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Newsline - July 11, 2001




GOVERNMENT SAID IGNORING PUTIN'S ORDERS

According to an analysis published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 July, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and his government have "already quietly ignored a lot of the president's instructions," particularly on economic and cadres questions. As a result, while President Vladimir Putin remains popular, the government is increasingly unpopular. According to one poll cited by the paper, the percentage of Russians who believe that those in power are interested only in their own finances and careers has risen from 38 percent in 2000 to 52 percent now. Given such attitudes, the article said, "sooner or later voters will stop distinguishing between the Kremlin and the cabinet, between Putin and Kasyanov." In that event, the article concluded, Putin could see his popularity and power drop dramatically unless he moves to gain more effective control of the cabinet. PG

PUTIN'S OPPOSITION TO DEATH PENALTY SAID LIKELY TO SWAY RUSSIANS

An unnamed Kremlin official told Interfax on 10 July that Putin's public opposition to the death penalty will change the way many ordinary Russians view that issue. The official said that he completely shares the view of the president that "cruelty only begets cruelty." But human rights activist and State Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev said he does not believe that Putin is "a principled opponent of the death penalty," the news agency said. Meanwhile, other Russian politicians remain divided on the issue. Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that Putin's declaration was "a blatant concession to the West," but a second Duma deputy speaker, Yabloko leader Vladimir Lukin, said that the parliament should move quickly to ban the death penalty, Interfax reported the same day. PG

A PETERSBURG PALACE FOR THE PRESIDENT

"Vremya MN" reported on 10 July that reconstruction work on three buildings in St. Petersburg, including the Konstantin Palace, will soon allow Putin to occupy them when he is visiting his native city. On the same day, Interfax reported that the government is creating a commission to oversee the construction of a highway bypass around the northern capital and that treasure hunters are looking into reports that valuables buried by the imperial family are to be found beneath the Ksheshinskaya Palace in St. Petersburg. The same day, ITAR-TASS reported, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev said that his city will bid to host the Olympic Games sometime after 2012, when he hopes that "our city will turn into a luxurious St. Petersburg with brilliant streets and a sufficient number of hotels so that we need not be ashamed." PG

KASYANOV ISSUES DECREE ON 'CLOSED' AREAS

Prime Minister Kasyanov has issued a decree identifying some 90 areas as closed to outsiders, RIA-Novosti reported on 10 July. The decree requires the federal and regional governments to ensure that these areas remain closed off from the outside world. This is the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union that the central government has issued such an order, at least in public. VY

MOSCOW TO BUILD OBELISK IN HONOR OF THOSE WHO DIED IN CHECHNYA

Prime Minister Kasyanov signed a directive on financing the construction in the military section of a Moscow cemetery of an obelisk in honor of those soldiers who died during the fighting in Chechnya, Interfax reported on 10 July. The Defense Ministry has allocated 9 million rubles ($300,000) for the project this year. PG

PUTIN INSTALLS INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS IN INTERIOR MINISTRY

Putin on 10 July appointed three new deputy interior ministers, all of whom have the rank of lieutenant-general, RIA-Novosti reported. Aleksandr Chekalin will head the public security section, Mikhail Ignatiev will head the logistics service, and Nikolai Bobrovskii will head the criminal police. Bobrovskii was a colleague of the Russian president in the foreign intelligence service and like Putin has a good knowledge of German. Putin also named Federal Security Service (FSB) General Boris Miroshkin to head a new directorate that will be responsible for electronic intelligence gathering and combating high-tech crime. VY

GRYZLOV WANTS TO INVOLVE CITIZENRY IN PUBLIC SECURITY

Speaking at a conference of law-enforcement officers on 10 July, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said that citizens must become involved in public security and law enforcement, ORT television reported. Gryzlov also said that even though he hopes to improve efficiency in law enforcement, he does not anticipate any reduction in the size of the staff at his ministry, Interfax reported the same day. VY

TAX POLICE TO INCREASE WORK IN REGIONS

In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 10 July, Mikhail Fradkov, the director of the Federal Tax Police Service, said his officers will increase their work in the regions. He also said that he considers it "premature" to convert his agency into a force that will deal with all financial matters. PG

TWO-TIER PARTY SYSTEM SEEN EMERGING

At a Moscow conference on "Political Parties and the Presidency of Putin," Duma deputy (Union of Rightist Forces [SPS]) Boris Nadezhdin said that by 2003 there will be four or five parties of the first rank and about a dozen parties of the second rank in Russia, Interfax reported on 10 July. Unity deputy Frants Klintsevich said that his party considers "the unification of the center" and the reduction of the influence of the left to be the most important tasks in party construction. But Yabloko deputy Sergei Mitrokhin said that the Kremlin, rather than society, is likely to determine the outcome of current party-building efforts and that as a result, he "cannot share the optimism" of other speakers. PG

PEOPLE'S DEPUTY FACTION TO BECOME A PARTY

The People's Deputy movement will soon become a party, its leader in the Duma, Gennadii Raikov, said on 10 July, according to Russian agencies. He said his group will file the necessary papers as soon as Putin signs the Law on Political Parties and publishes it in the press. At present, Raikov said, there are regional branches of his movement in 71 subjects of the Russian Federation. PG

DUMA PARTIES WANT PARDONS COMMISSION TO BE ABLE TO WORK

In what an article in "Vremya MN" on 10 July said was "a most rare display of unity," the leaders of almost all factions and deputies' groups in the Duma have introduced an appeal for the legislature's consideration calling for the Presidential Pardons Commission to become more active. The deputies said that the commission's work has been hindered in recent months by various ministries and bureaucracies. PG

AGRARIANS WANT PATRIARCH TO TAKE A STAND ON LAND QUESTION

Nikolai Kharitonov, the leader of the Agro-Industrial group in the Duma, on 10 July appealed to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II to make public his views on the question of land ownership, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, the reformist Yabloko deputy faction announced that it has introduced more than 300 amendments to the draft Land Code, the Russian agency reported the same day. PG

MOSCOW SETS UP WTO INFORMATION OFFICE

The Economic Development and Trade Ministry has set up a special information bureau to help generate support for Russia's application for membership in the World Trade Organization, "Vremya MN" reported on 10 July. PG

BRZEZINSKI, PRIMAKOV DEBATE IN MOSCOW PAPER

Former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and former Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov have presented their views on relations among Russia, the United States, and China over the next twenty years, in a joint interview published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 10 July. Brzezinski said that Russia will have to turn to the West to protect itself from China, while Primakov insisted that a wise migration policy in the Russian Far East and a multidimensional foreign policy could work to Moscow's benefit. Primakov also insisted that Russia will remain a major power, adding that the concept of superpower is already a historical term. VY

TOBIN LOSES ANOTHER APPEAL

A Russian court has turned down another appeal by American exchange student John Tobin, who is serving 12 months in a Russian prison for drug possession, AP reported. Earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001), Russian officials indicated he might be released as early as August, when he will have served half of his sentence. PG

U.S. GLOBALISM SAID LATEST VARIANT OF BOLSHEVISM

According to an article in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 10 July, American globalism is the latest reincarnation of bolshevism, an ideology that seeks to assert that there is or should be a single center of power in the world. The article also said that the extradition of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the international tribunal in The Hague represents a victory for globalism, but also threatens Russian leaders, including Putin and former President Boris Yeltsin, with the possibility of being tried for their "crimes" in Chechnya. Consequently, Moscow must oppose globalism before it is too late, the paper concluded. VY

