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Newsline - June 11, 2001




RUSSIAN PRESIDENT MAY SET UP SPECIAL STAFF ON NATIONALITY QUESTIONS

While in Ufa on 10 June, Russian President Vladimir Putin faced serious criticism from Bashkir and Tatar officials concerning his approach to ethnic issues and federalism, Interfax reported. Bashkortostan's President Murtaza Rakhimov and Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev pressed him to appoint a special adviser on nationality questions and to speak out on these issues, Interfax reported. Putin agreed that "it is difficult to resolve these questions in the cabinet" and that "perhaps it is necessary to create some sort of organ in the presidential structures which could deal with questions of interethnic policy." PG

PUTIN'S DOCTOR SAYS PRESIDENT IN TOP SHAPE

In an interview published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 8 June, Sergei Mironov, the head of the Kremlin medical service, said "Vladimir Putin is an absolutely healthy man for his age." He said Putin exercises regularly, does not drink, and relaxes with traditional cures for stress -- "steam bath, tea with honey, salves and massage." Mironov's only complaint with his chief patient is Putin's unwillingness to take medicines. He "has a skeptical, I would even say critical attitude toward taking any medicines." Meanwhile, Putin himself told medical workers on 8 June that he is against the baseless reduction of free medical services, Interfax reported on the following day. PG

PUTIN APPROVES MILITARY-TECHNICAL COOPERATION PLAN

President Putin on 9 June chaired a session of security officials in the Kremlin at which he approved a new draft concept for military cooperation with foreign countries over the next nine years, RIA-Novosti reported. Putin said that such cooperation is an integral part of Russian foreign policy. The meeting also adopted a special concept on relations with Russia's partners in the Eurasian Economic Community. VY

ROSNEFT HEAD RUMORED TO BE NEW ENERGY MINISTER

According to "Vremya MN" on 8 June, Putin has already decided to name Rosneft President Sergei Bogdanchikov as the new energy minister. That post has been vacant for four months. PG

UNITY GAINS A DEPUTY

Vladimir Bryntsalov became the 83rd member of the Unity faction in the Duma on 8 June, Interfax reported. He was previously the deputy head of the People's Deputy group. Only the Communist Party (KPRF), with 85 deputies, has a larger contingent in the lower house of parliament. PG

YAVLINSKY SAYS YABLOKO WILL NOT UNITE WITH SPS

Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky said on 9 June that his group does not intend to unite with the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), Interfax-Northwest reported. He said the two groups will continue to cooperate in the areas where they do agree but noted that differences on key issues, such as the war in Chechnya, make unification impossible. PG

YABLOKO TO SEEK NUCLEAR WASTE REFERENDUM...

The leadership of Yabloko on 10 June decided to initiate a national referendum on the permissibility of importing nuclear wastes into Russia for permanent storage, Interfax-Northwest reported. Yabloko leader Yavlinsky has already called for such a referendum, noting that the Duma approved allowing such imports even though polls show that 90 percent of Russians oppose doing so. PG

...AS MOSCOW HOPES U.S. WILL ALLOW NUCLEAR WASTE IMPORTS TO RUSSIA

Foreign Minister spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 9 June that Moscow hopes the United States will allow Russia to import nuclear wastes for permanent storage, Interfax reported. Under existing international rules, the U.S. must approve any transfer of nuclear materials it has produced, a point U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher reiterated on 8 June, Western agencies reported. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY AGAINST UNFUNDED MANDATES

Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said on 8 June that he believes laws that are not given the funding needed for their implementation should be suspended, Interfax reported. PG

DEPUTIES KEPT OUT OF CABINET BUDGET SESSION

Russian government officials decided not to allow a group of deputies to participate in the cabinet meeting at which the budget was discussed, "Izvestiya" reported on 8 June. A Duma staff official said "the cabinet did not want to listen to criticism from members of parliament" even though it had earlier agreed to the presence of deputies at this meeting. PG

TWO NEW MEMBERS OF FEDERATION COUNCIL

The Chuvash State Council on 9 June selected Yamalstroi head Vyacheslav Borovik to be that republic's representative in the Federation Council, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Meanwhile, Leonid Roketskii, the former governor of Tyumen Oblast, was named the representative of the Taimyr district in the upper house of the federal legislature, the news service said. PG

FEARS ABOUT ANOTHER AFGHANISTAN IN CENTRAL ASIA

Writing in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 June, political analyst Aleksandr Umnov said Russia's involvement in collective security activities with the Central Asian countries could ultimately draw Russia into "another Afghanistan," with fateful consequences for Russia itself. Umnov called on Moscow to push the Central Asian states to build up their own military and security services. PG

MOSCOW WELCOMES KHATAMI'S RE-ELECTION

Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov told Interfax on 9 June that the re-election of Mohammad Khatami as president of Iran is "good news for Russia." PG

RUSSIANS MAY QUALIFY FOR VISA-FREE TRAVEL TO U.S.

Laura Clerici, the U.S. consul general in Moscow, told Interfax on 8 June that under certain conditions, Russian citizens can qualify for visa-free travel to the United States. At the same time, Clerici said, the American "exception program" is something that relatively few Russians are likely to qualify for at present because the pattern of overall Russian applications for visas does not put Russia in the category of the 29 countries that are currently in the "exception" program. PG

EU CONCERNED BY RECONCENTRATION OF RUSSIAN INDUSTRIES

Director-General for Competition at the EC-Commission Alexander Schaub said on 8 June that the EU is concerned by the trend in Russia toward recombining enterprises into ever larger holdings, Reuters reported. Such a trend, Schaub said, puts at risk past moves to promote competition. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY SAYS BLAIR THE GORBACHEV OF BRITAIN

Reacting to the victory of the Labour Party in Britain, LDPR leader Zhirinovsky said on 8 June that the English "50 years from now" will view Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair just as negatively as Russians now view former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Interfax reported. He said that is because Blair owes his victory to the non-English portions of the British electorate. PG

MOSCOW IGNORES PROPOSALS FROM REGIONS

In an interview published in "Vek" on 8 June, Vladimir Zorin, the deputy presidential envoy to the Volga federal district, said that deputies in Nizhnii Novgorod have made some 400 recommendations to the Duma over the last five years but that 399 of them were rejected. He said that this pattern holds for other regions as well. PG

TATARS CONCERNED ABOUT MOSCOW'S MOVES AGAINST SOVEREIGNTY

A group of public organizations in Tatarstan -- including the Tatar Public Center, Milli Mejlis, Ittifaq, the Assembly of Idel and Ural Peoples, and the Human Rights Fund -- believe Moscow wants to "annihilate" the republic's statehood, "Zvezda povolzhya" reported on 7 June. They have called on the citizens of Tatarstan to take part in a 14 June seminar on the defense of sovereignty. The paper also reported that Moscow has rerouted trains around Kazan in recent months just as it did in Chechnya, which the paper considers a clear warning. Shamil Ageev, the chairman of Tatarstan's Trade and Industry Chamber, said Moscow intends to move forcefully against any independence-mindedness among Tatars. PG

