BUSH SAYS THAT STRATEGIC-ARMS REDUCTION TREATY READY TO BE SIGNED...
U.S. President George W. Bush told reporters on 13 May that the United States and Russia have agreed to a strategic-arms treaty, which will be signed during the summit in Moscow and St. Petersburg later this month, cnn.com reported the same day. He said the treaty would limit each side to from 1,700 to 2,200 warheads and that it would represent a "new era" in relations between the two countries. "The new era will be a period of enhanced security, economic security, and improved relations," Bush said. Meanwhile, speaking on Vladimir Posner's political talk show "Times" on ORT on 12 May, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell also expressed confidence that an accord will be signed at the summit. Powell also said that the accord should reflect the new relations between the two countries, which are now "friends and partners, not enemies..." He added that, as far as U.S.-Russian policy goes, the Russian Foreign and Defense ministries probably have fewer policy differences with one another than the U.S. State Department has with the Pentagon. But he emphasized that different approaches toward Russia are part of the democratic process and that they help Bush to determine his political course. RC/VY
...AS IGOR IVANOV NOT SURE ABOUT FORM OF BILATERAL ACCORD...
Also appearing on Posner's "Times" talk show, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that the two countries have yet to agree on whether the pending U.S.-Russian accord will take the form of a treaty or an agreement. "If it is a treaty, it would require a two-thirds vote of the legislature for ratification. If it is an agreement, only a simply majority [will be needed]. Taking into account the importance of the problem, we prefer a treaty," Ivanov said. VY
...AND DENIES NUCLEAR-TESTING REPORT...
Ivanov also denied an 11 May report in "The New York Times" that cited U.S. intelligence sources who claimed that Russia is planning to resume nuclear testing at the Novaya Zemlya test ground. "Such statements are unfounded," he said, adding that the Russian government intends to ask the U.S. administration to look into the source of the report. He said that unfortunately "such reports are often groundlessly repeated" in Congressional committees. VY
...AND ELABORATES ON MINISTRY'S MISSION
In a long and wide-ranging interview with "Vremya novostei" on 13 May, Ivanov stated that there is much more to his work than just politics. Speaking of his recent trip to the United States, Ivanov said that he was "very satisfied" with his meetings with representatives of the Russian diaspora in San Francisco (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2002) and said that Russian culture is "a powerful weapon that we are not using adequately." Ivanov also noted the growing importance of business and economics, saying "today the lion's share of the Russian president's negotiations concern concrete economic matters." He added that "the support of Russian business" is now a priority for his ministry and that "it is nice that the leaders of the major companies come and consult with us." RC
COOPERATION IN FIGHT AGAINST INTERNATIONAL CRIME GETS BOOST
The first session of a joint U.S.-Russian working group on transnational crime began in Moscow on 13 May, Russian and Western news agencies reported. According to ITAR-TASS, the two-day session will focus on improving coordination of investigations into leaders and members of international criminal groups. The American delegation is headed by Michael Welch, deputy head of the FBI's organized-crime department, and includes FBI specialists on automobile theft and computer crime, strana.ru reported the same day. The meeting is expected to result in a formal protocol on cooperation, and the next session of the working group is scheduled to take place in the United States in 2003. RC
DAGHESTAN OFFICIALS CALL FOR DEATH PENALTY FOR TERRORISTS
The State Council and the National Assembly of Daghestan met in a special session on 13 May to discuss the 9 May explosion in the Caspian seaport city of Kaspiisk, Russian and Western news agencies reported the same day. Lawmakers issued an appeal to President Vladimir Putin to reinstate the death penalty for those responsible for the explosion, which killed 42 and wounded more than 130. "Criminals staging terrorist acts similar to the one in Kaspiisk have no right to mercy," State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov said, according to AP. Officials also criticized law enforcement agencies, saying that their lack of vigilance contributed to the explosion. Mukhu Aliev, the head of Daghestan's parliament, alleged that some police officials collaborate with terrorists, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May. "If we call terrorists 'scum,' how should we call those who help them? Even harsher penalties must be imposed on those people," Aliev said, according to the news agency. RC
RUSSIAN ENERGY GIANTS MAKE LIST OF 500 LARGEST GLOBAL COMPANIES
Four Russian energy companies have been included in a list compiled by the "Financial Times" of the 500 largest global corporations, "Vremya novostei" reported on 13 May. Yukos, with a total capitalization of $18.7 billion, was the highest-ranking Russian company in 227th place. Gazprom ranked 250th, while Surgutneftegaz came in 344th and LUKoil came in 362nd. The newspaper noted that the appearance of the Russian companies on the prestigious list can be attributed to the relative reduction in capitalization of leading transnationals because of the downturn in the global economy and the relatively rapid growth of the Russian energy companies. Meanwhile, the magazine "Kommersant-Dengi" will publish its lists of the world's largest companies, Europe's largest companies and Eastern Europe's largest companies on 15 May, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 May. VY
GAS GIANT TO KEEP EMBATTLED AUDITOR...
