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Newsline - August 1, 2001




RUSSIAN SPECIAL FORCES STORM HIJACKED BUS

The "Alfa" Anti-Terrorist Special Forces group of the Federal Security Service (FSB) rescued on 31 July some 40 hostages from a bus that was hijacked near Mineralnie Vody in Stavropol Krai, Russian agencies reported. According to FSB Deputy Director Anatolii Eshkov, who led the operation, one hijacker was killed and one passenger was wounded when the Alfa troops stormed the bus. The slain hijacker was an ethnic Chechen, who had demanded that five of his colleagues be released from prison where they are serving a sentence for a 1994 hijacking attempt. VY

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA NOT READY TO MAKE CONCESSIONS ON ABM

While visiting military units in Kamchatka Oblast on 31 July, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov denied that Moscow is prepared to modify the ABM Treaty, ORT and RTR reported. Ivanov said that previous reports about Russia's readiness to compromise with Washington on this issue "are groundless since we do not know even theoretically on what basis a compromise would be formed" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2001). Ivanov added that Russia will make no concessions to the U.S. as far as its national security is concerned. VY

STRATEGIC ROCKET FORCES DENY ICBM TEST

The Russian Strategic Rocket Forces have issued a press release denying information published this week by "The Washington Times" and the "Daily Telegraph," alleging that it is testing a modified version of the SS-25 intercontinental ballistic missile that can change its trajectory at the last stage of its flight, the Military News Agency reported on 31 July. According to the press release, it is also untrue that the force is preparing a missile that would be "invulnerable to the U.S. NMD system." Although the statement does not deny that tests may have occurred, it says that the SS-25 missile in question is "an old missile entered in all classification registers." VY

INFLATION ACCOMPANIES ECONOMIC GROWTH REPORTS

State Statistics Committee First Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Surinov stated on 30 July that the rate of inflation for first half of the year reached 23 percent -- far exceeding the figure of 14-16 percent projected by the minister of economic development and trade, German Gref, "Vremya novostei" reported on 31 July. On the other hand, the government's projections for economic growth in the first half of the year were correct, and industrial production has continued to rise (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2001). But Surinov stressed that accelerating inflation has absorbed most of the rise in incomes, which increased by only 4.4 percent in the first half, according to the polit.ru website on 30 July. VY/JAC

NIZHNII VICTORY PROMPTS CONCERN ABOUT RED ADVANCE...

The victory of Communist State Duma deputy Gennadii Khodyrev in the 29 July gubernatorial election in Nizhnii Novgorod and the unexpected second place finish of another Communist deputy in Irkutsk Oblast prompted "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 31 July to conduct a random poll of leading Muscovites on whether the Communists are returning to power. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" the same day claimed that 45 of Russia's 89 federation subjects are controlled by Communists: "In 37 regions, the KPRF controls the executive branch, and in eight regions the legislative branch." And the party hopes to add even more victories in the regions in the future. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told reporters on 31 July that the party considers the Nizhnii ballot a "benchmark election," and the party attaches special significance to the upcoming elections in Tula, Irkutsk, and Rostov oblasts, and the republics of North Ossetia and Sakha (Yakutia). JAC

...AS DAILY POINTS TO REAL POWER BEHIND THE THRONE IN COMMUNIST PARTY...

A long article in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 31 July asserts that the most powerful figure in the Communist Party is not in fact its leader Zyuganov but his first deputy, Valentin Kuptsov. According to the daily, Kuptsov "holds in his hands all threads of the party's administration." The paper continues that Kuptsov "decides when Zyuganov goes on vacation, what he does and what he says...all of the Russian Communist Party's successes and failures are tightly linked with his name." JAC

...AND PARTY CHALLENGES LAND CODE IN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

Communist Party leader Zyuganov told reporters on 31 July that the party has sent a request to the Constitutional Court questioning the legality of the State Duma's adoption of the Land Code in its second reading earlier this month, ITAR-TASS reported. Zyuganov claimed that "procedural violations" occurred before the Land Code was adopted, and the opposition of some 35 regions -- "which produce 95% of Russia's grain" -- to the code was ignored. Finally, the Communist leader stressed that even if the court refuses to consider the issue, then the Communist activists in the regions will send the court their own petitions. And they may be forced to take such an action: Constitutional Court Deputy Chair Tamara Morshchakova told Ekho Moskvy radio earlier in July that the court cannot even consider defects in how the Land Code was adopted until it has actually come into force (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 16 July 2001). VY/JAC

NEW AGRARIAN ORGANIZATION IN THE WORKS

Former Agriculture Minister Vladimir Semenov, who is now a Duma deputy with the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) faction, told reporters on 31 July that the Fatherland party intends to create a new political organization to lobby the interests of agricultural producers and the agro-industry, TV-Tsentr reported. Semenov, who is also a member of Fatherland's political council, explained that the Agrarian Party led by fellow OVR deputy Mikhail Lapshin "has failed to become a centrist agrarian movement and completely decayed." Instead, according to Semenov, the "role of defender of the peasantry has been monopolized by Comrade [Nikolai] Kharitonov," who is the leader of the Agro-Industrial group in the Duma. JAC

