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Newsline - January 11, 2001




U.S. RELIEF WORKER ABDUCTED IN CHECHNYA

Medecins sans Frontieres staffer Kenny Gluck was snatched from his car by unidentified men in the Chechen village of Starie Atagi, south of Grozny, on 9 January. His present whereabouts are unknown. A second western aid worker travelling with Gluck managed to escape. In Moscow, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said Gluck's kidnapping was the result of "a flagrant violation" of the rules of conduct foreigners are required to observe in Chechnya, according to Interfax. A spokesman for Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has disclaimed any involvement in the kidnapping, Caucasus Press reported on 11 January. The commander of the Russian forces in the North Caucasus, Lieutenant General Valerii Baranov, said Chechen field commander Arbi Baraev or the Akhmadov brothers may have snatched Gluck. LF

MOSCOW TO MISS SCHEDULED PARIS CLUB PAYMENT...

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 10 January that Russia will not be able to make all the payments scheduled on Soviet-era debt with Paris Club countries, Russian agencies reported. But he added that "we are not refusing to pay, and the current situation is only a temporary phenomenon." He said that Russia expects the Club to understand that Moscow "cannot put the country's social stability at risk." He added that the government has no plans to borrow from the Central Bank to resolve the situation. In related developments, the finance ministry said that it will make an interest payment of $12.3 million to Paris Club creditors on 11 January, and the Standard and Poors rating agency said that the current situation will not affect Russia's credit rating immediately, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

...POLITICIANS URGE GOVERNMENT TO TAKE HARD LINE ON DEBT

Duma deputy Vladimir Nikitin, who heads the parliament's debt servicing commission, told Interfax on 10 January that Russia has "the legal and moral right not to make payments on the principal debt now" because the earlier accords violate Russia's interests. He said that the Paris Club should write off half of Moscow's $38 billion in Soviet-era debt since it has written off up to 80 percent of the debts of other countries. His commission will meet to discuss the issue on 18 January. Meanwhile, KPFR leader Gennadii Zyuganov said on RTR that "countries such as ours never rush to pay debts," Interfax reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" took a similar position, arguing that the international community wants to use the debt weapon to keep Russia from becoming a rival on world markets. PG

SOME RUSSIAN OFFICIALS RAISE VOLUME ON 'BALKAN SYNDROME'...

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 10 January called for an international expert assessment of the use of depleted uranium in weapons used by NATO in Yugoslavia, Russian and Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, Duma deputy Nikolai Ryzhkov, who chairs the parliamentary committee investigating NATO's operations in Yugoslavia, said that there must be a "special body" convened to investigate what he called "NATO's crimes" in Yugoslavia. Duma foreign relations committee chairman Dmitrii Rogozin went even further, arguing that "NATO must pay in real cash" for both damages and the cost of the investigation." He said that Russia must mobilize public opinion in Western countries so that people in those countries will demand that NATO officials explain themselves. PG

...OTHERS PLAY IT DOWN

Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov told Interfax on 10 January that it is unlikely that the Council will take up the issue. He noted that each of the countries involved is investigating, thus downplaying the need for any international investigation. Colonel General Ivan Chizh, the head of the Defense Ministry's military medical department, said there is no reason to overdramatize the situation, even as the deputy commander of Russian airborne troops said that "no facts clearly indicating that tour servicemen are unwell have been discovered," Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Duma Deputy Chairman Vladimir Lukin said that the issue should be resolved by specialists rather than politicians. And former Foreign Minisgter Andrei Kozyrev cautioned against efforts to politicize the issue, Interfax reported. "We should not be too active" in this area, Kozyrev said, noting that "the Soviet Union used to celebrate 'the increase of opposition within NATO,' until it collapsed itself. I hope Russia will not make the same mistake again." PG

WEATHER DOMINATES DOMESTIC NEWS

"Izvestiya" on 10 January pointed out that the weather rather than politics or economics dominated television coverage in Russia. Indeed, the paper said, "Winter is the main event in the country." Unusually cold weather in Siberia and the Russian Far East has been complicated by a gas main break in Western Siberia and water cutoffs in Omsk, ITAR-TASS reported. The situation in Primorskii kray slightly improved as fuel supplies to the power plant there reportedly "stabilized." But problems at the Kalinin nuclear power station near Moscow reduced electricity supplies to that region. In response, the Finance Ministry announced that it is advancing 7.5 billion rubles ($280 million) in assistance to regions hard hit by the cold weather, AFI reported. PG

PROSECUTORS AGAIN SEARCH MEDIA MOST OFFICES

Representatives of the Office of the Prosecutor General on 10 January conducted a search in the offices of Andrei Tsimailo, first deputy chairman of Media-MOST Group, Russian and Western agencies reported. Prosecutors said they were doing so in the context of the investigation of the case against Vladimir Gusinskii. But the firm's executives said they were bewildered by the action since they are prepared to provide any documents the prosecutors want. And a spokesman for the firm said that the timing of the action suggests that it may have been intended to derail negotiations between Media-Most and American media magnate Ted Turner, who is seeking to purchase a stake in the firm. In two related developments, a Moscow arbitration court began tax hearings against TNT-Teleset, a subsidiary of Media-MOST, and Gazprom said the talks between Turner and the firm violated earlier agreements. PG

KASYANOV OUTLINES PLANS

Saying he is "satisfied" with the work of his government over the past year, Prime Minister Kasyanov said that he does not expect to change personnel but will restructure the number of ministries and commissions, Russian agencies reported on 10 January. He said that his cabinet is focusing on long-term plans to 2015 and will develop intermediate and shortrange plans on the basis of those. Kasyanov added that he will not attend the Davos economic meetings this year because the time has passed when Russia was at the center of attention there. PG

TOWARD A NEW DIVISION OF POWERS BETWEEN FEDERAL DISTRICTS AND MOSCOW?

