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Newsline - June 26, 2001




PUTIN SAYS INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES REQUIRE NEW APPROACH...

In a message to the Moscow international information congress, President Vladimir Putin on 25 June said that the new technologies in the information sphere require new approaches and "particular responsibility on the part of all participants in the information space," Russian agencies reported. Meanwhile, First Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko told the meeting that the government will guarantee freedom of speech and the media in Russia, Interfax reported. Vladislav Shertsyuk, the first deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, added that information security is a key element in Russian national security planning. Security in this sphere, he said, can be achieved "only when the security of the national information infrastructures of each country of the world and also the global information infrastructure as a whole is guaranteed," the news agency reported the same day. PG

...AS YASTRZHEMBSKII TALKS ABOUT IMPROVING RUSSIA'S IMAGE ABROAD...

Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii told the information congress that Moscow is just as concerned about its image abroad as it is by reforms, Interfax reported on 25 June. He said that many foreign news outlets, "especially" those in the U.S., ignore "positive information about Russia" and thus allow negative stereotypes to continue to hold sway among their viewers, listeners, and readers. He called on the journalists present to be "objective and just" in their treatment of events in Russia. PG

...AND GAZPROM IMPOSES ITS WILL AT EKHO MOSKVY

Representatives of Gazprom have succeeded in blocking the re-election of Yurii Fedutinov to the directors' council of Ekho Moskvy, Interfax reported on 25 June. In an interview published in "Vremya novostei" on 25 June, the radio station's editor in chief, Aleksei Venediktov, said that he does not rule out the possibility that Gazprom plans to replace the management of the station with its own people. Venediktov told Interfax that Gazprom's earlier assurances that it did not plan to change the management of the station were empty, but Gazprom representatives said they made no such promises, the news service reported. PG

PUTIN GREETS SOVINFORMBURO, NOVOSTI VETERANS

President Putin on 24 June sent his greetings to the veterans of Sovinformburo, APN-Novosti, and the Russian Information Agency Novosti in connection with the 60th anniversary of the first, the 40th anniversary of the second, and the 10th anniversary of the third, Interfax reported on 24 June. Putin said that "the patriotic traditions" laid down by Sovinformburo during the difficult days of World War II are being continued in a worthy way by Novosti. PG

PUTIN SAYS MILITARY REFORM TO CONTINUE

President Putin told graduates of Russia's military academies on 25 June that he plans to reduce the size of the Russian military but increase funding for it, Russian and Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, government sources told Interfax the same day that the government's plans for national defense reform will focus on financing existing plans, better utilization of missile technologies and atomic submarines, and supporting operations in Chechnya. In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 25 June, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that he believes it is appropriate and desirable that the reduction in the size of the armed services will occur even more rapidly than planned. PG

GREF SAYS GROWTH TO BE ABOVE PREDICTIONS...

In an interview on ORT television, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said that Russian GDP growth this year may amount to more than 5 percent, Reuters reported on 24 June. He said that growth in the first five months of 2001 was at a rate of 5.4 percent. He acknowledged that inflation may be above the 14-16 percent government officials have projected, "but not very much higher." PG

...AS WILL INFLATION

Presidential economics adviser Andrei Illarionov said on 24 June that inflation in Russia in 2001 may exceed 20 percent, far above government projections, Interfax reported. Then, in an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 25 June, he said that Russia must pursue higher budget surpluses, a more liberal currency market, and increases in export tariffs on raw materials if it is to stay on the path of reform. PG

CONTRACT KILLING OF ST. PETERSBURG CUSTOMS CHIEF

Vitold Kaiganovich, the head of the Northwest Customs Terminal in St. Petersburg, has been murdered in what appears to have been a contract killing, Russian news agencies reported on 25 June. VY

MOSCOW TO CREATE SPECIAL ANTI-MONEY-LAUNDERING AGENCY

Deputy Finance Minister Yurii Lvov told Interfax-AFI on 25 June that the government plans to create a special agency to combat money laundering as soon as the Duma passes the necessary legislation. PG

FSB OFFICERS ASSUMING KEY ROLES AT GAZPROM

As part of a broader agency effort to prevent capital flight, the Federal Security Service (FSB) is placing its officers in key positions at Gazprom, APN reported on 25 June. Two officers are now members of that corporation's board, the news service said. VY

CHERNOMYRDIN DENIES HE'S A BILLIONAIRE

Viktor Chernomyrdin, onetime prime minister and head of Gazprom who now serves as Russia's ambassador to Ukraine, called the "Forbes" magazine report that he has a $1.1 billion fortune "absurd," Interfax reported on 25 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2001). Chernomyrdin added that if the magazine can show him where the billions are, he will give the money to Forbes and another $100 million to Interfax. VY

AUDIT CHAMBER FINDS $2.2 BILLION WASTED IN 2000

Sergei Stepashin, the head of the Audit Chamber, told the Duma Budget Committee on 25 June that his agency has identified the misuse of some 63.2 billion rubles ($2.2 billion) in budgeted funds in 2000, Interfax reported. He said his agency has succeeded in returning to the budget 4.2 billion rubles and has launched some 20 criminal investigations. PG

GRYZLOV WANTS WRITERS TO HELP BOOST IMAGE OF HIS AGENCY

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said that he hopes the creative intelligentsia will help increase public confidence in law enforcement by writing truthfully about what the Interior Ministry does, Interfax reported on 25 June. He said that many people have an incorrect notion about what the police do and that "it is necessary to work on public consciousness." PG

CEC HEAD SAYS NUMBER OF PARTIES TO DECLINE TO 20-30

Aleksandr Veshnyakov, the head of the Central Election Committee, said on 25 June that the new law on parties, once it is adopted, should reduce the number of political parties from the 197 social-political groups now registered to 20-30 full-fledged political parties prior to the 2003 elections, Interfax reported on 25 June. He also said he supports maintaining the current system of proportional-majoritarian voting in the regions. Under that system, half of the deputies are elected in single-member districts, and half are chosen by party lists. PG

DEPUTY GROUPS DISCUSS SUCCESSOR FOR SELEZNEV

Deputy (Unity) Aleksandr Chuev told Interfax on 24 June that the major deputy groups of the Duma are already engaged in consultations about the possible replacement of Gennadii Seleznev as speaker. Chuev said that Seleznev "has begun to lose control over the Duma, frequently turning aside from serious questions and very often representing the interests" of the Communist Party (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 25 June 2001). PG

