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Newsline - June 26, 2002


ECO-JOURNALIST PASKO LOSES APPEAL...
The Supreme Court's military collegium ruled on 25 June to uphold a lower court's sentence of four years in a maximum-security prison against a naval officer, military journalist, and environmental activist Grigorii Pasko, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Pasko was convicted by a military court last December of espionage on charges of passing classified information about the Russian Pacific Fleet to Japanese journalists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001). Pasko's attorneys said that they will continue to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court's presidium, and they will seek an early release, which is possible after a convict has served two-thirds of his sentence, Interfax reported. Pasko has been in police custody for two years, including his pretrial detention. Meanwhile, the first issue of "Ecology and the Law," whose chief editor is Pasko, has been issued, RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent reported. The founders of the journal hope that it will help strengthen the legal grounding of environmentalists' activities and expand the practice of defending citizens' ecological rights in courts, including the European Court of Human Rights. JAC

...FORMER KGB GENERAL SENTENCED TO 15-YEAR TERM...
A Moscow city court on 26 June sentenced former KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin in absentia to 15 years in prison and stripped him of his military rank and his state awards, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Kalugin was convicted of state treason and subverting the constitutional order and security of the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 28 May, and 14 and 18 June 2002). Kalugin's defense lawyer said the charges were not proven during the brief trial, RIA-Novosti reported on 26 June. Kalugin, who now lives in the United States, has said that the charges against him were politically motivated. VY

...AS AN FSB COLONEL DRAWS 3 1/2 YEARS' PROBATION
On 25 June, the Naro-Fominsk military garrison court sentenced Federal Security Service (FSB) Lieutenant Colonel Aleksandr Litvinenko in absentia to 3 1/2 years of probation for abuse of office and illegal possession of explosives, Ekho Moskvy radio reported. Litvinenko, who lives in Britain, has repeatedly stated that the accusations against him are the FSB's revenge for his charges that the security organs were involved in the 1999 apartment-building bombings in Moscow and other Russian cities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March, and 2 and 24 April 2002). Litvinenko told Ekho Moskvy that he is now writing a book entitled "LOC" (Lubyanka Organized Crime group), in which he describes widespread corruption within the FSB, as well as the agencies' links to organized crime. VY

DRUGS 'MORE THAN A THREAT' TO RUSSIA
Nikolai Soloviev, first deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, said that drug trafficking is "more than a threat" to the country's national security and that at least 2.5 million Russian citizens are using illegal drugs, izvestia.ru reported on 26 June. He said that there is a dangerous connection between drugs and international terrorism, which is often bankrolled by illicit-drug money. He added that Russia has become a principal transit route for traffickers. Over the last year, law enforcement officials have arrested more than 3,000 drug dealers from 34 countries. More than nine tons of drugs have been seized. Although the drug trade has not been stopped, law enforcement agencies now have a better grasp of the scope of the threat. VY

TELEVISION CHANNELS ACCUSED OF MANIPULATING THE SUBCONSCIOUS
Deputy Media Minister Valerii Sirozhenko accused Russian television channels of using the so-called "25th frame," a production technique that inserts momentary advertisements into programming in an attempt to create subconscious impression, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 25 June. The theory behind the technique holds that the human mind can only process 24 frames per second, while an extra frame can create an impression without being consciously noticed. Some researchers believe the "25th frame" can also have a negative impact on a viewer's psychological health. Deputy Antimonopoly Minister Sergei Puservskii noted that the practice is banned by both Russian and international legislation. VY

RUSSIA INCREASES VOLUME OF OIL EXPORTS...
Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko announced in Moscow on 25 June that Russian oil exports in the third quarter of this year will rise by 2 million tons per day in comparison with the previous quarter, RIA-Novosti reported. Meanwhile, LUKoil head Vagit Alekperov predicted that world oil prices will drop by the end of the year and will stabilize around $20 to $21 per barrel, polit.ru reported the same day. VY

...AS LUKOIL WANTS TO PUMP OIL FROM BALTIC SEA
LUKoil's Alekperov announced at a 24 June press conference in Moscow that his company will begin oil production on the Baltic Sea shelf next year despite protests by local environmentalists, nns.ru reported on 26 June. Alekperov also said that the oil reserves in this area have been estimated at 24 million tons and that LUKoil has already began construction of an offshore platform in the Baltic. Oil exploration in the Baltic Sea was interrupted in 1985 under pressure from Lithuanian ecologists, whose republic lies close to the production area. Now Lithuanian environmentalists have called on the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to stop providing loans to LUKoil until the company halts the project. VY

DEATH TOLL CLIMBS IN SOUTHERN REGION AS FEARS MOUNT REGARDING SPREAD OF DISEASE
The death toll from the recent flooding in Russia's Southern Federal District reached 72 as of early evening Moscow time on 25 June, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2002). Stavropol Krai has sustained the worst losses thus far with 42 dead. According to "Rossiiskaya gazeta," there are more than 360,000 people without fresh drinking water, which raises the risk of infections such as hepatitis-A. Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that 150 million rubles ($5 million) have been allocated from the budget for Stavropol Krai, 100 million for Karachaevo-Cherkessia, 50 million for North Ossetia, and 50 million for Krasnodar Krai for the restoration of bridges, roads, and power lines, Channel Six television reported. Krasnodar is also expected to suffer lost revenue, as tourists are canceling plans to visit there during one of the region's busiest seasons, "Izvestiya" reported. JAC

FARMLAND BILL PASSES THROUGH THE LOWER HOUSE
The State Duma approved on 26 June the third and final reading of a bill on the sale of agricultural land, Western and Russian news agencies reported. According to RosBalt, 258 deputies voted in favor of the bill, 149 voted against, and five abstained. Most of those opposed were Communists or members of other leftist factions. The bill will now be passed to the Federation Council, where it is expected to pass despite the vocal objections of some senators. President Putin has said that he will sign the measure into law. RC

HIGH HOPES FOR NEW LAW ON REGISTRATION OF ENTERPRISES
The text of a new law on state registration of legal entities appeared in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 26 June. The long-awaited law -- which comes into effect on 1 July -- is intended greatly to simplify the process of opening or closing a firm in order to reduce state bureaucracy. Under the law, the mere submission of documents to the local tax board is sufficient for registration. Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying that with the new law "a channel for the enrichment of unscrupulous officials gets cut off." The new law is also expected to help weed out firms that are formally registered but no longer active, because it requires all firms to reregister by the end of the year. The Tax Ministry estimates that as many as 1.3 million of the 3.1 million currently registered enterprises are inactive, according to ITAR-TASS. RC