Sergei Samoilov, the head of the Main Territorial Administration of the presidential administration, told Interfax on 10 January that "in a short time," there may be a redistribution of functions between his office and that of the plenopotentiary representatives in the federal districts. He said that the plan, which has already been criticized by Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak, is being undertaken on the initiative of President Vladimir Putin. Samoilov added that the changes will not lead to the elimination of his office, but he "did not exclude the possibility of its reorganization." PG

ARE AUTONOMOUS OKRUGS ABOUT TO BE ABOLISHED?

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" suggested on 10 January that President Putin and his aides are trying to figure out how to reduce the number of federation subjects without having to amend the constitution. The paper said that the most likely course would be the abolition of the country's autonomous okrugs by reabsorbing them into the oblasts and krays on whose territories they are located. PG

NEW FEDERATION COUNCIL TO BE COSTLY

"Moskovskii Komsomolets" reported on 10 January that the new composition of the Federation Council may cost as much as an extra 115 million rubles ($4.1 million) a year. Previously, senators were the heads of regions and regional legislatures who drew their main salary back home. Under the new principles for forming the upper legislative house, Federation Council members will be based in Moscow permanently, and the presidential administration has proposed that they be paid as much as State Duma deputies, 11,000 rubles a month. Current senators earn about half this sum, according to the daily. The government will also have to cover the costs of moving the new senators' families to Moscow and providing housing for them. Staff for the new council members will be an additional expense, costing an estimated 16.7 million rubles, the newspaper reported. The new senators will be required to start assuming their new duties beginning in November 2001. JAC

ISLAMISTS BLAMED FOR RUSSIAN DEATHS IN ALGERIA

"Kommersant" reported on 10 January that Algerian police have arrested and charged four members of "Islamic extremist groups" with the murders of four Russian workers in Algeria earlier this week. PG

MOSCOW AGAIN CALLS FOR BOMBING HALT IN IRAQ

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 10 January issued a statement repeating Moscow's call for the United States and Great Britain to end the bombing of Iraq, Interfax reported. The statement said that the continuation of the bombing "not only increases the number of innocent victims among the civilian poulation but also to a remarkable degree makes more complicated the process of finding a political settlement." It noted that American and British planes had entered the airspace of Iraq 11,065 times in 2000. PG

'NO MILITARY NEED' FOR NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN KALININGRAD

Yevgeny Maslin, the former chief of the 12th nuclear department of the Russian Defense Ministry, told ITAR-TASS on 10 January that "Russia has no military need to keep tactical nuclear weapons in the Kaliningrad region." His comments came in response to Washington's request for "explanations" about a transfer of such weapons to that exclave (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 2001). Maslin said that such questions about Kaliningrad prompt him to ask "why does the US not pull out its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe." PG

RUSSIAN FLEET TO VISIT INDIA, VIETNAM

Navy commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov announced on 10 January that a flotilla of Russian navy vessels will sail to India and then Vietnam from 15 January through March, Interfax reported. The training exercise, he said, is to "demonstrate Russia's ability to fly its naval flag in a worthy manner, to protect its national interests," and to guarantee stability in the region. Meanwhile, Kuroyedov told ITAR-TASS that Moscow has completed the draft of a new maritime doctrine. PG

NUCLEAR STORAGE FACILITY UPGRADED

Interfax reported on 10 January that equipment will begin to be installed in the Mayak storage facility for nuclear materials. The site will provide for "centralized and environmentally safe longterm storage of material retrieved from dismantled warheads," a source in the defense ministry said. Meanwhile, a bipartisan panel in the United States called on Washington to spend $30 billion over the next decade to help Russia provide secure storage of nuclear materials, lest the situation there develop "catastrophic consequences," AP reported. PG

RUSSIAN OIL PRODUCTION UP, GAS OUTPUT DOWN IN 2000

The Russian Energy Ministry told Interfax on 10 January that Russia produced 323.3 million tons of oil in 2000, 17.9 million tons more than in 1999, and 594.2 billion cubic meters of gas, or 7.8 billion cubic meters more than a year earlier. PG

MOSCOW AGAIN RAISES PRICE FOR PALLADIUM

Russia, which enjoys a near monopoly on palladium, has again withheld some of its production from the world market, sending prices up from $800 an ounce to $1,000 an ounce, "Izvestiya" reported on 10 January. PG

ALL RF REPUBLICS TO GET PASSPORT INSERTS

The Russian government announced on 10 January that each of the republics of the Russian Federation will be allowed to insert a special insert in Russian passports displaying the coat of arms of the republic and providing information in its language, Interfax reported. The precise form of the inserts are to be agreed upon between the republic governments, on the one hand, and the Russian interior ministry and Heraldic Council of the president's office. PG

KARACHAI, BALKARS STRESS SHARED IDENTITY, TIES TO OTHER NORTH CAUCASIANS

Some 140 delegates and more than 100 guests assembled in Cherkessk at a congress of the interregional association of the Karachai people "Alan" and the republic social organization of the Balkar people "Malkar Auzy," "Izvestiya" reported on 10 January. "Alan" President Akhmat Katchiev told the group that the forum is historic in that it reaffirms that the Karachai and Balkars are one ethnos. A representative of the Southern Federal District told the newspaper that Moscow ought to support the complete rehabilitation of these formerly deported peoples." PG

SARATOV GOVERNOR PROVIDES INCENTIVE TO LEARN NEW ANTHEM EARLY

Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov announced on 9 January that his administration will establish a prize for the first person to learn the words for Russia's new national anthem by heart, "Vremya MN" reported on 10 January citing RIA Novosti. "Each person should know the words of the new anthem," Ayatskov said, noting that the establishment of the new state symbols "will strengthen Russia." "Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day that Ayatskov is also fond of another one of President Putin's innovations and has announced the creation of a "state council" for Saratov Oblast, composed of all the raion administration heads in the oblast. Members of the new "state council" have been tasked with preparing a plan for the development of their raions through the year 2005. Like the national level State Council, the new Saratov council will function as a purely advisory body, according to the daily. JAC

