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Newsline - July 2, 2001




PUTIN CALLS FOR ECONOMY TO BE COMPLETELY TRANSPARENT

At a meeting on 29 June with his economic ministers, President Vladimir Putin said that he wants the Russian economy to become "completely transparent," RIA-Novosti reported the same day. After the meeting, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref announced that the government has decided to propose cutting the percentage of hard currency earnings companies must convert to rubles from 75 percent to 50 percent, ITAR-TASS reported. On 1 July, Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Ulyukaev said in Crans-Montana that Moscow expects to be able to pay all its foreign debts, including during the peak year of 2003, if oil prices stay above $17 a barrel. PG

DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF RETIRES

Putin on 29 June signed retirement papers for Colonel General Valerii Manilov, the hard-line first deputy chief of Russia's general staff, Russian and Western agencies. Manilov, 62, is two years above the normal retirement age, but his departure appears to reflect his increasing differences with new defense minister Sergei Ivanov, Russian agencies said. PG

FEDERATION COUNCIL PROVIDES PUTIN COVER ON NUCLEAR WASTES...

The Federation Council on 29 June approved by a vote of 92 to 17 one of three bills governing the importation of spent nuclear fuel even though it did not have to take up any of them prior to their going to Putin for signature, Russian and Western agencies reported. But Council speaker Yegor Stroev said that Putin wanted the upper house of parliament to express its views on at least the one document, RIA-Novosti reported. The decision to bypass the Federation Council on an issue which polls suggest most Russians oppose triggered both political and popular outrage last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26, 27, 28 and 29 June 2001). By having the upper house go on record in support of the measure, Putin defuses what appeared to be an increasingly serious political problem for his administration. PG

...PASSES LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES

The Federation Council on 29 June voted 110 to three with ten abstentions to approve the Kremlin-sponsored bill on political parties, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

PUBLIC TRUST IN GOVERNMENT DECLINING

According to a ROMIR poll reported by strana.ru on 30 June, the percentage of Russians saying that they trust their government has declined from 46.1 percent in March 2001 to 39.7 percent in June. Meanwhile, the percentage saying they have no confidence in the government has increased from 43.2 percent to 50.9 percent over the same period. At the same time, according to all polls, public trust in Putin remains close to 70 percent, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. PG

BUSINESS RUSSIA TO REGISTER AS PARTY

The Business Russia social organization has begun the procedure to register as a political party and will hold a founding congress in September 2001, deputy Igor Lisinenko told Interfax on 30 June. PG

KREMLIN, FOREIGN MINISTRY TO MANAGE PROPERTY ABROAD

Vadim Kozhin, Kremlin business manager, said on 30 June that his office and the foreign ministry will manage Russian state property abroad, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that in "practically every country" problems exist with respect to Russian property, but added that he believes all problems in this area are "soluble." PG

MOSCOW READY TO COOPERATE WITH ALL IN FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS

The Russian foreign ministry on 29 June said that Moscow is ready to cooperate with the United Nations and all countries in order to combat HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, RIA-Novosti reported. The same day, Interfax and INS reported that the rate of HIV infections in Kaliningrad is more than four times the countrywide average, 344.4 per 100,000 residents there as compared to 83.3 per 100,000 residents for Russia as a whole. PG

MOSCOW PLAYS DOWN RUSSIAN-U.S. DIFFERENCES

In an interview published in "Pravda" on 29 June, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Russia is not inclined to dramatize differences between Moscow and Washington. The same day, however, the foreign ministry issued a statement sharply criticizing Washington's plans for increased defense spending. On 30 June, presidential foreign policy advisor Igor Sergeev said that it is too early to say definitively that Russia and the United States are moving toward a new cold war and arms race because of their differences over the 1972 ABM Treaty, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the defense ministry's main directorate for international military cooperation, said on 29 June that Moscow is willing to discuss modifications of the ABM accord but not to accept the changes the U.S. has proposed. He said those changes would subvert the agreement entirely. PG

LAST RUSSIAN EXPELLEES LEAVE EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON

Moscow withdrew a week ago the last of the employees expelled from its Washington embassy for actions "incompatible with their diplomatic status" as required by mutual consent with the U.S. in March 2001, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 June. The deadline for doing so was 1 July. The U.S. has already recalled to Washington 47 officers from its embassy in Moscow, the Russian news service reported. PG

FOREIGN MINISTER CRITICIZES ESTONIA, LATVIA ON MINORITIES

In his interview published in "Pravda" on 29 June, Foreign Minister Ivanov said that what he called the acute humanitarian situation in Estonia and Latvia is "constantly in the focus of our attention," ITAR-TASS reported. "One cannot regard as normal a situation when one-third of a country's population has no citizenship, is limited to the right of education in its mother tongue, and is being dislodged to the sidelines of social and political life," Ivanov said. PG

MOSCOW HOPES TO RECOVER INFLUENCE IN EASTERN EUROPE

On the tenth anniversary of the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, Foreign Minister Ivanov said in his 29 June "Pravda" interview that Moscow hopes to recover the influence it lost in Eastern Europe following the dissolution of its military alliance in the eastern bloc. Andrei Nikolaev, who heads the Duma Defense Committee, characterized Russia's departure from the region in 1991 as "a flight," Interfax reported on 29 June. But Yabloko Duma deputy Vladimir Lukin told DPA on the same day that he has no regrets about the end of the Warsaw Pact, only over "the continued existence of NATO." PG

PUTIN, CHIRAC SHARE GAULLIST VISION OF EUROPE

President Putin on 1 July told visiting French President Jacques Chirac that he wants to promote a "common economic space" in Europe and that he shares the ideas of former French leader Charles de Gaulle, who "spoke about a Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals," ITAR-TASS reported. Chirac indicated that he agrees with that vision, the news service said. PG

NAZDRATENKO SAYS MOSCOW TO EXPAND PRESENCE ON SPITZBERGEN

Yevgenii Nazdratenko, the chairman of the State Fishing Committee, said that Russia will increase its presence on the Spitzbergen archipelago despite the objections of the Norwegian government, Russian agencies reported on 30 June. Nazdratenko also repeated his call for upgrading the fishing committee into a full ministry, Interfax North-West reported the same day. "Unfortunately, this does not depend on me," he said, "but for the country it is very important." PG

MOSCOW OUTRAGED BY MILOSEVIC EXTRADITION

Even as he insisted that the Belgrade's decision to extradite former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague war crimes tribunal was an internal affair of Yugoslavia, Foreign Minister Ivanov said on 29 June that the action could threaten the integrity of Yugoslavia and its prospects for democratic change, Russian and Western agencies reported. He was particularly critical of Western financial pressure on Belgrade to take this step. Russian politicians were virtually unanimous in denouncing the extradition of Milosevic to face charges of war crimes. Even Yabloko's Lukin said that the decision will harm democracy in Yugoslavia, Interfax reported the same day. PG

DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIAL SAYS MOSCOW MAY PULL PEACEKEEPERS FROM KOSOVA

Colonel General Ivashov said on 29 June that Russia may withdraw its peacekeepers from Kosova because the NATO-led force has not succeeded in disarming the Albanian militants, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that there are no "official" consultations taking place between Moscow and NATO concerning a possible joint operation to disarm the Albanian forces. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY CALLS FOR SENDING ARMS TO YUGOSLAVIA, IRAQ

Duma deputy speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said on 30 June that Russia must send arms to both Yugoslavia and Iraq to counter what he called "NATO's third world war against Russia," Interfax reported. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS EXPANDED MILITARY TIES WITH LEBANON

