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Newsline - June 20, 2001




PUTIN SAYS RUSSIA WOULD RESPOND TO NMD WITH NEW WEAPONS

President Vladimir Putin told American journalists on 18 June that Russia would respond to the American development of a national missile defense with new weapons systems, including MIRVed (Multiple Independently-Targeted Reentry Vehicle) missiles, Russian and Western news agencies reported. But he said he is confident that any U.S. system would not have a significant impact on Russia for the next 25 years because of the technical difficulties involved. At the same time, however, the Russian president said that Moscow is prepared for "further discussions so that we will all know what we are talking about." Meanwhile, Duma Deputy Speaker (Yabloko) Vladimir Lukin said Russia needs to coordinate its response to American actions with China, France, and Germany, Interfax reported on 19 June. VY

PUTIN LASHES OUT AT GAZPROM, GUSINSKY

Putin said on 19 June that Gazprom has misspent "enormous sums," and called on its new head, Aleksei Miller, to make the firm more transparent, Russian and Western agencies reported. Putin said that Miller should not focus on tracking down lost funds because "this should be looked at by law-enforcement agencies." Putin also said that embattled media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky "received a billion and does not intend to pay it back." Instead, Putin remarked, Gusinsky is "running between Israel and Washington and buys groups of influence in the United States to carry out actions against us." PG

PUTIN SAYS FEDERATION CAN LEARN FROM REGIONS

Putin on 19 June told representatives of the parliamentary associations of the federation that it would be a good idea for the federation to "look at a number of laws developed in the regions" as possible models for federal legislation, Interfax reported. He also said that it would be worthwhile to establish in his office a working commission on this jointly with regional representatives. PG

PUTIN DISSATISFIED WITH FLOOD RELIEF

Putin told Gosstroi head Anvar Shamuzafarov on 19 June that he is not pleased by efforts so far to provide assistance to flood-ravaged regions in the Russian Far East, Russian agencies reported. Meanwhile, officials in Yakutia (Sakha) said that they have calculated losses from the floods at more than 5 billion rubles ($160 million), Interfax-Eurasia reported. PG

VOLSKII CALLS ON PUTIN TO PUSH HARDER FOR REFORMS

In an interview published in "Moskovskie novosti" on 19 June, Arkadii Volskii, the president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, said that Putin should take a tougher line against those who resist reforms. He said that changing the number of ministries is not enough. He called on Putin to work to attract more foreign investment and to fight the brain drain from the country. PG

GOVERNMENT'S INSISTENCE THAT INFLATION WILL BE 14-16 PERCENT MEANS PRICES MUST FALL

According to an article in "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 June, the Russian government's continuing insistence that inflation will be in the 14-16 percent range in 2001 means that prices must remain unchanged or even fall during much of the remainder of the year, something the article suggested is not likely. Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 19 June that monetary emissions are creating a wave "like a tsunami" that is likely to push inflation higher. PG

CABINET BACKS FLAT TAX ON NATURAL RESOURCES

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said on 19 June that the Russian government is inclined to back a single flat tax on natural resources in place of the three existing levies, RIA-Novosti reported on 19 June. He said that such a change would boost tax revenues in much the same way that the introduction of a flat income tax has done. VY

GOVERNMENT PERMITS PENSION FUNDS TO BUY STATE BONDS

The government has permitted the Russian Pension Fund to invest its holdings in state bonds, Interfax-AFI reported on 19 June. Up to now, the fund had to place such money in banks. PG

KOZAK SAYS KREMLIN TO BE GUIDED BY CITIZENS' INTERESTS, NOT JUDICIAL BODIES IN LEGAL REFORM

In an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 19 June, Dmitrii Kozak, the deputy head of the presidential administration who is responsible for judicial reform, said that the Kremlin will listen to everyone in the discussion about the reform of the legal system but will give preference to the interests of citizens rather than to those of prosecutors and judges if the two sets of interests are at odds. PG

GOSSTROI WANTS TO TEACH MAYORS HOW TO MANAGE

The State Construction Committee (Gosstroi) is backing legislation that will require the heads of local administrations to attend a special course on how to plan the development of their areas, "Izvestiya" reported on 19 June. PG

MORE CALLS FOR REDIVIDING DUMA COMMITTEE CHAIRMANSHIPS

Various political groups on 19 June called for replacing communist Duma committee chairmen with representatives of other factions, but Duma deputy (People's Deputy) Gennadii Raikov told Interfax the same day that no changes are likely before the fall. "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 June echoed Raikov's views, noting that the Kremlin always threatens the communists with such actions but does not carry them out. PG

COMMUNISTS TURN TO REGIONAL TV WITH STORY OF LAND CODE SESSION

Deputy (Communist) Ivan Melnikov, who heads the Duma Committee on Science and Education, told Interfax on 19 June that the Moscow media distorted the nature of the Communist protest against the adoption of the land legislation on 15 June and that to set the record straight his party has been forced to prepare a 20-minute television program that it is sending to regional television outlets for distribution. PG

ALL-RUSSIA DEMOCRATIC CONFERENCE MEETS

Representatives of democratic parties and groups met in Moscow on 19 June and issued an appeal to the government not to forcibly return fugitives to Chechnya, Interfax reported. Participants called for "the strengthening of civil society and the priority of the rights of the individual against the interests of the state." They also decided to make the conference into a permanent advisory body to Yabloko, the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), and other democratic groups. PG

EURASIANS MEET TO FORM PARTY

The constituent congress of the Eurasian Party of Russia opened on 19 June in a Moscow suburb, Interfax reported. Seven all-Russia organizations, including Refakh, the Party of Justice and Order, Young Moscow, and the Congress of Buddhist Peoples, have agreed to join. Refakh leader Abdul-Vakhed Niyazov said that the new party seeks to promote the Eurasian ideology, which "must become the basis for integration processes and for the creation of a new union in place of the former USSR." Niyazov said that the new party's working name is the Russian Party of National Accord. PG

UNIONS ORGANIZE PROTESTS AGAINST NEW LABOR CODE

More than 300,000 people across Russia participated in protests on 19 June against the proposed new Labor Code, RFE/RL's Russian service reported. Dock workers in the ports of Nakhodka, Vladivostok, Arkhangelsk, and Magadan held brief work stoppages, while air-traffic controllers in seven cities also participated in protests. The head of the dock workers union's Far East branch, Vassilii Kozarenko, told ITAR-TASS that the proposed new Labor Code would extend working hours, reduce union's protective functions, allow employers to blacklist unwelcome staff members and empower management to fire staff at will. Protestors instead demand the adoption of a draft labor code that they find more "progressive," but which the government does not support. In Moscow, approximately 50 protestors took part in an illegal demonstration in front of the Duma building, according to Interfax. JAC/PG

FOREIGN MINISTRY DECRIES EAST EUROPEAN INTERPRETATIONS OF WORLD WAR II

In an interview published in "Krasnaya zvezda" on 19 June, First Deputy Foreign Minster Aleksandr Avdeev said that Russians feel justified anger at the way some in Eastern European countries are rewriting the history of World War II to suit their current purposes. He said that in those countries, there are "influential forces interested in creating an image of Russia as a country not only with an unpredictable past but also with an unpredictable present and future" and as a country whose totalitarian and imperial past make it "incompatible with European values." To that end, the imagemakers suggest that those from these countries who fought against the USSR on the German side were "'freedom fighters'' and "our warriors were 'occupiers.'" PG

