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Newsline - June 18, 2001




PUTIN, BUSH HAVE GET-ACQUAINTED SUMMIT

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his American counterpart George W. Bush in Ljubljana on 16 June for a get-acquainted session, Russian and Western news services reported. The two men traded compliments about each other -- Bush said he could "trust" Putin now that he had looked him in the eye and Putin said that the conversations had "surpass[ed] expectations" -- and invitations to each other's country. The two directed their top aides to work on a common security architecture -- "a new approach for a new era" -- but they agreed that they will not set up any special bilateral commissions of the kind that existed earlier. They also agreed to promote economic ties between Russia and the United States. The only discordant notes sounded in public were Putin's suggestion that "any unilateral actions" on the U.S. missile defense initiative or the ABM treaty could "only make more complicated various problems and issues" and the Russian leader's complaint that he does not understand why NATO enlargement is still on the table if Russia is a partner. Following the summit, Putin visited Belgrade and Prishtina before returning to Moscow. In both places, he called for a Balkan conference and a new commitment to fight religious and ethnic extremism in the region, Russian agencies reported. PG

BUSH WORRIED ABOUT PROLIFERATION FROM RUSSIA

Speaking in Warsaw on 15 June in advance of his meeting with Putin, U.S. President Bush said he is "concerned about some reports of proliferation of weapons" along Russia's southern border, Reuters reported. Bush said that he believes that the possibility of such proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is one reason why "it is important for Russia to think differently about missile defense." PG

DUMA APPROVES MODIFIED LAND CODE ON FIRST READING

After a stormy session during which the Communists and Agrarians tried to block consideration of the land code and even physically prevented Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref from speaking from the podium; after disorder in the hall caused Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev to be hospitalized for hypertension; and after the Communists and Agrarians walked out rather than take part in the vote and threatened both to seek the dissolution of the parliament and to stage mass demonstrations; the Duma on 16 June voted 251 to 22, with two abstentions, to approve on first reading a land code measure that even its opponents concede will allow the buying and selling of no more than 10 percent of the country's land, Russian and Western agencies reported. The pro-Kremlin parties as well as the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and Yabloko were predictably pleased with the results of the vote, with many of them saying that the Communist and Agrarian failure to block the measure showed the weakness of these groups. PG

EU CONCERNED ABOUT CHECHNYA, MEDIA FREEDOM

In a draft statement reported by Reuters on 16 June, the leaders of the European Union, meeting in Goteborg, Sweden, said that "the situation in Chechnya gives rise to serious concern," adding that "a political solution to the conflict is urgently needed" and violations of human rights must be "thoroughly investigated." The statement also indicated that the EU plans to continue to monitor the state of media freedom in Russia: "A strong civil society is necessary in a modern democratic society. Freedom of speech and pluralism in the media are essential democratic principles and core values for a genuine EU-Russia partnership." PG

REPORTERS SANS FRONTIERES SAYS RUSSIA AN ENEMY OF PRESS FREEDOM

Speaking in Moscow, Robert Menard, the secretary-general of Reporters sans Frontieres, said that "Russia is on our organization's list of countries which are enemies of press freedom," Ekho Moskvy radio reported on 14 June. At a press conference on 15 June, Menard said that "with the coming to power of President Putin, our organization has seen a worsening in the situation of press freedom in Russia." Among the officials who are the worst enemies of the press, Menard named Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, who he said is "an advertising monopolist on state television channels." That makes him the Russian "[Silvio] Berlusconi, albeit of a smaller caliber" than the Italian prime minister. PG

FORMER 'ITOGI' STAFF PREPARES NEW PUBLICATION

The former staff of "Itogi" is preparing to launch the first edition of a new weekly in September, Interfax reported on 17 June. "Itogi's" former editor in chief, Sergei Parkhomenko, told the agency that everything is proceeding as planned and that the new publication will have approximately 80 pages each week. PG

DARKIN WINS IN FAR EAST, 'NONE OF THE ABOVE' FINISHES SECOND

After a campaign marred by turbulence and continuing court cases, businessman Sergei Darkin won the governorship in Primorskii Krai on 17 June with 40.5 percent of the vote, Russian and Western agencies reported on the basis of more than 90 percent of the vote counted. "None of the above" took 33.5 percent, and Gennadii Apanasenko, the deputy presidential envoy to the region, received 24.1 percent. Darkin remained on the ballot despite two legal challenges, including one on 16 June, and he faces another hearing on 18 June on a suit brought by Viktor Cherepkov, who was dropped from the ballot only on 14 June. Local legislators said they will also turn to the courts to overturn the election results. PG

PUTIN NAMES NEW MINISTERS AT ENERGY, NATURAL RESOURCES

Putin on 16 June named Igor Yusofov as energy minister and Vitalii Artyukhov as natural resources minister, Russian agencies reported. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that these two ministries are important, especially concerning ongoing preparations for next winter. PG

KUDRIN SAYS STABILIZATION FUND TO BE SET UP THIS YEAR

In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 June, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said that government revenues will permit setting up a stabilization fund this year in order to prepare for 2003, when Russia's debt repayments will be their highest. He also said that the possible reduction in the number of deputy prime ministers will help promote ministerial responsibility, that Russia's GDP growth should be close to 4 percent in 2001, and that inflation should be 14-16 percent this year. PG

RATE OF INFLATION INCREASING

Consumer price inflation rose 0.6 percent in the first nine days of June, according to the State Statistics Committee, as reported by Interfax on 15 June. That is a higher daily rate than during May 2001. According to the news agency, this increase means that the government's original projected inflation rate of 12 percent for the year may already be surpassed by 14-15 June. PG

CABINET FACES COAL PROBLEMS

The cabinet has decided to allocate 10 billion rubles ($33 million) to the country's hard-pressed coal industry, but it may now face a larger crisis because 90 percent of the unprofitable mines have already been closed and Russia is having to import 12-15 million tons of coal a year, "Izvestiya" reported on 15 June. PG

AUDIT CHAMBER SAYS FOREIGN LOANS MISUSED

The Audit Chamber has concluded that loans extended to Russian institutions by international banking institutions were misused, and it has turned over this information to the Prosecutor-General's Office, polit.ru reported on 15 June. According to the chamber, the Russian Central Bank and the Finance Ministry overpaid foreign consultants, sometimes at the rate of $30,000 a month. The chamber said that the state should be reimbursed some $55.6 million for the misused funds. VY

GAZPROM INSIDER DEALING REVEALED

Gazprom's annual report showed that the Russian gas monopoly supplied $2.7 billion in loan guarantees during 2000, including to competitors of the company and to firms partially controlled by Gazprom executives or their family members, "The Washington Post" reported on 15 June. Meanwhile, Gazprom appealed to the Federal Energy Commission to raise the rates it can charge independent producers who move oil via Gazprom pipelines, Interfax-ANI reported the same day. PG

PUTIN SAID AIMING FOR 'CORPORATE STATE'

