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Newsline - July 23, 2001




PUTIN CALLS FOR CLIMATE-CHANGE CONFERENCE IN 2003...

Clearly seeking to exploit European unhappiness with Washington's position on the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases, President Vladimir Putin on 21 July urged the G-7 plus Russia summit to back his call for a world climate-change conference in Russia in 2003, Russian and Western agencies reported. On 22 July, presidential economic aide Andrei Illarinov said that the G-8 did back Putin's call and that the forum will take place "within the Kyoto process rather than outside it." PG

...MEETS BUSH, OTHER LEADERS IN GENOA

Putin met with other G-7 leaders over the weekend. He and U.S. President George W. Bush agreed that their governments will discuss offensive and defensive strategic arms simultaneously, Russian and Western agencies reported on 22 July. PG

RUSSIANS BELIEVE G-8 IMPORTANT BUT THAT RUSSIA IS NOT A FULL- FLEDGED MEMBER

According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by RIA-Novosti on 19 July, 71 percent of Russians attach great importance to Putin's participation in the G-8 meetings in Genoa, but 62 percent said that Russia is not yet a full-fledged member of the association. PG

PUTIN SIGNS LAW FREEING SURVIVING SONS, BROTHERS FROM MILITARY SERVICE

Putin on 21 July signed into law amendments to the compulsory military service law that provides relief for the sons and brothers of soldiers who died, were wounded, or became ill during military service even in noncombat situations, Russian agencies reported. Under the terms of the new amendments, the survivors will not have to perform military service, nor will those with advanced academic degrees. VY

PUTIN PROMOTES AUTHOR OF NAVY DOCTRINE

Putin on 21 July named Admiral Mikhail Zakharenko, who had been serving as commander of the Pacific Fleet, to be deputy commander in chief of the Russian navy, Interfax reported. Zakharenko is a career submarine officer and the author of the recently approved Russian naval doctrine that calls for the Russian navy to expand its geopolitical role on the world oceans. VY

PUTIN SAID TO WANT 'PROFESSIONALS' TO RUN PARDONS COMMISSION

"Vremya novostei" reported on 21 July that according to Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov, Putin plans to replace current members of the Presidential Pardons Commission with prosecutors and investigators. Meanwhile, on 19 July, "Obshchaya gazeta" published an open letter to Putin from current commission member Igor Naidenov noting that prison officials and staffs of prosecutors' offices are blocking applications for pardons even though this violates the constitution. He noted that not all capital crimes are the same, and that some of them are "provoked" by the system itself, such as murders in the army by those who are victims of abuse. Such "legal nihilism" in ignoring constitutional arrangements and legal distinctions, Naidenov said, inevitably raises the question: "If today it is possible to ignore this provision of the constitution, then why would it be impossible to do the same with another tomorrow?" VY/PG

PRIMAKOV SAYS 'PROVOCATION' BEING PREPARED AGAINST HIM

Fatherland-All Russia leader and former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov told Interfax on 20 July that his political opponents are preparing "a provocation" against him to put him at odds with Putin. Primakov said he supports the president and that the provocation, which he said will take the form of writings he is alleged to have authored, is based on fraud. PG

A BUSY DAY IN THE FEDERATION COUNCIL

On 20 July, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament approved legislation passed by the Duma on the debureaucratization of the economy, amendments to the law on the police, combating money laundering, pay and benefits of Duma and Federation Council members, bankruptcy, new tax rates on business profits, taxation of natural resources, citizenship, support for the coal industry, and on rules governing hard-currency transactions, Russian agencies reported. It also ratified the agreement on the status of the formation of the system of collective security with five other members of the CIS. But it rejected Duma-passed legislation on limiting the number of terms the head of a federal subject can serve and on the formation within the federation of new federal subjects. PG

SLAVNEFT TO DEVELOP OIL FIELD IN SUDAN

The Russia-Belarus oil firm Slavneft announced on 20 July that it has signed a joint venture deal to develop a Sudanese oil field, Reuters reported. PG

RUSSIA, CHINA TO COOPERATE IN NUCLEAR PROJECTS IN SPACE

Russia and China plan to pool their scientific talents to develop nuclear propulsion systems for spacecraft, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 July. Meanwhile, on the same day, "Novye Izvestiya" reported that China will purchase advanced fighter aircraft from Russia worth up to $2 billion. PG

PAVLOVSKII URGES PUTIN TO MOVE AGAINST BEREZOVSKY

Gleb Pavlovskii, the Kremlin's adviser on information policy, said that Putin should now move against mass media outlets controlled by self-exiled magnate Boris Berezovsky because those outlets are openly attacking the president and his policies, strana.ru reported on 20 July. Among such media outlets the website listed "Zhizn," grani.ru, and provincial papers like "Prizyv" in Vladimir. Pavlovskii said that the Berezovsky-controlled organs are seeking to split the Russian Orthodox Church, undermine Russian allies in Belarus and Ukraine, and compromise Putin personally. Pavlovskii said that in such a campaign, Putin should rely on his own cadres and on "new centers of faith, influence, and business." VY

RUSSIAN-LANGUAGE EURONEWS TO BEGIN IN SEPTEMBER

According to an article in "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 July, the Russian- language edition of EuroNews will begin broadcasting in September 2001. It will be compiled by 16 journalists, including some "working in TRT, TV Center, Radio Liberty, and Mayak." PG

