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Newsline - June 21, 2002


BILL ON EXTREMISM CONTINUES ITS RAPID PROGRESS TOWARD PASSAGE...
Despite being introduced only at the beginning of June, the government-sponsored bill on combating extremism passed its second reading on 20 June, Russian news agencies reported. The vote was 272 in favor, with 126 against and two abstentions. According to "Izvestiya," discussion of the bill occupied almost half the session, as sharp words were exchanged regarding the definition of extremism and the possibility that the law could be interpreted by the Prosecutor-General's Office and the Justice Ministry in such a way as to be a weapon against "internal enemies." However, Legislation Committee Chairman Pavel Krasheninnikov (Union of Rightist Forces) argued that more than 100 amendments were considered, and the new version contains a more clear-cut definition of extremism and better-formulated norms governing the suspension of the organizations considered extremist, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

...AS DEPUTIES WARN THAT BILL CAN BE USED AGAINST POLITICAL ENEMIES...
However, the Communist faction was not persuaded, and all but two of them voted against the bill, according to RIA-Novosti. Communist Deputy Aleksandr Salii said the bill is not directed against groups such as Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party, which has "no more than 500 members," but at the Communist Party -- which the presidential administration does not want to participate in the next Duma elections, "Izvestiya" reported. JAC

...WHILE PROSECUTOR-GENERAL DOWNPLAYS THE MOVE...
Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov told a group of heads of foreign diplomatic missions in Russia on 20 June that although the passage of the anti-extremism law is "a good thing," there are nonetheless more important issues, strana.ru and RosBalt reported. "Members of extremist groups will read this law, and it might prevent them from committing extremist acts," Ustinov said. VY

...AND CRIMES AGAINST FOREIGNERS IN GENERAL
Ustinov also told the diplomats that the incidents of extremist violence in recent weeks in Russia were not directed "intentionally" against foreigners, RosBalt reported on 20 June. Last year, about 3 million crimes were committed in Russia, of which 1,500 were directed against foreign citizens, Ustinov said. He did not mention that the number of foreigners in Russia is far smaller than the number of Russians. RosBalt also quoted the head of the Interior Ministry department in charge of tracking down fugitives, Viktor Papsuev, as saying that there have been "hardly any" cases in Moscow of racial or religious crimes committed against African citizens. Papsuev reported that 37,166 crimes committed by foreign citizens in Russia were registered in 2001, an increase of 5.8 percent over the previous year. He estimated that 90 percent of those crimes were committed by citizens of the former Soviet republics and that 20 percent of these crimes involved the drug trade. VY/RC

COMMUNIST LEADER TELLS U.S. AMBASSADOR THAT KPRF OPPOSES U.S.-RUSSIA STRATEGIC ACCORD...
Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov said during a 20 June meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow that the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty signed in May by U.S. President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin represents a threat to Russia's national security, ntvru.com and other Russian news agencies reported. "This treaty codifies a plan for Russia's unilateral disarmament," Zyuganov said. He added, however, that he believes reductions in Russia's strategic forces are necessary, but the cuts should not bring arsenals below the level needed to defend the country. VY

...AND THAT THERE HAS BEEN NO SPLIT IN HIS PARTY
Answering a question about the KPRF's recent expulsion of Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev and ranking parliamentarians Nikolai Gubenko and Svetlana Goryacheva (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2002), Zyuganov said, "There has been no schism in the KPRF. Just three people have left its ranks, and 18,000 new party 'fighters' have joined." He also remarked that Seleznev has no chance to create a social-democratic-type party. "Social-democratic parties are a European phenomenon. There is no room for such a party in Russia, just as there is none in the United States or most Asian countries," Zyuganov said. VY

FISHERIES HEAD CALLS FOR BAN ON FOREIGN FISHING IN RUSSIA'S TERRITORIAL WATERS
Speaking at the State Naval College in St. Petersburg on 20 June, State Fisheries Committee head Yevgenii Nazdratenko said that his agency will seek to ban fishing by foreign operators in Russia's territorial waters beginning in 2004, RosBalt and abnews.ru reported. He added that fishing rights will only be granted to foreign companies that pledge to invest in Russia's fish-processing industry and other fisheries infrastructure. VY

DUMA GIVES NOD TO FARM SUBSIDIES...
Also on 20 June, deputies approved a law on financial support for agricultural workers in its third reading. The voted was 364 in favor with none opposing or abstaining, according to ITAR-TASS. Under the bill, the legal terms and conditions are established for restructuring the debts of agricultural producers to improve their financial situation before a bankruptcy procedure is initiated. JAC

...AND ADVANCES BANKRUPTCY BILL...
Deputies on 20 June also adopted in its second reading a bill on bankruptcy that defines the grounds for declaring bankruptcy, the bankruptcy procedure, and the measures available for avoiding it, polit.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. The vote was 288 in favor, with 82 opposed and no abstentions, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill, which is a modified version of the 1998 law on bankruptcy, covers all types of economic activity except those by state enterprises, political parties, and religious organizations. The new law holds the owners of a company responsible for bankruptcy, rather than allowing them to hide behind formal structures that hold its debts, Deputy Viktor Pleskachevskii (Unity), chairman of the Duma Property Committee, told journalists. The new law also includes provisions introducing the concept of binding arbitration to settle disputes without formally entering the bankruptcy process, Pleskachevskii said. VY

...AND PASSES LAW ON STATUS OF FOREIGNERS
Deputies on 21 June adopted in its third reading a law governing the status of foreigners in Russia, RosBalt reported the same day. The law regulates the status of all foreigners living and conducting business within the Russian Federation. It forbids foreigners from moving or traveling outside of the regions they have permission to visit without first receiving state permission. It permits the government to establish a list of places that foreigners must obtain special permission to visit, and it authorizes the government to create and maintain a database of foreigners living in the country. RC

CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS CAUGHT IN BATTLE BETWEEN CENTER AND REGION
The General Staff has demanded that the more than a dozen young men currently performing alternative civil service in Nizhnii Novgorod under that city's experimental program be inducted into the military, Interfax reported on 20 June. Meanwhile, the young men, who were working in a local hospital, have quit the work they started in January, Interfax-Eurasia reported (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 30 January 2002). Local human rights activist Viktor Gurskii, who supported the city's experiment, said the new version of a draft federal law on alternative civil service "offers nothing to those potential draftees who, as earlier, will either have to flee the country, enter into some unneeded course of study at a higher-educational institution, or hide from induction officials so that they don't get called up." The new draft law passed in its second reading on 19 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2002). Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Yurii Lebedev, who faces elections on 15 September, vowed that the city administration will defend the interests of the participants in the experiment. JAC

