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Newsline - June 27, 2001




FSB RECONSIDERING POSSIBILITY OF SPY CHARGES AGAINST TOBIN

A spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB) office in Voronezh said that his agency is considering bringing charges of espionage against American exchange student John Tobin, who is currently in a Russian prison following his conviction on drug charges, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 26 June. The FSB spokesman said that a Russian biologist who was briefly imprisoned in the U.S. has told the FSB that Tobin presented himself then as an FBI agent and tried to recruit the biologist to spy for the United States. But Tobin's lawyer said that such claims are untrue and part of an FSB effort to prevent Moscow from releasing Tobin before the end of his sentence. VY

PUTIN AIDE SAYS PROLIFERATION THREATENS RUSSIA MORE THAN IT THREATENS U.S.

Igor Sergeev, the former Russian defense minister who now serves as an aide at the Russian Security Council, said on 26 June that "about 12 types of ballistic missiles capable of reaching Russian territory are in the development, manufacture, or deployment stage in threshold countries" and that "this means that the security of Russia will be more vulnerable than that of the U.S.," Russian and Western agencies reported. He called for more efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction of all kinds. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed its support for a call by the European Parliament to strengthen the nonproliferation regime against biological weapons, Interfax reported the same day. PG

SS-19 ROCKETS SAID CAPABLE OF DEFEATING ANY NMD SYSTEM

Gerbert Yefremov, the director general and chief constructor of the Reutov Machine Building and Production Society, said on 26 June that Russia's SS-19 rockets are capable of defeating any NMD system, and he urged that they be left on combat duty in order to protect the country, Russian agencies reported. PG

NEW INFLATIONARY PRESSURES SEEN HELPING BEREZOVSKY

Inflation rates above Russian government projections may help embattled oligarch Boris Berezovsky to form a new political party to challenge the government, according to an analysis in "Vremya MN" on 26 June. Meanwhile, government officials, Duma deputies, and economists made various proposals about how best to limit the rate of increase in inflation lest higher prices trigger a political crisis, Russian news agencies reported the same day. PG

TATAR SENATOR DEMANDS FEDERATION COUNCIL CONSIDER NUCLEAR WASTES MEASURE

Farid Mukhametshin, the speaker of Tatarstan's parliament and a member of the Russian Federation Council, told Interfax on 26 June that efforts to send the Duma-passed bill on nuclear waste imports directly to the Kremlin for signature bypassing the upper chamber of the parliament constitute an act of "fraud" against the people of Russia. "As a member of the Federation Council, I insist on the discussion of this bill," Mukhametshin said. PG

UNITY READY TO RUN AND WIN NEXT DUMA ELECTIONS

Sergei Popov, the chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Unity Party, said in an interview published in "Vremya MN" on 26 June that his party is prepared to run and win the next Duma elections. PG

THREE PARTIES OPPOSE DUMA SESSION IN GROZNY

Leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), and Yabloko on 26 June spoke out in opposition to suggestions that the Duma should hold a meeting in Grozny to consider the situation in Chechnya and elsewhere in the North Caucasus, Interfax reported. Spokesmen for the three parties said that such plans are "premature" and that guaranteeing the security of the deputies would require "almost a division" of Russian troops. PG

SPS PARTY PAPER ONLY FOR INTRAPARTY COMMUNICATION

Aleksei Kara-Murza, a member of the SPS political council, said in an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 26 June that the newspaper his party plans is for communication among members of the party rather than communicating more broadly. With the exception of the Communists and the LDPR, each of which has newspapers with print runs exceeding 75,000, most of the other parties issue papers that are little more than internal newsletters, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 22 June. Fatherland-All Russia's paper comes out in a print run of only 400 copies and Yabloko's paper is issued in 999 copies. PG

RAIKOV LEANING TOWARD APPOINTED GOVERNORS

Gennadii Raikov, the leader of the People's Deputy group in the Duma said on 26 June that his analysis of regional elections has forced him to consider and makes him likely to support the idea of that governors should be appointed rather than elected, Interfax reported. PG

PROPOSAL FOR DUAL SUBORDINATION OF AUDIT CHAMBER SPARKS CONTROVERSY

Duma deputies have reacted in various ways to a proposal to make the Audit Chamber subordinate to the presidential administration as well as the legislature, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 June. Some saw it as a necessary step intended to force the government to pay attention to the chamber's findings. Others felt that such a change would reduce the influence of the Duma over the government. PG

PUNISHMENTS PROPOSED FOR MISUSING RUSSIAN

Deputy (Unity) Kaadyr-Ool Bilcheldei, the deputy head of the Duma Nationalities Affairs Committee, has introduced legislation calling for elevating Russian to the status of the state language and imposing criminal and other penalties on those who misuse it, Interfax reported on 26 June. VY

KOZAK SAYS LEGAL REFORM WILL END CITIZENS' FEAR OF LAW-ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES

Dmitrii Kozak, the deputy head of the presidential administration, said in an interview published in "Moskovskie novosti" on 26 June that the adoption and implementation of the new legal reforms will result in the disappearance of citizens' "panic-like fear" of the law-enforcement agencies. PG

NEW WORK ON LEGAL CONTROL OF SECURITY SERVICES PRESENTED TO DUMA

On 26 June, former KGB Major General Nikolai Ryzhak presented his study "The Legal Regulation of the Activities of the Special Services in the System of Protecting the National Security of the Russian Federation" to members of the Duma, Interfax reported. Duma members called it the "first" such study of the legal side of relations between the legislature and these agencies. In his book, Ryzhak called for everyone to drop the old stereotype of the special services as some kind of "monster" against which everyone must struggle. He urged the prompt organization of parliamentary supervision over the activities of these agencies, both to ensure the rule of law and to block efforts by the oligarchs and organized criminal groups to affect the work of the special services. PG

MOSCOW HOPES FOR 'PRAGMATIC' APPROACH FROM WTO

Deputy Economic Development and Foreign Trade Minister Maksim Medvedkov told World Trade Organization officials in Geneva on 26 June that Moscow hopes for a "pragmatic" approach by the organization to the problems and possibilities of Russia, Reuters reported. "Every day of keeping Russia out of the WTO means thousands of lost business deals, the loss of millions of dollars for Russian companies as well as for our trading partners," he said. PG

MOSCOW CONCERNED ABOUT RUSSIAN PROPERTY ABROAD

Vladimir Kozhin, the administrator of the presidential administration, said on Russian television on 26 June that Russia must establish an effective system to protect Russian property abroad. He noted that approximately 40 percent of Russia's holdings abroad are either the subject of legal disputes or in a poor state of repair. He said that these steps should be taken not in order to sell this property but to guarantee that Russia will be able to continue to use it. PG

RUSSIAN MUFTI OPPOSES PAPAL VISIT TO MOSCOW

Talgat Tadzhuddin, the supreme mufti of Russia and the European countries of the CIS, told Interfax on 26 June that he is opposed to any visit by Pope John Paul II to Russia at this time. To make his point, he cited the Russian aphorism that "an uninvited guest is worse than a Tatar." PG

SELEZNEV OBJECTS TO 'GIVING UP MILOSEVIC FOR AMERICAN MONEY'

Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev on 26 June said that he does not support "giving up [former Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic [to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague] in exchange for American money," Interfax reported. Most other Duma deputies were in agreement, although some, like Yabloko leader Vladimir Lukin, said they believe Milosevic should be tried in Yugoslavia for the crimes he has been accused of, AP reported. PG

RUSSIA MAY VETO UN RESOLUTION ON IRAQ

According to a report in "The Washington Post" on 26 June, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has warned U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in a letter that Moscow will block any UN resolution on Iraq that undermines Russia's commercial interests there. That threat could mean that Russia will veto any extension of sanctions against Baghdad. PG

RUSSIA, INDIA CALL FOR BLOCKING ALL AID TO TALIBAN

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov and his visiting Indian counterpart Chokila Air on 26 June called on all countries that currently provide assistance of any kind to the Taliban to desist from doing so, ITAR-TASS reported. The two called for the introduction of a mechanism to ensure that the sanctions called for by UN Security Council resolutions 1263 and 1333 are implemented. PG

IVANOV CALLS FOR EXPANDED ECONOMIC TIES WITH LATIN AMERICA

Foreign Minister Ivanov on 26 June told participants in a Moscow business forum on Latin America that Russia hopes to purchase more meat and other products from Latin American countries and to sell more Russian products to these countries, Interfax reported. PG

OFFICIAL SAYS POWER-SHARING AGREEMENTS LESS SIGNIFICANT THAN LAWS

Commenting on the first session of the special commission for the preparation of proposals on the delimitation of authority between federal, regional, and local governments, presidential administration deputy head Kozak told Interfax on 26 June that power-sharing agreements between Moscow and the regions cannot be abrogated but are less important than and subordinate to the provisions of the Russian Constitution, federal laws, decrees of the president, and directives of the government. PG

SOLTAGANOV SAYS MOSCOW TO SET UP FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE SERVICE

Vyacheslav Soltaganov, the deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, said that in the near future the Russian government plans to establish a special federal agency that will serve as a kind of financial intelligence body, Interfax reported on 26 June. The new agency will help Moscow fight money laundering and also ensure that taxes are fully and fairly collected. PG

GOVERNMENT SUSPENDS LICENSING FOR EXPLOITATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES

Viktor Artyukhov, the new natural resources minister, has issued a decree suspending as of 25 June the issuing of licenses for the right to use natural resources, Interfax reported. His decree indicated that more licenses will be issued once taxation and other regulations are simplified and approved. PG

BANKS STRUGGLE FOR ROLE IN LUCRATIVE ATOMIC ENERGY SECTOR

Russia's Alfa and MDM banks are fighting for control of the approximately $3 billion in annual revenues handled by the Atomic Energy Ministry, "Vremya novostei" reported on 26 June. Most of this money is currently passing through the coffers of Konvers Bank, and MDM is seeking to take control of that institution. But Alfa Bank's owner, Mikhail Fridman, is using his ties to the Kremlin to seek to displace both MDM and Konvers from access to the ministry's revenues. VY

ENTERPRISES WARNED AGAINST AVOIDING TAXES BY DECLARING FALSE EXPORT FIGURES

Petr Latyshev, the presidential envoy to the Urals federal district, on 26 June noted that many enterprises in Sverdlovsk Oblast continue to use the widespread practice of declaring that part of their production has been exported as a way of reducing their tax burden, Interfax-Eurasia reported. He said that more than 150 criminal cases concerning such abuses have been opened in that oblast alone. PG

MOSCOW MAY EXTEND IMPORT QUOTAS TO OTHER FOODSTUFFS

Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev said in an interview published in "Vedomosti" on 26 June that he believes that the system of quotas on the import of sugar should be extended to cover rice, chicken meat, and possibly other goods. But he said that such an extension would require modification of existing legislation. PG

MEDIA SAID A BUSINESS LIKE ANY OTHER

Aleksandr Lyubimov, the president of the Media Union, told an international conference on "Information Challenges of the XXIst Century" that Russian mass media have become a business and that struggles over them are like struggles over any other business, Interfax reported. PG

KOKH, VYAKHIREV, AND REZNIK WITHDRAW FROM EKHO MOSKVY BOARD

In a move they said was "an act of solidarity" with the journalists of Ekho Moskvy, Alfred Kokh, Rem Vyakhirev, and Aleksandr Reznik, all of whom have been associated with Gazprom or Gazprom-Media, announced their intention to withdraw from the directors council of the radio station, Russian agencies reported on 26 June. But Aleksei Venediktov, the editor in chief of the station, expressed his doubts that their proclaimed motive is in fact the real one, Interfax reported the same day. After all, Venediktov said, all three participated in voting against all candidates put forward by the journalists working at the station. PG

RUSSIA'S ROMA GET FIRST NEWSPAPER

The first issue of a Roma newspaper in Russia has been published in Samara, the unofficial capital of the country's Romany population, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 June. Called "Romani Duma" ("Council of the Gypsies"), the paper has a press run of 20,000 copies. At the time of the last Soviet census in 1989, the Roma population of the USSR was 261,956. PG

WORKPLACE INJURIES DECLINE

There were 150,000 cases of workplace trauma in Russia during 2000, 30,000 fewer than the year before, Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok told a Moscow meeting devoted to cutting the number of such accidents, Interfax reported on 26 June. Pochinok said that major firms are increasingly taking the steps necessary to reduce these accidents, and he said he hopes that a program worked out by his ministry will result in a 40-50 percent reduction in such incidents by 2005. PG

ONLY NINE OF RUSSIA'S REGIONS HAVE INCOMES ABOVE RUSSIAN AVERAGE

High incomes remain concentrated in only a few regions, Interfax reported on 26 June. Muscovites have an income 3.3 times the average of Russians in other regions, the news service said, and only eight other regions exceed the average. At the other end of the scale, the residents of Ingushetia and the Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous District have average incomes of approximately one-quarter of the Russian average. PG

EVERY THIRD RUSSIAN CRIME LINKED TO DRUGS

Georgii Potavchenko, the presidential envoy to the Central federal district, told a conference on drugs in Moscow that every third crime in Russia is linked one way or another to drug trafficking, Interfax reported. He said that drug use has become so widespread that today "there does not remain a single settlement where narcotics are not being used." Meanwhile, Russian customs officials said that heroin is the drug most often seized at the country's borders, the news service said. PG

RUSSIAN YOUTH SAID INCREASINGLY TROUBLED

More than 70 percent of Russian young people currently suffer from chronic illnesses, 30 percent are unemployed, 30 percent have decided not to have children, and 30 percent are prepared to violate the law for money, Russian scholars and youth activists told Interfax on 26 June. Because these problems are so severe and because no single government or social agency is capable of addressing them all, Olga Nedelina, the president of the Agency of Social Security, called for the creation of a council of experts on youth affairs to consider what should be done, the news service reported. PG

SOVIET STATUE TO WORKERS, PEASANTS TO BE RESTORED

The Moscow city government has decided to restore one of the symbols of Soviet power -- the monument to the worker and collective farm woman created by sculptor Vera Mukhina in 1937, Interfax reported on 26 June. The 36-meter statue is to become part of a trade center, the news service said. PG

BEREZOVSKY IN WORDS AND ON FILM

American journalist Paul Klebnikov told "Versiya," No. 25, that the 10,000 copies of the Russian-language edition of his biography of Berezovsky sold out instantly. Klebnikov said he focused on Berezovsky because he believes the oligarch embodies his times. Meanwhile, filmmaker Petr Lungin told RIA-Novosti on the same day that he plans to do a film on Berezovsky, one that will allow viewers to look into the oligarch's "soul." VY

KASYANOV PROMISES THAT EES WILL STOP TURNING OFF SUPPLIES TO DEADBEAT CUSTOMERS...