LENINGRAD GOVERNOR CALLS FOR COMBINING FEDERATION UNITS

Valerii Serdyukov, the governor of Leningrad Oblast, said on 8 June that he favors combining federal subjects into larger units, Interfax reported. Citing "informed sources," he said that "in the presidential administration at the present time they are working on the preparation of legislation which will permit combining certain autonomous formations with those subjects of the federation on whose territory they are located." PG

FSB CLAIMS MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD ACTIVE IN 49 RUSSIAN REGIONS

The Federal Security Service (FSB) said on 8 June that representatives of the Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood have expanded their activities beyond Chechnya and now have organizations in 49 of the country's regions and republics, Interfax reported. The FSB said that the work of these groups is being coordinated by Saudi terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, among others. PG

JEWISH EMIGRATION FROM BIROBIDJAN SLOWS

Interfax-Eurasia reported on 8 June that the number of Jews who left the Jewish Autonomous Oblast for Israel during the first five months of 2001 was only 221. That is a significantly slower rate than during the last two years. In 1999 as a whole, 3,000 Jews from Birobidjan emigrated to Israel, while in 2000, 1,106 did so. PG

DEMOGRAPHIC SITUATION PUTS RUSSIA WITH MEXICO, BRAZIL

According to an article in "Vremya MN" on 8 June, the midterm projection for Russia's demographic development will put that country on course among the next generation to be ranked with states like Brazil and Mexico -- slightly better than those relative to infant mortality in those states, but rather worse in terms of deaths of the working-age population. But on the same day, "Izvestiya" reported that Russia has one other demographic peculiarity: according to Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok, while working-age deaths have brought life expectancy levels down, those who do reach pension age are now living longer, 19.5 years after retirement now rather than 17 years several years ago. PG

CHILDREN'S HEALTH SITUATION IN NORTH A CATASTROPHE

According to a report in "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Krug zhizni" on 8 June, in some regions of the Russian north up to 40 percent of young people suffer from tuberculosis. More than half of all children in the region suffer from lung disorders, 96.1 percent have infectious diseases, and 92 percent have dental problems, the newspaper supplement said. Meanwhile, the World Bank approved providing Moscow with an $80 million loan to help relocate people from the Far North, Interfax-AFI reported on 8 June. But the same day, the Russian government stopped negotiations on a possible World Bank loan to fight HIV infections and tuberculosis, the news service reported. PG

MOSCOW POLICE PREVENT SALE OF CHILD TO GYPSIES

Moscow city police told Interfax-Moscow on 10 June that they have prevented an attempt by a Ukrainian to sell a child to gypsies for $5,000. PG

TIBET PYRAMID SCHEME FOUNDER SENTENCED TO 15 YEARS

A Moscow court has sentenced Vladimir Dryamov to 15 years in prison for his role in the fraudulent Tibet pyramid scheme that fraudulently took millions of dollars from Russian investors in the early 1990s, Interfax reported. Dryamov escaped to Greece shortly after the scheme collapsed but was extradited to Russia in 1998. VY

KHRISTENKO SAYS RUSSIA STILL LIVING OFF NATURAL RESOURCES

In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 8 June, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said Russia continues to live off the sale of its natural resources rather than by the production of its industries. He suggested that Putin will prevent any "unreasonable" reform of the government. PG

KOSHKAREVA BECOMES NEW EDITOR OF 'NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA'

On 8 June, Tatariana Koshkareva was named the new chief editor of "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and Rustam Narzikulov was chosen as the new general director, Russian agencies reported. Both have worked as commentators at the paper and more recently in leading positions at ORT. They replaced Vitalii Tretyakov, who resigned last week at the request of Boris Berezovsky. PG

EVER MORE ENTERTAINMENT, EVER LESS NEWS ON RUSSIAN MEDIA

According to an article in "Vremya MN" on 8 June, the Russian media, electronic and print, increasingly provides entertainment rather than news. PG

DOUBTS EXPRESSED ABOUT 2002 BUDGET

An article in "Izvestiya" on 8 June suggested that the government's draft 2002 budget is not likely to prove workable, especially since it calls for more borrowing. Combining increased expenses resulting from debt payments, new programs, and the acquisition of debt means that only "the miracle" of higher-than-predicted economic growth would allow the government to meet its targets, the article said. PG

MORE THAN HALF OF ALL MILITARY AIRFIELDS NEED REPAIRS

Russian air force officials told Interfax on 10 June that more than 50 percent of Russian military airfields have been in use for more than 20 years and need major capital repairs. If nothing is done soon, the officers said, that figure will rise to 80 percent by 2005. PG

IVANOV DENIES S-300 MISSILES EXPLODED DURING BASE FIRE

Despite the reports of local eyewitnesses to the contrary, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that no missiles exploded during a fire at the Zakharovo base near Moscow on 8 June, the Military News Agency reported the following day. VY

OFFICERS STEAL MONEY INTENDED TO BUY FOOD FOR SOLDIERS

According to an article in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 6 June, military prosecutors have uncovered a series of cases in which senior officers have stolen money that was intended to purchase food for soldiers and then sought to cover up the theft. During the first 8 1/2 months of 2000, the prosecutors said, the amount of money involved totaled at least 59 million rubles ($2 million). PG

FINANCE MINISTER PROVIDES FUNDS FOR OSTANKINO RECONSTRUCTION

The Finance Ministry on 9 June allocated a second tranche of funds for the reconstruction of the Ostankino television tower, Interfax reported. Repairs of the fire-damaged facility in Moscow had stopped on 8 June because of a shortage of funds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2001). PG

GRYZLOV SAYS INTERIOR MINISTRY NEEDS MORE MONEY

Citing the need of his ministry to restore the health of those who have served in Chechnya and other hot spots, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov told the press on 9 June that he believes the draft budget has not provided him with the money needed to do that and to fulfill other tasks. PG

MORE SOCIAL ORPHANS, FEW ADOPTIONS

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Krug zhizni" on 8 June, 95 percent of the officially registered 678,000 orphans in Russia have still-living parents who have turned them over to the state. But relatively few are being adopted, the weekly supplement reported. In St. Petersburg, only 319 children were adopted in 2000, and only 95 of those were adopted by Russian citizens. PG

HUMAN RIGHTS HEAD TAKES ON RAIL FARE INCREASES

Oleg Mironov, the Russian human rights ombudsman, told Interfax on 8 June that he will seek "immediate measures" to reduce the 30 percent increases in rail fares that were introduced on 1 June. He said the hikes have created hardships for many Russians and that limiting their ability to travel compromises their human rights. PG

SOVIET EFFORT AGAINST UKRAINIAN NATIONALISTS A MODEL IN CHECHNYA

According to an article in "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie" on 8 June, Russian officials are now drawing on the experience of Soviet campaigns against Ukrainian nationalists in western Ukraine in the period after World War II as a model for how to fight armed bands and a nationalist underground in Chechnya. PG