PARTY WHIP SYSTEM ARISES IN DUMA

According to an article in "Zhizn (Moskovskie vedomosti)," No. 3, the major factions in the Duma now have designated party whips who tell members how they should vote on upcoming measures. PG

SELEZNEV SEES RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION DEVELOPING LIKE EU

Duma Speaker Seleznev said on 25 June that he believes the Russia-Belarus Union can grow into a formation similar to the European Union, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the EU is "a very clever organization that has borrowed a lot of useful things from the Soviet Union" -- including the lack of internal borders, a single currency, and a single planning system. Seleznev added that the peoples but not yet the governments of Ukraine, Armenia, and Moldova want to join this union. PG

MOSCOW LIFTS TRANSIT VISA REQUIREMENT FOR U.S. CITIZENS

Putin has approved a recommendation by the Foreign Ministry to lift the requirement that American citizens obtain a visa if they are transiting Russia to third countries, Russian agencies reported on 25 June. Moscow initially imposed the requirement in response to the U.S. imposition of a similar requirement on Russian citizens transiting the U.S. earlier this year, and the Russian government's latest move is a response to Washington's 15 June decision to lift the requirement. PG

MOSCOW SAYS MILOSEVIC DECISION A YUGOSLAV 'INTERNAL' MATTER

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 25 June that any decision by the Yugoslav government to hand over former President Slobodan Milosevic to the international war crimes tribunal is "an internal affair" of Yugoslavia, Interfax reported. But the Russian Committee in Defense of Milosevic expressed its outrage against any such decision, the news agency reported the same day. PG

BUSINESSMEN, DEPUTY CALL FOR END TO SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ

Russian businesses, including oil companies, have called for an end to the UN sanctions against Iraq, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 June. Meanwhile, Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky called on the Russian government to use its veto in the UN Security Council to prevent the extension of sanctions against Iraq, Interfax reported. He said he intends to fly to Baghdad on 1 July. PG

AEROFLOT STRIKE THREAT RECEDES

The union of Aeroflot workers on 25 June decided not to strike for 30 days beginning on 30 June as it had threatened to do, Interfax reported. Instead, the union will begin a process of intensive negotiations with the company, union leaders said. PG

U.S. EXCHANGE STUDENT MOVED TO PRISON COLONY

John Tobin, the American exchange student convicted of drug possession, has been moved from a pretrial detention center in Voronezh to a low-security prison colony in Rossosh, about 140 kilometers (90 miles) away, AP reported on 25 June. His lawyers earlier said that they expected him to be sent to the special prison facility for foreigners in Mordovia. PG

BORODIN DENIES RUMORS HE WANTS TO HEAD SAKHA

Russia-Belarus Union State Secretary and former Kremlin property manager Pavel Borodin has categorically rejected media reports that he intends to run for governor of Sakha (Yakutia), Interfax reported on 25 June. He stressed that he still has "serious work" to do in the building of a union state. PG

KRASNOYARSK, TAIMYR AO SIGN COOPERATION ACCORD

Officials of Krasnoyarsk Krai and the Taimyr Autonomous Okrug on 25 June signed a cooperation agreement intended to overcome past differences, Interfax-Eurasia reported. But Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed said that the agreement does not remove "all the contradictions" between the two. PG

HUNTING LIMITS SET FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

The Khabarovsk Krai administration has set annual hunting limits on hunting by indigenous peoples living in that region, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 25 June. The indigenous peoples can hunt up to that limit without charge, the officials said. PG

LUZHKOV REMAINS POPULAR IN MOSCOW

In the face of reports in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 23 June that the Kremlin is maneuvering to further weaken Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, the results of a poll taken by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 24 June show that 76 percent of Muscovites still trust their mayor. PG

STATISTICS COMMITTEE DENIES INTENTIONALLY DISTORTING ECONOMIC NUMBERS

Sergei Kolesnikov, the deputy chairman of the State Statistics Committee, on 25 June denied charges that his agency has intentionally mislead people by changing the basis year for calculating economic statistics from 1995 to 1999, Interfax reported. That change led the agency to increase its estimates of Russian economic growth, but Kolesnikov said that the new figures are more accurate and avoid using figures for the period before the August 1998 economic crisis. PG

RUSSIA SAID TO HAVE 'MARKET ALIEN' ECONOMY

Peter Naray, a former Hungarian ambassador to the World Trade Organization, told Reuters on 25 June that Russia faces an uphill task in preparing itself for WTO membership. "Economic reform will not be enough," he said. "Without substantial change in the institutions of the state, especially the legal system and the way they behave, Russia can hardly become a truly functioning market economy." Implementing those changes, he added, will be difficult because the "crossbreeding" of the Soviet system with Russian history "has conspired to create a market-alien environment which will be difficult to eliminate." PG

RUSSIA'S COMPETITORS SAID BEHIND PARIS AIR SHOW ACTIONS

Viktor Delia, the rector of the Russian Academy of Social and Economic Forecasting, said that the attempted confiscation of Russian aircraft at the Paris Air Show over the weekend was the work of Russia's business competitors, ITAR-TASS reported. Delia implied that the action was pushed by U.S. firms that hoped to sell their planes to the same people who might be considering the purchase of Russian aircraft. PG

PRESTIGE OF OFFICER CORPS FALLING

According to a poll reported in "Novoe vremya" on 24 June, 50 percent of Russians now believe that it is less prestigious to be a military officer than it used to be. PG

RUSSIANS INCREASINGLY WORRIED ABOUT DRUGS

A poll taken by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 25 June showed that 98 percent of Russians now consider the spread of drug use to be one of Russia's most serious problems. Young people, women, Muscovites, Siberians, and the educated are especially concerned, the pollsters said. PG

AIDS SEEN THREATENING RUSSIAN NATIONAL SECURITY

Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishchenko said in Moscow on 25 June that the spread of HIV infections and AIDS in Russia has increased so rapidly that the disease now threatens Russia's national security, Interfax reported. Onishchenko was speaking before leaving for New York to participate in the UN General Assembly special session on AIDS. PG