FOREIGN MINISTRY, ALFA BANK SIGN COOPERATION ACCORD

For the first time, the Foreign Ministry has signed a cooperation accord with a nongovernmental body, in this case, the Alfa Bank, Interfax reported on 19 June. The accord calls for the two to inform each other of their international cultural activities and to help one another reach their goals. Alfa Bank President Pavel Aven stressed that the bank does not expect to gain any commercial profits from the agreement. PG

MOSCOW APPROVES MEASURE TO SET UP UNIVERSITY BRANCHES IN CIS COUNTRIES

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has signed a decree associating Russia with a Commonwealth of Independent States agreement that will allow member states to set up university branches in each other's country, Interfax reported. PG

TOBIN MAY BE RELEASED SOON, PAPER SAYS

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 June, John Tobin, the American exchange student who was convicted of drug possession in late April, may be released as soon as 20 June and allowed to return to the United States. PG

WARMING U.S.-RUSSIA TIES SAID A MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE

Mikhail Margelov, the deputy chairman of the Federation Council's Committee on Foreign Affairs, said that both Moscow and Washington are seeking a marriage of convenience after a period of tensions, "Izvestiya" reported on 19 June. In large part, Margelov said, this reflects more the personalities of the two leaders involved rather than the national interests of the two countries. Presidents Putin and George W. Bush are both pragmatic, noncharismatic leaders, Margelov said. Both have two daughters, both are precise, and both like sports. VY

RUSSIAN-NORWEGIAN TALKS MARKED BY DISPUTES

After visiting Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg met with Putin and other senior Russian officials, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov commented that Moscow "cannot but be worried" by Norway's Globus-2 radar site, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 June. Russia claims that the site is part of NATO's strategic defense system, but both Norway and NATO deny that. The two sides also disagreed on new Norwegian legislation regarding Spitzbergen, with Putin calling on Stoltenberg to take into consideration the 1920 Soviet-Norwegian accord concerning that archipelago. But the two sides did agree to conduct new consultations on the division of energy resources in the Barents Sea. VY

MOSCOW RECEIVES REPRESENTATIVES OF AFGHAN KING

Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov on 19 June received in Moscow representatives of the former and now exiled king of Afghanistan, Muhammed Zahir-Shah, Interfax reported. Losyukov said that, in general, Moscow supports the king's proposal for the convention of an all-Afghan conference (loya jirga) to resolve the country's internal conflicts. PG

RUSSIA TO MODERNIZE ALGERIAN AIR FORCE, SELL OLD MIGS TO BURMA

The Chkalov aircraft works has signed a $120 million contract with the Algerian air force to modernize 22 Su-24 tactical bombers, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 June. The accord was signed at the Paris Air Show. Meanwhile, the MiG corporation has agreed to sell a group of used MiG-29 fighters to Burma (Myanmar) for $130 million, "Vedomosti" reported on 19 June. That sale is greater than the company's total sales in 2000. VY

RUSSIA GETS SUPPORT FROM SOUTH KOREA ON KURILES

Seoul has recognized Russia's rights in the maritime economic zone in the Southern Kuriles, thus ignoring claims by Japan, RIA-Novosti reported on 19 June. Japan has protested the official South Korean Foreign Ministry statement, the news agency said, but Seoul has responded that "the war area of the Southern Kuriles is not controlled by Japan and is fully within the Russian maritime economic zone." VY

CHERKESOV SAYS CORRUPTION OVERWHELMING NORTHWEST

In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 June, Viktor Cherkesov, the presidential envoy to the Northwest federal district, said that the criminalization of the economy and state structures in his region represents a threat to Russia's national security. He said that "in the district the growth of the shadow sector of the economy and the widening of illegal economic activity is observed" and that "the number of economic crimes registered so far this year is 20 percent more than the same period last year." PG

LEBED SAYS HE'S MAKING KRASNOYARSK A MODEL REGION

Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed said on 19 June that he has made a great deal of progress toward transforming his Siberian region into a model for the rest of the country, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Marking his third year in office, Lebed said that he has succeeded in cutting the barter system of wage payments from 70 percent of the total to less than 1 percent, improved tax collections by more than 25 times, reduced criminal control of industries from 70 percent of all enterprises to none, and promoted the region's industrial growth. He said he is not tired and looks forward to further work. "For 26 years I destroyed things," the former general said, "and now I take great satisfaction in creating them." PG

AEROFLOT FACES POTENTIALLY CRIPPLING STRIKE

The members of the Union of Aviation Specialists have declared that they will begin a 30-day strike against the carrier on 30 June for better pay, Russian agencies reported. The airline's administration is trying to prevent the strike, which "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 June could drive the company into bankruptcy. PG

STATISTICS COMMITTEE HEAD SAYS FEWER RUSSIANS POOR THAN OFFICIAL NUMBERS SUGGEST

In an interview published in "Trud" on 14 June, State Statistics Committee head Vladimir Sokolin said that he believes that the amount of poverty in Russia has been "considerably" exaggerated. According to official statistics offered by the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, there are 53.4 million Russian poor. In fact, Sokolin said, the actual number is around 30 million. The reason is that the former number does not take into account the value of items sold by the population in markets or food consumed by those who grow it. Meanwhile, the Central Bank reported that real monetary incomes for the first four months of 2001 increased 7.3 percent, "Vremya MN" reported on 19 June. PG

OSTANKINO FIRE BLAMED ON BUILDERS

Investigators looking into the causes of the 27 August 2000 fire that damaged the Ostankino television tower in Moscow have concluded that several of those involved in building the tower are criminally liable, Interfax reported. Prosecutors have opened cases against them, the news service said. PG

GREENPEACE BEGINS TO COLLECT TRASH ALONG LAKE BAIKAL SHORES...

Members of the Russian division of Greenpeace on 19 June began to collect trash from 70 kilometers of the coastline of Lake Baikal, Interfax-Eurasia reported. They are also seeking to monitor pollution levels in the lake. PG

...EXPRESS RESERVATIONS OVER CPC, BLUE STREAM PROJECTS

Greenpeace activists have also scheduled an Ecological Caravan along the Black Sea coast in August in a bid to persuade the Russian authorities to impose stricter ecological controls on the functioning of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium pipeline, which traverses unique juniper groves near the Black Sea, Caucasus Press reported on 20 June. They also expressed concern that the planned Blue Stream gas pipeline will traverse and damage a nature reserve near Gelendjik that contains rare pines. LF

SKRUNDA RADAR REPLACEMENT SITE OPERATIONAL

The Space Forces command said that the new strategic radar site "Volga" in Barnaovichy, Belarus, is now operational, the Military News Agency reported on 19 June. That facility is intended to fill the gap in Russia's early warning system that emerged after the closure of the Skrunda site in Latvia in 1998. VY

RUSSIAN JEWISH COMMITTEE SAYS ANTI-SEMITISM ON THE RISE

Reacting to the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Velikii Luki last week, the Russian Jewish Congress on 19 June said that the actions there were planned, not spontaneous, and reflect "a growth of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and the march of chauvinist organizations of a pro-fascist kind" in Russia, Interfax reported. The congress added that the failure of officials to punish those who carry out such actions "is giving birth to ever new actions" of this kind. PG

