GOVERNMENT DIVIDED OVER ECONOMIC PROGRAM?
"Izvestiya," which is owned by Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group and LUKoil, reported on 20 June that at a cabinet meeting three days earlier, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov was openly critical of the Center for Strategic Research's program for Russia's economic development until 2010. Kasyanov suggested that the program is too academic and demanded instead a list of specific measures that the government could take over the next six months. "Kommersant-Daily," in which Boris Berezovskii owns a controlling interest, also reported that Gref's program was poorly received by Kasyanov and concluded that "it finally became clear [on 17 June] that Kasyanov's government does not have a program." On 18 June, the government announced that it is postponing the unveiling of its economic program from 23 June to 28 June. The next day, an unidentified source close to Russian negotiations with the IMF and the World Bank told Interfax that the two organizations will not start talks with the government until its 18-month program is approved. JAC
GUSINSKII LOSES COURT ACTION...
A Moscow court on 20 June rejected a complaint filed by the lawyers for Media-Most head Vladimir Gusinskii over the legal grounds on which Gusinskii was arrested. The court ruled that since Gusinskii is no longer in custody, he has no right to protest his earlier arrest, lawyer Genri Reznik told reporters. Reznik added that he will file an appeal in a week's time. JAC
...BUT WINS PUBLIC RELATIONS BATTLE
In a long article in Berezovskii's "Nevazisimaya gazeta" of 20 June, chief editor Vladimir Tretyakov argued that Gusinskii was released because "not a single significant social or political force openly sided with the authorities." The Kremlin also decided that if Gusinskii had stayed in prison any longer, his image would have evolved into something like "the Andrei Sakharov of 2000," according to Tretyakov. The editor also concluded that "Putin does not have a professional team but Gusinskii does." In an interview with "Segodnya" the same day, Sergei Markov, the director of the Institute for Political Studies, made some similar points, suggesting that Gusinskii has become "virtually a symbol of free speech in Russia." JAC
AGREEMENT REACHED OVER RUBLE RATE?
In a speech to a conference in Moscow on 19 June, Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko pledged that the ruble exchange rate "will fluctuate and not be prohibitive for imports." He added that "the ruble rate is essentially unduly low, but this does not mean that we should set it at 20 rubles per dollar," Interfax reported. However, "The Moscow Times" reported the next day that Gerashchenko told reporters as he was leaving the conference that the Central Bank "is independent enough to make decisions [itself]" and that Prime Minister Kasyanov's comments last week that the "groundless strengthening" of the ruble will be prevented have had little impact on the bank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2000). On 19 June, State Duma Banking Committee Chairman (People's Deputy) Aleksandr Shokhin said that Gerashchenko and Kasyanov had agreed that "there will be no major fluctuations between the ruble either way" in the near future and that the exchange rate will remain approximately the same. JAC
SKINNY SWINE FACING SLAUGHTER
Livestock numbers are set to decline further because of the shortage of fodder grain, "The Moscow Times" reported on 20 June, citing NTV. According to the daily, NTV showed footage recently of skinny pigs at the Zalesye private collective farm being fed peat instead of grain. Some 4,000 of the farm's 6,000 pigs are likely to be killed because of the feed shortage. In Yaroslavl Oblast, pork production is expected to sink by one-third this year because local farmers find that the price of fodder is too high in comparison with the low price their meat fetches. Moreover, low import tariffs mean that foreign meat poses tough competition, according to the daily. Farmers also complain about large amounts of cheap meat shipped in as humanitarian aid. The Agriculture Ministry is considering deferring payments of the 5 percent import duty and valued- added tax on grain, reducing internal transport tariffs within the country, and applying for food aid from the U.S., Interfax reported. JAC
The All-Russia Unity party was officially registered at the Justice Ministry on 19 June with a membership of 186,000. According to Unity leader Sergei Shoigu, membership in the party has grown by 37 percent since 27 May, when members totaled only 136,000, ITAR-TASS reported. Unity faction leader Boris Gryzhlov claimed that Unity is now Russia's largest political party, after the Communist party. However, the party's leader, Shoigu, is not, in fact, a member because he is emergencies minister and the party's rules do not allow government employees to become members. JAC
...AS MOVEMENT TO SUPPORT THE ARMY SHRINKS?
