DUMA TABLES RESOLUTION AGAINST EXTREMISM...
The State Duma rejected on 14 June a draft resolution against anti-Semitism, nationalism, and extremism proposed by Deputy Andrei Vulf (Union of Rightist Forces), Russian news agencies reported. The resolution would have called upon President Vladimir Putin to take urgent measures against a spate of recent extremist incidents. Vulf reminded deputies of the 27 May incident in which a Muscovite was seriously injured when attempting to remove a booby-trapped anti-Semitic sign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 2002). He also mentioned a 30 May incident in which vandals wrote anti-Semitic slogans on a memorial plaque on the Moscow house where Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov lived. However, speaking against the resolution, Communist Deputy Yurii Nikiforenko said that it "ignores the negative consequences of Zionism." Fellow Communist Ivan Nikitichuk said that in Russia anti-Semitism is "inflated," while the problems of the Russian people "are kept quiet." After some discussion, the Duma decided to table Vulf's resolution. VY
...BUT URGES GOVERNMENT TO RENEGOTIATE BERING SEA BORDER
During the same session, deputies voted in favor of a resolution calling on the government to renegotiate a 1990 agreement with the United States that defines the border between the two countries in the Bering Sea region, Russian news agencies reported. The non-binding resolution -- offered by Duma Security Committee members Aleksandr Gurov, Nikolai Kovalev, Viktor Ilyukhin, Aleksandr Kulikov, and others -- calls the agreement "an unbalanced treaty that violates Russia's national interests, especially as far as fisheries are concerned." The resolution, which was supported by 327 deputies, also claims that the agreement illegally transferred nearly 24,000 square kilometers of Russian territory to the United States, causing $1.4 billion in damages. It calls on the government to "correct" the 1990 accord. VY
MILITARY PROSECUTOR'S RESIGNATION LINKED TO PROBE OF WOULD-BE SENATOR
The 14 June resignation of Chief Military Prosecutor Mikhail Kislitsyn (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002) may have been linked to his role in the investigation of controversial former Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov, who was recently named to represent the Penza Oblast legislature in the Federation Council, "Izvestiya" reported on 14 June. Kislitsyn had been investigating the former chief financial officer of the Russian Army, Georgii Oleinik (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2001), who was accused of illegally transferring $450 million in federal funds to a Ukrainian company in 1996. In May 2001, Kislitsyn stated that Oleinik testified that all the documents concerning the transfer were prepared by Vavilov when he was serving as deputy finance minister. However, just before Kislitsyn's office prepared to indict Vavilov, he fell ill and entered the hospital. Later, the investigation of Vavilov was dropped and earlier this year he testified as a witness in the Oleinik case, which resulted in Oleinik receiving a three-year prison term. On the same day that the Federation Council accepted Kislitsyn's resignation, senators voted at the request of Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov to postpone endorsing Vavilov's mandate. VY
CASE AGAINST CHUBAIS ASSOCIATE CLOSED
The Interior Ministry (MVD) has closed its criminal investigation against Mosenergo chief Arkadii Yevstafiev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2002), polit.ru reported, quoting Yevstafiev's lawyer, Anatolii Kucherena. The investigation was launched in connection with a complaint from a Russian citizen identified only as N. Stepanova, who accused Yevstafiev -- a close associate of Unified Energy Systems (EES) head Anatolii Chubais -- of embezzlement and fraud. According to the complaint, Yevstafiev and Chubais borrowed several million dollars in 1996 from SBS-Agro Bank for the use of the Fund for the Protection of Private Property, which they headed. The loan was never repaid, allegedly causing financial harm to Stepanova, an SBS-Agro shareholder. Kucherena did not elaborate on why the case was closed. Valerii Streletskii, a former deputy chief of the Presidential Security Service, wrote in his 1997 book "Obscurantism" that efforts to investigate the case were stymied for political reasons. VY
GOVERNMENT INCREASES ELECTRONIC OPENNESS
The Russian government announced the launch of a new version of its official electronic portal (http://www.government.ru), which is part of the state project Electronic Russia, ORT and strana.ru reported on 17 June. Unlike the old website, the new one emphasizes interactive communication between officials and the public, allowing citizens to send letters, complaints, and suggestions concerning the government's functioning. In connection with the revamped website, the Department of Government Information announced that it is discontinuing most of its paper publications and press releases. VY
MARGELOV SAYS PACE IS BIASED IN MIDDLE EAST
Deputy Mikhail Margelov, the chairman of the Duma Foreign Relations Committee who recently headed a fact-finding delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) to Israel, said PACE has a clear bias toward the Palestinian side, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 June. Margelov said the PACE report on the conflict issued in April contains a biased evaluation and that both sides are responsible for the bloodshed in the region. Margelov said he will correct the PACE analysis in a new report that he is currently preparing for submission. However, he sharply criticized Israel's policies toward Palestinian civilians and its mistrust of international organizations. VY
NORDEX IS FOCUS OF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATION OF RUSSIAN MAFIA
Operation Web, an international law enforcement investigation into Russian organized-crime groups involved in money laundering (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2002), is focusing its efforts on the activities of magnate Grigorii Luchanskii and his company, Nordex, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 June. Luchanskii, who resides in Austria, attracted the attention of international law enforcement agencies in the 1990s because of his massive and controversial deals involving the export from Russia of oil, copper, strategic metals, and weapons. Although Luchanskii has been dubbed by the media as "the biggest uncaught criminal," Operation Web has been studying a potential Achilles heel -- his close contacts with the controversial U.S. businessman Mark Rich, who lives in Switzerland. Rich was wanted by U.S. authorities for 17 years on suspicion of illegal oil trading and massive tax evasion until he was pardoned in 2000 by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton. VY
UPPER CHAMBER REJECTS BILL ON CENTRAL BANK AT GOVERNMENT'S BEHEST
The Federation Council rejected on 14 June the draft law on the Central Bank, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The vote was 125 against and eight in favor with five abstentions, Reuters reported. Senators backed the position of the government, which did not support the version of the bill that passed the State Duma last month (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 30 May 2002). Sergei Vasiliev, chairman of the council's Financial Markets Committee, said he supports expanding the National Banking Council from 12 to 15 people and including more representatives of the Federation Council. A reconciliation commission may now be set up to work out a compromise version of the bill. However, Pavel Medvedev (Fatherland-All Russia), deputy chairman of the Duma's Banking Committee, said the Duma could override the council's veto, since 310 deputies voted in favor of the bill in its third reading. JAC
ANOTHER ELEMENT OF LEGAL REFORM PASSES LOWER CHAMBER
The Duma voted on 14 June to adopt a new Arbitration Procedural Code in its third and final reading, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill is part of a larger effort to reform Russia's legal system and regulates the procedure for resolving conflicts in the economic and business spheres. Valerii Vorotnikov (People's Deputy), deputy chairman of the Duma's Legislation Committee, said that one of the bill's innovations is that it includes a mechanism for settling a conflict outside of the courts with the assistance of a mediator. Also approved in the third and final readings were amendments to the law on state symbols, which make the state flag and state coat of arms the symbols for the executive and legislative organs of all federation subjects, regional courts, and municipal organs. JAC
ANOTHER REGIONAL LEADER CRITICIZES CENTRAL COMMUNIST PARTY LEADERSHIP...
