Accessibility links

Newsline - July 18, 2001




CHINESE LEADER PLEDGES NEVER TO HARM RUSSIA'S INTERESTS

In a speech at Moscow State University on 17 July, Chinese leader Jiang Zemin said that China supports Russia's efforts at economic recovery and that Beijing "will never do anything which could harm Russia's interests," Russian and Western agencies reported. Jiang, who studied in Moscow in the 1950s, delivered his speech in Russian. PG

RUSSIA, CHINA SIGN ENERGY COOPERATION ACCORDS

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 17 July signed a major energy accord with visiting Chinese leader Jiang, Russian agencies reported. Over the next two years, Russia will build a 1,700-kilometer pipeline that will ultimately supply China with 30 million tons of oil annually beginning in 2010. In addition to Kasyanov, the signatories on the Russian side included YUKOS Chairman Mikhail Khodorkovskii and Transneft head Semen Vainshtok. The two sides also agreed that China will purchase at least 10 of Russia's Tu-204 passenger aircraft, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. VY

RUSSIAN-CHINESE TREATY CONTAINS SOME ALLY-TYPE OBLIGATIONS

Despite repeated assurances by both the Russian and Chinese leaderships that the treaty signed in Moscow on 16 July does not represent a "political-military alliance," in fact at least two of its provisions undercut such claims, according to grani.ru on 17 July. First, the website says, the treaty requires both signatories not to enter into any agreement that would jeopardize "the national security and territorial integrity" of the other, and second, it specifies that in the event of a threat of aggression against either, the two will immediately consult as to how to jointly respond. Moreover, Russian analysts said that China will purchase an increased share of Russia's weapons exports over the next 10 to 15 years, Interfax reported the same day. VY

RUSSIA HOPES FOR MORE CHINESE STUDENTS WHO CAN PAY THEIR OWN WAY

Sergei Markov, the director of Moscow's Institute of Political Research, said on 17 July it would be very profitable for Russia if China were to send tens of thousands of students to Russian higher educational institutions, RIA-Novosti reported. Students who pay cash for their studies abroad would find that Russian universities are far less expensive but just as good as Western ones, Markov said. Moreover, such exchanges would ensure that the next generation of the Chinese elite will speak Russian rather than English as its first foreign language, Markov said. VY

AN EDITORIAL COMMENT?

"Izvestiya" always has a quote of the day after its first article. On 17 July, the first article focused on the signing of the Russian-Chinese friendship treaty, and the quote was from American writer Lawrence Peter: "With friends like these, who needs enemies?" PG

PUTIN WARNS OFFICIALS AGAINST 'VACATION' MENTALITY

Russian President Vladimir Putin on 17 July thanked the cabinet for its effective work with the Duma in passing needed legislation, but he urged ministers not to yield to a "vacation" mentality and called on them to work just as hard this summer as they have done so far this year, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin said that ministers and their staffs should complete the drafting of legislation for submission to the Duma during its autumn session. PG

PUTIN SAYS INFLATION IN JULY MAY BE UNDER 1 PERCENT

President Putin told the cabinet on 17 July that inflation may be less than 1 percent during July, down from 1.6 percent in June, ITAR-TASS reported. He called on the government "to spare no effort in keeping inflation within the limits set for the budget in the current year." He also urged officials to work more closely with the Central Bank to coordinate anti-inflation efforts. PG

PAVLOVSKII PRAISES PUTIN FOR WORKING WITHIN THE SYSTEM

In an interview published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 16 July, presidential information policy aide Gleb Pavlovskii said that Putin's main achievement has been his ability to work through the Duma and other institutions to achieve his goals rather than attacking them head on as had his predecessor. VY

PUTIN SPEAKS OUT AGAINST ANTIGLOBALIST PROTESTS

In anticipation of protests during the upcoming Genoa meeting of the G-7 plus Russia, Putin told Italy's RAI 1 television on 16 July that he does not want to "anathematize" anyone, but that such protesters may voice their opinions only if they do not do any damage to society or property and strictly remain within the law. VY

'PREDICTABLE PARLIAMENTARIANISM'

An article in "Izvestiya" on 17 July said that the Kremlin and the government have succeeded in bringing the Duma to heel and making Russian parliamentarianism "predictable." As evidence of this, the article noted that in the last Duma, the Kremlin and the cabinet proposed 30 percent of all laws adopted, but during this Duma session, the Kremlin and the cabinet contributed 60 percent of all legislation. It added that discipline within each of the factions has increased, making it almost unnecessary to count the votes once the party and faction leaders have declared their intentions. PG

DEPUTY SAYS MONEY-LAUNDERING LAW MAY MAKE SITUATION WORSE

In an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 17 July, Nikolai Kovalev, the former Federal Security Service (FSB) head and current chairman of the parliamentary commission on the struggle with corruption, said that the anti-money-laundering law adopted by the Duma on 13 July on third reading (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001) might not reduce the extent of that problem, and may even have the opposite effect. That is because it creates new legal categories that people may then violate. He called for the establishment of a special institution to try to prevent violations rather than punish those who violate the law. PG

DEFENDERS OF RUSSIAN WHITE HOUSE IN 1991 COMPLAIN OF HISTORICAL REVISIONISM

Sergei Bratchikov and other members of the recently organized group of defenders of the Russian White House who call themselves "The Georgian Corps" said on 17 July that they are concerned by the historical revisionism now taking place with regard to the events of August 1991, Interfax reported. Bratchikov said that the people who led the coup are now being treated as defenders of the fatherland when in fact they were not that at all. He said that at that time, the battle was between "thinking people and nonthinking people." PG

FEDERATION COUNCIL SPEAKER CATEGORICALLY AGAINST POWER-SHARING TREATIES

Yegor Stroev said on 17 July that he is "categorically" opposed to any renewal of power-sharing agreements between Moscow and the regions, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that such accords allow many regions to underpay taxes to the federal budget and thereby contribute both to growing income disparities among the regions and centrifugal forces in the country. VY

PATRIARCH STAKES OUT POSITION ON LAND SALES

Patriarch Aleksii II has sent a letter to Agrarian Party head Mikhail Lapshin in which he says that he is opposed to the "uncontrolled" sale of land to foreigners and wants to preserve the land for those who use it, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 July. PG

U.S. REJECTION OF KYOTO PROTOCOL COULD COST RUSSIA BILLIONS

The American decision not to accept the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions could cost Russia up to $10 billion a year, Russian and European experts told Reuters on 17 July. That is because the market for Russia's hot air, on which Moscow had pinned substantial hopes, will be substantially smaller. PG

MOSCOW TO RESUME TALKS WITH PARIS CLUB IN 2002

Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Kolotukhin told Interfax-AFI on 17 July that the Russian government plans to resume consultations with the Paris Club in 2002 concerning the final rescheduling of the former Soviet debt for which Moscow is responsible. He added that Moscow wants to work out this problem before the peak repayment year of 2003. PG

FITCH IBCA RAISES RUSSIA'S RATING TO 'POSITIVE'

