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Newsline - May 11, 2000



PUTIN NOMINATES KASYANOV AS PRIME MINISTER

President Vladimir Putin on 10 May formally nominated Mikhail Kasyanov as prime minister, Russian agencies reported. Kasyanov, who until now was first deputy prime minister and finance minister, will meet with State Duma factions on 15 May, and the Duma itself will debate his nomination two days later. The date of a vote on his nomination will be determined on 16 May by the House Council, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told ITAR-TASS. Kasyanov indicated that there will not be a major reshuffle of the cabinet if he is confirmed. PG

KASYANOV TO CUT TAXES, IMPROVE INVESTMENT CLIMATE

Following his nomination as prime minister, Kasyanov told journalists that his government's first priorities will be to develop "concrete measures to reduce the tax burden and improve the investment climate in Russia," ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the new government's economic program is likely to be completed by the end of May and that the tax code will have to be amended by August. In other comments, Kasyanov said that "the government is being formed without any fuss, and this process will not affect the Russian economy." Meanwhile, Interfax reported the same day that the post of first deputy prime minister, which Kasyanov had held, and the Economics Ministry may be abolished. PG

RAID CARRIED OUT ON MEDIA-MOST OFFICES

Several dozen people, some of them armed, entered the Moscow offices of Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most Group on 11 May to carry out a search of those premises. Interfax reported that the raid was conducted by the Interior Ministry's Main Directorate for Fighting Economic Crime, the Prosecutor-General's Office, and the tax police. The news agency added that the search was part of a criminal investigation into former Finance Ministry officials suspected of abuse of office. Media-Most, for its part, denounced the action as one of "lawlessness" that was linked to recent reporting by its media outlets on government corruption, according to Reuters. NTV, Ekho Moskvy, the daily "Segodnya," and the weekly "Itogi" are all part of the Media- Most group. JC

RUSSIAN CONVOY ATTACKED IN INGUSHETIA

At least 16 Russian troops were killed on 11 May when some 500 Chechen fighters ambushed a troop convoy near the village of Galashki in Ingushetia's Sunzha Raion, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. LF

DUMA COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN MEETS WITH CHECHEN MINISTER...

Duma Legislative Committee chairman Pavel Krasheninnikov held talks in Ingushetia on 9-10 May with former Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev, Russian agencies reported. Makhashev greeted the creation on Krasheninnikov's initiative of an independent public commission on Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 16, 21 April 2000). He reaffirmed that "the Chechen leadership in the person of President Aslan Maskhadov is prepared for a peaceful settlement" of the conflict, adding that "without a political settlement...this war will lead to deadlock," Interfax reported. Krasheninnikov on his return to Moscow stressed that he was not authorized to conduct negotiations with Makhashev and that their meeting constituted merely "an exchange of views." He said the aim of his commission is to conduct talks with "all those...who are interested in the settlement of the armed conflict." LF

...INCURS OFFICIAL CENSURE FOR DOING SO

Kremlin Chechnya spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told journalists in Moscow on 10 May that the Russian authorities did not authorize Krasheninnikov's meeting with Makhashev, Interfax reported. He pointed out that the commission that Krasheninnikov heads has no relations with the Russian leadership. Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, who commands the joint federal forces in the Caucasus, condemned the Krasheninnikov-Makhashev meeting on the grounds that the latter "is Maskhadov's man and he is on the wanted list." State Duma speaker Seleznev said he had not been informed in advance of Krasheninnikov's meeting with Makhashev but that he does not consider it "unusual." Seleznev added that talks with various Chechen representatives have been going on for some time, and he expressed the hope that those talks may yield "new figures" with whom agreement could be reached. Seleznev named Chechen mufti Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov as one such potential interlocutor. LF

PUTIN TO DELIVER STATE OF THE NATION MESSAGE IN JUNE

A source in the presidential administration told ITAR-TASS on 10 May that President Putin will make his annual state of the nation address to the Federal Assembly in June. The address, which the news agency suggested would be shorter than previous ones, will outline Putin's program for the coming year, particularly in the area of economic development and federal relations. PG

ZYUGANOV SAYS COMMUNISTS WON'T SUPPORT RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT

Russian Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told Interfax on 10 May that his party sees no reason why it should drop its opposition to the Russian government and will not revise its position until it sees the new economic concept. "There will be no normal cooperation until the president and his team work for the country and all its citizens rather than for a bunch of oligarchs." He said that former President Boris Yeltsin's presence on the reviewing stand on Victory Day was "an outrage against those who marched on Red Square and the nation as a whole." PG

FINANCE MINISTRY, WORLD BANK BEGIN REGIONAL REFORMS

The Russian Finance Ministry and the World Bank have begun to implement a $30 million loan to promote reforms of regional budgeting, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 May. Six regions will participate in a project under which fiscal specialists will be trained, software developed, and equipment purchased. PG

