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Newsline - July 27, 2001




PUTIN RECEIVES RICE, O'NEILL, EVANS

President Vladimir Putin on 26 July received three senior U.S. officials: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Rice discussed Washington's plans on missile defense and said that President George W. Bush is committed to going ahead even if Moscow does not agree. She told the press that she had raised the issues of Chechnya and press freedom during her meetings with senior Russian officials, but Russian agencies denied that. Evans said that he is impressed with the economic progress Russia has made and said that Washington will support Russia's application for membership in the World Trade Organization once Moscow makes the additional changes required of members. PG

WHAT PRICE WILL PUTIN SEEK FOR ULTIMATELY AGREEING ON NMD?

Smi.ru suggested on 26 July that Putin will use the visits to Moscow of the three senior American officials to try to extract economic assistance in exchange for the Russian president's ultimate agreement to American plans to build a missile defense system. VY

PUTIN CALLS FOR REVISION OF REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLANS

Speaking to a Russian National Security Council meeting on 26 July devoted to the problems of Kaliningrad, Putin said that the regional development concept worked out by the government several years ago should be revised in order to take into account new economic and political realities, RIA-Novosti reported. At the same session, Viktor Cherkesov, the presidential envoy to the Northwest federal district, said that there had not been any discussion of any special administrative status for the Russian exclave, but that his deputy envoy will take up residence there to supervise the region's development as a bridge to Europe, Interfax reported the same day. VY

PUTIN ORDERS FLOOD CLEANUP COMPLETED BEFORE WINTER

Putin on 26 July told a conference in the Kremlin on cleaning up the results of floods in Sakha that he wants all of the flood damage there repaired before the onset of winter, Interfax reported. He told Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu -- who participated in the meeting via a telebridge from the Yakut city of Lensk -- that he will not accept any excuses for a failure to achieve this goal. PG

MAJORITY OF RUSSIANS IGNORE PUTIN PRESS CONFERENCE

According to a poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 26 July, 56 percent of Russians said they knew nothing about Putin's press conference last week. Only 8 percent watched the entire session on television, another 19 percent of the sample said they watched part of it, and a third group of 17 percent said that they had heard something about the session from other sources. PG

PEOPLE'S DEPUTY GROUP TO FORM PARTY AT SEPTEMBER CONGRESS

Gennadii Raikov, the leader in the Duma faction "People's Deputy," told Interfax on 26 July that his group will transform itself into a political party at a 29 September congress. He said that the group has affiliates in 63 federal subjects and that each of them will send five deputies to the meeting. PG

MOSCOW CRITICIZES U.S. REFUSAL TO SUPPORT ACCORD ON BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 26 July that Washington's refusal to adhere to the 1972 convention prohibiting biological weapons will make it more difficult to prevent the proliferation of all weapons of mass destruction, Interfax reported. PG

AMERICAN EXCHANGE STUDENT MAY BE RELEASED EARLY

A Russian Justice Ministry spokesman said on 26 July that if the courts agree, John Tobin, an American exchange student who was convicted of drug possession in late April, may be released in early August after serving half of his sentence, Interfax reported. The spokesman said that the grounds for such a release might be Tobin's "good behavior" behind bars. Meanwhile, his lawyers continued to press for his transfer to a less strict facility. VY

CONCERNED ABOUT U.S., JAPANESE MISSILE DEFENSE PLANS...

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in Hanoi on 26 July that he is concerned by Japanese willingness to cooperate with the United States on missile defense, Interfax reported. Tokyo has indicated that it is not opposed to the American plans. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported the same day that Russian and Japanese naval vessels will conduct a joint sea rescue exercise in September. PG

...SAYS MOSCOW WANTS GOOD TIES WITH BOTH KOREAS

Foreign Minister Ivanov said in Hanoi on 26 July that Moscow wants to have good relations with both Koreas and hopes for dialogue between them, ITAR-TASS reported. He also said that Russia is developing a proposal for a multilateral forum on security and cooperation in Northeast Asia. The same day, an official at the South Korean Foreign Ministry told AP that it appears likely that Russia will supply spare parts for North Korea's military. PG

NORTH KOREAN LEADER BEGINS RAIL TRIP TO MOSCOW

Kim Jong-Il, the leader of North Korea, is traveling from his country to the Russian capital by train, ORT television reported on 26 July. On that day, Konstantin Pulikovskii, the presidential envoy to the Far East federal district, met Kim at the border. Kim took the occasion to say that "the American fuss over the 'missile threat' from our country is completely groundless," ITAR-TASS reported. The North Korean leader will travel all the way to Moscow on the Trans-Siberian. Kim said he is doing so not because of any personal fears about air travel, as some agencies have reported, but because he wants to "be the first passenger of the future Southeast Asia-Europe transportation corridor" that Putin has proposed, strana.ru reported on 26 July. VY

RUSSIANS' USE OF FORGED DEGREES LEADS CZECHS TO CANCEL SOVIET-ERA ACCORD

Prague's "Pravo" reported on 26 July that the Czech government has decided to unilaterally cancel a 1972 accord between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union that called on each country to recognize the degrees given out by institutions in the other country. The Czechs are taking this action, CTK reported the same day, because several Russians coming to the Czech Republic have been found to be using forged degrees from Russian universities. PG

RUSSIANS LOOK TO CHINA AS FRIEND, FEAR CHINESE ROLE IN RUSSIAN FAR EAST

According to a poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 26 July, 46 percent of Russians believe that China will be an ally or at least a friend of Russia in the 21st century. But the poll also found that 56 percent of Russians believe that extensive Chinese participation in the economy of Siberia and the Far East will be dangerous for Russia. Only one Russian in four thinks that Chinese involvement there will only be good for their country. PG

GRYZLOV CRITICIZES MOSCOW POLICE FOR FAILING TO COUNTER ORGANIZED CRIME...