QADHAFI SAYS U.S. BEHIND CHECHEN WAR

Speaking at the founding summit of the African Union in Lusaka, Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi said that the United States is to blame for the Chechen challenge to Moscow's rule in the North Caucasus, "Izvestiya" reported on 10 July. "The true goal of the Americans," Qadhafi warned, "is to achieve the weakening of Russia." PG

PUTIN CONGRATULATES NEW HEAD OF OAU

Putin sent a message of greetings to Zambian President Jacob Titus Chilube on his election as president of the Organization of African Unity, Interfax reported on 10 July. Putin said that "Russia is interested in the expansion of dialogue with leading integrative structures of Africa and is prepared to enhance cooperation with them in the name of establishing a balanced and justice system of international relations." PG

RUSSIAN ROCKET SCIENTIST DOUBTS U.S. NMD WILL WORK

Yurii Sizov, who helped design the Russian S-300 missile defense system, said on 10 July that he doubts that any U.S. national missile defense system would ever be effective, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, Sizov said that Russia could agree to some amendments to the 1972 ABM Treaty without undermining its own security. PG

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONS TO BE SET UP IN FEDERAL DISTRICTS

Interregional human rights commissions are to be set up in all seven of the federal districts, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 10 July. Sergei Kirienko, the presidential envoy to the Volga federal district, told a meeting in Nizhnii Novgorod of human rights representatives from the seven districts that these groups will work to ensure that local laws correspond to federal legislation in the human rights area. He said these bodies will also play a role in promoting the reform of the judicial system and in giving advice on interethnic and interconfessional relations. Viliam Smirnov, the deputy chairman of the human rights commission in the Office of the Russian President, said that Putin backs the idea. PG

WORLD BANK TO GIVE RUSSIA AID FOR NORTHERN TERRITORIES

In Norilsk with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, World Bank President James Wolfensohn said on 10 July that his agency will provide Russia with a loan of $80 million to help resettle people from the Far North, Interfax reported. Approximately half of the loan will be used to build housing for those moved southward. PG

A COMPLICATED DAY ON THE MEDIA FRONT

Presidential adviser Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 10 July that "the government is in no way interested in any form of making the radio station Ekho Moskvy into state property," Interfax reported. He added that "this is the position of the president." Meanwhile, Gazprom-Media withdrew from an upcoming conference on press freedom because Ekho Moskvy had withdrawn earlier from the organizing committee of that meeting. Gazprom-Media then withdrew its offer to transfer to the employees of the radio station 9.5 percent of its shares, and announced that it would give them to SPS leader Boris Nemtsov in order to guarantee that Gazprom-Media does not own a majority of the shares of Ekho Moskvy, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11 July. PG

RUSSIA NEEDS TO ATTRACT 3-4 MILLION MIGRANTS FROM CIS COUNTRIES EACH YEAR

According to participants in a Moscow roundtable on "The Problem of Resettlers and Civil Society," the Russian government needs to attract 3 to 4 million migrants from countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States every year to compensate for negative demographic trends, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia is expected to have a labor shortage of approximately 10 million by 2016. Meanwhile, the same day, the State Statistics Committee told Interfax that Russia's population in that year will be 134.4 million, 10.4 million fewer than now. PG

PATRIARCHATE PLANS TO OPEN CHURCHES IN PRISONS

The Russian Orthodox Church plans to open churches in most prisons and camps in the near future, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 10 July. It has already constructed a church in a camp near Khabarovsk and reported that more than 100 prisoners have been baptized in the last year. Meanwhile, Interfax announced the same day that a volleyball match has taken place in Ulyanovsk between teams made up of prisoners from two different camps. PG

LAW ENFORCEMENT WORRIED ABOUT ISLAMIC EXTREMISM IN RUSSIA

A conference of the heads of law-enforcement agencies in Moscow on 10 July concluded that a variety of assistance groups, as well as Muslim countries abroad, are increasingly active in promoting Islamic extremism within Russia, Interfax reported on 10 July. The participants, who included FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev, Tax Police head Fradkov, and Constitutional Court Chairman Marat Baglai, among others, noted that the number of Islamic religious educational institutions is growing and that some of these are spreading fundamentalist ideas among Russian Muslims. PG

SHEREMETEVO POLICE DETAIN YUGOSLAV ORTHODOX BISHOP

Police at Moscow's Sheremetevo Airport on 10 July detained Yugoslav Orthodox Bishop Slavomir Miklovs on suspicion of trying to smuggle foreign currency out of Russia, AP reported. He was reportedly carrying $5,520 in undeclared cash. PG

MOSCOW VIGILANTES SEEK TO DRIVE OUT PEOPLE FROM THE CAUCASUS

Viktor Gosudarev, the deputy chief of the Moscow Interior Ministry's main criminal investigation directorate, said that young people have formed vigilante groups to drive out of Moscow markets vendors from the Caucasus, according to an article in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 10 July. But Gosudarev said that the vigilantes fall under the category of "extremist groups" and that the FSB "will take care of them." Meanwhile, Interior Minister Gryzlov said that his agency will devote more attention to combating the growth in crime among the young, Interfax reported the same day. VY

KLEBANOV SAYS PILOT ERROR CAUSED TU-154 CRASH

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who heads the government commission investigating the crash of the Tu-154 passenger jet near Irkutsk last week, said on 10 July that pilot error was to blame for the disaster that claimed 145 lives, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

FORMER SENIOR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS DOING WELL

"Izvestiya" reported on 10 July that all former Russian prime ministers and deputy prime ministers occupy positions of authority in the government or the economy, with one exception -- Aleksandr Zaveryukha. He lists his current occupation as "farmer." PG

SALVATION ARMY MIGHT NOT BE REGISTERED, JUSTICE OFFICIAL SAYS

Vladimir Zhbankov, the deputy chief of the main administration of the Justice Ministry for Moscow, told Interfax on 10 July that the Salvation Army cannot be registered as a religious organization in the Russian capital, but that it might be registered as a humanitarian assistance organization. PG

RUSSIAN JOURNALIST SAYS PRESS FREEDOM MUST BE ON U.S.-RUSSIA AGENDA

In an article published in "The Moscow Times" on 10 July, independent Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats said that "the fate of the last truly independent broadcast media in Russia -- where almost all the others are controlled either by the state directly or through its agents, including friendly oligarchs and state-controlled companies -- should be an issue that is no less important than nuclear proliferation, missile defense, NATO expansion, and the like." She also said that at the summit in Ljubljana last month with U.S. President George W. Bush, "Putin conducted the finest counterintelligence operation of his career. He managed to recruit Bush, even as he allowed his American counterpart to think that just the opposite had happened." PG

RESTRICTIONS ON JOURNALISTS IN COURTS DESCRIBED

An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 July enumerates the rules court officials in Tomsk Oblast and presumably elsewhere in Russia follow in deciding whether to allow journalists to attend court hearings. The rules give judges broad latitude to decide whether journalists can in fact attend, but do not give journalists any real possibility of overruling them, the paper noted. PG

OFFICERS STILL LIVING ON PROMISES, NOT PAY

Seven Defense Ministry officers in Blagoveshchensk recently staged a 10-day hunger strike to force their bosses to pay them their back wages, or at least to provide them with enough money for food, "Izvestiya" reported on 10 July. The officers ended their strike after the ministry promised to pay them, but the paper noted that the conflict is likely to resurface because so far the military has not fulfilled its promises to the officers. PG

CENTENNIAL OF TRANS-SIBERIAN MARKED

A special train left Moscow's Yaroslavl station on 9 July to travel along the Trans-Siberian railroad in honor of that railway's 100th anniversary, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 July. The train will take 18 days to reach Vladivostok, the paper said. PG

INCREASE IN DEATHS BY DROWNING SPURS MOSCOW POLICE TO ACT

In the first nine days of July, 68 Muscovites drowned at beaches and pools in the Russian capital, two more than drowned during the entire month of June, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 July. In response, the police closed three beaches and stepped up patrols at others, Interfax reported the same day. PG

BEREZOVSKY NEWSPAPER POOH-POOHS REGIONS' ABANDONMENT OF POWER-SHARING TREATIES...

