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Newsline - June 14, 2001




PUTIN REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO FREE MEDIA

In a message to the Media Forum 2000 in St. Petersburg, President Vladimir Putin on 13 June reaffirmed his commitment to a free media, noting that it is a precondition for the development of a democratic society and "the most important" protection against any retreat to the authoritarianism of the past, Russian and Western agencies reported. Viktor Cherkesov, the presidential envoy to the Northwest federal district, said he considers the effective interaction of the authorities and the media to be one of the most important tasks before Russia today. Aleksandr Lyubimov, the president of the Media Union, told the meeting that he does not see his group as duplicating the Union of Journalists. And Media Minister Mikhail Lesin noted in his comments to the group that the situation around NTV has still not stabilized, largely because of the inadequacy of legislation governing the media, Interfax-Northwest reported. PG

PUTIN CALLS FOR STRUGGLE AGAINST TERRORISM IN CENTRAL ASIA

In an interview with Chinese television, the Xinhua news agency, and "Renmin Ribao" on 13 June in advance of his visit to Shanghai on 14-15 June, Putin called for strengthening cooperation among the Shanghai Forum states to fight extremism and terrorism in Central Asia. He said Russia's ties with China are strengthening and that Russia is "a natural, very good, and promising partner not only for China" but for other countries as well. Putin said that "Russian must be a democratic, contemporary country with a developed market economy and a socially oriented policy, with a policy which will guarantee the overwhelming majority of the population...fundamental values in health, social security, and to the maximum extent -- and I want to stress this -- the maximum extent of freedom in economic and social life." PG

PUTIN MEETS WITH 'RUSSIAN REGIONS' LEADERS

President Putin on 13 June told a group of Russian Regions deputies that he will push hard for the adoption of budget legislation without modifications, Interfax reported. Russian Regions leader Oleg Morozov said he has the impression that Putin will be willing to accept only the most minor changes in the bills the government submits. PG

PUTIN CONTINUES TO APPOINT PETERSBURGERS

According to an article in "Versiya," No. 21, President Putin has now named 19 people from his native St. Petersburg to senior positions in the government. Many of them worked with him when he served there, but at least some are linked to him only by friendship ties from his time as a university student, the weekly said. PG

STROEV SAYS PUTIN HAS ENDED RUSSIA'S 'TIME OF TROUBLES'

Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev told the St. Petersburg Economic Forum that Putin's policies have brought an end to Russia's "time of troubles," RIA-Novosti reported on 13 June. Stroev described the last decade in Russia as "a time of mindless destruction and revolutionary ideas." But Stroev added that despite the progress made so far, the future of Russia and of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will depend "on which takes place more quickly" -- the introduction of new technology or the exhaustion of natural resources. VY

KASYANOV URGES RUSSIAN BUSINESS TO BECOME MORE COMPETITIVE

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told the Economic Forum in St. Petersburg that Russia must work more closely with the European Union and the CIS and that Russian business must become more competitive, Russian and Western agencies reported on 13 June. Other speakers told the 2,000 participants from 37 countries that Russia ranks 55th out of 59 countries in terms of competitiveness, AP reported. PG

KASYANOV, UKRAINIAN COUNTERPART AGREE TO EXPAND COOPERATION

At a meeting in St. Petersburg on 13 June, Prime Minister Kasyanov agreed with Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh to restart the work of a permanent intergovernmental commission that will deal with a large number of outstanding issues, ITAR-TASS reported. For his part, Kinakh said the two sides should be more serious in implementing agreements already signed, Interfax-Northwest reported. PG

DUMA FAILS TO APPROVE ANTICORRUPTION LAW...

The Duma on 13 June failed to pass on first reading the draft law on the struggle against corruption, Russian news agencies reported. Two hundred twenty deputies voted for it, six short of the required majority. Twenty-nine deputies voted against. In a repeat vote, the measure gained only 217 supporters. The bill was strongly opposed by the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and representatives of the government. PG

...VOTES TO PREVENT LEADERS WHO RESIGN FROM RUNNING AGAIN...

The Duma on 13 June approved on second reading an amendment to election legislation that will limit the rights of the Russian president or the heads of federation subjects from running again if they leave office early, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, Interfax reported. Deputy (SPS) Boris Nadezhdin introduced the measure. PG

...AND CALLS ON PUTIN TO FIGHT VIRAL HEPATITIS

By a vote of 328 to one, Duma deputies on 13 June adopted an appeal to Putin calling on him to direct the government to launch a campaign to combat the spread of various types of viral hepatitis in Russia, Interfax reported. The deputies noted that at present more than 3 million Russians are carriers of this disease. PG

DEATH PENALTY CONTINUES TO SPARK DEBATE

Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) head Vladimir Zhirinovsky greeted the American decision to execute Timothy McVeigh, Interfax reported on 13 June. Zhirinovsky was far from alone in expressing his views on the death penalty on that date. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that it is premature for Russia to dispense with the death penalty given challenges like Chechnya. A petition with 1 million signatures in support of the death penalty was presented to the Duma on 13 June, the news agency reported. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev joined Zyuganov in saying that it is too soon to end the death penalty. But SPS Duma faction leader Viktor Pokhmelkin said his group is categorically opposed to the use of the death penalty, even against drug traffickers as some SPS members have proposed. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY WANTS DEPUTIES WHO DELAY BILLS INVESTIGATED

Zhirinovsky on 13 June called for the creation within the Duma of a department of internal security, Interfax reported. The body would conduct investigations into the actions of those deputies who delay bills to see whether they have been improperly influenced by bribes from individuals and groups that might be affected by the proposed legislation. Zhirinovsky said that such a body is needed to speed up the adoption of important laws. PG

DUMA LEADERS WANT SEVEN ANNUAL DAYS OF MILITARY GLORY

The leaders of the Unity, Fatherland-All Russia, Russian Regions, and People's Deputy factions jointly proposed a measure calling for marking "seven days of military glory of Russia" every year, Interfax reported on 13 June. The days include 18 April, in honor of Aleksandr Nevsky's defeat of the Teutonic knights in 1242; 9 May, in honor of the 1945 victory over fascism; 10 July, in honor of Peter the Great's victory at Poltava in 1709; 23 August, in honor of the defeat by Soviet forces of German units at Kursk in 1943; 21 September, in honor of the victory over the Mongol-Tatar horde at Kulikovo field in 1380; 5 December, in honor of the beginning of the Soviet counterattack near Moscow in 1941; and 24 December, in honor of the taking of the Ismail fortress by forces under the command of A.V. Suvorov in 1790. The authors of the plan did not specify whether all of these holidays would be vacation days. Intellectuals in Tatarstan oppose commemorating the Battle of Kulikovo. PG/LF

