Accessibility links

Newsline - June 25, 2001




PUTIN SAID TO OPPOSE INDIVIDUAL FOREIGNERS OWNING RUSSIAN LAND

Agrarian Party leader in the Duma Mikhail Lapshin told Interfax on 22 June that President Vladimir Putin told him and his colleagues the day before that he is against individual foreigners owning land in Russia. Lapshin said that Putin would allow foreign corporations to buy and sell land, however. The Agrarian leader said that Putin also favors a buffer zone along borders in which no land could be sold to any foreigner. PG

RUSSIAN TROOPS KILL NOTORIOUS CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER

Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 25 June that Russian Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB) forces killed field commander Arbi Baraev and some 17 of his supporters in a search-and-destroy operation in the town of Alkhan-Kala west of Grozny between 19 and 24 June. AP on 25 June quoted the acting commander of the federal forces in Chechnya, Colonel General Vladimir Moltenskoi, as saying that relatives have identified Baraev's body. Baraev, one of the top second-rank commanders after Shamil Basaev and Khattab, was believed to be responsible for the 1999 kidnapping of Russian General Gennadii Shpigun and the earlier abduction and execution of one New Zealand and three British telephone engineers. LF

PUTIN RESTATES THREAT TO REFIT RUSSIAN MISSILES WITH MIRV...

Putin on 23 June reiterated his threat to refit Russian missiles with multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles if the U.S. withdraws from the 1972 ABM Treaty, RIA-Novosti reported on 23 June. Speaking at joint press conference with Austrian President Thomas Klestil, Putin said that "if, as we are told, the deployment of the national antimissile defense system is not aimed against Russia, such a response on the part of Russia should not be a reason for anyone's concern, including countries that may decide to develop their own NMD systems." Meanwhile, Russian Security Council aide Igor Sergeev said that Washington has not fully formulated its position and that long talks might be required to reach an accord, Interfax reported on 23 June. VY

...AND CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL UNITY TO FIGHT EXTREMISM

In his 22 June speech on the 60th anniversary of Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union, Putin called on the world to fight what he called "the real existing threats today" including international terrorism, nationalism, and religious extremism, ORT television reported. He said that many failed to recognize those threats before World War II and that "old ideas of world domination are coming back under a new guise." VY

MAJORITY OF RUSSIANS DON'T BELIEVE OFFICIAL VERSION OF HITLER'S ATTACK

According to a poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by "Vremya MN" on 22 June, 58 percent of Russians believe that the official interpretation that Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 was sudden and unpredicted was invented to conceal "the political mistakes of Stalin." Thirty-two percent of the respondents believe the official version. PG

MONUMENT URGED FOR THOSE WHO WENT FROM HITLER'S PRISONS TO STALIN'S CAMPS

Aleksandr Yakovlev, the head of the presidential commission for the rehabilitation of the politically repressed, said on 22 June that Russia ought to build a special memorial to those 1.5 million Soviet soldiers who were captured by the Germans and then were sent immediately to the gulag upon their return home, Interfax reported. Yakovlev called the transfer from one set of prisons to another "one of the cruelest crimes of the Stalinist regime." PG

KASYANOV SUGGESTS NEXT GOVERNMENT CHANGES MAY BE IN ECONOMIC AREA

Saying that "the issue of changes in the structure of the government has not disappeared," Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 23 June that he may take some additional steps in the near future "as a means of improving the running of the economy," Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

FEDERATION COUNCIL WON'T VOTE ON NUCLEAR WASTE IMPORTS

Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev has confirmed reports that the Duma-passed bill on the importation of nuclear wastes will go to Putin for signature without being considered by the upper house, Interfax reported on 22 June. That is because the Federation Council did not schedule consideration of the measure within 14 days of Duma passage as required by the constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001) . Meanwhile, a poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 23 June found that only 4 percent of Muscovites believe that importing nuclear wastes is a good thing for all of Russia. PG

DUMA BACKS CUT IN PROFIT TAX TO 24 PERCENT

On 22 June, the Duma approved on second reading by a vote of 330 to five a bill cutting the tax on business profits from 35 to 24 percent, Interfax reported. The government had wanted the tax cut to only 25 percent, while the Duma committee that prepared the legislation for vote wanted the levy cut to 23 percent. The deputies also adopted a provision that allows regional governments to reduce the profit tax by an additional 4 percent. Putin called the Duma's decision "encouraging" and said he will sign it into law, assuming it is passed by the Federation Council. VY

OTHER DUMA ACTIONS

The Duma on 22 June approved amendments to legislation that will increase social guarantees to the relatives and children of Heroes of Russia and Heroes of the Soviet Union, Interfax reported. The same day, the Duma rejected a proposal by Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov to create a special nonbudget fund for defense, and refused to consider a measure introduced by LDPR leader and Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky to condemn the papal visit to Ukraine and another measure that would have condemned the visit to St. Petersburg of Leni Riefenstahl, the former Nazi filmmaker. PG

BEREZOVSKY SAYS HE WILL RETURN TO RUSSIA WHEN GUARANTEED IMMUNITY FROM ARREST

Speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio on 22 June, embattled oligarch Boris Berezovsky said he will return to Russia as soon as he is guaranteed that he will not be taken directly from the airport to prison, Interfax reported. Berezovsky also repeated his statements that he wants to create a political party. PG

IMF CALLS FOR TOUGHER MONETARY POLICIES IN RUSSIA

The International Monetary Fund on 23 June called for the Russian government to pursue a tighter monetary policy in order to keep inflation in check, Reuters reported. The IMF's Moscow delegation also called for Russia to ensure that its current budget is met in all respects. PG

RUSSIA REMAINS ON FATF BLACKLIST

The G-7's Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has not dropped Russia from its blacklist of countries that are actively involved in money laundering and whose legislation fails to address this problem, Russian and Western agencies reported on 22 June. Despite Russian efforts during the past year to improve its image in this area, FATF President Jose Roldan warned Russia, along with the Philippines and Nauru that they must do more before 30 September 2000 or they will face sanctions from the group. VY

EFFORT IN PARIS TO SEIZE RUSSIAN PLANES FOR DEBT DENOUNCED AS PROVOCATION

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov led Russian officials and politicians in denouncing as "a provocation" an effort by the Noga Co. to use the French courts to seize two Russian planes at the Paris Air Show as part of its effort to recover debts the company says Moscow owes it from the early 1990s, Russian and Western agencies reported. The planes were not seized and were able to take off and return to Russia, but several Russian politicians have suggested that this act might cast a shadow over the scheduled visit of President Jacques Chirac to Moscow at the beginning of July. PG

PATRIARCH HEADS TO BELARUS TO UNDERMINE POPE'S VISIT TO UKRAINE...

