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Newsline - June 7, 2001




DUMA APPROVES IMPORTATION OF NUCLEAR WASTES

By votes of 266 to 117, 243 to 125, and 250 to 125, the Duma on 6 June approved on third and final reading a package of three bills that will allow Russia to import for permanent storage spent nuclear fuel from abroad, Russian and Western agencies reported. Advocates of the measure said that it will allow Russia to earn up to $2 billion a year, while opponents said it could lead to an environmental and health catastrophe. But Russia may not be able to import very much unless the United States gives its approval. Environmental activists told AP that the U.S. controls 92.5 percent of the nuclear waste involved and would have to approve the shipment of such waste to Russia before it could take place. PG

PUTIN CALLS FOR FASTER REFORM OF MILITARY INDUSTRY

President Vladimir Putin on 6 June told Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov that the government must speed up preparations for the reform of the military-industrial complex, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, a Finance Ministry official told the news agency the same day that the government will spend $1.5 billion more on defense acquisitions in 2002 than it is spending this year. PG

PUTIN SEEKS TO BOOST DOMESTIC AUTO PRODUCTION

President Putin told a meeting of Russian automobile producers in Moscow on 6 June that he wants them to develop a modern and affordable car that ordinary Russians will be able to afford, strana.ru reported on 6 June. Putin said that he will seek protectionist measures to allow the domestic automotive industry to expand, but he stressed at the same time that any customs barriers will not be so high as to prevent Russians from purchasing at least some imported foreign vehicles. VY

KASYANOV POINTS TO BROAD ECONOMIC GROWTH

In comments carried on ORT television on 6 June, Prime Minister Kasyanov said that Russia's economic growth is extending beyond raw materials exports and increasingly affecting the entire country, Russian and Western agencies reported. He said that in 1997, only 40 regions showed growth, but in this year 85 of the 89 regions have done so, Interfax reported. But he warned that despite this upward trend, both inflation and capital flight remain major problems. PG

INFLATION AT 1.8 PERCENT IN MAY

Consumer prices increased 1.8 percent in May, the State Statistics Committee told Interfax on 6 June. For the first five months of 2001, inflation stands at 10.9 percent compared to 6.8 percent during the same period of 2000. Housing, food, and services led the index upward, the news service said. PG

KASYANOV SAYS GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE POSTPONED AGAIN

Prime Minister Kasyanov said on 6 June that the much-discussed restructuring and reshuffling of his cabinet will again be put off, Interfax reported. Kasyanov said that this delay, like an earlier one in May, has the president's approval. Kasyanov also said that he cannot confirm that the reform of Gazprom will in fact begin by this fall. But even as he made this announcement, Gazprom officials said that they will increase domestic prices for gas to bring them more into line with charges for gas abroad, AP reported the same day. PG

CABINET SEEKS TO PROTECT DEPOSITORS

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said that the cabinet has prepared amendments to the banking law that will protect depositors in all banks, Interfax reported on 6 June. In an address to the Duma, Gref said that the government also plans to reduce the share of such accounts deposited in Sberbank as part of a more general effort to reduce capital flight. VY

53.7 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS DO NOT CONSIDER THEIR COUNTRY A DEMOCRACY

According to a poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 6 June, 53.7 percent of Russians think that contemporary Russia is not a democratic state, while 39.2 percent of them think that it is. Responding to another question, 49.2 percent of Russians think that the Russian mass media enjoy complete freedom, but 44.3 percent disagree. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS TO GET OFF FATF BLACKLIST

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said on 6 June that Russia has already done enough to justify removing it from the "blacklist" maintained by the Financial Action Task Force of countries which do not effectively combat money laundering, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

BAN ON FOREIGN CONTROL OF MEDIA COMPANIES TO APPLY ONLY TO NATIONAL TV CHANNELS, NEW AMENDMENT SAYS

According to an article in "Vedomosti" on 6 June, the bill on media has been amended by the Duma Information Policy Committee prior to its upcoming second reading to specify that foreigners will be prevented from owning a controlling interest only in television companies that broadcast to more than half of Russia's regions. That ban, which reflects statements by President Putin, would thus apply only to ORT, RTR, NTV, TV-6 and TNT. PG

BEREZOVSKY SAYS ADVERTISING KEY TO FREE PRESS

In a letter published in "The Washington Post" on 6 June, embattled oligarch Boris Berezovsky said that "the main obstacle to a free press [in Russia] is that commercial advertising is too weak to pay for operating expenses of the media, particularly in the provinces. As a result, the press is squeezed between" the government and private owners. Berezovsky said that the cost of making the local press in Russian financially sustainable is "only about $30 million a year" and that he plans to help promote such aid to these media outlets. PG

'NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA' EDITOR QUITS

Vitalii Tretyakov has quit as editor in chief and general director of "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Russian agencies reported on 6 June. Tretyakov told Interfax that he did so at the request of Berezovsky, who owns the paper. Tretyakov said that Berezovsky wants to refocus the paper to attract a broader audience instead of the elite readers who now follow its reportage. Rumors circulated in Moscow on the same day that Tretyakov would be replaced by Tatyana Koshkareva, who earlier headed the information service at ORT, Interfax reported. PG

43.7 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS POSITIVE ABOUT UNITY-FATHERLAND MERGER

A poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 6 June showed that 43.7 percent of Russians have a positive attitude toward the idea of forming a union of Unity and Fatherland. Only 18.1 percent were against such a step. PG

UNITY FORMS 2003 PROBLEM STUDY GROUP

The Unity faction in the Duma has set up a special group to come up with proposals for preventing the combined economic, industrial, and other disasters widely predicted for the year 2003, "Parlamentskaya gazeta" reported on 6 June. PG

LIBERALS SEEN MOVING AWAY FROM YAVLINSKY TOWARD BEREZOVSKY

Writing in this week's "Literaturnaya gazeta," Sergei Markov, the director of the Moscow Institute of Strategic Political Research, argued that many of Russia's liberal reformers are drifting toward Berezovsky not because they like him, but because they find Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky unwilling to cooperate with them. VY

AGRARIANS MAY RESIGN FROM DUMA IF LAND CODE IS PASSED

Nikolai Kharitonov, the leader of the Central Council of the Agro-Industrial Union, said in Nizhnii Novgorod on 6 June that members of his faction may give up their mandates in the Duma if the parliament passes the government-backed variant of the land law. If the measure passes, Kharitonov said, then "in such a Duma, there will be nothing to do," and consequently we are "prepared to surrender our deputy mandates." The Agro-Industrial group opposes the buying and selling of land. PG

SKINHEADS SAID TO BE RESPONSE TO GOVERNMENT INDIFFERENCE

According to an article in "Izvestiya" on 6 June, skinheads are far more numerous than the more publicized National Bolsheviks and reflect "the strengthening of radical tendencies in society in response to the almost demonstrative indifference of the elites to the social problems and national feelings of the new generation." PG

COMMUNISTS TO STEP UP FIGHT AGAINST KASYANOV'S ECONOMIC POLICY

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov has called on party members to wage an all-out offensive against the government's economic reforms, the party's website www.kprf.ru reported on 6 June. Zyuganov said that the Kremlin has "so skillfully camouflaged" its "devastating liberal approach" that the "anti-people essence" of Premier Kasyanov's government is not obvious to everyone. VY

DUMA GIVES PRESIDENT POWER TO APPOINT REGIONAL POLICE CHIEFS...

