|Saturday, 18 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, 04-05-24
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 MOSCOW TRADES ENTRY TO WTO FOR APPROVAL OF KYOTO PROTOCOL...Speaking at a joint press conference with EU leaders in Moscow following a one-day Russia-EU summit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2004), President Vladimir Putin said on 21 May that Russia has changed its attitude toward the Kyoto Protocol in exchange for Europe's approval of Russia joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), Russian and Western media reported. The EU "met us halfway on certain issues during the WTO negotiations. This cannot but have a positive effect on our position on the Kyoto Protocol. We will speed up Russia's moves toward ratifying the protocol," Putin said. Before the summit, some influential groups in Russia had raised their voices against ratification (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2004). Putin also said that EU approval of Russia's joining the WTO will facilitate Moscow's talks with other principal players, including the United States and China. VY
 ...AND AGREES ON NEW RELATIONS WITH ENLARGED EUROPEAN UNIONAt the same 21 May press conference, President Putin announced that the EU agreed to minimize the negative consequences that EU enlargement will have for the Russian economy and that Russia will get the opportunity to preserve its traditional markets and exports to the new EU members, president.kremlin.ru reported. Putin also said that he has appointed Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko to be in charge of economic cooperation with the EU, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to be responsible for relations with the EU on international security, presidential aide Viktor Ivanov for relations on internal security, and presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii for science, culture, and education. Meanwhile, polit.ru reported on 21 May that according to summit documents, Russia agreed to reduce import duties and open its banking, insurance, and telecommunications markets to EU companies. Most importantly, Russia agreed to gradually increase domestic prices for gas from today's $27-$28 per 1,000 cubic meters to $49-$57 in 2010. The raising of gas prices will proceed in line with Russia's domestic energy strategy, but "is not included in the obligations we [Russia] have assumed" for joining the WTO, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref was quoted by newsru.com as saying. VY
 PUTIN SAYS YUKOS CASE OUT OF HIS HANDSAnswering a question on what signal he was sending with the Yukos case, President Putin said that the signal does not come from him, but the Prosecutor-General's Office and the gist is that "one ought not to steal," ITAR-TASS reported on 21 May. "Everybody should obey the law, regardless of what office they occupy or how many billions they have in their personal or corporate accounts," Putin added. "Now one of the [Yukos] cases has been sent to court and the court will decide whether the people suspected by the prosecutors of committing a crime are really guilty." "I believe that preliminary discussion of this issue is intolerable and wrong as it can put pressure on the judiciary," Putin concluded. VY
 DEFENSE EFFORTS TO MERGE TRIALS OF YUKOS AND MENATEP HEADS STILL ALIVEA Moscow district court decided on 19 May to delay the hearing of the case against Platon Lebedev, the head of Menatep, the financial arm of Yukos (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April and 14 May 2004) until the beginning of the trial of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii on 28 May, "Izvestiya" and other Russian media reported. The question of merging the trials is expected to be decided on 28 May after the completion of preliminary hearings in Khodorkovskii's case. According to Lebedev's lawyer Yelena Lvova, the defense wants to merge the two trials because they relate to linked financial entities and because if the trials are combined, Khodorkovskii and Lebedev will be not compelled to testify against each other, Radio Mayak reported on 19 May. VY
 AUDIT CHAMBER GOES AFTER CHUKOTKA AND ITS GOVERNOR...Sergei Ryabuchin, an auditor for the Audit Chamber, made public on 20 May an audit into the financial status of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, which is led by Governor and oligarch Roman Abramovich, according to which the okrug is insolvent, RTR and NTV reported on 20 and 21 May. According to Ryabuchin, Chukotka's debts to the federal budget have reached 9.3 billion rubles ($320 million), more than double its annual revenues of 3.9 billion rubles. "The region is practically bankrupt," he said. Ryabuchin also said that Abramovich is personally responsible for illegal wage hikes given to doctors, teachers, and other public-sector workers. He added that his agency has handed over the audit documentation to the Prosecutor-General's Office. Meanwhile, Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin said that Abramovich should quit as the governor of Chukotka, Interfax reported on 22 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 14 May 2004). "The results [of the audit] show that Abramovich has let the president down very badly," Stepashin said. VY
 ...BUT KREMLIN INSIDER SAYS ABRAMOVICH IS NOT IN DANGERAccording to political analyst and Kremlin insider Stanislav Belkovskii, the Audit Chamber probe is unlikely to have serious consequences for Abramovich and he will not share the fate of Khodorkovskii, RosBalt reported on 21 May. Abramovich has a different type of relationship with President Putin than Khodorkovskii, he remarked. Also, most of the financial violations are not personally linked to Abramovich, but to previous regional administrations, and finally, Abramovich has no plans to run for a second term as governor, Belkovskii said. VY
 DEPUTY PROSECUTOR-GENERAL PROPOSES LIMITING PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCEAddressing the Duma on 21 May, Deputy Prosecutor-General Sabir Kekhlerov proposed restricting the immunity from criminal prosecution of parliamentarians, high-ranking officials, and judges in cases linked to corruption, newsru.com, gazeta.ru, and polit.ru reported. He suggested that the presumption of innocence of these officials will be partly restricted, and that they take upon themselves the burden of proving the legal origin of their property and other assets. At the same meeting, Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov backed Kekhlerov, saying that "there shouldn't be criminal immunity for deputies," newsru.com reported. But the chairman of Russia's Council of Judges, Yurii Sidorenko, said that restriction of the presumption of innocence is not supported by the judicial community, polit.ru reported on 22 May. Prosecutors should simply work better, he added, Finally, Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii said that the proposal would paralyze political life. There is corruption among parliamentarians just as there is among doctors, but nobody has therefore proposed depriving them of their professional status, he said. VY