The international ratings agency Fitch IBCA on 17 July raised its rating for Russia's long-term currency outlook from "stable" to "positive," ITAR-TASS reported. It also raised or held stable its ratings of various bonds and bank issues. According to the agency, it is taking these steps because of "accumulating evidence that at least for now, President Putin has the inclination, power, and courage to drive forward structural reforms that are critical to the future health of the Russian economy." PG

PUTIN SUPPORTS PIPELINE THROUGH GREECE

Putin told visiting Greek Prime Minister Constantinos Simitis on 17 July that he backs a pipeline route from Russia to the Balkans, including the Burgas-Aleksandropoulis pipeline backed by Athens, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin accepted Simitis's invitation to visit Greece by the end of the year. PG

MOSCOW DESIGNATES PRIMORSK AN INTERNATIONAL PORT

At the request of Leningrad Oblast Governor Valerii Serdyukov, the Russian government has given the Primorsk port on the Baltic Sea international status, "Izvestiya" reported on 17 July. That is likely to increase the use of that port to handle cargoes that were previously shipped through Baltic countries. PG

ROGOZIN LIKENS MACEDONIA NOW TO CHECHNYA IN 1993

Dmitrii Rogozin, the chairman of the Duma International Affairs Committee, said in Macedonia on 17 July that conditions there resemble those in "the Chechen Republic of 1993," ITAR-TASS reported. He said that Macedonian residents have expressed to him "deep disappointment with NATO and the European Union," but he said any participation by Russian forces in disarming Albanian militants in Macedonia would be "inexpedient." PG

FSB ARRESTS RUSSIAN FOLLOWER OF JAPANESE CULT

A spokesman for the FSB office in Primorskii Krai said his agency has arrested an activist of the Japanese extremist religious sect Aum Senrike, polit.ru and "Izvestiya" reported on 16 July. The FSB officer said that Aleksei Yurchuk, the man just arrested, and three other members of the group were planning to stage terrorist acts on the Japanese territory in order to secure the release of the sect's leader, Seko Asahara. VY

BANKER URGES WRITING OFF PART OF THIRD WORLD DEBT

Yurii Ponomarev, the head of Vneshtorgbank, told the BBC on 17 July that Russia and other countries should write off some of the debt of the poorest countries of the third world, Interfax-AFI reported. PG

MOSCOW PLANS MAJOR INVESTMENTS IN KALININGRAD

Kaliningrad Deputy Governor Vladimir Pirogov said on 17 July that Moscow's program for the development of his region calls for investments of $3.2 billion over the next eight years, Interfax reported on 17 July. Pirogov said that the central government plans to provide 20 percent of the total. He added that the program is intended to "overcome the consequences of the protectionist policies of the Baltic governments and to set up partnership relationships with the governments of the European Union and Baltic region." PG

2001 HARVEST PREDICTED TO BE NO WORSE THAN PREVIOUS YEAR'S

Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Gordeev told Putin on 17 July that this year's Russian grain harvest will be no worse than last year's, Interfax reported. This represents a retreat from earlier Russian assertions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2001) that the harvest this year will be 10 percent larger than last year's and that Moscow will be able to export significant quantities of grain. PG

EKHO MOSKVY JOURNALISTS READY FOR TRANSFER OF SHARES TO YASIN

Spokesmen for Ekho Moskvy said on 17 July that journalists at the radio station have fulfilled all the requirements to allow for the transfer of 9.5 percent of the shares to former Economic Minister Yevgenii Yasin, Interfax reported. They said that they are waiting to hear from NTV, Gazprom-Media, and Media-MOST. PG

RUSSIA PLANS TO EXPAND GOLD OUTPUT, SEEKS FLEXIBILITY IN DIAMOND SALES

Goskhran head Valerii Rudakov said that Russian gold output is expected to rise 10 percent this year over last to a total of 150 metric tons, Finmarket reported on 17 July. He also said that Moscow will begin to auction large diamonds (those over 10.8 carats), and plans to seek greater flexibility in its dealings with DeBeers. VY

ONLY 20 PERCENT OF RUSSIAN AIRCRAFT CAN BE MADE TO MEET INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS

First Deputy Transportation Minister Aleksandr Neradko said on 16 July that only 20 percent of Russia's 6,400 passenger aircraft are sufficiently modern to be able to be upgraded to meet new noise and pollution standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization beginning next year, Prime-TASS reported on 17 July. The remainder are either too old or would be too expensive to bring into compliance, he said. VY

RUSSIA ON THE WRONG SIDE OF INTERNET DIVIDE

Irina Khakamada, a leading member of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), was quoted in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 July as saying that "Russia is the only country in the world where the number of computers in schools is falling." At present, there is fewer than one computer for every 500 school children, and only 1.5 percent of Russian schools are linked to the Internet. As a result, the paper said, Russia is on the wrong side of the Internet divide between those countries looking to the future and those mired in the past. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" reported the same day that e-commerce in Russia is growing more slowly, with 30-40 new Internet sites offering goods and services appearing each month compared to a growth rate of 150 such sites during 2000. PG

RUSSIANS MARK ANNIVERSARY OF MURDER OF IMPERIAL FAMILY

On 17 July, the 83rd anniversary of the murder of the Imperial Family by the Bolsheviks, more than 2,000 people took part in a service on the site of the killings in Yekaterinburg, and hundreds more attended services in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other cities, Interfax-Eurasia reported. A spokesman for the Patriarchate told Interfax the same day that two Japanese scholars have confirmed the Orthodox Church's view that the remains reburied in St. Petersburg in 1998 are not those of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. PG

RUSSIAN MIGRANTS OFTEN LIVE LIKE SERFS

Voluntary migrants from CIS countries to Russia, most of whom are themselves ethnic Russians, are often subject to discrimination and mistreatment and in some cases are treated like serfs, according to an article in "The Moscow Times" on 17 July. The paper said that officials are seldom in a position to do anything to help them. PG

RUSSIAN MOSQUITOES NOW CARRY MALARIA

According to an article in "Izvestiya" on 17 July, Russians are likely to contract malaria from domestic mosquitoes as well as from those coming in from abroad. The paper noted that hot weather and reduced spraying has led to a bumper "crop" of mosquitoes this year and said that as a result, health risks have increased in many regions. PG

ILLEGAL TURNOVER OF MOSCOW MARKETS NOW $5.6 BILLION A YEAR

Interior Ministry officials in Moscow said on 17 July that the illegal turnover, none of which is taxed, of Moscow markets has reached 170 billion rubles ($5.6 billion) a year, Interfax-Moscow reported. The officials added that there are now 174 such markets in the Russian capital that employ 245,000 people, including 50,000 foreigners. PG

DROWNINGS IN MOSCOW SET RECORD

Since 1 June, 155 Muscovites have drowned while swimming, more than the record total of 103 during 1999, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 July. Officials blame hot weather, drunkenness, and the absence of lifesaving personnel. PG

MOSCOW OFFICIALS NOW AVOID RIDING IN IMPORTED CARS

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 July that officials in Moscow now avoid riding in foreign cars because of the rash of attacks on drivers of such cars by people trying to steal them. As a result, many Moscow city officials have returned to using domestically produced vehicles. PG

PUTIN CALLS FOR RENEWED EFFORT ON REGIONAL REFORMS...