RUSSIAN SPACE PROGRAM MAKING A PROFIT

Yurii Gusev, the deputy director of the Russian space Agency, was quoted by "Trud" on 10 January as saying that Russia's space program is doing well and even making a profit. He said that the program has earned $3.5 billion since 1994, and he predicted that it will earn $1 billion in 2001. In future years, he said, "we will aim for $2 billion a year." PG

EXPERTS KNOW CAUSES OF KURSK DISASTER BUT WON'T SAY

Igor Spasskii, the director of St. Petersburg's Rubin Maritime Equipment Design Bureau, told ITAR-TASS on 10 January that experts "fully understand" the causes of the Kursk accident but that he will not tell the press since to do so would "create a storm of questions." Meanwhile, Interfax North-West reported the same day that a contract between that design bureau and an international consortium to raise the Kursk will be signed in February. PG

NO BASIS SEEN FOR SPYMANIA

"Argumenty I fakty" reported on 10 January that there has not been a dramatic jump in the number of spies identified in Russia over the last several years. In fact, the paper said, "judging on the basis of everything, the statistics have not gone up." PG

NEW STALINIST BLOC CREATED IN RUSSIA

On the basis of an electoral bloc created in 1999, a new social-political group "the All-Union Stalinist Bloc--for the USSR" has been created in Russia, Interfax reported on 10 January. Stanislav Terekhov, who also heads the Union of Officers, said that the group is led by the 64-year-old grandson of Joseph Stalin, Yevgenii Dzhughashvili. PG




ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER REFUTES ARRESTED BUSINESSMAN'S CLAIMS

Serzh Sarkisian told Noyan Tapan on 10 January that detained businessman Arkadii Vartanian's allegations that Armenia is prepared to cede its southern district of Meghri as part of a territorial exchange to resolve the Karabakh conflict are "ridiculous." Vartanian had made those allegations in an open letter to President Robert Kocharian which his wife Elena made public earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2001). Specifically, Vartanian claimed that a conversation he held with Sarkisian last spring had convinced him that the Armenian leadership is prepared to cede Meghri. Sarkisian admitted that he met with Vartanian last fall at the request of presidential advisor Razmik Davoyan, but denied that Meghri was discussed during that meeting. LF

YEREVAN MAYOR RESIGNS ON ARMENIAN PRESIDENT'S ORDERS

Albert Bazeyan submitted his resignation on 10 January following an unscheduled meeting during which President Robert Kocharian criticized his performance during his 18 month tenure as mayor of Yerevan, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital reported. Kocharian had criticized the municipal authorities last November. Bazeyan was one of the last remaining representatives in the upper echelons of the country's leadership of the once-powerful Yerkrapah group created by deceased Premier Vazgen Sargsian. Observers in Yerevan anticipate that former parliament speaker Khosrov Harutiunian will be named to succeed Bazeyan as mayor. LF

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO AZERBAIJAN

Addressing the Azerbaijani parliament on 10 January, President Vladimir Putin expressed confidence that the ongoing dialogue between Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart will result in a compromise solution to the Karabakh conflict that will be "advantageous to both parties," AP reported. Putin also noted "progress" in bilateral military cooperation, which he predicted will be intensified. But he said that cooperation will not be directed against any third party, according to ANS as cited by Groong. Putin also met on 10 January with Azerbaijan's Islamic leader Sheikh Allakh-shukur Pashazade. And before leaving Baku, Putin presented to President Aliyev the latter's certificate of graduation in May 1949 from the Ministry of State Security higher school in Leningrad, ITAR-TASS reported. It is the first time that the date of Aliev's KGB training has been publicized; his official biography makes no mention of his study at that institute, claiming instead that in 1949-1950 he was a student at Baku State University. LF

ARMENIAN, GEORGIAN OFFICIALS COMMENT ON PUTIN'S BAKU VISIT

Armenian Defense Minister Sarkisian told journalists in Yerevan on 10 January that the apparent rapprochement between Russia and Azerbaijan will not negatively impact on Russian-Armenian relations, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He pointed out that those relations are based on numerous bilateral treaties, and will remain on the "highest possible level." Consequently, he concluded, "there are no grounds for panic and far-reaching conclusions." Sargsian argued the "normalization" of relations between Moscow and Baku will, on the contrary, contribute to a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as "the Azeris could gain a certain confidence in the Russians." In Tbilisi, however, parliament majority faction leader Giorgi Baramidze interpreted Putin's stated intention to expand military cooperation with Azerbaijan as an attempt to undermine Georgian-Azerbaijani relations," Caucasus Press reported on 11 January. LF

RUSSIAN OFFICIAL SETS CONDITIONS FOR LIFTING OF VISA REQUIREMENT FOR GEORGIANS

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said in an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 January that Russia is prepared to seek "mutually acceptable" terms for lifting the mutual visa requirement for Russian and Georgian citizens. He said Moscow insists that Georgia consent to "effective cooperation" with Russia to eliminate Chechen "terrorists" on Georgian territory. Yakovenko also criticized what he termed the ineffectiveness of the OSCE observers deployed along the Georgian-Chechen border. He said that ineffectiveness reflects badly on the OSCE's prestige. LF

GEORGIAN SECURITY MINISTRY DENIES CHECHEN MILITANTS CONCENTRATED IN PANKISI GORGE

The Georgian National Security Ministry denied on 11 January that a large number of Chechen fighters have recently moved to the Pankisi gorge in north-eastern Georgia and that they pose a threat to Georgia's territorial integrity, Caucasus Press reported. Vakhtang Shamiladze, chairman of the Georgian parliament's sub-committee for relations with peoples of the Caucasus, had made that claim to journalists the previous day. Shamiladze said the Georgian "power ministries" should issue an ultimatum to the Chechens to leave Georgian territory, and expel them by force if they fail to comply. LF

