|Thursday, 23 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, 03-06-06
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER PRESENTS DRAFT BUDGET...Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov presented a draft 2004 budget to the cabinet on 5 June, predicting 5 percent growth for the year and inflation of 10 percent, RIA-Novosti and strana.ru reported. He said the government plans to stimulate the economy and increase budget revenues through significant tax reductions and measures to curb inflation. Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said budget priorities will include increased defense expenditures to finance reforms, a strong commitment to law enforcement, and fulfilling social-security obligations. He conceded that the growth-rate assumption in the draft budget, just 0.5 percentage points above predictions for 2003, are insufficient in light of President Vladimir Putin's recent pledge to double the size of the Russian economy in the next decade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2003). But Kudrin added that growth might increase as the effects of economic reform kick in over the following years. VY
 ...THAT SUGGESTS A LACK OF COORDINATION IN ECONOMIC POLICYThe strana.ru website on 5 June noted a seeming lack of coordination in economic policy between the government and the presidential administration, citing the disparity between Putin's mid-May pledge and Kasyanov's budget assumptions. The website claimed the economy needs to show 7.2 percent expansion to grow in line with the president's statements, not the 5 percent that Kasyanov predicted for 2004. Strana.ru also said the government and the Kremlin appear to differ on the appropriate tools for stimulating the economy, with Kasyanov speaking of tax cuts and combating inflation while presidential adviser Andrei Illarionov has proposed the creation of a stabilization fund and continued reforms of the tax system. VY
 PUTIN RULES OUT POSSIBLE THIRD TERM?In a meeting with students who had won a competition called "My home is my country," President Putin said that two presidential terms should be sufficient and that the constitution should be cherished and not amended to meet the tastes of those in power, Radio Mayak reported on 5 June. Analysts have for some time been speculating that either Putin or his supporters might seek to alter the constitution so that the popular president could serve more than two consecutive terms. Last week, Communist State Duma deputy Vasilii Shandybin commented on former U.S. President Bill Clinton's suggestion that the U.S. Constitution might be amended so that a president could serve more than two terms as long as they were not consecutive. "It's easier to do this in Russia than in the United States," he said, Ekho Moskvy reported on 29 May. "Some instigators will take this [idea] on board, and they'll say: 'Let's elect Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin for 10 terms! He's young, let's elect him for 10 terms.'" JAC
 PUTIN GAINING POPULARITY IN THE WESTPresident Putin is enjoying high popularity ratings not only in Russia, but in many Western countries as well, "Vedomosti" reported on 5 June, citing a poll conducted by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center among 16,000 respondents in 20 countries. Some 75 percent of Germans, 54 percent of Canadians, 53 percent of Britons, 48 percent of French, and 45 percent of Italians approve of Putin, according to the poll. The editor in chief of "Russia in Global Affairs," Fedor Lukyanov, noted that Russia's image abroad remains largely negative. "For most foreigners -- like most Russians -- Putin's image is one thing and Russia's image is another," he said. VY
 'PERM KRAI' MIGHT BE FIRST NEW AND IMPROVED REGIONThe legislative assemblies of Perm Oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug have confirmed the package of documents necessary for holding a referendum on merging the two regions, Russian media reported on 5 June. Twelve out of 14 deputies in the okrug legislature voted on 3 June to support the project, Novyi region reported the next day. In Perm Oblast's legislature, the vote on 5 June was unanimous in favor of the merger, newsru.com reported. The deputies believe the referendum will take place in December of this year. According to the documents that were approved, an election for the leader of the new, enlarged region, which will be called Perm Krai, will take place in December 2005. A single budget for Perm Krai will come into force in 2008, according to regions.ru. JAC
 NATIONALITIES MINISTER VOWS THAT REGIONAL CONSOLIDATION WON'T BE IMPOSED FROM THE TOPThe government minister overseeing nationalities policy, Vladimir Zorin, said in Moscow on 5 June that the merging of regions will be not be administered from above, but rather carried out from below, "according to the will of the population and the Constitution of the Russian Federation," Russian news agencies reported. Thirty-two of the federation's 89 constituent entities are arranged on the principle of national territories, including 21 republics, 10 autonomous oblasts, and one autonomous district, he said. The "titular" nationality represents a majority in just seven of those 32 entities, Zorin added. VY
 CHUBAIS DEPARTS FROM TVSUnified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais announced on 5 June that he has decided to sell his shares in TVS because his views on the channel's future differ from those of other shareholders, Interfax reported. Chubais said he plans to sell the shares to TVS Chairman Oleg Kiselev and Neft head Igor Linshits, "Vremya novostei" reported the next day. The daily concluded that Chubais' departure signifies the victory of Russian Aluminum head Oleg Deripaska and financier Aleksandr Mamut. Last April, a group of TVS shareholders led by Deripaska offered Chubais $10 million for a 45 percent package of shares. Chubais was supposed to reach a decision by 23 May but the deadline slipped by without an announcement from him. On 4 June, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin met with Chubais and Deripaska and reportedly told them that a decision had to be made, warning that the ministry would not tolerate a "blank screen" on the frequency, "Vremya novostei" reported on 5 June. JAC
 MEDICAL SPECIALISTS FLY TO SAKHALIN TO INVESTIGATE POSSIBLE SARS CASEA 21-year-old resident of the city of Vakhrushev in Sakhalin Oblast has been hospitalized with symptoms resembling those of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Russian media reported on 5 June. According to the head of the oblast health care department, 19 patients who came into contact with the patient have also been placed in isolation, Interfax reported. On 6 June, a group of experts is expected to arrive in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk to confirm or refute the initial diagnosis, utro.ru reported. Meanwhile, a Volgograd TV station reported on 4 June that the city has spent 6.2 million rubles (almost $203,000) on measures to prevent the possible occurrence of SARS, such as ordering protective clothing for medical personnel and disinfectant for vehicles, regions.ru reported. According to the director of the city's health care department, Yevgenii Galkin, last year 7 percent of the people infected with simple pneumonia there died. JAC
 NEW CONTENDER ENTERS LEADERSHIP FRAY IN ST. PETERSBURGSt. Petersburg Deputy Governor Anna Markova announced on 5 June that she will participate in the city's next gubernatorial elections, RosBalt reported. Markova said that she hoped to "preserve the remains of democracy" in the city with her candidacy, adding that it is "no secret that an artificially importunate election campaign for one person [presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko]" has already been launched. Vladimir Vasilev, a specialist in political psychology at St. Petersburg State University, told RosBalt that with Markova's candidacy, "the public struggle for the status of successor to [current Governor Vladimir] Yakovlev has begun." According to Vasilev, Yakovlev has retained the support of 15 to 20 percent of the city's electorate, and Markova "presents the greatest threat to [State Duma Deputy] Oksana Dmitrieva, who is also competing for the role of successor." In a poll conducted last February, Dmitrieva had the most support among the hypothetical list of candidates, which did not include Markova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2003). JAC
 NATIONAL BOLSHEVIKS COMPLAIN OF POLICE HARASSMENTAn unspecified number of members of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP) organized a protest against police harassment on 5 June in Moscow, polit.ru reported. According to the website, the demonstrators were particularly displeased by the response of St. Petersburg police to an anti-globalization demonstration held on 18 May. NBP activist Yurii Kirilchuk told the website that for the last two weeks, police in various cities have simply not left party members alone but have arrested them for "nothing" and accused them of all possible crimes from hooliganism to insulting official representatives. The protestors carried signs saying "We will teach you to love the constitution." Last April NBP leader Eduard Limonov was sentenced to four years' imprisonment on weapons charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2003). JAC
 YABLOKO FACING TURNING POINT?Writing in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 5 June, former "Nezavisimaya gazeta" editor Vitalii Tretyakov argues that the upcoming December State Duma elections will be "decisive" for the Yabloko party, which has been steadily losing ground in national elections since 1993. According to Tretyakov, Yabloko got 7.9 percent of the vote in 1993, 6.9 percent in 1995, and 5.9 percent in 1999. As a presidential candidate, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii has done worse, winning some 7.3 percent of the vote in 1996 and only 5.8 percent in 1999. Tretyakov also notes that the party's anti-communist democratic stance is unquestionable, but "its liberalism not been proved in theory or in practice.... Yabloko has failed to find its place in Russian politics." In order to survive, Tretyakov suggests that the party must either "make a secret alliance with the Kremlin" or with some oligarchs: "If Yavlinskii succeeds in his maneuvering between the two enemies -- the Kremlin and the oligarchs -- Yabloko will surely surmount the 5 percent entry barrier for the State Duma." JAC
 HEADSCARF DECREE GETS LOST IN THE MAIL?RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 4 June that despite news reports that the federal Interior Ministry has rescinded its earlier prohibition on Muslim women wearing headscarves in their passport photos, women in Tatarstan are continuing to encounter difficulties in submitting passport photos showing them with their heads covered (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). Almira Adiatullina, who was among the women petitioning for a change in the Interior Ministry policy, told the bureau that passport-visa service officials in the republic are still refusing to accept photographs with headscarves, saying that they still have not received an official document on the matter. JAC
