Accessibility links

Newsline - May 7, 2002


SUPREME COURT REINSTATES MILITARY-SECRETS ORDER...
In a decision that was harshly criticized by free-speech advocates, the appeals board of the Supreme Court on 7 May reinstated a military-secrets order that had served as the basis for the espionage conviction of journalist Grigorii Pasko, Russian and Western news agencies reported the same day. In February, the court's military collegium overturned the 1996 Defense Ministry order in response to an appeal from Pasko, who is serving a four-year prison term in Vladivostok. On 7 May, the appeals board also rejected a Defense Ministry appeal of a February ruling that a 1990 order forbidding service personnel from having contacts with foreigners while off duty was illegal. Civil-society advocates had hoped that the previous ruling on the military-secrets order might lead to the release of Pasko, researcher Igor Sutyagin and others charged with espionage. "This is a bad day for freedom of speech and of law," said Pasko's lawyer, Yurii Shmidt, according to AP. "The court came under intense pressure from the Defense Ministry and the FSB. They got what they wanted." RC

...AS AUTHORITIES CONTINUE TO HOLD SCIENTIST ACCUSED OF ESPIONAGE...
The press office of the Kaluga Territorial Federal Security Service (FSB) Directorate announced on 7 May that the Prosecutor-General's Office has extended until 30 June the term for preparing a case against Russian scientist Igor Sutyagin, who is charged with treason for allegedly spying for the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March, and 3 and 23 April 2002), Russian news agencies reported the same day. Sutyagin, who was a researcher with the Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada and who was arrested in October 1999, denies the accusations and maintains that all his contacts with foreigners were professional in nature and that he only exchanged openly available information with his colleagues. VY

...AND FSB COUNTERINTELLIGENCE WARNS ABOUT FOREIGN-INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITY
In an interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 7 May, FSB Deputy Director Colonel General Oleg Syromolotov said that the FSB's Counterintelligence Department performs the same tasks as its predecessors, the KRO of OGPU and the KGB's Second Main Directorate. However, he denied frequent public accusations that his service had initiated a "spy-mania" campaign, saying that Russia remains a priority target for the intelligence services "of the majority of foreign countries." He said that their activities in Russia have become "more aggressive, conspiratorial, and sophisticated." He also said that because of his agency's efforts, the special services of Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia have lost valuable informants in Russia. He also complained that many Russians officials themselves initiate contacts with foreign secret services and that, over the last two years, the FSB has exposed 11 such persons. VY

KVASHNIN NEGOTIATES WITH NATO IN BRUSSELS...
Chief of Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin arrived in Brussels on 7 May for talks within the framework of the standing Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council about the establishment of a new format, 20-member NATO-Russia Council, Western and Russian news agencies reported on 7 May. Kvashnin also will discuss with top NATO military officials the opening of a NATO communications mission in Moscow at the end of this month, as well as a reduction of Russia's military presence in Bosnia and Kosova. VY

...AS MOSCOW TALKS MOVE FORWARD
Talks headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgenii Gusarov and NATO Deputy Secretary-General Guenter Altenburg on developing a new Russia-NATO cooperation mechanism have made significant progress, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. The news agency cited a Russian diplomatic source as saying that there is "a real chance to agree on the remaining problems of shaping new-format Russia-NATO cooperation" before the 14 May meeting of foreign ministers at Reykjavik. The mechanism is to be approved at the 28 May Russia-NATO summit in Italy. The diplomatic source was also quoted as saying that "still remaining unsettled are problems of how to shape the new-format cooperation to make it perfectly clear that it is a '20,' not a '19 plus one,'" according to the news agency. The future status of the Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council is also under discussion and the source was quoted as saying that "the Russian side deems it possible to leave [the council] intact, while NATO sees no need for it." The report also cited an anonymous source at NATO headquarters in Brussels as saying that the "negotiations are now at the final stage." RC

'SOLIDARITY' DELEGATION LEAVES FOR IRAQ
A delegation comprised of members of both chambers of the legislature, representatives of many Russian regions, and others arrived in Baghdad on 6 May to attend a 7-9 May conference on solidarity, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The conference has been held annually since 1999 and this year its slogan is: "The blockage and aggression against Iraq is a problem for the whole world." It is viewed as significant because the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are expected to begin discussion of a new draft resolution on Iraq that will introduce changes to the "Oil-for-Food" program. RC

IGOR IVANOV WORRIES ABOUT AMERICA'S GLOBAL ROLE...
Speaking at Stanford University in California, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 6 May that Russia is striving to establish new relations with NATO and that such relations "will be an important element of the system of comprehensive security throughout the Euro-Atlantic space," RIA-Novosti reported on 7 May. Ivanov also said, however, that Russia is concerned by U.S. claims to "absolute leadership in the world...[which are based on its] constantly growing military potential." He said that the "formation of a one-dimensional world order does not have historical prospects." VY