According to an analysis in "Vremya MN" on 15 June, Putin is aiming to create "a corporate state," one in which government and business will be separated, there will be a liberal economy with the opportunity for foreign investments, and strict administrative control. The article's author, Andrei Neshchadin, said that this state will create a classical balance between state, society, and business. PG

ENTREPRENEUR PARTY FOUNDED

The Development of Entrepreneurship social-political group transformed itself into a political party on 16 June, Interfax reported. Deputy Ivan Grachev, who has headed the movement in the Duma, was elected party president. Grachev said he expects his party to do well in upcoming elections because "the Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko have already exhausted their possibilities." But he added that his party is prepared to cooperate with both of these groups. PG

TATARS FORM POPULAR FRONT TO DEFEND SOVEREIGNTY

Arguing that Moscow's policies are designed to annihilate the republic's sovereignty, a forum of groups from Tatarstan, including the Tatar Public Center, the Milli Mejlis, the Tatar Youth Union Azatliq, the Idel-Ural public movement, and the Fund for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, has created a People's Front to defend the republic, Tatar-inform reported on 15 June. Republic government officials attended the meeting, but organizers criticized the republic authorities for failing to fight against Russia's effort to suppress the right of Tatarstan to national self-determination. PG

INGUSH REPRESENTATIVE TO IRKUTSK MURDERED

Timur Kodzoev, the head of the Ingush mission in Irkutsk, was shot and killed in his car on 15 June, ITAR-TASS reported. He is the brother of Duma deputy Bashir Kodzoev and had himself unsuccessfully run for parliament as well. PG

YAKUTIA IGNORES PULIKOVSKII'S WARNINGS

The State Assembly of Yakutia on 15 June ignored warnings from Konstantin Pulikovskii, the presidential envoy to the Far East federal district, and refused to drop provisions in the republican constitution on republican citizenship and sovereignty, Interfax-Eurasia reported. The assembly, however, did agree to some other measures to bring the republic's constitution into conformity with that of the Russian Federation. PG

FOREIGN MINISTER REJECTS 'IMPERIALIST' AMBITIONS OF PAST

In an article published in "The Washington Quarterly" and in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 June, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Russia will pursue its national interests rather than any particular ideological course. He explicitly rejected any return to an "imperial" foreign policy of the kind pursued "both in prerevolutionary Russia and in the Soviet period." And he said that Russia rejects any "'neoimperial'" ambitions. Ivanov added that Russia rejects the ideology of "global messianism" of the kind the Soviet Union pursued. PG

RUSSIA HOSTS PARLIAMENTARY CONFERENCE FOR NORTHERN COUNTRIES

An international parliamentary conference organized by the Duma and the North Committee and devoted to the cooperation of northern countries with Northwest Russia took place in Petrozavodsk, Interfax-Northwest reported on 15 June. The meeting attracted delegations from Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, as well as from Karelia. PG

BIROBIDZHAN PROTESTERS WANT NO FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF LAND NEAR CHINESE BORDER

Demonstrators in Birobidzhan on 15 June called for the Duma to prohibit foreign ownership of land along Russia's borders to a depth of 200-300 kilometers. Interfax-Eurasia reported. The protesters said that they are concerned that Chinese might buy up available land in Russia near the Chinese border. PG

EU TO OPEN INFORMATION CENTER IN KALININGRAD

An information center for the European Union will open at Kaliningrad State University on 19 June, BNS reported on 15 June. PG

DUKHOBOR COMMUNITY IN TULA RETAINS ITS DISTINCTIVENESS

Prior to 1991, most Dukhobors in the USSR lived in Georgia's Djavakheti region, but during the rule of Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, many of them fled to Russia and now have made Tula Oblast the center of their religious life, according to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 June. One of the things that distinguishes them from their neighbors is that they paint scenes from the Caucasus on the outside of their houses. PG

NOVOSIBIRSK UKRAINIANS COMPLAIN ABOUT RUSSIAN FILM

The Ukrainian National Cultural Autonomy of Novosibirsk Oblast has appealed to Putin and other Russian officials to prevent the showing of the film "Brat-2," which they said belittles the national and human worth of ethnic Ukrainians and thus violates the Russian Constitution. PG

ULYANOVSK GOVERNOR WANTS LARGER STATE ROLE IN OIL COMPANIES

Ulyanovsk Governor Vladimir Shamanov on 15 June called for checking the process of privatization of the country's oil companies and also for setting up institutions to ensure that the state will be able to use its shares in these companies to protect the public interest, Interfax reported. PG

MOSCOW WELCOMES NEW LATVIAN APPROACH ON CITIZENSHIP

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 16 June that Moscow considers the decision of the Latvian government to lower fees for naturalization and to allow school examinations in the Latvian language to serve in place of state examinations as "steps that will make possible the acceleration of the tempos of naturalization." PG

MOSCOW CONCERNED BY U.S. STATEMENTS ON NUCLEAR TESTING

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 15 June released a statement expressing its concern at the remarks made by U.S. Defense Department officials to the U.S. Congress that Washington might again test nuclear weapons and is reexamining other restrictions on weapons of mass destruction, Interfax reported on 15 June. "The question arises," the ministry said, as to which agreement in the area of disarmament and nonproliferation will turn out to be next in the 'black' list of the U.S." PG

AVERAGE RUSSIANS LESS ANTI-AMERICAN THAN INTELLECTUALS THINK

According to a survey of recent poll results carried by strana.ru on 16 June, average Russians are less negative about the United States than Russian intellectuals think they are. Thirty-three percent of all Russians think that the attitude of the majority of Russians to the U.S. is "good." Only 20 percent of Russian intellectuals think so, the polls showed. PG

MOSCOW AGAIN DENIES RUMORS OF DEAL ON KURILES

Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov on 15 June again denied media reports that Moscow and Tokyo have agreed to resolve their disagreements about the Kurile Islands through a two-step process, ITAR-TASS reported. Losyukov said that no territorial concessions are acceptable. PG

RUSSIA TO PRODUCE PLANES FOR LOW-INTENSITY CONFLICTS

According to "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," No. 21, the Russian government has decided to design a new class of airplanes to fight low-intensity conflicts. Its existing aircraft, the weekly said, either are ill-suited for such fighting or are so expensive to operate that commanders do not use the planes effectively. PG

RUSSIAN SCIENCE AGING FAST

Deputy Education Minister Boris Vinogradov told the Duma on 15 June that not only equipment but human capital is aging fast in Russian science. At present, he said, the average age of Russian doctors of science is 61 and of candidates of science 52. If current trends continue, Vinogradov said, "by 2016, the average age of Russian scientists will be 59, which is equal to the average life expectancy of men in Russia, and Russian science will disappear." PG

MEDIA MINISTRY PROMOTES RUSSIAN LANGUAGE

The Media Ministry wants Russians to use their own language correctly and others to learn to use it, Interfax reported on 15 June. To that end, it is distributing funds to regional electronic media outlets, the news service said. PG