MINISTER WANTS RUSSIA TO GO ONLINE

Gleb Pavlovskii, the head of the Effective Policy Foundation and a close adviser to the Kremlin, said that 38,000 new Internet media have appeared in the Russian language in the last 18 months and most of them are "quite original" rather than being duplicates of print media, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 June. Meanwhile, Economic Development and Trade Minister Gref said in an interview published the same day in "Vremya novostei" that Moscow wants to promote the computerization of the government and schools so that 100 million Russians will be online by 2010. VY

SOLZHENITSYN'S CALL FOR DEATH PENALTY CRITICIZED

Alla Dudaeva, the widow of first Chechen President Dzhokar Dudaev, has formed an initiative group that seeks to have the Nobel Prize committee strip Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn of his Nobel Prize because of his calls for restoring capital punishment for terrorists, "Inostranets" reported on 19 June. Meanwhile, Lord Russell-Johnston, the chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said on 25 June that it was "a bitter thing" for him to hear "the author of the 'Gulag Archipelago' and other freedom-loving works end his career" with a call for the restoration of the death penalty, Interfax reported. PG

MAYHEM IN MOSCOW

Moscow police on 25 June said they are continuing their pursuit of a criminal band that includes former members of the Moscow police, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, a group of participants at the celebration of the Days of the Newspaper "Moskovskii komsomolets" at Luzhniki Stadium attacked an emergency medical service ambulance, the news service reported on 24 June. In another incident, a 30-year-old Armenian citizen killed two Muscovites and wounded three militia officers during a fight in the Russian capital on 24 June, Interfax reported the following day. PG

ARTS ACADEMY CROSS RESTORED

An Orthodox cross has once again been put on top of the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, Interfax reported on 24 June. The original cross was taken down by the Soviet authorities. PG

16,000 RUSSIANS DIED IN FIRES IN 2000

According to an article in "Izvestiya" on 25 June, 16,000 Russians died in fires during 2000. That compares to 529 deaths in fires in Germany, 691 in the U.K., and 3,600 in the United States, the paper said. PG

LOCUST SWARMS OUT OF CONTROL IN SOUTHERN RUSSIA

ITAR-TASS reported on 25 June that locust plagues are now out of control in parts of southern Russia. Dpa reported the same day that the damage inflicted so far is the worst in 40 years. PG

PERSONALIZED PLATES IN RUSSIA?

Officials at the automobile licensing agency told Interfax on 25 June that Russians who are willing to pay more should be able to get personalized license plates, with the only restriction being that the numbers and letters on any particular vehicle be unique. PG

PUTIN REPORTEDLY CONCERNED ABOUT NIZHNII NOVGOROD

Leader of the People's Deputy group in the State Duma Gennadii Raikov told the website strana.ru on 25 June that in a recent discussion with Putin the Russian president was "concerned about the situation with the [gubernatorial] elections in Nizhnii Novgorod." According to Raikov, the recent elections in Primorskii Krai were "dirty" and what it is happening now in Nizhnii Novgorod strongly resembles the situation in Primore (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 20 June 2001). Raikov spoke from Nizhnii Novgorod, where he was visiting to show his support for a fellow legislator from his group, Vadim Bulavinov, who is currently one of the top contenders in the 15 July race. Raikov added that false rumors or "black PR" has been spread in the oblast claiming that Bulavinov has spoken in favor of an initiative to ship spent nuclear fuel to one raion in the region. In fact, according to Raikov, Bulavinov voted against the recent legislation that would allow imports of spent nuclear fuel into Russia. JAC

UK TO PAY FOR REPROCESSING NUCLEAR FUEL IN FAR NORTH

The government of Great Britain has earmarked money for ecological programs in Murmansk Oblast for the reprocessing of nuclear waste, RFE/RL's Murmansk correspondent reported. Prince Michael of Kent, who is visiting Murmansk, reportedly informed Murmansk Governor Yurii Yevdokimov about the planned funds. Part of the money will be used for the utilization of spent nuclear fuel, stored on the world's only floating storehouse for radioactive waste, according to the correspondent. In May, the Norwegian government announced that it is prepared to spend 10 million Norwegian crowns ($1.08 million) for improving security at three sites in Murmansk Oblast where nuclear wastes are being stored (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001). Governor Yevdokimov told the Barents Sea/Arctic Council earlier in the year that Russia's Kola Peninsula has more nuclear reactors than anywhere else in Russia and that it represents a serious radiation hazard for all of Northern Europe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March 2001). JAC

ENVOY TELLS FAR EASTERN LEGISLATORS WHAT HE IS EXPECTING

In an interview with RTR on 24 June, the presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, Konstantin Pulikovskii, said that there are "great expectations that the parliament of Sakha (Yakutia) on 3 July will be ready to bring the republic's constitution into compliance with the federal constitution." According to Pulikovskii, some 57 articles in the Sakha Constitution do not correspond to the Russian Federal Constitution, and Pulikovskii admitted that the process of bringing the local constitution into compliance has been "difficult." Legislators in Sakha have so far resisted making any changes to the constitution and earlier in the month postponed consideration of new amendments until 3 July (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 11 April & 20 June 2001). According to RTR, in addition to his work on bringing local laws into line with federal legislation, Pulikovskii has also been overseeing the acceleration of the construction of a highway between Chita and Khabarovsk. JAC

LOCAL GOVERNMENT ADVISES STRIKERS TO FILE LAWSUIT

Ten workers at a power plant in the republic of Tuva launched an unlimited hunger strike on 25 June to protest a five-year backlog of unpaid wages, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. Representatives of the republican government have announced that there is no money in their budget to pay the debt and have suggested that the workers appeal to a court of law. JAC

RUSSIAN SECURITY OFFICIALS, CHECHEN DUMA DEPUTY HAIL KILLING OF BARAEV...

