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Newsline - August 9, 2001




GERMANY BACKS U.S. NOTION OF MOVING RUSSIA CLOSER TO NATO

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told "Stern" No. 32 that Germany supports the idea that U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice expressed during her visit to Moscow last month that Russia could join NATO someday (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2001). Schroeder added that the creation of the NATO-Russia Council is only the first stage in the development of the relationship between the two, and that Russia might become a full-fledged member of NATO in the long run. VY

TOP PROSECUTOR EXPLAINS CHARGES AGAINST UKRAINIAN POLITICIAN...

A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office explained on 8 August the grounds for the criminal case brought against former Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko and her husband Oleksandr for bribery and custom violations, Russian news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2001). The spokesman's statement indicates that Tymoshenko gave a bribe to the chief financial officer of the Russian Defense Ministry, Colonel General Georgii Oleynik, who is currently under investigation for embezzling $450 million of funds meant for Ukrainian companies. The customs charge relates to an incident in 1995 when Tymoshenko along with her husband were briefly detained in a Moscow airport after customs officers found $100,000 in her hand luggage (see Part II). VY

...AS MOVE IS INTERPRETED AS ATTEMPT TO BOLSTER KUCHMA

From Kyiv, Tymoshenko told Interfax that the legal case against her is an attempt by Moscow to help Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma crush his political opposition. Tymoshenko heads the leading Ukrainian opposition movement Batkivshchina. As Russia and Ukraine have no extradition treaty, the only legal consequence of the opening of a criminal case against a Ukrainian citizen in Moscow is that it will possibly lay the ground for opening a similar case in Ukraine. VY

MOSCOW TV STATION TO EXTEND BROADCASTS TO UKRAINE, BELARUS, AND MOLDOVA

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced on 8 August that the regional television channel TV Tsentr, which is controlled by the Moscow city government, is planning to extend its broadcasting to the territory of Belarus, Moldova, and some areas of Ukraine, Interfax reported. Luzhkov stated that TV Tsentr head Oleg Poptsov has managed to make the station's broadcasts politically unbiased. TV Tsentr's potential audience will be about 74 million, many of whom, according to Luzhkov, will be interested in how Moscow solves its economic and social problems. In addition, TV Tsentr also intends to target the large portion of the city of Moscow's population that consists of the people from these regions. VY

PUTIN SIGNS DEBUREAUCRATIZATION BILLS INTO LAW

On 8 August, President Vladimir Putin signed a series of laws, the most significant of which were the laws on registering a legal entity and on licensing separate types of activities, ITAR-TASS reported. The two laws are part of a package of bills designed to reduce the bureaucratic red tape faced by entrepreneurs and businessmen (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 16 July 2001). On 7 August, Putin signed the law combating money laundering. JAC

TORRENTIAL RAINS PARALYZE FAR EASTERN PROVINCE

As of 8 August, nine people had died in Primorskii Krai following a torrential rainfall, which meteorologists predicted would be followed by more heavy rain. Local officials have declared a state of emergency, train traffic to Vladivostok has been stopped, and hot water has been cut off to most city residents due to flooding of a local power plant. Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu told reporters in Moscow on 8 August that he has ordered that all railroad tracks and life-support systems be returned to full working order within 24 hours. According to Interfax, the krai's weather bureau is predicting that the heavy rains will continue through 10 August; however, Primorskii Krai Governor Sergei Darkin told reporters the same day that life is returning to normal in the region as the storm moves eastward. Vladivostok Mayor Yurii Kopylov estimated that the damages to that city alone total some 1.2 billion rubles ($41 million). JAC

GRYZLOV CONTINUES REORGANIZATION OF MVD

Speaking to police officers in the Northwest federal district on 8 August, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov sharply criticized the work of regional departments for combating organized crime (RUBOP), RTR reported. Gryzlov stated that last year 3 million cases linked with organized crimes were registered, but many more cases were never reported. In fact, organized crime expanded, and in some port cities, such as St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Murmansk, and Arkhangelsk, organized crime groups control up to the 80 percent of total business. Since RUBOP and other specialized units have "failed to fulfill their task," Gryzlov announced that he has ordered them abolished. He also said he will severely punish any officers responsible for ignoring citizens' reports of crime or for concealing crimes. VY

RUSSIA'S SINGLE ECONOMIC FIELD STARTS TO BREAK UP AGAIN...

The heads of grain-producing regions are starting to introduce bans on the export of wheat from their territories, "Vremya novostei" reported on 8 August. For example, on 30 July, the deputy chairman of Saratov Oblast government and minister for agriculture Aleksandr Fogel signed a decree "on limiting the exports of wheat beyond the oblast's borders." The decree forbids the export of wheat without the agreement of a commission that will be especially created to give out such permission. Aleksandr Yukish, the head of the Grain Union, told the daily that the Saratov decree is not the first such action, and other regions have imposed similar restrictions, but not in writing. Commenting on the decree, Deputy Chairman of the Duma Economic Policy Committee (Fatherland-All Russia) and former Agriculture Minister Viktor Semenov said that "there is no grain market in Russia and there will not be one until the governors halt their annual bans of the free sale of grain and other agricultural products." JAC

...AS GOVERNMENT ALLEGED TO BACK NEW ATTEMPT TO WOO FARM VOTE

Semenov announced last week that Fatherland plans to set up its own agrarian division (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2001). "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 August argues that Fatherland's plans to set up an alternative centrist movement is backed by the government and that the move is designed not only to diminish leftist groups' influence in the countryside, but will also likely have the effect of undercutting Mikhail Lapshin's Agrarian Party. According to the daily, the new agrarian movement will be set up without the participation of the two leading labor unions, the Agricultural Union and the Labor Union of Agricultural Sector Workers. This is an unprecedented step, since "all previous political organizations focusing on rural voters have been based on these labor unions," according to the daily. JAC

GOVERNMENT PREPARES TO PRIVATIZE RAILROADS...