 ANTI-AMERICAN BOOKS AMONG RUSSIA'S BEST-SELLERSAndrei Sherbak-Zhukov of the book-review weekly "Knizhnoe obozrenie" wrote in "Argumenty i fakty," No. 23, that books with patriotic and anti-American themes are currently dominating book sales in Russia. The latest nonfiction best-seller list compiled by "Knizhnoe obozrenie" is headed by "Wrath of Ork," which was written by Maksim Kalashnikov and Yurii Krupnov and feeds on Cold War animosity between the United States and the Soviet Union. Maksim Kalashnikov is also the author of one of Russia's best sellers last year, "Broken Sword of Empire," which glorifies Soviet militarism. Andrei Parshev's "Why Is America on the Offensive," which attempts to prove that the United States seeks to place all of the world's oil under its control, is third on the list. In seventh place is "Why People Hate America," by Ziauddin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies. VY
 RUSSIA RANKS SECOND IN PIRATE AUDIO SALESSpeaking to a press conference in Moscow on 5 June, International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) Chairman and CEO Jay Berman said Russia ranks second in the world in pirate music sales, Russian news agencies and IFPI's website reported (http://www.ifpi.org). The pirate music market in Russia grew by 25 percent in 2002 and has nearly doubled over the past four years, according to IFPI. Last year, sales of pirate recordings reached $311 million, while sales of legitimate recordings were just $257 million. This places Russia second only to China in pirate sales ($513 million), followed by Mexico ($157 million). Berman noted that Russia is No. 1 in the world in the export of pirate recordings, which he said have been found as far away as Latin America. Some 320 million CDs a year are produced in Russia, where domestic demand does not exceed 20 million CDs. Berman said he came to Moscow to discuss the issue with Media Minister Lesin and Andrei Sumin, the chairman of the board of Russia's National Federation of the Phonographic Industry. VY
 FSB IMPLICATES MASKHADOV IN MOZDOK SUICIDE BOMBINGInterfax on 5 June quoted Federal Security Service (FSB) spokesman Sergei Ignatchenko as saying that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov knew in advance that the suicide bombing earlier that day in North Ossetia was being planned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2003). Ignatchenko identified Maskhadov, together with Arab field commanders Abu al-Walid and Abu Omar as-Seif as responsible for planning and carrying out all terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus. Maskhadov for his part has repeatedly stressed that his men have orders not to perpetrate terrorist attacks on Chechen territory or against Chechen civilians. Also on 5 June, Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov met in Moscow with Russian President Putin to brief him on the investigation into the bombing in North Ossetia, in which 17 people died, including the female suicide bomber, whose identity has not yet been established. LF
 KHASBULATOV ARGUES THAT CHECHNYA IS A SOVEREIGN STATEIn an address, posted beforehand on chechenpress.com, to a conference at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters on 6 June, former Russian Supreme Soviet Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov noted that on 10 April 1990, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed a law that elevated the status of the USSR's autonomous republics, making it equal to that of the union republics. All autonomous formations within the RSFSR, with the exception of Daghestan, subsequently adopted declarations of sovereignty that were acknowledged by Russia. Therefore, Khasbulatov argued, all those formations that had changed their names to eliminate the term "autonomous" prior to the collapse of the USSR in December 1991 were legally no longer part of Russia and had the right to declare their independence. The union republics and the Chechen Republic, which adopted a declaration of sovereignty in November 1990, duly made use of that right. Khasbulatov said he personally expedited the signing in March 1992 of the Federation Treaty to preclude the further disintegration of the Russian Federation. But insofar as Chechnya (and Tatarstan) declined to sign the Federation Treaty, Chechnya should be regarded both under Russian constitutional law and international law as an independent sovereign state, Khasbulatov concluded. LF
TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN OPPOSITION BLOC TO BOYCOTT PARLIAMENT'S OPENING SESSIONAfter reaching agreement on 4 June not to boycott sessions of the new parliament elected on 25 May, the opposition parties aligned in the Artarutiun bloc agreed on 5 June that they will not attend the opening session of the new parliament, which is scheduled for 12 June, according to Noyan Tapan and Mediamax as cited by Groong. Artarutiun campaign manager Stepan Zakarian said the bloc will not propose any candidates for membership of the parliament's ruling body. LF
 FORMER ARMENIAN RULING PARTY REJECTS PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION RESULTSArarat Zurabian, chairman of the board of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), told a press conference in Yerevan on 5 June that the party does not recognize the validity of the official results of the 25 May parliamentary election, according to Noyan Tapan and Mediamax as cited by Groong. A second HHSh board member, Aram Manukian, accused the authorities of exaggerating voter turnout, noting that while overall turnout was 52.7 percent, in 50 precincts it was given as 95 percent and in one precinct more ballots were cast than there are registered voters. He characterized the new parliament as "a parliament of oligarchs." According to the official results, the HHSh polled only 0.63 percent of the vote, less than the minimum 5 percent required to qualify for parliamentary representation under the proportional system. LF
 ANOTHER ARMENIAN PARTY TO APPEAL ELECTION OUTCOME TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURTLeading members of the Democratic Liberal Union of Armenia (HZhAM) told journalists in Yerevan on 4 June that they will appeal to the Constitutional Court the official election returns, according to which the party obtained 4.5 percent of the vote, Noyan Tapan reported. They said that as a result of "deliberately wrong tabulation" by election commissions, the number of ballots cast in favor of the party was understated by at least 28,000, and that checking at 42 precincts revealed 641 ballots cast for the HZhAM in the piles of ballot papers cast for other parties. LF
 RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY VISITS ARMENIAPresidential envoy to the South Russia Federal District Viktor Kazantsev arrived in Yerevan on 3 June on a three-day visit, Russian and Armenian news agencies reported. Kazantsev discussed with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian the possibility of allocating a quota for Armenian workers seeking seasonal or temporary employment in South Russia, and the potential for expanding trade between Armenia and his region, ITAR-TASS reported. Trade between Armenia and South Russia in 2002 amounted to $13 million, according to Armenpress as cited by Groong, but Kazantsev estimated that it could increase to as much as $200 million-300 million. Kazantsev and Markarian also agreed on the emergency purchase by Armenia of 9,000 tons of wheat from southern Russia to offset a shortage that has resulted in Armenian bread prices rising by 20 percent over the past week, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 5 June. Kazantsev also met on 5 June with President Robert Kocharian. The previous day Kazantsev, a former Russian army general, visited the Russian military base at Giumri. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT MEETS WITH SAUDI OIL MINISTERHeidar Aliev met on 5 June with Ali ibn Ibrahim an-Nuyami to discuss trends on the world oil market, Turan reported. Aliev stressed the importance of keeping world oil prices stable, noting Saudi Arabia's potential as an OPEC member state to achieve that desired stability. An-Nuyami extended an invitation to Aliev's son Ilham, who is first deputy president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, and to Azerbaijani Fuel and Energy Minister Medjid Kerimov to visit Saudi Arabia for talks on cooperation in the energy sector. LF
 AZERBAIJAN'S ISLAMISTS WILL CONTEST PRESIDENTIAL BALLOTThe Islamic Party of Azerbaijan will name its candidate for the 17 October presidential elections shortly, zerkalo.az on 6 June quoted the party's deputy chairman, Rovshan Akhmedov, as saying. He added that several moderate Islamist parties and movements whose combined membership totals tens of thousands are likely to align in a bloc that could prove attractive to a broader electorate. LF
 TRIAL OF FORMER BAKU DEPUTY MAYOR OPENSThe trial opened in Baku on 5 June of former city Deputy Mayor Eldaniz Laidjev and five other persons accused of embezzling money paid to the municipal authorities by the U.S. Embassy in Baku as compensation for residents whose homes were demolished to make way for the expansion of the embassy complex (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2003). LF
 UN CALLS FOR RELEASE OF OBSERVERS ABDUCTED IN GEORGIA...UN Security Council Chairman Sergei Lavrov on 6 June issued a statement calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the three UN members of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and their interpreter abducted the previous day in the village of Gentsvishi in the upper, Georgian-controlled reaches of the Kodori Gorge, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2003). Kodori Governor Emzar Kvitsiani said on 6 June that Georgian National Security and State Border Protection personnel have joined the search for the four men, together with local home-guard personnel. Kvitsiani predicted the men, who have made radio contact with UNOMIG headquarters to confirm they are alive and unharmed, will be released later on 6 June. The observers were conducting a routine patrol of the gorge together with members of the Russian peacekeeping force, and their route was known only to that force, the Georgian government, and UNOMIG headquarters in Sukhum. LF
 ...AS DOES RUSSIAAlso on 5 June, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko issued a similar statement in Moscow calling for the release of the UNOMIG personnel, Interfax reported. He noted that the situation in Kodori has been "dangerous" since the fall of 2001, when Chechen fighters under the command of field commander Ruslan Gelaev launched an abortive offensive there. He said Moscow has repeatedly urged the Georgian leadership to restore order in the region in cooperation with UNOMIG and the Abkhaz leadership. LF
 NEW GEORGIAN OPPOSITION ALIGNMENT ESTABLISHES REGIONAL HQThe leaders of the opposition parties that on 3 June established the United Resistance Front in Tbilisi on 5 June traveled to Kutaisi, where they established a regional headquarters, the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. Zurab Zhvania (United Democrats), Davit Gamkrelidze (New Rightists), Mikhail Saakashvili (National Movement), Mamuka Giorgadze (People's Party), and other political leaders stressed their commitment to ousting the present Georgian leadership by peaceful means. LF
