|Monday, 24 February 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, 02-05-30
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 RUSSIA-EU SUMMIT FAILS TO RESOLVE KALININGRAD CONUNDRUM...The Russia-EU summit in Moscow ended on 29 May with a joint declaration in which the two sides acknowledged that they had failed to find a compromise regarding the Kaliningrad problem and agreed only to further talks, Russian and Western news agencies reported. During the talks, Russian President Vladimir Putin referred to the Kaliningrad question as a defining issue in EU-Russian relations, while European Commission President Romano Prodi stated that the problem can be resolved only "without causing damage to the security of either party." Russia has proposed establishing visa-free transit corridors for Russian citizens between the exclave and the rest of Russia through Lithuania and Poland, and the EU insists upon instituting a visa regime, albeit a simplified one. VY
 ...AS EU VOWS TO UPGRADE STATUS OF RUSSIAN ECONOMY...The joint declaration also includes an EU commitment to recognize Russia as a full-fledged market economy within the next three months and to modify EU trade rules to reflect this new status, Western and Russian news agencies reported on 29 May. The decision is a significant step toward Russian accession to the World Trade Organization, since the WTO only accepts countries with this status. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told RIA-Novosti that the granting of such status does not mean the automatic cancellation of antidumping measures, but it should simplify the process of investigating antidumping disputes. Putin stressed the practical importance of the measure. "There are 14 antidumping measures against Russian products in Europe and 100 worldwide. They have caused a $1.5 billion loss to the Russian economy," Putin said, according to Interfax. Some observers had expected the United States to grant Russia market-economy status prior to U.S. President George W. Bush's trip to Russia last week, but the U.S. Commerce Department announced that it will not make the decision until next month (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 29 May 2002). VY/JAC/RC
 ...AND A RAFT OF OTHER DOCUMENTS SIGNEDRussian and EU representatives also signed documents stressing cooperation on the crisis in the Middle East, the India-Pakistan conflict, and other regional conflicts, as well as on global energy issues. The two sides called on Pakistan to cease cross-border attacks in Kashmir. "Aware that terrorism is the common enemy of us all, we hope that both governments will make efforts to avoid a spiral of confrontation of unpredictable consequences," the statement said. RC
 GREF AND LIVSHITS DEFEND RUSSIA'S 'NATURAL ADVANTAGE'Meanwhile, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said that in its trade relations with the EU, Russia will never accept an EU requirement to bring domestic energy prices to world levels (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 2002), "Izvestiya" reported on 29 May. "For many energy sources -- such as gas, coal, and electricity -- there are no [accepted] international prices at all," Gref noted. Natural gas will always be more expensive in Europe than in Russia because of transportation costs, Gref remarked. Former Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits, currently deputy head of Russian Aluminum, told the newspaper "energy in Russia will always be cheaper regardless of who regulates prices by virtue of advantages provided by nature." VY
 LEADERS DISCUSS CONTINUING INTEGRATION WITHIN THE CISPrime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Belarusian Prime Minister Henadz Navitski met in Moscow on 30 May to discuss the next steps in the economic integration of the two countries, ITAR-TASS reported. The two leaders laid out a detailed agenda for the meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Russia-Belarus Union, to be held in early June. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met in Moscow with Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau within the framework of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers, ITAR-TASS reported, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko. The foreign ministers discussed the developing integration processes within the CIS and created a plan of interaction between the two foreign ministries for the remainder of the year. RC
 GOVERNMENT FIGHTS CORRUPTION THROUGH DE-BUREAUCRATIZATIONDeputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin announced a government decision to curtail sharply the certifications required for businesses and services in the food-trade sector in order to combat corruption, Russian news agencies reported on 29 May. According to the Antimonopoly Ministry, such certification is an unnecessary administrative barrier to trade, Kudrin said. Therefore the positions of many electrical, sanitation, and technical inspectors will be eliminated, which Kudrin predicted would result in a significant reduction in corruption-related business costs. VY
 MOSCOW COURT WILL REVIEW APPEAL OF RUSSIAN SENTENCED FOR SPYING FOR U.S.A Moscow Oblast court will hear the appeal of Viktor Kalyadin, the head of an electronics company who was sentenced last October to 15 years in prison for espionage for the United States, Kalyadin's lawyer, Ludmila Trunova, told RIA-Novosti on 30 May. She also said that since he was imprisoned, Kalyadin has undergone heart surgery once and urgently needs another operation. Kalyadin was convicted of divulging state secrets and handing over top-secret military information to U.S. intelligence agents. VY
 RUSSIAN ISLAMIC LEADER ASKS PUTIN TO CLEANSE COUNTRY OF WAHHABISM...Speaking at a roundtable in Moscow on the theme of "Islam Against Terrorism" on 29 May, the Ufa-based chairman of Russia's Central Muslim Religious Board, Talgat Tadzhuddin, and about 20 other Islamic leaders from a number of regions across Russia adopted an appeal to President Putin asking him to step up the struggle against international terrorism, RFE/RL's Russian Service. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Tadzhuddin said that supporters of Wahhabism -- which he called "pseudo-Islamic provocateurs" -- "represent a threat to any type of government," since they do not recognize any other response but violence toward nonbelievers. According to Interfax, Tadzhuddin implied that it was Wahhabites who helped finance the terrorist attack on the Daghestan city of Kaspiisk on 9 May that left 43 dead. JAC
 ...AS POSSIBILITY RAISED THAT 'WAHHABISM' CAN BE CHARGE USED TO SMEAR POLITICAL ENEMIESIn an interview the previous day with "Gazeta," Tadzhuddin claimed that Wahhabism is "being spread in an almost open manner in Tatarstan." For example, according to Tadzhuddin, the Bolgar mosque in Kazan was stormed in October 2001 by dozens of extremists shouting "Allah akbar." According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, one of Tadzhuddin's close supporters, Ferit Salman, the former head of the Bolgar mosque, was removed from his position by Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board in 2000 for opposing the board and urging it to submit to Tadzhuddin's centrally based Muslim board. In interviews with the Russian press, Salman has accused the Tatarstan board of having ties with foreign, extremist Muslim organizations. JAC
