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Newsline - July 30, 2001




PUTIN DECORATES CHECHEN HERO POSTHUMOUSLY...

President Vladimir Putin named Magomed Tashukhadzhiev, 15, a Hero of Russia for killing pro-independence Chechen commander Magomed Tsagaroev, RIA-Novosti reported on 28 July. The young man reportedly died as a result of the ensuing firefight with Chechen fighters on 22 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001), the news service reported. On 27 July, Putin decorated Colonel General Valerii Manilov, the former first deputy chief of the Russian General Staff who has been an enthusiastic backer of Putin's campaign in Chechnya, with the order "For Services to the Fatherland-Fourth Class," Interfax reported. PG

...AS THE WAR BECOMES LESS POPULAR IN RUSSIA...

As the fighting in Chechnya has dragged on despite Putin's repeated suggestions that victory is just around the corner, Russian officials have begun to redefine the conflict as evidence grows that the war is increasingly unpopular in Russia, "The Washington Post" reported on 28 July. Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii has described the fighting in the North Caucasus as being like that in Northern Ireland, a parallel others have begun to repeat, the paper said. But such a description, which appears intended to prepare Russians for a long and indeterminate conflict, undercuts Putin's claims that he is fighting "the world Islamic movement." Meanwhile, an article in "Obshchaya gazeta" on 26 July noted that the current impasse is characterized by: the transition to a partisan and unpredictable conflict, the growth of antireform and anti-Western inclinations in Russia as a whole, the primitivization of society, the drive for gaining access to oil even if it means Russians killing Russians, the continuing threat of a new upsurge in the fighting, and the absence in Moscow "of any way out of the current situation." PG

...AND NEW RULES ARE IMPOSED ON JOURNALISTS COVERING IT

The Russian command in Chechnya has imposed new and more restrictive rules on journalists working in the war zone, and that has prompted a protest by the Union of Journalists of Russia, Interfax reported on 27 July. The new restrictions, the union spokesman said, will deprive journalists of the possibility of any independent reporting on the conflict and mean that only the government's upbeat assessments will reach the public. According to an NTV report on 26 July, the Russian military even plans to set up its own alternative military broadcasting studio to provide its own film on the conflict, Reuters reported. PG

PUTIN SIGNS NEW NAVY DOCTRINE

While in Sevastopol on 29 July (see Part II), Putin signed Russia's new naval doctrine, which calls for the Russian fleet to be present in all the world's oceans and creates a new maritime collegium within the government to oversea the fleet's operations, strana.ru reported. Navy commander in chief, Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov, stressed that the doctrine is destined to become a cornerstone of Russia's geopolitical strategy. VY

PUTIN WANTS ALL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES TO BE ONLINE

Putin has ordered all government agencies to launch websites on the Internet and update them on a daily basis, "Vedomosti" and "Vremya novostei" reported on 27 July. Deputy presidential administration head Aleksei Volin said that those agencies which fail to update their sites on a daily basis will be considered as having "done nothing or nothing useful" that day. VY

PUTIN HOPES FOR GERMAN AGREEMENT ON RETURN OF CULTURAL VALUABLES

Putin told visiting Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber on 27 July that Moscow hopes that Germany and Russia will be able to reach agreement on disputes over the return of cultural valuables taken by each side during World War II, Interfax reported. Putin also said he is pleased that Bavaria has established close working ties with many of Russia's regions. PG

PUTIN SAID TO BE 'A WALKING LABORATORY'

A roundtable discussion on "Putin's Team and the Future of Russia" published in "Literaturnaya gazeta" on 25 July concluded that Putin will continue to experiment in his policies because he and his team are "a walking laboratory" prepared to seek answers on a trial-and-error basis. The participants also agreed that Putin's support as reflected in the polls is likely to remain high even if his policies are unpopular. PG

KASYANOV SAYS TRANS-SIBERIAN TO BE KEY LINK IN EUROPE-ASIA TRADE

Speaking at a conference on the 100th anniversary of the construction of the Trans-Siberian railroad, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 28 July that that railway continues to serve as "a powerful factor uniting the country and providing for its economic security," strana.ru reported. He added that it will soon be extended both east and west and thus serve to link Europe and Asia via Russia. VY

MOSCOW DENIES CHANGING POSITION ON ABM TREATY

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 27 July that media reports that Moscow has scaled down its opposition to changes in the 1972 ABM Treaty are incorrect, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that Russian officials did not hear from visiting U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice "any new arguments that might make us change our attitude" on that score. Meanwhile, Presidential Strategic Security Adviser Marshal Igor Sergeev said the same day that any departure from the ABM regime would have unpredictable and "irreversible" consequences, including the loss of control over "the entire system of deterrence and counterbalances" that the ABM Treaty provides. But also on 27 July, Oleg Chernov, the deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council, said Russia would not be against including other countries in discussions about the ABM Treaty, Interfax reported. PG

MOSCOW TO CUT SIZE OF MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov announced on 27 July that the Russian government will reduce the size of the country's military-industrial complex by as much as 50 percent over the next five years, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that the firms in this complex should change their focus toward producing civilian goods as well. PG

CENTRAL BANK INTERVENES TO SUPPORT RUBLE

The Russian Central Bank on 27 July intervened in currency markets to prevent the further appreciation of the dollar against the ruble, Interfax-AFI reported. Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the same day questioned the wisdom of the government's decision to forgive more than half a billion dollars of debt owed to Russia by the poorest countries when Russia itself is a major international debtor. Such debt forgiveness, the paper said, could cost Russia a great deal when it has to negotiate with foreign governments on money issues. PG

POLL SUGGESTS SELEZNEV REMAINS RELATIVELY POPULAR

A poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 27 July suggested that of those Russians having a definite opinion about Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev, 22 percent spoke about his positive features while only 13 percent mentioned his shortcomings. Overall, 64 percent of those surveyed said they have either a positive or a neutral opinion about Seleznev's performance in office. PG

MOSCOW SAID DENYING VISAS TO NGO WORKERS

According to a report in "The Moscow Times" on 27 July, the Russian Foreign Ministry is currently denying visas to foreign nongovernmental organization workers if they have been involved in Chechnya or in other areas in ways that Moscow views as a security risk. Valentin Gefter, the head of Moscow's Human Rights Institute, told the paper that "visa denials for certain groups, like human rights activists and environmentalists, have become systemic; but I wouldn't connect them with Putin -- they started before his coming into power." PG

BELARUS OPPOSITION CANDIDATE APPEALS FOR RUSSIAN SUPPORT...