INDONESIA MULLS PURCHASE OF RUSSIAN MILITARY AIRCRAFT

Russia is offering to sell Indonesia Russian "Su-30" fighter jets for its air force in exchange for concessions and licensing in that country's mining and other natural resource-extraction sectors, "Izvestiya" reported on 31 July. The newspaper quotes the commander in chief of the Indonesian air force, Hanafi Aznan, who said he would prefer to buy the Russian planes for the modernization of his country's air force. Because of the deep economic crisis and continuing U.S. embargo imposed on purchases of military supplies, the inexpensive Russian airplanes may prove very attractive to Jakarta, "Izvestiya" noted. All in all, the Russian military plans to sell to Indonesia over the next 10 years up to 500 aircraft at cost of $17 billion, according to the daily. VY

TAX CHIEF PROPOSES FINANCIAL AMNESTY

In an interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 31 July, Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev said that he is inclined to support an amnesty for Russian illegal capital, because such a policy is consistent with Russian President Vladimir Putin's economic program, which has lightened companies' tax burden and liberalized hard-currency regulations. Bukaev suggests that the amnesty be structured so that the owner of illegal capital would pay the 13 percent income tax and transfer his funds to a bank account that is "transparent" or can be monitored by Russian financial agencies. Bukaev added that he is impressed by the positive experience of Kazakhstan. The capital amnesty there in June-July resulted in the return of some $480 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2001). VY

PUTIN MAKES NEW TAX POLICE APPOINTMENTS

President Putin has completed his reorganization of the Federal Tax Police with his appointment of three new deputy directors, the website polit.ru reported on 31 July. On 28 June Putin reduced the number of deputy directors from seven to three. Sergei Verevkin-Rakhalskii is now the first deputy director, Anatolii Tsybulevskii is deputy director, and Valerii Pavlov is state-secretary-deputy director. Both Verevkin-Rakhalskii and Tsybulevskii are former FSB officials, while Pavlov was most recently a deputy tax minister, according to the website. JAC

MOSCOW STOCK EXCHANGE REACHES DECADE MARK

The Moscow Central Stock Exchange first opened 10 years ago on 1 August 1991, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 1 August. At that time the electronic trading system had not been installed, and the president of the exchange at that time, Eduard Tenyakov, told the daily that the exchange made a big mistake when it introduced them. "Computers rather than uniting people drove them apart," Tenyakov explained, "It is impossible to take a path in just a few years that took the West more than a century." JAC

RUSSIAN TEAM CLAIMS TO HAVE PRODUCED SUPER SUPERCOMPUTER

The vice president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Fortov, announced on 31 July that a team of designers he is leading has created a domestic supercomputer with an extremely high capacity of instructions per second that it can perform as well as a speed of trillions of operations per second, Russian news agencies reported. Fortov complained that the producers of the most advanced supercomputers, the United States and Japan, strictly limit their exports of such technology to Russia. However, this new Russian supercomputer exceeds the processing speed of the technology banned for export to Russia by 50-100 times -- and in Fortov's words -- gives Russia a hi-tech edge in the process of globalization. VY

'SOFT' PRESIDENTIAL RULE INTRODUCED IN KALININGRAD?

The presidential envoy to the Northwestern federal district, Viktor Cherkesov, has stated that the control of the Kaliningrad Oblast's special economic zone will be transferred to the representatives of the presidential administration in the region, "Izvestiya" reported on 31 July. Cherkesov added that this decision was made at last week's Security Council meeting devoted to Kaliningrad, and that one of his deputies will be in charge of this process. Meanwhile, the governor of the Kaliningrad Oblast, Vladimir Egorov, said that the regional budget will also be transferred to federal control. VY

NEW GOVERNOR INVESTIGATES MISDEEDS OF NAZDRATENKO REGIME...

Primorskii Krai Governor Sergei Darkin confirmed on 31 July that he has asked the Finance Ministry to conduct an audit of financial flows under the previous krai administration, Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 18 July 2001). The same day, the office of the krai's prosecutor issued a press release charging that former krai officials committed serious violations with regard to interruptions of heat and electricity supplies to residents last winter, RIA-Novosti reported. According to the agency, some officials on more than one occasion "took fuel from the government reserve" and sold it to "friendly" business structures, who in turn sold the fuel to China and other countries in Asia. JAC