...AND APPEALS TO ETHNIC RUSSIANS IN CALIFORNIA FOR SOLIDARITY
While in northern California, Ivanov visited a Russian community center in San Francisco and the offices of the local Russian-language newspaper "Russkaya zhizn." He expressed his gratitude to local activists for their work for "the benefit of Russia," RIA-Novosti reported on 7 May. "Because of your contribution, the estrangement and alienation of Russians in the diaspora is fading away," he said. This week President Vladimir Putin asked the Foreign Ministry to take measures to promote solidarity among ethnic Russians living abroad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 2002). VY

BASHKORTOSTAN RESIDENTS NOT IMPRESSED WITH PRESS FREEDOM DAY...
In an informal survey of passers-by in downtown Ufa on 3 May, International Press Freedom Day, locals of all ages said that they believed that there is no freedom of speech in Bashkortostan, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported. Many of the respondents said that almost all the mass media in the republic are financed by the authorities and that they try to please their sponsors. Many also referred to the media campaign launched recently against Supreme Court Chairman Marat Vakilov, who has been accused of corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2002). JAC

...AS SPECULATION MOUNTS REGARDING SLAIN EDITOR IN TOLYATTI
An alleged local crime boss, Igor Sirotenko, and the leader of an ethnic-Chechen organized-crime group, Suleiman Akhmadov, reportedly recently made threats against slain Tolyatti journalist Valerii Ivanov, regions.ru reported on 7 May citing the website of the newspaper "Samara Segodnya" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2002). Ivanov's newspaper, "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie," had been preparing to publish an article about the alleged participation of some of Sirotenko's associates in the murder of two high-ranking police officers. In addition, the Chechen group was reportedly angered by a series of articles about them that followed the filing of a murder case against two of Akhmadov's former bodyguards. The deputy editor of "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie," Aleksei Sidorov, also alleged that both he and Ivanov had also been threatened by Nikolai Abramov, an adviser of Tolyatti Mayor Nikolai Utkin, following the publication of an article about a scheme to extract funds from foreign companies run by a municipal enterprise headed by Abramov's son. JAC

TRAVEL TO OIL-AND-GAS REGION NOW REQUIRES SPECIAL VISA
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed a decree on 6 May virtually closing the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug to foreigners, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 May. According to the daily, authorities in Yamalo-Nenets have attempted repeatedly over the last five years to restrict access to the okrug, and at least twice each year have sent draft legislation to the federal authorities to tighten borders because of rising levels of crime and drug addiction. Finally, in October 2001, President Putin expressed support for Governor Yurii Neelov's desire to limit travel, but he reportedly didn't want to close the okrug completely. Putin and Neelov agreed to set up a commission to study the situation and to present suggestions by 1 July of this year. However, Kasyanov beat the commission to the punch. According to the daily, before the 1990s it was practically impossible to enter the okrug without a special visa. The daily also reported that there are currently 20 territories in Russia to which access to foreign citizens is restricted. JAC

SHOIGU TOUTED AS POSSIBLE CANDIDATE TO REPLACE LEBED
"Izvestiya" reported on 6 May without citing a source that Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu may be a candidate in the gubernatorial election in Krasnoyarsk Krai. According to the daily, Unified Russia, the pro-Kremlin political party of which Shoigu is a leader, is refusing to confirm or deny information about Shoigu's possible candidacy, saying only that it will choose its candidate this month. However, commenting on the reports, Shoigu said on 7 May that he does not intend to run and had heard about such plans only from journalists, RIA-Novosti reported. According to the daily, acting Governor Nikolai Ashlapov announced on 6 May that he will not run in the election unless President Putin asks him to. Krai legislators will set the exact date of the election on 13 May. The election will be held to replace Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed, who died in a helicopter accident on 28 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 2002). JAC

CATHOLIC CHURCH USES TECHNOLOGY TO CIRCUMVENT RESTRICTIONS
Catholic Bishop Jerzy Mazur, who has been banned from entering Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22, 23, and 25 April 2002), has started conducting religious services at Irkutsk's Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary by telephone from Poland, Interfax reported on 6 May. According to the agency, Mazur's services are being broadcast at the Irkutsk cathedral through loudspeakers. The Irkutsk Catholic diocese told the agency that Mazur's absence has caused the suspension of a number of social projects. Last March, the pope conducted a mass for Catholics in Moscow via a satellite television link-up (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 2002). JAC

OBNINSK NUCLEAR-POWER PLANT SHUT DOWN
The Obninsk nuclear-power plant, claimed by Russia to be the world's oldest, was closed down on 30 April, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. According to a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Ministry, the plant was closed because it is too old and expensive to maintain, the news agency reported. The plant, which is located 110 kilometers southwest of Moscow, was commissioned in 1954 and was used primarily for research. It will now be turned into a museum, the news agency reported, citing the Atomic Energy Ministry. RC

