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Newsline - July 16, 2001




PUTIN CONGRATULATES CHINESE LEADER ON OLYMPICS DECISION

In advance of the arrival in Moscow on 15 July of Chinese Chairman Jiang Zemin, President Vladimir Putin congratulated him on the decision by the International Olympic Committee to award Beijing the right to host the 2008 Summer Games, Russian agencies reported. Putin said in his message that "it is symbolic that the essential decision was taken in Moscow on the eve of a historic Russian visit of the Chinese chairman." Jiang, for his part, said on his arrival in Moscow on the same day that the friendship and cooperation treaty he and Putin will sign during the visit "will lay a firm foundation for long-term, healthy, and stable development of Chinese-Russian relations in the new century," AP reported. PG

PUTIN SAYS HE'S LOOKING FORWARD TO MEETING BUSH AT GENOA

Putin said on 14 July that he is looking forward to meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush and other leaders of the industrialized countries at the G-7 plus Russia meeting in Genoa on 22 July, Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian officials said that the two will undoubtedly discuss the fate of the 1972 ABM Treaty, but are unlikely to talk about Russia's application to join the World Trade Organization. PG

PUTIN MAKES PERSONNEL CHANGES AT DEFENSE MINISTRY

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced on 13 July that Putin has accepted the retirement of Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, who was the head of the Defense Ministry's Directorate for International Military Cooperation, RIA-Novosti reported. Ivanov said that he will be assigned another post. Ivashov's replacement is Lieutenant General Anatolii Mazurekevich. Putin also named General Nikolai Yefremov to head the Moscow Military District and Lieutenant General Nikolai Pankov to be the chief of the Main Personnel Directorate of the armed forces. VY

PUTIN SAID A PRISONER OF HIS APPROVAL RATING

In an interview published in "Vremya novostei" on 13 July, Yurii Levada, the director of the National Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), said that the Kremlin "does not want independent thinkers and the public does not care about human rights." Levada also said that Putin so values his position as "a public favorite" -- in sharp contrast to Boris Yeltsin "who didn't care," Levada added -- that the current president is unwilling to take many actions that might cost him public support. PG

PUTIN SAYS PARDONS COMMISSION 'TOO HUMANE'

People's Deputy Duma faction leader Gennadii Raikov said that Putin has asked him to evaluate the work of the Presidential Pardons Commission, Interfax reported on 13 July. Raikov said that Putin told him that he "doubts that all the 2,600 convicts pardoned by the commission deserved to be released and believes it is worth looking at how the commission is making its decision." Raikov for his part said he was surprised by the large number of pardons in recent years. VY

PUTIN TELLS KISSINGER MOSCOW SEEKS INTEGRATION INTO WORLD COMMUNITY

Putin told visiting former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on 13 July that Russia's priority is to integrate itself into the world community, RIA-Novosti reported. Kissinger responded that Russia will have to fundamentally modify its approach to international affairs if it is to achieve that goal. Kissinger also met with other senior Russian officials, including former Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Vladimir Lukin. VY

DUMA FINALLY APPROVES LAW ON MONEY LAUNDERING...

The Duma on 13 July approved on third and final reading a bill setting the rules for combating money laundering and bringing Moscow into closer accord with international standards, Interfax reported. The bill, which still must be passed by the Federation Council and signed by Putin, gives the government the right to scrutinize all business activities in excess of 600,000 rubles ($20,000). But many of the amendments that have been adopted reduce the effectiveness of the legislation: The bill does not provide for any actions in the customs or offshore areas, it does not require banks and casinos to report suspicious activities, and it exempts all deals that will have taken place once the bill becomes law. VY

...SUPPORTS CONTROVERSIAL LAND CODE ON SECOND READING...

The Duma on 14 July adopted on second reading by a vote of 253 to 152 a draft Land Code, Russian agencies reported. The bill is strongly opposed by the Communists and Agrarians in the chamber and by more than 35 regional legislatures, and attracted a variety of parliamentary efforts at delay and demonstrations outside the Duma. As supported in its second reading, the bill contains two important changes from the draft approved on first reading: it allows for foreigners to buy and sell land on the same basis as Russian citizens, and it establishes special zones along the borders of Russia where foreigners may not own land at all. Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref and other government officials, who had actively pushed the measure despite criticism of their actions by opponents, said they were pleased with the result, Interfax reported the same day. VY

...AND ENDS SPRING SESSION WITH A BURST OF ACTIVITY

In the final two days of its spring session, 13-14 July, the Duma gave its approval to a variety of measures. It passed on first reading three bills on pension reform, simplified taxes on natural resources, approved a bill on the registration of juridical persons, approved a bill enumerating those functions subject to state licensing, reduced the share of hard-currency profits that firms must convert to rubles from 75 percent to 50 percent, and it adopted legislation on auditing procedures that both sets the rules for such audits and provides protection to those being investigated. The Duma will reconvene for its fall session on 17 September. VY

THE DUMA'S SPRING SESSION BY THE NUMBERS

Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said on 14 July that the Duma held 44 plenary and seven additional meetings during its spring session, adopted four federal constitutional laws and 155 federal laws, ratified 27 international treaties and agreements, and considered 58 out of 83 priority draft laws scheduled for discussion, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, the lower chamber banned from further consideration more than 800 draft bills. Seleznev described the spring session as "tense and busy." Other deputies were more effusive, saying that the deputies had finally gotten down to work. PG

MOSCOW REGIONAL GROUP FORMED

A Moscow region interfactional parliamentary group uniting 60 Duma deputies held its first organizational meeting on 13 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Yabloko's Vladimir Lukin, a deputy speaker of the Duma, was elected the leader of the group's coordinating council. PG

ZUBR PAN-SLAVIC INTERFACTIONAL GROUP MEETS

The interfactional association ZUBR (For the Union of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine) of Duma deputies held its first organizational meeting on 14 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Its 12-member council includes representatives from all factions in the Duma and unites 142 parliamentarians. Boris Pastukhov, who heads the Duma Committee for CIS Affairs and Relations with Compatriots, was elected chairman of the council. PG

CHUBAIS SAYS GOVERNMENT HAS OPENED THE WAY TO REFORM OF ENERGY SECTOR

Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais said in Moscow on 13 July that the Russian government has opened the way to the reform of the country's energy system by its recent decision to split apart the energy delivery system, Interfax reported. But other commentators, including in "Izvestiya" the same day, suggested that the government program is only declarative language and does not resolve anything. PG

ALEKSII SAYS CATHOLICS SHOULD WORK TO MEND RIFT CREATED BY PAPAL VISIT TO UKRAINE

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II said on 13 July that "it's obvious that in the future, Rome will have to make deliberate efforts and take concrete steps aimed at restoring mutual understanding and cooperation with the Orthodox world," ties that Aleksii said have been undermined by Pope John Paul II's visit to Ukraine. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY, RAIKOV COME OUT FOR LUKASHENKA...

Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia head Vladimir Zhirinovsky on 13 July expressed his support for the re-election of Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka, ITAR-TASS reported. Zhirinovsky said that he has information suggesting that the West has allocated $500 million to oust Lukashenka. The same day, People's Deputy Duma faction head Raikov also expressed his support for Lukashenka's re-election. VY

...BUT TAX MINISTER SAYS RUSSIAN FIRMS USE BELARUS TO HIDE PROFITS

In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 13 July, Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev said that Russian firms are using false exports to Belarus as one of their primary means of evading taxes. He added that this problem has been increasing in recent months. Meanwhile, the Federal Tax Police in Moscow told Interfax-AFI the same day that ever more firms are using computers to evade taxes. PG

WORLD BANK SAYS RUSSIA 'NO LONGER ON CRISIS LIST'

World Bank President James Wolfensohn said in Moscow on 13 July that "Russia is no longer on the crisis list, as it was several years ago," and that he sees no reason to believe that a crisis will occur, ITAR-TASS reported. He also said that the bank is going to develop over the next six months a new strategy for its work with Russia in the medium term. PG

MOSCOW SEES U.S. MISSILE TEST AS THREATENING WORLD ORDER

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko told ITAR-TASS on 15 July that a test by the United States of a system intended to intercept an intercontinental ballistic missile is another step threatening the entire international order. He said that Moscow wants to preserve the 1972 ABM Treaty and to discuss "all emerging problems in full compliance with its obligations under this centerpiece agreement." PG

U.S. PUTS RUSSIA ON TWO MORE BLACKLISTS

The U.S. Department of State has placed Russia on two more blacklists, including it among countries that are not doing enough to fight illegal migration and also among 20 countries that are not actively involved in combating "contemporary forms of slavery," including trading in women and prostitution, Interfax reported on 13 July. PG

SELEZNEV WANTS RUSSIAN LAWYERS TO DEFEND MILOSEVIC

Duma Speaker Seleznev on 13 July said that Russian lawyers should play a role in the defense of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic at the international tribunal in The Hague, ITAR-TASS reported. "If Milosevic needs more arguments for turning his trial into a trial of NATO," Seleznev said, "then Russian lawyers could be most helpful." PG

MOSCOW SAYS TOKYO SHOULD AVOID PRESSURING RUSSIA

Deputy Foreign Minster Aleksandr Losyukov said on 13 July that any pressure on Russia by Japan concerning either fishing rights or the status of the Kurile Islands is inappropriate, ITAR-TASS reported. His comments followed the receipt in Moscow of a letter from Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka and press reports that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi plans to use his upcoming meeting with Putin in Genoa to seek the return of the disputed islands, AP reported. PG

GAZPROM PLANS PAN-ASIAN PIPELINE NETWORK

Sergei Zhvachkin, the president of Gazprom's Vostokpromgazprom, said in an interview published in "Russkii Fokus" on 16 July that his corporation plans to build up a unified gas pipeline system covering eastern Russia, Mongolia, China, and Japan. He said that this network will have enormous geopolitical significance and allow Gazprom to "compete" with the major international gas firms like Shell, BP, and ExxonMobil. VY

KOKH DENIES PRESS FREEDOM UNDER THREAT

Speaking in Moscow on 13 July, Gazprom-Media head Alfred Kokh said that "there are no problems with press freedom in Russia, but there are problems with democracy," Interfax reported. He added that "the discussion about press freedom raised by Vladimir Gusinsky and Media-MOST have brought harm, first of all to Media-MOST and its journalists." He also said that observers should not create in this area imaginary dragons that they can then try to slay. PG

NEMTSOV DENIES REPORTS HE'LL GIVE EKHO MOSKVY SHARES TO JOURNALISTS

Liliya Dubovaya, the press secretary of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), on 13 July said reports that SPS leader Boris Nemtsov intends to give away the shares that Gazprom-Media has announced it will give to him are simply false, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 July 2001). Meanwhile, Aleksei Venediktov, the chief editor of Ekho Moskvy, said that if talks with Gazprom-Media fail, he does not exclude the possibility that he will try to form an alternative station "with the same staff," the Russian agency reported the same day. PG

RUSSIAN MIDDLE CLASS SAID CREATING ITSELF

"The Moscow Times" reported on 13 July the results of a Comcon study showing that "the middle-class Muscovite works hard, eats out, owns a car, and has a monthly income of $500." All of this puts him far above most Russians, the paper noted, but Comcon Director Yelena Koneva said that "the distinguishing characteristic of this middle class is its inner drive. The middle class has not formed because they have money, they have money because they are middle class." PG

'KURSK' DIVERS ARRIVE ON THE SCENE

A team of deep-sea divers arrived at the site of the sunken "Kursk" nuclear submarine on 15 July to begin the process of raising it, ITAR-TASS reported. The "Kursk" sank on 12 August 2000. PG

CORRUPTION FOUND IN KALININGRAD

Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin said that his agency has uncovered massive corruption in the Kaliningrad free-trade zone, polit.ru reported on 14 July. In fact, Stepashin said, the zone's eight years of existence have shown that it was "free" only for corruption and greed. VY

MOSCOW HAS ITS OWN 'BLACKLIST' OF WESTERN BANKS INVOLVED IN MONEY LAUNDERING

Aleksandr Lebedev, the president of Moscow's National Reserve Bank and the head of the National Investment Council, has given the Unity party and the government a list of Western banks he says are "helping" promote capital flight from Russia, "Vremya novostei" reported on 13 July. He said that at present Western banks are holding approximately $90 billion in Russian money. A former Russian foreign intelligence officer, Lebedev said he is not in a position to publish this "blacklist" but hopes that the government will make it public. VY

NUCLEAR WASTES TO GO TO CHELYABINSK, KRASNOYARSK

Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev said on 13 July that spent nuclear fuel from abroad will be stored primarily at complexes in Chelyabinsk and Krasnoyarsk, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed said he should have a place on the presidential commission to monitor the importation of such wastes. The news agency also said the same day that a facility in Primorskii Krai for the storage of solid and liquid radioactive wastes is almost finished. But opposition to such imports continued with a demonstration in Red Square on 12 July, and the Yabloko leadership announcing further plans to seek a referendum on such imports, Russian agencies reported. PG

PROPOSED ORTHOGRAPHIC CHANGES ON THE WEB

The Academy of Sciences Division of Literature and Language has placed the orthographic changes it has proposed for adoption on the website www.gramota.ru, Interfax reported on 13 July. The changes call for simplifying certain spelling rules, but they have already sparked controversy. PG

LAST 'YOUNG GUARD' BURIED

The last of the famed 1943 Young Guards has died and been buried in St. Petersburg, Interfax-Northwest reported on 13 July. Vasilii Levashov died at the age of 78. During World War II, he was one of the Soviet soldiers who fought in the underground against the Germans, and his exploits were immortalized in novels and films. PG

