PUTIN CONTINUES BID TO RECONCILE INDIA AND PAKISTAN...
Looking "with a heavy heart" at the escalation of tensions in Southwest Asia, President Vladimir Putin called on Indian and Pakistani leaders to do everything in their power to defuse the situation, Western and Russian news agencies reported on 4 June. Putin, who has been actively trying to mediate the evolving crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2002), said that he expects Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to demonstrate the same wisdom that U.S. and Soviet leaders showed during the 1961 Cuban missile crisis. On the same day, Putin met with Musharraf in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and passed along the concerns about the crisis shared with him by Western leaders during the recent NATO and EU summits. Putin told reporters that he believes Musharraf will lead the region away from confrontation, and stressed Pakistan's important role in the international antiterrorism coalition. VY
...IN REPEAT OF SOVIET EXPERIENCE IN 1966
A former translator for the Soviet government, Viktor Sulkhodrev, recalled the Soviet Union's successful mediation of an India-Pakistan crisis 35 years ago in a 2 June interview with polit.ru. In January 1966, the Kremlin invited Indian leader Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistani President Ayub Khan to Tashkent, where USSR Council of Ministers Chairman Aleksei Kosygin practiced shuttle diplomacy between the residences of the two leaders for two weeks before bringing about a face-to-face meeting and the signing of a reconciliation document. "Novye izvestiya" on 31 May editorialized, however, that Putin will be unable to duplicate Kosygin's success because Russia currently has little influence in the region. VY
FSB INTERCEPTS DEADLY TOXIN BEFORE IT REACHES TERRORISTS
Federal Security Service (FSB) operatives arrested a security officer at a facility decommissioning old nuclear submarines after he and several accomplices tried to sell approximately five kilograms of thallium, an extremely dangerous toxic metal, pravda.ru reported on 30 May. The thallium, which was removed from the submarines, is so toxic that just 0.0004 milligrams of it in a cubic meter of air is considered an environmental hazard. Therefore, the amount of thallium seized in this operation would have been enough to poison the entire population of Moscow, the web site noted. The investigation is still under way and most of the details have not been released, but it is known that Al-Qaeda terrorists have studied the use of numerous deadly toxins, including thallium. VY
FSB GENERAL TAKES CHARGE OF RTR'S REGIONAL RELATIONS
FSB Lieutenant General Aleksandr Zdanovich, who formerly served as the service's chief spokesman, has been appointed as deputy director of the VGTRK state broadcasting company, which runs the national television channel RTR, Russian news agencies reported on 3 June. Zdanovich is a KGB veteran who joined the Soviet secret police in 1972. From 1995 to 1999, he worked as the head of the FSB Public Relations Center and since then has been chief of a newly created entity called the Directorate of FSB Programs Promotion. As VGTRK deputy director, Zdanovich will be in charge of resolving conflicts between RTR's many regional subdivisions and local authorities, strana.ru reported. RTR's editorial content is controlled by the federal government and the views expressed on its programs frequently clash with the opinions and policies of local officials. Gazeta.ru speculated that the "unusual" appointment was made because "soon there will be a series of regional gubernatorial elections, in connection with which the heads of VGTRK subdivisions might come under pressure from regional heads." VY
PRIME MINISTER'S VISIT A 'TURNING POINT' IN RUSSIA-BULGARIA RELATIONS
Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski began four days of talks in Moscow on 3 June that President Putin described as "a turning point" in bilateral relations, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Putin noted that there had been "a certain decrease in economic ties" between the two countries in 2001 compared to 2000, but added that "positive tendencies" have been observed since Saxecoburggotski was elected, ITAR-TASS reported. The news agency reported that one topic of conversation was restarting construction of a nuclear-power plant in Belene, Bulgaria, work on which was halted in 1990. During the visit, the two countries are expected to sign a bilateral declaration on trade, economic, and scientific cooperation; an interdepartmental agreement on cooperation between the two countries' culture ministries; and a supplement to the Agreement on the Settlement of the Mutual Obligations between the Russian Federation and Bulgaria. RC/UB
RUSSIANS DO NOT OPPOSE CONSTRAINTS ON MASS MEDIA...
Fifty-seven percent of Russians believe that the mass media need some kind of state censorship, according to a poll carried out in May by monitoring.ru, ntvru.com and "Ekho Moskvy" reported on 30 May. According to the national poll of 1,354 people, women (61 percent) and the elderly (67 percent) are most likely to support the introduction of some sort of censorship. However, it is notable that 53 percent of respondents in the 25-34 age bracket also endorsed the idea. VY
...AS YAVLINSKY EXPLAINS WHY
Commenting on the monitoring.ru findings, Yabloko faction leader Grigorii Yavlinsky told "Ekho Moskvy" on 30 May that there is no need to introduce censorship, since the state already fully controls the major national television channels ORT and RTR. "Such topics as corruption, Chechnya, the import of nuclear waste, and inflation are simply not discussed on these channels," he said. Yavlinsky added that popular calls for censorship merely reflect the widespread perception that the media show too much violence and pornography. VY
RUSSIA, TURKEY DISCUSS MILITARY-HELICOPTER DEAL...
