settle a debt dispute involving a Czech-estimated $500 million debt accumulated by Damascus as a result of imports of arms from the former Czechoslovakia prior to 1989, Reuters reported. Kavan also said Prague is ready to supply Syria with spare parts for warplanes and tanks, as well as with equipment for the oil refining and other industries. Teams representing the sides will negotiate ways of settling the debt by end 2001. MS

MECIAR RULES OUT PARTNERSHIP WITH FORMER ALLIES

Former Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar, in an interview with the Czech weekly "Tyden" of 4 June, said his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) will not enter a pre-electoral alliance with its former coalition partners, TASR reported. Meciar said that cooperation with the extremist Slovak National Party (SNS) after 1994 had been "a necessary evil." He said he blames Slovakia's failure to gain NATO membership under his rule on the SNS campaign against joining NATO and on some "careless" comments by Jan Luptak, the leader of his other coalition partner -- the Association of Slovak Workers. Meciar said he expects the HZDS to win the 2002 elections and to form a coalition with the Christian Democratic Movement and with the Party of the Democratic Left. On 5 June, Markiza TV reported that Meciar will head the lists of the HZDS in the 2002 parliamentary elections. MS

PORTUGAL BACKS SLOVAKIA'S EU, NATO QUEST

Visiting Portuguese Premier Antonio Guterres told his Slovak counterpart Mikulas Dzurinda in Bratislava on 6 June that his country backs Slovakia's quest to gain membership in NATO and the EU, CTK and AP reported. Guterres said the importance of Slovakia's admittance to NATO "becomes clear when its geopolitical position is taken into account." He also said Bratislava has succeeded in overcoming the earlier gap between itself and the front-line EU candidates. Guterres also met with parliamentary Chairman Jozef Migas. MS

NO BREAKTHROUGH IN SLOVAK-HUNGARIAN DAM TALKS

Hungarian and Slovak government officials, meeting in Bratislava on 5 June, failed to achieve a breakthrough in their long-standing dispute over the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros hydropower plant project, CTK and Hungarian media reported. Hungarian government commissioner Laszlo Szekely said Budapest is prepared to give up its share of electricity generated at the Slovak Gabcikovo hydropower plant, provided that Slovakia directs more water into the original bed of the Danube River and its tributaries. His Slovak counterpart Dominik Kocinger, however, said Slovakia insists on the construction of a lower dam on the Hungarian side of the Danube. MSZ

HUNGARIAN FORINT TO BECOME FULLY CONVERTIBLE

National Bank Governor Zsigmond Jarai and Finance Minister Mihaly Varga announced on 5 June that all restrictions on the Hungarian forint will be lifted on 15 June and the national currency will thus be fully convertible, Hungarian media reported. Individuals and companies will be free to decide in which currency they deposit their savings, and Hungarians will be free to invest in property or businesses abroad. Jarai explained that the Hungarian economy and the currency are strong enough for all protective measures to be lifted. MSZ




RUMSFELD HAILS U.S. ROLE IN THE BALKANS...

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said in Thessaloniki on 6 June that U.S. troops in Bosnia and Kosova are making a "very substantial contribution" to the stability of the Balkans, AP reported. He told a press conference: "There is no question but that the SFOR and KFOR forces in the Balkans are making a very valuable contribution to stability in the region, and our interest is peace and stability in the region." He added, however, that "obviously the hope and goal and intention of all the nations that have troops in the Balkans is that over a period of time the parties on the ground will sort through their differences in a peaceful and constructive way and find the kind of civil structures that will enable them to have the stability that would be necessary for them on a more durable basis." He also pledged to work closely with "our friends and allies" regarding the nature and scope of the Western military presence in the Balkans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2001). PM

...AS 'TRULY A NOBLE CALLING'

