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Newsline - July 25, 2001




PUTIN APPROVES TRANS-SIBERIAN EXTENSION TO SAKHALIN

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Railways Minister Nikolai Aleksenenko on 24 July that he favors the extension of the Trans-Siberian railroad to Sakhalin via a tunnel under the Tatar Straits, RIA-Novosti reported. Aleksenenko for his part told journalists after the meeting that he is also prepared to move forward with the Trans-Korean project, which envisages linking the railroads of the two Koreas with the Trans-Siberian. VY

PUTIN SAID TO BACK PLAN TO ATTRACT ETHNIC RUSSIAN IMMIGRANTS

Aleksandr Blokhin, the minister for federation affairs, nationality, and migration, said on 24 July that Putin has given formal approval to the ministry's plan to attract ethnic Russians from neighboring countries back to Russia to help solve the country's demographic crisis, Interfax reported. Blokhin said that at present only about 4 million ethnic Russians in the former Soviet republics have expressed interest in emigrating to Russia but that perhaps as many as 20 million could be encouraged to do so in the future. VY

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS NO STATE IS UNIVERSAL MODEL FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

In an interview published in "Moskovskie novosti" on 24 July, Igor Ivanov said that Russia today "does not have imperial or great power ambitions" which would lead it to challenge the international system. He added that all countries have human rights problems and that no country is so perfect in that regard that it can hold itself up as a model for others. He sharply criticized the idea of "pariah" states and "humanitarian intervention," which he termed survivals of the Cold War. PG

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA HAS ITS OWN LIST OF ROGUE STATES...

In contrast to Foreign Minister Ivanov's latter statement, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on 24 July that Moscow maintains its own list of "rogue states and that the United States knows about it," Interfax reported. Like the U.S., Ivanov said, Russia's list focuses on those which seek to develop mass destruction or sponsor terrorism, but in contrast to the U.S., Russia faces a more immediate threat from these countries because they are located far closer to Russia's borders. Ivanov also said that "we must leave" Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay naval facility, the news agency reported. VY

...HINTS THAT MOSCOW COULD ACCEPT SOME ABM CHANGES IF THEY DON'T HARM RUSSIAN SECURITY...

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on 24 July that "if experts come to the conclusion that some changes in the [1972 ABM] treaty won't harm the national security of Russia, then I will report that to the president. If not, the treaty will remain unchanged," Interfax reported. In reproducing Ivanov's remarks, Western agencies suggested that his words appear to represent a softening of Moscow's opposition to U.S. plans to build a national missile defense. PG

...DENIES PLANS TO MERGE GRU AND SVR

Ivanov said on 24 July that there is no truth to rumors that the government is about to merge the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and Russian Military Intelligence (GRU), Interfax reported. Ivanov noted that military intelligence performs "specific tasks" for the Defense Ministry. PG

JUSTICE MINISTRY DISCOUNTS NEED FOR LAW ON PARDONS

Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said on 23 July that there is no need for the law on pardons for which some Duma deputies have lobbied because there is a constitutional provision that gives power over pardons directly to the president, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. Chaika suggested that the government would oppose any such bill if it were offered. PG

ENERGY MINISTER PLEDGES TO INCREASE STATE ROLE IN SECTOR

Energy Minister Igor Yusupov on 24 July called for increasing the influence of the government in the heating and energy sector of the Russian economy, Interfax-AFI reported. He said this is necessary not only to promote economic goals but also to defend the country's national security. He added that he sees his task as promoting the discovery and exploitation of additional coal, gas and oil fields. PG

INTERIOR MINISTRY SAYS IT NEEDS MORE RESOURCES TO FIGHT CRIME

In an interview published in the weekly "Moskovskie novosti" on 24 July, First Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasiliev said that it is wrong to think that the police can register and solve all crimes. He said that society must understand that the police are capable of registering and solving only as many crimes as the authorities have resources, and at present, the police lack many of the facilities they need to achieve the goal of fighting crime effectively. Meanwhile, Vladimir Gordienko, the head of the main criminal investigation administration of the ministry, said the same day that the police are having a difficult time because of resignations and the lack of necessary equipment, Interfax reported. In 2000, he said, 8,500 officers left the criminal investigation service, and 3,000 more have left already this year. Moreover, he said, only 2 percent of the subdivisions of the service have computers and only 20 percent have cars. PG

NEMTSOV PROPOSES HOURLY MINIMUM WAGE

Boris Nemtsov, the leader of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), has proposed setting a minimum hourly wage in place of the minimum monthly wage now set by the government, "Rossiya" reported on 24 July. He said that the minimum hourly wage should be set at six rubles ($0.20). PG

SPS TO OPEN LONDON OFFICE

Nemtsov announced on 24 July that his party will open a headquarters in London at the end of September, ITAR-TASS reported. Nemtsov said that "there are many people [in England] who vote for us [and] besides we need to maintain interparty contacts. PG

DEPUTIES DRAFT BILL THAT COULD CHALLENGE LEGALITY OF RUSSIAN TROOPS IN CHECHNYA

Fourteen members of the Duma, led by Defense Committee Deputy Chairman Valentin Chaika have decided to introduce a bill in the fall session that could call into question the use of the army in Chechnya, "Moskovskie novosti," No. 28, reported. Chaika told the paper that the measure, called "On Securing the Territorial Integrity of the Russian Federation," specifies that "the army cannot be used for the resolution of conflicts within the borders of the Russian Federation." He said that the measure is based on a 1995 decision by the Russian Constitutional Court which said that the parliament has the right to determine whether the government may use troops within the borders of the country. VY

NEWLY ARRIVED U.S. AMBASSADOR SEEKS RUSSIA'S INTEGRATION INTO EUROPE

Alexander Vershbow, the new American ambassador to Russia, said on his arrival in Moscow on 24 July that he is excited about the prospects of "assisting Russia in her historic transition to a full-fledged democracy and member of the European community," AP reported. Vershbow added that he hopes that his previous assignment as ambassador to NATO will "contribute to expanding Russia's partnership with the Atlantic alliance in meeting the security challenges of the 21st century." PG

KASYANOV URGES FINLAND TO SUPPORT GAS PIPELINE TO EUROPE

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov is in Finland this week to try to persuade Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen to support the construction of a gas line from Russia through Finland to Western Europe, Russian agencies reported on 24 July. The paper noted that the $3 billion project would allow Russia to export its gas bypassing both Ukraine and the Baltic countries. Kasyanov told Lipponen that if Helsinki supports the measure, Moscow will supply Finland's energy needs on a long-term basis. VY

