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Newsline - January 29, 2001




PUTIN SAYS U.S. DELAY ON NMD A MOSCOW VICTORY...

In a speech to the staff of the Foreign Ministry on 26 January carried in full on strana.ru, President Vladimir Putin said that "the fact that Washington has so far put off its decision on deploying a national missile defense (NMD) system confirms that if one acts with purposefulness and with thought...it is possible to achieve real positive results." He said Russian diplomats must continue to work with "our partners" in the full expectation that the outcome of dialogue with them and with Washington will be "quite positive." PG

...URGES COMMON FRONT AGAINST TERRORISM...

In other comments to the diplomats, President Putin said that "an international terrorist community is taking shape and as a result we and our partners must streamline and coordinate our efforts." PG

...BETTER PROMOTION OF RUSSIA'S ECONOMIC INTERESTS...

Putin said that diplomats must work harder to promote Russia's economic interests and to "help our regions, notably Siberia and the Far East" gain access to world markets. To that end, he said, the Foreign Ministry must "set in motion the mechanisms of close coordination both with local administrations and regional leaders and presidential representatives in the federal districts." PG

...TIGHTER INTEGRATION OF CIS COUNTRIES...

The Russian president said that expanding ties with the Commonwealth of Independent States remains "our absolute priority." Moscow is "the natural nucleus" of integration among them, he said, but Russian diplomacy must do more, especially to help Russian speakers abroad. "We obviously do not do enough to protect our diaspora, to protect Russian culture and the Russian language." PG

...BETTER TIES WITH EU, NATO...

Putin suggested that Russia does not seek to join the European Union but argued that "we should seek ways of cardinaly promoting cooperation" with it. But he said that "normalization of relations with the North Atlantic alliance is not going easily," not because of Russia but because of NATO. He added that Moscow will continue to "openly" proclaim its opposition to NATO expansion. PG

...AND IMPROVING RUSSIA'S IMAGE ABROAD

President Putin concluded by saying that Russian diplomats must work harder to improve Russia's image abroad. Arguing that "someone is still benefiting from cultivating the image of a dangerous Russia," Putin said that "a struggle for influence over public moods abroad becomes one of the more pointed and pressing foreign policy problems." To that end, he called for the use of "all available levers: media publications, broader contacts between public organizations, [and] propaganda for the achievements of our culture and science." He said Russian diplomats must develop "more active work with representatives of foreign media." PG

MOSCOW READY TO DISCUSS ALL STRATEGIC ISSUES WITH U.S.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 26 January that Moscow is ready for "active dialogue" with the new U.S. administration "without any pauses" and on all strategic issues, Interfax reported. He said that "we won't be looking for any formal protocol approaches." Instead, Ivanov added, "we intend to immediately start a working discussion" on all issues. At the same time, he said that the European Union has now become Russia's key partner in European and global security. Meanwhile, AP reported that the U.S. State Department had said that Secretary of State Colin Powell has received a message from Ivanov expressing a willingness to meet the secretary in the near future. PG

MORE PRESSURE ON MEDIA-MOST

Russian prosecutors searched the offices of Media-MOST for the 28th time on 26 January, Russian and Western agencies reported. They also questioned managers and journalists at the company, leaking charges that many of them had large foreign currency accounts. That prompted a sharp response from Media-MOST lawyers. Meanwhile, Gazprom-Media said it wants to call a stockholders meeting because since the courts have blocked Media-MOST's 19 percent voting stock in NTV, Gazprom-Media has a majority and plans to replace some of the members of the board. NTV lawyers said they will appeal, and NTV leaders appealed to President Putin to intervene with prosecutors. In response, officials said that Putin will meet with NTV leaders on 29 January. PG

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS MAKE THEIR CASE IN DAVOS...

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin and presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov met with international financial leaders at the Davos World Economic Forum to discuss both Russia's economic progress and the rescheduling of Russia's Soviet-era debt. All of them reiterated that Moscow will pay what it owes but needs rescheduling to avoid creating a domestic crisis and limiting economic reform. PG

...AS RUSSIAN PEOPLE DIVIDED ON REPAYING DEBT

According to a poll reported by Interfax on 26 January, 43 percent of Russians believe that their government must pay off the Soviet-era debt, but 44 percent said that it should not do so. PG

MOSCOW PLEDGES TO SUPPORT BORODIN...

Lawyers for Pavel Borodin said that they will continue to seek his release on bail, Russian and Western agencies reported on 26 January. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that the Russian government will work to the same end, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Yuri Ushakov said that Borodin might himself ask for extradition to Switzerland as a way of ending the impasse. PG

...BUT MAY HAVE BEEN UNHAPPY WITH HIS WORK

Without identifying its sources, "Segodnya" reported on 26 January that "not everyone in [President] Putin's inner circle is happy" with Pavel Borodin's performance as state secretary of the Russia-Belarus Union. The paper added that Borodin wanted to play too broad a role in their eyes. Consequently, some in the Kremlin were glad of an opportunity to replace him, even for a temporary period. PG

MILITARY REFORM PLANS APPROVED BUT FIGHT OVER THEM CONTINUES

"Izvestiya" reported on 26 January that President Putin has signed the reform plan for the armed services over the next five years, but the paper noted that "disputes have flared up within the General Staff and the Defense Ministry over these documents." Duma Defense Committee chief Andrei Nikolaev said that the plans had been modified by Putin who "took into consideration aspects which cannot be discussed in the media." Moreover, the plan as signed postpones some of the decisions contained in the original draft, among them the shape and size of the Strategic Rocket Forces. The same day, "Moskovsky Komsomolets" suggested that the fight between the Defense Ministry and the general staff is intensifying over the post of deputy defense minister for armaments. But, on the same day, "Vremya Novostei" reported that the new plan gives a victory to General Staff Chief Anatolii Kvashnin by "at least" putting the future Space Forces under his control. PG

PUTIN'S DECISION TO PULL CRIMINAL CODE CHANGES EXPLAINED

An article in "Obshchaya gazeta," no. 4, suggests that President Putin pulled liberalizing amendments to the criminal code not so much because of pressure from the security organs or because of the shortage of judges but rather as a sop to liberals in his inner circle, an effort at public relations, and a means of checking threats posed by security ministers. Regardless of which explanation is true, "Obshchaya gazeta" said, "none of them shows the president in a favorable light." PG