FSB spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich said on 25 June that the killing during a special operation by FSB and OMON troops of Chechen field commander Arbi Baraev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2001) marks the beginning, announced by President Putin in February, of the "final stage" of the "counterterrorist campaign" in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said such operations will continue "until the rebel chiefs have been neutralized in full," according to Interfax. Interior Minister Gryzlov similarly told Interfax that more operations aimed at locating and killing specific Chechen field commanders are planned. Retired Interior Ministry Colonel Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who represents Chechnya in the State Duma, said that Baraev's death shows that the FSB has finally proceeded "from words to deeds." Aslakhanov threatened earlier this month to step down unless the situation in Chechnya improved (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2001). LF

...AS LOCAL RESIDENTS PROTEST

A group of women from Alkhan-Kala picketed the Chechen administration building in Grozny on 25 June in the hope of meeting with administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, Interfax reported. According to "Vremya novostei" on 26 June, the village was largely destroyed by Russian artillery during the five-day operation to wipe out Baraev and his followers. The women complained to administration officials that they were not permitted to leave the village during the fighting, that local residents killed during the onslaught remain unburied, and that there is a shortage of food, water, and medical supplies. Grozny administration chief Shakhid Djamaldaev assured the women he will do what he can to help. LF

STAVROPOL TO HIRE TURKISH LABOR FOR HARVEST

Stavropol Krai Deputy Agriculture Minister Vladimir Zhernovoi told a session of the region's cabinet on 20 June that, despite mass unemployment among local agricultural workers, Turkish labor will be hired to bring in this year's harvest, as was done in 2000, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 24 June. Zhernovoi did not disclose what wages the Turks will be paid. LF




ARMENIA DEPORTS TURKISH BORDER VIOLATORS

Armenia has sent back to Turkey two men detained by Russian border guards on 12 June after illegally entering Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 25 June, quoting a Russian border guard official. Armenian officials say nine Turkish citizens have been detained so far this year trying to enter Armenia illegally. LF

MINSK GROUP OUTLINES NEW MOVES IN KARABAKH PEACE PROCESS...

In a statement issued following their 22-24 June consultations in Malta, the French, Russian, and U.S. co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group said they plan to visit Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) during the first half of July in an attempt to restart the apparently deadlocked peace process, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The mediators will also meet soon in Bucharest with OSCE Chairman in Office Mircea Geoana. They also called on the conflict parties to show restraint and avoid any action that could negatively affect the situation in the region during what they termed "a crucial period." In a 21 June letter to the co-chairmen, NKR Foreign Minister Naira Melkumian expressed concern at increasing intolerance and xenophobia in Azerbaijan and at the Azerbaijani leadership's apparent readiness to launch a new war rather than seek a solution to the conflict based on compromise. LF

...AS AZERBAIJANI OFFICIALS SAY MILITARY VICTORY POSSIBLE...

Speaking at a ceremony in Baku on 25 June to mark Armed Forces' day, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev affirmed that "the growing army of Azerbaijan is able to liberate the occupied territories and restore Azerbaijan's territorial integrity" if it proves impossible to resolve the conflict by peaceful means, Turan reported. At the same time, Aliyev expressed appreciation for the Minsk Group's efforts to mediate a peaceful solution to the conflict. At the same ceremony, Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev similarly declared that the Azerbaijani military is capable of fulfilling the will of the population and orders from its commander in chief to restore the country's territorial integrity if Armenia does not abandon what he termed its "expansionist ambitions." LF

...AND AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION ALLEGES SELL-OUT

Two Azerbaijani opposition politicians believe, however, that Baku has already tacitly approved a draft Karabakh peace agreement that entails "humiliating concessions" to Armenia, according to Bilik Dunyasi, as cited by Groong on 23 and 25 June. Azerbaijan Popular Front Party reformist wing Chairman Ali Kerimov told the agency that the agreement provides for "a second Armenian state," on Azerbaijani territory, and allows Nagorno-Karabakh to have its own currency, constitution, legal bodies, and armed forces. Elkhan Mehdiev, an adviser to opposition Musavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar, said he believes the Azerbaijani leadership has opted for peace at any price. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT BACKS NMD...

Speaking to journalists in Tbilisi on 25 June, President Eduard Shevardnadze expressed his support for U.S. President George W. Bush's commitment to NMD, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Shevardnadze said such a system constitutes "a real way of ensuring world security" against the danger posed by an estimated six or seven states with nuclear capability that have not signed the treaty abjuring the use of nuclear weapons. LF

...CONCEDES PRESENCE OF SOME CHECHEN MILITANTS IN GEORGIA...

Shevardnadze also conceded on 25 June that up to 200-300 Chechen militants may currently be hiding out in the Pankisi gorge in eastern Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Also on 25 June, former Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told Interfax that "several years ago" Shevardnadze agreed to a request by former Russian President Boris Yeltsin to allow the Russian troops then stationed in Georgia to withdraw to Russia via the Pankisi gorge, after which those troops would be deployed along the Russian-Georgian border to prevent Chechen militants from entering Georgia. Sergeev said Shevardnadze withdrew his consent for that withdrawal the following day. LF

...SUGGESTS EXTENDING DEADLINE FOR RUSSIAN MILITARY WITHDRAWAL...

At his press briefing in Tbilisi on 25 June, Shevardnadze indicated that Georgia would be prepared to extend to five years the period within which Russia must withdraw from its military bases in Batumi and Akhalkalaki, Caucasus Press reported. At last week's talks in Moscow, Russian Deputy Premier Ilya Klebanov again said Russia cannot withdraw from those bases in less than 14 years unless it receives funding from the international community to cover the costs involved (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2001). The Georgian leadership has until now insisted that Russia must withdraw from those facilities within two to three years. LF

...EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR EMBATTLED PROSECUTOR-GENERAL

Shevardnadze said on 25 June in his traditional Monday radio broadcast that he is impressed by Gia Meparishvili's performance since his appointment in February as prosecutor-general and will provide him with "all possible assistance and support," Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2001). He specifically noted Meparishvili's professionalism, patriotism, and administrative skills. The Georgian parliament last week considered, but failed to reach an agreement on, a request by deputy Koba Davitashvili (Union of Citizens of Georgia) to impeach Meparishvili for having appointed as local prosecutors persons not qualified for those positions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001). LF

KYRGYZSTAN MULLS EXTENDING REREGISTRATION OF MEDIA OUTLETS

The process of reregistering media outlets may be extended for a further two-three months, from 1 July to 1 September or 1 October, Deputy Justice Minister Erkinbek Mamyrov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 25 June. No new media outlets may be registered during that period. Mamyrov described as "a mistake" the ministry's registration since the reregistration campaign began on 1 April of 16 media outlets. That registration was subsequently revoked (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 25 June 2001). LF

KYRGYZ CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES AGAINST GOVERNMENT

