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Newsline - July 13, 2001




KREMLIN HAS NO PLANS FOR EARLY DUMA ELECTIONS

A source identified as "a highly placed representative of the administration of the president" told Interfax on 12 July that the Kremlin has no plans to work for early parliamentary elections. The news agency quoted him as saying that the Kremlin "has no intention to create a political crisis" where none is needed and that "as a whole, we are satisfied with the work of the deputies." But the Kremlin did take one step that same day toward holding such a ballot: President Vladimir Putin signed into law the bill governing the formation, registration, and financing of political parties. PG

PRESIDENT ACQUIRES POWER TO APPOINT FEDERATION SUBJECT POLICE

The Duma approved a measure giving the president the power to hire and fire the chiefs of regional Interior Ministry bodies, Interfax reported on 12 July. The bill is a revised version of one rejected by regional leaders in the Federation Council, and unlike the version it replaced, gives the heads of federation subjects a voice, but not a decisive one, on candidates proposed by the federal interior minister for such positions. VY

PUTIN GREETS IOC AS PROTEST AGAINST BEIJING'S APPLICATION RESUMES

Putin on 12 July welcomed the members of the International Olympic Committee to Moscow for the meeting at which they will decide among other things on which city will be chosen to hold the 2008 Games, Russian and Western agencies reported. Outside the building where the session is taking place, two foreigners opposed to Beijing's application to hold the games distributed leaflets, but in contrast to 11 July when a group of pro-Tibetan, anti-Beijing demonstrators were arrested, the police did not detain the two, AP reported. PG

GOVERNMENT FOCUSES ON ANTIMONOPOLY REGULATIONS

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told the cabinet on 12 July that the government must focus on antimonopoly regulation in order to promote further economic growth, ITAR-TASS reported. The cabinet then approved draft legislation that would significantly expand the government's role in regulating cooperation among firms. That legislation is to be sent to the Duma in the near future. PG

SUPREME COURT BACKS FSB ON ANONYMOUS DENUNCIATIONS

The Russian Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a group of civil rights activists against the use of anonymous denunciations by the Federal Security Service (FSB), Ekho Moskvy radio reported on 12 July. The court said that the FSB's use of such denunciations is appropriate and does not violate the constitution. But Lev Ponomarev, who heads the group "For Human Rights," said the decision "may allow the FSB to fabricate cases," and that his organization will now appeal the Russian court's decision to the European Court for Human Rights. VY

ANOTHER BUSY DAY IN THE DUMA

On 12 July, the Duma adopted on third and final reading the law governing shareholder rights in companies, Russian agencies reported. It approved on second reading a bill simplifying the licensing and registration of new companies. It also approved a measure establishing the rights businesses have during probes and investigations, including the right to deny access to the premises of the business and a provision for compensation of losses caused by any inspection. The deputies approved the 2001 budget for the Pension Fund, but they decided not to invite the heads of regions and republics for the 14 July discussion of the Land Code, Interfax reported. Deputies failed to vote for a proposal by Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky banning advertising in foreign languages, but they did approve an appeal calling on Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Aleksandr Lukashenka to begin consultations on admitting what the deputies call the union of Moldova and Transdniester into the Russian-Belarus Union, ITAR-TASS reported. VY

DUMA COMMITTEES, MEMBERS INCREASINGLY CROWDED

Nikolai Troshkin, the head of the Duma apparatus, said that the Duma facilities are not large enough to provide the double offices to all of the 173 members who are now deputy chairmen of the parliament's 28 committees, "Izvestiya" reported on 12 July. Only 60 of the deputy chairmen have the office space to which they are entitled. He noted that many of the parliamentary factions lack office space as well. PG

UNITY-FATHERLAND FORM UNION, BACK PUTIN

Fatherland leader Yurii Luzhkov and Unity party head Sergei Shoigu on 12 July announced the integration of their two political groups into a new bloc, the All-Russia Union, Russian and Western agencies reported. Luzhkov said that both groups will preserve their identity -- he added that Fatherland will become a party in the fall -- but will cooperate in the Duma and during elections. They adopted a resolution in support of Putin, and they agreed to merge the symbols of the two parties, a bear and a map of Russia, into a single symbol: a bear standing above a map of Russia. VY

PRIMAKOV WARNS IN HIS MEMOIRS AGAINST 'PSEUDO-LIBERAL' REFORMS

Yevgenii Primakov, the head of the Duma Fatherland-All Russia faction and a former Russian prime minister, presented his new book of memoirs "Eight Months Plus" in Moscow on 12 July, Interfax reported. In the book, Primakov argues that the August 1998 economic collapse was the result of "the pseudo-liberal policy" Moscow had pursued from the beginning of the 1990s. "There wasn't any free competition. The state became involved in the economy to create privileges only for some," Primakov writes. He said at the presentation that his book is intended to serve as a lesson and a warning to current government leaders. PG

WORLD BANK PRESIDENT PRAISES RUSSIAN REFORMS

World Bank President James Wolfensohn said in Krasnoyarsk on 12 July that Russia's economic progress reflects not only high world prices for raw materials but also domestic reforms, ITAR-TASS reported. He praised Putin for his attention to the reform of the fundamentals of the economy, but said that no one should expect the reforms to affect all of Russia immediately. PG

