VICTORY DAY BOMB ROCKS KASPIISK...
At least 32 people were killed, including six children, and about 150 wounded 9 May when a powerful explosion ripped through a Victory Day military parade in the city of Kaspiisk in Daghestan, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The Caspian Sea port city is home to a to a brigade of Russian marines, and most of the victims of the explosion were servicemen, including members of their military band, according to Ekho Moskvy, ntvru.com, and polit.ru. The blast was caused by a mine that was detonated by remote control, according to AP. President Vladimir Putin was immediately informed of the incident and held an emergency meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and the chiefs of the security agencies. At that meeting, Putin appointed the director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Nikolai Patrushev, to head the investigation. It was the second major terrorist act in Kaspiisk: in November 1996, 68 Russian Border Guard troops and members of their families died as the result of an apartment-building explosion. VY
...AS PUTIN CALLS FOR UNITY AGAINST TERRORISM...
President Putin, referring to the Kaspiisk tragedy during his remarks to a Victory Day parade on Red Square in Moscow on 9 May, noted that "this crime was committed by scum, for whom nothing is sacred. And we have every right to deal with them just as we dealt with the Nazis, whose only goal was the bring death, to sow fear and to murder," according to polit.ru. Putin called on the former members of anti-Hitler coalition to unite against the common threat of international terrorism. Referring to the gathered veterans of the war, Putin noted that they "did not wait for salvation from outside" and that their greatest legacy to the current generation is "unity and dignity." As in the USSR, Victory Day was celebrated across Russia with military parades and fireworks. VY/RC
...AND CHECHEN FIGHTERS FIRE ON VICTORY DAY CELEBRATION IN GROZNY
Rebels fired grenade launchers into a stadium in Grozny on 9 May while Russian troops and local civilians were celebrating Victory Day, Russian and Western news agencies reported. According to AP, one police officer was seriously wounded in the attack on Grozny's Dinamo stadium. Akhmad-Hadji Kadyrov, the head of Chechnya's pro-Moscow administration, was in the stadium at the time of the attack. In his speech just prior to the assault, he said: "Today, we are celebrating Victory Day. We will put an end to bandits, and we will celebrate a new victory day in the fall." RC
U.S., RUSSIAN EMERGENCY RESCUE TEAMS EXCHANGE KNOW-HOW
Russian and U.S. emergency rescue teams have begun joint exercises on the training grounds of the Emergency Situations Ministry in Rostov Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 May. The U.S. rescue-team members are based in Iowa and traveled to Russia two years ago for a similar exchange of ideas, training techniques, and rescue technology. The teams simulate earthquake conditions and practice rescuing people from under the debris of ruined buildings, putting out fires, and coping with the after-effects of traffic accidents. JAC
EMBATTLED ST. PETERSBURG DEPUTY GOVERNOR DIES
St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Valerii Malyshev, a close political ally of Governor Vladimir Yakovlev who was often mentioned as a possible successor, died on 7 May at a hospital outside of St. Petersburg, Russian news agencies reported. According to "Kommersant-Daily," Malyshev had been hospitalized two weeks previously and diagnosed with hepatitis B. Citing a doctor who was treating Malyshev, the paper reported that the vice governor had died of a stroke that was brought on by complications from the disease. As vice governor, Malyshev was responsible for transportation, sport, and communications, and he was often at the center of controversy surrounding allegations of misappropriation of funds designated for the city's ring road and for the hockey stadium built for the 2000 World Ice Hockey Championships. In July 2001, federal prosecutors formally charged Malyshev with "receiving a particularly large bribe," according to "The St. Petersburg Times," and an investigation was pending at the time of his death. RC
KALININGRAD SENATOR PROFFERS KRASNODAR AS MODEL FOR IMMIGRATION POLICY
Valerii Ustyugov, representative for Kaliningrad Oblast's governor in the Federation Council, has suggested that Russian citizens' entry into Kaliningrad Oblast be drastically limited in light of the impending EU membership of neighboring Poland and Lithuania, BNS reported on 8 May. Ustyugov told members of the oblast's legislature the previous day that "unusual problems call for unusual solutions." Ustyugov also noted that the strict measures introduced against migrants in Krasnodar Krai and in the city of Moscow provide a good example. "Europe is not afraid of 1 million Kaliningrad residents. It is afraid of crowds of illegal immigrants from the North Caucasus and Central Asia that may use Kaliningrad to reach the West," he said. Under Krasnodar Krai's operation "Foreigner," some ethnic groups -- such as the Meskhetian Turks -- who have lived in the region for more than 10 years have faced new scrutiny of their legal documents and have been threatened with expulsion, prompting criticism from human rights groups and political analysts (see "RFE/RL (Un)Civil Societies," 10 April 2002 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2002). JAC
PREPARATIONS UNDER WAY FOR ROME NATO MEETING
The Italian air force has begun deploying an air-defense system at an air base just south of Rome in preparation for a summit of Russian and NATO leaders to be held on 28 May, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 May. According General Sandro Ferracut, commander of the Italian air force, the security measures will be essentially the same as those taken during last year's G-8 summit in Genoa. The 28 May meeting is expected to formalize a new cooperation mechanism between Russia and the Atlantic alliance. RC
HIGH-PROFILE ATTORNEY MURDERED IN KRASNOYARSK
Artem Kosogov, a well-known attorney who was representing alleged criminal kingpin Vilor Struganov, was found murdered near the entrance to his home on 7 May, RFE/RL's Krasnoyarsk correspondent reported. According to an unidentified law enforcement official, Kosogov appears to have been killed by a gun with a silencer. Police also suspect that Kosogov's murder was connected to his professional activities. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 8 May, the trial against former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 2002), who has been charged with conspiracy to murder Struganov, was scheduled to reconvene on 14 May. A fellow attorney in the krai, Valerii Kakaulin, suggested that the Bykov's possible role in Kosogov's death will be examined. Meanwhile, Aleksandr Uss, chairman of the krai's legislature, told "Gazeta" in an interview published on 8 May that he plans to run for governor in upcoming elections. When asked whether he thought Bykov might also run, Uss declined to comment. JAC
DUMA TO LAUNCH NEW ASSAULT AGAINST CHUBAIS?
While visiting Kursk on 6 May, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told a local resident that the Duma will consider a special resolution to end the activities of Unified Energy Systems Chairman Anatolii Chubais, "who is conducting illegal reforms," Rosbalt.ru reported on 8 May citing the "Kursk" newspaper. However, Seleznev acknowledged that it will be "very difficult" to pass the resolution and that he plans to appeal to the pro-Kremlin "centrist" factions. "Otherwise," he warned, according rosbalt.ru, "one fine day, we will see that everything will be done as Chubais wishes." JAC
ENVOYS REPORTEDLY SUBVERTING LOYALTY OF FEDERAL MINISTRY EMPLOYEES
A representative office of the Interior Ministry (MVD) will be created in the Siberian Federal District, First Deputy Presidential Envoy to the Siberian Federal District Igor Prostyakov told Interfax-Eurasia on 8 May. According to Prostyakov, the structure will deal with visa issues, coordination of the external economic relations of regions within the district, and migration policy. Presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District Leonid Drachevskii has agreed on a candidate to head the new office: Nikolai Pavlov, who is currently a consul for special assignments at the MVD. Meanwhile, in a long article about the presidential envoys on 30 April, "Yezhenedelnyi Zhurnal" argued that the new district branches of federal ministries "while technically accountable to Moscow, in reality sever all contacts with their head offices and give their allegiance to the presidential envoys." According to the weekly, this situation "has already resulted in numerous conflicts between envoys and federal ministries and departments." JAC
RADIOACTIVE GUEST FROM CHINA TURNED BACK AT BORDER
Interfax-Eurasia reported on 8 May, citing the press service of the Far Eastern Customs Administration, that the previous day a Chinese citizen exiting from a train in Vladivostok set off a gamma-detector, which registered more than 500 times the normal level of radiation emanating from his throat. The passenger said that he had taken a medication for his thyroid. However, he did not have proper medical documents and was sent back to China. JAC
BASHKORTOSTAN PRESIDENT SAYS PUTIN AGREED TO PROLONG HARMONIZATION PROCESS...
Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov said on 7 May that President Putin agreed during their 29 April meeting to form a consultative body for solving problems connected with the harmonization of republican laws and federal laws, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2002). Rakhimov also said that although "some media speculate that [the federal center's] power-sharing treaties with Bashkortostan [and] Tatarstan will be abolished, this is impossible, because they already have become our ideology." JAC
...AS REPUBLICAN-LEVEL PROSECUTOR IS REPLACED
Also on 7 May, Bashkortostan's legislature voted to approve the candidacy of Florid Baikov for the post of chief prosecutor, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported. Baikov replaces former prosecutor Yadat Turumtaev, who has retired, according to Interfax-Eurasia. Turumtaev's departure had not previously been announced publicly. However, according to the correspondent, President Rakhimov in recent interviews criticized the work of federal prosecutors, who he said, "have become superior to the [Russian] president." JAC
BURNING WASTE DUMP POLLUTING AIR IN TULA
Waste burning across 26 hectares of a dump in the city of Tula is depositing dangerous toxins across the southeastern section of the city, REN-TV reported on 8 May. According to the station, soot containing lead, toluene, nitrogen peroxide, and resins -- all in quantities exceeding permissible norms by thousands of times -- is raining down on the city of nearly 600,000 people. Funds for preparing an earthwork around the waste to prevent spontaneous combustion ran out last month when the oblast legislature changed the way that money is allocated. Local environmentalists estimate that the damage to the environment caused by the burning waste exceeds the damage produced by all industrial enterprises in Tula combined, the station reported. JAC
DOUBLE REGISTERED IN BURYATIA
Two candidates with the name of Leonid Potapov are registered to participate in the presidential election in Buryatia, which is scheduled for 23 June, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 8 May. One is the incumbent president of the republic, while the other is a scientist at a research institute for the study for dermatology, venereal diseases, and immunology in Yekaterinburg, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 8 May. The registration of so-called doubles is a fairly widespread practice in Russian elections, intended to confuse voters and trick them into voting for the wrong candidate. Also registered to compete against the Potapovs is State Duma Deputy (Fatherland-All Russia) Bato Semenov. JAC
ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES ELECTION LAW AMENDMENTS
Parliament deputies on 7 May approved in the first reading by a vote of 79 in favor, seven against, and nine abstentions all proposed amendments to the Election Law except that which would empower the president to name members of the Central Election Commission, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The pro-government majority has lowered the proposed number of presidential appointees on election commissions at all levels from five to three, but the opposition continues to object to allowing the president any say in their composition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April and 2 May 2002). LF
ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT OPPOSITION CRITICIZES AIRPORT DEAL
The parliamentary opposition protested on 7 May the majority's approval in the first reading of an agreement signed in December 2001 under which the Armenian government ceded to an Argentinean businessman of Armenian origin the right to administer Yerevan's Zvartnots Airport for a period of 30 years, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2001). The opposition objects that parliament should not have endorsed the deal, the text of which has not been made public. LF
ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT COMMISSION DEMANDS GUNMAN'S PRISON TRANSFER
The ad hoc parliament commission that monitors the trial of five men charged with the shooting in October 1999 of eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament building again demanded on 8 May that the gunmen's leader, Nairi Hunanian, be transferred from the National Security Ministry prison in Yerevan to another location, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Commission members referred to persistent allegations that Hunanian and his fellow accused receive instructions from senior officials on what testimony to give in order to prevent the true mastermind of the killings from being identified. Hunanian has consistently denied that he was acting at the behest of a third party. During the court session on 8 May, a letter was read from Hunanian to Armenian President Robert Kocharian in which Hunanian demands that the president discipline Gagik Djahangirian, the military prosecutor in charge of investigating the case, Noyan Tapan reported. LF
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY CLAIMS MAYORAL ELECTION FALSIFIED
The Orinats Yerkir (Law-Based State) Party has demanded that the 5 May election for the mayor of the town of Idjevan be declared invalid due to widespread falsification of the vote, Noyan Tapan reported on 8 May. According to the official results, incumbent Mayor Varuzhan Nersisian was re-elected with 4,042 votes, while his rival, Orinats Yerkir candidate Gerasim Israelian, polled 3,272 votes. Orinats Yerkir representatives say voter lists were amended on 1 May to include the names of over 1,000 people who are not resident in Idjevan, and the Tavush regional court issued authorization for some 170 people to vote at four or five separate polling stations. LF
VISITING TURKISH MINISTERS AFFIRM SUPPORT FOR AZERBAIJAN
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli, who also heads the right-wing National Movement Party (MHP) held talks in Baku on 6-7 May with top Azerbaijani officials, including parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov, Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliev, and President Heidar Aliev, Turan reported. During a two-hour discussion, Aliev and Bahceli focused primarily on ways to resolve the Karabakh conflict peacefully. Bahceli stressed that Turkey will do what it can to preserve political stability in Azerbaijan. He told a press conference after his meeting with Aliev that Ankara will continue to support Azerbaijan, and will respond to any action by Iran that threatens Azerbaijan's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Bahceli also met on 7 May at the Turkish Embassy with the leaders of several Azerbaijani opposition parties, despite efforts by police to prevent opposition supporters and journalists from opposition publications from approaching the embassy building, according to AP. Also on 7 May, Turkish Defense Minister Sabahaddin Cakmakoglu, one of several members of the Turkish cabinet who accompanied Bahceli, met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Colonel General Safar Abiev to discuss regional security, the prospects for resolving the Karabakh conflict, and expanding bilateral military cooperation, Turan reported. LF
AZERBAIJANI VILLAGERS STAGE NEW PROTEST
Some 1,000 residents of the village of Nardaran on the outskirts of Baku staged a demonstration on 7 May to demand the resignation of the local district mayor and a say in who will be named his successor, Turan reported. They also again demanded action by the municipal authorities to address problems they raised during demonstrations earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 8, 28 February 2002, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2002), and rejected as a violation of the right to freedom of religion the demand by Education Minister Misir Mardanov that schoolgirls should not wear head scarves. The villagers vowed to hold further protests unless their grievances are addressed by 12 May. LF
CONTESTED GEORGIAN PARTY EXCLUDED FROM LOCAL ELECTIONS
The Union of Citizens of Georgia, created as President Eduard Shevardnadze's power base and now split between his supporters and those of former parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania, will not be able to contest the 2 June local elections in its own right, Caucasus Press reported. Responding to an appeal by former Kvemo Kartli regional Governor Levan Mamaladze, a Tbilisi District Court on 3 May suspended the SNK's registration with the Central Election Commission to contest the ballot. Zhvania filed an appeal with the Georgian Supreme Court to have that ruling reversed, but on 8 May the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing because Mamaladze failed to appear. The deadline for parties to register for the 2 June elections expired at 6 p.m. local time on 8 May. Zhvania attributed the court ruling to pressure exerted by Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze with the aim of "marginalizing" Zhvania and his supporters. Zhvania has concluded an agreement with the center-right Christian Conservative Party that his team will participate in the poll as candidates from that party. LF
GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ TALKS FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT...