By a vote of 235 to 54, the Duma passed on second reading a bill that will give the Russian president the power to appoint and remove police chiefs in the subjects of the federation, Interfax reported on 6 June. If the measure becomes law, Moscow and the Interior Ministry, rather than governments and republic presidents, will become the dominant voice in police work in the regions. PG

...BUT REFUSES TO SUPPORT LDPR RESOLUTION ON NMD

Only 84 Duma deputies (of the 226 required) voted in support of a resolution offered by Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov that calls on President Putin to review a variety of strategic arms accords with the United States if Washington introduces a national missile defense system, Interfax reported on 6 June. PG

COST OF JUDICIAL REFORM PUT AT $1.5 BILLION

Aleksandr Gusev, the general director of the judicial department of the Russian Federation Supreme Court, said in an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 6 June that the cost of the proposed judicial reforms will be 43.96 billion rubles ($1.5 billion) over the next five years. In other comments, he noted that the situation of many judges is not good: some 700 of them do not have housing. PG

FSB WANTS REVIVAL OF IN ABSENTIA TRIALS

Gennadii Solovev, the first deputy director of the Federal Security Service's department for the defense of constitutional order and combating terrorism, told Duma deputies investigating missing persons in Chechnya that Moscow should restore the practice of passing sentence on accused criminals in absentia, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 June. VY

RUSSIA CONCERNED ABOUT BORDER WITH KAZAKHSTAN

State Customs Committee officials on 6 June said that they are disturbed by conditions along the 7,000-kilometer Russia-Kazakhstan border, Interfax reported. The officials said that facilities for checking documents and imposing tariffs have not been developed sufficiently and that as a result many goods and people pass across the border unchecked. PG

FOREIGN MINISTRY, ORTHODOX CHURCH CONCERNED BY ESTONIA'S POSITION

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met with Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad and Metropolitan Kornilii of Tallinn and all Estonia, as well as with parliamentarians and diplomats, to consider how to respond to the refusal of the Estonian government to register the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, Interfax reported on 6 June. Tallinn has refused to do so unless the church changes its name and accepts the subordination of the church to the universal patriarch in Istanbul that existed in pre-1940 Estonia. PG

VDOVIN MEETS ARAFAT, PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR INDEPENDENT PALESTINE

Andrei Vdovin, Russia's ambassador at large for the Middle East, met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah on 6 June, ITAR-TASS reported. Many Palestinian officials with whom Vdovin was scheduled to meet could not come because of the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian Autonomy. Vdovin said that Moscow is ready to "play an active role" in the region and to work toward setting up "an independent Palestinian state," while guaranteeing Israel's security. PG

IRAQ INTERESTED IN BUYING RUSSIAN TANKS

ITAR-TASS reported on 6 June that an Iraqi delegation attending the military hardware show in Omsk indicated interest in purchasing T-80U and T-90S tanks. The Iraqis also said they would like to purchase Strela-10M antiaircraft missile systems. But they stressed that they cannot purchase either given the current UN sanctions against Baghdad. Meanwhile, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky proposed that Russian oil companies distribute some of their profits to Iraq because of Baghdad's decision to suspend oil exports, Interfax reported the same day. VY

MOSCOW TO HELP BUILD UP INDIAN MILITARY

Russian officials have agreed to sell India some $10 billion in weapons systems, including an aircraft carrier and the equipment for a modern national air defense system, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 6 June. Moreover, the two countries agreed to work together to develop a multifunctional military transport plane. VY

RUSSIA, JAPAN COOPERATE AT TWO LEVELS

Foreign Minister Ivanov spokes by telephone on 6 June with his Japanese counterpart Makiko Tanaka to discuss the state of play in negotiations toward a World War II peace treaty between Russia and Japan, Russian and Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, 60 representatives of the Japanese Federation of Economic Organizations (Keianren) met with officials of the Siberian Agreement interregional association in Irkutsk to consider trade and investment opportunities in that part of Russia, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. PG

GOVERNMENT SERIOUSLY UNDERFUNDS CHECHEN REBUILDING

During the first quarter of 2001, the Russian government provided only 11.3 million rubles ($350,000) for rebuilding in Chechnya, far less than the 4.5 billion rubles that the government had announced, Duma Budget and Tax Committee Chairman Ashot Yegizaryan said on 6 June, according to ITAR-TASS. PG

POWER, WATER SHUT OFF IN VARIOUS LOCATIONS

Electric power companies in various locations in Russia have shut off power and water as part of an effort to collect payment for earlier supplies, Russian agencies reported on 6 June. Officials in Yussuriisk in Primorskii Krai said that prisoners might riot if water is not restored to prisons there soon. Power was also turned off in 22 districts of Primorskii Krai by Dalenergo. Meanwhile, police intervened to get water distributed in Nakhodka, ITAR-TASS reported. And Arkhenergo refused to turn the power back on to the Plesetsk space-launch facility near Arkhangelsk until the government pays 74 million rubles ($2.4 million) for power it has already used, the news service said. PG

LACK OF MONEY STOPS OSTANKINO TOWER RECONSTRUCTION

Anvar Shamuzafarov, the president of Gosstroi, the state construction committee, told Interfax on 6 June that restoration of the Ostankino television tower that was damaged by fire last year has stopped because there is no money to pay for it. He said that Gosstroi had hoped for assistance from the government or a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development but that neither has been forthcoming. Meanwhile, a 200-meter radio mast collapsed in Angarsk near Irkutsk on 6 June, ITAR-TASS reported. That mast, which was constructed in 1938, beamed much of the radio broadcasts to Eastern Siberia. PG

