Accessibility links

Newsline - April 11, 2003


DEFENSE MINISTER HOLDS TALKS IN SOUTH KOREA...
Sergei Ivanov and senior South Korean military officials held discussions in Seoul on 10-11 April focusing primarily on North Korea's recent decision to revive its nuclear program, "Krasnaya zvezda," "Izvestiya," and other Russian media reported. Ivanov pointed to similarities between recent events in Iraq and those in North Korea, strana.ru reported on 10 April. "As the situation in Iraq evolved, and in accordance with its own logic, North Korea's leadership sought ways to protect the country's territorial integrity and to allow the country to develop as it wishes, despite its limited means," Ivanov was quoted as saying. Ivanov stressed that he is expressing his understanding of Pyongyang's thinking, not that of Moscow. VY

...AND OUTLINES MOSCOW'S IDEAS FOR DEFUSING THE CRISIS
Defense Minister Ivanov noted that his trip to Seoul coincides with discussion in the UN Security Council about the situation in North Korea, strana.ru reported. He said that if the Security Council adopts a resolution on North Korea, Pyongyang will likely ignore it and cite "other precedents." He predicted that North Korea could announce that it has developed a nuclear weapon as early as May. The Kremlin understands that North Korea's demand that the United States sign a bilateral "non-aggression pact" with North Korea is unrealistic. That is why Moscow has proposed a multilateral security accord involving the United States, China, Russia, North Korea, and South Korea. Moscow has also offered to guarantee North Korea's security in exchange for Pyongyang's renunciation of its nuclear ambitions. VY

RUSSIA, TURKMENISTAN SIGN STRATEGIC GAS AGREEMENT...
President Vladimir Putin and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov signed a strategic energy accord in Moscow on 10 April under which Turkmenistan will supply natural gas to Russia through 2028, Russian media reported. Initially the amount of Turkmen gas that Russia will be able to purchase will be limited by an existing agreement to deliver certain quantities to Ukraine, but when that agreement expires in 2006, Russian will purchase 60 billion-70 billion cubic meters of gas per year from 2007-09, when the quantity will rise to 70 billion-80 billion per year. According to Putin, the price of only half the Turkmen gas will be paid in cash; the rest will be paid in Russian goods. Niyazov told Putin that he expects his country will be able to supply Russia with up to 100 billion cubic meters, starting in 2010. In total, Turkmenistan will supply 2 trillion cubic meters of gas under the agreement for $300 billion. Gazprom Chairman Aleksei Miller told journalists the figures in the agreement represent only the minimal level of cooperation. Turkmenistan is currently exploiting only one-third of its reserves and the export figures could be increased substantially. VY/BB

...AND A SECURITY AGREEMENT AS WELL...
The two presidents also signed a bilateral security-cooperation agreement, the details of which were not disclosed, Russian media reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 April that Niyazov, who is known for his harshly authoritarian regime, feels exposed following the deposition of Iraqi President Hussein and is turning to Moscow for support. Putin seemed to hint at this when he said during the Kremlin signing ceremony that the agreement will "make our efforts to counter outside threats more systematic and efficient." The newspaper emphasized that both the natural-gas and the security agreements must be viewed in the context of the events in Iraq. "Russia will protect Turkmenistan from the United States for $300 billion," commented strana.ru on 10 April. VY

...AS KREMLIN REJECTS RUMORS THAT IT PLANS TO DEPORT TURKMEN DISSIDENTS
An unidentified source in the presidential administration denounced as "outrageous" press reports that Moscow intends to deport Turkmen dissidents after the signing of the natural-gas and security agreements, RTR reported on 10 April. In recent weeks, the media has reported that the Kremlin might deport former Turkmenistan Ambassador to Turkey Nurmukhammed Khanamov and a former head of the Turkmenistan Central Bank, Khudaiberdy Orazov. Both men, who have Russian citizenship and live in Moscow, are wanted in Turkmenistan on suspicion of involvement in the alleged November assassination attempt against Niyazov. The administration source denounced the reports as "a provocation," according to RIA-Novosti. Also on 10 April, the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) picketed the Turkmen Embassy in Moscow to protest the abuse of human rights in Turkmenistan, Interfax reported. A statement by SPS leader Boris Nemtsov drew attention to the repression of the Russian language in Turkmenistan. Nemtsov also demanded an unbiased investigation by international experts of the alleged assassination attempt against Niyazov. VY/BB

DEPUTY DUMA SPEAKER CONCERNED ABOUT PRESS FREEDOM
Irina Khakamada, who is also an SPS leader, said on 10 April that Russia is experiencing "the steady erosion of freedom of the press," RosBalt reported. Khakamada was commenting on the "Antiterrorism Convention" that representatives of the Industrial Committee, a media-sector lobbying group, signed recently (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2003). Khakamada said that "within [state-run] ORT and RTR self-censorship has existed for a long time." "Now NTV is under tough pressure from the government, and TV-Tsentr is marginalized," Khakamada said. Central Election Committee Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said that the provision that allows the government to suspend media outlets that violate the law should be removed from a new draft law on the mass media to be considered in the Duma next month, nns.ru reported on 11 April. Veshnyakov said that the journalist's responsibility should be personalized. If violations occur, particular programs should be stopped but entire channels should not be taken off the air, he said. VY

NEWSPAPERS ALLEGE WAR PROTEST MUCH SMALLER THAN REPORTED...
The antiwar protest held on 9 April in front of the U.S. Embassy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2003) was much smaller than the figure of 100,000 participants provided by Moscow police and city officials, "Gazeta" and "The Moscow Times" reported on 10 April. According to "Gazeta," there did not appear to be more than 10,000-20,000 participants. The newspaper also reported that Moscow city authorities played a key role in organizing the meeting. By order of the mayor, workers from all of the city's largest constructions firms attended the protest, some of them still wearing their construction hats and work clothes. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov is a co-chairman of the Unified Russia party, which organized the rally. "The Moscow Times" noted that although the gathering was likely only one-third as large as officially reported, it still was the largest protest held in Russia against the war in Iraq. JAC

...AS UNIFIED RUSSIA MAKES AMPLE USE OF ADMINISTRATIVE RESOURCES
"The Moscow Times" also noted that the gathering lacked spontaneity. One participant told the newspaper that in contrast with the protest held in front of the embassy in 1999 following NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia, her fellow protestors "turned out to be neatly combed and trimmed." One 19-year-old student, whose professor had instructed him and other students to dress up and behave well, concluded, "This is not a real demonstration but a public-relations campaign for [President] Putin and his men, and nothing else." Other students told "Moskovskii komsomolets" they had been promised money in the range of 50 rubles ($1.60) to 300 rubles to attend the demonstration. JAC

MORE REPORTS OF THE IMMINENT DEATH OF STATE FISHERIES COMMISSION APPEAR
The State Fisheries Committee will be "reformed" on 5 May, the pro-Kremlin website strana.ru reported on 10 April. According to the website, this reform effort will be the "most obvious" result of the recent investigation by the Prosecutor-General's Office of the fisheries commission and the slaying of Magadan Oblast Governor Valentin Tsvetkov in Moscow in October. According to the daily, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has in his possession a draft decree liquidating the commission and reassigning its responsibilities to the Natural Resources Ministry and the Economic Development and Trade Ministry as of 5 May, but he has not signed it. "Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day that both President Putin and Kasyanov have agreed to dismiss State Fisheries Commission Chairman Yevgenii Nazdratenko. Last month, "Kommersant-Daily" speculated that the commission might be broken up and its responsibilities dispersed as part of a broader administrative reform (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March 2003). JAC

HEALTH MINISTRY OFFICIAL CURBS TRIPS TO CHINA TO PREVENT SPREAD OF SARS...
State Health Inspectorate Chairman Gennadii Onishchenko signed a ban on 10 April prohibiting enterprises and organizations from sending Russian citizens on business trips and tours to a number of Chinese provinces in order to prevent the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Interfax reported. According to newsru.com, Onishchenko also suggested that the authorities in Primorskii and Khabarovsk krais and Amur Oblast adopt measures to prevent their residents from taking shopping trips across the Chinese border. The Transport Ministry does not currently intend to impose limits on flights to China. JAC

...AS MORE SAFEGUARDS IMPOSED ON TRAIN TRAVEL
On the same day, ITAR-TASS reported that transport police in the town of Ishim in the West Siberian region of Tyumen Oblast have imposed restrictions on trains arriving there from Mongolia and China. As of 10 April, only passengers and those people meeting them will be allowed on the station's platform. The agency reported earlier in the week that teams of doctors in protective garb have been boarding trains from the Far East, inspecting the cars and checking the condition of train crews and passengers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 2003). JAC

