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Newsline - June 16, 2003

President Vladimir Putin on 15 June presented the first Global Energy Prize to U.S. professors Nick Holonyak and Ian Douglas Smith and Russian Academician Gennadii Mesyats at a ceremony held at the newly refurbished Konstantin Palace near St. Petersburg, Russian media reported. The $900,000 prize was created last year by Gazprom, Yukos, and Unified Energy Systems (EES) with the goal of becoming the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in the field of energy. At the presentation, Putin stressed that, as a leading player in the field of global energy, Russia has created this award to recognize excellence in the areas of energy conservation and energy science. He called for expanding the global energy dialogue to promote economic growth and to help resolve numerous acute international problems. VY

During his remarks at the ceremony, which was attended by executives from the leading Russian, U.S., and European energy companies, President Putin warned about the danger of a global energy crisis resulting from the inefficient use of energy resources, RTR and RosBalt reported on 15 June. He said that Russia, with its huge energy resources, can serve as "an important link in global energy security." He noted that Russia supplies 16 percent of the European Union's natural gas and 20 percent of its oil, and said these figures will increase markedly in the immediate future. Russian companies are also making headway into new markets in the United States and the Far East, as well as developing new energy reserves in Siberia, Sakhalin, and the Russian sector of the Caspian Sea. Putin added that Russia is interested in predictable, stable oil prices and the further development of production-sharing legislation. He said that foreign energy companies should have the same rights on the Russian market as Russian state-owned and private companies. Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller, EES Chairman Anatolii Chubais, Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, and LUKoil head Vagit Alekperov were among the energy executives who attended the ceremony. VY

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told journalists on 15 June that he and Pakistani Foreign Minister Mian Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri had agreed during talks that day in Karachi to coordinate their countries' efforts within the framework of the international coalition to combat terrorism, Russian media reported. The cooperation will focus on, but not be limited to, combating terrorism and drug trafficking from Afghanistan, Ivanov said. He added that he is ready to mediate between India and Pakistan if the two countries ask him to do so. Asked whether Russia will supply weapons to Pakistan to balance its considerable sales to New Delhi, Ivanov demurred. "This question presupposes a military solution to the conflict, and we stand for a peaceful resolution," he said. Pakistan is the first stop on Ivanov's tour of Asia, which will also include visits to India and Cambodia. VY

President Putin on 16 June held a special session in St. Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum of the State Council devoted to cultural policy, Russian media reported. The council heard reports on cultural policy prepared by a working group headed by Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel. One of the reports argues that the state's cultural potential "is not being used sufficiently to support its foreign-policy interests," RIA-Novosti reported. Rossel's commission argues that "the next step is to boost Russia's permanent cultural presence abroad, especially in neighboring countries." Rossel's commission also called for a discussion of the possibility of attracting private funding for the preservation of Russia's nearly 20,000 federally protected cultural landmarks. Putin told the session that the state has two tasks in the sphere of culture: protecting creative freedom and securing public access to the country's cultural heritage. He also said that all budget allocations in the sphere of culture must be public and transparent. The session was attended by presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, ORT General Director Konstantin Ernst, RTR General Director Oleg Dobrodeev, and many leading cultural figures. VY

Speaking to journalists in St. Petersburg, Gennadii Seleznev said on 15 June that he does not support proposals to merge subjects of the Russian Federation, reported. Efforts to change the status quo are unconstitutional, even if the supporters of such proposals have good intentions, Seleznev said. He expressed a similar opinion about efforts to transfer administrative and financial functions from one federation subject to another. Under the constitution, all federation subjects are equal and efforts to constrain some are therefore unconstitutional, he said. Speculation about merging federation subjects merely sows panic among local administrators and the public, Seleznev concluded. VY

Speaking on RTR on 15 June, Yurii Luzhkov said he strongly opposes proposals to merge Moscow and Moscow Oblast into a single federation subject. He argued that the two entities have different economies and that Moscow residents would be unwilling to share their higher living standard with their neighbors in the oblast, Luzhkov said. In addition, any merger of federation subjects would cause administrative chaos, he argued. Finally, he said that a merger of Moscow and Moscow Oblast would create a "hypertrophic" administrative unit with a population of 18 million people that would be very difficult to govern. VY

An offshoot of the Liberal Russia party that supports tycoon Boris Berezovskii held an extraordinary congress in Moscow on 14 June and elected the controversial former oligarch as the party's leader, Russian media reported. Last October, the party's political council, which was then led by former party co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov, voted to expel Berezovskii (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002). According to RIA-Novosti, 628 delegates from 61 regions attended the Moscow congress. Speaking via video hook-up from London, Berezovskii called for the creation of a tactical alliance with the left of Russia's political spectrum, according to RosBalt. According to Interfax, some delegates expressed the desire to use the name and image of former President Boris Yeltsin as "party symbols." JAC

The same day, the political council of the non-Berezovskii part of the Liberal Russia party held a meeting in Moscow Oblast, Interfax reported. That body decided to hold an emergency congress on 19 July, at which it will adopt its election strategy for the December State Duma race. Liberal Russia co-Chairman Viktor Pokhmelkin confirmed the party's previously announced plans to form an election bloc with the Russian Republican Party, Forward Russia, and the Movement of Russian Motorists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). Commenting on the activities of the "other" Liberal Russia party, Pokhmelkin said: "It is just a group of impostors who have no relation to Liberal Russia. But these people are helping us to get rid of those who joined the party for their own gain." JAC

President Putin on 16 June confirmed that Vladimir Yakovlev has been appointed deputy prime minister responsible for housing and communal-services reform, Interfax and other Russian media reported. Putin said that such reforms are proceeding well in St. Petersburg and that is why he offered Yakovlev the post. Yakovlev will have overall responsibility for construction and urban development in Russia, RIA-Novosti reported on 16 June. NTV on 14 June reported rumors of an appointment for Yakovlev and said that new elections to replace him could be held as early as September. TVS reported the same rumors on 15 June. JAC/RC

Writing about the recent State Council meeting at which President Putin called for the creation of a special federal organ to monitor the environment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2003), "Yezhenedelnyi zhurnal," No. 73, recalled that three years ago the Kremlin took exactly the opposite tack and liquidated the State Ecology Committee. Its functions were transferred to the Natural Resources Ministry, an action that was equated by some environmentalists with asking the fox to mind the chicken coop (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2000). The weekly noted that when the committee's liquidation was announced, tens of thousands of letters and appeals poured in, and environmental groups held an emergency conference. According to the daily, one argument for getting rid of the committee was the belief that lowering environmental standards would enable Russia to attract more foreign investment. However, the weekly writes, "today it is already clear that the proprietors of enterprises in Eastern European countries preferred not to move to Russia but to raise [their plants] to European standards." JAC

"Novaya gazeta," No. 41, reported that factory directors in Voronezh Oblast are experiencing sharp increases in the prices of materials despite the fact that federal economic authorities report that the overall inflation rate has been just 7 percent so far this year. A local cement-factory director told the weekly that metals prices have doubled in the past six months, while the cost of crushed stone has risen by 15 percent, and that of water by 43 percent. The prices of electricity and natural gas have risen so often that they have been difficult to track. As a result, cement factories in Voronezh Oblast told their customers in June that they are raising prices for cement by 64 percent, which is increasing construction costs. The price of a square meter of housing, in turn, has risen to a minimum of 500 rubles ($16), which the majority of Voronezh residents cannot afford. JAC

Reporting about the recent departure of "The New York Times'" executive editor and the episode involving former reporter Jason Blair, "Yezhenedelnyi zhurnal," No. 73, recalled the career of "The New York Times" correspondent Walter Duranty. The weekly noted that Duranty, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for his "dispassionate and objective reporting" from the Soviet Union, labeled reports about a famine in Ukraine "baseless." According to the weekly, people who knew Duranty recall that he in fact knew that 7 million people had died. The weekly speculates that Duranty was a paid agent of the Soviet secret police. It wrote that many of his articles "were clearly prepared with the assistance of the [secret police's] foreign department." Another possibility, according to the weekly, was that Duranty's work was an expression of "ideal amorality." Duranty was a close associate of satanist Alistair Crowley. At one point, Crowley reportedly wrote to Duranty suggesting that in order for the Soviet regime to be "truly modern," Stalin should proclaim a law of Satanism. The Pulitzer Prize committee is currently reviewing Duranty's award as a result of international pressure calling for its revocation, UPI and other international media reported on 2 June. JAC