Chief of the General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin on 4 June began talks with his Turkish counterpart, General Huseyin Kivrikoglu, about extended bilateral military ties, Russian news agencies reported. The focus of the talks is the joint Russian-Turkish production of 130 combat helicopters for Turkey at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion. Russia is competing for the tender against the United States and France. VY
...AS PUTIN IMPOSES SECRECY OVER WEAPONS EXPORTS
President Putin issued a decree allowing the Committee for Military-Technical Cooperation with Foreign Countries (KVTS) to classify data concerning weapons export as state secrets, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 3 June. The committee already classifies information about Russian arms supplies to China as secret at the request of Beijing. The immediate result of Putin's measure will be that any public evaluation or analysis of Russian exports can now be treated as a matter of "divulging state secrets," the newspaper noted. VY
ECONOMIC ADVISER URGES SLASHING STATE SECTOR
President Putin's chief economic adviser Andrei Illarionov said on 3 June that the state sector of the economy should be reduced by 50 percent over the next decade, ITAR-TASS and strana.ru reported. He noted that during 20 years of successful economic reform in China, annual state spending had been cut from 38 percent of GDP to 13 percent. He said that over the last two years in Russia, there has been an expansion of the state sector and that this is the main brake on economic development. "A significant portion of Russia's national resources are distributed through non-market mechanisms and this, naturally, leads to inefficiencies in the economy," Illarionov said. RC
CITIZENSHIP BILL BECOMES LAW
President Putin on 3 June signed into law a government-sponsored bill on acquiring Russian citizenship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April and 11 May 2002), Western and Russian news agencies reported. According to ITAR-TASS, Putin told a cabinet meeting that the new law will "regulate immigration in the interests of the Russian citizen, but, at the same time, not shut the door on our ethnic kin." Experts estimate that more than 4 million ethnic Russians have immigrated to Russia from other former Soviet republics over the last decade. RC
DRAFT RESOLUTION ON 'DISCRIMINATORY' LATVIAN POLICIES PROPOSED IN DUMA
A group of deputies from the Duma's International Affairs Committee has introduced a resolution "on the discriminatory policies of Latvian official institutions regarding Latvia's Russian residents," BNS reported on 3 June. The resolution states that the already complicated situation of Russian-speaking residents in Latvia worsened considerably after the Latvian parliament passed amendments to the constitution in April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2002) that bolstered the status of Latvian as the state language and effectively banned the use of Russian in legislative and executive bodies and local governments. The Duma resolution claims the amendments were aimed at the "forced assimilation of Russians and Russian-speakers in Latvia." SG
RUSSIAN, TAJIK AUTHORITIES COOPERATE AGAINST DRUGS
In the course of an 18-month joint operation, Russian and Tajik law enforcement authorities have arrested 25 alleged drug dealers reportedly belonging to about a dozen drug mobs in Moscow and Moscow Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 June, citing officials in the Tajik Interior Ministry. Colonel Alikhon Rakhmonov, chief of the ministry's drug-control department, told the news agency that the arrests included ethnic Tajiks, Russians, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Ukrainians, and Afghans and that 86 kilograms of heroin were seized during the operation. RC
MIRONOV CALLS FOR MORE PETERSBURGERS IN GOVERNMENT...
In a wide-ranging interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 3 June, Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov said that he believes the upper chamber of parliament will become an elected body within three years. He spoke out against the presidential appointment of regional governors, saying that anything other than direct elections would be "undemocratic." Mironov also unexpectedly stated that he believes there are "not enough representatives of St. Petersburg" working in the federal government. "Our city was conceived by Peter the Great as a 'forge of personnel' and it has done a good job of executing this task.... I would remind you that Leningraders have always been loved for their spirituality and the way they relate to people. Luckily, these qualities have been preserved, including among officials and politicians," Mironov said. RC
...AND MORE GOVERNORS FROM THE FSB
In separate comments to polit.ru on 2 June, Mironov said that he sees no reason why members of the state security organs should not become regional governors if voters select them. "If a former member of the security organs becomes governor then, since he has complete information, it is easier for him to resolve concrete issues and to anticipate hidden currents." Mironov said that regional voters "make their choices under democratic conditions" and that no "public-relations tricks, even the most sophisticated, can deceive the people." On 19 May, local FSB chief Viktor Maslov was elected governor of Smolensk Oblast after a scandal-ridden campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2002). RC
NTV BROADCASTING LICENSE RENEWED
The government extended the broadcast license of NTV on 3 June, Western and Russian news agencies reported the next day. "After consultations and despite the fact that NTV's activities have sometimes violated current legislation, we decided to continue NTV's activities for another five years," Media Minister Mikhail Lesin told journalists. Russian media had speculated that the ministry's delay in renewing the license and several public statements that cast doubt on the outcome were tactics intended to frighten the station and its general director, Boris Jordan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2002). RC
WOMAN INJURED BY BOOBY TRAP TO BE TREATED IN ISRAEL
The Moscow woman who was seriously injured on 27 May when a booby-trapped anti-Semitic sign exploded as she attempted to remove it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 May) was taken to Israel on 4 June for treatment of her injuries, AP and Interfax reported. The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia will pay all the costs of Tatyana Sapunova's treatment for burns, including plastic surgery at a Tel Aviv clinic. RC
CHECHEN FOREIGN MINISTRY APPEALS TO POWELL
In an "Urgent Statement" dated 31 May, the Chechen Foreign Ministry recalled U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's recent appeal to Russian forces in Chechnya to abide by the highest standards of human rights. The statement urged Powell to insist that President Putin halt the ongoing Russian sweep operation in the village of Mesker-Yurt, during which some 200 inhabitants have been detained and transported to an unknown destination (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2002), noting that the operation reflects the tactics used by Serbs against Bosnian Muslim civilians in 1995. On that occasion, the statement said, international protests constrained then Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic from employing such tactics. The statement further appealed to Powell to demonstrate "moral courage" and publicly criticize Russia's military tactics in Chechnya as his predecessor, Madeleine Albright, did. LF
CHECHEN VICE PREMIER PREDICTS WAR IN INGUSHETIA IN FALL
In an interview published in the 27 May edition of "Novaya gazeta," Akhmed Zakaev predicts that, "having already taken out of Chechnya all there was to take," the Russian military will devise a pretext for extending the conflict into Ingushetia in the late summer or early autumn. Zakaev also said that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov will reject any offer from President Putin of peace talks, as he believes that Russia would not abide permanently by any peace agreement, but would simply begin a new war against the Chechens within a few years. LF
