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Newsline - June 29, 2001




PUTIN PUSHES FOR NEW BUDGETARY FEDERALISM

Russian President Vladimir Putin told the State Council on 28 June that Russia must have "strict budgetary federalism" in which the fiscal and tax policies of the various levels are clearly delineated, RIA-Novosti reported. He said that Russians should stop dividing regions into those that are donors and those that are subsidized, and instead consider the income and expense needs of regions depending on location, industry, and other factors. As for the sharing of revenue, Putin said that the federal budget should receive all customs duties as well as tax revenues from VAT, gas, fuel, automobiles, and imports, that the federal government and the regions should divide receipts from taxes on alcoholic beverages, and that taxes on gambling should go entirely to the regions. VY

PUTIN SAID TO FAVOR NGO LAW

Nikolai Ryzhkov, the former chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers and now a Duma deputy who also leads the Russian Union of Goods Producers, said that Putin has indicated that he favors adopting a law that would define the interrelationship of the state and nongovernmental organizations, Interfax reported on 28 June. Ryzhkov said that such legislation would essentially change the current situation in which NGOs are totally without rights and protection. PG

KASYANOV HIGHLIGHTS MAJOR ROADBUILDING EFFORT

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 28 June that Russian roads have improved greatly over the last six years, but he noted that even more needs to be done, ITAR-TASS reported. The government plans a roadbuilding program over the next nine years that will cost 2.16 trillion rubles ($70 billion), but will have a positive economic impact of more than 8.4 trillion rubles, Interfax reported. The costs are to be shared by the federal government and the regions. PG

DUMA GIVES PRELIMINARY APPROVAL TO LAW ON JUDGES

By a vote of 289 to eight, with one abstention, the Duma on 28 June approved on first reading a bill that will make it easier to discipline or remove judges and set retirement ages for most of them, Russian and Western agencies reported. The measure remains controversial, with many members of the judicial establishment saying it will open the door to even greater official pressure on judges. PG

A BUSY DAY IN THE DUMA

On 28 June, the Duma also gave final approval by a vote of 375 to none, with one abstention, to a bill that will allow Russia to annex additional territory and expand the size of federation subjects, and adopted by a vote of 268 to 92 an appeal to Belgrade not to turn over former President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague-based war crimes tribunal. The deputies also discussed the Pardons Commission and the worsening plight of displaced persons from Chechnya. They agreed to extend their session to 14 July, Interfax reported. PG

COMMUNISTS LOSE GROUND IN POLLS, MAY PUSH FOR ELECTIONS

According to polls conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 28 June, the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) still leads all other parties, but has seen its plurality fall from 39 percent in April 2001 to 35 percent today. For that reason and because the party has revised its assessment of Putin in a negative way, according to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the same day, the KPRF may push for new parliamentary elections in the fall, Ivan Melnikov, the deputy head of the KPRF Central Committee, told the news agency on 28 June. PG

FATHERLAND'S TRANSFORMATION INTO A PARTY DOES NOT EXCLUDE UNION WITH UNITY

In an interview published in "Obshchaya gazeta" on 28 June, Vyacheslav Volodin, the first deputy leader of the Fatherland-All Russia faction in the Duma, said that Fatherland-All Russia's efforts to become a political party do not mean that it has rejected an alliance with Unity. PG

ANPILOV SAYS LABOR RUSSIA WILL BECOME A PARTY

In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 28 June, Viktor Anpilov, the leader of Labor Russia, said his group will be in a position to register as a political party under the terms of the new Political Parties Law. But he said that Putin may prevent his group's registration because of its opposition to him. "Yeltsin said that Volodya [Putin] is good. And everything that is good for Yeltsin is bad for Labor Russia," Anpilov said. PG

PARTIES OPERATE BEHIND THE SCENES IN SAMARA VOTE

Political organizations stand behind all the ostensibly nonpartisan candidates for the office of mayor of Samara, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 June. Such arrangements could become one of the ways in which some organizations and regional parties might continue to play a political role despite the provisions of the Political Parties Law. PG

CONTROVERSY OVER NUCLEAR WASTES BILL INTENSIFIES

Several deputies, a group of Greenpeace demonstrators in Red Square, and Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev on 28 June called on Putin to veto the Duma-passed measure allowing the importation of spent nuclear fuel, Russian and Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, a group of Russian scientists urged him to sign it. The same day, more Federation Council members expressed anger that the measure had gone to Putin for possible signature without their having had a chance to discuss it. But an article in "Rossiya" on 28 June said that the upper chamber is thus forcing Putin to bear all responsibility for this unpopular measure. PG

FEW COUNTRIES ARE LIKELY TO SEND NUCLEAR WASTES TO RUSSIA

Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev told the Federation Council on 28 June that no country has yet applied to send its spent nuclear fuel for permanent storage in Russia and that only 10 percent of such materials will ever be sent to Russia, Russian news agencies reported. VY

S&P RAISES RUSSIA'S LONG-TERM RATING FROM B- TO B

The international rating agency Standard & Poor's raised Russia's long-term credit rating from B- to B, the highest it has been since before the August 1998 crisis, Interfax-AFI reported. PG

RUSSIA REMAINS AMONG MOST CORRUPT COUNTRIES

According to the annual Transparency International ratings of government corruption, Russia is 79th from the top, being slightly more corrupt that Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and slightly less corrupt than Ukraine and Azerbaijan, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" reported on 28 June that the Russian bureaucracy remains so corrupt that some people are prepared to pay up to $2 million for positions in which they can make far more. And an article in "Novaya gazeta," No. 43, documents corruption among military contractors involved with the Chechen conflict. PG

GOVERNMENT SEEKS MORE LIBERAL VISA REGIME

The government on 28 June approved a draft federal law that would allow Moscow to reciprocate with a non-visa regime whenever another country allows Russians to visit it without visas, Interfax reported. The measure would also allow Moscow to provide visa-free travel to Russia for humanitarian reasons. PG

COSTS OF CONFLICTS IN CIS COUNTRIES ASSESSED

Russian estimates of deaths in conflicts on the territories of CIS countries since 1992 range from 100,000 to 600,000, with other damages being assessed at $15 billion, according to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 28 June. PG

RUSSIAN DELEGATIONS TO PACE SAID POORLY PREPARED

In an interview published in "Novye izvestiya" on 28 June, Chavash President Nikolai Fedorov said that Russia not only lacks a policy regarding the Council of Europe but that its deputies do not know how to act diplomatically and effectively when they attend meetings of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Russian delegates lack both diplomatic and governmental experience, they are replaced too often, and they do not understand that most of the work of PACE takes place not on the floor but in the corridors. Fedorov also said that Russia does not have an opposition but only "a group of dissatisfied people." PG

