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Newsline - June 5, 2002


CHINESE LEADER ARRIVES FOR SHANGHAI GROUP SUMMIT
Chinese President Jiang Zemin arrived in St. Petersburg on 5 June to attend a 7 June summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Western and Russian news agencies reported. Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan founded the original "Shanghai Five" in April 1996. Uzbekistan became a member in 2002, when the organization changed its name to the SCO. At the summit this week, leaders are expected to endorse the group's charter and to set up a joint antiterrorism body, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko was quoted by AP as saying. Jiang is expected to hold bilateral talks with President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the summit. RC

PUTIN FIRM ABOUT RUSSIA'S CIS SPHERE OF INFLUENCE...
In an exclusive interview to the flagship of the Chinese mass media "People's Daily" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2002), President Putin said that "Russia openly states that it has special interests within [the zone of] the Commonwealth of Independent States [CIS] as far as the protection of its...national security is concerned," according to the Russian version of the interview posted on Putin's official website (http://www.president.kremlin.ru) on 4 June. He stressed that this aspect of Russia's foreign policy is not intended to dominate or pressure its neighbors, but is dictated by humanitarian factors. "There are over 20 million of our compatriots living in CIS countries, and Russia cannot and will not abandon its responsibility for the way they live and how their rights are observed," Putin said. VY

...BUT NOT WORRIED ABOUT U.S. PRESENCE IN CENTRAL ASIA...
In the same interview, Putin said that he is not concerned about the stationing of U.S.-led forces in Central Asia and believes that each country in the region has the right to choose its partners in the fight against international terrorism. However, he added that the presence of outside forces should not inflame "local or interstate frictions or destabilize the situation." He added that it is wrong to speak of conflicts between Moscow and Washington within the CIS because the new relations between the two countries can be characterized as "cooperation instead of competition." VY

...AND SAYS ECONOMIC GROWTH DEPENDS ON STABILITY
Moving on to discuss the economy in the same interview, Putin said that he is satisfied with the 5-6 percent annual growth that Russia has experienced for the last two years, as well as the significant increases in its gold and hard-currency reserves. He added, though, that he "would like to see more." He noted that there are constraints to further economic growth, including the state's social obligations toward the population. "It would be a mistake to conduct a policy that undermines the trust of the population toward the policy we are carrying out." He said that the success of reform depends on public stability based on dialogue, trust, and cooperation between the public and the state. VY

SPEAKER AND RANKING COMMUNIST DEPUTIES EXPELLED FROM PARTY...
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) voted to expel from the party State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev and two other Duma leaders for refusing to abandon their leadership posts, Russian news agencies reported on 4 June. Together with Seleznev, the party expelled Svetlana Goryacheva, chairwoman of the Committee for Women, Family and Youth, and Nikolai Gubenko, chairman of the Committee for Culture and Tourism. Addressing the Central Committee, party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that the trio "did not have enough will to fulfill the party's decision, and now they should face the consequences." VY

...AS SELEZNEV REMAINS DEFIANT...
Seleznev called the expulsions "a tragic mistake," and said that he will carry on his duties as an independent. Sergei Markov, the director of the Institute of Political Research, said Zyuganov's move indicates a split in the party leadership and that Seleznev is now positioned to create a new left-center coalition that could gain significant Kremlin support. At the opening of the Duma's 5 June session, Seleznev presented Goryacheva with an honorary diploma for her service. In response, she said, "as I have served, so I will continue to serve Russia," RIA-Novosti reported. VY/RC

...AND MANY COMMUNISTS DO NOT UNDERSTAND LEADERS' MOVE
Communist Deputy Vassili Shandybin told journalists that he "does not understand" the expulsion decision and thinks that it is "the wrong move," nns.ru reported on 5 June. He added that "in difficult times, one should consolidate ranks, not disperse them." Party Press Secretary Andrei Andreev announced that senior party leaders Valentin Kuptsov, Anatolii Lukyanov, and Viktor Ilyukhin voted against Seleznev's expulsion. VY

BULGARIAN, RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTERS TALK TRADE
Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski continued his four-day visit to Moscow on 5 June with a long discussion with his counterpart, Mikhail Kasyanov, Russian and Western news agencies reported. According to ITAR-TASS, the discussion mainly covered economic cooperation initiatives, particularly in the oil-and-gas sector, transport, and nuclear power. The two leaders also discussed the settlement of the former Soviet Union's debt to Bulgaria. Russia is Bulgaria's largest trading partner, accounting for 22 percent of Bulgaria's imports, according to the news agency. RIA-Novosti quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Yakovenko as saying that Russia intends to repeat to Saxecoburggotski that Moscow views Bulgaria's desire to join NATO as "a mistake." On 4 June, Saxecoburggotski met with Patriarch Aleksii II. RC

'KURSK' FRAGMENTS RECOVERED, INVESTIGATION CONTINUES
Several fragments from the first section of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine were recovered on 4 June, Russian and Western news agencies reported the next day. Industry and Science Minister Ilya Klebanov told journalists on 4 June that the fragments will be used by prosecutors and a special state commission to determine the cause of the 13 August 2000 sinking that killed all 119 men on board, strana.ru reported. The current recovery operation is expected to be wrapped up by the end of the month, weather permitting. After the investigation is completed, all the organizations looking into the matter will issue a joint statement of their findings, Klebanov said, according to RIA-Novosti. RC