In an interview published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 27 July, Uladzimir Hancharyk, the joint candidate of the Belarusian opposition (see "End Note" below), said that his election would make relations between Minsk and Moscow "more pragmatic" and less unpredictable. He said that the idea that Moscow must support incumbent Alyaksandr Lukashenka on the basis of the principle that "he is an SOB but he is our SOB" is wrong, and complicates relations between the two countries. PG

...AS CENTRAL BANK 'VOTES' FOR LUKASHENKA WITH NEW LOAN

Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 27 July that the Russian Central Bank has "voted for Alyaksandr Lukashenka" by disbursing a new 500 million ruble ($17 million) tranche of an intergovernmental loan. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS RECOGNITION AS MARKET ECONOMY

RIA-Novosti reported on 26 July that Russian officials have passed to visiting U.S. officials a 1,000-page memorandum explaining why the United States should recognize Russia as a market economy. Such recognition would aid Moscow's application to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), officials added. (An article in "Izvestiya" on 27 July noted that Western investors have shown increased confidence in Russian bonds far faster than have Russians themselves.) Prime Minister Kasyanov on 27 July said that joining the WTO would boost Russia's integration into the world economy, ITAR-TASS reported. But as WTO membership appears more possible, Russian firms are increasingly divided over whether it will benefit them, "Izvestiya" reported the same day. The paper outlined the arguments of what it called the "WTO optimists" and the "WTO pessimists." PG

RUSSIA SLAMS U.S. WITHDRAWAL FROM BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS TALKS

Citing sources in the Russian military, "Izvestiya" on 28 July sharply criticized Washington's decision to withdraw from future negotiations on eliminating biological weapons. The paper suggested that perhaps the U.S. hopes to gain an advantage in this area, and that the Russian government will now have to consider that possibility in its defense planning. PG

MOSCOW EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT VIOLENCE IN TAJIKISTAN

The Foreign Ministry on 27 July issued a statement expressing its deepening concern about violence in Tajikistan and pledging to increase its security cooperation with that country, Russian and Western agencies reported. "Recent attempts by extremist circles to use terror and force to undermine peace and stability in this country are being viewed with alarm in Moscow," the statement said in what is presumably an allusion to the assassination of Tajik presidential foreign policy adviser Karim Yuldashev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2001). The statement stressed that Russia "will cooperate in all measures leading to peace in Tajikistan." PG

MOSCOW CALLS ON AZERBAIJAN, IRAN TO RESOLVE DISPUTES PEACEFULLY

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yakovenko on 27 July said that Moscow hopes that Azerbaijan and Iran will be able to solve their dispute over the Caspian Sea peacefully, Interfax reported. "The Caspian must become a region of peace, stability, mutual trust, and equal cooperation," Yakovenko said. PG

RUSSIAN ALUMINUM GAINS FROM GUINEA PRESIDENT'S VISIT

During his visit to Moscow on 28 July, Guinean President Lansan Conte signed an accord with Russian Aluminum head Oleg Deripaska giving Russia an expanded role in the development of bauxite deposits in Guinea, polit.ru reported. Those deposits are estimated at more than 1 billion tons. Conte also met with Putin and signed a variety of economic and military cooperation declarations, Interfax reported the same day. VY

MOSCOW WON'T PRESS NORTH KOREA ON MISSILES

Sergei Prikhodko, a Kremlin foreign policy adviser, told Interfax on 27 July that the Russian government has no plans to demand that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, who is currently on his way to Moscow via the Trans-Siberian railway, give up work on his country's missile projects. Prikhodko said that Pyongyang must be given "alternatives," not ultimatums. At the same time, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov said that Russia will do what it can to promote talks between the United States and North Korea over the missile issue, mid.ru reported on 28 July. VY/PG

FORMER YELTSIN ADVISER SAYS FEDERALISM UNDER THREAT

In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 27 July, Miklhail Krasnov, a former adviser to President Boris Yeltsin and now a political analyst, said that the Kremlin's drive to strengthen the center at the expense of the regions threatens the country's federal system. He said that if, in the past, the center was not strong enough, the danger now is that the center and its powerful bureaucracy will once again be too strong for the country's good. PG

MOSCOW APPROVES KALININGRAD DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

The Russian Security Council has approved a government program for the development of Kaliningrad through the year 2010, Russian agencies reported on 27 July. The document seeks to address high crime and health problems in the oblast as well as the cost of energy and other supplies, which is disproportionately high because they must be supplied through foreign countries. PG

FSB DENIES MEDIA REPORT ON ITS ECONOMIC ROLE

The Federal Security Service (FSB) on 29 July denied a report in "Argumenty i fakty" that Yurii Ovchenko has prepared an FSB paper calling for a radical change in Moscow's economic policy away from privatization and toward greater currency controls. In a statement, the FSB said that Ovchenko has never been employed by the agency and that the FSB had nothing to do with the report on economic policy to which the "Argumenty i fakty" article refers. VY

MOSCOW SUPPORTS OPEC'S EFFORTS TO STABILIZE OIL PRICES

The Foreign Ministry on 27 July said that Moscow agrees with OPEC on the need to maintain price stability on the international oil market, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

U.S. SEIZES RUSSIAN TRAWLER, MOSCOW SAYS CAPTAIN 'DISORIENTED'

The U.S. Coast Guard on 27 July seized a Russian trawler in U.S. waters, Reuters reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that its information showed that "the captain of the vessel was disoriented because the navigation maps he had at his disposal were old and so he carried out an unpremeditated crossing into the U.S. zone." The two countries are still negotiating the ship's release, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

FOREST FIRE BRIEFLY THREATENS NUCLEAR WASTE SITE

Ekho Moskvy reported on 28 July that a forest fire briefly threatened the nuclear waste storage facility at the Novovoronezh nuclear power plant before firefighters brought the blaze under control. The operators of the plant reduced power in one of the reactors, the radio reported. PG

COURT HEARINGS NOW POSSIBLE ONLINE

A Rostov-na-Donu court last week held a trial in which the accused appeared via online videoconferencing, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 27 July. PG

FIRST WOMAN MILITARY COMMISSAR NAMED

Lieutenant Colonel Irina Yazeva has been named military commissar of the Yaroslavl Municipal District, Interfax reported. She is the first women to occupy such a post. Yaroslavl Oblast Military Commissar Aleksandr Frolov told the news agency that commanders in the Moscow Military District, of which Yaroslavl is a part, were initially reluctant to appoint a woman to that position. PG

COST OF RAISING 'KURSK' SET AT $130 MILLION

Igor Spasskii, the general director of the Rubin design bureau, said on a St. Petersburg-Brussels-Moscow telebridge on 27 July that the cost of raising, moving, and then dismantling the sunken "Kursk" nuclear submarine will cost a total of $130 million, Interfax-Northwest reported the same day. Meanwhile, a new book on the "Kursk" by the popular marine writer Nikolai Cherkashin was released the same day, the news agency reported. PG

MOSCOW DECLARES MORATORIUM ON HUMAN CLONING

The cabinet on 27 July decided to impose a five-year moratorium on human cloning experiments but to allow continued experimentation with animal cloning, Interfax reported the following day. A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church criticized this decision because he said it opens the way for a return to human cloning experiments in the future, the news service reported on 27 July. PG