SECURITY AIDE WANTS TALKS WITH U.S. SOON ON REDUCING STRATEGIC WEAPONS

Former Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, who is an adviser to the president on questions of strategic stability, told Interfax on 28 June that Moscow wants to have talks with Washington in the near future to seek drastic cuts in strategic nuclear weapons. Such reductions are necessary to reduce the threat of proliferation, he said. PG

PUTIN SEEKS CLOSER TIES WITH KYIV

In a message to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on the fifth anniversary of the Ukrainian Constitution, Putin said that he is "confident" that ties between the two countries will "consistently develop further," ITAR-TASS reported on 28 June. Putin said that Kuchma "has done a lot for building a stable and prosperous Ukraine which remains committed to democratic ideals and principles as proclaimed in the constitution." PG

RUSSIA, UKRAINE TO INTEGRATE ELECTRIC GRIDS

Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, and Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleh Dubina have agreed to integrate their two power systems following Kyiv's agreement to a Russian demand that Moscow be allowed to export its electricity via the Ukrainian grid, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 June. VY

MOSCOW TO SEND DISASTER ASSISTANCE TO BAKU, KYIV

The Russian government has provided 9.1 million rubles ($300,000) for earthquake relief in Azerbaijan and 19.1 million rubles for humanitarian assistance to regions of Ukraine that have suffered natural disasters, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 June. PG

BEIJING SEEN TRANSFORMING SHANGHAI SIX INTO CHINESE CIS

According to an article in "Kommersant-Vlast," No. 25, China is "using the Shanghai Forum to subvert the Central Asian states," to drive out Russian influence there, and to create "a kind of Chinese CIS." The supplement said that "the Shanghai Six already looks like an alliance of autocracies, where Russia is the only ill-fitting element. For the time being, at least." PG

OMBUDSMAN OFFERS TO MEDIATE IN CHECHNYA

Oleg Mironov, the Russian human rights ombudsman, on 28 June confirmed his willingness to serve as an intermediary in possible talks between Moscow and Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov, Interfax reported. Kremlin officials have repeatedly said Maskhadov is not an acceptable negotiating partner. At the same time, Mironov said that it is essential that federal forces do not violate the constitutional and human rights of residents of Chechnya, regardless of their place of residence or nationality, the news service added. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS TO CONTROL ILLEGAL RESIDENTS

Moscow Deputy Mayor Valerii Shantsev said that there are an estimated 600,000-800,000 illegal residents in the Russian capital and that the authorities are trying to reduce that number by cooperating with federal authorities and setting up an experimental migration control point, Interfax reported on 28 June. PG

47 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS OPPOSE BUYING AND SELLING OF LAND

According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 28 June, 47 percent of Russians are against the buying and selling of land, 41 percent are prepared to allow it with certain restrictions, and only 7 percent are in favor of allowing the free purchase and sale of real estate. PG

RUSSIA DEVELOPS NEW SURFACE-TO-AIR MISSILE...

Antei and Almaz defense firms have developed and tested a new surface-to-air missile, the S-400 "Triumph," strana.ru reported on 27 June. The new missile is said to employ stealth technology and its creators claim it can "easily destroy" U.S. cruise missiles. Despite the success of this joint effort, an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 28 June warned that the government's efforts to consolidate the defense industry into a small number of firms could compromise the country's defense capabilities. VY/PG

...BUT POWER TURNED OFF AT CIS RADAR SITE FOR OVERDUE BILLS

Ukrainian electricity producers turned off the power to a Russian and CIS radar site on 26-27 June because Moscow had not paid its electricity bill, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 June. But Russian officials insisted they had paid and the power has since been turned back on. PG

TOP MUSLIM LEADERS PROFILED

The "Nezavisimaya gazeta" supplement "Figury i litsa," No. 12, published extensive profiles of Talgat Tadzhuddin, the chairman of the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims, and Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Central and European Region of Russia. PG

RUSSIAN RIVERS HAZARDOUS TO HEALTH

Oil and chemical spills, the dumping of untreated human waste, and aging sewage-treatment facilities have made many Russian rivers, including the Severnaya Dvina and the Don, dangerous to the health of people living nearby, according to an article in "Izvestiya" on 28 June. PG

HIV INFECTIONS UP 40,000 IN 2000

Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishchenko told the United Nations meeting on AIDS that Russia now has 115,000 registered HIV cases, 40,000 more than a year ago, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 June. He said that new infections are especially frequent among the young and that "today Russia is losing a generation" of young people as a result. PG

CRIME UP 5 PERCENT IN LAST YEAR

Officials of the Interior Ministry told Interfax on 28 June that some 1.3 million crimes were registered during the first half of 2001, some 5 percent more than during the same period in 2000. The officials said that some 72 percent of these crimes have been solved. PG

PRISTAVKIN CALLS FOR OVERCOMING 'GULAG TRADITIONS'

Anatolii Pristavkin, the chairman of the Presidential Pardons Commission, said that he hopes that reform of the judicial system will allow major cuts in the number of people now incarcerated in Russia. He noted that in pre-1917 Russia, which had roughly the same population and the same crime rate as Russia does now, there were only 140,000 people in prison, compared to the more than 1 million in Russian prisons and detention facilities today. He said Russians must overcome the "gulag traditions" of incarcerating everyone found guilty of a crime. PG

THREE RUSSIANS IN FOUR BACK DEATH PENALTY

According to a poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 28 June, 72 percent of Russians think that their country should retain the death penalty for serious crimes. Nineteen percent want it abolished. PG

GROUP WANTS RUSSIANS TO BE ABLE TO CARRY FIREARMS

Andrei Vasilevskii, the head of the organizing committee "For the Right to Bear Arms," said in Moscow on 28 June that Russian citizens must have the right to carry weapons to protect themselves against criminals, Interfax reported. He said objections by the Interior Ministry and others are without foundation. PG

PUTIN AGREES TO MARK 1,140TH ANNIVERSARY OF RUSSIAN STATEHOOD

At the invitation of Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak, Putin will take part in a September 2002 celebration there of the 1,140th anniversary of Russian statehood, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 June. Prusak persuaded the president to take part by telling him that reforming Tsar Aleksandr II participated in the 1,000th anniversary of Velikii Novgorod in 1862, the paper said. PG

MORE LEGAL MANEUVERS ON THE MEDIA FRONT

The Prosecutor-General's Office has seized assets belonging to Media-MOST to be used to compensate Gazprom, which has brought suit against that holding company, Interfax reported on 28 June. Meanwhile, the Moscow arbitrage court ruled that the election of a new board at TV-6 was entirely legal, the news agency reported. PG