GOVERNORS CONTINUE TO CALL THE SHOTS IN DISPUTES WITH MAYORS
The recent dismissal of Bryansk Mayor Ivan Tarasov provides "the latest example of the weakness of the position of the center in the regions," Sergei Mikheev argues in an article on the Moscow-based Center for Political Technology's website on 6 May. Mikheev argues that Tarasov was being groomed by Moscow as a replacement for Bryansk Governor Yurii Lodkin, a "radical Communist," who favors administrative methods for managing the economy and who routinely blames the federal center for all local misfortunes. Tarasov was supported by the regional branch of the pro-Kremlin party Unified Russia, which tried to get him reinstated; however, Lodkin managed to get one of his political allies appointed mayor. Tarasov was dismissed by the city's legislature on 19 April in an action that Tarasov says was illegal and that he intends to challenge in court. JAC

LUZHKOV CLEANS HOUSE
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov dismissed on 7 May the first deputy head of the department for state and municipal property, Vladimir Avekov, RIA-Novosti reported. According to the agency, Luzhkov was displeased with Avekov's report for plans in 2002. "It is May, and he is discussing plans for the year 2002," Luzhkov complained. Luzhkov also criticized the activities of several of the city's departments, noting the "low level of discipline" in many municipal structures. JAC

AFTER NEARLY 70 YEARS, SIBERIAN HERMIT BEGINS TO SOCIALIZE
A local game warden in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Yurii Kurs, recently made the acquaintance of one of the last living representatives of a clan of Siberian hermits, Faina Basalaeva, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 May. Basalaeva's father took her, her six sisters, and her mother to live in the Eastern Sayan Mountains in 1934, some 77 kilometers from the nearest homestead, in a flight from what he called the "godless world." All family members were forbidden to leave their home and passed time by reading old books -- many of them published in the 18th century. Basalaeva is the last remaining family member and has started to contact outsiders only recently. Her strength is declining, and she is having trouble tending the only remaining livestock, but she does not plan to abandon her family's home. JAC

RUSSIAN SECURITY OFFICIALS BRIEF PRESIDENT ON CHECHNYA, GEORGIAN BORDER
President Putin met on 6 May with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and FSB director Nikolai Patrushev to solicit their impressions of their visit the previous day to Chechnya, Russian media reported. Putin also inquired specifically what measures have been taken to tighten security on the Russian-Georgian border. (Two Armenian brothers from Akhaltsikhe in southern Georgia were detained on the Georgian-Russian border on 6 May trying to enter the Russian Federation illegally hidden in the trunk of a car, Caucasus Press reported.) Putin commented that it is "too early" to raise the question of transferring responsibility for the "antiterrorism" campaign in Chechnya from the FSB, which took over that responsibility from the Defense Ministry in January 2001 (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 4, 25 January 2001) to the Interior Ministry. Patrushev had suggested on 5 May that the Interior Ministry could take control of operations by the end of this year, according to Interfax. Patrushev also briefed Putin on the success of efforts to persuade Chechen fighters to disarm. On 4 May, a group of 37 fighters surrendered to Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov in the latter's home village of Tsentoroi, Russian media reported. LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT CONVENES COUNCIL OF WAR
Aslan Maskhadov held an emergency meeting of Chechen field commanders in southern Chechnya on 5 May, chechenpress.com reported on 7 May. Those in attendance included Shamil Basaev, whom Russian army Chief of General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin said on 30 April had been killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2002). Basaev issued an impassioned appeal for unity, which he said the Russian "occupiers" fear "above all." But Maskhadov did confirm Russian media reports, which a senior Chechen military commander denied last week, that Chechen National Security Minister Aydamir Abalaev, who was commander for the Nozhai-Yurt sector, has been killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2002). Maskhadov named Mokhmad Khambiev to take over command of that sector. LF

ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN DECLINE TO JOIN TOTAL BAN ON DEATH PENALTY
While Armenia remains committed to abolishing the death penalty, it will not sign the new protocol No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights in the near future, Deputy Foreign Minister Armen Martirosian said in Yerevan on 6 May, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That protocol bans the death penalty even in time of war or under "exceptional circumstances." Armenia, together with Azerbaijan and six other Council of Europe members, declined last week to sign Protocol No. 13. Nor has the Armenian parliament ratified Protocol No. 6 banning the death penalty, although no death sentences have been carried out since 1990. The Azerbaijani daily "Ekho" on 4 May quoted Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliev as saying that Azerbaijan "was not invited" to sign the protocol, while Gultekin Hadjieva, who is a member of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said Azerbaijan will sign it only after it has liberated the seven districts currently under Armenian control, Turan reported on 4 May. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S CHIEF MUSLIM CLERIC RETURNS HOME TO FACE NEW CRITICISM
Sheikh ul-Islam Allakhshukur Pashazade, who heads the Muslim Religious Board of the Caucasus, returned to Baku on 4 May after four weeks of medical treatment in Germany, Turan reported. On 3 May, Alinovruz Ibragimov, the former head of the Adjarbey mosque, wrote to President Heidar Aliev accusing Pashazade of condoning the misappropriation of funds and of appointing "illiterates" as heads of religious communities. Ibragimov called for an investigation of Pashazade's activities. Keston News Service suggested in March that Rafik Aliev, the chairman of the State Committee for Relations with Religious Organizations established last summer (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 30,16 August 2001) may be campaigning to limit Pashazade's power. LF