RONALD MCDONALD FOUNDATION SUCCESSFUL IN RUSSIA

In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 8 June, Khamzat Khasbulatov, the president of the Ronald McDonald Foundation, described how his group, funded by the ubiquitous hamburger chain, has successfully operated in Russia for the past 11 years. Khasbulatov said the group has distributed more than $4.5 million to medical, cultural, and educational institutions in Moscow and elsewhere. PG

SOLZHENITSYN SAYS TO IGNORE WEST'S OBJECTIONS TO DEATH PENALTY

In an interview carried on RTR television on 9 June, Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said that Russia should have the death penalty to deal with terrorism and that Moscow should ignore Western objections. "The West has not experienced what we have experienced and...it cannot be our teacher and judge," Solzhenitsyn said. He added that too few people are now concerned about "the rights of society," noting that "society is worthy of defense too." PG

CULTURE MINISTER WANTS TO SEND ONE OF HIS OWN INTO ORBIT

Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi has proposed that one of the employees of his ministry be allowed to travel into space, Interfax reported on 9 May. Shvydkoi indicated that the individual has been selected and is being checked out by doctors, but he declined to give his name. PG

10 PERCENT OF DISTILLERIES RESUME OPERATION

Interfax reported on 9 June that approximately 10 percent of Russia's distilleries have resumed production of vodka and other alcoholic beverages even though many of them do not yet have the required tax stamps. Meanwhile, senior Russian tax officials on 8 June said that there are sufficient reserves of alcohol to meet consumer demand for almost three months, Interfax-Moscow reported. PG

THEFT OF 5 KILOMETERS OF WIRE TURNS OFF LIGHTS ON SAKHALIN

The theft of 5 kilometers of aluminum power line to sell as scrap has resulted in power being cut off to the western portion of Sakhalin, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 9 June. PG

ANOTHER BRICK OUT OF THE WALL

Thieves broke through a brick wall in one of the army units located in Komsomolsk-na-Amure and stole grenades, bullets, and Stinger missiles, Interfax reported on 9 June. Three unemployed residents of the city have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the theft. PG

RUSSIA, TURKEY SEEK TO EXPAND ECONOMIC COOPERATION

Visiting Ankara on 8 June, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov discussed with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, and Foreign Minister Ismail Cem bilateral political and economic ties and security issues pertaining to the Balkans, the South Caucasus, the Middle East, and Iraq, Russian and Turkish media reported. Ivanov and Cem also agreed on the creation of a working group to map out areas for more intensive bilateral cooperation, according to the "Turkish Daily News" on 9 June. Ecevit assured Ivanov that Ankara does not support the activities in Turkey of Chechen fighters. Both sides affirmed support for the Blue Stream project to lay an underwater gas pipeline across the Black Sea that will export some 16 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas to Turkey annually. Ivanov said that that pipeline should be completed early next year, according to AP. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY EXONERATED OF SHELLING CHECHEN VILLAGE

Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov and Prosecutor-General Viktor Dakhnov both gave credence on 10 June to Russian military denials of responsibility for the shelling early that morning of the village of Shami-Yurt in Achkhoi-Martan Raion southwest of Grozny, Russian agencies reported. One civilian was killed in the attack and several houses damaged. LF

RUSSIA SEEKS TO PROTECT CHECHEN OFFICIALS

In the wake of the murder last week of one local Chechen official and the ensuing resignation of three more (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2001), the commander of the North Caucasus Military District, Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, ordered on 8 June that all local officials of the pro-Moscow administration and local imams, 228 persons in all, be issued Makarov pistols to enable them to defend themselves against attack, Russian agencies reported. Chechen government spokeswoman Alla Vlazneva told ITAR-TASS the same day that six local administrators have been murdered so far this year. LF




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH SOLANA

Robert Kocharian met in Brussels on 8 June with EU Commissioner for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, RFE/RL's Yerevan Service reported. The two men discussed Armenian-EU relations, the situation in the South Caucasus and the prospects for resolving the Karabakh conflict. LF

RUSSIAN STATE DUMA SPEAKER ENDS ARMENIA VISIT

Gennadii Seleznev met with Kocharian on 10 June, the final day of the latter's three-day visit to Yerevan, ITAR-TASS reported. Seleznev told journalists after that meeting that "we are quite satisfied" with the current state of bilateral relations, which he characterized as "a strategic partnership," noting especially the importance of the Russian military base in Armenia. Seleznev added that any attempt to violate Armenia's sovereignty would be construed in Moscow as an attack on Russia's sovereignty. Seleznev said he raised with Kocharian the possibility of Armenia's accession to the Russia-Belarus Union, but that Kocharian responded that it is premature to discuss that possibility and that Armenia prefers to develop bilateral relations with both countries, according to Interfax. On 7 June, Seleznev had said he does not envisage Nagorno-Karabakh joining the Russia-Belarus Union as an independent state, according to Armenian National Television, as cited by Groong. Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said on 9 June that during their talks the previous day, Seleznev did not raise the issue of Armenian membership of the Russia-Belarus Union, but that he proposed Russian be given the status of a second official language in Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Markarian said he rejected that suggestion, adding: "No one has the right to tell or kindly advise us how we should amend our language legislation." Russians account for less than 5 percent of Armenia's estimated population of 3.8 million. LF

ARMENIA SEEKS ALTERNATIVE FUNDS TO OPERATE NUCLEAR POWER PLANT

The Armenian government is seeking new sources of funding to purchase nuclear fuel for the Medzamor nuclear power station that provides up to 40 percent of the country's energy needs, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 8 June. Moscow has apparently reneged on an earlier agreement under which it undertook to release the final $11.7 million tranche of a credit agreed upon in 1999 despite Armenia's repayment of $17 million of earlier debt on which the release of that tranche was contingent. Medzamor is scheduled to suspend operations in early July for refueling and maintenance. LF

HHD WARNS ARMENIAN LEADERSHIP AGAINST KARABAKH CONCESSIONS

Hrant Markarian, a leading member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD), told a press conference in Yerevan on 8 June that the HHD will oppose any concessions in the Karabakh peace process it considers to be "a danger," Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But he said that the party, which has hitherto supported President Kocharian, will do nothing that could undermine political stability. Specifically, Markarian argued against withdrawing Armenian troops from some of the Azerbaijani territories currently being occupied, which the Nagorno-Karabakh leadership may be prepared to trade for de facto independence. He argued that the Karabakh leadership should declare its sovereignty over those districts to strengthen its negotiating position. Markarian also appealed to the Armenian authorities to make public all details of the continuing peace talks. The HHD issued a similar warning to President Kocharian in late March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2001). LF

TWO RUSSIAN MINISTERS VISIT AZERBAIJAN

During talks in Baku on 8 June, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev and visiting Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu discussed the establishment in Azerbaijan of a comparable ministry, a move Aliyev characterized as "belated," ITAR-TASS reported. Several Azerbaijani rescue squads have already undergone training in Russia. Also on 8 June, Russian Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko met in Baku with President Aliev, who agreed in principle to Aksenenko's proposal to build a 355-kilometer railway linking the Azerbaijani border town of Astara with the Iranian city of Qazvin, Interfax reported. That project would be cofinanced by Russia and Iran and could transport 13 million tons of freight per year, yielding an annual estimated profit of $260 million, Aksenenko said. LF

AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL SAYS NATO TROOPS NOT NEEDED TO PROTECT OIL EXPORT PIPELINE

Rauf Huseinov, the deputy head of the presidential administration, told journalists in Baku on 8 June that Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey should be able jointly to ensure the security of the planned Aqtau-Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, Turan reported. He said there is no need either to create a special force to do so, or to establish a NATO base in the South Caucasus that would undertake that task. Turkey reportedly proposed to NATO earlier this year the creation of a regional rapid reaction force, to be based in Istanbul, whose duties would include protection of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. LF

ABKHAZ PREVENT RUSSIAN WITHDRAWAL FROM MILITARY BASE

Local Russians and Abkhaz have been blockading the Russian military base in Gudauta since 6 June in order to protest the planned withdrawal from that facility of all Russian troops and materiel, Caucasus Press reported. The protesters reportedly say the Russian presence is the sole guarantee of the nonresumption of hostilities between Georgia and Abkhazia. The blockade may prevent Russia meeting the 1 July deadline for the withdrawal agreed on in November 1999 at the OSCE Istanbul summit. Meeting on 8 June in Sukhum with the deputy commander of the Russian air-borne troops, General Aleksandr Popov, newly appointed Abkhaz Premier Anri Djergenia said he understands that Russia must comply with its pledge to close the base by the 1 July deadline, and proposed resorting to the "Transdniester scenario," whereby the Russian troops would leave behind in Abkhazia at least part of their equipment. LF

GEORGIA OFFERS TO EXTRADITE BORDER VIOLATORS

Georgian Border Guard commander Colonel General Valeri Chkheidze told journalists in Tbilisi on 8 June that he has assured his Russian counterpart Lieutenant General Konstantin Totskii that Georgia is prepare to extradite to Russia the 13 men apprehended earlier that day after illegally crossing the Russian-Georgian frontier, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2001). The following day, the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria informed Tbilisi that a check of the men's identity showed that they are not, as initially presumed, residents of that North Caucasus republic. Six of them are residents of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, while identity of the remaining seven has not been determined. LF

KAZAKHSTAN SEEKS TO IMPROVE MILITARY PILOTS' SKILLS

Lieutenant General Sat Toqpaqbaev told journalists in Almaty on 8 June that the general level of professionalism in the armed forces is "very high," RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. But he also added that particular attention is currently being paid to honing the air combat skills of Kazakh Air Force pilots, especially in overflying neighboring countries, Caspian News Agency reported. He said the role of the air force in low-level local conflicts in recent years is increasing. The Uzbek air force bombed villages in Tajikistan in 1999 when trying to destroy militants of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999). LF

PRESSURE ON KYRGYZ MEDIA INTENSIFIES

The state-controlled Uchkun publishing house refused to print the 7 June issue of the opposition weekly "Res Publica" because it contained a translation of an article earlier published in "The Guardian" claiming that Mairam Akaeva, the wife of the Kyrgyz president, has a stake in the Bishkek Hyatt Regency hotel, "Res Publica" Editor Zamira Sydykova told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 8 June. Akaeva told RFE/RL that the "Guardian" article is incorrect. She expressed disapproval of the independent newspaper "Asaba," which she claimed only publishes negative reports of developments in Kyrgyzstan and "regularly insults" former Communist Party of Kirgizia First Secretary Turdakun Usubaliev. Also on 8 June, the editor of the biweekly "Tribuna" told RFE/RL that Uchkun has ordered him not to submit for publication any criticism of either President Askar Akaev or any members of his family. LF

UZBEKISTAN CUTS GAS SUPPLIES TO TAJIKISTAN

Senior Tajik energy sector official Mirzo Qulov told Asia Plus-Blitz on 11 June that Dushanbe is negotiating with Tashkent for a resumption of natural gas supplies from Uzbekistan that were suspended last week due to nonpayment of debts totaling 8 million somonis ($3.4 million). He said limited supplies of gas will resume "soon." LF

OSCE SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS TURKMENISTAN

Continuing his tour of the Central Asian states, Mircea Geoana held talks in Ashgabat on 8 June with Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov, Russian agencies reported. In a reference to Niyazov's insistence that democratization in Turkmenistan should be adapted to national traditions, Geoana told him that economic and democratic transformations and the observation of human rights must be pursued regardless of such specifically local factors, Interfax reported. The two also discussed regional security and the situation in Afghanistan. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WANTS PROSECUTOR-GENERAL TO WITHSTAND 'PRESSURE' BY OPPOSITION

Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 8 June asked the Council of the Republic, Belarus's upper house, to formally approve Viktar Sheyman as prosecutor-general, Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka appointed Sheyman, his closest aide, to head the Prosecutor-General's Office in November 2000. Lukashenka told the upper house that he "boundlessly trusts" Sheyman and wants the latter to ward off anticipated "pressure" by the opposition in the upcoming election campaign. "[The opposition] needs to organize fierce pressure [on the prosecutor-general and judges] to create an appropriate, wild public atmosphere around them," Lukashenka noted, adding that the opposition will probably complain that the elections were falsified. "But it seems to me that both [Supreme Court Chairman] Valyantsin Alehavich [Sukala] and Viktar Uladzimiravich [Sheyman] are people who are not afraid of being pressured," Lukashenka added. JM

OPPOSITION APPEALS TO BELARUSIANS TO UNSEAT LUKASHENKA IN ELECTIONS

The Consultative Council of Opposition Political Parties on 8 June appealed to citizens "to actively contribute" to holding democratic and free presidential elections in Belarus, Belapan reported. "Belarus has approached the elections in the situation of a deep economic, political, and constitutional crisis. The experiment of the Orthodox atheist [Alyaksandr Lukashenka] to build market socialism has miserably failed," the council said in a statement, adding that Belarus needs an "experienced, educated, and honest" new president. JM

BELARUSIAN TELEVISION ACCUSES OSCE MISSION HEAD OF SPYING -- ONCE AGAIN

Belarusian Television on 9 June reiterated its previous allegations that Hans Georg Wieck, head of the OSCE Advisory and Consultative Group in Minsk, is a Western spy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2000). "I will remind you that [Wieck] is a big specialist in creating spying and sabotage networks. Possibly, such a network is needed by the West on the territory of pre-election Belarus. Did Mr. Wieck not have in mind such a network when he spoke about it on ORT as about an [already] accomplished fact?" a Belarusian Television moderator said during the "Panarama" newscast. The moderator was referring to Wieck's interview with ORT the same day, in which the OSCE official criticized the Belarusian government for its failure to create conditions for democratic elections. Apparently taking a phrase out of context, Belarusian Television quoted Wieck as saying on ORT: "I think that we have created such a network, and it will work efficiently in connection with the presidential elections as well." JM

FOUR RUSSIAN TV CHANNELS GO OFF AIR IN MINSK

Four Russian television channels -- ORT, RTR, NTV, and Kultura -- were all suddenly taken off the air in Minsk on 11 June, ITAR-TASS reported. The agency added that the Belarusian Communications Ministry and the presidential administration have refused to comment on the break in transmission. Quoting unidentified sources from the Belarusian State Television and Radio Company, ITAR-TASS reported that the channels were disconnected because of "routine" maintenance work. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT MAKES MORE CABINET APPOINTMENTS...