Following a meeting devoted to the energy supplies in the Far East and Transbaikal region in Vladivostok on 26 June, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told reporters that the situation with regard to fuel supplies in the Far East is "not completely normal," Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to Kasyanov, the rate of growth of reserves for this winter is lower than in April, when the cabinet discussed the problem. The problem lies with insufficient financing and poor organization of deliveries caused by the long-term indebtedness of certain customers. However, Kasyanov pledged that Unified Energy Systems (EES) will not turn off electricity to customers with old unpaid debts. JAC

...AND RAISES THE PROSPECT OF DECLARING EMERGENCY RULE IN FAR EAST

Kasyanov also addressed more specifically the problem of Primorskii Krai and suggested the reason for the unsatisfactory economic situation in the region is the ineffective use of financial resources. Kasyanov added that he hoped that the federal center will not have to use the Law on Emergency Situations this winter. Before the recent gubernatorial elections, local legislators in the krai claimed that deputy presidential administration head Vladislav Surkov threatened that the Kremlin would impose external rule in the region if the candidacy of the first deputy presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, Gennadii Apanasenko, was not supported (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 9 May 2001). JAC

SIBERIAN LEGISLATORS FAIL TO REJECT LAND CODE

Legislators in Krasnoyarsk Krai voted not to confirm a resolution calling for the State Duma to reject the Land Code in its second reading, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 26 June. The resolution, which had been initiated by a member of the Communist Party, needed 22 votes to pass but attracted only 20. The initiators of the resolution expressed their dissatisfaction with Article 5 of the Land Code, which they say allows the sale of land to foreigners. In an earlier vote, legislators in Chita Oblast passed a similar resolution. Under Russian law, if one-third of local legislators vote to recommend that the Duma reject a bill, the legislation must be sent to a conciliatory commission (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 27 June 2001). JAC

FAR EASTERN PENSIONERS WORK THROUGH RETIREMENT

Statistics from Khabarovsk's city administration show a steady growth in the number of older residents in the city, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 26 June, citing the administration's press service. According to the city's data, some 9.1 percent of the city's population is over 65 years of age. And in the last five years, the number of pensioners in Khabarovsk has grown by 6 percent. The pensioners receive some 219 different types of pensions, and one-fourth of those receiving government subsidies still need to work in order to survive. Earlier in the year, "Nezavisimaya gazeta-politekonomiya" reported that one out of nine retirees in Rostov Oblast still work, while more than one-fifth of pensioners live in poverty (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 3 May 2001). JAC

RUSSIAN TROOPS IN CHECHNYA LAUNCH NEW OPERATION...

Russian troops backed by artillery and combat helicopters began an operation on 25 June to wipe out a group of some 100 Chechen fighters in the Sharo-Argun gorge in southern Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. The commander of that force has not been identified. Also on 26 June, one of the wives of slain field commander Arbi Baraev formally identified his body. LF

...AS KREMLIN AGAIN RULES OUT TALKS WITH MASKHADOV

Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 26 June reiterated in Moscow that talks with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov would be "senseless," Russian agencies reported. A group of 37 Chechen displaced persons now in a refugee camp in Ingushetia, including five children, are on a hunger strike to demand such talks on ending the war, having held demonstrations last month to focus attention on their demands (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2001). Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev told Interfax on 26 June that he considers the hunger-strikers' demands "fully justified," pointing out that there are at present no guarantees of their security if they return to Chechnya before the hostilities end. LF




ARMENIAN POLITICIAN ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

"Democratic Homeland" party Chairman Petros Makeyan escaped injury when an unidentified gunman opened fire on his home in the village of Panik late on 25 June, Noyan Tapan reported. Makeyan had earlier received death threats. LF

ARMENIAN INTERNET ACCESS THREATENED BY PLANNED INCREASE IN TELEPHONE CHARGES

The chief manager of Arminco, one of Armenia's primary Internet providers, warned on 26 June that plans by the ArmenTel telecommunications monopoly to extend to Internet users its planned new per-minute tariffs could cut Internet use in Armenia by 90 percent, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Armenian government and the Greek-owned ArmenTel formed a joint commission last week to try to work out a new compromise pricing policy to replace ArmenTel's planned increases. LF

AZERBAIJAN REAFFIRMS INTENTION TO SEEK EU MEMBERSHIP

Speaking in Baku on 26 June on the sidelines of the annual session of the Azerbaijan-EU Cooperation Committee, Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov said that accession to the EU remains one of his country's long-term goals, Turan reported. His fellow deputy foreign minister, Mahmud Mamedquliev, similarly told Turan that "Azerbaijan attaches strong importance to rapprochement with the European Union. I believe that Azerbaijan must become a full-fledged member of this structure in future." In order to achieve that aim, Mamedquliev advocated creating a special center to bring Azerbaijan's legislation into line with that of EU member states. But Cornelius Wittebrod, who heads the European Commission's Caucasus and Central Asian Department, was quoted by Turan on 27 June as saying that the EU is not satisfied with the pace of democratic reforms in Azerbaijan. LF

AZERBAIJAN RAISES MILITARY SALARIES

Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev on 25 June issued a decree increasing by 50 percent the salaries of military personnel, Turan reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI MINORITY IN GEORGIA PROTESTS POLICE BRUTALITY

Some 300 Azerbaijanis staged a protest on 25 June in the southern Georgian town of Bolnisi after local police beat up one Greek and two Azerbaijani men arrested two days earlier on charges of theft, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported on 26 June. The three men were subsequently hospitalized. At a meeting with the protesters later on 25 June, local officials pledged to open criminal proceedings against the police officers involved. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION OF INSURGENTS' DEATHS

Vakhtang Bochorishvili, the leader of the opposition 21st Century parliament faction, on 26 June appealed to the Prosecutor-General's Office to open a formal investigation into the July 2000 shootings of rebel Colonel Akaki Eliava and his lieutenant Gocha Gvilava, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 10 July 2000). Bochorishvili claimed that the two men were chained before being shot in cold blood. Eliava's supporters in western Georgia blocked highways earlier this month to demand his posthumous rehabilitation, while Gvilava's father has threatened to exhume his son's body if three further supporters of Eliava who have been detained under investigation for the past year are not released (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2001). LF

RADIOACTIVE CONTAINERS FOUND ON RUSSIAN MILITARY BASE IN GEORGIA

Two containers with cesium-137 were discovered at the Vaziani military base near Tbilisi on 26 June, Caucasus Press reported. Russian troops are in the process of withdrawing from that facility. Several Georgian border guards are still undergoing treatment for radiation sickness after being exposed to similar radiation sources at a former Russian military base at Lilo on Georgia in 1997. LF