AZERBAIJAN DENIES POLLUTING CASPIAN
Environment Minister Hussein Bagirov denied on 6 May that the development of Azerbaijan's offshore Caspian oil fields is a major source of pollution of that sea, Interfax reported. He said that 85-90 percent of pollution is caused by waste products from large rivers that flow into the Caspian, in particular the Volga and the Kura, which flows from Armenia via Georgia into Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani officials last month blamed Armenia for high levels of pollution in the Kura, but later rejected an Armenian proposal for joint monitoring of the pollution level (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April 2002). Guseinov said on 6 May that Azerbaijan does not blame Georgia for the pollution of the Kura. LF

OIL THIEVES DAMAGE OIL-EXPORT PIPELINE IN GEORGIA
Thieves have tapped into the Baku-Supsa oil-export pipeline in western Georgia, but caused only minor damage and an insignificant spill of oil, Caucasus Press reported on 7 May. It was the first such occurrence during the three years since the pipeline was commissioned. LF

JOINT PATROL ESTABLISHES PRESENCE OF ARMED GEORGIANS IN KODORI
A patrol of the upper reaches of the Kodori Gorge conducted from 3-5 May by members of the UN Observer Mission and the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone established the presence in the upper reaches of the gorge of 120 Georgian border guards and a 300-strong detachment of armed local residents, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May, quoting a spokesman for the CIS peacekeeping force. Also discovered was an arms cache containing three mortars and some 600 mortar shells. Under an agreement signed on 2 April, Georgia pledged to withdraw from the gorge the 350 Georgian army troops it had deployed there last fall. A Georgian spokesman said the Georgian side "did not have time" to remove the mortars and mortar shells. The patrol found no trace of Chechen militants in Kodori. On 7 May, Abkhaz Deputy Defense Minister Givi Agrba criticized the recent patrol as "ineffective," arguing that "it is not difficult for the Georgian side to cheat the observers and hide its troops in the forests," Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR GUERRILLAS
Eduard Shevardnadze on 6 May expressed his support for a "strong and united" guerrilla movement composed of former Georgian residents of Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported. A guerrilla movement that numbers only a handful of individuals is useless, Shevardnadze added. Also on 6 May, Imereti Governor Temur Shashiashvili told journalists in Kutaisi that Shevardnadze will participate in a special forum devoted to Abkhazia to be held "soon." Addressing a gathering of Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia on 26 November 2001, Shashiashvili had issued an ultimatum to the Georgian leadership to persuade the international community to pressure the Abkhaz to accept a peace settlement within six months. Shashiashvili vowed that if those efforts failed, he would personally lead a guerrilla campaign to restore Tbilisi's control over Abkhazia by force. On 6 May, Shashiashvili again warned that there is no longer any chance of solving the Abkhaz conflict peacefully. He warned that the world will be faced with "another Afghanistan" unless Russia coerces Abkhazia to agree to a settlement, repeating that his ultimatum expires on 26 May. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEPUTY TO SEEK PRESIDENT'S IMPEACHMENT...
Azimbek Beknazarov, whose arrest and trial earlier this year sparked the nationwide protests that culminated in the clashes on 17-18 March between police and demonstrators in Djalalabad Oblast's Aksy Raion, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 6 May that he has begun collecting the 31 signatures required to establish a special parliament commission charged with launching impeachment proceedings against President Askar Akaev. Beknazarov argued that several grounds exist for impeachment: he claimed Akaev violated the constitution by ceding Kyrgyz territory to China; by violating human rights; by being elected three times, in 1991, 1995 and 2000, although the constitution allows one individual to serve only for two presidential terms; and by giving the order to police to open fire on demonstrators in Aksy on 17 March. LF

...WHILE AKSY RESIDENTS WANT HIM TO RESIGN
Meanwhile, Aksy residents held a series of public meetings on 3-6 May at which they demanded both Akaev's resignation and that parliament should embark on the process of impeaching him, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They also pledged to begin a new wave of protest actions on 13 May that they will continue until Akaev steps down. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT ASKS PARLIAMENT TO RATIFY BORDER AGREEMENT WITH CHINA...
In an address to both chambers of the Kyrgyz parliament on 7 May, President Akaev asked deputies to ratify the 1999 border agreement with China under which Kyrgyzstan ceded to China some 95,000 hectares of disputed territory, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Akaev said that he wants the agreement ratified before the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit scheduled to take place in St. Petersburg in June. LF