KASYANOV SAYS BALTIC PIPELINE BEING BUILT IN RECORD TIME

Prime Minister Kasyanov said that the Baltic Pipeline System is being completed in "record time" and that he is confident it will go on line by the end of the year, Interfax-Northwest reported on 13 June. But another pipeline project will take longer: a Japanese newspaper said that the oil pipeline from Sakhalin to Japan will be constructed only by 2008, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

MOST RUSSIANS SAY WEST'S OPINIONS CAN BE IGNORED

A poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by "Profil" on 11 June said that only 21 percent of Russians surveyed believe that Moscow should take the opinions of the West into account when the Russian government is making a decision. Seventy percent said Russia should make decisions without taking the opinion of other countries into consideration. PG

27 MILLION PEOPLE HAVE CROSSED RUSSIA'S BORDERS IN 2001

Lieutenant General Aleksandr Shaikin, the chief of the department of border control of the Federal Border Guard Service, told Interfax on 13 June that more than 27 million people have crossed Russia's borders so far this year, including about 17 million foreigners. He said that border guards have turned back some 35,500 people and detained more than 2,500 border violators. PG

MOSCOW REITERATES HARD LINE ON ABM REVISIONS

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 13 June that Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush will discuss a wide variety of political and economic questions at their meeting in Ljubljana on 16 June, Interfax reported. But Igor Sergeev, the Security Council adviser to Putin, said that Russia will not agree to any overhaul of the 1972 ABM Treaty or agree to Bush's plans on national missile defense, ITAR-TASS reported. But Bush could perhaps take heart from LDPR leader Zhirinovsky's statement that he agrees with the U.S. president that the ABM accord is out of date given technological advances, Interfax reported the same day. PG

GREENPEACE RUSSIA CRITICIZES U.S. OVER KYOTO PROTOCOL

Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia on 13 June said that the refusal of the United States to accede to the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gases could harm the environment first of the U.S. and then of other countries, Interfax reported. PG

MOSCOW GREETS ISRAELI, PALESTINIAN MOVES TO RESOLVE CRISIS

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko welcomed the 13 June accord between Palestinians and Israelis to move away from violence, Russian agencies reported. Yakovenko said that the agreement was reached "thanks to energetic international mediation." Meanwhile, several Duma deputies called on Moscow to step up its efforts to mediate the conflict. PG

EGYPTIAN COURT SAYS RUSSIAN SPIED FOR ISRAEL

A Cairo court has sentenced in absentia Grigorii Sevets, a Russian citizen, to life in prison after finding him guilty of spying for Israel, the BBC reported on 13 June. At the same time, the court dismissed charges against an Egyptian national whom Sevets recruited, citing the Egyptian's mental condition as the rationale for that decision. VY

VOLGA FEDERAL DISTRICT SETS UP EDUCATIONAL CENTER

The council of rectors of universities in the Volga federal district has formed an educational center, Interfax reported. Located in Nizhnii Novgorod, the new center will conduct an inventory of the higher schools of the district and also seek to attract investment in higher education there. Sergei Kirienko, the presidential envoy to that district, praised the measure and said it will help to promote educational opportunity and achievement there. PG

MVD HEAD IN SOUTHERN FEDERAL DISTRICT TO HAVE DEPUTY MINISTER STATUS

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said in Rostov-na-Donu that the new head of the ministry's administration in the South Russia federal district will have the status of a deputy minister because of the importance of the tasks he will face there, Interfax reported. He named Lieutenant General Sergei Shchadrin to that position. Shchadrin had been head of the Interior Ministry offices in Rostov. PG

ABRAMOVICH PLEDGES TO RESCUE CHUKOTKA FROM CRISIS

Roman Abramovich, the oligarch who is the governor of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, said his region is effectively bankrupt but that he will gradually pull it out of its crisis, smi.ru reported on 13 June. Abramovich said the total amount that the regional government now owes commercial banks is greater than the district's annual budget. VY

RUSSIANS ATTEND U.S. WORKSHOP ON ARCTIC DEVELOPMENT

A Russian delegation arrived in Alaska on 13 June to take part in a three-day conference devoted to the development of the Arctic regions in Russia and the United States, ITAR-TASS reported. The participants will discuss preservation of the natural environment, direct postal ties between Alaska and Chukotka, and sports exchanges. Meanwhile, the Russian Finance Ministry said that it disbursed 5.11 billion rubles ($170 million) during the first five months of 2001 to provide fuel and other goods for residents of Russia's Far North, Interfax reported the same day. PG

YELTSIN DISMISSES REPORTS OF HIS FAMILY'S INFLUENCE AS MEDIA INVENTIONS...

Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin said on ORT television on 12 June that reports about his family having broad influence over the state and society are "lies and myths" created by the media and his political opponents. VY

...CALLS FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH

Yeltsin on 13 June telephoned former U.S. President George Bush to congratulate him on his 77th birthday, Russian and Western agencies reported. A Yeltsin spokesman said that Bush thanked Yeltsin for his call and invited him to visit the United States. PG

MOSCOW AGAIN SEEKS LOAN FOR OSTANKINO RECONSTRUCTION

After first running out of funds and then saying that the government will pay for the rebuilding of the Ostankino television tower, Russia's State Construction Committee on 13 June said that it is seeking a $45 million loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for that purpose, ITAR-TASS reported. Committee officials said they are confident that the loan will be forthcoming. PG

OMSK FSB ISSUES A CORRECTION

A spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB) said that the mass media "distorted" information about the expulsion of U.S. citizen Elizabeth Sweet, regions.ru reported on 13 June. He said that the data Sweet collected was not for espionage but to "create a negative image of local industry," and he said that rather than expel her from Russia, the FSB "strongly recommended to the local university [where Sweet has been working as an English teacher] not to extend her contract." VY

NEW CHARGES LODGED AGAINST MEDIA-MOST OFFICIAL

The Prosecutor-General's Office has added charges of money laundering to its case against Media-MOST finance chief Anton Titov, Interfax reported on 13 June. Meanwhile, a court refused to release Titov from custody in Lefortovo prison. Journalists were not allowed into the courtroom during the hearing. Titov has been under arrest since 16 January. PG

ANTIBUREAUCRACY COMMISSION NAMED

Prime Minister Kasyanov on 13 June set up a governmental commission to reduce bureaucratic restrictions on business and cut administrative overhead, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 June. Kasyanov named Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin to head the group, which will meet at least once every three months. VY

