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Newsline - April 5, 2002


RUSSIAN STATE DUMA ADOPTS CONTROVERSIAL AMENDMENTS TO MASS MEDIA LAW...
On its third and final reading on 5 April, the State Duma adopted the amendments to the Law on Mass Media that impose additional constraints on the registration of names of mass media outlets, NTV reported. The restrictions include banning the use of words and definitions that are considered to be part of the country's historical and cultural heritage, as well as the family names and titles of historical figures without first receiving the consent of their successors. Yabloko faction deputy Sergei Mitrokhin noted that the amendments will offer the Media Ministry "extra tools to close unwanted mass media." VY

...AS INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE MOVES TO REVOKE RFE/RL'S BROADCAST LICENSE
At the same Duma session, Duma International Relations Committee Deputy Chairman Sergei Shishkarev announced that the committee is drafting a request to the government to withdraw RFE/RL's broadcasting license in Russia, utro.ru reported 5 April. "The broadcasting on the territory where antiterrorist operations are carried out can be considered intervention in [Russia's] internal affairs," Shishkarev said. However, Mitrokhin said the "idea to revoke RFE/RL's license is nothing but persecution of free mass media." VY

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS GREECE IS THIRD-LARGEST IMPORTER OF RUSSIAN ARMS
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters in Athens after talks with his Greek counterpart Yiannos Papandoniou that the two countries have inked a plan for military cooperation and contacts in 2002, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 April. Russian-Greek military-technical trade has amounted to over $1 billion over the past 2 1/2 to three years, according to Ivanov, and Greece currently ranks third among buyers of Russian weapons after China and India. Ivanov added that Moscow hopes Greece will promote Russia's military integration into EU defense structures when Athens takes over the chair of EU in the second half of the year. VY

MEDIA SHED LIGHT ON THE MOTIVES OF PARLIAMENTARY PLOT
Gazeta.ru commented on 4 April that behind the decision of the presidential administration to topple Communists from the leadership of principal Duma committees stands the secret opinion polls conducted by the government public monitoring services, which allegedly revealed that the popularity of the Communists and their allies is much higher than pro-Putin centrist parties led by Unity. And pravda.ru commented the previous day that, "Those who are rejoicing in the fall of the Communists in the Duma and the emergence of 'a pocket Duma' have overlooked an important thing: through this plot Putin's regime has ended power sharing within the Russian government." VY

SELEZNEV HOLDS ON TO SPEAKER'S CHAIR -- FOR NOW...
President Vladimir Putin told journalists in Moscow on 4 April that he does not intend to meddle in the State Duma's internal affairs, but his personal opinion is that there "are no grounds for changing the speaker," Interfax reported. Putin met with the embattled speaker, Gennadii Seleznev, that evening (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 2002). After the meeting, Seleznev told Interfax that he came to the conclusion that his "six years of experience shouldn't be scrapped by an emotional decision." He added that he has been receiving phone calls offering support from a number of regional and even international leaders, such as Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Fund on 30 March of 1,500 respondents in 44 regions, some 53 percent supported Seleznev's retaining his chairmanship, rosbalt.ru reported. Forty-three percent said they do not believe that the speaker should belong to any particular political party. According to "Izvestiya" on 4 April, Seleznev will be offered a job within the bureaucracy of the Russia-Belarus Union, an institution whose interests he has always vigorously touted (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 25 June 2001). JAC

...AS SPLIT IN COMMUNIST PARTY PREDICTED...
Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported that Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov has clearly stated that Seleznev should give up his post. Sources within the party told the bureau that although Seleznev promised to quit if the party requested it, his resolve looked shaky after his conversation with President Putin. RFE/RL's Mikhail Sokolov concluded that, if Seleznev stays, once the Communists declared a policy of stiff opposition they will "have serious problems within their own ranks." Duma deputy (Yabloko) Sergei Ivanenko told RFE/RL that he believes Seleznev could remain at the helm of the Duma "in a personal capacity or as the leader of the Rossiya movement, which he created and, as I understand it, planned to take to elections." JAC

...AND TROSHKIN MOVES CLOSER TO DOOR
Meanwhile, members of the Duma's Regulations Committee voted eight to four in favor of expressing no-confidence in Nikolai Troshkin's performance as head of the Duma's apparatus. Committee Chairman Oleg Kovalev (Unity) said that if Seleznev is not willing to fire Troshkin, then the issue will be introduced in a Duma plenary session. Troshkin's dismissal has been expected for some time (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January 2002). JAC

NEW DUMA LEADERSHIP CONSIDERED MORE PRO-BUSINESS
"Vremya novostei" predicted on 4 April that with the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) in charge of both the economic and social policy committees, the government will be able to easily pass the laws necessary for Russia's admission into the World Trade Organization (WTO). "Vedomosti" drew a similar conclusion, noting that new Economic Policy Committee Chairman (SPS) Grigorii Tomchin and Industrial Policy Committee Chairman (Russian Regions) Martin Shakkum have already pledged to help Russia join the WTO. The daily also reported that an unidentified source in the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs said the chairmen of committees will now do a lot things that companies consider necessary, "merely because they understand the necessity of it without any thought of a reward." JAC

KREMLIN CALLS BILL BANNING COMMUNISTS DUMB
Aleksandr Fedulov, the Duma deputy who recently submitted a bill that would ban the Communist Party, may face disciplinary action within the Fatherland-All Russia faction, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 4 April, citing faction leader Vyacheslav Volodin. On 4 April, all members of the Duma Council, with the exception of Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, spoke out against the bill, Interfax reported. Deputy presidential administration head Vladislav Surkov called Fedulov's bill "completely stupid" and that it "does not require any discussion or commentary." JAC

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT PUTS MORE LIMITS ON PRESIDENT'S RIGHT TO DISMISS ELECTED LOCAL OFFICIALS
The Constitutional Court upheld on 4 April the law allowing the president to dismiss regional leaders who have violated federal law on more than one occasion, RIA-Novosti reported. The bill was passed in the summer of 2000 as a key part of President Putin's federation reforms (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 May 2000). The court also confirmed the president's right to dismiss regional parliaments if they violate federal laws. At the same time, the judges imposed additional limitations on the president's right. For example, the original law required only one court to rule that federal laws had been violated more than once; now courts of three different jurisdictions including the Constitutional Court must render the decision. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 5 April, the law applies only to heads of regions elected after 16 October 1999. JAC

EVENK LEADER GIVES DEFINITE 'NO' TO MERGER IDEA
Evenk Autonomous Okrug Governor Boris Zolotarev told reporters in Moscow on 4 April that he is categorically opposed to his region being joined with Krasnoyarsk Krai, polit.ru reported. Zolotarev said that Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed's recent proposal to do so came as a complete surprise (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 3 April 2002). He added that he participated in a meeting with Lebed, President Putin, and Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Khloponin, and no order for joining the regions was issued. Putin, according to Zolotarev, called for bringing more order to the conduct of interbudgetary relations. JAC