NEW 'PEOPLE'S DEPUTY' GROUP TO SUPPORT PUTIN

The People's Deputy All-Russia Political Movement was formed at a Moscow conference on 26 January, ITAR-TASS reported. Organizers read out a letter of greeting from President Putin and said that they "in many ways" supported his program. Gennadii Raikov, the head of the group's parliamentary faction, said that the group's affiliates are already functioning in 54 regions of the country. PG

KASYANOV PUSHES SHIPBUILDING IN ST. PETERSBURG

During a visit to St. Petersburg on 26 January, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov oversaw the laying of the keel of the first of 10 new cargo ships to be constructed there, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

METALS OLIGARCH BECOMES GOVERNOR

According to preliminary results, Norilsk Nickel General-Director Aleksandr Khloponin won the 28 January gubernatorial election in Taimyr Autonomous Okrug, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. According to the agency, Khloponin captured about 63 percent of the vote. His chief competitor, incumbent Governor Gennadii Nedelin, polled only 36 percent of the vote. Khloponin, 36, will reportedly be the youngest governor in Russia. In an interview on 26 January with the newspaper, "Hash Vek," Nedelin voiced his support for making the office of governor an appointed position. According to Nedelin, in Russia, "anyone can declared their desire to become president or governor," but in our power structures, "a person should climb the ladder, receiving qualifications and experience." JAC

TATARSTAN PRESIDENT THROWS HAT INTO THE RING

Following quickly on the heels of the State Duma's approval of a law allowing some regional leaders a third and in some cases even a fourth term (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 2001), Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev announced on 26 January that he will seek re-election. The following day, a citizens initiative group nominated him. Shaimiev is the 17th candidate to register so far, according to Interfax-Eurasia. Shaimiev already leads all candidates with 86 percent of voters saying they trust or completely trust him, Efir TV channel reported on 28 January, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Meanwhile, Tatarstan's chief prosecutor has forwarded 12 republican laws to the office of the federal Prosecutor-General that he considers "more progressive" than Russian federal legislation, polit.ru reported on 26 January. According to the website, of the 54 republican laws that the local prosecutor found to be in violation of federal legislation, some 24 of them have been brought into compliance with Moscow. JAC

CEC HEAD WANTS TERM LIMITS FOR REGIONAL HEADS

Aleksandr Veshnyakov, the chairman of the Central Election Commission, said he believes there should be stricter term limits on regional leaders than those contained in the Duma-amended and passed legislation on that question, Interfax reported on 26 January. PG

RUSSIA WELCOMES PACE DECISION

Russian officials, politicians, and the media welcomed the decision of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to reseat Russia's representatives, Russian and Western media reported on 26-27 January. PACE chairman Lord Russel-Johnson said that he does not expect the question of Russia's participation to be raised again this year, but he expressed the hope that Russian parliamentarians will cooperate with PACE in seeking peace in Chechnya. They will be under little domestic pressure to do so: a ROMIR poll reported by ITAR-TASS on 26 January said that more than 50 percent of Russians think Moscow should decide for itself what to do in Chechnya and 34 percent said Russia should ignore the PACE recommendations. PG

ROGOZIN WANTS INTERNATIONAL MEETING ON TALIBAN

Dmitrii Rogozin, the head of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Ekho Moskvy on 27 January that Iran, India, and Russia should convene an international conference to address the problems presented by "the spread of the Taliban's influence." PG

MOSCOW INCREASES CONTINGENT IN KOSOVA

In the course of rotating peacekeeping troops to Kosova, Lieutenant General Nikolai Staskov, the airborne troop commander, told Interfax on 26 January that Russia will increase its force there to 3,600, or full-strength, "as stipulated by international agreements." Russia currently has some 3,400 troops in the province. Meanwhile, Russian officials said the same day that no cases of leukemia had been found among the 93 percent of Russian troops serving there who have been tested thus far. PG

GREF SEES NO DROP IN LIVING STANDARDS

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said that "no serious problems or drops in living standards are expected in the next few years," RIA-Novosti reported on 26 January. He said that pensioners and the disabled will benefit from the government's economic policies, but he also noted that "it is necessary to revise the entire social benefits system." PG

AUDIT FINDS VIOLATIONS AT GAZPROM

The Russian Audit Chamber reported several serious offenses by Gazprom, Audit Chamber chief Sergei Stepashin reported, according to ITAR-TASS on 26 January. Among them were failure to meet consumer demand and questionable investments. But Stepashin praised the openness the company showed during the audit. PG

CUSTOMS SERVICE CLAIMS SUCCESSES

The State Customs Committee told Prime-Tass on 26 January that its officers had confiscated more than seven billion rubles ($247 million) worth of contraband during 2000. They opened more than 3,000 criminal cases, exposed 50 organized crime groups, and seized 9,000 kilograms of drugs. PG

BEREZOVSKY FUNDS TO SUPPORT CIVIL RIGHTS IN REGIONS

The Civil Liberties Foundation, established in December 2000 by embattled media magnate Boris Berezovsky, will now focus its grants toward media and human rights groups in the regions, "Segodnya" reported on 26 January. Foundation spokesman Pavel Arseniev said that up to now most grant money has ended up only in Moscow and St. Petersburg with other regions receiving little or nothing. The step also follows statements by some human rights activists that they will not accept funds from this group. PG

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SET UP ASSOCIATION

Editors and publishers from Russia's regions decided on 26 January to set up an Association of Independent Publishers and Editors to defend their rights, ITAR-TASS reported. The heads of more than 20 leading regional publications took part in the Moscow meeting. PG

'VEDOMOSTI' JOURNALIST STABBED

Vladislav Maksimov, 28, the deputy editor of the industry and energy resources section of "Vedomosti," was stabbed nine times on 24 January and hospitalized in serious condition, "The Moscow Times" reported on 26 January. "Vedomosti" editor Mark Whitehouse said he did not believe that the attack is in any way connected with Maksimov's job. PG

ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN MURDERED IN ST. PETERSBURG

Aleksandr Balkovskii, the general director of Russo-Balt petroleum, was shot and killed outside his apartment building in St. Petersburg on 25 February, "Segodnya" reported on 27 January. According to the daily, Balkovskii's company had "serious business contacts" with another company, Avtoprom-Gatchinskaya Neftebaza, which was involved in a recent "gasoline scandal." Tax police discovered that Avtoprom was selling a low quality gasoline as high quality. JAC