CENTRAL BANK DENIES RUMORS OF CLOSURES
Media speculation that the Central Bank intends to revoke the licenses of up to 400 banks is unfounded (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2002), RosBalt reported on 20 June, citing the director of the Central Bank's licensing section, Mikhail Sukhov. "These rumors that appeared two weeks ago were a surprise not only to the public, but to me as well, Sukhov said in an interview with state-run Radio 1. "Revoking licenses is an extreme measure which will be resorted to only when the continued activity of a bank represents a danger to depositors," he added. RC

STAVROPOL TO FOLLOW ITS NEIGHBOR'S EXAMPLE WITH REGARD TO IMMIGRANTS...
A law "on measures to halt illegal migration into Stavropol Krai" is awaiting the signature of krai Governor Aleksandr Chernogorov, strana.ru reported on 20 June. According to the deputy head of the Prosecutor-General's Office in the Southern Federal District, several provisions of the law violate federal legislation and the constitution. For example, Article 5 "specifies the maximum possible number of migrants who can be granted permanent residence each year in Stavropol Krai's population centers," which violates the constitutional guarantee of freedom of movement. Federal Migration Service head Andrei Chernenko told the website that no normative acts will be passed in the regions that contradict legislation. However, the website noted that an even stricter law passed in Krasnodar Krai, despite a wave of criticism against Krasnodar Krai Governor Aleksandr Tkachev. JAC

...AS MIGRATION HEAD REPEATS CALL FOR CONSULTATIONS WITH GEORGIA, TURKEY
Chernenko also told strana.ru that Krasnodar Krai and Stavropol Krai have the "most difficult" situation, since they have had huge influxes of migrants from the Transcaucasus and there are about 100,000 Armenians and around 20,000 Meskhetian Turks there. He added that the problem cannot be solved at the local level or even on the all-Russia level: Georgia "must become involved with this process, nor should contact with the government of Turkey be ruled out" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002), Chernenko was quoted as saying. JAC

KRASNOYARSK KINGPIN TO ACT AS KINGMAKER?
Former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov, who was recently convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and given a suspended sentence, has returned to Krasnoyarsk, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 20 June. Earlier reports indicated that Bykov had signed a pledge not to leave Moscow. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" the same day, Bykov dismissed speculation that he plans to run for governor of the krai, saying, "I have said more than once that I will not seek to be governor." However, Georgii Satarov, head of the INDEM Foundation think tank, told Interfax that while Bykov may not run himself, "it is sometimes more advantageous to be the kingmaker than the king." Bykov strongly supported former Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed during his successful 1998 campaign. Meanwhile, the office of Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov announced that it plans to lodge a complaint about the Moscow court's suspended sentence for Bykov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2002). JAC

GOVERNOR MULLS QUOTAS FOR WOMEN IN LEGISLATURE
Novosibirsk Governor Viktor Tolokonskii has proposed preparing legislation that would create a quota system for female legislators in the oblast legislature, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20 June. However, he added that the system should be applied only for those legislators elected according to party lists. JAC

HACKERS CAN'T SPOIL PRESIDENT'S WEB DEBUT
An unidentified source in the presidential administration told RIA-Novosti on 20 June that President Putin's new website -- http://www.president.kremlin.ru -- registered more than 10,000 hits in its first three hours of operation, according to strana.ru. The source was quoted as saying that there were "several dozen" hacker attacks on the site during the same period, but all of them were stymied by the Federal Agency for Government Communication and Information (FAPSI), which handles security for the site. According to Interfax, President Putin suggested that the site could be improved by adding an English-language section. In the site's photo-album section, viewers can see snapshots of a solitary, jacketless Putin walking alone down a dock on a lake in Pskov Oblast; Putin dressed in casual wear ringing a church bell in Karelia; and, of course, Putin skiing. JAC/RC

FORMER U.S. OFFICIALS OUTLINE CHECHEN PROPOSALS
In an article published in "The Washington Post" on 21 June, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Alexander Haig, and Max Kampelman outline a plan for ending the war in Chechnya. That plan would require the Chechens to acknowledge the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, while Russia would acknowledge the Chechens' right to national, but not political self-determination. A referendum would be held in which Chechens would be called to endorse a constitutional basis for self-government within Russia modeled on Russia's relations with Tatarstan. Aslan Maskhadov, whom the three statesmen stress is Chechnya's legitimately elected leader, would demand that those Chechen fighters who refuse to accept that arrangement leave the country. Russian troops would remain deployed along Chechnya's southern border to protect Russia's territorial integrity. And the international community would finance, and oversee, a broad program of economic reconstruction. LF

ARMENIAN 'ASSETS FOR DEBT DEAL' AGAIN POSTPONED...
The agreement under which Armenia will cede to Russia several key enterprises in payment for its accumulated $96 million debt may not be signed by the end of this month after all, despite Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's 31 May statement that it would be, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March and 14 May 2002). Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, who has led the year-long negotiations that led to the agreement, said on 20 June that Russian Industry and Science Minister Ilya Klebanov has not yet received clearance to sign the agreement but is expected to arrive in Yerevan to do so "pretty soon." Armenian observers attribute the delay to disagreement over the market value of the Armenian enterprises in question, the most important of which is the Hrazdan thermal power plant. Yerevan estimates the value of that facility at $100 million. LF

...AS FORMER RULING PARTY CRITICIZES IT
In a statement published in the opposition paper "Haykakan zhamanak" on 19 June and circulated by Groong, the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) criticized the present government's willingness to cede Armenian assets to Russia and warned that doing so will undermine Armenia's independence. Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian on 20 June rejected that argument, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Khachatrian pointed out that most of Armenia's debt to Russia was accumulated during in 1992-98, when the HHSh was in power. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO RETAIN DEATH PENALTY FOR PARLIAMENT GUNMEN
At a special session on 20 June, the Armenian parliament passed in the first reading, by 66 votes to 15, legislation that would abolish the death penalty except in exceptional circumstances, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The draft bill includes a clause that permits handing down the death penalty to individuals convicted of "murders in aggravating circumstances, terrorist acts, and the rape of female infants." The restriction on the death penalty only applies to crimes committed after the law comes into force, thus leaving a loophole for sentencing to death the five gunmen who murdered eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament in October 1999. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR KARABAKH DRAFT AGREEMENTS TO BE MADE PUBLIC...
Following Armenian officials' denials of Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's 14 June claim that they reneged on an agreement reached last year on resolving the Karabakh conflict, the Socialist Armenia Union comprising seven small opposition parties issued a statement on 19 June calling for the details of agreements reached between Aliev and his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, in Paris in March 2001 and in Florida in April 2001 to be made public, Noyan Tapan reported. But Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian objected that revealing publicly what compromises Armenia is prepared to make to resolve the Karabakh conflict would weaken the country's negotiating position, according to Arminfo on 20 June as cited by Groong. LF

