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Newsline - August 2, 2001




PUTIN, CIS LEADERS MEET WITHOUT TIES TO FORM NEW TIES

The leaders of 10 CIS countries gathered in Sochi on 1 August for an informal -- without neckties -- CIS summit initiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. After several hours of talks, Putin told Russian journalists that informal contacts between the heads of state provide more opportunities for reaching new agreements than the more formal sessions that have taken place for the past 10 years since the creation of the CIS, the website strana.ru reported. On the summit's first day, Putin met with Moldova's President Vladimir Voronin to discuss the prospects for settling the Transdniester conflict. And, he met with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov to discuss military cooperation between their two countries as well as measures to combat drug trafficking and terrorism. Putin also discussed strategies against narcobusiness as well as bilateral economic cooperation with Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev and Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov, according to ITAR-TASS. VY/JAC

PRIMAKOV SUGGESTS BRINGING BACK MEDIUM-RANGE MISSILES

The former prime minister and the leader of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) faction in the Duma, Yevgenii Primakov, has said that if the U.S. withdraws from the ABM Treaty, Russia might respond by resuming production of medium-range missiles, a class of weapon practically eliminated in the late 1980s, "Izvestiya" reported on 1 August. Primakov said, "It would be a much cheaper option for us, although, of course, Europe would be categorically opposed to this. But after all, it wouldn't be our decision." Primakov added that since he is no longer in public office, he can risk articulating this possibility. VY

NEW CENSUS SCHEDULED FOR OCTOBER NEXT YEAR...

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced on 1 August that a national census will be conducted from October 2002 to January 2003, RIA-Novosti reported. According to the website strana.ru, the State Statistics Committee has already started to work on the questions that will be asked. The new census will be the first in Russia since the 1989 Soviet census. A census was originally scheduled for 1999, but was postponed because of lack of funds and another census scheduled for 2001 was postponed for the same reason (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1999). The new census will cost 3.2 billion rubles, according to preliminary estimates, the financing of which already began last year when some 141 million rubles ($4.8 million) were set aside, the website reported. Kasyanov pledged that the results of the new census will become the basis for national decision making in the areas of the economy and social sector. JAC

...AS DOUBTS RAISED ABOUT ITS LIKELY ACCURACY

Ekho Moskvy radio reported on 1 August that, according to an earlier poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation, half of the 88 percent of the respondents planning to take part in the census admit that they will conceal the truth about themselves. In addition, 44 percent do not plan to reveal their marital status. JAC

NEW FEDERAL AGENCY SCHEDULED FOR DELIVERY THIS FALL

The Russian government will finish drafting documents for the creation of a single tariff-regulation body by 1 September, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko announced on 1 August, Russian agencies reported. The draft documents will be presented to President Putin in the middle of next week, RIA-Novosti reported. According to Khristenko, the new agency will take over some of the functions of the Federal Energy Commission, the Ministry for Anti-Monopoly Policy, and the Economic Development and Trade Ministry. In addition, the new agency will have offshoots at the level of the seven federal districts to ensure the consolidation of tariff policy throughout the country. JAC

PRO-KREMLIN GROUP SEEKS REDISTRIBUTION OF POWERS IN FEDERATION COUNCIL...

In an interview with "Trud" published on 1 August, Marii El Republic's representative in the Federation Council, Aleksandr Torshin, clarified a number of policy positions of the pro-Kremlin Federation group in the upper legislative chamber. According to Torshin, the group is not seeking council Chairman Yegor Stroev's ouster, but only wants to "redistribute powers in the administration of the Federation Council" (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 18 July 2001). Torshin claims that Stroev was forced to make many decisions for the chamber when senators would return to their home regions. But now that "over half of the Federation Council's members are working there full time," a new system is in order. Torshin said the group will push for a two-year rotation of top jobs in the upper chamber. JAC

...AND RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT SNAGS IN COMPLEX, OVERLAPPING REFORM EFFORTS

Torshin also commented on the draft Labor Code, saying that his group supports the bill but is concerned that "if new rules are adopted now for relations between employers and employees, the latter will be left completely defenseless in the court system." Torshin said that the recent acceleration of reforms in a number of areas -- including those on land sales, pensions, the judiciary, labor laws, the banking sector, and the federal system -- has raised concerns about whether the entire system can cope. JAC

MANILOV WANTS TO WARD OFF CHINESE 'GENETIC' EXPANSION INTO THE FAR EAST

Speaking in Vladivostok on 1 August, former first deputy head of the armed forces' General Staff, Colonel General Valerii Manilov, commented on the recent news that Primorskii Krai Governor Sergei Darkin plans to nominate him to serve as one of the region's representatives in the Federation Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2001). Manilov said that in his new role, he will fight other countries' attempts, particularly those of China, to "expand" into Russia, the National News Service's website (nns.ru) reported. "This is because if a Russian man marries a Chinese woman, their child will be Chinese [rather than Russian] and even if it is the other way around, the child will still be Chinese," explained Manilov. And in a separate interview published in "Izvestiya" on 1 August, Manilov also stated that he will oppose concessions to Japan on the Kurile Islands off Sakhalin in order "not to create a precedent." VY