RUSSIAN SPACE PROGRAM IN TROUBLE

Yurii Koptev, the head of Rosaviakosmos, told the Duma on 13 June that Russia's presence in space has declined by 50 percent over the last decade; that 85 percent of its satellites now in orbit are older than their projected lifetimes; and as a result of the government's failure to fund the space program, Russia not only will launch fewer satellites in the future but will also be forced to seek additional commercial opportunities abroad, Russian and Western agencies reported. Koptev said that only 90 of the more than 700 satellites currently in orbit around the earth are Russian, including 30 research and 43 military satellites. PG

RUSSIAN SCIENCE BEING SQUEEZED

According to an article in "Kompaniya," No. 22, Russian scientists are being squeezed by two government moves: significant funding cuts that force the scientists to look for private support, and demands that scientists limit or at least report on contacts with foreign scholars. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 June that the presidium of the Academy of Sciences will issue within a few days new rules on how to protect commercial secrets and intellectual property in the process of international scientific cooperation. PG

RUSSIA REDUCES FOOD IMPORTS

Deputy Prime Minister and Agricultural Minister Alekseii Gordeev said on 13 June that Russia currently imports no more than 20 percent of its food needs, down from more than 40 percent in 1996-97, Interfax reported. The major cities continue to be the largest consumers of such imports, he said. Gordeev said that Russia produced 10 percent more food in 2000 than in the year before, but he warned that this year the country faces a difficult harvest because of bad weather in many areas and equipment shortages in most regions. Gordeev also said he is not concerned by reports that his position might be eliminated in an upcoming government reshuffle. PG

INVESTMENT AGENCY PLANS TO ATTRACT $2 BILLION A YEAR FROM ABROAD

The State Investment Agency, which has been established by the Economic Development and Trade Ministry on the basis of the unitary enterprise Inform VES, on 13 June announced plans to attract some $2 billion in foreign investments every year, Interfax reported. The agency's head, Sergei Tsakunov, said that his group has already identified $800 million in projects that it hopes to attract investment for this year. PG

FISHING INDUSTRY, GOVERNMENT SAID LINKED BY CORRUPTION

Sakhalin Governor Igor Farkhutdinov said that the share of the shadow economy in the country's fishing industry exceeds 50 percent of the total catch and that corruption in the sector involves "bureaucrats not only in the federation subjects but also in federal structures," Interfax-Eurasia reported on 13 June. Farkhutdinov said that the recent distribution of fishing rights by auction has done nothing to alleviate the problem. PG

RUSSIA'S ROMA SAID UNLIKELY TO RECEIVE HOLOCAUST COMPENSATION

Nadezhda Demeter, a Roma rights activist, told AP on 13 June that the Roma (gypsies) of Russia are unlikely to receive any of the compensation due to them as victims of the Nazi Holocaust. She said that none of them has received any help so far, in part at least because the Russian government has not tried to assist them. PG

AFRICAN BEATEN IN MOSCOW

Abdula Baji, a 34-year-old citizen of Senegal, was beaten by two Muscovites and subsequently hospitalized, Interfax-Moscow reported on 13 June. Police noted that this is the third such attack on blacks in Moscow since the middle of May. PG

RUSSIAN VILLAGES ON EXHIBIT IN U.S.

Representatives of eight small Russian villages exhibited their craft skills in Washington D.C., ITAR-TASS reported on 13 June. "There is hardly anything more Russian in spirit than Russia's small towns," Russian Ambassador Yurii Ushakov said at the opening. Meanwhile, in Nizhnii Novgorod, Russia hosted the first international Sister Cities and Partners Forum, the Russian news agency reported. PG

METAL THIEVES DAMAGE MOSCOW FOUNTAINS

Metal thieves broke off the arm of a statue in one Moscow fountain and stole portions of another fountain display in order to get metal to sell for scrap, Interfax-Moscow reported on 13 June. PG

SUSPECTED MURDERERS OF SENIOR CHECHEN OFFICIAL APPREHENDED

Chechen Prosecutor-General Viktor Dakhnov said on 13 June that two men arrested on suspicion of the murder of Valerik village administration head Lukman Dadalov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2001) are also suspected of the April killing of deputy Chechen administration head Adam (Shamalu) Deniev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 2001). Madalov was shot dead by gunmen who burst into his home, while Deniev was killed by a remote-controlled bomb. LF




ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS KARABAKH PEACE PROCESS 'STILL ALIVE'...

Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan on 13 June, Vartan Oskanian said that despite the indefinite postponement of the meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents scheduled for this month in Geneva, the Karabakh peace process "is still alive," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He added that the Armenian leadership hopes the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen will "make active efforts to eliminate the newly created complications" and steer the peace process back to the principles the two presidents agreed on during talks in Paris in March and in Florida in April. He said those principles form "a really good basis" for resolving the conflict and that they do not entail the vertical subordination to the Azerbaijani central government of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Oskanian declined to explain the reason for the postponement of the Geneva talks, quoting President Robert Kocharian's statement in Brussels last week that Armenia is not to blame for the delay. LF

...REJECTS IMPUTED TURKISH CONDITIONS FOR DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS

Oskanian was asked at the press conference to comment on reports that during a meeting last week with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit put forward a further precondition for establishing diplomatic ties with Armenia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 21, 7 June 2001) -- the opening of a "security corridor" across Armenian territory linking Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhichevan. Ankara has hitherto insisted only on the withdrawal of Armenian troops from occupied Azerbaijani territory. Oskanian said it is conceivable that Ecevit was misquoted, but that if he was not, such a statement is "absurd." LF

COMMISSION WANTS LEADER OF ARMENIAN GUNMEN MOVED

The parliament commission created last month to investigate allegations of official meddling in the ongoing trial of the five gunmen who perpetrated the October 1999 parliament shootings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2001) has called for their leader, Nairi Hunanian, to be moved from the Armenian National Security Ministry prison, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 13 June. In a petition to Judge Samvel Uzunian, who is presiding over the ongoing trial, the commission's 12 members argued that in light of Hunanian's past contacts with the Security Ministry his continued detention in that facility is "inexpedient." LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES DOWN PENSION HIKE

Deputies rejected on 13 June a bill proposed by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) that would have raised state pensions by some 30 percent, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The government had said the previous day that it cannot afford to fund the proposed increase (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2001). But "Azg" commented on 14 June that the reason why deputies voted down the proposal was that the parliament majority did not want the HHD to take credit for having initiated a measure that would have proven extremely popular. LF

AZERBAIJANI, TURKISH OFFICIALS REVIEW DEFENSE COOPERATION

Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev discussed in Baku on 13 June with visiting Turkish General Staff officer Keksal Karabay issues related to expanding bilateral defense cooperation, Turan reported. Abiev remarked on improvements in the training of officers, while Karabay noted that Azerbaijan's army is capable of "repulsing aggressors." LF

OPINION POLLS SHOW WANING SUPPORT FOR GEORGIAN PRESIDENT, RULING PARTY...

