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Newsline - April 18, 2002


RUSSIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES THE NATION, URGES MORE REFORMS...
In his annual state-of-the-nation address to the Federal Assembly broadcast live on Russian television on 18 April, President Vladimir Putin said the country requires radical restructuring of the executive power structure, as well as of relations between the federal government and the regions, Russian news agencies reported. Putin repeated his criticism of the government for "lack of ambitious goals," and said that despite the country's economic gains over the past year, "many opportunities were also lost." Putin also urged increased effort in curtailing corruption and bureaucracy, and said his administration had received some 500,000 letters from citizens complaining about the "arbitrary" actions of state officials. VY

...SAYS WAR IN CHECHNYA IS OVER...
Putin said in his address that, "Regarding Chechnya, the military phase is over thanks to the bravery of the army and special task forces," Russian and international media reported. "A year ago, we were counting how many there were fighting against us, how many rebels, how many terrorists: 2,000, 3,000, 5,000, 10,000. Today it's not important to us how many there are, what matters is where they are," AFP quoted Putin as saying. He added that there are many social and economic issues that need to be solved in Chechnya, and that while "bandit outings" threaten peaceful life there, those actions should not be cause for infringing on the rights of the entire Chechen population. "Every inhabitant of Chechnya should consider himself a full-fledged citizen of Russia," ITAR-TASS quoted the president as saying. VY

...AFTER PRO-RUSSIAN FORCES SUSTAIN HEAVY LOSSES IN CHECHNYA PRIOR TO SPEECH
At least 21 pro-Russian members of the Chechen Interior Ministry's elite OMON police were killed after their truck convoy was attacked in Grozny just hours before President Putin's state-of-the-nation address on 18 April, AP reported. Two vehicles were hit by consecutive mine blasts approximately 100 meters from Chechnya's main police headquarters, and Chechen fighters then opened fire on the stalled convoy. Eleven Russian servicemen were killed and 13 were wounded in two attacks in the southern Shatoi region on 17 April, Russian and international news agencies reported. Interfax quoted Bislan Gantemirov, the deputy chief of the Chechen administration, as saying on 18 April that the attacks could have been "meticulously planned and carried out by the rebels to coincide with President Putin's speech." BW

DUMA ADOPTS BILL ON ALTERNATIVE SERVICE
The State Duma approved a bill on alternative military service in its first reading on 17 April, abnews.ru and rosbalt.ru reported. The vote was 245 in favor, according to Interfax and RIA-Novosti. Deputies considered three versions, one drafted by Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) deputies Eduard Vorobev and Aleksandr Barannikov, Russian Regions deputies Vladimir Lysenko and Oleg Shein, and independent deputy Yulii Ryabov; another by deputy Vladimir Semenov (SPS); and the other by the government. Deputies opted for the government's version, which requires youths to serve four years of alternative military service compared to the other versions calling for only two years. According to Interfax, under the government bill those young men who have received a higher education must serve only two years of alternative military service. In addition, the government bill stipulates much more rigid requirements for enlistment in alternative service than the other proposals. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told RIA-Novosti on 17 April that he is satisfied with the bill, although he believes that the term of alternative service should be six years rather than four. The current term for conventional service in the Russian army is two years. VY/JAC

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT SUPPORTS PRAGUE ON BENES DECREES ISSUE...
During President Putin's reception of Czech Premier Milos Zeman at the Kremlin on 17 April, the Russian president supported the Czech Republic's stance on the controversial Benes Decrees that expelled Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia following World War II, CTK and ITAR-TASS reported. Russian presidential foreign-policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko quoted Putin as saying that "attempts by some forces to reverse the results of World War II and to question the laws issued in this respect are ungrounded and have nothing in common with reality." Prikhodko also said that in the course of the meeting, President Putin extended an invitation to Vaclav Havel to visit Russia, which he asked Zeman to pass on to the Czech president. VY

...AS PRIMAKOV PRAISES MOSCOW-PRAGUE TRADE ACCORDS...
Meanwhile, Yevgenii Primakov, the president of Russia's Chamber of Trade and Industry, said in Moscow on 17 April that Zeman's visit resulted in the signing of 24 bilateral agreements in trade, banking, culture, and military spheres, RIA-Novosti reported. "It was a real breakthrough in relations between the two countries," Primakov said. VY

...AND CZECH PREMIER CALLS RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS 'IDIOTS'
Czech Prime Minister Zeman turned on Russian journalists at the close of his four-day visit to Moscow, CTK reported on 17 April. The Russian Internet news agency apn.ru had reported that Zeman, during a meeting with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, discussed sensitive financial issues involving Russian President Putin. The agency reported that Zeman, a Social Democrat, promised $20 million to Gorbachev's Russian Social Democratic Party if he could convince Putin to join. During a press conference at the offices of "Izvestiya," Zeman said that, "Although I have heard a lot of pieces of disinformation in the Czech press, this is a record," adding that the reporters who work for apn.ru are "the biggest idiots among journalists." BW

RUSSIAN MILITARY TRAINING JOURNALISTS FOR CONFLICT ZONES
"Vremya MN" reported on 17 April that Russian journalists working in conflict zones are being offered the chance to undergo military training to learn how to fire all types of weapons. According to the daily, Anatolii Kvashnin, chief of the armed forces' General Staff worked out the program together with the Union of Journalists and the Association of Military Press. According to the daily, the professional charter of Russian journalists does not differ from world standards in that "a journalist realizes that his professional activity stops the moment he [or she] takes up arms." However, the newspaper suggests that Russian journalists are now following in the steps of TV reporter Aleksandr Nevzorov, who took up weapons in Vilnius in January 1991, winning the adoration of the Russian military at the time -- the military and journalists have now "become comrades in arms." JAC

TV-6 HEAD PREPARED FOR DEPARTURE OF MORE OLIGARCHS
The recent departure of well-known businessman Kakha Bendukidze from Shestoi Kanal, which won the broadcasting rights to TV-6, is symptomatic only of a continuing reshuffling rather than a significant event, according to a media analyst with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2002). The analyst said on 17 April that many businessmen -- like Bendukidze -- do not agree with the business plan for TV-6. The same day, Shestoi Kanal General Director Yevgenii Kiselev described Bendukidze's withdrawal as "just another episode in this entire story," Interfax reported. And he said that he "will not be concerned" if one or two more shareholders leave the company. He added, "Besides Vladimir Gusinsky, NTV initially had two key shareholders, including Aleksandr Smolenskii and Oleg Boikov. But who remembers this now?" JAC

JUSTICE MINISTRY WARNS POLITICIAN SHE LAGS BEHIND THE TIMES
The Justice Ministry has asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to take legal measures against Sazhi Umalatova, a former Soviet parliamentarian and current leader of a marginal political group, the Party of Peace and Unity, which continues to reward the citizens of the USSR orders and medals in the name of the long-disbanded Soviet parliament, RIA-Novosti reported on 17 April. The ministry said that it has already reminded Umalatova that, as of July 1, Russia's new Administrative Code will come into force, and that code exacts punishment for usurping state prerogatives, such as those pertaining to the use of symbols of the Russian Federation and the USSR. VY

