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Newsline - July 20, 2001




PUTIN APPROVES RUSSIA'S PARTICIPATION IN FIGHT AGAINST AIDS

President Vladimir Putin on 19 July signed off on a government proposal calling for Russia to take part in the Global Health Foundation to combat AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, ITAR-TASS reported. He also accepted a government call for joining in a European Union initiative to allow the world's poorest states to export their goods without paying duties. The news service said that this second action may make some goods, like tropical fruit, cheaper on the Russian market. PG

BEREZOVSKY REACTS TO PUTIN PRESS CONFERENCE COMMENTS

Self-exiled industrial magnate Boris Berezovsky said on 19 July that he welcomes Putin's comments at his 18 July press conference concerning American plans to build a national missile defense, but he said he disagrees with Putin on Chechnya, Interfax reported. Berezovsky said that Putin's comments on the war in Chechnya show that the Russian president does not understand the causes of the war there or the impossibility of ending the war by force alone. Berezovsky also commented that he is pleased that Putin is "so well informed" about his activities. PG

COMMUNISTS PLEASED BY PUTIN'S DECISION ON LENIN

Valentin Kuptsov, the deputy head of the Russian Communist Party (KPRF), said on 19 July that Putin's announcement that he will not seek to remove the body of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin from the mausoleum on Red Square is "a courageous and honest position that reflects the mood of a large segment of citizens and will cool down the overly ardent anticommunists and gravediggers of history." PG

KASYANOV SAYS LAWS SHOULD BE IMPLEMENTED ONLY IF THEY DO NOT THREATEN STABILITY

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 19 July told his cabinet that the government should implement new laws passed by the Duma this spring only when doing so will not threaten the stability of the country, Russian news agencies reported. He said that such an approach is necessary if the country is to move forward. Kasyanov also called on the cabinet to continue to work to improve relations with the Duma. Meanwhile, Andrei Loginov, the government representative to the parliament, told Interfax the same day that the government has compiled a list of 25 priority bills for consideration in the fall session. VY

FEDERATION COUNCIL COMMITTEES CONSIDER DUMA-PASSED BILLS

Committees of the Federation Council on 19 July recommended that the full chamber of the upper house support Duma-passed legislation amending the tax laws, changing hard-currency regulations, and fighting money laundering, Interfax reported. But the council's Economic Policy Committee recommended against approving in its current form the package of measures the government has sought to debureaucratize the economy. PG

EXISTING POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS MUST REREGISTER WITHIN TWO YEARS

There are 59 political parties, 35 political organizations, and 104 political movements in Russia now, and all must reregister with the government as political parties within two years, Deputy Justice Minister Yevgenii Sidorenko said on 19 July, according to ITAR-TASS. (Political movements and political organizations will not be allowed to participate in elections after that time.) Sidorenko said that he does not expect that more than 10 political parties will remain as a result. He noted that if elections are held before 14 July 2003, the old rules will remain in force and all groups will be allowed to take part. VY

LIBERAL RUSSIA SEEN DISPLACING SPS ON RIGHT...

According to an analysis in "Rossiya" on 19 July, disputes within the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) are costing that group support and allowing the "Liberal Russia" group to pass it in the ratings. Liberal Russia's strengths include its distance from the Kremlin, its organizations in the provinces, and support by Berezovsky, the paper said. PG

...WHILE SELEZNEV SEEN WORKING TO FORM LEFT-DEMOCRATIC PARTY

Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev will use this summer to promote the expansion of his left-democratic "Rossiya" group into a genuine and broadly based political party, according to an analysis in "Vremya MN" on 19 July. PG

RUSSIA SEEKS IMMIGRANTS TO SOLVE DEMOGRAPHIC CRISIS...

Aleksandr Blokhin, the minister for federation affairs, nationality and migration policy, told the cabinet on 19 July that Russia must attract at least 1 million immigrants a year if current birth and death rates inside Russia continue at their present level, RIA-Novosti reported. Otherwise, the demographic decline of the Russian Federation will lead to economic problems as well, Blokhin said. VY

...INTRODUCES IMMIGRATION INSPECTION...

Prime Minister Kasyanov said on 19 July that the government must develop a comprehensive and comprehensible policy under which legal immigrants will feel welcome and protected and illegal ones will be dealt with as they deserve to be, RIA-Novosti reported. Kasyanov said that Russia will welcome immigration from other CIS states and the Baltic states. He added that a special immigration inspection system will be established to deal with the problems of immigration. VY

...BUT HAS FEWER COMPATRIOTS ABROAD

Russia's domestic demographic crisis has attracted considerable attention, an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" notes, but less attention has been paid to the fact that the number of ethnic Russians living in the former Soviet republics and Baltic countries has declined precipitously as well. In 1989, the paper said, there were 24.8 million ethnic Russians in these places, but in 1999, only 18.9 million remained. As a result, the proportion of Russians in all these countries has declined both absolutely and relatively. One interesting dimension pointed out by the article is that the percentage decline among ethnic Russians in the Baltic countries has been significantly lower than in many of the CIS states. PG

ONE RUSSIAN IN THREE WANTS RUSSIA TO BE A SUPERPOWER AGAIN

According to a poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 19 July, 31 percent of Russians believe that the basic task of Russian foreign policy over the next 10-15 years should be to regain superpower status for their country. Twenty-three percent want Russia to become one of the five most developed countries in the world during that period, but only 5 percent want Russia to become the leader of a broad bloc of countries opposed to the United States. Commenting on such attitudes, an article in "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on the same day said that Russia has entered the 21st century as "a superpower -- without illusions." PG