LEGISLATORS, MOSCOW TO LET FINAL WORD ON TATARSTAN'S STATUS HINGE ON REFERENDUM?
Tatarstan legislators passed a constitutional amendment on 3 April under which the republic's status can be changed only in accordance with a republic-level referendum, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 4 April, citing intertat.ru. The author of the amendment, Deputy Marat Galeev, said Article 1 of the new draft constitution describes the republic as being united with Russia by the constitutions of the Russian Federation and Tatarstan, as well as by the 1994 power-sharing treaty. The website strana.ru commented that the Tatarstan legislature gave Moscow the choice either to ignore the remaining contradictions between the draft constitution and federal legislation or, if it were to initiate any new protests against the document, to take upon itself the responsibility for holding a referendum in the republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 2002). JAC

TATAR MEDIA PROVIDES NEW INFORMATION ON DETAINEES AT GUANTANAMO
The head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Tatarstan, General Aleksandr Gusev, told intertat.ru on 3 April that the Chally resident being held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is not Almaz Sharipov, as was reported previously, but Ravil Gumarov, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. According to Gusev, Gumarov, who disappeared two years ago, has had ties to the Chally branch of the moderate nationalist group Tatar Public Center since 1997, as well as to students of the Chally Yoldyz madrasah that was later closed for promoting Wahhabism. Two of its students were convicted of blowing up a gas pipeline in Kirov Oblast near Tatarstan on 1 December 1999. Meanwhile, another news report by the Ephir television station in Chally claims that another resident of the city, Airat Vakhitov, is also being held at Guantanamo Bay. Gusev stated, however, that the FSB has no evidence that this is the case. In a contradictory report, tatnews.ru said Vakhitov is actually being held in an Al-Qaeda prison in Kandahar. JAC

RESIDENTS LEAVE CHECHEN VILLAGE IN FEAR OF FURTHER 'SWEEPS'
Since the beginning of April, over a dozen families have left the village of Tsotan-Yurt either for Ingushetia or for other regions of Chechnya, chechenpress.com reported on 5 April. The village has been subjected to repeated search operations by the Russian military since January; dozens of residents have been detained and beaten, or killed, or have simply disappeared (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January, 15 February, 27 March, and 3 April 2002). On 4 April, Russian OMON troops detained six young Chechen men in the village of Dyshny-Vedeno, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. Also on 4 April, three Chechen fighters were killed in an exchange of fire with Russian troops in the village of Goity in Urus Martan Raion. LF

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT REJECTS CRITICISM OF TV TENDER...
The Armenian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 4 April saying that the tender in which the independent TV company A1+ lost the right to the frequency on which it had previously broadcast was "an open and transparent competition," Noyan Tapan reported. The tender was, moreover, conducted in accordance with the Law on Radio and Television that was approved by a majority of political parties represented in parliament and positively appraised by the Council of Europe, the statement said. In response to opposition allegations that the Armenian authorities wanted to "silence" A1+ prior to next year's presidential and parliamentary elections, the statement noted that Armenia has one public television and numerous independent TV channels, all of which may allocate airtime to any political faction. Moreover, public television is obliged to give equal airtime to all factions contesting any nationwide ballot. On 3 April, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian similarly denied any official intent to silence A1+, Noyan Tapan reported. He said that if the leadership had wanted to close down independent media outlets, they would have set about doing so earlier rather than wait until the eve of the elections. LF

...AS SILENCED CHANNEL HOPES FOR 'LEGAL SOLUTION'...
A1+'s owner and director, Mesrop Movsisian, said on 4 April that he wants to avoid any politicization by unspecified forces who seek to use the decision to strip his channel of its frequency for their own political ends, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Movsisian said he hopes it is possible to find "a legal solution" to the problem, adding that unnamed government officials have hinted that a way may be found to enable A1+ to continue broadcasting. The governing board of Armenian Public Television announced later the same day that it is ready to rebroadcast A1+'s popular news programs on its own legally protected frequency. But the opposition paper "Aravot," whose Editor Aram Abrahamian hosted an A1+ talk show, reported on 5 April that Movsisian has rejected that offer. LF

...AND OPPOSITION UNITES TO DEFEND MEDIA FREEDOM
Meanwhile, 14 Armenian opposition parties approved on 4 April a joint statement to be released at the demonstration they plan to convene in Yerevan on 5 April in support of media and civil freedom, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That statement interprets the decision to deprive A1+ of its broadcast frequency as only one aspect of a broader onslaught against media and civil freedoms. It accuses Armenian President Robert Kocharian of seeking to establish "an authoritarian regime" by stifling dissent in the run-up to the 2003 presidential and parliamentary elections. In a 3 April statement summarized by AFP, the media watchdog Reporteurs sans Frontieres described the tender outcome as the "muzzling" of "the country's main news voice" and "the most serious violation of pluralism in Armenia in years." LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT HOLDS HEARINGS ON FOREIGN POLICY
At a three-hour closed parliament session on 4 April, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian explained the rationale for further modifications in Armenia's complementary foreign policy, of which Oskanian is the main architect, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Those changes, prompted primarily by changes in the international situation in the wake of the 11 September terrorist bombings in the U.S., entail greater emphasis on defense and security cooperation with NATO, and with the U.S. in particular, in order to preclude Armenia's regional isolation and balance its close military cooperation with Russia. Oskanian said Armenia will also seek "closer contacts" with Georgia, while Sarkisian expressed concern at Georgia's increasingly close military cooperation with Turkey, especially the possibility that Tbilisi might agree to host a Turkish military base. LF

SPONSOR GROUP RAISES FUNDING TO BUILD AZERBAIJAN-TURKEY OIL PIPELINE
The Sponsor Group to build the Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline has secured approval of that project and pledges of funding from international financial organizations, Valekh Alekperov, who heads the Foreign Investments Department of Azerbaijan's state oil company Socar, told journalists in Baku on 5 April, Turan reported. As anticipated, Socar has divested itself of a 20 percent stake in the project and retains 25 percent. Other participants are BP (38.21 percent), Unocal (9.58 percent), Norway's Statoil (8.90 percent), Turkey's TPAO (7.5 percent), ENI (5 percent), Itochu (3.40 percent), and Delta Hess (2.36 percent). Alekperov said applications will be considered between now and June, when construction is planned to begin, from other companies, including Russia's LUKoil, wishing to acquire a stake in the project. It is anticipated that the pipeline will take 32 months to build at a cost of $2.4 billion. It will have a throughput capacity of 50 million tons per year. LF