 SUPPORTERS THWART DETENTION OF RENEGADE GEORGIAN PRIESTSupporters of renegade defrocked priest Father Basil Mkalavishvili have prevented police in Tbilisi from taking him into pretrial custody for three months, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported on 4 and 5 June, respectively. Mkalavishvili has taken refuge in a Tbilisi church. He faces charges of organized violence against Jehovah's Witnesses in Georgia over a period of several years (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 18 July 2002). LF
 KAZAKH PRESIDENT RULES OUT REFERENDUM ON LAND CODEKazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev told a news conference in northern Kazakhstan on 5 June that there will be no referendum on the new Land Code, Khabar.kz and Interfax reported the same day. But the president was quoted as saying that he will refer the code to the Constitutional Council for an assessment of the legislation's conformity with Kazakhstan's constitution before he signs it into law. Several Kazakh political figures and groups have called for a referendum on the Land Code (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 29 May 2003), even after it was technically adopted by means of a parliamentary vote of confidence in the government, which had drafted the legislation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2003). Controversy over the new Land Code has focused on the introduction of private ownership of agricultural land, a step that has been urged by international donor organizations since Kazakhstan gained its independence. Proponents have argued that land privatization is a necessary step in economic reform; opponents of the code as drafted have said that it benefits primarily the wealthy. Apparently only some Communist and nationalist politicians are opposed to any private land ownership. Other opponents of the Land Code appear primarily concerned that land be distributed fairly. BB
 KAZAKHSTAN CALLS FOR TRANSREGIONAL APPROACH TO STRUGGLE AGAINST TERRORISMKazakh First Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Abuseitov has told a regular session of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) in Madrid that his country wants transregional bodies to play the dominant role in coordinating the international struggle against terrorism, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 5 June, quoting a statement issued by the Kazakh Foreign Ministry. He was quoted as saying that structures such as the EAPC create a "climate of stability and confidence" in the entire Eurasian region. According to the statement, Abuseitov also drew attention to Kazakhstan's readiness to take part in the anti-terrorism campaign, pointing out his country's support for the activities of the international antiterrorism coalition in Afghanistan and its assistance in the postconflict restoration of Iraq. The Foreign Ministry statement noted that Abuseitov had held talks with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson and representatives of NATO member states focusing on expanding the partnership between Kazakhstan and the alliance. BB
 U.S. EXTENDS LEASE ON KYRGYZ AIR BASE FOR THREE YEARSThe U.S. lease of the air base at Bishkek's Manas Airport has been extended for three years, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov announced during his visit to the United States, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 June. The facilities at Manas are used by the international antiterrorism coalition to support its activities in Afghanistan. The Russian news agency commented that Aitmatov was unable to give a specific date on which Western military forces would leave Kyrgyzstan. At present there are reportedly about 1,500 servicemen from seven countries stationed at Manas, along with jet fighters from Denmark and the Netherlands and other types of military planes used for delivery of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan as well as military actions. The United States has just leased an additional piece of land from the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry for administration and personnel housing. BB
 TAJIKISTAN CAN CONTINUE USING LAND IN KYRGYZSTANTajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov and Kyrgyz Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev signed a protocol on 4 June allowing a group of ethnic Kyrgyz citizens of Tajikistan to continue using a parcel of land in Kyrgyzstan, Asia-Plus Blitz reported the following day. The parcel, which is part of Kyrgyzstan's Osh Oblast, was given to Tajikistan by Soviet authorities in the 1930s to be used for livestock grazing. Earlier this year, Kyrgyzstan asked for the return of the land (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2003), and the Tajik authorities asked that their citizens be allowed to continue using it. The issue was on the agenda of the Tajik-Kyrgyz Intergovernmental Cooperation Commission that met in Dushanbe this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). According to the Asia-Plus report, protocols on water use and cooperation between the two countries on development of the road network and rail transport were also signed. Akipress.org commented on 5 June that the Tajik-Kyrgyz agreement on joint water use, which includes creation of a bilateral consortium on water and energy, has given the green light to the establishment of the largest such organization in Central Asia. BB
 HIZB UT-TAHRIR ACTIVIST GIVEN 14-YEAR PRISON SENTENCE IN TAJIKISTANAn alleged activist of the banned Muslim extremist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir has been sentenced to 14 years in a strict-regime penal colony by the Sughd Oblast criminal court in northern Tajikistan, Interfax reported on 5 June, quoting a court official. The activist, Saidkamoliddin Nasirov, is reported to be a citizen of Uzbekistan. He was arrested in Khujand, the administrative center of Sughd Oblast, in January. According to the report, Nasirov, who had gone to Tajikistan to avoid arrest by Uzbek law enforcement authorities, had actively promoted the Hizb ut-Tahrir ideology and had obtained forged Tajik identity documents through his Hizb ut-Tahrir associates. The court official that told Interfax about the sentencing of Nasirov also reported that two other Hizb ut-Tahrir activists -- Anvar Boboev and Negmat Bobojonov -- were sentenced to five and three years in prison, respectively, by the Sughd Oblast court on 30 May. Interfax quoted Tajik law enforcement officials as saying that 23 Hizb ut-Tahrir activists have been detained in Tajikistan in 2003. BB
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
 GERMAN LOWER HOUSE RATIFIES NATO ENLARGEMENTThe Bundestag on 5 June ratified by a large majority the enlargement decision made at NATO's Prague summit in November, TASR and Romanian Radio reported. All parliamentary parties with the exception of two representatives of the Party of Democratic Socialism -- the successor party of the communist Socialist Unity Party -- voted in favor of ratifying the agreement, under which Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia will join the Atlantic alliance in 2004. MS
 BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES TIGHTEN SCREWS ON INDEPENDENT PRESSThe Information Ministry has sacked Uladzimir Tselesh, director of the Minsk-based printing house Chyrvonaya Zorka, which printed special issues this week of two independent weeklies that had lent their mastheads to the suspended newspaper "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2003), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 5 June. The ministry also suspended the publication of one of those weeklies, "Ekho," and prevented "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" from publishing its materials under the masthead of yet another periodical. "This is an onslaught," "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" Editor in Chief Svyatlana Kalinkina told RFE/RL. "I think everybody now realizes that the sacking of the director was intended to intimidate all those printers who could print not only 'Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta' but any other newspaper." JM
 BELARUSIAN LEGISLATORS REJECT INCREASE IN STAFF NUMBERS...The Chamber of Representatives failed on 5 June to pass a bill that would have increased the number of salaried aides per deputy from the current three to five, Belapan reported. The bill was proposed by Anatol Krasutski, deputy head of the Committee on International Affairs and CIS Relations, who cited a tripling in the size of constituencies since 1996. In 2000, both houses of the Belarusian National Assembly voted to increase the number of aides per deputy from three to eight, but President Alyaksandr Lukashenka refused to sign that bill. Another vote to increase the number to six was also vetoed by Lukashenka. JM
 ...BUT SUCCEED IN FURTHER CURBING DEMONSTRATIONSThe Chamber of Representatives passed amendments to several laws on 5 June to bring them into line with a presidential decree on public meetings and demonstrations in Belarus, Belapan reported. In particular, the amendments will allow authorities to ban a political party, trade union, or other organization if it is found guilty of a single violation of the law during a rally. The measure may be applied in circumstances where the organizers' failure to ensure law and order during a demonstration leads to material damage of at least $68,000, or "considerable damage" to the rights and legal interests of people or to the interests of the state and the public. JM
 UKRAINE TAPS INTERNATIONAL BOND MARKET FOR $800 MILLIONThe Ukrainian government issued an $800 million tranche of 10-year, dollar-denominated bonds on 4 June at a yield of 7.65 percent, Interfax reported. The "Financial Times" noted on 5 June that a lack of regional bond issues contributed to favorable terms in comparison with the 10.4 percent yield on Ukraine's seven-year bond issue in 2000. The bonds marked Ukraine's first international issue since a debt restructuring three years ago, the paper added. JM
 EU ADVISES ESTONIA TO ADOPT LABOR POLICY BEFORE MEMBERSHIPEU Director General for Employment and Social Policy Odile Quintin told reporters in Tallinn on 5 June that Estonia should adopt EU legislation on social and labor affairs before becoming a member of the EU, BNS reported. She said that Estonia has made very little progress in adopting EU labor law, with only a single directive dealing with working hours approved. Quintin recommended that Estonia pass the gender equality law and complete the adoption of the EU anti-discrimination law before joining in May next year. She also noted that the unemployment rate in the country is too high, especially for young people and for Russian-speakers, who are more than twice as likely to be without a job as ethnic Estonians. SG