At a session in Sukhum on 8 May of the Coordinating Council sub-group on security issues, Georgian and Abkhaz government officials failed to reach an agreement on the withdrawal of armed Georgians from the Kodori Gorge or on the procedures for joint patrols of the gorge by members of the UN Observer Mission and the Russian peacekeeping forces deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone, Caucasus Press and Russian agencies reported. Abkhazia's demand for the withdrawal from the upper, Georgian-controlled reaches of the gorge of armed Georgian border guards and local armed volunteers was rejected. Caucasus Press quoted UN special envoy Dieter Boden as saying that the border guards' presence does not constitute a violation of earlier agreements. Also rejected was the Abkhaz demand that a permanent Russian monitoring post be established in the upper reaches of the gorge. Abkhaz First Deputy Defense Minister Givi Agrba objected to the stipulation that both sides be informed beforehand of the timing of joint patrols and the route they will take. He said it would enable Georgia to conceal troops it deployed in the gorge. LF
...AS GEORGIAN OFFICIALS HINT AT NEW WAR
Meeting in Washington on 8 May with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Georgian Defense Minister Lieutenant General David Tevzadze said Tbilisi "will not attempt to resolve the [Abkhaz] problem by military force, at least not in the near future," Caucasus Press reported. Speaking in Tbilisi the same day, Tamaz Nadareishvili, who heads the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government in exile, announced that he plans to collect by 15 June 1 million signatures in support of UN intervention to impose a peace settlement in Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported. LF
KAZAKHSTAN DRAFTS NEW FOOD PROGRAM
At its 7 May session the Kazakh government gave preliminary approval to a three-year program that provides for a steep increase in funding for agriculture with the aim of improving the sector's efficiency and making Kazakh produce more competitive on both domestic and international markets, Interfax reported. Prime Minister Imanghaliy Tasmagambetov noted that the country is still too dependent on food imports. LF
FORMER KYRGYZ VICE PRESIDENT SENTENCED TO 10 YEARS' IMPRISONMENT
A Bishkek district court on 8 May sentenced former Vice President Feliks Kulov, who heads the opposition Ar-Namys party, to 10 years' imprisonment on three separate charges of embezzlement, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 6 May 2002). In addition, he was barred from holding any government office for a further three years after completion of his prison term, according to Interfax. Kulov pleaded not guilty to the charges, which he claims were politically motivated. Kulov will serve the new sentence concurrently with a seven-year sentence handed down last year on charges of abuse of his official position while serving as national security minister in 1997-98. LF
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT WARNS MINISTERS NOT TO DIVULGE DETAILS OF BORDER DEAL WITH CHINA...
President Askar Akaev warned government ministers on 7 May not to reveal to opposition parliament deputies details of the delimitation of the Kyrgyz-Chinese border, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Addressing both chambers of the Kyrgyz parliament the same day, Akaev argued that the 1999 border agreement with China is the best that Kyrgyzstan could hope for and is in the country's interest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2002). Three parliamentary committees began reviewing the agreement on 8 May. The Legislative Assembly (the lower parliament chamber) failed to discuss the agreement on 8 May for lack of a quorum. It is now scheduled to do so on 10 May. LF
...AS THOUSANDS DEMAND HIS RESIGNATION
Some 6,500 people turned out for a protest demonstration on 7 May in Kerben, the largest town in Djalalabad Oblast's Aksy Raion, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Participants demanded that Akaev and the entire government resign; that impeachment proceedings be opened against Akaev; that the criminal case brought against parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov be shelved; that those persons responsible for the clashes in Aksy on 17-18 March between police and demonstrators be identified and punished; and that no further Kyrgyz territory be ceded to China. They warned that if these demands are not met, they will stop sending their children to school and their sons to serve in the army, and will withhold both taxes and payment for electricity. LF
TAJIK JOURNALIST ACCUSES ISLAMIST PARTY, IRAN OF POLITICAL MURDERS
In a 1 May interview with Deutsche Welle's Russian Service, Dododjon Atovulloev, who is editor of the opposition newspaper "Charoghi ruz," said that the Iranian Embassy in Dushanbe recruited members of Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) to commit political assassinations, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 8 May. Atovulloev claimed that Tajik security services have apprehended supporters of IRP Chairman Said Abdullo Nuri who confessed to the killings of several prominent Tajik politicians, including Otakhon Latifi. He said the Iranian Embassy in Dushanbe arranged the escape to Iran of three of Nuri's closest associates. IRP Deputy Chairman Muhiddin Kabiri rejected Atovulloev's claims as "slander" intended to create tensions between Tajikistan and Iran and to destabilize the political situation within Tajikistan. LF
FORMER TURKMEN SECURITY CHIEF CHARGED WITH MURDER
Former National Security Committee Chairman Mukhammed Nazarov, two of his deputies, and 19 other senior security personnel have been charged with over 80 crimes, including five murders, torture, drug trafficking, and illegal arrest, Russian media and turkmenistan.ru reported on 7 May. Nazarov personally has been charged under 11 separate articles of the Criminal Code with premeditated murder, running a bordello, abuse of power, embezzlement, taking bribes, and other offenses. President Saparmurat Niyazov criticized and demoted Nazarov in early March and fired him 10 days later (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 15 March 2002). LF
TURKMEN NATIONAL BANK HEAD DISMISSED
President Niyazov dismissed National Bank head and Deputy Prime Minister Seitbai Gandymov on 6 May for "serious shortcomings and failing to ensure adequate control of the banking sector," Russian media reported. Gandymov is also said to have maintained close ties with former deputy Prime Minister Khudaiberdy Orazov, who has since left Turkmenistan and announced his open opposition to Niyazov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2002). A criminal case has been opened against Gandymov and his five residences in Ashgabat have been confiscated and will be turned into orphanages. Several relatives whom he named to bank positions have been fired. Niyazov named Economy and Finance Minister Enebay Ataeva deputy prime minister with responsibility for the banking sector and Deputy Agriculture Minister Imamdurdy Gandymov to head the National Bank. LF
RALLIES IN BELARUSIAN CITIES MARK ANNIVERSARY OF ZAKHARANKA'S DISAPPEARANCE
Some 70 people formed a "chain of concerned people" in downtown Minsk on 7 May to commemorate the third anniversary of the disappearance of Belarusian opposition politician Yury Zakharanka, Belapan reported. The same day, similar demonstrations took place in Vitsebsk, Brest, Baranavichy, Pinsk, Pruzhany, and some other Belarusian cities. JM
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT MOVES TO PARDON 1,900
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has submitted to the Chamber of Representatives an amnesty bill whereby nearly 1,900 people will be released from prison while some 25,000 prison inmates will have their terms reduced by one year, Belapan reported on 8 May, quoting presidential spokeswoman Natalya Pyatkevich. JM
RUSSIA'S FEDERATION COUNCIL SPEAKER IN BELARUS
Federation Council speaker Sergei Mironov visited Minsk on 7-8 May and met with Belarusian President Lukashenka and other officials, Belarusian media reported. According to the Belarusian presidential service, Mironov and Lukashenka discussed the development of the Russia-Belarus Union and the progress of work on the union's Constitutional Act. Mironov said that the freezing of Belarus's bid for entry to the Council of Europe was a "political mistake by the European community," Belapan reported. "Europe is incomplete without all of the countries that form it," Mironov said, pledging that Russia will work toward drawing Belarus into "pan-European processes." JM
COURT DISMISSES CRIMINAL CASES AGAINST UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LEADER
The Kyiv-Svyatoshynskyy District Court has closed criminal cases against former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, who heads the opposition bloc bearing her name, and her husband Oleksandr Tymoshenko, Ukrainian media reported on 8 May. The court also cancelled the ban on their travel outside Kyiv. Yuliya Tymoshenko had been charged with smuggling, bribery, natural-gas smuggling, and document forgery, while her husband was accused of embezzling state funds. "As far as Oleksandr [Tymoshenko] and I are concerned, the court has decided to close all criminal cases [against us] with no exception and dismiss all charges in the absence of corpus delicti," RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service quoted Yuliya Tymoshenko as saying. Meanwhile, Deputy Prosecutor-General Mykola Obikhod said he will appeal to the Kyiv Oblast Court of Appeals against the court ruling on the Tymoshenkos. "This [ruling] grossly violates procedural law and, I repeat, it is unlawful and is not currently valid," 1+1 Television quoted Obikhod as saying. JM