NUMBER OF PRISONERS, DETAINEES TO FALL

Justice Minister Yuri Kalinin said that if the Federation Council approves a Duma-passed measure, the authorities will release approximately 250,000 prisoners, "Moskovsky Komsomolets" reported on 26 January. In addition, he said that the new legislation will reduce the number of people detained before sentencing and limit their time behind bars. At present, he said, more than six million people pass through such detention centers each year, some 60 percent of whom are awaiting sentencing. If the new law is approved, none of them can be detained longer than a year without being sentenced. Even now, Kalinin said, the courts release more than 120,000 such detainees, an indication that they are being held illegally. PG

NGO CONCENTRATION CAMP NEAR MOSCOW EXPOSED

Russian police have arrested the organizers of a totalitarian-style concentration camp near Moscow, "Tribuna" reported on 26 January. The organizers of a group called "Brotherhood of Candidates to Become Real Humans" lured young people from throughout Russia and Ukraine with promises of Moscow jobs and then forced them into selling goods for the group and treated them like concentration camp inmates, the paper said. PG

TOKYO SEEKS CONFIRMATION THAT MIR WILL FALL SAFELY

A senior Japanese diplomat told ITAR-TASS on 26 January that Tokyo would like to receive confirmation that the Mir will deorbit in a completely safe way. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry's Press and Information Department said that a program for deorbiting the Mir safely had in fact been worked out. PG

CHECHEN LEADER OFFERS UNCONDITIONAL PEACE TALKS

Apparently responding to a call by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Aslan Maskhadov, commander of the Chechen resistance forces [he also has the title of Chechen president, but his four-year term expired on 27 January] said on 26 January that he is ready for "unconditional" peace talks with Moscow, Caucasus Press reported. He added that he is prepared to make "the maximum concessions" in those talks. LF

RUSSIAN COMMANDER SAYS RANSOM DEMANDED FOR U.S. AID WORKER

Lieutenant General Valerii Baranov, who commands the Russian Defense Ministry forces in Chechnya, said on 28 January that unnamed intermediaries have established contact with a Chechen field commander to discuss ransoming Kenny Gluck, a U.S. employee of Medecins sans Frontieres who was abducted in Chechnya on 9 January, Reuters reported. On 27 January, Chechen Prosecutor Vsevolod Chernov told Interfax that a man detained for other crimes is also suspected of involvement in Gluck's abduction. Chernov added that other suspects have been identified, including the owner of the car used to snatch Gluck. LF

THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR JUMPING

The Ufa State Aviation Technology University has invented special engine-fitted boots allowing their wearers to take steps four meters long and run at a speed of 17 kilometers an hour for extended periods, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 27 January. The inventors expect to export three million pairs within three years. PG




ARMENIAN LEFTIST PARTIES CALL FOR JAILED BUSINESSMAN'S RELEASE

Representatives of the Armenian Communist Party and the Union of Rightist Forces appealed last week to Armenian National Security Minister Karlos Petrosian to release entrepreneur Arkadii Vartanian, but Petrosian replied that it is too early to do so, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Vartanian was taken into custody on 30 October following an unsanctioned march by his supporters to the presidential palace and later charged with calling for the overthrow of the Armenian leadership. He was transferred on 22 January from a remand prison to a Yerevan hospital after his wife Elena had said he was in danger of suffering a stroke. Vartanian's lawyer, Samvel Jaghinian, said on 26 January that his client's condition remains grave and he is unable to participate in the ongoing investigation, according to Noyan Tapan. LF

ARMENIAN ENERGY MINISTER REPORTS PROGRESS IN RUSSIAN DEBT TALKS

Karen Galustian told journalists in Yerevan late on 24 January that during his recent talks in Moscow considerable progress was made on restructuring Armenia's $25.2 million debt to Moscow for energy resources, and that he hopes to reach a final agreement on doing so within 10 days, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He denied press reports that Russia is refusing to grant a reprieve on those payments in order to pressure Yerevan. Armenia owes $9.2 million to Gazprom and a further $16 million for fuel supplies for the Medzamor nuclear power station. Galustian said the Armenian leadership has offered Russia a 50 percent stake in the Hrazdan thermal power station in payment for that latter debt. Armenia's total debt to Moscow is $118 million, of which $18 million is due to be repaid this year, but the 2001 budget contains no such expenditures. LF

ARMENIA RESUMES RETRANSMISSION OF RUSSIAN TELEVISION

Armenia resumed retransmission of the Russian state-run TV station ORT on 28 January, but currently those broadcasts can be viewed only in Yerevan and neighboring districts, ITAR-TASS reported. Rebroadcasting was suspended one week earlier because of a financial dispute (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 22 January 2001). LF

ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS DISCUSS KAKABAKH CONFLICT

Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliyev had a 90 minute one-to-one discussion in Paris on 26 January about possible approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict, Western agencies reported. They then continued talks on that issue for three hours with French President Jacques Chirac. France, together with Russia and the U.S., is one of the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group that is trying to mediate a solution to the conflict. ITAR-TASS quoted Aliyev as characterizing the talks as "difficult," but "useful" in that they contribute to greater understanding between the two sides. Kocharian told journalists that the meeting was the first time that the problem had been discussed "so thoroughly and broadly." Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Armenian National Television on 27 January that the meeting may prove to be a "cornerstone event in the search for a compromise," according to ITAR-TASS. He added that "we may expect some progress" this year towards a solution of the conflict, adding that he has no doubts that representatives of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will join the peace talks and sign any final settlement. LF

AZERBAIJANI WAR INVALIDS CONTINUE HUNGER-STRIKE

Some 500 veterans of the Karabakh war entered the sixth day of their hunger-strike on 27 January to demand a threefold increase in their pensions and invalid benefits, Turan reported. Etimad Asadov, who heads the Society of Veterans of the Karabakh War, told Turan that the strikers are waiting for President Aliyev to issue a statement in response to their demands. A senior Azerbaijani official said last week that those demands will not be met as the strike has political connotations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January 2001). LF