As part of his continuing campaign against the visit to Ukraine by Pope John Paul II, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II is in Belarus, not so much to mark the anniversary of Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union as to try to diminish attention to the pope's ongoing visit to Ukraine, polit.ru commented on 23 June. VY

...BUT GORBACHEV THINKS POPE WILL VISIT RUSSIA EVENTUALLY

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev told ITAR-TASS on 24 June that he has always believed that some day the pope will visit Russia. Gorbachev added that talks between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican are talking place but are proceeding very slowly. As to when such a visit might take place, Gorbachev said that the question should be addressed to President Putin, who would have to issue any invitation. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS END TO SANCTIONS ON IRAQ

Andrei Granovskii, Russia's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, told AP on 22 June that Russia wants a UN Security Council resolution on Iraq that will restore monitoring of Baghdad's weapons of mass destruction program and lift sanctions. He said that the U.S.-backed British proposal does not do that and therefore its adoption would "bury forever" the chance to get UN inspectors back on the ground in Iraq. PG

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER URGES POLAND TO OPPOSE NATO EXPANSION

Foreign Minister Ivanov on 22 June said that Poland "will play a positive part in the interests of European security and stability" if it opposes the further eastward expansion of NATO, ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov was speaking after meeting with visiting Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski. PG

PUTIN, AUSTRIAN SEEK COMMON ECONOMIC SPACE IN EUROPE

President Putin and visiting Austrian Chancellor Klestil said they are pleased by the level of bilateral relations and see them as helping to create a common economic space in Europe, one in which Russia will be a full participant, RIA-Novosti reported on 23 June. VY

KASYANOV IN CHEBOKSARY FOR CHAVASH ANNIVERSARY

Prime Minister Kasyanov on 23 June visited Cheboksary to take part in the celebration of the 450th anniversary of the inclusion of the Chavash Republic within Russia, Interfax reported. PG

GRYZLOV TO BUILD PUBLIC TRUST IN LAW ENFORCEMENT

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said his main mission is to guarantee that all criminals will be punished and to gain greater public trust for law-enforcement agencies, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 June. Increasingly, Gryzlov noted, people are not even reporting crimes, with the number of unreported crimes having grown by 40 percent between 1999 and 2000. Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 22 June that Gryzlov is abolishing the federal Committee on Crime Police and the cybercrime department, and he is naming people from St. Petersburg and from the FSB to senior posts in his ministry. PG

KREMLIN SAYS HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CONTINUE TO FIGHT STATE

Mikhail Kartashkin, the head of the presidential administration's Commission for Human Rights, said on 21 June that "a certain section of the human rights community that cannot forget their dissident past are continuing a destructive fight against state power," RIA-Novosti reported on 21 June. He said that his organization will seek to counter this by coordinating the actions of all NGOs. But Aleksandr Daniel, a boardmember of Memorial, characterized Kartashkin's statement as "a wild lie." He said "human rights activists have never called for a struggle against the state and are involved in dialogue with state authorities at all levels." VY

ARA COALITION CALLS FOR END TO WAR IN CHECHNYA

The third congress of the Anti-Militarist Radical Association (ARA), which assembled in Moscow on 23 June, called for an immediate cease-fire in the North Caucasus, Interfax reported. ARA leader and longtime human rights activist Nikolai Khramov said that Russia's future depends in large measure on how long what he called "the Chechen insanity" will continue. PG

RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CONCLUDE WEST WILL NOT HELP THEM IF IT CAN ACHIEVE DEAL WITH KREMLIN

Writing in the 21-24 June issue of "Novaya gazeta," analyst Andrei Piontkovskii said that the recent Ljubljana summit showed that "Washington will not focus on the problem of human rights if a compromise can be found on the key geopolitical issues." Consequently, he said, "if we want to fight for freedom of speech and an end to the war in Chechnya, it should be done here, in Russia. The West is not going to help." PG

FOUR LARGEST OIL COMPANIES FORM INFORMAL CONSORTIUM

The four Russian oil giants -- Yukos, LUKoil, TNK, and Sibneft -- have set up an informal consortium that, in the words of one of the participants of the deal, is to "set a common policy on issues of common interest," "Vremya novostei" reported on 22 June. Their first joint action has been to purchase enough advertising on the national television channels ORT, RTR, and NTV to allow for the live broadcasting of Russian soccer games through the end of 2001. VY

CENSUS DATE STILL NOT SET

Sergei Kolesnikov, the deputy chairman of the State Statistics Committee, said on 22 June that no final decision has been made on Putin's suggestion to postpone the planned nationwide census from October 2002 to January 2003, Interfax reported. Kolesnikov said that the argument for moving it to January 2003 is that January is the month Russian censuses typically have been taken, but he noted that the weather is especially bad in Russia during that month, and thus makes getting an accurate count extremely difficult. PG

ALCOHOL PRODUCTION UP 10.7 PERCENT FOR FIRST FIVE MONTHS OF 2001

Compared to the first five months of 2000, alcoholic beverage production in Russia was 10.7 percent higher in January-May 2001, Interfax reported on 22 June. PG

ANTI-AIDS FUNDS MISUSED

The Audit Chamber has concluded that money intended for the fight against AIDS has been misused and as a result the Russian government program in this area has remained underfunded, Interfax-AFI reported on 22 June. PG

UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN

Official unemployment in Russia fell from 6,850,000 on 1 May to 6,620,000 on 1 June, Interfax reported on 22 June. Both figures were significantly lower than on 1 June 2000, when unemployment was 7,395,000. PG

POPULATION CONTINUES TO DECLINE

Russia's population fell during the first four months of this year by 308,800 people, Goskomstat reported to Interfax on 22 June. And immigration reduced the total decline by only 6.3 percent, the statistics agency said, reflecting the lowest immigration for the period 1992-2000. PG

EIGHT RUSSIANS NOW ARE DOLLAR BILLIONAIRES

Eight Russians, all but one of whom made their fortunes through the exploitation of natural resources rather than manufacturing or commerce, are now dollar billionaires, according to the July issue of "Forbes." The eight are led by Yukos Oil's Mikhail Khodorkovskii, who is estimated to have a net worth of $2.4 billion. Four others, including former Gazprom head Viktor Chernomyrdin, made the list for the first time. VY

RUSSIA PRODUCES NEW, SUPER FLAMETHROWER

First Deputy Constructor-General Vyacheslav Dudaka of the Instrument Design Bureau told ITAR-TASS on 22 June that his firm has developed an advanced flamethrower, which has "no Russian or foreign analogues," that can be used instead of artillery in "crammed urban conditions." PG

A LONGER WAIT AHEAD FOR CITIZENSHIP APPLICANTS

Oleg Kutafin, who heads the presidential administration's Citizenship Issues Committee, said that those applying for Russian citizenship will have to wait five years instead of the current three under the proposed citizenship law changes, "Vek," No. 25, reported. He said that they will also have to renounce any other citizenship. VY

MOSCOW TO RETAIN REGISTRATION SYSTEM

Moscow Deputy Mayor Valerii Shantsev said on Ekho Moskvy radio on 22 June that Moscow does not plan to change its system of registration for residents, Interfax reported. He said that it "fully corresponds" to Russian laws. PG

RUSSIAN FIRM TAKES OVER LATVIAN LIQUOR COMPANY

SPI, the international firm founded on the basis of Russia's Soyuzplodimport, has taken a controlling interest in Latvia's Latvias Balzams liquor producer, "Izvestiya" reported on 22 June. The paper said that Latvians have not reacted to this yet in public, but it indicated that they are likely to do so as word of the takeover spreads. PG