GOVERNMENT MAKES PROGRESS ON DEPOSIT-INSURANCE PROGRAM...
A 4 June meeting of representatives of the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Central Bank, the State Duma, and other agencies decided to accelerate the process of drafting a law on insuring private savings accounts in Russian banks, "Kommersant-Daily," "Vedomosti," and polit.ru reported the next day. It was decided that a state corporation will be empowered to insure the deposits. Banks will have to apply to participate in the system before 1 July 2003 and all banks that have not been accepted by 2005 will lose their licenses to hold private deposits, "Vedomosti" wrote. Private deposits up to $20,000 will be fully guaranteed, with a sliding scale of coverage for larger amounts. According to the deputy chairman of the Duma's Banking Committee, Pavel Medvedev, a bill could be introduced in the Duma by the end of this month. Over the last eight years, the Duma has passed similar bills on three occasions, two of which were defeated in the Federation Council and one was vetoed by the president. RC

...WORLD BANK REPORTEDLY URGING SBERBANK TO PRIVATIZE...
At a closed presentation of the World Bank's annual report on Russia, the bank recommended that the government and the Central Bank take immediate action on developing a strategy to reform Sberbank, the state-owned bank that has a virtual monopoly over private deposits, utro.ru reported on 5 June. The website quoted the report as saying that shares of the bank's retail network should be sold and that buyers should be "strategic investors with solid reputations," and not "insiders or organizations controlled by, for example, financial-industrial groups." Representatives of Sberbank and the Central Bank were quoted as saying that the World Bank's recommendation de facto means that the Sberbank shares should be sold to foreign interests. Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank Andrei Kozlov told the website that instead of privatizing Sberbank, it would be better to create several other banks to compete with Sberbank in the retail-banking sector. RC

...AND DUMA PASSES LAW ON CENTRAL BANK
The State Duma on 5 June passed in its third reading amendments to the law on the Central Bank intended to make the bank's operations more transparent, Russian news agencies reported. The vote was 310 for, three against, and two abstentions. The bill will now be passed to the Federation Council, where it is expected to be adopted promptly. RC

MOSCOW THREATENS EU WITH TRADE WAR
Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev said that Russia will retaliate in response to increased European Union duties on grain imports from Russia, nns.ru reported on 5 June. Gordeev said that Europe buys from 2 million to 3 million tons of Russian grain each year, representing about half of Russian grain exports. The new EU barriers will practically eliminate Russia from the European market and, therefore, the government is considering similar barriers to EU milk and meat imports to Russia. VY

MINISTER DENIES REPORTS OF NUCLEAR-WASTE IMPORTS...
Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev told Radio Mayak on 5 June that Russia has not imported a single kilogram of spent nuclear fuel since a law allowing such imports was passed in June 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2001), RIA-Novosti and regions.ru reported the next day. Rumyantsev categorically denied all media reports to the contrary. RC

...AS RADIATION FOUND NEAR MILITARY BASE
An unidentified high-level source of radiation was discovered at an unauthorized garbage dump next to a military base in the southern city of Volgograd, RIA-Novosti and regions.ru reported on 5 June. According to RIA-Novosti, which quoted the director of the municipal environmental-protection department, radiation at the site was measured at 2,000 times normal levels. The source of the radiation has not yet been determined, and an investigation and cleanup are under way. RC

SHOTS FIRED AT REGIONAL FSB OFFICE
Shots were fired by an unknown gunman at the local department of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the Irkutsk Oblast city of Bratsk on 4 June, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The shots were reportedly fired from a 20-millimeter automatic rifle. No one was injured, but the interiors of some offices were damaged. A criminal investigation has been opened under a charge of "hooliganism with a firearm," but investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the assault might be linked to the agency's counterintelligence functions, the news agency reported. VY

ACTIVISTS ALARMED BY ANTI-EXTREMISM BILL
Human rights activists on 4 June came out in opposition to a government-sponsored bill on extremism that is due to come before the State Duma on 6 June, Russian news agencies reported. The activists argued at a Moscow press conference that the bill gives too much leeway to law enforcement authorities to abuse their authority under the pretext of combating nationalist and racist violence. One definition of extremism contained in the bill includes "any illegal activity" aimed at "hindering the legal activities" of local governmental structures, which -- activists say -- could include any number of protest activities. Justice Minister Yurii Chaika urged lawmakers to pass the bill, saying, "after this law is passed, law enforcement bodies will obtain an effective tool" against extremism. Liberal State Duma Deputy Sergei Kovalev was quoted as saying that existing laws are sufficient, but that they are poorly enforced by police, prosecutors, and the FSB. RC

MASS GRAVE FOUND AT SITE OF LATEST RUSSIAN SWEEP IN CHECHNYA
The bodies of some 25 people, including two women, were found on 4 June in a mass grave between the villages of Tsotan-Yurt and Mesker-Yurt, chechenpress.com reported on 5 June quoting Chechen human rights activists. The victims had been shot. Mesker-Yurt remains cordoned off by Russian troops who launched a search operation there last week for Chechen fighters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2002). Ali Alavdinov, deputy premier in the pro-Moscow Chechen government and a native of Mesker-Yurt, condemned the killings as a crime against humanity. LF

CHECHEN WARLORD'S LAWYER UNABLE TO FILE APPEAL
Salman Arsanakuev, who represented Chechen field commander Salman Raduev at his trial in Makhachkala last December, has been trying for two months, without success, to obtain from the Russian Supreme Court the documents necessary to appeal Raduev's life sentence, Interfax reported on 4 June. The Supreme Court upheld the Daghestan Court's verdict in April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 2002). LF