OIL REVENUES CREATE UNEXPECTED ECONOMIC PROBLEMS

According to an analysis carried by AFP on 6 June, Moscow may not want to see oil prices rise despite its massive earnings from oil exports. That is because, the news services says, "the more dollars that flood into the country, the greater the demand for rubles," something that puts upward pressure on the national currency. To counter that trend, which adversely affects Russian industries, the Russian Central Bank is buying dollars, but to do that, "it is printing more rubles, thereby engendering inflation." PG

HEALTH MINISTER SAYS HEALTH CRISIS A 'MYTH'

Health Minister Yurii Shevchenko on 6 June said that reports of a health crisis in Russia are "a myth" invented by politicians and the media, Interfax reported. "There is no catastrophe," he said. He urged that the country consider changing the system of free medical care. But the same day, health officials said that the number of invalids has increased from 4 million to 10 million over the last eight years, that one in every five Russians now spends at least 15 days in the hospital every year, and that the country's population continues to decline, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

STEPASHIN SAYS REAL MIDDLE CLASS FORMED BY MANAGERS, MANUAL LABORERS

In an article published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 6 June, State Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin said that "the real middle class consists of office workers, small business owners, and workers earning at least 6,000 rubles [$200] a month, chiefly by physical labor." He said that it should include the educated classes but that many of the latter are too poorly paid to be considered part of the middle class at present. PG

FEW RUSSIANS CHANGE VIEWING HABITS AFTER NTV TAKEOVER

A poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 6 June shows that 63.7 percent of Russians said that the change in the leadership and staff at NTV has not had an impact on their viewing habits. Just under 10 percent said they now watch NTV somewhat less often, and only 4.3 percent said they will no longer watch NTV. PG

CRIME UP SINCE LAST YEAR

Interior Minister Gryzlov said on 6 June that the number of crimes registered by the authorities during the first five months of 2001 was 4.5 percent greater than the number registered during same period in 2000, ITAR-TASS reported. He said the police have also improved their campaign against economic crimes and also their record in solving all crimes reported. PG

EXTREMIST SECTS SAID OPERATING UNDER NGO COVER

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 6 June, many extremist religious groups are using nominally nonreligious names to cover their activities. Meanwhile, a letter published in "Argumenty i fakty," No. 23, calls for tolerance toward rather than the demonization of Baptists, Pentecostals, and charismatic churches. PG

INDEPENDENT UNIONS UNHAPPY WITH DRAFT LEGISLATION

Representatives of smaller unions from across the Russian Federation met in Moscow to agree on a strategy to seek changes in the government's draft labor code, Interfax reported on 6 June. Most of the smaller unions are angry because the legislation does not take into consideration the needs of smaller unions that may represent less than half of the workforce at a particular enterprise. PG

PRIMAKOV TAKES ON 'THE FAMILY' IN MEMOIRS

In portions of his memoirs published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" and "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 6 June, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov paints an unflattering portrait of then-President Boris Yeltsin's entourage, known as "the family," and blames this group for his own political ouster, "The Moscow Times" reported on 6 June. Primakov's book is to be published by early July in a print run of 10,000 copies, the paper said. PG

ROMMEL'S TANK FOUND IN RUSSIA

ITAR-TASS reported on 6 June that Russian researchers have located in Russia the World War II-era tank that belonged to German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. The T-111 tank reportedly is in excellent condition, the researchers said, with the yellow desert paint from its time in the Afrika Korps still intact. PG

MOSCOW TO DROP DUPLICATE STREET NAMES

According to a report in "Izvestiya" on 6 June, the city of Moscow is surveying street names, identifying duplicates -- there are two Komsomol streets, for example -- and planning to eliminate these duplications in order to make finding one's way in the Russian capital easier. PG

TATARSTAN IN LINE FOR OBSERVER STATUS IN OIC

The visiting International Islamic Culture Research Fund official Halit Iren said in Kazan on 6 June that Tatarstan could receive observer status in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 7 June. LF

THREE CHECHEN ADMINISTRATORS STEP DOWN FOLLOWING COLLEAGUE'S MURDER

The mayors of three towns close to Grozny submitted their resignations on 6 June following the murder the previous day of Lyoma Idrisov, the village administrator in Gekhi-Chu, Urus Martan Raion, Interfax reported. The three protested the lack of even minimal guarantees of their safety. Also on 6 June, unidentified gunmen forced their way into the home of Alkhan-Yurt administrator Zaur Dadashev and opened fire, wounding him and killing his son. LF




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL...

On the second day of an official visit to Belgium, Robert Kocharian met on 6 June with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson to discuss the Karabakh peace process and recent CIS security initiatives, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Belgian capital reported. Robertson said that NATO is keenly interested in stability in the South Caucasus even though it does not play a "lead role" in the search for a solution to the Karabakh conflict. He expressed the hope that Kocharian and Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev will succeed in finding a solution to the conflict that is acceptable both to their respective populations and to the international community. Robertson also said that at present NATO is not considering opening information centers in the South Caucasus states, according to Snark, as cited by Groong. LF

...AND WITH EC PRESIDENT

European Commission President Romano Prodi told reporters in Brussels on 6 June after meeting with Kocharian that he thinks the process of normalizing relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan should begin with economic cooperation, RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent reported. "It was always a European-style habit to use economic cooperation as the first stage of more intensive political cooperation," Prodi said. Azerbaijan's President Aliyev has repeatedly said that economic ties between Armenia and Azerbaijan are contingent on a political settlement of the Karabakh conflict. LF

ARMENIAN PRIVATIZATION MINISTER BARRED FROM INSPECTING PLANT

Angry employees of the Ararat cement factory, whose general director is former Prime Minister Aram Sargsian, forcibly prevented Privatization Minister Davit Vartanian and representatives of a Swiss company interested in buying the plant from entering the premises on 5 June, government officials told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau the following day. The plant is one of 14 large state-owned enterprises due to be privatized this year. Sargsian, who is not currently in Armenia, opposes the planned sell-off. No one was injured in the standoff, and Vartanian succeeded in inspecting the plant the following day. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR PARTLY PLANNED ECONOMY

Arshak Sadoyan, who last month formally quit the opposition National Democratic Union to found his own National Democratic Bloc (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2001), told journalists in Yerevan on 6 June that the state should play a more prominent role in controlling economic development because the economic programs implemented to date are unable to extricate the country from its protracted economic crisis, according to Snark, as cited by Groong. He said economic experts from his party are drafting a program that provides for the continued existence of a market economy, but provides for the state to retain a 51 percent stake in strategic facilities including the energy system. Sadoyan also criticized the refusal by the pro-government newspaper "Hayaastani Hanrapetutiun" to publish the main points of his party's economic program. LF

AZERBAIJANI AUTHORITIES CLOSE TWO INDEPENDENT TV STATIONS

Police and Communications Ministry officials on 6 June formally ordered the closure of the Gutb and Hayal TV companies, both based in the town of Guba north of Baku, Turan reported. The reason cited for the order was that neither company has official permission to broadcast, although both are formally registered with the Justice Ministry and have applied to the State Committee for TV and Radio to be allotted a frequency. LF

SOUTH OSSETIAN PREMIER RESIGNS

Merab Chigoev, prime minister of Georgia's breakaway Republic of South Ossetia, has submitted his resignation which President Lyudvig Chibirov has accepted, Caucasus Press reported on 6 June, quoting the Tbilisi-based daily "Rezonansi." Commentators in Tbilisi attribute the timing of that move, which came shortly after the resignation of the government of Georgia's unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001), to Russian pressure on the leaders of both unrecognized territories. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT CRITICIZES REFORM OF LEGAL SYSTEM...