WAHHABIS SEEN AS THREAT TO RUSSIA ONLY IF COUNTRY BECOMES UNSTABLE

An extensive article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 June examined the role of Islam in general and Wahhabism in particular in Russia. It concludes that "the organized, wealthy, and purposeful Wahhabi minority [within Russian Islam] can come to power" only in conditions of instability. Otherwise, Wahhabism will remain a minor element in Russia's religious and political life. PG

MORE OFFICERS TO RESIGN FROM MILITARY

The Russian army's ground forces have only half the junior officers they need, "Versiya," of 19-25 June reported. Poverty is driving them to resign, the weekly said, but a planned bill on Russian military benefits will not solve the problem. The government-backed measure does increase salaries but it also takes away so many benefits that more officers are likely to resign, the weekly said. PG

INTERIOR MINISTRY CATEGORIZES TERRORIST ACTIONS

Major General Viktor Gosudarev, the deputy head of the Interior Ministry's Main Criminal Investigation Department, said on 19 June that there have been 379 explosions in Russia since the beginning of this year, 150 of which were classified as terrorist acts, ITAR-TASS reported. Eighty percent of those terrorist acts took place in Chechnya, he said. Gosudarev added that the 379 explosions killed 146 people and injured another 613. But he said that these numbers, while high, are significantly lower than in earlier years and continue the downward trend begun in 1997. PG

ACCUSED SPY SUFFERS HEART ATTACK

Valentin Danilov, a Krasnoyarsk scientist who has been accused of spying for China and who on 18 June charged that the Federal Security Services used psychological pressures to try to force him to confess to a crime he did not commit, suffered a heart attack and has been hospitalized, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 June. Danilov remains handcuffed to his bed and under the surveillance of two guards, the news agency said. VY

SENDING A ROCK BAND INTO ORBIT

Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi is urging that the Russian space agency carry members of the pop group Na Na into orbit, "Izvestiya" reported on 19 June. Shvydkoi was quoted as saying that "to maintain the continuity of generations and steer young Russians toward cosmonautics, it is necessary to popularize space work." Shvydkoi also said that the group's "healthy optimism, stability and sense of tradition could become a symbol for young Russians." Na Na producer B.K. Alibasov said that only one member of the group could in fact go into orbit. PG

WHISKEY FOR PUTIN WEBSITE DESIGN WINNER

Officials presented a bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey to the winner of a competition to design the pages of Putin's website www.president.kremlin.ru, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 June. PG

LENIN STATUE STOLEN FOR SCRAP

Metal thieves in a Marii El village have made off with a statue of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin in order to sell it for scrap, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 19 June. PG

PASKO TRIAL DELAYED AGAIN...

The new trial of military journalist Grigorii Pasko was postponed again on 19 June to 11 July, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to the agency, the chairman of the court refused to explain why the proceedings have been postponed for the third time (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 March 2001). The first postponement occurred when neither the judge nor the prosecutor showed up for the proceedings, and the second time, the judge complained that he was ill. Pasko faces charges of state treason for having disclosed information about the hazardous environmental practices of the Pacific Fleet. He was first arrested in 1997 and was acquitted of charges of treason in 1999. However, last November, the Supreme Court ordered him to face a new trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2000). JAC

...AS DARKIN HEARING ALSO POSTPONED

Also in Vladivostok, a hearing in the case against newly elected Primorskii Krai Governor Sergei Darkin was postponed from 19 June to 21 June, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Darkin is accused of violating election law by giving an unpaid interview to Ekho Moskvy radio on 30 May. The second round of gubernatorial elections in that region was held on 17 June. The name of Darkin's chief competitor in that race, Viktor Cherepkov, was struck off the ballots just three days before that election when a local court found that similar interviews Cherepkov gave to Ekho Moskvy and NTV constituted an election law violation. JAC

TV BLACKOUT IMPOSED IN FAR EAST REGION

Kamchatskenergo again cut off electricity supplies to the regional television and radio transmission center in Kamchatka Oblast on 19 June, but this time local television broadcasts as well as those of countrywide television channels were also affected (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 4 April 2001). As a result, residents were forced to rely on newspapers and two local radio stations for their news, ITAR-TASS reported. According to a press release from Kamchatskenergo, the transmission center has an unpaid debt of some 2 million rubles ($68,650) for electricity supplied in May and June. JAC

THREE KILLED BY CAR BOMBS IN CHECHNYA

At least three people were killed and dozens injured by three separate car bombs that exploded in the town of Gudermes on 19 June, Russian agencies reported. Security measures in the town have been increased. The Russian Interior Ministry announced on 20 June that two suspects have been arrested, dpa reported. LF

DAGHESTAN REGISTERS ALARM OVER DEMOGRAPHIC TRENDS

The birthrate in Daghestan has dropped by almost 25 percent over the past eight years, from 50,702 to 38,298 live births, Glasnost North Caucasus reported on 19 June, quoting Health Minister Ilyas Mamaev. But Daghestan nonetheless remains the only federation subject to register population growth. Mamaev added that declining living standards have led to an increase in infant mortality, while the deteriorating ecological situation has resulted in a rise in the incidence of infectious diseases. LF




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES KARABAKH PEACE PROCESS WITH PARTY LEADERS

Robert Kocharian met in Yerevan on 19 June with the leaders of Armenia's main political parties to brief them on the ongoing Karabakh peace process, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Neither the presidential press service nor party leaders who attended the meeting divulged details. Also on 19 June, Turan quoted former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott as saying that Armenia and Azerbaijan were "very, very close" to finding a mutually acceptable solution to the conflict on the eve of the October 1999 parliament shootings. Talbott described that massacre as "a human, political, and geopolitical catastrophe." LF

ARMENIA TO RECEIVE NEW LOANS FOR INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS

Armenian government officials announced on 19 June that Western donors have pledged some $180 million on new low-interest loans over the next five years for measures to modernize water mains and irrigation systems, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The World Bank is likely to provide almost $150 million of which $65 million will be spent for irrigation purposes, including a dam on the Arax River and water mains for the Vayots Dzor, Armavir, and Tavush raions. The Arax marks the border between Armenia and Turkey. The German government is expected to provide a loan of 50 million German marks ($23 million). Gagik Martirosian, who heads the State Committee on Water Resources, said that the Arax dam project has been agreed with the Turkish government despite the formal absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries. LF

AZERBAIJAN TO EXPEDITE ALPHABET REFORM

Under a presidential decree published on 19 June, President Heidar Aliyev enumerated official measures aimed at raising the standard of Azerbaijani-language use and expediting the transition from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet, Turan reported. Those measures include creating a state language commission, and drafting a law on the state language and a program for improving the teaching of the Azerbaijani language, and are to be completed within one month. In addition, the government is instructed to institute penalties for "covert and open propaganda against the state language and resistance to the use of the state language and Azerbaijani alphabet." LF

WAS JAILED FORMER AZERBAIJANI MINISTER MURDERED?

