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Newsline - July 9, 2001




1991 COUP LEADERS SAY PUTIN WORKS FOR THEIR ENDS

The organizers of the failed August 1991 coup gathered at the offices of the hard-line Russian nationalist newspaper "Patriot" on 4 July and said that President Vladimir Putin is working to achieve many of the goals they espoused, AP reported. Former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitrii Yazov said that "the last ten years can be summed up in one word -- collapse," but that now Putin and his entourage "have begun to understand it." Former KGB chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov said that Putin is "the most constructive leader of recent years." PG

RUSSIA MOURNS VICTIMS OF TU-154 CRASH

President Putin declared 5 July a national day of mourning for the victims of the 3 July crash of a Tu-154 passenger jet near Irkutsk which claimed 145 lives, Russian and Western agencies reported. Investigators said their initial examination suggests that human error appears to have been responsible for the crash, but "Izvestiya" reported on 5 July that the plane had seen service in China and might not have been maintained adequately. PG

CRASH INVESTIGATORS CONSIDER ROLE OF AIRPORT LOCATION IN ACCIDENT

Following the 3 July crash, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov announced that it is possible a new airport may be built in Irkutsk, Interfax reported on 7 July. Many aviation specialist believe that the trajectory of flights to Irkutsk, where the airport is located on the edge of the city, is too sharp. According to Klebanov, the government commission investigating the reasons for the crash are looking at the possible construction of an airport outside of the city. Two days earlier, the Russian Orthodox Bishop Vadim of Irkutsk and Angarsk told reporters that a cathedral will be built at the site of the airplane tragedy. According to Interfax-Eurasia, the new church will not be the first religious structure in Irkutsk built for victims of an airplane crash. A chapel for was built in 1999 at the place of the crash of An-124, which landed the previous year on top of a residence killing more than 70 people. JAC

NEW MOVES AGAINST EKHO MOSKVY, MEDIA-MOST

Most managers and many journalists at Ekho Moskvy said on 5 July that they will resign after a Russian court the day before gave control of the station to Gazprom-Media, Russian and Western agencies reported. "As of today, we are a state-run company," Ekho Moskvy's deputy chief editor Irina Tsvei said. But Gazprom-Media officials said that its moves were strictly a question of business and that it plans to sell the journalists a share of its holdings in the company so that the journalists rather than Gazprom-Media will in fact control the independent station. Ekho Moskvy managers expressed skepticism at this offer. Then, on 6 July, the Office of the Prosecutor General seized the building which houses the offices of embattled media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky's Media-MOST. They also confiscated other Media-MOST property, including Gusinsky's Mercedes limousine. In another media-related development, AST, the satellite news broadcaster, announced on 5 July because of debts it will cease broadcasting as of 9 July, Interfax-AFI reported. PG

KASYANOV WANTS WEST TO TREAT RUSSIA AS EQUAL PARTNER

During his visit to Austria, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov repeatedly said that Moscow wants the West to treat Russia as an equal partner rather than as a country that needs special concessions, "Vremya novostei" reported on 4 July. Kasyanov called on Western investors to support Russia's efforts to join the World Trade Organization and criticized Western politicians who he said are creating obstacles to Russia's membership of that organization, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 July. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said that the Russian leadership will seek to have Russia dropped from the G-7-maintained "black list" of countries that are not doing enough to fight money laundering, Interfax-AFI reported on 4 July. PG

CABINET APPROVES PROGRAMS ON SOUTH, COMMUNAL SERVICES

The cabinet on 5 July approved a program for the Russian south over the next five years as part of an effort to reduce social tensions there and promote economic growth, ITAR-TASS reported. On the same day, the cabinet approved a new model for the functioning of communal services that calls for the government to provide funds to residents' groups who will then pay for services, Interfax reported. PG

INTERIOR MINISTRY RESTRUCTURED

In accordance with a decree signed by Putin on 4 July, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov has restructured his agency and begun appointing new people to it, Russian agencies reported the same day. "Vremya MN" the next day suggested that Gryzlov cleaned house to "forestall any potential problems" with his new subordinates. PG

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ANNULS 2000 AMNESTY

The Constitutional Court has ruled that the Duma exceeded its authority in declaring and then rescinding an amnesty in connection with the 55th anniversary of the victory in World War II, "Vremya novostei" reported on 6 July. The court added that the amnesty and then its revocation by the Duma violated the equal protection provisions of the Russian constitution. PG

FEDERATION COUNCIL CHAIRMAN NOW SAYS FACTIONS OK

Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev told Interfax on 3 July that he sees nothing wrong with members of his chamber organizing themselves into factions. Stroev earlier had opposed the formation of factions within the council as a violation of the council's statutes. PG

DUMA APPROVES KEY REFORM MEASURES

The Duma on 6 July approved on third reading by a vote of 343 to 37 a bill banning foreigners from owning a controlling interest in national television stations, Russian and Western agencies reported. Prior to passage, provisions that would have imposed more extensive limits on foreign ownership in Russian media were dropped. Deputies voted on 5 July 247 to 38 on second and third reading for a measure that will reduce the number of heads of federation subjects who can seek reelection from 69 to 10. Also on 5 July, the deputies on 5 July passed on first reading the Labor Code by a vote of 288 to 133 with one abstention, despite communist-led protests outside the chamber. They approved on second reading 237 to 43 a bill intended to combat money laundering. And they approved on third reading a measure reducing the tax on corporate profits from 35 percent to 24 percent. The deputies did not take up discussion of draft legislation on combating extremism and do not appear likely to take up the controversial land code until the fall, Interfax reported on 6 July. PG

OTHER DUMA ACTIONS

In other actions, the Duma on 4 July voted 242 to three for a non-binding appeal to Putin calling on Russia to use its veto in the United Nations Security Council to block any toughening of sanctions against Iraq, Russian and Western agencies reported. The deputies ratified the Collective Security Accord with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan by a vote of 399 to one with one abstention on the same day. They also approved that day an accord on visa-free travel between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan by a vote of 358 to 15, with two abstentions. And they voted 337 to one for an appeal to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to restore its ties with Belarus, Interfax reported on 4 July. The deputies also approved on second reading a measure increasing charges for the use of water, approved on third reading a measure regulating alcohol production, backed on second reading a measure on the distribution of revenues from natural resources between Moscow and the federation subjects, and voted 262 to one for a non-binding request to Putin not to block Moscow streets with his motorcade. PG

UNITY-FATHERLAND UNION TO HAVE CO-PRESIDENTS

The coordinating council of Unity and Fatherland announced that their joint movement will have two co-presidents, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, Interfax reported on 5 July. The two groups will hold a joint congress on 12 July. PG

BOTH UNITY AND COMMUNISTS GAIN A DEPUTY

Aleksei Aleksandrov, a former Fatherland-All-Russia deputy, has joined the Unity faction in the Duma, bringing Unity's total there to 83, Interfax reported on 5 July. Meanwhile, a by-election in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug added one additional deputy to the communist faction in the lower house of parliament, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 3 July. The communist faction now totals 85. PG

INFLATION TOPS 12 PERCENT IN FIRST HALF OF 2001

The rate of inflation in June was 1.6 percent, bringing the total for the first six months of 2001 to 12.7 percent, more than the figure the government budget projected for the entire year, Russian agencies reported on 5 July. PG

MOSCOW WANTS ALL NUCLEAR POWERS TO CUT ARMS

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko told Interfax on 6 July that Moscow wants all five declared nuclear power to reduce the total number of their nuclear weapons to 4000 by 2008. Russia and the U.S. would each have 1500 warheads under this proposal. At present there are approximately 14,000 warheads in the arsenals of the five countries. Yakovenko said that Putin discussed this idea with French President Jacques Chirac during the latter's visit to Moscow last week. PG