DRIVERS OFTEN AS CORRUPT AS COPS, POLICEMAN SAYS

Boris Fadeev, the chief of Moscow's traffic police, said in an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 13 July that there are some corrupt police officers, but that drivers are often more corrupt and proffer bribes in the hope of avoiding punishment for violating traffic rules. At the same time, he said that in the recent past some 15 militiamen have been fired in Moscow for taking bribes. PG

MOSCOW OPENS CENTER FOR HOMELESS CHILDREN

The city government of Moscow is opening a new shelter for homeless youth aged four to 18 to try to prevent them from turning to crime and to provide them with shelter and assistance, Interfax-Moscow reported on 14 July. PG

EXTRATERRESTRIALS HAVE RETURNED TO RUSSIA, ITAR-TASS SAYS

ITAR-TASS reported on 13 July that officials in Krasnodar have found five circles in wheat fields there similar to those found four years ago there. Some observers suggested at that time that the circles were evidence of extraterrestrial visitors. Now, the Russian news agency reported, "officials of the region's Emergency Situations Department say this suggests the beings came back for more soil samples." PG

INCUMBENT LEADS IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD BALLOT

The incumbent governor of Nizhnii Novgorod, Ivan Sklyarov, was leading in the 15 July election in that oblast, according to preliminary results the next day, ITAR-TASS reported. Sklyarov had 26.74 percent of the votes counted, while State Duma deputy (Communist) Gennadii Khodyrev was in second place with 24.33 percent of the votes. State Duma deputies Vadim Bulavinov (People's Deputy) and Dmitrii Savelev (Union of Rightist Forces) were in third and fourth place respectively. The two leading candidates will have to participate in a run-off election, since the taking of over 50 percent of the total votes cast would be necessary for a candidate to win in the first round. The chairman of the oblast's Election Commission told the agency that the second-round election will likely be scheduled for 29 July. JAC

FAR EAST REGION CHANGES ELECTION LAWS...

Local legislators in Primorskii Krai voted on 13 July to changes to the krai's law on gubernatorial elections, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to the agency, deputies voted to raise the threshold required for a candidate to win in the first round from 35 percent to 50 percent. According to the website regions.ru, the krai was the only region in Russia to have had such a low barrier for victory in the first round. Deputies also removed the requirement that at least 25 percent of registered voters participate in municipal elections in order for them to be declared valid. Legislators made the change because the requirement resulted in certain municipalities going without organs of self-rule for long periods of time. This was particularly the case in Vladivostok. JAC

...AS MANILOV TO ENTER THE UPPER LEGISLATIVE CHAMBER?

Newly elected Primorskii Krai Governor Sergei Darkin intends to nominate a former first deputy head of the armed forces General Staff, Lieutenant General Valerii Manilov, as his representative to the Federation Council, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 July, citing an unnamed source close to the governor. According to the source, Manilov "has not a small [influence] in government and Kremlin offices and will be able to successfully lobby for the region's interests."

MOVE AFOOT TO UNDERMINE TATAR LANGUAGE'S TRANSITION TO LATIN SCRIPT?

The local newspaper "Zvezda Povolzhya" reported on 12 July that Tatar communities in different regions of Russia have addressed letters to the World Tatar Congress office complaining that local officials have asked well-known Tatar businessmen and scientists to sign public statements against the switch to Latin-Tatar script, according to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau. The next day, in Omsk Oblast, an RFE/RL correspondent reported that several members of the local Tatar community had prepared a letter protesting the latinization of Tatar script. The letter was supposed to be sent on to Tatarstan's State Council, but the head of the local community, Khakim Sadykov, refused to sign it. RFE/RL's Astrakhan correspondent reported that Astrakhan Oblast Governor Anatolii Guzhvin met with local Tatar community leaders and urged them to speak out against switching to the Latin script. Guzhvin called for postponing the introduction of the script until all issues can be reexamined. But President Mintimer Shaimiev's adviser, Rafail Khakimov, told the RFE/RL Kazan bureau that he has no information about such a review. JAC

CHECHEN CAPITAL CLOSED TO VEHICLE TRAFFIC

Checkpoints were set up on 13 July on access roads to Grozny, and as of 15 July cars were still being prevented from entering the city, Interfax and AP reported. Interfax on 14 July quoted a Grozny municipal official as saying that Russian troops were carrying out a "special operation" in the capital, but the following day the same agency quoted the city's military commandant, Vladimir Filatov, as denying that a security sweep was underway. LF

PUTIN MEETS WITH CHECHEN DUMA DEPUTY

President Putin on 13 July discussed the situation in Chechnya, especially the aftermath of the Russian troop reprisals in early July in the villages of Sernovodsk and Assinovskaya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 July 2001), with Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who represents Chechnya in the Russian State Duma, Russian agencies reported. Aslakhanov said he proposed to Putin measures to "normalize" the situation, which Putin asked him to submit to the Security Council. He also said Putin agreed that Russian troops should not violate the laws of war in their treatment of civilians. LF

DEATH OF CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER CONFIRMED

A Chechen website on 13 July confirmed Russian reports that Saudi-born field commander Abu Umar was killed earlier last week, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2001). LF




ARMENIAN MILITARY PROCURACY ACCUSED OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES

A special commission of seven senior prosecutors has been formed to investigate allegations by the Presidential Human Rights Commission that the military procuracy headed by Gagik Djahangirian engaged in "brutal" mistreatment of servicemen taken into custody by military police, Armenian Prosecutor-General Aram Tamazian told journalists in Yerevan on 13 July, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Djahangirian was earlier widely criticized for his handling of the investigation into the October 1999 Armenian parliament shootings. LF

ARMENIAN COALITION PARTNER ON VERGE OF SPLIT?

Parliament speaker Armen Khachatrian on 14 July accused the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), of which he is a member, of betraying the legacy of its founder, his predecessor Karen Demirchian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The previous day, the HZhK's political council had demanded the dismissal from their posts of both Khachatrian and deputy speaker Gagik Aslanian. Khachatrian advocates continued cooperation with the HZhK's coalition partner, the Republican Party of Armenia headed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, while the HZhK leadership under Demirchian's son Stepan opposes such cooperation. LF

IMPRISONED FORMER ARMENIAN MINISTER RELEASED

Former Education Minister Ashot Bleyan, who was sentenced last year to six years in prison on embezzlement charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2000), was released on parole from a Yerevan jail on 13 July, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported the following day, citing "Haykakan zhamanak." He said he will appeal the sentence in a higher court. LF

AZERBAIJAN DISAPPOINTED BY MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRS' VISIT

