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Newsline - June 11, 2002


PUTIN, SCHROEDER, KUCHMA SIGN ENERGY ACCORD...
President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma signed on 10 June a trilateral accord on cooperation in developing and exploiting the pipeline infrastructure used to transport oil and natural gas from Russia through Ukraine to Western Europe, abnews.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 10 and 11 June. Speaking to journalists after the signing ceremony, Putin said that Germany's participation in the consortium will enable it to attract quickly the estimated $2.5 billion needed to reconstruct Ukraine's pipeline network. The addition of Germany to the new Russian-Ukrainian pipeline consortium (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2002) may mean the end -- for the present at least -- of proposals to construct a new pipeline through Poland and Belarus that would have bypassed Ukraine, "Vedomosti" wrote on 10 June. The reconstruction of existing pipelines is estimated to be only about half as expensive as building a new route, "Vremya novostei" added. VY

...AS RUSSIA PLAYS UKRAINE CARD IN KALININGRAD DISPUTE...
The Russian government is not concealing the fact that its switch away from routing energy supplies through Poland is connected with the hard line taken by Warsaw and the EU on the Kaliningrad issue, RIA-Novosti reported on 10 June, citing an unnamed official in President Putin's administration. If Poland continues to rebuff Russian proposals for a visa-free transit corridor between Kaliningrad Oblast and the rest of Russia, the official said, the country stands to lose this lucrative pipeline, as well as several billion dollars' worth of related development projects. The pipeline issue is political, not economic, and by dealing with Kuchma, Moscow is sending a clear signal to Warsaw that it expects a concession on Kaliningrad, the BBC's Russian Service commented on 10 June. VY

...WHILE KASYANOV PROPOSES HIS SOLUTION...
Speaking at a summit of Baltic region leaders in St. Petersburg on 10 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2002), Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that Russia might agree to resolve the Kaliningrad issue if the EU offered to issue visas at the border for Russian citizens, nns.ru reported on 11 June. Responding to EU concerns about illegal immigration and drug trafficking through Kaliningrad Oblast, Kasyanov said that he does not believe that these problems are more pronounced in Kaliningrad than in other parts of the region. Therefore, he said, the EU has no grounds for its rigid position, Kasyanov argued. VY

...AND LITHUVANIA SEES NON-VISA STATUS FOR KALININGRAD AS 'UNLIKELY'
Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas said on 11 June after meeting with Prime Minister Kasyanov that Lithuania considers the creation of a visa-free transport corridor through its territory for Russian citizens to be "very unlikely," the RosBalt news agency reported 11 June. "We are a small country and have no such corridors that can be removed [from national jurisdiction]," he said. Brazauskas added, however, that he believes a compromise on Kaliningrad will be found, and he repeated Lithuanian proposals for a simplified visa regime for Russian citizens. VY

ITALIAN POLICE CRACK RUSSIAN ORGANIZED-CRIME RING
Italian law enforcement authorities announced that they have exposed a vast international network that was involved in laundering illegal funds from Russia, nns.ru and Western news agencies reported on 11 June. About 50 people in several European countries have been arrested during Operation Web, which was conducted jointly with law enforcement agencies from Germany, France, Switzerland, and the United States. Italian officials added that the money-laundering pipeline, which was allegedly directed by Igor Berezovskii (no relation to the tycoon Boris Berezovskii), operated via falsified import-export deals and that many of those arrested are Russian citizens. Authorities estimate that the network laundered about $3 billion between 1996 and 1998. VY

RUSSIANS STILL BEWILDERED BY INDEPENDENCE DAY
Although 12 June marks the 10th time Russia has officially celebrated its Independence Day, only two-thirds of respondents in a recent poll were able correctly to name the holiday, strana.ru reported on 11 June. For 32 percent of respondents in the survey conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation, 12 June has no significance. Fifteen percent of respondents agreed that the day "marks the beginning of the new Russia," while 12 percent consider it "a tragedy for Russia." However, while four years ago a majority of those polled believed that independence had been a negative experience for Russia, now a slim majority stated that it is a positive development. RC

GOVERNMENT LIBERALIZES IMPORT OF ELECTRONIC APPLIANCES
A new regulation from the State Customs Committee will simplify or lift controls on the import of more than 50 categories of electronic equipment for personal use as of mid-July, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 8 June. The regulations, which are designed to reduce opportunities for corruption among customs officials and which come into effect 30 days following their publication, affect devices such as audio and video equipment, personal computers, cameras, household appliances, and watches. VY

EARLY HEAD COUNTING GETS STARTED
On 11 June, the long-awaited national census of the Russian Federation got under way in Magadan Oblast, strana.ru reported. Although the survey does not officially start until 9 October, Vladimir Zorin, government minister responsible for nationalities policy, reported that the law authorizes "hard-to-reach" regions "with a limited period of free travel" to begin the census early. Zorin said that census-takers have already been sent to the farthest reaches of Magadan Oblast to count the estimated 600 residents believed to be living there. He added that as many as 500,000 citizens living in the Far North will be counted before the official census start date. RIA-Novosti reported that census-takers will soon arrive in the Valaam Islands, where virtually all the inhabitants are Russian Orthodox monks. RC

PARLIAMENT TO DEBATE BERING SEA BORDER
The State Duma will consider on 14 June a draft resolution on the impact of the 1990 agreement with the United States that set the boundary between the countries in the Bering Sea, strana.ru reported on 11 June. The resolution, offered by members of the Security Committee, characterizes the 1990 agreement -- which the United States regards as binding -- as "imbalanced" and not corresponding to Russia's national interests, especially in the area of fishing rights, RIA-Novosti reported. State Fisheries Committee head Yevgenii Nazdratenko has called on the government to renounce the agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2002). RC

