MEDIA IMBROGLIO CONTINUES IN MOSCOW
During part of 18 April, NTV, TV-6, and TNT were not broadcast in Moscow, but officials said the networks were down for servicing, Interfax reported. New NTV head Boris Jordan said in an interview published in the "Wall Street Journal" on 18 April that the station is facing bankruptcy and must be put on a sound financial basis to continue operations. Dmitrii Biryukov, head of the Sem dnei publishing house that is part of the Media-MOST group, said Gazprom-Media did not put pressure on him to stop financing the "Segodnya" newspaper, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, All-Russia State Radio and TV head Oleg Dobrodeev said in an interview published in "Argumenty i fakty" on 18 April that the Russian government does not plan to increase its presence in the Russian television market. PG
CONFLICT SPREADS TO TV-6
Three senior officers of Russia's TV-6 announced their resignations on 18 April after station owner Boris Berezovsky allowed journalists who were dismissed or resigned from NTV, "Segodnya," and "Itogi" to come to work there, Russian and Western agencies reported. The U.S. news magazine "Newsweek" said it has ended cooperation with the new "Itogi" under its new management, but expressed interest in continuing cooperation with fired Editor Sergei Parkhomenko, Interfax reported. PG
CONSEQUENCES OF MEDIA MOVES ASSESSED
"Segodnya" journalist Mikhail Berger said in an article published in "Novye Izvestiya" on 18 April that the moves against NTV and the other outlets mean that Russia is "already living in a quasi-Soviet one-party state." Commentator Aleksandr Arkhangelskii said in an article in "Izvestiya" the same day that "a major historical cycle has ended -- exactly 10 years of the new kind of television." But Duma Deputy Chairman and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky welcomed all the changes, Interfax reported on 17 April. He said that "it's a good thing they are closing down NTV. Other channels should be closed as well, you are all offspring of the American CIA." Zhirinovsky concluded that "we do not need democracy, democracy will ruin the country." PG
GERMANY JOINS U.S. IN CRITICIZING ATTACKS ON MEDIA
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said on 18 April that Berlin is concerned by "the takeover of the television channel NTV, the closure of the daily newspaper 'Segodnya' and the weekly magazine 'Itogi,'" Reuters reported. "Russia needs independent and also critical voices for its democratic development," he said. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the same day that Russian gains since the end of communism have been "put in jeopardy by the actions" the Russian government has taken, AP reported. PG
SPANISH COURT REFUSES TO EXTRADITE GUSINSKY
By a vote of two to one, a Spanish court refused to extradite Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinsky to Russia to face charges of fraud, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 April. His supporters said this represents his vindication, while his opponents noted that even the Spanish authorities will likely appeal the verdict. Meanwhile, in an interview published on the same day in Geneva's "Le Temps" newspaper, Gusinsky lashed out at Western governments for failing to take note of what he called President Vladimir Putin's "authoritarian drift." PG
DORENKO ADMITTED TO HOSPITAL
Television journalist Sergei Dorenko was admitted to a Moscow hospital on 18 April for what ITAR-TASS described as a cranio-cerebral injury. Dorenko's relatives said he was beaten following a collision he had with a naval officer while riding his motorcycle. Russian officials have charged Dorenko with intentional infliction of bodily harm, but he said he is being framed by the authorities. Meanwhile, Viktor Tyukin, an office manager for the People's Deputy faction in the Duma, was hospitalized this week for wounds he received when two men attacked him with knives in western Moscow, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG
ANOTHER RUSSIAN SCIENTIST CHARGED WITH SPYING...
Federal Security Service (FSB) officials in Krasnoyarsk have arrested and charged physicist Valentin Danilov for trying to sell information about space technology to the Chinese, Reuters reported on 18 April. Danilov's colleagues said that his research has been in the public domain since 1992 and that the charges against him have obviously been trumped up. But FSB investigators said they had clear grounds for making the arrest. PG
...AS MOSCOW OFFICIALS WARN OF GROWING SPY THREAT...
FSB spokesman General Aleksandr Zdanovich said in St. Petersburg on 18 April that foreign intelligence services have increased their efforts to collect and analyze information about Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, "Vremya MN" reported the same day that a draft law calling for criminal penalties against anyone divulging confidential government and insider economic information has been introduced in the Duma. PG
...AND DENOUNCE U.S. PLANS TO BROADCAST TO NORTH CAUCASUS
In an exclusive interview with Interfax on 18 April, Zdanovich said that "not only armed international terrorists but also those who wield pens and sit at computers" are acting against Russia today. He said his agency is angry at plans by the U.S. to have RFE/RL begin broadcasting to the North Caucasus, and that such broadcasts would destabilize the situation. He warned that "there are definitive normative documents which limit the zone of broadcasting by Radio Liberty on the territory of the Russian Federation. If violations of this law are registered, we will make corresponding reports to the justice and press ministries." Meanwhile, the information administration of the Russian President said that a decision by the Dutch authorities to close a Dutch version of the Kavkaz-Tsentr website that supports Chechen independence is "a step which cannot fail to find a positive response," the news agency said. PG
STROEV SAYS TERRORISM IN RUSSIA ROOTED IN COLLAPSE OF USSR
Speaking to an international conference in St. Petersburg on 18 April on combating terrorism, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said that terrorism in Russia today has its roots in the collapse of the USSR, Interfax reported. But he added that "this is history and something you can't change." He called for a special UN General Assembly session on fighting terrorism. Meanwhile, First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov said in Moscow the same day that Russia is concerned by the "growing financial possibilities and technical equipment of terrorist groups," and by the fact that the international community has not elaborated effective mechanisms to counter them, Russian agencies reported. PG
KUDRIN SAYS NEW BANKING LAWS WILL INCREASE PUBLIC CONFIDENCE...
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told Prime-TASS on 18 April that public trust in the country's banking system will rise sharply once the parliament amends laws regulating that sector of the economy. He said that government-proposed legislation will "make it possible to protect the interests of depositors and clients of commercial banks when a bank's financial position is precarious." PG
...AS SBERBANK CLAIMS TO BE LARGEST INVESTOR IN RUSSIAN ECONOMY...