Rafiga Feyzullaeva told journalists in Baku on 19 June that her brother Rafig, who was found dead in his prison cell two days earlier, did not die of natural causes, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported. She said his body bore traces of violence, and implicated two senior presidential administration officials in his murder. Rafig Feyzullaev, a former education minister, was sentenced in February to 12-years imprisonment on charges of swindling and misappropriation of state funds totaling $100,000. The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear his appeal against that sentence on 18 June. LF

GEORGIAN MINISTER OF FINANCE DENIES FEUD WITH NATIONAL BANK

Finance Minister Zurab Nogaideli told journalists in Tbilisi on 19 June that there is no conflict between his ministry and the National Bank, and that the latter institution will advance 117 million laris ($8.25 million) in the near future to cover salary arrears to teachers, Caucasus Press reported. The National Bank last week accused the ministry of engaging in "social demagogy" by blaming its inability to pay those salaries on the bank's refusal to release that credit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2001). LF

U.S. ADVISER ADVOCATES REDUCING GEORGIAN ARMY PERSONNEL

A senior U.S. Department of Defense official told a Georgian parliament session on 19 June that Georgia's armed forces should be cut by 7,000- 8,000 to a maximum of 12,000-13,000 men over the next five years, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. At the same time, he said that funding for the armed forces should be increased, a measure for which Georgian Defense Ministry officials have lobbied without success (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 47, 8 December 2000 and Vol. 4, No. 7/8, 23 February 2001). But some opposition parliament deputies objected that Georgia should not cut its armed forces at a time when neighboring states are building up their armies. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT MOVES TO REHABILITATE FORMER PRESIDENT

Deputies voted on 19 June to reopen the suspended criminal case into the abortive 1993 attempt by former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia to return to power, Caucasus Press reported. That move is intended as a preliminary to closing the case and rehabilitating the deceased president, whose remains will then be brought back from Georgia from his current resting place in Grozny. National Reconciliation Commission Chairman Vassili Maghlaperidze said that the return of Gamsakhurdia's remains to Georgia is a precondition for reconciliation between the current authorities and Gamsakhurdia's supporters. Also on 19 June, some 100 former Gamsakhurdia supporters jailed for crimes committed in 1992-1993 embarked on a hunger strike to demand their early release, AP reported. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT SAYS CENTRAL ASIAN STATES SHOULD UNITE AGAINST ISLAMIC EXTREMISM

Nursultan Nazarbaev has told a Kazakh TV channel that the states of Central Asia should join forces to oppose the threat posed by Afghanistan's version of radical Islam, Reuters reported on 19 June. He said that radical Islam threatens to return the countries of the region to the Middle Ages. Nazarbaev hailed as a "historic event" the transformation at last week's Shanghai summit of the Shanghai Forum into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The six members of that organization -- Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan -- signed a declaration affirming their commitment to containing ethnic and religious militancy. LF

BP TO SELL STAKE IN KAZAKH OIL CONSORTIUM

A spokesman for British Petroleum has said the company has sold its 9.5 percent stake in the OKIOC consortium created to exploit Kazakhstan's Kashagan offshore oil field to TotalFinaElf, thereby giving the latter a majority 23.79 percent stake in OKIOC, Interfax reported on 19 June. BP will, however, retain its stake in Kazakhstan's Tengiz field. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S 'GREENS' WARN OF THREAT TO LAKE BALKHASH

Mels Eleusizov, the leader of the Tabiyghat (Nature) Party, told a press conference in Almaty on 19 June that if China proceeds with its plans to build several dams on the cross-border Ili River (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2001), the reduced flow of water from that river into Lake Balkhash could cause the dessication of the lake on a scale comparable to the death of the Aral Sea, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT RESUMES DEBATE ON CHINESE BORDER AGREEMENTS

The Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament) on 19 June resumed debate on the controversial 1996 and 1999 bilateral agreements delimiting the Kyrgyz-Chinese border, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 14 June 2001). Government official Salamat Alamanov told deputies that the process of demarcating the border, which began earlier this month, is continuing despite their 13 June demand that it should be suspended. The Justice Ministry has rejected that demand as illegal. But Alamanov added that only those sectors of the border delimited in the 1996 agreement, which the government claims the previous parliament ratified in 1998, are being demarcated, and not those sectors amended under the 1999 amendments that have not yet been ratified. The 1998 ratification document has disappeared. LF

EBRD TO DOUBLE INVESTMENT IN TAJIKISTAN

Meeting on 18 and 19 June in Dushanbe with President Imomali Rakhmonov and Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov, a visiting EBRD delegation said the bank will draft over the next couple of months a new strategy for Tajikistan, and plans over the next two years to double the volume of its investments in that country from $15 to $30 million, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The fund will continue to give priority to measures to support and develop small and medium business, and will also help to fund infrastructure projects including the reconstruction of runways and navigation systems at Dushanbe and Khujand airports. LF

TURKMENISTAN TO BAN RETAIL SALES OF BIBLE

A Turkmen government agency informed bookstores in March that the Bible may no longer be offered for sale in either the Russian or Turkmen language, Keston News Service reported on 20 June. The Koran is reportedly still freely available. LF

UZBEKISTAN CONTINUES LAYING MINES ON BORDER

Uzbekistan is continuing to lay mines on sectors of its mountain border that are difficult to access, Interfax reported on 19 June, quoting an interview given to the newspaper "Narodnoe slovo" by Major General Makhmud Utaganov, the chairman of Uzbekistan's State Border Committee. He said that such mining is confined to sectors of the border where there is no local civilian population, and that it does not contravene the 1980 UN Convention restricting the use of such weapons. Meanwhile, the local authorities in southern Kyrgyzstan's Batken Oblast are preparing to remove mines along the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border in line with a directive issued last week by Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev. Since late 1999, several Kyrgyz have been killed or injured by Uzbek mines laid in the border region. LF




TWENTY-TWO COMPETITORS TO COLLECT SIGNATURES IN BELARUS'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

The Central Election Commission on 19 June registered the campaign groups of 22 aspirants seeking to run in the 9 September presidential elections, Belarusian media reported. Last week, 25 people filed applications with the commission to register their campaign groups (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 19 June 2001). Each of the 22 aspirants, in order to be registered as a presidential candidate, must collect no less than 100,000 signatures in his/her support between 20 June and 21 July. JM

TWO FORMER BELARUSIAN INVESTIGATORS REPORTEDLY OBTAIN ASYLUM IN U.S.

Belarusian human rights activist Aleh Volchak told journalists on 18 June that former investigators Dzmitry Petrushkevich and Aleh Sluchak have been granted political asylum in the U.S., Belapan reported. Last week, Petrushkevich and Sluchak accused top Belarusian officials of organizing a death squad and killing some 30 people, including Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar, opponents of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 June 2001). "We do know of Mr. Petrushkevich and Mr. Sluchak's revelations. We think that these statements give further urgency to the need to clear up the fate of the disappeared and to bring those responsible to justice," U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on 19 June. Boucher did not comment on Petrushkevich's and Sluchak's whereabouts. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PROMISES TO IMPROVE BUSINESS CLIMATE

Leonid Kuchma promised on 19 June to promote radical tax reform, reduce inflation, and strengthen the banking system in order to improve the country's business climate, Interfax reported. Speaking to the Foreign Investment Advisory Council, Kuchma said the government's main priorities for improving the investment climate will also include macroeconomic stabilization, transparent privatization, and intensification of land reform. Kuchma invited the EU and Russia to take part in the privatization of Ukraine's gas-transporting system. "Let us sit at a negotiation table as soon as tomorrow and start resolving this issue," Kuchma said, stressing that the privatization of Ukraine's gas pipelines should be a "trilateral process." JM

