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Newsline - July 10, 2001




PUTIN SAYS HE'S PURSUING REFORM ON 'A BROAD FRONT'

At a meeting on 9 July with World Bank President James Wolfensohn, President Vladimir Putin said he is pursuing reforms "on a wide front" because "it is ineffective and perhaps totally impossible to carry out one reform separately from others," Russian and Western agencies reported. Putin said that "if in any other country, the president carried out at least one or two of these measures after his first election, it would be a good result. But we are doing all this on a wide front." He also said that he considers reforms of the judicial system to be especially important and that he would like to convene an international conference of experts to address shortcomings in the reforms so far. Putin expressed his support for continuing cooperation with the World Bank and said that he wants the government to push his entire reform package through the State Duma during its spring session. PG

PUTIN AGAINST CAPITAL PUNISHMENT -- EXCEPT FOR CHECHENS

Putin told a group of international lawyers that he is against the restoration of the death penalty and that while he is president, Russia will maintain a moratorium against its use, gazeta.ru reported on 9 July. But he added that "the Chechens should not rejoice as they are not going to be taken alive." VY

KREMLIN SAID TO WANT 'A NATION WITHOUT ANY NEWS AT ALL'...

Writing in "Novaya gazeta," No. 46, Moscow sociologist Boris Kagarlitskii argued that "the Kremlin's problem is not with any specific television station or newspaper but with information as such. The news does not fit in with the Kremlin's political line. Not just bad news, but all news. The Kremlin's ideal is a nation without any news at all." But Kagarlitskii suggested that in contrast to the situation in the USSR, the Kremlin currently lacks the resources to implement this policy for very long. One indication of the success the Kremlin has had in this direction was the announcement on 9 July that Ekho Moskvy radio now will broadcast news only half as often, Interfax reported. PG

...AND TO BE CREATING A 'SUBSTITUTE' FOR CIVIL SOCIETY

According to an article by former State Duma deputy (Yabloko) Viktor Sheinis in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 July, the Kremlin is seeking to "imitate" the institutions of civil society, because "the imitation of democracy require[s] the imitation of civil society." Sheinis suggested that the Kremlin-created Union of Unions is one such imitation and stands in sharp contrast to the Democratic Conference that in fact is an effort by civil society to advance its interests. PG

PUTIN ASKED TO PROCLAIM DAY OF FRIENDSHIP OF PEOPLES

On its third anniversary, the Assembly of Peoples of Russia appealed to Putin to proclaim 8 July a day of friendship of the peoples and unity of Russia, its president, Federation Council member Ramazan Abdulatipov, told Interfax. PG

ULYUKAEV SAYS BUDGET TO BE ADJUSTED FOR HIGHER GROWTH, HIGHER INFLATION

First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Ulyukaev said on 9 July that higher than expected growth and inflation will force the government to modify both this year's budget and next year's spending plans, Russian and Western agencies reported. He said that GDP growth in 2001 is likely to be 5 percent rather than the 4 percent projected earlier, and that inflation "is likely to reach 16-18 percent," instead of the 12-14 percent on which this year's budget assumptions are based. PG

SHVYDKOI SAYS BUDGET PROVIDES TOO LITTLE FOR CULTURE

Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi said that the 2002 draft budget provides relatively little for culture, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 9 July. He estimated that the restoration of all cultural objects in the country in 2002 would require 134 million rubles ($4.5 million), but said that his ministry is unlikely to get more than 15 million rubles for such work. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has signed a resolution calling for the government to monitor all cultural and historical monuments, archives, and movie collections, Interfax reported the same day. PG

FEDERATION COUNCIL MEMBERS MIGHT SOON NOT BE PAID

Because the upper house has failed to ratify amendments to the bill on the status of deputies, more than 70 new members of the Federation Council might soon not be paid because there will not be any money to pay them, Federation group leader Valerii Goreglyad told Interfax on 9 July. But he said that even if they are not paid, they will continue to work because they are fully aware of their constitutional obligations. PG

WEAKNESS OF CENTER LIKELY TO PREVENT EARLY DUMA ELECTIONS

According to an analysis in "Obshchaya gazeta," No. 27, "President Putin's first year in power has shown that his real headaches come from his supporters, whether in his inner circle or the elite as a whole," rather than from his declared enemies. The article suggested that Putin's effort to create a centrist party has "confused" many voters and that "most citizens view Vladimir Putin as they once viewed Boris Yeltsin," as a leader who is 'above parties'" -- a perspective that makes party-building in the center very difficult and probably precludes earlier elections for the Duma, the article said. PG

YAVLINSKY SAYS GOVERNMENT FAILS TO MEET SOCIAL NEEDS

Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky told Interfax on 9 July that the current Russian government is failing to meet its social obligations to the citizens of Russia. He said that its policies serve the interests of big business rather than the majority of the population and that Yabloko will fight to modify the government's programs. PG

SPS TO BEGIN ANTINUCLEAR WASTE IMPORT CAMPAIGN IN FALL

Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov said in Krasnoyarsk on 7 July that his party will begin collecting signatures for a referendum on the import of spent nuclear fuel only in the fall, Interfax reported. Nemtsov said that even the advocates of such imports now admit that Russia is unlikely to earn anything like the amount of money the project's supporters had claimed, and that in order to get started, Moscow will have to spend $1-2 billion for infrastructure. PG

SUPREME COURT ASKED TO BAN FSB USE OF ANONYMOUS DENUNCIATIONS

The public organization "For Human Rights" has filed an appeal with the Russian Supreme Court asking it to prevent the Federal Security Service (FSB) from using anonymous denunciations to launch and then conduct investigations, the group's leader, Lev Ponomarev, told RFE/RL's Russian Service on 9 July. Ponomarev said that such denunciations might be appropriate when the crimes involve drug trafficking or terrorism, but that the extension of the use of this Soviet-era practice violates the Russian Constitution. VY

KOZAK SAYS 15 CORRUPT JUDGES FIRED THIS YEAR

Dmitrii Kozak, the deputy chief of the presidential administration, said that 15 judges charged with corruption have been fired over the last 12 months, ORT television reported on 9 July. Kozak was quoted as saying that the judicial reforms approved by the Duma on 28 June will lead to longer sentences for those who misuse their judicial offices. VY

RUSSIA TO SEND AID TO UKRAINIAN FLOOD VICTIMS

Prime Minister Kasyanov on 9 July ordered his government to spend 19.1 million rubles ($640,000) and $39,200 on the purchase of relief supplies for flood-ravaged regions in Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

NEW RUSSIAN TARIFF HURTS UKRAINE

The Russian government has introduced a 30 percent tariff on potato and corn starch to protect domestic producers, a levy that will hit Ukraine more heavily than any other country, RIA-Novosti reported on 9 July. VY

POLAND HAS NOT YET AGREED TO RUSSIAN PIPELINE BYPASSING UKRAINE

Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski said in Kyiv on 9 July that Warsaw has not yet made a final decision to support construction of a Russian gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine, RIA-Novosti reported. He said that the Polish government is also considering other routes that would link Ukraine more closely with Western Europe. VY

RUSSIA TO LAUNCH FRENCH SPY SATELLITES

"Le Monde" reported on 9 July that the recent Russian-French accord to allow Moscow to launch rockets from the French space center at Kourou, Guyana, calls for Russia to carry two French spy satellites of the Helios-2 class into orbit. The paper said that this agreement highlights the new level of trust between Russian and European space agencies because the information obtained will be shared. VY