PARLIAMENT DEPUTY SHOT DEAD IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA
Unidentified assailants armed with assault rifles gunned down parliament deputy Rasul Atabiev in Cherkessk on 4 June, Interfax reported. The car in which they fled was later found abandoned. LF

DATA ON ARMENIAN LEADERS' INCOMES MADE PUBLIC
The Armenian government made available to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 4 June details of the mandatory income and property declarations filed by members of the country's leadership in January. President Robert Kocharian gave his annual income in 2001 as 3.2 million drams ($5,700), less than that of his 21-year-old student son, whose income was given as $7,000. Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, who is believed to control several of the most lucrative sectors of the Armenian economy, gave his income as 1.68 million drams, National Security Minister Karlos Petrosian claimed 3.4 million drams, and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian 2.47 million drams. LF

ARMENIAN ARMY OFFICERS SENTENCED IN MISSILE-THEFT CASE
A Yerevan District court passed sentence on 4 June on nine men in connection with the theft of missiles from several army units, Noyan Tapan reported. Seven Armenian Army officers and one warrant officer received sentences of between three and seven years' imprisonment, while Artur Melikian, who masterminded the thefts with the aim of selling the missiles abroad, received a 15-year sentence on that charge and two counts of murder. LF

ARMENIA DENIES AZERBAIJANI ACCUSATION OF BORDER SHOOTING
The Armenian Defense Ministry has denied that troops at an Armenian Army post close to the border with Azerbaijan shot and killed a 24-year-old Azerbaijani fishing on Lake Mazam, according to Arminfo on 4 June, as cited by Groong. The shooting incident was reported by ANS on 3 June. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CONDEMNS POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST VILLAGERS
In statements released on 4 June, Azerbaijan's opposition parties slammed the police violence against residents of the village of Nardaran the previous evening in which one village resident was killed and dozens of people, including police officers, were injured, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 June 2002). The Azerbaijan National Independence Party and the Liberal Party of Azerbaijan both blamed the clashes on the Azerbaijani government's "talentless" policies that have led to widespread poverty and the deterioration of infrastructure. The Interior Ministry has set up a group to investigate the clashes that its spokesman Colonel Sadik Gezalov suggested were politically motivated and backed by "emissaries of the secret services of a number of foreign states," according to ITAR-TASS. Gezalov accused the villagers of planning to install an Islamic fundamentalist local administration. On 5 June, the official newspaper "Yeni Azerbaycan" accused the opposition of being behind the standoff in Nardaran, noting that Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar visited the village on 29 May, Turan reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT OPENS BAKU OIL-AND-GAS EXHIBITION...
Heidar Aliev formally opened the Ninth Baku Oil and Gas Exhibition on 4 June, reaffirming his country's openness to foreign investment in the oil-and-gas sector. U.S. State Department adviser on Caspian energy issues Steven Mann read to participants a message from U.S. President George W. Bush reaffirming Washington's support for the Baku-Ceyhan oil-export pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum gas pipeline which, Bush said, will promote the integration of Azerbaijan and Georgia into the world economy and lessen U.S. dependence on hydrocarbons from the Middle East, Interfax reported. Some 300 companies from 31 countries are participating in the exhibition, within the parameters of which the U.S. Embassy in Baku is holding a special seminar for U.S. companies seeking to strengthen their position in the Caspian, Caspian News Agency reported. LF

...AS EBRD SAYS IT WILL CO-FINANCE EXPORT PIPELINE FOR AZERBAIJANI OIL
Thomas Moser, who heads the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's Baku office, announced on 31 May that the bank will provide $300 million, or just over 10 percent of the estimated total costs, toward construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Caucasus Press and Caspian News Agency reported on 3 June. He said the bank will provide half that sum in cash and half in bank syndicate deposits. Negotiations with potential lenders are proceeding without problems and the bank should raise the funds by the end of this year, Moser added. The British Petroleum-led consortium created to implement the project plans to hold the official ceremony marking the beginning of construction on 19 June, Caucasus Press quoted Turkish Energy Minister Zeki Cakan as saying on 3 June. It is hoped that the pipeline will be completed in 2005. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT HOPES FOR COOPERATION WITH OPPOSITION...
In his traditional weekly radio address, Eduard Shevardnadze said on 4 June that he is ready to work with the opposition parties that won election to local councils in the 2 June ballot provided that those parties abide by the Georgian Constitution, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. But at the same time he warned that he will not allow "disturbances or chaos," an allusion to the affirmed intention of some opposition political leaders to mobilize popular discontent in order to pressure Shevardnadze to resign. Shevardnadze acknowledged that the extremely poor election showing by the former ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia that supports him was the logical consequence of the Georgian leadership's failure to deliver on promises made to the population. He said he has asked the Interior Ministry to investigate the 2 June theft of ballot papers being transported from Tbilisi to Rustavi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2002). LF

