BUSH, PUTIN SIGN ARMS-REDUCTION TREATY, DEFINE NEW STRATEGIC RELATIONSHIP...
As expected, U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty on 24 May in Moscow drastically reducing the strategic nuclear arsenals of each country, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The two presidents also signed a joint declaration on the principles of new strategic relations that states, in part: "We are achieving a new strategic relationship. The era in which the United States and Russia saw each other as an enemy or strategic threat has ended. We are partners and we will cooperate to advance stability, security, and economic integration, and to jointly counter global challenges and to help resolve regional conflicts." Both measures were widely hailed in Russia. "This treaty is a serious achievement of Russian diplomacy. A few months ago, the United States did not want to take on any legal obligations, and it appeared that the whole arms-control regime would disintegrate," Sergei Rogov, director of the Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada, said on ORT. RC
...AS BUSH DEFENDS PROPOSAL TO STORE WARHEADS...
Responding to questions at a 24 May Kremlin press conference following the signing of the arms-reduction treaty, President Bush stuck by his insistence that some of the decommissioned warheads be stored rather than destroyed. "Friends really don't need weapons pointed at each other. But who knows what will happen 10 years from now," Bush said, according to ITAR-TASS. RC
...NUCLEAR EXPERT SAYS RUSSIA HAS NO CHIPS TO BARGAIN WITH...
Major General Vladimir Dvorkin, the director of the Nuclear Strategic Forces Center of the Russian Military Academy in Moscow and a leading authority on nuclear deterrence, said that Russia should be pleased with the new treaty because it codifies the country's nuclear parity with the United States, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 May. It also stabilizes U.S.-Russia relations and international security by allowing each side to develop the structure of its nuclear forces as it sees fit, Dvorkin added. He also said that Russia had dropped its objection to the U.S. proposal to store decommissioned warheads simply because it had no leverage with which to bargain. Dvorkin said that it does not matter that the new treaty contains no mechanism for execution and verification, because the countries will rely on the procedures developed for the START-1 accord. VY
...AND MOSCOW PREPARES TO RENOUNCE START-2 TREATY
Russia is preparing to renounce the START-2 accord in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 14, 17, 18, and 19 December 2001) and an appropriate statement -- to be issued immediately after the U.S. ABM withdrawal takes effect on 13 June -- has already been drafted, "Gazeta" reported on 23 May. According to the report, the statement -- which has been signed by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov -- says that Russia ratified START-2 in April 2000 under the conditions that the United States also do so and that it agree to abide by the ABM treaty. It goes on to say that since neither of these conditions has been met, Russia is exercising its right to renounce the treaty, according to the newspaper. VY
PRESIDENTS ALSO SIGN JOINT ENERGY-POLICY STATEMENT...
Also as expected (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 23 May 2002), Presidents Bush and Putin signed on 24 May a joint declaration on cooperation to ensure the security of the global energy industry and to make energy markets more predictable, Western and Russian news agencies reported. The declaration pledges increased access for Russian energy companies to global markets, as well as investment to modernize Russia's energy sector, ITAR-TASS reported. Furthermore, it pledges cooperation in developing alternative energy sources and energy-saving technologies. RC
...AND MAKE PROGRESS ON STEEL...
Presidents Putin and Bush reached agreement on two key issues related to the delivery of Russian steel to the U.S. market during their 24 May talks, said Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref the same day, according to ITAR-TASS. The two countries expect to negotiate a new agreement on cold-rolled steel by September on the basis of proposals that will be drawn up by the end of the month, Gref said, according to the news agency. RC
...AND OVERALL TRADE RELATIONS
Gref also told reporters that the United States will take the necessary final steps toward recognizing Russia as a market economy by 14 June, ITAR-TASS reported. Gref said that such recognition was indicated by the bilateral statement on trade and economic relations that the two presidents signed on 24 May. Meanwhile, the news agency also reported that the two presidents did not discuss the issue of forgiving Russia's debt to the United States. However, Bush pledged to continue his efforts to persuade the U.S. Congress to lift the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment. "Russia is building a market economy. We want Russia to be part of the world economy. We look forward to one day welcoming Russia as a member of the World Trade Organization," Bush said, according to AFP. RC
BUSH PRESSES PUTIN ON TRANSFER OF NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY TO IRAN
President Bush raised the issue of Russia's contributions to Iran's nuclear-power program, which the United States believes is helping Teheran to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, during his Kremlin talks with President Putin, Western and Russian news agencies reported. Putin, however, held his ground, telling a press conference after the talks that the United States had pledged to build a nuclear-power plant in North Korea that is very similar in design to the one Russia is building at Bushehr, Iran. Putin also said that Russia is concerned about U.S. contributions to Taiwan's missile program, ITAR-TASS reported. On 23 May, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that, according to information obtained by the CIA and Israel's Mossad, an Iranian corporation called SANAM purchased Russian-made laser gyroscopes used for missile guidance. VY/RC
NEW WEBSITES DEVOTED TO FOREIGN POLICY DEBUT
On the eve of the U.S.-Russia summit, state-run national television channel RTR unveiled a new website (http://summit.rtr-vesti.ru/news) that features news, information, analyses, and multimedia materials about the event. Meanwhile, Nikita Ivanov, a close associate of Kremlin political adviser and spin master Gleb Pavlovskii, launched another site devoted to foreign affairs. The website (http://www.nlvp.ru/) is called the National Laboratory of Foreign Policy, and its goal is to find "the zone of Russia's responsibility in the new world order" and to present a "multipolar world as a positive alternative to the dangerous delusion of a unipolar world." The site is also promoting conceptual publications and books by Russian and foreign authors, including such titles as "An Introduction to Geopolitics" by Konstantin Gadgiev and "The Practice of Globalization: Games and Rules of New Epoch" by Mikhail Delyagin. VY
RUSSIAN MEDIA IGNORES BUSH'S CRITICAL REMARKS...
Most of the major Russian broadcast and print media noted the passage in President Bush's 23 May speech to the German Bundestag in which he called on the West to "throw off old suspicions and realize our common interests with Russia." They also emphasized Bush's statement that "for all the problems and challenges, Russia is moving toward freedom -- more freedom in its politics and its markets; freedom that will help Russia to act as a great and just power." But most outlets omitted to report Bush's remark that Europe will only welcome a "Russia at peace with its neighbors, respecting the legitimate rights of minorities." VY
...AND COMMUNISTS, NATIONALISTS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST U.S.
Several hundred supporters of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia organized on 23 May a demonstration near the U.S. Embassy in Moscow protesting the visit of the U.S. president, Russian news agencies reported on 23 May. Protestors chanted anti-American and antiglobalist slogans and trampled on American poultry, ORT and RTR reported. Moscow police briefly detained several demonstrators for violations of public order. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" on 23 May noted that Moscow is ready to give Bush a very warm welcome, and any protests against his visit are insignificant compared to those that greeted him in Berlin. VY
CADRES DETERMINE EVERYTHING, BUT CLANS DETERMINE CADRES
In an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 23 May, State Duma Security Committee Deputy Chairman Mikhail Grishankov (People's Deputy) said that the renewal of Russia's political elite is occurring too slowly. "Membership in a clan -- that is the chief condition for [one's] career," Grishankov said, noting that "any appointment in the country depends on your membership in some group, in the regions and in the federal center." Grishankov noted that "the arrival of the St. Petersburg clan in power is only one of the manifestation of clans." "At present, the political elite is undergoing a dramatic shake-up and cadre crisis," he said. JAC
DUMA EXTENDS SESSION...
State Duma deputies voted on 24 May to extend the spring session by an additional five days to 30 June, polit.ru reported. Earlier the government requested that deputies stay in session longer so that they could consider priority legislation. The fall session will open formally on 9 September and close 25 December, with the first plenary session on 18 September. JAC
...AS SUPPORT FOR DEFENSE ENTERPRISES PASSES...