DATE FOR NORTH KOREAN LEADER'S VISIT FINALLY SET

After a series of announcements and denials since this spring, the visit to Moscow by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has been set for 4-5 August, RIA-Novosti reported on 24 July. PG

TATARSTAN, BASHKORTOSTAN COMBINE ENERGY COMPANIES

The governments of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan have signed an agreement to merge their respective energy companies, Tatenergo and Bashkirenergo, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 July. The combination will help the companies provide electric power at lower prices and enable them to deal more effectively with Russia's Unified Energy System (EES), the paper quoted Bashkortostan's First Deputy Prime Minister Midkhat Shakirov as saying. VY

REGIONAL DIFFERENCES INSIDE RUSSIA PROMPT PAPER TO ADD NEW RUBRIC

"Novye izvestiya" announced in its issue of 24 July that it is adding a new rubric, "A Varied Country," to survey on a regular basis the increasing differential of Russia from one region to another. In the first installment of this series, the paper noted that top 10 percent of incomes amounts to 14.1 times as much as those of the bottom 10 percent countrywide, but that the ratio for these two groups in Moscow is more than three times as great. It also pointed out that the difference between the most and least expensive regions in terms of purchasing food products is 3.5 times. PG

MOSCOW CITY OFFICIAL SHOT AND KILLED

Leonid Oblonskii, the first deputy prefect of the Russian capital's outlying Zelenograd district, was shot and killed on 24 July, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Oblonskii was responsible for overseeing trade and wholesale markets, Interfax reported. The federal Interior Ministry has taken over the investigation of the case. PG

RUSSIAN BUSINESS SAID PLAYING EXPANDED FOREIGN POLICY ROLE

An article in "Izvestiya" on 24 July said that Russian businesses are playing an ever greater role in supporting and advancing Russia's foreign policy. The article noted that this is a dramatic change from the Soviet era when CSPU officials made all the decisions. Now, the paper said, business and government work together to promote Russia's national interests. PG

MORE MOVES ON MEDIA FRONT

On 24 July, Media-MOST spokesman Dmitrii Ostalskii publicly disagreed with Gazprom-Media's Alfred Kokh, who had said that embattled media mogul Vladimir Gusinsky could not possibly raise more than a third of the debt secured by Gazprom-Media by means of a deal with American media magnate Ted Turner, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Media-MOST announced that a Spanish court has refused to satisfy a Russian court's request for the seizure of Gusinsky's property. Also on 24 July, Mikhail Berger, the former editor of the now-closed "Segodnya," told Interfax that he is preparing for the launch of a new publication. PG

AEROFLOT CREATES SPECIAL BODY TO ENHANCE SECURITY

The Russian airline Aeroflot has set up a special council on flight security to ensure that its employees follow all established security measures and thus protect the airline's passengers, Interfax reported on 24 July. The same day, Aeroflot officers familiarized European air safety officials with Russian safety rules. PG

VELIKHOV SAYS 'KURSK' REACTORS NO DANGER TO ENVIRONMENT

Academician Yevgenii Velikhov, the director of Moscow's Kurchatov Institute, said on 24 July that he is confident that the atomic reactor of the "Kursk" submarine will not be damaged in the course of the submarine's recovery from the bottom of the Barents Sea and consequently represents no threat to the environment, strana.ru reported. VY

MONEY TO COMPENSATE NAZI VICTIMS SAID STOLEN

Lyudmila Narusova, the head of the Russian Fund for Understanding and Reconciliation, said on Ekho Moskvy radio on 24 July that 83 million marks ($36 million) of the 400 million marks Germany has sent to Russia since 1994 as compensation for the victims of Nazi crimes never reached their intended recipients, AP reported. She said that it is "sacrilege" to "steal from the victims of Nazis." PG

DRUG-RELATED CRIME RISING RAPIDLY

Over the last five years, the number of registered drug-related crimes has increased by 250 percent, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 July. The paper said that in 2000 alone, there were more than 243,000 drug-related crimes, including 12,000 committed by criminal groups, and that some 134,000 people were charged. The daily also said that the authorities located and destroyed 816 underground drug laboratories. The paper said that the number of drug-related crimes continues to increase: there were some 68,000 such crimes reported in the first quarter of 2001, 11.6 percent more than in the same period a year earlier, and that of the drug-related crimes reported in 2001, 37.4 percent more fell into the category of especially serious violations of the law. PG

10,000 YOUNG PEOPLE ROUNDED UP BY TRANSPORT POLICE

A special militia operation has led to the detention of more than 10,000 young people who had left home and were often involved in petty crime, Interfax reported on 24 July. Some of those detained had been listed as missing by their parents and a few were presumed dead. PG

VODKA STILL EXPLOSION INJURES THREE IN BIROBIDZHAN

Three middle-aged men were hospitalized in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast after the illegal vodka still they were operating blew up, Interfax-Eurasia reported. PG

FSB SEEKS TO REGAIN CONTROL OVER PASKO TRIAL

Faced with adverse media coverage, the Federal Security Service (FSB) directorate attached to the Pacific Fleet issued a statement on 24 July denouncing as "intolerable" all efforts to put pressure on the court hearing treason charges against former navy journalist Grigorii Pasko, Interfax reported. The FSB took this unusual step after the media reported that Admiral Aleksandr Konev, the former deputy commander of the Pacific Fleet, told the court that Pasko had been given permission to film and report and that the accused had not revealed any state secrets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001). VY

A FRUSTRATED MOISEEV DEMANDS TRIAL BY SUPREME COURT

Valentin Moiseev, a former senior Russian diplomat who has been accused of spying for South Korea, on 24 July demanded that his case be heard by the Russian Supreme Court, AP reported. Moiseev's lawyers said he did so because his trial has been shifted four times to different judges and each time the trial has had to begin again. Moiseev was convicted by a Moscow city court in December 1999, but his conviction was thrown out by the Supreme Court in June 2000. PG

RUSSIAN INTERNET USERS SAID MORE EDUCATED, RICHER, MORE MOBILE THAN EUROPEAN COUNTERPARTS

According to a survey by The Internet Monitor reported by "Kommersant-Daily" on 24 July, Russian internet users are more educated than European surfers, with 69 percent of the former having higher educations compared to only 48 percent of the latter. They also are more likely to have traveled abroad and have a higher income. The paper speculated that perhaps Russian oligarchs had taken part in the survey. The TIM survey also found that the average Russian user goes on line for 49 minutes at a time and that most began to use the Internet in the last two years. PG