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 July that there is less than meets the eye in the recent announcement that four regions in the Volga federal district -- the Perm, Ulyanovsk, and Nizhnii Novgorod oblasts as well as Marii El Republic -- voluntarily offered to terminate the power-sharing agreements negotiated between the regions and Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). On 26 June, President Putin announced the formation of a commission to examine the power-sharing agreements (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 4 July 2001). According to the daily, the terms of the four regions' agreements were not being observed, and it was therefore "easy" for the regions "to give up powers that they didn't really have." Officially, the regional leaders attributed their desire to abandon the agreements as a means "to ensure the supremacy of the Constitution and federal law." JAC

...AS ONE REGION ASKS FOR NEW AGREEMENT

On 10 July, in an interview with "Izvestiya," Marii El President Leonid Markelov said that the time is ripe to negotiate a new power-sharing agreement with Moscow that will have not a declarative but a specific nature. Markelov added that the republic's previous agreement, which was concluded in 1993, is outdated and had "no kind of political consequences for the republic." In earlier comments to reporters, Dmitrii Kozak, the head of the newly established commission on the power-sharing agreements, said that his commission would work toward making the agreements superfluous (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001). JAC

DISTRICT PROSECUTORS CHARGE TOP ST. PETERSBURG OFFICIAL WITH BRIBERY

The Prosecutor-General's Office in the Northwestern federal district has brought a charge of bribery against St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Valerii Malyshev, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 July. Malyshev had earlier been implicated in the private firm VMTs's illegal financing of the founding congress of the movement, Fatherland-All Russia (OVR), in 1999, but no formal criminal charges were ever brought, according to "Kommersant-Daily" the next day. Malyshev was later elected to the State Duma from OVR's party list but unexpectedly left the Duma after less than a year to join the St. Petersburg government. According to the daily, unidentified sources in St. Petersburg say that the prosecutor is interested in Malyshev's relationship with several city banks. Meanwhile, earlier this week, the deputy head of the Pskov Oblast administration was charged with theft and large-scale embezzlement, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 9 July. JAC

LEGISLATOR WANTS TO SEND DZERZHINSKII TO SIBERIA

State Duma deputy and leader of the Agro-Industrial group Kharitonov plans to send a request to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov asking him to transport the statue of Cheka founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii that once graced Lubyanka Square in central Moscow to Novosibirsk Oblast, Ekho Moskvy radio reported on 10 July. Kharitonov has led two previous unsuccessful efforts to restore the monument to its original location in front of the KGB headquarters; however, Luzhkov has blocked both attempts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 1998). Now Kharitonov has apparently found Dzerzhinskii a new home in Novosibirsk. According to Kharitonov, "at the beginning of the 1920s, Dzerzhinskii did a lot in Siberia, especially when it was necessary to revive the Western-Siberian railway." JAC

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS ADMIT TO VIOLATIONS DURING CHECHEN SECURITY SWEEP

The presidential envoy to the Southern federal district, Viktor Kazantsev, admitted in Grozny on 10 July that Russian troops resorted to unwarranted brutality during security checks in three villages in western Chechnya last week, Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001). Kazantsev apologized for those actions to local administrators, who subsequently withdrew the resignations they had submitted to protest the Russian troop actions. Also on 10 July, Russian presidential aide Yastrzhembskii told Ekho Moskvy radio that "certain violations" took place during the combing of the three villages. He said the Military Prosecutor's Office will launch an investigation to determine the nature of the violations and the identity of those responsible. Meanwhile, Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who represents Chechnya in the Russian State Duma, told journalists in Moscow on 10 July that in Kurchaloi alone, Russian troops detained 117 people between the ages of 13 and 65, of whom six have since been found murdered and eight are still missing, AFP reported. According to the Russian human rights monitoring group Memorial, seven people detained in Sernovodsk and 12 from Assinovskaya are also still missing. LF




ARMENIAN, TURKISH REPRESENTATIVES CREATE UNOFFICIAL RECONCILIATION COMMISSION...

Following months of confidential talks, Armenian and Turkish representatives reached agreement in Vienna on 9 July on setting up a Reconciliation Commission, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported the following day, citing "The New York Times." The aim of the commission is to foster cooperation and communication leading to direct talks between the two governments, which do not at present have formal diplomatic relations. Members of the 10-person commission include former Armenian Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian and Andranik Migranian, who served as an adviser to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. LF

...AS TURKISH DEPUTY PREMIER REITERATES PRECONDITIONS FOR IMPROVED RELATIONS

Meeting in Ankara on 10 July with an Azerbaijani parliament delegation headed by speaker Murtuz Alesqerov, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister and Motherland party Chairman Mesut Yilmaz said that an improvement in Turkey's relations with Armenia depends on finding a solution to the Karabakh conflict, according to Anatolia News Agency and the "Turkish Daily News," as cited by Groong on 10 July. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit recently listed as preconditions for establishing formal diplomatic relations the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territory and the creation of a corridor across Armenian territory linking Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhichevan (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 21, 7 June 2001 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2001). LF

MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRS VISIT ARMENIA, NAGORNO-KARABAKH

Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov and the French and U.S. co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group met for 2 1/2 hours in Yerevan on 10 July with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian to discuss approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. U.S. co-chairman Carey Cavanaugh told journalists that the talks focussed on possible "refinements" of ideas discussed during earlier talks in Paris in March and Florida in April. He told RFE/RL there is no timeframe set for reaching an agreement on resolving the conflict, but AFP quoted Oskanian as saying that he hopes one can be reached by the end of this year. Oskanian also said that "the general framework is pretty much in place," and if the differences between the Armenian and Azerbaijani positions can be resolved, then a further meeting between President Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliyev could take place in Geneva. But Interfax on 10 July quoted Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev as saying that a meeting between the two presidents is contingent on Armenia abandoning its "unconstructive" attitude which, he claimed, had brought the peace process to a halt. The three mediators also had what Cavanaugh termed a "very useful" meeting with Armenian Defense Minister and National Security Council Chairman Serzh Sarkisian, who reaffirmed Armenia's intention to abide by the cease-fire signed in 1994, according to Mediamax. They then traveled to Stepanakert for talks with the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. LF

AZERBAIJAN SENTENCES DEMONSTRATION PARTICIPANTS

Following a seven-week trial, a court in Mingechvir on 10 July handed down prison sentences of between four and six years to 18 men who participated in mass protests in the town of Sheki last November against abysmal social conditions and official falsification of the outcome of the 5 November parliamentary poll, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 November 2000). Four of them head local branches of opposition parties. Nine other defendants were placed on probation for nine years. LF

LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS AZERBAIJAN

Visiting Baku on 10-11 July, Indulis Berzins affirmed Latvia's "serious plans" for cooperation with Azerbaijan, especially in the economic sphere, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that given Latvia's aspiration to EU membership, Azerbaijan should regard such cooperation as cooperation with the EU. Berzins also gave a positive evaluation to the GUUAM alignment, of which Azerbaijan was one of the original four members, and said Latvia intends to participate in the TRACECA and North-South transport corridors. Berzins and Quliev signed intergovernmental agreements on motor transport and on cooperation between their respective ministries. Further agreements on air transport, customs, and avoiding double taxation are being prepared. LF

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SUMMONS GEORGIAN ENVOY OVER GUDAUTA IMPASSE...