MEDIA REPORTS ON ARMS SALES, TAIWAN LINKS, CHILD PROSTITUTION DENIED

Russian businessman Arkadii Gaidamak on 28 June said he will sue French Defense Minister Alain Richard for falsely asserting that Gaidamak has sold arms to Angola, Interfax reported. A day earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry denied Western press reports that Moscow will cooperate with Taiwan in the production of submarines. And "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 June reported that the owners of Moscow's Park Avenue Disco have denied as completely false a television report that said that the club is involved in pornography, drugs, and child prostitution. PG

'LA FEMME NIKITA' OFFERS TO GUARD PUTIN

Putin on 28 June received actors and other film people attending the 23rd Moscow Film Festival, dpa reported. Among them were Jack Nicholson, and actress Peta Wilson, who plays the title role in television's "La Femme Nikita" and who volunteered to join the Russian president's bodyguard. One filmmaker not in attendance was Latvia's Juris Vidins, "Izvestiya" reported the same day. Vidins was refused a visa to Moscow apparently because of his pro-Chechen activities, the paper said. PG

THREE GOVERNORS SPEAK OUT IN FAVOR OF LAND CODE

At a press conference in Moscow on 28 June, Altai Krai Governor Aleksandr Surikov, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, and Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chub all spoke in favor of State Duma passage of the Land Code, Russian agencies reported. Titov, whose views on economic reforms are generally considered to be "liberal," said that while he is disappointed that the code in its current form does not include the sale of agricultural land, the bill is nonetheless a "step forward." He added that he also favors the sale of land to foreigners, a feature of the legislation that other regional officials have spoken out against (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 27 June 2001). Also on 28 June, deputies in the Kursk Oblast's legislature voted to reject the Land Code, ITAR-TASS reported. If 30 or more local legislatures vote to reject the code, a conciliatory commission for the bill must be created. JAC

PUTIN URGES ENVOYS TO ASSIST IN CREATION OF CIVIL SOCIETY...

Following a 28 June meeting between President Putin, and presidential envoys Petr Latyshev (Urals federal district) and Leonid Drachevskii (Siberian federal district), the presidential press service reported that the officials discussed the envoys' task for the second half of 2001, according to the polit.ru website on 28 June. Special attention was paid to the theme of defining the responsibilities of the center and regions and organs of self-rule. Putin also discussed with the envoy's "their work on developing structures of a civil society in Russia." JAC

...AS ENVOY SUGGESTS CREATING NEW AGENCY TO FIGHT DRUGS

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 28 June, Latyshev declared his support for creating a separate federal organ that would be devoted solely to fight against the use of illegal drugs, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to Latyshev, over the last 10 years the number of addicts in his district has increased 30 times. The number of persons infected with the HIV virus has jumped some nine times, and 90 percent of those infected are drug addicts. According to Latyshev, of the 650,000 drug addicts in his district more than 35 percent use heroin. The number of people who have died in the district from overdoses in the past year has also risen four times and included more than 1,200 adolescents. Latyshev said that a government program is needed at the level of local self-rule organs, the regional level, and all efforts must be coordinated district-wide. JAC

FLORIDA, KAMCHATKA -- THE ELECTION COUNT CONTINUES

According to the website strana.ru on 29 June, a city court in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii is continuing its examination of a lawsuit brought by the loser of the 17 December gubernatorial election in Kamchatka Oblast, incumbent Governor Boris Sinchenko. Sinchenko charges that the current governor, Mikhail Mashkovtsev, was declared the winner in the race only because a local election commission declared some of the ballots cast for Sinchenko invalid. During the court's proceedings, it was discovered at one station that sealed sacks of ballots and lists of voters were found; however, staff members at the station have found that only one of the contested votes could be added for the benefit of Sinchenko and the remainder should be counted for Mashkovtsev. But since the results at 224 voting stations still need to be examined, the proceedings are expected to continue for some time (see also "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 15 March 2001). JAC




ARMENIA, RUSSIA REACH AGREEMENT ON DEBTS, NUCLEAR FUEL

Energy Minister Karen Galustian told journalists in Yerevan on 28 June that Armenia has paid off part of its gas debt to Russia and Gazprom has agreed to write off the remaining $8.3 million under a debt-swap deal with the Armenian government, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Galustian also said that Russia has dropped its earlier insistence that it will provide further consignments of fuel for the Medzamor nuclear power plant only after Armenia pays $17 million in outstanding debts for earlier shipments of nuclear fuel. The Russian Atomic Energy Ministry will provide the next shipment of fuel on receipt of an advance payment of $4 million; the remaining $9.8 million will be paid over a period of three months, and the earlier $17 million debt between October or November 2001 and June or July 2002, Galustian said. He also pledged that the government will pay by the end of August all wage arrears to Medzamor employees, who last week threatened "unpredictable consequences" if their salaries for the past five months were not paid within two weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2001). LF

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT UNVEILS FINAL STAGE OF PRIVATIZATION PROGRAM

State Property Minister David Vartanian on 28 June presented to the parliament the government's plan for privatizing over 900 medium and large enterprises over the next three years, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Enterprises up for sale include four large metallurgical companies engaged in extracting and processing copper and molybdenum ore, and several chemical factories, including the huge Nairit plant in Yerevan. The left-wing opposition opposes the sell-off; the People's Party of Armenia argues that the state should retain a 51 percent stake in all major enterprises. LF

FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER CONCERNED AT RUSSIA'S 'IMPERIAL POLICY'

Vafa Guluzade, a former Azerbaijani foreign policy adviser, told Turan on 28 June he is disturbed at the implications of the constitutional law adopted by the Russian State Duma that provides for the admission of new subjects to the Russian Federation (see above). He suggested that following the failure of attempts to use the CIS as a means of restoring the USSR, Moscow has now opted for annexing part or all of the territory of neighboring states. He said the law, which he described as "the direct continuation of the Russian government's imperial policy," is directed in the first instance against Georgia as a means of thwarting construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil-export pipeline and implementation of the TRACECA transport network. It could also, he added, be adduced to justify the incorporation into the Russian Federation of either Armenia or Tajikistan, both of which he claims are economically dependant on Russia, or of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION POLITICIANS HOPE MILOSEVIC EXTRADITION MAY SERVE AS PRECEDENT

