|Wednesday, 3 June 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, 03-06-18
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 RUSSIA WAITING FOR IAEA REPORT ON IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAMSpeaking to journalists in New Delhi on 16 June, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Russia will wait for a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) before drawing any conclusions about Iran's nuclear program, RIA-Novosti reported. "We are against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and, first of all, [the proliferation] of nuclear weapons," Ivanov said. "And these [restrictions] apply to all countries, including Iran." He repeated Moscow's position that Russia's cooperation with Iran is "exclusively peaceful." He urged Tehran to sign the IAEA's Additional Protocol on extending the regime of international inspections of Iranian nuclear sites in order to eliminate concerns about Iran's nuclear program. VY
 RUSSIA, INDIA BOOST COOPERATIONForeign Minister Ivanov met in New Delhi on 16 June with Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha to discuss foreign-policy coordination and expanding bilateral military-technical cooperation, RIA-Novosti reported. Ivanov also met with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Defense Minister George Fernandes. He undertook preparations for a Russian-Indian summit to be held in Moscow later this year. Ivanov also briefly met with Indian President Abdul Kalam, a physicist by training who is considered the creator of his country's nuclear program, "Vremya novostei" reported on 16 June. Meanwhile, Indian Chief of the General Staff General Nimral Chandra Vij is touring military factories in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Tula, the daily reported. He discussed both the possibility of new weapons purchases and prospects for the joint development of military projects, particularly a Russian proposal to cooperate on building a fifth-generation fighter jet. VY
 RUSSIA, U.S. TO HOLD JOINT MISSILE-DEFENSE EXERCISESFirst Deputy Chief of the General Staff Colonel General Yurii Baluevskii told journalists on 17 June that Moscow and Washington have agreed to conduct a joint missile-defense exercise on Russian territory next year, strana.ru reported. Baluevskii added that the exercise will test the compatibility of the two countries' antiaircraft and antimissile defenses and their command and control systems. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told President Vladimir Putin that the United States and Canada have accepted a Russian proposal to participate in joint exercises with the Pacific Fleet in August. In addition, Moscow has invited Scandinavian countries, the Baltic states, and Poland to take part in exercises with the Russian Northern and Baltic fleets in the Baltic Sea at the end of this month. VY
 RUSSIAN MILITARY DEPLORES GEORGIAN, UKRAINIAN STANCE ON PORTABLE ANTIAIRCRAFT MISSILESColonel General Baluevskii said on 17 June that he cannot comprehend the reason for the refusals by Georgia and Ukraine to sign an agreement proposed by Russia to other CIS member states to impose stricter controls on the sale of Igla and Strela shoulder-launched antiaircraft missiles, Interfax reported. He noted that Azerbaijan and Moldova, which likewise declined at a meeting of senior CIS defense officials earlier this month to endorse such a multilateral ban, have subsequently hinted that they are prepared to sign bilateral agreements with Russia on strengthening control over the sale of such weapons. According to a Georgian Foreign Ministry statement of 16 June, Tbilisi was ready to sign such a ban if it had been amended to include an inventory of such weapons currently deployed at Russian military bases in Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 17 June 2003). LF
 U.S. AGENCY APPROVES NORILSK NICKEL PURCHASE OF STILLWATER MININGThe U.S. Federal Trade Commission on 17 June approved a deal under which Norilsk Nickel, the world's leading trader of platinum-group metals, will purchase 51 percent of the Stillwater Mining Company, the largest U.S. producer of palladium, RTR and other Russian media reported. Norilsk Nickel is controlled by oligarch Vladimir Potanin and the Interros group. Under the deal, Norilsk will pay $100 million and 877,000 ounces of palladium worth $160 million for control of Stillwater. The purchase is the first move of this type and makes Norilsk Nickel a "supermonopolist in its field," RTR commented. In addition, the company will now have direct access to major U.S. automakers including General Motors and the Ford Motor Company, which are major palladium purchasers. VY
 DUMA TO CONSIDER CREATING CREDIT-MONITORING AGENCYThe State Duma's Committee on Credit Organizations and Financial Markets has submitted to the Duma a bill on the creation of a national agency to monitor the credit histories of Russian citizens and companies, the Duma's press service (http://www.duma.gov.ru) reported on 18 June. Under the bill, the agency would be part of the Central Bank and would compile credit-history documentation. The documents would be protected by laws governing financial privacy, and physical access to the credit records of individuals by agency employees would be banned. VY
 GAZPROM ATTEMPT TO TAKE OVER BASHKORTOSTAN'S OIL ASSETS STOPPEDGazprom CEO Aleksei Miller and Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov on 17 June nearly signed an agreement in Moscow under which Gazprom would take in trust the management of the shares of Salavatnefteorgsintez, the republic's largest petrochemical company, RosBalt reported on 18 June. However, the signing was stopped at the last minute when it was decided that Rakhimov does not have the authority to conclude such a deal. Salavatnefteorgsintez has a capitalization of more than $500 million and is wholly owned by the government of Bashkortostan, TV-Tsentr reported on 17 June. In addition, Gazprom under the deal would have taken in trust management of the energy and chemical companies Kauchuk, Kaustik, and Gaz-servis, which also belong to Bashkortostan. Under the agreement, Gazprom would have had the option of acquiring these companies. In exchange, Gazprom would have supplied natural gas and technical assistance for the maintenance of its gas-distribution infrastructure for the next five years. The republic reportedly owes the gas giant $500 million. State Duma Deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov, a leading member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, called on Moscow to take control of economic assets in regions where "the leaders have not been replaced for decades," TV-Tsentr reported. Mitrofanov specifically mentioned Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, and the city of Moscow. VY
 ESTATES FOR THE OLIGARCHS?The oligarchs stand to benefit most from the idea of privatizing Russian cultural and historic sites that was discussed on 16 June at a meeting of the State Council in St. Petersburg (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2003), gazeta.ru reported on 16 June. According to the report, Putin met with leading Russian oil businessmen on the eve of the State Council session (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2003) and noted positively the financial support provided by private businessmen for the renovation of the Konstantin Palace. Putin urged his audience to participate in similar projects. However, he acknowledged that the issue of property ownership is crucial. At present, Russian law prevents the privatization of historical and culturally significant objects that are protected by the federal government. However, the law is less rigid with regard to objects protected by local and regional governments. Gazeta.ru noted that pharmaceutical tycoon Vladimir Bryntsalov was able to privatize the historic Nikolskoe-Uryupino estate outside Moscow by lobbying to have its status downgraded from federal to local protection. If the proposal discussed in St. Petersburg is adopted, the Bryntsalov model will likely be repeated many times over, the website commented. VY
 ST. PETERSBURG ELECTIONS SET FOR OCTOBER OR NOVEMBERCentral Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said on 17 June that the gubernatorial elections in St. Petersburg must be held between 20 October and early November, since they must be held 80-100 days after the city's Legislative Assembly sets the date, and the legislature is expected to set that date within 14 days, Russian media reported. Veshnyakov added that it would be illegal to combine the gubernatorial election with the December State Duma election, as some people have suggested (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2003). According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 17 June, the most significant consequence of the departure of former St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev to Moscow will likely be the redistribution of property that it will unleash. Allegedly pro-Yakovlev forces, such as BaltOneksimbank and the Tambov clan, will be removed from city finances, as former St. Petersburgers who had moved to Moscow will make their triumphant return to the city, the bureau commented. Also on 17 June, presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko said a concept for transferring certain functions of the national capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg will be ready by the end of the year, RosBalt reported. JAC
 ANALYSTS SAY MERGER MANIA IS REAL...In an article in "Profil," No. 23, Andrei Ryabov of the Carnegie Moscow Center and Vladimir Zmeyuschenko argue that media reports about reducing the number of regions in the Russian Federation are not just a "smoke screen for the intrigues of regional leaders against their weaker neighbors," but signal the beginning of a real effort to "set up a compact and understandable system" for managing the federation. According to the authors, there are two main reasons for such a reform: to achieve a radical reduction in the state apparatus, and to make it easier for the federal center to control regional elections. However, the authors note that while there might be a real willingness on the part of certain federal officials to pursue such reform, there exist a number of obstacles to enlarging regions. For example, thinly populated regions in the north and Siberia with significant oil-and-gas reserves will oppose enlargement, and large corporations based in particular regions could resist such changes. JAC
