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Newsline - June 30, 2003

On his way back to Moscow from a four-day state visit to Great Britain, President Vladimir Putin on 27 June arrived in Kaliningrad for talks with Kaliningrad Oblast Governor Vladimir Yegorov, presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko, Duma Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy), and other officials, Russian media reported. Afterward, Putin visited the Russian Baltic Fleet's home base at Baltiisk, where he and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov observed military exercises by the Baltic and Northern fleets from aboard the missile cruiser "Marshal Ustinov." Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski joined Putin aboard the cruiser to observe the exercises. The presidents discussed bilateral economic relations, and Putin thanked Kwasniewski for Polish support during recent talks with Lithuania and the European Union concerning travel between Kaliningrad Oblast and the rest of Russia. VY

While in Kaliningrad, President Putin on 27 June addressed students at Kaliningrad State University, saying that Russia does not need a single state ideology, because that would be "a sign of a totalitarian society," reported on 27 June. "Any country that is striving for efficient development should have a struggle of opinions," Putin said. In response to an assertion that the greed of the mass media is corrupting the public, Putin acknowledged that it is a serious problem but said that censorship is not the answer. Putin seemed to indicate that he believes that there is a kind of censorship in the United States controlling the dissemination of sexually explicit materials. "For example, in the United States, there is no pornography. Just try it...." Putin said, according to VY

President Putin announced on 28 June that he supports the plans of presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Matvienko to run in the upcoming gubernatorial election in St. Petersburg, Russian media reported. Putin made the statement at a press conference in Kaliningrad. According to RIA-Novosti, Putin declared that Matvienko "has been one of the most effective members of the government for the past few years, and she has had some of the most difficult work." The previous day, the Central Election Commission voted to name Aleksandr Gnetov as chairman of St. Petersburg's election commission. Gnetov joined the commission recently, reported on 27 June. JAC

Speaking to students in Kaliningrad on 27 June, President Putin said that if he decides to seek a second term, he will not announce it until just after the official campaign season has begun, Interfax reported. Putin added that he wouldn't like "the executive branch of government to get involved in political wrangling." According to on 27 June, when asked whether a woman could become president of Russia, Putin said, "Yes." JAC

Interior Ministry Internal Affairs Department head Konstantin Romadanovskii announced on 27 June that about 60 searches have been carried out and about $5 million has been confiscated in connection with the arrests of seven senior law enforcement officers last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 June 2003), Russian media reported. The most senior officer among those arrested is Lieutenant General Vladimir Ganeev, chief of security for the Emergency Situations Ministry and vice president of a national martial-arts federation. Romadanovskii said that police believe the network of corrupt police officers included as many as 160 members with links to organized crime in every region of the country. The arrested officers face charges of fabricating evidence, falsifying testimony, and extortion. They are also accused of illegally taking control of several Moscow casinos and of illegally converting sports firearms into combat weapons, RTR reported on 28 June. RTR alleged that one such weapon was used to kill Liberal Russia co-Chairman and State Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov in April, and suggested that the arrests of the police officers are connected with the 26 June arrest of Liberal Russia splinter group co-Chairman Mikhail Kodanev in connection with Yushenkov's slaying (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 June 2003). VY

Many observers have noted that the three main national television channels -- ORT, RTR, and NTV -- have been given almost unprecedented access to the investigation of the allegedly corrupt police officers and have been reporting on the arrests and searches almost as they happen. Observers have also noted that although the arrests were carried out by the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the detainees are being held in the FSB's Lefortovo prison, all the public statements about the case have been made by Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, who also heads the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party. Gryzlov on 29 June told RTR that the investigation has no direct connection to the election campaign that his party is currently launching. "It is impossible to time an operation that has been a couple of years in the making to a particular date," Gryzlov said. However, he added that inasmuch as police are demonstrating their determination to root out corruption within their ranks, the operation does have a political dimension. The most remarkable thing about the case, TV-Tsentr commented on 26 June, is not that high-ranking officers might have been involved in corruption, but that they were arrested for it. VY

Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said on 29 June following talks in Vladivostok with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi that both countries expressed keen interest in building an oil pipeline from Eastern Siberia to the Asia-Pacific region, Russian media reported. Japan also expressed interest in improving communications between Sakhalin and the Japanese islands. Khristenko praised Japan's help in dismantling Russia's outdated nuclear delivery systems and mentioned in particular a bilateral agreement signed on 28 June under which Japan will assist in recycling Russian nuclear submarines. Kawaguchi said that while Russia has many natural resources, Japan has financial and technological resources, reported on 29 June. Therefore, it should be possible to find ways for the two economies to complement one another. He added that increased exports of Russian energy to Japan would lead to increased economic interdependence and provide a solid basis for mutual trust. VY

More than 3,000 participants gathered on 28 June in a Moscow stadium for a forum called "Side by Side With the President," sponsored by the Unified Russia party, Russian media reported. Participants were treated to a laser show illustrating key events in the history of the Soviet Union and Russia, according to Interfax. Contemporary dancers and pop stars entertained the audience between speeches by the party's leaders. State Duma Deputy and member of Unified Russia's General Council Andrei Isaev acknowledged that the party has studied U.S. political parties' experience with elections, and the forum resembled U.S. spectacles. However, "the event is being staged in a Russian manner," Isaev was quoted by Interfax as saying. According to "Vremya-MN," forum attendees represented 11 groups that had developed proposals during regional forums for what should be included in the party's campaign platform. JAC

Along with Unified Russia party leaders such as Interior Minister Gryzlov, Interros holding President Vladimir Potanin addressed the gathering, Interfax reported. Potanin, who is one of Russia's most powerful businesspeople, said, "Just as you are campaigning for votes in the political field, we entrepreneurs are trying to restore trust in our activities." Potanin added that he and his colleagues "are prepared to share the burden of social responsibility for pensioners, disabled people, and veterans." JAC

On 27 June, the Communist Party's Central Committee held a plenum in Moscow, Russian media reported. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 June, the party's leadership received an appeal from 10 senior leftists -- most of them leaders of leftist parties such as Congress of Russian Communities leader Sergei Glazev and Movement in Support of the Army head Viktor Ilyukhin -- calling for a discussion at the plenum of the possibility of forming a broad coalition called "Communists-Agrarians-Patriots," in which the Communist Party would have the same status as other coalition members. However, this appeal was ignored. Central Committee member Valentin Kuptsov said the issue was an important one, but it will not be discussed until a special party congress is held on 10 September, NTV reported on 27 June. JAC

Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev announced on 27 June that he has appointed Aleksandr Veremeenko as director of the Tax Ministry's branch in Bashkortostan, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 June. Veremeenko, a former general director of Bashtransgaz, is one of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov's chief political opponents. Veremeenko was dismissed as head of Bashtransgaz on 18 June in part because of his open conflict with republican authorities, according to the daily. Aleksandr Veremeenko's brother, Sergei Veremeenko, who is chairman of Mezhprombank, is considered a likely challenger to Rakhimov in the 2003 republican presidential elections, TVS reported on 20 June. According to "Kommersant-Daily," the local political elite is in shock over Aleksandr Veremeenko's appointment. Aleksandr Veremeenko told the newspaper that his chief task in his new post will be to "struggle for the supremacy of Russian financial laws in Bashkortostan." JAC

The number of airports in Russia has plunged from 1,302 in 1992 to 451 in 2002, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 June, citing the State Civil Aviation Service. Some 45 airports shut down last year. According to the service, the closures mainly affected local airports, making transportation even more difficult for people living in remote regions. JAC

The movement of freight to parts of the Far North has come to a halt because the water level of the Lena River is too low, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 June. According to the Irkutsk meteorological service, the crisis was caused by the meager winter snowfall and a lack of rain this spring. This phenomenon occurs once every 25 years, according to the report. So far, ships that navigate the Lena River have been able to deliver only 210,000 tons of oil products -- about one-quarter of the required amount. JAC

