Accessibility links

Newsline - February 27, 2001




PUTIN CALLS FOR LINKING KOREAS TO TRANS-SIBERIAN RAILROAD

In an interview with South Korean television in advance of his visit to Seoul, President Vladimir Putin said that he hopes his visit will promote the idea of linking the Korean railroad system with Russia's Trans-Siberian railroad, develop trade between the two countries, and contribute to the rapprochement between North and South Korea, Russian agencies reported on 26 February. Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who is accompanying Putin, said that the two countries have already set up a committee to study the rail link and have also agreed that Moscow will supply weapons to Seoul to help extinguish Russian debts to South Korea. PG

KASYANOV PUSHES TRADE, MEETS POPE...

During the second day of his visit to Italy, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 26 February promoted economic cooperation between Russia and Western Europe as well as discussing other issues including the national missile defense (NMD), ITAR-TASS reported. He also met with Pope John Paul II, but said that the question of the pontiff's visit to Russia was not discussed. PG

...SAYS MOSCOW IS PAYING PARIS CLUB AS SCHEDULED...

Prime Minister Kasyanov said in Rome on 26 February that Moscow has reached an agreement with the Paris Club of creditors concerning the repayment of Russian debts, and that his government will act in compliance with that accord, Interfax reported. This week, the Russian news agency said, Moscow will repay almost $700 million to Paris Club countries, in addition to the $577 million already paid this month. Also on 26 February, Russian officials took part in routine consultations in Geneva concerning the country's application to join the World Trade Organization, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

...PREDICTS 'BLUE STREAM' WILL BE OPERATIONAL THIS YEAR

Prime Minister Kasyanov also said in Rome after talks on 26 February with senior officials of Italy's oil and gas concern ENI that the "Blue Stream" pipeline to transport Russian natural gas from Russia's Black Sea coast to Turkey will be operational by the end of this year as scheduled, Russian agencies reported. ENI is one of the companies engaged in construction of that pipeline. Experts say completion of "Blue Stream" will deal a further blow to plans for a Trans-Caspian pipeline to bring Turkmen natural gas to Turkey via Azerbaijan and Georgia. LF

AUDIT CHAMBER, IMF TO COOPERATE ON TRANSPARENCY

Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin said on 26 February after his meeting with International Monetary Fund European II Department Director John Odling-Smee that the chamber and the IMF will work together on a constant basis to make every budgetary transaction transparent and thus promote investment and growth, Interfax reported. PG

U.S. FINDS 'SERIOUS PROBLEMS' IN RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD

In its annual Human Rights Report released on 26 February, the U.S. State Department said that "serious problems remain" in Russia's observance of human rights, Western agencies reported. Among the most pressing, the report said, are problems involving "the independence and freedom of the media and the conditions of pretrial detention and torture of prisoners." It added that Moscow's record is poor in Chechnya, where Russian security forces demonstrate little respect for basic human rights. It also suggested that government institutions "remain largely unreformed" and that government leaders remain "mostly silent about violations of human rights and democratic practices." PG

DETAINED RUSSIAN JOURNALIST GIVES DETAILS OF MISTREATMENT IN CHECHNYA...

In an article published in "The Guardian" on 27 February, Anna Politkovskaya gives a detailed account of the threats, mistreatment, and humiliation to which she was subjected by Russian officers last week. Politkovskaya was detained on 21 February after talking with the commanding officer of a Russian military base near the village of Khottuni in southern Chechnya, but released the following day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 2001). She also cites testimony from two Chechens, one an elderly woman, who were tortured and held in pits at that base until their relatives and fellow villagers ransomed them. LF

...AS RUSSIAN, EU OFFICIALS EMBARK ON INVESTIGATION

Russia's human rights commissioner for Chechnya, Vladimir Kalamanov, and Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles will travel to Chechnya on 27 February to investigate Politkovskaya's charges that Chechens are being held at "filtration camps" on Russian military bases there. Kalamanov said on 23 February that he was not aware of the existence of such a camp in Vedeno (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 2001). LF

THE PEOPLE WRITE TO PUTIN

Presidential administration officials told Interfax on 26 February that 529,000 people sent letters and petitions to President Putin in 2000, twice the number who had sent them to his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, in 1999. Some asked for help, others offered advice, and some came from 152 foreign countries. PG

NEW DETAILS ON PUTIN'S SPY CAREER

Reuters on 26 February reported that it has gained access to previously secret East German intelligence files concerning President Putin's secondment in Germany in the 1980s. According to one of the documents, Putin was assigned to recruit a Dresden man to spy on a Communist Party guest house. The files also show that Putin received a bronze National People's Army medal in 1988 and a 1987 German-Soviet Friendship Society gold medal. PG

MORE TESTIMONY AT SPY TRIALS

Lieutenant General Nikolai Volbuev, who heads the counterintelligence department of the Federal Security Service (FSB), said on 26 February at the trial of former Institute of U.S. and Canada researcher Igor Sutyagin in Kaluga that "those Russians who work with shady foreign organizations evidently need to think about possible clashes with the law and stop their activities before they reach the courtroom," Reuters reported. Former Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said at the trial of six paratroopers for the 1994 murder of Dmitrii Kholodov that he did not give the order to kill that journalist, AP reported. Meanwhile, the chief military prosecutor protested a decision vacating the conviction last year of former Russian diplomat Platon Obukhov, Interfax reported, and, Sweden released a suspected Russian spy on the grounds of insufficient evidence, "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 23 February. PG

MOSCOW DIVIDED ON MEANING OF MOLDOVAN VOTE

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said on 26 February that the Communist victory in Moldova's 25 February parliamentary poll will improve Moldova's ties with Russia and sets the stage for communist victories elsewhere in the CIS, ITAR-TASS reported. But Russian sociologist Gennadii Osipov and the leaders of Unity and Russia's Regions factions said the same day that leftist groups have no future in Russia, Interfax reported the same day. Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said that the Moldovan vote will allow Chisinau to form a government. Yevgenii Primakov, who heads the Russian commission on the Transdniester conflict, said it could help to resolve that issue, and most Russian parliamentarians who were contacted by the Russian agencies suggested that Russia and Belarus will agree to take in Moldova as the third member of their union state. PG