CHUBAIS SAYS EES TO PROMOTE MICROGENERATORS IN NORTH

Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais on 16 June said that his company plans to develop small power generators for regions with fewer than 4,000 residents, Interfax reported. At the same time, he said, something must be done to bring charges in line with costs in the region. At present, consumers in the Arctic north of Yakutia (Sakha) pay 34 kopeks per kilowatt hour, but the cost of generating power is 5.40 rubles per kilowatt hour. PG

VIEWERS TURNING FROM NTV TO TV-6

Between the beginning of April and the end of May, Muscovites changed their television viewing habits, according to polls conducted by Gallup Media and reported by Interfax on 16 June. The number of people watching television fell about 10 percent over that period. Moreover, the percent watching NTV fell from 19 to 13 percent, while the percent watching TV-6 rose from 7.4 percent to 10.9 percent. PG

SCANDINAVIANS INVESTING IN RUSSIAN PRESS

Ogvind Nordsletten, Norway's ambassador in Moscow, told RIA-Novosti on 16 June that Norwegian and Swedish firms are preparing to invest in "Izvestiya," "Komsomolskaya pravda," and other Russian press outlets. He noted that Sweden's Modern Times Group has already purchased 75 percent of the shares in Moscow's Daryal-TV. VY

MORE RUSSIANS BUY MERCEDES-BENZ LIMOUSINES

Nikolai Zubenko, the Moscow representative of DaimlerChrysler, said that his firm sold 1,650 limousines in Russia in 1999 and 2,290 in 2000 and predicted sales will top 3,000 this year, "Izvestiya" reported on 15 June. Zubenko said that these figures do not include privately arranged imports or used vehicles. VY

SPECIAL SERVICES MARK ANDROPOV'S BIRTHDAY

Senior officials of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and other security services marked the 87th birthday of former KGB chief and Soviet leader Yurii Andropov by placing flowers at his grave at the Kremlin wall, Russian agencies reported on 15 June. PG

54,000 VILLAGES REMAIN WITHOUT TELEPHONES

According to a report in "Vremya MN" on 15 June, there are approximately 54,000 settlements in Russia that do not have a telephone. PG

RUSSIANS ENTER INTERNET E-BOOK MARKET

Electronic Book, a Russian book company, has announced that it will distribute electronic books via the Internet, "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Ex Libris," No. 11, reported. It will charge from five to 120 rubles for each book sent out online. PG

RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT PLANS TO TAKE OWNERSHIP OF POPULAR VODKA LABELS

Sergei Milyutin, the spokesman for the federal state enterprise Rosspirtprom, said on 17 June that the Russian government plans to take back from Soyuzplodimport the popular vodka labels Stolichnaya, Moskovskaya, and others, Interfax reported. Soyuzplodimport has held the ownership of these brand names since 1998. Milyutin said that the government is taking this step because Soyuzplodimport failed to defend the brands. PG

POWERLINE THIEF DIES IN BIROBIDZHAN

A 26-year-old man who was trying to steal electric power line died when he touched a high-voltage line in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in the Russian Far East, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 15 June. This is the fourth such death in that region so far this year. PG

RUSSIAN JAZZMAN SAYS HE HAS SAVED CLASSICAL JAZZ

At a time when Americans have distorted their own national music, David Goloshchekin, a Russian jazzman, told "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Figury i litsa," No. 11, that he has managed to preserve classical jazz in Russia. For that contribution, he said, Americans "ought to get down on their knees" and bow to him." PG




OSCE MISSION IN CHECHNYA RESUMES ACTIVITIES

OSCE Chairman in Office Mircea Geoana formally opened the OSCE representation in the northern Chechen town of Znamenskoe on 15 June, Interfax reported. Geoana said the OSCE's work in Chechnya will be "as comprehensive as possible," but the Russian human rights commissioner for Chechnya, Vladimir Kalamanov, whose headquarters are also in Znamenskoe, said at the ceremony, which was also attended by Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, that the OSCE should ignore political aspects of the Chechen conflict and concentrate on the humanitarian situation. He added that it should work closely with Kadyrov's administration. Speaking in Moscow on 15 June, a spokesman for the Russian Justice Ministry said the OSCE mission will pay that ministry an annual fee of 13 million rubles (about $450,000) for security that will be provided by the ministry's penitentiary guards. Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov, for his part, said "the mission workers will be provided with safe and unimpeded access to any point in Chechnya" if they notify the republic's leadership about their planned itinerary and destination beforehand, Interfax reported. LF

ARMENIAN PRISONERS LAUNCH HUNGER STRIKE

Thirty inmates of a prison in the eastern Armenian province of Sevan have embarked on a hunger strike to protest their exclusion from the recently proclaimed amnesty to mark the 1,700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as Armenia's state religion, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Some 2,100 prisoners are eligible for release under the amnesty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2001), which does not extend to persons serving time for murder or other serious crimes. LF

AZERBAIJANI WAR INVALIDS STAGE DEMO

Some 300 members of the society representing Karabakh war invalids staged a protest demonstration in Baku on 16 June to demand the release of several of their fellow invalids detained by police in February following a mass hunger strike to demand an increase in their allowances, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February 2001). The protest was sanctioned by the municipal authorities and no incidents were reported. LF

MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRS SCHEDULE NEW MEETING

According to an as yet unconfirmed Interfax report of 16 June, unnamed Russian diplomatic sources said agreement was reached at a meeting in Moscow on 15 June between Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov and the French co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, Philippe de Suremain, that the U.S., French, and Russian Minsk Group representatives will meet in Malta on 22-24 June to discuss ways over surmounting the problems that have arisen in the Karabakh peace process (see "End Note" below). The two men "confirmed their readiness to continue to give full support to the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia in their efforts to find a speedy solution to the Karabakh tangle," according to a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry. LF

CASPIAN LITTORAL STATES SEEK RAPPROCHEMENT

Deputy foreign ministers from Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan met in Baku on 14-15 June to try to reach agreement on a declaration to be formally adopted at the twice-postponed summit of Caspian littoral states, now tentatively scheduled for October. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev said the five states should attempt to overcome their differences gradually, admitting that it would be naive to expect a swift change in the position of either Iran, which argues for dividing the Caspian seabed and waters into five equally sized sectors, or Turkmenistan. Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan advocate dividing the seabed according to the existing boundaries while leaving the waters and surface for shared use. ITAR-TASS on 15 June quoted Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani as saying that any new agreement on the legal status of the Caspian should be based on the Soviet-Iranian treaties of 1921 and 1940. LF

GEORGIA DEFIES RUSSIAN FLIGHT BAN

In a move that Georgian Civil Aviation Department head Zurab Perishvili termed "groundless" and "unreasonable," the Russian Transportation Ministry on 15 June banned all flights to Russia by Georgian airlines, Caucasus Press reported. The ban was imposed because of Georgian debts of $3.7 million for Russian air-navigation services and in retaliation for Tbilisi's unilateral decision to reduce from seven to five the number weekly flights between the two capitals by three Russian and one Georgian carrier, Interfax reported. A Georgian Airlines plane flew to Moscow and back according to schedule on 16 June despite the prohibition, according to Caucasus Press. LF