RUSSIANS BAKE LARGEST CAKE IN THE WORLD

A group of Moscow bakers prepared a 4-ton cake measuring 144 meters long by 66 centimeters wide by 6.5 meters high in a bid to enter the Guinness Book of Records, "Izvestiya" reported on 22 June. PG

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TRANSFERS FRACTION OF AMOUNT REQUESTED TO DEAL WITH SIBERIAN REGION'S FLOOD AFTEREFFECTS

Irkutsk Oblast has received some 50 million rubles ($1,719,000) from the federal budget to repair damage caused by this year's spring floods, Interfax reported on 22 June. Damages from the flood have been estimated at 950 million rubles, which is the amount of money the oblast administration requested from the Federal Reserve Fund for Emergency-Restoration Work. In a letter to Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, Irkutsk Governor Boris Govorin said that Irkutsk does not need massive interference from federal authorities to cope with the organization of reconstruction work as is the case in Sakha (Yakutia), but it does need additional financing. Meanwhile, on 22 June Govorin submitted signatures supporting his candidacy in the 29 July gubernatorial election. So far 10 candidates have been registered, including State Duma deputy (Agro-Industrial Group) Sergei Levchenko and Federation Council member Valentin Mezhevich. JAC

FEARS ABOUT KURILE ISLANDS CONTINUE

Members of Sakhalin Oblast's Legislative Assembly have sent a letter to State Duma Security Committee Chairman (Unity) Aleksandr Gurov asking him to hold parliamentary hearings on the Soviet-Japanese Declaration of 1956, Interfax reported on 22 June. The legislators are seeking the hearings because of their concerns about recent news reports that Russian leaders are prepared to give back some of the Kurile Islands to Japan. Earlier in the month, the Russian Foreign Ministry denied media reports that Moscow and Tokyo had agreed on a process through which they would resolve their disagreements about the Kurile Islands (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2001). JAC

TELEVISION GOES ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN IN FAR EAST

Broadcasts of central television programs went off the air again in Kamchatka on 23 June, following their one-day restoration the previous day, Ekho Moskvy radio reported. Broadcasts had been off the air following Kamchatskenergo's decision to cut electricity supplies to the oblast's main radio and television transmission center, but were resumed on 22 June at the special request of the oblast administration because of the 60th anniversary of Hitler's invasion of the USSR (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2001). JAC




ARMENIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT WORKERS DEMAND PAYMENT OF WAGE ARREARS

In an open letter to Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian published in the independent daily "Aravot" on 23 June, some 160 employees at the Medzamor nuclear power plant warn that they will resort to unspecified "drastic steps" unless they are paid five months' salary arrears within the next two weeks, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The nuclear plant, which supplies some 42 percent of Armenia's electricity, is unable to pay those arrears because it is owed $120 million by the Hayenergo national power grid. On 22 June, Energy Minister Karen Galustian nonetheless pledged at a press conference in Yerevan to pay two months' wage arrears to power sector workers by the end of this month, according to Noyan Tapan. LF

VICTIM'S SON SLAMS RELEASE OF SIX DEFENDANTS IN ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING TRIAL

The release last week of six of the defendants in the trial of the five gunmen who shot down eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament in October 1999 is " a disgrace," and evidence "that we live in a state where the authorities sponsor terrorism," People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) chairman Stepan Demirchian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 23 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2001). Demirchian's father and predecessor as HZhK chairman, Karen, was one of those killed in the shootings. Stepan Demirchian said he is particularly angry that the parliament agreed to drop charges against three men who, prosecutors claim, knew beforehand of the planned killings but failed to alert the authorities. He said he agrees with a statement released last week by the opposition Hayastan Party headed by Aram Sargsian, whose brother Vazgen was also killed in the shootings, similarly criticizing the six men's release (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001). But Demirchian stopped short of declaring that he will quit the Miasnutiun majority parliament bloc in which the HZhK is the junior partner to Prime Minister Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia. Meanwhile, the daily "Hayots ashkhar," which is sympathetic to Kocharian, noted on 23 June that not a single deputy from Demirchian's HZhK voted on 20 June against the amnesty for the six men. LF

AZERBAIJAN ACCUSES ARMENIA OVER BORDER SHOOTING

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry on 23 June reported that Armenian army troops opened fire on Azerbaijani positions in Babek Raion late on 22 June, Turan reported. On 22 June, Armenia had rejected as a fabrication earlier Azerbaijani claims that Armenian troops had subjected Azerbaijani villages close to the border between Armenia and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan to machine-gun fire on 20 June. LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT SPEAKER PROPOSES 'FRIENDSHIP GROUP' WITH ARMENIA

Meeting on 22 June in Baku with a four-person Armenian parliament delegation that traveled to the Azerbaijani capital to participate in a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC), Azerbaijani parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov proposed creating an interparliamentary "friendship group," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 23 June. But Alesqerov rejected a counterproposal by Armenian parliament deputy Viktor Dallakian that the two countries should embark on economic cooperation. While admitting such cooperation is "inevitable," Alesqerov said it cannot get underway before a solution is found to the Karabakh conflict. Dallakian said the Armenian delegation was well treated in Baku. LF

CLOSED TRIAL OF ANTICORRUPTION WHISTLE-BLOWER BEGINS IN AZERBAIJAN

The trial began on 22 June in Baku's Bailov jail of former naval Captain Djanmirza Mirzoev, Turan reported. Mirzoev was arrested in November 2000 on what many believe are fabricated charges of instigating the murder in 1993 of Naval Academy Director Eduard Huseinov. He had been dismissed two years earlier after implicating Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev in corruption (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 34, 26 August 1999). Members of the committee created to protect Mirzoev's rights told a press conference in Baku on 22 June that his trial should be public. They noted that Dutch and Norwegian diplomats have been refused permission to attend. LF

AZERBAIJAN TO REGULATE RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY

A state committee for relations with religious organizations has been established in Azerbaijan in accordance with a decree signed by President Heidar Aliev, Turan and Interfax reported on 22 June. Rafik Aliev, who was named to chair the committee, told Turan that the committee will monitor the activities of religious organizations and missionaries and ensure that those activities do not violate state laws. It will also engage in the publication of books and religious literature. LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA AGREE ON CLOSURE OF TWO BASES...

During talks in Moscow on 22 June, Georgian and Russian government delegations headed by Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and Deputy Premier Ilya Klebanov confirmed that Russia will vacate the Vaziani military base near Tbilisi by 1 July as earlier agreed. Russian military spokesman Aleksandr Lutskevich denied Georgian press allegations that the departing Russian troops deliberately damaged or destroyed facilities at that base before departure. But while Klebanov affirmed on 22 June that Russian troops will also leave the Gudauta base in Abkhazia by the 1 July deadline, the commander of Russia's airborne troops, Colonel General Georgii Shpak, said the following day that the airborne troops at Gudauta may not be able to leave until "later, possibly by the end of the summer," because of the ongoing blockade of the base by local Abkhaz and Russians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2001) and because Georgia cannot guarantee the security of arms transported on Abkhaz territory. LF

...BUT NOT TWO OTHERS...