Kursk Governor Aleksandr Mikhailov told RTR on 15 June that he considers Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov's leadership style "authoritarian," ntvru.com reported. Referring to the recent expulsion from the party of State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2002), Mikhailov noted that "the events show that presently there are two diseases that are starting to strike the Communist Party of Russia [KPRF]:...the development of orthodoxy and an entrenched authoritarian style of the leadership." He added that the crisis stems not from the party itself but from its leadership. The previous day, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that the 22 June plenum session of the party's Central Committee promises to be "as turbulent as [recent] sessions" and is likely to be focused on Zyuganov. According to the daily, Ivanovo Governor Viktor Tikhonov has suggested the party hold competitive "primaries" for the party's candidate for the next presidential election. JAC
...AS PARTY CONTINUES TO FRACTURE
According to the daily, Seleznev has decided not to surrender to Zyuganov in the battle for the hearts and minds of the KPRF rank and file. Not only does he have the support of the Kremlin, but also of certain regional leaders such as Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Governor Gennadii Khodyrev, who recently quit the party, and Volgograd Oblast legislature speaker Sergei Mikhailov. In addition, the small KPRF branch in Tyumen Oblast recently announced that it is disbanding and will re-form as a branch of Seleznev's Rossiya movement. JAC
RUSSIA DEMANDS INVESTIGATION OF TRAWLER INCIDENT
Moscow issued a strongly worded protest on 15 June in response to an incident the previous day in which an Argentinian coast guard vessel opened fire on a Russian fishing trawler, ITAR-TASS and other Russian news agencies reported. Argentinian Ambassador to Russia Juan Carlos Sanchez Arnau was summoned to the Foreign Ministry to receive the protest, in which Russia said that "the use of force against a peaceful civilian ship, endangering the lives of people, has no justification." No one was injured during the incident, and the trawler intends to continue fishing despite minor damage, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian government called for "an objective and thorough investigation of the incident." RC
PRESSURE ON LOCAL MEDIA DURING LEAD-UP TO ELECTIONS IN SIBERIA
Three of the four independent radio stations in Ulan-Ude, capital of Buryatia, have been closed down by State Communications Inspectorate officials because they lack the proper documents to use radio transmitters and other facilities, strana.ru reported on 14 June. Although workers at the stations admit they do not have all the documents in question, they attribute the stations' closure to the 23 June presidential elections in the republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2002). Meanwhile, incumbent President Leonid Potapov filed a defamation suit in a local court against a journalist with the newspaper "Moskovskii komsomolets v Buryatii," Interfax-Eurasia reported on 13 June. According to the agency, the article in question alleged that Potapov's chief challenger, State Duma Deputy Bato Semenov (Fatherland-All Russia), has not had the same opportunities to conduct his campaign as Potapov. JAC
A NEW FACE FOR ORT?
Art gallery owner and spin doctor Marat Gelman has been named deputy general director of Russian Public Television (ORT), Ekho Moskvy reported on 15 June. However, on 17 June, ORT's press service declined to confirm the appointment, strana.ru reported. According to Ekho Moskvy, Gelman intends to make ORT more lively and to create an image of ORT as a public television station rather than one that is state-owned. According to ntvru.com, Gelman's gallery is better known for its large-scale, non-commercial political projects than its art. JAC
ONE TOWN PROTESTS STRANGE SMELL FROM PLANT...
An unspecified number of protestors gathered in the main square of Novoulyanovsk in Ulyanovsk Oblast on 14 June to protest the "experimental burning" of toxic waste at a local cement plant, NTV reported. The company's technical director, Nikolai Skornikov, explained that the plant is conducting an experiment by burning a ton of Sovtol, a transformer oil, in its high-temperature furnace. If the company does not register any hazardous emissions, it will sign a contract on the industrial reprocessing of this waste. According to Skornikov, burning of such a small quantity does not pose a risk to the surrounding area. However, local activists argue that an independent environmental and public-health assessment must be conducted before the test continues. A local plant worker described the smell as "unbearable" and said she was sick for an entire day after exposure to the fumes. JAC
...AS ANOTHER TRIES TO STOP SMELLS BEFORE THEY START
Residents in the city of Taishet on the border of Irkutsk Oblast and Krasnoyarsk Krai are protesting the launch of a new aluminum factory, "Vremya MN" reported on 14 June. The residents oppose the proposed factory because it would be located fewer than 300 meters from the nearest residence and would release harmful emissions into the atmosphere. According to the daily, local activists have held several protest actions that have been ignored by the city administration, but pleas to the oblast authorities have attracted more attention. The paper reported that residents want the government to conduct a new evaluation of the plant and, if necessary, to resettle residents living nearby. JAC
RUSSIAN OFICIALS TELL UN RETURN OF CHECHEN DISPLACED PERSONS WILL BE VOLUNTARY
Russian officials assured the UN last week that no Chechen displaced persons will be forcibly sent back to Chechnya from neighboring Ingushetia, chechenpress.com reported on 15 June, quoting RFE/RL's Russian Service (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 21, 14 June 2002). UN official Chris Yanovski said very few of the Chechens currently in Ingushetia are prepared to leave, as they fear falling victim to the ongoing Russian search operations in Chechen villages. Also on 15 June, a Chechen government official in charge of preparing for the return of displaced persons told ITAR-TASS that 40 families were expected to return that day from tent camps in Ingushetia to Grozny, where they will be accommodated in a specially prepared hostel. He said an estimated 8,500 displaced persons have expressed their willingness to return to Chechnya. LF
RUSSIAN TROOPS LAUNCH NEW SEARCH OPERATIONS IN CHECHNYA
Russian forces launched new search operations on 13-14 June in Grozny and the villages of Prigorodnoe and Chechen-Aul, Interfax reported on 14 June. Interfax on 14 June quoted a village administration official as saying 13 people were detained, while Russian troops opened fire on four who tried to evade detention, killing one of them. But chechenpress.com on 17 June said five people have been shot dead in Chechen-Aul on suspicion of fighting on the side of the resistance, including two 15-year-old boys. LF
CLOSED ARMENIAN TV STATION LOSES FINAL APPEAL
Following a one-hour hearing on 14 June, the Armenian Court of Appeals upheld an earlier decision by the Economic Court to reject an appeal lodged by the independent TV station A1+ against the outcome of an April tender that awarded its frequency to a competitor, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 26 April 2002). A1+'s owners, who have consistently charged that the tender result was politically motivated and intended to silence their criticism of the government, said on 14 June they will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. LF
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT SAYS ARMENIA RETREATED FROM 'PARIS PRINCIPLES'...
Meeting in Baku on 14 June with Hugues Pernet, the newly appointed French co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, Heidar Aliev said that during talks in Paris in March 2001, he and his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian reached agreement on various points, including that Armenia will cede to Azerbaijan a corridor of territory through its southern Meghri district that will become a sovereign part of Azerbaijan in return for the same status being granted to the Lachin corridor between the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Armenia, Turan reported. Armenia has controlled that swathe of territory for the past 10 years. Those agreements, Aliev continued, constitute the so-called "Paris principles," but at subsequent talks in Key West in April 2001, Armenia backtracked on them. Aliev and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev have insisted for the past year that the "Paris principles" do not exist (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June, 18 July and 6 August 2001). LF
...WHICH ARMENIA DENIES...
A highly placed Armenian Foreign Ministry official told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 15 June that in his remarks the previous day Aliev misrepresented the agreement he and Kocharian reached in Paris in March 2001. The Armenian official explained that the agreement was "asymmetrical" in that it provided only for Azerbaijan "to use the Meghri road" that connects the Azerbaijan Republic with its exclave of Nakhichevan, while the Lachin corridor would be recognized as a sovereign part of Armenia. He added that Aliev retreated from that initial agreement after the Key West talks, insisting that the Meghri and Lachin agreements be symmetrical, after which the negotiating process "collapsed." The official said the Armenian government will request permission from the OSCE Minsk Group to make public the agreement reached in Paris in order to prove that Aliev "distorted" the facts. Armenian presidential spokesman Vahe Gabrielian similarly dismissed Aliev's claim as "absurd," adding that "official Yerevan has never agreed to give up part of its sovereign territory to Azerbaijan," according to Mediamax and Arminfo on 15 June, as cited by Groong. LF
...WHILE AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION EXPRESSES OUTRAGE
Azerbaijani opposition figures reacted negatively both to Aliev's apparent willingness to surrender part of Azerbaijan's territory and to his retreat from his original denial that the Paris principles exist, Turan reported on 15 June. Musavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar said the head of state "does not have the right to deceive the people," while former Foreign Minister Tofik Zulugarov said any such proposed exchange of territories should be put to a nationwide referendum. LF
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION STAGES ANTIPRESIDENTIAL DEMONSTRATION
Some 2,000 people participated in a protest march in Baku on 14 June organized by the United Opposition Movement, Turan reported. Participants condemned the police intervention on 3 June in the village of Nardaran (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2002) and called for the resignation of President Aliev, free elections, and the release of Democratic Party of Azerbaijan General Secretary Sardar Djalaloglu, who was sentenced the previous day to five days' imprisonment for "resisting the police" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002). DPA members picketed Baku's central police station and the Supreme Court on 15 June to demand Djalaloglu's release. LF
OSCE SAYS RUSSIAN WITHDRAWAL FROM GEORGIAN BASE COMPLETE
OSCE military experts and UN officials conducted an inspection on 14-15 June of the former Russian military base in Gudauta from which the Russian military claimed to have withdrawn its arms and personnel last year in compliance with an agreement reached at the November 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 July, 29 October, and 7 November 2001). The monitoring team concluded that all weaponry has indeed been sent back to Russia. Part of the Gudauta base is currently being used by the Russian peacekeeping contingent deployed in Abkhazia under the aegis of the CIS. LF
GEORGIAN ARMY OFFICIAL DETAINED FOR ARMS THEFTS
The commander of a tank battalion stationed at the Vaziani military base near Tbilisi has been detained in connection with the theft of machine guns and tank radios from that facility, Caucasus Press reported on 15 June, citing an official from the Georgian armed forces General Staff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2002). The official said the theft took place some six or seven months ago. Also on 15 June, Georgia's Military Prosecutor Gia Djikia told Caucasus Press that a senior Defense Ministry official will also be arrested in connection with the thefts. LF
KAZAKHSTAN DENIES DETAINED FORMER GOVERNOR'S RIGHTS INFRINGED
The Kazakh Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 15 June rejecting as "a mistake that misinforms society" the statement released four days earlier by the OSCE's Almaty office expressing concern for the health of former Pavlodar Oblast Governor and opposition Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan movement leader Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2002). The Foreign Ministry statement denied that Zhaqiyanov, who was hospitalized on 18 May while under house arrest, is being denied access to the doctors of his choice. LF
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT UNVEILS NEW CABINET...