RUSSIA EXPECTS MORE TOURISTS

Sergei Shpilko, the president of the Russian Association of Travel Agencies, told ITAR-TASS on 28 July that some 2.6 million tourists visited Russia in 2000 and that he expects that number to rise this year by 10-15 percent. At the same time, he noted, some 4.5 million Russians traveled abroad last year, and he predicted that that number would grow by 10-15 percent in 2001. But recreational centers in Russia are likely to attract 35-40 percent fewer domestic clients this year, largely because of cutbacks in social service payments that had facilitated visits to them in the past. PG

SAMIZDAT RETURNS -- IN DEPOLITICIZED FORM

In an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 27 July, Aleksandr Suetnov, who tracked samizdat publications at the end of the Soviet period, said that samizdat publications are now making a comeback, but that most of the new samizdat journals are for sports fans or others with distinctive but nonpolitical interests. He bemoaned the fact that there is no general guide to these publications, but he said that it is clear that those who are interested know where to find them. PG

A PARABLE OF POST-SOVIET RUSSIA

"Izvestiya" reported on 27 July that officials in Magadan have begun the destruction of a never finished 14-story House of the Soviets and will help construct an Orthodox cathedral on its site in 2003. PG

INCUMBENT UNSEATED BY COMMUNIST IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD...

According to preliminary results released on 30 July and based on 95 percent of the votes cast, State Duma deputy (Communist) Gennadii Khodyrev defeated incumbent Governor Ivan Sklyarov in gubernatorial elections in Nizhnii Novgorod on 29 July, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, Khodyrev polled almost 60 percent of the vote compared to Sklyarov's 29 percent. Sklyarov conceded the election to Khodyrev once it was clear that his opponent polled more than 50 percent. Khodyrev declared that he is ready to work both with President Putin and presidential envoy to the Volga district Sergei Kirienko. Prior to the election, an unidentified Kremlin source told Interfax that the capital of the Volga district will be transferred away from Nizhnii Novgorod in the event of a Khodyrev victory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2001). JAC

...AFTER VISIT FROM TOP U.S. OFFICIAL

On the eve of the elections, U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill visited Nizhnii Novgorod on 27 July. After his visit, O'Neill told reporters that the region is an advanced one with "wonderful industry and great prospects." According to Interfax, he expressed confidence that U.S. companies and banks will invest in the region's economy. JAC

INCUMBENT GOVERNOR IN SIBERIAN REGION MOVES ON TO NEXT ROUND

Incumbent Governor Boris Govorin and State Duma deputy (Communist) Sergei Levchenko finished first and second respectively in gubernatorial elections held in Irkutsk on 29 July, according to preliminary results made public the next day, ITAR-TASS reported. Govorin finished with 45 percent compared with 23 percent for Levchenko, with more than 90 percent of the votes counted. Federation Council member Valentin Mezhevich finished third with 12 percent of the vote. Under the local election rules, the second round will be held in three weeks. The day before the election an oblast court rejected an appeal to exclude Govorin from the race based on complaints from some of his fellow competitors, including Mezhevich, that Govorin had violated a number of election laws during the campaign. Among other complaints he was accused of not providing sufficient information about his wife's property, according to Interfax-Eurasia. JAC

CHECHEN LEADER ACCUSED OF TRYING TO SOLICIT WESTERN HELP TO PRESSURE MOSCOW

Russian agencies on 26 July quoted unnamed Russian officials as claiming that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has contacted the former OSCE mission head in Chechnya, Tim Guldimann, to ask him to arrange "unofficial" meetings with unnamed Western politicians on Maskhadov's behalf with the aim of pressuring the Russian leadership to agree to peace talks with Maskhadov. Guldimann headed the OSCE mission in Chechnya in 1995-1996 when Maskhadov served as Chechen chief of staff. LF




ARMENIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN ANNOUNCES INTENTION OF IMPEACHING PRESIDENT

Right and Accord parliamentary bloc leader Artashes Geghamian told a press conference in Yerevan on 26 July that he plans to forge a broad coalition of opposition parties with the aim of launching impeachment proceedings against President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He argued that as long as Kocharian remains president "there will be no improvement in the situation in Armenia," and that Kocharian's failure to improve the economic situation has undermined Armenia's statehood and thus constitutes "treason," which is an impeachable offense. Geghamian described Kocharian's support base as "a bunch of ministers who have a criminal past and are liable for criminal prosecution." LF

FORMER ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE OUSTED AS PARLIAMENT FACTION LEADER

Three members of the parliament faction of the National Democratic Union (AZhM) voted on 27 July to remove the party's chairman, former Prime Minister Vazgen Manukian, as faction leader, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Unlike Manukian, the three advocate closer cooperation with the present Armenian leadership. They are believed to have the backing of the AZhM's sole cabinet minister, David Vartanian. One of the three, Seyran Avakian, told journalists the move against Manukian was intended to strengthen the party's collective leadership, But Manukian's supporters believe the campaign against him is aimed at sabotaging his chances in the presidential election due in 2003. A meeting scheduled for 28 July of the AZhM's 46-person governing council failed to take place for lack of a quorum as those members who favor cooperation with the authorities failed to attend. LF

ARMENIAN COURT REJECTS PARLIAMENT GUNMAN'S REQUEST FOR PRISON TRANSFER

The Yerevan court hearing the case of the five gunmen who in October 1999 gunned down eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament building rejected on 27 July a request by one of the gunmen, Karen Hunanian, to be transferred from the Ministry of National Security prison to that of the Interior Ministry, Arminfo and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Hunanian said that he has overheard guards at the National Security Ministry prison threaten his life and that of his brother Nairi, who masterminded the attack. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SETS NEW TERMS FOR ENERGY PRIVATIZATION

Parliament deputies on 27 July narrowly approved in the second and final reading the government's proposed amended terms for the privatization of four energy distribution networks, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The revised law allows one bidder to buy a controlling stake in all four networks, instead of a maximum of two, and removes the ban on owners of distribution networks also holding more than a 25 percent stake in a power generating company. Some parliament deputies alleged that the vote was illegal, accusing pro-government deputies of voting on behalf of deputies who were not present. The first attempt to privatize the four networks failed earlier this year when none of the four shortlisted Western companies submitted a final bid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2001). LF

IRAN SENDS MIXED SIGNALS IN OIL DISPUTE WITH AZERBAIJAN...

