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Newsline - June 12, 2001




RUSSIA MARKS SOVEREIGNTY DAY

Eleven years ago on 12 June 1990, Russia declared its sovereignty, thereby making it "an independent country," in the words of "Izvestiya" on 10 June. That day is now a national holiday, and celebrations at the Kremlin and elsewhere are planned. PG

PUTIN URGED TO RESIST CALLS FOR END TO MORATORIUM ON DEATH PENALTY

Anatolii Pristavkin, a writer and the head of the Presidential Pardons Commission, said on 10 June that President Vladimir Putin is under enormous pressure to end the moratorium on the death penalty but that he should resist it. Pristavkin said the president "cannot and must not" take such a decision. "When we demand the restoration of the death penalty," he added, "we act against ourselves, not against real criminals." Russia has maintained a moratorium on the use of the death penalty for five years, Pristavkin said, and we are "starting to get used to it." PG

PUTIN SAID TO HAVE 'CONSERVATIVE' APPROACH TO POLITICS

Writing in "Novye izvestiya" on 9 June, political commentator Otto Latsis suggested that President Putin has adopted a conservative political approach, one that reflects an effort to find agreement with the country's bureaucratic elite rather than the population at large. Such an approach, Latsis argued, leads to "stagnation" of the kind the country experienced under Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev rather than the reforms that Putin has said he prefers. PG

KASYANOV DISCUSSES BALTIC PIPELINE

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov visited St. Petersburg on 11 June to discuss plans for the construction of the Baltic Pipeline System, Interfax-Northwest reported. The first section of the system, which will run from Russia to Germany, is intended to carry 12 million tons of oil to the West each year. PG

SPECULATION ABOUT STEPASHIN'S NEXT POST GROWS

An unscheduled meeting between Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin and President Putin sparked rumors that Stepashin might be named finance minister or even reappointed to the post of prime minister that he held from May-August 1999, Interfax reported on 9 June. "Kommersant-Daily" on the same day concluded that such rumors presage changes in the composition of the cabinet regardless of whether Stepashin is given a new position. PG

MARKET APPROACH SEEN THREATENING RUSSIA'S TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY

In an article published in "Vek," No. 22, Aleksei Bogaturov argued that the introduction of a market economy in Russia, if it were to be combined with a less authoritarian regime than the one Putin is attempting to install, would have "carried the risk of a single federation ceasing to exist." Russia within its current borders, Bogaturov said, "is not viable economically by definition." Consequently, he suggested, "strong presidential rule is the lesser evil if not a good thing." PG

NEMTSOV REJECTS AUTHORITARIAN MARKET STATE

In an interview published in "Novoe vremya," No. 23, Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov said that "very few people in Russia support liberal ideas" but that authoritarian politics would threaten the growth of a market economy. PG

CABINET LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS TO 2003 PROBLEM

According to an article in "Vedomosti" on 9 June, the Russian government now believes that it can solve the 2003 problem, when Moscow must make large payments on foreign loans, without seeking International Monetary Fund credits or rescheduling its debts. But the paper expressed skepticism that the government will be able to close the gap between its projected income and its needs in that year. PG

STATE COUNCIL DISAPPOINTS REGIONAL LEADERS

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 9 June, regional leaders placed great hopes in the State Council when it was created, but have since decided that it is a relatively weak body that will be overruled most of the time by the cabinet or the Kremlin. As a result, they have turned to bureaucratic politics within ministries and federal districts to advance their interests, the paper said. PG

FALLING TAX REVENUES LEAVE REGIONAL HEADS STRETCHED

According to "Izvestiya" on 9 June, the leaders of Russia's regions are trying to bridge the gap between declining tax revenues and rising demands on their budgets, especially to pay government workers. The paper noted that 35 regions have lost revenue as a result of the redistribution of taxes on natural resources, not just seven regions as the government had originally claimed. PG

DUMA SECURITY COMMITTEE FIGURE URGES ADOPTION OF ANTICORRUPTION MEASURES

Mikhail Grishankov, the deputy head of the Duma Security Committee, told Interfax on 11 June that corruption in Russia has become so widespread and complex that it threatens the security of the state, and that fighting it requires the adoption of a new group of anticorruption laws. "As a taxpayer, every citizen has the legal right to the honorable fulfillment of the state apparatus of its functions which exist only on the means of the taxpayers," Grishankov said. PG

TUNNEL, NOT BRIDGE IN KERCH STRAIT

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 June, a tunnel under the Kerch Strait connecting Russia and Crimea would be more efficient and less expensive than the proposal for a bridge now backed by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. PG

ALEKSII II AGAIN CRITICIZES PAPAL VISIT TO UKRAINE

Speaking in Moscow on 11 June, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II said that the planned visit of Catholic Pope John Paul II to Ukraine later this month "will cause a new confrontation between religious confessions there," ITAR-TASS reported. Aleksii said that the Pope aims to support "Greek Catholics and members of the Uniate Church who destroyed three Orthodox eparchies in Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk, and Ternopol at the end of the 1990s." Aleksii said that "etiquette requires an invitation from the church to which the majority of citizens belong." In Ukraine, that is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and that church, Aleksii stressed, has said that the pope's visit is "untimely" and should be postponed. PG

GLOBALIZATION SEEN GENERATING ITS ANTITHESIS IN RUSSIA

According to an extensive article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Tsenarii," No. 6, globalization pressures around the world have created a backlash in Russia, a development that has led to the rise of explicitly antiglobalist thinking and political movements in Russia. PG

BORODIN AGAIN REMAINS SILENT IN SWITZERLAND

Russia-Belarus Union State Secretary and former Kremlin property manager Pavel Borodin on 11 June again appeared in a Swiss court that is looking into charges that he was involved with the misappropriation of funds. Borodin again refused to answer questions, saying, "I've already answered all the questions in Russia. I've nothing to do here," Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

RUSSIANS GENERALLY POSITIVE ABOUT JAPAN

A poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 11 June found that 47 percent of the Russians questioned have a positive image of Japan, with only 6 percent having a negative view. But the poll found that many Russians -- 43 percent -- are neutral about Japan as a country and potential partner. PG