Askar Akaev named the members of Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev's new cabinet late on 13 June, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported the following day. The previous government's ministers of defense (Esen Topoev), finance (Bolot Abildaev), agriculture and water resources (Aleksandr Kostyuk), labor and social affairs (Roza Aknazarova), local government (Tolebek Omuraliev), and the heads of the state committees on property and investments (Ravshan Djeenbekov) and sport, tourism, and youth (Okmotbek Almakuchukov) retain their posts. Presidential adviser Askar Aitmatov was named foreign minister; Interior Ministry official Bakirdin Subanbekov, described by ITAR-TASS as a "close associate" of Akaev, became interior minister; former Arbitration Court Chairman Daniyar Naymbaev will be justice minister; Sadriddin Djienbekov, minister of industry and trade; Mitalip Mamytov, health minister; and Ishengul Boldjurova, minister of education and culture. Former presidential adviser Bekbolot Talgarbekov is head of government staff. LF
...ELICITING OPPOSITION DISPLEASURE...
Opposition parliament deputies on 14 June accused Akaev of reneging on his pledge to create a coalition government, noting that all members of the new cabinet support him, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Communist faction member Iskhak Masaliev said that although Akaev held consultations with the opposition, he did not accept any of their proposed ministerial candidates. Omurbek Tekebaev said Akaev offered the opposition only one portfolio -- that of ecology and emergency situations, which parliament deputy Ismail Isakov rejected because it was not a "serious" post. Interfax, however, reported on 14 June that three members of the centrist For the People faction and one from the Right Coalition were named to deputy ministerial posts. LF
...AS DEPUTY PREMIER RE-ELECTED TO PARTY POST
Djoomart Otorbaev, who was named deputy prime minister and minister for economic development on 30 May, was re-elected chairman of the "My Country" party at its congress on 15 June, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The Ministry of Justice ruled that he may combine the two posts. The party has some 3,500 members. LF
QUESTION MARK OVER SENTENCED KYRGYZ DEPUTY'S APPEAL
Azimbek Beknazarov told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 15 June that he has been informed that his appeal against the one-year suspended sentence handed down to him last month by a court in Djalalabad will be held not in Djalalabad on 18 June but in the town of Toktogul. Beknazarov has not, however, been officially informed by the court of this change of venue, although he should have been told 10 days before the scheduled date of the hearing. Meanwhile, several thousand supporters of Beknazarov are continuing their march from Tash-Komur to Djalalabad, where they plan to arrive by 18 June. LF
TAJIKISTAN MARKS FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF PEACE AGREEMENT
An international conference opened in Dushanbe on 17 June to mark the fifth anniversary of the signing of the agreement that ended the country's five-year civil war, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Addressing the conference, President Imomali Rakhmonov suggested that Tajikistan's experience in promoting reconciliation might be of direct relevance and use to neighboring Afghanistan. At the same time, he warned that "extremism will exist as long as there is poverty. Therefore it is necessary first of all to rehabilitate the economy and reduce poverty." LF
MUDSLIDES KILL FOUR IN TAJIKISTAN
Two women and two children died on 16 June in a mudslide that destroyed four homes in the village of Revat in Ayni Raion, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Tajikistan's Ministry of Emergency Situations had begun evacuating 340 families from the village the previous day. Torrential rains also triggered mudslides that damaged a further 80 houses and apartment buildings in Dushanbe on 16 June, according to ITAR-TASS. LF
U.S. OFFICIAL TOURS CENTRAL ASIA
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lynne Pascoe met in Ashgabat on 13 June with Turkmenistan's Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov to discuss bilateral relations and international efforts to rebuild Afghanistan's war-shattered infrastructure, Interfax reported. Pascoe handed Meredov a letter from Secretary of State Colin Powell thanking Turkmenistan for its efforts to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Pascoe then flew on to Tashkent, where he met with senior officials including Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, Deputy Prime Minister and Economics Minister Rustam Azimov, Security Council Secretary Mirakbar Rakhmankulov, and the chairman of the Muslim Religious Board of Uzbekistan, Mufti Abdurashid Bakhramov, uza.uz reported. Those talks focused on the situation in Central Asia and Afghanistan. Speaking at a press conference in Tashkent on 14 June, Pascoe warned that the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan still poses a threat to the region, according to AP. He also said that "it is absolutely critical" that Uzbekistan deliver on its promises to speed up economic and political reform. Meeting in Dushanbe on 16 June with Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov, Pascoe said Washington intends to expand humanitarian and economic aid to Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
TURKMENISTAN INVITES RUSSIA TO JOIN PIPELINE PROJECT
During a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on 14 June, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov invited Russian companies to participate in the construction of the planned gas export pipeline from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan to Pakistan, turkmenistan.ru reported. LF
REMAINING GUUAM MEMBERS COMMENT ON UZBEKISTAN'S DECISION TO QUIT
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko said on 14 June he hopes Uzbekistan's decision to leave GUUAM (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002) will serve as an incentive to that group's remaining members to consolidate and implement the projects they have agreed on, Interfax reported. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said Tashkent's decision will not negatively affect relations between Georgia and Uzbekistan but could limit the group's future activities, according to uzreport.com. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Udovenko said the decision is Uzbekistan's sovereign affair, Interfax reported on 14 June. ITAR-TASS on 15 June quoted an unnamed U.S. State Department official as saying the previous day that Washington hopes Uzbekistan will review its decision to leave GUUAM, adding that "the GUUAM association has yet to realize its potential in full measure." LF
NATO SCIENCE COMMITTEE MEETS IN UZBEKISTAN
A team of over 60 NATO specialists attended a two-day conference in Tashkent on 13-14 June to discuss water supplies and energy and environmental issues, Uzbek and Russian agencies reported. Uzbekistan has hosted four such seminars with NATO in recent years. LF
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WANTS 'IDEOLOGICAL' ECONOMISTS...