LAUNCH OF OIL PIPELINE IN KAZAKHSTAN TO BE DELAYED

A senior official of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium told Interfax and "Izvestiya" this week that the launch of the Tengiz-Novorossiisk export pipeline for Kazakhstan's oil will be delayed from 1 January 2001 to 1 March 2001 to allow for additional testing of the Kazakh sector between Atyrau and Zaburunya and the replacement of faulty valves. In addition, the Kazakh state oil company KazakhOil must instal a meter to calculate the volume of oil that enters Russia from Kazakhstan. Construction of the pipeline, which will have an initial annual throughput capacity of 28.2 million tons, was finished in November 2000. It will take 105 days to fill the pipeline with oil, which means the first crude is likely to reach Novorossiisk in June. LF

KUWAIT TO FUND HIGHWAY IN TAJIKISTAN

Tajikistan's Transport Minister Abdujalol Salimov and the deputy director-general of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, Hesham al-Wekayam, signed an agreement in Dushanbe on 10 January whereby the fund will provide a $16.25 million loan to finance the construction of a 38-kilometer stretch of the Kulyab-Kalaikhumb-Khorog highway that connects Khatlon Oblast with the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, Interfax and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. President Imomali Rakhmonov met with al-Wekayam the same day to express his thanks. Rakhmonov also solicited Kuwait's support for a donor conference for economic rehabilitation in Tajikistan tentatively scheduled for October 2001. LF

TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN SEARCH FOR UZBEK ISLAMISTS

A Tajik government commission that includes former field commander, now Minister of Emergency Situations Mirzo Zieev has been searching the eastern Pamir foothills in Tajikistan for a week in reponse to foreign media reports that militants from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan including the movement's leader Djuma Namangani are ensconced in the region, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 January. Meanwhile Interior Ministry forces in Uzbekistan's Tashkent Oblast, which borders on Tajikistan, have launched an anti-terror operation aimed at intercepting Islamic militants and drug-smugglers, Interfax reported the same day. LF

TURKMENISTAN DOUBLES GAS PRODUCTION

Gas production in Turkmenistan last year totalled 47 billion cubic meters, which is over double the 22.8 billion cubic meters produced in 1999, Interfax reported on 10 January citing the turkmenistan.ru website. Gas exports to the CIS in 2000 totalled 30 billion cubic meters, compared with 8.5 billion tons the previous year. Ashgabat hopes to increase output this year to 70 billion tons. LF




PRO-LUKASHENKA FORCES SET UP COORDINATING BODY

Leaders of the parties and associations that support Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's socioeconomic course have formed a nationwide coordinating council, Interfax reported on 11 January. The agency did not name the politicians and organizations involved. Presidential aide Syarhey Posakhau said the council was created "to consolidate the healthy intellectual forces of Belarusian society in order to strengthen the stability and creative advance in the 21st century." Posakhau added that the coordinating body is not "an election staff of presidential candidate Alyaksandr Lukashenka." JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL BRIEFS PARLIAMENT ON MISSING JOURNALIST CASE

Mykhaylo Potebenko on 10 January said there is a 99.6 percent chance that the headless and decaying corpse found near Kyiv in November may be former journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Potebenko was reporting to the parliament on the DNA tests performed on samples of genetic material taken from the corpse and Gongadze's mother. Simultaneously Potebenko cast doubt on the authenticity of the tape provided by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko, which allegedly proves President Leonid Kuchma's complicity in Gongadze's disappearance. The prosecutor-general quoted experts as saying the tape was edited. Potebenko also noted that the poor sound quality makes it impossible to prove if the voices on the tape are those of Kuchma and his aides. The Prosecutor-General's Office has opened a libel case against Melnychenko. JM

UKRAINIANS RALLY IN SUPPORT FOR PRESIDENT

Heavily attended marches and rallies took place in many Ukrainian cities on 10 January in support of President Leonid Kuchma. The demonstrators' primary demand was that the parliament implement the constitutional reform in line with last year's referendum giving Kuchma more powers. According to official data quoted by Interfax, 50,000 people participated in a pro-Kuchma rally in Kharkiv, 30,000 in Luhansk, 10,000 in Lutsk, 6,000 in Simferopol, and 4,000 in Bila Tserkva. However, the "Eastern Economist Daily" called the pro-Kuchma demonstrations "suspicious," citing some media as saying that people were either forced to attend those demonstrations or received special privileges for doing so, such as an extra day off. President Kuchma commented that he asked the executive authorities in the regions "not to organize meetings and demonstrations in my support." The same day an anti-Kuchma picket in Kyiv gathered only 300 people. JM

MORE THAN HALF OF ESTONIA'S RUSSIANS HAVE TRUST IN STATE

A study by the Saar Poll firm indicated that 62 percent of the Russian population in Estonia had a positive opinion of their government, while in Latvia the figure was 39 percent and in Lithuania 42 percent, ETA reported on 10 January. This correlated with their opinion about the country's economies: 63, 31, and 23 percent of Russians in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, respectively, positively assessed the current economic situation in their countries. They were even more optimistic about the future; 77, 44, and 43 percent, respectively, believed that they would have a positive view of their countries' economies in five years. SG

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN LATVIA FELL IN 2000

The unemployment rate in Latvia fell steadily last year, BNS reported on 10 January. It was 9.1 percent in January and February, 8.6 percent in May, 8.1 percent in August, and 7.8 percent in October, November and December. Head of the Unemployment Records, Analysis, and Forecast Unit of the National Employment Service Ilga Upeniece said that the fall was due to the stabilization of the republic's economic situation, the creation of new jobs, and successful cooperation between the employment service and employers in training unemployed persons. Declines in the jobless rate occurred throughout the country, falling from 4.8 to 3.7 percent in Riga, from 27.2 to 25.6 percent in the Rezekne county, and from 22.1 to 20.1 percent in the Preili county. SG

