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Newsline - August 6, 2001




PUTIN AND KIM JONG-IL TALKS END WITH JOINT DECLARATION

President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il completed their talks in the Kremlin on 4 August by signing a joint declaration in which they outlined their positions on various international issues and areas of bilateral cooperation, Russian and Western news services reported. As expected, both countries expressed their opposition to the deployment of the United States's missile defense system, declaring "the U.S. uses 'the Korean factor' to justify its plans to withdraw from the 1972 ABM Treaty." At Russia's insistence, Kim also pledged to observe the moratorium on missile testing, which he had previously agreed to with the administration of then-U.S. President Bill Clinton. VY

...AND ACCORD TO EXTEND MILITARY AND ECONOMIC RELATIONS...

Russia and North Korea also agreed to extend bilateral military-technical, economic, and scientific cooperation. While details of military provisions of the accord were unavailable for the mass media, the economic provisions call for the revitalization of joint projects -- in the energy sphere, in particular -- and the building of a railway transport corridor linking North and South Korea with Russia and Europe. To realize this project, Moscow pledged to attract substantial foreign investment. VY

...AS COMPLAINTS ARE RAISED ABOUT SECURITY RESTRICTIONS ASSOCIATED WITH KIM VISIT

At least 25,000 train passengers experienced delays and other problems because of Kim's arrival at the Yaroslavl train station in central Moscow on the evening of 3 August, Interfax reported. And on 6 and 7 August, suburban train traffic on one of St. Petersburg's railways will be suspended for three hours because of Kim's visit to that city. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev told reporters in Moscow that the security measures being taken for Kim's visit are excessive and suggested that Putin "could have asked the guests in a friendly way to do things in a somewhat different manner." JAC

GOVERNMENT PREPARING MORE TAX REFORM LEGISLATION...

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov revealed on 3 August some of the government's legislative goals for the State Duma's fall session. According to Kasyanov, the cabinet will submit more bills aimed at continuing reform of Russia's tax system, such as amendments to part one of the Tax Code and to legislation on production-sharing agreements, Interfax reported. Legislation aimed at reforming the railway system and electric power industry are also being prepared. JAC

...AS WELL AS BILLS TO BRING THE RUSSIAN ECONOMY IN LINE WITH WTO REQUIREMENTS

In addition, the cabinet will submit eight bills designed to assist Russia in its quest to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). In particular, amendments to the Tax Code are being drafted to align existing legislation with WTO standards. Meanwhile, according to "Vedomosti" on 3 August, work on a new version of the Customs Code started in the fall of last year, after Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref expressed his categorical opposition to the version that had been prepared by the State Customs Committee for its second reading by the Duma. According to the daily, the new version of the Customs Code has already been approved by WTO experts as well as by the main legal department of the presidential administration; however, Gref's ministry is still seeking two changes in the legislation. JAC

INFLATION SLOWED IN JULY

Inflation in July measured 0.5 percent compared with 1.6 percent in June and 1.8 percent in May and April, the State Statistics Committee reported on 3 August. The price of food products dipped 0.5 percent in July, while nonfood products rose 0.7 percent and services increased 2 percent. JAC

RUSSIA DROPPED FROM 'BLACKLIST' OF MONEY-LAUNDERING COUNTRIES

Russia's Ambassador to the Council of Europe, Aleksandr Orlov, gave that organization on 4 August a certificate of ratification by Russia of the international convention on combating money laundering, ITAR-TASS reported. Orlov noted that, thanks to the Russian parliament's quick ratification of the convention, Russia was dropped from the list of the states involved in money laundering, which are subject to possible economic sanctions. VY

GOVERNMENT'S DEMOGRAPHIC POLICY CONCEPT EXPLAINED...

The government has finished drafting a concept for its "Demographic Policy up to 2015," which postulates that the "depopulation" of Russia is exacerbated by the sharp imbalance between younger and older population groups, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported 4 August. The imbalance emerged in 1998, when the number of pensioners exceeded the number of children and teenagers for the first time. By January 1, 2000, the gap between these two groups already was over 1 million. The aging of the population will inevitably lead to a deficit of the labor force and growing financial burden for the working population. By 2016, Russia may face a situation in which it will not have enough people not only for all sectors of the economy to function, but also for defense of the country. In the 19th century, the Russian scientist Dmitrii Mendeleev calculated that to protect and develop its huge territory, Russia needs at least 500 million people. VY

...AND OUTLINES PROGRAM FOR ENCOURAGING PUBLIC TOLERANCE

The government has approved a program for "encouraging public tolerance and combating extremism" that seeks to educate Russian citizens to respect and tolerate each other even under conditions of rising social tension, "Izvestiya" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 August. According to the program, by 2005 the federal and regional governments should instruct citizens regarding the norms of "stable behavior in extreme situations." According to the deputy head of the Duma Committee for Defense, Pavel Burdyukov (Agro-Industrial), Russia needs such a program because it may face many crisis situations in the future, including food shortages. Burdyukov told "Vek" No. 31 that "Today we depend on our food imports from our Western partners. If they decide to stop them, we will experience starvation. " VY

1991 COUP PLOTTERS TRY TO PIN BLAME ON GORBACHEV

Valerii Boldin, one of the leaders of the August 1991 coup and former chief of staff for former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, has stated that Gorbachev himself ordered the creation of the State Committee for Emergency Situations (GKChP), which engineered the coup, "Kommersant-Vlast" No. 31 reported. However, Gorbachev told RIA-Novosti on 5 August that he learned from materials from an investigation of the GKChP that the plotters agreed amongst themselves to blame Gorbachev for the August putsch. He also said that during 10th anniversary of the events later this month, he will talk for the first time in detail about the coup. VY