VDOVIN WARNS ISRAEL AGAINST ATTACKING SYRIA

Speaking in Damascus on 8 July, Russian Ambassador at Large Andrei Vdovin warned Israel against involving Damascus in any regional conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that "any attempts to get Syria involved are very risky." Vdovin's comments came a week after Israeli planes shelled a Syrian radar site in eastern Lebanon. PG

RUSSIA MAY SELL MORE HELICOPTERS TO IRAN

Iran, which has already purchased 17 Mi-171SH helicopters and is scheduled to take delivery of 20 more before the end of 2001, may purchase still more of the Russian craft in 2002, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 July. The agency also reported that the Urals Machine-Building Plant is offering for sale on the world market a so-called "killer motorcycle," capable of carrying heavy weapons and even attacking tanks. Meanwhile, "Tribuna" reported on 5 July that Russia leads the U.S. in tanks but is behind in almost all other military categories, including the number of men fit for active duty. PG

MALAYSIA INTERESTED IN BUYING HIGH-TECH RUSSIAN WEAPONS

Following a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and his Malaysian counterpart Syed Hamid Albar in Moscow, Interfax reported that Malaysia is very interested in purchasing Russian Su-30 fighters, T-90 tanks, and gain licenses to manufacture the Igla air-defense missile. VY

MOSCOW INTERESTED IN CLOSER TIES WITH AFRICAN UNION

Aleksandr Makarenko, the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's African Department, told ITAR-TASS on 9 July that Russia "has always maintained good relations with OAU [Organization for African Unity] countries and now we hope this positive experience will be put to use during the formation of the AU [African Union]." Makarenko is in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, for the 37th OAU summit. PG

KALININGRAD WILL BE SUPPLIED EVEN IF LITHUANIA IS IN NATO

Andrei Nikolaev, the chairman of the Duma Defense Committee, told military attaches from foreign embassies in Moscow that Russia will find a way to supply its fleet and army units stationed in Kaliningrad even if Lithuania joins both the European Union and NATO, RIA-Novosti reported on 9 July. VY

BURYATIA'S 'LAKE OF FEAR' INVESTIGATED

Scholars are investigating Lake Sobolkho, a body of water in Buryatia into which numerous animals and people have vanished without a trace over the last decade, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 8 July. Indeed, the lake has become so notorious that it is known locally as "the lake of fear." PG

MOSCOW ALLOTS $200 MILLION FOR FOREIGN INVESTMENT GUARANTEES

The Russian government has created a special fund of $200 million to provide foreign investors in the timber and coal industries with guarantees against noncommercial risks, Prime-TASS reported on 9 July. Moscow has taken this step because corrupt officials siphoned off earlier foreign investments in these sectors. VY

FIVE RUSSIAN BANKS AMONG WORLD'S 1,000 LARGEST

"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 9 July that five Russian banks now are among the world's largest. They include Vnestorgbank, which is in 222nd place; Sberbank in 301st place; Gazprombank in 415th; Sovinbank in 708th; and MDM in 814th. VY

RISING TIDE OF RUSSIAN NATIONAL EXTREMISM SAID A MEDIA CREATION

An article in "Izvestiya" on 7 July argued that widespread beliefs about the rise of national extremism in Russia are the product of the media rather than a reflection of reality. PG

ANTIMILITARIST RADICALS WANT UN DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE TO LOOK AT CHECHNYA

Members of the Anti-Militarist Radical Association of Russia believe that the issue of Chechnya is one of "decolonization" and have called for the United Nations' decolonization committee to take up the issue of "one of the last internal colonies of the Soviet-Russian empire," "Inostranets" reported on 3 July. PG

LUZHKOV SAYS MOVING CAPITAL WOULD COST $150 BILLION

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told journalists on 7 July that he is not disturbed by reports that the capital might be shifted from his city to somewhere else. Being the capital of a country, he said, is an expense as well as an honor. But he added that "if the insane desire to move the capital is all the same realized," it will cost the country approximately $150 billion. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY ANGRY RUSSIAN CRIMINALS DON'T CONTROL MOSCOW MARKETS

In a speech to his followers in Moscow on 7 July, Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that "Russian criminal groups don't control a single one of Moscow's 22 markets." Instead, he said, they are controlled by "arrivals from the Transcaucasus republics whom no one invited to Russia." He added that "90 percent of those confined in Russian prisons are Russians, but that 90 percent of the crimes are committed by non-Russians." Zhirinovsky also said that the leaders of the attempted coup in August 1991 were "weak and cowardly," but that at least "they attempted to save the country." He said that the current government must be changed if the lives of Russians are to be improved, and he blamed both the sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine in August 2000 and the aviation disaster near Irkutsk last week on "Western special services," for which he said "it is profitable that someone is always being buried in Russia." PG

STREET CRIME WORSENING

Interior Ministry officials told Interfax on 9 July that street crime in Russian cities has worsened in almost all categories and locations. Attacks and thefts, for example, are now taking place at a rate 20 percent greater than only a year ago, the officials said. PG

UNDERPAID GUARDS SAID LEAVING PRISON SYSTEM

Human Rights ombudsman Oleg Mironov on 9 July appealed to the Russian government to increase the salaries of prison guards in order to prevent them from leaving the prison system, Interfax reported. He said that the guards earn on average 1,170 rubles ($40) a month, and that many have left and have not been replaced. PG

INTERPOL REPORTEDLY WON'T GO AFTER GUSINSKY

A spokesman for embattled media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky said on 9 July that the international police agency Interpol has rejected Moscow's request to seek his arrest because the Russian charges against him are political, Reuters reported. Gusinsky's firm, Media-MOST, sent the news agency a copy of a fax of what it said was a letter from Interpol. An Interpol spokeswoman was unable to confirm or deny the existence of such a letter. PG

TOBIN MAY BE RELEASED IN AUGUST

American exchange student John Tobin who was convicted in April 2001 of drug possession, may be released as early as 2 August, when he will have served half of his sentence, justice officials in Voronezh told Interfax on 9 July. PG

JEWISH GROUPS WON'T BACK EMIGRATION

Zinovii Kogan, the head of the Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations in Russia (KEROOR), told Interfax on 9 July that his group plans to issue before the end of 2001 a social doctrine for Russian Jews analogous to those issued by the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian Muslims. He said that his group hopes to attract Jews from all groups to participate in the drafting of the document. But he said that the document will not support the idea of Jewish emigration from Russia. PG

ORTHODOX CHURCH REJECTS POLYGAMY AS SOLUTION TO DEMOGRAPHIC CRISIS...