Addressing the first session on 17 July of the presidential commission on defining the responsibilities between the federal center and regions, Russian President Putin called for speeding up the process of fine-tuning how Russia is administered: "I want to emphasize and I think many would agree that we have dragged out the creation of a balanced and effective system, where each level of power knows exactly and to what degree it is responsible." He added that "the division of powers [between the center and the regions] does not require putting up a Great Wall of China between the federal center and the regions. Just the opposite: It [should] create the conditions for closer and more civilized interactions." JAC

...AND SAYS POWER-SHARING AGREEMENTS EXACERBATE INEQUALITY...

On the issue of power-sharing agreements, Putin noted that such agreements in their time played a "positive role," but today the majority of them frequently do not work and the agreement system itself only "aggravates the problem of inequality of the federation subjects," both in terms of their attitude toward the federal center and to each other. Putin signed a decree on 26 June establishing the commission (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 4 July 2001). JAC

...WHILE SHAIMIEV CALLS FOR CHANGES IN FEDERAL LAWS

At a press conference on 17 July, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev also called for initiating a new stage in federal reforms, according to Interfax. Shaimiev noted that in the last year the process of bringing regional legislation in line with federal law was completed, but now it is time to start the second stage -- "the bringing of federal laws into conformity with the constitution, especially those parts, where they intrude upon the competence of the federation subjects." According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, Shaimiev also said that he does not rule out the possibility of abolishing power-sharing agreements "if we manage to enter all our achievements into existing federal laws." However, in an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Shaimiev explained that the fate of each power-sharing agreement "should be up to each region to decide," noting that "for Tatarstan, our agreement is the second most important document after the constitution." Shaimiev did not specify which constitution he was referring, but presumably it was Tatarstan's rather than the federal constitution, since he also stated the same day that Tatarstan and Chechnya are the only republics not to sign the federation treaty with Russia, and the "federal center needs to pay more attention to this fact," according to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau. JAC

SAKHA DEPUTIES NIX THIRD TERM FOR NIKOLAEV

Deputies in Sakha's (Yakutia's) Legislative Assembly refused on 17 July to introduce an amendment to the republic's constitution allowing President Mikhail Nikolaev to seek a third term in office, the website polit.ru reported. Deputies also refused to alter a provision in the constitution that stipulated that the republic's president should not be older than 60 years old. Nikolaev will be 64 by the time the elections take place. Meanwhile, the pro-Kremlin Federation group in the Federation Council issued a press release the same day promising that its members will solidly vote against the bill that recently passed the State Duma limiting the number of regional leaders who may seek a third term from 69 to 10 (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 11 July 2001). JAC

INTERIOR MINISTRY DENIES ITS OFFICERS DISMISSED FOR CHECHEN EXCESSES

Russian Interior Ministry spokesman Sergei Oleynik denied on 17 July that two Interior Ministry officers serving in Chechnya have been dismissed in connection with the brutality and pillaging by Russian troops during security sweeps of the villages of Sernovodsk, Assinovskaya, and Kurchaloi in early July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 July 2001). Interfax on 16 July quoted the commander of the Russian combined troops, Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, as saying that he has reprimanded a general subordinate to him and suspended two senior officers pending the outcome of an investigation into the Russian troops' actions. Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov said on 17 July that he has seen documents signed by Moltenskoi ordering those suspensions. Chechen Prosecutor-General Viktor Dakhnov said on 16 July that an investigation has confirmed "individual" but not "widespread" cases of brutality toward Chechen civilians, AP reported. Dakhnov gave the total number of Chechens injured as at least 10. LF

ANOTHER LOCAL OFFICIAL MURDERED IN CHECHNYA

Avadi Bashaev, the deputy mayor of the small town of Starie Atagi south of Grozny, was shot dead by gunmen on 16 July as he prepared for evening prayers, Reuters reported the following day. LF




IRANIAN SECURITY OFFICIAL VISITS ARMENIA

On the first leg of a tour of the three Transcaucasus states, Iranian National Security Council Secretary Hasan Rowhani met in Yerevan on 16-17 July with senior Armenian officials, including Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, assuring his interlocutors of Tehran's intention to maintain close political and economic relations, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Rowhani said Armenia plays a "pivotal" role in the region. The presidential press service quoted President Robert Kocharian as saying that Yerevan would welcome a more visible Iranian presence in the South Caucasus, and that "a solution to issues related to national security is impossible without Iran's participation." Meeting on 16 July with Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, Rowhani declared that the "friendly" rapport between Iran and Armenia is not directed at a third country. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's press service quoted the premier as assuring Rowhani on 17 July that the two countries are "strategic partners" that have identical approaches to important issues. Markarian characterized the Armenian-Iranian border as "not a dividing line, but a way to friendship and cooperation," Noyan Tapan reported. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER QUITS RULING COALITION PARTY

Parliament speaker Armen Khachatrian on 17 July formally quit the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) headed by Stepan Demirchian, repeating his earlier accusation that the latter has betrayed the political legacy of his father Karen, who founded the party in 1998, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). Khachatrian further accused the HZhK leadership of maintaining ties with "forces seeking to destabilize the political situation." Observers in Yerevan predict that other HZhK members may follow Khachatrian, thereby reducing the HZhK's 18-member parliament faction and calling into question the survival of the Miasnutiun bloc. Tensions have long been visible within Miasnutiun between the HZhK and its senior partner, the Republican Party of Armenia headed by Prime Minister Markarian. LF

ARMENIAN MILITARY POLICE DENY CLAIMS THEY MISTREAT DETAINEES

In an interview published in the daily "Hayots ashkhar" on 17 July and circulated by Groong, senior military police official Vladimir Grigorian rejected as untrue claims by the presidential Human Rights Commission that military police have subjected detained servicemen to torture (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). LF

AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER WARNS OF POSSIBLE RESUMPTION OF HOSTILITIES

In an interview with the independent daily "Ekho" published on 17 July and circulated by Groong, Vilayat Quliev said Azerbaijan welcomes cooperation with the OSCE, but at the same time condemned that organization for what he termed its failure to comply with its own stated commitment to the territorial integrity of member states and its support for the "crazy demands" of Nagorno-Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasian that a settlement of the Karabakh conflict must take "existing realities " into account. Echoing President Heidar Aliev, Quliev denied the existence of the "Paris principles" for resolving the conflict that, according to Armenian Foreign Minister Oskanian, were reached during talks in March between Aliev, Kocharian, and French President Jacques Chirac. Quliev told Turan the same day that "Azerbaijan's patience is not infinite," and that the Azerbaijani leadership does not exclude the use of force to resolve the conflict. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY ORDERED TO VACATE HEADQUARTERS