COURT RULES OUT NEW PSYCHIATRIC EXAMINATION FOR MURDERER OF CHECHEN GIRL
The North Caucasus Military Court on 3 June rejected a request for a repeat psychiatric evaluation of Colonel Yurii Budanov, who is on trial for the murder of a 16-year-old Chechen woman in March 2000, Russian agencies reported. The request was filed by a lawyer for the murdered girl's family, who reject a ruling by psychiatrists from Moscow's Serbskii Institute that Budanov was "temporarily insane" at the time of the killing. At a press conference in Moscow on 3 June, human rights activists and independent psychiatrists questioned the validity of the Serbskii Institute's findings, noting that members of its staff were notorious for their willingness to diagnose Soviet-era dissidents as mentally ill and incarcerate them in psychiatric hospitals. LF
ARMENIA TO OPEN CONSULATE IN KRASNODAR KRAI
An Armenian parliament delegation headed by Commission on Foreign Relations Chairman Hovannes Hovannisian has traveled to Krasnodar Krai for talks with local officials on the problems facing the local Armenian population (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April and 17 May 2002). The Armenians met with Krai Governor Aleksandr Tkachev and the ataman of the Kuban Cossack Host, Vladimir Gromov, according to Arminfo on 31 May, as cited by Groong. Gromov reportedly classified the region's Armenian population in three distinct groups. He said that those Armenians whose descendants had moved there centuries ago, and those who resettled there in the 1950s, pose no problems for the local authorities, unlike more recent settlers, some of whom he termed illegal immigrants, whose presence and successful entrepreneurial activities have created tensions between them and the local Russian population. The Armenian delegation reached agreement with Tkachev that Yerevan will open a consulate in the krai and maintain direct contacts with the Krasnodar administration, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 3 June. LF
CLOSED ARMENIAN TV STATION TO LAUNCH NEWSPAPER
The staff of the independent TV station A1+, which was forced to cease broadcasting in April after its broadcast frequency was awarded to a rival station in a controversial tender (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 April 2002), plan to launch a daily newspaper within the next two weeks, A1+ Director Mesrop Movsesian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 3 June. Movsesian said that the daily will be funded by A1+ and the recently founded Armenian Fund for Press Freedom, and its content "will be the same program reproduced on paper with the same style, same position." A1+ has a reputation for critical but objective coverage of internal political developments. The paper will be named "Ayb-Fe" after the station's popular news program. LF
NUMEROUS POLICE WOUNDED IN FIGHTING WITH AZERBAIJANI VILLAGERS
One person died of injuries received late on 3 June during a clash between police and 100-200 residents of the village of Nardaran on the outskirts of Baku, Turan reported. Police had cordoned off the village earlier that day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2002), and then arrested seven villagers for having allegedly tried to pressure a local administrator to resign. The fighting began at nightfall when police entered the village, firing into the air. According to an Azerbaijani Interior Ministry statement, villagers retaliated by throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at police. Thirty-nine police were hospitalized; up to 20 villagers were also injured, and four police cars destroyed. The villagers staged several protests against appalling socioeconomic conditions earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 8, 28 February 2002). President Heidar Aliev refused on 4 June to comment on the violence, and postponed from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. local time a scheduled meeting with participants in Baku's annual Oil and Gas Exhibit in order to attend an emergency meeting with police and security officials to discuss the situation in Nardaran, Turan reported. LF
GEORGIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR REPEAT LOCAL ELECTIONS...
National Movement-Democratic Forum Chairman Mikhail Saakashvili and the leader of the opposition wing of the divided Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK), Zurab Zhvania, gathered on 3 June outside the State Chancellery in Tbilisi with some 400-600 supporters to demand the results of the previous day's local elections be annulled and repeat elections held, Caucasus Press and Reuters reported. They also demanded that those ministers, regional governors, and other senior officials who, they claimed, were responsible for widespread fraud be held accountable. Meanwhile, Louis Roppe, head of the Council of Europe mission that monitored the ballot, said the elections were badly organized and marred by "chaos" at polling stations and a "deplorable" failure to provide up-to-date lists of eligible voters, Caucasus Press reported. Roppe expressed disappointment that "the democratic process in Georgia has so far failed to match the people's aspirations," Reuters reported. In a statement released in London on 4 June, the British NGO LINKS characterized the elections as "the lowest point in Georgia's political evolution since the adoption of the country's constitution in 1995." "The organization of the electoral process was abysmal and fell far below even the standards of previous elections held in Georgia since 1995," the LINKS statement said. LF
...AS PRESIDENT ADMITS VIOLATIONS TOOK PLACE
In his weekly radio address, which he postponed from Monday 3 June to Tuesday 4 June, Eduard Shevardnadze admitted that the local elections were marred by vote rigging, but denied that the government was involved, Caucasus Press reported. He said if government officials had indeed participated in malpractice, the SMK wing that still supports him would have garnered at minimum 4 percent of the vote; in Tbilisi, the pro-presidential SMK received only 2.54 percent. Responding the Council of Europe criticism that the ballot was organized badly and in haste, Shevardnadze pointed out that postponing it any later than 2 June would have laid him open to impeachment on charges of violating the constitution. LF
KAZAKHSTAN, INDIA SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev held talks in Almaty on 3 June with his Indian counterpart A.B. Vajpayee, who arrived in Kazakhstan the previous day to attend the summit of the Conference for Organization for Cooperation and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, Interfax reported. The two presidents focused on bilateral relations and vowed to expand economic cooperation, which they said is hampered by the absence of optimal transportation routes. In that context, Nazarbaev expressed Kazakhstan's interest in joining the North-South transport corridor. They also signed a memorandum on military-technical cooperation. Also on 3 June, Kazakhstan's Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Viktor Shkolnik said following a Kazakh-Indian business forum that India is interested in participating in unspecified projects to develop Kazakhstan's oil and natural gas reserves and to establish pharmaceutical joint ventures, Interfax reported. Deputy Foreign Minister Omar Abdulah said India is exploring the possibility of exporting natural gas via Kazakhstan, according to AP. LF
KYRGYZ, TAJIK DEFENSE OFFICIALS MEET
Tajikistan's Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev and Security Council Secretary Amirkul Azimov met in Dushanbe on 1 June with their visiting Kyrgyz counterparts Esen Topoev and Misir Ashyrkulov, ITAR-TASS and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The discussion focused on the current military and political situation in Afghanistan on the eve of the Loya Djirga scheduled for 10 June and its implications for the neighboring states. The two sides agreed to establish a joint working group to monitor border areas through which surviving militants from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan or other terrorist organizations might try to infiltrate Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. LF
BELARUSIAN SOCCER FANS PROTEST LACK OF WORLD CUP COVERAGE...