Nuraddin Mamedli, a leading member of the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, told Turan on 29 June that the handing over to The Hague-based international war crimes tribunal of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is the greatest achievement of the international community since World War II, Turan reported. Mamedli expressed regret, however, at what he termed "double standards" that have prevented the analogous extradition of Armenian President Robert Kocharian and other Armenian political figures whom he claims instigated terrorism and separatism in Nagorno-Karabakh and the massacre of Azerbaijanis. Rashad Rzakuliev of the Liberal Party of Azerbaijan and Mirmahmud Miralioglu of the conservative wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party also said they hope the present Armenian and Karabakh leaderships will ultimately be sent to The Hague. LF

PARLIAMENT SPEAKER REAFFIRMS GEORGIA'S ASPIRATION TO NATO, EU MEMBERSHIP

Reporting on his recent visit to Brussels at a press conference in Tbilisi on 28 June, Georgian parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania affirmed that President Eduard Shevardnadze's 1999 statement that Georgia "will knock energetically on NATO's doors" by 2005 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 1999) was only partially a joke, Caucasus Press reported. "I believe Georgia must fulfill the necessary procedures and apply for full membership in the North Atlantic Alliance," Zhvania said. He added that NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson gave a high assessment of the joint NATO exercises held earlier this month in western Georgia. Zhvania similarly termed accession to the EU as one of Georgia's "strategic goals," noting that the EU has made an "unprecedented" decision to provide Georgia with unspecified help in guarding its borders. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY OFFICIAL DENIES PULLOUT FROM ABKHAZ BASE TO BE DELAYED

Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Nikolai Deryabin on 28 June rejected as untrue media reports earlier that day that unnamed Russian military commanders had asked Chief of General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin to delay for one month, until 1 August, the final withdrawal of the last Russian forces from the Gudauta military base in Abkhazia, Russian agencies reported. Deryabin said Moscow will abide by its commitment made at the November 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul to pull out of that base by 1 July. LF

KAZAKHSTAN APPOINTS FIRST WOMAN TO UPPER ECHELONS OF DEFENSE MINISTRY

President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 27 June named First Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Zhanat Ertilesova a deputy defense minister, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported the following day. Ertilesova will be responsible for the financing of the ongoing reforms of Kazakhstan's armed forces. LF

UPPER CHAMBER OF KAZAKHSTAN'S PARLIAMENT EXTENDS DEADLINE FOR LEGALIZATION OF SHADOW CAPITAL

Following a lengthy debate, the Senate (the upper chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament) voted on 27 June to prolong for a further 10 days the period during which illegally exported capital may be returned with impunity to Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Some senators advocated extending the deadline until September, noting that the $71 million returned so far amounts to only approximately 10 percent of the anticipated sum. The Mazhilis (the lower parliament chamber) failed earlier on 27 June to vote on a proposal by Finance Minister Mazhit Esenbaev to prolong the amnesty period (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT ADVISES AGAINST USING HIS LYRICS FOR NATIONAL ANTHEM

In a letter addressed to Mazhilis deputies that was read on 28 June, President Nazarbaev asked them to withdraw their proposal to set to music as the country's new anthem a poem whose authorship some attribute to him, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Other observers say the poem in question was written by a Kazakh poet and published in a literary journal several years ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December 2000 and "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 3 May 2001). LF

KYRGYZ OFFICIALS AGREE TO DISCUSS CHINESE BORDER ACCORDS WITH NGOS

Kyrgyz parliament speaker Abdygany Erkebaev, Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev, and senior government official Salamat Alamanov have agreed to meet on 2 July with NGOs to discuss the controversial 1996 and 1999 accords under which Kyrgyzstan cedes some 15,000 hectares of its territory to China, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 28 June, quoting the chairman of the Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan, Tursunbek Akunov. Parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov criticized that planned meeting, noting that the government officials have refused for the past month to come to parliament to answer deputies' questions about those accords (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001). LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT UNVEILS PROPOSED ELECTION LAW AMENDMENTS

Askar Akaev submitted to the parliament on 28 June proposed amendments to the existing election law that affect local elections and the election on party lists to the national parliament, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 28 June, quoting the presidential press service. Those amendments allow only those parties that have been registered with the Justice Ministry for a minimum of six months prior to the election date to participate in the party-list vote. LF

TAJIKISTAN CONFIRMS REBEL LEADERS STILL AT LARGE

Tajik Interior Ministry troops are still trying to locate and neutralize former field commanders Rakhmon Sanginov and Mansur Muakkalov and their remaining followers, who have split up into small groups following the death or capture of dozens of their number earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 June, 2001), ITAR-TASS reported on 28 June. Some of those groups have reportedly retreated to the Ramit gorge northeast of Dushanbe. On 27 June, "Vremya novostei" quoted unidentified commentators in Dushanbe as saying that Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov would have preferred to try to negotiate with Sanginov, but ceded to pressure from other influential Tajik politicians, including Dushanbe mayor Mahmudsaid Ubaidullaev, who advocated the use of force. LF




LUKASHENKA INVITES HIS OPPONENTS TO COMPETE IN RUNNING

Following his proposal last week to check the health conditions of potential presidential candidates (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 26 July 2001), Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has invited leaders of political parties as well as aspirants seeking to register for the presidential race to take part in a relay race in Minsk on 3 July, Belapan reported. Participants in the race are free to choose among competing on foot, roller skates, or roller skis. Lukashenka will run on roller skis. According to the agency, Lukashenka's race proposal has met with a cool response. Social Democratic Party leader Stanislau Shushkevich commented: "If Lukashenka invited handicapped [former U.S. President Franklin D.] Roosevelt, he would surely win. But should he compete with the American president in mental ability, he would surely lose. The public wants Lukashenka's mental health tested, not physical." JM

BELARUSIAN LEGISLATOR SAYS MILOSEVIC'S EXTRADITION IS A CAUTION TO PUTIN, LUKASHENKA

Syarhey Kastsyan, a member of the Chamber of Representatives and leader of the Belarusian Slavic Committee, has commented that the extradition of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague is a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Lukashenka, Belapan reported on 29 June. According to Kastsyan, Putin may "find himself in the same place [as Milosevic] if he continues his policy of consolidating Russia." Kastsyan also noted that if Lukashenka continues to build the Russia-Belarus Union, "his closest entourage will surrender him to The Hague tribunal." In Kastsyan's opinion, Milosevic will stand trial because he has sought to bring Yugoslavia into the Russia-Belarus Union. Kastsyan said the transfer of Milosevic to The Hague testifies to the fact that "American fascism actually exists and dictates its will to all of Europe." JM

PROTEST MARKS UKRAINE'S CONSTITUTIONAL ANNIVERSARY

Some 1,000 protesters marched in Kyiv on 28 June, carrying a mock coffin to denounce alleged violations of the constitution by President Leonid Kuchma, AP and Reuters reported. The protest was timed to the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution. Later, the demonstrators unsuccessfully tried to reaffix a marble plaque commemorating seven journalists, including Heorhiy Gongadze, who were slain or disappeared under unclear circumstances in independent Ukraine. They abandoned their efforts after they found that the generator they planned to use to hoist the monument had been stolen. JM

ESTONIAN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES ASKS PRESIDENT TO REJECT NEW CHURCH LAW

The Estonian Council of Churches sent a appeal to President Lennart Meri on 28 June asking him not to promulgate the newly adopted Churches and Congregations Act, which bans church bodies partially administered from outside Estonia, BNS reported. The council, uniting Estonia's main Christian denominations, said the present wording of the law may prevent several religious bodies traditionally active in Estonia from living in accordance with their teachings and structure. The appeal specifically mentioned the Estonian Union of Seventh-Day Adventists, which in administrative matters is in part dependent on a central body located outside Estonia. The previous week, Metropolitan Cornelius, the head of the Estonian Orthodox Church subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate, sent a similar appeal to Meri (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2001). SG.