KAZAKHSTAN SEEKS INVESTMENT FOR FORMER CAPITAL

The Kazakh cabinet on 25 June reviewed draft programs to attract investment and develop the infrastructure of Almaty, the country's former capital, with the aim of promoting it as a major financial center, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported the following day. Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev said Almaty "should become Central Asia's Singapore." LF

KAZAKHSTAN TIGHTENS CONTROLS ON BORDERS WITH KYRGYZSTAN, UZBEKISTAN

Border guard official Utezhan Borangaziev told Interfax on 26 June that Kazakhstan is tightening controls on its borders with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to prevent illegal migrants from Afghanistan and Tajikistan from entering Kazakhstan via Kyrgyzstan. LF

POLICE DISPERSE PROTEST DEMO IN KYRGYZSTAN

Police forcibly broke up a demonstration by some 100 people outside the parliament building in Bishkek on 26 June to demand the annulment of border agreements under which Kyrgyzstan cedes some 125,000 hectares of territory to China, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6, 14, 20 and 22 June 2001). Police warned the protesters they could face criminal charges for participating in an unsanctioned demonstration. Meanwhile, a group of deputies to the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of the Kyrgyz parliament) announced on 26 June they will boycott further sessions until the assembly formally demands the annulment of the accords. LF

NEWSPAPER EDITOR SUES KYRGYZSTAN'S JUSTICE MINISTRY

Aleksandr Kim, the editor in chief of the newly founded newspaper "My Capital City" told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 26 June that he has brought a lawsuit against the Justice Ministry after it annulled the 11 June registration of that paper nine days later. The ministry registered 16 new media outlets between early April and mid-June, but then annulled the registration in every case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22, 25 and 26 June 2001). Kim resigned as editor of "Vechernii Bishkek," one of Kyrgyzstan's most popular publications, after the paper was taken over in 1999 by pro-government businessmen. LF

PROMINENT KYRGYZ FILMMAKER APPEALS FOR POLITICAL ASYLUM IN RUSSIA

Legislative Assembly deputy Dooronbek Sadyrbaev told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 26 June that he has been promised housing and employment in Russia after appealing one month ago for political asylum in that country. Sadyrbaev said the Kyrgyz authorities seek to restrict both his political and artistic activities. LF

UN WARNS TAJIK AUTHORITIES AGAINST OVERKILL

In a statement released on 26 June, the UN mission in Dushanbe expressed the hope that the ongoing operation by Tajik Interior Ministry forces' former opposition field commanders Rakhmon Sanginov and Mansur Muakkalov and their supporters is being conducted in accordance with international humanitarian rules, AP reported. To date, some 36 opposition fighters and at least four (possibly as many as nine) policemen have been killed in fighting that has lasted five days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 June 2001). The UN further appealed to both the Tajik government and the opposition to cooperate to ensure that the fighting does not undermine the fragile peace. But in an address to mark the fourth anniversary of the signing in Moscow of the peace accord that ended the civil war, President Imomali Rakhmonov condemned Sanginov and his men as "criminals" and vowed that "there will be no mercy for those who go against the peace-building process and national interests," Interfax reported on 26 June. LF

NEW TURKMEN DEFENSE MINISTER NAMED

President Saparmurat Niyazov has appointed Gurbanberdy Begendzhov, the former head of military counterintelligence, as defense minister, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 June. Former Defense Minister Batyr Sardjaev, a civilian who held that post for two years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1999) was named to head the country's railways, whose chief was killed by a train in Ashgabat last week. LF

TURKMENISTAN SAYS AZERBAIJAN DOES NOT WANT 'FAIR' DIVISION OF CASPIAN

An unnamed Turkmen Oil and Gas Industry official told Interfax on 26 June that Baku has not yet responded to Ashgabat's proposal last month to invite international experts to define the median line between the two countries' respective sectors of the Caspian Sea. The official accused Azerbaijan of having no interest in a "fair" division of the sea, and of postponing any move to resolve the disagreement for the past five years in order to unilaterally develop oil deposits to which it has no legal claim. LF




BELARUS'S GROUP OF FIVE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES TO BECOME SIX?

Alyaksandr Yarashuk, head of the Belarusian Union of Agro-Industrial Workers, announced on 26 June that he wants to join the group of five presidential candidates supported by the Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces, Belapan reported. Yarashuk said he wants to cooperate with Mikhail Chyhir, Syamyon Domash, Uladzimir Hancharyk, Syarhey Kalyakin, and Pavel Kazlouski, adding that without fielding a single democratic candidate it is impossible to beat President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the upcoming presidential elections. Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission on 26 June made public the rules for collecting signatures in support of aspirants seeking to register as presidential candidates, five days after the collection of signatures actually began, Interfax reported. The Charter-97 website reported on 27 June that in Vitsebsk Oblast signatures for Lukashenka are being collected by local administration officials and managers of state plants, in contravention of the electoral code. JM

LUKASHENKA DECREES INCOME DECLARATIONS FOR PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS, FAMILIES

The Belarusian president has issued a decree obliging all presidential candidates and their "close relatives" to make declarations of their incomes and property they possess, Interfax reported on 26 June. Presidential candidates cannot be registered for the elections if they do not provide such declarations to the Central Election Commission. The notion "close relatives" includes candidates' spouses, brothers and sisters, children, grandchildren, parents, and grandparents. The commission may refuse registering a candidate if the declarations supplied by him/her and his/her close relatives include misstatements "of an essential character." JM

WIFE OF LUKASHENKA'S FORMER AIDE MAKES APPEAL OVER ALLEGED THREAT TO HER FAMILY

Halina Tsitsyankova, the wife of former Presidential Administrative Department head Ivan Tsitsyankou, has sent an open letter to "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta," alleging that President Lukashenka ordered Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman to take revenge on Tsitsyankou by persecuting his family, the Charter-97 website reported. Tsitsyankou, who was fired at the end of 1999, recently gave an interview criticizing Lukashenka. Last week, Lukashenka suggested that Tsitsyankou and former Prosecutor-General Aleh Bazhelka are staying outside Belarus because of their participation in a shady deal involving $42 million. Halina Tsitsyankova fears that her children may be kidnapped or imprisoned "for using drugs or stealing spare parts," and appeals to Lukashenka to cancel his "inhuman order." In what is widely seen in Belarus as an act of political revenge, a son of former Premier Mikhail Chyhir has been imprisoned on charges of stealing spare parts for motor vehicles. JM

POPE BEATIFIES UKRAINE'S SOVIET-ERA MARTYRS BEFORE OVER 1 MILLION FAITHFUL...