LITHUANIA SIMPLIFIES VISA REGULATIONS FOR CIS, EU 'WHITE LIST' COUNTRIES

A joint order of the interior and foreign ministries simplified the regulations for obtaining visas for citizens of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Taiwan, BNS reported on 10 January. They will be able to get visas (valid up to 30 days) for Lithuania without invitations if they show sufficient funds ($40 per day) to live there. Visas without invitations will also be granted to citizens of the following countries on the EU's "white list": Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Korea, Costa Rica, Macao, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, South Africa, El Salvador, Singapore, and Uruguay. The remaining 21 states on the EU's "white list" already enjoy visa-free travel to Lithuania. SG

PREMIER TAKES OVER LEADERSHIP OF SOLIDARITY BLOC

Jerzy Buzek on 10 January took over the leadership of the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) after AWS bloc parties had ratified an agreement aimed at introducing internal reforms within the bloc (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2001), PAP reported. Buzek replaced Marian Krzaklewski, who remains head of the Solidarity trade union, a major force in the AWS. The pressure on Marian Krzaklewski to resign the AWS leadership started after he had been easily defeated by Aleksander Kwasniewski in last year's presidential elections. JM

NEW PARTY TO EMERGE IN POLAND?

Polish Television reported on 10 January that lower house speaker Maciej Plazynski, upper house deputy speaker Donald Tusk, and non-aligned politician Andrzej Olechowski are planning to launch a new political party. According to PAP, the three politicians are currently discussing a joint "electoral initiative." Plazynski, a prominent politician of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), refused to sign a recent agreement on the reform of the bloc (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2001). Tusk recently lost an election for the top post in the centrist Freedom Union (UW) and is rumored to be considering leaving the UW along with his supporters. Olechowski, who came second in last year's presidential ballot, has previously declared his intention to form an electoral alliance that could become a centrist alternative to the right-wing AWS and the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance. JM

BALCEROWICZ SWORN IN AS POLAND'S CHIEF BANKER

Former Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz was sworn in as president of the Polish National Bank in the parliament on 10 January. The parliament approved Balcerowicz's nomination to that post last month. Balcerowicz said after the swearing-in that his main goals are to strengthen the stability of the zloty and to take care of the country's banking system. "This is a signal for Poland and our [Western] partners that the situation is stable and that a competent person took over this job," AP quoted President Aleksander Kwasniewski as saying. JM

OIL COMPANY SAID TO HAVE FINANCED SOLIDARITY LEADER'S CAMPAIGN

Polish Television's main newscast on 10 January claimed to have discovered that the Orlen Polish Oil Concern illegally spent more than 20 million zlotys ($5 million) on Solidarity chairman Marian Krzaklewski's presidential election campaign last year. According to Poland's electoral law, no more than 12 million zlotys can be spent on an election campaign, while a single company can contribute no more than 70,000 zlotys. Later the same day, the Orlen board stated that it has "never financed or intends to finance any presidential campaigns, political parties, or politicians." Krzaklewski's electoral committee called the television story about the Orlen money a "false insinuation" and a "journalistic provocation." JM

RALSTON ASSURES CZECHS OF 'MAXIMUM TRANSPARENCY' OVER 'BALKAN SYNDROME'

NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Joseph Ralston told journalists in Prague on 10 January that "there is nothing to hide" and NATO will disclose "all the facts" on the use during the 1999 Kosova conflict of munitions tipped with depleted uranium, CTK and international agencies reported. He said "all available information will be made known to the public." Czech Chief of Staff General Jiri Sedivy said experts serving with Czech units in Kosova had not detected any toxic waste in places where that munition had been used, and check-ups of soldiers who served in Balkan peace-keeping missions revealed no heath problems connected with that service. MS

CZECH PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE SUGGESTS SOLUTION FOR DISMISSING HODAC

The Chamber of Deputies' Culture Committee on 10 January recommended that the chamber itself temporarily assume some of the powers of the Czech Television and Radio Council after its mandate terminates, CTK reported. If accepted by the plenum, the recommendation would make it possible for the chamber to dismiss Czech Television director Jiri Hodac, provided the amendment proposed by the government to the law on the council is passed when the chamber meets on 12 January. That passing of the amendment would make possible the termination of the council's mandate. The council refused earlier this week to vote on the chamber's recommendation of 5 January that Hodac be dismissed. Meanwhile, thousands are expected to participate in new demonstrations in Prague and other Czech towns on 11 January in support of Hodac's dismissal. MS

PRODI CONFIDENT CZECH TV DISPUTE WILL BE SOLVED 'DEMOCRATICALLY...'

European Commission Chairman Romano Prodi wrote on 10 January to Aidan White, general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), that the commission is "confident that the Czech Republic will take appropriate steps in line with our shared democratic values" to solve the ongoing conflict at Czech Television, CTK reported. Prodi was replying to a letter by White which expressed anxiety over the crisis. Also on 10 January, the IFJ welcomed the decision of Czech Radio and Television Council to resume broadcasting the newscasts produced by the protesting staff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2001). MS

...BUT CONFLICT IMPACT SPREADS TO PRIVATE TV

Radio and Television Council Chairman Martin Muchka on 10 January denied that the council has decided to launch legal proceedings against the private TV3, CTK reported. However, he acknowledged that the case of TV3 was discussed at a council meeting last November. On 9 January, Muchka's deputy, Petr Stepanek, said the council had decided to examine who owns TV3. TV3 director Jan Obrman told the daily "Mlada fronta-Dnes" on 10 January that the decision to launch proceedings against the station was taken "in revenge" for TV3's objective coverage of the conflict in Czech TV and as a result of "pressure" from private TV Nova boss Vladimir Zelezny, with whom Stepanek is rumored to have close ties. MS

CZECH POLICE GUARDING ZEMAN FAMILY

Police are guarding the wife and 6-year-old daughter of Prime Minister Milos Zeman, CTK and AP reported on 10 January, citing Interior Ministry spokeswoman Gabriela Bartikova. Bartikova said the decision to provide bodyguards to Zeman's family followed an "assessment of security risks." The daily "Lidove noviny" wrote that the premier has received written threats to kidnap his daughter, and cited Zeman's wife as saying the child is under guard even at school. MS