MOSCOW SKINHEADS MURDER AFGHAN MAN...
The Afghanistan Embassy in Moscow has sent the Russian Foreign Ministry an official protest in connection with the recent murder of an Afghan citizen in the Russian capital, Interfax reported on 17 April. Abdul Khakim Khakri died from injuries he sustained after being severely beaten by a group of skinheads at a Moscow metro station on 15 April. Khakri, 35, was a father of four who held Russian citizenship and worked for Russia's Migration Service of the Interior Ministry. In the diplomatic note, the Afghan Embassy said, "citizens of our country are constantly being assaulted by nationalist youth and are also being victimized by the unlawful actions of law-enforcement officers" in Russia. VY

...AS ETHNIC KOREANS FEAR ATTACKS IN THE RUSSIAN FAR EAST
Meanwhile, the ethnic Korean community on Sakhalin Island is bracing itself for possible attacks by "skinheads" on 20 April, Adolf Hitler's birthday, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 16 April. Rumors of such an attack followed an anonymous phone call made to local police threatening that a group of skinheads is traveling to the island to do away with ethnic Koreans. The Japanese Consulate in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk has issued a warning to its compatriots located on Sakhalin about the possibility of skinhead attacks. JAC

FISHERIES COMMITTEE HEAD SAYS POACHING COSTS RUSSIA $500 MILLION ANNUALLY
State Fisheries Committee head Yevgenii Nazdratenko told the State Duma on 17 April that poaching and the illegal export of sea products costs the economy of Russia's Far East some $500 million per year, Russian news agencies reported. Nazdratenko said that this figure was calculated after cooperation with Japanese authorities provided Moscow with information on sales of illegal Russian fish exports in Japanese ports. Nazdratenko added that the damages are likely much higher, as the $500 million estimate does not include losses sustained from illegal fish exports to South Korea and China. He added that in light of the financial damages Russia sustains, "It is inappropriate to raise the question about returning the Kurile Islands to Japan." VY

KREMLIN SAID TO BACK THIRD TERM FOR BURYATIA INCUMBENT
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 April that local observers are interpreting the visit of Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko to Buryatia so close to 23 June presidential elections as a sign of the Kremlin's support for incumbent President Leonid Potapov. According to the daily, Matvienko did not utter a single critical remark about Potapov during her 16 April visit. The same day, Vyacheslav Volodin, a Fatherland-All Russia faction leader and member of Unified Russia's General Council, told reporters that the question of whom to support in the presidential elections has not yet been resolved. Previously, the council recommended Potapov's strongest potential competitor, State Duma Deputy (Fatherland-All Russia) Bato Semenov, to head the republic's Unified Russia branch; Unified Russia in Buryatia has been "slow" to declare its support for Semenov. The daily concluded that Semenov's position is shaky. Also on 16 April, Potapov threatened the republican legislature with dissolution if it does not support canceling the republic's declaration of sovereignty of 1990 (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 18 April 2002). JAC

FAR EAST CARRIER EXPANDS AIR LINKS WITH ASIA
Local airline Vladivostok Avia announced on 17 April that it will begin providing 10 charter flights to Pyongyang in May and later will provide 40 more charters flights to different cities in Japan, including Osaka, ITAR-TASS reported. The company also plans to begin regular air service between Vladivostok and the Chinese city of Mudanjiang, as well as to two other cities in China, and to Taipei, Taiwan. JAC

MORE POLICEMEN HEAD OFF TO CHECHNYA
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov announced on 17 April that the assignment of policemen from various parts of Russia to Chechnya for terms of 180 days may be reduced at the end of the year, Russian television (RTR) reported. On 12 April, the State Duma turned down a request from Gryzlov to reduce the tour of duty for policemen to three months, "Izvestiya" reported on 13 April. According to RTR, more than 14,000 police personnel have been assigned to Chechnya. Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported that 100 police officers from Tatarstan were sent to Chechnya on 16 April. According to "Vechernyaya Kazan," the policemen earn 200 rubles ($6.4) per day from the federal Interior Ministry on top of a monthly wage of 4,000 rubles from the government of Tatarstan. The average salary for an officer is usually only 1,500-2,000 rubles. Meanwhile, soldiers have been complaining about prompt payment of their combat pay. According to "Izvestiya," Aleksandr Polezhaev, the head of engineering intelligence at one of Grozny's military command centers, said that soldiers there "have been cheated out of [their] combat pay for a long time. We are underpaid by at least four or five days each month." JAC

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT ATTEMPTS TO IMPROVE NATIONAL CARRIER
Serzh Manukian, an official from Armenia's civil-aviation agency, announced plans on 17 April to lease a new A330 Airbus airliner from Belgium's VG Airlines, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The national carrier, Armenian Airlines, has long been hampered by financial difficulties and its flagship Airbus A310 has been grounded for engine problems. All other Armenian civilian aircraft have been denied landing rights in European airports due to their failure to meet new pollution and noise standards established by the EU. Unable to afford the necessary repairs to the A310, Armenian Airlines substituted a Russian-made Tu-154M, which has temporarily been granted landing rights in Frankfurt and Paris. RG

ARMENIA TO CONSIDER LEGISLATION BANNING TOBACCO ADVERTISEMENTS
The chairman of Armenia's parliamentary Committee on Social Affairs and Health Care, Gagik Tadevosian, announced on 17 April that the committee is to present new legislation that would impose a ban on televised tobacco advertisements, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The drafting of this legislation comes in the wake of the findings of a recent survey by the Health Ministry that indicated widespread violations in standards for tobacco and alcohol advertising. RG

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. AMBASSADOR IN BAKU
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev met with U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson on 17 April, ANS reported. In a meeting with President Aliev, Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliev, and other senior officials, Wilson briefed the officials on his recent visit to Armenia and discussed the status of the continuing mediation effort by the OSCE Minsk Group in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Wilson also informed Azerbaijani officials that U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Ordway will visit Baku in the near future. RG

TURKISH AMBASSADOR VOWS TO CONTINUE SUPPORT FOR AZERBAIJAN
Turkey's ambassador to Azerbaijan pledged on 17 April that, despite recent Armenian comments suggesting an easing of tensions with Azerbaijan, Turkey will continue to withhold diplomatic relations with Armenia until "Armenia reconsiders its policy toward Azerbaijan" and the Karabakh conflict is resolved, the Turan news agency reported, cited by Groong. The Turkish diplomat added that Ankara remains committed to the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline for exporting Azerbaijani oil and pledged that Turkey will ensure the security of any pipeline from Baku. RG

ABKHAZIA THREATENS TO DEPLOY TROOPS AND ARTILLERY IN KODORI GORGE
Abkhaz Defense Ministry officials issued a statement on 17 April claiming that some 700-900 Georgian troops remain deployed in the Kodori Gorge despite Tbilisi's assurances to the contrary, the "Georgian Times" reported. The statement adds that if Georgian troops remain in the gorge, Abkhazia will "introduce troops there, including artillery." Abkhazia has been protesting for nearly a week that Georgia has violated the 2 April protocol calling for the complete withdrawal of Georgian troops form the gorge by 10 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2002). RG