 ...AS PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY TRIES TO POUR COLD WATER ON FEDERATION REVAMP RUMORSMeanwhile, presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Matvienko told reporters in St. Petersburg on 17 June that talk about merging federation subjects in her district is premature at the moment, RosBalt reported. She noted that although Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug and Perm Oblast have already decided to reunite, this process will not be completed until 2007. JAC
 MANAGED ELECTIONS FOR A MANAGED DEMOCRACY...In a commentary for "The Moscow Times" on 17 June, analyst Nikolai Petrov writes that Russia is the middle of a transition from a "disorderly, managed democracy to an orderly one." According to Petrov, there are an increasing number of mechanisms by which federal officials will be able to stage-manage the December State Duma elections, including regional election commissions, which are currently being reorganized into a single, vertical structure under the direct control of the TsIK. The TsIK now appoints two members on each regional election commission, including its chairman. In addition, the TsIK has the right to dissolve regional election commissions through the courts, as was done last year in Krasnoyarsk Krai. Other such mechanisms are the regional courts and law enforcement agencies, over which the federal government has assumed control. According to Petrov, two-thirds of the senior regional officers in the Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB) have been replaced during President Putin's term. JAC
 ...AS INTELLIGENTSIA ALIENATED FROM POLITICAL PROCESSIn an interview with "Vremya-MN" on 17 June, Sergei Filatov, chairman of the Council for the Intelligentsia of the Russian Federation, commented that the "course of the state toward managed democracy could lead to an even bigger explosion than we lived through in the beginning of the 1990s." According to Filatov, who is one of the authors of the Russian Constitution, members of the intelligentsia "have completely stopped trusting the authorities.... They do not believe the politicians, oligarchs, or bureaucrats." In this situation, it will be easy for the opposition to manipulate them. He also noted the growing popularity of the "against all" option in voting. JAC
 TVS HAS LESS THAN A WEEK TO LIVE?TVS Editor in Chief Yevgenii Kiselev has sent letters to shareholders warning them that the channel will stop broadcasting after 23 June if urgent measures are not taken to finance it, Interfax reported on 17 June. The previous day, NTV General Director Nikolai Senkevich told Ekho Moskvy that his channel is willing to start negotiations with any TVS employee who wishes to return to NTV. JAC
 REGIONAL OFFICIALS COMPLAIN ABOUT LACK OF FUNDS TO IMPLEMENT NEW FEDERAL MIGRATION POLICIESIn a story about attempts to tighten the flows of migrants into Russia, TV-Tsentr reported that local officials are finding many people whose visas expired two or three years ago, but that deportation is a "headache for law enforcement agencies." Natalya Agabekova, head of the passport and visa service in Mineralnye Vody in Stavropol Krai, said that regulations do not specify "where people subject to deportation should be kept until they are expelled from Russia." At the same time, she said, "there is no money for deportations." According to Vladimir Sokolin, head of the State Statistics Committee, Russia ranks third in the world in terms of the influx of migrants, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 April. JAC
 OMSK RACE SET FOR EARLY FALLOmsk Oblast legislators decided on 17 June to hold the region's next gubernatorial election on 7 September, thus ignoring a TsIK recommendation to combine the election with 7 December State Duma elections, "Vremya novostei" reported on 18 June. According to the daily, only the small Communist faction within the legislature supported the commission's recommendation. The local Communist Party has not yet selected its candidate to challenge incumbent Governor Leonid Polezhaev. JAC
 VOLGOGRAD MAYOR RESIGNSVolgograd Mayor Yurii Chekhov has tendered his resignation, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 June. According to regions.ru, Chekhov's second term was due to expire in October. Chekhov said he needed to resign early in order to devote himself to party matters for Unified Russia and the State Duma campaign. New mayoral elections must be held within 80 days. Aleksandr Tyurin, Chekhov's first deputy, will serve as acting mayor. JAC
 CHECHEN PRESIDENT CALLS ON HIS FORCES TO OBSERVE GENEVA CONVENTIONS...In a decree dated 30 May and posted on 17 June on chechenpress.com, Aslan Maskhadov ordered all field commanders to abide strictly by the Geneva Conventions and to avoid using weapons against Chechen citizens unless their own lives are in danger. He appealed to those Chechens who "for various reasons" have ended up serving "in the armed forces of a hostile state" to surrender to his men, promising that they will be rehabilitated. Maskhadov also called for the formation of a state commission charged with promoting civic harmony and preventing possible conflicts between his supporters and those of Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov. He further instructed the Chechen parliament and other legitimate organs of power to impress on the population that the Chechen Constitution adopted in 1992 remains valid. A new Chechen Constitution was adopted in March in a referendum, the outcome of which is widely believed to have been falsified. LF
 ...AS HIS ENVOY AGAIN CALLS FOR PEACE TALKSPresident Maskhadov's official representative in Russia, Salambek Maigov, told journalists on 17 June that Maskhadov is ready for peace talks with Russia with no preconditions, Interfax reported. Maigov reaffirmed that Maskhadov is no longer demanding independence for Chechnya, but considers the status of internationally guaranteed autonomy acceptable (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2002). Kadyrov, however, as he has done on numerous previous occasions, ruled out any talks with Maskhadov, whom he branded a terrorist and criminal, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 17 June, Maigov met in Moscow with a visiting delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) that visited Chechnya earlier this week, chechenpress.com reported. As Maigov noted, it was the first such meeting between a PACE delegation and Maskhadov's official envoy. LF
 EU APPROVES HUMANITARIAN AID FOR CHECHNYAThe European Commission announced on 17 June it will send humanitarian aid worth 16.5 million euros (approximately $18 million) to victims of the Chechen war in the central and southern regions of Chechnya and in neighboring Ingushetia and Daghestan, dpa reported. LF
TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN COALITION GOVERNMENT APPROVES JOINT PROGRAM...At a special cabinet meeting on 17 June, ministers appointed by the president and those representing the three pro-presidential parties that formed a governing coalition last week approved a four-year program that aims to fulfill pledges made in the election programs of President Robert Kocharian and the coalition's three constituent parties, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The program, which is contingent on sustained annual GDP growth of at least 6 percent, envisages reducing the percentage of families living under the poverty line from 50 percent to 35 percent, doubling the wages of public sector employees, and raising pensions and social benefits. Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian said the government hopes to achieve those aims by more effective tax collection, and does not plan to raise taxes. LF
 ...AS ARMENIAN OPPOSITION MOVEMENT CLAIMS COALITION MEMORANDUM IS UNCONSTITUTIONALIn a statement released on 17 June, the Supreme Council nongovernmental organization charged that the coalition agreement signed last week by the Republican Party of Armenia, Orinats Yerkir, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun violates the Armenian Constitution, Noyan Tapan reported. The statement pointed out that the three parties reached agreement among themselves on the allocation of the posts of parliament speaker and deputy speakers, whereas the constitution stipulates that those officials are to be elected by all parliamentary deputies. LF
 FOUR AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTIES AGREE TO FIELD SINGLE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATEDuring a meeting in Baku on 14 June, the leaders of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP), the Musavat party, and the progressive wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP) agreed that their parties, together with Rasul Guliev's Democratic Party, will field a joint candidate in the 15 October presidential election, zerkalo.az reported on 18 June. But AHCP Chairman Ali Kerimli added that they agreed at the same time not to make public the name of that candidate. Kerimli and AMIP leader Etibar Mamedov have both been selected by their respective parties, while Musavat nominated its chairman, Isa Gambar, on 18 June. The formal registration of candidates lasts from 1 July until 6 p.m. local time on 6 August. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT PARDONS MORE PRISONERSHeidar Aliev issued a decree on 17 June pardoning 97 prisoners and reducing by half the remaining sentence that nine more must serve, Turan reported. Thirty-eight of those pardoned had been sentenced for crimes against the state, including involvement in an attempted coup d'etat in late 1994 and the March 1995 insurrection by special police. Human rights activist Hadjimurad Sadaddinov told Turan that two of the freed prisoners are included on the Council of Europe's list of persons considered political prisoners. LF