RUSSIAN ANTIGLOBALISTS HEAD TO GENOA

Thirty-five Russians opposed to globalism will take part in demonstrations at the G-7 plus Russia summit in Genoa, which was set to begin on 20 July, Interfax reported on 19 July. PG

PUTIN WELCOMES DEVELOPMENT OF TIES WITH UKRAINE

Putin said on 19 July that "Russian-Ukrainian dialogue is developing positively," ITAR-TASS reported. He made his remarks after meeting Volodymyr Lytvyn, the head of the presidential administration of Ukraine. He said that his session with Lytvyn will allow the two sides "to get down to a more detailed analysis of strategic cooperation" between the two countries. PG

SERGEEV SAYS U.S. SEEKING MILITARY DOMINANCE

Marshal Igor Sergeev, a former defense minister and Putin's assistant for strategic stability issues, said on 19 July that the United States is seeking military predominance in the world and that if Washington puts weapons in space, "that will mean they are directing them against Russia," Russian and Western news agencies reported. Sergeev said that "in that case, we will not wage war against the United States but will take adequate retaliatory measures." He said this could be done without increasing the defense budget or delaying military reform. Sergeev also said that he does not rule out creating a new collective security system in Europe as an alternative to NATO, Interfax reported the same day. VY

U.S. SAID WAGING INFO WARS AGAINST KUCHMA, LUKASHENKA

Konstantin Zatulin, who serves as the director of Moscow's CIS Institute, told strana.ru on 19 July that current media campaigns about attacks on journalists and the disappearance of opposition figures are being directed from "a single center," the United States. He said that Washington is hoping to overthrow Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma because the Americans have lost interest in him, and Belarus leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka "for reasons of principle." VY

MOSCOW IMPOSES ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST HUNGARY

The Russian government has imposed special duties on some Hungarian food products in retaliation for Budapest's imposition of restrictions on Russian chemical and wood exports, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 July. VY

COLUMBIA INVITES RUSSIAN OIL COMPANIES TO DEVELOP ITS RESERVES

Colombian state oil company Ekopetrol President Alberto Calderon Zuleta said in Moscow on 19 July that he has invited Gazprom, YUKOS, and LUKoil to participate in the exploration and processing of oil in Columbia, RIA-Novosti reported. He said he is particularly interested in having the Russian firms develop seven offshore fields. Ekopetrol is the third-largest oil producer in Latin America. VY

CHECHEN PRESIDENT APPEALS TO G-7

In a letter addressed to leaders of the G-7 states sent by e-mail to AP on 19 July, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov asked why the international community continues to turn a blind eye to the "bloodbath" in Chechnya rather than risk damaging "an uncertain relationship with a fragile and volatile" Russia. He contrasts that apparent indifference and inactivity with the West's intervention to stop genocide in Rwanda and the jubilation that followed Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's extradition to the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague. LF

NEMTSOV REPEATS CALL FOR NEGOTIATIONS WITH CHECHENS...

SPS leader Boris Nemtsov told Interfax on 19 July that Putin should begin negotiations with Chechen President Maskhadov. Nemtsov unveiled a peace proposal late last year, which he subsequently modified, but which was widely rejected as likely to exacerbate the situation in Chechnya (see "RFE RL Newsline," 29 December 2000). PG/LF

...BUT CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD RULES THAT OUT...

Speaking in Moscow the same day, Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov again ruled out any peace talks with Maskhadov, arguing that the latter had triggered the current war by failing to prevent the August 1999 attack on Daghestan by field commander Shamil Basaev, Interfax reported. Referring to Maskhadov's appeal to the G-7 plus Russia summit in Genoa, Kadyrov accused Maskhadov of "betraying" the Chechen people and said he has forfeited the right to speak on their behalf. LF

...SAYS RUSSIAN MILITARY HEADS SHOULD ANSWER FOR EXCESSES IN CHECHNYA

Kadyrov also argued in Moscow on 19 July that Russian generals who condoned the reprisals by Russian troops against Chechen civilians during security sweeps earlier this month should be fired, Reuters reported. He said that the arrests, reported the same day, of six servicemen do not go far enough toward restoring the Chechen population's faith in the pro-Russian leadership, and that he plans to raise the incident during talks with President Putin. Also on 19 July, the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office said its investigation into the circumstances of the reprisals has not established any excesses on the part of Interior Ministry troops. In Moscow, Russian human rights envoy for Chechnya Vladimir Kalamanov said his office has received, and is investigating, 200 letters from Chechens complaining of abuses during the security sweep, Interfax reported. LF

KREMLIN SAYS MOST CAPITAL FLIGHT FROM RUSSIA IN U.S.

The presidential administration's information department said that 80 percent of the $11.52 billion in capital flight from Russia in 2000 ended up in the United States, Interfax reported on 19 July. The information department noted that even though the amount of capital flight was smaller last year than in earlier years, it was still greater by 30 percent than the total foreign investment in the Russian economy during the same period. VY

IMF SAYS MOSCOW FAILED TO USE GOOD ECONOMIC RESULTS TO PROMOTE STRUCTURAL REFORM

Experts at the International Monetary Fund said that Moscow has failed to make adequate use of the good economic developments during 2000 to move forward on economic reform, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 July. The experts said that Russia's slower growth and continuing inflation point to the need for policy adjustments, including a possible increase in interest rates and a reconsideration of tax reductions. PG