MOSCOW REJECTS OSCE CALL FOR TALKS WITH CHECHEN LEADERS

Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told ITAR-TASS on 6 July that a proposal by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for a political dialogue between Moscow and Chechen leaders is unacceptable. He said that "there is no other way but for the militants to surrender arms, give themselves up to the court, repent for what they have done, and then await judgment." PG

PUTIN SENDS GREETINGS TO U.S., BUSH

Putin on 4 July sent an Independence Greeting to U.S. President George W. Bush on the occasion of American Independence Day, Russian and Western agencies reported. Putin said that he looks forward "with optimism" to developing ties between Moscow and Washington. Two days later, he sent a personal greeting to Bush on the latter's 55th birthday. PG

MOSCOW TO SEEK NEW ACCORD WITH U.S. ON BERING SEA

Yevgenii Nazdratenko, the head of the State Fishing Committee, said on 6 July that Moscow intends to reopen talks with the United States on the division between Russia and the U.S. of the economic zones in the Bering Sea, Interfax reported. Nazdratenko said that the 1991 agreement, which neither side has ratified, has lost any legal force and in any case gives the U.S. a disproportionate share of the area. PG

CHIRAC SAYS YELTSIN GAVE RUSSIA DEMOCRACY, PUTIN PUSHES ECONOMIC REFORM

In a speech to Moscow State University on 2 July, French President Jacques Chirac said that Boris Yeltsin brought Russia democracy and his successor Putin is now bringing Russia economic reform, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

DUMA-PASSED LAW ON TERRITORIAL CHANGE SAID FRIGHTENING CIS COUNTRIES

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 July, the provisions of the Duma-passed law allowing Russia to incorporate either all or part of other countries are disturbing some of Russia's partners in the Commonwealth of Independent States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2001). Some of these countries view the measure as a means of putting pressure on them to follow Moscow's lead or face disintegration, the article suggested. These countries may also be concerned by Moscow's plans to promote Russian language use among their citizens, two other articles in the same issue of the same paper reported. PG

RUSSIA ARRESTS TAJIK OPPPOSITION EDITOR

At the request of the Tajik government, police at Moscow's Sheremetevo airport arrested Dododzhon Atovullo, the editor of the Tajik opposition newspaper "Charoghi Ruz," on 5 July, Russian agencies reported the following day. Judicial authorities are considering Dushanbe's request that he be extradited to face charges there. Atovullo publishes his Tajik-language paper in Moscow. He also works as a correspondent of "Novye izvestiya." Also on 6 July, the Union of Journalists of Russia released a statement protesting Atovullo's arrest and arguing that he may not be legally extradited to Tajikistan without a court order. PG/LF

NEW FIGURES ON RUSSIAN LOSSES IN NORTH CAUCASUS

Citing unnamed officials in the security services, Interfax on 6 July said that Russian forces have lost 3,433 dead and 10,160 wounded since 2 August 1999 in the North Caucasus campaign. It said that 2,036 of the dead were defense ministry soldiers, while 1,397 were militiamen and interior troops. PG

TATARSTAN PARLIAMENT HEAD SAYS POWER-SHARING TREATY HAS LONG FUTURE...

Farid Mukhametshin, the head of the Tatarstan parliament, told Interfax on 4 July that he is convinced that all press commentary notwithstanding, the power-sharing treaty between Moscow and Kazan will remain in force for a long time to come. He categorically rejected suggestions that it will soon be "annulled." PG

...BUT FOUR REGIONS IN VOLGA AREA MAY OPT OUT OF THEM

The governors of Perm, Ulyanovsk, and Nizhnii Novgorod oblasts and the president of Mari El signed decrees on 7 July calling for the annulment of their power-sharing accords their federation subjects have with Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. The decrees must be approved by regional legislative assemblies. PG

RUSSIAN SCHOOL ENROLLMENTS SEEN FALLING 30 PERCENT BY 2010

According to a working commission of the State Council, total enrollment in Russian schools in 2008-2010 will be 30 percent lower than it was in 1999, Interfax reported on 3 July. The commission said this reflects the country's demographic difficulties. The commission also noted that half of all Russian schools lack basic services, including central heating and lunchrooms, and that there is only one computer for every 500 students in Russian schools. Moreover, less than one school in 50 is connected to the Internet. To remedy the situation, the commission has decided that the federal government is to assume full responsibility for financing the educational system, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. On 5 July, Prime Minister Kasyanov announced that the federal program "Electronic Russia" will seek to dramatically expand computer use by Russians over the next five year, Russian news agencies reported. PG

HALF OF ALL CRIMES IN RUSSIA REMAIN UNREGISTERED

In an article published in "Vremya MN" on 6 July, Lev Ivanov, an advisor to one of the members of the Constitutional Court, said that efforts by the police to make themselves look effective have created a situation in which the police register only half of all crimes committed. Ivanov said that there were approximately 22 million crimes committed in Russia in 2000, but only 11 million were included in police reports. PG

MOSCOW NOW 13TH MOST EXPENSIVE CITY IN THE WORLD

Moscow is now the 13th most expensive city in which to live, Interfax-Europe reported on 6 July, citing an Economist Intelligence Unit list of the most costly places to live. Tokyo leads the list, and New York is in seventh place. PG

YAROSLAVL RESIDENTS PROTEST CONSTRUCTION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESS TEMPLE

Residents of Tutaeva in Yaroslavl Oblast on 4 July demonstrated against the provision of land for the construction of a Jehovah's Witness temple, Interfax-Northwest reported. PG

JOURNALIST SAYS RUSSIAN ARMY KILLED HER CHECHEN SOURCES

Anna Politkovskaya, a reporter for "Novaya gazeta," said in that newspaper's 1 July issue that Chechens who "spoke openly to me, ignoring any possible consequences, are not alive any more," "The Moscow Times" reported on 4 July. She named 15 informants who have been killed since April either by uniformed soldiers or masked attackers, and said that other Chechens who provided her with information have disappeared. PG

MIRONOV WANTS HUMAN RIGHTS COURSES IN ARMY

Human rights ombudsman Oleg Mironov has asked Prime Minister Kasyanov to help develop a program to provide training in human rights law for soldiers, Interfax reported on 3 July. Mironov said that many of the violations of human rights in Chechnya reflect soldiers' inadequate understanding of human rights. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY ACKNOWLEDGES HIS FATHER WAS JEWISH

In an interview on a Russian-language station in Israel, Duma deputy speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky acknowledged for the first time that his father was Jewish, "The Electronic Telegraph" reported on 4 July. At a press conference on 3 July, Zhirinovsky said that the United States is working to prepare a revolution in Russia by 2017, Interfax reported. In an interview published in "Rossiya" on 5 July, Zhirinovsky said that "democracy will be the death of Russia." And on 6 July, Zhirinovsky called for the abolition of Russia's Central Election Commission, Interfax reported. PG

NO REHABILITATION FOR GENERAL VLASOV

Major General Valerii Kondratov, the chief of the Main Military Prosecutor's Administration for Rehabilitation, told Interfax on 6 July that his agency has rejected an application the rehabilitation of former Soviet General Andrei Vlasov, who led the anti-Soviet Russian Liberation Army during World War II. Kondratov said that the judicial finding against Vlasov and 11 of his comrades in arms at the end of the war was entirely justified. PG