NATO LEADER CALLS VISIT TO LATVIA IMPORTANT

NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Joseph Ralston, told reporters on 28 June that during his one-day visit to Latvia he was able to examine the development of its defense system and preparation for NATO membership, LETA reported. While noting that the admission of Latvia to NATO will be a political and not a military decision, he expressed satisfaction that the Latvian parliament has decided to increase defense spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2003 and that its armed forces are already operating as part of NATO and using its tactics. Ralston held meetings with President Vaiva Vike-Freiberga, Prime Minister Andris Berzins, Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins, Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, as well as parliament Chairman Janis Straume. He also visited the Baltnet center at the Riga airport, a joint Baltic military project for airspace surveillance. SG

LITHUANIA TO PEG ITS CURRENCY TO EURO ON 2 FEBRUARY 2002

Bank of Lithuania Governor Reinoldijus Sarkinas announced on 28 June that the pegging of the national currency, the litas, will be shifted from the U.S. dollar to the euro beginning 2 February 2002, ELTA reported. The exchange rate of the litas will be determined by multiplying by four the official euro to dollar exchange rate set by the European Central Bank on 1 February 2002. Sarkinas said that the litas has been pegged to the dollar since 1 April 1994 under a currency board system, but that as the Lithuanian economy has become more integrated with the economies of the European Union the share of trade denominated in euros has increased. SG

AGREEMENT REACHED ON SALE OF LITHUANIAN GAS

Acting Prime Minister Eugenijus Gentvilas and leaders of the country's parliamentary parties agreed on the conditions for the planned privatization of the state-owned Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas) on 27 June, ELTA reported. It was decided that the state will retain a 34 percent share; a strategic investor will get the same 34 percent, but not acquire any operator rights; and the supplier company will receive a 24 percent share. The latter two tenders are to be announced simultaneously. The state previously owned a 92 percent share, with just over 7 percent being owned by various smaller shareholders. The most likely candidate to be the next prime minister, Social Democratic Party Chairman Algirdas Brazauskas, who had strongly opposed granting operator rights to the strategic investor, expressed his approval for the plan, which he expects to be completed this year. SG

POLAND TO HELP UKRAINE FORGE CLOSER TIES WITH EU

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and his Ukrainian counterpart Kuchma on 28 June met in Lancut, southeastern Poland, to discuss Pope John Paul II's recent pilgrimage to Ukraine and U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to Poland, Polish media reported. Kuchma called the pope's trip a historic event, adding that it has greatly contributed to strengthening Ukraine's European aspirations. Kuchma stressed that it has been a tragedy for Ukraine to be "denied European development for decades," UNIAN reported. "The recent weeks, with Warsaw's speech by the U.S. president and the pope's visit, have been very good for Ukraine and its pursuit of closer ties with Europe. Poland wants to strongly contribute to this process," Reuters quoted Kwasniewski as saying. JM

EU OFFICIAL SAYS POLAND CAN CATCH UP WITH OTHER EU CANDIDATES

EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen on 28 June said Poland is capable of catching up with other EU candidates that have outdistanced Warsaw regarding the number of closed chapters in EU membership talks, PAP reported. Verheugen was commenting on remarks by Swedish Ambassador to the EU Gunnar Lund that Poland has slipped to last place on the list of EU candidates. Eighteen months before the planned close of EU entry negotiations, Hungary and Cyprus have taken the lead, having closed 22 of the 31 negotiation chapters. Poland has also been outdistanced by Slovakia and Lithuania, which started membership negotiations two years later than Poland. JM

POLISH TELECOMMUNICATIONS WORKERS PROTEST PLANNED LAYOFFS

More than 1,000 employees of the TP SA telecommunications giant staged rallies in front of the parliament and the Economy Ministry in Warsaw on 28 June to protest planned redundancies in the company, PAP reported. In particular, the protesters demanded that TP SA management stop raising telephone subscription rates, arguing that the company's policy is forcing poorer TP SA clients to give up the possibility of having a telephone. TP SA employs more than 65,000 people. JM

CZECH SENATE APPROVES BILL ON EU ACCESSION REFERENDUM

The Senate on 28 June approved by a narrow majority of one vote a bill on holding a referendum on the Czech Republic's accession to the EU after parleys with the union are concluded, CTK reported. The bill must now be approved by the Chamber of Deputies, where it must pass by a majority of three-fifths. If the chamber approves it, the bill will be returned to the Senate, where it would need a similar majority to become law. The senators struck out a provision that would have required a minimal turnover of 50 percent in the plebiscite. The bill stipulates that if accession is rejected by voters, at least two years must pass before another plebiscite is held. President Vaclav Havel earlier on 28 June urged lawmakers to approve the bill on the referendum, saying such a plebiscite has been held in all EU countries. Havel said he does not rule out that the referendum could be conducted as early as 2002. MS

CZECH OPPOSITION, GOVERNMENT, DISAGREE ON 'SHADOWING AFFAIR'

The Chamber of Deputies' Defense and Security Committee on 28 June concluded that "intelligence-gathering means" had been used to collect information on former Minister Without Portfolio Jaroslav Basta on the orders of former Military Intelligence Service head Frantisek Stepanek, CTK reported. Committee Chairman Petr Necas, who is also the opposition Civic Democratic Party's shadow defense minister, said the government's Intelligence Council headed by Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has "tried to sweep the affair under the carpet." Necas said Stepanek's orders were a "one-time blunder" for which he should be no more than "reprimanded." Stepanek is now the Czech liaison officer in Belgium. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil said in reaction that Stepanek had made no mistake and that the Intelligence Council's conclusions were identical with those earlier reached by the Defense Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2001). MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT SELLS MAJOR BANK TO FRENCH BIDDER

Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 28 June announced that the government has accepted the bid of the French Societe Generale for a 60 percent stake in the country's second-largest commercial bank, Komercni Banka, international agencies reported. Societe Generale will pay 40 billion crowns ($1 billion) for the controlling stake, for which there were two other foreign bidders that made lower offers. The remaining 40 percent is held by the Bank of New York and various smaller shareholders. Zeman said his government has now fulfilled its promise to privatize all major Czech banks, with Komercni Banka being the last. In 1999, CSOB bank was sold to a Belgian concern and in 2000 Austria's Erste Bank bought Ceska Sporitelna. MS

SLOVAKIA MAY RECONSIDER EU FREE MOVEMENT OF LABOR CHAPTER

Chief Slovak negotiator with the EU, Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Figel, on 28 June told journalists that if the Czech Republic achieves more favorable conditions than Slovakia on the free movement of labor chapter of the aquis communautaire, Bratislava could renegotiate the chapter, CTK reported. Figel said he does not believe this will happen and that the compromise to which Slovakia agreed the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001) is the best possible option "corresponding to the current reality." Also on 28 June, a public opinion poll conducted by the UVVM institute showed that two-fifths of Slovaks say they do not have enough information on issues related to EU accession; 38 percent believe they are sufficiently informed; and 17 percent said they are not interested in the matter. MS

HUNGARY AGREES TO TALK WITH ROMANIA ON STATUS LAW...

The governments of both Hungary and Romania regard the convening of their joint committee on ethnic minority problems as an important means of solving their dispute on the Status Law, Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi and Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania Chairman Bela Marko said in Budapest on 28 June, after meeting with Prime Minster Viktor Orban. Hungarian media cited Martonyi as saying he has received "signals" that the Romanian government is prepared for a dialogue, adding he is confident a solution can be found regarding different interpretations of several provisions in the Status Law. He said he has sent a letter to his Romanian counterpart Mircea Geoana that indicates Budapest's readiness for high-level talks, but also that he finds the "disproportionate Romanian reaction" to the law to be "incomprehensible." Martonyi told "Magyar Nemzet" he is "ready to travel to Bucharest to dispel any misunderstandings." MS

...AND SUBMITS OWN DRAFT RESOLUTION TO PACE

The Hungarian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 28 June submitted a draft resolution on "Cross-border cooperation and the safeguarding of the identity of national minorities." Interviewed by Romanian Radio, Hungarian deputy Andras Barsonyi said the resolution proposes that the assembly establish a "code of European relations" between kin-states and ethnic minorities in neighboring countries. Barsonyi said there is "not necessarily a direct link" between the Status Law and the resolution proposed by his country. However, Romanian Radio reporter Dan Preda described it as "a reply" to the draft resolution moved two days earlier by the Romanian delegation, which recommended the "suspension" of the Status Law. Thirty-seven PACE representatives from different EU countries cosponsored the Hungarian draft. Meanwhile, MTI reported on 29 June that the Slovak delegation to PACE -- except for its lone ethnic Hungarian member -- has joined the cosponsors of the Romanian draft resolution. MS




YUGOSLAVIA APPEALS FOR HELP AT DONORS CONFERENCE

Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus told the donors conference in Brussels on 29 June that his country badly needs foreign assistance after more than a decade of misrule by former President Slobodan Milosevic, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001). "We are appealing to donors to share with us the burden of transition," he added. Catherine Day of the European Commission said that the EU and its member states are willing to "put their money where their mouth is." The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote that the Serbian population has great expectations of the conference. The World Bank estimates that Yugoslavia will need $4 billion over the next four years. Yugoslavia, like several of its neighbors, must deal simultaneously with problems of postcommunist transition, emergence from authoritarian nationalist rule, and postwar reconstruction. PM

FORMER SERBIAN LEADER IN THE HAGUE

Following the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court to suspend the decree permitting extradition of Yugoslav citizens, the Serbian government ruled on 28 June that federal institutions had ceased to function, and that the Serbian government is constitutionally empowered to make its own decisions, RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001). The government then decided to extradite Milosevic immediately to The Hague, where he arrived early the next morning via a U.S. SFOR base near Tuzla. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said in a nationwide television broadcast on 28 June that Milosevic's extradition was necessary to end Serbia's isolation. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, who was not consulted on the move, told a television audience later the same evening that the extradition was "illegal and unconstitutional" (see "End Note" below). Members of the Montenegrin Socialist People's Party (SNP) said that they will end their coalition with the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS). Milosevic is not expected to appear before the tribunal's judges before 2 July. PM

SERBIAN PRESIDENT TO TURN HIMSELF IN?

Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, who is an indicted war criminal, has decided to turn himself in to The Hague, the BBC reported on 29 June from Belgrade, quoting the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA. Milutinovic decided to go to the tribunal to testify against Milosevic, with whom he was indicted in 1999 for war crimes in Kosova. Milutinovic reportedly made his decision after several undisclosed meetings with representatives of the tribunal. Milutinovic's office staff refused to confirm or deny the report. PM

WORLD LEADERS HAIL EXTRADITION OF SERBIAN DICTATOR...

Speaking in Jerusalem on 28 June, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said: "I am pleased that [Milosevic] is being brought to justice to face the international criminal tribunal. I am pleased that American pressure played a considerable role in that... Now that he is in the custody of The Hague authorities, this will make it easier for us to be more forthcoming at the donors conference and in subsequent days and weeks," RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001). U.S. President George W. Bush, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, and other leaders from the U.K., France, and the EU hailed the move. Annan said in New York: "I think what has happened today, which few thought was possible -- here we see one of the most powerful men in the Balkans today in the hands of the court at The Hague -- should go to show all leaders who are bound to abuse their power that in today's world, their peoples and the international community will demand accountability and will ensure that impunity is not allowed to stand." PM

...AS DO SOME OF THE NEIGHBORS...