Rumsfeld told U.S. troops at Camp Bondsteel in Kosova on 5 June that KFOR's job is "truly a noble calling," Reuters reported. He added that maintaining a strong military is necessary and "no economic burden" for the U.S. Earlier in Skopje, Rumsfeld stressed Washington's support for the Macedonian government in its fight against ethnic Albanian insurgents. Macedonian SiTel television reported that Rumsfeld told his hosts, however, that Washington is not happy with Skopje's intention to purchase Russian helicopters and military aircraft. Macedonian military officials say they badly need additional equipment and have appealed to friendly countries for help. PM

LORD OWEN SEEKS PEACE CONFERENCE FOR THE BALKANS

In an interview with the "Berliner Zeitung," former British Balkan diplomat Lord David Owen said on 5 June that it is necessary to hold a peace conference modeled on the Berlin Congress of 1878. "The difference will be that the then-European powers could simply decide about a region," he said. "Today the Balkan states must be included [in the decision-making]." In conjunction with the future independence of Kosova, Lord Owen maintained that the redrawing of existing borders should not be excluded from the agenda of any conference. UB

MACEDONIAN, BULGARIAN PRESIDENTS CALL FOR PEACEFUL CHANGE

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski and his Bulgarian counterpart Petar Stoyanov said in Sofia on 5 June that "ensuring lasting peace, stability, and prosperity in the entire region is possible only by solving all existing problems peacefully, through political dialogue," AP reported. The added that they "categorically condemn the terrorist acts committed by armed groups of Albanians, which jeopardize Macedonia's peace, security and stability." The previous day, the two presidents called on their Albanian colleague Rexhep Meidani to join them in new rounds of talks aimed at promoting east-west infrastructure and economic projects in the Balkans, including a highway linking Burgas with Vlora. "This would be a strong signal to the people of the three countries, but also to the international community, that we are looking for a common European perspective," Stoyanov said. "Our relations will develop further according to our common movement towards the European Union and NATO." Most roads and trade routes in the region run in a north-south direction, making Macedonia heavily dependent on Serbia and Greece. PM

MACEDONIAN REPRIEVE FOR TAIWAN?

The Macedonian cabinet has decided to put off a decision on breaking relations with Taipei and reestablishing ties with Beijing, dpa reported from the Taiwanese capital on 6 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2001). A Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said, however, that "although Macedonia's cabinet meeting vetoed discussing resuming ties with Beijing and cutting ties with Taipei, our embassy will continue to monitor developments." Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva is championing the switch in relations, while Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski is opposed. PM

FIVE MACEDONIAN SOLDIERS KILLED

In the night of 5-6 June, five Macedonian reservists were killed and three soldiers and three police wounded in a firefight with the ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK) in the Sar Planina region above Tetovo. One of the six men killed was an ethnic Albanian. Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski said that "there is a group of terrorists who have no intention of withdrawing from Macedonian soil. They are continuing to gather and are now in the Sar mountains above Tetovo," dpa reported. Meanwhile in the Kumanovo region, fighting continued in and around Matejce, Slupcane, and Orizare. The daily "Die Presse" described the political and military situation in Macedonia as "chaos" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2001). PM

KOSOVA SERB ARRESTED FOR WAR CRIMES

Police in Kosovska Mitrovica arrested Radoslav Krstic on 5 June on the suspicion that he took part in mass killings of Albanians during the Kosova conflict, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER DETERMINED TO PASS HAGUE LAW

Zoran Djindjic said in Vienna on 6 June that he is determined to see a law on cooperation with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal enacted soon, with or without the support of the Socialist People's Party (SNP) of Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2001). He warned that the SNP's stonewalling tactics could threaten the continued existence of the federal Yugoslav state. PM

MONTENEGRIN LEGISLATORS TOO TALKATIVE TO VOTE

Deputies from the SNP secured on 6 June an adjournment of the parliament until the following day, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The SNP charged that legislators were not taking their work seriously after failing for a third day to elect a speaker, and that the legislators have been too busy making speeches to vote. There is only one candidate for the speaker's post, namely Vesna Perovic of the Liberal Alliance. PM