MATVIENKO PLEDGES TO COMPUTERIZE RURAL SCHOOLS THIS YEAR

Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko said after a meeting with Putin on 24 July that Moscow plans to put a computer in every one of Russia's 31,480 rural schools, Interfax reported. She said that this would fulfill a directive given by the Russian president at the start of 2001. PG

STURGEON FISHING BAN MAY HAVE COME TOO LATE

Magomet Amarov, the director of the Russian Caspian Fisheries Research Institute based in Daghestan, said on 24 July that the international moratorium on sturgeon fishing in the Caspian may be too little and too late to save the species that provides the world's best caviar, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the fishing ban would have to be maintained and enforced for at least 20 years in order to prevent the danger of extinction. PG

RADICAL COMMUNISTS WANT STALIN BACK IN MAUSOLEUM

Several radical communist groups, which have united as the "Union of Communist Parties-CPSU," over the weekend held a special congress to denounce Nikita Khrushchev's denunciation of Joseph Stalin and to call for the body of the late dictator to be returned to the Red Square Mausoleum where it had lain beside Lenin between 1953 and 1961, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 July. The organization's leader, Oleg Shenin, said that Stalin's words remain relevant to Russia's experiences today, and he recalled the dictator's 1931 statement that "We are 50 to 100 years behind the developed countries and we must catch up within 10 years or they will crush us." VY

STRASBOURG COURT REJECTS SUITS BY HOLDERS OF TSARIST BONDS

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has rejected two lawsuits brought by an association of the holders of tsarist-era bonds, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. The court held that their suits were "poorly supported" and that it would be paradoxical to hold the French government responsible in any way for the Russian default. Under a 1996 agreement between Paris and Moscow, the Russian government provided France with $400 million to compensate holders of tsarist bonds. PG

PARLIAMENTARIANS VACATION IN RUSSIA, LOBBYISTS GO ABROAD

According to a survey conducted by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and reported by that paper on 24 July, Duma deputies generally are vacationing inside Russia while lobbyists who seek to influence them when the parliament is in session are generally going abroad. PG

NEW PRIMORE GOVERNOR CALLED PUPPET OF VOLOSHIN

In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 24 July, State Duma deputy (People's Deputy) and former candidate in the Primorskii Krai gubernatorial elections Viktor Cherepkov charged that presidential administration head Aleksandr "Voloshin is personally ruling Primore in the interests of oligarchic structures close to him," and is "manipulating [newly elected krai] Governor Sergei Darkin" to secure a redistribution of property there. Cherepkov also predicted that Vladivostok Mayor Yurii Kopylov will soon be dismissed. Two of Kopylov's deputy mayors were recently charged with abuse of office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001). But the real reason for the mayor's dismissal, according to Cherepkov, will not be corruption but the desire of the new governor to place his own person as head of the region's capital city. Cherepkov also charged that the Supreme Court has delayed examining his appeal that the elections be overturned because the presidential administration wants an additional lever over Darkin to ensure his complete obedience. JAC

KREMLIN MULLS PULLING OFFICES OUT OF NIZHNII NOVGOROD

The presidential administration is considering moving the capital of the Volga federal district from Nizhnii Novgorod to Samara or Saratov in the event of the victory of a Communist Party-supported candidate in Nizhnii Novgorod's gubernatorial elections on 29 July, Interfax reported on 24 July, citing unidentified sources in the Kremlin. Incumbent Governor Ivan Sklyarov is competing in that election against State Duma deputy (Communist) Gennadii Khodyrev, who won the most votes in the election's first round (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2001). Khodyrev told the agency on 24 July that he met with members of the administration the previous week and the question of moving the capital had not been raised. JAC

SUPREME COURT FAILS TO OVERTURN UDMURT ELECTION RESULT

The Supreme Court rejected on 23 July an appeal by Vladimir Zabilskii, a scientific worker in the physics-technical department of the national academy of science in Udmurtia, who was seeking to cancel the results of last year's presidential election in the Republic of Udmurtia, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 July (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 18 October 2000). Zabilskii himself competed in the elections, finishing fifth with just 0.8 percent of the vote. Zabilskii, who plans to appeal the court's judgment to the Supreme Court's presidium, charged that violations of election laws were made on behalf of current President Aleksandr Volkov during the course of the balloting. According to the daily, Zabilskii has competed in nearly every possible local election in the republic since the mid-1990s, having run not only for president, but also for mayor and State Duma deputy. JAC

SVERDLOVSK OBLAST GOVERNOR PICKS REP FOR UPPER CHAMBER

Eduard Rossel signed a decree on 24 July nominating the deputy speaker of Sverdlovsk Oblast's Legislative Assembly, Valerii Trushnikov, as his representative to the Federation Council, the website strana.ru reported. The Duma itself has not yet nominated its own representative. According to the website, Sverdlovsk was the last region in the Urals federal district to appoint its representatives to the Federation Council. JAC




ARMENIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN BRANDS PRESIDENT 'ILLEGITIMATE'

People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) Chairman Stepan Demirchian on 24 July accused Robert Kocharian of rigging the outcome of the March 1998 ballot in which Kocharian was elected president, defeating Demirchian's late father Karen, the HZhK's founder and previous leader, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Responding to Kocharian's remark earlier that day that "a political party is not property that can be bequeathed," Demirchian said that "I was unanimously elected to the party [leadership], unlike Robert Kocharian who...was just made president." Demirchian also implied that Kocharian was behind the series of recent defections from his party. He suggested that parliament deputies who quit the HZhK should surrender their mandates, saying that the HZhK's strong showing in the May 1999 parliamentary elections was "exclusively due to Karen Demirchian." LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ABANDONS OBJECTIONS TO CIVIL SERVICE LAW

The controversial law on the civil service was finally adopted in the first reading on 24 July, having failed to pass on two previous occasions, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 25, 9 July 2001). Of the 131 parliament deputies, 82 endorsed the bill. Deputies had earlier objected to the provision that empowers President Kocharian to nominate all members of a council that is to oversee key civil service appointments. The bill has since been amended to require that council to report every year to the legislature. LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY AGAIN DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN CREATION OF CONCILIATION COMMISSION

Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told Armenian historians in Yerevan on 24 July that the Armenian government did not play a role in the creation, announced earlier this month, of an Armenian-Turkish conciliation commission, although it was informed of the negotiations that preceded it, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 27, 24 July 2001). Oskanian's predecessor Alexander Arzoumanian, who is a member of the 10-man commission, has claimed that it was the Armenian government that invited him to join the commission. Oskanian also sought to quell fears that the commission's activities could lead foreign parliaments, including the U.S. Congress, to refrain from adopting statements condemning the genocide of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915. LF

BP SUSPENDS SURVEY AT DISPUTED AZERBAIJANI CASPIAN DEPOSIT...