The Constitutional Court ruled on 22 June that a law passed last year that empowers the parliament, rather than the government, to make the final decision on electricity rates does not violate the constitution, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 25 June. The government had protested the law, arguing that it violates the constitution, and asked President Askar Akaev to veto it, which he did. The parliament overruled that veto in March, prompting the government to appeal to the Constitutional Court. LF

TAJIKISTAN COMPLETES OPERATION TO DISARM MILITANTS

The four-day battle against former Tajik opposition fighters loyal to field commander Rakhmon Sanginov was successfully completed late on 25 June, Reuters reported, citing the Tajik Interior Ministry whose troops staged that operation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 25 June 2001). Thirty-six former opposition fighters were killed during that operation and a further 66 taken into custody; the fate of Sanginov and fellow field commander Mansur Muakkalov is unclear. LF




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER URGES PROPOSING SINGLE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

Belarusian Popular Front leader Vintsuk Vyachorka on 25 June said the main task of the Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces is to hold a congress and appoint a single democratic candidate to challenge incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the 9 September elections, Interfax reported. According to Vyachorka, such a candidate should be selected from among Syamyon Domash, Uladzimir Hancharyk, Mikhail Chyhir, and Pavel Kazlouski, who are currently gathering signatures to register for the presidential race. Vyachorka added that Domash seems to be "the most acceptable, compromise candidate." JM

POPE PREACHES TO HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS IN LVIV...

Pope John Paul II preached on 26 June to the largest crowd of his Ukrainian trip at a hippodrome near Lviv, world agencies reported. According to different estimates, the crowd numbered 300,000-600,000. In a homily read in both Ukrainian and Polish, the pope urged Ukrainians and Poles to look to the future and live in harmony. "It is time to leave behind the sorrowful past. The Christians of the two nations must walk together," Reuters quoted the pontiff as saying. In a Polish-language ceremony, the pope beatified two Roman Catholic priests from the 19th century. JM

...PAYS TRIBUTE TO HOLOCAUST VICTIMS AT BABI YAR

The previous day, following a mass in Kyiv, John Paul II held a silent prayer at the Babi Yar ravine outside the Ukrainian capital. Babi Yar became a symbol of the Holocaust of Ukrainian Jews. In September 1941, the Germans killed some 33,000 Jews within several days and buried them in the ravine. Over the next two years, the death toll at Babi Yar rose to some 200,000, most of whom were Jews, Roma, and Soviet prisoners of war. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS DEPUTY PREMIER FOR ECONOMY

Leonid Kuchma on 25 June filled the last vacant post in Premier Anatoliy Kinakh's cabinet, naming Economy Minister Vasyl Rohovyy as deputy prime minister in charge of economic policy, Interfax reported. Rohovyy told journalists after the nomination that he is not going to work as both minister and deputy premier, while presidential staff head Volodymyr Lytvyn said he does not rule out that Rohovyy will perform both functions in the government. JM

ESTONIA, SOUTH KOREA SIGN TWO AGREEMENTS

Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Korean Ambassador Yang Dong Chil signed in Tallinn on 25 June a visa-free travel agreement and an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in education, science, and culture, BNS reported. The first agreement will allow citizens of one country to stay in the other without a visa for up to 90 days over a six-month period instead of the currently allowed 30 days. The move is intended to facilitate business contacts and economic relations. Ilves mentioned as good examples of cooperation the formation of a learning faculty of Korean culture and language at the Tallinn Pedagogical University and the planned days of Korean music and film in Tallinn in September. SG

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT BACKS STATE GUARANTEE FOR BIOETHANOL PLANT

The cabinet at an emergency session on 25 June reversed its previous decision of 19 June and agreed to provide a state guarantee for 14.26 million lats ($22.3 million) for the planned construction of a bioethanol plant by the company Jaunpagasts Plus in the Kurzeme region, western Latvia, LETA reported. The total costs of the plant are now estimated at 21 million lats -- significantly higher than the 15 million lats for which a state guarantee of 8.9 million lats was approved last year and later canceled after the still unsolved murder of Jaunpagasts Plus head Dainis Peimanis. Although the Ruling Coalition Council later on 25 June also approved the state guarantee, the final decision will be made by the parliament on 26 June. SG

BRAZAUSKAS PROPOSED AS CANDIDATE FOR LITHUANIAN PRIME MINISTER

Parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas proposed to President Valdas Adamkus on 25 June that he nominate Social Democratic Party (LSDP) Chairman Algirdas Brazauskas to be the next prime minister, ELTA reported. However, an hour later Presidential adviser Darius Kuolys told reporters that Adamkus condemned as an "antistate move" the telephone call by Brazauskas to acting Premier Eugenijus Gentvilas urging him not to include the ratification of the agreement between Williams International and the Russian YUKOS in that day's cabinet meeting. The cabinet, however, ratified the agreement by which YUKOS will acquire a 26.85 percent share in Mazeikiai Nafta (Oil), but postponed a decision on the privatization of the state-owned natural gas monopoly Lithuanian Gas. Adamkus, who had left the Santariskes Clinic in Vilnius after successful surgery to remove his appendix the previous day in order to meet with the Dalai Lama, was hospitalized again when a stone was found in his right kidney. The negotiations between the LSDP and the Paulauskas-led New Union on the formation of a new government have not been completed despite three days of talks and the Liberals, Center Union, and Christian Democrats have rejected the two parties' offer to form "a majority of broad agreement." SG

POLAND'S LEGISLATIVE ELECTION CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 25 June announced the official inauguration of the campaign for the 23 September elections to the 460-seat Sejm and the 100-seat Senate, PAP reported. The political parties and electoral committees participating in the elections are obliged to provide their list of candidates to the State Election Commission by 14 August. The election campaign will kick off on public television and radio on 8 September. Sejm deputies will be elected in 41 multiseat electoral districts, and senators will be elected in 40 districts. JM

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER 'REGRETS' CONTINUATION OF ANTI-TEMELIN BLOCKADE

Jan Kavan on 25 June said he "regrets" the fact that Austrian-Czech border-crossing points continue to be blockaded by opponents of the Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK reported. He said that he is, however, aware that the Austrian authorities have tried to prevent the blockades. On 24 June, Carinthia Governor and former leader of the far-right Freedom Party Joerg Haider said the Czech Republic cannot gain accession to the EU if it does not renounce the nuclear power plant in Temelin and does not abolish the 1946 Benes decrees, CTK reported. Haider also criticized his party's coalition partner, the People's Party, for rejecting the idea of holding a referendum in Austria on EU enlargement, saying this is an issue "on which the people must decide." MS