A recent poll of 1,000 Georgian citizens conducted by the "Gorby" Center of Sociological Studies suggests that the most popular politician in Georgia is currently former Georgian Communist Party first secretary Djumber Patiashvili, Caucasus Press reported on 13 June. If presidential elections were to be held next week, 15.4 percent of those questioned would vote for Patiashvili, 10 percent for Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili, 9.2 percent for incumbent President Eduard Shevardnadze, 8.5 percent for Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze, 3.9 percent for Imereti Governor Temur Shashiashvili, and 2.4 percent for opposition Industrialists parliament faction leader Gogi Topadze. None, apparently, would vote for current parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania, whom some observers believe has hopes of succeeding Shevardnadze. Similarly, in a parliamentary ballot, 18.4 percent would vote for the opposition Revival Union, 15 percent for Topadze's "Industry Will Save Georgia," 10.7 percent for the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK), and 5.6 percent for the Labor Party. LF

...AS OPPOSITION CALLS FOR 'PEACEFUL TRANSITION OF POWER'

Labor Party Chairman Shalva Natelashvili told a gathering of some 7,000 supporters in Tbilisi on 13 June that criminal proceedings should be brought against both Shevardnadze and Zhvania for "treason," adding that he is ready to submit to the Prosecutor-General's Office documentation substantiating that charge. He said the SMK has brought Georgia to the verge of poverty, and criticized as "ruinous" the agreements that Georgia has signed with the IMF and World Bank. He called on the population to bring about "a peaceful change of power" in Georgia. Natelashvili's party garnered unexpectedly strong support in local elections in 1998 (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 39, 24 November 1998 and No. 41, 8 December 1998). LF

SLAIN GEORGIAN INSURGENT'S SUPPORTERS CALL FOR HIS ASSOCIATES' RELEASE FROM DETENTION

Residents of the west Georgian town of Senaki are threatening to block the main railway line between Tbilisi and the Black Sea coast unless the Georgian authorities release three supporters of rebel Colonel Akaki Eliava taken into custody 11 months ago when Eliava was arrested by Georgian police and then shot, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2000). An investigation is continuing into their alleged involvement in kidnapping and in the abortive uprising led by Eliava in October 1999. LF

GEORGIAN NATIONAL BANK, FINANCE MINISTRY ENGAGE IN MUTUAL RECRIMINATIONS

The Georgian National Bank on 13 June published in the independent "Dilis gazeti" a statement branding as "social demagogy" Finance Ministry officials' claims the previous day that the bank's refusal to advance 17 million laris ($8.25 million) to the ministry is holding up the payment of salary arrears to teachers. (Wage and pension arrears to present and retired teachers totaled 29 million laris as of the beginning of this month.) The National Bank said it and the treasury currently have no more than 11 million laris at their disposal for that purpose. LF

EBRD PRESIDENT VISITS KAZAKHSTAN

Jean Lemierre told journalists in Almaty on 13 June following "fruitful" talks in the former capital with President Nursultan Nazarbaev and senior government officials that the bank considers Kazakhstan has attained both political and macroeconomic stability, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. But a statement issued by the bank stressed the need for the Kazakh leadership to balance its focus on developing the oil and gas sectors, giving greater priority to reviving agriculture and to developing transport links, especially with its primary export destinations -- Iran, Uzbekistan, Russia, and Belarus. Lemierre also advocated expediting development of the financial sector, and pledged EBRD assistance to small and medium businesses. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT CALLS ON PRESIDENT TO DISAVOW BORDER ACCORD

The Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament) on 13 June called for a halt in the demarcation of the country's border with China that began earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2001), RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They also proposed that President Askar Akaev prepare a decree abjuring the border agreement he and Chinese head of state Jiang Zemin signed in July 1996, and called for criminal proceedings against those government officials who drafted the 1996 agreement and the 1999 amendments to it, under which Kyrgyzstan ceded some 125,000 hectares of territory to China. LF

IMPRISONED KYRGYZ OPPOSITIONIST ALLOWED VISIT

Prison camp officials allowed one single member of a group of residents of Talas Oblast to meet on 13 June with imprisoned opposition Erkindik Party leader Topchubek Turgunaliev, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The man assured TurgunAliyev that "ordinary people" in Kyrgyzstan support him. TurgunAliyev was sentenced last September on what are widely believed to be fabricated charges of masterminding a plot to assassinate President Akaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2000). LF

POLICE RELEASE DETAINED KYRGYZ PROTESTERS

Three people detained by police on 12 June during a demonstration on behalf of imprisoned former Vice President Feliks Kulov have been released, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 13 June. LF

TAJIK FIELD COMMANDER TAKES MORE HOSTAGES

Deputy Security Minister Mukhtor Sharipov told Asia Plus-Blitz on 14 June that all talks aimed at persuading former field commander Rahmon Sanginov to release the three remaining police officers he took hostage on 11 June have failed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2001). Moreover, Sharipov said that Sanginov has taken a further 12 or 14 civilian hostages. LF




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER APPLIES TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT FROM EXILE

Exiled opposition leader Zyanon Paznyak has applied by mail to register his presidential campaign group, Central Election Commission Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna announced on 13 June. Yarmoshyna said the commission will inquire at the Constitutional Court if Paznyak's group can be registered. Under the constitution adopted in a controversial referendum in 1996, candidates running in presidential elections must "permanently live in the Republic of Belarus no less than 10 years directly before the elections." Paznyak left Belarus in April 1996 -- fearing that the regime might seek to kill him -- and obtained political asylum in the U.S. In the early 1990s, Paznyak led the country's most influential opposition group, the Belarusian Popular Front, which split into two factions in 1999. In the 1994 presidential polls, Paznyak obtained 12 percent of the vote. JM

LUKASHENKA ASKS TO REGISTER HIS RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN GROUP

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 14 June personally visited the Central Election Commission headquarters to apply for the registration of his re-election campaign group that will gather signatures for putting him on the ballot, Belapan reported. Earlier, applications to register their campaign groups were filed by Viktar Tsyareshchanka, Syarhey Haydukevich, Syamyon Domash, Pavel Kazlouski, and Syarhey Kalyakin. Central Election Commission Chairwoman Yarmoshyna said she expects some 15 people will seek to run in the 9 September presidential elections. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT BLASTS PARLIAMENT FOR HAMPERING EUROPEAN INTEGRATION...