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced 8 August the formation of a commission for restructuring railroad networks to be chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, RosBiznesKonsalting reported. Other members of the commission will include Communications Minister Leonid Reiman, Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, Minister for Economic Development and Trade German Gref, and Anti-Monopoly Policy Minister Ilya Yuzhanov. VY

...AND REFASHION POST OFFICE

Meanwhile, Communications Minister Reiman said on 8 August that the government is evaluating a concept for reforming the National Postal Service, but without the creation of share-holding companies, APN reported. Instead, subdivisions of the service will transferred to a financial group to be managed. According to APN, this type of reform of the postal service is being lobbied by the St-Petersburg-based Stroiprombank, whose president, Vladimir Kogan, is a close associate of President Putin. If the reform is launched as Kogan suggests, his bank will be able take control of the money flow of the postal service, which could reach up to $3 billion, APN predicted. VY

PRIVATIZATION OF SLAVNEFT COMES UNDER QUESTION

As the Russian government announced plans to sell off a stake in the Russian-Belarus state oil company Slavneft, the branch of a Russian bank based in Germany, Ost-West Handelsbank, won a lawsuit against Slavneft, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 August. A court in Frankfurt am Main ordered the seizure of all of Slavneft's property in Germany, which is worth some $2.6 million. As a result, preparation for the sale of the Slavneft stake is delayed indefinitely, the daily concluded. VY

DAILY SUGGESTS RUSSIAN METAL TRADING ON TRIAL IN NEW YORK

In an article on the case against Russian Aluminum that was recently filed in a New York court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2001), "Kommersant-Daily" on 8 August suggested that the case is essentially an indictment of the criminal nature of Russia's international export-metals trade. An international group of traders, led by MIKOM head Mikhail Zhivolo and Kachnarsk Mining company head Djalol Khaidarov along with three other trading groups, charge that they sustained financial losses from the unfair commercial practices of Russian Aluminum. According to the daily, the case may have serious consequences, if, as expected, the U.S. metals giant Alcoa joins the plaintiffs in the suit. Meanwhile, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel and Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev called the plaintiffs' accusation that they accepted bribes from the owners of Russian Aluminum for political favors "absurd," "Vremya novostei" reported. Both governors said that they will sue the persons who disseminated that information. VY

SUBMARINE EXPERT DOES NOT RULE OUT FUEL EXPLOSION AS CAUSE OF 'KURSK' TRAGEDY

At a press conference in London on 8 August to mark the launch of an English-language edition of the website for the downed "Kursk" submarine, deputy navy commander Rear Admiral Mikhail Barskov announced that all preparatory work for lifting the submarine off the floor of the Barents Sea will be completed by 15 September. According to Interfax, Rubin Design Bureau head Igor Spasskii also took part in the press conference. When asked to comment on the theory that fuel in the submarine's torpedoes might have exploded and caused the ship to sink, Spasskii acknowledged that Russian experts considered such a possibility initially. However, he said that the detonation of such fuel would have required extremely rare conditions, and to determine whether such conditions might have existed will require intensive scientific research. The "Kursk's" English-language site can be found at http://www.kursk141.org. JAC

HEALTH MINISTRY CRACKS DOWN ON ABUSES BY MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

In an interview in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" published on 8 August, Health Minister Yurii Shevchenko revealed that his ministry together with the Audit Chamber and Interior Ministry have been investigating corruption and abuse of office among healthcare professionals. According to Shevchenko, there are some 600,000 doctors and 3 million nurses working in Russia today; of this total around 500 medical workers are currently being investigated on suspicion of a variety of offenses such as taking bribes, using fake medical certificates, and reselling medicine at a profit. Shevchenko also stated that the State Duma will soon adopt a law on state regulation of private medical activities, which he said will put the process of commercializing medical establishments on a more legal footing. JAC

CHOLERA SPREADS BEYOND KAZAN'S CITY BORDERS

More cholera cases have appeared in Tatarstan but this time outside of the capital city of Kazan, Russian agencies reported on 8 August. One person with cholera was registered in the Alekseevskii Raion and another in the Visokogorny Raion, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Tatarstan health officials, the new cases were reported in these areas after people infected with cholera had arrived from Kazan to visit their relatives. In Kazan, according to Interfax-Eurasia, the number of registered cholera cases totaled 54 as of 8 August. Also on 8 August, First Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishchenko said that the most urgent task facing health professionals in the republic is to prevent the spread of the disease among schoolchildren who will soon return to Kazan from vacation. JAC

FIRST LATIN ALPHABET STREET SIGNS APPEAR IN KAZAN

The first signs in the Tatar language with Latin rather than Cyrillic script have appeared in Kazan's historic district, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 8 August. According to officials of that district, all street names will be replaced with those in Latin script by the end of the month at a cost of 40,000 rubles ($1,400). According to Interfax-Eurasia, a complete transition to Latin script is scheduled to take 10 years. JAC

