|Monday, 24 February 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, 02-05-16
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 PRIME MINISTER EXPLAINS HIS ECONOMIC STRATEGY...Speaking at a State Duma hearing on the government's economic course, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 15 May that his government is now emphasizing a model of economic development based more on domestic resources rather than on conjectures about external factors, Russian news agencies reported the same day. He added that he sees increases in labor productivity, average income, investment, and consumer demand as the main potential contributors to economic growth. Kasyanov said that he realizes that the economic achievements of his government to date are not sufficiently durable and current growth is not sustainable. However, he said that he does not support proposals to accelerate economic-growth rates. "[We need] not economic breakthroughs, but rather systematic and consistent work," he said. VY
 ...DISCUSSES CHUBAIS'S SALARY...At the same hearing, Kasyanov also addressed the inquiries of angry parliamentarians about the salaries of the chiefs of Russia's natural monopolies, especially that of Unified Energy Systems Chairman Anatolii Chubais, who earns $350,000 per year, polit.ru reported on 15 May. Kasyanov noted that the government, as the major shareholder in many of Russia's largest corporations, must be concerned about how they determine salary levels, the website reported. He noted that salaries in the energy sector are not the highest overall, but said that if the Duma asked him to look into the matter, he would. VY
 ...AND TRIES TO DRUM UP MORE U.S. INVESTMENT IN RUN-UP TO SUMMITPrime Minister Kasyanov met in Moscow on 15 May with executives from 80 U.S. corporate and public pension funds, along with 20 global investment-fund managers to inform them about opportunities to invest in Russia, Interfax reported, citing the government information department. Together, the companies control more than $2 trillion. According to the agency, the U.S. pension-fund managers are looking for new markets outside of the United States in which to invest their money, and already this year have invested capital in Poland and Hungary. The trip was sponsored by the Washington D.C.-based U.S.-Russia Business Council and Pensions 2000, according to the council's website (http://www.usrbc.org). JAC
 PROSECUTOR-GENERAL CALLS ON LEGISLATORS TO TAKE ON ECONOMIC CRIMEPresenting his annual report to parliament about the state of law and order (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2002), Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov told the Federation Council on 15 May that legislators should make amendments to the laws on bankruptcy and insolvency because of the increase in crimes in this area, Russian news agencies reported. Over the last four years, the number of false bankruptcies has more than tripled, as this practice has become the "cheapest way to redistribute state property," side-stepping the law on privatization. Ustinov said that the amended law should contain a provision involving state prosecutors in bankruptcy proceedings. The prosecutor-general also called on lawmakers to adopt tough legislation against state corruption. He mentioned that the appropriate legislative package, including a stiff anticorruption law, had failed to make it through the legislature for the last 10 years. VY
 EU PARLIAMENTARIANS MAKE SUGGESTIONS REGARDING KALININGRAD...The European Parliament at a session in Strasbourg on 15 May discussed a report on Kaliningrad Oblast prepared by a special commission headed by German Bundestag Deputy Magdalena Hoff, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported from Strasbourg. The impending process of EU expansion will turn Kaliningrad Oblast into a EU enclave, and, in the opinion of the commission, the question of how to facilitate the flow of people and goods between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia must be resolved quickly. Hoff told RFE/RL that there are number of joint initiatives that Russia and the European Union could pursue, such as opening an EU consulate in Kaliningrad. In addition, the European Union and Russia could discuss the possibility of joint patrols of the oblast's borders and the granting of special passports to its residents that would contain permanent entry visas for bordering countries, Hoff added. JAC
 ...AS COOPERATION COMMITTEE ENDS MEETING WITHOUT REACHING COMPROMISEThe Russia-European Union Cooperation Committee, which met on 15 May in Kaliningrad Oblast (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 15 May 2002), ended in deadlock, dpa reported on 16 May. In the official statement released after the meeting, the European Union repeated its rejection of Russian demands for visa-free travel for Russian citizens between the exclave and the rest of Russia following the expected entry of Poland and Lithuania into the union, according to the news agency. "Russians transiting EU territory by land between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia will need a valid international passport and visa," the statement read, according to dpa. The European Union, however, is prepared to offer financial assistance to provide Russian passports to residents of the exclave. According to the statement, the union also categorically rejected Russian requests for special transit corridors. "Russian proposals for special transit corridors without visas are not acceptable, either for the EU or the candidate countries," the statement said. RC
 PUTIN MOVES TO SOCHI TO PREPARE FOR SUMMIT WITH BUSHPresidential Press Secretary Aleksei Gromov told journalists that President Vladimir Putin left Moscow on 15 May for his summer residence in the resort city of Sochi, where he will stay until the start of his summit with U.S. President George W. Bush on 24 May, ORT television reported on 15 May. In Sochi, Putin will meet with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 17 May and will receive the editors in chief of major mass-media outlets on 18 and 19 May. The rest of the time, Putin will focus on preparations for the summit, Gromov said. VY
 SENATORS APPROVE CITIZENSHIP LAW...The Federation Council approved on 15 May the law on citizenship that passed last month in the State Duma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2002). The vote was 126 in favor with 13 against and three abstentions, RIA-Novosti reported. The new law, which will now be forwarded to President Putin for signature, is considered stricter with regard to the requirements for citizenship than the existing one. For example, the number of years that one must have lived on the territory of Russia without interruption would increase from three to five, according to ITAR-TASS. However, Yurii Sharandin, chairman of the council's Committee on Constitutional Legislation, claimed that the law is "even more liberal than those of many European countries." The same day, senators also approved the 2002 budget for the Pension Fund and amendments to the new Criminal Procedure Code, which will make it illegal as of 1 July for people to be detained by law enforcement officials without a court order for longer than 48 hours, according to the agency. JAC