GEORGIA INVITES PACE OFFICIALS TO INSPECT PANKISI GORGE

Revaz Adamia, who headed the Georgian delegation to last week's session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, has invited that body to send representatives to Georgia to investigate Russian claims that the estimated 7,500 Chechen refugees currently living in the Pankisi gorge in northeastern Georgia include armed Chechen fighters, Caucasus Press reported on 27 January. LF

TURKEY FUNDS RECONSTRUCTION OF GEORGIAN MILITARY AIRFIELD

The formal reopening took place on 28 January of a former Soviet military airbase east of Tbilisi, which has been reconstructed and modernized thanks to a $1.27 million Turkish grant, Reuters reported. Speaking at the ceremony, Georgian parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania said that Georgian-Turkish relations have "special significance." He added that "military cooperation with Turkey is the main possibility for us to approach NATO military standards," which he termed one of Georgia's key priorities. LF

FORMER KAZAKH CAPITAL TO SET UP ANTI-TERRORIST FORCE

The Almaty municipal authorities have decided to create a special anti-terrorist force to investigate the increasing number of anonymous threats to blow up public buildings or apartment blocks, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 January. Almaty police received over 90 such telephone threats last year and a further 20 so far this month. LF

JOURNALISTS CRITICIZE KAZAKHSTAN'S NEW DRAFT MEDIA LAW

Several independent journalists and NGOs that represent journalists interests addressed an open letter to Kazakhstan's parliament on 26 January demanding that the new draft media law be sent back to the cabinet for amendments, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. They object specifically to articles of the draft law that introduce limitations on transmissions by foreign media and stricter controls on publishing Internet newspapers. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S SLAVS AT ODDS OVER NEW ETHNIC PARTY

Yurii Buniakov, who heads one of the organizations that represent Kazakhstan's Russian population, has criticized plans by a rival Russian group to create a political party that will represent the Russian community in Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 26 January. Buniakov said the planned "Russian Party" may exacerbate tensions both between Russians and other ethnic groups, and within the Russian community. LF

KYRGYZ OFFICIALS SEEK TO JUSTIFY KULOV VERDICT...

The office of the Prosecutor-General issued a statement on 26 January denying that the seven-year jail sentence handed down four days earlier on opposition Ar-Namys Party leader and former Vice President Feliks Kulov was politically motivated, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The U.S. State Department and the EU had both expressed concern over the reopening of the case against Kulov two months after his acquittal last August. The statement by the Prosecutor-General's office said that while Kulov was serving as National Security Minister in 1997 two of his aides bought telephone-bugging equipment from Moscow that subsequently disappeared, and that in 1998 Kulov gave orders to bug the telephones of unnamed Kyrgyz officials. Deputy National Security Service Director Boris Poluektov told RFE/RL on 26 January that further criminal charges will be brought against Kulov later this week. He added that international organizations are not fully informed of the details of the case against Kulov as the court hearings were held behind closed doors for reasons of national security. LF

...WITH ONE EXCEPTION

Judge Nurlan Ashymbekov, who acquitted Kulov on charges of abuse of his official position last August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000), told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 26 January that he still considers Kulov's guilt not proven, and that his acquittal was just. LF

TURKMENISTAN TO STRENGTHEN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE

President Saparmurat Niyazov announced in Ashgabat on 26 January that the National Security Committee will be enlarged this year by some 1,000 personnel at the expense of the armed forces, Interior Ministry, and border guards, Russian agencies reported. Niyazov said also called on the National Security Committee to draft clear procedures for the registration of foreign visitors, noting that every state has the right to bar "unwelcome guests" and intercept pornography and unacceptable religious propaganda. LF

TURKMENISTAN ENVISAGES CONTINUED GDP GROWTH

Turkmenistan's GDP increased by 17.6 percent last year compared with 1999 and is set to grow by a further 16 percent in 2001, Interfax reported on 26 January, quoting the National Institute for Government Statistics and Information. Consumer goods production is expected to increase by 18 percent this year, it reported. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT BLASTS OSCE MISSION FOR EXCEEDING MANDATE...

Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on Belarusian Television on 27 January that the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk is overstepping its mandate by creating a "corps of 14,000-18,000 militants" who, under the disguise of election observers, may become a threat to the country's stability. Lukashenka noted that the OSCE mission's mandate covers only assistance in improving Belarusian legislation and monitoring of developments in the country. He said, however, that Belarus's electoral legislation has already been improved to meet international standards and will not be changed until this year's presidential elections. Lukashenka claimed to have put the OSCE mission's budget under his control and to have persuaded the mission to give up its intention to form a legion of paid "militants." JM

...PLEDGES TO WARD OFF 'YUGOSLAV SCENARIO' IN BELARUS

Lukashenka said he took a "tough stance" on the OSCE mission following the opposition's and some Western "observer's" promises to stage a "Yugoslav scenario" in Belarus during the presidential elections this fall. "No, there will be no Yugoslavia here. As long as I am president, this will not happen... I will not push you [Belarusians] to the barricades, I will go ahead of you, I will defend my people," Lukashenka promised, warning the television viewers that Belarus may be bombed "from above with shells stuffed with allegedly depleted uranium." JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEARNS NONVIOLENT METHODS TO COUNTER REGIME

Some 40 Belarusian oppositionists on 26 January began a five-day seminar in Vilnius to learn how to conduct a nonviolent resistance movement against the authoritarian regime in their homeland, AP and Reuters reported. "The experience we get here will help us fight those who have ruled our country far too long," exiled Belarusian Popular Front leader Zyanon Paznyak told journalists in Vilnius. The seminar is organized by a Lithuanian non-governmental organization and the U.S. Albert Einstein Institute. The Belarusian Embassy in Vilnius denounced the seminar as a measure intended to destabilize Belarus on the eve of the presidential elections (see story below). The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said it has no knowledge of the seminar other than media reports. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW DEPUTY PREMIER

Leonid Kuchma on 26 December appointed Oleh Dubyna as a new deputy prime minister in charge of industrial policy. Dubyna will also oversee the fuel and energy sector, which was the responsibility of Yuliya Tymoshenko until her sacking on 19 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001). Before his cabinet appointment, Dubyna was director of the Krivorizhstal plant, a state-owned steel mill in Krivyy Rih which provides some 20 percent of the country's steel. Premier Viktor Yushchenko commented that following Dybyna's appointment the cabinet will conduct an "even tougher" policy than before of exacting payments from energy and fuel consumers. JM