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka appointed Uladzimir Shymau, the recently dismissed economy minister, as the rector of State Economic University on 14 June, Belarusian Television reported. "I'd like [the university] very much to produce specialists who are convinced that what we have done and are doing is necessary for the state and optimal," Lukashenka told Shymau. "In other words, we need so-called ideological economists who are confident in the course that we have taken some time ago and been directly involved in it." JM
...AND CALLS FOR BOOSTING COOPERATION WITH IRAN
President Lukashenka on 14 June met with Iranian Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance Ahmad Masjed Jame'ei and pledged to bolster bilateral cooperation, Belapan and world agencies reported, quoting the presidential press service. Lukashenka praised "successful rates of the trade and economic partnership with Iran in various spheres" and declared that "we are ready to discuss all aspects of the cooperation with Iran and will do our best to expand it." Jame'ei delivered a letter to Lukashenka from Iranian President Mohammad Khatami expressing the desire to expand political and economic ties between Iran and Belarus. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry press service said the same day that Security Council Secretary Henadz Nyavyhlas will visit Iran on 16-18 June to prepare Khatami's visit to Belarus. JM
BELARUSIAN PROTESTANTS PRAY AGAINST BILL ON RELIGION
Protestants throughout Belarus prayed on 16 June against a draft law on religion that minorities fear could become a tool for government persecution if adopted by the National Assembly, AP reported. The bill, which received the Chamber of Representatives' preliminary approval last month, would ban organized prayer except by registered religious communities of at least 20 Belarusian citizens and would prohibit religions that have existed in the country less than 20 years from publishing literature or setting up missions. It would also require government approval for all religious publications before distribution. Ales Vyalichka, spokesman for the Union of Evangelical Christians, said 30-40 percent of Belarus's Protestant congregations would not be able to re-register under the law, since they have less than 20 followers. Lawmaker Syarhey Kastsyan, one of the bill's backers, commented that the law is necessary "to put up a barrier against all these Western preachers who just creep into Belarus and discredit our Slavic values." JM
UKRAINE, MOLDOVA TACKLE PROPERTY, TRADE, BORDER ISSUES
Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev visited Kyiv on 15 June where he discussed unregulated property, trade, and border issues with his Ukrainian counterpart, Anatoliy Kinakh, UNIAN and Interfax reported. Tarlev urged Kyiv to accelerate the handover of some 130 Moldovan properties on Ukrainian territory. He welcomed Ukraine's recent transfer of two wineries (in Kyiv and Lviv) and a health resort (in Truskavets) to Moldova. Tarlev also proposed the liberalization of cross-border trade by establishing a free-transit corridor of Moldovan goods through Ukraine to Russia. JM
MOROZ RE-ELECTED LEADER OF UKRAINE'S SOCIALIST PARTY
A congress of the Socialist Party in Kyiv on 15 June unanimously re-elected Oleksandr Moroz as the party's head, UNIAN reported. Moroz told the congress that the government has lost control over the economy and predicted that the country's financial situation will deteriorate and the shadow economy will grow. JM
UKRAINIAN NATIONALISTS WANT COMRADES OUT OF JAIL
Some 50 members of the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO) picketed the presidential administration building on 17 June, demanding that the authorities release 13 UNA-UNSO supporters who were jailed following clashes with riot police during an anti-presidential protest in March 2001, UNIAN reported. UNA-UNSO leader Andriy Shkil, who was elected to the Verkhovna Rada in the 31 March election, was released from jail in April. "The day of reckoning will come -- the UNA-UNSO people will be free while Kuchma will be behind the bars," one of the picket's slogans read. JM
UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS TO WORK HARD UNTIL SUMMER RECESS
The Verkhovna Rada is to view 118 draft bills as well as hear the government's report on its performance and a presentation of its action plan for the future during the 12 plenary-session days remaining before the parliament's summer vacation, UNIAN reported on 17 June. JM
RUSSIAN BALTIC PARTY IN ESTONIA ABANDONS ELECTION ALLIANCE WITH REFORM PARTY
The congress of the Russian Baltic Party in Estonia (RBPE) decided in Tallinn on 15 June to abandon plans to merge with the Reform Party and will instead run in the fall local elections independently, ETA reported. In early March, RBPE Chairman Sergei Ivanov and Reform Party Chairman Siim Kallas signed a preliminary agreement to form a union of the two parties and present a joint list of candidates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2002). The congress expressed its dissatisfaction with the planned alliance and elected Viktor Lanberg as its new party chairman. Lanberg said the party will also participate in the parliamentary elections in March and in elections to the EU Parliament once Estonia becomes a member of the EU. SG
EU COMMISSIONER FOR ENLARGEMENT VISITS LATVIA
Guenter Verheugen told a press conference in Riga on 14 June that he believes EU member states will reach a common position on the agriculture sector and other issues so as not to delay the admission of new members, BNS reported. He participated in a commemoration of Remembrance Day for Victims of Communist Genocide in Latvia at which Prime Minister Andris Berzins and parliamentary Chairman Janis Straume spoke. New Era Chairman Einars Repse also met with Verheugen and called on the EU commissioner to guarantee equal conditions for the development of businessmen and farmers in EU candidate states. In an interview he gave to Latvian State Television, Verheugen said he cannot understand why some political groups in Latvia are calling on farmers not to support Latvia's entry in the EU because farmers will be among the first to benefit from membership. On 15 June, he traveled to the Latgale region in southeastern Latvia and told officials there that Latgale will gain more from the EU since it is among Latvia's least-developed regions, LETA reported. SG
LITHUANIA'S EU PREPARATIONS RECEIVE FAVORABLE EVALUATION
At a meeting of the EU-Lithuania Association Committee in Brussels on 14 June, Vilnius was praised for the progress it has made in preparing for EU membership, ELTA reported. Foreign Ministry Secretary Rytis Martikonis and Anders Henriksson, the head of the Lithuanian unit of the EU's Enlargement Directorate, chaired the meeting. Lithuania was praised for court reforms, anticorruption efforts, macroeconomic accomplishments, the smooth pegging of the litas to the euro, and an improvement in the business environment. The country was urged to improve its public-administration system, with a special focus on employee training and work conditions, to finish the identification of land plots and cattle registration, and to modernize its veterinary- and phytosanitary-control border posts. SG
POLISH PREMIER URGES ABOLITION OF SENATE
Premier Leszek Miller on 16 June warned those Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) senators who oppose the liquidation of the upper chamber of parliament that they stand no chance of being re-elected, PAP reported. Miller was commenting on recent press reports that President Aleksander Kwasniewski and SLD senators consider the liquidation of the Senate a mistake. Miller stressed that the abolition of the upper chamber was one of the SLD's election promises last year. Meanwhile, SLD and Labor Union senators met with Kwasniewski on 14 June. "The president believes that now is no time for constitutional debates because they may prove hard to close once opened," Senate Deputy Speaker Ryszard Jarzebowski told PAP after the meeting. JM
POLAND, RUSSIA FAIL TO AGREE ON CHANGE TO GAS CONTRACT
Polish and Russian government commissions failed to agree in Moscow on 14 June on the renegotiation of a 1996 contract on Russian gas supplies, PAP reported. Poland has asked Russia to renegotiate the provision of the contract that forces Warsaw to pay for unused quotas of Russian gas. "We're nowhere," Polish Deputy Economy Minister Marek Kossowski told the agency. "Admittedly, we have contracted too much gas, and we're not hiding the fact. On the other hand, the Russians have recently decided they can't continue with investments they'd planned in connection with gas supplies to us," said Deputy Premier Marek Pol, who headed the Polish delegation. Commenting on the recent Russian-Ukrainian accord to create a gas consortium, which is widely seen as Russia's abandonment of its plans to leave Ukraine out of the European gas-transport project, Pol said Poland still supports Russia's earlier plan to build a gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine. JM
CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS WIN PLURALITY IN ELECTIONS...
The Social Democratic Party (CSSD) has become the first postcommunist political formation to be returned to power in Central and Eastern Europe. In the 14-15 June elections to the Chamber of Deputies, the CSSD garnered 30.2 percent of the vote, winning 70 mandates in the 200-seat lower house, CTK and international agencies reported. Its chief rival, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), scored considerably lower than predicted by polls on the eve of the ballot, garnering 24.47 percent, and will be represented in the chamber by 58 deputies. Surprisingly, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) placed third (18.51 percent, 41 mandates), ahead of the Coalition, which received 14.27 percent of the vote and will be represented by 31 deputies. Turnover was 58 percent, significantly lower than four years earlier, when 74.03 percent participated in the elections. No other political formation crossed the 5 percent threshold for representation in the lower house, and only two other parties garnered more than 1.5 percent, which entitles them to receive subsidies from the state budget. MS
...BUT VIRTUAL WINNERS ARE THE COMMUNISTS...
The KSCM is the only party whose representation in the Chamber of Deputies significantly increased in these elections, CTK reported. The party garnered nearly 8 percent more votes than four years earlier and will have 17 mandates more than it had in the 1998-2002 legislature. The CSSD has four mandates fewer than in the outgoing legislature and the ODS five mandates less than before. The two parties allied in the Coalition are the biggest losers -- the Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union jointly have eight deputies less than they had in 1998-2002. MS
...WHO ARE READY TO BACK A CSSD MINORITY CABINET
KSCM Chairman Miroslav Grebenicek on 15 June said he would be prepared to enter negotiations with the CSSD for backing a Social Democratic minority cabinet under an arrangement that would provide for "parity representation" in the Chamber of Deputies' leadership positions, CTK reported. Commenting in the daily "Pravo" on CSSD Chairman Vladimir Spidla's pre-election statement that the CSSD will not enter into a coalition with either the ODS or the KSCM, Grebenicek said that politicians should never rule out any alliance, since "politics is about compromise." He added: "I know the Coalition has lost. The ODS has lost as well.... Having 101 mandates [as a possible CSSD-Coalition government would have] is different from having 111 mandates. Vladimir Spidla should seriously reflect on this." Spidla said he believes President Vaclav Havel should also invite the KSCM to consultations ahead of the government's formation. On 16 June, Grebenicek said after a meeting of the KSCM leadership that the party will back neither a CSSD-Coalition government nor a "grand coalition" of the CSSD and ODS, CTK reported. MS
CSSD FORMS NEGOTIATING TEAM FOR POSSIBLE CZECH GOVERNMENT...
