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Newsline - June 18, 2002


PUTIN PROPOSES REFORM OF MASS-MEDIA MARKET...
Speaking in the Kremlin at a national conference devoted to reform of the mass-media sector, President Vladimir Putin said that without "economically independent mass media, it is impossible to guarantee the constitutional rights [of citizens] to receive reliable information," RIA-Novosti reported on 18 June. Putin also said that in the past the state has carried out a mistaken policy of selective customs and tax privileges to the mass media "that ruined big segments of this sector of the economy." Putin also called for order in the advertising to make it maximally transparent and free of bureaucratic barriers. At present, Putin noted, the advertising market is totally monopolized and, as a result, many mass-media outlets -- especially in the regions -- are dependent on outside subsidies, including state subsidies. VY

...AS NORWEGIANS PICK UP STAKE IN 'KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA'
Vladimir Sungorkin, editor of Russia's most popular daily newspaper "Komsomolskaya pravda," announced on 17 June that the Norwegian media company A-pressen will purchase a 25 percent-plus-one-share stake in the paper, Russian news agencies reported. According to "The Moscow Times," A-pressen paid about $5 million. Sungorkin stated that the paper took the step not because of financial difficulties, but in order to secure access to the global market. Prof-Media, the holding that manages "Komsomolskaya pravda" and the other media holdings of Vladimir Potanin's Interros, hopes eventually to be able to list its shares on international stock exchanges. Sungorkin also said that A-pressen is in final negotiations to purchase a similar stake in "Sovetskii sport," another Interros paper. A-pressen has been active in Russia since 1997 and owns newspaper-printing plants in Nizhnii Novgorod and Yekaterinburg, with another under construction in Novosibirsk. VY

STATE COUNCIL MOVES TO GIVE YOUNG PEOPLE 'PURPOSE'...
At a 17 June meeting in the Kremlin, the youth-policy group of the State Council decided to reinstate a number of collectivist traditions that hark back to the Soviet-era Komosomol youth organization, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Among the practices to be reinstated are youth construction brigades and mass rallies. Speaking at the meeting, Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Khloponin said that youth today is characterized by a lack of purpose, while in Soviet times, "there were magnificent subbotniks [public-service labor performed on Saturdays] and travel to collective farms to gather in the potato harvest." "Let us restore this collectivism in order to consolidate [young people]," Khloponin said. Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Andrei Sharonov, who was formerly a secretary of the Komosomol, endorsed the proposals and encouraged the group, which is under the patronage of President Putin, to advance more "ambitious suggestions." VY

...AS SOLUTIONS SOUGHT FOR TIMBER SECTOR
While addressing the State Council's presidium on 17 June, President Putin called on regional leaders and the government to take measures to preserve both Russia's national forests and its national wealth, ORT reported. The station also reported that the economy of Arkhangelsk Oblast in particular has suffered huge losses because of illegal felling. Local specialists estimate that one in every five vehicles on the Arkhangelsk-Moscow highway is carrying stolen timber. According to "Izvestiya," Russia, which has one-fourth of the world's timber resources, earns only $7 billion annually from this sector compared with Finland, which earns $30 billion a year. Earlier, the Natural Resources Ministry estimated that Russia could earn as much as $100 billion on the world timber market (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February 2002). According to the daily, Novgorod Oblast Governor Mikhail Prusak suggested creating a new forestry ministry to lobby for the sector's needs. However, this suggestion was opposed by the cabinet and some of Prusak's regional colleagues, such as Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Khloponin. JAC

COURT RELEASES KALUGIN INDICTMENT
Moscow City Court Judge Marina Komarova on 17 June rejected a motion by lawyers for former KGB General Oleg Kalugin to delay the hearing of the case against him and ordered the Main Military Prosecutor's Office to make public the treason indictment against him, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported. Meanwhile, Kalugin, who was once the deputy head of the KGB's foreign-intelligence service, claimed that the case against him is the result of a letter sent by a group of KGB veterans to President Putin, asking him "to settle accounts with the deserter," the BBC's Russian Service reported the same day. Kalugin speculated that the letter was itself provoked by a public comment that Putin made in which he referred to Kalugin as "a traitor." Kalugin also reiterated his claim that all accusations that he compromised Russian intelligence agents working in the United States are absurd because he has not worked for Russia's security services for more than 22 years. VY

'FIRST MILLIONAIRE' TO VIE FOR SIBERIAN LEADERSHIP POST...
London-based businessman Artem Tarasov, whom some sources describe as the Soviet Union's first millionaire, announced on 17 June that he intends to participate in 8 September gubernatorial elections in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Interfax reported. Tarasov told a local press conference that voters have three options. The first is to elect the Kremlin's choice, who will guarantee that things will improve for half a year, after which problems will reappear. The second option is to elect a "good strong man from the territory" who will be unable to resolve budget problems. Tarasov said that he represents the third option. Tarasov, who said that family on his mother's side comes from Krasnoyarsk, tried to run for governor of St. Petersburg in 1996, but his registration was rejected (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 22 April 1996). According to gazeta.ru, some local experts believe that Aleksandr Uss, chairman of the krai's legislature, has the best chance of winning. JAC