 AZERBAIJANI ACADEMIC FIRED FOR CRITICIZING PRESIDENTAhad Ibrahimov, a professor at the Oil Academy, was dismissed from his post on 3 June for having appended his signature to a statement issued by the AMAL movement calling for President Aliev to acknowledge the damage his "dictatorial regime" has inflicted on the country and resign, Turan reported on 17 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April and 14 May 2003). LF
 ABKHAZ CALLS FOR RESUMPTION OF TALKS WITH GEORGIAAstamur Tania, who is an adviser to Vladislav Ardzinba, president of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, said again on 17 June that Abkhazia is ready to resume talks with Georgia under the aegis of the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council, Caucasus Press reported. Those talks were suspended 18 months ago following an abortive incursion into Abkhazia by Chechen fighters. Also on 17 June, Abkhaz Deputy Defense Minister Garri Kupalba told Interfax that Georgia has not yet withdrawn the additional troops it deployed in the Kodori Gorge earlier this month following the abduction of three UN observers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 10 June 2003). Kupalba predicted that it will take six-eight weeks before the UN resumes its joint patrols of the gorge with CIS peacekeeping troops. Kodori Governor Emzar Kvitsiani said on 17 June that meanwhile Georgian and Abkhaz units will control the de facto border in Kodori between the upper, Georgian-controlled and lower, Abkhaz-controlled sectors, Caucasus Press reported. LF
 GEORGIA, RUSSIA, UN DISCUSS REPATRIATION TO ABKHAZIARepresentatives of the Georgian government, the Russian Foreign Ministry, and the UN held talks in Moscow on 16-17 June on implementing the agreement reached three months earlier by the Russian and Georgian presidents on the return of Georgian displaced persons to Abkhazia, Georgian media reported. Georgian Ambassador to Moscow Zurab Abashidze told the independent television station Rustavi-2 on 18 June that there is no truth to Georgian media reports, including one by Rustavi-2, that the talks ended in a deadlock. He said the Russian representatives and the UN presented a program for repatriation and that the possibility of establishing a joint Georgian-Abkhaz administration in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali raion was discussed. Gali had a large Georgian population prior to the 1992-93 war and is the first region of Abkhazia to which Georgians are expected to return. The Abkhaz leadership was not represented at the talks, but Rustavi-2 reported that Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba is in Moscow and was being briefed on their progress. The next round of talks is scheduled for late June. LF
 RUSSIAN, UN ENVOYS AGREE THAT CIS PEACEKEEPERS SHOULD REMAIN IN ABKHAZIAOn the sidelines of the Russian-Georgian talks, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin, who is Russian President Putin's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, met with UN special envoy Heidi Tagliavini to discuss the repatriation process and other aspects of resolving the Abkhaz conflict, Caucasus Press reported. Tagliavini said the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone is an important stabilizing factor and cooperates "constructively" with the UN Observer Mission. LF
 RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPING COMMANDER DENIES GEORGIAN REPORTS OF HIS REPLACEMENTMajor General Svyatoslav Nabdzorov, who commands the CIS peacekeeping force deployed in the unrecognized breakaway Republic of South Ossetia, told Caucasus Press on 17 June that reports of his imminent replacement are untrue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2003). He said he will remain in his post until November. Nabdzorov also criticized the Georgian contingent of the South Ossetian peacekeeping force, saying that it lacks modern equipment, including for communications. Nabdzorov further warned that he will make a formal complaint to the Georgian Foreign Ministry unless Georgia suspends military helicopter flights over the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, and the surrounding area. He also rejected as untrue Georgian media reports that he was present at an incident in which the nephew of the unrecognized republic's president was injured by a stray bullet. LF
 FEW NEW FACES IN NEW KAZAKH CABINET OF MINISTERS...Two-thirds of the members of new Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov's government are holdovers from the government of former Premier Imanghaliy Tasmaghambetov, who resigned earlier this month (see RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2003), Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 17 June, citing presidential adviser Ermukhamet Ertysbaev. Ertysbaev said that it would be incorrect to say that Akhmetov has a "new team." He noted that the new government could remain in office until the next presidential election, scheduled for the end of 2006, if supporters of President Nursultan Nazarbaev's strategic course win the next parliamentary elections. According to Ertysbaev, the new government will focus on market-oriented reforms, particularly emphasizing industrial development in the oblasts, aid for small and medium-sized businesses, and jobs creation. BB
 ...AS GOVERNMENT SETS PRIORITIES AT FIRST MEETINGPrime Minister Akhmetov set out his government's priorities on 17 June at the first meeting of his new cabinet, RIA-Novosti reported. The top priority listed by Akhmetov is economic development, in particular the implementation of an industrial-development strategy stressing innovation and the development of programs to promote the agricultural sector and combat poverty. He said Kazakhstan is not yet experiencing growth based on economic, social, and environmental stability. Akhmetov described his government as combining continuity, which he had emphasized when he was confirmed as prime minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003), and new vigor. BB
 KAZAKH ANTIMONOPOLY AND INFORMATION AGENCIES REORGANIZEDTwo state agencies in Kazakhstan have been reorganized by presidential decree, "Kazakhstanskaya pravda" reported on 17 June, quoting the presidential press service. The Agency for Regulating Natural Monopolies and Protecting Competition will be subordinated directly to the president and will no longer be part of the government. The Transport and Communications Ministry's Committee on Communications and Information Technology will be dissolved and its responsibilities handed over to a new executive body called the Agency for Information Technology and Communications. The report was unclear as to whether the creation of the agency would mean that responsibility for information technology will be removed from the ministry entirely. BB
 KYRGYZ OPPOSITION NGO SAYS UNIFORMS FOR STATE EMPLOYEES VIOLATES HUMAN RIGHTSThe governing board of the Foundation for the Development of Democracy on 17 June drew up an appeal to Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev asking him to rescind a recent decree ordering that government employees wear uniforms, akipress.org reported. The appeal states that clothing selection is a matter of personal choice and that requiring government employees to wear uniforms is a direct violation of human rights in that it denies individuality, offends one's sense of self-identity, and violates the individual's right to make choices. According to the foundation, the uniforms also underscore the special status of government employees and is a form of discrimination against other citizens. In addition, the uniforms will have to be paid for by the taxpayers. The foundation also objected to the requirement that different qualities of fabric be used for the uniforms of different ranks of bureaucrats. Akipress.org noted that the foundation's board includes influential political figures and parliamentarians. BB
 TAJIK POLITICAL PARTIES GIVE FINAL VIEWS ON REFERENDUMFour Tajik political parties summed up their views on the 22 June referendum at a 17 June news conference in Dushanbe, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Social Democratic Party Chairman Rahmatullo Zoirov was quoted as saying it is up to each citizen to decide whether to vote in the referendum on changes in the Tajik Constitution. He said he sees no point in a boycott, because "we already know what the result of the referendum will be." He asserted that only 1 percent-2 percent of voters are familiar with the proposed amendments, and only 30 percent-35 percent of voters even know about the referendum. Acting Socialist Party Chairman Mirhuseyn Narziev said his party will take part in the referendum. He said that he will vote against the changes because he believes they will undermine social stability and lead to more poverty and ignorance, which in turn could provide fertile ground for extremism and terrorism. Two pro-government parties -- Rakhmonov's People's Democratic Party and the newly formed Vahdat -- expressed support for the amendments. BB
 TURKMEN PRESIDENT ATTACKS RUSSIAN MEDIASaparmurat Niyazov demanded international respect for his country and attacked the Russian media during his weekly televised cabinet meeting on 16 June, RIA-Novosti and polit.ru reported on 17 June. The Russian media were targeted for allegedly discrediting Turkmenistan in their reporting on the revocation of a Turkmen-Russian dual-citizenship agreement. Niyazov also complained that some Russian politicians have joined the campaign to discredit his country. Turkmenistan, Niyazov said, should be respected as a neutral state, the basic principle of whose foreign policy is openness and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Niyazov also announced that he will ask the Halk Maslahaty (People's Assembly) at its annual session to approve constitutional changes that he said would improve Turkmenistan's national security, Interfax reported on 17 June. The report said Niyazov did not specify what those changes would be. After Niyazov's attack on the Russian media, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry issued a statement appealing to the Russian media for objectivity in its reporting of the citizenship issue. BB