...AS OSCE MINSK GROUP SCHEDULES MEETINGS WITH ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS...
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov, who is the Russian co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group that is mediating a solution to the Karabakh conflict, said after a meeting with his U.S. and French counterparts in Lisbon on 18 June that the three co-chairmen will meet in Tallinn next week with Kocharian, and in Istanbul with Aliev, Arminfo reported on 19 June. Aliev told journalists in Baku on 19 June that he "might" meet with Kocharian next month if the latter agrees, Caspian News Agency reported on 20 June. LF

...AND ARMENIA, KARABAKH PLAN TO EXPAND DEFENSE COOPERATION
In talks in Stepanakert, Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and Armenian Deputy Defense Minister Lieutenant General Manvel Grigorian agreed on the need for further integration of their defense capacities in order to preserve the cease-fire and ensure regional security, according to Mediamax on 19 June as cited by Groong. LF

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER DEVELOPMENTS IN AZERBAIJAN
U.S. State Department official Bill Keppler has called for an independent investigation into the clashes on 3 June in the village of Nardaran near Baku between residents and police in which one villager was killed, Turan reported on 20 June. Keppler also expressed concern at the detention for five days of opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan General Secretary Serdar Djalaloglu, noting that the reasons for his arrest "remain unclear." LF

DESTINATION OF ARMS CONSIGNMENT INTERCEPTED IN GEORGIA REMAINS UNCLEAR...
Georgia's Chief Military Prosecutor Gia Djikia told journalists in Tbilisi on 20 June that there is no evidence that the consignment of state-of-the-art weaponry intercepted near Tbilisi three days earlier was to be used to perpetrate terrorist attacks, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze suggested that they were to be used for that purpose. Djikia also added that the arms were so expensive that it is unlikely they were purchased by Forest Brothers guerrilla formation leader David Shengelia, as Shengelia claims (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2002). But "Rezonansi" on 21 June quoted Shengelia as saying that the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government-in-exile can confirm that the weaponry is his property. LF

...AS MIDDLEMEN REMANDED IN CUSTODY
The two men detained driving the Land Rover that was transporting the arms appeared before a Tbilisi district court on 20 June and were remanded in custody for three months, Caucasus Press reported. A lawyer for Russian citizen Artur Lutkov said in Tbilisi on 20 June that his client knows nothing about the arms shipment and had simply asked the other man, Georgian National Security Ministry official Simon Mchedlidze, to give him a lift from Tskhinvali to Tbilisi, Interfax reported. LF

ADJAR LEADER SAYS RUSSIA KEY TO RESOLVING ABKHAZ CONFLICT...
The special representatives of the Georgian and Russian presidents for the Abkhaz conflict, Adjar State Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze and Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin, met in Moscow on 19-20 June, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Abashidze told journalists in Moscow on 20 June that given the trust that the Abkhaz leadership has in Russia, the conflict cannot be solved without Russian participation. Abashidze also accused the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz parliament- and government-in-exile of obstructing the negotiating process, ITAR-TASS reported. Abashidze warned that it would be counterproductive for the Georgian parliament to amend the country's constitution to redefine Abkhazia as an "autonomous republic" before a solution to the conflict is reached, according to Interfax. Parliament-in-exile Chairman Tamaz Nadareishvili has collected tens of thousands of signatures in support of that proposed amendment. LF

...AS NO AGREEMENT REACHED ON AMENDING CIS PEACEKEEPERS' MANDATE
Talks in Minsk between Georgian and Russian Foreign Ministry officials ended on 20 June without any agreement being reached on amending the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed since 1994 under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone, Caucasus Press reported. Georgia and Abkhazia had both proposed draft documents on possible amendments; the consent of both sides is needed before the mandate may be changed. Meanwhile the U.S. State Department has called for the force's mandate to be extended for a further six months when it expires on 30 June, Reuters reported. In Sukhum, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba told "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" that the peacekeeping force "is one of the most important guarantors of peace." LF

ABKHAZ OFFICIALS DENIES RUMORS OF RUSSIAN TROOP DEPLOYMENT, TERRORIST ACT
Abkhaz State Security Service head Zurab Agumava dismissed as disinformation a Caucasus Press report of 20 June citing the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz parliament-in-exile as claiming that crack Russian military units are assembling in Abkhazia in readiness for an attack on Georgia next month, Apsny Pres reported on 21 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2002). On 20 June, Abkhaz presidential press spokesman Ruslan Khashig denied that a terrorist attack had taken place earlier that day in the town of Ochamchira in which several people were killed, Caucasus Press reported. The Russian peacekeeping force deployed in the Abkhaz conflict zone had adduced that alleged attack as the reason for its failure to attend the weekly meeting with Abkhaz, Georgian, and UN officials in Chuburkhindji. LF

TBILISI COURT RULES ON RECOUNT IN GEORGIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS
Responding to an appeal by the opposition National Movement (EMDP), a Tbilisi district court has instructed the Central Election Commission to recount the ballots cast in the Georgian capital during the 2 June local elections, Caucasus Press reported on 20 June. The EMDP had demanded a recount as soon as it became known that it had polled second in the ballot to the Labor Party. The commission initially agreed to that demand but then decided against a recount after Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili protested (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 7 June 2002). LF

KAZAKH PARLIAMENT FAILS TO PASS DRAFT LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES
Having failed to adopt the controversial bill on political parties on 19 June, deputies to the Mezhilis (the lower chamber of the Kazakh parliament) agreed to continue the debate on 25 June, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. But on 20 June, a handful of pro-government deputies insisted on resuming discussion of the bill, incurring harsh criticism from Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin. The Kazakh opposition has repeatedly condemned the bill, which raises the minimum number of members a party must have to register from 3,000 to 10,000, as undemocratic, unconstitutional, and aimed at suppressing dissent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 31 May 2002). LF