Delegates to the Sixth Congress of the Movement to Support the Army (DPA) re- elected State Duma deputy (Communist) Viktor Ilyukhin as their leader on 17 June, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 June. According to the daily, some leaders of regional organizations are dissatisfied with Ilyukhin's leadership, but since there was no alternative candidate, not one vote was cast against Ilyukhin. The newspaper also reported that one deputy leader of the DPA, General Vladislav Achalov, left in the middle of the congress, saying that the movement "has become in the public's eyes more left than all of the left." Another DPA deputy leader was missing altogether from the meeting: General Albert Makashov, the former State Duma deputy, explained his absence by citing his participation in the upcoming gubernatorial elections in Samara Oblast and involvement in law suits. Russian media reported earlier that Makashov had failed to gather enough signatures to participate in that election (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 May 2000). JAC
PUTIN OFFERS TO HELP PROMOTE KOREAN ACCORDS
Speaking on the telephone with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Dae-jung, on 19 June, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Seoul on the results of its recent summit with Pyongyang and offered Moscow's help in improving relations between North and South Korea. According to a statement released by the Kremlin press service, Putin "stressed Russia's determination to do everything possible to create an environment that would guarantee the implementation" of the agreements reached at the Seoul-Pyongyang summit. The Russian president is to visit the North Korean capital in the near future. No date has yet been set for that visit, but it is thought likely that Putin will stop in Pyongyang on his way to the G-8 summit in Japan in mid-July. JC
CHECHEN PRESIDENT RULES OUT TALKS WITH KADYROV...
In a statement released on 19 June in Nazran, where he is rumored to be undergoing medical treatment, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov said the 14 June offer of talks by pro-Moscow Chechen leader Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov is "a propaganda campaign aimed at deceiving the Russian public and world community," Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2000). Maskhadov said that Kadyrov has neither the powers nor the authority to decide issues of war and peace between Russia and Chechnya. He also denied Kadyrov's claims that Chechen field commanders have sent representatives to him to discuss terms for surrendering. Maskhadov nonetheless affirmed his readiness for "compromise within reasonable limits." He did not elaborate. LF
...WHILE KADYROV COMPLAINS OF 'SABOTAGE'
Kadyrov on 19 June accused the Russian government representative in Chechnya, Nikolai Koshman, and members of his entourage responsible for controlling federal funds allocated for reconstruction in Chechnya of attempting to sabotage the transfer of the functions of administrative government in Chechnya from Koshman to Kadyrov, Interfax reported. Kadyrov implied that that refusal to cooperate is directed against President Putin. Kadyrov was scheduled to travel on 19 June from his native village of Tsentoroi to the temporary administrative capital, Gudermes, for his official inauguration, but failed to do so. In Moscow, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii downplayed the letter to President Putin signed by 12 of Chechnya's 18 district administrators, all of them appointed by Koshman, criticizing Kadyrov's appointment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2000). Yastrzhembskii made it clear that Putin will not withdraw his support for Koshman, according to Interfax. He said those district administrators who do not want to work with Kadyrov should resign. LF
CIS DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called on CIS defense ministers in Moscow on 19 June to support President Putin's recent proposal for a European anti-missile defense system, which he termed "the only efficient way to counteract the peril of nuclear missile proliferation without destroying the whole system of disarmament accords," Interfax reported. Ivanov and Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, who heads the Russian Defense Ministry's department for international military cooperation, also called for joint actions to protect what Ivashov called "the belt of instability from the Pamirs to the Caucasus." They also urged measures to stem the export of terrorism and drugs from Afghanistan. A senior Russian military official told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" last week that for the first time in the history of the CIS all its members' defense ministers would attend the 19 June meeting, but Georgia's David Tevzadze, who regularly boycotts such sessions, again failed to participate, Caucasus Press noted. LF
WHO CRITICIZES RUSSIA FOR HANDLING OF SMALLPOX VIRUS
Eight children in Vladivostok were hospitalized with high fevers and skin eruptions after playing with ampoules of the smallpox vaccine that they had found at a garbage dump, AP reported on 19 June. According to the agency, the children aged six to 12 years found ampoules with the dry vaccine, dissolved the content in water, and sprinkled it at one another. A public health official said that there was no risk of the children catching small pox and that they will be allowed to go home in the next few day. The World Health Organization (WHO) criticized the clinic for not incinerating the vaccine before disposing of it. Smallpox has been eradicated worldwide, but the virus and vaccine has not been disposed of completely because of fears about the use of the virus by terrorists. JAC
BEER CROWDING OUT VODKA AS DRINK OF CHOICE
Alcohol production fell 14 percent during the first five months of 2000 compared with the same period the previous year, according to Agriculture Ministry data, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 June. In May alone, production fell 12 percent in comparison with April. Experts blame the slump on declining demand, as consumers are increasingly buying beer instead of vodka and other hard alcohol--particularly during the summer months. JAC
FIT FOR SPACE?