Pope John Paul II on 26 June beatified 27 Ukrainian Greek Catholics (Uniates), most of whom were killed by Soviet secret police, world agencies reported. The beatification took place at a hippodrome near Lviv before a crowd of over 1 million people. In his homily during an Eastern-rite mass, the pope called for unity between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. "During the last centuries, too many stereotypic ways of thinking, too much mutual resentment, and too much intolerance have accumulated. The only way to clear the path is to forget the past, ask forgiveness of one another, and forgive one another for the wounds inflicted and received," AP quoted the pontiff as saying. JM

...URGES YOUNG UKRAINIANS TO BUILD PROSPEROUS NATION

The previous day, speaking to some 300,000 young people in Lviv, the pope urged them not to "go from the slavery of the communist regime to the slavery of consumerism." He also touched upon the problem of emigration, stressing that young people must not be attracted by illusions of an "easy life" abroad. "You are needed here, ready to make your contribution to improving the social, cultural, economic, and political situation of your own country," Reuters quoted the pope as saying. The meeting took place under a torrential rain, and the pope interrupted his address by singing a Polish folk song "Rain, rain, go away" and joking, "It's raining, so children will grow." JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER URGES EU TO AVOID NEW DIVISIONS

Anatoliy Kinakh on 26 June urged the EU to avoid creating new economic barriers when it spreads into ex-communist CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE, Reuters reported. "EU enlargement should not create artificial problems as regards economic integration toward the east and movement of people. I suggest that we should simplify visa regimes, that we look for better solutions so that integration does not suffer because of EU enlargement," Kinakh told journalists after talks with senior EU officials in Luxembourg. Kinakh also said the EU will provide Ukraine with funds to create a modern infrastructure along its eastern borders, including the training of customs and border troops officers. JM

ESTONIAN CENTRAL BANK WARNS AGAINST ECONOMIC OPTIMISM

Bank of Estonia Vice President Marten Ross noted on 26 June that the bank's quarterly financial policy review reduced the annual GDP growth estimate for Estonia to 4.5-5.3 percent from the 5-6 percent growth rate forecast in April, ETA reported the next day. He warned entrepreneurs, consumers, and investors against excessive optimism in business since the deterioration of the world economic environment is likely to have a negative influence on Estonia's exports, which are highly dependent on the situation in the euro-zone. The head of the bank's economic policy unit, Andres Saarniit, pointed out that the unexpectedly high inflation rate is a matter of concern and that continuing wage increases may result in a serious setback for enterprises should the foreign business climate continue to deteriorate. SG.

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT RAISES PLANNED BUDGET DEFICIT

In an emergency meeting on 26 June, the parliament passed a number of laws primarily dealing with financial matters, BNS reported. By increasing expenditures over revenues by 10.6 million lats ($16.5 million) the planned budget deficit was increased to 89.8 million lats, or 1.82 percent of GDP. The parliament also supported extending state guarantees for 23.2 million lats to the Latvian Mortgage and Land Bank for its planned lending program for housing development and for small- and medium-sized businesses. It approved a state guarantee for 4.3 million lats to the Jaunpagasts Plus company for constructing a bioethanol plant. Amendments were adopted to the Commercial Law, which delay its implementation until 1 January 2002. The People's Party, which objects to the law, had earlier succeeded in postponing the introduction of the law from the originally approved 1 January 2001 to 1 April and then to 1 July. SG

LEFTIST LITHUANIAN PARTIES APPROVE JOINT WORK AGREEMENT

Four days of negotiations between the Social Democratic Party (LSDP) and the New Union (Social Liberals) on their cooperation in the parliament were completed on 26 June with the initialing of a joint work agreement by parliament faction heads Vytenis Andriukaitis and Alvydas Ramanauskas, ELTA reported. Later, the LSDP Council by a vote of 156 in favor with one abstention, approved the agreement as did the Council of the New Union by a vote of 45 to two, with two abstentions. The agreement stipulates that LSDP Chairman Algirdas Brazauskas is their nominee for prime minister and New Union Chairman Arturas Paulauskas will remain parliament chairman, although the remainder of the parliament leadership will probably be changed. The agreement does not mention how many ministers each party will select, but it is likely that the number chosen by the New Union will be lower than in its previous coalition with the Liberal Union. SG

POLISH PREMIER UNVEILS ELECTION CAMPAIGN GUIDELINE

Jerzy Buzek on 26 June spoke about main tenets of the parliamentary election campaign of the Solidarity Electoral Action of the Right (AWSP) during an AWSP regional convention in Gdansk. Buzek said the AWSP has to remember its Solidarity tradition, but stressed that it should not concentrate on its historical achievements in the campaign. "Enough martyrology! Historical memory -- yes, but people don't want to be with us only because we won freedom for them," Polish Radio quoted Buzek as saying. JM

POLISH SECURITY SERVICE OFFICIAL ARRESTED FOR CORRUPTION

Poland's Central Bureau of Investigation has detained the deputy head of the Katowice branch of the State Protection Office (UOP) on charges of collaboration with criminals, PAP reported on 26 June. "This is a great surprise for us. A great deal of significant [crimes] have been uncovered thanks to the personal commitment of the deputy head of the Katowice branch of the UOP," UOP spokeswoman Magdalena Kluczynska commented to the agency. JM

AUSTRIAN FAR RIGHT MIGHT LAUNCH PETITION AGAINST CZECH EU ACCESSION

The far-right Austrian Freedom Party on 26 June announced that it will launch a petition for holding a referendum against Czech accession to the EU if the Temelin nuclear power plant is put into operation, dpa reported. Under current legislation, if 100,000 signatures are collected in favor of the plebiscite, the parliament must hold a debate on the issue, although the petition would be regarded as "advisory" and not binding on the legislature. The Freedom Party said 83 percent of Austrians want Vienna to veto Prague's accession if Temelin becomes operational. Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, whose junior coalition partner is the Freedom Party, said in reaction that "we are not gambling with vetoes but trying to find a solution" to the controversial power plant, CTK reported. Schuessel said "vetoes will not make Temelin safer." MS

OPPONENTS TRY TO BLOCK PUBLIC HEARING ON TEMELIN

Temelin opponents tried to block the entrance to a hall in Vienna's Hofburg Palace, where a public hearing on the environmental impact of the controversial plant was held on 26 June, CTK reported. The protestors were carried away by police. Later, the opponents whistled and inflated balloons with the inscription "Stop Temelin" during the hearings, which had to be interrupted several times. Participants said after the hearings that they were satisfactory, although experts representing the sides continue to disagree. MS

KLAUS REFUSES TO MEET SPIDLA OVER CZECH BUDGET DEFICIT

Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman and Chamber of Deputies Speaker Vaclav Klaus on 26 June canceled a scheduled meeting with Vladimir Spidla, the chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party and a deputy premier in the cabinet headed by Milos Zeman, CTK reported. They were to discuss the 2002 budget, which the government cannot pass without ODS support. Klaus wrote to Spidla that the "clear and unbending position" Spidla took during their recent televised clash over the budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2001) "leaves practically no room for discussion." Klaus said he is not refusing to meet Spidla, but that experts representing the two partners in the so-called "opposition agreement" should first "define the basic terms" for an agreement. MS

CZECH LOWER HOUSE OVERRIDES PRESIDENTIAL VETO OF MEDIA LAW

The Chamber of Deputies on 26 June overrode President Vaclav Havel's veto of a new media law passed by the chamber in April, CTK and AP reported. Under the law, licenses of private television broadcasters will be automatically extended for 12 years and those of radio broadcasters for eight years, provided that they have not violated regulations. Only one extension will be permitted per license-holder. Havel had argued that the law would hamper free competition in radio and television broadcasting, since it favors current broadcasters over new broadcasters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2001). The law was passed with a larger majority (135 out of the 176 deputies present) than in April, when it was supported by 128 lawmakers. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek hinted that Havel may appeal to the Constitutional Court. MS

