QUICK PETERSBURG ELECTIONS MAY GIVE ADVANTAGE TO PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY...
Following his appointment as deputy prime minister in charge of housing reform, former St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev announced on 16 June that Deputy Governor Aleksandr Beglov will serve as acting governor of St. Petersburg until new elections can be held, Russian media reported. According to strana.ru, local law requires that elections be held within 80 days of the moment the current governor resigns, which was officially on 14 June. The website speculated that presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko has the best chance of being elected the city's next governor, since a new candidate would have to struggle to organize a campaign and build public support so quickly. Matvienko has not yet declared that she will run for the post, despite widespread speculation that she will. The election could be held as soon as September. Roman Mogilevskii, director of the Agency for Social Information, told RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent on 17 June that Matvienko currently has the highest rating and in the few months remaining it would be difficult for anyone else to catch up. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, who proposed on 17 June that the election to replace Yakovlev be held on 7 December together with the State Duma elections, has not yet said whether he will run. JAC
...AS GOVERNOR'S APPOINTMENT CRITICIZED
Commenting on Deputy Prime Minister Yakovlev's appointment, Lyudmila Narusova, the widow of the former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak, predicted that Yakovlev "won't last long" in his new position and that the "appointment was made for the sole reason of liberating the city of St. Petersburg," Ekho Moskvy reported. "Two years ago Yakovlev proclaimed himself the pioneer of housing reform," Narusova, who is currently a representative for the Tuva Republic in the Federation Council, continued. "But city residents got nothing from this -- old apartment buildings that are not fit for living in, and the reform is a flop." Chavash Republic President Nikolai Fedorov also publicly disparaged the state of housing in St. Petersburg, saying at the State Council meeting on 16 June that the "people are living in dirt and squalor," TVS reported. "Vremya novostei" reported on 17 June that news of Yakovlev's new position was greeted without enthusiasm in the government. However, an unidentified high-level source in the White House told the newspaper that the "appointment was necessary to avoid anyone being led out in shackles -- so that there wouldn't be any kind of criminal [procedure before] the elections." JAC
PRESIDENT, GOVERNMENT CALL FOR PRIVATIZATION OF SOME CULTURAL SITES...
During a State Council session in St. Petersburg on 16 June devoted to cultural policy, Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi acknowledged that there is an acute shortage of funding for culture and the arts, Russian media reported. Shvydkoi said that the free market has caused more harm to culture than communist-era ideological censorship ever did. He added that about 50 percent of the country's cultural projects are currently being funded from private sources and argued that this practice should be extended to the preservation of historical and cultural sites currently controlled by the state. "We should get beyond the current impasse between the federal center and the regions [regarding jurisdiction over cultural sites] and allow their privatization," Shvydkoi said, according to gazeta.ru on 16 June. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov reportedly endorsed the proposal, as did President Putin, who said he supports the idea of privatizing cultural objects "whenever possible." He said that the state cannot allocate funding for culture based on a fixed percentage of the gross domestic product as it has in the past, because it has already taken on a number of social-payment obligations that it cannot meet. VY
...BACK CREATION OF ARCHEOLOGICAL COMMISSION...
President Putin on 16 June also endorsed a suggestion by State Hermitage Museum Director Mikhail Piotrovskii to create a state commission overseeing archeological excavations, RTR reported. Speaking to the State Council, Piotrovskii said that unauthorized excavations have become a flourishing business, supplying the black market with unique historical treasures. Putin has reportedly ordered the creation of an oversight commission and has asked the Interior Ministry to take charge of it. VY
...BUT SAY 'NO' TO QUOTAS ON WESTERN FILMS
At the same State Council session on 16 June, Mosfilm studio Director Karen Shakhnazarov urged the government to increase support for domestic cinema production and to restrict the showing of Western films, against which the underfunded Russian film industry cannot compete, RTR reported. He told the gathering that a Moscow taxi driver recently told him that he dislikes Russian movies and prefers U.S.-made films. "I told him that I prefer Chinese drivers, who are better, cheaper, and don't drink," Shakhnazarov quipped. Putin, however, said he sympathizes with the taxi driver and noted that only very rich countries can allow themselves the luxury of imposing import quotas. For other countries, reduced competition leads not to the development of domestic industries, but to economic stagnation and degradation, Putin said. The president also expressed concern about intellectual-property rights and noted the huge share of counterfeit multimedia products on the Russian market. "The government should take active measures to protect copyrights," Putin said. VY
RUSSIAN CAPITAL NAMED MOST EXPENSIVE, MOST DANGEROUS CITY IN EUROPE
Moscow was named the most expensive city in Europe and the second-most expensive in the world after Tokyo in a study conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, nns.ru reported on 16 June. Geneva came in second and London placed third among European cities. The study was based on 200 indicators, including the cost of real estate, transportation, food, and clothing. According to another Mercer study in March, Moscow was named the most dangerous capital in Europe, nns.ru also reported. In that study, Moscow was found to be an even more dangerous place than Harare, Zimbabwe, despite that country's ongoing civil unrest. VY
SIBERIAN GOVERNORS COMPLAIN ABOUT LACK OF CONTROL OVER RESOURCES...
Governors of the resource-rich regions of Siberia expressed their displeasure with the activities of the federal Natural Resources Ministry at a recent joint meeting of the interregional association Siberian Accord and the Siberian Federal District Council, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 June. Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress said the center is continuing to try to centralize control over natural resources in Moscow. Irkutsk Governor Boris Govorin agreed, commenting: "If the second key is taken away from the regions, then [we have] no guarantee that our interests will taken into account. Why did we invest money into a branch, the results of which will be used by others?" Summing up the session, Altai Republic head Mikhail Lapshin declared, "Today we sense [our] real remoteness from the place where final decisions are made." JAC
...AS ENVOY CALLS FOR SIBERIAN VENTURE FUND, SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE
Presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District Leonid Drachevskii has sent to the federal government a plan for the creation of a free economic zone in Novosibirsk that would ease Russia's entry into the high-technology market, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 June. Under Drachevskii's proposal, the federal budget and regional budgets would provide start-up capital for a Siberian Venture Fund, which would provide financing for projects in the information technology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology fields. Commenting on the project, Federation Council representative from Leningrad Oblast Sergei Vasilev acknowledged the problem of financing technology projects, but said Drachevskii does not provide the solution. "The creation of an internal offshore zone under the guise of a special economic zone will be used by petty thieves to cheat the government, as has happened in our country every time under similar circumstances." According to the daily, the government informed Drachevskii that it has approved his initiative, but no special legal status -- such as a special economic zone -- or funding would be provided. JAC
ECONOMICS MINISTER'S TOP DEPUTY TO DEVELOP PUTIN'S CAMPAIGN PLATFORM
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has promoted Andrei Sharonov from deputy economic development and trade minister to first deputy economic development and trade minister, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 June. Sharonov is replacing Elvira Nabiullina, who is reportedly leaving the ministry. According to "Vedomosti" and "Vremya novostei" on 9 June, Nabiullina will rejoin the Strategic Development Center (TsSR), where she will develop an economic program for President Putin's re-election campaign. Nabiullina has the rare ability "to reconcile the very different desires of those in power with the future of economic reform" and it "will not be easy for Gref to get along without her," according to "Vremya novostei." "Vedomosti" predicted that a number of department heads in the ministry will also go to the TsSR with Nabiullina. JAC
DUMA LEADER HAS HEAD START IN VORONEZH RACE
A recent opinion poll indicates that State Duma Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy) is twice as popular in Voronezh Oblast as current Governor Vladimir Kulakov, Regnum reported on 16 June. According to a survey conducted by the Kvalitas public-opinion institute, 21.7 percent of respondents plan to vote for Rogozin for governor in elections scheduled to take place next year. Only 9.2 percent of respondents said that they would vote to re-elect Kulakov. According to the agency, Rogozin has not declared that he will run, but local analysts point out that he has never ruled out participating in the election. Rogozin was elected to the Duma from a single-mandate district in the oblast. JAC
DATE SET FOR INTERIOR MINISTRY TO ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR OPERATIONS IN CHECHNYA
