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Newsline - April 17, 2002


NATO-RUSSIA ACCORD EXPECTED TO BE SIGNED IN MAY IN ITALY
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced on 16 April in Rome that the new agreement for cooperation between NATO and Russia will be signed on 28 May during a NATO summit meeting in Rome, dpa reported. Originally the agreement was to be signed at a NATO summit meeting in Reykjavik in the fall. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said upon his return to Moscow from two days of talks in Belgium and Luxembourg with NATO and EU officials that, according to ongoing negotiations on the new NATO-Russia Council, or "NATO at 20," Russia would gain an equal voice in NATO on such issues as combating international terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 April. Under the new agreement Russia is not expected to be allowed veto rights and NATO decisions will continue to be made by the North Atlantic Council, of which Russia would not be offered membership. The new NATO-Russia Council would replace the Permanent Joint Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February and 16 April 2002). At the same time, Igor Ivanov stressed that the Russian position regarding NATO expansion "remains immutable." VY

RUSSIA WITHDRAWS FROM AGREEMENT WITH U.S. ON STEEL
Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said in Washington after his talks on 16 April with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans that Russia is bowing out of the comprehensive agreement on steel it signed with United States in 1999, Prime-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2002). He added that the U.S. agreed to "raise the quota for supplies of Russian slabs to the United States" that are not covered by the limitations on steel imports imposed in March by the U.S. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4, 6, 8, and 11 March 2002). Gref also told journalists in Washington that he has asked the U.S. to speed up the removal of "political obstacles" in trade and economic relations between Russia and the United States, such as the Jackson-Vanik agreement, RIA-Novosti reported on 17 April. VY

U.S. POULTRY IMPORTS STILL HELD UP
Following the lifting of Russia's ban on U.S. poultry imports on 15 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2002) those imports are being held up by a Russian Agriculture Ministry requirement that Russian trading companies apply for new permits, AP reported on 16 April. The news agency quoted a U.S. Embassy spokesman, who requested anonymity, that it is not clear "on what basis they're denying their own importers the right to import U.S. poultry." A spokeswoman for the ministry refused to say how long the process of issuing new permits will take. MES

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT ORDERS FULL COMPLIANCE WITH UN SANCTIONS ON AL-QAEDA
Vladimir Putin has ordered all Russian institutions to abide in full with a January UN Security Council resolution requesting sanctions on Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda terrorist network, the Kremlin announced on 17 April, AP reported. The resolution asked that governments freeze Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda financial holdings in their countries, and to ban arms sales to the terrorist network. In addition, the resolution called for travel by Bin Laden and members of Al-Qaeda to those countries to be banned. According to Putin's decree, Russian government agencies were also ordered to monitor Russian compliance with the sanctions. MES

RUSSIANS SPLIT ON FSB INVOLVEMENT IN APARTMENT-BUILDING BOMBINGS...
According to a recent poll conducted by Russia's public opinion research center, more than 40 percent of Russians believe the Federal Security Service (FSB) played a role in the August and September 1999 apartment-building bombings in Moscow an Vogodonsk, AFP reported on 17 April. Six percent of those polled said they were sure of the FSB's involvement in those bombings, while 37 percent of the respondents said they would not rule out such a possibility. Some 38 percent totally denied the possibility of FSB involvement, while 16 percent were convinced that the bombs were planted by Chechen rebels. Embattled oligarch Boris Berezovsky has made repeated claims of FSB involvement in the bombings and financed a documentary film in an attempt to back up those claims, while the FSB has accused Berezovsky of funding Chechen rebels. MES

...AS RUSSIA'S LIBERAL PARTY HEADS COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE ATTACKS
On 16 April, a group of Russian lawmakers founded a committee for investigating the 1999 apartment-building bombings, AP reported. Sergei Yushenkov, a leader of Russia's Liberal Party, which will head the investigation and of which Berezovsky is a member, said, "We were forced to create a commission like this because the people in power aren't answering the questions put to them by mass media and individual lawmakers. The committee plans to hear testimony from victims' families and witnesses of the attacks. The committee has not been approved by the Russian government or the State Duma. MES

FOREIGN DIPLOMATS EXPRESS CONCERN OVER RISING XENOPHOBIA IN RUSSIA...
Diplomatic envoys stationed in Russia have asked Russian authorities to take steps to put an end to attacks by Russian neo-Nazis on foreigners, AFP reported on 16 April. In early April, two black U.S. Marines protecting a visiting U.S. official and his wife were attacked by a group of skinheads on Starii Arbat, a popular shopping street in the center of Moscow. In March, the South African ambassador's wife was burned by a cigarette during an attack by skinheads and the next day a South African government delegation was attacked on Starii Arbat. In addition, many foreign embassies in the Russian capital recently received e-mail messages threatening to kill foreigners in Russia in celebration of Adolf Hitler's birthday on 20 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 16 April 2002). Swedish Ambassador to Russia Sven Hirdman was quoted by AFP as saying, "There is increasing concern in the diplomatic corps in Moscow about the xenophobic and often racist attacks on the foreign community." MES

...AS MOSCOW POLICE PREPARE TO SPOIL HITLER'S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS
A spokesman for the Moscow Interior Ministry's main directorate told journalists on 16 April that the city's law enforcement agencies are working together to ensure foreigners safety in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Sergei Shevtsov said the measures include heightened security of embassies and other diplomatic missions. In addition, the head of the directorate, Vladimir Pronin, has initiated a special regime for his police from 19-22 April to prevent attacks on foreigners by Russian neo-Nazis celebrating Hitler's birthday on 20 April. Underground passages and railway stations will be subject to particularly intense police monitoring, according to the news agency. MES

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL PROMISES TO MEET WITH HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS REGULARLY
Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said at a meeting on 16 April with representatives of human rights organizations in Moscow that his agency will pay special attention to ensure that human rights are observed in Chechnya, RIA-Novosti reported. Ustinov also said that he shares the activists concern over racially motivated acts of violence by extremists in Russia, but that "law enforcement is keeping them under control." Ludmila Alekseeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, told ORT on 16 April that the prosecutor-general has agreed to meet with human-rights activists periodically. "We believe that such meetings will help him perform his duties," she said. VY

REGIONAL COMMUNISTS WANT TO OUST SELEZNEV...
The Communist party organizations of three regions -- Nizhnii Novgorod and Leningrad Oblasts and the city of St. Petersburg -- have asked that State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev be expelled from the party for his failure to resign from the State Duma, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 9 March 2002). A branch in Vologda Oblast asked only that he be reprimanded. Meanwhile, Voronezh Mayor Aleksandr Kovalev announced on 16 April that he doubts whether local labor unions will be allowed to hold street demonstrations on 1 May, since it is necessary "first of all, for city authorities to preserve citizen's security and maintain order," regions.ru reported. Earlier in the month, protests were held to condemn rent hikes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April). JAC

...AS DEPUTY SUGGESTS NO SPLIT IMMINENT IN COMMUNIST RANKS
Meanwhile, independent Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov told "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 16 March that he feels that the Kremlin made a strategic error in pushing the Communists from leadership posts in the Duma. According to Ryzhkov, by heading committees the Communists were drawn into a "normal political process" and now that they have been told that their opinion will be ignored even in the parliament, they will respond in the only way possible -- by becoming "radical." According to Ryzhkov, contacts between the regime and the Communist Party will now be "difficult to establish." He added that he does not think Seleznev's refusal to step down will split the party because Seleznev, "and others like him, lack the resources to play solo." JAC

