RUSSIA, CANADA STRESS COMMITMENT TO ABM...
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien have stressed their countries' commitments to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in a statement issued in Ottawa on 18 December. That treaty is a "cornerstone of strategic stability and an important foundation for international efforts on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation," the statement reads. Putin, for his part, underlined that U.S. plans to deploy a limited national missile defense will "without any doubt cause serious damage to the existing system of international security," and he welcomed Canada's proposal that it play the role of "go-between" between the U.S. and Russia on this issue. The joint statement also urged the rapid implementation of the 1993 START II treaty and renewed efforts to reach agreement on START III. START II has not yet taken effect because the State Duma added conditions that have still to be ratified by the U.S. Senate. The details of START III are to be negotiated once START II goes into effect. JC
...EDGE TOWARD CLOSER TIES
In addition to the joint statement, the two sides concluded several other accords. These included a pledge by Canada to help Russia join the World Trade Organization, a statement on developing Arctic Regions, an agreement to expand commercial air links, and an accord boosting ties between Russian and Canadian regions. Putin's two-day state visit to Canada ends on 19 December in Toronto, where he will address Canadian businessmen. JC
FRANCE SAYS IT'S OPEN TO IDEA OF DEBT FOR SHARES
After meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov in Paris on 18 December, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin told reporters that France is not opposed to converting part of Russia's foreign debt into investments in the Russian economy. Jospin added that "the question of debts should be decided in principle and with the permission of the Paris Club." According to Reuters, Jospin also said that France is willing to resume providing medium-term commercial loans to France. At their meeting, Jospin and Kasyanov also discussed cooperation in aeronautics and space. On 15 December, the Paris Club announced that an agreement restructuring Russia's debt payments for 1999 and 2000 is due to expire on 31 December, Interfax reported. In an interview with "Vremya novostei" the same day, Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Ulyukaev pledged that Russia will revise its 2001 budget spending plans if it does not reach a restructuring deal with the Paris Club for 2001. JAC
JAPANESE FOREIGN MINISTER WON'T VISIT MOSCOW TILL NEXT MONTH
Yohei Kono announced on 19 December that he will not visit Moscow until next month, thereby dashing any remaining hopes that Russia and Japan might clinch by year's end a treaty formally ending World War II hostilities. Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and ex-Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto had vowed in 1997 to seek to conclude such an accord by the end of 2000. Kono told reporters that he had been "hoping strongly" to visit Moscow before 31 December "but there were scheduling conflicts with the other party." AFP quoted a Japanese Foreign Ministry official as saying that there may not be a new deadline for the treaty. The main sticking point to concluding the treaty is ownership of the four Kuril Islands, which Soviet troops seized at the end of the war. JC
IVANOV LOOKS FORWARD TO CLOSE COOPERATION WITH POWELL
In a 17 December message congratulating Colin Powell on his nomination as U.S. state secretary, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said he is ready for "vigorous ties" with Powell "for the benefit of the two countries." Ivanov added that he is confident that Powell's "vast experience and professionalism" will help him in his new role. JC
YAKOVLEV CALLS FOR U.S. SUPPORT FOR DECOMMISSIONED OFFICERS
At a meeting with U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (Republican), commander of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces General Vladimir Yakovlev urged changes in the U.S.-funded Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to provide financial assistance to officers who will lose their jobs owing to arms cuts, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December. Yakovlev also urged civilian training for such officers to ensure that they do not seek to sell their skill to countries developing nuclear capability. Lugar is one of the authors of the program, which is also known as the Nunn-Lugar program. JC
VOLOSHIN REPORTS PAPER MIX-UP WITH EES RESTRUCTURING PLAN
Presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin told Interfax on 18 December that documents on the restructuring of Unified Energy Systems (EES) discussed at a cabinet meeting on 15 December had been submitted in error. These documents were the "very version considered by the government that was severely criticized at a 12 December conference" with Russian President Putin. Voloshin also chairs the EES board of directors. According to Voloshin, "even the prime minister" was not aware of amendments to the version discussed on 12 December. Voloshin added that "I hope that in the future documents will be finalized in a more constructive and business-like manner leading to the approval of proper balanced decisions." Also on 18 December, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov joined presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov in harshly criticizing the restructuring plan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2000). Zyuganov said Chubais's proposals would "paralyze the country's energy system." JAC
ANOTHER JOURNALIST FROM 'NOVAYA GAZETA' BEATEN
An investigative journalist for "Novaya gazeta," Oleg Lure, was severely beaten by five assailants on 17 December, who did not take either his money or valuables, even after Lure offered them to ward off the attack, "Segodnya" reported on 18 December. Deputy chief editor Yurii Shchekochikhin, who is also a State Duma deputy (Yabloko), told "Segodnya" that he is sure the attack was not "ordinary hooliganism" but "an attempt to intimidate, perhaps, to warn [Lure]." According to Shchekochikhin, Lure has written articles that directly affect the interests of such people as presidential chief of staff Voloshin and former Sibneft head and State Duma deputy (independent) Roman Abramovich. According to the International Press Institute, Lure, too, believes that the attack was related to his work. Most recently, he has investigated the case of alleged kickbacks to Kremlin officials by the Swiss firm Mabetex, which was recently closed by the Office of the Prosecutor-General (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December 2000). JAC
BEREZOVSKII EXPANDS CHARITABLE WORK
Boris Berezovskii announced on 18 December that he is establishing an international fund for civil liberties, which will promote the development of civil society in Russia, Interfax reported on 18 December. According to the agency, he will channel some $25 million to foundation activities over the next five years. "The fund will offer public financial and legal information and organizational resources to protect human rights," Berezovskii declared. The fund will also provide protection to the most vulnerable groups in Russia's regions, such as prisoners, conscripts, ethnic minorities, journalists and the media. Last month, Berezovskii donated $3 million to the Sakharov Foundation to prevent the closure of its museum in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2000). Also on 18 December, Berezovskii revealed he is holding talks on the sale of his 49 percent stake in Russian Public Television,. He said a deal will likely be concluded in several months. JAC
MASS DEFECTIONS REPORTED AT PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE
Investigative journalists Aleksandr Khinstein and others reported in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 15 December that more than one third of the investigators of the major crimes division at the Office of the Prosecutor-General have resigned within the past six months. Nikolai Volkov, who headed the Aeroflot investigation, is perhaps the best known, but a number of other well-respected investigators have quit recently, according to the daily, in which Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group is a major shareholder. State Duma deputy (Union of Rightist Forces) Viktor Pokhmelkin speculated that "the really competent investigators sense that someone is using the prosecutor's office for their own purposes." Also on 15 December, Geneva's chief prosecutor, Bernard Bertossa, told Reuters that the recent decision by the Prosecutor-General's Office to drop the Mabetex case was political "beyond a shadow of a doubt." Bertossa added that his own investigation of the case will be complicated by Moscow's move. JAC
REGIONAL LEGISLATORS TO CREATE THEIR OWN STATE COUNCIL
Leaders of Russia's regional legislative assembly have decided to create a new organization following President Putin's reorganization of the Federation Council, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December. The leaders of several legislative assemblies gathered in Moscow for a meeting of the Union of Russian Legislators, which was created in 1998 and has members from 69 regions, to discuss the new organization. Federation Council Deputy Chairman and chairman of the Moscow City Duma Vladimir Platonov noted that governors and presidents of Russian regions can now meet within the context of the State Council, but legislators have no new body. JAC
TATARSTAN, BASHKORTOSTAN RESOLVE PASSPORT DISPUTE WITH MOSCOW...
Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev met in Ufa on 15 December with his Bashkortostan counterpart, Murtaza Rakhimov, and presidential representative to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The three men reached agreement on resuming the issuance of passports to residents of the two republics. Both leaderships suspended issuing passports three years ago to protest the failure of new Russian passports to indicate the bearer's ethnicity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October and 14 November 1997). Under the agreement reached in Ufa, a special page will be inserted in passports issued in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan giving the bearer's data in the national language. It is not clear whether passports will stipulate the bearer's nationality, although birth certificates will do so. Rakhimov expressed his satisfaction with the compromise, which, he said, will strengthen federal relations. LF
...SIGN INTER-PARLIAMENTARY AGREEMENT
The speakers of the parliaments of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, Farid Mukhametshin and Konstantin Tolkachev, signed an agreement in Ufa on 15 December on developing bilateral relations, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. That agreement also emphasized the need to bring the legislation of the federation subjects into line with that of the Russian Federation in order to create a unified legal space within Russia. But Shaimiev told journalists on his return from Ufa that it is "impossible and unrealistic" for Tatarstan and Bashkortostan to do so "within a month." LF
TATARSTAN'S DUMA DEPUTIES DEFEND PLANS TO SWITCH TO LATIN ALPHABET
Tatarstan's two deputies to the Russian State Duma, Fandas Safiullin and Nail Khusnutdinov, expressed concern at a press conference in Moscow on 15 December over the adoption by a Duma commission the previous day of a protocol condemning the planned introduction of the Latin alphabet for the Tatar language as a manifestation of separatism, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. Safiullin denied that the move has political implications and described those deputies who oppose it as "ambitious micro-Stalins." LF
RUSSIAN MILITARY TO SWITCH TACTICS IN CHECHNYA
In an interview published in "Krasnaya zvezda" on 15 December, Chief of Russian Army General Staff Colonel General Anatolii Kvashnin said that Russian forces are about to begin a "new phase" of the "counter-terrorist" operation in Chechnya. That decision was taken at a meeting of senior Russian military officials with Russian presidential representative to the South Russia federal district Viktor Kazantsev and interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov. The new tactics entail the creation of small mobile groups of Russian military and Interior Ministry forces and Chechen police. Those groups will be deployed in 200 of Chechnya's 357 towns and villages and concentrate on restoring security and order rather than on large-scale military operations against the Chechen fighters. Kvashnin said that "special forces" will also be deployed to round up those Chechen field commanders still at large. LF
CHECHEN WARLORD AGAIN REPORTED KILLED
Shirvani Basaev, the younger brother of Chechen field commander Shamil, has been killed in a "special operation" by federal forces, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December, quoting a spokesmen for the Federal Security Service. Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii confirmed that report but failed to specify the date of Basaev's death. Malik Saidullaev, the chairman of the Moscow-based Chechen State Council, similarly told ITAR-TASS that two separate sources in Chechnya have confirmed Shirvani Basaev's death. He added that Basaev was wounded in a shootout in Grozny between rival "criminal factions" and died in Nozhai-Yurt. But a spokesman for the Chechen information office in London denied that Basaev is dead, according to Reuters. Shirvani Basaev was erroneously reported killed in August 1999 during the Chechen incursion into Daghestan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 26 August 1999). LF
MODEST SHOW OF SUPPORT FOR ARRESTED ARMENIAN BUSINESSMAN
No more than a few dozen people attended a 16 December rally in Yerevan to demand the release of arrested businessman Arkadii Vartanian, Noyan Tapan reported. Vartanian was detained on 30 October after leading a spontaneous march by several thousand people to the presidential palace to demand the resignation of President Robert Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2000). Since then, the Armenian authorities have refused permission to stage mass demonstrations in Yerevan. Meanwhile the number of parliamentary deputies who have signed a petition similarly calling for Vartanian's release from custody has risen to eight, Armenpress reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2000). LF
OSCE, PACE OFFICIALS DISCUSS ELECTION AFTERMATH IN AZERBAIJAN
A joint delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights held talks in Baku on 16-17 December with the Azerbaijani leadership and opposition party leaders, Turan and "Zerkalo" reported. PACE representative Andreas Gross lauded Azerbaijani leaders' pledge to ensure that the repeat parliamentary elections in 11 constituencies will be free of the violations that marred the 5 November ballot. The Central Electoral Commission has postponed the second round of voting from 4 to 7 January and extended until 22 December the deadline for opposition candidates to register to contest that ballot. But despite pressure from the PACE/OSCE representatives, opposition leaders declined to commit themselves either to contesting the repeat poll or to participating in the work of the new legislature, which they regard as lacking legitimacy. Following another round of talks on 18 December, however, Ali Kerimov, who leads the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, said some candidates from his party will contest those 11 mandates, Turan reported. LF
