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Newsline - May 2, 2002


RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER MEETS WITH RUMSFELD...
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told journalists in Moscow on 29 April that Russia recently submitted to the United States several new proposals that Moscow hopes could form the basis for future strategic-arms reductions, polit.ru reported on 30 April. Ivanov added that he received a positive reaction to the proposals from U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who made a stopover in the Russian capital after a tour of several Central Asian states and met briefly with Ivanov at Sheremetevo Airport on 29 April. Polit.ru also commented that the Russian military is so eager to secure a formal treaty during the summit with the United States between U.S. President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin later this month that would grant Russia the status of an equal partner that the Russian side will have to make additional compromises. VY

...AS HE ARRIVES IN WASHINGTON FOR SUMMIT PREPARATION
Upon his arrival in Washington on 1 May, Ivanov said the goal of formalizing nuclear-arms cuts for the next decade by the time of the U.S.-Russian summit in Moscow and St. Petersburg at the end of this month is "entirely realizable," RIA-Novosti and Reuters reported on 2 May. Although he said that the final documents might not be completed by the time of the summit, he added that, "We are in the mood to have these documents ready." VY

RUSSIAN AND U.S. PARLIAMENTARIANS AGREE ON COOPERATION
Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, who is visiting Washington D.C., and U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert signed a memorandum of cooperation between the two legislative chambers on 1 May, ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti reported. Seleznev also discussed with U.S. lawmakers cooperation in fighting against international terrorism, as well as the situation in Iraq and the Middle East. After his talks, Seleznev told journalists that American representatives had proposed an interparliamentary conference in Moscow with participation of parliamentarians from Russia, the United States, and the European Union, as well as representatives from Israel, Palestine, and Arab countries. VY

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH IRAQI COUNTERPART
Igor Ivanov said on 29 April after a meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri in Moscow that Russia is maintaining "an active political dialogue" with Baghdad and "is confident of the possibility of a political solution to the Iraq problem," RBK reported on 29 April. Ivanov added that Russia is interested not only in maintaining the "high standard of relations between the two countries, but in upgrading it further." However, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow, speaking at a press conference in Moscow, said the United States is counting on Russia to put pressure on Saddam Hussein to adhere to UN resolutions, RIA-Novosti reported on 30 April. Vershbow stressed that for more than 10 years the Iraqi leader has refused to comply with the UN resolutions and that for more than four years Iraq has refused to accept international weapons inspectors. "We are losing patience with respect to Saddam Hussein's regime," Vershbow remarked. VY

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL WARNS ABOUT WIDESPREAD CORRUPTION IN RUSSIA
Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov has sent his office's annual report about the state of law and order to the legislature and the president, Russian news agencies reported on 30 April. In the 33-page report, Ustinov sharply criticizes law enforcement agencies and especially the Interior Ministry (MVD) for its ineptness in combating corruption. The report states that while the MVD knows about widespread corruption among state officials, including holders of the highest offices, most anticorruption investigations deal only with lower-level corruption. The report noted that only 1 percent of corruption cases involve state officials. In addition, the report claims that although corruption is endemic throughout the state apparatus, the most massive corruption-related violations in 2001 were found in the Defense Ministry, the Science and Industry Ministry, the Transport Ministry, the Natural Resources Ministry, the State Property Committee, and the state-controlled companies Gazprom and Rosvooruzhenie. VY

PUTIN ASKS DUMA TO ADOPT BILL ON EXTREMISM
President Putin submitted a bill to the State Duma on 29 April that would create legal, administrative, and financial penalties for organizations engaged in extremist activities, Russian news agencies reported. The bill includes amendments to the Criminal Code that would make establishing or participating in an extremist organization an offense punishable by two to four years in prison. The bill would also criminalize any public calls for extremist actions and impose bans on certain kinds of professional activities for members of extremist groups. Furthermore, it would amend the law on money laundering that would put extremist activity in the same category with organized crime and open the financial activities of extremist groups to special state scrutiny, according to polit.ru on 30 April. VY

RUSSIA HOPES UN WILL CONFIRM ITS CLAIMS ON ARCTIC SHELF
Deputy Natural Resources Minister Ivan Glumov told journalists in Moscow on 29 April that his ministry hopes the UN will respond positively to Russia's request to extend its national sovereignty over an additional 1.2 million square kilometers of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 2002), RosBalt reported. Glumov added that the request, which was submitted on 19 December 2001, is substantiated by oceanographic and geophysical research carried out by the Defense Ministry. An affirmative UN decision would increase Russia's hydrocarbon resources by an estimated 4.9 billion tons. It would also "extend the zone of Russia's strategic and military-political interests in the Arctic by extending its jurisdiction and control over [claimed] sea and ocean floor," Glumov noted. VY

PRO-KREMLIN PARTY HOLDS MAY DAY RALLY...
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov addressed a 1 May rally in Revolution Square in central Moscow with a call for the government to resign, Interfax reported. According to the agency, police estimates of the size of the crowd ranged from 10,000 to 20,000 -- organizers said there were 100,000 participants. And in a different part of the city near St. Basil's Cathedral, some 140,000 people took part in a rally organized by the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov also criticized the government. Addressing the gathering, he said, "We say to the government: If you do not see the necessity of supporting the real economy by improving living standards and boosting people's spending power, then you are making a grave mistake and you are failing," RTR reported. JAC

...AS VORONEZH GATHERING TAKES PLACE WITH TIGHT SECURITY
Meanwhile, similar May Day rallies were also held in cities across Russia. Chelyabinsk and Volgograd hosted some of the largest gatherings with 20,000 and 9,000 people, respectively, according to ITAR-TASS. In Chelyabinsk, the gathering organized by local trade unions protested low wages and growing public utility rates. In Voronezh, the scene of an earlier large protest against rising rents, a rally took place under tight security restrictions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 April 2002). According to ITAR-TASS, Voronezh Mayor Aleksandr Kovalev rescinded his earlier order raising rents and communal service rates. JAC