OIL AND GAS ACCOUNT FOR 70 PERCENT OF RUSSIA'S EXPORTS

According to "The Moscow Times" on 19 July, revenues from the export of oil and gas account for more than 70 percent of Russia's foreign earnings. Sales abroad of metals and chemicals account for another 23.5 percent. The article noted that the volume of exports rose only 5 percent from 1999 to 2000, but that because of rising prices, revenues increased by 71 percent. It also noted that the 10 largest exporters, eight of which are in the petroleum sector, were responsible for 40 percent of all Russian foreign sales. Not surprisingly, in this context, First Deputy Energy Minister Ivan Matlashov said in an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 July that Moscow is not interested in joining OPEC and thus subjecting itself to export restrictions. PG

STROEV ESTIMATES RUSSIAN NATIONAL WEALTH AT $30 TRILLION

Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev said on 19 July that Russia's national wealth is more than $30 trillion, Interfax reported. He said that a recognition of that fact means that the real ruble-dollar exchange rate should be 1.5 to one rather than 30 to one. PG

FOREIGN FIRMS IN RUSSIA OWE $80 MILLION IN RUSSIAN TAXES...

Vladimir Oskin, the deputy chief of the international taxation division of the Tax Ministry, said on 19 July that foreign firms operating in Russia owe the government approximately 2.5 billion rubles ($80 million) in taxes and penalties, Interfax-AFI reported. PG

...BUT CAN LOOK FORWARD TO SPECIAL TREATMENT UNDER NEW TAX CODE

A Tax Ministry spokesman said on 19 July that one section of the Tax Code adopted by the Duma last week will provide a variety of exemptions and benefits to foreign firms that invest in Russia, Prime-TASS reported. He added that this will improve the investment climate there. Among the new provisions are one that says that only incomes derived from Russian sources will be subject to Russian taxation and another that makes passive incomes resulting from investment free from any tax. VY

WILL TRANSPORT CORRIDORS SPLIT RUSSIA?

Khabarovsk Governor Viktor Ishaev has noted that the government's program of creating east-west and north-south transport corridors could hurt the economy of the Far East, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 July. That is because much of the transit cargo that now passes through Pacific maritime ports would go via railroad if the Trans-Siberian is linked into the Korean railways or if a tunnel is constructed to Sakhalin. Meanwhile, however, Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko said the same day that Azerbaijan intends to join the north-south corridor project, Interfax reported. But Mikhail Delyagin, the director of the Moscow Institute of Globalization, was quoted in the magazine "RF Segodnya," No. 7, as saying that the transport corridor plan -- instead of uniting Europe and Asia -- is more likely to have the effect of splitting Russia. VY

NO UNEXPLODED AMMUNITION FOUND IN 'KURSK' COMPARTMENT

Deep-sea cameras did not locate any unexploded ammunition in the sunken "Kursk" submarine's first compartment, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 July. That compartment is to be cut off before the submarine is raised, officials said. PG

RUSSIAN HACKER FACES U.S. PRISON TERM

U.S. prosecutors told ITAR-TASS on 19 July that Russian programmer Dmitrii Sklyarov, who was arrested earlier this week by the FBI for copyright violations, faces up to five years in prison and a $500,000 fine if he is convicted. Sklyarov, who works for Moscow's Elcomsoft, was arrested at the annual hackers' forum in Las Vegas, where he demonstrated his software that can break through the protection code of e-books in the pdf format produced by Adobe Systems Inc. Sklyarov was selling his code-breaking software via the Internet for $99. VY

84 PERCENT OF LIKELY PARTICIPANTS WOULD VOTE AGAINST IMPORT OF NUCLEAR WASTES

According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 19 July, 84 percent of those who said they would take part in a possible referendum on the importation of nuclear wastes said they would vote against such imports. The overall rate of opposition to such imports is 62 percent of the adult population, the survey found. PG

ONE MUSCOVITE IN 10 USES DRUGS...

Yevgenii Bryun, the chief narcotics specialist of the Russian capital, said on 19 July that approximately one Moscow resident in 10 now uses drugs and that the number of those suffering from the misuse of drugs is increasing by 4,000-5,000 a year, Interfax reported. He said that over the last decade, the relative price of a dose of illegal drugs to a dose of alcohol had fallen from 25 to one to almost complete equality, reflecting greater availability of drugs and rising alcohol prices. PG

...BUT MOSCOW MAYOR SAYS HE HASN'T HAD A DRINK IN 30 YEARS

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said on 19 July at a press conference devoted to the third Moscow Beer Festival that he has not consumed any alcoholic beverage for the last 30 years, Interfax-Moscow reported. PG

80 PERCENT OF MOSCOW STREETS IN URGENT NEED OF REPAIR

Moscow officials told Interfax-Moscow on 19 July that 80 percent of the streets of the Russian capital are close to the end of their serviceable life. They added that only a third ring road would lessen pressure on the streets. PG

STATE HISTORICAL MUSEUM HAS EXHIBIT ON RUSSIAN AMERICA

Moscow's State Historical Museum on 19 July opened an exhibit on Russia's involvement in North America in the 18th and 19th centuries, Interfax reported. PG

PAPER CALLS FOR LETTERS ON 1991 COUP ATTEMPT

"Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 19 July that defenders of the Russian White House during the abortive August 1991 coup believe that they are "guilty because [they] did not make use of the results of [their] victory." The paper solicited readers' letters about the coup and about developments in Russia since that time. PG