A court in Vyborg invalidated on 27 June an earlier decision by the Leningrad Oblast legislature selecting Damir Shadaev as their representative to the Federation Council, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2003). According to the daily, the court found that legislators elected Shadaev despite having been informed by the head of the local Interior Ministry directorate and a local prosecutor that criminal cases are pending against him. Shadaev is suspected of using forged documents, specifically two fake diplomas from higher-educational institutions. Shadaev told the daily that he was warned by the chief federal inspector for Leningrad Oblast Nikolai Sedykh to withdraw his candidacy for the post or risk "various [forms of] unpleasantness." JAC

Shadaev told "Kommersant-Daily" that Sedykh and his allies supported another candidate for the post: Vladimir Churov. Churov worked with President Putin in the administration of former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak. Earlier, Shadaev accused presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin of pressuring the oblast legislature to support a candidate that the Kremlin favors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 2003). Last year, the oblast legislature's attempt to elect former Gazprom-Media head Alfred Kokh as its representative failed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March 2002). JAC

Echoing comments by Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov at a Russia-NATO Council meeting in Moscow in May, Aleksandr Grushko, who heads the Foreign Ministry's European Department, said in Vienna on 27 June that further delay in implementing the amended Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe could render that accord irrelevant to the new political and military situation on the continent, Interfax reported. The ongoing uncertainty over the treaty could destroy its "positive system of balances and counterbalances," Grushko said. New signatories, including the Baltic states and Slovenia, which are soon to join NATO, cannot accede to the CFE Treaty until existing signatories have ratified it. But the United States is reluctant to do so until Russia complies with its commitment under the CFE Treaty to reduce its military presence in Georgia and Moldova. LF

A spokesman for Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev denied on 26 June Russian reports that 11 of Gelaev's men have applied to the Chechen authorities to be considered for amnesty, reported on 27 June. On 28 June, Russian military spokesman Colonel Ilya Shabalkin again claimed that three separate groups of Chechen fighters, two of them composed predominantly of Gelaev's subordinates, had surrendered over the previous three days, Interfax reported. Shabalkin gave the total number of Chechens who have applied for amnesty since 7 June as 120. Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov told Interfax on 27 June that some 250 Chechen fighters have expressed their intention to surrender their weapons to benefit from the amnesty. LF

Five men, including the head of the elders' council of the village of Vashindaroi and a son of Chechen mufti Akhmad Shamaev, were gunned down in the early morning of 27 June by unknown armed men who stormed the home of the village council head in Shatoi Raion, Interfax reported. LF

Some 400 troops from 19 countries, including the United States, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Poland, Russia, and the United Kingdom, concluded on 27 June 11 days of NATO-led maneuvers in Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2003). Italian Lieutenant General Antonio Quintana, who is commander of NATO's Verona-based Joint Command South, praised the efficiency and "extraordinary cooperation" of the Armenian armed forces, which he said contributed to the success of the joint exercises. Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian said the war games, codenamed Cooperative Best Effort-2003, were beneficial for the Armenian Army. Sarkisian stressed that while Armenia will continue close cooperation with NATO, it does not intend to apply for membership, "especially because entering NATO is not that easy." LF

The three pro-presidential parties aligned in the new Armenian coalition government each exceeded the 60 million-dram ($103,000) maximum allowed for campaign expenditures in the run-up to the 25 May parliamentary election, according to a study released on 27 June by the Armenian affiliate of Transparency International and summarized by RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The study determined that of the 21 parties and blocs that contested the election, only Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun, and the Orinats Yerkir (Law-Based State) party exceeded the limit for campaign spending. Investigation coordinator Arevik Saribekian said that Orinats Yerkir distributed 30,000 free T-shirts and other campaign souvenirs, the cost of which was not included on the itemized list of campaign expenditures the party submitted to the Central Election Commission (CEC). LF

The Constitutional Court began on 27 June hearing an appeal by the opposition Artarutiun election bloc for a rerun of the voting for the 75 parliament mandates allocated under the party-list system, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Artarutiun leaders claim that as a result of organized and widespread fraud, tens of thousands of ballots cast for Artarutiun in the 25 May parliamentary ballot were allocated to other parties, and that Artarutiun won more than 50 percent of the party-list vote, rather than just 14 percent as shown by official returns (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). The hearing was adjourned until 3 July after Constitutional Court Chairman Gagik Harutiunian decided to ask the CEC to provide the voting results from all polling stations and other election-related documentation. LF

Azerbaijan's state-controlled television stations showed a meeting on 27 June between octogenarian President Heidar Aliev and a visiting Ukrainian delegation, Turan reported on 28 June. It was the first time in eight days that footage of Aliev was screened. Aliev was hospitalized in Turkey in early May after collapsing twice on 21 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April and 5 May 2003). Since his return to Azerbaijan on 11 May, and also in the 27 June television footage, Aliev appeared pale and his voice was weak, Turan reported. LF

Police in Baku thwarted an attempt on 28 June by a few dozen supporters of Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (ADR) Chairman Rasul Guliev to assemble in a city park, Turan reported. Nine ADR members were sentenced to up to 15 days' administrative arrest after a clash with police on 18 June when ADR and opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party activists tried unsuccessfully to picket the Central Election Commission (CEC) building (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2003). LF

Azerbaijan's unregistered United Communist Party nominated its chairman, Musa Tukanov, on 27 June as a candidate for the 15 October presidential election, Interfax reported. That nomination raises the number of potential candidates to 19, of whom the CEC has approved five (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 26 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2003). The 19 include Communist Party leader Ramiz Akhmedov and Sayad Sayadov, who represents a rival United Communist Party formally registered by the Ministry of Justice. LF

Residents of the town of Djulfa in Azerbaijan's Nakhichevan exclave, some of them armed with Molotov cocktails, took to the streets on 26 and 28 June to try to prevent the demolition of some 50 small shops, Turan reported. The city authorities have not offered any official explanation for the planned demolition. LF

Robert Kocharian, accompanied by five government ministers, arrived in Tbilisi on 27 June for a two-day official visit, Georgian media reported. In meetings with his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze and with parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze, Kocharian discussed regional security, bilateral political and economic cooperation, and regional cooperation within the TRACECA (Asia-Caucasus-Europe transport corridor) and Silk Road projects and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization. The official communique issued after Kocharian's talks with Shevardnadze did not specify whether the two presidents also discussed the situation of the Armenian minority in the southern Georgian region of Djavakheti, but Kocharian was said to have met behind closed doors with some members of Georgia's Armenian minority. On 28 June, Caucasus Press reported that agreement was reached during Kocharian's visit that the two countries will complete demarcation and delineation of their common border by the end of 2004. LF

During his talks in Tbilisi, President Kocharian reaffirmed Armenia's interest in the resumption of rail traffic from Russia via Abkhazia to Armenia, ITAR-TASS reported. Shevardnadze and Russian President Vladimir Putin reached agreement during talks in Sochi in March on the resumption of rail traffic and the simultaneous repatriation to Abkhazia of Georgian displaced persons forced to flee their homes during the 1992-93 war (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 13 March 2003). But on 27 June, Caucasus Press quoted Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Kakha Sikharulidze as saying that rail traffic should not recommence until displaced persons have started to return not only to Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion but to other parts of Abkhazia. On 30 June, Caucasus Press quoted Zurab Samushia, leader of the "White Legion" Georgian guerrilla formation, as saying his men will not permit the resumption of rail traffic via Abkhazia. Samushia also said that he does not believe that the Abkhaz conflict can be resolved peacefully, and that "there are people in Georgia ready to fight" to bring the breakaway republic back under the control of the central Georgian government. LF

The OSCE Mission in Tbilisi on 28 June presented to the Georgian State Border Protection Service radios, uniforms, binoculars, and other equipment worth 100,000 euros ($114,000) donated by the EU, Caucasus Press reported. The equipment is for use by border guards patrolling Georgia's frontiers with Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Daghestan. LF

The UN Development Program's Work Plan for 2004-05 includes sending a group of advisers to Central Asia to help resolve a dispute between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan over water resources, reported on 28 June. The dispute between the two countries involves the water of the Chu and Talas rivers in northern Kyrgyzstan, which Kazakhstan needs for agriculture. Kyrgyzstan is demanding that the Kazakh side pay for the water, while Kazakhstan says the demand for payment is illegal. Such arguments are not unusual between Central Asian states, where agricultural development in the Soviet era was based on the principle that water for irrigation would go to the areas that needed it most in Moscow's judgment, without regard to republican borders. The governments of Sweden, Estonia, and Great Britain have promised to finance the group of UN advisers. Great Britain has been interested for several years now in helping the Central Asians solve their regional water-management problems. BB