BIG CHANGES LOOMING IN YABLOKO'S LEADERSHIP?
State Duma deputy and former Russian Ambassador to the United States Vladimir Lukin will not be offered one of the top three spots in Yabloko's party list for the December 2003 State Duma elections, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 April. Lukin is one of the founders of the party, but is apparently no longer an untouchable figure, the daily concluded. Citing unidentified political consultants, the newspaper reported that the party's top three will include Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and Duma deputies Sergei Ivanenko and Sergei Mitrokhin. In addition, several spots in the party's top-20 list reportedly will be given to professional managers from business circles that support Yabloko. According to the daily, Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii told a forum of regional journalists recently that he has contributed money to Yabloko and SPS, but emphasized that they were personal, not corporate contributions. Asked to comment on the report about the party list, Yabloko party press spokesman Maksim Zabelin said he could neither confirm nor deny it. JAC

FARMERS PROTEST LOCAL PARLIAMENT'S DISCUSSION OF LAND BILL...
Around 100 farmers marched on the Voronezh Oblast legislature on 10 April, presscenter.ru reported. According to the website, the legislators were discussing a bill that would establish a minimum plot size of 100-200 hectares for the sale of agricultural land. The farmers are demanding that the minimum not exceed five to six hectares. Otherwise the land will be bought up for kopeks. After a scuffle, the farmers shouted out their demands for 30 minutes and then were dispersed. JAC

...AS LOCAL ACTIVISTS FROM ACROSS RUSSIA GATHER TO FIGHT ADMINISTRATIVE REFORMS
Also on 10 April in Voronezh, some 72 delegates from 57 cities in Russia gathered to attend a two-day meeting devoted to creating a Union of Representatives of Local Self-Government Organs, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. According to the newspaper, the chief task of the new organization is the struggle against the draft federal legislation on local self-government, which was authored by a presidential commission chaired by deputy presidential administration head Dmitrii Kozak. The bill was approved in its first reading in the Duma in February, and a second reading is expected to take place on 25 April (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 3 March 2003). According to the newspaper, the existing Congress of Municipal Organizations has taken too passive a position regarding the bill in the opinion of the more radical representatives of municipal organs. JAC

PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY WANTS TO CLEAN UP KOMI
During a one-day trip to the Komi Republic on 9 April, presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko criticized the activities of local authorities and called for an audit to be conducted of the republic's finances, "Gazeta" reported the next day. In addition, she also stated that bribe-takers and embezzlers should be purged, since corruption in the region has reached a threateningly high level. Matvienko noted that the high level of votes registered against all candidates in recent local elections should serve as a signal to local authorities that changes are needed, RosBalt reported. According to regions.ru on 10 April, she also said at a press conference in Syktyvkar that federal authorities have no objections in principle to the unification of Komi with Nenets Autonomous Okrug. JAC

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY REGISTERS 'CONCERN' OVER GEORGIAN-U.S. MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Moscow is "perplexed" by the content of the Georgian-U.S. agreement on military cooperation signed last December and ratified last month by the Georgian parliament, ITAR-TASS on 11 April quoted an unnamed Foreign Ministry official as saying (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 2003). That official noted that the agreement waives the visa requirement for U.S. military personnel entering Georgia and bestows on them privileges and immunity similar to that extended to U.S. diplomats. By contrast, Russian military personnel must still receive visas to enter Georgia. Speaking to journalists on 10 April, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said that the objective of the Georgian-U.S. agreement is "to annoy the Russian Federation," Caucasus Press reported. The Duma responded to ratification of the Georgian-U.S. agreement by drafting a protest resolution that included a proposal to absorb the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia into the Russian Federation. But "Izvestiya" on 9 April quoted Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy) as saying that discussion of the draft response has been postponed until 16 April pending the receipt from the Russian Security Council, the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, and the Federal Security Service of those bodies' evaluations of the implications of the Georgian-U.S. agreement. LF

ARMENIAN POLICE TO CHARGES AGAINST YEREVAN PROTESTERS
The Armenian police intends to ask the Prosecutor-General's Office to bring criminal charges against eight people arrested on 9 April during a violent clash between police and demonstrators protesting Robert Kocharian's inauguration for a second presidential term, a police spokesman told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 10 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2003). The spokesman declined to specify whether charges will also be brought against the opposition party leaders who organized the demonstration. LF

ARMENIAN JOURNALISTS AGAIN PROTEST NEW DRAFT MEDIA LAW
A group of Armenian journalists staged a picket outside the parliament building on 10 April to demand that the new draft media law, which they consider undemocratic, be removed from the parliament's agenda, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March 2003). LF

ARMENIA INTERESTED ONLY IN OBSERVER STATUS WITH EURASIAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY
Armenia's economic and trade policy is more liberal than that of the five member countries of the Eurasian Economic Community --Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan -- and for that reason Yerevan is interested only in observer status of that body, Noyan Tapan quoted Deputy Trade and Economic Development Minister Tigran Davtian as saying in Yerevan on 10 April. LF

AZERBAIJANI INTERIOR MINISTER ADMITS SOME POLICE TAKE DRUGS
Ramil Usubov admitted at a session of the Interior Ministry board on 10 April that some police officers take drugs, and that their superiors are indifferent to that abuse, Turan reported. Usubov called on local police chiefs to crack down on drug use by officers under their command. LF

INTERNATIONAL WATCHDOG PROTESTS SENTENCE ON AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST
Robert Menard, who is secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), has written to Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev and Justice Minister Fikret Mamedov to express concern at the two fines imposed on "Monitor" magazine Editor Elmar Huseinov for libel, Turan reported on 10 April. Hasan Zeynalov, who represents the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic in Baku, brought a civil and a criminal suit against Huseinov last month in connection with an article he published in "Monitor" earlier this year comparing the population of Nakhichevan with the Sicilian mafia. The court sentenced Huseinov on 25 March on criminal charges of insulting Zeynalov's honor and dignity to pay a 100 million manat ($20,344) fine, and on 4 April in the civil suit to pay a fine of 4,500 minimum wages, or approximately 24.5 million manats. Huseinov said he will appeal that sentence in the European Court for Human Rights. Menard in his 10 April letter termed the fines imposed on Huseinov harassment and a violation of the commitments Azerbaijan made when it was accepted into membership of the Council of Europe, Turan reported. LF

GEORGIA TO SEND PEACEKEEPING FORCE TO IRAQ?
Georgia's independent Rustavi-2 television station has reported that Tbilisi plans to send some 100 troops to serve as part of an international peacekeeping force in Iraq, Caucasus Press reported on 11 April. Such a deployment must, however, be approved by the Georgian parliament, and no formal request for such approval has yet been submitted. Caucasus Press quoted an unidentified source in the state chancellery as saying that President Eduard Shevardnadze has discussed the peacekeepers' dispatch with progovernment parliament factions, but no definite decision has yet been reached. LF

GEORGIAN ARMY VETERANS ACCUSE GOVERNMENT OF EMBEZZLING FUNDS
Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 10 April, retired Major Levan Gogitidze, who is a spokesman for the Council of Veterans of the National Army, accused the Georgian government of misappropriating a 12 million-euro ($12.9 million) loan from the World Bank intended to improve veterans' social conditions, Caucasus Press reported. Gogitidze claimed he has evidence the authorities have opened bank accounts in the name of army divisions that do not exist, and that 7 million laris ($3.31 million) was transferred into one such bank account in the name of a nonexistent army division in Tbilisi. LF

LACK OF QUORUM PREVENTS GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATE ON FREE ECONOMIC ZONES
Lack of a quorum prevented the Georgian parliament from convening on 10 April or the morning of 11 April, Caucasus Press reported. Among the bills on the agenda is one drafted by the opposition Revival faction on the creation of free economic zones. Revival is headed by the Revival Union, whose chairman, Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze, has for years lobbied for the creation of a free economic zone in the Adjar capital and Black Sea port of Batumi. Five progovernment factions oppose the bill on the grounds, arguing that it would facilitate money laundering, and Revival deputy Sandro Bregadze accused Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze on 11 April of persuading those factions to boycott the parliament session in an attempt to prevent the bill's passage, Caucasus Press reported. The opposition United Democrats have signaled their support for the bill, according to Caucasus Press on 8 April. LF