FEDERAL DISTRICTS TO GET NEW POWERS

Dmitrii Kozak, the chairman of the presidential commission on defining responsibilities between the federal center and regions, has predicted that the most divisive issues facing his committee are likely to be the distribution of finance and property, the website polit.ru reported on 19 July. Kozak added that he doubts that the commission, which had its first meeting on 18 July, will be able to prepare a package of legislation for the State Duma's fall session. "We will introduce our bills next spring," he said. According to Kozak, who is also the deputy head of the presidential administration, the presidential envoys to the seven federal districts will not receive any kind of additional powers, but "several responsibilities of the federal center will be delegated to the districts." JAC

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN COMMON IN FAR EASTERN CITY

Almost every third woman in Khabarovsk is subjected to physical violence in her family domestic situation, while one in two is subjected to emotional-psychological trauma, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 19 July, citing a research study done of 300 women in Khabarovsk by the A Chance for Hope nongovernmental organization. The women were from diverse age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds. The organization is creating a center in Khabarovsk for women suffering from violence, and will operate a hot line for women to call for psychological and other help. JAC

SARATOV POPULATION SHRINKING

Saratov is on the edge of a demographic crisis, according to the chairman of the city Health Preservation Committee, Aleksandr Mikhailov, the website strana.ru reported on 19 July. According to Mikhailov, the death rate in that city is double the birth rate. Mikhailov believes that the solution to the problem lies mainly in raising the level of the population's reproductive health. JAC

TRIAL BEGINS FOR ALLEGED MOSCOW APARTMENT BOMBERS...

Judicial proceedings against five residents of Karachaevo-Cherkessia accused of taking part in the bombing of apartment buildings in Moscow in the fall of 1999 has begun in Stavropol Krai, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 18 July. The trial is taking place behind closed doors. The suspects were arrested one year ago. JAC

...AS PROTESTORS DEMAND DEATH PENALTY

On 19 July, the krai's court building was surrounded by picketers demanding the death penalty for the five suspects, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 July. Some local residents, according to the daily, believe that a bomb that exploded in the center of the city on 17 July is somehow connected with the ongoing trial. Four people were injured in that explosion, according to RFE/RL's Stavropol correspondent on 18 July. JAC

NINE RUSSIAN TROOPS KILLED IN HELICOPTER CRASH IN CHECHNYA

Nine servicemen were killed on 19 July when a Russian military helicopter made an emergency landing in mountains southeast of Grozny, Russian agencies reported. LF




ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ASSESSES KARABAKH PEACE PROCESS

In an exclusive interview with Mediamax on 18 July that was circulated by Groong the following day, Vartan Oskanian rejected charges made by his Azerbaijani counterpart Vilayet Quliev that the Karabakh peace process has been stalemated by Armenia's "unconstructive" position. Oskanian implied that it is Baku which has occupied such a position. He likewise denied Quliev's claim that the so-called "Paris principles" for resolving the Karabakh conflict are "a myth," noting that the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs have repeatedly referred to the existence of the framework agreed upon by the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents during their talks in Paris in March and Florida in April. Oskanian also argued that the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic "has never been part of an independent Azerbaijani state." He noted that the present Azerbaijan Republic is the successor to the 1918-1902 independent Azerbaijani state that did not include Nagorno-Karabakh, and that the enclave declared its independence from Azerbaijan (in September 1991) in accordance with existing Soviet legislation. LF

EMBATTLED ARMENIAN PARTY LEADER SEEKS TO REASSERT CONTROL

At an emergency meeting on 19 July of the board of his People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), Stepan Demirchian rejected accusations made the previous day by eight members of the party's 19-person parliamentary faction that he has betrayed his father, HZhK founder Karen Demirchian, by seeking closer ties with radical opposition groups, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2001). Most members of the party's 117-member board concurred with Demirchian; one board member called for the eight parliamentary deputies to be expelled from the HZhK if they refuse to admit their "errors." LF

ARMENIAN MILITARY PROSECUTOR REJECTS ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSES

At a 19 July meeting with members of the presidential Human Rights Commission, Armenia's chief military prosecutor, Gagik Djahangirian, denied claims by the commission linking him to the brutal mistreatment of servicemen in military police custody, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 18 July 2001). He said delinquent soldiers could only have been beaten in their respective units, but not on premises subordinate to his agency. Djahangirian further denied that military prosecutors demanded a large bribe from a Defense Ministry official in return for shelving a criminal case against him. LF

FORMER AZERBAIJANI NAVAL CAPTAIN ON TRIAL

The trial began on 19 July in Baku's Bailov jail of former naval Captain Djanmirza Mirzoev on several charges of instigation to murder, Turan reported. Among the deaths he is accused of plotting is that in 1994 of Nakhichevan parliament speaker Afiyatdin Djalilov, who is believed to have been President Heidar Aliev's illegitimate son. Mirzoev denies the charges against him, which he says were brought in retaliation for his campaign to make public corruption within the Defense Ministry (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 34, 26 August 1999). LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CONDEMNS SENTENCES ON WAR INVALIDS

Opposition parties and human rights groups in Azerbaijan have unanimously denounced as "politically motivated" the jail sentences handed down on 19 July on Karabakh war invalids who clashed with police during a February hunger strike to demand increased pensions and allowances, Turan reported on 19 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2001). Institute for Peace and Democracy Director Leyla Yusnusova commented that "it seems to be more important to the government to hold on to power by means of repressions, rather than to fulfill its commitments to the Council of Europe." (The total number of invalids jailed was nine, not 16 as erroneously reported in "RFE/RL Newsline" on 19 July on the basis of an ambiguous Turan report.) LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADER PROTESTS IMMINENT EVICTION

Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) Chairman Etibar Mamedov told a press conference in Baku on 19 July that the demand that AMIP vacate its present headquarters is aimed at preventing the party from functioning, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2001). He said the alternative premises the party has been offered are unsuitable, but that he would be prepared to move into the present headquarters of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party after that organization moves to the former Justice Ministry building. He said AMIP may resort to legal action if official pressure continues. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT OPPOSITION APPEALS TO PRESIDENT TO SCHEDULE LOCAL ELECTIONS

Opposition parliament factions on 19 July appealed to President Eduard Shevardnadze to set a date for local elections that are long overdue, Caucasus Press reported. The spring parliament session ended last month without agreement being reached between the majority and opposition over the optimum procedure for selecting heads of district, city, and regional councils (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 24, 29 June 2001). The opposition accused the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) of deliberately postponing the adoption of new legislation on local government in a bid to retain power and the means of falsifying the outcome of future elections. An emergency parliament session scheduled for 19 July to debate draft legislation on local self-government could not take place for lack of a quorum. LF

RUSSIA ACCUSES GEORGIA OVER CHECHEN RADIO BROADCASTS

The information department within Russian President Vladimir Putin's office issued a statement on 19 July accusing Georgia of subversion directed against Russia by allowing a Chechen radio station to broadcast to the Russian Federation from the village of Duisi in Georgia's Pankisi gorge, ITAR-TASS reported. In an admission that such a radio station does exist, a senior Georgian security official told Caucasus Press on 20 July that Georgian law-enforcement bodies are trying to locate the radio station and confiscate its equipment. LF

GEORGIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY SAYS VIGILANTE GROUP SHOULD BE DISARMED...

Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze on 19 July called for the immediate disarming of the "Defenders of Kakheti" vigilante group created last week in response to the abduction of a local Georgian border official (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001), Caucasus Press reported. He argued that if the vigilantes are intent on helping to restore law and order they should join the Georgian police force. The vigilantes on 18 July released the remaining Kists and Chechens whom they seized as hostages in retaliation for that abduction, and on 19 July unblocked access roads leading to the Pankisi gorge. But their leader, Luka Ramazashvili, said the same day his volunteers will not lay down their weapons and have not retracted their demand for the release of all Georgian and foreign hostages currently held in the gorge. LF

...WHILE MAJORITY FACTION LEADER PROPOSES IT BE 'TEMPORARILY' LEGALIZED

Also on 19 July, Niko Lekishvili, a former minister of state who is currently the leader of the SMK parliament faction, gave a positive evaluation to the role played by the Defenders of Kakheti and proposed they be granted legal status, at least temporarily, Caucasus Press reported. Lekishvili also dismissed as "superficial" Targamadze's report on the situation in Pankisi, commenting that Targamadze and Security Minister Vakhtang Kutateladze "only told us what we already knew." LF

KAZAKH DIPLOMATS SUBPOENA FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER DURING CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS

Kazakh diplomats issued a subpoena to former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin during U.S. Congressional hearings on 18 July on the human rights situation in Central Asia, AFX News reported. Kazakh Embassy officials subsequently apologized for doing so, claiming that they do not know either Kazhegeldin's legal address in the U.S. or who his legal representative is. One week earlier, Deputy Interior Minister Beksultan Sarkesov told journalists that a summons to Kazhegeldin to return to Kazakhstan and face criminal charges would be published in the media, as his whereabouts are unknown (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2001). Speaking in Astana on 19 July, Interior Ministry spokesman Nurtai Agubaev said Kazhegeldin may be tried in absentia, Interfax reported. LF

KYRGYZ SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS VERDICT AGAINST OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER

The Kyrgyz Supreme Court on 19 July rejected an appeal by opposition Ar-Namys Party leader and former Vice President Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kulov was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of abuse of power (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001). The Supreme Court did, however, retract its ruling that all of Kulov's property be confiscated, and acquitted him on one minor charge of falsifying documents, according to AP. Some 80 supporters of Kulov picketed the Supreme Court building during the hearing. LF




WIVES OF BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION FIGURES APPEAL FOR INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT

The wives of Henadz Karpenka, Andrey Klimau, Anatol Krasouski, and Dzmitry Zavadski on 19 July spoke to Belarusian journalists over a video link from Washington, D.C., in an attempt to rally international support and press Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime to reveal the truth about their husbands' fates, AP and Belapan reported. Karpenka died in a Minsk hospital in April 1999 under unclear circumstances; Klimau has been imprisoned for three years in a case that was widely seen as an act of revenge by Lukashenka on his political opponent; Zavadski went missing in July 2000; Krasouski disappeared in September 1999, together with opposition leader Viktar Hanchar. Lyudmila Karpenka said the four wives are making the appearance together "because in our country nothing can be done alone. We decided that world opinion must pay attention to the political repression that exists in our country." JM

BELARUSIAN TRADE UNION LEADER INFORMS PUTIN ABOUT DEATH SQUAD ALLEGATIONS

Uladzimir Hancharyk, the head of the Federation of Trade Unions and one of the contestants in Belarus's presidential race, has sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin with copies of the documents alleging that top Belarusian law-enforcement officials were involved in the killing of prominent opposition figures in 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2001), Belapan reported on 19 July. According to those documents, opposition leaders Yury Zakharanka and Hanchar as well as Hanchar's friend Anatol Krasouski were killed by a death squad organized by President Lukashenka's close associates, Viktar Sheyman and Yury Sivakou. Hancharyk expressed the hope that Putin will use his political clout to establish "the rule of law and civic accord that are so necessary for the holding of truly democratic presidential elections" in Belarus. JM