POPULATION SAID TO VIEW GOVERNMENT AS INCREASINGLY IRRELEVANT

An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 July argued that "the government thinks the people love it, but in reality, the people are living their lives in a different world. The shadow economy, which is now several times the size of the federal budget, has created a unique political formation in Russia. And that is why Russian citizens really don't care about the government's reforms." But on the same day, State Statistics Committee head Vladimir Sokolin told Interfax that the size of the shadow economy has fallen because of Russia's newly simplified tax system. Meanwhile, Moscow sociologist Boris Kagarlitskii argued in "The Moscow Times" on 20 July that Putin has created a cult much like that which CPSU General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev had, one based on continuing assertions that everyone likes the leadership and intended to cover up "the deepening decay" of the system. According to Kagarlitskii, "the rest of the country watches the Kremlin's work with an increasing sense of bewilderment, which is turning into irritation. If, sensing that time is running out, the Kremlin turns to another 'shock therapy' program currently on Putin's desk, the general apathy may turn into hatred." PG

JUSTICE MINISTRY FEARS NEW LAW COULD ALLOW FOREIGNERS TO INFLUENCE ELECTIONS

According to an article in "Izvestiya" on 20 July, the Justice Ministry is concerned that loopholes in existing legislation could allow foreigners to make contributions to candidates and thus affect electoral outcomes. PG

INTERIOR MINISTRY SEEKS TO WIN BACK TRUST OF POPULATION

Yurii Shuvalov, the head of the Interior Ministry's administration for information, regional, and social ties, said in an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 July that his agency is working to restore public confidence in the police by making them more accountable and accessible. The paper reported the same day in another article that the Interior Ministry plans to put more police on the street by cutting the number of supervisors, and thus counter what it said is a rise in the number of crimes against people over the last year. PG

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CRITICIZE MOSCOW JUDGES

Leading human rights activists said on 19 July that Moscow judges do not protect the constitutional and human rights of those who appear before them and that they have done nothing to protect those detained, often in inhumane conditions, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the following day. Several people have died in detention over the last several weeks because of high temperatures, the activists said. PG

RUSHAILO SAYS DRUGS, TERRORISM MAIN THREATS TO RUSSIA

In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 21 July, Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo said that drug trafficking and international terrorism are the most serious threats to Russia's national security today. He said that other countries face these problems as well and that that should be the basis for developing cooperation and a common approach. PG

TERRORISM IN RUSSIA SAID TO HAVE DOMESTIC, FOREIGN ROOTS

Lieutenant General Vladimir Kozlov, the deputy chief of the Federal Security Service (FSB), said in an interview published in "Vek," No. 28, that terrorism in Russia has "social roots " inside the country and "powerful support from abroad." Among the domestic roots, he said, are "the criminalization of our life" and the greater availability of weapons. Externally, terrorism in Russia is supported by those who oppose a strong Russia and who are exporting "Wahhabism" to it. VY

AEROFLOT WANTS GOVERNMENT HELP IN FIGHTING AIR RAGE

A spokeswoman for Aeroflot said on 20 July that the Russian carrier needs the government to help stop violent behavior by passengers that is threatening the safety of its flights, Reuters reported. At present, those convicted of hooliganism for such actions are subject to a fine of only $1, which fails to deter them, the spokeswoman said. Aeroflot reported 79 incidents of air rage in 2000 and 26 in the first six months of 2001. PG

RUSSIA SUSPENDS BLACK CAVIAR EXPORTS

The State Fishing Committee on 20 July announced that Russia has suspended the export of black beluga caviar as part of an international effort to revive production in the Caspian Sea, Russian agencies reported. PG

GERMAN ARRESTED BY RUSSIA CONVICTED OF SPYING FOR U.S. BY BELARUS COURT

The Belarus Military Court sentenced a German citizen and professor of an American military educational institution, Christopher Letz, to seven years in prison for espionage, Russian and Western news service reported on 21 July. Letz, who worked for the Marshall Center in Germany, was arrested by the FSB in September 2000 in Moscow and handed over to the Belarus KGB. "Kommersant-Daily" suggested that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is using Letz to try to blackmail the West, as he has hinted he might pardon Letz, providing the West "stop interfering in the Belarus elections." VY

FAPSI GENERAL CLEARED OF CORRUPTION CHARGES

A Moscow military court has cleared Major General Valerii Monastyretskii, who until his arrest served as a senior official in the government's FAPSI communications agency, of corruption charges, "Vremya novostei" reported on 20 July. He was accused of embezzlement and misuse of office in 1994-95, but the court failed to find sufficient evidence of corruption and noted that the statute of limitations for abuse of office is five years. Monastyretskii attracted international attention in the early 1990s when he was detained on the French border with $300,000 and three different foreign passports. VY

RUSSIA PUSHES CROSS-POLAR AIR ROUTES

The Russian government has drafted state program to push for rapid expansion of transpolar flights from North America to Asia across Russian territory, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told RIA- Novosti on 21 July. Five U.S. carriers are currently using these routes on a regular basis, and the number of such flights has increased from 230 in 2000 to 450 scheduled for this year. The additional routes and flights bring Russia an extra $180 million annually. But Russian carriers have been unable to exploit these routes because of the lack of infrastructure on the ground, the agency said. VY

HOW MUCH HAS THE CHECHEN WAR COST?