Speaking in Zagreb on 28 June, Croatian President Stipe Mesic voiced satisfaction over the handover, saying Milosevic was "the main culprit" responsible for the suffering and wars of the Balkans in the 1990s, RFE/RL reported. Mesic added: "I won't cry for him. Back in 1991 I told him we would meet in court. I am happy about it... He was convinced that he would write history as a victor, but he lost the wars and will now have to face justice for all that he has done. His transfer will enhance mutual trust and cooperation in the region," Reuters reported. Speaking in Sarajevo, Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija called the transfer a decisive step in the destruction of the plan to build ethnically pure states, RFE/RL reported. But Baton Haxhiu, the editor of Kosova's most important daily, "Koha Ditore," said in Prishtina that the Serbian government is "morally bankrupt" because it extradited Milosevic only because of the donors conference, AP reported. PM

...AND THE HAGUE

The chief prosecutor of the UN tribunal, Carla Del Ponte, said in The Hague on 28 June that Milosevic's extradition is an "important milestone for international criminal justice." Del Ponte stressed, however, that the transfer marks only the beginning of a lengthy legal process, and that much work still needs to be done to bring Milosevic's case to justice. Many indicted war criminals remain at large, especially in Serbia and the Republika Srpska. Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said in Banja Luka that Milosevic's extradition creates "a new situation," Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. PM

RUSSIA SLAMS EXTRADITION OF SERBIAN DICTATOR

In Moscow on 29 June, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in a statement: "This will without doubt play into the hands of separatists in Kosovo and Montenegro wanting to leave the [Yugoslav] federation. They will probably not pass up the chance to use the current situation. And if events develop in this way, it is not difficult to imagine what it could lead to," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 March 2001). Ivanov stressed that Serbian democratic institutions are fragile, adding: "Those now trying to use Yugoslavia's economic difficulties to achieve their ends are, of course, taking on very serious responsibility not only for the future of Yugoslavia, but also for the situation throughout the Balkans." PM

THREE ADDITIONAL INDICTED SERBS SENT TO HAGUE?

Peacekeepers arrested two leaders of the former Croatian Serb para-state and sent them to The Hague for trial for war crimes, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Banja Luka on 28 June, quoting Beta. Milan Martic, who is a former civilian leader of the Republika Srpska Krajina, and military commander Mile Mrksic arrived in The Hague from Tuzla. They were joined by fellow indictee Dusan Knezevic from Prijedor. Hina later quoted Florence Hartmann, who is a spokeswoman for Del Ponte, as saying that the men have not arrived in The Hague. PM

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT PRAISES BUSH'S RULING

President Boris Trajkovski said in Skopje on 28 June that Bush's move to cut off funds to ethnic Albanian guerrillas and bar their leaders from visiting the U.S. is very serious and concrete, Deutsche Welle's Macedonian Service reported. He called on Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland, which have large ethnic Albanian communities, to follow Bush's example. Trajkovski added: "I honestly hope that the world will recognize the root of the crisis in Macedonia," AP reported. But Peter Feith, who is NATO's special envoy to Macedonia, told the Dutch paper "Allegemine Dagblad" that although Trajkovski is "ready to seek a peaceful solution...many ministers in his government think that a military solution can be imposed... The problem is the Macedonian government," he added (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001). PM

U.S. PEACEKEEPERS ARREST 30 GUERRILLAS IN KOSOVA

KFOR said in a statement on 29 June that U.S. peacekeepers the previous day arrested 30 suspected ethnic Albanian guerrillas in Kosova near the border with Macedonia and the Presevo valley, dpa reported. Three of the Albanians had been wounded. PM

VERHEUGEN RECOMMENDS LIFTING VISA REQUIREMENTS ON ROMANIANS

Guenter Verheugen, the EU commissioner for enlargement, on 29 June announced that the European Commission has decided to recommend that visa requirements for Romanian citizens be lifted as of 1 January 2002, an RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels reported. EU spokesman Jean Christophe Filori said that, in view of "the progress made by the Romanians in their border-control system and visa-control system," the commission decided to make the recommendation, which must now undergo several further stages before it is put in practice (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001). In related news, Romania will enforce passport requirements on Moldovan citizens as of 1 July. Previously, citizens of that country could enter Romania by showing their ID cards. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER REJECTS 'FINANCIAL TIMES' CRITICISM OVER RESITA...

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 28 June rejected criticism in the "Financial Times" over the decision to nullify the contract for the sale of the Resita steel-producer CSR to the U.S. company Noble Ventures, Romanian radio reported. Nastase said Noble Ventures is unable to even pay $10,000 in lawyers' fees, let alone meet contractual obligations to invest in the plant's modernization or pay salaries. "They had overstretched the rope. It's high time they go home, recruit some capital and look us up when they've learned how to operate." The daily wrote that the Romanian decision sends an alarming signal to the Council of Europe and the IMF regarding Bucharest's readiness to accelerate privatization, on which it already lags behind other EU candidates. Meanwhile, the strikers in Resita on 28 June have decided to continue their hunger strike until all their demands are met. MS

...VISITS EGYPT

On a one-day visit to Egypt on 28 June, Nastase held talks with his Egyptian counterpart Atef Ebeid and with President Hosni Mubarak, Romanian Radio reported. The discussions concentrated on reviving bilateral economic relations, and several preliminary agreements were reached on boosting exports of some 10,000 Romanian-made tractors and importing cotton and rice from Egypt. The sides also discussed the conflict in the Middle East. Nastase said he will pay a visit to Israel shortly and that Bucharest is ready to offer its "good offices" to the conflicting sides if asked to do so by them. MS

ROMANIA PRESENTS ANTI-INFLATION VISION

Finance Minister Mihai Tanasescu and National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu on 28 June presented to journalists their joint program to combat inflation up to 2005, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The program envisages a 30 percent inflation rate in 2001, a rate of 20-22 percent in 2002, and a drastic drop to under 10 percent between 2004-2005. They said the success of the program is conditional on a low budget deficit of between 3 and 3.5 percent; the continuing of privatization; and improving financial discipline, particularly regarding revenue collection. Isarescu said hard-currency reserves have reached "optimal level" and the National Bank will no longer intervene to influence the rate of the leu. But they warned that a continuation in the decline of the euro, or drastic hikes in international oil prices, might negatively impact the program's success. MS

MOLDOVA JOINS BALKAN STABILITY PACT

Moldova on 28 June formally joined the Balkan Stability Pact, becoming the first former Soviet republic to do so, an RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels reported. President Vladimir Voronin said that Chisinau "realizes that the pact is not a one-way traffic road" and is therefore "prepared to work hard toward democratization, a market economy, and sound social security programs." Voronin said he hopes joining the pact will boost investments in his country but is aware that "no miracles" should be expected and that Moldova must demonstrate willingness to "make the most" out of its pact membership. Voronin also met with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH NATO

Also on 28 June, Voronin signed at NATO headquarters an agreement under which the sides will work jointly to destroy Moldova's stock of antipersonnel land mines and surplus munitions, AP reported. The costs of the operation are to be covered by the Partnership for Peace Trust Fund. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS ADVERTISING LAW

The parliament on 28 June amended the law on advertising, doing away with the provision that obliged commercials to be broadcast in the "state language" in addition to the language of the customer's choice, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The opposition Braghis Alliance and the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) opposed the amendment. MS

MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION LEADER TO LOSE PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY?