ULYANOVSK GOVERNOR SAYS HE'S NOT WORRIED
Ulyanovsk Oblast Governor Vladimir Shamanov told reporters in Ulyanovsk on 25 June that the situation in his region is "under complete control," Interfax-Eurasia reported. He said that on 24 June the federal center had allotted 130 million rubles ($4 million) to the region and by the following day the money had already been disbursed. The money will be used to eliminate a 28 million ruble debt to the city and a 15 million ruble debt to gas suppliers. Shamanov explained that the reportedly difficult situation in the region, which has been plagued by energy blackouts and street protests, "is more politics and, unfortunately, dirty insinuations, than reality" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2002). In particular, he noted that the declaration by Unified Energy Systems' press service about the introduction of federal rule in the region is untrue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2002). Shamanov added that not only is he not planning to resign, but he intends to run again in 2005. JAC

NO NEW FACILITY FOR NOVAYA ZEMLYA AFTER ALL?
In an interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 25 June, Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev said that he personally does not support the idea of building a nuclear-waste storage facility on Novaya Zemlya. Last month, Arkhangelsk Oblast Governor Anatolii Yefremov announced that the ministry has suggested building a new underground storage facility for radioactive waste on Novaya Zemlya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2002). According to Rumyantsev, the permafrost in the area "raises concerns" and adds significant extra expense for the construction of a dock, roads, and infrastructure. Rumyantsev also said that his ministry presently has no plans to resume testing of nuclear weapons, although he added that he and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov plan to visit the Novaya Zemlya test site in the immediate future. JAC

RUSSIAN STUDENTS BAND TOGETHER TO PROTECT THEIR FOREIGN COHORTS
Voronezh State University has established a special detachment of student volunteers to protect the almost 700 foreign students studying at the university from attacks, ntvru.com reported on 25 June, citing NTV-International. Foreign students at the university had been subjected to a series of attacks by local skinheads (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 21 March 2001), and the special detachment appears to be maintaining order on campus. The volunteer students patrol every evening and for this work receive only coupons for food and small cash awards twice a year. JAC

TV-STATION FOUNDER KILLED IN FAR EAST
The founder of the Vladivostok-based private television company, Novaya Volna, Oleg Sidinko, was killed by an explosive device in the entrance to his apartment on 25 June, Russian news agencies reported. Sidinko also owned a chain of movie theaters, and investigators' preliminary theory is that his murder was connected with his activities in that business, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. JAC

FIRST MISS UNIVERSE, NOW EUROREGION-2003
The republic of Karelia has won the Euroregion competition for 2003, pravda.ru reported on 25 June. The competition was held in Barcelona this year and was open for the first time to regions of countries that are not members of the European Union. Karelia beat out the first runner-up, the Balearic Islands of Spain. According to the website, participation in the contest gives regions the opportunity to show Europe and the entire world their activities in the area of developing international regional connections, as well as in the cultural, economic, and tourism spheres. JAC

RUSSIA REJECTS CHECHEN PRESIDENT'S CALL FOR PEACE TALKS...
Defense Minister Ivanov on 25 June rejected a proposal by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov to President Putin to suspend hostilities on 15 July and begin peace talks, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Maskhadov made that offer in an open letter to participants in the G-8 summit in Canada. The letter was e-mailed on 21 June to the Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy. Ivanov said that talks with Maskhadov can only be conducted after he lays down arms, and then by the prosecutor-general. Ivanov further claimed that documents confiscated in Chechnya definitively prove Maskhadov's ties with "international extremists," according to Interfax. He also claimed that federal troops succeeded in thwarting a major offensive by Maskhadov's forces timed for 25 June, the aim of which was to seize Grozny. LF

...AS KREMLIN SPOKESMAN SAYS IT WAS UNNECESSARY
Commenting on Maskhadov's initiative, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 25 June that there was nothing to stop Maskhadov's envoy Akhmed Zakaev from contacting presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Viktor Kazantsev to propose resuming the talks the two men held late last year, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 November 2001). Yastrzhembskii pointed to what he termed numerous "inaccuracies" in Maskhadov's open letter, arguing that a cessation of hostilities is impossible because no such hostilities are taking place. Yastrzhembskii also objected to Maskhadov's use of the phrase "Russian-Chechen conflict," saying that all Chechens are de facto Russian citizens. LF

DAGHESTAN'S LEADER RE-ELECTED TO THIRD TERM
The 242 members of Daghestan's Constitutional Assembly on 25 June overwhelmingly re-elected 71-year-old Dargin Magomedali Magomedov as State Council chairman, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the following day. He has held that post since 1994. Only four members voted for rival candidate Atai Aliev, who is Audit Chamber chairman. Daghestan's political elite unanimously backed Magomedov's candidacy; he himself said he knows he can count on the support of President Putin in both social and political issues. LF

CORRECTION:
An item in "RFE/RL Newsline" on 25 June entitled "Russia to Join Another European Organization" incorrectly listed Switzerland, rather than Sweden, as a member of the Northern Council.

THREE MORE ARMENIAN RADIO AND TV FREQUENCIES ALLOCATED
In the second of a series of controversial tenders, the presidential commission on broadcasting on 25 June formally allocated frequencies to two television stations and one radio station, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. All three broadcasters acquired the frequencies they had used prior to the tender, and thus had their broadcasting licenses renewed for a further seven years. In the first such tender in April, the independent television station A1+, which is renowned for its hard-hitting but objective political coverage, lost its frequency to a station that intends to broadcast primarily entertainment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 April 2002). That station has not yet begun broadcasting, but its owner said on 21 June that it plans to do so by September, RFE/RL 's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

ARMENIAN, TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET
Vartan Oskanian and Ismail Cem met for 45 minutes on 25 June on the sidelines of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) summit in Istanbul to discuss the situation in the South Caucasus and approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Bilateral relations were touched upon only in general terms and not at length, according to an unnamed diplomat quoted by AFP. Oskanian told journalists that no breakthrough was reached on the normalization of bilateral relations, adding that "this is going to be a long process." The two sides agreed to continue talks, but it is not clear whether a specific time frame was established for doing so; the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported that Oskanian rejected a proposal by Cem that they should meet regularly. Oskanian said he has witnessed a "positive change" in the Turkish position on Karabakh and that Turkey now appears ready to pursue a "more balanced policy" toward Armenia and Azerbaijan. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT HOLDS MEETINGS IN ISTANBUL...
Heidar Aliev held separate meetings on 24 June in Istanbul with his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze, the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group, and with Turkish Foreign Minister Cem, according to Anatolia News Agency, as cited by Groong. Aliev said there are no problems between Azerbaijan and Georgia, and that he and Cem discussed ways of improving the friendship and cooperation between their respective countries. Aliev told the Minsk Group co-chairs that the Karabakh problem is the most serious Azerbaijan faces. Russian co-Chairman Nikolai Gribkov said the co-chairs did not unveil a new peace proposal for Karabakh, but discussed with Aliev "some new ideas." He did not elaborate. LF