Gazprom announced on 13 May that it would retain PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as the auditor of its 2002 results, despite the opposition of minority shareholders, Dow Jones reported the same day. The company said that PwC had won the tender over KPMG and that the decision will be submitted to the board of directors for approval. According to Dow Jones, the decision is a blow to a campaign against PwC spearheaded by fund manager Hermitage Capital Management, which has filed suit in a Moscow court alleging that PwC filed "false and misleading audits" in the late 1990s and 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 April 2002). RC
...AS SLAVNEFT PROMOTES EMBATTLED EXECUTIVE
An extraordinary meeting of Slavneft shareholders in Moscow on 13 May elected Yurii Sukhanov to be the company's next president, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Sukhanov, who previously served as a company vice president, is the target of a criminal investigation that was launched on 7 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2002) into allegations of abuse of office, fraud and embezzlement. Sukhanov's candidacy was supported by the State Property Fund, which controls more than 55 percent of the company, strana.ru reported on 8 May. RC
THIEF EXPOSES YAWNING SECURITY GAPS AT NUCLEAR-SUBMARINE BASE
The case of a thief in the northern city of Severodvinsk has raised serious questions about security at two of the country's most important defense contractors, pravda.ru reported on 10 May. According to the website, a local court last October sentenced 24-year-old Andrei Vekshin to three and half years in prison for breaking into the top secret Severomorskii Mashinostroitelnyi Zavod (Sevmash) and the Zvezda nuclear submarine shipyard and stealing computer equipment. During the court hearings, it was revealed that Vekshin had managed to penetrate the maximum-security perimeters of both defense contractors repeatedly since 1996. He was never caught, but eventually surrendered himself to the authorities, pravda.ru reported. According to the website, officials at the facilities do not believe that Vekshin was a spy or that he was connected with any terrorist groups. VY
DATE SET FOR KRASNOYARSK ELECTION
The Legislative Assembly of Krasnoyarsk Krai has decided to hold the election for governor on 8 September, rosbalt.ru reported on 13 May. The only major faction that opposed the date was the Communists, who argued that the vote should be scheduled "as late as possible," the website reported. The election is being held to replace Governor Aleksandr Lebed, who was killed in a helicopter accident on 28 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 2002). RC
CHERKESOV TAKES AIM AT YAKOVLEV
The main political achievement of Viktor Cherkesov, presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District, over the last two years is "the gradual removal from key municipal posts of 'people loyal to Governor [Vladimir] Yakovlev,'" izvestiya.ru wrote in a profile of Cherkesov on 12 May. Six months ago, the website noted, Cherkesov reported that a number of high-profile investigations were underway throughout the northwest region, including St. Petersburg. Since then, the Northwest Prosecutor-General's Office has publicly announced corruption investigations of four of Yakovlev's deputy governors. The website argued that relations between Yakovlev and Cherkesov were "strained," but noted that the two men were seen seated together at a recent event, something that never happened previously. RC
RUSSIA TO INCREASE FOREIGN-DEBT PAYMENTS IN 2003
Russia will pay off about $17 billion in foreign debt in 2003, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Kolotulkhin told Prime-TASS on 13 May. Kolotulkhin said that the decision was motivated by expectations that interest rates in the United States will go up by the end of this year, leading to "growing expenditures on servicing foreign debt." Prime-TASS also reported that Russia intends to spend $14.2 billion on foreign-debt repayment this year. RC
CRIME PROBLEM CONTINUES TO WORSEN
More than 38 million Russians suffered as a result of crimes last year, according to presidential Ombudsman for Human Rights Oleg Mironov, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May. Mironov said that more than 150,000 people were killed or seriously injured as a result of criminal activity and that the problem continues to get worse with each passing year. Mironov said that he believes that Russian citizens are "not protected against terrorist acts and crimes," despite the fact that "the Interior Ministry is now larger than the Defense Ministry." RC
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION AGAIN DEMANDS PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION...
Between 4,000-6,000 people marched through central Yerevan on 10 May in the fifth of a series of weekly protests organized by 13 opposition parties to demand the impeachment of President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Armenian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8, 15, 22, and 29 April 2002). Participation was estimated as greater than at the 26 April demonstration, even though the authorities had withheld permission to stage the protest and warned the organizers they were acting illegally. Speakers at the protest, including People's Party of Armenia Chairman Stepan Demirchian and National Democratic Union leader Vazgen Manukian, accused the Armenian leadership of corruption and "illegal acts." Albert Bazeyan, one of the leaders of the opposition Hanrapetutiun party, said the parliamentary opposition will try to bring impeachment proceedings against Kocharian, and will launch a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience if it fails to do so. LF
...AS OPPOSITION POLITICIAN APPEALS TO INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
Speaking at a separate press conference in Yerevan on 10 May, National Unity Party Chairman Artashes Geghamian similarly said he hopes all parliament deputies who care about the fate of Armenia will support the initiative to impeach the president, Noyan Tapan reported. Geghamian said he has written to the ambassadors in Yerevan of all states that are OSCE members to protest the closure of the independent television station A1+ and what he claimed are instances of biased coverage by Armenia's state-controlled media of opposition activities. The National Unity Party is not one of the 13 opposition formations that are campaigning jointly to remove Kocharian. LF
ARMENIAN PRESIDENT RETURNS FROM SOUTH AMERICAN TOUR...