 FEE INSTITUTED FOR MILITARY RESERVE IN UZBEKISTANThe Uzbek government has instituted a fee for young men entering the mobilization-conscription reserve instead of the regular military service, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 17 June, quoting Interfax. According to the decree, a conscript wishing to enter the reserve must pay the equivalent of 25 minimum wages (about $140) into a special Defense Ministry bank account. The money will be used to finance the training of reservists. Reservists receive training in regular military units around the country, and upon successful completion of the training, they are given a military card and will be considered as having served in the army for an unspecified period of time. BB
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
 BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ORDERS GET-TOUGH APPROACH TO BAD LOANSPresident Alyaksandr Lukashenka called on senior government officials and bankers on 17 June to use tough measures to enforce the repayment of poorly performing loans to state-run banks, Belapan reported, quoting the presidential press service. Belarusian Television reported that "problematic loans" to state companies total some $170 million. Bankers reportedly welcomed Lukashenka's recent proposal to pass a law that would empower him to pardon individuals prosecuted for economic crimes on the condition that they recompense losses with interest. JM
 BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION URGES INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO OSTRACIZE NATIONAL ASSEMBLYThe leaders of five opposition parties -- the Belarusian Popular Front, the United Civic Party, the Belarusian Party of Labor, the Belarusian Social Democratic Assembly, and the Belarusian Party of Communists -- have appealed to the international community to deny recognition to the Belarusian legislature, Belapan reported on 17 June. They said their appeal is prompted by the National Assembly's approval of legislation that allows authorities to outlaw a party or an organization for a single "flagrant" violation of the law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2003). The party leaders view the legislation as "a targeted and planned campaign to prepare the liquidation of multiparty system in Belarus" before next year's parliamentary elections and a possible referendum to extend Lukashenka's term of presidency. The parties urged international organizations to be selective in their contacts with National Assembly members. JM
 BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES SHUT DOWN ANOTHER NGOThe Homel Oblast Court on 17 June ordered the closure of the oblast's largest nongovernmental organization, Civic Initiatives, Belapan reported. The court concurred with charges by local authorities that Civic Initiatives printed and distributed leaflets without authorization, illegally set up resource and analytical centers, and failed to follow correct procedure in admitting and expelling members. JM
 UKRAINE, ROMANIA SIGN ACCORD ON LAND BORDERUkrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his Romanian counterpart Ion Iliescu signed an agreement in Chernivtsi in southwestern Ukraine on 17 June on their mutual land border, Ukrainian media reported. The accord confirms the border that was fixed in 1961 but leaves unresolved a dispute over the precise border along the continental shelf of the Black Sea, in the vicinity of Serpent Island (Zmiyinyy Ostrov). The dispute flared when Ukrainian geologists found oil deposits near the island in 2001. According to Ukraine's State Border Protection Committee, the Ukrainian-Romanian land frontier stretches for 608.8 kilometers. JM
 U.S. EMBASSY REFUTES CLAIMS THAT ESTONIANS ARE INCREASINGLY BEING REFUSED VISASThe daily "Eesti Paevaleht" reported on 17 June that Estonian travel agencies are giving up on booking package tours to the United States because too many applicants are being refused visas, BNS reported. The U.S. Embassy in Tallinn has issued a press release refuting the article's claims, stating that 89 percent of Estonian applicants received U.S. visas this year, compared to approximately 82 percent in 2001 and 2002. The embassy admitted that after the September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington the checking of visa applications became more stringent and expressed regret for any inconvenience this might have caused. SG
 LATVIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES SENDING ANOTHER ARMY UNIT TO IRAQThe cabinet approved on 17 June a proposal to send an infantry unit of some 100 soldiers to serve in peacekeeping operations in Iraq, BNS reported. The unit would serve in the Polish multinational division, which is to comprise troops from 21 countries. The troops are expected to arrive in Iraq by 11 August at the latest. Their main task will be to ensure public order and security in the area in which they are stationed. Another Latvian unit of 39 officers and soldiers, including six mine-clearing experts, is currently serving with Danish troops in the northeastern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. SG
 LITHUANIA TO REDUCE SIZE OF ARMY AFTER JOINING NATOThe parliament on 17 June approved a bill on the structure of the Lithuanian armed forces that calls for the reduction of the number of soldiers in the armed forces and active reserve from the current 22,000 to 17,000 by 2008, ELTA and BNS reported. The bill passed by a vote of 53 to six with 13 abstentions. The reduction will be achieved by cutting the annual number of conscripts from 4,500 to 2,000 people and the active reserve from 9,000 to 6,500 servicemen. However, the number of senior officers will increase, as otherwise it would be difficult to delegate suitably ranked representatives to work on NATO staffs. The number of generals and admirals will be increased from four to seven, colonels and sea captains from 30 to 40, and lieutenant colonels and commanders from 105 to 120. Liberal parliament deputy Algirdas Gricius criticized the bill, saying the country should follow the examples of other Western European countries and give up conscription completely. SG
 POLISH GOVERNMENT TO CUT CORPORATE TAX TO 19 PERCENTPrime Minister Leszek Miller said on 17 June that his cabinet has resolved to cut the corporate-income tax to 19 percent in 2004 from the current 27 percent, PAP reported. Miller added that the reduction will further the modernization of companies and improve their competitiveness. JM
 POLISH SECRET-SERVICE HEAD TESTIFIES BEFORE 'RYWINGATE' COMMISSIONAndrzej Barcikowski, head of the Internal Security Agency, testified on 17 June before the parliamentary commission investigating the so-called Rywingate bribery scandal, PAP reported. The commission is probing allegations by "Gazeta Wyborcza" that film producer Lew Rywin sought a $17.5 million bribe in July from Agora, the newspaper's publisher, on behalf of Premier Leszek Miller's Democratic Left Alliance in return for changes to a media bill to benefit Agora (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 18 February 2003). Barcikowski said he views Rywin's alleged bribery offer as a "business bluff" and added that resorting to such a trick is common in Poland. "It [business bluff] is based on the citing of various connections with politicians, most often from the currently ruling grouping, for the purposes of strengthening one's bargaining position," Barcikowski explained. He said Rywin's offer was "full of contradictions, strange, and improbable." Earlier this month, prosecutors indicted Rywin on corruption charges that carry a sentence of up to three years in prison. JM
 CZECH PRESIDENT DEFENDS SILENCE ON EU VOTEIn an interview in the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 18 June, Vaclav Klaus responded to mounting criticism of his frosty public stance in the wake of Czechs' "yes" vote on EU membership. "Unlike politicians who viewed their pre-referendum and post-referendum exhibition as their personal political campaign, I have simply consistently explained to people my well-known view that membership in the European Union for the Czech Republic is a marriage of convenience rather than one of love," Klaus said. Klaus was responding to criticism from both the ruling coalition and his own Civic Democratic Party for his failure to take a clear position ahead of the 13-14 June plebiscite or to quickly issue any public statement on the historic vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 June, 2003). Klaus said he "deliberately" opted out of participating in the "creation of an atmosphere [in which] a serious debate on the advantages and disadvantages of EU accession cannot be conducted; [and] that is verging on indecency and is politically incorrect," he said. He condemned the "spending of hundreds of millions of crowns to finance a dubious pre-referendum campaign" and said he was aware he was running the risk of "becoming the target of a media attack -- which is what has happened." Klaus also said the post-referendum celebrations were "nothing but efforts by certain representatives of political parties to build political capital from the results for their personal goals." He added, "I refused to assist in this and will act in the same way in the future." MS
 FORMER CZECH PRESIDENT AWARDED GERMAN PRIZEGermany's Foundation Weimar has conferred its annual award to former Czech President Vaclav Havel for his contribution to European unification and German-Czech relations, AFP reported on 17 June. The foundation said in a statement that "as a writer and a politician," Havel "is among those who committed themselves to [the struggle for] human rights with all his conviction, even at the price of his personal freedom." The foundation cited Havel's numerous arrests by the communist authorities of former Czechoslovakia for his leadership of the pro-democracy movement. As Czech president, the foundation said, "he repeatedly spoke out under difficult political circumstances for a reconciliation between Czechs and Germans." The 100,000-euro ($118,000) prize was to be presented to Havel at a ceremony in Berlin on 18 June. MS