MEDIA MINISTER SHARES EXPERIENCE ON MASS MEDIA WITH CHINESE COLLEAGUES
Mikhail Lesin said after his negotiations in Moscow with Xu Guang Chun, the director of China's State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television, that they have agreed to sign a partnership agreement for radio and television broadcasting and will establish an ad hoc commission on mass media affairs, RIA-Novosti reported on 16 April. Meanwhile, the news agency reported that the ministry's press service has announced that Xu will sign a cooperation agreement between ORT and Central Television of China, as well as similar agreements with the All-Russian Television and Radio Company (VGTRK), and the RIA-Novosti state news agency. VY

RUSSIAN OFFICIAL BRIEFS WESTERN DIPLOMATS ON ABKHAZ CONFLICT
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Valeri Loschin, the Russian presidential envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, discussed the Russian position on the conflict with a group of Western diplomats in Moscow on 16 April, according to ITAR-TASS. The Russian official stressed that the recent tension in the Kodori Gorge confirms the need for negotiations. The meeting included representatives from the so-called "Group of Friends of the UN Secretary-General," a group of interested parties formerly known as the "Friends of Georgia," comprising the U.S., the U.K., Russia, Germany, and France. The group is working to have the Abkhaz and Georgians return to negotiations over a draft peace plan seeking to redefine relations between the two sides. RG

RUSSIA AND CZECH REPUBLIC AGREE ON SOVIET DEBT SETTLEMENT
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said after his talks with Czech counterpart Milos Zeman that the "issue of Russian indebtedness to Prague is settled," and that Russia will pay that debt through military hardware supplies worth some $400 million and with nuclear fuel for Czech nuclear power plants, Russian news agencies reported. Kasyanov said that three accords were signed by which Russia is to supply three An-70 military transport aircraft and seven Mi-35 combat helicopters to the Czech army, CTK reported on 17 April. Russia has also offered to pay some of its debt by launching the Czech satellite "Mimosa," according to CTK on 16 April. Before the agreement the Russian debt to the Czech Republic stood at some $1.1 billion, which had recently been cut from $3.6 billion (also see Czech Republic item in "Central and Eastern Europe"). VY

PUTIN TELLS CROATIAN PRESIDENT THAT RUSSIA HAS A ROLE IN THE BALKANS
Speaking in Moscow on 16 April, Russian President Putin told his visiting Croatian counterpart Stipe Mesic that "as...in previous years, Russia is ready to act as a go-between in negotiations and a guarantor of stability in the Balkans," ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 July 2001). He added that Russia will continue to promote regional stability "together with its partners in Europe and North America." For his part, Mesic said that Croatia "appreciates the role that Russia plays within the international community to promote stability in Southeastern Europe," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He invited Putin to visit Croatia, and the invitation was accepted, "Jutarnji list" reported. Mesic has meanwhile gone on to St. Petersburg. PM

RUSSIA AND IRAN PROMOTE 'NORTH-SOUTH' TRANSPORT CORRIDOR
Russian Transport Minister Sergei Frank, who is on a three-day visit to Iran, said on 16 April after meeting with his Iranian counterpart Ahmad Khorram that Russia is ready to launch a trilateral transport project next month known as "North-South," which will link the Western states with Central Asian countries via Russia, RIA-Novosti reported on 16 April. The agreement on the transport corridor was signed last year by Russia, India, and Iran, and was approved by the Russian parliament and President Putin this month. Frank added that Scandinavian and Baltic states, as well as Ukraine and Kazakhstan, have expressed interest in the project. According to the agreement, Russia will develop its Olya cargo terminal on the Caspian Sea in order to transit containers on to Iranian ports, the new Russian-language analytical website iran.ru reported. VY

KASYANOV PRAISES ROYAL/DUTCH SHELL FOR PARTICIPATION IN RUSSIAN PROJECTS
Prime Minister Kasyanov said following a meeting in Moscow with Royal Dutch/Shell managing directors committee Chairman Philip Watt that Russian welcomes the increased pace of investment by that company into the Russian energy sector that last year, Prime-TASS reported. Royal Dutch/Shell investments into that sector totaled some $1.7 billion. Kasyanov also praised Royal Dutch/Shell for its cooperation with Gazprom in the Sakhalin-2 exploration project. The same day, Watt discussed with the head of Gazprom, Aleksei Miller, the "liberalization of the gas market in Russia and Europe," added Finmarket on 16 April. VY

PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS VOWS TO CONTEST LAWSUIT OVER GAZPROM AUDIT
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released a statement on 16 April defending itself against a lawsuit initiated by Hermitage Capital Management Ltd. alleging that PwC deliberately falsified its 2000-2001 audit of Gazprom, AFP reported. AFP reported PwC as saying in the statement that it will take Hermitage Capital to court over the "completely unfounded" allegations, and that "Our work met all the applicable legal and professional standards and we shall be defending the claims vigorously." Hermitage Capital runs the Hermitage Fund dedicated to investments in Russia and is a member of the London-based HSBC Group. "The Hermitage Fund press material misrepresents the nature of our work and our findings and we will seek redress in the court," the PwC statement read. On 16 April, Hermitage Capital Chief Executive William Browder was quoted as saying, "This is Russia's Enron" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2002). MES

LYUDMILA PUTINA AGAINST REFORMS OF RUSSIAN LANGUAGE
Speaking in St. Petersburg on 16 April at a forum devoted to the Russian language, President Putin's wife, Ludmila Putina, said reforming the language would be untimely because the language is still in the active stage of its development, Russian news agencies reported. Putina, a philologist by education and the head of the National Committee on the Russian Language, also said that the Russian language is an important vehicle for promoting Russian economic and political interests abroad. St. Petersburg University rector Ludmila Verbitskaya said at the same forum that she is very concerned by the misuse of the language by Russian politicians. She announced that, especially for them, she and her colleagues have prepared a dictionary outlining the proper usage of 200 of the most-popular Russian idioms used by those politicians. She added that they need learn the proper usage of "at least 800, but that would be too many for them." VY

INTERIOR MINISTRY REPORTS ON CORRUPTION IN RUSSIA'S EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
The Interior Ministry announced on 16 April that it has investigated more than 7,000 cases of bribes and misuse of funds by national education institutions in 2001, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. According to Iskander Galimov, the deputy head of the Interior Ministry's main directorate for combating economic crimes, the most prestigious Russian higher-education schools commonly accept money from members of organized crime groups who offer bribes for enrolling their children or receiving higher grades, Galimov said. The sums of bribes vary from several hundred to thousands of dollars, according to Galimov, and the total sum of bribe-taking was 120 million rubles ($4 million) last year alone. VY

YUKOS GETS INTO THE CIVIL SOCIETY BUSINESS...
"Novye izvestiya" reported on 16 April about the activities of a regional public organization called "Open Russia" that was created by Yukos shareholders. The goal of the organization is to create a liberal-democratic organization "that could only be an instrument for the creation of a civil society." According to the daily, this initiative differs from many others because of its clearly "apolitical approach" with Yukos, as a philanthropic organization backing the effort. Open Russia is aimed at young people primarily in the regions, the daily reported. According to Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, one goal is to prepare Russia for 2100, when the share of natural resources will drop and Russia will have no other choice but to export more "liquid" products, such as intellectual goods. JAC

...AND SEARCHES FOR 'INTELLECTUAL HELL-RAISERS'
According to Khodorkovskii, the high level of education of Russia's population differentiates it from "Third World" countries, but "Russia needs people who are ready to insist on their own point of view, who are intellectual hell-raisers." Among the groups supporting Open Russia's agenda is the Federal Internet Organization and the New Civilization youth project, which was started five years ago to "help post-Soviet adolescents adapt to the democratic way of life," according to the daily. JAC