...RULES OUT ECONOMIC COOPERATION WITH ARMENIA
Addressing the BSEC summit on 25 June, Aliev again ruled out any joint economic projects between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia as long as Armenia continues to occupy Azerbaijani territory, Turan reported. Armenian Foreign Minister Oskanian in his address at the summit again argued that such cooperation would help promote mutual understanding and the resolution of regional conflicts. LF

GEORGIAN SECURITY MINISTER BLAMES INTERIOR MINISTRY FOR BUSINESSMAN'S ABDUCTION...
In a statement that points to serious tensions between Georgia's National Security and Interior ministries, National Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania said in Tbilisi on 25 June that he believes British business consultant Peter Shaw's abduction last week was undertaken at the behest of unnamed Interior Ministry officials, Caucasus Press reported. Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili told journalists the same day his ministry has compiled photo-kit likenesses of seven men wanted in connection with the abduction. A house-to-house search for Shaw was launched on 26 June in Tbilisi's Didi Digomi district where the cars used in his kidnapping were found abandoned last week, Caucasus Press and AP reported. Caucasus Press also reported on 25 June without citing its sources that Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze plans to propose to the Georgian National Security Council the "structural reorganization" of the Interior and National Security ministries. LF

...CONFIRMS INTERCEPTED ARMS INTENDED FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITIES
Following a 25 June meeting with the prosecutor-general and chief military prosecutor, Khaburzania said that the consignment of weaponry intercepted near Tbilisi one week earlier was indeed destined for use in a terrorist attack, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze claimed immediately that the arms were intended for that purpose, while Major Simon Mchedlidze, the National Security Ministry official arrested while transporting them, insisted that they were being sent to a Georgian guerrilla formation operating in southern Abkhazia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2002). Khaburzania also said that Mchedlidze was transferred to his ministry from the Defense Ministry at the request of a notorious criminal kingpin, and that "I had nothing to do with granting him the rank of major." He added that two ministry officials responsible for hiring Mchedlidze have been dismissed. LF

GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ GROUP DISCUSSES CONDITIONS FOR RETURN OF DISPLACED PERSONS
One of the three working groups subordinate to the Coordinating Council established under the UN aegis in November 1997 to discuss issues relating to the Abkhaz conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 1997) met in Tbilisi on 25 June, Caucasus Press reported. The working group on socioeconomic issues discussed ways of attracting investments to rebuild Abkhazia's infrastructure, restoration of the energy systems in Sukhum and Zugdidi, and providing education for the children of Georgian displaced persons who return to Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. It was agreed that the Georgian language will again be taught in Gali schools. LF

GEORGIA RESCINDS BAN ON EXPORT OF SCRAP METAL
Bowing to pressure from the International Monetary Fund, the Georgian parliament voted on 25 June to lift a ban on the export of scrap metal it imposed late last year, Caucasus Press reported on 26 June. Deputies had voted against doing so four days earlier despite the urging of government officials, who claimed that the IMF had threatened to withhold a $44 million loan tranche unless the ban was abolished, thereby creating the risk of economic collapse. In 2001, Georgia exported 32 tons of scrap metal worth $52 million. The lucrative market for scrap metal has led to widespread thefts of cables and monuments; in April 2001 parliament amended the Criminal Code to make such thefts punishable by prison sentences ranging from two to seven years. LF

GEORGIA RELEASES CHECHEN JOURNALIST
A Tbilisi district court on 25 June ordered the release of Chechen journalist Islam Saidaev and Georgian Zurab Khangoshvili, Caucasus Press reported. The two men were detained in late March on suspicion of maintaining contacts with members of Al-Qaeda (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2002). The court ruled that the prosecution had failed to produce any evidence of such contacts. LF

DETAILS OF CHARGES AGAINST FORMER KAZAKH MINISTER DIVULGED...
On the second day of the trial in Astana of former Energy, Industry, and Trade Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov, prosecutors charged on 25 June that he embezzled some 557.7 million tenges ($3.7 million) by siphoning off funds from the national power grid that he formally headed and by writing off the debts of an asbestos company in which he owned a stake, AP reported. LF

...AS ANOTHER FORMER MINISTER ARRESTED
Police arrested former Transport Minister Ablai Myrzakhmetov on 25 June on charges of embezzlement and abuse of office when he headed Kazakh Railways between late 1998-November 2001, Interfax reported. Myrzakhmetov, who was sacked as transport minister two months ago (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 16 April 2002), is said to have embezzled over 1 billion tenges ($6.56 million). LF

UPPER HOUSE OF KAZAKH PARLIAMENT MODIFIES NEW LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES
The Senate (the upper chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament) on 25 June passed the new law on political parties adopted by the Mazhilis (the lower chamber) late on 20 June, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2002). Communist Party of Kazakhstan Chairman Serikbolsyn Abdildin said the new law, which raises to 50,000 the minimum number of members a party must have in order to register with the Justice Ministry, will destroy all Kazakh opposition parties. AP calculated that in addition to the pro-presidential OTAN party, only two opposition parties meet that criterion. In response to earlier criticism, the senators removed from the law a clause stipulating that any party that polls less than 3 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections must be dissolved. The Mazhilis must now approve that amendment. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT POSTPONES DEBATE ON AKSY AMNESTY BILL
The Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament) on 25 June postponed until 27 June a debate on the draft bill proposed by Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev that would amnesty persons responsible for police opening fire on demonstrators in Aksy on 17-18 March, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2002). Deputies did, however, pass a new law that abolishes the requirement that official permission must be obtained to hold rallies and demonstrations, together with some restrictions on where such rallies may be held, Interfax reported. The new law also empowers the Legislative Assembly to elect a national ombudsman, according to its co-author Tursunbai Bakir-Uulu. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEPUTY'S SUPPORTERS AGREE NOT TO HOLD PROTEST RALLY IN OSH
Supporters of parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov reached agreement on 25 June with the Osh municipal authorities that they will not enter the city, Interfax reported. Some 600 Beknazarov supporters who marched to Osh from Djalalabad and are currently encamped some 3 kilometers outside the city limits had planned to hold a protest rally in Osh. First Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmanov warned on 24 June that any attempt to do so could spark mass disorders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2002). LF

NORWEGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS KYRGYZSTAN
Kristin Krohn Devold told journalists in Bishkek on 25 June that Norway will deploy 18 F-16 fighter aircraft at the Manas air base by the end of this year to support the ongoing antiterrorism operation in Afghanistan, Russian agencies reported. Devold met in Bishkek with her Kyrgyz counterpart Colonel General Esen Topoev to discuss the security situation in Central Asia. She was also scheduled to discuss postconflict rehabilitation in Afghanistan with Prime Minister Tanaev. LF

TURKMENISTAN TO TURN CONFISCATED MANSIONS OVER TO POOR
President Saparmurat Niyazov announced on Turkmen state television on 25 June that some 200 mansions confiscated from disgraced former officials will be made available to the socially disadvantaged and families with numerous children, Reuters and Interfax reported. Niyazov named among former officials whose homes have been confiscated former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov who, according to Niyazov, possessed four mansions. But "Vremya novostei" on 26 June quoted Shikhmuradov as saying he owned only a quarter share in one house in Ashgabat that he shared with three other government officials, and that he has no knowledge of the other three residences he is said to possess. LF

UZBEKISTAN SEEKS TO CLARIFY ITS RELATIONS WITH GUUAM
Uzbekistan has not withdrawn from GUUAM, but merely "suspended" its participation in that grouping, an unnamed Uzbek Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Tashkent on 25 June, according to Interfax. He was commenting on Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko's statement in Istanbul earlier the same day that Tashkent's original statement on its relations with GUUAM was "misinterpreted" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002). LF

CONVICTION OF BELARUSIAN JOURNALISTS DRAWS FIRE FROM ABROAD...
The 24 June conviction of "Pahonya" newspaper's Mikola Markevich and Pavel Mazheyka for libeling Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka during the 2001 presidential campaign has drawn international condemnation, Belapan reported the next day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2002). The media representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Freimut Duve, said on 26 June that "journalists should not be prosecuted in a criminal court for what they write." He added that such prosecution is unacceptable in any OSCE state. Marek Butko, first secretary of the Polish Embassy in Belarus, also condemned the verdict and the trial, saying, "I cannot imagine such a trial and such a sentence in [Poland]. This means the suppression of freedom of speech." The human rights organization Amnesty International said the journalists were prosecuted for "seeking the truth." In a statement released on 25 June, the organization said that "the sentencing of these journalists yet again revealed Belarus's inability to brook dissent and allow its small independent journalist community to give voice to widely shared concerns about the fate of a series of high-profile 'disappearances' in the country." Amnesty also urged the Belarusian government to ensure that it fulfils its obligations under a number of human rights treaties, especially those concerning freedom of expression. CB

...AND ALSO AT HOME
About 15 members of the opposition United Civic Party protested the convictions of Markevich and Mazheyka outside the Minsk headquarters of President Lukashenka on 25 June, Belapan reported. Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka condemned the sentences as politically motivated, saying: "It was not the judge who made the decision. The decision was made here, in this building [Lukashenka's headquarters]." Lyabedzka added that Belarus is in danger of completely losing its independent media. In a 24 June statement, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee also condemned the sentences, saying it viewed the trial as "the illegal persecution of journalists for an attempt to criticize one of the candidates running for the presidency in the fall of 2001.... The course of the trial showed that the judge did not intend to observe the universally recognized principles of justice, such as independence, impartiality, openness, the rule of law, the presumption of innocence, unlimited access to legal counsel, etc." CB

EU OFFICIAL SPEAKS ON UKRAINE'S EFFORTS TOWARD EUROPEAN INTEGRATION
Francesco Luciani, the deputy head of the European Union's delegation in Ukraine, on 25 June urged Ukrainian officials to have realistic expectations about membership in the union, AP reported. Speaking at a meeting in Kyiv to discuss the EU-Ukraine summit in July, he praised Ukraine's "excellent results" in improving law enforcement and democracy, but noted that money laundering continues to be a problem. Earlier this month, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force refused to remove Ukraine from a list of countries that are "uncooperative" in implementing legislation and regulations for preventing money laundering. Luciani characterized efforts to stop human trafficking (Ukraine is now a "Tier 2" country in prevention of human trafficking, according to the U.S. State Department) and weapons as "impressive" signs of Ukraine's commitment to the EU. But he also noted that Ukraine still lags behind in economic reforms, and that European investment in the country is low. RK

CATO INSTITUTE RANKS UKRAINE'S ECONOMIC FREEDOM
The latest CATO Institute Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) index currently available for 123 countries, and which measures the consistency of a country's policies and institutions with economic freedom, placed Ukraine at the bottom of the list along with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Guinea-Bissau, and Algeria. The Russian Federation was two places ahead of Ukraine but behind Zimbabwe on the CATO list. The key ingredients of economic freedom, according to CATO, are personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete, and protection of person and property. According to the report, "institutions and policies are consistent with economic freedom when they provide an infrastructure for voluntary exchange and protect individuals and their property from aggressors seeking to use violence, coercion, and fraud to seize things that do not belong to them." CATO noted that legal and monetary mechanisms are important in that governments promote economic freedom when they provide a legal structure and law enforcement system that protects the property rights of owners and enforces contracts in an even-handed manner. RK

ESTONIA, RUSSIA INK AGREEMENT ON BORDER CHECKPOINTS
In Tallinn on 25 June, Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland and Russian Ambassador to Estonia Konstantin Provalov signed an agreement on border checkpoints between the two countries, BNS reported. Border crossings had been regulated by an agreement on customs checkpoints concluded by the Estonian and Russian governments in 1993. The Estonian government formed a committee in June 2000 for holding talks on a new checkpoint agreement, and discussions were held in December 2000 in Estonia and in July 2001 in Pskov. The final text of the treaty was agreed at a meeting in Moscow in May. The new agreement, which went into effect from the moment of the signing, designates seven international and five bilateral checkpoints, all of which were already functioning. It provides for launching ferry services across Lake Peipus between Pskov and Tartu. Pskov Oblast Governor Yevgenii Mikhailov noted earlier in the month that Pskov shippers do not have a suitable vessel for regular passenger transport, so it will initially be conducted mostly by charter and tourist boats. SG