The Russian and Georgian delegations failed, however, to agree on a time frame for the Russian withdrawal from two further bases at Batumi and Akhalkalaki, Georgian and Russian agencies reported. Georgia insists that Russia should pull out in three to four years, while Moscow says this is not economically feasible and wants to extend the period over 13-14 years. Russia also demanded during the 22 June talks that Georgia make a formal commitment not to allow NATO or other countries to use the bases after the departure of the Russian troops. Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze said on 23 June that Tbilisi will do so. LF

...AS GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS THREATEN CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

Georgians forced to flee their homes in Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 hostilities have threatened civil disobedience if the Russian forces fail to comply with the 1 July deadline to vacate the Gudauta base, Caucasus Press reported on 22 June, citing "Akhali taoba." They argue that as long as the Russian troops remain in Gudauta they will be unable to return to their homes. LF

GEORGIA, ADJARIA FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT ON TAXES

During talks in Batumi on 21 June, Georgian Tax Minister Mikhail Machavariani and Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze failed to overcome their differences over the 3 million laris ($1.55 million) that Adjaria owes in back taxes to the central Georgian government, Caucasus Press reported on 22 June. Abashidze responded with a counterclaim for 100 million laris that he said his republic is owed from the Georgian central budget. LF

GEORGIAN BUSINESSMAN SAYS MANEUVERS WITH NATO CAUSED $1 MILLION IN DAMAGES

Businessman and former Poti Mayor Roman Melia has written to NATO headquarters demanding $1 million in compensation for damages inflicted on a recreation complex on the Black Sea coast during the Georgian joint maneuvers with NATO states that ended last week, Caucasus Press reported on 22 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2001). LF

GEORGIAN SUPREME COURT CHAIRMAN SOUNDS ALARM OVER WAGE ARREARS

Addressing a conference of Georgian judges on 23 June, Lado Chanturia expressed concern that judges have not been paid for several months, Caucasus Press reported. As part of the wide-reaching reform of the judicial system, judges' salaries were increased to 500 laris per month to remove the incentive and need for judges to take bribes. On 22 June, Courts Logistics department Chairman Merab Akhobadze said total salary arrears owed to judges amount to 1 million laris. LF

EGYPTIAN DELEGATION VISITS KAZAKHSTAN

An Egyptian government delegation led by Planning Minister Ahmet el-Dersh held talks in Astana on 22 June with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev on expanding economic, trade, and cultural ties, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Tentative agreement was reached that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will visit Kazakhstan later this year. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT CONDEMNS ANNULMENT OF MEDIA OUTLETS' REGISTRATION

Kyrgyz parliament's Committee on Mass Media and Public Organizations Chairman Kabai Karabekov on 21 June condemned the Justice Ministry's decision to annul the recent registration of 16 new mass-media outlets, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Karabekov told RFE/RL the following day his committee has written to the ministry demanding an explanation for that decision. The ministry ruled on 5 April that all existing media outlets be reregistered by 1 July, and later decided that during those three months no new media outlets may be registered (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001). Two independent newspapers founded and registered within the last three months have already begun publication. Opposition People's Party Chairman Melis Eshimkanov, who owns the newly founded paper "Agym," told RFE/RL on 22 June that presidential administration head Amanbek Karypkulov ordered the decision to revoke the registration of newly registered media outlets in order to thwart publication of both "Agym" and "My Capital City," which is owned by the former editor of "Vechernii Bishkek," Aleksander Kim. LF

15 DEAD AS TAJIK TROOPS CONTINUE TO BATTLE RENEGADES

Fighting between Tajik Interior Ministry troops and former opposition fighters loyal to field commander Rakhmon Sanginov continued on 24 June for the third consecutive day, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001). At that time, five Interior Ministry troops and 10 gunmen were reported to have been killed, and a further 10 Interior Ministry troops had been wounded, and the militants were said to be retreating from their positions east of Dushanbe. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT, RUSSIAN PATRIARCH MARK NAZI ATTACK ANNIVERSARY

At the Brest Fortress on the Belarusian-Polish border on 24 June, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II commemorated the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's attack on the Soviet Union, ITAR-TASS reported. "Soldiers of the Great Patriotic War continued the Russian spiritual tradition," Aleksii II said in Brest, calling on all the peoples that won the Great Patriotic War to unite. JM

BELARUSIAN KGB ARRESTS U.S. CITIZEN IN DRUG SWEEP

Belarus's KGB on 22 June said it has arrested a U.S. citizen, Charles Daniel Perriello, on suspicion of using and possessing illegal drugs, Reuters reported. "He was arrested while using drugs. On searching his flat, marijuana was found," the KGB said in a statement. If convicted, Perriello faces up to seven years in prison. A KGB official told the agency that Perriello was part of a U.S. government-funded humanitarian group, which was in charge of four projects aimed at students and schoolchildren. "This is not a political, but a criminal matter. We have informed the U.S. Embassy that a U.S. citizen has been arrested," an Interior Ministry spokesman said. JM

POPE BEGINS HISTORIC VISIT TO UKRAINE...

Pope John Paul II on 23 June began his visit to Ukraine by saying that he is not there to convert Orthodox Christians and asking that errors of both the distant and recent past that have split Orthodox and Catholic Christians be forgiven, world agencies reported. The 81-year-old pontiff was greeted at Kyiv's airport by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and offered the traditional Ukrainian welcoming gifts of salt and bread. "I have not come with the intention of proselytizing but to bear witness to Christ together with all Christians with every church," the pope said in his arrival address, delivered in fluent Ukrainian. JM

...PRAYS FOR VICTIMS OF TOTALITARIANISM

John Paul II on 24 June paid tribute to Ukrainian Christians persecuted during the "dark times of the communist terror" and to Jews murdered by the Nazis. "Land of Ukraine, drenched with the blood of martyrs, thank you for the example of fidelity to the Gospel, which you have given to Christians the world over," the pope said during his first mass on Ukrainian soil. Later the same day, the pope met with leaders of Ukraine's religious organizations. Patriarch Volodymyr, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) whose believers repeatedly protested the pontiff's visit in past weeks, did not attend the meeting. JM

POLL SAYS MOST UKRAINIANS APPROVE OF POPE'S VISIT

Ukraine's Oleksandr Razumkov Center of Economic and Political Studies has found in a poll held from 20 April to 3 May among 2,000 adult Ukrainians that 53.2 percent of respondents approve of Pope John Paul II's visit to Ukraine, while 4.4 percent said they want to listen to the pope during a mass, Interfax reported on 23 June. Of those polled, 31.1 percent said they are indifferent to the pontiff's visit, 6.8 percent said they disapprove of the visit, and 0.4 percent announced that they intend to participate in protest actions against the visit. JM

HEAD OF ESTONIA'S PRO-MOSCOW ORTHODOX CHURCH ASKS PRESIDENT FOR HELP

Metropolitan Cornelius, the head of the Estonian Orthodox Church subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate, asked President Lennart Meri not to promulgate the law on churches and congregations that was approved by the parliament, BNS reported on 22 June. Cornelius noted that the law bans autonomous churches subordinate in part administratively and economically to their spiritual centers, which allows only independent churches. The Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in the last eight years has unsuccessfully applied seven times for registration of its statutes. If the church were to accept the Estonian proposal to register the church under the wing of the Moscow Patriarchate only as a diocese, it would lose its legal continuity. A diocese, moreover, would be a new structure for which the Moscow Patriarchate would have to buy or rent houses of worship and properties in Estonia all over again. SG