...AS CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION YIELDS TO DEMANDS FOR RECOUNT IN TBILISI
The Georgian parliament embarked on a debate of the local elections on 4 June, but failed to adopt a declaration condemning the widespread violations that took place, Caucasus Press reported. The debate could not be continued on the morning of 5 June for lack of a quorum. Late on 4 June, the Central Election Commission agreed to opposition demands for a recount of the vote in Tbilisi. That decision was greeted with outrage by the Labor Party, the winner in Tbilisi with an estimated 25.96 percent of the vote. Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili accused unnamed rival parties of trying to "steal" his party's victory. He threatened to mobilize 10,000 supporters to picket the Central Election Commission headquarters in protest. Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 5 June, Natelashvili demanded that the recount be televised live and that representatives of all parties that participated in the vote be present, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN SECURITY MINISTRY DENIES ACCUSING ARMENIA OF TERRORISM
Georgian National Security Ministry spokesman Nikoloz Laliashvili told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau by telephone on 4 June that a report printed last week in "The Georgian Times" citing a Georgian intelligence service report that claimed Armenia is planning terrorist attacks in southern Georgia is "an absurd lie that smacks of provocation" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2002). Laliashvili denied that any such confidential document exists and described "The Georgian Times" article as part of an "information war" aimed at destabilizing the situation in Georgia. "The Georgian Times" is believed to have connections with opposition political figures out to discredit and topple Shevardnadze. LF

U.S. GENERAL VISITS GEORGIA
General Joseph Ralston, who is U.S. Supreme Allied Commander Europe and commander in chief of U.S. European Command, arrived in Tbilisi on 4 June to monitor the recently launched U.S. Train and Equip program, which is aimed at providing some 2,000 elite Georgian troops with antiterrorism training. Ralston told journalists he is "very pleased" with the reports he received from the U.S. instructors conducting the training program, AP reported. Ralston also met on 4 June with Shevardnadze, whom he thanked for Georgia's support for the U.S.-led antiterrorism campaign, and with Defense Minister Lieutenant General David Tevzadze. LF

FORMER RUSSIAN MILITARY BASE IN GEORGIA REOPENS
Tevzadze and Lieutenant General Unal Onsipahioglu, who is a senior member of the Turkish Army General Staff, attended the formal reopening on 4 June of the Vaziani military base near Tbilisi from which Russia withdrew last year, Caucasus Press reported. Tevzadze expressed his gratitude to Ankara for having contributed $1 million toward the cost of renovating the base to bring it up to NATO standards. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT ASSESSES TASKS FACING NEW SECURITY CONFERENCE
Nursultan Nazarbaev told the first summit of the Conference on Cooperation and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CCCBMA) in Almaty on 4 June that in light of the considerable diversity between its 16 Asian members in terms of development and economic potential, that organization will face greater difficulties in reaching a consensus than did the OSCE, Interfax reported. He said the CCCBMA could benefit from the experience of the CIS Collective Security Organization and of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). But strana.ru pointed out on 3 June that while the SCO has clearly structured mechanisms for practical cooperation between its members, including in the military sphere, the CCCBMA is intended to function primarily as a forum for dialogue. LF

FRENCH DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS KYRGYZSTAN
Michele Alliot-Marie met in Bishkek on 3 June with President Askar Akaev to discuss bilateral military cooperation, the situation in Central Asia and the antiterrorism campaign in Afghanistan, Russian agencies reported. The following day, Alliot-Marie visited the French Air Force contingent based at the Manas airport near Bishkek, from which they fly sorties into Afghanistan. She said that the French Air Force contingent will remain in Kyrgyzstan until the very end of the antiterrorism operation, but will not be increased above its current strength of some 400 military and support personnel. Alliot-Marie met on 4 June with her Kyrgyz counterpart Esen Topoev, whom she presented with some 30 tons of military-technical aid including blankets, rucksacks, and rubber boots. LF

TAJIK HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION MEETS
A commission established earlier this year by the Tajik government to monitor the country's compliance with its human rights commitments held its first meeting in Dushanbe on 4 June, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Among the priorities outlined by participants were ensuring that officials respect and observe human rights, providing information on human rights, and bringing Tajik legislation into line with international norms in the human rights sphere. Ivo Petrov, who heads the UN Mission in Tajikistan, pointed out in a recent interview with centrasia.ru that Dushanbe has not yet provided information on its compliance with such international obligations, with the exception of the Convention on Children's Rights. In its annual report issued last week, Amnesty International noted that Tajikistan has not abolished capital punishment and that reports of police brutality are widespread. LF

CLASHES WITH POLICE MARK OPENING OF JOURNALISTS' TRIAL IN BELARUS
Following a number of delays, the trial against former Editor in Chief Mikola Markevich and journalist Pavel Mazheyka of the newspaper "Pahonya," which was closed in 2001, began in Hrodno in western Belarus on 4 June, Western and Belarusian news agencies reported the same day. The two are charged with defaming Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the run-up to the 2001 presidential elections in an article that questioned whether Lukashenka should be allowed to run for re-election while he was widely suspected of causing the disappearance of his rivals. The two face up to five years in prison if convicted. Clashes with police broke out during a break in the proceedings when police prevented a number of journalists and supporters of the defendants from reentering the courtroom, citing a lack of space. Mikhail Pastukhov, a representative of the Belarusian Journalists Association, said police beat dozens of people who were unable to make their way inside, according to Reuters, while AP reported that one woman was hit on the head by a police officer. A senior police official said police officers did not use force during the incident. Judge Tatyana Klimova adjourned the trial until 5 June. CB