Andrei Kazmin, the president of Sberbank, said his institution now invests more in the Russian economy than does the largest foreign investor, Germany, "Izvestiya" reported on 18 April. Last year, he said, Sberbank invested $2 billion in Russia while Germany invested only $1.5 billion there. PG
...AND MOSCOW OFFICIAL SAYS RUSSIA HAS NOTHING MORE TO LEARN FROM IMF
Arkadii Dvorkovich, deputy minister for economic development and trade, said that "Russia cannot learn anything more from the International Monetary Fund and, in fact, the IMF should be learning from Russia," "The Moscow Times" reported on 18 April. He said that the IMF's "one-size-fits-all" approach to economic reform has harmed Russia and that Moscow will make its own economic choices in the future. PG
CENTRAL BANK CHIEF CONCEDES INFLATION MAY EXCEED PLAN
Viktor Gerashchenko said in Moscow on 18 April that Russian inflation this year may be higher than the government's projected 12 to 14 percent, Interfax-AFI reported. He said that inflation in April will likely be in the 1.5 to 2 percent range, but he refused to predict an annual rate. PG
CRIMINAL GROUPS SEEKING TO GAIN POLITICAL POWER
Deputy Interior Minister Yevgenii Solovev said in Moscow on 18 April that organized criminal groups now have effective control of almost 3,000 economic entities and that the leaders of these criminal groups are now seeking to translate economic power into political power. He also noted that the number of economic crimes in Russia rose from 211,000 in 1995 to 376,000 in 2000. PG
PRIMAKOV SAYS PARTIES MUST DISBAND TO FORM NEW ONE
In an interview published in the 18 April "Moskovskii komsomolets," Fatherland-All Russia leader Yevgenii Primakov said that Unity and Fatherland will have to disband if they are to form a new party of the center. Meanwhile, Duma Russian Regions faction leader Oleg Morozov said the new centrist coalition plans to restructure the Duma's committees and their memberships, AP reported. And "Kommersant-Vlast," No. 15, carried an article that argued that the biggest loser in the new political arrangements is Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. PG
DUMA APPROVES OPEN SKIES TREATY
The Duma in a closed session on 18 April approved with 281 votes in favor the 1992 Open Skies Treaty, which allows signatories to make a specified number of observation flights over the territories of other countries, Russian and Western agencies reported. The treaty, actively promoted by the Russian Defense Ministry, now goes to the Federation Council for final approval. PG
DUMA GIVES PRELIMINARY APPROVAL TO SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL IMPORTS
The Duma on 18 April approved in the second of three readings three bills needed to give approval for the importing of spent nuclear fuel rods into Russia for permanent storage, Russian agencies reported. The votes were 230-116, 244-114, and 267-67. Yabloko leaders and ecology groups pledged to continue to fight the measure and said they hope that the Federation Council will ultimately kill it, ITAR-TASS reported. PG
MOSCOW OBLAST GOVERNOR WARNS AGAINST ATTACKS ON DIPLOMATS
Moscow Oblast Governor Boris Gromov said on 18 April that law enforcement agencies in the Russian capital must do more to prevent "hooligan" attacks on foreign diplomats, Interfax-Moscow reported. Gromov said such attacks have offended officials of the British Commonwealth countries and are a violation of "civilized human relations." PG
MIXED SIGNALS ON BELARUS
A senior Russian official speaking on condition of anonymity told Interfax on 18 April that Moscow is not happy with Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka's comment in Yekaterinburg the day before that "everyone is elected here, everyone is independent, and it's not likely it will work well" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April, 2001). The official added that Russian officials would never permit themselves to say something like that about Belarus even though they may not approve of everything Minsk does. Meanwhile, Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok said that the integration of the Russian and Belarusian social welfare systems is "proceeding with difficulty," ITAR-TASS reported on 18 April. But on the same day, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" highlighted expanding military ties between Moscow and Minsk. PG
RUSSIAN SCHOLARS URGE MOSCOW TO OPPOSE U.S. IN BALKANS
The same day that Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Zizic was in Moscow to meet with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 18 April, Russian scholars at the Academy of Sciences Institute of Slavic Studies called on Russian diplomats to do more to oppose U.S. pressure in the Balkans, Interfax reported on 18 April. Meanwhile, Kasyanov told Zizic that Moscow supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Yugoslavia and welcomes recent democratic changes there. Zizic for his part thanked Kasyanov and other Russian officials for supporting Belgrade on these issues, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 April. PG
PUTIN SEEKS END TO SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ
President Putin told visiting Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan that Moscow favors an end to international sanctions against Iraq, Russian and Western agencies reported on 18 April. But Putin added that Baghdad must meet all conditions set by the United Nations and that the sanctions can only be ended by a diplomatic agreement. The two also agreed to set up an experts commission to examine Iraqi debts to Russia. PG
DEFENSE MINISTRY APPOINTMENT SUGGESTS MORE CHANGES AHEAD
President Putin's appointment on 17 April of Colonel General Ivan Yefremov to head the Defense Ministry's Main Cadres Administration points to further changes ahead in the ministry as a whole, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 April. PG
MURMANSK GOVERNOR BACKS NAZDRATENKO
Murmansk Oblast Governor Yuri Yevdokimov told Interfax on 18 April that he supports the position of State Fisheries Committee Chairman Yevgenii Nazdratenko, who on 16 April spoke out against the auctioning of fishing rights. PG
RUSSIANS SAY STATE MUST NOT VIOLATE CONSTITUTION
According to the results of a poll conducted by monitoring.ru and reported by Interfax on 18 April, 59 percent of Russians believe that the president and the government must not under any circumstances violate the country's constitution. But 34 percent of them acknowledged that they are acquainted with the contents of the constitution only in the most general terms. Only 5 percent said they know the provisions of the basic law well. Meanwhile, Russian ombudsman Oleg Mironov has proposed creating positions analogous to his own at the local level to protect citizens' rights, "Vremya MN" reported on 18 April. PG