...AS NAZDRATENKO AGAIN SLAMS OFFICIAL FISH POLICY

State Fishing Committee head Yevgenii Nazdratenko told reporters in Moscow on 31 July that the current policy of holding auctions to sell fishing quotas is causing the government to lose millions of dollars, Russian agencies reported. Nazdratenko charged that there is deliberate underpricing of Russian fish by foreign buyers, while some domestic fleets are shut out of the market because they don't have enough money to buy a quota. Nazdratenko opposed the policy of holding auctions while he was still governor of Primorskii Krai, a policy for which both Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Economic Development and Trade Minister Gref have expressed their public support (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March 2001). JAC

CHOLERA OUTBREAK AFFECTS TATARSTAN CAPITAL

Some 33 cholera cases have been registered in Kazan; however, First Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishchenko announced on 31 July that the city will not be closed for a quarantine unless the number of cases reaches 100, the website regions.ru reported on 31 July. Tatarstan Television reported on 30 July that one person in the city has already died, according to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau. According to the bureau, all of those affected swam in a particular lake in the Azino micro-raion. More than 500 of Kazan's bodies of water have been checked, but the cholera virus was found only in that lake, Interfax reported. Onishchenko added that the epidemiological situation in Russia is "difficult" because of the hot temperatures affecting central Russia. JAC/VY

PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY PROMISES INVESTIGATION OF MISSING IN CHECHNYA

The presidential ombudsman for human rights in Chechnya, Vladimir Kalamanov, announced on 31 July that of the over 1,000 residents of Chechnya officially registered as "missing" about 700 have been discovered -- some of them dead, RIA-Novosti reported. Kalamanov said that a criminal case is opened whenever a civilian is reported dead or missing, as well as into all incidents in which civilians have suffered mistreatment. VY

GRYZLOV WANTS TO CUT MVD TROOPS IN CHECHNYA

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov stated on 31 July that he plans to reduce the number of the Interior Ministry troops in Chechnya by 12,000 by 2002 because "the time for the large-scale operations is over," RIA-Novosti reported. However, even after the reduction, the Interior Ministry will still have about 42,000 of its servicemen in the republic, according to Gryzlov. The Kremlin has already repeatedly announced the withdrawal of its troops from Chechnya, but every time it has stopped short of such a withdrawal because of its inability to contain the Chechen fighters with smaller forces. VY

POLICE, MARKET VENDORS CLASH IN MAKHACHKALA

Up to 20 people, including some police officers, were injured on 31 July when police and Interior Ministry troops tried to force vendors at the central market in Makhachkala, the capital of Daghestan, to move their stalls to a new location on the city outskirts, Interfax and Reuters reported. According to an unconfirmed report by Glasnost-North Caucasus on 1 August, the number of injured was estimated in the "dozens" and three people were killed in the fighting, during which the 300 police officers reportedly used tear gas and rubber bullets. Some 100 traders were arrested. Municipal officials had attempted earlier to close the market, without success. LF

DISMISSED CHECHEN OFFICIAL SAYS SHE'S TOO YOUNG TO RETIRE

Malika Gezimieva, whom Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov dismissed as Gudermes mayor on the grounds that she has reached the mandatory retirement age of 60 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2001), insists that she is only 57, and that her parents falsified her age at the time of the 1944 mass deportation of the Chechens and Ingush to Central Asia, according to "Izvestiya" on 1 August. She said she will appeal to President Putin to have her reinstated as mayor. The paper quoted the deputy presidential envoy to the Southern federal district, Nikolai Britvin, as saying that Gezimieva's dismissal is legal. LF




MOST ARMENIAN PARTIES OPPOSE CONCILIATION COMMISSION

Five political parties represented in the Armenian parliament and two nonpartisan parliamentary factions issued a statement on 31 July criticizing the announcement last month of the creation of an Armenian-Turkish conciliation commission (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 27, 24 July 2001), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The statement argued that "attempts to hide the historical truth and initiatives aimed at an artificial reconciliation cannot contribute to the establishment of normal relations" between the two countries. It suggests that the ultimate aim of the commission is to "remove the fact of the Armenian genocide from the agenda," and warned that its activities could "split the united Armenian front" and hinder the ongoing campaign for international recognition of the 1915 genocide. LF

IMF OFFICIAL ASSESSES ARMENIA'S PROGRESS

Following talks in Yerevan on 30-31 July with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, John Odling-Smee, the director of the IMF's Second European Department, said that the main challenge now facing Armenia is to "put the economy on a higher sustainable growth path," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Specifically, he advocated "improved governance" and further measures to combat corruption in order to create a business environment more attractive to foreign investors, noting the Armenian leadership's strong commitment to meeting those objectives. Odling-Smee told students at the American University of Armenia that he does not recommend that Armenia request that its foreign debt be written off, Noyan Tapan reported on 1 August. He said that although per capita annual income in Armenia is less than $700 and Armenia therefore ranks as one of the world's poorest states, unlike Tajikistan, Georgia, and Moldova, "Armenia, if willing, can service its debt." Armenia's total foreign debt as of January 2001 was $836 million, compared with Georgia's $1.6 billion. LF