According to an analysis in "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," No. 26, the Chechen war has cost Moscow several billion dollars, but the article said that "nowhere in the 2001 budget do we find a statistic showing just how much is being spent on measures connected with the counterterrorist operation in Chechnya. And it seems likely that no one knows the exact figure even in the government." PG

BURYATIA ARMS DEPOT FIRE CLAIMS THREE LIVES

An arms depot that was set on fire by lighting on 20 July claimed three lives before being extinguished on 21 July, NTV reported. The fire set shells off and these hit surrounding houses, officials on the scene said. PG

DELYAGIN PREDICTS CAPITAL FLIGHT WILL ACCELERATE

Mikhail Delyagin, the director of the Moscow Institute on Globalization, argued in articles published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" and "Vremya novostei" on 20 July that liberalized currency exchange rules will lead to more capital flight. Such flight, Delyagin continued, is not dangerous in itself but it will make it more likely that the government will have to devalue the currency. Moreover, such increased capital flight also could trigger a stock market collapse in Russia. VY

LIVING STANDARDS WILL RECOVER TO 1998 LEVEL ONLY IN FIVE YEARS

Vladimir Litvinov, the deputy director of the All- Russian Center on Standards of Living of the Labor Ministry, said in an interview published in "Tribuna" on 20 July that Russian living standards will recover to the pre-August 1998 crisis level only in five or six years. He also said that income differentiation is much greater than the State Statistics Committee is reporting and that in 43 of the country's regions, the population is almost completely poor. Overall, he said, 45 percent of the population is poor, with only 18 percent being well-off at present. PG

BIRTHRATE UP; MORTALITY, IMMIGRATION BOTH DOWN

There were 536,600 births in the first five months of 2001, up from 514,200 in the same period in 2000, the State Statistics Committee told Interfax on 20 July. There were 948,300 deaths in the first five months of this year as compared to 968,300 in the same period a year earlier. Meanwhile, net immigration fell from 85,200 in the first five months of 2000 to only 19,300 in the same period in 2001. During the January-May 2001 period, 59,900 people immigrated to Russia, while 40,600 emigrated. PG

PUTIN URGED TO FUND DOMESTIC FIGHT AGAINST AIDS

Valentin Pokrovskii, the head of the Russian Federal Center for Prevention and Struggle with AIDS, told Interfax on 20 July that it is all very well for Putin to commit $20 million to the fight against AIDS abroad, but that the president should do more to fight it at home as well. According to Pokrovskii, Russia leads the world in the rate of growth of HIV infections. PG

UNEMPLOYMENT FALLS TO 9.2 PERCENT

The State Statistics Committee told Prime-TASS on 20 July that unemployment fell 0.8 percent in June to a total of 9.2 percent of the able- bodied, working-age population. Officially registered unemployment now stands at 1.4 percent, only 15 percent of total unemployment, the committee said. PG

A RAPPROCHEMENT WITH THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ABROAD?

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 July, a new split within the emigre Russian Orthodox Church Abroad may lead to the reunification of many of that church's leaders with the Moscow Patriarchate. The paper suggested that the recent departure from the emigre church of its leader Metropolitan Vitalii opens the way to such a rapprochement. PG

KREMLIN, MUSLIM LEADER OK CELEBRATION OF KULIKOVO ANNIVERSARY

Vladislav Surkov, the deputy head of the Kremlin administration, rejected arguments by Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev that celebrating the anniversary of the 1380 battle of Kulikovo Field would lead to anti-Tatar feelings among Russians, Interfax reported on 20 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2001). Meanwhile, the same day, Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin of Russia and the European Countries of the CIS, also supported the idea of celebrating the anniversary of Kulikovo, the news agency said. PG

RUSSIANS DIVIDED ON WHETHER STALINGRAD SHOULD HAVE BEEN RENAMED

According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 20 July, 39 percent of Russians think it was a mistake to rename Stalingrad Volgograd while 31 percent believe it was the right thing to do. Younger people and those with higher educations were slightly more inclined than the average to think the renaming of the city was correct. PG

WILL THERE BE A 'LOVE PARADE' IN MOSCOW?

A group of Moscow businessmen has appealed to the Moscow city government to allow the first-ever "Love Parade" of sexual minorities to take place in September, Interfax-Moscow reported on 20 July. City officials told the news agency that they are not opposed as long as the organizers agreed that the march would take place "in a civilized way." PG

HEAT WAVE CLAIMS MORE LIVES IN MOSCOW...

Eighteen more people drowned in Moscow on 21 July as that city suffered through an unusually hot heat wave, Interfax reported. Most of those who drowned were drunk, the agency said. Officials complained that at least some of these deaths could have been prevented but that they lack the resources to provide lifeguards at all swimming locations. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" on 20 July carried a helpful guide on how to choose a window air-conditioner. PG

...AS OTHER REGIONS FOLLOW SUIT...

The high-number of drownings, already recorded in Moscow this summer -- where city officials blame hot weather, drunkenness, and the absence of lifesaving personnel -- is also affecting other regions around Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2001). For example, in Amur Oblast some 37 people have died since the beginning of the year, which is 68 percent more than last year, according to Interfax-Eurasia on 20 July. JAC

...AND LIFESAVING SERVICES GO UNDEREQUIPPED, UNDERFUNDED

Meanwhile, in the Chuvash Republic, some 20 people drowned during the first five months of the year -- 15 of them in May alone, according to RFE/RL's Cheboksary correspondent on 14 July. Part of the reason for the rash of deaths is that the republic's lifeguard station lacks even the most elemental equipment such as life jackets and life preservers. Automobiles have been assigned to the station but they are rarely visible in the parking lot because they are being used for personal errands of the leadership of another government service. The head of the lifeguard station, Aleksandr Tagachin, who is frustrated with the lack of resources allotted to his service, told RFE/RL, "Instead of being able to save people, the central lifeguard station of Chuvashia today pulls only corpses out of the water." JAC