 COSSACKS DECLARE INTENT TO OPPOSE CONSTRUCTION OF NEW MOSQUESAtamans of Cossack troops in the Don region decided on 28 May to resist the construction of more mosques in southern Russia, RFE/RL's Rostov-na-Donu correspondent reported on 29 May. Deputy Ataman Vladimir Voronin compared the situation to events in Kosova, suggesting that the construction of mosques would be used to justify the seizure of land. Dzafar Bekmaev, head of the spiritual directorate for Muslims in Rostov Oblast, said that the Cossacks' declaration violates Russian law. "What would happen if the Muslims in neighboring regions, Daghestan and Kabardino-Balkaria, rise up and start to demand a ban on Russian Orthodox churches?" he asked. According to Bekmaev, there is only one mosque in Rostov Oblast, a one-story building that can barely accommodate the more than 200 people of 20 different nationalities who attend each week. JAC
 RESPECTED INDEPENDENT WEEKLY POISED TO LOSE MANY STAFF MEMBERSAt the end of May, many journalists with the weekly newspaper "Obshchaya gazeta" plan to leave the publication since it is scheduled to be sold then, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. The weekly's long-time editor Yegor Yakovlev reportedly wants to work on other projects, according to the agency. Workers will meet with the unidentified new owners on 30 May for the first time. JAC
 UPPER LEGISLATIVE CHAMBER SHOWS SPARK OF INDEPENDENCEAfter a stormy discussion, the Federation Council approved on 29 May a new election bill, ITAR-TASS reported. The vote was 96 with in favor, 36 against, and 14 abstentions. Under the bill, local legislatures are required to elect half of their members according to party lists, but many representatives during the debate again called for the regions to be allowed to establish the proportion elected by party lists themselves, "Izvestiya" reported. According to the daily, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov reminded the senators that the bill will not fully come into force until three to four years from now, while Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov advised them "not to throw away their votes. It's all the same. Everything has already been determined." The daily also noted that almost one-third of the representatives present did not yield -- marking the first such instance since the body was formed under its new rules. JAC
 IT'S NOT WHAT YOU KNOW OR WHO YOU KNOW, BUT WHAT YOU PAYIn Yekaterinburg, there are 13 state-subsidized post-secondary educational institutions, with at least five applicants for every available spot, RFE/RL's local correspondent reported on 28 May. Opinion polls reveal that one in 10 potential students say they could have entered state institutions had they offered a bribe, according to the report. About $500 is necessary to prepare for entry to a post-secondary education in Yekaterinburg. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, some 50 professors were detained last year in the capital for accepting bribes; however, experts believe this figure represents just a small fraction of the overall problem. According to Aleksei Levinson of the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), the center once asked survey respondents what they think is most necessary for attaining a free education at an institute of higher learning. Of the five answers available -- a record of good achievement, excellent ability, preparatory classes, connections, or bribes -- the most popular response was "bribes," followed by "connections." JAC
 MORDOVIAN BUREAUCRATS WORK HARDER?The average wage of local bureaucrats in the Republic of Mordovia is on average more than double that of federal officials, according to the chief federal inspector for Mordovia, Aleksandr Pykov, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. In 2001, state workers' monthly pay in Mordovia averaged 7,458 rubles ($238) compared with 3,430 rubles for federal workers. However, the average wage for all categories of workers in the republic is among the country's lowest -- 1,592 rubles. According to ITAR-TASS, this kind of wage gap is common in the Volga Federal District: The average monthly wage for federal workers in the district is 3,937 rubles compared with 6,016 rubles for workers in the local or regional apparatuses. Previously, it was reported that Pykov's boss, presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko, and the six other presidential envoys, are among the highest paid federal workers in any category (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 22 January 2001). JAC
 CHECHENS DENY FORMER ACTING PRESIDENT ELECTED IMAMThere is no truth to the 29 May report in "Vremya novostei" that former acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev was elected imam of the North Caucasus at a meeting of Chechens in Georgia's Akhmeta Raion on 18 May, an aide to Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Akhmed Zakaev told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service on 29 May. No such meeting took place in Akhmeta, he added. On 30 May, chechenpress.com quoted a source close to Chechen President Alsan Maskhadov as dismissing the Russian allegation as yet another attempt to sow dissent within the Chechen opposition. LF
TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 RUSSIAN SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY VISITS ARMENIAVladimir Rushailo held talks in Yerevan on 28 May with Armenian National Security Minister Karlos Petrosian and with Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, who also chairs Armenia's National Security Council, ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan reported. On 29 May, he met with President Robert Kocharian, whom he briefed on last week's summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush. At a joint press conference with Sarkisian later the same day, Rushailo gave a positive evaluation of bilateral relations, characterizing Armenia as a "strategic partner" of Russia. Sarkisian said Russia has acceded to a request by Armenia for further supplies of conventional armaments, but did not specify what kinds, nor whether they will be sold or delivered free of charge. He noted, however, that as a signatory to the CIS Collective Security Treaty Armenia is entitled to "certain benefits" when its signs contracts for deliveries of Russian arms, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2002). Sarkisian stressed that the new acquisitions will not violate the maximum limits to which Armenia is entitled under the revised Treaty of Conventional Forces in Europe. LF
 ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LAUNCHES NEW BID TO IMPEACH PRESIDENTSix deputies representing minority opposition parties have resorted to a legal loophole to submit for consideration at the 10-12 June parliament session a motion calling for the Constitutional Court to bring impeachment proceedings against President Kocharian, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 29 May. The parliament statutes provide for any deputy to submit any motion related to the issue currently under discussion; the repeat attempt to impeach the president came during a parliament discussion on 29 May of the report authored by a special parliament committee that oversaw the investigation of the October 1999 parliament shootings. Pro-Kocharian parliament deputies termed the opposition move "irresponsible" but did not immediately challenge its legality. An earlier attempt by the parliamentary opposition to collect the required number of votes to force a debate on impeaching Kocharian collapsed earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2002). LF
 RETRIAL BEGINS IN JAIL OF FORMER AZERBAIJANI INTERIOR MINISTERThe retrial got under way on 29 May in Azerbaijan's high security Gobustan jail of Iskander Hamidov, leader of the pro-Turkish "Gray Wolves" party, who served as interior minister under President Abulfaz Elchibey, Turan reported. Hamidov, whom the Council of Europe identified as a political prisoner, was sentenced in September 1995 to 14 years' imprisonment on charges of large-scale embezzlement of state property and illegally ordering the release of several hundred prisoners while he served as interior minister. Hamidov objected on 29 May that the charges of large-scale embezzlement that he again faces have been eliminated from Azerbaijan's criminal code. LF