RUSSIAN AIR COMPANY PREPARES TO RETURN U.S. SPY PLANE FROM CHINA

A spokesman for Russia's Polyot air cargo company told RosBusinessConsulting on 9 June that his company has won the bid to transport the damaged U.S. spy plane from China back to the U.S. VY

BORDER GUARDS COMBAT CAVIAR MAFIA

The Russian Federal Border Guard Service (FPS) has seized 200 tons of caviar-bearing fish in the Caspian, RIA-Novosti reported on 11 June. The illegal production of black caviar over the last year, the FPS spokesman said, is more than 10 times the licensed amount. This situation has arisen because the caviar Mafia has more power than state agencies in this region, the agency said, quoting the regional newspaper "Volga." VY

GOVERNMENT PLANS TO RAISE DUTY ON USED AUTOS

Officials at the State Customs Committee on 11 June told Interfax that the government plans to impose new and higher tariffs on used automobiles more than seven years old. The increase appears to be part of Putin's plan to encourage Russians to purchase domestically produced cars and also to make Russia a less attractive market for cars stolen elsewhere. PG

KALININGRADERS VIEW BORDER GUARDS AS 'OBSTACLE' TO PERSONAL ENRICHMENT

According to an article in Kaliningrad's "Kaskad" on 24 May, Russians living in Kaliningrad view the operations of Russian border guards there as an obstacle to their efforts to make money through illegal trade across the border. But because the border guard units there are not equipped with the latest technology, Kaliningraders are generally able to evade the guards by passing across the border between official crossing points. PG

SOLZHENITSYN SAYS RUSSIA FAR FROM BEING A DEMOCRACY

Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said on 9 June that Russia is a long way from becoming a democracy, that authoritarianism is increasingly entrenched, that parliamentary debates are "a comedy," and that political power is increasingly concentrated in "a very closed" political class, dpa reported. He added that ordinary Russians have no way to express their views to those in power. PG

DEBATE OVER 'CULT OF STATE' URGED

An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 June argued that Russians should launch a wide-ranging debate over the "cult of the state" emerging in Russia. Such a cult represents a threat to human rights and the emergence of a civil society, the article suggested, and may be far more dangerous than the individual "cults of personality" that Russians are more often concerned with. PG

STATE PROPERTY RECEIPTS 70 PERCENT OVER PLAN

The sale of state assets during the first five months of 2001 brought in 10.34 billion rubles ($340 million), 70 percent more than the government had planned, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 June. PG

ILLARIONOV SAYS GOVERNMENT PLAN TO REFORM EES UNFORTUNATE

Speaking in Washington on 10 June, presidential economic aide Andrei Illarionov said that the government-approved reform of the Unified Energy Systems of Russia (EES) grid is "an unfortunate project," according to ITAR-TASS. Illarionov said that the current plan not only fails to solve existing problems but creates new ones, especially since it sets up a new "super monopoly." He added that the plan does not protect the interests of shareholders and investors, including the government itself. PG

AUDIT OF 'KURSK' FUNDS FINDS NO VIOLATIONS

The Tax Ministry has conducted an audit of funds contributed to aid families of the sailors who died when the "Kursk" nuclear submarine sank in August 2000, and found no misuse of the money, Interfax-Northwest reported on 11 June. The aid fund now includes some 776,000 rubles ($25,500). PG

RUSSIAN AIR FORCE IN TROUBLE

Training officials in the Russian air force told Interfax on 11 June that the service has ever fewer well-prepared pilots and that many of its best are rapidly approaching retirement age. Only about 40 percent of air force pilots are now rated in the first class, largely because they do not have the chance to hone their skills through practice flights. Moreover, the average age of this group is 41-43, with 45 being the compulsory retirement age. PG

WEST STEALING RUSSIAN TECHNOLOGY, NOT THE REVERSE, PAPER CLAIMS

An article in "Rossiya" on June 8 said that allegations carried in various Russian and Western papers that Moscow stole the technology for its two new super-quiet submarines in the West are untrue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2001). Instead, the paper said, Russia's new nuclear submarines are so good that "it's the West that is stealing technology from Russia." PG

RUSSIA TO SHOW OFF WORLD'S LARGEST TRANSPORT PLANE

Russia's Antonov complex will present an updated version of the AN-225 Mria, the largest transport plane in the world, at the Paris air show this year and will be ready to put it in regular use a year from this summer, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 June. PG

ROSTOV REGION REFUSES TO BECOME A NUCLEAR DUMP

The administration in Dubovskii Raion in Rostov Oblast has refused to allow its territory to be the site of a nuclear waste repository, RosBusinessConsulting reported on 11 June. The local officials said they do not believe that the management of the Rostov nuclear power plant demonstrated sufficient concern for the environment or the population living nearby. Meanwhile, German Environment Minister Juergen Tritten said that Berlin has no plans to send nuclear wastes for permanent storage in Russia, NTV reported on 10 June. VY

RUSSIA SETS UP SISTER-PRISON ARRANGEMENTS WITH FOREIGN COUNTRIES

According to a report in "Izvestiya" on 10 June, there are now so many sister-city relationships between Russian and foreign cities that almost every Russian grows up in a sister city of one kind or another. But now under a program developed by the European Union, "sister-prison" relationships have been set up between European countries and prisons in five Russian regions. PG

RUSSIA HAS A CHARITY GOLF TOURNAMENT

Moscow's Nakhabin country club has organized a charity golf tournament to benefit the Ronald McDonald Foundation, "Izvestiya" reported on 10 June. Each of the foursomes had to find sponsors who would contribute $4,000. PG

COPS DON'T STOP GOVERNOR'S DOUBLE -- BUT VOTERS DO

Yurii Krivonogov looks just like Ulyanovsk Governor Vladimir Shamanov, "Izvestiya" reported on 9 June, and as a result, traffic police do not stop him if he violates traffic rules. But he does have one problem: the region's residents frequently mistake him for the governor and complain about government services or tell him how they plan to vote in the next elections. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY WANTS PUTIN TO STOP PRIMORE ELECTIONS

Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky on 11 June said he has asked Putin to stop the second round of the gubernatorial elections in Primorskii Krai, Interfax reported. Zhirinovsky said that the remaining competitors are "more concerned about the seizure of power and the control of the ports" than they are about the electorate there. He added that the candidates are making "generous promises, which it is doubtful they would be able to fulfill." He suggested that Putin should introduce direct presidential rule in the krai. PG

BATTLE OVER FAR EAST TV STATION RAGES...