CIS COUNTRIES MOVE TOWARD SINGLE FINANCIAL SPACE

The International Exchange Association of the member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange on 12 July signed an agreement calling for the creation of "a single financial space" within the CIS, RIA-Novosti reported. The agreement sets rules for clearing mechanisms among the countries and also for common legal arrangements on currency matters. VY

MOSCOW REACTS HARSHLY TO U.S. MOVES ON NMD

Presidential aide and former Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told RIA-Novosti on 12 July that Washington "undoubtedly has taken the decision to withdraw from the 1972 ABM Treaty" and that consultations with Russia and others are intended as a smokescreen for this decision. "We will view the first cubic meter of concrete poured under the launching pad in Alaska for interceptor missiles as representing the formal withdrawal of the United States" from the earlier agreement, and Russia will respond promptly and effectively, Sergeev added. VY

RUSSIA CHALLENGES U.S. ON DEATH PENALTY

Pavel Laptev, Russia's envoy to the European Court of Human Rights, said on 12 July that Moscow may refrain from cooperation with Washington on terrorism if the U.S. retains the death penalty, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 July. Laptev noted that Putin has made it clear that Russia is determined to do away with this form of punishment. But that undercuts Russia's ability to cooperate with the U.S. on terrorism because Moscow would not be willing to extradite terrorists to the U.S. if they might be executed, he argued. VY

SERGEI IVANOV, HENRY KISSINGER AGREE TO DISAGREE

At a meeting in Moscow on 12 July, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger discussed Russian-American relations, with each saying after those talks that he agreed only in part with the views of the other, strana.ru reported. VY

BORODIN SAYS SWISS INQUIRIES MAY CONTINUE FOR SEVERAL YEARS

Russia-Belarus Union State Secretary and former Kremlin property manager Pavel Borodin told Interfax on 12 July that Swiss prosecutors are likely to continue to summon him for questioning for several more years. But he said that as before he will go when called, but that he does not plan to say anything in response to their questions. PG

'ROSSIYA' ASKS RUSSIAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS TO COMMENT ON MIDDLE EAST

The 12 July issue of "Rossiya" featured statements on the situation in the Middle East by leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, Jewish communities, Muslim groups, and the Israeli Ambassador to Russia Natan Meron. PG

COUNCIL OF EUROPE DENOUNCES RUSSIA ON CHECHEN ACTIONS

Council of Europe President Lord Russell-Johnston on 12 July issued a statement saying that Russia's behavior in Chechnya is "unacceptable" and that the Russian security services are responsible for most of the human rights violations there, Reuters reported. Russell-Johnston said "the failure to bring to justice those responsible for crimes constitutes a blatant violation of Russia's obligations as a member of the Council of Europe and as a party to its most important conventions." He expressed the hope that world leaders with close ties to Putin will seek to influence him. PG

MEDIA REPORTS OF CHECHEN TALKS SAID DESIGNED TO TEST POPULAR ATTITUDES

According to an article in "Rossiya" on 12 July, recent reports that Russian officials may be seeking to negotiate with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov are intended either to annoy Putin, who remains committed to the destruction of the Chechen independence movement, or to test popular sentiments for such talks. The paper said that Moscow "has failed to find any innovative solution to the Chechnya problem" and that Chechen leaders "are clearly preparing themselves for a rerun of 1996, when Aleksandr Lebed signed a peace accord with them in Khasavyurt." PG

KREMLIN OFFICIALS SAYS POWER-SHARING TREATIES SHOULD BE 'EXCEPTION'...

An otherwise unidentified senior official in the Kremlin administration told ITAR-TASS on 12 July that "the fewer power-sharing treaties [between Moscow and the federation subjects], the better" and that "they should remain as an exception" because federal relations can be better governed by the constitution and federal laws. PG

...BUT TATARSTAN'S PRESIDENT ARGUES THEY MUST BE PRESERVED

Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev said in Kazan on 12 July that the power-sharing treaty between the Russian Federation and Tatarstan plays a "fateful" role for his republic and has contributed to "peace and concord" there, Interfax-Eurasia reported. He added that "I consider that the treaties must be preserved." At the same time, Shaimiev said he is satisfied with the Russian government's program for the social and economic development of Tatarstan through 2006. He said that the program will lead to industrial growth there. PG

REGIONS FACE HEALTH CARE CRISIS

Russia's regions and republics now bear additional responsibilities for financing health care, but not all of them are living up to their obligations under the law and constitution, according to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 July. As a result, ever more of them are signing accords with the Health Ministry and insurance funds. PG

RUSSIA TO BORROW ABROAD $500 MILLION TO $1 BILLION IN 2002

Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Kolotukhin said that in 2002, Russia intends to borrow between $500 million and $1 billion from foreign sources by issuing Eurobonds, "Izvestiya" reported on 12 July. The paper noted that such borrowings will be the first for Russia since the August 1998 crisis. PG

PASKO DOUBTS HE'LL RECEIVE FAIR TRIAL

Grigorii Pasko, a journalist who is again facing trial in Vladivostok on charges of state treason for publishing documents about ecological damage caused by the Russian fleet, said in an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 12 July that he does not believe he will get justice. For that reason, he said, he has already filed a suit to the European Court in Strasbourg. Meanwhile, a Krasnoyarsk court rejected a request by Valentin Danilov, a scientist charged with selling secrets to China, to release him from detention because of his health, Interfax reported the same day. VY