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said on 26 July that the Moscow police who are subordinate to his agency have been doing "a very bad job" combating crime and organized criminal groups, Interfax reported on 26 July. He said that 40 percent of the victims of crime do not turn to the police in that city because they do not trust them. Gryzlov also said that there are at least 21 criminal groups in Moscow whose leaders remain at large, which is the fault of the Moscow police. VY

...AS JOURNALIST POINTS TO LINKS BETWEEN MOSCOW POLICE AND UNDERWORLD

In an article published in "Versiya" on 23 July, journalist Aleksandr Khinshtein said that Vasilii Kuptsov, the first deputy chief of the Moscow section of the Interior Ministry, has had direct involvement with the Golyanov organized crime group. That gang is thought to be responsible for some 40 murders. Khinshtein added that senior police officials have worked to cover up both Kuptsov's connections with this gang and the gang's activities. Moreover, the journalist said, when the leader of the gang was finally arrested, those police officials arranged for him to escape from custody. VY

INFLATION CONTINUES TO SLOW

The State Statistics Committee on 26 July predicted that inflation for July will be 0.6 to 0.8 percent, down from 1.6 percent in June, Interfax reported. If that prognosis proves true, inflation in Russia for the first seven months of 2001 will total 13.4-13.6 percent, a figure already above the earlier government predictions for the year as a whole. PG

SMALL FIRM SUES RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT IN EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT

Rusatometa has filed suit with the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg against the Russian Finance Ministry for that agency's failure to redeem state bonds following the August 1998 default, RBK reported on 26 July. The ministry earlier attempted to force Rusatometa and other firms holding such paper to accept new bonds with longer maturities. VY

NEW SUBMARINE PASSES ALL TESTS, TO ENTER SERVICE IN AUGUST

Russia's new "Gepard" nuclear submarine has passed all its field tests and will enter regular service in August, Russian and Western agencies reported on 26 July. PG

MOSCOW WON'T GIVE COMPUTERS TO REGIONS THAT FAIL TO FUND PROGRAM

"Izvestiya" reported on 26 July that Education Minister Vladimir Filippov has told the leaders of 12 regions that they will not be given computers for their schools if they do not allocate their equal share of the cost of the program. Among the first two that are to be cut out of the computerization program are Tatarstan and Omsk Oblast, the paper reported. PG

TELECOMS LINES BEING EXTENDED ALONG TRANS-SIBERIAN RAILROAD

"Izvestiya" reported on 26 July as part of its coverage of the centennial of the Trans-Siberian railroad that both government agencies and private companies are working to extend telecommunications lines alone the railroad corridor, thereby linking many settlements into the larger world. PG

AUTOMAKERS SEEK TO REDUCE USED CAR IMPORTS

Domestic automobile producers have found allies in the Justice and Industrial Sciences ministries and successfully urged the Russian government to revise its draft bill on importing used cars, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 July. In its original version, the bill restricted the importation of foreign cars older than seven years; now the bill imposes restrictions on all foreign cars older than five years. This change will reduce the availability of automobiles to the domestic Russian market, the paper said, and allow the domestic producers to raise prices. PG

BRIBES WORK FOR CRIMINALS

According to an article in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 20 July, many people accused of crimes in Russia routinely use bribes to escape trial and punishment. The paper said that the police expect the smallest amount in bribes to let someone off while the courts expect the largest. Police can often be bought off by a bottle of imported liquor, but judges sometimes have to be paid large amounts to dismiss a case. The paper cited the case of a "new Russian" who paid a judge $50,000 to have a drug case against his son dropped. The paper said that bribes remain so common that professional criminals generally know exactly how much they will have to pay and view this as part of the cost of doing business. PG

EIGHT GENERAL OFFICERS NOW UNDER INVESTIGATION

Military prosecutors said on 26 July that they are currently conducting criminal investigations against eight generals and admirals, Interfax reported. Two of the cases have already been forwarded to the courts, and two more will be sent forward in the near future, the prosecutors added. The news service reported that during 2000, 24 senior officers were charged with crimes. PG

FEWER FIRES, BUT MORE VICTIMS

Major General Vyacheslav Mulishkin, the deputy chief of the Main Administration of the State Fire-Fighting Service, said on 26 July that on average there are 639 fires in Russia every day and that they claim the lives of 48 people, Interfax reported. He said that in the first six months of 2001 there were more than 115,500 fires, 1.6 percent fewer than during the same period in 2000, but he noted that the number of people who died in fires had increased by 9.5 percent from the first half of 2000 to the first half of 2001 to a total of 8,752. PG

PRISON RIOTS COULD TORPEDO LEGAL REFORM

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 26 July, some Duma deputies believe that the chances for successful legal reform could be destroyed should an outbreak of riots in the country's prisons occur. Such an outbreak, the paper continued, is increasingly likely because of bad conditions in many prisons. PG

'NATURAL' POVERTY LEVEL IN RUSSIA SAID MUCH HIGHER THAN IN WEST

In an interview published in "Trud-7" on 26 July, Yevgenii Gontmakher, an adviser to the cabinet of ministers on social development questions, said that the number of Russians with incomes below the poverty line had fallen from 54.4 million in the first quarter of 2001 to 42 million in the second quarter. He said that "a 12 million drop [in those living in poverty] is something to be proud of" and predicted that this positive trend will continue. At the same time, he said there will always be poor people in Russia just as there are in other countries, but he said this "natural" poverty group includes 30 percent of the population in Russia compared to only 7 percent in Germany and 5 percent in Sweden. Equally disturbing, Gontmakher said, is the fact that most Russians living below the poverty line are employed, a situation he said is "not found in developed nations." PG

UNIVERSITY RECTOR SUES ORTHODOX CHURCH BUT SETTLES BEFORE TRIAL

Vladimir Tretyakov, the rector of Yekaterinburg's Urals State University, filed suit against the local Russian Orthodox Church eparchate because church officials had accused him of sponsoring totalitarian sects and promoting drug abuse among students, "Izvestiya" reported on 26 July. The paper said that such a suit is "unprecedented." On the day the case was to be held, the eparchate's leadership apologized to Tretyakov, who agreed to accept the retraction of the church's denunciations of him. "I do not want to be the Pontius Pilate of the Urals," the university rector said. PG

RUSSIANS DIVIDED ON WHO IS A SLAV

Two-thirds of all Russians (68 percent) consider themselves to be Slavs, while 22 percent deny that they are, according to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 26 July. Twenty-eight percent of the respondents said that the term Slav is equivalent to the term Russian, 16 percent said it also includes Belarusians and Ukrainians, and 6 percent said it includes other groups as well. For 2 percent of the sample, Slav is the proper designator for everyone who lived in the Soviet Union. Fifteen percent said that Slavs are distinguished from other groups by their positive qualities, while 6 percent said they are set apart by their negative features. PG