The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Georgia's ambassador to Moscow, Zurab Abashidze, on 9 July and informed him of the Russian leadership's "regret" at Tbilisi's alleged failure to ensure the safe withdrawal of Russian military personnel from the Gudauata military base in Abkhazia by the 30 June deadline stipulated in the 1999 agreement, Interfax reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry further expressed displeasure at what it termed a wave of anti-Russian rhetoric in Georgia, and called on the Georgian leadership to comply with its obligations under the 1999 agreement to create appropriate conditions for completing the Russian withdrawal. The Russian Foreign Ministry also noted that deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin's visit to Sukhum last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001) confirmed that the population of Abkhazia "categorically opposes" the closure of the Russian base that it perceives as the sole guarantee that Georgia will not launch new hostilities against Abkhazia, Interfax reported. The ministry affirmed Moscow's intentions to continue both bilateral and multilateral efforts at reaching a political solution to the Abkhaz conflict. LF

...AND GEORGIA RESPONDS IN KIND

On 10 July, the Georgian Foreign Ministry responded by summoning Russian Ambassador Vladimir Gudev and blaming Russia for violating the 1999 agreement by failing to withdraw from the Gudauta base by the 30 June deadline, Caucasus Press reported. At the same time, the Georgian Foreign Ministry signaled its willingness to discuss Moscow's proposal to allow the base to be used as a rehabilitation center for the Russian troops deployed as peacekeepers along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. LF

FORMER JUSTICE MINISTER ELECTED GEORGIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CHAIRMAN

The nine members of Georgia's Constitutional Court on 10 July approved the candidacy of former Justice Minister Dzhoni Khetsuriani as the court's new chairman, Caucasus Press reported. Khetsuriani, who was nominated to that post by President Eduard Shevardnadze, succeeds Avtandil Demetrashvili, whose five-year term has expired. Khetsuriani resigned as justice minister last October following the escape of 12 prisoners from a Tbilisi jail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2000). LF

GEORGIAN, UZBEK DELEGATIONS DISCUSS ECONOMIC COOPERATION

An Uzbek government delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Yunusov attended a two-day session of the Georgian-Uzbek economic commission in Tbilisi on 9-10 July, Caucasus Press reported. The two sides signed agreements on the mutual recognition of customs documentation, on cooperation to counter smuggling and the avoidance of customs duties, on the joint struggle against drug trafficking, and on cooperation in the field of information and trade statistics. They also discussed transport cooperation within the framework of the TRACECA East-West transport corridor. The Uzbek delegation met on 10 July with President Shevardnadze. LF

KAZAKH MILITARY OFFICIAL EVALUATES ONGOING MANEUVERS

Chief of General Staff Alibek Qasymov told journalists in Shymkent on 10 July that the military maneuvers that began one week earlier in three oblasts of southern Kazakhstan have demonstrated the efficiency of servicemen in the southern military district, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The war games involve a total of 4,500 servicemen and focus on perfecting antiterrorist operations. One of the most spectacular exercises, Qasymov said, was the simulated liberation, in 22 minutes, of an airport seized by terrorists. Two months ago the Kazakh government allocated an additional 60 million tenges ($41,100) for equipment for the troops of the southern district, which is seen as particularly vulnerable to incursions by Islamic militants from Kyrgyzstan, Interfax reported. LF

KYRGYZSTAN PLANS MORE POSTS ON BORDER WITH TAJIKISTAN...

Kyrgyz Emergencies Minister Ratbek Eshmambetov told a cabinet meeting on 10 July that nine new border posts are under construction on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border as part of the broader effort to fortify the border against a repeat of the incursions by Islamic militants that took place in 1999 and 2000, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. But he noted that to date the Finance Ministry has allocated only some 52 million soms (about $1.1 million) of a total 64 million earmarked for that purpose. LF

...BUT WANTS UZBEKISTAN TO REMOVE BORDER CHECKPOINTS

The administration of Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken Oblast has appealed to the Ferghana regional authorities in neighboring Uzbekistan to reduce the number of checkpoints along the two regions' shared border, Batken deputy governor Abdumajit Abdurakhmanov told RFE/RL on 10 July. At present there are 47 Uzbek checkpoints along the border and around the Sokh and Shahimardan enclaves. He said the large number of checkpoints creates problems for local Kyrgyz residents. LF




BELARUS TO REMAIN UNREPRESENTED IN OSCE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, which ended its session in Paris on 10 July, has prolonged its policy of "an empty chair" with regard to Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Because of undemocratic general elections in Belarus in 2001, the OSCE does not recognize the National Assembly as a legitimate Belarusian legislature. And the powers of the opposition Supreme Soviet, which previously represented Belarus in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, expired last year. JM

WIVES OF DISAPPEARED POLITICIANS IN BELARUS APPEAL FOR OSCE SUPPORT

The wives of several prominent figures who disappeared or died in Belarus appealed to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Paris on 10 July to create an international commission to examine the circumstances of the disappearances or deaths of their husbands, Belapan reported. JM

ELECTORAL AUTHORITIES WARN THREE BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS

The Central Election Commission on 10 July issued warnings to three challengers of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the upcoming 9 September presidential elections for allegedly violating electoral legislation, Belapan reported. Liberal Democratic Party leader Syarhey Haydukevich was admonished for advertising himself during the collection of signatures, while Lukashenka's former aides, Leanid Sinitsyn and Mikhail Marynich, were cautioned for paying for the collection of signatures in their support. Belarus's stringent electoral code and Lukashenka's decrees prohibit using private funds in the campaign and electioneering before the registration of candidates. Central Election Commission Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna said the three hopefuls will be dropped from the race in the event of future violations. JM

EXILED OPPOSITION LEADER TO RETURN FREELY TO BELARUS?

The State Border Troops Committee has said Zyanon Paznyak may enter Belarus without encumbrance through any border checkpoint provided he has a valid identity document, Belapan reported on 10 July. The committee was responding to a letter from the Conservative Christian Party led by Paznyak, which inquired whether border officers have an order to arrest him. Paznyak left Belarus in 1996 and obtained political asylum in the U.S. The Central Election Commission registered Paznyak's campaign staff to collect signatures for his registration as a presidential candidate. JM

UKRAINIAN ANTIPRESIDENTIAL FORCES SET UP ELECTORAL BLOC

Former Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko will lead a newly created National Salvation Forum electoral bloc of opposition parties in parliamentary elections next year, Interfax reported on 10 July. The founding declaration of the bloc was signed by Tymoshenko (Fatherland Party), Anatoliy Matviyenko (Sobor Party), Vasyl Onopenko (Social-Democratic Party), Levko Lukyanenko (Republican Party), Stepan Khmara (Conservative Republican Party), Oles Serhiyenko (Christian Democratic Party), and a representative of the Patriotic Party. The bloc declares it will seek to win the elections, form a government, and oust President Leonid Kuchma. Tymoshenko told journalists that her bloc is going to propose "peaceful coexistence or cooperation" during the parliamentary elections to Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz and former Premier Viktor Yushchenko. Moroz commented that the Socialist Party will not compete with the National Salvation Forum bloc in next year's elections. JM