...AS FSB ARRESTS KRASNOYARSK KRAI DEPUTY GOVERNOR FOR BRIBE TAKING
Krai Deputy Governor Valerii Suladze was caught in his office accepting a $250,000 bribe in an apparent Federal Security Service (FSB) sting operation on 14 June, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 June. Analysts have begun speculating that Suladze's arrest will harm Aleksandr Uss's chances in the 8 September election. Suladze was responsible for construction projects in the vast krai and has often drawn criticism from the media and the krai legislature for his questionable distribution of construction contracts among a select group of companies. According to the newspaper, Suladze has been under FSB scrutiny for some time, although authorities did not confirm that the arrest was the result of a sting operation. VY

BATTLE OVER TATARSTAN CONSTITUTION RESUMES
Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev has filed an appeal with Tatarstan's legislature challenging the republic's amended constitution, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 17 June, citing "Vechernyaya Kazan." Zvyagintsev charged that the constitution's provisions on the republic's sovereignty, citizenship, the requirement that the president of the republic speak both Tatar and Russian, and the mention of the power-sharing treaty all violate the federal constitution and need to be harmonized. Last April, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that when adopting new amendments, legislators ignored a threat from local prosecutors because they believed Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev reached an understanding with President Putin, according to which Tatarstan will be allowed to retain the symbols of its sovereignty in exchange for the republic's "political loyalty" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2002). JAC

RAKHIMOV GIVES FEDERAL OFFICIALS AN EARFUL
Speaking at the World Bashkir Congress in Ufa on 14 June, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov criticized as "unfounded, harmful, and dangerous for the future of the Russian state the attempts of some politicians to wipe out the achievements of Russia's peoples, as well as the far-fetched projects of 'gubernization' and the arbitrary changing of the borders of existing regions, and equalizing their status without taking into account their specificity and historic peculiarities," RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. He added that the ethnic republics, in particular Bashkortostan, need to have "special relations with the federal center." According to RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 17 June, the congress began and ended with the playing of the Russian national anthem and major speeches were given, including Rakhimov's, in Russian. And, with the exception of Tatarstan President Shaimiev, not a single head from any other region took part in the forum; Volga Federal District officials also ignored the event. JAC

STAFF CHANGES AT FINANCE MINISTRY
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov dismissed Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Chernukhin because of "his transfer to other work," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 June. Chernukhin, a former Vneshekonombank deputy chairman, was appointed in May 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 2000). JAC

WAGE ARREARS TO STATE-SECTOR WORKERS DROP...
Prime Minister Kasyanov told members of the Federation Council on 14 June that the trend of increasing indebtedness to state-sector workers has been stopped, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Kasyanov, the debt to budget-sector workers totaled 1.6 billion rubles ($48.5 million) as of 1 May, a drop of 14.5 percent compared with the same day the previous year. He added that unemployment also dropped to 8.2 percent, compared with 9 percent at the same time last year. JAC

...AS SOME REGIONS FACE PROSPECT OF EVEN TIGHTER BUDGET NEXT YEAR
According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 June, Kasyanov also revealed that regions may receive 30 billion rubles ($1 billion) less from the federal budget next year because of the prospect of declining oil prices and the need to increase wages to military- and judicial-sector workers. JAC

OPINIONS, NUMBERS DIFFER OVER CHINESE 'THREAT'
"Versiya" reported on 10 June that while the Interior Ministry estimates that there are 2 million Chinese in all of Russia, other unnamed sources believe that there are 5 million ethnic Chinese in Russia, compared with just 250,000 five years ago, according to Carnegie Moscow Center figures. However, Federal Migration Service head Andrei Chernenko told reporters in Moscow on 13 June that "migration to Russia from China does not constitute a big threat," Interfax reported. Chernenko said that in the last five years there has been no increase in migration from China to Russia, although there has been "an integration of Chinese representatives into the system of socioeconomics of the border zone." According to the weekly, although local authorities in the Russian Far East frequently complain about the threat of Chinese domination of the region, not a single representative in Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, or Ussuriisk has any exact data on land purchases by Chinese citizens. JAC

REGIONAL OFFICIALS SWITCH FROM CARROTS TO STICKS TO PROMOTE NATIONAL ANTHEM
Oblast officials in Pskov have been given two weeks to learn the Russian national anthem by heart, Ekho Moskvy reported on 17 June, citing an order signed by oblast administration head Dmitrii Shakhov. Shakhov told the station that officials who fail to memorize the anthem will face severe penalties and have various bonuses canceled. He added that he was prompted to take such a step when he saw members of Russia's soccer team standing silently while the national anthem was being played at the World Cup in Japan. Last year, Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov took the opposite tack, offering a prize to the first person in his oblast to learn the new anthem by heart (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2001). JAC

DEATH TOLL IN CHECHEN-AUL SWEEP RISES
Russian troops have killed at least 13 residents of the village of Chechen-Aul in a search operation that began on 13 June, according to chechenpress.com on 18 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2002). Seventeen people detained by Russian troops have vanished without a trace, the website reported. Russian Colonel Igor Shabalkin told Interfax on 17 June the search was "one of the most productive" to be conducted recently. He confirmed that 20 village residents have been detained and said large quantities of arms were confiscated. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY READY TO BACK PRESIDENT ON KARABAKH
Albert Bazeyan, one of the leaders of the opposition Hanrapetutiun Party, said in Yerevan on 17 June that his party is ready to cooperate with the present Armenian leadership in the interests of achieving a "pro-Armenian" solution to the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. He said Hanrapetutiun will never exploit the Karabakh issue, which he said is of "national significance," to try to oust the government or pressure the country's leadership. Bazeyan also said Hanrapetutiun does not believe the 14 June claim by Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev that Armenian President Robert Kocharian agreed last year to exchange Armenia's Meghri region for a land corridor linking Armenia with the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2002). Hanrapetutiun and 12 other opposition forces joined forces earlier this year to try to force Kocharian's resignation. LF

