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Newsline - July 17, 2001




PUTIN, JIANG SIGN FRIENDSHIP TREATY...

President Vladimir Putin and visiting Chinese leader Jiang Zemin on 16 July signed a friendship and cooperation treaty that proclaims their respective countries "always friends, never enemies," Russian and Western news agencies reported. The document, the first such accord between the two countries since the collapse of the Soviet Union, includes commitments to avoid the use of force in solving disputes and to cooperate in space exploration. It also specifies that the accord is not directed at any third country. The Soviet-style document is valid until 2021, and commentators in both capitals called it "historic and unique," but others, including Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, expressed skepticism about its impact. VY

...BUT RUSSIANS, CHINESE DIFFER ON ITS IMPLICATIONS CONCERNING NMD...

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said in Moscow on 16 July that the treaty is critical given U.S. plans to create a national missile defense system that he said would "threaten international security," Russian agencies reported. But Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov said that the treaty does not include any reference to that issue or others on which the two countries have specific views, because it is designed to be relevant for two decades. Losyukov also specified that the accord does not cross the line into being an alliance. VY

...AND JIANG EXPLAINS RATIONALE FOR TREATY

In an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 16 July, Chinese leader Jiang said that he initiated the treaty to give "a solid legal base" to his "feeling of friendship" with Russia. He also went out of his way to say that even though Beijing and Washington have just passed through a period of difficulties in their relationship, he is confident that they will cooperate in the future because the two countries have "important common interests." Concerning Taiwan, which Putin stressed Russia will never recognize as independent of China, Jiang indicated that while he would prefer peaceful means to bring about reunification, he "cannot exclude the use of force" not only against Taiwan but also against any power that tries to split China by proclaiming the independence of that island. VY

PUTIN SAYS HE'S UNCONCERNED BY U.S. NMD PLANS...

In a lengthy interview published by Milan's "Corriere della Sera" on 16 July in advance of the G-7 plus Russia meetings in Genoa, Putin said he is completely indifferent to the U.S. plans to unilaterally create a national missile defense system. Up to now, he said, the U.S. has had only one successful test and "according to our information, it was not really a success." He stressed that any American NMD system would not pose a security threat to Russia, but he noted that American withdrawal from the 1972 ABM Treaty could trigger a new arms race. At the same time, in an interview given to Italian television and aired on 16 July, Putin said that he believes that Russia and the United States can have a constructive dialogue on strategic stability. VY

...BUT SAYS NATO SHOULD INCLUDE RUSSIA OR BE DISBANDED...

Also in the "Corriere della Sera" interview, Putin said that NATO should be disbanded rather than enlarged unless it is to include all of Europe, including Russia. At the same time, he said the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has failed to become a viable alternative security structure because its members use it as a venue for criticizing Russian policy in Chechnya and Central Asia. PG

...EXPLAINS WHY HE WON'T BURY LENIN NOW...

In the same "Corriere della Sera" interview, Putin said that it is "premature" to talk about burying the body of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin. "When I see that the overwhelming majority of the population wants this, it could become a topic for discussion. At present, I do not see this, so it is not on the agenda." Putin defended his approach in Chechnya by comparing it with the situation in the Balkans. He said that his government is not trying to throttle the independent mass media but rather to create the "economic conditions" necessary for the functioning of such media. He also said that the creation of a liberal economy is the best way to defeat corruption. VY

...AND TALKS ABOUT HIS KGB PAST

Also in the "Corriere della Sera" interview, Putin said his work in the Soviet KGB was "a very positive experience" and that his subsequent jobs were "significantly less interesting." He also said that he is positively inclined toward Pope John Paul II, whose visits to Eastern European countries, including Ukraine, had positive aspects, according to Putin. But at the same time, the president said he could only meet with the pope as a fellow chief of state because Putin himself is Russian Orthodox. VY

LEFT TO CHALLENGE LAND CODE

Communists and Agrarians plan to file suit in the Russian Constitutional Court challenging the way in which the Land Code was passed on second reading, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin on the same day called for the formation of a conciliation commission on the issue of land ownership, Interfax reported. And he said that he favors a national referendum on the issue, "Izvestiya" reported on 14 July. PG

DUMA BUDGET COMMITTEE HEAD PROPOSES TAX AMNESTY

Aleksandr Zhukov, the chairman of the Duma Budget Committee, told Interfax on 16 July that he believes it is necessary to declare a tax amnesty on all money earned in whatever way prior to the adoption of the new Tax Law. He said that such an amnesty would allow as much as $50 billion to flow into investment. PG

UNITY LEADER SEES DUMA SESSION AS 'END TO LEFT DICTATORSHIP' IN DUMA

Vladimir Pekhtin, the leader of the Unity faction in the Duma, said on 16 July that he views one of the chief results of the spring session of the lower house to be "the end of the left dictatorship" in the Duma, Interfax reported. He said that that has been achieved as a result of the unification of supporters of Putin as expressed in the coalition of centrist forces from Unity, Fatherland-All Russia, People's Deputy, and Russian Regions groups. PG

NEMTSOV SEES FATHERLAND-UNITY MERGER MOVING GOVERNMENT TO LEFT

Boris Nemtsov, the leader of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), said in Moscow on 16 July that the recent merger of Fatherland and Unity means "the shift of the state to the left," Interfax reported. He also said that the spring session of the Duma has been "a revolutionary one" and laid the basis for a market economy in Russia, the news service said. PG