PROSECUTION DEMANDS 10-YEAR SENTENCE FOR FORMER KAZAKH MINISTER
Following a four month trial, the prosecution on 10 April asked Kazakhstan's Supreme Court to sentence former Transport and Communications Minister Ablay Myrzakhmetov to 10 years' imprisonment on charges of embezzlement and abuse of his official position while serving as director of Kazakhstan's railroads, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Myrzakhmetov was fired from his ministerial post on year ago and went on trial in mid-December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April and 20 December 2002). LF

KAZAKH POLITICAL PARTY DENIED RE-REGISTRATION
Zhaqsybay Bazylbaev, co-chairman of the Compatriots' Party, told a press conference in Almaty on 10 April that Kazakhstan's Justice Ministry has refused to re-register the party and has told party leaders to amend its political program, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Among the requirements for re-registration of an existing political party under a law adopted in 2002, the party must prove that it has at least 50,000 members. Bazylbaev said his party has more than 58,000 members. The report did not indicate whether he told journalists what changes in the party program the Justice Ministry had demanded. BB

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VISITS KYRGYZSTAN
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma made a one-day stop in Bishkek on 10 April as part of his current tour of the Central Asian countries, akipress.org, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Talks with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev focused on bilateral economic relations, regional security issues, and the establishment of a free-trade zone within the CIS, according to the reports. The two leaders support the idea of such a zone. Kuchma also promised to ensure that a Ukrainian debt to Kyrgyzstan from 1991-92 of some $28 million will be paid. Akaev was quoted as saying he had supported the election of Kuchma to chair the CIS Council because Ukrainian proposals for free movement of goods within the CIS have inspired hopes that Kuchma could engineer a breakthrough in the creation of a CIS free-trade zone. Kuchma was quoted as asserting that trade among CIS states is declining from year to year, with customs barriers forcing CIS states to seek markets outside the commonwealth. He and Akaev expressed the belief that this problem can be resolved at the CIS summit in September. BB

KYRGYZSTAN CREATES NATIONAL COUNCIL TO FIGHT CORRUPTION
A National Council for Conscientious Management has been set up in Kyrgyzstan to draft and implement measures to combat corruption, akipress.org and Interfax reported on 10 April. President Akaev signed a decree on creation of the council on 8 April in the wake of his 31 March assertion that corruption was posing a major threat to the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 2003). According to Akaev's decree, the new council is tasked with reforming the administrative system in such a way as to ensure "scrupulous, open, and conscientious management"; eliminating unnecessary state interference in economic activities; ensuring the accountability of officials at all levels to the state and the public; and developing intolerance of corruption. In addition, state services should be made more open and accessible. The 25-member council will be chaired by Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev. BB

TAJIK TRAINS ATTACKED IN NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES
The deputy chief of Tajikistan's railways, Amonkhoja Hojibekov, told Asia Plus-Blitz on 10 April that trains on the Dushanbe-Astrakhan route are regularly attacked by "hooligans" in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Train windows -- as many as 40 per trip -- are regularly smashed by people throwing stones, he said, adding that in 2002 Tajik Railways paid the equivalent of $100,000 to replace the broken glass. Hojibekov complained that in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan passengers transporting goods across international frontiers board the Tajik trains without tickets and then intimidate or even beat up conductors when asked to pay. Tajik appeals to law enforcement bodies in the relevant countries have had no effect and these agencies continue to look the other way when Tajik trains or railway personnel are being attacked, Hojibekov lamented. BB

NEW POLITICAL MOVEMENT INITIATED IN BELARUS
The Respublika group of legislators in the Chamber of Representatives -- including Valery Fralou, Uladzimir Parfyanovich, and Syarhey Skrabets -- has initiated the formation of a new social and political movement called For a Better Life, "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" reported on 10 April. The initiative is supported by former Belarusian Ambassador to Latvia and Estonia Mikhail Marynich, former Agriculture Minister Vasil Lyavonau, trade union leaders Alyaksandr Bukhvostau and Henadz Bykau, and others. Fralou predicted that the new movement will become a "serious political force" and a "center of Belarusian opposition." The initiative has met with skepticism from opposition leaders, however. Liberal Democratic Party leader Syarhey Haydukevich said the movement "appeared in secret and will disappear in secret as well." According to United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka, the Respublika group is not backed by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and therefore must "either to go into opposition or quit politics." JM

MINSK CONDEMNS U.S. BELARUS DEMOCRACY ACT
Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Savinykh on 10 April slammed the Belarus Democracy Act of 2003 that was recently introduced in the U.S. Congress (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March 2003) as "destructive," Belapan reported. "We regard the bill as an attempt to put pressure on Belarus for its independent internal and foreign policies, as improper manipulation of the human rights theme, and as an attempt to take revenge for the U.S. Congressional delegation's defeat in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly during the debate on the restoration of Belarus's membership," Savinykh said. JM

JEWISH LEADERS WANT BAN ON DISTRIBUTION OF RUSSIAN NEWSPAPER IN BELARUS
The leaders of four Jewish organizations in Belarus have petitioned Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman and Stanislaw Buko, head of the cabinet's Committee on Religious and National Affairs, to ban distribution of the Russian-based newspaper "Russkii vestnik" in Belarus, Belapan reported on 10 April. Leanid Levin of the Union of Belarusian Jewish Associations and Communities, Eduard Paryzh of the Association of Jewish Communities in Belarus, Yury Dorn of the Judaic Religious Association in Belarus, and Yakau Basin of the Religious Association of Progressive Judaism in Belarus accuse "Russkii vestnik" of fomenting discord among nationalities and religious denominations and of carrying "openly anti-Semitic propaganda." The petition alleges that Belarus's state-run distribution network Belsayuzdruk in March carried an issue of "Russkii vestnik" with an article accusing Jews of using sacrificial blood in their rites. JM

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT STICKS TO AGRICULTURAL-MARKET POLICY
The Ukrainian cabinet has pledged not to change its current agricultural policy and to continue implementing market mechanisms in the grain trade, Interfax reported. In particular, the cabinet promised to prevent "groundless interference of executive bodies in the activity of participants and operators in the [agricultural] market." The cabinet's statement was apparently aimed at domestic and foreign fears that, following the arrest of former Deputy Prime Minister for agricultural reform Leonid Kozachenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2003), the government is seeking to reverse liberalization on the grain market and restore an administrative-command system in the sector. "[The Ukrainian] government should be aware that reintroducing centralized control of the grain market would have a severe chilling effect on all foreign investors in Ukraine," Kempton Jenkins, president of the Ukraine-U.S. Business Council, said in a letter to the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Kostyantyn Hryshchenko. JM

UKRAINE TO ASSEMBLE NEW VOLKSWAGEN MODELS
The Ukrainian Eurocar enterprise and Germany's Volkswagen Group on 10 April signed a protocol declaring their intention to assemble new Volkswagen vehicles in Ukraine, Interfax reported. Volkswagen sold some 10,000 cars in Ukraine in 2002 and considers Ukraine a dynamic market. Ukrainian Premier Viktor Yanukovych, who was on an official visit to Germany, attended the signing ceremony in Wolfsburg. Earlier the same day, Yanukovych announced in Hamburg that Ukraine and Germany will launch a joint aircraft-construction project. In Hamburg, Yanukovych presented a project for shipping Caspian oil through the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline to the German port of Wilhelmshaven. JM

UKRAINE URGES U.S., GREAT BRITAIN TO PROBE DEATH OF JOURNALIST IN IRAQ
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has urged the United States and Great Britain to investigate circumstances surrounding the death in Baghdad of Ukrainian cameraman Taras Protsyuk, Interfax and UNIAN reported on 10 April. Protsyuk worked for Reuters and died on 8 April after coalition forces shelled the Palestine Hotel in which Protsyuk and other foreign journalists were staying. Protsyuk, 35, who lived in Warsaw, had a wife and an 8-year-old son. He was a 10-year veteran at Reuters and had worked in a number of areas of conflict, including Kosova, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. According to the Foreign Ministry, nine Ukrainian media employees are working in the conflict zone in Iraq. JM

WIESENTHAL CENTER CONFIDENT THAT NAZI WAR CRIMINALS REMAIN IN ESTONIA
Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Jerusalem Office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said on 10 April, "I'm absolutely confident that...Nazi criminals who have never been punished are still alive in Estonia," BNS reported. Two days earlier, Estonian newspapers published an advertisement offering a $10,000 reward for information that results in the conviction and punishment of a suspect as a Nazi war criminal in Estonia. Two earlier efforts to place similar advertisements were unsuccessful because Estonian newspapers refused to print them, claiming they could instigate ethnic hatred (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2002 and 18 February 2003). In an interview in "Postimees Online," Zuroff said Estonia's social attitude toward Nazi criminals is "completely different" from that of Latvia and Lithuania, where there were no problems publishing the advertisements, LETA reported on 10 April. "Estonians still do not realize that they had some connection with the Holocaust," he said. SG