Colonel General Ivashov, the head of the defense ministry's main directorate for international military cooperation, led the first-ever Russian Federation military delegation to Lebanon to explore the possibilities of arms sales and to promote military education exchanges, Interfax reported on 29 June. PG

CABINET APPROVES INDIA, IRAN AIR CORRIDOR

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has signed a decree ratifying an agreement among the Russian, Iranian and Indian governments on the creation of an international North-South air corridor, RIA-Novosti reported on 29 June. The new corridor extends the Trans-Polar air corridor Moscow opened this spring. VY

A KALASHNIKOV MEETS A QADDAFI

Mikhail Kalashnikov, 81, the Russian arms designer, met with Libya's Moammar Qaddafi in Tripoli on 29 June, Interfax reported. Qaddafi said that the AK-47 assault rifle that Kalashnikov designed in 1947 was "one of the most important innovations of the 20th century." PG

KREMLIN SAID CONCERNED BY ENVOYS' EMPIRE BUILDING

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 June that its sources in the Kremlin are concerned that Konstantin Pulikovskii, the presidential envoy to the Far East federal district, views his district as "an analogue of the Far Eastern Republic." Moreover, the sources told the paper, such attitudes are to be found among "some of the other presidential envoys as well." PG

HARMONIZATION EFFORT TO FOCUS NEXT ON POWER-SHARING ACCORDS

Valentin Sobolev, the deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, said on 29 June that there are currently 42 power-sharing agreements between Moscow and the regions and more than 260 additional accords based on these agreements, and that the majority of them contain provisions at odds with the Russian Constitution and federal legislation, Interfax reported. He said that either the treaties themselves or existing legislation must be changed. At the same time, Sobolev said that between August 2000 and May 2001 the justice ministry reviewed more than 41,000 normative acts by the regions and found that more than 5,000 of them had included provisions in violation of federal laws. PG

PROSECUTORS SEEK ARREST OF TV-6 CHIEF

The Office of the Russian Prosecutor-General issued an arrest warrant on 29 June for Badri Patarkatsishvili, chairman of the board of TV-6, Russian agencies reported. He is being charged with involvement in the flight of Aeroflot official Nikolai Glushkov, who is suspected of fraud. Patarkatsishvili, a close ally of embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky, said that the charges were fabricated by the authorities to help them take control of his station. PG

JOURNALIST STABBED ON RETURN FROM BELARUS

Igor Sinyakevich, a journalist for Moscow's "Novye izvestiya," was hospitalized in the Russian capital on 28 June after being stabbed, Interfax reported on 29 June. Sinyakevich had been in Belarus to interview opposition presidential candidates. PG

GAZPROM-MEDIA PREVENTS NTV SHAREHOLDER MEETING

By refusing to take part, Gazprom-Media representatives deprived the NTV shareholders meeting of a quorum and thus forced the cancellation of the meeting, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 June. Gazprom-Media is waiting for the results of a 2 July court hearing at which the company expects to get another 19 percent of NTV shares. Once those are in hand, Gazprom-Media spokeswoman Aelita Yefimova said, the firm will be able to "vote with 65 percent of the shares" at a future shareholders meeting of NTV. PG

GOVERNMENT GAINS CONTROL OF GAZPROM BOARD

Even though it owns only 38 percent of the shares of Gazprom, the Russian government now has a majority of one on the 11 member Gazprom board elected at a shareholders' meeting on 29 June, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The new board elected former company president Rem Vyakhirev as its chairman. Meanwhile, the same day, the Audit Chamber said that it has found no evidence of illegalities in cooperation between Gazprom and Itera, the gas distribution company, Interfax reported. PG

GAZPROM WANTS TO PENETRATE CHINESE MARKET

Gazprom board member Yurii Komarov said on 29 June that his company hopes to enter the Chinese market both to sell gas and to participate in the privatization of gas facilities there, RIA-Novosti reported. He said that Gazprom plans to sell China gas from its Irkutsk and Sakha deposits. VY

INTERIOR MINISTER CHANGES CRITERIA FOR POLICE EFFICIENCY...

According to "Izvestiya" on 29 June, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov has directed his officials to change the way in which the success of police officers is measured. Up to now, police have been graded in terms of the percentage of crimes they solve. But as a result, police are reluctant to register certain crimes and the population is reluctant to report crimes to them. Now, Gryzlov reportedly said, police will be evaluated in terms of their crime-prevention activities as well as the attitudes of the local population towards them. PG

...AS JUSTICE MINISTER DEFENDS KEEPING CRIMINALS IN PRISON

In an interview published in "Trud" on 29 June, Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said that the number of people incarcerated in Russia is declining, but that cutting that number by pardons is likely to lead to mistakes. He said that many of those who have been released in recent years have gone back to a life of crime. Consequently, society has an interest in keeping them locked up. PG

BORDER POSTS TO GET NEW EQUIPMENT

Russia's 440 customs points have had to be re-equipped with new and advanced equipment, Lieutenant General Aleksandr Sheikin, the head of the department of border control of Russia's Federal Border Service, said in an interview published in "Krasnaya zvezda" on 30 June. He said that the new equipment was needed to deal with increasing number of people attempting to violate the border or to smuggle drugs and other contraband. PG

DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIAL SAYS DRAFT QUOTA MET

General Vladislav Putilin, the deputy chief of staff in charge of manpower, told RTR television on 30 June that the army met its draft quota this spring, inducting some 187,995 new soldiers, Reuters reported. He said that draft quotas will fall as the army moves toward becoming an all-professional force. Putilin also said that none of those drafted will be sent to Chechnya or other "hot spots" until they have received at least six months of training. PG

RUSSIAN MISSILES SAID INCREASINGLY ACCURATE

A new book entitled "Rocket and Artillery Armament of Ground Forces" and published by the defense ministry suggests that Russian anti-ballistic missiles may be more accurate than had been thought in the West, Reuters reported on 29 June. The book has a foreword by President Putin. PG

REMAINS OF DOWAGER EMPRESS MAY BE REBURIED IN RUSSIA IN 2002

The remains of the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna may be reburied in St. Petersburg in September 2002, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev said on 29 June, according to Interfax North-West. Yakovlev said that the Danish royal house has given its approval to remove the casket containing her remains from Denmark where she died in 1929 to Russia. The Empress was the wife of Aleksandr III and the mother of the last tsar, Nicholas II. PG

13,000 ORTHODOX CHURCHES BUILT, REBUILT IN LAST DECADE

Patriarch Aleksii II said on 29 June that more than 13,000 Orthodox churches have been built, rebuilt or restored over the last decade, Interfax reported. Aleksii said that this dramatic recovery from the Soviet period reflects an upsurge in popular belief rather than the work of the church hierarchy. PG

ISLAMIC EXTREMISM SAID THREATENING RUSSIAN ISLAM

Participants at an international conference in Moscow last week on "The Islamic Threat and the Threat to Islam" said that extremist tendencies such as Wahhabism threaten Russian Islam, and that most mullahs lack the understanding necessary to combat them, "Vremya MN" reported on 29 June. Most of the participants, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the same day, argued that Wahhabism is "an instrument of the United States in its struggle with Islam." PG

ONLY 5 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS PARTICIPATE IN PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS

According to a poll taken by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 1 July, only 5 percent of Russians at present participate in the work of public organizations. Seventy-three percent said they have no interest in ever participating, the poll suggested. PG

FORTY-TWO PERCENT OF RUSSIANS BELIEVE RUSSIA NEEDS A STRONG HAND

According to a poll conducted by monitoring.ru and reported by Interfax on 1 July, 42 percent of Russians believe that Russia will always need "a strong hand" at the head of its government. Younger people under the age of 34 are significantly less likely to believe this, the poll showed. PG