SUPPORTERS OF KYRGYZ OPPOSITION DEPUTY BEGIN NEW MARCH...
Some 500 of the estimated 2,500 supporters of Kyrgyz parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov assembled in the southern town of Djalalabad set out to march the 100 kilometers to Osh, the largest city in southern Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The marchers are demanding the resignations of President Askar Akaev and of several top government officials and the annulment of the verdict handed down to Beknazarov last month. LF

...AS KYRGYZ OFFICIAL ACCUSES HIM OF SEPARATISM
Addressing a session of the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of parliament) on 20 June, Kyrgyz State Secretary Osmonakum Ibraimov accused Beknazarov and his fellow deputies Bektur Asanov and Duishen Chotonov of actively lobbying the idea of detaching Kyrgyzstan's southern Aksy Raion and declaring it part of either Russia or Uzbekistan, Interfax reported. He claimed Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov is angered by such demands, according to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. He added that the objective of the unsanctioned rallies by Beknazarov's supporters is to incite the population to unspecified "anticonstitutional actions," and called on them to desist. LF

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS FORMER KYRGYZ VICE PRESIDENT'S APPEAL
The Constitutional Court on 20 June rejected an appeal lodged on 7 June by former Vice President Feliks Kulov against the additional prison term to which he was sentenced on 8 May, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Kulov was sentenced in January 2001 to seven years imprisonment on charges of abuse of power, and to 10 years imprisonment last month on charges of embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001 and 9 May 2002). LF

TURKMENISTAN TO ABOLISH FREE HIGHER EDUCATION
As part of a broad reform of higher education, beginning in 2003, students will have to pay to study at Turkmenistan's 16 state universities, Deutsche Welle's Russian Service reported on 19 June. Entrance examinations will focus on the student's proposed discipline and the biography and writings of President Saparmurat Niyazov. After two years' study, students will be required to work in the economy for two years before completing their studies. A Turkmen journalist characterized the innovations as part of Nizyazov's deliberate attempt to lower educational standards, along with the abolition of Russian language teaching in schools that will deprive students of the opportunity to study in Russia or other CIS states. LF

TWO BELARUSIAN JOURNALISTS SAY LAST WORDS AT SLANDER TRIAL IN HRODNA...
Mikola Markevich and Pavel Mazheyka, former journalists of the closed independent weekly "Pahonya," made their closing statements at their trial in Hrodna on 21 June, Belapan reported. Markevich and Mazheyka are accused of slandering President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2002). Markevich compared the situation in today's Belarus with Stalin's political repression in 1937. Mazheyka said their trial is politically motivated. Both journalists denied they were guilty of slandering Lukashenka. "The Lukashenka regime is succumbing to truly ruthless methods in its campaign to annihilate independent journalism," the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists commented on the Hrodna trial. The prosecution demanded prison sentences of 2 1/2 years for Markevich and two years for Mazheyka. JM

...WHILE ANOTHER AWAITS SLANDER TRIAL IN MINSK
Prosecutors in Minsk on 20 June charged Viktar Ivashkevich, the editor in chief of the independent newspaper "Rabochy," with defaming President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Belapan reported. If found guilty, Ivashkevich faces up to five years in prison. Ivashkevich's prosecution followed the publication of an article called "The Thief Should Be in Prison" during the 2001 presidential election campaign, which implicated Lukashenka and his entourage in economic crimes. The incriminating issue of "Rabochy" never reached the readership, as all copies were seized by police. Ivashkevich gave a written pledge not to leave Minsk. He told the prosecution that he does not consider himself guilty because everything in the article is true. "I think...that Belarus's leadership has begun stepping up repression and behaving according to the psychological pattern characteristic of a besieged fortress," Ivashkevich told Belapan, referring to the recent Belarusian-Russian spat over integration. JM

OSCE MEDIA REPRESENTATIVE SLAMS LIST OF BANNED AUTHORS IN BELARUS
Freimut Duve, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, strongly criticized on 20 June a recent statement made by a presidential administration official in Belarus listing authors who should not be published and read in that country, the OSCE website reported. "This list is something unheard of in Europe in years," Duve told the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna. "It represents a dramatic challenge and is unacceptable in an OSCE-participating state," he added. In May, meeting with reporters in Minsk, Eduard Skobelev, the editor in chief of the presidential administration's news bulletin, urged state-controlled literary magazines not to publish writers critical of the government, listing among those he termed "politically retarded" such well-known Belarusian writers as Vasil Bykau, Ryhor Baradulin, Nil Hilevich, and Syahey Zakonnikau. JM

PRESIDENT BRIEFS GOVERNMENT ON FOREIGN-TRADE POLICIES
On 20 June in Mahileu (eastern Belarus), President Lukashenka concluded a two-day training seminar on foreign trade for government officials, Belarusian Television and Belapan reported. Lukashenka said Belarus's exports have been declining lately because the country sells raw materials instead of turning them into final products and also because of high costs and the poor quality of products. The president called on his government to maintain a balance between exports and imports by applying the principle: "We buy only what we cannot produce ourselves." He advised officials not to change the structure of exports radically, stressing that "we cannot limit the country's production only to one or two branches." The same day, Lukashenka attended the ceremonial opening of an overpass in Mahileu. Construction of the overpass began in 1986. The same day, Ihar Holubeu, a department head in the Belarusian Security Council, fell to his death from a 10th-floor hotel balcony in Mahileu. JM

UKRAINIAN, RUSSIAN PREMIERS WANT TO BOOST ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Ukrainian Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh and his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Kasyanov, attended a session of a bilateral economic commission in Kharkiv on 21 June, where they stressed the need for deepening mutual economic cooperation, UNIAN reported. Kasyanov expressed satisfaction over Ukraine's recent entry to the Eurasian Economic Community with observer status. The session resulted in a decision by Russia to provide a six-year technical-assistance loan of $44 million to help Ukraine complete construction of two reactors at the Rivne and Khmelnytskyy nuclear-power plants. The previous day, the premiers opened a new Ukrainian-Russian border checkpoint, Nekhoteevka-Hoptivka, near Kharkiv, which will handle some 52,000 people and 23,000 vehicles per day, according to Interfax. JM

