Accessibility links

Newsline - August 3, 2001




PUTIN STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF CIS...

Speaking at the informal CIS summit in Sochi on 2 August, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that relations within the CIS and with CIS countries remain a priority for Russia, Russian agencies reported. He noted that he believes all regional formations that have emerged from the CIS framework, such as the Russia-Belarus Union, the Eurasian Economic Community, the Collective Security Treaty, GUUAM, and the Central Asian Economic Forum, play an important role in Russia's foreign policy. VY

...DISCUSSES DEBT RESTRUCTURING WITH KUCHMA...

Putin also met on 2 August with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to discuss the problem of restructuring Ukrainian debts to Russia. Putin told journalists that he and Kuchma decided "to solve the problem in such way that it will ease tightness in the Ukrainian budget." JAC

...AND CASPIAN PROBLEMS WITH NAZARBAEV AND ALIEV

Putin also told ORT on the same day that his position on the problems of the Caspian region is very close to that of Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev. "At the same time, I cannot overstate the concern we have in connection with the tension that has arisen in the south Caspian Sea because of the recent incident involving Azerbaijani and Iranian ships," Putin said. VY

COURT ORDERS JAILED U.S. STUDENT FREE

A raion-level court in Voronezh ordered U.S. Fulbright scholar John Tobin free on 3 August, Reuters reported. According to the agency, Tobin has walked out of the prison in the village of Rossosh. The court's judgement follows a decision by a parole board in that city on 2 August that Tobin should be set free. Tobin was sentenced to three years in jail following his conviction on charges of marijuana possession (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2001). That sentence was later reduced to one year. According to ITAR-TASS, prison administration officials reported that Tobin never complained about prison conditions and participated in sports while there. JAC

SLAVNEFT, NORSI OIL JOIN SOME 300 COMPANIES ON PRIVATIZATION LIST

First Deputy Minister for State Property Aleksandr Braverman announced on 2 August that the sale of a 19.8 percent stake in one of the biggest state oil companies, Slavneft, will be held next year, the website polit.ru reported. According to Interfax, that sale will be held in the latter half of 2002. The same day it was announced that an 85 percent stake in another large oil company, Norsi Oil, will also be sold. The stake will be split into separate 40 percent and 45 percent parcels. The list of the state property to be privatized includes approximately 300 companies, including a more than 17 percent stake in the Magnitogorsk metallurgical combine. According to Braverman, shares in Rosneft and Transneft will not be sold next year. JAC/VY

MORE PROGNOSTICATIONS ABOUT CABINET CHANGES THIS FALL

Another publication is touting Novgorod Oblast Governor Mikhail Prusak as a possible replacement for Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2001). According to "Versiya" No. 28, "more and more frequently these days the list of possible successors" includes Governor Prusak. And like a previous article in "Novaya gazeta," "Versiya" also suggests that former security service officials will play an important role in the new cabinet. According to the weekly, the upcoming personnel changes in the cabinet do not stem from any personal animosity between Putin and Kasyanov, but rather are dictated "by the contradictions between the economic course the cabinet is charting and the president's strategy" to strengthen state power. Meanwhile, Aleksei Volin, the deputy head of the presidential apparatus, told Interfax on 1 August that all of the rumors that have been appearing in the press lately about possible cabinet changes in the fall "have textual and thematic similarities, which appear to be evidence of an organized PR campaign." JAC

OLIGARCH/GOVERNOR ACCUSED OF COLLUDING WITH CORRUPT LOCAL OFFICIALS

"Izvestiya" on 3 August alleged that Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor and former Sibneft head Roman Abramovich colluded with the former governor Aleksandr Nazarov to gain power in that Far Northern region. While still an incumbent, Nazarov withdrew his candidacy shortly before the gubernatorial election was to take place, and Abramovich won handily (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 3 January 2001). According to the publication, Nazarov withdrew his candidacy because he had been contacted by law-enforcement officials regarding the disappearance of $35 million from the Economic Fund of Chukotka. This money was reportedly taken by two fund officials, who joined Abramovich's team just after the election. And then, Abramovich declared the region bankrupt and appointed Nazarov as his representative to the Federation Council. Last October, Federal Tax Police officials confirmed that they had summoned Nazarov for questioning about misuse of budget funds soon after Abramovich announced he would run against him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2000). JAC

CHOLERA CASE RECORDED IN MOSCOW...

A two-year-old child has been diagnosed with cholera in Moscow, Ekho Moskvy reported on 2 August. The child recently arrived from Kazan, where the number of registered cholera cases has risen to 47 from 42 the previous day, according to Interfax-Eurasia. The same day, First Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishchenko said that the cholera outbreak in Kazan has been localized, and the situation has been brought under control. According to "Vremya novostei," despite such assurances, health authorities in Volgograd, Nizhnii Novgorod, and Moscow have established control over airports, rail stations, and sea ports, and persons arriving from Kazan are quickly put into isolation. JAC

...AS ST. PETERSBURG IS POISED TO FIGHT MALARIA

Officials from St. Petersburg's epidemiological service announced on 2 August that the threat of the spread of malaria has emerged, RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent reported on 2 August. The unusually hot summer weather the city has been experiencing has created an unusual situation in the city's reservoirs. In a little more than half of these reservoirs, larvae of malarial mosquitoes have been discovered. JAC