 KHATTAB'S KILLER EXECUTED IN AZERBAIJAN?The independent Azerbaijani daily "Ekho" reported on 29 May that the citizen of Daghestan believed to have delivered to Saudi-born Chechen field commander Khattab the poisoned letter that killed him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April and 15 May 2002) was found dead in a landfill on the outskirts of Baku on 5 May, Turan reported. The man, a Dargin named Magomedali Magomedov, died from a shot in the head the previous day, according to a police investigation. Qatar's Al-Jazeera television identified Khattab's killer on 14 May as an Avar named Ibragim Alauri. LF
 GEORGIAN OFFICIALS REJECT PURPORTED COUP ALLEGATIONSGeorgian presidential press spokesman Kakha Imnadze dismissed on 29 May as "absurd" a Russian television program broadcast the previous day that featured what it claimed was a top secret U.S. State Department memo detailing an anticipated coup d'etat in Georgia with the aim of replacing President Eduard Shevardnadze with a more "pragmatic" politician, Caucasus Press reported. Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili similarly said on 29 May that he has no information to substantiate claims that such a coup is being prepared. LF
 U.S. CONGRESSMAN URGES KAZAKH LEADERSHIP TO EMBARK ON DIALOGUE WITH INDEPENDENT MEDIAU.S. Representative Robert Wexler told journalists in Astana on 29 May that during talks earlier that day he urged Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev to take further steps toward democratization, including embarking on a dialogue with the independent media, Interfax reported. RFE/RL's Kazakh Service quoted Wexler as saying Nazarbaev "strongly reaffirmed" his commitment to media freedom. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN EXTENDS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM FOR ARMED FORCESIn the light of the current situation in Afghanistan and the possibility of hostilities in the Caspian region, President Nazarbaev has ordered that a program to develop Kazakhstan's armed forces that was originally planned for completion in 2005 be extended for a further five years, Interfax and caspian.ru quoted Defense Minister Colonel General Mukhtar Altynbaev as telling journalists on 29 May. That decision was made at a session of the country's Security Council on 28 May. The program will now be implemented in two stages, of which the first will be completed in 2005, Altynbaev said. During the first stage, the western military district will be considerably strengthened. Nazarbaev also called for increasing defense spending to no less than 1 percent of GDP. GDP for 2002 is estimated at 3.5 trillion tenges ($22.97 billion). LF
 KAZAKHSTAN DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN PAKISTAN'S NUCLEAR-WEAPONS PROGRAMIn a statement released on 29 May, Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry denied media reports that the country contributes to Pakistan's nuclear-weapons program, Interfax reported. The statement reiterated that Kazakhstan "has voluntarily abandoned nuclear weapons" and has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. LF
 RUSSIAN CONFIRMED AS NEW KYRGYZ PREMIERThe Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament) voted on 30 May by 36 to five to confirm Nikolai Tanaev as the country's next prime minister, Reuters reported. President Askar Akaev had proposed Tanaev at a meeting on 29 May with members of the People's Assembly (the upper chamber of parliament). Tanaev, who is 57 and an ethnic Russian, served as first deputy prime minister in the outgoing government of Kurmanbek Bakiev and has been acting premier since Bakiev resigned last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 2002). LF
 CRIMINAL CASE OPENED AGAINST FORMER KYRGYZ OBLAST PROSECUTORCriminal charges of abuse of office have been brought against former Djalalabad Oblast Prosecutor Zootbek Kudaibergenov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 29 May. Kudaibergenov sanctioned the arrest in January of parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov, a move that triggered months-long protests across the country culminating in the clash on 17-18 March in Aksy Raion between police and demonstrators in which six people died. LF
 OSCE LAUDS POLITICAL STABILIZATION IN KYRGYZSTANIn a press release dated 28 May, the OSCE's Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights welcomed President Akaev's affirmed readiness to meet with opposition representatives, adding that "it is crucial now that both sides continue that dialogue," RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. ODIHR also welcomed the court decision absolving Beknazarov of serving a further prison term, but at the same time called on the Kyrgyz authorities to ensure that any appeal procedure in his case will be conducted strictly in line with fair-trial standards. LF
 AFGHANISTAN EXTRADITES SUSPECTED IMU MEMBER TO KYRGYZSTANKyrgyz citizen Sherali Akbotoev, who joined the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) when that organization launched raids into Kyrgyzstan's southern districts in the summer of 1999, has been extradited to Kyrgyzstan from Afghanistan, where he was apprehended fighting with other IMU members on the side of the Taliban, Reuters and RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 29 May, quoting the Kyrgyz National Security Service. Akbotoev was said to have become one of the IMU's leading members. National Security Service spokesman Talaibek Djumadylov said Akbotoev may be able to clarify the fate of IMU leader Djuma Namangani, whose death was reported last December but has not been confirmed. LF
 AFGHAN BORDER GUARD SEEKS HELP FROM RUSSIAN COUNTERPARTS IN TAJIKISTANSamiullo Katra, who commands Afghanistan's Border Guards, and the commander of the Russian Border Guard contingent in Tajikistan, Colonel General Aleksandr Markin, met in Dushanbe on 29 May to discuss cooperation in the struggle against terrorism and drug trafficking, ITAR-TASS reported. Samiullo noted that Afghanistan is only just beginning to set up a border guard service and would welcome moral and technical support from the Russian contingent in Tajikistan. LF
 UZBEK HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ARRESTEDPolice in the town of Karshi, Kashkadarya Oblast, arrested Yuldash Rasulov on 24 May and charged him with religious extremism, Human Rights Watch reported on 29 May. Rasulov, who is in his 30s, worked for the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan monitoring reprisals against Muslim believers whose religious activities fall beyond the confines of state-sponsored Islam. LF
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
 BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE MULLS LAW ON PRIVATE LAND PLOTSThe Chamber of Representatives reviewed a bill on private land plots in the first reading on 29 May, Belapan reported. Agriculture Minister Mikhail Rusy told deputies that Belarus's 1.26 million private land plots (some 1.3 million hectares) account for 15 percent of the country's total agricultural area. Rusy added that in 2000, the agricultural effort on private land plots accounted for 40 percent of the total production of milk, 20 percent of meat, 90 percent of potatoes, and 80 percent of vegetables and fruits. The bill, if passed, would guarantee plot owners the right to erect any buildings needed for agricultural purposes, strike any deals relating to their business, and sell their crops freely. Meanwhile, the Statistics Ministry reported the same day that 60 percent of state-run agricultural enterprises and collective farms showed losses in the first quarter of 2002. JM