BP on 24 July announced that it has suspended further survey activities at the Araz-Alov-Sharg hydrocarbon deposit southeast of Baku following the threats made to two of its survey vessels the previous day by an Iranian naval vessel and aircraft, Russian agencies and the "Financial Times" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline" and "RFE/RL Azerbaijan Report," 24 July 2001). A BP official said the two survey vessels will remain in Baku port for the foreseeable future. He added that BP expects the Azerbaijani and Iranian governments to resolve their dispute over the dividing line between their respective sectors of the Caspian. LF

...AS IRAN BLAMES AZERBAIJAN FOR INCIDENT...

Also on 24 July, Iran's ambassador to Baku, Ahad Gazai, told journalists that the Azerbaijani leadership is to blame for the previous day's incident, Turan reported. Gazai said Tehran has repeatedly warned Baku not to conduct exploratory work at offshore oil fields whose ownership is disputed. He said he cannot predict how the Iranian government will respond to the diplomatic protest note he received from Prime Minister Artur Rasizade. No explanation has been offered as to why it was Rasizade who summoned Gazai to hand over that note, rather than Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev as would have been normal diplomatic procedure. Nor has President Heidar Aliyev yet publicly commented on the incident. Azerbaijan's Deputy Foreign Minister Halaf Halafov on 24 July condemned the Iranian moves as violating law and order and creating a dangerous precedent, according to ITAR-TASS. Reuters quoted a senior Iranian diplomat as saying that other Caspian states face similar "consequences" if they begin exploration of deposits that lie within what he termed "our 20 percent of the Caspian." LF

...WHICH FORMER ADVISER SAYS PROVES NEED FOR NATO PRESENCE

Commenting on 24 July on the Caspian incident, Vafa Guluzade, a former foreign policy adviser to President Aliev, suggested that Iran resorted to military action because it was aware that Azerbaijan was unable to retaliate and has no ally in the region, Turan reported. Guluzade argued that the incident demonstrates the need for a NATO base in Azerbaijan. Prior to his resignation in October 1999, Guluzade had repeatedly called for a permanent NATO or U.S. military presence in Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 22 March 1999). LF

GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIAL DETAINED SMUGGLING URANIUM

Police in Georgia's Adjar Autonomous Republic on 18 July detained Shota Geladze, the head of the Georgian Defense Ministry Logistics Department, and at least one other person in the region's capital, Batumi, on suspicion of planning to export to Turkey 1.7 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported on 24 July. It was the third time within two years that Georgian police have intercepted such a consignment of smuggled uranium (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 1999 and 18 September 2000). LF

KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYZSTAN SIGN AGREEMENT ON ECONOMIC COOPERATION...

Visiting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev held talks in Bishkek on 23-24 July with his Kyrgyz counterpart Askar Akaev, during which the two presidents signed a communique on delimitation of their shared 1,000-kilometer border and an agreement on economic cooperation for the period 2001-2005, which is the first of its kind between the two countries, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Akaev said he and Nazarbaev could sign a formal agreement on delimitating the border this fall if the Kyrgyz parliament approves that agreement. He also said trade turnover between the two countries should be increased; bilateral trade fell last year to $90 million from $160 million in 1998. LF

...BUT FAIL TO AGREE OVER WATER RESOURCES

During his talks with Akaev and speaking at a subsequent press conference, Nazarbaev rejected as "unacceptable" and a violation of international norms the Kyrgyz parliament's proposal that Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan should pay for water resources from Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He warned that insistence on that issue could negatively affect Kyrgyzstan's relations with both countries. Nazarbaev said that Kazakhstan will offer Bishkek military assistance in the event of an incursion this summer by Islamist militants from Tajikistan. LF

ISLAMISTS LAUNCH NEW ATTACK ON KYRGYZSTAN

A single group of Islamic militants attacked a Kyrgyz border post with Tajikistan in south Kyrgyzstan's Batken Oblast late on 24 July, wounding two Kyrgyz servicemen, AP and Reuters reported on 25 July, quoting a Kyrgyz Defense Ministry spokesman. The attack came hours after President Akaev left for a brief vacation at Lake Issyk-Kul in northeastern Kyrgyzstan, and after Interior Minister Tashtemir Aitbaev said there will be no new invasion this year. The previous day, a Kyrgyz Defense Ministry official had similarly denied Russian media predictions that a new invasion similar to those of 1999 and 2000 was imminent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001). LF

TURKMEN BAPTIST SENT BACK TO PRISON

Shageldy Atakov was sent back in late May to the prison in Turkmenbashi from which he was taken to Ashgabat earlier that month in an attempt by the Turkmen authorities to persuade him and his family to agree to emigrate, Keston News Service reported on 23 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2001). Atakov was informed in May that if he refused to emigrate he would be constrained to serve the entire four-year prison term to which he was sentenced in 1998 on fabricated charges of swindling (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 28 February and 22 March 2001). LF




ONLY THREE CONTENDERS TO VIE IN BELARUS'S PRESIDENTIAL RACE?

Central Election Commission Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna told journalists on 24 July that the final count of the signatures supplied by aspirants seeking to register as presidential candidates is unlikely to change her earlier announcement that only four hopefuls -- incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Uladzimir Hancharyk, Syamyon Domash, and Syarhey Haydukevich -- collected the 100,000 signatures required for registration, Belapan reported. Meanwhile, Mikhail Chyhir, Pavel Kazlouski, Syarhey Kalyakin, Leanid Sinitsyn, and Zyanon Paznyak have protested Yarmoshyna's assertion, claiming that they also supplied no less than 100,000 voters' signatures in their support. Initially, 25 persons made a bid for Belarus's presidency. Last week, Domash agreed to withdraw from the presidential race and throw his support behind Hancharyk as a broad democratic coalition candidate (see "RFE/RL's Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 24 July 2001). JM

BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER'S OFFICE ROBBED TWICE IN A WEEK