IVANOV MEETS WITH SCHWIMMER IN STRASBOURG

Acting Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is in Strasbourg to participate in a session of the ministerial committee of the Council of Europe, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 May. Ivanov said that his meeting with Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer had been "sincere and constructive." The ministerial session was to have taken up the question of Russia's possible suspension from the Council of Europe because of Moscow's actions in Chechnya, but one Council of Europe official told Reuters that "sanctions are not on the agenda," even though the Russian side has not declared a cease-fire, as the council's Parliamentary Assembly has called for. Ivanov's aides told the Russian news agency that he also planned to discuss a Stability Pact for Southeast Europe and the human rights situation in Estonia and Latvia. PG

...STRESSES COMMITMENT TO 'PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT' IN CHECHNYA

Ivanov again said that Moscow is concentrating "on the political settlement and economic restoration" of Chechnya as well as "finding solutions to humanitarian issues" in the republic, according to Interfax. He added that Council of Europe experts will shortly begin working at the office headed by Russian Human Rights Commissioner for Chechnya Vladimir Kalamanov. He described the fighting in Chechnya as directed "against terrorists, against separatists. We're fighting for our country and for our people," he added. LF

RUSSIA TO SEND TROOPS TO SIERRA LEONE

Interfax reported on 10 May that in response to a UN request, Moscow will dispatch 106 soldiers and four military transport helicopters to Sierra Leone, Interfax reported on 10 May. Rebels there continue to hold UN observer and Russian Lieutenant Captain Andrei Ufimtsev hostage. PG

VIOLATIONS OF NUCLEAR SAFETY REGULATIONS TOTALED 840 LAST YEAR

Citing documents due to be released by the Ministry of Atomic Energy and the State Nuclear Monitoring Agency later this year, "Izvestiya" reported on 11 May that 840 violations of safety regulations were recorded at Russia's nuclear power plants in 1999. Among the reasons cited for these violations were wear and tear and insufficient reliability of equipment. The monitoring agency recommended that 90 of the violations should be investigated and noted that "numerous flaws in the metal used in pipes were detected," which might result in leaks of radioactive material. Most violations occurred at the nuclear facilities in Kursk (21) and Smolensk (16) as well as the Novyi Voronezh (15) and Kola (10) nuclear facilities. JC

MOSCOW AGAIN COMPLAINS ABOUT U.S.-SUPPLIED RADAR FACILITY IN NORWAY

Officials of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces told ITAR-TASS on 10 May that the Norwegians will soon be operating a U.S. "Heavy Stare" radar site near the Russian border capable of monitoring 38,000 square kilometers of northwestern Russia and detecting ballistic missile tests. Vladimir Yakovlev, the commander in chief of the strategic rocket forces, has "declared more than once," the news agency said, that this radar violates provisions of the ABM treaty. PG

KVASHNIN CRITICIZES KFOR...

Russian General Staff chief General Anatolii Kvashnin told reporters in Moscow on 10 May that the NATO-led peacekeeping operation in Kosova is not succeeding, Interfax reported. "We think no positive signs can be seen in the situation," Kvashnin said before departing for meetings with NATO officials in Brussels. Meanwhile, new KFOR commander General Juan Ortuno praised the training of the Russian military contingent there, Interfax reported. PG

...SAYS RUSSIA-NATO RELATIONS UNFROZEN BUT IN COLD WATER'

Speaking in Brussels after his meeting with the Permanent Joint Russia-NATO Council on 10 May, Kvashnin said that Moscow's relations with the Western alliance will be unfrozen but will have to go "through cold water," ITAR-TASS reported. PG

MOSCOW DENOUNCES U.S. CONGRESS RESOLUTION ON BELARUS

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 10 May sharply criticized a U.S. Congressional resolution on Belarus, Interfax reported. It said that the Congressional action "grossly distorts the situation in Belarus and the essence of Russian-Belarusian relations." And it added that calls for pressuring Moscow to withdraw from the Russian-Belarusian union "cannot be viewed other than as efforts to openly interfere in Russia's internal affairs and relations between the two independent countries." PG

U.S. DETAINS RUSSIAN-MANNED SHIP FOR POACHING

The U.S. Coast Guard detained a Russian-manned ship suspected of illegally using a drifter net, ITAR-TASS reported. The vessel, apparently owned by a South Korean company but manned by 25 Russian citizens, had been tracked by the Coast Guard for 19 days before being detained. PG

CONSUMER PRICES RISES 0.9 PERCENT IN APRIL

Consumer price inflation was 0.9 percent in April, up from 0.6 percent in March, Interfax reported on 10 April. Inflation for the first four months of 2000 totaled 5 percent, the State Statistics Committee said. PG

TAX COLLECTIONS EXPECTED TO RISE 50 PERCENT

The Russian Tax Ministry told Interfax on 10 May that it expects personal tax revenues to rise 50 percent during 2000 over 1999. During the first quarter, income tax revenues stood at 30.1 billion rubles ($1.06 billion), up from 19.7 billion rubles a year earlier. PG