RUSSIA SAID TO NEED ABILITY TO DECLARE MARTIAL LAW
FSB spokesman Zdanovich said in St. Petersburg on 18 April that the Duma needs to pass a law allowing for the imposition of emergency rule as soon as possible, Russian agencies reported. Today, he said, federal forces in Chechnya have to act in accordance with "laws which exist throughout Russia." Zdanovich said this is often impossible and that the legislature needs to define what special limitations to constitutional regulations are permissible in such circumstances. Meanwhile, Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who represents Chechnya in the Duma, denounced as unconstitutional a decree by Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, who heads the pro-Moscow administration in Chechnya, prohibiting mass meetings in the republic, Interfax reported the same day. PG
'83 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS STILL LIVE IN THE SOVIET UNION'
"Izvestiya" reported on 18 April that only 17 percent of the citizens of Russia have received a Russian passport since the introduction of such documentation in October 1997. The paper said that the absence of appropriated funds is to blame and noted that in many regions not a single new Russian passport has yet been issued. Even in Moscow, only 276,000 people have received new passports since the start of this year instead of the 1.2 million that the authorities had planned to issue in the first quarter, Interfax reported. PG
ANOTHER DESCENDENT OF SOVIET ELITE GIVEN CULTURE POST
Just as President Putin last week named the daughter of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin to oversee the Kremlin museums, on 18 April Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi appointed Aleksandra Sholokhova, the granddaughter of Soviet writer Mikhail Sholokhov, to head the State Museum of Classics of Soviet Literature, Interfax reported. And in another echo of the Soviet era, the first all-Russian student forum opened in Moscow on 18 April, the first such gathering since the demise of the Komsomol, "Izvestiya" pointed out the same day. PG
SOVIET UNDERWEAR ON DISPLAY
An exhibit of underwear worn by Soviet citizens went on display in Moscow's Central House of the Artist on 18 April, Interfax reported. Organizers said they "wanted to show not the dirty linen of the USSR but rather the intimate side of the everyday life of Soviet man." Natalya Dementeva, the first deputy minister of culture, said that she hopes this exhibit will inspire others to produce similar shows. PG
POLICE LIEUTENANT BECOMES MISS RUSSIA 2001
In a development some will find symbolic, Oksana Fedorova, a St. Petersburg police lieutenant, defeated 76 other contestants to become Miss Russia 2001, RIA-Novosti reported on 17 April. PG
TULA GUBERNATORIAL RACE HITS A BUMP
One of the two candidates slated to participate in the second round of gubernatorial elections in Tula Oblast announced on 18 April that he is dropping out of the ballot scheduled for 22 April, Interfax reported. Leninskii Raion head Andrei Samoshin announced he was taking himself out of the running shortly after allegations were made at the oblast's election commission that Samoshin is guilty of large financial transgressions. Deputy election commission Chairman Aleksandr Mashkov told Interfax that the commission is still investigating the charges, but that the preliminary results of their inquiry shows that the charges have some basis. According to Mashkov, the candidate with the third largest number of votes in the first round will now compete against the incumbent Governor Vasilii Starodubtsev. Despite the last-minute switch, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov confirmed on 18 April that the 22 April election will still take place as planned. JAC
MORE REGIONS IMPLEMENT TRADE BARRIERS TO PREVENT HOOF-AND-MOUTH DISEASE
A city council in Khabarovsk Krai banned meat imports from some European countries and Mongolia because of concerns over hoof-and-mouth disease, AP reported on 18 April, citing a city government spokesperson. On the same day, the government of the Tuva republic issued a decree ordering a set of actions, including the vaccination of herds, to block the possible spread of the disease from Mongolia; all farm animals in the republic have already been driven inland some 15 to 20 kilometers away from the Russian-Mongolian border, according to ITAR-TASS. Earlier in the month, the Sakha Republic banned all imports of animal, meat, fish, fodder, and dairy products from all EU countries as well as from the Baltic states, Mongolia, China, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia without special authorization from the republic's veterinary service in an effort to prevent the disease from entering the republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 2001). JAC
LACK OF NEWSPRINT LEADING TO LACK OF NEWSPAPERS
A lack of paper has stopped the publication of 13 newspapers in Komsomolsk-na-Amure, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 18 April. Local journalists blame the newsprint deficit on the management of the local printing house. Management, however, blames the recent typhoon in Sakhalin, where the supplier is located. Last month, television broadcasts on channel 1 in Komsomolsk-na-Amure and several other cities in Khabarovsk Krai went off the air because of the local television station's unpaid debts to electricity suppliers (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 4 April 2001). JAC
GROZNY FINALLY REINSTATED AS CHECHEN CAPITAL
The ravaged city of Grozny was again formally designated as Chechnya's capital on 18 April, Interfax reported. The Chechen administration has for the past 18 months been located in Gudermes, Chechnya's second-largest town. Russian presidential representative to the South Russia federal district Viktor Kazantsev had predicted in July last year that the Chechen government would move back to Grozny by mid-October. The Chechen government will hold its first session in Grozny on 25 April. LF
ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING TRIAL SUSPECT REQUESTS LAWYER