KALMYK PRESIDENT ADOPTS INDEPENDENT FOREIGN POLICY STANCE ON TIBET

In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 20 July, the president of the Republic of Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, called for international recognition of the independence of Tibet -- a stance at odds with Russia's official foreign policy position. According to Ilyumzhinov, Tibetan leader Dalai Lama will visit Kalmykia's capital, Elista, within a month, although there has been pressure on Kalmykia to rescind its invitation to the Dalai Lama out of deference to Russia's relationship to China. According to Ilyumzhinov, the two other regions in Russia with significant Buddhist populations beside Kalmykia, Tuva and Buryatia, have recalled their letters of invitation. He characterized the political situation regarding Tibet and China is very troubling for the people of his republic. Ilyumzhinov said, "The last time the Dalai Lama was in Kalmykia was in 1992, and at all meetings that I go to, all the babushki, the especially elderly people, directly beg me, plead with me that the Dalai Lama could visit the republic [again] before they die." JAC

TOP TATARSTAN OFFICIAL SAYS MOSCOW ALREADY AGREED TO CONTINUE TO GIVE REPUBLIC SPECIAL TREATMENT

Farid Mukhametshin, the speaker of Tatarstan's Legislative Assembly, told the local newspaper, "Respublika Tatarstan," on 13 July that republic leaders have signed a preliminary agreement with federal authorities confirming that Tatarstan's power-sharing agreement differs with those of other federation subjects, whose agreements -- unlike Tatarstan's -- must be abolished by 30 July 2002, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 20 July. Mukhametshin added that should Moscow ignore this document, relations "will be set back a decade." In the same newspaper a day earlier, an article discusses the two possible way for Tatarstan to develop its statehood, according to the bureau. One is by establishing the republic's special status within the Federal Constitution. The other is for Tatarstan to become the nucleus of a larger territorial entity uniting the Middle Volga and the Urals. The paper noted that such a project is reminiscent of the effort to create an Idel-Ural state in 1917-18. PG/JAC

NEW GROZNY MAYOR APPOINTED

Oleg Zhitnov, a 45-year-old native of Grozny, has been named mayor of the Chechen capital, the Russian presidential representative to the South Russia federal district, Viktor Kazantsev, announced in Makhachkala on 21 July, according to Interfax. Zhitnov, who has lived in Moscow for the past few years, succeeds Beslan Gantemirov, who resigned two months ago because of tensions with Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 2001). Interim acting Mayor Ibragim Yasuev told "Kommersant-Daily" in mid-June that an ethnic Russian had already been chosen as the new Grozny mayor. LF

CHECHEN PROSECUTOR SAYS RADUZHNOYE SECURITY SWEEP JUSTIFIED

The security sweep conducted by Russian troops early on 18 July in the Grozny suburb of Raduzhnoye was justified in that it yielded a cache of heavy weapons, Chechen Prosecutor Viktor Dakhnov told Interfax on 20 July. Two Chechens were detained by Russian troops during that operation and have not been seen since, but their car has been found abandoned and bloodstained (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2001). LF




ARMENIA, RUSSIA REACH AGREEMENT ON DEBTS

During talks in Yerevan on 19-20 July, visiting Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov and Armenian government officials reached agreement that Russia is to receive a stake in various Armenian state-owned enterprises in return for writing off Yerevan's $88 million debt to Moscow, RFE/RL' s Yerevan bureau reported. Klebanov told journalists that Moscow is particularly interested in the energy and mining sectors. Among the enterprises he visited the previous day together with Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian was the Zangezur copper-molybdenum plant in southern Armenia, according to Noyan Tapan. Russian investment in that plant is one of the issues to be discussed during a planned visit to Armenia by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sarkisian pointed out that Russian investment could enable the plant to produce molybdenum for sale at $20,000-$25,000 per ton, rather than continuing to produce enriched copper ore at a sale price of $2,000 per ton, according to Noyan Tapan. A package of documents on closer bilateral economic cooperation is to be signed during Putin's visit. LF

ARMENIAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTER DISMISSED

Armenian President Robert Kocharian on 21 July fired Environment Minister Murad Muradian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Muradian represented the Kayunutiun (Stability) parliament faction, whose leader Vartan Ayvazian reportedly hopes to succeed him in the government. But if Ayvazian is offered, and accepts, a cabinet post, he would have to relinquish his deputy's mandate, leaving the Kayunutiun faction with only nine deputies, one less than the minimum 10 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2001). LF

AZERBAIJAN CREATES NEW COUNCIL TO OVERSEE MEDIA, INTERNET

Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev has signed a decree creating a national council to monitor the implementation of legislation relating to the media and the Internet, Turan quoted presidential administration official Ali Hasanov as telling journalists in Baku on 20 July. It will also issue licenses for TV and radio stations and for Internet providers. The council will comprise three separate commissions for the print media, the electronic media, and the Internet, and have 39 members -- of whom 18 will be appointed directly by the president and the remainder by the media and political parties. Also on 20 July, Aliyev issued a decree on financial support for the mass media to enable them to resolve problems connected with the transition from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet, Turan reported. LF

SENIOR IRANIAN SECURITY OFFICIAL VISITS AZERBAIJAN...