FIRST QUARTER TRADE SURPLUS UP DRAMATICALLY

The Russian Economics Ministry told Interfax on 10 May that Russia's foreign trade surplus (not including unregistered trade) in the first quarter was the highest since reform was launched. It amounted to $14.1 billion, compared with $7.9 billion in the same period last year. PG

RUSSIAN HARVEST PREDICTED TO TOP 70 MILLION TONS

Food and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev told Interfax on 10 May that the Russian grain harvest this year could total 70-75 million tons, up 40 percent over 1999's 54.7 million tons. PG

SWORD AND SHIELD' COMPANY BOUGHT WEAPONS

A joint stock company called "Sword and Shield," whose members include former interior troops and which is located in Rostov-on-Don, illegally purchased and stored weapons rather than providing guards for individuals and companies, as its charter provided for, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 May. PG

VICTORY DAY PASSES WITHOUT INCIDENT

The Russian Interior Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 10 May that there were no emergency situations during Victory Day celebrations across Russia. According to the ministry, some 7.5 million people took part, with approximately 215,000 policemen and 8,000 Interior Ministry troops looking on to ensure law and order. PG

PUTIN'S REMARKS ON SLAVIC VICTORY COMPARED TO STALIN'S 1945 TOAST

Writing in "The St. Petersburg Times" on 9 May, Yevgeniya Albats discussed President Putin's suggestion last week that the Soviet victory in World War II was "the victory of Slavic peoples." Such a remark not only minimizes the contribution of all other Soviet peoples to the war effort, she said, but recalls the words of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in his 1945 toast to the Great Russian people, whom he described as "the most outstanding nation of all the nations comprising the Soviet Union." Albats, whose Jewish father became an invalid after fighting in World War II, concluded that in 1991 the Soviet Union, as a party state, "proved once again that the idea of ethnic supremacy is self-destructive. It seems," she said, that "our new president, inaugurated on [7 May], did not study his history lessons well enough." PG

TWO DEATHS FROM HEMORRHAGIC FEVER IN STAVROPOL

Two women have died in Stavropol Krai from Crimean hemorrhagic fever, and another 12 people have contracted the disease, Caucasus Press reported on 11 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2000). LF

KAZAN PROPOSED AS 'THIRD RUSSIAN CAPITAL'

Aleksandr Dugin, who is an adviser to State Duma speaker Seleznev, told Tatarstan Television on 10 May that the possibility of designating Kazan as Russia's third capital is being "seriously discussed" in Moscow, RFE/RL's Tatar Service reported. Dugin said that implementing that proposal would contribute to Eurasian integration, indicate that Russia's interests lie in the East, rather than to the West, and appeal to Russia's Turkic minorities. He also suggested that the Federation Council might be moved to Kazan. Seleznev had proposed late last month that the Federal Assembly be relocated to St. Petersburg (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2000). LF




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY AT ODDS OVER CANDIDATE FOR PREMIER...

Ongoing consultations between the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), which together form the Miasnutiun majority parliamentary faction, have not yet yielded an agreement on the bloc's candidate to head the new government, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 10 May. The HZhK reportedly objects to the HHK's proposed candidate, its chairman Andranik Markarian. But parliamentary speaker Armen Khachatrian denied on 10 May that Miasnutiun is on the verge of splitting, according to Armenpress. He told journalists that both the HZhK and the HHK agree that Miasnutiun should nominate the new premier. LF

...WHILE WAR VETERANS DISAGREE OVER IMPEACHMENT

The Yerkrapah Union of Veterans of the Karabakh war, which is aligned with the HHK, is divided over whether to push for President Robert Kocharian's impeachment, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 10 May. Angered by Kocharian's 2 May dismissal of Premier Aram Sargsian, some Yerkrapah members still reject any participation in discussions with the president on the composition of the new cabinet and have called for Kocharian's impeachment. Yerkrapah leader General Manvel Grigorian, however, whom Kocharian promoted in March to deputy defense minister, is said to oppose any "drastic steps" (see also "End Note" below). LF

COUNTERWEIGHT TO ARMENIAN VETERANS' UNION FORMED

A new organization representing Karabakh war veterans was established on 9 May, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Noyan Tapan reported on 10 and 11 May. Named Veterans of the Liberation Struggle, the new body is headed by General Arkadii Ter- Tadevossian, one of the commanders of Armenian forces during the Karabakh war, and includes several former militias who participated in that fighting. Ter-Tadevossian on 9 May condemned as inappropriate Yerkrapah's involvement in Armenian domestic politics. But at the same time he stressed that the new union is not an opponent of Yerkrapah, whose members he referred to as "our brothers." Prominent Yerkrapah member Ruben Gevorgian on 10 May condemned the new union, saying that Ter-Tadevossian created it on orders from the president. LF

AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA, TURKEY SIGN KEY PIPELINE AGREEMENT