KREMLIN SAID PLANNING TO CREATE A NEW RIGHTIST PARTY

According to an article in "Argumenty i fakty," No. 28, the Kremlin plans to form a new rightist party around Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak. The party -- whose ideology is being developed by presidential envoy to the Northwest federal district Viktor Cherkesov, Putin's brother-in-law Viktor Khmarin, and other Kremlin aides -- will be intended to take votes from SPS, Yabloko, and any party created by magnate Boris Berezovsky. In that way, the article said, the Kremlin will be "in control -- left, right, and center." PG

DUMA ETHICS CODE BEING DEVELOPED

The Duma Ethics Commission has begun the development of an ethics code of parliamentary behavior, Interfax reported on 16 July. The code will also include provisions governing the assistants of Duma members and others employed by the parliament and will apply to the Federation Council as well. PG

KOVALEV SAYS SPY MANIA INTENDED TO CREATE IMAGE OF ENEMY

Sergei Kovalev, a Duma deputy and former human rights ombudsman, said that the growing number of spy cases in Russia is part of what he called "the Byzantine idea" of the government to make the state into an idol to be worshipped and obeyed by creating the image of enemies "external and internal." PG

MOSCOW BELIEVES SECURITY WILL DOMINATE GENOA TALKS

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 16 July that the Russian government believes that questions of international stability and security will dominate the talks at the Genoa G-7 plus Russia meetings, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that Moscow also believes that the eight leaders will focus on questions of globalization and overcoming the gap between developed and developing countries, an area in which Yakovenko said that Russia has taken a leading role. PG

MOSCOW SAYS RUSSIA MUST SEEK MARKET ACCESS IN WTO TALKS

Aleksei Volin, the deputy chief of the government's apparatus, said on 16 July that Moscow will link its talks on accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to giving Russia the status of a market economy and ending restrictions on Russian exports, ITAR-TASS reported. He noted that the government has held more than 230 meetings with Russian business people in order to develop a common negotiating position on the WTO. PG

ILLARIONOV CALLS FOR LIMITING CAPITAL FLIGHT

In an interview published in "Novoe vremya," No. 28, presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov repeated his argument that some capital flight is good for the economy because it reduces pressure on the real exchange rate. But on 16 July, he said in Moscow that he favors moving to slow the rate of capital flight as part of an effort to improve the country's investment picture, Interfax-AFI reported. PG

RUSSIA MAY TEST NUCLEAR WEAPONS ON NOVAYA ZEMLYA IF U.S. BUILDS NMD SYSTEM

According to an article in "Izvestiya" on 13 July, senior Russian military officers are considering the possibility of using the Novaya Zemlya facility to resume nuclear weapons testing in the event that the U.S. goes ahead with building a national missile defense system. The article reports that 135 Russian nuclear warheads have been tested there in the past, 42 of them underground. PG

GREF SAYS MOSCOW SHOULD COPY CHINA IN ATTRACTING FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref on 16 July said that Russia could not completely borrow the Chinese model of development, but should use Beijing's approach to attracting foreign investment, Interfax reported. PG

LIPETSK OBLAST AUTHORITIES CRACK DOWN ON FREE MEDIA

NTV reported on 15 July that officials in Lipetsk Oblast "will not tolerate any criticism" and have cracked down on both electronic and print media outlets. The station said that only five of the 125 media outlets registered in that oblast are now actually independent of the authorities. PG

GAZPROM TO SELL SOME SHARES TO YASIN

Gazprom will sell a 9.5 percent share in Ekho Moskvy to Yevgenii Yasin, a former economics minister who hosts a program on the station, after Gazprom gains full legal right to the shares, Russian and Western agencies reported on 16 July. Yasin likely will be offered the position of chairman of the directors' council of the station, Interfax reported. Aleksei Venediktov, the chief editor of the station, said the same day that this latest action ends the station's conflict with Gazprom-Media. SPS leader Nemtsov, who played a key role in the talks, said that as regards Ekho Moskvy and the NTV controversy, "history is repeating itself but in a directly opposite way," Interfax reported. PG

IRKUTSK WILL SEEK TO HOST 2010 OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES

Aleksandr Zolotarev, the head of the Irkutsk Oblast Sports Committee, said on 16 July that his city will seek to host the 2010 Winter Games, ITAR-TASS reported. Moscow is planning to bid to host the 2012 Summer Games, and St. Petersburg officials have indicated that they will apply later. PG

TRAINING FOREIGN OFFICERS PROFITABLE FOR DEFENSE MINISTRY

Foreign governments paid Russia's Defense Ministry $140 million between 1992 and 2000 to train officers from their countries, Interfax reported on 16 July. At present, there are 3,181 foreign officers being trained in Russian military schools, including 2,770 from CIS countries. The ministry plans to expand the program to include 4,600 foreign officers in 2002. PG

GREF SAYS HOUSING SUBSIDIES TO CONTINUE FOR 10-15 YEARS

Economic Development and Trade Minister Gref said on 16 July that the government will continue to subsidize the housing and utilities sector for another 10-15 years, ITAR-TASS reported. But he said that the subsidies will be increasingly targeted at those who need them most. In other comments, Gref said that the government has no plan to seek a further reduction in the amount of foreign currency firms must convert into rubles. Meanwhile, in an interview published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on the same day, Moscow city First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nikolskii said that the city administration will crack down through legal action on those who fail to pay for housing and services, including evicting them from their apartments. PG