About 150 angry soccer fans gathered in Minsk on 3 June to protest the lack of World Cup coverage on Belarusian television, calling it an insult to a soccer-loving country, AP reported the same day. Protesters complained that the government-run broadcaster, Belteleradiokompaniya, had not bought rights to World Cup coverage from the German company Kirch Media, which has worldwide television rights for the event. As a result, the only place Belarusians can see World Cup games is in bars that provide satellite coverage. The charge for entry is on average 10,000 Belarusian rubles ($6), which is too expensive for most people in the impoverished country. Protesters became particularly upset when they found out that the World Cup is being broadcast without authorization in isolated North Korea. Yegor Rybakov, a representative of the state-run television company, said that coverage on national television will begin with the quarterfinals on 15 June, Interfax reported. CB
...AS PARLIAMENTARIANS SEEK SOLUTION
Members of the Belarusian parliament suggested on 3 June that Belteleradiokompaniya raise money among soccer fans to pay the $500,000 necessary to purchase World Cup broadcasting rights, Belapan reported the same day. Deputy Vasilii Khrol said: "There are at least 1 million [soccer] fans in Belarus. If everyone donates $0.50, the problem would be solved." Belarus was expecting to receive broadcasts from Russia's ORT and RTR television, which spent some $40 million to purchase the rights to show the event within Russia. Russia lacks the right to broadcast the games to Belarus, and thus canceled its planned transmissions to its western neighbor. Belarus would have to pay Germany's Kirch Media about $500,000 to purchase broadcast rights, although the national broadcaster claims not to have the money following its expenditures for broadcast rights to recent events such as the Winter Olympics and the World Ice Hockey Championship. According to Belapan, Vintskuk Vyachorka, the leader of the Belarusian Popular Front opposition party, said that if Belarus were a democratic state, it would have a business sector capable of paying for the broadcasts. Negotiations with Kirch Media to resolve the issue are currently under way. CB
BELARUSIAN ACTIVISTS PETITION GOVERNMENT TO PROTECT KURAPATY SITE
About 30 opposition activists delivered a petition to the Belarus government on 3 June, demanding that the Kurapaty site where thousands of political prisoners were executed and buried by Soviet secret police in the 1930s and 40s be given adequate protection, Belapan reported the same day. Earlier the same day, activists marked the end of a 250-day vigil at the site with a gathering in the Kurapaty forest outside Minsk. A number of youth organizations set up camp near the site on 24 September following the government's decision to expand the Minsk beltway in the vicinity of the mass grave (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2001). The campaign has been marked by violent clashes with the police, as well as periodic raids and arrests. From now on, the Belarusian Freedom Party and the opposition Youth Front organization plan to send morning and evening patrols to the site, Belapan reported. CB
WORLD BANK TO GIVE BELARUS $50 MILLION IN CHORNOBYL AID
The World Bank announced on 31 May that it will give Belarus a $50 million loan to support people living on land contaminated by nuclear fallout from the 1986 Chornobyl disaster, Reuters reported the same day. The loan is important for the former Soviet republic, which has received little from international lending bodies after the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund stopped lending in protest of Belarus's reluctance to introduce reforms. A World Bank representative in Minsk, Serhiy Kulik, said the money will go to farmers and private businesses in the regions. The explosion at Ukraine's Chornobyl nuclear-power plant on 26 April 1986 has badly affected neighboring Belarus, contaminating large areas of land and leaving citizens to suffer a plethora of health problems. It has been estimated that more than 80 percent of all radioactive dust from the explosion landed on Belarusian territory. CB
UN SECRETARY-GENERAL PLEDGES CHORNOBYL AID, FIGHT AGAINST AIDS
During his first-ever visit to Ukraine on 3 June, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan used the opportunity to pledge his support to the millions of people who have suffered from the Chornobyl nuclear disaster, Reuters and AP reported the same day. "I think we all have a responsibility to do whatever we can to deal with the aftermath of this tragedy and to ensure that it does not happen again anywhere," Annan said after visiting the Chornobyl museum in Kyiv. In addition to his pledge to help those affected by Chornobyl, Annan also said the UN will lend Ukraine about $9 million to help the country fight the spread of AIDS. According to a UN report, Ukraine now has one of the fastest-growing rates of HIV/AIDS infection in the world. The UN estimated last year that about 1 percent of Ukraine's adult population is infected with HIV/AIDS and warned that that number could rise to 6 percent by 2010. Ukraine declared HIV/AIDS a national epidemic in 2000 and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma declared 2002 the "Year of the Fight Against AIDS." CB
TURKEY ARRESTS FORMER EESU EXECUTIVES
Yuliya Tymoshenko, leader of the eponymous opposition bloc in the Ukraine parliament, asked Turkish authorities on 3 June to grant political asylum to four former executives in the Ukrainian power monopoly Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine (EESU), including her father-in-law Gennadii Tymoshenko, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Turkish police detained EESU General Director Gennadii Tymoshenko, along with Chief Executive Officer Yevgenii Shagov, former Chief Financial Officer Lydia Sokolchenko, and current Chief Financial Officer Antonia Palyura in the Turkish resort of Antalya late last week. The four were on an Interpol list of wanted criminals in connection with a case in the United States against former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko. Ukrainian Deputy Prosecutor-General Mykola Obikhod said in January that a district court in Kyiv had issued a warrant for the arrest of the four in connection with the concealment of $181.54 million of the company's hard-currency earnings in 1996 and 1997, as well as for large-scale misappropriation of government funds from 1997 through 1999. The four have also been accused of forging documents and of selling contraband natural gas with a value of $2.25 billion. CB