RUSSIA SAYS GEORGIA'S EFFORTS TO CONTAIN CHECHEN MILITANTS INADEQUATE
Russian agencies on 18 December quoted unnamed Russian military sources as rejecting as inadequate the enhanced security precautions introduced in eastern Georgia to curb criminal activities by Chechens in Georgia's Pankisi gorge (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2000). The Russian sources said the new measures fail to strengthen controls on the Georgian-Russian border or on minor roads leading to the gorge. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi the same day that Georgia is "actively cooperating" with Russia to contain the Chechen threat and will not under any circumstances agree that Russian troops be given access to Georgian territory to mount a "mopping-up" operation against Chechen militants currently ensconced in the Pankisi gorge. LF
GEORGIA ENVISAGES JOINING NATO BY 2004
Summarizing a recent conference in Tbilisi on security in the South Caucasus jointly organized by NATO and the Georgian Foreign Ministry, Shevardnadze told journalists on 18 December he believes Georgia could be admitted to NATO within three or four years, ITAR-TASS reported. He admitted that at present the Georgian armed forces do not meet the alliance's standards and requirements. Also on 18 December, Iranian state radio criticized the Tbilisi conference as another step by NATO to expand its influence in the South Caucasus. LF
BELGIUM TO REPATRIATE ASYLUM SEEKERS FROM KAZAKHSTAN
The first group of some 100 citizens of Kazakhstan who have been refused asylum in Belgium will be repatriated in January, ITAR-TASS quoted Kazakh International Bureau for Human Rights and Legal Relations Director Yevgenii Zhovtis as telling journalists in Almaty on 18 December. Some 2,500 Kazakhs responded to a travel agency advertisement promising to secure residency status in Belgium (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 1 December 2000). LF
KYRGYZ PROTEST LAW ON PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF LAND
Several dozen people staged a protest picket in the Kara-Suu district of Osh Oblast, in southern Kyrgyzstan on 18 December, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The demonstrators were protesting President Askar Akaev's demand that the parliament lift the moratorium on the sale and purchase of agricultural land. They pointed out that during experimental sales of land plots in Osh earlier this year, 90 percent of that land was bought by ethnic Uzbeks. Uzbeks account for approximately 25 percent of the oblast's population. LF
KYRGYZ NGO AGAIN CALLS FOR PENSION INCREASE
The Public Association for the Social Protection of the Population has formally appealed to the upper chamber of the parliament to amend next year's budget in order to increase pensions, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 18 December. The association had appealed to lawmakers earlier this month not to adopt the budget in its current form, as it did not provide funds for index-linking pensions as Akaev had promised (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2000). The present minimum pension is 120 soms ($2.50). The association has calculated that a pension increase would cost some 700 millions soms. LF
U.S. AMBASSADOR BLAMED FOR 'GROSS INTERFERENCE' IN BELARUS'S AFFAIRS
Anatol Malafeyeu, head of the legislative Commission for International Affairs, has accused U.S. Ambassador to Minsk Michael Kozak of "gross interference" in Belarus's domestic affairs, Belapan reported on 18 December. Malafeyeu was commenting on Kozak's interview with the 16 December "Narodnaya volya." Kozak told the newspaper that there is virtually no dialogue between the U.S. and Belarus because of the illegitimacy of the Belarusian authorities. "As of today, Belarus has a parliament that we cannot recognize as a legislative power body representing the interests of Belarus's entire population. We also cannot recognize the legitimacy of the executive branch--its legitimate term in power has already expired," Kozak noted. Malafeyeu said Kozak's statement shows that the U.S. continues its policy of "double standards" with regard to Minsk. JM
UKRAINIAN, POLISH PRESIDENTS DISCUSS ODESA-GDANSK PIPELINE PROJECT
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his Polish counterpart, Aleksander Kwasniewski, meeting in Odesa on 17-18 December, discussed the construction of an oil terminal in Odesa and an Odesa-Gdansk pipeline to deliver Caspian Sea and Kazakh oil to Europe. Kwasniewski called for the creation of an international consortium to complete the pipeline, whose Ukrainian stretch is 80 percent finished, and to organize oil deliveries through it. "We are dealing with a very concrete project that demands our interest," Interfax quoted Kwasniewski as saying. Meanwhile, the U.S. is pressuring Kazakhstan to make a firm commitment by February 2001 to export oil via the planned Aktau-Baku-Ceyhan pipeline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December 2000). JM
UKRAINE'S GDP GROWS BY 5.4 PERCENT FROM JANUARY-NOVEMBER
The State Statistics Committee reported on 18 December that GDP in January-November was 5.4 percent up on the same period last year. GDP in the first 11 months of 2000 amounted to 154.04 billion hryvni ($28 billion). Earlier this year, the government predicted that the economy would grow by 2 percent in 2000. JM
BOMB BLAMED FOR SINKING OF 'ESTONIA' FERRY