RUSSIAN ENVOY UNFAZED BY ALLEGED STATE SECRETS ON MELNYCHENKO'S TAPES
Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin on 8 May denied allegations that the secret audio recordings made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko in Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's office contain Russian state secrets, AP reported. Last week, Melnychenko claimed that such secrets are on his tapes, including conversations between Kuchma and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and current Russian President Vladimir Putin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 2002). "Russia doesn't want to get involved," New Channel Television quoted Chernomyrdin as saying. "Such conversations [between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents] did take place. They are and will be held between the leaders of our countries. My name is there as well. I worked in the government and we constantly held talks, discussed many problems and settled them, and sought advice on some issues. This is no revelation. We have our own tapes. We can give you many of them, more than enough for all." JM
IMF ASSESSES ESTONIA'S 2002 OUTLOOK AS POSITIVE
A preliminary report issued by an IMF mission that visited Estonia on 18-30 April said the country's economic outlook for this year is positive and its gross domestic product should grow by 4.5 percent, ETA reported. It noted that the Estonian economy has shown remarkable resilience in recent months, despite the economic slowdown being experienced by its Western European trading partners. Many Estonian exporters adapted rapidly to the situation by taking advantage of the relatively strong growth in Central and Eastern European and Russian markets. Inflation, however, is unlikely to fall significantly due to the strength of domestic demand, higher oil prices, and planned hikes in administratively regulated prices. The report praised the Bank of Estonia for implementing a reduction of the cash-reserve requirement, but warned that further reductions could boost inflation. SG
FINLAND TO BACK LATVIA'S REQUESTS FOR GREATER EU AGRICULTURAL SUPPORT
Finnish European Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Jari Vilen assured Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins in Riga on 8 May that his country will back Latvia's efforts to gain greater agricultural support from the European Union once it joins the union, LETA reported. Vilen told reporters after the meeting that Latvia needs to increase its administrative capacity, particularly pertaining to the allocation of structural funds, saying those funds helped Finland develop its economy when it was trying to gain EU membership. The ministers also discussed the European Commission's proposal that EU member countries establish joint border guards to ensure more efficient control over the union's external borders. Vilen also met with Latvian Development Agency General Director Maris Elerts and deputies from the parliament's European Affairs Committee. SG
LITHUANIA POSTPONES VOTE ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
A meeting of parliamentary faction heads decided on 7 May to postpone the vote on the amendment to Article 119 of the constitution from that day until 21 May, BNS reported. The amendment, which the parliament approved for the first time in January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 2002), would extend the term of local council deputies from three to four years and allow noncitizens permanently residing in Lithuania to elect and be elected to local councils. The delay was proposed by the Conservatives and Liberals, who are trying to block the plans of the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Social Liberals to move up the date of the local elections from March 2003 to December 2002. Some deputies questioned the "rationality" of granting the right to vote not only to EU citizens but all foreigners permanently residing in Lithuania. The parliament also ratified an agreement with Germany, signed in February 2001, on cooperation between their interior ministries in fighting organized crime, terrorism, and other serious crimes. SG
POLISH PROSECUTORS PROBE 14 STATE-RUN FIRMS FOR MISMANAGEMENT, CORRUPTION
The Justice Ministry on 8 May announced that prosecutors have launched an investigation into "incompetent management and corrupt practices" at 14 state-controlled firms, Polish media reported. The list of the companies under investigation includes KGHM Polska Miedz (metals giant), Poczta Polska (post office), Totalizator Sportowy (state lottery), and PZU (state insurer). "In recent years, these companies became a place where incompetence, abuses, and private interests made themselves at home on a scale that is altogether difficult to imagine," Premier Leszek Miller said in a televised address to the nation later the same day. "You voted against such a manner of holding power and against the closing of eyes to mismanagement in the September elections to the Sejm and Senate last year," Miller added, referring to the previous, Solidarity-led government. Some skeptics in Poland note, however, that the situation in state-run companies will not improve as long as company directors continue to be appointed on the basis of political patronage. JM
POLISH PARLIAMENT REORGANIZES SPECIAL SERVICES
The Sejm on 8 May adopted a bill abolishing the State Protection Office (UOP) and creating the Internal Security Agency (ABW) and Intelligence Agency (AW) in its place, PAP reported. The bill will now go to the Senate. The bill was supported by the ruling coalition of the Democratic Left Alliance, the Polish Peasant Party, and the Labor Union, and opposed by the Civic Platform, Law and Justice, Self-Defense, and the League of Polish Families. According to the bill, the ABW will concern itself with counterintelligence and the struggle against grave crimes, while the AW will focus on gathering intelligence abroad. The AW will include several dozen intelligence officers from the current Military Information Service. JM
POLISH GOVERNMENT ACTS OVER FIRST CASE OF 'MAD COW DISEASE'...
The government has appointed a team for monitoring the situation and coordinating actions after the detection of the first "mad cow disease" (BSE) case in the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 2002), PAP reported on 7 May. Bogdan Twarowski of the governmental Agricultural Restructuring and Modernization Agency told PAP that Hewlett-Packard will prepare a program by 1 September enabling the registration of cattle. Meanwhile, prosecutors have charged two men with falsifying documents in connection with the country's first BSE case. The men, a cattle dealer and an official who issues pedigree certificates, could face up to five years in prison if convicted. Seven countries -- Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Estonia, Russia, and Romania -- have banned imports of Polish beef following the report of the BSE case. JM
...STARTS EU INFORMATION CAMPAIGN
The government on 9 May launched an information campaign about Poland's integration into the European Union, Polish Radio reported. The campaign -- supervised by the government's commissioner for EU information, Slawomir Wiatr -- is to be presented on public and commercial television and radio stations at both the national and regional levels. A day earlier, the right-wing League of Polish Families (LPR) announced that it is starting a nationwide information campaign against Poland's entry into the EU. Meanwhile, the Freedom Union (UW) -- a liberal party not represented in the Polish parliament -- said on 7 May that in a recent mock referendum organized by the UW in 114 cities, towns, and villages, 75 percent of 89,000 participants voted in favor of Poland joining the EU. "The organizers did not guarantee an opportunity for anyone but themselves to count these votes," Roman Giertych from the LPR commented. JM
CZECH PREMIER DEFENDS RECORD OF 'OPPOSITION AGREEMENT'
Presenting a report on 7 May on the activity of his cabinet in the Chamber of Deputies, Milos Zeman said the "opposition agreement" between his minority Social Democratic Party (CSSD) and the major opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) has benefited the country and has attracted foreign investors, CTK reported. Zeman dismissed the "would-be political scientists" who predicted the pact will not work. He also said his government has reversed negative trends in the economy, lowered inflation, and brought about a drop in crime rate. Zeman said that despite the fact that critics often ridicule his cabinet's "Clean Hands" drive, more people have been brought to justice for economic crime since the campaign was launched. He said he is not satisfied with the cabinet's record on unemployment, although recent data show that unemployment has dropped to under 9 percent. MS
CZECH SENATOR TO SUE PREMIER