GOVERNMENT PLANS TO PRIVATIZE EIGHT MAJOR FIRMS IN 2001

In an interview published in "Vremya novostei" on 16 July, Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Aleksandr Braverman said that the government will consider the privatization of eight major firms during 2001, including two oil companies, but not including Rosneft or Aeroflot. He said that in 2002, the government plans to privatize 400 to 600 firms of all sizes. And he promised that all these transactions will be "to the maximum degree transparent." PG

MISTREATMENT OF SOLDIERS INCREASED IN LAST YEAR

Mikhail Kislitsyn, the chief military prosecutor, said that the mistreatment of soldiers by their officers and comrades in arms doubled in the North Caucasus Military District between the first half of 2000 and the first half of 2001, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 July. For the army as whole, Kislitsyn said, such mistreatment, commonly referred to by the Russian term "dedovshchina," rose by 29 percent. PG

5,000 SOLDIERS DESERT EACH YEAR

According to an article in "Novaya gazeta," No. 49, some 5,000 soldiers desert every year from the Russian army. The number is so large that "often their commanders don't even look for them." Eighty-six percent of the deserters are new recruits who have been in the army for less than a year, and only 24 percent attempted to avoid service before joining up or being drafted. PG

RUSSIAN MORTALITY FIGURES FAR ABOVE THOSE IN EUROPE

The level of mortality in Russia from accidents is 2.5 times higher than in developed countries and 1.5 times higher than in developing countries, the State Statistics Committee told Interfax on 16 July. The level of child mortality is two to three times higher in Russia than in Western European countries, the committee reported. As a result, Russian mortality figures overall are at the highest levels since World War II, at 15.3 per 1,000 population. Among those aged 20 to 29, the mortality rate has increased more than 60 percent over the last decade. The committee also reported that the difference in life expectancy between men and women is now 13.5 years, an unprecedented figure, and it noted that fertility rates have fallen by a factor of two since 1987, with the average woman now bearing only 1.17 children, far below the population replacement level of 2.15. As a result, Russia has a rapidly aging population, with 12.5 percent of its people now 65 or over. Moreover, its population continues to dwindle, with current projections suggesting that Russia will have only 130 million residents by 2015. PG

MOSCOW PLANS TO REDUCE NUMBER OF NONRESIDENT WORKERS

The government of the city of Moscow is developing a program for the next three years intended to reduce the number of foreign workers by approximately 20 percent and to control the daily influx of 3 million day workers into the capital, Interfax-Moscow reported on 16 July. The city plans to set up eight migration control points at the railroad stations. Its officials noted that during the past 12 months, more than 2 million people, including 1 million from CIS countries, were detained for violation of passport regulations, and that over the same period more than 513 organizations employing such illegals were fined. PG

ANOTHER SOVIET-ERA TRADITION REVIVED

The Labor Ministry is reviving the Soviet-era system of boards of honor in the workplace and elsewhere, Ekho Moskvy reported on 15 July. The ministry hopes to give public recognition in lieu of salary increases for "meritorious labor," just as Soviet officials did. The one innovation is that at least some of the photographs to be put up on the walls of enterprises will also show up on websites, the radio station said. PG

EVEN RUSSIAN BEER IS GETTING WORSE

The state inspection service of the Economic Development and Trade Ministry on 16 July announced that its officers rejected as failing to meet health standards 28.3 percent of the beer brewed in Russia during the first quarter of 2001, Interfax reported. That compares to a rejection rate of 22.1 percent for the same period in 2000. The inspectors criticized the breweries for inadequate microbiological testing. PG

OLD OPPONENTS TO FACE OFF IN ELECTION REDUX IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD

State Duma deputy (Communist) Gennadii Khodyrev and incumbent Governor Ivan Sklyarov will compete in the second round of gubernatorial elections in Nizhnii Novgorod on 29 July, according to the oblast's Election Commission on 16 July. The second round will be a replay of the region's second round of gubernatorial elections in 1997, when the same two politicians also competed. Sklyarov won that election by a 3 percent margin, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 17 July. However, in this year's first round, Khodyrev had a 3.62 margin over Sklyarov, according to RFE/RL's Nizhnii Novgorod correspondent. According to preliminary results on 16 July, Khodyrev had 24.44 percent of the votes compared with 20.82 percent for Sklyarov. State Duma deputy (People's Deputy) Vadim Bulavinov, who had been the favorite in a number of opinion polls, came in third with 19.07 percent of the vote. Deputy (SPS) Dmitrii Savelev had 10.55 percent of the vote. JAC

VOLOGDA GOVERNOR SAYS POWER-SHARING AGREEMENTS NO LONGER NEEDED

In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 16 July, Vologda Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev said that power-sharing agreements between the federal center and regions are no longer needed. According to Pozgalev, that system "has already played its role. It was needed when there was a complete muddle in federative relations." However, the agreements led to a "disbalance in relationships between [federation] subjects" and contributed to the disintegration of Russia. Regarding the concept defining responsibilities of the center and regions worked on by Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, Pozgalev noted that the concept "has a right to exist," but he does not agree with Shaimiev on everything, such as the suggestion that subjects' independence be increased almost to the point that they are completely sovereign nations. According to Pozgalev, "then the regions would become actually independent from government interests. We have a federation -- not a confederation." On 17 July, the State Council will hold a joint session on with the presidential commission on defining responsibilities between the center and regions, according to "Kommersant-Daily." JAC

PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY'S OFFICE CHECKS UP ON FINANCES OF FAR EAST REGION

A 60-member team from the office of the presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, Konstantin Pulikovskii, and his team have concluded an audit of local organs of self-rule in Amur Oblast to check how federal monies have been spent, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 16 July. The commission discovered more than 30 violations of various regulations and established a deadline for their resolution. According to Pulikovskii's first deputy, Gennadii Apanasenko, the previous oblast administration allowed violations in the distribution of federal monies along the principle of "good cities and raions and bad cities and raions." JAC