GAZPROM-MEDIA PLANS TO SELL MORE SHARES IN EKHO MOSKVY ONCE PRICES GO UP

Aelita Yefimova, the head of the press service of Gazprom-Media, said that her company plans to sell additional shares it holds in Ekho Moskvy to foreign investors once the price of those shares goes up and it can make a profit, "Izvestiya" reported on 12 July. Such sales would be in addition to the 9.5 percent the company has offered to Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov. PG

TWO RUSSIANS IN THREE FAVOR PROPISKA SYSTEM

According to a poll conducted by monitoring.ru and reported by Interfax on 12 July, 68 percent of Russians believe that citizens of the Russian Federation should have to register at their place of residence via the propiska system. Only 23 percent said that this system, which governments have used to restrict migration and control the population, should be abolished. PG

LIST OF CLOSED CITIES PUBLISHED

"Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 12 July published the list of some 90 cities and locales that are closed to foreigners and other outsiders for security reasons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2001). Among them are the nuclear centers at Zheleznogorsk in Siberia and Snezhinsk in the Urals, the chemical center at Shikhany in the Volga region, and Arctic naval bases at Polyarny, Severomorsk, and Vidayevo. Many of these places were well-funded during the Soviet period but now face economic hardships. PG

GOVERNMENT PLANS TO ORGANIZE CIVIL SOCIETY

In an article in "Vremya novostei" on 12 July, Ivan Sukhov argued that the Kremlin intends to manage the process of the consolidation of civil society by creating surrogate, parallel structures of its own to compete with any independent social organizations that have arisen or may arise in the future. PG

RUSSIANS MOVE UP IN UN STANDARD OF LIVING LIST

Russia moved up to 62nd place in 2000 to 55th place on the United Nations so-called index of human potential, which includes per capita income, quality of education and health care systems, and average life span, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 12 July. Norway tops the list, and Russia is only two places behind Belarus, which comes in 53rd. PG

MUSLIM LEADER DENIES WAHHABI DOCTRINE IS TERRORIST

In an interview published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 12 July, Ravil Gainutdin, the chief of the Council of Muftis of Russia, denied that there is anything in Wahhabi doctrine that sanctions terrorism. He said those who make that charge and those who justify their actions by reference to Wahhabism are mistaken. Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta-religii," No. 13, carried a review of a new book by Konstantin Polyakov entitled "The Arab Countries and Islam in Russia," which argues that Arab governments have played a major role in the extension and radicalization of Islam in Russia over the last decade. PG

RUSSIANS FAR MORE LIKELY THAN OTHER NATIONALITIES TO BE VICTIMS OF TERRORISM

According to a report in "Krasnaya zvezda" on 12 July, a Russian on average is "100 times" more likely to suffer as the result of a terrorist act than are citizens of developed countries. Historian Igor Bestuzhev-Lada told the paper that terrorism is becoming an increasing threat because of the resources terrorists now command, but that the phenomenon itself reflects the conflict known throughout history between civilizations being born and those that are dying. PG

10 MILLION UNREGISTERED GUNS NOW IN PRIVATE HANDS

"Rossiya," No. 118, reported that experts believe that there are now up to 10 million unregistered guns in private hands in Russia. Some of them have been sold by soldiers who need money, and others have been stolen from weapons plants and military stores, a possibility increased by the relatively low percentage of such facilities that are secure. "Only 5 to 7 percent of the ammunition in the Trans-Baikal Military District is stored in secure facilities; the rest is lying out in the open," the paper said. As a result, criminals are often better armed than the police. PG

RULES SET FOR GOVERNMENT INTERNET USE

The Communications Ministry has prepared rules governing the nature and amount of information that state agencies can put on the Internet, Interfax reported on 12 July. According to Communications Minister Leonid Reiman, these rules were prepared at the orders of the Russian president. Reiman added that "unfortunately" not all government agencies are taking full and correct advantage of this channel. Meanwhile, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky said in Moscow the same day that the Internet should be used to help ensure honest elections with information about ballots placed on the web to prevent fraud, Interfax reported. PG

ROMANIANS ARRESTED IN IRKUTSK FOR JEWELRY SWINDLE

Ten Romanian citizens have been arrested in Irkutsk on suspicion of selling fake gold jewelry to residents there, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 July. Criminal proceedings have begun against several of them, and others are to be deported. PG

OFFICER ARRESTED FOR TAKING BRIBE FROM SOLDIER'S MOTHER

Lieutenant Colonel Pavel Soga was arrested in Kaluga on 12 July for accepting a $500 bribe from the mother of a soldier in exchange for promising to quash a legal case against him, Interfax reported. PG

DUMA DEPUTIES CAN'T SMOKE ON TELEVISION

The bill on tobacco use Putin signed into law on 11 July will prevent Duma deputies from smoking when they appear on television, something that is likely to be a hardship for many of them, Interfax reported the same day. PG

ENVOY CLAIMS NEUTRALITY IN 'DISGUSTING' NIZHNII RACE...