 PROPOSED ABORTION LAW CONTINUES TO DIVIDE SLOVAKIA'S RULING COALITIONThe coalition Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) party said on 17 June that it wants the Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) to postpone the second reading of ANO's proposed abortion amendment until the Constitutional Court rules on its constitutionality, TASR reported. Legislators voted 64 to 60 later the same day to postpone the second reading until that court verdict is delivered, providing time for the coalition to seek a resolution to the mounting crisis over the bill. The Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), another member of the center-right four-party coalition headed by Premier Mikulas Dzurinda, appealed to the Constitutional Court. The amendment would prolong a woman's right to an abortion from the first to the second trimester, in cases where the fetus suffers from a genetic disorder. President Rudolf Schuster said after a meeting with coalition leaders on 17 June that he supports the SDKU proposal. KDH Chairman and parliamentary speaker Pavol Hrusovsky warned that the coalition will not survive in its present form if the amendment is approved by parliament. MS
 SLOVAK PARLIAMENT SCHEDULES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE IN DEPUTY PREMIER, FINANCE MINISTER...On 17 June, Slovak lawmakers agreed to hold no-confidence votes in Deputy Premier Pal Csaky and Finance Minister Ivan Miklos on 20 June, TASR reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2003). Deputies from the opposition's recently renamed People's Party-Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (LS-HZDS), Smer (Direction), the People's Union, and the Communist Party of Slovakia submitted the motion, which accuses the two men of incompetence and corruption, respectively. The ANO parliamentary group decided the same day that its party's deputies will abstain in the Csaky vote and will oppose Miklos's dismissal. MS
 ...AND OVERRIDES PRESIDENTIAL VETO OF PENSION HIKEParliament on 17 June overrode President Schuster's veto of a bill raising pensions by 6 percent, TASR reported. Schuster was seeking an 8 percent hike (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003). The opposition boycotted the vote, and the bill was unanimously re-approved on the strength of the votes of coalition lawmakers. MS
 HUNGARIAN PREMIER REPORTEDLY ORDERS PROBES INTO FINANCIAL WATCHDOG'S ACTIVITIESHungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy on 17 June ordered investigations into matters related to Hungary's Financial Supervisory Authority (PSZAF), whose chairman, Karoly Szasz, was attacked by three unknown assailants one day earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2003), Hungarian media reported. Without specifying, the media reports said the request for investigation was directed at "authorized bodies." Some, including Szasz, have speculated that the attack was motivated by a report that the PSZAF released on 17 June; in it, PSZAF says it fined two new owners of plastics company Pannonplast 11.5 million forints ($52,000) for unlawfully gaining control of the company. Medgyessy ordered an investigation into PSZAF's handling of the Pannonplast affair, as well as into alleged irregularities laid out in an anonymous letter that charged Szasz with criminal misconduct. The investigations came as little surprise, as the relationship between the government and Szasz has gradually deteriorated. Szasz was appointed to his present position three years ago under Viktor Orban's government. MSZ
 FIDESZ INITIATES MOTION AGAINST HUNGARIAN EDUCATION MINISTEROpposition FIDESZ deputies Robert Repassy and Zsolt Nyitrai initiated a motion on 17 June to launch a parliamentary investigation into Education Minister Balint Magyar's asset declaration in light of a home purchase in February, Hungarian television reported. Magyar's villa cost a reported 100 million forints ($450,000), according to an official report by the Education Ministry that was released on 11 June in the wake of a "Magyar Nemzet" article. Magyar, who has come under intense scrutiny amid alleged irregularities in tenders run by his ministry, defended his asset statement and vowed to sue Repassy for leveling false accusations at him. Prior to Repassy's motion, Magyar had asked parliament speaker Katalin Szili to arrange for the chamber's committee on parliamentary immunity to take a stand on the legality of his asset statement. MSZ
 HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES AMENDMENTS TO STATUS LAW...Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said during parliamentary debate of amendments to the controversial Status Law on 17 June that the amended draft meets European norms and is no longer a source of tension between Hungary and neighboring countries, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Kovacs also said the text of the amendment has been accepted by ethnic Hungarian organizations representing 98 percent of Hungarians abroad. For his part, opposition FIDESZ deputy Zsolt Nemeth complained that the deletion of a reference to a united Hungarian nation from the text of the Status Law would fundamentally change the legislation, putting the brakes on the process of national reunification. MSZ
 ...AND APPROVES NEW LEGISLATION ON CAPITAL MARKETSParliament approved amendments to the country's law on regulation of the capital markets and a new law regulating the operations of banks and credit unions on 17 June, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. Major changes to the law include a clause prescribing equal treatment for Hungarian and foreign companies in bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings, or in applications for investment funds. MSZ
 HAGUE PROSECUTOR TURNS DOWN CROATIAN REQUESTCarla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said on 17 June that fugitive indicted war criminal General Ante Gotovina must appear before the tribunal to answer the charges against him, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2003). She was responding to a request by Croatian President Stipe Mesic that the tribunal reconsider the indictment. Elsewhere, in a second interview with the weekly "Nacional," Gotovina thanked Mesic for his recent support for the "truth regarding...and dignity" of Croatia's 1991-95 war of independence. Mesic has hitherto had a long history of bad relations with veterans' groups. PM
 FORMER YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT TESTIFIES IN THE HAGUEAppearing as a witness at the war crimes trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Zoran Lilic, who is also a former Yugoslav chief executive, said on 17 June that Milosevic approved measures in 1995 to train volunteers for the dwindling Croatian Serb and Bosnian Serb forces in Serbia and to pay those forces' officers' salaries, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Lilic also provided the names of several Yugoslav Army generals whom Milosevic allegedly sacked for refusing to follow what they regarded as illegal orders. PM
 IS SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO SET TO FOLLOW EU LINE ON ICC?Serbia and Montenegro's President Svetozar Marovic said in Podgorica on 16 June that his government finds itself in an "unnatural and immoral" situation because of conflicting demands on it by the United States and the EU regarding the signing of a bilateral extradition-immunity agreement with the United States prohibiting the handover of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 13 June 2003). Marovic added that his government will soon make a decision that is "not perfect but...the least harmful" of the various options under consideration. He stressed that his country "belongs to Europe and that its goal is European integration. That is why we expect that our friends in the United States will support us.... The quicker we get into the [EU] admission process, the stronger our obligation towards EU institutions is." PM
 SERBIAN LEADER: NO TALKS WITH KOSOVARS UNDER PRESENT UN CHIEFSerbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic told Reuters in Belgrade on 17 June that any serious talks between Belgrade and Prishtina will have to await the appointment of a new head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK). "There won't be the start of a dialogue on Kosovo in Thessaloniki [at the EU summit]. I think that the talks should start after [current UNMIK chief Michael] Steiner leaves and a new representative comes. I don't think the problem of Serb-Albanian relations should be turned into a spectacle, even if Mr. Steiner wants that at the end of his mandate," Covic added (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 June 2003). Relations between Covic and Steiner have long been strained. PM
 STABILITY PLAN HEAD: EU WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE KOSOVA STATUS QUESTIONErhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Balkan Stability Pact, told Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service on 16 June that the EU will have to involve itself in the Kosova status issue because that province and all its neighbors seek membership in the Brussels-based bloc. Busek said Kosova has made much progress in the past four years, notably in holding three democratic elections, improving the security situation, and generating new economic development. Much remains to be done, however, regarding refugee returns, police work, privatization, regional-infrastructure development, and combating organized crime, he added. Busek stressed that the elections have served to clarify the balance of power between the various political parties and provide legitimacy to elected officials (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 June 2003). PM