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES FINANCE AND ENERGY MINISTERS
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze criticized Finance Minister Zurab Nogaideli and Energy Minister David Mirtskhulava for failing to address the financial problems plaguing the finance and energy sectors of the country's economy during a 17 April cabinet meeting, the "Civil Georgia" website (http://www.civil.ge) reported. The criticism came in the wake of similar attacks on Presidential Economic Adviser Temur Basilia for failing to meet the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by Georgian Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze. It has been hinted that this criticism is an indication of yet another cabinet reshuffle by the president. RG

GEORGIAN INTERIOR MINISTER THREATENS TO NAME CORRUPT OFFICIALS
Georgian Interior Minister Loba Narchemashvili vowed during a 17 April cabinet meeting to make public a list of corrupt senior government officials, the "Georgian Times" reported. Explaining that the disclosure will be made only after sufficient evidence is ready, the interior minister also deflected charges that several senior figures in the Interior Ministry were involved in corrupt activities. The identity of the officials was allegedly uncovered during an extensive investigation by the Interior Ministry. Corruption within Georgian ministries and other government bodies remains one of the most serious challenges to the Shevardnadze government. RG

TOP KAZAKH BANKER DEFENDS SECRET OIL FUND
On 17 April, Kazakh National Bank Chairman Grigorii Marchenko backed President Nursultan Nazarbaev's decision to divert over $1 billion into a secret National oil fund, telling journalists in Almaty that "this was the right decision from the economic point of view," although it may have been flawed from a political or legal perspective, Reuters and Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Kazakh officials claim that almost $880 million of the $1 billion deposited five years ago in Swiss bank accounts was used to pay off pension arrears and support the national budget. Marchenko said on 16 April that the remaining $212.6 million was transferred in two tranches to a $1.53 billion National Fund of Kazakhstan, managed by the central bank, and that the second transaction had occurred on 15 April, Kazakh Commercial TV reported. He declined to reveal how much money the government still has in foreign bank accounts on the grounds that it is a state secret, Commercial TV reported, but promised that "detailed information" about the National Fund will soon be available on the Internet. Marchenko is the third senior government official to defend the secret fund as being in the country's economic interests, following Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev's endorsement last week and Prime Minister Imanghali Tasmaghambetov's original admission of its existence on 4 April. AA

KAZAKHSTAN DEVELOPING LINKS WITH IRAN
In Astana on 17 April, Kazakh Foreign Affairs Minister Toqaev met with Iran's deputy minister for roads and transport, Masih Momeni, to discuss cooperation in the fields of finance, industry, trade, and transport, Kazakh TV reported. The volume of bilateral trade reached $220 million last year, and was set to grow with the opening of the Tehran-Almaty railway. Moreover, the Kazakh-Iranian intergovernmental commission met on 16-17 April to negotiate Kazakhstan's participation in the North-South transport corridor project, whose present sponsors are Russia, Iran, and India, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. A draft protocol has been drawn up and is due to be signed next week during Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's state visit to Kazakhstan. AA

POLICE CORRUPTION RIFE, INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS
Addressing a news conference in Astana on 17 April, Kazakh Internal Affairs Minister Kairbek Suleimenov strongly criticized his own ministry's so-called "Ninth Department," which is responsible for investigating corruption, Interfax said. Although the department uncovered about 400 corruption-related cases during the first quarter of 2002 (with 1,464 abuse-of-office and economic crimes identified altogether), Suleimenov said the matters currently being investigated are petty offenses and the department has demonstrated "weak results," the news agency reported. At the same time, he said that police bodies are also permeated with corruption, noting that 541 policemen were fired for abuse of office in 2001. AA

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION CALLS FOR GOVERNMENT TO RESIGN
The two-day People's Congress, organized by Kyrgyz oppositionists as a forum to discuss the 17-18 March antigovernment riots that left five dead in Djalalabad Oblast, opened on 17 April in the History Museum in Bishkek and was attended by over 500 people from around the country, Kabar and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Erkindik Party Chairman Topchubek Turgunaliev, serving as leader of the People's Congress, called on President Askar Akaev and his cabinet to step down, threatening otherwise to launch a mass campaign to gather signatures demanding their resignation, Interfax reported. Other demands put forward by the People's Congress included dismissing the prosecutor-general, closing the criminal cases against deputy Azimbek Beknazarov and former Vice President Feliks Kulov, early parliamentary and presidential elections, and an end to government repression of the independent media, RFE/RL reported. No senior state official attended the People's Congress, just as no major opposition figure attended the alternative, pro-government rally held on 16 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2002). AA

TAJIK LEADER FIRES PROVINCIAL OFFICIALS
Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov ended a three-day tour of the country's northern Soghd Oblast on 17 April to view the condition of agriculture, education, and the work of local law enforcement agencies in the region, Tajik television reported. Rakhmonov encouraged farmers to increase the growth of cotton, and promised, as an incentive, that the 25 percent tax imposed on cotton production will be cut to 10 percent and eventually eliminated altogether, Varorud news agency reported on 17 April. But he slammed the work of the police and Interior Ministry forces, and sacked the region's deputy chairman, a district chief, the head of the Soghd Internal Affairs Department, and all his deputies for failing to exercise control over the law enforcement agencies, according to Tajik television. AA

MORE POLICE CORRUPTION IN TAJIKISTAN
In another instance of police abuses, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 17 April that Mustafo Taghoev, previously a colonel and deputy brigade commander of Interior Ministry forces, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for trying to kill fellow policemen, attacking and robbing citizens, and taking hostages. He is the sixth member of Interior Ministry forces to be sent to prison this year for abuse of power. The news agency added that cases will soon be opened against more Interior Ministry officers and the heads of Soghd Oblast's Internal Affairs Department, who are accused of corruption, falsifying testimony, and torturing defendants. It is not clear whether the men to be tried from Soghd are the same ones President Rakhmonov fired on 17 April. AA

TASHKENT MOVES TOWARD CONVERTIBILITY
Uzbekistan's official commercial exchange rate plunged from 920 soms per dollar to 1,400 soms per dollar on 15 April as banks set their exchange rates practically to match the real, black-market rate, uzreport.com reported on 17 April. The black-market rate stands at about 1,450 soms per dollar. Unification of currency exchange rates by the end of June 2002 is a key requirement of the IMF structural reform plan that Tashkent agreed to earlier this year. AA

DEFENDERS OF MINSK'S STALIN-ERA MASS GRAVE GET READY FOR REMOVAL OF THEIR POST
Voluntary overseers of the Stalin-era burial ground in the Kurapaty forest near Minsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2002) are preparing for the removal of their observation camp by the authorities, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 17 April. The authorities on 17 April sent an excavator to the burial site and withdrew the machine only after a group of opposition activists arrived at Kurapaty. "Kurapaty is our national shrine... They [the authorities] want to denigrate the honor of Belarusians, to desecrate the victims who were shot to death by Russian Bolsheviks," said Ales Chakholski, one of the site's defenders. "We are not going to sleep this night, we will wait for new attacks," said another defender, Ira Vyatkina. The previous day, police arrested four volunteers and charged them with putting up resistance and threatening to use physical violence against officers on duty. "There were eight healthy mugs [from the police], while we were only four, one girl and three boys -- one with brain concussion, another with a broken hand, and me with a sprained leg. How could we threaten them with using physical violence?" commented one of those arrested. JM