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW HEALTH MINISTER
Parliament approved New Era parliament deputy Ingrida Circene as the new health minister on 10 April by a vote of 47 to zero, with 24 abstentions, LETA reported. Her predecessor, Aris Auders, was fired in March after the Corruption Prevention Bureau decided to initiate a criminal case against him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2003). Circene promised to continue the planned reforms in the health care system by working out legislative norms, adapting health care to comply with local conditions, and improving the salary system for medical workers. Union of Latvian Hospitals Chairman Jevgenijs Kalejs backed the appointment, mentioning Circene's success in organizing health care and managing the Liepaja and Aizpute hospitals. He said the additional funding of 30 million lats ($50 million) for health care that Circene has requested would help tackle the main problem of medical workers -- the need for higher salaries. SG

FIRING OF LITHUANIAN POLICE CHIEF POSTPONED
An extraordinary cabinet meeting on 11 April did not recommend the firing of Police Commissioner-General Vytautas Grigaravicius, but decided instead to await the results of an ad hoc parliamentary commission, ELTA reported. On 7 April, Interior Minister Juozas Bernatonis alleged that unlawful collection of information regarding high-ranking officials of the Interior Ministry has been going on with Grigaravicius's approval, which the police official categorically denied. After a meeting with President Rolandas Paksas and Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas on 9 April, Bernatonis suspended Grigaravicius and ordered that he undergo an extraordinary performance assessment the next day. Grigaravicius refused to attend the assessment, which recommended his dismissal. A number of high-ranking police officials, such as Organized Crime Service chief Jurijus Milevskis and Operative Service head Vytautas Radziunas, have handed in their letters of resignation in protest against the actions against Grigaravicius. After Brazauskas told the parliament on 10 April that he would not reveal the evidence against Grigaravicius, as it is confidential, the parliament formed a commission to investigate the charges and gave it one month to file a report. SG

POLAND REPORTEDLY INVITED TO U.S.-BACKED CONFERENCE ON REBUILDING IRAQ
Premier Leszek Miller said on Polish Television on 10 April that the United States is organizing a high-level conference on the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq "in the near future," adding that just three other countries have been invited: Great Britain, Australia, and Poland. Miller did not mention a date or location of the conference, citing security reasons. "This [conference] is also proof of what excellent political relations we have at the moment with the United States," he said. "And of how these can translate into technological partnership and economic partnership." PAP reported the same day that U.S. President George W. Bush phoned his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski and thanked Poland for its political support for coalition actions and for the participation, competence, and efficiency of Polish units in military operations in Iraq. In a special communique, Kwasniewski stressed that Poland and Polish companies are ready to actively participate in the stabilization process and the reconstruction of Iraq. JM

POLAND BLOCKS ACCORD ON BROADER EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AREA
Poland on 10 April blocked a deal on expanding the European Economic Area -- the free-trade zone between the European Union, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein -- to new EU members after Warsaw's demands for higher fishing quotas went unmet, the "Financial Times" reported. The daily predicted Poland's veto will raise fresh concerns over the EU's ability to reach decisions once it expands to 25 member states next year. PAP quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Truszczynski as saying quotas that the European Commission has agreed on behalf of the future enlarged EU with Oslo and Reykjavik do not provide Poland's fishery industry with sufficient access to cheap herring, mackerel, and salmon. JM

POLAND TO SELL $368 MILLION WORTH OF TANKS TO MALAYSIA
Malaysia and Poland have finalized a deal on the supply of 48 Polish tanks and 14 support vehicles to begin in 2006, Reuters reported on 11 April. The $368 million payment will last until 2010, with 30 percent of the price reportedly covered by supplies of Malaysian palm oil. In March 2002, Malaysia agreed in principle to buy Polish PT-91 battle tanks, a modified version of Russia's T-72. The PT-91, weighing 45 tons, reportedly has a top speed of 60 kilometers per hour and state-of-the-art firepower with day and night vision. JM

POLISH LAWMAKERS URGE PREMIER TO PRODUCE PHONE BILLS IN 'RYWINGATE'
Jozef Szczepanczyk from the Polish Peasant Party and Zbigniew Ziobro from Law and Order, members of the parliamentary commission investigating the "Rywingate" bribery allegations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March 2003), have appealed in an open letter to Prime Minister Leszek Miller to hand over documents concerning himself; Marek Wagner, head of prime minister's office; Lech Nikolski, minister for the EU referendum; and Aleksandra Jakubowska, head of the premier's political cabinet, PAP reported on 10 April. They asked Miller, among other things, to give access to his and others' private and business-related phone bills. Ziobro told journalists that the evidence gathered by the commission indicates that Miller "was behind" film producer Lew Rywin when the latter was allegedly soliciting a bribe from representatives of publishing house Agora and its daily, "Gazeta Wyborcza," in 2002. Miller is scheduled to testify before the commission on 26 April. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT VISITS GERMANY...
Visiting Czech President Vaclav Klaus met in Berlin on 10 April with his German counterpart Johannes Rau, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, CTK and dpa reported. Schroeder announced after the talks that he has accepted an invitation to visit Prague in September. Last year, Schroeder "postponed" a planned visit to the Czech Republic after former Premier Milos Zeman called the Sudeten Germans "Hitler's fifth column" and said expelling them under the Benes Decrees was better than the death sentence that such crimes sometimes incur. After the talks with Schroeder, Klaus called Czech-German relations "better than ever before in history," but Schroeder was more reserved, saying "this or that difference" can be ironed out, according to dpa. In an interview with the daily "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" ahead of the visit, Klaus warned against reopening the Sudeten German issue, saying the past can be studied "but not changed." He also said he "is not sure" that a "further gesture of reconciliation" is needed to atone for the expulsion of the German population under the decrees. During the talks with Fischer, Klaus said he is "concerned" that all European Parliament deputies representing Germany's Christian Social Union voted against Czech admission to the EU on 9 April. MS

...WHERE HE DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM 'JOINT EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY'
In the interview in "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on 10 April, Klaus also said he is not a supporter of the German-French idea of a joint EU foreign policy, and warned against building up an EU bloc as a counterweight to the United States, dpa and CTK reported. Klaus said the EU needs a wide range of concepts for its foreign affairs and not a harmonized policy coming out of Brussels. "I represent the Czech position," he said. Klaus said EU members must "strengthen the trans-Atlantic axis, not seek confrontation" with the United States. It would be dangerous if the Iraqi dispute were used as an excuse to speed up EU foreign-policy standardization, he said, alluding to the German-French position. MS

CZECH COALITION PARTY LEADER FAVORS 'GESTURE' TOWARD EXPELLED GERMANS
Deputy Premier Petr Mares, who is also chairman of the junior governing Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU), told journalists on 10 April that the Czech government should find "a bit of courage" to make a reconciliatory gesture expressing regret over the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans, CTK reported. Mares stressed that such a statement would have to be in line with the 1997 Czech-German Declaration. He also said he favors some symbolic financial compensation for the German minority still in the Czech Republic, explaining that financing it could come from the Czech-German Fund for the Future that was established on the basis of the 1997 declaration. Reacting to Mares's statement, Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla told journalists that neither the coalition partners nor the government have discussed Mares's proposal, adding that the cabinet is planning no such debate. MS

CZECH LOWER HOUSE SEEKS TO SHIFT DATE OF EU REFERENDUM
The Chamber of Deputies on 10 April approved a bill under which the referendum on the Czech Republic's EU accession would be held on 13-14 June, rather than on 15-16 June as proposed by the government, CTK reported. The Senate still must debate the bill, and setting the date remains the ultimate prerogative of President Klaus. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda dismissed media criticism that changing the referendum date will be expensive, since some campaign materials have already been printed. Svoboda said the financial losses resulting from such a change would be "marginal." MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT RATIFIES NATO ACCESSION PROTOCOLS
Lawmakers on 10 April overwhelmingly ratified the protocols on Slovakia's accession to NATO, TASR reported. One hundred and twenty-four of the 136 deputies present voted for the ratification, while 11 Communist Party of Slovakia legislators opposed it. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda welcomed the outcome, saying it demonstrates that the ruling coalition and the opposition are capable of overcoming differences when fundamental state interests are at stake. "Coalitions are changing, but the nation, the fatherland, and its citizens remain the same," Dzurinda said. Before the vote was taken, the premier said a "yes" vote will signal that present-day politicians are able to offer some satisfaction to generations that suffered under the communist regime, which humiliated them and separated them from Europe. Dzurinda said trans-Atlantic cooperation should not be abandoned, as it provides the best guarantee for a better and safer world in the 21st century. "A reunified Europe must not be opposed to the U.S., just as the U.S. should not abandon cooperation and its alliance with Europe," he said. MS