MOSCOW PLANS TO STORE NUCLEAR WASTES ON NOVAYA ZEMLYA

Russian atomic energy officials said on 5 July in Severodvinsk that Moscow will soon complete storage facilities on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago to hold nuclear wastes, Interfax-Northwest reported. PG

A FLURRY OF POLL RESULTS

Eighty percent of Russians believe that the death penalty is appropriate for some crimes, according to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 5 July. The same agency also found that 77 percent of Russians do not condemn those of their compatriots who have left to live in other countries. Meanwhile, according to a poll conducted by monitoring.ru and reported by Interfax on 4 July, only 20 percent of Russians said that they would prefer to return to Soviet socialism, with 48 percent saying they back more reforms. That polling agency also found that 82 percent of Russians would like to have advertising limited on television and in the mass media. A VTsIOM poll found that 69 percent of Russians believe that state funds should be spent in the first instance on health rather than defense or culture, Interfax reported on 3 July. That agency also found that 62 percent of Russians back the idea of money bounties to be paid to those who capture or kill Chechen militants, the news agency said. PG

LOCUST THREAT RECEDES IN SOUTH, INCREASES IN SIBERIA

Viktor Kazantsev, presidential envoy to the South Russia Federal district, said in Moscow on 5 July that the threat from locusts in his region has ended, Interfax reported. But DPA reported that the locusts are now swarming in southern Siberia near Irkutsk. PG

NO STOP LIGHTS IN ST. PETERSBURG?

Lenergo plans to stop power to street signs in the northern capital as part of its effort to force local officials to pay power bills, Interfax reported on 5 July. Meanwhile, residents elsewhere in Leningrad Oblast on 3 July blocked highways to protest power shutoffs in their areas. PG

FAMILY PLANNING ADVOCATES HIT LEGAL SNAG

Family planning advocates in Russia have run into a legal prohibition against the free distribution of condoms, Interfax reported on 6 July. Health officials said that condoms fall under the category of a medicine subject to licensing and that the process of gaining a license is "very complex." PG

A NEW SEARCH FOR THE ROMANOV 'BILLIONS'

The Russian Culture Ministry has launched an investigation into reports that "tens of billions of dollars" in gems and other valuables were hidden by members of the Imperial family just before the revolution in St. Petersburg, Interfax-Northwest reported on 3 July. PG

METAL THIEVES TURN TO TELEPHONE LINES

Criminals hoping to raise money by selling scrap metal have begun stealing telephone lines in Khabarovsk, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 5 July. Since the start of 2001, the news service said, thieves have inflicted some five million rubles ($160,000) in damages to the phone system there. PG

'WHY DID THE DINOSAURS DIE OUT?'

In a competition sponsored jointly by the Education Ministry and Gazprom, schoolchildren were asked to answer the question "why pay for gas?" Reuters reported on 3 June. The winning entrance featured a picture of a green brontosaurus huddled in the cold and a poem including the words "Why did the dinosaurs die out?/ It's a difficult question for us./But we managed to find out the answer:/It's 'cause they didn't pay for their gas." PG

HITMAN WHO OFFERED HIS SERVICES ON INTERNET ARRESTED

A Russian hitman offering "assisted death, possibly without the agreement of the patient" has been arrested by undercover police, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 July. PG

PUTIN MEETS WITH OLIGARCH/GOVERNOR ABRAMOVICH

President Putin held a previously unscheduled meeting in Moscow with Chukotka Governor Roman Abramovich on 4 July, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. According to the daily, the official reason for the meeting was that the president wanted to discuss preparation with Abramovich for a future visit of French ethnographers to Chukotka. (French President Jacques Chirac recently completed a visit to Russia.) Unofficially, Putin also wanted to discuss Abramovich's recent acquisition of shares in Aeroflot, the withdrawal of profits from Sibneft, and the criminal case against former Aeroflot executive Nikolai Glushkov. According to Interfax, in addition to the 2003 visit of French ethnographers to Chukotka, Putin and Abramovich also discussed preparation for winter in Chukotka and the organization of summer trips for the region's children. JAC

DON COSSACKS PROTEST LAND SALES

In Rostov-na-Donu, some 300 Don Cossacks participated in a protest on 7 July against the sale of land in Russia, RFE/RL's Rostov correspondent reported. The Cossacks marched through the center of town carrying signs saying "Shame on the people's elected officials for selling the Motherland's land!" The State Duma recently passed a draft Land Code in its first reading, prompting objections from some regional level officials (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 27 June 2001). JAC

KASYANOV ORDERS CHECK OF FAR EASTERN REGION'S FINANCES

Following his return from a recent trip to Primorskii Krai, Prime Minister Kasyanov ordered the federal Finance Ministry to conduct a unplanned audit of the krai's budget for the first half of 2001, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 5 July. According to the press service of the krai administration, Kasyanov's order came in response to a request from newly-elected Governor Sergei Darkin. JAC




CABINET RESHUFFLE UNDERWAY IN ARMENIA

Armenian President Robert Kocharian on 6 July launched a widely anticipated cabinet reshuffle with an exchange of posts between Minister for State Revenues Andranik Markarian and Minister of Transport and Communications Yervand Zakharian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Manukian was named as tax minister late last year and has succeeded in improving revenue collection, but his relations with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian are believed to have deteriorated in recent weeks. Kocharian had praised Manukian three months ago and rejected rumors of his imminent dismissal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 2001). Changes are anticipated at the head of the environment, education and agriculture ministries. But Kocharian told journalists on 7 July that he has not yet discussed the possibility of replacing the ministers of defense, internal affairs or national security. Galust Sahakian, leader of the Republican Party of Armenia parliament faction, said the new appointments are part of an attempt "to improve the system of governance before big systemic changes." LF

IMF APPROVES NEW THREE-YEAR LOAN PROGRAM FOR AZERBAIJAN

The IMF on 2 July approved a three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility loan worth approximately $100 million to Azerbaijan, according to an IMF press release dated the same day. Announcing that decision, IMF Acting Chairman Stanley Fischer noted Azerbaijan's strong economic growth and low inflation in recent years, but also underscored the need for sustained growth other than in the oil sector, structural reforms, improved governance, transparency in transactions concerning the state Oil Fund, and the abolition of subsidies to the inefficient energy sector. LF

NO PROGRESS ON RUSSIAN WITHDRAWAL FROM GEORGIAN MILITARY BASE

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin traveled to Sukhum on 4 July, but apparently failed in two days of talks to persuade the Abkhaz leadership to abandon its objections to the withdrawal of the remaining Russian troops and military equipment from the Gudauta military base, Caucasus Press reported. Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said on local television on 4 July that Sukhum would do so only if its interests are taken into consideration and alternative security guarantees are provided. He also argued that the problem should be resolved by means of trilateral talks between Abkhazia, Georgia and Russia, and approach that Georgia categorically rejects. Also on 4 July, Caucasus Press quoted an unidentified Russian Defense Ministry official as rejecting as logistically impossible Georgian Defense Minister Temur Loria's suggestion that the Russian materiel be airlifted out the Gudauta base to circumvent the ongoing picket by local residents. LF

KAZAKHSTAN, TURKMENISTAN AGREE ON BORDERS, OIL EXPORT TARIFFS

During a two-day official visit to Kazakhstan on 5-6 July by Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, he and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbaev signed a treaty on the delimitation and demarcation of their countries' 450 kilometer common border and a treaty on economic cooperation from 2001-2010, Interfax reported. Niyazov told journalists after his talks with Nazarbaev on 5 July that they also reached agreement on the tariffs for the export to Iran via Turkmenistan of Kazakh oil. Interfax on 30 June had quoted Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov as telling journalists on 30 June that the price Ashgabat demands for such exports is too high. The two presidents also discussed exporting Turkmen gas to China via Kazakhstan, which would necessitate construction of a 300 km pipeline from Almaty to the Chinese border. Niyazov congratulated his host on the latter's 61st birthday on 6 July, promising him the gift of a purebred Akhal-tekke horse. LF