INVESTIGATION CONCLUDED IN HIGH-LEVEL CORRUPTION CASE

The Prosecutor-General's Office announced on 2 August that it is has completed its criminal investigation on suspicion of bribery, embezzlement, document forgery, and abuse of office against the former head of the State Statistics Committee, Yurii Yurkov; the director of the committee's computer center, Boris Saakyan; and eight other persons, ITAR-TASS reported. Yurkov and his colleagues were arrested by the Federal Security Service's Economic Crimes Department in 1998 for selling classified or confidential economic information. Also arrested with Yurkov were two officers from the Federal Agency for Government Communication and Information (FAPSI). A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office said the "Yurkov case" will be heard by a military court because it involves intelligence officers. VY

TV HEAD SUMS UP STATE OF MASS MEDIA

In an interview with "Obshchaya gazeta" No. 31, Oleg Poptsov, the president of TV-Tsentr, argues that since the fall of communism, four trends have emerged that threaten the development of Russia's independent mass media. First, the cohesiveness of the Russian media as a professional community has been destroyed over the last two years. Second, the mass media have lost their function as a means of expressing public opinion. Third, the mass media have become over-commercialized. And fourth, society itself has become de-intellectualized and degraded. As a result, Poptsov concludes, public opinion about Russia's mass media is that "the second oldest profession has now moved closer to the first oldest than ever before." VY

GRYZLOV TAKES MVD OFFICERS TO TASK

Speaking to the police officers in the Central federal district on 2 August, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said that an insufficient budget, old equipment, and miserable salaries prevent his agency from serving the Russian population as it should, Interfax reported. At the same time, "society will not allow us to increase our personnel since it has already reached 1.9 million persons," Gryzlov said. Therefore, he declared that the agency can only improve its overall performance by increasing the personal contribution of every officer. VY

INTERIOR MINISTRY DISCOVERS KURD TRAINING CENTER IN RUSSIA

Interior Ministry spokesman Aleksei Kutilin announced on 2 August that his agency has discovered a military training center for Kurdish extremists in Yaroslavl Oblast camouflaged as a children's summer camp, RTR reported. The members of the military training program were recruited from the Kurdish emigre groups in Russia and are united by the idea of fighting for an independent Kurdish state on parts of the territories of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. Some citizens of these countries were taken by the Kurdish militants as hostages and released for ransoms ranging from $10,000-$20,000. VY

PRIMORSKII KRAI OPENS NEW FACILITY TO PROCESS NUCLEAR WASTE...

A new facility to process nuclear waste from decommissioned nuclear submarines opened in the town of Bolshoi Kamen in Primorskii Krai on 2 August, RTR reported. Construction of the site was financed by the U.S. government, according to ITAR-TASS. An international consortium led by U.S.-based Lockheed Martin built the site, according to Reuters. JAC

...AS KRASNOYARSK BRACES FOR ITS OWN SHIPMENTS

Meanwhile, Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev met recently with legislators in Krasnoyarsk Krai to discuss future plans to store and process imported spent nuclear fuel, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Local legislators are concerned about the possible local impact of President Putin's recent signing into law of the bill allowing spent nuclear fuel to be imported into Russia, in part because along with Chelyabinsk, Krasnoyarsk is the logical destination for shipments of spent fuel because of its storage facilities at Krasnoyarsk-26, the daily reported. JAC

RUSSIA SHRUGS OFF TOKYO'S PROTEST OF FISHING QUOTAS FOR SEOUL

The Russian Foreign Ministry has dismissed as "inappropriate" Japan's protest against Russia's sale of fishing quotas to South Korean ships for the waters near the Kurile Islands, Interfax reported on 2 August. In a diplomatic note, Tokyo recently asked Moscow to refrain from permitting third parties to pursue economic activities in the "disputed waters" around the Kurile Islands until the islands' fate is resolved. However, Russia replied with a statement that Moscow cannot accept Tokyo's protest because the "islands are exclusively Russian territory." The statement also added that the quotas were sold to South Korea "for purely commercial, not political reasons." VY

KOREAN LEADER'S WHISTLE-STOP TOUR ACROSS RUSSIA PROCEEDS WITH ONLY A FEW SNAGS

After meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in Omsk on 1 August, Omsk Governor Leonid Polezhaev told reporters the next day that the reclusive leader is an inquisitive, highly educated person well acquainted with Russia's recent history, Interfax reported. During his visit to Omsk, Kim visited a machine-building plant as well as a pork-processing plant and local library. Kim, who is traveling along the Trans-Siberian railway in a special train car, has a made a number of stops throughout the Far East and Siberia on his way to Moscow, where he is expected to arrive during the evening of 3 August. Earlier, Kim's train stopped in Novosibirsk and Ulan Ude, but the "Dear Leader" did not disembark. In Buryatia, the republic's president, chairman of the legislature, and interior minister assembled and waited in vain along with dancers in native costumes for their planned meeting with Kim, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. JAC

ATOMIC ENERGY MINISTRY TO WOO BUSINESS IN NORTH KOREA

The Atomic Energy Ministry is interested in resuming cooperation with North Korea in the field of nuclear power and will propose several new projects to visiting North Korean leader Kim, an agency spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 2 August. These projects include the construction of a nuclear power plant in the Russian area bordering North Korea. Russian companies would also like to take part in the construction of another nuclear power plant inside North Korea, with the participation of the United States, South Korea, and Japan, according to the spokesman. VY