 ...AND SOUND WARNING REGARDING GROWING WAGE BACKLOGAs of April, the backlog of unpaid wages to educational workers amounted to 6.5 billion rubles ($210 million), ITAR-TASS reported on 15 May, citing the Finance Ministry. That total represents an increase of 44 million rubles ($1.38 million) from March levels. On 15 May, members of the Federation Council adopted a special resolution anticipating that the situation regarding the unpaid wages to all state sectors will become even more complicated. According to the resolution, the majority of regions already spent more than 40 percent of their general budget revenues on wages in the first quarter of this year; 20 regions had spent from 50 to 60 percent; and nine regions had spent more than 60 percent. The senators therefore concluded that, without "significant financial support from the federal budget, a number of regions will increase their indebtedness to state-sector workers in the second quarter of the year." JAC
 DUMA DEPUTIES LOSE BATTLE TO NAME FUTURE PRIME MINISTERSState Duma deputies rejected on 15 May a bill that would have amended Article 7 of the constitution to make the Duma's political majority responsible for nominating the country's prime minister, Interfax reported. The amendment garnered only 160 of the necessary 300 votes, with 17 deputies voting against and one abstaining, according to polit.ru. The legislation was supported by deputies from a variety of factions, including Boris Nadezhdin (Union of Rightist Forces), Vladimir Lysenko (Russian Regions), and Vladimir Ryzhkov (independent). Aleksandr Kotenkov, President Putin's representative to the Duma, spoke against the bill, arguing that the country does not yet have a normal political-party system. Oleg Utkin, deputy chairman of the Committee for State Construction (Unity), said that the bill would upset the balance of power in the country, according to strana.ru. However, Lysenko argued that this balance has already been violated since the government depends "on the will of one person" -- the president, according to Interfax. JAC
 SECURITY COUNCIL HEAD WARNS OF 'EXTREMIST' INTRIGUES IN VOLGA REGIONSpeaking in Nizhnii Novgorod to law enforcement and executive branch officials from the Volga Federal District, National Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo said that "international extremist organizations in one form or another are trying to destabilize the situation in strategically important regions [of Russia]," "Kommersant-Daily" and regions.ru reported on 15 May. "The Volga region is under the intense scrutiny of these destructive forces and, to counteract them, one should consolidate the efforts of all regional and federal bodies under a unified plan," he added. Rushailo was supported by Sergei Kirienko, the presidential envoy in the district, who told the audience that the multinational region should be a source for development, "not a place of incitement to extremism and provocations." VY
 DUMA REFUSES TO REVIEW BILL ON POLITICAL ASYLUM FOR PALESTINIANSThe State Duma failed to include on its agenda a bill introduced by Deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) that would grant political asylum to Palestinians who were among those recently besieged by Israeli troops in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, RIA-Novosti reported 16 May. "We do not need such comrades, since we have enough like them in the North Caucasus," said the head of the Duma's Foreign Relations Committee, Dmitrii Rogozin. VY
 ZYUGANOV REPEATS CALL FOR SELEZNEV'S RESIGNATIONCommunist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told reporters in Moscow on 15 May that Gennadii Seleznev should either step down from his post as speaker of the State Duma or quit the Communist Party, Prime-TASS reported. Zyuganov recalled that a party plenum on 10 April recommended that Seleznev leave his post. However, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" speculated on 14 May that while the party's Central Committee discusses the procedure for expelling Seleznev, the speaker might be gaining supporters in anticipation of the party plenum in early June. JAC
 NEW DEPUTY ENERGY MINISTER NAMEDPrime Minister Kasyanov has appointed Vladimir Milov as a deputy energy minister, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 May. Milov previously headed the department for economic analysis at the Federal Energy Commission. JAC
TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN OPPOSITION ABANDONS BID TO IMPEACH PRESIDENTThe 13 opposition parties that aligned last month in a bid to force the resignation of the present Armenian leadership abandoned on 15 May their plans to collect the required minimum 44 signatures from parliament deputies to convene a debate on impeaching President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 15 May 2002). Vartan Mkrtchian of the People's Party of Armenia told RFE/RL that the opposition realized that it would prove impossible to do so given that the majority of the 131 deputies support Kocharian. LF
 ARMENIAN OFFICIALS FAIL TO TESTIFY IN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING TRIALThe trial of the five gunmen who shot down eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament in October 1999 was adjourned on 15 May after seven parliament deputies summoned to testify failed to appear in court, Noyan Tapan reported. Parliament speaker Armen Khachatrian and deputy speaker Gagik Aslanian ignored an earlier summons to testify. LF
 ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT DENIES KNOWLEDGE OF TARGETS OF U.S. SANCTIONSSenior Armenian government officials including Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 15 May that they are not aware which specific Armenian companies have been subjected to U.S. sanctions for allegedly providing Iran with technology or components for weapons of mass destruction (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 15 May 2002). Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian had said earlier that only one company is involved; the Armenian Foreign Ministry said on 10 May that it had begun "an active dialogue" with Washington in a bid to resolve the issue. But former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian told RFE/RL on 15 May that he does not believe the official disclaimers. "There is no way any local company engaged in dangerous deals with Iran and our authorities were unaware of the fact. I rule that out," Arzoumanian said. LF
 ARMENIA TO RECEIVE OBSERVER STATUS IN NATO PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLYVisiting Yerevan on 14-15 May, Rafael Estrella, who is the president of NATO's Parliamentary Assembly, met with senior Armenian officials including parliament speaker Khachatrian, Prime Minister Markarian, Defense Minister Sarkisian, and President Kocharian, all of whom affirmed Armenia's intention to expand its cooperation with NATO within the parameters of the Partnership for Peace program, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian, Markarian, and Khachatrian all hailed Estrella's announcement that the assembly will vote at its upcoming 25 May session to grant Armenia observer status, and is likely to upgrade that status to associate membership. Estrella said that Azerbaijan has also applied for associate membership and the assembly would prefer for both countries to be granted it simultaneously, Noyan Tapan reported. LF
 ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN CONCLUDE LOW-KEY KARABAKH TALKSArmenian Deputy Foreign Minister Tatul Markarian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Araz Azimov, together with the three co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group, on 15 May ended three days of talks at Stirin, near Prague, on the Karabakh conflict, CTK and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. It was the first such meeting at deputy foreign minister level. An OSCE statement characterized the talks as "useful," and said that the two deputy ministers will report to their respective presidents. The statement did not name the date or venue for a subsequent meeting. Nor is it clear whether, as the sometimes unreliable opposition Azerbaijani newspaper "Yeni Musavat" claimed on 15 May, the Minsk Group mediators presented a new peace proposal based on the so-called "Paris principles" hammered out at talks in March-April 2001 between Armenian President Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev. LF
 ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH AZERBAIJANI, TURKISH COUNTERPARTSOskanian met on 14 May on the sidelines of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council session in Reykjavik with his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem to discuss the situation in the South Caucasus and the obstacles to the development of Armenian-Turkish relations, in particular the Karabakh conflict. Oskanian also held a separate meeting with Cem and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev to discuss the Karabakh conflict and the possibilities for regional cooperation. Azerbaijan News Service, as cited by Groong, quoted a spokesman for Iceland's Foreign Ministry as saying that Cem reaffirmed Ankara's earlier position that full diplomatic and economic relations with Armenia are contingent on an Armenian withdrawal from occupied Azerbaijani territories. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT SNUBS VISITING COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELEGATIONA Council of Europe delegation left Azerbaijan on 15 May after a four-day visit during which its members met with Foreign Minister Guliev, parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov, Interior Minister Ramil Usubov, presidential administration head Ramiz Mekhtiev, human rights activists, and members of opposition parties, Turan reported. President Heidar Aliev, however, was reportedly "too busy" to find the time to meet with them. The delegation has presented Azerbaijani officials with a new list of 17 further people whom it considers political prisoners. Mekhtiev said on 14 May that most of the 716 prisoners whose release the Council of Europe demanded on the grounds that they were imprisoned on political grounds have been pardoned. LF
 AZERBAIJAN, TURKEY SIGN NEW DEFENSE AGREEMENTAzerbaijan's Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev met with visiting Turkish General Staff official Brigadier General Jahangir Dumanli in Baku on 14 May to discuss expanding bilateral military cooperation, particularly in officer training and the defense industry, Turan reported. The two men signed an agreement under which Ankara will provide unspecified military aid to the Azerbaijani armed forces, and a protocol under which the Turkish General Staff will provide funds to the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry. LF
 IRAN CONDEMNS RUSSIAN-KAZAKH AGREEMENT ON CASPIANHassan Rowhani, who is secretary of Iran's Supreme National Council, has informed Russian Ambassador to Tehran Aleksandr Maryasov that any bilateral or trilateral agreement concluded between Caspian littoral states on exploiting the sea's resources, including that signed on 13 May between Russia and Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2002), is legally invalid, Turan reported on 15 May. Rowhani further warned that any foreign interference or presence in the Caspian could jeopardize the stability of the region. The "Tehran Times" has similarly condemned the Russian-Kazakh agreement as "unacceptable," Caspian News Agency reported on 15 May. The paper accused Russia and Kazakhstan of pressuring the three remaining littoral states (Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkmenistan) "to accept a plan to divide the Caspian's natural resources based on their geographical borders and the length or their coastlines." Iran, which has the smallest share of the sea (14 percent), wants it divided into five equal sectors. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN'S NEW RUSSIAN PARTY OUTLINES ITS OBJECTIVESThe leaders of the Russian Party of Kazakhstan (RPK) founded last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2002) held a press conference in Almaty on 15 May, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. They said that their party will do its best to protect the rights of all citizens of Kazakhstan. Party Chairman Gennadii Belyakov said that his party will participate in future presidential elections. He also said that his party is against the U.S. military presence in Central Asia in general and in Kazakhstan in particular. Belyakov said the party already has some 3,000 members, according to ITAR-TASS. Former Alash Party Chairman Zhaqsybay Bazylbaev, a cofounder of the RPK who ran unsuccessfully for the Kazakh presidency in January 1999, was named party deputy chairman. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN LIFTS TRANSIT RESTRICTIONS ON TAJIKSThe Kazakh government has lifted the temporary restrictions it imposed last September on the entry of Tajik citizens to Kazakhstan and the transit across Kazakh territory of vehicles and trains from Tajikistan, Kazakh Ambassador to Dushanbe Amanzhola Zhankuliev told Asia Plus-Blitz on 15 May. The restrictions were necessitated by the upsurge of fighting in Afghanistan that prompted Kazakh fears of an influx of refugees (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2001). The Kazakh move will facilitate the transit of Tajiks seeking to travel to Russia in search of temporary employment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2002). LF