YAROSLAVL OFFICIAL DENIES EXISTENCE OF PKK TRAINING CAMP

Reports of a training camp in Yaroslavl Oblast run by the Kurdistan Workers' Party are untrue, a spokesman for the oblast's internal affairs department told Interfax on 8 August. A spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry claimed last week that such a training facility was operating in Yaroslavl under the guise of a children's summer camp (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2001). The Yaroslavl official confirmed the existence of a Kurdish-owned children's camp, but denied that the visitors there are engaged in any criminal activity. He also admitted that a Kurd has been arrested in the oblast as part of a broader criminal investigation. LF

CHECHEN CABINET FINALLY COMPLETE

The final appointments have now been made to the pro-Russian Chechen government, six months after Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov named the first appointees, Interfax reported on 8 August. Musa Doshukaev was named the sole first deputy prime minister and minister for industry. He earlier served as a first deputy premier under President Aslan Maskhadov, who dismissed him from that post four years ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 1997). Last week Ali Alavdinov, who prior to the collapse of the USSR had served as a senior agriculture official in the Checheno-Ingush ASSR, was named deputy premier and minister of agriculture. LF




ARMENIA REGISTERS GROWTH IN INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT...

Industrial production in Armenia increased during the first seven months of this year by 8.7 percent, Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Ashot Shahnazarian told journalists in Yerevan on 8 August. He said that the increase in light-industry production was 60 percent, largely as the result of the reopening of four textile factories, and in the mining sector, 30 percent, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Shahnazarian said some 7,000 new jobs have been created since the beginning of the year, 10 percent of them in the information technology sector, and that four more export-oriented factories are to reopen later this year. LF

...INVESTIGATES ILLEGAL EXPLOITATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES

Minister for Industrial Infrastructure David Zadoyan acknowledged on 8 August that there is some truth to allegations by former State Property Minister Vanya Mkhitarian that natural resources are being illegally extracted and exported, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But he rejected as "grossly exaggerated" Mkhitarian's estimate that such exports cost the state some $50 million annually, saying the figure is closer to $10 million. Zadoyan said criminal proceedings have been brought against 68 of the approximately 400 Armenian companies engaged in developing deposits of building materials, stone, and minerals. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS ATTACKED

Rauf Arifoglu, a leading member of the opposition Musavat Party, and other party members traveling with him were attacked on 9 August in the town of Khudat 200 kilometers north of Baku by unidentified persons in civilian clothes, Turan reported. The assailants threw stones, eggs, and tomatoes, injuring an unspecified number of people. The Musavat Party members proceeded to the party's local headquarters, but hooligans attacked the building, breaking doors and windows. Police detained Ramazan Aliev, the chairman of the Khudat branch of Musavat, and compelled the Musavat delegation to leave the town under police escort. Arifoglu traveled to Khudat to hold a meeting of members of several local branches of the Musavat Party in defiance of an 8 August ban on that meeting issued by local police. The police had also warned that Arifoglu would be arrested together with Ramazan Aliyev if he entered the town. LF

BELARUSIAN PREMIER VISITS AZERBAIJAN

Visiting Baku on 8 August at the head of a government delegation, Belarusian Premier Uladzimir Yarmoshyn met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Artur Rasizade and with President Heidar Aliev, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking to journalists, Yarmoshyn noted the absence of any disagreements between the two countries and said the primary objective of his visit is to promote trade and economic cooperation. He expressed an interest in importing Azerbaijani cotton and grapes and exporting light and heavy machinery and furniture to Azerbaijan. The two premiers signed six bilateral agreements, including one barring dual taxation, while the mayors of Minsk and Baku signed a cooperation agreement. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ENDORSES LUKASHENKA'S BID FOR RE-ELECTION...

During his talks with Yarmoshyn on 8 August, President Aliyev expressed his personal support for his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka and said he hopes the latter is successful in his bid for re-election in next month's presidential poll, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

...AGAIN CRITICIZES INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY OVER KARABAKH

Aliyev also renewed his criticism of the international community for what he termed its indifference to the violation by Armenia of Azerbaijan's borders and territorial integrity, AFP reported. Also on 8 August, the independent TV station ANS TV quoted Aliyev as having told "Le Figaro" that the search for a peaceful solution to the Karabakh conflict is the most difficult task of his entire life. Noting calls by the opposition for a new war against Armenia to restore Baku's control over Nagorno-Karabakh, Aliyev said the opposition hopes to make use of the resulting situation to seize power. LF

AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL REJECTS PREDICTIONS OF FIGHTING ON NORTHERN BORDER

State Adviser for National Policy Idayat Orudzhev on 8 August dismissed as "a provocation" a statement by the hitherto unknown Committee for the National Revival of Daghestan claiming that Moscow intends to create a crisis situation on the border between Daghestan and Azerbaijan, involving the Lezgin minority that lives on both sides of that border, Turan reported, citing the independent "525-ji gazeti." The Daghestan statement was published on 7 August in several independent or opposition Azerbaijani newspapers. LF

TURKMENISTAN AGAIN WARNS AZERBAIJAN AGAINST DEVELOPING KYAPAZ FIELD...