 U.S. BUSINESSES INTERESTED IN LATVIA'S VENTSPILS NAFTAU.S. Ambassador to Latvia Brian Carlson told Economy Minister Juris Lujans in Riga on 4 June that U.S. investors are ready to invest resources in the joint-stock oil company Ventspils Nafta (VN), BNS reported. Its export operations have been reduced greatly by the decision of the Russian state-owned oil exporter Transneft not to send any more oil to Ventspils by pipeline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2003). The bulk of the company's shares are currently held by the private company Latvijas Naftas Tranzits (47 percent) and the state (43.6 percent). Carlson said that the unclear structure of VN's shareholders makes investors somewhat cautious. He invited Lujans to visit the United States in the fall to present to U.S. businessmen the possibilities for investment in Latvia as a future member of the EU. SG
 LATVIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS PROTECTIVE MEASURES FOR PORK MARKETThe parliament, by a vote of 85 to zero with four abstentions, adopted a bill on 5 June aimed at protecting the domestic pork market by establishing quotas and extra duties, BNS reported. The annual quota for pork imports that are not subject to an extra duty of 0.257 lats ($0.46) per kilogram was set at 6,200 tons. No quota for live pig imports was set, but those will be subject to an import duty of 0.205 lats per kilogram. The Estonian Foreign Ministry immediately condemned the bill, calling it a violation of World Trade Organization policy and the Baltic states' agricultural free trade agreement. Last year Estonia exported more than 10,000 tons of pork to Latvia, but its quota for 2003 according to the bill will be only 2,370 tons. Meat packers in Latvia opposed the bill, arguing that the problem was not legally imported but contraband pork, the amount of which would likely only increase. SG
 RUSSIA'S FEDERATION COUNCIL CHAIRMAN VISITS LITHUANIASergei Mironov began an official one-day visit with a meeting with parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas during which he condemned the 2000 law demanding compensation of $20 billion from Russia for damages Lithuania suffered while part of the USSR, ELTA reported. Mironov said that Russian lawmakers should soon ratify the 1999 agreement with Lithuania on avoiding double taxation and called on Lithuania to join the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2002 and 14 May 2003). When President Rolandas Paksas raised the issue of LUKoil's plans to extract oil from sea platforms off the ecologically sensitive Curonian Spit, Mironov affirmed that all ecological standards were being followed and that LUKoil should invite Lithuanian experts to visit the site. Industrialist Confederation Chairman Bronislovas Lubys gave Mironov a letter to the Russian Duma calling for the successful implementation of the "2K project" of closer cooperation between the cities of Kaliningrad and Klaipeda. SG
 MAYOR OF LITHUANIA'S CAPITAL RESIGNSVilnius Mayor Gediminas Pavirzis officially resigned from his post on 5 June in anticipation of the Vilnius District Administrative Court ruling the next day that his election in April was illegal, BNS reported. Pavirzis' election was immediately protested on the grounds that three parliamentary deputies participated in violation of a Constitutional Court ruling in December forbidding simultaneous membership in the parliament and local councils (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2003). The administrative court suspended the powers of Pavirzis and Deputy Mayor Juozas Imbrasas on 15 April and the city has been without an official head for two months. On 30 May the Constitutional Court ruled that the elections had been improper. SG
 POLAND PREPARES TO VOTE IN EU PLEBISCITESome 29.5 million Poles are eligible to vote in the 7-9 June referendum on the country's EU accession, PAP reported on 5 June, quoting the State Election Commission. Poland's amended election law allows publication of turnout figures after the first day of voting. Official results will reportedly be released no sooner than the evening of 9 June. President Aleksander Kwasniewski told his compatriots in a televised address on 5 June that a "yes" vote in the referendum will be "proof of faithfulness to ourselves, to the Polish road that our nation has chosen, through the rise of Solidarity and the first free, democratic elections 14 years ago." A poll conducted by the CBOS polling center between 29 May and 1 June found that 81 percent of respondents want to take part in the referendum, including 71 percent who said they will definitely vote. Seventy-six percent of respondents who said they want to vote support Poland's integration into the EU. JM
 POLISH PUBLIC TELEVISION, RADIO GET NEW SUPERVISORY BOARDSThe National Radio and Television Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) on 5 June elected 16 members of the supervisory boards of Polish Television and Polish Radio, local media reported. The treasury minister is to designate the two remaining members of the boards. According to Polish Television, all the KRRiT members, whether associated with the left or the right wing, were pleased with the election results. "We acknowledged that regarding public television, it is necessary to give new people and circles an opportunity," KRRiT Chairwoman Danuta Waniek said. "In my view, there has been a breakthrough. There has been a party depoliticization in public television," KRRiT member Jaroslaw Sellin commented. Polish Radio and Polish Television have often been criticized by right-wing politicians for favoring the left-wing government in their news policies. JM
 COMMISSIONER FOR ENLARGEMENT VISITS CZECH REPUBLIC AHEAD OF EU REFERENDUMThe European commissioner in charge of enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, met in Prague with Czech President Vaclav Klaus to discuss the country's 13-14 June referendum on EU accession, CTK reported. Klaus is a self-styled "Euro-realist" and has been cautious in his backing of EU membership. According to presidential spokesman Tomas Klvana, the men also discussed envisaged institutional changes in the EU stemming from the European Convention, as well as the state of Czech economy and finances. Before meeting with Klaus, Verheugen visited the West Bohemian city of Plzen, where he told residents that the Czech Republic is practically part of the EU already and that fears of a more competitive business environment in the organization are groundless, since the Czech economy is fully competitive. Verheugen visited the Plzensky Prazdroj brewery, telling customers that their local pilsner beer is becoming an EU treasure. MS
 CZECH MINISTER RESIGNS PARLIAMENTARY SEATInformation Technology Minister Vladimir Mlynar (Freedom Union-Democratic Union) resigned his seat in the Chamber of Deputies on 6 June, fulfilling a pledge to devote all his professional attention to his ministerial duties, CTK reported. Mlynar will be replaced by Robert Vokac, who is mayor of the North Bohemian town of Hlinsko. The one-seat majority of the center-left ruling coalition is shaky, and ministers' absences from parliamentary debate are a constant threat to the coalition's ability to pass legislation. In related news, recently departed Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik reconfirmed on 6 June his intention to resign his seat in the lower house; his seat will go to a Social Democratic Party colleague. MS
 CZECH SUPREME AUDIT OFFICE CHIEF DIES ON FOREIGN TRIPLubomir Volenik, for a decade the president of the Supreme Audit Office (NKU), died of an apparent heart attack on 5 June while on a business trip to Denmark, CTK reported. He was 53. Volenik was a founding member of the Civic Democratic Party and had headed the NKU with only a brief interruption since 1993. He was widely credited with transforming that fledgling institution into an effective watchdog of the public purse. MS
 SLOVAK GOVERNMENT APPROVES SENDING ENGINEERING TROOPS TO IRAQ...The Slovak cabinet on 5 June approved the deployment of 85 army engineers to Iraq to help in mine-clearing operations, mainly in the Polish-controlled sector, TASR and international news agencies reported. Defense Minister Ivan Simko told journalists that the estimated costs for the unit's deployment in 2003 are around 300 million crowns ($8.5 million), adding that its mandate will be open-ended, since it is difficult to estimate how long its operations might take. MS
 ...AND 2004 BUDGET FRAMEWORKSlovak cabinet ministers on 5 June approved the general framework of a draft 2004 budget, TASR reported. The budget envisages revenues of 252 billion crowns ($6.1 billion) and expenditures of 316 billion crowns. The projected 64 billion-crown deficit represents 3.9 percent of the GDP forecast. The budget is based on expectations that Slovakia will be able to draw about 11.3 billion crowns from EU funds. Also on 5 June, the cabinet approved introducing a unified individual- and corporate-tax rate of 19 percent and a similarly unified value-added tax applying to all purchases, TASR reported. Current VAT rates are 14 and 23 percent. The plan calls for the elimination of the country's taxes on inheritance, the transfer of property, and gifts from 1 January 2004. Parliamentary approval is required on all of those measures. MS
 SLOVAKIA'S AUDIT CHIEF SAYS STATE PRIVATIZATION FUND PLAGUED BY INEFFECTIVENESS, CORRUPTIONThe Slovak Supreme Audit Office submitted a report to the government on 5 June alleging that the State Privatization Fund (FNM) was beset by inefficiency and corruption in 1999-2001, TASR reported. NKU Chairman Jozef Stahl told the news agency that suspicions have been reported to police. According to the NKU, the FNM was badly mismanaged under Stefan Gavornik (1994-98) and Ludovit Kanik (1998-99), as well as under current FNM Chairman Jozef Koja. MS
 FORMER SLOVAK INTELLIGENCE CHIEF RELEASED FROM PRETRIAL DETENTIONFormer Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) Director Ivan Lexa was released from pretrial detention on 5 June in compliance with the recent decision of a Bratislava court, TASR reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). Lexa, who faces charges that include fraud, abuse of office, and commissioning a contract killing, was cheered by supporters on leaving jail. He told journalists he has no intention of fleeing Slovakia and declined to comment on his case. Lexa spent two years evading Slovak prosecution before being extradited last year from South Africa. MS
 SLOVAKS, HUNGARIANS DISAGREE ON STATUS LAWVilmos Szabo, Hungarian co-chairman of a Slovak-Hungarian intergovernmental commission, said in Bratislava on 5 June that the commission is not the proper forum for evaluating the controversial Hungarian Status Law, TASR reported. At a session in the Slovak capital the same day, the commission reviewed 26 recommendations on possible support for Slovak and Hungarian minorities and will submit those conclusions to the respective governments. Szabo told journalists that the Hungarian government's recommendations for amending the Status Law are in line with European standards and take into account the comments by European institutions on the law, which was passed by the Hungarian parliament in 2001. MS