Senior Azerbaijani politicians and opposition activists alike reacted with displeasure to the communique released on 12 July by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen expressing concern at calls for a resumption of hostilities to resolve the Karabakh conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2001). Foreign Minister Vilayaet Quliev complained that the co-chairmen should try to dissuade Armenia from its "unconstructive" position instead of condemning militaristic rhetoric, according to ANS on 14 July, as cited by Groong. The previous day, "Zerkalo" had quoted Quliev as denying rumors that he will resign to protest Baku's readiness to sign a "defeatist" peace agreement. Presidential administration official Novruz Mamedov argued that Azerbaijan should not betray its national interests in order to reach a solution to the conflict, adding that "the position of Azerbaijan does not necessarily coincide" with that of the co-chairs. Independent Journalists' Union Chairman Arif Aliyev argued that the co-chairs' calls to avoid bellicose statements "are misdirected" and could hinder the peace process, Turan reported on 13 July. Opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party Chairman Etibar Mamedov and Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (reformers' wing) Chairman Ali Kerimov both said they do not think the co-chairs' visit brought any positive results. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S WAR INVALIDS STAGE DEMONSTRATIONS

Some 1,000-1,500 people attended an officially sanctioned rally in Baku on 14 July organized by the Society of Karabakh War Invalids to demand the resignation of President Heidar Aliyev and the release of six invalids on trial for their participation in a hunger strike earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 February 2001). A prosecutor last week demanded they be jailed for between four and six years. Fourteen invalids who were detained on 13 July after an unsanctioned demonstration to attract attention to the planned 14 July rally were released after paying a fine of 110,000 manats (approximately $20) for allegedly violating public order. LF

BORDER GUARD OFFICIAL ABDUCTED IN EASTERN GEORGIA?

Following Georgian media reports that border guard official Mamuka Arabuli was abducted late on 12 July by Chechens in the Pankisi gorge in eastern Georgia, on 13 July local Georgians took hostage seven Georgian Chechens with the aim of exchanging them for Arabuli. The Georgian authorities imposed a state of emergency throughout the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia the same day. Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze has traveled to eastern Georgia to supervise the operation to secure Arabuli's release. Georgian parliament's Committee for Human Rights Chairwoman Elene Tevdoradze said on 14 July that Pankisi residents deny that Arabuli is being held there, Caucasus Press reported on 14 July. LF

GEORGIA CONDEMNS ABKHAZ REFUSAL TO ATTEND TALKS

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has advised Abkhaz Premier Anri Djergenia to "reconsider calmly" his written refusal to participate in the session of the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council scheduled for 17 July, Caucasus Press reported. Following the murder last week, allegedly by Georgian guerrillas, of four Abkhaz civilians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 July 2001), Djergenia had said Sukhum will not participate in that meeting to protest the Georgian leaderships support for what he termed "international terrorism." Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze condemned Djergenia's statement as "not serious." LF

KAZAKHSTAN, U.S. PREPARE SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL FOR STORAGE

Kazakh, U.S., and International Atomic Energy Agency officials attended a ceremony in western Kazakhstan on 12 July to mark the successful completion of the retrieval and packing of spent nuclear fuel from the decommissioned nuclear reactor at Mangyshlak, Interfax reported. The 2 1/2 year program to do so cost an estimated $40 million. LF

ARRESTED KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST APPEALS FOR HELP

Noomanjan Arkabaev, the coordinator in Kyrgyzstan's southern Osh Oblast for the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights, has appealed to the international community to intercede on his behalf, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 14 July. Arkabaev was arrested in Osh on 27 June and charged on the basis of leaflets allegedly found in his office with appealing for public disorder and the overthrow of the constitutional system. The leaflets, which he claims no knowledge of, call for the resignation of President Askar Akaev. Arkabaev began a hunger strike on 3 July. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SEEKS TO DISPEL CRITICISM OF BORDER AGREEMENT

Answering viewers' questions during a 2 1/2 hour phone-in on state television on 12 July, President Akaev spent 20 minutes praising the controversial 1996 and 1999 border agreements with China, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6, 14, 20 and 22 June 2001). He denied that they are detrimental to Kyrgyzstan's national interests. Akaev also said that Kyrgyzstan will have no problems in repaying its foreign debt, which he estimated at $1.3 billion. Other officials recently said that debt has reached $2 billion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2001). He further affirmed that the country's armed forces are fully capable of repulsing an anticipated new incursion by Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan militants. LF

TWO TAJIKS SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR CHURCH BOMBING

Tajikistan's Supreme Court on 13 July handed down the death penalty on two men identified as Islamic militants who were found guilty of the bomb explosion last fall at a Christian Korean Mission in Dushanbe that killed nine people and injured a further 30, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). LF

TAJIK TROOPS STILL IN PURSUIT OF FIELD COMMANDER'S SUPPORTERS

Tajik army troops reportedly killed two members of field commander Rakhmon Sanginov's force in a mountain village east of Dushanbe on 15 July, ITAR-TASS reported. On 7 July, a Tajik Interior Ministry official claimed for the second time that Sanginov's band had been "neutralized" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 June and 9 July 2001). Earlier reports said that the operation to round up members of that force was being carried out by Tajik Interior Ministry, not army troops. LF

UZBEKISTAN APPEALS FOR DROUGHT RELIEF

Senior Uzbek environmental official Khalilulla Sherimbetov said on 12 July that the Uzbek government has appealed to the international community for aid to overcome this summer's drought, which he described as worse than last year's and the worst in a century, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July and 4 September 2000). Sherimbetov estimated that some 1 million people in the lower Aral Sea basin may be affected by the water shortages and ensuing crop failure. He predicted that the situation will peak in late July or early August. LF




BELARUSIAN TRADE UNION LEADER CLAIMS TO HAVE DOCUMENTS ABOUT DISAPPEARANCES

Uladzimir Hancharyk, the head of the Trade Union Federation of Belarus and an aspirant seeking to register for the 9 September presidential ballot, told journalists on 13 July that he has copies of documents confirming the complicity of state officials in the disappearance of opposition politicians Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar as well as Hanchar's friend Anatol Krasouski in 1999, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Hancharyk showed a photocopy of a handwritten report that allegedly gives names of those who gave orders to kill Zakharanka, Hanchar, and Krasouski, as well as of those who carried out the orders. Hancharyk pledged to send the documents to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and make public the names of those responsible for the disappearances following the president's reaction (or lack of reaction). JM

UKRAINE'S YUSHCHENKO ENTERS 2002 ELECTION STRUGGLE...