RUSSIA'S CADRE OF SCIENTISTS IN DANGER OF DYING OUT

In remarks to journalists in Moscow on 1 August, Education Minister Vladimir Filippov spoke about the need for Russia to train new scientists. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Filippov noted that the Academy of Science is aging: The average age of a Russian scientist is 60 years old, and 52 percent of all doctors of science are already at pension age. In order to replenish the cadres, Filippov announced that the ministry plans to create scientific-scholarly centers on the basis of higher educational institutions and scientific research institutes, in which 1,200 new jobs will be created for university students, graduate students, and Ph.D.s. The centers will be located in large cities as well as remote regions of the country. Two-thirds of the necessary funding for the centers will come from the federal budget, and the remainder from the regions. On 29 August, the State Council's presidium will discuss educational reforms, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

FSB STEPS UP THE PRESSURE IN SUTYAGIN TRIAL?

The trial of academic Igor Sutyagin for espionage continued in Kaluga Oblast, as prosecution witness Sergei Boris, the head of the Russian navy's Main Personnel Department for the Protection of State Secrets, charged that Sutyagin is responsible for transferring classified data to foreign intelligence services, NTV reported on 1 August. As the main expert for the prosecution, Boris said that although Sutyagin worked using information from open sources, the conclusions Sutyagin drew from these sources were nevertheless secret. "Vremya novostei" on 1 August concluded that by persecuting Sutyagin and other persons from "creative professions," the FSB is in fact trying to prevent them from sharing with the public the results of their research or subject of their concerns. VY

GOVERNMENT RAISES PENSIONS...

President Putin has signed a decree raising the minimum pension by 10 percent to 660 rubles ($23), ORT reported on 1 August. The increase will affect about 18 million pensioners, although the recent hikes in the cost of utilities and rent may wipe out any gains. VY

...REDUCES TAX ON OIL EXPORT, IMPORT OF INDUSTRIAL EQUIPMENT...

Aleksei Kushnarenko, the secretary of the government commission for foreign trade and custom tariffs, announced on 1 August a reduction of the duties on the import of technical equipment from the current level of 10-15 percent to 5-10 percent that will take effect one month from the new regulation's publication, Interfax reported. The rating cut covers equipment for the automobile, machine-building, textile, and food industries. According to Kushnarenko, the announced import tax reduction is a preparatory step for Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization. VY

...AS TAX COLLECTIONS EXCEED EXPECTATIONS

Addressing an international investors conference in Moscow on 1 August, Economic Development and Trade Minster German Gref announced that tax collection in the first six months of this year exceeded the projected level by 30 percent, Interfax reported. He added that the increased collections were the result of the incipient tax reform, the aim of which is to create a favorable investment climate and provide the conditions for allowing "businesses to emerge from the shadows." VY

CHOLERA INFECTION RATE RISES IN KAZAN...

The number of persons infected with cholera in Kazan has risen to 42 people, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2001). Radio Mayak reported the same day that a second person, a young girl, has died from cholera in Kazan, following the earlier death of a 40-year-old man. However, "The Moscow Times" the same day reported that according to the head of the department for regional sanitary control at the federal Health Ministry, Yurii Fedorov, the 40-year-old man died from alcohol poisoning, although cholera was discovered during the autopsy. First Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishchenko repeated on 1 August that there are no plans to impose a quarantine on the city. Meanwhile, Moscow city authorities performed health checks on passengers arriving from Kazan on 1 August at local airports and train stations, RTR reported. JAC

...BUT HAS NOT SPREAD TO VOLGOGRAD

Senior Volgograd medical official Nikolai Yulin has rejected media speculation that cases of cholera have been registered in the oblast, according to Interfax on 1 August. But he admitted that five persons have been diagnosed with an acute intestinal ailment very similar to cholera. Yulin said that all persons arriving in Volgograd from Kazan are being screened for the disease. LF

LUZHKOV COMMENT PROVOKES PROTEST FROM UKRAINE

A spokesman for Ukraine's Foreign Affairs Ministry, Serhyi Borodenkiv, has handed to his Russian counterparts an official protest against a recent statement made by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov at the navy parade celebration in Sevastopol, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 31 July. Luzhkov declared that "I believe that the Crimea is Russian land. It has always been Russian and never belonged to Ukraine" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2001). According to Borodenkiv, Luzhkov's words call into question Ukraine's territorial integrity and its existing border, as well as good relations between the two countries. VY

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS INCREASE PRESENCE NEAR SPITZBERGEN

Federal Border Guard Service (FPS) Commander Colonel General Konstantin Totskii told journalists in Murmansk on 1 August that his agency is going to strengthen its presence in the region of the Spitzbergen archipelago by sending a military ship there, RIA-Novosti reported. He added that the ship will escort Russian fishing boats on a permanent basis and prevent their detention by the Norwegian coast guard as has occurred in the past. VY

RUSSIAN NAVIGATIONAL MAPS DO NOT SHOW U.S.-RUSSIAN BORDER IN BARENTS SEA

Fishing crews based in Kamchatka Oblast have been warned not to cross the dividing line in the Barents Sea between Russian and U.S. economic zones despite the fact that the line is not marked on Russian navigational maps, RIA-Novosti reported on 1 August. According to the agency, this line is known among Kamchatka Oblast's navigational authorities as the so-called "Shevardnadze line" after former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. The border was established during talks in 1990 in which Shevardnadze participated; however, the treaty -- which expanded the U.S. economic zone -- was never ratified by Russia, according to the agency. JAC

RUSSIA TO REACTIVATE SOVIET GLOBAL NAVIGATION SYSTEM?