LATVIAN SHIPPING COMPANY SHARES AUCTIONED OFF
The entire package of 102 million shares of Latvijas kugnieciba (Latvian Shipping Co.) were sold at 0.35 lats ($0.57) per share at an auction on the Riga Stock Exchange on 25 June, LETA reported. Latvian investors purchased 61.43 percent of the shares and international investors purchased 38.57 percent. The shares comprise 51 percent of the company. On 8 April an additional 32 percent of the shares were exchanged for privatization vouchers. The demand for the shares on the local market was 5.8 times greater than the 25 June offer. On learning that the joint-stock company Ventspils nafta (VN), in which the state still holds a 43.62 percent stake, purchased more than 60 percent of the offered shares, former Economy Minister Ainars Slesers questioned whether the sale was beneficial, as part of the VN shares will later be exchanged for privatization vouchers. He called on Economy Minister Aigars Kalvitis to resign. SG

NORWEGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS LITHUANIA
Jan Petersen began a two-day visit to Lithuania on 25 June with a meeting with President Valdas Adamkus, ELTA reported. They discussed bilateral relations, Lithuania's future membership in the European Union and NATO, regional cooperation, and ties with neighboring states. Petersen told Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis that Norway has a shortage of workers in the fishing industry and nurses, and would welcome such workers from Lithuania. These issues were also mentioned in his talks with Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, during which he also praised Lithuania's decision to close the nuclear-power plant in Ignalina. Petersen and Health Minister Konstantinas Dobrovolskis signed two agreements on cooperation in preventing tuberculosis in Lithuania and HIV/AIDS in Lithuanian prisons, for which Norway has earmarked 1.97 million litas ($550,000) and 150,000 litas, respectively. SG

WAVE OF PROTESTS FAILS TO MATERIALIZE IN POLAND
Attempts by Andrzej Lepper's radical Self-Defense farmers' union to paralyze Poland with a wave of protests and blockades on 25 June largely fizzled, Western and Polish media reported. Small groups of Self-Defense activists attempted to block roads throughout the country, but were prevented from doing so by police without incident, though 11 arrests were made in Warsaw. "The protests were a complete flop. We normally have more trouble [with soccer matches]," police spokesman Pawel Biedziak told Reuters. However, a protest by the leftist National Trade Union Alliance in front of the National Bank's headquarters in Warsaw drew more than 1,000 people protesting the central bank's monetary policy. National Bank Governor Leszek Balcerowicz has been under pressure from Prime Minister Leszek Miller to cut interest rates since his election last fall. DW

CZECH PRESIDENT SATISFIED WITH PACE OF COALITION NEGOTIATIONS
President Vaclav Havel said on 25 June that he is satisfied with the pace of the ongoing negotiations for the forging of the new Czech government, CTK and AP reported. After meeting with Prime Minister-designate Vladimir Spidla, Havel said he is confident an agreement will be reached. In turn, Spidla told journalists after the meeting: "With moderate optimism, we can say that by the end of this week or the beginning of the next week, we shall reach an agreement on the government's program." Havel said that "any other alternative" to reaching an agreement between the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) and the two formations that make up the Coalition -- the Christian Democratic Union and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union-- would "be worse." Spidla repeated that if the parleys fail, he will try to set up a minority CSSD cabinet. MS

ODS CHAIRMAN TO CONTINUE AS CZECH PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER?
A member of the CSSD leadership, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus could continue to be the Chamber of Deputies' speaker, CTK reported, citing the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes." "We would not be opposed if Klaus remained in his [current] position. After all, he is the chairman of the largest opposition party. Also, we could still need him for the EU accession talks or the referendum law [on European Union accession]. And certainly, it would be easier to come to an agreement with him [as parliamentary speaker] than it would be if he were to become an obstinate regular [opposition] deputy," the CSSD leader said. ODS Deputy Chairman Ivan Langer said in reaction to the report that he had "never heard" that the possibility was under consideration by the CSSD. MS

ODS OPPOSED TO COMMUNIST PARTICIPATION IN CZECH LOWER HOUSE LEADERSHIP
The ODS is opposed to allowing the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) to share in the leadership positions of the Chamber of Deputies according to its proportional strength, CTK reported on 25 June, quoting ODS parliamentary group leader Vlastimil Tlusty. Tlusty added that the ODS is nonetheless aware of the fact that it would not be able to prevent this. The KSCM has never before been allotted leadership positions in the chamber, but CSSD Chairman and Prime Minister-designate Spidla said after the 14-15 June elections that he favors such a step. Tlusty also said that although the CSSD has chosen the Coalition as its likely partner in the next government, this would not prevent it from cooperating with the KSCM, as it has already done in the outgoing legislature. MS

NATO TO JOINTLY DEFEND CZECH AIR SPACE DURING SUMMIT
Alexander Vondra, Czech government commissioner in charge of preparations for the November NATO summit, told journalists on 25 June that during the event the alliance will help the Czech Air Force in defending the country's airspace, CTK reported. The Czech Air Force has only several outdated MiG-21 fighters, and is also using Czech-made subsonic L-159 aircraft. Vondra expressed his satisfaction with the preparations for the summit. He added that three separate NATO summits will in fact take place in Prague in November. In addition to the one that is to decide on the organization's expansion, a meeting of representatives of the 46 members of the Partnership for Peace Program, and one of the NATO-Ukraine Commission will also take place at the highest level, he said. MS

SMOKE BOMB THROWN AT CZECH CHIEF RABBI
A smoke bomb was thrown at Czech Chief Rabbi Karol Sidon on 24 June in Liberec, northern Moravia, CTK reported on 26 June, citing the daily "Pravo." The daily wrote that the smoke bomb was thrown at Rabbi Sidon, who was holding a meeting with a journalist in a bookshop. It said the man who threw the device looked like a skinhead, and that he managed to run away after the incident. No one was injured. Sidon said he believes the incident was racially motivated and described it as "the most unpleasant" he has had to face thus far. "Sometimes people shout at me, but I got used to that," he said, adding that "people with shaved heads do not just by chance throw bombs when a rabbi is present." He also said he can "do nothing about it," since the matter is one of "ideology, organization, and above all-of the [Czech] society as a whole." MS