DENMARK TELLS LATVIA IT WILL NOT IMPOSE TRANSITION PERIOD ON FREE LABOR MOVEMENT

Danish Foreign Minister Mogens Lykketof told Indulis Berzins during his brief visit to Denmark on 22 June that Denmark will waive the transition period for the free movement of labor from new European Union member states, BNS reported. Denmark will thus follow the examples of Sweden and Ireland and allow Latvian residents to travel for employment in these countries from day one should Latvia be admitted to the EU. The ministers also discussed EU and NATO enlargement, and Berzins held talks with Denmark's Baltic Development Forum head, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, and other high-ranking officials. SG

LITHUANIA'S GOVERNMENT COALITION DISINTEGRATES

The chairmen of the center-right Liberal Union, Center Union, Modern Christian Democratic Union, and the Polish Electoral Action Party of Lithuania issued a statement on 22 June that "further negotiations undertaken with just one coalition partner -- the New Union (Social Liberals) -- have become useless," BNS reported. They blamed the New Union for destroying the ruling New Policy coalition by recalling its ministers and by refusing to accept any proposals from the other coalition partners. The next day, the Social Democratic Party (LSDP), which has 48 parliament deputies, decided together with the 29 deputies of the New Union not to sign a coalition agreement, but to invite all parties except the Conservatives to form a "a majority of broad agreement." LSDP Chairman Algirdas Brazauskas is foreseen as the new prime minister with New Union Chairman Arturas Paulauskas remaining as parliament chairman. According to the constitution, the president is required to nominate a new candidate for prime minister within 15 days of the resignation of the previous one. However, President Valdas Adamkus has only expressed regret about the collapse of the coalition and arranged a meeting with Paulauskas and not Brazauskas for 25 June. SG

GERMAN PRESIDENT SUPPORTS POLAND'S SPEEDY EU ACCESSION

Speaking in Gdansk on 24 June, German President Johannes Rau said he is in favor of Poland's quick accession to the EU, PAP reported. "[Poland's EU accession] should be made possible as soon as possible. All the sides should do everything possible to make this step a success," Rau was quoted as saying. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski responded that Poland and Germany should work together "to convince everyone to drop the bondage of stereotypes, to get rid of their fears, and to make people in Poland, Germany, and Europe realize that an enlarged Europe means greater stability, greater security, and faster economic development." JM

POLISH PARLIAMENT PASSES BILL ON MULTIROLE PLANE CONTRACT

The Sejm on 22 June adopted a bill on equipping the Polish army with multirole aircraft, PAP reported. Under the bill, the government is to purchase or lease 16 modern planes by 2003 and buy 44 new planes by 2006. JM

FIRST WOMAN ELECTED TO HEAD PARTY IN CZECH REPUBLIC

A conference of the Freedom Union in Liberec on 23 June elected Hana Marvanova as the party's next leader, CTK and AP reported. Marvanova, received 137 votes, five more than her rival for the post, Deputy Chairman Vladimir Mlynar. She is the first woman to head a party in the Czech Republic. Mlynar said after the ballot that he will seek no other position in the leadership. "A second defeat is reason for reflection," he said. Last year, Mlynar was defeated when he ran for the chairmanship against Karel Kuehnl, who resigned after becoming head of the Four Party Coalition shadow cabinet in 2001. The conference also elected Deputy Ivan Pilip as first deputy chairman, and deputies Petr Mares and Pavel Pesek, as well as Senator Robert Kolar as deputy chairmen. All except Mares are former members of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). The conference rejected a proposal to dismantle the Four Party Coalition shadow cabinet. MS

'OPPOSITION AGREEMENT' PARTNERS DISAGREE ON CZECH 2002 BUDGET DEFICIT

ODS leader Vaclav Klaus and Vladimir Spidla, the chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD), on 24 June clashed during a Prima Television talk show over the causes of the growing budget deficit, CTK reported. Klaus said that when his party left power in 1997 the deficit was 210 billion crowns (about $5.3 billion) and it has skyrocketed to 420 billion during the three years of CSSD rule. Spidla placed responsibility for the growing debt on the ODS, saying its coupon privatization strategy has cost taxpayers some 200 billion crowns. Klaus last week wrote to Spidla that the ODS will not support the CSSD-drafted budget for 2002 in the parliament unless the ruling party produces a clear program of measures intended to tackle the budget's 10 million crown deficit and demonstrates that no hidden expenses will increase that deficit. On 22 June, Klaus met with President Vaclav Havel and said after the meeting that Havel expressed readiness to mediate negotiations over the budget. MS

KLAUS CALLS VERHEUGEN STATEMENT 'UNFORTUNATE, HARMFUL TO EU'

Klaus on 22 June said the statement in which Guenter Verheugen, the EU's commissioner on enlargement, called him a "populist" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001) was "most unfortunate" and likely to harm Czech relations with the EU, which "must be based on confidence...and certainly not on issuing orders from above." After meeting Ramiro Cibrian, the head of the EU Commission mission to the Czech Republic, Klaus told journalists that "a populist is he who swims with the tide. And I believe that you know...that I rather swim against the tide." He also said: "I simply insist on behaving like a responsible politician who...expresses the interests of the citizens of this country." MS

AUSTRIAN TEMELIN OPPONENTS BLOCK BORDER CROSSINGS

Austrian opponents of the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant on 24 June blocked roads leading to the Wullowitz and Weigetschlag border crossings to the Czech Republic with tractors and barricades, CTK reported. As agreed with police beforehand, the opponents left small roads leading to the crossings open and police diverted traffic to them. The protesters demanded the cancellation of the hearing on Temelin scheduled for 26 June in Vienna, claiming that the documentation on the plant's environmental impact submitted by the Czech side is inadequate. At one point, contrary to the agreement with the Austrian authorities, the Wullowitz crossing point was totally closed. The protesters refused to heed an appeal by the mayor of neighboring Freistadt to end the blockade at Wullowitz and said they would continue blocking the border on 25 June as well. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER RULES OUT COALITION WITH MECIAR...