 UKRAINIAN, BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTS WELCOME NATO-RUSSIA RAPPROCHEMENT...Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka met in Chernihiv (northern Ukraine) on 29 May to discuss bilateral relations, Ukrainian and Belarusian media reported. Kuchma and Lukashenka told journalists after the meeting that they welcome this week's NATO-Russia cooperation agreement. Lukashenka admitted that the NATO-Russia rapprochement may entail "a different system of mutual relations, particularly in the post-Soviet territory." Lukashenka said his government is thoroughly studying Kyiv's recent bid to seek NATO membership in order to enable Belarus "to make appropriate conclusions and, possibly, appropriate moves." JM
 ...SET DEADLINE FOR RESOLVING DEBT PROBLEMKuchma and Lukashenka signed a protocol obliging the Ukrainian and Belarusian governments to prepare by 15 June an accord on settling the issue of Ukraine's debt to Belarus. "This story has continued since 1992," Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Leonid Kozachenko told journalists. "The Ukrainian side considers that Ukraine owes Belarus no more than $50 million, while Belarus considers that Ukraine owes it more than $100 million," he added. According to Kozachenko, the debt problem arose shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union, when Belarusian enterprises paid money to Ukrainian companies for products that have never been delivered. JM
 UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT TACKLES ELECTION OF COMMITTEE HEADSOur Ukraine, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc have proposed that the 23 posts of parliamentary committee heads be distributed only among these four groups, in view of the fact that United Ukraine and the Social Democratic Party gained the posts of speaker and two deputy speakers the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2002), UNIAN reported. Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn refused on 30 May to submit this motion for voting and adjourned the session until late afternoon. United Ukraine acting head Serhiy Tihipko has called on deputies to distribute the posts of committee heads among all the six parliamentary caucuses, arguing that the current arrangement of forces in the Verkhovna Rada -- the "four" and the "two," with no side possessing a clear majority -- is a "way to nowhere." Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko told journalists that the "four" has begun collecting signatures under a motion to hold a no-confidence vote in the newly elected parliamentary leadership. JM
 UKRAINIANS NUMBER 48.4 MILLIONState Statistics Committee head Oleksandr Osaulenko told journalists on 29 May that, according to last year's census, there were 48.4 million people living in Ukraine on 5 December 2001, UNIAN reported. Sixty-seven percent of Ukrainians live in urban areas; women constitute 54 percent of the population. The previous census in 1989 found that the Ukrainian SSR was inhabited by 52.5 million people. JM
 ESTONIA DOES NOT SUPPORT IDEA OF COMMON EU BORDER FORCEAfter returning from a three-day visit to Vienna, Interior Minister Ain Seppik said on 29 May that Estonia does not support the European Commission's proposal to form a common European Union border force, BNS reported. He said Estonia is "capable of patrolling the border on its own" and will only seek assistance in "the standards of training, principles of operation, and logistics." Seppik delegated Estonian Border Guard Chief of Staff Colonel Aare Evisalu to present these views at an upcoming conference in Rome where the results of a feasibility study of the European Corps of Border Guards are to be presented. Seppik mentioned that his Austrian counterpart Ernst Strasser, who visited Estonia last June, recently told him that the Estonian border meets the requirements of the Schengen agreement. SG
 LATVIA, GEORGIA SIGN DEFENSE-COOPERATION AGREEMENTIn Riga on 29 May, Defense Ministers Girts Valdis Kristovskis and David Tevzadze signed an agreement on cooperation in the defense sector, LETA reported. Under the agreement, officials of the two countries are expected to hold meetings, send experts on experience-exchange trips, attend various seminars and conferences on defense subjects, and bolster bilateral cooperation. Tevzadze said Latvia's experience in military education and in trying to gain NATO membership will be useful to Georgia. Kristovskis expressed his hope that the defense cooperation will have a positive influence on stability in the Caucasus region. Tevzadze also met with Latvian armed forces Commander Colonel Raimonds Graube and parliament Defense and Internal Affairs Committee Chairman Dzintars Kudums. Tevzadze is scheduled to visit the BALTNET information center in Riga on 30 May, as well as the naval base and training center in Liepaja. SG
 LITHUANIAN AND KALININGRAD ENTREPRENEURS SIGN AGREEMENTS ON ECONOMIC COOPERATIONLithuanian Association of Trade, Industry, and Crafts Chambers President Eimutis Zvybas and former Russian Prime Minister and Russian Chamber of Commerce head Yevgenii Primakov signed economic-cooperation agreements in Svetlogorsk, Kaliningrad Oblast, on 29 May, ELTA reported. The agreements provide for an exchange of economic and legal information as well as cooperation in arranging fairs, exhibitions, business meetings to facilitate direct contacts between small and medium-sized business in both countries. The signing took place during an international conference on Kaliningrad Oblast that was attended by the heads of chambers of commerce of seven Baltic-region countries. SG
 FORMER HEAD OF POLAND'S BIGGEST INSURER CHARGED WITH INCURRING LOSSESProsecutors have charged recently arrested Wladyslaw Jamrozy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 2002) with incurring losses for the state-run PZU insurance company when he headed it in 1998-2002, AP reported on 29 May. Jamrozy is accused of failing to closely examine documents filed by real estate dealers and exceeding his official powers in buying property on PZU's behalf. Jamrozy, who denies any wrongdoing, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. PZU, in which the State Treasury has a 55 percent stake, controls some 60 percent of Poland's insurance market. JM
 CZECH GOVERNMENT DELAYS SIGNING OF SUPERSONIC FIGHTER DEALPrime Minister Milos Zeman said after a cabinet meeting on 29 May that the government has postponed until the end of September the signing of the contract to purchase the British/Swedish-made Gripen supersonic fighter jets, CTK and AFP reported. The deal was to be signed on 30 June, pending parliamentary approval of the cabinet's plan for financing the purchase. Earlier on 29 May, the Senate's Defense Commission recommended to the plenum to vote against the plan on 31 May. The delay means the deal must be finalized in June by the next Czech government following the general elections. Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said the BAE Systems-SAAB consortium that produces the Gripen "does not object" to the three-month delay and has agreed to "extend its offer." MS
 GREEN LIGHT FOR SECOND REACTOR AT TEMELINOn 29 May, the State Office for Nuclear Safety approved the launching of a second nuclear reactor at the Temelin nuclear power plant, dpa reported. The permit allows the utility's operator, CEZ, to begin the testing phase, but according to a spokesman for the office this is only "the first step" toward the full licensing of the second reactor. MS