The presidential envoy to the Volga federal district, Sergei Kirienko, promised on 12 July to maintain his stance of neutrality during the lead-up to the 15 July gubernatorial elections in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast. Kirienko said he is proud of the fact that during the entire campaign no one has heard "one bad word against any of the candidates" from him, although "this campaign has really been very dirty, and in human terms, disgusting and nasty." Kirienko added that he is glad that the oblast's Election Commission has not yet yanked anyone from the race: "It is bad, when the court or Election Commission decides for the people." Kirienko's comments may come as a surprise to Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Ivan Lebedev, whose registration as a candidate in the race was canceled by the Election Commission on 30 May (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 27 June 2001). And despite Kirienko's official stance of neutrality, most media and analysts believe that he supports incumbent Governor Ivan Sklyarov. JAC

...AS KREMLIN SAID TO FAVOR TWO CANDIDATES EQUALLY

However, "Kommersant-Vlast" in its issue on 10 July argued that Kirienko and his office is disinterested in the candidates to the extent that they "are ready to accept any candidate who can bury [Andrei] Klimentev as a politician." Klimentev is a former mayor of Nizhnii Novgorod and convicted felon. According to the weekly, recent opinion polls put Sklyarov, Klimentev, and State Duma deputies Vadim Bulavinov (People's Deputy), Dmitrii Savelev (SPS), and Gennadii Khodyrev (Communist) as the leading candidates among the 11 registered. Klimentev's brother, Sergei Klimentev, withdrew his candidacy in favor of Andrei on 10 July. An unidentified Kremlin source told the weekly that the presidential administration favors either Sklyarov or Bulavinov, whose opinion poll ratings have for the most part been stronger than Sklyarov's. JAC

STROEV TO REMAIN AT HELM OF UPPER CHAMBER?

Federation Council Chairman and Orel Oblast Governor Yegor Stroev is hoping to hold onto both of his current positions, despite the fact that the Federation Council is now supposed to be made up of appointed representatives of regional governors and legislatures rather than the governors themselves, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 12 July. According to the daily, which cites only unidentified Kremlin sources, the Kremlin "is not hiding the fact that it is ready to support Stroev in Orel's upcoming gubernatorial elections." Stroev recently registered there as a candidate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2001). According to the Kremlin sources, after his victory, Stroev could relinquish his office to one of his deputy governors. Stroev could then return to rule the upper legislative chamber. If victorious, Stroev would be serving his third term, and under a recent bill passed by the State Duma, he is not eligible to do so. However, that bill has not yet been passed by the Federation Council nor signed into law. JAC

PARENTS TRY COURTS TO AVOID SENDING SONS TO CHECHNYA

Local courts in the Republic of Mordovia are witnessing an unprecedented upsurge in lawsuits filed by the parents of would-be military draftees, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 12 July. According to RFE/RL's Mordovia correspondent, local parents do not want their sick children sent to the army and are trying to solve the problem through the courts. In one case, a young man named Artem Garikov has been judged fit to serve in the army by a local draft committee despite the fact that his involvement in an automobile accident when he was six years old left him with an underdeveloped left arm and constant headaches. At the time of the accident, doctors predicted that if Garikov lived, he would remain an invalid. JAC

RUSSIA CLAIMS TO HAVE KILLED ANOTHER CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER

A Saudi Arabian-born Chechen field commander known as Abu-Umar was killed on 11 July in the village of Mairtup in Shali Raion during a joint operation of the Federal Security Service and the Interior Ministry, Interfax reported on 12 July, quoting Russian Interior Ministry officials. An unnamed FSB source told Interfax that Abu-Umar, who was said to be an acquaintance of Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden, was involved in the apartment bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk in 1999, and that some of his men also participated in the Tashkent bombings in February of that year. LF




PROPOSED ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES UNVEILED

Constitutional Court Judge Gagik Harutiunian on 12 July briefed journalists on the changes to Armenia's 1995 Constitution, which he said have been approved by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Under those amendments, which were drafted by a presidential commission, the head of state would need the parliament's consent for appointing the prime minister and government ministers and would no longer be able to veto all cabinet decisions. The president would also be stripped of his right to dismiss the overwhelming majority of the country's judges. The package of amendments also seeks to boost legal safeguards against human rights abuses and envisages the abolition of the death penalty and a clause prohibiting dual citizenship. The amendments are to be sent to the National Assembly for consideration later this month and if approved will be the subject of a nationwide referendum that President Robert Kocharian hopes to call for next spring. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ACCUSES OSCE OF BETRAYING ITS PRINCIPLES...

Meeting on 12 July in Baku with Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev argued that the OSCE, of which Portugal will assume the rotating chairmanship in 2002, should acknowledge that it is betraying its professed commitment to protect the territorial integrity of member states by refusing to condemn Armenia's violations of that principle, Turan reported. "Impunity creates a bad precedent," ITAR-TASS quoted Aliyev as saying. LF

...MEETS WITH MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRS

President Aliyev also met in Baku on 12 July with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen to discuss the continuing search for a solution to the Karabakh conflict. Reuters quoted Russian co-chairman Nikolai Gribkov as saying that Aliyev has affirmed his commitment to a peaceful solution. "It is some irresponsible politicians and reporters who have held the peace process hostage [by calling for renewed hostilities]," he added. According to ITAR-TASS, Aliyev said that "Azerbaijan is ready to make certain compromises to ensure peace, although this runs counter the norms of international law," emphasizing at the same time that the concessions Armenia is required to make should be commensurate with those by Azerbaijan. Reuters suggested that Azerbaijan has demanded the return of the Karabakh town of Shusha, to which Armenia is unlikely to agree. The Armenian daily "Zhamanak" speculated on 12 July that Azerbaijan had done so in order to sabotage the ongoing talks. LF