SIBERIAN ECONOMIC-DEVELOPMENT PLAN ENDORSED
The government has approved an economic-development strategy for Siberia covering the next 20 years, Russian news agencies reported on 10 June. The plan calls for the more even development of the entire region and the elimination of economic differences among its territories. It envisages the sustainable development of mineral resources as the main generator of revenue, but promotes a gradual reduction of this sector in favor of high-technology industries. The strategy also calls for "alleviating the negative natural and climactic conditions" in the region, but does not state explicitly what will be done to alter the climate. VY

GOVERNMENT PREPARES FOR 2003 BUDGET
The Finance Ministry on 10 June submitted to the cabinet its draft parameters for the 2003 federal budget, Russian news agencies reported. According to Prime-TASS, the new budget will have a surplus of 99.13 billion rubles ($300 million), or nearly 1 percent of projected GDP. Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said that the proposed budget parameters will ensure macroeconomic stability, the stable allocation of budgetary funds, and the absence of deficit spending, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 June. Gref cautioned, though, that 2003 will be a difficult year in terms of foreign-debt payments. "All of us will have to tighten our belts," Gref said. Meanwhile, an unnamed official in the Finance Ministry told ITAR-TASS that the federal budget surplus for 2002 is expected to be 1.65 percent of GDP. RC

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION DISRUPTS PARLIAMENT PROCEEDINGS
A dozen opposition parliament deputies occupied the podium on 10 June to protest speaker Armen Khachatrian's refusal to include in the agenda for this week's three-day session the question of impeaching President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Khachatrian rejected the opposition's argument that they are legally entitled to raise that demand during a debate on the report submitted by an ad hoc parliamentary commission on the investigation into the October 1999 parliament shootings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May and 3 and 7 June 2002). Leaders of the Miasnutiun, Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun, and Orinats Yerkir factions backed Khachatrian. The opposition, however, charged that attempts to block the impeachment debate are illegal. Some 200 opposition supporters who were assembled outside the parliament listened to the debate over loudspeakers, watched by hundreds of police in full riot gear. LF

FURTHER ARMENIAN-TURKISH TALKS PLANNED
Senior Armenian and Turkish diplomats will "very likely" meet next week to prepare an agenda for a further meeting in Istanbul on 25 June between the two countries' foreign ministers, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Dziunik Aghajanian told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 10 June. She added that Ankara has softened its earlier refusal to consider Armenian calls for establishing diplomatic relations and opening the Armenian-Turkish border without preconditions. The "Turkish Daily News," which on 10 June reported the planned preparatory talks, commented that "a golden opportunity [exists] for the two states to break down the historic barriers" between them. LF

MORE ARRESTS IN WAKE OF AZERBAIJANI VILLAGE CLASHES
Two more residents of the village of Nardaran -- whose residents clashed with police on 3 June -- were arrested on 10 June, Turan reported the following day. They are Alikram Aliev, Islamic Party of Azerbaijan chairman, and Alikram Allakhverdiev. The latter was taken to a Baku police station from a local hospital, where he was recovering from injuries received during the 3 June clashes. Islamic Party of Azerbaijan Deputy Chairman Hadji-Aga Nuriev said the authorities are trying to prove that Iran was involved in triggering the unrest. The independent daily "Ekho" on 11 June reported that the latest arrests have exacerbated tensions in Nardaran. LF

WEAPONRY STOLEN FROM GEORGIAN MILITARY BASE
Thirteen machine guns and 24 radios were stolen from the Vaziani Air Base near Tbilisi, Caucasus Press reported on 10 June. The base was formally reopened last week after extensive modernization partly financed by Turkey (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2002). The radios were removed from T-54 tanks that Georgia purchased from the Czech Republic. Parliament Defense and Security Committee Chairman Irakli Batiashvili said on10 June at a committee session to discuss the thefts that they may have been intended to disrupt the ongoing U.S. "Train and Equip" program for the Georgian military. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT OBJECTS TO RUSSIAN CITIZENSHIP LAW
In his regular Monday radio interview, Eduard Shevardnadze on 10 June condemned the recent amendment enacted by the Russian State Duma to the law on citizenship that simplifies the procedure for exchanging former Soviet passports for Russian ones, Caucasus Press reported. That amendment, which was sponsored by the Congress of Russian Communities of Abkhazia and other public organizations, will make it easier for residents of the unrecognized breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to obtain Russian passports. Shevardnadze described that innovation as an "unfriendly act" that may negatively affect Georgian-Russian relations and Russia's ability to mediate in the Abkhaz conflict. Also on 10 June, Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia told a press conference in Sukhum that the Abkhaz government will introduce new Russian passports to replace the Soviet ones in the near future, but that doing so will not impinge on Abkhazia's self-proclaimed status as a sovereign state, Interfax reported. "We will be citizens of Abkhazia and of Russia at the same time," he commented. LF

RUSSIA CALLS FOR END TO TERRORISM IN ABKHAZIA
In a statement on 10 June, the Russian Foreign Ministry "emphatically demands that the parties to the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict fulfill their commitments on stopping the activities of subversive and terrorist groups" operating in the Abkhaz conflict zone, Russian news agencies reported. Interfax quoted an unnamed ministry official as adding that the demand is addressed in the first instance at Georgia. One Russian peacekeeper died on 8 June and a second was injured by a land mine in Abkhazia's Kodori Gorge (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2002). On 11 June, Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze denied that Georgia was to blame for the incident, Caucasus Press reported. The Georgian government has repeatedly denied any responsibility for, or influence over, Georgian guerrilla groups operating in southern Abkhazia. LF

RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS VIOLATE GEORGIAN AIRSPACE
Two Russian military helicopters entered Georgian airspace on 8 June from Ingushetia and overflew a frontier post, but left after about 10 minutes, Caucasus Press reported on 10 June. It was the second such incursion in the last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 May 2002). LF