CZECH PREMIER SAYS HIS VISIT TO BELARUS UNOFFICIAL
Czech Premier Milos Zeman said on 17 April that his trip to Minsk later the same day would not be in his capacity as "the premier of the Czech Republic," CTK reported. Zeman stressed that he would go there as the chairman of the Committee on Peace, Democracy, and Human Rights of the Socialist International (SI) in a delegation led by SI Chairman Luis Ayala. He added that he is not sure whether he would meet with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Zeman's spokesman Libor Roucek has denied that Zeman was going to Minsk in order to lobby for the candidacy of Foreign Minister Jan Kavan for the post of UN General Assembly chairman, as alleged by a Czech opposition politician (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2002). JM

OUR UKRAINE LEADER ACCUSES AUTHORITIES OF PRESSING HIS ALLIES...
Our Ukraine bloc leader Viktor Yushchenko slammed the authorities on 17 April for applying pressure on some 40 lawmakers elected in single-mandate constituencies in order to prevent them from joining the Our Ukraine parliamentary caucus, UNIAN reported. He declared that Our Ukraine will "fight hard to keep them." He noted that 118 newly elected deputies have agreed to join the Our Ukraine caucus, adding that Our Ukraine is holding talks with some 30 other deputies with an aim of recruiting them into the bloc. The same day, Yushchenko was elected the head of the Our Ukraine parliamentary caucus. JM

...SAYS IMPEACHMENT IS NOT A KEY ISSUE...
Answering a question from journalists about whether Our Ukraine will support an impeachment procedure against President Leonid Kuchma in the new Verkhovna Rada, Yushchenko said the impeachment is not a key issue for him. He stressed that Ukraine's main problem at present is the formation of a parliamentary majority, and noted that the issue of impeachment is being used by some forces as a populist slogan. Yushchenko added that he is ready to meet with President Kuchma any time, but added that it would be logical to hold such a meeting after Our Ukraine concludes political talks with all parties that overcome the 4 percent voting barrier in the 31 March election. JM

...AND REPORTEDLY DISCUSSES ALLIANCE WITH FOR A UNITED UKRAINE
Serhiy Tyhypko, the leader of the Party of Regions (a constituent of the pro-presidential For a United Ukraine), told journalists on 17 April that Yushchenko has already begun talks with For a United Ukraine leader Volodymyr Lytvyn about a possible governing coalition, UNIAN reported. Asked whether Our Ukraine's statements about the dismissal of Anatoliy Kinakh's cabinet and the replacement of 17 regional governors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2002) will not obstruct the Yushchenko-Lytvyn talks, Tyhypko said, "All of us are in permanent conflict with each other." JM

MORE REVELATIONS TO COME ABOUT UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT'S INVOLVEMENT IN ILLEGAL ARMS TRADE?
Oleksandr Zhyr, the head of the parliamentary commission dealing with the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, told journalists on 18 April that the recently publicized allegation of President Kuchma's approval for an illegal arms deal with Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 April) is not "the only and last episode" in Kuchma's involvement in illegal arms trade, UNIAN reported. Zhyr said he and several other lawmakers are currently verifying information about other deals, and added that this information will be publicized it if proves to be authentic. Zhyr stressed that the new information comes not only from former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko's secret recordings. JM

KYIV-BASED TV LOSES BROADCASTING LICENSE
The National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting has refused to prolong the Kyiv-based UTAR television's license for broadcasting on the 37th channel, UNIAN reported on 17 April, quoting UTAR's News Editor Leonid Voyevodyn. Answering a question on whether the refusal to prolong the license was in any way connected to the station's opposition stand, Voyevodyn said the station was not in opposition but was impartial and sought objective and unbiased news coverage. Meanwhile, opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko commented the same day that UTAR's loss of its license is connected with the authorities' campaign for "clearing out" the independent media that refused to "service" only pro-presidential forces during the parliamentary election campaign. JM

ESTONIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH SUBORDINATE TO MOSCOW FINALLY REGISTERED
The Interior Ministry officially registered the statutes of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate on 17 April, ETA reported. The church submitted a formal application for registration along with its statutes to the ministry on 12 April and the head of its Religious Affairs Department, Ilmo Au, found the documents to be in conformity with the law. The statutes do not mention legal succession but only canonical succession so that they will have no bearing on any property disputes. In 1993, Estonia recognized the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church subordinate to Constantinople as the legal successor of the Orthodox Church that operated in Estonia before World War II. The church subordinate to Constantinople has 59 congregations in Estonia while the Moscow subordinate church has 32. The dispute over the Moscow-subordinate church's registration had been often mentioned as a reason why Russia had not abolished higher tariffs on Estonian imports. SG

TWO LATVIAN-SLOVENIAN AGREEMENTS SIGNED
Accompanied by Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins, and businessmen, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga flew to Slovenia on 16 April where she had unscheduled talks with Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, LETA reported. The next day she began her official two-day visit with a welcoming ceremony hosted by President Milan Kucan, after which they talked about their countries' efforts to join NATO and the EU. Kristovskis and Slovenian counterpart Anton Grizold held talks and noted that, even though they have similar populations, Slovenia's army has 47,000 soldiers while Latvia's armed forces, including the National Guard, total 20,000. The ministers signed a defense cooperation agreement. An accord on preventing double taxation was also signed during Vike-Freiberga's visit and she also met with Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek, National Assembly President Borut Pahor, and Ljubljana Mayor Viktorija Potocnik and gave an address at the Slovenian Institute of Foreign Policy. SG

TURKEY TO VOTE FOR LITHUANIAN MEMBERSHIP AT NATO SUMMIT
Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer told Lithuanian counterpart Valdas Adamkus in Vilnius on 17 April that his country will support the admission of Lithuania to the alliance at the NATO Prague summit in November, ELTA reported. Adamkus called for greater military cooperation between their countries and invited Turkey to follow the example of another NATO member, Italy, by holding military exercises in Lithuania. Sezer also met with Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas and held talks with Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis. The two presidents are scheduled to speak at a Turkish-Lithuanian business forum on 18 April, while Sezer will also meet with parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas and address a parliament session. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT CONDEMNS 1947 EXPULSION OF UKRAINIANS
President Aleksander Kwasniewski has expressed regret over the Vistula operation carried out by the Polish communist authorities in 1947, PAP reported on 18 April. During this drastic and violent operation, some 140,000 Ukrainians were forced to leave their native areas in the southeastern part of Poland and resettle in the country's northern and western regions, the so-called "Recovered Lands." "Speaking on behalf of the Polish Republic, I want to express regret to all those wronged by the operation," Kwasniewski wrote in a letter to the National Remembrance Institute and participants in an ongoing conference on the Vistula operation. "It was believed for years that the Vistula operation was the revenge for slaughter of Poles by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in the east in the years 1943-44. Such an attitude is wrong and cannot be accepted," the president wrote, adding that the Vistula operation should be condemned. JM