The controversy over the cause of the sinking of the ferry "Estonia" in September 1994, which resulted in 852 deaths, continues. An article in Britain's "The Independent" stated that laboratory tests conducted in Germany and the U.S. on two pieces of metal cut from near the car ramp of the ship's bow revealed signs of an explosion on the ferry's hull, BNS and ETA reported on 18 December. It quoted Kurt Ziegler of the Brandenburg state laboratory in Germany as saying that "the results show changes to the metal similar to those caused by high detonation velocity...consistent with explosives such as Semtex or Hexa Composite." This claim challenges the official inquiry verdict that the ferry foundered because of poor weather conditions and a design fault. SG
LATVIA'S TRADE DEFICIT CONTINUES TO GROW
The Central Statistics Bureau announced on 18 December that in the first 10 months of this year, Latvia's exports totaled 941.5 million lats ($1.52 billion) and imports 1.564 billion lats, up 12 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively, on the same period in 1999, BNS reported. The EU accounted for 65.3 percent of Latvia's exports and 52.5 percent of imports. The corresponding figures for the CIS countries are 8.6 percent and 17.1 percent. Britain (17.7 percent) has replaced Germany (17.2 percent) as the leading export partner, followed by Sweden (10.9 percent), Lithuania (7.6 percent), and Denmark (5.8 percent). The leading import partners are Germany (15.7 percent), Russia (11.6 percent), Finland (8.8 percent), Lithuania (7.5 percent), and Sweden (6.8 percent). SG
LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT STRUGGLES WITH PENSION LAW AMENDMENTS
The ruling coalition on 18 December failed again in the parliament to resolve problems related to social insurance, ELTA reported. The previous day, Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas had declared in a special television appeal that the reductions in the pensions of the country's 100,000 working pensioners would enable the 800,000 non-working pensioners to receive their full pensions on time. The government had changed its proposal to reduce the pensions of working pensioners to the base monthly pension of 138 litas by allowing them to also receive 30 percent of their regular pension. When it became the clear that the amendments lacked the necessary support to pass, the parliament decided to postpone voting on them and asked the Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a more detailed analysis of the problem. SG
POLISH NURSES PARALYZE TRAFFIC IN WARSAW
More than 1,000 nurses halted traffic on Warsaw's main thoroughfare for three hours on 18 December, before police in full riot gear succeeded in dragging them away, Polish media reported. Nurses also blocked bridges and street crossings in the city to protest the government's refusal to increase their monthly wages by 500 zlotys ($112). Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said the same day that he supports the nurses' demands but added that they should negotiate wage hikes with local governments and hospital directors. Labor Minister Longin Komolowski told a delegation of the Trade Union of Nurses and Midwives that the government has no money for pay increases this year. JM
CZECH REACTOR RESTARTS AFTER SHUTDOWN
The controversial Temelin nuclear power plant resumed operation on 18 December, two days after it was automatically shut down following a failure in the condenser pumps of one of its two reactors, Reuters and AP reported. A spokesman for the plant told Reuters that "measures were taken to avoid such failures in the future," and the daily "Pravo" on 18 December quoted the head of the State Nuclear Authority Dana Drabova as saying the failure was due to "human error." MS
CZECH FREEDOM UNION ELECTS CANDIDATE FOR ALLIANCE LEADERSHIP
Freedom Union Chairman Karel Kuehnl was elected on 15 December as the party's candidate for the leadership of the Four-Party Coalition, CTK reported. Kuehnl ran unopposed. The alliance's leader will be selected in January. The post will also be contested by Jaroslav Kopriva of the Christian Democrats and Michael Zantovsky of the Civic Democratic Alliance. The Democratic Union, which is the fourth member of the coalition, is not nominating a candidate for that post. A national conference of the union on 16 December re-elected Ratibor Majzlik as the formation's chairman. MS
SLOVAK PROSECUTORS APPEAL AGAINST COURT DECISION IN LORENC CASE
The Slovak military prosecution on 18 December launched an appeal against a Bratislava military court's decision to stop the prosecution of former Czechoslovak secret police chief Alois Lorenc on the grounds that the statute of limitations applies in his case, CTK reported. General Lorenc was sentenced for abuse of power in May 1993 in the Czech Republic but took advantage of the split of the Czechoslovak federation and fled to Slovakia. In 2000, the Slovak authorities decided to re-open his case. MS
SLOVAK PUBLISHER OF 'MEIN KAMPF' TO BE PROSECUTED
Police investigators on 18 December launched proceedings against Agnes Burdova, the publisher of the recent translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," CTK reported. If found guilty, she faces between three and eight years in prison. The daily "Sme" reported that Slovaks have shown "great interest" in the book, of which some 5,000 copies have already been sold. MS
HUNGARIAN ROMA LEAVE FOR NETHERLANDS
A bus carrying more than 30 Roma from three Hungarian localities departed from Hegyeshalom to Utrecht, The Netherlands, on 17 December. The Roma said they are forced to immigrate owing to discrimination and the government's failure to seek and punish those guilty of racial attacks on members of the community. Hungarian media and AFP reported. Justice Minister Ibolya David said the cabinet is "shocked" by the new departures of Roma, adding that she is sure they are being "seduced and cheated" and that their life in The Netherlands will be "hardly better." Csaba Hende, state secretary at the Justice Ministry, said he is "sorry for the unfortunate, misled people who are being turned into beggars by unscrupulous individuals". In July, 46 Roma left the village of Zamoly for Strasbourg, requesting political asylum there. MS.