NUMBER OF INTERNET USERS DOUBLED IN LAST YEAR

The number of Russians going on line doubled between the start of 2000 and the start of 2001 to 12.8 million, Interfax reported. PG

RUSSIAN HACKERS FORCE U.S. E-BOOK DEALER TO SUSPEND SALES

Russian hackers have broken into the format used by Barnes&Noble.com to distribute e-books and forced the American company to suspend sales of electronic books, lenta.ru reported on 30 June. Meanwhile, the oldest Russian Internet portal, Russia-on-Line, was forced to close down its operations after suffering losses of $200,000 a month, netoscope.ru reported on 29 June. VY

SUMMER NEWS SEASON COMES TO RUSSIA

The Russian media have begun to report this year's crop of summer stories. According to "Izvestiya" on 29 June, Russian detective agencies are now offering their services to women who want their husbands followed when they are away on summer holiday. The same paper reports that Stavropol Governor Aleksandr Chernogorov has demanded improvements in the number and location of public toilets after he was unable to find one when he needed to. Meanwhile, "Vremya MN" reported the same day that Russian parents are increasingly concerned by "the sexual revolution" which has hit Russia's Pioneer summer camps. And ITAR-TASS reported on 29 June that children playing in a sandpit near Irkutsk have unearthed the remains of a mammoth. PG

TATARSTAN'S PARLIAMENT ADJOURNS WITHOUT ALTERING CONSTITUTION

Deputies in Tatarstan's legislative assembly introduced an addition to the republic's constitution, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 29 June. According to the agency, the government and parliament now have the right to provide official commentary on the Constitution. And with that act, legislators adjourned for their summer break. The speaker of Tatarstan's legislature, Farid Mukhametshin, told strana.ru on 30 June that "the formula specifying Tatarstan's status as associated with Russia must be resolved" unambiguously, "whether [Tatarstan is] within the Russian Federation or not." He added that the bilateral treaty between Kazan and Moscow is unique among similar such documents as it is the only legal act confirming that Tatarstan belongs to Russia, and consequently must be preserved. President Putin recently signed a decree establishing a commission to revise the federal center's numerous power-sharing agreements (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001). JAC

ELECTRICITY SUPPLIER OBSERVES KASYANOV'S WISHES TO THE LETTER

Following Prime Minister Kasyanov's visit to Primorskii Krai to ensure that preparations were being made in the energy sector for the upcoming winter, electricity was turned off in the town of Lesozavodsk on 29 June, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2001). According to the agency, the city lost its supplies because of "current debts." During Kasyanov's visit, the premier pledged that the energy supplies will no longer be turned off to customers with outstanding debts. Dalenergo, the local electricity supplier, issued a press release saying that according to the agreement with Kasyanov electricity supplies could not be turned off because of old debts, but new debts are fair game. JAC

ABRAMOVICH ADVISOR ELECTED TO STATE DUMA

Vladimir Yetylin, an advisor to Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich, was elected to the State Duma from a single mandate district in the okrug on 29 June, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported the next day. According to preliminary data, some 26 percent of voters supported Yetylin compared with 22 percent for Boris Betoshev, federal inspector to Chukotka. The by-elections had to be held because Abramovich, who had previously won election in that district, became governor. Some 20 percent of voters voted against all candidates. JAC

AGRICULTURAL FIRM PAYS FARMERS TO USE THEIR LAND

Farmers in the Pervomaiskii raion of Tambov Oblast received cash for their land on 1 July, according to ITAR-TASS. An agricultural company, Stoilenskaya Niva, from neighboring Belgorod Oblast provided cash in exchange for which the Tambov farmers voluntarily handed over to the agricultural firm 100,000 hectares of land, which are now being cultivated by Belgorod workers with farm equipment. Previously, the land was not being cultivated. Stoilenskaya Niva president Fedor Klyuka said that the Tambov farmers will receive regular wages as well as life-long annuities in grain. JAC

FEDERAL OFFICIAL LOOKS AHEAD TO CHECHEN ELECTIONS

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 29 June, former Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov said a working group is to be set up by the end of July to prepare for elections to a new Chechen parliament, possibly as early as next spring, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 June. A second working group, which Gantemirov heads, is drafting a new Chechen constitution that he said will be modeled on that of Tatarstan. The new constitution "will not deviate an inch" from that of the Russian Federation, but it will nonetheless give Chechnya "broad autonomy" and prevent a new war, Gantemirov added. He also ruled out any talks with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov on ending the current fighting. LF




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FACTION LEADER CALLS FOR SWEEPING CHANGES

Aghvan Vartanian, who managed Robert Kocharian's successful presidential election campaign in 1998 and now heads the Armenian Revolutionary Federation - Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) parliament faction, on 30 June advocated major changes within the Armenian parliament and government, calling for the creation of "a strong, organized, professional, dedicated and morally untainted team," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Vartanian was particularly critical of the ongoing disagreements between the two factions within the parliament majority Miasnutiun bloc, arguing that "no serious political work can be done in the current situation." LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW PRIVATIZATION PROGRAM

Deputies voted on 29 June to approve the government's proposed plans for privatizing the last remaining major state-owned enterprises, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2001). The People's Party of Armenia, which until now opposed privatization of those enterprises, dropped its objections after the government agreed to draft two additional laws that will regulate the privatization of four major metallurgical companies and most of Armenia's thermal and hydro-electric power stations. The Ministry for State Property hopes to sell off 40 percent of the listed enterprises within the next 12 months. LF

ARMENIA, GEORGIA SEEK TO RESOLVE ECONOMIC DISAGREEMENTS

Armenian and Georgian government delegations held two days of what Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian termed "difficult" but productive talks in Yerevan on 28-29 June, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The two sides failed to reach agreement on rescheduling Georgia's $24 million debt to Armenia, but will try to do so within the next month. Nor was agreement reached on reducing tariffs for goods Armenia imports via Georgia, although Armenian Transport and Communications Minister Yervand Zakharian expressed the hope that Tbilisi will do so next year. Armenia currently pays $24 for every ton of oil and $17 per ton of other commodities it imports via Georgia, while tariffs for Azerbaijani cargoes are lower. LF

AZERBAIJAN PROVIDES NEW HOMES FOR KARABAKH WAR INVALIDS

Labor and Social Protection Minister Ali Nagiev on 30 June formally opened a complex of 50 individual family homes in Baku's Binagadi Raion intended for Karabakh war invalids, Turan reported. Speakers at the ceremony, including President Heidar Aliev, castigated those Karabakh war invalids who in January embarked on a hunger strike to lobby for increased allowances. Six of the participants in that hunger strike are currently on trial on charges of violating law and order. Deputy Prime Minister Ali Hasanov, who heads a working group to examine the plight of war invalids and veterans, said that they currently receive a total of 71 billion manats ($15.3 million) annually in pensions and special allowances. LF

RUSSIA HANDS OVER ONE MILITARY BASE TO GEORGIA ON SCHEDULE...