On 23 May, Duma legislators approved in its first reading a government-sponsored bill on supporting defense-complex enterprises, ITAR-TASS reported. The vote was 360 in favor, one against, and no abstentions. The legislation restructures enterprises' federal tax debt. Deputies also approved in the first reading a bill lowering the retirement age for indigenous people of the Arctic north by five years for both men and women to 45 and 50 respectively, ITAR-TASS reported. Federation Council representative (Evenk Autonomous Okrug) Nikolai Anisimov had proposed the bill because only 2 percent of such people live to the current retirement age of 50 for men and 55 for women. JAC
...AND ANOTHER ELEMENT OF LEGAL REFORM MOVES FORWARD
A new version of the Arbitration Procedure Code was approved in its second reading on 23 May. The vote was 402 in favor with three abstentions. The bill is part of the larger effort by the government and presidential administration to overhaul the legal system. According to "Izvestiya" on 23 May, the bill's overall conception does not differ greatly from the 1995 code in effect now. The main changes it would introduce are in the role of prosecutors in arbitration matters and in increasing opportunities to resolve disputes outside of the courtroom. JAC
SELEZNEV'S FATE TO BE DECIDED SOON...
The presidium of the Communist Party's Central Committee unanimously decided on 23 May to recommend the expulsion of Communist State Duma deputies who remained in leadership posts following an order to relinquish them, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2002). Recommended for ouster were State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev; Committee on Culture and Tourism Chairman Nikolai Gubenko; and Committee on Women's Issues, Families, and Youth Chairwoman Svetlana Goryacheva. According to the agency, three other Communist committee and commission chairs -- Viktor Zorkaltsev, Valentin Nikitin, and Vitalii Sevastyanov -- have not withdrawn their earlier statements pledging to give up their posts. According to polit.ru, Seleznev's only comment on the presidium's decision was to tell journalists to "wait until Saturday [25 May]," when a party plenum will be held. JAC
...AS GOVERNOR VOICES HIS SUPPORT
Also on 23 May, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev told Interfax that he disapproves of Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov's insistence that the deputies be dismissed from the party. He noted that "such an approach will weaken the party's influence and reduce its authority." He added that Zyuganov wants to deprive the party of having any "colorful politicians" in its ranks, and that Seleznev "is the [jewel] of the party and must be supported in every way." Tuleev was himself ousted from the Zyuganov-led Peoples Patriotic Union following outspoken criticism of Zyuganov's policies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 25 September 2000). JAC
NEW FACILITY PLANNED FOR NOVAYA ZEMLYA
Arkhangelsk Oblast Governor Anatolii Yefremov announced on 23 May that the Atomic Energy Ministry suggested building a new underground storage facility for radioactive waste at Novaya Zemlya at a ministry session the previous day, Interfax reported. According to Yefremov, the Mironova Gora burial site, which is located near Severodvinsk, will be cleaned up and closed down, and the waste now stored there will be transferred to the new site. Yefremov added that the "transfer of radioactive waste to Novaya Zemlya from outside the region, let alone outside the country, is simply out of the question." Meanwhile, on the same day, an unidentified "high-ranking" ministry official told Interfax that the ministry will continue importing spent nuclear fuel from Hungary despite a recent Supreme Court ruling that overturned a decree allowing the waste to be stored in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2002). "If this deal is scrapped, then Russia will lose its reputation as a reliable partner," the source said. JAC
PATRIARCH VOLUNTEERS CRITICISM OF VATICAN
Speaking at an international conference entitled "The Slavonic World: Community and Diversity" in Novosibirsk on 23 May, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II again criticized the Catholic Church, RFE/RL's Novosibirsk correspondent reported. "We strongly oppose unilateral actions that are unbrotherly toward the Russian Orthodox Church," he declared. Aleksii repeated his criticisms of the failure of the Vatican to coordinate the replacement of Catholic bishops with Russian state institutions and the Orthodox Church, to which the majority of the local population belongs, according to Interfax (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 2002). Conference organizers had hoped to avoid controversy and had instructed journalists seeking accreditation not to ask the patriarch any questions about relations with the Vatican, according to RFE/RL's correspondent. JAC
EXTERNAL RULE SUGGESTED FOR KURGAN OBLAST
Federal rule over a region of Russia could be imposed for the first time for economic rather than political reasons, "Vremya MN" reported on 24 May. According to the daily, Deputy Presidential Envoy to the Urals Federal District Viktor Basargin told reporters the previous day that such rule could be introduced in Kurgan Oblast in the near future. Basargin's boss, Presidential Envoy to the Urals Federal District Petr Latyshev, said that the federal government should decide which measures are necessary to pull the region out of its economic crisis. According to the daily, some 60 percent of the oblast's budget comes from the federal budget, and about 60 percent of the population lives on the edge of poverty. However, the newspaper notes that in order for the president to declare an emergency situation in the oblast, he must do so in strict accordance with the law, which does not list economic collapse as one of the conditions permitting the introduction of emergency rule. Kurgan is frequently mentioned as one of Russia's "bankrupt" regions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2001 and 17 April 2002). JAC
COURT AWARDS COMPENSATION FOR DEATH OF SOLDIER BY 'FRIENDLY FIRE'
In an unprecedented decision, the Supreme Court of the Marii El Republic this week awarded 500,000 rubles ($15,600) compensation to the father of a Russian soldier killed in combat against Chechen radicals, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 May. The court upheld a municipal-court ruling in favor of Nikolai Vlasov, who sued the Finance, Defense, and Interior ministries and claimed that "his son and dozens of his colleagues died from strikes by their own aviation because of the lack of coordination among military commanders," the news agency reported. According to regions.ru, Vlasov's son, Stanislav, died on 10 September 1999 during fighting in Daghestan's Novolakskii district. The case has been wending through the courts for more than two years. The website noted that a criminal case had been pending against commanders involved in the incident, but the case was dismissed under the terms of an amnesty issued by the State Duma in 2000. JAC/RC
BASAEV SAYS HE IS ALIVE (OR WAS ON 15 MAY)
Chechenpress.com on 24 May features a lengthy interview that field commander Shamil Basaev gave on 15 May to the PRIMA information agency, thereby refuting the 30 April statement by Russian Army Chief of General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin that Basaev has been killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2002). LF
"RFE/RL Newsline" erroneously reported on 21 May that the number of parliament deputies representing the Armenian Revolutionary Federation -- Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) increased to nine when its candidate, Hakob Matilian, won a by-election in northwestern Armenia on 19 May. In fact, Matilian will be the 10th member of the parliament representing the HHD.