PUTIN APPROVES SETTING UP FEDERATION MINISTRY REPRESENTATIVES ABROAD

President Putin has signed a decree calling for the establishment of representative offices of the Russian Ministry for Federation Affairs, Nationality and Migration Policy in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Latvia, Interfax reported on 26 February. PG

COMMUNISTS EXPECT MORE VOTES OF NO CONFIDENCE

Even though they have collected only 111 signatures on a motion for a vote of no confidence in the government of Prime Minister Kasyanov, Communist Party leaders expect to win from 200 to 230 votes when the motion is debated on 14 March, "Izvestiya" reported on 24 February. But the paper said that the party is unlikely to attract that many supporters. Meanwhile, "Vek," no. 8, suggested that Putin is not unhappy with the squabbling between the government and the Duma because he has more room to maneuver than does the government, and "Segodnya" reported on 24 February that in its view, the Kremlin wants early elections because the opposition is not organized. In a related commentary, "Obshchaya gazeta," no. 8, suggested that those opposed to the government need to form a normal opposition, one actually interested in competing for power rather than making deals with those in office. And Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin on 26 February dismissed media reports that he is in line to become the next prime minister, Interfax-AFI reported on 26 February. PG

UNION OF RIGHTIST FORCES CALL FOR INVESTIGATION OF ATTACK ON MEMBER

The leaders of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), Boris Nemtsov, Anatolii Chubais, Irina Khakamada, and Yegor Gaidar, on 26 February sent an open letter to Federation Council Speaker and Orel Governor Yegor Storev demanding that he insure a prompt and thorough investigation of the assault on SPS Orel Coordinating Council president, Vyacheslav Alekseev, Interfax reported. Alekseev was beaten up on 23 February, and the SPS leaders expressed concern that local officials might not do everything necessary to bring his attackers to justice. PG

FEDERATION COUNCIL MEMBER FOUND GUILTY IN DUBAI

Aleksandr Popov, a member of the Federation Council, was convicted on 26 February in a Dubai court of involuntary manslaughter in connection with an accident on 5 January in which a 22-year-old Vietnamese woman was killed, Interfax reported. He was fined $23,500. PG

ATOMIC MINISTRY MAY SUE TULEEV

Spokesmen for the Atomic Energy Ministry said on 26 February that the ministry may sue former Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev for his statements opposing the importation of spent nuclear fuel to Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. The spokesmen said that Tuleev had made only one statement that "corresponds to reality" and that has nothing to do with the issue at hand. Meanwhile, Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov said on ORT that Russian nuclear power production will grow at a rate three times faster than any other form of power generation, Interfax reported. PG

A FLURRY OF ECONOMIC STATISTICS

Real incomes rose 7.2 percent over the last year, Interfax reported on 26 February. Unemployment is officially 1.5 percent, but 9.5 percent of the economically active population is without work, Economic Development and Trade Ministry officials said. Meanwhile, officials said that bankruptcies rose 50 percent over the last year and projected that the minimum wage in Russia will equal the subsistence minimum by 2004-2005. And in reporting that most Russian stocks increased 3.5 -3.7 percent in value on 26 February, ITAR-TASS said that the further movement of Russian shares "will full depend on changes in U.S. stock indices." PG

VOLSKY DENIES BUSINESS GROUP NEAR SPLIT

Arkadii Volsky, the president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, on 26 February denied reports that disagreements among the members of that group will lead to its splitting into two or more bodies, Interfax reported. He said that the disagreements reported are normal in a group embracing as many different kinds of businessmen as the union does. PG

A NEW RUSSIAN NGO: GENERALS FOR DEMOCRACY AND HUMANISM

Major General Yuri Kirshin announced on 26 February the creation of a new public organization "Generals for Democracy and Humanism," ITAR-TASS reported. Kirshin said that his group will seek to strengthen Russia's military security and also issue "recommendations for the humanization of military activities in the Russian army in times of peace." PG

A DIFFERENT VIEW ON NMD: IT COULD HELP RUSSIA

Former FSB Director Nikolai Kovalev, who now serves on the Duma Defense Committee, told Interfax on 26 February that he believes that the U.S. intention to create an NMD system could actually serve the interests of Russia's strategic security. He said that American efforts to build NMD would be prohibitively expensive and would only succeed in alienating European governments from Washington. Meanwhile, Georgii Bovt wrote in an article published in the 24 February "Izvestiya" that Moscow risks becoming an international outcast unless it finds a new way to deal with American plans to build NMD. PG

NOTE SHOWS 'KURSK' SANK BY TORPEDO EXPLOSION

A note left by a sailor on the "Kursk" shows that a torpedo explosion was responsible for the sinking of that submarine in August 2000, "Izvestiya" reported on 26 February. The paper said that the note thus "confirms the reason for the disaster that is most unpleasant for the country's military leadership." PG

EXERCISES A SUCCESS BUT MILITARY HIDES DETAILS

"Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie," no. 7, reported that the recent command and staff training exercises from 13 to 17 February, which included the launching of a number of missiles, were a success, but that the military provided much less information about its activities than it did a year ago. "Apparently, those who are pushing for more secrecy at the top are gaining the upper hand," the journal said. PG

SAILORS PROTEST SHIP'S SINKING, SAY POACHING NOT A CAPITAL OFFENSE

The Association of Fishing Industry Workers of Sakhalin on 26 February issued a public protest against the use of force by Russian border guards against poachers, Interfax-Eurasia reported. They said that poaching should not carry "the death penalty" and called on borderguards "not to kill Russian fishermen." Meanwhile, prosecutors and the border guards continued their investigation into the reported sinking of a fugitive Russian fishing vessel last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 2001), an investigation that became even more complicated when the ship the border guards said they had fired upon and sunk then turned up in Japan, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