Father Vsevolod Chaplin, the official representative of the Moscow Patriarchate, told Interfax on 9 July that the Russian Orthodox Church does not accept the proposal by Mufti Ravil Gainutdin that polygamy should be extended beyond traditional Islamic areas in order to address Russia's demographic decline. At the same time, however, Chaplin said that the church as an institution will not oppose polygamy among Russian Muslims if that is what they consider a part of their popular traditions. PG

...DENIES IT IS BEHIND EFFORT TO DEREGISTER SALVATION ARMY IN MOSCOW

An official of the Patriarchate said that the Orthodox Church is not behind efforts by the Moscow authorities to prevent the Salvation Army from registering in Moscow, strana.ru reported on 9 July. But the official said that the church does believe that the Salvation Army's assistance programs are designed to "buy the souls" of Russians and persuade them to convert. The same day, a Moscow court postponed until 11 September a hearing on whether the Salvation Army can be registered there. PG

INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF JOURNALISTS CONDEMNS MEDIA UNION

Delegates from 80 countries to the International Federation of Journalists congress condemned the creation of the Media Union in Russia, which was organized and is funded by the government, "Inostranets" reported on 3 July. The delegates said that it is part of an effort "to silence critics of President Putin and to put pressure on the free press in Russia." PG

STEEP RISE IN AIDS

Nikolai Mashkilleison, the coordinator of programs for the struggle with HIV and AIDS, told Interfax on 9 July that the number of HIV cases in Russia is now 50 percent greater than at the beginning of 2001. He said that there are now 129,261 registered HIV infections. Other estimates of the number infected in Russia are as high as 700,000. He noted that more than 1,500 children are now HIV positive. PG

DRUG USE UP DRAMATICALLY, ESPECIALLY AMONG YOUNG

The number of abusers of illegal drugs has increased 1,200 percent over the last decade, with increases among those under 20 even higher, according to academician Tatyana Dmitrieva of the Russian Academy of Medical Science. She said that over that period Russian drug users increasingly turned to hard drugs like heroin and cocaine, that ever more of the addicts live outside Moscow and port cities, and that she estimates the total number of abusers of illegal drugs in Russia at some 3 million. PG

POLICE SUSPEND OPERATION OF MOSCOW MERCEDES DEALERSHIP

Moscow city police have suspended the operation of Moscow's largest Mercedes Benz dealership after uncovering evidence that the firm cannot account for all its cash on hand, does not maintain adequate records, and does not have licenses for all its vehicles, Interfax-Moscow reported on 9 July. PG

NEW FLOODS SWAMP SIBERIAN REGION

Thousands of hectares of land in Irkutsk Oblast, including seven raions, are under water, Russian agencies reported on 9 July. Towns along the Oka River and its tributaries are the worst affected. Some 700 homes in the town of Zima have been flooded, and a local power plant has shut down. In the city of Sayansk a dam has burst, and in the Zalari Raion the railroad has closed. According to RFE/RL's Irkutsk correspondent, some 2000 residents have already been evacuated. No deaths were reported as of 9 July, but several people are missing. JAC

INVESTIGATORS TURN UP EMPTY-HANDED IN KALMYKIA

A team of auditors from the Audit Commission completed a three-month investigation of finances in the Republic of Kalmykia without turning up any major infractions, "Profil" reported in its issue No. 25 on 2 July. According to the weekly, Audit Commission Chairman Sergei Stepashin was extremely disappointed by the failure of the investigators to unearth evidence of serious misdoings. The Kremlin has long been displeased with the republic's current president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Moscow would reportedly like "its own person" in charge of the region because of its strategic location, bordering the Caspian Sea and in the middle of a key roadway linking the North Caucasus to the Volga region. A high-level unidentified Kremlin source told the weekly that investigators "found nothing in Kalmykia solely because all loose ends had been tied up and hidden away long ago." Such investigations, according the source, only succeed when there is a conflict within the local elite, and Kalmykia's elite is "united." JAC

SECOND ROUND EXPECTED IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD RACE

Almost all local analysts in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast expect that the 15 July gubernatorial election will be indecisive and a second round will be required, RTR reported on 7 July. According to the government television station, opinion polls suggest that, of the 12 competitors, two candidates, incumbent Governor Ivan Sklyarov and State Duma deputy (People's Deputy) Vadim Bulavinov, are the most likely to compete in a runoff. Bulavinov told the station that he considers Sklyarov his main competitor because Sklyarov has control over "administrative resources." On 9 July, Unity party leader and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu called on Nizhnii Novgorod residents to vote for Sklyarov. JAC

DUMA DEPUTY SAYS NORTHERN DELIVERY SEVERELY UNDERFUNDED

State Duma Committee on Problems of the North and Far East Chairwoman (People's Deputy) Valentina Pivnenko told reporters on 9 July that at least 20 billion rubles ($685 million) are needed to finance the delivery of goods and fuel in order for northern regions to survive the winter, but the 2001 budget has set aside only 6.5 billion rubles. According to Pivnenko, this year's budgeted amount is two times higher than that earmarked in last year's budget, but the sum is nevertheless inadequate because the prices of fuel and tariffs on their delivery have risen significantly. On 6 July, First Deputy Energy Minister Ivan Matlashov told reporters that Russia's regions have set aside some 67.8 percent of the coal reserves necessary for the 2001-2002 heating season and some 91.5 percent of the fuel oil. However, he said the situation in the Far East and in the Republic of Buryatia remains critical. JAC

CHECHEN OFFICIALS CONDEMN RUSSIAN BRUTALITY

Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov on 9 July condemned as "a large-scale crime against civilians" the Russian security sweeps in the villages of Kurchaloi, Sernovodsk, and Assinovskaya last week, Interfax reported. He said that in the course of those operations, Russian troops robbed schools and hospitals, engaged in looting, and "humiliated and offended" the local population. AP quoted residents of the three villages as saying that Russian forces rounded up all men aged between 15 and 50 to check their identities. The mayors of Sernovodsk and Assinovskaya both resigned on 5 July to protest the Russian troop actions, which they say triggered the flight of thousands of people to neighboring Ingushetia. Also on 5 July, Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov threatened to resign unless criminal charges are brought against those responsible for the Russian brutality in Sernovodsk and Assinovskaya and a similar security sweep in Grozny's Sunzha Raion, Interfax reported. On 6 July, Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov and Chechen Deputy Prosecutor Aleksandr Nikitin both rejected Ilyasov's accusations, claiming that the security sweeps "are conducted in accordance with legal norms." LF




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FACTIONS DEMAND DEATH PENALTY FOR GUNMEN

Representatives of three major factions within the Armenian parliament -- Miasnutiun, Kayunutiun, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) -- on 9 July argued that the five gunmen currently on trial for shooting eight people in parliament in October 1999 should be sentenced to death and executed, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Council of Europe representatives who visited Armenia last week warned that Armenia's membership in that body will be suspended if the gunmen are executed. But parliament deputies rejected that warning as inappropriate. "The exceptional nature of the crime demands exceptional treatment," HHD faction leader Aghvan Vartanian said. President Robert Kocharian assured the Council of Europe group on 3 July that he is against the death penalty, and that no one will be executed in Armenia while he is president. Armenia undertook to remove capital punishment from its criminal code when it joined the Council of Europe in January. LF

PRESIDENT DENIES AZERBAIJAN HAS ANY POLITICAL PRISONERS

A Council of Europe experts' group headed by Pietro Ago visited Baku last week to assess the Azerbaijani leadership's compliance with human rights commitments made earlier this year when Azerbaijan was formally accepted into full membership of the Council of Europe. At a 4 July meeting, representatives of the Azerbaijani media and human rights organizations told those experts that although President Heidar Aliyev had promised that all persons currently imprisoned for their political beliefs will be released, some political prisoners have been transferred to closed prisons while others have since died, according to Turan on 5 July. Meeting with President Aliyev on 6 July, Ago reminded him of that pledge, noting that Azerbaijani human rights activists estimate the total number of political prisoners at 205. Ago also noted that Azerbaijan has failed to fulfill its commitment to bring its legislation into line with Council of Europe standards, and to transform Azerbaijan state television into an independent public broadcaster. Aliyev for his part denied that there are any political prisoners in Azerbaijan, but said the cases of those persons considered by the Council of Europe to belong to that category will be reviewed. Ago met on 6 July with one political prisoner sentenced on charges of participation in an alleged 1995 plot to assassinate Aliev. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT INSISTS ON RUSSIAN MILITARY WITHDRAWAL