GEORGIAN EMBASSY IN MOSCOW PROTESTS 'IZVESTIYA' ALLEGATIONS

The Georgian Embassy in Moscow has issued a statement condemning as "a provocation" an article published in "Izvestiya" on 13 June alleging that the naval maneuvers under way off Georgia's Black Sea coast, in which troops from several NATO member states are participating, are intended as preparation for an invasion of Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported on 15 June. Georgian military officials have already denied that the exercises, about which Abkhaz authorities have expressed concern, herald military action against that breakaway republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 14, and 15 June 2001). The embassy reiterated that Georgian leadership seeks to resolve the Abkhaz conflict by exclusively peaceful means. Also on 15 June, Giorgi Baramidze, chairman of the Georgian parliament's Defense and Security Committee, similarly condemned the Russian press report as "rumors spread by those who aspire to a new escalation in Abkhazia," Caucasus Press reported. Baramidze, too, stressed that Tbilisi seeks a peaceful solution to the conflict. LF

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY DELEGATION VISITS ARMENIA

A Georgian delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Merab Antadze traveled to Yerevan on 15 June for two days of talks on bilateral and multilateral economic and political cooperation, Caucasus Press reported. Particular attention was focussed on preparations for an upcoming session of the Intergovernmental Georgian-Armenia Commission for Economic Cooperation in late June and for President Eduard Shevardnadze's planned visit to Armenia. Meeting with the Georgian delegation on 16 June, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian characterized bilateral relations as "the most important factor for ensuring stability and security" in the South Caucasus, Caucasus Press reported. LF

MORE SEAL DEATHS REPORTED IN KAZAKHSTAN'S SECTOR OF CASPIAN

Mass deaths of seals have again occurred in Kazakhstan's sector of the Caspian, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 15 June. A local ecology official in Mangystau said the deaths may have been caused by recent storms. No official explanation was ever given for the mass deaths of seals last year, which some experts attributed to pollution from oil-drilling rigs. LF

UPPER CHAMBER OF KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT BEGINS SUMMER RECESS

The People's Assembly (the upper chamber of the Kyrgyz legislature) ended its spring session on 15 June without having adopted a resolution on the two most important issues on its agenda, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Those issues are the delimitation of the Kyrgyz-Chinese border and the privatization of the state energy giant Kyrgyzenergo. Also on 15 June, the government unveiled a new five-year program to develop the energy system and make the country more self-sufficient in energy. Energy production has fallen by 55 percent since 1990. LF

SECOND TAJIK HOSTAGE-TAKING ENDS WITHOUT BLOODSHED

A group of former Tajik opposition fighters who are currently on the staff of the Emergency Situations Ministry took 15 members of a German famine-relief organization and four Tajik security officials hostage in a village in Tavil-Dara Oblast some 170 kilometers east of Dushanbe on 15 June, dpa reported. The kidnappers were demanding the release of four men arrested in connection with the murder in April of First Deputy Interior Minister Khabib Sanginov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 12 April and 25 May 2001). The kidnappers unconditionally released four captives on 16 June and the remainder on 17 June following talks with Emergency Situations Minister Mirzo Zieev, who is himself a former opposition commander. Meanwhile, a second former opposition commander is still holding hostages whom he seized in Dushanbe last week. LF




TWENTY-FIVE PEOPLE WANT TO RUN IN BELARUS'S PRESIDENTIAL RACE

The Central Election Commission said on 15 June that 25 people filed applications to register their campaign groups for the 9 September elections. Last week, the commission registered campaign groups of seven aspirants, including those of incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and exiled opposition leader Zyanon Paznyak. Applications to register presidential campaign groups were also filed by the five candidates supported by the Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces -- Mikhail Chyhir, Uladzimir Hancharyk, Syamyon Domash, Syarhey Kalyakin, and Pavel Kazlouski. According to Belarusian independent media, the biggest surprises in the current stage of the presidential campaign are the official registration of Paznyak and the decision to run by Nataliya Masherava, the daughter of Pyotr Masherau -- Belarus's communist leader in the 1960s and 1970s. According to unconfirmed reports, Masherava has been offered the post of a deputy premier in the government in exchange for her withdrawal from the presidential race. JM

U.S. SAYS ELECTIONS CAN HELP BELARUS END ISOLATION

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker on 15 June said Washington views the upcoming presidential elections in Belarus as "an important opportunity for Belarus to reverse the process of self-imposed isolation and to begin to restore its proper place in the Euro-Atlantic community," Reuters reported. "There are many democracy and human rights issues that separate the United States and Belarus, including the unexplained disappearances of opposition political figures over the past two years. Free and fair presidential elections would be an important first step toward addressing these very serious concerns," Reeker noted. JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS MOVE TO OUST PARLIAMENTARY LEADERSHIP

Legislators from the parliamentary caucuses of the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, the Fatherland Party, and the Ukrainian Popular Rukh have collected signatures under motions to oust parliament speaker Ivan Plyushch (154 signatures) as well as his deputies Viktor Medvedchuk (169 signatures) and Stepan Havrysh (159 signatures), the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported on 18 June, quoting Interfax. The parliament is expected to vote on 19 June on whether to include the motions on the agenda. Lawmakers need 150 signatures to propose a motion for a debate and 226 votes to put the motion on the parliamentary agenda. JM

UKRAINE REPORTS 9 PERCENT GROWTH IN JANUARY-MAY

The State Statistics Committee said Ukraine's GDP in January-May increased by 9 percent, compared with the same period last year, Interfax reported on 15 June. The committee said the fastest growth was registered in the manufacturing industry (24.1 percent), wholesale and retail trade (12.5 percent), construction (9.9 percent), agriculture and forestry (5 percent), and extraction of natural resources (4.8 percent). JM

IDENTIFICATION CARD TO REPLACE PASSPORT IN ESTONIA NEXT YEAR

Interior Minister Tarmo Loodus announced that beginning in 2002 Estonia's passport will be replaced by an electronic plastic ID card, which will cost 150 kroons ($8), ETA reported on 15 June. Loodus said the actual production costs of the card, which will be valid for 10 years, will be about 250 kroons. Noting that only 10,000 people have applied for ID cards in Finland, where they are not compulsory, Loodus said Estonia's new ID cards will be compulsory. The government's financial losses for the IDs will be partially compensated by charging 350 kroons for a new traveling passport, which cost 80-85 kroons each to produce. The Citizenship and Migration Department has planned a five-year transition period for issuing the new documents and signed contracts with the Swiss company Trueb for the production of 1.34 million ID cards and with the British firm De La Rue on printing 1 million passports. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT VISITS VILNIUS