Representatives of the governments of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey signed an agreement in Istanbul late on 9 May on Azerbaijan's legal obligations as one of the countries that the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline will transit, according to a Cambridge Energy Research Associates press release circulated by Groong. That agreement, which participants at the signing ceremony termed "historic," completes the legal framework for the project and thus paves the way for creation of a "sponsors' group" that will seek funding for its implementation. The total cost of the 1730 kilometer pipeline is estimated at $2.4-3 billion. Construction is planned to be completed in 2004-2005. Speaking in Istanbul on 10 May, U.S. presidential adviser for the Caspian John Wolf, who attended the 9 May signing ceremony, said the U.S. would welcome Russian participation in the Baku-Ceyhan project, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI WOMEN ARRESTED IN BAKU PROTEST DEMO

Some 60 women staged an unsanctioned march through Baku on 10 May, banging saucepans to underscore their demand for greater employment opportunities for women and an increase in family allowances. They also demanded the resignation of President Heidar Aliev, whom they accused of suppressing dissent. The protest was timed to coincide with Aliev's 77th birthday. Police detained some 35 demonstrators outside the parliament building but later released all but nine or 10 of them. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT ENDORSES MINISTER OF STATE

By a vote of 156 to nine, deputies on 11 May approved the candidacy of Gia Arsenishvili for the post of minister of state in the next government, Caucasus Press reported. Most members of the second-largest Revival faction abstained from the vote. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze had proposed the candidacy of Arsenishvili, a former mathematics professor and governor of Kakheti (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2000). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PROPOSES CREATING NEW GOVERNMENT POST...

Shevardnadze has proposed that the Georgian constitution be amended to include the new post of minister-commissioner, Caucasus Press reported on 10 May. That minister would be charged by the president with special duties and would initially focus on the search for a solution to the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Observers have identified as possible candidates for that position Georgia's ambassador to the UN, Petre Chkheidze, and outgoing Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze. On 11 May the parliament is to consider Shevardnadze's proposal to reduce the number of ministries from 22 to 19 by amalgamating the Ministries of Transport and Communications as well as the Ministries of Trade and Economy. The Ministry of Foreign Economic relations will be abolished and its functions divided between the Foreign Ministry and the new Ministry for Trade and the Economy. The streamlining is intended to reduce the size of the state bureaucracy. LF

...AND INCREASED GOVERNMENT LIAISON WITH MEDIA

Shevardnadze has also proposed that each ministry introduce the post of deputy minister with responsibility for liaising with the media, Caucasus Press reported on 10 May, citing "Rezonansi." LF

KAZAKHSTAN OFFSHORE OIL-FILED CONTAINS 'MAJOR RESERVES'

Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev said on 10 May in the western port of Atyrau that the first test well drilled by the Offshore Kazakhstan International Operating Company (OKIOC) at the East Kashagan off-shore Caspian oil field indicates that structure contains "big deposits of oil," Reuters reported. Toqaev said it is "too early" to mention a specific figure. But experts believe East Kashagan, which lies in shallow waters close to the northern shore of the Caspian, may contain up to 4 billion tons of crude. LF

TAJIKISTAN REGISTERS INCREASE IN DRUG-TRAFFICKING

Over 2,000 drug smugglers were intercepted and apprehended in Tajikistan in 1998, an increase of one-third over the previous year, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 May. citing a report compiled by the national agency for drug control. The number of women engaged in drug-trafficking is also rising: women accounted for one- fifth of those convicted for peddling drugs in 1999. That report also registered an increase in drug addition, especially among young people. Seventy-five percent of registered addicts in Tajikistan are under 30, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 6 May. LF

U.S. WARNS TURKMENISTAN OVER PLANNED GAS PIPELINE

U.S. presidential adviser for the Caspian John Wolf warned that Turkmenistan may lose the Turkish gas market unless it makes a swift and firm commitment to the proposed Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, the "Wall Street Journal" reported on 11 May. Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov has delayed doing so because of disagreements with the consortium created to manage that project and with Azerbaijan over the amount of Azerbaijani gas that would be exported to Turkey via that pipeline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 23 March 2000). LF




BELARUSIAN FORMER PREMIER SAYS HIS TRIAL POLITICALLY MOTIVATED

"I have lived honestly according to the country's laws and my conscience. I have done nothing illegal in my life and I have nothing to fear," former Premier Mikhail Chyhir said in his concluding statement to a Minsk court on 10 May, Belapan reported. Chyhir is charged with abuse of power and negligence when he headed a bank and with allowing a company to postpone paying customs duties when he served as premier from 1994-1996. The prosecution is demanding that he serve a five-year prison sentence. Chyhir said both the prosecutors and judges are well aware that his case is politically motivated. He resigned his cabinet post to protest the 1996 controversial constitutional referendum and was arrested three years later after he had challenged the regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the presidential ballot organized by the opposition. JM