OSCE INTERCEDES FOR AILING KAZAKH OPPOSITIONIST
The OSCE office in Almaty has issued a statement demanding that detained opposition leader Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov be examined and treated by doctors of his own choosing, Interfax reported on 10 June. Zhaqiyanov was hospitalized in Pavlodar on 18 May and has since been twice placed in intensive care. On 7 June his wife, Karlyghash, began a hunger strike to protest the treatment he is receiving, which has she claims has aggravated his condition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2002). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S FOREIGN MINISTRY REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO HUMAN RIGHTS
In a response to a recent EU statement of concern over repeated reprisals against independent media outlets in Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2002), Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 10 June that quotes Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev as calling for objective investigations into such incidents, Interfax reported. Toqaev also reaffirmed his country's respect for human rights and its commitments to the OSCE and other international organizations. LF

KYRGYZ PROTESTERS RESUME HIGHWAY PICKET...
Some 800 people resumed blocking the main Bishkek-Osh highway near the town of Tash-Komur in Djalalabad Oblast on 10 June, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The protesters blocked the highway for a week last month and resumed the blockade on 5 June, but were violently dispersed on 8 June by police who arrested about 40 participants (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2002). The picketers are demanding that those detainees be released; that the verdict handed down on parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov be annulled; and that the officials responsible for the clashes in Aksy Raion on 17-18 March, in which five people died, be brought to justice. LF

...AS PREMIER SETS CONDITIONS FOR RELEASE OF DETAINEES
Speaking in Bishkek on 10 June, Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev said the 40 detainees will be released if the remaining picketers give a written pledge not to engage in further "unlawful actions," Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Also on 10 June, First Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmonov said three people were hospitalized after the 8 June clashes between police and picketers; 15 others, 10 of them police officers, received less severe injuries. Osmonov accused Beknazarov and two other parliament deputies of masterminding the repeated protests that have taken place in Djalalabad over the past three months, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY DENIES LEAVING NERVE GAS IN UZBEKISTAN
A senior Russian Defense Ministry official denied on 10 June that Soviet troops could have left nerve gas behind when they withdrew from the Khanabad military base in Uzbekistan, Interfax reported. An estimated 1,000 U.S. military personnel participating in Operation Enduring Freedom were stationed at Khanabad, but were evacuated from the base after traces of nerve gas and mustard gas were discovered at three locations there on 7 and 8 June, Reuters and AP reported. The United States has used the Khanabad base since late last year; a search at that time for possible contamination by dangerous substances found nothing. LF

CONTINUED ABSENCE OF MEDIA FREEDOM IN UZBEKISTAN CRITICIZED
Representatives of the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists told a press conference in Tashkent on 10 June at the end of a nine-day fact-finding visit that the abolition of censorship last month has not fundamentally improved the conditions under which journalists work, Reuters and AP reported. They noted that the Uzbek authorities "routinely encourage self-censorship by threatening critical journalists with imprisonment," and called for the lifting of all remaining restrictions on the press and for the release of one journalist from the weekly "Yangi Asr" and two others from the banned opposition newspaper "Erk." LF

BELARUSIAN EDITOR DENIES SLANDERING PRESIDENT
Mikola Markevich, the former editor in chief of the closed weekly "Pahonya," denied the charges of defamation of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka that were leveled against him and journalist Pavel Mazheyka in connection with several articles published in the weekly before the 2001 presidential election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2002), Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 10 June. Markevich is standing trial in Hrodna. Prosecutors claim that the articles defamed Lukashenka by accusing him of murder and genocide. Markevich told the court that the incriminating articles express their authors' personal views rather than assert facts. "It is absurd to try people's thoughts, arguments, and convictions," Markevich said. He also argued that the articles could not in fact have defamed the president since the entire print run of the weekly that carried them was confiscated by police at the printing press. JM

BELARUS TO HAVE SOVIET-ERA ANTHEM WITH NEW WORDS?
A special government commission decided on 10 June that Nestar Sakalouski's music of the current national anthem -- which dates back to the Soviet era -- and new words by Mikhas Klimkovich and Uladzimir Karyzna are the most suitable to serve as the country's new national anthem, Belarusian Television reported. The commission reportedly considered four other possible national anthems submitted by Belarusian composers and poets. Deputy Premier Uladzimir Drazhyn, who heads the commission, said it will soon ask President Lukashenka to issue a decree endorsing its selection of the national song. JM

UKRAINE, U.S. AGREE ON DEBT RESTRUCTURING
Ukrainian Finance Minister Ihor Yushko and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual signed an agreement on 10 June to restructure $179 million of Ukraine's $286 million debt to the United States, AP reported. The rescheduled amount is to be repaid in 12 years and includes a three-year grace period. The deal fulfills U.S. commitments made in July 2001 under a five-nation agreement of Paris Club creditors to restructure $580 million of Ukraine's $1.1 billion debt to the group. Pascal commented that Ukraine's recent budgetary discipline and "unprecedented economic growth" paved the way for the deal. "Today's agreement sends an important signal to [those] outside Ukraine, international financial institutions, and private investors, that our relations [with the West] are developing positively," Yushko said. JM

UKRAINE STRIKES $100 MILLION TANK-ENGINE DEAL WITH PAKISTAN
Ukraine has concluded a $100 million agreement with Islamabad on the delivery of 285 engines for Pakistani Al-Khalil tanks, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service and dpa reported on 10 June. Officials at the Kharkiv-based Malyshev Tank Plant, which is to supply the engines, said the first 15 engines to be installed in Pakistani vehicles have been undergoing testing since late 2001. JM