POPE CELEBRATES MASS, MEETS AZERBAIJANI DISPLACED PERSONS
Pope John Paul II celebrated mass in Baku on 23 May in three languages -- Azerbaijani, Russian, and English -- before an audience of several thousand, Western agencies reported. He also met with Baku's tiny Roman Catholic community, most of whom are expatriates working in the oil industry, and with representatives of the estimated 800,000 internally displaced persons forced to flee their homes during the Karabakh war, Interfax reported. The pope left Baku for Bulgaria in the late afternoon of 23 May (see "Bulgaria"). LF
RUSSIAN FEDERATION COUNCIL SPEAKER CALLS FOR IMPROVED RELATIONS WITH GEORGIA
Speaking on 23 May in Tbilisi after talks with Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze, visiting Russian Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov said the current strains in relations between Russia and Georgia are not in those countries' long-term interests, ITAR-TASS reported. "We are not satisfied with the overall current political situation in the Caucasus and the state of our cooperation," he added. Mironov claimed that the grounds for Russia's delay in closing its remaining two military bases in Georgia are economic, not political, and said that delay, along with the imposition on 1 January 2000 of a visa requirement for Georgian citizens entering the Russian Federation, "should not be interpreted by Tbilisi as a manifestation of hostility," Interfax reported. Burdjanadze for her part characterized the Abkhaz conflict as an obstacle to improved relations with Russia, adding that Tbilisi requires Russia's assistance in resolving that conflict, Caucasus Press reported. Mironov and Burdjanadze also discussed the possibility of installing a telephone "hotline" between the two parliaments. LF
RUSSIA'S ABKHAZ MEDIATOR ARRIVES IN GEORGIA
Also on 23 May, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin arrived in Tbilisi and met with Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili, Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze, and UN special envoy for Abkhazia Dieter Boden, Caucasus Press reported. Caspian News Agency quoted Loshchinin as saying on his arrival in Tbilisi that he would unveil a new Russian proposal for resolving the Abkhaz conflict. Loshchinin and Menagharishvili discussed Georgia's demand that the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed in the Abkhaz conflict zone be changed to station them throughout Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. Abkhazia, which must give its consent to any change in the peacekeepers' mandate, has already rejected that demand (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2002). Loshchinin told journalists after the meeting that Russia has no objections to augmenting the currently 100 percent Russian peacekeeping force with contingents from other countries. Loshchinin is to meet with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 24 May. LF
GEORGIAN POLICE DENY REPORTS OF INTERCEPTED ARMS SHIPMENT
A local police official in eastern Georgia has rejected as "absurd" a Russian Defense Ministry report that Georgian police have detained six truckloads of arms being transported under the guise of humanitarian aid to Arab mercenaries camped out in the Pankisi Gorge, Caucasus Press reported on 24 May. The Russian report claimed the shipment of arms was organized by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's representative in Tbilisi, Khizri Aldamov. LF
CZECH REPUBLIC TO JOIN 'TRAIN AND EQUIP' PROGRAM FOR GEORGIA
Czech armed forces Chief of Staff General Jiri Sedivy met in Tbilisi on 23 May with Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze and President Shevardnadze, CTK, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Topics discussed included Czech involvement in the U.S. "Train and Equip" program for the Georgian armed forces, in particular the training of Georgian chemical-warfare specialists in the Czech Republic; possible supplies of Czech military equipment to Georgia; the situation in the South Caucasus; and ways to improve Georgia's air-defense system. LF
NEW GEORGIAN ANTICORRUPTION COUNCIL HEAD NAMED
President Shevardnadze appointed Kakha Ugulava on 22 May to head the Anticorruption Council, describing him as "an honest and incorruptible person," Caucasus Press reported. Ugulava is a trained physicist who previously worked in Austria and the United States and for the World Bank. He succeeds Mirian Gogiashvili, who was appointed Tax Incomes and Finance Minister earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2002). LF
JOURNALISTS IN KAZAKHSTAN CONDEMN REPRISALS AGAINST INDEPENDENT PUBLICATIONS...
At a press conference in Almaty on 23 May, the heads of Kazakhstan's Union of Journalists, the Interfax office in Kazakhstan, and an NGO that defends media freedom issued a statement condemning the reprisals earlier this week against the newspapers "Sol-Dat" and "Respublika," Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2002). Union of Journalists Chairman Seitkazy Mataev characterized 2002 as the worst year for the media in Kazakhstan since the country became independent in 1991. Reuters quoted a journalist for an Almaty-based youth tabloid as saying, "After all these terrible events I am afraid even to come to work." LF
...AS U.S. EXPRESSES CONCERN
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said in Washington on 23 May that U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan Larry Napper has informed the Kazakh leadership of Washington's concern over the attacks on "Sol-Dat" and "Respublika" and urged "an independent and transparent investigation," Reuters reported. "We urge Kazakhstan's political leadership to take appropriate action to protect and advance democratic development, a free press, and the rule of law," he added. LF
KAZAKH OPPOSITION SLAMS NEW DRAFT LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES
Participants in a roundtable in Almaty on 23 May criticized as "unconstitutional," and as "discriminatory and aimed at suppressing dissent" a bill on political parties drafted by the pro-presidential OTAN party, Interfax reported. They pointed out that the draft raises from 3,000 to 10,000 the minimum number of members a party must have to be eligible for registration, and empowers law enforcement agencies to suspend a party's registration for up to six months. In addition, a party must have 300 representatives in each of Kazakhstan's 14 oblasts and in Astana and Almaty. The bill also stipulates that a party may be abolished if it fails to register with the Justice Ministry within two months of its foundation, if it fails to participate in two consecutive elections, or if it polls less than 3 percent of the vote. LF
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT READY FOR DIALOGUE WITH OPPOSITION...
Askar Akaev told journalists in Bishkek on 23 May that he is "always open and ready to look for ways of mutual understanding with the opposition for the sake of the main objective -- peace and accord in the country," Russian agencies reported. But the opposition, Akaev continued, ignores such appeals for dialogue and cooperation. He said a third roundtable conference to be attended by representatives of the government and opposition will be held in June or July. Opposition parties boycotted the first such roundtable in June 2000, but participated in the second in February 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 12 June 2000, and 19 February 2001). LF
...AS PROTESTS SET TO CONTINUE IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN
The residents of Aksy Raion in southern Kyrgyzstan, where police killed five people in a standoff with demonstrators on 17-18 March, plan to continue their protests to demand the release of Djaparaly Kamchybekov, charged last December with manslaughter, and the resignation of Prosecutor-General Chubak Abyshkaev, whom President Akaev has charged with completing the investigation into the Aksy bloodshed, parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 23 May. LF
KYRGYZ SECURITY SERVICE CHECKS AUTHENTICITY OF COMPROMISING DOCUMENT
Parliament deputy Ismail Isakov informed fellow deputies on 23 May of the existence of a four-page document outlining measures to stabilize the situation in the country, which included measures to discredit specific parliament deputies by, among other means, organizing letters from their constituents demanding their recall, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The document listed among officials charged with implementing that plan former presidential administration head Amanbek Karypkulov, State Secretary Osmonakum Ibraimov, Security Council Secretary Misir Ashyrkulov, presidential adviser Bolot Djanuzakov, Interior Minister Temirbek Akmataliev, and Abyshkaev. Acting Premier Nikolai Tanaev, and Ibraimov told deputies the document is a forgery. The National Security Service has been charged with determining whether it is authentic, according to Interfax. LF
INDIA DONATES TWO HELICOPTERS TO TAJIKISTAN
India has presented Tajikistan with two military transport helicopters within the framework of the increasingly intensive military cooperation between the two countries, Asia Plus-Blitz and ITAR-TASS reported on 23 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February and 29 April 2002). LF
TAJIK BORDER GUARDS TO TAKE OVER PATROLLING FRONTIER WITH CHINA
Beginning next month, the Russian border guard contingent in Tajikistan will begin to hand over to their Tajik counterparts responsibility for patrolling Tajikistan's 500-kilometer border with China, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 23 May. LF
FORMER TURKMEN OFFICIALS SENTENCED
The investigation into the alleged criminal activities of some 20 senior officials, many of them from the National Security Ministry, dismissed in March and April has been completed, RIA-Novosti quoted Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov as stating on 23 May during a visit to Mary Oblast. Former Defense Minister Kurbandurdy Begendjev, former Mary Oblast Governor Amangeldy Ataev, and former Food Industry Association head Kakadjan Ovezov, together with several other unidentified officials, were each sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment on charges of theft of state property and giving and accepting bribes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March and 2 April 2002). Niyazov added that those sentences would be "softened" to permit Ataev to work as an electrician at a chemical plant in western Turkmenistan, while Begendjev and Ovezov will engage in agricultural work. LF
U.S. OFFICIAL REGRETS MINSK'S SILENCE ON OFFER TO IMPROVE RELATIONS
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steven Pifer has expressed regret that the Belarusian authorities have thus far failed to respond to a U.S. proposal to improve bilateral relations, Belapan reported on 23 May, quoting a statement released by the U.S. Information Service. Pifer noted that during his visit to Minsk in February, he proposed a "step-by-step approach" by which Washington could take rapprochement measures in parallel with Minsk's steps to expand political freedoms within Belarus. Pifer said Washington proposed that Minsk advance toward the four goals defined earlier by the OSCE: modify the electoral procedure so as to ensure that each Belarusian's vote counts and is counted; create an environment in which peaceful political opposition and civil society can operate without fear; establish a climate in which all points of view can be expressed in the media, whether state-owned or independent, without censorship or fear of retribution; and allow the return of independent legislative and judicial functions to the parliament and the courts. Pifer also stressed the importance of having a transparent and independent investigation into the cases of those Belarusian opposition figures who have disappeared since 1999. JM
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DEPLORES 'TRIFLING' PROFITS FROM ARMS TRADE...