Iranian National Security Council Secretary Hasan Rowhani held talks in Baku on 20 July with President Aliyev and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayet Quliev, Turan reported. Rowhani assured both officials of Tehran's support for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and of its readiness to contribute to a solution to the Karabakh conflict with the aim of promoting peace and stability in the South Caucasus. Aliyev and Rowhani also discussed the prospects for cooperation in the field of transport, specifically the planned creation of a north-south rail and road corridor linking Russia and Iran via Azerbaijan, according to ITAR-TASS. It was also agreed that Aliev's long-planned and frequently postponed visit to Iran could take place next month, presidential administration head Ramiz Mekhtiev told journalists on 20 July, according to Turan. LF

...AND GEORGIA

On 18-19 July, Rowhani held talks in Tbilisi with parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania and President Eduard Shevardnadze, Caucasus Press reported. Rowhani expressed his support for Georgia's territorial integrity, warning that any border changes in the South Caucasus could give rise to instability throughout the region, IRNA reported. Both sides agreed on the benefits of expanded economic cooperation. LF

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO OSCE SAYS RUSSIA SHOULD WITHDRAW FROM GEORGIAN BASE

Caucasus Press on 20 July quoted the U.S. ambassador to the OCSE, David Johnson, as telling that organization's Permanent Council that Russia should comply with its commitment to vacate the Gudauta military base in Abkhazia. Also on 20 July, Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze told journalists in Tbilisi that the Georgian government would allow Moscow to deploy up to 100 troops at that base to protect it from possible attack by Abkhaz forces, but not the 400 men the Russian side proposed. He added that Tbilisi would not object to the Russian peacekeeping troops currently deployed in western Georgia using the Gudauta facility, but that Georgia would not agree to designating it formally a rehabilitation center for those troops. On 23 July, Caucasus Press quoted Sikharulidze as saying that Moscow opposes any inspection of the Gudauta base by international observers. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SAYS VIGILANTE GROUPS SHOULD DISBAND, JOIN POLICE

In his traditional Monday radio interview, President Shevardnadze on 23 July said that while he does not doubt the "good will and decency" of members of the unofficial vigilante groups created in eastern Georgia to combat crime in the Pankisi gorge, those groups should be disbanded, Caucasus Press reported. He added that their members "are welcome" to join the police, alluding to the excesses committed by unofficial paramilitaries in Georgia in the early 1990s. Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze had argued last week that the vigilantes should be disarmed and disbanded, but their leader, Luka Ramazashvili, replied that his men will not surrender their weapons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2001). Shevardnadze announced his intention of traveling to eastern Georgia "in the near future" to meet with residents of Pankisi and neighboring districts. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTIES DEPLORE SUPREME COURT RULING

The opposition Ar-Namys Party issued a statement in Bishkek on 20 July condemning as politically motivated the Supreme Court's rejection the previous day of Ar-Namys Chairman Feliks Kulov's appeal against the seven-year prison term to which he was sentenced in January, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001 and 20 July 2001). Ata-Meken Party Chairman Omurbek Tekebaev similarly criticized the court's decision. He told RFE/RL the entire judicial system in Kyrgyzstan is dependent on the government. Aziza Abdrasulova of the Erkindik (Liberty) Party said she thinks the Kyrgyz leadership wants to exclude Kulov from national politics "forever." LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER HOSPITALIZED

Erkindik Party Chairman Topchubek TurgunAliyev was taken on 20 July from the prison camp where he is serving a six-year sentence to a prison hospital near Bishkek, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. It is not clear what health problems he is suffering from. Turgunaliev, 59, was sentenced last September on what are widely believed to be fabricated charges of plotting to assassinate President Askar Akaev. LF

TAJIKISTAN CLAIMS INSURGENT FORMER FIELD COMMANDER KILLED

Mansur Muakkalov, a former lieutenant colonel in the Tajik army who sided with former opposition field commander Rakhmon Sanginov to protest official reprisals against his men, was killed late on 20 July in a shootout with Tajik security forces northeast of Dushanbe, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 21 July, quoting a Tajik Interior Ministry spokesman. Tajik officials have already claimed several times to have neutralized Sanginov's group (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 16 July 2001). Sanginov himself is believed to be still at large. LF

RUSSIA BLAMES MURDER OF TAJIK PRESIDENT'S ADVISER ON BIN LADEN

The murder last week in Dushanbe of President Imomali Rakhmonov's foreign policy adviser Karim Yuldashev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2001) was committed on orders from Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden with the aim of destabilizing the situation within Tajikistan, an unnamed senior Russian military official based in Tajikistan told Interfax on 20 July. He said the murder was discussed and planned at a meeting in Pakistan last month. He added that bin Laden has allocated $1 million for subversive activities in Tajikistan. It is not clear whether he offered any evidence to substantiate those claims. LF




BELARUS'S PRESIDENTIAL CONTESTANTS PICK SINGLE CHALLENGER TO LUKASHENKA

Four politicians supported by the Belarusian opposition -- Mikhail Chyhir, Syamyon Domash, Syarhey Kalyakin, and Pavel Kazlouski -- said on 21 July that they will withdraw from the presidential race and form a united campaign behind Uladzimir Hancharyk, the head of the Trade Union Federation of Belarus, Belapan reported. In this way, the five complied with their former pledge to propose a single candidate from a broad coalition of democratic and opposition forces in a bid to oust dictatorial President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission said the same day that, according to "preliminary data," only four aspirants out of 22 -- Lukashenka, Uladzimir Hancharyk, Syamyon Domash, and Syarhey Haydukevich -- managed to collect 100,000 signatures required for the registration as presidential candidates. JM