ESTONIA NOT READY TO GIVE IN ON EU FARM-PRODUCTION QUOTAS
Following a meeting of the parliament's European Affairs and Rural Affairs committees on 3 June, the latter committee's Chairman Ants Kaarma said that Estonia is not prepared to agree to the low agricultural-production quotas and subsidies suggested by the European Commission (EC) upon the country's accession to the European Union, ETA reported. Kaarma said the proposed quota of 560,000 tons of milk is unacceptable, as it is even lower than domestic requirements, and that Estonia is asking for a quota of at least 900,000 tons. Similarly, the EC's recommendation that farmers of new EU member countries receive just 25 percent of the subsidies granted to current EU members' farmers would not allow equal competition. Kaarma noted that the EU is scheduled to decide on whether to accept the EC's proposals on 11 June; thus, serious debates on the size of quotas and subsidies can occur only after this date. SG
TWO REFERENDUMS TO BE PROPOSED IN LITHUANIA
Speaking at a press conference at the parliament on 3 June, Union of the Peasants and New Democracy Parties Deputy Chairman Ramunas Karbauskis said his party is proposing two referendums, BNS reported. The first would ask voters to decide whether there should be a seven-year transition period for the sale of agricultural land to foreign entities after Lithuania's admission to the European Union. The second would ask whether the second reactor of the Ignalina nuclear-power plant should be closed by 2009 as the EU is demanding. According to Lithuanian laws, the support of either one-third of parliamentary deputies (47) or signatures from 300,000 citizens must be gathered to initiate a referendum. It seems unlikely that the union, which has seven parliamentary deputies, will garner the support of another 40 deputies, but Karbauskis said his union is capable of collecting the needed signatures. December 22, the date of the presidential elections, has been mentioned as the most suitable for holding the referendums. SG
UNEMPLOYMENT AMONG YOUNG POLES SOARS SINCE 1998
The jobless rate among those seeking work for the first time in Poland has risen by 75 percent since 1998, Poland's Central Statistics Office announced on 3 June, dpa reported. Almost 1 million people under the age of 24 were registered as being out of work in the first quarter of this year, compared to 1998, when there were well under 500,000. The office set the jobless rate among young Poles for the first three months of this year at 45.5 percent, compared to an average jobless rate of 17.8 percent nationwide. The left-of-center government of Prime Minister Leszek Miller on 3 June launched its "First Job" program aimed at helping up to half a million young people find work. DW
POLISH PRIME MINISTER HOPES WORLD CUP WIN WILL BRING CUT IN INTEREST RATES
Prime Minister Miller said on Polish Radio on 3 June that he hopes a victory by the Polish team in soccer's World Cup on 4 June will inspire the National Bank to cut interest rates further, Reuters reported. "One match will not make unemployment disappear, improve the economic situation, or cause the central bank to change its [rate] policy -- unless a victory inspires it," he said. Miller 's government and the National Bank have been at odds over interest rates since the government took office in October, as the cabinet wants lower rates in order to stimulate economic growth (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2002). The bank believes that big rate cuts would destabilize the economy. DW
CZECH POLITICIANS SECRETLY DISCUSS ALLIANCES
The leaders of two Czech political parties have met clandestinely to discuss possible alliances in the next government, Czech and international media reported on 3 June. "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported the same day that Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus recently met in secret with Cyril Svoboda, a leading member of the Coalition bloc, to discuss a possible electoral alliance following the 14-15 June general elections. Any coalition agreement would determine the composition of the next Czech government, including the next prime minister. The next parliament will select a replacement for President Vaclav Havel, whose term expires in January 2003. BW
CZECH SOLDIERS RUN TO HONOR FALLEN COMRADES
Czech troops participating in the Enduring Freedom mission completed a nonstop 30-hour relay run in Doha, Kuwait, on 31 May and 1 June in memory of eleven Czech soldiers who have died in foreign missions since 1991, CTK reported on 3 June. Each member of the Czech contingent ran 1,509 meters in temperatures reaching 43 degrees Celsius during the day and 33 degrees Celsius at night. Soldiers paid $5 each to participate in the race and the money will be given to the fallen soldiers' orphans. BW
PRAGUE TAXI DRIVERS PROTEST CRACKDOWN
About 30 Czech taxi drivers demonstrated in Prague on 3 June to protest a city government crackdown against corrupt cab drivers, Czech media reported the same day. The protesters demanded that City Council head Zdenek Zajicek resign and that cab fares be increased. Eduard Dudi, a spokesman for the drivers, said they are prepared to blockade streets in central Prague if their demands are not met. The standard fare per kilometer is currently 22 crowns ($0.70), which taxi drivers say is too low to cover costs, and want the fare raised to 35 crowns per kilometer. Prague's City Council recently began a crackdown on Prague's taxi drivers, whom many accuse of routinely overcharging tourists and foreigners. BW
CZECH WAGES RISE IN FIRST QUARTER...