Leonid Kuchma said in Bratislava on 13 June that the Ukrainian parliament is hampering the country's advance toward the European Union, Interfax reported. Kuchma praised the cooperation between the Slovak legislative and executive branches, adding that Bratislava has achieved greater progress in EU membership talks than some countries that launched such talks much earlier. Kuchma said today's relations between Ukraine's parliament and government are "not completely lamentable but close to that." He expressed hope that the parliament elected in 2002 legislative polls will implement the results of the 2000 constitutional referendum, thus improving the current model of cooperation between the legislative and executive branches in Ukraine. JM

...AND SAYS NO TO RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION

In an interview published in the Slovak daily "Pravda" on 12 June, Kuchma said Ukraine will not join the Russia-Belarus Union. "The joining of this union is ruled out. It is impossible. We have won our independence not for losing it [voluntarily]," Kuchma told the newspaper. He added: "We have chosen our union -- it is the European Union." JM

KYIV THREATENS TO TAKE 'COUNTERMEASURES' AGAINST MOSCOW OVER VAT COLLECTION SWITCH

Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh told journalists in St. Petersburg on 13 June that Ukraine will be forced to introduce "economic countermeasures" if Russia takes an "unconstructive position" regarding the minimization of negative consequences for Ukrainian exports following the introduction of a new principle of VAT collection, Interfax reported. Last month, Russia announced that as of 1 July it will switch to collecting indirect taxes, including VAT, on goods in countries of their destination. In March, Deputy Economy Minister Andriy Honcharuk estimated that a VAT collection switch by Russia would result in a 20 percent decrease of Ukrainian exports to Russia. JM

ESTONIA POSTPONES DECLARATION ON COMMUNIST PARTY

The Estonian parliament by a vote of 51 to 39 decided on 13 June to postpone until the fall the passage of a declaration that would condemn crimes committed by the Communist Party, ETA reported the next day. After a five-hour debate it became clear that the passage of the declaration was not certain. The Pro Patria Union and the Moderates favored the declaration, but opposition parties opposed it, expressing the fear that approving the declaration could lead to a witch-hunt against former Communist Party members. The Reform Party was split over the issue. It was originally planned for the declaration to be passed on 13 June, the day before the anniversary of the beginning of the mass deportations from the Baltic states in 1941 (see End Note below). SG

EGGS THROWN AT LATVIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER IN MOSCOW

During the opening of the Made in Latvia exhibition at the Moscow International Trade Center on 13 June, Atis Slakteris was hit by an egg thrown at him by three youths, BNS reported. Moscow police detained two of the youths, aged 14 and 18. The elder of the two youths said he threw the eggs as a protest against the 15-year prison sentences passed in Latvia on two Russian National Bolsheviks, who occupied the steeple of Riga's St. Peter's Church in November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2001). Outgoing Latvian Ambassador to Moscow Imants Daudiss brought up the incident later that day at a farewell dinner for him hosted by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev. The Latvian Embassy in Moscow also plans to send a request to the Moscow police to further investigate the incident. SG

KALININGRAD, LITHUANIAN LEGISLATORS CREATE JOINT FORUM

Kaliningrad Duma Chairman Vladimir Nikitin and Algimantas Matulevicius, the chairman of the Lithuanian parliament's contact group with Russia, signed an agreement on 13 June in Vilnius establishing a joint interparliamentary forum, ELTA reported. The forum, which intends to hold two meetings a year -- one in Kaliningrad and one in Lithuania -- will be headed by co-chairmen Nikitin and Lithuanian parliament Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Alvydas Medalinskas. Nikitin is the head of a delegation of deputies from the Kaliningrad Oblast Duma that earlier that day met with Lithuanian parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas. Nikitin said the people of Kaliningrad have no fear of the possible membership of Lithuania in NATO, but are more concerned with its membership in the European Union because of the problems it would likely trigger, primarily in connection with the free movement of people and cargo. Nikitin also said that problems could arise because EU membership would make transmission of electrical power to Kaliningrad via Lithuania impossible. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT BACKS NATO EXPANSION, U.S. ANTIMISSILE SHIELD

Speaking at the NATO summit in Brussels on 13 June, Aleksander Kwasniewski appealed for the further expansion of NATO, PAP reported. "Poland expects that the Prague summit in November next year will issue new invitations. It mustn't be allowed that geographical criteria will influence our choice," Kwasniewski noted. Kwasniewski praised both the EU-promoted European defense policy and the U.S. idea of a missile defense shield. He warned, however, that both projects "have the potential to shake" the foundation of the alliance. Kwasniewski said the role of NATO leaders is to ensure that both of these projects become "pillars of transatlantic solidarity, unity, and integrity." Kwasniewski told journalists later the same day that he is in favor of a "quick" NATO intervention in Macedonia. JM

POLAND TO PREVENT GAZPROM FROM USING PIPELINE OPTICAL LINKS

Communications Ministry spokesman Przemyslaw Sypniewski told PAP on 13 June that Gaztelecom, Gazprom's telecommunications arm, will not be permitted to offer telecommunications services via optical links laid along the Polish stretch of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline. Sypniewski added that his statement reflects the Polish government's official stance, which has been presented to the Russian side and will remain unchanged. Earlier the same day, Gaztelecom announced the start-up by the end of this year of telecommunications services through optical cables running along Gazprom pipeline routes, including those in Poland. The "Gazeta Wyborcza" daily disclosed last year that a high-tech fiber-optic cable was laid along the Polish stretch of the Yamal-Europe pipeline without the knowledge and approval of the Polish government. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT CALLS FOR 'CONSTRUCTIVE DEBATE' ON U.S. MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM

Addressing the NATO summit in Brussels on 13 June, Vaclav Havel called for a "constructive debate" on the U.S.-proposed missile defense system, CTK reported, citing presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek. Havel said military defense systems today can better serve as guarantors of global security than the past's "mutual offensive capabilities." He said that "the world must not be based on the threat of mutual razing to the ground by offensive weapons." Speaking to journalists after the meeting of NATO leaders, Havel said much of the debate focused on Macedonia and added that he believes NATO support for Macedonia "should be more than mere declarations... It is always better to come to aid at five to twelve than at five past twelve, as, unfortunately, has repeatedly been the case with events in the former Yugoslavia," he commented. MS

CZECH CABINET APPROVES DRAFT BILL ON ELECTORAL SYSTEM

The cabinet on 13 June approved a draft bill on amending the electoral law, CTK reported. The draft envisages the division of the country into 14 electoral districts, with proportional elections being conducted under the d'Hondt system for the distribution of seats. Unlike the draft submitted to the Chamber of Deputies by the Four Party Coalition, the cabinet's draft stipulates that alliances of parties must garner 5 percent for each member of the alliance, while parties running alone must pass a 5 percent electoral hurdle. The Four Party Coalition's draft proposes the same hurdle, but would apply the 5 percent minimum requirement to party alliances as well, regardless of how many formations they include. If approved by the parliament, the amendment will be enforced starting with the 2002 elections. MS