BELARUSIAN COURT SENTENCES GERMAN CITIZEN TO SEVEN YEARS FOR SPYING

The Belarusian Military Court on 21 July sentenced German citizen Christopher Letz to seven years in prison for espionage, Belapan reported. Letz's trial was conducted behind closed doors. Letz's lawyer told journalists that his client "partly" pleaded guilty, adding that he intends to appeal for clemency and hopes that his appeal will be heeded. Letz, a former Polish military officer who moved to Germany in the mid-1980s, was reported to have been a lecturer at the Marshall Center for Security Studies in Germany, which researches global security issues. KGB spokesman Fyodar Kotau told journalists that Letz was involved in espionage in Belarus immediately after his arrival there in 1992. Letz was arrested last year in Russia and passed on to the Belarusian authorities. JM

CHINA'S PRESIDENT IN UKRAINE

Chinese President Jiang Zemin on 21 July enlisted Ukraine's support for his country's opposition to U.S. missile defense plans, with the countries calling for the preservation of the old ABM treaty, AP reported. "This [ABM] treaty is the foundation of the structure of international agreements on limiting and reducing strategic offensive weapons," the Chinese and Ukrainian presidents said in a jointly signed declaration. The declaration also states that Ukraine views Taiwan as an inalienable part of China and pledges to have no official relations with it. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's spokesman, Oleksandr Martynenko, said both presidents discussed a wide range of issues including cooperation in space and aviation technologies as well as military cooperation. JM

CRIMEAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER RENEWS ATTEMPT TO OUST PREMIER

Leonid Hrach, the speaker of the Crimean Supreme Council, has ordered that an emergency parliamentary session be held on 25 July in order to appoint a new premier of the Autonomous Republic of Crimes, Interfax reported on 21 July. The Crimean legislature on 18 July voted to oust Crimean Premier Serhiy Kunitsyn, following Hrach's announcement that President Kuchma consented to Kunitsyn's ouster. Kuchma subsequently denied giving such consent. Last week, following Kunitsyn's complaint, a district court in Simferopol suspended the Crimean legislature's decision to oust Kunitsyn. JM

ESTONIA'S CPI INCREASED 1.6 PERCENT IN Q2

The state Statistics Office announced on 20 July that the consumer price index rose by 1.6 percent in the second quarter of 2001 as compared to the first quarter and 6.7 percent compared to the second quarter of 2000, BNS reported. Compared to the first quarter of this year, the prices of goods increased by 1.8 percent (foodstuffs by 2.5 percent and other goods by 0.9 percent) and those of services by 1.2 percent. The most significant price increases were for food, housing services, and gasoline, while the costs of communication services fell by 1.2 percent. SG

EU ENLARGEMENT COMMISSIONER AFFIRMS LATVIA'S READINESS TO JOIN EU

Guenter Verheugen told President Vaira Vike- Freiberga during a lunch at her Jurmala residence on 20 July that Latvia has made satisfactory progress toward EU membership and has a good chance of being included among the first-round EU enlargement candidates, BNS reported. Vike- Freiberga noted that, in addition to closing the agricultural chapter of the acquis communitaire, which is problematic for almost all of the candidate countries, their talks touched upon the need to improve Latvia's judicial system and state administration capabilities. Verheugen also held talks the same day with Prime Minister Andris Berzins, Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins, and parliament Chairman Janis Straume. The previous day, Verheugen visited the western towns of Liepaja and Kandava, declaring that it is necessary to travel outside the capital to better understand the situation in the entire country. In talks with Liepaja Mayor Uldis Sesks, Verheugen asserted that the only way for the Baltic states to defend their sovereignty is in cooperation with other sovereign countries. SG

LITHUANIA'S TOP OFFICIALS APPROVE YUKOS AGREEMENT

At a meeting on 20 July, President Valdas Adamkus, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, and parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas expressed their approval of the agreement recently reached between Williams International and the Russian oil firm YUKOS to supply crude oil to Mazeikiai Nafta, ELTA reported. However, the participants asserted that there are a number of points in the agreement that should be made more favorable to Lithuania prior to the extraordinary parliamentary session scheduled to be held from 30 July to 3 August. The leaders also discussed the country's energy sector, next year's budget, the disbursement of funds obtained by the Privatization Agency, and other issues. SG

FORMER CHIEF OF POLISH INSURANCE COMPANY RELEASED ON BAIL

Grzegorz Wieczerzak, the former head of PZU Zycie insurance company who is suspected of causing losses to the company, was released on 20 July on bail of 300,000 zlotys ($70,550) and the condition that he not leave Poland, Polish media reported. The Warsaw District Court said evidence supporting prosecutors' motion to arrest Wieczerzak had not been sufficiently verified. Interior Minister Marek Biernacki said the decision to release Wieczerzak is "a little bit strange." Wieczerzak was arrested in a case referred to by Justice Minister Stanislaw Iwanicki as the "biggest corruption scandal" in Poland since the end of communism. JM

FISCHER WANTS CZECH TEMELIN SHUT DOWN

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told the daily "Mittelbayerische Zeitung" that the Czech Temelin nuclear power plant must be shut down, CTK reported on 22 July. "We want the reactor to be put off the electricity network," he said, adding that the German government wanted to "clearly enunciate" its stand on the plant. He did, however, add that the Czech Republic's negotiations on accession to the EU will not be linked to the issue, nor to the postwar Benes decrees enabling the deportation of Germans from the former Czechoslovakia. In related news, Austrian Environment Ministry spokesman Daniel Kapp -- following a meeting between the German and Austrian environment ministers, Juergen Trittin and Wilhelm Molterer - - issued a statement calling on the Czechs "to adopt a clear and serious attitude to the questions" their countries have about Temelin. DW