GORBACHEV 'MIDDLE AGED' AT 70

On 2 March, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev will mark his 70th birthday, and on 26 February, Russian movie and television stars staged a concert in his honor, Russian and Western agencies reported. In an interview with NTV, Gorbachev said that he considers 70 to be just middle age. PG

YELTSIN REMAINS IN HOSPITAL

President Putin has visited his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, who turned 70 in February, in the hospital where he has been for more than three weeks, Russian and Western agencies reported on 26 February. Yeltsin's doctors said that his recovery from a viral infection has been "slower than what doctors initially believed." Putin's visit gave rise to renewed speculation that Yeltsin may be more ill than has been reported. PG

RUSSIA SETS UP LANDSCAPE TRUST

Rosneftegazstroi and the Inter-Regional Fund for National Landscape Salvation have set up a Russian national trust for the preservation and development of the country's landscapes, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 February. Environmental activists have been urging the creation of such a body for six years. PG

SAKHAROV MUSEUM RUNNING OUT OF FUNDS

Yurii Samodurov, the director of the Andrei Sakharov Museum in Moscow, told Interfax on 26 February that the museum has only enough funds to remain open until summer. He said that the $3 million donated last fall by Boris Berezovsky is being used as an endowment, with the museum using only income from that account. PG

FEWER RUSSIAN CITIZENS MAKE HAJ THIS YEAR

The Council of Russia's Muftis told ITAR-TASS on 26 February that some 3,500 Russian Muslims will make the pilgrimage to Mecca this year, one-third the number who did so a year ago. But by order of President Putin, the government is providing support for up to 300 pilgrims from Chechnya, Interfax reported. PG

RUSSIAN APPALLED BY UPBEAT WESTERNERS

Speaking to a conference in St. Petersburg last week, Arkadii Dvorkovich, an advisor to Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, said that he is "tired of the happy inclinations of Western creditors and analysts who continue to say that the economy of Russia is on the upswing," "Izvestiya" reported on 24 February. Dvorkovich said that Russians today "are free from illusions," adding that because of the debt crisis, Russian economic reforms will not take place in the near term and that the country's economic difficulties will continue. PG

WOMAN WHO THREW PIE AT DEPUTY GETS 15 DAYS

Anna Matveeva, who on 23 February threw a pie at a Sverdlovsk Oblast Duma deputy, was sentenced to 15 days in jail on 26 February for petty hooliganism, Interfax-Eurasia reported. She said when she threw the pie at the deputy that "this is for you from the entrepreneurs of Sverdlovsk Oblast." PG

DESCENDENT APPEALS FOR REVERSAL OF TOLSTOY'S EXCOMMUNICATION

Vladimir Tolstoy, the great-great-grandson of Leo Tolstoy, has appealed to the Russian Orthodox Church to reverse its 24 February 1901 excommunication of the great writer, AP reported. PG

RUSSIANS POLLED ON REPUTATION, U.S., LIBERAL IDEAS

A poll conducted by the National Public Opinion Research Center found that 26 percent of respondents believe that Russia's reputation is already so bad that nothing could make it worse, "Profil," no. 6, reported. Meanwhile, a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation found that 34 percent of Russians do not know where the United States is located and only 12 percent have positive feelings about that country, "Novye Izvestiya," reported on 24 February. In a third poll, 49 percent of Russians said that they had never heard of "liberal ideas," with only 17 percent of the total being willing to offer any suggestion as to what they entail, "Profil," no. 6, reported. PG




ARMENIA OPENS EMBASSY IN BAGHDAD

An Armenian government delegation headed by Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and accompanied by a group of Armenian businessmen flew to Baghdad on 25 February, Interfax and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Oskanian attended the ceremonial opening of Armenia's embassy in Baghdad on 25 February and met the following day with President Saddam Hussein to discuss the prospects for bilateral cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. Oskanian discussed trade and economic cooperation with Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan and Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Hikmat Ibrahim al-Azzawi. He also discussed with Oil Minister Amer Mohammed Rashid the participation of Armenian businessmen in the "oil for food" program. The two countries established formal diplomatic relations a year ago. Iraq has an Armenian minority estimated at 10,000 people. LF

ARMENIA FREES TWO MORE POWS

Armenia released two Azerbaijani prisoners of war on 26 February as "a gesture of good will," Noyan Tapan and Turan reported. The two men were reportedly taken prisoner several years ago after straying across the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier. LF

FORMER KARABAKH DEFENSE MINISTER SENTENCED

The Supreme Court of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on 26 February handed down a 14 year prison sentence on the enclave's former Defense Minister Samvel Babayan, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Babayan was founded guilty on charges, which he denies, of master-minding an attempt to assassinate Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasian in March 2000 in order to seize power. Presiding judge Suren Aleksanian said the verdict was based on pretrial testimony in which Babayan confessed to the charges against him. Babayan later retracted that admission of guilt, saying it was extracted from him under duress (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December 2000). Two men found guilty of opening fire on Ghukasian's armored limousine were similarly sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment. One of them, Sasun Aghadjanian, has admitted his guilt, while the other, Levon Mirzoyan, pleaded not guilty. Two other Babayan associates received sentences of ten and 13 years respectively, while 11 other men charged in connection with the attack on Ghukasian received short suspended sentences. LF

AZERBAIJANI, KARABAKH OFFICIALS ISSUE STATEMENTS ON MASSACRE ANNIVERSARY

In a statement to mark the anniversary of the massacre of several hundred Azerbaijanis in the Karabakh village of Khodjaly in 1992, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev criticized then President Ayaz Mutalibov for failing to take measures to prevent those deaths, Interfax and dpa reported. Aliyev also criticized the international community for what he termed its failure to condemn the killings. Meanwhile Vahram Atanesian, chairman of the Standing Foreign Relations Commission of the Karabakh parliament, issued a statement which Noyan Tapan circulated on 26 February. Atanesian said that the Karabakh Armenian authorities had given Mutalibov advance warning that they intended to try to neutralize Azerbaijani weapons emplacements in Khodjaly and had announced that a corridor would be opened to allow the civilian population to leave Khodjaly before that offensive began. Atanesian said that it was armed detachments of the Azerbaijan Popular Front who killed the Khodjaly villagers, not Armenian and Russian troops as Baku claims. LF

CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST SIX AZERBAIJANI WAR INVALIDS

Six members of the Society for the Protection of War Invalids who were arrested during the clashes in Baku last week between invalids and police remain in detention and have been charged with violating public order, inciting public unrest and resisting the police, Turan reported on 26 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February 2001). The six men have been refused access to their lawyers and were transferred on 26 February from an investigation center to Baku's notorious Bailov jail. LF

AZERBAIJAN, RUSSIA TO STUDY ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF RADAR INSTALLATION

Acting on an agreement reached with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the latter's visit to Baku in early January, President Aliyev on 26 February ordered the creation of a joint Azerbaijan-Russian commission to assess the impact on the environment and the health of the local population of the Gabala radar facility, ITAR-TASS reported. That radar station, the only remaining Russian military facility in Azerbaijan, was built in the early 1980s. Within a couple of years, Azerbaijani experts claimed that it was causing an increase in deaths from cancer and a fall in the birthrate in the surrounding areas. LF

GEORGIA TO GIVE ZHIRINOVSKY COLD SHOULDER?

Georgian Television reported on 26 February that a visit to Georgia by Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky scheduled to begin that day has been postponed until 1 March, ITAR-TASS reported. No reason was given for the delay. Zhirinovsky was scheduled to meet during his two-day stay in Tbilisi with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and the leaders of parliament factions. Georgian Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili told a press conference in Tbilisi on 26 February that if Zhirinovsky does visit Georgia, parliament leaders and government officials will refuse to meet with him, ITAR-TASS reported. Parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania declined comment on Saakashvili's statement, according to Caucasus Press. LF

GEORGIAN POLICE CONCERNED BY RISING VIOLENCE AGAINST FOREIGNERS

Tbilisi police chief Soso Alavidze told journalists on 26 February that he believes the recent wave of attacks on foreign visitors to the city is coordinated with the aim of "sowing panic," Caucasus Press reported. Alavidze noted that foreigners are increasingly attacked on the street and subjected to severe beatings even after they surrender their valuables to the assailants. Several Western governments have recently advised their citizens to exercise special caution when visiting Georgia. LF

GEORGIAN AIRLINE STAFF POSTPONE PLANNED PROTEST

Some 150 pilots and ground staff of Georgia's Airzena airline decided after talks on 26 February with Georgian Transport and Communications Minister Merab Adeishvili to postpone their planned protest against the recently imposed visa requirement for Georgians travelling to Russia, Caucasus Press reported. They argued that the airline is losing custom and money because its staff need two weeks to provide Georgian travelers with Russian visas, while Russian airlines are able to do so within two days. The protesters warned that unless measures are taken to expedite the issuing of visas to Airzena passengers, they plan to block the runway at Tbilisi airport on 1 March. LF

DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF TAJIKISTAN SEEK TO REUNITE

A meeting took place in Dushanbe on 24 February between members of the two factions of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan that formerly constituted that party's so-called "Almaty faction" to discuss terms for a reconciliation, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 26 February. Originally formed in 1991 and banned in 1993, the DPT split in 1995. At that time, Djumaboy Niyozov was elected chairman of the so-called Almaty faction, while the party's leader Shodmon Yusuf remained in exile in Tehran until the Iranian authorities yielded to pressure from the Tajik government and expelled him. Yusuf is now in Vienna where he has applied for political asylum. The ban on the DPT and several other opposition parties was lifted in August 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1999), after which the DPT Almaty faction split. Former field commander and Minister of Emergency Situations Makhmudruzi Iskandarov, who was elected the party's chairman, incurred criticism from Niyozov's supporters and other party members for cooperating with the ruling authorities. The move towards reconciliation emanated from Niyozov and his supporters. LF

PLANNED CASPIAN SUMMIT IN TURKMENISTAN POSTPONED

The summit of Caspian littoral states planned for 8-9 March in the Turkmen port city of Turkmenbashi has been postponed until early April at Iran's request, Reuters reported on 26 February quoting an unnamed Turkmen government official. It had been hoped that summit participants would adopt an agreement on the division of the sea into national sectors. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and special envoy for the Caspian Viktor Kalyuzhnyi said on 23 February that at a meeting in Tehran on 21-22 February, deputy foreign ministers from the five littoral states had reached agreement on part of the draft declaration to be endorsed at the summit, Interfax reported. Kalyuzhnyi also said that Iran had made clear that it wants the summit postponed until after President Mohammad Khatami's planned visit to Moscow in mid-March and the venue changed. LF

UZBEKISTAN PLEDGES TO RESUME GAS DELIVERIES TO KYRGYZSTAN

Following talks in Bishkek on 26 February with his Kyrgyz counterpart Kurmanbek Bakiev, Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov told journalists that Uzbekistan will resume natural gas deliveries to Kyrgyzstan "soon," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Sultanov said that the cause of the 25 January cutoff of supplies was damage to the Uzbek sector of the gas pipeline. He denied speculation in both Kyrgyzstan and the West that Uzbekistan had suspended gas deliveries in an attempt to wrest concessions from Bishkek on the demarcation of the frontier between the two countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 21 February 2001). LF




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO THANK RUSSIAN DUMA SPEAKER FOR 'HELP'

The Supreme Soviet is going to officially thank Russian Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev for his "help" in prolonging its membership in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Belapan reported on 26 February. Supreme Soviet deputy speaker Anatol Lyabedzka noted that last week in Vienna, Seleznev jointly with an Armenian delegate blocked the resolution of the Credentials Committee of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly that would have terminated the Supreme Soviet membership in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and left Belarus's seat vacant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 2001). According to Lyabedzka, from the legal point of view the Supreme Soviet remains a member of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, even though OSCE Chairman Adrian Severin said Belarus's seat is to remain vacant for the time being. The Belarusian opposition believes the OSCE summit in Paris this summer will restore the Supreme Soviet's full membership. JM