Eduard Shevardnadze said on 9 July in the course of his traditional Monday radio address that Moscow must fulfill unconditionally its 1999 commitment to close the Russian military base in Gudauta, Caucasus Press reported. The deadline for that withdrawal was 30 June, but the Russian military failed to meet it, arguing that the remaining arms cannot be removed from the base due to a picket by local residents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2001). Shevardnadze rejected that argument. He also hinted that Tbilisi may charge Moscow rent for its two remaining bases, a date for the closure of which has not yet been agreed. Speaking in Moscow on 9 July, Russian State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Andrei Nikolaev, a former commander of Russia's Border Guards, said that closing Russia's bases in Georgia will weaken Russia's position in the Transcaucasus, Interfax reported. Nikolaev said the bilateral agreement signed in November 1999 whereby Russia undertook to do so is not an international accord that requires ratification. LF

ANNIVERSARY OF EXECUTION OF INSURGENTS MARKED IN WESTERN GEORGIA

An unspecified number of people congregated in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi on 9 July to mark the first anniversary of the execution by Georgian Interior Ministry forces of Colonel Akaki Eliava and his second in command Gocha Gvilava, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2000). Eliava headed an abortive insurrection in western Georgia in late 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 19 and 20 October 1998). Speaking in Tbilisi on 9 July, President Shevardnadze said he will not cede to pressure by sympathizers of Eliava who have staged a series of demonstrations in Zugdidi and the nearby town of Senaki to demand the release from detention of three of his supporters arrested with him last July. Shevardnadze said those three men will go on trial shortly. LF

KYRGYZ JOURNALISTS BARRED FROM MEETING WITH IMPRISONED OPPOSITION LEADER

Journalists who traveled on 5 July to the labor camp near Bishkek where opposition Erkindik party leader Topchubek TurgunAliyev is serving his six-year sentence were not allowed to meet with him, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The previous day, the journalists had been granted permission to meet with TurgunAliyev on 5 July, which was his 60th birthday. In a letter to RFE/RL on 3 July, TurgunAliyev accused the Kyrgyz leadership of systematic oppression of opposition politicians, human rights activists, and the independent media. LF

DEADLINE FOR REREGISTRATION OF KYRGYZ MEDIA OUTLETS EXTENDED

Justice Ministry official Bekbolot Bolotbekov announced in Bishkek on 4 July that the deadline by which all media outlets must reregister with his ministry has been extended from 1 July to 1 September, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He said that only some 40 of an estimated 300 media outlets have succeeded in doing so to date. In late June, the ministry annulled the registration of 16 new media outlets, saying that no further media outlets may be registered until the reregistration of previously existing outlets is completed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 25 June 2001). LF

TAJIK JUSTICE MINISTRY SEEKS TO BAN OPPOSITION PARTY

The Tajik Justice Ministry has asked the Supreme Court to impose a nationwide ban on the activities of the Adolatkhoh (Justice) Party, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 4 July. At the ministry's request, the Supreme Court suspended the party's activities late last year for a period of six months on the grounds that it had violated the Law on Political Parties by including in its membership lists persons with no connections with the party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2001). During that time, the party failed to comply with that law, a Justice Ministry official said. LF

UZBEKISTAN, ISRAEL DISCUSS ECONOMIC COOPERATION

Visiting Israeli Minister for Infrastructure Avigdor Lieberman and Uzbek Premier Utkir Sultanov signed a declaration on trade and economic cooperation in Tashkent on 6 July, ITAR-TASS reported. They also discussed joint power engineering projects focussing primarily on environmentally clean sources of power. LF




BELARUSIAN MILITARY COURT TRIES SUSPECTED GERMAN SPY

The Belarusian Military Court on 10 July began the closed-door trial of German citizen Christopher Letz on charges of espionage, Belapan reported. Letz was arrested in Moscow last September following a request by the Belarusian KGB. If found guilty, Letz faces seven to 15 years in prison. RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 9 July that KGB spokesman Fyodar Kotau has refused to specify Letz's alleged spying activities in Belarus. JM

FORMER AIDE SAYS LUKASHENKA TRUSTS NO ONE

Ivan Tsitsyankou, the head of the Presidential Administrative Department in 1994-99, told the Minsk-based weekly "Den" on 9 July that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has installed an extensive system of eavesdropping on telephone calls in Belarus. According to Tsitsyankou, the presidential administration has recently spent some $20 million to buy equipment enabling the identification of interlocutors by voice. Tsitsyankou said the complicity of Belarus's leadership in the disappearance of opposition figures is "obvious." He added that former KGB chief Uladzimir Matskevich and Prosecutor-General Aleh Bazhelka -- who were fired by Lukashenka in November 2000 -- needed only two more weeks to find the bodies of some disappeared people. The state-owned Belarusian Publishing House printed only some 6,000 copies of the "Den" 9 July issue out of the 50,000 ordered by the editors. "Den" Editor in Chief Alyaksandr Tamkovich passed Tsitsyankou's interview to other independent media outlets. JM

UKRAINE, MOLDOVA PLEDGE TO SETTLE MUTUAL PROBLEMS

Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh and his Moldovan counterpart Vasile Tarlev declared in Kyiv on 9 July that their countries are ready to resolve a number of serious problems in trade and economic cooperation, Interfax reported. Tarlev vowed that on 12 July the Moldovan parliament will ratify the Moldovan-Ukrainian border treaty. Tarlev was responding to Ukrainian Transport Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko's warning that Kyiv will ensure "rigorous parity" in cross-border shipments if Chisinau fails to ratify the treaty. Both sides also pledged to simplify border control by establishing joint border checkpoints. Tarlev promised that Moldova will replace a triple customs control procedure on a railroad line that thrice crosses the Ukrainian-Moldovan border with a single customs check. JM

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN UKRAINE

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 9 July met with Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, Ukrainian Television reported. Kuchma expressed his satisfaction with the pace of the Ukrainian-Polish dialogue at all levels. Bartoszewski responded that the wish to promote Ukrainian-Polish relations is mutual. Bartoszewski told journalists that Ukraine should take advantage of the international political climate, which is extremely favorable for the country to step up integration with the West, PAP reported. Bartoszewski noted that irrespective of the result of the 23 September parliamentary elections in Poland, Warsaw's policy toward Kiev will not change. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS ECONOMY MINISTER

Kuchma has appointed Oleksandr Shlapak as economy minister, thus filling the last vacancy in Premier Kinakh's cabinet, Interfax reported on 10 July. Prior to his appointment, Shlapak was deputy economy minister. JM

IMF SEES ESTONIA AS STRONG PERFORMER AMONG TRANSITION COUNTRIES

The International Monetary Fund's annual report on Estonia published on 9 July presents the country as one of the most economically successful transition countries, ETA reported. The report asserts that cautious macroeconomic policies and vigorous structural reforms have supported solid economic growth and the almost complete transition to a market economy. The currency board arrangement and the nearly completed privatization program with reliance on strategic foreign investors aided the economy, which grew by 6.9 percent in 2000. The economic recovery resulted in a decrease in unemployment and a sharp reduction in the budget deficit. The IMF said that Estonia's medium-term economic prospects remain favorable, but that the short-term outlook could become clouded if the slowdown in the world economy proves sharper than currently expected. SG