In a16 June interview with that was reposted on, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's envoy Akhmed Zakaev explained that Maskhadov maintains contact with radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev primarily with the aim of trying to dissuade him from launching suicide attacks and said that Basaev does not coordinate his military activities with Maskhadov. Zakaev said Maskhadov does not approve of such methods. He added that the participants in such suicide attacks are not religious fanatics but "people consumed with a desire to avenge their tormented sons, their slain infants, their raped daughters." He said that at present Maskhadov and Basaev have a common enemy in the Russian military, but that in peace time Basaev was always Maskhadov's political adversary. "When peace comes, our government will definitely try to arrest and bring to trial all war criminals," Zakaev said. Zakaev also said that the "overwhelming majority" of Chechen field commanders and rank-and-file fighters support Maskhadov. LF

Two leading members of the opposition Artarutiun parliament bloc told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 14 June that they have no interest in taking up the indirect invitations to cooperate extended two days earlier by parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian and deputy speaker Tigran Torosian. People's Party of Armenia Chairman Stepan Demirchian again said the bloc will not cooperate with a majority that its members do not consider legitimate, while National Democratic Union Chairman Vazgen Manukian said he does not consider the offer serious. He said that, having secured a monopoly on power, the new coalition "wants to throw some bones to its opponents. We don't need them." LF

The allocation of senior executive-branch positions among the three pro-presidential parties aligned in the new ruling coalition ended on 13 June with the appointment of four new provincial governors, two each from the Orinats Yerkir (Law-Based State) party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The appointments were announced at the first session of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's reshuffled cabinet. LF

The U.S. State Department annual report on human trafficking, which was released on 11 June, commends the Armenian authorities' efforts over the past year to crack down on that practice, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 14 June. The report placed Armenia among 74 countries that are making "significant efforts" to comply with the "minimum requirements" for eliminating human trafficking. Last year Armenia was ranked among those countries that were perceived to be doing little, if anything, to crack down on human trafficking. LF

Russia has begun transporting to Armenia a new consignment of fuel for the Medzamor nuclear-power station, which shut down in early April, Energy Minister Armen Movsisian told journalists on 13 June, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2003). The refueling process will take 20-30 days, Movsisian added. Medzamor generates some 40 percent of Armenia's electricity. LF

The Milli Mejlis on 13 June approved the 15 new members of the Central Election Commission (CEC), reported the following day. Having approved the six people nominated by the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP), some deputies representing that party argued against approving nominees from the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP). Musa Musaev denounced opposition party leaders as "dishonest," and the opposition nominees for the CEC as "illiterate people with forged mandates." Akhad Abiev, who three weeks earlier publicly insulted AHCP reformist faction leader Ali Kerimli (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 2003), argued that Asif Makhmudov (AHCP), who lost an arm fighting in the Karabakh war, "cannot work as a CEC member because he is a cripple, an invalid." Parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov rebuked Abiev for that remark and insisted that deputies vote on all nine remaining proposed CEC members, all of whom were subsequently approved. LF

At its first session on 14 June, the CEC elected as its chairman Mazahir Panahov (YAP), who had chaired the previous CEC, Turan reported. The CEC also scheduled the presidential elections due this fall for 15 October, four days after incumbent President Heidar Aliev's presidential term expires. Earlier this month, Panahov had told Turan the ballot would take place on 17 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2003). Meanwhile on 13 June, the Opposition Coordinating Center appealed to the Constitutional Court and the prosecutor general to clarify whether an amendment made to the Election Code after its passage by parliament is legal, Turan reported. That amendment allows the authorities to annul the date of the presidential election and to reschedule it if the incumbent steps down after the date of the ballot is announced (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2003). LF

Georgian Defense Ministry spokesman Aleksandre Mchedlishvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 13 June that military intelligence confirms the likelihood of an incursion into Georgian territory in July or August by Chechen gunmen, possibly commanded by Ruslan Gelaev, Caucasus Press reported. On 12 June, National Democratic Party leader Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia had warned of such an incursion, but National Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze commented later the same day that he was not aware of any such threat (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003). President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 14 June that when Gelaev and his men left Georgia last year they promised not to return, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

Ruslan Gelaev has issued a statement affirming that he has no intention of invading Georgia, the website of the independent Georgian television station Rustavi-2 and Caucasus Press reported on 13 and 14 June, respectively. Gelaev commented that the Georgian authorities have fallen prey to "anti-Chechen hysteria." LF

Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze denied on 13 June that the pro-presidential For a New Georgia election bloc that he heads intends to use budgetary funds and to draw on government resources, including national television, during its campaign for the 2 November parliamentary elections, Caucasus Press reported. Earlier that day, opposition New Rightists leader David Gamkrelidze told journalists that For a New Georgia is already drawing on budgetary funds and enjoys unfair advantages over the opposition. On 16 June, the daily "Akhali taoba" quoted a second leading member of the New Rightists, David Saganelidze, as likewise alleging that "the millions that have disappeared from the state budget" are being used to finance For a New Georgia's election campaign. LF

Nine members of the opposition youth movement Kmara (Enough!) said on 13 June they plan to sue police who allegedly intimidated and threatened them after detaining them the previous day as they were about to scrawl slogans on the walls of the Interior Ministry building, Caucasus Press reported. On 14 June, Kmara members denied any responsibility for having painted the slogan "Kmara!" on the walls of various buildings in Tbilisi, including the university and the Georgian National Bank, earlier that day, Caucasus Press reported. LF

Meeting in New York on 13 June with visiting Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed that it is imperative that those responsible for the 5 June abduction in the Kodori Gorge of three members of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) be apprehended and brought to trial, Caucasus Press reported. The kidnappers were surrounded by Georgian troops and released their hostages on 10 June after being granted free passage by Kodori Governor Emzar Kvitsiani (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 12 June 2003). Also on 13 June, Annan's special representative for Abkhazia, Heidi Tagliavini, said in Tbilisi that UNOMIG has suspended patrols of Kodori for an unspecified time period, Caucasus Press reported. LF

Two of the nine men who escaped in early April from a high-security prison in Sukhum have been recaptured, Caucasus Press reported on 16 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 2003). Both were sentenced to death for murder, one of them, Albert Tarba, for the September 1995 killing of historian and Abkhaz parliament deputy speaker Yurii Voronov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 2000). LF

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 14 June reappointed seven ministers from the previous government, reported. Two days after former Prime Minister Imanghaliy Tasmaghambetov submitted his government's resignation on 11 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2003), his successor, Daniyal Akhmetov, hinted that there would be little change in the ministerial line up (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003). The reappointed ministers are Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Ahmetjan Yesimov, Interior Minister Kairbek Suleimenov, Education and Science Minister Djaksybek Kulekeev, Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbaev, Environment Minister Aitkul Samakova, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Vladimir Shkolnik, and Economy and Budget Minister Kairat Kelimbetov. Nazarbaev also appointed Kairat Nurpeisov to the post of governor of Pavlodar Oblast, replacing Akhmetov. According to, Nurpeisov, a native of Pavlodar, briefly held the post earlier in his career. He has also served as deputy energy minister. BB

Kazakhstan has expelled four Kyrgyz citizens for allegedly preaching religious extremism to Muslims in Karaganda, reported on 14 June, citing Kazakhstan Today. The expulsions were ordered by a Karaganda Oblast court, where the four Kyrgyz, who were identified by Kazakh authorities as emissaries of the Tabligi dzhamaat movement, had been active. The four Kyrgyz also had allegedly been recruiting young people to study in religious schools in Iran and Pakistan. An oblast police spokesman was quoted as saying that several unregistered religious groups have appeared in the oblast recently. BB