Prosecutor-General Vasile Rusu on 28 June asked the parliament to lift the immunity of PPCD leader Iurie Rosca to allow for his prosecution on charges of having physically attacked a woman employed by a Chisinau print shop, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Parliamentary speaker Eugenia Ostapciuc passed the request to the Immunity Committee, which is to make its recommendations to the house after studying the case. Rosca said in reaction that Rusu is "demonstrating his loyalty" to Party of Moldovan Communists parliamentary group leader Victor Stepanciuc, who has given the prosecutor-general "direct orders" to launch criminal proceedings against him. Rosca added that public opinion will now witness "what means the communists use to stifle the opposition." MS

BULGARIA PROPOSES POOL OF EAST EUROPEAN COMMUNIST-ERA FILES

Metodi Andreev, the chairman of the special Bulgarian commission on examining the files of informers of communist secret police, on 28 June told journalists that a joint database on such files should be set up by the former communist countries, Reuters reported. Andreev said his commission intends to forward this proposal to Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania, saying the communist secret services in those countries were all "branches of the KGB." MS

BULGARIANS OPTIMISTIC ON POST-ELECTORAL FUTURE

A public opinion poll conducted by the MBMD polling institute shows that 56 percent of Bulgarians believe former King Simeon II will be able to produce tangible improvements in the lot of ordinary Bulgarians, AFP reported on 28 June. A significant minority of 28.5 percent expects no change after the elections and 9.4 percent believe living standards will drop. Seventy-four percent of the respondents said they have confidence in Simeon and only 17 percent said they do not trust him. MS

BULGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS MACEDONIA'S DISINTEGRATION 'POSSIBLE'

Outgoing Defense Minister Boiko Noev on 28 June told journalists that he does not exclude the possibility of Macedonia's disintegration, and that "if the international community allows this to happen, the region as a whole will be faced with serious threats," BTA reported. Noev said Bulgaria's government continues to hope that the conflict in Macedonia will be peacefully solved but that "regrettably, things are not developing in that direction." He said Bulgaria is "taking necessary measures to avoid any threat to its national interests and security" but did not specify what those measures are. Asked whether the Macedonian government should hold talks with the ethnic Albanian rebels, Noev said the Bulgarian government "will not give recipes" on how to solve the ongoing conflict. MS




SERBIA: VIDOVDAN AND THEREAFTER


By Patrick Moore

The Serbian political landscape will be dominated by three important questions following the extradition of former President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague. How these matters are dealt with could go far to determine the country's long-term as well as more immediate future.

Perhaps the most momentous date in Serbian history is 28 June, which is known as Vidovdan, or St. Vitus's day. Vidovdan 1389 witnessed the battle of Kosovo Polje, which ended Serbia's independence for nearly five centuries. In 1914 on that date, the Serbian student Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Habsburg Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, setting off the chain of events that led to World War I. The Yugoslav kingdom got its first constitution on 28 June 1921, which was subsequently known as the Vidovdan Constitution. In 1948, Stalin expelled Yugoslavia from the Soviet bloc on Vidovdan.

As of 28 June 2001, Vidovdan will have one additional meaning in Serbian history (see "RFE/RL Newsline," above). And it was not, moreover, just the first time any former head of state was sent to an international tribunal to be tried for war crimes, but the beginning of a process in which a single man will be tried for crimes that many of the victims have been prone to ascribe to the entire Serbian nation. One of the main purposes of the tribunal is precisely to establish individual guilt in place of collective guilt as a first step toward reconciliation and building a joint future in the region.

The speed at which the Serbian government decided in favor of extradition and sent Milosevic to The Hague reportedly came as a surprise to virtually all concerned, including the staff at the tribunal. Many details and questions remain unclear. But what is certain is that three issues have emerged to dominate the Serbian political landscape for the foreseeable future.

The first is the balance of political forces in Serbia. The governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition is very broad-based. It was united only by its desire to end Milosevic's dictatorship and replace it with a more democratic system. Since that goal was achieved at the end of 2000, many observers have predicted that the coalition's break-up is only a matter of time.

Such a prospect now seems more realistic than before. The DOS is clearly split in its views over extradition, with the majority apparently siding with Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic against Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica. When the next elections take place -- and most observers agree that early elections are all but a foregone conclusion -- it is conceivable that Kostunica and Djindjic would be the main rivals.

Kostunica is far and above the most popular politician in Serbia and is likely to win additional votes from Milosevic supporters. But Djindjic and his allies represent a larger number of political parties than Kostunica does and they will have time to convince the voters that extradition was the right thing to do, especially if participants in the donors conference are generous. Djindjic and his friends will try to persuade the electorate that they are the most competent leaders and that Kostunica, as Djindjic has said, is a link to the past. If they succeed, Djindjic and his allies could be well on the way to remaking Serbia in a way more open to the West and to European norms than would Kostunica, who is more of a traditional nationalist with an attachment to Russia.

These issues lead to the second question that will dominate Serbian politics, namely the future of the Yugoslav federation, of which Kostunica is president. In deciding to extradite Milosevic, the Serbian government ruled that federal institutions had ceased to function. Many observers would argue, moreover, that the federation has long been limited to the government in Belgrade and its diplomatic contacts, since the Montenegrin government of President Milo Djukanovic does not recognize the federal government or even its currency.

The announcement on Vidovdan by the pro-Milosevic Montenegrin opposition Socialist People's Party (SNP) that it is leaving the coalition with DOS to protest the extradition could thus simply be the final nail in the federation's coffin. Some observers would add that Djindjic and Djukanovic probably agreed between themselves long ago to scuttle the federation and deprive Kostunica of a job. Rumors of such an agreement have never been conclusively proven or disproven. It should nonetheless be recalled that Djindjic fled from Milosevic's police in 1999 by going to Montenegro, where he had ample time to get to know the leadership and political conditions.

The third issue that will figure prominently in Serbian politics is that of the extradition or surrender of additional war criminals. Serbian President Milan Milutinovic is only the most prominent of many, including former Defense Minister General Dragoljub Ojdanic.

As Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic has said, moreover, the extradition of Milosevic opens a new chapter for the Republika Srpska, which has yet to turn over any indicted war criminal to The Hague. Many commentators have already begun to ask whether the extradition of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic or his commander, General Ratko Mladic, can be far off now that Milosevic is in The Hague.

The speed and thoroughness with which the authorities in Serbia (and the Republika Srpska) locate and extradite additional war criminals will go far to affirming the principle of individual guilt over collective guilt. And for the Serbian public itself, extradition marks the start of a break with a political culture that led to four lost wars and the acquisition of an unenviable reputation abroad.


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