 PROTESTS OVER SINO-KYRGYZ BORDER AGREEMENT CONTINUESeveral thousand people blocked the main Bishkek-Osh highway at two points in Osh Oblast for the third consecutive day on 15 May to protest the ratification by the lower chamber of parliament on 10 May of the 1999 agreement whereby Kyrgyzstan cedes some 95,000 hectares of territory to China, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The demonstrators also called for the resignation of President Askar Akaev and the closure of the criminal case brought against parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov. In Bishkek, some 100 people continued a protest picket in front of the parliament building with analogous demands. Also on 15 May, Beknazarov, who chairs the lower chamber's committee on legal affairs and judicial reform, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau that the Constitutional Court has agreed to consider an appeal by 10 parliament deputies who argue that the 1999 agreement constitutes a violation of the Kyrgyz Constitution, which stipulates that only the parliament has the right to change the country's borders. Akaev signed the agreement without consulting the legislature. LF
 TORRENTIAL RAINS ENDANGER NUCLEAR WASTE DUMP IN KYRGYZSTAN...Heavy rains are washing radioactive waste from a disused uranium mine in Kyrgyzstan's Djalalabad Oblast close to the border with Uzbekistan into the Mailuu-Suu River, which has been blocked by a landslide, according to "The Independent" and Asia Plus-Blitz on 16 May. If the dam now breaks, radioactive floodwaters could cascade down into the heavily populated Ferghana Valley. LF
 ...DAMAGE HIGHWAY IN TAJIKISTANTorrential rain on 13-14 May caused a series of landslides that damaged or blocked in several places the main highway from Dushanbe to Khorog, the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 16 May. Local officials in Khorog said the region's budget does not contain funds to repair the highway, and begged for financial assistance from the central government. LF
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
 BELARUS SLAMS EU FOR STATEMENT ON OSCE MISSIONThe Belarusian Foreign Ministry has condemned as direct pressure the European Union's statement deploring the denial of a visa extension to the acting head of the OSCE group in Belarus, Belapan reported on 16 May. Last week, the EU's Spanish Presidency urged the Belarusian government to remove obstacles to the normal functioning of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Belarus and accept a new head for the group. Minsk said the EU statement ran counter to the union's principles of maintaining friendly relations with non-EU states. JM
 BELARUSIAN WRITERS PROTEST GOVERNMENT'S 'ANTINATIONAL POLICY'The Council of the Union of Belarusian Writers (SBP) has issued a statement protesting the authorities' "antinational policy," Belapan reported on 16 May. The statement cited last month's creation of the media holding that subordinated several Belarusian literary periodicals to rigorous state control (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 30 April 2002) and accused the authorities of nominating loyalist editors to run those publications. The SBP council also accused the government of illegally depriving the union of its press organ, the weekly "Litaratura i mastatstva" (Literature and Art). The statement concluded that the government is destroying the indigenous national culture and is curbing the use of the Belarusian language in Belarus in order to "surrender the sovereignty of our country." JM
 UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ELECT LEADERSHIPThe Verkhovna Rada on 15 May voted on three leadership "packages" -- the sets of candidates for speaker and two deputy speakers -- but failed to muster the 226 votes necessary to approve any one of those three, UNIAN reported. The Communist Party's proposal for Adam Martynyuk (Communist) as speaker and Viktor Musiyaka (Our Ukraine) and Petro Tolochko (Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc) as deputy speakers obtained 172 votes in support. Our Ukraine's proposal for Ivan Plyushch (independent) as speaker and Adam Martynyuk and Oleksandr Turchynov (Tymoshenko Bloc) as deputy speakers was backed by 140 deputies. The Social Democratic Party's choice of Volodymyr Lytvyn (United Ukraine) for speaker and Adam Martynyuk and Oleksandr Zinchenko (Social Democrat) for deputy speakers was supported by 209 votes. JM
 UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH EUROPEAN COMMISSION HEAD...Leonid Kuchma flew to Brussels on 15 May for an unofficial meeting with European Commission President Roman Prodi, UNIAN reported. Prodi told journalists after the meeting that "specific steps" in mutual cooperation will be reviewed at an EU-Ukraine summit in Copenhagen in July. Prodi added that he and Kuchma discussed the possibility of the European Union granting Ukraine the "status of neighbor." The introduction of such status with regard to Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova was endorsed by the EU foreign ministers last month. Kuchma commented that Kyiv will not push for its membership in the European Union as long as Ukraine has not achieved "European standards." (See also "End Note.") JM
 ...AND OUR UKRAINE LEADERThe same day Kuchma also met with Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko, who told journalists that he asked Kuchma to take measures to prevent some Our Ukraine lawmakers from being pressured into joining the United Ukraine parliamentary caucus. UNIAN reported that one Our Ukraine deputy left his caucus on 15 May and joined United Ukraine. Yushchenko added, however, that the main topic of his conversation with the president was the future opening of the Polish military cemetery in Lviv (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2002). The ceremonial opening, which is to be attended by the Polish and Ukrainian presidents, is still in doubt because of objections from Lviv city authorities. JM
 GERMANY THANKS UKRAINE FOR RETURN OF BACH ARCHIVEGerman Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer thanked Ukraine on 15 May for returning one of German music's most valuable treasures -- an archive of music by Johann Sebastian Bach and his children that was lost during World War II, AP reported. Last November, Kiev returned the collection of about 5,000 documents -- including signatures and scores by Bach and his children -- to Berlin, where it was originally housed as part of the Berlin Sing Academy. Fischer praised the Ukrainian government for taking a leading role in the "sensitive and difficult process of restoring misplaced cultural artifacts," and expressed confidence that other German treasures still in Ukraine will also be returned soon. JM
 ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT SLOW IN PREPARING EU-RELATED LEGISLATIONHenrik Hololei, the head of the State Chancellery's European Integration Bureau, said on 15 May that Estonian ministries are slowly preparing the draft laws and government decrees pertaining to the European Union that it had planned to endorse in the first half of the year, ETA and BNS reported. According to Hololei, the government has approved only 13 of the 39 draft laws and 23 of the 81 government decrees necessary for EU membership. The Finance Ministry has so far prepared only two of seven draft laws; the Agriculture Ministry, two of six; and the Environment Ministry just one of six. Of the planned government decrees, the Agriculture Ministry has yet to approve 22 decrees, and the Finance Ministry has not approved 11. SG