MEDIA-MOST VETERANS RESURFACE WITH NEW PUBLICATIONS

Former "Itogi" editor Sergei Parkhomenko and former "Segodnya" Editor Mikhail Berger plan to launch new publications in the fall, Ekho Moskvy reported on 5 August. According to the radio station, Parkhomenko's new publication will be called "Ezhenedelnyi zhurnal," while Berger's will be called "Delovaya khronika." Both publications have been registered at the Justice Ministry as being published by TABURET publishing center. Both Parkhomenko and Berger left their publications, which had been published by Vladimir Gusinsky's Media-MOST Group, after Gazprom-Media assumed control of them. Meanwhile, the new management of NTV is trying to launch its own version of programs made popular by former NTV veterans such as Yevgenii Kiselev's "Itogi" and Svetlana Sorokina's "Glas Naroda," the web site lenta.ru reported on 3 August. This fall, in the place of "Itogi" will be a new show hosted by Leonid Parfenov and in place of "Glas Naroda" a show called "Svoboda Slova" hosted by Savik Shuster. JAC

CASPIAN PIPELINE CONSORTIUM READY TO INAUGURATE TENGIZ-NOVOROSSIISK ROUTE

The Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) announced on 4 August that a meeting of its shareholders endorsed an oil transportation treaty removing the last obstacles to inaugurating the 1,700-kilometer pipeline "Tengiz-Novorossiisk," RIA-Novosti reported on 4 August. The CPC's initial capacity through that route will be 28 million tons and will gradually grow to 67 million tons over the next 10 to 15 years. The capacity of all Russian pipelines currently in operation is about 130-140 million tons. According to the website strana.ru on 5 August, the pipeline is seen by the Kremlin as a resolution of the dispute between the "southern" (via the Transcaucasus) and "northern" routes for Caspian oil in favor of Russia. VY

NEW 'EURASIAN' PARTY REGISTERED

The Justice Ministry has registered the Eurasian Party of Russia (EPR) led by Refakh leader and State Duma deputy Abdul-Vakhed Niyazov, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 4 August. The new party has branches of no less than 5,000 members in 70 regions of Russia, according to the newspaper. However, for the EPR to become fully legal, it will have to reregister under the rules established by the newly adopted law on political parties, which comes into force in July 2003, under which it must have branches of no less than 10,000 members in more than half of Russia's 89 regions. Niyazov is confident that that his party will meet the barrier, because it unites "Russian Orthodoxy, Islam and a devotion to the Fatherland." VY

RUSSIA TO WITHDRAW ITS PARATROOPERS FROM BALKAN PEACEKEEPING FORCES

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced on 5 August that Russian paratroopers serving as peacekeepers in Bosnia, Kosova and Abkhazia will soon be replaced by their counterparts in the ground forces, ITAR-TASS reported. "Paratroopers are the most combat-ready armed service, and we need them in the most perilous areas, such as the North Caucasus," Ivanov noted. He also said that the paratroopers remain "the main reserve of Russia's High Command" and will be not reduced. VY

BASHKORTOSTAN PRESIDENT SPEAKS OUT IN FAVOR OF POWER-SHARING AGREEMENT

No official celebrations were planned in Bashkortostan to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the signing of the republic's power-sharing agreement with Moscow -- a marked change from the previous year, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported, citing the pro-Kremlin website strana.ru. The website also quoted a presidential press service official, who said that the event "is not, after all, the storming of the Bastille." In an interview with "Izvestiya" published on 3 August, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov declared that the agreement has played a positive role in dividing responsibilities between the center and the region and is evidence of the mutual trust existing between the federal center and regions. That trust, according to Rakhimov, is the basis for stability in the country. He added that "any attempts to relegate to the archives this document, which works effectively, to the archives would be a great political mistake, perhaps even an irreparable one." JAC

FEDERATION COUNCIL HEAD PREDICTS ELECTIONS FOR UPPER CHAMBER

In an interview with "Izvestiya" published on 3 August, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said that after the 2004 presidential election, members of the Federation Council may be elected directly. According to Stroev, "it is already clear to [President] Putin that selecting members for the Federation Council through direct elections is also a realistic option." He added that "at present, the Federation Council is made up of clever individuals -- but people have serious doubts about the way those individuals got into that body." Stroev also reported that some senators complained after the Federation Council's last session on 20 July that they were being pressured to vote for at least one bill that had been hurriedly and sloppily prepared. Some State Duma deputies have made a similar charge about legislation rushed through during their last few weeks (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 30 July 2001). JAC

KRASNODAR LEGISLATORS FASHION ELECTION LEGISLATION COUNTER TO NEW FEDERAL MODEL

Deputies in Krasnodar Krai's Legislative Assembly have approved amendments to the krai's charter under which deputies and the krai's governor will now serve five rather than four year terms, the website polit.ru reported on 3 August. In addition, the deputies will be elected only in single-mandate districts rather than by party lists. According to the website, the new changes work at cross purposes with the attempt by the State Duma and Kremlin to unify the election legislation of all the regions. In particular, a bill that was introduced by deputy Boris Nadezhdin (Union of Rightist Forces) and deputy (Agro-Industrial) Igor Igoshin would require that regions with more than 500,000 people would have to elect no less than 15 percent of the members of their legislative assemblies through party lists. That bill is expected to pass, according to the website. JAC

THE GOVERNMENT TEAM THAT VACATIONS TOGETHER STAYS TOGETHER?

Prime Minister Kasyanov left for a two-week vacation in Sochi on 4 August. According to ITAR-TASS, President Putin and his family are staying in the government-owned dacha No. 1, and Kasyanov and his family are in the neighboring dacha No. 2. The agency also reported that no acting prime minister will be named during Kasyanov's vacation, although Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko will chair a cabinet session on 9 August. JAC

FSB RULES OUT IMPOSING STATE OF EMERGENCY IN CHECHNYA

At a meeting in the North Caucasus resort of Yessentuki on 3 August, Federal Security Service (FSB) director Nikolai Patrushev rejected a proposal by Colonel General Valerii Baranov, who days earlier had resumed command of the joint Russian forces in Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2001), to impose a "special legal status" on Chechnya for the duration of the "antiterrorist" operation there and to impose "some elements" of a state of emergency, Interfax reported. First Deputy Prosecutor-General Yurii Biryukov, who also attended the meeting, argued that imposing further restrictions in Chechnya would only compound local residents' mistrust and resentment of the federal authorities. LF