Leonid Kuchma has appointed Leonid Kozachenko as deputy premier in charge of agricultural reform, Serhiy Kurykin as ecology minister, and former Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko as transport minister in Premier Anatoliy Kinakh's cabinet, Ukrainian media reported on 10 June. Prior to his appointment, Kozachenko headed the Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation and was also Kinakh's aide in the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. Pustovoytenko, who heads the pro-presidential Popular Democratic Party, served as premier in 1997-99 and was subsequently replaced by Viktor Yushchenko. Kurykin is a lawmaker and activist of the Green Party. JM

...ATTENDS MEETING OF CENTRAL EUROPEAN PRESIDENTS

On 8 June in Verbania, Italy, Kuchma attended a meeting of presidents from 13 Central European countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia. Interfax reported that Kuchma called on the other heads of state to take into account "the specificity of domestic situations" in newly independent states before they choose to criticize the rate of economic and democratic transformations in those states. JM

UKRAINE'S TWO RUKHS AGREE ON ELECTION BLOC, PLEDGE TO REUNITE

The Ukrainian Popular Rukh led by Yuriy Kostenko held a congress in Kyiv on 9 June, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported. Kostenko and Hennadiy Udovenko, the leader of the Popular Rukh of Ukraine, signed a declaration on joining "a single bloc of national democratic forces" for next year's parliamentary elections. The two Rukh factions also pledged to merge into a single organization following those elections. Rukh split in February 1999 in a struggle over leadership between Kostenko and Vyacheslav Chornovil. Chornovil died in an automobile accident the next month, and Udovenko replaced him as the leader of the Rukh faction. "This is the first step toward the unification of our parties, toward the creation of a powerful national democratic party of state-building orientation," Udovenko commented on the accord. The congress was also addressed by former Premier Yushchenko, who noted that the two Rukh factions' declaration to reunite is "an argument in favor of the consolidation of democratic forces of Ukraine." JM

ESTONIA'S PEOPLE'S UNION CONGRESS ELECTS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

The Congress of the People's Union in Tallinn on 9 June elected its honorary Chairman Arnold Ruutel, the last chairman of the Supreme Council of the Estonian SSR, as its candidate for president, ETA reported. According to recent public opinion polls, Ruutel is the third most popular presidential candidate after Peeter Tulviste of Pro Patria Union and Toomas Savi of the Reform Party. The Congress also re-elected former Environment Minister Villu Reiljan as party chairman, with Mai Treial and Ants Kaarma as his deputies. Reiljan fiercely criticized the government of Prime Minister Mart Laar and the ruling coalition, even calling for their members' resignation. SG

FINLAND SIGNS MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENTS WITH LATVIA AND LITHUANIA

Finnish Defense Minister Jan Enestam signed separate military cooperation agreements with his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts Girts Valdis Kristovskis and Linas Linkevicius on 9 June, BNS reported. The agreements were inked in the course of meetings between the defense ministers of the five Nordic and three Baltic states with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in Turku, Finland. Kristovskis noted that Latvia hopes to receive military equipment and assistance in military education from Finland, which has become one of Estonia's main partners for military supplies after signing a similar agreement with that country. The agreement with Finland -- Lithuania's 21st military cooperation treaty -- calls for greater bilateral military cooperation with joint activities in medicine, history, and geography. The agreement also intends to regulate the two countries' efforts to boost security and stability in the Baltic region. SG

LITHUANIA HAD LOWER INFLATION RATE THAN LATVIA IN MAY

The Department of Statistics announced on 8 June that Lithuania's consumer price index (CPI) rose by 0.6 percent in May compared to April and by 1.7 percent compared to May 2000, BNS reported. Among the items whose prices increased the most in May were gasoline by 9.1 percent and diesel fuel by 6.4 percent. Latvia's CPI increased by 1.0 percent in May compared to April and by 2.7 percent compared to May 2000. The monthly increase in prices was 1.2 percent for goods and 0.5 percent for services. Food prices grew by 2.1 percent, with vegetables costing 26.8 percent more. The cost of meat rose by 0.8 percent, milk and eggs by 0.3 percent, footwear and clothing by 1.2 percent, and fuel by 0.9 percent. SG

POLISH PREMIER DISAPPOINTED WITH IRELAND'S EU REFERENDUM

Jerzy Buzek on 9 June said Ireland's "no" in last week's referendum on the EU Nice Treaty "is not a piece of good news," PAP reported. "Ireland has developed itself very strongly and has gained a great deal thanks to its sojourn in the EU, and it should have been expected that solidarity between European countries would be victorious and that Ireland would express itself in favor of the Nice Treaty," Buzek added. JM

POLISH PARLIAMENT REJECTS MOTION TO CUT TOP BANKERS' PAY

The Sejm on 8 June voted by 189 to 180, with seven abstentions, to reject a motion by the left-wing opposition to reduce salaries of the National Bank governor and deputy governors as well as members of the Monetary Policy Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2001), PAP reported. JM

CZECH POLITICIANS REACT TO RUMSFELD RECOMMENDATION

Reacting to U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's recommendation against purchasing supersonic fighters for the Czech air force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2001), President Vaclav Havel on 8 June said that for many years politicians told the public that aging Soviet-made MiGs need to be replaced and "I think we should not make fun of the public," CTK reported. Social Democratic Party leader and Deputy Premier Vladimir Spidla said the opinion of the U.S. "will be taken into consideration" before the government makes its decision, adding that most other opinions placed on the cabinet's table relating to the issue are also negative. Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus said Rumsfeld's recommendation "is a surprising commentary from outside about the decision-making process of a sovereign country." ODS shadow defense minister Petr Necas described the recommendation as "irrelevant," saying Czechs do not recommend to the U.S. how it should develop its air force. MS

HAVEL REACTS TO IRISH REFERENDUM RESULTS

President Havel said on 8 June that he does not consider the results of the Irish referendum against approving the Nice Treaty to be a vote against the enlargement of the European Union, CTK reported. He said he believes the referendum "mainly indicates that the Irish do not in any way wish to renounce their traditional neutrality." Havel also said that to halt the EU enlargement process "would be suicidal for Europe as a whole." MS

CZECHS CONFIRM BSE DISEASE

Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl told journalists on 8 June that a new test carried on a bovine suspected of suffering from BSE (mad cow disease) has "confirmed the original finding," CTK and international agencies reported. He said a third test to verify the result will be carried out in Germany. On 9 June, Premier Milos Zeman, visiting Czech troops stationed in Kosova, said there is "no reason to panic" over the findings, as the Central Veterinary Authority will "certainly adopt all necessary measures." Austria, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia have announced they are prohibiting all Czech beef imports, while Hungary said it will let only tested meat enter the country. MS

MORE FALSE SCREENING CERTIFICATES DISCOVERED IN CZECH REPUBLIC...