A U.S. businessman and former rocket scientist is currently undergoing medical tests at the Russian Cosmonaut Training Center in Moscow Oblast to determine whether he is fit enough to become the first space tourist, Interfax and AP reported on 19 June. If he passes those tests, 59-year old Dennis Tito will spend one week on the "Mir" space station next year. The Netherlands-based company MirCorp, which funded the recent mission to the space station, is currently negotiating the cost of seven days in space. AP quoted MirCorp President Jeffrey Manber as saying the price tag is expected to be tens of millions of dollars. Last year, plans for a controversial British businessman to fly to "Mir" foundered when it transpired that the would-be cosmonaut did not have the necessary funds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 26 May 1999). JC
PUTIN HAILS CREATION OF UNION OF ARMENIANS IN RUSSIA...
In a message to the 172 participants in the constituent congress of the Union of Armenians of Russia, which took place in Moscow on 16 June, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted the "wise and well-balanced" position of Russia's Armenian community on key political issues, according to Groong, citing Armenpress. Putin said that the efforts of Russia's Armenian diaspora help strengthen the "strategic cooperation" between Russia and Armenia. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and the chairmen of the State Duma and Federation Council, Gennadii Seleznev and Yegor Stroev, also extended greetings to the congress, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 20 June. There are an estimated 2.5 million Armenians in the Russian Federation, of whom some 600,000-800,000 live in Krasnodar Krai, where they constitute the second-largest ethnic group and are subjected to systematic harassment both by the local authorities and the region's Cossack population, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on16 June. LF
...WHICH MAY HAVE A HIDDEN AGENDA?
Among the guests at the constituent congress of the new Armenian union was Pavel Borodin, state secretary of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, who expressed his desire to see Armenia accede to that formation, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20 June. The delegates to the congress elected as its chairman businessman Ara Abramian, whom "Izvestiya" on 17 June identified as a close friend and associate of Borodin. LF
RUSSIAN BORDER GUARD SHOT DEAD ON ARMENIAN-TURKISH FRONTIER
Turkish border guards shot dead a 21-year-old Russian soldier who crossed the Arax River marking the Armenian-Turkish border near the Turkish town of Karakoyunlu on 18 June, AFP and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Lieutenant General Mikhail Naymilo, who commands the Russian border guard contingent in Armenia, condemned the killing as a violation of international conventions. Naymilo said that Turkish border guards on the opposite bank of the river had invited the Russian to join them for a cigarette. Turkish officials say he crossed the river spontaneously and ignored warnings to stop. LF
MORE GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES QUIT MAJORITY FACTION
Former Georgian Defense Minister Giorgi Karkarashvili announced on 19 June that he and two former parliamentary committee chairmen intend to quit the Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) parliamentary faction and create a new faction, Caucasus Press reported. He said the new faction will comprise 10-11 deputies but did not specify whether they are all defectors from the SMK. The 17 deputies from the Abkhazeti faction, which together with the SMK originally formed the majority faction, split from the SMK last month to protest the Georgian leadership's policy toward Abkhazia (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 29 May 2000). LF
KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA REACH NEW AGREEMENT ON BAIKONUR
Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev opened a two-day official visit to Russia on 19 June by meeting with his Russian counterpart, Putin, at the latter's country residence near Moscow. The two presidents gave an overall positive assessment of bilateral relations, which Putin characterized as "progressively developing at a very high level" in both the political and the economic sphere, according to Interfax. The two presidents reached agreement on the terms, so far not made public, for Russia's continued use of Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome. Putin also expressed approval of Nazarbaev's proposal to create a fund for the protection of the Russian language in other CIS states, ITAR-TASS reported. Later the same day, Nazarbaev met with Russian Premier Kasyanov to discuss Baikonur, the export of Kazakh oil via Russian territory, and the proposed delineation of the Russian and Kazakh sectors of the Caspian Sea. LF
THOUSANDS OF KYRGYZ SIGN PETITION FOR KULOV'S RELEASE
To date, more than 7,000 people have signed a petition calling for the release of arrested opposition Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 19 June. The petition was organized by participants in the ongoing picket in Bishkek, today in its 97th day, who likewise demand Kulov's release and the annulment of the parliamentary elections held in February-March. Meanwhile four picketers who were attacked and beaten by police on 12 June have brought law suits against the Bishkek police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2000). LF
KYRGYZ PROTEST JAILING OF JOURNALIST
Twenty-two journalists picketed the Djalalabad City Court on 19 June to protest the two-year sentence handed down to their colleague Moldosaly Ibraimov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Ibraimov was found guilty of insulting the judge of a local district court by reporting in a local newspaper on 8 April that the judge was rumored to have accepted a $15,000 bribe in a court dispute between two rival candidates in the parliamentary elections held in February-March. Ibraimov and his newspaper were each fined 100,000 soms (about $2,000). LF