PROBE LAUNCHED AGAINST PROMINENT HUNGARIAN POLITICIAN
Tamas Isepy, chairman of the parliament's Immunity Committee, has notified Smallholders' Party leader Joszef Torgyan and his wife, deputy Maria Cseh, that the committee is launching a probe into their asset declarations, Hungarian media reported on 16 December. The procedures have been launched at the request of deputies for the Free Democratic Party, who said there are discrepancies between the declarations submitted by Torgyan and his wife over the funding of a villa they have built in the capital. MS
YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT WANTS TO REVISE KOSOVA AGREEMENTS...
Vojislav Kostunica wants to renegotiate the agreements that ended the 1999 Kosova conflict between Serbia and NATO to reduce the size of the demilitarized zone along Serbia's border with Kosova in the Presevo region. Kostunica wants to cut the length of the zone from five to "one or two" kilometers, "The New York Times" reported on 19 December. Kostunica stressed that "we face problems before our domestic public and even before history whether the Albanian terrorists will remain in the..safety zone or not. We cannot let them stay." An unnamed "senior Western official" told the daily that redefining the zone would take time and require "confidence-building measures" aimed at the local ethnic Albanian population. Such measures would include an unspecified aid program and recruitment of Albanians into the local police force. PM
...CHARGES U.S. ROLE IN AIDING GUERRILLAS
Kostunica told the Paris daily "Le Figaro" of 19 December that unspecified "powerful lobbies" in the U.S. are providing "secret aid" to the "Albanian terrorists" in the Presevo valley. He added that "in America, you have non-governmental organizations that have a great deal of influence and also very powerful lobbies working for the independence of Kosovo and against the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia." He did not elaborate. Kostunica warned against granting independence to Kosova, saying that "any change of international borders would eventually lead to others." This was the argument used by the regime of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Independence is the only political solution acceptable to Kosova's 90 percent Albanian majority (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 December 2000). In Bujanovac, the Belgrade daily "Politika" quoted unspecified Yugoslav military sources as saying that Western mercenaries are fighting alongside the Albanian guerrillas. PM
U.S. ENVOYS HOPEFUL FOR END TO SERBIAN CONFLICT
James Pardew, who is U.S. special envoy for the Balkans, and U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia William Montgomery told state-run Serbian Television that they are optimistic about obtaining a peaceful resolution to the conflict. They made the remarks after meeting with Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic in Bujanovac on 18 December, Reuters reported. Covic said that Serbia cannot accept any frontier changes or what he called "extremism." He added that KFOR has recently taken measures to prevent the infiltration of guerrillas and supplies from Kosova into the Presevo region. PM
SERBIAN LEADER WARNS OF 'NEW BALKAN WAR'
Zoran Djindjic, who is a leader of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia and its choice to become the next Serbian prime minister, said in Belgrade on 18 December that "the situation in southern Serbia has the potential to become a new Balkan war." He added, however, that "any attempt [by Serbian forces] to restrain terrorism in the buffer zone carries a big risk of civilian casualties, columns of refugees, and a bad image for Serbia. [Such a conflict would be] the biggest challenge so far" for the new authorities in Belgrade, AP reported. Opposition leader Vladan Batic said that if the UN Security Council does not draft an acceptable "action plan" at its 19 December session, Belgrade will "take things into its own hands and clean out the terrorists from every inch of its territory." PM
KOSOVA SERB LEADER SLAMS KFOR
Oliver Ivanovic, who is a leader of the Serbian community in Mitrovica, said on 19 December that Belgian troops killed a Serbian civilian in a recent incident in Leposaviq by shooting him in the back, AFP reported. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2000). KFOR is investigating the incident. PM
UN BEGINS TO ISSUE KOSOVA CIVILIAN DOCUMENTS
The UN's civilian administration in Kosova began to issue identification cards on 19 December to the more than 34,000 ethnic Albanians who lack proper documentation in the wake of the 1999 conflict, Reuters reported from Prishtina. PM
MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT: INDEPENDENT STATE WILL BE VIABLE
Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica that he is confident that an independent Montenegro will have sufficient resources to ensure its prosperity, "Vijesti" reported on 19 December. He added that the government will organize a referendum on independence to coincide with early parliamentary elections, but he did not specify a date. Djukanovic stressed that the federal authorities under Kostunica are no better disposed toward Montenegro than were their counterparts under Milosevic. For his part, Kostunica told "Le Figaro" that the strife between Belgrade and Podgorica is of Montenegro's own making. He added that the dispute is the biggest unpleasant surprise he has faced as president. PM
CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER INVITES DEL PONTE TO DISCUSS QUESTIONING OF GENERAL