During a lively discussion of a draft law on the Supreme Court and the local system in Kyrgyzstan on 14 June, members of the lower house of the Kyrgyz parliament called for more independence for the courts, reported, citing the independent publication "Obshchestvennyi reiting." In particular, parliamentarians objected to an article in the bill that would give the president the right to organize, reorganize, or dissolve raion courts and other courts at that level, saying that this would contravene the constitution. According to the report, deputies grilled the chairman of Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court on the present independence of the judicial branch and called attention to the executive branch's influence on court decisions. The bill also stipulates the creation of collegiums of judges to review the objectivity of court rulings and gives the Supreme Court the right to determine the size of its staff. Previously, this was determined by the president. BB

Lining a 1,300-meter canal in the southern Kyrgyz village of Kara-Bak with concrete has removed a source of friction between Kyrgyz and Tajiks living on the border of the two countries, reported on 15 June, citing the Tajik news agency Varorud. The repair work was financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation because local authorities lacked the necessary funds. Local NGOs on both sides of the border developed the project and presented it to the Swiss agency with the blessing of the local authorities. The work was carried out by local residents from both sides of the border. The story provides a good illustration of the benefits of cooperation between civil society and local authorities. BB

The unregistered Uzbek opposition party Erk held its first congress in 10 years in Tashkent on 14 June, reported on 15 June. Erk, the first opposition political party registered after Uzbekistan became independent, lost its registration, as did the Birlik Movement from which Erk originated, in 1993. Since then, its members have frequently been harassed by the authorities. Party founder Muhammad Salih, who now lives in exile abroad, has been implicated by the authorities in the February 1999 bombings in Tashkent, an accusation he vehemently denies. Some 30 members of the party's central committee participated in the congress, criticizing the authorities and promising to be more active in Uzbek politics. The party's leader inside Uzbekistan, Atonazar Arifov, called on party members to begin preparing for upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. Congress participants credited international pressure for making the gathering possible. At the last minute, the hotel where the congress was to have been held refused to accept the delegates and a new venue had to be found. BB

European Convention President Valerie Giscard d'Estaing announced in Brussels on 13 June that a compromise has been reached on the envisaged draft of a European constitution and that he will present the document at the European Council meeting in Thessaloniki later this month, RFE/RL reported. D'Estaing said the final form of the document will be worked out at an intergovernmental conference due to start in October and end in May 2004. Under the compromise formula, the current six-month EU Presidency would be replaced by a permanent president elected by the European Parliament for a 30-month term. The EU president would preside over summit meetings and represent the EU abroad. The EU would also have a permanent foreign minister under the draft's provisions -- a newly created post whose duties would include chairing monthly meetings of EU foreign ministers. The European Commission would also have 15 voting commissioners from 2009 -- doing away with the current system in which each member state is represented by a commissioner. Those countries not represented on the commission would have nonvoting "associate" commissioners. A principle of "equal rotation" on the commission would apply for all members. The unanimity principle would also be abandoned on some issues, including taxation and foreign policy, with voting taking population figures into account. Most attending representatives, however, said called the draft merely "a basis" for further discussion at the intergovernmental conference (see also Czech, Romanian, and Bulgarian items below). MS

Future issues of the suspended "Belarusskaya delovaya gazeta" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2003) will continue to be printed in the Russian city of Smolensk under the mastheads of other private publications, Belapan reported on 13 June, quoting Svyatlana Kalinkina, the newspaper's editor in chief. Following its suspension, "Belarusskaya delovaya gazeta" managed to print stories under the mastheads of three private newspapers, but Belarusian authorities have already suspended one of them, warned the second, and confiscated part of the print run of the third. "There are some 200 newspapers in Belarus that [are registered but] do not appear," "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" publisher Pyotr Martsau told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service. "We can publish [our materials under the mastheads of] all of them." JM

Premier Viktor Yanukovych said on 14 June that Ukraine is going to import grain this year and the government has already allocated funds for grain purchases, UNIAN reported. According to Yanukovych, bad weather has damaged some 60 percent of winter-crop grain areas in Ukraine. Agricultural Minister Serhiy Ryzhuk suggested the same day that Ukraine cancel duties on imports of some 2.5 million tons of grain in order to ensure a sufficient supply of grain in the country. As reported earlier, the government expects that Ukrainian farmers will harvest 25 million-27 million tons of grain this year, compared with nearly 39 million tons in 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2003). JM

Former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko has been released on bail pending a California court hearing scheduled for 18 August, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported on 14 June, quoting Lazarenko's lawyer. Lazarenko has been in a San Francisco jail since 1999 on charges of laundering $114 million through U.S. banks. JM

Defense Ministers Margus Hanson (Estonia). Girts Valdis Kristovskis (Latvia), Linas Linkevicius (Lithuania), and David Tevzadze (Georgia) on 13 June signed a cooperation plan for 2003-04 during a session of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in Brussels, BNS reported. The Baltic states pledged to advise and help Georgia in reforming its defense forces and bringing its military structures into line with NATO standards. They also agreed to assist Georgia in planning its defense policy, as well as in international relations, the NATO-integration process, developing democratic control over its armed forces, public relations, controlling crises, and legal and military-training issues. SG

Some 50 politicians from various states attended a conference in Riga on 14 June on EU enlargement and Latvia's role in the process, BNS and LETA reported. The conference was organized by the European Movement in Latvia (EML) and the Paris-based association of European capitals, Eurocapitales. EML leader Ainars Dimants opened the conference by asking for a minute of silence to honor the approximately 15,000 people who were deported from Latvia to Siberia by the Soviet authorities on 14 June 1941. Eurocapitales President Joachim Mueller-Borle pointed out the significance of boosting cooperation among Europe's capitals in developing peaceful, lawful, and associated relations in a united Europe. Riga City Council Deputy Chairman Aivars Kreituss noted that Riga has already established ties with numerous European cities and expressed his confidence that Latvia's 20 September referendum on EU membership will pass. SG

The election on 15 June for the four vacant seats in the 141-member Lithuanian parliament failed due to low voter turnout, Lithuanian radio reported the next day. There were 27 candidates from 12 political parties competing for three seats in Vilnius and one in Panevezys. President Rolandas Paksas and his advisers Dalia Kutraite and Alvydas Medalinskas gave up their parliament mandates in Vilnius following the presidential elections, as did Conservative Vitas Matuzas before being elected mayor of Panevezys. According to Lithuanian election law, voter turnout of at least 40 percent is required for elections to be considered valid. Only slightly more than 11 percent of eligible voters participated in the 15 June elections. Another round of by-elections will not be held; thus, parliament will continue to have 137 members until the next elections in the fall of 2004. The candidates who would have been elected, according to the results of the election, were former Liberal Union Chairman Eugenijus Gentvilas, Social Security and Labor Minister Vilija Blinkeviciute of the New Union (Social Liberals), and Conservatives Vilija Aleknaite-Abramikiene and Julius Dautartas. SG

The Sejm voted 236 to 213, with no abstentions, on 13 June to support Premier Leszek Miller's cabinet in a vote of confidence requested by Miller following the "yes" vote in Poland's EU referendum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003), Polish media reported. "I must admit frankly that I did not expect such support," Miller commented after the vote. "I had thought that perhaps we would have a majority of three or four votes." Miller added that he is not planning any changes in his cabinet. In addition to legislators from the ruling Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union bloc, Miller's cabinet was supported by 13 independent deputies, 13 lawmakers from two small farm groups, as well as one lawmaker each from the Peasant Party and Self-Defense. JM

The Polish Foreign Ministry said on 13 June that the date for the introduction of visas for citizens of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine has been shifted from 1 July to 1 October, PAP reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Boguslaw Majewski said Polish consular missions were prepared for the introduction of the visa regime for Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine on 1 July, as originally planned. He added, however, that the date was postponed due to the "interests of Polish citizens traveling to those states during the summer season and in consideration of postulates on the part of Poland's eastern neighbors." JM

The opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party is demanding that Poland hold a referendum on the text of any future European constitution, PAP reported on 15 June, quoting PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Kaczynski said such a referendum could be held together with elections to the European Parliament in June 2004. On 13 June, the European Convention adopted a draft constitution that ignores Poland's proposal for references to God and Christian values in the constitution's preamble. JM