UKRAINE TO DIG SHIPPING CHANNEL IN THE DANUBE DELTA

Transport Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko has approved "a plan of first-priority measures in 2001" to dig a shipping channel across the Ukrainian section of the Danube delta in order to link the river and the Black Sea, Interfax reported on 19 July. According to Pustovoytenko, the widening and deepening of an exit stream into a channel fit for navigation will be completed by July 2003. The government estimates that the cost of "the designing and the first stage of construction" of the channel will amount to some $5 million. Once in operation, the Ukrainian waterway would break the present Romanian monopoly on tolls for ship traffic passing between the Danube and the Black Sea. JM

MORE ELECTORAL BLOCS PLANNED IN UKRAINE

Ivan Chyzh, the leader of the Solidarnist All-Ukrainian Association of Leftists, told journalists on 19 July that his group will take part in the 2002 parliamentary elections in a bloc of parties, Interfax reported. Chyzh said Solidarnist is currently negotiating the formation of "a very original and very powerful bloc," but declined to name which forces are involved. The same day, the Yabluko Party and the Beautiful Ukraine Party signed an accord on the creation of a joint electoral bloc. Meanwhile, Natalya Vitrenko has announced that her Progressive Socialist Party is preparing for the 2002 election as "an independent political force." JM

UKRAINE'S REGISTERED UNEMPLOYMENT DECREASES

The State Statistics Committee on 19 July said there were 1.05 million registered unemployed people in Ukraine as of 1 July, which is 10 percent fewer than one year ago. The unemployment rate in Ukraine is 3.8 percent. JM

SWISS PRESIDENT SUPPORTS ESTONIA'S MEMBERSHIP IN EU

In talks with his Estonian counterpart Lennart Meri in Tallinn on 19 July, Moritz Leuenberger stressed that Switzerland considers Estonian accession to the EU important, although Switzerland is not a member of the union, ETA reported. He noted that although Estonia has been successful in handling the issue of ethnic minorities, Switzerland has also dealt with the issue and "we can share our experience and make new contacts to handle these problems." Meri mentioned that the two countries should retain their very friendly relations and thanked Switzerland for the aid it has given to Estonia's defense forces. At a later meeting with Prime Minister Mart Laar, the Swiss president said that he is impressed by the emphasis being placed on the use of the Internet and IT in the day-to-day operations of government institutions -- the so-called e-government -- and that Estonia could serve as an example to Europe in the field. He also made a sightseeing excursion to Tallinn and participated in the opening of a Swiss reading room at the Estonian National Library. SG

PENSIONERS CALL ON LATVIAN PREMIER TO TACKLE SOCIAL PROBLEMS IMMEDIATELY

Leaders of the Latvian Pensioners Federation at a meeting on 19 July called on Prime Minister Andris Berzins to begin tackling social problems immediately, LETA reported. They requested that pensions be indexed, options for early retirement be retained, and that working pensioners be allowed to receive pensions. They also want to see the social budget deficit reduced. Berzins expressed regret that financial considerations would make it impossible to retain early retirement should restrictions on working pensioners be lifted. He promised to attend the Pensioners Federation's meeting on 30 July, the first day of his vacation, since social security issues are of such importance. The meeting will discuss picketing by pensioners throughout Latvia on 29 August if the federation's requests are not met. SG

EU COMMISSIONER BARNIER URGES LITHUANIA TO MAKE BETTER USE OF EU FUNDS

The EU Commissioner for regional policy and institutional reform, Michel Barnier, told President Valdas Adamkus in Vilnius on 19 July that Lithuania should make better use of the special EU funds allotted to the country, "Lietuvos rytas" reported the next day. He noted that Lithuania currently receives about 125 million euros ($107 million) from various EU funds, but that the aid would rise to at least $1 billion should Lithuania become an official member state. Barnier is in charge of the Instrument for Structural Policies for pre-Accession (ISPA) aid fund from which Lithuania is currently receiving EU assistance of 66 million euros for six projects. Adamkus mentioned that agriculture will be among the most difficult chapters for Lithuania to close in its EU membership negotiations, and expressed the hope that aid from the SAPARD fund will finally be received and accelerate reform. Barnier also held meetings with Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite, and Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis. SG

FORMER CHIEF OF POLISH INSURANCE COMPANY CHARGED WITH ABUSE OF OFFICE

Prosecutors have charged Grzegorz Wieczerzak, the arrested former head of the state-controlled insurance company PZU Zycie, with abuse of office and inflicting losses on the company, PAP reported on 19 July, quoting an unidentified source in the Justice Ministry. Justice Minister Stanislaw Iwanicki commented earlier this week that the PZU Zycie case is the "biggest corruption scandal" in Poland since the end of communism. According to Iwanicki, the scandal has resulted in State Treasury losses estimated at hundreds of millions of zlotys ($1 is equal to 4.23 zlotys). JM

POLAND'S UNEMPLOYMENT RATE EXCEEDS 18 PERCENT IN JANUARY-MARCH 2001

The Main Statistical Office reported on 19 July that the unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2001 was 18.2 percent, compared with 16 percent in the last quarter of 2000, PAP reported. The number of jobless people in January-March 2001 stood at 3.16 million. JM

CZECHS REJECT EU LABOR RESTRICTIONS, WILL WAIT UNTIL FALL FOR BETTER DEAL

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on 19 July that the Czech Republic will not join negotiations about the free movement of labor between the EU and candidate countries to be held on 27 July, but will wait to close the chapter in October, CTK reported. He said that while he is not so "naive" as to think the EU's basic position will change, "I think by that time we could negotiate an improvement of the conditions on some points." Senate Chairman Petr Pithart of the opposition Christian Democrats praised the move, saying: "I support the idea of not giving up the issue unnecessarily quickly. The more so that we know already that some EU countries will not demand any [free movement of labor] transition period." DW

BRITISH ROMA CHECKS DISCRIMINATORY?