Unknown persons on 24 July burglarized the editorial office of the Minsk-based independent newspaper "Den" and removed four computers, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The robbery occurred following the newspaper's preparation of a special 250,000-copy special issue on the disappearances of people in Belarus. Last week, the "Den" office was robbed after the newspaper published documents implicating high law-enforcement officials in the assassination of opposition figures Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar as well as ORT cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski. "Den" Editor in Chief Alyaksandr Tamkovich noted a similarity between the two robberies, saying that the thieves managed to get into the office without breaking doors or windows, and mainly targeted equipment critical for the newspaper publication. The "Den" editorial office is located on the premises of the well-guarded state-owned motion-picture company Belarusfilm. JM

RUSSIA DENIES VISA TO RFE/RL'S BELARUSIAN SERVICE BROADCASTER

The Russian Foreign Ministry has denied an entry visa, without giving any explanation, to Syarhey Navumchyk, a Prague-based journalist with RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, Belapan reported on 24 July. Navumchyk intended to go to Moscow to interview Russian politicians, political analysts, and public figures on Belarusian-Russian relations in the context of Belarus's presidential elections. "A Belarusian citizen has been denied entry to Russia for the first time [in history]," Navumchyk commented. Navumchyk, a prominent activist of the Belarusian Popular Front in the past, fled Belarus in 1996 for fear of being arrested and was given political asylum in the U.S. Navumchyk travels with a U.S.-issued refugee travel document, which is accepted by other countries. JM

U.S. URGES POLITICAL REFORM, MEDIA FREEDOM IN UKRAINE

On 25 July in Kyiv, U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice delivered a strongly worded warning to Ukraine, saying its integration into Europe depends on political reforms, transparent probes into the recent killings of journalists, and fair elections, AP reported. "A very strong message is sent about political reform, about free press...judiciary reform and transparency in the [murder] cases that are of worldwide attention here. We hope to have good relations with Ukraine...but it can only be on the basis of forward movement on these very important issues," the agency quoted Rice as saying. Rice met with President Leonid Kuchma, Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh, and other officials. "Our Congress does have an important role to play in American foreign policy, but I think that you can be certain that the U.S. administration understands the importance of funding to civil society in Ukraine," Rice said, referring to the debate in U.S. Congress on a possible cut in aid to Kyiv. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT FIRES JUDGE WHO HAD ALLEGED POLITICAL PERSECUTION

Kuchma on 24 July dismissed Judge Mykola Zamkovenko, who gained attention this year by ordering the release of opposition leader and former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, AP reported. Following Tymoshenko's release, the Prosecutor-General's Office launched a criminal case against Zamkovenko for alleged abuse of authority. Law-enforcement agents raided Zamkovenko's home and office in May and confiscated computer software and files. A regional court in Kiev, acting on Zamkovenko's appeal, ruled last month that the search was illegal. Zamkovenko has described the scandal around him as political and an attempt to intimidate other independent-minded judges. Kuchma's office said Zamkovenko was fired for "violating a judge's oath." JM

UKRAINE GATHERS HALF OF PLANNED GRAIN CROP

The government's press service has told Interfax that as of 24 July, Ukrainian farms harvested 17 million tons of grain. The average grain yield is 3 tons per hectare. This year the government plans to harvest 35 million tons of grain, as compared to last year's harvest of 24.5 millions tons in which with the average grain yield was equal to 1.92 tons per hectare. JM

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER SUPPORTS ESTONIA'S NATO BID

In a one day visit to Tallinn on 24 July, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski stressed Poland's support for the admission of the three Baltic states to NATO, BNS reported. He reminded Defense Minister Juri Luik that Russia had actively opposed Poland's NATO membership, but subsequently relations between the two states "have been the best since the East bloc's collapse 10 years ago." At a dinner hosted by President Lennart Meri, Bartoszewski discussed Estonian-Polish relations, economic and cultural contacts, history, relations with neighboring countries, and the current international situation. Bartoszewski told parliament Deputy Chairman Tunne Kelam that it is important that Estonia raise its defense expenditures to 2 percent of GDP even though the measure would be difficult for the state and not very popular. The Polish minister said that NATO membership for the Baltic states is a foreign policy priority for Poland and that he named Poland's neighboring countries first when asked by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell which countries deserved NATO membership. SG

LATVIA'S FREEDOM MONUMENT UNVEILED AFTER RENOVATION

President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Prime Minister Andris Berzins, and parliament Chairman Janis Straume attended the unveiling ceremonies of the Freedom Monument in Riga on 24 July, LETA reported. The monument by the sculptor Karlis Zale, originally constructed in 1935, had been under renovation since November 1998, financed by 540,000 lats ($850,000) donated by the people. The chairman of the Freedom Monument Restoration Fund, Raimonds Bulte, gave the president a silver reproduction of the monument, thereby symbolizing its return to the people. Vike-Freiberga said that the monument, adorned with the inscription "For the Fatherland and Freedom," had been devoted to the memory of those who fought for Latvia's independence and is still recognized today as a national symbol. SG.

LITHUANIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS BRUSSELS

In his first foreign visit since assuming office, Algirdas Brazauskas flew to Brussels on 24 July for talks with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson and EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, BNS reported. The premier assured Robertson that the change in the Lithuanian government will have no effect on foreign policy and that NATO membership remains a priority for the country. Robertson noted that Lithuania has made great progress in preparing for NATO membership and stands a good chance of being invited for membership next year if reforms continue. The two-hour meeting with Verheugen focused on Lithuania's desire to be among the first candidates to be admitted to the EU. Among the major obstacles for this are the nuclear power plant at Ignalina and the visa-free agreement with the Kaliningrad region. The EU is primarily concerned about pushing up the date for closing the Ignalina plant, while Lithuania needs to obtain more funds to finance the shutdown and resolve the greater unemployment that is likely to result. SG

POLISH GOVERNMENT DISBANDS COMMUNICATIONS MINISTRY

The government on 24 July decided to liquidate the Communications Ministry and subordinate its staff to the Economy Ministry, PAP reported. Last week, Premier Jerzy Buzek sacked Communications Minister Tomasz Szyszko for "inadequate supervision," after the Supreme Audit Chamber published a report suggesting the existence of a "corruption mechanism" within the ministry. JM

POLAND'S PRO-GOVERNMENT GROUP APPLIES TO REGISTER ELECTION COMMITTEE

The Solidarity Electoral Action of the Right (AWSP) has requested that the State Election Commission register an AWSP election committee for the 23 September parliamentary elections, PAP reported. The AWSP election committee is formed by three parties of the ruling coalition: the Solidarity Electoral Action Social Movement, the Christian National Union, and the Polish Party of Christian Democrats. As a coalition of parties, the AWSP needs to obtain no less than 8 percent of the vote in order to win parliamentary representation. Last week, the Movement for the Reconstruction of Poland (ROP), which is led by Jan Olszewski, left the AWSP. ROP's move has spawned rumors that the AWSP might break up altogether. JM

CZECH COURTS LAX ON RACIST CRIME?