OVR LEADER PREDICTS GOVERNMENT SHAKE-UP
Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) faction leader Vyacheslav Volodin told reporters in Moscow on 16 April that President Putin's recent criticism of the government's economic policies may lead to the dismissal of several cabinet ministers, Interfax reported. In particular, Volodin singled out Anvar Shamuzafarov, head of the State Construction Agency, who is "clearly failing to carry out his duties." On 8 April, Putin criticized the government's medium-term economic program for lacking "ambition" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2002). On 18 April, Putin will deliver his annual address to the Federal Assembly, which is composed of the State Duma and Federation Council. JAC

DEADLINES LOOM FOR POWER-SHARING TREATIES
The presidential envoy to the Ural federal district, Petr Latyshev, told Uralinform on 16 April that President Putin will receive a draft law demarcating responsibilities between the various levels of government by 1 June, regions.ru reported. The law is currently being prepared by the presidential commission formed for this task headed by Dmitrii Kozak. The decree establishing the commission had required that such a law be prepared by 1 June (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 27 June 2001). On 8 April, President Putin signed a resolution canceling existing power-sharing treaties between the federal center and St. Petersburg, Orenburg, and Nizhnii Novgorod (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2002). Previously, Kozak's commission established a date of 28 July for regions to bring their power-sharing treaties into conformity with federal law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2001). JAC

PROBLEM OF REGIONAL SEPARATISM REPLACED BY MERGER MANIA...
"Vremya MN" reported on 16 April that while the federal center once had to struggle against regional separatism, it now has to try to "freeze" the process of joining regions. According to the daily, the adoption last year of a bill amending the law on the order of forming federation subjects has sparked an "avalanche of proposals for joining regions such as Pskov Oblast with Novgorod Oblast, Yaroslavl Oblast with Kostroma Oblast, Krasnoyarsk Krai with Taimyr and Evenk Autonomous okrugs, the city of Moscow with Moscow Oblast, St. Petersburg with Leningrad Oblast, etc." However, Vladimir Lysenko, deputy chairman of the Duma's Committee for Federation and Regional Affairs, told the daily that "it is very difficult to imagine that this law will be realized in the near future." Yurii Sharandin, chairman of the Federation Council's Committee on Constitutional Legislation, added that "the law precisely explains the creation of a new federation subject but not the merger" of two more existing regions. JAC

...AS REGIONAL OFFICIAL SUGGESTS SOLUTION TO LACK OF FINANCING FOR LOCAL ORGANS OF SELF-RULE
The deputy prosecutor for the Urals federal district, Yurii Zolotov, said on 16 April that he favors reducing the number of municipalities in the districts so that "expenditures for maintaining the [bureaucratic] apparatuses can be kept to a minimum," Interfax reported. According to Zolotov, Kurgan Oblast has 459 municipal formations compared with 290 for Chelyabinsk Oblast and 72 in Sverdlovsk Oblast. The same day, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko suggested to a group of regional reporters that a bankruptcy procedure needs to be introduced for insolvent regions, Interfax reported. According to Khristenko, the transition to "direct financial administration" in the bankrupt regions would not concern the people who live there, but those regional authorities who haven't been able to cope with their responsibilities. JAC

NEW SENATOR SELECTED...
The legislature of Nizhnii Novgorod has selected Dmitrii Bednyakov as its representative to the Federation Council, regions.ru reported on 16 April. Anatolii Kozeradskii, who had been representing the chamber, was recently named chief federal inspector for Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast by presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko. Bednyakov had been chairman of the oblast's legislature during its previous convocation but failed to be re-elected during the 31 March ballot because there was insufficient voter turnout in his district, Interfax reported on 11 April. JAC

...AS NEW CENTRAL BANKER ASSEMBLES HIS STAFF
Central Bank Chairman Sergei Ignatiev has submitted the names of three candidates for the Central Bank's board of directors, Interfax reported on 16 April. Oleg Vyugin, a former first deputy finance minister who most recently worked at Troika-Dialog, has been nominated to serve as deputy chairman along with Andrei Kozlov, who was previously first deputy chairman at the Central Bank from 1989 to 1998, according to polit.ru. On 15 April, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin submitted the name of Sergei Vyazalov, who previously headed Lenenergo, for the post of first deputy finance minister, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 April. JAC

...AND TV-6 MANAGER WINDS UP AT RTR
Anton Zlatopolskii has been appointed general director for the Russian Television (RTR) channel and Pavel Korchagin was named RTR's chief producer, Interfax reported on 16 April. Zlatopolskii previously served as first deputy director of VGTRK, a position he will retain. Korchagin was most recently executive director of TV-6. He had worked at RTR previously before becoming general director of TNT, according to the agency. JAC

MISUSE OF PUBLIC FUNDS ALLEGED IN NORTH CAUCASUS AREA
Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin announced on 15 April that 49 criminal cases have been opened on the territory of the Southern federal district for misuse of federal budget monies, strana.ru reported the next day. This is one-third of all the cases in Russia. Stepashin noted that the opening of an Audit Chamber branch for the district should address such problems as well as oversee the budget process between the republican level and that of municipalities. Stepashin added that, "It is hard for me to believe that in the Southern district, which is one of the richest in Russia, there is not one donor region. It is necessary to raise the question of effectiveness of the use of budget resources." JAC

COUNCIL OF EUROPE, RUSSIAN OFFICIAL DISCUSS HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHECHNYA
After a meeting with Vladimir Kalamanov, presidential envoy human rights in Chechnya on 16 April, Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles told reporters that "serious progress was noted in ensuring human rights in Chechnya," ITAR-TASS reported. Kalamanov also met with Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer and Bruno Haller, the secretary-general of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Kalamanov said that he believes that at next week's session of PACE the Chechen problem will be considered only in the context of the work of the PACE-State Duma joint commission. Chechnya is not a separate issue, Kalamanov said. JAC

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION EFFORT TO RESCUE A1+ ISSUE FAILS IN PARLIAMENT...
After garnering the required number of signatures to force a special session of parliament, the opposition attempt to pass its proposed amendments to the law on the media failed to gain a quorum of the 131-seat legislature on 16 April, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The opposition is seeking to reinstate the suspended A1+ independent television station and replace the government-appointed broadcasting commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 4, and 16 April 2002). The move was blocked by the parliament's largest faction, the Unity bloc, and the pro-government Armenian Revolutionary Federation. RG

...AS COURT HEARING ON A1+ LAWSUIT DELAYED
A lawsuit brought by the A1+ staff against the National Commission on Television and Radio was delayed in a ruling by a Yerevan court on 16 April, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Court of Economic Arbitration ordered a delay until 23 April. The lawsuit contends that the governmental commission illegally awarded the independent television station's frequency to the Sharm media group in the 2 April tender because of the group's links to President Robert Kocharian's government. Edith Khachatourian, the commission's attorney, said the "A1+ TV company was never deprived by anyone of its right to broadcast; it simply failed to win the tender...[because] another company submitted a better proposal." A1+ lawyers charge that under Armenian law, the government was required to hold simultaneous biddings for all available frequencies. Several nongovernmental organizations have accused Kocharian of "blatantly abusing the frequency licensing system in an attempt to silence a critical media voice." RG

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA
President Kocharian appointed former Culture Minister Armen Smbatian as the new Armenian ambassador to Russia on 16 April, replacing Suren Sahakian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The appointment, viewed as one of the most significant postings, was criticized by some because of Smbatian's lack of diplomatic experience. The new ambassador served as culture minister in the government of former President Levon Ter-Petrossian from 1996-1998. RG

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW SECURITY ADVISER
Heidar Aliev appointed Vahid Aliev as his new adviser on national security on 16 April, the Turan reported. The new appointee has served as national security minister for the Nakhichevan regional government since 1998. He was trained at the St. Petersburg Academy of Soviet Intelligence and held security positions with Azerbaijan's border troops. The new adviser was born in Armenia and is a veteran of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. RG