Former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko has announced his bid to form an electoral bloc named "Our Ukraine," Interfax reported on 16 July. In a statement sent to the agency, Yushchenko said the bloc's goal is to create "a realistic union [of politicians] accountable to the people, which will be able to change the life of millions of Ukrainians for the better." Yushchenko did not specify which political forces are to join the "Our Ukraine" bloc. JM

...WHILE ANTIPRESIDENTIAL OPPOSITION REMAINS DIVIDED

Yuriy Lutsenko, a leader of the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" movement, told journalists on 13 July that Yuliya Tymoshenko, the head of the recently formed National Salvation Forum election committee, cannot be the leader of the entire antipresidential opposition, Interfax reported. According to Lutsenko, the opposition will take part in the 2002 parliamentary elections in several separate blocs that will not compete with each other. JM

UKRAINE, PARIS CLUB AGREE ON DEBT RESTRUCTURING

The Ukrainian government and the Paris Club of Creditors on 13 July signed an accord on restructuring some $580 million of Ukrainian debts that were contracted by Kyiv before 1999, Interfax reported. Under the accord, Ukraine is to pay the restructured sum in 18 equal installments over a period of 12 years. As of 31 May 2001, Ukraine's foreign debt was equal to $9.75 billion, down by $2.65 billion since the beginning of 2001. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ADJOURNS FOR SUMMER RECESS

The Supreme Council of the 3rd convocation on 13 July ended its seventh session and adjourned until 4 September, Interfax reported. Parliamentary Speaker Ivan Plyushch said the parliament adopted decisions on 560 bills and legislative issues during its seventh session. The parliament is to gather on 22 August for a one-day solemn sitting to mark the 10th anniversary of Ukraine's independence. Deputies of the Supreme Council of the 1st and 2nd convocations have been invited to attend the gathering. JM

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH REJECTS ESTONIAN PREMIER'S COMPROMISE

Leonid Morozkin, the press spokesman for the Estonian Orthodox Church subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate, said that the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church decided on 13 July that it cannot accept the draft of the statutes and the change in the name of its branch in Estonia as suggested by Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar, BNS reported. He noted that the Russian Orthodox Church granted the Estonian Orthodox Church autonomy in 1920 and cannot change its status to that of only a diocese, as Laar suggested. The synod believes that the name is sufficiently different from that of the already registered Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, which is subordinate to the Constantinople Patriarchate, and views the Estonian Interior Ministry's decision to reject the church's registration seven times as unilateral interference by a secular state into canonical affairs, which are subject to the competence of specialists of ecclesiastic law, not state officials. SG

OSCE MISSION IN LATVIA REGARDS CONTROVERSIAL ESSAY CONTEST TO BE IN BAD TASTE

Peter Semneby, the head of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe mission in Latvia, considers the recent controversial essay contest by the Vieda publishing house and the publication of the book "We Will Give Latvia to No One" containing some of the essays as an example of bad taste, BNS reported on 13 July. He said that the book's "content is...appalling, but not hateful" and does not promote national hatred as claimed in a protest by the Russian Foreign Ministry. Semneby noted that the book does not express the views of Latvian officials or government -- one of whose priorities is the integration of national minorities -- and does not warrant more attention. SG

YUKOS MEETS ITS JULY CRUDE OIL OBLIGATIONS TO LITHUANIAN REFINERY

The Russian oil company YUKOS is fulfilling the pledges it made in June to Williams International to supply the Mazeikiai oil refinery with at least 300.000 tons of crude oil in July, ELTA reported on 13 July. YUKOS Vice President Mikhail Brudny sent an appeal to the Lithuanian parliament that day asking it not to delay the passage of amendments to laws necessary to allow the successful completion of the YUKOS-Williams International agreement signed on 14 June, according to which YUKOS would acquire 26.85 percent of Mazeikiai Oil for $150 million in investments and loans and agree to supply the refinery with 4.8 million tons of crude oil per year for the next 10 years. The new coalition in the parliament and the new government led by Algirdas Brazauskas has not declared its position on the YUKOS agreement and the chairman of the Russian oil company TNK (Tyumen oil company), Grigorii Khan, told Brazauskas that day that his company would offer Lithuania better conditions than YUKOS. SG

POLISH TELECOMMUNICATIONS MINISTER ON LEAVE DURING CORRUPTION PROBE

Premier Jerzy Buzek has sent Telecommunications Minister Tomasz Szyszko on indefinite leave pending a probe into alleged corruption in the ministry, Polish media reported on 13 July. Buzek's move followed a report by the Supreme Audit Chamber suggesting the existence of "a corruption mechanism" in the Telecommunications Ministry. "This is not to imply any wrongdoing on Mr. Szyszko's part, since the matter pertains to his former adviser, who left the ministry last December," government spokesman Krzysztof Luft told Reuters. JM

POLISH PREMIER LOOKS FOR INVESTORS IN SPAIN

Buzek met with Spanish businessmen in Madrid on 13 July, urging them to invest in Poland, PAP reported. Buzek told the agency that the businessmen were interested in the possible scenario after the 23 September parliamentary elections. "I have assured them that there is a broad consent [in Poland] as far as the foreign policy and the policy toward foreign investors are concerned," Buzek noted. During his two-day visit to Spain, Buzek met with Spanish King Juan Carlos and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. JM

CZECH LOWER HOUSE REJECTS CABINET'S ACCOUNTING REPORT...

The Chamber of Deputies on 13 July voted 79 to 59 to reject the State Accounting Report for the year 2000, CTK reported. This is the first time since the establishment of the Czech Republic in 1993 that the parliament has refused to accept a government's Accounting Report. The vote will have no political consequences, as the constitution does not stipulate what should be done in such an event. Prime Minister Milos Zeman said he considers the vote to be "a political gesture made one year ahead of the general elections," while Four Party Coalition leader Karel Kuehnl said the vote is "an indirect and de facto no-confidence vote." MS

...AGAINST BACKGROUND OF SHIFTING POLITICAL ARRANGEMENTS

Christian Democratic Movement (KDU-CSL) Chairman Cyril Svoboda on 13 July told the daily "Hospodarske noviny" that the KDU-CSL would be ready to negotiate with the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) over its backing of the 2002 state budget if the CSSD withdraws from its "opposition agreement" with the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), CTK reported. Premier Zeman said in reaction that the move is "rational" and serves "the interests of the Czech Republic and its economic prosperity." CSSD Chairman Vladimir Spidla said he considers Svoboda's offer to be "interesting," particularly since the Four Party Coalition, of which the KDU-CSL is a member, has announced it will not back the 2001 budget "before it has even seen it." MS

CZECHS TO DOUBLE CHECK LUSTRATION CERTIFICATES...

The Czech government intends to reevaluate the lustration certificates of thousands of civil servants and judges in the wake of the recent scandal concerning false lustration certificates in the Defense Ministry, dpa reported on 13 July, citing the daily "Lidove noviny." Also on 13 July, CTK reported that police have thus far investigated about one-third of the 117 persons found to have been issued lustration certificates despite their links to the former communist secret police. The report said police are investigating whether those certificates were issued due to "negligence" or "deliberately." If "deliberate intent" is proved, those involved in issuing them may face up to 10 years in prison. MS

...BUT TO DEMOCRATIZE VETTING PROCESS

Deputy Premier Spidla on 13 July said he supports the Constitutional Court's ruling of 12 July that those found by the National Security Office (NBU) not to qualify for having access to state secrets can appeal the NBU's vetting decision in court. Appeals against those decisions could previously only be launched by the NBU itself. MS

GERMANY WANTS TEMELIN CLOSED DOWN...