KYIV: NO WAY TO DETERMINE CAUSE OF DEATH TO SUSPECTED GONGADZE CORPSE

Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksiy Bahanets told Interfax on 26 January that it is impossible to determine the cause of the death of the man whose body was found near Kyiv in November and is widely believed to be that of missing journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. "Forensic experts have not determined the cause of the death, since it is impossible because of putrefactive changes in the body," Bahanets said. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT LOSES TWO LAWMAKERS IN A WEEK

Lawmaker Oleksandr Yemets died from injuries suffered in a car accident on 28 January, Interfax reported on 29 January. Yemets, who was 42-years-old, belonged to the Reform-Center caucus in the Verhovna Rada, or parliament. He was a deputy premier in 1997 and the president's adviser in 1998-99. On 22 January, lawmaker Yuriy Kononenko of the Popular Democratic Party caucus was found dead with a firearm wound in his chest in his office in Kharkiv. Police suspect that Kononenko committed suicide. JM

UKRAINIAN UNIATES ELECT NEW CHURCH LEADER

During their synod in Lviv on 25 January, bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic (Uniate) Church elected 67-year-old Bishop Lubomyr Husar as their primate. Husar, who is a U.S. citizen, will succeed Cardinal Myroslav Ivan Lyubachivskyy, who died last month. The Lviv synod was attended by 26 Greek Catholic bishops from Australia, Canada, the United States, Latin America, and Europe. JM

BALTIC LEADERS OUTLINE PLANS AT DAVOS

The presidents of the three Baltic countries took part in the World Economic Forum in Davos in order to describe their economic and political progress, BNS reported on 26 January. The three had agreed in December to present a common position. Estonian President Lennart Meri described the economic progress his country had made and the ever "livelier" relations Tallinn has with Moscow. Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said that Riga could become a junction on the new silk road. And Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus said that his country could provide a positive net contribution to regional security as a member of NATO. Meanwhile, BNS reported on 27 January that Sergei Karaganov, the head of Russia's Foreign and Defense Policy Council, said that Moscow recognizes the right of Baltic countries to join the Western alliance but has doubts about the wisdom of their doing so. PG

ESTONIAN PREMIER CRITICIZES NARVA LEADERSHIP

Mart Laar on 26 January criticized the government of Narva for its failure to spend monies allocated to fight drug problems and for its failure to support a local Estonian-language school, BNS reported the following day. During his visit to northeastern Estonia, Laar said that if the local authorities do not understand how important that school is, "the state will soon fail to understand the self-government." Narva Mayor Imre Liiv was angry that he learned of Laar's remarks only from the media, and Center Party chairman Edgar Savisaar said Laar's remarks were inciting hostility in the predominantly ethnic Russian region. PG

RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN TALLINN GIVES SPECIAL VISAS TO STATELESS RUSSIANS

The Russian Embassy in Estonia has started to issue special-privileged visas to citizens of the former Soviet Union who have not become citizens of Estonia, the Russian Federation, or any other country, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 January. Such people, most of whom are ethnic Russians, do not need an invitation from Russia in order to receive a visa to visit that country. PG

NO EVIDENCE FOUND OF EXPLOSION ON 'ESTONIA' FERRY

A new analysis of metal pieces taken from the "Estonia," which sank in 1994 claiming 852 lives, did not find any evidence of an explosion on the ferry, Germany's "Der Spiegel" reported on 27 January. Since the accident, there has been repeated speculation about the reason for the ship's sinking. PG

MONUMENT TO JEWISH HOLOCAUST VICTIMS UNVEILED IN RIGA

German Jewish leaders on 26 January unveiled a stone marker in Riga in memory of the some 1,000 Jews deported from Hanover to Latvia who were subsequently killed, AP reported. The new marker stands alongside similar stones from Cologne, Hamburg, and other German cities. PG

LATVIAN PREMIER EXPELS FOUR FROM RULING COALITION

Andris Berzins on 26 January said that he had expelled four members of the ruling parliamentary coalition because they had voted against a bill that will provide certain real estate tax breaks, Latvian and Western agencies reported. The loss of four votes, he said, will not affect the stability of the government, which enjoys the support of 65 of the 100 members of parliament. PG

LITHUANIAN LEFTIST PARTIES MERGE

The Lithuanian Social Democratic Party and the Democratic Labor Party on 27 January merged into a single Social Democratic Party at a congress in Vilnius, DPA reported. The new group, whose constituent members won 32 percent of the vote in the last parliamentary elections and which, with 49 seats, is now the largest party in the parliament, will be headed by former President Algirdas Brazauskas. He told the group that its first task is to come up with an alternative governing program. PG

MINSK PROTESTS BELARUS OPPOSITION MEET IN VILNIUS

The Belarusian Embassy in Lithuania on 26 January criticized the holding of a seminar in Vilnius intended to teach 40 members of the Belarusian opposition how to peacefully resist totalitarianism, Reuters reported. The meeting "is directed at the destabilization of the current social and political situation," the Belarusian embassy said. PG

VILNIUS TO EXAMINE CAPITAL USE AT MAZEIKAI OIL

The Lithuanian parliament voted to instruct the State Audit Office to investigate how working capital from the state had been used at Mazeikiai Oil, BNS reported. Some deputies had suggested that the company has misused as much as 1.5 billion litas ($400 million). PG

CLINTON ADMINISTRATION JOKE ANGERS LITHUANIANS

Lithuanian newspapers sharply criticized a joke by the press secretary of former U.S. President Bill Clinton concerning Clinton's supposed plans to work on a film about "Lithuanian terrorists," BNS reported on 27 January. On 20 January, press secretary Jake Siewert made this remark in outlining what Clinton might do after leaving office. A Lithuanian Foreign Ministry official said that "if that was supposed to be humor, it was a failure." PG

POLISH SENATE WIDENS PROPERTY RESTITUTION BILL TO NON-POLES

The Senate on 26 January amended the property restitution bill that is intended to compensate people whose property was confiscated by the communist regime from 1944-1962. The Sejm voted earlier this month to pay 50 percent of the value of lost assets only to those former owners or their heirs who held Polish citizenship until the end of 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2001). The Senate decided to extend the scope of the bill's beneficiaries by removing the citizenship clause, thus allowing many emigres to file restitution claims, notably Jews who emigrated from Poland and lost or gave up their Polish citizenship. The bill must be reviewed by the Sejm and signed by the president to become law. JM

POLISH ECONOMY GROWS BY 4.1 PERCENT IN 2000

The Main Statistical Office reported on 26 January that Poland's GDP in 2000 grew by 4.1 percent compared with the previous year. The economy expanded 6 percent in the first quarter of 2000, slowed to 5.2 percent in the second quarter, and to 3.3 percent in the third quarter of 2000. JM

U.S. DEFENDS CZECHS JAILED IN CUBA...