The Economic Development Ministry has ordered the opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party to vacate within five days the premises it has long occupied on the outskirts of Baku, Turan reported on 17 July. The ministry claims that the lease on that building has expired, and it has offered the party alternative accommodation nearby. LF

TENSIONS PERSIST IN EASTERN GEORGIA

Georgian police and Interior Ministry troops have blocked the entrance to the Pankisi gorge in eastern Georgia following an acrimonious meeting on 17 July between local Georgians and Kists (Georgian Chechens) from the gorge, Caucasus Press reported. The Georgians have refused to release one Kist and two Chechens, whom they took hostage on 13 July, until several foreigners believed to be held prisoner in the gorge are freed. Reports on 18 July of the death of Vepkhia Margoshvili, a Kist believed to be behind some of those kidnappings and whose arrest the Georgians are demanding, have not been confirmed. Speaking in Tbilisi on 17 July, Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili criticized the Interior Ministry's failure to secure the Georgian and foreign hostages' release, Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili said that the kidnappers number no more than 20-25 men, and that his ministry's special troops are capable of "establishing order" throughout the gorge within three days. LF

GEORGIAN LABOR PARTY LEADER CALLS FOR PRESIDENT'S OUSTER

Speaking at a news conference in Tbilisi on 17 July, Labor Party Chairman Shalva Natelashvili called for the ouster of President Eduard Shevardnadze, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported. He also called on the prosecutor-general to open criminal proceedings against parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania for fomenting interethnic tensions during his recent visit to Mingrelia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2001), and urged teachers, energy sector employees, and pensioners to form "strike committees" in anticipation of what he claims are official plans to cut teaching staff by 10 percent in the fall and to raise telephone tariffs by 100 percent. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT VISITS GREECE

Nursultan Nazarbaev met in Athens on 16 July with his Greek counterpart Constantinos Stephanopoulos to discuss expanding bilateral political and economic ties, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service and ITAR-TASS reported. Nazarbaev expressed interest in the planned Burgas-Aleksandropoulis oil pipeline, the annual throughput capacity of which will be 67 million tons. During his two-day official visit Nazarbaev was also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Constantinos Simitis, parliament speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis, leaders of political parties, and Greek businessmen. LF

KAZAKH BORDER GUARDS 'NOT JUSTIFIED' IN PREVENTING OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS FROM LEAVING COUNTRY

In a press release dated 18 July, the Kazakh National Security Committee said the border guards who refused to allow two Kazakh opposition figures to board a plane for the U.S. at Almaty airport three days earlier had no grounds for doing so, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The border guards are subordinate to the National Security Committee. Amirzhan Qosanov, a leading member of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, and Ermurat Bapi, the editor of the opposition newspaper "Sol-Dat," had planned to testify at U.S. Senate hearings on 18 July. They told Interfax on 16 July that the security officials who prevented them from boarding the plane said they were acting on instructions from the National Security Committee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2001). LF

RESULTS OF KAZAKHSTAN'S CAPITAL AMNESTY SUMMARIZED

A total of $480.2 million illegally transferred to foreign banks was returned to Kazakh banks between 14 June and 13 July, National Bank Chairman Georgii Marchenko told journalists in Almaty on 17 July, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The number of persons who made such capital transfers was 2,928, of whom over 80 percent reside in Almaty. On 8 July, Marchenko estimated the amount repatriated during the first three weeks of the grace period at $190 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). The average amount returned under the amnesty was $160,000, and the highest single sum was $800,000, Marchenko said. LF

NEW CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER

Kyrgyz prosecutors have brought new charges against former vice president and opposition Ar-Namys party leader Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 17 July. He is accused of embezzling some $200,000 while serving in 1993-1997 as governor of Chu Oblast and a further $435,000 in 1998-1999, when he was mayor of Bishkek. Proceedings were brought against Kulov in 1997 in connection with the accusation relating to his activities in Chu Oblast, but were dropped after oblast officials appealed to the Kyrgyz Constitutional Court. Kulov was sentenced in January to seven years in prison on charges of abuse of power while he served as national security minister in 1997-1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001). LF

KYRGYZSTAN LOWERS INCOME TAX

President Askar Akaev on 17 July signed new legislation introducing a new fixed 10 percent income and profit tax rate that will take effect as of 1 January 2002, AP reported. That new fixed rate replaces a progressive income tax rate that rose to over 30 percent and a standard 30 percent profit tax. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT'S ADVISER SHOT DEAD

Karim Yuldashev, a foreign policy adviser to President Imomali Rakhmonov, was shot dead in the stairwell of his Dushanbe home on 17 July, Russian and Western agencies reported. His killers managed to escape. Rakhmonov broke off a tour of the Gorno-Badashkhan Autonomous Oblast and returned to the capital to meet with law-enforcement officials investigating the murder. LF

TAJIKISTAN ASSESSES DAMAGE FROM DROUGHT...

A meeting on 16 July of senior Tajik agriculture officials estimated damage to that sector from drought during the first six months of this year at 51 million somonis (some $21.27 million), Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 17 July. Damage to an irrigation channel in Khatlon Oblast has left some 46,000 residents of three districts without water for over one month. LF

...AND TUBERCULOSIS

The number of tuberculosis cases in Tajikistan grew by 60 percent between 1993-2000, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 17 July, quoting the director of the country's center for combating that disease. She attributed the increase to the deterioration in social and economic conditions, specifically patients' inability to afford medication or adequate nutrition. The incidence of TB is particularly high in Khatlon Oblast, where it ranges from 54 to 83 per 100,000 inhabitants. In the city of Kulob, 11 people have died of TB since the beginning of this year. LF




TOP BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS IMPLICATED IN KILLING OF OPPOSITION FIGURES...

Uladzimir Hancharyk, the head of the Federation of Trade Unions and one of the contestants in Belarus's presidential race, has made public documents alleging that top Belarusian law-enforcement officials were involved in the killing of prominent opposition figures in 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001), Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 17 July. According to a photocopy of a report allegedly written by the former chief of the police department for criminal investigation, Mikalay Lapatsik, to Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau, former Security Council Secretary Viktar Sheyman ordered an Interior Ministry task force to kill Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar, and Anatol Krasouski. The three were allegedly killed with shots from a pistol used for executions of death-row prisoners in Belarus. According to another document, former Interior Minister Yury Sivakou authorized task force commander Dzmitry Pavlyuchenka to take the pistol out of the death-row prison on two occasions. Sheyman is now prosecutor-general, while Sivakou serves as deputy head of the presidential administration. JM

...WHILE PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S AIDE SAYS IMPLICATION IS 'ELECTORAL PROVOCATION'

Alyaksey Taranau, an aide to Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman, told a RFE/RL Belarusian Service correspondent on 17 July that the documents publicized by Hancharyk are fabricated. "This is an electoral provocation intended to discredit Belarus's incumbent president," Taranau added. Last week, Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau denied having received the report mentioned by Hancharyk from Lapatsik. Hancharyk's revelations seem to confirm the allegations by two former Belarusian investigators, Dzmitry Petrushkevich and Aleh Sluchak, about the existence of a government-organized "death squad" in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 June 2001). JM