TAJIK FOREIGN MINISTRY ACCUSES RUSSIAN MEDIA OF BIAS
In a statement released on 19 June, the Tajik Foreign Ministry expressed concern that Russian media have completely ignored most positive developments in that country over the past month, including last week's Central Asian Union summit and the official visits of the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The statement further condemned Russian media coverage of statements by Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Chairman Vladimir Zhirinovskii, which, it claimed, insult the honor and dignity of the Tajik people. LF
SECOND FALSE BOMB ALARM AT U.S. EMBASSSY IN UZBEKISTAN
The U.S. embassy in Tashkent was evacuated on 19 June after an anonymous telephone caller claimed there was a bomb on the premises, Interfax reported. A search of the building and grounds failed to identify any such threat. It was the second such bomb hoax within five days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2000). LF
UZBEKISTAN DENIES ITS PLANES HAVE BOMBED AFGHANISTAN
The Uzbek embassy in Dushanbe has issued an official denial of a Kyrgyz press report that Uzbek aircraft bombed a terrorist base in Afghanistan close to the Afghan-Uzbek border, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 19 June. The Kyrgyz report, which was published in the 17 June issue of the official newspaper "Slovo Kyrgyzstana," claimed that eight Afghan militants were killed in the raid and that the Taliban had shot down an Uzbek plane, killing the two pilots. LF
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONISTS SENTENCED FOR 'FREEDOM MARCH'
The Minsk City Court on 19 June sentenced Social Democratic Party leader Mikalay Statkevich to a suspended two-year prison term and Supreme Soviet deputy Valery Shchukin to a suspended one- year prison sentence. The court said Statkevich and Shchukin were guilty of organizing the unauthorized "Freedom March" on 17 October 1999, which led to clashes between demonstrators and riot police. Statkevich and Shchukin are confined to Minsk for the period of their sentences and barred from running in elections, as was former Premier Mikhail Chyhir (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2000). Statkevich commented that the court handed down suspended sentences instead of stiff prison terms because the authorities need foreign investment, according to Belapan. Statkevich added that it also wants to eliminate from the elections any possible rivals of the ruling regime. JM
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARY TROIKA MINUS ONE ARRIVES IN MINSK
Adrian Severin from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and Jan Wirsma from the European Parliament arrived in Minsk on 19 June to seek to initiate a dialogue between the authorities and the opposition in order to ensure democratic parliamentary elections this fall. OSCE Minsk mission head Hans Georg Wieck said that a representative of the third organization--the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly- -could not visit Minsk owing to "technical reasons." According to Supreme Soviet deputy Uladzimir Nistsyuk, who is a member of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the European parliamentary troika has not worked out a joint position on what is taking place in Belarus and on how Europe should react to Belarus's upcoming parliamentary elections. Belarusian commentators note that Severin and Wirsma are scheduled to meet the Russian ambassador to Belarus. JM
RUSSIAN SONGS BARRED FROM PUBLIC PLACES IN LVIV
The Lviv City Council has introduced a moratorium on retranslating and performing Russian-language songs on the city's streets and squares, as well as in public means of transportation, restaurants, and cafes, Interfax reported on 19 June. The moratorium will be in force until the council adopts "regulations on the protection of the audio environment" in the city. A draft of those regulations is to be drawn up by 1 August. The council introduced the moratorium following demands made by many Ukrainian radical organizations in connection with last month's death in Lviv of Ukrainian composer Ihor Bilozir. Bilozir died because of a fatal injury he sustained in an attack by Russian speakers who did not like his singing Ukrainian songs in a Lviv cafe (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 6 and 13 June 2000). JM
ESTONIA'S CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICIT TOTALS 8 PERCENT OF GDP
The Central Bank on 19 June announced that in the first quarter of this year, the current account deficit stood at 1.5 billion kroons ($91.8 million) or 8 percent of projected GDP. The trade deficit in the same quarter was about 2.5 billion kroons, although exports rose by 47 percent and imports by 38 percent over the same period in 1999, ETA reported. Direct investments during the first three months of this year grew by 6 percent, to some 1.5 billion kroons. MH
NATO ENLARGMENT NEEDS RUSSIAN CONSENT, GERMAN OFFICIAL SAYS
Walter Kolbow, the state secretary of the German Defense Ministry, said on 19 June in Tallinn that Russia's consent is needed before NATO expands further, BNS reported. The visiting German official said that although Russia has no veto on the process, its opposition to enlargement needs to be overcome before that process proceeds: "We must make it clear to Russia that NATO is a guarantor of collective security and has no aggressive plans toward any country." Unwilling to predict the outcome of the next NATO summit, Kolbow said the result of that meeting depend on "developments in the candidate countries and Russia." Kolbow's visit comes on the heels of Vladimir Putin's visit to Germany, where the Russian president strongly criticized enlarging NATO to include the Baltic states. MH
CENTRIST BLOC TO TAKE PART IN LITHUANIAN ELECTIONS