IRAN DENIES VIOLATING AZERBAIJAN'S AIRSPACE

The Iranian Embassy in Baku has rejected as "unsubstantiated rumor" an ANS-TV report of 30 July that an Iranian warplane violated Azerbaijani airspace the previous day, dpa reported from Tehran on 1 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2001). On 31 July, Russian deputy foreign ministers Viktor Kalyuzhnyi and Aleksandr Losyukov informed Iran's ambassador to Russia, Mehdi Safari, of Moscow's "concern" at the recent deterioration in Azerbaijani-Iranian relations, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 August. LF

TWO AZERBAIJANIS SHOT DEAD ON BORDER WITH IRAN

Two residents of the Azerbaijani village of Shafagli were beaten and then shot dead by Azerbaijani border guards on 28 July after they attempted to cross the border into Iran circumventing official controls, Turan and RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported on 31 July. LF

AZERBAIJAN FINALLY MAKES OFFICIAL TRANSITION TO LATIN ALPHABET

On 1 August, Latin script officially superceded Cyrillic as the official alphabet in Azerbaijan, almost 10 years after the country's parliament first voted to abandon Cyrillic and set a two-year transition period, until 31 December 1993, for doing so. The transition was suspended after the overthrow in June 1993 of the Azerbaijan Popular Front leadership headed by President Abulfaz Elchibey, and in recent years both alphabets have been used in advertising and street signs, at least in Baku. Elchibey's successor Heidar Aliyev issued a decree six weeks ago setting 1 August as the deadline after which all official documentation and street and shop signs must be in Latin script (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2001). Baku city workers began removing signs in Cyrillic late on 31 July. LF

GEORGIA, CHINA DISCUSS ARMS JOINT VENTURE

Among the issues discussed during the recent visit to Beijing by the Georgian army chief of General Staff, Dzhoni Pirtskhalaishvili, was a joint venture to produce ammunition, Caucasus Press reported on 1 August. Beijing reportedly offered to raise investment to cover 80 percent of the estimated $19 million cost of that project if Georgia can provide the remaining 20 percent. It is not clear which specific types of weapons that ammunition is intended for. A Chinese military delegation visited Tbilisi in early July to discuss expanding bilateral military cooperation. LF

CONSORTIUM OFFICIAL DOWNPLAYS KAZAKHSTAN PIPELINE DELAY

Senior Chevron Oil official Richard Matzke met in Almaty on 31 July with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev to discuss the delay in the formal ceremony to mark the arrival in Novorossiisk of the first Kazakh oil exported by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium pipeline, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 1 August. That ceremony, originally scheduled for 6 August, has been postponed indefinitely (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 30 July 2001). Matzke said there are no technical problems affecting the use of the pipeline. He said CPC shareholders, which include Chevron and other foreign oil companies and the governments of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Oman, will meet in Moscow on 3 August when they hope to finalize and sign an agreement on the commercial exploitation of the pipeline, according to Interfax on 31 July. LF

NO CONFIRMATION OF NEW CLASHES IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan's Defense and Interior ministries both denied on 31 July reports from Batken Oblast of an exchange of fire involving Kyrgyz border guards in Kadamjai Raion on the border with Tajikistan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Also on 31 July, Kyrgyz Security Council Secretary Misir Ashyrkulov and Tajik Deputy Prime Minister for Defense and Security Saidamir Zuhurov returned to their respective capitals after a five-day inspection of Jirgatal province on the Tajik side of the border. Asia Plus-Blitz quoted Zuhurov as saying that an additional 500 Tajik border guards have been deployed on the Tajik side of the border, and on routes which militants from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are likely to use in a bid to cross into Kyrgyz territory. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DEFENDS GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS AGAINST MURDER ACCUSATIONS

Alyaksandr Lukashenka denied on 31 July that members of his circle are involved in the disappearances and murders of several opposition figures and said that such charges are an attempt to ruin him, Belapan reported. Lukashenka said: "Today they throw stones at my men, those who stand beside me, meaning to hit me. I understand it perfectly well...Lukashenka is the one they want dead." In mid-July, the opposition published what appeared to be a confidential police report that suggested that three missing opposition figures -- who disappeared in 1999 without a trace -- were murdered by Dmytry Paulyuchenko, the commander of a special police force called SOBR, on the orders of Viktor Sheiman and Yury Sivakou, Lukashenka's security chief and interior minister, respectively, at the time. PB