President Kocharian returned to Yerevan on 10 May after a weeklong tour of Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil during which documents on economic cooperation with all three countries were signed, according to Armenian agencies cited by Groong. Kocharian told journalists at Zvartnots Airport upon his arrival in Yerevan that the tour proved useful, and that participation in an economic forum in Brazil testified to an interest among that country's business community to invest in Armenia. LF
...DENIES KNOWLEDGE OF ILLEGAL EXPORTS TO IRAN
In his comments to journalists at Zvartnots, Kocharian declined to comment on reports that the United States has imposed sanctions on unnamed Armenian companies believed to be engaged in the illicit export to Iran of technology that could be used for the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction, according to Mediamax, as cited by Groong (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2002). "We must prove that this is not true. If it is, we will have to find out why it happened," Mediamax quoted him as saying. Armenia's declared exports to Iran in 2001 totaled $32.5 million and consisted of scrap metals, primarily aluminum and copper ($12 million), metal-cutting tools and copper ore, and small quantities of chemical substances including synthetic rubber, polymers, and oxides. Experts consulted by RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau say none of those substances can be used in the production of chemical weapons. LF
MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRS BRIEF IRAN ON KARABAKH MEDIATION
The French, U.S., and Russian co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group met in Paris on 10 May with Iranian special envoy Mahdi Safari to brief him on the Karabakh mediation process, according to the "Tehran Times" on 11 May, as cited by Groong. From 13-15 May, the co-chairmen will mediate talks in Prague between Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Tatul Markarian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Araz Azimov. LF
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY REGISTERED AFTER ONE-YEAR DELAY
Azerbaijan's Justice Ministry formally registered the Adalet Party on 8 May, 11 months after the party's founding congress and 10 months after it applied for such registration, Turan reported. The party has 76 regional branches and some 21,000 members. One of its regional leaders died in a prison hospital in February while serving a sentence handed down for participating in an unsanctioned demonstration in September 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2002). LF
POLICE THWART DEMONSTRATION IN BAKU SUBURB
Dozens of carloads of police descended on 12 May on the village of Nardaran on the outskirts of Baku to prevent residents holding a protest demonstration, Turan reported on 13 May. The villagers had called on 7 May for the resignation of the local mayor and a response by city officials to grievances they aired earlier this year, and warned that they would hold a demonstration on 12 May unless those demands were met (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 8, 28 February 2002, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April and 9 May 2002). LF
GEORGIAN SUPREME COURT REJECTS ELECTION BAN APPEAL
The Cassation Chamber of the Georgian Supreme Court rejected on 10 May an appeal by former parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania to overturn a ruling handed down one week earlier by a Tbilisi district court prohibiting Zhvania and his supporters from contesting the 2 June local elections in the name of the former majority Union of Citizens of Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Zhvania said he will appeal the Supreme Court's decision with the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg. The SMK is split into two rival factions: one continues to support President Eduard Shevardnadze, while the second, headed by Zhvania, has affirmed its opposition to the policies of the present Georgian leadership. A member of the pro-Shevardnadze faction filed a suit with the Tbilisi district court to prevent Zhvania's faction from participating in the 2 June election in the name of the entire party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2002 and "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 16, 10 May 2002). LF
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT FACTION CAMPAIGNS FOR REALLOCATION OF COMMITTEE CHAIRS
The "New Right Wing" (AM) parliament faction, whose nucleus split from the SMK in late summer 2000, succeeded last week in collecting the requisite 145 signatures in support of its demand that the chairmanships of the 16 parliament committees be reallocated to reflect the SMK's loss of its previous status as majority party, Caucasus Press reported. In addition, the AM wants the number of vice speakers increased from four to six. The chairmen of four parliamentary committees resigned on 8 May, and 11 of the remaining 12 committee chairs followed suit two days later, Caucasus Press reported on 10 May. The one chairman who refused to do so was Giorgi Baramidze of the Defense and Security Committee, who is a close political ally of Zhvania. The new committee heads are to be elected on 14 May. LF
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES MERGER OF TAX, FINANCE MINISTRIES
By a vote of 155 in favor to two against, deputies approved on 10 May the proposed merger of the Finance and Tax Incomes Ministries, Caucasus Press reported. President Shevardnadze fired both ministers earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2002). LF
GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DENY U.S. INSTRUCTORS MET WITH CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER
In separate statements on 10 May, Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze and Minister of State Security Vakhtang Khaburzania rejected as a hoax a report published the previous day in the "Georgian Times" that some of the U.S. military instructors who recently arrived in Georgia held a secret meeting at the Vaziani military base near Tbilisi with Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev, Caucasus Press reported. The "Georgian Times" reported one week earlier that some of the Georgian instructors had been sent to the Pankisi Gorge in northeastern Georgia to locate and neutralize Chechen fighters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2002). LF
RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS VIOLATE GEORGIAN AIRSPACE
Two Russian military helicopters entered Georgian airspace from Ingushetia in the late afternoon of 11 May and overflew a Georgian border post, Caucasus Press reported. On 10 May, Georgian Intelligence Service head Avtandil Ioseliani told Caucasus Press that Georgia intends to open additional checkpoints on its borders with Ingushetia and Chechnya. LF
EIGHT KILLED IN ACCIDENT AT KAZAKH COSMODROME
Eight construction workers were killed 12 May when the roof of an 80-meter-tall test hanger at the Baikonur cosmodrome in central Kazakhstan they were repairing collapsed, Russian and international news agencies reported. Six bodies have been recovered from the debris. According to, Sergei Gorbunov, a spokesman of the national space agency Rosaviakosmos, the facility formerly was used for Russia's Buran shuttle-type spacecraft, the only one of which to actually fly in space being in the building at the time of the accident. Baikonur's director, Leonid Baranov, said that a likely cause of the incident was the shoddy construction of the Soviet-era facility. NTV television reported on 13 May that Aleksandr Kotychev, the engineer in charge of security at the building, died overnight of a heart attack. VY/LC
KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT RATIFIES BORDER AGREEMENT WITH CHINA
The Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's legislature) on 10 May ratified the controversial 1999 border agreement whereby Kyrgyzstan cedes to China some 95,000 hectares of disputed territory, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 9, and 10 May 2002). Thirty-six of the 60 deputies voted in favor of ratification; deputies from the Kyrgyzstan and Communist factions said after the vote that they will appeal against it as border issues should be ratified by a two-thirds majority. President Askar Akaev and Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev personally attended the parliament session and asked deputies to vote in favor of ratification. LF
TAJIK PRESIDENT TELEPHONES WITH UZBEK, AFGHAN LEADERS
Imomali Rakhmonov reviewed with his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov on 8 May the implementation of previous bilateral agreements, and also discussed developments in neighboring Afghanistan, in particular preparations for the convening of the Loya Djirga, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Rakhmonov also had a telephone conversation the same day with Afghan Interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai that focused on the situation in Afghanistan and joint cooperation projects, including the building of a bridge over the Amu-Darya River. LF
TURKMENISTAN CRITICIZES U.S. FAILURE TO EXTRADITE FORMER MINISTER
In a commentary published in the government press on 10 May, a Turkmen official expressed incomprehension at Washington's failure to act on two Turkmen government requests for the extradition of former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, whom the Turkmen authorities have accused of the theft and sale of fighter aircraft and weapons valued at over $25 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2001). The article claimed that request was twice conveyed to U.S. Ambassador Laura Kennedy. The Turkmen government had earlier demanded Shikhmuradov's extradition from Moscow, where he settled last fall after resigning as ambassador to Beijing and announcing his open opposition to Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov. LF
GERMAN CHANCELLOR VISITS UZBEKISTAN
Gerhard Schroeder met in Tashkent on 10 May with Uzbekistan's President Karimov, to whom he expressed thanks for opening the Termez border bridge to Afghanistan to allow the transport of humanitarian aid and of supplies to Germany's contingent to the international antiterrorism coalition in Afghanistan, with whose members he met in Termez the previous day, Reuters reported. Schroeder also raised with Karimov Western concerns over human rights violations and restrictions on the media in Uzbekistan. In addition, he visited a German-Uzbek joint venture that manufactures plastic piping. LF
FORMER BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER'S FAMILY GRANTED POLITICAL ASYLUM IN GERMANY
Lyudmila Karpenka, the wife of former Belarusian opposition leader Henadz Karpenka, and her two children have been granted political asylum in Germany, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 10 May. Henadz Karpenka died in April 1999 in a hospital in Minsk under unclear circumstances. Some opposition activists do not rule out that Karpenka, the then-deputy speaker of the opposition Supreme Soviet, might have been killed for political reasons. "I do not feel any particular joy over my status [of a political refugee] because I think I'll come back [to Belarus]," Lyudmila Karpenka told RFE/RL. "However, under the Lukashenka regime, it is difficult to come back, because one must not only live but also fight." She heads the Henadz Lukashenka Fund, which supports civic and democratic initiatives in Belarus. JM
FOR A UNITED UKRAINE WANTS LYTVYN FOR PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER...
The newly elected Verkhovna Rada is to gather for its first session on 14 May. The pro-presidential For a United Ukraine bloc will propose Volodymyr Lytvyn, the former chief of the presidential administration, as its candidate for speaker, UNIAN reported on 13 May, quoting Ihor Sharov from For a United Ukraine. The leaders of the six forces represented in the parliament -- For a United Ukraine, Our Ukraine, the Communist Party, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the Socialist Party, and the Social Democratic Party-united -- were expected to meet later on 13 May to discuss rules of the game while electing the parliamentary leadership -- speaker and two deputy speakers -- and the heads of parliamentary committees. Their meeting on 10 May produced no agreement on the issue. JM
...WHILE YULIYA TYMOSHENKO BLOC WANTS KINAKH'S CABINET OUT
Yuliya Tymoshenko on 11 May announced that her parliamentary caucus will initiate the dismissal of the current cabinet led by Anatoliy Kinakh, UNIAN reported. Commenting on the statement by Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko that the government should report to the parliament about its activities, Tymoshenko said that her faction in the previous parliament had repeatedly declared its intention to initiate both the dismissal of Kinakh's government and the impeachment of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. The same day, Hennadiy Udovenko, the leader of the Popular Rukh of Ukraine (a constituent of the Our Ukraine bloc), said Our Ukraine is also in favor of replacing Kinakh's cabinet. Udovenko also noted that Our Ukraine will "most likely" support Ivan Plyushch, the speaker of the preceding parliament, as a candidate to head the current Verkhovna Rada. JM
RUSSIAN ORGANIZATION SEEKS NEW RUSSIAN SCHOOLS IN ESTONIA
Arkadii Prisyazhnyi, the chairman of the Union of Russian Compatriots' Association in Estonia, has said there are plans to establish Russian secondary schools in Tallinn and Narva that would follow the Estonian curriculum while paying more attention to teaching the Russian language and literature, "Eesti Paevaleht" reported on 13 May. Estonian and Russian authorities are both expected to support the schools financially. Former Education Minister Tonis Lukas has backed the plans, noting that the schools could receive aid from Russia in the form of language teachers and books that would both have to be registered with the Estonian Education Ministry. Prisyazhnyi declared his opposition to Russian higher-education schools establishing affiliates in Estonia, as this is not allowed under Estonian law. He expressed regret that the branches of several Russian-language universities in Estonia use Russian curricula and ignore the realities in Estonia, and suggested that one university be established from the 10 private higher-education schools currently in the country. They would remain independent, but there would be "an umbrella organization to check on what is being taught, and how," Prisyazhnyi said. SG
NATO DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS LATVIA