FOUR UKRAINIAN PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTIES MOVE TO CREATE ELECTION BLOC

The leaders of the Agrarian Party, the Popular Democratic Party, the Party of Regions, and the Labor Ukraine Party -- Mykhaylo Hladiy, Valeriy Pustovoytenko, Mykola Azarov, and Serhiy Tyhypko respectively -- have signed a declaration to create a joint election bloc, Interfax reported on 17 July. Azarov told journalists that the declaration is the first step toward creating "a powerful democratic force of centrist orientation and a single political party in the future." Pustovoytenko said he does not rule out that the four-party bloc may be joined by the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh. JM

UKRAINE DENIES CONTINENTAL SHELF DRILLING VIOLATES TREATY WITH ROMANIA

Foreign Ministry spokesman Serhiy Borodenkov on 17 July denied that Ukraine is violating the 1997 basic treaty with Romania by drilling for oil and gas in the vicinity of Serpents Island (Zmiyinyy ostrov) in the Black Sea, Interfax reported. Borodenkov was responding to a "verbal note" from Romania's Foreign Ministry saying that Kyiv has no right to drill in the area as long as both countries have not demarcated the continental shelf around the island (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2001). Borodenkov said Ukraine is conducting the drilling under the "development of mineral resources" clause included in an additional accord to the treaty. JM

UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN BORDER TO RUN UNMARKED?

Ukrainian Ambassador at Large Oleksandr Kupchyshyn told journalists on 17 July that the border between Ukraine and Russia will be delimited but not demarcated, Interfax reported. "We will only perform the delimitation: the border will be only on the map," Kupchyshyn said, adding that "it has been deemed inexpedient to demarcate the Ukrainian-Russian border at the current historical stage." Kupchyshyn said Kyiv and Moscow have already agreed on 95 percent of the common land frontier. He noted that both sides differ on how to define the border in the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait. Both sides have agreed to consider these basins as their "internal" waters. "Russia interprets the notion of internal waters as the complete absence of a frontier, while we think that it is necessary to draw a state borderline [across them]," Kupchyshyn said. Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Chalyy explained on 18 July that Ukraine has not abandoned altogether the idea of demarcating its border with Russia. JM

CRIMEAN LEGISLATORS DISMISS PREMIER OF AUTONOMOUS REPUBLIC

The 100-seat legislature of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea on 18 July voted by 55 to one with four abstentions to oust Serhiy Kunitsyn, the premier of the Crimean cabinet, Interfax reported. The vote came after Crimean parliamentary speaker Leonid Hrach said Kunitsyn's dismissal has been coordinated with President Leonid Kuchma. Kunitsyn denied Hrach's statement, and the office of Kuchma's representative in Crimea said no approval was received from the president. Crimean lawmakers appointed Kunitsyn's deputy, Lentun Bezaziyev, to head the government. But Kunitsyn refused to leave, calling the vote a "political farce." AP quoted Kunitsyn as saying that "Bezaziyev will not act as premier, because the decision is illegal. I will stay until Ukraine's president tells me to go." JM

UKRAINE'S GDP GROWS 9.1 PERCENT IN JANUARY-JUNE

The State Statistics Committee reported on 17 July that the country's GDP increased by 9.1 percent in January-June 2001, compared with the same period last year. JM

EU COMMISSIONER CRITICIZES ESTONIA'S ADMINISTRATIVE ABILITY

The EU commissioner for regional policy and institutional reform, Michel Barnier, in an interview with RFE/RL prior to his beginning a three-day visit to the Baltic states on 17 July, declared that the preparation of projects in Estonia slated for EU funding is insufficient. Barnier is in charge of the Instrument for Structural Policies for pre-Accession (ISPA) aid fund, which supports large projects in the fields of transport and environment -- such as road and railway upgrades, waste management, and water purification systems -- that are essential to candidates' preparation for EU membership. He noted that although Estonia is rated to be among the most advanced EU candidates, officials in Tallinn appear unable to meet EU standards when presenting potential projects. Barnier said that Estonia's failure to prepare ISPA projects properly suggests that the country will also have problems preparing the generous regional development aid projects that will become available to candidates upon accession, since they have similar aims and administrative setup. The Baltic states need massive aid development, since they rank among the poorest of candidate countries, as shown by Estonia's per capita GDP of 37 percent of the EU average, Lithuania's 31 percent, and Latvia's 28 percent. SG

FITCH INCREASES LATVIA'S DEVELOPMENT FORECAST RATING

The international credit rating agency Fitch IBCA in its annual credit rating of Latvia issued on 17 July, increased Latvia's development forecast rating from "stable" to "positive," LETA reported. Fitch retained Latvia's credit ratings at: "BBB" for long-term loans in foreign currencies; "A" for long-term loans in local currency, and "F3" for short-term loans in foreign currencies. The agency noted that last year Latvia cut its budget's fiscal deficit and increased its GDP by 6.6 percent, while the current account deficit fell to 6.8 percent of GDP. Fitch gave Estonia a rating of "BBB+" and Lithuania a "BBB-," but both have lower development forecast ratings of "stable." SG

LITHUANIAN GAMBLING COMMISSION ELECTS LEADERSHIP

The Lithuanian Gambling Commission in its first meeting on 17 July elected Ceslovas Blazys, a former Vilnius chief police commissioner and interior minister, as its chairman, ELTA reported. Vytautas Janulis was elected deputy chairman and Jonas Ragauskas as secretary. The gambling law went into effect on 1 July, but no gambling establishments were opened because the commission that is empowered to issue licenses had not been formed. Although the gambling law was passed in April, the president, premier, and parliament chairman had each named their two nominees to the commission only in July. The commission intends to be registered as a budgetary institution and move in the near future to permanent premises, where it will begin accepting applications for licenses. It hopes to issue the first license within a month. SG

FORMER HEAD OF POLISH INSURANCE COMPANY ARRESTED IN FRAUD PROBE

Police have arrested Grzegorz Wieczerzak, the former head of the Polish insurance company PZU Zycie, in a probe into what Justice Minister Stanislaw Iwanicki termed as "the biggest corruption scandal" in Poland since the end of communism, Polish media reported on 17 July. PZU Zycie is part of Poland's PZU S.A. insurance company, which claims 15 million customers and in which the government holds stake of 56 percent. Interior Minister Marek Biernacki told journalists that a number of former and current PZU executives were involved in questionable investment and lending practices. Wieczerzak's arrest is the third major corruption scandal to hit the highly unpopular government of Premier Jerzy Buzek within a week. Last week, Buzek fired Deputy Defense Minister Romuald Szeremietiew and sent Telecommunications Minister Tomasz Szyszko on leave over probes into alleged corruption at their ministries. JM