Rosaviakosmos head Yurii Koptev said on 1 August that the government plans to spend 26 billion rubles ($900 million) to reactivate and extend the global navigation system that was launched prior to the collapse of the USSR, Interfax reported. Under this project, the number of Russian telecommunications satellites will be increased from the current level of seven to 24. The project will be financed from both federal and regional budgets. VY

TIGHTER SECURITY IN SOUTHERN REGION HURTS ECONOMICALLY VULNERABLE

In the aftermath of the hijacking of a passenger bus in Mineralnie Vody, authorities in the city of Stavropol have instituted a ban on street trade until 10 August, RFE/RL's Stavropol correspondent reported. The leader of the local Union of Rightist Forces branch has spoken out against the measure, arguing that many citizens depend on selling things on the street for their economic survival. Also on 1 August, in the town of Nevinnomyssk south of Stavropol, a bridge over the Kuban River was blown up, and the Emergency Situations Ministry is attributing the incident to terrorism, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

DEFENSE MINISTER FAVORS DEATH PENALTY FOR CHECHEN LEADERS

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told journalists in Khabarovsk on 1 August that all leaders of Chechen military formations as well as Chechen fighters who are involved in the killings of the Russians soldiers and civilians should be eliminated, NTV reported. "For such people we will find a final destination two meters [underground]," noted Ivanov. In fact, Ivanov continued, Russian troops are already doing this systematically, although the mass media is not always informed about such operations. On the same day, former commander of the Russian troops in Chechnya, Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, told NTV that the Russian military has "a list of those persons who unconditionally deserve death." However, Duma Committee for International Affairs Chairman (People's Deputy) Dmitrii Rogozin responded that the best thing the generals can do is "to shut up" because their comments could exacerbate Russian relations with European states. VY




ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS MEET ON SIDELINES OF CIS SUMMIT

Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliyev met in Sochi on 1 August to continue their ongoing discussions on approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict. Aliyev told journalists after that meeting that various approaches were discussed, but Kocharian admitted that "it would be wrong to say that we have reached a common denominator," Turan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian added, however, that he and Aliyev agreed to continue their dialogue and to refrain from "trying to score points through the media." Aliyev said no one in Azerbaijan besides himself is aware of the content of his talks with Kocharian. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT, DEFENSE MINISTER RULE OUT USE OF FORCE IN DISPUTE WITH IRAN...

Speaking at Baku airport before his departure for Sochi, President Aliyev affirmed that Azerbaijan wants "friendly and good neighborly" relations with neighboring states, Turan reported. He downplayed the recent violations by Iranian aircraft and gunboats of Azerbaijani airspace and territorial waters as "minor incidents" which, he said, will not have an impact on the scheduling of his much-delayed visit to Tehran. Also on 1 August, Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev told journalists that "Azerbaijan's air defense system is ready to repulse an air attack at any time," but that Azerbaijan would not resort to shooting down Iranian aircraft as "Iran is not a hostile country," Turan reported. Abiev confirmed that his deputy Gorkhmaz Garaev has been dismissed, but denied that he is suspected of corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2001). The independent ANS-TV reported late on 1 August that an Iranian war plane twice entered and overflew Azerbaijani airspace over the Caspian Sea earlier that afternoon, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

...WHILE PRESIDENT'S SON DOES NOT

Making his first public appearance on 1 August after being incapacitated for six weeks by a sports injury, President Aliev's son Ilham, the first vice president of the state oil company SOCAR, said that "Baku will have to take similar measures if the threat of force is made" in the ongoing standoff with Iran, Turan and Reuters reported. Ilham Aliyev also said that SOCAR will insist that BP continues its exploratory surveys at the Araz-Alov-Sharg deposit from which two survey ships were warned away on 23 July by an Iranian military vessel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001). A BP spokesman said after that incident that the company will not resume survey activities until the Azerbaijani and Iranian governments reach agreement on the dividing line between their respective sectors of the Caspian Sea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2001). LF

RUSSIA WANTS AZERBAIJAN TO DOUBLE OIL EXPORTS VIA RUSSIAN TERRITORY

During an Internet press conference in Moscow on 1 August, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said Russia would like to see Azerbaijan increase oil exports via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline from the current 2.5 million tons to 5 million tons in 2002, Interfax reported. He suggested that the two countries sign a long-term agreement on the volume of future exports. Transneft President Semen Vainshtok offered in January to cut transport tariffs for SOCAR crude exported via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline if Azerbaijan guaranteed the export of a minimum of 5 million tons per year. LF