BELARUSIAN PRO-LUKASHENKA LAWMAKER BRANDS OSCE AS 'THROWBACK TO THE COLD WAR'

Alyaksandr Shpileuski, deputy chairman of the commission for international affairs in the Chamber of Representatives, said on 26 February that Belarus "has been actually devoid of its legal right to develop relations with European structures," Belapan reported. Shpileuski was commenting on last week's sitting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Permanent Committee that did not grant membership in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to the Chamber of Representatives. Shpileuski said the OSCE is a "throwback to the Cold War," adding that it is today a "body for exerting pressure on Russia." Shpileuski believes Belarus's official legislature is discriminated against by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly because Minsk is building a union state with Moscow. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly did not recognize last year's elections to Belarus's Chamber of Representatives as democratic and fair. JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTORS IDENTIFY MISSING JOURNALIST'S BODY

Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksiy Bahanets on 26 February ruled that the headless corpse found at Tarashcha near Kyiv in November is that of missing journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Interfax reported. The press service of the Prosecutor-General's Office said the ruling was made on the basis of "additional data" from medical experts. Meanwhile, Lesya Gongadze, mother of the missing journalist, has asked President Leonid Kuchma for a meeting, saying it may become a "positive step to finding the truth that will help us put an end to this complex and important case." JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS GONGADZE'S DEATH USED AS 'POLITICAL WEAPON...'

In a letter published by the 27 February "Financial Times," President Kuchma wrote that some Ukrainian politicians have turned the tragic death of Heorhiy Gongadze into a "political weapon designed to destabilize Ukraine." Kuchma noted: "It is not by chance that my main accusers are precisely the same people who have blocked Ukraine's transformation to a free market economy." The Ukrainian president said there are no grounds to accuse him of Gongadze's murder, adding that he is committed to protecting the freedom and safety of the press. JM

...AS HIS FORMER BODYGUARD CONTINUES TRANSCRIBING SECRET TAPES

Mykola Melnychenko, who secretly bugged President Kuchma's office and provoked a political scandal in Ukraine by publicizing some recordings, told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 26 February that he needs "a great deal of time" as well as "equipment and professionals" to transcribe all the secret tapes he made. Melnychenko noted, however, that the material he has already transcribed is sufficient to prove unambiguously that Kuchma is "a criminal who gave criminal orders and controlled [their fulfillment]." He added that he is now waiting for the confirmation of the authenticity of his recordings by the International Press Institute in Vienna. Following this confirmation, he is going to publicize more taped information "which is no less criminal than the Gongadze case." JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS TO HOLD ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS IN MARCH

The Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) is going to hold a nationwide protest action from 12-17 March under the slogans "Down with the Regime of Kuchma and Yushchenko" and "All the Power to the Working People," Interfax reported on 26 February, quoting the KPU web site. The goal of the action is "to tell people the truth about what is going on in Ukraine, and to rouse them for an organized, conscious struggle for their human rights." The KPU declares its intention of correcting the "main mistake" of the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" rallies by expanding anti-regime protests to include wider social strata. KPU leader Petro Symonenko told the agency that the "ultrarightist nationalists," who actively participate in ongoing anti-Kuchma protests, "are destroying the idea of social justice and diverting the people from the understanding that [Ukraine's] economic reform has no prospects in essence." JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER TO SURVIVE BY FORMING 'COALITION CABINET'?

Deputy parliamentary speaker Viktor Medvedchuk told journalists on 26 February that Premier Viktor Yushchenko will survive in his post only if the president, the parliament, and the government agree on forming a "coalition cabinet," Interfax reported. Medvedchuk noted that unless a coalition cabinet is formed under Yushchenko, "the reformist parliamentary majority will create a new coalition government with a new premier." Kyiv-based political analyst Mykola Tomenko said the same day that the parliament will "most likely" dismiss Yushchenko in April because of his "failure to fulfill the government program" that was approved by lawmakers a year ago. According to Tomenko, Yushchenko may be voted out jointly by the Communists--whose representative will subsequently head the legislature--and some currently pro-Kuchma caucuses which want Medvedchuk to head the government. JM

PROBLEMS IN ESTONIAN RAILROAD PRIVATIZATIONS HIGHLIGHTED

The privatization of Estonian Railway and Edelaraudtee (Southwest Railway) is facing serious difficulties, ETA reported on 26 February. Rail Estonia, the winner of the Estonian Railway privatization contest, appears unlikely to fulfill the condition that it present a strategic investor by 28 February. Moreover, Tony Massei, who claims to be project manager, is actually Antonio Angotti, an individual wanted in the U.S. for money laundering and financial fraud, according to ELTA and BNS. The Estonian Privatization Agency is likely to start negotiations with Baltic Rail Services, the second-best bidder for Estonian Railway. The privatization of Edelaraudtee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November 2000) by GB Railways also caused a minor international quarrel when the commercial director of the second-best bidder, the French railway company Connex, wrote a letter that noted that the market value of GB Railways had declined almost four times between 1998 and 2000. GB Railways may not fulfill the requirement to deposit 50 million kroons ($2.9 million) in Estonian banks this week. SG

CARGO TURNOVERS IN LATVIA IN 2000

The Central Statistics Office announced on 26 February that railroad and port cargo turnovers increased in 2000 compared to 1999 while cargoes by truck decreased. BNS reported. Cargo transported by rail increased by 3.2 million tons or 9.7 percent from 1999 to 36.4 million tons. Total cargo turnover in the ports increased by 2.8 million tons or 5.7 percent from 1999 to reach 51.8 million tons. The turnover increased in all Latvian ports with the smallest increase (1.8 percent) in the largest port of Ventspils which handled 34.8 million tons of cargo. The amount of cargo carried by the trucking sector fell by 0.5 million tons or 1.5 percent from 1999 to 32.9 million tons. SG