NEW IMPEACHMENT EFFORT AIMED AT UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT
Lawmakers from the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc -- including Yuliya Tymoshenko, Hryhoriy Omelchenko, and Anatoliy Matviyenko -- have submitted to the Verkhovna Rada a draft bill called "On the Initiation of Impeachment of President Leonid Kuchma and the Creation of a Special Temporary Investigative Commission," UNIAN reported on 10 June. The "Ukrayinska pravda" website commented the same day that the impeachment issue is likely to be put on the parliamentary agenda (150 votes are necessary for this purpose) but added that there is "no hope" that the bill can muster 226 votes necessary for starting the impeachment process. JM

CLINTON SAYS ESTONIA HAS NO ALTERNATIVE TO NATO
At an economic conference in Tallinn on 10 June, former U.S. President Bill Clinton said that NATO remains the chief security guarantee for Estonia, ETA reported. He asserted that the three Baltic states deserve membership in NATO and that Estonia has a good chance of becoming a gateway between NATO and Russia, thus helping to strengthen the U.S.-Russian partnership. Clinton also noted that Estonia should not fear the EU and, after joining, should try to oppose protectionism in Europe. He also held talks with President Arnold Ruutel, toured Tallinn's Old Town, and visited several high-tech enterprises together with former Estonian President Lennart Meri. Ruutel, U.S. Ambassador to Estonia Joseph DeThomas, Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar, and former Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves were among the other speakers at the business conference. SG

CHINESE PRESIDENT ARRIVES IN LATVIA
Accompanied by a delegation of more than 150 people, Jiang Zemin began his three-day visit to Latvia on 10 June with a welcoming ceremony at Riga Castle hosted by President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, LETA reported. The presidents then held talks that touched on wide-ranging topics, including Chinese support for Latvia's membership in NATO and the EU, greater economic cooperation, and human rights issues in China. Vike-Freiberga accepted Jiang's invitation to visit China. Latvia's previous president, Guntis Ulmanis, visited China in 1994. In the evening, a state dinner in Jiang's honor was broadcast live by Latvian state television. The Chinese leader is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Andris Berzins and parliamentary Chairman Janis Straume as well as visit Riga's Old Town before traveling to Tallinn on 12 June. SG

LITHUANIAN SMALL BUSINESSES RALLY AGAINST GOVERNMENT RESOLUTION
Thousands of entrepreneurs and tradesmen gathered in front of the parliament building in Vilnius on 10 June to rally against what they called the "ruination of small business" in the country, ELTA reported. They were protesting a government resolution of 6 May which called for strict accounting for patent-holders and fresh labeling rules for nonfood products. The rally was organized by the Association of Small-Businessmen and Tradesmen, whose chairman, parliamentary deputy Eduardas Sablinskas of the New Union (Social Liberals), has proposed postponing the accounting measures until 1 January 2003. Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas has strongly rejected efforts to change the rules. Opposition party leaders Kazys Bobelis of the Lithuanian Social Democrats and Kestutis Glaveckas of the Center Union told the demonstrators that they support their demands, "Kauno diena" reported on 11 June. SG

POLISH TREASURY MINISTER PLEDGES TO PERSIST WITH PRIVATIZATION
Treasury Minister Wieslaw Kaczmarek told journalists on 10 June that this year's revenues from privatization may exceed the 6.6 billion zlotys ($1.65 billion) envisaged in the 2002 budget law, PAP reported. Kaczmarek added that the majority of privatization revenues in 2002 will come from the sale of the Cefarm Warszawa pharmaceutical company, G8 power group, Stoen electricity distributor, Gdansk refinery, and distilleries. JM

POLAND CATCHES UP WITH FRONT-RUNNERS IN EU TALKS...
Poland on 10 June concluded EU membership talks on the fisheries and transportation sectors, thus bringing the number of closed chapters to 25 out of a total of 30, PAP reported. "The Polish government is determined to conclude the negotiations before the end of this year. This goal is ambitious but realistic," Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz commented. Poland is still outpaced in EU talks by Cyprus and Lithuania (28 chapters closed), Latvia and Slovenia (27), and Estonia and Slovakia (26), but is already abreast with the Czech Republic and ahead of Hungary, Malta, Bulgaria, and Romania. JM

...AND JOINS GROUP FOR COMBATING MONEY LAUNDERING
Poland has joined the Egmont Group, the international organization countering illegal financial transactions including money laundering, PAP reported on 10 June, quoting Financial Information Inspectorate chief Jacek Uczkiewicz. According to Uczkiewicz, the decision to join Egmont will provide Poland with better access to international information. Uczkiewicz said his office, which was established a year ago, has examined more than 80 transactions worth 1.2 billion zlotys ($300 million) and has asked prosecutors to investigate 37 deals worth 400 million zlotys. JM

OUTGOING CZECH PREMIER WANTS SINGLE-PARTY GOVERNMENT
Outgoing Prime Minister Milos Zeman said on 10 June that he favors a government formed by a single party, even if it is a minority government, CTK reported. Zeman said he prefers that alternative to a "grand coalition" formed by his own Social Democratic Party (CSSD) and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), adding that, ideally, the next government will able to rely on a CSSD majority in the parliament. Zeman said, however, that he cannot rule out a "grand coalition" as a "necessary evil," but he will leave that choice to the next CSSD leadership and will not interfere in the decision. Earlier, Zeman's successor as CSSD leader, Vladimir Spidla, said he expects to reach an agreement with the Coalition to form the next cabinet if the CSSD wins a plurality in the 14-15 June vote. MS