GROZNY OFFICIAL OBJECTS TO ANNIVERSARY SECURITY PRECAUTIONS

Russian troops established checkpoints around the entire perimeter of Grozny on 5 August, preventing all traffic from entering the city, in a bid to prevent terrorist actions to mark the 6 August anniversary of the successful retaking of the capital by Chechen fighters in 1996, Russian agencies reported. Chechnya's chief military commandant Major General Sergei Kizyun said that thanks to those measures, the situation in Grozny was calmer than usual, according to AP. But Ruslan Martagov, a spokesman for Grozny's new mayor Oleg Zhidkov, issued a statement the same day condemning the restrictions as unnecessary and counterproductive, Interfax reported. He argued that such measures only serve to create a distorted impression of the threat posed by the Chechen fighters. LF

TEN POLICEMEN KILLED IN CHECHNYA

Eight local Chechen police officers were killed by fellow Chechen fighters in an ambush in the Shelkovskii Raion of northwestern Chechnya on 3 August when they went to investigate the kidnapping and murder of the local police chief and his son, Interfax and Reuters reported. Also killed in that shoot-out, according to Interfax, was Chechen field commander Ruslan Elmurzaev, known as "the emir of Shelkovskii Raion." LF




AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT DENIES REACHING PRELIMINARY AGREEMENT ON ENDING KARABAKH CONFLICT

Speaking to journalists at Baku airport on 3 August on his return from the CIS summit in Sochi, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev again denied that during talks in Paris in March and Florida in April, he and his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian reached agreement on the main terms for ending the Karabakh conflict. Aliyev was quoted by Azerbaijan State Television as saying that he and Kocharian "simply discussed various options in Paris, but we did not come to any firm decision," and that Armenia later "stepped back" from some of those options, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 4 August. He added that no agreement was reached in the Florida talks, stressing that "this is a process. You reach an agreement one time, later you see that they reject it." On the eve of the Paris meeting, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said those talks would focus on general principles for a settlement formulated by French President Jacques Chirac and his U.S. and Russian counterparts which if accepted by Baku, Yerevan, and Stepanakert could serve as a basis for a settlement document (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2001). Armenian and Karabakh officials have since accused Baku of going back on agreements reached in Paris and Florida, while Aliyev and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayet Quliev have denied that the so-called "Paris principles" exist (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June and 18 July 2001). LF

IRAN DENIES VIOLATING AZERBAIJAN'S AIRSPACE...

Iran has not violated Azerbaijan's airspace, but has conducted routine air patrols over Iran's own sector of the Caspian Sea, according to a 3 August statement by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi. Azerbaijani media last week claimed that Iranian planes entered Azerbaijani airspace on 29 July and 1 and 2 August. Assefi added that "Iran...is willing to settle differences between the two countries through negotiations." LF

...AS AZERBAIJANI MINISTER ACCEPTS INVITATION TO TEHRAN...

Meeting on 3 August with Iranian Ambassador Ahad Qazai at the latter's request, Azerbaijani National Security Minister Namig Abbasov accepted an invitation to visit Iran "in the near future," Turan reported. LF

...AND RUSSIA EXPRESSES CONCERN

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi summoned Azerbaijan's ambassador in Moscow, Ramiz Rzaev, on 3 August to express Moscow's "concern over the recent incident between Azerbaijan and Iran in the southern part of the Caspian Sea," Interfax reported. Kalyuzhnyi stressed that conflicting claims on Caspian hydrocarbon deposits "should be resolved exclusively by political means at the negotiating table." He added that the incident confirms the need to speed up the process of defining a new legal status for the Caspian Sea. LF

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT PROPOSES FOUR-WAY CASPIAN TALKS

Azerbaijan's President Aliyev said in Baku on 3 August that during talks on the sidelines of last week's CIS summit in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed convening a meeting of the four post-Soviet Caspian littoral states (Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan) to discuss the legal status of the Caspian, Interfax reported. No date has been set for that meeting. But Turkmen presidential press secretary Kakamurad Ballyev said in Ashgabat the same day that the discussion of the Caspian begun in Sochi by the presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan should be continued with the participation of Turkmenistan and Iran at the Caspian summit tentatively scheduled to be held in Ashgabat in October, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

DATE SET FOR TRIAL OF AZERBAIJANI HIJACKER

The trial of Mekhti Huseynli on charges of attempting last August to hijack to Turkey an Azerbaijani Airlines plane bound from Nakhichevan to Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000) will begin on 14 August, Turan reported on 3 August. The court rejected a request by Huseynli's lawyers to prolong the preliminary investigation. LF

RED CROSS MAY CLOSE MISSION IN GEORGIA AFTER FUNDS DISAPPEAR

A senior official of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCRC) told journalists in Tbilisi on 2 August that the federation may pull out of Georgia completely, Caucasus Press reported. He accused the director of the Georgian Red Cross, Nodar Tskitishvili, of "abuse of his official position and misappropriation of humanitarian resources," and set down specific conditions for a continuation of its programs to assist the needy. The federation suspended aid programs in Georgia in June after Tskitishvili was first suspected of having embezzled funds. Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze expressed regret the following day at the possibility of an end to IFRCRC programs in Georgia, which he said would reflect badly on Georgia's international image. LF

TURKEY OPENS MILITARY REPRESENTATION IN KAZAKHSTAN

The Turkish armed forces' General Staff opened an office in Astana on 3 August to coordinate bilateral military cooperation, Turan reported. Mustafa Oszoi, who will serve as the Turkish representative at that office, said Turkey is ready to contribute to the ongoing reform and modernization of Kazakhstan's armed forces. Kazakhstan's First Deputy Defense Minister and chief of General Staff, Colonel General Alibek Kasymov, whom some observers believe is being groomed to succeed Defense Minister Lieutenant General Sat Toqpaqbaev, said at the opening ceremony that Turkey will provide Kazakhstan with military assistance to the value of some $10 million over the next decade, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Kasymov headed a Kazakh military delegation that visited Ankara last month. LF