ARMENIAN TAX AUTHORITIES DESTROY 'ILLEGAL' ALCOHOL
Armenian tax authorities on 17 June buried over 2,000 bottles of smuggled or illegally produced alcoholic beverages at a dump on the outskirts of Yerevan, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The drinks were confiscated from traders in city markets after President Kocharian criticized police and tax authorities last week for failing to curb tax evasion. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT VISITS NAKHICHEVAN
Heidar Aliev traveled on 15 June to the exclave of Nakhichevan, where he was born, Turan reported. Opening a new Olympic sports complex the same day, Aliev criticized what he termed the transfer of the historic Zangezur region of Azerbaijan to Armenia at the dawn of the Soviet era. That delineation of borders resulted in Nakhichevan's exclave status. Aliev said the Azerbaijani government allocates $12 million annually to subsidize air travel by the exclave's residents between Nakhichevan and Baku. On 17 June, Aliev visited a military unit and praised the contribution of Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev in raising the combat-readiness of the armed forces. Aliev also said he will meet "soon" with his Armenian counterpart to discuss resolving the Karabakh conflict, but did not say where or when. He added, "Our strength in the negotiating process will depend on how strong our army is," according to AP. LF

AZERBAIJANI-IRANIAN CASPIAN TALKS END
Talks in Baku on 11-13 June between Azerbaijani government officials and Iranian Special Envoy for Caspian Issues Mehdi Safari failed to yield any progress toward overcoming the differences between the two countries' views on the legal status of the Caspian Sea and how its resources should be divided among the five littoral states, Turan reported. It is unclear whether a planned meeting between Safari and Aliev took place. Former Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov was quoted on 14 June by the opposition paper "Yeni Musavat" as saying that Iran realizes that its demand for a 20 percent share of the Caspian is unrealistic and utopian, and may be bargaining to receive a share that is a little larger than its current 14 percent, but less than 20 percent. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ARGUES AGAINST PEACEKEEPERS' WITHDRAWAL FROM ABKHAZIA...
Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 17 June that he opposes the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force from the Abkhaz conflict zone, Caucasus Press reported. He added that the mandate of that force should not be amended, as some senior Georgian officials demand, without consulting the Abkhaz leadership, which rejects the Georgian proposals. Talks at the expert level on changing the force's mandate are to begin in Minsk on 18 June. Shevardnadze further said he opposes unilaterally amending the Georgian Constitution to define the precise status of Abkhazia within Georgia, since doing so would deprive Abkhazia of any incentive to participate in future talks. Referring to calls by Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the Abkhaz parliament-in-exile, for a new military campaign to bring Abkhazia back under the control of the central Georgian government, Shevardnadze affirmed, "There will be no war in Abkhazia as long as I am Georgia's president." LF

...SEEKS TO REVIVE FORMER RULING PARTY...
In a clear attempt to salvage his crumbling power base, Shevardnadze met on 15 June with representatives of that wing of the former ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) that still supports him, and with two other parliament factions, Tanadgoma and the Alliance for a New Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. The aim of that meeting was to create a parliament faction numbering at least 50 deputies that would support the president. On 17 June, Shevardnadze announced that Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze will be elected as chairman of the SMK, but will not resign his government post as long as Shevardnadze remains president, Caucasus Press reported. LF

...AS NEW OPPOSITION UNION HOLDS FOUNDING CONGRESS
Also on 17 June, the founding congress of the United Democrats headed by former parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania took place in Tbilisi and elected Zhvania as its chairman, Caucasus Press reported. The party's members are mostly defectors from the SMK. Zhvania said his party's aim is "to change the existing situation in the country and consolidate democratic values." LF

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY CHALLENGES RUSSIAN CLAIMS OVER GUDAUTA BASE
The Georgian Foreign Ministry took issue on 17 June with a Russian Foreign Ministry statement of 15 June claiming that OSCE military officials who inspected the Gudauta military base in Abkhazia concluded that Russia has complied with its commitment to withdraw from that facility, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2002). In fact the four OSCE experts did not conduct a formal inspection of the base or come to any such conclusion, the Georgian statement said. LF

FORMER GEORGIAN WARLORD REFUSED VISA TO VISIT FRANCE
The French embassy in Tbilisi has refused former Mkhedrioni paramilitary leader Djaba Ioseliani a visa to visit France, Caucasus Press reported on 18 June, quoting "Alia." Ioseliani, a former bank robber turned philosopher and playwright who will turn 76 next month, was invited by the French Pen Club. LF

DEMONSTRATORS CALL ON KYRGYZ PRESIDENT TO RESIGN
Some 7,000 people congregated on 17 June in the southern town of Djalalabad to demand the resignations of President Askar Akaev, Prosecutor-General Chubak Abyshkaev, and Djalalabad Oblast Governor Jusupbek Sharipov, and the annulment of the sentence handed down by a Djalalabad court last month against parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. About 1,500 of the protesters had marched to Djalalabad from the town of Tash-Komur, some 90 kilometers away. Also on 17 June, Abyshkaev confirmed that Beknazarov's appeal against his sentence will be heard in Toktogul, not Djalalabad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2002). Beknazarov refuses to travel to Toktogul for the hearing because he was not informed of the change 10 days in advance, as legally required. LF