The average monthly wage in the Czech Republic rose to 14,204 crowns ($439) in the first quarter of 2002, an increase of 933 crowns over the same period in 2001, CTK reported on 3 June, citing a survey by the Czech Statistics Office. The survey covered public-sector employees and those working for private businesses with 20 or more employees. International businesses paid the highest average wages at 19,145 crowns ($592.32) a month. The growth rate in wages in foreign-owned businesses, however, was only 3.1 percent, as compared to the national average of 6.3 percent. BW
...AS BUDGET DEFICIT FALLS
The Finance Ministry announced on 3 June that the Czech national budget deficit decreased in May 2002 to 32 billion crowns ($990 million), down from 42 billion crowns the previous month, Czech media reported. Despite the drop, the deficit for the first five months of 2002 is still more than 50 percent higher than the level approved by the Czech parliament for the entire fiscal year. BW
NEGOTIATOR BELIEVES SLOVAKIA CAN COMPLETE EU NEGOTIATIONS THIS YEAR
Dirk Meganck, the chief negotiator of the European Commission for Slovakia, said on 3 June that he believes Slovakia can complete negotiations with the European Union by the end of this year, TASR reported. Meganck cited continued political stability as a key factor in achieving that goal. He added that the health care sector, education, police, and justice system are the most susceptible to corruption, and that progress is needed in this field. AS
U.S. AGAIN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER FUTURE SLOVAK GOVERNMENT...
U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Ronald Weiser on 3 June expressed the United States' concern over Slovakia's future government, saying a pro-democratic government following the September elections would guarantee the country an invitation to join NATO, TASR reported. Weiser made the comments during a meeting with Slovak President Rudolf Schuster, who is preparing for a trip to the United States and Canada this week. Weiser said the United States has not decided which countries it will support for NATO membership at the alliance's summit in Prague in November, adding that the decision will be reached following the elections in Slovakia and after the new government is formed. AS
...AS EXTREMISTS TELL PEOPLE TO IGNORE 'ADVICE' FROM ABROAD
The nationalist Real Slovak National Party (PSNS) has urged "all Slovaks" not to give up and to participate in the elections to decide their future, TASR reported on 3 June. PSNS parliamentary deputy Rastislav Septak said that statements made by foreign politicians and analysts regarding whom to vote for are "incorrect and not acceptable." AS
HUNGARY'S FIDESZ THREATENS LAWSUIT OVER HAPPY END ALLEGATIONS
FIDESZ announced on 3 June that it will sue the daily "Magyar Hirlap" for libel over the newspaper's claims that the Happy End company helped finance the party's election campaign and party conference, Budapest dailies reported. "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 3 June that under the FIDESZ-led government the National Image Center of the prime minister's office paid Happy End billions of forints' worth of state contracts without public procurement procedures. The daily alleged that the company also financed part of the FIDESZ election campaign and subsidized the party's conference in 1999 to the tune of 10 million forints ($38,500). MSZ
HUNGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY INHERITS DEFICIT
On 3 June, Interior Minister Monika Lamperth appointed new National Police commander Laszlo Salgo and announced that the ministry inherited a 10 billion forint ($38.5 million) deficit from the previous government, Hungarian media reported. Lamperth said a considerable amount of the deficit was accumulated by the National Police, while smaller amounts are due to the preparations for the local elections and the issuance of ethnic Hungarian certificates to residents of neighboring countries. Nonetheless, Lamperth said the cabinet will not approve any subsidy to the ministry until the screening of ministry and police personnel has been completed. MSZ
FIDESZ TO MONITOR POLITICAL DISMISSALS
The FIDESZ parliamentary group established a legal protection team on 3 June to provide moral and, if necessary, legal assistance to "victims of a political purge carried out by [Prime Minister Peter] Medgyessy's cabinet," Hungarian media reported parliamentary member Robert Repassy as saying. Repassy said it is illegal to fire anyone for political reasons, adding, "It is rumored that even secretaries are being sacked at the prime minister's office." He pledged that the group will monitor, document, and make public political dismissals. Repassy said that more than 100 people have been dismissed from their posts thus far, and that the figure could reach 1,000. MSZ
COMMISSION REJECTS VOTE RECOUNT IN HUNGARY
The National Election Commission on 3 June declined to verify signatures on a petition calling for preserving the ballots and recounting the votes from the April parliamentary elections, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The commission found that the names of those who collected the signatures were missing from the sheets. The signatures had been collected by Fidelitas, the youth wing of the FIDESZ party. Fidelitas cannot resubmit the signatures until late June, by which date the deadline for legal remedy will have elapsed. Fidelitas Deputy Chairman Peter Szijarto said, however, that he remains hopeful of the success of the initiative. MSZ
BOSNIAN POLICE RAID ISLAMIC CHARITY'S OFFICE
Police in Travnik entered the offices of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation on 3 June, taking away several computers, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March and 3 June 2002). Police also entered the home of Abdul Maktouf, a Syrian-born Bosnian citizen whose business previously occupied the offices now used by Al-Haramain. It is not clear whether there is a link between the raid on the Islamic foundation and recent drug-related arrests in Travnik. PM
U.S. SAYS BOSNIAN JUDICIAL SHAKEUP WILL HELP WAR ON TERROR
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones said in Sarajevo on 3 June that the shakeup of the judiciary ordered recently by the international community will not only promote justice but will help in the war against terrorism, AP reported. Shortly before leaving office, the former high representative of the international community, Wolfgang Petritsch, ordered changes aimed at depoliticizing the judiciary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 2002). PM
MONEY-LAUNDERING RACKET UNCOVERED IN HERZEGOVINA
Ramo Maslesa, the interior minister of the Muslim-Croat federation, announced the action against Al-Haramain at a Sarajevo press conference but did not say what the police will do next in the matter, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that the recent arrest of a Croatian citizen in Citluk has led to the uncovering of an international racket that laundered more than $40,000 over an unspecified period of time. PM
NEW CHARGES IN MOSTAR WEAPONS SCANDAL
Prominent lawyer Faruk Balijagic said in Mostar that former top officials of the federal Defense Ministry knew about the secret arms stores recently discovered in the Herzegovinian city, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 4 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 14, and 17 May 2002). Balijagic specifically referred to former Defense Minster Vladimir Soljic and his deputy, Hasan Cengic, who held office in 1995 and 1996, when the arms stores were first assembled. PM
CROATIAN KINGPIN QUESTIONED