FBI OFFICIAL ARRIVES IN GEORGIA TO ASSIST IN INVESTIGATION OF JOURNALIST'S MURDER

An official from the FBI's office in Ankara has arrived in Tbilisi at the invitation of President Eduard Shevardnadze to assist in the investigation of the murder of Georgian TV journalist Giorgi Sanaya, Caucasus Press reported on 1 August. After meeting the same day with Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze to hear an update on the investigation, Shevardnadze told journalists that if necessary more FBI agents will be invited to join the investigation. LF

UN SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF OBSERVER FORCE IN GEORGIA

UN Security Council members voted unanimously on 1 August to extend for a further six months, until 31 January 2002, the mandate of the 103-man observer force deployed in western Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported. The Security Council again expressed concern at the hiatus in talks between Abkhazia and the central Georgian government following the killings of five Abkhaz last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). LF

OPPOSITION BOYCOTTS GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT VOTE ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The Georgian parliament passed the draft bill on elections to local councils proposed by President Shevardnadze in the first reading on 1 August by 127 votes in favor, with one abstention, Caucasus Press reported. Opposition deputies boycotted the vote, despite having earlier agreed to support the presidential draft, which provides for the election on the majoritarian principle of local and city councils and of mayors of five major cities, but not those of Tbilisi and Poti, who are appointed by the president. The opposition had earlier demanded that all city mayors be elected. On 1 August, they demanded that the disputed election code be debated simultaneously with the draft law on local elections on the grounds that fair elections cannot be guaranteed until the criteria for appointing members of the central and local electoral commissions are established (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 24, 28 June 2001). LF

EMBATTLED GEORGIAN BUSINESSMAN SUES LOCAL GOVERNOR FOR LIBEL

Irakli Mgaloblishvili, the former chairman of the board of the Chiatura Manganese Plant, has brought a libel suit against Imereti Governor Temur Shashiashvili and is demanding 500,000 laris ($240,000) in damages, Caucasus Press reported on 1 August. At a government session last month, Shashiashvili accused Mgaloblishvili and parliament deputy David Bezhuashvili of engaging in machinations intended to bankrupt the plant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001). LF

GEORGIA HEADS FOR NEW BUDGET CRISIS

Outgoing IMF representative in Tbilisi Christopher Lane told journalists on 1 August that he advocates cutting planned Georgian budget expenditures by a minimum of 40-60 million laris in light of the revenue shortfall so far this year and the lower-than-anticipated funds raised from privatization, Caucasus Press reported. Parliament majority faction leader Niko Lekishvili, however, told Caucasus Press the same day that neither his faction nor the opposition would support a cut in budget spending, at least until the IMF presented "convincing arguments" for doing so. Opposition Union of Revival faction leader Giorgi Targamadze warned that if a budget sequester is announced, his faction will demand the resignation of Minister of State Giorgi Arsenishvili, Finance Minister Zurab Nogaideli, and Tax Minister Mikhail Machavariani, Caucasus Press reported on 2 August. LF

LOCAL KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES CONFIRM, MINISTRIES DENY SECOND CLASH ON TAJIK BORDER

Local officials in Osh and Batken oblasts in southern Kyrgyzstan on 1 August confirmed reports of a two-hour exchange of fire early the previous day in the Kadamjai district of Batken Oblast, some 40 kilometers inside Kyrgyzstan, between Kyrgyz government troops and a group of some 10 gunmen whose identity was not specified, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2001). But spokesmen for the Defense and Interior ministries said in Bishkek the same day that no such exchange of fire took place, according to Interfax. Also on 1 August, Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev convened a special meeting at which Security Council Secretary Misir Ashyrkulov and National Security Service secretary, General Bolot Djanuzakov, reported on the security situation in the south of the country. LF

IMF OFFICIAL LAUDS TAJIK GDP GROWTH

During talks on 31 July with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, IMF representative Robert Christiansen positively assessed macroeconomic trends in Tajikistan for the first six months of 2001, Asia Plus-Blitz reported the following day. Tajikistan registered GDP growth of over 10 percent in that period (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2001). Christiansen's assessment reflects an IMF statement of 11 July summing up the fund's second annual review of Dushanbe's compliance with the conditions for release of further funds under its Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility Program. That review specifically noted GDP first quarter growth and falling inflation, and lauded the Tajik government's efforts to elaborate a medium-term strategy to reduce the country's high foreign debt. LF




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION SAYS LUKASHENKA PREPARED TO USE FORCE TO STAY IN POWER

Opposition leaders in Minsk said on 1 August that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is prepared to use violence to stay in power should he lose the 9 September presidential election, Belapan reported. Opposition presidential candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk said that Lukashenka revealed "that he would not give up power [in the event that he loses the election] and named the means that he would use to retain power -- the Interior Ministry troops." Lukashenka said at a 31 July press conference that he will gain at least 90 percent of the vote in the election and that he will use security forces, including elite police units, to counter any attempts to "question the election results" or to depose him. A statement signed by other leading members of the opposition, including Mikhail Chyhir, Syamyon Domash, Syarhey Kalyakin, and Pavel Kazlouski, said that "the incumbent president made it clear he will not give up power under any circumstances." PB