$190 MILLION RETURNED IN KAZAKH CAPITAL AMNESTY

National Bank chairman Grigorii Marchenko told journalists on 8 July that some 28 billion tenges ($190 million) in shadow capital has been returned to Kazakh banks from abroad since the start of the capital amnesty on 14 June, Interfax reported. That is more than double the amount returned by late June, but still less than officials calculated would be repatriated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2001). The National Bank initially predicted that the total returned would be some $300 million, while Marchenko said it could be as much as $500 million. Marchenko said some 1,150 citizens of Kazakhstan have profited so far from the amnesty, which expires on 13 July. Minister for State Revenues Zeinulla Kakimzhanov told journalists on 6 July that he too intends to do so, as while still a businessman he evaded taxes by transferring abroad an unspecified amount of cash, Reuters reported. LF

KAZAKHSTAN PLANS FREE ECONOMIC ZONE

President Nazarbaev has signed a decree providing for the opening by 2007 of a free trade zone in the capital, Astana, Interfax reported on 3 July. The following day, a senior official in the Caspian port of Aqtau said that in its fall session the Kazakh parliament will debate a draft bill establishing a free trade zone in Aqtau by the end of this year. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT APPROVES PRIVATIZATION CONCEPT...

The People's Assembly (the upper chamber of parliament) on 3 July approved a three year concept for the denationalization of state-owned property, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. That plan outlines the categories of enterprises to be sold, the timeframe for doing so, and the mode of privatization to be used, according to Interfax. Among the major companies to be sold are the state airline and Kyrgyztelecom. LF

...AMENDS STRATEGY FOR ENERGY PRIVATIZATION...

On 4 July, the People's Assembly amended the law on privatization of the state-owned energy giant KyrgyzEnergo which it had earlier rejected, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 18 June 2001). That company will be divided into several joint-stock companies that will be sold separately, and the state will retain control of 90 percent of shares in hydro-electric power stations and high voltage power lines. Zhanysh Rustembekov, chairman of the parliament committee for industrial and business development strategy, told Interfax that the planned privatization could result in increased electricity tariffs by the fall of this year. LF

...AND DECIDES AGAINST SELF-DISSOLUTION...

Also on 4 July, the majority of deputies to the People's Assembly rejected a proposal by two opposition deputies that the parliament should dissolve itself rather than serve as a branch of the executive that automatically approves decisions by the president or government, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Communist deputy Iskhak Masaliev, who failed the mandatory Kyrgyz language test and was barred last year from contesting the presidency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2000) told RFE/RL that the leadership "needs a political enemy," and that in view of its recent opposition to the privatization programs and to the border agreements signed with China in 1996 and 1999, the parliament currently fulfills that role. LF

...AS LEADERSHIP FLOATS IDEA OF NEW REFERENDUM

Omurbek Tekebaev, who resigned earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 20 April and 30 May 2001) as speaker of the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of parliament), told RFE/RL on 4 July that the Kyrgyz authorities are testing public opinion with the objective of holding a referendum this fall on combining the two chambers of parliament and extending the presidential term from five to seven years. Youth Party Chairman Aidar Bakiev had told RFE/RL on 4 July that his party is in favor of doing so. Incumbent President Askar Akaev was re-elected to a third five year term in October 2000. LF

TAJIK OFFICIALS AGAIN CLAIM TO HAVE NEUTRALIZED FORMER OPPOSITIONISTS

A Tajik Interior Ministry official said on 7 July that interior ministry troops have finally killed or captured the remaining supporters of former field commander Rakhmon Sanginov, who fled Dushanbe amid heavy fighting after abducting and then releasing several hostages last month, AP reported. The Interior Ministry had claimed 10 days earlier that the operation to round up those fighters had been successfully completed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 June 2001). Forty-one of Sanginov's men were reported killed and 60 captured, of whom 22 have been charged with banditry and membership of illegal armed formations. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT FIRES FOREIGN MINISTER

President Niyazov on 7 July dismissed Batyr Berdyev from the post of foreign minister because of unspecified failures in his work, Reuters and Interfax reported. Berdyev had held that post for less than one year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July and 1 August 2000). Niyazov named parliament chairman Rashid Meredov to succeed Berdyev as foreign minister, while former Oil and Gas Minister Redjepbai Arazov was appointed the new parliament chairman. LF

UZBEK HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST DIES IN DETENTION

The family of human rights activist and former parliament deputy Shovriq Ruzimorodov was informed on 7 July of his death in detention. He is believed to have been tortured. Ruzimorodov was detained by police on 15 June at his home in Kashkadarya Oblast. Police claimed to have found ammunition and leaflets propagating the banned Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir party during a subsequent search of his home. LF




SERIOUS RIVAL TO LUKASHENKA QUITS PRESIDENTIAL RACE

Natalya Masherava, daughter of Belarus's Soviet-era communist leader Pyotr Masherau, withdrew from the presidential race last week. Masherava told Belapan on 5 July that she quit the race because "many provisions in the election law impede the holding of fair elections." Meanwhile, Andrey Khmyalnitski, head of the group collecting signatures in Masherava's support, told the agency the same day that Masherava's decision was "completely surprising" for him. According to Khmyalnitski, his group had already collected 50,000 signatures in Masherava's support out of the 100,000 required for her registration as a presidential candidate. Some politicians suggested that Masherava quit the race under pressure from the administration of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The NISEPI polling center found in a recent poll that Masherava is backed by 17 percent of voters, as is former Premier Mikhail Chyhir. Lukashenka topped the rating with 44 percent support. JM

WHERE IS ORT CAMERAMAN DZMITRY ZAVADSKI?

Some 300 Belarusian journalists signed a letter to Belarus's Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau and Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman requesting information about the whereabouts of ORT cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski. The letter was passed to the two officials on 7 July, the first anniversary of Zavadski's disappearance at the Minsk airport, Belapan reported. Last month, two former Belarusian investigators accused top state officials, including Sheyman, of organizing a "death squad" and killing political opponents of the regime (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 June 2001). The same day in Minsk, police arrested seven participants in pickets staged to mark the anniversary of Zavadski's disappearance. JM

BELARUSIAN DIASPORA HOLDS CONGRESS IN MINSK

More than 200 representatives of the Belarusian Diaspora held a congress in Minsk on 5-6 July and adopted a document named "The Belarusian Community Abroad in the 21st Century," Belapan reported. In particular, the document notes that the Belarusian government has neglected contacts with Belarusians living outside the Republic of Belarus. JM

UKRAINE, TAJIKISTAN SIGN A DOZEN COOPERATION ACCORDS

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his Tajik counterpart Imomali Rakhmonov on 6 July signed 12 documents on bilateral cooperation in economy, trade, and science, including a friendship treaty, Interfax reported. The presidents also decided to create a joint economic commission. Kuchma said Ukraine is ready to develop Tajikistan's rich natural deposits, while Rakhmonov noted that Tajikistan is interested in cooperation in the energy, agricultural, and aluminum industry sectors. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VETOES ELECTION LAW, FOR THE THIRD TIME

Leonid Kuchma has vetoed a bill stipulating the election of 335 parliamentary deputies under the proportional party-list system and 115 in single-mandate constituencies, Interfax reported on 5 July. It was Kuchma's third veto of the parliament's attempts to amend the current election law, which calls for electing 225 deputies from party lists and 225 deputies in single-mandate constituencies. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APROVES AMNESTY FOR 35,000 CONVICTS