SLOVAK CABINET APPROVES EU ACCESSION TREATY
Government ministers on 10 April unanimously approved the EU Accession Treaty, TASR reported, citing Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan. An amendment to the treaty proposed by Education Minister Martin Fronc (Christian Democratic Movement) and stipulating that Slovakia preserves the right to its own culture and its own approach to ethical issues was withdrawn after other members of the four-party ruling coalition opposed it. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER URGES BRIEF TRANSITION PERIOD IN IRAQ
Prime Minister Dzurinda on 10 April told journalists the period of transition in Iraq should be as brief as possible and public administration should revert to Iraqis as soon as the war is over, TASR reported. Dzurinda said the objective of the military campaign launched by the U.S.-led coalition has been to establish "a democratic Iraq, administered by its own people. There can be no doubt that Iraq belongs to the Iraqis," he said. Dzurinda also said, "People in Iraq are delighted that the regime of the inhumane dictator Saddam Hussein is crumbling" and that this "demonstrates what we always believed in, namely that the disarmament of Iraq will lead to the disarmament of its dictatorial regime and thus to the possibility of having Iraqis take their fate in their own hands." MS

HUNGARY READY TO PARTICIPATE IN IRAQ'S RECONSTRUCTION...
Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said in an interview with "Nepszabadsag" on 10 April that Hungary will willingly contribute to building a new and democratic Iraq. The daily also reported that the Economy and Foreign ministries on 10 April jointly established an Iraq Reconstruction Coordination Office to provide information for Hungarian companies seeking contracts or other forms of participation. At the moment, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is exclusively responsible for organizing the reconstruction program in Iraq, and that agency has invited Hungary to participate in the process. According to estimates, Hungarian companies could receive $15 million-25 million in orders, mostly in the areas of water and energy supply, health care, foodstuffs, and construction, Foreign Ministry Under Secretary Istvan Major told the daily. MSZ

...BUT LEAVES STATUS OF IRAQI DIPLOMATS UNCHANGED
Foreign Ministry spokesman Tamas Toth on 10 April told "Nepszabadsag" that, for the time being, there will be no change in the status of Iraqi diplomats accredited to Budapest. Toth said the cabinet examined the possibility of expelling Hussein's diplomats two weeks ago, but rejected the idea and decided not to sever diplomatic relations with Iraq. "We hope that a new authority will soon be established in Baghdad, and we wish to form as good relations with it as possible," Toth said, adding, "The new Iraqi authority will have to decide whether to confirm the status of the current diplomatic staff, or call them home." Until then, Hungary will make no moves as such, and will guarantee the Iraqis the rights to which diplomats are entitled, Toth concluded. MSZ

HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ANNOUNCES MAJOR CUTS AMONG TOP BRASS
Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz on 10 April announced a plan for a 20 percent cut in Hungary's senior military staff, explaining that the officer corps is more bloated now than in the 1980s under communist rule, "Magyar Nemzet" reported. Juhasz said the state expects to save some 8 billion-12 billion forints ($35 million-52 million) from the staff cut. Juhasz noted that past reforms of the armed forces were doomed to failure, as there was insufficient will to carry out "painful" measures. He added that he intends to carry out such painful reforms; but he said if politicians or the general public refuse to support the transformation process, he will "accept the necessary consequences," the daily reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN MEDIA WATCHDOG PENALIZES TV STATION FOR OFFENSIVE ROMANY PARODY
The National Radio and Television Authority (ORTT) on 10 April ordered that commercial station TV2 suspend its broadcasting for 30 minutes for its recent broadcast of a Romany wedding parody that was deemed offensive, Hungarian radio reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2003). Protests were lodged by Romany leaders, after which minority-rights Ombudsman Jeno Kaltenbach appealed to the ORTT for action. MSZ

NATO TROOPS SEND FORMER BOSNIAN MUSLIM COMMANDER TO THE HAGUE
On 10 April near Tuzla, NATO peacekeepers arrested Naser Oric and transferred him to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Reuters reported. An RFE/RL correspondent reported that Oric attempted to resist arrest, but SFOR troops captured him without a shootout. The tribunal has indicted Oric on six counts of war crimes stemming from his alleged murder and cruel treatment of Serbs in 1992-93, including the killing of several dozen Serbs in Kravice at Orthodox Christmas in January 1993. He was commander of Muslim forces in Srebrenica until its fall in 1995. Many Muslims consider him a hero, but others criticize him for fleeing the town before its capture. Many Serbs have long argued that Oric raided and terrorized Serbian villages near Srebrenica while he was commander, and that his actions should not be forgotten when recalling the massacre of Muslim civilians by Serbs in July 1995. Speaking in Brussels on 11 April after Oric arrived in The Hague, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said: "This action is another step in NATO's drive to detain the remaining war crime indictees. Each fugitive sent to The Hague makes it easier to build a lasting peace in the Balkans." PM

BOSNIAN SERB LEADER TO HEAD TRIPARTITE PRESIDENCY
Borislav Paravac of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) has been approved by both houses of the Bosnian parliament and confirmed as the new Serbian member and rotating chairman of the tripartite Bosnian Presidency, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Sarajevo on 10 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2003). The 60-year-old economist previously served on the town council in Doboj. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRIME MINISTER SAYS RELATIONS WITH SERBIA 'HAVE NEVER BEEN BETTER'
Milo Djukanovic told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service on 10 April that his republic's relations with Serbia "have never been better" than at present. He noted that both republics have "reformist, pro-European governments" and that the international community has a "realistic policy" toward them. Djukanovic said he regrets that it was only because of a tragedy -- the recent assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic -- that the international community came to understand that "you cannot rush history." PM

EU PLEDGES HELP TO SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO
Visiting Belgrade on 10 April, EU security- and foreign-policy chief Javier Solana promised Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic assistance in meeting his government's budget deficit, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service. Solana reminded Zivkovic that economic relations between Serbia and Montenegro must be "harmonized" by 30 April. The EU representative also told Boris Tadic, who is defense minister of Serbia and Montenegro, that the EU will help with reforms in the military and security structures. Solana added, however, that cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal is a prerequisite for such help. On 11 April, Solana met with Djukanovic and Svetozar Marovic, who is president of Serbia and Montenegro, before leaving Belgrade. PM

SERBIAN BANKER SENT HOME FROM GERMANY ON FRAUD CHARGES
German authorities deported Dafina Milanovic from her home near Frankfurt to Belgrade on 10 April, Serbian media reported. Milanovic faces charges of fraud and theft of amounts running into the millions of dollars stemming primarily from the early 1990s, when she allegedly headed the largest pyramid scheme in the Balkans. She was known for a posh lifestyle and close ties to the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic. When her Dafiment Bank collapsed in 1992, investors lost $150 million in principal deposits alone, not counting interest. German authorities arrested her in December, at which time Serbian police began extradition proceedings. PM

MACEDONIAN PREMIER SAYS FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION HAS PRIORITY
Speaking at a 10 April conference dedicated to fighting corruption in the Macedonian Customs Agency, Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski said there is no political stability, market economy, "European perspective," nor social justice in a country where corruption reigns, MIA news agency reported. "This is why the fight against organized crime and corruption should have the highest priority, not only for the government but for the entire society," he added. Customs Agency head Ljubomir Mihajlovski admitted that graft is endemic among customs officers. "That is why a new internal watchdog unit has been set up," "Utrinski vesnik" quoted Mihajlovski as saying. UB

VATICAN CONFIRMS PAPAL VISIT TO CROATIA
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement on 11 April that Pope John Paul II will pay his third visit to Croatia from 5-9 June, dpa reported. His itinerary includes Rijeka, Zadar, and Dubrovnik on the Adriatic, as well as Osijek and Djakovo in Slavonia. The pope will beatify a Croatian Catholic layman, Ivan Merz, on what will be the 100th foreign trip of his papacy, which began in 1978. He previously visited Croatia in 1994 and 1998. No pope visited the former Yugoslavia before its breakup in 1991, but Pope John Paul has since been to Slovenia and Bosnia as well as Croatia. PM