UKRAINE'S ELECTION OFFICIAL URGES NEW ELECTION LAW

Mykhaylo Ryabets, the head of the Central Electoral Commission, told journalists on 10 July that it will be "simply impossible" to conduct next year's parliamentary election campaign under the current election law, Interfax reported. According to Ryabets, neither his commission nor any other body will be able to control the election campaign and prevent mass violations of election procedures since the current election law does not provide for clear-cut election regulation mechanisms. President Kuchma has already vetoed three election bills passed by the parliament this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). JM

UKRAINE TO EXPORT ELECTRICITY THROUGH MOLDOVA

Ukrainian Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh and his Moldovan counterpart Vasile Tarlev on 10 July agreed to deliver Ukrainian electricity through the Moldovan territory to Mediterranean countries, Interfax reported. The two sides signed five bilateral accords, including on customs cooperation and cooperation between business organizations. Tarlev pledged to pay off some $900,000 in railroad transport debts to Ukraine, and to decrease railway tariffs for Ukrainian cargo loads through Moldova to the Ukrainian port of Reni. Meanwhile, Russian-Ukrainian talks about the coupling of both countries' power grids -- which was agreed on by Ukrainian President Kuchma and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in February -- have ended in deadlock. According to ITAR-TASS, Kyiv does not want to lift restrictions on Russian electricity supplies or discuss commercial terms of Russian electricity transit through Ukraine to third countries. JM

BALTIC STATES ADVANCE IN UN HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT

According to the United Nations' Human Development Report, the three Baltic states improved their rankings compared to last year, ETA reported on 10 July. The ranking is based on such factors as personal income, health care system, life expectancy, and educational level of the populations. The report divides countries into three groups: states of high, medium, and low levels of development, with the first 48 countries being deemed to have high development. Estonia rose from 46th place out of 174 countries last year to 44th of 162 countries and Lithuania from 52nd to 47th place. Latvia, with a ranking of 50th, was placed in the medium development group, but it showed the most progress among the Baltic states, advancing from 63rd last year. The annual per capita GDP was $8,355 in Estonia, $6,656 in Lithuania, and $6,264 in Latvia. SG

LATVIA HANDS OVER COMMAND OF BALTIC NAVAL SQUADRON TO ESTONIA

In formal ceremonies in Riga on 10 July, the command of BALTRON, the joint Baltic states' naval squadron, was passed from Latvian Commander Andrejs Zvaigzne to Estonian Lieutenant-Commander Igor Schvede, BNS reported. The commander of the Latvian armed forces, Colonel Raimonds Graube, stated that BALTRON is one of the most successful examples of Baltic cooperation, which would be useful in future integration into NATO. Zvaigzne noted that last year the squadron took part in 11 operations and training events, involving 286 crew members, and improved its minesweeping capabilities and communications. Schvede promised to promote Baltic defense capabilities, and to improve the compatibility of the armed forces among themselves and with NATO. SG

INFLATION RISES BY 0.6 PERCENT IN LITHUANIA AND LATVIA

The Lithuanian Statistics Department announced on 10 July that the consumer price index (CPI) increased by 0.6 percent in June compared to May of this year and 1.5 percent compared to June 2000, ELTA reported. The prices of food and nonalcoholic drinks grew by 1.1 percent, transport goods and services by 1.9 percent, and alcoholic drinks and tobacco products by 1.1 percent, while communications services decreased by 3.5 percent. A day earlier, the Latvian Statistics Bureau announced that the CPI grew by 0.6 percent in June compared to May of this year and 3.1 percent compared to June 2000, LETA reported. The prices of goods and services rose by 0.7 and 0.2 percent, respectively, in June over the previous month, and by 3.6 and 1.9 percent compared to June 2000. SG

POLISH PREMIER TO SACK DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER

Government spokesman Krzysztof Luft said on 10 July that Premier Jerzy Buzek will dismiss Deputy Defense Minister Romuald Szeremietiew, following a motion from Defense Minister Bronislaw Komorowski, PAP reported. Szeremietiew was suspended last week following a newspaper report that his aide, Zbigniew Farmus, sought $100,000 from an unidentified Western manufacturer in exchange for assurances that the company will win a contract to supply howitzers. Police on 10 July detained Farmus on a ferry heading for Sweden. Komorowski said he filed a motion to fire Szeremietiew because the latter falsely informed him that Farmus is in Poland. JM

PORTUGUESE PRESIDENT MEETS CZECH PRESIDENT...

Visiting Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio and his Czech counterpart Vaclav Havel on 10 July discussed EU reform and expansion, NATO enlargement, and the situation in the Balkans, CTK and AP reported. Havel said the two presidents agreed that the EU must introduce reforms to prevent the domination of larger countries over small ones. He said the EU must "in the long run" reflect "not only size, but also sovereignty" and for this purpose a second chamber should be created in the European Parliament in which each state will have equal representation. Sampaio said Portugal wants EU enlargement to take place soon and new members to be able to participate in the 2004 elections for the European Parliament. MS

...AND PRIME MINISTER

Sampaio also discussed with Milos Zeman the role of small- and medium-sized countries in the EU and Czech-Portuguese commercial relations, CTK reported. Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, who attended the meeting, said his country supports the free movement of labor from the first day upon new members' accession to the EU and that this "fundamental principle must not be violated by any transition periods." MS

CZECH CHIEF OF STAFF WANTS PROFESSIONAL ARMY BY 2010

Chief of Staff General Jiri Sedivy, in an interview with Reuters on 10 July, said the Czech army must become "fully professional" by 2010, when it will have "just over 40,000 troops." At present there are 53,800 servicemen in the armed forces, of whom 27,500 are conscripts. After the 1993 "Velvet Divorce," the Czech army had more than 115,000 soldiers. Sedivy said a fully professional army would be "smaller and more effective, but also more expensive." He said lawmakers must begin passing legislation in 2003 in order for the army's transformation to meet the 2010 target. He also said he has not encountered any criticism of the Czech army in NATO circles "with the exception of the controversial issue of supersonic [aircraft purchase]." He said buying a new generation of fighters for the air force is "not beyond the means of the defense budget" and that operation of its worn-out MiG-21 fighters "is also very costly." MS

PRAGUE BAILIFFS SEARCH TV TYCOON'S PROPERTY

Court officials, aided by a locksmith and a police officer, on 10 July raided the headquarters of the Sibeliova company owned by Ales Rozenhal, a close friend of TV tycoon Vladimir Zelezny, CTK and dpa reported. The bailiffs were searching for property belonging to Zelezny but left without finding anything, and Rozenhal said he has launched a complaint for "abuse of power and breach of privacy." The courts have been searching for Zelezny's assets for months following a February ruling by an international arbitration panel that Zelezny must pay his former U.S. associate Ronald Lauder $27 million for having forced Lauder out of their partnership in Nova TV. Zelezny said he will pay the $27 million, but has so far failed to do so. MS

CZECHS, GERMANS TO COOPERATE IN FIGHT AGAINST SKINHEAD MUSIC

The German and Czech authorities on 10 July said they have reached an agreement on cooperation against right-wing extremist propaganda, and in particular against the German organizers of skinhead concerts in the Czech Republic, CTK reported. Last year, 82 such concerts took place in the Czech Republic. The German authorities said they intend to give investigators in neighboring countries access to their databank of information about the banned bands. MS