More than 77 percent of Czechs endorsed EU accession in their country's 13-14 June referendum, CTK reported on 14 June. Less than 23 percent opposed EU membership. Turnout was 55.21 percent, although the relevant law did not require any minimum turnout in the referendum. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said on 14 June that the result is of "historic importance" and clearly shows that Czechs want to be part of the EU. The next day, Spidla told dpa that World War II "ripped the Czech Republic from Europe," while the referendum demonstrated that "this is now definitely past." Czech President Vaclav Klaus -- a self-described "Euro-realist" who aired his misgivings about EU membership on the eve of the referendum -- said he was not surprised at the results, but he added that "turnout could have been higher." Spidla's three-party government came to power on a pro-EU platform, and most local commentators suggest the "yes" vote provided him with much-needed political capital. MS

European Commission President Romano Prodi said the Czech referendum's results mark "a good day for Europe, [and] further proof that our peoples belong together." He added, "I warmly welcome the Czech people as a member of the European democratic family." Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said he has known ever since the 1968 Prague Spring that "there is not much anyone can teach the Czechs about freedom, democracy, and human rights," adding that the "entire EU will benefit" from the sensitivity Czechs have always shown toward issues such as the equal treatment of minorities, human rights, and good relations with neighboring countries. The European Commission issued a statement, saying it is grateful "to the Czech citizens for their unambiguous support." Foreign heads of state and government -- including of Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Germany, and Austria -- expressed satisfaction at the referendum's outcome, CTK reported. MS

In an interview with the daily "Pravo" of 14 June, Prime Minister Spidla said he will submit his and the entire cabinet's resignation if parliament rejects its proposed public-finance reforms, CTK reported. Spidla said he is aware that trade unions are planning to protest his cabinet's mix of budget cuts and tax hikes on 19 June, but added that it is the government's duty to see the reforms through. "The reform is simply necessary," Spidla said. "We currently have a debt of 440 billion crowns ($16.6 billion), and we pay 25 billion crowns to service the [state] debt. If we do not carry out the reform, the debt in 2006 will amount to 1.3 trillion crowns." The coalition's program envisages 200 billion crowns in reduced spending within the next three years along with 70 billion crowns in extra revenues. MS

Speaking after casting his ballot in the EU referendum on 13 June, former Premier Milos Zeman said he hopes Czech citizens do not view the referendum as a vote of confidence in Spidla's cabinet, CTK reported. Such a view would lead them to vote "no," said Zeman, whose presidential ambitions were thwarted by party colleague Spidla early this year. Zeman accused the government of conducting a pro-EU campaign that was "stupid" and amounted to "brainwashing." "Commercials for washing powder are a marvel of brilliance compared to [the government's media campaign]," Zeman added. He also denied rumors that he plans a return to politics, saying he declined suggestions that he run for a seat in the Senate or in the European Parliament. MS

Jan Kohout, who represented the Czech government at the European Convention, said in Brussels on 13 June that the compromise reached on a future European constitution (see item above) is a "good basis" for future work on the final form of the document, CTK reported. Kohout said the "maximum compromise" possible under the current circumstances has been reached, adding, "Everyone has had to sacrifice something, everyone is consequently hurt by something, and the result is balanced, on the whole." He said that 90-95 percent of the proposed draft is acceptable to the Czech government, but the rest are issues about which Prague has reservations and intends to reopen debate. All those outstanding issues pertain to institutional arrangements that favor larger members, he said, adding that the Czech position is supported by 15-16 other EU member states. A Czech opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) representative to the convention, ODS shadow foreign minister Jan Zahradil, walked out of the convention last week to protest the draft. MS

Politicians from the Czech Republic and Germany attended a 14 June ceremony in Lidice, near Prague, marking that town's destruction by the Nazis on 10 June 1942 in retaliation for the assassination of SS police chief Reinhard Heydrich by Czech partisans, CTK and dpa reported. Culture Minister Pavel Dostal said at the commemoration that "hidden intolerance" was the foundation on which Nazi mass murders were built, adding that it is the duty of citizens today to fight xenophobia and racism and to promote mutual tolerance. "To say 'mind your own business' is no longer possible. Those who [stood by] and watched the Nazis later suffered, as well," he said. The ceremony was also attended by Bundestag deputy speaker Antje Vollmer and Premier Spidla. In his speech, Chamber of Deputies deputy speaker Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democratic Party) struck a dissonant note, warning against the lobbying activities in the Czech Republic of the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft and praising the postwar Benes Decrees that expelled the German minority and confiscated its assets. In related news, ODS shadow foreign minister Zahradil said on Czech Television on 15 June that after the Czech Republic's EU accession, the Sudeten Germans are planning to initiate thousands of lawsuits against the Benes Decrees at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. MS

President Rudolf Schuster, marking the fourth anniversary of his inauguration as head of state, told journalists on 13 June that he considers the main achievements of his term to be Slovakia's admission to NATO and the country's expected EU membership, improving relations with Russia, China, and Central Asian and Arab countries, and contributing to stable relations within the ruling coalition and between it and the opposition, TASR and CTK reported. Schuster said all those achievements were among the promises he made before his 1999 election. He added that he has not decided whether to seek a second term, and will have to do so by January or February 2004. Schuster's term ends in 2004. MS

Three-time former Premier Vladimir Meciar was re-elected on 14 June to a two-year term as chairman of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), which at the same conference changed its name to the People's Party-Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (LS-HZDS), TASR and CTK reported. A small group of HZDS deputies broke away from the party and formed a parliamentary group called the People's Union in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 March 2003). Jan Kovarcik, Viliam Veteska, Anton Blajsko, and Milan Urbani were elected deputy chairmen. Veteska is to head the LS-HZDS lists in the next general elections, while Sergej Kozlik will head the party's list in the 2004 elections to the European Parliament. A shadow cabinet headed by Tibor Mikus will also be formed. The LS-HZDS conference was attended by former Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) Director Ivan Lexa, who is facing trial on charges that include fraud, abuse of office, and having commissioned the murder of a policeman. Lexa was greeted with applause by the forum. Meciar told delegates that he intends to submit a proposal on the creation of a bicameral parliament in Slovakia. He said the lower house would comprise 120 deputies and the upper house 30 senators. Meciar also wants to establish the post of Slovak vice president, who would simultaneously chair the Senate. He also said the presidential veto should be abolished. MS

The opposition Smer (Direction) party will support an abortion amendment proposed by the junior coalition Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) but opposed by the other three governing parties, Smer Chairman Robert Fico said in a debate on Slovak radio, according to a 14 June TASR report. The proposed amendment, which has been approved by parliament in its first reading, has engendered serious friction in the ruling coalition, whose other members accuse ANO of violating the coalition agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 29 April, 20 and 22 May, and 10 June 2003). ANO Chairman Pavol Rusko said during the same debate that his party does not wish to remain in the coalition at any cost. Rusko said that whether or not the coalition survives depends on the amendment's staunchest opponent, the Christian Democratic Movement. MS

Smer Chairman Fico told journalists on 13 June that his party is proposing early parliamentary elections for 2004, to be held along with elections to the European Parliament, TASR reported. Fico said Premier Mikulas Dzurinda's 8-month-old cabinet is becoming "increasingly unacceptable" to the Slovak electorate. Deputies representing parties from the ruling coalition rejected the proposal, as did those from opposition parties. ANO Deputy Chairman Jirko Malcharek called it "one more Fico populist move." HZDS Deputy Chairman Sergej Kozlik said that although the cabinet deserves to be dismissed immediately, "[parliamentary] arithmetic prevents that." He added that the demand for its ouster is "populist." In related news, a group of Smer deputies headed by Fico officially moved a motion in parliament on 13 June to dismiss Deputy Premier Pal Csaky and Finance Minister Ivan Miklos for incompetence and mistakes in their work, TASR reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2003). The motion is also supported by legislators from the People's Union and the Communist Party of Slovakia. MS