Addressing the third national congress of judges in Astana on 6 June, President Nursultan Nazarbaev complained that the reform of the country's legal system has failed to meet its primary objective of convincing the population of the impartiality of justice, Interfax reported. Nazarbaev said the number of unfair verdicts handed down is too high and is increasing, that prominent criminals are enabled to avoid sentence, that court proceedings drag on far longer than necessary, and that such malpractice and red tape deter foreign investment in the country's economy. He hinted that the recently introduced practice of appointing judges for life may be revoked. LF

...CALLS FOR TOUGHER SENTENCES FOR DRUG-RELATED CRIMES

Describing the spread of drug addiction in Kazakhstan as "a disaster," Nazarbaev also criticized what he termed unduly lenient sentences handed down to persons found guilty of drug-related offenses, saying that they should be punished with "maximum severity," Interfax reported. He charged that in some cases the country's law-enforcement agencies are hindering the fight against drug-trafficking and abuse. LF

SLAVS IN NORTHERN KAZAKHSTAN COMPLAIN OF OFFICIAL REPRESSION

Representatives in Kazakhstan's northeastern Ust-Kamenogorsk Oblast of "Lad," the organization that aims to protect the interests of Kazakhstan's sizeable Slav minority, are being subjected to repeated official harassment and reprisals, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 6 June. LF

OSCE CHAIRMAN VISITS KAZAKHSTAN...

Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, the current OSCE chairman, met in Astana on 5 June with President Nazarbaev and other senior officials, and later that day in Almaty with representatives of both pro-government and opposition parties, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. In Almaty, Geoana announced, and expressed his approval of, the Kazakh government's decision to abolish as of 1 July the exit visa requirement for citizens of Kazakhstan wishing to travel to foreign states outside the CIS. Geoana expressed the hope that democratic and economic reforms in Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states will continue, and said the OSCE is particularly concerned lest the security situation in the region deteriorate. "We must do all we can to prevent Central Asia turning into a second Balkans" he said. LF

...AND KYRGYZSTAN

Geoana traveled from Almaty to Bishkek where he held closed-door talks on 6 June with President Askar Akaev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He also met with Foreign Minister Muratbek ImanAliyev and the speakers of both parliament chambers, telling the latter that there can be no true democracy in Kyrgyzstan without a strong opposition and an independent judiciary. Geoana also met with representatives of political parties and NGOs. He told journalists after those meetings that he advised the Kyrgyz leadership that in order to improve the country's tarnished democratic image, the legislature should adopt new laws on the ombudsman, the media, religious freedom, and the status of refugees. LF

BOTH KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT CHAMBERS REJECT DRAFT LAW ON ENERGY PRIVATIZATION

The People's Assembly (the upper chamber of parliament) on 6 June ruled against the planned privatization of hydroelectric power stations and power lines, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They argued that privatization would lead to a huge increase in electricity prices. Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev signed a decree last week on the sale of 6.28 percent of the shares in the energy giant Kyrgyzenergo; the state is to retain the remaining 93.72 percent stake. On 1 June, the Legislative Assembly (the lower parliament chamber) rejected the draft law on privatization of the energy sector, and on 4 June, government representatives walked out of a meeting of the joint parliament-government commission established by President Akaev in 1999 to plan and implement the privatization of Kyrgyzenergo. LF

TAJIK RAILWAY OFFICIALS SEEK TO RESOLVE DISPUTE WITH KAZAKHSTAN

Senior Tajik railway officials traveled to Astana on 6 June in an attempt to clarify the reasons for the Kazakh government's decision to suspend rail transit from Tajikistan via Kazakhstan to the Russian Federation as of 10 June, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The Russian Communications Ministry has expressed concern at the imminent disruption of that service, which Astana says is due to Tajikistan's unpaid debts. Kazakhstan suspended rail transit from Tajikistan last year because of unpaid debts, unsanitary conditions on Tajik trains, and the number of passengers traveling without valid tickets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October and 16 November 2000). LF

UZBEK ISLAMIST DENIES PLANS FOR REGIONAL HEGEMONY

In an interview with RFE/RL's Uzbek Service on 2 June, Zubair ibn Abdulrahim, a leading member of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), denied recent reports in the Russian, Kazakh, and Pakistani media that the organizations has changed its name to the Islamic Movement of Turkestan. Nor, he said, does the IMU aim to establish an Islamic state extending from western China to the Caspian Sea as those media reports claimed. He said that as before, the IMU's main adversary is the Uzbek regime of President Islam Karimov, and that the movement "has no problems" with neighboring countries. LF




WORLD BANK APPROVES $22.6 MILLION LOAN TO BELARUS

The World Bank on 5 June approved a $22.6 million loan to Belarus to finance the upgrading of heating systems, thermal insulation, and lighting in more than 450 schools, hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the elderly and the disabled, Belapan reported. "The objective is to make the environment of these people more comfortable, with facilities that keep their inhabitants warm in the winter and provide better lighting, while saving energy," Eric Peterson from the World Bank commented. This is the bank's first loan to Belarus since 1994, when President Alyaksandr Lukashenka blocked reforms in such areas as agriculture, privatization, trade, and banking. In 1997, the bank signed a memorandum with Belarus, making its further loans dependent on the liberalization of the Belarusian ruble exchange rate. Belarus liberalized the exchange rate of its currency last fall. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS TO TAKE PLACE ON 9 SEPTEMBER

The Chamber of Representatives on 7 June voted 74 to 12 to set the date for presidential elections for 9 September, Belapan reported. A runoff is to be held two weeks later if no candidate obtains more than 50 percent of the vote. Belapan reported that legislator Viktar Ananyeu told the legislature before the voting that holding presidential elections in Belarus means "wasting money and time." Ananyeu suggested to hold a referendum in order to prolong President Lukashenka's term for another seven years at a minimum. JM

