Revelations about contacts between an influential Russian mason and government officials in Bucharest continue to raise considerable media interest in Romania on Tuesday. Newspapers also discuss the progress of the referendum for the dismissal of suspended President Traian Basescu.

Romanians fleeing global warming during their summertime vacations, the appearance of a weird virus and new French President Nikolas Sarkozy’s stance on Romania spice up paper reports today.

The media debates how Romanian government officials have made conflicting statements on the purpose of a meeting they had with an influential Russian mason, Alexander Kondyakov, a lobby consultant with close Kremlin ties who visited Romania in April.

Evenimentul Zilei uses the case to draw a map of Russian interests in Romania, pointing to no less than nine Russian moguls, backed by the Kremlin or not, who have been pushing to expand their businesses and various agendas here.

The paper accompanies the map with four comments according to which Russian capital is being used as a “weapon” that Moscow has been using more intensely in Romania since the country’s EU accession.

Cotidianul tries to clear up who Kondyakov is by turning its eyes on Romania’s own masons.

After days of silence, they have come to the limelight with a press release and statements by their leader, Eugen Ovidiu Chirovici, to dismiss the hypothesis that Kondyakov is relevant for Russia’s involvement in Romanian politics as he is a “rather insignificant” character, the paper writes.

It also quotes a former intelligence chief, Ioan Talpes, who alleges that the Russian mason acts in the name of the Moldovan Republic.And Chirovici dismisses speculation that Kondyakov is a close crony of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Gandul quotes the “Euro-Atlanticist” leader of the opposition Social Democrats (PSD), Mircea Geoana, who claims the Kondyakov case - sparked by suspended President Basescu’s recent statements for a newspaper - is a sample of “sinister intoxication” of the media.

But Romania libera, the newspaper first told by Basescu about Kondyakov’s visit to Bucharest, reports that Kondyakov’s own explanations on his visit are conflicting with those of Romanian government officials.

The paper also quotes “unofficial sources” claiming that the Russian mason met former PSD leaders Ion Iliescu and Adrian Nastase, but the two refused to comment.

Meanwhile, preparations for the May 19 referendum where Romanians are invited to have their say whether to dismiss suspended President Traian Basescu or not are in full swing.

Evenimentul Zilei reports that the anti-Basescu referendum campaign is paid by Basescu’s former partners turned enemies, the governing Liberals. And it is run by Dan Andronic, who’s been running campaigns for the Social Democrats for years.

Gandul alleges that the pro-Basescu camp is trying to win the referendum by claiming a high risk of electoral fraud as the two parties supporting the suspended President, the Democrats (PD) and the Liberal Democrats (PLD), have been calling for alternate ballot counting.

It also reports PD and PLD plans to merge - a move that may happen before the end of 2007, according to “sources”.

And Romania libera that 322 sticks planted by PD in a Bucharest park, to virtually “impale” politically the 322 MPs who voted for the suspension of the President in April, have disappeared. While PD accuses the opposition Social Democrats of theft, witnesses say the sticks were destroyed by some drunk rockers.

Elsewhere in the papers today:

Evenimentul Zilei reports that a “strange virus” has infected some 280 children in the village of Barbulesti, who were hospitalized with stomach aches in a Bucharest hospital. According to the paper, nobody can tell the cause of it until complicated analyses are completed in the next ten days.

Cotidianul writes that Intact, the media group controlled by the family of political maverick Dan Voiculescu has employed a Hamburg-based branding company, Landor, to improve its corporate image. Landor is part of the WPP advertising group, working with Ferrari, Danone, Durex, Kodak and Microsoft.

Gandul reports that the Romanian Government congratulated French elected President Nicolas Sarkozy for his win in the Sunday presidential elections. The paper describes Sarkozy as a “tough friend” for Romania known for his expulsion of many Romanian illegal immigrants during his time as minister in the Paris Government.

• And Evenimentul Zilei reports that “global warming” forces Romanian tourists who used to spend summer holidays in countries like Turkey and Greece to set holidays in May or September/October, when weather is milder there, as suggested by agency reservations so far.