BALTIC PREMIERS ADOPT ENERGY MARKET LIBERALIZATION PLAN

Prime Ministers Mart Laar (Estonia), Andris Berzins (Latvia), and Eugenijus Gentvilas (Lithuania) during a meeting of the Baltic Council of Ministers on 9 July in Sigulda, a town 40 kilometers northeast of Riga, agreed on a plan for forming a joint Baltic energy market, LETA and BNS reported. The final version of the plan will be implemented after the EU finishes developing its directive relating to the energy market. The premiers also signed a joint resolution voicing satisfaction over the outcome of the informal NATO summit meeting on 13 June in Brussels and the commitments of NATO expansion expressed by U.S. President George W. Bush during his recent visit to Europe. They discussed cooperation in education and an agreement that would allow students to study in any Baltic state. Prior to the session in Sigulda, the premiers visited the underground natural gas-storage facilities in Incukalns and after the session attended the unveiling of a memorial to Estonian poet and philologist Kristjan Jaak Peterson in the Jelgava cemetery in Riga. SG

PROGRAM OF NEW LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT PRESENTED TO PARLIAMENT

In a special parliament session on 9 July, Social Democratic Party Chairman Algirdas Brazauskas presented a 30-page program for 2001-2004 that his cabinet will follow, ELTA reported. He spoke for about 1/2 hour and then answered questions together with the 12 proposed ministers. The program is less leftist than the program of the Social Democrats' shadow government and does not mention the need to introduce a progressive personal income tax, although it does call for raising the tax-free minimum income. It stresses the importance of maintaining a strict policy for state borrowing and cautious investment. The program asserts the continuity of Lithuania's foreign policy and declares that the country's aspirations to join the European Union and NATO and maintaining good relations with its neighbors are equally important. The program is still to be discussed by the various factions in the parliament, but the vote on its approval will likely occur on 12 July. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT ASKS FORGIVENESS FOR JEDWABNE POGROM

"For this crime, we should beg the souls of the dead and their families for forgiveness. This is why today, as a citizen and as president of the Republic of Poland, I apologize," Aleksander Kwasniewski said in Jedwabne on 10 July, at a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Jedwabne pogrom (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 6 and 20 March 2001). In 1941, Polish neighbors herded into a barn and burned alive hundreds of Jedwabne Jews. The National Remembrance Institute is currently clarifying the role of the Nazi troops in the massacre. Kwasniewski's speech and the dedication of a monument to the murdered Jews were broadcast live on Polish Television. The inscription on the Jedwabne monument reads: "In memory of the Jews of Jedwabne and surrounding areas, men, women, and children, fellow-dwellers of this land, murdered and burned alive at this site on 10 July 1941." JM

POLAND'S CIVIC PLATFORM TO BECOME A PARTY AFTER ELECTIONS

Leaders of the Civic Platform (PO) group -- Andrzej Olechowski, Maciej Plazynski, and Donald Tusk -- announced at the group's electoral convention on 8 July that the PO will become a political party following the 23 September general elections, PAP reported. Plazynski told the convention that the PO wants to be "a political proposal for those who do not want socialist ideas for Poland, those with no left-wing views." Olechowski said the PO wants to reduce personal income tax to 15 percent, curb bureaucracy, and lower state-imposed fees on economic activity. According to a recent poll by OBOP, the centrist PO -- with 18 percent support among the electorate -- is the second-most-popular force in Poland after the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance. JM

NEW CENTER-RIGHT PARTY EMERGES IN POLAND

Former Interior Minister Janusz Tomaszewski will lead a newly created center-right political party named the Civic Forum-Christian Democracy (Forum Obywatelskie-Chrzescijanska Demokracja), Polish media reported on 9 July. Former President Lech Walesa will be the party's honorary chairman. Tomaszewski started to form a new party after the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) coalition did not agree to his participation in the 23 September parliamentary elections on an AWS ticket because of Tomaszewski's ongoing lustration trial. JM

POLISH DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER PROBED FOR CORRUPTION

Justice Minister Stanislaw Iwanicki has ordered an investigation into the alleged complicity of suspended Deputy Defense Minister Romuald Szeremietiew in corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001), PAP reported on 9 July. Premier Jerzy Buzek said the same day that Economy Minister Janusz Steinhoff and Defense Minister Bronislaw Komorowski will take over from Szeremietiew the supervision of public tenders for the supply of military equipment to the Polish army. JM

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE SAYS TEMELIN 'ZERO OPTION' SHOULD BE CONSIDERED

The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on 9 July approved a draft resolution saying that "it is necessary to take the zero variant [of complete closure] in consideration in the case of Temelin in view of the problems that surfaced [at the plant] due to construction defects," CTK reported. The draft is to be submitted for the parliament's approval in September. The committee said the Czech Republic should be offered international financial aid to compensate for the costs of closing down the plant. The draft was moved by the Green deputies and was approved against the recommendations of the parliament's rapporteur for the Czech Republic, Jurgen Schroeder, who argued that the resolution should praise the European Commission for its mediating role in the Austrian-Czech dispute and the two countries for having agreed to examine the environmental impact of the controversial plant. MS

FRAUD BOOMS IN CZECH REPUBLIC

Fraud in the Czech Republic reached a record level last year, as petty swindlers and corporate criminals siphoned off at least 50.8 billion crowns ($1.3 billion), dpa reported on 9 July, citing a police report published in the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes." The police said the losses were more than double those of 1999, and added that the figures represent only "reported crimes" and may therefore be "just the tip of the iceberg." In related news, the government on 9 July approved an Interior Ministry proposal to stiffen measures against crime and dangers to state security, CTK reported. The ministry said economic crime amounts to 80 percent of overall crime, but added that crimes committed by young people, corruption, illegal immigration, and extremist organizations' activities are also cause for concern. MS

POLL SHOWS CZECHS BECOMING 'MORE TOLERANT OF EXTREMISM'

A public opinion poll conducted by the CVVM institute shows Czechs are becoming "more tolerant" of extremists and their activities on both the left and the right wing of the political spectrum, dpa reported on 3 July. Fourteen percent of the respondents to the survey said anarchists are "beneficial" to society; last year only 8 percent were of this opinion and in 1999 7 percent were so persuaded. More than two in three Czechs (68 percent) believe anarchists are "harmful," whereas last year four in five (80 percent) gave this answer and in 1995 -- the first year the question was asked in the poll -- three in four (74 percent) were of that opinion. Skinheads are considered "beneficial" to society by 9 percent -- compared with 6 percent in 2000, 1997, and 1996; 4 percent in 1999; and 8 percent in 1995. Nearly four in five Czechs (78 percent) believe skinheads are "harmful," whereas 86 percent were of this opinion in 2000 and 83 percent in 1995. MS

CZECH ROMA HIDE NATIONAL IDENTITY IN 2001 CENSUS...

Citing preliminary results of the census conducted on 1 March 2001, AP on 4 July said more than 90 percent of Roma living in the Czech Republic try to hide their ethnic origins, fearing racism. Only 11,716 chose to declare their nationality as Romany, while the estimated number of Roma in the country is 200,000. In the census conducted in 1991, three times as many (32,903) declared they were of Romany nationality. Sociologist Ivan Gabal, cited by CTK on 4 July, said the responses appear to reflect the negative attitude by Czech society toward the Romany minority and the confrontations that Roma face from skinheads and other nationalists. MS

...WHILE 'MORAVIANS' EMPHASIZE THEIR SEPARATE IDENTITY

CTK on 4 July said 183,749 people identified themselves in the census as Slovak; 50,971 said they are of Polish nationality; and 38,321 said they are German. Although the census did not list "Moravians" among national minorities, 373,294 respondents gave "Moravian" as their ethnic identity. Over 353,000 said they are of other nationalities. The total population of the country is 10,292,000, according to the census. MS

SLOVAKIA FACING EARLY ELECTIONS?