POLISH AGRICULTURAL MINISTER SLAMS EU FARMING AID PROPOSAL
Deputy Premier and Agricultural Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski said on 17 April that the proposal of the European Commission on direct subsidies for farmers is unacceptable for Poland. According to the proposal, direct subsidies for farmers of new EU members are to be phased in, with 25 percent of the full subsidy granted in the first year of membership. "At present, [EU membership] negotiations are under way on liberalizing trade in agricultural production and products," PAP quoted Kalinowski as saying. "After this proposal I cannot imagine any progress in these talks in the circumstances where the European Commission, whichever way you look at it, has in effect tightened its position." And Premier Leszek Miller commented the same day: "The government has said a number of times that the start for subsidies at a 25 percent level is very unsatisfactory. Also the transition period, which is to last 10 years, is unsatisfactory. These issues will be the subject of negotiations." JM

ARAFAT REPORTEDLY AGREES TO MIDEAST PEACE TALKS IN WARSAW
The chairman of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Yasser Arafat, is agreeable to a Palestinian-Israeli peace conference in Warsaw, PAP reported on 17 April, quoting PA representative Hafiz Nimr. Arafat's consent was also reported the same day by the Warsaw-based daily "Zycie." The proposal to hold such talks in Warsaw was voiced by Polish Premier Miller last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 2002). However, according to Nimr, the Israelis "have no desire for peace, they have no desire for Warsaw." He added that this stance is unlikely to be changed by the 18 April visit of Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to Warsaw. "Even if Peres says 'yes,' then after returning to Israel he will hear 'no' from the prime minister," Nimr said. JM

PREMIER'S ADVISER WINS APPEAL IN 'RESPEKT' CASE
Miroslav Slouf, chief adviser to Prime Minister Milos Zeman, won a lawsuit against the weekly newspaper "Respekt" on 16 April, CTK reported on 18 April citing the daily "Pravo." A Prague appeals court upheld an October 2001 lower court ruling ordering the weekly newspaper to apologize to Slouf for statements it published in September and October 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2000). "Respekt" had written that a visit by Zeman to the United States was cancelled because Slouf posed a security risk. The weekly also wrote that Milan Jedlicka, a Czech-American who allegedly helped with preparations for Zeman's trip, had served time in U.S. prisons for cocaine dealing and was suspected of involvement in the murder of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officer. "Respekt" also wrote that Slouf was involved in "mysterious" business deals during a visit to Iraq in 2000. BW

BRITISH RESUME AIRPORT IMMIGRATION CHECKS
British consular officials have returned to Prague's Ruzyne airport to screen passengers traveling to Britain, CTK reported on 17 April, quoting British Embassy spokeswoman Klara Skrivankova. The new round of airport checks began on 9 April, Skrivankova said, adding that she does not know when they will end. In March, when the British consular officials last screened passengers at the airport, 38 people were not allowed to travel to Britain. The British instituted the periodic checks in June 2001 following an influx of asylum seekers, mainly of Romany origin. The move sparked severe criticism from human rights activists. BW

CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES PRESCHOOL PLAN FOR ROMANY CHILDREN...
The Czech government has approved an Education Ministry proposal to set up special preschool classes for Romany children, CTK reported on 17 April. The government described the move as an effort to better prepare Romany children to enter the Czech school system. Romany children, according to officials and advocates, are often at a disadvantage when they enter the Czech schools. Human rights groups say many are incorrectly placed in special schools for the mentally retarded. BW

...AND THE USE OF SECRET ANTICORRUPTION AGENTS
The Czech government also approved a plan to use of undercover agents to trap dishonest officials and root out corruption, CTK and Reuters reported on 17 April. According to the plan, proposed by Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, undercover agents will offer bribes to law enforcement officers, government bureaucrats, and other civil servants. Gross recently acknowledged that corruption is on the rise in the Czech Republic, and efforts to combat it have been ineffective. BW

RUSSIAN AIRCRAFT TOO EXPENSIVE FOR CZECH MILITARY TO USE
The An-70 transport aircraft the Czech Republic will receive from Russia are too expensive for the country's military to maintain and operate, Czech army Chief of Staff Jiri Sedivy said on 17 April, CTK reported. The Czech Republic will probably lease the planes to NATO countries, or try to find commercial uses for them, "Lidove noviny" reported the same day. However, NATO rejected the An-70 in a tender for a new transport aircraft in 2000. The An-70 is a medium-haul, short take-off military transport plane that can carry up to 35 tons of cargo and fly up to 5,000 kilometers nonstop. In addition to the aircraft, the Czech Republic will receive combat helicopters, nuclear fuel for Soviet-built nuclear power plants, and other goods from Russia in partial payment for Moscow's Soviet-era debt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2002). BW

POLLS SAY HZDS RETAINS LEAD IN SLOVAKIA
According to a poll conducted by the Dicio agency, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) would take 30.3 percent of the vote if parliamentary elections were held today, TASR reported on 18 April. The HZDS is followed by Smer (Direction) with 15.6 percent, the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) with 11.5 percent, Premier Mikulas Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) with 9.5 percent, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) with 7.7 percent, and the Alliance of the New Citizen (ANO) with 7.5 percent. The two nationalist parties, the Slovak National Party (SNS) and the Real Slovak National Party (PSNS) are below the 5 percent hurdle for parliamentary representation. A poll conducted by the Slovak Statistics Office produced the same ranking order of parties. AS

SLOVAK EDUCATION MINISTER RESIGNS AS ANTICIPATED
Milan Ftacnik officially handed over his letter of resignation to Slovak President Rudolf Schuster on 18 April, TASR reported. Ftacnik had announced his intention to resign last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 2002). The Party of the Democratic Left (SDL), which Ftacnik left earlier, has already nominated a new candidate for the post, university professor Peter Ponicky. President Schuster was expected to appoint him later on 18 April. AS

ROMANY LEADER SAYS COMMUNITY LIVES IN FEAR OF SLOVAK POLICE
Romany Civic Initiative Executive Vice Chairman Emil Scuka said on 17 April that he hopes the office of the regional prosecutor in Presov, eastern Slovakia, will stop the criminal proceedings against Romany journalist Denisa Havrlova, TASR reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2002). Havrlova has been charged with "assaulting a public servant," stemming from comments she allegedly made to a policeman after he refused to shake hands with her until she produced a "sanitary card" attesting to her personal hygiene and health. She is accused of calling him a racist. Scuka said the police in Jarovnice defy the constitution by mistreating members of the Roma community there, adding, "the Roma from Jarovnice live in daily fear of the police and they have no place to complain." AS

DANUBE DAM REVIVED AS HUNGARIAN ELECTION ISSUE
Zoltan Illes, the FIDESZ chairman of parliament's Environmental Protection Committee, on 17 April charged that the Socialists have not given up on their idea of building a dam on the Danube at Gabcikovo-Nagymaros, and will seek to do so if they get into government, "Magyar Hirlap" reports. Speaking to reporters Illes said that Janos Nemcsok, a commissioner in the previous Socialist government, who represented Hungary in negotiations with neighboring Slovakia on building a dam on the Danube, told a local forum last week that such a dam was needed. Socialist Party Deputy Chairwoman Katalin Szili said in response that the party's prime-ministerial candidate, Peter Medgyessy, committed in writing a month ago his opposition to the construction of any dam. Szili said Illes's comments were based on lies and represent "a last effort of the departing governing party." Hungarian Television reported on 17 April that Nemcsok and a Slovak official signed a draft agreement in February 1998, a few months before the last elections, to build a dam on the Danube. MSZ