BOSNIAN SERB WEEKLY PUBLISHES STAMBOLIC'S DECISIVE LETTER TO MILOSEVIC

In its latest issue, the Banja Luka weekly "Reporter" has published a letter written by former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic in the late spring of 1991 after he was purged by his successor and former protege Slobodan Milosevic. In the letter to Milosevic, Stambolic called on him to resign, predicting that he would create "Balkan apartheid" in Kosova while leaving Yugoslavia "a ruin" and Serbia "an abandoned martyr" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2001). PM

ELECTION VIOLENCE IN NORTHERN ALBANIA

A series of politically motivated violent incidents has taken place in the northern town of Tropoja, which is in a region long known for its lawlessness, dpa reported from Tirana on 6 June. In one incident, gunmen opened fire on the car of a Socialist candidate in the 24 June elections. In two other incidents, police fought off armed attackers. The Democratic Party (PD) blames the police for attacking its supporters. The region of Tropoja and Bajram Curri is the birthplace of PD leader Sali Berisha and a stronghold of his party. Public Order Minister Ilir Gjoni has often said that the police are working to ensure a peaceful and quiet election campaign. This campaign has indeed been relatively peaceful by Albanian standards. PM

ROMANIAN ECONOMY SHOWS HIGH GROWTH RATE

Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 5 June that the economy grew by 4.8 percent in the first quarter of 2001 on a 12-months basis, considerably more than the 4.1 percent growth forecast by the government, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. On the same day, talks with an IMF delegation on a new standby loan were resumed in the Romanian capital. The National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies said the 1 January-30 April monthly inflation rate was 2.7 percent, considerably lower than the 3.3 percent registered for the same period last year. The opposition National Liberal Party said the statistics are inaccurate and that the institute has ceased publishing reliable data since its subordination to the government. The outcome of the negotiations with the IMF depends partly on parallel negotiations with the World Bank on the acceleration of privatization. MS

PROTESTING ROMANIAN WORKERS LOCK U.S. MANAGER IN...

Workers in Resita protesting arrears in wage payments and the intention to fire 49 members of the staff, including 20 union leaders, on 5 June locked in the U.S. manager representing Noble Ventures, the owner of the local steel mill plant, an RFE/RL correspondent in Resita reported. The manager later annulled the decision to dismiss the workers but the protest is continuing, according to Romanian radio on 6 June. MS

...WHILE PEERS PROTEST LACK OF SAFETY EQUIPMENT AFTER FATAL EXPLOSION IN CONSTANTA

Ten workers were killed in the Black Sea port of Constanta on 5 June after an explosion on board the Maltese "Adrianopolis" tanker that was undergoing repairs in the Constanta shipyard. Workers at the shipyard are staging protests against the lack of safety equipment and the violation of safety procedures by the management. A governmental delegation headed by Privatization Minister Ovidiu Musatescu has been dispatched to the shipyard for talks between the workers and the management, Romanian radio reported on 6 June. MS

ROMANIAN JUDICIARY: ALL IN THE FAMILY

Romanian President Ion Iliescu on 5 June appointed Serban Viorel Stanoiu as a judge on the country's Constitutional Court, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He is the husband of Justice Minister Rodica Stanoiu. Viorel Stanoiu said he sees "no conflict of interests" emerging from his appointment. Democratic Party Deputy Emil Boboc said the appointment proves Romania's governmental system is "based on the family clan." On the same day, Judge Lucian Mihai, who resigned from the Constitutional Court, said at his farewell ceremony that his experience on the bench of the country's highest court shows that Romania is "still a partially totalitarian country." Mihai said his conclusions are drawn from experience accumulated both under the former and under the current governments. He said the executive and the legislative branches of government display "arrogance" toward the judiciary and handle it "as if it were merely a decorative artifact." MS

CLUJ LOCAL COUNCIL CONFLICT INTENSIFIES

Five town councilors representing the extremist Greater Romanian Party resigned from the council on 5 June in an attempt to bring about its dissolution and enforce new elections, Mediafax reported. They said they were resigning in a sign of solidarity with Mayor Gheorghe Funar (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 5 June 2001). MS