CZECH ROMA TO SET UP PATROLS FOR SELF-PROTECTION

In reaction to a recent attack on a group of Roma by right-wing youths (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001), Roma in Ostrava, north Moravia, are planning to organize patrols for their own protection, CTK reported on 18 July, citing "Mlada fronta Dnes." "Our patience has run out. We're preparing a demonstration at which we will call on Roma to set up defense patrols," said Mikulas Horvath, the head of the North Moravian Romany Civic Group. He added that the patrols would alert the group and police of any violence committed against Roma. The police say the Roma have no reason to set up self-defense patrols. "The police can handle extremism. We clear up to 100 percent of cases," a police spokesman said. DW

AUSTRIAN MINISTER REJECTS EU VETO OVER TEMELIN

Austrian Environment Minister Wilhelm Molterer, speaking on Austria's ORF TV on 18 July, firmly rejected demands that the Czech Republic's potential accession to the EU be vetoed due to doubts over the safety of the Temelin nuclear power station, CTK reported. Molterer said it would be a mistake to pursue such a strategy, and added that all the problems relating to Temelin should be dealt with. If it turns out that some of the problems cannot be solved, then the Czech Republic itself has said that Temelin will not be put into operation, he said. He also said he expects the European Commission to issue a statement outlining its stand on the plant's safety. DW

CZECH PARLIAMENT REACTS TO GERMAN TEMELIN STATEMENT

Reactions in the Czech parliament to the statement by the German government calling for Temelin to be shut down (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2001) ran from bristling to understanding, CTK reported on 17 July. Senate Deputy Chairman Premysl Sobotka of the Civic Democrats called the German letter "meddling in a foreign country's internal affairs," while Senate Foreign Committee Chairman Michal Zantovsky of the Civic Democratic Alliance said this was not the case, "as possible safety accidents could endanger the safety of neighboring countries' citizens as well." Senator Libor Ambrozek, an environmental expert for the Christian Democrats, said that the Czech government has underestimated the Temelin issue and failed to discuss it sufficiently with neighboring countries. DW

GERMANY CLARIFIES TEMELIN STAND TO EU

The German government has clarified its stand on Temelin to EU bodies, saying that it is not demanding the plant's closure, but is expressing technical reservations about it and wishes to discuss them with the Czech government, CTK reported on 17 July. An unnamed EU source confirmed that Germany has expressed its stand on Temelin on the basis of the Melk agreement between Austria and the Czech Republic, which authorizes Germany as a neighboring country to take part in the plant's environmental impact assessment. DW

SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY HEAD SPEAKS FOR 'STRONG CABINET'

Robert Fico, the leader of the Smer party, told CTK on 17 July that if his party plays the role of tipping the balance after the 2002 elections, Slovakia will have a "strong cabinet" that will be able to "introduce order in the country" and put corrupt people behind bars. Fico said he supports Slovakia's effort to integrate with the West. He noted that his party is ready to form a ruling coalition with the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), but without HZDS leader Vladimir Meciar. A recent poll by the Public Opinion Survey Institute found that the HZDS is supported by 28.2 percent of Slovak voters, Smer by 18.6 percent, and the Slovak National Party by 12.1 percent. JM

ORBAN SAYS HUNGARY WILL REDUCE SALES OF FARMLAND TO FOREIGNERS

Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 17 July said the government is prepared to crack down on legal loopholes that have enabled foreign farmers to buy Hungarian land under "pocket contracts." Orban has criticized the current situation, pointing out that in some western counties of Hungary more that a quarter of the farmland is owned by foreigners, mainly Austrians. These Austrian farmers made private agreements with local residents, circumventing the land registry authority, Hungarian media reported. Orban said that this fall parliament will amend the existing legislation to ensure that local farmers have first priority to buy or rent land. He also announced that in next year's agriculture budget a further 20 billion forints ($66 million) will be available to Hungarian families to apply for a 10-15 year interest-free credit in order to buy or rent farmland. MSZ

EU ASKS HUNGARY TO INTENSIFY CONSULTATIONS WITH NEIGHBORS OVER STATUS LAW

Belgian Foreign Affairs State Minister Annemie Nyets on 17 July told visiting Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi that Hungary's Status Law does not in itself run counter to the Hungary-EU associate treaty, but problems could arise in the course of its implementation, Hungarian media reported. She said the EU is asking Hungary to consult intensively with its neighbors regarding the law's implementation. Nyets and EU Expansion Commissioner Guenther Verheugen told Martonyi that "Hungary is not only a leading candidate for EU membership, but also a definite factor for stability in Central Europe." Meanwhile, Belgium's Ambassador to Hungary Fernand van Brusselen said that in his interview with "Magyar Hirlap" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2001), he did not say that "the Status Law has undermined Hungary's stabilizing role in the region." He explained that "I only said that relations between Hungary and certain neighboring countries appear to be deteriorating." MSZ




MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN PARTIES AGREE ON COMPROMISE...

The deputy leader of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), Iliaz Halimi, told dpa in Skopje on 17 July that Albanian leaders and international mediators have reached a compromise on a number of issues, including the language question, the mechanism to protect the ethnic minorities from being outvoted in the parliament, and the role of local police. "This should be acceptable for the [National Liberation Army (UCK)]... It is not the maximum, but it is much more than the Albanians have had so far," Halimi said. UB

...WHILE ETHNIC MACEDONIAN POLITICAL PARTIES SLAM NEW PROPOSAL

After having been informed of the compromise by U.S. envoy James Pardew, the leaders of the main Macedonian political parties slammed it as "totally unacceptable to the Macedonian bloc," Dnevnik reported on 18 July, citing the leader of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), Branko Crvenkovski. In a statement for MIA, Gjorgji Trendafilov, the spokesman for the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), said: "The content of the [compromise] is surprising and shocking, because it is a first step toward the federalization of Macedonia. That has never been a topic of the negotiations, and no one in the Republic of Macedonia would agree to it." UB

MACEDONIAN ALBANIANS STILL HOPE TO SAVE COMPROMISE AGREEMENT

Zehir Bekteshi, a leader of the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD), told AP in Skopje on 18 July that he hopes that the arrival of NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on 19 July will lead to a change of heart by the ethnic Macedonian parties. "We are waiting for the arrival of Solana and Robertson... The possibility of signing the agreement when they arrive is still open," Bekteshi said. He added that he hopes that Macedonian "progressive forces can be found to push [through] the deal." He argued that "these two days are critical. We must be strong, and we'll do our best to overcome the crisis." PM

IS LANGUAGE AT THE HEART OF THE MACEDONIAN DISPUTE?