For the first time since George W. Bush became president, the U.S. has issued criticism of Cuba's arrest of two Czech citizens, dismissing Cuban allegations that the two were U.S.-backed subversives as "ludicrous," CTK reported 27 January. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the two men, deputy Ivan Pilip and former student leader Jan Bubenik, had received no money or material from the U.S., nor had they met with U.S. government representatives. Boucher further said that meeting with peaceful political dissidents and having a list of their names is not considered a crime in most countries. The men have been accused of subversion and, if convicted, could face a sentence of 20 years in prison. DW

...AND NGO WON'T COMMENT ON CONTACTS WITH DETAINED CZECHS

The chairman of the U.S. non-governmental organization Freedom House, Adrain Karatnycky, refused to comment on the organization's alleged contacts with Pilip and Bubenik, detained for the past two weeks in Cuba, CTK reported on 27 January citing AP. The Cuban government has accused the NGO of supplying the men with money, equipment, and a list of contacts in Cuba. Karatnycky said Freedom House is not participating in subversive activities or espionage, and is convinced that the detention of the two Czechs is unjustifiable and contradicted fundamental international principles of human rights. DW

SVOBODA UNEXPECTEDLY ELECTED FOUR PARTY COALITION CHAIRMAN

Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) Deputy Chairman Cyril Svoboda was elected to lead the center-right opposition Four Party Coalition in the next parliamentary elections, despite not being his own party's candidate for the post, CTK reported 28 January. Svoboda was chosen ahead of Jaroslav Kopriva from the KDU-CSL, as well as Freedom Union Chairman Karel Kuehnl and Civic Democratic Alliance Deputy Chairman Michael Zantovsky. Svoboda has said in the past that he sees cooperation with the ruling Social Democrats (CSSD) as more of a possibility than with the Civic Democrats (ODS) of former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus. DW

CZECH PREMIER REJECTS COOPERATION WITH FOUR PARTY COALITION LEADER

Milos Zeman said in "Lidovy noviny" on 27 January that no change in the "opposition agreement" between the CSSD and the ODS is likely before parliamentary elections in 2002. He said that indications from the Four Party Coalition that it would tolerate his government if the agreement with the ODS were cancelled would be "opposition agreement number two," but that he considered the Coalition as "not a trustworthy partner for me." He further said that if the opposition agreement were to be cancelled, it will only be by the ODS, but that the ODS would "lose the reputation of a party which honors agreements." DW

SLOVAKIA'S DEMOCRATIC LEFT PARTY MARKS 10TH ANNIVERSARY

The Democratic Left Party (SDL), the second strongest group in Premier Mikulas Dzurinda's coalition cabinet, celebrated its 10th anniversary on 26 January, CTK reported. Ten years ago, the Slovak Communist Party-Democratic Left Party decided to abandon the communist component in its name. "During the [past 10 years], we have defended the constitutional nature of the situation in the country. Now the SDL firmly stands on the principles of democracy, pluralism, and good political ethics," SDL leader Jozef Migas told journalists. In 1998 the SDL obtained 14.7 percent of the vote and 23 mandates in the 150-member legislature, but now, according to polls, the party is balancing on the 5-percent threshold entry to the parliament. JM

SLOVAKIA'S ORTHODOX, GREEK CATHOLIC CHURCHES DIVIDE PROPERTY

The Slovak Orthodox Church has agreed with the Greek Catholic Church on the division of churches, schools, and land, CTK reported on 28 January, quoting a report by Radio Vaticana. Preshov Greek Catholic Bishop Jan Hirka and Slovak Orthodox Church Metropolitan Nikolai reportedly signed a property division accord. Under the deal, both Churches abandoned some of their claims for buildings and land plots and received financial compensation from the state. Slovakia's communist authorities forced the Greek Catholic Church to merge with the Orthodox Church in 1950. Both Churches were in a bitter dispute over property division since 1989. JM

SLOVAK SECURITY OFFICIAL RESIGNS OVER COMMUNIST SECRET SERVICE TIES

Vladimir Bencek has resigned as acting head of Slovakia's National Security Office in reaction to the disclosure that he worked with communist Czechoslovakia's secret service (StB), CTK reported on 26 January. The Interior Ministry found in the ongoing lustration process that Bencek worked in the StB's coding service and secret radio connection department. The ministry added that Bencek was not involved in operations against domestic dissidents. JM

HUNGARIAN DEMOCRATIC FORUM RE-ELECTS CHAIRWOMAN

The National Congress of the coalition member Hungarian Democratic Forum on 27 January has re-elected Ibolya David as the party's chairwoman. David said the Forum regards the major coalition member FIDESZ as its current strategic ally, but it will prepare for the 2002 elections on its own. In other news, FIDESZ Chairman Laszlo Kover and opposition Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs ruled out the possibility of a grand coalition involving the two parties following the 2002 elections. Kover said that the scandals surrounding the junior coalition partner Smallholders will not influence the implementation of the government's program. MSZ




SOUTHWESTERN SERBIA REMAINS TENSE

A series of clashes in the Gornja Susaja area of the Presevo region left four soldiers and three guerrillas of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB) injured over the weekend of 26-28 January. An additional Serbian soldier later died of wounds he received on 26 January. Each side blamed the other for starting the fighting. PM

ETHNIC ALBANIANS CALL FOR DEMILITARIZATION...