 RUSSIAN SENTENCED FOR FALSE ALARMThe Yakutsk Municipal Court sentenced on 21 May a local resident to one year in prison for falsely reporting a bomb planted in an airliner, izvestiya.ru reported. According to the website, 38-year-old Prokopii Laptev called the Yakutsk airport on the night of 31 December 2003 and said that a bomb was hidden on board an already departed aircraft. The airplane turned back to Yakutsk, but no explosives were found. Laptev confessed in court. In addition to the prison sentence, the court fined him 192,000 rubles ($6,600). VY
 GORBACHEV BREAKS WITH TITOV, QUITS SOCIAL DEMOCRATSFormer Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev stepped down on 22 May as head of the Social Democratic Party, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and other Russian media reported on 24 May. Gorbachev told the party's plenum that he had lost confidence "on both the political and personal levels" in party Chairman and Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov. He also charged that Titov is attempting "to privatize" the party. ITAR-TASS reported that Gorbachev told the plenum that the party is incapable of becoming a serious opposition force. His resignation must be formally endorsed by a party congress scheduled for 4 September, the news agency reported. RC
 MINERS HUNGER STRIKING FOR BACK PAY IN SIBERIA...More than 150 miners in the Republic of Khakasia have been on a hunger strike for eight days, seeking nearly 7 million rubles ($234,000) in back wages, newsru.com and other Russian media reported on 24 May. Strana.ru reported that 176 miners, including 49 women, started the strike on 17 May. Republican Industry Committee Chairman Vladimir Molchanov said on 24 May that seven miners have been hospitalized so far and that a further 15 are in poor condition and could be hospitalized "at any moment." Interfax reported that the strike is particularly dangerous because workers who are responsible for pumping ground water out of the mineshaft are also striking, which could lead to collapses within the mine and threaten nearby settlements. Two miners union leaders, Aleksandr Atyukov and Aleksandr Voitin, flew to Moscow on 24 May to discuss the situation with State Duma deputies, strana.ru reported. RC
 ...AND IN ROSTOV OBLASTThree hundred eighty miners and retired miners in Rostov Oblast on 24 May blocked local railroad lines on 24 May to demand payment of 12 million rubles ($400,000) in back wages and pensions, regions.ru reported. The miners work for the Obukhovskaya mine, which is currently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, and miners fear that the mine's new owners will not recognize the previous owners' debts. ITAR-TASS reported on 24 May that the miners intend to appeal to the State Duma for assistance. RC
 CHECHEN ELECTION DATE SETThe elections for a successor to pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, who was killed by a bomb in Grozny on 9 May, will take place on 29 August, Russian media reported on 21 May, citing Russian Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov. Earlier reports indicated that the ballot would take place on 5 September, the latest date permitted by the Russian Constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 May 2004). ITAR-TASS on 23 May quoted Chechen Central Election Commission Chairman Abdul-Kerim Arsakhanov as saying that the election campaign will begin on 25 May, and that candidates must submit to that commission by 14 July the relevant documentation, including the signatures of 6,000 voters in their support or a 4.5 million-ruble ($150,000) deposit. Arsakhanov said no changes will be made to the existing election legislation. LF
Transcaucasia And Central Asia
 ARMENIAN OPPOSITION POSTPONES PUSH FOR PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION...Leaders of the Artarutiun opposition alliance told the several thousand participants in a demonstration in Yerevan on 21 May that they will suspend for two weeks their two-month campaign to force the ouster of President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Leading Artarutiun member Albert Bazeyan explained that during those two weeks, "we will completely reassess the situation [and] regroup our forces." He said that in early July the opposition will begin "permanent rallies, marches, and sit-ins" until Kocharian steps down. A second leading Artarutiun member, Viktor Dallakian, added that the alliance decided to postpone its planned march on the presidential palace because it has not yet succeeded in mobilizing optimum popular support. He said "We will go [to the presidential palace] only once." LF
 ...AND RISKS FORFEITING PARLIAMENTARY REPRESENTATIONSenior parliamentarians representing the three parties aligned in the ruling coalition government warned on 21 May that opposition deputies risk forfeiting their parliamentary mandates if they continue to boycott parliament sessions, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Deputy parliament speaker Vahan Hovhannisian (Armenian Revolutionary Federation -- Dashnaktsutiun) pointed out that lawmakers may be stripped of their mandates if they fail during the course of a parliament session for "unjustified reasons" to participate in a majority of votes. Opposition deputies walked out of parliament in February to protest the majority's refusal to discuss their demand for a nationwide referendum of confidence in Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 4, and 5 February 2004). Hovannisian added that "the opposition wants to negotiate with us only on ways on ensuring our suicide." He argued that Kocharian's resignation would be "extremely dangerous" for Armenia. LF
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT NOTES ECONOMIC UPSWINGPresident Kocharian told journalists in Yerevan on 21 May that economic growth accelerated in April despite the opposition campaign for his removal, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Armenia registered 9 percent year-on-year economic growth during the first four months of 2004 compared with 7.5 percent during the first quarter, he said. More detailed government statistics revealed that GDP in April 2004 was 18.5 percent higher than in April 2003, and that the average monthly wage has increased over the past year by almost 30 percent, to 37,800 drams ($70). Kocharian argued that the ongoing upswing demonstrates that the Armenian business community does not take the opposition protests seriously. In contrast, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian told the daily "Hayots ashkhar" on 15 May that he believes the opposition protests have indeed impacted on the economy. LF
 ARMENIA HOSTS MEETING OF CIS DEFENSE MINISTERSDefense ministers from 10 of the 12 members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) attended a meeting in Yerevan on 21 May of the CIS Defense Ministers' Council, Russian agencies and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan did not send a representative to the meeting, at which participants reached agreement on setting up a CIS peacekeeping force and a system of interstate military communication and approved plans for strengthening the single CIS air-defense system, according to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. LF