Ivica Racan said in Zagreb on 18 December that he has several unspecified objections to a summons that the Hague-based war crimes tribunal recently sent to General Petar Stipetic, who heads the General Staff. Racan added that he has invited Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte to come to Croatia to discuss his objections, "Jutarnji list" reported. An unnamed government source told Reuters that the authorities want the tribunal to make it clear whether they wish to speak to Stipetic as a witness or as a defendant. PM
MAN KILLED IN HUMAN SMUGGLING INCIDENT IN SLOVENIA
A Slovenian policeman accidentally shot and killed a man who was attempting to bring an unspecified number of Iranian illegal immigrants from Croatia into eastern Slovenia in a car, dpa reported from Ljubljana on 19 December.
CLOUDS OVER GERMAN-MACEDONIAN RELATIONS
The German Defense Ministry and the parliament are investigating allegations that some of the German troops stationed in Macedonia have had sex with under-age prostitutes, dpa reported from Berlin on 19 December. "If the accusations turn out to be true, there will be immediate disciplinary measures," Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said. The investigation began after the recent showing of a documentary film by Germany's public ARD television. Germany maintains a military base at Tetovo as a backup facility for its 22,000 troops in Kosova. Elsewhere, an official of the Environment Ministry told Reuters in Skopje on 18 December that a ministry inspector recently caught German Ambassador Werner Burkart cutting branches from a fir tree in Pelister National Park. The tree belongs to the protected Molika species. It is not clear what charges will be brought against the ambassador, who enjoys diplomatic immunity from prosecution. PM
OUTGOING ROMANIAN PREMIER CLASHES WITH SUCCESSOR
Mugur Isarescu on 18 December asked the Prosecutor General's Office to investigate how confidential government documents have come to be in the possession of his likely successor, Adrian Nastase of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR). Isarescu also ordered Radu Stroe, the government's secretary general, to launch an investigation into Nastase's claims that official documents are being burned by the outgoing government's staff. Nastase said one day earlier that documents originating from branches of the State Property Fund (FPS) attest to the fraudulent involvement of the central FPS in privatization deals; the PDSR, he claimed, has those documents. Responding to Isarescu's earlier criticism of the PDSR's intention to "politicize" the National Bank, of which he is chairman-on-leave, the PDSR said Isarescu can "hardly be considered politically independent" after agreeing to run for president with the backing of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic. MS
FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER IS SENATE CHAIRMAN
Former Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu has been elected chairman of the Senate, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 18 December. One of his deputies is history professor Gheorghe Buzatu of the Greater Romania Party (PRM), who is a prominent Holocaust minimizer and a member of the Marshal Antonescu League. PRM Senator Mihai Ungheanu is Senate Secretary. In 1993, when he was deputy culture minister in the Vacaroiu cabinet, Ungheanu attended the unveiling of the first bust of the marshal in Slobozia. MS
CRACKS APPEAR IN GREATER ROMANIA PARTY
Bucharest Deputy Mayor Ioan Radu announced on 17 December that he is resigning from the PRM, Mediafax reported. Radu said party chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor had pressed him during the election campaign to produce "so-called evidence" on corruption among Bucharest borough mayors and deputy mayors representing the PDSR. When he refused to do so, Radu said, Tudor accused him of being involved in corruption as well. "I am not ready to be involved in 'Vadim's wars,'" Radu said, adding that "I am neither the PRM's spy [on the city council] nor Vadim's puppet." MS
MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
The Moldovan Constitutional Court on 18 December ruled that in order for a vote on the presidential elections to be valid, at least 61 deputies must participate in the ballot, Infotag reported. The court was asked by Party of Democratic Forces (PDF) leader Valeriu Matei, whose formation has said it will boycott the next round of elections, to rule on the matter. The PDF has nine deputies in the 101-seat legislature, but eight Popular Party Christian Democratic deputies and two deputies representing the Christian Democratic Women's League have also said they will not participate in the next round of elections. Asked by Matei to rule how the parliament should act in the event that fewer than 61 deputies participate in the next round, the court declined to rule, saying this is a matter for the parliament itself to decide. MS
GREEK COMPANY WINS BULGARIAN PHONE TENDER
Greece's state telecommunications company, OTE, has won a tender to operate the Global System for Mobile (GSM) telecommunications company in Bulgaria, AP reported. OTE will pay $135 million for the right to operate GSM. MS
RUSSIA, EASTERN EUROPE LACK EFFECTIVE CYBER CRIME LAWS
By Nikola Krastev
In a new survey, entitled "Cyber Crime and Punishment," the Washington-based consulting firm McConnell International says self-protection, while essential, is not sufficient to make the Internet a secure place to conduct business.