The European Union has taken over responsibility for dismantling the research reactor at Aktau in western Kazakhstan and for removing any radioactive contamination left by the facility, reported on 27 June. The Kazakh government reportedly is assuming that Kazakh firms will be among those hired to do the work. The report did not specify how much the project will cost. After the reactor was determined to be unsafe two years ago, the U.S. Department of Energy began the process of dismantling it. Later, the British Ministry of Trade and Industry joined the project, which by then was proving to be quite expensive. The EU has now undertaken to complete the work. Despite strong public sentiment in Kazakhstan against nuclear power resulting from the contamination left behind by Soviet-era weapons tests, the Kazakh leadership intends to embark on the development of nuclear-power stations, Kazakh sources have reported. BB

Two alleged activists of the illegal Muslim extremist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir have been detained while distributing leaflets in the town of Gafurov in northern Tajikistan's Sughd Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 June, quoting an unnamed national law enforcement official. Police reportedly found 50 copies of Wahhabi publications and several hundred copies of proclamations while searching the homes of the detainees. According to the report, the confiscated literature included appeals to Muslims to ignore secular law and to help set up an Islamic Caliphate, one of the basic tenets of the worldwide Hizb ut-Tahrir movement. The literature also reportedly contained unspecified threats against "nonbelievers." Charges made by the authorities in several Central Asian countries that Hizb ut-Tahrir adherents are inciting religious hatred are based on such publications. Law enforcement sources in Tajikistan assert that since the beginning of the year, more than 20 Hizb ut-Tahrir activists have been detained in Sughd Oblast and two underground printing facilities have been discovered, both equipped with state-of-the-art computers. In addition, ITAR-TASS's source in the Interior Ministry was quoted as saying police have direct evidence that Hizb ut-Tahrir cells in Tajikistan are being financed by unspecified foreign extremist organizations. BB

A Deutsche Welle broadcast of 25 June in which the station's correspondent in Turkmenistan reported that holders of dual Russian-Turkmen citizenship are being deprived of their homes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2003) is causing controversy in the Russian media. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko told Interfax and other media on 27 June that the ministry cannot confirm the story and that it has asked Deutsche Welle for the source of its information. Deutsche Welle reported on 29 June that Russian journalists had confirmed the report and had provided additional details. Journalist Arkadii Dubnov, a well-known specialist on Turkmenistan, reported having learned that the confiscation of homes of dual citizens began after Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov issued his 22 April decree on the revocation of dual citizenship. Dual citizens who applied for exit visas in their Turkmen passports were targeted. Other journalists reported receiving lists of persons driven from their Ashgabat homes, and letters asserting that this had happened to the letter writers themselves or to their relatives. BB

The Turkmen Embassy in Moscow has denied that the homes of holders of dual Russian-Turkmen citizenship are being confiscated by the authorities in Ashgabat, reported on 30 June. The report quoted an unnamed diplomat at the embassy as saying that it is "total nonsense" that people without Turkmen citizenship have no right to own property in Turkmenistan. The controversy, however, involves holders of dual Turkmen-Russian citizenship. Apparently the diplomat considered that dual citizens who had not renounced their Russian citizenship by 22 June -- and according to the Russian Foreign Ministry none did so -- were no longer citizens of Turkmenistan, although Russia does not accept this interpretation. Although quotes an unidentified informant from an unnamed agency as saying that any foreigner can buy an apartment in Ashgabat, Turkmen law prohibits property ownership by foreigners. However, this law, like many others, appears to be subject to broad interpretation. BB

On 27 June Russia's Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) issued a declaration calling on the Russian authorities to intervene on behalf of dual citizens in Turkmenistan, comparing the confiscation of the apartments of dual citizens to Stalin's deportation of entire nations, Interfax reported on 28 June. The text of the declaration can be found on the party's website ( On 29 June, about 20 party activists attempted to picket the Turkmen Embassy in Moscow to protest the alleged violations of the rights of Russian citizens in Turkmenistan, but the picketing was broken up by police after just 10 minutes, Interfax reported. Reportedly, two picketers were taken away by police because the protest was not officially sanctioned. According to a 29 June report on Ekho Moskvy, the SPS organized two pickets that day, one at the Turkmen Embassy and one at the offices of Gazprom, the chief beneficiary of the Turkmen natural-gas contract signed in April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2003). The same day, Deutsche Welle reported that participants in a conference of Russian electronic media beyond Russia's borders being held in Moscow declared their solidarity with the journalists of Turkmenistan and expressed concern over the human rights situation in that country. BB

The Moscow Helsinki Group held a meeting on 26 June to discuss the creation of a Turkmen Helsinki Group, Deutsche Welle reported on 28 June. Moscow group head Lyudmila Alekseeva acknowledged that a Turkmen Helsinki Group would have to work in exile because of the antipathy of the Turkmen authorities to nongovernmental organizations, in particular to those dealing with human rights. Consequently, the names of group activists working inside Turkmenistan would be kept secret. According to Alekseeva, the question of creating a Turkmen Helsinki Group will be examined by the International Helsinki Federation in the near future. If it is approved, the group would be the first Helsinki Group in exile, she noted. BB

French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov and her Uzbek counterpart Qodir Ghulomov during a one-day visit to Uzbekistan on 28 June, reported the following day. The talks dealt with a range of security issues, in particular the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the struggle against international terrorism and drug trafficking. Karimov reportedly expressed doubts about the effectiveness of a centralized approach to Afghan reconstruction because of the fragmented nature of the country. According to the report, Alliot-Marie reiterated the French desire to strengthen bilateral ties with Uzbekistan in line with a commitment made by French President Jacques Chirac at the NATO summit in November 2002. Cooperation between the two countries flagged after France failed to obtain an air base in Uzbekistan in connection with the international antiterrorism campaign in Afghanistan. Uzbekistan has made no secret of its desire for NATO membership and could see France as an ally in this endeavor. BB

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on 28 June expelled Pavel Selin, a correspondent of Russia's NTV television, accusing him of slandering the government in a news report about the funeral of Belarusian writer Vasil Bykau (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 June 2003), Belarusian and international news agencies reported. Selin's report on Bykau's funeral included an interview with Stanislau Shushkevich, the first head of state of independent Belarus. "I think the main reason behind [the expulsion] is the interview with Shushkevich, who said Lukashenka was the only person in Belarus not to have read Bykau's books," Reuters quoted Selin as saying. "The report included statements that were false, biased, provocative...[and] aimed at destabilizing the government and undermining the authorities," the Foreign Ministry stated, threatening that it will seek the closure of the NTV office in Minsk if the network fails to apologize. JM

The government has closed the state-run National Humanities Lyceum in Minsk, Belapan reported on 27 June, quoting school assistant principal Lyavon Barshcheuski. All the teachers were dismissed, and the school building was handed over to the Minsk Municipal Executive Committee, which is expected to renovate it and accommodate another school in it. The National Humanities Lyceum was the only high school in Belarus that provided instruction in all subjects in Belarusian. For the past several weeks, its teachers and students protested the appointment of a new principal who, they claimed, did not speak Belarusian and failed to meet the criteria for the top job at the elite school. JM

Premier Viktor Yanukovych threatened on 27 June that the government will punish retail traders who unjustifiably overcharge for bread, flour, cereals, and pasta products, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Yanukovych was referring to recent hikes in food prices and the ongoing consumer rush on grain products in Ukraine that were reportedly fuelled by bad prospects for this year's harvest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2003). President Leonid Kuchma ordered the government to sell grain from the state reserves in order to stabilize the food market. JM

The number of hospitalized people with symptoms of hepatitis A in the city of Sukhodilsk, Luhansk Oblast, has grown to 479, including 139 children, Ukrainian news agencies reported on 28 June. The outbreak of the disease was reportedly caused by a virus in drinking water that was contaminated following a breakdown of the city's water-supply system. JM