TOP MEMBERS OF RUSSIAN POLITICAL ELITE SHOW UP TO HONOR LEBED...
The late Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed was buried with full military honor at Moscow's famous Novodevichye cemetery on 1 May, Russian agencies reported. Russian President Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia Aleksii II, Defense Minister Ivanov, Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, and Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais were all in attendance, ntvru.com reported. According to Interfax, hundreds of people stood near the cemetery gates during the funeral. The previous day, Krasnoyarsk State Television reported that both Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu and Deputy Prosecutor-General for the Siberian Federal District Valentin Simuchenkov dismissed earlier stories that Lebed instructed the pilot to fly in bad weather, saying that he, Lebed, would take full responsibility (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2002). According to Simuchenkov, the report is "sheer fantasy." He also denied reports that the pilots had used old maps. JAC

...AS ACTING GOVERNOR NOT CONSIDERED STRONG COMPETITOR IN UPCOMING RACE
According to RFE/RL's Krasnoyarsk correspondent on 30 April, acting Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Nikolai Ashlapov has a reputation in the krai as a failure. Under his stewardship, the Achinsk Alumina industrial complex went bankrupt, and he earlier lost a mayoral election in Achinsk, the third-largest city in the krai. And at an earlier joint press conference with krai legislature Chairman Aleksandr Uss this week, Uss decisively showed that he is in charge of the krai, according to the correspondent. JAC

MORE TENSION REPORTED BETWEEN COSSACKS, ARMENIANS
In a report broadcast on REN-TV on 30 April, two leaders of local Cossacks groups in Krasnodar Krai expressed their support for the new immigration policy announced by Krasnodar Krai Governor Aleksandr Tkachev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 19 March 2002). Two Cossack atamans, Viktor Vodolatskii and Nikolai Kozitsyn, spoke at a meeting in April in favor of new restrictions on immigrants. Vodolatskii said, "Our children will not live here in 20 or 30 years. And if they do, then they will be slaves of these so-called national minorities." Kozitsyn suggested, "Let them go to Armenia, Georgia, and Meskhetia. Let them rebuild their towns there. How long will they milk the Russians?" According to a REN-TV correspondent, Kozitsyn has in mind not just recent immigrants but Armenians who have been living in the region for 200 years. JAC

ANOTHER JOURNALIST MURDERED
Valerii Ivanov, a legislator in the Tolyatti city Duma and editor of the independent newspaper "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie," has been found dead after being shot in his own automobile, RFE/RL's Samara correspondent reported on 30 April. Local journalists connect Ivanov's murder with his journalistic work. According to gazeta.ru, Ivanov had just published a series of articles denouncing corruption among local officials. JAC

TOMSK JOINS NEW TIME ZONE
As of 1 May, all of Tomsk Oblast will be in Russia's fifth time zone and will be three hours ahead of Moscow along with regions such as Novosibirsk and Omsk oblasts, Altai Krai, and Altai Republic, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The federal government made the decision in response to a request from Tomsk authorities, who complained that their region had been divided in two with two different time zones. For example, the city of Tomsk was in the sixth time zone. JAC

IS SHAMIL BASAEV DEAD?
Visiting Grozny on 30 April, Russian army Chief of General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin claimed that Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev has been killed, although his body has not yet been retrieved, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 May. Following reports last week of the death of Jordanian-born field commander Khattab, Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, commander of the North Caucasus Military District, predicted that "Basaev will be next," according to "Gazeta" on 29 April. But Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, who commands the combined federal forces in Chechnya, told ITAR-TASS on 30 April there is no evidence to support Kvashnin's statement. Moltenskoi suggested that Basaev may be hiding somewhere in the Vedeno Gorge in southern Chechnya. LF

NEW SWEEPS REPORTED IN THREE CHECHEN VILLAGES
Russian troops have blockaded the villages of Tangi-Chu, Alkhan-Kala, and Kurchaloi and are conducting new search operations there for Chechen fighters, chechenpress.com reported on 2 May. LF

ARMENIAN COMMUNISTS MARK 1 MAY...
Some 10,000 people participated in a May Day march in Yerevan on 1 May organized by the Communist Party of Armenia (HHK), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That is twice the number who attended the most recent Friday opposition protests against the closure of the independent TV station A1+ (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 29 April 2002). HHK First Secretary Vladimir Darpinian told the demonstrators that the party will form an alliance with other "popular and patriotic forces," but did not specify which ones. On 29 April, Darpinian distanced himself from the campaign launched by 13 opposition parties to demand the resignation of President Robert Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2002). LF

...THWART PARLIAMENTARY VOTE ON ELECTION LAW AMENDMENTS
One of the HHK's eight parliament deputies succeeded on 30 April in postponing the vote on the electoral law amendments proposed by the pro-presidential majority, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The opposition opposes those changes, which would empower the president to name one-third of the members of election commissions at all levels (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2002). After the debate and just before voting on the amendments was to begin, the HHK deputy demanded a statutory 20-minute break, which elapsed only after the end of the parliament's normal working hours. LF

ARMENIA PAYS TRIBUTE TO LEBED
President Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian were among Armenian politicians who sent telegrams expressing condolences at the 28 April death in a plane crash of Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 2002). Markarian noted Lebed's "versatile talent and rare human properties," according to Noyan Tapan. Alluding to Lebed's repeated expressions of support for the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1997, and 19 and 23 February 1998), Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian described him as a "wonderful person who played a decisive role for us in the most dramatic times," according to "Hayots ashkhar" on 30 April. The most frequently employed description of Lebed was as "a friend of the Armenian people." LF

KARABAKH SCHEDULES PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
The parliament of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic voted on 30 April to hold presidential elections on 11 August, Noyan Tapan reported. Observers predict that incumbent President Arkadii Ghukasian, who was elected on 1 September 1997 with some 85 percent of the vote, will seek a second term (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1997). LF