EU PRESIDENT URGES UKRAINE TO RESPECT DEMOCRATIC STANDARDS

Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson, who simultaneously presides over the EU, said in Kyiv on 20 June that Ukraine will have to guarantee press freedoms and other democratic standards if it wants closer ties with the West, AP reported. "We want to have growing cooperation and partnership with Ukraine," Persson noted, adding that the EU wants to stimulate its potential future members -- Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia -- to deepen cooperation with Ukraine. JM

DALAI LAMA BEGINS VISIT TO ESTONIA

The spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, arrived in Tallinn on 19 June and met with parliament Deputy Chairman Tunne Kelam and deputies from the parliament's Tibet support group, BNS reported. Prime Minister Mart Laar also met unofficially with the Dalai Lama. Center Union deputy Kalev Kallo, the head of the parliament's group for promoting ties with China, condemned Laar's decision to meet with the Tibetan leader as politically incorrect: "Estonia has good relations with China, we should always consider what we stand to gain, rather than bark at an elephant like a small dog." The Dalai Lama conducted a service at Tallinn's Niguliste Church, met with Tallinn Mayor Tonis Palts, and delivered a speech in Town Hall Square. He was scheduled to travel to Tartu the next day to deliver a lecture at the university there. SG

LATVIA, PORTUGAL SIGN TAX CONVENTION

Latvian and Portuguese foreign ministers Indulis Berzins and Jaime da Gama signed in Riga on 19 June a convention on averting double taxation and preventing income tax evasion, BNS reported. Da Gama said that "Portugal supports a broad EU expansion dimension" and that the recent Goteborg EU summit should have a positive effect on this process. The foreign ministers emphasized the good mutual relations between Latvia and Portugal, as well as mutual cooperation through organizations like the EU and the Council of Europe. Portugal will hold the presidency of the Council of Europe for half of next year. Da Gama also met with Prime Minister Andris Berzins, parliament Chairman Janis Straume, and other Latvian officials during his one-day visit. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS RESOLUTION CRITICIZING GOVERNMENT

The parliament failed on 19 June to pass any evaluation of the government's annual report by Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas, ELTA reported. The vote on the resolution drafted by the Social Democrats, which evaluated the work of the government negatively, was 46 to 45 with eight abstentions, but it was not passed since it did not receive a majority of the votes cast. Although the previous day New Union (Social Liberals) Chairman Arturas Paulauskas called on Paksas to resign, all but two of the New Union deputies left the session before the vote. The voting on the evaluations offered by the Liberal Union and Conservatives was postponed until the next parliament session on 21 June. After returning from the United States, President Valdas Adamkus accepted the resignations, submitted the previous day, by the six ministers who had been nominated by the New Union. Before doing so however, Adamkus asked them to remain in their posts, a clear rejection of Paksas's written proposal that their duties be temporarily delegated to the remaining ministers. Contrary to the usual practice, Paksas did not present his approval of the ministers' resignations to the president in person, but in a letter. SG

POLISH OPPOSITION PARTY DEMANDS ACTION OVER INCREASING BUDGET GAP

The main opposition party, the Democratic Left Alliance, is demanding that the government take urgent measures in order to revise budget expenditures and revenues, Polish Television reported on 19 June. The government recently reported that the budget deficit in May went up to 20.39 billion zlotys ($5.2 billion), with the year-end target planned at 20.5 billion zlotys. President Aleksander Kwasniewski said the only way to lower the state budget deficit is to maintain discipline in spending and to cut down on expenditures. "It is with great disquiet that I have received information that the budget lacks funds. I cannot imagine that it could be amended all of a sudden. There is no such possibility at this stage, a few months before the [parliamentary] elections," Kwasniewski said. JM

GENERAL JARUZELSKI'S TRIAL POSTPONED AGAIN

The trial of General Wojciech Jaruzelski and other generals and officers accused of perpetrating the massacre of workers in December 1970 was deferred until September because lawyers have not succeeded in familiarizing themselves with the case, Polish media reported on 19 June. Last month, the trial was postponed after Jaruzelski's lawyers refused to defend the general. New lawyers, who were chosen on a compulsory basis, said they have not succeeded in reading 107 volumes of files. JM

POLISH JUSTICE MINISTER, HIS BROTHER TO SUE TELEVISION FOR SLANDER

Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother Jaroslaw Kaczynski plan to sue Polish Television for a feature alleging that their former party, the Center Alliance, received some $600,000 from the Foreign Debt Servicing Fund (FOZZ), Polish media reported on 18 June. Lech Kaczynski said the feature, which was broadcast in prime time on 17 June, was "an exceptionally perfidious manipulation" in the runup to the 23 September parliamentary elections. Lech Kaczynski, who has become very popular in the post of justice minister, formed the Law and Justice election committee along with his brother. According to Polish media, the FOZZ case is the largest financial scandal in post-communist Poland. Prosecutors suspect that FOZZ, which employed many communist-era secret service officers, embezzled some 354 million zlotys ($89 million) from the state in the early 1990s. JM

CZECH OPPOSITION ALLIANCE PRESENTS DRAFT ON DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

Two prominent members of the opposition Four Party Coalition alliance on 19 June presented to journalists the draft bill on direct presidential elections that the alliance intends to submit to the parliament, CTK reported. Miroslav Vyborny and Vladimir Mlynar said the draft does not stipulate any increase in the president's prerogatives. They said it stipulates that candidates may be proposed by both political parties and citizens, and would need the backing of 20,000 members of the electorate to be registered. A candidate would have to win at least 51 percent of the votes to be elected in the first round, failing which a runoff would be held between the top two candidates. A president would not serve more than two terms and Mlynar stressed that outgoing President Vaclav Havel would not be able to succeed himself, having already served two terms. MS

EU PARLIAMENT DRAFT REPORT CRITICAL OF CZECH PERFORMANCE

A draft report on the progress of the Czech Republic toward meeting EU accession conditions praises progress but includes many critical observations, a CTK report from Brussels said on 19 June. The draft submitted to the Foreign Affairs Committee warns against "a huge growth" in the Czech Republics' public financial debt, although it says the country can be considered as having a functioning market economy. The draft also urges Prague to immediately launch reforms of the health and pension systems because of the growing budget deficit. The document praises Czech efforts toward integrating the Romany minority but says these efforts must be intensified. It also urges improving border controls against attempts to use the Czech Republic as a transit country for illegal immigrants. The report is to be discussed by the parliament's plenum in September. MS

CZECH POLITICIANS DISAGREE ON REPORT ON RFE/RL BROADCASTS

Petr Pleva, a deputy representing in the parliament the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), on 19 June told journalists in Brno that a report submitted to the Chamber of Deputies' Media Commission by the Council on Public Czech Radio indicates that RFE/RL's broadcasts in Czech infringe on legislation forbidding political involvement by public broadcasters, CTK reported. Freedom Union Deputy Mlynar said he does not share Pleva's interpretation of the report and that "in the document it is stated that the Czech Radio 6-Radio Free Europe has satisfied the [legal] stipulations." The report was submitted to the council by an expert staff of Prague's Charles University and referred to the coverage of the strikes by journalists at Czech television in December 2000-January 2001. MS