FRENCH MINISTER FOR EUROPEAN INTEGRATION IN PRAGUE

Visiting French Minister for European Integration Pierre Moscovici on 25 June told Prime Minister Milos Zeman that the Czech Republic is leading the group of EU accession candidates and that the country's intention to end negotiations with the EU by mid-2002 is "realistic," CTK reported. Moscovici earlier told a group of students in Prague that should the EU expand, new members will be involved in the union's decision-making processes "as equals" as soon as they join. Moscovici said enlargement is good for both present and future members of the EU and does not threaten the sovereignty and national identity of individual countries. MS

CZECH POLITICIAN SUING HIS PARTY'S CHAIRMAN

Christian Democratic Deputy Miroslav Kalousek on 25 June launched a defamation lawsuit against the party's leader, Cyril Svoboda, CTK reported. Both Svoboda and newly elected Freedom Union Chairwoman Hana Marvanova earlier this year questioned Kalousek's personal integrity, saying they suspect him of having been involved in illegal dealings while he was a deputy defense minister. Svoboda later apologized, but Kalousek said at the time that he would drop his plans to sue only if Svoboda withdrew his allegation. Kalousek did not sue Marvanova, saying she was "not overly important" to his reputation among the Christian Democrats. MS

CZECH REPUBLIC RATIFIES HUMAN-CLONING BANNING

The Czech Republic on 22 June ratified the Council of Europe's Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine and the Protocol on the Prohibition of Cloning Human Beings, CTK and dpa reported. The bans are designed to give the rights of individuals precedence over perceived interests of society or science and to protect people from the misuse of biological and medical developments. The Convention on Biomedicine covers in vitro fertilization and bans financial gain from the medical use of any human body part. It also prohibits the removal of organs for transplant without the donor's consent and permits genetic engineering only if its aim is not to change the genetic makeup of a person's descendants. MS

SLOVAK INTERIOR MINISTER ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT OF POLICE OFFICIAL

Interior Minister Ivan Simko on 25 June announced that he is appointing Antonin Kulich as chief police investigator, CTK reported. The appointment will be officially made at the end of the month. Simko said that "in the course of the few weeks that I have headed the Interior Ministry, I was satisfied with his work" as acting chief investigator. Former chief investigator Jaroslav Ivor was dismissed at the end of May. MS

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT OFFICIAL CALLS FOR TOUGH SLOVAK MEASURES AGAINST FRAUD

A delegation of the European Parliament's Budget Control Committee headed by the committee's deputy chairman, Herbert Boesch, on 22 June told CTK that "Slovakia is prepared for admission into the EU in many areas" but that the 15 March dismissal of Ronald Toth, the coordinator for distribution of EU funds, and the subsequent dismissal of Pavol Hamzik, the deputy premier in charge of EU integration, "clearly shows that Slovakia has weak spots in state administration, in independent financial inspection, and in the effective fight against fraud and corruption." He said the delegation he headed is not trying to do the jobs of Slovak law-enforcement officials or that of the EU Anti-Fraud Office but is "defending the interests of [EU] taxpayers." Boesch said it is "disquieting" that reactions in both Bratislava and Brussels to the scandal were "delayed," and noted that suspicions "persist." MS

U.K. TO HELP SLOVAKIA DEVELOP POOR REGIONS

The British Ministry of International Development will allocate 500,000 pounds ($706,200) for the development of some of Slovakia's poorest regions, AP reported on 22 June, citing TASR. The funds will be used in three regions in south-central Slovakia in preparation for projects aimed at developing industry, transportation, and protecting the environment. The money will also help pay for training municipalities' staffs and nongovernmental organizations. MS

PACE CHAIRMAN CRITICIZES HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Chairman Lord Russell-Johnston, responding to a Romanian journalist's question in Strasbourg on 25 June, said he "disagrees" with the recently passed Hungarian Status Law and does not "even believe the law can bring about an improvement of the situation of members of the Hungarian minority in neighboring countries," according to a Romanian Radio report confirmed by Hungarian media reports. Lord Russell-Johnston said the law "could even provoke discontent in Hungary itself" and added that "on this matter, I cannot agree with Prime Minister Viktor Orban." Hungarian Laszlo Surjan, who is Russell-Johnston's PACE deputy, said in reaction that the chairman had been caught "unprepared" by the journalist's question and his reply "reflected his own private opinion." Romanian PACE delegates said they are preparing a motion demanding that the implementation of the Status Law be "suspended." MS

HUNGARY INCLUDED ON LIST OF MONEY-LAUNDERING COUNTRIES

On 22 June, Hungary was included on the OECD's Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list of money-laundering countries. The list includes countries whose laws are likely to encourage money laundering. Hungary is the only European country on the list apart from Russia, and it was included because legislation still allows the opening of an unlimited number of anonymous deposit accounts. The Financial Controlling Authority said in reaction that it regrets that the FATF did not consult it before taking the step, as the government has already decided to scrap anonymous bank accounts as of January 2002 and that Hungarian banks are obliged to reveal the identity of holders of anonymous accounts in any transaction above 2 million forints ($6,993). MS




MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN GUERRILLAS THREATEN TO ATTACK CITIES...