In an interview with Reuters on 8 August, Turkmenistan's Deputy Prime Minister Yelly Gurbanmuradov again affirmed that the Caspian Kyapaz oilfield lies in Turkmenistan's sector of the Caspian Sea, and that Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR has no right to begin work on that oilfield's Geigel structure. Since 1997, Ashgabat has repeatedly affirmed its claim not only to the Kyapaz field but also the Azeri and Chirag fields, the right to develop which the Azerbaijan International Operating Company acquired in 1994. LF

...AS AZERBAIJAN REJECTS TURKMEN ESTIMATES OF ITS DEBTS

Also on 8 August, Azerbaijan's Deputy Prime Minister Abbas Abbasov dismissed as "groundless and far-fetched" Ashgabat's estimates that it is owed some $59.7 million by Baku, Turan and Interfax reported. Abbasov again said Azerbaijan's total state debt to Turkmenistan amounts to no more than $18.7 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2001). LF

GEORGIA SAYS PROGRESS MADE ON CLOSING GUDAUTA BASE

During talks in Moscow on 2-3 August, Georgian and Russian government delegations came closer to an agreement on the procedure for the withdrawal from the Gudauta military base in Abkhazia of the remaining Russian weaponry and troops deployed there, according to Caucasus Press on 6 August and Reuters on 8 August. The two sides agreed that all remaining military equipment, including antiaircraft guns, will be withdrawn, and that Georgian observers will monitor that withdrawal. Georgia had earlier proposed the use of international observers, and Russia asked for further time to consider that option. The Abkhaz authorities, however, have warned that they will permit neither Georgian nor international monitors to enter the base to observe the withdrawal. It was also agreed that following the Russian troop withdrawal a "lightly armed" contingent from the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia will be stationed at the base to prevent the Abkhaz military from taking control of it. The talks will resume in Moscow next week. LF

NEW GEORGIAN DRAFT ANTICORRUPTION BILL ELICITS MIXED RESPONSE

Most Georgian ministers on 8 August rejected as unworkable a draft bill proposed by Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili that would empower the state to confiscate property or capital if the owners are unable to give a convincing explanation of how that property was acquired, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Saakashvili produced photographs of mansions under construction, the cost of which he argued far exceeds the salary of a government minister. Economy, Industry, and Trade Minister Vano Chkhartishvili condemned the bill as "populist," while Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze claimed it violates the Georgian Constitution. But Vano Merabishvili, who chairs the Georgian parliament's Committee on Economic Policy and Reforms, told Caucasus Press on 9 August that allowing the confiscation of illegally acquired property would help to reduce dramatically the incidence of misappropriation of state property. LF

GEORGIA, U.S. HOLD JOINT NAVAL EXERCISE

One U.S. and six Georgian warships held one-day naval exercises on 8 August off the Black Sea port of Poti in the presence of Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze, AP reported. LF

KAZAKHSTAN UNVEILS PLANS FOR INCREASING GAS PRODUCTION

Kazakhstan's Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry has approved the draft program announced six months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 8 February 2001) for developing the national gas industry, Interfax reported on 8 August. That draft program advocates increasing natural gas extraction to 34 billion cubic meters by 2005, 47 billion cubic meters by 2010, and 52 billion cubic meters by 2015. It estimates gas needs for domestic consumption at 7.84 billion, 11.15 billion, and 15.83 billion respectively. Kazakhstan produced 8.87 billion cubic meters of gas last year and 5.189 billion cubic meters during the first six months of 2001. LF

KYRGYZSTAN TO PRESS AHEAD WITH PLANS TO SELL WATER

The deputy minister of agriculture, water resources, and food processing, Barataaly Koshmuratov, announced in Bishkek on 8 August that Kyrgyzstan will establish special commissions to draft regulations for receiving payment from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan for water they receive from cross-border rivers flowing out of Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kyrgyzstan needs some 1.2 billion soms ($25 million) annually for the upkeep of reservoirs that provide water primarily for neighboring countries. Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev on 23 July signed into law a bill passed one month earlier by the Kyrgyz parliament designating water as a commodity. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 24 July condemned Kyrgyzstan's plans to charge for its water as a violation of international norms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2001). LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT FEELS EXPANDED RFE/RL BROADCASTS ARE 'UNFRIENDLY STEP'...

Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 8 August that the expansion of broadcasts by RFE/RL to Belarus is a direct interference in the internal affairs of the country, ITAR-TASS reported. "This is an extremely unfriendly step with regard to Belarus. They are putting massive pressure on the population ahead of the presidential elections," he said. RFE/RL's Belarusian Service expanded its broadcasting to Belarus on 6 August, one month ahead of the 9 September presidential elections. Meanwhile, Lukashenka expressed confidence that if he is re-elected, "diplomatic and political relations ...[with] the West will normalize within several months." He added that "the West is beginning to understand that it should move from confrontation with Belarus to cooperation," and he expressed confidence that this understanding will grow. DW

...SAYS GUUAM 'USELESS'...

President Lukashenka told journalists in Minsk on 8 August that the GUUAM grouping that aligns Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova, is "a pointless organization," Interfax and Tura reported. He suggested that it was created "out of jealousy" as a counterpart to the Russia-Belarus alignment. Echoing Russian President Vladimir Putin's warning at the CIS summit in Sochi last week (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2001), Lukashenka said that "I am not against regional alignments within the CIS as long as they do not split the commonwealth." But he also acknowledged that failure to implement decisions it adopted constitutes "the biggest problem" of the CIS. LF

...ANNOUNCES MILITARY EXERCISES BEFORE ELECTIONS

President Lukashenka also announced on 8 August that the Belarusian armed forces will hold exercises from 26 August to 3 September, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the exercise will be a "show of force," but also a response to joint maneuvers to be held by NATO and the Baltic states in Lithuania in August and September. "It would be wrong if I, as the commander in chief, did not respond in any way when such maneuvers are held near our borders," he said. DW