The U.S. Senate has approved the candidacy of John Herbst, who was nominated earlier this year by U.S. President George W. Bush, for the post of U.S. ambassador to Ukraine to replace Carlos Pascual, Ukrainian news agencies reported on 28 June. Herbst is currently the U.S. ambassador to Uzbekistan. Herbst has occupied a range of positions at U.S. diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv, Moscow, and Riyadh. He reportedly speaks Russian and Arabic. JM

President Arnold Ruutel wrapped up a four-day visit to France on 29 June, during which he met with French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and invited them to visit Estonia, BNS reported on 30 June. On 27 June, Ruutel and Chirac expressed satisfaction with their countries' relations but noted the need to strengthen their political dialogue. The two leaders also said their countries have similar ambitions concerning the future of the EU and relations with Russia. Economic cooperation was the main topic of Ruutel's 27 June talks with Raffarin, who called for cooperation in agriculture, transportation, and other spheres. Ruutel met earlier that day with National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman and former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur and spoke at a regional-development seminar. Ruutel began his visit on 26 June with a tour of an agricultural enterprise and gave a speech on EU enlargement at an investment conference. SG

A Swedish delegation headed by Foreign Minister Anna Lindh paid a visit to Latvia on 27 June, BNS reported. The group visited the Rundale Palace, famous for its Baroque architecture, in southern Latvia and proceeded to the nearby city of Jelgava for talks with Foreign Minister Sandra Kalniete, Jelgava Mayor Andris Ravins, and local residents. The foreign ministers later discussed the results of the European Council's summit in Thessaloniki, the expansion of the EU to the Balkans, the need for better EU relations with Russia, as well as developments in Iraq, Israel, and Palestine. The delegation also toured the Riga Open-Air Ethnographic Museum. SG

Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas officially welcomed Natsagiyn Bagabandi at a ceremony in his office on 27 June that kicked off the Mongolian president's tour of the Baltic states, BNS reported. Bagabandi is accompanied by a delegation that includes Mongolia's foreign, education, culture, and science ministers, as well as six businesspeople. One of the group's aims is boosting trade with the Balts, which amounted to less than $100,000 in 2002. Foreign Ministers Antanas Valionis and Luvsangiyn Erdenechuluun signed agreements on the protection of investments and on bilateral cooperation in education, science, culture, and the arts. Bagabandi then held talks with parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas and toured Vilnius University and the city's Old Town. On 28 June, the delegation traveled to the coast where it visited the port of Klaipeda and the resort town of Nida on the Curonian Spit. The delegation flew to Parnu, Estonia, on 29 June and will continue to Latvia on 1 July. SG

A congress of the ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) in Warsaw on 29 June re-elected Premier Leszek Miller as SLD leader for another four-year term, Polish media reported. Miller, who was the only candidate for the post, received 625 votes from 777 delegates to the congress. Addressing the congress before the vote, Miler vowed to turn Poland into a fast-growing economy after the country joins the EU in May 2004. He proposed a "Warsaw strategy" of growth revival that combines tax cuts, investments in computer technology, highway construction, and fighting corruption. Miller reiterated his declaration that he is in favor of replacing the current three-tier tax system with a flat 18 percent income tax. JM

Czech Premier Vladimir Spidla, addressing an international conference in Goetting, Lower Austria, said on 29 June that the Czechs "regret" that ethnic Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia under the 1945-46 Benes Decrees, international news agencies reported. However, he added, "Even if today we accept moral responsibility for the events of the postwar period, we still cannot let that [moral responsibility] get entangled into legal issues," AP reported. Making it clear that Prague does not intend either to compensate the Sudeten Germans or to restitute property confiscated under the decrees, Spidla said that "from a legal point of view...the matter is closed." Spidla also said the 1997 Czech-German declaration of reconciliation pertains to Czech-Austrian relations as well, and there is thus no need to issue a similar declaration. Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, who also attended the conference, praised Spidla's statement as "a very important step forward." He said the statement marked the first time a Czech premier "brought Austria into the context of the Czech-German declaration," CTK and dpa reported. MS

The Central Committee of the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) recommended on 28 June that CSSD deputies and senators support in parliament the financial reforms proposed by the CSSD-led three-party center-left coalition, CTK reported. Prime Minister Spidla admitted that the committee's decision was not unanimous and that CSSD parliamentarians are not obliged to follow the recommendation. However, he emphasized that some 85 percent of the committee's members spoke in favor of the governmental proposals. The coalition, which has a one-vote majority in the lower house, needs the full support of its deputies for the reform to be approved, and Spidla has on several occasions threatened to resign if it does not pass. Spidla told journalists that an alternative government led by the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) would seek to introduce a flat 15 percent income tax. However, he said, this would mean that those with monthly incomes of less than 15,000 crowns ($545) would lose out and, for example, those with monthly incomes of 63,000 crowns would get an additional 48,000 crowns per year. MS

Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) Chairman Miroslav Grebenicek told journalists on 28 June that his party is prepared to support in parliament a minority government of the CSSD, provided the CSSD abandons its current rightist policies, CTK reported. Grebenicek spoke after a meeting of the KSCM's Central Committee, which discussed, among other things, the government's planned financial reforms. Grebenicek said the CSSD-led government, which includes the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU), is heterogeneous and unstable and that the CSSD is itself internally unstable and therefore subject to blackmail on the part of the US-DEU. As a result, he said, the CSSD has been straying away from its leftist election platform. MS

The CSSD leadership issued a statement on 27 June saying that the party's policies are formulated in Prague at meetings of the party's leadership, CTK reported. The statement came in response to recent criticism from former Premier Milos Zeman, in which he predicted that the ruling party's current leadership will bring about the fall of the CSSD-led cabinet and the loss of the next elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2003). Even known Zeman supporters in the leadership, such as CSSD Deputy Chairman and Labor and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach, were somewhat critical of Zeman's warning. Skromach said Zeman is privy only to "second-hand information" that can lead him to "certain erroneous considerations." He said Zeman has rejected an offer to be honorary CSSD chairman and does not attend meetings of the party leadership. No one would object to Zeman's participation, Skromach said, and if he were to attend those meetings, he would be better informed. Skromach also rejected Zeman's contention that the CSSD would be better off ruling as a minority government with support from either the ODS or the KSCM. This, Skromach said, would split the party. MS

A court in Ceske Budejovice on 30 June sentenced former Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Karel Srba to eight years in a maximum-security prison, CTK and dpa reported. Srba was found guilty of commissioning the failed attempt in 2002 to assassinate journalist Sabina Slonkova, who published a series of articles describing the suspicious circumstances under which the Foreign Ministry leased the Cesky Dum (Czech House) in Moscow to a private firm. Srba was subsequently forced to resign from his post in March 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23, 24, and 25 July 2002). Two of Srba's accomplices were sentenced the same day to six years in prison and a fourth defendant was sentenced to four years' imprisonment. MS

Police intend to question several cabinet ministers about the "D-47 highway affair," CTK reported on 27 June, citing a Prague district prosecutor. The ministers were members of the former government headed by Premier Zeman that in June 2002 tabbed the company Housing & Construction CZ to build the highway without first launching a tender for the project. Based on a press interview with current Transportation Minister Milan Simonovsky (KDU-CSL), police suspect bribery and abuse of office played a part in the decision. The contract with the company, a subsidiary of an Israeli construction firm, was nullified by the current government in April. The government headed by Premier Spidla determined that the 80-kilometer highway from Lipnik nad Becvou to the Polish border could be constructed by the state, thus lowering the 125 billion-crown ($4.5 billion) fee Housing & Construction CZ was to be paid for the job to 85 billion crowns. In addition, the government said the project could be completed in 2008, one year earlier than the contract with the Israeli company stipulated. The daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" has reported that information received from Russia by police indicates that the Shiran Group, which is headed by Shimon Jakobson, the businessman who set up Housing & Construction CZ, was allegedly involved in a corruption scandal in Russia (see "RFE/RL Organized Crime and Terrorism Watch," 7 February and 27 March 2003). MS

Human rights activists and representatives of Romany organizations have expressed their dissatisfaction with the lenient sentences a court in Cheb, western Bohemia, handed down on 27 June to five policemen who assaulted a Romany man near Karlovy Vary in May 2001, CTK reported. The incident, in which the Rom was taken into a forest and beaten with an iron bar after his car was flagged down, was reported by doctors who treated the man. Three of the police officers were found guilty of abuse of power and sentenced to 10 months in prison, suspended for two years, while the other two were acquitted. The maximum sentence for the offense is eight years in jail. Jan Jarab, government commissioner for human rights, described the verdict as "truly sad." MS