FIRST COMPENSATIONS SENT TO CZECH FORCED LABORERS IN FORMER NAZI GERMANY

The first payments of compensation to Czech victims of forced and slave labor in Nazi Germany during World War II were sent by mail to those eligible, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told journalists on 19 June. "This day marks a historic moment. The compensation process to victims of the Nazi regime is starting in the Czech Republic," said Kavan, as cited by CTK. The premier said, "these people will be among the first in the world to receive in the next few days the compensations." The compensations are paid from a fund established by German industrialists and the German government. The victims are eligible to receive up to $6,500 if they were in concentration camps and up to $2,175 if they were forced to work elsewhere for German companies. The payments are to be made in installments, AP reported. MS

CZECHS SELLING COTTAGES TO SLOVAKS IN KASARNA DISPUTE

The current dispute over Czech-owned cottages in the Slovak area of Kasarna took an unexpected turn on 19 June with the decision by the Czech company TJ Moravan Otrokovice to sell the cottages it owns to Slovak landowners, CTK reported on 20 June, citing the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes." Another Czech owner of cottages in the area, the Sportovni kluby Zlin association, is considering a similar step but insists on participating in the expected development of the land. The dispute arose when the Slovak village of Makov sold to Slovak land developers the land plots on which the Czech-owned cottages were built before the 1993 separation of the two states. The owners of cottages argued that the land should have first been offered to them, but the Makov local authorities say foreigners are not allowed to buy land in Slovakia. MS

SLOVAKIA'S REACTION TO HUNGARIAN 'STATUS BILL' IS RELATIVELY RESTRAINED...

The Foreign Ministry, reacting on 19 June to the approval by the Hungarian parliament of the "Status Bill" (see below), said in a statement that it hopes the law will be applied "in line with relations between sovereign states and existing bilateral agreements," TASR reported. The ministry said that, as passed by the neighboring country's parliament, the law "takes into account only some of the reservations earlier raised by Slovakia." It also said the law "will not in any way be implemented on Slovak territory without further consultation as a prerequisite." The ministry expressed the hope that "in exercising the law, the Hungarian government will act in line with our common interest in successful EU integration, confidence-building and understanding in mutual relations." MS

...WHILE PARLIAMENT RATIFIES MINORITY LANGUAGE CHARTER

The Slovak parliament on 19 June ratified the European Charter on Regional Minority Languages with the support of coalition parties and amidst strong criticism from the opposition, CTK reported. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said the document "aims at creating conditions for the preservation and development of minority languages [and their use] in education, the justice system, state and public administration, the media, culture, economic and social life, as well as in cross-border cooperation." Many opposition deputies displayed inscriptions reading "Do not let Slovakia become another Kosovo." Most deputies representing the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and the Slovak National Party said the charter only benefits the country's Hungarian minority, and some of those deputies said the Hungarian Coalition Party intends to use the charter to secure the autonomy of southern Slovakia, where most ethnic Hungarians live. MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES 'STATUS LAW'

The parliament on 19 June passed by a sweeping majority of 92 percent the "Status Law" that will provide benefits to ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine, Romania, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Slovakia. According to the law, which will go into effect on 1 January 2002, ethnic Hungarians will have the right to work in Hungary for three months each year, and will be given social, health, transportation, and education benefits. Persons who wish to receive those benefits need to apply for a certificate proving their Hungarian origin, which will be issued by a Hungarian authority and will be based on recommendations by ethnic Hungarian organizations in those countries. According to government officials, the law intends to prevent mass immigration by some 3 million ethnic Hungarians once Hungary joins the EU. Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said that, contrary to concerns expressed by Slovak and Romanian officials, the law will promote regional stability and cooperation, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

LANYI TO FORM NEW HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS' PARTY

Zsolt Lanyi, leader of the Independent Smallholders' Party's (FKGP) "reform civic section," told "Nepszabadsag" on 19 June that he intends to establish a new Smallholders' Party. Lanyi said he believes the move is necessary after the Supreme Court ruled that he is not the legitimate chairman of the FKGP (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2001). In other news, the parliament on 19 June elected Barnabas Lenkovics as the ombudsman for civil rights, Albert Takacs as his deputy, and re-elected Jeno Kaltenbach as ombudsman for minority rights. Mihaly Maczonkai, however, failed to win election as ombudsman for data protection due to lack of support from the opposition Socialist Party, which questioned his professional abilities. MSZ




HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: SERBIA 'FLUNKS WAR CRIMES TEST'...

The NGO Human Rights Watch said in a statement in New York on 19 June that the international donors conference for Serbia slated for 29 June in Brussels should be postponed until Belgrade begins cooperating seriously with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal. The NGO maintains that "holding a conference raising billions in economic assistance for Yugoslavia would be inappropriate given Yugoslavia's complete failure to cooperate with the...tribunal... While opposing economic aid, the rights group supports continued humanitarian assistance to Yugoslavia." The statement noted that "since April, the authorities in Belgrade have not arrested one person indicted by the tribunal. They also have made no public commitment to surrender former President Slobodan Milosevic." Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, argued that "any claim that Yugoslavia has made progress on cooperation would be patently false. This is the moment for the international community to insist on full cooperation" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 2001, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 May 2001). PM

...AND IS WASTING TIME OVER LEGISLATION...

Human Rights Watch said in its statement in New York on 19 June that it "has never believed that the adoption of a cooperation law was necessary for Yugoslavia to arrest and surrender the individuals indicted by the tribunal. Recently, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and several Yugoslav officials have acknowledged that no law is necessary to transfer Milosevic and other indictees to The Hague. This week the federal cabinet submitted a law on cooperation to the parliament. In a detailed analysis of the draft law sent today to U.S. and EU officials, Human Rights Watch pointed to several loopholes that could seriously delay or obstruct meaningful cooperation. 'Not only is this law unnecessary, the draft itself represents a step backward, not forward,' said Dicker." PM

...OF QUESTIONABLE VALUE

The statement by Human Rights Watch from New York on 19 June adds that "the draft law does not acknowledge Yugoslavia's overarching obligation to cooperate with the tribunal. The law also gives Yugoslav courts the authority to decide whether the tribunal is abiding by its own rules. The draft states that the tribunal cannot act in a way that would 'jeopardize Yugoslavia's sovereignty or national security interests.' It leaves unanswered who has the ultimate authority to resolve any disagreement between the tribunal and the government of Yugoslavia on these issues." PM

HAGUE PROSECUTOR CANCELS VISIT TO SERBIA

Carla Del Ponte, who is The Hague-based war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, has cancelled a trip to Belgrade amid signs that even the proposed legislation on cooperation is unlikely to pass parliament, Reuters reported from The Hague on 19 June. She had intended the trip as a working visit to lay the groundwork for cooperation. Her spokeswoman, Florence Hartmann, said that the visit has been "postponed" until Belgrade clarifies its stand on extraditing Milosevic and other indicted war criminals. PM

SERBIA TO 'RESTRUCTURE' TANJUG

The federal government has appointed a commission to prepare a proposal on the restructuring of the state-run news agency Tanjug, Beta reported on 18 June. The commission will be headed by Deputy Information Minister Vlatko Vujovic and consist of prominent government and Tanjug officials. Tanjug dates back to the early days of the rule of Josip Broz Tito as the government's news agency. In more recent years, it became a mouthpiece of Milosevic. It is not clear whether Tanjug will remain a state news agency or be privatized. PM

SERBIAN ARMS FOR CROATIA, BOSNIA

The Zastava arms factory in Kragujevac has delivered the first shipment of unspecified weapons to unnamed buyers in Croatia in 10 years, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 19 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2001). Zastava is conducting negotiations with unnamed buyers in Bosnia about possible sales. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRIME MINISTER OUTLINES PLANS