In accordance with an agreement reached at the 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul, senior Russian Defense Ministry official General Aleksandr Feldi and Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Temur Loria signed a formal protocol on 29 June whereby Russia handed over to Georgia the Vaziani military base and airfield east of Tbilisi. The elite Georgian army 11th brigade will move to Vaziani within the next month, Caucasus Press reported on 30 June quoting the Georgian Defense Ministry. But Russia still retains some equipment at the airfield, which it may use free of charge for 48 flights per year until the closure of the Russian bases at Batumi and Akhalkalaki, for which no date has yet been agreed. LF

...BUT NOT A SECOND

Russian troops failed, however, to leave the military base in Gudauta, Abkhazia, by the 1 July deadline agreed at the 1999 OSCE summit, and Feldi left Georgia on 30 June without having signed an analogous protocol relinquishing that base. Interfax on 29 June quoted Giorgi Baramidze, who is chairman of the Georgian parliament's Defense and Security Committee, as saying Russian officials claimed it was impossible to meet that deadline as Georgia cannot guarantee the security of military equipment still in Gudauta which the Abkhaz armed forces could take possession of and use in new hostilities against Georgia. Caucasus Press on 29 June quoted Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze as saying that Russian military officials refused to sign the protocol until Georgia agrees to permit 300 Russian military personnel to remain at the base to guard that equipment. Sikharulidze said that Tbilisi will grant permission for the Russian troops to stay only after the last Russian military equipment is withdrawn. But according to a Russian representative at the OSCE, that materiel cannot be withdrawn at present because the blockade of the base by local Abkhaz and Russian citizens that began early in June is continuing, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

GEORGIA RESCHEDULES DEBT TO UKRAINE

Having concluded debt rescheduling agreements with Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey, Tbilisi has now reached agreement with Kyiv on repaying its $920,000 debt over a period of 20 years, at an annual interest rate of 3 percent, beginning in 2003, Caucasus Press reported. Georgia's total foreign debt amounts to $1.6 billion. LF

KAZAKHSTAN EXPELS 93 TAJIKS

The Kazakh authorities have expelled 93 citizens of Tajikistan who stayed for longer than the maximum three days in transit in Kazakhstan en route for the Russian Federation, where they hoped to find work, Interfax reported on 29 June. The Tajiks were travelling in two buses and had been in Kazakhstan for 14 days when they were stopped at a customs point on the border between Northern Kazakhstan and Russia. A local official said that 240 citizens of CIS states have been deported from Kazakhstan since the beginning of the year. LF

KYRGYZSTAN'S FOREIGN DEBT HITS $2 BILLION...

Finance Minister Temirbek AkmatAliyev told a meeting in Bishkek on 29 June of the State Commission on Foreign Aid and Investments that the country's foreign debt has reached $2 billion, which is one third higher than annual GDP, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. As of 1 January 2000, the country's total foreign debt was estimated at $1.76 billion. Marat Sultanov, who is chairman of the Kyrgyz parliament's Budget Committee and a former finance minister, told Interfax on 29 June that the country must currently pay between $12 million and $15 million each month to service its external debts, which leaves only 150 million soms (just over $3 million) for socioeconomic purposes. LF

...AS PARLIAMENT INCREASES FUNDING FOR PRESIDENTIAL APPARATUS...

Also on 29 June, the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of parliament) voted to amend the state budget for this year in order to increase by almost 40 percent, from 51 million soms (about $1 million) to 68 million soms, funding for the presidential apparatus, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The country registered a budget surplus of 275.5 million soms, or 1.8 percent of planned GDP, during the first four months of the year. LF

...BUT AGAIN OBJECTS TO PLANNED ENERGY PRIVATIZATION

Seventeen of the total 60 Legislative Assembly deputies walked out of the 29 June session to protest pressure from the government to approve its program for privatization of the state-owned energy giant KyrgyzEnergo, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Two of the deputies who quit the chamber told RFE/RL the following day that official reports that 40 deputies nonetheless voted in favor of the program are untrue, and that it failed to pass for lack of a quorum. They added that they plan to appeal to the constitutional court. The People's Assembly (the upper parliament chamber) has twice rejected the government's plans for privatizing KyrgyzEnergo, arguing on 6 June that hydro-electric power stations and power lines should be exempt from privatization. The People's Assembly is to meet in emergency session on 3 July to consider the program in the third reading. LF

WORLD BANK RELEASES NEW CREDIT FOR TAJIKISTAN

The World Bank on 26 June released a second Structural Adjustment Credit totaling $50 million to reduce poverty and support economic growth and the ongoing transition to a market economy in Tajikistan. The credit is the first since the Bank approved the Tajik government's new Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy last fall. LF

UZBEKISTAN RELAXES FOREIGN EXCHANGE REGULATIONS

As of 1 July, foreign investors in Uzbekistan are no longer constrained to use the artificially high exchange rate to the U.S. dollar set by the Uzbek National Bank when converting their profits from Uzbek soms, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 June quoting gazeta.sng.ru. In order to encourage the development of small and medium-sized businesses, their owners will similarly no longer be constrained to sell to the state at the exchange rate set by the National Bank 50 percent of their hard currency earnings from exports. LF




BELARUSIAN NGO SAYS DECREE ON INCOME DECLARATION BY PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS UNCOSTITUTIONAL

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC) has said the presidential decree requiring that presidential candidates and their immediate relatives declare their income and property (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2001) contravenes the Belarusian constitution and legislation, Belapan reported on 29 June. The BHC stresses that the constitution bars the country's National Assembly from delegating powers to the president to issue decrees that change presidential election procedures. In addition, the BHC says the decree violates the constitutional provision stipulating that citizens cannot be compelled to carry out duties unspecified by Belarus's constitution or laws. The BHC notes that no Belarusian law mentions presidential candidates' relatives among those who must declare their incomes in election campaigns. JM

BELARUSIAN LEGISLATORS SET UP PRO-EUROPEAN GROUP

Vadzim Papou, speaker of the Chamber of Representatives, announced on 29 June that 14 deputies have created a group named "Europe Is Our Common Home," Belapan reported. According to Papou, the group's main goal is "to speed up the process" of persuading European interparliamentary organizations to recognize the National Assembly as legitimate. Belarus's National Assembly, which consists of the 110-seat Chamber of Representatives (lower house) and the 64-seat Council of the Republic (upper house), is not recognized by the OSCE as a democratically elected representation of the Belarusian people. JM

UKRAINIAN EX-PREMIER CALLS FOR ELECTORAL ALLIANCE OF REFORMIST FORCES

In a videotaped address to a congress of the Reforms and Order Party in Kyiv on 30 June, former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko called for forging a union of all reformist and democratic forces before the parliamentary elections next year. "The main task is to revive economic reforms in order to build a flourishing Ukraine. Therefore we should unite all reformist, patriotic, and democratic forces and reach for an election victory," Interfax quoted Yushchenko as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN PRO-REFORM PARTY WANTS ELECTORAL BLOC OF RIGHTIST, CENTRIST FORCES

The Reforms and Order Party congress on 30 June approved the previous decision of the party's leadership to form a political bloc with the Popular Rukh of Ukraine (Hennadiy Udovenko's faction) and the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, Interfax reported. The congress re-elected Viktor Pynzenyk as the party's leader and authorized him to sign accords with other parties in order to create "an election bloc of reformist, patriotic forces." Pynzenyk told the congress that the Reforms and Order Party is ready to join an electoral bloc of rightists and centrist forces united around former Prime Minister Yushchenko. JM

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT OPPOSES PAYING GAS DEBT TO RUSSIA WITH EUROBONDS

Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh told Interfax on 29 June that the government is against the idea of transforming the gas debt to Russia -- owned formally by the Naftohaz Ukrayiny monopoly -- into a government debt. Kinakh was commenting on Moscow's recent proposal that Kyiv should repay this debt with Eurobonds issued under government guarantees (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2001). Kinakh said he regrets that former Premier Yushchenko signed a document obliging the government to repay the gas debt to Russia with state securities. "I think, and I am supported by the government in this issue, that this [gas debt repayment method] is inadmissible and runs counter not only Ukraine's legislation but also our national economic interests in general," Kinakh said. He noted that Naftohaz Ukrayiny's gas debt to Russia amounts to $1.342 billion. JM

ESTONIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS LAW ON CHURCHES

Lennart Meri refused to promulgate the recently adopted Churches and Congregations Act on 29 June, BNS reported. Before making the decision, Meri consulted with Justice Chancellor Allar Joks, while his advisers talked about freedom of religion with an expert from Tartu University. Meri noted that the Estonian Council of Churches opposed the law because it could prevent the registration of such traditional churches as the Estonian Union of Seventh-Day Adventists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2001). Meri did not, however, mention the more important complaints against the law by the Estonian Orthodox Church subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate. Leonti Morozlon, a representative of that church, praised the president's decision, but expressed regret that it is still not clear when the church will be able to be registered officially. SG

CONFERENCE OF EUROPEAN EDUCATION MINISTERS IN LATVIA

Representatives from 36 countries, including the education ministers of 17 states, participated in the 5th conference of European national education ministers in Riga on 29-30 June, LETA reported. Latvian Minister of Education and Science Karlis Greiskalns, EU Commissioner for Education and Culture Viviane Reding, and Sweden's Minister for Schools and Adult Education Ingegard Warnersson spoke at the opening session of the conference, the main theme of which was E-Lifetime Education. The conference adopted a final document underscoring the role of information and communications technologies in schools and during higher education. The document pointed to the positive role of information technology in developing cross border contacts which can be well used in the education process, but at the same time noted that the use of international resources may diminish the role of respective countries' cultural and linguistic heritage. SG

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT CHOOSES BRAZAUSKAS AS PRIME MINISTER CANDIDATE

In a statement broadcast by Lithuania's television and radio stations on 29 June, President Valdas Adamkus said he had selected Social Democratic Party Chairman Algirdas Brazauskas as the next prime minister, BNS reported. Adamkus said that that decision was based on the need to recognize the disintegration of the former ruling New Policy Coalition and the formation of the new ruling majority in the parliament, consisting of the Social Democratic Party, the New Union (Social Liberals), Peasants Party, and New Democracy. The new majority should be able to gather at least 80 votes in support of Brazauskas. Adamkus is scheduled to nominate Brazauskas for prime minister at the parliament session on 2 July. SG

POLAND'S LEFT-WING BLOC SELECTS CANDIDATES FOR GENERAL ELECTIONS

The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Labor Union (UP) on 30 June approved their joint lists of candidates for the 23 September legislative elections, PAP reported. The SLD-UP election coalition will field 920 candidates for the 460-seat Sejm and 99 candidates for the 100-seat Senate. The UP will have 87 candidates running for the Sejm. Leaders of the coalition will top district election lists, in particular: Leszek Miller (SLD) in Lodz, Marek Borowski (SLD) in Warsaw, Jerzy Szmajdzinski (SLD) in Legnica, Marek Pol (UP) in Konin, and Tomasz Nalecz (UP) in Radom. JM

POLISH PRESIDENT SUGGESTS 'COMPROMISE' ON LABOR BAN IN EU TALKS

In an interview with the German magazine "Der Spiegel" on 1 July, Aleksander Kwasniewski signaled Poland's flexibility on a German-led proposal to keep workers from eastern Europe from settling in the current EU for up to seven years after their countries join the Union. "A compromise must be found. I'm certain that we will succeed after the elections to the Sejm [on 23 September]," AP quoted Kwasniewski as saying. Kwasniewski also said there is room for compromise on Warsaw's demand to be allowed an 18-year ban on sales of farmland to foreigners. "We must become more flexible. If we want to attract investors, they must also be able to buy land," Kwasniewski said. And he added: "But we must also take account of Polish fears. Polish land is very cheap. I don't want a sellout." JM

CZECH GOVERNMENT TO DISCUSS SECRET SERVICES DISPUTE?

Social Democratic Party Chairman and Deputy Premier Vladimir Spidla told journalists on 29 June that he is considering proposing that the cabinet discuss the current situation in the secret services, CTK reported. Spidla was appointed in April 2000 as government coordinator of the Counter Intelligence Service (BIS). Spidla refused to address the latest dispute between the BIS and the National Security Office (NBU), saying the information involved is "to a certain degree classified." Chamber of Deputies Defense and Security Committee Chairman Petr Necas told journalists on 28 June that the BIS and the NBU are engaged in a dispute over security vetting methods, the trustworthiness of their respective staff and the results of their work. Jan Klas, chairman of the chamber's commission monitoring the activity of the BIS, also told journalists on 29 June that the cabinet will deal with the dispute. Klas on 29 June told the daily "Pravo" that he suspects BIS Director Jiri Ruzek of having tapped a telephone conversation between himself and NBU Director Tomas Kadlec. MS

CZECH OPPOSITION ALLIANCE PUBLISHES 2002 ELECTIONS MANIFESTO

The Four Party Coalition on 29 June presented to journalists its "Joint Responsibility" electoral manifesto for the parliamentary elections due in 2002, CTK reported. The alliance's leader, Karel Kuehnl, said the document is proof that the members of the coalition are able to cooperate and agree on joint priorities. But the daily "Pravo" reported the same day that the Christian Democratic Movement (KDU-CSL) is considering whether to run in the elections alone. KDU-CSL Deputy Chairman Milan Simonovsky, who participated in the launching of the electoral manifesto, denied that report. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT SALUTES MILOSEVIC EXTRADITION

President Vaclav Havel said on 29 June in Luzern, where he paid a two-day visit, that the handing over of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague was "a step away from the isolation of the Balkans," CTK reported. Havel said this was "one of the many little steps leading Yugoslavia away from isolation towards partnership and participation in the joint responsibility of the international community." MS

FEUD BETWEEN TELEVISION RIVALS IN CZECH REPUBLIC TAKES NEW TURN

The long-standing dispute between Vladimir Zelezny, director of Nova TV and his former U.S. associate Ronald Lauder, owner of the Central European Media Enterprise (CME), resurfaced on 29 June, when Zelezny handed journalists copies of records attesting that the CME illegally obtained information about his Czech competitors, dpa reported. Lauder's spokesman Michal Donath in turn told dpa that Zelezny had quoted the "questionable records" out of context and that Lauder is "in no way responsible" for the information thus obtained. Donath in turn alleged that Zelezny's company received a loan of 1 billion crowns (about $25 million) from the defunct IPB bank, with no clear collateral. Zelezny and Lauder co-owned Nova TV till 1999, when Zelezny forced Lauder out of the business. This triggered a still ongoing dispute waged in courts and in the media. MS

CZECH FAR RIGHT PARTY PROTESTS 'PERSECUTION'

Jan Kopal, chairman of the far right National Social Bloc (NSB), on 30 June told CTK that he has asked Interior Minister Stanisav Gross to punish those ministry officials who refused to register his party, and has launched a complaint with the Supreme Court. Kopal said that in a democratic society "the law must protect the free competition of political forces." The NSB is also complaining about police action in Liberec, northern Bohemia, on 16 June, when five NSB members were detained after burning a portrait of President Havel. "This was no different from lighting a cigarette in public," Kopal said. In related news, a group of some 40 anarchists on 30 June demonstrated in Nachod, east Bohemia, against the "rising wave of neo-Nazism" in the town. Several Roma also joined the march. The protesters claim a magazine published in Nachod with the support of municipal officials promotes far-right ideology. MS