ECONOMIC CONFERENCE HELD IN BAKU
A conference examining Azerbaijan's economic policies was held in Baku on 16 April with foreign investors, international organizations, diplomats, and government officials, ANS reported. The conference focused on implementing a poverty-reduction program and developing labor policies that will support the most vulnerable Azerbaijanis. Representatives from foreign corporations presented analyses of corruption problems, citing the need for a broader mechanism to ensure property rights, combat corruption, and legally enforce commercial contracts. Several government officials also criticized multilateral lending institutions for exclusively targeting their lending to foreign projects. RG

AZERBAIJANI SECURITY FORCES ESTABLISH CORDON AROUND PRESIDENTIAL RESIDENCE
Security forces officials have extended a security perimeter around the home of President Aliev on 16 April, ANS reported. Nearby residents affected by the plan are to be offered cash incentives or will be provided with alternative housing, security officials said. RG

AZERBAIJANI DELEGATION SECURES NEW INVESTMENT FROM CHINA
A delegation of Azerbaijani parliamentarians met with several senior Chinese officials in Beijing and concluded a Chinese investment project for energy development in the Caspian Sea on 16 April, AFP reported. Under the terms of the new project, the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation is to expand its development of offshore oil fields beyond its present role in exploiting two Caspian fields. The Azerbaijani delegation, led by parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov, arrived in China on 14 April. The Azerbaijani government has long sought greater ties with China, with President Aliev visiting China in 1994 and the parliamentary speaker traveling there in 1996. RG

NATO CONFERENCE OPENS IN TBILISI
A three-day conference opened in Tbilisi on 16 April to prepare for multinational NATO military exercises, ITAR-TASS reported. The NATO maneuvers, known as Best Effort-02, will be held at Georgia's Vaziani air base from 17-28 June and will involve forces from 16 NATO members and aspirants. The exercises will focus on developing operational readiness in peacekeeping duties and are the latest in an increasingly active Georgian role in NATO's Partnership for Peace program. RG

OIL MAJOR TO EXPAND PRODUCTION, INCREASE INVESTMENT IN KAZAKHSTAN...
Following talks with Kazakh Prime Minister Imanghali Tasmaghambetov in Astana on 16 April, ChevronTexaco's CEO David O'Reilly announced that his company will increase its production of Kazakh oil from its present amount of 13 million metric tons per year to 20 million tons per year by 2005, Interfax reported. To this end, ChevronTexaco will invest some $1.5 billion over the next three years to expand the production capacity of the Tengizchevroil joint venture, the news agency reported. O'Reilly noted that ChevronTexaco's investments in Kazakh projects to date amount to $1.4 billion. The company holds a 50 percent stake in the joint venture and a 15 percent stake in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) pipeline, launched last year, which transports oil from the Tengiz oil field in western Kazakhstan to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. AA

...WHILE CHINA REITERATES INTEREST IN PIPELINE
A senior Chinese spokesman for the branch of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) developing oil fields in western Kazakhstan, Zhang Cheng Wu, said on 16 April that Beijing is ready to build a trans-Kazakhstan pipeline from the Caspian Sea to China if the predicted hydrocarbon reserves in the Kazakh sector of the sea are confirmed, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Zhang added that a feasibility study has already been prepared, and the estimated cost of the 2,900-kilometer pipeline is $3 billion-3.5 billion, the news agency said. He stressed that China has never abandoned the idea of a Kazakh-Chinese pipeline. The CNPC has been developing the Zhanazhol and Kenkiak fields in western Kazakhstan's Aktobe Oblast since 1997. AA

RUSSIA ANNOUNCES LONG-TERM PLANS TO LEAVE KAZAKH SPACE CENTER
The commander of Russia's Space Troops, Lieutenant General Anatolii Perminov, was in Kazakhstan with a group of generals on 16 April to inspect equipment and personnel at the Baikonur cosmodrome, Interfax-Military News Agency and ITAR-TASS reported. Perminov said Moscow plans to transfer its military space program from Baikonur to Plesetsk within eight to 10 years, although it will continue to use the Kazakh facility for launching civilian spacecraft and commercial satellites. At present, all of Russia's manned spacecraft and more than half its military satellites are launched from Baikonur, which Russia leases from Kazakhstan for $115 million per year. Its remote location, however, makes it difficult for Russia to use the cosmodrome, the Russian Space Troops press service said on 16 April, explaining the decision for the partial abandonment of Baikonur. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan, as a country that launches spacecraft, has applied to the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs to claim its own sector in space, Kazakh commercial television reported the same day, suggesting that Astana may be able to collect transit fees for satellites crossing its sector. AA

KYRGYZ OPPOSITIONISTS IGNORE RALLY
A government-sponsored forum titled "Peace and Concord Are the Basis for Society's Development" was held in Bishkek on 16 April to commemorate and discuss the 17 March clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan's Aksy Raion, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Among those in attendance were writer Chingiz Aitmatov and Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan Chairman Tursunbek Akunov, who heard pro-government parliamentarians attribute the incident in Aksy to provincial authorities' lack of sensitivity to the local people's needs and frustrations. Meanwhile, the leaders of all the major opposition parties boycotted the rally, although they were invited, saying that the organizers themselves were responsible for last month's bloodshed and that the event was meant to steal the thunder away from an antigovernment congress arranged for 17-18 April. AA

RUSSIAN SECURITY CHIEF IN KYRGYZSTAN
The director of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), Nikolai Patrushev, arrived in Bishkek on 16 April for talks with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev and Security Council Secretary Misir Ashirkulov on approaches to combating international terrorism, religious extremism, and narcotics trafficking, Kabar and RIA-Novosti reported. Bilateral cooperation on these issues within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and CIS Collective Security Treaty (CTS) were also on the agenda, Kabar said. Patrushev's visit coincided with the CIS Collective Rapid Reaction Forces ongoing "South -- Antiterror 2002" exercises in Bishkek. Also on 16 April, RIA-Novosti reported, Akaev had a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin about security cooperation and preparations for the Moscow summit of the presidents of the six CTS member states in May, when the possibility of transforming the CTS into a standing security organization is to be discussed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 2002). AA

MORE ISLAMISTS ARRESTED IN TAJIKISTAN
Tajik police arrested Khudoynazar Asoev, 44, in northern Tajikistan's Soghd Oblast for heading a cell of the banned Islamist party Hizb-ut-Tahrir, AP and RFE/RL's Dushanbe bureau reported on 16 April. He is the third person to be detained this year in Soghd Oblast on suspicion of belonging to Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Fifteen alleged extremists were arrested in Tajikistan in 2001. Meanwhile, Reuters reported on 15 April that two men were arrested in the southern Kazakh town of Turkestan for distributing Hizb-ut-Tahrir literature. They were caught carrying 78 leaflets calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Central Asia and a holy war against Israel. It was the third time since mid-2000 that activists had been arrested in southern Kazakhstan while passing out the outlawed party's leaflets, Reuters said. AA

TAJIKISTAN SOLICITS MILITARY ASSISTANCE FROM PARIS, MOSCOW
Tajik Defense Minister Sherali Khairulloev returned to Dushanbe after a two-day trip to Paris where he met his French counterpart, Alain Richard, and signed a cooperation protocol, Tajik television reported on 16 April. Richard stressed that Tajikistan has an important role to play in the international campaign against terrorism and said that France will train Tajik officers to European standards. On 14 April, the TV station reported that more than 10 percent of Tajik troops serving in the State Border Protection Committee were sacked following an appraisal of their performance. On the way back from Paris, Khairulloev stopped in Moscow to discuss upgrading the Tajik army's weapons and other aspects of military-technical cooperation with Colonel General Viktor Zavarzin, Russia's chief official for coordinating military affairs between CIS countries, Asia-Plus reported on 16 April. AA