EU OFFICIAL SAYS MECIAR IN GOVERNMENT WOULD BLOCK SLOVAKIA'S ADMISSION
Eric van der Linden, the European Union's ambassador to Slovakia, said in Bratislava on 25 June that in September the Slovaks will decide not only on who will rule the country over the next four years, but also on Slovakia's chances to become a EU member, CTK reported. He said that if former Premier Vladimir Meciar returns to power, the European Commission could very well recommend that Slovakia not be included among the expanded union's members. Van der Linden also said that if Slovakia does not receive an invitation to join NATO at the alliance's November Prague summit, he doubts that it would be invited to join the EU. MS

REMAINS OF MILAN HODZA RETURN TO SLOVAKIA
On 25 June, a military brass band and Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda welcomed the plane that returned to Slovakia the remains of Slovak democratic politician Milan Hodza, who died in U.S. exile in June 1944, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2002). Dzurinda said Hodza had been not only Czechoslovakia's first Slovak premier, but also "an outstanding European." Dzurinda added that he would be happy if together with his remains, Hodza's legacy would also return to his country. Hodza was a strong advocate of European federalization and Central European cooperation. His body will be reburied in a cemetery in Martin, central Slovakia, where many prominent figures of Slovak history are also buried. The premier said, "Today's event is a message for us to defend democracy and prevent the spread of xenophobia, intolerance, and extreme nationalism -- all of which can lead to totalitarianism." MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER'S PAST STIRS MORE DEBATE IN PARLIAMENT...
Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs told parliament on 25 June that Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy was greeted with "friendship and esteem" from right- and left-wing politicians, foreign ministers, and prime ministers during the recent European Union summit in Seville, Hungarian media reported. Kovacs was responding to opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) parliamentary group leader Istvan Balsai, who said that Medgyessy's past service in counterintelligence will adversely affect Hungary's international reputation. Balsai said his party finds it grievous that parliament did not consider an MDF proposal to urgently establish a commission to investigate Medgyessy's past. Meanwhile, Medgyessy himself voted for a separate MDF proposal to set up a commission to determine the impact that his past is having on Hungary's image abroad. MSZ

...AND OUTSIDE IT
Outside of parliament on 25 June, a small group of people protested Medgyessy's past affiliation with counterintelligence by greeting governing coalition deputies arriving at the building with words like "dirty Free Democrats, dirty Jews, dirty communists," Hungarian media reported. Meanwhile, parliamentary members belonging to the FIDESZ youth wing, Fidelitas, demanded that Medgyessy resign, and placed red cards (like the ones used in soccer) on the floor in front of his seat in the parliament. They also wore T-shirts bearing the slogan "Stop [agent] D-209." Free Democrat Chairman Gabor Kuncze said prior to regular parliament business that although FIDESZ is now raising moral considerations, the party made the work of parliament impossible when it was in power. Kuncze added that FIDESZ also restricted the rights of the opposition, lined its own and its allies' pockets with public funds, and is now dividing the country and taking politics to the streets, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS, OPPOSITION PREPARE FOR WAR OVER ASSET DECLARATIONS
Hungary's opposition FIDESZ party intends to scrutinize Prime Minister Medgyessy's declaration of his assets, while the coalition Socialist Party is preparing to investigate the additional assets declared by former Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his family, Hungarian dailies reported on 26 June. FIDESZ claimed that Medgyessy has not declared all of his assets, and the Socialists said they believe that there are details concerning the Orban family's assets that require examination. Three Socialist deputies, Gabor Simon, Peter Szitka, and Zsolt Torok, will submit a motion to parliament to investigate Orban's assets. They said that the motion seeks to clarify the connection between the rise in Orban's assets and his officially declared income. Orban described as a lie and libelous the assumption that his assets are not in line with his declared income, adding that the allegations recently published in the press cannot be substantiated in any way. MSZ

COUNCIL OF EUROPE ASKS RAPPORTEUR TO REDRAFT REPORT ON HUNGARY'S STATUS LAW
The Council of Europe's Legal and Human Rights Commission has asked Dutch European Parliament member Erik Jurgens to redraft his analysis of the Hungarian Status Law, FIDESZ parliamentary member Zsolt Nemeth told "Magyar Hirlap" on 25 June. Nemeth, who is chairman of the Hungarian parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission, said the demand is in harmony with Hungarian interests. The draft was highly critical of the law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March 2002). He added that he hopes that Jurgens will complete a new, comprehensive analysis by September in which he should compare Hungary's Status Law with similar European practices. MSZ

BELGRADE POWER STANDOFF AT AN END?
Reuters reported from Belgrade on 26 June that General Nebojsa Pavkovic, whom Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica recently sacked as head of the General Staff, has ended his opposition to the president's move (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2002). There has been no independent confirmation of this report. The previous day, the top commanders on the Extended Staff of the General Staff issued a statement saying they will carry out "all decisions of the Supreme Defense Council and the president" of Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The council had refused to agree to the sacking of Pavkovic, so some observers considered the staff's statement ambiguous, but most observers regard the statement as an endorsement of Kostunica's position. Elsewhere, Pavkovic said on the private station TV Pink that he regards Kostunica's move as "illegitimate," and has asked the Federal Constitutional Court for a ruling. But state-run television announced that Pavkovic formally handed over authority to his successor, General Branko Krga, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. PM

BELGRADE OFFICIALS WANT MORE INFORMATION
Dragoljub Micunovic, the speaker of the lower house of the federal parliament, formally requested Kostunica on 25 June to provide a full account of the Supreme Defense Council's recent meeting, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Elsewhere, the Serbian government called on Kostunica to confirm or deny a recent statement by Pavkovic that Kostunica ordered him in 2001 to take control of the Serbian government's communications department. The government added that it is deeply disturbed about any possible attempt to make use of the army for illegal political purposes. Kostunica did not immediately comment on the charges but called a press conference for 26 June. PM

CAUTIOUS WESTERN BACKING FOR KOSTUNICA
Javier Solana, the European Union's chief spokesman for security policy, said in a statement in Brussels on 25 June that "the European Union has repeatedly stated that civilian control over the military is a basic principle of democracy and a vital element for the country's ability to continue on the path toward European integration," Reuters reported. Solana added, "I support all steps taken by the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to consolidate this fundamental principle." Meanwhile in Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Kostunica is the legitimate supreme civilian authority and that the military must subordinate itself to civilian control, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added, however, that Washington does not wish to interfere in internal Yugoslav affairs. PM