KYRGYZ PROSECUTOR CONFIRMS THAT POLICE RESPONSIBLE FOR SOME AKSY CASUALTIES...
Abyshkaev also said on 17 June that the investigation has almost been completed into the 17-18 March clashes in Aksy between police and Beknazarov's supporters, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. He said four criminal cases have been filed against local police officers and officials in connection with the deaths of six people during that confrontation. LF

...WARNS THAT PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES ARE UNDER SURVEILLANCE
Abyshkaev told Abdygany Erkebaev, speaker of the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament), on 17 June that Interior and National Security Ministry officials are monitoring the activities of Beknazarov and his fellow parliament deputies Bektur Asanov and Duishen Chotonov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. All three participated in the protest pickets in Tash-Komur on 7-8 June and the demonstration in Djalalabad on 17 June. LF

KYRGYZSTAN, TURKEY PROPOSE INTERPARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY OF TURKOPHONE STATES
A delegation from the Turkish Grand National Assembly headed by State Minister Faruk Bal visited Bishkek on 13-15 June, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. During a meeting with Erkebaev, the two sides agreed that it would be appropriate to create an interparliamentary assembly of Turkophone states, according to iran.ru. LF

THREE FORMER TURKMEN SECURITY OFFICIALS SENTENCED
A court in Ashgabat passed sentence on 15 June on three former leading National Security Committee officials, gundogar.com reported on 17 June. Former KNB Chairman Mukhammed Nazarov and his former deputy, Khayyt Kakaev, were sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment; a second former deputy was sentenced to 18 years. The three men were charged with premeditated murder, torture, drug trafficking, abuse of power, illegal arrest, taking bribes, and running a bordello (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 15 March and 9 May 2002). The website, which is run by former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, commented that the three defendants showed no sign of having been treated harshly in pretrial detention. It suggested they might have cut a deal with President Saparmurat Niyazov not to disclose publicly details of the president's alleged dealings with the Taliban and personal involvement in drug trafficking (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 2002). LF

UZBEKISTAN, LATVIA DISCUSS EXPANDING COOPERATION
Visiting Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins met in Tashkent on 17 June with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov to discuss bilateral relations and ways to expand trade and economic cooperation, uza.uz reported. Karimov noted in that context that both countries stand to profit from increasing the volume of Uzbek goods exported from the Latvian ports of Ventspils, Liepaja and Riga. Berzins also met with his Uzbek counterpart, Abdulaziz Komilov, with whom he co-signed an agreement on cooperation in fighting terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime, Interfax reported. LF

UZBEK FOREIGN MINISTER PLAYS DOWN NERVE-GAS SCARE
Speaking at a press conference after his talks with Berzins, Komilov sought to dispel fears that the traces of nerve gas discovered one week earlier at the Khanabad Air Base pose a danger to human health, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 June 2002). No health problems have been detected among the estimated 1,200 U.S. troops temporarily stationed at the base, which provides logistical support for the U.S.-led antiterrorism campaign in Afghanistan. LF

BELARUSIAN-RUSSIAN RIFT OVER INTEGRATION DEEPENS
Pavel Borodin, the state secretary of the Belarus-Russia union, told Russia's NTV television on 16 June that the draft constitutional act proposed by the Belarusian side earlier this week is "nonsense" and a "simply foolish" document. Borodin's remarks follow Russian President Putin's criticism of the Belarusian-Russian integration model being pursued by Minsk (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 18 June 2002). Borodin's pronouncements elicited an acerbic reaction from Mikhail Charhinets, chairman of Belarus's Council of the Republic Commission for International Affairs and National Security. "It is time for Borodin to realize that he is in a post where each word should be well-considered, and that he receives his salary from the treasuries of both states," Charhinets told journalists in Minsk on 17 June. Charhinets also demanded that Borodin reveal the whereabouts of "several hundred thousand [rubles] of union money" that, according to the Belarusian lawmaker, "circulated among commercial structures." Borodin's spokesman labeled that demand slander. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT URGES 'EUROPEAN CHOICE'...
President Leonid Kuchma on 18 June delivered his state-of-the-nation address to the Verkhovna Rada, in which he urged lawmakers to pursue the "European choice, which is a continuation of the general course of Ukraine since the moment it became independent," Ukrainian media reported. "The optimal choice is full-fledged membership in the European Union," Kuchma stressed. But he was quick to add that "while moving toward Europe, we should not forget our other objectives...[and] we should develop our strong ties with Russia." Speaking about Ukraine's foreign-policy priorities, Kuchma named "Euro-Atlantic integration" and underscored the importance of the country's strategic partnerships with Russia, Poland, Germany, and the United States. JM

...CALLS ON PARLIAMENT TO COOPERATE WITH GOVERNMENT...
Kuchma also called on the Verkhovna Rada to cooperate with the government. He said the creation of a "coalition cabinet" is possible only after the emergence of a workable parliamentary majority. Kuchma admitted that there should be a mechanism enabling the parliament to impeach the president. At the same time, however, he stressed that the president should have the right to disband the legislature in the event it fails to create a viable majority. JM

...BUT FAILS TO CONVINCE SOME
The Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc failed to appear in the chamber for Kuchma's speech, UNIAN reported. The bloc said in a statement that listening to Kuchma's state of the nation address in the parliament is a "window-dressing act." The bloc accused Kuchma of avoiding "direct and open dialogue" with society in recent years. Shortly before the address began, Socialist Party lawmaker Yuriy Lutsenko presented Kuchma with a pair of peasant shoes, saying: "For your trip to Europe." Kuchma reportedly threw away the present with the comment: "One needs to have something in one's head though." JM