 HUNGARIAN FORINT ON A BUNGEE CORDOne day after announcing a deal whereby the central bank devalued the national currency in exchange for budget cuts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2003), Hungarian officials signaled their concern on 5 June that the forint might be too weak, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Finance Minister Csaba Laszlo and National Bank Governor Zsigmond Jarai each told reporters that the government has a "magic" exchange rate in mind of 250 forints to the euro. The currency deviated from that target by a wide margin on 5 June, when the forint plunged as low as 272 to the euro. Laszlo said the forint should stabilize at around 250-260 to the euro within the next few days. Market analysts speculated that the central bank had quietly intervened on 5 June to halt the forint's slide. The same day, the Finance Ministry reduced its prognosis for economic growth in 2003 to 3.5 percent, instead of the 4-4.5 percent predicted earlier, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Analysts warned that raising interest rates to prop up the forint would likely further slow the sluggish Hungarian economy. MSZ
 HEADS ROLL AT HUNGARIAN EDUCATION MINISTRYHungarian Education Minister Balint Magyar announced on 5 June that he has accepted the resignation of the ministry's undersecretary for vocational training, Lajos Sari, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. Sari's resignation follows a 500 million-forint ($2.2 million) public-procurement tender in April for the National Vocational Training Institute that was won by Idea Lab, despite that firm's lack of references. Idea Lab is owned by businessman Janos Nemeth, who allegedly has close ties to Sari, according to the Internet news portal Index. An internal probe at the ministry revealed that while Sari was not involved in the tender, his behavior did not meet ethical standards, according to "Magyar Hirlap." Sulinet Program Office head Peter Racsko also resigned on 5 June, saying the opposition FIDESZ party's attacks on him have tarnished that Internet-in-schools project, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. FIDESZ recently charged that Minister Magyar's staffers spent a weekend at a Lake Balaton luxury hotel as guests of Elender, Sulinet's main contractor (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May and 2 June 2003). Earlier this week, Magyar accepted IT Commissioner Peter Koltai's resignation and launched disciplinary proceedings against several ministry staffers. MSZ
 CZECH PREMIER VISITS HUNGARYThe Czech Republic and Hungary would like to continue cooperation within the Visegrad Four group after their entry to the European Union, visiting Czech Premier Vladimir Spidla and his Hungarian counterpart Peter Medgyessy agreed at a meeting in Budapest on 5 June, according to the MTI and CTK news agencies. Medgyessy told reporters after the meeting that there is a need for a "flexible" Visegrad group that is capable of adapting itself to the conditions of EU membership, Hungarian television reported. Spidla stressed that Visegrad cooperation has "never been a burden." Medgyessy and Spidla also discussed opportunities for cooperation in the reconstruction of Iraq along with Czech-Hungarian relations, which they both described as problem-free and good. The Visegrad Four comprises the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. MSZ
 HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS STILL REPAIRING DAMAGE FROM PREVIOUS GOVERNMENTForeign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said on 5 June that solving problems inherited from the previous FIDESZ-led administration, improving Hungary's international image, and asserting the country's national interests have been the main Hungarian foreign-policy priorities in the first year of the Socialist-Free Democrat government, the MTI news agency reported. Kovacs said that if any party is truly sensitive to the fate of ethnic Hungarians abroad, then it should support the amendment of the controversial Status Law. He said negotiations on EU accession were concluded more successfully than was expected when his coalition replaced Viktor Orban's FIDESZ government. Meanwhile, opposition FIDESZ deputy Zsolt Nemeth told reporters in the Romanian city of Cluj that the present Hungarian government has no clear concept for improving Hungarian-Romanian relations. He said it instead behaves as if it were "ashamed" of the existence of the Hungarian ethnic minority in Romania, Mediafax reported on 5 June. MSZ
 POPE HAILS CROATIA'S 'CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL' CONTRIBUTION TO THE EU...Pope John Paul II arrived in Krk on 5 June on his third trip to Croatia and the 100th foreign journey of his 25-year-old papacy, international and Croatian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2003). He told about 3,000 well-wishers at the airport: "May those who exercise civil and religious authority never tire of trying to heal the wounds caused by a cruel war and of rectifying the consequences of a totalitarian system that for all too long attempted to impose an ideology opposed to man and his dignity." The pope endorsed Croatia's bid to join the EU, adding that "the rich tradition of Croatia will surely contribute to strengthening the union as an administrative and territorial unit, and also as a cultural and spiritual reality." In his welcoming speech, President Stipe Mesic told the pontiff: "What you heralded [previously] has in recent years been coming to pass, although not always without difficulties." PM
 ...AND BEATIFIES A CROATIAN NUNFrom Krk the pope went on to Rijeka on 5 June for a welcome by thousands of well-wishers, dpa and Hina reported. The following day, he went to Dubrovnik, where about 60,000 pilgrims from Croatia, Bosnia, Argentina, and Peru attended a ceremony for the beatification of Marija Petkovic, who founded the Daughters of Mercy order in the 1920s. She was born in Croatia but did much of her work in Latin America. Calls for her beatification began when the crew of a sunken Peruvian submarine was rescued in 1988. The pope will remain in Croatia until 9 June on a trip that centers on Dalmatia and Slavonia (see item below). PM
 STUDY SUGGESTS CROATS INCREASINGLY VIEW THEIR COUNTRY AS CORRUPTThe Croatian branch of the NGO Transparency International (TI) released a study in Zagreb on 5 June showing that 86 percent of those interviewed consider corruption to be widespread in Croatia, VOA's Croatian Service reported. Josip Kregar, who is a member of TI's Croatian board, said that what is new in the survey is the rise in the percentage of those who consider the present government more corrupt than that of late President Franjo Tudjman, whose Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) lost power in 2000. Some 30 percent of respondents said the current government is more corrupt, 20 percent gave pride of place to the Tudjman regime, and 46 percent said there is no difference between the two. About 70 percent of the respondents consider the health system, the judiciary, and local government corrupt. Approximately 58 percent have the same opinion of the police, while 45 percent called parliamentary deputies corrupt. President Mesic is viewed as the least corrupt leading politician, followed by Prime Minister Ivica Racan. Individual cabinet members fared less well in the survey. PM
 EU'S SOLANA GIVES VAGUE PLEDGE ON KOSOVAR REPRESENTATION AT EU SUMMIT...After meeting with outgoing UN civilian administration (UNMIK) head Michael Steiner and local political leaders in Prishtina on 5 June, Javier Solana, who is the EU's security and foreign policy chief, said unspecified Kosovar elected officials will accompany Steiner to the 21 June EU summit in Thessaloniki, regional and international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2003). Solana declined to elaborate but stressed that the peoples in the Balkans need to draw closer to the EU and to each other. In an interview with Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service, Steiner was vague as to when the question of Kosova's status might be resolved, saying only that the issue cannot be shelved indefinitely. Some Kosovar Albanians suspect that the EU wants to pressure them into some form of association with Serbia and Montenegro, which all Kosovar parties reject. Kosova's more than 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority solidly supports independence (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 August 2002, and 31 January and 2 May 2003). PM
 ...AND DISCUSSES MILITARY MISSION IN MACEDONIADuring his official visit to Skopje on 5 June, Solana met with President Boris Trajkovski and Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski to discuss the future of the EU's military mission in Macedonia, MIA news agency reported. Elsewhere, both Trajkovski and Crvenkovski discussed the matter with visiting Greek Defense Minister Yannos Papantoniou. The Macedonian government has repeatedly signaled that it does not wish to extend the mandate for the mission once it runs out in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March, 17 April, and 31 May 2003). On 6 June in Belgrade, Solana discussed regional integration with Serbia and Montenegro's President Svetozar Marovic, the private Beta news agency reported. Following talks with several other Belgrade political leaders, Solana is scheduled to leave for Podgorica later in the day. UB/PM
 COUNCIL OF EUROPE CALLS ON SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO TO TELL THE U.S. 'NO'...Peter Schieder, who heads the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, told the Belgrade daily "Blic" of 6 June that Serbia and Montenegro "must say 'no'" to the United States in response to the latter's request for a bilateral extradition-immunity agreement prohibiting the handover of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27, 29, and 30 May, and 4 June 2003). Schieder stressed that such an agreement would put some "people outside the law." He added that Serbia and Montenegro is not economically dependent on the United States and is therefore in a position to resist U.S. pressure. Schieder argued that Serbia and Montenegro intend to join the EU at some point and must therefore adhere to "European standards." He denied that Brussels would impose sanctions on Belgrade if it agrees to the U.S. request, adding, however, that the EU "expects a different answer" from those who intend to become "part of the great European family." PM
 ...BUT BELGRADE HAS MADE NO DECISIONSerbia and Montenegro's President Marovic told "Politika" of 6 June that the government will not decide how to reply to the U.S. request until after the 21 June EU Thessaloniki summit. He added that "several variations" of a reply are under consideration, but he did not elaborate. Marovic stressed that the tensions between Brussels and Washington cause unnecessary difficulties for small countries, adding that the United States and EU would do well to resolve their differences. Referring to his recent talks in the Vatican with the pope, Marovic said the pontiff will visit Serbia and Montenegro "very soon" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2003). The president added that he expects that the upcoming Italian EU Presidency will help stabilize the Balkans, "not just in words, but economically." PM
 SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO PREPARES TO EXTRADITE INDICTED WAR CRIMINALSerbia and Montenegro's Minister for Human and Minority Rights Rasim Ljajic signed documents in Belgrade on 5 June authorizing the extradition to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal of Jovica Stanisic, a former state security chief, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May and 3 June 2003). Ljajic said the Interior Ministry will set the date for Stanisic's extradition. Ljajic added that the government will offer guarantees to the tribunal that Stanisic will return to The Hague for his trial if the tribunal allows him to spend the time before the trial in Serbia. The government offers such guarantees on behalf of indicted war criminals who turned themselves in (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2003). PM
 ROMANIAN CHIEF OF STAFF SAYS 650 SOLDIERS WILL GO TO IRAQChief of Staff General Mihail Popescu said on 5 June that Romania will send some 650 troops to Iraq as of 1 July, AFP reported. The soldiers will be among stabilization forces in the zones under British and Polish commands. Popescu said the bulk of the troops, including 450 soldiers and 100 military police, will be deployed to southern Iraq, under British command, while the rest will be army engineers supporting Polish units in central and southern Iraq. Parliament must still approve the deployment, although President Ion Iliescu last week urged lawmakers to do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2003). Popescu stressed that the 650 soldiers are not to be dispatched in addition to the 678-strong contingent requested by Iliescu, but are part of the same force and will be deployed in light of consultations among coalition members in Warsaw on 2 June, according to Romanian Radio. MS
 U.S. AMBASSADOR RESPONDS TO ROMANIAN PRESIDENT'S 'HISTORY LESSON'The United States "may be a very young country, but it is the oldest functioning democracy in the world," U.S. Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest said on 5 June, according to Mediafax. Guest was speaking at the National Forum for Durable Development in Ploiesti, in the presence of President Iliescu. He was thus countering Iliescu's remarks earlier this week in Constanta in which the president said Western countries have an unjustified "paternalistic" attitude toward the East, and that the United States is in no position to judge what "old and new Europe" is due to its "short, barely 200-year-old history" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). Guest also said in Ploiesti that although his country's history is short, "debates by citizens on the role governments should play in individual lives had been ongoing in taverns and saloons even before the country's birth." The ambassador urged Romanian local-government representatives "not to wait until Bucharest solves their problems" but to "grab the initiative" for raising living standards in their localities and attract foreign investment, because "this is why they were elected in the first place." Iliescu responded that the media "twisted the meaning" of his words in Constanta. MS
 ROMANIAN PREMIER SAYS HIS PARTY MUST 'REASSERT' ITS LEFTIST CREDENTIALSPrime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 5 June that his ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) must "reassert its leftist, social-democratic ideology," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Addressing a forum of PSD ecologists, Nastase said the reform program his government was forced to implement has pushed it too far toward a "center-right" position on the ideological spectrum. He said measures undertaken by his cabinet, including property restitution, are actually the domain of right-wing parties. He also said the PSD must add an ecological dimension to its ideological preoccupations. MS
 ROMANIA'S LIBERALS THREATEN TO LEAVE PACT ON OVERARCHING EU ACTIONIn an open letter addressed to President Iliescu, National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Theodor Stolojan said on 5 June that the PNL will consider abandoning a pact signed in February by parliamentary parties on joint actions to promote Romania's EU membership, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Stolojan said the PNL has concluded that the pact was little more than a "political gimmick" and the PSD is not abiding by its pledge to consult with other political forces and civil societies on ways to promote EU membership. He said the EU Integration Ministry has never consulted PNL experts on the ongoing negotiations with the EU, and the PNL is not being updated on the outcome of negotiations. Stolojan wrote that if the situation does not radically change within the next two months, the PNL will leave the pact and inform local public opinion and international bodies of the reasons for its decision. Government spokeswoman Despina Neagoe rejected Stolojan's claims and said all the stipulations included in the accord are being implemented. MS
 ROMANIAN RIGHT-WING PARTIES ANNOUNCE INTENTION TO MERGEIn a joint communique released on 5 June, Popular Action, which is led by former President Emil Constantinescu, and the Christian Popular Party (PPC) led by Vasile Lupu announced they will merge into a single formation in the coming months. An agreement on the merger is to be signed by the two parties' leaderships in July, and a joint congress is to be held in September. Popular Action and the PPC appealed to the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic and the Christian Democratic Union to join them in their effort to "reconstruct a Popular Movement in Romania." MS
 RUSSIA INSISTS ON LEADING ROLE IN TRANSDNIESTER SETTLEMENTVisiting Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov said in Tiraspol on 4 June that Russia intends to "play the dominant role in the operation of military guarantees in Transdniester" and that it will defend that role, Flux and Infotag reported. Trubnikov was reacting to a recent draft on the settlement of the conflict elaborated by the European Union's Research Institute for Security (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). That proposal envisages participation by Romania and the EU in resolving the conflict and a substantial reduction in the number of Russian troops in Transdniester, who will be augmented by peacekeepers from EU countries once a settlement has been reached. In response to a question by the official Transdniester Olivia-press news agency, Trubnikov said Moscow "is not, for now, examining the plan" proposed by the EU institute "because neither Chisinau nor Tiraspol approved it." MS
 TIRASPOL, CHISINAU COMPLAIN TO RUSSIA...Trubnikov met in Tiraspol on 4 June with separatist leader Igor Smirnov to discuss the settlement of the conflict with Chisinau and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region, Infotag reported. Smirnov told the Russian diplomat that negotiations are deadlocked and the blame rests with the Moldovan side. "Chisinau believes the joint constitutional commission is supposed to draft a new constitution for [federal] Moldova...while, in fact, the protocol signed by Tiraspol and...the international mediators clearly speaks about building a contractual federation." He also accused the Moldovan side of continuing its attempts to bring about a deterioration in living standards in Transdniester, adding, "In such conditions, it is very difficult to negotiate." On 5 June, Trubnikov met in Chisinau with Moldovan Reintegration Minister Vasilii Sova and with Deputy Foreign Minister Ion Capatana. Capatana told Trubnikov that Tiraspol is procrastinating on allowing the constitutional commission to start its work, Flux reported. MS
 ...BUT RENEW NEGOTIATIONSA new round of negotiations between the two opposing sides in the Transdniester conflict began on 5 June in Chisinau, Flux reported. Apart from the representatives of Chisinau and Tiraspol, the round is also attended by Adriaan Iacobovitz, who is a special representative to Moldova for the OSCE's rotating chairman-in-office, and by William Hill, chief of the OSCE mission to Moldova. The talks are to continue on 6 June. MS
 MOLDOVAN PREMIER IN TURKEYVisiting Moldovan Premier Vasile Tarlev and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan signed six accords on economic and cultural cooperation in Ankara on 5 June, Flux reported. The signings came on the last day of Tarlev's official three-day visit to Turkey. MS
 BULGARIAN RULING COALITION DIVIDED OVER NATIONAL BANK GOVERNORLeading members of the ruling National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) announced on 5 June that their party will not support the re-election of National Bank Governor Svetoslav Gavriyski, saying the NDSV will nominate a candidate of its own, bnn reported. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), one of the NDSV's partners in the coalition government, said support for any governor should be broader than just the DPS and the NDSV. The NDSV's other coalition partners -- the National Movement for Renewal Oborishte and the Party of Bulgarian Women -- as well as the conservative opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS), have vowed their support for Gavriyski, who is widely regarded as a nonpartisan technocrat. The opposition Socialist Party has not yet decided whom to support. UB
 COURT DEEMS BULGARIAN LEGISLATORS' VOTING HABITS UNCONSTITUTIONALThe Bulgarian Constitutional Court ruled on 5 June that legislators may not vote on behalf of absent colleagues by using their electronic voting cards, "Dnevnik" reported. The court did not rule on President Georgi Parvanov's question as to the validity of laws that were adopted with such votes. Some coalition lawmakers question whether the court ruling will result in a change of practice, citing the lack of clear legal regulations for the voting procedure. Some opposition legislators, for their part, argue that every law adopted with votes from absent lawmakers may now be challenged before the Constitutional Court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March 2003). UB
 MOODY'S RAISES BULGARIA'S RATINGMoody's international rating agency upgraded Bulgaria's rating on foreign-denominated bonds from B1 to Ba2 and for hard-currency bank deposits from B2 to Ba3, bnn reported on 5 June. It also raised the government's ratings on and domestic- and hard-currency bonds to Ba2. Its outlook on Bulgaria's ratings is stable, Moody's said. UB
SOUTHWESTERN ASIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST
 IRAQI TRIBAL CHIEF ASSASSINATED IN AL-BASRAHShaykh Ali al-Sa'dun, the chief shaykh of the Al-Sa'dun tribes, was shot and killed in Al-Basrah on 5 June, Al-Jazeera Television reported the same day. Al-Sa'dun's car came under attack by four masked assailants as he and two family members were being driven to their home, the broadcaster reported. Many members of the Sa'dun tribe reportedly have strong ties to the Iraqi Ba'ath Party and held positions in the government of deposed President Saddam Hussein. Al-Jazeera reported that the slaying appears to be just one of a number of attacks against Ba'ath Party members in Al-Basrah in recent days. Unknown assailants attacked the home of a woman associated with the party on 3 June, setting it ablaze. Prior to that incident, a former army colonel who worked in the Iraqi security apparatus was killed on the road connecting Umm Qasr and Al-Basrah. KR