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES SHADOWING FORMER CABINET MEMBER

Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik on 26 June told journalists that the ministry he heads was never involved in attempts to shadow former Minister Jaroslav Basta, CTK reported. A report published in the tabloid "Super" the previous day said the military intelligence service had tried to collect information on Basta, who was responsible in the government for the secret services. Basta is currently ambassador to Moscow. The tabloid wrote that the orders for shadowing Basta and collecting information on him had been issued by the former commander of military intelligence, Frantisek Stepanek, who is currently the Czech army's liaison officer to NATO. Tvrdik said that at his own request Stepanek canceled a trip to NATO headquarters in Brussels to be available should members of the Chamber of Deputies' Intelligence Committee want to question him. Tvrdik also said he has set up a team to investigate the affair. MS

EU WORRIED ABOUT RETURN OF SLOVAK 'OLD FORCES'

The EU on 26 June praised Slovakia's progress in membership negotiations but said it is concerned about a possible political comeback of "old forces" in the country, Reuters and CTK reported. Speaking after a meeting of the EU-Slovak association council in Luxembourg, EU commissioner for enlargement Guenter Verheugen said: "I feel it is important to repeat that for Slovakia, for reasons connected with its recent past...democratic stability is the most important factor." In an obvious allusion to former Premier Vladimir Meciar, Verheugen said: "The fact is that old forces are still around and still have some support...We want to tell the people in Slovakia there is no reasonable alternative to the principled direction the country took [after Meciar's fall]." Asked if Slovakia's membership bid might suffer if the "old forces" return, Verheugen replied "Yes." MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT WILL NOT DROP DEFAMATION CHARGES AGAINST JOURNALIST

Rudolf Schuster does not intend to withdraw defamation charges against journalist Ales Kratky and his office denies having received a letter from the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) criticizing the lawsuit, AP reported on 26 June, citing presidential aide Jan Bilek. Earlier this month, the presidential office filed charges against Kratky for comments he made in the daily "Novy Cas" after Schuster's State of the Nation speech in the parliament in May. In his comments, Kratky said he doubts Schuster has "the mental capacity to lead the country." In a letter to Schuster, the IPI called on him to withdraw the lawsuit, according to the institute. MS

EU COMMISSIONER ON HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW

EU commissioner for enlargement Verheugen on 26 June told journalists in Luxembourg that the EU is still examining the details of the recently passed Status Law, but that its provisions as formulated by the Hungarian parliament do not contradict those of the EU's association agreement. He explained that the Status Law contains a provision voiding the law's applicability to ethnic Hungarians who are citizens of EU countries. It thus does not infringe on the EU association agreement, which prohibits granting "inadmissible advantages" to any group of EU citizens after accession. Verheugen also said the EU has called on the Hungarian government to continue intensive consultations with Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia regarding the law. Those countries are not EU members and the Status Law will apply to ethnic Hungarians there. Verheugen made the comments following a meeting of the EU-Slovak association council, CTK and Reuters reported. MS




NEW EU ENVOY URGES MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT TO TALK TO GUERRILLAS

In an apparent change in publicly stated Western policy about the Macedonian crisis, Francois Leotard, the EU's new permanent representative in Macedonia, said in Paris on 27 June that Skopje should talk to representatives of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK), dpa reported. He argued that the government "should talk with the guerrillas [and] with the leaders of the Albanian [political parties] in their country to arrive at a consensus and to bring about peace." The government has repeatedly refused to talk to the insurgents, whom it calls "terrorists." In May, Skopje disassociated itself from an agreement negotiated by OSCE representative Ambassador Robert Frowick that involved the UCK (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2001). NATO Secretary-General George Robertson has also argued that "there is no place at a negotiating table for those who prefer bullets to ballots." But German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has often recalled his maxim that "you don't make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies." PM

MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT SENDS JETS AGAINST GUERRILLAS

For the first time, the Macedonian military sent jet aircraft into unspecified action against the UCK near Tetovo, dpa reported on 27 June. It is not clear exactly what the modern Russian-built Sukhoi aircraft are doing against the insurgents. Fighting also continued in the Kumanovo region. The UCK has pledged to launch a terrorist campaign in selected cities when the current cease-fire expires later on 27 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2001). Reuters reported on 27 June that the Macedonian military has begun to shell the UCK-held village of Nikustak near Aracinovo. PM

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT CALMS SLAVS

One day after a Macedonian crowd stormed the parliament building chanting slogans such as "Albanians to the gas chambers," President Boris Trajkovski told a television audience that he saved the lives of Macedonian soldiers by recently agreeing to NATO's evacuation of UCK fighters from Aracinovo, RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2001). He stressed that "history will remember that, faced with evil, the citizens of Macedonia demonstrated patience and diplomacy, choosing the path of peace." Trajkovski added that "the shooting at the parliament building [by the mob] could have easily thrown us into civil war." He said that he will not play into the hands of those who want to "wreck the country," arguing that everyone would lose in a civil war. The BBC reported on 27 June that the streets of Skopje were calm, adding that members of the Slav majority appeared reassured by Trajkovski's speech and by television footage showing that Macedonian police had indeed returned to Aracinovo. PM

MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN LEADER PESSIMISTIC ABOUT PEACEFUL CHANGE

Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister Xhevdet Nasufi, who belongs to the Democratic Party of Albanians (PDSH), told RFE/RL's Albanian Unit on 26 June that he does not see much willingness to compromise on the part of the Slavic Macedonian politicians. He said: "Unfortunately, after this last meeting [on 25 June], you cannot see any concrete or clear readiness on the Macedonian side to make a move forward on reform within the political system and which would result in advancing the status of Albanians in Macedonia." PM

BRITAIN, U.S., GERMANY ADVISE AGAINST TRAVEL TO MACEDONIA

The Foreign Office has urged all British nationals not on urgent business to leave Macedonia, the BBC reported on 26 June. The U.S. State Department issued a similar warning to its citizens against travel to that country, VOA reported. The State Department has also begun evacuating some embassy staff from Skopje. It said in a statement that "amid a climate of rising antiforeigner sentiment, there has been an increase in acts of intimidation and violence against American citizens in Macedonia." In London, "The Guardian" reported on 27 June that Leotard and British Foreign Secretary have postponed visits to Skopje until the xenophobic sentiment abates. Meanwhile, the German government has warned its citizens not to travel to Macedonia. PM

GROWING ANTI-WESTERN SENTIMENT AMONG MACEDONIAN SLAVS

The view seems to have taken hold among many of Macedonia's Slavic majority that Trajkovski's recent agreement with NATO to evacuate guerrillas from Aracinovo amounted to an effort by the Atlantic alliance to save the insurgents and deny a victory to Macedonian forces, Deutsche Welle and "The Independent" reported on 27 June (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 June 2001). One man in Skopje told the London-based daily: "NATO is holding back our army. If they allowed us [to do so], we could kill all the terrorists in two days." One Macedonian soldier told a Deutsche Welle correspondent: "They're selling the country out to the Shiptars [ed.: a pejorative term for Albanians] and nobody is doing anything about it. And you [Westerners], don't hold us back." Another soldier, referring to the guerrillas, added: "Those are not people, those are animals...criminals...[and] drug dealers." Elsewhere, Vienna's "Die Presse" ran a photo of an angry crowd of Macedonians tearing up a NATO flag. PM