Acting Governor of Primorskii Krai Konstantin Tolstoshein ordered the replacement of Andrei Kholenko, the director of a major local television channel, OTV-Prim, with krai Duma deputy Leonid Beltyukov, the strana.ru website reported on 9 June. Beltyukov told local reporters the previous day that the change was necessary because the channel's newscasts had become extended television commercials for one candidate in the upcoming 17 June gubernatorial elections, Sergei Darkin. Beltyukov, who is considered an ally of Darkin's competitor in that election, State Duma deputy Viktor Cherepkov, also charged that Darkin's name is included on a list of local criminal groupings under the alias "Darych." Kholenko, who is considered close to Darkin, replied that his dismissal was a "crude political provocation." Meanwhile, former Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko returned to Vladivostok from Moscow on 8 June. JAC

...AS NAZDRATENKO RETURNS IN TIME FOR PRIMORE ELECTIONS

Nazdratenko, who has spoken publicly of Darkin in glowing terms, charged that Kholenko's dismissal is an indication that the planned elections are likely to be disrupted. "Several federal representatives [do not want] the elections completed or either of the candidates in the second round to be elected." In other media news in the region, Vladimir Gilgenburg, the editor of the "Dalekaya okraina" newspaper, has submitted a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder appealing for political asylum in either country, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 9 June. On 7 June, an entire run of Gilgenburg's newspaper was seized by local authorities because its publication allegedly would have violated election laws (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2001). That issue was devoted to Darkin's alleged criminal activities. Gilgenburg claims that his and lives of his family members have been threatened. JAC

SIBERIAN CARRIER SEEKS DIRECT FLIGHTS TO LONDON, BYPASSING MOSCOW

Russia's third-largest airline company, Sibir Airlines, is actively seeking to establish direct flights between Novosibirsk and London, "The Moscow Times" reported on 9 June. Sibir's General Director Vladislav Filev met with the U.K.'s Ambassador to Russia Sir Roderic Lyne in Novosibirsk on 7 June to discuss the establishment of an intergovernmental agreement that would allow Sibir to fly directly to London from Siberia. According to the daily, Sibir has reached agreements with Lufthansa and Air China within the last year. JAC

ANOTHER CHECHEN LOCAL OFFICIAL MURDERED

Unidentified gunmen broke into the home of Lukman Madalov, the village administrator in Valerik, Achkhoi Martan Raion, early on 11 June and opened fire, killing Madalov and wounding his wife, Interfax reported. The Russian military on 8 June said it would issue local officials with firearms for their protection after the killing of a village official last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 11 June 2001). LF




KARABAKH OFFICIALS BLAME AZERBAIJAN FOR HIATUS IN PEACE TALKS

Speaking to journalists in Yerevan on 11 June, Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), said he believes that Azerbaijan has retreated from tentative agreements on the principles of a Karabakh peace settlement agreed on in Paris in March during talks with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian said at a press conference in Brussels last week that Armenia bears no responsibility for the current "slowdown" in the peace process, which has led to the postponement of talks originally scheduled for this month in Geneva. Ghukasian said that the Karabakh leadership should be represented at future peace talks, at which he said new proposals and approaches should be discussed, according to Noyan Tapan. NKR Foreign Minister Naira Melkumian said at a public lecture in Yerevan on 11 June that "today Baku is not prepared for a solution" to the Karabakh conflict. She said Aliyev has not specified what concessions he is prepared to make to Armenia. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S KARABAKH WAR INVALIDS' SOCIETY AGAIN THREATENED WITH EVICTION

A police official ordered members of the Karabakh War Invalids' Society on 11 June to vacate immediately the premises in Baku that the society has temporarily leased and to halt its activities immediately, Turan reported. The lease expires in late July. The society has asked the Baku municipal authorities for permission to stage a protest demonstration in Baku on 16 June to demand the release from custody of six of its members detained in the course of clashes with police during a hunger strike in February to demand an increase in invalids' pensions and allowances (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 February 2001). LF

GEORGIA HOSTS MANEUVERS WITH NATO

Over 4,000 ground and naval troops from 10 countries, five of them NATO members (the U.S., Turkey, France, Greece, Italy, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine) embarked on war games on land and at sea in western Georgia on 11 June, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. The exercises, which will end on 22 June, involve simulating a peacekeeping operation, a humanitarian operation in an earthquake zone, assistance to a vessel in distress, and refueling at sea. Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze noted at the opening ceremony that the maneuvers are the first involving NATO to be held in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who in February hinted that Georgia might relinquish its quest for NATO membership (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 6, 9 February 2001), told journalists in Tbilisi that the maneuvers testify to Georgia's aspiration to Euro-Atlantic integration and will help the Georgian armed forces achieve NATO standards of professionalism. LF

GEORGIA INSISTS RUSSIA MUST MEET DEADLINE FOR WITHDRAWAL FROM ABKHAZ MILITARY BASE

Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 12 June that Georgia will insist that Russia meet the 1 July deadline for withdrawal from the Gudauta military base in Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported. Local residents, both Russian and Abkhaz, have blockaded the base since 6 June to prevent the removal of military equipment, arguing that only the Russian paratroopers' presence can prevent further hostilities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2001). Echoing those fears, Abkhazia's senior cleric, Father Bessarion, told "Izvestiya" that "Georgia and Abkhazia may be on the brink of a new war." Menagharishvili also said that Tbilisi will insist that Russia close its two remaining bases in Georgia, in Batumi and Akhalkalaki, within three years. Moscow wants to extend that period to 15 years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2001). LF

SOUTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT NOMINATES NEW PREMIER

Lyudvig Chibirov has proposed Defense and Emergency Situations Minister Dima Sanakoev as prime minister of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, Caucasus Press reported on 12 June. Chibirov described Sanakoev as a young man capable of overcoming the economic problems resulting from the still unresolved conflict that erupted in 1990 between the then-South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast and the Georgian central authorities. On 9 June, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that after Chibirov and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov signed an agreement on 21 May, whereby the latter will provide the economic assistance to South Ossetia, the Georgian authorities refused to participate in talks scheduled to be held in Moscow on 6-7 June on overcoming the economic consequences of the conflict. LF