Seeking to deny media speculation that Slovakia may be heading for early elections that could negatively affect its efforts to gain NATO and EU membership, Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) Chairman Bela Bugar on 8 July said on national television that although the SMK will "probably leave the coalition" in August, the party will not back in parliament a no-confidence vote in the government, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). Former Premier Vladimir Meciar said his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia will "not initiate early elections," provided the ruling coalition "manages to solve its internal problems." Meciar said: "We are capable of cooperating -- not because we want to support the coalition, but because Slovakia's integration into the EU and NATO depends on such cooperation." MS

EUROPEAN COMMISSION CUTS PHARE FUNDS PAYMENTS TO SLOVAKIA

The European Commission on 9 July decided to cut all advance payments for current projects in Slovakia by 10 percent, saying it has not received from Bratislava "satisfactory answers" concerning the suspicion of embezzlement of aid from the Phare funds program, CTK reported, citing commission official Eneko Landaburu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June and 3 July 2001). The commission said the measure is aimed at enabling it to recoup the embezzled funds if the ongoing investigation proves the suspected embezzlement. MS

IRISH REPUBLICAN DISSIDENTS DETAINED IN SLOVAKIA?

The Slovak Interior Ministry on 9 July refused to confirm or deny reports in the media that three foreigners detained by police on the basis of an international arrest warrant are members of the Real IRA, a dissident splinter group of the Irish Republican Army, CTK reported. The ministry was only ready to confirm that the three were foreign nationals. The reports said the three men arrived in Slovakia with the purpose of purchasing weapons there. MS

SLOVAK POLICEMEN, MAYOR, CHARGED IN ROMANY MURDER CASE

Three policemen and the mayor of the eastern Slovak village of Magnezitovce were charged with "assault" on 9 July in connection with the killing of Karol Sendrei, TASR, CTK, and international agencies reported. The 51-year-old Rom died of multiple wounds on 6 July at the police station in Revuca. He had been taken to the station together with two of his sons after an incident in which the Magnezitovce mayor's son, who is a policeman, was also involved. One of Sendrei's sons told the daily "Sme" that police chained them to a radiator and beat them up. He said his father "died chained to the radiator next to us." Interior Minister Ivan Simko said he will personally supervise the investigation, while the Revuca police chief denied that the three Roma were beaten up, saying Sendrei died of wounds suffered at the mayor's house. Ladislav Fizik, the head of the Romany Parliament organization, said that Slovak Roma do not trust the police and will conduct an investigation of their own. MS

SLOVAK HOMOSEXUALS THREATEN MASS EXODUS

Homosexuals in Slovakia are threatening to apply for political asylum in other countries citing discrimination, after the parliament last week failed to pass an amendment to the Labor Code that would have banned discrimination against them in the working place (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2001). Ivan Pozgai, of the Inakost (Diversity) organization, said the parliament violated international agreements that Slovakia had signed and was thus threatening the country's chances for accession to the EU. He said Slovak homosexuals would have no problem receiving political asylum, because it is clear that they would not be requesting asylum on economic grounds. MS

TORGYAN SAYS FIDESZ BETRAYED HUNGARY

Jozsef Torgyan, the chairman of the Independent Smallholders' Party, on 9 July accused his party's coalition partner FIDESZ of having "betrayed the homeland" when it agreed recently in Brussels to allow foreigners to buy farmland in Hungary. Torgyan said his party will hold "nationwide prayers" on 15 August and will eventually stage roadblocks to demonstrate to FIDESZ that "the homeland is not for sale." FIDESZ Chairman Zoltan Pokorni said that instead of planning blockades, Torgyan would better serve domestic farmers' interests by working together with FIDESZ to prevent speculative purchases of land, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS' REFERENDUM INITIATIVE

The Constitutional Court on 9 July ruled that the opposition Socialist Party's referendum initiative cannot be carried out in its present form, as the constitution prohibits posing more than one question in a plebiscite. The court's decision nullifies an earlier ruling of the National Election Commission, which allowed the party to collect signatures in favor of conducting a four-question referendum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 2001). The questions referred to amending the Labor Code, indexing pensions to the cost of living, abolishing obligatory military service, and free foreign-language exams for high school students. Peter Medgyessy, the Socialists' candidate for prime minister, said the party will submit a new initiative to the National Election Commission in accordance with the court's ruling. MSZ

HUNGARIAN JEWISH ORGANIZATION 'READY TO DEMONSTRATE'

Federation of Hungarian Jewish Religious Communities (MAZSIHISZ) Chairman Peter Tordai on 5 July said MAZSIHISZ is appealing to Premier Orban to act to overcome the repeated delays in solving the issue of paying compensation to Hungarian victims of the Holocaust, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Tordai said he is no longer ruling out protest "street demonstrations." Government spokesman Gabor Borokai said in reaction that the issue does not figure on the cabinet's agenda and although it may still be discussed, the matter will probably be solved only after next year's elections. MS




NEGOTIATIONS INCH ALONG IN MACEDONIA

Talks between the leaders of Macedonia's main political parties and international mediators Francois Leotard and James Pardew began in Skopje on 9 July, resumed the following day, and will continue without a time limit, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). There does not appear to have been much progress, if any. Arben Xhaferi, who heads the Democratic Party of the Albanians, charged that "the Macedonians are denying what is important for us... The Macedonian side has fears, but those fears are not realistic. We are not jeopardizing vital interests of the state" by demanding constitutional guarantees for the equality of the Albanian minority and its language. Nikola Popovski, who is member of the Macedonian delegation, described the talks as "rather difficult, with considerable pressure from the international community on all sides." Pardew and Leotard said in a statement that "the parties expressed their commitment to engagement in this process." PM

TWO ADDITIONAL FOREIGN EXPERTS TO MACEDONIA

The OSCE's Max van der Stoel has arrived in Skopje and joined the talks, AP reported on 10 July. French constitutional expert Robert Badinter is expected in the Macedonian capital shortly. Badinter headed a commission that first made constitutional recommendations for Macedonia a decade ago and was involved in drafting the latest proposal put forward by Leotard and Pardew. Van der Stoel has been instrumental in working to end the dilemma over Albanian-language university education in Macedonia. It is not clear precisely what role they will play in the latest talks. PM

MACEDONIAN CEASE-FIRE GENERALLY HOLDING

The cease-fire continues to hold despite some gunfire in the Tetovo region, AP reported from Skopje on 10 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). Macedonian army officials said that guerrillas captured two soldiers. Officials of the UNHCR said that 8,000 people have gone home since the latest cease-fire took effect. Some 60,000 remain in Kosova. PM

U.S. OFFERS TROOPS FOR MACEDONIA

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in Washington on 9 July that discussions are still underway among the political parties in Macedonia and among the NATO allies about a possible role for the Atlantic alliance in Macedonia, "The Washington Post" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001). He noted that the U.S. has offered troops for such a mission but only in a supporting role in logistics, intelligence, transportation, and food and medical support. He made the remarks after meeting with French Defense Minister Alain Richard. There are currently some 500 U.S. troops in Macedonia, who are primarily logistics specialists aiding the KFOR mission. PM

SCHROEDER: GERMANY WILL FULFILL ITS OBLIGATIONS IN MACEDONIA

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that Germany will meet its obligations if NATO decides to undertake a mission in Macedonia, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 10 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001). He stressed that he has a majority in the legislature that will guarantee participation, even if the conservative opposition is against. Several conservative leaders have charged recently that the government has neglected the funding of the military and that the armed forces are not in a position to assume any further duties. Elsewhere, the Frankfurt daily commented that NATO will have no choice but to get involved should a full-fledged civil war break out in Macedonia. The article adds that KFOR could be supplied from Serbia or Montenegro if Macedonia becomes a battleground. PM