RUSSIA DENIES FIVE OF ITS SPIES ARRESTED IN AZERBAIJAN
A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Baku rejected on 5 April Azerbaijani media reports that Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry detained five Russian Federal Security Service agents in Baku the previous day, Turan reported. Two of the five alleged agents were reportedly apprehended in the vicinity of President Heidar Aliev's residence. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION MOVEMENT SAYS PRESIDENT WILL RISK CIVIL WAR RATHER THAN CEDE POWER
Former Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili, one of the leaders of the opposition National Movement, has blamed President Eduard Shevardnadze for an incident on 3 April in which some 30 armed men blocked the main highway at Kobi in western Georgia to prevent the passage of cars in which members of the Movement were traveling, Caucasus Press reported on 4 April. Saakashvili accused Shevardnadze of creating armed groups to trigger disturbances in order to furnish a pretext for postponing the local elections scheduled for 2 June, because, Saakashvili claimed, Shevardnadze fears the National Movement will defeat his Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) in that ballot. Saakashvili and other former SMK members, including parliamentary Human Rights Committee Chairman Elene Tevdoradze, suggested that Shevardnadze might even begin a civil war rather than risk being forced from power. LF

GEORGIA INTERCEPTS RUSSIAN MILITARY TRANSPORT
Georgian military personnel detained two Russian army trucks on 4 April on the outskirts of Tbilisi which, they claimed, were en route for the Russian military base in Akhalkalaki, southern Georgia, in violation of the regulations on such transport agreed with the Georgian Defense Ministry, Caucasus Press reported. Russian commander Nikolai Zotov denied that the convoy had violated regulations, saying that the Georgian side had no right to detain it. Zotov also categorically denied recent allegations by Georgian security officials that the personnel of the Akhalkalaki base sell arms to Chechen militants based in the Pankisi Gorge. But Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze issued a statement on 5 April saying that the trucks were under way after 6 p.m., which is prohibited, and that they were loaded with 10,000 military uniforms, although the Akhalkalaki base has only 800 servicemen, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN GUERRILLAS CLAIM TO KILL, CAPTURE ABKHAZIA-BASED TERRORISTS
The "Forest Brothers" guerrilla movement claimed on 4 April that it killed one member of an Abkhaz terrorist group in west Georgia's Zugdidi Raion and detained two more, one of them a Russian and the other a Chechen, Caucasus Press reported. It said the three men were equipped with pistols, rifles, and mines and had been sent to Georgia to commit acts of terrorism there "on orders from Abkhaz leader Aslan [sic] Ardzinba." (The Abkhaz president's Christian name is Vladislav.) Former Georgian intelligence chief Irakli Batiashvili told Caucasus Press that the two survivors had confessed to the attack on the home of Forest Brothers leader Dato Shengelia last September in which his wife's parents were killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2001). LF

ABKHAZIA DENIES DEPLOYING TROOPS IN KODORI, GALI
At the regular weekly meeting between Abkhaz and Georgian military officials and representatives of the UN Observer Mission and the CIS peacekeepers deployed in the Abkaz conflict zone, the Abkhaz representative denied on 4 April that Sukhum has deployed 400 men and armor in Gali Raion, Caucasus Press reported. Also on 4 April, Abkhaz Deputy Defense Minister Givi Agrba similarly denied that Abkhazia has sent troops to the Kodori Gorge, from which the withdrawal of 350 Georgian troops sent there last fall is virtually complete, Caucasus Press reported. The Georgian authorities agreed to that withdrawal under an agreement signed on 2 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 April 2002). LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES SCREEN VIDEO OF AKSY CLASHES...
Thirteen deputies from the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament) on 4 April screened for journalists a 40-minute videotape of the 17 March clashes in Djalalabad Oblast's Aksy Raion between police and demonstrators, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Deputy Ismail Isakov said the video confirms that the demonstrators were unarmed, but shows a local police official hurling stones at demonstrators. The footage, shot by local security officials, gives greater coverage to injured police officers than to injured or dead demonstrators. Interior Ministry spokesman Djoldoshbek Busurmankulov declined to comment on the contents of the tape, saying he has not seen it. The Legislative Assembly failed on 4 April to debate the report on the violence prepared by a parliamentary commission due to disagreements over whether the session should be open or closed, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF

...AS VOTERS APPEAL TO KYRGYZ LEADERSHIP TO STOP HARASSING RELEASED DEPUTY
Also on 4 April, the public committee created to support parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov, whose release the Aksy demonstrators were demanding on 17 March, appealed to Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev and Prosecutor-General Chubak Abyshkaev to stop the hounding of Beknazarov and his family and to end the media campaign against him and other opposition politicians, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE DOES NOT EXCEED AGREED LIMITS...
Islam Karimov told journalists in Tashkent on 4 April that contrary to some media reports, the U.S. has not violated the agreement it concluded with the Uzbek government last fall permitting it to station a maximum of 1,500 U.S. troops at the Khanabad air base, Russian news agencies reported. Karimov explained that the recent increase in air traffic at that base is due to the fact that it also used by the Danish, Dutch, and other military contingents of the international antiterrorism coalition in Afghanistan. LF

...BUT FEARS TALIBAN COMEBACK...
Karimov also said on 4 April that he is concerned at the possibility of "sabotage" in Uzbekistan by isolated groups of Taliban fighters, Interfax reported. But he added that he does not think the Taliban are strong enough to mount a full-fledged invasion of his country. LF

...WHILE RUSSIAN SECURITY OFFICIAL SEES ONLY MINIMAL THREAT TO CENTRAL ASIA
Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo told journalists in Delhi on 4 April that "the situation in Central Asia is on the whole stable," and that the international antiterrorism operation in Afghanistan has reduced, but not completely removed, threats to regional security, Interfax reported. LF

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ORDERS CONSTRUCTION OF INDOOR SOCCER STADIUM
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka issued an order on 4 April to complete the recently inaugurated construction of an indoor soccer stadium in Minsk by 1 December, Belarusian Television reported. "The arena should be exceptionally cheap. It should meet European standards and be a real adornment of the city," Lukashenka said. He added that money for the project will come from private sources, the Belarusian Soccer Federation, and the local budget. He threatened to send Minsk Mayor Mikhail Paulau, Sports Minister Yauhen Vorsin, and builders of the facility to prison should they spend "even a single cent" for purposes not connected with the construction. JM

UKRAINE WANTS TO ATTEND NATO SUMMIT IN PRAGUE
Vadym Hrechaninov, the head of Ukraine's Atlantic Council, said in Kyiv on 4 April that Ukraine is willing to attend the planned NATO summit in Prague in November, UNIAN reported. The agency said Hrechaninov "stressed that the Ukrainian state is again standing before a decision -- either to be with NATO, or to remain with Russia." The "Ukrayinska pravda" website called Hrechaninov's pronouncement "direct blackmail." JM

