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Newsline - August 10, 2001




GOVERNMENT MOVES TO REVIVE GOSTELRADIO

The government has drafted a decree on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin that would renationalize all broadcasting centers, regrouping them into a unitary state company called Russian TeleRadio Systems, the website strana.ru reported on 9 August. Under the decree, those broadcasting facilities currently under the control of the Communications Ministry as well as the 86 regional radio and television centers incorporated into All Russian State Television and Radio (VGTRK), the state broadcasting company, would be consolidated into a single entity. The new entity would be responsible for signal distribution all over the country. Media Minister Mikhail Lesin has reportedly been lobbying the plan, and the new entity may fall under his supervision. Lesin has also proposed that after the consolidation, this newly formed national signal distributor would be gradually turned into a share-holding company, in which the state would control 51 percent. Last year, "Segodnya" reported that the remaining 49 percent of shares would be sold to foreign investors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 2000). VY

PUTIN PUTS HIS OWN MAN IN CHARGE OF KEY NUCLEAR ENTITY...

The website pravda.ru charged on 9 August that with the support of the Federal Security Service (FSB), President Putin is moving to assert control over an important and profitable Russian industrial institution, the Atomic Energy Ministry, as well as its key subsidiaries, Rosenergoatom, Tekhsnabeksport, and TVEL. As evidence of its claim, the site noted that last week Putin appointed Aleksandr Nyago as the head of TVEL, the monopoly producer of nuclear fuel for nuclear power stations in Russia, other CIS states, and Central European countries. VY

...TO THE DETRIMENT OF 'THE FAMILY'

Nyago is a member of Putin's "St. Petersburg team," and his appointment is considered a serious blow to the group of politically influential group of oligarchs and bankers -- MDM-bank head Aleksandr Mamut, Russian Aluminum head Oleg Deripaska, and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich. According to the website, those three men, working with their close ally, former Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov, had almost succeeded in monopolizing profits from the nuclear industry. Last March, Adamov was dismissed following corruption allegations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 27 March 2001).VY

BANKER WANTS TO GO FROM OLIGARCHY TO OLIGOPOLY

The analytical website polit.ru reported on 9 August that the reform of the banking system being promoted by MDM-bank head Mamut will lead to the formation of an oligopoly at all economical levels. In a recent interview with "Vremya novostei," Mamut outlined his views on banking reform (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2001). The website argued that, under present Russian conditions, a Mamut-style reform would mean that small, medium, or regional banks would be "left out of the game," while the entire national market would be divided between 20-30 privileged financial institutions that are close to the government. VY

TOP NUCLEAR OFFICIAL SAYS REGIONS HAVE TO WANT NUCLEAR WASTE SHIPMENTS

The chairman of the board of directors of Atomredmetzoloto, Boris Nikipelov, told reporters on 9 August that shipments of spent nuclear fuel will be sent to regions for storage or reprocessing only at their own request, Interfax-Northwest reported. Nikipelov made the comments while in Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic, and added that no proposals for such shipments have been received from the Komi Republic thus far. JAC

NEWSPAPER ALLEGES THAT SPREAD OF DRUGS MAKES RUSSIA 'A COUNTRY WITHOUT FUTURE'

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" argued on 9 August that President Putin's reforms may eventually fail for the simple reason that "there will be no one to continue them." According to the daily, one underemphasized aspect of the Russian demographic crisis is the accelerating spread of drug addiction. Although Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov recently estimated the number of drug addicts at 451,000, the real figure is no less than 5 million, the newspaper reported, citing sources in Russian intelligence services. If, according to the World Health Organization, a nation is doomed to fade away if the number of drug addicts exceeds 7 percent of its population, then Russia comes very close to this threshold, the daily concluded. VY

PUTIN CRITICIZES PREPARATIONS FOR WINTER

After a cabinet session attended by President Putin on 9 August, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters that the president harshly criticized preparations for the upcoming winter in a number of "problem" regions, Russian agencies reported. Putin also ordered the cabinet to prepare in the near future a decree confirming the country's energy policy. In particular, the decree should address what immediate changes should be made in the structure of the country's fuel balance, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the website strana.ru, Khristenko opened the session noting that preparations for the winter have proceeded better than in the past but remain insufficient. President Putin met with Energy Minister Igor Yusofov the previous day to discuss the same topic. According to ITAR-TASS, Yusofov reported that the list of critical regions that have taken inadequate preparations for winter is led by Primorskii Krai, Arkhangelsk, the Kamchatka and Chita oblasts, and Khabarovsk Krai. JAC