CROATIA'S PARLIAMENT DELEGATION VISITS LITHUANIA

A delegation of deputies from the Croatian House of Representatives, headed by its speaker, Zlatko Tomcic, was received by President Valdas Adamkus on 26 February, ELTA reported. Tomcic noted agreed that the two countries share the priority goals of future membership in the European Union and NATO. They discussed the expansion of business links and the signing of an agreement on cooperation in tourism. Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis noted that Lithuania is willing to share its Euro-integration experience with Croatian officials. Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius informed the delegation about Lithuania's efforts to gain NATO membership and the apparently decreasing Russian opposition to that bid. SG

FORMER POLISH DEPUTY PREMIER RETURNS TO POLITICS

Former Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Janusz Tomaszewski has returned to politics, PAP reported on 26 February. Tomaszewski was elected deputy head of the Lodz branch of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) Social Movement, which is a member of the AWS parliamentary coalition. "I decided to come back...to try to rebuild trust in the movement," Tomaszewski told journalists. Tomaszewski said if he fails to establish cooperation between all forces within the AWS, he may join the recently created Citizens' Platform. He added that he is ready to lead the AWS campaign in this year's parliamentary elections. Tomaszewski withdrew from politics in September 1999 after he had been accused of collaboration with the Communist-era secret services. Last week the Lustration Court cleared Tomaszewski of the collaboration charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 2001). JM

U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT CRITICIZES CZECH POLICE, TREATMENT OF ROMA

The U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights around the world, released on 26 February, criticized the Czech Republic for occasional police violence and for discrimination against Roma, CTK reported. The report mentioned in particular police behavior in response to protests at the meeting of the IMF and World Bank in Prague in September. The report details the discrimination Roma face in Czech society in education, employment, and social and health care. The report's section on freedom of speech and the press lists the cases of Czech journalists prosecuted in connection with their coverage of state officials, as well as the strike at Czech Television and the conviction, which a court recently overturned, of Michal Zitko for publishing Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2001). DW

CZECH PREMIER TO LOSE INFLUENCE IN SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY

When Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman gives up his post as chairman of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) at its conference in April, he will probably forfeit all influence in the leadership of that party, according to "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 27 February. There is no candidate opposing current CSSD Deputy Chairman Vladimir Spidla for the post of chairman or Interior Minister Stanislav Gross for the post of first deputy chairman, and none of the candidates Zeman has favored are considered likely to win posts in the party leadership. In addition, even though Zeman criticized her in his report for the conference, former CSSD Deputy Chairwoman Petra Buzkova was easily elected head of the Prague branch of the party. Zeman himself said he is not trying to preserve his influence in the party and that it is necessary for him to make a "clean break between the role of prime minister and the role of party chairman." DW

DISCUSSION OF TANK MODERNIZATION DELAYED BY DEFENSE MINISTRY

The decision on whether to modernize 140 T-72 tanks, at a cost of 19 billion Czech crowns ($496 million), has been delayed by 10 days, Defense Ministry spokesman Milan Repka told CTK on 26 February. Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy delayed a decision on that issue at the request of Deputy Defense Minister for Economic Affairs Jaroslav Tvrdik. Tvrdik has said that if the project is not carried out, the ministry will lose 2 billion crowns ($52 million). The subject of the modernization of tanks and fighter planes at the expense of other reforms in the Czech armed forces came under scrutiny last week during the visit to Prague of NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21-23 February 2001). DW

EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRAISES CZECH, AUSTRIAN SIDES FOR DIALOGUE ON TEMELIN

The European Commission (EC), which has been mediating talks between the Czech Republic and Austria concerning the Temelin nuclear power plant, is satisfied with the progress of the dialogue between the two sides, CTK reported 26 February. The EC said the Austrian complaints of a lack of information about steps taken by the Czechs were justified, but praised the Czech Republic for agreeing to various checks and a study of the plant's environmental impact. DW

SLOVAKIA PLEDGES TO HELP YUGOSLAVIA REBUILD INFRASTRUCTURE

Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda said after his meeting with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica in Bratislava on 26 February that Slovakia wants to help Yugoslavia restore navigation on the Danube River and rebuild its infrastructure, CTK reported. Dzurinda noted that the democratic changes introduced by Yugoslavia's new government will contribute to intensifying bilateral relations between Bratislava and Belgrade. JM

SLOVAK TOWN NOT WILLING TO HAVE 'FOREIGN ROMA'

More than 2,000 inhabitants of the town of Medzilaborce have signed a petition against the resettlement in their town of five Romany families living in slums between the nearby villages of Nagov and Rokytovce, CTK reported on 26 February. The petition was also signed by Roma from Medzilaborce, who criticize the state administration for solving problems of "foreign Roma" while avoiding the solution of those faced by those already resident in the town. Medzilaborce is famous for being the native town of the parents of pop-art founder Andy Warhol. JM

U.S. REPORT SLAMS POLICE BRUTALITY IN HUNGARY

The U.S. State Department report on human rights released on 26 February, points out the excess use of force by police in Hungary as one of the problem areas in the government's respect for the rights of citizens. The report states that the main victims of police excesses are Roma and dark-skinned foreigners. The report also highlights bad conditions in Hungarian prisons, and several cases of vandalism in Jewish cemeteries. Regarding freedom of religion, the report says that although all denominations are equal under the law, the government gives preferential treatment to certain churches. MSZ




GUNFIRE EXCHANGE ON MACEDONIAN-KOSOVAR BORDER

Spokesmen for Macedonia's Defense and Interior Ministries said in Skopje on 27 February that the border with Kosova is quiet following an exchange of machine gun fire lasting about three hours the previous day. Macedonian officials said that "Albanian terrorists coming mostly from Kosovo and some Macedonian citizens" fired from the Kosova side of the border at a Macedonian army and police patrol near Tanusevci (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2001). The Macedonians returned fire, Reuters reported. Some 100 KFOR troops soon arrived in Debelde on the Kosovar side and imposed a night curfew. A Macedonian Interior Ministry spokesmen said that the Albanians might be from "a new organization called the National Liberation Army. We understand it was formed in Switzerland in 2000, and it could be active in Macedonia in the near future." Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski called the incident "a serious provocation" and criticized the performance of KFOR. He warned that although he wants to end the border tensions "through peaceful and diplomatic means, radical measures are not excluded." He did not elaborate, AP reported. PM