BANK OF ESTONIA OPPOSES FURTHER SUPPLEMENTARY SPENDING
Bank of Estonia President Vahur Kraft advised the government on 17 June not to compile a second supplementary budget this year, ETA reported. Earlier in the month, the parliament approved additional spending of 410 million kroons ($24.6 million) over the initial 2002 state budget of 33.13 billion kroons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2002). Prime Minister Siim Kallas said a second supplementary budget could be passed in August if revenues continue to exceed projections. The International Monetary Fund has also warned against such a move, arguing that any surplus should be placed in reserves. Central banker Kraft asserted that the higher revenues were caused by one-time factors and are unlikely to continue during the rest of the year. SG

LATVIA, SWEDEN SIGN AGREEMENT ON COOPERATION IN EMERGENCIES
Interior Minister Mareks Seglins and Swedish Defense Minister Bjorn von Sydow signed an agreement in Riga on 17 June between their governments on cooperation in eliminating, preparing for, and reacting to emergency situations, LETA reported. The aim of the agreement is to allow for mutual assistance in the event of possible catastrophes, including simplified border procedures to speed the arrival of rescue teams. The agreement will take effect 30 days after both parties exchange reports certifying that all necessary internal procedures have been completed. Von Sydow held talks with his Latvian counterpart, Girts Valdis Kristovskis, on NATO expansion, the situation in the Baltic Sea region, and bilateral relations. He also discussed with the leaders of the parliament's Defense and Internal Affairs Committee Latvia's integration into NATO and the EU as well as Latvian-Russian bilateral relations. SG

CHINESE PRESIDENT VISITS LITHUANIA
Lithuania took extraordinary measures to ensure that the visit of Jiang Zemin on 16-17 June would not be marred by unpleasant occurrences. The first day, police made sure that he would not encounter peaceful protesters who were gathered at the Vilnius airport and in front of the president's office with signs demanding freedom for Tibet. In talks with President Valdas Adamkus on 17 June, Zemin stated according to BNS: "We are well aware of Lithuania's aim of joining the EU and NATO, and we support Lithuania's EU membership." After the meeting, Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis and his Chinese counterpart, Tang Jiaxuan, signed an extradition agreement. Jiang's planned talks at the Lithuanian parliament with its chairman, Arturas Paulauskas, were nearly disrupted when his security guards noticed two parliamentary deputies holding Tibetan flags. The guards stood in front of the deputies so that Jiang would not see the flags. Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas suggested to Jiang that China make increased use of the port at Klaipeda for shipping its goods to Europe. SG

POPULIST AGRARIAN LEADER WANTS TO PREVENT POLAND'S EU ENTRY
Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper on 17 June harshly criticized Polish negotiators in EU membership talks for the way Poland is treated by the EU, PAP reported. Lepper pledged to do everything possible to prevent Poland's EU accession and added that Self-Defense will persuade Poles not to vote for membership. In particular, Lepper blamed Polish negotiators for the fact that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder recommended suspending talks on the fate of direct subsidies for farmers in future EU member states until autumn. Schroeder said in an article in "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung" on 16 June that internal EU negotiations on such subsidies should be suspended, since Germany rejects European Commission plans to grant such subsidies. JM

POLISH GOVERNMENT DRAFTS NEW PROPERTY-RESTITUTION BILL
The government said on 16 June that it is working on a new plan to compensate owners of property illegally seized by the Communist regime, Reuters reported. "The proposal includes compensation for all those who lost their property in 1944-62 and were Polish citizens at the time their real estate was taken," Deputy Treasury Minister Barbara Misterska said. She added that the level of compensation for former owners has not been set. The previous property restitution bill, which cleared parliament but was vetoed by President Aleksander Kwasniewski in March 2001, envisaged paying former owners half the value of their lost assets. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT TASKS SPIDLA TO FORM NEW GOVERNMENT
President Vaclav Havel on 17 June officially entrusted Social Democratic Party (CSSD) Chairman Vladimir Spidla with the task of forming the country's next government, CTK and international agencies reported. Havel said he did so after receiving official confirmation of the election results from the Central Elections Commission. Spidla said he will start negotiations with the Coalition on 18 June and officially invited Coalition leaders Cyril Svoboda and Hana Marvanova to the talks. Spidla also said that he will inform Havel of the results of his talks within one week. Havel also called into session the newly elected Chamber of Deputies, whose first meeting is to be set by current parliamentary speaker Vaclav Klaus. MS

CZECH PREMIER-DESIGNATE URGES SUBSTANCE AHEAD OF FORM
Prime Minister-designate Spidla said on Radio Frekvence 1 on 17 June that he wants to have a "negotiations calendar" for discussing the program of the future government point by point before entering into negotiations concerning the division of government posts, CTK reported. MS

KLAUS WILL NOT IMMEDIATELY RESIGN AS ODS LEADER...
ODS Chairman Klaus on 17 June told a meeting of the Civic Democratic Party's (ODS) National Conference that he intends to stand by the pledge he made ahead of the elections and will assume full responsibility for the party's failure in the 14-15 June ballot, CTK reported. However, ODS Deputy Chairman Petr Necas said after a meeting of the ODS Executive Council that the entire party leadership will "remain at its posts" pending an analysis of the electoral campaign. Only then, Necas said, will a decision be made on whether the leadership as a whole will resign. Deputy ODS Chairman Miroslav Benes said that no one at the council meeting called for Klaus's resignation. Earlier, Premysl Sobotka, deputy chairman of the ODS parliamentary group in the Senate, said he will propose to the Executive Council that an extraordinary national conference be held in September. He added that he intends to resign from the council at that national conference. Benes said the possibility of convoking an extraordinary conference was discussed by the council and Klaus does not rule out the possibility, but added that no decision was made. MS