The Czech government's commissioner for human rights, Josef Jarab, told the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 25 July that the Czech legal system deals "benevolently" with attacks committed by right-wing extremists, CTK reported. "From police investigators, who do not want to investigate such cases as racial crimes, to state attorneys and judges, who pass the lowest possible sentences," he said. Jarab pointed to the recent case in Svitavy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001), in which the alleged attacker had already been convicted for a similar offense. But after serving a relatively light sentence, he was later placed only on probation for yet another offense, even though he was a repeat offender. He said such light sentences can only be explained by "certain -- conscious or unconscious -- sympathies with the offender," and that prejudice against Roma might be the only explanation. DW

SPAIN TO PUSH FOR FREE LABOR MOVEMENT FOR CZECHS

Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique, speaking in Prague on 24 July, said that Spain will push for an agreement with 12 other EU member states -- all but Germany and Austria -- to allow the free movement of labor from the Czech Republic after it joins the EU, Reuters reported. He added that if this is not possible, Spain would negotiate a bilateral treaty with the Czech Republic. Czech EU negotiator Pavel Telicka said: "We think the others [EU members] are waiting for a favorable signal such as a larger country agreeing to lift the restrictions. We are turning our hopes to Spain and Italy." DW

CZECH POLICE INVESTIGATE FAR-RIGHT NEWSPAPER

Police in the town of Nachod, east Bohemia, are investigating the far-right newspaper "Nachodsky necas" following accusations that it published articles denying the occurrence of the Holocaust, CTK reported on 24 July. This follows allegations by Culture Minister Pavel Dostal in the daily "Pravo" on 23 July that the paper broke the law by printing racist articles. The paper's editor, Jan Kopal, is the deputy chairman of the far-right National Social Bloc, which has been denied registration as a political party by the Interior Ministry. The party claims some 3,000 members. DW

EMBASSY: NO ASYLUM HERE

Responding to a statement by Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Palous (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2001), British Embassy spokesman Zbynek Havranek told CTK on 24 July that Czech citizens may not apply for asylum at the Embassy in Prague. Also, Mikulas Horvath of the Romany Civic Initiative said that his group will file a lawsuit against the Czech government over the checks by British immigration officials of London-bound passengers at Prague's airport. DW

SLOVAK PREMIER URGES ETHNIC HUNGARIAN PARTY TO STAY IN GOVERNMENT

Miklos Dzurinda on 24 July appealed to the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) not to leave the ruling coalition, TASR reported. Dzurinda added that the SMK's withdrawal would "seriously jeopardize Slovakia's [EU and NATO] integration ambitions" and destabilize the political situation. An extraordinary congress of the SMK in August is expected to opt for the party's departure from Dzurinda's government. The SMK announced its plans to quit the government earlier this month after two other ruling coalition parties voted with the opposition for a law establishing eight new administrative regions instead of a government-proposed bill for 12 regions. JM

HUNGARY CONSIDERS CITIZENSHIP FOR HUNGARIAN EMIGRES

Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi on 24 July called for Hungarian citizenship to be granted to ethnic Hungarians who fled from neighboring states to the West during the communist era, Reuters reported. "It's been a question for a long time what happens to those people who belong to the Hungarian nation but were never Hungarian citizens and then emigrated to third countries," he said. The proposed citizenship amendment would apply to ethnic Hungarians living in North America, Western Europe, and CIS countries. Hungarians who fled Hungary during communism still have Hungarian citizenship. DW




MACEDONIAN CAPITAL CALM AFTER ANTI-WESTERN RIOTS

Dpa reported that Skopje was quiet in the morning of 25 July following a night of rioting by what AP called "mobs" of several hundred Macedonians, who claimed to have been recently forced from their homes around Tetovo by insurgents of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK). The crowds attacked the U.S., U.K., and German embassies, along with OSCE offices and the premises of McDonald's and British Airways. Some of the demonstrators blamed the Macedonian security forces for not protecting their homes and property, the BBC reported. PM

MACEDONIAN AUTHORITIES SLAM WEST...

Macedonian government spokesman Antonio Milosovski told Reuters in Skopje on 24 July that "NATO is not our enemy, but it is a great friend of our enemies who are attacking the future of our country." He charged that EU envoy Francois Leotard and his U.S. counterpart James Pardew blamed the Macedonian side for breaking the cease-fire (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2001). Milosovski added: "that is a big lie, the biggest we have heard. It removes all doubt that they are not objective." In recent days, several top Macedonian Defense Ministry officials have charged that KFOR has helped supply the UCK by helicopter. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson called the charges "entirely and totally false," the "Financial Times" reported on 25 July. PM

...CLOSE ROADS TO KOSOVA...

On 24 July, the Macedonian authorities closed the roads leading into Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. They did not give any explanation or make any exception for KFOR or other international personnel, as they had in previous border closures. The BBC suggested that the border closing was a rebuff directed against President George W. Bush, who visited U.S. troops in Kosova that day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001, and item below). PM

...THREATEN TO IGNORE MEDIATORS...

Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski and Interior Minister Ljuben Boskovski said in a joint statement in Skopje on 25 July that "unless the rebels pull out to their previous positions by 12:00 noon, we will no longer listen to suggestions from any Western mediator, and an offensive is not excluded as an option," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001). Reuters reported that, as of 11:00, NATO envoys had not secured an agreement with the UCK. An unnamed Western diplomat in Skopje told "The Washington Post" that "there is an atmosphere of paranoia and nationalistic hysteria in some circles of the [Macedonian] leadership. Negotiating a settlement in this type of extreme and intense political and security environment is not feasible. The environment is too hostile... The government spokesman is screaming about NATO and OSCE aiding their enemies. It's very ominous." PM

...AND ISSUE ULTIMATUM

Milosovski told Reuters on 25 July that "the government urgently appeals to representatives of NATO, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to give a short, clear answer to the only important question: Who is guilty of breaking the cease-fire? If they do not respond, then it will be clear that they are protecting those who attacked democratic Macedonia." PM

SOLANA, FISCHER SAY MACEDONIAN AUTHORITIES MISTAKEN

Javier Solana, who is the EU's security policy chief, told the BBC in a telephone interview on 25 July that the Macedonian authorities are wrong in claiming that the international community is partisan. He noted that the EU and NATO are trying to help find a solution and are not a part of the dispute. In Berlin, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said that the Macedonian charges "have no grounding," AP reported. He noted that such accusations "contribute to the creation of a violent domestic climate that made possible the attacks." Fischer added that "the displacement of Macedonians from their homes through the most recent attacks by the [UCK] is absolutely unacceptable." He also criticized the rioting in Skopje and called on the government to protect foreigners. PM

RUSSIA BLASTS ALBANIAN INSURGENTS...