Vitazoslav Moric, a former chairman of the extremist Slovak National Party, has been charged with illegal arms trafficking, TASR reported on 13 June. Interior Minister Vladimir Palko told journalists that the case dates back to 1998, when Slovak company Armex, where Moric was general director, allegedly attempted to sell airport equipment to North Korea. Palko said Armex concluded an agreement with the Chonma Trading Corporation of Pyongyang to deliver the equipment and intended to purchase it from Ukraine without disclosing to the Ukrainian producer that the equipment's final destination was North Korea. After the equipment arrived in Slovakia, Armex allegedly declared it to be civilian equipment and attempted to re-export it to Pyongyang. Two other individuals are facing similar charges, according to TASR, including former Defense Ministry official Michal Dzimko, who allegedly issued Armex a certificate attesting that the equipment was purchased for the Slovak Air Force despite being aware of its final destination. Speaking on TV Markiza on 12 June, Moric denied the allegations. MS

Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy told reporters in Paris on 14 June that a confrontation between "old and new Europe" makes no sense, as the emphasis on quality of life and the reliance on tradition are common features of European countries, Hungarian television reported. Medgyessy said the 10 EU invitees possess cultural, historical, and intellectual traditions, while the stormy changes of the past 15 years demonstrate that they are also adaptable and flexible. Medgyessy met with former French Socialist Prime Minister and National Assembly Speaker Laurent Fabius on 13 June and agreed that one of the biggest challenges for the modern left wing is coordinating social justice and economic efficiency within the framework of an expanded European Union. MSZ

Laszlo Kovacs, accompanied by EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, visited Israel on 14-15 June as a representative of the 10 EU candidate countries, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 16 June. Kovacs said that once inside the EU, Hungary will continue to pursue its current balanced policy in the Middle East. In talks with President Moshe Katsav, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Foreign Minister Kovacs pledged that Premier Medgyessy's government will see to it that Hungary is among those countries where anti-Semitism is not tolerated. Kovacs said a recent incident at a Budapest soccer game, in which fans shouted anti-Semitic slurs and beat up Ferencvaros players, has prompted the cabinet to tighten laws and ensure that police take more effective action to combat such activities. MSZ

Miklos Patrubany, chairman of the World Federation of Hungarians (MVSZ), strongly criticized the Hungarian government on 13 June, saying its policies do not protect the interests of ethnic Hungarians abroad, the Romanian Mediafax agency reported on 15 June. Speaking in the Romanian town of Targu-Secuiesc, Patrubany said the Medgyessy government "has castrated" the Hungarian Status Law and has totally disregarded amendments to the law submitted by the MVSZ. The 20,000 forints ($90) in educational support offered to ethnic Hungarian families with one child are merely alms, Patrubany said, adding that Hungarians abroad need concrete support. "One should not think that only in Bucharest there is Balkanism in politics, but [it also exists] in Budapest," he concluded. MSZ

Speaking in Vienna on 14 June, Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Balkan Stability Pact, said the countries of the western Balkans should not have excessively high expectations of what the 20-21 June EU Thessaloniki summit might mean for their hopes for European integration, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 May and 13 June 2003). Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis said after talks with Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel that he believes 2008 or 2009 is the earliest realistic date for Croatia to join the EU. Zagreb hopes to join in 2007 and recently did Brussels' bidding by refusing to sign a bilateral extradition-immunity agreement with the United States prohibiting the handover of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003). PM

Unnamed U.S. officials said in Washington on 13 June that the Serbian authorities' recent arrest of indicted war criminal Major Veselin Sljivancanin makes it likely that Secretary of State Colin Powell will decide soon to maintain current levels of aid to Belgrade, Reuters reported. Powell must report to Congress in the coming days over whether to certify Serbia and Montenegro as cooperating with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal or to suspend aid, which is valued at $110 million for all of 2003. In Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said he expects the United States to grant certification, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Serbia and Montenegro's President Svetozar Marovic said Serbia is "on the road to European integration" and must now arrest indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic and reach a solution of the Kosova question (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 June 2003). PM

Defense Minister Boris Tadic said in Presevo on 15 June that his government will soon formally apply for membership in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, adding that "a negative response [by the Atlantic alliance] would contribute to a crisis in the region," dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 27 May 2003). He noted that "of all European countries, only Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia were left out" of the Euro-Atlantic integration process. He suggested that Belgrade will withdraw its Milosevic-era lawsuit with the war crimes tribunal against top NATO leaders only if Bosnia and Croatia withdraw their suits against Belgrade. Tadic recently said it was wrong of NATO to bomb Serbia and of Bulgaria to grant NATO aircraft overflight rights (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 May and 13 June 2003). PM

Following a meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic in Belgrade on 13 June, Michael Steiner, who is the outgoing head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), said that talks between Belgrade and Prishtina on "matters of mutual interest" such as refugee returns, trade, and energy could begin in the near future, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 June 2003). Steiner added that the talks will not deal with the future status of Kosova, which, he stressed, is "open." Zivkovic said that "when it comes to the place for the meeting, we suggested Belgrade but do not mind if it is held in Brussels." The following day, the nationalist Movement for Kosovo and Metohija demanded at its Belgrade convention that two "national governments" be set up in the province, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

About 1,500 fans gathered in Belgrade on 14 June to demand the release from prison of "turbo-folk" star Svetlana Raznatovic "Ceca," who is awaiting trial on corruption charges. One year ago, about 100,000 people attended Ceca's concert in the Serbian capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2002 and 10 June 2003). PM

Serbia and Montenegro's water-polo team defeated its Croatian counterpart 9-8 in Kranj, Slovenia, on 15 June to win the European championship, international and regional media reported. Following their team's defeat, an unspecified number of angry Croatian fans clashed with Slovenian police, who detained 19 rowdies. The fans threw bottles and broken seats into the pool despite appeals from their team for them to stop. After footage of the incident was shown on Serbian television, about 1,000 fans of Serbia and Montenegro's team marched on the Croatian Embassy in Belgrade, throwing stones at it. Two youths climbed onto the embassy balcony, pulling down the Croatian coat-of-arms and flag and hoisting the Serbian flag. Police arrived on the scene but did not break up the crowd, which dispersed later. Meanwhile in Novi Sad, an unspecified number of rowdies attacked a McDonald's restaurant and other shops, "destroying" the restaurant," dpa reported. Some 40 people were injured, one critically. Crowds in both Belgrade and Novi Sad burned Croatian flags and chanted the names of several Serbian indicted war criminals. PM

Following the water-polo match in Kranj on 15 June, Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan sent a telegram to the Croatian team saying: "You represented our country fabulously, unlike our fans, who disgraced Croatia during the final game and deserve condemnation," dpa reported. The Croatian Foreign Ministry summoned Belgrade's ambassador to receive a tough protest note regarding the embassy incident, and Foreign Minister Tonino Picula postponed a planned visit to Montenegro set for 16 June, Reuters reported. In Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro's Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandra Joksimovic condemned unspecified "acts of vandalism." Belgrade authorities are bracing for possible renewed acts of violence later on 16 June, when the victorious water-polo team returns to the Serbian capital. Rowdiness is nothing new in the sports cultures of either Serbia or Croatia. PM

The small ethnic Albanian National Democratic Party (PDK) will merge with the Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), which is the ethnic Albanian junior coalition partner in the Social Democratic-led government, Macedonian media reported on 16 June. With the merger that is to be finalized on 20 June, PDK Chairman Kastriot Haxhirexha will become deputy chairman of the BDI, PDK Secretary-General Xhevad Ademi announced on 15 June. Asked about the ideological differences between the BDI and the PDK, Ademi said, "Together we decided that the implementation of the [August 2001] Ohrid peace agreement has priority, and that everything else is irrelevant." The PDK has long opposed the peace accord and promoted the division of Macedonia into ethnic Albanian and ethnic Macedonian federal entities (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 April 2003). Elsewhere, a spokesman of the tiny "real" VMRO (VMRO-VMRO) said on 14 June that the time has come for the party members to return to their former party, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), "Dnevnik" reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 May 2003). UB