 DETAILS EMERGE ON CZECH AGREEMENT WITH VATICANThe draft agreement between the Czech Republic and the Vatican (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2002) stipulates that the sides will seek a mutually acceptable and quick solution to the issue of Catholic Church property restitution. Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Vosalik told CTK on 29 May that the agreement does not set a deadline for resolving the issue and that the document "is not a unilateral commitment" by the Czech Republic to do so, since the Vatican will also "take an active part in the search for a solution." The agreement also stipulates that the church is to run its own affairs and appoint or dismiss officials and clergy without state interference. It also provides for the teaching of religion in schools as part of the general educational system. MS
 FORMER CZECH NATIONAL PROPERTY FUND HEAD SENTENCEDOn 29 May, a Prague court fined former National Property Fund Chairman Jan Stiess 200,000 crowns ($6,071) for having submitted a forged lustration certificate upon taking office in 1998, CTK reported. A lower court had acquitted Stiess in November 2001 but the prosecution appealed that verdict. In turn, Stiess' lawyer announced that he will appeal the court's decision to impose a fine on his client. Stiess resigned in February 2000 after media reports alleged he had been a collaborator with the communist secret police, which he denies. MS
 ONE CZECH IN THREE INTOLERANT OF FOREIGNERSOne-third of Czechs do not "always" tolerate foreigners living in the Czech Republic and half of the sample is intolerant of people of a different skin color, CTK reported on 29 May, citing a survey conducted by the Center for Public Opinion Research (CVVM). About three-fourths of those interviewed display tolerance toward Jews and the elderly, but just about half of those sampled are tolerant of the emotionally unstable and homosexuals. The least tolerance is displayed toward those with a criminal record (20 percent), followed by the Roma (some 25 percent), alcoholics, and drug users. A CVVM analyst said that compared with the center's findings for 2000, tolerance has grown toward all groups except the Roma. MS
 SLOVAK LEFT UNITING AHEAD OF ELECTIONSAccording to the Czech daily "Pravo," the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL), the Civic Understanding Party (SOP), and the Social Democratic Party (SDSS) have decided to run on joint lists in the September elections in Slovakia, CTK reported on 29 May. An agreement signed by the three formations on 28 May stipulates that SOP and SDSS candidates will run on the SDL's lists. SDL Chairman Pavol Koncos said the agreement signals the beginning of a future merger of the Slovak leftist parties into a single strong formation. Koncos blamed the decline of the SDL in public opinion polls on former SDL Chairman Peter Weiss. According to Koncos, under Weiss's leadership the SDL dropped from the 19 percent support it polled in the 1994 elections to barely managing to pass the 5 percent electoral hurdle in 1998. Weiss and other reform-minded SDL members recently left the party. Polls indicate that SDL support is currently at 2.5 percent and support for the SOP and the SDSS is even lower. MS
 MIXED SLOVAK REACTIONS FOLLOW AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORTThe Slovak Interior Ministry denied on 29 May that it refused to provide information to Amnesty International human rights monitors about incidents involving police abuse of Romany detainees, CTK reported. Reacting to the annual report issued by Amnesty International (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2002), the ministry said the organization requested information about the case (in which seven policemen were charged after the death of Rom Karol Sendrei last year) from Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky and from Pal Csaky, deputy premier in charge of human rights, and not from the Interior Ministry. It said the two officials, in turn, requested the information from the ministry, which supplied it. The nongovernmental organization People Against Racism said the criticism included in the report is fully justified, adding that not all incidents of racial abuse by police against Roma are included in the report. MS
 HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT CLOSES DOWN NATIONAL IMAGE CENTER, PREPARES INQUIRYGovernment spokesman Zoltan Gal announced on 29 May that the new cabinet has abolished the National Image Center and has opened an inquiry into the center's handling of funds, Hungarian media reported. The results of the inquiry are to be made public. Gal told journalists that the previous government's political appointees will be replaced by what he called "experts," but added that fewer people will be affected by the change of government than was the case four years ago. He also said the new government has suspended for a few days any cash payments at ministries, and the daily "Vilaggazdasag" quoted Gal as saying the measure was prompted by the need to halt the squandering of funds and to clear up suspected corruption cases. MS
 POLICY TOWARD ETHNIC HUNGARIANS ABROAD TO CHANGE...Vilmos Szabo, the new political state secretary in charge of the Office for Ethnic Hungarians Abroad, told visiting Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania Chairman Bela Marko on 29 May that the new government will accept all organizations representing ethnic Hungarians abroad as equal partners, as long as these organizations are viewed as legitimate in the eyes of the respective local communities, Hungarian media reported. Szabo reiterated that the new cabinet will not interfere in the internal affairs of those organizations. He said the cabinet intends to dismiss Tibor Szabo as chairman of the Office for Ethnic Hungarians Abroad and replace him with Joszef Pataki Balint. Vilmos Szabo also said talks with the Romanian government on Hungary's "status law" will not take place before autumn at the earliest. MS
 ...AS ROMANIA COMPLAINS ABOUT STATE OF MINORITY EDUCATION IN HUNGARYAfter visiting educational establishments of the Romanian minority in Hungary, Doru Ionescu, state secretary in the Ministry of Public Information, told journalists in Bucharest on 29 May that the Romanian government will channel funds and send teachers to Romanian schools and take other measures to revive teaching in Romanian in the neighboring country, Romanian radio and Mediafax reported. Ionescu said the measures will be taken "strictly in line with intergovernmental agreements" about to be negotiated. He said the delegation that visited the establishments has found that teaching in the Romanian language amounts to no more than two hours a week and that Romanian is not being taught as a mother tongue but "as a foreign language." Ionescu said members of the delegation he headed were told by the authorities that "this is normal, since minorities in Hungary must be bilingual," and emphasized that in Romania the entire curriculum is taught in minority languages in ethnic minorities' schools. He said Bucharest will send teachers and encourage priests to move to Hungary to attend to the needs of the Orthodox and Uniate (Greek Catholic) Romanian communities there. MS
 YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT RAISES STAKES IN SERBIAN POLITICAL ROW...In the latest installment of the row between Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and most other members of the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition, Kostunica announced on 29 May that he wants new elections and is removing all DSS members from the governing boards of state-run companies, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 May 2002). Kostunica charged that Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic is afraid of losing his parliamentary majority and "fears elections more than the devil himself." Kostunica denied that the DOS has any right to replace truant deputies in the parliament because it is not a legally constituted body. The DSS has periodically called for new elections, which Djindjic says would destabilize the country and put off foreign investors (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 30 May 2002). PM
 ...WHILE HIS RIVALS REJECT HIS CHARGESSerbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said in Belgrade on 29 May that the DOS is perfectly justified in seeking to replace truant deputies elected on its slate in the 2000 elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Languages Service reported. Elsewhere, Djindjic's Democratic Party (DS) charged that Kostunica has withdrawn his people from the boards of only a few state corporations but not from all. PM
 MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT DENIES CIGARETTE-SMUGGLING CHARGEMilo Djukanovic said in Podgorica that an Italian investigation of him for alleged links to a mafia-run cigarette-smuggling racket are nothing but an attempt to destabilize his country, RFE/RL's South Slavic Languages Service reported on 30 May. Reuters reported from Rome the previous day that the state Prosecutor's Office in Bari has placed Djukanovic under investigation, but that this does not imply guilt. In Podgorica, Djukanovic's spokeswoman said that he has not been officially informed of any legal proceedings against him. Rumors of links to war profiteering and smuggling have dogged much of Montenegro's political leadership since the early 1990s. Charges against Djukanovic have surfaced from time to time in the media and from Belgrade sources close to Yugoslav President Kostunica and former President Slobodan Milosevic. The accusations have never been proven. One journalist was recently sentenced by a Montenegrin court to three months in prison for libel for making such charges. PM
 MORE THAN 130,000 KOSOVA PENSIONERS WITHOUT PENSIONS -- FOR THREE YEARSMarek Antoni Nowicki, who is Kosova's ombudsman, said in Prishtina on 29 May that the time has come for UN civilian administration (UNMIK) chief Michael Steiner to do something about the plight of retired people, Hina reported. Nowicki charged that some 130,000 pensioners have not received any payments for three years. The retirees have rejected offers by the Kosovar parliament and UNMIK to begin paying out minimum pensions of $26.50 per month and have pledged to launch protests. PM
 TOBACCO CONFISCATED IN KOSOVA...UN police announced in Prishtina on 29 May that they have confiscated 20 tons of illegal tobacco and fake packages for well-known cigarette brands in Gjilan, AP reported. A police spokesman said, "The factory was used on and off until recently. It's possible the cigarettes produced there were sold here without taxes or have been smuggled out of Kosovo." PM
 ...AS IS HASHISH IN MACEDONIAMacedonian police have seized 200 kilograms of high-quality hashish near Ohrid and arrested six people, dpa reported from Skopje on 29 May. The drugs were hidden in spare tires of a truck that arrived from nearby Albania. Of those arrested, four are citizens of Albania and two are Macedonian citizens. Macedonian police have confiscated two tons of drugs in that area in the past two years. PM
 MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTER PROPOSES TRILATERAL TALKS OVER BORDER ISSUEPrime Minister Ljubco Georgievski on 27 May called for trilateral talks between representatives of the Serbian, Kosovar, and Macedonian governments to solve the border issue between Kosova and Macedonia, Makfax reported on 29 May reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24, 28, and 29 May 2002). The trilateral talks would take place without international mediation. In a recent speech before the Macedonian parliament, Georgievski accused unnamed "structures" of the international community of seeking to destabilize the region. The ethnic Albanian political parties are divided over Georgievski's proposal. Citing RFE/RL's Macedonian Service, Makfax reported that the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) supports the idea but doubts whether the talks can be held without representatives of the international community. The Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) dismissed the proposal outright. UB
 IMF DELEGATION LEAVES MACEDONIA WITHOUT DEALRepresentatives of the International Monetary Fund left Skopje on 29 May after a 10-day visit aimed at putting together a new stand-by arrangement for Macedonia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Languages Service reported. IMF mission chief for Macedonia Franek Rozwadowsky said he failed to convince the government "to implement prudent fiscal and monetary policies, particularly on wages," and to consider the "impact of wages on the budget, employment, and growth," AP reported. Several thousand civil servants recently demanded that their minimum monthly salaries be raised from $70 to $90 per month. The average monthly wage in Macedonia is $120. The government wants $173 million from the IMF to cover its deficit through the end of 2002 but is unwilling to risk the political fallout that would follow the implementation of IMF austerity measures. PM
 ASHDOWN NAMES LEGAL REFORM CHIEFPaddy Ashdown, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, named Professor Zoran Pajic of King's College at Oxford to head his department of legal reform, RFE/RL's South Slavic Languages Service reported from Sarajevo on 29 May. The absence of a modern legal system that meets international standards is one of the main obstacles to attracting vital foreign investment to Bosnia. PM
 ROMANIAN PREMIER IN SWEDENPrime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 29 May after talks with his Swedish counterpart Goran Persson in Stockholm that his country wants to open all chapters in negotiations with the European Union this year and to finalize the negotiations at the end of 2003 or early 2004, Romanian radio and international news agencies reported. Nastase expressed his hope that Romanians will be able to participate in the 2004 elections for the European Parliament. Persson said he was impressed with Romania's achievements in its preparations for EU membership and that its strategy for EU accession is "successful and brave." He said Sweden will support Romania's EU membership quest with both technical assistance and "by sharing our own experience from...negotiations about membership in the EU." Nastase also met with King Carl XVI Gustaf, who accepted an invitation to visit Romania. Industry Minister Dan Ioan Popescu signed an agreement with Swedish Trade Minister Leif Pagrotsky on promoting trade and protecting mutual investments. MS
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE WAVERS ON CONTROVERSIAL 'IMAGE STRATEGY' DOCUMENTPresident Ion Iliescu on 28 May and early 29 May vehemently denied that the Supreme Council for National Defense (CSAT) has debated a document dealing with "counter-strategic options" for combating media reports that harm Romania's image. He described a report published in the daily "Jurnalul national" on 28 May on the alleged document as "a provocation" and "a dangerous diversion." However, later on 29 May, Iliescu said that while CSAT never dealt with the issue, it had "discussed ideas" on how to respond to "internal or external accusations against Romania." Public Information Minister Vasile Dancu admitted on 28 May that his ministry is involved in "elaborating" a document on such "counter strategies." Finally, presidential adviser Ioan Talpes, whom the report described as being in charge of the initiative, first denied its existence but retracted his denial on 30 May, claiming that a search in his archives led to the discovery of the document that was submitted by an "analytical group" three months earlier. But according to Mediafax, Talpes said the document has not been forwarded to President Iliescu. MS