Robert Bell discussed Latvia's achievements in seeking NATO membership with Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins in Riga on 10 May, LETA reported. Bell praised the Latvian parliament for abolishing the language requirement for candidates to the parliament and local councils (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2002). Berzins noted that Latvia is actively cooperating with Russia and other CIS countries and willingly offers to share its experience in economic reform. In talks with Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, Bell spoke about the possible participation of Latvian scientists in NATO military programs. They also discussed the switching of the joint Baltic countries' monitoring system BALTNET to the integrated NATO air-defense system. Bell also held talks with National Armed Forces Commander Raimonds Graube about Latvia's arms policy and air-defense plans. SG
GERMAN BUNDESTAG CHAIRMAN PROMISES SUPPORT FOR LITHUANIA'S ACCESSION TO NATO
Wolfgang Thierse assured parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas in Zagreb on 10 May that Germany supports Lithuanian membership of NATO, ELTA reported. They were attending a conference of European parliament chairmen in the Croatian capital in which Paulauskas delivered a speech titled "Democracy Against Terrorism: National Strategies." Paulauskas also held separate talks with Croatian parliament head Zlatko Tomcic, Spanish Senate President Esperanza Aguirre Gil de Biedma, and Portuguese parliament leader Joao Bosco Soares Mota Amaral. Amaral vowed to form a group in the Portuguese parliament that would promote closer cooperation with the Lithuanian parliament, and invited Paulauskas to visit Lisbon. SG
POLISH PARLIAMENT ADOPTS ANTIDUMPING LAW
The Sejm voted 386 to zero, with three abstentions, to pass a law on 10 May making it possible for Poland to impose countervailing duties, both final and temporary, on subsidized imports until it joins the EU, PAP reported. Presenting the bill, deputy Zbigniew Kaniewski from the ruling Democratic Left Alliance told the parliament that the legislation will give the domestic industry a protective umbrella against losses that may be caused by imports subsidized by foreign governments. JM
POLISH PREMIER SEES INTEGRATION WITH EU AS 'PATRIOTIC TASK'
Premier Leszek Miller told a conference organized by the Roman Schuman Foundation in Warsaw on 12 May that Poland's integration with the European Union is a patriotic task, PAP reported. Miller confirmed his previous statement that he will resign if next year's referendum on Poland's entry to the union receives a negative result. According to Miller, between 2004-06 Poland may receive some 14 billion euros ($12.7 billion) from the European Union, and between 2007-13 more than 60 billion euros. JM
U.S. SOLDIERS INJURED IN CZECH TRAIN CRASH
Fourteen U.S. soldiers were injured on 10 May when a military train that was transporting equipment collided with a local Czech freight train near Karlovy Vary, CTK and international agencies reported. The U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division in Wuerzburg, Germany, said in a statement that three of the soldiers were airlifted to a Prague hospital, where they were admitted for treatment and observation, but added that "none of the injuries is life-threatening." The military train was traveling from a U.S. air base in Germany. Some 2,000 U.S. soldiers are to take part in training exercises with their Czech NATO allies this week. The Czech engineer of the freight train was killed in the accident. A spokesman for Czech Railways said the accident was "apparently due to human error." MS
MECIAR BLASTS ATTEMPTS TO LINK SLOVAK NATO ADMISSION TO HIM...
Former Premier Vladimir Meciar said on the private Joj television channel on 12 May that an attempt is being made to "abuse" Slovakia's bid to join NATO in order to "exert pressure on voters" to refrain from supporting his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) in the upcoming parliamentary elections, CTK reported. The former premier said NATO can tell Slovakia "yes or no," but cannot tell the country "Meciar: yes or no." He said he is not aware of "any marked opposition" to him from abroad and added, "The main sense of democracy is...freedom of choice being the basis from which everything must stem." He also said the HZDS sees no alternative to NATO accession. A public opinion poll conducted by MVK shows that if presidential elections were held today, Meciar would garner 24 percent of the vote, followed by Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan (12.5 percent) and incumbent President Rudolf Schuster (12.3 percent). MS
...BUT BRZEZINSKI BEGS TO DIFFER
Speaking on Markiza television on the same day, former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said NATO is not exerting pressure on Slovak voters, but that the alliance has a right to decide what members to admit, CTK reported. He added that the criteria for admission include respect for the rule of law and for constitutional provisions, and refraining from misusing intelligence services. MS
SMK ELECTS BUGAR AS HEAD OF LIST
The National Council of the Slovak Coalition Party (SMK) on 11 May elected Chairman Bela Bugar to head the SMK list in the upcoming September parliamentary elections, CTK reported. Bugar ran unopposed. The council also backed the SMK leadership's positions on last month's controversial statements by Deputy Chairman Miklos Duray (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 25 April 2002). Bugar said that Duray is no longer allowed to speak in the name of the SMK unless his speech has been cleared by the party leadership. Bugar also said the SMK lists will be finalized in the next days. MS
SLOVAKS CELEBRATE WORLD ICE HOCKEY TITLE
Tens of thousands greeted Slovakia's national ice hockey team with a hero's welcome on 12 May upon the team's return from Sweden, where it won the World Ice Hockey Championship with a 4-3 victory over Russia the previous day, international news agencies reported. Throughout Bratislava, people celebrated the victory by honking their car horns and carrying Slovak flags. Police reported scattered incidents of violence on 12 May that were attributed to drunkenness. MS
HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS APPROVE COALITION WITH FREE DEMOCRATS
An extraordinary conference of the Socialist Party on 12 May voted to allow prime-ministerial candidate Peter Medgyessy to accept his likely nomination by President Ferenc Madl to form a government, Hungarian media reported. The party conference also voted to allow Medgyessy and party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs to sign a coalition pact with the Free Democrats. Medgyessy told the conference that his future government will keep its word, will be transparent, and will take action against corruption regardless of whether it occurred in the past or if it proceeds from its own ranks. For his part, Kovacs said the Socialist-Free Democrat coalition represents the only possibility for removing the present government. The Free Democrats will hold their party conference on 26 May to approve the coalition pact, and the new government is due to be formed by 27 May. MSZ
HUNGARIAN EXTREMIST LEADER SEES DARK FUTURE
Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) Chairman Istvan Csurka on 10 May said he foresees "a dark, reactionary, violent, and dictatorial era that will result in the total destruction of the Hungarian people and the loss of its living space," Hungarian media reported. Speaking in the city of Debrecen, Csurka said that the Free Democrats were the actual winners of last month's elections, because with the 5.5 percent support they received they will basically control five ministries and have a decisive influence in the remaining ministries. Csurka also said that MIEP supports a FIDESZ initiative that seeks a recount of the votes cast in the April election. MSZ