On 3 June, police in Sisak questioned Miroslav Kutle in conjunction with his allegedly cheating the Split-based daily newspaper "Slobodna Dalmacija" out of $3 million during the 1990s, when he became one of the richest men in Croatia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Shareholders in the daily have also brought charges against Ivic Pasalic and Drago Krpina, who are members of the parliament for the late President Franjo Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). Critics charge that the post-Tudjman authorities have not been quick or tough enough in rooting out the corruption widely associated with his rule (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 18 and 25 April 2002). PM
SERBIAN COALITION BACKPEDALS ON OUSTING TRUANTS
Seventeen of the 18 parties in the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition agreed in Belgrade on 3 June to replace only 18 out of the 27 deputies to the Serbian parliament whom DOS previously planned to fire for not attending parliamentary sessions, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 May 2002). Representatives of the 17 parties called on the 18th party, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), to explain the reasons why 21 of its deputies missed many sessions and should not be replaced. DOS previously challenged the right of 23 DSS deputies to keep their seats but agreed to drop charges against two from Kosova. Were the two to be sacked, their places would be taken by individuals from Serbia proper, which many in DOS fear would send the unwanted signal that Serbia does not care about Kosova. PM
SERBIA TO BAN 'FOREIGN FLAGS'
Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is the Serbian government's point man for Kosova and southern Serbia, said in Bujanovac on 3 June that the government will no longer allow the raising of the Albanian flag in the Bujanovac-Presevo-Medvedja region, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that the authorities "will no longer tolerate the raising of foreign flags." Covic apparently did not tell his guests from the UN, who came to sign an agreement pledging $2 million in aid to the region, that the flag of Albania on the one hand and the flag of Kosova and of the Albanian minority in Tito's Yugoslavia on the other were one and the same. Unlike some of their neighbors, the ethnic Albanians of the Balkans generally agree on their national symbols. In other news, Covic announced that local elections will take place in the Bujanovac-Presevo-Medvedja region on 27 and 28 July. PM
REGISTRATION FOR LOCAL ELECTIONS BEGINS IN KOSOVA
The UN civilian administration (UNMIK) announced in Prishtina on 3 June that the registration of candidates for the 26 October local elections has begun, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. In related news, the Brussels-based NGO International Crisis Group issued a report criticizing UNMIK for allowing a de facto ethnically based partition of Kosova into Albanian and Serbian regions. PM
MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT CONFIDENT OF 'CRITICAL MASS'
Milo Djukanovic told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service in Kotor on 3 June that he is confident that his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) will be joined by the pro-independence Liberal Alliance (LSCG) in a new government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2002). He said that his party will have a "critical mass of support in the parliament" despite the comments by some LSCG leaders that they will keep their distance from Djukanovic. PM
ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT SCHEDULES SESSIONS AROUND SOCCER MATCHES
In a rare example of consensus in the usually fractious Albanian parliament, deputies have agreed to schedule sessions so as not to conflict with the matches in soccer's ongoing World Cup, Reuters reported from Tirana on 4 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2002). A bipartisan commission investigating voting irregularities -- which is usually a hot-button issue in Albania -- simply dropped a session so that members could watch the match between Brazil and Turkey on 4 June. PM
ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS MOTION ON FISCAL POLICIES
In its 3 June session, the Chamber of Deputies in Bucharest rejected with 181 votes against to 96 in favor a motion on the government's fiscal policies, Romanian media reported. The opposition Democratic Party and National Liberal Party initiated the motion, which called on the government to stimulate exports and support small and medium-sized businesses. Democratic Party Deputy Adrian Videanu said the current fiscal policies favor the business interests that back the ruling Social Democratic Party and "encourage fiscal evasion and the black economy." Finance Minister Mihai Tanasescu dismissed the charges as "not valid" and blamed former governments for imposing high tax rates. ZsM
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT REPLIES TO THE POPE'S REQUEST ON RESTITUTING CHURCH PROPERTIES
Replying to Pope John Paul II's request to restitute Roman Catholic Church properties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2002), Romanian President Ion Iliescu said on 3 June that "the state cannot interfere" in the restitution of church properties, Romanian Radio reported. The same day, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said parliament could adopt a law on restitution next fall, but the process cannot favor a particular church. Culture Minister Razvan Theodorescu added that a government commission is currently examining the issue of returning Catholic Church properties confiscated during the communist era. In related news, on 4 June the pope called on the European Union to accept Romania as a full member, Mediafax reported. ZsM
ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER HINTS AT GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE...
Prime Minister Nastase said on 3 June that the government's configuration could be changed following NATO's summit in Prague in November, Mediafax reported. He added that a reshuffle prior to the summit would upset the government, which he said needs to concentrate on NATO admission and solving social problems. According to Nastase, the number of ministries could be reduced and ministers could be replaced following the summit. ZsM
...AND DISMISSES TALK OF EARLY ELECTIONS
On 4 June, the prime minister dismissed calls for early elections next year, Romanian Radio reported. Nastase said that if things go well there will be no need for early elections, and added that a referendum should be organized in 2003 on modifying the constitution. Government Secretary-General Serban Mihailescu said in an interview the day before that early elections could be organized to exploit the current government's foreign policy successes. ZsM
UNITED STATES BEGINS CONSTRUCTION OF NEW EMBASSY IN SOFIA
The cornerstone for a new U.S. Embassy was laid in Sofia on 3 June, BTA reported. The $50 million structure is expected to be finished by the end of 2003. The ceremony was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria James Pardew, U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi, and Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski. UB
TO EUROPE WITH RUSSIA! UKRAINE'S 'LITTLE RUSSIAN' FOREIGN POLICY
Since Leonid Kuchma's re-election in November 1999, the election of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the removal of Borys Tarasyuk as Ukraine's foreign minister in 2000, oligarchic groups in eastern Ukraine have unofficially replaced Ukraine's 1993 foreign policy concept with "To Europe With Russia!"