CIVILIANS FLEE MACEDONIAN BORDER AREA

An OSCE spokesman said in Skopje on 26 February that most women, children, and elderly have left the Tanusevci area for Kosova, Reuters reported. A UNHCR spokeswoman in Prishtina told AP that the refugees number about 300. PM

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT WARNS TROUBLE-MAKERS

Boris Trajkovski said in Skopje on 26 February that "there is a tendency toward a worsening of the situation in southern Serbia, which can have a negative effect on the stability of Macedonia. No one should doubt our firm commitment to maintain the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Macedonia," Reuters reported. An unnamed "senior Western diplomat based in Skopje" told the news agency that both sides are hardening their positions "to see the reaction of the international community." Ethnic Albanians account for some 23 percent of Macedonia's total population. Unlike in President Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslavia, they are well integrated into national political life and some hold cabinet positions. PM

RUSSIA CALLS FOR BALKAN BORDER GUARANTEES

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 27 February that the international community should guarantee borders in the region to discourage "extremists." The statement noted that "the actions of the gunmen are aimed at provoking a crisis situation and destabilizing the internal political situation in [Macedonia]... The continuation of such a situation threatens the security and stability of the whole region. Russia believes an effective hurdle to extremists' actions would be confirmation by the international community of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all the states of the region in question," Reuters reported. The statement also said that the clashes are aimed at realizing unspecified Albanian nationalist plans. Observers note, however, that no mainstream ethnic Albanian party anywhere in the Balkans calls for setting up a greater Albania as a realistic goal (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 February 2001). The Russian call for border guarantees may be an attempt to preclude eventual independence for Kosova. Moscow is a staunch supporter of Belgrade's political goals in the region. PM

EU, U.S. WARN KOSOVARS...

The EU and U.S. said in a statement in Brussels on 26 February that the recent bombing of a full bus near Podujeva and "incidents of this kind gravely undermine our publics' and parliaments' political and financial support for Kosovo's democratic transition and economic recovery," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report, 20 February 2001). The statement urged Kosova's political leaders to "condemn these heinous attacks in the strongest possible terms and to work with the authorities to bring these criminals to justice. We further call on the people of Kosovo to demonstrate that they will not tolerate this violence," the statement added. PM

...TAKE UP PRESEVO ISSUES

EU foreign ministers agreed in Brussels on 26 February to lift most of the remaining sanctions against Belgrade except those directly affecting the Milosevic family and ruling elite. The ministers also agreed to raise the number of EU monitors in the Presevo Valley from nine to 30. NATO foreign ministers are slated to meet on 27 February, with Presevo high on the agenda. Reuters quoted unnamed NATO officials as saying that the ministers are expected to reduce the length of the five kilometer-wide safety zone on the Kosova-Serbian border from 400 kilometers to 300, Reuters reported. It is not clear to what extent the size of the zone in the Presevo Valley will be affected, if at all. In Bratislava, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said that "we generally have the acceptance of NATO and KFOR for solving this problem according to [our] plan. I believe it will not be necessary for the Yugoslav Army and the Serbian police to use force [to stop violence in the region]. The coming days will give a definitive answer to this question." PM

EU COOL ON KOSOVA ELECTIONS...

Speaking as EU chair, Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh said in Brussels on 26 February that "we cannot have general elections in Kosovo before time is ready. First, we have to have an administration. First, we have to have prepared the elections and we also have to make very careful preparations, and that is also the conclusion of [UN Kosovo administrator] Hans Haekkerup. So, we cannot have too early elections in Kosovo," RFE/RL reported. It is not clear what she meant by "early" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 January and 23 February 2001). Some observers argue that the international community's failure to move ahead on the question of Kosova's status is a major source of regional instability. PM

...AND MONTENEGRIN SELF-DETERMINATION

In the latest in a series of EU statements "advising" Montenegro on how to plot its political future, Javier Solana said in Brussels on 26 February that he told Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic that "we are not going to [break] off relations with him. He has been a good friend in moments of difficulty and, therefore, I will continue seeing him when he needs it and when I need it," RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2001). Solana stressed that the EU wants Montenegro and Serbia "to find a change in the constitution that can accommodate both. We are not for the separation of Podgorica from Belgrade, we are, on the contrary, for an accommodation with a change in the constitution, so that they can continue living together in the federation." Solana also warned Montenegro against unspecified "unilateral measures." PM

PATTEN UNDERSCORES SOLANA'S MESSAGE TO MONTENEGRO...

Also speaking in Brussels on 26 February for the EU, Chris Patten added that "we want to see a democratic Montenegro within a democratic and reformed Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Our position is absolutely clear. We don't agree with President Djukanovic [on independence], but that is not a reason for the Commission and High Representative for not seeing him." In January, several Montenegrin officials made it clear that they regard such EU statements as arrogant and inadmissible, particularly when coming from officials who themselves represent small countries (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January and 23 February 2001). PM

...BUT MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT HOLDS FIRM ON INDEPENDENCE

Djukanovic said in Brussels on 26 February that "we do expect that the European Union and the democracies of the world will support our endeavors. The greatest assistance we could get would be the appreciation of our democratic goals," AP reported. He added that "making references to Montenegro in connection with Kosovo and [Bosnia] is wrong both politically and historically... Our goal is to stabilize our political scene. By doing so and by our rehabilitation of the unhealthy relationship with Serbia, we are also making our biggest contribution to regional security." He noted that an unspecified "part of public opinion in Belgrade" is trying to convince the international community otherwise. Djukanovic stressed that "Montenegro was, is, and will be a state." PM