LUKASHENKA WEARY OF A 'BELARUSIAN KOSTUNICA' SCENARIO

President Lukashenka said on 31 July that the OSCE is working with the Belarusian opposition but that he will not allow himself to be ousted the way former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was last year when Vojislav Kostunica replaced him after elections, Reuters reported. Lukashenka called Hans-Georg Wieck, the head of the OSCE observer mission in Minsk, "the chief of the headquarters of the entire Belarusian opposition." Lukashenka said that at the start of the official counting of votes after the 9 September election that a "'Belarusian Kostunica' will be declared." The next day, "the victory of Lukashenka will be declared...but not agreeing with the official results, at least 10,000 people will gather at the presidential residence and attack it, and declare a Belarusian version of Kostunica as head of state. But there will be no Kostunica...I will defend myself and won't sit things out in a bunker like Milosevic." Meanwhile, Gerard Stoudmann, the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, said he is "very disappointed" by the Belarusian government's decision not to allow an observer mission to enter Belarus on 1 August. However an election monitoring group for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe arrived in Minsk the previous day. PB

ESTONIAN CAPITAL TO EXTEND GRAIN WHARF RATHER THAN BUILD SEPARATE OIL TERMINAL

The supervisory council of the Tallinna Sadam (Port of Tallinn) decided in an unanimous vote on 31 July to authorize funds to build a deep-water oil terminal as an extension of the grain wharf in Muuga Port, BNS reported. The new wharf, with an 18-meter depth clearance, will permit the port to receive tankers of up to 125,000 tons displacement. The leading oil transit firm, Pakterminal, expressed its dissatisfaction with the decision, arguing that it would be wiser to build a new separate oil terminal that it estimated would cost about $9.4 million. Pakterminal board Chairman Raivo Vare said that his company will have to spend about $4.8-5.2 million to prepare the extended grain wharf for oil exports and thus it would be more reasonable to build a separate oil terminal, especially since the blueprints for a new terminal were completed in the spring. He hopes to sit down with the Port of Tallinn soon to discuss the option of building the new oil wharf. SG

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES EUROPEAN INTEGRATION PROGRAM

The government on 31 July accepted the national program for European Union integration and ordered the European Integration Office to present the program to the European Commission for assessment, BNS reported. It was the third review of Latvia's national European integration program and took into account and followed the recommendations of the European Commission's progress report for 2000. The program set priority topics to ensure Latvia's compliance with the requirements of the Copenhagen and Madrid conferences and to prepare the state administration, society, and the economy for EU membership. It takes into account the cofinancing offered by the EU as well as bilateral agreements and projects financed by international financial institutions. SG

LITHUANIA'S MAZEIKIAI OIL HAS GREATER LOSSES IN FIRST HALF OF YEAR

Mazeikiai Nafta (Oil) announced on 31 July that it had an unaudited loss of 71.65 million litas ($17.91 million) in the first half of 2001, or almost four times greater than the company's loss of 18.33 million litas in the same period last year, BNS reported. After significant losses in the first quarter, the company had profits of 34 and 39 million litas in April and May, respectively, but in June it lost 56 million litas, which Jim Scheel, the managing director of Mazeikiai Nafta, attributed to a 20 percent drop in gasoline prices while crude oil prices remained almost unchanged. From January-June, the company refined 3.29 million tons of oil, a 41.5 percent increase from the 2.33 million tons in the same period in 2000. Mazeikiai's Birzai oil pipeline transported 20.9 percent more oil and oil products and its Butinge oil terminal raised its exports and imports by 34.7 percent. SG

POLAND'S KACZYNSKI TRYING TO LURE PARTY FROM RIVAL COALITION?

Law and Justice (PiS) leader Lech Kaczynski told a press conference in Poznan that he would like Jan Olszewski's Movement for the Reconstruction of Poland (ROP) to join his group and the Right-Wing Alliance for parliamentary elections scheduled for September, PAP reported on 31 July. Olszewski said that the PiS offer is impossible for him to accept, adding that Kaczynski had offered ROP only three to four places on PiS lists. The ROP previously pledged itself to the election committee including Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek's Solidarity Electoral Action group, and on 29 July the ROP Main Council expressed its "readiness to reach an election agreement" with the League of Polish Families. DW

EC REPORT ON CZECH REPUBLIC'S TEMELIN FINALLY RECEIVED

Following a week of speculation on its contents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 30 July 2001), the Czech and Austrian governments on 31 July received copies of the European Commission's 250-page report on the Czech Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK reported. The report addresses 29 points considered problematic by the Austrians and contains an overview of "basic progress" and "tangible added value in comparison with the (plant's) previous state." Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel's spokeswoman, Heidi Glueck, told APA that the government will first have to go through the report thoroughly, but that she hopes it will be "a good basis for closing the Melk process." Schuessel and Czech Premier Milos Zeman agreed in Melk, Austria, in December 2000 that an environmental assessment of Temelin would be carried out. DW

CZECH PRESIDENT 'DISTURBED' BY BRITISH CHECKS; KAVAN TO REPORT TO GOVERNMENT

Vaclav Havel issued a statement on 31 July expressing his concerns about the screening of London-bound passengers at Prague's Ruzyne airport by British officials, CTK reported. Spokesman Martin Krafl said that Havel "is aware of the reasons that prompted the British side to introduce this temporary, technical measure," but that he "considers some of the circumstances that accompany its implementation disturbing." Meanwhile, after meeting with the Czech president of the International Romany Union, Emil Scuka, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said he will submit a report on the checks to the government by the end of August. DW