In a statement issued on 27 July, IRNA said Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi welcomes the statements made the previous day by Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev during a meeting with Iranian Ambassador Ahad Gazai to the effect that Baku hopes to solve all disputes with Tehran on ownership of Caspian oil deposits by means of peaceful negotiations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2001). On 28 July, Gazai flew to Tehran for what were said to be routine consultations not connected with the Caspian dispute, ITAR-TASS reported. On 29 July, a senior Iranian official warned that Iran might advance territorial claims on parts of Azerbaijan that 150 years ago were ruled by Iran, AP reported. Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaei said that Azerbaijan's leaders "should govern the country in such a way that Iranians would not demand the return of Azerbaijan to the Motherland." LF

...AS TURKMENISTAN AGAIN PROTESTS AZERBAIJAN'S DEVELOPMENT OF DISPUTED DEPOSITS

The Turkmen Foreign Ministry on 27 July sent a further official note to Baku protesting what it termed the "illegal" exploitation by an international oil consortium of the Azeri and Sharg Caspian oil fields to which Turkmenistan lays claim, Reuters and Interfax reported. The note warned Baku to halt such unilateral activity. Ashgabat issued a similar warning in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 9 May 2001). Meanwhile, Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Abbas Abbasov met in Ashgabat on 27 July with Turkmen government officials to seek agreement on the rescheduling of Baku's $36 million debt for Turkmen natural gas. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY OUSTED FROM HEADQUARTERS

Officials from Azerbaijan's Ministry of Economic Development on 27 July formally witnessed the handover by the opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) of the building AMIP has occupied for the past several years, Turan reported. The ministry had issued an ultimatum to AMIP to vacate the building within five days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 20 July 2001). LF

GEORGIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST COLLEAGUE'S MURDER

Some 200 journalists staged a demonstration in Tbilisi on 27 July to protest the murder of Giorgi Sanaya, a journalist with the independent TV station Rustavi-2 who was found shot dead the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2001), Caucasus Press reported. Several Georgian journalists linked Sanaya's killing with his exposes of corruption. President Eduard Shevardnadze cancelled a visit to Baku planned for 27 July and took personal control of the investigation into Sanaya's death. LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA CLOSER TO AGREEMENT ON CLOSURE OF GUDAUTA MILITARY BASE?

During an eighth round of talks, which took place in Moscow on 27 July, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov made some progress toward overcoming the disagreement on the timetable and terms for completion of the Russian withdrawal from the Gudauta military base in Abkhazia. Russia should have vacated that facility by 30 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2001). Interfax quoted Klebanov as saying the two sides agreed that Moscow will withdraw all military personnel from the base except for a "security group" that will guard the remaining military hardware until it can be removed. But on 26 July, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov hinted that Moscow will not abandon its request that the facility be turned over to the Russian peacekeeping troops deployed under the CIS aegis along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. LF

RUSSIA SEEKS TO REASSURE KAZAKHSTAN OVER CPC

Visiting Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said after meeting in Almaty on 27 July with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev that Moscow will not create customs barriers to the export of Kazakh crude via the Caspian Pipeline Consortium pipeline to Novorossiisk, Interfax reported. Khristenko said he is unaware of the reasons for the postponement, announced the previous day, of the 6 August ceremonial filling of the first tanker with oil from that pipeline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2001). A Kazakh government press release had blamed the postponement on the "negative attitude" of the Russian side. Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov had implied in Moscow in early June after talks with Toqaev that the two sides had resolved the customs dispute that had halted the pumping of oil into the pipeline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May and 6 June 2001). LF

KYRGYZSTAN'S SOUTHERN BORDER REPORTED QUIET

No further exchanges of fire have been reported on Kyrgyzstan's southern border with Tajikistan since those of 24-25 July, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 28 July, quoting local officials. Tajik Deputy Premier Saidamir Zuhurov and Kyrgyz Security Council Secretary Misir Ashirkulov were scheduled to meet in northeastern Tajikistan on 27 July to discuss joint action against Islamic militants, according to Asia Plus-Blitz on 26 July, but no reports are available of the outcome of that meeting. LF

NGOS APPEAL TO KYRGYZ PRESIDENT

The heads of 16 Kyrgyz NGOs on 27 July sent a letter to President Askar Akaev registering their concern at amendments approved by the government on 18 July creating additional formalities with which NGOs must comply, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They noted that any public organization or mass media outlet may now be classified as criminal, and that any criticism of the authorities may be construed as being directed against the constitutional system. LF

EBRD WARNS TURKMENISTAN

Jean Lemierre, the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said in London on 27 July that the lending organization will review all operations in Turkmenistan unless that country implements economic and democratic reforms, Reuters reported. The bank issued a similar warning last year after President Saparmurat Niyazov refused to meet with a senior visiting EBRD official (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 2000). LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT UNVEILS NEW ECONOMIC PROJECT

Niyazov on 23 July announced that a tomato cannery under construction in his native village of Kypchak near Ashgabat will become Turkmenistan's first joint-stock company under his personal control, Interfax reported. That move is intended as the first step toward the economic transformation of three comparatively well-off rural districts just outside the capital. LF




BELARUSIAN SECURITY FORCES BEAT, DETAIN YOUNG DEMONSTRATORS

Several protesters were injured and 20 arrested in Minsk on 27 July after security forces forcibly stopped a demonstration of several hundred people celebrating the anniversary of Belarus's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union, AP reported. The march was organized by the youth opposition movement Zubr (Bison), and was stopped by a large group of men in plain clothes as the demonstrators reached the Svisloch River. The protesters sat down and held pictures of opposition figures who have disappeared in the past two years while chanting "Where are these people?" and "Long Live Belarus." The group of men then began kicking and beating the protesters as the police arrived and made arrests. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has abolished as a national holiday the day Belarus gained its independence from the USSR. Belapan reported the next day that 15 of the 20 people arrested will be tried for violating street demonstration regulations. PB

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES THREE DUE TO SUGAR SHORTAGES...

Lukashenka announced on 28 July that he has sacked Trade Minister Pyotr Kozlou and two other officials because of sugar shortages in the country, Belapan reported. Lukashenka, in an address to government officials, accused Kozlou and Viktor Vladyko, the head of Belkoopsoyuv, and Ivan Shakolo, the president of the country's state food industry corporation, of intentionally causing the sugar shortage in an effort to harm Lukashenka's re-election chances. Lukashenka added that Deputy Premier Alyaksandr Popkou may also be dismissed, though he did not specify the reason why. Lukashenka also criticized Bellegprom (the state light industry company) and Belenergo (the state energy company) for drops in production. Finally, noting that wage arrears have reached 1 billion rubles, Lukashenka demanded that all back wages for June be paid by 3 August, including vacation allowances to teachers. PB

...MEETS WITH A DEFENSIVE BORODIN

Lukashenka met on 27 July in Minsk with Pavel Borodin, the state secretary of the Belarus-Russia Union, Belapan reported. Borodin said after the meeting that "whatever our enemies and opponents wish, the question of building the union state has been decided. The implementation of purpose-oriented programs, which are funded out of the common budget, proves that the union state already exists." Borodin said that talks with Lukashenka centered on customs policies, preparations for the next meeting of the union's Council of Ministers set for 30 August, and implementation of the 2001 union state's budget. He stressed that the September Belarusian presidential election was not discussed. PB

WORLD BANK LIKELY TO RELEASE FIRST TRANCHE TO UKRAINE

Luca Barbone, the World Bank's top official in Ukraine and Belarus, said on 27 July in Kyiv that the bank is likely to approve a $250 million tranche of a loan to Ukraine this year once the IMF resumes its assistance, AP reported. Barbone said that "[the IMF approval] is expected to take place very soon, so I'm pretty confident that we should not have a problem." Barbone arrived in Ukraine on 22 July and ended his talks with Ukrainian officials on 27 July. He said the bank is likely to provide a $150 million disbursement in October and $100 million the following month. This tranche is part of a $750 million loan program to Ukraine announced last year. PB