SLOVAK COURT STOPS PROCEEDINGS AGAINST LEXA ON KIDNAPPING CHARGES

A court of justice in Bratislava on 29 June halted criminal proceedings against former Secret Services Director Ivan Lexa, on the grounds that the offenses he was charged with fall under an amnesty, CTK reported. The prosecution appealed the ruling. Lexa, currently a deputy representing the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, was prosecuted for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995. In 1998, when former Premier Vladimir Meciar took over some of the presidential prerogatives after President's Kovac's mandate ended, he amnestied those accused of kidnapping Kovac's son. The amnesty was canceled by Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda after the parliamentary elections later that year, but it was later reconfirmed by the Constitutional Court at the request of Lexa's former deputy, Jaroslav Svechota, who was also charged with participation in the kidnapping. Unlike Lexa, Svechota admitted his participation in the kidnapping. MS

SLOVAK TELEVISION SHUTS PREMIER UP

Slovak state television on 29 June rejected Premier Dzurinda's request for permission to address audiences on the occasion of the end of the school year, on grounds that the law obliges the electronic media to give officials air time only in "critical situations" to "inform the public about important things," TASR reported. In 1999, the state television was fined 1 million crowns (slightly over $20,000) for having allowed Dzurinda to make a speech in circumstances that did not meet that legal stipulation. Slovak state radio agreed to broadcast Dzurinda's speech, but cut those parts in which he spoke about the government's achievements in education. Education Minister Milan Ftacnik described Dzurinda's request as "an unusual initiative." Dzurinda denied he intended to make a "pre-electoral speech." MS

SLOVAK POLL BELIES FOREIGN MINISTRY OFFICIAL...

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jan Figel, who is also Slovakia's chief negotiator with the EU, said on 29 June he firmly believes Slovakia will receive an invitation to join NATO at the organization's 2002 Prague summit, CTK reported. Figel said that there is "no need to worry" about low public support for Slovakia's NATO membership in a referendum. But a public opinion poll conducted by the UVVM institute, whose results were released on the same day, shows that only 41 percent of Slovaks support NATO membership, 46 percent oppose it and 13 percent are undecided, thus largely confirming the results of a similar survey conducted in November 2000. NATO officials say public support for joining the organization is one of the conditions for accession and the Slovak government has said it wants support to increase to 60 percent in the coming months. MS

...WHILE 'PRAVDA' SAYS NATO ENTRY COSTS LARGER THAN PUBLIC KNOWS

The daily "Pravda" on 1 July wrote that both the government and the opposition lack the courage to admit that NATO entry costs are likely to prove considerably higher than initially estimated, CTK reported. The daily accuses the cabinet of manipulating figures in order to enlist public support for accession. It also says that NATO accession costs for the Czech Republic turned out to be higher than earlier estimated. It adds that while defense expenditure is currently 1.7 percent of GDP, it will have to rise to 3 percent after accession. "Pravda" also says that NATO has "a more prosaic reason" to expand than extending stability in the area, noting that world trading in arms is considerably growing and Western arms manufacturers want to turn East Central Europe into "a sales territory for their production." MS

SLOVAK ROMANY SPOKESMAN WELCOMES HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW

Alexander Patkolo, chairman of the Romany Intelligentsia of Slovakia organization, on 29 June told the daily "Novy den" that most Slovak Roma welcome the approval by the Hungarian parliament on 19 June of the Status Law that grants ethnic Hungarians from neighboring countries privileges in Hungary. He said that in anticipation that the law would be passed, many Roma declared their nationality as Hungarian in the May census, hoping the Status Bill will help them in face of their extreme poverty, TASR reported. Patkolo accused Deputy Premier Pal Csaky, who is in charge of ethnic minority problems, of mismanaging EU funds aimed at improving the situation of the Roma, and said the government has not presented any concrete projects for doing so. He described the cabinet's "Strategy" to tackle that problem as "ineffective and half-hearted." MS

EU OFFICIAL SAYS HUNGARY MUST REACH ACCORD WITH NEIGHBORS ON STATUS LAW

Eneko Landaburu, European Commission director general for expansion, said in Budapest on 29 June that Hungary must reach compromise agreements with both Slovakia and Romania before the Status Law is due to come into force on 1 January 2002, Hungarian media and Reuters reported. He said that although the law "appeared to be in line with EU regulations," it is "very important that Hungary and its neighbors take normal diplomatic steps to solve their problems at bilateral level." On Budapest's EU accession progress, Landaburu said Hungary and Cyprus are ahead of the remaining candidate countries, having both closed 22 out of the 31 chapters of the aquis communautaire. But in an interview with the daily "Vilaggazdasag," Landaburu said the European Commission is concerned that Budapest has not yet closed the chapter on culture and audiovisual policy. He stressed that the chapter cannot be closed until Hungary passes a new media law. MS

HUNGARIAN PARTIES CONTINUE BRACING FOR 2002 ELECTIONS...

Peter Medgyessy, the opposition Socialist Party's (MSZP) candidate for premier, on 1 July introduced to journalists what he called the MSZP's "Company of Ten" who will be in charge of the party's 2002 electoral campaign, Hungarian media and AP reported. The team includes MSZP Chairman Laszlo Kovacs, but most other faces on it are new. Also on 1 July, Gabor Kuncze, acting chairman of the opposition Free Democratic Party (SZDSZ), was officially re-elected SZDSZ chairman, a position from which he resigned after the SZDSZ's poor 1998 electoral performance. MTI quoted Kuncze as saying the SZDSZ will run independently in the 2002 elections, while Radio Budapest quoted MSZP Chairman Kovacs as saying "now the two chairmen can sit down and discuss cooperation." MS

...AND SMALLHOLDERS CONTINUE INFIGHTING

Janos Szabo, chairman of the reformist Democratic Federation of Independent Smallholders, on 1 July told the daily "Nepszabadsag" that if Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) Chairman Joszef Torgyan does not resign from his position by September, the federation will transform itself into a political party and that he expects most local FKGP organizations to join it. Zsolt Lanyi, who heads another FKGP reformist wing, warned that it would be a "grave mistake" if different FKGP reformists ran against the FKGP in the elections. But Lanyi himself last week said a reformist FKGP may be set up in August and form its own parliamentary group in September. On 29 June, the Budapest FKGP local organization barred Antall Dobossy and Bela Veszeli, both Torgyan rivals, from running for the post of chairman and elected Mrs. A. Koranyi, a Torgyan-supporter and a deputy chairwoman of the FKGP's Women Federation headed by Torgyan's wife, Maria Cseh, as leader of the branch. MS

HUNGARY WELCOMES MILOSEVIC'S EXTRADITION TO HAGUE

Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath on 29 June said Budapest welcomes the extradition to The Hague of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. The decision, Horvath said, "sends an unequivocal message that the new Yugoslav and Serb leaderships" want the country to "become a full member of the international community," that "shares European values" and makes progress "towards [becoming] a democratic state governed by the rule of law." MS




YUGOSLAVIA TRIES TO AVERT POLITICAL CRISIS AFTER PREMIER RESIGNS...