The parliament on 5 July passed an amnesty bill providing for the release of some 35,000 convicts from prison, Interfax reported. The bill, which applies mainly to women and those convicted of non-violent crimes, was adopted ahead of the 10th anniversary of Ukraine's declaration of independence on 24 August. According to official data, there are some 227,000 prisoners in Ukraine. JM

NATO-SPONSORED NAVAL EXERCISE TAKES PLACE IN UKRAINE

Some 1,500 officers from 12 countries on 6 July started a NATO-sponsored exercise "Sea Breeze 2001" in the Black Sea port of Odesa, AP reported. The exercise will continue until 16 July and include three stages of computerized, sea and coastal training involving seven Ukrainian vessels, a U.S. Coast Guard ship and a Turkish landing ship, as well as military planes and helicopters. Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, who visited Kyiv last week, said Ukraine and the alliance have made progress in bilateral relations. JM

UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST BEATEN TO DEATH

Ihor Aleksandrov, director of a television station in Slavyansk (Donetsk Oblast), died on 7 July after being beaten with baseball bats by unknown assailants four days earlier, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. In 1998, a local court sentenced Aleksandrov to two years in prison and banned him from working as a journalist for five years for violating laws on campaign coverage. Last year Aleksandrov was acquitted after a legal battle that included taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. JM

ESTONIA'S INFLATION RISES BY 0.2 PERCENT IN JUNE

The Statistical Office announced on 6 July that the consumer price index increased by 0.2 percent in June compared to May and 6.9 percent compared to June 2000, ETA reported. The price of goods grew by 0.7 percent (food products by 0.9 percent and industrial goods by 0.4 percent) in June, while the price of services fell by 0.6 percent. The Finance Ministry said that higher inflation rates should be expected in the next months as dairy products will become more expensive from July due to greater export quotas to the EU, and higher tobacco excise taxes will push up the price of tobacco products. The Bank of Estonia, on the other hand, declared that the stabilization of inflation in June indicated lower inflation in the future because inflation in the EU apparently passed its peak in May and outside pressure will therefore decline. The Bank expects the annual inflation rate to remain below 6 percent. SG

BELGIUM WILL BE LATVIA'S ADVOCATE IN EU ENLARGEMENT PROCESS

Belgian Ambassador to Latvia Louis Engelen told a press conference in Riga on 6 July that European Union enlargement will be one of the priorities in Belgium's presidency of the EU in the second half of the year, and that like Sweden, Belgium will support Latvia's accession to the EU, LETA reported. He admitted that Belgium will have more difficulties in carrying out this role since Sweden had the advantage of Latvia opening many negotiations chapters during its term. Engelen said that he hopes that at least ten chapters could be closed during the Belgian presidency, a highly optimistic forecast considering that Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins earlier that day had told him that Latvia hopes to close eight chapters by the end of the year. SG

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT APPROVES NEW CABINET

Valdas Adamkus signed a decree on 5 July confirming the composition of the new cabinet to be headed by Social Democratic Party (LSDP) Chairman Algirdas Brazauskas, BNS reported. The six ministers who had been delegated to the previous government by the New Union (Social Liberals) remain in the cabinet, five in the same posts: Antanas Valionis (Foreign Affairs), Algirdas Monkevicius (Education and Science), Vilija Blinkeviciute (Social Security and Labor), Kestutis Kristinaitis (Agriculture), and Romualdas Dobrovolskis (Health Care), while Vytautas Markevicius shifted from Internal Affairs to Justice Minister. Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius also retained his portfolio, even though he had previously been chosen by the Liberals. The three new ministers from the LSDP are also parliament deputies: Juozas Bernatonis (Interior), Roma Dovydeniene (Culture), and Zigmas Balcytis (Transport and Communications). The three remaining ministers do not belong to any party: Lithuanian Industrialists Confederation Vice President Petras Cesna (Economy), former Deputy Foreign Minister Dalia Grybauskaite (Finance), and Arunas Kundrotas (Environment). SG

POLISH PREMIER SACKS JUSTICE MINISTER...

Jerzy Buzek on 4 July fired Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski after a public row over the role of the State Protection Office (UOP) in a fraud probe conducted under Kaczynski's supervision. Last month prosecutors arrested a UOP senior official, alleging that he was hampering their investigation. Buzek took the side of the arrested officer, while Kaczynski accused the premier of supporting activities "questioning the principle of legality," PAP reported. "It is absolutely inadmissible for a minister to falsely accuse his prime minister of support for activities questioning the principle of legality," Buzek wrote in an official justification of Kaczynski's dismissal. Buzek nominated Stanislaw Iwanicki as new justice minister. Minister of Culture Kazimierz Ujazdowski resigned his post, saying he does not agree with Kaczynski's dismissal. JM

...SUSPENDS DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER

Premier Jerzy Buzek on 7 July suspended Deputy Defense Minister Romuald Szeremietiew on suspicion of corruption, Polish media reported. The suspension followed a front-page article in the leading daily "Rzeczpospolita" accusing an aide of Szeremietiew of soliciting bribes from companies trying to sell military hardware to Poland. "Those are serious charges. I always treat such information seriously [and] always verify it," PAP quoted Buzek as saying. Szeremietiew rejected the allegations of corruption, saying they were intended "to paralyze" a tender by the Defense Ministry to buy multi-role planes for the country's armed forces. JM

POLISH TREASURY MINISTER SURVIVES VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE

Treasury Minister Aldona Kamela-Sowinska on 6 July survived a vote of no confidence in the Sejm, PAP reported. The motion to oust her was supported by 206 deputies, while the required majority to dismiss a minister is 231 votes. The parliament also rejected motions to indict Premier Buzek and Finance Minister Jaroslaw Bauc before the State Tribunal. The motions were proposed by deputies from the opposition Democratic Left Alliance, who blamed both officials for having not presented a 2001 draft budget before the constitutional deadline of 30 September last year. JM

POLISH COURT CONVICTS FORMER NAZI CAMP INMATE OF GENOCIDE

The regional court in Konin, western Poland, convicted 78-year-old Henryk Mania, a former inmate of the Nazi concentration camp at Chelmno, to eight years in prison for helping the Nazis to exterminate mainly Jewish prisoners at the camp in 1941-43, Polish media reported. Investigators from the National Remembrance Institute, who instigated the case against Mania, gathered evidence showing that Mania took part in beating prisoners, stripping them, and herding them into mobile gas chambers. JM

CZECH PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION ISSUES CRITICAL REPORT

An investigation commission set up by the Chamber of Deputies ruled on 3 July that the June 2000 sale of the trouble-ridden Investicni a Postovni banka (IPB) to the Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka (CSOB) was disadvantageous to the state and caused losses of "dozens of billions of crowns," CTK reported. The commission says former Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik bears most of the responsibility. It also recommended that the lower house call on the government to change the contract with the CSOB or go to court if the CSOB refuses to do so. ODS parliamentary group Chairman Vlastimil Tlusty said police should open an investigation into the deal. Prime Minister Milos Zeman said in reaction that he will ask the cabinet and the Finance Ministry to declassify all documents on the government's decision to impose "enforced administration" on the IPB and the subsequent decision to sell the bank to the CSOB, saying these measures had "prevented an economic earthquake." MS