FLOOD DAMAGE EXCEEDS $20 MILLION IN SLOVAKIA

Recent flooding in Slovakia has caused over 1 billion crowns (over $20.2 million) in damages, according to estimates released on 31 July by the Agriculture Ministry's Central Flood Commission, TASR reported. Approximately 33 million crowns have already been spent to clean up damage from the flooding of 20,000 hectares of farm land and 210 municipalities, the head of the ministry's Water Management department, Dusan Palko, told Slovakia news agency. Palko said the situation has largely stabilized for the time being, and a final assessment of the damage will be made in about two weeks. Premier Mikulas Dzurinda on 29 July promised that the government will soon cover the 66 million crowns that was promised but has yet to be paid to those affected by floods in 1999 and 2000. Total damage from flooding in 2000 was 1.3 billion crowns; in 1999 it was 4.6 billion crowns. MES

SUSPENDED SLOVAK NATIONALIST PARTY MEMBERS MULL OVER LAWSUIT

The eight parliamentarians who were suspended on 28 July from the Slovak National Party (SNS) for one year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2001) are considering filing a lawsuit for "gross libel" against the party, TASR reported on 31 July. One of the suspended, Rastislav Septak, said at a press conference that day that the suspensions were engineered by SNS Chairwoman Anna Malikova in order to secure support within the party prior to upcoming general elections, while suspended parliamentarian Dusan Svanter has said that meddling by Russian intelligence services cannot be ruled out. Former Education Minister Eva Slavkovska, who was removed as vice chairman of the SNS and replaced by Peter Sulovksy, told "Novy Cas" on 30 July that the suspensions breached party statutes and came at the whim of Malikova. "Anyone who airs a view contrary to Malikova's gets blacklisted and sooner or later sacked," she told the daily. MES

HUNGARY'S CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS JOIN CENTER-RIGHT ALLIANCE

The Christian Democratic People's Party (KDNP) on 31 July decided to join the Right Hand for Peace alliance that groups the Democratic People's Party, the Entrepreneurs' Party, and a number of nongovernmental organizations. KDNP Chairman Tivadar Bartok told reporters in Kecskemet that his party could realistically envisage only a 2.5-3 percent showing in the 2002 elections, given the cash-strapped financial situations of nonparliamentary parties. He expressed hope that the Right Hand for Peace will reach the parliamentary threshold of 5 percent of the votes. MSZ




HAGUE SENTENCES BOSNIAN SERB TO 10 YEARS

On 31 July, The Hague-based war crimes tribunal sentenced Stevan Todorovic to 10 years in prison for murdering, torturing, and sexually assaulting Muslims and Croats in 1992-1993 while he was police chief in Bosanski Samac, Reuters reported. The tribunal noted that his offenses were "particularly grave." The prosecutor's report pointed out that "many of [his] victims endured great physical and mental suffering at his hands, and several continue to suffer the consequences of those actions nine years later." Todorovic received a relatively light sentence because he cooperated with the court. He is only one of three defendants in The Hague who pleaded guilty to the charges against him. Todorovic was the 20th person to be sentenced. The stiffest punishment went to Croatian General Tihomir Blaskic, who got 45 years. PM

SERBIAN PARTIES OF KOSTUNICA, KARADZIC SIGN AGREEMENT

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, on behalf of his Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), and Dragan Kalinic, on behalf of Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) of Bosnia, signed a cooperation agreement in Belgrade, "Politika" reported on 31 July. The daily noted that the two parties have been cooperating for years and that they have similar programs. Kostunica said that "despite the great challenges and suffering that all people from both sides of the River Drina have faced, the DSS and the SDS have managed to preserve their original principles. We in the DSS and the SDS are persistent in our claim that there is no democracy without a national element and vice versa," Reuters reported. For his part, Kalinic denied that the SDS has any further link with its founder Karadzic, who is an indicted war criminal. PM

SHARP REACTION TO SERBIAN NATIONALIST AGREEMENT

"Oslobodjenje" wrote on 1 August that the agreement between the SDS and DSS appears to have the character of a pact between two states, rather than of one between two political parties in different countries. Bosnian Serb Independent Social Democratic leader Rade Dujakovic said in Banja Luka that the agreement represents people rooted in the past. Rasim Kadic, who heads the Liberal Party, told Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service on 31 July that this is a "dangerous nationalist agreement that could destabilize the region." An unnamed Western diplomat said to Reuters in Belgrade that the agreement is a continuation of Kostunica's past dealings with the Republika Srpska, "which has been critically followed by the international community." PM