While visiting the Belarusian Music Academy on 23 May, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka touched on Belarus's sales of weapons abroad, Belarusian Television reported. He said Belarus refurbishes Soviet-era tanks for sale at a price of $80,000-$100,000 per tank. Lukashenka divulged that refurbishing old armament keeps some Belarusian repair plants afloat. "We have inherited automobile-repair plants and aviation-[repair] plants from the Soviet era. They pay some taxes to the budget [from weapons trade] but their profits are trifling," he added. Despite scanty proceeds from the arms trade, the Belarusian president assured students that he will find money to buy them musical instruments they lack at the academy. JM
...SAYS NATIONAL PRIDE WAS BEHIND EXPULSION OF SOROS FOUNDATION
Lukashenka also said on Belarusian Television that he is aware that his decision to drive the Soros Foundation out of Belarus in 1997 was disliked by some fellow citizens. He stressed, however, that as a substitute, he ordered that 10 times as much money as the Soros Foundation spent in Belarus be earmarked to support talented people. "[I did that] so as to prevent talks abroad that our talents were maintained by Soros. I, as a man who loves his country and fatherland, was sorry to hear that," Lukashenka confessed. JM
UKRAINE ANNOUNCES 'LONG-TERM STRATEGY' TO JOIN NATO
The Council of National Security and Defense (RNBO) decided on 23 May to develop "a long-term strategy, at the end of which Ukraine should join the collective security system on which NATO is based," Ukrainian media reported, quoting RNBO Secretary Yevhen Marchuk. The RNBO session was chaired by President Leonid Kuchma, who reportedly noted that Ukraine's strategy to seek NATO membership is "momentous." Marchuk said Ukraine will inform NATO about its new strategy in Kyiv on 9 July, during a visit by NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson. Marchuk added that Ukraine will likely announce its intention to join NATO during the NATO summit in Prague in November. JM
OUR UKRAINE, COMMUNIST PARTY TRADE ACCUSATIONS OVER ABORTIVE VOTE...
The Verkhovna Rada on 24 May did not endorse a motion to hold a repeat vote on the leadership "package" proposed jointly by Our Ukraine, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2002), UNIAN reported. On 23 May, the candidacies of Adam Martynyuk (Communist Party) for speaker and Roman Bezsmertnyy (Our Ukraine) and Yuliya Tymoshenko for deputy speakers were supported only by 149 votes. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko accused Communist lawmakers of failing to observe the accord on the concerted voting, while Communist Party head Petro Symonenko charged it was Yushchenko's bloc that broke the accord, and demanded apologies. Yushchenko declared that Our Ukraine will continue talks with the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc on one side, and United Ukraine on the other as regards the election of parliamentary leadership. JM
...WHILE UNITED UKRAINE PLEDGES TO TAKE CONTROL OVER PARLIAMENT
United Ukraine leader Volodymyr Lytvyn told journalists on 24 May that his bloc and "its allies" will obtain "a controlling stake in the parliament" in the next few weeks, UNIAN reported. Lytvyn announced that 10 new deputies are to join United Ukraine in the coming days but refused to reveal their identities. He added that United Ukraine will propose its own parliamentary leadership "package" next week. Meanwhile, Symonenko has said the Communist Party will not support Lytvyn for parliamentary speaker. The Communist Party is expected to decide on its allies in the Verkhovna Rada at a congress scheduled for 25 May. JM
ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS LEGAL CHANCELLOR'S PROPOSAL ON ELECTORAL ALLIANCES
The parliament rejected by a vote of 25 to 49 the proposal of Legal Chancellor Allar Joks to change the recently amended local elections law to once again allow electoral alliances in local elections, BNS and ETA reported. In March the parliament adopted amendments to the local-council elections law that banned election alliances (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March 2002). Joks told the parliament on 21 May that he considers the amendments to be contrary to Articles 156 and 12 of the constitution as they "violate the right to free and general elections" and the requirement for equal opportunities, respectively. The Pro Patria Union and the Moderates supported the proposal, which the ruling coalition of Center and Reform Parties opposed, while the People's Union did not participate in the vote. Joks was not present at the parliamentary vote as he had not yet returned from an official trip to Poland, but later said that he plans to ask the Supreme Court to declare the amendments unconstitutional. The next local elections will take place on 20 October 2002. SG
LITHUANIAN PREMIER ATTENDS 'LITHUANIAN DAYS IN LATVIA'
Algirdas Brazauskas visited Latvia on 22-23 May to take part in the "Lithuanian Days in Latvia," LETA reported. Prior to the official opening of the event, which will end on 25 May, he discussed with his Latvian counterpart Andris Berzins their countries' common aspirations to join NATO and the European Union, as well as bilateral trade relations and simplifying border-crossing procedures. On 23 May, Brazauskas and Latvian Economy Minister Aigars Kalvitis opened the Lithuanian Export 2002 exhibition in which 122 Lithuanian companies are participating. At the economic forum "Successful Cooperation Between Neighbors: Trade and Investment Development Between Latvia and Lithuania," Brazauskas noted that both countries are successfully integrating into the global community and have achieved considerable economic progress. He mentioned that Latvian investments in Lithuania are 2 1/2 times greater than Lithuanian investments in Latvia, and that economic relations between the two countries are more intense than with other countries. SG
LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT VETOES LAW BANNING ADVERTISING OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
Valdas Adamkus announced on 23 May that he vetoed the changes to the pharmaceutical activities law that the parliament passed on 9 May, ELTA reported. The changes would have banned the spreading of information about prescription medicines on radio and television. Such information would have only been allowed in specialized medical publications. Adamkus said that while the changes were aimed at prohibiting advertisements of prescription medicines, they had gone too far as "all information about medicines cannot be identified with commercials." He said that the amendments violated the constitutional right of citizens "to seek, receive, and spread information," and would have prevented even the Health Ministry from informing the pubic about the negative effects of some medicines. In order to combat hidden advertisements, the president proposed that the government establish a procedure for supplying information about prescribed and reimbursable medicines via radio, television, and electronic media. SG
POLAND PLANS TO BUY 1,000 ARMORED PERSONNEL CARRIERS...
Deputy Defense Minister Janusz Zemke announced on 23 May that Poland plans to complete talks on the purchase of 1,000 armored personnel carriers worth some $1 billion before year's end, PAP reported. Three foreign firms cooperating with Polish arms manufacturers are competing for the deal: Austria's Steyr, General Motors Canada, and Finland's Patria. JM
...INVITES BELGIANS TO JOIN TRINATIONAL NATO CORPS
On 23 May, Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski invited Belgian officers to take part in the command structures of the German-Danish-Polish Northeastern Corps that is headquartered in the Polish port city of Szczecin, PAP reported. Szmajdzinski presented the invitation to Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahaut upon his arrival for a one-day working visit to Poland. JM
POLISH PREMIER DISMISSES REPORT THAT EU EXPANSION POSTPONED
Prime Minister Leszek Miller on 23 May said there have been no official statements changing the date of Poland's expected admission to the European Union, Polish Radio reported. Earlier the same day, the private Radio RMF quoted Eneko Landaburu, the head of the European Commission's General Directorate for EU Enlargement, as saying that the EU will be expanded not on 1 January 2004 but probably six months later. Meanwhile, the CBOS polling center reported earlier this week that 75 percent of Poles want the country to join the EU, and 72 percent are willing to take part in a referendum on EU accession. JM
CZECH PRESIDENT EVALUATES PERFORMANCE OF GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION...