SFOR troops on 15 June found a large arms cache near Han Pijesak, which was a major Bosnian Serb base during the 1992-95 war, dpa reported. The hoard includes an unspecified quantity of mortars, other military equipment, and mines. PM

Presidential Counselor Octavian Stireanu told journalists on 13 June after a meeting between President Ion Iliescu and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase that the premier briefed the president on the streamlining of the cabinet, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Stireanu said the number of ministries will be reduced from the current 23 to 14. Premier Nastase, addressing an economic forum of international and local businessmen the next day in Snagov, near Bucharest, said streamlining is necessary to apply EU standards pertaining to the executive branch and to improve the cabinet's efficiency. Mediafax reported that at least five ministries are to be turned into government agencies. On 15 June, the news agency reported that the Humanist Party is threatening to leave the coalition if the Ministry for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises is abolished and transformed into a department in the Economy Ministry. Nastase said on 15 June that the cabinet's streamlining will begin on 16 June and that the restructured cabinet will include several new ministers, some of them coming from private business sector. MS

Following the National Liberal Party's example (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2003), the Democratic Party announced on 13 June that it will not support in parliament the amendments to the Romanian Constitution proposed by the ad hoc commission of which the Democrats were members unless the amendments proposed by the Democrats that were turned down by the commission are approved, Mediafax reported. MS

The Jerusalem-based Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority on 15 June criticized a statement by the Romanian government in which it said last week there was "no Holocaust on Romanian territory," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003). The leading Israeli expert on the Romanian Holocaust, Jean Ancel (who recently published an extensive two-volume study on this topic), said that of the 760,000 Jews who once lived on Romanian-controlled territories during World War II, 420,000 were killed. Documents discovered by Ancel show that the Romanian government was directly involved in the extermination. "Romania was the only ally of Germany that had its own plans of destruction and used its own army to exterminate Jews," he said, charging that some of the crimes were even more savage and more barbaric than those committed by the Nazis. MS

Following the 13 June parliament session, Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev expressed his pleasure in seeing that all parliamentary parties, including the opposition, have acknowledged the cabinet's performance in ensuring economic growth, Infotag reported. Tarlev spoke to journalists after presenting to parliament a report on the government's performance in 2002. He said the country's GDP rose 7.2 percent over 2001, and that "team-like cooperation" among the various branches of government has made it possible to improve living standards and to defy "the pseudo-patriots' predictions" that Moldova would default on its international debts. Tarlev said wage arrears from 2001 have been paid and that the average monthly salary rose in 2002 compared to 2001 by 27.3 percent, pensions by 18 percent, and scholarships paid to students by 20 percent. The corporate-income-tax rate, he said, was cut to 22 percent from 25 percent, and as a result industrial output grew by 14 percent and exports by 21.3 percent over 2001. MS

Speaking at the debate in parliament on the cabinet's 2002 performance, Braghis Alliance deputy Valeriu Cosarciuc said the 2002 economic growth the cabinet credits itself with is a result of economic reforms undertaken by previous governments, Flux reported. He said the cabinet's populist measures have rendered "illusionist positive results" and that the economy shows "dangerous trends of a growing internal and external debt and an acute lack of investment." Popular Party Christian Democratic deputy Eugen Garla said the cabinet is not "even close to fulfilling its promises." He said the government should resign in view of the freeze in relations with international lending organizations, which was generated by its having halted reforms and privatization efforts. MS

Agriculture Minister Dimitrii Todoroglo said on 13 June that as a result of this year's harsh winter and spring droughts, Moldova "finds itself in a difficult situation" and might be forced to import wheat, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Todoroglo said that while in 2001 Moldova exported 357,000 tons of wheat, this year it might have to import some 300,000 tons for domestic consumption. On 14 June, Flux reported that President Vladimir Voronin is proposing that a government commission headed by Premier Tarlev be set up to coordinate purchases of foreign wheat. MS

Jan Marinius Wiersma, co-chairman of the EU-Moldova Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, said on 13 June that the EU delegation was "disappointed" in the Tiraspol's authorities for their refusal to receive members of the delegation, Infotag reported. Wiersma said that in accordance with a previous agreement the delegation traveled to Tiraspol, but was not received by any member of the separatist administration. He said the incident might simply be due to an "organizational slip," but added that he does not rule out that the authorities in Tiraspol chose this manner to react to the travel ban the EU and the United States imposed on 17 separatist leaders. "Tiraspol has lost a good chance to discuss its problems with us," Wiersma said. "It has closed an important channel of communication with the European Parliament." MS

An annex to the compromise document agreed at the European Convention mentions Bulgaria and Romania's possible future membership of the EU, Romanian Radio reported on 13 June. The annex stipulates that if Bulgaria and Romania join the EU before institutional changes envisaged for 2009, they will have 17 and 33 deputies in the European Parliament, respectively. Both countries hope to join the EU by 2007. MS

Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi told the private Radio NET on 14 June that the government does not intend for the time being to sign a bilateral extradition-immunity agreement with the United States that would exempt U.S. citizens from being handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC), reported. While Pasi described Bulgaria's position as similar to that of the EU, he did not rule out that the country might eventually sign such an agreement. Pasi suggested that the 12 June decision by the UN Security Council to extend the immunity of UN peacekeepers by one year will give the United States and the EU enough time to agree on a legal framework that is acceptable to both sides. UB

A Sofia district prosecutor has ordered an investigation into media reports about the alleged double citizenship of Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, "Dnevnik" reported on 15 June. Prosecutor Petar Chalamov ordered an investigation of unidentified perpetrators who allegedly "carried out unseemly actions that severely disturbed public order with extreme impudence and cynicism." In early June, media reports alleged that Saxecoburggotski holds Spanish citizenship, which would make his election as prime minister illegitimate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2003). Human rights activists have expressed doubt that the media can be prosecuted under the law that was invoked for the investigation, as that law is intended to prosecute people on hooliganism charges. Chalamov's decision is based on a 1974 Supreme Court interpretation that individuals who speak out against the government or the authorities can be prosecuted for hooliganism. UB

In the Turkmen capital Ashgabat, officials from the foreign ministries of Russia and Turkmenistan met in early June in a futile attempt to resolve a dispute, verging on a crisis, about how to phase out their countries' 1993 dual-citizenship agreement. The 22 June deadline set unilaterally by Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov -- the date by which holders of dual citizenship residing in Turkmenistan must decide which passport they want to retain -- is approaching fast, accompanied by reports of panic among the country's Russian population.

As a measure of the distance dividing the two sides, they not only disagreed about whether a crisis was looming, but whether their negotiations to avert it had been successful or not, with Russia calling the talks a failure and Turkmenistan saying they were a step in the right direction.

Niyazov and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to revoke the dual-citizenship agreement on 10 April, when the two leaders met in Moscow to sign a major gas deal. Niyazov subsequently issued a decree on 21 April abruptly ordering holders of Turkmen-Russian dual citizenship to renounce one or the other within two months. A political scandal ensued in Russia, with accusations flying that Putin had sold out Turkmenistan's ethnic Russians in a "gas-for-people deal."

At the end of April, the Russian Foreign Ministry publicly slammed Ashgabat for unilaterally terminating the bilateral treaty on dual citizenship and thus violating a purported understanding between Niyazov and Putin that dual citizenship will be phased out over time. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko told journalists on 4 June that Turkmenistan acted "against the provisions and procedures stipulated by the protocol [signed by the presidents in April]," Interfax reported. Therefore, Yakovenko said, the agreement on dual citizenship is still in effect as far as the Russian Federation is concerned. (The Russian Duma, or lower chamber of parliament, has not yet ratified the protocol on revoking dual citizenship with Turkmenistan. Turkmen lawmakers ratified it promptly in April.) Yakovenko also emphasized that the protocol "has no retroactive force," meaning that people who already have dual citizenship cannot be stripped of it, as Ashgabat is intending to do. Finally, the spokesman promised that Moscow is taking active measures through diplomatic channels to ensure that the rights and interests of its compatriots in Turkmenistan are not being infringed.