DISPUTE WITHIN AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY ESCALATES
Together with several supporters, Gudrat Gasankuliev, who was recently expelled from the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP) (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 14, 25 April 2002), broke down a door to gatecrash a meeting of that wing, Azerbaijani newspapers reported on 30 April. AHCP reformist wing leader Ali Kerimli condemned the incident as "an act of violence," alleging that Gasankuliev was acting at the behest of the country's leadership. Gasankuliev met on 30 April with Mirmakhmoud Fattaev, who heads the rival, conservative wing of the AHCP, to discuss the possibility of a reconciliation between Fattaev's wing and Gasankuliev's supporters, Turan reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI, GEORGIAN, TURKISH PRESIDENTS MEET...
Heidar Aliev, Eduard Shevardnadze, and Ahmet Necdet Sezer met in Trabzon on 29-30 April to discuss exports of Caspian oil and gas via Georgia and regional security and unresolved conflicts in the South Caucasus. Sezer in his opening address stressed the strategic and economic importance of the South Caucasus, noting the need for increased cooperation, including in the military sphere, between the three countries to avert possible terrorist attacks on oil and gas pipelines. But Georgian state chancellery official Shalva Pichkhadze specifically denied on 29 April that the three countries are planning to forge a military alliance, or that their military cooperation is directed at a third party, Caspian News Agency reported. On 30 April, the three countries' interior ministers inked an agreement on cooperating in the fight against terrorism and organized crime. LF

...DISCUSS REGIONAL CONFLICTS
Sezer held separate talks with Aliev to discuss the Karabakh conflict, reaffirming Ankara's support of Azerbaijan and that it will not open its border with Armenia until the conflict is solved, according to Azerbaijan's ANS TV on 30 April, as cited by Groong. At a press conference at the end of the summit, Aliev announced that on Turkey's initiative, Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev will participate in the meeting between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey, Vartan Oskanian and Ismail Cem, that is to take place on the sidelines of the NATO Cooperation Council meeting in Reykjavik on 14-15 May, AFP reported. Sezer similarly discussed Abkhazia with Shevardnadze, who suggested that Turkey should host talks on resolving the conflict. The three presidents plan to meet again in Tbilisi in one month's time to discuss gas exports, according to Caucasus Press on 30 April. Georgian International Oil Corporation President Giorgi Chanturia said the presidents of Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, and Armenia could also be invited to that meeting. LF

U.S. MILITARY APPRAISES GEORGIAN ARMED FORCES
Meeting with journalists in Tbilisi on 1 May, one of the advance group of U.S. military instructors who arrived in Georgia on 29 April predicted that Georgia could have a well-trained and battle-ready army within two years, Reuters reported. On his return to Tbilisi from Trabzon on 30 April, Shevardnadze once again stressed that the arrival of the U.S. contingent does not pose a threat either to Russia or to other neighboring countries, Interfax reported. LF

KYRGYZ OFFICIAL DENIES PRESIDENT GAVE ORDERS TO FIRE ON DEMONSTRATORS
Presidential adviser Bolot Djanuzakov denied on 30 that President Askar Akaev gave orders to police to open fire on demonstrators in Djalalabad's Aksy Raion on 17 March, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He described the 29 April allegation by the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights that Akaev had issued such orders as "lies and slander" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2002). Presidential press secretary Ilyas Bekbolotov said that only politicians intent on destabilizing the domestic political situation could make such allegations. On 1 May, Oksana Malevannaya, a member of the state commission formed to investigate the circumstances of the shooting, said the commission will deliver its findings on 2 May. She said last week the report would be made public on 29 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2002). LF

FORMER KYRGYZ VICE PRESIDENT PLEADS NOT GUILTY TO EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGES
In a two-hour speech to the court on 30 April, former Kyrgyz Vice President Feliks Kulov rejected as politically motivated the charges of embezzlement of state funds brought against him and claimed that he has demonstrated his innocence, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Those charges relate to Kulov's tenure as governor of Chu Oblast in 1993-1997 and as Bishkek mayor in 1998-1999. Kulov is serving a seven-year term for alleged abuse of his official position; the prosecutor has demanded a further 11-year sentence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2002). LF

DURATION OF U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE IN KYRGYZSTAN STILL OPEN
During their talks in Bishkek last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 2002), U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and President Akaev did not discuss formally prolonging the agreement concluded last December allowing the deployment of U.S. forces in Kyrgyzstan for a period of one year, Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 30 April. Akaev has said that the U.S. troops may remain for as long as is necessary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2002), but the formal agreement must be renewed six months before it expires; Caspian News Agency reported on 1 April that the Kyrgyz parliament will consider the extension this month. The "Chicago Tribune" reported on 2 May that the U.S. is seeking ways to retain a military foothold in Central Asia even after the final defeat of the Taliban. Meanwhile, large quantities of anti-U.S. leaflets were pasted on walls in the town of Djalalabad and the neighboring district of Suzak during the night of 29-30 April, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 30 April. LF

TAJIKISTAN, IRAN SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENTS
Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov held talks in Dushanbe on 30 April with his visiting Iranian counterpart Mohammad Khatami, Interfax and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Both positively assessed the level of political and cultural ties between their two countries, but Rakhmonov expressed regret that trade and economic cooperation has not attained a comparable level. Discussing the situation in Afghanistan, the two presidents agreed that the UN ought to play a greater role in preparations for the election of a Loya Djirga and the creation of a new Afghan government in which all the country's ethnic groups will be represented. Representatives of the Tajik and Iranian governments signed nine separate cooperation agreements covering air transportation; agriculture; customs procedures; science, education and technology; combating drug trafficking; and other fields. Khatami also met on 1 May with Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov to discuss cooperation in hydroelectric engineering, transport, agriculture, and the prospects for creating joint ventures. LF

UZBEK POLICE START DETAINING PRACTICING MUSLIM WOMEN
Over the past two weeks, police in Tashkent and the Ferghana Valley have detained dozens of women who are either practicing Muslims or whose male relatives have been jailed on charges of belonging to subversive Islamic organizations, according to a Human Rights Watch report released on 1 May. Four women were convicted in Tashkent on 24 April of membership of the banned Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir; four more are currently on trial on similar charges. LF