President Vaclav Havel told the daily "Lidove noviny" of 24 May that the outgoing cabinet headed by Premier Milos Zeman can be credited with some positive achievements, but the opposition agreement between the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) has been detrimental to democracy, CTK reported. Among the cabinet's achievements Havel counts the privatization of banks and some large companies, the launching of the reform of the civil service, and the beginning of reforms in the Czech Army. The agreement between the CSSD and the ODS, Havel said, created a situation in which "the opposition was a semi-opposition, the ruling party was a semi-ruling party, [and] everything was negotiated somewhere between the two main parties' chairmen." Havel said that "it would have undoubtedly benefited the ODS if it remained in genuine opposition for a while. Society would not have felt such a strong disgust for politics, and the [political] scene would have been more comprehensible." MS
...SUPPORTS PETITION OF CUBAN DISSIDENTS
Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek told CTK on 23 May that President Havel has sent a letter of support to Cuban dissidents who issued an appeal for a referendum on democratic change to be held in their country. Havel compared the appeal, called "Project Varela," with the Czechoslovak "Charter '77" document, of which he was one of the signatories. "Project Varela" was signed by more than 11,000 Cubans and was handed to the parliament in Havana on 10 May. MS
EU URGES CALM IN CZECH-GERMAN DISPUTE OVER BENES DECREES...
Guenter Verheugen, the European Union's commissioner for enlargement, told journalists in Brussels after talks with Prime Minister Zeman on 23 May that German and Czech politicians must de-escalate the controversy over the Benes Decrees, CTK and international news agencies reported. "Everyone should try to calm down the debate and respect the feelings of the others," Verheugen said, adding: "We should use the language of 2002, not of 1945." Likewise, EU Commission President Romano Prodi said after his talks with Zeman that, "We should focus on the future. The EU was founded on the sense of [mutual] forgiveness, of opening a new era." Zeman reiterated the Czech position on the decrees, saying, "Our analysis shows there is no discrimination today" stemming from the 1945 decrees, which the Czech Republic describes as "extinct." Zeman and Prodi also discussed other aspects of the Czech bid for EU membership. Prodi praised the Czech Republic's economic performance and level of investments, according to CTK. MS
...AS PREMIER RULES OUT ANY RECONSIDERATION OF PROPERTY RESTITUTION
Reacting to a report by European Parliament experts on the current impact of the Benes Decrees, Premier Zeman ruled out any reconsideration of property restitution legislation, CTK reported. The report, which CTK described as "confidential," said the only problem that Prague's accession bid might face stems from the 1992 legislation on restitution of property confiscated by the communist regime, which makes restitution conditional on the Czech citizenship of the claimant. The expelled Sudeten Germans had their property confiscated before the communist takeover and lost their citizenship when they were expelled. "Any form of reopening restitution claims would amount to opening a Pandora's box, which would trigger off a chain reaction," Zeman said. MS
CZECH INTERIOR MINISTRY SKEPTICAL OF GERMAN REPORT ON AFGHAN TERRORISTS
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Gabriela Bartikova told journalists on 23 May that her ministry shares the skepticism of its German and Austrian counterparts concerning a report claiming that some 30 terrorists from Afghanistan are heading to the United Kingdom via several central European countries, including the Czech Republic. The report was published in the German daily "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2002). Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, who is in charge of the intelligence services, refused to comment on the report, saying he never comments on such matters. MS
CZECH ULTRANATIONALIST PARTY DEMANDS THAT ARCHBISHOP BE TRIED FOR TREASON
On 23 May, the extraparliamentary National Democratic Party (NDS) called on the Interior Ministry to charge Olomouc Archbishop Jan Graubner with treason, CTK reported. Graubner delivered Mass at a rally of the Sudeten Germans in Nuremberg on 19 May. Graubner said that by delivering the Mass, he wished to express his gratitude for the fact that a number of Sudeten Germans had helped repair churches in their native towns. NDS spokesman Jan Kopal told the news agency that in so doing, Graubner has endangered Czech sovereignty and questioned the postwar settlement in Europe. In its complaint to the Interior Ministry, the NDS called the act "spitting in the face of all eyewitnesses and victims of World War II." The NDS was set up in 1991. CTK reported on 23 May that the party is not categorized by the Interior Ministry as extremist, although members of formations so categorized are running on the NDS lists in the June elections. Kopal himself is a member of the Right Alternative. MS
COUNCIL OF EUROPE BELIEVES SLOVAKIA WILL SIGN SOCIAL SECURITY CODE
Council of Europe official Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni said in Bratislava on 23 May that the council hopes Slovakia will sign the European Code of Social Security by the end of this year, CTK reported. The Slovak government earlier this week decided against signing the code, and the decision prompted a new government crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 2002). The eighth conference of European ministers of social security ended the same day in Bratislava, approving a resolution that said migrant workers should be integrated in host countries in order to prevent their social isolation and discrimination against them. Battaini-Dragoni told journalists that legal migration is not a threat and it can be beneficial to host countries. MS
POLISH PREMIER MEETS WITH SLOVAK COUNTERPART
Visiting Polish Premier Leszek Miller and his Slovak counterpart Mikulas Dzurinda agreed in Bratislava on 23 May that their bilateral relations are "without problems," CTK reported. Dzurinda said Poland is Slovakia's "strategic partner" in Bratislava's efforts to join NATO and added that the best expression of this partnership is the joint Czech-Slovak-Polish brigade whose commandment will be stationed in Topolicianky, west Slovakia, when the brigade becomes operational at the end of this month. Miller said that although bilateral trade exceeded $1 billion last year, there are still possibilities to expand it. MS
SLOVAKIA INVESTIGATES REPORT ON AFGHAN TERRORISTS
Slovak Migration Office Director Bernard Priecel said on 23 May that he can neither refute not confirm the report in the German daily "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," according to which members of the Al-Qaeda were caught in March in Komarno, near the Slovak-Hungarian border, but managed to flee after requesting asylum in Slovakia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2002). "Slovakia is a transit country. People who apply for asylum come and go," Priecel said, according to a CTK report. He added that thousands pass every year through refugee camps in Slovakia and that nine out of 10 refugees flee just like the suspected terrorists are reported to have done. Interior Ministry spokesman Jozef Sitar told the daily "Narodna obroda" that the fingerprints of the refugees were compared with those of wanted terrorists and that the examination "did not confirm" they were Taliban or Al-Qaeda members. MS
VISEGRAD FOUR MEETS AGAIN IN SLOVAKIA
The premiers of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia resumed their meetings of the "Visegrad Four" group on 24 May, while Hungary was represented at the meeting in Trencin by Istvan Stumpf, head of outgoing Premier Viktor Orban's office, CTK reported. Premier-designate Peter Medgyessy was unable to attend the meeting because the parliament is scheduled hold a confidence vote on his cabinet over the weekend. Medgyessy has pledged to Slovak Prime Minister Dzurinda to organize a summit of the Visegrad Four in Esztergom by the end of June. Polish Premier Miller said ahead of the meeting: "It was the conduct of Hungarian representatives, mainly Viktor Orban, which caused the Visegrad Four to unfortunately lag behind in coordinating joint steps in the past months. Orban's statement [on the Benes Decrees] strongly affected the work of the group. Now Orban is gone and Visegrad may regain its past glory." The meeting will mainly be geared toward discussing joint positions in negotiations with the European Union on agricultural and finance policies. The premiers will also be joined by the prime ministers of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg to discuss reforms and cooperation. MS
BLACK CLOUDS LOOM OVER HUNGARIAN POLITICS