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, at a meeting with students in Banska Bystrica on 22 June, said a coalition with the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) following the 2002 elections is not under consideration, CTK reported. Dzurinda said that "for Europe and the world, [HZDS Chairman and former Premier Vladimir] Meciar is an absolutely unreliable politician." He also said he does not believe Slovaks will vote for Meciar's return to power and that the falling support in polls for the coalition government is due to tension within the ruling coalition and the fact that the coalition had to take "some unpopular measures." MS

...SAYS HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW 'DOES NOT CONCERN SLOVAKIA'

Speaking on the Status Law recently passed by the Hungarian parliament, Dzurinda said, "I do not like that law. It is an anti-European law," CTK reported. However, he also remarked that the law "cannot harm us." Dzurinda said the EU "has let Hungary know clearly that the law does not fit into the union's legal norms" and that, as a result, "in 2 1/2 years, after Slovakia joins the EU, the law will no longer be valid" for Slovak citizens. Dzurinda rejected the allegation that he has been "too accommodating" in face of demands raised by the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) and emphasized that territorial autonomy for regions inhabited by ethnic Hungarians is "out of question." MS

SLOVAK DEMOCRATIC LEFT LEADER WILL NOT MANAGE ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN

Party of Democratic Left (SDL) Chairman Jozef Migas on 23 June announced he will not head the party's 2002 electoral campaign, but intends to stay on as SDL chairman, CTK reported. The SDL, a member of the ruling coalition, has been losing popularity, according to opinion polls. Agriculture Minister Pavel Koncos, a Migas ally in the party, said he would be interested in heading the campaign, but Education Minister Milan Ftacnik, a Migas rival, is also likely to compete for that post. MS

HUNGARY WANTS TO 'CLEAR MISUNDERSTANDINGS' OVER STATUS LAW

Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, in an interview with MTI on 23 June, said "channels remain open to defuse tensions" with neighboring Romania over the Status Law and that Hungary will "do everything it can to clarify misunderstandings and baseless reservations." Martonyi said he does not wish to address Romanian threats that bilateral agreements or the basic treaty between the two countries could be affected, because they were not brought to Budapest's attention via official channels, and were "simply statements [of the Romanian government] to the media." He said the law has been "wrongly evaluated," as often is the case with "documents of historic significance," and added that "the prosperity and the preservation of the distinct identity of minorities in our region serves the development of the region as a whole" and will therefore contribute to "the development of good neighborly relations." MS

HUNGARIAN REPORTS SAY PURCHASE OF F-16 FIGHTERS TAKING SHAPE

The government is likely to approve the purchase of four F-16 fighter aircraft, in addition to the 24 planes of this type likely to be leased from the U.S., according to a "Nepszabadsag" report. The U.S. Embassy in Budapest on 22 June confirmed the report, saying the offer of the 24 aircraft for lease will be officially made on 9 July, pending approval by the U.S. Congress. The deal was proposed in order to cut down Hungarian costs for air-force modernization. A Defense Ministry spokesman denied the "Nepszabadsag" report, but refused to comment on the U.S. Embassy's confirmation. "Magyar Nemzet" quoted unidentified cabinet sources as saying the final decision on the F-16 offer is expected in the fall, and that "the parliament will have the final say." MS

HUNGARIAN PARTIES BRACE FOR 2002 ELECTIONS

The opposition Socialist Party (MSZP) and the Free Democratic Party (SZDSZ) agreed that the Socialists will not run candidates in those individual constituencies in which the SZDSZ stands a better chance of winning in the 2002 elections, Hungarian media reported. Peter Medgyessy, the MSZP candidate for premiership, and SZDSZ Acting Chairman Gabor Kuncze, however, said after an informal meeting on 23 June that "there is no official dialogue" between their two formations on electoral cooperation. Media reports also said that Prime Minister Viktor Orban, FIDESZ Executive Chairman Laszlo Kover, MSZP Chairman Laszlo Kovacs, and Kuncze will probably not run in individual constituencies, as is likely to be the case of Medgyessy and of former MSZP Chairman Gyula Horn. Media reports said President Ferenc Madl is expected to call the first round of the elections for 7 April, with the second round to take place on 21 April. MS




SOLANA SECURES A CEASE-FIRE

Javier Solana, the EU's security policy chief, arrived in Skopje on 23 June. In what "The Guardian" called a deliberate attempt to intimidate him, a Macedonian Sukhoi fighter flew overhead. At the same time, Katyusha rockets and artillery bombarded the suburb of Aracinovo, which is held by the rebels of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK). The BBC reported that President Boris Trajkovski was "impervious" to Solana's pleas for a cease-fire (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001). The next day, Macedonian military officials predicted that the offensive would be over in four to five days. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said that the EU would also seek a military solution if there were an uprising in the suburbs of Brussels. But later that same day, Solana secured an agreement for a cease-fire from Trajkovski after applying unspecified intense "political pressure" with U.S. diplomatic backing. Deutsche Welle reported on 25 June that both the government and the UCK agreed to a cease-fire because they had suffered heavy casualties. PM

EU TELLS MACEDONIA: NO AID WITHOUT SETTLEMENT

Chris Patten, the EU's commissioner for foreign affairs, told Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva in an "open and frank" discussion in Luxembourg on 25 June that the EU will provide no more aid for Macedonia until there is a political settlement, AP reported. He stressed that "we would like to support confidence-building measures, but it is difficult to build people's confidence when money, which is very clearly in short supply, is being spent on bombs and rockets. There is little we can do in terms of financial support until there is a political settlement." Mitreva called the EU's stand "too harsh," dpa reported. The EU has allocated just over $100 million in aid for Macedonia for 2001. The two recently signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement, which Skopje had long sought (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2001). EU foreign ministers are expected to name former French Defense Minister Francois Leotard as Solana's permanent representative in Skopje shortly. PM

MACEDONIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH DEMANDS MILITARY SOLUTION...

In an open letter, the Holy Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC) has demanded a military solution to the current crisis, the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 22 June. After an extraordinary session of the Holy Synod, which reportedly saw a lively discussion of the issue, a more radical majority won the point that "Macedonia should be [militarily] liberated of those who threat our lives and possessions" as a precondition for talks on further rights for the Albanian minority. UB

...WHILE ISLAMIC COMMUNITY ACCUSES CHURCH OF WARMONGERING AND DISINFORMATION

In a reaction to the Holy Synod's open letter, the leadership of the Islamic Religious Community of Macedonia (IVZ) accused the MPC of promoting a civil war and bloodshed, "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 23 June. The MPC, in the IVZ's view, has violated a recent agreement between all Macedonian religious communities reached under the auspices of the World Council of Churches in Switzerland. Furthermore, the Muslim community says that the MPC has spread false information on the real number of churches, monasteries, and mosques destroyed in recent months: "UNESCO as well as the world public already knows that 40 mosques have been shelled and destroyed, but not a single church." UB

ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS CLAIM VICTORY

Socialist Party Secretary-General Gramoz Ruci told reporters in Tirana on 25 June that his party had won in 45 out of 100 districts in the previous day's parliamentary elections, adding that there will be a second round in 37 districts, AP reported (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001). Other parties or independents won the remaining 18 districts (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 June 2001). Some incidents of shootings and burned ballot papers were reported, but the disruption was mild by the standards of most Albanian elections. Electoral Commission (KQZ) head Ilirian Celibashi said that the voting was generally "free and fair." The OSCE will deliver its preliminary report later on 25 June. Former President Sali Berisha's opposition Democratic Party charged that voting will have to be repeated in almost all 100 districts because of irregularities. PM