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT REACTS TO 'FALL OF BAGHDAD'
The Romanian government in a statement issued on 10 April "noted with satisfaction" the "dissolution of the Saddam Hussein regime" as illustrated by events in Baghdad the previous day. "For us, Romanians, who know what dictatorship means, the event had a special significance," it said. The statement said the government "salutes" the coalition forces' entry into the Iraqi capital and reiterated Romania's commitment to participating in "ample humanitarian actions under international sponsorship." The cabinet expressed its confidence that the coalition will help the Iraqi people set up an "interim administration" that will create the conditions for the start of the reconstruction process with UN help. Romania, the government communique added, is prepared to contribute to the stabilization of Iraq and to participate in its reconstruction. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, cited by Romanian Radio, told the private Pro TV on 10 April that the government would discuss on 11 April ways to recoup the $1.7 billion debt Iraq owes Romania. MS

U.S. OFFICIALS APPRECIATE ROMANIA'S STAND ON IRAQ
U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on 10 April that the United States is ready to use the experience of the former communist countries in East-Central Europe in the process of Iraq's reconstruction, Romanian Radio reported the next day. Wolfowitz said, specifically mentioning Romania, that these countries "understand what living under a tyranny and getting rid of it is all about" and have "real technical expertise" that can be used in the reconstruction of Iraq. Supreme Allied Commander Europe General James Jones told the committee that the United States is highly appreciative of the support extended by Romania for Operation Iraqi Freedom. In response to a committee member's question whether he supports the possible redeployment of U.S. military bases to Romania, Jones said NATO is still examining the issue and it would be "inappropriate" for him to suggest one country or another. However, he added, "Those nations willing to contribute will be welcome to do so, and Romania has done some extraordinary things in its support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Should Romania wish to contribute even more, we would be delighted." MS

UDMR SAYS AGREEMENT WITH ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT INCLUDES REDRAWING OF 'ECONOMIC ZONES'
Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko said on 10 April that the agreement between the UDMR and the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) stipulates that the two formations will discuss the redrawing of the country's "economic zones," Mediafax reported. Marko emphasized that these zones are not identical to the administrative division of the country and that there is no intention to replace the current county-based system. Last week, a gathering of mayors representing localities in the Harghita, Covasna and Mures counties issued a statement that drew harsh criticism from ethnic Romanian parties because of its call to set up an economic zone including the "Szekler lands." Ethnic Romanians are suspicious that the move is aimed at reestablishing the Hungarian Autonomous Region, which existed in the 1950s. Romanian Radio said on 11 September that ethnic Romanians and Orthodox Church representatives from the three counties consider the mayors' call to be "an act of defiance" toward non-Hungarians who live in those counties. The daily "Adevarul" on 11 April cited Marko as saying that the PSD proposed including Brasov in the new administrative region to avoid the impression that the intention is to create an ethnic Hungarian enclave. MS

COUNCIL OF EUROPE SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS MONITORING OF MOLDOVA TO CONTINUE...
Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer said on 10 April that the organization will continue to monitor Moldova after the country takes over the chairmanship of the council's Committee of Ministers on 15 May, Flux reported. He said there is "no contradiction" between Moldova's chairmanship of the committee and the continuation of the monitoring process. He also said that in meetings during his visit to Moldova on 9-10 April with President Vladimir Voronin, Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev, and Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau, he discussed ways in which the Council of Europe can facilitate the country's democratization process. MS

...AND SHEDS NO TEARS FOR SADDAM HUSSEIN
In an interview with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service on 10 April, Schwimmer said in Chisinau that "nobody regrets the fall of a bloody dictator like Saddam Hussein," but it is now necessary to take steps to ensure that "the Iraqi people may freely decide their own fate." Schwimmer said the main role in Iraq's democratization process must be played by the UN, and that the Council of Europe will discuss with UN representatives how it can best contribute to this process. MS

MOLDOVAN ELECTION BOARD REGISTERS FIRST MAYORAL CANDIDATES IN CHISINAU
The Chisinau municipal electoral board on 10 April officially registered the candidacy of incumbent Mayor Serafim Urechean, who is running as an independent in the local elections scheduled for 25 May, Infotag reported. Also on 10 April, the board registered the mayoral candidacies of Popular Party Christian Democratic Deputy Chairman Vlad Cubreacov, Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Vasilii Zgardan (who is backed by the Party of Moldovan Communists), Valerii Klimenko of the Equal Rights Movement, and Social Liberal Party candidate Viorel Topa. MS

BULGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT SAYS ONLY GRAND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY CAN MAKE STRUCTURAL CHANGES
The Constitutional Court ruled on 10 April that only a constituent Grand National Assembly can change the structure of the judiciary or the powers of the presidency, the council of ministers, the parliament, and the Constitutional Court itself, mediapool.bg reported. In October, the court was asked by Prosecutor-General Nikola Filchev to interpret the constitutional provisions regarding changes to state institutions, after politicians demanded that the prosecutors' offices and the investigation services be separated from the judiciary. The court also ruled that changes regarding the irrevocability and immunity of magistrates can be made by parliament. Lawmaker Konstantin Penchev of the governing National Movement Simeon II said the decision is neither a surprise nor will it stop the reform of the judiciary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," December 2002, 8 January, and 2 April 2003). UB

DOUBT SHED ON DEPLOYMENT OF BULGARIAN PEACEKEEPING MISSION TO IRAQ
Chief of General Staff General Nikola Kolev said on 10 April that the army cannot deploy a peacekeeping mission to postwar Iraq because it lacks the financial means, mediapool.bg reported. Kolev's statement came in response to an announcement made by Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov earlier the same day suggesting that Bulgaria send an engineering battalion to participate in a possible peacekeeping operation after the end of hostilities in Iraq. Bulgarian peacekeeping forces are currently stationed in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kosova. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said after a meeting of the government's Iraq crisis-policy coordination body on 9 April that the course of events in Iraq underscores that the parliament and the government took the right position when they supported the U.S. policy on Iraq, Darik Radio reported. UB

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW STATE NEWS AGENCY DIRECTOR
Parliament on 10 April elected Maxim Minchev to head the state news agency BTA by a vote of 105 to 50, with 40 abstentions, BTA reported. Minchev replaces the controversial Stoyan Cheshmedzhiev, who resigned after repeated protests by BTA employees. After his election, Minchev said he will seek every opportunity to conduct a constructive dialogue with the news agency's employees (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February and 17 and 19 March 2003). UB

HEAT, LIGHT, RUNNING WATER: RUSSIA'S OLIGARCHS AND TECHNOCRATS HEAD FOR THE SEWERS
Russia's awkwardly named "housing and communal-services sector" -- the heating, lighting, water, and other amenities that are the preconditions of civilization -- has shown a long-term resistance to reform matched only by its recent propensity for spectacular decay. The winter of 2002-03 was another one of bursting pipes and cold radiators. Television reports of entire neighborhoods without heat or running water dominated the evening news. As teeth chattered in the dark in the chilly Far East, Moscow's chattering classes indulged their penchant for pessimism and mulled the grim prospect of Soviet infrastructure in a downward spiral toward complete collapse.

At a 27 March cabinet session to sum up the results of the difficult winter, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov concluded that "the sum of all society's ills is bound up with the housing and communal-services sector," "Gazeta" reported the next day. Amid all the gloom, however, Russia's most famous reformer suddenly announced the glimmering of a new dawn.

The reformer in question is Anatolii Chubais, currently the head of state-owned mega-utility Unified Energy Systems (EES). A national monopoly, EES is often referred to as "big energy"; the housing and communal-services sector that deals with ordinary citizens is "little energy." The master of "big energy" emerged from the same cabinet meeting that so dismayed the prime minister with a smile on his face, telling journalists, "For the first time, not one objection was addressed to EES." He went on to enumerate his accomplishments since assuming control of EES: fiscal discipline in the form of full payment for services rendered; prompt payment of taxes; and uninterrupted service through the winter.

Yet all the achievements of well-run big energy disappear into the black hole of still-Soviet little energy. Thirty percent of the electricity big energy delivers to little energy simply vanishes, as does a quarter of the heat, "Kommersant" reported on 31 March. Worse yet, little energy owes big energy more than $1 billion for services rendered. As Chubais put it, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 March: "The problems of little energy have us in a choke hold. We're sick of listening to nonsense about reforms. We intend to act."