BELARUSIAN POLICE BESIEGE NGOS IN HOMEL

Police on 8 August laid siege to the offices of the NGO Civic Initiatives and a youth group named Hart, Belapan reported. Two activists from each group were arrested outside the offices and police were trying to gain entry to the building. A police spokesman, Boris Tolkachev, said the four had resisted arrest. He did not explain the reason for the raid, saying it was an ordinary visit by a district police officer and a tax inspector. Hart activists said at least three police vehicles were involved in the operation. DW

TYMOSHENKO'S PARTY REJECTS CHARGES AGAINST HER AS 'CHEAP PROVOCATION'

Former Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party have dismissed the bribery charges filed against her by Russian military prosecutors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2001), Reuters reported on 8 August. The party statement branded the charges "a cheap provocation, fabricated under the influence of President [Leonid] Kuchma, with the aim of compromising the opposition movement." Also, the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has pressured Ukrainian officials to press charges against Tymoshenko and her husband for an alleged attempt to smuggle $100,000 out of Russia in 1995 (see Part I). DW

UKRAINE TO APPEAL FOR RENEWAL OF U.S. TRADE STATUS

Economic Minister Oleksander Shlapak said on 8 August that Ukraine will send a delegation to Washington next week in an attempt to recover the right to duty-free exports to the U.S., news agencies reported. The U.S. removed Ukraine's trade status on 7 August due to its failure to combat widespread compact disc and video piracy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2001). Shlapak said the government will try to quickly resolve the dispute, as well as ensure that parliament passes laws to crack down on the piracy of intellectual property "as soon as possible." Ukraine is considered by the U.S. to be Europe's biggest producer of pirated CDs and videos, with five illegal factories producing more than 70 million discs a year. DW

BUSINESSMEN FEAR ESTONIA MAY REMOVE TAX-FREE TRADE FROM EU TALKS

Shipping and tourism firm officials have expressed concern that Estonia's negotiators in the EU membership talks are not very interested in gaining the requested transition period of 6.5 years before abolishing tax-free shopping on passenger ships on the Baltic Sea, "Aripaev" reported on 8 August. They were reacting to comments made by the head of the Estonian delegation at the EU talks, Alar Streimann, that other taxation issues and energy will be the focus at the fall EU negotiations. Streimann said however, that his remarks were misinterpreted and he had not mentioned tax-free trade because he doubts that the opposition of some EU member countries to the transition period can be overcome before the final phase of the talks. Nevertheless, Streimann told BNS that Estonia might even hold seminars and conferences to strengthen its request and predicted that the transition period will be granted eventually. SG

LATVIAN AND LITHUANIAN CPI DECLINES IN JULY

The Latvian Central Statistics Bureau announced on 8 August that the consumer price index decreased by 0.5 percent in July compared to June, but increased by 3.1 percent compared to July 2000, BNS reported. The price of goods fell by 0.6 percent in July while the price of services remained unchanged. The greatest factor was a 20.1 percent decline in vegetable prices. The costs of meat, milk, and tobacco increased slightly, but clothing, mobile phone services, and fuel prices decreased. Lithuania's CPI fell by 0.8 percent in July compared to June, but increased by 1.1 percent compared to July 2000. The greatest price decreases were for vegetables and fruits, but rice, poultry, and butter also became cheaper. SG

LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES PROGRAM FOR SALE OF AGRICULTURE BANK

The cabinet on 8 August approved the conditions for the sale of the 76.2 percent share of the state-owned Zemes Ukio Bankas (Agriculture Bank [LZUB]) to a foreign strategic investor, BNS reported. The program stipulates that the investor has to have a minimum long-term foreign currency rating of BBB by the credit rating agency Fitch IBCA or its equivalent by the Standard & Poor or Moody agencies, and have a minimum equity requirement of $150 million. The first requirement excludes all Lithuanian banks since no domestic bank has a higher rating than the BBB- Fitch has given Lithuania as a whole. In terms of assets (1.7 billion litas [$425 million]) LZUB is the republic's third-largest bank and had an unaudited net profit of 7.3 million litas in the first half of the year. In 2000, LZUB had a 11.5 percent share of the deposits and a 15 percent share of the loans in Lithuania. Povilas Milasauskas, the managing director of the State Property Fund, said that there are four to five potential investors, including Poland's Bank Handlowy and France's Societe Generale. The cabinet also endorsed the three first sections of the new Civil Procedure Code, which aims to reduce the dragging out of court proceedings in civil suits. SG

POLISH RIGHT-WING LEADER CHARGES TV BIAS

The leader of the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party has claimed media bias in the run-up to next month's elections, charging Polish public television with "waging a regular campaign" against the party, PAP reported on 8 August. Lech Kaczynski said that the PiS is being prevented from campaigning like other parties, and PAP reported that Kaczynski was referring to continuing coverage of alleged financial wrongdoing on the part of his brother, Jaroslaw, and a former military intelligence officer. AH

SENATE VOTING ON DISCLOSURE RULES FOR POLISH LEGISLATORS

The Rules and Senate Affairs Committee on 8 August threw its weight behind an amendment that would require from legislators the full disclosure of their assets, PAP reported. The full Senate vote was slated for 9 August on the legislation, which would define the duties of lawmakers in both the Senate and the lower house, the Sejm. The amended law would also maintain the confidentiality of legislators' addresses and the location of their real estate assets. AH