BELARUSIAN TRADE UNIONS STAGE MAY DAY RALLY IN MINSK
The Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus organized a May Day march in Minsk in which some 5,000 people participated, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Demonstrators carried posters reading "Trade unions support reforms but not at the expense of the people," and "President! Where is the promised [monthly] wage of $100?" May Day celebrations in other Belarusian cities were not as well attended. In Homel the local authorities banned the organizers of a May Day rally from giving speeches. In Brest, a May Day meeting was organized by local authorities who did not allow opposition activists to address the crowd. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT'S RATING FALLS BY 14 PERCENT AFTER ELECTION
The Independent Institute of Socioeconomic and Political Studies (NISEPI) found in a poll conducted in April among 1,464 Belarusians that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's approval rating stood at 31 percent, significantly lower than the 45 percent recorded shortly before the 9 September 2001 presidential election, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 30 April. "The main reason [for this drop in Lukashenka's popularity] is of course the deteriorating economic situation of the country and the population," NISEPI Director Aleh Manayeu commented. "More than 60 percent of respondents said they were more than once affected by untimely payments of wages and pensions, while more than 35 percent said they cannot suffer [from the economic situation] any longer. In addition, Lukashenka has not fulfilled his election promises, including those regarding economic liberalization." JM

UKRAINE CELEBRATES MAY DAY WITH MASS RALLIES
This year, the largest May Day rally in Ukraine took place in Kharkiv, where pro-presidential parties from the For a United Ukraine bloc drew some 100,000 people, according to police reports. Some 1,000 leftists at a separate rally in Kharkiv called for "toppling the existing regime," Interfax reported. The Communist Party and the Progressive Socialist Party attracted several thousand people to two separate May Day rallies in Kyiv under antigovernment slogans. In Dnipropetrovsk, a pro-government rally gathered some 20,000 people, while the Communists were able to mobilize only 2,000 supporters for a separate meeting. Some 4,000 people celebrated May Day in Simferopol and some 1,000 in Luhansk. There were no May Day rallies in Lviv or Ivano-Frankivsk. JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNIST LEADER CALLS FOR LEFTIST UNITY AGAINST KUCHMA...
Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko on 1 May called on all leftist forces in Ukraine to unite in order to fight the "Kuchma regime," UNIAN reported. According to Symonenko, President Leonid Kuchma's "antipopular" and "pro-Western" policies will be implemented in the parliament by both For a United Ukraine and Our Ukraine. JM

...WHILE OTHER LEFTISTS ORGANIZE 'POPULAR OPPOSITION'
The Progressive Socialist Party of Nataliya Vitrenko, the Russian Bloc, and a number of minor leftist and pro-Russian parties signed an accord on 1 May for the creation of a bloc to be known as Popular Opposition, UNIAN reported. The accord slams President Kuchma and his predecessor Leonid Kravchuk for implementing the policies of the IMF and the U.S. in Ukraine, and accuses both officials as well as the country's former legislatures of "destroying the unity of Slavic states." Vitrenko, who was presented as the Popular Opposition leader during the Progressive Socialist Party's May Day rally, said Ukrainian President Kuchma and U.S. President George W. Bush combined efforts in order to have "America's favorites -- Viktor Yushchenko, Yuliya Tymoshenko, and Oleksandr Moroz" elected to the new Verkhovna Rada. Vitrenko's party failed to overcome the 4 percent voting hurdle to qualify for parliamentary representation. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL STAFF CHIEF GOES TO PARLIAMENT
Ukrainian President Kuchma on 29 April signed a decree relieving Volodymyr Lytvyn of his duties as the head of the presidential administration in connection with Lytvyn's transfer to the Verkhovna Rada, UNIAN reported on 30 April, quoting Central Election Commission Secretary Yaroslav Davydovych. JM

FORMER CRIMEAN SPEAKER TO WORK IN KYIV
Following his defeat in the election for the post of speaker of the Crimean Supreme Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2002), Leonid Hrach announced on 30 April that he will give up his deputy mandate in Crimea and take a parliamentary seat in the Verkhovna Rada in Kyiv, UNIAN and Interfax reported. Speaking at a May Day rally in Simferopol the following day, Hrach accused "the entire state in its political sense" and President Kuchma in particular of obstructing his election bid in Crimea. "Now I will fight against them," Hrach added, referring to his future work in the Verkhovna Rada. He also hinted that he is going to run in the 2004 presidential election, saying, "Today the presidential march is actually beginning." JM

U.S. DIPLOMAT REPORTEDLY EXPELLED FROM UKRAINE FOR ESPIONAGE
Quoting unidentified sources, the Kyiv-based weekly "Zerkalo nedeli/Dzerkalo tyzhnya" reported on 27 April that a U.S. diplomat was expelled from Ukraine on 20 March for spying, after which a security officer at the Ukrainian Consulate in New York was asked to leave the United States in a tit-for-tat expulsion. The weekly reported that the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv refused comment on this development. JM

ESTONIA AND FINLAND TO SPEED UP SIGNING OF NAVAL AGREEMENT
Estonian Economy, Transport, and Communications Minister Liina Tonisson and Finnish Transport Minister Kimmo Sasi agreed on 30 April on the need to speed up the signing of a bilateral naval agreement in Tallinn, ETA reported. Tonisson said, "The draft naval agreement has to be reviewed based on our current situation and experiences, and it should be approved as soon as possible by the parliaments." The ministers also discussed the communications and transport policies of the EU and Finland, naval transport, and the Rail Baltica project. SG

LATVIA'S PARLIAMENT PASSES CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES STRENGTHENING LANGUAGE
At an extraordinary session on 30 April, the parliament voted 72 to 15, with one abstention, to approve amendments to the constitution aimed at strengthening the status of Latvian as the state language, LETA reported. The amendments foresee that the parliament's working language is Latvian and that each person has the right to ask questions and receive answers from state institutions in the Latvian language. They also provide that parliament members will have to swear an oath before taking their posts. SG

LATVIA, KAZAKHSTAN TO COOPERATE IN FIGHT AGAINST CRIME
The Latvian government approved a Latvian-Kazakh agreement pertaining to cooperation in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime on 30 April, BNS reported. The states will exchange information about terrorist actions and the sources and individuals providing financial support to terrorist groups, and about persons and organizations engaged in the illegal trade of arms, including ammunition, explosives, poisonous substances, and nuclear and radioactive materials. Law enforcement agencies will also share information about drug trafficking and the persons involved, their vehicles, methods of work, and other information relevant to the prevention and elimination of crimes related to drugs. SG