Senator Michael Zantovsky, who is chairman of the Civic Democratic Alliance, said on 7 April that he will sue Premier Zeman for slander, CTK reported. Zeman earlier told a group of citizens in Brno that Zantovsky is heading an alleged U.S. lobby against the purchase of British-Swedish made Gripen fighter aircraft, and said his colleagues call Zantovsky a "scooter" as well as "a son of a bitch and a pygmy." He added that Zantovsky's stature "corresponds to his intellectual capabilities." Zantovsky said in response that by suing Zeman, he intends to prove that the "[first communist head of state Clement] Gottwald style of politics is a matter of the past," and to make "the affair as painful as possible for Zeman." MS
CZECH LOWER HOUSE APPROVES OF FINANCING AFGHANISTAN MISSION THROUGH BONDS
The Chamber of Deputies on 7 May approved the issuing of bonds worth 600 million crowns (nearly $17 million) to finance the Czech military mission in Afghanistan, CTK and Czech radio reported. The bill has yet to be approved by the Senate and promulgated by President Vaclav Havel. It was backed by 90 out of the 172 deputies in attendance representing the CSSD and the Christian Democratic Party. Deputies representing the ODS and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia voted against. Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik thanked the chamber, saying he is "glad that this country does not have to feel ashamed before its allies." CTK said the bill is likely to encounter stronger opposition in the Senate, and that the 101 votes necessary in the chamber to override a senate veto will not be found easily. MS
PRAGUE POLICE CHIEF RESIGNS, WILL GO TO COURT
Prague police chief Radim Chyba resigned on 7 May after being accused of collaboration with the communist secret police (StB), CTK and dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2002). Prague Mayor Jan Kasal said Chyba "insists that he did not cooperate with the StB and intends to defend himself in court." MS
SPANISH FOREIGN MINSTER DISCUSSES EU, NATO EXPANSION IN BRATISLAVA
Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique told journalists in Bratislava on 7 May after talks with his Slovak counterpart Eduard Kukan that as current chair of the EU, Spain wants to see the negotiations with all candidate countries concluded by the end of this year, CTK reported. He said Slovakia should be among the new EU members. For this purpose, he added, "It is important for citizens to realize [as they cast their ballot in the September parliamentary elections] the historic goals of EU and NATO membership. We would like Slovakia to be with us." Pique also said he is against linking EU membership with the abolition of the Benes Decrees. "The EU was born of an effort to overcome certain historical conflicts and avoid revisionism...I think that conditioning the [accession] negotiations with the [abolition of] the Benes Decrees would be a mistake. They are in the past and should stay there," he said. MS
SLOVAK STUDY WARNS AGAINST EU-RELATED RISKS
A study being prepared by the Slovak Academy's Institute of Slovak and World Economy on behalf of the government warns that unemployment is likely to increase to 30 percent from the current 20 percent after Slovakia gains EU membership, CTK reported on 7 May. The preliminary report also said that citizens may be confronted with a "price shock" and that the deficit of public financing is likely to grow considerably. The government-ordered study, which is to be completed by the end of June, also says Slovakia's economic performance is currently 49 percent of the average performance of EU members, while labor productivity is about 50 percent of that of current members of the union. It indicates that Slovakia is in the middle of the pack among current EU candidates, with the exception of its unemployment rate, which is higher than in any other candidate country. MS
OUTGOING PREMIER ADDRESSES LARGE CROWD IN BUDAPEST...
Viktor Orban, speaking publicly for the first time since the defeat of his FIDESZ-led coalition last month, told a 50,000-strong crowd in Budapest on 7 May that "civic forces" will not be in opposition, as "the homeland cannot be in opposition to itself," Hungarian media reported. Orban said, "We should be on the alert to defend what we have created over the last four years because we are capable of it." He urged his supporters to "organize yourselves into small groups, into friendly circles, and stay ready so that when fate requests us to mobilize, we can mobilize as one." Over the next three months such groups could be linked by FIDESZ's "Democracy" telephone line in order to be quickly mobilized, Orban said. "We will not allow the Holy Crown to be smuggled back to the National Museum, the House of Terror to be renamed, or farmland to be sold to foreigners; we will not permit the destruction of the Status Law or allow families to be deprived of the support they received [from the FIDESZ-led government]," Orban concluded. MSZ
...PROMPTING REACTION FROM POLITICAL ADVERSARIES
Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs told Hungarian television on 8 May that Orban's speech demonstrated that he "does not wish to encourage calm, but rather prefers to whip up the same passions that were prevalent during the election campaign." Socialist leader Gyorgy Keleti said that while his party did not agree with the original relocation of the Holy Crown from the National Museum to the parliament, the question of returning it to the museum has not arisen. The idea of renaming the House of Terror museum to the House of Reconciliation is likewise not on the agenda, Keleti said. As for the Status Law, the Socialists voted for it and have no interest in seeing it annulled, he concluded. Free Democrat Chairman Gabor Kuncze said it is "strange" that Orban wants to move into the opposition by pursuing politics on the streets, when in a democracy he can represent his policies in parliament. MSZ
FIDESZ ELECTS POKORNI AS PARLIAMENTARY GROUP LEADER
At its inaugural session on 8 May, the FIDESZ parliamentary group elected party Chairman Zoltan Pokorni as its leader, Hungarian media reported. Pokorni told the group that FIDESZ will not be in opposition, but in a minority in the new parliament, explaining that it does not wish to define itself in relation to the new government. FIDESZ will not help the future governing parties assure their parliamentary majority, although it would back proposals that serve the nation's interests, Pokorni said. Bela Turi-Kovacs, chairman of the Smallholder Civic Society, a FIDESZ ally, announced after the FIDESZ parliamentary group meeting that Smallholder deputies will operate as an independent section within the FIDESZ group. MSZ
FUTURE HUNGARIAN PREMIER MEETS ETHNIC HUNGARIAN LEADERS
Peter Medgyessy told the leaders of ethnic Hungarian organizations in neighboring countries on 8 May that his government will consider matters that concern them as part of the national agenda, Hungarian media reported. Medgyessy said that while constitutionally he will be the prime minister of 10 million Hungarians, he feels responsible for 15 million. He also said that his government will support the Status Law and will introduce more transparent subsidies for ethnic Hungarians. Medgyessy called for a review of some aspects of the Hungarian-Romanian memorandum of understanding on the Status Law (see Romanian item in "Southeastern Europe"), and said the new government will initiate talks with Romania to that end. However, Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko said that the memorandum of understanding signed with Romania by the previous government makes it possible to apply the Status Law in that country, and should therefore be upheld. MSZ
YUGOSLAV COURT ISSUES ARREST WARRANTS FOR WAR CRIMINALS...
The Yugoslav Justice Ministry submitted to the Belgrade district court on 7 May a list of 18 individuals indicted by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague who have not offered to turn themselves in, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Included on the list are Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, former army officers Veselin Sljivancanin and Miroslav Radic, as well as Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. The next day, Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic said that former Krajina Serb leader Milan Martic has become a Yugoslav citizen and will receive a passport as part of the final legal formalities leading up to his trip to The Hague. On 9 May, the Belgrade district court issued arrest warrants for 17 of the 18 indicted men, the exception being Milutinovic, AP reported. The court said his arrest could "jeopardize the sovereignty and security of the country" and asked the government to shelve the case until his term expires later this year. PM
...AS POLITICIANS PROTEST ALLEGED U.S. CONDITIONS
Officials of unspecified leading Serbian political parties rejected any link between the extradition of Karadzic and Mladic and the resumption of U.S. aid to Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 8 May. Belgrade leaders maintain that the two men are not in Serbia and that Serbia cannot be held responsible for them. Serbian Prime Minster Zoran Djindjic said that "those who claim Karadzic and Mladic are in Yugoslavia should give us that proof, and not demand that we [prove otherwise]," AP reported. Pierre-Richard Prosper, who is the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes, was recently quoted by Belgrade media as saying that resumption of U.S. aid is contingent on the extradition of the two Bosnian Serbs or on the presentation of proof that the two are not in Yugoslavia. PM
OFFICIAL BELGRADE SEEKS BETTER RELATIONS WITH IRAN AND THE MUSLIM WORLD...