On 23 May, outgoing Premier Viktor Orban and his likely successor Peter Medgyessy discussed the transfer of duties to the new government and Hungarian media reported that they briefed journalists separately after their talks. Alluding to reports that FIDESZ is preparing to stage street demonstrations by what that party calls a "civic" [polgari] movement, Medgyessy warned that "any politician who takes the people to the streets faces a great responsibility, as he must pull them off the streets as well." Responding to Medgyessy's statement that politics should be conducted in the parliament, Orban said there is no reason to be concerned about taking politics to the streets, as throughout Hungarian history mass demonstrations leading to riots, loss of life, and property damage have always been associated with the left. The "polgari" side has only organized peaceful get-togethers, he concluded. MS
OUTGOING PREMIER TO ENHANCE HUNGARY'S INTERNATIONAL STATUS
Orban told journalists on 23 May that he plans to take an active part in the parliament, but also to play an international political role. He said he intends to run for the EU parliament in 2004 and for a leading official role in it if elected, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The outgoing premier said major celebrations that will not be organized by the cabinet will be organized by the "polgari" side within the constitutional provisions and in a peaceful manner. Such actions, he said, could include rallies with the participation of millions, signature drives, and initiatives for referenda, if and when the "polgari" side deems that the Socialist-Free Democrat coalition is taking measures against the national interest and against the people. Orban added that he hopes such actions will not be needed. However, he also said that it is hard to conceive a consensus between the new government and the "polgari" side on basic economic policies and predicted major disputes on inflation, the selling of state property (which he opposes), and price regulation. He said the opposition might have to set up a "committee to protect state property." MS
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER-DESIGNATE MEETS EU, NATO OFFICIALS
Foreign Minister-designate Laszlo Kovacs met in Brussels on 23 May with EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen and NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, Hungarian and international media reported. Kovacs told journalists that Hungary will join the European Union as soon as possible and on the best possible terms it can get. He said that during the accession talks, "we will defend our national interests politely, firmly, but without rebuking the other side." Kovacs said the incoming cabinet intends to reopen negotiation chapters that have already been closed and will consider how to obtain better terms on those chapters. He also confirmed that Hungary intends to review the memorandum with Romania on the implementation of the "status law." Regarding the Benes Decrees, Kovacs said that they "have no impact" on Hungary's relations with the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but added: "I hope there will be some declaration in both countries that these decrees are no longer in force." MS
ROMANIAN SOCIALISTS VISIT HUNGARIAN COUNTERPARTS AMID DISAGREEMENT
A visiting delegation of the Romanian Social Democratic Party (PSD) headed by Cosmin Gusa met in Budapest on 23 May with Socialist parliamentary speaker Ildiko Lendvai and Vilmos Szabo, the head of the Hungarian party's secretariat for international relations, Hungarian and Romanian media reported. While agreeing on the need to expand bilateral and interparty relations, the sides could not agree on the fate of the December 2001 memorandum on the implementation of the "status law" signed by Orban and Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase. Szabo said the memorandum has to be renegotiated, while Gusa noted that the document includes no provision for renegotiations. The sides agreed to continue examining their differences at meetings of the joint intergovernmental commission of the two countries. MS
MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT FORMS COMMISSION ON FUTURE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION
The Montenegrin parliament decided on 23 May to form a special commission in order to take part in defining the constitution of the future federation with Serbia, dpa reported. Representatives of the pro-Yugoslav opposition walked out of the session before the vote to protest against the majority's decision to form the commission without their representatives. Deputies of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and pro-independence Liberal Party voted in favor of the commission. The members of the commission should be named by August. DW
SERBIAN POLICE FIND 1.7 MILLION EXCISE STAMPS ON THE STREET
The Belgrade police have discovered 1.7 million excise stamps for cigarettes, Beta reported on 23 May, citing Studio B TV. The stamps were packed in two large bags, which were found by the police in a puddle on a street in the Belgrade suburb of Krnjaca. The Serbian government recently announced a crackdown on the smuggling of contraband cigarettes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2002). DW
SVILANOVIC: YUGOSLAVIA 15 YEARS AWAY FROM EU MEMBERSHIP
Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said in Moscow on 23 May that Yugoslavia is unlikely to be admitted to the European Union in the next decade, Radio B92 reported. Speaking to Russian media, he said the first step on that path was the signing of an agreement on association and stabilization with the EU. This, he said, could possibly be signed as early as the end of next year, but only if certain demands are met, including a resolution of the crisis in federal relations, continued cooperation with The Hague war crimes tribunal, and political stability in the country. Once such an agreement is signed, he added, it would be another seven to 10 years before Yugoslavia could join the EU. DW
REPUBLIKA SRPSKA SUSPENDS CUSTOMS OFFICIALS
Bosnian Serb authorities announced on 23 May the suspension of 26 customs officials suspected of taking bribes that allowed importers to evade millions of dollars in duties and taxes, Reuters reported the same day. The suspects' activities were highlighted in a European Union-sponsored report on customs reform that accused the network of collecting roughly $2 million in the six-month period from September for systematic undercharging, the agency said. The group helped importers register goods at a fraction of their value. AH
SFOR ACCUSES BOSNIAN SERBS OF MONITORING COMMUNICATIONS, SEIZES EQUIPMENT...
NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) troops confiscated equipment and documents from one of two Bosnian Serb radar sites where it suspected that SFOR communications were being monitored, Reuters and dpa reported on 23 May. The peacekeepers made the seizure during an inspection of a site near the northern Republika Srpska town of Prijedor, according to spokesman Scott Lundy. "SFOR has reason to believe the Bosnian Serb Army may have been monitoring SFOR communications," Lundy added, according to dpa. He noted that monitoring SFOR's electronic transmissions is banned under the U.S.-sponsored Dayton peace agreement, Reuters added. Lundy expressed doubts about whether the radar equipment might have been involved in tipping off war crimes fugitive Radovan Karadzic ahead of failed missions to capture him in February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February and 1 March 2002). AH
...AS DEPARTING UN ENVOY SAYS FAILURE TO CAPTURE KARADZIC HAMPERING BOSNIA'S DEVELOPMENT
Speaking in his last interview to foreign news agencies before leaving his post, UN High Representative to Bosnia Wolfgang Petritsch said Bosnian Serb wartime leader Karadzic's continuing freedom is "a big block on the way of Bosnia-Herzegovina to a normal state," AP reported. "My job would be easier if Karadzic was in The Hague," dpa quoted him as saying. "There cannot be a normal state of Bosnia-Herzegovina unless two issues have been resolved; and that is full refugee return and war criminals -- i.e., Mladic and Karadzic -- in The Hague." Petritsch, whose three-year tenure as the international community's top representative in Bosnia gives way to that of Paddy Ashdown on 27 May, said much has been achieved since the 1992-95 war but a lot remains to be done. Bosnia has become a state but remains a relatively weak one, dpa quoted him as saying. AH
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA FEDERATION DEPUTIES ADOPT INTELLIGENCE LAW
Federal Assembly members on 22 May approved by an 89-10 vote with two abstentions a law on intelligence to eliminate redundancies and place the security services firmly under control of the parliament FENA reported on 23 May. AH
PREMIER LEAGUE TO UNITE BOSNIAN, SERB SOCCER CLUBS
In what the FENA agency calls "a landmark development for Bosnia-Herzegovina sports," soccer representatives agreed on 23 May to bring together 20 clubs from the Muslim-Croat federation and Republika Srpska in a new Premier League beginning next season. The decision came following eight years of talks at an emergency assembly of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Soccer Association, FENA added. The new league will include 14 clubs from the federation and another six from the Bosnian Serb league. AH
CROATIAN STATISTICIAN WARNS AGAINST 'MALICIOUS' INTERPRETATION OF CENSUS DATA...