Nairi Hunanian, the leader of the five gunmen who shot eight senior Armenian officials in the parliament building in October 1999, on 18 April demanded the services of a lawyer, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Hunanian had previously insisted on conducting his own defense. Also on 18 April, the prosecution submitted to the court documentation related to Hunanian's repeated claims that he was subjected to torture during the investigation into the shootings in order to pressure him to implicate President Robert Kocharian, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, and former presidential staff head Aleksan Harutiunian, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2001). The prosecution said that an investigation conducted in June 2000 failed to substantiate Hunanian's claims that he was tortured. LF
ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO APPROVE TWO GOVERNMENT LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES
The Armenian parliament on 18 April voted down a Justice Ministry bill setting new rules for the conduct of street demonstrations and protests that some opposition deputies claim violate the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of assembly, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Deputies also voted to reduce from four to three days the maximum period during which detainees may be held without criminal charges being brought against them, and approved amendments tabled by the Orinats Yerkir (Law-based Country) party that require that judges presiding over pretrial investigations grant bail on all charges that could lead to three-years imprisonment or less. LF
AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT DELEGATION VISITS MOSCOW
Azerbaijan's parliament chairman, Murtuz Alesqerov, and Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev signed an agreement on 17 April establishing a permanent cooperation commission, ITAR-TASS reported. Referring to the Karabakh conflict, Alesqerov said there should be "no double standards" with regard to Azerbaijan, and that the Azerbaijani people will reject any proposed solution to that conflict that does not guarantee the country's territorial integrity and grant the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic autonomous status within Azerbaijan. Stroev for his part argued for adhering to "the golden rule of noninterference in the affairs of other states." Stroev expressed approval of the recent extradition of two Chechens from Azerbaijan to Russia, and noted that following Azerbaijan's acceptance in January 2001 into full membership of the Council of Europe, Russia now has "an ally" within that organization. LF
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT RESTRICTS EXPORTS OF SCRAP METAL
Heidar Aliyev issued a decree on 17 April temporarily banning the export of both ferrous and nonferrous scrap metal, Turan reported. The previous day, the Cabinet of Ministers had imposed export duties of $5 per ton for ferrous and $15 per ton for nonferrous scrap metal. Almost 1.5 million tons of scrap metal worth $5.7 million were exported last year, the agency said. LF
GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS POSTPONED
The 20 April session of the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council for the Abkhaz conflict has been postponed due to the ongoing stalemate in talks on the release of 13 persons detained or taken hostage in Abkhazia over the past 10 days, Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze told Caucasus Press on 17 April. Also on 17 April, UN special envoy for Abkhazia Dieter Boden informed Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze about his meeting the previous day with Abkhaz officials to try to secure the release of those detained. Georgian "Forest Brothers" guerrilla leader David Shengelaia again offered to release the five conscripts his men captured on 12 April in exchange for five detained Georgian fishermen and three guerrillas held by the Abkhaz. The Abkhaz authorities have offered to swap the fishermen for the conscripts, but still refuse to release the three guerrillas whom they have identified as Georgian Interior Ministry officials. In a letter to Boden, Abkhaz Defense Minister Vladimir Mikanba accused Tbilisi of violating earlier agreements on preventing acts of terrorism in southern Abkhazia. Tbilisi claims to have no authority over either Shengelaia's Forest Brothers or the analogous White Legion guerrilla formation. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DOWNPLAYS CONTROVERSIAL 'WASHINGTON POST' COVERAGE
President Shevardnadze on 18 April attributed the criticism of him in the "Washington Post" by Georgian parliament Committee for Economic Policy Chairman Vano Merabishvili to the latter's youth and inexperience, Caucasus Press reported on 18 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 April 2001). Shevardnadze suggested that the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia faction of which Merabishvili is a member should decide what action, if any, to take against Merabishvili. Having initially said on 17 April that he was misquoted, Merabishvili conceded later the same day that the paper had accurately reproduced what he said. LF
GEORGIAN, ESTONIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT
David Tevzadze and his visiting Estonian counterpart Juri Luik signed a cooperation agreement in Tbilisi on 18 April, Caucasus Press reported. Luik stressed his willingness to share with Tbilisi Estonia's experience in negotiating the withdrawal of Russian bases from its territory. Luik also discussed the Russian troop withdrawal with Revaz Adamia, the former chairman of the parliament's Defense and Security Committee who now chairs the Union of Citizens of Georgia parliament faction. LF
KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT OFFERS TO HOST AFGHAN PEACE TALKS
UN special envoy for Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell told journalists in Almaty on 19 April that during talks earlier that day, President Nursultan Nazarbaev offered to host talks between both warring sides in Afghanistan in a bid to end the ongoing civil war, Reuters reported. Vendrell added that Nazarbaev's views on Afghanistan largely coincide with those of the UN. The Kazakh government held unofficial talks with the Taliban late last year. LF
KAZAKH GOVERNMENT APPROVES 10-YEAR DEVELOPMENT PLAN...
The government on 18 April approved the draft strategic plan for economic development over the next decade, Interfax reported. It will now be submitted to President Nazarbaev for his approval. The main aims are to expand the foundations of a market economy and double GDP by 2010 from this year's anticipated level of 2.88 trillion tenges (just under $20 billion). LF
...INCREASES SOCIAL SPENDING...