Rasim Ljajic, who is Yugoslav minister for minority affairs and an ethnic Muslim leader from Sandzak, told Iranian President Mohammad Khatami in Tehran that the situation of the Muslims in Yugoslavia is good and getting better, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 8 May. After meeting with Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and other top officials, Ljajic said that his visit is part of Belgrade's desire to strengthen ties to Muslim states. PM
...WHILE OPPOSITION LEADER REPORTEDLY COURTS SADDAM
An unnamed leading official of Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party (SRS) told AP in Belgrade on 8 May that Seselj and Zivorad Igic, a top official of Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), "departed recently to Iraq for a short visit." The SRS official noted that his party shares "common views with [the] Iraqi government in our joint struggle against American aggressors and their NATO puppets." A spokesman for the SPS said that party representatives often attend international gatherings in Iraq but declined to say whether any SPS officials are there at present. The Belgrade daily "Danas" recently reported the alleged visits by Seselj and Igic, describing them as secret and aimed at obtaining financial assistance. Seselj has previously met with President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. PM
BELGRADE SEEKS COOPERATION ON ORGANIZED CRIME
Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic and his Croatian counterpart, Sime Lucin, signed an agreement in Belgrade on 8 May aimed at promoting cooperation against organized crime, terrorism, and the drug trade, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. In Rome, Djindjic and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi discussed topics that included Italian assistance to Serbia in combating organized crime and in training the police and judiciary. PM
SERBIAN MINISTER PROTESTS EXTENDED HOLIDAYS
Serbian Finance Minister Bozidar Djelic said in Belgrade on 6 May that no Western country, "let alone us," can afford to have 10 consecutive work-free days, AP reported. He was referring to a decision by the Yugoslav government to make the period from 27 April to 6 May a holiday connecting Serbian Orthodox Easter with May Day. Djelic said that Serbia's international business partners want to wrap up deals in the spring, before the summer holidays. PM
VOJVODINA REGULATES LANGUAGE ISSUE
The Vojvodina parliament voted on 8 May to remove references to the Serbo-Croatian language from the legal statutes and use the term Serbian language instead, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Croatian language is now listed as a recognized language of a national minority. PM
MONTENEGRIN NGO CONCERNED ABOUT ELECTIONS
The Center for a Democratic Transition said in Podgorica on 7 May that it is concerned that the 15 May local elections may be subject to manipulation by officials, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The NGO also warned that, "the vocabulary used by some leading politicians during the campaign has served to raise tensions." PM
KOSOVA PARLIAMENT TO DISCUSS MITROVICA
Kole Berisha, who is the deputy chief of President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), told Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service on 8 May that the legislature will discuss the situation in Mitrovica the following day. Berisha added that a letter from Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian authority in Kosova (UNMIK), calling on the parliament not to pass any measures about Mitrovica, was not sufficiently thought out. Berisha stressed that UNMIK must understand it is the responsibility of the legislature to discuss issues of primary importance for Kosova, such as the security situation in Mitrovica, where armed Serbian toughs control movement between the two halves of the town (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 May 2002). PM
KOSOVA SERBS PICK CANDIDATES FOR POSTS
Hina reported from Prishtina on 8 May that representatives of the Serbian Povratak (Return) coalition met in Leposaviq to select nominees for the three top official posts reserved for Povratak (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 2002). Government agriculture inspector Goran Bogdanovic is slated to become agriculture minister. Nenad Radosavljevic of the New Democracy party (ND) will advise Steiner on refugee returns, while Milomir Todorovic of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) will have similar duties in the government. PM
KOSOVA BALLOT POSTPONED
The local elections will take place on 26 October and not 21 September as planned, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Prishtina on 7 May. The delay will allow more time for organization and voter education. The OSCE approved the budget for the election only in mid-April, but needs at least six months to prepare for the vote. PM
PEACEKEEPERS DETAIN PRESEVO REBEL LEADER
KFOR troops in the U.S. eastern sector of Kosova detained Sefket Musliu on 7 May, AP reported. A KFOR spokesman declined to say why the former rebel leader in the Presevo Valley is being held. Peacekeepers have the authority to detain anyone they deem a threat to security. Musliu is one of 23 ethnic Albanian rebels identified as a potential security threat by U.S. President George W. Bush in 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June and 5 December 2001). PM
DID THE MACEDONIAN POLICE KILL ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS?
When the Macedonian police killed a group of seven men of Asian origin on 3 March, the Interior Ministry announced that the men were members of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 March 2002). As evidence, ministry officials displayed a collection of firearms and some camouflage uniforms allegedly found on members of the group. On 8 May, the Skopje dailies "Dnevnik" and "Utrinski vesnik" cited an article in the Greek newspaper "Eleftherotypia" that stated that the men were unarmed illegal immigrants from Pakistan and India who were looking for their relatives in the Balkans. As the source for its information, the Greek daily cited an unnamed journalist from "The Wall Street Journal" who investigated the case. Most opposition and Western observers regarded the ministry's claims as suspicious from the start. UB
SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT UNDERGOES SURGERY
Doctors successfully removed a kidney stone from President Milan Kucan in Ljubljana on 8 May, AP reported. The doctors discovered the stone during a check-up and decided to operate at once. Kucan has no known history of health problems. PM
CROATIAN SERB LEADER WARNS OF HATE CRIMES
Milorad Pupovac, who is a leader of Croatia's Serbian minority, said in Zagreb on 8 May that there has been an increase in acts of violence against Serbs in the Zadar area recently, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM
CROATIAN PROSECUTOR SAYS SOME WAR CRIMES CASES TO COME HOME...
Mladen Bajic, who is the new public prosecutor, said in Zagreb on 8 May that The Hague will assign an unspecified number of war crimes cases back to Zagreb (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 May 2002). He noted that chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte discussed the matter during her recent visit to Croatia. Bajic added that his predecessor, Radovan Ortynski, has given him documents to substantiate Ortynski's controversial charges of links between the government and organized crime. PM
...AS PRIME MINISTER SAYS COOPERATION WILL CONTINUE
On 9 May, Prime Minister Ivica Racan told Reuters that his government is determined to cooperate with The Hague in pursuing war crimes cases. He added that "public opinion in Croatia is also today much more positive about that cooperation" than was the case in the past. PM
PETRITSCH LAUNCHES BOSNIAN STATE COURT
In one of his last official acts before stepping down as high representative on 27 May, Wolfgang Petritsch named the first seven judges to a new Bosnian state court for three-year terms, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Their first duties will be to look into complaints about rulings by election officials relating to the 5 October ballot. His move came after Bosnian officials were unable to agree on nominees ever since Petritsch set up the legal basis for the court 18 months ago, Reuters reported. Petritsch said, "With the establishment of the state court, and the potential establishment of the war crimes prosecution capability within the context of the state court, there is a clear synergy in terms of the use of resources and expertise." Foreign experts have suggested that a foreigner be selected for a five-year term as state prosecutor as part of a project to have at least some war crimes cases be dealt with in Bosnia. PM
ELECTION COMMISSION RULES OUT MUSLIM OFFICIALS
The Election Commission ruled in Sarajevo on 8 May that the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) must sack six of its leading officials if the SDA is to be allowed to take part in the 5 October vote, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The men are: Edhem Bicakcic, Ahmed Smajic, Dzevad Mlaco, Jusuf Zahiragic, Mirsad Veladzic, and Kemal Brodlija. PM
BOSNIAN SERBS REJECT JOINT ARMY
The Supreme Defense Council of the Republika Srpska ruled that the joint presidency exceeded its mandate when it decided to set up a joint military, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Banja Luka on 9 May. The international community has repeatedly stressed the political and financial need for a joint military. NATO has said that Bosnia cannot join the Partnership for Peace program unless it has a single military. PM
BOSNIAN SERB POLICE ARREST FORMER COLLEAGUES
Republika Srpska police have arrested five former policemen in conjunction with the killing of a Roman Catholic priest, Rev. Tomislav Matanovic, in 1995 near Prijedor, AP reported from Sarajevo on 9 May. UN spokesman Alun Roberts said, "We are encouraged by this step." The names of the five have not been made public. PM
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT NEEDS 'NO JOURNALIST ADVICE' ON FORMER SECURITATE OFFICERS...