MOSCOW POLICE ARREST CRIMINAL HACKER GROUP

The Moscow police working together with the interagency center to combat money laundering told Interfax-Moscow on 26 July that they had broken up a criminal hacker group that had inflicted several million dollars in damages by breaking into foreign news services' computer systems, stealing and then storing on its own services copyrighted materials, and illegally disseminating these materials. PG

'X-FILES' PRODUCER PLANS TO DO SERIES ON 'HEROIC' KGB OPERATIONS

Bob van Ronkel, a producer of the popular U.S. television program "The X-Files," has opened talks with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) about the possibility of creating a Russian television series on some of the most spectacular KGB operations, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 27 July. The paper said that the FSB is enthusiastic about this plan because it could help to improve the image of the KGB in the minds of Russians and others. VY

ENTREPRENEURIAL COUNCIL OPENS WEBSITE

The Russian government's Council on Entrepreneurship has created its own website at http://www.spprinfo.ru, Interfax reported on 26 July. Before the end of 2001, all Russian ministries and agencies are supposed to set up their own Internet sites, which are to be updated on a daily basis, the news agency said. PG

COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER PLEDGES TO INCREASE INTERNET USE TENFOLD BY 2010

In an interview published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 26 July, Communications Minister Leonid Reiman said that the government's "Electronic Russia" program will seek to increase the number of Russians online from 2.5 million today to more than 25 million by 2010. Meanwhile, an article in "Izvestiya" the same day noted that up to 60 percent of Russian websurfers go on line for news and political information. The article noted that there are dozens of useful news sites in the Russian language, including about 180 representing the country's political parties and movements. VY/PG

MARRY ON LINE, DIVORCE ON LINE TOO

According to an article in "Izvestiya" on 26 July, 14,788 Russian couples have availed themselves of an online marriage by going to the virtual marriage palace at http://www.wed.ru. For those whose marriages online or via more traditional marriage ceremonies do not work out, there is now a virtual site for divorce as well, http://vikanna.narod.ru/razvod2.html. PG

TOP COMMUNIST, TOP U.S. OFFICIAL DROP BY NIZHNII NOVGOROD ON EVE OF ELECTION

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 26 July called earlier reports about the possible transfer of the capital of the Volga federal district from Nizhnii Novgorod to another city in the instance of a victory by a Communist candidate in the 29 July gubernatorial elections a "typical campaign provocation," Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2001). Zyuganov is scheduled to visit Nizhnii Novgorod on 27 July to campaign for State Duma deputy (Communist) Gennadii Khodyrev, who won the most votes in the first round of the elections. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 26 July, Khodyrev polled first in the city of Nizhnii Novgorod, where incumbent Governor Ivan Sklyarov finished fifth. Sklyarov managed to finish second in the race only because of his strong showing in the southern areas of the region. Also expected on 27 July in Nizhnii Novgorod was U.S. Treasury Secretary O'Neill, a visit the newspaper said might boost Sklyarov's support enough to secure a victory. JAC

SOME RUSSIAN REGIONS GET INTERNATIONAL RATINGS BOOST

International credit rating agencies have upgraded the debt ratings of several Russian regions, "The Moscow Times" reported on 26 July. Moody's Investors Service increased on 23 July the rating for the Komi Republic from Caa3 to Caa1 (positive), while Standard & Poor's earlier upgraded the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg to B and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug was raised to CCC+. Driving the upgrades was the regions' ability to raise the cash component of their revenues and cut tax arrears, Moody's Investors Service analyst Elizabeth Rudman told the daily. Although regions are no longer allowed to borrow internationally under recently adopted legislation, regional leaders continue to strive for high ratings, believing that the ban on foreign borrowings will only be temporary, Rudman said. JAC

FAR NORTH GOVERNMENT TO DECLARE GHOST TOWNS WHERE PEOPLE STILL LIVE

Authorities in the Karelia Republic plan to "liquidate" almost a hundred villages, RFE/RL's Karelia correspondent reported on 26 July. According to data from the State Statistics Committee, no one lives full time in 33 villages in the republic, and Karelian authorities believe that these towns should therefore lose their official status. One effect of such a change in status will be that the government will no longer be responsible for providing for basic conditions of life in these places. However, local journalists have discovered that life still exists in many of these villages marked for "liquidation." The majority of the persons are either elderly and/or they are poor people who are unable to defend their rights. In one village scheduled for elimination reside 47 families, who have already lived for the past several years without electricity. According to RFE/RL's correspondent, despite the need for more investigation into the matter, in their last session deputies in the republic's parliament approved the abolition of some 14 villages. JAC

REGIONAL OFFICIALDOM LEARNS HOW TO DRESS FOR SUCCESS

Authorities in Saratov have issued a document called "Recommendations for the external appearance of workers in state establishments," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 July. According to the document, "clothing should raise the authority of the individual worker and the organization as a whole." The ideal male-bureaucrat should wear a gray, blue, or beige suit with a white or pastel-colored shirt and a silk tie. The cuffs should not be rolled up except to look at one's watch. The recommendations for female workers have more of a "prohibitive character": no clothes of a particularly cheap or expensive nature, short skirts, lacy tights, loudly colored nail polish, or strong perfume. Deputy head of the government apparatus said that the recommendations are only that, and no one will be written up for not following them. However, the correspondent notes that "still it is possible to look to the future of the oblast government with hope" especially when residents recall the previous brochure "Etiquette in Saratov Oblast," which practically all bureaucrats there always have on hand. JAC

PUTIN ISSUES DECREE ON STATE PROPERTY IN CHECHNYA

President Putin has signed a degree on the delimitation of state property in Chechnya, Interfax reported on 26 July. The decree sets the terms for the transfer of property by and among state entities in the republic and also for privatization of some of the property. The decree specifies that it is intended to facilitate "the most speedy reestablishment of the social sphere and economy" of Chechnya. PG