FINAL POLLS CONFIRM CSSD LEAD AHEAD OF ELECTIONS
A public-opinion poll published in the daily "Lidove noviny" on 10 June confirmed the trend of recent days, showing that the CSSD is leading in the run-up to the voting, dpa reported. The poll put the ruling CSSD (29.9) about two percentage points ahead of its chief rival, the ODS (27.8 percent). According to the poll's findings, the Coalition will garner 18 percent of the vote and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia 14.3 percent. Another survey published in the daily "Hospodarske noviny" shows the CSSD (28 percent) holding a larger lead over the ODS (24 percent). In accord with Czech law, no additional public-opinion surveys can be published before the voting. MS

CZECH, GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTERS DISCUSS COOPERATION
Visiting Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik and his German counterpart, Rudolf Scharping, told journalists in Berlin on 10 June that their military forces will intensify cooperation, both within NATO and in the context of international peacekeeping missions, CTK reported. The ministers signed an agreement on cooperation after 2003. In related news, visiting Latvian armed forces commander Colonel Raimonds Graube and his Czech counterpart, General Jiri Sedivy, told journalists in Prague on 10 June that Czech military experts will continue to train Latvian soldiers in chemical-, biological-, and nuclear-defense techniques, CTK reported. Graube said that military cooperation with the Czech Republic is among the best his country has with any NATO member. He praised Czech expertise in coping with weapons of mass destruction as "probably at the highest level in the world." MS

SIEMENS EXPANDING CZECH AUTO-PARTS FACTORY
The German conglomerate Siemens plans to invest $114 million and more than treble the work force at its auto-parts factory in Brandys nad Labem, near Prague, dpa reported on 10 June, citing the Czech government agency CzechInvest. Initially, Siemens plans to boost employment at the plant from the current 650 workers to about 1,450. Another 450 workers will be hired in a second stage of expansion to be completed by 2005. The plant makes parts for fuel-supply and air-conditioning systems and instrument panels. MS

FORMER SLOVAK PREMIER TELLS POLICE: 'LET ME BE'
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia Chairman Vladimir Meciar on 10 June refused to accompany two police officers in Poprad who had invited him to a police station to answer questions about the ongoing investigation into the financing of his villa in Trencianske Teplice, CTK reported. Meciar told the two officials, "Let me be," and entered a hotel where he later told journalists that he would agree to be questioned only if Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and parliamentary speaker Jozef Migas are also investigated on how they financed the construction of their villas or flats. Deputy Police Chief Jaroslav Spisiak said that police realize Meciar has "a busy schedule" and would like to reach an agreement with him on a date when he would be able to answer questions. MS

SLOVAK DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER SAYS DRAFT LAW ON JEWISH COMPENSATION LIKELY SOON
Deputy Prime Minister Pal Csaky said in Bratislava on 10 June that the cabinet is likely to approve in June or July a draft law on compensation for Jewish properties confiscated by the country's wartime government, CTK reported. Csaky, who returned from a visit to the United States earlier that day, said U.S. President George W. Bush told him that he welcomes the progress made so far in negotiations with representatives of the Jewish communities but would like to see actual results. Experts calculate the total value of "Aryanized" properties of Slovak Jews at some 25 billion crowns (nearly $530 million). MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER PROMISES PROFESSIONAL ARMY BY 2006
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy told executives at the Defense Ministry on 10 June that Hungary will have a professional army by 2006 at the latest, Hungarian media reported. The prime minister and Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz said Hungary must restore its NATO credibility, which he said has declined over the last four years. Juhasz said the article in the constitution stipulating that military service is obligatory will not be abolished, but conscription will be suspended. Medgyessy later told journalists that the Defense Ministry's budget can only be increased in line with what the country can afford. He said his cabinet will honor the contract on leasing Gripen supersonic fighters, but is considering an "upgrade" of the offset arrangements. Juhasz said he wants to find out what happened to much of the money allocated for defense that seemingly disappeared over the last four years and why the country's military capability has steadily declined despite adequate funding. MS

HUNGARY WANTS THREE-YEAR TRANSITION PERIOD TO FULL ACCESS TO EU FARM SUBSIDIES
Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs told the daily "Vilaggazdasag" on 10 June that his government is seeking just a three-year transition period before gaining full access to EU farming subsidies instead of the nearly 10-year phase-in offered by the EU. On the same day, Kovacs met with EU officials in Luxembourg to discuss other changes that the new cabinet wants introduced in the chapters closed by its predecessor. Meeting in Luxembourg on the same day, the EU foreign ministers failed to make progress on the question of the agricultural subsidies to be paid to new members after they join the organization. MS

OSCE ISSUES REPORT ON HUNGARIAN ELECTIONS
A report issued on 10 June by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights says the April parliamentary elections in Hungary were fully in line with international democratic norms and standards, but lists several reasons for concern, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. The report says the National Election Commission was set up without the approval of the opposition and that, while this is not illegal, it is inconsistent with democratic procedures. The report also notes that the state-owned Hungarian Television network seriously violated impartiality by clearly supporting FIDESZ. It also maintains that Roma are marginalized in Hungarian political life. MS

SOLANA EXPECTS FAST WORK BY SERBS AND MONTENEGRINS...
Before leaving Belgrade on 10 June, EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana said he hopes a draft constitution for the new state of Serbia and Montenegro will be ready by the end of July, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2002). During his brief visit, he and the senior leaders of Serbia, Montenegro, and Yugoslavia signed a joint declaration calling for work on the draft document to proceed "without delay." The declaration called for the draft to be based exclusively on the principles set down in the 14 March agreement and to be aimed at securing a broad consensus. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, and Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic signed the text along with Solana. PM