LITHUANIA, EUROPEAN COMMISSION SIGN FINANCIAL MEMORANDUM
Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite and head of the European Commission (EC) delegation to Lithuania Michael Graham signed a financial memorandum for four projects on 30 April in Vilnius, ELTA reported. The EC will provide 12.68 million euros ($11.3 million) and Lithuania 3.45 million euros for the projects. Under the PHARE program, the EC will provide 2.23 million euros to the Lithuanian Standardization Department for strengthening its administrative and technical capacity and will facilitate the country's preparations for membership in European standardization organizations. The State Tax Inspectorate will receive 4 million euros from the EC to bring it into line with EU norms in administrative cooperation and mutual assistance. A project on migration and asylum management aimed at harmonizing the relevant national legislation with EU norms will receive 2.9 million euros. The fourth project will provide the Customs Department with 3.65 million euros to assist in the implementation of EU customs systems. SG

POLISH SENATE DEBATES POLICY REGARDING COMPATRIOTS ABROAD
The Senate on 30 April held a session devoted to the state policy regarding ethnic Poles living abroad, PAP reported. The debate was attended by President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Sejm speaker Marek Borowski, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, and cabinet officials, as well as by representatives of Polish communities in different countries, including World Polonia Council President Marek Malicki and Polish American Congress President Edward Moskal. The Senate adopted a resolution pledging that the main goals of Poland's policy toward Poles abroad will include state assistance in ensuring that their rights are upheld, the fostering of the Polish language, and promoting Polish culture. It is estimated that up to 16 million people of Polish ethnic background may currently live abroad. JM

ITINERARY OF POPE'S NINTH TRIP TO POLAND DISCLOSED
The office of the papal envoy to Poland has revealed the itinerary of Pope John Paul II's ninth trip to his homeland, Polish media reported on 1 May. The 81-year-old pontiff will arrive in Krakow on 16 August. On 17 August, the pope will consecrate a new sanctuary of God's Mercy near Krakow. The same day, he is expected to meet President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Prime Minister Leszek Miller at Krakow's Wawel Castle cathedral. On 18 August, the pope is scheduled to celebrate an open-air mass at Krakow Blonie, an open area that is a traditional venue for such events. On 19 August, John Paul II is to travel 45 kilometers south of Krakow, to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, for celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of the local sanctuary of Franciscan friars. JM

CZECH SENATOR SAYS U.S. OPPOSED TO DECISION TO PURCHASE GRIPENS
Senate Foreign Affairs Commission Chairman Michael Zantovsky told CTK on 30 April that the U.S. opposes the government's decision to purchase Gripen fighters for the Czech air force, CTK reported. Zantovsky said U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has told him the purchase is "unnecessary," and that neither he nor Ambassador to the U.S. Martin Palous, who accompanied Zantovsky at the meeting, "expected him to say so clearly that this can have an unfavorable impact on U.S.-Czech relations." MS

GERMAN MINORITY IN CZECH REPUBLIC TO DEMAND COMPENSATION FOR CONFISCATED PROPERTY
Following the June parliamentary elections, the German minority in the Czech Republic intends to resubmit to the parliament a demand for compensation for confiscated properties and "other legal injustices," CTK reported on 30 April, citing the Austrian daily "Volksblatt." Irena Kuncova, chairwoman of the Association of Germans in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia, told the daily that the reason the association has refrained from demanding the abolition of the Benes Decrees is "not that we have reconciled ourselves to them, but...such a demand has no chance of succeeding because there is no political will." She said the association will demand "the elimination of inequities" stemming from the implementation of the decrees, rather than their abolition. A demand for compensation for time spent in prisons and camps by member of the German minority after 1945 was submitted to the parliament in November 2001 and was rejected by the legislature. MS

EUROPEAN ROMA RIGHTS CENTER CRITICIZES CZECH REPUBLIC AGAIN
The Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), in a report prepared for the UN Commission on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, said on 30 April that Roma in the Czech Republic "face racial discrimination in almost all aspects of their economic and cultural rights," CTK reported. The ERRC has sharply criticized the Czech Republic on several occasions in the past. The latest report said there is a "lack of political will" in the country to change that situation, as attested by the "striking absence of adequate legislative measures in the fight against racial discrimination." MS

CZECH ANARCHISTS CLASH WITH POLICE IN BRNO
Police protecting a neo-Nazi rally clashed in Brno on 1 May with about 250 anarchists protesting against the rally, CTK and dpa reported. Four members of the anarchists' group were detained after hurling beer bottles and at least one Molotov cocktail at police. There were no injuries. In Prague, police detained four people, including a skinhead who displayed Nazi symbols prior to a march by an anarchist group, CTK reported. MS

CZECH FAR-RIGHT LEADER WEARS BIN LADEN T-SHIRT ON TV PROGRAM
Jan Kopal, a leading member of the far-right National Democratic Party (NDS), on 30 April participated as an audience member of the Czech television program "Without Immunity" dressed in a t-shirt displaying the image of terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden, CTK reported. The cameras purposely avoided focusing on Kopal. He said he wore the t-shirt to protest against the "unbalanced program, which is dominated by parliamentary parties." Kopal is running in the June elections for the Chamber of Deputies. He said he purchased the shirt in Thailand. MS

SLOVAK INVESTIGATORS SAYS PUPILS DESECRATED JEWISH CEMETERY
In Kosice on 30 April, Interior Ministry investigators said three boys aged 10 to 12 are responsible for the desecration of the Jewish cemetery in that town, CTK and AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2002). The boys, who overturned 135 tombstones, told the investigators they had been "looking for gold" beneath the stones. The pupils cannot be prosecuted because of their young age. The Kosice Jewish community said it might sue the boys' families for compensation. MS