OSCE CONCERNED ABOUT ROM'S VIOLENT DEATH IN SLOVAKIA

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights on 20 July expressed concern about the recent police violence in Slovakia that led to the death of a Rom, AP reported. Karol Sendrei, a 51-year-old Rom, died from multiple wounds on 6 July at a police station (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001). Sendrei and his two sons had been taken to the station on 5 July, where they were allegedly tied to a radiator and beaten. Sendrei was pronounced dead the following morning while one of his sons was hospitalized. JM

POLL CONFIRMS DEADLOCK OF FIDESZ AND SOCIALISTS

The latest Gallup Poll for July has confirmed that there is still practically no difference in the level of support for the ruling FIDESZ party and the opposition Socialist Party, which both garnered 26 percent support, "Magyar Nemzet" reported on 21 July. The two parties have registered equal support since March. The poll also showed that if elections were held this month, the Free Democrats would be the only other party to win enough support to enter parliament. The poll gives the Free Democrats 4 percent support, ahead of the Hungarian Democratic Forum and the Hungarian Justice and Life Party, each with 2 percent, and the Independent Smallholders' Party and the far-left Workers' Party, both with 1 percent. DW

SOCIALIST CANDIDATE DROPPED DUE TO PORNO VIDEO

A candidate on the Socialist Party's list for next year's parliamentary elections, Tomasz Szecsko, was forced to step down after it was revealed that he and his pregnant wife were involved in the production of a pornographic video, Hungarian media reported on 21 July. While Szecsko said he now regrets making the video, he does not think that he acted immorally and regrets that his political suitability has been judged on the basis of his private life. DW




MACEDONIAN CEASE-FIRE BROKEN

Heavy fighting between ethnic Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK) and Macedonian government security forces broke out in the villages of Sipkovica, Gajre, and Selce near Tetovo at about 11:00 a.m. local time on 22 July, the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" reported on 23 July. The exchange of machine-gun fire lasted until 12:30 p.m. It was the most serious breach yet of a 17- day-old cease-fire, which has otherwise largely held (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). Two Macedonian soldiers were reportedly injured slightly during the clashes. Unnamed "Western sources" told Reuters on 22 July that the Macedonian military responded "disproportionally" to a "couple of rounds of incoming fire." Two Russian-built Sukhoi 25 aircraft flew over UCK positions. "Dnevnik" added that there were a number of clashes between Macedonian security forces and insurgents during the night of 21 to 22 July. On 23 July, Macedonian Defense Ministry officials reported renewed fighting. A UCK commander told dpa, however, that the Macedonian authorities are simply seeking to increase tension. UB/PM

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS RUSSIAN HELP, PLANS TO MEET BUSH

In Genoa on 22 July, the G8 leaders called for unspecified changes in Macedonia "that ensure the participation of all citizens in the political life of the country and the highest respect for the identity and rights of all communities," Reuters reported. Also in Genoa, Sergei Prikhodko, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski has asked Putin for unspecified "help" in ending the conflict, AP reported. Elsewhere, the Serbian news agency Beta reported that Trajkovski will meet U.S. President George W. Bush in conjunction with the American leader's trip to Camp Bondsteel in Kosova on 24 July. The two men will meet at an undisclosed location that is neither in Kosova nor in Macedonia. PM

HUNGER-STRIKING KOSOVA SERBS HOSPITALIZED

Five of the 58 Kosova Serbs who have been on a hunger strike for a week were hospitalized on 22 July, AP reported from Gracanica. The five received medication but refused food and water. The hunger- strikers are demanding that the UN and NATO help find their loved ones who have been missing since the 1999 Kosova conflict. Some 1,300 Serbs were reported missing at that time. PM

KOSOVA SERBS TO TAKE PART IN ELECTIONS

Leaders of the Kosova branches of two Serbian parties, the Christian Democratic Party of Serbia (DHS) and the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), said that their parties will take part in the 17 November elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Gracanica on 22 July. Rada Trajkovic, who is also the nationwide vice president of the DHS, said that her party is "fulfilling an obligation that the international community asked it to." Vladan Batic, who heads the DHS, has said that conditions have not yet been created for the Serbs to take part in the vote. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic has expressed views similar to those of Batic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 21 July. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT DETERMINED TO GO AHEAD WITH REFERENDUM...

Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 22 July that the government is determined to go ahead with plans for a referendum on independence, "Pobjeda" reported. He added that the conditions for the vote remain open to negotiations, as does the date. Djukanovic said that the referendum could take place at any time through June 2002. PM

...AMID 'CONCERNS' FROM SERBIA

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said in Belgrade on 22 July that one cannot speak of Montenegro separating from Serbia in the same way as Bosnia and Croatia did. He added that in the case of Montenegro and Serbia, "this is a matter of one and the same people," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Elsewhere, the pro-Belgrade Podgorica daily "Dan" reported that the Yugoslav supreme military command wants Serbia and Montenegro to remain together to preserve the military and strategic balance in the Balkans. The paper did not name a source for these remarks, but "Vijesti" reported that General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who heads the General Staff, visited the Montenegrin coast over the weekend. The reported remarks are similar to ones often made by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, who is widely believed to be politically close to the army leadership. PM

MONTENEGRO TO CUT POLICE FORCE

Interior Minister Andrija Jovicevic told "Vijesti" of 23 July that the government will soon reduce the size of the paramilitary police force "in keeping with EU standards," dpa reported. He said that a large police force is no longer necessary in view of the ouster of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000. As long as he was in power, there remained a danger that Belgrade would use force against the government in Podgorica. Jovicevic added that the Montenegrin government will set up a special unit to fight organized crime. PM