The German cabinet last week called on the Czech government to decommission the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant, according to a report by the BBC on 13 July. The report said German experts concluded that the safety of steam and water pipes at the plant is insufficient and criticized Czech estimations of the environmental impact of a possible accident at the plant. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil said that the Czech government has not yet received the full text of the German government's appeal, but "only material that announces some kind of document that should reach Prague in the coming days." MS

...AND CZECH EXPERTS SAY PLANT'S ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT IS 'MARGINAL'

The Czech governmental commission that assessed Temelin's environmental impact has concluded that the plant's impact on the environment is "marginal" and has handed its conclusions to the Foreign Ministry, CTK reported on 13 July. The Austrian opponents of the plant said in reaction that the commission's conclusions are a "provocation" and that the "fraudulent assessment confirmed the fears of atom opponents." Josef Puehringer, a spokesman for the Austrian Platform Against Nuclear Danger, said the Czechs had abused Austrian efforts to reach a "constructive dialogue" and that the only option left for Austria is to block the Czechs' EU accession. But the Environment Ministry said negotiations with the Czech side will continue. MS

NEW ANTI-ROMA INCIDENTS IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC

Three young men aged 17 to 20 on 13 July broke into a flat of a Romany family in As, west Bohemia, shouting Nazi slogans and causing damage of 10,000 crowns ($250), CTK reported, citing a police spokeswoman. They were detained by police and will be charged with violation of domicile and propagation of racism. Also on 13 July, police said that four skinheads attacked a group of Roma in Ostrava, northern Moravia, on 30 June and that one of the attacked Roma was stabbed four times and his life is in danger. Another Rom was shot at with a gas pistol. The skinhead suspected of the stabbing will be charged with attempted murder and all assailants will be charged with causing bodily harm, but police said they are not sure if the incident was racially motivated. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER VOUCHES FOR SMK IN HUNGARIAN DAILY

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, in an interview with the Hungarian daily "Nepszabadsag" on 13 July, said the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) is a "reliable and respected" member of the coalition he heads and that its withdrawal from the cabinet "would strongly harm Slovakia's current positive international assessment in a situation where the country has reached the threshold of NATO and the EU," CTK reported. Dzurinda said that the Local Public Administration Law approved by the parliament is "not optimal" and, like the SMK, he would have preferred that the country have 12 rather than eight administrative regions. But he said the division approved by the legislature "is still better than having no administrative reform launched at all" and that the position of the Hungarian minority under the division "will not deteriorate." MS

SLOVAK INTERIOR MINISTER BELIEVES ROM DEATH INVESTIGATION 'IN GOOD HANDS'

Interior Minister Ivan Simko on 13 July told journalists in Banska Bystrica, central Slovakia, that he has met the official in charge of the investigation of Rom Karol Sendrei's death in a police station on 6 July and believes the investigation is "in the hands of a capable man." Simko said he refuses to define the case as a "racially motivated crime" before the investigation is completed. MS

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT TO RELOCATE ROMA TO REMOTE VILLAGES

The government plans to relocate Romany families to the remote northern Hungarian village of Cserhat, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 14 July. According to the newspaper, the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry would relocate families from other parts of Hungary to the depopulated village. Bela Osztojkan, spokesman of the National Roma Authority, said he is opposed to the plan, as it represents a "reservation-like" solution to the problems of the Romany minority. Csaba Hende, the political state secretary at the Justice Ministry, said the plan is simply designed to give a chance to those "looking for a home, work, and independence." MSZ

TORGYAN SAYS FIDESZ FAILED COALITION

Jozsef Torgyan, the chairman of the Independent Smallholders' Party, on 13 July harshly criticized the senior governing party FIDESZ which, he said, "wants to establish a two-party system [of FIDESZ and the opposition Socialist Party] that operates as a one-party system." Torgyan accused FIDESZ of failing to honor pledges reached with the Smallholders during the first three years of the coalition. He said "I did not combat communism simply to suffer under FIDESZ methods," which he described as similar to those used by the communist-era state security office. He told "Nepszabadsag" that the Smallholders will demonstrate the party's strength during the 2002 elections, and pledged not to enter into another coalition with FIDESZ under any circumstances. MSZ

THE LAST OF THE COMINTERN'S 'HOTEL LUX' GROUP?

Berlin's tabloid "B.Z." reported on 14 July that Lotte Ulbricht, a former functionary of East Germany's Socialist Unity Party (SED) and the widow of party leader Walter Ulbricht (1893-1973), is suffering from dementia after a stroke. She lived until recently in seclusion in her home in Pankow but is now in hospital custody. Born Charlotte Kuehn to a working-class family in Berlin in 1903, she spent most of the 1930s and World War II years working for the Comintern in Moscow. During that time she was the companion of Ulbricht, whom she married in 1953. Lotte Ulbricht worked primarily on ideological and women's affairs in the SED until she retired in 1973, shortly before her husband's death. She received the Friendship of the Peoples award in East Berlin in 1988. Soon after the collapse of the East German state, she said in an interview: "None of this would have happened if my husband were alive. He knew how to take decisions." A short time later in Tirana, Nexhmije Hoxha, the widow of Enver Hoxha, made an almost identical statement. PM




CROATIAN GOVERNMENT WINS CONFIDENCE VOTE

Prime Minister Ivica Racan's government won a confidence vote in the parliament on 15 July, Croatian Radio reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). The vote was 93 for the government and 36 against. Most of the votes against came from the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). Some 22 deputies were absent. Racan sought the vote after Drazen Budisa and some other leading members of the governing Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) protested the government's decision to agree to extradite two generals to The Hague. Many observers feel that the five-party coalition government, which has been in office since early 2000, is long overdue for a restructuring. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER: WEST HAS LET ME DOWN

Zoran Djindjic told the German weekly "Der Spiegel" of 16 July that Western aid donors have greatly disappointed him by not making good on their commitments, which he called "a farce." He charged that "bureaucracy" in Brussels is holding up badly needed assistance. He added that many Western officials seem more interested in obtaining repayments for their loans dating back to communist times than in helping the current government survive. Djindjic warned that Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party could capitalize on popular discontent unless average Serbs see some tangible results of Western promises by September at the latest. The prime minister noted that Western governments made generous promises of aid to him when he was still a opposition leader, but that the promised "billions" have yet to materialize. Djindjic suggested that it would have been better if the West had given his government $22 million outright rather than hold a donors conference that was long on promises but short on delivery. EU foreign ministers are slated to discuss Balkan issues in Brussels on 16 July. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER SEEKING TO 'PLAY KOSOVA CARD'?