Chubais went on to explain that he sees in the housing and communal-services sector the same problems he confronted at EES in 1998. "A mere 20 percent of payments made in cash, a total collapse of management and the sales system, five-month wage arrears, strikes," Chubais said. "The damage borders on catastrophe. We have the experience and the managers to solve these problems."

The Chubais plan to save little energy became clearer after a 28 March meeting of the EES board of directors, when the board approved a plan to create a new company called Russian Communal Systems (RKS). "Vedomosti" described the new company's structure in a 31 March article based on materials from the board meeting. EES and Gazprombank will each own 25 percent of RKS. Interros, Renova, Kuzbassrazrezugol, Evrazholding, and Evrofinance Bank will each own 10 percent. The enterprise will kick off with start-up capital of 1 billion rubles ($32 million).

RKS will start work in 11 pilot regions in the summer of 2003. Over a five-year period, the company will invest $700 million -- $500 million of it borrowed -- in the housing and communal-services sector. RKS will initially acquire assets under a trust or rental arrangement for subsequent purchase, or it could exchange some of the $1 billion it is owed for assets.

Once it has its foot in the door, RKS will begin to "put affairs in order" -- changing management and clarifying contracts, payments, and sales. In Chubais's words, the primary task is "not to conduct reforms, but to establish order and move from the Soviet Mesozoic to normal business," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 March.

Ownership of assets in the housing and communal-services sector has always been a touchy subject. Sergei Sivaev, executive director of the Institute for Urban Economics, raised the question in a 28 March comment to "Gazeta." "In and of itself, it's a good idea," he said. "The sector lacks effective management, and all of Chubais's theses are entirely justified. But the question of ownership gives rise to certain fears. On the one hand, they say that EES intends to work as a business operator without acquiring communal sites as its own property. On the other hand, they claim that they can only work effectively if they own them."

If RKS becomes the owner of large chunks of the infrastructure, Russian financial-industrial groups -- a nice cross section of which is represented in the proposed shareholder structure of RKS -- will carve out a beachhead in a hitherto cordoned-off sector of the economy. A 28 March headline in "Vremya novostei" described the newfound interest of the rich and powerful in infrastructure as "Oligarchs Head for the Sewers." "Vedomosti" editors seconded their colleagues the same day, albeit with less flair: "Oligarchs to Invest $500 million in Residential and Communal-Services Sector."

Critics have pointed out that RKS could simply serve to strengthen monopolistic tendencies in the housing and communal-services sector. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and Communist Party head Gennadii Zyuganov both noted at a 28 March meeting of parliamentary factions that by creating a single company to manage housing and communal services in several cities, EES will monopolize "little energy as well as big energy," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 31 March.

Oleg Sysuev, first deputy chairman of the board of directors of Alfa-Group and former first deputy presidential administration head, raised doubts about the potential risks, saying the little-energy business only appears to be a "tasty morsel," "Vedomosti" reported on 31 March. In fact, he went on to explain, "investors will encounter many risks -- political risks, financial risks, risks to their reputation." A more prosaic question is whether any single structure, no matter how efficiently run, can impose a successful business model on a sector that includes such disparate elements as electrical distribution grids, heating mains, water- and gas-supply grids, sewers, and even waste recycling.

At least one official from a potential pilot region has expressed reservations about the plan. Sergei Nazarov, minister of energy and natural resources in Rostov Oblast, told regnum.ru on 6 April that he has yet to hear any concrete proposals from RKS. "All of the intentions that are set out in the agreement are of a declarative nature: 'We want to take this, and take that, and we have money, and everything will be OK,'" Nazarov said. Talks with RKS on the possibility of setting up a pilot project in the Rostov Oblast are set for 15 April.

At present, no one can say whether RKS is a flash in the pan of reform or the shape of things to come. There is more to the proposal, however, than the cozy relations between financial-industrial groups and the state that are the hallmark of post-Soviet capitalism. Reform of the housing and communal-services sector has stalled, and the infrastructure crisis so apparent in the winter months will only worsen. RKS would break the logjam by nibbling away at the very structure that no one dares to reform, ostensibly to "put in order" the little bits it bites off. Once the process is far enough along, the question of reform recedes as less and less of the original structure remains.

Whether or not RKS succeeds in uniting oligarchs and technocrats in an effective mechanism for the reapportionment and subsequent restructuring of Russia's ground-level infrastructure, the idea represents a bold attempt to institutionalize ties that have generally preferred the shadows to the limelight. With two significant phases in the history of post-Soviet capitalism -- the initial division of spoils and the recovery from the 1998 economic crisis -- already behind us, an institutionalized partnership between oligarchs and technocrats seems only natural in a new phase that marks the transition from fierce competition for control of assets to increased cooperation to ensure the efficient exploitation of assets.

U.S. GENERAL ANNOUNCES END OF HUSSEIN REGIME
U.S. Army General Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), told his troops on 11 April that the regime of Iraqi President Hussein has ended, AP reported. In an order to unit commanders, Franks said, "The Saddam regime has ended, is over, and [coalition forces] will stay until there is a free government." The order calls for the reopening of schools, businesses, and government offices, and bans public looting and the public display of weapons by Iraqis. Franks also announced that food coupons and medical and clothing vouchers will be honored, AP reported. The order also laid out new rules of behavior for U.S. troops in the capital, Baghdad. According to AP, troops are forbidden from using deadly force to prevent looting. KR

KURDISH LEADER SAYS HIS FIGHTERS ARE WITHDRAWING FROM KIRKUK
Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), told CNN Turk on 10 April that Kurdish forces have begun withdrawing from the oil-rich northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. Talabani claimed residents of Kirkuk began an uprising on 9 April that led to a withdrawal of Iraqi forces from the city. U.S. forces said they were unprepared to enter Kirkuk, so Talabani sent some 1,200 Kurdish troops into the city in an effort to secure it and prevent looting and chaos, Talabani told CNN Turk. Some 2,000 U.S. forces have subsequently arrived in the city, and Talabani said he ordered 600 Kurdish troops to withdraw on 11 April. The remaining Kurdish forces will withdraw once the United States has secured the city, Talabani added. He reiterated his intent to withdraw his forces once the city is secured by coalition forces in a statement read on KurdSat television on 10 April. KR

U.S. FORCES SECURE KIRKUK OIL FIELD IN NORTHERN IRAQ
U.S. forces took control of Iraq's largest and oldest oil field in Kirkuk on 11 April, Reuters reported. The Baba Gargur oil facility, which is one of many facilities in the Kirkuk field, was reportedly secured. The Kirkuk field began pumping oil in the 1930s and is responsible for producing 40 percent of Iraq's prewar oil exports. KR

TURKOMAN LEADER SAYS PUK KILLING TURKOMANS IN KIRKUK
Mustafa Ziya, a representative of the Iraqi Turkoman Front (ITF), accused PUK forces of killing Turkomans inside Kirkuk, Istanbul's NTV reported on 11 April. Ziya told a news conference that Kurdish forces from the PUK have killed a number of prominent Turkoman leaders and said that at least 50 Turkomans were killed after they were falsely identified as "collaborators" who had worked for the Iraqi regime. Ziya also charged the PUK forces with setting historic buildings on fire and confiscating documents and automobiles belonging to the Turkoman residents of Kirkuk. Meanwhile, PUK representative to Turkey Bahruz Galali has denied the charges, telling NTV that the ITF's claims are "propaganda" aimed at disrupting relations between Turkomans and Kurds. "Those behind these incidents have a plan. They are trying to find a pretext to enable the Turkish Army to enter the region," Galali added. KR

SITUATION IN MOSUL UNCLEAR, LOOTING UNDER WAY
Kurdish forces have reportedly taken control of central Mosul, AFP reported on 11 April. The troops entered the city following a withdrawal of Iraqi forces on 10 April. "Yesterday people in Mosul, including the commanders of the 5th Corps [of the Iraqi Army], the governor, and the heads of important families sent a delegation to [Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)] head Mas'ud Barzani to ask him to use his good offices with the Americans for a peaceful surrender of the city without any more fighting," KDP spokesman Hoshyar Zebari told AFP on 11 April. Meanwhile, CNN reported that neither Kurdish nor coalition forces are visible in the city center, and international press reported widespread looting. Al-Jazeera reported that Mosul University and other public institutions are being looted. In a local hospital, patients were removed from their beds and the beds stolen. Reuters reported that Kurdish forces are manning checkpoints outside the city and also participating in the looting. KR