REPORT SAYS AIDE TO CZECH PREMIER ADMITS TIES TO CORRUPT CONSTRUCTION COMPANY

Miroslav Slouf, a top aide to Premier Zeman, has admitted ties to the bankrupt H-System company, whose executives allegedly cheated clients and later became the targets of letter bombs, dpa reported on 4 July, citing the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes." The daily obtained a report on the investigation carried out by police into the affair. It cites Slouf as telling police, "I cannot exclude that in some cases I recommended H-Systems as builder of family houses." Slouf said in reaction that he "cannot understand" how the daily "can have access to police records in a law-abiding state." He refused to explain to CTK the nature of his relations with H-Systems and said the journalists who reported on the investigation had indulged in "manipulation of facts, taking things out of context and misleading commentaries." MS

CZECH OFFICIAL TO BE 'SUSPENDED' FROM FIGHTER TENDER COMMISSION

Jaroslav Strouhal, the head of the Finance Ministry's defense and security financing department, will be "suspended" from the commission that evaluates the bids submitted for the tender for purchasing supersonic flights, First Deputy Defense Minister Stefan Fuele told CTK on 3 July. On the same day, the daily "Lidove noviny" reported that during the recent Paris air show, Strouhal held unauthorized talks with representatives of the only remaining bidder in the tender, the BAE Systems company, which submitted a joint bid with the Swedish Saab. MS

HUNGARIAN PARTY IN SLOVAKIA 'TEMPORARILY WITHDRAWS' FROM RULING COALITION...

The Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) on 5 July decided to "temporarily withdraw" from the ruling coalition, pending a final decision by its National Council, which is to meet in the second half of August, CTK and Reuters reported. The SMK's decision follows the vote in the parliament on 4 July, which approved the new Law on Local Public Administration providing for devolution of government prerogatives to the new regional entities, but established the number of the regions at eight, rather than 12, as proposed by the cabinet. The minor coalition members Party of the Democratic Left and Party of Civic Understanding joined forces with the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and the Slovak National Party in voting for keeping the existing administrative division into eight entities. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said the law as passed is "not ideal," but rejected SMK calls that he resign. MS

...WHICH MAY HINDER CONTINUATION OF REFORM

The SMK said the vote threatens governmental stability, ignores the European Charter of Regional Self-Government and was passed thanks to "the cooperation of forces united in their anti-self-government and anti-Hungarian orientation." It said the law "prevents the effective participation of minorities in public affairs." The SMK, which wanted ethnic Hungarians in southern Slovakia to be concentrated in a region where they would have constituted a majority, said the vote had "cemented" the situation that existed under the rule of "the extreme nationalist and totalitarian government of Vladimir Meciar." The SMK's withdrawal leaves the cabinet without a parliamentary majority, which observers say could hinder the continuation of reforms seen as vital for Slovakia's accession of the EU and NATO. Viktor Niznansky, government commissioner for the reform of the civil service, resigned after the vote and Deputy Premier Ivan Miklos said he was giving up the position of reform coordinator. MS

SLOVAKIA INITIATES CONSULTATIONS ON HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW

The cabinet on 3 July empowered Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jaroslav Chlebo to initiate consultations with his Hungarian counterpart Zsolt Nemeth over the Status Law approved by the Hungarian government last month, Hungarian and Romanian media reported. Mediafax cited Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Horvath Gabor as telling the daily "Magyar Hirlap" that Budapest "welcomes Bratislava's gesture" and that [unlike Romania], Slovakia "is not sending messages via the media, but has properly asked for consultations." MS

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WRITES TO ROMANIAN COUNTERPART...

Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, in a letter addressed to his Romanian counterpart Mircea Geoana, on 6 July said he is ready to come to Bucharest this week to discuss differences between the two countries over the Status Law approved by the parliament last month, MTI reported. Unidentified diplomatic sources said the visit could take place on 13 July. In his letter, Martonyi said "declarations" made during the last weeks -- presumably by EU leaders -- had demonstrated that the law is in line with accords between Hungary and the EU and with the international treaties on the protection of national minorities. On 5 July, Foreign Ministry spokesman Horvath said the letter that Geoana had addressed to Martonyi showed that Romania is abandoning the road of confrontation for a "constructive approach." Horvath also said that consultations on the law are under way with Slovakia (see above), Ukraine, and Croatia. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic told Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Ivan Baba in Belgrade on 5 July that the Yugoslav position towards the law is "not negative." MS

...AND HUNGARY SUPPORTED BY EUROPEAN CONSERVATIVES

Wilfried Martens, president of the European People's Party (EPP) -- the organization of conservative formations in the European Parliament -- on 5 July said in Budapest that the Hungarian government has "every right" to protect the 3 million ethnic Hungarians who live outside the country's borders. Martens described Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase's warning that bilateral agreements with Hungary may have to be canceled as a result of the Status Law as "absurd" and "a fairly alarming over-reaction," Hungarian media reported. On 5 July, the dailies "Magyar Hirlap" and "Nepszabadsag" quoted a spokesman for Austrian President Thomas Klestil as denying that in Salzburg last week Klestil expressed support for Romanian President Ion Iliescu's views on the Status Law. The spokesman said this was "President Iliescu's unilateral interpretation" of the discussion, which Klestil will not refute because "he is not in the habit of making public" the content of confidential one-to-one conversations. MS

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS EXPEL SIX MEMBERS

Six prominent members of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP), including Phare Funds Minister Imre Boros, Environment Minister Bela Turi-Kovacs and parliamentary group leader Peter Szentgyorgyvolgyi, were expelled from the FKGP on 3 July for "unpartylike conduct," Hungarian media reported. Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the move will not disrupt the unity of the government coalition, whose support in the parliament depends on the FKGP deputies and not on whether or not the party chooses to support specific ministers. On 5 July, FKGP General Secretary Geza Gyimothy said the party has decided to run candidates in 2002 in all 176 individual constituencies, but the list of candidates will be finalized only later this year. The ruling FIDESZ earlier broke off talks with the FKGP on running joint candidates in the wake of the scandals that rift the FKGP. MS




MACEDONIAN POLITICAL TALKS UNDERWAY

EU envoy Francois Leotard and his U.S. counterpart, James Pardew, met with President Boris Trajkovski in Skopje on 9 July, AP reported. The three men then began talks with the leaders of the political parties represented in the fractious coalition government. A Western-brokered cease-fire began at midnight on 6 July after separate government and guerrilla negotiating teams signed nearly identical texts worked out by the two envoys, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. On 6 July, Leotard and Pardew presented a draft plan for a compromise political agreement aimed at addressing ethnic Albanian demands for better representation in the country's institutions and for more linguistic rights. On 8 July, leaders of both main ethnic Albanian parties said that the plan contains nothing new and is not acceptable in its present form, Reuters reported. PM

REFUGEES RETURN HOME AMID TENSIONS IN MACEDONIA

Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski told AP on 9 July that he is concerned about reports that ethnic Albanian insurgents are gaining ground and erecting barricades in the villages they control near Tetovo. He added: "These two days are going to be crucial for solving the crisis." Elsewhere, an unnamed guerrilla commander told the news agency that the army sent "about 30 paramilitary troops dressed in civilian clothing" to attack insurgent positions near Tetovo. Nonetheless, some 4,000 refugees, mainly ethnic Albanians, have returned home since the cease-fire began. PM

KEY FOREIGN ROLE IN ENDING MACEDONIAN CRISIS

The 9 July talks are aimed at reaching a political agreement, which NATO considers a prerequisite for sending in some 3,000 troops to help collect weapons from the insurgents, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Both the government and the guerrillas would like NATO forces to deploy as soon as possible. The daily noted on 6 July that Pardew played a key role in convincing the guerrillas to agree to the cease-fire. The paper added that the important roles played by Washington and NATO in the latest developments "mean a setback" to hopes within the EU that the EU could "have its own profile" in resolving the crisis. PM

ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS CLAIM ELECTION VICTORY

Some 48 percent of the eligible voters cast their ballots on 8 July in the second round of Albanian's parliamentary elections, Reuters reported from Tirana (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 29 June 2001). The voters turned out in 44 constituencies where no one received a majority in the first round on 24 June. In the evening of 8 July, officials of the governing Socialist Party claimed victory, as they did after the first round. Officials of former President Sali Berisha's Democratic Party, including Berisha himself, accused the government of "ruining" the second round of elections in unspecified incidents of ballot rigging and intimidation of voters by uniformed police. Interior Ministry officials denied the charges. Besnik Mustafaj, the Democrats' general secretary, told AP that his party will lodge 15 complaints of "irregularities" with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Final election results are expected on 11 July. If the Socialists do not win a clear majority in the legislature, Berisha hopes to form a right-of-center coalition government. PM

CROATIA TO EXTRADITE TWO MEN TO HAGUE

The government voted on 7 July to extradite two unnamed military officers to The Hague in compliance with a request made by chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte on a recent visit to Zagreb, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Prime Minister Ivica Racan said that the government is aware of its international obligation to cooperate with the tribunal. He also stressed that Croatia wants to leave what he called the "Balkan abyss" behind. President Stipe Mesic, who is a staunch advocate of cooperation with The Hague, criticized opponents of extradition for stirring up a "psychosis." He said in a televised address on 8 July that some Croats had indeed committed "crimes" during the conflict. PM

CROATIAN POLLS SUGGESTS THAT GOVERNMENT HAS POPULAR BACKING

"Jutarnji list" published a poll on 9 July showing that a clear majority of Croats support extradition. Previous polls have indicated that right-of-center parties, veterans groups, and nationalist organizations have a firm but limited following in their opposition to extradition. They argue that Croatia fought a defensive war and that its soldiers cannot, by definition, be considered war criminals. Most of the population appears to want to put the war behind it and concentrate on social and economic issues. PM

HAS CROATIAN CONSERVATIVE LEADER'S BIG CHANCE ARRIVED?

Only one member of the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) in the government voted against extradition on 7 July, but following the vote, four out of five HSLS government members resigned, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Among them was Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic. Racan then asked for a vote of confidence from parliament "soon." It is not clear whether the HSLS intends to stay in or leave the coalition, in which it is the second strongest party. It is widely believed that HSLS leader Drazen Budisa would like at some point to leave the coalition and head a new government of centrist and conservative parties. Budisa, whom one observer described as "a man who always finishes second," is widely regarded as ambitious. Some observers suggest that, in any event, the HSLS could split over the issue of extradition. Racan's Social Democrats remain the strongest party. The People's Party (HNS), which is widely identified with Mesic, has a strong and growing electoral base. It is likely to stay with the Social Democrats. PM

MASS GRAVE FOUND OF SREBRENICA VICTIMS

Murat Hurtic, who heads a government exhumation team, told Reuters on 8 July that his workers have uncovered a mass grave of some 200 persons who fled the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre but were apparently later found and killed by Serbian forces. "This is one of the biggest findings in a single mass grave we have had so far, and, judging by documents we found in it, these are the people from Srebrenica," he said. The grave is in Liplje, near Zvornik, in eastern Bosnia. PM

BOSNIAN COURT SENTENCES MUSLIMS FOR WAR CRIMES

A Bosnian court in Mostar sentenced 10 Muslims to jail terms totaling 23.5 years on 6 July for war crimes against ethnic Croat military prisoners held captive at a local school during the 1992-1995 war, Reuters reported. The Muslims were members of the Bosnian army at the time. PM

BOSNIAN SERBS TOLD TO COOPERATE WITH HAGUE TRIBUNAL

Republika Srpska Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic held talks in The Hague with Del Ponte on 5 July, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Afterwards, Del Ponte called the Bosnian Serb position "unacceptable." Ivanic had previously denied knowing the whereabouts of prominent indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, whom Del Ponte is determined to have extradited to The Hague. She added: "Karadzic and Mladic have been at large for the past six years. This unacceptable situation must come to an end now. I will not be satisfied by hollow promises or excuses... It is a well-known fact that Ratko Mladic has been enjoying protection from members of the [Bosnian Serb army]. I demand that firm action be taken by the authorities of the Republika Srpska," AP reported. After returning to Banja Luka, Ivanic said that Del Ponte did not give him "an ultimatum," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 7 July. He added that he believes that the tribunal will soon indict Muslims and Croats for war crimes against Serbs. PM

SERBIA SENTENCES MILOSEVIC'S INTELLIGENCE CHIEF

On 6 July, a Belgrade court sentenced former intelligence chief Radomir Markovic to one year in prison for "revealing state secrets," AP reported. Three more top intelligence officials received similar sentences. Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic stressed that "all those who carried out the crimes will be held accountable." Defense attorneys charged that the trial was politically motivated. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER'S GERMAN VISIT IS ECONOMIC SUCCESS

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 5 July ended a three-day visit to Germany, during which he met with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Interior Minister Otto Schily and other officials, dpa and Romanian media reported. During the visit, contracts totaling 1 billion marks (some $429 million) were signed, including a deal in which Ruhrgas AG acquired a 28.6 percent stake in the Romanian gas distribution company Congaz SA for 12 million marks. Chancellor Schroeder praised Bucharest's efforts in advancing economic and social reform, but said more must be done to "bring political will in line with economic results" to advance Romania's EU integration. MS

ROMANIAN CAMPAIGN AGAINST HUNGARIAN LAW ENCOUNTERS DIFFICULTIES

Justice Minister Rodica Stanoiu on 8 July said that the EU Venice Commission that is examining the Romanian and Hungarian positions on the Status Law has decided to examine both the Hungarian and the Romanian proposals. Stanoiu denied that the commission has rejected Premier Nastase's proposal that the implementation of the law be suspended until Hungary becomes a member of the EU. Peter Paczolay, the head of Hungarian President Ferenc Madl's office, told the daily "Nepszabadsag" that the commission has instead accepted the Hungarian proposal to compare legislation in individual countries in support of national minorities living beyond their own borders. On 5 July, presidential counselor Corina Cretu said she was "surprised" by the MTI report that Austrian President Klestil did not back the Romanian position on the law (see Hungarian item above), saying that Klestil "listened to President Ion Iliescu's position and in no way contradicted him." MS

ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH EXPLAINS POSITION ON SECURITATE FILES

The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church on 5 July said that its opposition to including priests among officials whose collaboration with the former communist secret police must be made public reflects "the defense of the Holy Mystery of Confession," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Synod said it does not rule out that "some individual priests" may have collaborated with the Securitate but rules out the idea that collaboration extended to revealing confessions. Ion Stan, chairman of the parliamentary commission overseeing the activity of the Romanian Intelligence Service, denied that the commission has already decided on the recommendations for amending the law on accessing the files of the Securitate, saying the debates will continue on 9 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2001). On 6 July, President Iliescu said the law infringes on the constitutional principle forbidding state interference in Church affairs. MS

ROMANIA INVESTIGATES TELECOM PRIVATIZATION UNDER FORMER RULERS

Former Communications Minister Sorin Pantis, former State Property Fund chief Radu Sarbu and the former Greek director general of RomTelcom, Vassilios Tsakoniatis, were questioned by police investigators between 4 and 6 July in connection with alleged illegalities committed when RomTelcom was privatized and bought by the Greek OTE Company in 1998, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Public Authority Privatization Minister Ovidiu Musatescu had earlier questioned the legality of the deal whereby RomTelcom had paid $9 million to the U.S. Goldman-Sachs company in consultation fees, saying those fees were far too high. Sarbu denied the allegations and said the investigation is "the epitome of a political witch-hunt" launched against members of the previous administration. MS