UKRAINIAN MINERS STRIKE OVER WAGE ARREARS, LOW PAY

Some 40,000 miners launched an indefinite strike in 19 mines in Donetsk, Luhansk, and Volynska Oblasts on 10 May, Interfax reported. Ukraine's Independent Trade Union of Miners told the news agency that the miners are protesting the late payment of wages and mounting wage arrears, low earnings in the mining industry in comparison with other national economic sectors, and insufficient budget subsidies to the industry. The union said the government has not responded to earlier proposals to begin negotiations with miners on resolving the industry's problems. It added that the protest "will be expanded to achieve a mass character." According to official data, Ukraine's wage arrears totaled 6.5 billion hryvni ($1.2 billion) as of 10 April, of which 747 million hryvni were in the mining sector. Only eight of Ukraine's 191 mines are profit-making. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER SATISFIED WITH U.S. TRIP

Viktor Yushchenko on 10 May expressed satisfaction with his recent talks in Washington (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 May 2000) on shutting down the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and prospects for resuming IMF loans. He said he achieved "pretty good results" regarding his visit's goals. "The main result of the visit is that the Ukrainian president and his policies are regarded as [guarantors] of the political and economic stability of the country's domestic and foreign interests," Interfax quoted him as saying. Yushchenko's aide Valeriy Lytvytskyy told Reuters that an IMF mission is expected in Kiev by mid-June at the latest and that a decision on the disbursement of IMF loans will be reached soon afterward. JM

ESTONIAN, LATVIAN EMBASSIES AT RISK IN RUSSIA

Estonian and Latvian officials are taking steps to strengthen security at their embassies and consulates in Russia, BNS reported on 10 May. Both countries have requested increased security through the Russian Foreign Ministry after Molotov cocktails were thrown at the Estonian Embassy and the Latvian Consulate in St. Petersburg was doused with black paint last weekend. Earlier this year, the Latvian Embassy in Moscow was smeared with black paint and some windows were broken. ITAR-TASS reported on 10 May that the Russian Embassy in Tallinn has not asked for any enhanced security and added there were no incidents against Russian diplomats during the recent VE Day celebrations. AB

OPEN ESTONIA FOUNDATION TO BE RESTRUCTURED

The Open Estonia Foundation, founded by philanthropist George Soros, will be restructured into an institute for political and social research, ETA and BNS reported on 10 May. The announcement was made by Soros during his visit to Estonia on the occasion of the foundations 10th anniversary. Soros said that the goal of the new Open Policy Institute would be to promote Euro-integration. OEFs activities, which are aimed at helping Estonian non-profit organizations that promote Estonias integration into Europe, will continue with the help of the Baltic-American Partnership Foundation, which is funded both by Soros and the U.S. government. AB

NEW RIGA MAYOR ANNOUNCES PROBE INTO CITY HOUSING COMMISSION

Andris Argalis announced in an interview with Latvia State Radio on 10 May that a number of issues concerning the Riga Municipal Housing Privatization Commission will be turned over to the Prosecutor-Generals Office, LETA reported the same day. Argalis said, In my view, there are examples of top-level corruption and various financial violations that cannot be neglected. Argalis told LETA he also intends to change the leaders of the commission as soon as they return from a business trip to Tunisia. AB

LITHUANIA SEARCHING FOR OIL

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and a 45-member business delegation have flown to Kazakhstan for a two-day working visit, BNS and ELTA reported on 10 May. Among the businessmen is Williams Lithuania general manager Randy Majors. The Lithuanian oil company is seeking at least 4 million tons of oil supplies from Kazakhstan for its refinery at Mazeikiai. Last year, Lithuania imported only 600,000 tons of Kazakh oil. Adamkus will meet with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and sign bilateral agreements on tourism, customs duties, and efforts to fight organized crime. AB

POLAND SETS TIGHT TIMETABLE FOR PASSING EU LAWS

The government on 10 May approved a list of more than 100 bills to be passed in the next five months, PAP reported. Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek told journalists that by the end of September, the government will approve 60 EU-oriented bills, while the parliament will pass 56 laws covering areas ranging from trade in securities to veterinary standards and public procurement. Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, head of the government's European Integration Committee, said this year's EU report on aspiring members will be decisive for determining which country joins when. JM

POLAND'S COALITION AGREES ON CANDIDATE TO HEAD SECRET FILE ACCESS BODY

The ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union agreed on 10 May to propose Senator Leon Kieres as head of the Institute of National Remembrance, which is to oversee public access to the files of the communist-era secret police, Polish media reported. Kieres does not belong to any political party but participates in the work of the upper chamber's AWS caucus. He must be approved by a three-fifths parliamentary majority. The opposition Peasant Party (PSL), whose votes are crucial for approval, said it will support Kieres. "We will back him in order to end this matter at last and make the creation of the institute possible," PAP quoted a PSL activist as saying. The Institute of National Remembrance was formally created in January 1999 but has been unable to begin its work owing to political haggling over the appointment of its head. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT IN GERMANY