RELATIVES OF MISSING BELARUSIANS PROTEST IN MINSK

The relatives of four prominent men who have disappeared over the last two years and are believed to be dead held a demonstration near the presidential administration building to demand an investigation into the suspicious cases, Belapan reported. The protest comes amid accusations that President Lukashenka and members of his government are involved in the disappearances. A statement issued by opposition leaders said "the president, the guarantor of the rights and freedoms of Belarusian citizens, is not willing to conduct an independent investigation nor to suspend officials involved in these crimes because the personal loyalty of police chiefs is what the regime counts on." Presidential candidate Hancharyk added that "Lukashenka is not interested in solving these crimes." PB

OSCE MISSION HEAD IN MINSK DENIES ACCUSATIONS OF BIAS

Hans Georg-Wieck, the head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk, denied on 1 August charges made by President Lukashenka that the OSCE favored and is supporting the opposition in the upcoming presidential election, Belapan reported. Wieck said that "contrary to the opinion of President Lukashenka...the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group does not mastermind the opposition; nor does it serve as the headquarters of the opposition in Belarus." He added that the OSCE "is not committed to either side in the current presidential elections." Lukashenka accused the OSCE mission the day before of siding with the opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2001). PB

UKRAINE BACKPEDALS ON UNIFICATION OF ENERGY SYSTEM WITH RUSSIA

Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh said in Kyiv on 1 August that a previously planned harmonization of the energy systems of Ukraine and Russia "is not a goal in itself," ITAR-TASS reported. Kinakh said that instead, "We are talking about effective and equal conditions of cooperation between Ukraine and Russia in the energy sector." He added that "all this is possible, but our economic interests should be considered on an equal basis." The premier's comments contradict recent statements made by Ukrainian First Deputy Premier Oleh Dubyna and Russian Deputy Premier Viktor Khristenko that the energy systems of the two countries should be harmonized by 1 August. PB

UKRAINE INCREASES OIL TRANSPORT

The Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Ministry said on 1 August that Ukrainian oil pipelines increased the amount of oil they transported in the first half of this year by 11.5 percent over the same period last year, ITAR-TASS reported. The ministry said a total of 33.76 billion tons of oil were carried through June. Oil exports to Western Europe dropped by 17.5 percent in that time, however, as did natural gas deliveries, which declined by 9.5 percent. PB

PRIVATIZATION OF ESTONIAN RAIL COMPANY COMPLETED

The sale of the passenger railway Edelaraudtee (Southwest Railways) to the British company GB Railways was finally completed on 31 July, ETA reported on 1 August. The Estonian Privatization Agency approved the sale last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November 2000), but financial difficulties have resulted in GB Railways' direct ownership of only a 20 percent share in the company that controls Edelaraudtee, as it sold the other 80 percent to local Estonians Henn Ruubel, the Edelaraudtee board chairman, and lawyer Marcel Vichmann. Ruubel said that his first priority will be to restore the passenger routes that the government discontinued at the beginning of the year for lack of funding. SG

LATVIAN, TAIWANESE CAPITALS TO SIGN SISTER-CITY AGREEMENT

Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars announced on 1 August that Riga will accept the sister-city agreement offered by Taipei prior to the March city elections and subsequently repeated, BNS reported. He said that neither the Foreign Ministry nor any of the factions in the Riga City Council have expressed any opposition to the agreement, for which a signing date has not yet been set. The agreement may be a sensitive issue since Riga has a sister-city agreement with the People's Republic of China city of Suzhou, and Beijing has protested Latvia's establishment of consular relations with Taiwan. SG.

LITHUANIAN, CZECH INTERIOR MINISTRIES TO PROMOTE COOPERATION

In a meeting on 1 August, Czech envoy to Vilnius Stanislav Hlavacek and Interior Minister Juozas Bernatonis discussed the most urgent law-enforcement problems of both countries and the need to draft a bilateral treaty on cooperation in combating organized crime, drug trafficking, and other serious crimes, ELTA reported. Hlavacek said that Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross is interested in intensifying cooperation between the two countries' ministries. The Czech Republic is interested in learning more about Lithuania's experience in fighting illegal migration, and is willing to advise Lithuania about the transition to internationally approved citizenship and driver's license documentation. The officials also talked about the signing of a cooperation program between their police forces and a mutual assistance memorandum regarding civil security and fire protection issues. SG

NINE GROUPS TO TAKE PART IN POLISH STRAW POLL

Nine groups will take part in a straw poll to be held on 11-12 August in the town of Bystrzyca Klodzka, southwestern Poland, PAP reported on 1 August. The groups participating in the poll in the lead-up to the 23 September legislative elections include the Alternatywa movement, Solidarity Electoral Action of the Right, the League of Polish Families, the Polish Peasant Party, Law and Justice, the Democratic Left Alliance-Union of Labor coalition, Farmer's Self-defense, the Civic Platform, and the Polish Economic Union. DW

ANOTHER CZECH JET CRASHES, PILOT KILLED

A Czech-made L-39 Albatross two-seater training jet crashed just outside the town of Pelhrimov, southwest Bohemia, killing the pilot, CTK reported on 1 August. Witnesses said they saw the jet flying unusually low before it hit the ground near a housing estate on the edge of town and exploded. Since 1992, 17 Czech pilots have died in jet crashes, while another 10 people have died in helicopter accidents. The Czech air force has been plagued by technical problems and a lack of flying time in training pilots. DW

PILIP REAL POWER IN FREEDOM PARTY?