Djindjic's Democratic Party (DS) recently organized an aid convoy for Serbs in Kosova, AP reported from Prishtina on 14 July. Peacekeepers stopped the convoy because it was accompanied by 300 people, which caused KFOR "security concerns." The convoy proceeded after KFOR and UN officials persuaded the DS functionaries and journalists to return to Serbia, saying that KFOR and UNMIK will distribute the aid. The DS subsequently protested that decision. Meanwhile, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Prishtina on 15 July that Djindjic will meet former Kosovar guerrilla leaders Hashim Thaci and Agim Ceku later in the month. Djindjic wants to discuss the fate of missing Serbian civilians in the province, "Vesti" reported on 16 July. Representatives of the international community facilitated the contact between Thaci and Djindjic, who have already spoken several times by telephone. In related news, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic called for an international conference on Kosova, "Vesti" reported on 16 July. He stressed that Serbs must wisely use what limited opportunities they have to facilitate a "return" to Kosova. PM

U.S. PRESSURES SERBIA ON DEATHS OF THREE AMERICANS

U.S. officials are seeking information on the deaths of three U.S. citizens of Kosovar Albanian origin, whom the Serbian authorities imprisoned just after the 1999 conflict, the "International Herald Tribune" reported on 16 July. The bodies of brothers Ylli, Agron, and Mehmet Bytyqi were later found in a mass grave. William Montgomery, the chief American diplomat in Belgrade, said: "We need to get real information from the Yugoslav authorities. We are going to insist they do a full investigation." Lawyer Bajram Krasniqi said in Prishtina: "They were killed because they were American citizens." PM

BUSH TO VISIT KOSOVA

U.S. President George W. Bush will briefly visit Prishtina and U.S. peacekeepers at Camp Bondsteel on 24 July following the G-7 plus Russia summit in Genoa, Italy, AP reported from Washington on 15 July. PM

KOSOVA PEACEKEEPERS FIND MACEDONIAN ARMS DUMPS

U.S. peacekeepers have found three arms dumps outside Ribnik, Kosova, near the border with Macedonia, KFOR said in a statement from Prishtina on 16 July. The weapons, ammunition, and explosives will be destroyed. PM

MACEDONIAN REBELS: 1,100 'TROUBLEMAKERS'

The National Liberation Army (UCK) consists of about 1,100 people, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported from Pullach on 14 July. Its 112th Brigade is based near Kumanovo, and the 113th Brigade is in the Tetovo region. A newer 111th Brigade operates between Gostivar and Debar, while the 115th Brigade is based east of Gostivar. Many of the leaders fought in Kosova, but almost all soldiers come from Macedonia, particularly from the ranks of unemployed youth. KFOR has been very effective in blocking supply channels from Kosova, so arms and ammunition are brought in via Montenegro, Albania, and even Bulgaria. Funds come from the diaspora, which, however, is less enthusiastic about helping the Macedonian insurgents than it was in helping the Kosovars in 1998 and 1999. Arms are bought in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Western Europe. Corrupt Yugoslav army officers have also been a source of arms for the UCK. Some soldiers in the lower ranks are involved in smuggling and other criminal activities. The few mercenaries hired by the UCK are instructors. The guerrillas seek to "cause trouble" and catch the Macedonian army off guard. PM

MACEDONIAN ARMY, INSURGENTS PREPARE FOR A NEW ROUND OF VIOLENCE

"Dnevnik" reported on 13 July that both the Albanian insurgents and the Macedonian security forces have used the cease-fire to regroup and rearm. Citing unnamed unofficial sources, the newspaper added that the Macedonian army will soon acquire an unspecified quantity of new MI-24 helicopter gunships, Sukhoi Su-25 fighter planes, and rocket launchers from Ukraine, as well as Yugoslav-built T-84 tanks. The daily added that the Macedonian security forces do not plan to change their tactics in fighting the Albanian rebels soon (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 June 2001). New antiterror units are nonetheless being trained by specialists from the British SAS, which could indeed mean that the army is preparing to change its tactics. On 14 July, "Dnevnik" quoted Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski as saying that the government is not buying additional arms. He did not deny that antiterror units are being formed. UB

GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE IN MACEDONIA

Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski plans to reshuffle the current government soon, the Skopje dailies "Utrinski vesnik" and "Dnevnik" reported on 14 July. According to the newspapers, the reshuffle affects Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Krstevski of the Liberal Party (LP), who is in charge of Macedonia's relations with the EU. Georgievski plans to assign this responsibility to Justice Minister Xhevdet Nasufi. Another prominent figure to be replaced is Ilija Filipovski, the president of the privatization office and head of the Crisis Management Coordinating Body. Krstevski has criticized Georgievski's role in the OKTA oil company scandal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2001). Many believe that the Coordinating Body under Filipovski has turned into a kind of shadow government. UB

MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN LEADER SEES 'PROGRESS'

Menduh Thaci, the deputy chairman of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), said in a statement to the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" of 16 July that the Western-brokered talks between the Albanian and Macedonian parties made good progress over the 14-15 July weekend (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2001). He added: "One of the major obstacles [continues to be] the language question, but the issues of government decentralization and of devising a mechanism to prevent minorities' being outvoted in the parliament" also remain unresolved (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 July 2001). EU special envoy Francois Leotard and his U.S. counterpart James Pardew had reportedly expected an agreement on constitutional and legal changes to be signed on 16 July. UB

MACEDONIANS PROTEST AGAINST 'CONCESSIONS' TO ALBANIANS

Several hundred angry protesters marched through Skopje on 16 July to demand that the government not make fundamental concessions to the Albanian minority, AP reported. Protest organizer Tomislav Stojanovski said that the demonstrators want to meet with Leotard and Pardew. "We want to tell the people who dictate terms of peace that we need protection from those who started the war," Stojanovski added. There has long been speculation that hard-liners close to Georgievski might try to thwart the conclusion of a political settlement or demand a referendum on any agreement reached. PM

DID NATO BOTCH CHANCE TO CATCH KARADZIC?

"The Observer" reported on 15 July that British SFOR troops fought a gun battle near Foca two days earlier with the bodyguards of Radovan Karadzic, who escaped unharmed. British Defense Ministry officials and SFOR have denied the story. PM

ROMANIA, HUNGARY STILL DISAGREE OVER STATUS LAW

Visiting Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi and his Romanian counterpart Mircea Geoana on 13 July failed to bridge gaps over the Hungarian Status Law, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. They agreed that the two countries' joint governmental commission will meet in September in Budapest to continue parleys. Geoana repeated that the law is discriminatory against the Romanian ethnic majority and infringes on European standards on national minorities and on the provisions of the Romanian-Hungarian basic treaty, which Martonyi denied. Martonyi said the law is "a framework legislation" and proposed that the sides work jointly on the formulation of regulations on the Status Law's implementation. Martonyi also met with Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who said after the meeting that the Status Law includes principles that "differ from the philosophy outlined by the European Commission's Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities." MS

ROMANIA, UKRAINE SPAR OVER CONTINENTAL SHELF BORDER DEMARCATION

The Foreign Ministry on 15 July said the most recent round of talks held in Kyiv over the demarcation of the continental shelf in the Black Sea has revealed "the persistence of significant differences" on interpreting the provisions of the basic treaty in regard with the delimitation of the continental shelf border in the Black Sea, Mediafax reported. The next round of negotiations is to be held in Bucharest on 1-3 October. The ministry also said that the Ukrainian response to its "verbal note" earlier this month on the illegality of Ukrainian drilling for gas and oil in the vicinity of Serpents Island shows that Ukraine has no intention of abandoning the drilling. MS

PACE RAPPORTEUR PRAISES ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT...