LATVIAN PREMIER VISITS RFE/RL

Andris Berzins said during his visit to RFE/RL headquarters in Prague on 12 June that the three Baltic states must be invited jointly for accession into NATO and the EU. "We, in Latvia," he said, "are looking forward to...transatlantic participation in Latvia's security, as a guarantee that no group of countries will ever decide, divide, or influence [developments] here in Europe without asking us what we think about that." Berzins said he believes that "when the time comes," a large majority of Latvians will voice their approval in a referendum to join the EU. Latvia's quest for accession to the EU and NATO, as well as bilateral relations, were also discussed by Berzins at meetings with Vaclav Klaus and Petr Pithart, the chairmen of the two Czech houses of parliament. MS

CZECH OFFICIALS SAY NO FORMER STB AGENTS IN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE, FOREIGN MINISTRY

Military Intelligence Service (VZS) chief Andor Sandor told CTK on 13 June that no false screening certificates were issued in 1991 and 1992 to staff members currently employed by the VZS. Also on 13 June, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross told journalists that no such false certificates were issued to people currently employed by the Foreign Ministry. Gross said he has documents proving that former Czechoslovak Federal Interior Minister Jan Langos and his then-deputy, Jan Ruml, were informed in April 1992 about the false certificates. He said an investigation should be launched on why no measures were taken after the affair was discovered. Ruml, who is now a deputy Senate chairman representing the Freedom Union, said in reaction that Gross must surrender all documents linking him to the affair. MS

AUSTRIAN MINISTER SAYS NO CZECH EU MEMBERSHIP WITH BENES DECREES, TEMELIN

Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser, a member of the far-right Freedom Party, on 13 June said the Czech Republic should not be admitted to the Czech Republic into the EU as long as the 1946 Benes decrees remain in force and until the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant is decommissioned, CTK and international agencies reported. Grasser's declarations are in contrast to Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner's statements that the Benes decrees will not be brought up as an issue in the negotiations for accession. MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT TO ADVANCE COMPENSATION MONEY TO AGED FORCED LABORERS?

Labor and Social Affairs Minister Vladimir Spidla said on 13 June that the Czech government is planning to pay compensation in advance to Czechs who were forced to work for the Nazis during World War II and are now over 80, CTK reported. Spidla said that for these people, payment is "most urgent -- especially from the moral point of view." The Bundestag last month approved the agreement on the compensation of people forced to labor in Nazi camps and at German-owned companies, and AFP reported on 13 June that claimants from Poland and the Czech Republic will be among the first to receive compensation. MS

DZURINDA TELLS KUCHMA SLOVAKIA WANTS DEMOCRATIC UKRAINE

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda on 13 June told visiting Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma that Slovakia "has an imminent interest in Ukraine's democratic development," according to government spokeswoman Miriam Fitmova, as quoted by CTK. Fitmova said Kuchma "did not reply." She also cited Dzurinda as saying that "Ukraine is a good neighbor, and Slovakia is interested in good relations with its neighbors." Contrary to expectations, the two politicians did not tackle economic problems, Fitmova said. Kuchma was also received by parliament Chairman Jozef Migas. Also on 13 June, Kuchma, accompanied by President Rudolf Schuster, visited Kosice and Medzev, which is Schuster's birthplace -- in eastern Slovakia. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT WELCOMES NATO STATEMENT

Reacting to NATO's Brussels summit decision of 13 June that the organization will invite more countries to become members at its 2002 Prague summit, President Schuster said that "what I anticipated is becoming reality -- NATO's door will be open next year, and Slovakia will be there," CTK reported. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan told journalists that the NATO statement is for Slovakia "a historic chance" that "means that only we ourselves can now obstruct our path into NATO." He said that if Slovakia is invited to join the alliance it could do so within 1 1/2 years and that the parliamentary elections scheduled for 2002 will not slow the process down, regardless of their outcome. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT REJECTS STRIPPING KRAJCI OF IMMUNITY

The Slovak parliament on 13 June voted in closed session to reject the request of police to strip Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) Deputy Gustav Krajci of his parliamentary immunity, CTK reported. Krajci, a close political ally of HZDS leader Vladimir Meciar, is suspected by investigators of "abuse of public office" in connection with the import of Russian-made cars for the Slovak police as part of a deal to resettle Russia's debt to Slovakia. The investigators say the deal caused Slovakia a loss of 40 million crowns (some $790,000). One day earlier, the legislature turned down another police request to strip Krajci of his immunity in a case in which he is under suspicion of having taken almost 1 million crowns in bribes when he was interior minister. MS

ILLEGAL INDIAN IMMIGRANTS FEARED DROWNED AT SLOVAK-CZECH BORDER

Police on 13 June suspended the search for 17 illegal immigrants from India believed to have drowned in the Morava River while trying to cross into the Czech Republic, an Interior Ministry spokesman announced in Bratislava, AP reported. Eyewitnesses told police that they saw the men holding hands while trying to cross the river, before the force of water separated them. Police rescued two people and discovered one body, but 17 others are still missing. The search was suspended because police believe no one could have survived for very long in the water. MS

COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE TO BE REDUCED IN HUNGARY

Parliament on 13 June voted to reduce compulsory military service from the current nine months to six months, Hungarian media reported. The government's press department said the long-term objective of the amendment, which is to take effect on 1 January 2002, is to move toward a professional army. Reservist service will also be reduced from four months to 90 days. In other news, the parliament's Immunity Committee recommended the suspension of parliamentary member Bela Szabadi's right to immunity. Szabadi is accused of misuse of funds and fraud during his tenure as state secretary at the Agriculture Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2001). The parliament is expected to lift Szabadi's immunity next week. MSZ

STRASBOURG DISMISSES HUNGARIAN ROMA LAWSUIT

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has dismissed after nearly 11 months of consideration a discrimination lawsuit filed against the Hungarian government by Romany families from the Hungarian village of Zamoly, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 14 June. The court said the Roma, some of whom have since received asylum in France, had failed to exhaust all legal remedies in Hungary. Jozsef Krasznai, the spokesman of the Romany group, and 24 others had sought more than 100 million forints ($340,000) combined in compensation from the Hungarian government. MSZ