OSCE WITHDRAWS ANOTHER OFFICIAL FROM BELARUS
Following the 3 June expulsion of Andrew Carpenter, the acting head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk, the OSCE withdrew a second staff officer on 4 June, Belapan reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2002). The OSCE said that its human rights specialist in Belarus, Meaghan Fitzgerald of the United States, has been recalled to OSCE headquarters in Vienna for consultations. Her Belarusian visa will expire next month. The latest staff withdrawals follow the expulsion of the former acting head of the mission Michel Rivollier, who left Belarus on 15 April when Minsk refused to renew his visa (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2002). The only international staff member remaining at the OSCE mission in Minsk is a Moldovan administrative officer. CB

UKRAINE SEEKS EXTRADITION OF FORMER EESU EXECUTIVES
Ukraine is seeking to extradite four former executives of the energy supplier Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine (EESU) who were arrested in the Turkish resort town of Antalya last week, Reuters reported on 4 June. The four include Hennadiy Tymoshenko, the former general director of the company and father-in-law of Ukrainian opposition politician Yuliya Tymoshenko; former Chief Executive Officer Yevhen Shaho; and two former financial officers, Lydiya Sokolchenko and Antoniya Palyura (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2002). Ukrainian prosecutors accuse them of hiding hard-currency profits and stealing state assets. Yuliya Tymoshenko said on 3 June said the extradition efforts are a politically motivated attack against her opposition activities in parliament and she asked Turkish authorities to grant the four asylum. CB

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES MORE DEMOCRATIC REFORMS IN UKRAINE
In a speech before the Ukrainian parliament on 4 June, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised Ukraine for its moves toward European integration, but he also urged the former Soviet republic to continue with democratic reforms, AP reported the same day. "One of the great challenges to humankind today is to make not just the principle but the practice of democracy equally universal," Annan told the Verkhovna Rada. The UN secretary-general also called on the international community to help Ukraine ensure that "democracy cannot be subverted in insidious ways, through the slow accretion of abuses," alluding to allegations of corruption and election rigging that have been leveled against Ukrainian officials. International observers reported irregularities in Ukraine's 31 March parliamentary elections and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has also faced a number of accusations, including corruption, illegal arms trading, money laundering, and abuse of power. CB

ESTONIA, JAPAN SIGN COOPERATION PROTOCOL
In Tokyo on 4 June, Foreign Ministers Kristiina Ojuland and Yoriko Kawaguchi signed a cooperation protocol between their countries' foreign ministries, laying the groundwork for regular political consultations, ETA reported. Ojuland called for increasing economic relations and trade. Trade between the countries last year totaled 3.91 billion kroons ($236 million), of which only 570 million kroons were Estonian exports. Ojuland also met with Deputy Foreign Minister Shigeo Uetake, who recently visited Estonia, and Japanese House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Koichi Yoshida. The talks focused on European Union and NATO expansion and the Kyoto Protocol, which the Estonian government sent to the parliament for ratification the same day, while the Japanese parliament ratified it. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT BEGINS OFFICIAL VISIT TO IRELAND
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, accompanied by Agriculture Minister Atis Slakteris, Minister for State Reform Affairs Janis Krumins, Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars, and a delegation of more than 30 businessmen and farmers, began the first-ever official visit by a Latvian President to Ireland on 4 June, LETA reported. It began with a welcoming ceremony hosted by Irish President Mary McAleese. Vike-Freiberga also held talks with Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and the heads of the Irish Senate and House of Representatives, and delivered a speech at the European Affairs Institute. Vike-Freiberga is expected to remain in Ireland to participate in a summit on global achievements organized by the "Academy of Achievement." The summit will be attended by 150 young people from 50 countries. Other speakers at the summit will include former U.S. President Bill Clinton, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, and Nobel Prize winners John Hume, Henry Kissinger, and Jose Ramos-Horta. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES NEW REFERENDUM LAW
By a vote of 47 to four, with nine abstentions, the parliament passed a new referendum law on 4 June, BNS reported. It provides for two types of referendums, obligatory and consultative. Obligatory referendums will be organized concerning amendments to articles of the constitution, the amendment of the Constitutional Act "On Non-Accession of the Republic of Lithuania to Post-Soviet Eastern Unions," and on the participation of Lithuania in international organizations when it involves the partial transfer of duties of state bodies to institutions or jurisdictions of international organizations. Consultative referendums will be held on other matters. Referendums will be considered valid if more than half of all eligible voters participate in them. The law will go into effect beginning on 1 January 2003. The parliament also adopted a new Labor Code. SG

FORMER PRESIDENT SAYS EU 'OWES' POLAND GOOD ENTRY TERMS
In an interview with Reuters on 5 June, former Polish President Lech Walesa said the European Union "owes" Poland good terms for joining the union and attacked the government for failing in expansion negotiations. "Who started World War II? Who sold us out to the communists? These are debts the West owes us. We have a right to expect equal treatment to present EU members," the 58-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner said. "We must level the playing field with the West." He said Poland and other candidates were not able to benefit from the U.S.-backed rebuilding of Western Europe after World War II, and deserve similar aid to make good the damage done by nearly half a century under communism. DW

CZECH SUPPORT FOR EU ENTRY FALLING
The number of Czechs opposed to their country joining the European Union has increased by 12 percent since March, CTK reported on 3 June, citing a poll conducted in May by the TNS Factum agency. According to the poll, about one-half of Czechs favor their country joining the EU and about one-third are opposed. Some 20 percent of the population is undecided. The GfK polling agency reported in April that 41 percent of those surveyed were for the Czech Republic's EU entry and 36 percent were against. BW