ONE CHOLERA, TWO PLAGUE CASES REPORTED IN SOUTHERN KAZAKHSTAN

A man has died of cholera in South Kazakhstan Oblast, Reuters reported on 6 August, while one man has died of bubonic plague in southern Kazakhstan's Kyzyl-Orda Oblast and his son has been hospitalized with the disease, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 August. Cases of plague were reported in Kazakhstan in 1997 and 1999. LF

UN OFFICIAL EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN KYRGYZSTAN

Hina Jilani, the UN Secretary-General's special representative for human rights, told journalists in Bishkek on 3 August that she has "concerns" that legislation guaranteeing the right of freedom of assembly, free speech, and freedom of association is not being systematically observed in Kyrgyzstan, Reuters and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Jilani met in Bishkek with senior Kyrgyz government officials and representatives of opposition newspapers, and traveled Osh and Djalalabad oblasts in the south of the country for talks with human rights activists there. But she was denied permission to visit imprisoned Erkindik Party leader Topchubek Turgunaliev, who is currently being treated for high blood pressure at a prison hospital in Bishkek, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. TurgunAliyev is serving a six-year sentence on what observers consider fabricated charges of plotting to assassinate President Askar Akaev. LF




U.S. CONDEMNS BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS' SEIZURE OF EQUIPMENT

The U.S. State Department said on 3 August that Belarusian authorities have seized American computer equipment being used by a nongovernmental organization and an independent newspaper, Reuters reported. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in a statement that the equipment was taken by security forces from the newspaper "Volny Horad" in the town of Krichev and from a resource center under the terms of presidential decree No. 8, "imposed by the regime to limit foreign assistance to the democratic opposition." Boucher said Belarusian officials "have a duty either to return the equipment to its intended recipients, or to the U.S. -- and failing that, they are obligated to refund its value in dollars." He said the assistance was granted through a 1996 bilateral agreement. PB

BELARUSIAN MINISTRY WARNS PAPERS AGAINST PUBLISHING INFORMATION ON UNREGISTERED GROUPS

The Justice Ministry issued a statement on 3 August warning newspapers that publication of information about unregistered parties, trade unions, or other organizations constitutes a criminal offense, Belapan reported. The ministry said that on 25 and 27 July the newspaper "Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta" published articles about the formation of an organization called Nezavisimoye Nablyudeniye (Independent Observation). The ministry pointed out that this organization has not been registered, and that the Movement for Democratic and Free Elections also is not, though it too has been mentioned in the paper. PB

BELARUSIAN TEACHERS MUST DECLARE VOTING PREFERENCE BEFORE RECEIVING VACATION ALLOWANCES

Schoolteachers at school No. 2 in the town of Radun, in the Hrodno region, report that they must answer for whom they will vote in the presidential election before they receive their summer vacation allowances, Belapan reported on 3 August. Ivan Fesenko, a teacher in Voronovo, said the teachers' answers are recorded and sent to the school's principal. He said the practice is being done at other schools and even factories in the region: "Teachers are afraid to say what they [really] think, that is why they put down only one name known to everybody." PB

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS ARMS FLOW TO MACEDONIA TO BE HALTED

Anatoliy Zlenko said on 5 August in Paris that Ukraine will not supply tanks to Macedonia during the ongoing peace talks in Ohrid, ITAR-TASS reported. Zlenko flew to Ohrid with EU security chief Javier Solana. Ukraine has been under heavy pressure from the EU and the U.S. to stop providing military hardware to Macedonia during the conflict there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2001). Ukraine was scheduled to deliver an unspecified number of modernized tanks to Macedonia this month, Macedonian Ambassador to Ukraine Vlado Blazewski said on 2 August. The tanks are currently in Ukraine for overhauls. PB

UKRAINIAN VICTIMS OF NAZISM RECEIVE MONEY

The German government presented 13 former Nazi concentration camp prisoners and forced laborers during World War II with compensation at a ceremony in Kyiv on 6 August, dpa reported, citing Interfax. Germany, which has pledged $790 million for the program, will give $6,800 to each former prisoner of a concentration camp, and $1,900 to each forced industrial worker. Forced agricultural or domestic laborers and people taken to Germany as children will receive $680. Between 540,000 and 560,000 Ukrainians are expected to receive compensation. The first recipients included 87-year-old forced laborer Tatiana Moslkalenko, and 60-year-old Lilia Zhir, who was an inmate at a concentration camp as a child. PB

UKRAINIAN JOURNALISTS COMPLAIN OF POLICE BEATING DURING PUTIN VISIT

A group of Crimean journalists issued a joint statement on 6 August complaining of an attack on Yevhen Rybki, the editor of the Sevastopol daily "Melitopolskie Novosti," in the city during last week's visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin, dpa reported. The statement said police beat Rybki "for no good reason" and then charged him with resisting arrest. He was detained by police and interrogated for six hours. Ukraine's Internal Affairs Ministry said it was not immediately aware of the incident. PB

ESTONIAN NATIONAL GENETIC DATABANK PROJECT DELAYED

Plans by the Estonian Genome Project Foundation to begin a pilot project by collecting genetic data of 10,000 Estonians will not begin this fall as previously planned, but will be delayed until at least February 2002 due to red tape and difficulties in obtaining necessary funding, BNS reported on 3 August. The parliament last December passed a law allowing for the creation of a gene bank covering the entire population of Estonia. It was planned that the state would provide about one-third of the costs, with the remainder coming from private capital, mostly foreign. The state has granted 1 million kroons ($56,800) to begin the pilot project, which is expected to cost about $2.5 million. Project manager Krista Kruuv noted that since the project was developed by the state, all of its elements exceeding certain maximum costs will require state procurement tenders and thus take much longer to complete. Foreign investors are expected to be found at an international genetic research conference to be held in Tartu in September. SG

CARGO TURNOVER IN LATVIA'S VENTSPILS PORT INCREASING

The Ventspils port administration announced on 3 August that through July of this year the port reloaded 23.45 million tons of cargo, or 10.4 percent more than in the same period last year, BNS reported. In July, 3.44 million tons of cargo were handled, or 300,000 tons more than in July 2000. Almost 80 percent of the cargo, 2.72 million tons, was liquid cargo -- primarily 1.3 million tons of crude oil and 1.37 million tons of oil products. Experts predict that Ventspils this year will reach a record new annual cargo turnover of 38.4 million tons, exceeding the current record of 38.2 million tons set in 1983. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES DRAFT CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