KAZAKHSTAN, CHINA MAKE PROGRESS IN TRANSBORDER RIVER TALKS

During a fourth round of talks in Almaty, Kazakh and Chinese government delegations have virtually completed drafting a framework agreement on the joint use of waters from 23 transborder rivers including the Irtysh and Ili, "Rossiiskaya Biznes-gazeta" reported on 9 June. Those talks began in 1999 at the suggestion of Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 15 April 1999). That agreement does not mention specific rivers or hydroelectric installations, or specify the amount of water each country may use for irrigation and other purposes. Nor is it clear whether experts have reached a consensus on whether the annual flow of the Irtysh is 9 billion cubic meters as Kazakhstan estimates, or 12 billion according to the Chinese calculations. According to Kazakhstan's Ambassador to Beijing Kuanysh Sultanov, Kazakhstan was nonetheless constrained to make two key concessions in order to reach even that framework agreement: Astana has ceded some 500 square kilometers of territory to China and dropped its earlier insistence that Russia should also be a partner to the talks as some of the rivers in question flow from China via Kazakhstan into the Russian Federation. LF

U.S. TO FINANCE FEASIBILITY STUDY FOR KAZAKHSTAN CASPIAN PIPELINE

U.S. special adviser for Caspian energy issues Stephen Mann and Kairgeldy Kabyldin, the deputy general director of the newly created Kazakh pipeline company Oil and Gas Transport (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 2001), signed an agreement in Almaty on 11 June under which the U.S. will provide $346,000 to fund a study of the technical, economic, and ecological aspects of extending the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline across the Caspian to the Kazakh port of Aqtau, Interfax reported. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIAN ARGUES AGAINST RATIFYING DEFENSE PACT WITH UZBEKISTAN

Speaking at a press conference in Bishkek on 11 June, parliament deputy Tursunbai Bakir Uulu, the chairman of the Erkin Kyrgyzstan Party, argued that the legislature should not ratify the bilateral agreement on military cooperation with Uzbekistan signed last fall, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 2000). He said Bishkek should demand that Uzbekistan remove the land mines it has planted along its border with Kyrgyzstan to deter incursions by fighters from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and which have killed several civilians. The Kyrgyz government made a formal request to Tashkent the following day to reveal the location of the minefields, AFP reported. Bakir Uulu also said that the Kyrgyz leadership is exaggerating the potential threat posed by Islamist extremists in order to extract more aid from the West. The U.S. delivered a consignment of climbing gear and cold-weather clothing for the Kyrgyz armed forces last week, according to AP on 6 June. Also on 11 June, the Kyrgyz parliament began a closed session at which Premier Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev, Defense Minister Esen Topoev, and Foreign Minister Muratbek ImanAliyev reported on the security situation in southern Kyrgyzstan. LF

ADB TO INCREASE AID TO TAJIKISTAN

Following talks in Dushanbe on 8 June with Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov, Asian Development Bank President Tadao Chino told journalists that his organization will provide additional funds to help cover Tajikistan's budget deficit and to fund programs aimed at reforming the agrarian sector and poverty reduction, Asia Plus-Blitz and ITAR-TASS reported on 11 June. The ADB and the Tajik government signed a Memorandum of Understanding last year whereby the bank undertook to provide Tajikistan with new low-interest loans totaling $120 million in 2001-2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2000). LF

UZBEKISTAN DENIES NEW ISLAMIST INCURSION

The Uzbek Defense Ministry on 11 June formally denied media reports that Islamist guerrillas have entered Uzbek territory from either Tajikistan or Afghanistan, Interfax reported. It added that large-scale military training exercises are currently underway in Surkhandarya Oblast, which borders both of those countries. LF




BELARUSIAN INVESTIGATORS ACCUSE TOP OFFICIALS OF POLITICAL MURDERS...

Two former prosecutors, Dzmitry Petrushkevich and Aleh Sluchak, have sent a letter via E-mail to a number of Belarusian media outlets in which they accuse top officials of organizing a death squad and killing opposition politicians Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar as well as ORT cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski, the Charter-97 website and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 11 June. Petrushkevich and Sluchak claimed that the death squad was organized by former Interior Minister Yury Sivakou following an order from Security Council Secretary Viktar Sheyman. According to the two investigators, after the KGB and the Prosecutor-General's Office had traced the death squad and tried to find the body of Zavadski, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka fired KGB chief Uladzimir Matskevich and Prosecutor-General Aleh Bazhelka. Petrushkevich and Sluchak added that Sheyman then ordered the release of the arrested commander of the death squad from jail (see also "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 June 2001). JM

...AND INTERIOR MINISTER OF CONSPIRING WITH SUSPECTS

Petrushkevich and Sluchak also wrote that Valery Ihnatovich and Maksim Malik, who were arrested on charges of killing Zavadski, threatened during interrogations to take revenge on investigators and their families. Petrushkevich and Sluchak claimed that Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau, who oversees the investigation of the Zavadski case, made several unrecorded visits to Ihnatovich and Malik in jail. Petrushkevich and Sluchak suggested that Navumau supplied the suspects with personal information about investigators and their families in order to make the suspects' threats more plausible. Quoting Interior Ministry spokesman Dzmitry Parton, Belapan reported on 11 June that Navumau denied the allegations. JM

ALLEGATIONS OF U.S. PROBE AGAINST KUCHMA NOT CONFIRMED

Quoting an unidentified Ukrainian diplomat in Washington, Interfax reported on 11 June that the U.S. authorities are not conducting any investigation involving Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Last week, Ukrainian lawmaker Hryhoriy Omelchenko alleged that Kuchma's former bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko has been given special witness status in the U.S. after he passed to the U.S. authorities audio recordings suggesting that no less than $1 billion dollars has been deposited into U.S. bank accounts that either belong to or are controlled by Kuchma. The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington inquired at the U.S. Secretary of State's office about the probe into Kuchma's alleged financial operations and was told that no such investigation has been opened. JM