Kazakhstan's prime minister, Qasymzhomart Toqaev, told parliament deputies on 17 April that of the 15 billion tenges earmarked in this year's budget as charter capital for the planned new Development Bank, 2 billion could be reallocated for social needs, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Parliament deputies had called for social spending to be increased by 10 billion tenges. Toqaev said that the cabinet will probably ask the legislature in September to raise budget targets for this year a second time. On 18 April, parliament voted in the first reading to increase budget revenues by 25 billion tenges to 437.5 billion tenges and expenditures by 28.4 billion tenges to 496.7 billion tenges. LF
...AS MOTHERS CONTINUE PICKET OF KAZAKH PARLIAMENT
The 40 women who began picketing the parliament building in Astana on 17 April to demand payment of overdue allowances continued their protest on 18 April, but deputies voted against allowing them to enter the building, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported Some of the women abandoned their protest on 19 April. LF
ALMATY CEDES STATUS AS OBLAST CAPITAL
Almaty City Mayor Viktor Khrapunov and Almaty Oblast Governor Zamanbek Nurqadilov discussed on 18 April President Nazarbaev's 14 April decree designating the city of Taldy-Qorghan as capital of Almaty Oblast instead of Almaty, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 14 April 2001). The Almaty city authorities will in future no longer provide financial subsidies for the new national capital, Astana, and will instead help to finance the move of the oblast's administration from Almaty to Taldy-Qorghan. LF
KYRGYZ OPPOSITION SLAMS GOVERNMENT MEDIA
In a statement released on 18 April, leaders of eight opposition parties condemned what they termed the wholly negative coverage by state-controlled media of the demonstration convened by the opposition on 13 April in Bishkek, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Also on 18 April, the head of the Pervomai district police informed three of the meeting's organizers that they have been charged with organizing an unsanctioned public meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2001). LF
TAJIK SUPREME COURT SENTENCES THREE INSURGENTS
The Tajik Supreme Court on 18 April sentenced to jail terms of 19-23 years three men accused of participating in the November 1998 coup attempt by rebel Colonel Mahmud Khudoiberdiev, Russian agencies reported. In two earlier trials, two participants of that uprising were sentenced to death in December 1999 and four more last year, and a total of 94 more received jail terms ranging from nine to 21 years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1999 and 25 October 2000). LF
UZBEK, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTS DISCUSS GAS EXPORTS
Uzbekistan's president, Islam Karimov, has telephoned his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma to discuss possible routes for exporting natural gas from Central Asia to Europe and developing bilateral relations, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 April. LF
BELARUSIAN YOUTH OPPOSITION LEADER ON TRIAL
Pavel Sevyarynets was put on trial on 18 April after being charged with organizing an unauthorized march in Minsk on 25 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April, 2001), Belapan reported. Sevyarynets , Youth Front leader, said "the regime has realized the danger of politically active youths and responds with draconian measures." Sevyarynets has spent the past 10 days in detention awaiting trial. He could face 15 days in jail if found guilty. Sevyarynets continued: "The words 'Malady Front' alone can put you in jail... My organization takes it as a high honor." He added that his organization will be active in the run-up to the presidential election set for later this year and hopes to get some 1.5 million young people to vote. PB
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ASKS LUKASHENKA FOR 'FAIR POLITICAL FIGHT'
Syarhey Haydukevich, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus (LDPB), said in an open letter to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 18 April that his "seven-year rule is about to end," BelaPAN reported. Haydukevich condemned Belarusian officials' refusal to allow the LDPB to use Minsk's Palace of the Republic to hold a congress at which Haydukevich is to be nominated as a presidential candidate. Haydukevich went on to tell Lukashenka that "everybody, including your cherished Kremlin, has denied you support in plain terms." He said Lukashenka's "pro-Communist entourage" is too frightened to tell him the actual state of the country, and that this is paving the way for the president's "political bankruptcy." Haydukevich closed by urging Lukashenka to "either accept a fair political fight or give up your post voluntarily," and not to take chances "like your former friend and ally [former Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic." PB
UKRAINIAN PREMIER SEEKS COMPROMISE WITH OPPOSITION...
Viktor Yushchenko made an overture on 18 April to opposition parliamentary deputies seeking to oust his government by proposing that they nominate candidates to a few cabinet positions, AP reported. Yushchenko, who faces a no-confidence vote in his government in the next nine days, said that the pro-presidential majority bloc in parliament could select candidates for the vacant posts of deputy premier and minister of industry and trade, as well as seats on the oversight boards of certain ministries. Yushchenko's first deputy, Yuriy Yekhanurov, said that deputies could also lodge complaints against ministers they view as unsatisfactory and propose other candidates for their posts. If his offer is rejected, the no-confidence vote is likely to be held. Recent polls show that Yushchenko is the most trusted politician in Ukraine. PB
...AS PARLIAMENT SAYS IT IS UNSATISFIED WITH GOVERNMENT
The Ukrainian parliament declared in a vote on 19 April that it finds the country's government "unsatisfactory," Reuters reported. A resolution on the subject passed by a vote of 283-65. There are 450 seats in the parliament. Parliamentarians were expected to set a date for the no-confidence vote later in the session. PB
EU FOREIGN POLICY AND SECURITY CHIEF IN KYIV
Javier Solana met with Ukrainian National Security chief Yevhen Marchuk and parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch on 18 April to discuss the political situation in the country and foreign policy issues, AP reported. Solana was also scheduled to meet at the country home of President Leonid Kuchma. Plyushch said he reported on some of the positive economic developments in Ukraine and said after the meeting that he told Solana that "some [politicians] want to claim the best achievements, others want to erase those achievements and still others...want to bring the government down." PB
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REASSURES KYIV ON VISA RESTRICTIONS
Janos Martonyi said on 18 April in Kyiv that Hungary will try to simplify more restrictive travel regulations for Ukrainians once Budapest joins the EU, AP reported. Martonyi met with his Ukrainian counterpart Anatoliy Zlenko and also discussed economic cooperation and trade relations. Martonyi said Budapest will not require visas for Ukrainians before it joins the EU, which is expected as early as 2004. And he said Hungary will try to simplify visa procedures and expedite the time needed to enter Hungary by modernizing border crossings. Martonyi also met with President Kuchma and said afterward that the countries have no political differences. PB
ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES SAPARD AGREEMENT
By a vote of 70 to zero with one abstention, the parliament ratified a multiyear financial agreement on 18 April with the European Commission regarding the SAPARD (Special Accession Program for Agriculture and Rural Development) program, ETA and BNS reported. The SAPARD program finances investments in agricultural enterprises, the improvement of food processing and marketing, the development and diversification of business activities, and improvement of infrastructure in rural areas. The agreement for 2000-2006 calls for granting Estonia 190 million kroons ($11 million) annually. The Finance Ministry will be responsible for the use and supervision of the SAPARD funds and the Agriculture Ministry for the implementation and monitoring of the aid program. SG
SPANISH FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS LATVIA
Josep Pique Camps held talks with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Prime Minister Andris Berzins, Parliament Chairman Janis Straume, and Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins during his one-day visit to Riga on 18 April, LETA reported. The Spanish foreign minister expressed his county's full support for Latvia's aims to join the European Union and NATO as soon as possible. He also declared that Spain does not support the proposals of Germany and Austria that would bar citizens of the EU candidate countries from working in other EU countries for a seven-year transitional period after they join the EU. The Latvian officials stressed the need to increase bilateral relations between the two countries and expressed the hope that Spain will open an embassy in Riga. SG.