MOSCOW TO SPEND $1.7 BILLION ON RESTORATION OF CHECHNYA BY END OF 2002

Chechen Affairs Minister Vladimir Elagin said on 26 July that the Russian government will devote 50 billion rubles ($1.7 billion) before the end of 2002 to the restoration of Chechnya, Interfax reported on 26 July. Elagin made this statement following a meeting with North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dszsokhov in Vladikavkaz. PG

KVASHNIN AGAIN SAYS NO BEHIND-THE-SCENES TALKS WITH CHECHENS

Army General Anatolii Kvashnin, the chief of the Russian General Staff, said on NTV on 26 July that there are no talks going on with pro-independent Chechens, Interfax reported. He said that there can be no talks with "bandits." PG

CHECHEN WEBSITE SAYS MOSCOW JAMS THEIR RADIO STATIONS

The pro-independence Chechen news agency website of Kavkaz-Tsentr said on 26 July that the Russian authorities are seeking to jam all three of the pro-independence Chechen radio stations, two of which are located in the republic and one of which is located at an unspecified place abroad. But the website added that "we shall continue to broadcast trustworthy information about the war and not fairy tales like the Russian radios." PG




NATO OFFICIALS VISIT ARMENIA

A NATO delegation led by Lieutenant General Panagiotis Harvalas, the commander of NATO's Joint South Central Europe Command, met on 26 July with Armenian defense officials to discuss Yerevan's participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, AP reported. PG

U.S. CONGRESSMEN CALL FOR BAKU-CEYHAN PIPELINE TO PASS THROUGH ARMENIA

Thirty-six members of U.S. Congress have set a letter to President George W. Bush calling on him to ensure that the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will pass through Armenia, Caucasus Press reported on 26 July. Such a route, the letter said, is not only the most efficient but will also promote regional stability. PG

FALLOUT CONTINUES FROM IRANIAN ACTION AGAINST AZERBAIJANI SHIP

Iran's use of a warship on 23 July to force Azerbaijani vessels out of a disputed section of the Caspian Sea continues to resonate in Azerbaijan and elsewhere. Both the United States and Kazakhstan have expressed concern about the incident and called for a peaceful resolution of the dispute, Turan and Khabar TV reported on 26 July. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev received Iran's ambassador in Baku, Ahad Qaza'i, to discuss the issue, Azerbaijani television reported the same day. Aliyev also changed the composition of the state commission for cooperation with Iran, Turan reported on 26 July. Meanwhile, the same day, "Yeni Musavat" reported that Azerbaijan's Islamic Party has denounced Tehran for the action. PG

BAKU SAID PLANNING TO DROP THREE ZEROES FROM MANAT

The Baku newspaper "Sarq" reported on 26 July that Azerbaijani officials are planning a currency reform under which 1,000 old manats will become one new manat. The shift may be delayed until the government can find the $1 million needed for the changeover. PG

RUSSIAN ENVOY IN TBILISI SAYS RUSSIA, GEORGIA MAY SOON SIGN FRIENDSHIP TREATY

A Russian-language newspaper in Tbilisi has quoted Russian Ambassador to Georgia Vladimir Gudev as saying that Moscow and Tbilisi may soon sign "a major bilateral framework treaty" calling for "business, good neighborly and friendship relations," ITAR-TASS reported on 26 July. Meanwhile, in advance of bilateral talks about the closure of Russian military bases in Georgia, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said on 26 July that Russia has never tied the security of its borders to a withdrawal from Georgia, but that the closure of bases there will have "an indirect relation to the security of Russian borders," ITAR- TASS reported. PG

POPULAR GEORGIAN JOURNALIST FOUND DEAD

Giorgiy Sanaya, 26, was found dead in his Tbilisi apartment on 26 July, Interfax reported. Colleagues of Sanaya, who was the lead news anchor for commercial Rustavi-2 television, said they found him dead with gunshot wounds yesterday after he failed to report for work. President Eduard Shevardnadze has ordered Georgian authorities to launch a full-scale investigation into the death. After the death was announced on Rustavi-2, a crowd of mourners gathered outside the station in Tbilisi. PG

SEMINAR ON FIGHTING DESERTIFICATION HELD IN TASHKENT

The German international development fund DSE on 26 July held a seminar in the Uzbek capital on combating the desertification of Central Asia, Interfax reported. The meeting addressed the problems arising from the two-year-long drought across the region and the need to prepare specialists to deal with the spread of deserts there. PG

CASPIAN PIPELINE CONSORTIUM SYSTEM LAUNCH POSTPONED 'INDEFINITELY'

Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 26 July that the date of the commissioning of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) has been put off "indefinitely." A new date will be set in the near future, CPC officials said. PG

KAZAKHSTAN SIMPLIFIES EXIT RULES FOR CITIZENS

The Kazakhstan government has adopted a resolution that eliminates the requirement that Kazakh citizens who seek to travel abroad obtain special permission from the organs of internal affairs, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 26 July. PG

CONFLICTING REPORTS ABOUT CLASHES ON KYRGYZ-TAJIK BORDER

Some Kyrgyz officials said on 26 July that there had been no new clashes with insurgents on the country's southern border, but others said that there were minor clashes in which several border guards were wounded, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 26 July. PG

RUSSIAN SCHOOL IN TURKMENISTAN MAY CLOSE BECAUSE MOSCOW WON'T HELP

Anatolii Shchelkunov, the Russian ambassador in Ashgabat, said on 26 July that the only Russian school in Turkmenistan may close because Moscow officials are not willing to provide the $20,000 needed to keep it open, Interfax reported. The school was set up to provide instruction for the children of Russian border guards. PG

TEN UZBEK SERVICEMEN CONVICTED OF DRUG TRAFFICKING

Four officers and six soldiers of Uzbekistan's National Security Service have been sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison for trafficking in narcotics, Interfax-Central Asia reported on 26 July. A spokesman for the Security Service stressed that this is the first such incident involving service personnel. PG