SERBIA ANNOUNCES LOCAL ELECTIONS FOR PRESEVO
Natasa Micic, the speaker of the Serbian parliament, announced in Belgrade on 25 June that local elections in the troubled region of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac will take place on 28 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

FORMER SECRET POLICE CHIEF SAYS MILOSEVIC KNEW OF CRIMES IN KOSOVA
Rade Markovic said in written responses to questions from Reuters that former President Slobodan Milosevic knew about "the work of the secret services" in Kosova in 1999 but did not exercise control over it, the news agency reported from Belgrade on 26 June. Markovic added that Milosevic was simply the first in a chain of command that controlled the security forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2002). PM

STEINER SAYS NO RETURN OF KOSOVA TO SERBIAN RULE
Michael Steiner, who heads the UN's civilian authority in Kosova (UNMIK), told the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" of 26 June that he rules out two possibilities for Kosova's future: a partition along ethnic lines -- as desired by some Serbs -- or a return to direct Serbian control, as was the case before NATO occupied Kosova in 1999. Steiner added, however, that he has given the Kosovars "benchmarks" that they must reach before the province's final status can be determined. The benchmarks include the development of self-government, in which all ethnic groups participate. The Munich daily added that unnamed Western observers in Prishtina make it clear that Kosova is heading for independence sooner or later, and that even "almost everyone in Belgrade regards Kosova as lost" to Serbia. PM

SKOPJE DENIES VOTE TO MACEDONIAN CITIZENS ABROAD
The many Macedonian citizens living and working abroad will be able to vote in 15 September parliamentary elections only if they have a permanent residence in Macedonia and return home to cast their ballots, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 25 June, citing "Dnevnik." This decision effectively disenfranchises some 150,000 persons in Western Europe, North America, and Australia who have already raised objections to the new electoral laws. Many parts of the former Yugoslavia have large numbers of citizens working abroad, and the question of their right to vote is usually a controversial political issue. PM

MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN LEADER DEMANDS CLARITY ON PASSPORTS
Arben Xhaferi, who heads the governing Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), warned of possible "destabilization" unless a decision is reached soon on using the Albanian language in passports, dpa reported from Tetovo on 26 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20, 21, and 25 June 2002). President Boris Trajkovski then charged Xhaferi with using the issue as part of his election campaign. PM

JUNIOR COALITION PARTNER LEAVES MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT
On 25 June, two ministers of the hard-line "real" VMRO resigned their cabinet posts, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. The "real" VMRO is a splinter organization and junior coalition partner of the ruling Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party of Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE). "Real VMRO" leader and Deputy Defense Minister Boris Zmejkovski and Minister for Environment and Regional Planning Vladimir Dzabirski left the government because of the alleged growing influence of former guerilla fighters within the ethnic Albanian political parties represented in the cabinet. Meanwhile, the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) announced that it will leave the government as soon as a new passport regulation is adopted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20, 21, and 24 June 2002). UB

MACEDONIAN SOCIALISTS LEAVE OPPOSITION COALITION
The Socialist Party of Macedonia (SPM) led by Ljubislav Ivanov-Dzingo, left the opposition Together for Macedonia coalition, which is dominated by the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 25 June. It appears that the various parties could not agree on the distribution of seats to be assigned to each party after the parliamentary elections. The party leaderships of the SPM and the SDSM then accused each other of collaboration with the VMRO-DPMNE. The Together for Macedonia coalition also includes the Liberal Democratic Party of Skopje Mayor Risto Penov. UB

BOSNIAN GOVERNING COALITION SPLITS
Alliance for Change, the coalition of mainly small non-nationalist parties that came to power nearly two years ago, was formally dissolved in Sarajevo on 25 June, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 April 2002). Alliance head Stjepan Kljuic said that most of the parties are not interested in continuing the coalition. PM

BOSNIAN LEGISLATURE PASSES PETRITSCH'S LAWS
The House of Nations approved on 25 June a package of laws proposed earlier by former High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. The measures deal with the civil service, public television, and the official ombudsman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2002). Changes in the election law are still awaiting a decision by the cabinet before the House of Nations can act on them. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST BUSH PLAN ON PALESTINIAN STATE
President Ion Iliescu said on 26 June that it "would be regrettable" if the situation in the Middle East were to worsen because of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's removal from leadership, Mediafax reported. Iliescu said such a step may lead to "additional tension, instead of alleviating it." He said he is "skeptical" of U.S. President George W. Bush's 24 June plan to gradually set up a Palestinian state while replacing Arafat's leadership but added, "I do not wish to go into details. It is difficult to estimate the situation with precision." Somewhat contradicting himself, Iliescu also said he is "certain" that the U.S. plan "is based on analyses that are more precise and on talks with the two sides" involved in the conflict. MS

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW TELEVISION COUNCIL
A joint session of the Romanian parliament's two chambers on 25 June approved the new composition of the administrative council of Romanian television and appointed Valentin Nicolau as the new council's chairman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The 42-year-old Nicolau is a former adviser to Premier Adrian Nastase and is a former director of the private Nemira publishing house. MS

BULGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN ROMANIA
Visiting Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov and his Romanian counterpart Ioan Mircea Pascu on 25 June discussed bilateral cooperation ahead of the Prague NATO summit, military reforms in the two countries, and the situation in the Balkans, Romanian radio reported. Pascu said after the talks that Bulgaria and Romania would make a positive contribution to NATO's security and to regional stability if invited to join the alliance. Svinarov was to meet with President Iliescu on 26 June. MS

ROMANIAN LIBERALS PREPARE FOR EXTRAORDINARY CONGRESS...
The National Liberal Party's (PNL) Standing Bureau decided on 25 June to set up a "consultative commission" to prepare the party's extraordinary congress, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The congress is to take place in the fall of 2002. The final decision on its convocation is to be taken on 5 July, at a meeting of the party's national delegates. The extraordinary congress is likely to see a final showdown between the two rival PNL wings, one led by Chairman Valeriu Stoica and the other, which seeks to replace Stoica, led by his deputy chairman, Dinu Patriciu. Also on 25 June, PNL First Deputy Chairman Teodor Melescanu, in a communique released in the name of those PNL members who joined the party in early 2002 as a result of its merger with the Alliance for Romania (APR), said the former APR members are "equidistant" in the current conflict. Melescanu urged ending the PNL's internal conflict and setting up a new leadership team capable of "acting on a participatory decision-making principle" and of "making clear-cut decisions." MS