UCPMB spokesman Tahir Dalipi told Reuters on 28 January that the Yugoslav forces are shelling the area "from all sides" and that the civilian population is fleeing to escape. Two days earlier, Presevo Mayor Riza Halimi said that the massing of Serbian forces in the area is serving to drive the ethnic Albanian civilian population into the arms of the UCPMB (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2000). Halimi appealed to the authorities in Belgrade to open urgent talks with the insurgents in order to demilitarize the region and end the political polarization of the civilian population, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Dobrosin, some 300 UCPMB fighters and 1,000 civilians marked the first anniversary of the guerrillas' appearance in public. Chief of Staff Shefket Musliu told the crowd that "the people of this land do not ask for anything more than freedom but will never accept slavery." PM

...WHILE SERBIA PREFERS 'OTHER SOLUTIONS'...

General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who heads the Yugoslav army's General Staff, said in Medvedja that diplomacy with the support of the international community must take the lead in ending the tensions, "Danas" reported on 29 January. But Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said that "everything has its limits and some things can not and will not be allowed," Reuters reported on 28 January. He called for a "halt to the provocations." Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic said the previous day that the problem must be solved quickly "either by diplomatic means or by using the force of the police and the army," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He dismissed ethnic Albanian calls for demilitarization, saying "there's no need for that." PM

...WITH INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT

Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic issued a statement in Belgrade on 28 January in which he called for an "urgent meeting" of the UN Security Council to make "an immediate and strong condemnation of terrorist attacks," AP reported. He also demanded "punishment for the culprits." Belgrade wants a revision of the Kumanovo agreements that ended the 1999 Kosova conflict to enable its forces to return to the narrow demilitarized zone along southwestern Serbia's border with Kosova. The former regime of President Slobodan Milosevic also appealed frequently to the UN for changes in the Kumanovo agreements, usually to permit Serbian forces to return to Kosova. Speaking in Davos on 29 January, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica again called for reducing the size of the five-kilometer-wide demilitarized zone. He added that Belgrade is stepping up its diplomatic activities in the face of a worsening security situation in the Presevo region, RFE/RL reported. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH KOSTUNICA

Croatian President Stipe Mesic met with Kostunica in Davos on 28 January and agreed to raise the level of relations to the ambassadorial level, "Jutarnji list" reported. Mesic stressed that there will be no "deals" on exchanges of populations or territories, because that would only lead to a new war. Mesic previously called on Serbs to "go through a catharsis" of the emotions that led to Milosevic's rise to power and four wars (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2000). In related news, the Croatian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 27 January in which it said that the appointment of former General Momcilo Perisic as Serbian deputy prime minister will not help bilateral relations. A Croatian court previously sentenced Perisic to 20 years imprisonment for his role in the shelling of Zadar in 1991. PM

YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT OPENS PODGORICA OFFICE

The federal government is slated to open an office in the Montenegrin capital on 29 January in order to "bring the federation closer to the citizens of Montenegro," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Prime Minister Zoran Zizic, who himself is Montenegrin, added that an unspecified part of the federal government's activities will also be moved to Montenegro. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT CALLS ON EU TO JOIN SERBIAN TALKS

President Milo Djukanovic told the British ambassador in Podgorica on 26 January that representatives of the EU and Council of Europe should take part in any talks between Belgrade and Podgorica on the future of their political relations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January 2001). Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic told the Podgorica daily "Vijesti" that if Montenegro remains adamant that the two states must deal with each other only as independent, internationally recognized actors, then the only thing left to negotiate is a peaceful separation and the nature of subsequent relations. PM

MESSAGE FROM ORGANIZED CRIME TO SERBIA'S LEADERS?

An unidentified masked gunman shot and injured the driver of Serbian state security chief Goran Petrovic in Belgrade on 28 January. Djindjic called the attack an attempt by organized crime to intimidate the government. He stressed that "those whose interests are affected [by the government's planned crackdown on crime] will have to deal with the fact that Serbia is becoming a state based on the rule of law," Reuters reported. PM

SERBIAN POLICE, FANS INJURED IN BELGRADE BRAWL

Some 20 police and three fans were injured in Belgrade during the night of 27 January when 300 supporters of Red Star's basketball team went on a rampage. The fans were angry over not being able to secure tickets for a game with arch-rival Partizan. PM

MYSTERY SURROUNDS MACEDONIAN-ALBANIAN TERRORIST GROUP

Unknown persons fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a train on the Skopje-Kicevo line on 26 January. No one was injured. An shadowy group calling itself the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) sent a fax from Germany to various media outlets in which it claimed responsibility for a recent armed attack on a police station (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 2001). Former state security chief Aleksa Stamenkovski told "Dnevnik" that he knew of the group's existence one year ago. The current Ministry of the Interior staid in a statement, however, that the fax is a hoax and that the group does not exist, MIC news service reported. Ethnic Albanian political leader Arben Xhaferi told "Dnevnik" that he doubts that such a group exists. He added that "Albanian interests can be attained only through political work" and not by violence. PM

CROATIAN-BOSNIAN RAIL LINK RESTORED

The freight rail line linking Zagreb with Knin and the Adriatic cities of Zadar, Sibenik, and Split via Bosnia's Una Valley was reopened on 26 January after a break of nine and a half years. Both republics hope that the return of the railway will help boost economic activity. Bosnian officials also hope that it will lead to the repopulation of deserted areas. Passenger traffic will resume in the summer. PM

PETRITSCH APPEALS TO BOSNIAN SERB LEADERS

The international community's high representative to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Wolfgang Petritsch, said in Banja Luka on 27 Saturday that there is no place in the Republika Srpska's government for individuals indicted either publicly or secretly by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Petritsch stressed that he hopes that Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic will work closely with the court, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

SLOVENIAN POLL: DRNOVSEK HAS STRONG SUPPORT

Some 64.6 percent of respondents approve of the performance of the new government headed by veteran Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek, "Dnevnik" reported on 29 January. Some 24.9 percent are opposed, while the rest do not know or have no opinion. Some 46.9 percent of the respondents nonetheless feel that Drnovsek went "too far" in recently sacking large numbers of political appointees from the previous, conservative government of Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk. (Last July, some 62.1 percent of respondents said that Bajuk went "too far" in dismissing political appointees of Drnovsek's last government.) PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER SATISFIED WITH TALKS IN BRUSSELS, STRASBOURG