CROATIAN GENERAL WILLING TO GO TO HAGUE

General Rahim Ademi, an ethnic Albanian, met with President Stipe Mesic on 8 July to discuss press reports that Ademi is one of two top-ranking Croatian officers sought by The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in Zagreb the next day that Ademi will voluntarily turn himself in to the tribunal if he is formally indicted, and that the government will assist Ademi. The general has already selected a lawyer to organize his defense. Meanwhile in Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: "We very much support the [Croatian] government carrying out its obligations to the international community to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes." But in Zagreb the following day, parliamentary deputies of the opposition Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) called on the government to "reconsider" cooperating with The Hague. PM

CROATIAN VOTE OF CONFIDENCE SOON

Prime Minister Racan said in Zagreb on 9 July that the parliament will hold a vote of confidence on his government on 15 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). Racan stressed that the government's future is not important. What is important, he added, is that Croatia determine its future by fulfilling its obligations toward The Hague, "Novi List" reported. PM

ALBANIAN OPPOSITION WANTS PARTIAL RERUN OF ELECTIONS

Democratic Party leader and former President Sali Berisha said in Tirana on 9 July that the previous day's second round of parliamentary elections were marred by "violence and terror," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). Berisha's deputy, Jozefina Topalli, said the opposition wants a new vote in an unspecified number of districts "where the result was beset by violence, falsification, and terror." Nikolai Vulchanov, who heads the OSCE monitoring mission, said that "these were the best elections conducted in this country but they were not perfect." He noted unspecified "serious concerns" as well as progress toward meeting international standards. PM

MONTENEGRO SETS DATE FOR INDEPENDENCE VOTE

Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said in Podgorica that a referendum on Montenegro's future political status will be held in March 2002, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that preparations for the vote have begun. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER: KOSTUNICA TO BE INCLUDED IN BELGRADE-PODGORICA TALKS

Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade that he cannot accept the Montenegrin suggestion that his government and that in Podgorica hold direct talks on the future of the Yugoslav federation without President Vojislav Kostunica, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 9 July. Djindjic added that Montenegrin voters will choose between creating "a modern union of two republics with a small number of joint functions" or two independent states. PM

SERBIAN 'PACKAGE' FOR THE HAGUE

Vienna's "Die Presse" reported on 10 July that details are beginning to emerge of former President Slobodan Milosevic's recent journey from Belgrade to The Hague in an operation code-named Package (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2001). Serbian police helicopters prevented any attempt by the Yugoslav army to block the extradition, Djindjic said. Meanwhile in The Hague, security has been stepped up around Milosevic's prison and for Prime Minister Wim Kok in anticipation of possible terrorist attacks by Milosevic supporters. Dutch authorities have decided to grant a visa to Milosevic's wife, who is on an EU list of Milosevic loyalists otherwise barred from travel to the EU. PM

FORMER BOSNIAN SERB LEADER TO LEAVE THE HAGUE?

Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said in Belgrade on 9 July that former Bosnian Serb leader Biljana Plavsic, who turned herself in to The Hague-based tribunal earlier this year, has asked the court to allow her to leave prison and prepare her defense in Belgrade, "Danas" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2001). Batic added that "the government of Serbia has offered guarantees that Biljana Plavsic will answer any summons from the court" to attend hearings. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT PROMOTES NATO, EU ACCESSION IN BRUSSELS

Ion Iliescu was to meet European Commission President Romano Prodi and Belgian King Albert II in Brussels on 10 July, Romanian radio reported. On 9 July, Iliescu met with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, and Belgian Premier Guy Verhofstadt, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. After meeting Robertson, Iliescu said he "remains optimistic" on Romania's chances to be invited to join NATO in 2002. He said his country and Bulgaria would enhance regional stability by becoming NATO members. Robertson praised Bucharest's progress in preparations for joining, but added that "just as in the case of the other eight candidates, a lot remains to be done." Verheugen said Romania's new government has a "better chance" than its predecessor to provide the climate of political stability necessary for reforms, but needs to continue them, paying particular attention to reforming the judiciary and the public administration. MS

ROMANIAN PEASANT PARTY ON VERGE OF SPLITTING

Following the resignation of Andrei Marga as leader of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and the appointment of Victor Ciorbea as PNTCD interim leader (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001), the party is on verge of splitting, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. A group of 23 representatives of local PNTCD branches on 9 July met in Cluj and called for convening an extraordinary PNTCD congress in August, saying the meeting should dismiss the new party leadership and calling on Marga to withdraw his resignation. Earlier on 9 July, Ciorbea said Marga's resignation and the refusal of former PNTCD First Deputy Chairman Vasile Lupu to recognize the legality of the new leadership are "part of a scenario aimed at the takeover of the PNTCD by the currently ruling [ Social Democratic] party." Ciorbea said anyone who attempts to convene a party congress before December "will be sanctioned by exclusion" from the PNTCD. MS

ROMANIA EXPECTS MARTONYI IN BUCHAREST

Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi will come to Bucharest "this week" to discuss with his counterpart Mircea Geoana the Hungarian Status Law and its implications, a Foreign Ministry spokesman announced on 9 July. The spokesman said the date of the visit is "yet to be decided," but an RFE/RL correspondent, citing ministry sources, said the most likely day of the visit is "Friday the 13th." The Foreign Ministry, cited by Romanian Radio, also said it was "surprised" by the contents of an interview with Martonyi in the Transylvanian Hungarian-language publication "Kronika," in which Martonyi stated that Romania had not officially asked for consultations on the law until now. The ministry said Bucharest had "on numerous occasions" done so and "met with evasive replies" from Budapest until 24 May -- "only three weeks before the law was approved by the parliament in Budapest." MS

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION SAYS RELIGIOUS HEADS TO DECIDE ON CLERGY FILES

The parliamentary commission overseeing the activity of the Romanian Intelligence Service decided on 9 July to recommend to the parliament that Securitate files of clergymen be made public only at the expressed request of their respective faiths' leaders, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 9 July 2001). The parliament is to discuss in September amendments to the law on access to Securitate files. Commission Chairman Ion Stan said the commission also recommends that the parliament further elucidate "what is meant by political police" and who qualifies for being considered an agent or an informant of the former Securitate. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT REPEATS ACCUSATIONS AGAINST IMF...

Vladimir Voronin, in an interview with the Russian daily "Izvestiya" on 9 July, reiterated the accusation that the IMF had "placed Moldova in a real trap" by extending it loans that cannot be paid back, AFP reported. Voronin said industrial and agricultural restructuring were not implemented and a great part of the credits have been siphoned off. "A political ideology based on Western loans can bring us no good," he concluded. MS

...SAYS TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT WILL NOT BE SOLVED WITH SMIRNOV IN POWER...