IRAQIS PLEAD FOR U.S. HELP IN FINDING JAILED RELATIVES
Iraqis swarmed the headquarters of the military intelligence in Baghdad on 11 April in a desperate attempt to find information on relatives jailed by the Iraqi regime, Reuters reported. The Iraqis said their relatives were being kept by the regime in underground jails. "They say they are sure there are people who have been here for days without food and may be dying," a Reuters correspondent reported. Other Iraqis were looking for relatives that "disappeared" under the regime in the 1980s. Meanwhile, CNN reported that U.S. forces have called on Iraqi police and city workers to return to their posts in an effort to keep municipal services up and running and to provide a sense of order in the Iraqi capital. International press reports indicate that the situation in Baghdad has worsened, with the looting of hospitals and utter lawlessness. KR

COALITION BOMBS HOME OF SADDAM'S HALF-BROTHER
A U.S. warplane bombed the home of the half-brother of deposed Iraqi President Hussein in the early-morning hours of 11 April, Reuters reported. Six "smart bombs" reportedly hit a building housing Barzan Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Mukhabarat intelligence service. The building also housed an operations center for Iraqi intelligence. It is unclear whether Barzan was in the building at the time of the bombing. He was the head of the Iraqi Mukhabarat from 1979-83 and served as Iraqi ambassador to the UN in Geneva from 1988-97, Reuters reported. KR

U.S. FORCES CONTROL IRAQ-JORDAN BORDER POST
U.S. forces have taken over a border post on the Iraqi-Jordanian border following its abandonment by Iraqi officials, Reuters reported on 11 April. The Turaybil border crossing sits some 550 kilometers west of Baghdad. A Reuters correspondent said it appeared that the Iraqis abandoned the post quickly, leaving behind half-eaten food and rocket-propelled grenades. KR

TWO IRAQI CLERICS KILLED IN MOSQUE
Al-Khoi Foundation Secretary-General Abd al-Majid al-Khoi returned to Iraq in early April in an effort to encourage Shia locals to cooperate with coalition forces, and he was killed during a 10 April visit to the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, according to numerous sources. The exact circumstances of al-Khoi's death are unclear. Jawad al-Khoi, his nephew, said that according to people who were with his uncle at the time, "he was martyred by treacherous hands," Reuters reported, and Jawad told Al-Jazeera television that a mob attacked his uncle. Fadil al-Milani of the Khoi Foundation said Abdul Majid was killed when he tried to protect mosque manager Heidar al-Kelidar, who was hated for his association with the Ba'athist regime's Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, from an angry mob, the French government-affiliated Radio Monte Carlo reported. In the ensuing tumult, al-Khoi was "hacked to death by a mob armed with swords," "The Daily Telegraph" reported on 11 April. According to the Al-Khoi Foundation website (http://www.al-khoei.org), he was attacked by remnants of Hussein's regime, and according to IRNA on 11 April, unknown assailants dragged the cleric out of the mosque while he was praying, shot him, and then stabbed him to death. BS

TEHRAN OFFICIALLY COMPLAINS ABOUT ABADAN MISSILE STRIKE
The Iranian Foreign Ministry on 10 April summoned the Swiss ambassador to give him a written message containing Tehran's "strong protest" regarding the killing of a youth near Abadan in a missile strike two days earlier, IRNA reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2003). Foreign Ministry legal affairs chief Danesh Jafari told his Swiss guest, "Tehran considers Washington as responsible for these actions and their consequences." Jafari called for "serious attention to prevent the repetition of such incidents" and respect for Iran's territorial integrity. BS

IRAQIS IN TEHRAN STORM THEIR EMBASSY
Approximately 60 Iraqis who were chanting "Death to America," "Death to Saddam," and "No to Colonialism, No to Ba'ath Party" on 11 April forced open the gates of the Iraqi Embassy in Tehran and entered the compound, IRNA and Reuters reported (AP reported that about 200 Iraqis stormed the embassy). The protestors tore up photos of Saddam Hussein, destroyed furniture, and broke windows, as police tried to disperse people outside the embassy. They also made off with embassy documents. The protestors displayed photos of Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim. BS

CLASHES IN SOUTHERN TEHRAN
Clashes between mobs and policemen in the working class district of Shahr-e Rey in southern Tehran on 6 April led to two policemen being taken hostage, "Iran Daily" reported on 10 April. No details were given as to what led to the clashes, but the hostages were freed with the intervention of Basij militia, As a result, an official of the Tehran governor-general's office told ISNA on 8 April that henceforth, "All meetings and public gatherings must have official permission from the security authorities." SF

MORE CALLS FOR COOLER RHETORIC
Echoing remarks by other "reformist" politicians and journalists this week, veteran journalist and political commentator Said Leylaz warned that confrontational, anti-U.S. rhetoric by some political groups in Iran only serve the interests of the "most violent generals in the Pentagon," Tehran's "Iran Daily" reported on 10 April. He said that the efforts of, presumably, the conservative faction to harm its political rivals and "settle political scores" by appearing to take a harder line against the United States only expose the country to foreign threats. An editorial in the reformist newspaper "Aftab-e Yazd" on 10 April assailed the credibility of the hard-liners for railing against the United States at a time of growing public indifference to events in Iraq. The hard-liners, the paper said, care little for the country's national interests but only aim to denounce their reformist rivals as American stooges. In reality, wrote "Aftab-e Yazd," the hard-line faction not only has "no basic opposition to America" but wants to gain "the credits they imagine will go to those who restore ties with America." The result, according to the newspaper, is increasing skepticism among the public regarding the "authenticity of the position of certain groups and media." SF

AFGHAN LEADER EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER CIVILIAN DEATHS
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai has expressed "profound concern" over the deaths of 11 civilians as a result of a stray bomb dropped by a U.S. aircraft near Shkin in Paktika Province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2003), Radio Afghanistan reported on 10 April. Karzai has sent a government delegation to the region to provide emergency aid to the families of the victims and issued a statement requesting that coalition forces exert caution in their military maneuvers. Analysts have expressed concern that these latest civilian casualties will serve to increase anti-U.S. sentiment in the already tense region of eastern Afghanistan. KM

JAPAN TO PROVIDE $3 MILLION FOR AFGHAN POLICE
The Japanese Foreign Ministry announced on 10 April that it will provide grants totaling 361 million yen (approximately $3 million) to assist in creating an effective police force in Afghanistan, as well as to help fund demining efforts in the country, Kyodo News Service reported on 10 April. These grants make up a portion of the $500 million promised to Afghanistan by Japan in January 2002. Diplomatic notes regarding the grants were reportedly exchanged between Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and Japan's acting Ambassador to Afghanistan Nobutaka Miyahara. KM

KARZAI DISPATCHES DELEGATION TO FARYAB TO INVESTIGATE CLASHES, BRING COMMANDERS TO KABUL...
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai has ordered a delegation to Faryab Province to investigate the reasons for the outbreak of fighting between Junbish-e Islami forces of Deputy Defense Minister Abdul Rashid Dostum and those loyal to Jamiyat-e Islami under the command of General Ata Mohammad, Afghanistan Television reported on 10 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2003). Seventeen people, mostly soldiers, have been killed and 13 injured in the fighting that broke out on 8 April, AFP reported, citing the UN. Representatives of the Defense and Interior ministries were sent, including ministerial adviser Asadullah Wafa (tribal affairs) and ministerial adviser Mohammad Alam Rasekh (social affairs). In addition to evaluating the allegations of each group, the delegation was tasked by Karzai to bring the commanders of both groups back with them to Kabul. This move is significant in that Karzai appears to be making an effort to exert government control over a continuing regional source of insecurity. KM

...AS CEASE-FIRE IS REACHED, AID AGENCIES PULL OUT
General Faruq, a commander of Ata Mohammad's forces, has said the fighting broke out after attacks against the forces headquarters in Maymana, the capital of Faryab, during the night, Hindukosh news agency reported on 10 April. He claimed that a group of individuals from Dostum's forces opened fire on some of his men, killing seven. Hindukosh's reported that Dostum's spokesman Fayzullah Zaki "interpreted the clashes as resistance to the disarmament process." A delegate of the United Nations has brokered a cease-fire between the two groups, the news agency reported. UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told a press conference in Kabul on 10 April that the fighting began "following the killing of a high-ranking commander of [Jamiyat-e Islami in Maymana]," AFP reported. "UN and nongovernmental organizations were forced to close their offices because they happened to be in the line of the fighting of the different factions," he said. KM

XS
SM
MD
LG