Four centrist parties have agreed to cooperate in the October Lithuanian general elections. Leaders of the Liberal Union, Center Union, New Alliance (Social Liberals), and the Modern Christian Democrats met on 18 June to work out a coordinated plan of action. Center Union head Romualdas Ozolas said each party will enter the elections with its own list for the 70 seats distributed according to the party list system but will coordinate and support one another's candidates in the 71 single-mandate seats, BNS reported. Ozolas also said the parties will continue to discuss various cooperation issues but will retain their own identities. MH
SOLIDARITY LEADER COUNTS ON 30 PERCENT SUPPORT IN PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT
Marian Krzaklewski, the Solidarity Electoral Action's (AWS) candidate in the 8 October presidential elections, has said he is counting on receiving 30 percent of the vote in the first round of the ballot, PAP reported on 19 June. "There will be more than an additional 10 percent of the vote to the nearly 20 percent current backing of the AWS. This will certainly be sufficient [for me to go on] to the second round," Krzaklewski noted. He added that his election campaign will include a large number of "direct" and "spontaneous" meetings with voters. Krzaklewski said he wants to reach an agreement with former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, who is also running in the presidential race. "There should be no struggle between us, because we could lose all our strength before the most important stage," Krzaklewski said. JM
POLAND'S FREEDOM UNION LOSES SUPPORT AFTER LEAVING COALITION
A poll conducted by OBOP in mid-June showed support for the liberal Freedom Union has dropped to 8 percent from the 13 percent backing it had before quitting the cabinet coalition with the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS). The AWS, which has formed a minority government, saw its rating rise by 1 percent to 17 percent. If parliamentary elections were held now, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) would win with 42 percent of the vote. The Peasant Party, the SLD's coalition partner in 1993-1997, would obtain 9 percent. JM
TROUBLED CZECH BANK SOLD...
The Investnicni i postovni banka (IPB), which was placed under "enforced administration" on 16 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2000), has been bought by Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka (CSOB), CTK reported on 19 June. Petr Stanek, who was appointed state administrator of the IPB, said the deal was approved after it became clear that the IPB was incapable of operating without assistance from the National Bank. Jan Kasal, leader of the Christian Democratic Party, said he finds it "hard to believe" that "in a single day," the government was able to examine several offers and decide the CSOB's was the most advantageous. MS
...WHILE OPPOSITION LEADER CRITICIZES MOVE
Vaclav Klaus, leader of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), said the National Bank and the cabinet have imposed "a solution of force on a most fragile problem," CTK reported. Klaus told journalists that the cabinet has "probably" taken the decision based on information that "money had been massively flowing abroad." He added that as chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, he will "demand that this be proved." Klaus said the National Bank carried the largest share of responsibility for both imposing the "enforced administration" on the IPB and deciding to sell it to the CSOB. He also criticized the deployment of masked police to take over the IPB Prague headquarters, saying the use of force "Balkanizes" the Czech Republic. Klaus refused to comment on whether the ODS will withdraw from the "opposition agreement" with the ruling Social Democrats, saying the question was "five [chess] moves ahead." MS
SLOVAK PRESIDENT UNDERGOES EMERGENCY SURGERY
Rudolf Schuster on 18 June underwent emergency surgery for a perforated colon, the presidential office announced the next day. Schuster was hospitalized last week for what doctors initially diagnosed as dehydration. After a temporary improvement, his health deteriorated again because of "progressive inflammatory changes and a puncture of his colon," Reuters reported on 19 June. Schuster's surgeons said the president could be discharged from the hospital in 14 days "if no serious complications emerge," according to CTK. On 19 June, Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner underwent gallbladder surgery at the same hospital in which Schuster was operated on. MS
SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS NATO MEMBERSHIP WILL STRENGTHEN DEMOCRACY
Eduard Kukan told a NATO Parliamentary Assembly sub-committee meeting in Bratislava on 19 June that Slovakia's preparations for membership in NATO, its strengthening of relations with neighbors, and its role in the Balkans are all factors contributing to "the building of a democratic, prosperous, and safe Europe," CTK reported. He added that he "firmly" believes Slovakia will be prepared for NATO membership by 2002. In a reference to recent U.S. criticism of Slovak military combat readiness, Kukan said preparations for acceding to NATO are "unavoidably accompanied by technical problems, but we must not forget that the aim of the alliance is above all the protection and implementation of certain [democratic] values." MS
JEWISH AID FOUNDATION SETS UP BRANCH IN HUNGARY
One of the world's largest Jewish aid foundations, the Israel-based Keren Ha'yesod, will reopen its offices in Hungary after more than 60 years, organization head Avi Pazner said on 18 June in Budapest. The foundation will collect donations to be used to support the teaching of Hebrew and Jewish culture in Hungary and to help young Hungarian Jews study in Israel, Pazner said. Officials from Keren Ha'yesod attended the organization's two-day World Congress in Budapest and a commemoration of the 600,000 Hungarian Jews who died in the Holocaust. MSZ
U.S. DENIES REPORT OF DEAL WITH MILOSEVIC...