RARE PUBLIC PROTEST IN TURKMENISTAN
Some 300 Turkmen demonstrated outside the headquarters of the Committee for National Security (KNB) in Ashgabat on 15 April, and about 50 turned out the following day to protest how KNB officers treat ordinary citizens, RFE/RL's Ashgabat bureau reported. The demonstrators demanded that malefactors in the security services be punished, following widespread revelations of abuse of power, including drug smuggling and the raping of Turkmen citizens by KNB officers. President Saparmurat Niyazov began purging the ranks of the KNB with mass firings on 4 March (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 14 March 2002). AA

BELARUS, RUSSIA MULL MILITARY INTEGRATION
Belarusian Defense Minister Leanid Maltsau and his Russian counterpart Sergei Ivanov met in Minsk on 16 April to discuss strengthening military cooperation between the two countries, Belarusian and Russian media reported. Ivanov told journalists after the meeting that the creation of unified military forces of the Belarus-Russia Union is an integration goal, but added that "political decisions" are necessary first. "I cannot say how long it will take [to adopt such decisions], but we, the defense ministers, pass relevant proposals all the time," Ivanov added. Maltsau said an agreement on the creation of a common Russian-Belarusian regional air-defense system (RADS) is expected to be signed before the end of the year. Ivanov explained that the sides are still working on details, including the issue of who is to command RADS and how this commander is to be appointed. JM

ARTICLE 19 SLAMS BELARUS'S MEDIA-RELATED BILLS
On 16 April in Minsk, experts of Article 19, a worldwide media watchdog, criticized Belarus's draft laws on media and information security as well as provisions of the Criminal Code pertaining to freedom of expression, Belapan reported. Federica Prina of Article 19 suggested that libel and defamation suits, which the government uses as a tool to control the spread of information, should be transferred from criminal to civil legislation. She pointed out that severe punishments imposed as a result of such cases are intended to intimidate journalists. According to Prina, the Criminal Code articles designed to protect the head of state and senior officials from libel contradict the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for greater protection of ordinary people as compared to civil servants. Meanwhile, Belarusian Information Minister Mikhail Padhayny said the same day, "We are not ashamed of this bill [on media] before the international community, nor are Belarusian citizens." JM

POLICE ARREST FOUR DEFENDERS OF MINSK'S STALIN-ERA MASSACRE SITE
Plainclothes police officers on 16 April arrested four voluntary overseers of the Kurapaty forest near Minsk, where tens of thousands of people were executed and buried by the Soviet NKVD in the 1930s, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service and Belapan reported. The government's decision last year to expand the Minsk beltway in the immediate vicinity of the mass grave sparked protests and led to clashes between Kurapaty defenders and police in November (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 13 November 2002). Unsure about the authorities' further plans, a handful of enthusiasts have continued to keep a round-the-clock watch at the site. Belapan reported on 17 April that two of the arrested volunteers are being held at a district police station in Minsk, while the fate of the other two remains unknown. JM

WIVES OF MISSING BELARUSIANS APPEAL TO CZECH PREMIER
The wives of four missing Belarusian opposition figures have sent a letter via the Czech Embassy in Minsk to Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, who was expected to travel to Belarus on 17 April, Belapan reported on 16 April. The letter urged Zeman to highlight the issue of the disappearances and suspected murders of the opposition figures during any meetings with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and other officials in Minsk. Meanwhile, CTK quoted opposition Civic Democratic Alliance head Michael Zantovsky as saying that Zeman is going to Belarus to seek Belarusian support for the candidacy of Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan for the post of UN General Assembly chairman. "A reward for this tastelessness [Zeman's visit] should be a withdrawal of the Belarusian candidate for the post of UN General Assembly chairman to the benefit of Jan Kavan," Zantovsky added. JM

YUSHCHENKO WANTS OUR UKRAINE TO FORM PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY...
Former Premier Viktor Yushchenko, the leader of the Our Ukraine election bloc, said on 17 April that since Our Ukraine won the 31 March parliamentary election, it should become a foundation for building a parliamentary majority, UNIAN reported. Yushchenko was speaking at a meeting with the leaders of parties constituting Our Ukraine. He noted, however, that following consultations with other political forces, he is not an "optimist" as regards the creation of such a majority. He stressed that Our Ukraine will be represented in the Verkhovna Rada by a single parliamentary caucus. Yushchenko also slammed the authorities for what he called an ongoing "revision" of the parliamentary ballot. "Today we are witnessing as the authorities are doing a revision of the elections, [as they] are essentially conducting elections without an electorate according to their own principles, appointing a majority...and herding deputies from single-mandate constituencies into the party of power," Yushchenko said. JM

...WHILE BLOC ALLIES WANT YUSHCHENKO TO LEAD NEW CABINET
Viktor Pynzenyk, the leader of the Reforms and Order Party (a constituent of Our Ukraine), said at the same meeting that Our Ukraine claims the post of prime minister in a new cabinet. "We do not need decorative portfolios, we need the top portfolio -- that of the prime minister," UNIAN quoted Pynzenyk as saying. Yuriy Kostenko, the leader of Ukrainian Popular Rukh (another constituent of Our Ukraine), said Our Ukraine is ready to assume responsibility for the situation in Ukraine provided that a future coalition government is headed by Yushchenko. Meanwhile, Yushchenko announced that Our Ukraine will "initiate" the sacking of 17 regional governors whose performance during the election campaign "did not conform with legislation in force" and who "discredited themselves and local authorities." JM

CRIMEAN LAWMAKERS FORM PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY
Crimean lawmaker Vasyl Kyselyov told journalists on 16 April that 67 newly elected deputies of the Crimean Supreme Council signed a document informing President Leonid Kuchma about the creation of a "stable" legislative majority, UNIAN reported. The majority is reportedly based on the Kunitsyn Team election coalition but also includes lawmakers from the rival Hrach Bloc. "[Crimean lawmakers] will not elect their speaker without taking into account the opinion of President Leonid Kuchma," Kyselyov noted. "One should not humiliate oneself with such, pardon my words, lackeying," Leonid Hrach, the speaker of the preceding Crimean legislature, said of Kyselyov's words. The question as to whether Hrach's election to the Crimean legislature will be upheld is still pending a decision of the Supreme Court. As of 16 April, the Crimean Election Commission registered 55 newly elected deputies to the 100-member Supreme Council. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION JOURNALIST ARRESTED
Ukrainian police on 15 April detained Oleh Lyashko, the editor in chief of the opposition newspaper "Svoboda," in Cherkasy (central Ukraine), AP reported. Lyashko's deputy Oleh Meklyayev told the agency that, following Lyashko's failure to appear last week at a court hearing to counter charges that his paper defamed a senior prosecutor, police attempted to apprehend him at Svoboda's printing house. Lyashko prevented police from entering the premises, saying he was busy preparing the paper for publication. On 15 April, when Lyashko appeared in court to defend his paper, police jailed him. JM

FBI EXPERTS LEAVE UKRAINE WITHOUT NEW CLUES IN GONGADZE CASE
The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv has said the FBI experts invited by the Ukrainian government to help solve the murder of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze were denied access to evidence, Reuters reported on 16 April. "Ukrainian law enforcement officials asserted that Ukrainian law prohibits sharing any information that is not in the public domain, and said they were unable to discuss any aspects of the case, share evidence, or conduct a joint site inspection," the embassy said in a statement. During their visit from 8-15 April, the FBI agents met officials from the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Interior Ministry, and the Security Service. JM