BOSNIAN SERB PRESIDENT: NO WAR CRIMINALS HERE

Republika Srpska President Mirko Sarovic said that his government will cooperate with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal but denied that there are any indicted war criminals on Bosnian Serb territory, AP reported from Sarajevo on 21 July. PM

REMAINS OF ALBANIAN COMMUNIST LEADER FOUND

Nearly 20 years after his reported "suicide," the remains of former Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu were found on 21 July near the Erzen River in the village of Ndroq between Tirana and the Adriatic, AP reported. He is widely believed to have been killed on the orders of his former colleague, Enver Hoxha, or forced into taking his own life under pressure. Shehu's wife, Fiqirete, died in a communist labor camp in 1988, and his eldest son committed suicide. Shehu's two surviving sons had looked for their father's grave since the fall of communism in 1991. They plan to rebury him in a Tirana cemetery next to his wife. Mehmet Shehu was long regarded as Hoxha's right- hand man. The circumstances of his death in December 1981 remain a mystery. PM

ALBANIA'S ANSWER TO FLORIDA

In the most drawn-out elections in Albanian history, voters cast their ballots in a repeat vote in eight districts on 22 July, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 July 2001).Voters will cast their ballots once again in an additional two districts on 29 July. The first round of voting took place on 24 June, and the runoff was held on 8 July. The Socialists won a majority, albeit not as large a majority as in 1997. The opposition claimed fraud in a number of cases, but the Central Election Commission and Constitutional Court dismissed most of the complaints. PM

ROMANIAN, HUNGARIAN PREMIERS TO MEET ON 28 JULY

Romanian government spokesman Claudiu Lucaci announced on 20 July that Premier Adrian Nastase will meet his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban on 28 July near the Transylvanian city of Targu Mures, Romanian media reported. The two are to discuss Romanian opposition to the Hungarian Status Law recently adopted by parliament. Nastase on 20 July said that during Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi's 13 July visit in Bucharest, the parties "agreed that they disagree" on the issue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). ZsM

CHINESE PRESIDENT VISITS MOLDOVA

Chinese President Jiang Zemin on 20 July made a one-day visit to Chisinau, Flux reported. Jiang and his Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin signed a common declaration aimed at boosting bilateral relations in the name of "regional and world peace and progress." The Chinese leader expressed his country's respect for the "independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Moldova, and its "support" for efforts to solve the Transdniester conflict. ZsM

BULGARIA'S SIMEON SIGNS COALITION AGREEMENT WITH ETHNIC TURKS...

Former Bulgarian king and Premier-designate Simeon Saxecoburggotski signed a coalition agreement with Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) leader Ahmed Dogan on 20 July, Reuters reported. The agreement marks the first time that the ethnic Turkish party has been represented in the country's government. Simeon called the deal "a very important agreement." Saxecoburggotski and Dogan pledged to combat crime and corruption, maintain a stable and more prosperous economy, and continue Sofia's efforts to enter the EU and NATO. The government will have 141 seats in the 240-member parliament, the largest majority for a government since 1990. Ethnic Turks make up some 10 percent of the country's 8 million people. PB

...UNVEILS HIS CABINET

Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov signed a decree on 22 July directing the National Assembly to vote on the candidacy of Premier-designate Saxecoburggotski and his proposed government, BTA reported. The vote is expected to be taken on 24 July. Most significant among the appointments is 31-year-old Nikolai Vassilev, who was named deputy premier and economy minister. Vassilev, who is Western-educated and known as an expert in analyzing emerging markets, said: "With a flying start, we will continue privatization, reform the financial sector, and attract huge foreign investment." Milen Velchev, 35, was named finance minister. He is considered an expert in restructuring external debt and previously worked for Merrill Lynch in London. Solomon Passi was designated foreign minister. He is chairman of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, an NGO lobbying for Sofia's entry into NATO. The other deputy premiers are Kostadin Paskalev, the Socialist (BSP) mayor of Blagoevgrad who is also minister of regional development and public works; and Lidia Shuleva, the minister of labor and social policy. Ethnic Turkish nominees -- the first since the end of communist rule -- are Mehmed Dikme as agriculture minister and Nedjet Mollov of the Emergencies Ministry. PB

BULGARIA'S SOCIALISTS TO ABSTAIN FROM VOTE ON PREMIER

Georgi Purvanov, the head of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and leader of the leftist Coalition for Bulgaria, said on 22 July that his parliamentary group will abstain from the vote on the new cabinet set for 24 July, BTA reported. Purvanov's statement was made after the announcement by Premier- designate Saxecoburggotski that his cabinet will include two members of the BSP, Blagoevgrad Mayor Paskalev and Dimitar Kalchev, who was designated minister of state administration. Purvanov said the two will remain "loyal to the political force that named them candidates and supported them in the local elections." He said their inclusion by Saxecoburggotski in the cabinet is indicative of their own qualities as well as "the governance potential of the Left." PB

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT THANKS KOSTOV

President Stoyanov met with outgoing Premier Ivan Kostov on 23 July and thanked him for the work of his government over the last four years, BTA reported. Stoyanov said the government under the United Democratic Forces allowed Bulgaria to "regain its image and prestige as a partner" in the democratic world. He said he told Kostov that, "thanks to your successes, it will be much easier for the new government to do its job." Kostov declined to make a statement or to address the media after the meeting. PB




There is no end note today.





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