The transfer of responsibility for the ongoing "antiterrorism operation" in Chechnya from the Federal Security Service (FSB) to the Interior Ministry will get under way on 1 July and be completed by 1 September, Russian media reported on 16 June, quoting Russian military commander Lieutenant General Yevgenii Abrashin. "Vremya novostei" on 17 June quoted unidentified officials as saying that the transfer of responsibility will be purely nominal and the FSB and the Defense Ministry will retain overall responsibility for the operation. The FSB took over responsibility for operations in Chechnya from the Defense Ministry in January 2001 (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 25 January 2001). Also on 16 June, Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who is Chechnya's Deputy to the State Duma, proposed establishing a single committee to coordinate the work of all antiterrorism agencies in Chechnya, Interfax reported. LF
NOMINATIONS COMPLETED FOR CHECHEN INTERIM LEGISLATURE
All 42 members of the Chechen State Council, which will function as an interim legislature until elections are held for a new Chechen parliament, have now been chosen, Interfax reported on 16 June, quoting an unidentified member of the Chechen government. The council comprises the administration heads and one deputy chosen from each of Chechnya's 18 raions and from Grozny, Gudermes, and Argun. The council will elect its chairman and deputy chairmen at its first session, which is scheduled for 21 June. LF
FEW FIGHTERS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF CHECHEN AMNESTY
Chechen and Russian officials gave diverging figures on 16 June for the number of Chechen fighters who have applied for amnesty. Interfax quoted a Chechen administration official as saying that 43 fighters have surrendered their arms since the amnesty took effect on 7 June. Two Russian officials, however, gave the figure as 49 and 68. Also on 16 June, the Russian military headquarters in Grozny issued an appeal to Chechen fighters not to miss out on the amnesty opportunity, Interfax reported. Some 25,000 copies of the appeal, which gives specific details of how and to whom applicants should apply, have been dropped over the mountainous districts in southern Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 June. LF
CULTURAL FIGURES PROTEST WAR IN CHECHNYA
Several nongovernmental organizations -- including For Peace in Chechnya, Memorial, and For Human Rights -- organized a rally against the war in Chechnya in Moscow's Pushkin Square on 16 June, newsru.com reported. More than 300 artists, musicians, writers, and scholars participated in the rally, calling for an end to the terrorization and kidnapping of civilians in "cleansing" operations. Some speakers called on the government to initiate peace talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, while some demonstrators wore badges depicting President Putin in the guise of Adolf Hitler. Speaking on Ekho Moskvy on 16 June, writer and television personality Viktor Shenderovich, one of the organizers of the protest, said the demonstrators believe the government is unable to resolve the problems in Chechnya. The recent referendum in the republic proves that the government is only going through the motions of finding a political settlement in Chechnya, Shenderovich said. VY
ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ORDERS REPEAT ELECTION
The Constitutional Court on 16 June annulled the results of the 25 May parliamentary ballot in a constituency in the northwestern region of Shirak, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Noyan Tapan reported. Defeated candidates from the Orinats Yerkir (Law-Based State) and Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun both challenged official results that showed Mkhitar Varagian of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) as the winner. In repeat elections in three constituencies on 15 June, a HHK candidate won in a Yerevan constituency, a non-aligned candidate in Kotayk, and a candidate from Orinats Yerkir in Armavir. The HHK thus now has 39 seats in the 131-member parliament and Orinats Yerkir 23. LF
NEW NATIONALIST POLITICAL PARTY FOUNDED IN AZERBAIJAN
Fazail Gazanfaroglu, a former leading member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, announced at a press conference in Baku on 16 June the founding of a new political party called Great Creation, Turan and zerkalo.az reported. Gazanfaroglu described the party's orientation as nationalist and said it will work for the unification of the Azerbaijan Republic and those northern regions of Iran where the population is predominantly Azeri. He said his party will not nominate a candidate for the 15 October presidential elections, but will back one of the "democratic" candidates. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PREDICTS ELECTION VICTORY FOR HIS NEW BLOC...
In his regular Monday radio interview, Eduard Shevardnadze said on 16 June that he believes the For a New Georgia bloc that backs the present leadership has the best chance of victory in the 2 November parliamentary elections as no other party or bloc has formulated such a compelling socioeconomic program, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. Shevardnadze nonetheless warned voters against casting their ballots for what he termed radical forces that make "populist and demagogic promises," because the advent to power of such forces would, he predicted, inevitably lead to destabilization and possibly also to renewed interethnic violence. LF
...SAYS HE DOES NOT ASPIRE TO PREMIERSHIP...
President Shevardnadze told journalists on 16 June at his weekly press briefing that he has no intention of accepting either the post of prime minister, parliament speaker, or any other official position after his second presidential term expires in April 2005, Caucasus Press reported. But he said he would be ready to offer advice if the new leadership requested it. Shevardnadze also said he thinks now is not the most appropriate time to amend the constitution to create a cabinet of ministers. Shevardnadze himself proposed doing so two years ago, but parliament failed to vote on that proposal (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 13 August 2001). In February 2003, the opposition Labor Party presented to the state chancellery a bill proposing a number of constitutional amendments, including the reintroduction of the premiership. LF
...INVITES OPPOSITION TO CONSULTATIONS ON ELECTION LAW
Also on 16 June, President Shevardnadze said he is ready to make unspecified concessions to the opposition over the composition of the new Central Election Commission, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May and 2 June 2003). On 13 June, Caucasus Press reported that For a New Georgia has approved a new scheme for appointing the CEC proposed by Vakhtang Khmaladze of the Industrialists faction, who has been engaged in drafting Georgian election legislation since 1990. Khmaladze's model envisages that three members of the CEC are appointed by the president; Abkhazia and Adjaria will receive one representative each; the five parties that won the greatest proportion of votes in the 1999 parliamentary elections would have two members each; and other political parties represented in parliament one member each. The CEC would adopt decisions by a two-thirds majority. LF
MATERIALS FOR 'DIRTY BOMB' DISCOVERED IN GEORGIAN CAPITAL
During a routine check on 31 May, police discovered two containers with radioactive strontium-90 and caesium-137 in a taxi in Tbilisi, Georgian and Russian media reported on 16 June, quoting Georgian officials. The taxi was bound for Kobuleti on Georgia's Black Sea coast close to the Turkish border, and an Interior Ministry official said the containers were probably destined for export to Turkey. Environment Minister Nino Chkhobadze described the find as "extremely serious." She said Georgia does not produce such substances, which could have been used to manufacture a so-called "dirty" bomb. LF
GEORGIA EXPLAINS REFUSAL TO SIGN CIS AGREEMENT ON PORTABLE ANTIAIRCRAFT MISSILES
The Georgian Embassy in Moscow has released a statement clarifying the reasons for Georgia's refusal to sign a proposed CIS agreement to monitor sales of shoulder-launched Igla and Strela antiaircraft missiles, Caucasus Press reported on 16 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2003). The statement said Georgia would have agreed to sign the agreement if Russia had not rejected its additional proposals to compile an inventory of all such weapons and their registration numbers, to register their transfer from one country to another, and to provide Tbilisi with information on how many such weapons are currently stored at Russian military bases in Georgia. LF
MORE APPOINTMENTS MADE TO NEW KAZAKH GOVERNMENT
More presidential appointments to the new Kazakh government were made on 16 June, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, khabar.kz, and Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Five of the seven appointments were reappointments of ministers from the previous government to their old posts. The only new ministers to be named so far are former Astana Mayor Adilbek Jaksybekov, who was named industry and trade minister, and Erbolat Dosaev, who became finance minister. Jaksybekov was replaced as mayor of the capital by Temirkhan Dosmuhambetov; the holder of the post becomes a member of the government. A number of appointments were also made to the presidential staff. Economist Bulat Utemuratov, a former presidential aide, has been appointed to head the National Security Council. BB
KAZAKH PRESIDENT MEETS SENIOR ISRAELI RABBI
Nursultan Nazarbaev met on 16 June in Astana with Jona Metzger, chief rabbi of Israel's European Jews, to discuss preparations for a conference on the world's major religions that is scheduled to be held in September 2003, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service and khabar.kz reported the same day. Metzger told journalists that his interest in Kazakhstan is motivated by the fact that it is a country where people of various ethnic and religious backgrounds live together in harmony, thus making the country an ideal place to hold a conference on world religions. The conference was proposed by the Kazakh president in 2002. BB
KAZAKH OPPOSITION GROUP PROTESTS APPOINTMENT OF NEW PRIME MINISTER