YUGOSLAVIA PASSES AMNESTY LAW

The Yugoslav parliament approved an amnesty law on 26 February that will affect some 28,000 young men who fled abroad to avoid serving in the army in Milosevic's wars. It will also cover some 450 of the 650 Kosovar political prisoners. Only the 200 jailed for "terrorism" are not affected, but Justice Minister Momcilo Grubac said he will appeal to Kostunica to consider each of their cases, arguing that in many instances "the real terrorists escaped" and police rounded up ordinary citizens, the "New York Times" reported. Ethnic Albanians will be watching to see how quickly Kostunica acts on those cases as a sign of whether he is willing to redress past wrongs to Yugoslav citizens of Albanian nationality. PM

HAGUE COURT SENTENCES BOSNIAN CROAT LEADER

In the second landmark ruling in less than a week, the Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 26 February convicted Bosnian Croat leader Dario Kordic and former army commander Mario Cerkez of war crimes and crimes against humanity, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Kordic received a 25-year sentence and Cerkez a term of 15 years. The time each man has already spent in custody will be subtracted from his sentence. The sentencing of Kordic in connection with the "ethnic cleansing" of Muslims in the Lasva Valley in 1993 affirms the principle that civilian leaders are responsible for crimes they helped plan or encourage. In Bosnia, many Muslims agreed with the court prosecutors, who regarded the sentences as too light, AP reported. PM

ZAGREB NOT TO FINANCE HERZEGOVINIAN ARMY

President Stipe Mesic said that Croatian financing for the ethnic Croat component in the Bosnian army is at an end, "Jutarnji list" reported on 26 February. Funding currently stands at about $500,000 per month, dpa reported. PM

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO RELAUNCH NATO ACCESSION CAMPAIGN

Premier Adrian Nastase on 26 February announced the government's decision to launch a campaign supporting the country's accession into NATO, Mediafax reported. Meeting with government members involved in preparing for Romania's admission to NATO and the EU, Nastase said the Defense Ministry's budget will be supplemented by over 30 percent of the original sum allocated for this year. The money will be obtained by external loans guaranteed by the government. The premier also announced that next week the government intends to obtain the support of all parliamentary parties for a joint declaration on supporting efforts to join NATO. The government will also look for support from the media and non-governmental organizations. According to a February opinion poll, if a referendum on the issue were held, 85 percent of Romanian citizens would vote in favor of joining NATO, while 80 percent believe Romania was left out from the first round of enlargement because it did not fulfill the required criteria. The former center-right government launched a media campaign aimed at boosting NATO accession chances in early 1997, ahead of the July NATO summit in Madrid. ZsM

FINAL SENTENCES IN ROMANIAN CIGARETTE-SMUGGLING TRIAL

In the final ruling in the April 1998 cigarette smuggling case, the Romanian Supreme Court on 26 February sentenced 16 people involved to sentences of between three and a half and 15 years in prison, Mediafax reported. The toughest conviction, a prison term of 15 years, was given to Lieutenant Colonel Ioan Suciu, the former commander of Bucharest Military Airport, where the tobacco was smuggled into the country. Two other defendants were acquitted and a third person received a suspended sentence. In the case of Valentin Vasilescu, former deputy commander of the airport, currently a Greater Romania Party parliament deputy, the court decided that further investigation was needed. The cigarettes were brought into the country by plane in so-called "special operations" that often involved high-ranking military officials. The men sentenced will also have to pay a total of 3.6 billion lei (some $134,000), representing the value of smuggled cigarettes. ZsM

OSCE DESCRIBES MOLDOVAN ELECTIONS AS FREE AND FAIR

According to a member of the OSCE mission that monitored Moldova's 25 February parliamentary elections, Dr. Kimmo Kiljunen, the Central Electoral Commission administered the elections in a nonpartisan, transparent, efficient, and timely manner, Infotag reported on 26 February. The head of the mission, Charles Magee, noted, however, that elections did not take place in the Transdniester region due to a lack of cooperation from authorities there. He said polling stations had been set up on the banks of the Dniester River for residents of the region to vote, but that a very small percentage had done so, and in some cases buses carrying voters had not been allowed to cross the river from Transdniester. DW

BRAGHIS ALLIANCE WILL GO INTO OPPOSITION

Despite reports that the Communist Party, overwhelming victors in the 25 February elections, would keep him on as Moldova's prime minister, Braghis Alliance leader Dumitru Braghis told Infotag on 26 February that his party will go into opposition. "There are simply no other variants," he said. He added that his party will "promote the ideas and reforms we consider as correct. And the Communists have no other option but to shoulder the entire responsibility for the future government's work." DW

BULGARIA TO WITHDRAW LICENSE FROM BALKAN AIRLINES

Transport and Communications Minister Antoni Slavinski said on 26 February that the ministry will revoke the operations license of the country's main carrier, Balkan Airlines, whose planes have been grounded for more than a week due to a financial dispute between the government and the airline's majority owner, Reuters reported. Slavinski said the license was not withdrawn earlier because doing so "would have jeopardized the rescue activities that concern the [stranded] passengers and the charter flight schedule." The airlines is in receivership, and a court will rule on an insolvency claim against it on 6 March. PB

EU GROUP TO MEASURE POLLUTION ON ROMANIAN-BULGARIAN BORDER

An EU commission will be appointed to measure the level of air pollution in the Bulgarian town of Nikopol and the Romanian town of Turnu Magurele, the countries' environment ministers, Evdokia Maneva and Aurel Constantin Ilie, said on 26 February, BTA reported. Ilie said after a meeting with Maneva in Sofia that "if the international arbitration establishes that the Romanian chemical plant gases Nikopol, we shall close the plant." The Romanian Environment Ministry has ruled that pollution in Nikopol does not exceed acceptable levels, although the Bulgarian official data show that the chemical plant deposits grossly excessive amounts of pollution on the town. Neither country will accept the other's findings. People in Nikopol have long complained of occasional chemical clouds settling on the town. PB




There is no End Note today.





XS
SM
MD
LG