In the same interview, Voronin said part of the blame for Moldova's economic difficulties rests on the Transdniester, which he described as "a black hole flourishing on corruption and contraband trade." He added that the conflict with the Transdniester "cannot be solved with [separatist leader Igor] Smirnov" and that the people in the separatist region "are tired of Smirnov and his constant desire to whip up fear and tension." To solve the conflict, "we absolutely need a change of leadership in Tiraspol," he concluded. MS

...COURTS CHURCH, VETOES ABORTION LAW

President Voronin on 5 July vetoed a law legalizing abortions, which had been passed by his Party of Moldovan Communists by a large majority. Voronin said he had done so because the law could "inflame tensions between the authorities and the [Moldovan] Orthodox Church," Infotag reported. When the parliament approved the bill last month, the Orthodox Church threatened to "excommunicate all communist lawmakers who legalized infanticide." MS

MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER CRITICIZES 'RUSSIAN DUPLICITY'

Foreign Minister Nicolae Cernomaz on 9 July said on Radio Moldova that the Russian State Duma's recent appeal to Moldova and the Transdniester to "jointly join the Russia-Belarus Union" is a "demonstration in duplicity," Flux reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). Cernomaz said he cannot but be "puzzled" by the fact that Boris Pastukhov, the deputy chairman of the Russian commission on solving the Transdniester conflict, has supported the Duma resolution when only a few months earlier Pastukhov had severely criticized the separatist leadership. Cernomaz also said that it is "strange" to encounter an "official Moscow policy" that backs Moldova's territorial integrity and a Duma policy that works against that purpose. "We seem to be back to the duplicity pursued [by Russia] throughout several years, when policies stated at official level were contradicted by the fruitful collaboration with the Tiraspol regime," he said. MS

BULGARIA'S ETHNIC TURKS TO JOIN NEW GOVERNMENT

Ahmed Dogan, the leader of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) on 9 July announced after talks with leaders of the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) that an agreement has been reached on the DPS's joining the new government, dpa reported. Plamen Panayotov, the leader of the NDSV parliamentary group, meanwhile announced that his party will seek further coalition parleys with the United Democratic Forces (ODS), the alliance in which the Union of Democratic Forces is the main component. Panayotov added that the NDSV will meet the ODS demand to nominate its candidate for premiership before renewing coalition talks. That demand was backed by the ODS minor members -- the Agrarian National Union-Popular Union, the Democratic Party, and the Social Democratic Party -- after a meeting between ODS leaders and President Petar Stoyanov on 9 July, BTA reported. MS

UCK ARMS TO BE DESTROYED IN BULGARIA?

Nikola Mihailov, the acting Director of the International Organizations and Armament Control Directorate within the Bulgarian Defense Ministry, on 9 July told journalists that he "does not rule out" the possibility that arms taken from the Albanian rebel's National Liberation Army (UCK) in Macedonia may be destroyed in Bulgaria, BTA reported. He said that the TEREM company in Veliko Tarnovo can provide space and facilities for the destruction of such firearms. Emil Popov, an expert for the Economy Ministry, described as "groundless" rumors that some of the weapons used by the UCK may have reached the rebels from Bulgaria. Mihailov also said that the U.S. will provide Bulgaria with $500,000 to support a program to destroy stockpiles of redundant small arms from the Bulgarian army's arsenal and that these weapons will also be destroyed at TEREM. MS




MOSCOW PAYS NEW ATTENTION TO KURILE ISLANDERS


By Nonna Chernyakova

After a time of neglect, the federal and local governments are investing more in the economy of the Southern Kuriles -- a group of disputed islands governed by Russia but also claimed by Japan. And, as the life of the islanders is gradually improving, they are less likely to agree to transferring the territory to Japan.

In November 1998, when this reporter last visited, the Kuriles were gripped by a serious energy crisis, and the island of Iturup was without electricity for 16 hours a day. Some buildings, including the hotel, had no heating or even, at times, water. There were also problems with telephone connections.

At that time, the islanders were outraged with the situation in the populated southern Kurile Islands of Iturup, Kunashir, and Shikotan (Japan also claims a nearby group of uninhabited islets known as Habomai). About one-third of the people questioned on the dirt streets of Kurilsk wanted Japan to take over the territory because Russia's government was doing nothing to improve their life.

But in the last two years the electricity problem has been solved, said Sergei Podolyan, the deputy governor of Sakhalin Oblast and the former mayor of Iturup. Ironically, Japan helped solve the problem by building a generator and providing fuel to produce electricity. But the local government also did its part.

"The main thing we did was create a realistic budget and controlled the cash flow," he said. "We have cut unjustified expenses, especially in our household maintenance system. We created a council of fishing companies that allowed us to increase the island's budget threefold, as they pitch in some profit from their fishing areas for the island's development."

The southern Kuriles are part of a volcanic chain that stretches 1,200 kilometers from Japan's Hokkaido to Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. The southern islands were annexed by Japan in 1855, but the Soviet Union seized them at the end of World War II.

The Russian government has not forgotten about the islands, Podolyan said. Roads are being built, and workers have started constructing a hydrothermal power station near the Baranovskii volcano.

Joint investments from the federal and local governments into the economy and the infrastructure amounted to $9.78 million in 2000, up from $2.54 million in 1999, according to the "Report on the Social and Economic State of the Southern Kuriles Area for January-December 2000," issued by the Sakhalin Regional Administration.

Islanders, too, say things are looking up. Nikolai Ramzayev, the director of the Kurilsk division of the Sakhalinsvyaz telephone company, said that the Internet was introduced last year on the islands and that by the end of July a digital telephone station will be built, which will significantly improve the quality of lines.

"Finally, the islanders have started feeling some care from the authorities," Ramzayev said. "And life is improving gradually."

The islands are still isolated, however. Planes do not fly in bad weather, and a ship scheduled to sail once a week may abruptly change its plans and cast off days behind schedule. But despite continuing transportation problems, the cargo turnover has grown by 26.8 percent as compared to 1999, mainly because the ship started bringing more food and equipment to the islands. Four new cafes opened during 2000, and a nature museum is being remodeled into a Russian Orthodox church.

But the life of common people is still very hard. Some don't even have enough money to buy food, so shopkeepers provide food on credit. However, the average salary grew to $154.55 a month in 2000 compared to $109.65 in 1999, according to the Sakhalin Oblast government report.

Despite the salary increases, more people are leaving the islands than arriving. During 2000, 275 people arrived and settled, but 416 residents left for good. In 2000, not a single baby was born in the area, officials said.

Rimma Rudakova, the head of Kurilsk administration's social department, is the local organizer of a non-visa exchange with Japan that has been going on for 10 years. While she supports the idea of cultural and other links with the neighboring country, she is against giving her "homeland" to Japan. She says the overwhelming majority of the islanders share this view -- even children.

"There was a discussion in our school," she said. "Local children said 'Our traditions and religion are so different. It would be so difficult to coexist together.'"

Tibor Ormosh, 43, is a former construction worker who decided to start a trading business from scratch. At first he brought suitcases full of food from Sakhalin Island by airplane, but now he owns a store called Tsunami. It is a modest business by foreign standards, but it is Kurilsk's biggest store.

Ormosh complained that the Iturup administration has tried to limit his and other merchants' businesses by imposing price controls. Merchants cannot charge more than 40 percent over the wholesale price of staples. Merchants say they could live with the price controls if the government would help out with the cost of imports, but it refuses to do so.

Deputy Governor Podolyan explained the move as a compromise between needy people's situation and the desire for higher profits by traders. "The merchants are not quite sincere when they say the government doesn't help them," he said. "A new, lower tax makes their life much easier. They only pay it once a year, as opposed to every month before."

But while you might think someone like Ormosh would be interested trying his fortunes under the more business-savvy Japan, even he is opposed to returning the islands to Japan.

"It is very beautiful, and everything is clean," said Ormosh, who has visited Sapporo under the non-visa exchange program. "But I wouldn't be able to live with the Japanese. Their psychology is so unlike ours, and we are used to an absolutely different life."

Nonna Chernyakova is a freelance reporter based in Vladivostok.


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