 GEORGIAN MINISTER DEMANDS INVESTIGATION OF CHECHEN ATTACK ON ABKHAZIAMinister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava told the independent television station Rustavi-2 on 23 May that he has written to the Prosecutor-General's Office proposing an official investigation into "the circumstances in which [Chechen field commander] Ruslan Gelaev and his gang appeared in the Kodori Gorge in autumn 2001," ITAR-TASS and the Caucasus Press reported. A force believed to have included both Chechen fighters and Georgian guerrillas infiltrated Kodori in late September 2001 but withdrew after clashes with the Abkhaz military (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 12 and 22 October 2001 and 12 April 2002). The Georgian authorities have never provided a convincing explanation of how the Chechens travelled, undetected, several hundred kilometers across northern Georgia from the Pankisi Gorge to Kodori. Observers have suggested that the Georgian leadership under former President Eduard Shevardnadze may have co-opted the Chechens in a bid to win back control over Abkhazia. LF
 SOUTH OSSETIA HOLDS PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONParliamentary elections were held on 23 May in Georgia's breakaway, unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, Russian and Georgian media reported. Preliminary returns show that the Unity Party of President Eduard Kokoity won a majority of 30 seats, half of which are distributed under the party list system and half in single-mandate constituencies. Four of the latter seats were reserved for the republic's Georgian population, but voting took place in only five predominantly Georgian-populated villages. On 21 May, South Ossetian Foreign Minister Murad Dzhioev said that members of the Georgian youth movement Kmara! (Enough!) will be denied entry to South Ossetia, Interfax reported. Georgian media reported the previous day that Kmara! activists are trying to mobilize the local Georgian population to oust the South Ossetian leadership as a preliminary to formal recognition of Georgian hegemony (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2004). On 22 May, Kokoity likened the policies of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to those of radical nationalist former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who formally abolished the republic's autonomy, Interfax reported. Kokoity affirmed that the people of South Ossetia remain committed to their pro-Russian orientation. Neither Georgia nor the international community recognize the polls as valid. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO TURKEYPresident Saakashvili travelled to Ankara and Istanbul on 20-22 May where he met with Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, military and energy sector officials, and businessmen, Georgian agencies reported. Talks focused on expanding bilateral military cooperation, the progress of projects to export Azerbaijani oil and gas via Georgia, and economic cooperation. Meeting with Turkish businessmen, Saakashvili solicited investments in the Adjar Autonomous Republic, which borders Turkey, noting plans for a new airport in Batumi and a highway linking the city with Istanbul. He also discussed with Erdogan the planned rail link between their two countries. At a meeting with members of Turkey's Georgian minority, Saakashvili offered them Georgian citizenship, Caucasus Press reported. Upon his return, Saakashvili visited the Georgian border crossing at Sarpi and instructed Georgian officials not to create "artificial obstacles" or "to check every car" entering Georgia from Turkey. He said he discussed with Erdogan the possibility of Ankara waiving visa requirements for residents of the districts bordering Turkey, the Caucasus Press reported on 24 May. LF
 CORRUPTION SAID TO BE LIMITING KAZAKH DRIVE AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKINGMichael Chance, the head of the International Office for Migration (IOM) in Kazakhstan, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service (http://www.azattyq.org/) that corrupt officials are limiting the effectiveness of Kazakhstan's efforts to combat human trafficking. The U.S. State Department has cited Kazakhstan in its annual human-rights report for weakness in fighting human trafficking. According to official figures, 110 cases against people alleged to be involved in trafficking were initiated in the first three months of 2004; only eight cases were opened in all of 2003. The IOM official said, however, that few traffickers have been punished because those engaged in the trade have enough money to bribe investigators. He also attributed the low success rate to a lack of legislation criminalizing human trafficking. Most citizens of Kazakhstan who fall victim to human trafficking are sent to the United Arab Emirates, though some have been sent to western Europe, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. BB
 KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT BLAMES SECURITY SERVICE FOR BUGS, MONITORING OF OPPOSITIONA special commission of the Kyrgyz parliament reported on 21 May that the National Security Service (SNB) planted the listening devices discovered in the offices of six opposition parliamentary deputies in January, akipress.org reported the same day. The commission reported that officials in the president's office, the Interior Ministry, and the General-Prosecutor's Office were aware of the bugging. According to the report, it was not possible to determine when the devices were first placed, except in one case where the bug was known to have been installed in 2001. The commission also found that the SNB had been tailing opposition deputies and leaders of opposition parties and nongovernmental organizations, as well as Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir-uulu, in particular observing their contacts with the German and U.S. embassies and international organizations, according to Interfax on 21 May. SNB Deputy Director Tokon Mamytov rejected the accusations. The parliament voted to open hearings on the commission's report. BB
 TAJIK AUTHORITIES ORDER JEWISH COMMUNITY TO VACATE SYNAGOGUE BY JULYDushanbe authorities have ordered the city's small Jewish community to vacate the country's only synagogue by July so its site can be used for a new presidential palace, the Norway-based Forum 18, which monitors religious developments in the former Soviet Union, reported on 21 May. Deutsche Welle reported the story on 19 May. The rabbi of the synagogue, Mikhail Abdurakhmanov, has attempted to persuade the authorities to allow the synagogue to remain, saying that the Jewish community is too small and too poor to build another synagogue. City officials have said that allowing the structure to stand would spoil the layout of the new complex, and have offered a plot of land for construction of a new synagogue. Tajik officials insist the 100-year-old building has no historic value. Most of Tajikistan's Jews emigrated in the early 1990s, and almost all of those who remain -- about 500 in the entire country -- are elderly and poor, Abdurakhmanov said. BB