...AND WILL ELECT IONESCU-QUINTUS AS HONORARY CHAIRMAN
The PNL's Standing Bureau also decided to propose to the party's National Council to elect former PNL Chairman Mircea Ionescu-Quintus as honorary chairman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The decision was made after Ionescu-Quintus presented the ruling of a Ploiesti tribunal that, he claimed, clears him of any suspicion of having been a collaborator or an informer of the former Securitate. The National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives in November 2000 included Ionescu-Quintus's name on a list of parliamentarians who collaborated with the communist secret police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2000). MS

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES AMENDED PENAL CODE
The Chamber of Deputies on 25 June approved an amendment to the Penal Code abolishing Article 238, which made possible jailing those found guilty of "offending authority," RFE/RL Bucharest bureau reported. In the new version of the code, the length of sentences for those found guilty of libel and of insulting public officials on duty were also reduced. However, an opposition proposal to abolish as "discriminatory" the article in the code providing jail sentences for those found guilty of insulting public officials was voted down (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2002). MS

ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIAL DENIES DISCRIMINATION IN THE ARMY AGAINST ROMA...
Defense Ministry State Secretary Sorin Encutescu said on 25 June that media reports on discrimination against Roma in the army are groundless, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Encutescu said he does not rule out that some noncommissioned officers or "low rank-commanders" may commit anti-Roma acts, but added that these are "isolated cases" and that the army will punish any discriminatory act. He said the ministry has set up a special commission in charge of implementing a 2001 government decision on the improvement of the Romany minority's situation. One of the five-member commission is to be a Rom, he said. MS

...AS FINLAND EXPELS ROMANIAN ROMA
A first group of 53 Roma whose request for political asylum in Finland was rejected has been sent back to Romania, Mediafax reported on 26 June. The Roma were flown to Romania from Helsinki's Vantaa Airport. Some 500 Roma from Romania have requested asylum in Finland this year. Of those, 253 have been either rejected by the authorities or withdrawn by the applicants themselves, and more than 200 Roma still await a decision on their asylum requests. MS

THAW IN ROMANIAN-MOLDOVAN RELATIONS COULD BE IN THE OFFING...
Gheorghi Prisacaru, chairman of the Romanian Senate's Foreign Affairs Commission, told his Moldovan counterpart Andrei Neguta on 25 June that the two countries must find solutions to bring about the "normalization" of relations between them and that this is the joint responsibility of Romanian and Moldovan politicians. Prisacaru and Neguta met at the current session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Flux reported. They agreed that parliamentarians representing the two sides will exchange visits next month. Prisacaru said he does not rule out meeting during his planned visit to Chisinau with President Vladimir Voronin, Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau, and parliamentary speaker Evgenia Ostapciuc. He said it is "vitally important" for "the two Romanian states" to jointly discover the best modality for "renewing and developing relations" in order to promote "Moldova's progress toward Western democratic values and structures." MS

...BUT NEXT CLASH IS AROUND THE CORNER
The official government daily "Moldova suverana" wrote on 25 June that Moldova should change its national anthem, whose lyrics are based on a poem by Alexei Mateevici titled "Our Language," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. According to "Moldova suverana," the multinational Moldovan state will not be able to achieve European integration and genuine national unity as long as its anthem praises the language of but one of its nationalities. Popular Party Christian Democratic Deputy Chairman Stefan Secareanu said in response that the country is facing "a criminal attempt by the communist regime to maim the achievements of post-1989 independent Moldova. Secareanu said that the change of the anthem would amount to "a slap in the face of our tumultuous past [and in the face] of Bessarabian intellectuals who always defended and promoted the Romanian idea." He added that Voronin's "antinational and antidemocratic regime" intends to produce an anthem based on the "primitive idea of Moldovianism." MS

TRANSDNIESTER NEGOTIATIONS TO BE RESUMED NEXT MONTH...
The negotiations with the Transdniester separatists are to be resumed in Kyiv on 2-3 July, chief Moldovan negotiator Vasile Sturza said on 25 June. David Schwartz, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) mission chief in Moldova, told journalists the same day that only the special status of the Transdniester will figure on the meeting's agenda, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS

...AS OSCE CALLS ON TRANSDNIESTER TO ALLOW WEAPONS DECOMMISSIONING
Schwartz on 26 June urged the Transdniester authorities to grant permission for the use of the two munitions destruction devices to be transported from Chisinau to the Kolbasna munitions depot, AFP reported. Separatists are preventing the transport of the two devices, one U.S.-made and the other of German manufacture, to their territory, where they are to be used to destroy the obsolete Russian arsenal in the region. Schwartz said that the U.S. equipment "has been sitting unused in Chisinau for 2 1/2 months, and now the second [German-made device] will also be stored there for an indeterminate time" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2002). MS

CONSERVATIVE UNION OF DEMOCRATIC FORCES GIVES BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT BAD MARKS...
Assessing Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski's government's first year in power, the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) gave bad grades to the current administration. In the evaluation, which was published on the SDS website (http://www.sds.bg), the SDS accused the government of cooperating with the postcommunist Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), of having broken its electoral promises, and of conducting a bad economic policy that drives entrepreneurs either into bankruptcy or the gray economy. Since the government took office foreign investments have decreased considerably, the SDS claimed. "When a government is the result of deals between various economic and political lobbyist groups, the myth of its honesty and incorruptibility is very quickly destroyed," the statement said. Former monarch Saxecoburggotski's National Movement Simeon II defeated the then-ruling SDS in the parliamentary elections of 17 June 2001. UB

...AS DOES THE BULGARIAN SOCIALIST PARTY
In a similar move, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) stated that the first year of Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski's government resulted in few positive changes, mediapool.bg reported. The BSP claimed that the government failed to reduce the crime rate, to improve the business climate, or to improve the social situation of Bulgarian citizens. The BSP lauded the government's foreign policy and its efforts to join the European Union and NATO. However, the BSP expressed its concern over the government's policy to explicitly favor contact with the United States, which could harm Bulgaria's relations with European countries, particularly in security and defense matters. UB

BULGARIAN OPPOSITION DECIDES TO STOP PUBLISHING DAILY
Former Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova, the chairwoman of the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces, announced on 25 June that the party will stop publishing its daily "Demokratsiya," Bulgarian media reported. Mihailova said the newspaper lost about $1,000 per day and the party can no longer afford to publish it. "Demokratsiya," which is owned by the Democracy Foundation, was founded in 1990. In an open letter, Mihailova said that she will seek ways to publish "Demokratsiya" again. UB

There is no End Note today.


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