...AS KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES REFUSE TO PARTICIPATE IN TV DISCUSSION
Ismail Isakov and Absamat Masaliev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 6 May that they have turned down an invitation to join a televised debate with Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev and government department head Salamat Alamanov on the disputed Sino-Kyrgyz border agreements. The two deputies said they had initially been informed that the debate would be broadcast live, but then on 6 May they were told it would be prerecorded. They therefore decided not to participate, fearing that whatever they said would be cut so as to give the impression that they support the government's territorial concessions to China. LF

PASSENGER TRAIN TRAFFIC RESUMES BETWEEN TAJIKISTAN AND RUSSIA
The first passenger train left Dushanbe for Russia via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan on 3 May after a two-month suspension, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Moscow ordered a temporary suspension of passenger traffic between the two countries in March on hygiene and sanitary grounds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2002). Tajik Railways responded by modernizing two trains and will also improve a third. There will now be one train in each direction per week, which Tajik officials say is not enough to meet demand from unemployed Tajiks hoping to travel to the Russian Federation in search of summer employment. The train fare to Astrakhan is 126 somonis ($46.6), while the black-market price for an air ticket from Dushanbe to Moscow is $170-$200. On 6 May, police in southern Kazakhstan intercepted a truck transporting 58 Tajiks en route for Russia, Asia Plus-Blitz reported the following day. Only 44 of the detainees had a valid passport and only one had the necessary permit to enter Kazakhstan. LF

BELARUSIAN EDITOR FIRM ON LAUNCHING NEW PUBLICATION
Mikola Markevich, whose weekly "Pahonya" was closed down by court order last year (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 February 2002), has applied to the authorities in his home city of Hrodna with a request to launch a new newspaper, "Holas" (Voice). According to Belarusian regulations, Markevich needs approval from local officials prior to applying to the Justice Ministry for registration. Since the closure of "Pahonya," he has made two unsuccessful attempts to start new periodicals. Both times, the city authorities rejected the titles he suggested: "Hazeta Pahonya" as nearly identical to the name of his closed paper, and "Muzhytskaya Prauda" (Peasant's Truth) as identical to the newspaper published in the 1860s by Belarusian anti-tsarist rebel leader Kastus Kalinouski. Markevich and former "Pahonya" journalist Pavel Mazheyka are facing charges of slandering President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. If convicted, they may face up to five years in prison. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER PREFERS CABINET TO PARLIAMENT
Premier Anatoliy Kinakh, who was elected to the Verkhovna Rada from the For a United Ukraine election list, has announced that he will give up his parliamentary mandate and continue to work in the government, UNIAN reported on 7 May. Kinakh told 1+1 Television the previous day that he sees his role in the government in consolidating the country's rate of economic development, which he called one of the highest in Europe. Deputy Premier Volodymyr Semynozhenko also decided to resign his parliamentary seat and remain in the government. JM

ESTONIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS AMENDMENTS TO STATE BUDGET LAW
President Arnold Ruutel refused on 6 May to sign amendments to the State Budget Act, which the parliament had passed on 17 April, declaring that they contradicted the constitution, BNS reported. Article 115 of the constitution states that the parliament shall pass as a law the budget of all state revenues and expenditures for each year, but the amendments leave out state-levied fees and fines from the state budget. The amendments permit the government to allocate a greater part of the state budget through the government's budget, which is approved after the state budget without the parliament's consent. Ruutel noted that the amendments also do not require the state budget to come in force at the beginning of the fiscal year as the constitution obliges. He suggested that the parliament again discuss the amendments to the law and several other laws to bring them into conformity with the constitution. SG

DELEGATION FROM TATARSTAN VISITS LATVIA
A delegation from the Republic of Tatarstan began a four-day visit to Latvia on 6 May by meeting with representatives of the construction department at the Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry, LETA reported. Zufar Zainullin, the director of the retail center "Tatarstan-Baltija," noted that the historical centers of Riga and Kazan are included on the UNESCO cultural heritage list and that officials of the two cities share the problem of how to reconcile the renovation of historical buildings with the requirements of modern architecture. The delegation is scheduled to travel to Ventspils on 8 May to become acquainted with the development and architecture of the city. SG

IMF URGES LITHUANIA TO INTRODUCE REAL ESTATE TAX
In concluding the work of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) assessment mission that arrived in Lithuania on 25 April, its head, Patricia Alonso-Gamo, held separate talks on 6 May with President Valdas Adamkus, Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite, and Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, ELTA reported. The IMF officials gave a positive evaluation of the country's macroeconomic performance in the first quarter of the year, the successful transfer of the pegging of the litas from the U.S. dollar to the euro, and other ongoing reforms of the tax system. They recommended that Lithuania should strengthen the control over municipal finances and suggested introducing a real estate tax to increase municipal budgets. SG