LOCALS TRY TO CLOSE ROAD LEADING TO NATURAL GAS PLANT

Residents in Astrakhan Oblast have tried to close the road around the Aksaraiskii gas-processing plant to protest the failure of the government to carry out a program that would move families who live close to the plant away from the area, RFE/RL's Astrakhan correspondent reported. For over 10 years some 500 families have lived in the area, which is considered dangerous for human health. One year ago, residents managed to close for five days the road along which sulfur is carried (the type of natural gas found in the region is high in sulfur and carbon dioxide.) That action caused the leadership of the oblast and Gazprom-Astrakhan to enter negotiations. This time, the police managed to drive back the picketers from the road, although they did not use truncheons or other special means. JAC

DAGHESTAN INVESTIGATES THEFT FROM FEDERAL BUDGET

Investigators in Daghestan have completed their investigation into the embezzlement of some 52 million rubles ($1.4 million) from the federal budget, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 14 July. Using a forged letter of credit, a group of unnamed officials obtained from the Russian Agriculture Ministry, and then sold for profit, 1,100 tons of meat and 2,750 tons of rice intended as humanitarian aid. Three of the officials involved have been arrested and indicted, and police are searching for a further six. LF




AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY ELECTS NEW DEPUTY CHAIRMAN

Meeting in Baku on 14-15 July, the Supreme Council of the opposition Musavat Party elected one first deputy chairman and six deputy chairmen, Turan reported. Isa Gambar remains party chairman. The deputy chairmen include Rauf Arifoglu, the editor of the newspaper "Yeni Musavat," who has long aspired to a prominent position within the Musavat Party (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 19, 21 May 2001). Arifoglu was named to the new position of deputy chairman for propaganda issues. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT INVITES ABKHAZ TO JOIN SEARCH FOR GUERRILLAS

In his traditional Monday radio broadcast, President Eduard Shevardnadze on 16 July expressed condolences to the families of the Abkhaz murdered last week, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2001), and suggested that Georgian police should assist the Abkhaz authorities in their search for the killers. Shevardnadze suggested that the killings were deliberately timed to sabotage the planned 17 July session of the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council to promote confidence-building measures between the two sides. Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia stated on 12 July that Sukhum will boycott that session to protest the killings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). UN special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict Dieter Boden similarly deplored the murders and the abduction of six other Abkhaz, Interfax reported on 16 July. Boden also expressed regret at the Abkhaz decision not to attend the planned 17 July meeting. LF

TWO HOSTAGES RELEASED IN EASTERN GEORGIA

Georgian border guard Mamuka Arabuli, who was abducted and taken to the Pankisi gorge in eastern Georgia on 12 July, was released early on 17 July together with an elderly Georgian taken hostage one month earlier, Caucasus Press reported. Presidential spokesman Kakha Imnadze said the two men were freed following President Shevardnadze's 16 July radio address in which he appealed to both Georgian and Kist (Georgian Chechen) residents of the gorge to overcome their mutual animosity. Volunteers from elsewhere in eastern Georgia had threatened to raid the gorge and hunt down the kidnappers if the hostages were not released, while the Kists blamed the abduction on Chechen refugees now encamped in the gorge. Following Arabuli's abduction, local Georgians had taken hostage seven Kists whom they planned to exchange for Arabuli. They freed one Kist after the two Georgians were released, but said the release of the other six is contingent on the release of six Georgians, two Spanish businessmen, and one Arab entrepreneur believed to be held hostage in Pankisi by either Kists or Chechen refugees (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2000 and 8 June 2001). LF

SECOND REGIONAL ORGANIZATION BACKS GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER

Georgian parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania traveled on 15 July to western Georgia's Abasha Raion, where he was elected chairman of the local "Abasheli" society founded six years ago, Prime News and "Rezonansi" reported the following day. Representatives of the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia clashed with members of the opposition Revival Union and displaced persons from Abkhazia who sought to protest Zhvania's meeting with the local population, which "Rezonansi" described as resembling the beginning of an electoral campaign. Security officials finally dispersed the opposition activists. On 16 July, Zhvania traveled to Zugdidi where he met with members of the "Mingrelia For A Strong Georgia" group created earlier this month, which has expressed its support for Zhvania's aspiration to become premier, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 26, 16 July 2001). Speaking in Tbilisi the same day, parliament deputies Djemal Gakhokidze, Elizbar Djavelidze, and Anzor Abralava (all 21st Century) condemned Zhvania's attempt to secure regional backing for his political ambitions. Parliament deputy speaker Vakhtang Rcheulishvili claimed that local officials coerced residents to attend meetings in and around Zugdidi to express support for Zhvania. He also suggested that Zhvania's campaign to solicit backing in western Georgia was prompted by recent allegations that he is Armenian, not Georgian, by nationality. LF

TWO KAZAKH OPPOSITIONISTS PREVENTED FROM TRAVELING TO U.S.