... SAYS HE IS LOOKING FOR SUCCESSOR
Klaus told journalists on 17 June that he has been "genuinely looking for a replacement for myself [as head of the ODS]" and that "I shall continue to do so," CTK reported. But he added that he does not intend to "create a dynasty" and decide by himself who that successor should be. MS

ODS FEARS CSSD-KSCM DEAL
ODS Deputy Chairman Necas on 18 June told journalists that his party is wary of a possible deal under which the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) would support a minority CSSD government in exchange for a CSSD agreement to allow KSCM members to head several key parliamentary commissions. Necas drew attention to the fact that until now, positions in the parliament were distributed according to parliamentary groups' representations, but that the KSCM was kept out of the arrangement. Necas said the ODS wants to continue applying this practice and warned against the CSSD's "buying possible support" that would lead to "the legitimating of the Communists." In his interview with Radio Frekvence 1, Spidla said the principle of allocating parliamentary positions according to proportional representation in the parliament should also include the KSCM. MS

CZECHS HONORED BY ISRAEL FOR SAVING JEWS DURING HOLOCAUST
Israeli Ambassador to Prague Arthur Avnon on 17 June handed to several Czech citizens the "Righteous Among Nations" award for having saved Jews during the Holocaust, CTK reported. The award is given by the Jerusalem-based Yad Va'Shem Holocaust Memorial. More than 100 Czech citizens have been granted the title to date. A tree is planted in honor of each award recipient in the Alley of the Just on the memorial's grounds, and each laureate has his or her name inscribed on the Wall of Honor in the memorial's garden. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN SLOVAKIA
Visiting Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov and his Slovak counterpart Rudolf Schuster said after talks in Bratislava on 17 June that they believe both countries will be invited to join NATO at the organization's November summit in Prague, AP reported. Parvanov said Slovakia and Bulgaria will both contribute to strengthening the region's security. Schuster also said Slovakia is interested in intensifying cooperation with Bulgaria in the construction in that country of highways, nuclear-power plants, and the development of tourism. Parvanov criticized the Stability Pact's investment policy, saying the pact "fails to fully fulfill its mission of providing resources for investment in infrastructure projects," BTA reported. Parvanov also met with parliamentary speaker Jozef Migas. MS/UB

SLOVAK PREMIER PROPOSES DISMISSAL OF TRANSPORT MINISTER
President Schuster on 17 June received a letter from Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda proposing that Schuster dismiss Transport Minister Jozef Macejko over the Slovak Railways tender, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2002). Schuster's spokesman Jan Fuelle told CTK that a meeting between Schuster and Dzurinda to discuss the proposal was postponed because both their schedules for 17 June were full. Macejko and his Bulgarian counterpart Krassimir Stoyanov, who is accompanying Parvanov on his visit, signed on 17 June an agreement on cooperation in transportation, postal services, and telecommunications. MS

PRO-FIDESZ DAILY SAYS HUNGARIAN PREMIER WAS SECRET POLICE AGENT
The daily "Magyar Nemzet," which supports the opposition FIDESZ, on 18 June published a front-page story claiming that Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy worked as a secret agent for the Communist Interior Ministry before being admitted to the university. The daily says Medgyessy was recruited as an agent on 1 January 1961 and that his code number was D-209. According to "Magyar Nemzet," after completing his studies in economics, Medgyessy worked for the Finance Ministry, but drew salaries from both ministries. The daily says that the Socialist Party leadership had a heated debate over Medgyessy's past before deciding to nominate him as the party's prime ministerial candidate. Meanwhile, Medgyessy's personal assets statement, released to the public on 17 June, shows that he is the richest of the four prime ministers that Hungary has had since the end of communist rule. Medgyessy declared assets worth more than 200 million forints ($777,635). MS

EU WARNS BELGRADE, PODGORICA, PRISHTINA, AND TIRANA
EU foreign ministers said in a statement in Luxembourg on 17 June that Serbia and Montenegro should concentrate on harmonizing their markets and customs policies in preparation for setting up the new loose union of their two states, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 June 2002). The ministers stated that they consider the 2001 border agreement between Belgrade and Skopje valid, adding that Kosovar lawmakers should "concentrate their efforts on strengthening the rule of law and improving the economic situation" in that province rather than on challenging the agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 10, 28, and 29 May 2002). Chris Patten, who is the EU's commissioner for foreign affairs, told reporters that the EU is willing to start talks with Albania on an association agreement, but only after political stability in that country improves, Reuters reported. The Albanian parliament is scheduled to elect a president soon, but it is not clear who is likely to win. The Socialists have a majority in the parliament but are deeply divided. PM

INFORMAL MEETING OF ALBANIAN, MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTERS AND PRESIDENT
Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko met informally with his Macedonian counterpart, Ljubco Georgievski, and President Boris Trajkovski in the Macedonian resort of Ohrid on 15 June, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. The talks took place at Trajkovski's initiative. Majko informed Trajkovski about Albanian plans to build a road from Durres via Kukes to Prishtina that will have an impact on the whole region. Majko and Georgievski agreed to hold trilateral consultations between Albania, Macedonia, and Kosova as well as between Albania, Montenegro, and Macedonia. The consultations are to focus on infrastructure and energy. UB