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER SAYS SMK HAS NO REASON TO LEAVE COALITION

Mikulas Dzurinda on 10 July said after talks with Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) Chairman Bela Bugar that he can see "no reason" that would justify the SMK's leaving the ruling coalition, CTK reported. On the contrary, Dzurinda said, there are "plenty of reasons" for the continuation of SMK's participation in the government, foremost among which are "the chance of getting Slovakia into NATO and the EU." Dzurinda also said that he envisages the partnership with the SMK continuing after the 2002 elections. The premier dismissed Movement for a Democratic Slovakia Chairman Vladimir Meciar's offer to back the cabinet in the parliament after the SMK leaves it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001). "I have been in politics long enough to see what is a trick," he said, adding that "Slovakia's future does not rest in those who led it into isolation and rejected human rights and democratic principles." MS

NATO SUPPORT INCREASING AMONG SLOVAK MILITARY

An overwhelming majority of 76 percent among Slovak professional soldiers support joining NATO, 18 percent are opposed, and 6 percent say they do not know, CTK reported on 10 July, citing a survey released by the Defense Ministry. Support for joining NATO increased by 4 percentage points compared to last year, while opposition to it dropped by nine points. The most supportive segment is in the age bracket 26 to 35. Support among the military is far higher than that registered among the population at large, with recent surveys indicating a backing there that ranges between 40 and 52 percent. MS

SLOVAK ROM'S FUNERAL TURNS INTO PROTEST DEMONSTRATION

The 10 July funeral of Karol Sendrei, who died while in police custody last week after having apparently been beaten, turned into a demonstration against police brutality and anti-Roma discrimination, CTK reported. Some 500 attended the funeral in the central Slovak village of Magnezitovce and earlier a demonstration against racism took place in Jelsava, central Slovakia. Klara Orgovanova, the newly appointed government commissioner for Romany issues, criticized in her speech at Sendrei's funeral Premier Dzurinda and President Rudolf Schuster for not paying enough attention to the case. Interior Minister Ivan Simko dismissed from the police the son of the Magnezitovce mayor who was involved in the incident, and suspended the two other policemen charged with causing bodily harm (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001). MS

HISTORIC TOMBSTONES DESECRATED IN SLOVAK JEWISH CEMETERY

Eleven tombstones dating back more than 100 years were destroyed by unknown perpetrators on 7 July in the Jewish cemetery of Zvolen, western Slovakia, CTK reported on 10 July. The cemetery was restored in 1998. MS

VERHOFSTADT LAUDS HUNGARY'S EU PROGRESS

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt on 10 July praised Hungary's progress in the ongoing EU accession talks, and said that EU candidate countries should take part in a debate on Europe's future. Speaking in Brussels after meeting his visiting Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban, Verhofstadt, who currently holds the EU's six-month rotating chairmanship, said Hungary can close negotiations by 2002, "Vilaggazdasag" reported. For his part, Orban admitted that Hungary's regulations relating to public radio and television must be settled this year, as they are not in line with EU norms. Orban also said that his country has proved its intention to support Hungarian ethnic minorities abroad within European norms. MSZ

HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW DISCUSSED IN BRUSSELS

Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi on 10 July told an informal gathering of European Commission members in Brussels that most commission members already understand the Hungarian Status Law's purpose and rationale, Hungarian media reported. EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said the law basically meets European norms, and that the problem of its implementation can be easily solved if consultations between Hungary and its neighbors continue and "good intentions prevail." Verheugen called on Romanian President Ion Iliescu to tone down his rhetoric, after Iliescu once again criticized Hungary over the Status Law during his talks in Brussels. In other news, visiting Croatian Deputy Foreign Minister Nenad Prelog on 10 July told reporters in Budapest that Hungary's Status Law will not affect relations with Croatia, and "in fact may even improve them." He said Croatia is drafting its own bill to provide benefits for Croatian minorities abroad. MSZ

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT SAYS HUNGARY READY FOR ACCESSION

According to a report issued on 9 July by the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Hungary meets the political conditions necessary for possible accession to the EU, but needs to take stronger action to integrate the Romany population and curb corruption and inflation. The report says that press freedom prevails in Hungary, and attributes the exclusive representation of pro-governing party members on the board of trustees of public service media to the opposition's inability to reach an agreement on its own candidates. The report suggests that Hungary needs to receive from the EU a specific date for accession and that its representation in the EU Parliament should be raised to 22 deputies, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER REJECTS SUMMONS FROM TORGYAN

Agriculture Minister Andras Vonza, a member of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP), on 10 July declined to come to the party's headquarters, as demanded by FKGP Chairman Jozsef Torgyan, Hungarian media reported. One day earlier, Torgyan summoned Vonza to give an account of his activities, claiming that Vonza had participated in Brussels in "selling out the homeland to foreigners." In a letter written to Torgyan, Vonza said that the elaboration of Hungary's agreement with the EU on farmland purchases was the result of Torgyan's own activity as agriculture minister. He said the government will discuss farmland issues and related bills on 17 July. MSZ




BOSNIAN MUSLIMS MARK SREBRENICA ANNIVERSARY

Thousands of Bosnian Muslims were expected to return to the eastern town of Srebrenica on 11 July to mourn some 8,000 males killed by Bosnian Serb forces there after the town fell in 1995. Security was expected to be tight amid concerns that Bosnian Serbs might try to disrupt the observance. Reuters reported that U.S. peacekeepers were already out in force the previous day, not far from the memorial site just outside Srebrenica itself. Georges Bordet, a regional deputy to High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, said Bosnian Serb officials will be responsible for maintaining security. Earlier this week, the interior minister for Bosnia's Muslim-Croat Federation, Muhamed Besic, said Serb extremists from the Ravna Gora Chetnik Movement are planning to disrupt the ceremony. In May, Bosnian Serbs attacked Muslims and Western officials during a ceremony to rebuild a mosque in Banja Luka. PM

BOSNIAN FOREIGN MINISTER TO BECOME PRIME MINISTER...

The three-man joint presidency nominated Zlatko Lagumdzija, a Muslim, to become prime minister, Reuters reported on 10 July. Lagumdzija, who heads the Social Democratic Party in the governing reformist Alliance for Change, replaces Croat Bozidar Matic and will remain foreign minister. Speaking in Washington after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Lagumdzija said: "The most important thing is that we have the Council of Ministers that will be ready to face the challenges that are enormous today in Bosnia." It is not clear whether he will be any more successful than was Matic in ending the practice of rotating the prime minister's job among Muslims, Serbs, and Croats. PM

...PLEDGES TO CATCH WAR CRIMINALS

Speaking in Washington on 11 July, Lagumdzija said: "If [we find Radovan] Karadzic and [General Ratko] Mladic...somewhere in Bosnia, they have to be sent where their friend [Slobodan Milosevic] is already. It is The Hague, obviously... We are absolutely committed to the idea of not allowing Bosnia-Herzegovina to become the last country in the region that is a shelter for war criminals." During the 1992-1995 conflict, Lagumdzija was one of the few prominent non-nationalist politicians in Bosnia. He made extensive contacts with foreign leaders, NGOs, and other international officials during those years. PM

BOSNIAN SERB LEADER SEEKS RELEASE FROM THE HAGUE

Former Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic has formally requested to be allowed to go to Belgrade and return to The Hague when summoned, Reuters reported from Amsterdam on 11 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001). It is not clear what the tribunal will decide. PM

CROATIA CELEBRATES IVANISEVIC, FORGETS POLITICS

Some 150,000 fans -- or about half the city's population -- turned out in Split on 10 July to give a boisterous welcome to tennis star and Wimbledon victor Goran Ivanisevic, VOA's Croatian Service reported. The nationwide infatuation with Ivanisevic's triumph distracted attention from politics, thereby frustrating nationalists who sought to foster an atmosphere of crisis following the government's decision to send two indicted war criminals to The Hague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). Ivanisevic has said repeatedly that he regards himself as a representative of Croatia abroad but has shunned any political role for himself. He carefully distanced himself from attempts by the government of the late President Franjo Tudjman -- who was an ardent sportsman -- to co-opt him for Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). Ivanisevic once said that the reason that he was not chosen to carry the Croatian flag into the Olympic stadium in Barcelona in 1992 was that he was not a member of the HDZ. PM

OPTIMISM FOR SLOVENIAN TOURIST SEASON

The number of domestic tourists is down 20 percent over last year's tourist season, but the number of foreign visitors is up by 40 percent, "Delo" reported from Portoroz on 11 July. The daily added that the overall prognosis for this year's season is good. Tourism is very important to the economies of both Slovenia and Croatia. The success of the tourist season is regularly the subject of much discussion in the two countries' media. PM

MORE EU AID FOR MACEDONIA?