REPORT ON POLISH 'FLAGSHIP' STATE-RUN COMPANIES SHOWS 'MULTIMILLION' LOSSES
Polish Television revealed on 6 May that a recent governmental inspection found that "almost all" of the 22 examined state-treasury "flagship" companies were badly run and incurred "multimillion" losses during the tenure of the former, Solidarity-led government. Prime Minister Leszek Miller pledged that a report on the inspection will soon be available to the public. Polish Television mentioned the Post Office, Polskie Sieci Energetyczne (national power grid), and the National Lottery among the firms that incurred the heaviest losses. JM

NEW CHIEF OF POLISH AIR FORCE PLANS JOB CUTS
General Ryszard Olszewski, the new commander of the Polish air force, has announced that the lack of money necessitates widespread job cuts in the force, PAP reported on 6 May. Restructuring the air force requires that 1,800 career soldiers and officers are to leave it by the end of 2003. In addition, 3,000 draftees and 2,200 civilian workers will be sent home by that time. Olszewski also said foreign training offers for Polish pilots are too expensive. In particular, a two-year NATO training program for pilots costs $2.5 million per person. "We can manage to train more cheaply at the same level of excellence," Olszewski said. JM

POLISH GOVERNMENT SETS UP STEEL CONGLOMERATE
The government on 6 May set up the Polskie Huty Stali (PHS) company (Polish Steelworks Company), which is intended to consolidate Poland's biggest steelworks: Katowice Steelworks, Sendzimir Steelworks in Krakow, Florian Steelworks in Swietochlowice, and Cedler Steelworks in Sosnowiec, PAP reported. Deputy Economy Minister Andrzej Szarawarski called the consolidation of the steelworks a "historic moment." He noted that the PHS privatization, in which a strategic investor will eventually hold a 51 percent stake, could take place as early as this year. Szarawarski also announced that, as of June, the government intends to introduce measures to protect the Polish steel market, similar to those used by the European Union in response to U.S. duties on steel. JM

CZECH LEADERS REACT TO FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS EYEING DOMESTIC ELECTIONS
Prime Minister Milos Zeman said on 6 May that the victory of French President Jacques Chirac over National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 5 May runoff was expected and that, "everybody knew that a postfascist politician can hardly win in France," CTK reported. Zeman also said that the Czech Social Democrats (CSSD) "can...learn from the French elections...that the left can successfully compete against the right only if it is represented by one party." Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus said Chirac's victory shows that Le Pen's support is "low," and added that the results represent "a nail in the coffin for the French Socialists." Miroslav Sladek, leader of the far-right Republicans of Miroslav Sladek, said Le Pen scored an "excellent" result that, Sladek hopes, may bring about the return of the National Front to the French National Assembly. MS

ODS CRITICIZES HAVEL STATEMENT ON CHOOSING PREMIER AFTER ELECTIONS
ODS Deputy Chairman Ivan Langer said on 6 May that President Vaclav Havel intends to manipulate the results of the June parliamentary elections, CTK reported. Langer was responding to a statement by Havel at a meeting with leaders of the Coalition on 3 May that he would nominate as premier the head of the party that has the best chance of successfully building a parliamentary majority. "If the president does not ask the strongest party to form the government," Langer said, he would be "laughing in the face of the voters," telling them that no matter whom they vote for Havel "will eventually decide who will govern." ODS Chairman Klaus refused to comment on Havel's statement, short of saying that the president "motivates us to gain 51 percent of the vote -- then all will be clear." MS

PRAGUE POLICE HEADED BY FORMER STB AGENT
The daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 7 May that it has been confirmed that Radim Chyba, head of Prague police, is a former communist secret police (StB) agent, CTK reported. The daily first reported on the link two weeks ago. It now reports that Interior Ministry officials gave Chyba a copy of his own "positive screening certificate" on 6 May, and quotes the Prague city councilor in charge of police as saying that Chyba has confirmed this and will announce his resignation on 7 May. When "Mlada fronta Dnes" first reported on his association with the StB, Chyba called the report "nonsense" and added, "I insist that I received a negative certificate." He could not, however, produce that certificate, which he claimed to have lost. MS

SLOVAK POLITICIANS SAY FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS TEACH SLOVAKIA A LESSON
Deputy Premier Maria Kadlecikova, who is in charge of European integration, said on 6 May that Slovaks must learn from the French presidential elections not to cast their ballot for extremist parties, CTK reported. She added that the September parliamentary elections in Slovakia are a contest in which not only a new parliament and a new government are at stake, but also Slovakia's accession to NATO and the European Union. Jan Figel, Slovakia's chief negotiator with the European Union, said the French electoral outcome indicates that only Slovak nonextremist parties can successfully promote the goal of EU accession. The French result was also welcomed by Movement for a Democratic Slovakia parliamentary deputy Olga Keltosova, who said extremism and populism are a danger not only in the new democracies in the East, but also in established democracies in Western Europe. MS