Continuing Moscow's policy of giving unqualified support to Belgrade and Skopje in their dealings with the ethnic Albanians of the region, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in statement on 24 July that "the rebels of the National Liberation Army are using only one language, the language of force, weapons, and terror. Terrorist actions by the armed extremists are causing a deep rift between the Macedonian population and the ethnic Albanian minority. The world community must understand that real terrorists, not 'insurgents struggling for human rights and the rights of the ethnic minority,' are operating in Macedonia. No task is more important now than...stopping military operations and forcing the rebels to surrender... The situation cannot be allowed to escalate into a civil war, which would have extremely destructive regional consequences," Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 March 2001). PM

...BACKS MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT

The Russian Foreign Ministry statement of 24 July added that "actions by the Macedonian authorities to preserve the territorial integrity of the state and protect the security of its citizens, and [the authorities'] firm intention to achieve a political solution to the problem deserve all forms of support from the international community," Interfax reported. PM

OSCE CONDEMNS VIOLENCE AGAINST CIVILIANS

The head of the OSCE mission to Skopje, Ambassador Carlo Ungaro, expressed his concern about the rising pressure on civilians in the Tetovo area in an interview with the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" on 25 July. "I don't think that there have been cases of ethnic cleansing as seen in other parts of former Yugoslavia...but it is sure that the [incidence of] threats and violence against civilians has risen. We prepared a detailed report on that. We believe on the basis of that report that the international community can do something to stop or minimize this tendency, which [emerged] only during the last two weeks, whereas before there weren't any cases [of measures against civilians]. We noticed a lot of these alarming and intimidating cases, and we are very concerned about them," Ungaro said. UB

KFOR ARRESTS 63 SUSPECTED GUERRILLAS

A KFOR spokesman said in Prishtina on 25 July that peacekeepers arrested 55 men near Prizren the previous day, Reuters reported. The detained men are believed to be UCK fighters from Macedonia. They had with them 50 mules and some small arms and ammunition. In two separate, additional incidents, KFOR arrested a total of seven men, who had with them six mules, AP reported. PM

BUSH LEAVES KOSOVA WITHOUT MEETING KOSOVARS, MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT

Reuters reported from Camp Bondsteel on 24 July that President Bush left Kosova without meeting any of the local population or Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, although some media reports had suggested that he might have a brief meeting with the Macedonian leader (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001). The news agency added that "Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority holds the United States in high esteem for spearheading the [1999] bombing campaign, which ended Serb repression in their province. All major Kosovo Albanian newspapers carried headlines welcoming Bush and featuring his picture on their front page. One commentator noted that the president was not meeting anyone from Kosovo during his brief trip. But Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, said she is sure Bush will find time for such a visit at a later date. 'It's just an opportunity to stop by and see the troops,' she said of the current visit." PM

CROATIAN GENERAL TURNS SELF IN TO THE HAGUE

General Rahim Ademi, an ethnic Albanian, arrived to The Hague on a commercial flight on 25 July, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001). He said: "I am going to The Hague voluntarily and with a clear conscience, because I did not order any atrocities during the [1991-1995 war]. I took care of civilians and prisoners of war." PM

NGO SLAMS 'PRESS FREEDOM VIOLATIONS' IN SERBIA

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO) said in an open letter to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica on 24 July that Serbian police have recently "invited" two journalists for "informative discussions," meaning interrogation sessions. The letter also noted death threats and other threats made recently against several other Serbian journalists. SEEMO pointed out that some of the best-known murders of journalists under the former regime remain unsolved. PM

FRENCH PREMIER ENDS BUCHAREST VISIT

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin on 24 July ended a two-day visit to Bucharest aimed at boosting bilateral relations, Mediafax reported. After meeting with Romanian President Ion Iliescu, Jospin said France wants Romanian citizens to be treated without discrimination regarding entry visas. The European Commission recently recommended that EU member states lift compulsory visa requirements for Romanian citizens beginning in 2002. Jospin added, however, that Romania should continue to strengthen border controls and fight illegal immigration. He also said that Bucharest should solicit U.S. and British support for joining NATO. In related news, Iliescu said on 23 July on private ProTV that a "substantial" NATO enlargement should include Romania and Bulgaria. ZsM

INFIGHTING CONTINUES IN ROMANIAN PEASANTIST PARTY

The leadership of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 23 July accused former Deputy Chairman Vasile Lupu of having initiated "all the crises" within the party, Mediafax reported. Current Chairman Victor Ciorbea and leading party member Nicolae Noica met a day earlier with Lupu, trying to reconcile the two groups in conflict, but the meeting ended without results. In return, Lupu on 24 July accused several PNTCD leaders of destroying the party and stealing party property. ZsM

ROMANIAN SUPREME COURT RETURNS CONFISCATED PROPERTY

The Romanian Supreme Court on 24 July annulled the 1950 illegal confiscation of a house in Bucharest, Mediafax reported. The court thus returned the building to its rightful owner, Dan Brumarescu, who won the same case at the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg last January. That decision ordered the Romanian state to return the building to Brumarescu within six months. Brumarescu appealed a 1995 Supreme Court decision that annulled a 1993 court ruling to return the house to him. ZsM

MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS ASK ROMANIAN PREMIER NOT TO INTERFERE WITH MOLDOVA

Party of Moldovan Communists parliamentary group leader Victor Stepaniuc on 23 July asked Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase not to meddle in internal problems, Flux reported, citing a BBC report. According to the report, the communists were "irritated" by Nastase's recent declaration that Romania and Moldova are two Romanian states. Stepaniuc added that a 1989 census showed that only 2,400 Moldovan citizens out of a total of 4.4 million consider themselves Romanian. An adviser to President Vladimir Voronin, Victor Doros, announced on 23 July that the Moldovan Foreign Affairs Ministry has addressed a "protest note" regarding Romanian President Ion Iliescu's recent declarations in which he criticized "Moldovanism." The next day, Doros withdrew that declaration, saying the note was never sent, as the two presidents had resolved the issue during a phone conversation. ZsM