The parliament on 3 August by a vote of 77 to one, with four abstentions, approved amendments to Article 119 of the constitution, ELTA reported. The amendments grant all permanent residents the right to run for and vote in local government elections. The terms of office for those posts were also extended from three to four years. The parliament also agreed to prepare by 1 October the necessary laws specifically defining what constitutes permanent residency. The amendment was prompted by the need to comply with the European Union's demand that EU citizens permanently residing in candidate countries be allowed to participate in local elections. The amendment will grant this right not only to EU citizens, but all permanent residents. The extraordinary parliamentary session, which ended that day, failed to prepare a project for the other required constitutional amendment, which would allow EU citizens to purchase agricultural land in Lithuania. SG

GERMANY DENIES CHEATING ON POLISH WWII COMPENSATION PAYMENTS

The German government on 3 August rejected Polish allegations that it cheated WWII slave laborers by using a bad exchange rate in converting German marks to zlotys, PAP reported. Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek's spokeswoman Teresa Kaminska said the Polish-German Reconciliation Fund in charge of the payments had made a single-handed decision to carry out the payments in zlotys based on an unfavorable euro rate. "The fund agreed to payments in zlotys without consulting the government. As the decision has proved harmful, we will now approach the German government on the matter." The deputy head of the German Remembrance, Responsibility, and Future Fund, Hans Otto Braeutigam, said: "We have not the slightest interest in making any sort of profit on this. We deplore that. I very much regret that we have this sort of public confrontation." DW

CZECH AIRLINE EMPLOYEES STOP ROMA FROM FLYING TO IRELAND

Employees of the Czech airline CSA turned back two Romany families trying to fly to Ireland from Prague, CTK reported, citing Nova television. The airline employees reportedly took members of the Romany families aside and began asking them questions about where they would stay and how much money they had. CSA said that its employees acted in keeping with agreements with Irish immigration officials, but the Irish Embassy's Charge d'Affaires James O'Connel said that no such agreement exists between the Czech Republic and Ireland. British officials have been screening London-bound passengers at Prague's Ruzyne airport since 18 July based on a 1975 agreement. DW

CZECH AIR FORCE ACCIDENTS DUE TO 'LACK OF DISCIPLINE'

Czech air force commander Ladislav Klima told the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 3 August that the service's frequent accidents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2001) are all too often the result of a lack of discipline, CTK reported. He said that in particular, the so-called "tiger pilots" at the Caslav base in central Bohemia are to blame. "Some pilots still consider themselves an elite which can always go scot-free. This has forced us to apply tough policies. If someone does not respect the training regulation, he will have to go." Klima added that he has "replaced the whole command (of the base) with young and competent officers." DW

TALKS AMONG SLOVAK RULING COALITION HEADS INCONCLUSIVE...

The meeting between leaders of the parties that make up Slovakia's ruling coalition on 3 August "brought no solutions for the crisis within the coalition and the country's political arena and the parties' views have not converged," Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) Chairman Pavol Hrusovsky said after the talks, TASR reported. The roundtable was called following the Hungarian Coalition Party's (SMK) threat to leave the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 31 July). The SMK's fellow ruling coalition parties agreed not to bow to SMK demands that the law on self government be amended as a condition for that party to remain in the government, and Hrusovsky suggested that if the SMK does leave the ruling coalition it should vacate its posts at the parliamentary and regional levels as well. MES

...WHILE SOP DEPUTY CHAIRMAN BRISTLES AT CALLS FOR WORKING WITH OPPOSITION...

Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) Deputy Chairman Jan Simko on 5 August criticized party Chairman Pavol Hamzik for suggesting after the roundtable that the ruling coalition should consider reaching agreements with opposition parties in order to ensure that the government's program is fulfilled, TASR reported. Simko threatened to resign should the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) party gain more influence over the SOP at the regional level. "I do not agree that the governing coalition should be dependent on the will of the opposition HZDS," Simko said. "Hamzik's statements are personal views and do not represent the SOP's political orientation." MES

...AS DO OTHERS

Liberal Democratic Union (LDU) Chairman Jan Budaj also said on 5 August that his party opposes Hamzik's comments, TASR reported. In a written statement, Budaj said that "The LDU challenges the coalition partners not to make the fatal mistake of ignoring the voters' mandate...a step that would have consequences for Slovakia's economic development, democratic politics, and integration goals." MES

WORLD BANK LOAN APPROVED FOR SLOVAKIA

The executive board of the World Bank approved a 200 million euro ($176.8 million) Enterprise and Financial Sector Adjustment Loan (EFSAL) for Slovakia, which the country plans to use for restructuring banks and enterprises, a government aide told Slovakia news agency on 3 August, TASR reported. Katarina Mathernova, an aide for Deputy Premier Ivan Miklos, told the agency that the credit is payable over 14 years with a five-year grace period on repayment of the first tranche of 60 million euros, which will be released sometime next month. The two remaining tranches of 70 million euros each will be made available once conditions for the first tranche are met by the country. MES

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS WANT TO RENEGOTIATE LAND RULES WITH EU...

The Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) is urging the government to renegotiate with the EU the chapters relating to the free flow of capital and foreigners' right to purchase farmland in Hungary, FKGP Deputy Chairwoman Agnes Maczo Nagy told Hungarian media on 5 August. Nagy said the FKGP is opposed to elements of the negotiations stipulating that foreigners be allowed to buy farmland in Hungary within three years. She said domestic land prices are lower than those in Western Europe, and therefore, it is likely that Hungary would become poorer with "the squandering of farmland." Meanwhile, the party's plan to organize nationwide road blockages should the government abide by the agreement with the EU was removed from the agenda of the FKGP leadership's last meeting, "Nepszabadsag" reported. MSZ

...WHILE AUSTRIANS VOW TO STAND BY THEIR LAND

Austrian farmers have dismissed claims made in a recent Hungarian television report that they plan a coordinated campaign to resist the Hungarian government's attempts to buy back land illegally leased to them, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 6 August. The farmers said, however, that they will not "just sit by and watch others profit from the Hungarian government's brushing aside of contracts made between two individual parties." Several Austrians have reported that Hungarian farmers have tried to blackmail them by demanding large sums of money in exchange for not having the conditions of those "pocket contracts" revealed to Hungarian authorities (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 18, 19 and 20 July 2001). MSZ




MACEDONIAN PARTIES RESOLVE POLICE ISSUE...