UNITED UKRAINE SPLITS INTO SEVEN GROUPS
Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn announced on 20 June that the United Ukraine parliamentary bloc has reorganized itself into six caucuses and one group, UNIAN reported. United Ukraine fragmented into Labor Ukraine and Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (38 deputies), Ukraine's Regions (35), United Ukraine (32), Popular Democratic Party (18), Ukraine's Agrarians (16), European Choice (15), and Power of the People (17). The array of forces in the Verkhovna Rada also includes Our Ukraine (111 deputies), the Communist Party (63), the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc (23), the Socialist Party (21), and Democratic Initiatives (16), while 12 lawmakers remain outside any faction. Oleksandr Zadorozhnyy, the permanent presidential representative in the Verkhovna Rada, expressed the hope that the reorganization of United Ukraine will not hinder the previously announced process of forming a single political party on the basis of the For a United Ukraine election bloc. Popular Democratic Party leader Valeriy Pustovoytenko said, however, that his organization will not join the new party originating from the For a United Ukraine bloc. JM

ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS GREAT BRITAIN
Kristiina Ojuland concluded a three-day official visit to London on 20 June by meeting with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, ETA reported. Ojuland noted that Estonia expects to close the taxation chapter of its EU negotiations before the end of the month, retaining its right to set direct taxes. In talks with British Minister for Europe Peter Hain on 18 June, Ojuland asserted that the EU common agricultural policy must be fully extended to new members, and asked for British support for this. She delivered a lecture entitled "Estonia: The Litmus Paper of European Future" at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. On 19 June, Ojuland visited the House of Commons where she discussed bilateral relations, NATO and EU enlargement, and the future of Europe with Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Donald Anderson. SG

LATVIA'S MEDICAL WORKERS STRIKE
Latvian Health and Social Care Employees Union Chairwoman Ruta Viksna announced on 20 June that more than 5,000 of its members participated in an eight-hour strike that day, LETA reported. The union is planning similar strikes on 18 July and 18-20 September to express their dissatisfaction with the government's allocation for health care, which has decreased from 4.2 percent of GDP in 1995 to just 3.4 percent this year. The union is calling for average salaries of medical professionals to be raised to 140 lats ($225) per month. SG

LITHUANIA AMENDS CONSTITUTION ON LOCAL ELECTIONS
Parliament by a vote of 105 to 14 with four abstentions approved amendments to Article 119 of the constitution on 20 June, ELTA reported. The amendments extend the term of local-council deputies from three to four years and allow non-citizens permanently residing in Lithuania to vote and to be elected to local councils. Parliament originally approved the amendments on 25 January by a vote of 108 to two, with one abstention. That means the constitutional requirement that at least two-thirds of lawmakers vote for the amendments on two occasions separated by at least three months has been met. The provisions accompanying the amendments, however, provide that they do not go into effect immediately and that non-citizens will be allowed to vote only in 2006. Parliament also decided by a vote of 59 to 32, with two abstentions, to advance the date of the local-council elections, originally scheduled for February or March 2003, to 22 December, the date of the presidential election. By merging the two polls, the state is expected to save about 10 million litas ($2.7 million), SG

TWO OF THREE LITHUANIAN PRESIDENTIAL VETOES UPHELD
Parliament on 20 June also decided to approve the changes in two of the three bills that President Valdas Adamkus suggested when he vetoed them earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002), ELTA reported. By a vote of 71 to five, with five abstentions, lawmakers added a provision to the law on operational activities banning the recruitment of clergymen in order to preserve the sanctity of religious confessions. Parliament also agreed to change the law on alcohol control to allow the outdoor advertising of beer, naturally fermented wine, and cider. By a vote of 75 to 25, parliament, however, rejected the president's proposed revisions to the hunting law, which would have exempted existing private hunting areas of at least 200 hectares from the requirement that hunting areas have a minimum of 1,000 hectares. SG

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SEEKS FOUR-WAY TALKS ON KALININGRAD
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov visited Warsaw on 20 June, where he discussed the problem of transit between the Russian Federation and the Kaliningrad exclave after EU enlargement with Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Polish and Russian media reported. Ivanov told journalists that Russia is not interested in obtaining any corridors through Poland or Lithuania but in having free transit between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia. Ivanov proposed immediately launching four-way talks -- including the EU, Russia, Poland, and Lithuania -- to resolve the transit issue. Cimoszewicz said Poland does not intend to make difficult the life of "ordinary Russians who want to travel and who want to visit other countries," but added that the country must fulfill its obligations as a future EU member. Cimoszewicz noted that there has not yet been any "unequivocal concept" on how to resolve the problem of Russian access to Kaliningrad. The talks between Cimoszewicz and Ivanov took place during the inaugural session of the Committee for the Strategy of Polish-Russian Cooperation, which was set up by the Russian and Polish presidents earlier this year. JM

POLISH SEJM SPEAKER TO REMAIN IN POST
The Sejm on 20 June voted 280-73, with 18 abstentions, to reject a motion to dismiss parliamentary speaker Marek Borowski from his post, PAP reported. The motion -- backed the League of Polish Families (LPR) and the Law and Justice group -- was filed by the LPR, which accused Borowski of using undemocratic methods in parliamentary work. Andrzej Lepper's Self-Defense refused to take part in the voting. JM

CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS NATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR DECEMBER...
Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus on 20 June announced he is calling an ODS national conference for December and that the entire party leadership will submit its resignation to that forum, CTK and AFP reported. Klaus did not say whether he intends to seek re-election at the party's head. Apart from Klaus, the ODS leadership includes deputy chairmen Petr Necas, Ivan Langer, Miroslav Benes, and Jan Zahradil. MS

...WILL NOT RUN FOR PRESIDENT...
Klaus told "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 21 June that he will not run for president while a government made up of the Social Democrats (CSSD) and the Coalition is in power. President Vaclav Havel's mandate ends in January 2003, and there has been speculation that Klaus might seek the office. "In a situation where the cards have been dealt long before the vote and where the president is elected indirectly [by the parliament], I consider it inappropriate to run for the position," Klaus said. He also said he believes the CSSD and the Coalition will reach an agreement, but added that if this does not happen and the CSSD would invite the ODS to negotiations, "We would by no means be offended, and would not say we do not talk to you if you did not approach us first." MS