Chris Patten, the EU's commissioner for foreign affairs, has offered "Macedonia's rancorous political parties...a cash inducement to settle their differences," "The Independent" reported on 11 July. The approximately $42 million is in addition to a $35 million aid package already offered. The additional funds would be tied to specific usages, including "substantial budgetary assistance," if a political settlement is implemented (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 June 2001). Speaking in Brussels, Patten rejected calls by some for a new Balkan peace conference. He added: "The answer to the region's problems is more enlightened government, not more inspired map-making." He also criticized the "pernicious web of organized crime, feeding nationalism and extremists -- and vice versa -- corrupting and emasculating public administrations, police, and the judiciary" in the Balkans. PM

EU STRIKES DEAL WITH YUGOSLAVIA

Officials of the European Investment Bank have reached an agreement with the Belgrade authorities to reschedule repayment of $192 million from pre-1990 loans, AP reported from Luxembourg on 10 July. The EU is now considering assistance of up to $170 million for roads, railroads, waterways, and civil aviation projects as part of the $1.25 billion it promised Belgrade at the recent donors conference. PM

MONTENEGRO CALLS ON SERBIA FOR TALKS...

Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said in Podgorica that his government wants talks with the Serbian authorities and the Montenegrin opposition and that he has sent a letter to Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic to that effect, "Pobjeda" reported on 11 July. Vujanovic added that he also wrote to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, asking him whether he wants to take part. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said elsewhere that Montenegro will not tell the Serbs whom to include in their delegation, "Danas" reported. He noted that it is Serbia's business if it wants to include Kostunica in its team. Montenegro does not recognize the Yugoslav federal government, which, Podgorica claims, was set up on the basis of legislation enacted by former President Milosevic without Montenegro's approval. Djukanovic also said that one should not regard the upcoming referendum on independence as a "day of judgement, but just as one more democratic step forward," "Vijesti" reported. PM

...WHILE KOSTUNICA AGAIN WARNS AGAINST BREAKUP

Kostunica told "Politika" of 11 July that he is optimistic that Belgrade and Podgorica can find a mutually agreeable solution. He again warned that Montenegrin independence, which he referred to as "redrawing borders," could "destabilize" the region, especially Macedonia. Montenegrin -- and Kosovar -- leaders have repeatedly rejected Kostunica's assertions, saying that democratic choices promote stability, not instability. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WRAPS UP BRUSSELS VISIT

Guenter Verheugen, the European commissioner for enlargement, on 10 July told Romanian President Ion Iliescu that at the start of 2001 "the mood [about Romania in the EU] was basically skeptical," but that "now we have reason to look at Romania with cautious optimism," Reuters reported. European Commission President Romano Prodi cited lower inflation and the start of judicial reforms as two key achievements of Romania's new government. Iliescu repeated Romania's ambition to close negotiations on all 31 chapters of the aquis communautaire by 2004 and join the EU by 2007. Iliescu had less reason to be satisfied with Verheugen's reaction to his renewed complaints about the Hungarian Status Law (see Hungarian item above). MS

PACE COMMITTEE TONES DOWN RESOLUTION ON ROMANIA

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 10 July decided to amend the draft resolution submitted in late May by its rapporteur on Romania, Baroness Emma Nicholson, in view of the progress made by Bucharest on several aspects that were harshly criticized in the original draft, Romanian media reported. The assembly is to discuss and approve the report in September. The committee deleted from the draft those parts that said Romania is not meeting EU membership political criteria and the recommendation that the EU consider suspending negotiations with Bucharest. It also decided to recommend that the EU eliminate Romania from the list of countries whose citizens need visas to travel in the union and to support Romania's NATO membership quest. The Romanian government released a statement saying it is "satisfied" that the report is now "considerably more balanced." MS

JOURNALISTS' INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS CRITICIZE ROMANIA

The New York-based Independent Journalism Foundation and Article 19 (a nongovernmental organization based in London) on 10 July released a statement coinciding with President Iliescu's Brussels visit and criticizing Romania for intending to keep legislation stipulating prison sentences for journalists who "insult authorities." They also said that a draft law on state secrets "imposes restrictions on freedom of expression which go far beyond those necessary to protect state secrets in a democratic society," AP reported. MS

ROMANIAN POLICE CONTINUE INVESTIGATION OF ROMTELCOM PRIVATIZATION

Former Finance Minister Decebal Traian Remes was questioned by police on 11 July in connection with the ongoing investigation on suspected illegalities committed in the 1998 privatization of RomTelcom, Romanian Radio reported. On 10 July, police questioned former State Property Fund Chief Sorin Dimitriu, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Dimitriu told journalists that he had been summoned "as a witness," that he had opposed the consultation fees paid to the Goldman-Sachs company and that he resigned as privatization chief for that reason (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). MS

ROMANIA'S NATIONAL MINORITIES COUNCIL MEMBERS DISSATISFIED WITH STATUS

The recently established National Minorities Council, which includes representatives of all ethnic minorities represented in the Romanian parliament, held its first meeting on 10 July and criticized the governmental ordinance under which the council was set up, Mediafax reported. They said the government had not consulted them on the ordinance and that the legislation does not clearly stipulate that the executive must consult the council on all matters pertaining to laws affecting the national minorities. They also said that they want the council to be subordinated to the government's secretary-general, rather than to the Information Ministry. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY LEADER SAYS ILIESCU 'HAS A PROBLEM'

Victor Stepaniuc, the leader of the Party of Moldovan Communists parliamentary group, on 10 July said Romanian President Iliescu "has a personal problem" if he believes that Moldova is a "second Romanian state," as Iliescu recently declared. In an interview with the BBC cited by Flux, Stepaniuc said that "over 60 percent" of Moldova's citizens view themselves as being "Moldovans" and added that a "Romanian minority" also lives in the country. MS

MOLDOVA 'WILL NEVER RECOGNIZE TRANSDNIESTER'

Vadim Mishin, head of the recently established Moldovan parliamentary Commission for Transdniester Conflict Problems, on 10 July said in Tiraspol that Moldova will "never [officially] recognize the Transdniester Republic as an independent state," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Mishin rejected the demands of his Transdniester counterpart Anatolii Kaminski that the parliament in Chisinau ratify the recent agreements signed by President Vladimir Voronin and separatist leader Igor Smirnov. Mishin said that the parliament ratifies only international agreements, and Moldova does not consider the Transdniester to be a separate state. But he added that the Moldovan Constitution stipulates that agreements signed by the country's president have "full judicial validity" and need not be endorsed by the legislature. MS

MOLDOVAN OFFICIAL DISMISSES 'SPECULATIONS' ON HUMAN ORGAN-TRAFFICKING

Moldovan Ambassador to Romania Emil Ciobu, in an interview with Rompres on 10 July, dismissed as "mass media speculations" reports recently published in the Western media that impoverished Moldovans sell their organs to wealthy West Europeans and Israelis and that the illegal transplants are carried out in Turkey. "The Independent" on 7 July said an impoverished Moldovan woman had recently sold a kidney to Israelis for $3,000 and the U.S. weekly "Newsweek" on 9 July reported on the growing "international transplant tourism" in which Moldovans and people from other poor countries are becoming increasingly involved. Ciobu said the "speculations" had prompted the Moldovan government to stop any adoptions by foreigners, after rumors emerged that the children were being used as human organ donors. MS

BULGARIAN SDS POLITICIANS WARNS AGAINST COALITION WITH TURKISH PARTY...