 KOSOVAR LEADERS STRESS U.S. ROLE IN SETTLING THE STATUS QUESTIONNexhat Daci, who is speaker of Kosova's parliament, said in Prishtina on 17 June that any upcoming talks between Kosova and Serbia will deal with purely practical questions and serve to make life easier for ordinary citizens, RFE/RL's Albanian-language broadcasters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 June 2003). He stressed that status talks will come later and must involve the United States in the "leading role," even though the most important "European countries are gradually coming to understand the Kosova question better." Elsewhere, Bujar Dugolli, who is a member of the parliament's presidency and of the Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK), said: "The EU does not have a strategy for resolving the Kosova question. Some of its members are one-sided [in the matter] and showed this four years ago when they opposed NATO's intervention [against Serbian forces]. Because of this, politicians and the public in Kosova are convinced that the Kosova question cannot be resolved without the direct and leading role of the United States." PM
 WHAT ARE THE PEACEKEEPERS UP TO IN EASTERN BOSNIA?SFOR troops stepped up patrols in Bosnian Serb areas in the east of the country and along the border with Montenegro on 17 June, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. An SFOR spokesman said the increased presence is to help newly arrived soldiers familiarize themselves with the terrain. Many observers in and outside Bosnia suggested that SFOR might be staging a fresh hunt for indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, who is believed to be in that area. SFOR officials refused to comment on questions regarding Karadzic, dpa reported. PM
 SLOVENIAN UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DROPSThe April unemployment rate in Slovenia stood at 11.1 percent, which is a 5 percentage-point drop over the previous April, dpa reported from Ljubljana on 17 June. PM
 INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY CONDEMNS MINE BLAST IN MACEDONIAAn antitank mine destroyed an army vehicle near Kumanovo on 17 June, leaving one Macedonian Army soldier dead and another wounded, dpa reported. In a joint statement, representatives of the United States, NATO, OSCE, and the EU Concordia military mission condemned the incident as a "cowardly act" and expressed their sympathies to the families of the killed and injured soldiers. "This was a planned terrorist act with a freshly planted mine on a road used by army convoys on a daily basis," RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters quoted Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski as saying. On 4 March, two Polish soldiers of the NATO Allied Harmony mission were killed in a similar incident (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2003). UB
 JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN TELLS ROMANIANS U.S. HAS NOT DECIDED ON TROOP RELOCATIONU.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers said in Bucharest on 17 June that the United States has not yet decided whether it will transfer troops from Western to Eastern Europe, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau and dpa reported. Myers spoke after talks with his Romanian counterpart General Mihail Popescu in which he said the topic was only obliquely raised. Myers said the Romanian Army has undergone important reforms that resulted in remarkable progress and interoperability with NATO forces. He thanked Romania for its help in the struggle against international terrorism and for participating in peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Balkans. Myers was received the same day by Premier Adrian Nastase. MS
 ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES SAY THEY WILL NOT VOTE CONFIDENCE IN RESHUFFLED CABINETNational Liberal Party (PNL) Deputy Chairman Paul Pacuraru said on 17 June that his party will not vote confidence in the reshuffled cabinet headed by Premier Nastase, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Pacuraru said that a vote of confidence can only be granted after the cabinet presents a new program. Democratic Party Chairman Train Basescu called the reshuffle (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2003) "cosmetic" and a communist-style "rotation of cadres." He said the most corrupt ministers remain in the cabinet, and this puts President Ion Iliescu in an "awkward position." He named several cabinet ministers he considers corrupt: Premier Nastase; Economy and Commerce Minister Dan Ioan Popescu; Transportation, Construction, and Tourism Minister Miron Mitrea; and Serban Mihailescu, who is government secretary with ministerial rank. MS
 ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT BEGINS DEBATES ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTSDebates on amending the Romanian Constitution began in the lower house on 18 June, Romanian Radio reported. On 17 June, the Chamber of Deputies decided that for the debates to be valid, a quorum of two-thirds of the deputies must be present. Decisions are to be made with a simple majority of 50 percent-plus-one. The lower house also decided that if the debates have not ended by the time parliament takes its summer break, an extraordinary session of the legislature will be convoked for this purpose. MS
 ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT BACKTRACKS IN HOLOCAUST DISPUTEThe government issued a statement on 17 June that, in effect, retracts its earlier declaration that no Holocaust took place on Romanian territory from 1940-45, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau and international news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 16, and 17 June 2003). The statement acknowledged that Romania's interwar government headed by Marshal Ion Antonescu "was guilty of grave war crimes, pogroms, and mass deportations of Romanian Jews to territories occupied or controlled by the Romanian Army." The statement also said the Antonescu regime employed "methods of discrimination and extermination that are part of the Holocaust." The Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania earlier on 17 June issued a declaration harshly criticizing the government's 12 June statement and demanded that the cabinet officially retract it. Mediafax reported that the Romany Civil Association Conference said it is in "stupefaction" following last week's statement and demanded that a delegation of its representatives be received by Premier Nastase and President Iliescu. Iliescu said the government's 12 June statement was "superfluous" and opened up a "futile dispute." The Israeli Knesset's Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Committee and its Romanian-born chairwoman, Colette Avital, have also protested the statement. MS
 IMF OFFICIAL MEETS WITH MOLDOVAN PREMIERInternational Monetary Fund (IMF) Executive Director Jeroen Kremers, who is on a five-day visit to Moldova, met on 17 June with Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev, Flux reported. Tarlev said Moldova wants a "transparent and constructive" relationship with the fund. He also said his cabinet wants to extend help to small and medium-sized enterprises and to reduce taxation, and is asking the IMF to help it achieve these goals. He also said Moldova is hoping to receive substantially greater funding from the IMF and the World Bank. Kremers said the IMF's relations with Moldova are good and that he is prepared personally to plead Moldova's cause to bring about an improvement in the country's relations with international lending organizations. MS
 BULGARIAN GOVERNING PARTY ASSESSES WORKPlamen Panayotov, who leads the National Movement Simeon II's (NDSV) parliamentary group, on 17 June said no country has ever managed to eliminate crime and corruption, "Sega" reported. Panayotov made the comment while addressing journalists on the occasion of the second anniversary of ruling party's victory in the 2001 general elections. He said the most important duty for the remaining two years of the government's term will be to explain its policy so the citizens become committed to the country's EU-accession bid. Ahmed Dogan, who heads the NDSV's coalition partner, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), said the government has failed to cope with crime. "We thought we could cope with crime in a much shorter period," Dogan said, adding that in its remaining two years in office the government should work to integrate further the country's economy into Europe. UB
 BULGARIAN PRESIDENT PREFERS EUROPEAN POSITION ON ICCSpeaking at a joint news conference with his visiting Slovenian counterpart Janez Drnovsek, President Georgi Parvanov said on 17 June that it is unfortunate that small countries like Bulgaria should have to choose between Brussels and Washington, "Standart" reported. Parvanov said he expects the controversy between the United States and the EU over the bilateral extradition-immunity agreements exempting U.S. citizens from being handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to become more heated. Parvanov underscored that he personally favors the European position on this issue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2003). UB
 BULGARIAN MILITARY MISSION IN IRAQ TO BEGIN IN SEPTEMBERBrigadier General Galimir Pehlivanov has announced that the Bulgarian contingent of the international stabilization forces in Iraq will leave for the Persian Gulf region at the beginning of August, mediapool.bg reported on 17 June. The contingent will then be put under Polish command as of 1 September. UB
SOUTHWESTERN ASIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST
 U.S. TROOPS OPEN FIRE AS IRAQI PROTESTS TURN VIOLENTU.S. forces opened fire on former Iraqi soldiers after their protest turned violent outside U.S. headquarters in Baghdad on 18 June, Reuters reported. The former Iraqi soldiers have regularly gathered to protest their dismissal by U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer and to demand three months' back pay (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 30 May and 6 June 2003). U.S. Army Captain Scott Nauman told CNN that violence erupted when protesters attacked a U.S. convoy outside the compound, smashing windows and shaking the vehicle. U.S. troops outside the compound reportedly fired two warning shots into the air before a soldier from within the convoy fired directly into the crowd of protesters. Two Iraqis were subsequently reported to have been killed. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that protesters threw rocks at two Iraqi cameramen working for that news agency outside the U.S. compound during the demonstration. UN and television-crew vehicles passing by the demonstration were also attacked. KR