 EX-MAYOR OF TAJIK TOWN KILLEDSadullo Ergashev, mayor of the town of Tursunzade from 1992-93, was shot dead by unidentified attackers along with members of his family on the night of 20-21 May, RIA-Novosti reported on 22 May. Two of his children managed to escape. Tursunzade, site of the Tajik aluminium plant, is one of the most important industrial centers in the country. Murders of public figures, journalists, and ordinary citizens were common during the Tajik civil war from 1992-1997 but became extremely rare in subsequent years. Police have no motive for the killing of Ergashev, who most recently was running an agricultural firm. BB
 HUGE PORTRAITS OF TURKMEN PRESIDENT BEING REMOVEDThe Ashgabat mayor's office began removing a number of portraits of Saparmurat Niyazov from the facades of public buildings on 21 May and a bronze statue of Niyazov that had stood in front of the Interior Ministry was also taken down, ITAR-TASS and NTV.ru reported the same day. Niyazov has often complained about the number of portraits of him displayed on buildings in Ashgabat and throughout the country, but these complaints usually have been the prelude to the installation of even more portraits and statues. The actions were reportedly on orders from Niyazov. The statues of Niyazov in front of the General Prosecutor's Office and the National Security Ministry remain, as does the large gold revolving figure atop the Arch of Neutrality in the center of the capital. BB
 TURKMEN PRESIDENT INSISTS NO ONE IS PERSECUTED FOR BELIEFSSpeaking at the opening of Turkmenistan's first paper mill on 21 May, President Niyazov insisted that no one in the country is persecuted or has been imprisoned because of his political convictions, turkmenistan.ru reported on 22 May. He also told members of the diplomatic corps attending the opening ceremony in the village of Yashlyk, about 45 kilometers east of Ashgabat, that petty crime is almost nonexistent in Turkmenistan, and that all levels of the population, public organizations, trade unions, workers, and civil servants are united around one goal -- the protection of the homeland and its development. He cited the absence of serious crime such as murder and theft as proof that the lives of the people have improved. While Niyazov has made similar assertions on other occasions, this time his remarks, in combination with the removal the same day of his portraits in Ashgabat, indicates an unusual defensiveness in the normally self-assured Niyazov. BB
 ALLEGED TORTURE DEATH REPORTED IN UZBEKISTANHuman Rights Watch (HRW) has reportedly documented another torture death of a prisoner at the hands of law-enforcement officials in Uzbekistan, Reuters reported on 21 May. It is the fifth torture death reported to have occurred in Uzbekistan this year. The victim was Andrei Shelkovenko, 36, who had been arrested in Gazalkent, near Tashkent, on suspicion of homicide. A press release issued by HRW stated that HRW representatives had examined Shelkovenko's body and found evidence of serious trauma. Shelkovenko was arrested on 23 April; law enforcement personnel asserted that he died on 19 May after trying to hang himself. The findings of HRW representatives indicated he was severely beaten. The death comes at a bad time for Uzbekistan, which is awaiting U.S. State Department certification that it observes international human-rights standards. The certification is needed for the country to continue to receive U.S. aid. Uzbekistan's law-enforcement agencies have been accused by international human-rights groups and the UN of systematically torturing prisoners. BB
 UZBEK JUSTICE MINISTER EXPLAINS REGISTRATION DENIALAbdusamat Palvan-zade told a press conference in Tashkent on 21 May that 73 of the 76 political parties and nongovernmental organizations that applied for registration under new legal requirements have been registered, Interfax reported on 21 May and UzA the following day. The U.S.-based National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute were registered, though Palvan-zade said they were warned that they are breaking the law by working with the unregistered parties Erk and Birlik. Those two, along with the Ozod Dekhqonlar (Free Peasants) Party, were not registered. Palvan-zade said Erk had not submitted registration documents and that the applications of the other two contained forged signatures of purported members. Palvan-zade was also critical of the Uzbekistan branch of New York-based Freedom House -- though it was registered -- accusing it of circulating print and video materials that distort the political and socio-economic situation in the country. The Soros Open Society Institute's office in Uzbekistan, which was closed down in April, was not registered because, according to Palvan-zade, it concealed events from authorities, lacked transparency in its use of funds, and published slanderous materials that damaged Uzbekistan's image. BB
 BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SKEPTICAL ABOUT IMMEDIATE BENEFITS OF SESAlyaksandr Lukashenka, who arrived in Yalta on 23 May to attend a summit of the Single Economic Space (SES) comprising Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine, told journalists that Belarus is unlikely to receive any additional advantages in relations with the other three countries at the current stage of the SES's development, Belapan reported. "[Belarus] has advanced further than the others in relations with our major partner, the Russian Federation, and the economic measures that we are taking now in the framework of the four are behind the level that exists between Belarus and Russia," Lukashenka added. Later the same day Lukashenka met for the first time in more than seven months with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "We have many positive changes but also many controversial issues that cannot be settled at once," Putin told journalists after the meeting. Apparently neither leader mentioned the unresolved issue of Gazprom's gas deliveries to Belarus. "Are you short of gas?" ITAR-TASS quoted Lukashenka as saying in response to a journalist's question about the gas controversy. "We have enough." JM
 COMMUNIST LAWMAKER ACCUSES WESTERN FUNDS OF SPONSORING UKRAINIAN OPPOSITIONCommunist Party legislator Valeriy Mishura told the Verkhovna Rada on 21 May that Western organizations and funds -- primarily in the United States and Germany -- finance nongovernmental organizations (NGO) in Ukraine in an effort to interfere in the country's political situation and help Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko win the upcoming presidential elections, UNIAN reported. "The president of Ukraine, his administration, [and] the Interior Ministry should inform the international community about the actual situation in the country and resolutely resist attempts by foreign embassies and organizations to meddle in our domestic affairs, dictate humiliating conditions, and influence decision making via organizations sponsored from abroad," Mishura said. Another Communist Party lawmaker, Yuriy Solomatin, proposed that the government ban all Ukrainian NGOs whose operations are supported by foreign grants. JM
 UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST ARRESTED ON SUSPICION OF POSSESSING EXPLOSIVESJournalist Kostyantyn Sydorenko, who monitored the controversial mayoral election in Mukacheve on 18 April (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 28 April 2004), has been arrested on suspicion of possessing explosives, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www2.pravda.com.ua) reported on 22 May. Sydorenko was reportedly told to visit the Mukacheve police station to retrieve a video camera that was stolen from him a few days earlier. "However, on his way to the police station, policemen detained Sydorenko, knocking him down on to the road. Suddenly a package in which the policemen found, quite by chance, three explosive devices [that] appeared out of the blue beside Sydorenko," the website reported, quoting a press release by the press service of Our Ukraine's local headquarters in Mukacheve. Sydorenko has reportedly rejected the accusations, saying he was not carrying anything on his way to the police station. JM
 EX-U.S. PRESIDENT BUSH MEETS WITH UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS, OPPOSITION LEADERSFormer U.S. President George Bush, who arrived in Ukraine on a private trip last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2004), met on 21 May with President Leonid Kuchma, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, and three opposition leaders -- Viktor Yushchenko, Oleksandr Moroz, and Yuliya Tymoshenko, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Bush reportedly said Ukraine seems "more confident [and] more dynamic" than when he visited it in 1991, several months before the breakup of the Soviet Union. Bush thanked Ukraine for sending a peacekeeping contingent to Iraq and urged Kyiv to ensure free and fair presidential elections this fall. Speaking to students of Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv, Bush denied allegations that in 1991 he called on Ukraine to remain in the Soviet Union. "I only called on the Ukrainian and the [USSR] authorities not to make mistakes and give the people an opportunity to choose how to decide on their future," ICTV Television quoted Bush as saying. JM
 WILL SLOVENIA ACT AS TRIBUNE FOR THE WESTERN BALKANS?Croatian President Stipe Mesic, Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic, Slovenian President Janez Drnovsek, and Sulejman Tihic, who heads the Bosnian Presidency, agreed after two days of talks in Brijuni on 23 May that Slovenia is in an excellent position to present the concerns of its neighbors to the EU following Slovenia's admission to the Brussels-based bloc on 1 May, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The foreign ministers of Croatia, Romania, and Austria also attended the session on the island made famous as the retreat of Marshal Josip Broz "Tito" during the decades following World War II. PM
 SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO'S PRESIDENT MAKES FIRST VISIT TO CROATIASvetozar Marovic, who is president of Serbia and Montenegro, arrived in Zagreb on 24 May on the first visit to Croatia by a head of state from Belgrade since the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia in 1991, dpa reported. Marovic's entourage does not include outspoken Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, whom Croatian President Mesic previously indicated is unwelcome (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 20 May 2004). In September, Mesic visited Belgrade, where he and Marovic exchanged symbolic apologies for wrongs committed by each respective people to the other (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 September 2003 and "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 11 and 18 September, and 18 December 2003, and 8 and 15 January 2004). PM
 SERBIAN SOCIALISTS WARN THEIR COALITION PARTNERSIvica Dacic, who heads the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) in the absence of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, said in Bor on 22 May that his party will end its parliamentary support for the governing coalition if the government extradites any indicted war criminals to the Hague-based tribunal, dpa reported. It is not clear if the SPS position applies to all war crimes indictees or only to those indicted on the basis of their position of responsibility in the chain of command. Carla Del Ponte, who is the tribunal's chief prosecutor, said recently that Serbia rarely cooperates with that body (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 February 2004). PM
 SENIOR BOSNIAN SERB OFFICIAL SAYS SOME POLICE PROTECT INDICTEERepublika Srpska Vice President Ivan Tomljenovic said in Banja Luka on 22 May that former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, whom the Hague-based tribunal has indicted for war crimes, is hiding in the Bosnian Serb entity under the protection of local police, balkantimes.com reported. "It is certain that within the Bosnian Serb Interior Ministry there are people who cooperate with Karadzic, some because they are paid for it and some out of fear," Tomljenovic said (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 May 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 and 23 April 2004). PM
 PEACEKEEPERS FIND MORE ARMS IN BOSNIANATO-led peacekeepers said on 21 May that they recently found a large weapons cache in an abandoned factory in Cazin, Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is under Muslim control, dpa reported. The cache included 2,000 hand grenades as well several thousand casings for mortar and rifle shells and unspecified quantity of plastic explosive. PM
 MACEDONIAN OFFICIAL ASSESSES COOPERATION WITH GREECE, U.S.Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski said after a meeting with his Greek counterpart, Spilios Spiliotopoulos, in Thessaloniki on 22 May, that he expects military cooperation between the two countries to develop even better after Spiliotopoulos' planned official visit to Skopje in October, MIA reported. In related news, the Macedonian Defense Ministry and the U.S. Defense Department will hold two days of talks starting on 24 May, "Vreme" reported. "We are set to remain part of the antiterrorist coalition and of the mission to Iraq," Buckovski said before the consultations, adding that the Macedonian government wants to prove that the U.S.-Adriatic Charter is functioning and that Macedonia seeks to be a serious partner for the U.S. and the other NATO member states (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2004). UB
 ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PROTESTS RULING PARTY'S 'THREATS'Opposition National Liberal Party Chairman Theodor Stolojan on 21 May advised ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) leaders to refrain from threatening opposition parties, as they "will have no effect anyway," Mediafax reported. PSD Executive Chairman Octav Cozminca on 20 May warned opposition parties they will not be allowed to hold electoral meetings if they continue to disturb PSD meetings. Cozminca's warning came after a 19 May PSD meeting in the northern Romanian city of Botosani, attended by Prime Minister and PSD Chairman Adrian Nastase, that opposition representatives disrupted with whistles and shouts. Democratic Party Executive Chairman Emil Boc also criticized Cozminca's warning, saying the PSD leader is used to "communist-type electoral meetings." Cozminca replied on 22 May that he did not threaten "anyone," and merely asked parties to hold civilized meetings. Local elections are due in 6 June. ZsM