Three additional false screening certificates clearing their bearers of past association with the communist secret police (StB) have been discovered, bringing the total number of such certificates to 117, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross told Nova television on 10 June, CTK reported. MS

...AS SLOVAK DEFENSE MINISTER BRIEFED ON STB AGENTS BY CZECH COUNTERPART

Jozef Stank told journalists in Bratislava on 8 June that his Czech counterpart Jaroslav Tvrdik has not given him a complete list of former StB members wrongly issued screening certificates in 1991 and 1992. Stank, who met with Tvrdik in Brussels earlier that day, said he was only briefed about 15 such agents who are today "probably Slovak citizens or live in Slovakia," CTK reported. Stank said he is "not interested" in seeing the list of such agents at this stage "because it is incomplete." But he added that after receiving the full list, if it turns out that such people are still working in the Slovak Defense Ministry, "they will be dismissed for not meeting the basic conditions for access to secrets." He said such people "would be easy to blackmail" by those interested in gaining access to classified information. MS

SLOVAKIA BACKS U.S. MISSILE DEFENSE PLANS

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, addressing the National Press Club in Washington on 8 June, said his country supports U.S. plans for building a missile defense system, CTK and Reuters reported. Dzurinda said the U.S. is the "protector of democratic principles in the world" and Slovakia wishes to be protected by it, that also being the reason Slovakia wants to join NATO. The envisaged system, Dzurinda said, is regarded by Bratislava as being a new means of collective defense, "a sort of collective umbrella for this democratic society." Dzurinda told the gathering that at his recent meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House he told Bush that Slovakia is "a relatively small country" that wants to be "a strong ally of the U.S.," and that Bush's reply was that "it is not important whether a country is large or small -- what is important is to have a big heart." MS

SLOVAK NATIONALIST LEADER SAYS OPPOSITION TO NATO MEMBERSHIP UNCHANGED

Slovak National Party (SNS) Chairwoman Anna Malikova on 9 June denied the SNS has changed its opposition to NATO membership for Slovakia, CTK reported. Addressing a rally in Bratislava marking 130 years since the establishment of the SNS, Malikova said the drive to have Slovakia join NATO is serving "the interests of foreign powers" and that the claim of other parties that "joining NATO would solve all the problems" of Slovakia is "shameful." She said no Slovak "will ever forget Yugoslavia, the death and suffering of our Slav and Christian brothers" as a result of the NATO airstrikes against that country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2001). MS

SLOVAKIA DEPLORES IRISH REFERENDUM RESULTS

The Foreign Ministry, in a statement released on 8 June, said the results of the referendum in Ireland against the approval of the Nice Treaty on EU enlargement and reform are "not good news for Europe," CTK reported. The ministry said Slovakia rejects the opinion that EU enlargement will be detrimental to the small countries that are members of the union today. It also said that Slovaks hope the EU and Ireland will "find a way to resolve [the problems created by] the referendum's negative results." MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT VOWS TO CONTINUE CRITICISM OF PREMIER

Rudolf Schuster, in an interview with the daily "Narodna obroda" on 9 June, said he does not intend to retract the criticism of Premier Dzurinda and other cabinet members voiced in his recent State of the Nation speech, CTK reported. Schuster said he would become "the laughing stock of people" if he were to ask Slovaks to continue putting up with falling living standards and soaring unemployment. Schuster also criticized the deputy premier in charge of the economy, Ivan Miklos, saying he "speaks on all and everything" while being "responsible for nothing." He said Miklos is "meddling in the reform of the civil service, when he does not understand it," and he repeated his criticism of Dzurinda and parliament speaker Jozef Migas, saying they do not consult with him on the country's "vital problems." MS

SLOVAK POLICE CLASH WITH DEMONSTRATORS

On 9 June, police in Bratislava clashed with some 1,000 opponents of globalization and used tear gas to disperse a demonstration against the use of motor vehicles in the city, AP and CTK reported. Antiglobalists and anarchists from Slovakia and the Czech Republic gathered downtown for an authorized "street party," and after several hours moved to some of Bratislava's busiest streets, for which they lacked authorization. Police fired tear gas "to bring the crowd under control and prevent it from attacking citizens and their property," a police spokeswoman was quoted as saying. Five demonstrators were detained but no injuries were reported. MS

HUNGARY'S SOCIALISTS ELECT MEDGYESSY AS CANDIDATE FOR PREMIER

The congress of Hungary's Socialist Party on 9 June elected former Finance Minister Peter Medgyessy as the main opposition party's candidate for prime minister in the 2002 elections. Medgyessy, who is not a Socialist Party member, ran unopposed and was backed by 99 percent of the 483 delegates. Gabor Demszky, chairman of the opposition Free Democrats, welcomed Medgyessy's nomination, saying that his party is prepared for negotiations with the Socialists, but "electoral cooperation is out of question." In other news, the congress of the Christian Democratic People's Party on 9 June elected General-Secretary Tivadar Bartok as the party's new chairman following incumbent Chairman Gyorgy Giczy's resignation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2001). MSZ.

HUNGARIAN PREMIER DENIES FAVORING MASS IMMIGRATION

Viktor Orban on 8 June denied his intention had been to encourage mass immigration when he told a business forum in Budapest one day earlier that more workers will be needed to keep up the country's pace of economic growth (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2001). Cabinet Spokesman Gabor Borokai said Orban was only hinting that the Status Bill may help meet a labor shortage by permitting ethnic Hungarians from neighboring countries to take jobs in Hungary. In related news, Bela Marko, the chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Alliance of Romania, and Bela Bugar, the chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party in Slovakia, criticized Orban's remarks, saying they could lead to a large-scale resettlement of ethnic Hungarians from their historic homelands. MSZ

FIDESZ RULES OUT FORMING GOVERNMENT WITH HUNGARIAN EXTREMISTS

Attila Farkas, the spokesman of the major coalition party FIDESZ, told "Nepszava" on 9 June that the party is ruling out the possibility of forming a government with the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP). Farkas was responding to MIEP Chairman Istvan Csurka's announcement last week that MIEP will not name a candidate for prime minister at next year's elections, but that it is prepared to hold talks on forming a government. Csurka also said that MIEP's settlement policy continues to be that Hungary should take in ethnic Hungarians from abroad in order to boost its declining population. MSZ

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY COMMENTS ON IRISH REFERENDUM

Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath on 8 June said that neither EU member states nor the candidate countries expected Ireland's rejection by referendum of the ratification of the Nice Treaty on EU enlargement, Hungarian media reported. Horvath said the Irish rejection can in no way slow down accession talks, which have "neared their most intense stage." Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said the result of the referendum "could hurt the mood of accession talks." He added, however, that "some solution could be still worked out to keep the enlargement process on track." MSZ