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES LINK TO 'MITTERAND AFFAIR'

"The Mitterand scandal, from our point of view, is a purely French domestic affair," Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Gandel told CTK on 10 January. Gandel was reacting to reports in the French media that Jean-Christophe Mitterand, the son of the late French president, and his associate, arms dealer Pierre Falcone, had links with Slovak arms producer ZTS and had used those links to smuggle arms to Angola illegally. Mitterand has been charged with complicity in arms smuggling and has been imprisoned since 21 December. Gandel said Slovakia "fully abides by the U.N. sanctions on arms trade" and has never exported arms to Angola through a third country. MS

HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL SEES YUGOSLAV HAND IN 'BALKAN SYNDROME'

Laszlo Botz, director-general of Hungary's military intelligence, said on 10 January that the government of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic disseminated rumours in 1999 regarding the dangers of depleted uranium shells used by NATO forces in the Balkans (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January 2001). He said it is conceivable that the Yugoslav army shipped radioactive substances to areas affected by NATO operations. In other news, former secret services minister Istvan Nikolits said that in 1997-1998, a Slovak secret operation code-named "Balaton" attempted to discredit Hungary's political leadership in order to hamper the country's accession to EU and NATO. MSZ




BOSNIAN SERBS' PLAVSIC PLEADS 'NOT GUILTY' IN THE HAGUE

Former Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic told the war crimes tribunal on 11 January that she "pleads 'not guilty' to all counts" in the nine-charge indictment against her, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2001). The indictment notes that Plavsic had "knowledge of such crimes, [but] instead condoned and publicly congratulated the forces that had taken part." The text added that she did nothing to punish war criminals when she was president of the Bosnian Serb entity from 1996 until 1998. The court plans to try her in May together with fellow former Bosnian Serb leader, Momcilo Krajisnik. PM

NEW QUARTERS FOR PLAVSIC?

After Plavsic entered her plea in The Hague on 11 January, Krstan Simic, who is her lawyer, spoke to court officials about a transfer for her from the tribunal's detention facility, where she is the only woman. Chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said that her office is aware of the problem and is working on a solution, Reuters reported. Del Ponte also told reporters that there was no plea-bargaining between the tribunal and Plavsic, whose surrender was completely voluntary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2001). The prosecutor stressed that the court does not engage in such deals. PM

REPUBLIKA SRPSKA SEEKS BAIL FOR PLAVSIC

Speaking in Banja Luka on 10 January, outgoing Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said that the government will soon offer unspecified "guarantees" to the tribunal so that Plavsic can be freed until her trial begins, Reuters reported. Elsewhere, her Serbian People's Alliance (SNS) issued a statement saying that Plavsic will "defend the dignity of the Serbian people" and prove the charges false before the tribunal. SNS deputy leader Branislav Lolic said that Plavsic will argue that there was a "civil war in the Republika Srpska..., [that] there was no Serbian aggression, and that the Serbian people [as a whole] cannot be tried" for war crimes. Banja Luka's "Nezavisne novine" on 11 January quoted Simic as saying that his client maintains a more dignified appearance than the other inmates of the detention center. PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT OFFERS PROPOSAL TO MONTENEGRO

On 10 January in Belgrade, Vojislav Kostunica made public his draft for the redefinition of federal relations between Serbia and Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2001). The key difference between his proposal and that of the Montenegrin government is that Kostunica envisions the federation as the primary international legal subject, whereas Podgorica wants Serbia and Montenegro to both obtain international recognition and then renegotiate the terms of their relationship. Kostunica argued that "historical and contemporary reasons" for preserving the federation far outweigh those for breaking it up. The number of federal ministries would be reduced from 14 to five, but they would retain control over several important activities. Those include foreign policy, defense, monetary and economic policy, basic social services, and transportation and communications. PM

MONTENEGRIN PARTIES REACT TO BELGRADE'S PROPOSAL

Miodrag Vukovic, who is a leader of the governing Democratic Party of Socialists, told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service in Podgorica on 10 January that his party will take an official stand on Kostunica's text once the Serbian authorities have formally endorsed it. A spokesman for the Liberal Alliance said that his party is afraid that there will be unspecified "international pressure" on Montenegro to accept Kostunica's proposal. Dragisa Burzan of the Social Democrats dubbed the Belgrade document a "greater Serbian project" and a "maneuver." A spokesman for the People's Party, however, hailed the proposal, saying that it was what his party expected. As of 2400 hours on 10 January, the pro-Belgrade Socialist People's Party had not taken an official stand on the proposal. PM

MONTENEGRIN LEADER TO ZAGREB

President Milo Djukanovic will arrive in Zagreb on 14 January for medical treatment related to his automobile accident last fall, "Novi List" reported on 11 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2000). It is not clear whether he will meet with his Croatian counterpart Stipe Mesic during the course of his private visit. PM

MONTENEGRIN-ALBANIAN AGREEMENT IMMINENT

Montenegrin Trade Minister Ramo Bralic led a delegation to Tirana for a one-day visit, "Vijesti" reported on 11 January. He and his Albanian hosts reviewed several projects planned in conjunction with the EU's Stability Pact. A ministry spokesman said that Podgorica and Tirana are planning to set up joint teams to deal with specific areas of cooperation, such as ecology, tourism, transportation, water, and electricity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December 2000). The delegations also discussed concluding a free trade agreement in conjunction with the Stability Pact, as well as building a road linking Elbasan and Podgorica. The two governments will soon sign an agreement on local border traffic and bilateral trade. PM

SERBIAN RE-VOTE REAFFIRMS DOS LANDSLIDE

The 23 December 2000 Serbian parliamentary elections were repeated in 19 out of 8,000 precincts on 10 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2001). Preliminary results suggest a result very close to that of the national one in the first round, Beta news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 December 2000). The governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition took about 68 percent, with 13 percent going to former President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialists. The Radicals took 7.5 percent, while 6 percent went to the extremist Party of Serbian Unity. Turnout was about 23 percent. PM

NEW SERBIAN GOVERNMENT BY END OF MONTH?