OUTGOING HUNGARIAN PREMIER ANNOUNCES RAPID SALE OF STATE OWNED LAND...
Prime Minister Viktor Orban, speaking after the cabinet's meeting on 30 April, announced plans to sell some 500,000 hectares of state-owned land to farmers before the present government steps aside, Hungarian media reported. He said one of the most pressing problems for many farmers is that the chronic shortage of land is preventing them from investing and developing. Orban said he feels he has "a political and moral duty" to push the land sales through before the new government takes office and "sells the land to others." The announcement was criticized by Socialist agriculture minister candidate Imre Nemeth, who remarked that the sale of state land currently rented by a number of companies will endanger thousands of jobs. Prime-ministerial candidate Peter Medgyessy said the new government will use all legal measures to immediately stop the sale of state land. MSZ

...IS AT LOSS TO EXPLAIN ELECTORAL DEFEAT...
Speaking during his weekly radio interview, Orban said on 1 May that he cannot yet explain the election defeat of the right-wing forces, as polls were greatly at variance with the results of the first round, but added that "time will surely provide an answer." Asked if he is prepared to head a mass right-wing campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2002), Orban replied that a "kind of Big Bang has started [for right-wing parties]," and therefore he sees no reason for a centrally organized campaign. Orban noted that until the election results are declared final, an incumbent prime minister can only speak of governmental matters and is forced to keep silent about domestic policy issues. "Once all election proceedings are final, the lock will be removed from my mouth," he concluded. MSZ

...AND IS CONSIDERED A 'SMALL MAN WITH HIGH AMBITIONS' BY HIS LIKELY SUCCESSOR
Hungarian newspapers quoted prime-ministerial candidate Medgyessy as saying in an interview with the German newspaper "Die Welt" on 30 April that, "It was not simple for [Orban]. Hungary is small, he is small, and it seems that sometimes people wish to climb too high." Democratic Forum Chairwoman Ibolya David and FIDESZ Deputy Chairman Tamas Deutsch took exception to Medgyessy's description of Orban, saying that such a remark is unworthy of the future prime minister of Hungary. Deutsch told reporters on 1 May that, "I say on behalf of many millions of Hungarians that Medgyessy should be ashamed. As a member of the Hungarian parliament, he is slandering not only the physical size of Hungary's prime minister, but also making fun of the entire nation in a foreign newspaper by slandering the common achievements of Hungary." MSZ

MORE SERBIAN WAR CRIMINALS GO TO THE HAGUE
As expected, indicted war criminals Nikola Sainovic and Momcilo Gruban surrendered to the authorities in The Hague on 2 May, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2002). In Belgrade on 30 April, attorney Strahinja Kastratovic said that his client, Milan Martic, will surrender after Orthodox Easter on 5 May, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

DRAMATIC EVENTS EXPECTED IN THE HAGUE
Kosova President Ibrahim Rugova is scheduled to testify against former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague on 3 May, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Observers note that the direct confrontation between the two men is likely to produce some of the most dramatic moments the tribunal has yet seen. PM

WILL THE HAGUE TRIBUNAL FARM OUT CASES?
"The Independent" reported on 2 May that the war crimes tribunal is swamped with cases and may allow some of the less important trials to take place in Bosnia or elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia. The Belgrade authorities have long sought to cut a deal that would enable Serbs to be tried in Serbian courts. The tribunal has rejected such a proposal, saying the Serbian judicial system is not yet sufficiently reformed and that many important witnesses would not travel to Serbia, where they would not feel safe. The Serbian leaders claim that holding trials in Serbia would show that the Serbian judicial system is up to the task and help defuse nationalist opposition to war crimes trials in general. PM

SERBIAN POLICE TO OPEN FILES FOR WAR CRIMES
Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said in Belgrade on 30 April that representatives of The Hague tribunal may examine Serbian police archives, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added, however, that they are unlikely to find much because war crimes are not usually "planned in meetings and written down." PM

BOSNIAN MINISTER HAILS COOPERATION AGAINST TERRORISM...
Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija said in Sarajevo on 1 May that raids on the offices of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) in Sarajevo in March helped provide evidence linking the charity with Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden, AP reported. Lagumdzija added that after 11 September, "the world split into a modern civilization and one of barbarism and terrorism. Bosnia-Herzegovina has chosen to ally with the civilized world. It has decided to be part of the solution, not part of the problem." On 1 May, U.S. authorities charged the Chicago-based Benevolence with criminal involvement on behalf of terrorism, the first charity to be so charged. PM

ELECTION TIME IN MONTENEGRO
The parliament went into recess on 30 April in the run-up to the 15 May local elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Campaigning formally began the next day. A no-confidence motion in the government tabled by the Liberal Alliance (LS) and the People's Party (NS) will have to wait until after the local vote, as will a no-confidence motion in the speaker of the parliament tabled by the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS). PM

EU LOOKS INTO FRAUD AT KOSOVA POWER COMPANY
The EU has launched an investigation into reports that some $4 million may have been stolen from funds intended for Kosova's power company (KEK), Reuters reported from Brussels on 1 May. The previous day, the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) said that it suspected fraud regarding the power company's funds. Total EU assistance to Kosova amounts to about $300 million per year. PM

SERBIA LOOKS FOR A SAY IN KOSOVA PRIVATIZATION
As part of Belgrade's renewed efforts to involve itself in the affairs of Kosova, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said in the Serbian capital on 30 April that the privatization of state-owned properties in Kosova must include that province's share of the Serbian debt, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that Serbia owes the World Bank alone $1.3 billion, and that Kosova's share of that amount is $450 million. Covic said that Belgrade does not oppose the UN's recently launched privatization program in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2002). PM

UN POLICE RETURN TO SERBIAN STRONGHOLD IN KOSOVA
Police deployed in Serb-held northern Mitrovica on 1 May for the first time since organized violence was directed against them in early April, Hina reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 13 April 2002). PM

ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS A NEW SPEAKER
Servet Pellumbi, 67, was elected speaker on 30 April with 71 votes in the 140-seat chamber (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2002). Only 122 deputies were present for the ballot, which saw Prec Zogaj win the support of 34 legislators and Nikoll Lesi take 17 votes. Pellumbi is a former professor of Marxism-Leninism at Tirana University. PM