 DUTCH ARMED-FORCES COMMANDER SAYS LATVIA READY FOR NATO MEMBERSHIPAdmiral Luuk Kroon told Defense Ministry State Secretary Edgars Rinkevics in Riga on 15 May that Latvia has successfully completed all preconditions to become a full-fledged NATO member state, LETA reported. He praised the performance of the Latvian armed forces units during peacekeeping operations and in international training programs. The officials discussed aspects of Latvian-Dutch military cooperation, Latvia's efforts to join NATO, and strengthening defense capabilities. Kroon spoke about the restructuring of the Dutch armed forces and their transition to a professional service. Rinkevics pointed out that Latvia's defense system is based on two principles -- strengthening defense capabilities and the development of specialized units (field engineers, military police, medics, etc.,) for NATO-led operations. SG
 LITHUANIA, GREECE SIGN TREATY ON AVOIDING DOUBLE TAXATIONPresident Valdas Adamkus met with his Greek counterpart Constantinos Stephanopoulos on 15 May at the beginning of a three-day visit to Greece, ELTA reported. The presidents signed a treaty on avoiding double taxation, which they hope will help boost economic and trade relations between their countries. In 2001, Greece ranked 48th among importers to Lithuania and 60th among exporters. Nine representatives of Lithuanian business, including the heads of the International Chamber of Commerce in Lithuania and of the dairy Zemaiciu pienas, accompanied the president to Athens. Adamkus urged Greece to open an embassy in Vilnius, but it is still not clear in which one of the three Baltic capitals Greece will do this. Adamkus also held talks with Prime Minister Constantinos Simitis on bilateral economic and cultural ties, Lithuania's efforts to join NATO and the European Union, and international relations. Adamkus was scheduled to meet with leaders of the Greek parliament and opposition factions on 16 May. SG
 POLISH RADICAL FARMERS TAKE AGRICULTURE MINISTRY BY STORMMore than 200 farmers led by Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper broke into the Agriculture Ministry headquarters in Warsaw on 15 May and stayed there for some five hours before being forced out by police, Polish media reported. The farmers demanded an immediate meeting with Agriculture Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski and talks on how to improve the profitability of agricultural production. "Now go home, but do not sit down and wait, only organize structures in order to block the entire country," PAP quoted Lepper as saying to farmers after the protest. Parliamentary speaker Marek Borowski said on Polish Radio on 16 May that the state will not tolerate lawless actions by Self-Defense. JM
 POLISH SHIPYARD WORKERS STAGE RALLY OVER ECONOMIC WOESSeveral thousand workers of the Szczecin shipyard gathered outside the shipyard board of directors' building on 16 May to wait for the outcome of a meeting between Prime Minister Leszek Miller and shipyard representatives, PAP reported. On 13 May, some 1,500 workers staged a similar rally demanding overdue wages. Since 4 March, Szczecin shipyard workers have been on leave because Porta Holding, which owns a majority stake in the shipyard, lost liquidity last October. The government, which holds a 10 percent stake in the shipyard, has pledged to alleviate its plight after taking over 35 percent of the shares owned by the shipyard board members. JM
 WILL RUSSIA ATTEND NATO EXPANSION SUMMIT IN PRAGUE?Reacting to reports that Russia will not attend the NATO expansion summit in Prague in November, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman said on 16 May that the issue "has not yet been definitely decided," CTK reported. He added that "it is more important" that Russia attend the 28 May summit in Rome, where the agreement on setting up the transformed NATO-Russia Council is expected to be signed. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek said, "We still have half a year to decide which delegations will arrive [to Prague] and which will not." President Vaclav Havel has advocated Russian attendance several times in the past. At the 14 May meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, between NATO foreign ministers and their Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov, Ivanov said Russia has not dropped its opposition to a further expansion of NATO (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2002). MS
 CONTROVERSIAL CZECH POLITICAL FIGURE TO END CAREER IN STATE ADMINISTRATIONMiroslav Slouf, head of Premier Zeman's team of advisers, will be forced out of the state administration, CTK reported on 16 May, citing the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes." The daily wrote that Vladimir Spidla, the Social Democratic Party's chairman and prime-ministerial candidate, has decided under U.S. pressure to get rid of Slouf after the June elections. Prior to 1989, Slouf was a high-ranking Czechoslovak Communist Party official and, according to reports in the media, he is also suspected of links with the Russian mafia in the Czech Republic. The daily wrote that Slouf was considered by the United States to be an obstacle in concluding an agreement with Prague on exchanging top-secret military information. MS
 CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT BILL FOR EU PARLIAMENT ELECTIONSThe government on 15 May approved a draft bill on the election of Czech deputies in the European Parliament, CTK reported. If approved by the parliament, the bill will become effective on the day the Czech Republic joins the European Union. The government expects the first elections to the European Parliament with Czech participation to take place in 2004. The Czech Republic is to have 20 seats in that parliament but is seeking 22 seats, as countries with comparable population size such as Belgium are allotted. MS
 SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER ASSURES POWELL OF DEMOCRATIC CONTINUITYForeign Minister Eduard Kukan told U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Reykjavik, Iceland, on 15 May that there is no danger that Slovakia will abandon its course of democratic reforms following the September elections, which would jeopardize the country's chances of gaining admission to NATO, CTK reported. Kukan attended Powell's meeting in Reykjavik with "Vilnius 10" foreign ministers representing NATO candidates. Kukan said that the representatives of democratic parties in his country are "fully aware of their responsibility for Slovakia's future fate," and that the next government will be one that will "ensure the continuity of the line that has turned us into a trustworthy NATO candidate." MS
 FORMER SLOVAK PREMIER TEACHES WEST A LESSON IN DEMOCRACY...Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) Chairman Vladimir Meciar said on Czech Frekvence 1 radio on 15 May that he was astonished to see that people in the West link Slovakia's NATO membership to his being out of power. "Why should a strategic decision by the NATO countries, which have tremendous political, economic, and military powers, stumble because of a single person?" he asked. He further questioned the importance of who is in power at the moment of accession and not later, pointing out that in many Western countries the extreme right has emerged as a powerful force. Meciar also said, "Western democracy is built on choice from below, and the West cannot reject Slovakia's choice." Asked whether he is willing to give up the HZDS leadership, Meciar replied, "We shall see after the elections. Since 1998, I have never said I wanted to be premier for a fourth time." MS