DOS leader Momcilo Perisic told "Danas" of 11 January that he hopes that a new government can be in place by 31 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2001). The former general is tipped to be deputy prime minister with responsibilities for security issues. PM

KOUCHNER BIDS KOSOVA FAREWELL

Bernard Kouchner, who was the first full-time head of the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, bid what AP called an "emotional farewell" to the province in Prishtina on 10 January. He called on all people of Kosova to take responsibility for their future and, first and foremost, to "stop the killings." He stressed that "real peace takes time" and that a "better, more tolerant society" must be built. Kouchner specifically expressed regret that his administration was not able to do more to improve the safety of "Serbs and other minorities." PM

BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER LEAVES FOR POWER JOB

Edhem Bicakcic resigned as prime minister of the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation on 10 January, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The next day, he started his new job at the state-owned power monopoly company, Elektroprivreda BiH. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE TO DISMISS CIVIL SERVANTS

Presidential office spokeswoman Corina Cretu on 10 January said the cabinet has amended by an emergency ordinance the Law on Civil Service and its provisions no longer apply to employees of the presidential office, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Cretu also described as "immoral" the protest by some 40 presidential office staff, who earlier protested at having been made "redundant" and "shifted from office to office, with no assignment" by the new Ion Iliescu administration. Cretu said staff hired by the administration of previous President Emil Constantinescu cannot be expected to work for an administration with "a different ideology." The Law on the Civil Service does not allow the firing of civil servants for political reasons. MS

ROMANIAN 'PRODIGAL SON' TO RETURN HOME?

Nicolae Popa, deputy chairman of the Alliance for Romania Party (APR), said on 10 January his formation is engaged in negotiations with the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on joining the Democratic Social Pole (PDS). The pole was set up ahead of last year's elections and includes the PDSR, the Social Democratic Party, and the Romanian Humanist Party. Popa said the APR wants to join the pole "as an independent formation" and to continue safeguarding its own separate structures, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He said he has received "positive signals" from the PDSR. The APR, which is headed by Teodor Melescanu, split from the PDSR in June 1997. The party failed to pass the 5 percent electoral hurdle in the 2000 elections. MS

ROMANIAN ECONOMY STILL IN CRISIS, BUT IMPROVING

The annual inflation rate in 2000 has been 40.7 percent, according to data released on 10 January by the National Institute for Statistics and Economics. The industrial growth rate, calculated from January to November, was 2.7 percent. Exports were 23.4 percent up on 1999, but imports also grew by 23.5 percent. Since most of the exports are of low-priced light industry products and most imports of expensive technological wares, the country's negative balance of trade between January and November continued to grow and has now reached a record $1.98 billion, Mediafax reported. MS

MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIA

Visiting Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicolae Cernomaz on 10 January met with President Iliescu, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and with his Romanian counterpart Mircea Geoana, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. They discussed ways to improve bilateral commercial relations; aid to Moldova and ways to gradually reduce Chisinau's debt to Bucharest; the possibility of Romanian investments in the Moldovan privatization process; securing their common border in line with EU requirements; possible Romanian initiatives to bring about the liberation of Ilie Ilascu from his Tiraspol imprisonment; and the pending ratification of the basic treaty initialed in April 2000 by the two countries' former foreign ministries. On the last issue, Geoana and Cernomaz agreed to have expert teams meet "after the clarification of the political situation in Moldova", where elections are due next month. They said there were no "fundamental" disagreements on the ratification but, as Cernomaz put it "even the Bible can have different interpretations." MS

FORMER MOLDOVAN PREMIER TO HEAD DEMOCRATIC PARTY'S ELECTORAL LISTS

Democratic Party leader Dumitru Diacov on 10 January told journalists that his formation will run alone in the February parliamentary elections and that the Democrat's list will be headed by former Prime Minister Ion Sturza, Infotag reported. Diacov said his own name will be "somewhere in the middle" of the list and will be preceded by that of a number of other experts, who, like Sturza, have a solid economic background and have served in his cabinet. Diacov said he believes the party will secure the second-largest representation in the parliament after the communists. The extra-parliamentary National Liberal Party has also announced it will run alone. MS

GAGAUZ-YERI THREATENS TO BOYCOTT ELECTIONS

The Popular Assembly of the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous region approved a resolution demanding that the Moldovan authorities amend the electoral law to secure seats in the parliament for representatives of the region, Infotag reported on 10 January. The assembly said that if the amendment is not approved, it "reserves the right to call on the Gagauz population to boycott the election." The Gagauz authorities want 15 seats in the legislature to be guaranteed for their representatives. Diacov said in response that the Gagauz demand is "unacceptable and uncivilized" and that the parliament, of which he is speaker, cannot examine it so soon before the ballot is scheduled to take place, Flux reported. MS

BULGARIAN PROSECUTORS PROBE INTO COMMUNIST ANTI-TURKISH PERSECUTIONS

RFE/RL journalist Tatiyana Vaksberg on 9 January presented on Bulgarian television documents linking Georgi Atanasov, the last communist premier, to the persecution of ethnic Turks under the Todor Zhivkov regime. Vaksberg, who works for the Sofia bureau, discovered the documents in the Communist Party archives. They show that Atanasov, at that time a secretary of the Central Committee, ordered the assimilation drive against the Turkish minority in northern Bulgaria in 1985. Bulgarian prosecutors said they are now reopening the investigation of that campaign, which they closed in 1999 for lack of clear documentary evidence. Vaksberg also discovered documents linking Zhivkov himself and former Interior Minister Petar Stoyanov to the campaign, but the prosecutors said they will not probe into these cases, since Zhivkov and Stoyanov are both dead (see also "RFE/RL Newsline", 8 January 2001). MS