BELARUSIANS RALLY TO DEMAND TRUTH ABOUT MISSING PEOPLE

Some 1,500 people formed "a living chain of those who are indifferent" in downtown Minsk on 26 July to demand answers from the government about the fate of opposition figures who have disappeared in Belarus, Belapan reported. The protesters included the wives of disappeared or imprisoned politicians as well as several participants in the presidential election campaign -- Mikhail Chyhir, Syarhey Kalyakin, Syarhey Domash, Mikhail Marynich, and Syarhey Antonchyk. "This is a warning to those who give illegal orders and to those who carry them out. We must understand that Belarus is turning into an enormous cemetery and that the organs of power are becoming undertakers," AP quoted Anatol Lyabedzka, the leader of the United Civic Party, as saying. JM

DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGERS TO LUKASHENKA TO FORM SINGLE ELECTORAL STAFF

Uladzimir Hancharyk, Chyhir, Kalyakin, Domash, and Pavel Kazlouski have decided to create a single campaign staff to support Hancharyk against incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the upcoming presidential elections. Last week, Hancharyk was selected as a presidential candidate from a broad coalition of democratic and opposition forces. Ambassador to Latvia and Estonia Marynich, who also sought to register as a presidential candidate but failed to supply 100,000 signatures to the Central Election Commission, resigned his post and joined Hancharyk's campaign staff. Hancharyk told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service that if he wins the elections, he will create a presidential council consisting of the presidential hopefuls who support him in the campaign. JM

FOUR YOUNG BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS PUNISHED WITH 'CORRECTIVE LABOR,' FINES FOR GRAFFITI

A Minsk district court on 26 July sentenced Alyaksey Shydlouski and Syarhey Koktysh to two years of corrective labor each, and imposed fines of some $500 on Anatol Alizar and Alyaksey Yermakou. The four, who are members of the youth opposition group Zubr (Bison), were found guilty of "damaging public property" while they sprayed the name of their organization on several buildings in Minsk in January. The sentence of "corrective labor" in Belarus's criminal code means that Shydlouski and Koktysh will remain at their regular jobs, but the authorities will be withdrawing a percentage from their earnings for two years (in this case, 20 percent and 10 percent respectively). "All these accusations are far- fetched. Even for more cynical graffiti hardly anyone has ever been subject to criminal prosecution. This is a political trial," Shydlouski told Belapan. He already served 18 months in a labor camp in 1998-99 for political graffiti. JM

TAJIK PRESIDENT IN BELARUS

Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov's visit to Minsk on 26 July resulted in the signing of several Tajik-Belarusian agreements, including one on a program of trade and economic cooperation until 2005, and others on cooperation in the spheres of tourism, sports, health, business, and investment, Belapan reported. JM

UKRAINE TO CONTINUE MILITARY COOPERATION WITH MACEDONIA

Foreign Ministry spokesman Serhiy Borodenko said on 26 July that Kyiv will continue "military cooperation" with Macedonia under a bilateral agreement, although it is "ready to consider" discontinuing arms sales to Skopje, Interfax reported. U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said in Kyiv the previous day that Ukrainian officials promised to stop supplying weapons, which the United States fears could further stoke the conflict between ethnic Albanian rebels and the Macedonian government, AP reported. Borodenko did not specify what kind of military support can be included under the term "military cooperation." JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS LAW ON STATUS OF LAWMAKER

Leonid Kuchma has signed a bill introducing amendments to the law on the status of Ukraine's parliamentary deputy, Interfax reported on 26 July. Kuchma signed the document after the parliament overrode his veto on the bill earlier this month. However, the president is going to ask the Constitutional Court to rule whether the bill conforms with the country's constitution. According to Kuchma, many of its provisions contradict Ukraine's basic law, in particular one that bans police from launching investigations of people's deputies who committed a crime. JM

BRS FORCED TO SEEK NEW FINANCING FOR PURCHASING ESTONIAN RAILWAYS

Baltic Rail Service (BRS), a consortium of American, British, and Estonian firms, which signed an agreement in April to purchase 66 percent of Estonian Railways, is seeking new investors after the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Estonian Hansapank, and Swedish Swedbank decided not to fulfill earlier loan promises, ETA reported on 26 July. The banks' actions were likely prompted by the charges by the State Audit Office that the agreement might be invalid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2001). BRS is obligated to pay more than 1 billion kroons ($56.8 million) for the shares by 31 August and had been seeking loans for 360 million kroons. It is currently negotiating with the firm Emerging Markets Partnership, but it is not clear whether the funds will be obtained in time. SG

EU REGIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN PRAISES LATVIA'S ADMINISTRATIVE TERRITORIAL REFORM

Jos Chabert told a press conference in Riga on 26 July that the purpose of his three- day visit to Latvia is to discuss issues of municipality roles in EU integration, Latvian municipality cooperation with the EU Regional Committee, as well as regional politics, BNS reported. He said that his two days in Latvia convinced him that the country will soon end the EU accession negotiations and return to the "family of Europe to which it belongs." Chabert mentioned that should they become EU members, Latvia and Estonia would have seven seats each in the Regional Committee while Lithuania would have nine. The previous day, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga expressed the hope to Chabert that his visit will give a positive impetus for regional reform implementation and balanced development of Latvia's regions. SG

FRENCH PRESIDENT VISITS VILNIUS

Accompanied by a delegation of more than 100 officials and reporters, Jacques Chirac began a three-day official visit to the Baltic states in Vilnius on 26 July with a meeting with President Valdas Adamkus, ELTA reported. Chirac said that France "understands and favorably evaluates" Lithuania's efforts to join the European Union and NATO. He asserted that Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis and French Minister for European Affairs Pierre Moscovici have finally settled the fate of the Lithuanian Embassy in Paris, which was handed over to the USSR in 1940. Talks between Lithuanian and Russian officials about the return of the building had been unsuccessful for nearly 10 years. France agreed to purchase Lithuania's rights to the building for 23 million French francs ($4 million), a sum with which other facilities may be purchased. Chirac also met with Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas and gave a lecture at Vilnius University. SG

POLISH LEGISLATORS TO SUBMIT PROPERTY DECLARATIONS TO TAX AUTHORITIES

The Sejm on 26 July amended a law on Sejm deputies and senators by obliging them to declare their property to tax authorities, PAP reported. Some right-wing deputies demanded that those declarations be made open to the public, but the Sejm endorsed the proposal by the opposition Democratic Left Alliance that they are to be disclosed only to tax inspectors. Some deputies argued that the amendment does not introduce anything new since lawmakers, like all other citizens, are obliged under law to submit their income declarations to tax authorities every year. JM

CZECH MINISTER: BRITISH CHECKS DISCRIMINATORY...