 ROMANIA OVERREACTS TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORTPresident Iliescu said on 29 May that the criticism of Romania included in Amnesty International's annual report released the previous day is "exaggerated" and must be part of an attempt to discredit his country, "as the NATO summit in Prague is approaching," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Cozmin Gusa, secretary-general of the ruling Social Democratic Party, said the report is "poorly documented." The Justice Ministry denied the judiciary is in any way subordinate to the government or carrying out its orders, but admitted that there are "economic, not political pressures" on the judiciary. At the same time, the ministry's State Secretary Ioan Alexandru said the ministry will "suggest" to Justice Minister Rodica Stanoiu that Prosecutor-General Joita Tanase be dismissed. Senate speaker Nicolae Vacaroiu said the report uses "general terminology" and provides no "concrete exemplification" of any interference by the government in the independence of the judiciary. MS
 MOLDOVAN OFFICIAL RESIGNS OVER CUBREACOV CASEInterior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chiril Motpan resigned on 29 May, saying prosecutors in charge of the Vlad Cubreacov inquiry had forced him to lie to journalists, AP reported. Motpan last week told the media that the missing Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Deputy Chairman was found by a police patrol after an extensive search. What actually happened, according to Motpan, is that Cubreacov stumbled upon police officers stationed at a construction site after his presumed abductors released him. "I was forced by Interior Ministry officials and the prosecution to misinform the public," Motpan said. MS
 MOLDOVAN JUSTICE MINSTER SAYS ECHR DECISION NOT BINDING...Justice Minister Ion Morei said on Moldovan radio on 29 May that the European Court of Human Rights' (ECHR) decision regarding the registration of the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church is not binding, Flux reported. He said the government is only bound by the decisions of the Moldovan Supreme Court (CSJ) and that he has not changed his views since he pleaded in Strasbourg against the registration of the church. However, Morei avoided answering a question on whether the government will register that church. PPCD parliamentary group leader Stefan Secareanu said in response that Morei has "reconfirmed his professional incapability" by claiming that the ECHR decision does not automatically nullify the verdict of the CSJ. Secareanu added that the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) is torn by the dilemma of serving "Russian imperial interests," as it has always done, and implementing the obligatory ECHR decision. MS
 ...WHILE GOVERNMENT IGNORES PACE RECOMMENDATIONContrary to the recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which they have said they accept, Moldovan authorities continue to file charges against participants in the antigovernment protest demonstrations, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 29 May. Seven people from Bendery-Tighina who took part in the January-April protest received summons to appear in court on 5 June. PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca said the summons are "just one additional proof that the authorities ignore the PACE recommendations," and added that he will ask PCM parliamentary group leader Victor Stepaniuc to personally intervene to "end the abuse that compromises the Communist authorities in the eyes of the Council of Europe." MS
 GROUP SEEKS TO SET UP MOLDOVAN PUBLIC TELEVISIONA group formed by journalists, intellectuals, and lawyers announced on 29 May that it intends to set up a Public Television Company (CTP), Infotag reported. The group said that in its initial stage, CTP will broadcast programs prepared by local journalists who work for other companies and will reach audiences only in Chisinau. Journalist Vasile Butnaru, a member of the group, said the CTP could become an alternative to the proposed transformation of state-owned Teleradio Moldova into an autonomous public broadcasting authority. He said CTP will be modeled after the BBC and be governed by a similar code of ethics. Lawyer Ruslan Uskov said CTP is to be financed with donations from private sponsor companies and proceeds from commercials. MS
 AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF MOLDOVAN WOMEN, MINORSIn its annual report published on 28 May, Amnesty International said the number of women and minors who suffer from sexual exploitation and trafficking in Moldova is "alarming," Flux reported on 29 May, citing the BBC. The report also said no progress was registered in the last year in improving detention conditions. It also draws attention to the fact that three members of the "Ilascu group" remain in prison in Tiraspol. MS
 BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS MINISTER FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRSOn 29 May, the parliament promoted Meglena Kuneva, Bulgaria's deputy foreign minister and chief negotiator with the European Union, to European Affairs Minister, BTA reported. Kuneva will work within the framework of the Foreign Ministry and will coordinate Bulgaria's efforts for EU accession. The opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) criticized Kuneva's promotion, saying the decision contributes to the division of authority over the negotiating process. "Overall coordination of the negotiating process is the prime minister's, not a minister's duty," said SDS lawmaker Asen Agov. The Socialist-led opposition Coalition for Bulgaria welcomed Kuneva's promotion, but demanded that a body be formed to deal exclusively with European integration problems. UB
 BULGARIAN OPPOSITION APPEALS TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVER LAW ON CLASSIFIED INFORMATIONFifty-seven legislators of the opposition coalition United Democratic Forces (ODS), the ruling National Movement Simeon II (NDSV), as well as independent members of parliament appealed to the Constitutional Court on 29 May over the new law on classified information, mediapool.bg reported. According to the ODS legislators, the new law violates the constitutional right to information and makes it impossible to inform the public about the involvement of individuals in the communist secret services (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2002, and "End Note," 30 April 2002). The deputies also criticized as unconstitutional the provisions of the new law that rule out the possibility for individuals to appeal against administrative acts that bar them from the access to information. UB
 LOSER TAKES ALL: UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT COOPTS PARLIAMENTBy Taras Kuzio
On 28 May, after over a week of intrigue and interfaction squabbles, the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada) finally selected candidates to fill its three key positions. Aside from the 177 votes from the pro-presidential For a United Ukraine, which has been renamed United Ukraine, and 31 votes from the oligarchic Social Democratic Party of Ukraine-united (SDPU-o), the vote was carried by seven Our Ukraine deputies who were immediately expelled from that faction, and Communists "loaned" for the vote.