...BUT IS TOLD BY DEPUTY TO FOLLOW ZEMAN'S EXAMPLE
ODS Deputy Chairman Jan Zahradil on 20 June said he believes Klaus should opt for departing from the ODS top leadership "in Milos Zeman style," CTK reported. Shortly after becoming premier in 1998, Zeman said he would not seek re-election as CSSD chairman and would withdraw from politics at the end of his government's four-year mandate. He stood by his pledge, leaving the chairman's post in 2001 and not seeking re-election to the parliament in the last ballot. Zahradil said Klaus has made "just the first step in that direction," in the sense that he has "set a clear deadline" for retiring from the party's leading position. He said the ODS should now forge a leadership team capable of taking over from Klaus. MS

FREEDOM UNION-DEMOCRATIC UNION CHAIRWOMAN TO RESIGN?
Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU) Chairwoman Hana Marvanova will tender her resignation at a meeting of the party's national committee in September, CTK reported on 21 June, citing the daily "Lidove noviny." The paper cites Marvanova as saying: "I believe that the entire party leadership should resign in light of the election results." Marvanova said she has not decided yet whether to seek re-election after resigning but added, "I shall run if I feel I have the backing of the majority for the change of direction I want to propose for the party's future development." She said she wants the party to run independently in the next general elections, but added that this should not be understood as advocating that US-DEU disregard its current commitments within the Coalition. MS

OUTGOING CZECH PREMIER SAYS HE WON'T GIVE ADVICE TO SUCCESSOR -- BUT DOES JUST THAT
Outgoing Prime Minister Zeman told CTK in St. Petersburg on 20 June that he does not plan to interfere with Premier-designate Vladimir Spidla's formation of a new cabinet and will not comment on it. "I am leaving the formation of the new government to Vladimir Spidla, so he can shape it the way he wants and can," Zeman said, adding, "When I was named premier four years ago, I did not let anyone interfere with it [either]." But Zeman reiterated his preference for a minority CSSD government, while admitting that such a government also "poses risks." "I believe that if a single-party CSSD government survived over the last four years, it can also survive four more years," he said. A single-party government, he added, can pursue its own program while coalition cabinets have to compromise, he said. Reacting to Spidla's statement earlier this week that the CSSD will field its own presidential candidate in January, Zeman reiterated he would be ready to run "only if there is no other viable candidate." MS

CZECH DAILY SAYS COMMUNIST PARTY IS 'LEFTIST HAIDER'
Commenting on the outcome of the elections on 20 June, the daily "Lidove noviny" said the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) has become a leftist Czech version of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party, CTK reported. Jan Hartl, director of the STEM polling institute, said the KSCM -- the only real winner of the 14-15 June ballot -- owes its success to low turnout and to its having turned into a party attracting the protest vote. Hartl said the KSCM is "the only party that has been in an uncompromising opposition." Analyst Daniel Kunstat from polling agency CVVM said not all pro-KSCM votes "are Bolshevik," adding that the party "started to play a role similar to that of the West European parties led by [Jean-Marie] Le Pen, Pim Fortuyn, and Joerg Haider." Meanwhile, KSCM leader Miroslav Grebenicek said on 20 June that one of the main priorities of his party is to bring about the abolition of the lustration law, which bans former secret-police agents and collaborators from holding certain posts. MS

FIFTY THOUSAND REQUESTS FOR CZECH ASYLUM SINCE 1990
The daily "Hospodarske noviny" wrote on 20 June that the Czech Republic has become a "destination country" for asylum seekers from the East. The paper cited Interior Ministry official Lucie Starkova as saying that just over 18,000 people asked for refugee status in 2001. The number of asylum seekers since 1990 is more than 53,000, Starkova added. Of these, 2,123 people were granted refugee status. She also said that many asylum seekers nonetheless still perceive the Czech Republic as mainly a "transit country" to the West. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ON ELECTORAL OUTCOME...
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told a conference of Slovak ambassadors to NATO countries on 20 June in Bratislava that he believes voters will cast their ballots in the September elections in favor of "democratic parties," CTK reported. Dzurinda said he cannot believe that the electorate, 60 percent of which favors NATO membership, will ignore that aspect when voting. He described the statement by U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns the previous day as an "honest and open warning of what consequences the formation of a government that does not have the support of the [NATO] allies is likely to have." Burns warned against the inclusion in the new government of Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). The prime minister admitted, however, that "nobody can forecast the [electoral] results with absolute certainty" and added that pre-election disputes among democratic parties might "close the way to post-electoral compromises." MS

...LESS SO ON PERSONAL PROSPECTS
Dzurinda on 20 June admitted to journalists that the Slovak Railways tender affair has damaged his own and his Slovak Democratic and Christian Union's (SDKU) credibility, CTK reported. But he added that he hopes the action he has taken by demanding that President Rudolf Schuster dismiss Transport Minister Jozef Macejko -- also a member of the SDKU -- will restore trust in himself and in the party. He also said voters are mature enough to be able to distinguish between the action of "a single person who acted strangely" and the SDKU as a whole. Macejko overruled the tender commission -- of which Dzurinda's brother was a member -- pointing out that another bidder made a lower offer for supplying locomotives to Slovak Railways. Macejko was then dismissed by Dzurinda. Macejko on 20 June defended himself in the parliament, saying he acted correctly by interfering to ensure the tender procedure was respected, since if it were not, he would be held responsible. MS

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS NO NATO ACCESSION WOULD SPELL DISASTER
Addressing the Slovak ambassadors to NATO countries conference, Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said on 20 June that if Slovakia is not invited to join NATO at the organization's November Prague summit, "it would be a disaster," CTK reported. Alluding to the fact that Slovakia was not invited to join the first wave of enlargement, Kukan said, "A third time might never come." MS

HZDS REACTS TO BURNS STATEMENT
HZDS Deputy Chairman Rudolf Ziak, reacting to the statement by U.S. Ambassador Burns, said his party "does not underestimate" the critical comments of U.S. and other NATO countries' representatives, but added, "The opinion of Slovak citizens, one-third of whom trust the HZDS, is also important." Ziak reiterated that if the HZDS returns to power, it will "do everything to implement our goals," among which he counted NATO and EU membership. MS

SLOVAKIA, AUSTRIA SIGN READMISSION AGREEMENT
Visiting Slovak Interior Minister Ivan Simko and his Austrian counterpart, Ernst Strasser, signed an agreement in Vienna on 20 July on the readmission of illegal immigrants from third countries that pass through their territories, CTK reported. They said the agreement is in line with EU standards. Simko said Bratislava will seek to strengthen its border with Ukraine, through which the largest number of illegal migrants to the West cross into Slovakia. A Slovak-Ukrainian readmission agreement has already been concluded, and Simko said a similar accord is being prepared with the Czech Republic. The two ministers also discussed cooperation in the fight against organized crime. MS