GUUAM COUNTRIES HOLD SUMMIT IN YALTA

The presidents of the five-country alliance known as GUUAM -- Georgia's Eduard Shevardnadze, Ukraine's Leonid Kuchma, Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, Azerbaijan's Heidar Aliev, and Moldova's Vladimir Voronin -- gathered for GUUAM's summit in Yalta, Crimea, on 7 June, Interfax reported. Opening the summit, Kuchma said GUUAM "does not pose a threat to anybody's interests" and seeks "to promote the creation of a zone of stability and prosperity" on the territory of its member states. Kuchma stressed the need to create a free-trade zone within GUUAM. According to the Ukrainian president, GUUAM's "main tying idea [as well as] historical destination" is to take advantage to the maximum possible extent of international transport and communication routes traversing its member countries. Kuchma also voiced the need to change the name of the alliance, saying that he "is always somewhat embarrassed" by its current name. JM

GUUAM TO EXPAND?

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko does not rule out that GUUAM may be joined by other countries, Interfax reported on 6 June. According to Zlenko, interest in GUUAM has been shown by "some countries in Eurasia [and] Latin America, the U.S. [sic], and those on the territory of the former Soviet Union." Zlenko added that if GUUAM expands, its name may be changed. "GUUAM is an alliance that is not directed against somebody. It signifies the intention of nations that cannot resolve questions within the CIS to seek another framework for solving primarily economic issues," Zlenko added. JM

U.S. PRESIDENT CONGRATULATES NEW UKRAINIAN PREMIER

Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh on 5 June met with U.S. Ambassador to Kyiv Carlos Pascual, who passed on a congratulatory letter from U.S. President George W. Bush pledging to support Ukraine's market reform efforts, AP reported. Pascual said Bush voiced hope in this letter that reforms will turn Ukraine into a flourishing country. Kinakh, in turn, assured Pascual that his government "has no doubts about the necessity to deepen market and democratic reforms." At the first meeting of his cabinet, Kinakh said cooperation with parliament; structural changes in the economy; creating an attractive investment climate and proper legal environment; and freedom of speech will be among the new government's priorities, Interfax reported. JM

'UKRAINE WITHOUT KUCHMA' GROUP READY TO TALK WITH AUTHORITIES

The "Ukraine Without Kuchma" civic committee believes it is "possible and expedient" to hold an "open public dialogue" between the opposition and the authorities, Interfax reported on 6 June. The statement was made by Volodymyr Chemerys, a leader of the committee, during his meeting the same day with Viktor Musiyaka, director of the parliamentary Institute of Legislation. Musiyaka, who was authorized by the president to seek contacts with the opposition, said he also wants to meet with two other opposition groups, the For the Truth movement and the National Salvation Forum. JM

ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS WASHINGTON

Toomas Hendrik Ilves concluded a three-day working visit to Washington on 6 June with a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell primarily focusing on NATO enlargement, ETA reported. On 4 June, Ilves held talks with U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and advisers to Vice President Dick Cheney, who assured the Estonian foreign minister that NATO enlargement will continue without any historical or geographical limitations. He also held meetings with Democratic and Republican congressmen as well as with Republican Senator John McCain, all of whom expressed support for NATO membership of the three Baltic states. Ilves also delivered a report at the Washington Center of International and Strategic Studies, stressing that the admission of the Baltic states to NATO will increase stability in the region. He told the Estonian newspaper "Postimees" that the Baltic states have made remarkable progress in the U.S. on NATO membership since last year. "Nobody asks any more whether the Baltic states should be invited to NATO," Ilves said. "The question now is, how many Baltic countries should be invited next year -- just one, or all the three of them?" SG

SENTENCED NATIONAL BOLSHEVIKS TO BE DEPORTED FROM LATVIA

The Rezekne Court on 6 June sentenced four Russian National Bolsheviks who entered Latvia illegally by jumping from the St. Petersburg-Kaliningrad train last November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 2000) to seven-months imprisonment, LETA reported. The Russians, who were arrested in the Daugavpils district, pleaded guilty to the crime. According to the law, persons who enter Latvia illegally can be sentenced to prison terms of six months to three years, or be deported from the country. The prosecutor asked for a sentence of 14-months imprisonment, but the judge, taking their detention since November into consideration, ruled that the four should be deported back to Russia. SG

LITHUANIA, BELGIUM SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION TREATY

Lithuanian and Belgian defense ministers Linas Linkevicius and Andre Flahaut signed a bilateral military cooperation agreement in Brussels on 6 June, BNS reported. Under the agreement, both countries pledged to expand activities in the NATO Partnership for Peace program; to hold meetings of experts; and to hold joint training, military peacekeeping, and humanitarian operation exercises. Lithuania has so far signed military cooperation treaties with 19 states, of which 13 are NATO members. Linkevicius is scheduled to attend and speak at the meetings of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in Brussels on 7-8 June and then fly to Turku, Finland, for a meeting of defense ministers from the five Nordic countries, the three Baltic states, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. SG

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER PRESENTS POLICY STATEMENT TO PARLIAMENT...

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski addressed the Sejm on 6 June with a report on the objectives of Poland's foreign policy, PAP reported. Bartoszewski said Poland's progress in negotiations on EU membership is dependent on the government's ability to make difficult political decisions and to remain credible "for both our partners in the EU and Polish public opinion." Bartoszewski added that Poland is for "a strong and efficient European Commission and a European Parliament equipped with proper prerogatives." Bartoszewski said Poland supports the accession of Slovakia and the Baltic states into NATO. Bartoszewski also said the U.S. is among Poland's "most important partners," adding that Warsaw is "consistently" in favor of "an active political and military" presence of the U.S. in Europe. JM

...WHILE CHIEF NEGOTIATOR REPORTS ON EU ACCESSION TALKS

Poland's chief EU negotiator Jan Kulakowski told the Sejm the same day that Poland expects the European Union to produce a firm accession timetable at the upcoming summit in Goeteborg, PAP reported. Kulakowski reiterated Poland's readiness for membership in 2003, but stressed that an enlargement date largely depends on the EU's actual readiness for accepting new members. Kulakowski said Poland should not try to improve "the negotiation statistics" at any price because, he argued, it is not the number of closed negotiation chapters that decides on chances for speedy EU accession. Kulakowski told the parliament that the "quality" of Poland's EU membership requires the struggle for Polish postulates even if the price for staunch negotiations results in a smaller number of closed negotiation chapters. JM