Germany on 27 June began paying out the second installment of compensation to Czechs who were forced to work for the Nazi regime during World War II, CTK reported. The compensation is part of the 216 million euros ($246 million) allocated for Czechs out of the 5.1 billion euros fund that was established in 2000 by the German government and private German companies to compensate victims from various countries. A total of 73,000 Czech citizens have been determined to be entitled to the compensation, and 30,000 claims have been rejected. Some 640,000 Czechs are known to have been subjected to forced labor during the rule of the Third Reich, but many perished in labor camps or have since died. MS

Visiting Croatian Premier Ivica Racan met with his Slovak counterpart Mikulas Dzurinda in Bratislava on 27 June to discuss ways to improve bilateral trade and tourism as well as Croatia's efforts to join the EU and NATO, TASR and CTK reported. Racan said Slovakia's success in catching up with the more advanced EU candidates and receiving an invitation to join the EU is an "inspiration" to his own country. Dzurinda expressed Slovakia's readiness to help Croatia fulfill the conditions for admittance to both organizations. He said he is confident of Croatia's ability to achieve EU membership by 2007, together with Bulgaria and Romania. On the contentious issue of the Hungarian Status Law (see item below), Racan said Croatia has "no problem" with the implementation of the law on Croat territory, but added that Bratislava and Budapest should seek a mutually acceptable solution. Racan also met with parliamentary speaker Pavol Hrusovsky. MS

Parliament on 27 June raised excise duties on cigarettes, tobacco, alcohol, and unleaded fuel to help cover expected shortfalls in tax revenues, TASR reported. The measure comes into force on 1 August. Parliament also approved introducing as of 1 January 2004 a flat 19-percent value-added tax. Current VAT rates are 14 or 20 percent, depending on the value of a purchase. MS

Interior Minister Vladimir Palko announced on 27 June that billionaire Jozef Majsky has been retaken into police custody on suspicion of attempting to influence a witness, TASR and CTK reported. Majsky was released on 21 June after spending some eight months in pretrial detention. The Kosice judge who ruled he should be released said there were no grounds to suspect he would attempt to flee Slovakia or influence witnesses. Majsky, who is believed to be Slovakia's richest man, has been charged with fraud and with having depleted the assets of two investment companies that subsequently went bankrupt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2003). He faces a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison. Palko said police had to break into Majsky's villa after he failed to answer his doorbell upon their arrival, but that Majsky made no attempt to resist arrest. Palko also said a judge must rule within 48 hours whether to prolong Majsky's detention. MS

The Slovak cabinet has drafted legislation intended to stop the implementation on Slovak territory of the recently amended Hungarian Status Law, CTK reported on 27 June, citing Slovak Radio. The bill would authorize the Interior Ministry to dissolve organizations that are active in the implementation on Slovak territory of legislation approved in another state. It also states that money provided by Hungary to individuals in Slovakia who are entitled to aid under provisions of the Status Law would be subject to a 90 percent tax on those funds and Slovak schools receiving such aid could see the contributions they receive from the Slovak state budget curtailed. Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) Chairman Bela Bugar said that if the information is accurate, it means Premier Dzurinda does not provide the SMK with correct information. The SMK, which is a member of the center-right coalition, was unaware that such a bill was being considered, Bugar said (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24, 25, 26, and 27 June 2003). MS

The government has sent a note to the embassies of all neighboring countries affected by the Hungarian Status Law proposing that intergovernmental joint committees be convened to discuss ways of implementing the provisions of the law, "Magyar Nemzet" reported on 28 June. Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said Slovakia's actions will be determined by the conduct of the Hungarian cabinet, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 28 June. Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan, on a visit to Slovakia, said that Croatia, unlike Slovakia and Romania, has no objections to letting its ethnic Hungarians avail themselves of the Status Law's benefits. He said the issue should not burden the whole of Europe nor lead to international litigation, Hungarian radio reported. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has criticized the Hungarian government for not consulting neighboring states during the process of amending the law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2003). MSZ

Economy Minister Istvan Csillag on 27 June sacked Miklos Bitvai, Head of State Highways Management Company (AAK), effective immediately, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The Economy Ministry accused Bitvai of negligent management of funds in connection with the Pannonplast case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 June 2003), claiming he did not have continuous control of funds he was in charge of managing that were transferred to K&H Equities. As a result, K&H Equities was able to "borrow" the money for its own purposes, and apparently used AAK funds to finance the controversial purchase of Pannonplast shares by the private investment and consulting companies Britton and Pevdi. A report by Hungary's Financial Supervisory Authority (PSZAF) has alleged that a state-owned company was involved in buying up large amounts of Pannonplast shares and passing them on to two private companies. Meanwhile, Britton declared on 27 June that it owns, together with Pevdi, a joint 23.28 percent stake in Pannonplast, the daily reported. MSZ

Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, wrote in "The New York Times" on 28 June that "by announcing last week that Serbia and Montenegro have shown sufficient cooperation with this tribunal to warrant sending $50 million in American aid, the United States may well have dampened the chances that [indicted war criminals] Dr. [Radovan] Karadzic and General [Ratko] Mladic will find themselves in custody any time soon" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 May 2003). Del Ponte added that she knows approximately "where the [two men] are hiding. It is clear that NATO and the authorities in Serbia and Montenegro know even more about their whereabouts. Yet these fugitives...are still at large." Del Ponte argued that "only when fugitives like Dr. Karadzic and General Mladic are transformed from symbols of a lack of backbone into symbols of the international community's resolve will Bosnia and Herzegovina and the other traumatized states of the region stand a chance of establishing rule of law. And only when the peoples of these states enjoy the rule of law will they be able to partake fully in the process of European unification." PM

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic said in Crans Montana, Switzerland, on 29 June that Serbia and Montenegro's relations with its neighbors are excellent, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that the only problem is lawsuits in the Hague-based International Court of Justice by Croatia and Bosnia against Belgrade for aggression and genocide, which, he stressed, cannot lead to improved regional cooperation. The previous day, Serbia and Montenegro's Defense Minister Boris Tadic said in Belgrade that his country will not drop its lawsuit against NATO unless Croatia and Bosnia drop theirs against Belgrade. Serbia and Montenegro recently applied to join NATO's Partnership for Peace program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 May 2003). PM

Vladimir Popovic "Beba," who heads the Serbian government's Communications Department, filed charges in Belgrade on 27 June against the weekly "Vreme" and its well-known journalist Milos Vasic for some of "Vreme's" articles during the recent state of emergency, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 May 2003 and "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 29 May and 5, 12, 19, and 26 June 2003). Beba wants $33,000 for "mental anguish and damage to his reputation." He previously filed similar charges against several other news organizations, including the weekly "NIN," Radio B92, and the "Novosti" publishing house. Elsewhere, Prime Minister Zivkovic said Beba's lawsuits are his own private affair and not the work of the government. Lawsuits against critical media were a frequent practice under former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and the late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. PM

Prime Minister Zivkovic said in Belgrade on 27 June that he hopes the new Serbian constitution will be ready by 15 February 2004, which will be the 200th anniversary of the First Serbian Uprising that ultimately led to Serbia's independence from the Ottoman Empire, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 27 June that the question of independence "is more or less solved as far as I'm concerned," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that the only issue still open is when Montenegrin independence will be internationally recognized. In an effort to entice the Montenegrin opposition to end its parliamentary boycott, Djukanovic said there should be a discussion in the legislature about placing existing technical facilities at the disposal of any broadcaster that wants to air parliamentary debates live (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2003). PM

Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is also Belgrade's point man for Kosova, said in Gjilan on 27 June that Serbs in Kosova should not sell their property but remain for the sake of Serbia's interests and a multiethnic Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that he opposes the inclusion of ethnic Albanians from southern Serbia in any upcoming Belgrade-Prishtina talks, stressing that the Presevo Albanians cannot be placed on the same political footing as the Serbs of Kosova. Speaking the following day in Mitrovica, Covic said any Belgrade-Prishtina talks will require very careful preparation, adding that the EU's scheduled date of late July is unrealistic. He stressed that further negotiations with EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana are necessary. The Kosovar Albanians have emphasized the central roles of careful preparation, and of U.S. as well as EU participation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 25 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 and 20 June 2003). PM