Vaira Vike-Freiberga traveled to Vilnius on 15 June to give a keynote address at the opening of the three-day "Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in Democratic Society Conference," BNS reported. The conference, attended by 600 delegates from 12 countries, discussed various gender issues, from the sale of women into prostitution to female initiatives in the business sector. At a subsequent meeting, she discussed NATO and EU expansion as well as domestic political events with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus. Vike-Freiberga informed Adamkus about her telephone conversation the previous evening with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, who said that military preparedness of candidate states is a crucial criterion for accepting new members. Adamkus also accepted Vike-Freiberga's invitation to attend the celebrations in August of the 800th anniversary of Riga. SG

LITHUANIAN OIL REFINERY SIGNS SUPPLY AGREEMENT WITH RUSSIAN YUKOS

Williams International, the operator of Mazeikiai Nafta (Mazeikiai Oil), announced on 15 June that it has signed a 10-year supply agreement with the oil company YUKOS, Russia's second-largest crude oil supplier, BNS reported. According to the agreement, which must still be approved by the Lithuanian government, YUKOS would supply some 4.8 million tons of oil per year to the Mazeikiai refinery and export 4 million tons of oil annually via the Butinge terminal. It would pay $75 million and grant another $75 million in loans for a 26.85 percent share in Mazeikiai Nafta. The current 33 percent share held by Williams would be reduced to the same 26.85 percent, but the company would retain its rights as the company's operator. Mazeikiai Nafta Board Chairman Randy Majors told a press conference that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development informed him that it will begin negotiations for loans to modernize the oil refinery after the government approves the agreement. SG

U.S. PRESIDENT PRAISES POLAND AS EXEMPLARY DEMOCRACY...

U.S. President George W. Bush visited Warsaw on 15 June, where he met top Polish officials and made a major foreign policy speech at the Warsaw University Library. "I came here to show nations which are hungry for democracy, or striving for democracy, or looking at democracy, what's possible. And Poland serves as a bridge and an important example. If you believe in a Europe whole and free and secure, a good place to make that case is right here," Reuters quoted Bush as saying after his meeting with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. JM

...WANTS UKRAINE TO MOVE TOWARD DEMOCRACY, MARKET ECONOMY...

Presidents Bush and Kwasniewski discussed ways to help Ukraine move toward lasting democracy and a market economy, Reuters reported. "Poland and the United States and other nations in Europe must work with the Ukraine to help it make the right decisions and right choices for the future," Bush told journalists, adding that these right choices are "democracy, open markets, freedom -- the values embraced by Ukraine's neighbor, Poland." Bush praised Kwasniewski's efforts to maintain dialogue with Ukraine. JM

...URGES TO 'ERASE' EAST-WEST DIVIDE...

Presenting his vision of a new Europe at the Warsaw University Library later the same day, Bush appealed for European unity and an extension of NATO deeper into Eastern Europe. "We can built an open Europe, Europe without Hitler, without Stalin, without Brezhnev, Honecker, and without Milosevic. Our objective is to erase the false dividing lines which had divided Europe for too long," Polish Television quoted Bush as saying. "We are planning to expand NATO and no states making efforts to become members should be excluded," Bush noted, adding that the U.S. "will prepare to announce [at the NATO summit in Prague next year] the greatest historic decisions to continue the process of NATO expansion." JM

POLAND RECEIVES EU SUMMIT RESULTS WITH MODERATE OPTIMISM

Commenting on last week's EU summit in Goteborg, President Kwasniewski said the decisions made there were a "small step forward," Polish Radio reported on 16 June. The summit declared that the EU will conclude negotiations with the best prepared candidates in 2002, so that the countries may participate in the elections to the European Parliament in 2004 as EU members. Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said Poland has received the calendar for the expansion of the EU with satisfaction, adding that it fully corresponds with Poland's preparations and readiness for membership in the EU. Meanwhile, Poland's chief EU negotiator Jan Kulakowski commented that the final document of the EU summit in Goteborg is a "good signal" but it does not remove any difficulties from the membership negotiations. JM

CZECH PREMIER REACTS TO GOTEBORG EU SUMMIT...

In Goteborg on 16 June, Prime Minister Milos Zeman welcomed the progress registered at the EU summit there and said the Czech Republic is likely to end accession talks earlier than previously estimated, CTK reported. Zeman said that a "considerable part" of the negotiations will be closed by the end of 2001 and "the most complicated chapters some six months later." He said that, as a result, the cabinet he heads will be able to "lead the Czech Republic to the EU threshold before the elections next year." The voters will then have to decide "whether they are willing to enter the EU or prefer to support political parties that warn against EU membership, whether openly so or in secret," he said in an obvious allusion to the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS).

...DOWNPLAYS STATEMENT ON KLAUS

Zeman on 16 June also sought to diminish the significance of his "indiscretion" last week concerning the statement on ODS leader Vaclav Klaus he attributed to the EU commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2001). The premier told journalists that he has explained to Verheugen that his comments came after he listened to a recording of a speech by Klaus in which the ODS leader said his party was "'the only one that understands the EU, can negotiate with it, and at the same time defend national interest.' I decided to simply bring the [Verheugen citation] as a reaction to Klaus' arrogant stand," Zeman said. He also said he would welcome a parliamentary interpelation by Klaus. Many of those deputies who "ask me questions," Zeman said, "become so frustrated" after he replies that "they never ask me questions again." MS

ZEMAN MEETS AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR

Zeman on 16 June also met in Goteborg with Wolfgang Schuessel, CTK reported. The two told journalists that they agreed "to mandate" their respective foreign ministers "to continue the preparations of an agreement between the two countries" on the Temelin nuclear power plant "in the spirit of the Melk agreement." Zeman said that "not a word" was said at his meeting with Schuessel on the Benes decrees. But Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner told CTK that the problem of the decrees must be examined "at expert level" and Vice Chancellor Sussane Riess-Passner, leader of the far-right Freedom Party, on 17 June said the Czech Republic's accession to the EU depends on the abolition of the 1946 decrees. Austrian opponents of Temelin on 17 June said they will again block the border between the two countries on 24 June. MS

RUML BELIEVES SCREENING CERTIFICATE AFFAIR AIMED AT DISCREDITING HIM

Senate Deputy Chairman Jan Ruml on 156 June said he believes the recent screening certificates affair is a trap intended to discredit him and added that he will not comment on the affair again until he has studied all the documents, CTK reported. Ruml said, "not even former communist's secret services officers, of which I sacked several thousand, need feel ashamed" in the face of this "misinformation campaign." Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky later on 15 June rejected Ruml's contentions, saying, "there has never been any conspiracy, except in Ruml's mind, to discredit him," either by the ODS or by the ruling Social Democratic Party. "First, he denied that he knew about the affair, then he admitted knowledge," and "I now hope he will also start thinking about his personal involvement and failures," Rychetsky commented. MS

ZANTOVSKY RETURNS TO HEAD CZECH PARTY

The national conference of the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) on 17 June re-elected Senator Michael Zantovsky as ODA chairman, CTK reported. Zantovsky ran unopposed, as his two rivals for the position, former ODA Chairman Daniel Kroupa, and Deputy Chairman Oldrich Kuzilek, withdrew from the race. Zantovsky was ODA head for eight months in 1997, but resigned from that position, saying he had failed to fulfill the hopes that party members and the public had placed on him. MS