SVOBODA SAYS CZECH CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROPOSAL 'NOT FOR HAVEL'

Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) leader Cyril Svoboda denied on 6 June that a constitutional amendment about to be submitted to the parliament by the Four Party Coalition is aimed at enabling President Vaclav Havel to run for a third term, CTK reported. Svoboda said the amendment does not envisage changing the current constitutional provision that limits presidential terms to two. He said the envisaged amendment is now "being fine-tuned" and will be submitted to the parliament soon, and that he hopes it will be backed by a large number of deputies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2001). MS

CZECH PRESIDENT VETOES LEGISLATION ON RADIO, TV LICENSING

On 6 June, President Havel vetoed a law recently passed by the parliament on the registration and the prolongation of radio and television license broadcasts, saying the law is "unfair," CTK reported. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek said the bill is formulated to make it nearly impossible for those wishing to enter the broadcasting market to do so, thus putting existing broadcasters at an advantage. Spacek also said provisions in the bill setting a fee of 200 million crowns (nearly $5 million) for the extension of existing licenses to 12 years are far too high and hinders fair competition, considering that the fee for registration is only 50,000 crowns. MS

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ 'INEFFECTIVE'

Jan Kavan said in Damascus on 6 June at the end of his two-day visit to Syria that he is "personally convinced that sanctions are not effective and do not attain their objective," CTK reported. He said this applies to the UN-imposed sanctions against Iraq, as well as to those once imposed on Yugoslavia and to the U.S. sanctions against Cuba. More and more politicians, Kavan said, are now searching for alternatives that "do not harm ordinary people," but dictators. Kavan said the former Czechoslovakia had good relations in the past with Iraq and the sanctions against that country "harm Czech trade and entrepreneurs." MS

CENTRAL EUROPEAN COUNTRIES AGREE TO 'REGIONAL PARTNERSHIP'

Meeting in Vienna on 6 June, representatives of Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia agreed to establish a "regional partnership" but said there is "no need to set up new institutions" for that purpose, CTK reported. The meeting was attended by the five foreign ministers and a Polish deputy foreign minister, who discussed an Austrian proposal to set up what was originally to be called a "strategic partnership." That name was changed to avoid, as Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner put it, suspicions that the partnership is aimed at institutionalizing the "hegemony" of any one country, reflects "false nostalgia," or intends to "set up a new bloc." Participants also discussed EU enlargement and cooperation in the areas of culture, transportation, and infrastructure. MS

BSE CASE SUSPECTED IN CZECH REPUBLIC

A Czech Agriculture Ministry spokesman told Reuters on 6 June that the first suspected case of BSE (mad cow disease) has been registered in the Jihlava region in the Czech Republic. He said the results of the tests have been sent to Germany for confirmation. A spokeswoman for EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner David Byrne said the EU will not comment until the results of the tests are known. In early April, the European Commission listed the Czech Republic in the category of countries with a "likely BSE risk." In neighboring Slovakia, Agriculture Minister Pavel Koncos said that if the suspected case of BSE is confirmed, his country will have to impose a ban on beef and beef products from the Czech Republic. MS

JEWISH CEMETERY DESECRATED IN CZECH REPUBLIC

Unidentified vandals defaced an abandoned Jewish cemetery in Nyrsko, west Bohemia, covering tombstones with swastikas and other Nazi symbols, CTK reported on 6 June, citing Czech Television. It is not known when the vandalism took place, as it was accidentally discovered by an Israeli tourist searching for her ancestor's tombs. Police have opened an investigation. MS

SLOVAK OFFICIAL FEARS FORMER COMMUNIST SECRET SERVICE AGENTS EMPLOYED IN SENSITIVE POSITIONS...

Vladimir Palko, chairman of the Slovak parliament's Defense and Security Committee, said on 6 June that he fears that former Czechoslovak Communist Secret Service (StB) agents may still be employed in the current Slovak Information Service or in the National Security Office, CTK reported. Palko said that unlike in the Czech Republic, lustration laws have not applied in Slovakia "practically since 1993," when the former Czech-Slovak Federation was disbanded, and were officially repealed in 1996. Palko said that if such agents are employed in these sensitive offices, it is "unfortunately, legal." He noted that the recent Czech controversy on the issuance of false screening certificates in 1991 and 1992 "has not provoked a similar outcry in Slovakia." MS

...WHILE FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER DENIES RESPONSIBILITY

Also on 6 June, Deputy Jan Langos, the Czechoslovak interior minister at the time the certificates were issued, said he feels "no personal responsibility" in the affair, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported. Langos told the daily that the Interior Ministry could not check the information about those who received the certificates because "it came on diskettes from the Defense Ministry" and "former [Communist] Defense Minster Lubos Dobrovsky did not allow us access to his records," CTK reported. MS

SLOVAKIA'S HZDS LOBBING IN WASHINGTON FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP

As Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda began a visit to Washington on 7 June, the main opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) announced in Bratislava that it has recently started lobbying in the U.S. Congress for Slovakia's admission to NATO, CTK reported. HZDS spokeswoman Zaneta Pittnerova said that HZDS envoy Julia Ondrejcekova-Sellers will hand a letter from party leader Vladimir Meciar to members of Congress. "The mission's goal is to emphasize that the HZDS is a guarantor of the continuation by Slovakia of its NATO accession process and of its political stability after the 2002 general elections," Pittnerova said. MS

SLOVAKIA REITERATES CONCERN OVER HUNGARIAN 'STATUS BILL'

Hungarian Ambassador to Bratislava Miklos Boros was told by Foreign Ministry officials on 6 June that Slovakia remains "concerned" over the implications of the "Status Bill" currently under debate in the Hungarian parliament, CTK reported. The officials told Boros that Slovakia "does not intend to dramatize the situation" and will communicate its concerns "through usual diplomatic channels" rather than turn them into a media campaign. The officials said a Slovak "expert analysis" of the bill will be sent through those channels to Budapest. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER CRITICIZES IMF REPORT

Viktor Orban, in an interview with Hungarian national television on 6 June, dismissed a recent IMF report on Hungary warning that the country's loose fiscal policy could add to inflationary pressure and that the breadth of increases in minimum wages is likely to spur rising wage demands, dpa reported. "Hungary is a sovereign country [and] the Hungarian economy is strong enough [for us to consider] the IMF report as one of many opinions worth taking into consideration," Orban said. He added that if need be, his country "can obtain credits from a diverse range of financial institutions, and this by going directly to the international money markets." MS