The CSSD Presidium on 16 June entrusted the party's Political Board with starting negotiations on the shape of a future government, CTK reported. The board is composed of Chairman Spidla, the party's deputy chairmen, and the leaders of the CSSD parliamentary groups in the two chambers. CSSD Deputy Chairman Stanislav Gross said a smaller group will actively engage in the negotiations. That group is formed by Spidla, Gross, Deputy CSSD Chairwoman Marie Souckova, and Bohuslav Sobotka, who is leader of the CSSD group in the Chamber of Deputies. Spidla told CTK that he has asked Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky, Gross, and Sobotka to draft a coalition agreement. MS
...WHILE SPIDLA SAYS HE WILL FIRST NEGOTIATE WITH COALITION
Reacting to the electoral outcome, CSSD prime ministerial candidate Spidla said he will first ask the Coalition to negotiate the formation of a new government, CTK reported. Spidla said that if those negotiations fail, he will try to form a minority cabinet but will under no circumstances form a "grand coalition" with the ODS. He also reiterated that the CSSD will not enter negotiations with the KSCM nor consider forming a minority government with that party's backing. "We shall strive to create a modern welfare state and prepare for joining the EU," Reuters cited him as saying. ODS Chairman Vaclav Klaus, speaking on Czech television on 16 June, also ruled out a "grand coalition" or the possibility of the ODS tolerating in the parliament a CSSD minority cabinet. MS
KLAUS CONCEDES DEFEAT...
ODS Chairman Klaus on 15 June conceded defeat in the elections and described the ballot as "a failure for the ODS," CTK and international agencies reported. He said he will consider to what extent he is personally responsible for his party's performance and will consult on the matter with his colleagues in the ODS leadership. Klaus thus stopped short of announcing his resignation, as he said before the ballot he might do if the ODS suffers "a dramatic loss" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2002), although the party's performance was the poorest since its creation in 1991. Klaus told the daily "Hospodarske noviny" on 15 June that the ODS will now focus on the fall local elections, stressing that the party on 14-15 June won in many large cities. It should now attempt to win mayoral posts there, he added. ODS Deputy Chairmen Miroslav Benes and Petr Necas both said that the party is likely to spend the next four years in opposition and focus on "rehabilitating the right." MS
...AS DO THE LEADERS OF COALITION
The leaders of the Coalition, Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) Chairman Cyril Svoboda and Freedom Union Chairwoman Hana Marvanova, conceded on 15 June their electoral defeat but said they are ready to negotiate with the CSSD to form a new ruling coalition if they are invited by Spidla to do so, CTK reported. Svoboda and Marvanova dismissed speculation that the Coalition might disintegrate after the elections, saying that although the KDU-CSL will have a larger parliamentary representation than the Freedom Union-Democratic Union, they will negotiate with the CSSD as "equal partners." Marvanova said the main reason for the Coalition's poor electoral performance is the disintegration of the Four Party Coalition earlier this year. Svoboda said the electoral outcome was influenced by the "nationalist tones of the campaign," during which the alliance's rivals frightened voters with the prospect of the Coalition allegedly "sell[ing] out our country" to the organization representing Germans expelled under the Benes Decrees. He said the negotiations with the CSSD are likely to be "pragmatic, and maybe difficult," Reuters reported. MS
HAVEL BEGINS CONSULTATIONS ON GOVERNMENT FORMATION...
President Havel on 16 June opened consultations with political parties on forging the country's next government, CTK and international agencies reported. He held talks with CSSD Chairman and prime-ministerial candidate Spidla but did not immediately ask him to form the next cabinet. He said he can entrust a politician to form the cabinet only after the Central Electoral Commission officially publishes the results of the elections, expected on 17 June. But Spidla said on Czech television after the talks that Havel assured him of the nomination. Havel later discussed the cabinet formation with ODS Chairman Klaus and with Coalition leaders Cyril Svoboda and Hana Marvanova. Havel has said that he will not invite the Communists to the consultations, because all other formations have announced they will not cooperate with the Communists. Svoboda and Marvanova said after the talks that they are ready to negotiate with the CSSD. Klaus said the ODS "does not feel the need to participate in negotiations for now" and that if such a need arises, it will be "neither today, nor tomorrow, nor the day after tomorrow. "MS
...AND COMMENTS ON ELECTORAL OUTCOME
President Havel said on 16 June after talks with the heads of the three lists that the electorate has sent a signal attesting to its estrangement from the political system and that political parties' leaders must learn that lesson, CTK reported. Havel said the low turnout and the votes for many small parties that did not enter the parliament "are telling for the country's political situation." He pointed out that more than 10 percent of voters cast ballots for extraparliamentary formations and that many of those voters are young. The emerging generation, he said, does not want the system to be closed. Havel said he is not worried about the shift to the left in the balloting. He said shifts "in one direction or another" are part of democracy, and it is more important for the political system not to be closed and for parties not to succumb to the temptation to manipulate the media or the judiciary. MS
SPIDLA SAYS CSSD WILL HAVE OWN CANDIDATE FOR CZECH PRESIDENCY
CSSD Chairman Spidla said on Czech television on 16 June that his party will field a candidate of its own when President Havel's term expires in early 2003, CTK reported. Spidla said that the election results show that ODS Chairman Klaus's chances of being elected president by the next parliament are slim and so are the chances of any other candidate backed by the ODS. Klaus has never announced his intention to run for president but neither has he ruled out the possibility. Spidla said the CSSD will attempt to amend the constitution and introduce direct presidential elections, but added that the procedure will be long and that he believes Havel's successor will be elected by the legislature in January 2003. Spidla refused to say whether the CSSD's presidential candidate will be outgoing Premier Milos Zeman. MS
SAXONY PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR ABOLITION OF DECREES EXPELLING GERMANS
The parliament of the German state of Saxony on 15 June approved an appeal to the Czech, Slovak, Polish, and Slovenian parliaments requesting that all decrees that led to the confiscation of property and expulsion of German, Hungarian, Jewish, and other minorities in those countries before and after World War II be abolished, CTK reported. The parliament of Saxony said those decrees "contradict international law" and must be abolished by all EU candidate countries. MS
NEW DISPUTE ERUPTS AT NOVA TV
The supervisory board for Czech Radio and Television is to debate on 27 June the situation at Nova TV, the country's dominant private television station, following a new ownership dispute involving the station's general manager, Vladimir Zelezny, Czech radio, CTK and AP reported. Zelezny's former lawyer and right-hand man Ales Rozenhal announced on 14 June that Zelezny has been dismissed by co-owners of the company who control a 52 percent stake in CET 21, the company that holds Nova TV's broadcasting license. Rozenhal said CET 21 has financial problems due to the "lack of transparency" in deals concluded by Zelezny and that his presence at the company's head damages its interests. Zelezny himself declared the attempt to remove him illegal. Attempts to seal Zelezny's office were resisted by staff loyal to him, and scuffles broke out on 14 June. Police said they regard the matter as a "private business dispute" and will not intervene. MS
TEMELIN GOES BACK ON LINE
The controversial Temelin nuclear power plant was reconnected on 14 June to the power grid after a two-day shutdown following a new malfunction, AP reported. MS
SLOVAK LEADERS REACT TO CZECH ELECTORAL RESULTS
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said on 16 June that the outcome of the Czech elections bodes well for the intensification of cooperation between the two countries and within the Visegrad Four, CTK reported. Dzurinda congratulated outgoing Premier Milos Zeman on his party's victory. President Rudolf Schuster on 15 June said ahead of the Czech election returns that relations between Bratislava and Prague will not be affected by the outcome, regardless of which Czech party wins the ballot, CTK reported. MS
SLOVAK GOVERNMENT TO DISCUSS DISMISSAL OF MINISTER
Premier Dzurinda said on 16 June that the cabinet will discuss at its meeting the next day a proposal to dismiss Transport Minister Jozef Macejko, CTK reported. Dzurinda spoke after a meeting of his own Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) leadership. Macejko has been accused of responsibility for a tender in which his ministry opted to purchase locomotives for Slovak Railways from a bidder whose offer was 822 million crowns ($17.3 million) higher than that of any other competitor. The tender's commission was chaired by Dzurinda's brother, who is an official with Slovak Railways. The premier obliquely defended the commission's decision, saying the affair has erupted due to a group of people who are "pursuing their private interests." Macejko, who is running on the SDKU's lists in the September elections, said after the meeting there are no grounds for his dismissal. MS
SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER WORRIED ABOUT DELAYS IN 2004 EU ENLARGEMENT
Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said on 16 June that Slovakia will use the occasion of the 21-22 June EU summit in Seville, Spain, to "send a message" urging the EU to keep its enlargement timetable. "Any delay regarding 2004 would be received very negatively in our country," Kukan was cited by AFP as saying. Negotiations on the enlargement are stalled over the issue of farm subsidies to be paid to the new EU members, and Kukan said an agreement must be reached making it possible for the EU to "simply keep its word" on the enlargement. "We are asking for no favors," he said, adding that "it seems that now, that the enlargement is getting closer [current EU members] are having second thoughts all of the sudden, trying to introduce [in the negotiations] new elements, which were not there before." Under the EU Commission's proposals, farmers in acceding states will initially get only about one-quarter of the subsidies paid to farmers in current member states, and the subsidies would gradually be increased to 100 percent over 10 years. Kukan said Slovakia can understand the need for a "transition period," but 10 years is far too long. MS