Baroness Emma Nicholson, the rapporteur on Romania for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, on 13 July met in Bucharest with Premier Nastase and reviewed measures approved by his cabinet over the last 45 days aimed at improving the situation of abandoned children. After the meeting, Nicholson praised the cabinet and said "the process of Romania's integration into the EU and NATO can no longer be stopped," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In an interview with Reuters the same day, Baroness Nicholson said her initial negative draft report had reflected the fact that under previously existent legislation Romania had been turned into "a heaven for pedophiles and child traffickers" and that she does not rule out that some of the Romanian children who were sent to other countries for alleged adoption were not only misused for child prostitution but also for trafficking in human organs. MS

...AND NASTASE SLAMS U.S. REPORT

Premier Nastase on 13 July harshly criticized the U.S. for having placed Romania in the category of states that "make no significant effort" to combat international trafficking in human beings and the Foreign Ministry on the next day likewise rejected the U.S. report, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Foreign Ministry said the U.S. report does not take into account legislation and other measures recently passed and implemented to improve the situation and added that since Romania has cooperated on improving that situation with the U.S. government, "the report affects the credibility of initiatives undertaken [in Romania] by the U.S. government itself." MS

ROMANIAN REPORT SHOWS POVERTY, 'GRAY ECONOMY' GROWING

A report presented to the government by the Institute for Research of Life Quality (ICCV) on 13 July shows that between 20 and 37 percent of Romanian economic activity is in the "gray economy" area and that 44 percent of Romania's population is living in poverty. Fifteen percent is living below minimum subsistence levels and the poverty rate grew by 60 percent over the last two years, Mediafax reported. MS

ROMANIAN COMMUNIST STEELMAKING MAMMOTH TO BE PRIVATIZED

Privatization Authority Minister Ovidiu Musatescu on 14 July announced that the contract for the privatization of Romania's mammoth communist steelmaking company Sidex Galati is likely to be signed on 20 July. Sidex Galati is the largest steelmaking company in East Central Europe and also the largest contributor to Romania's budget deficit. Negotiations with the Indian LNM ISPAT holding have been ongoing for several months and on 13 July representatives of that holding met with trade union leaders of Sidex Galati in Musatescu's presence. No details of the deal's worth have yet been disclosed. MS

ROMANIAN PEASANTISTS EXPEL FORMER DEPUTY LEADER

The leadership of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 14 July expelled former PNTCD First Deputy Chairman Vasile Lupu from the party and decided to convoke the PNTCD extraordinary congress on 14 August, instead of December, as previously announced. The leadership also voted to "recommend expelling" former PNTCD Secretary-General Calin Catalin Chirita, but the final decision on his case is to be taken after a meeting on 16 July of the party's National Bureau, to which Chirita was summoned. Lupu said he continues to view the party's new leadership as "illegal" and called it " a crowd of liars." MS

MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS TRANSDNIESTER MAY FACE ECONOMIC SANCTIONS...

Foreign Minister Nicolae Cernomaz, in an interview with RFE/RL on 13 July, said that at the Kyiv meeting the previous day Russian, Ukrainian, and Moldovan foreign ministers agreed to take "special economic measures" against the separatist leadership in Tiraspol if Igor Smirnov continues to block the negotiation process. Cernomaz did not elaborate, but said that Russia and Ukraine "firmly back" the Chisinau position and are in favor of granting the Transdniester a "special status of large autonomy." MS

...HAS HOPES REBUKED BY RUSSIAN DUMA

Cernomaz also said that during the meeting he expressed his "puzzlement" in face of the recent Russian State Duma resolution to invite both Moldova and the Transdniester to join the Russia-Belarus Union as "partners with an equal status," and added he is "convinced" that the Duma will "find ways to mend its error." But the same day, according to a Flux report, the Duma addressed an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexandr Lukashenka calling on them to "ensure the necessary conditions for the accession of Moldova and the Transdniester Republic" to the union. MS

OSCE MISSION CHIEF SAYS TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT NEGOTIATIONS 'SLOWED DOWN'

William Hill, the chief of the OSCE mission to Moldova, on 13 July told journalists in Chisinau that after a fast start the negotiations between Moldova and the separatists have "slowed down," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Hill said the "complicated problems" of the Transdniester's "special status" necessitate making "bigger compromises" and this takes a "longer time," but added that "in general, the situation is positive and must be so maintained by proceeding without further delays in implementing solutions already agreed on." Hill also said OSCE member states have begun contributing to a fund that would finance the dismantling of those parts of the Russian arsenal that cannot be evacuated from the Transdniester. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS DRAFT RESOLUTION ON LEAVING CIS

The Moldovan parliament on 13 July rejected a draft resolution moved by the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic to invalidate all legislation on Moldova's membership of the CIS and withdraw from the organization, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The resolution was rejected by the votes of deputies representing the Party of Moldovan Communists and the Braghis Alliance. MS

SIMEON SAXECOBURGGOTSKI FORMALLY ASKED TO FORM NEW BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT

President Petar Stoyanov on 15 July formally gave former King Simeon II a mandate to form Bulgaria's next government, international agencies reported. He has one week to complete the task and the parliament is due to vote confidence in the new cabinet on 24 July. Simeon said he will accept the name "Saxecoburggotski," the Bulgarian transcription of his royal lineage Saxe Coburg Gotha, as his common name. "I have been working all my life and I never used my official name, which belongs to history," he said, alluding to the fact that the Bulgarian monarchy has been abolished. Asked by journalists how he felt about his designation as premier, Saxecoburggotski responded: "I am not a dreamer, but this goes beyond all my expectations." He declined to comment on which parties might be included in the cabinet. On 12 July, Simeon renewed the invitation to the United Democratic Forces to join the coalition he will head. MS

NORWAY TO EXPEL BULGARIAN ASYLUM-SEEKERS

"None of the Bulgarian applicant emigrants meets the conditions for political asylum or work in Norway. All of them will therefore be expelled," BTA quoted a Norwegian immigration official as saying on 13 July. A total of 661 Bulgarians have requested asylum since June. Arnt Rindal, the Norwegian ambassador to Romania who also covers Bulgaria, visited the Danube town of Russe -- home to most of the Bulgarian citizens seeking asylum in Norway -- for talks with local government and police officials, AP reported. He said that for the time being Norway has no plans to reintroduce visas for Bulgarian citizens. AFP reported on 13 July that six Bulgarian tourist agencies thought to have organized the Romany exodus to Norway are being investigated by the Bulgarian authorities. MS




There is no End Note today.





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