"The Washington Post" reported on 18 July that the main issue dividing the two sides is the constitutional status of the Albanian language. The compromise grants "any other language spoken by at least 20 percent of the population" the status of "official language" alongside Macedonian. The proposed agreement and its annex would enable private persons and authorities to use either language in conducting official business and obtain translations from one official language into another. "Any person may use this [official] language to communicate with the institutions of the central government, which will reply in that language in addition to Macedonian," the text adds. An unnamed Western diplomat told the daily: "The Albanians came in and said if they got language, they would fall away on other demands." He added that the compromise does not place Albanian "on the same [constitutional] level as Macedonian, and we believe it is a reasonable proposal." PM

100,000 DISPLACED PERSONS, REFUGEES IN MACEDONIAN CONFLICT

As of 17 July, the Macedonian Red Cross had registered 37,144 internally displaced persons, the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" reported. Out of about 70,000 refugees who fled the country, 11,853 have since returned. The biggest share of the refugees fled to neighboring Kosova. About 62,000 are still there. According to figures from the Labor and Social Policy Ministry, most internally displaced persons come from the Kumanovo region (18,500), followed by the Skopje (10,300) and Tetovo (7,640) areas. Some 570 come from the Skopska Crna Gora mountains. Meanwhile, the UNHCR has begun to give out humanitarian aid packages to the refugees and displaced persons. UB

MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT DENIES PRESSURE ON NEWSPAPER

Government spokesman Antonio Milosovski denied allegations that the Macedonian government had urged the closing down of the privately owned newspapers "Makedonija denes" and "Denes," Dnevnik reported on 18 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2001). "At the moment, the government has more important tasks than to deal with this newspaper. The government did not exert pressure on 'Makedonija denes.' This is a privately owned company, and they have to decide whether and how to work," Milosovski said. The editor of "Makedonija denes" announced on 17 July that the newspaper will cease publication due to financial problems and government pressure. UB

CROATIAN PARLIAMENT BACKS GOVERNMENT ON WAR CRIMES

The parliament voted on 17 July to approve the document outlining Prime Minister Ivica Racan's policy of cooperation with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). Legislators from the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) and the Croatian Party of [Historic] Rights (HSP) opposed the measure. The document makes it clear that cooperation with The Hague does not constitute an attempt to belittle the legacy of the 1991-1995 war of independence. The text notes that a good working relationship with the tribunal is a matter of vital national legal and political interest, "Jutarnji list" reported. PM

MORE 'LOCH NESS MONSTER' STORIES FROM BOSNIA?

Reports continue to appear in the regional and international media that SFOR peacekeepers have stepped up efforts in recent days to find and arrest former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, VOA's Croatian Service reported on 19 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). RFE/RL's South Slavic Service quoted SFOR spokesmen in Sarajevo and Banja Luka as denying that peacekeepers have been involved in any operations against Karadzic in recent days. In Podgorica, Interior Ministry officials denied unspecified media reports that Karadzic is in Montenegro, where his family is originally from. The officials stressed that Montenegro's policy is to cooperate fully with the tribunal and that all indicted persons on Montenegrin territory will be arrested. PM

SERBIAN MINISTER: DEAD AMERICANS WERE SHOT IN THE HEAD

Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said in Belgrade on 17 July that three American Bityqi brothers, who are of Kosovar origin, "were found [in a mass grave] with hands tied behind their backs... The were blindfolded," "The Independent" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). The brothers were sentenced on 27 June 1999 by a Serbian court to 15 days in prison for illegal entry into Serbia from Kosova. They were last seen alive when they left Prokuplje prison on 8 July in the company of two plainclothes policemen. This took place before a court clerk could tell them that they were to be expelled from Serbia. Mihajlovic added: "It remains for us to see how the persons who should have been expelled ended up in [a mass grave near a police camp in] Petrovo Selo, and who did that." The daily noted that "many ethnic Albanians are known to have paid Serb policemen to take them to safety in and around Kosovo in 1998 and 1999, only to be killed afterwards." PM

NEW YUGOSLAV PRIME MINISTER ELECTED

President Vojislav Kostunica announced the appointment of Dragisa Pesic as prime minister on 17 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2001). Kostunica stressed that this government should not be viewed as an interim or transitional one, "Danas" reported. Kostunica, whose job will come to an end if the federation does, told "Novosti" that it is imperative to maintain the unity of Serbia and Montenegro. PM

KOSOVAR SERB LEADER: BELGRADE GOVERNMENT HAS DONE NOTHING FOR US

Rada Trajkovic said in Prishtina that "nothing has changed" for the Serbs of Kosova since the new government replaced the Milosevic regime in October 2000, Deutsche Welle reported on 17 July. She added that the different Kosovar Serbian organizations waste their time fighting each other. Trajkovic noted that the Albanians also have their internal feuds, but that they have at least managed to unite around a common platform of independence. The Serbs have no such common stand, Trajkovic added. On 17 July, she and Archbishop Artemije held talks in Belgrade with Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, "Danas" reported. They stressed the importance of a unified stance by Kosovar Serbs on whether to participate in the 17 November general elections PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER ASSUMES PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR HOLOCAUST...

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 17 July said at the Yad Va'Shem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem that as Romanian premier he "must assume responsibility for the unforgivable crimes committed [against Jews in Romania] between 1941 and 1944," adding that those crimes "cannot and will never be pardoned," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Asked by a journalist whether his cabinet regards wartime leader Marshal Ion Antonescu to be a war criminal, Nastase answered that "history's sentences cannot be changed...and the duty of present generations is to see to it that no similar mistakes are repeated." Nastase later met with President Moshe Katsav and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who told him Israel will "strongly back" Romania's quest for NATO and EU membership. Shortly before the Nastase-Peres encounter, police blew up a suitcase suspected to have contained a bomb in the vicinity of the hotel where the meeting was held. MS

...MEETS ARAFAT

Nastase also met on 17 July with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in Gaza. Arafat praised the "traditional Palestinian-Romanian friendship." He also deplored the deaths of two Romanian workers in Israel last May that came as a result of a bomb planted by Palestinians, and said the two would be declared "Palestinian martyrs" and their families will receive a monthly allowance from the Palestinian Authority. Nastase said Romania could conclude with the Palestinians an economic agreement similar to that recently signed between France and the authority. MS

ROMA PROTEST RACISM, DISCRIMINATION IN ROMANIA

Romany Ethnic Community Chairman Ion Bidia on 17 July demanded the outlawing of organizations that disseminate racial hatred in Romania, Mediafax reported. Bidia said police and the Prosecutor-General's Office must act against organizations such as the New Romanian Right, whose journal prints slogans such as "Death to the Gypsies." One day earlier, Florin Cioaba, also known as the "Romany King" said he will ask the authorities to open an investigation into anti-Roma graffiti recently painted on walls in the Transylvanian town of Sibiu, as well as in other towns in Romania. Two nongovernmental organizations, the Romani Criss and the Romanitin Association of Romany Students and Youth, on 17 July said they are launching judicial procedures against the owners of three discos in Iasi, to which Romany students were refused entry on racial grounds last month. MS

ILIESCU WANTS TO IMPROVE RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA

President Ion Iliescu on 16 July said on Romanian television that relations with Russia have been "neglected" by Bucharest and this has resulted in a "political handicap," Mediafax reported. Iliescu said all other former communist states have "better relations with Moscow than we do" and that "Russia is a potential market that must be reactivated." He also said that Romania has neglected commercial relations with its former partners in the communist-era Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and that this neglect reflects "a groundless bias." MS