The head of the State Bureau for Statistics (DZS) on 23 May rejected Croatian Serb politicians' statements suggesting manipulation of census data, adding that statisticians themselves do not yet have the figures from last year's polling, Croatian media reported. "It is very strange that there is somebody else who says that they know the results and that on this basis an avalanche of primarily political issues is set in motion," Marijan Gredelj told Croatian television. He stressed that the media have published figures that did not originate from his institute, adding that official data will be presented on 17 June. Those figures suggested that the ethnic Serb portion of the population fell from 12 percent to 4 percent between 1991 and 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 2002). Gredelj called statements seemingly aimed at casting doubt on the independence of the DZS "a malicious interpretation." AH
...AMID EARLY AND HARSH ASSESSMENTS FROM CROATIAN SERB LEADERS
Croatian radio on 23 May broadcast a statement by Serb National Party (SNS) Chairman Milan Djukic saying, "Should it prove true that Serbs make up 4 percent of the population of Croatia after this comprehensive census, then I would like to view this as a lesser evil for the Serb nation: a forgery." Meanwhile, Serb National Council Chairman Milorad Pupovac said, "We believe that this percentage does not reflect the real number of Serbs in the Republic of Croatia, because it is higher than this percentage," according to Croatian radio. AH
SEA BORDERS SOURCE OF CLAMMY CROATIAN-SLOVENIAN RELATIONS
Slovenia is protesting Croatia's establishment of a clam bed in the tiny Piran Bay on the border between the two countries, accusing Zagreb of unilateral actions that violate Slovenia's territorial integrity, local and international agencies reported on 23 May. Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel said Croatian police and Slovenian fisherman have clashed seven times this month as the conflict escalates. "If these problems get more complicated, our relations could really deteriorate," Reuters quoted Rupel as saying. The countries still have not agreed their sea border in Piran, which affords Slovenia its only access to international shipping waters through Croatian-controlled seas. Mutual accusations have followed last year's aborted agreement, which Croatian political parties said gave away too much. Rupel, who protested in a note to Croatian authorities on 23 May, said he expects Croatia to remove the disputed clam bed, Slovene television reported. AH
KAZAKH PRESIDENT WRAPS UP VISIT TO SLOVENIA
Visiting Ljubljana on 21-23 May, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev held talks with his Slovene counterpart Milan Kucan and with Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek on expanding economic relations, Russian agencies reported. The two presidents agreed that bilateral trade, which in 2001 amounted to a modest $8.5 million, could and should be increased. Kucan presented Nazarbaev with Slovenia's highest award, the Golden Honorary Order of Freedom, for his promotion of peace and international ties, according to Interfax. LF
UNMIK REJECTS KOSOVA BORDER RESOLUTION
Shortly after the Kosova assembly adopted a resolution disputing the February 2001 border agreement between Yugoslavia and Macedonia on 23 May, the head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosova (UNMIK), Michael Steiner, declared the resolution "null and void," Macedonian and Western news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2002). Kosova's ethnic Albanian population is upset about the border agreement, claiming that 2,500 hectares of their land was given to Macedonia in the deal. Sabri Hamiti, a deputy from the Kosova assembly's largest faction, the League of Democratic Kosova, defended the action, saying, "The assembly has taken upon itself the legitimate responsibility to protect Kosova's interests." In passing the resolution, however, the Kosovar parliament exceeded its authority, which is limited to handling day-to-day affairs, whereas security and border issues fall under the authority of UNMIK. The European Union supported Steiner's decision to nullify the resolution, saying that "the members of the [Kosova] assembly must discharge their duties as proscribed by its legal framework, for the benefit of all the people of Kosova." CB
GREECE, MACEDONIA SIGN DEFENSE AGREEMENT
Greek Defense Minister Yannos Papantoniou was in Skopje on 23 May for security talks with his Macedonian counterpart, Vlado Popovski, as well as Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski and Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, Macedonian and Western news agencies reported the same day. The talks resulted in the signing of an agreement on military cooperation between the two neighboring countries that calls for a Macedonian Army officer to be stationed in Greece to coordinate cooperation between the two countries' armies. Papantoniou called their cooperation "a positive step forward." The former Yugoslav republic's choice of Macedonia as its name when it declared independence in 1991 led to a feud with Greece, which has a northern province of the same name. Despite this, relations have improved over the past few years and Greece is now Macedonia's largest foreign investor. CB
ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT AMENDS PENAL CODE
The government on 23 May approved an emergency ordinance amending the Penal Code to bring it into line with European legislation, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The ordinance abolishes the code's Article 238, which made possible jailing those found guilty of "offending authority." The ordinance also reduces the length of sentences for those found guilty of libel and for insulting public officials on duty. MS
ROMANIAN PREMIER HAS SECOND THOUGHTS ON HOSTING SUSPECTED NAZI WAR CRIMINAL
Adrian Nastase said on 24 May that the Foreign Ministry will discuss with U.S. Ambassador Michael Guest the situation of Nikolaus Schiffer, a suspected Nazi concentration camp guard who was expelled from the United States to Romania earlier this week, Mediafax reported. Nastase said it is necessary to verify the "exact situation" regarding Schiffer. He said Romania accepted him on the grounds that he is currently stateless, but that it is necessary to verify what Schiffer is suspected of. Romania, Nastase said, "needs no new scandals after the [Marshal Ion] Antonescu scandal," and "does not want to become part of an international game" from which it could emerge as "a country supporting extremism and Nazis." The premier added: "Let me make it crystal clear: we did not bid in any intentional tender to bring in Nazis," and we "do not want to appear as a kind of new Paraguay, whose image was once that of a beach for Nazis." Nastase said Romania admitted Schiffer with the belief that he had clarified his situation in the United States, but "if this is not so, we shall nullify his residence permit" and "escort him to the border, from where he can go wherever he wishes -- back to the U.S., to Israel, or to China." MS
MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS ROMANIAN, UKRAINIAN IMPORT BANS ARE POLITICAL
Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau said in parliament on 23 May that Romania's decision to ban imports of meat and meat products from Moldova can only be explained by "political motives," and that Bucharest is "just hiding behind European regulations" for this purpose, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Dudau said similar reasons guided Ukraine in its decision to strike Moldovan sugar from the list of goods included in the free-trade agreement between the two countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2002). MS
POPE JOHN PAUL II ARRIVES IN BULGARIA...