 ROMANIA, RUSSIA OPEN DISCUSSIONS ON RETURN OF ROMANIAN HISTORICAL HERITAGEThe co-chairmen and secretaries of the Romanian-Russian joint commission on the return of Romanian gold and cultural items retained by the Soviet Union after World War I met from 18-20 May in Moscow, Mediafax reported, citing the Romanian Foreign Ministry. Participants discussed the working rules of the commission and decided that its first official meeting will take place in Bucharest in October. The commission was set up in July when the two countries signed a friendship and cooperation treaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003). ZsM
 AUSTRIAN FIRM NAMED EXCLUSIVE BIDDER FOR ROMANIAN OIL COMPANYThe Economy Ministry has selected the Austrian OMV oil company as the sole bidder for a controlling stake in Petrom, Romania's largest oil and gas company, the BBC reported on 21 May. The privatization, which is estimated to be worth $1 billion, is considered essential to Romania's efforts to join the EU. Petrom has two oil refineries, some 600 gas stations, and nearly 60,000 employees. Fifteen companies or groups initially expressed formal interest in the tender for the 51 percent stake, but there were only three finalists -- Hungary's MOL and the U.S.-based Occidental Oil and Gas in addition to OMV (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2003). ZsM
 MOLDOVANS BELIEVE COUNTRY IS ON WRONG PATH, SUPPORT COMMUNISTSAccording to an opinion poll conducted by CIVIS in late April-early May, 48.5 percent of Moldovans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, while 31 percent believe it is on the right course, Flux reported. Approximately 48 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with the current economic situation in Moldova. According to the same poll, the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists (PCRM) would take 67.6 percent of the vote if parliamentary elections were held today. The opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic would be supported by 8.6 percent of voters, the Our Moldova Alliance by 6.9, the Democratic Party by 4.2, and the Social Liberal Party by 3.2 percent. ZsM
Southwestern Asia And The Middle East
 SOUTHERN AFGHAN DISTRICT RECAPTURED FROM NEO-TALIBANZabul Province Governor Khial Mohammad Hosyani said on 22 May that the province's Mizan District has been liberated from neo-Taliban control, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported. Hosyani said that neo-Taliban forces captured Mizan District on 18 May, but that the district was retaken following the arrival of reinforcements on 20 May from Qalat, the provincial capital of Zabul, and neighboring Kandahar Province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2004; and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 31 July and 13 November 2003, and 26 February and 19 May 2004). "There are no other difficulties" in the area, Hosyani added. However, in describing the security situation in the area he said the "government areas, that means the districts, are active and fully controlled by the government and the people are supporting the government." But the mountainous areas, he said, "cannot be guarded easily despite the massive presence of government forces." Hosyani said that, on the whole, the government is in control of the province. AT
 AFGHAN DAILY WARNS OF RESPONSE IF PRISONER ABUSE CONTINUESThe Kabul daily "Arman-e Melli" wrote in a 22 May commentary on recent allegations of abuse suffered by Afghan prisoners in U.S. custody that such actions are unjustifiable. The paper said that while U.S. authorities have promised to launch an investigation into the alleged abuse cases in Afghanistan, people should "wait and see whether this probe will reduce the rate of abuse" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2004; and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 19 May 2004). The daily wrote that people who are arrested by the Afghan National Army or ISAF in Afghanistan cannot be labeled "terrorists or sympathizers" of the neo-Taliban "without a thorough investigation." The commentary adds that unless there is "evidence confirming" the collaboration of those arrested with the neo-Taliban or terrorists, "their human honor should be preserved." The main objectives of the 2001 Bonn agreement establishing the current political process in Afghanistan were the country's freedom, the "preservation of people's honor, and reconstruction," according to the paper. However, it added, "reconstruction has not been implemented as planned, general security has not been restored, and now there are reports that Afghan prisoners are being abused in coalition prisons." "Unless the U.S.-led coalition forces...change [their methods] of treating prisoners," the paper warned, "people's hatred of the coalition forces will increase and the relative peace in Afghanistan will be destroyed." AT
 UN LAUNCHES RELIEF PROGRAM IN DROUGHT-STRICKEN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTANThe UN's World Food Program (WFP) has launched an operation intended to provide food to more than 360,000 people to alleviate food shortages caused by the protracted drought in southern Afghanistan, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) announced on 23 May. Speaking at a UNAMA news conference, WFP Information Officer Maarten Roest said that the operation will continue for the next two months and is considered essential "to stem a renewed rise of internal displacement in a region where an estimated 80 percent of the 145,000 internally displaced people have fled drought." Kandahar Governor Yusof Pashtun earlier this month declared southern Afghanistan a drought-stricken area and asked for help from UN agencies. Despite a recovery in 2003, the region has suffered from its sixth consecutive year of drought, UNAMA added. In addition to Kandahar, the affected area includes the provinces of Nimroz, Oruzgan, and Zabul. AT
 NORWEGIAN SOLDIER KILLED IN AFGHANISTANA Norwegian soldier serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was killed in Afghanistan on 23 May, "The Norway Post" reported on 24 May. The soldier was killed when a military convoy came under rocket attack near the Afghan capital. A second Norwegian soldier was reportedly injured in the attack. Two unidentified persons have been arrested in the case. Approximately 230 Norwegian personnel are serving with the ISAF. AT
 IRAN PROVIDES FULL REPORT ON NUCLEAR ACTIVITIESIran announced on 22 May that it has handed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) a full declaration of its nuclear activities, Reuters reported. The IAEA is conducting an investigation to determine if Iran's nuclear program is entirely intended for peaceful purposes, as it claims. Inspectors from the world nuclear watchdog will use Iran's declaration to complete their assessment "later this month," AFP quoted IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky as saying on 23 May. The IAEA governing board is to make a declaration on Iran's dossier during its 14-18 June meeting. In Tehran on 23 May, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said the aim of the "1,000-page report" Iran presented is "transparency and confidence building," ISNA reported. Everyone, he said, "will slowly realize that Iran wishes to make peaceful use of nuclear energy and has no hidden program." However, he predicted that "the Americans will certainly pursue their aims concerning Iran" at the June IAEA meeting. Iran has accused the United States, which suspects Iran is running a secret nuclear-weapons program, of pressuring the IAEA to take a more aggressive stance with Iran. VS
 IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REJECTS RIGHTS-ABUSE CRITICISMSKharrazi said on 23 May in response to a recent U.S. State Department report that criticized Iran's human rights record that the United States "is not competent to assess [Iran's] human rights conditions," ISNA reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2004). "Events in Iraq are a good indicator...of how much one can trust America's assessments," he said. In reference to the State Department report, Kharrazi said that "such claims and reports...have political motives," adding that the report constitutes an attempt by the United States to "shift the blame" for human rights problems it faces. "It is drafted on the basis of double standards that reveal the political motives behind [the United States'] approach to...human rights," he said. Iran often criticizes the United States for supporting Israel, a state Iran does not recognize and accuses of violating Palestinian rights. VS
 IRANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS IRAQ ON FIRE, U.S. MUST LEAVEPresident Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said on 23 May in Khorramshahr, near the Iraqi frontier, that while "Saddam [Hussein] has gone, dear Iraq is amid fire and injustice," ISNA reported. "Iraq is burning in fire. Iraq is unsafe," he said. "Iraq has become the center of violence, and under the occupation of foreign forces trying to [end] the violence of their own making with violence, and the killing and torture of [Iraqis]." He said that the "great mistake of America was to strengthen Saddam, and its greater mistake, to occupy Iraq," ISNA reported. The "occupiers face great problems," he said, but the solution is not "the arrest and torture of Iraqi men and women. The solution is for occupiers to end their occupation." He added that "we must try with the help of an international force, especially the United Nations, and the cooperation of neighbors, to [restore] security and stability to dear Iraq." VS
 IRAN WANTS A 'REAL' HANDOVER OF POWER IN IRAQForeign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said in Tehran on 23 May that the United States must hand power to "the Iraqi people's real representatives" if it wants to "come out of the crisis" it faces there, IRNA reported. Iran, he said, wishes "the occupiers to leave Iraq, a handover of sovereign power to [Iraqis] and government by the people's real representatives within the framework of solidarity and cooperation among different Iraqi groups." He said the departure of U.S. troops will not provoke disorder. "It will not be worse than it is. Has the presence of occupiers led to security? It is clear that their presence has increased problems," Assefi said. He rejected as "baseless" reports that Ahmad Chalabi, a Shi'a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, has provided Iran with sensitive information on coalition forces in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2004). Iran has "constructive and good relations" with all Iraqi Governing Council members, "and this is based on the principle of noninterference in Iraq's internal affairs," Assefi said. VS
 IRAQI INTERIOR OFFICIAL SURVIVES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTIraqi Interior Ministry Undersecretary Abd al-Jabbar Yusuf Shaykhli narrowly escaped assassination on 22 May when a car bomb detonated outside his Baghdad home, international media reported. Three bodyguards and one woman were killed in the blast and 22 vehicles were heavily damaged, U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told a 22 May Baghdad press briefing. The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad (the group of Monotheism and Jihad), posted a statement to the jihadist website Al-Qal'ah (http://www.qa3ah.net) on 22 May claiming responsibility for the attack. "This operation was one in a series of operations that began -- and will not stop -- against the Crusader enemy and its allies from the time its troops invaded" Iraq, the statement claims. "Apart from the economic, military, and security significance, the operation conveyed a strong political message to Washington's allies in its war and aggression against the Islamic nation. The message is that they will not be out of reach against the Islamic nation," the statement adds. KR
 CAR EXPLODES OUTSIDE U.S. HEADQUARTERS IN IRAQA car detonated on 24 May outside the entrance to the so-called "green zone" that houses U.S. military headquarters in Baghdad close to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, Al-Jazeera reported on 24 May. Soldiers at the scene said that four men, apparently private security workers, were killed in the blast, Reuters reported. An Iraqi policeman said the victims were foreigners traveling in a jeep, AP reported. At least two more explosions were heard near the coalition headquarters about one hour after the first blast, international media reported. The cause of those blasts was not immediately known. Meanwhile, explosives were detonated at four cinemas in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on 24 May, AP reported. The facilities were lightly damaged, police said, due to the small amount of explosives used. Many cinema owners have reportedly been threatened by Islamists since the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein for showing films that depict risque scenes. KR
 AL-SADR MILITIAMEN DISPERSE IN KARBALAU.S. forces reported that militiamen loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have dispersed from their positions in Karbala, international media reported on 22-23 May. U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told reporters at a 22 May Baghdad press briefing that U.S. forces were repositioning themselves in the city. Iraqi police were also patrolling the streets of Karbala for the first time in weeks. "We would expect to see that there will be more Iraqi security present inside the city over the next few days," Kimmitt added. KR
 IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS LEADER DENIES FEEDING INTELLIGENCE TO IRANIraqi National Congress (INC) head and Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi denied in a 23 May interview with CNN that he or his organization passed sensitive intelligence to Iran, CNN reported on 24 May. Chalabi blamed CIA Director George Tenet for the allegations, saying Tenet and the INC have a long-standing dispute dating to 1994 that centers around differences over how to depose Saddam Hussein. "I say let [Tenet] bring all his charges, all his documents. We also will bring all our charges and all our documents to the U.S. Congress, and let Congress have hearings and resolve this issue," Chalabi said. The website elaph.com reported on 21 May that an Iraqi judge has issued an arrest warrant for INC intelligence chief Aras Karim Habib, who headed the program that passed intelligence between the INC and U.S. agencies. The warrant charges Habib with hijacking and stealing vehicles belonging to the Finance Ministry. "Time" magazine reports this week that Habib is also charged with passing intelligence to Iran. Chalabi defended Habib in the CNN interview, calling him a "patriot." "To call him a traitor and that he passed information [on to Iran] is egregious and false," he asserted. KR