SPEAKER AUGURS OUR UKRAINE-FOR A UNITED UKRAINE COALITION
Ivan Plyushch, the speaker of the outgoing Verkhovna Rada, voiced his conviction on 4 April that a new parliamentary coalition will be built around Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine with the participation of the pro-presidential For a United Ukraine, UNIAN reported. Plyushch repeated his prediction on 5 April, stressing that both blocs stand a chance to form a "center-right, workable, healthy coalition," since they have "a lot in common." Plyushch believes that such a coalition could be joined by Viktor Medvedchuk's Social Democratic Party. Plyushch was re-elected to the Verkhovna Rada in a single-mandate constituency in Chernihiv Oblast on an independent ticket. JM

UKRAINIAN NEWSPAPER ACCUSES AUTHORITIES OF STEALING JAIL VOTE
"Ukrayina Moloda" wrote on 4 April that none of the opponents of the pro-presidential For a United Ukraine bloc won a single vote in jails in Luhansk (eastern Ukraine). According to the newspaper, such suspicious unanimity of inmates points to vote rigging. "The intellectual level of those who organized this crude rigging is appalling, "Ukrayina Moloda" wrote, adding, "Even back in Soviet times, when nobody could control the bureaucrats, they did not risk declaring their 100 percent victory. There were always some .02 percent of 'renegades' who voted against the inviolable bloc of the Communists and the nonaffiliated. But here we have chemically pure unanimity: the criminal world is for the For a United Ukraine bloc." JM

ELECTION WINNERS IN DNIPROPETROVSK OBLAST JOIN FOR A UNITED UKRAINE
Sixteen of the 17 winning candidates in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast's single-mandate constituencies have announced their intention to join the For a United Ukraine bloc, UNIAN reported on 4 April. The 16 candidates, who ran on an independent ticket, include former Security Service chief Leonid Derkach and Viktor Pinchuk, President Leonid Kuchma's son-in-law. They issued a joint statement saying that only For a United Ukraine can effectively defend the interests of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast residents in the parliament. They also thanked Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Governor Mykola Shvets for supporting them during the campaign "with the authority of the head of regional administration." JM

UKRAINIAN PUNDIT SAYS KUCHMA SEES NO SUCCESSOR
Mykola Tomenko, the director of the Kyiv-based Institute of Politics, told journalists on 4 April that the 31 March parliamentary election showed that Ukraine has only two realistic candidates for presidential elections, Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko and Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko, UNIAN reported. According to Tomenko, both For a United Ukraine head Volodymyr Lytvyn and Social Democratic Party head Viktor Medvedchuk failed to pass a "presidential test" in the parliamentary ballot because of poor results of their blocs in the proportional poll. "President [Kuchma] faces serious problems and, for the time being, has no [presidential] candidate of his own," Tomenko added. JM

ESTONIA NOT TO YIELD ON EU AGRICULTURAL QUOTA
During his visit to Finland, Agriculture Minister Jaanus Marrandi stressed the importance of obtaining higher agricultural quotas upon Estonia's accession to the EU, BNS reported on 4 April. He said that the harvest, sown-area, and milk-production quotas are considerably below the levels Estonia has applied for. The European Commission suggested a milk-production quota of 562 million liters per year, but Estonia currently produces about 680 million liters annually and considers a fair quota to be 900 million liters per year. Marrandi said the differences in the quotas of sown area and harvest are on the same scale, and that obtaining higher quotas is important because they will determine the amount of EU agricultural subsidies. SG

LATVIA, CROATIA SIGN TWO ECONOMIC AGREEMENTS
Latvian and Croatian Foreign Ministers Indulis Berzins and Tonino Picula signed agreements in Riga on 4 April on promotion and mutual protection of investments, and on international truck transport, LETA reported. They also discussed the preparation of a bilateral free-trade treaty, and a visit by Croatian President Stjepan Mesic to Latvia in the second half of the year. Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan is scheduled to be in Riga on 5-6 July for a meeting of the "Vilnius Group" of NATO applicant countries. Picula was scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Andris Berzins, Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, and parliament Deputy Chairman Rihards Piks before returning home on 5 April. SG

LITHUANIA HOLDS 'NATO DAYS' TO CONVINCE SKEPTICS
Deputy Foreign Minister Giedrius Cekuolis, Lithuania's coordinator for NATO integration, told a press conference on 4 April that the primary purpose of the two-day "NATO Days" is not to celebrate the country's expected membership of the alliance, but to convince skeptics in the country of the worth of membership and to provide information on the organization, BNS reported. NATO Days began on the 53rd anniversary of the Atlantic alliance's founding in Washington. The Lithuanian parliament the same day adopted a resolution by a vote of 48 to three, with four abstentions, reiterating support for the country's membership in NATO and urging state institutions and the public to rally to champion that cause. The resolution mentioned the nonmilitary criteria for NATO membership -- developing an investor-friendly economy, combating corruption, strengthening the rule of law, ensuring parliamentary control of the special services, and protecting secret information. The ambassadors of NATO states, parliament deputies, as well as officials from the Defense and Foreign ministries were scheduled to participate in events in 15 cities across the country on 5 April. SG

POLAND'S AIR CARRIER MOVES TO JOIN LUFTHANSA-LED STAR ALLIANCE
Poland's LOT Airlines signed a cooperation agreement on 4 April with Germany's Lufthansa, paving the way for LOT to join the Lufthansa-headed international Star Alliance, AP and dpa reported. LOT said it will become a full member of the Star Alliance within weeks, once all 15 members officially approve the agreement with Lufthansa. LOT's new association with Star comes after the financial collapse of Swissair, a 25.1 percent stockholder in the Polish carrier. By siding with Star, LOT rejected a competing offer by OneWorld Alliance led by British Airways. LOT announced some $156 million in losses for 2001, despite carrying 3.2 million passengers. JM

POLISH, RUSSIAN GAS FIRMS FAIL TO AGREE
The Polish Oil and Gas Company (PGNiG) and Russia's Gazprom reached no agreement during gas talks on 4 April, PAP reported, quoting the PGNiG press office. PGNiG said all issues concerning relations between the companies were raised during the meeting, including the completion of the construction of the first leg of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline, the construction of the second strand, outlays for the two projects, as well as dates and volumes of gas supplies. No further details were released. JM

POLAND, FRANCE SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION ACCORD
The Polish and French defense ministers signed an agreement on military cooperation in Paris on 4 April, PAP reported. Polish Defense Minster Jerzy Szmajdzinski said the agreement provides for staff training and cooperation in science and technology. He added that Polish arms industry firms will be among the agreement beneficiaries as they can count on new orders. JM