Andriy Derkach, son of the disgraced former chairman of the Security Service and a leading member of the Dnipropetrovsk-based Labor Ukraine oligarchs, headed the interfactionary group "To Europe with Russia!" in the last parliament. In the winter of 1998-99, the last obstacle to what Kuchma craved in 1994 -- "normalization" of relations with Russia -- became possible after the Russian parliament's ratification of the 1997 treaty with Ukraine.
"To Europe with Russia!" goes together with the pessimistic view that "Nobody is waiting for us in the West," a slogan that Kuchma first aired in his 1994 election campaign. The slogan is self-serving as Kuchma and his oligarchic allies are unwilling to undertake the necessary steps to join the West. Obviously, it is easier to blame the West for not "inviting us" than it is to find fault with Ukraine's domestic policies.
Ukraine's never clearly defined "multi-vector" foreign policy was confusing enough. The addition of "To Europe with Russia!" indicated that not only was Ukrainian foreign policy merely a tool to react to short-term changes (i.e., "multi-vectorism"), but worse still, Ukraine was meant to operate only under Russia's wing in the same manner as when it was a "younger brother" in the Soviet era. To this is added a lack of self-confidence and national pride when Kuchma says, "Ukraine cannot make any progress without Russia."
"To Europe with Russia!" deepened the Russophile view among many Western Europeans that Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians should be treated as one group, something that Kyiv had long complained about. As the newspaper "Ukraiina moloda" lamented, "After similar statements, Ukraine is not treated very seriously in the world."
Although "To Europe with Russia!" has come under attack recently from Tarasyuk, now a member of Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine, and even from former President Leonid Kravchuk of the oligarchic Social Democratic Party Ukraine-united (SDPU-o), it has remained the cornerstone of Kuchma's "Little Russian" foreign policy, as evidenced by the March 2002 decree to commemorate in two years' time the anniversary of the 1654 Treaty of Periaslav that placed Ukraine under Russian rule. President Kuchma, Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko, presidential administration and For United Ukraine bloc head Volodymyr Lytyyn, and chairman of the State Committee for the Military-Industrial Complex Volodymyr Horbulin constantly repeat "To Europe with Russia!" in different variations.
As a high-ranking member of the presidential National Institute for Strategic Studies think tank complained, Kuchma and his entourage do not see themselves as leaders of an independent sovereign state. For historical reasons, Kuchma's "Little Russianism" is more pro-statehood than its counterpart in Belarus; nevertheless, Ukraine's leaders cannot envisage Ukraine outside the Russian sphere of influence, and Moscow will always remain far more important to them than Brussels and Washington.
Russian President Putin, unlike his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, does not question Ukraine's independence; he was the first Russian leader to attend Ukraine's annual independence celebrations (on its 10th anniversary last year). The more "pragmatic" Putin approaches Ukraine differently than Belarus, as he understands that Ukraine will not follow the Belarusian path of negating sovereignty. At the same time, Kuchma's "Little Russianism" is also not in favor of full independence outside Russia's orbit. Such a commonwealth, or even confederation, closely resembles the Union of Sovereign States option favored by Russian leaders when the Soviet Union had de facto ceased to exist after August 1991. One of the first decisions by the new pro-Kuchma government in May 2001 was to require visas and foreign passports citizens for all CIS states from January 1, 2002; that is, except for Russia and Belarus, whose citizens can still use only domestic passports.
"Little Russianism," like "multi-vectorism," is a reflection of an amorphous and confused national identity and hence of an inability to choose between East or West. Kuchma has changed Ukraine's foreign policy goals this year on a month-by-month basis.
In February, Kuchma ordered officials to prepare Ukraine to join the World Trade Organization next year, and become an associate member in 2004 and a full member of the European Union by 2011. Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh told NATO headquarters that Ukraine will continue its integration into Europe.
In March at the Odesa summit of Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia, Kuchma said Ukraine would become an observer in the Eurasian Economic Community (EEC) as a step toward full membership of that body. He consistently referred to the EEC not by that name but as the (now defunct) CIS Customs Union.
In April, Foreign Minister Zlenko and State Secretary for European Integration Oleksandr Chaliy ruled out anything to do with the EEC as this would contradict Ukraine's long-declared goal of joining the EU. As Zlenko correctly said, "No country can be in several customs unions or in several unions. It can chose only one union."
Finally, in May, only two days prior to an unofficial meeting with EU President Romano Prodi, Kuchma followed Zlenko's advice and chose only one union, but this was the EEC and not the EU. To sweeten this move, Chaliy used diplomatic language to argue that this step does not contradict Ukraine's future membership of the EU. He is wrong, as Kuchma told Putin that "more drastic steps in that direction are somewhere in sight." Putin is luring Ukraine toward full membership of the EEC through the prospect of taxes on Russian exports being paid within Russia, which will allegedly bring $400-450 million in revenues to Ukraine and result in 1.5 percent extra annual GDP growth.
To make matters even more confusing, Ukraine also decided in May to seek NATO membership after Russia had made the first move. Yeven Marchuk, the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, claimed this was evidence of the "end of Ukraine's multi-vector foreign policy." How he reached such a conclusion is impossible to understand with Kyiv going West to NATO and East to the EEC.
Ukraine's decision to join the EEC brings it back within the Russian sphere of influence, as Russia controls 40 percent of the community's vote, which means that "Russia has a clear advantage over the other members," according to the Moscow-based "Vremya novostei." The daily also commented that this is why countries prefer to look to the EU where, as in NATO, all members have equal voting status regardless of their size or GDP. Eurasian and European integration are obviously based on different precepts.
In December last year Kuchma complained that the West still perceived Ukraine "as the Soviet Union or a part of it," which, he said, was wrong because Ukraine is now an independent state. But "To Europe with Russia!" and Kuchma's steps this month have reinforced the view of many in the West and Russia that Ukraine is a 'Little Russian' part of Eurasia, not Europe.
Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.