HUNGARIAN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS PREFER SOCIALISTS TO FIDESZ
"Dialogue is possible between two forces which do not share identical world views," Zsuzsanna Mizsei, the chairwoman of the Christian Democrats' national board, said on 17 April while explaining her party's shift in alliance from FIDESZ to the Socialists, Hungarian dailies reported. Mizsei said several of her party's basic values are included in the Socialist program, such as a social market economy, social solidarity, equal opportunity, and independent local government. Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs, who addressed a press conference with Mizsei, said that Christian values and social solidarity are assets for social democrats. Social and Family Affairs Minister Peter Harrach, chairman of the FIDESZ-led coalition member Christian Democrat Federation, said he was "shocked about how Christian Democrat politicians can support the Socialists." MSZ

MIEP DEMANDS 'A LITTLE RESPECT' FROM FIDESZ
"FIDESZ should openly and publicly state that it accepts the support of the Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP)," Csaba Lentner, MIEP's deputy parliamentary group leader, said on 17 April. Lentner said FIDESZ "will have to choose between fulfilling liberal and international expectations and the decent summons of MIEP voters," Hungarian media reported. He also urged FIDESZ leaders to stop making ambivalent statements and dissociating themselves from his party, saying, "it could portend tragic consequences if MIEP fails to receive even a good word in exchange for the votes of its 250,000 supporters." In other news, MIEP spokesman Bela Gyori told reporters the same day that the National Election Commission should destroy the results of the first-round parliamentary elections, saying that according to the law, "that is what should be done when the integrity of an election is illegally compromised." Gyori said MIEP has learned of 380 instances at polling stations in which the number of votes cast exceeded the number of voters listed. MSZ

PANNON RADIO CREATES TROUBLE FOR HUNGARY'S MEDIA BOARD
Deputy civic rights ombudsman Albert Takacs has launched an investigation against the National Radio and Television Board (ORTT), for allegedly delaying its inquiry into the ownership structure of Pannon Radio, Hungarian dailies report on 18 April. The ORTT began the inquiry in November 2001 after learning that a foundation established by MIEP Chairman Istvan Csurka had acquired a 26 percent stake in the station in August 2000. Pannon failed to inform the ORTT of the change in its ownership, despite being legally required to do so. The change also violated the Media Law, which bans political parties from having a direct ownership in radio and television media. In February 2002 the ORTT ordered Pannon to end the unlawful state of affairs within 30 days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February 2002), but it allegedly did not check whether its ruling had been obeyed. MSZ

BELGRADE GIVES WAR CRIMINALS A DEADLINE
Yugoslav Justice Minister Savo Markovic published a list of 23 war criminals indicted by The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 17 April. If those indicted do not turn themselves in within three days they are liable to be arrested and extradited. Ten of the individuals are Yugoslav citizens, but the rest are not. Of the Yugoslavs, the most prominent are Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, former army Chief of Staff General Dragoljub Ojdanic, and former Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic. Three men indicted for their roles in the massacre of civilians in Vukovar in 1991 are also on the list, as are two men sought in connection with the shelling of Dubrovnik that same year. The best-known non-Yugoslav citizens are the Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadzic, General Ratko Mladic, and General Vinko Pandurevic. Former Croatian Serb leader Milan Martic is also on the list. But speaking in Belgrade on 18 April, Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said that there is "no information" that Mladic is in Serbia or Montenegro. PM

DEL PONTE CALLS KARADZIC AND MLADIC HER TOP PRIORITIES
Carla Del Ponte, who is The Hague-based tribunal's chief prosecutor, said in Sarajevo on 17 April that she expects to see Karadzic in the dock before the end of 2002, Reuters reported. She added that she hopes his trial will start with those of his former colleagues, Biljana Plavsic and Momcilo Krajisnik, in October. On 18 April, she went on to Belgrade, where she intends to demand the arrest of Mladic. "Mladic is a simpler issue [than Karadzic]. We know where he is, we know who is protecting him. In my opinion it is just a political decision to arrest him and to transfer him to The Hague." She has previously accused the Yugoslav army and its commander, President Vojislav Kostunica, of protecting Mladic (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 November 2001). PM

U.S. OFFERS TO PROTECT THOSE WHO TURN IN WAR CRIMINALS
Speaking in Sarajevo on 18 April, Pierre-Richard Prosper, who is U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, said that his country continues to offer up to $5 million to anyone who turns in Karadzic or Mladic, AP reported. He added that "we are also prepared to offer relocation of any person and their immediate family who is willing to provide assistance" leading to the arrest of the important war criminals. The ambassador later went on to Banja Luka for talks, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

SFOR SEIZES MUNITIONS IN NORTHERN BOSNIA
On 18 April near Doboj, NATO peacekeepers found four crates containing 760 kilograms of explosives, 120 mines, and unspecified other ordnance, AP reported. It is not clear who buried the crates in the area, which was part of the front line for much of the 1992-1995 conflict. PM

MIXED VOICES ON BOSNIAN AMENDMENTS
Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija said in Sarajevo that he hopes that both entities will approve the constitutional amendments demanded by the international community, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 18 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2002). But in Banja Luka, representatives of the Democratic National Alliance (DNS) said they want the Republika Srpska parliament to call for a referendum on the amendments. PM

ARMED INCIDENT REPORTED IN SOUTHERN SERBIA
Serbian government officials said that unidentified persons threw a grenade and opened fire on a police station near Lucani in southern Serbia, AP reported from Belgrade on 18 April. None of the ethnic Albanian or Serbian police inside was hurt, but the building was damaged. There has been no independent confirmation of the incident. PM

UN LAUNCHES PRIVATIZATION IN KOSOVA
Officials of the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) presented the government of Kosova with a draft law on privatization, AP reported from Prishtina on 17 April. Among the provisions is the setting up of a Kosova Trust Agency that will sell off state enterprises. UNMIK chief Michael Steiner told Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi, however, that "the law will not produce wonders." Steiner said the main purpose of the legislation is to attract foreign investment. Rexhepi called it "an impulse" to spur Kosova's development. Observers note that Kosova, like several other regions of the former Yugoslavia, must overcome not only the legacy of former President Slobodan Milosevic's wars but also the dead weight of more than four decades of communism before it can truly take its place in Euro-Atlantic structures. PM

SERBS AGREE TO JOIN KOSOVA GOVERNMENT...
"The Kosovo Serbs, with encouragement and endorsement from Belgrade, now have accepted all the details I have proposed. That is very good because we always wanted to have a government that represents all the communities here in Kosovo, and...we have been working hard to achieve that," Steiner said in Prishtina on 17 April, after meeting with Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, Reuters reported. Oliver Ivanovic of the Serbian Povratak (Return) coalition confirmed Steiner's statement. In return for joining the government and accepting the agriculture post in the cabinet, the Serbs will also name a senior adviser to Steiner on refugee returns and a "special coordinator" within the government for the same purpose. Steiner had previously argued that refugee returns are handled by the international community and not by the provincial government. PM