Following an evening of anti-Albanian and anti-Western violent protests in Skopje (see below), Commander Drin Korabi of the National Liberation Army (UCK) told dpa on 26 June that the protests "showed that Macedonians and the Macedonian government want a civil war with the Albanians." He added: "We warn them that our fighters will enter not only Skopje, but Kumanovo and other towns as well, if they continue avoiding dialogue with Albanians." His last point presumably refers to the authorities' refusal to negotiate with the UCK. Korabi said that the UCK has underground fighters in Skopje "waiting for a signal to act." He added that "we have the ability to take more territories under our control" if no political settlement is reached. PM

...WHILE CIVILIAN LEADER CALLS FOR NATO TO ACT IN MACEDONIA

Iliaz Halimi, the deputy chief of the Democratic Party of Albanians (PDSH), told dpa in Skopje on 26 June that "Macedonia is a step closer to civil war [after the previous night's protests]. What happened was almost a coup. An immediate NATO intervention is needed for the bloodshed to be avoided." He added that "if negotiations are to restart at all, we want internationals to be present and broker an agreement that will bring NATO here as soon as possible." PM

PROTESTERS STORM MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT

Up to 5,000 demonstrators, including police reservists with Kalashnikovs, attacked the parliament building on 25 June, Deutsche Welle reported. They slammed what they called the government's leniency in allowing ethnic Albanian fighters to leave Aracinovo as part of a NATO-brokered deal to end fighting near Skopje. Some of the protesters chanted "Albanians to the gas chambers," the BBC reported. Some of the crowd pushed past security guards and damaged offices inside the building. President Boris Trajkovski, whose resignation the protesters demanded, and ethnic Albanian party leaders left the building unharmed, RFE/RL reported. In the surrounding streets, the total number of protesters reached 15,000, dpa reported. The demonstrators chanted anti-government and anti-Western slogans, and demanded that the army be allowed to finish what the protesters said was a successful assault on Aracinovo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2001). On 26 June, CNN reported that life in Skopje was normal but tense. PM

TENSION, VIOLENCE IN MACEDONIA

Deutsche Welle reported on 26 June that exchanges of gunfire took place the previous night near Kumanovo and near and in Tetovo. As NATO vehicles escorted busses carrying some 500 fighters of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army from Aracinovo to a KFOR base near Kumanovo, angry crowds blocked the convoy and forced it to split up into at least three sections. Dpa reported that the convoy "did not make it to the intended goal, the village of Lipkovo in the northern border zone. A group of around 10 buses was held up...by 1,000 civilians and police reservists in the village of Umin Do. Another group of similar size remained in Aracinovo and reportedly managed to slip through the blockade early [in the] morning using an old road, while the final group of four or five vehicles was held up on the highway from Skopje to Kumanovo." Elsewhere, Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski criticized NATO for escorting what he called "terrorists" to safety, RFE/RL reported. PM

EU, U.S. CALL FOR CALM IN MACEDONIA

At a closed-door meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on 25 June, some unnamed EU ministers told Macedonian Foreign Minster Ilinka Mitreva that the Macedonian security forces' behavior reminded them of the Russian forces' actions in Chechnya, the BBC's Brussels correspondent reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2001). German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and other participants stressed that nothing positive will be gained by violence. The ministers agreed to appoint former French Defense Minister Francois Leotard as the EU's permanent representative in Skopje. In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker told Reuters that "we urge all citizens of Macedonia to remain calm and to use the opportunity of the cease-fire to pursue a political process. There is no military solution to the problem in Macedonia and nothing will be achieved through violence." PM

LEAFLETS SET OFF FEAR AMONG MACEDONIAN ALBANIANS

A purported group calling itself Macedonian Paramilitary 2000 has distributed leaflets in the Kvantashki Market area of Skopje threatening vigilante action by 26 June in what the text called "the longest night," "The Guardian" reported on 25 June. The leaflets said that after the deadline, "all the [Albanian] shops will be burned and if someone tries to protest, they will be killed with no warning." The leaflets added that "for every police officer or soldier killed, 100 Shiptars [ed.: a pejorative term] will be killed." A spokesman for the NGO Human Rights Watch told the daily that "the increased activity of these paramilitary groups is potentially the most dangerous development in this conflict, because it threatens to draw large segments of the population into the fighting." "The Times" commented on 26 June that "the Balkan curse of ethnic cleansing finally came to Macedonia yesterday." The daily noted that Albanians had left the area and that local Macedonian merchants displayed the leaflet in their windows, as the text instructed them to do. Fear was the motive for both groups. PM

MACEDONIAN ALBANIANS FLEE TO KOSOVA

Some 14,000 ethnic Albanians left Macedonia for Kosova over the past weekend, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 25 June. Some 50,000 fled to Kosova in the course of June, while an additional 20,000 fled between January and May 2001, UNHCR officials said. PM

KOSOVAR LEADER STRESSES NEED FOR NATO ROLE

Moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova said in Vienna on 25 June that there will be no long-term stability in the Kosova region without the presence of NATO troops, "Die Presse" reported. PM

EU TO GO AHEAD WITH SERBIAN DONORS CONFERENCE

After the Belgrade authorities issued a decree to permit the extradition of Yugoslav citizens, EU foreign ministers agreed in Luxembourg on 25 June to continue with plans for a Serbian donors conference on 29 June, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 25 June 2001). The ministers said in a statement that "the success of this event will contribute to the further strengthening of the process towards democratization and reforms undertaken by the Yugoslav leadership, which will bring the people of the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] closer to European integration." PM

FRENCH MINISTER SLAMS U.S. OVER SERBIAN DONORS CONFERENCE

Speaking in Luxembourg on 25 June, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine slammed the U.S. for refusing to agree to attend the conference until Belgrade takes firmer action toward extraditing former President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague, Reuters reported. Vedrine called the U.S. attitude "neither comprehensible nor constructive." It is not clear why he feels U.S. participation is necessary, in view of his past criticism of the U.S. as a "hyperpower" and in view of calls from Paris, the Swedish EU presidency, and elsewhere for the EU to manage European affairs independently of Washington (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 January, 15 May, and 26 June 2001). In Washington, a State Department spokesman said on 25 June that the U.S. will continue to refrain from making a decision on attending the conference until Belgrade takes "concrete steps" toward cooperation with The Hague, VOA reported. PM

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: STAY TOUGH ON SERBIA

The NGO Human Rights Watch said in a statement from New York on 25 June that the international community should remain firm until the Belgrade authorities translate words about justice for war criminals into deeds (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 June 2001). Richard Dicker, the director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program, said: "We're still concerned about international donors prematurely disbursing hundreds of millions in economic aid to Yugoslavia... We've seen how economic pressure has brought the government of Yugoslavia this far. The EU should not abandon this pressure at the eleventh hour, just when it is needed most." Dicker stressed that the EU should "link disbursement of aid to specific forms of cooperation, such as the arrest and surrender of indictees." PM