Leaders and activists from the opposition Foundation for the Protection of Political Prisoners have formally protested the appointment of former Pavlodar Oblast Governor Daniyal Akhmetov as prime minister on the grounds that he closed down and harassed independent media outlets in the oblast when he was governor, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 16 June. "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 June drew attention to Akhmetov's reputation as an administrator with little tolerance for opposition. He was reportedly given the nickname "Terminator" in Pavlodar when he conducted a clean-up campaign after his predecessor, Galymzhan Zhaqiyanov, became a founder of the opposition coalition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK). BB
KAZAKH COMMUNIST PARTY-LEFT AND WORKERS' MOVEMENT REJECT REFERENDUM ON PRIVATE LANDOWNERSHIP
Leaders of the Kazakh Communist Party-Left and the Workers' Movement told journalists in Almaty on 16 June that they oppose holding a national referendum on private landownership, because demanding such a referendum is merely a ploy by the opposition DVK to put off the privatization of agricultural land until the opposition can gain power, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The two left-wing opposition groups oppose land privatization on ideological grounds. Workers' Movement official Saqyp Zhanabaeva said that any referendum would be pointless at present because the State Election Commission could falsify the results. BB
KYRGYZ OMBUDSMAN'S OFFICE RUNNING OUT OF FUNDS
Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir-uulu told a press conference in Bishkek on 16 June that his office might have to close down because of lack of funding, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and khabar.kz reported. Four million soms (about $95,000) for the ombudsman's office were included in the 2003 national budget, Bakir-uulu said, but parliament has neglected to confirm the expenditures for his office and the matter is not even on the parliamentary agenda. He said his appeals to the government have been fruitless, and at the end of this month his office will be out of funds. Bakir-uulu said that a total of 22 million soms are needed this year to set up the office, which was officially opened on 31 January. He added that most of the equipment in the ombudsman's office was purchased with money contributed by international organizations. So far, the office has received about 800 complaints from citizens, he said, most of which concern the law enforcement agencies. BB
INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER FINED IN KYRGYZSTAN
The Lenin Raion Court in Bishkek has ordered the independent publication "Obshchestvennyi reiting" to pay Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov 50,000 soms (about $1,190) and two foreign ministry employees 25,000 soms each in damages because of an article posted on the Internet by the newspaper in February, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 16 June, quoting Editor in Chief Aibek Chekoshev. The article, written anonymously, asserted that the foreign ministry is riddled with corruption, embezzlement, and cronyism. The ministry sued the publication, demanding 10 million soms as compensation for the damage to its reputation. First Deputy Foreign Minister Talantbek Kushchubekov filed a separate suit, seeking 1 million soms. The court has not yet taken up his case. Chekoshev said he intends to appeal the court's verdict. BB
TAJIK DEMOCRATIC PARTY ASKS MEMBERS TO BOYCOTT REFERENDUM
The Democratic Party of Tajikistan, one of the country's main opposition groups, has called on its members to boycott the referendum on constitutional amendments that is scheduled for 22 June, Interfax reported on 16 June, quoting party leader Mahmadruzi Iskandarov. Iskandarov called for the boycott because both the president and parliament have ignored the party's recommendations about the amendments. Earlier, the party warned that it would boycott the referendum if its recommendations were not taken into account. The party objects specifically to dropping the constitutional restriction on the number of terms a president may serve and the removal of constitutional guarantees of free health care and higher education. Other Tajik parties have objected to these amendments as well. Iskandarov said the Democratic Party does not want to be held responsible for the amendments. The party is also refusing to send observers to the polling stations. Neither the UN nor the OSCE is sending observers on the grounds that Tajikistan submitted its request for international observers too late. BB
BELARUSIAN, UKRAINIAN PREMIERS PLEDGE TO BOOST COOPERATION
Belarusian Premier Henadz Navitski and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych said after talks in Minsk on 16 June that their governments want to intensify mutual economic cooperation, Interfax reported. "One of the [bilateral] goals is to lift curbs on the shipment of goods between Ukraine and Belarus and form a free-trade zone," Yanukovych said. The sides failed to settle the lingering problem of Ukraine's debt to Belarus at the same meeting, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Minsk insists Kyiv owes it some $100 million, while Kyiv puts the figure at just $50 million. Belarus has not yet ratified a border treaty with Ukraine, reportedly because of Kyiv's reluctance to agree on a satisfactory solution to the debt issue. JM
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER JAILED
Yury Khadyka, deputy chairman of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front, was taken into custody in Minsk on 16 June to serve a 15-day jail sentence in connection with an unauthorized protest, Belapan reported. Khadyka was sentenced in absentia in May for his role in organizing the demonstration in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2003). JM
UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER URGES CAUTION IN PRONOUNCEMENTS ON VOLHYNIA MASSACRES
Lawmaker Andriy Shkil of the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc told journalists in Lviv on 17 June that Ukraine must be very careful in signing any statements in connection with the planned Polish-Ukrainian commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the so-called Volhynia massacres (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2003), UNIAN and Interfax reported. According to Shkil, documents signed by the Ukrainian side on this occasion should avoid providing grounds for lawsuits by Poles who suffered as a result of the tragedy. Shkil was in Warsaw last week with a delegation of Ukrainian lawmakers who prepared a joint statement by the Sejm and the Verkhovna Rada on the Volhynia massacres. "The text of the joint resolution by the parliaments of both countries was drafted to prevent [such lawsuits]," Shkil said. "Regarding another document that was prepared by the Foreign Ministry and is to be signed by the presidents of Ukraine and Poland, it may have such legal consequences, since in it Ukraine actually acknowledges its responsibility for ethnic cleansing against the Polish population in Volhynia." JM
ESTONIAN PRESIDENT CALLS COOPERATION WITH BOTH U.S., RUSSIA VITAL
President Arnold Ruutel told the annual conference of the Partnership for Peace (PfP) Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institutes in Berlin on 16 June that cooperation with both the United States and Russia is necessary to ensure Estonia's security, BNS reported. He said that, as a small country, Estonia is well aware of the need for collective and cooperative security and realizes that terrorism is a global problem. In later talks with Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, Ruutel stressed the need for more joint projects to promote cooperation in science, the economy, culture, and other areas. Wowereit pledged to take a large business delegation along when he visits Tallinn in September. Ruutel is scheduled to meet with German President Johannes Rau on 17 June and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder the following day. SG
LATVIAN PRESIDENT WANTS HUMAN TRAFFICKING TACKLED
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga expressed her dissatisfaction with a recent U.S. State Department report on human trafficking that lists Latvia among 74 countries it said have made insufficient efforts to eliminate this problem, BNS reported on 16 June. According to the report, Latvia is a source and transit country for an increasing number of women and girls trafficked to Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Spain, Germany, and Portugal for sexual exploitation. The report notes that the Latvian government is making efforts to tackle the problem, but says the roles and responsibilities of different ministries and law enforcement agencies are still undefined and cites a lack of central coordination. Vike-Freiberga asked law enforcement agencies to provide her with specific information about their work in this sphere. She also said the state must provide the necessary funds to stop human trafficking. SG
GERMAN PRESIDENT DECLARES LONG-TERM SUPPORT FOR LITHUANIA
Johannes Rau began a brief visit to Vilnius on 16 June with talks with his Lithuanian counterpart Rolandas Paksas, ELTA reported. In a subsequent press conference he declared Germany's determination to cooperate with Lithuania in building an undivided Europe and to support Lithuania's return to the community of European states. The presidents stressed the need to build up railways, highways, and electrical lines in the Baltic Sea region. Rau said the Vilnius 10's declaration supporting U.S. policy toward Iraq will not have any effect on German-Lithuanian relations. Parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas spoke about increasing interparliamentary cooperation as well as Lithuania's integration into the EU. Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas expressed his thanks for Germany's ratification of Lithuania's NATO-accession protocol and noted the need to maintain good relations with Russia. SG
POLAND PUBLISHES RESULTS OF 2002 CENSUS
The Main Statistical Office (GUS) published the results of Poland's 2002 national census (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2002) on its official website (http://www.stat.gov.pl) on 16 June. According to this first census in postcommunist Poland, the country's population totaled 38.2 million, including 96.74 percent Poles, 1.23 percent representatives of national minorities, and 2.03 percent individuals whose ethnic origins GUS statisticians failed to identify. The largest minority groups in Poland, according to the census, are Silesians (173,200 people), Germans (152,900), Belarusians (48,700), and Ukrainians (31,000). JM
CZECH PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON OUTCOME OF EU REFERENDUM...