BOSNIAN SERB PRIME MINISTER IN BELGRADE

Republika Srpska Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 31 July that "conditions for ending customs barriers" between Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Herzegovina should be established by the end of September, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Ivanic also met with Kostunica and Yugoslav Prime Minister Dragisa Pesic. PM

MODEST LIVES OF SERBIAN LEADERS

The Banja Luka news magazine "Reporter" notes in its 1 August issue that the ministers in Djindjic's government live modestly and not too differently from other citizens. Two of the cabinet members live in sublet apartments, and two others live with their relatives. As is the case with many ordinary Serbs, more than half of the ministers will not take any vacation this year. PM

CENTRAL GOVERNMENT UNIT TAKES CHARGE OF BOSNIAN SERB BORDER CROSSING

Officials of the state border patrol service, which is subordinate to the joint government in Sarajevo, took control on 31 July of the border crossing between Serbia and the Republika Srpska at Bijeljina from Bosnian Serb police, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

LANGUAGE ISSUE BEDEVILS MACEDONIAN TALKS

Talks between leaders of Macedonia's four largest governing parties, President Boris Trajkovski, and Western mediators James Pardew and Francois Leotard continued for a fourth day in Ohrid on 31 July without definitive results, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The mediators put forward a new proposal aimed at ending the deadlock over the official status of the Albanian language (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2001). Pardew told AP afterward: "We have some progress. We feel good today." He did not elaborate. An unnamed "Western source" told Reuters that "we're very, very close" to an agreement on the language issue. Talks resumed at 12:00 noon on 1 August. Elsewhere, several minor violations of the cease-fire were reported. PM

U.S. BEGINS 'TEMPORARY' WITHDRAWAL OF TROOPS FROM MACEDONIA

U.S. army spokesman Major Randy Martin said at Camp Bondsteel in Kosova on 31 July that some 109 U.S. troops in Macedonia have redeployed recently to Kosova, dpa reported. A further 100 will join them shortly. He noted that this "is a temporary measure which will have little impact on our ability to resupply our operations. We relocated the soldiers in light of the current situation" in Macedonia. Some 500 U.S. troops are stationed in Macedonia to support and supply KFOR operations. PM

SHADOW OF HAGUE COURT OVER CROATIAN POLITICS

At this time of year, when most Croatian newsmakers are on vacation, the newspapers usually have some difficulty filling their pages. This summer, however, the ongoing debate about cooperation with The Hague and about the 1991-1995 war has kept many journalists busy. "Jutarnji list" on 1 August quoted retired General Janko Bobetko as saying that he, and not indicted General Ante Gotovina, was the author of the plan for Operation Storm, which ended the Serbian rebellion in Krajina in 1995. The paper also wrote that the tribunal wants to question Miroslav Tudjman, the son of the former president and a former intelligence chief, as well as 30 other people in the case of Mladen Naletilic, otherwise known as Tuta. "Vecernji list" quotes Miroslav Tudjman as saying that he will not be surprised if The Hague seeks to prosecute virtually the entire former leadership. He accused President Stipe Mesic and Prime Minister Ivica Racan of using the tribunal to fight the opposition. PM

CIORBEA FACTION IN ROMANIAN PEASANTIST PARTY TO BE BURIED IN LAWSUITS

Catalin Chirita, a leading supporter of former Peasantist Party (PNTCD) Chairman Andrei Marga, announced at a press conference on 31 July that the Marga faction is not going to establish a new party but hopes to take back its party with the "help of justice," Romanian media reported. Five lawsuits have been filed against new PNTCD leader Victor Ciorbea and another 18 will follow in the coming days, Chirita said. He repeated his claim that, following the resignation of Marga, the clash between the two factions during a national meeting on 6 July left the session without a quorum, and the same was true for the Permanent Delegation session the next day. Chirita said the goal of the lawsuits is to have all actions made by Ciorbea's faction after 6 July declared invalid. According to Chirita, support as of 31 July stands at: 26 branches for the Marga faction, eight branches for the Ciorbea faction, six branches are split, and seven are undecided. This count is based on branch leadership as of 6 July, before the Ciorbea faction began dismissing chairmen loyal to Marga. LB

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CLAIMS ILASCU BLOCKED TALKS BETWEEN CHISINAU AND TIRASPOL

In a press conference on 31 July, Vladimir Voronin accused Romanian Senator Ilie Ilascu of blocking negotiations between Chisinau and Tiraspol as well as the process of freeing Ilascu's colleagues in Tiraspol, Flux reported. Voronin said that until the Tiraspol detainees withdraw their cases in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the Transdniester conflict will not be resolved. "The Transdniester problem is now blocked and I cannot further negotiate it," Voronin said. Ilascu charged that Voronin is trying to blackmail him into withdrawing his cases from the ECHR. He added that last week the Moldovan negotiator with Tiraspol, Vasile Sturza, told Ilascu that "the day after [you] withdraw [your] petition against Russia, the boys will be free." Ilascu said he has already decided to withdraw his case in the ECHR against Moldova, but said he will never void the court case against Russia. As for Voronin, Ilascu said, "If he cannot further negotiate he might as well resign and let others come to power." LB