 U.K. CONTINUES TO PAY FORMER SOLDIERSDismissed Iraqi soldiers living in the British-administered areas of southern Iraq continue to receive paychecks despite a U.S. decision to dissolve the Iraqi Army, the London "Telegraph" website reported on 18 June (http://www.telegraph.co.uk). The payments are part of Britain's "hearts and minds" campaign, aimed at forging good relations with Iraqis rather than stirring up resentment, according to the report. Brigadier Adrian Bradshaw, commander of the 7th Armored Brigade, told the daily that approximately 8,000 of the 10,000 demobilized soldiers in the Al-Basrah Governorate are being paid as "civil servants." Bradshaw said the soldiers are no different from the estimated 70,000 other civil servants currently on the payroll who receive checks but do not report to work. The payments, according to the "Telegraph," amount to a form of unemployment benefits. "At least they have something to tide them over until the employment situation improves," Bradshaw said. The British are actively recruiting former soldiers as security guards for food-storage facilities, and as many as 2,000 might be recruited to serve in the soon-to-be-launched Basrah River Service, which will police waterways for smuggling. KR
 U.S. ADMINISTRATOR UNVEILS NEW CRIMINAL COURT IN IRAQ...U.S. administrator Bremer on 17 June announced the creation of a new criminal court in Iraq, AP reported. The changes are seen as a first step toward upgrading the judicial system in Iraq. Two new divisions have been created: the Judicial Review Committee and the Central Criminal Court. "The review committee's task is to clean up Iraq's judiciary," Bremer said. "If the committee finds any judge or prosecutor who violates these standards, the committee will dismiss him or her from office." The committee will comprise three Iraqis and three representatives of the coalition and will finish its initial task in three to four months, Bremer said. Meanwhile, the Central Criminal Court will preside over criminal cases relating to attacks on Iraq's security and reconstruction. "One of the main reasons for my establishing this court is so that we can try people, in particular senior Ba'athists,... who may have committed crimes against the coalition, who are trying to destabilize the situation here, and so we can do it rather quickly," Reuters quoted Bremer as saying on 17 June. KR
 ...BUT SOME IRAQI JUDGES OBJECT TO COURT INTERFERENCEBremer also told reporters on 17 June that he envisages that the court "could evolve into a tribunal to try people for crimes against humanity," but he cautioned, "That is a decision that the [future] Iraqi government should make," Reuters reported. The court will be based on the Iraqi legal code, which is a civil-law system, the "Los Angeles Times" reported on 18 June. However, three amendments have been made: defendants will be allowed legal representation throughout the process; they will have the right to remain silent; and the use of torture will be prohibited. But some Iraqi judges and lawyers have expressed dismay over what they say is U.S. interference in their court system. "The Americans are an occupation force, and we are the source of one of the oldest codes of law -- Hammurabi's Code," Iraqi Judge Qassem Ayyash told AP. "It's like teaching a driver how to drive." KR
 IRAQI 'GROUP OF SEVEN' APPROVES EXPANSIONThe seven-member Iraqi leadership council met on 15 June and approved an expansion of the council in order to enable more representatives of diverse political, social, and cultural parties to join it, the London-based "Al-Hayat" reported on 17 June. According to the report, 21 individuals were nominated as members of the council, but it was unclear whether that figure included or was in addition to the seven original members. The leadership council was to hold a broad-based conference to elect an interim Iraqi government in May, but U.S. administrator Bremer quashed that plan (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 6 June 2003), instead opting to appoint his own "advisory council." Some from the group of seven said Bremer's decision was the result of the seven-member group's inability to move quickly and amicably to form a conference. The seven-member group includes the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the Iraqi National Accord (INA), the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party, and the National Democratic Party. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the seventh member, did not attend the 15 June meeting. KR
 NO SIGN TEHRAN WILL ACCEPT STRICTER NUCLEAR PROTOCOL AS IAEA REVIEWS IRAN...The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Board of Governors is scheduled to debate on 18 June its harsh report, made public on 16 June, that details Iran's failure to comply with the agency's nuclear safeguard agreement, Reuters reported. Iranian representative to the IAEA Ali Salehi told reporters on 17 June that he has received no new instructions from Tehran regarding whether it will sign the IAEA's Additional Protocol that would allow the agency to conduct more intrusive, short-notice inspections. However, he repeated Tehran's oft-articulated position, expressed in recent days by Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and others, that Iran will not do so unless first given access to Western nuclear technology, according to Reuters. When it meets on 18 June, the IAEA board is unlikely to declare Iran in "noncompliance" of its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations, which would require the agency to notify the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose economic sanctions. SF
 ...AS RUSSIA WAITS FOR IAEA REPORTSpeaking to journalists in New Delhi on 16 June, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Russia will wait for a report by the IAEA before drawing any conclusions about Iran's nuclear program, RIA-Novosti reported. "We are against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and, first of all, [the proliferation] of nuclear weapons," Ivanov said. "And these [restrictions] apply to all countries, including Iran." He repeated Moscow's position that Russia's cooperation with Iran is "exclusively peaceful." He urged Tehran to sign the IAEA's Additional Protocol on extending the regime of international inspections of Iranian nuclear sites in order to eliminate concerns about Iran's nuclear program. VY
 TEHRAN DEMONSTRATIONS CONTINUE, BUT SUBDUEDDemonstrations, characterized as pro-democracy, continued in Tehran on their eighth night, Western media reported on 17 June. The crowds, now numbering only in the hundreds, were subdued on 17 June compared to previous nights, probably out of wariness of vigilante attacks, Reuters reported. The sound of car horns largely replaced the antiregime slogan shouting of recent nights; police spray-painted red the cars of those who honked too often, however. Meanwhile, 217 members of the reformist-dominated Iranian parliament on 17 June signed a letter of protest regarding recent U.S. statements of support for the demonstrators, IRNA reported. Using a Persian expression for futility, the parliamentarian's said the U.S. government is "crushing water in a mortar" by attempting to interfere in Iran's internal affairs. SF
 AFGHAN LEADER ARRIVES IN TEHRAN TO TALK BORDER SECURITY AND DRUGSAfghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, heading a 41-member delegation, arrived in Tehran on 18 June for a three-day visit, IRNA reported. Iranian President Khatami received Karzai at the airport and the two will hold a joint meeting with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and Uzbek President Islam Karimov to discuss regional development, border security, and the fight against opium-poppy cultivation. AT
 NGOS WARN OF DISASTER IN AFGHANISTAN UNLESS SECURITY IS ESTABLISHED...Nearly 80 humanitarian, human rights, and conflict-prevention groups released a statement on 17 June entitled "Afghanistan: A Call for Security" in which they urged the United Nations and NATO to expand the International Security Assistance Force's (ISAF) mandate to locations and transportation routes beyond Kabul, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) reported. The report urges NATO, which is due to assume the command of the ISAF in August, to provide support for a comprehensive program of "disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of militia forces" that are not under the control of the Afghan Transitional Administration. IRC President George Rupp said that "the interim administration of [Chairman] Hamid Karzai needs much more support and resources to bring peace and safety to the Afghan people." He added that "unless there are dramatic security improvements in Afghanistan, reconstruction efforts will be stymied, the Bonn peace process risks collapse, free and fair elections might never be realized, and a return to anarchy and civil war becomes increasingly likely" (for more on the Afghan elections, see upcoming "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 19 June 2003). AT
 ...AS DOES KABUL DAILY"The Kabul Times" commented on 15 June that U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spoke "too soon when he declared last month [1 May] that the combat phase" of the war against terrorism in Afghanistan is over. Mentioning the 7 June suicide attack on a bus carrying German troops serving under the ISAF (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2003), the commentary added that unless the United States and the rest of the international community "act quickly to deploy a larger security force outside" Kabul, Afghanistan "will unravel" in the face of attacks by terrorist and warlords. "The Kabul Times" suggested that when NATO assumes command of the ISAF in August, the United States and its European partners "must increase their forces and security coordination." AT