President Vaclav Klaus said on Czech Radio on 15 June that he was not surprised by the outcome of the 13-14 June referendum on EU accession, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2003). Klaus said the only question ahead of the plebiscite was that of turnout, which totaled 55 percent, higher than expected by most observers. "Neither before the referendum nor after it was there any danger that someone else would solve our problems for us, as unfortunately promised by some people during the referendum campaign," said Klaus, a self-styled "Euro-realist" who has been highly critical of the government's campaign for a "yes" vote. He also said that only time will tell whether the expectations of the 77 percent who voted "yes" in the plebiscite, or the fears of the 23 percent who cast a ballot against joining the EU, prove correct. Klaus declined to tell journalists how he voted in the referendum. MS
...AND TAKES POLITICAL HEAT OVER HIS POSITION...
Labor Minister Zdenek Skromach and Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka criticized Klaus on 16 June for the attitude he displayed on the eve of the EU referendum, CTK reported. Both politicians are members of the senior coalition Social Democratic Party (CSSD). Skromach said that Klaus's ambiguous position toward accession did not suit his presidential posture. A president is not merely a private citizen, Skromach said, and must express clear positions. He also said he believes Klaus was preparing an attack on the government in the event that Czechs rejected EU membership. Sobotka told journalists that "as a citizen of the Czech Republic, I regret that my president was unable to express a clear position before the referendum, as the presidents of Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland did." MS
...INCLUDING FROM WITHIN HIS OWN PARTY
Miroslav Topolanek, Klaus's successor as chairman of the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), said on Czech Radio on 16 June that he was bothered by the fact that the ODS honorary chairman, President Klaus, stopped short of recommending how citizens should vote in the EU plebiscite, CTK reported. The ODS had adopted a grudgingly pro-membership position ahead of the vote. MS
CZECH PRESIDENT'S OFFICE CLAIMS KLAUS REFUSED TIME BY STATE TELEVISION
President Klaus's office has accused Czech Television of refusing airtime for the president to comment on the outcome of the EU referendum, CTK reported on 17 June, citing the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes." The office said Klaus asked for airtime to comment on the plebiscite on 14 or 15 June and Czech Television rejected the offer, saying that airtime was fully booked. A presidential staffer charged that a public broadcaster has never treated the head of state in such a way. The head of Czech Television's news desk, Karel Novak, countered that the president's office did not propose that Klaus address the public on 15 June. Novak said that Czech Television offered Klaus a seat in a televised debate on 14 June alongside the chairmen of mainstream political parties; but Klaus turned the offer down, Novak said, insisting on a 5-10 minute interview in the evening newscast. That, Novak said, would have taken almost half the time of the newscast. Some of the most strident criticism of Klaus in the wake of the referendum has been for his public silence, which persisted for nearly a full day after polls were closed. MS
CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS EU DRAFT CONSTITUTION IS 'STARTING POINT' FOR NEGOTIATIONS
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda told CTK on 16 June that the draft European Constitution agreed on 13 June is just the "starting point" for further negotiations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2003). Svoboda said that, as it stands now, the draft might be satisfactory for larger countries such as France and Germany; but smaller states, including the Czech Republic, want to further negotiate the final version at an intergovernmental conference slated for October 2003-May 2004. Svoboda said a majority of the 25 current and future EU members "resolutely" support the position that all states, regardless of size, must be granted equal rights in the union. MS
SLOVAK FINANCE MINISTER REJECTS CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS
In an interview published by the daily "Sme" on 16 June, Finance Minister Ivan Miklos rejected allegations in the media and by opposition politicians that he is guilty of corruption, TASR reported. Miklos acknowledged that he wrote a letter of recommendation to Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on behalf of an agency headed by businessman Vladimir Raiman, who subsequently was awarded a 7 million-crown ($170,731) contract by the Foreign Ministry, but he said such letters are "standard" in any country. What is abnormal, he said, is the misuse of the letter by the media. Miklos also said he has filed a lawsuit against Robert Fico, chairman of the opposition Smer (Direction) party, for having alleged that Miklos is a corrupt politician who is probably even richer than former Premier Vladimir Meciar. Miklos denied having a Swiss bank account or having lobbied for a computer company in a tender to supply Socialna Poistovna (Social Insurance Company). MS
ALGERIAN PRESIDENT IN SLOVAKIA
Visiting Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his Slovak counterpart Rudolf Schuster discussed ways to improve mutual trade and to liquidate Algeria's $32 million debt to Slovakia during a meeting in Bratislava on 16 June, TASR and CTK reported. They also discussed the possibilities of renewing the supply of Slovak military equipment to Algeria and of having Algerian pilots train in Slovakia. Bouteflika said he is convinced that the planned closure of Slovakia's embassy in Algiers stems from budgetary constraints, rather than political reasons. Bouteflika also met with Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, thanking him for the humanitarian aid extended to Algeria after the recent earthquakes in that country. MS
IOM LAUNCHES SLOVAK PROJECT AGAINST TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is launching a project to combat trafficking in women in Slovakia, CTK reported on 16 June. The goal of the Austrian-financed $150,000 project is to provide women with information on defending themselves against attempts to force them into prostitution through offers of employment abroad. MS
SENIOR HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL HOSPITALIZED AFTER ATTACK
Karoly Szasz, chairman of Hungary's Financial Supervisory Authority (PSZAF), was attacked by three unknown assailants on 16 June and ended up in the hospital, where he had to undergo surgery for broken bones, Hungarian media reported. Szasz suggested after his surgery that the attack might be linked to a decision the PSZAF was due to announce on 17 June. A PSZAF statement ruled out robbery as a motive for the attack, as only Szasz's mobile phone was stolen. Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy, who visited Szasz at the hospital, said "the attack might have had something to do with an investigation that PSZAF was carrying out, but I don't want to jump to conclusions too hastily," Hungarian television reported. Medgyessy said the incident represents the first time that such an attack has been perpetrated against the head of a state institution. President Ferenc Madl called it "cause for special concern that the state institution in question was one whose uninterrupted, democratic, and peaceful operation is in everybody's best interest." PSZAF regularly monitors and evaluates compliance with the laws and regulations governing the financial-services sector. MSZ
HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES HOSPITAL-PRIVATIZATION BILL...