Dimitar Abadzhiev, the deputy chairman of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), on 10 July said in reaction to the emerging coalition between the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) that "For the first time an ethnic party is expected to take part in the government. This is not necessarily something bad, but is something new and such a change could hide risks," Reuters reported. Abadzhiev indicated that the SDS is ready to back a minority government formed only by the NDSV. Yunal Lufti, a senior DPS official, said in reaction that the SDS is trying to disrupt the coalition parleys between his party and the NDSV and "to sow mistrust in the good atmosphere of [our] talks with the NDSV." MS

...AND BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS WILL NOT SUPPORT NEW GOVERNMENT 'BLINDLY'

The leftist For Bulgaria alliance, whose main component is the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), on 10 July told President Petar Stoyanov that it will not "blindly" support a coalition formed by the NDSV, BTA reported. BSP Chairman Georgi Parvanov told journalists that the alliance cannot support a government "before it knows what and who is there to support." Parvanov spoke after the consultations that the president is holding with parliamentary formations ahead of the formation of the new cabinet. Parvanov said the alliance will express its position toward the government "after it has seen its governing program and its lineup." MS

SUDDEN INFLUX OF BULGARIAN ASYLUM-SEEKERS IN NORWAY

Several hundred Bulgarian citizens, most of them of Romany or Turkish origin, have arrived in Norway in recent days seeking asylum, AFP reported on 10 July, citing the Norwegian Immigration Authority. A spokesman for the authority said the reasons for the sudden influx could be connected with Norway's decision to join the Schengen Agreements, although the country is not a EU member. Krassimir Stefanov, head of the consular department in the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, warned that if the exodus continues, the EU might reconsider the recent decision to lift visa restrictions for Bulgarian nationals. Bulgarian radio said on 10 July that a bus packed with Roma left the town of Russe for Oslo on the same day and some further 300 Roma may be awaiting departure. A Norwegian immigration official said that "many Gypsies are unfairly treated in their country of origin but that does not make them eligible for a residency permit" in his country. MS




SLOVENIA'S SINGING MAJOR


By Donald F. Reindl

It is has been just over two weeks since the reappearance of Ladislav Troha, a former major and deputy commander of Slovenia's elite Moris Brigade. Troha disappeared on 18 January 2001, two days after the weekly "Vecer" published an interview with him in which Troha blamed former Defense Minister Janez Jansa for the explosive device detonated on 13 April 1993 beneath the car of Zmago Jelincic, the leader of the right-wing Slovene National Party (SNS).

Major Troha first captured public attention in June 1998, when he called a press conference and presented a 14-page list of wrongdoings he had observed within the armed forces. He said he considered himself justified in doing so because of his lack of success in addressing these issues through internal official channels. Troha followed this announcement with demands that those responsible for wrongdoings he listed be punished and that senior officers who failed to take action to rectify the situation resign.

Shortly after that press conference, Troha was transferred downwards from his position in the Moris Brigade's rapid-reaction force to that of a logistical assistant in a military police battalion.

When his demands had no effect, on 1 July 1998 Major Troha began to demonstrate in front of the parliament building, in uniform and armed, informing passersby about the improprieties in the armed forces. On 15 July 1998, he exchanged his pistol for a guitar and began to play daily in front of the parliament building. Although many felt that Troha's claims of misdoings had some merit, he received no support from his colleagues, who felt that he was setting about attracting attention to his allegations the wrong way. Troha continued his musical performances for several months and, eventually, he was discharged from the Slovene armed forces on 30 November 1998.

In February 1999, Troha published a book, "Pojoci major" ("The Singing Major"), criticizing not only the Defense Ministry, but also Intelligence Director Andrej Lovsin, Defense Minister Jansa, and others. On 17 May 1999, however, the Defense Ministry made Troha a new offer of employment as a signals technician and he agreed, in return, to withdraw all accusations against the ministry.

It looked as if Slovenia's Singing Major had been silenced until this year, when he went public with his allegations regarding the 1993 incident. According to Troha, then-Defense Minister Jansa (the leader of the now-opposition Social Democratic Party [SDS]) felt that Jelincic -- who had claimed that arms smuggling and other irregularities were widespread within the Slovene armed forces -- was a subversive influence, and directly ordered the head of the Moris Brigade, Anton Krkovic, to intimidate Jelincic. Three members of the Moris Brigade -- Robert Suhaldolnik, Darko Njavro, and Davorin Osolnik -- supposedly carried out the attack on Jelincic's car while he was in a nearby apartment.

Troha claims that Krkovic met with him after the incident, briefed him on what had happened and asked for help in hushing things up. As for his eight years of silence since that incident, Troha claimed the matter had simply weighed on his conscience too long. Jansa denounced the story as a fabrication, Krkovic suggested that Troha is in need of psychiatric help, and the three Moris members produced alibis. Jelincic, however, stated that he is convinced that Troha's story is true.

The alleged abduction of Troha is the latest twist in the story. Troha did not appear at work after 18 January 2001. Five days later, his brother went to the police station in Kocevje and reported him missing. The police launched a search effort in the Kocevje region, expanding it to all of Slovenia on 25 January. In addition, they contacted Interpol, conducted interviews with his associates, and investigated reported sightings of Troha, but to no avail.

Then, at 5:30 a.m. local time on 23 June, a local resident found Troha with bound hands on a country road near Logatec. Troha was taken to a hospital in Ljubljana for treatment. He claimed that three unknown men abducted him on 18 January near Podutik, a suburb of Ljubljana, holding him in an unknown location for 157 days. Troha claims that he finally demanded that he be released or killed, and his captors drove him blindfolded to the location where he was found and released him.

Troha's reappearance raises more questions than it answers. At the hospital, he initially refused contact with reporters and also refused to make a statement to investigators. When he broke his silence after several hours, he made lengthy political statements before addressing his abduction and seemed unusually well informed about which reporters had covered his disappearance. Initially, Troha claimed that he never spoke with his captors, and didn't even know if they were Slovenes, but his account of his release belies this. The physical evidence is also puzzling. His pale skin, malnourished appearance, and visible bruises argue in favor of his abduction, but the examining physicians' reports of clipped nails and brushed teeth suggest otherwise.

Police are now investigating Troha's abduction, and their findings will help determine whether his disappearance was a sinister attempt to quash a story that threatens several political careers, or another in a series of increasingly bizarre attempts to capture Slovene public attention.

Donald F. Reindl is a freelance writer and Indiana University Ph.D. candidate in Ljubljana.


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