 UN WARNS SAYS LACK OF SECURITY RESPONSIBLE FOR INCREASED DRUG PRODUCTION IN AFGHANISTANAntonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said on 17 June that "war and lawlessness have been the forces that have driven opium production to present [high] levels, and not the other way around," the BBC reported. In 2001, the last year of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the regime "succeeded in significantly reducing [drug] production, but under the warlords who are the de facto rulers of many areas in Afghanistan, it has risen sharply," the BBC commented. Costa said that "in the coming years Afghanistan will continue to be the world's largest opium producer," despite the Transitional Administration's efforts to stem illegal-drug production. The main problem facing Karzai's administration, as highlighted by the statement issued by NGO's (see above), is its inability to enforce its policies beyond Kabul. Karzai proposed a National Army comprising 70,000 troops, but just 4,000 have been trained. In addition, most of the new army recruits are loyal to Defense Minister Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim, and not to the central authorities (for more on the drug problem in Afghanistan, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February, 29 May, and 5 June 2003). AT
 AFGHAN, PAKISTANI, AND U.S. MILITARY OFFICIALS MEET TO DISCUSS BORDER SECURITYHigh-level military and civilian representatives from the tripartite commission established in April by Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff met for the first time on 17 June in Islamabad, "The New York Times" reported. The commission is tasked with investigating the increasing number of border incursions from Pakistan into Afghanistan. Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad said the meeting was "a constructive, positive first step to addressing issues of mutual concern." The U.S. delegation was headed by Major General John Vines, while Pakistan's was led by General Kayani, who is chief of military operations. The Afghan side was led by national-security adviser Zalmai Rasul. The choice of Rasul -- a civilian with little authority over Afghanistan's security and military establishments -- instead of a representative of Defense Minister Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim, could be viewed as a sign of disagreement within the Afghan administration over how to deal with Pakistan. Fahim, who is arguably the most powerful leader in Afghanistan, has never visited Pakistan. AT
 AFGHAN PUBLICATION BANNED...The Information and Culture Ministry banned the independent Kabul weekly "Aftab" on 17 June for violating the press law, the Bakhtar news agency reported. The ban was reportedly imposed because of the weekly's publication on 11 June of an article entitled "Holy Fascism." Deputy Information and Culture Minister Abdul Hamid Mobarez said the length of the ban has not been specified and it is not known exactly what the penalty will be. Bakhtar reported that he Information and Culture Ministry has summoned "Aftab" Editor in Chief Mir Husayn Mahdawi to provide explanations regarding his publication. Reuter on 18 June citied an unidentified Afghan official as saying Mahdawi has been arrested. Mahdawi, known for his open criticism of Afghan government officials, is said to belong to a communist group or party, according to Reuters. AT
 ...FOR AN ARTICLE THAT CRITICIZED ISLAMRFE/RL has obtained a copy of the article that led to the ban on "Aftab." The article, which was written by Mahdawi, is critical of the power of Muslim clerics and Islam in general. Mahdawi begins his article by questioning why no signs of advancement can be seen in Islamic societies, and answers that the Islam followed by most Muslims is used by clerics as a means to gain power. Mahdawi criticizes what he calls "mullasalari" (rule of mullas) and names several Afghan Mujahedin leaders as culprits, including former President Burhanuddin Rabbani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the radical leader of Hizb-e Islami. AT
 EXPOSING THE PUTIN MYTHBy Taras Kuzio
The new myth being created surrounding Russian President Vladimir Putin continues a long tradition of mythologizing earlier Soviet and Russian leaders. The Putin myth has highlighted two distinct trends.
First, there are sharp differences in the way U.S. and Western European countries view Russia and myths surrounding Soviet and Russian leaders. The U.S. administration and media tend toward a literal view of Russian politics, focusing on formal processes while downplaying the informal, and critically examining Russia's claims that it is implementing reforms.
Some EU countries, however, take the opposite approach and are more willing to go along with a mythical view of domestic progress in the former USSR and Russia in the interests of a strategic partnership.
Second, a mythical positive transition record in Russia is contrasted with a negative one in Ukraine when in reality the opposite is true. Contrast the mythical Western favorable impression of Putin with that of the highly negative view of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Freedom House's 2003 "Nations in Transit" study gives Ukraine a better score than Russia in democratization. Ukraine also receives a better score than Russia in the 2002 Reporters Without Frontiers Index of Media Freedom and the 2002 Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom (yet only Russia, not Ukraine, has been granted market economic status by the EU in 2002). The June 2003 Pew Global Attitudes Project gives Ukraine a better score than Russia in democratization, freedom of the press, fair judiciary, freedom of speech, free elections, and safety from crime and violence.
Mythologizing of Soviet leaders goes as far back as the 1930s. Its most recent manifestations began under Yurii Andropov, who came to power in 1992 and was welcomed as a sigh of relief over Leonid Brezhnev's "era of stagnation."
Some Western commentators inferred from rumors that Andropov drank whiskey and played tennis that he was a closet liberal Westernizer (despite the role he played in suppressing the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and jailing dissidents). Mikhail Gorbachev was widely seen as a new type of Soviet leader who was "like us," ready to halt the arms race, willing to withdraw Soviet troops from Eastern Europe, and spoke of a "common European home." Gorbachev has remained popular in Europe even after the collapse of the USSR, even though in the post-Soviet states his popularity had already plummeted by 1989-90.
The early post-Soviet era was characterized by myths surrounding Boris Yeltsin, the Russian leader who dared to stand on a tank and defy the August 1991 putschists. Yeltsin launched radical economic reform in 1992 under the Yegor Gaidar government and his anticommunism stance complemented his image as a liberal reformer.
The Yeltsin myth was showing serious signs of damage by the late 1990s, and the March 2000 election of Putin to succeed him was therefore hailed as another wind of change. Like Andropov, the sportsman Putin, both of whom were from KGB backgrounds, was contrasted to Yeltsin (just as Gorbachev had been to his predecessors Konstantin Chernenko and Brezhnev).
The extent of Europe's fascination with Putin can be judged by the hyperbole of some of the press commentaries on the recent summit to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg on 30-31 May. The Swiss daily "Neue Zuercher Zeitung," for example, characterized Putin as Russia's new "Peter the Great," while London's "The Independent" profiled Putin as "the modern-day tsar who would make Russia great again." The U.S. media largely ignored the myth of Putin the "modernizer" in favor of focusing on his poor record on human rights and democratization. Adrian Karatnycky, a senior scholar at Freedom House, described Russia in a "The Wall Street Journal" article as a "militocracy." He wrote that under Putin, former military and KGB officers -- who seek to revive Russia as a superpower, make a fetish of the state, disrespect human rights, and promote anti-Western sentiments -- are increasingly in control of the country.
As noted above, West European media and academia are for the most part more enamored of Putin than their equivalents in North America. There are two main reasons for this divergence. First, Russophilism is still deeply influential in Western Europe and might well grow under Italian President Silvio Berlusconi when Italy takes over the EU Presidency in July.
The EU, unlike the United States, gave priority to a strategic partnership with Russia over human rights and democratization issues at the recent St. Petersburg summit. Dov Lynch, a research fellow at the EU's Institute for Security Studies, points out in "Russia Faces Europe" (Paris: ISS-EU, May 2003) that Russia and the EU have "radically different" strategic agendas because Russia is disinterested in the pursuit of "shared values" with the EU. Knowing this, some leading EU states might be willing to prioritize a strategic partnership with Russia (rather than "shared values"). Russia is essential to the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy for those EU states who see it as a counterweight to U.S. "unilateralism."
Second, as the world's new "hyper power" the United States has less need of Russia as a "strategic partner" than the EU. The U.S.-Russian partnership remains mired in difficulties since the Iraqi conflict, especially over Russia's continued support for Iran's nuclear-power program.
Finally, it should be noted that these differing attitudes to the Putin myth influence, in turn, contrasting attitudes toward Russia and Ukraine. NATO and the EU approach Ukraine and Russia in different ways. The EU has had little choice but to prioritize strategic issues with Russia because of its disinterest in "shared values," whereas it calls on Ukraine to deepen reforms in the absence of membership prospects. Russia is strategically important to the EU while Ukraine is only strategically important to the United States and NATO. These attitudes go some way toward influencing positive views of Putin and negative views of Kuchma.
Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto and a visiting fellow at the Institute for Security Studies-EU, Paris.