Amirzhan Qosanov, a leading member of the opposition Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, and Ermurat Bapi, the editor of the independent newspaper "Sol-Dat," were told by security officials at Almaty airport on 15 July that the country's National Security Committee had given orders that they were not to be allowed to board a plane leaving for the U.S., Interfax reported on 16 July. The two men were scheduled to testify to U.S. Congress hearings on human rights, democratization, and freedom of speech in Kazakhstan. LF

FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN KYRGYZSTAN DROPS

Speaking at a two-day conference in northern Kyrgyzstan on 16 July, President Askar Akaev expressed concern that the volume of foreign investment in his country has fallen by 20 percent over the past two years, Interfax reported. Akaev attributed that decline to excessive bureaucracy and inadequate legislation to protect investors' interests. He said it is hoped that foreign investment will rise from the equivalent of 9 percent of GDP in 2000 to 17 percent in 2010, and announced the creation of a special consultative council to promote such investment. LF

FORMER KYRGYZ PREMIER ELECTED STOCK EXCHANGE PRESIDENT

Former Premier Amangeldi MurAliyev was elected president of the Bishkek stock exchange at a general meeting on 16 July, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Former stock exchange President Abdyjapar Tagaev resigned from that post last month. As required by the Kyrgyz Constitution, MurAliyev resigned in December 2000 following Akaev's inauguration for a further presidential term. But contrary to expectations, Akaev did not propose him to head the new cabinet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 22 December 2000). LF

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL QUESTIONS TAJIK DEATH SENTENCES

In a press release dated 17 July, Amnesty International (AI) expresses concern that brothers Sherali and Dovud Nazriev, who were sentenced to death two months ago on charges of attempting to assassinate Dushanbe Mayor Mahmudsaid Ubaidulloev last year, are innocent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2000 and 14 May 2001). AI believes the men were ill-treated while in custody and that their trial was unfair. AI also quotes an Iranian radio station as reporting that residents of the two brothers' home town of Vanj in the Gorno-Badashkhan Autonomous Oblast organized a demonstration on 15 July to demand their release. LF

TAJIK ECONOMY REGISTERS 10 PERCENT GROWTH

Tajikistan's GDP grew by 10.7 percent in the first six months of 2001 compared with the same period last year, Interfax reported on 16 July, quoting the State Statistics Committee. Industrial production rose by 13 percent over that time period, but agricultural output by only 3.2 percent. LF




RUSSIAN OIL COMPANY TO SUPPORT LUKASHENKA'S RE-ELECTION BID

Mikhail Gutseriev, the president of Russia's Slavneft oil company in which the Belarusian government holds a 10 percent stake, said in Minsk on 16 July that the company will earmark $5 million to support the harvesting campaign in Belarus, Belapan and Interfax reported. Gutseriev noted that he regards the donation as a contribution to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's re-election campaign. "You [Belarusians] are fortunate to have such a president," Gutseriev added. "Belarus's legislation strictly prohibits rendering foreign assistance to political parties and presidential candidates," Lukashenka's former aide Alyaksandr Fyaduta commented. Fyaduta is now working for the presidential campaign staff of Leanid Sinitsyn, another former close associate of the incumbent president. JM

BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS ACCUSED OF CONFINING PLAINCLOTHESMAN

Syarhey Nyarouny, Mikalay Matarenka, and Vadzim Stsepanenka -- three journalists of the independent newspaper "Volny horad" in Krychau -- are facing charges of "illegal confinement" of a plainclothes police officer during a police raid on their editorial office last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2001), Belapan reported on 16 July. The plainclothesman got trapped in the office when the journalists shut the door on other police officers who came with an order to seize the newspaper's equipment. In addition, Editor in Chief Nyarouny is accused of using equipment from the U.S. Embassy in Minsk in violation of the presidential decree on foreign gratuitous aid (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 20 March 2001). If found guilty, the journalists face up to five years in prison. JM

UKRAINE'S MAJOR BANK GOES INTO LIQUIDATION

National Bank Governor Volodymyr Stelmakh on 16 July announced the beginning of liquidation procedures with regard to Ukrayina, one of the country's largest banks, Interfax reported. Ukrayina began to default on some of its payments to clients in June, reportedly because of a large number of bad loans issued under government guarantees. Stelmakh said the bank's liquidation fund will fully return the deposits not exceeding 500 hryvni ($93) to some 1.6 million depositors in the next three months. Stelmakh added that Ukrayina has some 100,000 clients whose deposits exceed 500 hryvni. He did not specify the procedure for compensating those clients. JM

KUCHMA SURE OF LUKASHENKA'S VICTORY?

Valyantsin Vyalichka, the newly appointed Belarusian ambassador to Ukraine, told Interfax on 16 July that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma does not doubt Belarusian President Lukashenka's successful re-election in the September presidential ballot. Vyalichka said Kuchma expressed this opinion during the ceremony in which he presented his credentials to the president the same day. JM

RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE PLEDGES TO EXPAND BILATERAL ECONOMIC TIES

Viktor Chernomyrdin on 16 July said he intends to "seriously and thoroughly" tackle the issue of expanding trade and economic ties between Russia and Ukraine, Interfax reported. "It's very difficult for us to solve our Russian problems without Ukraine, because the technological links of our economies are very deep," Chernomyrdin said, adding that it is also difficult for Ukraine to live without "partner relations" with Russia. Chernomyrdin is planning to visit several Ukrainian regions and some sections of Ukraine's pipeline system built by Gazprom. "Ukrainian companies should come to Russian markets more bravely, because Russia is attractive for investments," Chernomyrdin said, pledging to motivate Ukrainian businessmen during his trips to invest in Russia. JM