ANTI-KUCHMA REFERENDUM GROUPS DENIED REGISTRATION

The Central Election Commission on 11 June denied registration to two groups of citizens from Poltava Oblast and Ternopil, who were seeking a referendum on President Kuchma's ouster, Interfax reported. The commission said the groups committed procedural and formal violations while holding their founding meetings and preparing documents for registration. The commission also said the questions those groups wanted to put forth in a referendum cannot be proposed under Ukrainian legislation. JM

ESTONIA, BELGIUM SIGN POLICE COOPERATION ACCORD

Estonian and Belgian interior ministers Tarmo Loodus and Antoine Duquesne signed an agreement on police cooperation on 11 June in Tallinn, BNS reported. Under the agreement, Estonian and Belgian police will work closely in operational matters, exchange information, and stage joint operations and seminars. Duquesne stated that the main goal of the agreement is to fight against international drug trafficking and trade in humans, as well as illegal immigration. He noted that the signing of the agreement is not an indication that Belgium sees a threat from crime originating in Estonia because it intends to sign similar agreements with all Eastern European countries. SG

NATURALIZATION FEE REDUCTION NECESSARY FOR CLOSING OSCE MISSION IN LATVIA

Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins said on 11 June that the recently passed reduction of the naturalization fee is an important precondition for closing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Latvia, BNS reported. The OSCE Permanent Council forum on 14 June will hear a report by its representative in Latvia, Peter Semneby, who recently declared that he will recommend extending the mandate of the OSCE mission in Latvia from 30 June until the end of the year. Semneby said developments in Latvia are very positive, but a "few things have to be completed" before the OSCE mandate can be fulfilled. He noted that while naturalization and citizenship issues are the focus of the OSCE mission, it is also involved in developing the ombudsman's institution in Latvia and strengthening other human rights institutions. SG

WORK GROUPS FORMED TO RESCUE FOUNDERING LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT

At a meeting on 11 June, the leaders of the ruling coalition -- Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas of the Liberal Union, parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas of the New Union (Social Liberals), and Center Union Chairman Kestutis Glaveckas -- decided to establish five work groups to find a common position on important issues their views have differed on, BNS reported. Vytautas Bogusis, the chairman of the Modern Christian Democratic Union (the other party in the ruling coalition), did not attend the meeting. The five issues to be discussed are tax reform, pension reform, the return of land nationalized during the Soviet occupation, the fate of the Mazeikiai oil refinery, and the privatization of the state-owned natural gas monopoly Lithuanian Gas. Earlier the same day, Paulauskas met with President Valdas Adamkus, who stressed the necessity of having a political coalition capable of implementing necessary reforms. SG

POLAND CALLS FOR 'CLEAR SIGNAL' ON EU ENLARGEMENT

Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek confirmed in Copenhagen on 11 June that Poland will be ready for EU membership by 1 January 2003, Reuters reported. "We want a clear signal of political will and support for enlargement," he said, referring to this week's EU summit in Goteborg, Sweden. Danish Premier Poul Nyrup Rasmussen assured Buzek that Ireland's "no" in a referendum on the ratification of the Nice Treaty does not mean "no" to EU enlargement. Denmark is the only EU member to have ratified the Nice Treaty so far. The remaining countries are expected to do so by the end of 2002. EU diplomats hope that Ireland -- the only country required by its constitution to put the treaty to a popular vote -- will hold a second referendum on the issue later this year. JM

POLISH LUSTRATION SAID TO BE HAMPERED BY LACK OF EVIDENCE

Lustration Prosecutor Boguslaw Nizienski told Radio Plus on 11 June that some 220 people currently working in various public posts were registered by the communist-era secret services as secret collaborators, but he added that he cannot prove that they actually collaborated. "It is not possible [to prove this] because...basically, the court does not accept registrations alone as unquestionable, foolproof evidence. The court is looking for personal files and for operational files but these, to a large extent, were destroyed in the second half of 1989," Nizienski said. JM

YUGOSLAV PREMIER IN PRAGUE

Visiting Yugoslav Premier Zoran Zizic and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman on 11 June said they both agree that Yugoslavia's borders must not change, despite "separatist tendencies in Kosovo and Montenegro," CTK reported. "The Czech Republic fully shares the EU position...on the territorial integrity and the inviolability of the borders of the Yugoslav Republic. This applies to both Kosovo and Montenegro," Zeman said. Zeman and Zizic also discussed political and economic cooperation between the two countries. The Yugoslav premier said cooperation is possible mainly in the areas of trade, energy, industry, infrastructure, and transport. He said he would welcome Czech participation in the process of privatization in Yugoslavia. Zizic also met with parliamentary speaker Vaclav Klaus. MS

EU PRAISES CZECH PROGRESS IN ENLARGEMENT TALKS

Guenter Verheugen, the EU commissioner for enlargement, on 11 June told journalists in Luxembourg after the end of the latest round of negotiations with the Czech Republic that Prague is "now in an excellent position, not only on the number of chapters [of the acquis communautaire] provisionally closed, but also on its degree of preparation for the remaining chapters," Reuters reported. The Czech Republic has closed 19 of 31 chapters. Verheugen added that, like other candidates, Prague must still overhaul its administrative and judicial structures. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said he hopes EU leaders will provide a "clear-cut" timetable for accession at their 15-16 June Goteborg summit in Sweden. Kavan also said Ireland's rejection of the Nice Treaty last week was "a shock" that "could seriously harm enlargement." MS

FORMER CZECH COMMUNIST PROSECUTOR GOES ON TRIAL

A former communist prosecutor went on trial on 11 June on charges of murder dating back to the late 1940s, AP reported. Karel Vas, 85, is accused of forging evidence against General Helidor Picka, who was accused in 1949 of spying for the British intelligence service during and after World War II. Vas is accused of inserting forged documents into Picka's files during his court trial. Picka was found guilty of espionage and treason and was executed in 1949. If convicted, Vas faces 15 years in jail. MS

CZECHS EXPECT A 'FEW DOZEN' BSE CASES AT MOST

State Veterinary Authority spokesman Josef Duben on 11 June said the Czech Republic expects there will be no more than "a few dozen cases" of BSE (mad cow disease) among cattle in the country, following the confirmation of the first BSE case there last week. Duben said that all slaughtered animals older than 30 months -- the lowest age at which the disease has been found -- will be tested. "Several dozen is quite a pessimistic estimate. There may be two, three, or fifteen," Reuters quoted him as saying. MS