Vaclav Havel, on his first official visit to Germany, met with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and President Johannes Rau on 10 May. Schroeder told journalists after the meeting that Berlin "unconditionally" backs the Czech Republic's quest for EU membership and described relations between their countries as "excellent," CTK and dpa reported. Alluding to the expulsion of Sudeten Germans in 1945, Schroeder said: "We will not follow those who make recommendations on this or that question as a precondition for allowing the Czech Republic to join integrated Europe." After meeting with Rau, Havel told journalists that the "burdens of the past" must not hinder the development of good relations at present. In this connection, Havel mentioned the Benes decrees of 1945. MS

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTRY 'NOT SURPRISED' BY AUSTRIAN STATEMENT

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil told CTK on 10 May that his ministry was "not surprised" by an Austrian statement earlier the same day calling for the free movement of labor within the EU to be restricted. Vienna said it will demand from new EU members a "derogation" of at least five years on the free movement of labor. In other news, Czech Ambassador to Vienna Jiri Grusa told CTK on 10 May that he and Austrian government commissioner Maria Schaumayer have agreed on a draft agreement stipulating that Czech citizens who were employed as slave laborers in Austria during World War II will be compensated from a fund established by the Austrian government. It had been feared that such compensation would be forthcoming only after personal requests were approved by the Austrian authorities. The same procedure will apply to citizens of other East European countries. MS

SLOVAKIA SEEKS TO LURE FOREIGN INVESTORS

The government on 10 May approved a draft law on incentives for foreign investors. The law is aimed at boosting direct foreign investment and helping underdeveloped regions, AP reported. A 10 percent tax break will be granted to those who invest at least 100 million crowns ($2.12 million). Those investing 50 million crowns in regions where unemployment exceeds 10 percent will also be eligible for the concession. Investors will be paid 40,000-160,000 crowns for every new job created in the country. The parliament must still approve the bill, which will require some changes in existing legislation. MS

HUNGARY TO ACT AGAINST RACISM IN SPORTS

The Foreign Ministry has called on the government to crack down on manifestations of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism at football matches, Hungarian media reported on 11 May. In a letter addressed to several ministries, the Foreign Ministry said such actions run counter to the policies and intent of the cabinet and are incompatible with European values. Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth had pledged to deal with the issue during his recent meeting with Israeli Ambassador to Budapest Judit Varnai Shorer. In other news, visiting FBI Director Louis Freeh praised the American-Hungarian International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest as a "center of excellence" for training East European officers. He said that the FBI agents who recently began working in Hungary pose no threat to the country's sovereignty. MSZ




KOSOVARS SET TO POSTPONE INDEPENDENCE?

Albert Rohan, who is the OSCE's chief Balkan envoy, told Reuters in Vienna on 10 May that Kosova's ethnic Albanian political leaders understand that the international community will not agree to their demand for independence at this time. He added that the Kosovars also recognize the need for an interim political settlement to be worked out soon in order to reduce tensions in the province. Rohan stressed that the Albanians have made an "important concession" in agreeing to "postpone their desire for a swift, final settlement" (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 27 April and 4 May 2000). PM

THACI SEEMS TO SAY 'YES'

Hashim Thaci, who was the leader of the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and is now one of the province's top politicians, told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 11 May that an "independent Kosova is important for the stability of the Balkans." He added, however, that the time for independence has not yet arrived: "Independence will come once the Kosovars have decided on it and we have convinced the world" of the need for it. For now, he said, his priority is that Kosova remains at peace and that free local elections will take place, probably in the fall. He urged local Serbs to take part in the registration process leading up to the elections, saying that they will not have a voice in the province's future if they do not. Thaci dismissed as unfounded Serbian fears that many illegal immigrants from Albania will try to vote in the elections. The former UCK leader said that he is more worried that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic will send hard-liners and agents into Kosova to disrupt the ballot. PM

WHAT ROLE FOR SERBS?

Rohan told Reuters in Vienna on 10 May that representatives of the Serbian minority will join talks on an interim settlement once they realize that they will "have no say in the matter" if they boycott the talks. The negotiations will involve regional and international experts and take place in Kosova. Rohan stressed that he does not envisage "another Rambouillet." By this, he presumably means that he does not want a media spectacle with political grandstanding by some of the participants, as was the case with the 1999 Rambouillet talks. PM

KOUCHNER HAILS 'HISTORIC AGREEMENT'

Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, said in Prishtina on 10 May that Albanian and Serbian members of his interim council issued a "historic" statement condemning crimes committed against the other ethnic group and appealing to all people to shun violence. He called the session "the most important meeting we have had" since the council was formed several months ago, Reuters reported. The council called for the release of the perhaps 1,200 ethnic Albanians being held in Serbian jails. Its statement did not include an appeal to ethnic Albanians to help clarify the fate of the perhaps 900 Serbs and other non-Albanians classified as missing, Reuters added. PM