POLISH STATE BANK SALE WILL EXCLUDE FOREIGN BUYERS

A Polish government spokesman said on 8 August that the cabinet has approved privatization plans for the country's largest retail bank, PKO BP, that will keep it under Polish control, AP reported. Foreign investors control some 70 percent of the country's banking assets, and the move highlights political concerns that foreigners are gaining too much control over the sector. The Treasury Ministry will maintain a 50 percent-plus-one stake in PKO BP and have a say in electing board members, AP reported, while the state will offer 30 percent to investors with permanent residency in Poland. AH

FORMER AIDE TO SENIOR POLISH DEFENSE OFFICIAL CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION

The Polish Prosecutor-General's Office on 8 August formally charged an assistant to former Deputy Defense Minister Romuald Szeremietiew with corruption, Polish media reported. The aide, referred to as "Zbigniew F.", was already being held on suspicion of unauthorized access to state secrets and concealment of documents during the month-long investigation. The allegations concern the Defense Ministry's procurement department. AH

BRITISH IMMIGRATION OFFICIALS TO KEEP RENTED OFFICE AT PRAGUE AIRPORT

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Prague on 8 August told CTK that British officials will not annul the rent contract for an office at Ruzyne airport, although the screening of passengers ended earlier that day. The spokesman said screening will be reintroduced "if the need arises." Also on 8 August, Czech ombudsman Otakar Motelj told journalists he had written to Eliot House, the chairman of the British Commission on Racial Equality, asking him to investigate whether the controls at Ruzyne airport were in line with British, European, and international legislation banning discrimination. Motelj said he has not yet received a reply. MS

OSTRAVA ROMA FILE COMPLAINT AGAINST PUB OWNERS

Mikulas Horvath, the chairman of the Ostrava Romany Civic Defense Initiative (ROI), on 8 August told journalists that his organization has launched a complaint against the owners of two pubs in the northern Moravian town who last week refused to serve Romany customers, CTK reported. Following several incidents in June, ROI has set up unarmed Romany self-defense patrols in Ostrava. In reaction, the far-right Republican Party youth organization in town has also set up patrols with the alleged aim of ensuring that Roma minority members do not violate the law or attack residents "without reason." MS

FORMER CZECH COMMUNIST OFFICIALS TO GO ON TRIAL

Former Czechoslovak Deputy Interior Minister Jaroslav Klima and former Deputy Prosecutor-General Jaroslav David will face court proceedings in the autumn, Judge Tomas Hajek told CTK on 8 August. They are suspected of having protected and prevented the prosecution of German war criminal Werner Tutter in the 1960s. Tutter commanded a special SS unit that participated in operations in Slovakia against resistance fighters in 1944. According to the Czech Office for the Documentation and Investigation of Communist Crimes, Tutter also personally tortured detained partisans and ordered suspects to be burned alive in their houses. In 1953, Tutter signed a collaboration agreement with the communist secret police and was transferred to West Germany, where he spied for the Czechoslovak secret services. MS

HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER CRITICIZES SLOVAKIA'S LOCAL ADMINISTRATION LAW

Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 8 August told Hungarian radio that he understands why the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) in Slovakia has "snorted" at the new public administration system recently adopted in Slovakia. Orban said that as a member of the government the SMK has been unable to achieve any result on one of the issues with which it is concerned most. He said the version of the Local Public Administration Law passed by the Slovak parliament is "the worst possible" for Slovakia's ethnic Hungarians. MSZ

MEMORIAL TO GREATER HUNGARY TO BE ERECTED

A memorial symbolizing Greater Hungary will be unveiled in Hungary's southwestern city of Nagykanizsa, deputy mayor Pal Torocsik told Hungarian media on 8 August. The monument, also called the "Trianon memorial," was originally erected in 1934, but was pulled down in 1952 and buried. The memorial was dug up by local authorities as part of Hungary's Millennium year observations, and was restored through the aid of a 53 million forint ($185,000) subsidy received from the Millennium Government Commissioner's Office. MSZ




MACEDONIA BETWEEN WAR AND PEACE

Following the killing of 10 Macedonian soldiers in the largest single loss of life since the conflict began, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) said in Ohrid on 8 August that "it is an illusion to participate in dialogue when Macedonian soldiers are dying, when civilians are being kidnapped, and we have fighting in Tetovo," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2001). Representatives of the VMRO and three other parties in the talks nonetheless initialed a comprehensive peace agreement, which is slated to be signed on 13 August. It is not clear whether the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK) will abide by the document, or whether parliament will approve it. The National Security Council met later on 8 August and called for "the most energetic, offensive measures" against those who threaten government forces, Reuters reported. One policeman was killed overnight at Rataje near Tetovo. EU envoy Francois Leotard told a French radio station on 9 August that he remains very cautious. In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: "We don't count our chickens before they're hatched." PM

MACEDONIAN TOWN SEES FRESH FIGHTING

Dpa reported from Tetovo on 9 August that fighting has erupted within the town for a second day in a row. The police appear to have abandoned the mainly ethnic Albanian community, where the UCK has set up checkpoints to the south of the city center. Many people who fled in their cars to Skopje turned around and headed back, but it is not clear why. PM

MACEDONIA: WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?