ROMANIAN PEASANTIST LEADER RESIGNS

Andrei Marga, chairman of the extraparliamentary National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 6 July submitted his resignation, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In a letter addressed to the party's leadership, Marga said that the two conditions he stipulated when accepting the PNTCD chairmanship six months earlier -- to reconstruct the party and to have those responsible for its 2000 electoral debacle "take one step backward" -- have not been met. Among other things, Marga and his supporters wanted individual party leaders under investigation for possible illicit deals (among them Sarbu, see above) to be suspended from membership during the investigations, which the leadership as a whole refused to do. Marga nominated Deputy Chairman Vasile Lupu as his successor, but the PNTCD National Bureau decided instead that former Premier Victor Ciorbea will act as interim chairman till December 2001, when an extraordinary PNTCD congress will elect the new leadership. Lupu at first said he will withdraw from the leadership, but later announced that he refuses to recognize the legality of the bureau's decision. MS

WORLD BANK GRANTS ROMANIA LOAN

Andrew Vorkink, World Bank director for Southeastern Europe, and Finance Minister Mihai Tanasescu signed an agreement in Bucharest on 6 July on a $50 million loan to support the reform of Romania's labor and social security sectors, AP reported. Vorkink said the projects supported by the loan are aimed at helping some 100,000 jobless Romanians to attend retraining courses and to facilitate the creation of some 6,000 small businesses. Romanian Radio reported that Vorkink also met with Premier Nastase. MS

POLL SHOWS EROSION IN SUPPORT FOR ROMANIAN RULING PARTY...

A public opinion survey conducted by the Center for Urban and Rural Studies between 22 and 27 June shows the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PSD) is still far ahead in public preferences but its support is eroding, Mediafax reported. Half of the respondents said that if elections were held now, they would vote for the PSD, whereas in March 2001 56 percent had said they would do so. Support for the extremist Greater Romania Party has slightly increased, from 15 to 17 percent. Thirty-eight percent said Romania is "heading in the right direction", which is 6 percent less than in March, while the ratio of those persuaded that "the direction is wrong" increased from 39 to 46 percent. In March 2001, 57 percent believed that the government is capable of improving the situation, but only 46 percent do so now. MS

...AND REVEALS 'CIVIC' GRASP OF NATIONHOOD

Two in three Romanians (66 percent) believe that the "Romanian nation is made up by all Romanian citizens, regardless of their ethnic origin," according to the CURS poll. Eleven percent are of the opinion that the "nation" is made up by those "born from Romanian parents and speaking the Romanian language," while 17 percent say that to belong to the Romanian nation one must be born of Romanian parents and also live in Romania proper. The "civic" grasp of nationhood is however somewhat in contradiction with answers to another question included in the survey: no less than 86 percent said political parties "must defend national identity." MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ATTACKS 'STALINIST THEORY' ON MOLDOVAN LANGUAGE, PEOPLE

Romanian President Ion Iliescu on 7 July said the theory claiming that "Moldovan" is a language different from the Romanian language and the two countries' peoples are different peoples is "a Stalinist theory" and "an artificial invention of those who serve the interests of the former Soviet Union," Romanian television reported. He said the theory is aimed at the "de-nationalizing Romanians." Iliescu said Moldova is "a second Romanian state" because 65 percent of is population is "of Romanian origin." He said Bucharest does not wish to "stimulate among Romanians living outside the country's borders sentiments hostile towards the state where they live," but that it is important that "the unity of language and culture be preserved." He also said integration into the EU will bring about a "relativization of artificially created borders" leading to the "normalization of communication among people who belong to the same nation." MS

RUSSIAN STATE DUMA 'REFORMULATES' APPEAL ON JOINING RUSSIA BELARUS UNION

The Russian State Duma on 6 July agreed to reformulate an appeal to Moldova and Transdniester to join the Russia-Belarus Union, Romanian television reported on the same day. On 4 July, the Duma approved an appeal addressed to Moldova President Vladimir Voronin and to "Dniester Moldovan Republic President Igor Smirnov" urging them and their parliaments to take measures to promote the joining of the union by the "two republics." The appeal triggered angry reactions in Chisinau, where it was regarded as official recognition of Smirnov as president of an independent state. The Duma decided to remove the reference to the two presidents, but kept the formulation that makes specific separate reference to the two territorial entities, as well as that to "the peoples of the Moldovan Republic and the Transdniester." MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT LIFTS IMMUNITY OF OPPOSITION LEADER

The parliament on 4 July lifted by a vote of 63 to none the parliamentary immunity of Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Chairman Iurie Rosca, making it possible to launch criminal procedures against him, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Prosecutor-General's Office claims Rosca physically assaulted and hit a woman employed in a printing shop, after the shop failed to print his party's daily. The PPCD and the Braghis Alliance, which is the other opposition party represented in the parliament boycotted the vote in protest against what Rosca claims are trumped-up politically motivated charges. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER: VORONIN MAY BECOME BOTH PREMIER AND PRESIDENT

In an interview with the Ukrainian daily "Deni" on 6 July, Parliamentary Speaker Evgenia Ostapciuc said it "cannot be ruled out" that President Voronin will decide to take over the premiership in addition to his current presidential functions, Infotag and Flux reported. In the longer term, she said, Voronin might decide to renounce the presidential position altogether. The possibility of unifying the two positions in one person "figures high now" on the agenda of the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM), she said. Ostapciuc also said that many PCM members want the Lenin monuments in Chisinau to be restored, and that this "is absolutely normal," because the monuments "are not only political, but also part of our history." MS

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT FORMALLY RESIGNS...

The cabinet headed by Ivan Kostov formally resigned on 6 July and will stay on as a caretaker government until the formation of the next administration, international media reported. On 5 July, the newly-elected parliament met for the first time and elected National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) member Ognyan Gerdzhikov as its speaker. One day earlier, Bulgaria's chief negotiator with the EU, Vladimir Kissyov, announced his resignation, as did Bulgaria's ambassador to the EU, Antoaneta Primatorova. As the reason for his resignation, Kissyov cited disagreement with the NDSV over the future government's economic policy, which, he said, has raised EU concerns. He said he fears the "unclear" economic policies of the NDSV may negatively affect the prospects for Bulgaria's accession of the EU. MS

...BUT NEW CABINET IS STILL MYSTERY

Simeon himself failed to announce after the meeting of the new parliament whether he will head the new government or what the lineup of the NDSV coalition will be, international agencies reported. Unofficial reports said the NDSV has agreed to form a coalition with the ethnic Turkish Movement of Rights and Freedom. It is more and more apparent that the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) will opt to remain in the opposition. After talks between the two parties on 3 July, SDS Chairwoman Ekaterina Mihailova told journalists that the NDSV cannot agree to an arrangement whereby it is "practically asked to sign a blank sheet," since the NDSV failed to answer most SDS questions, ranging from the new premier's identity to the distribution of portfolios. Mihailova said the SDS will support an NDSV government "if it continues reforms," and that "it is not obligatory to participate in the government to be constructive and reasonable." MS

BULGARIA'S LARGEST LEFTIST DAILY CLOSES DOWN

The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party daily "Duma" stopped publication on 3 July because of unpaid debts, Reuters reported. The daily owed 500,000 leva ($217,000) to the printers. Evropressa, the concern that published "Duma," said it will start publishing a new leftist newspaper called "Republika" on 14 July. MS




There is no End Note today.





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