ESTONIAN FARMERS GREET EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN WITH PICKET
A group of farmers protested in front of the Estonian parliament on 16 April condemning the farm quotas that the European Commission (EC) has offered Estonia, ETA reported. They presented a statement with their demands to visiting European Parliament Chairman Pat Cox, who promised to deliver it to EC Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler in Brussels. Estonia is asking for a milk quota of 900,000 tons a year while the EC has offered only 562,633 tons. Cox heard similar complaints about inadequate quotas from Estonian President Arnold Ruutel earlier in the day. Cox said the European Parliament will allow Estonia to participate as an observer after the EU accession agreement is signed. In talks with Premier Siim Kallas he said the EU will make a favorable decision on Estonia's EU entry at the EU summit in Copenhagen at the end of the year. SG

LATVIAN-SWEDISH COOPERATION PLAN FOR 2002-2004 PRESENTED
Swedish Foreign Ministry State Secretary Sven Eric Soder traveled to Riga on 16 April to present a draft strategy prepared by Sweden on cooperation with Latvia in 2002-2004, BNS reported. The strategy covers cooperation projects concerning the environment, health care, social security, judicial affairs, and security that are aimed at promoting the implementation of EU requirements. Among the environmental projects are the construction of wastewater-treatment plants in Riga, Liepaja, Daugavpils, and Jurmala. Sweden will also help Latvia develop a new social insurance system and provide training for judges. Latvian officials suggested new cooperation elements in such fields as information technology and support for e-commerce. The draft document, supplemented with Latvian comments, could be adopted by the Swedish parliament in a month. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES PRESIDENT'S VETO ON AMENDMENTS TO GOVERNMENT LAW
By a vote of 77 to 36 with seven abstentions, the parliament on 16 April rejected suggestions offered by President Valdas Adamkus when he vetoed amendments to the government law earlier in the month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2002), "Lietuvos rytas" reported the next day. Thus, the original amendments -- which reduce the number of politically appointed deputy ministers to one for each ministry and establish new posts of state secretary and ministry secretary -- will go into effect. The parliament opposition supported the proposals of Adamkus to eliminate political appointees as deputy ministers even though its leaders also asserted that the amendments could be further improved. SG

POLISH GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO SIMPLIFY TAXATION, CUT RED TAPE
Leszek Miller's cabinet on 16 April adopted a package of changes to 11 laws in a bid to boost the faltering economy by simplifying the country's taxation regime and trimming down red tape pertaining to small and medium-sized enterprises, Polish media reported. Premier Miller promised tax exemptions of up to one year for first-time entrepreneurs. Finance Minister Marek Belka said the new measures are also designed to reduce the temptation of employers to reduce production costs by employing workers illegally, dpa reported. JM

PRESIDENT WANTS GREATER POLISH PRESENCE IN LATIN AMERICA
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski told journalists in Lima, Peru, on 16 April that Poland should develop more political and economic ties with Latin America, PAP reported. He expressed his conviction that Latin America is sure to become an important global center in coming decades, and added that Poland should be "politically and economically present" in the region. Peru is the last country on the agenda of Kwasniewski's current Latin American tour. He visited Brazil, Chile, and Colombia before traveling to Peru. JM

EU OFFERS 2.6 BILLION EUROS TO POLISH COUNTRYSIDE OVER THREE YEARS
The European Commission on 16 April decided that the Polish countryside will receive some 2.6 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in nonreimbursable development aid during the first three years of Poland's EU membership, PAP reported. The agency added that this is the only meaningful change in the EU's position on agriculture in accession talks with Poland. Despite Poland's protests, the European Commission upheld earlier plans to phase in direct subsidies for Polish farmers, with 25 percent of the full subsidy (some 600 million euros) granted in the first year of membership (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 19 February 2002). JM

PALESTINIANS CRITICIZE CZECHS FOR VOTING AGAINST UN RESOLUTION
The Palestinian Authority's diplomatic mission in Prague criticized the Czech Republic for voting against a UN resolution condemning Israel for "gross violations" of humanitarian law in the occupied territories, CTK reported on 16 April. The UN Commission on Human Rights passed the resolution in Geneva by a vote of 40 to five on 15 April, condemning Israel for what it called "mass killings" of Palestinians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2002). The Czech Republic joined Germany, Great Britain, Canada, and Guatemala in voting against the resolution. Alexander Slaby, the Czech representative to the UN Human Rights Commission, called the resolution "one-sided." The Palestinian Authority's diplomatic mission in Prague sent a protest to Czech authorities and asked Prague to support an international investigation into alleged human-rights abuses in the occupied territories. BW

EU AMBASSADOR TO CZECH REPUBLIC CALLS BENES CONTROVERSY A BILATERAL ISSUE
Ramiro Cibrian, the EU's ambassador to the Czech Republic, said the issue of compensation for ethnic Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II must be resolved on a bilateral basis, and not within the EU, CTK reported on 16 April. Cibrian also reiterated the EU's position that the Benes Decrees will not be an obstacle to the Czech Republic's bid to join the EU. Sudeten German groups in Austria have been seeking an international forum to press restitution claims against the Czech Republic, including with the EU and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. On 16 April, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan led a Czech delegation presenting the Czech Republic's position on the issue to the European Parliament. BW

CZECH PRIME MINISTER SAYS RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA REACH HIGH POINT
Milos Zeman said Czech-Russian relations are better than they have ever been since the fall of communism, CTK reported on 16 April, citing an interview posted on the website of the Russian daily "Izvestiya." Zeman, who is on an official visit to Moscow, made his comments after signing a series of bilateral agreements on Russia's remaining $1.1 billion debt Soviet-era debt to the Czech Republic. Under one agreement, Russia will repay some of the debt by supplying the Czech Republic with military equipment. "Now that the debt problem has been resolved, we can concentrate on expanding business ties," Zeman said. Trade turnover between the two countries is $2.3 billion annually (see also article in "Russia" section). BW

CZECH PARLIAMENT WILL REMAIN AN OLD-BOYS CLUB
Regardless of the outcome of the Czech Republic's general election in June, women and minorities will be underrepresented in the new parliament, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 16 April. Currently, only 30 of the 200 legislators in the lower house are women, and that number is likely to decrease, the daily wrote after analyzing party lists. Moreover, the only lawmaker from the Czech Republic's Romany minority, Monika Mihalickova, is leaving parliament for personal reasons. BW

SLOVAK ROMANY JOURNALIST ACCUSED OF ASSAULTING POLICE OFFICER
Romany journalist Denisa Havrlova, with whom a police officer refused to shake hands until she showed him a "sanitary card" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 2002), has been charged with "assaulting a public servant," TASR reported on 16 April. The policeman initiated criminal proceedings against the journalist after the incident was reported in the media. The office of the regional prosecutor in Presov, eastern Slovakia, made the decision to press charges. According to the prosecutor, there is evidence that the journalist insulted and spoke ill of the policeman. A witness to the incident said that after the police officer refused to shake hands with Havrlova, she called him a racist. The case is now in the hands of an investigator. AS

SLOVAKIA'S HZDS UNHAPPY WITH PUBLISHED INTERVIEW
Former Premier Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) is unhappy with the published discussion between Meciar and the director of the Office of North Central European Affairs of the U.S. State Department, John L. Withers, during Meciar's recent private visit to the U.S., TASR reported on 16 April. HZDS claims that the authors of these "deliberate manipulations" are Slovak "diplomats" from Washington. In a transcript published by the Slovak daily "Sme" today, Withers repeatedly said that a return to government of Meciar and his HZDS might damage Slovakia's candidacy for NATO membership. AS

FORMER GERMAN CHANCELLOR CAMPAIGNS IN HUNGARY FOR ORBAN
"Europe and Hungary will be better off if Viktor Orban remains prime minister," visiting former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said on 16 April while campaigning with Orban in Hungary's western city of Gyor. Kohl told a local campaign rally that the enthusiasm he was witnessing was not enough, saying it is also necessary for everyone to turn out for the second round of parliamentary elections on 21 April, Hungarian media reported. For his part, Orban said the opposition Socialists want to intimidate and scare voters by "projecting Hungary's image as that of a country that has been kicked out of Europe." He said the voters demonstrated in the first round of elections and at the 13 April rally in front of the parliament building that Hungarians are not extremists, anti-Semites, or fascists, and "simply want nothing other than to live as Hungarians in Europe." MSZ