NATO HOLDS BACK ON MILITARY ROLE IN MACEDONIA

U.S. President George W. Bush told reporters after the NATO summit in Brussels on 13 June that "we agreed that we must face down extremists in Macedonia and elsewhere who seek to use violence to redraw borders or subvert the democratic process. Concerning Bosnia and Kosovo, we agreed that this is a major effort, an effort that we will continue to work together on," RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2001). He added, however, that "the idea of committing [NATO] troops within Macedonia was one that most nations were troubled over. They want to see if we can not achieve a political settlement first." But British Prime Minister Tony Blair echoed the views of French President Jacques Chirac and several other European leaders when he said: "Our history of engagement in that part of the world has taught us that it is better to make preparations and to stabilize the situation rather than to wait and let the situation deteriorate." PM

ROBERTSON TAKES NATO'S MESSAGE TO MACEDONIA

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said at the NATO summit in Brussels on 13 June that "one immediate task ahead which the presidents and prime ministers addressed today is to assist the government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Skopje in dealing with the ethnic Albanian insurgency," RFE/RL reported. He added that the "heads of state and government reaffirmed their full support for the government in Skopje and their complete and total rejection of the attacks on this democratic government... The only way to address the legitimate concerns of the local ethnic Albanian population is through the normal political process. The armed extremists must lay down their arms. There is no other way." The next day in Skopje, he urged Macedonian politicians to move quickly to flesh out and implement the latest peace plan, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2001). "The key thing is to translate a plan on paper into a peace in place," he stressed. Macedonian political leaders were to begin a two-day meeting in Ohrid on 14 June. PM

BRITAIN TO 'LOOK FAVORABLY' ON MACEDONIAN REQUEST FOR MILITARY AID

Dpa quoted unnamed "defense officials" in London on 14 June as saying that the British government will "look favorably" on a Macedonian request for military assistance in training and directing a new counterinsurgency unit (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 7 and 14 June 2001). The news agency suggested that the SAS is likely to be the agency to supply the assistance requested. PM

MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN INSURGENTS LIST DEMANDS

The National Liberation Army (UCK) sent a communique to Reuters on 14 June with the signature of its leader, Ali Ahmeti. The text includes a full list of the demands of the UCK, some of which have already been rejected by the Macedonian authorities. The demands in the communique include: an immediate cease-fire guaranteed by NATO, an amnesty for all UCK fighters except those proven to be guilty of war crimes, and a package of political reforms long central to the demands of the guerrillas and mainstream Albanian parties alike. The communique called for "a negotiating process, mediated and guaranteed...by the U.S. and EU, with the participation of the UCK, within which a political agreement will be reached, as a basis for the change of the Macedonian Constitution." Referring to the role of NATO, the communique said: "With the presence of NATO, it would be possible to reach the agreement for the transformation and demilitarization of the UCK." The guerrillas also called for "NATO intervention in the whole territory of Macedonia, as a guarantee for...reaching a lasting peace." PM

MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT ARMS 'RESERVISTS'

Police spokesman Stevo Pendarovski said in Skopje on 13 June that the authorities are in the process of arming "reservists" in the capital with rifles and uniforms, Reuters reported. He added that the move is part of "a plan for the full mobilization of the police reserve forces." It is not clear if members of all ethnic groups are being armed or only Slavic Macedonians. An unnamed "senior Western diplomat" in the Macedonian capital told the news agency that the "move is a worrying indication of the potential for outright civil war" unless a political settlement is reached quickly. PM

FEUDING BETWEEN SERBIAN MILITARY AND POLICE CONTINUES

Police Captain Dragan Karleusa told AP in Belgrade on 13 June that police believe that a mass grave near their training camp at Batajnica contains the bodies of "dozens" of ethnic Albanians killed during President Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown in Kosova. Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said that there are probably additional mass graves nearby. He added that "it seems to be impossible that [army Chief of Staff] General [Nebojsa] Pavkovic as the commander of all troops in Kosovo didn't know what happened there" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2001). Meanwhile, unknown persons leaked documents to the dailies "Danas" and "Vijesti" that contain an order by Pavkovic's deputy, General Vladimir Lazarevic, calling for the "cleaning up" of battlefields or other sites of military action in Kosova after any fighting. The materials suggest that the army leadership was part of Milosevic's campaign to destroy evidence of war crimes. PM

CROATIAN MINISTER QUITS

Justice Minister Stjepan Ivanisevic has submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Ivica Racan, "Vecernji list" reported on 14 June. He cited health reasons, having recently had a major operation. The daily pointed out, however, that Ivanisevic had sought to resign "months earlier" after an imbroglio regarding some proposed legislation. He has also been at the forefront of some disputes regarding the government's policy of cooperating with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal and is not popular with hard-liners among the war veterans. PM

BOSNIAN SERBS PROTEST NEW IDENTITY CARDS

The government of the Republika Srpska believes that the recent decision of the joint Council of Ministers, with the support of the international community's Office of the High Representative, to issue identity documents only in the Latin alphabet is a violation of the constitution and undermines the rights of the Bosnian Serbs, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 14 June. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT MEETS SLOVENIAN COUNTERPART

Presidents Milo Djukanovic and Milan Kucan discussed the current political situation in the region in Ljubljana on 13 June, "Pobjeda" and "Vijesti" reported. Djukanovic also met with representatives of the electronics firm Gorenje. Few details of the talks are available, except for Djukanovic's comment that "Montenegro remains on the road to Europe and is an important factor for stability in the region." PM

ROMANIA HAILS ANNOUNCEMENT ON CONTINUED NATO EXPANSION

The government, in a press statement released on 13 June, said it "salutes with satisfaction" the announcement by NATO leaders at their Brussels summit earlier that day that the organization will continue to expand at its 2002 Prague summit, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The cabinet said the Brussels announcement is a "crucial step" on the road of "building Europe's future and consolidating the transatlantic partnership." It further said that Romania's quest to join NATO benefits from "the large backing of public opinion" and that by 2002 Romania will be "in the position of responding to NATO's expectations" and will "assume the role of provider of security and stability" in southeastern Europe. MS

ROMANIAN NGO LAUNCHES 'APPEAL TO MEMORY'

The Pro-Europa League on 13 June marked the 11th anniversary of the miners' rampage in Bucharest by launching an "Appeal to Memory." The appeal, a copy of which was received by "RFE/RL Newsline," said the marathon demonstration in Bucharest's University Square against the return to politics of former communist politicians and "servants of the political police" was quashed by the miners at the orders of "high state officials" -- an allusion to President Ion Iliescu and his supporters. The appeal criticizes the Iliescu-supported amnesty of those involved in the rampages, saying that "no one can receive a certificate of impunity, regardless of the position he holds." The appeal concluded by saying that bringing those guilty to justice is inevitable, "as demonstrated by the indictment of dictators or notorious Nazis." MS