Lawmakers approved a bill on 16 June on hospital privatization that will allow for private capital in the operation of Hungary's health-care institutions, Hungarian dailies reported. Parliament asked President Ferenc Madl to decide within five days whether or not he will sign the bill into law. Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Forum has requested that the president seek a legal review of the bill by the Constitutional Court. Under the draft act, individuals, business partnerships, and limited-liability companies may obtain a maximum 49 percent ownership stake in hospitals, through an equity purchase or cash payment. MSZ
...AND IS IN AN UPROAR OVER IDC'S LISBON RESOLUTION
Whistles and shouts disrupted parliament's plenary session on 16 June during debate on a recent resolution of the International Democratic Center (IDC) that accused the government of human rights violations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 13 June 2003). Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs told deputies that the resolution, instigated by former Prime Minister Viktor Orban, is damaging to Hungary's national interests, particularly since the parliaments of EU member states are preparing to vote on Hungary's EU accession. Kovacs said that, as a result of the Lisbon resolution, those parliaments might ask, "What is a country that can be compared to Burma and Cuba doing in the EU?" For his part, opposition FIDESZ parliamentary group leader Janos Ader countered that if the Socialists had not carried out alleged political purges, or had not tried to restrict freedom of speech, no resolution would have been passed in Lisbon, "Nepszabadsag" reported. MSZ
EXECUTIVE REVEALS DAMAGE AT HUNGARIAN NUCLEAR PLANT
Recent video recordings suggest that all 30 fuel rods in the cleaning container of block number two at Paks Nuclear-Power Plant were damaged by the 10 April malfunction, plant Director Istvan Kocsis told reporters on 16 June. He said the video footage will assist experts who must lift the fuel rods out of their present position, and will assist in filing a compensation claim against the French-German firm Framatome ANP, which designed and operated the cleaning container, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. In other news, Paks Municipal Court terminated proceedings on 16 June against 14 Greenpeace activists who staged a demonstration outside the plant last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003), ruling that their actions were not a threat to public order. Greenpeace spokeswoman Judit Kalovits told "Nepszabadsag" that the organization is pleased with the ruling, but stressed that criminal proceedings are continuing against five foreign Greenpeace activists who were expelled from Hungary for one year on 13 June. MSZ
DOUBTS PERSIST AS U.S. CERTIFIES SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO FOR ASSISTANCE...
Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Washington on 16 June that Serbia and Montenegro has met U.S. standards of cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal and is therefore eligible for continued U.S. financial assistance, international and regional media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 16 June 2003). State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, however, that Belgrade must do more than it has. "We have made clear to authorities in Belgrade...that the United States expects further actions to be taken in order to meet...obligations [toward the tribunal]. We continue to call on all states of the region to cooperate fully with the tribunal, including by arresting and transferring [Bosnian Serb indicted war criminals] Radovan Karadzic and [General] Ratko Mladic," Boucher added. But the U.S. Helsinki Commission, which is a federal agency monitoring human rights issues, argued recently that certifying Belgrade "would be detrimental to U.S. foreign policy goals supporting international justice and successful and complete democratic change in Serbia," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 May 2003). PM
...AND OFFICIAL BELGRADE SAYS IT WAS CONFIDENT OF APPROVAL
Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said in Belgrade on 16 June that he expected Powell's positive decision because of the good cooperation between the two countries in recent months, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Svilanovic stressed that the U.S. decision is economically important for Serbia and Montenegro, adding that it is a sign that good relations are likely to develop further. Elsewhere, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic said that he "knew" that the United States would rule in Belgrade's favor and would have done so even without the recent arrest by Serbian police of indicted war criminal Major Veselin Sljivancanin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2003). Zivkovic did not elaborate. PM
SERBIA ARRESTS 33 IN ATTACK ON CROATIAN EMBASSY
Belgrade police arrested 33 people on 15-16 June in conjunction with an attack by water-polo fans, some apparently drunken, on the Croatian Embassy, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2003). Police spokesmen had no explanation as to why the embassy was not provided with better security on the night of the European championship match between the rival teams from Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro. The Belgrade city government said that it might seek a ban on public celebrations following sporting events. In Podgorica, Montenegrin Foreign Minister Dragisa Burzan condemned the incident and called on the authorities of Serbia and Montenegro to apologize and pay for damages to the embassy. Following a rampage by Serbian fans in Novi Sad, 25 people were hospitalized, including five police officers. PM
KOSOVAR PRIME MINISTER RULES OUT STATUS TALKS WITH BELGRADE
Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi told RFE/RL's Albanian-language broadcasters in Prishtina on 16 June that the status of Kosova will be determined not by talks between Belgrade and Prishtina but by a referendum in Kosova, followed by well-prepared talks involving the United States, the EU, and the UN (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 June 2003). He stressed that it is "an illusion" to think that Prishtina will resolve the status issue with Belgrade. Rexhepi added that any talks between his government and that of Serbia will have to be thoroughly prepared and center only on unspecified "concrete issues." PM
EU PROPOSES NOMINEES FOR KOSOVA...
The EU has proposed two candidates to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to succeed Michael Steiner as head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), Reuters reported from Brussels on 17 June, quoting unidentified diplomats. The nominees are said to be Swedish Ambassador to the UN Pierre Schori and veteran Italian diplomat Antonio Armellini. The EU has the right to nominate the head of UNMIK because it is by far the largest donor of aid to Kosova. Brussels put forward two names, instead of the usual one, because of U.S. objections to Schori, who has been an outspoken critic of U.S. policies toward Iraq. PM
...AND OFFERS MORE MONEY FOR THE WESTERN BALKANS
Meeting in Luxembourg on 16 June, EU foreign ministers agreed to provide about $240 million in additional assistance to Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro during the period 2004-06, dpa reported. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said the "Western Balkans have a very real prospect of being part of our family [and]...we are willing and ready to help." He stressed that those five countries will have to display a commitment to EU standards of democracy, human rights, and a market economy to qualify for the aid, something that they have all repeatedly pledged to do. Papandreou said the EU considers their "ultimate [sic] membership" a top priority but did not offer the specific dates that the five countries have sought (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 April, 30 May, and 13 June 2003). PM
UNEMPLOYMENT REMAINS A MAJOR PROBLEM IN MACEDONIA
The country's official unemployment rate of about 38 percent remains one of the highest in Europe, RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters reported on 16 June. Some 383,000 people are registered with the state Employment Agency, many of whom receive only a small amount of financial support. More than half of the jobless have few or no qualifications, while 36 percent are younger than 30 years of age. Mile Stojmenovic, the agency's director, said it is almost impossible to find jobs for those registered with the agency due to the imbalance of supply and demand in the labor force. UB
ROMANIAN PREMIER ANNOUNCES RESHUFFLED GOVERNMENT LINEUP
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase announced on 16 June the lineup of his reshuffled cabinet, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau and international news agencies reported. The cabinet was trimmed from 23 to 14 ministers. The government includes three new cabinet members: Health Minister Mircea Beuran (an independent, not a member of the ruling Social Democratic Party [PSD]) replaced Daniela Bartos, who came under strong criticism for her failure to reform the country's health system; Education Research and Youth Minister Alexandru Athanasiu, who replaced Ecaterina Andronescu and Georgiu Gingaras and will head a merged ministry of the two former portfolios; and Labor, Social Solidarity, and Family Affairs Minister Elena Dumitriu, who replaced Marian Sarbu. Dan Ioan Popescu, who was formerly industry and resources minister, will now head a merged Economy and Commerce Ministry, and Ioan Rus will head merged Interior and Public Administration Ministry. Nastase also announced that he is proposing that former Public Administration Minister Octav Cozmanca head the newly established PSD executive-chairman post. The Humanist Party has accepted to stay in the reshuffled government, in which the former Ministry for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (as well as the Privatization Ministry) will be government agencies. The former Tourism Ministry has been merged into the Transport and Construction Ministry and the Development and Prognosis Ministry has been abolished. Parliament must yet approve the reshuffle. MS
ROMANIAN LOWER HOUSE REJECTS PRM-SPONSORED MOTION
The Chamber of Deputies rejected on 16 June a motion sponsored by the opposition Greater Romania Party to debate what the motion defined as "The Tragedy of the Young Generation," Romanian Radio reported. There were 53 votes in favor of the motion, with 174 against and 12 abstentions, which came from deputies representing the National Liberal Party and the Democratic Party. MS
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DECORATES U.S. GENERAL MYERS
President Ion Iliescu decorated on 16 June General Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who the same day began a two-day visit to Romania, AP reported. Myers is to meet with Premier Nastase, Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu, and his Romanian counterpart General Mihail Popescu. MS
ISRAEL PROTESTS ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT'S DECLARATION ON HOLOCAUST...