MAVERICK GEORGIAN PRIEST AGAIN ASSAULTS JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES

Defrocked Georgian priest Vasili Mkalavishvili and his followers have launched separate attacks on prayer meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses in a village near Gori on 9 July and an apartment in Tbilisi on 11 July, Caucasus Press reported on 12 July. Several people were hospitalized with serious injuries after the latter incident. Mkalavishvili has led a witch-hunt against Jehovah's Witnesses since 1999. Meanwhile over 130,000 people have signed a petition drafted by the Jehovah's Witnesses in Georgia calling on the country's leadership to take steps to end religiously motivated violence. LF

GEORGIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN ABKHAZ KILLINGS

An unnamed senior Georgian intelligence service official on 12 July rejected as "absurd" Abkhaz claims that that agency was behind the murder earlier this week -- allegedly by Georgian guerrillas -- of four Abkhaz villagers, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2001). He attributed the murders to a rivalry between criminal groups. Tamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, similarly denied any Georgian involvement in either the killings of the abduction of six Abkhaz, according to Caucasus Press on 13 July. LF

KAZAKHSTAN AGAIN SUMMONS EX-PREMIER FOR QUESTIONING

The investigation into the criminal case against former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin has been completed, and a summons to him to return to Kazakhstan to face charges of bribery, abuse of power, tax evasion, and illegal possession of weapons has been published in the country's media, Kazakhstan's Deputy Interior Minister Belsultan Sarkesov told journalists in Astana on 12 July, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Sarkesov said that move was necessary as Kazhegeldin has left Kazakhstan and "his present whereabouts are unknown." He added that recent amendments to the criminal code make it possible for Kazhegeldin to be tried and sentenced in absentia. LF

KYRGYZSTAN'S DEBT TO RUSSIA RESCHEDULED

First Deputy Finance Minister Emirlan Toromyrzaev told journalists in Bishkek on 12 July that he and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Chernukhin signed an agreement in Moscow on 6 July postponing until April 2003 the beginning of repayments of some $60 million of its total $168 million debt to Russia. Of that amount, $105 million was due this year. LF

TURKMENISTAN DEMANDS REPAYMENT OF AZERBAIJAN'S DEBTS

Turkmenistan has demanded the swift repayment of Azerbaijan's $59 million debt for natural gas supplies, Interfax and the independent Azerbaijani newspaper "525-gazeti" reported on 12 July, quoting an unidentified Azerbaijani government source. The Turkmen government has threatened going to arbitration if Baku fails to discharge that debt. LF

U.S. EXPRESSES CONCERN AT DEATH OF UZBEK HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on 12 July that the U.S. government is deeply concerned by the death in custody of detained Uzbek human rights activist Shovriq Ruzimorodov, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). Referring to claims that Ruzimorodov was subjected to torture in detention, Boucher noted that torture of detained persons constitutes a violation of both Uzbekistan's Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. LF




CASE OF DISAPPEARED ORT CAMERAMAN GOES TO BELARUSIAN COURT

Belarusian Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman has sent the case against four suspected kidnappers of Dzmitry Zavadski, a cameraman of Russia's ORT television station, to court, Belapan reported on 12 July. Zavadski went missing at the Minsk airport on 7 July 2000. The Prosecutor-General's Office accuses Valery Ihnatovich and Maksim Malik, former members of Belarus's antiterrorist force Almaz, and two other persons of seven premeditated murders, including that of Zavadski, as well as of five armed assaults, two kidnappings, and other crimes. Investigators have not found Zavadski's body. In June, two former Belarusian investigators Dzmitry Petrushkevich and Aleh Sluchak accused top state officials, including Sheyman, of organizing a death squad to liquidate opponents of the regime (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 June 2001). According to Petrushkevich and Sluchak, the death squad killed Zavadski as well as opposition politicians Viktar Hanchar and Yury Zakharanka. JM

BELARUSIAN POLICE RAID OFFICE OF INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER

Police officers on 12 July raided the office of the independent newspaper "Volny horad" in Krychau, Mahileu Oblast, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. They arrested three journalists, confiscated computers and publications they found, and sealed the office. Dzmitry Syarheyeu, a correspondent with "Volny horad," told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service that the police raid was most likely politically motivated. The "Volny horad" editorial office is in the same building as the headquarters of the local campaign staff of Syamyon Domash, a challenger to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the 9 September presidential elections. According to Syarheyeu, the local authorities are "afraid" of the activities of Domash's campaigners in Krychau. JM

U.S. CONGRESS MOVES TO REDUCE AID TO UKRAINE OVER SLOW REFORM, MURDERS OF JOURNALISTS

William Taylor, the U.S. coordinator for assistance to the newly independent states, said in Kyiv on 12 July that the U.S. Congress may reduce assistance to Ukraine because of concerns about the slow pace of reform and the killings of two journalists, Heorhiy Gongadze and Ihor Aleksandrov, AP and Interfax reported. The previous day, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted to put a cap of $125 million next year on assistance to Ukraine under the Freedom Support Act, down from a cap of $170 million for 2001. The move must be approved by the U.S. Senate. "A key component of the rule of law [in Ukraine] is, of course, the investigation into the Gongadze and Aleksandrov cases," Taylor noted. He added that Washington will continue to support independent Ukrainian media through training, legal assistance, and monitoring programs. JM