 U.S. FORCES STILL UNDER FIRE IN IRAQAttacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq continued on 5 and 6 June, according to international media reports. U.S. troops were attacked in the central Iraqi town of Khaldiya, located some 70 kilometers west of Baghdad, on 6 June when unidentified assailants fired small arms and rocket-propelled grenades at troops patrolling an air base west of Baghdad, AP reported, citing U.S. military sources. An M1A1 Abrams tank and a military-police Humvee came under attack in the incident. U.S. troops reportedly returned fire, but there were no reports of casualties on either side, AP reported. Meanwhile, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that two soldiers were wounded when two assailants fired weapons at them as they guarded a bank in central Baghdad on 5 May, according to a press release on the CENTCOM website (http://www.centcom.mil). One assailant was shot and killed, while the other escaped. Elsewhere, a U.S. soldier was shot and killed on 5 June and five others were wounded when they came under attack in the Iraqi city of Al-Fallujah (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2003). KR
 U.S. REPORTEDLY ENFORCING NEW BAN ON INCITEMENT IN IRAQThe U.S.-led administration in Iraq is reportedly cracking down on mosques, enforcing a new ban on incitement to violence, news.com.au reported on 6 June. The new ban prohibits incitement to "armed insurrection," including attacks on coalition forces, and "racial and religious violence," the website reported, citing an unnamed spokesman from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). "We respect religious sites,... but if we hear that there are groups who are using and abusing religious establishments such as mosques to incite religious or ethnic violence, we would consider taking action," the source said. Coalition forces have reportedly detained a number of Iraqi clerics in recent days. However, it is unclear whether those detentions are related to charges of incitement. KR
 U.S. SOLDIER WOUNDS IRAQIS IN WEAPONS MISHAPA U.S. soldier reportedly wounded four Iraqis in Baghdad on 5 June when he accidentally fired on them with his machine gun, CENTCOM reported in a 5 June press release. The soldier "unintentionally discharged several rounds (exact count unknown) from his M-240 medium machine gun while picking the weapon up" CENTCOM stated. All four victims were shot in the legs, and one received a grazing wound to the ear, the press release noted. Their injuries were not life threatening. The incident is under investigation by a unit commander. KR
 UNMOVIC CHIEF BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL...Hans Blix, executive chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) presented UNMOVIC's 13th quarterly report -- the last of his tenure, and possibly that of UNMOVIC -- to the UN Security Council on 5 June, international media reported. Blix warned council members against concluding that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) simply because they were unaccounted for. He also cautioned against concluding that Iraq's WMD program had ended in cases where the Iraq regime did not account for those weapons. Blix said UN inspections in Iraq from November until March yielded no evidence of the continuation or resumption of WMD programs or significant quantities of proscribed biological or chemical agents, the UN News Center reported on 5 May (http://www.un.org/news). "This does not necessarily mean that such items could not exist," Blix cautioned. "They might -- there remain long lists of items unaccounted for -- but it is not justified to jump to the conclusion that something exists just because it is unaccounted for." KR
 ...AND ADDRESSES U.S. CLAIMS REGARDING IRAQBlix told the UN Security Council on 5 June that information given to UNMOVIC inspectors by the deposed Iraqi regime regarding mobile laboratories differs from published descriptions of mobile laboratories recently discovered by the United States. "At UNMOVIC we cannot, of course, make a proper evaluation of the depicted vehicles on the basis of published material alone," Blix said. The UNMOVIC chief, who retires at the end of June, also called on the council to leave UNMOVIC in existence. The United States has refused to allow the return of UNMOVIC inspectors to Iraq and has instead formed its own inspection team. "The core expertise and experience available within UNMOVIC remain a valuable asset, which the Security Council could use where the services of an independent body would be required for verification or monitoring," Blix said. "This might be of particular value in the field of biological weapons and missiles for which there exists no international verification organization." KR
 U.S. OFFICIALS SAY 'CHEMICAL ALI' MIGHT BE ALIVEAli Hassan al-Majid, deposed President Hussein's cousin, might still be alive, according to U.S. officials, Reuters reported on 5 June. Al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" for his role in chemical attacks against Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s, was thought to have been killed in a coalition bombing of his home in Al-Basrah on 5 April. Both CENTCOM and the U.S. Pentagon now consider his status uncertain, according to Reuters. CENTCOM spokesman Major Brad Lowell told reporters that al-Majid is still considered to be alive. "There is no disposition next to his name" on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis, where al-Majid is listed fifth, Lowell said. "Therefore, he's at large." Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters on Capitol Hill that U.S. forces "attacked locations where they believed him to be. There was some speculation afterward that they thought that he had been killed. Now there's some speculation that he may be alive," Rumsfeld said. KR
 SCIRI PERSONNEL HELD IN CONNECTION WITH ATTACK ON U.S. TROOPSCiting an unidentified spokesman from the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, the "Financial Times" reported on 6 June that 20 members of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq's (SCIRI) military wing, the Badr Brigade, were detained on 21 May. The individuals were linked to "planning, supporting, financing, and executing at least one RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] attack on U.S. forces, and are suspected in several others." SCIRI spokesman Hamid al-Bayati, however, said the accusations are "completely false" and added that he has not received any information from the U.S. Army about the case. BS
 SCIRI IGNORES U.S. PLANS, BUT IT WILL DISARMSCIRI representative al-Bayati said in a 2 June interview with Al-Jazeera television that the seven-party leadership committee of Iraqi political groups intends to proceed with its plan to form an Iraqi administration, "regardless of what the United States decides." He said the leadership committee met that day with U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer and British envoy John Sawers, and Bremer opposed convening an Iraqi national conference because it would be too difficult. Bayati also described changes in the SCIRI, saying party Chairman Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim has announced that the Badr Brigade will be transformed into the Badr Institution for Building and Reconstruction. "We do not need armed struggle after the fall of this regime," Bayati said. BS
 AL-QAEDA REPORTEDLY EXPELLED FROM IRANAn anonymous "Iranian source very close to the [Islamic] Revolution Guards [Corps] command" claims that Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu-Ghayth recently left Iran through the area where the borders of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan meet, London-based Iranian journalist Alireza Nurizadeh wrote in the 5 June "Al-Sharq al-Awsat." The decision to expel Abu-Ghayth and other terrorists who are being sheltered by the IRGC in Tehran, Qom, and elsewhere was made at a Supreme National Security Council meeting last week. President Mohammad Khatami reportedly objected to the adverse impact on Tehran's relations with Riyadh, Cairo, Manama, and Kuwait City, and he sought to extradite the terrorists to their countries of origin. He was forced to accept a compromise, however, to just expel them from Iran. This report, if true, corroborates frequent U.S. statements about Iranian assistance to Al-Qaeda personnel. BS
 RUSSIA TO SUPPLY NUCLEAR FUEL TO IRAN -- EVENTUALLYRussian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 5 June that even though Russia is "actively pushing" for Iran to sign the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would open its nuclear facilities to unscheduled International Atomic Energy Agency inspections, Iran's failure to do so would not hinder Russian completion of the Bushehr nuclear-power plant, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 June 2003). Yakovenko added that Russia's shipment of nuclear fuel to Bushehr will also proceed as planned, although Moscow is still insisting that Iran sign an agreement to ship the spent nuclear fuel back to Russia. Iran's Ambassador to Russia Gholamreza Shafei said the same day that the agreement on spent fuel has been drafted and Tehran is ready to sign, Reuters reported. However, an unidentified Russian Atomic Energy Ministry official said on 5 June that fuel will only be delivered six months before the power-generating unit is put into operation, which he said will not be until 2005, Interfax reported. Russia is now blaming the delayed startup on the need to replace outdated equipment installed by the project's previous construction company, Siemens of Germany, according to Interfax. SF
 FRIDAY PRAYER CONGREGATION HEARS ABOUT AMERICAN SPIES IN IRANAyatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, who is one of Iran's most outspoken hard-line clerics, said in a pre-sermon speech at the Tehran Friday prayers on 6 June that "the enemy has dispatched hundreds of spies to our country in order to bribe a number of Iranian officials," IRNA reported. These alleged spies have $500 million that they will distribute among Iranian officials, he claimed, citing a Turkmenistan news agency. Mesbah-Yazdi added that some officials already have been bribed. He returned to one of his favorite themes -- insiders versus outsiders -- and said that anybody who has friendly relations with the enemy is an outsider (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 30 August 1999). BS