...BUT AT WHAT PRICE?
Observers note that it is not clear why Steiner has engaged Covic in the province's internal politics after previously warning Belgrade not to meddle in Kosova's affairs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 March, and 4 and 16 April 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 January 2002). But Covic's motives seem clear: he told a meeting of Serbs in northern Mitrovica on 17 April that "our common goal is to maintain a district in the northern part of Mitrovica, and we cannot solve this problem without the cooperation of UNMIK...which is unavoidable," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Kosova Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi told Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service on 16 April, however, that the Serbs must overcome their reluctance to integrate with the rest of the province. He argued that any attempt to split off a northern enclave for the Serbs would be a violation UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which underscores the unity of Kosova. PM

CROATIAN PARLIAMENT STRIPS TUDJMAN LOYALISTS OF IMMUNITY
The parliament voted on 17 April to remove the immunity of two deputies suspected of corruption; namely, Ljubo Cesic-Rojs and Branimir Glavas, dpa reported. Both men were closely linked to the regime of the late President Franjo Tudjman. In November 2001, the parliament took away the immunity of two of Tudjman's top aides, Ivan Jarnjak and Ivic Pasalic. PM

ROMANY PARENTS TO SUE CROATIA
The Romany community of Cakovec is planning to file a lawsuit against the Education Ministry, alleging that their children are victims of racial segregation and have been relegated to "inferior school classes," dpa reported on 17 April. The Croatian Helsinki Committee said some 60 percent of Romany children in Medjumurje County attend racially segregated classes. PM

ALBANIA CITES PROGRESS AGAINST DRUG SMUGGLING
Albanian Foreign Minister Arte Dada told "Die Presse" of 18 April in Vienna that her country hopes to begin talks soon with the EU on an Association and Stabilization Agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2002). She noted that Albania is keeping its promises to reduce the flow of drugs across its territory. Dada said that the flow dropped by 60 percent in 2001 thanks to an antidrug strategy that Tirana worked out with the U.S. and the OSCE. Gerd Ahrens, who heads the OSCE mission in Albania, said Albania still has a long way to go to establish the rule of law. He noted, however, that citizens no longer take their frustrations with economic situation out onto the street as readily as in previous years. Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner hailed Albania's progress in combating organized crime and promised help to promote reforms. PM

MACEDONIA TO OPEN EMBASSY IN TEHRAN
The Macedonian government plans to open an embassy in the Iranian capital, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 17 April, citing "Dnevnik." Macedonia set up diplomatic relations with Iran in 1995, and Iran then opened an embassy in Skopje. But the government of Branko Crvenkovski did not reciprocate, reportedly because the U.S. warned Crvenkovski not to do so. Despite renewed criticism from the U.S., Foreign Minister Slobodan Casule is now set to send Stevo Sofkovski as Macedonia's ambassador to Iran. Observers fear that this step could complicate relations with Washington and end in a similar disaster as the "Taiwan adventure," when Skopje's recognition of Taipei led to the end of the UN peacekeeping mission in Macedonia because Beijing vetoed its extension in the UN Security Council. UB

ITALIAN PREMIER TO BECOME ROMANIA'S 'AMBASSADOR' TO NATO AND EU
Visiting Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said in Bucharest on 17 April that his country continues to support Romania's candidacy to NATO and the EU, Romanian media reported. Berlusconi had talks with his Romanian counterpart Adrian Nastase and gave a speech to parliament. He said Italy is Romania's main business partner, with 6 billion euros ($5.3 billion) in annual trade. He added that investments made by Italian companies have created some 300,000 jobs and Italian investments in Romania total some $480 million. President Ion Iliescu decorated Berlusconi with a "Romanian Star" medal for his "exceptional contribution" to improving bilateral relations. The Italian premier said he feels obliged to become "Romania's ambassador" to NATO and the EU. ZsM

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT NAMES PUBLIC RADIO CHAIRMAN
Parliament on 17 April named interim Radio Romania Chairman Dragos Seuleanu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December 2001) as the new chairman of the state radio network, Romanian media reported. Seuleanu was approved by a vote of 260 to 96. After taking his oath of office, Seuleanu said the radio will be a politically neutral institution. ZsM

EBRD TO RAISE INVESTMENTS IN ROMANIA
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Secretary-General Antonio Maria Costa on 17 April announced EBRD investments in Romania for this year could total some 400 million euros ($350 million), Mediafax reported. Next month, the EBRD's board is to decide on 250 million euros in investments in Romania. EBRD's total investments in Romania value over 2 billion euros, 60 percent of which are in the private sphere. Romanian Finance Minister Mihai Tanasescu said the fact that the EBRD's annual Governors Council meeting will be held next month in Bucharest shows that Romania "is on the right track" to EU accession. ZsM

MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST LEADER REFUSES TO SIGN CE PROPOSAL
Party of Moldovan Communists parliamentary group leader Victor Stepaniuc on 17 April refused to sign a Council of Europe (CE) proposal to end the political crisis in Moldova, Flux reported. During their meeting with CE Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer, leaders of the three Moldovan parliamentary groups discussed ways to solve the political crisis. Upon his return to Chisinau, Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Chairman Iurie Rosca said most of PPCD's proposals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2002) were included in the joint declaration text proposed by the CE. He added that Stepaniuc conditioned the signing of the proposal on the PPCD ending the protests in the capital's National Assembly Square. Stepaniuc said, for his part, that he refused to sign the document because he did not agree with all of its points. He promised, however, that the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church will be registered and measures to introduce compulsory Russian-language classes in schools will be postponed. ZsM

GAGAUZ-YERI EXECUTIVE RESIGNS IN MOLDOVA
In an attempt to end a conflict with the local parliament, members of the Gagauz-Yeri Autonomous Republic's executive resigned from their posts on 17 April, although Governor Dumitru Croitor did not, Flux reported. Parliament deputy Ivan Topal, a leader of the "anti-Croitor" group, welcomed the government's decision but added that Croitor should also resign. The deputies intend to announce the date of elections for the governor's post. ZsM

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT STARTS VOTE ON CLASSIFIED INFORMATION PROTECTION LAW...
With the votes of the ruling majority of the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) as well as those of the opposition Socialist Party (BSP), the Bulgarian parliament on 17 April passed large sections of a draft law on protecting classified information, Bulgarian media reported. The new law would provide for various degrees of secrecy regulated by a five-member Commission on Classified Information, whose members will be nominated by Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski. Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi urged the lawmakers to pass the bill into law as soon as possible, saying NATO experts have described it as among the best legislation on the matter among NATO applicant countries. UB

...AND IS TO CLOSE DOWN COMMISSION ON STATE SECURITY RECORDS
With the passage of a classified information law, the Commission on State Security Records will be disbanded, Bulgarian media reported on 17 April. The commission headed by Metodi Andreev has been regulating access to the state security records, thus enabling the public to learn about individuals' involvement in the communist secret services. "A major opportunity to seek national consensus on how to deal with the former State Security records has been missed," BTA quoted Andreev as commenting on the proposed law. Andreev is considering sending letters to the Council of Europe, the European People's Party, and to U.S. President George W. Bush. Nadezhda Mihailova, who heads the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces, called the expected disbanding of the commission a warning signal. "The public wants to know the truth about key figures of the executive and the other branches of power," Mihailova said. UB

ELECTION REVEALS UKRAINE'S GEOGRAPHIC POLITICAL DIVISIONS


Independent Ukraine's third parliamentary elections on 31 March marked an important milestone in the confirmation of Ukrainian statehood. The two main competitors -- For a United Ukraine (ZYU) and Our Ukraine (NU) -- both campaigned strongly on statist platforms. The ZYU pushed -- in ZYU head Volodymyr Lytvyn's words -- a "healthy patriotic" line. Nevertheless, the elections showed that west-central Ukraine voted for "Estonian-style" radical reform and a pro-Western orientation, while southern and eastern Ukraine voted along "Belarusian" lines for either a return to the communist past or for oligarchs who favor an authoritarian-corporatist state.