MILOSEVIC'S LEGAL TEAM TO FIGHT DECREE IN SERBIAN COURTS

Lawyers for former President Slobodan Milosevic lodged an appeal with the Yugoslav Constitutional Court in Belgrade on 25 June. The attorneys are challenging the legality of the Yugoslav government's 23 June decree permitting the extradition of Yugoslav citizens, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The government issued the decree in hopes of convincing the U.S. and other Western governments that it is seeking to cooperate with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal in time for the EU's 29 June donors conference (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2001, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 May 2001). Milosevic's chief lawyer, Toma Fila, said: "This was a political decision and it renders the law helpless against such bullying methods," AP reported. The legal battle could last several weeks. In Washington, a State Department spokeswoman told Reuters that "no decision has been made with regard to the donors conference, but we welcome any steps that the Yugoslav government takes with regards to cooperation with the international war crimes tribunal." PM

BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER HANDS IN RESIGNATION

Prime Minister Bozidar Matic submitted his resignation to the joint presidency on 22 June after the parliament failed to approve a new election law that is regarded as a precondition for Bosnia's admission to the Council of Europe, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. "Dnevni avaz" reported the next day that Muslim presidency member Beriz Belkic wants Matic to stay and deal with the huge problems facing the government, adding that Jozo Krizanovic, the Croatian member of the presidency, feels the same way. AP quoted Zivko Radisic, the Serbian member of the presidency, as calling Matic's decision a "moral act," but he did not elaborate. The new law is aimed at breaking the power of the three leading nationalist parties. PM

ATTACK ON CROATIAN ROMANY FAMILY

Unknown persons threw a bomb into the home of a Romany family in Pula in the early hours of 24 June, killing one man and injuring a woman, "Jutarnji list" reported. Local Roma said that this is just the latest of a series of attacks against them by skinheads. The Roma added that they are well assimilated and that the skinheads have attacked them out of racism. PM

TRIAL OF CROATIAN GENERAL BEGUN, ADJOURNED

The trial of retired General Mirko Norac opened in Split on 25 June but quickly adjourned after defense attorneys accused two of the judges of bias, AP reported. The case will resume on 3 July. Norac is the highest-ranking former officer to go on trial on war crimes charges in Croatia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 2001). Charges against him stem from a massacre of Serbian civilians in Gospic in 1991. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT 'HOPES' AND THREATENS OVER HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW...

Ion Iliescu on 22 June told the staff of the Bucharest University's Institute for Political Research that he "hopes" it will not be necessary to "suspend" the basic treaty with Hungary in reaction to the Status Law recently approved in that country, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu said he believes Hungary will, in the end, take into consideration the "reservations" expressed over the law in neighboring countries but added that if that is not the case, "we shall, in turn, have to start a campaign similar to that launched in Hungary, resuscitating an atmosphere that has not benefited the two countries." Iliescu specified that he had in mind Hungarian statements that the Status Law is aimed at undoing the consequences for the Hungarian nation of the 1920 Trianon Treaty. MS

...WHILE THE PRM'S TUDOR THREATENS BUT DOES NOT HOPE

Greater Romania Party (PRM) Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor on 22 June accused the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) of "betrayal of national interests" over its handling of the Status Law. Tudor said that because of its pact with the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), the PSD has failed to react as it should have to Budapest "and its UDMR Trojan horse." He said the PRM is demanding the immediate outlawing of the UDMR; the dismissal of the UDMR's five deputy prefects; the unilateral abrogation of the basic treaty with Hungary; the temporary closure of the border between the two countries; and "preparing the army for a crisis situation." On 23 June, marking the 10th anniversary of the PRM's establishment, Tudor announced that his party has formed a 15-member shadow cabinet headed by Cluj nationalist Mayor Gheorghe Funar, which is "ready to take over at any time if the country demands it." MS

ILIESCU SAYS TREATY WITH RUSSIA POSSIBLE DURING HIS MANDATE

Romanian President Iliescu on 22 June also told the staff of the Institute for Political Research (see above) that he believes it will be possible to sign the pending basic treaty with Russia before he ends his mandate in 2004. Iliescu said the dispute over the Romanian state treasury held by Russia since World War I need not be solved by the treaty, as there are other channels for doing so. He also said he believes the treaty with Russia will be "far less problematic" than that signed with Ukraine in 1997. MS

ROMANIAN NATIONAL ALLIANCE APPROVES 'ABSORPTION' INTO DEMOCRATIC PARTY

The extraparliamentary National Alliance on 23 June voted to approve the party's "absorption" into the Democratic Party, which is to similarly approve the merger on 27 June. The National Alliance also decided to approve the "withdrawal" of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), with which it ran on common lists in 2000, from the alliance, thus making it legally possible for the PUNR to reregister as a political formation, Romanian radio reported. MS

ROMANIAN NEGOTIATIONS WITH IMF STALLED?

The Finance Ministry on 24 June said a "first draft of a letter of intent" with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was agreed on during negotiations that ended that day. The ministry said that before the IMF board approves the new standby agreement, a delegation from the IMF will return to Bucharest in August. But in a statement released on 25 June, the IMF's chief negotiator with Romania, Neven Mates, was considerably more reserved. He said the negotiations have "progressed" on the accord's "major elements," but added that further negotiations that focus on the performance of state-owned enterprises and ways to "maintain prudent wage policies" in such enterprises will be necessary. MS

HUNGER STRIKE CONTINUES IN RESITA

Over 100 workers in Resita are still on a hunger strike and their fast is entering its seventh day, Romanian radio reported on 25 June. Ten of the fasting workers have been hospitalized. Workers supporting the strikers on 22 June attacked the offices of the prefect and blocked a major road to Bucharest. In related news, 19 workers at the Slatina-based state-owned Rulmentul ball-bearing producer went on a hunger strike on 25 June, protesting the intention of the authorities to close down Rulmentul due to the lack of profitability. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS NO 'WALKING ARM IN ARM' WITH MOLDOVA INTO EU, NATO

Ion Iliescu on 23 June said in Iasi that "the formula under which Romania will walk arm in arm" with Moldova into NATO and the EU is "unsuitable," Mediafax reported. Iliescu said this "does not, on the other hand, signify that the fact that we are engaged in the processes of NATO accession and EU integration [should be regarded as] our having taken our hand off Bessarabia." He said Romania will "continue backing Moldova's joining of as many European structures as possible" and that this support "has already materialized by Moldova's inclusion into the Balkan Stability Pact" and by "the presence of the Moldovan head of state at various international meetings." MS

MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES COUNTRY IS RULED BY COMMUNISTS...

Nicolae Cernomaz, in an interview with VOA, said that "the current government in Chisinau is not a communist government," Flux reported on 23 June. Cernomaz said only two ministers in the cabinet headed by Vasile Tarlev are members of the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM), the rest being, in general, "experts." He also said it would be "unjustified" to regard the government as being communist, since "it has never used such notions as the dictatorship of the proletariat or nationalization." MS

...BUT PARLIAMENT BEGS TO DIFFER...