BULGARIA TO CONSOLIDATE ARABLE LAND

Deputy Agriculture Minister Georgi Kirilov told journalists on 10 January that his ministry is submitting to the parliament a Land Consolidation Bill aimed at creating incentives to set up larger and more competitive farms, Reuters reported. "By carrying out land restitution in the past few years, we pushed our farming decades back, because plots became rather fragmented," Kirilov said. Since 1992, Bulgaria has returned to pre-communist owners some 5.7 million hectares of arable land seized during the forced collectivization of the 1950s. Some 35 percent of the restituted land barely yields enough to feed its owners and their livestock, Agriculture Ministry officials cited by Reuters said. Also on 10 January, Agriculture Minister Ventislav Varbanov said reports of an expected wheat shortage are untrue and the country has enough in its stock to meet needs without imports. MS




THE INCUMBENCY ADVANTAGE


By Julie A. Corwin

Last year, almost half of Russia's 89 federation subjects conducted elections for their regional leaders. At first glance, it appears that candidates supported by the Communist party performed best. But a closer review of the results of 2000 gubernatorial elections shows that incumbency bestows the best advantages, while party identification and/or support means little. The results also demonstrate that the Kremlin's ability to influence regional voters' gubernatorial selections is severely limited.

Of the 44 regional elections, 29 incumbents were re-elected (see table in "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 3 January 2000). And, in two additional regions, Krasnodar Krai and Kaluga Oblast, the "successor" tapped by the governor, who chose not to seek re-election, also won. In almost every case where incumbent governors managed to move up election dates and therefore give their competition less time to prepare, the incumbent won. For example, the elections held on 26 March to coincide with Russian presidential elections resulted in a clean sweep--seven victories for seven incumbents.

Both Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Unity leader Sergei Shoigu have hailed the results of the 2000 gubernatorial elections as mandates for their parties. At the end of last month, Shoigu was so pleased about the outcome of regional elections that he boasted that Russia has a new "belt" -- a "Unity belt" instead of a red belt, while Zyuganov claimed that the results of elections held on 19 December, in particular, represented a "notable success" for the Communist party.

The Communists managed to hold on to many regions. Twelve communist incumbents were re-elected; only three incumbents were defeated, former Novosibirsk Governor Vitalii Mukha, former Voronezh Governor Ivan Shabanov, and former Ulyanovsk Governor Yurii Goryachev. However, in Ulyanovsk, the Communist Party withdrew its support for the incumbent Yurii Goryachev in favor of General Vladimir Shamanov, who won. Communists also won in two additional regions, Ivanovo and Kamchatka Oblasts, unseating incumbents from other parties.

But the ties of the winning Communist candidates to their party in many cases are quite loose. Most winning candidates, not just Communist victors, emphasized their allegiance to the practices and person of President Vladimir Putin. In Kamchatka Oblast, for example, Mashkovtsev, a Communist Party obkom secretary, presented himself during his campaign as a comrade-in-arms of President Putin and his presidential envoys, pledging to rid the region of corrupt bureaucrats. At the same time, incumbent Communist governors de-emphasized their party affiliation, stressing instead their support for and from President Putin and the stability that their re-election would ensure.

Unity's performance in the 2000 elections demonstrates even more strongly the weakness of Russia's political parties. On the one hand, almost a dozen candidates backed by Unity were elected. On the other hand, three incumbents supported by Unity were unseated, while two more, former Chukotka Governor Aleksandr Nazarov and former Kursk Governor Rutskoi, either withdrew or were withdrawn from the race just before their elections were held. In a number of regions, the local branch of Unity either backed or tried to back a candidate different from that supported by Unity's Moscow-based organization. Also in a number of regions, the local Unity branch backed the same candidate as the Communist party.

Of course, from its very beginning Unity's leaders adopted a more pragmatic than ideological posture. More recently, at its second congress last October, Unity declared itself "the party of presidential authority." But for a "presidential" party, Unity appears surprisingly clueless about who the president and/or his administration, favors in a given region. In Udmurtiya, for example, the local Unity branch favored a challenger to the incumbent Nikolai Volkov, while Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov and presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko both visited the republic shortly before the elections, boosting Volkov's chances. A local Unity branch also supported former Kursk Governor Rutskoi, despite numerous reports that the presidential administration would favor almost anyone but Rutskoi.

Unity members weren't the only election-watchers guessing about the presidential administration's preferences in a variety of regional races. After President Putin openly backed Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko in her failed effort to unseat St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, the Kremlin wisely chose not publicize its preferences henceforth, adopting an official position of neutrality towards all regional elections. Nevertheless, Moscow-based newspapers carried a variety of reports about the Kremlin's plans in specific regions. "Novaya gazeta" even claimed to have a document detailing a number of specific scenarios for several regions.

During the 2000 elections, only seven of the candidates that the Kremlin supported were victorious, while 13 other candidates failed. Of the seven victors, two were incumbents in relatively successful regions; three others were challengers in regions with unpopular governors with administrations dogged by charges of corruption, such as Kaliningrad and Voronezh Oblasts and Marii El Republic. And the victor in Marii El, Leonid Markelov, was only supported by the Kremlin in the election's second round. Another candidate, Colonel General Vladimir Ruzlyaev, had the Kremlin's initial backing. Despite reports that the Kremlin was seeking to install former military or intelligence officers as the heads of regions, only four were actually elected. And one of those, Moscow Governor Boris Gromov, was not supported by the presidential administration.

The presidential adminstration's apparent inability to decisively influence the outcome of regional elections makes it even easier to understand why President Putin made reform of how the federation is administered one of his first acts after his election. Since the Kremlin is likely to be stuck with whomever voters select as their regional counterparts, the best way to implement their own agenda may be to weaken the governor's office itself.


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