RUSSIAN MINISTER OFFERS PROMISES IN BELGRADE
Russian Minister of Economic Development and Trade German Gref concluded a three-day visit to Belgrade on 18 June, ITAR-TASS reported. After talks with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus, and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, Gref said that Yugoslavia is Russia's "strategic partner" and that Russia wants to support its economic reconstruction with unspecified "maximum assistance." It is not clear exactly what Russia has to offer Belgrade except for arms, oil, or natural gas, and on what terms (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 January 2002). Russia has recently begun to cut back its forces in the Balkans to symbolic levels in order to pay more attention to its primary interests on its southern flank (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 May 2002). PM

SLOVENIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS BELGRADE
Janez Drnovsek arrived in Belgrade on 18 June for the first visit by a top-ranking Slovenian official to the Serbian capital since 1991, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

SERBIAN FARMERS BLOCK HIGHWAY
An unspecified number of farmers blocked the main Belgrade-Skopje highway near Leskovac on 17 June to protest the import of cheap vegetables under false pretenses, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The farmers claim that vegetables from Greece, Tunisia, and Morocco are brought to Serbia from Macedonia after being relabeled as Macedonian produce, which is subject to import taxes of only 1 percent. PM

BELGRADE-BANJA LUKA RAIL LINK RESUMED
Train traffic resumed between Belgrade and Banja Luka via Doboj on 18 June after a break of 10 years, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

BELGRADE SENDS WAR CRIME SUSPECT TO THE HAGUE
Ranko Cesic, a Bosnian Serb indicted for war crimes by the international war crimes tribunal, arrived in The Hague on 17 June, a Belgrade court spokeswoman said, AP reported. He was recently arrested by Serbian police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 2002). PM

KARADZIC 'HAS CHOSEN HIS OWN PATH'
Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzic, the wife of Radovan Karadzic, said in a letter to Stabilization Force (SFOR) commander General John Sylvester that her husband has no intention of surrendering, "Vesti" reported on 18 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2002). She added that her husband will not take orders from her, let alone from someone else. She told Sylvester that he might meet with her husband provided that NATO "stop its propaganda against him." Meanwhile in Sarajevo, Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor of The Hague tribunal, said after meeting with High Representative Paddy Ashdown that the authorities of the "Republika Srpska must stop protecting Karadzic," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2002). PM

NATO LIFTS BAN ON BOSNIAN SERB AIR FORCE
General Sylvester said in a statement on 17 June that he has lifted a ban on activities by the Republika Srpska air force, Reuters reported from Sarajevo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2002). He said that he has met with Bosnian Serb military leaders and that "all outstanding issues were clarified." PM

ASHDOWN PRESENTS BOSNIAN ANTICORRUPTION PLAN
In the latest installment of his campaign against crime and corruption in Bosnia, Ashdown said in Sarajevo on 17 June that Bosnia will have special anticorruption bodies within the judiciary by the end of the year, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2002). Dpa noted that Ashdown called for the "creation of special organized crime, economic crime, and corruption panels in the yet-to-be established criminal division and appeals division of the new State Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina." Ashdown will speak to the parliament on 19 June and demand that the legislators pass the necessary measures before going into summer recess on 27 July. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT ENDS BOSNIAN VISIT
Stipe Mesic concluded his two-day stay in Bosnia on 18 June after discussing with Ashdown the need to combat terrorism and organized crime throughout the region, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The previous day, Mesic signed an agreement with Beriz Belkic, who heads the Bosnian joint presidency, aimed at combating terrorism, organized crime, the drug trade, and trafficking in human beings, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. Belkic said that "terrorism is a global problem, and we have to fight it globally," dpa reported. Mesic stressed that "all regional conflicts have to be solved, so that the focus can move to the fight against terrorism and organized crime." PM

CROATIA PUBLISHES CENSUS RESULTS
According to the recent population survey, Croatia has 4,437,460 inhabitants, 89.63 percent of whom are ethnic Croats, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Zagreb on 17 June. The Serbs are the largest ethnic minority, with 201,631 people, or 4.54 percent of the total. The overall population has fallen by 6.1 percent since the previous census in 1991. Most of the difference presumably is the result of the flight of thousands of Serbs following the government's 1995 military offensives that ended the five-year rebellion. PM

ROMANIAN PREFECT FINES ETHNIC HUNGARIAN MAYOR
Covasna County Prefect Horia Grama on 17 June fined Sfantu-Gheorghe Mayor Albert Almos 100 million lei ($2,988) for ordering that the Romanian national flag be taken down from the city administration's building last week, Mediafax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002). The fine was also imposed because Almos uses a Hungarian-language logo on official documents issued by his office. On 14 June, Grama gave Almos a three-day ultimatum to re-fly the Romanian national flag, but Almos ignored him. Social Democratic Party Senator Adrian Paunescu, speaking in the Senate on 17 June, said the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) should officially distance itself from Almos' gesture and that Almos should face trial. But Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who met with UDMR Chairman Bela Marko on the same day, said the mayor's deed was "just as childish" as the recent removal of bilingual street signs in the town and, in fact, may have been provoked by that incident. "We should learn how to respect each others' national symbols and at the same time respect the country's laws. Then things will become normal," Nastase said. MS