CONTINUING CONTROVERSY OVER PRIVATIZATION OF ESTONIAN RAILWAYS

The State Audit Office declared on 16 July that the Estonian Privatization Agency assumed "unlawful financial obligations" in the privatization of 66 percent of the shares in Eesti Raudtee (Estonian Railways) to Baltic Rail Services (BRS), BNS reported. The Audit Office noted that Estonia has already spent at least 85.9 million kroons ($4.7 million) on the privatization deal and agreed to allow BRS to claim a total of 350 million kroons as compensation for purchases of Russian locomotives, possible losses from an ongoing income tax case, and demands from the bankrupt Valga refrigerator car firm. The Audit Office argued that the obligations are invalid, since the agency did not have the right to accept them and is also appealing to the State Prosecutor's Office to start a criminal investigation into the case. The privatization agreement, it claimed, was signed without the knowledge of the Privatization Agency Council, which was not provided with full details of the agreement. Legal Chancellor Allar Joks also described the privatization agreement signed in April as invalid. There is a possibility that the charges by the Audit Office may result in the withdrawal of the banks that had agreed to finance the privatization. SG

U.S. PANEL FINDS DUMPING IN LATVIAN STEEL-REINFORCEMENT IMPORTS

The U.S. International Trade Commission stated that imports of steel-reinforcement products from Latvia are sold at dumping prices in the U.S., causing damage to the domestic steel industry there, and threatened to apply additional import duties up to 232 percent, BNS reported on 16 July. The commission also made an analogous statement about steel-reinforcement imports from Belarus, China, Korea, and Moldova. The U.S. Trade Department had previously imposed a 17 percent antidumping duty for steel-reinforcement imports from Latvia. The Liepaja Metallurgy company was one of the largest exporters of steel-reinforcement products to the U.S., sending about half of its production there, but has been forced to reduce this greatly. Liepaja Metallurgy President Kirovs Lipmans said the company decided not to completely halt its exports to the U.S. so as to avoid being forgotten in the event the U.S. commission changes its decision. He said that the company has found other customers in Europe, South America, and Africa, although it sells its products in those markets for lower prices than to the U.S. SG

FRENCH ARMY CHIEF TIGHT-LIPPED ABOUT LITHUANIA JOINING NATO

The commander of France's armed forces, General Jean-Pierre Kelche, completed a two-day visit to Lithuania on 16 July with a meeting with President Valdas Adamkus, ELTA reported. In talks with Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius, he praised Lithuania for its succinct analysis of geopolitical problems, firm will in reaching its objectives, and realistic attitude, noting that "Lithuania has chosen the right path and knows where it's going." Linkevicius thanked Kelche for French assistance in training junior staff officers, for French language classes in military schools, and the large supply of ammunition delivered recently. Kelche, however, refused to comment officially on France's position on Lithuania's possible membership in NATO, saying the decisions on enlargement will be taken during the alliance's summit in Prague next year. SG

POLAND'S MILLER SAYS LEADER OF VICTORIOUS PARTY SHOULD BECOME PREMIER

Leszek Miller, the chairman of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance, said on 16 July that the president should charge the leader of a party winning in parliamentary elections with the mission of forming a new cabinet, PAP reported. "This is not a question of [designating] a specific politician but of adopting a specific procedure that should be a stable practice in Polish political life," Miller added. The Democratic Left Alliance (in coalition with the Labor Union) is supported by 44 percent of voters according to the OBOP polling center, and by 51 percent according to the Demoskop survey agency. JM

CZECH GOVERNMENT TO DISCUSS GERMAN STATEMENT ON TEMELIN

The government will discuss at its next session "all aspects concerning Temelin, including international ramifications," government spokesman Libor Roucek told CTK on 16 July. The same day, German government spokeswoman Charima Reinhard confirmed that the German cabinet as a whole and not only the Environment Ministry endorses the statement, which "urgently calls on the Czech government to revoke its decision to put Temelin into operation and to close down the power station" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner welcomed the German statement, while a spokesman for the Austrian Environment Ministry said it is only "a matter of days or weeks" before Austria will also officially call for the closure of the controversial power plant. A German Environment Ministry spokesman said Germany is not conditioning the Czech Republic's possible accession to the EU on the plant's closure. MS

CZECH CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS' LEADER SAYS STATEMENT 'MISUNDERSTOOD'

Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Cyril Svoboda on 16 July said media reports that he has called for backing the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) minority government 2002 budget if the CSSD terminates its "opposition agreement" with the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) are due to "misunderstandings," CTK reported. "I said that if the opposition agreement collapsed because of the budget, [all] democratic parties should sit down and negotiate," Svoboda was cited by CTK as saying (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). MS

JAPANESE FOREIGN MINISTER ENDS CZECH VISIT

Makiko Tanaka on 16 July ended a three-day visit to the Czech Republic, meeting her Czech counterpart Jan Kavan, CTK reported. They discussed improving economic relations between their countries and the political situation in Southeastern Europe. Tanaka said after the meeting that she expected an increase in Japanese investment in the Czech Republic. MS

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER, SHADOW COUNTERPART EXCHANGE BARBS OVER FIGHTERS

Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik on 13 July said he was "surprised" to learn from the proposals on military modernization presented by shadow ODS Defense Minister Petr Necas earlier that day that the ODS is in favor of purchasing 24 supersonic fighters for the air force, CTK reported. Tvrdik told journalists that "in the past, the ODS said it would not discuss this problem in the next three to five years." Necas said in reaction that he is himself "surprised that Tvrdik is lying," as Necas told him about the ODS position over a "working dinner" earlier that week. Necas said the ODS had not changed its position and is not speaking about the "immediate purchase" of the 24 fighters, but about its "long-term vision." MS