FICO WANTS TO LOWER SLOVAK ROMA'S BIRTHRATE
Robert Fico, leader of Smer (Direction), on 15 June said after a conference of his party in Bratislava that Smer will examine ways to end "the irresponsible growth in the birthrate of the Romany population," CTK reported. He said his party will consult for this purpose with social workers and with other experts. Smer and its leader have consistently been indicated by public opinion polls as running second in electoral preferences to Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, and observers say Fico is viewed in the West as the only likely option in the "stop Meciar" drive concerning the next Slovak coalition. Fico said he expects the party to be part of the next government. He said the program of Smer, to be presented at the end of the month, will also concentrate on fighting corruption and trimming state administration. MS
SLOVAK NOVA TV SUBSIDIARY SAYS CZECH DEVELOPMENTS NOT AFFECTING IT
A spokesman for the Joj Slovak commercial station said on 14 June that the station will not be affected by the dispute within CET 21. Ludovit Toth said that although Vladimir Zelezny has played an important role in the creation of Joj as a Nova TV subsidiary, the Slovak station "is an independent company with an independent management." MS
HUNGARIAN PREMIER PROPOSES CHANGING INDEPENDENCE DAY
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy announced in the parliament on 16 June that he will propose that Hungary mark its independence day on 19 June, the day Soviet troops left the country in 1991, Hungarian media reported. Medgyessy said that 19 June is the date on which the goals of the 1956 uprising were fulfilled. When making the proposal, he was flanked by Erzsebet Nagy, daughter of executed Prime Minister Imre Nagy. He also said he will create an Imre Nagy Order, to be awarded to scholars, artists, and public figures who serve the country's independence and promote social dialogue, peace, and national unity. Also on 19 June, Medgyessy and Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs laid a wreath outside Imre Nagy's former home in Budapest. Commenting on Medgyessy's proposal, FIDESZ Chairman Zoltan Pokorni said his party will support any initiative aiming to "provide a sincere introspection of the past," but rejects acts that "promulgate a false sense of agreement [between parties] or seek to equate murderers with victims." MS
ORBAN RALLIES EFFORT FOR HUNGARY'S AUTUMN LOCAL ELECTIONS...
Addressing the first meeting of the pro-FIDESZ "civic groups" on Budapest's Margaret Island on 16 June, former Premier Viktor Orban proposed that the "polgari groups" launch candidates in those constituencies where FIDESZ does not have local organizations, Hungarian media reported. Orban said the groups should not allow the left to win another victory. He also said the "polgari groups" must protect the victims of what he called "the purges" carried out by the Medgyessy cabinet. Orban said the new government has launched a campaign of "revenge," with absurd charges being leveled without evidence against its predecessor. He said that the new cabinet should not be described as one in which the government supports big capital against its own people but rather as one where big capital "par excellence" has formed the government. MS
...AND SUPPORTER ATTACKS U.S. AMBASSADOR
Imre Kerenyi, director of the Madach Theater, told participants in the same rally that U.S. Ambassador Nancy Goldman Brinker has insulted "The Hungary of Saint Stephen" by branding it as anti-Semitic shortly after her arrival in the country, Hungarian media reported. Kerenyi said Brinker spent more time at the headquarters of the Socialist Party than she did at those of FIDESZ, where she had spent "less than 23 minutes." He also said he expects Foreign Minister Kovacs to signal to his U.S. counterpart that Brinker "has caused domestic policy tensions." Responding to Orban's accusations in his capacity as Socialist Party chairman, Kovacs said it is regrettable that Orban has been unable to find for himself a role worthy of a former premier. Instead of criticizing the government from within the democratic parliamentary framework and helping improve the situation with alternative legislative proposals, Orban is "whipping up antigovernment passions" and trying to keep the country divided, Kovacs said. MS
ORBAN ALLY SIGNALS DISAGREEMENT WITH HIS TACTICS
Democratic Forum Chairwoman Ibolya David on 15 June told a conference of the FIDESZ leadership in Budapest that "street politics is not my world," making it apparent she disagrees with Orban's "polgari" tactics, Hungarian media reported. David said that democratic politics are a system based on political parties functioning in the parliament. FIDESZ Chairman Pokorni told the conference that FIDESZ's loss in the April parliamentary elections has been a "glorious defeat." He said the party won the political struggle but lost in terms of organizational skills and mobilization. Addressing the conference, Orban described the 1994-98 Socialist/Free Democrat government as the most corrupt in the country's history. Delegates amended the party's statues to allow Orban to attend FIDESZ leadership meetings with voting rights without holding an official position in the party. MS
SMALLHOLDERS' LEADER TRIUMPHANT AT PARTY MEETING
Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) Chairman Jozsef Torgyan announced on 15 June in Gyal, southeast of Budapest, that the FKGP National Council re-elected him party chairman with a "sweeping majority," Hungarian media reported. However, some 150 delegates who dispute the legality of the council's meeting and Torgyan's election walked out of the meeting to protest at Torgyan being the only candidate on the lists for the position. MS
SENIOR MIEP LEADER CHARGED WITH INCITEMENT
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 15 June filed charges of incitement against Lorant Hegedus Jr., deputy chairman of the Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), Hungarian media reported. The charges were filed in connection with an article published by Hegedus in "Ebreszto," a MIEP publication distributed in Budapest's 16th district, in which Hegedus advocated the expulsion of Jews from Hungary. Similar charges were filed against the publication's editor (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2001). In other news, the Right-Wing Youth Community announced that it will initiate having 4 June, the anniversary of the "Hungarian catastrophe at Trianon," legally recognized as an official day of mourning. MS
MILOSEVIC'S MILLIONS COME TO LIGHT
Serbian Finance Minister Bozidar Djelic said in Belgrade on 15 June that nine of former President Slobodan Milosevic's closest associates put away almost $6 million into secret Swiss bank accounts, AP reported. Djelic added that the Swiss authorities have completed their investigation and that the Serbian investigators and courts are now on the case. The minister named only two of the nine men -- former Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic and former health insurance official Tomislav Jankovic -- but noted that all of them are well-known. The money came from charging inflated prices on imported drugs during the period of sanctions in the 1990s and pocketing the difference. In related news, the Milan daily "Corriere della Sera" reported on 16 and 17 June that the money that Italian Telecom paid in 1997 for a 29 percent stake in its Serbian counterpart went into three dummy corporations owned by Milosevic in Cyprus. Sums mentioned by the daily range up to $480 million. The daily also noted that Milosevic had a slush fund available through his dummy corporations that enabled him to buy arms abroad. PM
BELGRADE TO RULE ON COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE
The National Council for Cooperation with the International Court, which is headed by Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic, will rule on 17 or 18 June whether to turn over to The Hague-based war crimes tribunal documents allegedly proving that Milosevic directly controlled the security services and unspecified paramilitary forces, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 16 June. Members of the security forces searched the Belgrade home of former state security chief Jovica Stanisic over the weekend in a hunt for the documents, but he said that he had already turned the materials over to the police. Officials from The Hague were present at the search. PM
U.S. AGAIN WARNS SERBIA ON COOPERATING WITH THE HAGUE
Pierre-Richard Prosper, who is the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes issues, told Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica in Belgrade on 15 June that his country must send more indicted war criminals to The Hague if it wants to avoid further financial penalties from the U.S. Congress, Reuters reported. Prosper added: "In order to be in a position where we don't have a [congressional] certification process, there are a few steps remaining. If we get movement on this issue before the Congress actually decides to enact the law [requiring certification], I believe that we, the U.S. administration, will have the arguments we need to go to the Congress and argue against having such a law." The envoy stressed that "as a partner and as a friend, we look to Yugoslavia to help us in this global effort because we need the peace and stability of the entire region." PM
ARKAN'S WIDOW STAGES COMEBACK IN MEGACONCERT
Ceca Raznatovic sang on 15 June for a crowd estimated at up to 100,000 in Belgrade's Marakana soccer stadium, or about one-third the number of those who gathered in Rome the next day for the canonization of Padre Pio, "The Independent" reported. Her fans sang along with the queen of the Serbian musical genre known as turbo-folk. Millions more watched on Serbia's largest private television station, TV Pink. The main purpose of Ceca's "for Zeljko and for Serbia" concert was to honor the memory of Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan, who was killed by gunmen in 2000 in a Belgrade hotel lobby. The killers have been caught, but their motives and the circumstances behind the murder of one of Serbia's best-known underworld and paramilitary leaders remain a mystery. She did not mention her husband during the performance, but sang three songs clearly linked to his memory: "Let Me See Him Again," "Dead Sea," and "My Darling." Since Arkan's death, Ceca has appeared in publicity photos with young soccer players from his Obilic team but vowed she will not marry again. PM
MACEDONIAN PARTY LEADERS BREAK DEADLOCK OVER ELECTION LEGISLATION
Under the mediation of U.S. special envoy James Holmes and his counterpart from the EU, Alain Le Roy, the leaders of the four major political parties signed an agreement on 14 June regarding election legislation, "Dnevnik" reported. Parliamentarians began debating proposed amendments to the election law that same day, ending a hiatus of two weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 10, and 11 June 2002). UB
GEORGIEVSKI'S PARTY OFFERS DEAL TO SOCIAL DEMOCRATS...