CHARGES AGAINST CZECH TV HEAD DROPPED
All criminal charges launched against Czech Television General Director Jiri Balvin have been dropped, Czech media reported on 3 June. In May, Balvin was charged with purchasing broadcast equipment in July 2001 without holding a public tender. Czech Television was fined 2.5 million crowns ($77,346) as a result. Balvin has insisted that all transactions made under his supervision were legal. BW

CZECH ENVOY SAYS 9/11 HIJACK SUSPECT MET IRAQI SPY
Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations Hynek Kmonicek has said that 11 September hijack suspect Mohammad Atta met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence agent, despite claims in the U.S. media that the liaison never took place, "The Prague Post" of 4 June reported. "The meeting took place" between Atta and Iraqi Embassy Second Consul Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, the English-language weekly quoted Kmonicek as saying. "At the time, I was in Prague," Kmonicek said. "I was the person who had to expel al-Ani." Kmonicek was serving as a deputy foreign minister when he alleges the two men met in April 2001. U.S. media, including "Newsweek," "The Washington Post," and "The New York Times," have cited unidentified U.S. officials as saying there is no evidence the meeting took place. Czech officials, including Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, have maintained that Atta and Al-Ani met in Prague. BW

CZECH PRESIDENT SAYS ZEMAN GOVERNMENT HARMING CZECH FOREIGN RELATIONS
President Vaclav Havel said the government of Prime Minister Milos Zeman is responsible for a deterioration of the Czech Republic's foreign relations, CTK reported on 4 June. "We had been weaving a kind of fragile foreign political relations for many years and now all of a sudden all this is broken within a few weeks," Havel said. The Czech president, whose final term expires in January 2003, has criticized Zeman for referring to Czechoslovakia's Sudeten German minority as traitors and "Hitler's fifth column." Havel also criticized Foreign Minister Jan Kavan for canceling a planned meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on 25 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 2002). BW

COALITION SEEKS ALLIANCE WITH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS
A leading member of the Coalition electoral bloc said he would prefer that the bloc form an alliance with the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) after the Czech Republic's general elections on 14-15 June, CTK reported on 4 June. Deputy Senate Chairman Jan Ruml, a member of the Freedom Union, said he would prefer forming a coalition government with the governing CSSD to an alliance with the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS). The Coalition electoral bloc consists of Ruml's Freedom Union and the Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL). Ruml's comments came a day after Czech media reported that ODS leader Vaclav Klaus has met with KDU-CSL leader Cyril Svoboda to discuss forming a postelection coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2002). BW

SWEDEN IS NEW DESTINATION FOR SLOVAK AND CZECH ROMA
Sweden is the latest country to experience a wave of Roma requesting asylum, TASR reported on 4 June. In May alone 74 Czech and 206 Slovak Roma requested asylum in Sweden, approximately the same number as all of last year. Swedish officials believe that the mass immigration of Roma from East European countries is organized, citing as evidence the fact that the Roma seem to know what they should say and what routes to avoid so they are not questioned when they enter the country. None of the Roma from the Czech Republic or Slovakia have received asylum in Sweden thus far. AS

SLOVAKS DON'T LIKE FOREIGN POLITICIANS TELLING THEM FOR WHOM TO VOTE
Some 50.8 percent of Slovaks perceive statements by foreign leaders expressing concern over the possible participation of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) in the government following the September elections as interference in the free competition of political parties in Slovakia, TASR reported on 4 June. According to a survey conducted by Slovak Radio, nearly 47 percent of respondents believe that such statements are pressuring voters and infringe on their right to freely decide for whom to vote. Almost 41 percent does not agree with this opinion. More than half of those questioned in the survey do not consider Western politicians' opinions of the HZDS to be helpful for the progress of democracy. AS

COMMON EU AND SLOVAK PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE DOES NOT ADOPT FINAL DECLARATION
For the first time the common parliamentary committee of the European Union and Slovakia on 4 June did not approve the proposed final declaration and recommendations pertaining to the country's efforts to join the union, Slovak newspapers reported. Only half of the European parliamentarians supported the suggested text. One of the reasons for its rejection was the fact that it did not include an appeal to Slovak voters to vote in the September elections. According to some European members of the committee, the declaration should have mentioned that the membership of Slovakia must be ratified by all EU member states and that all must be certain that Slovakia has fulfilled the political criteria for membership of the union. This formulation was rejected by the Slovak members of the committee, with its co-Chairman Peter Weiss saying that such a requirement would have returned Slovakia to the same situation it faced in 1997, when Slovakia was criticized for not fulfilling the political criteria because of the policies of then-Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. AS

HUNGARIAN DEMOCRATIC FORUM DEPUTY CHAIRMAN RESIGNS TO WORK FOR FORMER PREMIER
Csaba Hende resigned on 4 June as deputy chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) to work for former Prime Minister Viktor Orban in helping organize "civic groups," Hungarian dailies reported. Addressing a large crowd in Budapest on 7 May, Orban urged his FIDESZ supporters to organize themselves in small civic groups so they could be mobilized if needed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2002). Hende said he has informed MDF Chairwoman Ibolya David about his decision. However, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 4 June that the news came as a surprise to the MDF leadership, as the party's senior politicians have yet to take part in Orban's political rallies or in organizing civic groups. MSZ