Czech Culture Minister Pavel Dostal said that the behavior of British officials checking London-bound passengers at Prague's Ruzyne airport is discriminatory, CTK reported on 26 July. He said the experiment by Czech Television reporters the day before (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2001) had "convinced me that the skin color is of major importance" in determining who the officials allowed to fly to Britain. Dostal is the first minister from the Czech government to protest against the checks. DW

...AS ROMANY GROUPS FILE COMPLAINT AGAINST GOVERNMENT

Representatives of the Romany Civic Initiative and the Democratic Union of Roma have filed a criminal complaint with the Czech Constitutional Court charging the government with inciting racial hatred, CTK reported on 27 July, citing the daily "Pravo." The complaint says that although there is no visa requirement between the Czech Republic and Great Britain, the selective screenings curb citizens' right to travel. The checks have mostly affected Roma, so the agreement between the two countries clearly damages their interests. More than 50 passengers, almost all Roma, have been denied permission to fly to Britain since the checks began on 18 July. DW

BOTH CZECHS, AUSTRIANS CLAIM EC TEMELIN REPORT FAVORABLE

Austrian Environment Ministry spokesman Daniel Kapp said that the European Commission's report on the safety of the Czech Temelin nuclear power plant says that "from the Austrian point of view safety questions remain open," CTK reported on 26 July. "These are the same points also criticized by Germany," he added. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, however, said, "According to the first, unofficial news we have the report is favorable to us." Regarding recent comments by German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin for Temelin to be shut down, Kavan said, "All I have to say is that the consultations should take place within the framework of agreed structures," adding that "I see no reason for these comments to uselessly complicate the affair." DW

FRENCH DEFENSE MINISTER PRAISES SLOVAKIA'S ARMY REFORM

On 26 July in Paris, Slovak Defense Minister Josef Stank and his French counterpart Alain Richard discussed Slovakia's plans to join NATO and the reform of both countries' armed forces, CTK and TASR reported. Richard praised Slovakia's reform of the defense sector. According to Richard, Slovakia has become a trustworthy partner in this regard, compared with several countries in which military reforms have been interrupted or unsuccessful. "Moreover, by doing the reform transparently, you are making it easier for us, as we know where we can be helpful," Richard added. JM

HUNGARIAN POLITICIANS, JEWISH GROUPS OUTRAGED BY ANTI-SEMITIC COMMENTS

Jewish groups and politicians in Hungary protested on 26 July a statement made by Laszlo Bognar, the vice president of the ultraright Hungarian Truth and Life Party, about a Hungarian businessman who is Jewish, AP reported. In commenting on the purchase on 21 July of the popular Ferecvaros soccer club (FTC) by businessman Gabor Varszegi, Bognar said: a "dirty, greedy, unscrupulous business interest with no link...to Hungarians has bought FTC," and said that the sale of Hungary's most famous club to Varszegi was a "betrayal." A communique signed by the leaders of eight Jewish organizations stated: "Hungary's Jews protest and condemn this behavior and ask the government institutions to ensure social order and calm." Youth and Sports Ministry State Secretary Imr Szakacs condemned the tone of Bognar's comments and said he is happy that a Hungarian company has purchased FTC. Socialist deputy Magda Kovacs, who heads the parliament's human rights committee, said Bognar's remarks are reminiscent of the fascist era. PB

EU CONCERNED BY HUNGARY'S OVERCROWDED PRISONS

Albert Takacs, Hungary's deputy ombudsman for human rights, said on 26 July that the country's overcrowded and antiquated prisons need to be improved before it can join the EU, Reuters reported. Takacs said the issue has become a problem in talks with Brussels on the chapter for justice and internal security. Takacs said Hungary is currently housing some 17,000 inmates in cell space designed for 10,200 prisoners. He added that "about one-third of the inmates awaiting trial are in a cell with convicted inmates. So we have someone who [perhaps] stole a bicycle sharing space with a convicted murderer." Takacs said most of Hungary's 31 prisons were built in the 1800s and are understaffed. Zoltan Marki, the deputy state secretary at the Justice Ministry, said four prison extensions will be built by the end of next year, which will add some 700 cells to the prison system's capacity. PB




MACEDONIA 'BACK FROM THE BRINK'- TALKS TO RESUME

Representatives of both ethnic Albanian and Macedonian political parties said in Skopje that political talks will resume soon, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Skopje on 27 July. President Boris Trajkovski said that the negotiations will take place in Tetovo. He noted that "Tetovo is a kind of melting pot of Macedonia, of people of different ethnic, national, and religious denominations. We are going to Tetovo to defend those achievements," "The New York Times" reported. He made the remarks sitting next to NATO Secretary- General Lord George Robertson, who said: "We came as worried friends. We go away from here as hopeful friends" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2001). Javier Solana, the EU's security policy chief, said that "the political process is back on track, the cease-fire is back on track," "The Washington Post" reported. BBC television said at midday on 27 July that both the time and the location of the talks are now in question, however. Meanwhile, some 47 elite U.S. Marines arrived to protect the U.S. Embassy. PM

IS OPTIMISM ON MACEDONIA JUSTIFIED?