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told a press conference in Washington on 19 June that he "has seen no proposals along the lines" of that day's "New York Times" story regarding a possible deal for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to give up power (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 June 2000). According to the daily, Washington, its allies, and Moscow are looking for ways that Milosevic could go into exile with his money and safety guaranteed in order to speed up a transition to democracy in Serbia. Boucher stressed, however, that Washington's "policy is fairly simple. [Milosevic] should be out of the country and in The Hague," Reuters reported. The spokesman added that the State Department "is not interested in the subject" of a deal with Milosevic. PM
...AS DO MOSCOW, EU, HAGUE
In Moscow on 19 June, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called the "New York Times" story the product of a "fertile imagination." He stressed, however, that Moscow has talked with Washington about the need to "end the isolation of Yugoslavia." Interfax quoted unnamed "Russian experts" as saying that the appearance of the "New York Times" story "suggests that the West is trying to resolve the problem that it created by declaring Milosevic a war criminal" in 1999. In Santa Maria da Feira in Portugal, EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten said that he has "not encountered any of those stories" about a negotiated deal for Milosevic's departure. Patten added that "the sooner Milosevic goes, the better for everyone in Serbia," Reuters reported. In Skopje, Hague tribunal Deputy Prosecutor Graham Blewitt argued that "any country that agrees to take President Milosevic...has an obligation to arrest and surrender him to the tribunal. That is very clear," AP reported. PM
PANIC CALLS FOR DEAL TO OUST MILOSEVIC
Former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic wrote in the "Washington Post" on 20 June that "establishing the conditions for peace and stability in the Balkans serves a greater justice" than just insisting that Milosevic go to The Hague. Panic argues that Milosevic will never relinquish power on his own and that "the goals of peace and justice" can be secured only by negotiating his exit. "The deal that could be offered is a full and final lifting of sanctions and suspension of prosecution of Milosevic if he and his wife accept permanent foreign exile," Panic argued. He added that only Russian President Vladimir Putin has the "credibility and the clout" in Milosevic's eyes to negotiate such a deal. PM
DJUKANOVIC: ATTEMPT ON DRASKOVIC 'ON ORDERS FROM MILOSEVIC'
Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic told the Rome daily "La Repubblica" of 19 June that "we have concrete proof that [the recent attempt on the life of Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic] was a political assassination [attempt] and that the trail leads straight to Belgrade" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report, 20 June 2000). Djukanovic added that Milosevic is "the one who created the chaos on the territory of the former Yugoslavia over the past 10 years." The Serbian dictator knows that his fall from power is inevitable and is looking for a new war, perhaps with Montenegro, in order to postpone his demise, Djukanovic argued. PM
BURZAN: INVESTIGATIONS PROCEEDING APACE
Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan said in Podgorica on 19 June that investigations into the attempted murder of Draskovic are proceeding well but that it is still too early to release the names of the suspects under arrest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2000). Burzan charged that Milosevic is trying to "destabilize Montenegro...by exporting terrorism from Serbia." PM
DEL PONTE CANCELS NEWS CONFERENCE
Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, cancelled a press conference slated for the evening of 19 June in Skopje. No reason was given. She proceeded the next day from Macedonia to Kosova en route to Montenegro. In Belgrade, a Foreign Ministry statement said she is on Yugoslav territory illegally because she has no visa. "Carla Del Ponte is a NATO administration clerk and such a person does not have permission from Yugoslav authorities [to cross the frontier from Macedonia to Kosova] nor does she have a visa for a visit to any part of the country's sovereign territory," Reuters reported. PM
PATTEN CAUTIOUS ON 'TARGETED' SERBIAN SANCTIONS...