Filip Vujanovic said in Podgorica on 19 June that his government will soon offer a "dialogue" to the pro-Belgrade opposition, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that he will strictly observe a recent agreement with the Liberal Alliance, which will give the government limited parliamentary support in return for the government's commitment to holding a referendum on independence. Vujanovic said that he will propose talks to the Serbian government on establishing "a new model of relations as a union [savez] of two independent states." His proposal makes no mention of the existing federal government, which Podgorica does not recognize. Djindjic has rejected previous Montenegrin proposals based on a union of two independent states, arguing that there must be either a union or independence, but not both. PM

UN SECURITY COUNCIL HEAD WARNS KOSOVAR SERBS

After returning to New York from a brief visit to Kosova and Serbia, Security Council President Anwarul Chowdhury said on 19 June that Kosova's Serbs should take part in the political processes in that province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2001). He noted that "while the mission [from the UN to Kosova] was left in no doubt that strong reservations exist, not least in Belgrade, about the difficulties involved in taking forward elections in Kosovo on the basis of the constitutional framework, it also recognizes that the status quo is unacceptable and that a political process has to be taken forward in accordance with Security Council resolution 1244," RFE/RL reported. Chowdhury added that "the Kosovo Serb community, in particular, must integrate into the structures being set up by [the UN civilian administration] UNMIK, rather than attempt to set up parallel structures." PM

KOSOVAR PARTIES REJECT PUTIN'S PROPOSAL

Kosova's three main ethnic Albanian parties have rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin's call for a Balkan conference to affirm the inviolability of boundaries, Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service reported from Prishtina on 18 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2001, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 March 2001). Leaders of the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), and Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK) said that Putin's suggestion reflects Belgrade's line on Kosova. The party leaders stressed that the future of Kosova will be determined primarily by the Western powers. On his recent trip to the Balkans, Putin repeated a proposal put forward by Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in March aimed at precluding independence for Kosova or Montenegro. PM

BUSH TO VISIT KOSOVA

Unnamed U.S. officials told Reuters in Washington on 19 June that President George W. Bush will visit U.S. troops at Camp Bondsteel in Kosova on 24 July. On his recent visit to Warsaw, Bush repeated his administration's policy that the U.S. and its NATO allies "went into the Balkans together and we will come out together. Our goal must be to hasten the arrival of that day." PM

PEACEKEEPERS DETAIN 19 SUSPECTED GUERRILLAS IN KOSOVA

KFOR troops have detained 19 suspected ethnic Albanian guerrillas near the border with Macedonia in three separate incidents in the past three days, a KFOR spokesman told Reuters in Prishtina on 20 June. PM

MACEDONIAN TALKS IN DIFFICULTY

All-party talks aimed at working out a blueprint for Macedonia's political future are proceeding slowly because of a hardening of positions among some of the participants, dpa reported from Skopje on 20 June. On one hand, some of the ethnic Albanians have gone beyond their long-standing program to demand that they be given a top executive post in the government with a veto power (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2001). On the other hand, some members of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) have taken a hard-line position that the acceptance of virtually any of the Albanian demands would lead to the federalization and partition of Macedonia. PM

MACEDONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER QUITS TOP SECURITY BODY...

Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski told the BBC's Serbian Service of 20 June that he is quitting the all-party security body slated to supervise any peace deal. He charged that his colleagues are "too ready" to accept Albanian demands. An unnamed government source told Reuters in Skopje, however, that Boskovski resigned because his position has become untenable following his recent short-lived attempt to army "police reservists" among Skopje's ethnic Macedonians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2001). PM

...WHILE CALLING FOR MILITARY SOLUTION

Boskovski told the BBC's Serbian Service on 20 June that Macedonia does not need political talks or foreign intervention. He stressed that the security forces are fully able to defeat the rebels and that they should be allowed to do so. PM

NATO DEBATES MACEDONIAN ARMS COLLECTION

NATO ambassadors began a discussion in Brussels on 20 June of a possible role for the Atlantic alliance in helping disarm guerrillas in Macedonia, Reuters reported. One unnamed NATO official told the news agency that any mission "must be clearly defined and accepted by both sides. One option [involves] a brigade of troops, three battalions, the other is much fewer." Javier Solana, the EU's chief security policy official, said that "the Atlantic alliance will probably take a decision to help...through the deployment of a force in Macedonia with the idea to help in the disarmament of the extremist forces," RFE/RL reported. PM

SEVERE RAINFALL HITS BOSNIA

Heavy rains have struck Bosnia almost without interruption since the weekend, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tuzla on 20 June. Besides testing an often shaky infrastructure, heavy rains can wash some of the tens of thousands of land mines buried throughout the country onto roads and fields. PM

ROMANIA SUSPECTS 'CONSPIRACY' IN ALLEGED IRAQI ARMS EXPORTS

President Ion Iliescu on 19 June said he has ordered extensive investigations to be carried out into allegations that Romania has broken the UN-imposed embargo on arms exports to Iraq, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2001). Iliescu added that the report (which is published in full in the July-August 2001 issue of the magazine "Commentary") could be a "diversion" aimed at eliminating Romania from among NATO candidates precisely at a time when the organization has reaffirmed its commitment to further expansion. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said it is "embarrassing" to claim Romania is selling arms "when others traffic armaments for billions of dollars." He added that "all sorts of means are used by all sorts of lobbies." Industry and Resources Minister Dan Ioan Popescu said it is "strange" that the allegations "pop up precisely when Romania is on an ascending trend toward Euro-Atlantic integration." The Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry, in separate statements, also denied the allegations. MS

ROMANIA'S REACTION TO HUNGARIAN 'STATUS BILL' IS HARSH

Reacting to the approval of the "Status Law" by the Hungarian parliament earlier on 19 June (see above), the cabinet said in an official statement that it has "taken note" that the Hungarian parliament has "ignored" the Romanian observations "presented to the Hungarian side on numerous occasions." It said the law as a whole is "discriminatory" and infringes on international legislation. It also said no provision in the bill contravening the bilateral treaty between the two countries "can apply on Romania's sovereign territory." Premier Nastase said in Cluj that the law "will not be applied in Romania, just as is not applied in Austria," and Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana called the law "an anachronism" stemming from "the pre-electoral atmosphere in Budapest." With the exception of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, all parliamentary parties condemned the bill. MS

ROMANIA PROTESTS UKRAINIAN DRILLING IN BLACK SEA

The Foreign Ministry on 19 June protested against an announcement by Ukraine that it intends to start drilling in search of oil in the vicinity of Serpents' Island in the Black Sea, Romanian Radio reported. The ministry drew attention to the fact that, when signing the bilateral treaty between them in May 1997, both sides agreed to refrain from exploiting mineral resources in the disputed area around the island until the dispute is solved via negotiations. MS

BARONESS NICHOLSON 'RADICALLY' CHANGES PRELIMINARY REPORT

According to a Romanian radio correspondent's dispatch from Brussels on 19 June, Baroness Emma Nicholson, European Parliament rapporteur for Romania, has "radically" amended the draft report about to be submitted to the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. Nicholson, according to the dispatch, said Romania had "superbly" reacted to the "cold shower" it received when the contents of her original report were announced and has taken significant measures to improve the situation of abandoned children. She also mentioned progress in preparing the privatization of mammoth companies and of banks, as well as the proposed elimination from the Penal Code of punishment of sexual minorities. MS