FORMER CZECH COMMUNIST PROSECUTOR SENTENCED

Karel Vas, a former Communist prosecutor, was sentenced on 15 June to seven years in jail. The court found him guilty of having forged evidence against General Helidor Pika, who was accused in 1949 of spying for British intelligence and was executed the same year, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2001). Deputy Premier Rychetsky told journalists on 15 June that the sentence "sets a moral and political precedent," CTK reported. He said that now the same legal standards can be applied in the Czech Republic as those that were applied to Nazi prosecutors and judges. MS

CZECH COURT ACQUITS TV REPORTER IN NATIONAL SECURITY CASE

A Prague court on 15 June acquitted television journalist Tomas Smrcek of charges that he had harmed national security by displaying a secret document in a broadcast, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2001). The verdict was greeted by applause by journalists present in the audience. MS

NO BSE IN SLAUGHTERED CZECH COWS

Czech veterinarians detected no further cases of BSE (mad cow disease) in a herd of 134 cattle slaughtered on 15 June in which one infected animal was discovered last week, Reuters reported on 16 June. MS

SLOVAKIA'S LANGOS WILL NOT COMMENT AGAIN ON SCREENING CERTIFICATES AFFAIR

Former Czechoslovak Interior Minister Jan Langos said in Bratislava on 15 June that he will not comment again on the affair of the false screening certificates issued during his tenure, CTK reported. Langos earlier rejected Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross's declaration that Langos had been informed in 1992 about the false certificates. "The [Czech] interior minister should not make such thoughtless statements," he told Slovak Radio. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER WELCOMES 'IRISH PARADOX'

Mikulas Dzurinda on 16 June welcomed in Goteborg, Sweden, what he called "the Irish paradox." He said the results of the Irish referendum opposing the Nice Treaty had apparently influenced participants in the EU Goteborg summit to want to "demonstrate that EU enlargement is really irreversible," CTK reported. Dzurinda added that Slovakia is "very satisfied with the results of the summit, which offer it the chance to be among the countries first admitted into the EU." MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT SAYS PLAN UNDERWAY TO DISCREDIT HIM, FAMILY

Rudolf Schuster on 15 June said he believes there are "plans" to discredit him personally and members of his family, CTK reported. He did not attribute the alleged plans to anyone specifically. Slovak media has reported recently that police intend to investigate the business activities of Schuster's son, Petr, suspecting illegalities. Also on 15 June, a car crashed into the convoy accompanying Schuster's official car. The president was not hurt, but five members of his entourage suffered injuries. MS

HUNGARIAN FREE DEMOCRATS ELECT KUNCZE AS INTERIM CHAIRMAN

The National Council of the opposition Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) on 17 June elected former SZDSZ Chairman Gabor Kuncze as the party's interim chairman, Hungarian media reported. Kuncze is replacing Gabor Demszky, who resigned last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2001). The council scheduled a congress for 1 July to elect a new executive body, after all 12 party executives resigned on 16 June. Kuncze, who is expected to be confirmed in his post at the congress, said he would like the SZDSZ to "move closer to its voters." He refused to say whether he would maintain Demszky's policy of keeping an equal distance from the major coalition party FIDESZ and the opposition Socialist Party. MSZ

COURT SAYS TORGYAN REMAINS HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS' CHAIRMAN

The Supreme Court on 15 June upheld a lower court's verdict that Zsolt Lanyi is not the legitimate chairman of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP). The ruling cited FKGP party statutes, which stipulate that the chairman cannot be dismissed for at least 60 days following parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for 2002. As a consequence, Jozsef Torgyan remains FKGP chairman. Lanyi said "the ruling condemns the FKGP to death," but conceded that the FKGP "cannot be taken away" from Torgyan until after the elections. Lanyi and Torgyan were elected to the post of chairman by two separate party conventions on 5 May. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PREMIER PLEASED WITH GOTEBORG SUMMIT OUTCOME

Viktor Orban said that thanks to the perseverance of Hungarian diplomats, all Hungarian demands were included in the closing document of the Goteborg summit, according to which the best-prepared candidate countries will take part in European parliamentary elections as full EU members in 2004, Hungarian media reported on 18 June. Orban said the breakthrough was partly due to the fact that Hungary is the first country to conclude talks on the free flow of labor and foreign ownership of land. He welcomed the EU's confirmation of the principle of individual assessment, and attributed Hungary's success to national unity on the issue of accession. MSZ




BOSNIAN MUSLIMS DEDICATE MOSQUE DESPITE SERBIAN RIOTERS

Bosnian Serb police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse "hundreds" of demonstrators in Banja Luka on 18 June, Reuters reported. The protesters sang nationalist songs and chanted anti-Muslim slogans. The rioters want to prevent work on rebuilding the 16th-century Ferhadija mosque, which Bosnian Serb irregulars destroyed during the 1992-1995 war as part of a campaign to remove all physical aspects of Bosnia's Ottoman heritage. Some 100 Muslims, guarded by police, nonetheless succeeded in laying the cornerstone for the mosque, AP reported. Muslim and foreign leaders criticized the Bosnian Serb authorities for not stopping violent protests during an attempt to begin work on Ferhadija in early May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and May 2001). This time, however, Banja Luka Mayor Dragoljub Davidovic promised that security will be tough, "Dnevni avaz" reported on 18 June. PM

PETRITSCH CALLS FOR NEW ADMINISTRATION IN BOSNIA

Wolfgang Petritsch, the international community's high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, wrote OSCE Chairman Mircea Geoana on 16 June that all international organizations in Bosnia dealing with the implementation of the 1995 Dayton peace agreement should be united, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He specifically mentioned integrating his own mission, that of the UN, and that of the OSCE. Jacques Klein, who heads the UN mission, also said recently that it is counterproductive to have so many actors on the scene, often duplicating each other's work or working at cross-purposes. PM

MACEDONIAN ALL-PARTY TALKS SET TO RESUME

Arben Xhaferi, the ailing leader of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), has called for the creation of the post of vice president in the Macedonian government, dpa reported from Skopje on 18 June. The post would be reserved for a member of the ethnic Albanian community who would have broad powers, including the right to veto government decisions. The news agency reported that Slavic Macedonian political leaders regard the proposal as "extreme" and called for a pause in the talks that were going on over the weekend (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2001). Leaders of parties in the governing coalition were slated to resume talks in the afternoon of 18 June. The agenda centers on President Boris Trajkovski's peace plan that calls for a cease-fire, amnesty for most fighters of the National Liberation Army (UCK) who disarm voluntarily, and a greater role for ethnic Albanians in public life, AP reported. Also under discussion are possible changes to the constitution to make Albanians and their language equal to their Slavic counterparts, and to drop any references to a state religion. PM