The UCK denied responsibility for the deaths of the 10 soldiers on 8 August, saying that its forces were not in the area, AP reported. The BBC reported on 9 August that there has been a buildup of Macedonian forces near Tetovo in recent days, but that the overall strengths of the security forces and the UCK are "roughly equal." Observers note that it is not clear whether there are elements on one or both sides of the ethnic divide that are out of control, or whether some of the violence in recent days represents an attempt by hard-liners on one or both sides to sabotage the peace agreement. Javier Solana, the EU's chief security policy official, told the BBC that "what is needed now is leadership" in both ethnic groups. PM

MACEDONIAN VIOLENCE CONDEMNED

Speaking in Washington on 8 August, Boucher said: "We need to say that the ambush this morning by the insurgents was really an outrageous act of violence... We condemn this act in the strongest terms. We have unequivocally stood against all acts of violence in Macedonia and all breaches of the cease-fire, and we'll continue to point that out," RFE/RL reported. In Ohrid, Leotard said: "The political process will continue until...13 August, when the political agreement that we have prepared will be signed in Skopje... We have condemned and we continue to condemn acts of violence that are committed in this country and that interfere with the cause of peace." PM

WHAT ROLE FOR NATO IN MACEDONIA?

The Macedonian Security Council's declaration from Ohrid on 8 August was critical of NATO's performance in the crisis, adding that Skopje expects more from the Atlantic alliance than it has so far received, the BBC's Serbian Service reported on 9 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2001). The "Financial Times" reported from Brussels that "even if a peace deal is signed in Macedonia, there are serious doubts about the prospect for a proposed NATO operation aimed at disarming" the UCK. The alliance does not know how many weapons the guerrillas have or whether it can collect them within the proposed 30-day time frame. Several NATO member governments fear that any operation lasting longer than that could lead to an unwelcome, open-ended mission. No advance teams have yet been sent to the region, the daily added. PM

MOSQUE SET ON FIRE, SHOPS DEMOLISHED IN MACEDONIAN TOWN

Following the reports of the killing of the 10 soldiers, Interior Minister Ljube Buckovski imposed a 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew on Prilep, where most of the 10 came from, dpa reported on 8 August. Several hundred Macedonians nonetheless demanded weapons to attack a neighboring Albanian village "in order to save Macedonia," Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. When their request was denied, the crowd set fire to a mosque in central Prilep and ransacked a number of shops owned by Albanian and other Muslim Macedonians. Similar riots took place in Bitola earlier this year after some local men were killed by Albanian fighters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2001). UB/PM

ALBANIAN SHOPS DESTROYED IN MACEDONIAN CAPITAL

Several hundred Macedonian citizens who had been forced to leave their villages some weeks ago staged a peaceful protest in front of the Macedonian parliament in Skopje on 8 August. The crowd had gathered to mourn the 10 dead soldiers. As the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" on 9 August reported, the protesters were later joined by a crowd of young Skopje citizens, who later destroyed several Albanian-owned shops in the city center. UB

MACEDONIAN TOWN CUT OFF FROM WATER SUPPLY

For the second time in three months, the UCK cut off the water supply of the northern Macedonian town of Kumanovo, the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 9 August. The UCK demanded that a convoy with humanitarian aid be sent to the village of Lipkovo and that the electricity supply be improved for the entire region. UB

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT, FORMER KING, JOIN IN HONORING PREDECESSOR

President Ion Iliescu and former king Michael for the first time on 8 August appeared in public side by side at a ceremony held at the Romanian Academy to mark 400 years since the death of Michael the Brave, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In 1601, the prince briefly united the three provinces that make up today's Romania. Iliescu addressed the former monarch with the royal title "Your Majesty." In his speech, the former king said he had been christened with the name of the medieval prince and hopes to be remembered by history as "just Michael, with no other addition." He also said that in communist times, celebrations used to be "hijacked by the authorities." In an obvious allusion to Moldova, Michael said Romania no longer faces a threat to its territorial integrity but Romanians living beyond the country's borders face attempts to "reinvent history" through claims that they "belong to another nation and speak a different language." MS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION, MEDIA CRITICIZE GENERALS' RETRIAL

National Liberal Party Deputy Ovidiu Draganescu on 8 August said that the retrial ordered by Prosecutor-General Joita Tanase of generals Victor Stanculescu and Mihai Chitac is an attempt to "cleanse the files" of the chief culprits in the repression of the 1989 anticommunist uprising, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2001). Draganescu was reacting to the official announcement that the retrial will begin on 28 January 2002 at the Supreme Court. Draganescu also said that Tanase's appeal of the 15-year sentence passed on the two defendants in 1999 "shows that the justice system serves political power." The daily "Ziua," cited by AP, commented that "the heroes of Timisoara," where the uprising started, "are turning in their graves," while the daily "Evenimentul zilei" sarcastically asked in a headline: "Revolution? When? Where?" MS

...AS PRESIDENT MAY CONSIDER REQUEST TO PARDON MINERS' LEADER

President Iliescu on 8 August said that he "has not yet received" the request of Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor that he pardon miners' leader Miron Cozma, but will "analyze" the request "when I return from vacation," Mediafax reported. Cozma, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 1999 for his role in staging the violent demonstrations that brought about the demise of the cabinet headed by Petre Roman in 1991, was also the leader of the miners' rampage in Bucharest in July 1990, when he heeded an Iliescu request to "restore order" against anticommunist protesters. In his letter to Iliescu, Tudor says the president should use his prerogatives to "end the judicial farce of the [Emil] Constantinescu regime." MS