HUNGARIAN RULING COALITION CLOSES RANKS AROUND MEDGYESSY...
Flanked by every member of his government, Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy on 20 June told journalists that he has the full backing of the two coalition partners and intends to press on with the implementation of the government's program, international media reported. "We have to open up the past and let the future begin," he said, adding, "My government is united and strong, and more determined than ever." Medgyessy said attacks on himself by the pro-opposition media will not deter his government from investigating alleged mismanagement of public funds by the ousted cabinet headed by Viktor Orban. "Those guilty have reason to fear," Medgyessy said, "and millions of false accusations cannot stop us from finding out where the smuggled billions [of forints] have gone." Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said the crisis is over. He charged that FIDESZ had two aims in triggering it: "On one hand, they wanted to dent the popularity of the Socialists, who...enjoy over 50 percent support, according to the latest unpublished polls," and, "On the other hand, they fear investigations by police and prosecutors, which seem to show increasingly clearly that corruption cases implicate not only companies close to FIDESZ, but also some of its top leaders and their families," he said. MS

...WHILE OPPOSITION INTENSIFIES ATTACKS
The FIDESZ leadership on 20 June called on Medgyessy to resign and asked that parliament meet in closed session on 25 June to further debate the premier's past, Hungarian media reported. FIDESZ said it wants to "make a contribution on the matter," which involves state secrets. Referring to Medgyessy again as "agent D-209," FIDESZ Chairman Zoltan Pokorni said it is only a matter of time till the premier's fall "morally and as a human being" also triggers his political downfall. Pokorni reminded his listeners of the precedent of former Polish Premier Jozef Olesky, who was forced to resign in 1995 when it was discovered he collaborated with the Soviet and Polish communist secret services. Pokorni called "childish" the argument that Medgyessy has defended Hungarian interests against the KGB. Pokorni said resident KGB agents were in charge of decision-making in all East Central European countries and some Hungarian counterintelligence agents were also KGB operatives. The only question, he said, is whether Medgyessy served KGB interests directly or indirectly. MS

MORE ON MILOSEVIC'S MILLIONS...
"The Times" reported from London on 21 June that it has obtained a copy of a report from the National Bank of Yugoslavia showing how former President Slobodan Milosevic sent an unspecified quantity of gold ingots belonging to the bank out of the country toward the end of his regime (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2002). The bank's identification seals were removed from the ingots in an unnamed Greek port, and the gold was then sent to Italy. In 1999, an unspecified quantity of antiques, artifacts, gold and silver cutlery, and rare carpets were sent from Yugoslavia to an art dealer in Beirut, who sold the goods to dealers and customers around the Mediterranean. The goods were either looted during Milosevic's wars in the Balkans or stolen elsewhere in Europe and "fenced" through Yugoslavia. PM

...AND THE TRAIL OF MONEY
Money from the sale of the gold and goods is believed to have wound up in Milosevic's bank accounts in the Netherlands and Switzerland, although on at least one occasion a Yugoslav Army officer took the money directly to Milosevic's house, "The Times" reported on 21 June. The National Bank report names 19 suspects in the money-laundering operation, noting that Milosevic made use of the secret police, regular police, and Finance Ministry in the process. An additional source of illicit income for Milosevic was receiving kickbacks from smugglers of weapons and goods embargoed during the Western sanctions. One money-laundering group, which included two Yugoslavs and a Russian, moved some of Milosevic's money to Switzerland via Cyprus, Greece, and Lebanon. PM

MILOSEVIC'S TV BOSS JAILED FOR BOMBING DEATHS
A Serbian court sentenced Dragoljub Milanovic on 21 June to 9 1/2 years in prison for failing to protect the lives of 16 employees of Radio Television Serbia (RTS) who died when NATO aircraft bombed the RTS high-rise building on 23 April 1999, Reuters reported from Belgrade. Presiding Judge Radmila Dragicevic-Dicic said that Milanovic "failed to act according to regulations governing the safety of RTS even though he was aware this could provoke danger for the lives of the people because NATO aggression had already started." Victims' families brought the lawsuit against Milanovic, who they said knew that the RTS building was likely to be a bombing target. PM

SERBIA TO SET UP 'THE UNTOUCHABLES'
Taking a page from Chicago's legendary Eliot Ness -- who fought Al Capone with a small group of "Untouchables" -- the Serbian government has prepared legislation to set up a similar unit in its war against corruption and organized crime, Reuters reported from Belgrade on 20 June. The legislation is based on Italian and Croatian models and creates a special prosecutor's office, a court department, a police branch, and a detention unit. The cost will be over $15 million and includes high salaries by Serbian standards. The special prosecutor, the head of the court department, and the special police commander will be paid at least $2,337 in a country where the average monthly wage is $130. While few doubt that crime and corruption are an endemic problem in Serbia, some human rights lawyers are already planning to challenge some of the provisions of the proposed legislation, which they say gives too much power to the new agencies. PM

YUGOSLAVIA TIGHTENS CIVILIAN CONTROL OVER SECURITY AGENCIES
The lower house of the Yugoslav parliament voted on 20 June to set down rules for civilian control over four federal security bodies: the Military Security Service (VSB), the Military Investigation Service (VOS), the Service for Research and Documentation of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Security Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

YUGOSLAVIA JOINS THE PEACEKEEPERS
For the first time since the communist era, military personnel from Yugoslavia will take part in a UN peacekeeping mission, this time in East Timor, Reuters reported from Belgrade on 21 June. Three air force pilots who attended a three-week course put on by the UN in Tehran for military observers and civilian police are participating. The three Yugoslavs mentioned that they had combat experience but would not answer the reporter's questions about it. The three noted that many of the participants in the Tehran course also had direct experience, including Sri Lankans who fought against the Tamil Tigers. PM

MONTENEGRO TO RETURN PROPERTY TAKEN BY COMMUNISTS
The parliament voted on 20 June to return property valued at $1.2 billion to its original owners or their descendants, AP reported from Podgorica. The property was confiscated by the communists following the end of World War II and is expected to be returned within about three years. A cash payment will be made in cases where the property cannot be returned due to postwar construction and development. PM