MAIN SLOVAK OPPOSITION TO LAUNCH CROSS-PARTY NATO, EU ACCESSION INITIATIVE

The opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) leadership on 14 July decided to launch an appeal aimed at reaching a broad political agreement in support of Slovakia's accession to the EU and NATO, CTK reported, citing HZDS Deputy Jan Cuper. The appeal will be addressed to all political parties and movements, civic associations, and independent public personalities. HZDS Deputy Chairman Rudolf Ziak told journalists that he is convinced his party will be a member of the ruling coalition after the 2002 elections and that the HZDS is "ready to contribute to building a stable and safe Europe" based on "the fundamental values of democracy." For this reason, the HZDS backs a "continuation of the current policy aimed at [gaining] EU and NATO membership," he said. MS

BELGIAN AMBASSADOR CRITICIZES HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW

"The Status Law has undermined Hungary's role in regional stability," Belgium's ambassador to Hungary, Fernand van Brusselen, told "Magyar Hirlap" on 16 July. The ambassador, whose country currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the EU, said Budapest "must ease the damage" by consulting the leaders of neighboring countries, and through regulations that deal with the implementation of the law. Van Brusselen also said that if the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party were to come to power in Hungary, it could hinder the country's EU membership. In other news, the Federation of Hungarian Resistance Fighters and Anti-Fascists has called on political parties running in the 2002 elections to make public how they plan to combat the rise of neo-fascism and extremism in Hungary. The federation notes that the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust and of Hungary's participation in World War II will coincide with the election campaign. MSZ

HUNGARIAN HOMOSEXUAL GROUPS PROTEST DISCRIMINATION

Several hundred gay and lesbian demonstrators and their sympathizers on 16 July held a protest against discrimination outside the office of Budapest's third district mayor, Istvan Tarlos. Last week, Tarlos pressured organizers of Central Europe's largest music and culture festival, Pepsi Island, to sign a contract banning gay groups from providing informational pamphlets at the August event. The district's governing boards of FIDESZ and the Hungarian Democratic Forum issued a statement in support of the mayor, saying that the festival's hundreds of thousands of youth "deserve protection from homosexuality." Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky said that all legally registered civil organizations, including gay groups, are entitled by the constitution to be represented at public events. MSZ

INTERNATIONAL PRESS GROUP ASKS ORBAN ABOUT NEW TV HEAD

The International Press Institute (IPI) has sent a letter to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban expressing its concern over Karoly Medreczky's appointment as the new head of the Hungarian state television network (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2001), Hungarian media reported on 16 July. The IPI fears that the government will attempt to use Medreczky, a former member of FIDESZ, to enhance its control over the public television network. The IPI says the appointment could influence freedom of press in Hungary, and calls on Orban to issue a firm statement in support of the independence of television. MSZ




MACEDONIAN ALBANIANS PREPARED TO SIGN AGREEMENT?

An unnamed source close to President Boris Trajkovski told the private Serbian Beta news agency that Western envoys Francois Leotard and James Pardew have persuaded ethnic Albanian leaders to accept a draft agreement prepared recently by international experts, dpa reported from Skopje on 17 July (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 and 17 July 2001). The source added that what the envoys offered is "acceptable to the Macedonian side." The document will be signed shortly. No details or independent confirmation are available. Leotard told reporters: "You will know more tomorrow." NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said: "It is clear the process of ending the crisis is now at a crossroads. A final result will still require difficult decisions by all sides." On 17 July, dpa quoted Ilijaz Halimi of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) as saying that the Albanians "should" sign the document. PM

MACEDONIAN NEWSPAPERS CLOSE DOWN

Publishers of the daily "Makedonija Denes" and the weekly "Denes" said in Skopje on 17 July that they have ceased publication, at least until September, dpa reported. The publishers added that the government forced them to shut down by using financial and "indirect political pressure" because of the papers' independent line. "Makedonija Denes" began publishing on 16 September 1998. PM

KFOR ARRESTS ETHNIC ALBANIAN COMMANDER

Peacekeepers have arrested Ruzhdi Saramati, a regional commander of the civilian Kosova Protection Corps (TMK) in the Prizren area, Reuters reported on 16 July. A KFOR spokesman said: "We have substantial information that the activities of Mr. Saramati were designed to threaten KFOR troops and international groups." He did not elaborate. KFOR recently suspended five TMK commanders because of their suspected links to ethnic Albanian insurgents in Macedonia. On 15 July, peacekeepers seized more than 250 rounds of ammunition, in addition to weapons and information about an outlawed military police group, at the home of Rexhep Selimi, who is one of the five. PM

EU ACTS ON BALKAN ISSUES

Meeting in Brussels on 17 July, EU foreign ministers agreed on a $257 million package of loans and grants to Serbia, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 16 July 2001). They denied recent charges by Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic that aid has been slow in forthcoming. The ministers also decided to impose travel restrictions on 38 ethnic Albanian rebels operating in or around Macedonia. As an incentive to the Albanian leaders to be more forthcoming in talks with Leotard and Pardew, the ministers said they will wait to assess progress in the Skopje talks before implementing an outright travel ban on the 38, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. The U.S. placed travel restrictions on guerrilla leaders in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 June 2001). PM

KOSTUNICA SAYS MASS GRAVE VICTIMS COULD BE SERBS

Belgrade's chief magistrate, Vida Petrovic-Skero, issued a statement on 16 July to announce "an ongoing exhumation of a large number of unidentified bodies discovered in a second grave site near another recently investigated grave in Batajnica, near Belgrade," AP reported. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica cautioned against assuming in what he called a "premature and irresponsible" fashion that the victims are Albanians. Kostunica called on the Serbian Justice Ministry and Belgrade district court not to hand over remains to UN authorities in Kosova because the victims could be Serbs. PM