SLOVAK, HUNGARIAN PREMIERS DISCUSS EU ACCESSION

Visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Slovak counterpart Mikulas Dzurinda met in Bratislava on 11 June and discussed expected developments in the forthcoming round of EU talks at the chief negotiator level, Hungarian media reported. Orban also spoke over the telephone with his Czech and Polish counterparts, Milos Zeman and Buzek respectively, and discussed the stage of EU accession preparations in the Visegrad Four countries. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT ASKS COURT TO REVIEW 'LEX REPASSY'

Ferenc Madl on 11 June requested that the Constitutional Court express its opinion on an amendment to the Civil Code submitted to parliament by FIDESZ deputy parliamentary group leader Robert Repassy, Hungarian media reported. Under the amendment, newspapers would be obliged to publish individuals' responses to articles the individuals feel infringe on their "privacy rights." The parliament passed the amendment on 29 May, but one day later the Association of Hungarian Journalists appealed to Madl to ask the Constitutional Court's to review it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 and 31 May 2001). Madl said several provisions of the so-called "Lex Repassy" amendment are unconstitutional, and "go too far in restricting press freedom in order to protect privacy rights." MSZ

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS EXPEL SZABADI

By a vote of 27 to 11, the parliamentary group of the Independent Smallholders' Party decided on 11 June to expel former Agriculture Ministry Political State Secretary Bela Szabadi from the group's ranks, Hungarian media reported. Last week, Prosecutor-General Peter Polt requested that parliamentary speaker Janos Ader lift Szabadi's parliamentary immunity, as he is suspected of misusing funds and of embezzling worth hundreds of millions of forints. Szabadi exercised ownership rights over 23 agricultural firms run by the ministry during the tenure of former minister Jozsef Torgyan. MSZ

HUNGARIAN MAN DIES OF HUMAN FORM OF BSE

A 56-year-old man died on 21 May of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of BSE, at Baja Hospital in southern Hungary, the hospital's deputy director, Gabor Nyirati, told Hungarian media on 11 June. The man was admitted to the hospital's psychiatric ward in February. MSZ




MACEDONIAN CEASE-FIRE HOLDING

The government announced a "temporary cease-fire" on 11 June to enable water supplies to reach Kumanovo and food and medicine to be delivered to nearby guerrilla-held villages. Nikola Dimitrov, the security adviser to President Boris Trajkovski, said the cease-fire has nothing to do with a recent ultimatum given to the authorities from the fighters of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK), RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He did not specify how long the cease-fire will last. Elsewhere, the guerrillas announced a cease-fire slated to last until 2:00 p.m. local time on 12 June. Reuters reported that the truce appears to be holding. The only reported incident was near Tetovo during the night, when the UCK ambushed a police patrol. PM

U.S. HAILS MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT, SLAMS UCK

Speaking to reporters in Washington on 11 June, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: "The United States condemns in the strongest terms the extremist actions of the so-called National Liberation Army. We oppose their violent tactics, which aim to undermine Macedonian democracy and threaten regional stability... With the occupation of Aracinovo, the extremists have escalated the conflict and pose a potential threat to NATO supply lines... We welcome the Macedonian government's declaration today of a cease-fire as another strong indication of [its] courageous restraint in the face of extremist provocations. We continue to urge the government of Macedonia to act with restraint in response to the extremist provocations, to use only that force which is necessary and proportionate, and to take steps to avoid endangering civilians," Reuters reported. PM

EU CONCERNED OVER WORSENING SITUATION IN MACEDONIA

EU foreign ministers said in a statement in Luxembourg on 11 June that they condemn the continuing "terrorist actions" of ethnic Albanian extremists. The guerrillas should lay down their arms and turn to "appropriate forms" of protest to make their views known, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. The ministers called on Trajkovski and the government to take all necessary steps to intensify the dialogue between all ethnic groups and enact a package of reforms that will benefit all citizens. The ministers agreed that the EU Commission will receive authorization by the end of the year to begin talks with Albania on a Stabilization and Association Agreement for that country. Macedonia has already signed such an agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2001). "Studies" are planned for launching similar talks with Sarajevo and with Belgrade. PM

GREECE CLOSELY MONITORING EVENTS IN MACEDONIA

A government spokesman said in Athens on 11 June that the authorities are watching developments in Macedonia, where Greece is the largest foreign investor. He said that the government will "take initiatives" to protect Greek investments but ruled out any military role. He added that the authorities are in contact with Macedonian officials. Greece has investments totaling $300 million in its northern neighbor. Greece owns 69.5 percent of the main oil refinery, AP reported. PM

RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES IN MACEDONIA ON CRISIS

After a religious service in the town of Stip, Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC) leader Gospodin Gospodin Stefan said, "our belief teaches us to be patient and just, but if terrorists come to steal territories from Macedonia, then the church agrees to use against the terrorists what is necessary in situations like this," according to the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" of 11 June. Meanwhile, in an interview with Radio Spektar, Stefan pointed to a deep moral crisis as the basis for the current interethnic problems in Macedonia. The leader of the Islamic Religious Community of Macedonia, Reis ul-Ulema Hafiz Arif Efendi Emini, told the same radio station: "I call for a return to reality, and that we reach realistic and rational conclusions. We all live in this area and we have to stay here. We should tell the devil: Stop." UB

ETHNIC ALBANIAN JOURNALISTS UNDER PRESSURE IN MACEDONIA

According to a press release issued on 9 June by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), Macedonian police arrested one of its correspondents, the ethnic Albanian journalist Veton Latifi, on the outskirts of Skopje. Latifi was held in detention for about two hours. IWPR claimed in the press release that some of the police threatened him verbally. One day later, the private homes of an unspecified number of journalists of the Albanian-language Skopje newspaper "Fakti" were searched, the Macedonian daily "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 11 June. The intrusion took place in the early afternoon while the journalists were at work. The editor in chief of "Fakti," Shkelzen Halimi, sharply protested the searches and asked the Interior Ministry for an explanation. UB