UKRAINE AGREES TO MOTHER'S WISH NOT TO BURY GONGADZE

The Ukrainian government said on 27 July that it will not bury the decapitated body of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze until his mother agrees to do so, Reuters reported. Although independent DNA tests have shown a greater-than 99 percent chance that the body belongs to Gongadze, his mother Lesya Gongadze is not absolutely certain it is her son. The Prosecutor-General's Office had given a Kyiv morgue permission last month to bury the body. Deputy Health Minister Antoliy Kartysh said the ministry is prepared to help conduct a new DNA test with foreign experts to help convince Mrs. Gongadze that the corpse is indeed her son's. PB

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VISITS SEVASTOPOL FOR NAVY DAY REVIEW

Vladimir Putin joined Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in Sevastopol on 29 July to review a joint naval parade of Russia's Black Sea Fleet and the Ukrainian navy (see Part I), ITAR-TASS reported. Putin also took part in dedication ceremonies of Sevastopol's St. Vladimir Cathedral, strana.ru reported. Putin said at that ceremony that Russia and Ukraine have "entered into a new phase in the development of their relations -- creation, restoration, and reconstruction." VY

NATO-SPONSORED EXERCISES IN UKRAINE CONCLUDE

More than 1,100 troops from 20 countries participated in NATO's Peace Shield 2001 military exercises that took place at the Yavoriv training grounds near Lviv from 16-27 July, AP reported. The program included computer training and field maneuvers for two multinational brigades, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry reported. Along with Ukraine, troops from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, the U.K., Greece, Italy, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, the U.S., Turkey, and Sweden took part. PB

FRENCH PRESIDENT SUPPORTS LATVIAN AND ESTONIAN MEMBERSHIP IN EU AND NATO

During talks on 27 July with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Prime Minister Andris Berzins as well as in discussions in the parliament, Jacques Chirac expressed his support for Latvia's joining the EU, BNS reported. The French president asserted that "with admission of Latvia to the EU, not only will Latvia return to Europe but Europe will also regain its own people." In regard to NATO, he said that while France supports the admission of the Baltic states into the organization, the decision of the U.S. will be decisive for NATO enlargement. The next day, Chirac flew to Tallinn where he declared that Estonia is the closest among the candidates for EU membership and will be an EU member in 2004. In a meeting with President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Mart Laar, and the defense, finance, and foreign affairs ministers, he regretted that French business has shown too little interest in Northern Europe, but expressed hope that that will change. France reached a settlement with both states for providing compensation for their former embassies in Paris that had been handed over to the USSR in 1940 and which Russia seems unready to return. SG

CHINESE DELEGATION ENDS VISIT TO LATVIA

A Chinese delegation, headed by the head of the International Department at China's Communist Party's Central Committee, Cai Wu, completed a four-day trip to Latvia on 28 July with visits to the Latvian Occupation Museum and the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, LETA reported. On 26 July, the delegation met with representatives of parliament factions, the Latvian-Chinese parliamentary cooperation group, and Foreign Ministry Deputy State Secretary Martins Virsis. The next day, Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party (LSDSP) Chairman Juris Bojars accepted Wu's invitation to visit China in order to launch party cooperation. The Chinese guests also discussed increasing economic cooperation with Latvia's ports, especially in Riga, where the LSDSP is in power. SG

SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE ORDERS ARREST OF SUSPECTED LITHUANIAN WAR CRIMINAL

The Scottish Executive ordered on 27 July the arrest of 85-year-old Antanas Gecevicius (Gecas), a resident of Edinburgh whose extradition Lithuania requested in March for suspected complicity in Nazi atrocities during World War II, BNS reported. During the war, Gecas commanded a squad in the Lithuanian Auxiliary Police Battalion. However, Gecas' attorney, Nigel Duncan, noted that his client is currently hospitalized and unable to attend any extradition court hearing. SG

THOUSANDS EVACUATED AS FLOODS APPROACH WARSAW

Some 1,300 people were evacuated from their homes in southeastern Poland early on 30 July as a dike was breached on the Vistula River 170 kilometers south of Warsaw, AP reported. The day before, 1,800 people were evacuated further south along the river as the Vistula and a tributary broke through dikes. More than 13,000 people across Poland have been evacuated from their homes and at least 26 have been reported killed as a result of recent heavy rains. The flood waters are receding in southern regions, but a flood crest is heading northward along the Vistula and is expected to reach Warsaw on the evening of 30 July. DW

POLISH PARLIAMENT APPROVES BUDGET DEFICIT INCREASE

The Sejm on 27 July approved a revised 2001 budget that increases the deficit by 8.6 billion zlotys ($2 billion), AP reported. The budget revision, which increased the deficit from 20.5 billion to 29.1 billion zlotys ($7 billion), came after government warnings that slower economic growth would reduce tax receipts. The budget passed with a vote of 152 for and 30 against, with 196 abstentions. "It is most important to me that the amendments were approved and that not many deputies voted against," said Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek. DW

BRITISH CHECKS AT PRAGUE AIRPORT TO CONTINUE DESPITE PROTESTS...

Despite protests from opposition parties and even from within the government, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on 27 July that the checks by British officials of London-bound passengers at Prague's Ruzyne airport will continue, Reuters reported. Also on 27 July, Senate Chairman Petr Pithart called for the checks to be stopped, CTK reported. "They have no reason to be here...it is a definite breach of the sovereignty of the state," he said, adding that if Britain's asylum system is being abused, it should change it. Also, on 30 July, the tabloid "Super" cited Ladislav Jakl, an adviser to Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus, as saying Klaus also objects to the screening, and has called it discriminatory. DW

...AS KAVAN ACCUSES REPORTER OF LYING

Referring to an experiment conducted by Czech Television reporters where a Romany reporter was refused permission to fly to Great Britain while a Czech reporter was allowed to fly after providing the same information (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2001), Foreign Minister Kavan said the Romany reporter lied, CTK reported on 27 July. Kavan said that the address the Rom, Richard Samko, provided for his friend in Britain "couldn't exist." Czech Television rejected the allegation, and Samko said he did not lie to the officials. British Ambassador David Broucher insisted that Samko was not turned back because of his ethnic origin, but because he could not remember the address of his friend in the U.K. DW

AUSTRIAN GOVERNOR: EC TEMELIN REPORT NOT A 'GREEN LIGHT'

Upper Austrian Governor Josef Puehringer on 27 July criticized Czech Foreign Minister Kavan for his comments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2001) on the European Commission's report on the Czech Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK reported. "The submitted text still is not a final text, and it does not in any case give Temelin a green light," he said in a statement. EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen is expected to pass a definitive version of the report to the Czech and Austrian prime ministers sometime this week. DW

POLL SUGGESTS CZECHS WANT TOUGHER PRESS

In a poll commissioned by the weekly "Respekt" and the Czech Service of RFE/RL, most Czechs think that the media need to be more critical of politicians, CTK reported on 30 July. In a poll taken in June by the INRA polling agency, 80 percent of respondents thought the media's greatest fault is presenting the work of politicians as better than it really is. DW

SLOVAK NATIONAL PARTY SUSPENDS EIGHT...