 ...REJECTS ABOLITION OF BENES DECREESMeciar also said he rejects any discussion of the possible abolition of the Benes Decrees, emphasizing that the results of World War II cannot be revised, CTK reported. However, in an interview with the Austrian daily "Die Presse" the same day, Meciar put the matter rather differently: Slovakia cannot abolish the Benes Decrees, as this legislation is not part of the Slovak legal system, and the situation in the Czech Republic and Slovakia is not comparable from this point of view, he said. "We, Slovaks, always had much better relations with the Carpathian Germans than the Czechs had with the Sudeten Germans," he said. MS
 HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT OFFICIALLY APPOINTS MEDGYESSY PREMIER-DESIGNATE...Ferenc Madl opened the new parliament's inaugural session on 15 May and, as expected, appointed Socialist Party prime-ministerial candidate Peter Medgyessy to form the government, Hungarian media reported. Madl thanked the previous parliament and Viktor Orban's outgoing cabinet for their four years of work. The president also called on deputies to honor their election pledges, and asked the new government to build on the progress made over the last few years. Calling attention to the close balance of power between the two political camps in parliament, Madl said their purpose should not be defeating the opposing side, but implementing the country's main goals, which include accession to the European Union and supporting ethnic Hungarians abroad. The parliament also elected Socialist Katalin Szili to the post of speaker. MSZ
 ...AMID SIGNS THAT POLARIZATION CONTINUESSocialist deputies were booed, whistled at, and called "traitors" by demonstrators as they walked from a commemoration ceremony to the parliament's inaugural session on 15 May, Hungarian media reported. In a square near the parliament building, Medgyessy and Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs laid wreaths at a statue of Imre Nagy, who was executed by Janos Kadar's communist regime for his role as prime minister during the 1956 Uprising. A group calling itself Conscience '88 organized the demonstration along the Socialist politicians' route, and protested outside parliament demanding a recount of the votes cast in the April elections. At another ceremony, FIDESZ Chairman Zoltan Pokorni said that the members of his party have kept to the same principles "whether in opposition, government, or during the feverish months of the past election campaign." These principles remain the same as they were 14 years ago when FIDESZ's present opponents "guarded Hungary from democracy by using a truncheon," he explained. Expressing regret at the result of the elections, Pokorni said that FIDESZ, now out of government, will continue to pursue the same goals, but using different means. MSZ
 SLIGHT GAINS FOR PRO-INDEPENDENCE CANDIDATES IN MONTENEGRIN VOTEPreliminary returns show that pro-independence parties maintained their hold on 11 out of 19 districts in the local elections that took place on 15 May, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported the next day. There were slight gains for the coalition of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and the Social Democrats (SDP), but the overall results were virtually the same as in the previous election. The DPS-SDP coalition will control 10 districts, including Niksic, Cetinje, and those on the coast, "Vijesti" reported. The pro-Belgrade Together for Yugoslavia came in first in eight districts -- primarily in the north -- while Albanian candidates won in the Ulcinj district. The turnout was about 70 percent. Officials of the DPS claimed victory, while SNP leader Predrag Bulatovic said that the voting was not fair or democratic. His party nonetheless claimed that its policies were vindicated by the election results. Although the balloting was for local officials, the vote was closely watched at home and abroad as a barometer of popular support for the major parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2002). PM
 MACEDONIAN POLITICIANS AND MEDIA WANT INTERIOR MINISTER TO GOMacedonian politicians of almost all political parties as well as media representatives have called on Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski to resign, Macedonian media reported on 16 May. The previous day, he accidentally wounded two policemen, a translator, and a journalist of the daily "Dnevnik" when he fired an automatic grenade launcher (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2002). Branko Gerovski, the editor in chief of "Dnevnik," announced that he will sue Boskovski for bodily harm. "This incident shows...that Macedonia has an interior minister whose place is behind bars -- not in The Hague, but in Skopje," Gerovski said. But "Dnevnik" quoted prominent law professor Gjorgji Marjanovic as saying, "I do not believe that 'brother' Ljube [injured people intentionally], and most likely it will be treated as negligence." Boskovski has accepted responsibility for the incident and expressed his regrets, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. UB
 MACEDONIA: FORMER ALBANIAN REBEL LEADER TO FORM HIS OWN PARTY?Ali Ahmeti, the leader of the disbanded National Liberation Army (UCK), will soon form a political party, the Skopje dailies "Dnevnik" and "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 16 May. Using information provided by the Albanian-language daily "Fakti," the newspapers said that Ahmeti announced his plans at the last session of the Coordination Council of the Albanians in Macedonia on 14 May. He said that the main aim of the new, social democratic party is the implementation of the Ohrid peace agreement. The Macedonian authorities issued identity documents to Ahmeti at the end of April, thereby providing him with the legal basis to form a political party. UB
 SERBIAN GENERAL PLEADS 'NOT GUILTY' IN THE HAGUEFormer Yugoslav Army General Mile Mrksic told the war crimes tribunal in The Hague on 15 May that he is not guilty of the six charges against him stemming from the massacre of non-Serb civilians in Vukovar at the end of 1991, Reuters reported. Mrksic surrendered voluntarily to the tribunal together with former Croatian Serb leader Milan Martic, who also maintains his innocence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2002). PM
 NEW CROATIAN PARTY FOUNDED IN BOSNIAMiro Grabovac-Titan announced in Sarajevo on 15 May the founding of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDU), Hina reported. He and two others out of the 50 founding members of the HDU belonged to the Croatian Democratic Community's (HDZ) parliamentary faction until recently. Grabovac was the HDZ's party whip in the House of Representatives. Officials of the non-nationalist Social Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the New Croat Initiative hailed the founding of the new party. The HDU backs an "integral and independent Bosnian state" with full equality for all individuals and nations. PM
 SLOVENIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS NATO WILL MAKE HIS COUNTRY MORE SECURESpeaking to CNN in Washington on 15 May, Janez Drnovsek said that his country will feel more secure as part of an alliance with countries with which Slovenia shares the same values, even if it does not feel directly threatened. Drnovsek is on a visit to the United States aimed at promoting bilateral relations and Slovenia's candidacy for NATO membership. PM
 ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS RUSSIAN COUNTERPART IN REYKJAVIKForeign Minister Mircea Geoana met in Reykjavik on 15 May with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov, Romanian radio reported. Geoana said that against the background of Russia's new relationship with the Atlantic alliance, Ivanov has not raised any objections to "our clear desire to join NATO." Geoana said the two foreign ministers discussed President Ion Iliescu's planned visit to Moscow, "which is most likely to take place in early July," and the documents that will be signed on that occasion, including a bilateral treaty. Geoana said he agreed with Ivanov on an "accelerated agenda of dialogue at a high level," adding, "We are discussing a visit to Bucharest by Russia's premier in the fall and -- why not? -- a visit by President [Vladimir] Putin to Bucharest in spring 2003." MS
 ROMANIAN PREMIER ADDRESSES PACE COMMISSION IN BUCHARESTAdrian Nastase on 15 May told the Monitoring Commission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Bucharest on 15 May that his country is intensifying the process of bringing its legislation into line with European standards, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase said Romania has signed 88 European Council conventions, of which 66 have already been ratified. He said the debates currently under way on amendments to the constitution are also aimed at bringing Romanian legislation into line with the objectives of Euro-Atlantic and European integration. PACE Monitoring Commission Chairman Andras Barsonyi said that the commission may decide to stop the "post-monitoring" process of Romania in light of the progress made since the monitoring ceased. MS
 ROMANIAN TOURISM MINISTER TO RESIGN IF DRACULA PARK PROJECT IS REJECTEDTourism Minister Dan Matei Agathon said on 15 April that he will submit his resignation if the government fails to go ahead with building the controversial Dracula Park. Agathon said he has asked an international auditing company to evaluate the $31.5 million project's feasibility, and that if the auditors advise against building the park in Sighisoara an alternative location will be sought. A spokesman for the government said on 13 May that the construction of the park in Sighisoara, which has triggered local and international protests over its environmental impact, is "not a sure bet" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6, 7, and 9 May 2002). MS
 PRM LEADER TO SUE FORMER DEPUTY CHAIRMENGreater Romania Party (PRM) Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor said on 15 May that he will sue his former deputies Ilie Neacsu and Sever Mesca for libel, demanding 10 billion lei (some $300,000) in damages, Romanian radio reported. Neacsu and Mesca announced that their jointly authored book "Vadim Between the Presidency and the [Lunatics'] Hospice" will be launched next week with a print run of 50,000 copies and that a second run, also of 50,000 copies, will soon follow, the daily "Curentul," reported on 16 May." MS
 MOLDOVAN PREMIER DENIES U.S. WILL APPLY SANCTIONS ON MOLDOVAN COMPANIESVasile Tarlev on 15 May dismissed media reports that the United States will apply sanctions on Moldovan companies for supplying military equipment to Iran, Infotag reported. Tarlev told journalists that he has not received any notification on the sanctions and added, "If the notification arrives, we will take the appropriate measures." MS
 FORMER MOLDOVAN FINANCE MINISTER APPOINTED AMBASSADOR TO U.S.Former Finance Minister Mihai Manoli was appointed Moldova's new ambassador to the United States on 15 May, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Manoli will also act as chief Moldovan representative for negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Manoli resigned as finance minister in early February. MS
 BULGARIAN PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY REFUSES COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON BULGARTABAKA parliamentary majority of the ruling coalition of the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) rejected a motion initiated on 15 May by the opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS) to form an inquiry commission on the privatization of Bulgartabak, mediapool.bg reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 15 May 2002). The opposition Socialist-led Coalition for Bulgaria also supported the motion. The ODS wanted the commission to oversee the privatization process and to inquire into how the company will be administered during the privatization preparations. Deputy Prime Minster and Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev said the motion to form such a commission came at the most inappropriate time, adding that to talk about the scandals, corruption, and conflicts will pose problems during the privatization process. UB
 BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGESThe Bulgarian parliament discussed plans on 15 May to restrict or even lift the immunity of parliamentarians as well as members of municipal councils, mediapool.bg reported. Plamen Panayotov, the leader of the ruling NDSV parliamentary group, demanded that legislators and municipal counselors be stripped of their immunity, while Nadezhda Mikhailova of the opposition ODS wanted to see the immunity restricted. The two supported constitutional changes to achieve such restrictions. Kemal Eyup of the ethnic Turkish DPS opposed the plans to restrict parliamentary immunity, but supported restrictions of the immunity of municipal counselors, saying many of them abuse their official positions. Lyuben Kornezov of the Socialist-led Coalition for Bulgaria ruled out any constitutional changes, while President Georgi Parvanov denounced such plans as "populist," adding that any such move must be part of a general reform of the legal system. UB
 UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT AND PUBLIC FAVOR NATO ACCESSION EFFORTS AS PRESIDENT WAVERSBy Taras Kuzio
In the same year that NATO is expected to offer invitations to five-seven countries to join the defense alliance at its summit in Prague this November, Ukraine's foreign policy is hostage to President Leonid Kuchma's isolation in the West and his lack of clear policies and vision. Ukraine is not a member of the group of Baltic, and Central and Southeastern European countries that are openly seeking NATO membership.