The treatment of Roma by British immigration officials at Prague's Ruzyne airport is open discrimination, Amanda Sebastian of the Europe Roma organization told CTK on 19 July. Concern over the checks, which began on 18 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2001), has also been voiced by staff at Amnesty International. Czech Romany groups have blamed the government, with Mikulas Horvath of the Ostrava Romany Civic Initiative saying the Czech government is willing to sacrifice its Romany population to join the EU. Foreign Minister Kavan said the measure is aimed at preventing the imposition of expensive visas on all Czech citizens. Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Palous added that the checks do not deny anyone the right to apply for asylum in Great Britain, which can be done at the British Embassy in Prague. DW

GERMAN MINISTER SURPRISED AT CZECH DEBATE

German Environment Minister Juergen Tritten expressed surprise on 19 July at the reception the German stand on the Temelin nuclear power plant received in the Czech Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2001), CTK reported. Concerning Prime Minister Milos Zeman's statement that the stand was only that of Tritten's ministry, not that of the German government, Tritten said: "In the last paragraph [of the report], you will see the stance of the German government... Everyone who knows how to read can see it." He added that the statement simply repeated positions the German government has held "for a number of years." DW

SLOVAK ROMA SLAM TEXTBOOK ON ROMANY HISTORY

The Slovak Romany Initiative (RIS) has said a new textbook on Romany history by ethnologist Arne B. Mann is racist, adding that the Education Ministry should withdraw the book from its planned use at schools, CTK and TASR reported on 19 July. RIS Chairman Alexander Patkolo said the textbook primarily describes how Roma are different from other groups and does not deal with Romany history itself. Patkolo noted that the book presents Roma in a negative light. As an example, Patkolo quoted the statement that no later than 50 years ago Roma made their living by dancing with trained bears and monkeys. Magdalena Sedlackova from the Education Ministry denied that the textbook has been approved for use and distributed to schools. JM

CONTROVERSIAL SLOVAK CHIEF SURGEON REPORTEDLY REAPPOINTED

The Health Ministry has reappointed Julius Vajo to the post of the country's chief surgeon, CTK reported on 19 July, quoting the Slovak radio station Twist. Vajo resigned last year in a scandal surrounding the treatment of Slovak President Rudolf Schuster, who nearly died of intestinal ailments and subsequent complications, before being successfully treated by surgeon Ernst Bodner in Innsbruck, Austria. Vajo was criticized mainly for concealing Schuster's second operation and for his repeated refusal to invite Bodner. JM

HUNGARIAN JUSTICE MINISTRY ANNOUNCES MEASURES AGAINST 'POCKET CONTRACTS'

Justice Minister Ibolya David on 19 July announced that the government intends to draft a series of legislative measures to crack down on so-called "pocket contracts" through which foreigners purchased farmland in Hungary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 July 2001). She assured Hungarian farmers that such contracts are a matter of civil law, and thus those who signed contracts with foreigners cannot be persecuted under criminal law. David said the Justice Ministry plans to open seven legal advice centers to assist farmers. Meanwhile, the government of Austria's province of Burgenland, which borders Hungary, said that following Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's harsh criticism of pocket contracts, many Austrians feel their livelihoods are threatened, including those who farm Hungarian land legally. The Austrian daily "Der Standard" notes that apart from the far-right, no one in Hungary has thus far addressed the issue of pocket contracts. MSZ




EUROPEAN MONITORS DEAD IN MACEDONIA

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an EU official said in Skopje on 20 July that two cease-fire monitors and their translator disappeared near Tetovo, AP reported. "Their vehicle has been found in a ravine and there's no sign of anybody. The vehicle was upside-down... It could have been a land mine or a road accident," he added. The three were last heard from late the previous afternoon. The monitors are believed to have been a Norwegian and a Slovak. Defense Ministry spokesman Marjan Djurovski said that EU monitors and KFOR troops are searching the area near the border with Kosova. He added that "all the indications are that the EU team is dead," Reuters reported. Tetovo police chief Shaip Bilalli said that the monitors' Land Rover hit a mine, and later confirmed that the three were dead. Both Reuters and AP have also confirmed the deaths. PM

MACEDONIAN TALKS CONTINUE AT LOWER LEVER

Talks between Macedonian and Albanian representatives continued in Skopje on 19 July but only among experts. Leading Albanian politicians pulled out of the negotiations the previous day following uncompromising statements by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2001). PM

MACEDONIAN BOMB ATTACKS WORK OF RACKETEERS?

"Dnevnik" reported on 20 July that the recent explosion under a woman's car in Skopje was apparently intended for her husband, a director of the Skopje Alkaloid pharmaceutical company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2001). It was the third time recently that a leading figure of Alkaloid was targeted in a bombing. UB

CROATIA, SLOVENIA SET TO END DISPUTES?