The election resulted in two eastern Ukrainian pro-presidential and oligarchic groups, United Ukraine and the SDPU-o, taking full control of all three chairman and deputy chairman positions. Volodymyr Lytvyn, the head of the presidential administration and United Ukraine faction, became Rada chairman followed by Hennadiy Vasyliev, a member of the oligarch Labor Ukraine party, as first deputy chairman and with the post of deputy Rada chairman going to Oleksandr Zinchenko, the deputy head of the SDPU-o. Zinchenko was head of the SDPU-o faction in the 1998-2002 Rada and is honorary president of Inter television, which broadcasts mainly in Russian to eastern Ukraine.
This vote brought President Leonid Kuchma one step closer to what he failed to obtain in 1996 with his Russian-style constitution, which led him to initiate an internationally unrecognized referendum in April 2000 designed to turn Ukraine into a presidential republic with a malleable Rada. Vasyliev's position was given in gratitude to the Donetsk clan, the only region where For a United Ukraine finished first in the 31 March elections.
In the party-list vote in the March elections, For a United Ukraine finished only third with 11.81 percent, compared to Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine's with 23.65 percent. On the basis of these results, Yushchenko proposed after the election that because Our Ukraine won the elections, it should be the basis for creating a Rada majority. In a joint statement on 26 April, Our Ukraine, the Communists (which polled 20.4 percent), the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc (7.21 percent), and Socialists (6.93 percent) said that they won the elections, which was a defeat for the authorities.
But Lytvyn and Kuchma disagreed, as did Russian President Vladimir Putin. Their shared understanding of the elections was that For a United Ukraine had won. Lytvyn based his argument on the fact that his faction had become the largest in the Rada after the elections by virtue of inducing or blackmailing the majority of deputies elected in majoritarian districts into its ranks. Through these tactics United Ukraine has been able to increase its faction from 102 deputies to being the largest with 182 deputies (compared to the 111 in Our Ukraine).
The hundreds of hours of tapes illicitly made in Kuchma's office by his security guard, Mykola Melnychenko, reveal how the tactics used to obtain Lytvyn's election as Rada chairman have been a consistent feature in what has been defined as a "blackmail state." In a recent study in "East European Constitutional Review," Yale Professor Keith Darden concludes that blackmail is used to secure political control. This is undertaken by tolerating "pervasive corruption" as "an essential element in an informal technique of presidential control" through the collection of evidence of corruption by the Security Service and the Internal Affairs Ministry.
This system is especially effective in ensuring compliance by businessmen who tend to be elected in majoritarian districts as "independents." In a taped conversation between oligarch Oleksandr Volkov and Kuchma in July 2000, Volkov was asked why he was in favor of lifting deputies' immunity. He reasoned that "there is only one immunity for deputies and that is you. Everything else is crap." Since the elections, many independent deputies have been invited to the Prosecutor-General's Office and warned that it possessed files on them. Leonid Hadyatskyy admitted that he had left the Socialist faction to join United Ukraine "in order to save himself and his family."
Darden concludes that "corruption and illegality" in Ukraine are "accepted, condoned, and even encouraged by the top leadership." Volkov, for example, was given a state medal for his services to the Ukrainian economy by Kuchma in February 2001, even though he is wanted by Belgian police on money-laundering charges and his trial in absentia is to open next month in Brussels.
As long as businessmen continue to remain loyal to President Kuchma, the files collected by the Security Service and Internal Affairs Ministry will not be used by the Prosecutor-General's Office or the Tax Administration to destroy their business. One month after the elections, all criminal charges of "corruption" were dropped against Yuliya Tymoshenko and her husband. Volodymyr Shcherban, one of the seven deputies expelled from Our Ukraine for voting for Lytvyn as Rada chairman, said after the vote that, "I did not come here today to parliament to fight with the authorities for two years." Shcherban is the leader of the Liberals, the former Donetsk "party of power," and a wealthy businessman.
The "blackmail state" places the Our Ukraine bloc in a predicament. Volkov has pointed out that it cannot join the opposition because this would lead to its businessmen and bankers to be subjected to pressure from the enforcers of the "blackmail state." Although Yushchenko has deliberately never criticized Kuchma and has refrained from calling Our Ukraine an "opposition" bloc, his ability to maneuver between the pro-presidential/oligarchic and opposition forces may be coming to an end.
Earlier this month, Yushchenko warned that if Lytvyn, as leader of a defeated bloc, were to be elected Rada chairman he would take Our Ukraine into opposition. That warning was prompted by Kuchma's rejection of a compromise proposal whereby Yushchenko would become prime minister and Lytvyn Rada chairman, an arrangement that would have given Yushchenko an excellent base from which to be elected president in 2004.
Yushchenko had already concluded prior to the 28 May vote that "the political crisis in Ukraine has turned out to be much deeper than I had imagined." In a statement after Lytvyn's election, Our Ukraine said that he was "appointed" Rada chairman, not voted in, and that the entire process showed a lack of respect for deputies and voters. The "administrative resources" that were used so heavily by Kuchma in the elections to secure For a United Ukraine votes, were again used inside the Rada, the statement continued. Our Ukraine believes that the Rada has "in effect turned into a sub-section of the presidential administration."
If Our Ukraine does go into opposition, Ukraine would have a parliament dominated by two eastern Ukrainian pro-Kuchma and oligarchic groups who lost the elections, while western-central Ukraine would be in opposition to the executive. SDPU-o head Viktor Medvedchuk is unconcerned by this possible turn of events because he is convinced that a new Rada majority will be created on the basis of the United Ukraine-SDPU-o alliance to implement the president's wishes.
These steps by Kuchma and Lytvyn will only serve to make the outcome of the 2004 presidential ballot -- in which Kuchma may not seek a further term -- even more unpredictable and Ukrainians more angry. Our Ukraine's proposals for cooperation on deep political, social, and economic reforms were turned down by Kuchma's United Ukraine. These latest developments also give the European Union-Council of Europe delegation in Kyiv this week further grounds to again turn down Kuchma's request for an association agreement between Ukraine and the EU.
Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European studies, University of Toronto.