The Central Council of the opposition Slovak National Party (SNS) voted on July 28 to suspend eight parliamentarians from the party for one year, TASR reported. Former SNS leader Jan Slota, Vitazoslav Moric, Jan Sitek, Rastislav Septak, Stefan Zelnik, Dusan Svantner, Eva Slavkovska, and Melania Kollarikova were officially suspended for "their efforts to destabilize the party and cause its inner destruction," according to the agency. The move is expected to benefit Slovak National Party Chairwoman Anna Malikova, who had recently been criticized by the eight, who had formed the majority of the party's 13-member parliamentary caucus. Among their complaints was her recent marriage to a Russian businessman. MES

...GIVES THEM CHANCE TO IMPROVE

Malikova did not exclude the possibility of including the eight as candidates on the party's list for upcoming general elections and said on 28 July that the suspensions should not be considered as a split in the party, TASR reported. Meanwhile, Zelnik said it is uncertain whether the eight will continue as independents or if they will set up a new caucus, TASR reported. Malikova dismissed the latter scenario, saying, "If they did [form a new caucus] they would end their chance of rejoining the SNS forever. Every one of them has the chance to draw the consequences upon themselves and improve." Svanter said he will not leave the party and said that he will take the issue to court, CTK reported. "I stood at its birth and only [the SNS] fulfils my political ideas," Svanter said of the party, which was founded in December 1989. MES

SLOVAK ROM 'ASKED' TO BE HANDCUFFED TO RADIATOR

Karol Sendrei, the Rom who died while under police custody on 6 July, was handcuffed to a radiator in his cell at his request "because he wanted to lay down," CTK reported Interior Minister Ivan Simko as saying in Salzburg on 27 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001). On 5 July, Sendrei and his two sons were taken to the police station in Revuca, where the 51-year-old Rom died the next day of injury shock caused by a torn liver; cranial and pericardial bleeding; a broken jaw, sternum, and ribs; and other serious injuries, according to the autopsy report. The police had previously denied that they chained or beat Sendrei and his sons. Simko told the news agency that the investigation into Sendrei's death is continuing, but said handcuffing suspects to radiators while they are under the influence of alcohol does not respect their dignity, and that he will try to ensure they are placed in cells in the future. MES

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS ATTEMPT TO RESTORE UNITY

Two of the newly formed Smallholders' Party factions, the Democratic Federation of Independent Smallholders, led by Defense Minister Janos Szabo, and the Smallholder Federation, led by Sandor Cseh, on 27 July proposed that Smallholder leaders hold negotiations with Jozsef Torgyan's Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) with the aim of unification. FKGP deputy Chairman Laszlo Pallag called the idea "ridiculous," saying the FKGP will not negotiate with "people who aspire to smash it." Cseh said Smallholder leaders must realize that unless they unite their forces, the Smallholders will not become a parliamentary force after next year's elections. He condemned the founding of the Reform Smallholders' Party by Katalin Liebmann last week. Szabo said his grouping plans to run as a separate party in the 2002 elections unless there is a change in the leadership of the FKGP, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

MEDGYESSY FAVORS BICAMERAL PARLIAMENT IN HUNGARY

Peter Medgyessy, the opposition Socialist Party's prime ministerial candidate in the 2002 elections, on 27 July proposed the restoration of the bicameral parliament and said he will begin discussions on the issue with Justice Minister Ibolya David as well as with former ministers Kalman Kulcsar and Pal Vastagh. Medgyessy suggested that churches, minorities, unions, and nongovernmental organizations should be granted seats in the upper house. David told "Nepszabadsag" that she has always supported the idea of a bicameral parliament and is prepared to discuss the matter with all democratic forces. The major coalition party FIDESZ, the opposition Free Democrats, and the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party all rejected the proposal. Medgyessy's plan would require the approval of at least two-thirds of parliamentary members. MSZ




MACEDONIAN TALKS PRODUCING ONLY 'WORDS'...

James Pardew, the U.S. envoy participating in the Macedonian peace talks, said in Ohrid that the talks that began 28 July have produced only "words, not more," the BBC's Serbian Service reported on 30 July. Francois Leotard, who is Pardew's EU counterpart, said: "We've been advancing millimeter by millimeter, word by word. They're very tough negotiations because there's a heavy emotional charge, and daily clashes out on the ground... I'm not certain of success and it has to be said frankly. But we do not have the right to abandon this and leave things to the logic of war," Reuters reported. President Boris Trajkovski is hosting the talks at his official home on Lake Ohrid. The participants, in addition to himself and the two envoys, are leaders of the two largest ethnic Macedonian and two largest ethnic Albanian parties. The biggest sticking point appears to be the language issue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2001). PM

...OR SOME PROGRESS?

Ethnic Macedonian Social Democratic negotiator Georgi Spasov told dpa in Ohrid on 30 July that the talks are making progress. "Macedonian will remain the basic official language in the whole of Macedonia and international relations, but minority groups of more than 20 percent of the local population will be allowed to use their own language... With the language problem resolved, Albanians will get wide opportunities for official use of their own language," he said, adding that progress was also made on local police issues. An unnamed source from the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity told Reuters that "yesterday's talks resulted in a feeling that the obstacles concerning the use of the Albanian language have been overcome, which leaves us hopeful that the talks will end successfully." PM

ATTACK ON MACEDONIAN MINISTER

Defense Ministry officials reported several breaches of the cease-fire by the ethnic Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK) in the Tetovo and Kumanovo areas over the weekend, dpa reported on 29 July. That night on the Skopje-Tetovo highway, gunmen attacked a convoy that included Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, AP reported. He blamed the UCK and called on the police and army to take urgent measures against the "terrorists." No one was reported injured in the brief firefight. An unnamed "Western diplomat close to the negotiations" told the news agency that "the attack will clearly have a negative impact on the talks, because [Macedonian] nationalists will try to exploit it." PM

MORE PROTESTS IN SKOPJE

At a protest meeting in front of the parliament building in Skopje on 28 July, refugees who have been recently expelled from their homes by the UCK demanded a quick military solution of the current crisis, Skopje newspapers reported on 30 July (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2001 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 July 2001). The refugees also demanded that the UN Security Council send troops to Macedonia, and The Hague-based tribunal prosecute members of the UCK as war criminals. The protesters demanded that both President Trajkovski and Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski should explain their peace plans to the public within the next 48 hours or resign. The meeting was also used as a platform for the World Macedonian Congress (SMK), which called for Trajkovski's resignation. Some protesters carried anti-NATO signs, one of which read: "NATO is trying to Albanianize the country." UB

DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN IN MACEDONIA, SERBIA?