MACEDONIAN FORCES LAUNCH ATTACK DESPITE REBEL ULTIMATUM

The army launched an offensive with artillery and other weapons in the Kumanovo area in the direction of the villages of Slupcane and Matejce early on 11 June. The move came despite an ultimatum to Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski the previous day by Commander Hoxha of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) to end the assault or risk a UCK campaign against Skopje. The guerrillas referred specifically to Skopje Airport, the oil refinery, police stations, government buildings, and other unspecified areas as potential targets. The ultimatum was slated to expire on the morning of 11 June, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. A government spokesman said the authorities are taking "all necessary measures for maximum security. He "reminded" the UCK that President Boris Trajkovski, and not Georgievski, is commander in chief. The government, which refuses to speak to what it calls "terrorists," has not officially responded to the UCK's ultimatum. Commander Hoxha told AP on 11 June that the guerrillas' "artillery is in place" and that any response will come later in the day. PM

REBEL MOVE TOWARD MACEDONIAN CAPITAL LEADS TO REFUGEE WAVE

On 9 June, the UCK occupied the 90 percent ethnic Albanian community of Aracinovo near Skopje, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Ethnic Albanians and Macedonians alike sought to move families out of the area. Some adult males returned to their homes to defend their property. Many Albanian men of military age were turned back at the Kosova border by Macedonian border guards. Some Albanians were told to go home because they might face a military call-up, while others were told that they are suspected of links to the UCK or that their papers are not in order. Some 7,000 persons had fled their homes over the weekend as of the evening of 10 June, UNHCR officials said in Skopje. PM

HOPES DIMMING FOR PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT IN MACEDONIA

Trajkovski announced a peace plan on Macedonian television on 8 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2001). It provides for the proportional representation of ethnic Albanians in government at republican and local levels and increased use of the Albanian language in official dealings, as well as a partial amnesty for UCK fighters, unspecified confidence-building measures, and the gradual return of Macedonian forces to their barracks. It is not clear whether Trajkovski's proposal includes changes to the constitution to give the Albanians and their language full equality with the Slavs and the Macedonian language, which are minimum Albanian demands. Ethnic Albanian political leader Arben Xhaferi criticized the proposal as vague. EU security policy chief Javier Solana visited Skopje on 9 June, saying afterward that "all political leaders support [Trajkovski's] plan," Reuters reported. He has given the political leaders until a 25 June EU meeting in Luxembourg to improve the Albanians' legal status. PM

IS MACEDONIA'S PRIME MINISTER THE PROBLEM?

Several British journalists over the weekend of 9-10 June described the government as "dysfunctional," suggesting that all parties share in the blame for the turmoil and impasse. Observers note that the political environment is becoming increasingly polarized and will likely become more so as election day draws nearer, possibly as early as September. But one "senior government official," speaking on condition of anonymity, told "The Observer" of 10 June that Georgievski is responsible for hamstringing the government. "With that man in charge, we are going to have civil war," the official argued. UCK Commander Hoxha told Reuters on 9 June that "I can injure the government of Ljubco Georgievski [militarily], but it is him who wants war. We don't want war." PM

A ROLE FOR SERBIA IN THE MACEDONIAN CONFLICT?

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who has been widely hailed as instrumental in bringing about the successful end to the crisis in the Presevo valley, told Reuters on 9 June that "the same basic principles could be used in Macedonia, bearing in mind the country's specifics." He noted that the main difference is that ethnic Albanians inhabit only "3 to 5 percent" of Serbia's territory, whereas in Macedonia they can be found throughout "almost the entire country and [make up about] 30 percent of the population." He said that he will make the final decision as to whether he personally will become involved in the Macedonian dispute. He called upon the ethnic Albanian parties to show their dedication to peace by exercising influence over the UCK. Covic stressed that Serbia can provide "experience, advice, logistics, [in short,] everything but selling arms because we want that crisis to end peacefully." The "Sunday Times" nonetheless reported on 10 June that NATO is investigating reports that Macedonia is "leasing" an unspecified number of Su-25 fighter-bombers from Serbia to attack UCK positions. PM

AIRLINES CUTTING FLIGHTS TO MACEDONIA

British Airways and Serbia's JAT have suspended flights to Macedonia in view of the worsening security situation there, AP reported on 11 June. Swissair has diverted its flights from Skopje to Ohrid. PM

KFOR INTERCEPTS UCK FIGHTERS ON KOSOVA BORDER

NATO peacekeepers arrested 12 suspected members of the UCK in the night of 10-11 June as they attempted to cross from Kosova into Macedonia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The peacekeepers also confiscated an unspecified quantity of weapons. PM

SERBIAN CURRENCY REMAINS FIRM

Mladjan Dinkic, the governor of the Yugoslav National Bank, said in Belgrade on 10 June that he has no intention of devaluing the dinar. He argued that, if anything, the dinar is undervalued at present. He noted that inflation is under control, and that the only reason to devalue the dinar would be if inflation picked up again, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Elsewhere, the UN's World Food Organization released a study on 8 June showing that 12 percent of the Serbian population lives below the poverty level with an income of about $53 per month or less. PM

RASPBERRY FROM SERBIAN FARMERS

Serbian raspberry farmers blocked the Belgrade-Podgorica road near Pozega in western Serbia on 10 June to demand a higher price for their produce, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

YUGOSLAV AND CROATIAN PRESIDENTS ISSUE JOINT DECLARATION

Meeting with a group of 14 Central European leaders in Verbania, Italy, on 9 June, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Croatian President Stipe Mesic joined their 12 colleagues in expressing backing for Trajkovski's peace plan. Kostunica and Mesic said in a joint declaration of their own that neither of them has any territorial ambitions in Bosnia and that a stable Bosnia is in the interests of both Belgrade and Zagreb. The two presidents added that they want the complete normalization of bilateral relations, including guarantees of minority rights, the return of refugees, and the clarifying of the fates of missing persons, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The two leaders called for the free exchange of persons, goods, and ideas. "Slobodna Dalmacija" reported on 11 June, however, that Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan is unhappy that Mesic did not discuss the declaration with him before making it. PM

MAIN RAIL LINE REOPENS BETWEEN BOSNIA AND CROATIA

A four-car train traveled from Zagreb to Sarajevo on 10 June for the first time since September 1991, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The train, which used to be full to overflowing during the summer months, was only 10 percent full. Stops included Banja Luka and Doboj in the Republika Srpska. The BBC reported recently that Serbian railway buffs have reopened a line running from Uzice into Bosnia -- powered by steam locomotives. The railway buffs hope to promote tourism and an interest in rail travel. PM

MASS GRAVE FOUND IN BOSNIA

Amor Masovic, who heads the Bosnian government's commission for missing persons, said in the Malusa region on 10 June that the authorities have exhumed the bodies of 15 persons there, all apparently victims from the Serb-run labor camp at Foca during the 1992-1995 war. Masovic added that the authorities learned about the grave from an anonymous letter received from a Serb, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

ROMANIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST INTENTION TO POLITICIZE RADIO, TELEVISION

Some 160 radio journalists on 8 June signed a letter protesting what they perceive as an attempt by the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania to exercise control over radio and television broadcasts, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. On 6 June, the parliamentary commissions for culture, arts, and mass media of Romania's two-chamber parliament voted to reject the report of the two institutions' administrative boards. The parliament's plenum now has to approve the commissions' recommendations, after which the administrative councils can be dismissed and new councils appointed. Romanian Radio General Director Andrei Dimitriu appealed to the authorities to forego their intention, warning that "under the present circumstances, having [an emulation of the December-January events in] Prague will not improve the regime's international credibility." MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT ON DECRIMINALIZATION OF SAME-SEX RELATIONS

The cabinet on 8 June approved a draft amending the stipulations in the Penal Code that criminalize same-sex relations, Mediafax reported. Last year the Senate approved amending the code's infamous Article 200, but the Chamber of Deputies has not yet passed the amendment and there have been reports that the Justice Ministry intends to again designate such relations as a criminal offense. MS

FITCH DOWNGRADES MOLDOVA'S RATING

The International rating agency Fitch announced on 8 June that it is downgrading Moldova's risk grading from B-minus to CCC-plus for long-term hard-currency loans and from B to C for borrowing in local currency, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The agency said the new Party of Moldovan Communists administration has slowed down reforms, as a result of which the IMF, the World Bank, and the EU stopped lending to Moldova. It said this could create a $70 million deficit in the 2001 budget, and that the deficit is likely to grow to $100 million in 2002. Also on 8 June, the parliament voted to establish an ad hoc commission to investigate the reasons for the collapse of nine commercial banks over the last few years. MS

BULGARIAN PARTIES REMOVE CANDIDATES FROM ELECTORAL LISTS

Thirty-two candidates in Bulgaria's upcoming parliamentary elections were removed from their parties' lists because their names appeared in the recently scrutinized files of the communist secret service, AFP reported on 10 June. The National Movement Simeon II excluded 15 candidates, seven of whom figured in the secret services' files but whose work as agents for the service could not be proven. A statement published by former King Simeon II said his National Movement "has taken a very difficult step in separating itself from people it greatly values." The Socialist Party removed 10 people from its lists and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms removed seven. MS

BULGARIAN ROYALIST MOVEMENT FEARS ELECTION RIGGING...

Emil Koshlukov, the campaign manager of the National Movement Simeon II, on 8 June said he fears the outcome of parliamentary elections scheduled for 17 June will be rigged, dpa reported. He said campaign posters bearing the portrait of the former monarch and names similar to those of the movement are causing confusion among the electorate. Koshlukov alleged that the intention is to get members of the public to cast votes for insignificant groups in the belief that they are voting for the National Movement Simeon II. He also said the movement has little chance of monitoring the voting, as almost none of its officials are represented on local electoral commissions. Koshlukov also urged the ruling United Democratic Forces alliance to have the courage to accept the outcome of the elections and be ready to give up power "calmly and peacefully." Most public opinion polls show the National Movement Simeon II winning the ballot. MS

...AS GUN SHOTS ARE FIRED OUTSIDE ITS SOFIA OFFICES

A spokesman for the National Movement Simeon II on 10 June said gun shots were fired outside its Sofia offices on the same day, AFP reported. The spokesman said a man fired two shots from an automobile before driving off. No damage or injuries were reported. MS

BULGARIAN CONVOY TAKES WATER TO MACEDONIA

Bulgarian trucks carrying 24,000 tons of water left on 10 June for the Macedonian city of Kumanovo, where taps went dry after ethnic Albanian rebels took control of local reservoirs, AFP reported, citing a Defense Ministry spokesman. The operation was agreed upon at a meeting in Plodviv between Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Joseph Ralston. MS




AZERBAIJANIS INCREASINGLY CONCERNED ABOUT KARABAKH CONFLICT


By Paul Goble

Ever more Azerbaijanis view the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute as the most important problem facing their country, a trend that may make it more difficult for Baku to reach an agreement on that issue with Armenia.

According to a poll conducted in Azerbaijan for the U.S. State Department's Office of Research after the publication in February this year of three failed OSCE Karabakh peace plans, 55 percent of Azerbaijanis say that the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute is the single most serious problem Azerbaijan faces. That figure is up from 41 percent in a poll the same office carried out a year ago. Furthermore, an additional 19 percent this year said that other aspects of that conflict -- including displaced persons and territorial integrity -- are the next most serious problem.

These figures are striking for three reasons. First, Nagorno-Karabakh dwarfs all other issues in Azerbaijan. Fewer than one-third as many in the sample named any other issue, with 18 percent saying that unemployment is the most serious problem and 14 percent reporting that economic problems are the most significant issue. On the one hand, this means Azerbaijanis care more about what their government does on this issue than they do even on the bread-and-butter concerns that drive the politics of most countries the majority of the time. That pattern may allow Baku to devote less attention to those matters than would otherwise be the case. And on the other hand, the overwhelming importance of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijanis means that the government's ability to pursue new departures in negotiations over the future of that region are limited. To put it simply, too many Azerbaijanis care about the outcome for the Azerbaijani government to ignore their views.

Second, increasing concern about Nagorno-Karabakh, an area within Azerbaijan's borders with an ethnic Armenian majority that is now under the control of Armenians, does not appear to reflect changes on the ground. Rather, it appears to be the product of increased public attention to efforts by the OSCE Minsk Group led by France, Russia, and the United States to promote an accord between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Azerbaijanis have become more sensitive to this issue precisely because it has become the subject of more intense discussion. And that points to one of the paradoxes of negotiations by governments that must rely on the support of the people: If outside powers seek to promote a settlement by highly publicized meetings such as the Key West summit earlier this year, these countries may unintentionally make it more difficult for the parties to reach a settlement.

In short, dictatorships may be able to ignore the views of their own people, but the governments of democracies and of countries that aspire to become democracies cannot do so except at the risk of massive instability or even collapse. And the leaders of such countries are very aware of these dangers.

And third, at least some Azerbaijani politicians may exploit increasing popular concern about Nagorno-Karabakh to promote their own agenda or even to advance their own positions in the future. The likelihood of such actions also acts as a constraint on the government's maneuvering room. Indeed, it is worth noting that many Azerbaijani opposition parties have staked out far less flexible positions than has President Heidar Aliev.

But in addition, the exploitation by such groups of these popular attitudes will only intensify the concerns of the Azerbaijani population, thus further reducing the possibility of any movement in negotiations and creating the specter of possible violence should conditions on the ground in and around Nagorno-Karabakh take a turn for the worse.

Unless these possibilities are taken into account by the negotiators, little progress appears to be likely in the short term, and enormous dangers appear to be possible over the longer term.


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