UKRAINIAN, RUSSIAN, MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTERS DISCUSS TRANSDNIESTER

The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, and Moldova -- Anatoliy Zlenko, Igor Ivanov, and Nicolae Cernomaz respectively -- called in Kyiv on 12 July for giving "special status" to Moldova's separatist region of Transdniester, but failed to define that status, AP and Interfax reported. Zlenko told journalists that Ukraine and Russia will act as guarantors of Transdniester's "special status," adding that it should not contradict Moldova's territorial integrity and sovereignty. "We are closer to the solution of this [Transdniester] problem than we have ever been. The very important issue remains: Transdniester's representatives should determine their type of special status," Cernomaz noted. Transdniester's representatives did not participate in the tripartite meeting in Kyiv. JM

RUSSIA STAYS CALM OVER UKRAINE'S RELATIONS WITH WEST

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in Kyiv on 12 July that Russia's interests are not being harmed by Ukraine's relations with the West, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov's talks with Ukrainian officials focused on border delimitation as well as the legal status of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait. Ivanov announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to visit Kyiv in August to take part in celebrations of the 10th anniversary of Ukraine's independence. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT CONTINUES STRUGGLE FOR NEW ELECTION LAW

The parliament on 12 July adopted an amended version of the recently vetoed election bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001), Interfax reported. As previously, the bill calls for the election of 335 parliamentary deputies under the proportional party-list system and 115 in single-mandate constituencies. "If the parliamentarians once again passed the same law, then they must have some problems with their [mental] health," President Leonid Kuchma commented. Kuchma has already vetoed three election bills that intended to change the current law, under which 225 deputies are elected under the proportional party-list system and 225 in single-mandate constituencies. JM

LARGE INVESTMENTS PLEDGED FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION IN ESTONIA

The U.S. company NRG Energy, which is planning to purchase large stakes in the companies Narva Power and Estonian Oil Shale, announced on 11 July that it will invest 338 million euros ($290 million) to meet upcoming stricter European Union environmental regulations, ETA reported. Mota Zengerle, the environment manager of NRG Energy, said that his company will pay for all environment-related investments, even though the state-owned power firm Estonian Energy also shares responsibility for them. Most of the funds will be spent in Ida-Viru county, mainly by renovating the power stations and reducing harmful emissions and waste products there. The renovation will boost the output of the stations while pollution will be reduced by the construction of a wastewater-treatment plant, the development of an air-pollution monitoring system, and the processing of oil shale ashes. SG

EBRD OFFERS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PRIVATIZATION OF LATVIAN SHIPPING COMPANY

In a letter to Latvian Economy Minister Aigars Kalvitis, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's (EBRD) director for the Baltic countries, George Krivicky, offered four alternatives on how the EBRD could participate in the privatization of the state-owned Latvian Shipping Co. (LASCO), LETA reported on 12 July. Two alternatives are linked to granting loans, and the other two with the purchase of shares, which could be kept by the bank or sold to an investor during the privatization process. The involvement of the EBRD should broaden the circle of interested parties, thus increasing potential revenue that the state could receive from the privatization. Latvia has unsuccessfully sought to privatize LASCO three times since 1997, with the latest failure occurring in April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2001). SG

NEW LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT SWORN IN

After the parliament on 12 July approved the new government program by a vote of 81 to 36, with six abstentions, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas and 13 ministers were sworn into office, ELTA reported. Earlier that day, the main partner in the new ruling coalition -- the Social Democratic Party (LSDP) -- took over the leadership of six parliament committees that had been headed by deputies from the Center Union and Liberal Union. Algirdas Butkevicius replaced Centrist Kestutis Glaveckas as the chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, while Gediminas Kirkilas replaced Liberal Alvydas Medalinskas as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Algirdas Sysas, Aloyzas Sakalas, Alfonsas Macaitis, and Petras Popovas were elected as chairmen of the Social Affairs and Labor, Law and Order, Environmental Protection, and State Administration and Local Authorities committees, respectively. LSDP Deputy Chairman Vytenis Andriukaitis was elected the fourth deputy chairman of the parliament, a necessary condition for him to become the future chairman of the European Affairs Committee. The spring session of the parliament was ended that day, but an extraordinary session will be held in August to debate the agreement between Williams International and the Russian oil firm YUKOS on supplying crude oil to the Mazeikiai oil refinery as well as a constitutional amendment to allow the sale of land to foreigners. SG

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WANTS INCREASED TRADE WITH POLAND

Romanian President Ion Iliescu told a Polish-Romanian economic forum in Katowice, southern Poland, on 12 July that the trade turnover between both countries should reach $1 billion in the coming years, PAP reported. Last year's trade turnover between Poland and Romania amounted to $284 million. The previous day, Iliescu met with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski in Warsaw. Kwasniewski assured Iliescu that Warsaw will back Bucharest in its bid to integrate into Euro-Atlantic structures. "Romania can play a stabilizing role in Southeastern Europe [and] in the Balkans area in particular," Rompres quoted Kwasniewski as saying. JM