SERBS, ALBANIANS STAGE PROTESTS

Several hundred relatives of missing Kosova Serbs demonstrated in Belgrade on 10 May to demand that the international community and the Serbian authorities help clarify the fate of their loved ones. Ranko Djinovic, who heads the organization Families of the Kidnapped, said that a "conspiracy of silence" by the foreigners and Serbian authorities alike has prevented the relatives from finding out the truth. Meanwhile in the Kosovar town of Istog, some 2,000 ethnic Albanians demonstrated against plans by Kosova Serbs and the international community to return Serbian refugees to the province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2000). Spokesmen said that the Serbs will not be welcome until all ethnic Albanians are freed from Serbian jails and until additional, unspecified conditions are met, Reuters reported. PM

OPPOSITION RALLIES IN SERBIA

Some 10,000 political opponents of Milosevic gathered in Kragujevac and an additional 2,000 in Cacak to protest the regime's recent moves to block a major protest in Pozarevac (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2000). Opposition leaders have called a rally in Belgrade for 15 May. Zoran Djindjic and other opposition leaders noted that the regime was able to draw only about 150 supporters for its own rally in Pozarevac, which is the home town of the Milosevic family, Reuters reported. Several opposition leaders condemned recent remarks by Milosevic referring to the opposition as "traitors, lackeys, and blood-covered collaborators of the [NATO] occupiers" of Kosova. PM

MORE TROUBLE IN THE OFFING IN SERBIA?

Mladen Dinkic, who is coordinator of the G-17 group of economists, said in Kragujevac that he fears that the regime is preparing to declare a state of emergency, "Danas" reported on 11 May. He called "unprecedented" the combination of repressive means used to prevent the demonstration in Pozarevac. Meanwhile in Belgrade, a lawyer for non-regime journalist Miroslav Filipovic said on 10 May that his client has been arrested and may have to appear before a military court in Nis on charges of "criminal espionage" and "undermining the national defense system," Reuters reported. PM

REGIME STEPS UP PRESSURE IN MONTENEGRO

The Yugoslav army command in Montenegro issued a statement in Podgorica on 10 May calling on the government to "react" to a recent report in the London-based daily "Independent" to the effect that the government has trained an elite unit of snipers to "liquidate army officers," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Elsewhere, the pro-Milosevic Socialist People's Party filed legal charges against Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic and two cabinet ministers for abuse of office, "Danas" reported. PM

CROATIA JOINS PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE

NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson and Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan announced in Brussels on 10 May that Croatia will officially join NATO's Partnership for Peace program in Florence later in May. Robertson said that Croatia's recent elections showed that the country is ready to take "its place in the Euro- Atlantic family," Reuters reported. Racan emphasized that joining the NATO program will increase the chances that his country will receive additional foreign investments. Anton Tus, who is a retired Croatian air force general and a well- known military affairs commentator, told "Jutarnji list" of 11 May that the Croatian military has nearly met NATO requirements for membership as far as its personnel are concerned but that its equipment is far from up to the task. Tus predicted that Croatia will join the alliance in 2005. PM

RIGHTISTS DEMONSTRATE IN SPLIT

Some 5,000 veterans of the 1990-1995 conflict demonstrated in Split on 10 May to protest the government's plans to cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, "Jutarnji list" reported. PM

JOINT EDUCATION PACT FOR BOSNIA

Education ministers from the Republika Srpska and the mainly Croatian and Muslim federation signed an agreement in Sarajevo on 10 May to provide for a unified educational policy throughout Bosnia. Textbooks will teach a common heritage for all Bosnians and use both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets, "Oslobodjenje" reported. The two sides worked out the program under the sponsorship of the international community's chief representative's office and of the Council of Europe. PM

ROMANIAN MONEY-LAUNDERING INVESTIGATION PROMPTS CONTRADICTORY CLAIMS...

As French investigators began questioning witnesses in Bucharest, the ongoing money- laundering scandal in Romania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 9 May 2000) has prompted contradictory statements from former officials, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. At the center of the affair is a French-Romanian citizen. Party of Social Democracy (PDSR) in Romania Chairman Ion Iliescu denied that Adrian Costea had been issued a diplomatic passport on the orders of the presidential office at the time Iliescu was president. Iliescu added that Costea had "never had an official status" in the presidential office, either. He stressed that the scandal was a "diversion" aimed at "keeping people away from the ballot" in next month's local elections. Also on 10 May, Alliance for Romania (APR) Chairman Teodor Melescanu said Costea had been issued the passport on the orders of the presidential office . On 9 May the Foreign Ministry ordered the withdrawal of the diplomatic passport and fired the official currently in charge of issuing such documents. MS

...AS FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER LIKELY TO BE DRAWN IN

APR spokesman Marian Enache on 10 May said Melescanu has "so far" received no summons to testify in the investigation. Enache avoided answering questions on whether Costea had been one of the party's main financial sponsors in 1997. The allegation was made by former APR Secretary-General Mircea Osache, but Enache said the APR "has no documents" to confirm such had been the case. Paul Dobrescu, who is now APR secretary-general, said "it cannot be ruled out" that Costea was "among the APR sponsors" in 1997. At that time, he added, the formation was witnessing "a wave of sympathy." MS