NATO WANTS CROATIA TO JOIN ITS 'ACTION PLAN'
An unnamed U.S. State Department official told Reuters in Washington on 10 May that the Atlantic alliance will ask Croatia to join its Membership Action Plan (MAP), a preliminary stage in the runup to full membership. The invitation will be made at NATO's upcoming ministerial meeting in Iceland. The official added, "We would not expect Croatia to be among the countries invited at Prague [in November]. They know that. They are coming into [the NATO admission process relatively] late, but they will be invited to join the MAP." The key elements in the action plan are bringing one's armed forces up to NATO standards and ensuring civilian control over the military. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 11 May that broader political and strategic considerations in the post-11 September world have prompted efforts within NATO to speed up the pace of expansion, even if some of the candidates have not yet met all the criteria for membership. Croatia, Macedonia, and Albania hope to join NATO in the next round of expansion after the Prague summit, at which Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Romania are considered the most likely contenders. PM
PATTEN: NO WEST BALKAN COUNTRY READY FOR THE EU
Chris Patten, who is the European Union's commissioner for foreign affairs, said that none of the western Balkan countries engaged in the stabilization and association process is ready for EU membership, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Banja Luka on 13 May. When asked about Bosnia's chances, Patten replied that the postcommunist countries that are now approaching membership began under circumstances considerably better than Bosnia's and have taken 10 years to reach where they are now. PM
BALKAN COUNTRIES TO WORK AGAINST CIGARETTE SMUGGLING
At a meeting in Prishtina on 10 May, representatives of Kosova, Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Serbia agreed to cooperate against cigarette smuggling, which is a significant source of lost revenue throughout the region, AP reported. Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova, said, "We agreed that we can't tackle this crime just individually. We have to do it as a region." The problem is endemic throughout the Balkans, where much of the population smokes and through which smuggling routes to the European Union pass. The United Nations estimates that smuggling costs Kosova alone over $18 million in lost revenues each year. Former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's son Marko and several top officials of the Milosevic regime have been linked to cigarette smuggling, as have some top criminals in Croatia and Kosova. It is widely believed that some of Montenegro's current leaders made fortunes in smuggling cigarettes and gasoline during the 1991-1995 conflict. PM
FURTHER CUT IN RUSSIAN FORCES IN KOSOVA
As part of Moscow's effort to scale down its military presence in the Balkans in order to concentrate its resources elsewhere, a further 1,200 Russian personnel will leave Kosova by 1 July, ITAR-TASS reported from Moscow on 13 May, citing an unnamed source in the General Staff. The withdrawal will leave only 600 Russian troops in the province (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 May 2002). The Russian military hospital in Fushe Kosova will remain under Russian military command but will be financed by UNMIK and be open to more people from UNMIK, KFOR, the international police, and the local population. PM
UNHCR CONTRADICTS COSIC
A spokeswoman for the UNHCR said on 10 May that two-thirds of the 3,600 refugees who have returned to Kosova since the conflict are Serbs, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Belgrade. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is Belgrade's point man for Kosova and southern Serbia, has said that only 150 Serbs have returned. PM
MACEDONIAN POLITICIANS REACH COMPROMISE ON ELECTORAL LAW
After months of haggling, leaders of the main ethnic Macedonian and Albanian political parties reached agreement on electoral legislation on 11 May, dpa reported. President Boris Trajkovski said, "This law will improve democracy, stability, interethnic relations, and the prosperity of Macedonia." U.S. envoy James Holmes added, "Even though this political agreement sets the stage for the free, fair, and democratic elections, the international community should keep its presence in Macedonia." Alain Le Roy, who is the EU's special envoy, told the BBC that the fact that the agreement has been reached shows how much progress Macedonia has made in the past nine months. Trajkovski said the government and parliament will approve the measure in the next few days. The long-awaited parliamentary elections are slated for 15 September. Many observers had feared that delays in passing electoral legislation would make it difficult to hold free and fair elections. PM
MACEDONIAN TRADE UNIONS BLOCK ROADS
Workers of loss-making enterprises blocked main thoroughfares throughout Macedonia on 10 May, the daily "Dnevnik" reported. The protesters demanded changes to the laws dealing with employment and with unemployment insurance. They also called for efforts to revitalize their enterprises. "The blockade is a warning signal to the government and the parliament to stop [playing games with] the employment law" to the detriment of the workers of loss-making enterprises, said Union of Trade Unions in Macedonia (SSM) leader Vanco Muratovski. The SSM also announced another wave of protests for the coming weeks. On 20 May, the SSM plans a large-scale strike of some 80,000 people employed in education, justice, administration, health care, and defense. UB
SERBIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER ON MISSION TO MACEDONIA
Covic arrived in Skopje on 12 May to discuss "unresolved issues" stemming from the 2001 border agreement between Yugoslavia and Macedonia, dpa reported. He is scheduled to meet with Trajkovski, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, and members of the Serbian minority. The Kosovars do not recognize Belgrade's right to conclude border agreements affecting Kosova and discussed the issue in the parliament recently (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 May 2002). PM
PAPAL ENVOY INVITES SERBIAN ORTHODOX LEADERS TO VISIT VATICAN
In Belgrade on 11 May, Cardinal Walter Casper met Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle and invited a delegation of the Holy Synod to visit the Vatican, AP reported. The Holy Synod consists of bishops and is the Serbian Orthodox Church's leading body. The cardinal also brought Pavle "warm greetings from Pope John Paul II." Since his election to the papacy in 1978, the Polish pontiff has sought to heal the rift between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy, which he has likened to the two lungs of one and the same body. One of his first trips abroad as pope in 1979 took him to Istanbul for a meeting with Greek Orthodox leaders. His overtures have met with mixed results, however. John Paul II has visited Romania, Greece, Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia, and is scheduled to go to Bulgaria soon. But there were protests against his visits in Greece and Ukraine in particular. He has frequently noted that the Russian Orthodox Church has remained cool to his overtures. PM
SERBIAN GOVERNMENT BROKE?
Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said in Zajecar on 12 May that the government has no program for unemployed workers because it has no money, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM
VUK DRASKOVIC RALLIES THE CHETNIKS
More than 20,000 people attended a mass meeting of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) in Ravna Gora over the weekend, "Vesti" reported on 13 May. Draskovic has recently drawn large crowds at his rallies in provincial centers. The SPO was the only major Serbian opposition party that did not join the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition in 2000. The SPO fared poorly in the polls, but some observers have suggested that Draskovic may now seek to capitalize on the discontent of voters who expected much from DOS and are disappointed. PM
MONTENEGRIN ELECTION CAMPAIGN ENDS
Campaigning has finished for the 15 May local elections, which are widely expected to affect the formation of a new governing coalition, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Podgorica on 12 May. Some 311,000 registered voters will cast their ballots in 19 districts. At present, President Milo Djukanovic's coalition has a majority in 11 of the districts. PM
NATO FINDS ARMS CACHES IN MUSLIM PART OF MOSTAR
A spokesman for SFOR said in Mostar on 12 May that NATO troops have found two arms caches in the local tobacco factory and in another building nearby in recent days, Reuters reported. The haul yielded, among other things, some 5,000 mortar shells, as well as unspecified quantities of explosives, gunpowder, and other ammunition. Officials from both the factory and the Muslim-Croat federal military denied any knowledge of the caches. PM
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT OPTIMISTIC ON REYKJAVIK OUTCOME...
President Ion Iliescu said on 10 May in New York that he is optimistic that the NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Reykjavik later this week will have a positive outcome for his country, Romanian radio reported. Iliescu said that the southern-tier NATO states in Europe are all backing Romania's candidacy and the northern-tier countries, "while preferring the Baltic states, are not opposed" to Romania's membership. Iliescu, who attended the U.S. General Assembly special debate on children, also met on 11 May in Detroit with representatives of General Motors Corp., and said after the meeting that he hopes the U.S. automaker will invest in Romania. He also met in Detroit with representatives of the Romanian diaspora. The meeting was marred by an incident in which three people shouted "Communist!" and "KGB-ist" at Iliescu. MS
...WHILE GEOANA DOES THE LOBBYING...
Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, who accompanied Iliescu on his U.S. visit, met in Washington on 11 May with representatives of the U.S. administration, pleading Romania's case for joining NATO, Romanian radio reported. Geoana also met with U.S. senators, with whom he discussed the situation in the Middle East and the likelihood of convoking an international conference for reaching a peace settlement in that region. Geoana also discussed the situation in the Middle East with representatives of the American Jewish Committee. MS
...AND TACKLES ECONOMIC ISSUES
Geoana also discussed with U.S. officials Romania's drive to have its status upgraded to a state with a free-market economy, which would be advantageous for the country's exports to the United States. As a first successful step in that direction, the U.S. authorities agreed to lift antidumping measures on two Romanian steelmaking companies, Romanian radio reported. MS
ROMANIAN PREMIER SAYS WORLD BANK ROW EXAGGERATED
Adrian Nastase said on 10 May that the dispute with the World Bank that led to the suspension of parleys with Bucharest by the bank is a "minor problem" whose importance is being "exaggerated," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He said the negotiations with the bank have been "practically finalized," and "all that remains to be done is to solve differences of opinion with the International Monetary Fund concerning layoffs in state-owned companies " (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2002). The premier added, however, that his cabinet is "determined to take the decisions on the evolution of the Romanian economy by itself," although it will "take into consideration as much as possible the views of international financial organizations." The National Liberal Party said on 12 May that the World Bank's decision to suspend discussions is a "clear sign that the cabinet is not trusted to fulfill its assumed obligations," and the Democratic Party said the suspension has been prompted by the cabinet's wage policies and nontransparent privatizations, the bureau reported. MS
CONTROVERSIAL ROMANIAN GENERAL ELECTED HEAD OF PUNR
Retired General Mircea Chelaru was elected on 11 May as the new chairman of the extraparliamentary Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), Romanian radio reported. Chelaru, who was forced to resign from the army last year because of his participation in a ceremony commemorating Marshal Ion Antonescu's execution in 1946, will have outgoing PUNR leader Valeriu Tabara as his deputy chairman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2001). MS
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE REFUSES TO COMMENT ON U.S. SANCTIONS...
Presidential adviser Victor Doras refused to comment on 10 May on the U.S. government's decision to impose sanctions on Moldovan companies suspected of having supplied weapons technology to Iran, Flux reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2002). MS
...WHILE OPPOSITION PARTIES SPEAK UP
Popular Party Christian Democratic Chairman Iurie Rosca said that his formation will question the government in parliament regarding the affair, Flux reported. Rosca said that if it turns out that if even "one of the companies" suspected of supplying weapons technology to Iran is based in Chisinau-controlled territory rather than in the Transdniester, the affair will "become scandalous." Rosca said that it has "long been known" that "mafia groups" from Moldova are engaged in arms trafficking to "conflict hotbeds" around the world, and that "these groups would not be able to do so if they had no links to political circles in Chisinau." Braghis Alliance Chairman Dumitru Braghis said the U.S. decision will affect not only the suspected companies but "Moldova as a whole," and that the government must "act urgently to avoid any accusation of direct links to Iran." MS
BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER UNLIKELY TO RUN FOR A SECOND TERM
In an interview with the weekly "Kapital" of 10 May, Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski signaled that he will not run for a second term. Asked what he thinks about the chances that he would participate in the next parliamentary elections due in 2005, Saxecoburggotski answered: "Well, first you have to have in mind my age -- I am almost 65. I believe that at the age of 70, one is ripe for pension... I personally believe that if we can cope with the issues of the current mandate, the self-sacrifice was already quite great... As I told you, I do not have any obsessive political ambitions. For me it would mean such a great satisfaction and pleasure if we could handle [the issues of the current term] and really see that our society is on an upswing." UB
BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH POPE JOHN PAUL II
On the occasion of Saints Cyril and Methodius Day on 11 May, an official delegation headed by Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi met with Pope John Paul II in Rome, BTA reported. After the meeting, Pasi told journalists that, "What impressed me most was his [John Paul's II] enthusiasm for his upcoming visit to Bulgaria [23-26 May]. He studies the Bulgarian language and will address the Bulgarian people in their own language." According to Pasi, John Paul II offered to assign the Church of San Vincenzo di Anastasi, which is located in the center of Rome, to Bulgaria. In Bulgaria and other Slavic-speaking Orthodox countries, Saints Cyril and Methodius are regarded as the founders of the first Slavic alphabet. UB
SIX SHOTS, SIX QUESTIONS, ONE ANSWER
The assassination of Dutch far-right leader Pim Fortuyn has left the Dutch astonished and European left-of-center democrats disoriented. The motivations of the assassin are, as yet, unclear. But regardless of whether they are ultimately clarified, the event poses several questions and urgently demands some soul searching.