Robertson and Solana said in Skopje on 26 July that "95 percent of those things that were to be negotiated are already agreed," "The Washington Post" reported. The BBC's Serbian Service reported the next morning that four main groups of problems remain. The first is the issue of language usage, which is complicated by the absence of universally accepted census figures and full agreement on the proper location of boundaries for local government units. The second matter involves the selection of local police chiefs, with a compromise in the works whereby local councils will appoint chiefs from a list of persons proposed by the Interior Ministry. The third problem involves use of national symbols, but this issue is relatively unimportant at present. The fourth concern is an amnesty for UCK fighters. The government's announcement that it intends to press war crimes charges against UCK leader Ali Ahmeti and 10 others will complicate matters, the broadcast concluded (see "End Note," below). PM

OSCE CHARGES ETHNIC ALBANIAN REBELS WITH 'ETHNIC CLEANSING'

The Macedonian government's charges against the UCK leaders include "crimes against humanity and of creating a criminal gang with the aim of seceding a part of Macedonia's territory and creating a greater Albania and greater Kosovo," AP reported from Skopje on 27 July. Elsewhere, the OSCE said in a report that the fighters of the National Liberation Army (UCK) have carried out a policy of "ethnic cleansing" recently against Slavic Macedonians in some villages near Tetovo, "The New York Times" reported on 27 July. The study noted that Macedonian Slavs are under "heavy pressure [through]...kidnappings, temporary detentions, and serious, persistent forms of intimidation." This behavior, the OSCE added, "is consistent with an attempt to ethnically cleanse the area." Some elderly Macedonians, who could not flee, stayed with ethnic Albanians, who treated them well. But many who returned to Lesok found their homes looted and did not feel safe enough to remain. PM

MACEDONIA CRITICIZES ALBANIA OVER MINORITY BROADCASTS

In a statement sent to "RFE/RL Newsline" on 26 July, the Macedonian Broadcasting Council protested to Albania's National Council for Radio and Television that Radio Korca has stopped broadcasting its program for the ethnic Macedonian minority (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 July 2001). The broadcast has not, in fact, been aired for some months. The statement notes the extent to which Albanian- language programs are broadcast by Macedonian Radio and Television, as well as by private broadcasters in Macedonia. The statement calls on Albania to "provide [comprehensive] implementation of internationally accepted standards of electronic media" at a time when both countries seek "to become part of the Euro-Atlantic integration process." PM

ALBANIA SEEKS TO BLOCK ARMS SMUGGLING

The government said in a statement in Tirana on 27 July that "the Albanian police and army have strengthened their control and have stepped up patrols in the border area," dpa reported. The announcement came after a meeting of foreign diplomats with government ministers. Because KFOR has become very effective in blocking the UCK's supply channels from Kosova, arms and ammunition are increasingly brought into Macedonia via Montenegro, Albania, and even Bulgaria (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). PM

REFUGEES CONTINUE TO RETURN TO PRESEVO

A UNHCR spokeswoman said in Belgrade on 26 July that about one-third of the ethnic Albanians who fled their homes in southwest Serbia since 1999 have now returned, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 July 2001). She added that this is "one of the rare success stories" in the Balkans. The Serbian authorities seek to "make a showcase" out of the Presevo valley, as Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic recently put it. PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT SAYS KOSOVA ADMINISTRATOR 'AFRAID'

Vojislav Kostunica told "Blic" that conditions for Serbs to return to Kosova and participate in the 17 November general elections have not been created, Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service reported on 27 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2001). Kostunica stressed that UN civilian administrator Hans Haekkerup is "afraid of the Albanians" and unwilling to take adequate measures to help the Serbs. Elsewhere, "Danas" reported that Kostunica has succeeded in persuading a group of Serbian hunger-strikers in Gracanica to end their protest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2001). PM

SERBIAN SECURITY FORCE 'DEPOLITICIZED'

Goran Petrovic, who heads the Interior Ministry's State Security office, said in Belgrade on 26 July that the "depoliticization" of his department is now complete. He added that former security chief Milan Radonjic was arrested recently on suspicion of involvement in several high-profile political murders. These include the deaths of journalist Slavko Curuvija, four officials of the Serbian Renewal Movement, and "probably" former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic. PM

MONTENEGRIN RULING PARTY: DIALOGUE SHOULD BEGIN

Svetozar Marovic, the vice president of Montenegro's governing Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) told "Politika" on 27 July that the government has already begun a dialogue with the opposition about the future of Serbian-Montenegrin relations. He added that the DPS is waiting for an invitation for talks with the Serbian authorities. He stressed that "it is important that the dialogue begins as soon as possible." The Serbian authorities want Kostunica included in any negotiations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001). But Podgorica does not recognize the federal government or any of its officials, saying that they hold office on the basis of illegal Milosevic-era legislation. PM

UN MISSION TO BOSNIA TO FIGHT TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN

A spokeswoman for the UN mission in Bosnia told a press conference in Sarajevo on 26 July that the UN has started a new project to combat trafficking in women by setting up its own special unit in each of the two entities and by asking local police units to do the same, Reuters reported. Bosnia has become a final destination for hundreds of women working as virtual slaves in brothels. Many come from Romania, Moldova, or other parts of the former Soviet Union. The presence of 20,000 foreign peacekeepers -- as well as the UN's own police force -- has provided a ready market for brothel-keepers. PM

CROATIAN METALLURGICAL PLANT DECLARED BANKRUPT

The government has declared the huge Zeljezara plant in Sisak bankrupt, "Novi List" reported on 27 July. Some 600 workers protested the decision. The government intends to keep most workers on the payroll for now. Restructuring will be completed in early 2002. The government will launch legal proceedings against the plant's management. PM

GERMAN WORLD WAR II SOLDIERS TO JOIN THEIR ENEMIES

The remains of some 54 Wehrmacht soldiers killed in Albania during World War II will soon be reburied in Tirana's lakeside cemetery complex near their former enemies from the U.K., Reuters reported from the Albanian capital on 26 July. The remains have been brought in recent years from outlying villages to the German Embassy's basement. The soldiers' families prefer reburial in Albania to repatriation, Cultural Attache Martin Frick said. Some 3,000 German soldiers died in Albania during what by the standards of the time was a relatively mild occupation. The embassy has information about the location of the remains of some 300 of them, who may eventually find their final resting place in the lakeside cemetery. PM

ROMANIANS REJECT THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW...