Croatian Defense Minister Zeljka Antunovic said in Slavonski Brod on 27 June that the Djuro Djakovic factory should resume its pre-1991 joint production of tanks with Serbian suppliers, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Djuro Djakovic currently produces up to 20 tanks annually for the Croatian Army with the help of Eastern European suppliers. Prior to the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, the factory turned out 150 tanks per year. PM

On 28 June, approximately 200 people took part in the second annual Gay Pride march in Zagreb amid tight police security, Croatian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2002). Demonstrators stressed the need for equal rights and an end to discrimination. PM

Education and Science Minister Aziz Pollozhani announced on 27 June that the government decided to recognize the private Albanian University in Tetovo, thus legalizing its diplomas, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. Pollozhani said that by September, the university could become the country's third state-run university, in addition to those in Skopje and Bitola. Its foundation in the early 1990s repeatedly led to heated exchanges between the Macedonian authorities and the ethnic Albanian minority, because most ethnic Macedonians regard it as a hotbed of Albanian separatism. Pollozhani said the legalization was necessary because a second, OSCE-sponsored university in Tetovo has obviously not resolved the Albanian community's higher education problems (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July and 6 and 7 August 2001). UB

The opposition National Liberal Party (PNL) demanded on 29 June that Prosecutor-General Tanase Joita be dismissed, Mediafax reported. The party also harshly criticized President Ion Iliescu for interfering in the affairs of the judiciary. Similar criticism addressed at Joita and Iliescu was aired by the opposition Democratic Party and, one day earlier, by the Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Romania-Helsinki Committee. Joita summoned Supreme Court President Paul Florea before the Superior Council of the Magistracy after the court ruled on 19 June that Mures Tribunal President Andreea Ciuca should be released from detention. The National Anticorruption Prosecution ordered Ciuca's detention for 30 days on 18 June, on suspicion of bribe taking. The Supreme Court granted her appeal, saying in its ruling that Ciuca's detention had not been ordered by a judge, but by a prosecutor. Iliescu said the Supreme Court had no right to rule in this way because Romanian legislation allows prosecutors to order detentions, and only parliament can change that law. Critics say that European legislation prevails over Romania's own legislation. Joita summoned Florea on the grounds that he allegedly rudely interrupted the prosecution's arguments during the 19 June debate before the court. A hearing has been scheduled for 2 July. MS

Continuing its debates on constitutional amendments, parliament on 27 June approved an amendment allowing members of national minorities to use their native languages in court appearances and to submit documentation in those languages, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The amendment was approved with the support of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) and its parliamentary ally, the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania. The ultranationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM) walked out in protest after the approval, saying it contravenes the constitutional provision stipulating that Romanian is the country's official language. It also said that it will boycott all further debates on constitutional amendments. The PNL voted against the amendment, saying it agrees that citizens should be able to use their native languages at hearings, but arguing that documents should be submitted in Romanian. The Democrats also voted against the amendment, proposing instead that members of national minorities be granted the right to speak in court through translators. MS

The PRM said on 27 June that it is considering boycotting the next parliamentary elections, due to be held in late 2004 or early 2005, Mediafax reported. Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor told journalists that the results of the latest polls showing his formation in second place quite far behind the PSD are proof that the ruling party is preparing a "huge electoral fraud" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2003). MS

President Iliescu, addressing the Aspen forum, which is being held this year in Bucharest, reiterated that his country belongs "to the tradition, culture, and history of 'old Europe,'" Mediafax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). Iliescu also said that it is up to his country to make the effort necessary to fulfill the conditions for joining the EU in 2007. Meeting all conditions for joining the EU and NATO -- which has already accepted Romania as a member -- is primarily dictated by the necessity of developing the country's democracy, stability, and prosperity, he said. MS

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, attending a conference in Paris on international investment, met on 27 June with his French counterpart Jean-Pierre Raffarin and with European Commission President Romano Prodi, Romanian Radio reported. Nastase reiterated his country's determination to achieve the status of a functioning market economy. He also said that Romania must make a substantial effort to improve its international image, in view of the fact that opinion polls indicate that only 14 percent of the French back Romania's EU candidacy. MS

President Voronin told a plenum of his Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) last week that the PCM has only itself to blame for failing to win the 25 May-8 June local elections in Chisinau, Infotag reported. Voronin's speech to the plenum was published on 27 June in the PCM newspaper "Kommunist." He said that some 120,000 students in the Moldovan capital voted against the PCM, despite the fact that the government has increased stipends and has for the last two years implemented policies aimed at improving their lot. Voronin said that the entire organizational youth structure of the PCM would have to be revamped to make it possible for the PCM to mobilize the votes of those aged 18-40 in the 2005 parliamentary elections. He also said that the re-election of Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urechean provides the opposition with a springboard from which to launch a nationwide offensive against the PCM. MS

Igor Smirnov has said he wants to hold a referendum in the region he heads on the ways to solve the Transdniester problem, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 27 June, citing the official separatist Olivia press agency. The agency said Smirnov made the proposal to hold the plebiscite during talks with OSCE mission chief William Hill, asking that the OSCE organize the referendum. OSCE spokesman Matti Sidoroff confirmed to RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service that a meeting between Smirnov and Hill took place recently, but did not provide details about the talks. It is unclear what Smirnov's intentions are, since the proposal by Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on elaborating a joint constitution for a future Moldovan federal state specifies that after finalizing the basic document, a referendum would take place on both sides of Dniester River. MS

National Bank Governor Leonid Talmaci told parliament on 27 June that inflation in 2003 will not rise above the 8 percent limit agreed with the International Monetary Fund, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Moldovan capital reported. In the first five months of this year, the inflation rate has been 6 percent-7 percent. Economic analysts in Moldova predict a rate far higher than that forecast by Talmaci due to expected hikes in electricity and gas prices and a drought that is affecting agricultural production. MS

President Georgi Parvanov on 27 June vetoed amendments to the Family Code pertaining to adoption that were passed by parliament on 13 June, reported. Under the proposed regulations, foreigners would have to apply to the Justice Ministry for adoption documents, and Bulgarian children would be free for adoption by foreigners only if all possibilities for adoption by family members or Bulgarians were exhausted. However, the proposals call for seeking foreigners as adoptive parents should three applications by Bulgarian parents for a child be rejected within six months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2003). In the reasoning for his veto, Parvanov argued that the proposed amendments give preference to foreigners over Bulgarians and said they are not synchronized with the law on child protection. UB

Following the first reading of a number of amendments to the election law, President Parvanov on 27 June warned lawmakers that he will block the legislation should he be stripped of his right to nominate the members of the Central Election Commission, reported. Commenting on plans that would grant this right to parliament, Parvanov said, "This cannot be characterized other than as a new attempt at destroying the balance among the [state] institutions." He added that he will not hesitate to veto the amendments, even if this could lead to a postponement of the local elections scheduled for October. UB

Nikolay Chukanov, a lawmaker for the governing National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and member of the parliament's Security Committee, has warned of mafia-style organized-crime structures in Bulgaria, reported on 28 June. According to Chukanov, officers of unspecified "special services" are heading these structures, some of whom, he claimed, are still employed by the state. He said that among small countries, Bulgaria stands alone in its number of "heavily armed mafia" members who are at large and free to conduct attacks undeterred. In related news, Roderick Moore, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, told journalists on 27 June that Bulgaria needs to do more to curb organized crime, as evidenced by the latest gang-style slayings, RFE/RL's Bulgarian service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March, 22 April, 2 and 17 June 2003, and End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2003). UB

Links between the intelligence services and pro-regime nationalist parties are common in Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and other postcommunist states. In 1990, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev allowed the creation of the Liberal Democratic Party led by Vladimir Zhirinovskii in order to create the impression of a multi-party democracy such as existed in other central European states where satellite parties were allowed to exist alongside the all powerful Communists.