MEDGYESSY PLEDGES TO BACK LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
Socialist prime-ministerial candidate Peter Medgyessy, accompanied by Free Democrat Chairman Gabor Kuncze and Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky, called on 16 April for "a national pooling of resources" to solve problems pertaining to poverty, health care, pensioners, owners of small businesses, and villagers. Speaking at a conference on local authorities held at the Budapest Municipal Council, Medgyessy also said the Socialists intend to promote strong and independent local governments by reforming the distribution of central budget funds, Hungarian dailies reported. He said the public procurement process should be reformed to ensure that subsidies for local governments are not decided on the basis of political affiliation. MSZ

MINORITY OMBUDSMAN IN HUNGARY ISSUES 2001 REPORT
"Last year was not a successful one from the viewpoint of ethnic minorities," Minority Ombudsman Jeno Kaltenbach said in his summary 2001 report. "Nepszabadsag" on 17 April quoted Kaltenbach's report as saying that the lack of minority representation in parliament remains an unresolved problem and deprives minorities of a fundamental constitutional right. His report also criticized parliament's failure to amend the law on ethnic minorities and called for the passing of an antidiscrimination law in line with EU guidelines. MSZ

DUTCH GOVERNMENT QUITS OVER SREBRENICA REPORT...
Prime Minister Wim Kok submitted his government's resignation to Queen Beatrix on 16 April following the publication of an official report on the Dutch role in the 1995 fall of Srebrenica and the subsequent massacre of some 7,000 Muslim males, international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2002). He said the cabinet must accept the political consequences of the report. The government will remain in office in a caretaker capacity until the 15 May parliamentary elections. Observers noted that the resignation comes at a convenient moment for the parties in the governing coalition, each of which will now have an opportunity to project its own political profile independent of its coalition partners in the run-up to the elections. PM

...BUT SREBRENICA SURVIVORS ARE NOT IMPRESSED
A spokesman for the Bosnian Foreign Ministry said in Sarajevo on 16 April that the resignation of the Dutch government was a "moral act," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that he hopes that this will lead to renewed efforts to uncover the truth about the massacre. But elsewhere in the Bosnian capital, one survivor told AP: "I want justice -- and it's not [obtained through] the resignation of ministers." Another survivor added, "They should have resigned ages ago. They will never wash the guilt off their faces." Srebrenica Mayor Sefket Hafizovic was more diplomatic, saying: "The government confessed its responsibility for what happened in Srebrenica. There is no collective responsibility, but there is a collective obligation to disclose the names of political and military individuals who are responsible for what happened. Every future Dutch government must remember its obligation to Srebrenica." PM

BOSNIAN SERB EX-MAYOR GOES ON TRIAL
The trial of Milomir Stakic began in The Hague on 16 April, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The former mayor of Prijedor has been indicted for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in supervising the ethnic cleansing of the region's Muslim and Croatian population during the 1992-1995 war. PM

PETRITSCH SETS DEADLINE IN BOSNIA
Wolfgang Petritsch, the international community's high representative, said through his office in Sarajevo on 16 April that the parliaments of both the Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation must pass constitutional amendments by 18 April to make Muslims, Serbs, and Croats politically equal throughout the country, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Ambassadors of the countries represented in the international Contact Group made the same point to legislators in Banja Luka. On 17 April, Petritsch specifically called on the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) and the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) to support the amendments. After meeting with Petritsch, EU security policy chief Javier Solana also called on both parliaments to approve the changes. PM

BRIDGE OPENED BETWEEN BOSNIA AND CROATIA
A bridge linking Bosanski Samac and Slavonski Samac across the Sava River was formally opened on 16 April, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The bridge, which was financed by the EU for over $12 million, is open only to travelers without goods to declare because of a dispute between the Republika Srpska and the federation as to the location of the customs office. That office is now on federal territory, which prompted Republika Srpska officials to boycott the ceremony inaugurating traffic across the bridge. PM

KOSOVAR PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES MITROVICA AND A BORDER AGREEMENT
Kosova's legislature on 16 April discussed the recent unrest among Serbs in northern Mitrovica, Hina reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2002). Deputy Sabri Hamiti argued that the unrest shows that the UN and the elected authorities do not control all of Kosova. He added that an Albanian should be appointed as one of two coordinators -- in addition to a Serb -- for the return of refugees, saying that it is necessary to ensure the return of Albanians to northern Kosova. Serbian representatives rejected his statement, saying that one should also consider the status of Serbs in areas with an Albanian majority. The legislators also discussed the 2001 border agreement between Belgrade and Skopje, which the UN and Kosovar Albanians do not recognize. PM

BELGRADE TO SEEK 'DECENTRALIZATION' IN KOSOVA
Meanwhile, in the Serbian capital on 16 April, representatives of the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition discussed a recent proposal for Serbs to enter the government in Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. They agreed that Kosova's government should become decentralized, with greater home rule for districts with a Serbian majority. And in Mitrovica, a judge turned down a request by Serbian extremist leader Slavoljub Jovic for his release from prison. PM

KOSOVAR SERBS SEEK TO IDENTIFY MISSING RELATIVES
Wearing surgical masks, relatives of some of Kosova's 1,300 missing Serbs examined remains, clothes, and personal items from about 360 exhumed bodies in two large tents in southern Serbia, AP reported from Rudare on 16 April. The remains were recovered at several sites across Kosova. Some 3,000 ethnic Albanians are also missing and presumed dead. PM

SESELJ BANNED FROM SERBIAN PARLIAMENT
Vojislav Seselj, the colorful leader of the Serbian Radical Party, has been banned from the legislature for 20 days and fined nearly $480 for calling fellow deputy Cedomir Jovanovic a "recovering drug addict," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Jovanovic heads the governing coalition's faction in the parliament. PM

BRITISH AND MACEDONIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS UPBEAT ON MACEDONIA'S FUTURE
Speaking in Skopje on 16 April, British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon said that his country and Macedonia enjoy a "very good relationship." He added that he and his counterpart, Vlado Popovski, "had an excellent discussion on subjects that include Macedonia's very impressive program of defense reforms and the progress that has been made in resolving the difficulties we saw here last year. This progress means that we can look with some confidence to successful elections here later this year." Popovski told reporters that the atmosphere among ethnic Macedonians and Albanians now is "positive [and] against any idea of renewed conflict." PM

MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTER: PIPELINE TO GREECE COULD OPEN IN JUNE
Speaking in Athens on 17 April, Ljubco Georgievski said that an oil pipeline connecting Macedonia's main oil refinery to Thessaloniki could open as early as June, AP reported. Greece is the largest foreign investor in Macedonia and has a 69.5 percent stake in the refinery. PM

VOJVODINA PARTY PROTESTS KARADZIC POSTERS
In Novi Sad on 16 April, members of the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina demonstrated and pulled down posters of Radovan Karadzic that had been put up by an ultranationalist organization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2002). Replying to the inscription on the posters that "every Serb is Radovan," the Social Democrats argued that "not every Serb is a war criminal." PM

'KIDNAPPED' MACEDONIAN POLICE RESERVIST FREED
Police officials told dpa on 16 April that one of their colleagues has been freed near Tetovo after "intense mediation" by the OSCE following his "kidnapping" two days earlier. The incident was not reported to the media earlier for "security reasons." It is not clear who held the unidentified man, whom police say was beaten and traumatized, or why. PM