The Russian Foreign Ministry then dispatched a delegation to Ashgabat, led by Director of the Consular Service Department Vladimir Kotenev, to try to hash out a solution on 6-7 June. Turkmen officials made their negotiating position clear with a 6 June press statement from the Foreign Ministry that reaffirmed the country's withdrawal from the dual-citizenship agreement as "logical and legitimate." On the first day of talks, the Russian side strove to convince the Turkmen that their action contravened the norms of international law, ITAR-TASS reported. The Turkmen side responded with assurances that the rights of Russian citizens in the country would not be infringed, and that deportations or a mass exodus of Russian citizens from Turkmenistan were "out of the question." Yet the second day of talks brought no breakthrough. In lieu of any progress to report, the two sides announced they had agreed to the Turkmen initiative to set up an intergovernmental commission to address the citizenship issue. But Kotenev admitted in a press conference that he did not know if the proposed commission would even be in place by the 22 June deadline, AP reported. The proposal "should be studied carefully, and only then can its activity be scheduled," he said. Russian sources duly described the discussions as a failure. Turkmen sources, however, were upbeat and touted the commission as a positive outcome.

Further evidence that Ashgabat is not taking Moscow's concerns terribly seriously came in a statement from its Foreign Ministry on 8 June. Implying that the whole affair is a tempest in a teacup, the statement maintained that termination of the dual-citizenship treaty only affects 47 people; Moscow says there are over 100,000 Turkmen-Russian dual citizens. Ashgabat also asserted in its statement that many people, some of them criminals, have illegally obtained Russian passports.

Meanwhile, as of 23 June, all residents of Turkmenistan entering Russia will require Russian entry visas. Consequently, in order to provide a measure of protection to Russian passport holders in Turkmenistan, the embassy in Ashgabat began issuing them entry visas last week.

Among the most acerbic Russian critics of Turkmenistan's new policy toward their compatriots is Dmitrii Rogozin, the head of the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee. On 23 May, Rogozin, as quoted by ITAR-TASS, said that parliament members will look into "serious and very alarming information showing that preparations for a large-scale deportation of Russians are under way in Turkmenistan," and then he threw in for good measure, "and that the Turkmen administration had direct ties to the Taliban." Russian media and some Russian political figures have been investigating the relationship between Turkmenistan and the Taliban, as well as persistent rumors that Niyazov is involved in the international drug trade, prompting a response from Ashgabat in late May: "The Foreign Ministry of Turkmenistan is protesting the slanderous attacks against Turkmenistan circulated through the Russian media and reserves the right to act in keeping with international law," the ministry said in a statement. Despite the threat, however, Ashgabat has never specified what action it is contemplating.

On 2 June, Interfax reported that the Duma is planning to schedule a discussion on relations with Turkmenistan and focusing on alleged human rights violations there, particularly in regard to ethnic Russians. Rogozin also suggested that the Duma Council hold parliamentary hearings on 24 June devoted to Russia's foreign policy in Central Asia. Moreover, representatives of the Turkmen opposition will be invited to attend the hearings. To explain his committee's concerns about the situation in Turkmenistan, Rogozin met with members of the Turkmen opposition in exile in Russia on 9 June. Rogozin told the exiles he is concerned that the revocation of dual Turkmen-Russian citizenship means that Russia must prepare for a large influx of refugees or deportees from Turkmenistan. He said his committee is also concerned about the overall state of human rights in Turkmenistan, and possible threats to Russian national security that might originate in Central Asia, such as drug trafficking via Turkmenistan. Meanwhile, oppositionists in exile founded the Republican Party of Turkmenistan on 29 May.

Given that Moscow has never shown much interest in Turkmenistan's domestic goings-on before, a fundamental question about Rogozin's actions is whether he is just a rogue parliamentarian with a conscience or whether he is signaling a shift in government policy toward Ashgabat.

A British investigation into mobile laboratories found in northern Iraq has concluded that the laboratories were not used to produce germ-warfare agents, as U.S. officials have suggested, "The Observer" of London reported on 15 June. Biological-weapons experts working for the British government say the labs were apparently used to produce hydrogen to fill artillery balloons, as the Iraqi government had long claimed. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has used the discovery of the alleged mobile labs to support his argument -- including in recent weeks -- that President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and that the war in Iraq was justified. KR

U.S. forces launched Operation Desert Scorpion on 15 June "in order to isolate and defeat remaining pockets of resistance seeking to delay the transition to a peaceful and stable Iraq," U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced in a press release posted on its website the same day ( The operation follows Operation Peninsula Strike, launched on 9 June (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 12 June 2003), and is "designed to identify and defeat selected Ba'ath Party loyalists, terrorist organizations, and criminal elements while delivering humanitarian aid simultaneously," the press release states. "Combat operations will be followed by synchronized stability and humanitarian operations designed to assist a transition to Iraqi self-rule. These include engineer and civil affairs initiatives to repair damaged infrastructure, support the growth of police forces and local government and improve the lives of Iraq's citizens," according to CENTCOM. KR

A four-day raid by U.S. forces from the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Squadron, 7th Calvary Regiment, was concluded on 12 June, according to a CENTCOM press release. Operation Peninsula Strike resulted in the capture of some 400 detainees and the seizure of "numerous weapons systems and ammunition," CENTCOM added. All but 30 of the detainees were subsequently released. In addition, two former Iraqi generals turned themselves in to coalition forces during those raids: Major General Abul Ali Jasmin, secretary of the Defense Ministry; and Brigadier General Abdullah Ali Jasmin, head of the Iraqi Military Academy. Both remain in coalition custody and are being questioned. CENTCOM also announced the capture of an Iraqi on CENTCOM's 55 most-wanted list: Hamid Raja Shalah al-Tikriti served as commander of the Iraqi Air Force and was 17th on the list. KR

An Iraqi detained at the Abu Ghurayb prison complex was killed when he and seven others sought to escape on 13 June, CENTCOM announced in a 14 June press release on its website. All seven of the other escapees were injured in the incident, two critically. According to CENTCOM, coalition military-police guards fired several shots "in self-defense" and in an effort to prevent the escape attempt. "Detainees throwing rocks and brandishing shanks [sic] rushed the guards," the press release states. One guard was slightly injured. The escape attempt was the second in as many days. Two prisoners attempted to escape detention at Baghdad International Airport on 12 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003). Abu Ghurayb is located in western Baghdad, just north of the city's major airport. KR

The remains of a second Kuwaiti prisoner of war (POW) have been verified through DNA testing, KUNA reported on 14 June. Ahmad Abdullah Abderasoul al-Qallaf's remains were found in a mass grave in Al-Samawah, located in southeast Iraq along the Euphrates River. Al-Qallaf, a Defense Ministry officer, was captured on 4 November 1990, according to KUNA. The remains of Kuwaiti POW Sa'd Mishal Aswad Al-Enizi, found in the same grave, were confirmed on 8 June. Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Shaykh Muhammad al-Khalid al-Sabah told reporters in early June that evidence indicates that Kuwaiti POWs were buried in the mass grave. He added that leads also suggest Kuwaitis were buried in Al-Habbaniyah, located west of Baghdad, but cautioned that the matter is under investigation, KUNA reported. KR

The eldest daughter of deposed President Hussein told London's "The Sunday Times" in an interview published on 15 June that "I know he survived the war." Raghad Hussein said the last time she spoke with her father was five days prior to the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom on 20 March. "He was in good spirits. I know he survived the war," she is quoted as saying. "But once Baghdad fell it was all so quick, all the family went our own ways." Regarding Hussein and his two sons, Uday and Qusay, she said, "I am not in touch with any of them." Raghad is the wife of the late Husayn Kamil al-Majid, who was assassinated by the Hussein regime after he and his brother and their families defected to Jordan in 1995, only to be lured back to Iraq by Hussein on promises of amnesty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003). Raghad denied recent press reports that indicated she and her sister Rana and their children are seeking asylum in the United Kingdom, saying, "Politically, it is impossible." According to "The Sunday Times," the two daughters might now be seeking asylum in the United Arab Emirates. "All I want is to be able to live peacefully with no fear and nobody asking us any awkward questions. We have been through a lot and now we just want peace," she said. KR