Serbian Premier Zoran Djindjic said on 1 July that Yugoslavia is in a "deep crisis" following the resignation of Yugoslav Premier Zoran Zizic one day earlier, AP reported. Zizic said he resigned because of the "hasty and tactless decision" to hand former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic over to the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague on 29 June. Zizic is a member of the Montenegrin Socialist People's Party, which was categorically against transferring Milosevic to The Hague. It is a junior member of the broad coalition of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica. Zizic said, however, that his party would likely support a reshuffling of the Yugoslav government instead of calling for new elections. Zizic's resignation and the Serbian government's declaration that federal institutions "had ceased to function" raised fears that the crisis could lead to a breakup of Yugoslavia. Djindjic told German television on 1 July that if Serbia and Montenegro fail to agree on a new state concept "then we should just separate." Kostunica held talks with military leaders on 29 June to calm tensions. PB

...AS SERBIAN PREMIER PROMISES MORE EXTRADITIONS

Zoran Djindjic said in Salzburg on 1 July that Belgrade will endeavor to extradite more accused war criminals to The Hague tribunal, dpa reported. Djindjic said that as a member of the UN, Yugoslavia "has the same obligations as the other states." He added that preparations are underway to bring suspected war criminals to trial in Serbia as well. Djindjic said that despite the disagreement over Milosevic's extradition, relations between himself and Kostunica are "good." He said they both share the goal of leading the country to Europe, adding, "We can't afford isolation any more." Djindjic said he believes that Yugoslavia will not disintegrate, and that he hopes that Belgrade could join the EU in a decade. PB

DONOR COUNTRIES DELIVER DOLLARS FOR YUGOSLAVIA

International donors pledged on 29 June at a conference in Brussels to give some $1.28 billion to Belgrade this year in grants and loans, AFP reported. The conference, sponsored by the World Bank and the European Commission, has set a goal of $1.25 billion for 2001 and a total of $3.9 billion over a three-year period. Yugoslav Deputy Premier Miroljub Labus said that Yugoslavia has made a clean break with its past and that the donations and loans symbolize an international investment in a stable future for the Balkans. Serbian Premier Djindjic said Serbia is nearly bankrupt and major investments in the country's infrastructure are needed quickly to avoid the rise of political extremism. He told the German business daily "Handelsblatt" that the country's future depends upon how fast the pledged money flows into Belgrade. Meanwhile, Yugoslavia formally asked Switzerland to help it recover some $6 million in frozen Swiss bank accounts alleged to have been stolen by Milosevic's cronies. PB

MILOSEVIC'S LAWYERS MEET WITH HIM AT THE HAGUE TO DISCUSS THE 'DEFENSE'...

The Belgrade-based lawyers for former Yugoslav President Milosevic arrived at The Hague on 2 July to discuss the former leader's plea when the charges against him are read in court the next day, AP reported. Attorney Branimir Gugl said that he, Zdenko Tomanovic, and Dragan Krgovic have not yet worked on Milosevic's defense because "Mr. Milosevic does not recognize the tribunal." Gugl said Milosevic asserts that it is "clearly a political show trial, based on the fact that he is the only man who stood up against NATO." Gugl said that judging by a conversation Milosevic had with his wife, he is in "fantastic psychological condition." He reportedly told his wife that "he was working for the interests of the Serbian people as president, and if he were to be head of state again, he would act the same way." PB

...AS INDICTMENT AGAINST HIM GROWS

Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the UN war crimes tribunal, said on 30 June that the indictment against Milosevic has been amended to include the killing of hundreds more ethnic Albanians during the crackdown against Kosovar Albanians led by the former Yugoslav president in 1998-99, Reuters reported. Additionally, Del Ponte said the tribunal is preparing new indictments that will charge Milosevic with war crimes committed during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the early to mid-1990s. Del Ponte said "we are today only at the start of the case against Slobodan Milosevic, not at the end." Del Ponte said Milosevic's handover is a turning point for the tribunal and that Milosevic is now accused of the deaths of some 600 ethnic Albanians. An estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians are thought to have perished during the 18-month ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosova. PB

DOZENS OF BODIES FOUND IN SERBIAN MASS GRAVES

Serbian district judge Milorad Momcilovic said on 29 June that the bodies of 74 men believed to be Kosovar Albanians have thus far been discovered in two mass graves in eastern Serbia, and more bodies may still be found, AFP reported. The graves were unearthed in Petrovo Selo. The judge said many of the corpses had bullet wounds. Officials from the UN war crimes tribunal are supervising the site, which was discovered at the beginning of June. PB

DEPUTY PREMIER PRAISES NATO-YUGOSLAV PARTNERSHIP

Yugoslav Deputy Premier Labus said at an international forum in Crans-Montana, Switzerland on 30 June that cooperation between NATO and Belgrade is at a high level after the successful resolution of the Presevo Valley conflict in southern Serbia, ITAR-TASS reported. Labus said such partnership is a "considerable achievement" when one considers that Belgrade was in "an open conflict with NATO two years ago." PB

U.S. ENVOY HOLDING TALKS WITH MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT...

James Pardew began talks with Boris Trajkovski in Skopje on 2 July on the situation in Macedonia one night after heavy fighting between the Macedonian army and members of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK), Reuters reported. Pardew, appointed last week by President George W. Bush as U.S. envoy to Macedonia, said the Macedonian government must take responsibility for ending the crisis. He said "we look to [the Macedonian government] to take that responsibility, to seize this moment and to bring this conflict to a peaceful conclusion." He urged both sides to refrain from using violence, saying that "those who favor the use of force are undermining the peace process." Upon arriving in Skopje on 1 July, Pardew said he hopes to work closely with Francois Leotard, the EU's new envoy to Macedonia. Earlier on 1 July, Macedonia's Finance Ministry announced a war tax to bolster the state coffers which have been depleted during the five-month old conflict. PB

...AS REBELS CAPTURE MORE VILLAGES

Heavy fighting erupted around the town of Tetovo on 1 July after UCK forces moved into the four nearby villages of Otunje, Varvara, Setloe, and Breznoe, forcing most villagers to leave, AP reported. Several ethnic Macedonians reportedly lived in the villages and were also forced out, some at gunpoint. One Macedonian soldier was killed when mortar shells hit a Macedonian position overlooking Tetovo. UCK spokesman Dren Korabi said "we have been forced to extend our territory and will continue to do so in all directions in Macedonia." The Macedonian army responded by sending in helicopter gunships near Radusa, close to the border with Kosova. Fighting was also reported in some villages near the northwestern town of Kumanovo. Army spokesman Colonel Blagoja Markovski said the Tetovo region had returned to "relative calm" by the morning of 2 July. PB

NATO PROVISIONALLY AGREES TO SEND PEACEKEEPING FORCE TO MACEDONIA

Meeting in Brussels on 29 June, NATO ambassadors agreed to send a 3,000 member force to Macedonia to help disarm ethnic Albanian rebels should an enduring political agreement be reached by both sides and a lasting cease-fire be established, AP reported. NATO spokesman Yves Brodeur said that "NATO is ready to implement the plan, providing the proper environment exists." Brodeur added that NATO troops would not use force to disarm rebels. Fifteen of the 19 NATO members have agreed to contribute personnel to the force. PB

MILOSEVIC HANDOVER PUTS PRESSURE ON BOSNIAN SERBS

Republika Srpska Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said the extradition of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague has increased the pressure on his republic to cooperate with the tribunal, Reuters reported on 29 June. Bosnian Serb wartime leaders and war crimes suspects Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are believed by the UN to be in hiding there. "Since all the [neighboring] countries...have taken on the obligation to fully cooperate with The Hague tribunal, the Serb republic's leadership is under pressure for more...decisive action regarding the...tribunal," Ivanic said. DW

SLOVENE PRIME MINISTER CRITICIZES EU

Speaking at the European Economic Summit in Salzburg, Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek said the EU is inconsistent on the question of transition periods before expansion members' workers are to be granted freedom of movement, dpa reported on 1 July. Drnovsek said that under these circumstances he finds it "difficult to be enthusiastic about Europe." He added that Slovenia will probably have to accept the transition period of up to seven years on which the EU insists. EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen responded by saying that the EU has shown understanding for many of the wishes and needs of EU enlargement candidates. DW