Romanian Ambassador to Israel Valeria Mariana Stoica was summoned on 16 June to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and handed an official protest over her government's 12 June statement that there was "no Holocaust on Romanian territory," according to an official Israeli Foreign Ministry statement. The statement said Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General David Peleg informed Stoica that Israel "takes a grave view of the Romanian statement, which is at odds with the historical truth and detracts from the steps taken by the Romanian government to confront the past." He added that the Romanian government "must find a way to correct this unfortunate statement, in order to return bilateral ties to the right path." MS
...WHICH PROMPTS REACTION IN BUCHAREST
Culture Minister Razvan Theodorescu reiterated in an interview on Romanian Radio on 17 June that no Holocaust took place on Romanian territory proper, claiming that the atrocities committed by the Romanian authorities during World War II against Jews and Roma took place on occupied territories. In the course of the interview, Theodorescu went to great lengths to enumerate those atrocities, in an obvious attempt to mitigate the Israeli protest (see above). "By its deeds in the occupied territories, the [Ion] Antonescu governance participated in the [perpetration] of the Holocaust," he said. In addition, Theodorescu said that "methodologically speaking," it was necessary in its recent announcement of an agreement with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003) to mention that the Holocaust was not carried out on Romanian territory. However, he did not explain why participation in such crimes in "occupied territories" was not worth mentioning in that announcement. In an obvious allusion to the government, Federation of Romanian Jewish Communities President Nicolae Cajal said on the same radio program that it would be out of place to "pass judgment on those very people who gave us assurances that they will no longer tolerate extremism and passed legislation against xenophobia." MS
MOLDOVA-TRANSDNIESTER CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION AGAIN FAILS TO REACH AGREEMENT
Meeting in Chisinau on 16 June, the members of the joint Moldova-Transdniester commission tasked with elaborating a joint federal constitution again failed to reach agreement on procedure, Flux reported. The joint commission's chairmen, Ion Creanga (Moldova) and Evgenii Shevchuk (Transdniester), will meet again on 25 June to try to resolve disagreements. Infotag reported that the Transdniester side asked its Moldovan counterparts to request -- as a gesture of goodwill that would facilitate the future work of the commission -- that their government lift trade restrictions that were imposed on the separatist region. The Transdniester delegation said that it, in turn, is ready to request that Tiraspol lift retaliatory trade restrictions that were imposed on Moldova. MS
MOLDOVA JOINS INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION
Moldova officially joined the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on 16 June, becoming the 101st member of that organization, Infotag and Flux reported. Migration Department General Director Valeriu Munteanu told journalists that Moldova is asking the IOM to provide aid worth $700,000 to cover the costs of installing a computer system that will facilitate the control of the migration process. He also said that more than 600,000 Moldovan citizens are currently working abroad, of whom only 30,000 have secured working permits. IOM representative to Moldova Marielle Lindstrom said that during its two-year activity in Moldova, the IOM has managed to repatriate more than 1,000 Moldovan women who are victims of human trafficking. In related news, Victoria Cusnir, secretary-general of the Christian Democratic Women's Society in Moldova, said in a briefing at RFE/RL's Washington office that the Moldovan government lacks the will to interdict or prosecute those trafficking in women or children. She said that poverty forces hundreds of thousands of Moldovans to seek work abroad and that most live there without working permits. Many, she said, end up as victims of the sex and slave trade. Other women are lured through misleading advertisements purporting to offer legitimate employment, or are kidnapped. MS
BULGARIA, ROMANIA HAVE LONG ROAD TO TRAVEL TO REACH EU GDP LEVELS...
It will take Bulgaria more than 60 years to catch up with the average per capita GDP of European Union member states, "Dnevnik" reported on 16 June. Citing data presented by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the daily writes that this can only be achieved if the Bulgarian economy achieves annual growth rates of about 3.8 percent -- provided that the EU economies grow 2 percent annually. Other EU-candidate countries such as Malta will reach the EU level in 29 years, while it would take Romania as much as 80 years. The analysis also predicts possible delays in future EU expansion, should the 2004 enlargement wave result in economic difficulties for the EU. UB
...AS BULGARIA SETS GOALS FOR EU THESSALONIKI SUMMIT
Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi told the private bTV on 16 June that the Bulgarian delegation will try to convince the EU at its summit in Thessaloniki on 19-20 June to set 2004 as the closing date for the country's EU-accession talks, novinite.bg reported. Pasi expects difficult talks, as the 10 new members slated to join the union in 2004 have not been given a final date for their negotiations. Pasi also hopes to succeed in convincing the EU that the financial chapters of the acquis communautaire should be separated from the other chapters and be closed upon the Bulgaria's expected EU accession in 2007. UB
SCOTLAND YARD TO HELP BULGARIA FIGHT GRAFT
Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov and Scotland Yard Director Sir John Stevens on 16 June signed a twinning agreement under which British officers will help their Bulgarian colleagues fight the endemic corruption in the Bulgarian Interior Ministry's administration and in the police services, novinite.bg reported. A private British consulting company, Crown Agents, currently assists the Bulgarian government in its efforts to curb corruption in the Customs Agency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2002 and End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2002). UB
ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN SLAIN IN BULGARIA
Unknown perpetrators shot dead businessman Todor Tolev in Sofia on 16 June, Bulgarian media reported. Tolev, who was shot several times, survived a previous attempt on his life in May. He purportedly had business relationships with Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Boyko Borisov and with controversial Russian businessman Mikhail Chernyi. Tolev's slaying is the latest in a series of assassinations and attempted killings in Bulgarian business circles over the past few months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March, 22 April, and 2 June 2003 and End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2003). UB
A REALITY CHECK FOR THE RUSSIAN CABINET
Two Russia State Duma factions, the liberal opposition Yabloko and the Communists, have joined forces to present a joint no-confidence motion against the government of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. The factions collected the signatures of 103 deputies in support of the motion, 13 more than the required 90. For the resolution to pass, 226 of the 450 members of the legislature must vote in favor. While there is virtually no chance that the motion -- tentatively to be considered on 18 June -- will succeed, but there are several political agendas that, in conjunction with the 7 December Duma elections and the drafting of the 2004 budget, make this vote an interesting exercise in politicking.
The no-confidence motion states that "an analysis of the socioeconomic situation in our country shows that the government of the Russia Federation is failing to come to grips with its tasks." Clearly, this is strong language against the government, but in many ways it expresses the frustration felt across the political spectrum in the Duma about the pace of the reforms that President Vladimir Putin and the government have repeatedly promised since 2000.
According to some analysts, the Yabloko-Communist alliance against Kasyanov's government serves a number of temporary political agendas. The first and simplest is to attract public attention at a time when both parties are struggling to better define themselves before the Duma elections. Another is that both parties likely believe that opposition to the government carries little risk in the wake of Putin's rebuke of the cabinet in his annual address to the Federal Assembly on 16 May. It seems clear that Yabloko and the Communists are not the only groups in the Duma that intend to use Putin's dissatisfaction with the government to score some political points.