Ion Iliescu said on 7 May that Romania "does not need the advice of journalists" to address the problem of former officers of the communist secret police, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu was reacting to an article published last week in "The Wall Street Journal Europe," which reported that NATO wants Romania to examine the issue of former Securitate officers still employed in its secret services or by the army more thoroughly than it currently does. The daily reported that NATO is questioning whether those officers can be trusted. In related news, Defense Minister State Secretary Sorin Encutescu said on 7 May that NATO experts who visited Romania have "never raised" the issue of former Securitate members with his ministry. Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu said on 8 May that the issue "could become relevant only after Romania joins NATO or receives an invitation to join," the bureau reported. MS
...SAYS HE IS 'NO ARDENT PARTISAN' OF THE DRACULA PARK PROJECT
Iliescu also said on 7 May that in a telephone conversation with Prince Charles, he told the British heir apparent that he is personally "no ardent partisan" of the Dracula Park tourist project in Sighisoara, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Prince of Wales recently visited Romania and criticized the project's likely impact on the environment. Iliescu said he has assured Prince Charles that Romania is "open to all suggestions" and that the project will not be "blindly implemented." MS
FIRST U.S. CONTINGENT ARRIVES AT ROMANIAN BLACK SEA PORT
The first 36 helicopters that will transfer U.S. KFOR peacekeepers from Kosova arrived at the Black Sea port of Constanta, where a logistics base for the transfer by sea is in the course of being set up, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Colonel Glen Norris, who is the commander of the 400-strong contingent, and the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, organized a press conference in Constanta on 8 May. Norris told journalists that the Black Sea port has "all the necessary facilities" for the operation and is linked by rail to Kosova. The evacuation operation is expected to last one month and the U.S. troops are setting up a temporary military base south of the Constanta port to house the contingent. MS
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY
President Iliescu told a special UN General Assembly session on children and children's rights held on 8 May that the problem cannot be separated from its political, economic, and social context, Mediafax reported. He said children are the "most vulnerable" group of the population to armed conflicts, discrimination, exploitation, and the destruction of the environment. Iliescu said Romania's case is a telling example, as the country is confronted with "the burdensome heritage" of the communist regime's neglect of children and the costs of "radical social transformations." MS
ROMANIAN PREMIER PREFERS STATUS QUO ON STATUS LAW...
In an interview with Mediafax on 7 May, Adrian Nastase said the government does not "under any circumstance" envisage agreeing to the Hungarian Socialist Party's demand to nullify or modify the memorandum signed last December on the implementation of the Status Law in Romania. He expressed the hope that the new Hungarian government will approach the issue "with responsibility," and that "wisdom" will prevail in the end. Nastase warned that a Hungarian refusal to withdraw the demand would force the government in Bucharest to re-examine the possibility of passing legislation nullifying the law's "extraterritorial and discriminatory aspects." Foreign Ministry spokesman Victor Micula said the next day that the memorandum is a "compromise solution" offered by Bucharest to Budapest as a way out from a "dead end," and that it has been backed by "European fora." MS
...WHILE AUTHORITIES WILL DEFEND ROMANIAN MINORITY RIGHTS IN NEIGHBORING STATES
Doru Vasile Ionescu, head of the government's Department for Diaspora Romanians, said on 8 May that the cabinet will take measures aimed at ensuring that the rights of ethnic Romanians in neighboring countries are respected, Romanian radio reported. Ionescu, who recently returned from visits to Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania, said the government will demand that Romanians living in those countries be officially recognized as national minorities and will extend aid to facilitate education in their native languages for members of the Vlach and Aromanian minorities, which are both related to Romanian. MS
HUNGARIAN MONUMENT IN TRANSYLVANIA DESECRATED
An obelisk erected in the memory of 13 Hungarian generals executed by the Austrians in 1849 has been vandalized in Arad, Mediafax reported on 7 May. The obelisk was placed in the town during the Hungarian rule of Transylvania and marks the place where 11 out of the 13 generals are buried. The anonymous perpetrators wrote obscenities and threw human feces on the monument. The local Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania branch launched a complaint with the local police. A similar act of vandalism was registered two weeks earlier. MS
ROMANIAN NATIONALIST LEADER WANTS 'PROTECTION' FOLLOWING FORTUYN'S ASSASSINATION
Senators representing the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM) on 7 May renewed the demand that the Security and Protection Guard (SPP) include PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor among the officials it protects, Mediafax reported. PRM Senator Mihai Lupoi said that "the antinationalist paranoia" in Europe "has already produced victims," mentioning the recent assassination in Holland of far-right leader Pim Fortuyn. The Supreme Council for National Defense (CSAT) last month turned down a request by Tudor to be protected by the SPP, and Lupoi said President Iliescu and the CSAT will be "held responsible for the unforeseen consequences" of the decision. Lupoi also demanded that the authorities launch an investigation into what he called "the media campaign" against his party. MS
COUNCIL OF EUROPE EXECUTIVE DEMANDS MOLDOVA REPORT ON PACE RESOLUTION IMPLEMENTATION
The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers approved a resolution in Vilnius on 7 May that obliges the Moldovan government to report on the implementation of the council's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) recommendations of 24 April, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The council demanded that it be informed of measures taken to register the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church by 31 July. It also said it is ready to promote a dialogue between political forces in Moldova, suggesting a roundtable with the participation of Council of Europe representatives. In addition, it said the council is prepared to offer its expertise in order to bring Moldovan legislation into line with the European Convention on Human Rights. In a letter addressed on 7 May to the council's secretary-general, Walter Schwimmer, Popular Party Christian Democratic Chairman Iurie Rosca expressed concern that the government does not intend to implement the PACE recommendations. MS
ECHR AGREES TO EXAMINE TELERADIO MOLDOVA'S STRIKERS COMPLAINT
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on 7 May agreed to examine "in emergency procedure" the complaint by the Teleradio Moldova strikers' committee against the government's infringements of the European Convention on Human Rights, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS
CHISINAU CIS SUMMIT POSTPONED
The CIS summit scheduled for 29-30 May in Chisinau has been postponed, RFE/RL's bureau in the Moldovan capital reported on 7 May, citing governmental sources. No new date was set. The decision was taken after a recent visit to Chisinau by a CIS Executive Secretariat delegation, whose members concluded that further deliberations on the documents to be signed at the summit are necessary. Another reason for the postponement is the heavily overloaded agenda of some participants: Russian President Vladimir Putin will be preparing for his meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush in late May, while the presidents of Moldova and Ukraine, Vladimir Voronin and Leonid Kuchma, will be participating in a regional forum in Slovenia. MS
MOLDOVAN COURT REJECTS CROITOR APPEAL
The Court of Appeals in Chisinau has rejected the appeal of Gagauz-Yeri Governor Dumitru Croitor against the 31 January decision of the Gagauz Yeri Popular Assembly expressing no confidence in the governor and calling for a referendum on his dismissal, and ruled that the vote was valid, Infotag reported on 8 May. Croitor told the agency that he will appeal to the Supreme Court. MS
CZECH SENATE TO SUPPORT BULGARIA'S BID FOR NATO ACCESSION
During his official visit to Bulgaria, Czech Senate Chairman Petr Pithart said Bulgaria should be extended an invitation to join NATO, BTA reported. According to Pithart, the main arguments favoring Bulgarian NATO accession are that the country is not particularly nationalistic, treats its ethnic minorities well, and has stable borders. Pithart also said Bulgaria is prepared to introduce the military reforms necessary for accession to the Atlantic alliance. After meeting with Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, Parliament Speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov, and President Georgi Parvanov, Pithart said, "NATO enlargement has become a political rather than a military problem recently. This fact allows Bulgaria and Romania to catch up with the other candidate countries, as well as with the member states." UB
BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES TAX CUTS
Deputy Finance Minister Gati Dzheburi announced on 7 May that the Finance Ministry plans to cut income-tax rates in 2003, mediapool.bg reported. The rates for low incomes are to be cut from the current 18 percent to 15 percent in 2003. The tax rates for higher incomes will be cut by 2 percentage points from the current 24 percent for monthly incomes up to 400 leva ($187) to 22 percent for monthly incomes up to 250 leva ($117), and the current 28 percent rate for incomes up to 1,000 leva ($467) to 26 percent for incomes up to 600 leva ($280). The plan sets a target of GDP growth of 5 percent over the coming years. In order to compensate the cut in income taxes, some indirect taxes such as those on alcohol and cigarettes will be raised. UB
GERMAN-RUSSIAN CONSORTIUM TO MODERNIZE BULGARIAN MIG-29 FIGHTER JETS?
Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov said on 7 May that Deputy Defense Minister Mehmed Cafer participates has participated in talks between the German-Russian MAPS consortium and the Russian MiG Corporation regarding the modernization of Bulgarian MiG aircraft, "Dnevnik" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March 2002). Under the proposed deal, MiG would cooperate with MAPS to upgrade the country's MiG-29 fighter jets to NATO standards. The MAPS consortium is composed of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), MiG, and Rosoboroneksport. Svinarov also said the Bulgarian military's retraining programs for former army officers must be revised, as they are ineffective. More than 60 percent of the country's former officers do not participate in the retraining programs. UB
RUSSIA CONTINUES TO DISRESPECT UKRAINIAN SOVEREIGNTY
It took Russia five years after the demise of the USSR to sign an all-encompassing interstate treaty with Ukraine in 1997, and then a further two for both chambers of the Russian parliament to ratify that treaty. Three years later, Russia's actions in a number of areas show that although Ukraine's borders might no longer be in question, Moscow still finds it extremely difficult to recognize Ukraine as an equal and sovereign state.
Former Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin was appointed ambassador to Ukraine and "special presidential envoy for the development of Russian-Ukrainian trade and economic ties" in May of last year. Since then, his actions show confusion as to whether he also has a third unofficial position, that of regional governor. Chernomyrdin's appointment was meant to consolidate the Russian vector in Ukraine's "multivector" foreign policy as the primary one at a time when the West was becoming increasingly disenchanted with Ukraine. During the 31 March elections, Chernomyrdin openly interfered in favor of pro-presidential parties, helped fan the flames of an "antinationalist" campaign against pro-Western forces, and chided Ukrainian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Oleksandr Chaly as "obtuse" when he listed among Ukraine's goals joining the European Union, not the alternative Eurasian Economic Community.
Two factors, both of them related to Russian perceptions of national identity, form Chernomyrdin's gubernatorial style. First, Russia has looked upon the CIS since its creation in December 1991 as a loose commonwealth or confederation guided and led by Russia. In Russia's view, other CIS member states only possess partial sovereignty as the "near abroad," a region that is no longer part of the USSR but, at the same time, is not as fully sovereign as the "far abroad." Chernomyrdin and other members of the Russian elite are hostile to the Our Ukraine election bloc's foreign policy objective of integration into the European Union and NATO because this is seen as an attempt at fully breaking from Russia. Hence, Russia's open support for the pan-Slavic and pro-Soviet Communist Party of Ukraine and for oligarchic centrist parties that back a foreign policy strategy of "to Europe with Russia."
Second, Russia still finds it difficult to accept Ukraine (and Belarus) as separate countries with independent statehood. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told "Rossiiskaya gazeta" in February that Ukraine and Russia are destined to be close "strategic partners" because of "our shared linguistic, religious, cultural, and historical legacy, our kindred mentality..." A year ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin tasked his Foreign Ministry to protect the rights of Russian speakers ("compatriots") in the CIS and organized the first congress of "compatriots" in Moscow last October. Russia has used this concern for "compatriots" as a pretext for repeated complaints about the alleged infringement of their rights in education and the media in Ukraine.
Although only the extreme left in Ukraine supports Ukraine's membership of the Russia-Belarus Union, Russia still holds out hope that this will change. In an interview in "Trud" in January, Chernomyrdin was asked if a union of the three eastern Slavic peoples was possible. His reply was indicative: "When Ukrainian society matures to this point it will opt for such a step."
According to a March poll by the Russian Public Opinion Fund, almost 50 percent of Russian citizens would like Russia and Ukraine to unite, while another 35 percent believe Ukraine and Russia should remain independent but remove border restrictions and have no visas or customs controls.
When Russia equates demarcation with erecting a "fence" between two countries, it is referring to the kind of border demarcation that was formerly undertaken by the Soviet Union. In Russia's eyes, the only difference between the former borders between the constituent republics of the USSR and the present frontiers between CIS states is that the latter can be now delimited on maps. But this is as far as Russia will go. Demarcation should only be applied -- as it was in the USSR -- to the "external frontiers" of the CIS. Chernomyrdin, whose views have been echoed by other Russian officials, said that "demarcation is out of the question" because it is being imposed on Ukraine and Russia by the West.
To some extent this is true. Ukraine cannot make good on its rhetoric in favor of aspiring to become an associate and then full member of the EU if it has not demarcated its 2,000-kilometer-long eastern border with Russia (the 2,600-kilometer western border was demarcated in the Soviet era). But this is not the only reason why Ukraine has unsuccessfully pushed for demarcation. Ukraine's elites have always steadfastly defended their sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to them borders are a symbol of this sovereignty.
To accept Russia's division of borders in the CIS into delimited "internal" and delimited-demarcated "external" ones would be to accept a status of only partial sovereignty. Some 30,000 migrants manage to enter Ukraine each year because of its transparent border with Russia. The security of the Russian-Ukrainian border cannot be therefore resolved without demarcation, according to National Security and Defense Council Secretary Yevhen Marchuk.
As is common with Russian officials who like to speak on behalf of the CIS, Chernomyrdin claimed that the decision not to proceed with demarcation was taken by "mutual agreement." This is not the case. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry First Deputy State Secretary Volodymyr Yelchenko responded by saying demarcation is an integral part of the legalization of national borders. Nevertheless, three years after its ratification of the border treaty, Russia continues to rule out taking the next logical step; namely, border demarcation. Delimitation of the border is all but settled except for the Azov Sea, which Russia wants to maintain as a common lake.
In an article published last month in the journal "Nations and Nationalism," Vera Tolz outlined advances made in Russian post-Soviet historiography on Ukraine that she suggested reflect a Russian retreat from its traditional imperial, "big brother" paternalistic attitude. Nevertheless, Tolz concluded that it will take decades to redefine Ukrainian-Russian relations "on the basis of Russia's full acceptance of an independent Ukraine as an equal partner in the international arena." This would be similar to the protracted process of Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation, which began after World War II but eventually only bore fruit in the 1980s.
Dr. Taras Kuzio is joint editor of the just-published volume "Ukrainian Foreign and Security Policy" (Praeger, 2002) and a resident fellow at the Centre for East European and Russian Studies, University of Toronto.