GAGAUZ-YERI GOVERNMENT CHANGES ITS MIND ON RESIGNATION
The Executive Committee of the Gagauz-Yeri Autonomous Republic, which is the region's government, decided on 17 June to cancel its 15 April decision to resign, Infotag reported. The committee also asked regional Governor Dumitru Croitor to withdraw the list of new ministers that Croitor submitted to the region's Popular Assembly on 31 May. The cabinet said the decision was prompted by the fact that the Moldovan Justice Ministry acknowledged that the assembly's 24 April acceptance of the committee's resignation was "illegitimate" because it was not approved by a minimum of 18 of the body's 35 deputies as stipulated by law. MS

SHIMON PERES ON OFFICIAL VISIT TO BULGARIA
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on 17 June arrived in Bulgaria for a two-day official visit, BTA reported. Peres is to discuss Bulgaria's role after it takes over the presidency of the UN Security Council in September 2002. Asked about the possibility of holding Middle East peace talks in Bulgaria, Peres answered, "Why not?" At the Sofia airport, Peres met with President Parvanov for a half-hour talk. Later that same day, Peres held consultations with his Bulgarian counterpart, Solomon Pasi, and Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski. UB

ARE BULGARIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS IMPROVING?
On 3 June, Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski traveled to Moscow for his first official visit to Russia. He was invited on the four-day visit by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to discuss a number of long-standing issues in bilateral relations. However, although leading Russian politicians including President Vladimir Putin called Saxecoburggotski's visit a "turning point" in relations, Bulgarian observers were more skeptical about the results of the trip.

During much of the postcommunist period, relations between the two former allies seesawed with the political orientations of Bulgaria's governments. Relations were better when the Socialist Party (BSP) was in power in the immediate postcommunist period and worsened as soon as the anticommunist Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) came to the helm. One consequence of the strained relations of recent years was that Saxecoburggotski's visit was the first by a Bulgarian prime minister to Russia since that of Zhan Videnov of the BSP in 1995.

Saxecoburggotski's predecessor, Ivan Kostov of the SDS, strictly opposed warm relations with Russia. He feared that the former oppressor would regain its once tremendous influence over Bulgarian politics and economics; in the communist period, even Bulgaria's leadership sometimes referred to the country as a "Soviet republic." As a result, many questions between Russia and Bulgaria remained open: Russia's debt to Bulgaria; unsolved problems regarding former Soviet property in Bulgaria, mainly stemming from mixed Soviet-Bulgarian enterprises; Russian licenses for Bulgarian ordnance factories; Bulgarian licenses for cigarette production in Russia; and more recent problems stemming from the introduction of visa requirements for Russian citizens after the European Union lifted its visa requirement for Bulgarian citizens. These bilateral problems were further complicated by Russia's opposition to Bulgaria's aspirations to join NATO.

These unresolved issues have not, however, prevented Russian businessmen from making Russia one of Bulgaria's largest trading partners, if not the largest. Russian companies such as LUKoil and Gazprom have a considerable stake in Bulgaria's economy. At the same time, the traditionally strong presence of Bulgarian agricultural products on the Russian market has diminished considerably.

Saxecoburggotski, for his part, seems to have been aware of the pitfalls in bilateral relations before he left for Moscow. He repeatedly called for pragmatism and tried to play down the importance of his visit. He was accompanied only by a small delegation of experts and his wife. Most media outlets opted not to cover the trip closely, which later led to a number of misunderstandings.

The most important result of the visit was a supplement to the Agreement on the Settlement of the Mutual Obligations Between the Russian Federation and Bulgaria. Russia's debt to Bulgaria was reduced and will be repaid both in cash and in nuclear fuel for Bulgaria's Kozloduy power plant. Bulgaria, for its part, agreed to have its MiG-29 fighter jets serviced at Russia's RSK MiG factories. But what is even more important -- and what was one of the reasons for Kostov's reluctance to improve Russian-Bulgarian relations -- the supplement linked the debt settlement to the condition that Bulgarian authorities register former Soviet property in Bulgaria as Russian. In doing so, the Bulgarian government risks a dispute with Ukraine, which also claims some of this property.

On his return from Russia, Saxecoburggotski faced numerous questions from the Bulgarian media. Most of these questions, however, focused on an incident during the signing ceremony when Bulgarian Ambassador to Russia Iliyan Vasilev hesitated before signing the document. Later, this hesitation was explained by a lapse in protocol that resulted in only one copy of the document being available. But the media speculated that the document might have been changed at the last moment to include passages that had not been agreed upon.

Bulgarian media also criticized the lack of results of Saxecoburggotski's visit. Some journalists, such as Maria Pirgova of "Dnevnik," even went so far as to say that the prime minister did not manage to lay out Bulgaria's interests for the Russian leadership. Instead of introducing a new pragmatism, Pirgova wrote, Saxecoburggotski -- formerly the king of Bulgaria -- acted like a monarch and was treated as such by his Russian hosts.Georgi Karasimeonov, director of the Sofia-based Institute for Legal and Political Studies, believes that relations between Russia and Bulgaria still suffer from old ideological problems. "In Bulgaria, there still persist the old passions from the period of Russophiles and Russophobes. In Russia, some still cannot accept the fact that Bulgaria is not the loyal vassal it used to be," Karasimeonov said in an interview with the daily "Standart." But unlike Pirgova, Karasimeonov believes that Saxecoburggotski's visit contributed to the improvement of bilateral relations.

However slight the immediate results of Saxecoburggotski's visit might seem, the mere fact that his government is trying to reestablish good relations with Russia should be regarded as a positive sign. But, as Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Vladimir Titov pointed out in an interview, the many open questions between the two countries still need to be resolved.

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