BADINTER TO ASSIST PEACE TALKS IN MACEDONIA

The former French justice minister and expert in constitutional law, Robert Badinter, is due in Macedonia on 27 June at Trajkovski's invitation , the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" reported the previous day. The daily quoted Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski as saying that Badinter's "task will be to facilitate the talks rather than to act as a middleman in them. Badinter was proposed by the Macedonian side, because at the time [when Macedonia became independent in 1991], he gave excellent professional comments on the Macedonian Constitution, and this is exactly why we want this renowned expert and judge for constitutional law in Europe [to come to Macedonia]." UB

MACEDONIAN CENSUS DELAYED AGAIN

According to local experts, it is very unlikely that the population count will be held during the scheduled period of 1 to 15 October this year, "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 26 June (see also "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 April 2001). The delay is due to a number of technical problems involved in setting up tabulation districts and a regional census commission. The coordination between the various institutions involved in the tabulation process is reportedly also very bad. An additional and perhaps decisive problem is the fact that there are currently some 80,000 internally displaced persons in Macedonia. The Skopje daily "Dnevnik" on 27 June put the number of internally displaced persons at about 35,000, while some 65,000 persons, mostly ethnic Albanians, have left Macedonia for Kosova. In Prishtina, Red Cross officials said on 27 June that Kosova is now the temporary home of 71,500 arrivals from Macedonia, Hina reported. UB

RUGOVA: KOSOVA DOES NOT NEED SERBIA'S OK FOR INDEPENDENCE

Moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova, whose party emerged as the biggest vote-getter in last fall's local elections, told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 27 June that Kosova does not need Belgrade's approval to obtain independence. He argued that Kosova is already independent from Serbia in practice. Rugova seconded the arguments of many Western experts that ever greater instability will result the longer the international community delays determining Kosova's future, by which he means independence. Turning to Macedonian issues, Rugova said that it will be bad for Kosova if the U.S. and EU do not bring about a settlement there soon. He blamed the Skopje government for the current crisis, arguing that it had 10 years to act on the Albanians' demands for constitutional change but did nothing. He declined to answer a question as to whether extremists have gained the upper hand in the Skopje government. PM

U.S. STILL UNDECIDED ON SERBIAN DONORS CONFERENCE

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington on 26 June that the U.S. appreciates Belgrade's recent moves aimed at cooperating with The Hague but has not decided whether to attend the EU's donors conference for Serbia scheduled for 29 June, RFE/RL reported (see "End Note" below and "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2001). Boucher added: "We are encouraged by these positive developments as we consider participating in Friday's donors conference. A recommendation on participation has not yet reached [Secretary of State Colin Powell's] desk, but obviously these steps [by Belgrade] will weigh heavily on our decision on attendance." PM

MILOSEVIC BACKERS: HIS TRIAL IS THAT OF ALL SERBS

Some 10,000 supporters of former President Slobodan Milosevic demonstrated for his release from prison in central Belgrade on 26 June, AP reported. Branislav Ivkovic, a top official of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, said that the current authorities "want to extradite the defenders of this country... Once a Serb is put on trial, the whole of Serbia will stand accused. The decision [to permit extradition] is unconstitutional and it is a disgrace to all of Serbia" (see "End Note," below). PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT GIVES GRUDGING RECOGNITION OF HAGUE TRIBUNAL

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica told a Belgrade news conference on 26 June that The Hague tribunal is a "reality" that Serbia must accept, RFE/RL reported. "One comes to something that is political reality, and the political reality actually is The Hague tribunal, its existence, and the necessity of cooperation with it." He added that "one way or another, all those political and legal dilemmas [surrounding Milosevic's case] go together or go away together and [lead] to the acceptance of that decree [on extradition of Yugoslav citizens] and the necessity of cooperation with The Hague tribunal, at least as the lesser evil." Kostunica regards the tribunal as an anti-Serbian instrument of U.S. foreign policy. He has dropped his opposition to cooperating with it in order to qualify for Western development aid. It is not yet clear to what extent Belgrade will actually cooperate with the tribunal. PM

SERBIA TO EXTRADITE 'VUKOVAR THREE'?

Quoting unnamed sources inside the court, the Belgrade daily "Glas javnosti" reported on 27 June that the Yugoslav Justice Ministry has sent to the Belgrade district court a demand for the extradition to The Hague of three former Yugoslav army officers. The three have been indicted for war crimes committed during and after the fall of Vukovar in 1991. Croatia has long regarded the presence of the men in Serbia as an impediment to improved relations between Belgrade and Zagreb. PM

PETRITSCH BLASTS BOSNIAN SERBS OVER WAR CRIMES

High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch said in Sarajevo on 26 June that he finds the Bosnian Serb authorities' failure to cooperate with The Hague-based tribunal "scandalous," Reuters reported. He stressed that their failure to arrest war criminals is "outrageous." He declined to tell the news agency's reporter whether he intends to take any concrete steps to remedy the situation. PM

RED CROSS WARNS OF BOSNIAN MINE DANGERS

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a statement in Geneva on 26 June that the recent heavy rains in north-central Bosnia have led to serious dangers from thousands of land mines washed up to the surface or into rivers, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 June 2001). PM

ONE-THIRD OF BOSNIANS HAVE GONE BACK

Kresimir Zubak, Bosnia's minister for human rights and refugee affairs, said in Sarajevo on 26 June that some 714,000 persons out of 2,200,000 who fled abroad during the 1992-1995 war have gone back to Bosnia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Of those remaining abroad, the largest group -- some 223,000 -- are in Serbia and Montenegro, while an additional 83,000 are in Croatia. PM

WHY THE DELAYS IN SENDING IN ALBANIAN ELECTION RETURNS?

Dpa reported from Tirana on 26 June that the slow pace of submission of returns from the 24 June parliamentary elections is "causing continued uncertainty" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2001). Only five out of 100 electoral districts had filed their returns by the deadline in the evening of 26 June. Final returns were expected at some time on 27 June. PM

ROMANIA MOVES RESOLUTION AGAINST STATUS LAW AT PACE...