Following the collapse of the USSR, the successor Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) continued to play an important role in drawing nationalist votes away from the "red-brown opposition" comprising the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and other parties in the National Salvation Front. President Vladimir Putin has less need of Zhirinovsky's LDPR because he himself came to power in 1999-2000 on a wave of anti-NATO, anti-U.S., and anti-Chechen Russian nationalism. His "party of power," Unity (now, Unified Russia), has successfully integrated Soviet and Russian tsarist symbols into a pragmatic Eurasianist ideology.

In Serbia, Vojislav Seselj's "loyal nationalist" Serbian Radical Party (SRS) was supported by the ruling Socialists (SPS). Seselj's nationalists competed with Vuk Draskovic's opposition nationalist Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) for the right to lead the revival and rehabilitation of the World War II royalist Cetnik movement.

The SRS served two useful purposes. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was able to create a broad coalition ranging from diehard Marxists of the United Yugoslav Left, led by Milosevic's wife, to the SPS and the SRS on the right. Allowing the SRS and other paramilitaries to undertake the worst atrocities in Bosnia and Kosova meant Milosevic could distance himself from those actions.

Ukraine, for its part, has witnessed the emergence of a series of "loyal" nationalist parties, whose interests and agendas do not always coincide, and two of which subsequently aligned with the opposition. Of the three nationalist groups now active in Ukraine, the newly formed People's Movement of Ukraine-Statist Opposition is a "loyal nationalist" opposition. The Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA) has become part of the Yuliya Tymoshenko bloc and the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (KUN) was eventually allowed to join former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine.

In Ukraine in the first half of the 1990s, evidence emerged that the intelligence services and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarch (UOC-KP) were supporting the UNA. The UNA's paramilitary arm, the Ukrainian People's Self-Defense Forces (UNSO), earned a fearsome reputation fighting on the side of separatist forces in Moldova and Chechnya, and on behalf of Georgia in Abkhazia. Chechen President Djokhar Dudaev's bodyguard included a member of the UNA-UNSO.

After Leonid Kuchma was elected Ukrainian president in 1994, he had no use for UNA-UNSO, and it was temporarily banned after it was involved in riots in 1995 during the funeral of Patriarch Romaniuk of the UOC-KP. In the late 1990s, UNA went into opposition to President Kuchma and it began to obtain financial support from "dissident-oligarch" Fatherland Party head Yuliya Tymoshenko. In the 2002 parliamentary elections UNA members were elected within the Tymoshenko bloc. Last year, Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party merged with Stepan Khmara's Conservative Republican Party, which is close to UNA.

Until the late 1990s Tryzub (Trident) led by Yevhen Fil was the paramilitary organization of KUN, with Tryzub camouflaged as the Stepan Bandera Sports-Patriotic Association. KUN was established in 1992 as the overt political party of the emigre, secretive Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Stepan Bandera faction), the most radical of the three emigre wings of OUN. KUN was the only political party established in Ukraine by emigres.

Rukh for Unity, led by Bohdan Boyko, was created after February 1999 when Rukh divided first into two and later into three wings. Originally created in 1988-89 as the Popular Movement for Restructuring (better known as Rukh), it was led for most of the 1990s by Soviet-era dissident and political prisoner Vyacheslav Chornovil who died in a still-unexplained car crash a month after Rukh's split.

Rukh for Unity became notorious between 2000-02 when it, together with Tryzub, defended Kuchma against the opposition during the Kuchmagate scandal. Acting as agents provocateurs, Tryzub was behind Ukraine's worst riots in March 2001. Blame for the riots was placed on the pro-opposition UNA, 17 members of whom were sentenced the following year in an attempt to tarnish the opposition.

During the March 2002 parliamentary elections, Rukh for Unity created a bloc together with another pro-Kuchma nationalist group, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in Ukraine, led by former political prisoner Ivan Kandyba. The bloc's aim of taking away votes from Yushchenko's Our Ukraine was unsuccessful and it only obtained 0.16 percent.

Tryzub parted ways with KUN in the late 1990s, and its emigre backers, OUNb, also split from it in 2000 amid suspicions that high-ranking members of KUN, such as its deputy leader Serhiy Zhizhko, had covert links with the intelligence services. An emigre was chosen to head OUNb, while Slava Stetsko continued to lead KUN until her death in 2003 (between 1992-2000 she had led both OUNb and KUN)

Tryzub was subsequently co-opted, like Rukh for Unity, by the executive as "loyal nationalists," and since the late 1990s, Tryzub and Rukh for Unity have played the same role as Seselj's SRS and Zhirinovskii's LDPR in Serbia and Russia, respectively. On 11 June, the People's Movement of Ukraine-Statist Opposition bloc was announced for the October 2004 Ukrainian presidential elections. The two founding groups are "loyal nationalist" Boyko's People's Rukh for Unity and Fil's paramilitary organization Tryzub.

This "loyal nationalist" bloc is hostile to Yushchenko and formally claims it is also in opposition to Kuchma. As a "third force," its anti-U.S. and anti-opposition rhetoric is louder than that directed against Kuchma, the oligarchs or Russia. It claims Tymoshenko and Yushchenko are undertaking "anti-Ukrainian" policies, a view long touted by the "loyal nationalist" Lviv newspaper "Za vilnu Ukrayinu." Other attributes of the new bloc's program are populist, such as re-privatization. Two other slogans popular in western Ukraine are banning the Communist Party and official recognition for the OUN and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). The "loyal nationalist opposition," just like the emigre OUNb, is opposed to working together with the left on any question. This differentiates them from opposition nationalists, such as UNA, who work within the Tymoshenko bloc with the opposition Communists and Socialists.

The hope of the "loyal nationalist opposition" presidential candidate, who will be announced in the fall, is to obtain 3 percent in the first round of the 2004 presidential ballot. Although not much, those votes could be crucial if transferred to a Kuchma loyalist in the second round. In the second round of the 1994 elections, Kuchma only won by 6 percent over then-incumbent Leonid Kravchuk.

Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced the launch of Operation Sidewinder in a 29 June press release posted on the CENTCOM website ( The third major operation to be launched this month, after Operation Peninsula Strike on 9 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2003) and Operation Desert Scorpion on 15 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2003), Operation Sidewinder aims to root out "various subversive elements attempting to undermine coalition efforts to restore basic infrastructure and stability in Iraq," CENTCOM noted. According to the press release, 23 raids were conducted on the first night of the operation, resulting in the detention of 61 individuals and the confiscation of 14 AK-47 assault rifles, two shotguns, and assorted ammunition. CENTCOM noted in a second 29 June press release that the operation's focus is central Iraq, "along an approximate stretch of the Tigris River from Samarra to Baghdad." No coalition casualties have been reported in the operation. KR

A CENTCOM press release on 29 June also announced that Operation Desert Scorpion, which ran on 15-29 June, has ended. The operation resulted in the detention of 1,330 individuals and the confiscation of weapons including 497 AK-47s, 235 hand grenades, 124 rocket-propelled grenades, 22 machine guns, 130 pistols, and 100 rifles, as well as 8,122 rounds of ammunition. Some $9,463,000 in U.S. dollars was confiscated, as well as 1,557,000,000 Iraqi dinars, 1,071 bars of gold, and 52 vehicles. KR

The remains of two missing U.S. soldiers were found some 32 kilometers northwest of Baghdad on 28 June, AP reported on 29 June. Their missing Humvee military vehicle was found on 27 June in a nearby location, an unnamed senior Pentagon official told the news agency. The soldiers were last seen alive on 25 June at their post in the town of Balad, approximately 40 kilometers north of Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2003). According to AP, some of the soldiers' personal items were found during house-to-house searches on 27 June, leading to the detentions of 12 Iraqis. AP did not report whether the detained Iraqis provided information regarding the whereabouts of the two soldiers. KR

The director of the Al-Karkh Electricity Department was gunned down on 25 June, Baghdad's "Al-Ta'akhi" reported on 26 June. Hayfa Aziz Dawud was killed when gunmen traveling in an electricity-department vehicle pulled up alongside her and opened fire. Similarly, incidents of shootings have been reported at other power stations throughout Iraq, although none of the assailants have been captured. Meanwhile, "Al-Ta'akhi" reported that U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer has said that Ba'athists loyal to deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein are responsible for acts of sabotage against electric-power stations. The director of the southern Baghdad electric station told the daily that programmed disruptions in electricity makes it easier for gangs to cut electricity cables. KR