MOLDOVA TO SELL ITS LAST FIGHTER PLANES

The Moldovan parliament on 30 July approved a decision to sell the country's last six MiG-29s as well as 13 rocket launchers, Flux reported. The parliament said Moldova is too poor to maintain the equipment and that the funds from the future sale are badly needed for the state budget. "The Moldovan national army does not need air force and artillery," Defense Minister Victor Gaiciuc told the parliament on 30 July, adding that the planes and rocket launchers had not been used for a long time anyway. Some 20 percent of the money from the sale will go to the Defense Ministry, while 80 percent will go to the state budget. LB

ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WANTS BULGARIA TO WORK ON MACEDONIA

Paskal Milo said in Sofia on 31 July that he would like Bulgaria to try to convince the Macedonian government to agree to a settlement that expands the rights of ethnic Albanians, AP reported. Milo said after talks with his Bulgarian counterpart Solomon Passi that "I shall invite the new Bulgarian government to use its influence to convince the Macedonian authorities to accept the draft agreement, which has been proposed by the representatives of the international community in Skopje." Passi did not immediately comment on Milo's request. Milo's trip is being used to gain support from neighboring Balkan countries for the internationally mediated peace plan in Macedonia and has included stops in Yugoslavia and Romania. He will continue with visits to Turkey and Greece. PB

BULGARIA BREAKS UP COUNTERFEIT RING

The Interior Ministry said on 1 August that it has uncovered a counterfeit money printshop and phony dollars and German marks worth more than $1 million, Reuters reported. The printshop was found in Plovdiv, and five Bulgarians have been arrested. Forms for making forged passports from several Balkan countries and France and Spain were also seized, as well as numerous seals from Bulgarian companies and institutions. PB




A PAST THAT CAN'T BE EXPUNGED


By Paul Goble

Vandals have destroyed a monument near Minsk to the victims of Stalin-era mass murders in Belarus, opposition Belarusian People's Front official Vladimir Yukho said last week.

Yukho suggested that this action appears to represent an attempt to expunge from the record one of the most notorious events in Belarusian history and one of the most important sources of inspiration for the Belarusian national movement over the last two decades.

Yukho noted that the small granite memorial presented to the people of Belarus by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton when he visited that site in 1994 had served as a focal point for the Belarusian opposition.

The discovery in the 1980s of the Kuropaty mass graves helped to power the rise of the Belarusian democratic movement. Activists of the People's Front say that the graves, located in a forest near the national capital, contain the remains of hundreds of thousands killed in the 1930s. But officials of the current Belarusian regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka have attempted to play down the importance of Kuropaty and insist that there are no more than 7,000 dead buried there.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the damage to this monument, and no one has been arrested or identified as a suspect. But the significance of this monument for the country's democratic movement and the timing of this attack may lead at least some in the Belarusian opposition to suspect that supporters of Lukashenka have somehow been involved. If that is in fact the case, recent history suggests, no one is ever likely to be charged or convicted of this crime.

That will certainly have consequences because from the time of the discovery of the mass graves at Kuropaty, they have been one of the prime motivating factors behind the country's national and democratic movements. Indeed, most activists in those movements over the last decade have sought to honor the Kuropaty site, frequently insisting that visitors to Belarus must go there to understand that country and its past.

Indeed, as Yukho made clear to Western news agencies, Belarusian democrats were at the site several days earlier and thus are in a position to date more or less precisely when the destruction of the monument took place. Moreover, the fact that the U.S. government erected this monument is for many Belarusian democrats a symbol of the interest of the West in Belarusian independence and democracy.

Consequently, many democratic activists there are certain to blame the Lukashenka regime and its supporters for this action -- all the more so since the destruction of this monument took place just as the Belarusian opposition has joined forces to advance a single candidate to run against Lukashenka in presidential elections now scheduled for 9 September.

So far, the destruction of the Kuropaty monument has attracted relatively little attention in either the Belarusian or international media. But because of its centrality in the life of many Belarusians, the demolition of this monument may have consequences very different than some might expect and lead to greater activism by the democratic opposition in Belarus.

Indeed, this action in Belarus recalls one of the more infamous stories of the Cold War. Once, when he came to the United Nations, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev warned the Greek prime minister that if Athens continued to support NATO and the West, it might be necessary for Moscow to attack the Acropolis with nuclear weapons.

The Greek leader responded that Mr. Khrushchev might very well be able to destroy the buildings on the Acropolis but that the Soviet leader would never be able to destroy the ideas of democracy and freedom that the Greeks gave birth to more than two millennia ago.

In like manner, the vandalization at Kuropaty is unlikely to expunge the memory of the events it commemorates.


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