The parliament on 22 June approved the first reading of a bill that would make possible the nationalization of companies that have been privatized, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The bill stipulates that privatized companies whose debt to the state budget exceeds 50 percent of their assets will be managed by a representative of the state instead of their own administration boards. It also states that companies that were profitable under state ownership and were driven to the verge of bankruptcy after being privatized will be renationalized. Presenting the bill, PCM Deputy Vasile Iovv said the cabinet has in the past guaranteed loans taken by these privatized companies and that it must now repay to foreign creditors their "devastation" by the new owners. MS

...AND DOES AWAY WITH LOCAL AUTONOMY PROVISION

Also on 22 June, the parliament approved a government supported amendment to the Law on Local Public Administration, transferring the prerogative of supervising the local administration budgets from the county councils to the prefects, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The county councils will now only approve the budgets of localities under their jurisdiction, but will no longer supervise their implementation. The amendment was criticized by deputies representing the Braghis Alliance and the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD). PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca said the parliament could have "just as well appointed PCM secretaries to do the supervision," and Ion Neagu, chairman of the association of Christian Democratic Mayors and Local Counselors, said the decision "amounts to abolishing local autonomy as of now. The Communists' deputies brought us back to the former Soviet system of administration." MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT MEETS SIMEON...

Former King Simeon II, whose National Movement (NDSV) won the 17 June parliamentary elections, on 22 June met with Petar Stoyanov, but after the meeting did not reveal whether he intends to assume the premiership himself, AP and Reuters reported. Simeon and other NDSV leaders discussed with Stoyanov the party's policies and how the process of forming a coalition government will proceed. Stoyanov told the group that "every coalition will be solid and successful if it is based on principles...and if it clearly states all unpopular measures which it will have to undertake in the coming year." After the meeting, Simeon told journalists that there has been no change in the NDSV position concerning possible coalition partners. Observers believe Simeon is waiting for developments in the ruling Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), where party leaders have demanded that Premier Ivan Kostov resign as SDS leader. MS

...BUT TALKS TO 'MR. SAXE-COUBURGOTSKI'

Stoyanov also told Simeon that in the past, "out of respect for Bulgaria's history and the sad destiny of the royal family, I have addressed you as Your Majesty" but that after the elections, "led by respect for...the Bulgarian republic which I embody, I shall address you as Mr. Saxe-Couburgotski," Reuters reported.




MACEDONIA'S 'BIG BROTHER' -- WITH TIED HANDS.


By Ulrich Buechsenschuetz

Most Bulgarians might have spent the week before election day on 17 June wondering whether or not to vote for the former king's National Movement Simeon II, but some government officials were busy laying down contingency plans in the event of a refugee influx from neighboring Macedonia. This is just one aspect of the difficulties that the unrest in Macedonia poses for Bulgaria.

According to Luise Druke, the UNHCR representative in Bulgaria, about 12,000 people left Macedonia for neighboring Kosova between 8 and 11 June. Druke said on 20 June that the situation is very tense, and that the organization wants to be prepared, bearing in mind that some 34,000 people have arrived in Kosova recently. The number of crossings from Macedonia into Bulgaria also rose steadily, reaching a peak on 12 June, when 19 busses filled with ethnic Albanians entered Bulgaria on their way to Turkey.

The ongoing tensions in Macedonia gave rise to concern among Bulgarian officials. Possibly out of fear of a scenario similar to that during the Kosova war in 1999, when Macedonia was flooded by almost half a million ethnic Albanian refugees, an Interim Coordinating Council on Refugee Problems under the chairmanship of Minister Without Portfolio Aleksandar Pramatarski was set up, BTA reported on 15 June.

This newly founded body, which will work together with international organizations like the UNHCR or the Red Cross, has prepared an action plan for the accommodation of up to 5,000 refugees from Macedonia. Experts put the costs of housing and caring for one refugee at about 1,000 leva (approximately $435) per month.

This contingency planning by the Bulgarian government can be expected to go down well with the EU and NATO, as can that of the Bulgarian military (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001). But the outgoing government, as well as its successor, will face a serious problem from other sources, a problem that is deeply rooted in the country's troublesome past.

Most Bulgarians have a romantic picture of Macedonia. This picture mainly stems from the accounts of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Macedonia who came to Bulgaria in the course of the 20th century. As a matter of fact, almost all Bulgarian families have direct or indirect ties to Macedonia. In addition, Bulgarian historians have done their best over the years to argue that Macedonia was and is overwhelmingly populated by Bulgarians.

It is thus not surprising that several different 20th-century Bulgarian governments fought in three wars to unite Macedonia with the Bulgarian kingdom. All three cases -- the Second Balkan War in 1913, World War I in 1918, and World War II in 1944 -- ended in disaster for Bulgaria and resulted in waves of refugees coming to Bulgaria.

Ever since the end of World War II, Bulgarian governments -- be they communist or democratically elected -- have struggled to come to terms with this difficult heritage.

Attempts by Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz Tito and his Bulgarian counterpart Georgi Dimitrov to find a solution to the Macedonian question shortly after World War II were doomed to fail -- not only because of Stalin's meddling, but also because of the refugees and their descendants. It was (and still is) almost impossible to explain to them why their former neighbors in Macedonia should now be considered members of a different nation, speaking a completely different language, one that was once perceived as a mere dialect of standard Bulgarian.

During the Cold War the difficult relations between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria led to regular polemics between politicians and scholars of both countries about the nature of the Macedonian nation.

Immediately after the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the declaration of an independent Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria was the first country to recognize the new state -- without ever recognizing the existence either of a Macedonian nation or of the Macedonian language.

For all the reasons already discussed, Bulgarian politicians see Macedonia as a junior partner that has to be looked after. Since the national-conservative Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) took office in 1998, relations between Macedonia and Bulgaria have steadily improved.

After the outbreak of violence in the former Yugoslav republic, Bulgarian politicians found themselves in a difficult position. On the one hand, they certainly were willing to support the Macedonian government in its fight against the ethnic Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK). On the other hand, they were constrained in practical terms by Bulgaria's aspirations to join NATO and EU at the earliest possible opportunity.

The two possible poles of Bulgarian policy towards the Macedonian issue are personified by President Petar Stoyanov and outgoing Prime Minister Ivan Kostov. In an interview with the Sofia weekly "Kapital" on 14 June, the Bulgarian political scientist Kiril Drezov said that Kostov's and Stoyanov's positions are complementary: "Stoyanov, who does not formulate foreign policy, can allow himself to make public declarations about the traditional relations between Bulgaria and the Slav population in Macedonia, whereas Kostov, who bears complete responsibility for Bulgaria's foreign policy, has to act as a realistic politician and maintain a balance in his relations [between] the two main ethnic groups" in the neighboring country.

In Drezov's view, Kostov's only mistake in his policy toward Macedonia was his partisan approach, which excluded the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM). "After all, one has to admit that the prime minister's approach was more flexible in comparison with that of [President] Stoyanov, whose romantic position could make Bulgaria a hostage of some adventure in Skopje."

Whether the new Bulgarian government will be as realistic as Kostov's administration in its policy toward Macedonia has yet to be seen. Most observers regard the large vote for the candidates of former King Simeon II as a protest against Kostov's social policies and mushrooming corruption, not against his foreign policy.

As Simeon of Saxony-Coburg-Gotha is said to be a man with an excellent memory, he will not have forgotten that one of the reasons for Bulgaria's joining the Axis powers in 1941 was the prospect of gaining large parts of Yugoslav and Greek Macedonia, and that it was his father, King Boris III, who reigned in Bulgaria then. And he will hardly have forgotten that was the third time Bulgaria lost a war in the 20th century.


XS
SM
MD
LG