The poor result for the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU), which promotes a union with Belarus and Russia, coupled with the good election result by the pro-statehood Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU), confirms that Ukraine's independent statehood is no longer the central issue. The combined leftist vote declined from 40 to 30 percent. Even in separate elections to the Supreme Soviet of the Crimean Autonomous Republic, the Leonid Grach's communist bloc only gained 28 of 100 seats, losing control of the regional parliament to the pro-presidential Serhiy Kunitsyn bloc.

The KPU only made the top three in one western Ukrainian oblast, Chernivtsi, and was eclipsed by the SPU in many central Ukrainian oblasts. The KPU finished first only in eastern and southern oblasts, with the exception of Donetsk, and showed its highest support in Luhansk Oblast (39.69 percent) and the Crimean Autonomous Republic (33.95 percent). These results confirm a pattern of the left being unpopular in the west, the SPU dominating the leftist vote in the Ukrainophone center, and the KPU in the Russophone east and south.

Voters turned their backs on the two Russian nationalist blocs (the Russian Bloc and the Union of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia bloc) that advocated Ukraine's membership into the Russia-Belarus Union, Russian as a second state language, and Russians constitutionally defined as a second titular nation -- as those blocs obtained a combined 1.16 percent. Even in the Crimea, Our Ukraine finished third, as compared to the Russian Bloc's fifth-place finish on proportional party lists to the national elections. Only in the city of Sevastopol did the Russian Bloc manage a third-place showing, behind the KPU and ZYU, while achieving its highest support in Ukraine with 8.86 percent of the vote.

Voter turnout was lowest in the Crimea, Sevastopol, and Odesa Oblast, which hurt ZYU and the KPU, and in the city of Kyiv, which hurt Our Ukraine. The highest turnouts were in areas sympathetic to reformers and the antipresidential opposition. Voter turnout was highest in Ternopil Oblast, where 82.1 percent voted, compared to only 65-67 percent in the Donbas. This is a reflection of lower civic activism in eastern Ukraine.

The division of the country is less a threat to Ukrainian statehood than a product of less-developed civic culture in eastern Ukraine and competition over different visions of what will be built in Ukraine -- a Western-style democracy and market economy (Our Ukraine's preference); a corporatist-authoritarian state with clientalistic relations between the state and economic and political actors (ZYU's preference); or perhaps a compromise between that proposed by ZYU and NU.

The ZYU only fared well in eastern and southern Ukraine with an 11.81 percent national average. Yet it failed to enter into the top three places in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts and the Crimea. Its worst result was in the three Galician oblasts, where it only managed a paltry 1.8-3.4 percent compared to its best performance in Donetsk Oblast, where it obtained 36.80 percent. Other regions where ZYU obtained better-than-average results were in the Kirovohrad, Odesa, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, and Kharkiv oblasts. ZYU's landslide victory in the Donbas was only achieved because of the worst-recorded election violations in Ukraine in the three parliamentary elections since 1994.

Our Ukraine came in first in 14 western, central, and northern Ukrainian oblasts and in the city of Kyiv, and had a countrywide average of 23.56 percent. NU also did surprisingly well in the Poltava, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblasts as well as the Crimea. But was this a victory for Our Ukraine? In the December 1991 presidential elections, the three national democratic candidates won a combined 30 percent. In the 1998 parliamentary elections, the national democratic Rukh, Reforms and Order, Forward Ukraine!, and the Republican Christians won a combined 14.8 percent. Our Ukraine's 2002 result lies between the high 1991 and low 1998 election results for national democrats.

The Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc built on the National Front bloc's poor showing of 2.72 percent in the 1998 elections and achieved impressive results in western, and less so in central, Ukraine, where it placed second or third, usually following Our Ukraine. In Kyiv, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc attracted a large protest vote and finished second with 12.83 percent. Tymoshenko's own party, Fatherland, a member of her bloc, grew out of the now-defunct Hromada party created by former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who has been in custody in the United States since 1999. This legacy proved less useful as ZYU took back control of Hromada's former home base, Dnipropetrovsk.

The Social Democratic Party of Ukraine-united's (SDPU-o) 6.25 percent nationwide tally, a 2.24 percent improvement over 1998, can be considered a poor showing when one considers the party's access to financial resources and control of media outlets. The party's control of two of Ukraine's main television stations was often utilized to smear SDPU-o opponents, particularly Our Ukraine, and this negative reputation may have cost the SDPU votes. The SDPU-o was the worst-faring of the six parties and blocs that made it past the 4 percent hurdle for parliamentary representation, finishing lower than even the SPU and Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, neither of which controls a major media outlet.

In west-central Ukraine, the SDPU-o only reached the top three in Transcarpathia Oblast, a stronghold of the party. Its main successes could be found in usually finishing third after ZYU and the KPU in Ukraine's east and south. Squeezed out of western and central Ukraine, the SDPU-o has de facto become an eastern Ukrainian party. A second factor working in this favor is the SDPU-o's control of the Russian-language Inter television channel, which boasts its primary viewership in eastern Ukraine. This also explains the SDPU-o's advocacy of Russian as an official language alongside Ukrainian.

The only serious competition in the remaining half of the seats elected through majority voting in 225 districts was between Our Ukraine and ZYU. In this voting the KPU, SPU, Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, and the SDPU-o all did poorly. The victory of NU and ZYU in majoritarian voting in west-central and eastern and southern Ukraine, respectively, reflected the same regional distribution of voting in the seats elected on proportional party lists. NU took six out 12 Kyiv seats and ZYU swept the Donbas. In areas where the ZYU wished to camouflage itself and hide its true loyalties from voters its candidates were defined as "self promoted."

Ukraine's 2002 election results point to a country that combines an "Estonia" in the west-center, dominated by reformers (Our Ukraine), nationalists (Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc), and the pro-statehood left (SPU), and a "Belarus" in the east and south dominated by the hard-line, pro-Soviet left (KPU), and oligarchs and authoritarian corporatist statists (SDPU-o and ZYU). To be elected in 2004, Ukraine's next president will have to bridge Ukraine's "Estonian" and "Belarusian" regions.

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

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