...WHO HAVE A FEW IDEAS OF THEIR OWN
After meeting with Solana and the other leaders in Belgrade on 10 June, Djukanovic said that there must be no attempt locally or from abroad to tamper with or modify the principles set down in the 14 March agreement, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He was alluding to attempts by the pro-Belgrade Montenegrin opposition to have Montenegrin deputies to the federal parliament elected directly by the voters rather than appointed by the Montenegrin government. Elsewhere in Belgrade, Labus and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said the EU should set down a timetable for integrating the new state into its institutions so that no more time is lost. But Djindjic also warned Solana against trying to rush matters in Belgrade: "Solana is not a judge, and his discontent is his problem," "Glas javnosti" quoted Djindjic as saying. For his part, Solana said the 14 March text is clear and unambiguous, adding that the EU has no desire to interfere in the procedure for selecting parliamentary deputies, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported from Podgorica on 11 June. PM

SERBIAN COALITION PREPARES TO SACK TRUANT DEPUTIES
Meeting in Novi Sad on 10 June, leaders of most of the parties represented in the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition agreed to take away the legislative mandates of 21 deputies belonging to Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) for missing numerous sessions of the Serbian parliament, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 June 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 May 2002). The party leaders agreed that the 21 DSS deputies and 15 legislators belonging to other parties in DOS will formally lose their seats soon. Their replacements will come from the list of DOS candidates in the 2000 elections who did not win seats. Dejan Mihajlov, who heads the DSS deputies in the parliament, slammed the decision as "unconstitutional and illegal." He also called the decision "theft...[and] a mini-coup d'etat." PM

WAR CRIMES TRIAL BEGINS IN SERBIA...
Ivan Nikolic, who is a former Yugoslav Army soldier, went on trial in Prokuplje on 11 June for killing two ethnic Albanians during the 1999 conflict in Kosova, AP reported. This is the first war crimes trial of a Yugoslav soldier to take place in Serbia. The trial has greatly angered Serbian nationalists, and a group of army veterans protested outside the court building. Many members of the Belgrade leadership argue that The Hague-based war crimes tribunal is anti-Serb and want domestic courts to try the accused. PM

...AND IN CROATIA
The trial of eight Croatian military policemen opened in the county court in Split on 10 June, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The eight are accused of beating and killing ethnic Serb civilians at a military prison near Split in 1992. PM

FORMER TUDJMAN DEPUTY DENIES ANY ROLE IN BOSNIAN WAR
Ivic Pasalic, who was a top aide to the late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and the head of the "Herzegovinian lobby" in Croatian politics, told the war crimes tribunal in The Hague on 10 June that Croatia never planned or carried out any military action against Bosnia or its territorial integrity, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Pasalic is a witness at the trial of Mladen Naletilic Tuta. PM

WORLD BANK LOAN FOR BOSNIA
Officials of the World Bank and Bosnia signed an agreement in Sarajevo on 10 June for the bank to provide a $44 million loan to help promote foreign investment, AP reported. Economics Minister Azra Hadziahmetovic said the money will be used to launch a number of reforms, including speeding up the registration process for companies, creating administrative uniformity between the two entities, and increasing inspections of dubious businesses. High Representative Paddy Ashdown recently noted that it takes 100 days to register a company legally but only one day to do so illegally. Bosnia is struggling to overcome not only the effects of four years of war but also of 45 years of communism. Privatization and legal reform are lagging far behind the expectations of the international community. Unemployment remains a major problem, especially in the Republika Srpska. Many observers fear that a culture of aid dependence has already begun to set in. PM

KFOR RELEASES FORMER GUERRILLA LEADER
On 10 June, officials of the NATO-led peacekeepers said in Prishtina that they recently freed Shefket Musliu, who is a former guerrilla leader in Serbia's Presevo Valley, Reuters reported. KFOR detained him one month ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2002). The peacekeepers have provided little information as to why they held or freed Musliu except to say that he tried to pressure and intimidate Kosovars. In related news, KFOR troops have arrested 13 individuals indicted by prosecutors in Prizren for alleged involvement in organized crime, racketeering, and extortion, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER URGES PARTIES TO PASS ELECTION LEGISLATION
Parliament speaker Stojan Andov told a press conference in Skopje on 10 June that he wants the political parties to adopt the package of electoral legislation as soon as possible, MIA reported. "If a [new] law on the election of members of the parliament is not adopted by 7 July, then I will have to schedule the elections [according to the existing law]. If we want to respect the time frame for the elections...[slated for 15 September], the elections have to be scheduled now. Otherwise, either I will have to violate the existing law, or I will have to postpone the elections," Andov said. The lawmakers were slated to have adopted the legislation by 31 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 10 June 2002). UB

VERHEUGEN THROWS COLD WATER ON ROMANIAN, BULGARIAN ASPIRATIONS
EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said on 10 June in Luxembourg that he opposes accelerating accession talks with Romania and Bulgaria, RFE/RL reported. "It makes no sense to artificially open or close [negotiating] chapters when the corresponding necessary preparations are in reality not there," Verheugen said. He said that the "actual speed of future processes" of enlargement is not determined by the EU but by the accession candidates themselves. A Romanian delegation headed by European Integration Minister Hildegard Puwak reviewed with EU officials on 11 June Romania's progress toward accession in 2002 and outlined objectives for the remainder of the year. Romania's chief negotiator with the EU, Vasile Puscas, said that Verheugen's statement earlier that day that Romania will not be able to join earlier than 2007 corresponds with the target date Romania itself set for joining, Mediafax reported. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS 'RIGHT OF REPLY' BILL IS 'INOPPORTUNE'
President Ion Iliescu told members of Romania's Press Club on 10 June that the "right of reply" bill that the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) submitted to parliament is "inopportune," and hinted that if parliament approves the bill, he will refuse to promulgate it, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The bill would compel newspapers to publish letters to the editor and other comments in the same space where a critical article appeared. Journalists have argued that the law is impractical and a threat to freedom of expression. On the same day, the PSD Permanent Delegation said it does not consider the bill to be a "high priority" and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said PSD deputies and senators will consult with journalists before agreeing on the text of the law, different versions of which were approved by the two chambers. MS