WAGE PAY PROMISE ENDS STRIKE AT POLISH SHIPYARD
Workers of the Szczecin shipyard on 4 April concluded a daylong strike after the management promised to pay overdue wages, Polish media reported. Director Grzegorz Huszcz also announced to the 6,000-strong workforce that production will remain suspended until the management reaches an agreement with banks on loans of some $40 million that are needed to keep the shipyard going. The shipyard lost some $24 million last year; it also owns some $70 million to suppliers. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT MEETS WITH ITALIAN COUNTERPART...
Vaclav Havel, who is on an official four-day visit to Italy, discussed with his counterpart Carlo Azeglio Ciampi the process of EU and NATO expansion, the international struggle against terrorism, the situation in the Balkans, and the conflict in the Middle East, CTK reported. Havel said after the meeting on 4 April that he was glad to see that he and Ciampi hold similar views. He said the Italian president believes the "historic chance" to expand the EU should not be wasted by "being drowned into endless technocrat, economical, or prestige-related arguments." Havel also said he expects the NATO summit in Prague to decide to expand the alliance. MS

...SAYS EUROPE SHOULD COMPETE WITH U.S. ON VALUES RATHER THAN ECONOMY
In a speech delivered to the Senate the same day, Havel said Europe should not engage in economic competition with the United States, but rather demonstrate to the world "that it is possible to lead a good life on this planet even when priority is given to simple values, such as the beauty of a country, a house, or closeness between human beings, rather than profits or GDP growth." MS

CZECH PREMIER IN MEXICO
In Mexico City on 4 April, Milos Zeman, at the start of a three-day visit to Mexico, signed agreements with President Vicente Fox designed to encourage mutual investments and increase commercial exchanges between the two countries, CTK and AP reported. Fox said Mexico is interested in Czech participation in energy projects in the northern and southern areas of the country, and in purchasing Czech-made L-39 and L-159 aircraft for the planned modernization of its navy. MS

KDU-CSL READY TO TRIM CZECH PRESIDENT'S PREROGATIVES...
Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) Chairman Cyril Svoboda said on 4 April that his party continues to support direct elections of the country's president, but is now ready to compromise and agree to the trimming of presidential prerogatives in order to enlist the support of other formations, CTK reported. The party plans to support reducing the presidential prerogative to grant pardons by making it conditional on endorsement by the premier or a minister delegated by him. The KDU-CSL and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union, which make up The Coalition, wish to enlist the support of the ruling Social Democratic Party to amend the constitution to allow for direct presidential elections. MS

...BUT ZEMAN THROWS COLD WATER ON COALITION PROSPECTS
The daily "Pravo" reported on 5 April that Premier Zeman has cast doubts on the prospects of a postelectoral coalition between the CSSD and the KDU-CSL, CTK reported. Emphasizing that this is "just my personal view," Zeman reportedly said that after the elections the CSSD will have the choice of entering a coalition with a party "with a similar program, but which does not respect agreements," or continuing the current "opposition agreement" with the Civic Democratic Party, a formation whose program is different from that of the CSSD but which respects agreements. Both Vladimir Spidla, Zeman's successor as premier should the CSSD win the elections, and KDU-CSL Chairman Svoboda said they favor a coalition between their parties. MS

CZECH, AUSTRIAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTERS MEET SECRETLY
Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart met secretly in Vienna on 4 April with his Austrian counterpart Wilhelm Molterer, CTK reported. A spokesman for the Czech ministry denied that the meeting took place, but Kuzvart, who lectured in Vienna the same day, admitted that it did, describing it as an "informal" encounter over dinner with Molterer. Kuzvart denied that the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant was discussed, saying they spoke about a "special agreement on the intensification of bilateral relations," as well as "cross-border cooperation on environmental issues." MS

SLOVAKIA POSTPONES DECISION ON SUPERSONIC FIGHTER PURCHASE UNTIL AFTER NATO SUMMIT
Defense Minister Jozef Stank said on 4 April that the government will postpone a decision on the purchasing of supersonic fighters until after the NATO summit in Prague, CTK and AP reported. Stank said the government's long-term plan is to purchase 18 such fighters "in the second half of the decade," but that the final decision must be made by the government that emerges after the September elections. Stank spoke after meeting in Bratislava with his Swedish counterpart Bjoern von Sydow, who is accompanying King Carl XVI Gustaf on an official visit to Slovakia. Stank said von Sydow "did not come to Slovakia to sell [Swedish/British-made] Gripens," though both of these countries' governments would back such a deal. On 3 April, the Swedish king held talks with President Rudolf Schuster. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER IN AUSTRIA
Parliamentary speaker Jozef Migas, who is on a two-day visit to Austria, discussed bilateral relations and the completion of a highway between the two countries' capitals with his counterpart Heinz Fischer on 4 April. Migas later told CTK that Fischer is of the opinion that some of the Benes Decrees are "incompatible" with the Austrian understanding of current European legislation, but that the issue should not affect Slovakia's or the Czech Republic's chances of joining the EU. Migas also met with President Thomas Klestil, who admitted that Austria is lagging behind on its commitments for the completion of the highway. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER, CHALLENGER SET TO DEBATE
Opposition Socialist Party prime ministerial candidate Peter Medgyessy announced on 4 April that he has decided to debate Premier Viktor Orban at the University of Economics in the evening of 5 April, Hungarian media reported. Medgyessy's announcement ended a nearly two-month political tug-of-war over the location and timing of the debate. Medgyessy said he decided to debate Orban because he wants to give him a chance to explain why poverty has risen over the past four years, why rural people are worse off today, why health care is in a disastrous state, and why pensioners and large families are worse off than they were four years ago. The debate will be broadcast live by Hungarian radio and television outlets. "Vilaggazdasag" reported that the latest polls suggest that 13 percent of expected voters are undecided on whom to vote for; thus, the debate could affect the decisions of about 1 million people. MSZ

FIDESZ, SOCIALIST CHAIRMEN TRADE CRITICISM
FIDESZ Chairman Zoltan Pokorni and his Socialist counterpart Laszlo Kovacs met at the University of Economics on 4 April for a public debate. During the debate broadcast live on television, Kovacs described the current government's term as a "wasted four years," charging that in 1998 the current government inherited what it acknowledged to have been a very sound economy, but that its rule has resulted in "disastrous trends" in the health care and agriculture sectors. Kovacs said the government has left pensioners and larger families poorer, and did not fulfill its pledges on highway construction and tax cuts. For his part, Pokorni described the past four years as "exciting ones in which many plans were drawn up, several of which were put into practice." He mentioned among the government's successes the abolition of university tuition fees and the fact that 170 kilometers of new highway will be opened in the fall. MSZ