SLOVAK SUPPORT FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP GROWING
Some 61 percent of Slovaks are in favor of their country joining NATO, while 34 percent are opposed, CTK reported on 6 May, citing the results of a poll carried out by the Defense Ministry. Defense Minister Jozef Stank said he aspires to 65 percent backing, which would ensure that all Slovak political parties "would respect the wish of our citizens." Only the Slovak National Party and the Real Slovak National Party openly oppose NATO accession. MS

SLOVAKIA WILL NOT POSTPONE VISEGRAD-BENELUX SUMMIT
A Slovak government spokesperson said on 6 May that Slovakia will go ahead with staging a summit of premiers from the Visegrad Four and Benelux countries on 24-25 May, CTK reported. The agency said a request for postponing the summit came from the likely new Hungarian premier, Peter Medgyessy, who explained that it is not certain that the new Hungarian government will be formed by the time the summit convenes in Trencin, western Slovakia. However, Martin Maruska, a spokesman for Premier Mikulas Dzurinda, said on 6 May that the summit has been planned for a long time and that Medgyessy will be invited "whether as premier or as an honored guest." Outgoing Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban recently said he has not yet decided whether to attend the summit. MS

HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT CONFERS WITH PARTIES ON NEXT GOVERNMENT
At the 15 May inaugural session of parliament, President Ferenc Madl will ask Socialist Party prime-ministerial candidate Medgyessy to form a government, Madl personally told Medgyessy on 6 May. The president indicated his intentions after holding separate talks with the heads of the parliamentary parties, Hungarian media reported. Medgyessy said he would accept the nomination, adding that a new government could be formed by the end of May. The composition of the next government will be decided by 15 May, but the names of ministers will not be made public until the inaugural parliamentary session, Medgyessy concluded. MSZ

HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS ELECT PARLIAMENTARY GROUP LEADER
The Socialist Party (MSZP) on 6 May formed its parliamentary group, electing as its leader Deputy Chairwoman Ildiko Lendvai, Hungarian media reported. "Hard work and iron discipline" will be required in the group, said Lendvai, adding that its members will not be permitted to skip votes unless they are receiving hospital treatment. Members who neglect their duties will be punished with minimum fines of 50,000 forints ($185), she said. In other news, MSZP Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said on 6 May that he has heard that FIDESZ is attempting "to buy Socialist politicians," adding that he has asked MSZP deputies to indicate if they have received such offers. FIDESZ Chairman Zoltan Pokorni responded by saying that Kovacs's comment was an obvious lie designed to maintain MSZP unity. MSZ

REMAINS OF SOVIET SOLDIERS FOUND UNDER BUDAPEST MEMORIAL?
Military historians will identify the skeletal remains of 15 to 20 bodies discovered beneath a Soviet war memorial in the center of Budapest, AP reported on 6 May. The skeletons were found when the large marble memorial was dismantled to allow work for an underground parking garage. The monument was erected by Soviet World War II occupation authorities in 1945 to commemorate the more than 80,000 Soviet soldiers who died during the siege of the city. "We are 90 percent certain that these are the remains of Soviet soldiers who died during the Second World War," said Tibor Somogyi, an official in charge of the exhumation for the Budapest Funeral Institute. "But after talks with the Russian Embassy, we have agreed to call in military experts to confirm the identification of the remains before they are buried in a Budapest cemetery," he said. MSZ

ROBERTSON: AL-QAEDA STILL ACTIVE IN BOSNIA...
The "Financial Times" reported on 7 May that "Al-Qaeda is still operating in Bosnia even though NATO has disrupted much of its communications, arrested several of its members, and carried out deportations." NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson told the daily that there is "no assumption [that Al-Qaeda has] gone away. We are still on alert. We know there are people out there, planning and plotting." He added, "There is a lot of ongoing work in Bosnia and elsewhere. The detection is still going on. People are being apprehended. Some of the cells have been broken up in Bosnia. We continue to track them, find them, arrest them, and deal with them" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2002). PM

...BUT LEAK BY NEWSPAPER MAY SPOIL INVESTIGATION
An unnamed member of the federal government's Fight Against Terrorism team said on 7 May that a planned investigation of Islamic charities may be called off before it starts, dpa reported. An article that morning in the daily "Oslobodjenje" reporting on the investigation served to tip off the charities, which will now have enough time to hide or destroy evidence before the investigators can start. The planned targets of the inquiry were the charities High Saudi Committee, Human Appeal International, Human Relief International, and the International Islamic Relief Organization. Also on the list were Active Islamic Youth, the scholarship agency NEDWE, and an organization known as Dzematu-ul-Furqan. Reuters reported later in the day, however, that the investigation will go ahead. PM