TURMOIL IN ROMANIA'S LIBERAL PARTY
Fifteen prominent leaders of the National Liberal Party (PNL) on 10 June signed a letter addressed to PNL National Council Chairman Theodor Stolojan expressing concern about "rumors" that Stolojan is considering resigning, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The leaders -- among them former PNL Chairman Mircea Ionescu-Quintus and three current deputy chairmen -- said they oppose "circumstantial alliances" such as that advocated by PNL Chairman Valeriu Stoica with the Democratic Party. They added that Stolojan embodies the striving for "genuine liberal policies" that aim at economic reform and "the reform of the political class." Stolojan said in reaction that he will "seriously consider" the appeal of the 15 signatories. Stoica said that he notes that some of the letter's signatories opposed Stolojan's joining the PNL in 2000 and that the debates on internal PNL reforms "have only just started." MS

ROMANIAN REGIONAL PARTY MERGES WITH RULING FORMATION
The PSD and the Party of Moldovans on 10 June signed a merger agreement under which members of the latter party will become PSD members, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Party of Moldovans Chairman Constantin Simirad denied that the agreement includes a role for himself in the PSD leadership, saying that both formations wish to "contribute to Romania's harmonious development." MS

ROMANIAN SUPREME COURT REJECTS PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S 'EXTRAORDINARY APPEAL'
The Supreme Court on 10 June rejected an "extraordinary appeal" submitted by Prosecutor-General Joita Tanase against a lower court's ruling obliging state-owned CEC savings bank to honor the bank's commitment to guarantee investments in the collapsed National Investment Fund, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Romanian legislation allows the Prosecutor-General's Office to initiate "extraordinary appeals" against court decisions, but the Supreme Court's ruling on the matter cannot be appealed further. MS

ROMANIAN TRADE UNIONS POSTPONE AGREEMENT WITH GOVERNMENT
Negotiators representing the government and two major trade unions, the National Syndicate Bloc and Cartel Alfa, reached on 10 June an agreement on all points of negotiation, but the unions' leaders unexpectedly announced on 11 June that they are postponing signing it, Romanian Radio reported the same day. They said they want the agreement to be signed personally by Prime Minister Nastase and the government as a whole to pledge responsibility for implementing it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2002). MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT DISMISSES OFFICIALS IN CHARGE OF RELATIONS WITH ROMANIA
The cabinet on 10 June dismissed Ion Godonoga from his post as chairman of the governmental Commission on Cooperation with Romania and Mihai Moraru as economic councilor at the Moldovan Embassy in Bucharest, Infotag reported. The two officials were accused of being responsible for the problems faced by Moldovan meat and dairy exports to Romania. Godonoga denied any responsibility for the situation, which arose after Romania stopped imports of these products from Moldova on 20 May. Godonoga accused the government of "looking for scapegoats." He said that the problem would only be solved if Moldova adopted EU standards for its meat and dairy products. MS

MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION LEADER OPTIMISTIC ON PARTY PROSPECTS
Addressing a meeting of the Chisinau branch of the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) on 10 June, PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca said the party's prospects for ending the rule of the Communists are good, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Rosca said that Moldova cannot for long remain "Europe's Cuba" and that the PPCD is now involved in "party reconstruction" that will enable it to come to power. The meeting elected Vlad Cubreacov as head of the Chisinau PPCD branch. Cubreacov said he will concentrate his efforts on winning the spring 2003 local elections in Chisinau and on transforming the party's organization there into "a model" for all other branches. MS

BULGARIA TAKES THREE STEPS TOWARD EU ACCESSION
During negotiations with the EU on 10 June, Bulgaria moved three steps forward on its way to EU membership, BTA reported. Agreements were reached concerning the free movement of goods and Bulgaria's future tax and excise policy. Additionally, Bulgaria agreed that for a period of seven years following accession, EU member states will have the right to restrict the access of Bulgarian citizens to their labor markets. UB

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT DIVIDED OVER CONTROL OF EU MONEY
The leader of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), Ahmed Dogan, demanded on 10 June that money allocated by the EU under the PHARE, ISPA, and SAPARD programs be administered by the appropriate ministries and government agencies, instead of by the Finance Ministry, "Dnevnik" reported. Dogan reportedly said that Finance Minister Milen Velchev plans to fill the holes in the budget with EU money. The Finance Ministry reacted with an official statement saying every EU member and candidate country has an institution that coordinates and controls the use of money allocated by Brussels, while everything else -- project management, tenders, and the specific procedures used -- remains the responsibility of the appropriate ministries and agencies. DPS is represented in government by the agriculture minister and several deputy ministers. UB

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF
President Georgi Parvanov on 10 June appointed Lieutenant General Nikola Kolev as the new chief of the General Staff and promoted him to the rank of full general, BTA reported. Parvanov, who is commander-in-chief of the Bulgarian armed forces, named the outgoing chief of the General Staff, Colonel General Miho Mihov, his advisor for military security. Parvanov also promoted a number of high-ranking officers, who will take over new duties within the army leadership. UB

UKRAINE HOPES FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP...IN THE POST-KUCHMA ERA
On 23 May, National Security and Defense Council (NROB) Secretary Yevhen Marchuk released an unexpected statement saying that the NROB believes "a long-term strategy must be worked out that would enable Ukraine to join the collective-security system upon which NATO is based." Marchuk added that, "There is no future for Ukraine if it remains outside the bloc."