BUSH TO MEET WITH SLOVENIAN PRIME MINISTER
U.S. President George W. Bush will meet with Janez Drnovsek in the White House on 17 May, Reuters reported. Press spokesman Ari Fleischer noted that, "Slovenia has supported efforts to combat terrorism and has contributed significantly to bringing peace and stability to Southeast Europe. The meeting will be an opportunity to discuss Slovenia's ongoing free market, democratic transformation, and aspirations to join Euro-Atlantic institutions." PM

...AS DOES SFOR
SFOR spokesman Major Scott Lundy told reporters in Sarajevo on 2 May that help from Bosnia led to the arrest of Benevolence's leader Enaam Arnaout in the U.S. the previous day, dpa reported. "SFOR is pleased to see that evidence collected by the Federation Ministry of Interior during their search of BIF in Bosnia in March this year has led to Arnaout's arrest." Lundy added, "Bosnia-Herzegovina's cooperative approach to dealing with terrorism and its related support network is working well." On 1 May in Sarajevo, the federal Supreme Court ordered the arrest and detention of five top former police and intelligence officials who are under investigation for their links to terrorism, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2002). PM

BOSNIAN AUTHORITIES GAIN COMPLETE CONTROL OF NORTHERN BORDER
Customs officials of the joint government took control of the border crossing at Bosanska Gradiska on 30 April, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The central authorities now control all customs points along the northern border. PM

LABOR PROTESTS IN ZAGREB
Several thousand persons demonstrated in the Croatian capital on 1 May to protest the government's plans to change labor legislation, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. This was the first time that top government officials were not invited to the May Day events by the four unions that organized them. President Stipe Mesic nonetheless attended in a "private capacity," saying that the unions should be included in talks about changing labor laws. PM

CROATIA BANS RUSSIAN AIRCRAFT PASSENGER FLIGHTS
Following a EU decision, the Transport Ministry banned flights by most Russian-built aircraft as of 1 May on the grounds that the planes are too noisy, dpa reported. Affected are East Line Airlines, Lithuanian Airlines, and Krasnoyarsk Airlines. Exemptions will be made for planes heading for tourist destinations that are already booked for four or more landings. PM

BRIDGE REOPENED BETWEEN CROATIA AND YUGOSLAVIA
At a cost to Croatia of $250,000, the bridge connecting Ilok with Backa Palanka in Serbia was reopened on 30 April, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The bridge was destroyed in NATO's intervention against Serbia's campaign in Kosova in 1999. PM

NEW COALITION IN VUKOVAR
The Independent Democratic Serbian Party (NDSS) has become the new coalition partner of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in the Vukovar municipal government, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 30 April The HDZ's former coalition partner was the ultranationalist Croatian Party of [Historic] Rights (HSP). PM

MIDDLE EAST PEACE CONFERENCE TO BE HELD IN ROMANIA?
Returning from his tour of several Middle Eastern countries on 30 April, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said the UN has proposed that an international meeting on reaching a peace agreement in the Middle East be held in Romania in 2003, Mediafax reported. Geoana said the proposal was mentioned in the message from President Ion Iliescu that he handed to politicians during his visit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 April 2002). Geoana said the experience Romania acquired during its presidency of the OSCE regarding the mediation of conflicts can prove to be an asset in finding a solution to the Middle East crisis as well. MS

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENTARY PARTIES SET UP COMMISSION ON AMENDING CONSTITUTION
The parties represented in the parliament agreed to set up a joint commission to discuss and decide on their respective proposals on amending the constitution, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 30 April. Social Democratic Party Deputy Chairman Doru Ioan Taracila told journalists that representation on the commission will be proportional to parliamentary representation. The parties also agreed to have on the commission representatives of the government and of the presidency, who will not, however, be entitled to vote. The proposal for amending the basic document is to be submitted as a joint parliamentary initiative. Taracila said his party will no longer propose an amendment that the president be elected by the parliament, "since the electorate is obviously of a different opinion," as polls have shown. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER, NATIONAL BANK HEAD PRESENT OPTIONS FOR LOWERING INFLATION
Adrian Nastase and National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu told journalists on 30 April that the two best strategies for fighting inflation are either the redenomination of the currency or the rapid introduction of the euro, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The redenomination of the leu would involve slashing "three or four zeros." Isarescu said he has presented a report to the government on the advantages and shortcomings of each of those options. Nastase said that before a decision is made, all political parties should be consulted on the matter (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2002). MS

ROMANIAN ROMA RECEIVE COMPENSATION FROM GERMANY FOR HOLOCAUST DEPORTATION
Some 100 members of the Romany community in Iasi County have started receiving 511 euros ($462) each from Germany in one-time compensation for the deportations to Transnistria suffered during the regime of Marshal Ion Antonescu, Romanian radio reported on 1 May. MS

CHISINAU COURT REJECTS PPCD LEADERS' APPEAL
The Chisinau Municipal tribunal on 30 April rejected the appeal of three Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) leaders against a 450 lei ($33.33) fine imposed on them by a lower court for having organized unauthorized demonstrations against the government, Flux reported. PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca, his deputy Vlad Cubreacov -- who meanwhile has disappeared -- and PPCD parliamentary group leader Stefan Secareanu said in their appeal that the verdict contradicts the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and Moldovan legislation. Lawyer Vitalie Nagacevschi, who represented the three leaders, told Flux that the Municipal Tribunal's decision demonstrates that "the Communist rulers do not honor the pledge to respect the [24 April] recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and that he intends to file a complaint with the ECHR and to inform PACE that "dialogue with the Communist leadership is impossible." MS

TELERADIO MOLDOVA OFFICIAL SAYS CENSORSHIP COMPLAINT IS UNJUSTIFIED
Igor Prigorskii, a member of the Moldovan Coordination Board for the Electronic Media, said on 29 April that the committee representing striking journalists at Teleradio Moldova "often mistakes routine editing with censorship, claiming that this is an encroachment on democracy and the freedom of the press," Infotag reported. He said the committee is complaining against "communist censorship" every time a chief editor rejects materials or programs, "even though the reason is that they are obviously primitive and poorly prepared." Prigorskii also said that the strikers are violating the Electronic Media Law, which prohibits promoting positions of political parties and joining a political formation. According to Prigorskii, the strike was scheduled to coincide with the PPCD demonstrations against the government. MS

BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS SAY PRIME MINISTER TELLS LIES
On the occasion of May Day, Socialist leader Sergey Stanishev on 1 May accused former monarch and current Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski of lying, mediapool.bg reported. "We cannot stand it any longer and we have to say that the king has no clothes. He lied before the elections [in June 2001], he lies in his program," Stanishev told some 5,000 supporters in Sofia. In his speech, Georgi Bozhinov, the deputy chairman of the Supreme Council of the Socialist Party, reminded the crowd of "the great Bulgarian son, [first Communist President] Georgi Dimitrov," who fought against fascism. In view of the upcoming run-off in the presidential elections in France between incumbent President Jacques Chirac and nationalist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, Bozhinov said Paris and the world should continue Dimitrov's fight against undemocratic movements and the renaissance of the extreme right. UB

BULGARIAN DAIRY FARMERS PROTEST
Meeting in front of the Agriculture Ministry, dairy farmers protested on 1 May against low milk prices, BTA reported. They also demanded that the process of issuing payments of product-quality related bonuses be simplified. Mincho Minchev, the organizer of the rally and leader of the Independent Association of Milk Producers, said, "For 12 years now we have been waiting in vain for someone to take interest in our problems." Deputy Agriculture Minister Boyko Boev told journalists that the state plans to raise the subsidy for premium-quality milk in 2003. The protesters dropped their plan to sell inexpensive cheese to the population at the rally after some pensioners fainted while waiting in line in front of the ministry's headquarters. The cheese will be given to welfare organizations instead. UB

SPEAKING THE TRUTH TO POWER? ALEKSANDR IVANOVICH LEBED


While Russia's two presidents, Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, used their start in regional politics as a launching pad for a national career, Aleksandr Ivanovich Lebed, who perished late last month at the age of 52, had the opposite experience. His tenure as governor of Krasnoyarsk effectively put an end to his national political aspirations. When Lebed ran for governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai in 1998, he fully believed that he would be returning to Moscow and that his experience in the large Siberian krai would only be a stopover until he could again seek national office.

Instead, Krasnoyarsk's problems proved insolvable for Lebed, and at the time of his death he was facing very uncertain prospects for even getting re-elected in Krasnoyarsk. After hearing news of his death in a helicopter accident on 28 April, Duma International Relations Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy) noted that Lebed had been "in a difficult period of his life. He understood that he was left without friends and like-minded comrades." And according to Rogozin, Lebed "understood very well that he had not achieved serious results as governor and was facing tough gubernatorial elections in the future."

Rogozin had been with Lebed during one of the peaks of Lebed's national political influence, the 1996 presidential campaign in which Lebed finished third with almost 15 percent of the vote. Rogozin headed the Congress of Russian Communities, which backed Lebed as its presidential candidate. After the first round, Lebed told his supporters to vote for the incumbent President Yeltsin. And two days before the second round was held, Yeltsin responded in kind by naming Lebed as secretary of the Security Council and his national security adviser. Repeating a pattern that pre-existed his turn in the Kremlin, Lebed was dismissed four months later, after a public clash with the then-Internal Affairs Minister Anatolii Kulikov. Previously, Lebed had been pulled from Moldova where he was the popular leader of the 14th army corps there after an open conflict with then-Defense Minister Pavel Grachev -- although Lebed had been working closely with the Kremlin and Yeltsin during this time. Lebed had also accused the leadership of the breakaway Transdniester Republic of corruption. Lebed would continue to wage a battle against corruption -- at least at the verbal level -- throughout his career.

While known for his wit and talent for snappy aphorisms such as, "A democrat-general is like a Jewish reindeer breeder," Lebed was lacking tact or subtlety. He spoke his mind bluntly not only about his political enemies and their plans, but also the defects of his superiors and allies. In October 1996, after having recommended Igor Rodionov as a candidate for defense minister, Lebed called Defense Minister Rodionov's military reform plan "a criminal document." The previous month, he had criticized President Yeltsin for leaving others in charge of the country during his long illnesses.

But even during short stints before he was fired, Lebed was effective. As national security adviser, he managed to negotiate the Khasavyurt Agreement in 1996 that ended the first Chechen war. And in Moldova, some analysts credited him with minimizing the ethnic violence there. However, in Krasnoyarsk, Lebed appeared to be stymied by his long-running battle with former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov. Lebed was elected governor in May 1998 with Bykov's help, but by the end of that year the two men were openly fighting. Even Bykov's incarceration in prison on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder didn't end the battle. In elections to the krai's legislature last December, Bykov's party finished ahead of Lebed's.

In many press commentaries written since Lebed's death, analysts link the demise of Lebed's chances to win the 2000 presidential elections with Yeltsin's selection of Putin as his "successor" in 1999. However, Lebed had been written off as a viable candidate long before Putin had even become prime minister, when his problems with Bykov first arose. And the impression that Lebed could not manage his region was only strengthened when he took on another foe, Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais, over control of Krasugol, the region's coal company. In that incident in the winter of 1999, Lebed appeared to have initially read too much into then-Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's artfully worded phrases of qualified support following a meeting in Moscow.

That type of "misunderstanding" appeared to be eerily repeated just this year, when Lebed announced that President Putin had suggested that Krasnoyarsk Krai merge with the neighboring Evenk and Taimyr Autonomous Okrugs. Putin visited Krasnoyarsk following a long public conflict between Lebed and the krai legislature and the leadership of Taimyr Autonomous Okrug over the tax revenues of metals giant Norilsk Nickel. Evenk Autonomous Okrug Governor Boris Zolatarev, who had been present at a meeting with Lebed and Putin, flatly denied that Putin made such a suggestion, while Putin himself never subsequently confirmed or denied Lebed's claim.

Primakov subsequently came to support Lebed's bid to save Krasugol from bankruptcy, and there are reasons to assume that Putin or the presidential administration would have eventually assisted Lebed's effort to consolidate the administration of the okrugs and krai. The presidential administration and the pro-Kremlin political parties have, after all, shown a positive interest in reducing the number of regions. What seems less likely, though, is that Lebed's bluntness and failure to make and keep alliances could ever have been curbed long enough for him to wage a comeback on the national political stage.

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