SOCIAL DEMOCRATS GIVE LOW MARKS TO LITHUANIAN RULING COALITION
The Social Democrat faction issued a statement on 18 April criticizing the performance of the ruling coalition on the eve of the six-month anniversary of the current parliament's first session, ELTA reported. It asserted that the coalition, the government of Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas, and President Valdas Adamkus are responsible for the "continued impoverishment of Lithuanian people." The statement declared that the current parliament clearly shows its support only for the interests of the wealthy by lifting personal income taxes on revenue from sales or transfer of securities, and by introducing an excise duty on propane gas. The statement argued that the situation of the poor has also been worsened by amendments made to the labor law that made it easier for organizations to dismiss workers and scrapped some social benefits. Moreover, the Social Democrats claims the coalition attempted to rescue the social insurance fund not by adopting policies to revive businesses, but by reducing payments to working pensioners. SG
RETRIAL OF COMMUNIST-ERA MINISTER POSTPONED
The retrial of General Czeslaw Kiszczak, a communist-era interior minister who has been accused of causing the death of nine miners in 1981, has been delayed while the court considers whether the statute of limitations in the case has expired, AP and dpa reported on 18 April. Kiszczak is accused of ordering the use of live ammunition in suppressing a miners' strike over the imposition of martial law. Kiszczak, 75, says he forbade the use of weapons and, according to his attorney, "does not want to seek protection in the statute of limitations... He counts on an acquittal, which for him, as a former politician, is more important." If convicted, Kiszczak could face up to 10 years in prison. DW
OPPOSITION WANTS TO SUPERVISE FIGHTER TENDER
Poland's tender to buy fighter planes to meet NATO requirements (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2001) should be supervised by the main political forces, said the deputy chairman of the Sejm's Defense Committee, Jerzy Szmajdzinski of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance, PAP reported on 18 April. He said the tender proceedings should be fully transparent and as public as possible, particularly as they are taking place toward the end of the present minority government's term and supervision now might avoid their questioning by the next cabinet. "What we don't need is for the next election winners to start their rule by verifying, vetting, and upsetting contracts which...are worth close to $4 billion," Szmajdzinski said. DW
CZECH RESOLUTION ON CUBA GAINS APPROVAL
After the rewording of a passage criticizing U.S. sanctions against Cuba, the Czech resolution voicing concern on human rights abuses in Cuba was approved by the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, CTK reported on 18 April. According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil, the resolution "found an intersection between a discussion of human rights questions and a debate on the need of international trade cooperation" to end Cuban isolation. The resolution was approved by all EU countries on the commission, as well as the U.S. The resolution's approval was hailed by opposition politicians, though some still criticized Foreign Minister Jan Kavan's approach. Freedom Union deputy Ivan Pilip said: "Kavan should not be credited with the success of the resolution because...he complicated the situation and...damaged relations with our allies." DW
KLAUS: ZEMAN'S ASSESSMENT IS 'TASTELESS BOASTING'
Chamber of Deputies Speaker and Civic Democrat Chairman Vaclav Klaus told CTK on 18 April that Prime Minister Milos Zeman's appraisal of his government's first 1,000 days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2001) was tasteless boasting. Klaus, whose party keeps Zeman's minority government in power through their "opposition agreement," said 1,000 days "is quite enough and I am very much looking forward to the next elections...so that a different government will finally come." Klaus's and other opposition deputies' chief criticism was Zeman's government putting the country in debt. DW
UPPER AUSTRIAN TEMELIN OPPONENTS MEET, ISSUE DEMANDS
A meeting in Linz on 18 April of Upper Austrian government officials and nongovernmental environmental organizations opposed to the Temelin nuclear power plant has demanded more documentation on the plant's environmental impact, CTK reported. Radko Pavlovec, the Upper Austrian Commissioner for nuclear facilities, said the documentation supplied by the commission assessing the environmental impact of Temelin was "completely insufficient" and failed to address the issues of not putting Temelin into operation, serious accidents, or handling radioactive waste. He added that the date of the first public hearing on Temelin will depend on the new documentation being presented, as the original date of 9 May "certainly cannot be kept." DW
ROBERTSON: ARMY SPENDING NOT A WASTE, BUT NO GUARANTEE
In an interview with Slovak Radio, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said that Slovakia's preparations to join the alliance will not guarantee its admittance, but it will not be a waste of money in any case, CTK reported on 18 April. Robertson said he cannot make any more promises to Slovakia than to any of the other countries seeking to join NATO. Regarding mistakes made by the three new NATO members in reforming their militaries, Robertson said meeting NATO requirements is simply a matter of having good soldiers with good weapons and good training. DW
HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER MEETS TRANSYLVANIAN BISHOPS
Viktor Orban met in Budapest with bishops from Transylvania on 18 April and discussed the establishment of a Hungarian-language private university in Romania, Hungarian media reported on 19 April. Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth said the establishment of the institution has already begun in the Transylvanian cities of Cluj, Oradea, Tirgu Mures, and Miercurea Ciuc. Some regulations have already been drafted and major investment projects have been implemented, Nemeth added. Orban also confirmed that Hungary fully supports Transylvanian churches' claims against the Romanian state for the return of properties confiscated from them during communist rule in Romania. MSZ
POLL SHOWS MONTENEGRIN PRO-INDEPENDENCE COALITION LEADING
On 19 April, the independent Belgrade weekly "Vreme" published extensive poll results on the views of Serbs and Montenegrins on their political future. In the run-up to the Montenegrin parliamentary elections on 22 April, the pro-independence coalition has 47 percent of the vote in Montenegro, while its pro-Belgrade opponent is likely to take 38 percent. Some 75 percent of eligible voters said they plan to cast their ballots. The results of an eventual referendum on Montenegrin independence, however, seem too close to call. The poll results suggest that much will depend on how the question is phrased and that many voters are still undecided. Most Albanians, Muslims, and Croats are solidly pro-independence, while most Serbs and "Yugoslavs" are pro-federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2001). Among ethnic Montenegrins, 47 percent favor a federation and 41 percent would opt for independence. Montenegrins tend to have more confidence in Montenegrin than in federal institutions. The Montenegrin president and parliament lead the list with 51 percent confidence each. PM
RUSSIA JOINING IN MONTENEGRIN ELECTION CAMPAIGN?