This announcement came as a surprise because Ukraine's foreign policy has lacked any strategic direction for many years. The 2001-04 Ukrainian state program on cooperation with NATO does not mention full membership of the alliance. Nonetheless, Ukraine has always been the most active CIS state cooperating with NATO; therefore it is not surprising that it is also the first CIS state to openly express membership aspirations. Last year Ukraine undertook 500 activities with NATO -- the same number as is planned for this year -- in 23 different areas. Georgia and Azerbaijan are the only two other CIS states that also are seeking NATO membership.

Right up until 23 May, Ukraine's leaders had ruled out NATO membership as an option for Ukraine. In December 2001, Marchuk repeated what President Leonid Kuchma himself has said on many occasions over the last few years: "What is at issue has nothing to do with bidding for NATO membership in 2002. We are not on the waiting list, and Ukraine's entry into NATO is not an issue today." In February, Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko simply talked about replacing the July 1997 Charter on a Distinctive Partnership Between Ukraine and NATO with a new document, arguing that the charter had been exhausted, particularly in the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States.

The newspaper "Zerkalo nedeli/Dzerkalo tyzhnya" has argued that Ukrainians should remain cautious about Kuchma's intentions because "this is not the first time that [Marchuk] has made statements like this." At a Moscow summit of CIS foreign ministers at the end of May -- just a week after the NROB meeting -- Zlenko still spoke only of upgrading Ukraine's relations with NATO. "It is not our ultimate goal...to join this alliance," he stressed.

It is not coincidental that on the same day as the NROB announcement, U.S. President George W. Bush arrived in Moscow, in part to finalize the creation of the 19+1 NATO-Russia Council, which will significantly upgrade Russia's cooperation with NATO. In April, Marchuk half jokingly warned that Russia might join NATO before Ukraine and that "the dynamic of Russian cooperation with NATO is outstripping that of Ukraine."

Fearing being sidelined or, worse still, pushed into the Russian sphere of influence, Ukraine was forced to make a public statement for which former Foreign Minister Borys Tarasiuk, former President Leonid Kravchuk, former Rada speaker Ivan Plyushch and Marchuk -- the prime mover behind this decision -- had long pushed. Plyushch said earlier this year: "Ukraine has no wish to become either a bridge or a buffer between Russia and NATO, or between Russia and the EU. Ukraine aspires to be a full-fledged partner of these organizations."

Professor Olexiy Haran of the Kyiv Mohyla Academy's Center for National Security Studies believes that the NROB announcement was cleared at a meeting between Kuchma and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on 17 May prior to its being made public. This hypothesis would seem to be substantiated by the highly mooted responses to the announcement from Putin and Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin, who is hardly known for his diplomatic restraint. Kuchma may have offered Putin two palliatives for this move, Ukrainian foreign policy experts have speculated. The first was Ukraine's eventual membership in the Eurasian Economic Community (EES), as Kuchma agreed at Sochi that his country would become an associate member of the organization. Second, unconfirmed rumors have circulated that Ukraine may finally agree to an long-standing Russian demand to extend the current lease for the Black Sea Fleet from 20 to 99 years. Chernomyrdin has argued that the fleet "defends the southern coast of Ukraine."

Marchuk also announced on 23 May that the NROB decision means the end of Ukraine's neutrality and "multi-vector" foreign policy. Neutrality will be easy to ditch since it was never internationally recognized and "has always been more a product of virtual reality," "Zerkalo nedeli/Dzerkalo tyzhnya" wrote. "Multi-vectorism" though, has life in it yet. If Ukraine is going west to NATO, it is also going east to the EES.

The first step toward NATO membership, which Marchuk believes is at least five to 10 years away, is a formal decree and the creation in consultation with NATO of a Membership Action Plan (MAP). This plan is likely to be presented formally to NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson when he visits Ukraine on 7 July. A MAP will not only require Ukraine to increase its military budget from 1.25 percent to 2 percent of GDP -- the NATO norm -- but also to undertake profound military reform, to place the military under civilian and democratic control, and to increase its interoperability with NATO. But Defense Minister Volodymyr Shkidchenko cautioned after the NROB announcement that, "at the moment, there is no plan to switch the country's army to NATO standards."

Ukraine will be only the second country (after Norway) not to regard NATO membership as a stepping-stone to the EU. True, Kuchma said after the 23 May NROB meeting that Ukraine's decision to seek NATO membership is "connected with EU integration." "One is impossible without the other," he said flatly. Ukraine's EU aspirations are, however, illusory since the EU refuses to sign an association agreement with Ukraine (or any other CIS state), and Ukraine's domestic reforms entered an "era of stagnation" after Kuchma was elected to a second term in 1999. Even NATO membership will require a greater commitment to democratic and economic reforms than has been evident during Kuchma's second term.

If Ukraine is serious about starting down the road to NATO membership, it must draw up a MAP this year. As Marchuk said, "a Ukrainian application to join now would be ridiculed" unless backed by a MAP. Ukraine is still "very far" from asking to join NATO, Marchuk cautioned last week. And it is as important to remember that "Ukraine's recent history is full of strategic documents, programs, and conceptual frameworks," "Zerkalo nedeli/Dzerkalo tyzhnya" pointed out, that have never been fully implemented, including two separate decrees on cooperation with NATO and the EU.

The implementation of a MAP requires an ideological commitment of the kind demonstrated by the "Vilnius Ten" lobbing group of Central and Eastern European, Balkan, and Baltic postcommunist states that have opted to "re-join Europe" in deed and not just in words. Marchuk believes that Ukraine needs a consolidation of political forces and "society" in order eventually to join NATO. But no such consolidation can take place until after Kuchma leaves office in 2004, as Ukraine's parliament and parties are split into pro- and anti-presidential camps. Consequently, the 23 May NROB announcement appears to be a declaration of intent that is shorn of ideological commitment -- and which will therefore be realized only in the post-Kuchma era. Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto, and is a former director of the Kyiv NATO Information and Documentation Center.

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