RULING MOLDOVAN PARTY WANTS TREATY WITH ROMANIA RATIFIED

The ruling parliamentary majority of the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) "insists" on the need to finalize the negotiations on the basic treaty with Romania and to have the treaty ratified by the two countries' respective parliaments, PCM Parliamentary group leader Victor Stepaniuc told Romania's new Ambassador to Chisinau Adrian Balanescu on 5 June, BASA-press reported. The treaty was initialed by the two countries' then-foreign ministers, Nicolae Tabacaru and Petre Roman, in April 2000 but neither parliament has ratified it thus far. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS TRANSDNIESTER PROBLEM 'WILL SOON BE SOLVED'

Speaking on national television on 4 June, Vladimir Voronin said he will soon be undertaking "active steps" to solve the Transdniester problem, Infotag reported the next day. A new round of negotiations between Voronin and separatist leader Igor Smirnov is scheduled for 20 June in Chisinau. Voronin said that if the five documents he signed in Tiraspol on 16 May "are called concessions, then I am prepared to make more concessions, until the conflict is finally settled." Moldova's chief negotiator with Tiraspol, Vasile Sturza, on 5 June told journalists that the authorities in Tiraspol have received Moldovan proposals on the "main principles of the future status" of the Transdniester. He hinted that the region will be granted autonomy. The problem must find a solution that "avoids both extremes -- that of a unitary state and that of two separate states," Sturza said, according to a Flux report. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER ON EURASIAN CUSTOMS UNION MEMBERSHIP

Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev, briefing journalists on last week's Minsk CIS summit, on 5 June said that Moldova can join the recently established Eurasian Customs Union only if and after Ukraine does so, because the union's members are linked territorially, Infotag reported. Tarlev also said that he agreed with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kasyanov to draft an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in energy supplies. Tarlev said it is "not quite logical" that hitherto agreements were signed with the Russian energy giant Gazprom. A detailed audit of Moldova's debt for energy deliveries will be worked out. Tarlev added that Chisinau will raise with the Paris Club, of which Russia is a member, the possibility of restructuring Moldova's external debt. "If we fail to receive approval...we shall have to spend 70 percent of the 2001 budget on servicing the foreign debt," he said. MS

BULGARIA'S FORMER KING VOWS TO RAISE INCOMES AFTER ELECTORAL VICTORY

Former King Simeon II pledged on 5 June to raise the per capita income if his National Movement wins the 17 June parliamentary elections, dpa and Reuters reported. He said his goal is to "improve living standards for every Bulgarian, regardless of ethnic heritage." Simeon said he wants to "guarantee economic freedom in Bulgaria by imposing a new morality in the economy, business, and politics." He said he aims to cut unemployment, improve the struggle against crime and corruption, and fight tax evasion. Simeon said savings gained from reducing state bureaucracy would go into financing higher pensions and salaries for teachers, policemen, and people working in the medical professions. Small- and medium-sized businesses would get cheap credits, and a financial amnesty aimed at returning capital taken out of the country would be considered. MS

BULGARIAN POST-COMMUNIST PREMIERS WORKED FOR SECRET POLICE

Two former premiers after 1989 were involved with the communist secret services, according to media reports cited by BTA on 6 June. The reports cite Metodi Andreev, chairman of the parliamentary commission that checked the records of politicians who held positions in the parliament and in the government and the records of candidates in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. The names of the two premiers were not disclosed. The commission is about to release the names of candidates on lists of smaller parties currently running in elections whose records show they were linked to the security services before 1989. MS




RUSSIA'S ENVIRONMENTAL WOES GROW ONE YEAR AFTER WATCHDOG GROUPS DISSOLVED


By Sophie Lambroschini

On the occasion of World Environment Day, Russian ecologists warned on 5 June that the May 2000 move to dissolve the country's two main environmental bodies -- the State Environment Committee and the State Forestry Committee -- has already cost Russia both ecologically and economically. They say the committees' replacement, the Natural Resources Ministry, has failed in its mandate to act as an independent monitor and block potentially harmful industrial projects.