Press reports have appeared in Macedonia and elsewhere in the region in recent weeks, suggesting that NATO -- and in particular the U.S. -- is actively helping the UCK in Macedonia. One such report claimed that a KFOR helicopter landed arms for the UCK on Macedonian territory, which brought a protest to NATO from the Macedonian authorities and a swift denial from Secretary-General Lord George Robertson (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2001). The German weekly "Der Spiegel" in its 30 July issue strongly suggests in an article entitled "The Americans' Hidden Agenda" that the U.S. is aiding the UCK. The article adds that this alleged American role in fomenting the conflict in Macedonia is irritating "the Europeans." In yet another twist, the Serbian news agency Beta reported that the U.S. authorities recently approached Serbian officials to request a "99-year lease" on the Camp Bondsteel area in Kosova and on several Yugoslav military facilities. The U.S. Embassy in Belgrade and Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic denied the report, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 30 July (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 March 2001). PM

KOSOVA VOTING REGISTRATION BEGINS IN SERBIA, MONTENEGRO

Refugees from Kosova living in Serbia and Montenegro began registering to vote for the 17 November Kosova general elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 30 July. Those eligible to register include persons who have lived in Kosova for at least five years, persons born in the province, or persons with a least one parent who was born there. PM

BELGRADE SEEKS TO SET TERMS FOR SERBIAN PARTICIPATION IN KOSOVA VOTE

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 28 July that the authorities will "soon" publish a list of measures that they want implemented before Belgrade will approve the participation of Kosova Serbs in the 17 November vote, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 27 July 2001). The authorities will issue their final recommendation on the elections in late September. PM

SERBIAN MINISTER VISITS KOSOVA

In Gracanica on 28 July, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said that Kosovar Serbs should register for the elections regardless of what Belgrade's final recommendation will prove to be, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Local Albanians protested his visit to the province, calling it a provocation. They also objected to his being elected head of the management committee of the Trepca metallurgical complex as a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which provided the UN mandate for Kosova in 1999. PM

ORBAN, NASTASE AGREE TO DISAGREE ON HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW...

On 28 July, following talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase announced that proposed solutions to problems regarding the Status Law will be analyzed by Romanian and Hungarian authorities between now and mid-September, when the Romanian-Hungarian committee established by the bilateral treaty will be convened. Meanwhile, Nastase said the Romanian government's position remains the same: Romanian authorities do not accept the extraterritorial implementation of the law, as the protection of the rights of the minorities is handled by the Romanian state. Nastase also particularly emphasized his concern regarding the selection procedures for the beneficiaries of the law. For his part, Orban said, "We don't have hidden intentions and we are trying to meet the obligation in the Hungarian Constitution according to which the government is responsible for Hungarians abroad." He added that this obligation is particularly important as Hungary will soon join the European Union while some of its neighbors will not. LB

...DISCUSS QUOTAS OF ROMANIAN TEMPORARY WORKERS IN HUNGARY

During the talks, Orban suggested that the quota for Romanian temporary workers in Hungary should increase from 8,000 to 17,000, while his Romanian counterpart claimed that this limitation should be simply eliminated. Nastase said in eliminating this quota a major economic problem addressed by the Status Law would disappear. They also discussed Hungarian assistance in Romania's negotiations with the EU, as well as the ongoing topic of a Budapest-Bucharest highway. Regarding the latter issue, Orban said Hungary could contribute financially only if the highway would cover the northeast of Transylvania. LB

ROMANIAN PREMIER WARNS OF ROMANIAN ECONOMY OVERHEATING

Premier Nastase said on 27 July that surprisingly good agricultural output could boost 2001 economic growth beyond initial forecasts, the Mediafax news agency reported. "With good results in agriculture, the gross domestic product growth might exceed 5 percent," Nastase stated during his weekly teleconference with local authorities. He also warned of the need to prevent the economy from overheating, emphasizing the need to keep a tight lid on income policies. The 2001 budget targeted GDP growth at 4.1 percent, to build on last year's 1.6 percent recovery after three years of recession. Romania also hopes to achieve a GDP rise of about 5.2 percent in 2002 and annual growth rates of 4-6 percent through 2005. LB

MOLDOVAN MINISTERS SACKED

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin signed decrees on 27 July dismissing Foreign Affairs Minister Nicolae Cernomaz and Energy Minister Ion Lesanu. Both had been members of the previous government; although neither one of them was a member of the Communist Party, they did support it. In a press release from the Moldovan presidency that was only presented to state television, no reason was given for the action. According to Infotag, Voronin announced a possible government shuffle on 26 July. The news agency also said that the best-placed candidate to be foreign minister, given the stated intention of Moldova to join the Belarus-Russia Union, is the current Moldovan ambassador in Moscow, Valeriu Bobutac. LB

MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTER IN BUCHAREST

Romanian Premier Nastase said during a joint press conference in Bucharest on 27 July with his Moldovan counterpart Vasile Tarlev that Moldova might be involved in the construction operations at the Cernavoda Nuclear Power Plant. The proposal is part of an energy package discussed by the two premiers, which also included plans for electricity delivery to Moldova next winter and an aide-memoire regarding Moldovan debts to Romania for past energy deliveries. The two men signed several cooperation agreements. During his one-day visit to Bucharest, Tarlev also met with President Ion Iliescu and discussed common steps the two countries can take regarding border control and international support from Bucharest for Chisinau with international institutions. LB

MOLDOVAN DEPUTY STRIPPED OF PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY

The Moldovan parliament voted on 27 July to strip Christian-Democrat deputy Nicolae Alexei of his parliamentary immunity. In a session in which only deputies from the Communist Party and the Braghis Alliance participated, the vote was 63 to four. As a top anticorruption official in the previous government, General Alexei had made public a cigarette-, alcohol-, and fuel-smuggling scheme that involved, according to the general, high state officials. The investigation was later blocked and Alexei and his colleagues were accused of illegally filing criminal records, as well as sequestering goods and submitting their value to the state budget. Alexei said that the case against him is "fake." During the parliamentary debate, Alexis was supported by Braghis Alliance deputy Mihai Plamadeala, a former interior minister, who claimed that "in the Republic of Moldova anybody who tries to fight against organized crime gets in the situation that Alexei is in, because the criminal structures have become so connected with state institutions that it is impossible to solve a more serious crime and not bother some of the officials." LB

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT TURNING AGAINST IMF?