Speaking in the Portuguese town of Santa Maria da Feira on 19 June, Patten said that there will be problems implementing a program by which the EU exempts various Serbian businesses from sanctions against the Milosevic regime. According to the proposal, the EU will identify Serbian companies that "have the ability to withhold revenues" from the Belgrade regime. Once identified, such companies would be placed on a "white list" and thereby made legally able to do business with EU member countries. Patten noted, however, that the plan has "some measure of success" and should be studied, Reuters reported. PM
...UPBEAT ON FRENCH SUMMIT CALL
Patten hailed a French proposal for a summit to deal with issues affecting the "west Balkans" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 June 2000). He stressed that the gathering will "reflect the importance of the west Balkans to the European Union," Reuters reported. In Sarajevo, "Dnevni avaz" of 20 June noted, however, that Bosnian politicians have mixed reactions to the French proposal. Bosnian Croat leaders in particular are suspicious of any West European proposal that could lead to the creation "of any kind of new Yugoslavia," the daily added. The Bosnian government has asked Paris for more details of the proposal. PM
G-17: ORDINARY SERBS PAYING FOR MILOSEVIC'S CONSTRUCTION PROGRAM
Mladjan Dinkic, who is a spokesman for the G-17 group of opposition economists, said in Belgrade that the reconstruction of Serbian infrastructure and industry will cost $3.8 billion and take 19 years if Serbia remains isolated, "Danas" reported on 20 June. He added that the regime is financing its reconstruction program by forced deductions from workers' pay packets and by printing money. PM
SERBIAN CENTER FOR ILLEGAL CHINESE MIGRANTS?
The number of Chinese in Belgrade "has soared" since China and Serbia drew closer diplomatically in 1999 in the wake of NATO's mistaken bombing of the Chinese embassy in the Serbian capital, London's "The Times" wrote on 20 June. The newspaper suggested that Serbia has become a jumping-off point for Chinese migrants looking for a better life in Western Europe. It added that "there are rumors in Belgrade of involvement by Yugoslav officials in the Chinese trade of goods and people." PM
RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS BREAK UP PROTEST
Russian KFOR troops fired warning shots into the air on 19 June to disperse several hundred rock-throwing ethnic Albanians in Kamenica. The protesters were part of a group of 3,500 people who attended a ceremony to unveil a monument marking the first anniversary of the Serbian withdrawal from Kosova. The crowd became angry after peacekeepers refused to allow them to place a plaque honoring the Kosova Liberation Army on the monument, AP reported. PM
SERBIAN MODERATES SLAM KOSOVA PROTECTION FORCE
The Serbian National Council said in a statement to Serbian private news agencies on 19 June that KFOR's recent discovery of 67 tons of arms and ammunition in the Drenica area shows that "Albanian terrorists have not been disarmed and that the Kosova Protection Corps has kept weapons" from the 1999 conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2000). PM
SOCCER VIOLENCE COMES TO BRCKO
The joint Brcko police force prevented a group of several hundred rowdy Serbian soccer fans from entering the Muslim Brod district during the night of 18-19 June, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Police arrested 14 fans, who were shouting Serbian nationalist slogans and damaging cars and other property. PM
ROMANIAN ELECTRICITY WORKERS STRIKE OVER WAGE FREEZE
Workers at the national electricity state company Conel went on strike on 19 June over a government-ordered wage freeze, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu met with representatives of the five largest trade unions, and a government spokesman later said differences had been resolved and the workers had agreed to return to work on 20 June. But trade unions representing Conel workers said they are rejecting a government proposal to postpone the freeze until 31 July and apply it only to managers' bonuses and loss-making utility monopolies. The freeze is part of measures agreed with the IMF to cut down state-owned companies' losses. A Bucharest court has ruled that the government decree ordering the freeze was illegal, but the cabinet is appealing that decision. MS
LUCINSCHI SAYS MOLDOVA WILL GET CHEAPER GAS
President Petru Lucinschi told journalists on 19 June that one of the results of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Chisinau last week is that Moldova will have to pay less for gas supplies from Russia, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Lucinschi said that under the agreement reached by the two sides, Moldova will pay $50 per 1,000 cubic meters, instead of $60. He said Gazprom Chairman Rem Vyakhirev, who was a member of the Russian delegation, agreed to that reduction. Under the same agreement, Chisinau is to transfer another $47 million worth of shares to the joint Russian-Moldovan venture MoldovaGas, thus reducing the $831 million debt owed to Gazprom. Meanwhile, separatist leader Igor Smirnov said that by failing to invite him to attend the summit with Putin, Lucinschi violated the provisions of the 1997 Moscow memorandum. MS
BULGARIA PROJECTS SIGNIFICANT GROWTH
Finance Minister Muravei Radev on 18 June said his country's GDP in 2000 will grow by more than 4 percent, which will allow the government to "substantially reduce taxes," AP reported. Radev spoke ahead of a meeting in Sofia with an IMF delegation. He also said the government expects an unspecified surplus, which will be reinvested in infrastructure programs and social assistance. MS
UKRAINIAN POLICY SHUTS OUT MANY ASYLUM SEEKERS
By Lily Hyde
Elkana Gale gets stopped several times a day by the police. He says they have strip-searched, insulted, and beaten him and have even threatened his life.