On 14 June, the ruling nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) suggested to the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) that they form a coalition government after the 15 September parliamentary elections, "Nova Makedonija" reported. VMRO-DPMNE spokesman Vlatko Gjorcev added that his party has also formally asked the SDSM to form a pre-election coalition with the VMRO-DPMNE in the mostly ethnic Albanian sixth electoral district in western Macedonia. "With its answer [to this offer], the SDSM will show whether it is the party of Macedonian unity or the party of Macedonian division," Gjorcev added. But SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski said: "The SDSM has to defeat the VMRO-DPMNE during the elections, and not form a coalition with it," "Dnevnik" reported. UB
...AND CONDEMNS PDSH TIES TO FORMER REBELS
Gjorcev told a press conference on 14 June that the party leadership condemns the open cooperation between the leadership of its coalition partner, the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), and former rebel commanders, "Nova Makedonija" reported. Gjorcev said the VMRO-DPMNE believes that such cooperation threatens democracy. A number of high-ranking commanders of the disbanded National Liberation Army (UCK) were elected to the leadership of the PDSH's Tetovo branch on 8 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2002). UB
DRNOVSEK TO RUN FOR SLOVENIAN PRESIDENCY
Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek said in Ljubljana on 14 June that he will run for president in the election expected to be held on 10 November, Reuters reported. He added that he might resign his current post in September to allow his Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partners time to choose a successor in the meantime. Parliamentary elections are not due until 2004. There has been speculation for months that health problems might prevent Drnovsek from seeking the presidency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2002). Current President Milan Kucan cannot legally seek a third term. Both he and Drnovsek were part of the former Yugoslav communist political establishment. PM
ASHDOWN SACKS BOSNIAN MINISTER
High Representative Paddy Ashdown fired Nikola Grabovac as finance minister of the Muslim-Croat federation on 14 June after Grabovac refused to accept responsibility for corruption in his ministry and resign voluntarily, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002). Ashdown has made the fight against corruption and organized crime a priority. A recent EU report noted a pattern of corruption by which companies pay bribes to avoid much larger customs fees. PM
HAGUE OFFICIALS TO BOSNIA
Claude Jorda, who heads The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, and Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor, are scheduled to arrive in Sarajevo on 17 June for a visit lasting several days, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. Among the topics on their agenda is the possible holding of some war crimes trials in Bosnia rather than in the Netherlands. PM
FITCH UPS ROMANIA'S CREDIT RATING
The international credit-rating agency Fitch Ratings on 14 June announced it has upgraded Romania's rating on long-term foreign currency debt from B to B+ and for local currency debt from B+ to BB-, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The agency said its decision reflects the reform process under way in the country and the growth of its hard-currency reserves. The rating on short-term, foreign-currency debt (B) remained unchanged while the rating on long-term, local-currency debt was changed from "positive" to "stable." The government welcomed the decision, saying it "confirms the substantial progress achieved [by Romania] and confirmed in accords closed with international financial organizations and the EU." Romanian financial analysts said the decision places their country in the category of states where investments are considered safe. MS
ROMANIAN PREMIER PREDICTS REDENOMINATION IN 2004
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 14 June after consultations with leaders of political parties that the redenomination of the national currency is "possible" after the 2004 elections, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The premier and National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu said the euro cannot be introduced in Romania before 2010 and that a redenomination of the leu will be less costly and have beneficial "psychological effects" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April and 2 May 2002). MS
FORMER ROMANIAN PROPERTY FUND CHAIRMAN INDICTED
Former State Property Fund Chairman Radu Sarbu and five other people were charged on 14 June with fraud, abuse of office, and falsifying data in connection with the privatization of a Bucharest hotel during Sarbu's tenure, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The damage is estimated at over $5 million. Sarbu's National Peasant Party Christian Democratic protested the indictment, calling it "a staged political show trial" directed against "people who implemented genuine reforms." MS
ROMANIAN UNIATES DEMAND RETURN OF COMMUNIST-CONFISCATED PROPERTY
The Greek Catholic (Uniate) Church on 15 June renewed its efforts to have property confiscated by the Communists and passed on to the Orthodox Church returned to the Uniates, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau and AP reported. In an open letter to Premier Nastase and Culture Minister Razvan Theodorescu, Uniate Bishop Lucian called on the parliament to "urgently" pass legislation making the restitution possible. MS
ROMANIAN TOURISM MINISTER VOWS TO STRUGGLE FOR DRACULA PARK
Tourism Minister Dan Matei Agathon said on 16 June that PricewaterhouseCoopers will audit the feasibility of the Dracula Park project in Sighisoara and will coordinate recruiting investments for the project, Romanian radio reported. On 14 June, Tourism Ministry officials cited by AP vowed to go ahead with plans to build the park near the medieval Transylvanian town despite growing international criticism of the project. Recently, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) expressed concern that the large number of tourists and cars expected at the amusement park will threaten the preservation of the Sighisoara citadel. MS
CUBREACOV DEMANDS THAT MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATES BE INVESTIGATED OVER KIDNAPPING
Popular Party Christian Democratic Deputy (PPCD) Chairman Vlad Cubreacov on 14 June demanded that President Vladimir Voronin be investigated in connection with his possible role in Cubreacov's kidnapping, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. In a letter to Chisinau Prosecutor Petru Bobu, Cubreacov said parliamentary speaker Evgenia Ostapchuk and Victor Stepaniuc, who is leader of the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) parliamentary group, should also be questioned. As grounds for his demand, Cubreacov mentions the fact that members of the PPCD leadership have already been questioned on the affair, as well as a statement by Bobu that the PCM leadership will be investigated only if Cubreacov personally requests it. MS
'OFFICIAL LANGUAGE' AFFAIR STIRS NEW PROTESTS IN MOLDOVA...