First, is "demonization" of those who are perceived as the worst adversaries of democracy legitimate? The answer must be "yes." Those now attempting to lay the blame for Fortuyn's murder on the critics of what he stood for must be simply told that history would have been different had an assassin pulled the trigger on Hitler. This is not "incitement to murder." Nothing legitimizes taking another life. But democracy must defend itself, if need be with (among other things) harsh words. The danger that some lunatic may take those words too far is no different than the danger that some other lunatic would try to personally carry out the policies advocated by the Dutch leader. To demand verbal restraint from one side and defend the right of free speech of the other is a perfect recipe for suicidal democracy.
A second question is far more difficult to answer. What makes the Pim Fortuyns, the Jean-Marie Le Pens, the Istvan Csurkas, and the Corneliu Vadim Tudors at this early stage of the millennium such a widespread phenomenon? So far, the answers offered are unsatisfactory. Disillusion with the failures of "established" politicians to cope with the problems they face is undoubtedly part of the answer. But there have always been, and always will be, segments of the population that are dissatisfied, because someone must always pick up the bill during transformation, and the modern world is one in which transformation never stops. Voters are being told that polarization in society unavoidably creates monsters. But what brought Le Pen into the recent runoff with French President Jacques Chirac was precisely the withering away of real polarization, with the left trying to sell itself as right and vice versa. The Third Way might have brought Tony Blair to power in Britain and the model certainly helped Germany's Gerhard Schroeder gain power, but sooner or later an electorate -- any electorate -- will face options again. Disillusion with the moderate right has propelled the Blairs and the Schroeders into power but how long will it keep them there? The Le Pens of this world become an option not because the polities are polarized but because they are insufficiently polarized. When Tit looks like Tat and Tat acts like Tit, the Le Pens gain credibility.
In turn, this raises the question of "What is to be done?" Leninist or not, the query invites another question: "Who's to do it?" Obviously, in a democratic system it is "you and me." The collective sigh of relief with which the results of the French presidential runoff were met is telling. "You and I" can do it, it would seem. The same sigh, at least in the West, has been known to have welcomed the outcome of the Hungarian elections last month. A former liberal politician, young and charismatic, had transformed himself in that country into a populist with strong nationalist tones, one who calls himself a conservative but advocates etatist policies and would not hesitate to appeal to the utilitarian use of extreme nationalism and, if need be, to forge alliances with the likes of Csurka. Viktor Orban lost (barely), but the young generation strongly supported him, seemingly unbothered by his courtship of ethnicity as the core of politics. What, then, will happen four years from now? Winston Churchill is reported to have said that oppositions never win elections -- it is only the governments that lose them. Is the re-polarization of politics by governments the solution, then? This is precisely the recipe applied by Orban, who "out-Csurkaed" Csurka, presenting the other side as the embodiment of evil and the communist past and being responded to in kind. This did away with the presence of Csurka's Justice and Life Party in the Hungarian parliament, but only as a result of "over-participation" in the elections. Csurka, in fact, drew approximately the same number of votes as four years earlier, only this time around it was insufficient to pass the 5 percent threshold for parliamentary representation due to the high turnout. Votes that would presumably have gone to him went to Orban. Reason for rejoicing? Hardly so, bearing in mind that four years is a short time in life and politics alike.
If under-participation is a sure sign of disillusionment with politics and over-participation an indication of a heated political environment on the verge of explosion; if "consensual politics" expands the lines of the disillusioned; and, last but by no means least, if the "eastern" side of the continent (in which does NOT include the relatively advanced Hungary) faces the same problems as the western side, only at a tenfold intensity due to backwardness and scarce resources, what is Europe likely to look like 20 years from now?
Should one replace Francis Fukuyama's "The End of History" with the "Repetition of History" -- with the caveat that, in a fully "un-Marxist" manner such a repetition would hardly be "tragicomic"?
Perhaps all of the six questions above have one answer, just as Fortuyn's assassin had one target. It is high time to remember that from time immemorial world politics, and political philosophy in its wake, has seen the confrontation of two outlooks: one that places the individual at its center and one that centers on the community. Modern extremism is the exacerbated form of the latter, transferred, as the 11 September events demonstrated, from the national to the international environment. If one is at least capable of recognizing one's enemy, democracy still has a chance. And that enemy is one who speaks in terms of "we," never in terms of "I." Unless one returns to "square one," we may all end in "ground zero." There is no legitimacy for assassination, but neither is there any legitimacy for incitement to hatred based on communal values.