ROMANIA SAYS INFLATION RATE IS DROPPING

The National Institute of Statistics announced on 13 June that inflation in May was 1.7 percent, the smallest rate registered since the beginning of the year. In the first four months of 2001, inflation was 13 percent, which reflects a rate of 37.4 percent overall since May 2000, Mediafax reported. MS

BALKAN STABILITY PACT ENVOYS VISIT MOLDOVA

Southeast European Stability Pact special envoy Mihai Razvan Ungureanu said upon arriving in Chisinau on 13 June that Moldova's admission to the pact could "open the path to extensive political processes, which can define Moldova's strategic destiny within its European integration efforts," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Ungureanu, a deputy foreign minister in Romania, is accompanied by Donald Kirsch, the deputy coordinator of the pact. The two diplomats will prepare a report on Moldova's request to join the pact that Ungureanu said will include a "detailed evaluation of Moldova's internal political situation and the extent of its meeting minimal democratic criteria." The report will also assess Moldova's foreign policy objectives and the extent to which Chisinau is capable of "contributing to a climate of regional security." Ungureanu said Moldova's membership of the pact "can demonstrate to the CIS countries that a clear European alternative is open to them." MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT REJECTS MAKING RUSSIAN OBLIGATORY IN SCHOOLS

The government on 13 June decided to oppose in the parliament a draft law submitted by two deputies representing the Party of Moldovan Communists that would have made the teaching of the Russian language obligatory in Moldovan schools, Flux reported. The cabinet said the draft infringes on the constitution, which stipulates that students are free to be instructed in the language of their, or their parents', choice. MS

MOLDOVAN VICTIMS OF STALINIST REPRESSION DEMAND RUSSIAN REPARATIONS

Hundreds of survivors of Stalinist-era repression demonstrated on 13 June in Chisinau, demanding that Russia pay compensation. The demonstration marked the 60th anniversary of the beginning of deportations of Moldovans to Siberia and other desolate areas of the Soviet Union following the annexation of Bessarabia by the Soviet Union in June 1940. During the night of 12-13 June 1941, more than 22,000 people were deported to Siberia. Other massive deportations took place in 1949 and 1951. Moldovan National Party Chairman Ion Buga told the rally that Russia must "follow the German example" of assuming responsibility for crimes committed in the past and pay reparations to the victims and their successors, AP reported. MS

SIMEON LOSES PATIENCE WITH CRITICS

Former King Simeon II told Reuters on 13 June that the "negative [electoral] campaign" conducted by the political rivals of his National Movement Simeon II "could make forming a coalition difficult" after the 17 June ballot. "If we are so black, so terrible, so awful, I do not know whether other parties will talk to us," Simeon said in Blagoevgrad. He said "disgraceful things" have been said about him, although he has not attacked any of his political rivals. Visibly irritated, Simeon again denied his opponents' charges that he is planning to restore the monarchy: "I am saying it for the hundredth time, I am not a monarch on active duty, I am a Bulgarian citizen free to do whatever I want. Our priority is the economy and social policy." MS

U.S. COMPANIES MAKE LARGE INVESTMENT IN BULGARIAN POWER INDUSTRY

The deal between Bulgaria and the U.S. companies AES Corp. and Entenergy that was announced last month by Premier Ivan Kostov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2001), was officially signed in Sofia on 13 June, AFP and AP reported. Under the agreement, AES Corp. will invest $930 million in a joint venture with Bulgaria's National Electricity Company to build a new 670-megawatt coal-fired plant at Maritsa-Iztok-1. Entenergy will invest $470 million to upgrade and operate Maritsa-Iztok-3. Both plants are situated some 300 kilometers southeast of Sofia and are fueled by Bulgaria's low-quality coal deposits. MS




DEPORTATIONS AND DENIALS


By Paul Goble

Sixty years ago this week, Soviet forces began rounding up and deporting tens of thousands of Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians from their homelands, an event that continues to resonate in all three Baltic countries, in the Russian Federation, and in the West as well.

Carried out as the attention of the world was riveted on the imminent fall of Paris to German forces, the deportation of men, women, and children in the Baltic countries occupied by Moscow a year earlier destroyed much of the social fabric of these countries.

Many of those deported never returned. And their places in society and the economy either remained vacant or were assumed by pro-communist groups or by nonindigenous people brought in by the Soviet authorities to solidify Moscow's control of the three countries.

More than that, however, the deportation defined the way Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians viewed and continue to view Moscow. The deportations convinced residents of the Baltic states that the Soviet Union could not be trusted and that they must seek not only to escape from Soviet occupation but seek security guarantees from the West to prevent any new threat from Moscow.

Over the past month, Estonian President Lennart Meri, who as a 12-year-old was among the deportees in 1941, has been visiting survivors of the deportation around his country. This week, Latvia hosted an international conference on the deportations, a conference that identified this Soviet action as "a crime against humanity." And Lithuanians too have remembered the deportation this year just as they have on all past anniversaries.

And all three countries have set up national and international commissions to examine these events, to ferret out the information that the Soviet authorities sought for so long to conceal.

Nonetheless, the Russian government as the successor to the Soviet state continues to insist that the inclusion of the Baltic countries into the Soviet Union was a voluntary event and that Moscow bears no responsibility for what happened there in 1940 and afterward. Even more, many Russian commentators argue that the Baltic countries should be grateful that the Soviet Union took them in because it helped protect them against the Nazis.

But there are serious problems with each of these claims. Stalin absorbed the Baltic countries in 1940 after he and Hitler divided up Eastern Europe via the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. It is true that the Baltic governments did not order armed resistance to the Soviet occupation that followed, but only because they believed that such resistance would be both bloody and futile.

And the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries did little or nothing to slow the Nazi advance through them and into the Soviet Union itself in 1941. If anything, the disorder that the Soviet occupation created meant that some in these three countries initially viewed the Germans as liberators rather than as invaders. That reality too continues to color how both citizens of the Baltic countries and Russia view these events.

But it is another Russian argument arising from these events of long ago that is perhaps the most troubling. The Russian government continues to insist that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were legitimately part of the Soviet Union and that as a result the West must not consider including them in NATO.

That insistence represents a challenge to the Baltic countries, which are convinced that they need the guarantees of membership and to the West, most of whose governments never recognized the forcible inclusion of the Baltic states into the Soviet Union as legitimate. Indeed, these governments maintained ties with the diplomats of the last pre-occupation governments right up until the three Baltic countries fully recovered their independence in 1991.

The commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the deportations coincides with an upsurge of Baltic efforts to be among the next new members of the Western alliance, a coincidence that makes their political impact now far greater than would otherwise have been the case.


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