According to an opinion poll released on 26 July, 78 percent of Romanians feel that the government should unconditionally reject the implementation of the Hungarian Status Law recently approved by Budapest, Romanian media reported. The poll, conducted by Metro Media Transylvania polling institute between 6 and 11 July, shows that 49 percent would consider the government weak if it were to accept the implementation of the law. Moreover, 44 percent of Romanians feel that the ethnic Hungarians from Romania are not loyal to the state, while 76 percent indicated that they have "enough rights." The Bucharest-based "Cotidianul" daily draws attention to the fact that the poll was released a day before Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase was too meet his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban. The paper also speculates that the polling institute was formerly headed by current Minister of Public Information Vasile Dancu. ZsM

...WHILE OTHERS WANT HUNGARIAN PASSES

Some 300 workers from a Romanian oil refinery on 25 July found an original way of protesting -- trying to leave for Hungary in search of work, Mediafax reported. The workers from the Crisana refinery in a small town in the western part of the country attempted to leave for Hungary and ask for the so-called "Hungarian pass" that would have given them the right to work for a limited period of time in Hungary. According to the Status Law recently adopted by Budapest, beginning in 2002 ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries are to be granted several privileges, including work permits. The workers protested against the fact that they have not had work for six months. The Petrom Romanian Petrol Society stopped deliveries to the refinery due to unpaid debts of 430 billion lei (some $14.3 million). The workers were stopped by local police on their way to the border. ZsM

TRANSDNIESTER NEGOTIATORS DON'T SHOW UP FOR TALKS

A meeting of negotiating expert groups aimed at solving the Transdniester conflict was canceled on 26 July after the Transdniester representatives failed to show up in Chisinau, Flux reported. Moldovan negotiating group leader Vasile Sturza said the Transdniester party actually wants to block negotiations by postponements and by presenting "unrealistic and useless" proposals. The meeting, which was to be mediated by the OSCE mission in Moldova, was to discuss the status of the breakaway Transdniester region. The next round of talks is expected to take place on 2 August in Tiraspol, while Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov are to meet on 8 August. ZsM

RUSSIAN AS OFFICIAL LANGUAGE IN MOLDOVA BY SEPTEMBER?

Moldovan Parliament Deputy Chairman Vadim Misin said on 26 July that Russian will obtain the status of an official language in Moldova by September, Flux reported. Speaking to representatives of ethnic minority organizations at the meeting of the Coordinating Council on Interethnic Issues, Misin said that the recently adopted law on national minorities already gives the Russian language a status close to that of an official one. According to Bucharest-based "Curentul," Misin also said that the governing Party of Moldovan Communists will do their best to bring Moldova into the fold of the Russia-Belarus Union. Similar statements have drawn protests from Bucharest, which considers Moldova a "Romanian" state. Moldovan Premier Vasile Tarlev on 27 July began an official visit to Romania. ZsM

BULGARIA MORE OPTIMISTIC ON EU ACCESSION DATE

Vladimir Kissiov, Bulgaria's top negotiator on EU membership, said on 27 July in Brussels that his country could join the EU by 2005, Reuters reported. Kissiov said Bulgaria hopes to end negotiations by 2003 and that ratification is likely to take two years. Bulgarian officials had previously suggested joining the union by 2006. Bulgaria closed talks on the EU chapter on the free movement of capital the same day, and opened negotiations on two new chapters: taxation and the environment. Bulgaria has closed 11 of the 31 chapters needed to join the EU, several chapters fewer than most of the other 11 countries currently negotiating with the union for membership. PB

WORLD BANK WANTS BULGARIA TO MOVE QUICKLY ON AGREEMENT

Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski said in Sofia on 26 July that the World Bank wants Bulgaria to act soon in replying to the bank's three-year strategy for the country, BTA reported. Sofiyanski said upon returning from meetings with World Bank officials in Washington that he has told Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski about his talks. Sofiyanski said the World Bank will loan Sofia some $70 million to help build a central heating facility and that Sofia is also seeking a loan for the capital's subway system. World Bank President James Wolfensohn is to visit Bulgaria this year, Sofiyanski said. PB




A BITTER VIEW OF MACEDONIA


By Patrick Moore

Macedonian economic and political analyst Vladimir Gligorov talked to Branka Mihajlovic of RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 25 July. Gligorov made it clear that he is disappointed with the performance of almost all actors on his country's political scene.

He cited three sources for Macedonia's current predicament. First, and most crucial, is Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. Gligorov says that Georgievski enjoys no political legitimacy and that those around him are more a corrupt band of people than a real political party. The prime minister owes his job and position to Arben Xhaferi of the Democratic Party of the Albanians. Georgievski has made one mistake after another, which has been a key element in bringing about the current situation. (It is interesting that Gligorov does not mention the roles of President Boris Trajkovski or the Social Democrats in the conflict.)

Second, Gligorov blames the ethnic Albanian leaders and political elite for not defending the constitutional order and instead siding, in effect, with armed insurgents. The guerrillas are pursuing the aggressive, expansionist agenda that they have had from the start.

Third, the West has alienated Macedonian opinion and shares a considerable part of the blame for the tragedy. Gligorov argues that the EU and NATO, at the beginning of the crisis, clearly sided with the "democratic and constitutional" order. Several Western leaders openly called the insurgents "terrorists." Later, however, Western leaders and public opinion began to treat the two sides almost as equals. This change is difficult for most Macedonians to understand, he argues. The shift in Western policy accounts for much of the current xenophobic feeling in Macedonia.

Gligorov is reluctant to speculate as to whether Macedonia is heading for a civil war. The population has no stomach for a conflict, but he does not exclude the possibility that Georgievski and various other, unnamed people might opt for a war if they thought it would benefit them politically.

In the last analysis, Macedonia will probably have no choice but to take whatever options the foreigners offer it under political and economic pressure, Gligorov says. In any event, the present situation is a tragedy, and the popular disappointment with the West is great.

This is not the first time that "RFE/RL Newsline" has discussed the tendency of some Macedonians to blame the West -- which is trying to help prevent a catastrophe -- for their country's troubles (see also "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 June 2001). Unfortunately, it is not likely to be the last.

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said on 25 July that "this is not the time for Balkan conspiracy theories, this is the time for all of the leaders in Macedonia of all ethnicities to work together on a political solution." President George W. Bush appealed to Macedonia's politicians to "show leadership." This is, indeed, a commodity that has been in short supply in that troubled country.

A notable exception was the message in remarks by Social Democratic leader Branko Crvenkovski, who argued that "waging war with the whole world will not save Macedonia. [Such a conflict] will be lost before it even starts." Crvenkovski added that "our priority must be gaining international support.That's the job of a responsible government and not to offer the people suicidal politics. Macedonia is not defended by destroying shops or beating up journalists. It is defended in Tetovo. The chance for a political solution is defended in Tetovo. If Tetovo falls, it will be a defeat for all Macedonia."


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