The governments of Croatia and Slovenia approved an agreement on 19 July designed to settle most questions that have bedeviled their relations since independence in 1991, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The text grants Slovenia an outlet to the open sea through the Gulf of Piran and provides for joint management of the Krsko nuclear power plant in Slovenia that was built in the communist era, partly with Croatian money. Four disputed villages will remain Croatian, dpa reported. Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan and his Slovenian counterpart, Janez Drnovsek, hammered out the deal during several weeks of negotiations. Racan said, however, that he doubts that the agreement can obtain the necessary two-thirds majority in the parliament at present, "Jutarnji list" reported. He added that he expects a solution soon to the dispute over Croatian deposits in a Slovenian bank. In Ljubljana, Drnovsek appealed to the parliament to ratify not only this agreement but one on cooperation and local border traffic that Croatia approved in 1998. PM

SERBIAN WORKERS SMASH MINISTER'S CAR

Angry employees at the Zastava car factory in Kragujevac destroyed the car of Serbian Privatization Minister Aleksandar Vlahovic when he and Finance Minister Bozidar Djelic visited the city hall there on 19 July, AP reported. Vlahovic and Djelic sought to present a plan to make loss-making Zastava profitable under state control until a foreign investor can be found. The plan envisions closing 19 of Zastava's enterprises and sacking 15,000 out of 30,000 workers. Some of those fired will receive benefits for two years. Zastava is one of many rust-bucket industries that Serbia must radically restructure or close down in order to break with the communist past. During the approximately 13 years of former President Slobodan Milosevic's rule, communist-era institutions were largely left intact. PM

UNHCR PRAISES SERBIA...

Eric Morris, the UNHCR's special envoy in the Balkans, said in Skopje on 19 July that "there is one location in all of former Yugoslavia now where the return of the minority population is warmly welcomed, and that location is Serbia [in the Presevo valley]. Who would have imagined that? It really puts to shame Albanian leaders in Kosovo," to which most Serbian refugees are afraid to return, Reuters reported. Referring to Presevo, Morris noted that "there is a lot of return going on." He added that more than 500 people are believed to have returned recently to a place that had been abandoned since 1999. "That's a significant breakthrough," Morris stressed. PM

...AS SERBIAN MINISTER PRAISES NATO

After a visit to NATO headquarters, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said in Belgrade on 19 July that cooperation with U.S. troops in eastern Kosova near Presevo is "very important" for Belgrade in preventing new conflicts. He added that "NATO is willing to help Yugoslavia and Serbia, and we have a firm partnership relation building up. That is very important, because we still have unstable spots in our region." PM

SERBIAN MINISTER TO ANNOUNCE WAR CRIMES INDICTMENTS

Justice Minister Vladan Batic said in Novi Sad on 19 July that he expects to announce soon the names of "Yugoslav citizens" indicted for war crimes against civilians in Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that the list will include only individuals not indicted by The Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Batic added that the Serbian authorities will request from the tribunal that Serbian President Milan Milutinovic and other Yugoslav citizens indicted by the tribunal be tried in Serbia. PM

ROMANIAN PARTY LEADER PRAISES ELECTION OF CIORBEA AS PEASANTIST PARTY HEAD

Wilfred Martens, the president of the European Popular Party (EPP), said on 19 July that he welcomes the election of former Premier Victor Ciorbea as leader of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD), RFE/RL's Romanian Service reported. Martens said Ciorbea's election brings "back onto the political center-stage an experienced and European-minded former premier whom the EPP knows and trusts." The same day, Wim van Velzen, the vice president of the EEP group in the European Parliament, said that it will not be possible for a second "Christian-Democratic" oriented party to become a member of the EPP or the Christian-Democratic Internationale. Van Velzen's comment was in response to the reported intentions of former PNTCD leader Andrei Marga to form a second Christian-Democratic party in Romania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2001). The anti-Ciorbea faction of the PNTCD said on 19 July that it will also hold its own "extraordinary congress." IK

ROMANIA UNHAPPY WITH MOLDOVA'S TURN TO THE EAST?

Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase said in Bucharest on 20 July that recent developments in the Moldovan parliament might cause Romania to reexamine what he called Bucharest's "privileged relations" with Moldova, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. He didn't mention specific developments in Moldova, but he linked them to the poor economic situation in Moldova and "certain...general developments in the space of the former Soviet Union." Nastase said Romania has a choice of suspending some aspects of those "privileged relations," or to try and increase economic cooperation in order to counteract recent trends in Moldova. IK

SIMEON'S PARTY MANDATES COALITION AGREEMENT WITH BULGARIA'S ETHNIC TURKISH PARTY

The parliamentary group of the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) directed its leadership on 19 July to sign a coalition pact with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) party, BTA reported. NDSV parliamentary leader Plamen Panayotov said the NDSV deputies spent two hours discussing the DPS proposal before approving it. The two parties reached a coalition agreement in principle earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2001). A day later, the DPS said it had some additional requests that were then considered by the NDSV. Some Bulgarian dailies reported that the NDSV and the DPS are having trouble coming to an agreement. The daily "Monitor" reads: "Crisis Over Cabinet: DPS Leader Dogan Wants Real Power, Simeon II Is Stalling." The weekly "168 Chasa" reported on 19 July that the DPS is on the verge of a split because of disagreements over the coalition agreement. PB

HUNDREDS OF BULGARIAN ROMA SEEK ASYLUM IN NORWAY

More than 900 Bulgarian Roma have sought political asylum in Norway over the last several months, BTA reported on 19 July. Norwegian Ambassador to Bulgaria Arnt Rindal said 169 of the requests have been rejected and those people will be sent back to Bulgaria on 22 July; some 200 others have also withdrawn their applications. A Norwegian immigration official said the mass exodus to Norway was caused by exploitative tour agencies. Border Police Director Colonel Valeri Grigorov said that several of the tour operators that bussed the Roma to Oslo are being investigated, "Novinar" reported. Romany leader Vassil Danev is to present an Indian sword and a official letter to Ambassador Rindal on 19 July in recognition of Norway's "humane attitude" toward the asylum seekers. PB




There is no End Note today.





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