SERBIAN JUDICIAL PROCESS BEGINS

In Belgrade, Milosevic's lawyer, Toma Fila, said on 25 June that he will fight the authorities' move to launch extradition proceedings against Milosevic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The case could drag on in the courts for weeks (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 June 2001). It is not clear, moreover, whether the Constitutional Court will uphold the decree on extradition or declare it illegal. PM

GERMAN CHANCELLOR CALLS SLOVENIA 'FIRST' FOR EU

Speaking in Ljubljana on 25 April on a visit to mark Slovenia's 10th anniversary of independence, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that "Germany very much supports Slovenia's wish" for EU membership soon, adding that Slovenia is "first" among the candidates, AP reported. Schroeder also said that he is "quite sure" that Slovenia will be among the next group of candidates admitted to NATO. Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek said that "Germany is Slovenia's number one trading partner, and we will do our best so that it remains that way in future as well." The two men stressed that the only significant difference in their views is that Germany wants and Slovenia opposes a seven-year moratorium on the free movement of labor for citizens of new EU member states. Schroeder hailed Slovenia's political and economic progress since 1991, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. PM

ROM HELD IN BOMB KILLING OF RELATIVE IN CROATIA

Police have arrested Zeljko Deconte in connection with the bombing of the home of a Romany family to which he is related, "Vecernji list" reported on 25 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2001). Deconte has a criminal record. Local Romany leaders called for better cooperation between their community and the authorities, stressing that first the Roma must improve relations among themselves and work out their differences. PM

HUNT BEGINS FOR NEW BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER

The three-member joint presidency reluctantly accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Bozidar Matic on 25 June, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2001). He quit over parliament's refusal to pass a new election law, although he said that he disagrees with certain of its provisions. He argued that those sections could be changed or amended later. One case in point is the provision that does not allow a Croat or Muslim to vote for a Serb candidate to the presidency and does not allow a Serb to vote for a Croat or a Muslim to that office. "Oslobodjenje" wrote that a new political crisis has begun for the top leadership, and that High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch may play the deciding role. The leading candidates to succeed Matic are two Muslim politicians, Trade Minister Azra Hadziahmetovic and Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija. PM

GREATER ROMANIA PARTY PROPOSES COUNTERMEASURES TO STATUS LAW

The Greater Romania Party (PRM) parliamentary group in the Chamber of Deputies on 25 June submitted a draft law that would deprive of their civil rights any ethnic Hungarians in Romania who apply for "Hungarian identity cards" in line with the provisions of Hungary's Status Law. The PRM wants such Romanian citizens to have the status of persons holding double citizenship and, as a consequence, be deprived of the right to hold public or military office, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In related news, Robert Raduly, the deputy leader of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) parliamentary group in the Chamber of Deputies, on 25 June told Viorel Hrebenciuc, the leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) group, that the UDMR will "withdraw" from debates on the law. He said it "might have been an error" to defend the Status Law and the UDMR should have left that task to "the Hungarian government and the Hungarian Embassy." MS

NATIONALIST SENATOR CRITICIZES ROMANIAN PRESIDENT OVER ANTONESCU STATEMENT

Addressing the upper chamber of the parliament, PSD Senator Adrian Paunescu on 25 June criticized Ion Iliescu over a statement the president made in Iasi on 24 June regarding Romania's wartime leader Marshal Ion Antonescu. Marking 60 years since the Iasi pogrom, Iliescu said on the occasion that "no matter what we might think," international public opinion considers Antonescu to have been a war criminal. Paunescu told the plenum that Iliescu has "no right to make such imprudent statements," and claimed that Romanian Jewish documents attest that the marshal "promoted policies different from those of the Nazis." Paunescu was apparently referring to a "document" published in the recently launched "Marshal Antonescu Review" attributing a statement made after the war in defense of Antonescu to wartime Jewish community leader Wilhelm Filderman. Jewish community history experts say the "document" is a forgery. An Internet poll conducted by the daily "Ziua" on 25 June shows that over 75 percent of respondents believe Antonescu was "no war criminal." MS

RESITA HUNGER STRIKE WIDENS

Some 270 workers in Resita have joined hunger strikers protesting against unpaid wages there, according to a Romanian Radio report on 26 June. Thousands are marching in the town in support of the strikers, chanting antigovernment, antipresidential, and anti-U.S. slogans. Privatization Authority Minister Ovidiu Musatescu is meeting the representatives of the U.S. company that owns the Resita steel mill, but the unions have refused to attend the meeting and are demanding that a government delegation come to Resita. Premier Adrian Nastase has repeatedly said the government cannot interfere in the labor dispute. MS

ILASCU TELLS PACE ABOUT HIS PLIGHT IN TIRASPOL PRISONS

Addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on 25 May, Romanian Senator Ilie Ilascu said the death sentence passed on him by the Transdniester authorities did not stem from activities directed against other states or other peoples, but from his "serving the struggle for liberty and independence of the people I am part of," Romanian Radio reported. Ilascu thanked all those who contributed to his liberation and pleaded for the continuation of efforts to bring about the liberation of the three members of his group who are still imprisoned in Tiraspol. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT TO MEET BUSH?

Foreign Minister Nicolae Cernomaz on 25 June told journalists in Chisinau that the U.S. Center for Democracy is ready to organize a meeting between President Vladimir Voronin and his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush, Infotag reported. Cernomaz, who recently returned from a tour of the U.S., said his ministry will now "explore through diplomatic channels a possible scheduling of the meeting." He also said the Center for Democracy is ready to support the costs of the trip. Cernomaz said the possible encounter must not be viewed by Russia as being directed against it, adding that "neither Russia nor the U.S. ever made relations with us conditional on Moldova's attitude toward either of the two sides." He also said the authorities in Washington are "welcoming and approving of Moldova's collaboration with neighboring countries and Russia." MS

BULGARIAN SOCIALIST LEADER KEEPS HIS JOB

Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) leader Georgi Parvanov on 24 June received a 71 to 27 vote of confidence at a meeting of the BSP's Supreme Council, BTA reported. Parvanov requested a vote of confidence after telling the council that he accepts "full responsibility" for the BSP's electoral defeat of 17 June. He said the defeat stemmed from the fact that the electorate did not perceive the Coalition for Bulgaria, of which the BSP was the main component, as a "real alternative to the governance of the Union of Democratic Forces." MS




There is no End Note today.





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