HUNGARIAN MAVERICK POLITICIAN FEARS ASSASSINATION

Hungarian Smallholders' Party Chairman (FKGP) Jozsef Torgyan told journalists on 6 June that "underworld figures" linked to a party whose name he did not mention are out to assassinate him, Hungarian media reported. Torgyan designated FKGP General-Secretary Geza Gyimothy as his successor in the event that the alleged plan to liquidate him succeeds. Police said they are unaware of any threat to Torgyan's life but "will take precautionary measures for his protection if the information is confirmed." MS




MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT PLEDGES 'STATE OF WAR' IN RESPONSE TO UCK

A Macedonian government spokesman told a news conference in Skopje on 6 June that the government will not tolerate continued attacks by the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) against its soldiers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2001, and "End Note," below). He said: "It's clear that the attacks by Albanian terrorists constitute aggression against the Republic of Macedonia. It is clear that the fighting is continuing. But the question is whether the Republic of Macedonia expects to defend itself from these attacks which threaten the lives of our soldiers," RFE/RL reported. He argued that "the terrorists are still coming from Kosovo and are regrouping." The spokesman added that Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski will soon "officially introduce a state of war and mobilization...because it is not possible to respond otherwise to the threats against Macedonia's security and sovereignty," AP reported. "The Independent" wrote, however, that it is not clear whether Georgievski can muster the two-thirds vote in the parliament necessary to pass the measure. PM

U.S., EU CRITICIZE MACEDONIAN 'WAR' PROPOSAL

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington on 6 June that the Bush administration does not see how introducing a state of war -- which would allow the government to call up young men across the country -- would facilitate achieving a political solution to the crisis. "We reiterate the importance of the measured response that the government has taken, showing maximum concern for the safety of civilians and pressing forth with this dialogue," Reuters reported. EU security chief Javier Solana said in Brussels that a declaration of war "would be playing into the hands of extremists," AP reported. In Berlin the next day, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said that "an escalation of violence and the deepening of mistrust between the groups must be absolutely avoided." PM

MACEDONIAN REBELS SEE NO CHANGE

UCK spokesman Musa Xhaferri said in Brussels on 7 June that "de facto we have a state of war already," AP reported. He added that "we have the right to defend ourselves against such actions." He noted, however, that he doubts that Georgievski's proposal will pass parliament once the international community makes its objections known. Xhaferri called for internationally mediated, "meaningful talks [aimed at reaching] a peaceful solution," including constitutional changes. He stressed that the UCK does not want to declare independence or change borders. PM

ATTACK ON MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT

Unidentified gunmen fired two shots at President Boris Trajkovski's office in Skopje in the evening of 6 June, AP reported. They hit but did not penetrate the bulletproof windows. No one was injured. PM

ALBANIAN-OWNED SHOPS IN MACEDONIAN TOWN ATTACKED

In the early evening hours of 6 June, a group of ethnic Macedonian rioters defied a curfew and set over 50 Albanian-owned shops alight in the southern Macedonian city of Bitola, MIA and dpa reported. It was the second such incident in recent weeks (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 June 2001). The rioters also torched the house of Macedonian Deputy Health Minister Muharem Nexhipi, which they had spared in the previous rampage. Police said about 100 houses were damaged and a mosque was set on fire in violence that went on into the morning of the next day, AP reported. Reuters quoted one young ethnic Albanian as saying that "the police were in the street, but they did nothing." A local policeman told the news agency that there were too many attackers for them to respond. UB/PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS MILOSEVIC WILL GO TO HAGUE WITH OR WITHOUT NEW LAW

Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 6 June that attempts by sympathizers of former President Slobodan Milosevic in the Socialist People's Party (SNP) to hold up legislation providing for extraditing Yugoslav citizens are simply hastening the date that he will be sent to The Hague, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 June 2001). Djindjic argued that "if there is no law, it is highly likely that Milosevic will be extradited. I do not know under what circumstances this could happen, I do not know how, [but it's either that] or we face total isolation." Djindjic added that "SNP policy will lead us to a point when the rest of the world will say either you give us Milosevic right away or we cut all relations right away. In 10 to 15 days this might happen... Without this law all the countries are losing patience and saying, 'You're not serious. Give us proof of your seriousness.'" The SNP is seeking talks with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica aimed at reaching "a joint solution" to end the impasse. PM

PETRITSCH REAFFIRMS REPUBLIKA SRPSKA'S RIGHT TO TIES TO BELGRADE

High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch said in a statement in Sarajevo on 6 June that that the March agreement he helped negotiate between Banja Luka and Belgrade "does not constitute a threat to the vital interests of any of the constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina." Some Muslim and Croat leaders had complained about the pact. The Dayton agreement provides for special links between the Republika Srpska and Yugoslavia on the one hand and between the federation and Croatia on the other. Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan recently said that time has come to end such provisions, which only serve to underscore the divisions within Bosnia. PM

CROATIAN AUTHORITIES INDICT BOSNIAN KINGPIN

The authorities in Rijeka have issued a indictment for war crimes against Fikret Abdic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 6 June. He is charged with atrocities against civilians and prisoners of war. The indictment was issued on the legal basis of an agreement between Zagreb and Sarajevo, which has withdrawn its earlier request for his indictment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 2001). PM

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY CHAIRMAN IN BUCHAREST

European Parliament Deputy Chairman Guido Podesta told journalists on 6 June after meetings with Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and President Ion Iliescu that the draft report on Romania proposed by the parliament's rapporteur, Baroness Emma Nicholson, "may undergo some modifications" before it is submitted to the parliament's plenum. Podesta said the plenum will debate the report in September, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001). Podesta said that aside from the problem of abandoned children, Romania faces "other complex problems" that must also be reflected in the report. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN STATE PROPERTY FUND CHIEF UNDER INVESTIGATION

Police opened an investigation on 6 June into alleged frauds committed by former State Privatization Fund Chairman Radu Sarbu and summoned him for hearings, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. No decision has yet been made on whether to launch criminal procedures against Sarbu. MS

ROMANIAN SHIPYARD MANAGERIAL STAFF UNDER 'PREVENTIVE DETENTION'

Three managerial staff members at the Constanta shipyards were placed under "preventive detention" on 7 June under suspicion that they ordered subordinates to weld the hull of the Maltese tanker "Adrianopolis" even though they were aware that routine safety measures were not being respected, Mediafax reported. More detentions are not being ruled out. A 5 June explosion on board the tanker left 10 people dead (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2001). Some 500 angry workers protested on 6 June against the shipyard's management, blaming it for the deaths. MS

ULTRANATIONALIST CLUJ MAYOR DEMANDS DISMISSAL OF PREFECT

In an open letter to Premier Nastase, Cluj extreme nationalist Mayor Gheorghe Funar on 6 June demanded that Nastase fire Cluj County Prefect Vasile Soporan for the alleged infringement of the recent Local Public Administration Law, Romanian media reported. Funar also announced he has launched criminal procedures against Soporan, who refuses to abide by the mayor's demand to disband the local council and hold new elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2001). MS

STRASBOURG COURT HOLDS PRELIMINARY HEARING ON 'ILASCU GROUP' COMPLAINT...