NEW BULGARIAN PREMIER PRAISES PREDECESSOR AT HANDOVER CEREMONY

Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski said at a handover ceremony at the Council of Ministers in Sofia that he will strive to attain the same standard as his predecessor, Ivan Kostov, BTA reported. Saxecoburggotski told Kostov that "you set a high standard and it will be difficult for us to get to your level, but we will try to reach it in the name of Bulgaria." Kostov gave the new premier a pen as a gift and asked that Saxecoburggotski use it when he signs Bulgaria's accession treaties to NATO and the EU. Kostov said he wishes the new government good luck in carrying out their "enormous responsibility." PB

MENINGITIS SPREADS TO MORE BULGARIAN CITIES

Sofia dailies gave extensive coverage on 24 July to the spread of meningitis in Bulgaria, where cases have now been reported in 15 towns. The situation is worst in the southern town of Kurdjali, where over 50 people have been diagnosed with the disease. A headline in the daily "24 Chasa" reads "Meningitis Captures Three More Cities," a reference to the spread of the disease to Pazardjik, Kjustendil, and Vratsa. The daily "Novinar" reports that bread in the Danubian city of Rousse is being wrapped in paper to help reduce the risk of outbreaks. PB




MACEDONIA: SPEAKING A DIFFERENT LANGUAGE


By Ulrich Buechsenschuetz

During the past two weeks or so, a number of proposals for a new legal framework to end the crisis in Macedonia have been put forward by a variety of sources. Domestic ethnic Macedonian legal experts drafted a proposal with the help of an internationally well-known legal expert. This was countered by a rival document by the ethnic Albanian political parties. And, after separate talks between the leaders of the Albanian political parties and the international mediators from the EU and the U.S., a third proposal was presented by the foreign envoys -- to the ethnic Macedonian politicians, but not to the public.

This latest proposal led to the temporary breakdown of the political dialog, mainly (but not exclusively) because the ethnic Macedonian political leaders could not accept the provisions concerning language. Some days later, after the talks resumed on an expert level, violence escalated again in a massive exchange of fire in the Tetovo area on 22 July.

What does the latest proposal say about the use of languages in Macedonia? To understand what it entails, one should first take a look at the current Article 7 of the constitution, which regulates the status and therefore the use of languages in state institutions. The current wording of the constitution is: "The Macedonian language, written using its Cyrillic alphabet, is the official language in the Republic of Macedonia.

"In the units of local self-government where the majority of the inhabitants belong to a nationality [ed.: a minority], in addition to the Macedonian language and Cyrillic alphabet, their language and alphabet are also in official use, in a manner determined by law. In the units of local self-government where there is a considerable number of inhabitants belonging to a nationality, their language and alphabet are also in official use, in addition to the Macedonian language and Cyrillic alphabet, under conditions and in a manner determined by law." (Translation as provided by http://www.ok.mk).

The first draft proposal by the Macedonian legal experts, as published by the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" on 10 July, states under point 6.4, that "every citizen who belongs to a community that makes up at least 20 percent of the population of the municipality [opstina] where he lives, can turn to the central state authorities [as opposed to the local/municipal authorities] in his mother tongue; the central administration will answer him in either Macedonian or the respective language."

Point 6.5 of the original draft proposal refers to the use of language on the local level: "In connection with local self-government, in municipalities [opstini] where a community provides at least 20 percent of the population, the community's language will be an official language. Regarding the languages that are spoken by less than 20 percent of the municipality, the local authorities will democratically decide about their use in public institutions." Point 6.6 states that "during the sessions of the Sobranie (the parliament), the Albanian language can be used."

The Albanian rival document, published by "Vecer" on 12 July, was less concrete in its formulations: "In order to secure the adequate development of a civil society, fair and equal expression of political thought, full participation in social questions, and equal opportunities in public administration, the Albanian and the Macedonian language will be recognized as the two major languages of Macedonia. Both languages will be used in state and municipal-local institutions and offices [as needed] in order to secure the full integration of all citizens of Macedonia into the civil society."

Francois Leotard of the EU and his U.S. counterpart James Pardew then worked out the details together with the leaders of the ethnic Albanian political parties. The fact that this took place in separate talks without the participation of the Macedonian side aroused Macedonian suspicions. When the mediators presented the results to the leaders of the Macedonian political parties and to President Boris Trajkovski, the latter reacted in a manner that was obviously totally unexpected for the international community.

If the excerpts of the disputed document that were published in the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" on 19 July are correct, the document proposes a number of changes to the Macedonian Constitution:

"(1) In the Republic of Macedonia, the official [sluzben] language is Macedonian written in its Cyrillic alphabet.

(2) Any other language spoken by at least 20 percent of the population will be an administrative language as well, in its respective alphabet.

(3) In the units of local self-government where at least 20 percent of the population speak this language, this language together with its respective alphabet will also be used together with the Macedonian language.

(4) Any official document that refers to the speakers of the official language other than Macedonian will be published both in Macedonian and in this language. Every person can use this language to communicate with the institutions of the central administration, which in turn respond in this language as well as in Macedonian.

(5) In the institutions of the Republic of Macedonia, any official language other than Macedonian will be used according to the law."

The paper also formulated proposals for the use of languages in government and legislative business. "Any official language can be used in the parliament, and all official documents of the parliament will be printed in the official languages. Laws will be published in the official languages. Members of the government can use any of the official languages while fulfilling their official duties. All government officials can write their name in any of the official languages in any official document."

To understand why many of the ethnic Macedonian political leaders reacted almost hysterically to these proposals, it is necessary to look beyond the borders of the Macedonian state. There are Macedonian minorities in Bulgaria, Greece, and Albania. In none of those three countries is the Macedonian language recognized as an official language. Any attempt by the Macedonian government to press for more minority rights in those countries would inevitably result in a breakdown in relations with them. Macedonian politicians would be accused of interference in their neighbors' internal affairs.

Ethnic Macedonian politicians are now stuck in a bind. On the one hand, they will have to accept some form of improvement in the rights of the large Albanian minority in Macedonia. But on the other hand, they will not be able to press for more rights for the small Macedonian minorities in neighboring countries. And they will have to explain to their electorate why they must do the one thing while they cannot do the other.


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