Though only elected to the post of first deputy chairman at the June Freedom Party congress, Ivan Pilip is fast becoming the real power in the party, CTK reported on 2 August, citing the daily "Pravo." Party members say Pilip overshadows Chairwoman Hana Marvanova at meetings between senior party officials, and that former party chairman and current Four Party Coalition election leader Karel Kuehnl has lost much of his influence in the party. Pilip and Marvanova deny there are any factional splits in the party. "If there were certain camps before [the party congress], they disappeared after it," Pilip said. The paper says Pilip is biding his time until the fall, when the coalition will prepare its list of candidates for next summer's parliamentary elections. Many in the coalition say this may lead to a crisis. A member of the Christian Democrats, who are also part of the coalition, said his party considers Pilip "an open person and a pragmatist," but is concerned that his lack of popularity could affect the coalition's chances. DW

SLOVAK NATIONAL PARTY SUSPENSIONS DECLARED VALID

Following a meeting on 1 August of the Central Council of the opposition Slovak National Party (SNS), leading members of the party declared that the suspensions on 28 July of eight of the SNS's 13 parliamentarians from the party for one year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July and 1 August 2001) are valid and represent the opinions of the party's district organizations, TASR reported. The eight suspended parliamentarians have charged that the action was engineered by SNS Chairwoman Anna Malikova, and are considering legal action. However, Jozef Prokes, one of the party's five remaining parliamentarians, argued that "the action was not a personal conflict, it was only a confrontation of two concepts. The first features ultrastrong statements and no work; the second asserts standard politics of the party resulting from its program." According to Prokes, while the SNS leadership attempted to put forward constructive projects for the betterment of Slovakia's citizens, the suspended eight made only "statements about tanks, Roma, and reservations." MES

CONTROVERSY OVER SALE OF HUNGARIAN SPORTS CLUB CONTINUES

In his weekly interview with Hungarian radio, Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 1 August expressed "great surprise" that the Ferencvaros soccer club (FTC) was sold to a company that also owns the FTC's rival club. He did not comment, however, on the turmoil stirred up by the Hungarian Justice and Life Party's (MIEP) view that the sale of FTC to a company owned by a Jewish businessman was an act "against the interests of the Hungarian nation." The opposition Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) released a statement saying that not only open anti-Semitism but the subsequent silence of the prime minister are shameful for Hungary. The party noted that Orban refuses to take a stance on the fact that the MIEP, a parliamentary party, has elevated the language of hatred to the level of politics. Meanwhile, MIEP Chairman Istvan Csurka criticized Jewish organizations that reported his party's remarks to the authorities. He said those organizations remained silent about the SZDSZ's "anti-Hungarian stance" when it voted against the Hungarian Status Law. MSZ




BREAKTHROUGH REPORTED ON LANGUAGE ISSUE IN MACEDONIAN TALKS

EU negotiator Francois Leotard said in Ohrid on 1 August: "We have obtained...an agreement from the four political parties on the question of language, but this accord is conditional on the continuation of the political discussions, notably on the issue of the police. Therefore, it is a conditional agreement. We will resume talks on the police issue on Friday morning," RFE/RL reported. The agreement reportedly makes Albanian an official language in the parliament -- where simultaneous translation will be provided -- and in communities where Albanians make up at least 20 percent of the population (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2001). Citizens may communicate with the central government in Albanian, in which laws will be published, as well as in Macedonian. Macedonian will remain the sole language for government meetings and in external relations. U.S. envoy James Pardew said: "This is a good deal for everyone, but I am not euphoric. There's a lot of tough work ahead. This is not the end of the negotiations," AP reported. PM

POLICE ISSUE TO DOMINATE MACEDONIAN TALKS' NEXT ROUND

The next session of the Macedonian political talks in Ohrid is expected to center on demands by ethnic Albanians regarding the police, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 2 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2001). The Albanians have reportedly conceded that ultimate control over the police must remain with the central authorities, "The Washington Post" noted. Talks will deal with the best way to quickly introduce more Albanians into the police force, in which they are greatly underrepresented. Macedonian politicians are expected to rule out Albanian proposals that disarmed members of the National Liberation Army (UCK) be allowed to join the force. Moreover, Imer Imeri, one of the top ethnic Albanian negotiators, said that all UCK fighters should be amnestied, "The New York Times" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2001). PM

MACEDONIAN HARD-LINERS STILL THINKING OF VIOLENT SOLUTION?

Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski said that the "only optimistic option is to defeat the terrorists [in order] to achieve peace, and we have enough force" to do so, "The Washington Post" reported from Berlin on 2 August. Observers note, however, that the Macedonian military has shown itself to be unable to defeat the UCK and lacks basic counterinsurgency forces. The UCK, members of which Macedonian politicians and media usually call "terrorists," generally does not employ classical terrorist tactics. The UCK more often takes control of population centers and holds them in pitched battles. The government's response is to bombard the guerrillas with artillery and tanks, and to send jet aircraft and helicopters overhead. PM

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER: NO PEACE UNTIL LAST GUERRILLA IS DISARMED

Stojan Andov said in Krusevo on 2 August that the "talks [will] be completed, but peace will only be possible when the last terrorist is disarmed," AP reported. He stressed that the majority of citizens are determined "to preserve our homeland, our Macedonia." Andov spoke at ceremonies to mark a national holiday, namely the anniversary of the Ilinden uprising against the Ottoman Turks in 1903. PM

DOES THE U.S. OWE SERBIA SOMETHING?

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said on state television in Belgrade on 1 August that he wants more assistance from the U.S. and for Washington to reschedule part of Belgrade's debt, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He argued that, so far, the U.S. has not "put itself out" for Serbia compared to what "European countries" have done (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 October 2000 and 15 May 2001). He made the remarks of the eve of a meeting in Washington between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic and Finance Minister Bozidar Djelic. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER WANTS 'SPECIAL STATUS' FOR SERBS IN KOSOVA

On the eve of a meeting between Serbian and Yugoslav government leaders to discuss Kosova, Djindjic said in Belgrade on 1 August that the province's Serbian minority -- about 8 percent of the population -- must have a special status. "The Albanians had been saying for 10 years they didn't feel safe and therefore needed a special status. Fine, now Serbs don't feel safe in Kosovo, and we'll ask for the same thing for them," Djindjic told Reuters. PM

HAGUE TRIBUNAL CONVICTS BOSNIAN SERB OF GENOCIDE

The Hague-based war crimes tribunal convicted former Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic of genocide, CNN reported on 2 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2001). Krstic was accused of the crimes in connection with the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica, which is widely regarded as the single largest massacre of civilians in Europe since the end of World War II. It is this tribunal's first conviction on charges of genocide. He could have faced up to life imprisonment, but instead received a sentence of 46 years. PM

PETRITSCH SCUTTLES PACT BETWEEN SERBIA AND BOSNIAN SERBS

High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch said in a note to Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic on 1 August that the 12 July military cooperation agreement between the Republika Srpska and Yugoslavia is invalid because the two parties did not follow proper legal procedures, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

CROATIAN SERB LEADER SAYS MORE MUST BE DONE FOR RETURNEES

Milorad Pupovac, who heads Croatia's Serbian National Council (SNV), told "Jutarnji list" on 2 August that much of the money earmarked to help returning Serbs has not been paid out. He noted that many returnees do not have electricity in their homes. Others are unable to move into their property because it is occupied by Croats, who still have other homes elsewhere. Some 20,000 applications for home reconstruction and 5,000 applications for the return of property remain unprocessed, Pupovac argued. Pupovac remained a mainstream Serbian civilian leader in Croatia throughout the 1991-1995 war. PM

CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS COUNTRY CANNOT BE 'HOSTAGE'

Ivica Racan told Croatian Radio on 1 August that his government's decision to cooperate with The Hague-based tribunal was the correct one, "Novi List" reported. He argued that, otherwise, there would have to be a politically divisive discussion over the case of each and every indicted individual. The nationalist opposition has sought -- so far unsuccessfully -- to mobilize popular opinion against the government's decision. Polls suggest that most citizens agree with the government's move and are more interested in bread-and-butter issues that in ones related to the war. PM

RICOP FUNDS FREED BY ROMANIA'S SIDEX PRIVATIZATION

On 1 August, Simon Mordue, the coordinator of pre-accession programs for the European Commission (EC) delegation in Bucharest, said that the EU has freed $45 million previously earmarked for the RICOP (Enterprise Restructuring and Employment Conversion) program for industrial restructuring and will further free up another $50 million by 31 March 2002, Mediafax reported. The move was facilitated by the recent privatization of SIDEX, a steel mill in Galati. The RICOP program had been significantly delayed during 2000 and completely suspended after last November's general elections. On 13 June, the Romanian government and the EC agreed in principle to extend by one year the timetable for fulfillment of the RICOP conditions, as well as contracting and disbursement deadlines. The EU's financial support to Romania on an annual basis now represents some $581.6 million. LB

MOLDOVAN MINISTERS SACKED 'TO IMPROVE GOVERNMENT DISCIPLINE'

On 1 August, Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev stated at the National Press Club that the dismissals of Foreign Minister Nicolae Cernomaz and Energy Minister Ion Lesanu on 27 July "were necessary and were performed to improve governmental discipline," Flux reported. Earlier that day, at a government meeting, Tarlev declared that he regrets the dismissals, "but this step was made because of some deep analysis that proved that these ministers did not respect their work obligations." According to Tarlev, candidates for the vacant positions have already been selected, but the new ministers will be nominated only after President Vladimir Voronin returns from the CIS summit. Tarlev also declared that rumors that there is another government reshuffle being prepared are not true. Until the nomination of the new foreign and energy ministers, the posts will be filled by the deputies, Iurie Leanca and Vasile Carafizi, respectively. LB