U.S. Army's Psychological Operations personnel are stepping up attempts to persuade Iraqi scientists to come forward with information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, or in some cases to turn themselves in, AP reported on 15 June. The news agency reported that Baghdad-based Information Radio, an AM radio station the news agency says is operated by U.S. Army personnel, is broadcasting the appeal, in which a female announcer says: "It's time to leave your hideouts.... If you come voluntarily and give information about weapons of mass destruction and their launch vehicles, the United States will do its best to give you a just trial in accordance with the law." Information Radio operates from a portable radio transmitter that was carried into Iraq by U.S. forces during the invasion of Baghdad. According to AP, the station has made similar appeals over the past two and a half months. Another frequently broadcast message calls on Iraqis to turn in people that they know were involved in Iraq's alleged WMD programs. KR

Demonstrations that began in Tehran on 10 June continued over the weekend. Arrests were made after protests were held across the street from Tehran University on the night of 13-14 June, state radio reported on 14 June. State television reported that approximately 100 people gathered near Tehran University that night, chanted anti-regime slogans, blocked roads, and damaged parked automobiles, state television reported on 14 June. That same evening, police entered a dormitory at Shahid Beheshti University and detained two students, the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported on 14 June, and there were clashes at Allameh Tabatabai University. Another demonstration took place at Allameh Tabatabai later that day, according to ILNA, and there was a gathering at Khajeh Nasir Tusi University. BS

Clashes took place at Shahid Chamran Boulevard in Shiraz on the night of 13-14 June, after a gathering celebrating a soccer match succumbed to agitation by what ISNA termed "opponents of the Iranian political system." Shiraz Governor Heidar Iskandarpur said police vehicles, the municipal nursery, an art gallery, several stores, and some traffic lights sustained damage, according to ISNA on 14 June. One hundred people were arrested and those who caused damage will have to pay compensation, he said. Four members of the law enforcement forces were seriously injured, and in what Iskandarpur described as an unrelated case, a man was killed. "Naturally, foreign media played a part in these gatherings," Iskandarpur claimed. "They provoke the people." Sporadic demonstrations occurred in Shiraz in the evening of 14-15 June, IRNA reported on 15 June. The Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran (SMCCDI) reported on the same day that three Shirazis -- Farid Ghahremani, Parviz Ghahremani, and Gheysar Barani -- were arrested in the evening of 12 June after 14-year-old Reza Keshavarz falsely confessed under pressure that these individuals are "pro-American." BS

A rally took place in the Kianpars neighborhood of the southern city of Ahvaz at about 10 p.m. local time on 13 June, ISNA reported. The participants of the rally, most of whom are youths, said they were supporting student protests elsewhere. Members of the Ansar-i Hizbullah pressure group confronted the demonstrators, the police and security forces had to intervene, and the police arrested some people. BS

Clashes near Isfahan's Chaharbagh Avenue and Isfahan University began at 10 p.m. local time on 13 June and continued the next day. Presumed Ansar-i Hizbullah members equipped with batons and radios clashed with demonstrators and police, ISNA reported on 14 June. Demonstrators blocked streets and clashed with police the next day, IRNA reported on 15 June. BS

Hard-line vigilantes -- the Ansar-i Hizbullah -- allegedly are responsible for much of the recent violence in Tehran and other cities. Tehran Prosecutor-General Said Mortazavi issued a warrant for Hizbullah associate Said Asghar and several of his companions, Fars News Agency reported on 14 June. The students, for their part, reportedly detained several of the hard-line vigilantes. According to the Amir Kabir University website ( on 12 June, they intend to hold the vigilantes until their fellow students are released. The detainees were identified as police Sergeants Ahmad Saidi and Sadeq Zahedifar, driver Reza Ruzbehani, cobbler Siavash Kazemzadeh, and fruit seller Ali Noruzi, according to ISNA on 13 June. Three other Ansar-i Hizbullah members who were detained by the students were identified as Majid Bijanlu, Mehdi Farshbaf, and Abdullah Osareh, according to the newspaper "Toseh" on 14 June. ILNA reported that students are holding 14 Hizbullah members, the "Financial Times" reported on 14 June. BS

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi referred to U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher's recent comments about demonstrations in Iran (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003) as interference in Iranian affairs, IRNA reported on 14 June. He added that the U.S. is selective: "They regard massive demonstrations in Western countries and America itself as the result of democracy but they cite limited demonstrations in Tehran as being for democracy." BS

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said in a 15 June press release that the International Crisis Group (ICG) was "uninformed or ill-informed" on some issues it raised in its recent report entitled "Afghanistan's Flawed Constitutional Process" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003). According to de Almeida e Silva, if ICG researchers had consulted with UNAMA or the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), some of the flaws he claims are in the report, including "serious factual errors" and recommendations that have been or are being acted upon, could have been avoided. When asked to specify what factual errors the report contained, de Almeida e Silva said it asserts that funding is scarce for public education and the public consultation process regarding the draft constitution, but in reality there is close to $2 million in funding for such programs. AT

Several members of the CRC have rejected the ICG report, calling it baseless, the BBC reported on 15 June. The CRC also rejected the report's recommendation that the Constitutional Loya Jirga slated for October be cancelled, thus allowing more time for a more representative gathering. In his 15 June press release, UNAMA spokesman de Almeida e Silva rejected the report's assertion that sufficient time has not been allocated for public discussion on the new constitution and that the constitutional-drafting process has not been transparent. The draft of the new constitution has yet to be made public and the consultation process has been conducted mostly with select groups. Some critics charge that the CRC and its backers are arguably more interested in meeting deadlines than in ensuring that the new Afghan constitution reflects the wishes of the majority of Afghans (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 January and 3 April 2003). AT

In a meeting on 14 June that was intended to gather the opinions of Herat Province residents, more than 60 representatives said the new constitution of Afghanistan should be based on Islamic principles, "Erada" reported on 15 June. According to the report, numerous graffiti around the city also has called for a constitution based on Islamic principles. It is not clear if calls to base the future constitution on Islamic principles can be inferred as calls to make Islam the official religion of Afghanistan, as was the case in most earlier Afghan constitutions, or to make Islamic jurisprudence the law of Afghanistan. AT

Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad has said that Kandahar Province officials found Pakistan ID cards in the pockets of 40 people who were killed in clashes in Spin Boldak on 4 June, Hindukosh news agency reported on 15 June. The remains of 21 of those killed were sent to Pakistan, which subsequently created a row between Islamabad and Kabul (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 12 June April 2003). The Pakistani government claimed that the dead were not Pakistani nationals, and reportedly lodged an official complaint to the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad. AT

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told journalists on 15 June that he and Pakistani Foreign Minister Mian Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri had agreed during talks that day in Karachi to coordinate their countries' efforts within the framework of the international coalition to combat terrorism, Russian media reported. The cooperation will focus on, but not be limited to, combating terrorism and drug trafficking from Afghanistan, Ivanov said. He added that he is ready to mediate between India and Pakistan if the two countries ask him to do so. Asked whether Russia will supply weapons to Pakistan to balance its considerable sales to New Delhi, Ivanov demurred. "This question presupposes a military solution to the conflict, and we stand for a peaceful resolution," he said. Pakistan is the first stop on Ivanov's tour of Asia, which will also include visits to India and Cambodia. VY

Public Works Minister Abdullah Ali has said 800 kilometers of highways will be rebuilt in Afghanistan by June 2004, Afghanistan Television reported on 15 June. Ali rejected reports that the reconstruction work on the Kabul-Kandahar highway has been halted because of security concerns. He said the reconstruction work is continuing and that his ministry is in "touch with the provincial officials to ensure better security," adding that there are "security posts along the road." Ali said he does not "think anyone will dare to disrupt security on the highways." The internationally funded project to repair the badly damaged 500-kilometer Kabul-Kandahar highway began in November 2002. In May, the UN suspended demining operations along parts of the Kabul-Kandahar highway following attacks on UN staffers and vehicles (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 2002 and 8 May 2003). AT