Among other things, the survey found that countries with inadequate laws will become increasingly unable to compete in the Internet-based economy. The report analyzes the state of computer law in 52 countries, including Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Iran, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia.
Some big Internet markets are not included in the survey. But Bruce McConnell, the report's principal author and company president, told RFE/RL that the conclusions are nevertheless accurate: "The countries are somewhat self-selected. We sent the survey out to our contacts in 120 countries and these are the ones who responded. So the Russians and the Germans and several other important countries did not respond to this particular survey. So it's not a comprehensive survey by any means, it's more of an anecdotal impression on what's going on. But it is a broad range of countries, so we think it presents an accurate impression."
According to the report, there is only one country, the Philippines, with fully updated laws on the 10 most-common computer crimes, and eight others--including Estonia--that qualify as "substantially" updated on cyber legislation. The Philippines case is due to special circumstances: the country's parliament this year swiftly approved a number of cyber crimes laws after the creator of the highly damaging "Love Bug" computer virus, a Philippines student, could not be prosecuted under Manila's existing laws.
"The reason for this is that existing laws may not cover the crimes that are committed in cyber space, either crimes committed by computers or crimes against computers," McConnell said. "So, as the Philippines found out, even though they have laws against destruction of property and breaking and entering and all the normal crimes, [the laws] did not cover the particular activities [of] the 'Love Bug' virus perpetrator. And so, we're just warning that may be the case in other countries as well."
Only the Czech Republic and Poland among former Soviet bloc countries belong to the group of states with "partly" updated computer legislation. Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Moldova, Romania, and Yugoslavia (as well as Iran) are described as having no updated legislation in the area.
Although Russia and Ukraine were not surveyed by McConnell International, they would belong in the last category. Yevgenii Danilov, the marketing manager of Microsoft Corp. in Moscow, told RFE/RL that in Russia there is often no differentiation between copyright violations--notably software piracy--and computer crimes.
"It is a common perception today [in Russia] that software piracy and cyber crimes are all the same," he said. "In reality, they are totally different [types of] crimes and the problem in Russia is that Internet regulation is so far from being perfect that it's hard to talk about the normal enforcement of law. [Computer crimes] laws are either ineffective or non-existent."
Even among countries considered to have "substantially" or "partially" updated legislation, the report says crimes are not defined in the same way. In some countries, unauthorized access to a computer is a crime only if there is harmful intent. In others, data theft is a crime only if the data relates specifically to an individual's religion or health, or if the intent is to defraud. Many laws are described as biased in favor of the government.
The report says the penalties provided in updated criminal statutes also vary widely. Mauritius, the Philippines, and the U.S. are cited as countries with strong penalties for convictions of computer crime cases.
Iran, Kazakhstan, and Latvia are listed in the report among the countries with no updated laws, but in all three, there are indications that progress is being made.
For the past six years, the survey says, Iran has examined various aspects of computer law, although no law or regulation in regard to abuses has been implemented.
The report says Kazakhstan is now developing a law dealing with computer offenses. Also under study is a special state program on the protection of information resources, including technical and software protection.
And in Latvia, amendments to the country's criminal code have been drafted envisioning substantial punishment for computer-related criminal acts.
One of the critical issues for the effective enforcement of existing or upcoming computer legislation in all countries is the readiness of law-enforcement officials to cooperate internationally. The very nature of computer crime makes it global, meaning that the point of origin is often irrelevant.
The author works for RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service.