Under Foreign Ministers Hennadiy Udovenko and Borys Tarasyuk from 1994-2000, Ukraine's foreign policy was unambiguously in favor of integration into trans-Atlantic and European structures (i.e., NATO and the European Union). Udovenko and Tarasyuk are, not surprisingly, members of former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc, the only political force in the Ukrainian parliament that supports Ukraine applying now for membership of NATO. Other pro-presidential or oligarchic forces do not oppose NATO membership per se, but see it as a future possibility. Only the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) opposes NATO membership outright.
Since October 2000, Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko has dropped any reference to integration into "trans-Atlantic" structures. According to him, Ukraine's goal is only to become an Associate Member of the European Union, a task far harder than joining NATO. However, to join NATO would be easier for Ukraine's executive and oligarchs, as NATO membership does not require the degree of democratization as the EU.
Ukraine's foreign policy increasingly lacks any clear vision, and its continual vacillation between East and West means it is not taken seriously at a time of likely NATO and EU expansion to the East. According to the respected weekly "Zerkalo nedeli/Dzerkalo tyzhnya," an unambiguous statement by Ukraine this year in support of membership of NATO would be therefore welcomed in Western Europe and the United States as a "bold move." If, as it seems likely, the executive blocks such a move, both Brussels and Washington will continue to be "skeptical about Ukrainian initiatives, as Kyiv cannot seem to make up its mind," the paper concluded.
Ukraine's foreign policy contradicts its stated goal of integration with Europe in four areas.
First, since the "Kuchmagate" scandal in the winter of 2000, the executive and its oligarchic allies have periodically launched anti-American and anti-Western campaigns. These have subsided since the parliamentary election campaign ended, but could be unleashed again at any time. One wonders how anti-American campaigns can be reconciled with the United States being a "strategic partner" of Ukraine? The Ukrainian elites have yet to understand that following 11 September 2001, Ukraine is no longer a central strategic element of U.S. policy in Europe.
Second, at a trilateral meeting of the Russian, Moldovan, and Ukrainian presidents in Odesa in March, President Kuchma suggested that Ukraine might consider joining the Russian-led alternative to the European Union, the Eurasian Economic Community (EES). This has since been corrected by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, which ruled in favor of the European Union, not the EES, much to the chagrin of Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin who is still under the mistaken impression that one should assume that President Kuchma always means and acts upon what he says. Kuchma has now decided that Ukraine will join the EES as an Associate Member.
Third, since 1999-2000 Ukraine's centrist oligarchs and executive have increasingly adopted the slogan "To Europe with Russia." Volodymyr Lytvyn, head of the presidential administration and the For a United Ukraine election bloc, said in February that, "For a united Ukraine in a united Europe, including Russia, is not only our electoral slogan -- this is our deep conviction." The only problem is that since 11 September, Russia is no longer waiting for Ukraine to catch up as it rushes ahead to Europe and NATO.
Fourth, Ukraine is not a signatory of the CIS Collective Security Treaty, although it did join the CIS Antiterrorism Center and is an Associate Member of the CIS Air-Defense Agreement. In May, Ukraine attended CIS Collective Security Treaty military exercises only as an observer. Nevertheless, Ukrainian security forces did actually take part in the "South-Antiterror 2002" exercises of the CIS Collective Rapid-Reaction Forces under the aegis of the CIS Antiterrorism Center, which is based in Moscow and headed by Lieutenant General Boris Mylnikov. The blurring of the exercises conducted by the members of the Collective Security Treaty and the Antiterrorism Center is a useful ploy by Russia to involve those states which are not signatories of the Collective Security Treaty, such as Ukraine, in military exercises within the CIS under its control. British expert James Sherr noted that the Security Service and Internal Affairs Ministry (MVS), two institutions that were implicated in a variety of malpractices in the "Kuchmagate" scandal, are not oriented toward the West (unlike the Defense Ministry). Former MVS head Yuriy Kravchenko, who was sacked during "Kuchmagate," is the leading candidate to become the new head of the presidential administration.
At a NATO conference this month in Warsaw, former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Tarasyuk called upon Ukraine to apply for NATO membership at this year's summit. This week, former President Leonid Kravchuk, a member of the oligarchic Social Democratic Party of Ukraine-united, also argued in favor of Ukraine applying. Instead, it will probably be content to merely upgrade its 1997 Charter with NATO so that relations "will become even closer," Zlenko said. This disinterest in membership contradicts favorable international trends since 11 September that have reduced opposition to NATO expansion. National Security and Defense Council Secretary Yevhen Marchuk warned in a recent interview in "Den" that after 11 September many West European and North American countries have revised their security policy strategies. "It is precisely for this reason that the 'Euro-Atlantic integration' formula has reappeared: the term has long existed in Ukraine, but Kyiv distanced itself from it then and has now returned to it again. So Ukraine has had to invigorate cooperation with NATO," Marchuk warned.
Support for NATO membership and ending Ukraine's self-declared, and internationally recognized, "non-bloc" status is higher in the current parliament than in any previous legislature. Since 11 September, the number of Ukrainians who see NATO as an aggressive alliance has declined and more people see it positively than negatively. There has also been a convergence in attitudes to NATO between eastern and western Ukraine. In a February poll the Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Studies found that 51 percent of Ukrainians support membership now or in the future while 30 percent oppose it. More Ukrainians support joining NATO than signing on to the Collective Security Treaty, which only the KPU in parliament and 15 percent of Ukrainians support.
The international and domestic climate in the Ukrainian parliament, National Security and Defense Council, and the public at large are favorably inclined to Ukraine applying for NATO membership this year. Why then will Ukraine not apply? Because the executive is opposed to such a move, as Kuchma believes that he would lose his only remaining international ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin. In addition, Ukraine's foreign policy is reactive and not proactive in defense of its national interests. During Kuchma's visit to Poland this April, he was asked if Ukraine would apply to join NATO this year. His answer was typical of his unwillingness to take the initiative: "Invite us in and we'll apply." Kuchma is apparently unaware that it usually works the other way around.Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.