The Romanian delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 26 June submitted a draft resolution calling on Hungary to "suspend" the implementation of the Status Law passed by the Hungarian parliament on 19 June, Mediafax reported. The delegation enlisted the support of 26 representatives from France, the U.K., Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Denmark in favor of the draft, which could come to debate at the PACE fall session, if earlier approved by its Judicial Committee. The resolution says the Status Law introduces "discrimination" in neighboring countries between their ethnic Hungarian minorities and the ethnic majorities, violates those countries' territorial integrity by introducing "extraterritoriality" as a principle, and is in contradiction to several European conventions on national minorities. MS

...AND PREMIER COMPLAINS TO EC

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase wrote to European Commission Chairman Romano Prodi saying Romania supports the granting of cultural rights to national minorities to preserve their separate identity, but that granting those minorities special economic and social rights, as the Status Law does, is "a negation of the principle of nondiscrimination." Nastase also said the Status Law establishes a dangerous precedent that could be used by Russia in the Baltic countries or by Serbia in other states of the former Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

CLUJ MAYOR RETALIATES AGAINST HIS DETENTION

Gheorghe Funar, the nationalist mayor of Cluj, on 26 June fined Teodor Pop Puscas, the local police chief who last week ordered the mayor's detention (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001), for allegedly breaching building regulations on property Puscas owns in the town. Funar imposed a fine of 60 million lei (nearly $2,000) on Puscas, Romanian television reported. Puscas said he has launched in response procedures against Funar for the violation of privacy rights and attempts to intimidate him and his family. He is demanding that the mayor be detained and investigated under "preventive arrest." MS

ROMANIAN WORKERS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF RESITA STRIKERS

Several hundred representatives of trade unions in metallurgical companies from different Romanian towns and miners' union representatives from the Jiu valley on 26 June came to Resita to demonstrate solidarity with the hunger strikers there, who are protesting against the local steel company's failure to pay wages and its cessation of production, a local RFE/RL correspondent reported. Romanian radio on 27 June said delegations representing students who wish to display solidarity have arrived in Resita, as the 239 workers (29 of whom are women) began the ninth day of their fast. The government was to discuss on 27 June the situation in Resita and Privatization Authority Minister Ovidiu Musatescu said the previous day that parleys between the cabinet and the U.S. owners of the steel plant are deadlocked and that a possible solution is for the striking workers to accept unemployment benefits. MS

MOLDOVAN AGREEMENT WITH UKRAINE FACES OPPOSITION FROM AFFECTED VILLAGERS

Villagers in Palanca, southern Moldova, are opposed to a provision in a border treaty with Ukraine that would split their village and have staged demonstrations against it, dpa reported on 26 June, citing Interfax. Under an agreement reached by the two countries, Moldova is to give Ukraine a short stretch of the Izmail-Odessa high road that passes through Moldovan territory in exchange for 500 square meters of swamp land that would give Moldova access to the Danube River, where it intends to build an oil terminal. The villagers, most of whose dwellings lie in northern Palanca, say this would split their village and leave them without fields. Their spokesman said that if the treaty is approved "Ukrainian border troops will send us and our cows to the Moldovan parliament to find grass." The two countries' parliaments are to debate the treaty on 28 July. MS

OUTGOING BULGARIAN PREMIER RESIGNS PARTY LEADERSHIP

On 26 June, outgoing Prime Minister Ivan Kostov resigned the chairmanship of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), assuming responsibility for the party's electoral defeat of 17 June, BTA reported. Kostov was replaced by close aide Ekaterina Mihailova, the former SDS parliamentary group leader. That position has now been taken over by Nadezhda Mihailova, the outgoing foreign minister in Kostov's cabinet. The SDS National Council meeting at which Kostov resigned appointed Plamen Ivanov as SDS chief secretary. MS

SIMEON'S MOVEMENT WANTS DUBIOUS DEFENSE DEALS RECONSIDERED

The National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) is insisting that the Defense Ministry reconsider a deal for the modernization of two military airfields up to NATO standards, BTA reported on 26 June. The NDSV said in a statement that NATO accession is among its immediate priorities, and the party commends the outgoing government for the progress made toward that goal. It added, however, that "the frantic efforts of the Defense Ministry to sign contracts for scores of millions of leva at the very end of its term cause serious concern." The NDSV says the tender for the reconstruction of the airports is raising question marks, and major U.S. and British investors decided to withdraw after having consulted the tender's dossier. MS




SERBIA: DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH


By Patrick Moore

The Yugoslav government issued a decree on 23 June to permit the extradition of its citizens. But a long time could still pass before former President Slobodan Milosevic goes to The Hague, if indeed he ever does.

Milosevic's lawyers lodged an appeal with the Yugoslav Constitutional Court in Belgrade on 25 June challenging the legality of the Yugoslav government's decree permitting the extradition of Yugoslav citizens. 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.

The decree was issued after weeks of inconclusive wrangling between the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition and its Montenegrin allies in the Socialist People's Party (SNP), which was formerly part of Milosevic's governing coalition. The SNP refused to withdraw its opposition to the DOS's proposed law to permit extradition. Some observers thought that the seemingly endless discussions reminded them less of real-life drama and more of a well-scripted Kabuki play intended primarily for a foreign audience.

In the end, the government issued the decree in the hope 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. The decree proved necessary because the U.S. in particular did not consider the wrangling over the extradition law to be sufficient progress toward real cooperation with The Hague.

It is not clear if the decree will convince Washington that Belgrade is indeed deserving of support. The NGO Human Rights Watch issued a statement recently in which it called for postponing the conference on the grounds that Serbia's record in cooperating with the tribunal is abysmal. Some observers, moreover, have found it incongruous that President Vojislav Kostunica, who has repeatedly made it clear that he has no love for America and that the U.S. should leave the Balkans, should have gone to Washington recently to ask for money.

In Washington, a State Department spokeswoman told Reuters after Belgrade issued its decree that "no decision has been made with regard to the donors conference, but we welcome any steps that the Yugoslav government takes with regard to cooperation with the international war crimes tribunal."

It still remains to be seen how far Belgrade will go in cooperating with the court. It is clear that at least some of the leadership would dearly like to be rid of Milosevic, especially if extraditing him would lead to a flow of Western money. Polls suggest, moreover, that recent Serbian police revelations about the discovery of mass graves of Milosevic's Kosovar victims have helped turn Serbian public opinion in favor of extradition. It would thus seem politically safe for many Serbian politicians to support sending Milosevic to The Hague.

But others are less likely to jump aboard the bandwagon. Many Serbs agree with Kostunica that the tribunal is an "anti-Serbian instrument of American foreign policy" that must be given only grudging cooperation, if any. Such individuals might not be unhappy to see the court procedures over extradition drag on indefinitely, or even to see the Constitutional Court invalidate the decree -- long after the donors conference is over.

There are bigger issues at stake here than the legal niceties involved in putting one disgraced dictator on a plane bound for the Netherlands. And such larger matters may be the real reason for the foot-dragging in Belgrade. (Croatian President Stipe Mesic has called Kostunica's legal arguments against cooperating with The Hague "words for children.")

If Milosevic goes on trial abroad, substantial issues regarding his rule are sure to get an airing in the international media. Questions will be raised about his role not only in starting and losing four wars but also in the destruction of former Yugoslavia. The international media are likely to examine what kind of Serbian political culture could place a man like that in power and keep him there for well over a decade. The media will also examine a political culture that has failed to break with wartime "heroes" like Radovan Karadzic, General Ratko Mladic, or the late Zeljko Raznatovic, also known as "Arkan."

There may thus be more than just constitutional reasons for Belgrade's Kabuki-like pace in dealing with the issue of war criminals and their extradition. But sooner or later, Serbia will have to reexamine its past and its political culture. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote recently that countries in transition do best when they break with the past sooner rather than later. The daily added that Serbia will serve its own best interests by quickly ridding itself of narcissism and of the view that Serbs are always the victims.


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