U.S., ALBANIA CALL ON UCK TO END OCCUPATION OF MACEDONIAN TOWN

James Swigert, a U.S. State Department envoy, said in Tirana on 17 June that the UCK's occupation of the Skopje suburb of Aracinovo "is a potential threat to NATO supply lines" into Kosova, AP reported. His host, Albanian President Rexhep Meidani, also called on the guerrillas to withdraw "to allow political dialogue to continue." PM

EU DECIDING ON REPRESENTATIVE TO MACEDONIA

Meanwhile, in Goteborg on 16 June, EU officials hailed Trajkovski's efforts at bringing about a settlement and pledged more aid if he succeeds. The EU wants to send a special permanent envoy to Skopje who will report to security policy chief Javier Solana. EU leaders have not, however, decided on an individual for the new job. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 18 June that French President Jacques Chirac has proposed former French Defense Minister Francois Leotard, who also has the backing of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Some unnamed smaller countries, however, have balked at what they regard as the pushiness of Paris and Berlin. A final decision is expected shortly, the daily added. PM

TAIWAN BREAKS RELATIONS WITH MACEDONIA

Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva and her Chinese counterpart Tang Jiaxuan signed a communique in Beijing on 18 June re-establishing diplomatic relations after a break of about two years, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 6 June 2001). The move is expected to pave the way for Chinese support in the UN Security Council for international peacekeepers for Macedonia. Mitreva's Social Democrats always opposed the previous conservative government's decision to switch relations from Beijing to Taipei. Meanwhile, in the Taiwanese capital, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on 18 June that Taiwan has severed relations with Macedonia, dpa reported. "The government of the Republic of China (ROC) has decided to sever its diplomatic relations with the Republic of Macedonia effective today. The ROC government will close its embassy in the Republic of Macedonia, terminate all the agreements and cooperation projects between the two countries, and withdraw its technical mission." PM

PUTIN BACKS SERBIAN LEADERS

Following his meeting in Slovenia with U.S. President George W. Bush (see Part I), Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a "working visit" to Serbia on 16 and 17 June, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. He met with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in the first visit by a Russian leader since the collapse of former Yugoslavia and the USSR in 1991. Putin's public statements on regional affairs recalled those made by Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in March (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 March 2001). Putin criticized KFOR's record on providing security, which serves to embarrass NATO and support Belgrade's plan for a return of Serbian forces to Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2001). He also called for a regional conference to reaffirm the inviolability of borders, which would preclude independence for Kosova or Montenegro. Moscow backs Belgrade's Balkan political agenda and hence has little, if any, influence with the ethnic Albanians of the region. Before returning to Moscow, Putin paid a brief visit to UN officials and Russian peacekeepers in Kosova on 17 June. PM

SLOVENIAN VOTERS OVERTURN LAW ON IN VITRO FERTILIZATION

With a turnout of some 35 percent of eligible voters, some 72 percent of those casting their ballots voted on 17 June to annul a two-month-old law permitting single women to have in vitro fertilization, AP reported. The vote is binding and was hailed by conservative and Roman Catholic groups. The law was supported by women's rights and lesbian organizations. Gay and lesbian organizations became a visible part of the Slovenian political landscape in the 1980s, when the Alpine republic established itself socially and politically as the most pluralistic region of what was then Yugoslavia. PM

ROMANIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY BORN AGAIN

The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) and the Social Democratic Party of Romania (PSDR) merged on 16 June, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The formation, called Social Democratic Party (PSD) -- obviously with an eye to gaining membership in the Socialist International -- elected PDSR leader Adrian Nastase as its chairman and PSDR leader Alexandru Athanasiu as the chairman of the party's National Council. Georgiu Gingaras of the PSDR was elected as one of the PSD's 12 deputy chairmen. Four former leaders of the Democratic Party also joined the PSD. One of them, Simona Marinescu, ran for the Democratic Party's chairmanship only one month earlier. Also among those who joined are seven former Greater Romania Party parliamentarians who recently left that party and two former prominent Alliance for Romania leaders -- Doru Viorel Ursu and Marian Enache. MS

PARTIAL ROMANIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS SHOW APATHY

Partial local elections conducted in 27 localities in Romania on 17 January were largely ignored by voters, Romanian Radio reported the next day. The ballot must be repeated in 20 out of the 27 localities on 24 June, due to voter turnout of less than 50 percent. The elections were called because the mayors in these localities had either resigned or were dismissed for irregularities. MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO PROMOTE DIRECT FOREIGN INVESTMENTS

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase was to submit to the parliament on 18 June a draft law aimed at promoting direct foreign investment, Romanian radio reported. The premier chose to submit the draft under a procedure called "governmental assumption of responsibility." Under the procedure, the bill is considered to be approved unless a motion of no-confidence is submitted within three days and approved by the legislature. The bill aims at granting benefits, mostly tax breaks and the right to import duty-free equipment for modernization, to both Romanian and foreign investors who invest more that $1 million, and further extends benefits to those investing $10 million or more. Nastase said the IMF and the World Bank are opposed to the bill, but "we shall explain again and again why we need it." He said other former communist countries grant such benefits and lure prospective capital away from Romania. MS

NICHOLSON PRAISES PROGRESS IN ROMANIAN CHILD CARE

Baroness Emma Nicholson, the European Parliament rapporteur on Romania, on 15 June met in Bucharest with Premier Nastase and said Romania has "made notable progress" in the last two months in coping with the problem of abandoned children. Nicholson said this will be reflected in the final version of the report she submits to the European Parliament in September, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

ROMANIA TELLS MOLDOVA 'TREATY MUST BE REVISED'

Ambassador Marcel Dinu, who heads the Romanian government's Office for Relations with Moldova, on 16 June told journalists in Chisinau that Bucharest "insists that changes be introduced" in the basic treaty between the two countries initialed last year by the Moldovan and Romanian foreign ministers, Flux reported. Dinu said Romania wants the text of the treaty to mention that both states are "Romanian" and to condemn the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. Dinu also said Romanian companies are interested in participating in the privatization program in Moldova, particularly in the energy sector and the wineries, but added that "for now the climate in Moldova is not friendly" to foreign investment. MS

MOLDOVANS RALLY AGAINST 'HISTORY OF MOLDOVA'

PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca on 15 June told a protest rally in Chisinau that the country's intelligentsia may launch mass protests against the intention of the government to replace the teaching in schools and universities of the "History of Romanians" with the "History of Moldova," Infotag reported. He said that "as of today, the struggle has been launched against those who wish to deprive us of our national and democratic achievements... We can tolerate four years of communist rule, but only if Romanian spirituality is left in peace," Rosca said, adding that "otherwise, the communists shall have to quit the political scene earlier." The rally was attended by about 100 people. MS

MOLDOVA TO ACCESS BALKAN STABILITY PACT THIS MONTH?