A third CENTCOM press release dated 29 June noted that U.S. troops conducted a series of raids in Mosul on 28 June. "The homes belonged to suspected associates of Abu Ammash (Wahhabi extremists)," the CENTCOM press release said. Fifteen individuals were detained in the raids. U.S. forces reportedly confiscated Ba'ath Party documents and Republican Guard uniforms, as well as a small number of weapons. Wahhabism is a conservative Islamic movement dating to the mid-18th century, founded by Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab and practiced almost exclusively in Saudi Arabia. It is also the branch of Islam practiced by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and many of the 11 September 2001 terrorists. KR

Two of Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's aides, Shaykh Muhammad Reza al-Numani and Shaykh Adnan al-Shamani, said in an interview in the 24 June issue of London's "Al-Arab al-Alamiyah" that their source of emulation is the Qom-based Grand Ayatollah Kazem al-Ha'iri. (Al-Ha'iri issued a fatwa in April that al-Sadr is his deputy in Iraq; see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 28 April 2003.) "As for [Grand Ayatollah] Sayyid [Ali] al-Sistani, with all due respect, he cannot practice political action in Iraq because he is not Iraqi and he does not have Iraqi citizenship; he has Iranian documents," Numani added. Al-Numani and al-Shamani also said that 75 percent of all Iraqis are followers of al-Sadr. Al-Sadr said in the 27 June "Al-Hayat" that there is no coordination between him and the sources of emulation in Al-Najaf, and he blamed al-Sistani, Shaykh Bashir al-Najafi, Shaykh Muhammad al-Fayyad, and Sayyid Muhammad Sa'id al-Hakim for this state of affairs. According to "Al-Hayat," a rapprochement between al-Sistani and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Resistance in Iraq's (SCIRI) al-Hakim has occurred in the face of the hostile rhetoric from al-Sadr and his followers. According to al-Shamani, all the recent sources of emulation are non-Iraqis and the public does not believe that these clerics are working on their behalf. BS

The Iranian student organization Office for Strengthening Unity has written a letter to President Mohammad Khatami requesting that he take action, Radio Farda reported on 30 June. The letter requested freedom for imprisoned "brothers" and pointed out the pressure the students are subjected to by hard-line forces. The letter also acknowledged Khatami's powerlessness relative to the judicial and security forces. The letter suggested that if he cannot help those who are imprisoned, he should "turn the universities into prisons, because in the view of those who have power, the country needs prisons more than universities." BS

The eighth day of a sit-in and hunger strike by members of Isfahan University's Islamic Association of Students was marked on 29 June, the Iranian Labor News Agency reported. They are protesting the recent arrests of Iranian students. Student leader Mohammad Sadeqi told ILNA that some of the striking students, especially the women, are physically unwell and have been transferred to the hospital. Sadeqi added that unidentified individuals threatened the striking students and the university's security staff is therefore protecting them. Former Isfahan Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Jalaledin Taheri visited and spoke with the students that day. BS

Four Iranian parliamentarians -- Meisam Saidi, Fatimeh Haqiqatju, Reza Yusefian, and Ali Akbar Musavi-Khoeni -- staged a sit-in on 28-29 June, according to IRNA on 28 June and ISNA the next day. On the first day of the sit-in, Tehran representative Saidi explained, "The aim of this [protest] session is to defend legal processes and in this way, we are intending to announce our protest to and worries about the way students are confronted," IRNA reported. The parliamentarians also criticized the police's failure to rein in vigilantes who attacked the students. Shiraz representative Yusefian added that the legislators were taken aback by police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf's accusation on 25 June that some parliamentarians instigated the demonstrations. Yusefian asked for the names of the parliamentarians and the evidence against them. BS

Tehran representative Fatimeh Haqiqatju said after the sit-in ended that they met with security and judicial personnel and agreed to transfer all the detained students to the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), that their trials will be open and in the presence of defense lawyers, and the parliamentarians will be allowed to visit the imprisoned students, IRNA reported on 29 June. This last concession was agreed to previously (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 June 2003), and Isfahan representative Ahmad Shirzad said on 27 June that the prosecutor-general had agreed to allow a committee of parliamentarians to meet with the imprisoned students, ISNA reported. The meeting never took place. The MOIS was supposed to be holding the students, furthermore, but it refused to take responsibility for them, Shirzad said. Shirzad's son is among those being detained. BS

Several members of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization are currently under arrest in Iran, Dubai's Al-Arabiyah television reported on 27 June. Among the detainees are Ayman al-Zawahiri, Suleiman Abu-Ghayth, one of Osama bin Laden's sons, and several other Al-Qaeda associates. The same day, Doha's Al-Jazeera television reported that Tehran and Cairo are discussing the extradition of roughly eight Egyptians who were arrested in Iran in the last two months. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 28 February rejected reports about the presence of al-Zawahiri and bin Laden's son in Iran, IRNA reported. He said that identification of the detained Al-Qaeda members is incomplete. BS

Factional fighting erupted on 27 and 28 June in Dara-ye Suf District of Samangan Province between forces loyal to General Abdul Rashid Dostum, special adviser on security and military affairs to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, and those of General Ata Mohammad, commander of Army Corps No. 7, the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported on 29 June. UNAMA spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said that although the fighting has reportedly stopped, the UN is sending a mission to "verify reports of fighting, ascertain the causes and attempt to resolve the more immediate issues as well as reduce tensions." Forces loyal to Ata Mohammad, who represents the Jamiyat-e Islami party in northern Afghanistan, have clashed sporadically over the past year with armed supporters of Dostum's Junbish-e Melli party. In May, Karzai appointed Dostum as his adviser and recalled him to Kabul, but Dostum ignored those orders and repositioned himself in his stronghold in Jowzjan Province (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 May and 5 June 2003). AT

In the ongoing debate on Afghanistan's new constitution, residents of Samangan Province have declared "by a majority vote" that they are in favor of a geographically based federal system, Jowzjan TV reported on 28 June. According to the report, people in Samangan want all languages spoken in Afghanistan to be recognized as national languages, with Dari designated the "governmental language." The population of Samangan has also made clear its opposition to the formation of a national army. How those opinions were ascertained and by whom is not clear from the report. Dostum, who favors a federal system for Afghanistan, which would presumably grant him control over parts of northern Afghanistan, controls Jowzjan TV. The rejection of the national army is also part of Dostum's plan to maintain control over his own militia. (For more on the Afghan constitutional process, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 January and 10 and 24 April 2003). AT

Security officials in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar Province, said several rockets landed near a United Nations office in the city on 30 June, RFE/RL reported. According to news agencies, the explosions shattered windows in some houses, but caused no injuries. The attackers have not been identified. This is the second rocket attack apparently aimed at the UN Children's Fund office in Jalalabad. In April, a hand grenade shattered office windows and damaged an office vehicle, but no one was hurt. There have been numerous rocket attacks in Afghanistan against government buildings, as well as offices of international aid organizations. AT

In a 25 June commentary, the Kabul publication "Panjara" wrote that profits from the sale of illicit drugs in Afghanistan are a substantial factor in providing unnamed terrorist organizations with funds. The commentary laments the fact that Afghanistan has held the "world record" in opium poppy production for the past few years. "Panjara" states that "disorder" and the absence of "central government" are the main causes of the increase in opium poppy production. It claims that some of the "gangs" responsible for the production of opium have links to the Afghan Transitional Administration. "Panjara" calls on the Transitional Administration to issue a decree imposing "strict control on poppy cultivation." In a report, released on 25 June, entitled "2003 Global Illicit Drug Trends," the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) notes an alarming increase in opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February and 29 May 2003). AT

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on 29 June lifted the suspension on Afghanistan's participation in the Olympics, Reuters reported. Executive Director for the Olympic Games Gilbert Felli said that in "October 1999, the Afghan National Olympic Committee was suspended under the Taliban regime," for abusing the rights of women. However today, Felli stated, "women have a prominent role in sport in Afghanistan." Afghanistan will now be eligible to compete in the 2004 Athens Olympics (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2003). Afghanistan has had some success in wrestling in the past. AT