PROTESTING ROMANIAN WORKERS GO ON HUNGER STRIKE

Three trade union leaders and 18 members of the unions at the Resita CSR steel-producing plant began a hunger strike on 19 June in protest against the management's failure to pay arrears and resume production, and the government's refusal to intervene in the conflict with the U.S.-based Noble Ventures company, which owns the plant, Mediafax reported. MS

ROMANIA NOT INTERESTED IN JOINING GUUAM

Romania "is paying special attention to cooperation with GUUAM member states but joining that organization is not on the agenda of its present foreign policy objectives," the Romanian Embassy in Chisinau said in a 19 June press release, as cited by Flux. Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin recently said he will propose that Romania and other countries join that organization. The press release said Bucharest is interested in "intensifying relations with GUUAM states" and will examine that possibility "from the perspective of its own interest...and in light of its firm priority to pursue integration in European and Euro-Atlantic structures." MS

SEPARATISTS AGAIN DENY MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ENTRY...

The Transdniester authorities on 19 June denied President Voronin access to Bendery/Tighina, where he had planned to deliver a speech at a rally marking nine years since the outbreak of hostilities between Chisinau and Tiraspol, Infotag reported. His planned speech was printed in the official "Nezavisimaya Moldova" Russian-language newspaper. In the speech, Voronin condemned "the ambitions of politicians in Chisinau and Tiraspol, which led to hundreds of deaths and thousands of injured." He also wrote that "the Transdniestrians defended themselves, arms in hand, against the insanity that triggered the war" in 1992 and that Moldovans on the right bank of the Dniester River "wiped out this insanity in the 25 February free elections." MS

...CASTING DOUBT ON NEGOTIATIONS' OUTCOME

Voronin and separatist leader Igor Smirnov on 20 June began a new round of negotiations in Chisinau, and observers say that Smirnov has deliberately set the talks up for failure. At the previous round of negotiations on 16 May, Voronin submitted to Smirnov a draft on granting the Transdniester autonomous status within Moldova, but Smirnov is arguing that the draft "does not take into considerations previously signed agreements," ITAR-TASS reported. Voronin said after the previous day's incident that the Tiraspol leaders "are playing the game of negotiations, but are in fact afraid of a honest and frank dialogue." He said the separatists "realize that the times when they could arouse fears [among Transdniester's Russian-speaking population] are running out and people are beginning to understand who wants peace and who benefits from the confrontation." MS

MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN U.S.

Nicolae Cernomaz has asked U.S. Assistant Treasury Secretary Nancy Lee to assist in Moldova's efforts to restructure its foreign debt, BASA-press and Flux reported on 19 June, citing a Foreign Ministry press release. Lee said the U.S. is ready to send a group of experts to Chisinau to study the problem, but emphasized the importance for Moldova to "normalize relations" with the International Monetary Fund. Cernomaz also met USAID head Andrew Nastios to discuss the continuation of aid provided by that agency to Moldova's privatization program. MS

BULGARIA'S KOSTOV TO REMAIN SDS LEADER -- FOR NOW

Outgoing Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova said after a 19 June meeting of the leadership of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) that Ivan Kostov will "stay on, at least for now," as SDS leader, Reuters reported. Mihailova, who is also an SDS deputy chairwoman, said that at the meeting "no leadership personnel changes were discussed, because we are a responsible political force and must first analyze the reasons that led to our electoral defeat." She said Bulgaria does not have a "more serious statesman" than Kostov, who has "managed to overcome many hurdles." She said Kostov "took over when the country was destroyed and managed to turn it into a state that is negotiating its EU membership." MS




AUTHORITARIANISM MAY BE HARSH, BUT IT ISN'T EFFECTIVE


By Paul Goble

Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime has sought to justify its authoritarian approach by saying that harsh measures are required to combat social ills like crime and the drug trade. But police officials in Minsk have conceded that the state's enormous police apparatus has failed to stop the traffic in illegal drugs both into and through Belarus.

Colonel Anatol Hury of the Belarusian Interior Ministry said in an interview with dpa on 19 June that Belarus has become a major transshipment point between Central Asia and Western Europe despite the efforts of his agency to put a stop to this trade. And he noted that more illegal drugs are coming into Belarus and that more Belarusians are using them. It is not clear from Hury's remarks to what extent the increase in the inflow of narcotics is a consequence of the abolition of controls on the Russia-Belarus border within the framework of Russian-Belarusian integration.

Hury stressed that the police have not been inactive: They confiscated 63 times more drugs and arrested 29 times more pushers and users in 2000 than in 1999. But despite those actions, the price of drugs on the streets of Belarus has continued to fall, a pattern suggesting that more drugs are now available. In 1996, for example, a gram of heroin sold for $100 but now the price has fallen to only $12, Hury said.

And because of that, Hury suggested, he believes the real number of drug users in Belarus is closer to 40,000 than the government's official estimate of only 8,000.

Many governments around the world are fighting what is often a losing battle against illegal drug use. In many cases, these governments have found that putting more police on the drug beat, arresting and jailing more distributors and users, and seeking to change public attitudes have not had the impact their proponents had predicted.

Not surprisingly, given the direct and indirect health and social consequences of widespread drug abuse, many people in these countries have been willing to listen to those in the police and security services who argue that only more police power can do the job. But the situation in Belarus is a clear indication that authoritarianism by itself may not solve the problem. Indeed, such measures may in this case actually make the problem worse.

According to many observers, the Belarusian KGB is even more powerful than was its namesake in that republic during Soviet times. And Lukashenka has deployed the police and security forces against his opponents with such vigor that many have seen his regime as a throwback to the worst features of the past or even drawn an analogy between it and authoritarian regimes elsewhere.

But this report of growing drug-trafficking in Belarus suggests that Lukashenka's authoritarian approach has not been effective against a genuine social ill. Indeed, the police appear to be far less able to fight crime than to harass dissidents and political opponents of Lukashenka.

Many of the post-communist countries suffer from this pattern. Indeed, for many, it is a longstanding one. At the end of the 19th century, the Russian Empire had the reputation of being a repressive police state, and its secret police arm, the Okhrana, in fact was ruthless. But despite that, Russia then was spending less than one-fiftieth per capita on ordinary police than was Italy in the same year. And consequently, the police were largely ineffective in many areas.

During the Soviet era, the ordinary police were stronger, but they were never given the support that the secret police had and consequently often lost out in the battle with ordinary criminals. In both pre-1917 Russia and the post-1917 Soviet Union, the ordinary police did not have the resources their Western colleagues had for the fight against crime.

In the decade since 1991, as the situation in Belarus shows, that pattern has continued and even gotten worse in some countries. Ordinary police in all too many of these countries remain poorly paid and frequently brutal but ineffective in dealing with their larger tasks.

Lukashenka has justified his authoritarian approach by arguing that his government can and will fight organized crime. And he has won some popular support because of these pledges. But the report by Colonel Hury of the Belarusian police shows that his authoritarianism may be harsh but it is not effective.

And the very ineffectiveness of the government's efforts against a genuine social evil like the drug trade may cause at least some Belarusians to question the justifications Lukashenka has offered in defense of his authoritarian approach.


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