Adrian Nastase said in Bucharest that his message that Romania is taking steps to increase the speed of integration into NATO and the EU was well received in both Brussels and Strasbourg, Rompres reported on 26 January. Nastase, speaking upon his return from a visit with officials at the NATO and EU headquarters, said he noticed a "change of temperature, of atmosphere," during a meeting with EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen in Strasbourg. Nastase said that both Verheugen and EU Commission head Roman Prodi emphasized that "Romania is a particularly important country for the and that [Brussels] wants Romania to join the EU." PB

BULGARIAN, ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET

Boyko Noev and his Romanian counterpart, Ioan Pascu, discussed cooperation measures at a meeting in Ruse on 26 January, BTA reported. Noev said a joint military exercise has been scheduled later this year to which Greece, Hungary, and Turkey will be invited to send troops. He added that two new agreements on military transportation and cooperation between the two countries' air forces are being prepared. Pascu said after the meeting that Bulgaria and Romania can achieve more in the process of NATO integration if they work together. PB

MOLDOVA RECORDS ECONOMIC GROWTH FOR SECOND TIME IN 10 YEARS

Moldova recorded economic growth of 1.9 percent in 2000, according to preliminary data from the Department of Statistical Analyses and Sociology, Basa-Press reported 27 January. Boosted mainly by rising industrial output, services, and import revenues, this is reportedly the first growth in the gross domestic product in Moldova since 1997, when it rose 1.6 percent. DW

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES ENLARGEMENT IN DAVOS

Petar Stoyanov met on 26 January with EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Bulgarian Radio reported. Stoyanov discussed eastern expansion of the EU with Verheugen, particularly Stoyanov's idea that political membership be granted to aspiring members before full membership. Stoyanov's proposal would mean that Bulgaria would be allowed to have deputies in the European parliament by 2004, before it is likely to have fulfilled the economic criteria and granted full membership. Stoyanov reiterated Sofia's seriousness in implementing recommendations made to Bulgaria by the EU Commission, including those on integration of Roma, improving the judicial system, and stepping up the fight against crime. PB

MOSCOW SEEKS TO EASE VISA RESTRICTIONS WITH BULGARIA

Vladimir Titov, the Russian ambassador to Bulgaria, said on 26 January that Moscow is interested in easing the visa regimes with Bulgaria, BTA reported. Titov, speaking at a roundtable in the Black Sea resort of Varna, said that although Russia "did not initiate the introduction of visas but since they are a fact, we should look for a solution." Earlier last week, Russia rejected a proposal from Sofia on establishing a readmission agreement. Titov said the visa regulations hamper bilateral contacts mostly in the area of tourism and family visits. He said there are 25,000 Russians living in Bulgaria and some 18,000 Bulgarians living in Russia. PB

BULGARIAN UNEMPLOYMENT RISES IN DECEMBER

The National Employment Service reported on 26 January that official unemployment in the country in December was 17.86 percent, a slight increase over the previous month, BTA reported. Unemployment was lowest in Sofia, with some 4.47 percent of the workforce jobless, and highest in Turgovishte, where the rate was some 39.94 percent. PB




THE EU AS A MODEL FOR RUSSIA'S REGIONS


By Paul Goble

A Russian Foreign Ministry official has suggested that the regional policies of the European Union may serve as a useful model for Moscow's management of the foreign ties of the regions and republics that form the Russian Federation.

Valerii Orlov, deputy director of the ministry's department for relations with the federation subjects, writes in the current issue of Moscow's "International Affairs" that such a model could help bring some order into what has been the explosive growth in ties between Russia's regions and regions and central governments in other countries.

Moreover, Orlov suggests that model provides the Russian federal government with a kind of veto power over the foreign policy actions of the regions, a control he says Moscow needs to ensure that both the central government and regional leaders speak with a common voice and approach all issues from the same standpoint.

As Orlov notes, the "degree of latitude" that federation subjects now enjoy in working with foreign countries would have been unthinkable only seven or eight years ago. Eighty-two of the subjects of the federation now maintain ties with various government entities in 77 countries. Of these, 30 Russian regions and republics are actively involved in developing such ties on an almost daily basis, he said. And ever more of them are forging ties -- not with immediate neighbors -- but with countries farther afield.

The most active regions, according to Orlov, are those on the periphery of the Russian Federation whose geographic location gives them genuine advantages in trade and other kinds of contacts. And together with regions in the interior of the country, regional governments along Russia's borders have signed more than 2,000 agreements with foreign groups of various kinds.

Moscow has had to take belated measures to counter this situation, Orlov points out. The Foreign Ministry has set up a special Consultative Council for International and External Economic Activities of Federation Components, a body that puts out its own special bulletin. It has opened 26 offices and two branch offices which work directly with 41 regions, and it plans to set up at least 14 more.

And the Russian parliament has become involved, passing legislation that went into effect in 1999 that defined what the subjects of the federation could and could not do. As a result of this law and of stepped-up ministry representations in the regions, Orlov reports, the number of violations of federal rules on foreign contacts on the part of the regions fell from more than 100 in 1997 to only 11 in 1999.

But more needs to be done, Orlov contends, both to prevent the regions from violating federal law and national policy and to take advantage of what the regions can offer in promoting Russian foreign policy interests. To that end, he suggests, the European Union's regional policy could serve as a useful model for the elaboration of a new and more comprehensive regional foreign policy plan by the central Russian government.

First of all, he suggests, the EU's regional policy allows for continuing and tightening of central control by national governments over all such cross border accords, even when the regions on either side of the border have long experience in working with one another.

Second, the EU's approach to regions also encourages cities and subregional territorial units to get involved in this process, a trend that both undercuts some of the regions by allowing their own subcomponents to play a role and also increases the opportunities for the central governments to develop international ties.

And third, Orlov argues, the adoption of such an approach will help to promote a rapprochement between Russia and the European Union, or at the very least provide an important new venue for conversations and even negotiations between the two.

But Orlov ends his article on a cautionary note by warning "our regional leaders and members of local government bodies against overoptimistic expectations connected with European regions." Such people, he says, "should hardly expect quick rewards," for while much has been written about European regional cooperation, relatively little has been achieved even there in integrating cross-border regions.

Consequently, Orlov suggests, Russia's far-flung regions -- even if they do draw on the EU model -- may not have as bright a future ahead in foreign affairs as many of them now appear to hope or as some in Moscow quite clearly fear.


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