IMF GRANTS SERBIA LOAN OVER U.S. OBJECTIONS

The IMF approved a $249 million standby loan to Belgrade on 11 June. The move came despite objections by the U.S. that Serbia has not met its obligations to cooperate with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 May 2001). Stanley Fischer, IMF first deputy managing director, said in a statement: "The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's authorities have embarked with impressive speed and commitment on the extremely difficult task of reconstructing their devastated economy," Reuters reported from Washington. PM

SERBIAN MINISTER OUSTED IN SEXUAL HARASSMENT ROW

The Serbian parliament on 11 June endorsed a recommendation by Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic that Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Obradovic be fired, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Several women in his own party accused him of sexually harassing them, a charge that Obradovic has denied (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2001). He argues that the charges are the result of a conspiracy by those who fear his investigations of corruption under the former regime. PM

TAXIS BLOCK SERBIAN ROADS

"Several thousand" taxis blocked roads all over Serbia on 11 June to protest the government's tax policy on taxi drivers, "Danas" reported. PM

SERBIAN CRIME REPORTER KILLED

Milan Pantic, a crime reporter for the Belgrade mass-circulation daily "Vecernje Novosti," was killed by unidentified persons in Jagodina on 11 June by a series of blows with a sharp object, possibly an ax, "Danas" reported. A journalist colleague of his told Reuters that they both wrote about crime and corruption and had received death threats. PM

U.S. PLEDGES $25 MILLION FOR BOSNIAN REFUGEE RETURN

Ambassador Thomas Miller said in Sarajevo on 11 June that Washington will provide an additional $25 million in its aid package for 2001, bringing the total to $73 million, Reuters reported. He noted that this is less than the $75 million granted in 2000, but added that the amount is nonetheless "remarkable" in view of declining foreign aid contributions for Bosnia. The money will go for infrastructure projects in areas where returnees represent an ethnic minority. Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija cited declining aid contributions as a major problem in facilitating refugee returns. PM

BOSNIAN MINISTRY SETS DEADLINE FOR CROAT MUTINEERS

The Defense Ministry said in a statement on 11 June that ethnic Croatian soldiers must renew their contracts by 15 June if they still wish to be considered part of the army, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 2001). "Oslobodjenje" wrote on 12 June that the compromise agreement reached between the government and hard-liners in May is in danger of collapsing. PM

BUSH HAILS SLOVENIA ON EVE OF EUROPEAN TRIP

U.S. President George W. Bush, who will arrive in Ljubljana on 16 June for a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, told Slovenian television on 11 June that he is pleased to have "the opportunity...to go to a country that is showing what can happen when freedom is allowed... Slovenia is an example of what can happen if freedom-loving people insist upon institutions that free people [support]. We want NATO to expand -- no country has a veto power over the expansion of NATO," AP reported. Bush added that his trip to Slovenia is a "signal that our nation is not only interested in the old part of Europe, but also a part of Europe that is very important -- the emerging part of Europe." Elsewhere, a Slovenian police spokesman said that "we have increased security not only on the borders to Croatia, but also on those to Austria, Italy, and Hungary. Every person and every car that enters Slovenia is registered." PM

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY ATTACKS HUNGARIAN 'STATUS BILL'...

The ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 11 June said it is "worried" about the consequences of the pending Status Bill in Hungary, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. It said it is "particularly concerned" by statements made by Hungarian politicians who view the bill as "an act of reparation" of the 1920 Trianon Treaty. The PDSR also claims the bill envisages implementing "discriminatory measures" on the territory of other states that are contrary to "current European standards." The PDSR said its claim is proved by the fact that the bill' s provisions will not apply to Austria, which is a EU member. Budapest's intention to use the bill for recruiting "1-2 million workers" from among ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries" adds to it an "evident economic social dimension," the PDSR said. MS

...IS REBUKED BY UDMR CHAIRMAN

Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, said in reaction that the PDSR is "inflating" the bill's importance without justification and that the party's mention of alleged revisionist intentions regarding the Trianon Treaty is "gratuitous." MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT'S ATTEMPT TO 'DEFLECT ATTENTION' CAUSES STIR

The publication in the daily "Evenimentul zilei" on 11 June of a leaked memorandum prepared by Public Information Minister Vasile Dancu and distributed last week to members of the government has created an uproar, Romanian media reported. After monitoring the negative image in the Romanian media of Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and the cabinet as a whole, the memorandum recommended that Nastase "reduce" his meetings with journalists and that "attention be deflected from the problems of the Justice Ministry." Dancu claimed the use of the term "deflection" was "ideological" and said it was not used in the memorandum, but Nastase called it "unfortunate." MS

ROMANIAN SENATOR WOULD DISMISS RADIO ADMINISTRATIVE BOARD 'ON THE SPOT'

PDSR Senator Adrian Paunescu on 11 June said the airing by the national radio of a protest meeting of journalists and the contents of the letter of protest they sent to the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline", 11 June 2001) was "blatant defiance of democracy" and that "in any civilized state, such acts are sanctioned," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Paunescu, who heads the Senate's Commission on Culture, Arts, and Mass Media, said the managers of the radio who "allowed and provoked" the broadcast "should have been fired the next day." Also on 11 June, Premier Nastase said the PDSR has "not yet" decided what position it will take in parliamentary debates on the radio and television boards "because we do not want to create the impression that the decision is rushed." MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT, FORMER MONARCH, PATRIARCH, ISSUE JOINT APPEAL

Ion Iliescu, former King Michael, and Patriarch Teoctist on 11 June jointly appealed to Romanians in the country and the diaspora to "display solidarity" to help overcome the country's poverty and the problem of abandoned children, Romanian Radio reported. The appeal said Romania's suffering can end only if economic progress and integration into the EU and NATO are achieved, and that these objectives "must stand above any other political or personal interests." MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS IMF, WORLD BANK PARTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR COUNTRY'S PLIGHT