Gale is a refugee from torture in Sudan. Yet these violations of his human rights happened in Ukraine, where Gale sought asylum three years ago. On paper, Ukraine granted him sanctuary. In reality, he, along with many other refugees seeking shelter there, say they have exchanged one form of torture and repression for another.
"I came [to Ukraine] by mistake," Gale told RFE/RL. "I had to run away from the war. I just had to go to where it was possible. I wanted a Christian country so that I could have a rest. I found myself in Ukraine. I didn't know anything about Ukraine. But when I came here, I found out that though there is war at home, home is the best."
Ukraine's refugee policy is one of the most liberal of former Soviet republics--many of which have no refugee legislation at all. Ukraine has accepted more than 3,500 refugees since 1996, while Russia has accepted just 400.
But Ukraine has not signed the 1951 UN convention that lays down guidelines for asylum refugee policy worldwide. And because of inadequate legislation, Ukraine turns down large numbers of UN-recognized asylum seekers. Those it does accept, meanwhile, are not receiving adequate protection.
Refugee status is granted by Ukrainian local immigration authorities and has to be renewed every three months. Because of this three-month arrangement, even refugees who have been in Ukraine for years are still seen as temporary residents. The authorities do not provide them with housing or financial aid. They are not allowed to work legally. They are treated as unwelcome visitors, resented by locals, and constantly harassed by law-enforcement agencies.
According to a UN survey in Ukraine last year, more than half of refugees from Afghanistan, African countries, and former Soviet states are regularly treated disrespectfully by the police. A significant number said the militia had extorted money or confiscated possessions from them.
Mykola Yarina is head of the police department for migrants in the Interior Ministry. He told RFE/RL that police have to stop foreigners because they may be illegal migrants but that refugees are treated more leniently.
"There have been questions about the police illegally detaining foreigners," he said. "But it's different for refugees. The police are given special instructions. Every policeman, from the top downward, has orders how to behave with foreigners, whether refugees or illegal migrants, and they have to check their identification. At regular meetings, we provide militia heads with information about their rude attitude to foreigners and we provide them with written rules of behavior."
But many people classified under Ukrainian law as illegal migrants are, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, genuine asylum seekers. Yet because they came by way of a third country--usually Russia--Ukraine does not accept their applications and does not even grant temporary living status. But it also makes no provision for them to go elsewhere, not even back to Russia, with which Ukraine has no re-admission agreement.
Pierfrancesco Natta of the UNHCR's office in Kyiv told RFE/RL that "this is creating the problem of a limbo situation for many people. They are not able to return to the country where they were transiting, for example Russia, and basically are forced to stay in the country illegally and basically are under the continuous harassment from the police forces.... They have to request legal resident permits that these people cannot provide."
Earlier, asylum seekers could appeal to a government committee for migration if they were turned down by local migration authorities. But that committee was dissolved as part of government streamlining earlier this year--a move that would seem to indicate that refugees are not a high priority for the Ukrainian government.
Yarina and other Ukrainian officials say Ukraine cannot accept more refugees or offer them better conditions because of the country's desperate economic situation. But the UNHCR's Natta says the rest of the world cannot help financially until Ukraine signs the UN convention on refugees. As a result, he argues, Ukraine is finds itself in something of a "pariah situation." Even if the authorities have recognized 3,500 people, "basically no one would consider that a real figure. So the authorities are always expressing the willingness to accede to the convention, [but] unfortunately this never came true, and we feel that the authorities are reluctant due to the fear of additional financial obligations toward a category that is not really considered a priority."
The result, says Natta, is bad for the asylum seekers. Between October and December last year, the number of registered refugees in Ukraine fell from 3,560 to 2,697: Nearly a thousand, tired of the difficult life in Ukraine, crossed the border into Western Europe.
The UNHCR wants Ukraine to improve its refugee policy so that asylum seekers choose to remain in that country. It says Western countries would help Ukraine shoulder the economic burden if it meant saving the West from more asylum seekers. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Kyiv.