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on 6 June held a preliminary hearing on the complaint against Moldova and the Russian Federation launched by the families of Ilie Ilascu and the three members of his group still detained in Tiraspol, Moldovan and international media reported. Ilascu, who was liberated in early May, attended the hearing and addressed the court. The plaintiffs said their human rights were violated in being convicted by a court that had no jurisdiction and in "unfair proceedings." They also say their detention breached their rights to liberty and personal security, that Ilascu's death sentence violated the right to life, and that the prison conditions violated the prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment and the right to private and family life. MS

...AS MOLDOVA, RUSSIA DENY RESPONSIBILITY FOR GROUP'S DETENTION

The plaintiffs said the Moldovan authorities are responsible for any violations because they did nothing to prevent their continuation and that Russia also shares responsibility, as it is the power that de facto controls the Transdniester territory, Moldovan and international media reported. The lawyer representing Chisinau told the judges that Moldova cannot be held responsible because it does not control the territory under the separatists' control. Layers representing the Russian Federation dismissed as "lies" the plaintiff's claim that Russian forces control the Transdniester or that they participated in the conflict at its outbreak. Ilascu and lawyers representing those still detained described in detail their treatment in prison, The court is now to deliberate and rule whether the case is admissible. MS

MYSTERIOUS WEAPONS-LOADED PLANE ALLOWED TO LEAVE BULGARIA

The Ukrainian plane detained since April at Burgas airport in Bulgaria (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001) was allowed to take off on 6 June, after a Bulgarian prosecutor ruled that "no evidence of crime has been established," CTK and AP reported. The plane, which was carrying Czech-made weapons, was detained under suspicion that its destination was Eritrea rather than Georgia as the cargo papers indicated. Eritrea had been under a UN arms embargo, which was lifted on 15 May. The plane landed in western Georgia the same day with a consignment of six howitzers and spare parts, Caucasus Press reported. MS




RENEWED MACEDONIA VIOLENCE PROVOKES CALL FOR STATE OF WAR


By Jolyon Naegele

For the second time in a month, Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski is calling for a state of war, this time in response to the killings of five Macedonian servicemen in a firefight during the night of 5-6 June with the ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK). Seven servicemen were also injured in the battle, which took place in the Sar Planina region above Tetovo.

Georgievski's spokesman, Antonio Milososki, told reporters in Skopje on 6 June that a strong military response is the only way to achieve peace.

"It's clear that the attacks by Albanian terrorists constitute aggression against the Republic of Macedonia. It is clear that the fighting is continuing. But the question is whether the Republic of Macedonia expects to defend itself from these attacks, which threaten the lives of our soldiers," Milososki said.

He added that if parliament were to muster the minimum two-thirds majority vote required and declare a state of war, the military could call up all able-bodied men to fight. He called on both Albanian parties in the government to state which side they are on.

Macedonian politicians called for a state of war in early May after a rebel attack killed eight members of the security forces on April 28. However, EU and NATO leaders persuaded Macedonian leaders to drop the idea on the grounds that it would only escalate the conflict and further alienate the Albanian community living in Macedonia.

The violence on the night of 5-6 June in the Sar Planina region between the villages of Gajre and Sipkovica resulted in five deaths and seven injuries. It was the heaviest casualty toll suffered by the security forces since the April 28 attack.

Milososki said this week's killings began with a UCK attack between Gajre and Sipkovica on a vehicle bringing food to security forces. One Macedonian soldier was killed and three injured in that incident. The insurgents then attacked an ambulance under military escort that was on its way to rescue those injured in the first attack, and killed four more soldiers.

One of the dead soldiers was an ethnic Albanian army sergeant and another was a Macedonian from the southeastern town of Strumica. But the other three dead are reported to have been ethnic Macedonian reservists from the city of Bitola, the hometown of four policemen who were killed in late April. The funerals of those policemen unleashed two waves of anti-Albanian violence on 1 May in which gangs of Macedonians torched over 50 Albanian-owned shops, cafes, and kiosks.

Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski on 5 June called for speedy action to end the insurgency. In his words, "we must act to find a solution because they (the rebels) don't understand the language of dialogue."

And in an interview with RFE/RL, Defense Ministry spokesman Gjeorgji Trendafilov said Macedonia has no choice but to arm itself as fast as possible.

"We are confronted with attempted aggression, attempted occupation of a part of Macedonia's territory. We have to defend our country and ourselves," Trendafilov said. "We have an alien military force on our territory that has to be destroyed efficiently in any way."

Asked to comment on news reports that Macedonia is purchasing 12 Russian and U.S. combat helicopters and four Su-25 fighter jets, Trendafilov said he would only announce details once the aircraft are delivered to Macedonia.

Macedonian forces, after two weeks of fighting in late March, retook Gajre, Sipkovica, and some eight other villages and hamlets west and north of Tetovo. But rather than establishing itself in each of the communities, all of which are ethnically Albanian and most of which have been heavily depopulated since the fighting, the army based itself at a ski resort on Mount Popova Sapka and sent patrols into the areas.

Most UCK fighters are believed to have left the Sar Planina region by late March and moved east to the (Skopska Crna Gora/Karadak) hills west of Kumanovo, where fighting erupted in early May. Nevertheless, a few UCK guerillas have remained in the Sar Planina region and the mayor of Sipkovica recently told RFE/RL that hardly a day has gone by without the sound of gunfire or mortar shells.

Virtually all the residents of several of the most remote mountain villages, such as Vejce and Brodec, fled to Kosova in March. Residents of larger villages closer to Tetovo have been blocked by security forces for more than a month from traveling to schools, jobs, and shops in Tetovo.

There was also heavy fighting in the night of 5-6 June northeast of Skopje in Lipkovo district near Kumanovo, mainly around the villages of Matejce, Otja, Slupcane, and Orizare, where clashes erupted on 3 May and have continued almost daily ever since.

Macedonian news media said on 6 June that the city of Kumanovo has run out of drinking water because the rebels have allegedly damaged the supply lines from the hills to the west.

Jolyon Naegele is a senior RFE/RL correspondent.


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