Representatives of Macedonia's two largest ethnic Macedonian and two largest ethnic Albanian political parties -- all of which are in the government -- agreed in Ohrid on 5 August on a compromise that will give the Albanian minority a greater role in police affairs while leaving ultimate authority with the Interior Ministry in Skopje, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In the presence of international mediators James Pardew and Francois Leotard, EU security policy chief Javier Solana, OSCE Macedonia expert Max van der Stoel, and President Boris Trajkovski, the leaders of the four parties agreed that the ethnic composition of the police will more accurately reflect the ethnic balance in the country as a whole. At present, ethnic Albanians make up between approximately one-fourth and one-third of the population, but provide only 6 percent of the police force. Details of the agreement are expected to be announced soon. PM

...WHILE PROBLEMS REMAIN

Several issues still remain to be resolved in the talks that were slated to resume in Ohrid on 6 August, observers note. A potentially thorny one involves regulations governing the use of national symbols (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2001). Once the agreement is concluded, it must pass parliament, where hard-liners on both sides could try to block approval. Nor is it clear whether the fighters of the National Liberation Army (UCK) will agree the text. Meanwhile, "The Independent" reported on 6 August that patterns of ethnic cleansing can be discerned in several parts of Macedonia. One real estate company is arranging exchanges of flats between the Bitola area, where many Albanians have been driven out, with parts of the Tetovo region, where many Macedonians have fled. Apartments in "ethnically pure" areas of Skopje now command much higher rents than those in mixed areas. PM

NATO SET TO DEPLOY IN MACEDONIA

NATO spokesman Major Barry Johnson said in Skopje on 6 August that the Atlantic alliance is prepared to quickly deploy some 3,500 troops to Macedonia to help implement an agreement once all parties concerned -- including the UCK -- have accepted it, Reuters reported. NATO's primary mission would be to collect the UCK's weapons. Leaders of both main ethnic groups, however, want NATO forces present as a stabilizing influence. But meanwhile, for security reasons some 200 German soldiers will deploy from Tetovo to Prizren in Kosova, dpa reported from Berlin on 5 August. Some U.S. forces recently made a similar move (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2001). PM

BUSH CONDEMNS REBELS, CALLS FOR POLITICAL SOLUTION IN MACEDONIA

In a letter to Trajkovski on the occasion of Macedonia's national holiday, U.S. President George W. Bush wrote that "the Macedonian people have [shown] great decisiveness to solve disputes between ethnic groups through a dialogue within legal institutions," dpa reported from Skopje on 3 August. Bush added that Washington "strongly opposes [the] violent methods used by armed extremists" and pledged "personal support and [the] support of U.S. citizens as long as you keep working on overcoming remaining differences." A spokesman for Trajkovski noted that the letter "once again expressed [the] great support" of the United States for Macedonia. Observers note that a disinformation campaign has been going on for some weeks to discredit the roles of NATO and the U.S. in the Balkans (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 July 2001). PM

KOSOVAR LEADER: NOTHING TO TALK ABOUT WITH BELGRADE EXCEPT INDEPENDENCE

In a rare interview with a Serbian publication, Kosovar moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova told "Politika" of 4 August that "we have nothing to talk about with Serbian representatives from Belgrade except an independent Kosova... It's enough for us that the international community is here and we will cooperate with them. As far as official Belgrade is concerned, they can join in only when resolving Kosova's independence is on the agenda," Reuters reported. Rugova said that he hopes that members of the small Serbian minority will vote in the 17 November general elections, adding that, if they do not, the international community will appoint legislators to the seats reserved for Serbs. PM

HAEKKERUP TO BELGRADE: NO PARTITION OF KOSOVA

UN civilian administrator for Kosova Hans Haekkerup told dpa in Prishtina on 4 August that he welcomes Belgrade's help in easing tensions in Mitrovica. He stressed, however, that he holds ultimate administrative responsibility for Kosova and rejected recent calls from Belgrade for a partition of the province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). PM

KFOR ARRESTS UCK FIGHTERS

KFOR troops arrested five UCK fighters, including two wounded men, near the border with Macedonia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 4 August. A KFOR spokesman in Prishtina added that peacekeepers recently prevented an attempt to smuggle a large quantity of weapons into Macedonia. PM

NATO: SERBIA RESPONSIBLE FOR SECURITY IN PRESEVO

On 4 August, unknown persons killed two Serbian police and wounded two more in the village of Muhovac near Bujanovac, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Muhamed Xhemaili of the former Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB) denied that his men had anything to do with the killings. Serbian security forces conducted a house-to-house search of Muhovac and detained nine persons in whose homes weapons were found. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic called on the Albanian population to cooperate with the police. He pledged to firmly combat "terrorism" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2001). In Prishtina the following day, a KFOR spokesman rejected charges by "Serbian authorities" that NATO bears responsibility for the incident. He noted that Serbian authorities are in charge of security in the Presevo valley (see the reference to the disinformation campaign, above). PM

SERBIAN SOCIALISTS REJECT MILOSEVIC'S ORDERS

The steering committee of former President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) voted in Belgrade on 4 August to keep parliamentary faction leader Branislav Ivkovic in the party and the leadership over Milosevic's objections, the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" reported. The committee also turned down Milosevic's demand that SPS members not participate in Haekkerup's coordinating council in Kosova. Milosevic made his wishes known by telephone from his cell in The Hague. The Munich daily wrote that committee members regarded his demands as part of a scheme to place his wife, Mira Markovic, in effective control of the SPS. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER: NO EXTRADITION OF LEGISLATOR WAR CRIMINALS

Zoran Djindjic told "Blic" of 4 August that there is "no way" that he will agree to the extradition to The Hague of Serbian President Milan Milutinovic or some 14 additional indicted Yugoslav citizens who enjoy parliamentary immunity, Deutsche Welle reported. PM

SERBIAN MINISTER SAYS EUROPE SHOULD LEARN FROM U.S.

Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said in Belgrade on 4 August that he is encouraged by the political support he received in Washington during his recent visit to the U.S., Reuters reported. He added that he hopes that EU countries will be as supportive of Serbia as is the U.S. in Belgrade's efforts to obtain a write-off of much of its foreign debt. Svilanovic said that U.S.-Serbian trade will be "normalized" in September. After that, Washington and Belgrade will start talks about restoring most-favored-nation trading status to Serbia. PM

BUSH HAILS EXTRADITION OF BOSNIAN GENERALS TO THE HAGUE

Bush said in a statement in Washington that he applauds the 3 August extradition of three former Bosnian Muslim commanders to The Hague, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 4 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2001). Officials in Zagreb and Belgrade also hailed the extradition. In The Hague, deputy prosecutor Graham Blewitt said that the indictments of the three were completed only on 13 July because Belgrade and Zagreb did not provide the tribunal with the documents it had requested earlier. PM

BOSNIAN MUSLIM VICTIMS REBURIED

Several hundred Muslims gathered in Visegrad on 5 August for the reburial of 152 people killed in the town at the start of the 1992-1995 war and dumped into mass graves, AP reported. Serbian forces killed some 3,000 people in the once mainly Muslim town, but only 300 bodies have been found. The remains of only 16 people have been conclusively identified. PM

GLIGOROV: I WILL TESTIFY ABOUT PARTITION OF BOSNIA

Former Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov told the Zagreb weekly "Globus" that he is ready to tell The Hague-based tribunal what he knows about plans by Milosevic and former Croatian President Franjo Tudjman to partition Bosnia, Deutsche Welle reported on 4 August. Gligorov said that Tudjman explained the plans to him in great detail. PM

CROATIAN LEADERS MARK NATIONAL HOLIDAY...

On 5 August in Knin, many Croatian political leaders marked the sixth anniversary of Operation Storm, which ended the revolt of the Serbian minority and restored Croatian sovereignty throughout Croatian territory. Tensions between several of the political leaders over cooperation with The Hague-based tribunal were evident, "Jutarnji list" reported. In churches across Croatia, commemorative masses were held. PM

...AS SERBIA RECONSIDERS PLIGHT OF REFUGEES

In Belgrade on 4 August, the Democratic Party of Serbia of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said in a statement that time has come to give "serious consideration" to how to help the tens of thousands of Serbian refugees from Croatia who have been in Serbia since 1995, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Milosevic incited and armed the rebellion so that the Serbian minority could "remain in Yugoslavia." Once the Serbs fled advancing Croatian troops, however, Milosevic largely ignored them and did not grant them citizenship. Refugees without friends or family in Serbia were often forced into destitution. PM

ROMANIAN PEASANTIST LEADER ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY FOR CHAIRMANSHIP

National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) Interim Chairman and former Premier Victor Ciorbea on 3 August announced his candidacy for the party's chairmanship, Romanian media reported. Ciorbea argues for the party's strength in unity amidst ongoing internal disputes between two different factions, which are both fighting for supremacy within the party. The anti-Ciorbea faction led by former Deputy Chairman Vasile Lupu and former Secretary-General Calin Catalin Chirita lost a legal suit the same day that sought for the faction to continue to function following its dismissal. Chirita said Ciorbea's ideas for the party's future do not reflect his activity within the party, and called the former premier's program a "political pamphlet." The PNTCD's 14 August extraordinary congress is to elect the party's new chairman. ZsM

MOLDOVA-RUSSIA BASIC TREATY TO BE SIGNED IN SEPTEMBER

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on 3 August said the Moldovan-Russian Basic Treaty is to be signed at the end of September in Moscow, Flux reported. During his 2 August meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the informal CIS summit in Sochi, the two discussed bilateral relations, particularly economic ties. Voronin added that a Gazprom delegation is to arrive on 8 August in Chisinau. He also said that Moldova is interested in the further "developing and deepening of bilateral relations with CIS member states". In Sochi, Voronin also met Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. The two discussed the problem of border delimitation and the possible establishment of common custom posts in the Transdniester region. ZsM

VORONIN ON THE TRANSDNIESTER REGIME

According to Voronin, during their 2 August meeting, Voronin and Putin also discussed the issue of solving the problem of the breakaway Transdniester region, Flux reported. On 3 August, Voronin said he was worried about the "so-called presidential elections" in the region. He said the region is governed by a "very tough dictatorship" and many of the candidates Chisinau could support "could endanger even [the candidates'] lives." He added he is worried about who will run for president, how the elections will be organized, and how the situation will evolve. ZsM

BULGARIA TO REDUCE ROLE IN MACEDONIAN CONFLICT

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passi said on 3 August in Sofia that his country will scale back the mediation it had previously carried out in the Macedonian conflict, dpa reported. Passi said after a meeting with President Petar Stoyanov, Premier Simeon Saxecoburggotski, Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov, Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov, and other security officials, that Bulgaria's position on the Macedonian crisis will be "calmer, more moderate, and without any excessive dramatism," BTA reported. Passi added that "Bulgaria cannot act as a mediator in a conflict in which it has not been invited to mediate." This is a major policy change from the previous government of Ivan Kostov, which was actively involved in trying to help resolve the conflict by speaking with the Macedonian Slav and Albanian leaders. The daily "Republika" carried a headline: "Macedonia Smolders, Sofia Deep in Thought." PB

RELATIVES OF BULGARIAN MEDICS ON TRIAL IN LIBYA MAY SUE GOVERNMENT

Lawyers for the six Bulgarians being held in Libya on charges of intentionally infecting hundreds of children with the HIV virus said on 4 August that relatives of the medics are considering filing a case against the Foreign Ministry and former Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova for their inaction in the case, RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service reported. Petar Kornadzhev, an attorney for the medics, said that the relatives feel the inaction on the part of the Foreign Ministry has hurt the medics' situation, "Monitor" reported. Another attorney for the medics, Vladimir Sheitanov, said he will defend the innocence of the medics until all appeals have been exhausted. Foreign Minister Passi is reportedly planning a more proactive approach to the affair. PB




BACK TO THE USSR?