 ARMY PROBES DEATHS OF 32 IRAQI DETAINEES...The U.S. Army said on 21 May that it is investigating the deaths of 32 Iraqi and five Afghan detainees, international media reported on 22 May. The Pentagon also released the autopsies of several detainees who died in U.S. custody. One, Iraqi Major General Abed Hamid Mawhush, the former head of Iraqi air defense, was found in a sleeping bag at the Abu Ghurayb Prison in November, dead of "asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression," washingtonpost.com cited the autopsy as saying. The U.S. initially reported that Mawhush died of natural causes. The case is now being investigated as a homicide. Other autopsies revealed that prisoners died of "multiple gunshot wounds," "strangulation," and "blunt force injuries and asphyxia," while others list natural causes, the website reported. Meanwhile, the U.S. Army denied in a 23 May statement from Baghdad that Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, head of coalition forces in Iraq, was aware of the abuses at Abu Ghurayb or present at the prison when abuses were taking place, as alleged by "The "Washington Post" on the same day. KR
 ...AS FORMER DETAINEES FROM NORTHERN IRAQ SAY ABUSES WERE WORSE THAN IN BAGHDADFormer Iraqi detainees held in northern Iraqi prisons have claimed that they suffered far more abuse than detainees in Baghdad's Abu Ghurayb prison, Cairo's MENA reported on 24 May. The news agency spoke with Iraqis detained in Kirkuk, Mosul, Tel Afar, Tikrit, and Bayji. Most of the former detainees worked for the Hussein regime -- some 6,000 Arabs and 1,800 Turkomans in Kirkuk and Mosul alone. Sixteen Arab and Turkoman families reported receiving the remains of their relatives who died in coalition custody. They were reportedly not told the cause of death and reported bruised and injured corpses. Some former detainees claimed to have been forced to stand in dark half-meter rooms and allowed only one meal a day. KR
 MACEDONIA HAS A NEW PRESIDENT, BUT NOT EVERYONE IS HAPPYBy Uli Buechsenschuetz
In the second round of the Macedonian presidential election held on 28 April, Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) scored a clear victory.
With the support of his coalition partners -- the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) and the Liberal Democrats -- Crvenkovski garnered more than 62 percent of the vote. His opponent, Sasko Kedev of the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), won just over 37 percent.
The State Election Commission announced on 7 May that the elections were valid, since more than the required 50 percent of registered voters cast their ballots. However, even on the eve of the election, Kedev and VMRO-DPMNE Chairman Nikola Gruevski announced that they would challenge the election results, alleging that irregularities were in the offing that would make the vote unfair and undemocratic.
Kedev responded to the early returns by accusing the governing parties of electoral fraud. He spoke of a "shameful act" and the "biggest falsification of elections in the history of independent Macedonia." Gruevski said the State Election Commission (DIK) should declare the elections invalid because of alleged gross manipulations and violence.
The opposition VMRO-DPMNE was not alone in criticizing the elections. In the opinion of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee, the elections were unfair and undemocratic because citizens' freedom to vote was allegedly seriously limited.
In a 29 April press release, observers of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights said that the elections were "generally consistent with OSCE election related commitments," but they also noted irregularities. Ambassador Friedrich Bauer, who headed the election-observation mission, said the problems identified in the second round of the election were more extensive than in the first round. "Regrettably, the [DIK] rejected all the complaints received from the parties after the first round, regardless of merit. In so doing, the DIK missed an opportunity to send a message that such irregularities would not be tolerated," Bauer said, adding that, "in certain areas, serious incidents cast a shadow over the election."
The DIK, for its part, dismissed all complaints filed by the VMRO-DPMNE as unfounded. On 8 May, DIK Chairman Stevo Pendarovski presented Crvenkovski with the official document confirming his election victory. The VMRO-DPMNE, however, insisted on a recount of the election results and an independent review of the elections as a whole.
When Crvenkovski was sworn in as president on 12 May, the VMRO-DPMNE, and its allies, the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), boycotted the ceremony. Skopje newspapers recalled that Crvenkovski's SDSM, too, boycotted the inauguration of late Boris Trajkovski in 1999 to protest what it then called "falsified election results."
However, the VMRO-DPMNE's boycott of the ceremony might also be the result of internal frictions within that party which emerged during the election campaign and which intensified after Kedev's defeat.
Until recently, the current, moderate VMRO-DPMNE leadership around Gruevski on the one hand, and the old, nationalist party elite led by former party Chairman and Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski on the other, got along without major problems. However, a rift between these two wings emerged when the moderates nominated the relatively unknown Kedev as presidential candidate. In response, hawkish former Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski -- a close ally of Georgievski -- announced that he would run for president, too.
But Boskovski was barred from running for president by the DIK. Boskovski interpreted that DIK ruling as the result of a conspiracy of the VMRO-DPMNE leadership and the governing SDSM. To "punish" Gruevski and Kedev for their "treason," he called on his followers to boycott the elections, claiming that the boycott was also endorsed by Georgievski.
In an effort to resolve the leadership crisis, Gruevski invited the VMRO-DPMNE's central committee to discuss the matter on 14 May, but that meeting was violently disrupted by Georgievski's followers.
Given that a group of executive-committee members have condemned Gruevski's move to convene the body without discussing the agenda beforehand, Georgievski's followers might still succeed in removing Gruevski as party chairman.
Boskovski, for his part, has removed himself from the Macedonian scene. Facing arrest in connection with the killing of six Pakistanis and an Indian national in 2002, he has reportedly fled to Croatia.