RUGOVA CALLS MILOSEVIC A LIAR
In the second day of Kosova President Ibrahim Rugova's testimony at the war crimes trial of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, Rugova said in The Hague on 6 May that responsibility for the 1999 genocide in Kosova lies with Milosevic, RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 2002). "The facts I know are those that I have seen, those that have happened. The accused had the office he had. He was president, commander in chief of the armed forces, and head of the police of Belgrade. This doesn't need further comment." Milosevic later challenged Rugova: "You came to me asking me to save you and your family from a possible assassination perpetrated by the [Kosova Liberation Army]. Look me in the eyes, and tell me whether that is true or not." Rugova then replied: "That is not true. I don't want to use any insults here, but I would say that this is nothing but a lie." The Kosovar president added: "I was never afraid of being killed by any Albanians," the "Financial Times" reported. PM

DEL PONTE VISITS CROATIAN MASSACRE SITE
Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal, visited for the first time the sites relating to the Vukovar massacre, in which several hundred Croatian civilians and wounded soldiers were killed by Serbian forces in 1991, AP reported on 7 May. The previous day, Del Ponte discussed questions relating to Croatia's cooperation with the tribunal with Prime Minister Ivica Racan in Zagreb, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

WAR OF WORDS BETWEEN CROATIA AND SLOVENIA
The Croatian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 6 May that it has not changed its stand on the 2001 draft agreement between Croatia and Slovenia on determining their joint border, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 August 2001). The statement added, however, that Croatia remains open to the idea of international arbitration. Some top Slovenian officials have charged in recent days that Croatia may be backing away from the agreement in hopes of getting a better deal through arbitration, Hina reported from Ljubljana on 7 May. PM

FOUR DEAD IN ALBANIAN KIDNAPPING
An attempt by two men to kidnap a young woman in Divjaka and sell her into prostitution ended in four deaths, including that of one of the two kidnappers, the woman's parents, and a man whose van the kidnappers stole, AP reported from Tirana on 6 May. The second kidnapper is in serious condition after crashing the van into a wall. The 18-year-old woman was shot in the leg and is undergoing hospital treatment. Prime Minister Pandeli Majko called the kidnapping "a terrible incident." He added that, "trafficking in human beings is a serious problem of the Albanian community." He also said the authorities will do all they can to combat the problem. PM

PRINCE CHARLES OPPOSES DRACULA PARK
Great Britain's Prince Charles opposes the government's plan to build an amusement park with a Dracula theme in the medieval town of Sighisoara, AP reported on 6 May. A statement released by the London-based Mihai Eminescu Trust, of which Prince Charles is patron, said, "the proposed Dracula Park [is] wholly out of sympathy with the area and will ultimately destroy its character." The trust said the project would "be a tragic loss for local inhabitants and for Europe as a whole." The British heir apparent traveled across northwestern Transylvania on 4-6 May, revisiting a cluster of Saxon villages he hopes to restore and reinvigorate. Charles has been a supporter of the Romanian countryside since the 1980s, when dictator Nicolae Ceausescu launched an operation to demolish Romanian villages. On 6 May, Charles visited the 15th-century Bontida Castle near Cluj, which was destroyed during World War II and plundered under communism. MS

TRANSDNIESTER BLOCKS RUSSIAN AMMUNITION EVACUATION
Transdniester officials on 6 May blocked a Russian train loaded with some 500 tons of artillery shells and rockets, as the train was about to exit the Russian contingent's Kolbasna military depot, dpa reported, citing Interfax. Transdniester officials again said that the reason for blocking the withdrawal of the equipment was Moscow's failure to abide by its obligation to cancel $100 million from the debt owed by the region for gas deliveries by Gazprom. MS

U.S. GOVERNMENT AGENCIES TO OPEN LIAISON OFFICES IN BULGARIA
Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Boyko Borisov said on 5 May that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will open liaison offices in Sofia, "Dnevnik" reported. Borisov spoke upon his return from a seven-day official visit to the United States. "At the moment, FBI agents are coming to Bulgaria who will help the National Service for Combating Organized Crime (NSBOP)," Borisov said. He added that for six months already a consultant of the U.S. services has been working in Bulgaria to support the Center for Combating Human Trafficking. In Washington, Borisov held consultations with representatives of the Secret Service about the scheduled visit of Pope John Paul II to Bulgaria. UB

RUSSIAN CONSORTIUM ANNOUNCES INTEREST IN BULGARTABAK
The Russian tobacco consortium Metatabak on 3 May officially announced in Sofia that it will participate in the bidding for the state owned Bulgartabak Holding, "Dnevnik" reported. Consortium representative Georgi Tasev told a press conference that Metatabak is willing to pay whatever sum necessary for Bulgartabak. He said Metatabak is confident that there is a large market for Bulgarian cigarettes in Russia. Among the owners of Metatabak is the Russian businessman Michael Chernyi, who holds 35 percent of the consortium. Bulgarian authorities in September 2000 barred Chernyi from entering Bulgaria. Apart from Metatabak, nine foreign investors have announced their interest in Bulgartabak, including Deutsche Bank, Raiffeisenbank Austria, and British-American Tobacco. UB

There is no End Note today.


XS
SM
MD
LG