POLISH PREMIER APPOINTS CULTURE MINISTER

Jerzy Buzek on 12 July appointed Andrzej Zielinski as the new culture minister, Polish media reported. Former Culture Minister Kazimierz Ujazdowski resigned last week in protest of the sacking of Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). JM

CZECH DEPUTY PREMIER IN BRATISLAVA

Pavel Rychetsky on 12 July said in Bratislava that three years ago it seemed the Czech Republic would join the EU ahead of Slovakia, but Bratislava has managed to catch up and now the two countries might join the union together, CTK reported. Speaking after a meeting with his Slovak counterpart Lubomir Fogas, Rychetsky said, "We are waiting for the EU, not the EU for us." He said relations between the two countries are so good as to justify referring to them as "a small EU." Not even in the times of Czechoslovakia, he said, did so many Slovaks attend university in the Czech lands as they do now in the Czech Republic. MS

NEW THREAT TO SLOVAK COALITION

The Christian Democratic Movement is threatening to leave the ruling Slovak coalition if plans to introduce yoga courses in schools are not canceled, AP reported on 12 July. Party Chairman Pavol Hrusovsky said his formation views the plans as "a continuation of the liquidation of Christianity in Slovakia," adding that the problem is "not only ideological, but also political." MS

SLOVAK POLICE TO BE RETRAINED IN USE OF FORCE

Interior Minister Ivan Simko has decided that all Slovak policemen are to undergo training on the use of force in order to prevent a repetition of the recent case in which a Slovak Rom died while in detention, CTK reported on 12 July, citing ministry spokesman Jozef Sitar. Sitar also said those applying for jobs with the police will in future have to undergo psychological tests, and that admittance to the force will no longer be possible without having graduated from special police schools. Control over police activities is "in general to be strengthened," Sitar said. Also on 12 July, the Slovak Helsinki Committee said the case of the violent death of Rom Karol Sendrei is "just the tip of the iceberg" of police brutality in handling members of the Romany minority. The committee said police brutality and the "disproportional use of force" are "quietly tolerated" by the authorities and by society at large. MS

HUNGARIAN TELEVISION HAS NEW HEAD

The board of trustees of Hungarian public television on 12 July elected Executive Deputy Director Karoly Mendreczky to a four-year term as the new head of Hungarian TV. The 45-year-old Mendreczky, who has worked for the television for 20 years, was chosen from among four candidates by 19 of the board's 23 members. The board consists solely of pro-governing party representatives. Mendreczky said he expects the parliament to provide the television network with financial assistance to solve its serious financial problems, including its public debt of 12 billion forints ($40 million). His predecessor, Zsolt Laszlo Szabo, resigned in February 2001 as a result of his being unable to resolve the network's financial difficulties. MSZ




QUICK SOLUTION IN MACEDONIA?

EU envoy Francois Leotard and his U.S. counterpart James Pardew said in a joint statement in Skopje on 12 July that "all the documents are now on the table. It is up to the leaders [of Macedonia's main political parties] now to engage in intensive negotiations to reach a political settlement. If the leaders are willing...a political solution is possible in the next few days," dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 July 2001). Leotard told journalists that the talks have been "extremely productive." An unnamed Western diplomat added that "the positions have narrowed," but that neither side will get everything it wants, Reuters reported. Another unnamed Western diplomat was less optimistic. He said that "the talks are essentially stuck right now because of [mutual] distrust on key issues." Those matters include language rights, representation in the police and other institutions, and a veto right for the Albanians over political issues directly affecting them. The news agency added that Albanian leader Arben Xhaferi has proven to be a tough and "formidable negotiator." PM

SERBIAN TELEVISION DOCUMENTARY ANGERS NATIONALISTS

State-run Serbian Television (RTS) broadcast a BBC Television documentary on Srebrenica on 11 July. RTS General Director Aleksandar Crkvenjakov told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service the next day that the station received "hundreds" of phone calls in which the callers swore and objected to the broadcast. He added that there were also some favorable messages from viewers. In the Serbian parliament, legislators from Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party and some other nationalist groupings accused the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition of attempting to assign "collective guilt" for the massacre to all Serbs, which, the Radicals said, was the message of the BBC program. Speaking for DOS, Cedomir Jovanovic said that the new government wants to break with the past and not conceal unpleasant facts from the public (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 12 July 2001 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 October 2000 and 5 January 2001). PM

DID MILOSEVIC SEEK BOSNIAN SERB'S ARREST?

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Momcilo Perisic, a former head of the army's General Staff, said in Leskovac on 12 July that former President Slobodan Milosevic asked him in 1996 to arrest Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and deliver him to The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, Reuters reported. Perisic said that Milosevic wanted to please the Western powers and obtain the lifting of sanctions. Perisic said that he refused. If his account is correct, it is not clear why Milosevic, who held absolute power over the paramilitary police, was unable to find anyone else to do his bidding. PM

NEW YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT NEXT WEEK?