Prime Minister Tarlev said on 26 July that Moldova will tell an IMF delegation this week that it wants changes to the Memorandum on Financial and Economic Policies that it agreed to with the IMF. The IMF delegation will be led by Richard Haas, and will be in Moldova for three weeks to assess the fulfilment of the memorandum. Haas said the first week of the visit will focus on collecting information on Moldova's latest economic moves and on reviewing main economic and financial indicators. The rest of the trip will consist of talks with government officials, including the proposed changes. Haas said that the agenda of the mission includes changes to the budget and developments in the farming sector. Haas said Moldova has met many of the commitments in the memorandum or would do so in the near future. However, he added that some unclear situations exist. Meanwhile, Chisinau papers on 26 July quoted President Voronin as having said during a meeting with retirees that Moldova "can exist without the loans used by the international banks to cheat beneficiaries the same way goats are summoned with the help of a cabbage in front of their noses." LB

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER TO MAINTAIN EU MEMBERSHIP AS PRIORITY

Solomon Passi said in Sofia on 30 July that Bulgaria's accession to the EU remains a "long-term and strategic priority," AP reported. Passi, who made his comment after addressing EU ambassadors to Bulgaria, said he hopes "that work on the country's successful Euro-integration will continue and that we will be able to keep up the brisk pace." Belgian Ambassador to Bulgaria Edmond De Wilde said that Bulgaria has achieved considerable progress toward membership in a short time. Bulgaria and the EU have closed 11 of the 31 chapters needed for EU accession. PB

BULGARIANS HAVE RECORD LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE IN NEW PREMIER

A Gallup Poll released on 27 July shows that some 63 percent of respondents have confidence in the abilities of Premier Simeon Saxecoburggotski to live up to his election promises, AFP reported. The percentage is a record for a new premier in office in Bulgaria, and is considerably higher than the 50 percent confidence rating given to him in a similar poll in June. Former Premier Ivan Kostov had a 51 percent confidence level when he took office. Over 1,100 people took part in the poll. PB




OPPOSITION HOPES COMMON PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IS BEST OF BOTH WORLDS


By Jan Maksymiuk

Four politicians supported by the Belarusian opposition -- Mikhail Chyhir, Syamyon Domash, Syarhey Kalyakin, and Pavel Kazlouski -- said on 21 July that they will withdraw from the presidential race and form a united campaign behind Uladzimir Hancharyk, the head of the Trade Union Federation of Belarus. In this way, the five complied with their previous pledge to propose a single candidate from a broad coalition of democratic and opposition forces in a bid to oust dictatorial President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The Central Election Commission reported last week that only four persons -- incumbent President Lukashenka, Liberal Democratic Party leader Syarhey Haydukevich, Domash, and Hancharyk -- supplied no fewer than the 100,000 signatures required for their registration.

The choice of Hancharyk came as a surprise to the Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces, which loosely unites major opposition parties and influential NGOs in Belarus. The council would have preferred Domash, the former governor of Hrodna Oblast, as the single democratic candidate. The independent weekly "Nasha Niva" on 23 July disclosed some criteria that were taken into account by those responsible for fielding Hancharyk against Lukashenka.

According to the weekly, the results of sociological surveys were the basic arguments in favor of Hancharyk. Public opinion polls indicate that one-fourth of Lukashenka's supporters would also be inclined to vote for Hancharyk, and one-fifth for Domash. A small score for Hancharyk. In addition, in Lukashenka's "traditional regions of support" -- Mahileu, Homel, and Brest oblasts -- Hancharyk is viewed less negatively than Domash by voters. The tacit assumption is that the city of Minsk, Hrodna Oblast, as well as the western raions of the Minsk and Vitsebsk oblasts will for the most part vote for anybody except Lukashenka. Another score for Hancharyk. Hancharyk also has a somewhat higher popularity rating than Domash among those older than 50 and with pensioners, and it is assumed that younger generations will opt for "non-Lukashenka" in the presidential ballot. One more score for Hancharyk.

"Nasha Niva" also suggested that the recently created leftist movement named "For a New Belarus" had an important say in selecting Hancharyk. The movement is led by former Agriculture Minister Vasil Lyavonau and includes such important figures as former Supreme Soviet speakers Stanislau Shushkevich and Mechyslau Hryb, as well as a number of Soviet-era nomenklatura representatives who have been marginalized, shunned, or even persecuted by the Lukashenka regime.

According to the weekly, "For a New Belarus" believes that only a "revolt" by the current regime's nomenklatura -- which primarily means a refusal to falsify the vote count -- will unseat Lukashenka. And this revolt, Lyavonau's group argues, is more likely to occur when Lukashenka is challenged by Hancharyk, because the 61-year-old Hancharyk is a typical Soviet-era nomenklaturshchik, whom many in the Lukashenka administration allegedly regard as an acceptable successor to the incumbent president.

Indeed, Hancharyk's Soviet-era career was that of an exemplary Party functionary. Hancharyk graduated from the Belarusian Institute of National Economy (1961) and the Academy of Social Sciences under the Central Committee of the CPSU (1976). In the 1960s, he worked as an economist and a party functionary at the raion level, in the 1970s he advanced to assume oblast-level positions, and in the 1980s he was given a job in the Central Committee of the Belorussian Communist Party. Since 1986, he has been chairman of the Trade Union Federation of Belarus.

There were virtually no problems for Hancharyk in his trade union post during the Soviet-era or in the pre-Lukashenka period of independent Belarus. Serious troubles appeared in the late 1990s, when Lukashenka -- apparently desiring to gain more control over the industrial working class, which he saw as the biggest threat to his rule -- launched a smear campaign in the media against Hancharyk. Lukashenka's controlling services conducted several thorough inspections of the Trade Union Federation's activities and books in an unsuccessful bid to find something that would discredit Hancharyk. The latest inspection began shortly after Hancharyk on 13 July made public documents implicating top law-enforcement officials (and possibly Lukashenka) in the killing of opposition figures in Belarus.

The Trade Union Federation of Belarus has between 2 and 3 million members. If all of them (and their families) voted for Hancharyk on 9 September, Lukashenka would face a humiliating defeat. But it seems that Hancharyk's pull among his trade unionists has been considerably eroded by the Lukashenka administration, which has made enormous efforts to organize a rival trade union federation and managed to chip a number of trade union organizations at some factories in Minsk and elsewhere from Hancharyk's monolith. When Hancharyk called last year for a 30,000-strong trade union rally in Minsk to protest the appalling economic situation, only some 3,000 turned up.

One aspect of the presidential campaign is certainly auspicious for the Belarusian opposition. If in fact Domash withdraws from the race, there will be only three contenders: Lukashenka, Hancharyk, and Haydukevich. This automatically puts Hancharyk in the public spotlight, a development extremely undesirable for Lukashenka who, according to many commentators, wanted to register as many contenders for the presidency as possible in order to confuse the electorate and dissipate democratic votes.

Of course, there is also Haydukevich, the leader of the local replica of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's infamous party. But few people in Belarus or Russia treat Haydukevich seriously. Belarusian democrats are inclined to believe that Haydukevich is Lukashenka's headache rather than their own, since Haydukevich appeals to the same electorate as the incumbent president. If this is so, then another thing the democrats need is "a revolt of the nomenklatura." Such a revolt seems to be the sine qua non for defeating Lukashenka, because he staffed territorial election commissions (formed at the oblast and raion levels) entirely from his own people and, according to recent reports by RFE/RL's Belarusian Service correspondents, is repeating the trick with voting precinct commissions.


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