MOLDOVAN PARTIES BACK EU INTEGRATION PROCESS

Twenty out of Moldova's 28 registered political parties have signed a declaration in support of the country's integration into the EU, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 10 May. The declaration defines EU integration as "a fundamental national strategic objective." The parties pledged to cooperate in harmonizing legislation with that of the union and called for starting negotiations on obtaining the status of an associate member. On 1 July 1998 Moldova signed an agreement of "partnership and cooperation" with the union. The signatories also call on the EU to assist Moldova in obtaining full membership in the Southeast European Stability Pact. MS

BULGARIAN COURT POSTPONES HEARING ON BALKAN AIR STRIKE

A court in Sofia on 10 May postponed hearings on the labor dispute that involves striking pilots from the Balkan Airlines national carrier and the company's management. The court accepted the pilots' request to delay the debate till 22 May. Prime Minster Ivan Kostov the same day threatened to declare Balkan Airlines insolvent if the labor conflict is not resolved, Reuters and AP reported. MS




ARMENIA'S GROWING PAINS OF DEMOCRACY


By Richard Giragosian

The political tensions brewing in Armenia over the past few months between President Robert Kocharian and his parliamentary opponents culminated in the 2 May dismissal of Prime Minister Aram Sargsian and Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian. The president is now moving to reassert control over a divided parliament as he faces the challenges of negotiating an end to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and overcoming corruption and economic malaise.

Having ended the constant bickering with a politically immature prime minister whose sole claim to political office was his appeal as the brother of slain Premier Vazgen Sargsian, Kocharian is now exploiting growing splits within the parliamentary Unity bloc and co-opting the Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh veterans. Assuming the post of premier in the wake of the 27 October attack on the parliament, Sargsian became embroiled in a series of political assaults on the presidency, ranging from calls for impeachment to the suspension of the government's privatization of the energy distribution network. The six-month tenure of Prime Minister Sargsian was most notable for its failure to address growing wage and pension arrears and its legacy of outstanding socio- economic problems to the next premier, who will be the country's 10th since independence.

The president's parliamentary opponents are grouped under a tenuous cooperative umbrella featuring the Unity bloc, which has the largest group of deputies, and its somewhat hesitant ally, the second-largest group in the parliament, Stability (Kayunutiun). But there is neither unity nor stability in the parliament. Seemingly influenced by the partisanship of U.S. politics, Unity last month raised the possibility of the president's impeachment, going as far as to circulate an anonymous document listing a series of alleged "offenses" committed by the president. While securing the newspaper headlines of the day, this confrontational tactic proved devoid of any substantive or even coherent criticism of President Kocharian or his policies. Indeed, this lack of substance is also fostering frustration with the Unity leadership within Stability, which, as a collection of independent and unaffiliated deputies, is looking for strong political direction and clear strategy.

President Kocharian has taken sufficient measures to preempt any serious threat from the "uniformed politicians" of the Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh veterans, a potentially pivotal combination of military thinking and politics founded by slain leader Vazgen Sargsian. By appointing Yerkrapah leader General Manvel Grigorian as deputy defense minister and promoting a number of senior Yerkrapah figures, Kocharian has in effect co-opted the union and prevented it from assuming any threatening role. In a similar move in Nagorno Karabakh, the unrecognized enclave's leader, Arkadii Ghukasian, marginalized the organization there and transformed it from a power base of the former Karabakh army chief Samvel Babayan into a bastion of pro-government support.

But this posturing of political elites has obscured a much more significant development that threatens to mortgage the country's future by ignoring its national interests. Ironically, the Unity bloc, which was elected to lead the country out of its economic crisis, was able to pass a moratorium on the government's privatization effort--a key precondition to the disbursement of a World Bank loan tranche to be used in financing the budget deficit. The increasingly common tendency to sacrifice prudent policy to the requirements of partisan politics is a dangerous development for a small landlocked country situated in an already unstable region.

A second important factor obscured by political infighting is the need for "good governance," specifically political accountability and greater transparency. Its absence is highlighted by the powerful former interior minister, Vano Siradeghian, a fugitive facing charges ranging from political assassinations and intimidation to corruption and abuse of power. After the parliament lifted his immunity for the second time, Siradeghian fled a trial that had consistently come under pressure from various powerful figures united by their fear of his testimony. The Siradeghian case is more than a criminal case with political implications. The prosecution of the former Ter-Petrossian government minister is an important step in securing a judicial system both viable and independent enough to withstand any outside pressure.

Today's main political question is whether the president will feel compelled to dissolve the parliament once he becomes empowered to do so on 30 May, one year after it was elected. Kocharian can either seek to maneuver between divided political alliances, most notably between the Unity bloc and Stability, or opt to dissolve the parliament and call new elections. Regardless of his decision, however, an inherent danger lies in the strengthening of the executive at the expense of the legislature. The excesses of the Ter- Petrossian administration that derived from this fundamental imbalance may lead to the transformation of a country experiencing the "growing pains" of democracy into one suffering the "premature death" of democracy. The author compiles the monthly newsletter "TransCaucasus: A Chronology."


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