BUDAPEST MAYORAL CANDIDATE TO GIVE UP AMBASSADOR POST
Pal Schmitt, the chairman of the Hungarian Olympic Committee and Hungarian ambassador to Switzerland, said on 4 June that he considers his candidacy for mayor of Budapest such a great challenge that he will give up his ambassadorial post in Bern, Hungarian media reported. Schmitt announced the previous day that he had accepted a request from 14 intellectuals and will challenge incumbent Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky in the local elections this fall. He said he is pleased that he was not nominated by a party, as he would lose the credibility of neutrality. FIDESZ, however, has invited Schmitt to its forthcoming leadership meeting. MSZ

YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENT PASSES AMNESTY FOR PRESEVO REBELS
Yugoslavia's parliament passed a law on 4 June granting amnesty to ethnic Albanian rebels who fought against Serbian forces in the Presevo Valley region in 2001, AP reported. The law was approved with 70 votes in the 138-seat lower house, 26 against, and 42 absent. The parliament's upper house passed the bill in April. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus told the assembly that the law is a crucial part of the peace deal in Presevo. "We told [the rebels] to give up their guns and we would give them amnesty," he said before the vote. "It may have been a flawed settlement, but it brought peace." Following the vote, Yugoslav Justice Minister Savo Markovic said, "This law will contribute to confidence-building measures in southern Serbia." DW

YUGOSLAVIA SIGNS $85 MILLION LOAN AGREEMENT WITH WORLD BANK
The Yugoslav federal government signed an agreement on 4 June with the World Bank for credits of $85 million to help restructure its economy, AP reported. Deputy Prime Minister Labus said the money will be used to bolster the deficit-plagued budget of the Serbian republic by jump-starting small businesses and restructuring its outdated banking system. Last week, the bank agreed to loan $15 million to the Montenegrin government for restructuring the economy in the smaller republic in Yugoslavia. DW

STRIKING SERBIAN TAXI DRIVERS BLOCK TRAFFIC IN BELGRADE
Taxi drivers in Belgrade blocked city streets to demand lower taxes and a clampdown on illegal drivers on 4 June, Reuters reported. Several hundred taxis lined up in front of city hall, main intersections in the city were blocked, and cars were backed up at the main bridge over the Sava River, where only one lane out of the city was open. "No one has been paying attention to our demands so we have to get what belongs to us in an unpopular way," said taxi dispatcher Dobrica Petrovic. Drivers at the main taxi firms want the authorities to clamp down on illegal drivers who do not pay taxes and who give legal companies a bad name by not using the standard tariffs. Petrovic said if the authorities do not accept their demands, taxi drivers and private transport firms in Belgrade and 30 other towns in Serbia will stage a strike on 10 June. DW

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT WANTS YUGOSLAVIA DISSOLVED QUICKLY
Milo Djukanovic said on 4 June in Podgorica that he is seeking a speedy implementation of the agreement that will end Yugoslavia and create the Serbia and Montenegro entity, Tanjug reported. Djukanovic, speaking after meeting with Japanese Ambassador to Yugoslavia Yoshiki Mine, said the agreement will create the conditions necessary for continued reforms and increase investment in Montenegro. The agreement, which was forged by the European Union, was approved by the Yugoslav parliament last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2002) and was earlier passed by the Serbian and Montenegrin parliaments. PB

KOSOVAR SERB LEADER CHALLENGES STEINER'S PLAN FOR DIVIDED CITY
Milan Ivanovic, the leader of northern Kosova's Serbian National Council, said on 5 June that Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), does not fully understand the situation in the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica, Tanjug reported. Ivanovic, speaking in Mitrovica, made his comments in response to reports that Steiner has developed a plan to unite the town. Ivanovic said that "the situation is a lot worse than Mr. Steiner [thought]." He added that Steiner "is not a governor of Kosovska Mitrovica and he can neither unite nor disunite" the town. Ivanovic added that it is "absurd" to discuss a multiethnic Mitrovica when "not a single Serb" lives in Prishtina or Peje. PB

INTERNATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, BOSNIAN LEADERSHIP SEEK REGIONAL MINI-SUMMIT
Paddy Ashdown, the international community's new high representative in Bosnia, and the Bosnia-Herzegovinian Presidency on 4 June proposed a meeting in Sarajevo to include the presidents of Bosnia, Croatia, and Yugoslavia, Hina reported. The announcement followed the first working meeting between Ashdown and Presidency Chairman Beriz Belkic. Participants would discuss issues of regional cooperation, according to Hina. There is no indication of when the suggested meeting might take place. AH

CROATIAN EXPERT SAYS GRACAC FINDINGS DO NOT INDICATE 'MASS WAR CRIME'
The head of a government team exhuming bodies of casualties from Operation Storm in 1995 said on 4 June that remains from the Orthodox cemetery in Gracac indicate "the bodies were not buried in a mass grave but in separate graves," Hina reported. The dead were buried along with military uniforms, documents, and personal belongings, thus suggesting they were buried in line with the Geneva Convention, he added. Remains of 93 people have been exhumed as authorities continue a process requested and supervised by investigators from the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Zadar County Prosecutor Ivan Galovic, also a member of the government team, said, "Nothing we have found so far indicates that a mass war crime was committed here." AH