LITTLE PUTIN VEXED PARENTS

In an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" published on 2 August, President Putin's aunt, Anna Alekseevna Putina, recalled that when Putin was just a child his parents frequently complained about their child's "hooliganism." Putin's parents complained that because of a bet with his school chums, young "Vovo" climbed along the ledge of the fifth floor of their building from the balcony to their window. According to the president's uncle, Aleksandr Sidorovich Putin, the 4-year-old Putin almost died when he fell from a three-meter precipice into a river during a fishing expedition. Young "Vovo" managed to save himself because he had learned to swim at the age of three. Putin's aunt and uncle live in Ryazan. JAC

BARANOV RESUMES COMMAND OF RUSSIAN MILITARY OPERATION IN CHECHNYA

Colonel General Valerii Baranov was named commander of the joint federal forces in Chechnya on 2 August for the second time, replacing Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, Russian agencies reported. Moltenskoi had succeeded Baranov in that post in mid-May, when Baranov reportedly began an extended vacation, after which, it was said at the time, he would not return to Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 17 May 2001). "Kommersant-Daily" on 3 August suggested that Moltenskoi was removed because of his misleading statement that the killing last month of Chechen field commander Magomed Tsagaroev was the result of a meticulously planned security operation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001). Tsagaroev was killed by a Chechen teenage boy whose father Tsagaroev had shot dead. Also replaced on 2 August was Chechnya's senior military commandant, Lieutenant General Ivan Babichev who, according to "Kommersant-Daily" has repeatedly crossed swords with Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov. Babichev is succeeded by Major General Sergei Kizyun. LF

SECURITY TIGHTENED IN CHECHNYA ON EVE OF KEY ANNIVERSARY

Speaking in Tula on 2 August, Russian Interior Minister Gryzlov said that security was stepped up throughout Chechnya on 1 August in the run-up to the 6 August anniversary of the 1996 Chechen attack on Grozny that precipitated negotiations leading to the formal end of hostilities, Russian agencies reported. Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov said two days earlier that he doubts the Chechens will launch "mass acts of terror" to mark the anniversary, but he did not rule out the possibility of isolated incidents. Kadyrov also denied Russian media reports of 30 July that the population of Grozny had begun leaving the city en masse, fearing a large-scale military assault. LF

LOCAL OFFICIALS PREVENT CHECHEN DISPLACED PERSONS' PROTEST MARCH

Ingushetian police on 2 August halted a group of Chechen displaced persons who had begun a protest march from a displaced persons camp in Ingushetia to demand that the Russian leadership begin peace talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, AP reported. Two of the organizers of the protest were detained. Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev has previously defended the interests of the displaced persons and repeatedly called on the Russian leadership to begin talks with Maskhadov. LF




ARMENIAN NUCLEAR PLANT STAFF AGAIN THREATENS STRIKE

In an open letter sent last week to Armenian President Robert Kocharian, staff members of Armenia's Medzamor power station renewed their threat to stop work at all operational divisions at the plant except the reactor if they are not paid four months' wage arrears by 7 August, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 2 August. In June, they had threatened unspecified "drastic steps" unless their back wages were paid, after which Energy Minister Karen Galustian pledged to pay the arrears by 31 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 29 June 2001). One of Galustian's deputies, Ara Simonan, said on 2 August that the government cannot afford to meet that pledge. LF

U.S.-BORN ARMENIAN EX-MINISTER ALLEGES DISCRIMINATION OVER CITIZENSHIP DELAY

Former Armenian Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian published a statement in the daily "Aravot" on 2 August accusing President Kocharian of deliberately delaying for "political reasons" a response to his request to be granted Armenian citizenship, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Hovannisian, who was born in the U.S., surrendered his U.S. passport in April and has been without a valid travel document since then. Kocharian's spokeswoman Hasmik Petrosian told RFE/RL that a special presidential commission chaired by Justice Minister David Harutiunian approved Hovannisian's application for Armenian citizenship on 25 April. She said the delay in Kocharian's endorsement of that ruling was due to Hovannisian's insistence that his Armenian citizenship be backdated to 1991. In order to contest the Armenian presidential election due in 2003, candidates must have been citizens of the Republic of Armenia for the previous 10 years. LF

AZERBAIJANI CUSTOMS INTERCEPT MILITARY EQUIPMENT BOUND FROM GEORGIA TO IRAN

Azerbaijani customs officials at the Astara border post have intercepted a truckload of radio equipment, spare parts for tanks, and other materiel, Caucasus Press reported on 2 August. The truck was bound from Georgia via Azerbaijan to Iran. On 3 August, Georgian Defense Ministry officials denied any knowledge of or connection with the consignment, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS ELECTION LAW AMENDMENTS...

Deputies from the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) faction and smaller pro-government factions approved the draft amendments to the election law on 2 August in the first reading by a vote of 126 in favor, with one abstention, Caucasus Press reported. Those amendments stipulate that the Central Election Commission (CEC) is to be composed of seven representatives of NGOs selected from no less than 14 candidates proposed by NGOs that were registered no later than November 1997 and that have participated in monitoring no less than two elections. Local election commissions are also to consist of seven members, three of whom will be proposed by the CEC, three by parties that won parliamentary representation in the previous elections, and one by the local administration. The united parliamentary opposition, which boycotted the vote on the amendments, issued a statement the same day denouncing them as antidemocratic and an attempt by the SMK to preserve its control over electoral commissions at all levels, Caucasus Press reported. LF

...AND LAW ON LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT

SMK and other pro-government deputies also approved the law on local self-government on 2 August in the second and final reading, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2001). The vote was officially given as 124 in favor and one against. But opposition deputy parliament speaker Vakhtang Rcheulishvili challenged those figures, claiming that the vote was invalid as only 113 deputies, rather than the 118 needed for a quorum, were present. LF

GEORGIANS SLAM UN ABKHAZIA RESOLUTION...

Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze was quoted by the independent daily "Rezonansi" on 2 August as criticizing the UN Security Council's 31 July resolution on Abkhazia as "the most unprofessional" of all the documents the UN has adopted to date with regard to the Abkhaz conflict, according to Caucasus Press. Kakabadze said he does not understand why the resolution calls on both sides to resume their participation in the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council when it was the Abkhaz who suspended their participation in that body (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). Tamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile comprising Georgians elected to the Abkhaz parliament in 1991, similarly condemned the UN resolution as lacking objectivity. He specifically objected to the positive assessment of the role of the CIS peacekeeping force deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. For the first time, the resolution specifically reminded the Georgian leadership of its obligation to "put a stop to the activities of illegal armed groups crossing into Abkhazia...from the Georgian-controlled side of the cease-fire line." LF

...WHILE RUSSIA LAUDS IT

In a statement issued on 1 August and summarized by Interfax the following day, the Russian Foreign Ministry welcomed the UN Security Council's decision, recorded in the 31 July resolution, to prolong for a further six months the mandate of the UN Observer Force in western Georgia. It also lauded the emphasis placed in the resolution on the need to accelerate the drafting of a protocol on the return to Abkhazia's Gali raion of displaced persons and an agreement on peace and guarantees of the nonresumption of hostilities. Over the past several years Moscow has proposed several drafts of those two documents, all of which have been rejected by the Georgian side. Speaking in New York on 1 August, Russia's deputy permanent representative to the UN, Andrei Granovskii, underscored the need to prevent further terrorist activity in Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS reported. Doing so, according to Granovskii, is a precondition for restoring mutual trust between the Abkhaz and Georgian leaderships. LF

RUSSIA AGAIN BLAMES GEORGIA FOR GUDAUTA WITHDRAWAL DELAY

Speaking in Moscow on 2 August, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov again said that Russia will withdraw its remaining military personnel and equipment from the Gudauta military base in Abkhazia only when the Georgian leadership creates the necessary security conditions to allow it to do so, Reuters and Interfax reported. Referring to the protest that began in late June by local residents who are fearful that a Russian withdrawal would precipitate a new Georgian attack on Abkhazia, Ivanov said that "we will not leave over their bodies." Under an agreement signed in November 1999, Russia should have completed the withdrawal from Gudauta by 30 June 2001. LF

RUSSIAN TO BE DESIGNATED AS OFFICIAL LANGUAGE IN KYRGYZ CONSTITUTION?

Meeting in Sochi at the CIS summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev said that the Kyrgyz parliament may soon amend the country's constitution to formally designated Russian as an official language, ITAR-TASS reported. In a bid to stem the outmigration of qualified Russian personnel from Kyrgyzstan, the Kyrgyz parliament last year adopted legislation giving Russian the status of an official language (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 2000). LF

ANOTHER TURKMEN FOREIGN MINISTRY OFFICIAL FIRED

President Saparmurat Niyazov has dismissed Yelbars Kepbanov from his posts as deputy foreign minister and director of the National Institute for Democracy and Human Rights due to "serious shortcomings in his work," Interfax reported on 1 August. Batyr Khudaikuliev, a former Turkmen consul in Meshed whom western diplomats in Ashgabat say is a political unknown, was named deputy foreign minister, while Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov, who served as deputy director of the National Institute for Democracy before being named parliament speaker in 1999, has now been appointed its director. Batyr Beryev was sacked as foreign minister last month, also for unspecified shortcomings in his work (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). LF




COUNCIL OF EUROPE UNHAPPY WITH BELARUS

A delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) visiting Belarus ahead of next month's presidential election said on 3 August that it is "deeply disappointed" in the government's lack of progress in finding those responsible for the disappearance of prominent Belarusians over the last two years, Reuters reported. Terry Davis, the leader of the delegation, said that the group "also expressed great concern about the harassment of the opposition." The PACE delegation also urged Belarusian officials to allow entry to an election monitoring group from the OSCE, which was denied visas for Belarus earlier in the week. PB

BELARUSIAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS MEET IN SOCHI

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka met in Sochi on 2 August on the sidelines of the CIS summit being held in the Russian resort town, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin said the meeting proceeded "energetically and sharply." He added that Lukashenka "is defending the interests of his country's economy, while we are striving to protect ours." Lukashenka said that trade turnover between the two countries has increased to the point that Belarus is now Russia's second-largest trading partner after Germany. PB

UKRAINE UPSET WITH MOSCOW'S CALL FOR MAKING RUSSIAN AN OFFICIAL LANGUAGE

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry criticized Russian Deputy Premier Viktor Khristenko for his call that Russian be made the second official language of Ukraine, AP reported. In a statement, the ministry called Khristenko's suggestion "unreasoned" and said such statements "do not assist in strengthening a climate of trust and mutual understanding" in bilateral relations. Khristenko said earlier this week in Moscow that making Russian an official language in Kyiv would be in the best interests of the two countries, and added that bilingualism is a "historical fact" in Ukraine. Ethnic Russians make up some 20 percent of Ukraine's population. PB

UKRAINIAN PREMIER TRUMPETS BENEFITS OF PIPELINE

Anatoliy Kinakh said on 2 August that Ukraine plays a key role in supplying Western Europe with energy, AP reported. Kinakh, in Budapest for a one-day visit, said that the planned pipeline running from the Black Sea port of Odesa will allow Ukraine to "take Caspian Sea oil and even Middle East oil...[and] be able to ship 40 million tons of petroleum a year through the pipeline. This will enhance Europe's energy security." The pipeline will stretch 667 kilometers from Odesa to the Ukrainian town of Brody. PB