Putin made it clear to the government that although it has been successful in a number of areas, it has been too slow to enact the reformist program he has publicly supported since he took office. Putin faces re-election next spring, and clearly he does not intend to be held responsible for the government's real or perceived deficiencies. Putin's hint that the next government might be formed on basis of a Duma majority coalition would seem to indicate that he has embarked upon a political path that separates him from the political fortunes of Kasyanov and many of his supporters.
The centrist parties will most certainly not support no-confidence vote, but some observers believe they will extract a price from the government for their support. They have already demanded that the government change the 2004 budget -- which currently foresees a surplus of 0.9 percent of GDP -- to a balanced one, with the freed funds to be allocated to favored items and social programs.
However, given the unequivocal demand that Putin expressed in his annual address for a rigidly conservative budgetary policy, it would appear very unlikely that Kasyanov has room for maneuver concerning this issue. The only areas for maneuver for all parties are how the budget is determined and the amount of expected export-tax revenues that will pour into the state's coffers.
When it comes to budget formulation and given past precedents when there has been wrangling over its parameters, the government's official annual average oil-price assumption will most likely be notched upward. This would allow expenditures to be increased while assuring, at least on paper, a surplus. Most would agree that this not the best way to finalize a budget, but now the elite is focused on politics, not on what might happen after the elections.
Presenting a no-confidence vote against the present government at this time is an electioneering ploy that signals that any reformist legislation has been moved further onto the back burner. Putin's criticism of the government should be understood as his acknowledgment that his agenda will make little or no progress until the next Duma is formed and, as is widely anticipated, he is re-elected. In an oddity that might be specific to Russian politics, Putin has already accepted that he is a "lame duck" for the last half year of his first term as head of state.
The no-confidence vote is also a demand that Kasyanov take stock of his tenure as prime minister and a reality check of the confidence he may or not enjoy from his boss. Putin has distanced himself from the government and has forced Kasyanov to fight back. On 11 June, during an question-and-answer session with lawmakers, Kasyanov stood his ground in defense of his and government's performance. He appears to be up to the challenge and welcomes a negotiated resolution of his government's travails. This is what is has done successfully for the last three years.
Not surprisingly, the vote of no confidence has given all parties involved an opportunity to ask some hard questions and signals the start of the political sparring expected as elections near. Russia's political parties get some airtime, Putin maintains his independent position above the quarrelsome fray, and Kasyanov has been given a high-profile opportunity to make his government's case.
The conventional wisdom among political insiders in Moscow is that the Duma's vote of no confidence will fail. The same conventional wisdom understands the election season has started and that little will be heard about reform until some time next spring. The irony of this conventional wisdom is that the vote against Kasyanov's government will further entrench the conditions that the no-confidence vote was meant to protest in the first place.
Peter Lavelle is a Moscow-based analyst and author of the weekly electronic newsletter Untimely Thoughts (http://www.untimely-thoughts.com).
SHI'ITE CLERIC SAYS HE WILL NOT JOIN IRAQI ADVISORY COUNCIL
Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said he was unaware that he had been named a member of the Iraqi advisory council and will not participate in the forum, London-based "Al-Zaman" reported on 16 June. Al-Sadr reportedly told a group of his followers at the Al-Kufa Mosque that he will not join the council, since it was formed as a result of the U.S. cancellation of an Iraqi conference that would have established an interim government. He also called on the Iraqi people to demonstrate peacefully against the U.S. plan. Al-Sadr, son of the assassinated Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, recently returned from Iran, where he participated in events commemorating the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2003). KR
IRAQIS PROTEST IN AL-HILLAH
Iraqi civil servants in the Babil Governorate reportedly protested on 16 June against a U.S. demand that they sign a form stating they will obey U.S. troops or face dismissal, "Al-Jazeera" reported the same day. Hundreds of citizens took to the streets in a peaceful demonstration to protest the U.S. demand, the broadcaster reported. The report has not been confirmed. KR
CAR BOMBS RIP THROUGH BAGHDAD
A civilian vehicle exploded in a neighborhood in northwest Baghdad on 16 June, killing one woman and a young girl, Reuters reported the same day. The cause of the explosion was not clear, but it reportedly occurred at an intersection where U.S. troops had dismantled a checkpoint just 30 minutes earlier. Another civilian vehicle was blown up in a tunnel in Baghdad on 16 June, the news agency reported. Early reports indicated that the likely cause of the latter blast was a land mine. Two Iraqis were wounded in that incident. KR
OPERATION DESERT SCORPION LEADS TO MORE IRAQI DETENTIONS
U.S. military forces said on 17 June that Operation Desert Scorpion, launched two days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2003), is continuing, according to the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) website (http://www.centcom.mil). "In the central region near Tikrit and Kirkuk, coalition forces conducted 36 raids and detained 215 individuals," the statement said. While there, coalition troops also escorted humanitarian fuel deliveries in the region. In Baghdad, 11 raids led to the detention of 156 individuals, according to CENTCOM. "Coalition forces also collected 121 rifles, two submachine guns, 19 pistols, 18 rocket-propelled grenades, four machine guns, 31 pounds of explosives, and some chemical protective masks," CENTCOM added. KR
MILITANT FIRES AT U.S. CONVOY, REPORTEDLY HITS IRAQI CIVILIAN BUS
An unidentified assailant fired a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at 4th Infantry Division soldiers on 15 June near the town of Al-Mushahidah, instead hitting a civilian bus that was passing the U.S. convoy, according to a 16 June press release on CENTCOM's website. Task Force Ironhorse units returned fire to protect the convoy and bus, it said. "Supporting units from Task Force Ironhorse responded to assist the people on the bus; however, the bus was moved while the soldiers were traveling to its location. The soldiers searched the ambush location but did not find the bus," CENTCOM reported. The number of casualties on the bus remained unknown, according to CENTCOM. U.S. forces also came under attack by Iraqi militants firing RPGs at a military convoy near Al-Dujayl, located some 60 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, CENTCOM noted in the same statement. KR
U.S. SOLDIER KILLED BY SNIPER IN NORTHERN IRAQ
A U.S. soldier on patrol in northern Baghdad on 16 June was shot and killed by a single shot to the chest from a sniper, AP reported the following day. The gunman reportedly escaped. U.S. military spokesman Major Sean Gibson told AP that the soldier, from the 1st Armored Division, was evacuated but died shortly thereafter. Troops patrolling alongside the downed soldier did not see the gunman, and Gibson could not say whether U.S. forces returned fire. More than 40 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq since major combat operations ended on 1 May. KR
MKO OFFICES RAIDED IN PARIS, 165 DETAINED...