RULING SOCIALISTS WIN FIRST ROUND OF ALBANIAN ELECTIONS

Albania's Central Election Commission announced on 1 July that the ruling Socialist Party won the first round of parliamentary elections, held 24 June, Western news services reported. Out of 100 seats elected by direct majority vote, the Socialists won at least 30, while the opposition Democratic Party (PD)-led Union for Victory won at least 16. A second round of voting will be held on 8 July in 45 constituencies where no candidate won more than 50 percent of votes. An additional 40 deputies are elected on the basis of parties' proportional share of the vote. The commission further announced that it will hold repeat elections in six constituencies due to irregularities, and in three constituencies it still has not determined the outcome. Despite accusations from PD leader Sali Berisha of falsified results, international observers from the OSCE and Council of Europe said the elections "marked progress toward meeting international standards for democratic elections." DW

RESITA HUNGER STRIKERS END PROTEST

The Resita hunger strikers ended their labor action on 29 June after reaching an agreement with Privatization Authority Minister Octavian Musatescu, a local RFE/RL correspondent reported. Under that agreement, on 2 July the government will launch legal procedures against the U.S. Noble Ventures company for nullifying the privatization contract of the CSR steel maker and will pay "emergency aid" to the company's workers. Reacting to the agreement, CSR Director General John Michael McNutt said the Noble Venture company's failure to abide by the contract stems from the government's own failure to restructure the debt to the budget last year, rather than in May 2001. McNutt also said an "amiable solution" is still possible and that the U.S. company intends to abide by its contractual obligations. Musatescu responded that McNutt has been "telling us Hoffman tales" for too long, and that he will now have to convince the court with his "fairy tales." MS

PACE ASKS VENICE COMMISSION TO EXAMINE ROMANIAN COMPLAINT AGAINST STATUS LAW

The Standing Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 29 June decided to send the Romanian draft resolution condemning the Hungarian Status Law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2001) to the examination of the European Council's Venice Commission. The ruling of the commission's 43 experts on constitutional and international law is not expected before late fall, Mediafax reported. On 1 July, the agency reported from Lisbon that Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and Hungarian Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs agreed at a meeting of the Socialist International that differences over the law must be solved within the joint Hungarian-Romanian commission on national minorities rather than internationalize the dispute. Returning from his visit to Bucharest on 29 June, Istvan Szentivanyi, chairman of the Hungarian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, said the sides have agreed to solve the dispute without foreign interference and to end "mutual harsh recriminations," MTI reported. MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SALUTES, ILIESCU SILENT ON MILOSEVIC'S EXTRADITION

Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, speaking in his capacity as OSCE Chairman in Office, on 29 June "saluted" the extradition of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague, saying the step "ends one of the most dramatic chapters in the recent history of the Balkans and opens up the way for full normalization and Yugoslavia's full integration in the international community of democratic states." Attending the Crans Montana international economic forum in Switzerland, President Ion Iliescu refused to comment on the extradition, Mediafax reported. MS

ROMANIA'S SOCIAL DEMOCRATS GET TRANSITION STATUS WITH SOCIALIST INTERNATIONAL

The Socialist International, meeting in Lisbon on 29 June, decided to grant the newly-formed Social Democratic Party (PSD) the status of "permanent guest" and postponed until next year a decision on the party's admission, Romanian television reported. Democratic Party Deputy Chairman Sorin Frunzaverde, who attended the meeting representing his formation, said that the PSD "must yet prove that it is a democratic party faithful to the ideals of social-democracy" and must demonstrate its readiness to collaborate with the Democratic Party in solving the Romanian internal problems. Nastase, who represented the PSD, met in Lisbon with Prime Minister Antonio Guterres and was received by President Jorge Sampaio. MS

ILIESCU TAKES 'TEA FOR TWO'

President Iliescu, taking a break during the Crans Montana economic forum, on 30 June visited former King Michael at his residence in Versoix, Switzerland, and had tea with the former monarch and his family, Mediafax reported. MS

VORONIN SAYS TRANSDNIESTER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY 'WAS JOKE'

President Vladimir Voronin on 29 June told journalists in Chisinau that his recent statement in Strasbourg that he might run for Transdniester's presidency was intended as "a joke," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001). But he added he "does not rule out" backing in the December 2001 elections there a "suitable candidate" to run against Igor Smirnov. Earlier, Popular Party Christian Democratic Chairman Iurie Rosca said Voronin's announcement is a "de facto recognition of Transdniester's statehood" and attests to "crass judicial incompetence" that requires Voronin's resignation. Rosca said Voronin was apparently unaware that in order to run for that post "he must relinquish Moldovan citizenship." Separatist "Foreign Affairs Minister" Valerii Litskay said in Tiraspol the authorities "would not mind" a Voronin bid, but that his advisors "could have told him that the minimal condition is acquiring Transdniester citizenship," Infotag reported. MS

RUSSIA TO START DISMANTLING TANKS IN TRANSDNIESTER...

In line with the agreement reached last month, on 10 July Russia will dismantle the first ten T-64 tanks stationed in the Transdniester, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The tanks will be scrapped into five sections to prevent their reassembly and will be converted into sellable metals at the Rabnita steel maker or recycled at the Bendery/Tighina metallurgical company, with revenues being equally divided between Moscow and Tiraspol (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2001). A group of Russian military experts headed by General Nikolai Popov has already arrived to supervise the operation. In line with the 1999 Istanbul OSCE summit decisions, Russia must evacuate or destroy its arsenal in the Transdniester by 31 December 2001. MS

...AND MOLDOVA DISMANTLES ROAD BLOCKS IN SECURITY ZONE

Concrete road blocks were removed on 29 June at several checkpoints in the security zone dividing the conflicting sides, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The decision to remove the blocks was approved by the joint Control Commission, whose Moldovan co-chairman, Gheorghe Roman, said the move follows President Voronin's decision to withdraw Moldovan soldiers and custom officers from 10 out of the zone's 15 checkpoints. The remaining five posts are on bridges and river crossings on the Dniester River. MS

COALITION PARLEYS BEGIN IN BULGARIA...

Representatives of the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) met on 29 June with politicians from the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) and, separately, with leaders of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, to discuss the formation of Bulgaria's next coalition government, international agencies reported. Plamen Panayotov of the NDSV said after the meeting with the SDS that "a coalition is possible" and that the SDS "are our natural coalition partners." Outgoing parliamentary chairman Yordan Sokolov, who represented the SDS, said the talks will continue on 3 July, but SDS Chairwoman Ekaterina Mihailova continues to -- as AFP put it -- "remain tight-lipped about whether the SDS was willing to enter a coalition" with the NDSV. MS

...AND SIMEON READY TO BECOME PREMIER

Former King Simeon II, in an interview with the Spanish daily "El Mundo" on 1 July, said he will reluctantly accept the post of premier, AFP reported. "I only have one choice: to accept to become prime minister, which is terribly overwhelming. But if it must be done for Bulgaria, then I shall do it," Simeon said in response to a question. He also said it "would be disloyal towards Bulgaria's institutions, towards what I have preached, and above all towards the Bulgarian people" for him to run for the post of president. "I will never be president," he said, adding that "President [Petar] Stoyanov is popular, and will be reelected for a second term." MS

BULGARIA WELCOMES MILOSEVIC EXTRADITION TO HAGUE

President Stoyanov on 29 June welcomed the extradition of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, dpa reported. Stoyanov called the extradition an "important and very courageous step" by the Serbian government. The Foreign Ministry likewise welcomed the extradition, saying it was "a logical consequence" of the process of democratic change initiated in Yugoslavia in autumn 2000. MS




There is no End Note today.





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