FORMER ROMANIAN PEASANTIST LEADER CRITICIZES NEW PARTY HEADS

Andrei Marga, who earlier this month resigned as National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) chairman, on 17 July criticized the new PNTCD leadership and hinted that he may set up a new political formation, Mediafax reported. Marga said he tendered his resignation because some PNTCD leadership members had "opposed change, and are compromised" by having misused funds for political purposes. He said that "the PNTCD suffers from the malady of [fictitious] foundations" that are "utilized for the sole personal benefit of those leaders." One can, he said, speak of a new illness that can be dubbed "Foundation-Corruption." Marga criticized the new leadership's decision to expel former First Deputy Chairman Vasile Lupu and former Secretary-General Calin Catalin Chirita and said that "if such people are being expelled, I shall not be long in taking the necessary decision." MS

MOLDOVAN MISSION HEAD, CERNOMAZ REVIEW IMPLEMENTATION OF OSCE SUMMIT DECISIONS

William Hill, the OSCE mission head to Moldova, on 17 July told Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicolae Cernomaz in Chisinau that he is "satisfied" that the process of scrapping the Russian arsenal in the Transdniester is proceeding, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Cernomaz said that by going ahead with the process, "the Russian Federation proves it is respecting the obligations it assumed [at the 1999 OSCE Istanbul summit] and is clearly improving its image." He also said that last week's meeting in Kyiv with his counterparts from Russia and Ukraine showed that all three sides agree that the solution to the Transdniester conflict must be based on "full respect of Moldovan territorial integrity." Hill also met with Parliament Deputy Speaker Vadim Mishin. MS

SIMEON'S COALITION TO INCLUDE ETHNIC TURKISH PARTY

Plamen Panayotov, the parliamentary leader for the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV), announced that the party has reached agreement with the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS) on forming a coalition government, AP and Reuters reported. No names of the future cabinet ministers were announced. DPS head Ahmed Dogan said, "This is a big chance for Bulgaria...it gives a start to a new political culture." This will mark the first time representatives of the ethnic Turkish minority, which makes up 10 percent of the population of 8 million, will be part of a government. The 21 seats of the DPS will give the coalition a majority of 141 seats in the 240-seat parliament. DW

BRITISH, BULGARIAN CHIEFS OF STAFF RULE OUT MILITARY SOLUTION IN MACEDONIA

After meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart General Miho Mihov, British armed forces chief Admiral Michael Boyce on 17 July said, "The very last thing we want to have today is a split of Macedonia along [ethnic] lines," AP reported. For his part, Mihov added, "We agreed that there is no military solution to this conflict and that using military power will only shake the fragile stability of the Balkans." Boyce was beginning a three-day visit to Bulgaria in which he will visit military bases and discuss with local commanders the country's progress in army reforms aimed at eventual membership in NATO. DW




DENATIONALIZATION OF SLOVENIAN FORESTS NOT CLEAR-CUT


By Donald F. Reindl

The affection that most Slovenes have for their mountain forests cannot be underemphasized. Each weekend, cars parked alongside nearly every forest road testify to the popularity of socializing, hiking, and gathering mushrooms with family and friends along the paths that crisscross the country. Nowhere is this truer than in the 84,804 hectare Triglav National Park (TNP), Slovenia's only national park.

In this context it is easy to understand how the government's decision to return 8,254 hectares of the park's Pokljuka forest -- valued at roughly $32 million -- to the Roman Catholic Church has aroused heated debate, leading to cries of neo-feudalism and questions about the tax-free status of the church, and even threatening the stability of the governing coalition. Charges of a "deal" with the Vatican, the first state to recognize Slovenia on 15 January 1992, have long been in the rumor mill and were raised in "Dnevnik" on 7 July. A poll published in the daily "Delo," on 14 July reported that 62 percent of those questioned are against the decision.

The history of Pokljuka, which was nationalized after World War II, is complicated. The church mortgaged and eventually sold off the property to cover debts in the 19th century. At the end of the century, the Austro-Hungarian government purchased the land, setting aside the proceeds from doing so for religious funding. In 1939, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia transferred the land back to the church, but historians dispute whether this involved the actual title or only administrative rights -- this dispute has prompted the current debate on whether the church is the rightful recipient of the land.

Be that as it may, the Ljubljana Archdiocese petitioned for the return of Pokljuka after the passage of the 1991 Denationalization Act. The Radovljica Administrative Unit rejected that request on the grounds that the 1999 Law on Protection of Nature forbids the transfer of protected state lands. However, on 4 July Franci But, the center-right Slovene People's Party (SLS) Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, and Food, confirmed the church's right to the property.

The country's denationalization program got off quickly under a center-right coalition government after independence, but when the center-left coalition -- led by current Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDS) -- came to power in 1992, the process stalled. This slow pace of denationalization led, in turn, to criticism from the EU. The denationalization of church property has been particularly unpopular, even though the majority of Slovenes, 71 percent, identify themselves as Catholics. They are, however, largely secular Catholics -- the "Delo" poll also indicates that only 13 percent regularly attend church.

The church, while obviously pleased with the ministry's decision, has withheld comment because of the two-month period allowed for challenges before official adoption of the decision. The various Slovene political parties have, however, expressed a spectrum of opinions, ranging from legalistic pronouncements from the LDS and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) that the issue is a matter for the courts, measured support for the church from the right-wing Social Democrats (SDS), to objection to the decision from the Slovene Youth Party (SMS), and "shocked" indignation from the radical Slovene Nationalist Party (SNS). Most significantly, the coalition-member United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), the party of President Milan Kucan, has expressed firm disapproval. The ZLSD unsuccessfully tried to sponsor a referendum on the question as early as 1997. Prime Minister Drnovsek has remained largely silent on the issue, issuing a brief press release on 6 July confirming the constitutionality of Minister But's decision and the jurisdiction of his office over the matter. As for But, he has insisted that no party should be surprised by the decision, as it had been openly discussed in government circles.

In any case, the final decision on Pokljuka is not the end of the issue, but only the "tip of the iceberg," as Miran Potrc, the parliamentary leader of the ZLSD faction, points out. While significant, the 8,254 hectares granted to the church is only half of the 16,000 hectares of forest claimed by the church in TNP. The remaining claim is still being considered. In addition, the island of Bled -- protected as a natural and cultural monument since 1949, and one of Slovenia's cultural icons -- is also the subject of denationalization proceedings. The Culture Ministry has firmly rejected any return of Bled to the church. There is the possibility that the church could receive monetary compensation rather than the outright restitution of disputed property, but this was decided against for financial reasons in the case of Pokljuka.

Speculation about the future of Pokljuka continues. On the one hand, the state could purchase the land from the church, ensuring its conservation. On the other hand, the church could decide to exploit the land economically, or to sell it off in parcels. Ultimately, however, the concern of most Slovenes remains one of unhindered public access. As one Slovene confided, the Pokljuka forest is home to the choicest autumn mushrooms in Slovenia. Donald F. Reindl is a freelance writer and Indiana University Ph.D. candidate in Ljubljana.


XS
SM
MD
LG