CONSERVATIVE 'FINALE' ENDS ORBAN'S CAMPAIGN
Premier Orban ended his campaign tour on 4 April, saying in Hungary's western town of Celldomolk that in the past several months "traditional middle class values have been exposed to serious acts of provocation" that have persuaded many to support the forces of the center-right, including FIDESZ, Hungarian media reported. He said that when a photo of the prime minister and his family is printed in a pornographic magazine, it is the institution of the family rather than the prime minister or his party that is under attack. In an apparent reference to the opposition, Orban told a campaign rally that when "they" eavesdrop on churches in order to know what is going on there, "they" target the freedom of religion rather than the churches themselves. He also said that when "they" say that a Status Law is unnecessary, national sentiment, which matters to everyone, is disregarded. MSZ

SERBIA STILL STALLING ON EXTRADITIONS
An unnamed "high official" of the Serbian Interior Ministry told "Danas" of 5 April that there will be no arrests of indicted war criminals "in the coming days." He added that arrests will take place only after a law on cooperation with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal has been passed. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said it is "not realistic" to expect the passage of a law at any time soon, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Belgrade leadership has been promising such legislation ever since it came to power in October 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 2002). Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica repeated that pledge on 4 April. In related news, "Vesti" reported on 5 April that indicted war criminal Vlajko Stojiljkovic has left a "farewell letter" saying that those who want to arrest him will never take him alive. PM

SERBIAN GOVERNMENT OK'S MEDIA LAW
The cabinet has approved and sent to the parliament legislation to transform state-run radio and television into a public broadcaster, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 4 April. The legislation will also set up an independent broadcasting supervisory board to replace the government in oversight of the electronic media. PM

EU CALLS FOR 'PRIVILEGED RELATIONSHIP' WITH THE BALKANS
The EU Commission said in a report on its Balkan stabilization and association agreements issued in Brussels on 4 April that it wants to launch a new "Zagreb process" of cooperation with Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia, dpa reported. The study called for "enhanced arrangements for a political dialogue" in the wake of the November 2000 summit in Zagreb. It added that "such meetings would give a clear signal of the special and inclusive nature of the privileged relationship" between the EU and the Southeast European states and also help to promote "regional cooperation" between the five countries in the region. But Croats in particular are deeply suspicious of what they regard as attempts by Brussels to force them into a "new Yugoslavia" or to place them on the same political level as Serbia. PM

END OF THE LINE FOR MILOSEVIC'S GENERAL?
Kostunica, who has previously supported the chief of the General Staff, General Nebojsa Pavkovic, said in Belgrade on 4 April that Pavkovic has had "an impressive military career...spanning two political eras," before and after the fall of President Slobodan Milosevic, Reuters reported. Kostunica added, however, that "the time has come for personnel changes in the Yugoslav army, together with organizational and functional changes. There is absolutely no reason to make any kind of drama about this," he added. It is not clear what, if anything, has prompted Kostunica to withdraw his support for Pavkovic, who commanded Serbian forces in Kosova during the 1999 campaign. It is widely believed that NATO has sought Pavkovic's ouster as a precondition for Belgrade's admission to the Partnership for Peace program. PM

NEW ELECTIONS IN MONTENEGRO?
President Milo Djukanovic said in Bijelo Polje on 4 April that it is too early to say whether preterm parliamentary elections are the best way out of the current government crisis, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2002). But in Podgorica, Zoran Zizic, the deputy leader of the opposition Socialist People's Party (SNP), said early elections are the best solution to the problem. Svetozar Marovic of Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) suggested that setting up a broad-based government might be the best way out of the crisis. PM

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES ACTION PLAN FOR JOINING NATO
The government approved an "action plan" on 4 April for preparing Romania's bid to join NATO in the months ahead of the alliance's November summit in Prague, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Government spokesman Claudiu Lucaciu said the plan will be made public after its approval by the Supreme Council of National Defense (CSAT). CSAT began deliberations on the plan on 5 April, Romanian radio reported. In Washington, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said after a meeting with Undersecretary of State Mark Grossman that U.S. officials have shown their support for the "pragmatic and credible document," which Geoana said transforms Romania into "not only a credible NATO candidate, but also a credible future ally." Geoana said the fulfillment of the action plan will be the "real critical hurdle" standing in the way of a positive decision on Romania's candidacy. MS

CROATIAN MINISTER SEES NEW EUROPEAN SECURITY FRAMEWORK
Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula said in Riga on 5 April that "today, security questions are political questions of the first [order], not only because of the September 11th events. I think [that] we have to think about the creation of a new security architecture all over Europe. It means first of all the enlargement of NATO," RFE/RL's Latvian Service reported. Picula added: "It's easy to understand why Latvia and Croatia are interested to join NATO as soon as possible, but not only as a consumer of collective security systems. We also want to contribute, to put added value to the new system of security on the European continent." PM

VIOLENT PROTESTS IN MACEDONIAN CAPITAL
Some 1,000 workers of loss-making enterprises staged a protest meeting on 4 April in front of the Macedonian parliament, Makfax reported. The workers demanded new rules on early retirement and monthly financial assistance of $43 for those who lose their jobs. Tensions rose when trade union representatives were not allowed to meet with parliamentarians. Protesters then tried to break through the police cordon, but were pushed back by riot police. Later, the Union of Independent Industrial Trade Unions protested against the police intervention. "We want Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski to publicly apologize to the injured workers, because thanks to the workers' labor...[Boskovski] himself and the Interior Ministry officials have a regular income, health and social insurance, and a secure future," the trade union leadership said. UB

KOSOVAR GOVERNMENT STRESSES PRIVATIZATION
Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi said in Prishtina on 4 April that his government will submit its program to President Ibrahim Rugova and the UN's chief administrator, Michael Steiner, within a few days, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Rexhepi stressed that privatization will be one of the government's main tasks. PM

BOSNIAN SERB PARLIAMENT CHANGES CONSTITUTION
The parliament approved a set of constitutional amendments submitted by Serbian deputies in Banja Luka on 4 April, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The legislation stipulates that 65 percent of the cabinet will consist of Serbian ministers and 35 percent of Muslims, Croats, and others. The "Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnjak [Muslim] languages" enjoy full equality. Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said no one in Europe can take issue with the changes, which protect all peoples' vital interests while guaranteeing the position of the majority Serbs. Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported from Banja Luka that the amendments make Serbs, Croats, and Muslims politically equal. Dpa reported from Sarajevo on 5 April that the representatives of the international community will study the legislation before making any comment. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS NATO ENLARGEMENT WILL END COLD WAR...
Ion Iliescu, addressing an international conference in Bucharest on 4 April on the financial aspects of Euro-Atlantic integration, said the Cold War will "really come to an end" only once NATO decides in favor of expansion at its Prague summit in November, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu added that Romania's chances of becoming a NATO member would improve if it is allowed to present a "clear perspective of NATO's relations with Russia" during the summit. He said Russia is "important for the future of Europe, and must understand that NATO expansion is not a threat to its security." Speaking on Romanian television later on 4 April, Iliescu said his planned visit to Russia has been postponed from April to May in order to make possible the signing of the basic treaty between the two countries during the visit. MS