Donald Kursch, the deputy coordinator of the Balkan Stability Pact, on 15 June told journalists in Chisinau that "he hopes" Moldova will become a pact member on 28 June, Infotag reported. He said that during the visit of the pact's delegation to Moldova, the country's leadership has "confirmed its European orientation and adherence to democratic values." Asked by journalists whether the program of the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists matches the pact's principles, Special Pact Commissioner Mihai Razvan Ungureanu replied that this is "Moldova's domestic affair." According to a Flux report, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin said after meeting Kursch and Ungureanu that the pact's readiness to accept Moldova as a member "indicates the pact is also backing the political line" of Moldova's new leadership. MS

FORMER BULGARIAN KING WINS ELECTORAL LANDSLIDE

With over 99 percent of ballots cast in the 17 June parliamentary elections counted, the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) is certain to have won an electoral landslide. The NDSV has 43.5 percent, more than the total of the second- and third-place formations together, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. The outgoing ruling alliance of the Union of Democratic Forces (ODS) is second, with 18.24 percent, closely followed by the For Bulgaria Coalition, whose main component is the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). The ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) will also be represented in the parliament, having scored 6.75 percent. No other formation passed the 4 percent electoral hurdle. While voter turnout was fairly high (66.7 percent), it was lower than observers had expected. MS

BULGARIAN POLITICIANS REACT TO ELECTORAL OUTCOME

Former King Simeon told journalists on 17 June that the NDSV will seek to form a coalition government with all parties that share its objectives, BTA reported. Outgoing Premier Ivan Kostov hinted he will resign as leader of the Union of Democratic Forces, the main component of the ODS. He told journalists: "I know what I am expected to do [and] I will do it in the right place and at the right time." Kostov said the ODS has had to "carry out some unpopular measures, we made many mistakes, and the Bulgarians had to pay a price they were unwilling to pay." BSP Chairman Georgi Parvanov said his party is ready for talks with the NDSV, on condition that the "preservation of the republic" is safeguarded and that Kostov himself is not a member of the new government. DPS leader Ahmed Dogan said there are no significant differences between the goals pursued by his party and those of the NDSV. MS

LIBYAN COURT SETS VERDICT DAY FOR SEPTEMBER IN BULGARIANS' TRIAL

The court in Tripoli on 17 June concluded hearings in the trial of six Bulgarian medics -- five nurses and a doctor -- accused of deliberately infecting children in a Benghazi hospital with the HIV virus and set the verdict date for 22 September. The prosecutor demanded the death penalty for the six and for a Palestinian doctor charged in the case, AFP reported, citing Bulgarian television. The lawyer representing the Bulgarians rejected the charges and said they had been "violently ill-treated" during the investigation to make them confess. Both former King Simeon and President Petar Stoyanov expressed concern and the hope that the charges will "not be definitive." MS




PARTIES, MEDIATORS STILL HOPE FOR KARABAKH BREAKTHROUGH


By Emil Danielyan

Things looked too good to be true as a team of international mediators summed up results of Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks that took place in Florida last April. With the conflicting parties said to be close to a deal after years of deadlock, never before had expectations of an end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict run so high.

But the unusually upbeat mood gave way to renewed uncertainty and even pessimism when senior French, Russian, and U.S. negotiators spearheading the international peace effort cancelled the next and possibly decisive round of negotiations. The meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, due in Geneva in mid-June, was put off indefinitely, ostensibly to give the two leaders more time to drum up domestic support for a compromise solution.

Meanwhile, according to an as yet unconfirmed Interfax report of 16 June, unnamed Russian diplomatic sources said agreement was reached at a meeting in Moscow on 15 June between Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov and the French co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, Philippe de Suremain, that the U.S., French, and Russian Minsk Group representatives will meet in Malta on 22-24 June to discuss ways to surmount the problems that have arisen in the Karabakh peace process.

But officials in Baku and Yerevan now say that the omens are not really bad, while the mediators assure that a Karabakh settlement remains in the cards, insisting that the postponement of the Geneva summit does not mean that recent months' progress has been rolled back.

"There is no reason to believe that we won't get an agreement this year," said one Western diplomat in Yerevan, adding that direct talks between presidents Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliyev will resume "in the near future."

Carey Cavanaugh, the chief U.S. negotiator who was particularly optimistic about peace prospects in the wake of the Florida talks, declared earlier this month that the peace process is indeed "getting closer to the end.

"It is a mistake to expect that this is a perfectly smooth process. It continues to accelerate, and accelerate to the very end," Cavanaugh told Armenian and Azerbaijani journalists in a televised interview from Washington.

His French counterpart, de Suremain, likewise told RFE/RL on 28 May that the parties and the mediating troika are now busy "polishing" details of the Karabakh peace accord. And Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said recently that the process is "still alive," urging the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group to remove "complications" that led to the postponement of the Geneva meeting.

Those complications apparently emerged during the co-chairs' regular tour of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Karabakh last month. Yet precisely what went wrong is unclear. Some Armenian officials have claimed privately that Aliyev unexpectedly backtracked on agreements reached with Kocharian in Paris last March and in Key West a month later. However, Yerevan has avoided directly blaming Baku, saying only that the slowdown was not caused by the Armenian side.

Azerbaijani officials, for their part, have blamed the last-minute glitch on a "nonconstructive" Armenian stance. As for the mediators, they are anxious not to blame either of the parties. A Western diplomat familiar with the negotiating process told RFE/RL that Aliyev and Kocharian were simply given more time "to do their homework" of selling an impending Karabakh accord to their suspicious publics.

After returning home from Key West "both of them became a bit concerned that publics in both countries are not prepared for a mutually acceptable compromise agreement. The publics needed a bit more time to digest and understand what that would mean," the diplomat said.

The Karabakh issue is heavily exploited by the more hard-line opponents of Aliyev and Kocharian. Both leaders will be vulnerable to opposition attack if they press ahead with major concessions.

That a framework agreement on resolving the Karabakh dispute was reached at their Paris meeting mediated by French President Jacques Chirac is almost certain. A source close to the mediators said the "Paris principles" will form the "basis" of a new peace plan the Minsk Group has been working on. Their content is being kept strictly confidential.

But in the words of Oskanian, the Paris principles are in line with the three key points of the Armenian position on the issue: Karabakh's "nonsubordination" to Azerbaijan, a land corridor linking the disputed enclave to Armenia, and firm international guarantees for its status. This boils down to placing Azerbaijan and Karabakh under a loose Bosnia-type confederation.

It is understood that Baku would in return be guaranteed unfettered communication with its Nakhichevan exclave via Armenia's Meghri district. Whether or not that would require Yerevan to give up some of its sovereignty over the strategic area is not yet clear. The issue is highly sensitive and hotly debated in Armenia, with the opposition warning Kocharian against any concessions on Meghri.

For the moment, Armenian leaders are sanguine about what they think they will be offered by the mediators. According to Oskanian, the two presidents have built a "really good basis" after 17 face-to-face meetings in just over two years.

Meanwhile, sources say the American, French, and Russian co-chairs will decide "over the next several weeks" and at their 22-24 June meetings in Malta on their next steps. Whether their declared objective to eliminate the main factor of instability in the south Caucasus this year is realistic will become clear shortly afterward. Emil Danielyan is a correspondent in RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau.


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