BULGARIAN PREMIER GIVES FIRST INTERVIEW TO DAILY

Simeon Saxecoburggotski said that becoming premier is a "huge sacrifice" for him and his family and that he looked for "balance, competence, and professionalism" in forming his government, BTA reported. In an interview with the daily "Trud," Saxecoburggotski said it is not important if the country "is called a republic or a kingdom, it is, after all, Bulgaria; what matters is that it be a democratic country." He said his promise to markedly improve the lives of Bulgarians within 800 days can be achieved, "if everybody channels their efforts toward this objective, as the future concerns us all." As to why he signed a coalition agreement with the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), the premier said: "Let us view the reality in Bulgaria and the country's interests in a broad, full perspective -- and keep sight of Brussels, too. If one gives these things a second thought, one will see why I invited the DPS." PB

OFFICIAL: BULGARIA TO LIBERALIZE AND PRIVATIZE ECONOMY

Economy Minister Nikolai Vassilev said on 2 August in Sofia that the government will plan a new energy strategy, liberalize the energy market, and sell off major assets such as power plants, BTA reported. Vassilev, speaking at a meeting of the Council of Ministers, said this week he will work to resolve problems at the GORUBSO mining complex. He added that other firms likely to be privatized are the Varna shipyard and Bulgartabac, the country's tobacco concern. Transport Minister Plamen Petrov said the same day that the government wants to quickly hold a tender to privatize the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC). He added that this is the government's top privatization priority. BTC has been on the market since 1995, and several near sales of the company have collapsed, the latest in August 2000. PB




A SPOOKY CAMPAIGN IN THE BALKANS?


By Patrick Moore

Press reports have appeared in Macedonia and elsewhere in the Balkans in recent weeks suggesting that NATO is actively helping the ethnic Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK). The U.S. is often singled out as playing a particularly active role.

One recent anti-NATO report claimed that a KFOR helicopter landed arms for the UCK on Macedonian territory. This story brought a protest to NATO from the Macedonian authorities -- and a swift denial from Secretary-General Lord George Robertson. He called the account "entirely and totally false."

Even some Western publications have suggested that NATO's policies are not all that they seem. In its 30 July issue, the German weekly "Der Spiegel" argues in the article "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," meaning the EU or parts of its establishment.

The story is cobbled together into what one German expert calls a collection of old information from the 1999 Kosova conflict, more recent statements by unnamed "leading German military personnel," and things that can politely be described as hearsay. The CIA is mentioned as playing a role, and there are other references to "secret services."

The article adds that the German government in general, and Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping in particular, are upset with Washington's extensive but unpublicized support for the rebels.

In yet another twist, the Serbian news agency Beta reported recently that the U.S. authorities recently approached two top Serbian officials to request a "99-year lease" on the Camp Bondsteel area in Kosova and on several Yugoslav military facilities, including a radar base. The U.S. Embassy in Belgrade and Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic denied the report. Unfortunately, the Beta story had already appeared as a front-page headline in "Danas," which is Serbia's most reputable newspaper.

Is it by accident that all these "leaks" and stories are appearing at a time when tensions continue to mount in Macedonia -- and ethnic passions with them? Might anyone have an interest in polarizing the Macedonians -- and perhaps other Orthodox peoples of the Balkans -- against the U.S. and NATO?

This kind of campaign is nothing new to the region. Following the Atlantic alliance's entry into Kosova in 1999, the propaganda machine of former President Slobodan Milosevic regularly reported on alleged collusion between Western peacekeepers with local ethnic Albanian guerrillas. One also recalls the anti-NATO and anti-U.S. "Balkan syndrome" campaign at the start of 2001. And in any event, Belgrade's propaganda mills have long played up almost every case of violence against Serbs by ethnic Albanians in the province as evidence of NATO's incompetence -- or worse.

The bottom line from Belgrade, both under Milosevic and under the present leadership, is that Serbian troops should be allowed back into the province. There is very little chance of that happening in the near future, as Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic recently acknowledged. So the ongoing campaign against NATO troops and UN administrators seems to have only one purpose: to maintain and intensify tensions and polarization.

Is it too far-fetched to ask if anyone in Moscow might have an interest in all this? Russia (and earlier the Soviet Union) has long regarded the Balkans as perhaps the one place where its role as a great power is unquestioned. Moscow made this clear even during the first years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when its influence was rapidly receding everywhere else.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov visited the Balkans in March. His message was vintage Gromyko: militantly negative and anti-Western. He stressed unswerving support for Belgrade, and has more recently expanded his message to be firmly pro-Skopje.

Russia has little or no influence among the ethnic Albanians of the region, nor has it shown much interest in cultivating any. Is Moscow unwittingly making the same mistake as Gromyko made in the Middle East and allying itself so strongly with one side so as to preclude any influence with the other?

Or might it believe that its future as a great power in the Balkans lies in promoting rifts between the region's Orthodox countries and the West? The idea might sound old-fashioned, but with communism dead as a exportable ideology and the Russian economy bankrupt, perhaps the Third Rome does not have any other option to pursue.


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