Arriving in Sofia on the evening of 23 May, Pope John Paul II was officially welcomed by President Georgi Parvanov, BTA reported. The ceremony took place in front of the St. Aleksandr Nevskii cathedral in downtown Sofia. Apart from Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski and his cabinet, other high-ranking representatives of the state, and the diplomatic corps, the meeting was also attended by the leaders of most religious communities in Bulgaria. In his speech, Parvanov said John Paul's II visit coincides with Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day (24 May). "The pronouncement of the holy brothers, who are patron saints of Europe, is a deeply symbolic act. It is recognition of the European dimensions of their lives' work... This day makes us proud of being Bulgarians and an integral part of Europe," Parvanov said. Sts. Cyril and Methodius are the inventors of the first Slavic alphabet. UB
...OFFERS HIS BLESSINGS, MEETS WITH ORTHODOX LEADERS
Replying to Parvanov's speech, John Paul II said: "Every year on the occasion of Sts. Cyril and Methodius day...I receive representatives of the Bulgarian government and church. So here I am today, to return in some way your visit and to meet the Bulgarian people in their wonderful country." The ceremony was surprisingly attended by Patriarch Maksim and members of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which does not recognize the pope as church leader. Greeting the patriarch, John Paul II said he hopes his visit "[may] serve as a confirmation of our mutual familiarity so that, with God's help, on a day and in a manner as the Lord shall vouchsafe, we could achieve a state of 'perfect unity in thoughts and intentions,' mindful of the call of our only Lord: 'By this will all know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." UB
NATO PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY DEPUTY SPEAKER SAYS BULGARIA AND ROMANIAN SHOULD GET INVITE
NATO Parliamentary Assembly Deputy Speaker Markus Meckel told journalists on 23 May that Bulgaria and Romania should be invited to join NATO, as this would contribute to security and stability in the region and in Europe, mediapool.bg reported. But he also said that NATO is aware of the shortcomings of the two countries' military reforms. "The question is whether [Bulgaria and Romania] should not be invited because of these shortcomings, or whether despite these shortcomings the countries should be invited in order to stimulate [the reform efforts] and to put pressure on them to carry out consequently the reforms," Meckel said. The spring meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly takes place in Sofia from 24-28 May. UB
GERMAN NEWS MAGAZINE REPORTS THAT BULGARIAN FACTORY SELLS ARMS TO EMBARGOED COUNTRIES
Reporting about the arrest of a German arms dealer in Frankfurt on 17 January, the German weekly "Der Spiegel" of 18 May said that most of the arms sold by "Gerhard M." to embargoed countries were produced by the Bulgarian ordnance factory Arsenal in the central Bulgarian town of Kazanlak. Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov told journalists on 22 May that an investigation into the case is under way, BTA reported. "Arsenal does not trade with embargoed countries, and the control of arms deals is manifold and extraordinarily strict in this country," Arsenal Executive Director Nikolay Ibushev told news.bg. Ibushev added that the government has to respond to what he believes are repeated attempts to draw Bulgaria into another international scandal. UB
BELARUSIANIZATION OR EUROPEANIZATION? POSTELECTION UKRAINE STRUGGLES TO DEFINE ITS FUTURE
Over a month after Ukraine held its third parliamentary elections it is in the midst of a fierce struggle to define its future.
The Belarusianization camp seeks to transform Ukraine into a presidential republic along the lines of the majority of CIS states by implementing the internationally unrecognized results of the April 2000 referendum. During the March parliamentary elections the use of "administrative resources" proved impossible in Lviv, while it was completely successful in Donetsk Oblast, which has been redefined as Ukraine's "Belarus" and is the only oblast where For a United Ukraine finished first. In Donetsk, voters were transported on "ecological picnics" to different election districts with absentee ballots in order to swing votes in United Ukraine's favor, while hired thugs from organized-crime groups threatened election officials, the Committee of Voters NGO, and observers.
The Belarusianization United Ukraine camp is composed of conservatives who are attempting to hold the country back without providing any direction in domestic and foreign affairs. United Ukraine was soundly defeated in the elections, finishing third with only 11.98 percent in the half of seats elected proportionately. But by blatantly using "administrative resources" in single-mandate constituencies, United Ukraine was able to greatly better this result. Regional governors were replaced for failing to ensure the necessary United Ukraine vote in Lviv, Vinnytsya, and Sumy, three oblasts that Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine won. The original 120 United Ukraine deputies prior to the opening of the Verkhovna Rada last week was expanded to become the majority Rada faction with 177 deputies through blackmail. Deputies were summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office and "discreetly warned that they have dossiers on all deputies." In condemning such tactics, Our Ukraine has said it believes this is evidence that "Ukraine is being transformed into a totalitarian state."
Although the Belarusianization camp lacks distinguishing ideological features, its members are nevertheless very Soviet in their political culture. United Ukraine has never ruled out cooperation with the Communist Party (KPU), as was demonstrated by the coalition of pro-presidential parties and the KPU against the Yushchenko government in April 2001. The manner in which both President Leonid Kuchma and United Ukraine have cynically attempted to change the election results in the Verkhovna Rada is another example of their Soviet-style contempt for the will of voters. Forcing the population to demonstrate in support of the authorities is another revival of Soviet political culture, as evidenced on 1 May when 300,000 people were constrained to show their support for President Kuchma and United Ukraine in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, and Zaporizhzhya.
The creation of a mega United Ukraine faction is linked to the attempt to have Volodymyr Lytvyn, the head of the presidential administration and United Ukraine, elected as Rada chairman followed by the installation of the disgraced former head of the Internal Affairs Ministry, Yuriy Kravchenko, to replace him as head of the presidential administration. These three steps are aimed at enabling Kuchma to leave office with immunity in 2004.
Lytvyn's leadership of United Ukraine in the elections and his activities since then in the Verkhovna Rada have led many deputies to view him as an "odious," "suspicious," and "narrow-minded" figure, the newspaper "Zerkalo nedeli/Dzerkalo tyzhnya" observed. "A force that secured 11 percent in the elections does not have the moral right to vie for the leading post in parliament," Our Ukraine leader Yushchenko argued.
If Lytvyn becomes Rada chairman, United Ukraine will simply disintegrate more quickly than it is otherwise expected to do. In the 1998-2002 Verkhovna Rada, the first attempt at creating a "party of power" through the Peoples Democratic Party (NDP) failed. The NDP began with 89 deputies and ended four years later with 14, the minimum required to register a faction. United Ukraine is likely to divide into four of its five constituent parties -- the Party of Regions (60), NDP (58), Labor Ukraine (35), and Agrarians (27), with the remainder as "independents."
The executive and United Ukraine are, however, faced with an increasingly restless business and political elite who believe that Kuchma is holding the country back domestically and internationally. As the 2004 presidential election campaign begins next year, many will desert United Ukraine knowing that this is Kuchma's last term. In a highly critical article last week in "Den," former President Leonid Kravchuk, a leading member of the oligarchic Social Democratic Party Ukraine-united (SDPU-o), argued that Ukraine lacks any domestic or foreign policies and strategic aims and that it is high time the parliament adopted clear policies leading to integration into Europe. According to Kravchuk's argument, Ukraine's pro-European orientation currently exists only "on paper."
Support for Europeanization is led by Our Ukraine, which former Rada Chairman Ivan Plyushch, who has deserted the NDP, sees as the kernel of a future union of patriotic, democratic forces drawn from 33 parties. Our Ukraine has proposed the most far-reaching radical changes as the basis for Ukraine's Europeanization as a "transitional consensus" to the 2004 presidential elections. Titled "On Joint Actions of the Fourth Supreme Rada of Ukraine," it seeks to transform Ukraine from a country where politics are conducted in a Soviet, nontransparent fashion, to one in the open. The Verkhovna Rada would define Ukraine's domestic and foreign policy strategy that the executive would merely manage with purely representational functions. Administrative reform would reduce the number of oblasts and end state (executive) administrations in Kyiv and Sevastopol (for the proposals in full, see http://www.razom.org.ua/news/?news_id=4968 and 4971).
The executive would no longer be able to play off factions in the struggle over Verkhovna Rada positions and other institutions where the Rada allocated members, as these positions would be divided fairly between those factions who signed the agreement. Ukraine would move to a full proportional system of voting so that the composition of the Rada reflected the election result. Not surprisingly after the antics of United Ukraine, all other factions support this change, which would be followed by new laws prohibiting the use of "administrative resources." Local and parliamentary elections would be held at different times, the Rada would have the exclusive authority to form the Central Election Commission, and opposition groups would be guaranteed equal access to the media.
Other envisaged changes would make the Verkhovna Rada responsible for forming a coalition government and for its performance. The Tax Administration and State Customs Committee, hitherto under the executive and a source of both corrupt revenue and intimidation of the opposition, would be brought under the government. (After the elections, "corruption" charges against oppositionist Yuliya Tymoshenko and her husband, imprisoned since August 2000, were dropped.) Regional governors would be elected, rather than being appointed by the executive, a move welcomed by most governors. The Verkhovna Rada would be able to appoint and discharge the chairman of the Security Service and the prosecutor-general. The legal status of the president would be defined with his powers greatly reduced, especially vis-a-vis the government.
These proposals, "Zerkalo nedeli/Dzerkalo tyzhnya" believes, "should lead to the country's internal transition to European values and processes." They will nevertheless be opposed by those seeking to export the Belarusian experiment in Donetsk to the rest of Ukraine. Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.