UKRAINIAN WINE WITHOUT ANY GRAPES

Police have shut down a firm in Kyiv that is accused of selling millions of bottles of what appeared to be vintage wine that were instead filled with elderberry juice and food coloring, Interfax reported. The S-Gamma company is reported to have held a large share of Ukraine's wholesale wine market and police said it had a gross income of $1.3 million in the last year. PB

ESTONIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS SET FOR 27 AUGUST

Estonian parliament Chairman Toomas Savi announced on 2 August that at the suggestion of President Lennart Meri an extraordinary session of the parliament will be held on 27 August to elect the next president of Estonia, ETA reported. To be nominated as a candidate for president, an individual needs to obtain the backing of at least one-fifth of the parliament, or 21 deputies. To be elected, candidates must gain the support of 67 of the 101 deputies. If no candidate is successful that day, two additional rounds of voting will be held the following day with the field in the third round reduced to the two candidates receiving the most votes in the second round. If the third round fails, the election will be delegated to an electoral college, consisting of the 101 members of parliament and 266 representatives of local governments, which is supposed to meet on 21 September. A candidate will be elected if a majority of the members of the electoral college participating in the voting cast their votes for him. SG

LATVIAN STATE SUPPORT FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SECTOR SHRINKING

Environmental Protection and Regional Development Minister Vladimirs Makarovs told a press conference on 2 August that state support for the environmental sector is decreasing rapidly, LETA reported. In 2000 the state spent 7.4 million lats ($11.8 million) on the environmental sector. This support declined to 5 million lats this year and is envisioned to fall to only 3.7 million lats in 2002. Makarovs, however, mentioned that in some instances local governments have become more active in implementing environment projects with significant EU funding. He said that 1.15 billion lats must be invested by 2015 in order to fulfill all EU requirements for the environment. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES WILLIAMS, YUKOS AGREEMENT

The parliament on 2 August, by a vote of 98 to none, with nine abstentions, passed amendments to the laws necessary for the implementation of the agreement of Williams International with the Russian oil company YUKOS, ELTA reported. According to the agreement, YUKOS will supply some 4.8 million tons of oil per year to the Mazeikiai refinery and export 4 million tons of oil annually via the Butinge terminal for the next 10 years. It will pay $75 million and grant another $75 million in loans to acquire a 26.85 percent share of Mazeikiai Nafta. An extraordinary meeting of Mazeikiai Nafta shareholders on 6 August must approve the agreement. The parliament, however, postponed until the fall session the presentation of amendments to Article 47 of the constitution to allow the sale of agricultural land to foreigners because it became clear that the parliamentary commission for preparing constitutional amendments would not be able to present a draft text. The commission's head, Liberal Union deputy Dalia Kutraite-Giedraitiene, announced her resignation, which she said is a natural reaction to the formation of the new ruling majority in the parliament. SG

POLISH, LITHUANIAN PREMIERS DISCUSS EU, NATO ENLARGEMENT

Algirdas Brazauskas of Lithuania and Jerzy Buzek of Poland discussed problems associated with integration into the EU, bilateral trade, and economic cooperation during their meeting at Palanga, a Baltic Sea resort in Lithuania, Interfax reported on 2 August. Buzek also voiced his support for Lithuanian integration into NATO, adding that even after the upcoming parliamentary elections in Poland, the government will advocate Lithuania's early entry into NATO. Brazauskas said the two countries are eager to carry out an "energy bridge" project that would link their power grids, thereby opening up opportunities for exporting Lithuanian electricity to the West. DW

GOVERNMENT TO PUSH FURTHER PRIVATIZATION OF LOT

The Polish government will press ahead with the privatization of its national carrier, LOT, with a public share offer in 2002, Treasury Minister Aldona Kamela-Sowinska said on 2 August, dpa reported. In 1999, Swissair Group acquired a 10 percent stake in LOT, which has since increased to 37.6 percent. The state still holds a 52 percent controlling share, and airline employees hold a 10 percent stake. DW

IRAQI OPPOSITION TO OPEN OFFICE IN PRAGUE?

Two officials from the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an umbrella organization of Iraqi opposition groups, said the INC is looking to set up an office in Prague, CTK reported on 3 August, citing the daily "Pravo." "We started negotiating with the Czech side some six months ago," said Zab Setna, an adviser to the INC's London leadership. The Czech Foreign Ministry's Middle East department's director, Ilja Mazanek, however, said that "we have recorded the information about plans to increase the number of INC offices in the world. But that this would concern the Czech Republic, we don't know." Mufaq Francis Fatouhi, an INC Central Committee member living in the Czech Republic, said there may have been informal talks already, but that he expects Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan to receive a letter soon informing him of the INC's interest in opening offices in Prague. DW

CZECH HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION CALLS FOR END TO BRITISH CHECKS

Speaking after a meeting of the government's Committee for Romany Community Affairs, Human Rights Commissioner Jan Jarab said that the checks by British officials at Prague's Ruzyne airport are likely discriminatory and should stop as soon as possible, AP reported on 2 August. Jarab said the checks have created additional tension between the Roma and other Czech citizens, as well as between the Roma and the government. Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky, who also attended the meeting and is heading the government over the summer holiday season, said he hopes negotiations between the Czech and British governments result in a clear description of criteria applied during the checks. DW

AUSTRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS ONLY CZECHS CAN CLOSE TEMELIN

Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in the 3 August issue of "Die Presse" that she has joined her German counterpart Joschka Fischer in calling for the Czech government to close the Temelin nuclear power plant, but that it is a sovereign issue for the Czechs to decide, CTK reported. She added that Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel will probably meet in September to reevaluate "what exactly the EU report on Temelin's safety says. Both sides interpret it in a different way. The Czechs say most things are all right, we say there is an urgent need to improve and modernize." DW

SLOVAKIA'S HUNGARIAN COALITION PARTY CONSIDERS OPTIONS

Ahead of a roundtable discussion among leaders of the ruling coalition scheduled to take place on 3 August, the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) was still considering under what conditions it might stay in the government, CTK and TASR reported on 2 August. The roundtable was called by Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda in an attempt to preserve the ruling coalition following threats made in July by the SMK to quit the government in a disagreement over the recently passed law on regional reform (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). According to SMK Chairman Bela Bugar, if the SMK's partners in the ruling coalition are willing to amend the recently passed laws on self government and elections, the party would consider staying on, "Pravda" reported, citing TASR. The daily said Bugar indicated that "in the event that the SMK leaves the government, it will condition continued support for the coalition, under an opposition agreement, on fulfillment of the government program." The SMK will vote on leaving the party at its extraordinary congress to be held on 25 August. MES

SLOVAK NATIONAL PARTY HEAD'S HUSBAND WANTS COMPENSATION

Alexandr Belousov, the husband of Slovak National Party head Anna Malikova, is demanding 1 million crowns ($20,570) in damages from SNS parliamentarian Rastislav Septak for inflicting moral and material harm, TASR reported on 2 August. Septak is one of the eight SNS parliamentarians who were suspended on 28 July from the party for one year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July and 1 August 2001). Prior to their suspensions, Septak and the other eight had questioned Malikova's relationship with Belousov, a Russian businessman. According to Belousov's lawyer, the demand for compensation is the result of comments made by Septak to the media about Belousov's "personal affairs." His client is also requesting that Septak publicly apologize for comments he made alleging that Belousov threatened fellow suspended SNS parliamentarian Vitazoslav Moric in a phone call. "I feel that [Belousov] wants to discourage me from criticizing his wife. I am not going to pay the indemnity, because I do not see any reason for it, and I refuse to succumb [to this pressure]," Septak said. MES

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDER LEADERS SUPPORT OPPOSITION IN CLAIMS AGAINST PREMIER...

Geza Gyimothy, the secretary-general of the coalition member Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP), on 2 August told Hungarian media that the FKGP national leadership supports the opposition's initiative to convene a special session of the parliament. The opposition Socialist Party (MSZP) and the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) proposed last week that the parliament set up two special commissions to investigate Prime Minister Viktor Orban's role in abuses ascribed to former Agriculture Ministry State Secretary Bela Szabadi and to examine the circumstances under which mines owned by the Orban family supply dolomite to the state-owned steel company Dunaferr. Gyimothy said the FKGP "does not support MSZP or SZDSZ, but wants to know the truth." MSZ

...WHILE FKGP CHAIRMAN FEARS ARREST

Jozsef Torgyan on 2 August asked his party's national leadership not to quit the governing coalition even in the event that he is arrested in connection to cases involving companies affiliated with the Agriculture Ministry. Torgyan said that, as former agriculture minister, he might be arrested and charged some day as a result of the "Stalinist- and Rakosi-style" methods being applied by the major coalition party FIDESZ. He designated Geza Gyimothy to act as FKGP chairman in the event of his absence, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

HUNGARY, UKRAINE TO STRENGTHEN TIES

"Hungary has a vested interest in deepening relations between Ukraine, NATO, and the EU," Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told a Budapest press conference on 2 August following talks with his visiting Ukrainian counterpart Kinakh. Orban said Ukraine understands the aim of Hungary's Status Law and the two states are jointly seeking the best way of implementing it in Ukraine. The two prime ministers discussed joint measures for flood protection and also agreed to continue expert-level talks on lifting trade barriers. Orban said Hungary will not introduce tighter controls at the Ukrainian border while trying to gain accession to the EU. MSZ




THREE BOSNIAN MUSLIM GENERALS UNDER ARREST

Former Bosnian Generals Mehmed Alagic, Enver Hadzihasanovic, and Amir Kubura are in detention and awaiting extradition to The Hague in the next few days, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 2 August. Florence Hartmann, the spokeswoman for chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, told RFE/RL the next day that the three were recently placed on the tribunal's secret indictment list for crimes committed against Croats in central Bosnia in 1993. Bosnian officials said that the men turned themselves in once they learned that they were on the tribunal's list, but RFE/RL's South Slavic Service suggests that evidence indicates that the three were arrested. Federal Interior Minister Muhamed Bedjic nonetheless maintains that the three turned themselves in. PM

ONE MORE BOSNIAN GENERAL ON THE LIST?