...SOOTHES IMF AFTER HAVING CRITICIZED IT
Iliescu also said during the television broadcast on 4 April that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are "necessary, useful and close partners" of Romania, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In an apparent effort to counter his recent public criticism of the IMF (see "RFE/RL Newsline, "4 April 2002), the president said the recent agreement with the fund on the additional "letter of intent" is "satisfactory," and that there "are no grounds for criticism" of that agreement. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS WITH BARONESS NICHOLSON
During his 4 April meeting with the European Parliament's rapporteur on Romania, Baroness Emma Nicholson, Adrian Nastase discussed his country's efforts to cope with the problems associated with possible abuse of children adopted by persons abroad, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Baroness Nicholson told journalists after the meeting that a report produced by an independent NGO on the problem of international adoption is "the most serious" produced on the issue thus far, and that a joint Romanian-international team of experts should work to correct the failings mentioned in the report. Nastase said Romania will coordinate its strategy for finding a solution to the problem with Baroness Nicholson and the European Commission. It was later announced in Bucharest that the government will finalize measures intended to control the process of international adoption by 16 April. MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT REJECTS MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT'S ACCUSATIONS
On 4 April, the Romanian government rejected Vladimir Voronin's allegations that the government in Bucharest is involved in the staging of the current protest demonstrations in Chisinau, calling those claims "false and unrealistic," Mediafax reported. Romanian Government spokesman Claudiu Lucaciu said that ever since the tensions erupted in Moldova three months ago, the Romanian authorities have refrained from issuing official statements on the issue precisely to avoid creating the impression that they are involved in them in any way. MS

MOLDOVAN CNAD ISSUES SOS TO INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
On 4 April, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy (CNAD) called on European and international human rights organizations to immediately act in order to "save democracy in Moldova," Flux reported the next day. The council also appealed to the population to "display solidarity with the democratic opposition in its categorical protest against communist dictatorship." It also said that the government's attempts to "eliminate the opposition from the country's political life through the use of judicial instruments is further proof that the pyramid of power is rapidly collapsing into a dangerous period of abuse and despotism." MS

MOLDOVAN NGO TO CHALLENGE PPCD DEPUTIES' LOSS OF IMMUNITY AT CONSTITUTIONAL COURT
Vitalie Nagacevschi, chairman of the Lawyers for Human Rights association, said on 4 April that the association will appeal to the Constitutional Court the parliament's decision to lift the immunity of Popular Party Christian Democratic leaders Iurie Rosca and Stefan Secareanu, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He also said the association he heads will issue a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg against the Supreme Court's decision to forbid demonstrations in the National Assembly Square in Chisinau. He said that if the court in Strasbourg rules that the Supreme Court's decision is illegal, the grounds cited by the Prosecutor-General's Office for lifting Rosca's and Secareanu's immunity will automatically become illegal, as will the parliament's decision to lift their immunity. MS

TELERADIO MOLDOVA RESTRICTS JOURNALISTS' ACCESS TO HEADQUARTERS
Larisa Manole, a member of the Teleradio Moldova strikers' committee, told journalists on 4 April that the company's management has restricted journalists' access to the station's headquarters on the grounds that it must tighten security, Infotag reported. She said the management displays a list outside the headquarters every morning of personnel allowed access, and that soldiers, as well as guards, are on duty in the building's corridors. Manole also announced that two more journalists, Ana Bradu-Josanu and Aurelia Vasilache, have been sanctioned with suspension from duty for having broadcast footage on the current antigovernment demonstrations. MS

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES REFORM OF ARMY STRUCTURE...
The Bulgarian parliament on 4 April discussed a variety of proposals to reform the army, news.bg reported. During the debate, the legislators decided to redefine the term "armed forces." According to the new definition, the armed forces include army servicemen, the Defense Ministry, and the structures that are subordinate to the Defense Ministry. Thus, structures that have no close relation to the army are excluded. The National Protection Service and the National Intelligence Service will be subject to the Council of Ministers. The redefinition also contributes to the envisaged reduction of the army to 45,000 men. The proposal of the Socialist-led Coalition for Bulgaria to form a military cabinet with the president was not accepted by the parliamentary majority, as it poses the danger of being a double command structure. UB

...AND NEW RETIREMENT REGULATIONS FOR OFFICERS
Lawmakers also agreed on new regulations for the retirement of army officers, "Monitor" reported on 5 April. The retirement age will be reduced by three years for all officers. According to the new retirement scheme, colonels are to retire at the age of 53, brigadier generals at 54, major generals at 55, lieutenant generals at 56, and generals at 57. The new regulations will affect 12 generals and some 150 colonels. Chief of General Staff General Miho Mihov protested against the regulations in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 March 2002). UB

FORMER IMF OFFICIAL ADVISES BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT
Former IMF Deputy Director Stanley Fischer told a news conference in Sofia on 4 April that Bulgaria's macroeconomic stability can be preserved if its structural and taxation reforms continue, BTA reported. According to Fischer, tax rates could be cut if economic growth is sustained. But he added that reducing taxes is not a policy that should be adopted immediately, but for the long term. In Fisher's opinion, Bulgaria will likely join the EU in 2007. The former IMF official, who is currently a Citigroup vice chairman, acts as economic adviser to the Bulgarian government. Finance Minister Milen Velchev told the press conference that Fisher will help Bulgaria improve its presentation to international investors. UB

JUNIOR COALITION PARTNER DEMANDS BETTER INTEGRATION OF ETHNIC MINORITIES IN BULGARIA
In an interview published in "Standart" on 5 April, Emel Etem, the deputy chairwoman of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), demanded better integration of ethnic minorities in the state administration. Asked whether her party seeks more positions in the government, Etem said: "The only thing we want is a real integration of the minorities, rather than a pro forma one. The DPS is very responsible concerning its participation on all levels -- in the legislative, the local authorities, and in the cabinet during the last nine months... I do not see any necessity for reshuffling or replacing ministers. To this day, no fatal or grave blunders have been made." The DPS represents the Turkish minority. UB

UKRAINE TAKES TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK
According to the final results released by the Central Election Commission, only six of the 33 parties and blocs contesting the elections passed the 4 percent barrier for representation under the proportional system. Of these, two are pro-presidential (For a United Ukraine, or ZYU, 11.98; and the Social Democratic Party-united, or SDPU-o, 6.24), one is ambivalent toward the executive (Our Ukraine, 23.52), and three are antipresidential (Communist Party of Ukraine, or KPU, 20.04; Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, 7.21; and the Socialist Party of Ukraine, or SPU, 6.93). Although the authorities tried their damnedest, they failed to keep the fiercely antipresidential Yuliya Tymoshenko and Socialist blocs from getting into parliament.