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told visiting Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Zizic in Moscow on 18 April that Russia wants Montenegro to remain as part of Yugoslavia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2001 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 March 2001). Ivanov stressed that "concerning the 22 April elections in Montenegro, I reaffirm that Russia firmly stands by its position that Yugoslavia's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be maintained," Interfax reported. Ivanov added that Moscow "welcomes the steps the current Yugoslav leadership of [President] Vojislav Kostunica is taking toward resolving the problems facing the country. The proposals the Yugoslav president has spelled out to advance federal relations are opening the way to settle the issues being debated in society." In the Serbian elections in the fall of 2000, Moscow backed former President Slobodan Milosevic and recognized Kostunica's victory only belatedly. PM
MONTENEGRO'S BELGRADE LOYALIST HAILS RUSSIA'S STANCE
Zizic, who is a leading member of Montenegro's pro-Belgrade coalition, said in Moscow on 18 April that Russia's position means that "Montenegro's secession from Yugoslavia would not be recognized" by Moscow, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 5 and 12 April 2001). Zizic added that Montenegrin succession from Yugoslavia could trigger the appearance of "a conglomerate of dwarf states" in the region, causing, as he put it, "the disappearance of the Balkans from the political map of the world." PM
SERBS SOLIDLY BACK KOSTUNICA
"Vreme's" 19 April poll of Serbs suggests that Kostunica is far and away the most popular Serbian politician and that the Yugoslav presidency is the institution enjoying the most confidence in Serbia. Some 90 percent of the Serbian respondents have a positive view of Kostunica and 45 percent have more confidence in him than in any other politician. The presidency enjoys the confidence of 84 percent of the respondents, followed by the army with 78 percent. The governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition would win 52 percent of the votes in a new election, followed by Milosevic's Socialists with 8 percent. Some 27 percent are undecided or not saying. PM
NATO BREAKS UP KOSOVA SERB TAX PROTEST
KFOR peacekeepers broke up roadblocks near the towns of Zvecan, Zupce, and Loziste at 6:00 a.m. local time on 19 April in order to restore freedom of movement, a KFOR spokesman told AP in Prishtina. In Zupce, peacekeepers used tear gas to disperse crowds of stone-throwing Serbs. One Serb was arrested. A French peacekeeper said: "They have the right to protest peacefully, but we will remove any roadblocks which hamper our operations." Many local Serbs are angry at the UN's decision to set up checkpoints to collect taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, and fuel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2001). Local Serbian leaders claim that the tax collection efforts are aimed at reducing Kosova's links to Serbia. Belgrade set up customs points on its side of the border in February. PM
MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT SACKS ALBANIAN POLICE CHIEF
The government fired Tetovo police head Rauf Ramadani on 18 April. It did not give a reason, but state-run television suggested that he had links to ethnic Albanian "extremists." AP reported that the sacking of Ramadani indicates that the government has become more confident since its recent military operations against the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK). PM
BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY SLAMS CROATIAN PARA-STATE
The three members of the joint presidency agreed in Sarajevo on 18 April that Croatian hard-liners' decision to set up what they call the "Croatian self-administration" poses a serious threat to the stability of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Presidency President Zivko Radisic said that the situation is not hopeless but that it is certainly difficult, "Oslobodjenje" reported. PM
BOSNIAN DEFENSE MINISTER WANTS DOCUMENTS FROM PREDECESSOR
Defense Minister Mijo Anic, who is a non-nationalist ethnic Croat, has given his nationalist Croat predecessor Miroslav Prce until 25 April to hand over documents he kept or face a lawsuit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 19 March 2001). The documents deal with personnel, financial, and defense matters, "Dnevni avaz" reported on 19 April. PM
DID HERZEGOVINIAN HARD-LINERS PROFIT FROM SFOR?