Some 165 members of the Iranian opposition group People's Mujahedin, a.k.a. Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), were detained after an early morning raid of MKO locations north and west of Paris, including the headquarters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the MKO-dominated political umbrella group, international media reported on 17 June. Thirteen locations were stormed by more than 1,200 officers in a raid that has been described as one of the largest domestic intelligence operations in France in the past 30 years. Thirty Persian-speaking interpreters will question the detainees, according to AFP. The raids were ordered by France's leading antiterrorism judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, after a investigation, which lasted several years, into "criminal association with a view to preparing acts of terrorism and financing a terrorist organization," AFP reported. At NCRI headquarters, police seized a safe containing $1.3 million in $100 bills, a large quantity of computer equipment, and 100 dish antennas, dpa reported. Meanwhile, AP quoted an unidentified investigator as saying that "ultra-sophisticated transmission systems" were also seized in the raid. The United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union all consider the People's Mujahedin a terrorist organization. KR
...INCLUDING MKO FIGUREHEAD
One person detained in the raid was Maryam Rajavi, who served as joint leader of the MKO in the late 1980's, international media reported on 17 June. In 1993, she was nominated as the NCRI's choice of "president-elect" for a future Iranian government. Born in Tehran in 1953, Rajavi is the wife of Masud Rajavi, who heads the Iraq-based MKO terrorist group, which operated freely under deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and launched attacks on Iran from inside Iraq. Some MKO members fled Iraq at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom on 20 March, and many MKO members reportedly headed to France. U.S. forces reportedly disarmed those MKO members who remained in Iraq. According to AFP, the whereabouts of Masud Rajavi are not known. Saleh Rajavi, Maryam's brother, was also detained during the 17 June raid on NCRI headquarters, the BBC reported. MKO spokesman Ali Safavi told AFP that the allegations against the group "are absolutely preposterous." Safavi accused France of "trying to curry favor with the Islamic government in Iran," and called the arrests part of a "concerted conspiracy" between the two governments, the BBC reported. KR
IAEA, EU, AND RUSSIA PRESS IRAN ON NUCLEAR INSPECTIONS
The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) met in Vienna on 16 June to discuss IAEA Director-General Mohammad el-Baradei's report on Iran's nuclear program, in which he said Tehran has "failed to report certain nuclear material and activities," according to international news agencies. El-Baradei urged Iran to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's Additional Protocol, which would allow the IAEA to conduct intrusive, short-notice inspections. European Union foreign ministers, meeting in Luxembourg the same day, also called on Iran to accept the Additional Protocol if it wants a planned trade deal, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said at a news conference in New Delhi on 16 June that "we hope Iran will sign the IAEA Additional Protocol, which will give broader access to IAEA inspectors to all Iranian nuclear facilities," Interfax reported. SF
250 IRANIAN TEACHERS AND WRITERS DESCRIBE REGIME'S SYSTEM AS 'HERESY'
Some 250 dissident "academics, students, journalists, and political and cultural activists" released a pro-democracy statement critical of Iran's unelected leaders, ISNA reported on 16 June. ISNA did not indicate for whom the statement was meant, but AP reported that it was directed toward Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. According to ISNA, the statement asserted that "sovereignty is the right of the people, which they temporarily grant to rulers," whom they can dismiss if they are dissatisfied with their performance. In what appeared to be an attack on the supreme leader, the statement said a system that places people in "the status of deity, or in an unaccountable position, is clear heresy toward the lofty status of humanity." SF
TEHRAN QUIETER ON SEVENTH NIGHT OF PROTESTS
Protests in Tehran against clerical rule were dying down on their seventh night, Reuters reported on 16 June. Uniformed police were taking action on 16 June against plainclothes vigilantes who attacked protesters with clubs and chains on previous nights. In order to keep away automobiles carrying onlookers and supporters, law enforcement forces closed the streets leading to the Tehran University dormitory, the site of the disturbances, Fars News Agency reported. Judiciary head Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi on 16 June told a group of "high-ranking judiciary officials" that "it is natural for students to stage rallies to ask that their demands be met," IRNA reported. He added that those demands, "if deemed logical, must be responded to in an appropriate manner." Unfortunately, he said, the recent rallies have been "abused by certain individuals who were not students." SF
IRANIAN OFFICIAL DESCRIBES 35 PERCENT OF DETAINEES AS COUNTERREVOLUTIONARIES...
Interior Ministry Security Affairs chief Asghar Ahmadi said on 16 June that more than 250 people have been arrested in the Tehran unrest, IRNA reported. "All those arrested," he said, "with the exception of about 35 percent who are counterrevolutionaries and hooligans, have been freed." SF
...AND SAYS VIGILANTE LEADER SHOULD BE TRIED
Ahmadi also said on 16 June that the police cracked down on the plainclothes vigilante groups, adding that their leader Said Asghar "should be put on trial." He added that "no one" supports "these wayward vigilantes," who he said sometimes try to pass themselves off as Basijis or members of the Islamic Revolution Guards. SF
PROVINCIAL GOVERNOR DESCRIBES DISTURBANCES IN ISFAHAN
Isfahan Province Governor Qodratollah Nowruzi on 16 June confirmed reports of unrest in that city the night before, ISNA reported. He spoke of scenes of unrest in the southern districts of the city, where rioters attacked bank branches, automobiles, and other public property; some 50 rioters were arrested. Meanwhile, the governor of the small neighboring town of Meymeh, Mohammad Hoseyn Ghazanfari, told ISNA on 16 June that some 100 rioters, mainly "youngsters who were duped," were arrested for attacking public buildings and banks the previous night. SF
AFGHANISTAN, IRAN SIGN DEAL ON REFUGEES
The governments of Afghanistan and Iran and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) signed an agreement on 16 June to repatriate by 2005 more than 1 million Afghans currently living in Iran, the BBC reported. Under the agreement, the refugees will gradually be returned to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is hesitant to accept all of its citizens who are living abroad as refugees at once, as it would overburden the country's fragile economy. According to the UNHCR, more than 500,000 Afghans have returned from Iran over the past year. However, the returnees have had to cope with a lack of jobs and housing as well as rising insecurity in Afghanistan. AT
OPIUM-CROP ERADICATORS KILLED IN ORUZGAN PROVINCE
Tribal and Frontier Affairs Minister Mohammad Aref Nurzai said on 16 June that seven Afghans in charge of destroying opium-poppy crops were killed in Oruzgan Province on 15 June, Reuters reported on 16 June. Nurzai said that "local [poppy] farmers were behind the ambush," but he did not rule out the possibility of ethnic and sectarian reasons for the killings. According to Nurzai, the farmers were Shi'ite Hazaras while the team tasked with eradicating their poppy crops comprised Sunni Pashtuns. On 11 June, 12 people were reported killed in a bomb attack in Oruzgan Province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003). Reuters reported that nine were killed in that attack and that it was carried out by Hazaras against Pashtuns (for more on the drug problem in Afghanistan, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February, 29 May, and 5 June 2003). AT
NEO-TALIBAN FORCES WARN OF SUICIDE ATTACKS IN AFGHANISTAN
Leaflets recently distributed in Kandahar Province in the name of the former Afghan Taliban regime warned of suicide attacks against foreign forces in Afghanistan, Reuters reported on 16 June. The leaflets warn that a "suicide force of Taliban Mujahedin has been formed to take revenge for Taliban martyrs." This is an apparent reference to the 4 June killing of 40 neo-Taliban fighters at the hands of Kandahar Province militia. The warnings say that the new force will "start nonstop suicide attacks on senior Afghan officials and American and British forces." Three days after the 4 June incident, a suicide bomber killed seven German soldiers serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). However, the leaflets reportedly do not make any reference to that attack, which Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai has blamed on foreigners (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 12 June 2003). AT
POSSIBLE FUTURE DEPLOYMENT OF ISAF TROOPS IN HERAT OPPOSED
Loya Jirga representatives from Herat Province met with Herat Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan on 15 June and expressed their opposition to what they believe will be the future deployment of ISAF troops in their province, Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari service reported the next day. The representatives said peace and security prevails in Herat Province and there is thus no need to deploy ISAF forces. Ismail Khan said forces will be deployed to ensure the security of international aid workers and will not be responsible for the overall security of Herat, the report added. However, the ISAF has not officially announced that it will expand its mandate beyond Kabul and it is possible that the forces will be U.S.-led Provincial Reconstruction Teams (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 January 2003), and not the ISAF. AT
KABUL PAPER SAYS INSECURITY WILL FOIL ELECTIONS
The Kabul daily "Anis" commented on 16 June that elections for the Constitutional Loya Jirga scheduled for October and a general election that is planned for June 2004 will "fail if a general disarmament is not carried out." According to "Anis," Afghan experience has shown that "irresponsible armed people will have an influence on the election process." The commentary praised recent efforts by the Afghan Transitional Administration to control the country's warlords. However, it warned that if the process of disarming the warlords is not completed prior to the elections, a democratic and free election cannot be expected (for more on the Afghan elections, see upcoming "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 19 June 2003). AT