Independent Ukraine's third parliamentary election produced six important results.

First, the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) did not obtain the highest results and is no longer the largest faction in the newly elected Verkhovna Rada. The KPU faction of 66 deputies was reduced by nearly half of the 115 seats it held in the outgoing parliament, and is even fewer than the 80 it had in the 1994-1998 Verkhovna Rada. The KPU lost protest votes to the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc and the Nataliya Vitrenko Bloc. Ukraine's population, which has declined by 4 million people since the 1989 Soviet census, has also affected the KPU's support base among pensioners. As a result, the newly elected parliament is the least left-wing of any that has preceded it.

Some voters were attracted by the two communist "clones"-- the oligarch-funded Communist Party of Ukraine-revived (KPU-O) and the radical splinter Communist Party of Workers and Peasants, which together obtained 1.81 percent. The Nataliya Vitrenko Bloc, which garnered 3.22 percent, also took votes from the KPU.

Second, the outcome of the elections reveals why the executive was in favor of maintaining the mixed 50:50 proportional-majoritarian election system. Ideologically driven parties on the left and right preferred a proportional system from which they stood to gain. The ideologically amorphous centrist, oligarchic pro-presidential parties preferred the majoritarian system through which their "independents" could be elected. Our Ukraine and the KPU obtained 70 and 59 seats on the proportional lists, and 42 and seven seats on the majoritarian lists, respectively. Meanwhile, the relationship for the ZYU was the opposite (36 and 66 seats). In addition, 93 "independents" will be under great pressure to join the ZYU.

The exception to this rule is the SDPU-o, which is the only oligarchic party able to stand alone and espouse an ideology. Nevertheless, considering that the SDPU-o has massive financial resources and controls the 1+1 Television and Inter television channels, it only managed to increase its vote by just over 2 percent compared to the 1998 elections. This poor result for the SDPU-o will damage party leader Viktor Medvedchuk's chances in the 2004 presidential elections. Similarly, the Democratic Party-Democratic Union bloc backed by wealthy oligarch Oleksandr Volkov only managed to obtain 0.88 percent. Financial resources do not necessarily translate into political power in Ukraine.

Third, the poll results show a growth in political and civic consciousness among Ukrainians. Anatoliy Hrytsenko, president of the Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Studies (UCEPS), recently wrote that, "The authorities think we are all idiots." Obviously, they are very wrong. Cloned and fake oligarchic and presidentially inspired parties such as Women for the Future (2.11 percent), Winter Crop Generation (2.01), Greens (1.30), and Rukh for Unity (0.16) fared badly, and some of their votes may have been "donated" to For a United Ukraine (ZYU). Some votes may have also been stolen from Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine and given to ZYU, as Our Ukraine's result was approximately 6.5 percent less than Yushchenko's personal popularity rating. Our Ukraine has claimed that the real result was 27 percent, 3.5 percent more than the official figure.

At the same time, disillusionment with Ukraine's political process is running high, and voter turnout was lower than in the 1998 elections, particularly in eastern Ukraine, which hurt ZYU and the KPU. This disillusionment will increase if the large number of ZYU deputies are perceived to have gained their seats in an unfair election. In addition, the elections showed that Ukrainians tend to vote for personalities (e.g., Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, and SPU head Oleksandr Moroz) rather than parties or ideologies.

The Greens, the only one of the three oligarchic parties in the outgoing parliament that fared badly in the elections, had a particularly poor showing. Despite a sophisticated election campaign featuring some of the best posters and billboards, the Greens failed to win over the electorate to its image as an environmental party, as voters knew the party had not proposed a single legislative initiative in the 1998-2002 Verkhovna Rada.

Fourth, President Leonid Kuchma's "party of power," the ZYU, increased its core popularity of 4 percent to only 10-11 percent. This should not be considered a victory, considering the fact that administrative resources, vote falsification, and ballot rigging worked in the party's favor. ZYU's poor showing in the proportional voting was counterbalanced by a high vote count in majoritarian districts where most of the irregularities took place. Aside from "donations" from oligarch parties and vote theft from Our Ukraine, ZYU's result was also assisted by high vote counts from closed institutions (hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, military voters, and by voting on the country's four closed military bases).

Fifth, the election results confirmed Ukraine's regional divisions. Ukrainophone western and central Ukraine are the regions with the greatest civic activity and consciousness, as reflected in the massive vote counts in favor of Our Ukraine, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, and the SPU. Our Ukraine obtained upward of 60-75 percent in some Galician regions compared to between 5-10 percent in eastern Ukraine. Our Ukraine took the lead in 14 western and central oblasts, as well as in Kyiv, whereas the KPU won eight eastern and southern oblasts along with the Crimea. ZYU took only Donetsk Oblast with 36.80 percent, and the SPU led in Poltava Oblast with 22.12 percent.

Western and central Ukraine reconfirmed themselves as the country's bulwark against a backward slide to communism or a Sovietophile regime such as those found in Moldova and Belarus. In addition, those regions also showed that they are opposed to the typical CIS authoritarian presidential state favored by the oligarchs. The two Russian nationalist blocs obtained a total of only 1.16 percent in proportional voting nationwide, a reflection of the unpopularity of their views in Ukraine.

Kuchma still continues to talk about implementing the flawed April 2000 referendum that would convert Ukraine into a presidential state with a weak parliament, but he has neither a parliamentary majority nor the constitutional two-thirds to ensure this. A March poll by UCEPS found that, of the successful parties in the elections, only the ZYU supports the implementation of the referendum results. Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh believes that the newly elected parliament will therefore not be in a position to implement the referendum.

The "party of power" had to fall back on Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, where it won 19 out of 22, and seven out of 11 of the majoritarian districts amid widespread allegations of fraud. The greatest number of violations recorded by the OSCE monitoring teams were in the Donbas, which the respected Ukrainian weekly "Zerkalo nedeli/Dzerkalo tyzhnya" labeled "a mini Belarus" and "totalitarian enclave" within Ukraine. ZYU's tactics in the Donbas negatively affected both the KPU and Our Ukraine's results in the region.

Sixth, parliament will be stalled in the next few months by two problems. The election of a new parliamentary leadership will be difficult, as these positions are crucial in deciding the parliamentary agenda and in acting as launching pads for further political careers. The KPU, SPU, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc have also already supported calls for the new parliament to launch impeachment proceedings against President Kuchma. Whether these are successful depends on the attitude of Our Ukraine, which is composed of a radical anti-Kuchma wing and those inclined to favor cooperation on some issues with ZYU, but not with the SDPU-o.

Taras Kuzio is a research associate at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.

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