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 12 July that the DOS and the Montenegrin Socialist People's Party (SNP) have reached an agreement on dividing the seats between them in the new Yugoslav government, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that the government's main tasks will be to prepare a new federal constitution, which he "expects" will be approved by the Serbian and Montenegrin parliaments. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said that a new government could be in place as early as the week of 16 July. PM

SERBIAN ROYALS' PROPERTY RETURNED

The Yugoslav government on 12 July "placed at the disposition" of the Karadjordjevic family the White Palace and Old Palace in Belgrade, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, the heir to the Serbian and Yugoslav throne, said that he plans to move into the former royal residences within a few days, adding that he has no political ambitions. The British-born and educated prince has previously said that he is "at the disposition of the Serbian people" if they want him as king. PM

CROATIAN ATHLETES PROTEST GOVERNMENT'S COOPERATION WITH HAGUE

Eleven of Croatia's best-known sportsmen sent a joint letter to the government on 12 July, saying that they are "grieved" that the authorities plan to send two indicted generals to The Hague to face war crimes charges, Hina reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 July 2001). The athletes said: "Croatia was a victim [in the 1991-1995 conflict], and its generals were heroes. We were shocked to learn that the government has decided to hand over two generals to The Hague." Among the signatories is Wimbledon victor Goran Ivanisevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2001). PM

BOSNIAN SERBS MOURN VICTIMS OF MUSLIMS

One day after Muslims marked the sixth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, some 2,000 Serbs met near Bratunac to honor 60 Serbs killed by Muslim forces during the 1992-1995 conflict, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 July 2001). Those present at the ceremony included Republika Srpska President Mirko Sarovic and Zivko Radisic, the Serbian representative on the joint presidency. PM

ROMANIA 'WORRIED' ABOUT UKRAINIAN BLACK SEA DRILL

The Foreign Ministry has issued the Ukrainian Embassy in Bucharest a "verbal note" expressing its "concern" about the Ukrainian announcement that a Ukrainian-British company has discovered "commercial oil and reserves" in the Black Sea and that drilling will soon begin, Mediafax reported. The ministry draws to the attention of Kyiv that the reserves are in the vicinity of Serpents Island, and that the negotiations on demarcating the continental shelf in that zone are still underway, in line with the provisions of the 1997 basic treaty between the two countries. The ministry says Ukraine has no right to grant licenses for drilling in the zone as long as the negotiations have not been concluded. Eight meetings between the sides have so far taken place to negotiate the issue and a ninth encounter is scheduled to take place in Kyiv this month (see RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 10 July 2001). MS

CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION PROPOSAL RESUSCITATES OLD DEBATE IN ROMANIA...

Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Senator Karoly Szabo on 12 July said the UDMR will propose in the ongoing debate on amending the constitution to replace its first article, which defines Romania as "a national and unitary state," with one defining it as a "civic state." The UDMR also said Romania should have "more than one official language," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The UDMR has opposed Article 1 ever since it was first debated by the Constituent Assembly in 1991, but has been overruled on the matter. President Ion Iliescu said in reaction that Article 148 in the constitution stipulates that neither the national and unitary state definition nor the country's republican form of government can be changed. Spokesmen for the National Liberal Party, the Democratic Party, and the Greater Romania Party also said they are opposed to the UDMR proposal. MS

...AND ROMANIAN NGOS SAYS BASIC DOCUMENT DISCRIMINATES AMONG CITIZENS

The Romanian Association of Former Political Refugees (AFRPR) and the Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Romania-Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH) on 12 July told journalists that Romanians citizens who are also nationals of another country are subject to discrimination, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The protest follows a 3 July ruling of the Constitutional Court, which rejected the appeal of AFRPR Secretary Adrian Niculescu against the Defense Ministry's decision to dismiss him. Niculescu was counselor to former Defense Minister Victor Babiuc, but his contract was terminated in 2000 on the grounds that he also holds French citizenship. The AFRPR and APADOR-CH say that the constitution's Article 16, which prohibits foreign nationals from holding public office, is discriminatory when applied to holders of dual citizenship, and that the constitution also stipulates that international legislation on human rights prevails over internal legislation (Article 20). MS

MOLDOVA, UKRAINE, APPROVE ACCORD ON SWAPPING TERRITORIES

The parliaments of Moldova and Ukraine on 12 July approved the agreement whereby Ukraine will gain sovereignty over a stretch of the Izmail-Odessa highway previously on Moldovan territory in exchange for Moldova's gaining access to a 430-meter stretch of land along the banks of the Danube River near the village of Giurgiulesti, where it intends to build an oil terminal, dpa reported. The villagers of Palanca, whose pastures will be now transferred to Ukraine, demonstrated in Chisinau against the agreement. The accord stipulates that the villagers will be allowed access to the pastures without using passports. The opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic accused the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists of "selling off national wealth" and "harming national interests." MS

BULGARIAN PARTIES REACT TO SIMEON'S DESIGNATION AS PREMIER

Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) Chairwoman Ekaterina Mihailova on 12 July said the designation of former King Simeon II as his party's nominee for premier is "normal political logic...since he is the leader of the formation that has won the elections and received so much confidence from Bulgarian voters," BTA reported. Coalition for Bulgaria leader Georgi Parvanov also called the nomination "normal" and said the majority should "from now on seek a faster formation of the cabinet." Parvanov, who is also leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, said the new cabinet "should be a broadly based coalition, rather than an axis, least of all an axis between the National Movement Simeon II and the SDS." Kemal Eyrup, a deputy representing the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, said Simeon's decision to accept the premiership is "revolutionary" and proved that "what he has been telling Bulgarian voters is not empty talk." MS




There is no End Note today.





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