"Oslobodjenje" reported on 19 April that Spanish SFOR officials paid "millions" of German marks to four Herzegovinians in an "illegal" deal to buy the Grmine base in Medjugorje in 1999. The daily suggested that SFOR has been involved in a cover-up in connection with the deal. PM
SPANISH TELEVISION: BOSNIAN SERBS RUN ARMS BAZAAR UNDER SFOR'S NOSE
El Mundo TV has recently shown a two-part documentary, charging that Bosnian Serb army officers are selling heavy and other weapons to criminal and terrorist groups without any interference from SFOR, London's "The Guardian" reported on 19 April. Journalists posing as arms buyers for Colombian drug traffickers negotiated a deal to buy two Gazelle helicopters for $2 million each. Bosnian Serb arms dealer Veljko Borovina told the journalists that local police would not interfere because "we are the strongest people around here." He added that Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic would provide unspecified help "if anything goes wrong." Borovina urged the "Colombians" to make contact with Spanish SFOR to "carry the goods in their trucks to the port." He added that "the Americans are the ones who distribute most of the arms and drugs in this territory, so it would be better if they did not know [about the sale] and try to get in the way." Borovina wanted half the payment in cocaine. PM
ROMANIAN SUPREME COURT ATTACKS LAW ON BUDGET
The Romanian Supreme Court requested the Constitutional Court to examine the recently adopted law on the 2001 budget, arguing on 18 April that the law is unconstitutional, Mediafax reported. The Supreme Court accused parliament of having discriminated against it, as deputies did not approve additional financing for the judges' salaries, while members of parliament were given additional funds. The judges argued that, according to the principle of separation of powers, the Supreme Court is supposed to have its own budget as part of the country's overall budget. They said the same principle is also breached by the fact that the court's budget needs to be approved by the Labor Ministry. In related news, Premier Adrian Nastase called two opposition parties' initiative to challenge the budget law in Constitutional Court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2001) an "irresponsible" act. ZsM
MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTER-DESIGNATE PRESENTS GOVERNMENT PROGRAM
Moldovan Prime Minister-designate Vasile Tarlev on 18 April presented his government program, Moldovan media reported. The program provides for a strong state role in the economy -- even considering the introduction of state monopolies in certain areas. Economic targets include an annual 5 percent GDP increase, reducing inflation to 10 percent, and reducing the budget deficit to 1.5 percent. The program also provides for protection against "the artificial reduction of the functions of the Russian language in society." In an effort to prevent corruption, the cabinet intends to annul immunity for public officers. The program also provides for Moldova to join the economic structures of the Russia-Belarus Union. Parliament was to vote on 19 April on Tarlev's cabinet and proposals. ZsM
NATO TO SET UP MEDICAL BASE IN BULGARIA
The daily "Standart" reported on 18 April that NATO is planning to equip a medical air force base in Bulgaria to handle emergency situations there. The base will be located at the Krumovo military air base near Bulgaria's second city of Plovdiv. The daily said that details of the project have already been agreed upon by NATO and the Bulgarian Defense Ministry. Two heavy transport MI-17 helicopters are to carry life-support equipment and be stationed at the base, which is slated to be operational in September when the multinational military exercise Cooperative Key 2001 is to take place. PB
BULGARIA SEES INCREASE IN TOURISM
Deputy Premier and Economy Minister Petar Jotev said on 19 April that the government expects the recent increase in tourism to continue, BTA reported. Jotev said that more than $1 billion was spent by foreigners on tourism in Bulgaria last year and that Bulgaria was among the top five countries in Europe for total number of foreign tourists. He added that foreign investment in tourism in the country last year was some $137 million and that more than 90 percent of the tourist industry has been privatized. PB
POPULATION CENSUS IN MACEDONIA TO BE POSTPONED?
By Ulrich Buechsenschuetz
The recent violent clashes between Albanian guerrillas and Macedonian police forces raised questions whether the population census, which is scheduled for 15 to 30 May, should be postponed. The census and the process surrounding it have raised a number of politically sensitive issues. At a meeting in March with Macedonian Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel said he doubts whether the Macedonian government has had enough time to prepare and conduct the census properly.
The expert for human rights of the OSCE Mission to Skopje, Eileen Simpson, discussed the issue with Macedonian Minister of Justice Xhevdet Nasufi, the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" reported on 11 April. Simpson stated that, given the present situation in Macedonia, it will be necessary that the population count be monitored by international experts. She urged the justice minister to postpone the census in order to give the international community more time to prepare the monitoring.
Whereas the OSCE seems to be mainly concerned with the organizational problems of the census, the two main ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia -- the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) and the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) -- want the law on the census to be changed. "We hope that Minister Nasufi will propose a change of the law; his statements clearly indicate that [he will do so]. There are still displaced people, the atmosphere is still tense, and there is the possibility that political parties may call for a boycott. We don't want the results of the census to be questioned by anybody, and that is why we want an atmosphere of consensus [for the population count]," the coordinator of the PDSH's parliamentary faction said.
For his part, Naser Ziberi of the PPD noted: "If the census is held now, it will not be realistic and objective, and we will not recognize the results."
Although the newspapers did not mention it explicitly, there might be a connection between the government's plans to change the naturalization law, and the Albanian parties' demand for postponement of the census.
At the urging of experts from the Council of Europe, the UNHCR, and some other European institutions, the Macedonian regulations on citizenship will be changed soon, the Skopje daily "Vest" reported on 12 April. According to the present rules, foreign nationals must live in Macedonia for 15 years before they can become citizens. Large numbers of ethnic Albanians have come to Macedonia from Kosova and other parts of Yugoslavia within a period of time less than the past 15 years and hence do not qualify for citizenship. The planned new regulations, however, will cut the residency requirement to 10 years. The number of ethnic Albanians citizens in Macedonia will therefore certainly rise if the census is delayed until after the law on citizenship has been changed.
The government, however, does not seem inclined to postpone the census. Neither government spokesman Antonio Milosovski nor experts of the statistical bureau see any major difficulties for a regular population count at present. President Boris Trajkovski's council of experts, who met on 13 April, also said that there is no reason to postpone the census, as "Dnevnik" reported.
But matters have not stopped at Macedonia's borders. In an apparent attempt to divert attention away from its own polices, the government criticized the authorities in neighboring Albania, who began conducting a census on 1 April. As the Macedonian Information Agency (MIA) reports, Milosovski said: "We deeply regret that Albania failed to respect democratic principles by rejecting [Greek and Macedonian] ethnic minority demands to have a special [section on the census forms for questions on religion and national origin]." According to official Macedonian sources, about 350,000 Macedonians live in Albania, whereas Albanian authorities put that number at only 5,000.
The dispute about the census in Albania affects Macedonian party politics as well. According to "Dnevnik" of 11 April, the leader of the nationalist "Real Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization" (VMRO-vistinska or VMRO-VMRO), Boris Stojmenov, has demanded that the Macedonian census follow the Albanian model unless Tirana changes its policy. According to his proposal, Macedonian citizens would have to declare their ethnic identity as either "Macedonian" or "other."
Several newspapers have also criticized the recent Bulgarian population count (see, for example, "Dnevnik" of 9 March). Their reports are based on the views of the Bulgarian ethnic Macedonian party OMO Ilinden-Pirin to the effect the Bulgarian authorities have created an "anti-Macedonian hysteria" and allegedly planned to falsify the real number of ethnic Macedonians in Bulgaria.
Population counts in the Balkans have always fueled political or ethnic tensions -- internal as well as international. That general rule is unlikely to change in the near future.