MONTENEGRIN PARTY PICKS CANDIDATE FOR YUGOSLAV PRIME MINISTER

The Steering Committee of the Socialist People's Party (SNP) agreed in Podgorica on 16 July to nominate Yugoslav Finance Minister Dragisa Pesic as the party's candidate for the post of federal prime minister, "Pobjeda" reported. His election is virtually assured because the federal constitution specifies that if the president is a Serb, the prime minister must be a Montenegrin. PM

BOSNIAN SERB LEADER WARNS ABOUT COOPERATING WITH THE HAGUE

Shortly after returning from a trip to the U.S., Republika Srpska Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said that Washington increasingly views the Bosnian Serbs as "partners and not objects," "Oslobodjenje" reported on 17 July. He added, however, that cooperation with The Hague-based tribunal is imperative and that there could be a government crisis unless the legislature passes a law on such cooperation. PM

BOSNIAN MUSLIMS FIND MORE MASS GRAVES

A spokesman for the Commission for Missing Persons said in Sarajevo on 17 July that two mass graves have been discovered near Sanski Most, AP reported. The graves are believed to contain the remains of some 30 Muslims killed at the start of the 1992-1995 conflict by Serbian forces. Some 6,000 bodies have been exhumed in Bosnia since the war. An additional 20,000 people are still listed as missing. PM

CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER NAMES GOTOVINA AS SECOND INDICTEE

Ivica Racan said in Zagreb on 16 July that army General Ante Gotovina is, along with General Rahim Ademi, one of two Croatian generals indicted by The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, Croatian Radio reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001). Racan added that he does not know where Gotovina is, noting that "General Gotovina [will] be served with an indictment and arrest warrant." Ademi has said that he is willing to go to The Hague to clear his name and has hired a lawyer. Press reports suggest that Gotovina has gone into hiding -- perhaps in Herzegovina -- and is planning to avoid arrest. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER IN ISRAEL

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon on 16 July discussed bilateral, particularly economic, relations and the situation in the Middle East, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Nastase said Bucharest wants to "relaunch" economic relations with Israel, which stagnated during the last two years, and that Romania wants to "provoke" Israeli companies to invest in high technology and telecommunications in his country. He said Romania "does not want to interfere" with the Israeli-Palestinian parleys, but is ready to offer "communication channels" to the two sides if asked to. Nastase also said that Romania will "not tolerate" racial and anti-Semitic manifestations. Sharon and Nastase also discussed the situation of Romanian workers in Israel, whose official number is 60,000, but who are estimated to be as many as 100,000. They agreed to have experts examine how to ensure that those workers benefit from Israeli social security and health insurance. MS

GREATER ROMANIA PARTY WANTS TO ABOLISH ACCESS TO SECURITATE FILES

Greater Romania Party (PRM) Deputy Daniela Buruiana on 16 July announced that the PRM will move a draft resolution to abolish the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS), RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. She said the CNSAS is costly and "has only produced victims and chaos." Many PRM deputies and senators, including party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor, are known to have either worked for the Securitate or to have been its informants, but many of their files "disappeared" after 1989. In other news, CNSAS Chairman Gheorghe Onisoru on 17 July said the files of 65 clergy leaders will be published by 1 September, in line with the provision of the law. Recently, the Romanian Information Service said it will propose that the law be amended to delete clergy leaders from the categories of officials whose files must be made public. MS

ROMANIAN PEASANTISTS CONTINUE PURGE OF DISSIDENTS

The National Steering Bureau of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 16 July expelled from the party former Secretary-General Calin Catalin Chirita and 10 other leaders of PNTCD local branches who refuse to recognize the new party leadership's legality, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

PACE CALLS ON TIRASPOL TO SET ILASCU GROUP MEMBERS FREE

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 10 July approved a resolution calling on the leadership in Tiraspol to liberate the three members of the Ilie Ilascu group, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. William Hill told journalists on 13 July that he has "no information" concerning the intention of the separatists to do so, and added that two members of the group have already served their sentence and their liberation "would be a humanitarian act." MS

BULGARIAN SDS REFUSES TO JOIN SIMEON'S COALITION

Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) Chairwoman Ekaterina Mihailova on 16 July said coalition parleys with the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) had ended in failure because the NDSV intends to include in the new government the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS), international agencies reported. Mihailova said the SDS would have been willing to support a minority government of the NDSV but saw "no need" to back a coalition that includes the DPS. Local media speculate that DPS leader Ahmed Dogan will be offered the position of deputy premier by Simeon. If the NDSV-DPS coalition materializes, it would be the first time that an ethnic Turkish party is directly represented in the cabinet. NDSV parliamentary group leader Plamen Panayotov said that Mihailova has pledged to support the future government as far as priorities like NATO and EU accession are concerned. MS

BULGARIAN COURT STRIPS PRIVATE TV STATION OF LICENSE

A high court on 13 July stripped one of Bulgaria's private TV stations of its nationwide broadcasting license after competitors appealed against it, AP reported. The Sofia-based Nova TV, which is owned by the Greek Antenna Group, won a government tender to start nationwide broadcasts in November 2000, but competitors in the tender, including the Swedish Modern Times, appealed in court, saying the tender had not been "transparent enough." The court heeded the appeal and its decision is final. MS




There is no End Note today.





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