ALBANIAN POLITICIANS OUTLINE TASKS
Deputy Prime Minister Skender Gjinushi told the Vienna daily "Die Presse" of 17 April in the Austrian capital that his government's first priority is securing an Association and Stabilization Agreement with the EU. He added that Albania's next step will be to join NATO, noting that his country made an "important contribution" to the Western efforts in ending the Kosova crisis of 1999. Democratic Party and opposition Sali Berisha stressed the need for new elections. But Gjinushi called on the Democrats to "respect the will of the voters" and work within the existing legislature for Albania's further integration with the EU. Gjinushi acknowledged that NATO membership is a distant prospect for his country. The two men were attending a meeting of the OSCE-sponsored international group known as Friends of Albania. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER UPBEAT ON CHANCES FOR NATO ACCESSION
In a meeting with NATO's North Atlantic Council in Brussels on 16 April, Adrian Nastase outlined the measures that his government has taken to qualify for NATO membership, Romanian TV reported. This was the final opportunity for Romania to present arguments ahead of the November Prague summit that will determine which countries will be admitted to the alliance. Nastase said Romania is "resolved" to become a NATO member, adding that Romania "entrusts its future" to NATO. He admitted that the Romanian authorities still have a lot to do, but that reactions in Brussels were "extremely positive." The same day, Nastase also met with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson and presented a recently approved "action plan" for Romania's accession to the alliance that contains a set of measures to be adopted by the NATO summit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2002). In related news, on 15 April, former Romanian King Michael I began in Spain a tour of several NATO countries in an attempt to strengthen Romania's accession chances. ZsM

LIBERAL LEADER ASKS FOR 'EMBARGO' ON RELATIONS WITH XENOPHOBIC PARTY
National Liberal Party Deputy Chairman Calin Popescu Tariceanu on 16 April called on political parties, the president, and the government to institute a "political embargo" on relations with the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM), Mediafax reported. He argued that the PRM proliferates "dangerous" ideas for Romania's future and that it has become a safe haven for former secret-police officers. Tariceanu criticized President Ion Iliescu's decision to invite the PRM to last week's discussions on the basic treaty with Russia. This was the first time in the last eight months that PRM Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor was invited to talks with the president. In reaction to this, Iliescu called Tariceanu's proposal "irrational," arguing that a parliamentary party cannot be ignored. ZsM

TROUBLED ROMANIAN BANK DECLARED BANKRUPT
A Brasov tribunal on 16 April declared the troubled Romanian Bank of Loans (BRS) bankrupt, Romanian media reported. BRS shareholders can appeal the decision within 15 days, but bankruptcy procedures will continue until a final decision is made concerning any appeals. The Romanian National Bank on 6 March revoked BRS's license on charges of fraud. The bank is charged with defrauding customers of an estimated $19.2 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 16, 17, and 29 January 2002). Eight people have already been arrested in the fraud case. ZsM

MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION PROPOSES MEASURES TO RESOLVE POLITICAL CRISIS
During his meeting with Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer in Strasbourg, Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Chairman Iurie Rosca presented a set of 12 measures aimed at resolving the ongoing political crisis in Moldova, Flux reported. Rosca requested, among other things, new parliamentary elections, the cessation of amendments to the constitution, and President Vladimir Voronin's resignation as chairman of the Party of Moldovan Communists. According to a PPCD press release, the application of these measures would show that the Communist authorities are willing to find a solution to the current political crisis. ZsM

OPINION POLL SHOWS POPULATION IN FAVOR OF COMMUNISTS
An opinion poll released by the Bucharest-based IMAS institute on 16 April revealed that 73 percent of voters would elect the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) if elections were held now, the BBC reported. The opposition (PPCD) would garner only 6 percent of votes, while other parties would receive less than the 6 percent parliamentary threshold. The same poll showed that 55 percent of respondents think that the PCM is doing a better job than the previous government, while only 30 percent contradict this view. ZsM

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT URGES INCREASED EFFORT IN COMBATING CRIME
At a meeting of the Consultative Council for National Security (KSNS), President Georgi Parvanov on 16 April demanded that measures to combat crime be stepped up, BTA reported. "First and foremost, the council must show that there is cohesion among the various institutions, that the contradictions within them and among the various bodies are now a matter of the past, and that state and citizens' structures have a clear political will to combat crime," Parvanov said. In order to achieve these goals, the KSNS members demanded a package of reforms, including the adoption of a new penal code, a new law regulating the work of the Interior Ministry, and a national-security strategy. Apart from the president, Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, and Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov, leading opposition politicians took part in the KSNS meeting. UB

IMF AND WORLD BANK REVIEW BULGARIAN TAX POLICY
A technical mission of experts from the IMF and the World Bank arrived in Bulgaria on 15 April to review the government tax policy, "Dnevnik" reported. Deputy Finance Minister Gati Dzheburi said the experts will assess government efforts to form a revenue agency. According to Dzheburi, the mission will also discuss questions related to value-added tax collection. A second IMF mission is to arrive in May in order to review the state revenue for the first three months of 2002. It is expected that the IMF experts are inclined to agree to a tax reduction that would come into effect next year. However, that will depend on the revenue situation and whether the government will have the new tax regulations prepared. UB

WHAT BALANCE SHEET FOR THE CIVIL SOCIETY IN ALBANIA?


The concept of civil society is relatively new in Albania, and after 50 years of communism and forced collectivization, people are finding it difficult to accept the role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Donors, largely from abroad, have shaped local NGOs in accordance with their own priorities, which Albanians say are often different from the local realities.

The number of NGOs active in Albania is estimated to be in the thousands. Many were established during the NATO intervention in Kosova three years ago, when more than 350 domestic organizations -- offering food, medicine, and counseling services -- applied for funds at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees mission in Tirana. Specialists at the Albanian Ministry of Labor and Social Assistance say the number of NGOs may be as high as 3,000.

But the concept of civil society is still poorly understood in Albania, and many of the NGOs do not have a clear idea about how they should function. Despite their large numbers, the NGOs' impact on daily life is limited.

Capajev Gjokutaj is the executive director of the Soros Foundation in Tirana. His organization has played a key role in trying to promote civil society in Albania.

He says that 50 years of communism and forced collectivization still influences people's thinking. But he also says the ways in which NGOs function in Albania -- competing with each other for limited resources -- has limited their appeal to the general public.

Ilira Gjika heads Legal Clinics for Minors, an NGO that is helping to reintegrate and rehabilitate minors with short-term prison convictions. She says that, in a bid to attract funding, NGOs frequently imitate each other's programs -- often without paying attention to the needs they are serving. "My opinion is that these 'ready-for-use' models are used indiscriminately in all areas, Muslim and Christian, in urban areas as well as backward rural regions. They are not our models. It's not us who shaped them. These prefabricated models are, in my view, the main obstacle to communication -- the creation of this community. If we go on imitating each other, then we won't be building [society], but rather we'll go on destroying ourselves," Gjika says.

But she also says it's unjust to say that NGOs have been completely unsuccessful in Albania. She says blaming NGOs for poor results is unfair, given the enormous tasks that are expected of them.

Aldo Bumci of the Albanian Institute for International Studies says the main problem is a misguided vision among those -- mainly foreigners -- who finance the projects. "When one speaks of civil society in Tirana, one finds out that there are no popular movements, but rather institutions -- a sort of bureaucracy. [Here,] the civil society does not mean popular movements. How did the women's associations set themselves up without an [indigenous] feminist movement? They were fashioned according to the [availability of] foreign donors' funds, which were intended to help develop movements consisting of people coming together in free associations. But communism destroyed any possibility for such collective action."

Experts say the future of NGOs in Albania remains largely contingent on the country developing a stable middle class to sustain and support them. Alban Bala is an RFE/RL correspondent.

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