IMMIGRANTS KILLED IN MACEDONIA IDENTIFIED
The identities of seven men killed by Macedonian police on 3 March have been confirmed, "The Wall Street Journal" reported on 4 June. The Macedonian Interior Ministry maintains that the seven were Islamists with ties to the Al-Qaeda network, but has offered no evidence to back the allegations. However, the newspaper reported that the seven men had no ties with terrorism at all. According to the daily's investigation, the seven men were illegal immigrants from Pakistan and India on their way to Greece (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2002). "The Wall Street Journal" reported that among the seven victims there were five Shiite Muslims, one Sunni Muslim, and one Hindu, and that none of them had any links with the Al-Qaeda network. The Skopje daily "Nova Makedonija" published the names of six of the victims on 1 June. UB

NATO CALLS OFF CONFERENCE IN MACEDONIA AFTER PRIME MINISTER'S ANTI-WESTERN SPEECH
NATO has called off a conference on border problems in the Balkans that was to held in the Macedonian resort of Ohrid on 16 and 17 July, "Dnevnik" reported. The daily quoted an unnamed NATO representative as saying that the conference was canceled because it was poorly organized and that it could be held at a later date. But an unspecified diplomatic source in Brussels said the main reason for calling off the meeting was the anti-Western speech Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski delivered in parliament on 27 May. In his speech, Georgievski said unnamed "structures" within the international community are using the Kosovar government to destabilize the region (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 May 2002). The conference was to discuss joint border controls in order to stop the trafficking of arms, drugs, and humans. UB

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES MEDIA OUTLETS
Romanian President Ion Iliescu harshly criticized local media outlets on 4 June, Romanian Television reported. He said he is "amazed" by journalists' "talent to distort" his declarations. He added that he cannot understand the reasons for such behavior, but believes it could be due to the "lack of information, lack of culture, or malevolence." Iliescu made the comments in response to repeated questions related to possible early elections next year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2002). ZsM

RESITA WORKERS RENEW PROTESTS IN ROMANIA
Some 1,000 workers from the Resita CSR steelmaker renewed protests on 4 June asking for their back wages to be paid, Romanian media reported. The U.S.-based Noble Ventures company, which owns the steelmaker, sent CSR employees on leave at 75 percent salary, but has failed to pay those wages since April. The protesters took to the streets and clashed with police in front of the local prefect's office. Noble Ventures said the workers will remain out of work until CSR receives a $15 million credit from the Romanian Commercial Bank, which rejected the initial loan request. ZsM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CONSIDERS PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION A THREAT TO INDEPENDENCE...
Speaking on Moldovan Television on 3 June, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin warned citizens that "the parliamentary opposition represents a blow to Moldova's statehood and independence," Flux reported. He further harshly criticized the recent anticommunist protest movements organized by the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD), and described those who organized them as "uneducated, uncivilized, and unpatriotic." President Voronin called on authorities to halt any protest actions if they prove as "insolent" as the recent protests in Chisinau. ZsM

...WHILE PPCD CHAIRMAN THREATENS TO RENEW ANTIGOVERNMENT PROTESTS
Replying to Voronin's speech, PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca said on 4 June that the president was merely revealing his "incompetence, aggressiveness, and contempt for democratic values," Flux reported. He added that Voronin intends to continuously trample "on the principles of a state of law and on basic human rights." Rosca added that, as he sees little hope for "taming" the current rulers, the opposition might have to renew protests in order to "defend democracy" and the rule of law. ZsM

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT TO SELL MAJORITY SHARE IN MOLDTELECOM
The Moldovan government has announced that it will privatize the Moldtelecom phone company, Flux reported on 3 June. The government is to sell 51 percent of state shares in the company in an international tender in August. Offers are to be accepted until 2 August. ZsM

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT PLANS TO CREATE 50,000 JOBS
The government plans to create more than 50,000 new jobs this year, Labor and Social Affairs Deputy Minister Valery Apostolov announced on 4 June at the Investment Forum 2002 in Sofia, news.bg reported. Among the planned jobs, the Guarantee Fund for Microcrediting would secure employment for some 6,000 workers, while about 5,000 people would begin work under the government's Employment Through Support of Business project. Another 5,000 people would be employed under the Beautiful Bulgaria project. According to Apostolov, 24 business centers have already opened in the least-developed regions of the country. The business centers facilitate the opening of private business and support the development of small and medium-sized businesses. However, participants of the forum demanded administrative reforms to improve the business climate. UB

BULGARIAN-BASED MULTINATIONAL BRIGADE, U.S. SERVICEMEN PARTICIPATE IN EXERCISE
More than 400 servicemen of the Bulgarian-based multinational Southeastern Europe Brigade (SEEBRIG) and the U.S. Army are taking part in "Exercise Cornerstone 2002," which was officially launched in the southern Bulgarian village of Miryantsi on 3 June, BTA reported. Cornerstone 2002 is a joint exercise involving the SEEBRIG Engineer Task Force and engineers units of the U.S. European Command. According to the exercise scenario, the engineers units will be deployed in the aftermath of an earthquake. The exercise is intended to enhance the engineers troops' participation in humanitarian operations. UB

BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS LEAD OPINION POLL
According to an opinion poll conducted by the Noema polling agency, if elections were held today 39.4 percent of the respondents would vote for the opposition Socialist-led Coalition for Bulgaria, BTA reported on 3 June. The ruling National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) would receive 24.3 percent of the vote, while its junior coalition partner, the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, would take 5.9 percent. The conservative opposition coalition United Democratic Forces would garner 13.6 percent of the vote, while the coalition of Gergyovden and the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO) would take 7.9 percent. The Union of Free Democrats led by Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski would receive 5.4 percent of the vote. UB

There is no End Note today.


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