 AFGHAN-PAKISTAN BORDER CONTROVERSY BREAKS OUTFollowing fierce fighting near Spin Boldak in Kandahar Province on 4 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2003) in which up to 40 suspected loyalists to the ousted Taliban regime were killed, a border row between Afghanistan and Pakistan erupted on 5 June, the BBC reported the next day. The disagreement began when Afghan authorities sent 20 bodies to the Pakistani side of the border, claiming that the dead rebels were not Afghans. Pakistan refused to accept the bodies. A Pakistani border official said that his country "has nothing to do with affairs across the border." After a protest by Pakistan, Afghan officials from Spin Boldak reclaimed 14 bodies later on 5 June, "Dawn" reported the next day. A Pakistani official said that none of the bodies were Pakistani "and nobody identified them as Pakistani." Afghan authorities have accused the Pakistani intelligence service of helping former Taliban fighters re-enter Afghanistan, a charge that Pakistani officials have denied. AT
 AFGHAN TRIBAL LEADER UNMOVED BY APPOINTMENT OF SUPPORTERRebel Afghan tribal leader Pacha Khan Zadran said on 4 June that the appointment of his ally Gholam Gailani as district governor of Sayyed Karam in Paktiya Province does not resolve his dispute with the Afghan Transitional Administration of Hamid Karzai, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 5 June. Zadran said that Karzai had promised him control over the provinces of Khost, Paktiya, and Paktika. Despite Zadran's posture, the appointment of Gailani is seen, according to the AIP, as an attempt by Asadollah Wafa, the new governor of Paktiya, to reconcile the differences between Zadran and the Transitional Administration. Zadran was an ally of Karzai and the United States, as well as a signatory to the 2001 Bonn agreement, but later took up arms against the central administration. In March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2003), Zadran's forces directly engaged U.S. forces, but there now seems to be a truce between the two sides. AT
 REMOTE BOMB INTENDED FOR U.S. VEHICLE INJURES AFGHAN SHOPKEEPERA remote-controlled explosive device was detonated as a U.S. military vehicle passed along the Khost-Gardayz road on 4 June, injuring a shopkeeper, the AIP reported. According to the report, the incident marked the first instance in the region that a remote-controlled explosive has been used to carry out an attack. On 27 May, a remote-controlled bomb damaged a U.S. military vehicle in Khost Province, near the Afghan-Pakistani border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2003). The use of remote-controlled devices highlights the difficulty that terrorist groups and opposition Afghan forces face in confronting U.S.-led coalition forces, but it also suggests that hostile forces are turning to increasingly sophisticated weaponry. AT
 BUILDING EXPLOSION IN AFGHANISTAN'S LOGAR PROVINCEA large explosion destroyed a newly constructed building in Logar Province on 4 June, the Bakhtar information agency reported on 5 June. The explosion did not cause any casualties and is believed to have been the result of a personal dispute. A number of anti-tank mines were used to destroy the building. The case illustrates the ready availability of weapons in Afghanistan and the lack of control by either local Afghan authorities or international forces in the country over their sale and transfer. AT
 WOMEN BEATEN AND ARRESTED FOR PROSTITUTION IN MAZAR-E SHARIFPolice in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif raided several houses on 3 June and arrested 25 women, accusing them of "moral corruption," Hindukosh news agency reported on 5 June. The report added that the police beat and punched the women during the raid. Mazar-e Sharif security chief Abdul Majid said that police acted on their own without informing the responsible authorities. It is not clear to whom police are expected to report before carrying out such raids. AT
 WASHINGTON-KABUL AIR ROUTE TO BEGIN IN JULYA new Swiss-based airline, Swiss Skies, will launch a specialized service between Washington Dulles Airport and Kabul, with a stopover in Geneva, on 14 July, Air Transport Intelligence news reported on 4 June. The twice-weekly service, which will use an MD-11 aircraft formerly owned by Delta Air Lines, is targeting passengers from the U.S. government, the UN, and other international agencies operating in Afghanistan. AT
 FEARS GROW THAT UKRAINIAN AUTHORITIES WILL RIG 2004 ELECTIONSBy Taras Kuzio
To judge by the conduct of a recent local election in Sumy in eastern Ukraine, the authorities have refined and improved the tactics first used to influence the outcome of last year's parliamentary elections, according to both Ukrainian opposition politicians and media commentators. During recent visits to Canada and Berlin, Ukrainian opposition leaders warned that if such tactics are employed during the 2004 presidential ballot, the results will not be fair. Those fears are shared by Ukraine's voters, 55 percent of whom do not believe the 2004 elections will be free and fair, according to a recent poll.
The OSCE's Warsaw-based Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which will shortly embark on preparations for monitoring the presidential ballot, has also been briefed on the authorities' interference during the local elections.
The 1994 and 1998 parliamentary elections were considered relatively free and fair, according to the OSCE. Fraud and falsification were more widespread during the 1999 presidential and 2002 parliamentary elections, reflecting the consolidation of authoritarian executive and oligarchic power.
The first time the Ukrainian authorities resorted to the large-scale de-registering of candidates was during the March 2002 parliamentary elections and elections to the Crimean Supreme Soviet. The OSCE final report on the 2002 Ukrainian parliamentary elections noted that 40 candidates were de-registered in the week prior to the ballot. "These late decisions made an appeal to the courts problematic, if not impossible," the OSCE concluded.
In addition, the Crimean Election Commission de-registered Crimean Communist leader and Supreme Soviet Chairman Leonid Grach on 25 February 2002 because he allegedly filled out his income declaration incorrectly. But the CEC did not remove Grach's name from the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) list in the national parliamentary elections. That discrepancy led many to conclude that Grach's exclusion from the Crimea ballot was politically motivated. The Crimean Appeals Court rejected Grach's complaint at his exclusion from the Crimea ballot only on 29 March 2002, just two days before the elections, when it was too late to reverse the decision in the courts. With Grach out of the way, the pro-presidential "party of power" in the Crimea, the Popular Democratic Party (NDP), which since 1998 had controlled the Crimean government, was able to expand its control to encompass the Crimean Supreme Soviet, which Grach had chaired until then. This mirrored a similar strategy in Kyiv, where the "party of power" also took control of all institutions after the elections.
The same ploy of stripping candidates of their registration at the last minute was used during the Sumy election last month when the joint opposition candidate, Serhiy Klochko, was accused of not properly declaring a miniscule donation and of allegedly not providing a truthful biography. The Committee of Voters of Ukraine NGO described this decision as "politically motivated."
As in the case of Grach in 2002, when a decision is made to remove a candidate the authorities produce the necessary financial "evidence" to disqualify him. In a country where half the GDP has been produced in the shadow economy since the 1990s, most Ukrainians have been forced to survive by not necessarily always following the law. As to items "presented wrongly" on a biography, these can be interpreted in different ways by the candidate and the authorities.
The Ukrainian opposition fears that former Prime Minister and Our Ukraine Chairman Viktor Yushchenko could also be disqualified on "minor technical grounds" days before the October 2004 elections. This would leave the field open to a repeat of the 1999 presidential elections where the "party of power" faced the KPU in the second round. In 1999, the unpopular "party of power" (in the person of incumbent President Leonid Kuchma) won because of the large number of negative votes against KPU leader Petr Symonenko.
Of the four opposition groups -- Yushchenko's Our Ukraine, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, Oleksandr Moroz's Socialists, and the KPU -- only the first three have tentatively agreed to unite behind one candidate (Yushchenko) for the 2004 elections. The KPU and Our Ukraine are mutually hostile and Symonenko is on record as stating he will stand as the KPU's candidate in 2004.
The authorities fear a united opposition candidate and would prefer that the leaders of all four opposition groups stand individually in the 2004 elections to split the opposition vote. If Yushchenko stands as a united noncommunist candidate (backed by Moroz and Tymoshenko), he would be guaranteed to enter the second round and would be unopposed in western, central, and northern Ukraine. The "party of power" candidate would then have a difficult task of beating Symonenko (the KPU vote averages 15-20 percent) to make it to the second round.
In the Sumy mayoral election on 18 May, joint opposition candidate Klochko, whom pre-election polls found to be the favorite, was de-registered two days before the election. The reason given was not declaring a miniscule donation of 50 hryvni ($10) to the Sumy Social Fund in Defense of Youth. Klochko's de-registration left the field open for a victory by "party of power" candidate Volodymyr Omelchenko, an adviser to Sumy Oblast Governor Volodymyr Shcherban.
A video was distributed prior to the Sumy election entitled "The Bare Truth About Oleksandr Moroz," which alleged that the opposition candidate, Klochko, also a Socialist, is a homosexual. Such discrediting tactics were used by the KGB in the Soviet era against Ukrainian and Armenian dissidents. Commenting on the Sumy election, Yushchenko characterized the present Ukrainian leadership as "a bandit regime that is not interested in transparent elections and demonstrates disrespect for its own citizens."
Two further local elections are to be held on 8 June in Zaporizhzhya, where Our Ukraine candidate Petro Sabachuk was encouraged to resign from his bloc in mayoral elections, and in Chernihiv for a parliamentary seat. In Chernihiv, the joint opposition candidate is Dmytro Ivanov against whom, a statement by Moroz's Socialists published in the parliamentary "Holos Ukrayiny" on 23 May claimed, "impermissible methods of provocations and slanders" are already being used.
The use of such election tactics suggests that, as elsewhere in the CIS, Ukraine's leaders do not believe in the concept of free and equal competition during elections that the "party of power" might lose. For the leadership of CIS states, election defeat means not just the loss of political power, but also the loss of their businesses, vulnerability to new and stringent anticorruption measures, and being called to account for their actions when they were in power. But at the same time, the continued resort to blatantly unfair elections will negatively affect Ukraine's efforts toward Euro-Atlantic integration.Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto, and a visiting fellow at the Institute for Security Studies-EU, Paris.