Persistent but unconfirmed reports suggest that the tribunal may also be seeking former General Naser Oric, who commanded Bosnian troops in Srebrenica before its fall in July 1995. Many Serbs believe he and his raiding parties committed atrocities against Serbian civilians in villages near Srebrenica when the town was under siege. He left Srebrenica for safety shortly before its fall. Before the collapse of Yugoslavia, Oric once served as a bodyguard to former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. PM

REACTIONS IN BOSNIA TO HAGUE EVENTS

"Oslobodjenje" reported on 3 August that many Muslims in Alagic's hometown of Sanski Most are "upset" that a man they regard as a war hero was arrested. Prime Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija said in Sarajevo that "in the name of Bosnia and the federation" a lawyer will be hired to "help the men prove their innocence," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. VOA reported the previous evening that female survivors of the Srebrenica massacres are "outraged" that Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic received a sentence of only 46 years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2001). Spokeswomen for the survivors said that they want Krstic returned to Bosnia, where they would mete out what they described as "justice." Other women said he should "burn in hell." PM

U.S. SAYS TIME TO CATCH KARADZIC, MLADIC

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington on 2 August that "the judgement [against Krstic] sends a strong message that genocide will not be tolerated and the perpetrators will be brought to justice. Today's decision lays out the historical record and underscores the necessity of apprehending others accused of these horrendous crimes -- most notably [General] Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. And we are redoubling our efforts to apprehend them," dpa reported. Boucher added that "the criminals are finding the region more and more inhospitable to their efforts to hide and travel back and forth. So as we pursue this with the states in the region, I think it becomes less and less easy for them to evade apprehension." PM

MIXED MESSAGES IN MACEDONIA

Macedonia marked its national holiday -- the anniversary of the 1903 Ilinden uprising against the Ottoman Turks -- on 2 August, Deutsche Welle's Macedonian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2001). Speaking at the Prohor Pcinjski monastery, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said that agreeing to a political settlement "while our territories are occupied by terrorists would be a shameful agreement for Macedonia. We must take back our occupied territories because we can't close our eyes to the fact that we are talking under the threat of guns. Macedonia has the military equipment and able police and soldiers who are ready to implement the [law as set down in the] constitution." But President Boris Trajkovski stressed that the only solution to Macedonia's problems is a peaceful, negotiated one. He noted that "unfortunately, today we have a strong and decisive people but indecisive leadership," the "Financial Times" reported. PM

PEACE TALKS RESUME IN MACEDONIA

Following a one-day break for Ilinden, talks aimed at achieving a political settlement resumed in Ohrid on 3 August, Reuters reported. The session is expected to be dominated by the issue of the composition and control of the police forces in ethnic Albanian communities. Defense Ministry and guerrilla officials each accused the other side of continued violations of the cease-fire. PM

PRESEVO ALBANIAN LEADER: NO PROGRESS FOR MONTHS

Jonuz Musliu, who heads the ethnic Albanian Political Council for Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac, told the Kosova Live news agency on 1 August that the peace process has effectively come to a halt since Yugoslav army sharpshooters killed guerrilla leader Commander Lleshi on 24 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2001). The guerrillas have disarmed and an agreement has been signed on setting up a multiethnic police force, but nothing more has been done for months. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic has all the effective political authority in the region, and Serbian paramilitaries remain present, he added. PM

KOSOVARS SLAM BELGRADE'S 'COUNCIL'

The Yugoslav and Serbian governments agreed in Belgrade on 2 August to adopt a program and appoint a council to improve the status of the Serbian minority in Kosova and reaffirm Belgrade's claim to sovereignty there, "Vesti" reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January and 1 May 2001). It will be headed by Covic. Kol Berisha, a spokesman for the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), called the move "irresponsible" and motivated solely by Serbian domestic political considerations, Hina reported from Prishtina. He added that Serbian leaders know full well that there is little chance that they will ever have much influence in Kosova again. Ramadan Avdiu, a spokesman for Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party, said that all people in Kosova are equal, and that the Serbs cannot claim a privileged status (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2001). PM

MORE THAN HALF OF YOUNG ROMANIANS WOULD LEAVE COUNTRY IF GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY, SAYS POLL

Fifty-six percent of young Romanians would leave the country, while 68 percent are extremely dissatisfied with the political environment, says a poll commissioned by the Youth and Sports Ministry, Mediafax reported. According to the poll, the biggest problems Romanian youth face are finding a job, finding their own housing, living standards, general corruption, conditions for establishing a family, and personal safety. In order to be successful in life, 15 percent of the respondents believe education is important, 15 percent think that they must belong to a wealthy family, 12 percent count on hard work, 12 percent definitely think that luck is essential, and 10 percent favor the need for talent and intelligence. 1,192 people aged 15-29 were polled. Representatives of the ministry say that results of the poll will serve as the basis for a national strategy to prevent Romanian youth from leaving the country. LB

WITHDRAWAL OF RUSSIAN MILITARY EQUIPMENT FROM TRANSDNIESTER PROCEEDS AS PLANNED

"The first stage in the withdrawal and reconversion of Russian military equipment from Transdniester will be completed by the end of 2001, as decided during the OSCE summit in Istanbul," said William Hill, the head of the OSCE mission in Moldova, as quoted by "Nezavisimaya gazeta." Hill reminded that representatives of the OSCE, the Russian Federation, and the Transdniester signed in June in Tiraspol a protocol for creating a working group that will meet in August to evaluate a schedule for dismantling ammunition and military equipment. About 250 pieces of equipment are to be dismantled by the end of 2001. According to Hill, the Russian Defense Ministry is to receive reconversion compensation from OSCE special funds and a first installment of $50,000 has already been disbursed. The OSCE official said it is premature to discuss the full withdrawal of the Russian troops from Transdniester by the end of 2002, as decided during the Istanbul summit. LB