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT OPPOSES PASSPORT AGREEMENT
President Boris Trajkovski said on 20 June he strictly opposes the government's proposal on the use of the Macedonian and Albanian languages on the covers of passports, Macedonian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2002). "[The proposal] openly contradicts with what we agreed upon two months ago -- one and only one unified passport for all citizens, which expresses the unitary character of the state. I am...concerned that [some people are constantly trying] to arbitrarily interpret the [Ohrid peace] agreement.... I will do what is within my powers to implement the peace agreement," Trajkovski said. The Interior Ministry has proposed issuing two different passports -- one with a text in Macedonian and English on its cover, the other one in Macedonian, Albanian, and English. According to Trajkovski, the Albanian language may be used only for the personal data inside the passport. UB

CROATIA JOINS REGIONAL SECURITY GROUP
At a meeting in Bled, Slovenia, on 21 June, Croatian Defense Minister Jozo Rados signed documents making his country the seventh member of CENCOOP, the Central European Nations' Cooperation in Peace Support, Hina reported. Austria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Slovenia founded the group in 1997. Ukraine seeks observer status in the group, which deals with peace-related issues and promotes cooperation among military police. PM

CROATIAN GOVERNMENT TO BOOST STRIKING CUSTOMS WORKERS' SALARIES
One day after customs officials launched a work-to-rule strike at the beginning of the tourist season, the Croatian government agreed to raise the wages of customs officials by 20 percent, dpa reported from Zagreb on 21 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2002). The employees accepted the offer, which is half of what they wanted, Hina reported. PM

BOSNIA AND CROATIA SET UP JOINT CUSTOMS POST
Bosnian and Croatian customs officials are scheduled to begin working together on 21 June at a single customs house on Croatian territory at the Neum-Klek border crossing, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

ROMANIA INTENDS TO NULLIFY U.S. PRIVATIZATION CONTRACT
A dispute between U.S.-based Noble Ventures and the Romanian authorities re-emerged on 20 June, when Privatization Authority sources said they intend to launch judicial procedures aimed at nullifying the contract under which Nobel Ventures bought a 94.4 percent stake in Resita-based steelmaker CSR in June 2000 for $85.25 million, Romanian radio reported. The Privatization Authority says Nobel Ventures has not honored its contractual obligations. CSR executive John Michael McNutt sarcastically called the news "interesting." He said Noble Ventures has agreed to withdraw a complaint with a Washington arbitration body against the Privatization Authority following an agreement signed for the return of the company to U.S. management after last year's dispute. Under the current circumstances, McNutt said, the complaint against "expropriation" launched with the Washington arbitration court will be resubmitted. MS

NATO EXERCISE BEGINS IN ROMANIA
NATO member states and several participants in the Partnership for Peace program on 21 June begin a two-week exercise in the Black Sea port of Constanta under the code name Cooperative Partner, AFP reported. The activity is aimed at promoting transparency and cooperation between NATO members and nonmembers, as well as the "democratization of armed forces" in the Partnership for Peace. The exercise lasts until 6 July and involves NATO members France, Greece, Italy, Poland, and Turkey along with nonmembers Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, and Ukraine. MS

WORLD BANK RESUMES LENDING TO MOLDOVA
The World Bank's executive board on 20 June decided to resume lending to Moldova, Flux reported on the next day, citing Moldova Embassy sources in Washington. The board decided to grant Moldova a $30 million loan for structural adjustments and release the first $10.5 million tranche of a $25-million standby loan. The decision opens the possibility for Chisinau to also resume negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, from which it hopes next month to receive a $30 million tranche and renegotiate with the Paris Club of creditors a restructuring of the country's foreign debt. MS

COMMUNIST MAJORITY IN MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS EUROPEAN COUNCIL SECRETARY'S REQUEST
The Communist majority in the Moldovan parliament on 20 June voted to reject a request by Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer to forward to the council's experts recently approved bills on university autonomy and on parliamentary procedure. Deputy parliamentary speaker Vadim Mishin said no foreign institution can tell the Moldovan parliament what it should or should not do, Romanian radio reported. MS

GAGAUZ-YERI PARLIAMENT REJECTS MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING
The Gagauz-Yeri Popular Assembly on 20 June approved a resolution saying the "Moldovan Constitutional Court has committed an act violating the collective rights of the Gagauz people," Infotag reported. The resolution was approved in response to a ruling by the court obliging all civil-status documents to be issued in the country's official ("Moldovan") language and all street signs to be written exclusively in "Moldovan." The assembly said the court's ruling may "negatively affect the autonomy" of the Gagauz-Yeri people, but also could lead to long-term negative consequences for safeguarding Moldova's territorial integrity. It emphasized that, in accordance with the region's legislation, there are three concomitant official languages in the autonomous republic: Gagauz, Russian and "Moldovan." MS

BULGARIAN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS MINISTER SAYS CONSTITUTION MUST BE AMENDED BY THE END OF 2003
Minister for European Affairs Meglena Kuneva said on 20 June in an interview with BTA that parliament has to amend the constitution by the end of 2003 in connection with Bulgaria's bid for EU accession, mediapool.bg reported. Parliamentarians must change the constitutional regulations regarding the immunity of municipal counselors and the provisions regulating the purchase of land by foreigners. At present, foreign citizens are not allowed to purchase land in Bulgaria, and the ban is widely regarded as a major reason for the low level of foreign investment. UB

BALKAN STABILITY PACT COORDINATOR SAYS BULGARIA MIGHT BECOME REGIONAL ENERGY DISTRIBUTION CENTER
Balkan Stability Pact Coordinator Erhard Busek said on 20 June Bulgaria could become a regional electricity-distribution center in Southeastern Europe, BTA reported. Busek discussed the issue with Energy Minister Milko Kovachev, adding that the government should submit the project of Bulgaria as an energy-distribution center to the Stability Pact's working committee for discussion. Regarding the extension of the Sofia-Nis highway, Busek said so far the Yugoslav and Bulgarian governments have failed to reach a joint position. He said that donors can be expected to show interest in the project only after the two countries submit a joint project. UB

U.S. SECRET SERVICE TO OPEN OFFICES IN BULGARIA
U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria James Pardew on 20 June announced that the U.S. Secret Service plans to open an unspecified number of offices in Bulgaria, mediapool.bg reported. Speaking at a joint press conference with Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Boyko Borisov in the Black Sea port of Varna, Pardew lauded Bulgaria's efforts in combating drug trafficking. Pardew said he is pleased with the recent success of a police operation against a counterfeiting ring based in Varna. UB

There is no End Note today.


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