VORONIN, SMIRNOV FAIL TO MAKE PROGRESS ON TRANSDNIESTER STATUS

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin said after a new round of negotiations with separatist leader Vladimir Smirnov in Tiraspol on 8 August that the sides have "failed to make any progress" in the negotiations over the status of the Transdniester and that "no such progress can be envisaged as long as Smirnov is in power," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Voronin also said that Moldova intends to withdraw from the Transdniester authorities the right to use the Moldovan customs seal in an effort to curb smuggling and other illegalities. Smirnov said that Tiraspol is willing to consider Voronin's proposal for a 30 percent reduction in military forces, but it "needs more time" to implement the proposal and assurances that its security needs will be respected. The two leaders signed three protocols of minor significance. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW ENERGY MINISTER

Iacob Timiuc was appointed on 8 August as the new Moldovan Energy Minister, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Timiuc, who was Deputy Economy Minister, replaces Ion Lesanu, who was dismissed by Voronin together with former Foreign Minister Nicolae Cernomaz on 27 July. MS

BULGARIAN COMMISSION FINDS 'INCONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE' ON MINISTER'S COLLABORATION

The commission checking the records of collaboration by Bulgarian officials with the communist secret police said on 8 August that it has found "inconclusive evidence" suggesting that a member of the current Bulgarian cabinet may have collaborated with the former Committee on State Security, BTA reported. The minister's name is on the files of the secret services, but in accordance with provisions of the law such evidence cannot be considered to be proof if it is not corroborated by other documents. MS

BULGARIAN ROMA RETURNED FROM NORWAY

Some 70 Bulgarian citizens, most of whom are Roma, were flown back to Sofia from Norway, where they had unsuccessfully attempted to apply for political asylum, BTA reported. The Norwegian authorities stamped in their passports a prohibition to reenter the country. BTA also reported that 40 other asylum seekers were to be returned to Bulgaria on 9 August. MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY CONDEMNS 'TERRORIST ATTACKS' IN MACEDONIA

The Foreign Ministry on 8 August said in an official statement that it is "concerned and alarmed" over the recent escalation of tension in Macedonia, BTA reported. The ministry condemned the "terrorist attack" by "ethnic Albanian extremists" earlier that day and condoled the relatives of the "victims from among Macedonian security forces." The ministry also said Bulgaria "insists" that the 5 June armistice in Macedonia must be respected and that it expects the "international community" in general and NATO, the EU, and the U.S. in particular, to "actively interfere to contain the situation and to allow no further escalation of the tension." MS




LUKASHENKA LOST FACE AT VITSEBSK


By Alex Campbell

Summits seldom are about the issues their participants say they are. Instead, they typically are intended to boost the standing of one or more of those taking part. Sometimes that strategy works, but sometimes, as in the case of Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka's boosting of the recent Slavic Bazaar meeting in Vitsebsk with his Russian and Ukraine counterparts, it fails miserably.

Lukashenka had already met with Russian President Vladimir Putin six times this year, and another summit with him and his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma apparently struck the Belarusian leader as just what he needed to build support in advance of presidential elections on 9 September.

Even before the 25 July meeting took place, the International Helsinki Federation pleaded with the Russian and Ukrainian presidents not to go to Vitsebsk lest they appear to be supporting a politician who flagrantly violates human and civil rights. And Belarusian opposition groups forwarded to Putin new documents implicating Lukashenka in the activities of a government-supported death squad and the "disappearances" of his political opponents.

That certainly did Lukashenka no good either at home or abroad. Nonetheless, both Putin and Kuchma decided to attend the Slavic Bazaar. But once there, they pursued their own agendas, not his, an approach that underscored Lukashenka's isolation rather than boosting his standing.

Lukashenka should have seen this coming: Each of his successive visits to Moscow this year has prompted ever more critical comment, sometimes off the record but ever more frequently on, by Russian officials about him. And in the run-up to Vitsebsk, several Russian papers said that the Kremlin had been infuriated by Lukashenka's suggestion that no one can "whack" people left and right if he wants to succeed. People in the Russian capital took that to be criticism of Putin's remarks at the start of his Chechen campaign. And other Russian commentary was even more sneering. One paper derided "this so-called ally of ours" and referred to him as "President Luka."

Lukashenka tried to overlook this and to play up the "common Slavic roots and cultural identities of three fraternal nations." Putin's response was surprisingly cool and noncommittal and Kuchma's was not much warmer. Russian reporters immediately presented this as yet more evidence of growing personal animosity between Lukashenka and the other two presidents.

But perhaps the most striking (and to Lukashenka, infuriating) result of Russian attitudes was the fact that Russian television channels, from which most Belarusians get much of their news, did not show Lukashenka once in their coverage of the summit. Consequently, an event that was intended to give Lukashenka a boost in his campaign may have had just the opposite effect.

If Lukashenka suffered a loss at this summit, did anyone win? Clearly Kuchma was the chief beneficiary of the meeting. His bilateral sessions with Putin were positive and media coverage stressed their personal rapport. As a result, the Ukrainian president left the meeting in high spirits.

But what of Putin? He underscored the importance of Belarus to Russia by coming to the summit, but he did so in a way that limits the damage Lukashenka's antics, which have so angered the West, can do to him. Indeed, by behaving the way he did, Putin probably gained points in the West and elsewhere in the neighborhood.

So, in the end, two of the three summit participants got what they wanted, but the host had to go away with less than nothing.

Alex Campbell is an analyst of Belarusian affairs.


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