Education Minister Gheorghe Sima on 14 June backed Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev's recent demand that the country's official language be defined as "Moldovan" rather than "Romanian," and that the denomination be used in all schools and universities, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2002). Tarlev's order stirred renewed protests. Chisinau National University Rector Gheorghe Rusnac said the implementation of the premier's order would involve very high costs, as manuals in use since 1992-93 use Romanian as the name of the language and that these manuals were printed with help and approval from international organizations. He also said the Moldovan Academy has decided in favor of Romanian being the country's language. Mihai Coscodan, former rector of Tiraspol University, warned that the order is likely to provoke a new wave of protests and several high-school directors said teachers in their schools will "never agree to teach Moldovan language and literature." MS
...WHILE COMRAT UNIVERSITY RECTOR THREATENS HUNGER STRIKE
Leonid Dobrov, rector of the Comrat-based National Gagauz University (UNG), on 14 June said he intends to go on a hunger strike on 24 July to protest the authorities' refusal to officially register the university, Flux reported. The UNG has been functioning without a license for more than one year, and Dobrov said the refusal to register it reflects the government's "discriminatory, denationalizing, and russifying" policies. He also said that eight years after Gagauz-Yeri became an autonomous republic, there is still no educational establishment where teaching is conducted in the Gagauz language. MS
BULGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS MISSILE DESTRUCTION WILL NOT HARM ENVIRONMENT
Following protests from the Stara Zagora Municipal Council, Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov told journalists on 16 June that before the country's SS-23, Scud, and FROG-7 missiles are destroyed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2002), environmental-impact studies will be carried out, BTA reported. The planned destruction sites are in the vicinity of the southern town of Stara Zagora. According to Svinarov, they will be strictly cordoned off. Svinarov also promised that he, Environment Minister Dolores Arsenova, and a group of experts will explain the safety measures in detail at a special press conference. UB
BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES ARMS DELIVERY TO AFGHANISTAN
Parliament on 14 June ratified an agreement between the Bulgarian government and the Afghan interim administration on the delivery of armaments and ammunition on an assistance basis, BTA reported. The Afghan authorities approached the Bulgarian government with a request to provide such assistance toward the establishment of the new Afghan security force. The request was forwarded to Bulgaria by the London headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and concerns the provision of specific types and quantities of armaments and ammunition. UB
ROMANIA ILLEGALLY TRANSMITTED ELECTRICITY THROUGH BULGARIA
Speaking at the national Energy Forum 2002 in the Black Sea port of Varna on 15 June, Energy Minister Milko Kovachev said Romania illegally transmitted electricity through Bulgaria to Greece, BTA reported. Under the Romanian-Greek agreement on electricity delivery, Romania must transfer the energy through Yugoslavia and Macedonia. Instead, however, the country used the Bulgarian transmission grid, Kovachev maintained. "We have intercepted this transmission and have presented a note to [Greece and Romania]. We expect a positive answer, namely, payment of the...transit fees," Kovachev said. He added that he expects a new law regulating the energy sector to be adopted in fall. The law was drafted with the assistance of USAID and will provide for more market-oriented development of the sector. UB
CHECKMATE! UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT OUTMANEUVERS THE OPPOSITION
The appointment on 12 June of oligarch Social Democratic Party-united (SDPU-o) leader Viktor Medvedchuk as the head of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's presidential administration, a position vacant since 29 April, means that Kuchma has finalized his post-election chess match by checkmating both the Rada and the opposition. Kuchma's latest move highlights the failure of Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko's policy of attempting to maintain good relations with Kuchma by not joining the opposition camp.
In mid-December, Medvedchuk was removed by a vote of no confidence from his position as first deputy Rada speaker. Having named his former head of the presidential administration, Volodymyr Lytyvyn, to be the Rada speaker, Kuchma has now handed Lytvyn's old position over to Medvedchuk.
Medvedchuk has never hidden his presidential ambitions -- unlike Lytvyn, who has never mentioned such a role for himself and feels uncomfortable in the limelight. In the summer of 2000, just after Kuchma was re-elected to his second and final term, Medvedchuk proposed to Kuchma that, in gratitude for the SDPU-o's assistance in securing Kuchma's re-election in 1999, the president should openly opt for the "Boris Yeltsin-Vladimir Putin" transfer-of-power mode. Kuchma refused, having at that time no inkling of the immunity he would soon desperately need when the "Kuchmagate" scandal erupted four months later.
The "Yeltsin-Putin" model is no longer completely out of the question following Medvedchuk's appointment. As no other personality from the oligarchic and pro-presidential factions can rival Medvedchuk, Kuchma may see him as his only chance to thwart a presidential election victory by Ukraine's most popular political figure, Our Ukraine's Yushchenko.
Kuchma still faces an uphill struggle, but not an impossible one. An opinion poll by the Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Studies in May that asked respondents if they supported certain politicians gave Yushchenko 27.6 percent support and Medvedchuk 11.2 percent. Although Yushchenko's lead is substantial, Medvedchuk is already in a threatening position, especially considering his new access to the president's "administrative resources." For comparison, it should be recalled that Kuchma himself had less public support at the beginning of the 1999 presidential elections than Medvedchuk has now.
Certainly, Russia would not complain about Kuchma's choice of Medvedchuk. Gleb Pavlovskii's Effective Policy Foundation, which has close ties to Putin, worked for the SDPU-o during the March elections. Pavlovskii and other Russian leaders have applauded Medvedchuk's promotion. Russia's leaders tend to see Ukraine's political groups in black and white terms -- "pro-Russian" (United Ukraine, SDPU-o, and the Communists) and "anti-Russian" (Our Ukraine, Tymoshenko bloc, and even the Socialists). This division into "pro-" and "anti-" Russian forces is also the same fault line dividing the "pro-" and "anti-" presidential forces, with the exception of the Communists.
Although Medvedchuk has a reputation for aloofness, Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh and Lytvyn are little better. Indeed, this aloofness from the average Ukrainian is typical of the former high-ranking Soviet Ukrainian elite, something that might work against them in the 2004 presidential elections. By contrast, one of Yushchenko's biggest assets is his ability to connect with the Ukrainian public.
The final move in Kuchma's endgame will be to allow United Ukraine to divide into five or more factions and to give each one separate access to resources, such as staff, vehicles, and offices. This division will not necessarily harm their cohesiveness. During times of crisis, they can be pulled back together.
After blocking Yushchenko's moves to replace Kinakh as prime minister and then placing Lytvyn and Medvedchuk into checkmate positions, Kuchma was in a position to demonstrate his magnanimity in the division of Rada committees among factions. That division was consummated on 11 June by a vote in the Rada of 348 in favor.
Our Ukraine came away with the largest number of committees (10). Of these 10, the three most significant are Budget, Law Enforcement, and Freedom of Speech and Information. Our Ukraine also heads the Industrial Policies and Entrepreneurship, Combating Crime and Corruption, and Law Enforcement committees. National Democrats control two of their favorites -- Culture, Spirituality, and Human Rights and Ethnic Minorities and Interethnic Relations.
The number of deputies on each committee is a reflection of how deputies calculate their usefulness to themselves and, in some cases, to their vision of Ukraine. The most popular committees are also, not surprisingly, the most lucrative -- Budget (39), Finances and Banking Activity (34), Fuel and Energy Complex (32), and Transport and Communications (23). Of these four, the last three are controlled by the pro-Kuchma and oligarchic United Ukraine. Three of the smallest are Science and Education (11); Health, Motherhood, and Childhood (8); and Social Policies and Labor (8), in which United Ukraine has no interest.
Former Foreign Minister and Our Ukraine member Borys Tarasiuk failed to obtain the Foreign Affairs Committee after Kuchma adamantly opposed his candidature. It was handed instead to a former head of the presidential administration, Dmytro Tabachnyk, who has long coveted the post of foreign minister. His committee has 21 members, compared to just 11 on the committee on European Integration that was created especially as a sop for Tarasiuk. The Communists continue to control Defense and National Security.
This division of committee heads does not bode well for an integrated policy toward future NATO membership, something the Communists oppose and that they could easily block in the military sphere. More importantly, the Rada will have two committees with competing ideologies on European integration. Tarasiuk's committee will support integration in word and deed, dealing with Brussels directly. Tabachnyk's, on the other hand, will continue to pay lip service to the need for integration into Europe, but will proceed via Moscow while continuing to support domestic policies that hinder integration. Tabachnyk was a leading member of the "To Europe with Russia!" deputies group that existed in the 1998-2002 Rada.
Ihor Zhdanov, an expert at the Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Studies, believes that all these moves by Kuchma signal the beginning of the 2004 presidential election campaign. Nevertheless, the positions of Rada speaker or head of the presidential administration are poor launching pads for the presidency. As in Russia, the most useful launching pad is generally believed to be the post of prime minister, especially during a period economic growth and declining wage and pension arrears.
If Medvedchuk is to be anointed as Kuchma's replacement, he needs to become prime minister at least a year prior to the election. Replacing Kinakh with Medvedchuk would not be difficult, as Kinakh's Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs is close to the SDPU-o. But such a move might displease rival oligarchic clans who would oppose such SDPU-o favoritism.
Kuchma will not be able to launch a nationalist campaign to elect his successor, as did Putin, and Kuchma is far more discredited than Yeltsin ever was. These negative factors could be overcome if Kuchma uses another trump card he mastered in the 1994 elections and which Pavlovskii's foundation worked on in the March elections: the promotion of the "pro-Russian" Medvedchuk to counter the "nationalist" Yushchenko. The more densely populated eastern Ukraine might not like Kuchma or Medvedchuk; but they might prefer him to Yushchenko, for whom they did not vote in large numbers in March.
Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European studies at the University of Toronto.