Vladimir Voronin said in an interview with the official Russian publication "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 11 June that the IMF and the World Bank are partly responsible for Moldova's economic plight, along with the country's former rulers, Infotag reported. Voronin said the two international financing organizations, "which are about to announce Moldova's defaulting on its debt," should "think hard about who has led the country into it." He emphasized that the three memoranda signed with the IMF had been implemented in Moldova "with greater anxiety than the CPSU Central Committee resolutions in past decades." Such "servility," he said, is unmatched by anything that happened in the past. Voronin said he sees just one possible solution to leading the country out of its crisis -- to rely on its own on itself. "All these credits and fabulous promises do nothing but further tie down the republic," he said. MS

MOLDOVA TO HOLD PARTIAL LOCAL ELECTIONS

Partial local elections will be held in 11 towns and villages on 17 June, Infotag reported on 11 June. The largest town in which the elections will be held is Balti, Moldova's second-largest locality after Chisinau, where seven candidates are running for mayor. Altogether, 52 candidates will contest the mayoral posts. Of these, 10 are members of the Party of Moldovan Communists. The Centrist Alliance, the National Liberal Party, and the "Furnica" ("Ant") Party of Social Democracy have four mayoral candidates each. MS

BULGARIAN POLL SHOWS PRO-KING MOVEMENT STILL LEADING

A public opinion poll conducted by the MBMD Institute shows the National Movement Simeon II is still leading the field one week before the 17 June parliamentary elections, BTA reported on 11 June, citing the survey's results published by "24 Chasa." The movement now has public support of 38 percent, some 2.5 to 3 percent less than in May. In second place, the United Democratic Forces (SDS) alliance is backed by 17 percent, closely followed by the Coalition for Bulgaria, whose main component is the Bulgarian Socialist Party and which has 16 percent support. The ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms has only 3.5 percent support in the poll. The MBMD says no less than one-quarter of voters may change their minds in the last few days before the ballot. Seventy-seven percent of the respondents said they will definitely participate in the elections. MS

EU WORRIED ABOUT BULGARIAN ELECTORAL OUTCOME

Guenter Verheugen, the EU commissioner for enlargement, said on 11 June that he is concerned about the possible outcome of the Bulgarian elections, Reuters reported. "We must not interfere in national elections...[But] we have carefully studied the platforms of parties running...and there are reasons to be concerned about the future pace of the country in its accession to the EU," he said, in a clear allusion to the National Movement Simeon II. Speaking in Brussels, Verheugen said that "some of the promises and statements in the platforms give reasons for questions in terms of what they mean for continued political and economic reform." He emphasized that during the past four years [with the United Democratic Forces alliance in power] "the situation in Bulgaria has developed in an encouraging way" and added that "I can only say that stability and continuity are the main pillars of a country's political success." MS

SOFIA MAYOR READY TO HEAD GOVERNMENT

In an interview with the daily "Trud" on 11 June, Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyansky said he is ready to head a coalition government formed by the United Democratic Forces and the National Movement Simeon II, BTA reported. The mayor said he would accept the job "if he is asked to and if the situation after the elections requires it." He said the drop in the rate of approval for the SDS, of which he is a member, is the result of several mistakes, among which he counted "personification." Sofiyansky said the fact that Premier Ivan Kostov is both prime minister and head of the party turned his personal achievements into party successes but it did the same with his personal failures. MS




MACEDONIA: TIME FOR CONTINGENCY PLANNING?


The following is Part I of a two-part series.

By Patrick Moore

The Macedonian crisis is threatening to spin out of control, leading some to argue that the time has come for the international community to make some serious plans about how it intends to deal with it.

Something has gone terribly wrong in Macedonia. What had long been hailed as the one Yugoslav republic that managed to leave the former federation without a bloody conflict now appears headed for a full-blown civil war. This is one conflict in that region that cannot be blamed on Serbia or former President Slobodan Milosevic. Indeed, even though the ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK) are clearly receiving some help from across the border in Kosova, it is obvious that this conflict has very deep domestic roots.

The intensity of the mutual hatreds in Macedonia has truly been striking. Mistrust and a lack of mutual comprehension or respect quickly brought about a polarization of the republic's two largest ethnic communities, starting in the spring. The mood has often been ugly; one recalls especially the ethnic Macedonian mobs of Bitola and the calls by some Macedonian leaders to "crush" the UCK. There is, in fact, language to be heard on both sides of the ethnic divide that seems to describe the other group in terms that are less than human. This is but one more version of the "hate-speech" familiar to students of the previous conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

Matters have not been helped by the glaring lack of leadership in Macedonia. This is particularly the case among the ethnic Macedonians, because President Boris Trajkovski and Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski are not only Slavic nationalist political leaders. They are at the same time the head of state and the head of government, respectively, of a multiethnic country.

That means that they have an extra burden on their shoulders to be statesman-like and conciliatory. Trajkovski seems to assume such a role in many of his public statements, but his roundtable talks have failed to lead to any practical resolution of the Albanians' constitutional grievances over status and language. This has led some Albanians to conclude that Trajkovski speaks one way but acts another. Moreover, Trajkovski shocked some top U.S. officials during his recent visit to Washington by saying things in private that suggested that he regards the Albanians -- who form at least 23 percent of the population -- as foreigners and interlopers and not as fellow citizens.

This problem of leadership is even more pronounced in the case of Georgievski. Having made apparent concessions to the Albanians on the constitutional issue about two weeks ago, he retracted his remarks some days later, claiming that he had spoken ironically or had been misquoted. Indeed, Georgievski has rarely adopted a statesman-like posture in the course of the crisis, preferring instead to rail against "terrorists," whom he will "destroy."

The case of Georgievski illustrates an important aspect of the leadership problem: the prime minister speaks to his nationalist supporters as though he were the head of a national state's government and as though complex social and political issues could be dealt with by force. And matters probably will not become better -- as far as the conduct of any of the major politicians is concerned -- as early elections draw nearer (they are expected either in January 2002 or in the fall of this year).

To single out Georgievski is not necessarily to say that his rivals have been much more prudent. Elder statesman Kiro Gligorov also speaks as though he believes that there is a military solution to the crisis. The Social Democrats, with whom he is closely connected, similarly take an ethnic Macedonian hard line. Of the Albanian leaders, Arben Xhaferi of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) at least chooses his words carefully and talks of a need for dialogue and solutions. But Georgievski has a point when he says that none of the Albanian politicians has sharply condemned the UCK and its resorting to violence in what had been a peaceful country.


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