BULGARIAN JUSTICE MINISTER WORRIED ABOUT DEATH SENTENCES IN LIBYAN AIDS TRIAL

Anton Stankov said on 2 August that he fears the six Bulgarian medics on trial in Libya for intentionally infecting hundreds of children with the HIV virus could be sentenced to death if they are found guilty, Reuters reported. Stankov, who heads a government commission to help the five nurses and one doctor, told reporters in Sofia: "I want to underline that we have no reasons to be optimistic about the trial." He added that Bulgaria will appeal a guilty verdict and is working on a strategy for this eventuality. A verdict is expected to be announced on 22 September. The six Bulgarians as well as a Palestinian doctor were detained in Tripoli in 1999 and charged with knowingly infecting 393 children in a Benghazi hospital with the HIV virus. Nine Libyans have also been charged in the case. Two of the nurses allege they were tortured in prison and made pretrial statements under pressure. PB

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO GIVE DEPUTIES A PAY RAISE

The Bulgarian parliament voted on 2 August to increase the monthly salary of its members, BTA reported. Salaries will go up from some 750 levs ($340) a month to 840 levs per month, a 12 percent increase. PB




CZECH CASE REFOCUSES ATTENTION ON CRIMES OF COMMUNISM


By Jeremy Bransten

Czech prosecutors this week charged former Czechoslovak Prime Minister Lubomir Strougal with abuse of power in connection with his time as a senior Communist Party functionary. A judge must now decide whether the case will be tried in court. If so, it will be a victory for the Czech Office for the Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of Communism (UDV), which has had little success thus far in pinning responsibility for alleged crimes on the country's former leaders.

The charges against Lubomir Strougal date back to 1965, when he was Czechoslovak interior minister and before he began his 18 years as prime minister. Prosecutors allege that at the time, Strougal failed to hand over a file to the Prosecutor-General's Office with information on certain ministry employees. That file allegedly contained references to the murder of three political activists by members of the former StB secret police.

The case has generated media interest because it seems likely that a judge will order a trial. Since 1989, only one such high-ranking former communist official, former Prague Communist Party chief Miroslav Stepan, has been jailed for crimes committed during office. But even so, Stepan served less than two years in jail for his role in the initial suppression of student demonstrators during the November 1989 revolution.

"In this case, it does look as if the judge will order a trial -- that this case will genuinely get heard in court," said Jan Kubita, a journalist for the Czech daily "Lidove Noviny." "This would be a true breakthrough, because since [Stepan's case] nothing like this has been repeated."

It will be several weeks before the judge delivers a final decision. But the controversy around whether the 76-year-old Strougal will face justice has refocused attention on Czech courts and the work of the UDV, which prepared the case.

Over the past six years, out of 160 cases prepared by the office, only nine have been prosecuted. Of those, only four individuals received prison terms. Most files are routinely returned to the UDV for reworking by judges who cite incomplete evidence.

Staff members at the UDV say that judges -- some of whom served under the old regime -- are not interested in pursuing the issue of guilt for communist-era crimes. But Kubita says there is some truth to charges that the cases presented by the UDV are often ill-prepared. Part of the problem lies in the funding and resulting low staffing levels of the office -- which falls under the Interior Ministry. "Compare the Gauck office [set up to review former secret police files] in Germany, where some 3,000 people work. The Czech UDV had in the year 1997, 97 staffers, including document experts and investigators," Kubita said. "I think that the office's weak staffing contributes to the perception that the institute's work is of low quality."

In addition, since 1997 and a change in government, the office's personnel has been reshuffled, leading to a further exodus.

"Since that time, a lot of document specialists and investigators have left the institute. Audits are now taking place and this pressure has led to the departure of the good investigators," Kubita said.

The other -- more fundamental -- problem is the issue of legal continuity. Because of the Czech Republic's acceptance of this principle, former communist functionaries cannot be prosecuted for observing laws valid under the former regime -- even if those laws in many cases directly infringed on citizens' human rights. Violations are difficult to prove.

Germany, in contrast, does not recognize the legitimacy of former East German laws. But even with an easier legal framework and a well-staffed office, statistics show that Berlin has been equally unsuccessful in bringing former communist officials to justice.

There, the statistics are even more telling. Out of 12,000 cases prepared by the Gauck office, only 28 have been prosecuted so far. Many of those cases concern former border guards who shot citizens attempting to flee to the West.

Veteran commentator Jiri Jes, who was politically active as a student before the Czechoslovak communist takeover in 1948 and subsequently spent several years in communist prisons before being sent into internal exile, says the Czechs have been no worse in dealing with their communist past than their neighbors.

"It's also important to look around to other post-communist states and we can see that a similar -- if not worse -- situation exists everywhere," Jes said. "Even in Germany after the war, in 1945, it was not possible to punish all Nazi functionaries... Here...there were such large numbers of people compromised by the regime in all these post-communist states, that it was a practical impossibility to deal with all of them through the courts."

Jes noted that Strougal was considered among the less ideological members of the Czechoslovak communist leadership. Despite being identified with the period of so-called "normalization," Strougal initially opposed the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. In the late 1980s, he tried to position himself as a centrist, taking a cue from former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

"I think the greatest perpetrators are long dead and when people like...Strougal are being pursued, they belonged to those who were relatively better among the evil ones," Jes said. "I think it's unfair to pursue them just because they have remained alive."

Czech law does not allow for posthumous trials and for Jes, the courts at this point may be the wrong venue for justice. He would prefer to see the past documented by historians and those responsible for the suffering caused by the communist regime to be named for future generations to know.

"Yes, I am in favor of a trial," Jes said. "Not a trial in a normal criminal court -- but a trial by history." Jeremy Bransten is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.


XS
SM
MD
LG