The measure was presented as an effort to streamline state structures and cut costs. But many environmentalists protested the move, saying it reflected the government's lack of interest in protecting the ecology more than any desire to conserve state funds. They also warned the Natural Resources Ministry would be a poor substitute, with neither the means nor the objectivity to analyze industrial contracts and monitor some 300,000 businesses a year.

Today, Russian environmentalists say their fears were justified. They say that plummeting control standards will compromise even further Russia's already imperfect environmental protection legislation.

"Some people think we had a good-for-nothing State Environment Committee," Lev Fyodorov, a Russian environmental specialist on chemical weapons plants, said at a 4 June press conference. "It's true, it wasn't good for much. But say we tried to eliminate the traffic police. Who likes the traffic police? No one. But what would happen if you took them off the street?"

As a result of the dissolving of the environment and forestry committees, Fyodorov said, "environmental legislation can't work, because there isn't a single state organ left that can come to the defense of the average person, elk, or nature reserve."

Last year, the former head of Russian ecological affairs, Viktor Danilov-Danilyan, called the decision to dissolve the environment and forestry committees "a signal to thieves that they were now free to destroy and steal Russia's environmental wealth." He claimed that the move to transfer responsibility for environmental matters to the Natural Resources Ministry had been lobbied by powerful oil and gas companies eager to lift state controls on their projects.

Many environmentalists agree with Danilov-Danilyan's claim. World Wildlife Fund representative Igor Chestin says caviar and fish poaching are also on the rise as state controls dwindle. The number of oil and gas leaks has also increased since last year, as the Natural Resources Ministry, citing lack of personnel, dropped some 40,000 companies from its yearly checklist.

The ministry admits that its environmental facilities have been stretched to maximum capacity. Viktor Kutsenko, the deputy head of the ministry's ecological control department, says the number of inspectors was reduced by one-third in just a year. While inspectors were once responsible for no more than 50 projects, a single inspector may now have as many as 80 companies or contracts to oversee in a single year.

But Kutsenko claims the ministry is still managing to do its job, albeit with some compromises. He told RFE/RL it has reduced systematic annual control to cover only what he called "ecologically very dangerous enterprises," leaving those that are "less dangerous" to operate for over a year at a time without being monitored.

"We first and foremost try to control the [dangerous companies]," Kutsenko said, "but of course we can't check all 250,000 to 300,000 companies every year. Neither the number of inspectors, nor the [financial] means, are sufficient for such controls." He did not specify which enterprises the ministry classifies as "very dangerous" or "less dangerous."

Kutsenko added that the ministry is also in the process of handing over some control of environmental issues to local public organizations -- like Cossacks in Rostov and Volgograd -- to help alert the ministry to specific regional environmental hazards. Even with such measures, however, Kutsenko admitted that his department could not withstand any more cuts.

The Natural Resources Ministry has also been the object of criticism from environmentalists who say its other activities -- like issuing licenses for oil drilling and mining of gold and other precious materials -- make it a poor choice for the nation's ecological watchdog.

When the State Environment Committee was still in operation, it often worked against the ministry to fight drilling licenses and other extraction processes that were profitable for the government but dangerous for the environment. Now that the two natural opponents are housed in a single ministry, critics say environmental issues will inevitably be given short shrift.

One example of this, according to Greenpeace-Russia representative Ivan Blokov, is the ministry's recent issue of a license to mine gold on the territory of a nature preserve in the Komi Republic. The State Environmental Committee had previously blocked the project eight times.

Ministry official Kutsenko admits that conflicts of interest can arise in the ministry's new dual role, but declined to address the Komi case, saying he didn't know the precise details. However, he claims that in a similar case, when a Kalmyk company was looking to drill for oil in a protected area in the Astrakhan region, the ministry refused to issue the license.


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