By Liz Fuller

Although last week's CIS summit in Sochi was billed as an informal get-together, the top issue on the agenda was bound to, and did, engender controversy, even annoyance among the meeting's 10 participants. (Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov was absent for at least the third consecutive time, while Georgia's Eduard Shevardnadze explained his absence in terms of the tensions generated in Tbilisi by the 26 July murder of TV journalist Giorgi Sanaya.)

The issue at stake has plagued the CIS since its inception a decade ago, namely, whether it is desirable (let alone possible) to reach consensus on shared common objectives and on measures to ensure the optimum degree of cooperation between CIS states in achieving those objectives. That question presupposes that CIS member states will, if necessary, subordinate their own interests to that of the CIS as a whole, and that they will refrain from adopting policies that could undermine the CIS.

There has been no shortage either of declarations of intent, or of specific programs of measures, or even of separate alignments within the CIS (the Collective Security Pact, the CIS Customs Union) intended to promote such cooperation. But the overwhelming majority of the hundreds of measures agreed on have never been implemented: in early 1998, then-CIS Executive Secretary Ivan Korotchenya calculated that of 887 documents drafted since the CIS was created, only 130 had been signed by all member states.

One of the reasons why so many initiatives intended to promote greater coordination between CIS states have failed has been the ensuring suspicion of several of them that Russia perceives the CIS above all as a mechanism for restoring its control over other former Soviet republics. That suspicion was substantiated by an article published on the eve of the March 1997 CIS summit in Moscow that outlined measures for sabotaging alternative alliances emerging within the CIS in order to preserve and strengthen Russia's influence throughout the former USSR (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1997). Those proposals, which then Russian President Boris Yeltsin reportedly endorsed, cast a pall over the Chisinau CIS summit in October of that year, and expedited the emergence of GUAM, the unambiguously pro-Western alignment of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova.

In the apparent realization that the threat of subversion risked sounding the deathknell for the CIS, Moscow in the spring of 1998 embarked on an alternative approach to promoting economic cooperation between the CIS member states in the form of an Inter-State Economic Agreement that would theoretically benefit them all. Boris Berezovsky, at that juncture still riding high in the saddle as CIS executive secretary, was tasked with persuading CIS presidents of the advantages of that model, and he subsequently presented an ambitious blueprint for economic cooperation that envisaged the creation of one or several CIS free-trade zones as the first step toward an economic union.

But even that strategy aroused suspicion: Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, for example, objected that Berezovsky had exceeded his brief. In early 1999, Berezovsky was removed from his CIS post, after which Uzbekistan first declined to renew its membership of the CIS Collective Security Pact, and then joined GUAM.

Although the planned free-trade zone has figured on the agenda of subsequent CIS summits, priority has been given to upgrading an alternative vehicle for closer intra-CIS economic cooperation, namely the transformation of the CIS Customs Union (comprising Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan) into the Eurasian Economic Community. But that move only served to strengthen the impression of the emergence of two opposing camps within the CIS, the Eurasian Economic Community and GUUAM.

The emergence in mid-1999 of an Islamic threat to both Central Asia and to Russia (or the tacit agreement to construe both the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the pro-independence Chechen fighters as constituting such a long-term threat by virtue of their putative connections with the Taliban) served to provide an alternative focus for cooperation. At the first summit presided over by Vladimir Putin (in January 2000) in his capacity as then-acting Russian president, participants endorsed a proposal by Karimov and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbaev to draft an international program of measures to combat terrorism, including establishing a CIS antiterrorism center.

The setting up of that center and the creation of the CIS rapid reaction force have eclipsed the planned free-trade zone. But at the Sochi summit last week, Putin again returned to the question of promoting closer and more effective economic cooperation within the CIS as "the sole basis for developing cooperation in all spheres." Putin also focused on the role of what he termed "regional organizations" within the CIS, a formulation that suggests that, consciously or unconsciously, he does not regard the other former Soviet republics as sovereign states. Putin declared that "I want to emphasize that the Union State of Russia and Belarus, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Collective Security Treaty, GUUAM, the Central Asia Economic Community can by all means complement the Commonwealth and...can even become a sort of laboratory for conducting specific variations on cooperation prior to their subsequent introduction throughout the CIS."

But Putin went on to make clear that such "regional organizations" should not adopt policies that could be perceived as directed against the broader collective interests of the CIS as a whole -- a warning that was almost certainly directed specifically at GUUAM, which has recently proposed creating its own free-trade zone, and several of whose members make no secret of their ultimate aspiration to NATO membership. It is, Putin said, "most important and a matter of principle" that "regional organizations work to strengthen the commonwealth as a whole and toward...raising the living standards of our peoples and safeguarding the security of all our countries."

What specific objections to that argument were expressed in the ensuing behind-closed-doors discussion, and by whom, is not known. But according to "Vremya novostei," when the 10 presidents finally emerged from that session, Azerbaijan's Heidar Aliyev asked loudly: "Shouldn't we create the Soviet Union again?" prompting a lively discussion of who should occupy what post in a new USSR. ("Vremya novostei" did not supply details, but suggestions may have included Putin as CPSU General Secretary; either Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka or Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, both of them former collective farm chairmen, as agriculture secretary; Nazarbaev as chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers; Armenian President Robert Kocharian as Defense Minister; and Aliyev as KGB chairman).

But while Aliev's off-the-cuff comment may have eased tensions momentarily, Putin's arguments are likely to have given further impetus to precisely those centrifugal and pro-Western tendencies within the CIS that he abhors most. How Moscow intends to counter those tendencies remains to be seen.


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