DEATH TOLL RISES FROM TORRENTIAL RAINS AS FAR EAST AUTHORITIES STRUGGLE TO RESTORE PUBLIC UTILITIES

The death toll from the severe storms that flooded Primorskii Krai rose to 10 as of 9 August, Russian agencies reported. According to Interfax-Eurasia, more than 1,500 homes are under water as well as 37 train and automobile bridges. Vladivostok Mayor Yurii Kopylov announced on 9 August that normal water service will not be restored to city homes before 20 August. Until then, residents in multiple story dwellings -- who make up more than half of the city's population -- will have running water only for 4-8 hours every 48-hour period. Electricity to the city of Partizansk is scheduled to be restored in four days. Meanwhile, traffic on the Trans-Siberian railway was stopped, delaying the delivery of cars full of coal, according to "Rossiiskaya gazeta." JAC

KASYANOV SAYS GOVERNMENT CADRE TO GET LARGER, NOT SMALLER...

In an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" published on 8 August, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that while personnel changes are not being discussed at the moment, "it is possible that the subject will come up in the fall." But he explained that any discussion would likely focus not so much on the government's lineup and structure, such as which ministries to cut, but on ways to enlarge them. "Today there is no need for radical changes inside the cabinet...I feel much more satisfied with the [level of] of work than, let's say, a year ago." Regarding his own personal future work prospects, Kasyanov said that the media has often discussed his imminent departure, but he doesn't see any basis for "tension or concern." JAC

...AND CLAIMS NOT TO HAVE AUGUST JITTERS

When asked whether he felt nervous taking a break during the month of August, during which something dramatic tends to happen each year -- Kasyanov said that he doesn't think "there could be a more natural time to take a break." During past Augusts, the "Kursk" submarine sank; former President Yeltsin sacked the government and appointed Prime Minster Putin; the ruble collapsed; and in 1991 a coup was staged. Kasyanov also answered more personal questions, revealing that he smokes on average a pack of cigarettes a day and that the family dog, Tibul, is a dalmatian. JAC

PUTIN TO CAST NEW MAN IN LEADING ROLE ON PARDONS COMMISSION

RIA-Novosti reported on 9 August that President Putin is mulling over at least two candidates to replace Anatolii Pristavkin, the current head of the Presidential Pardons Commission -- Nikita Mikhalkov, the prominent filmmaker and actor, or Yurii Solomin, an actor who during the Soviet era often played the role of KGB officers. Putin has decided to reorganize the commission and to oust Pristavkin following an investigation undertaken by the deputy chief of his administration, Viktor Ivanov. In his report to Putin, former FSB officer Ivanov wrote that the commission indiscriminately "granted amnesty to hard-core criminals." In an interview with Interfax on 9 August, Pristavkin acknowledged that he expects to be dismissed soon. VY

SPACE AGENCY HEAD EXPLAINS WHAT LIES IN STORE FOR HIS INDUSTRY

Rosaviaprom General Director Yurii Koptev told journalists on 9 August that reform of the Russian defense industry will entail the consolidation of all military enterprises into several dozen large national holding companies, RIA-Novosti reported. For example, in the aviation and aircraft manufacturing industries some 17 conglomerates will be formed, and another 18 concerns will specialize in the production of missiles and space hardware. According to Koptev, the state will have at least 51 percent of the shares in all of the defense holdings. He also noted that this reorganization will help Russian producers compete more effectively on the world weapons market. VY

KREMLIN PUTS IN PLACE MORE CONTROLS OVER DANGEROUS TECHNOLOGY

President Putin signed an order on 9 August making a list of dangerous and dual-use technologies and materials subject to obligatory state inspection in accordance with a law on export controls adopted by the Duma last month, Interfax reported. According to the presidential media service, by signing the list the president is taking a practical measure toward fulfillment of Russia's international obligations in the area of nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as protecting the country's own national security. Putin also signed a second list that imposes the same controls over pathogens of human, animal, and plant diseases; genetically engineered microorganisms and toxins; and equipment and technology for the production of such organisms. VY

RUSSIAN BUSINESSMEN, OLIGARCHS WORRIED ABOUT 'BRAIN DRAIN'

In an interview with "Obshchaya gazeta" No. 32, Arkadii Volskii, the president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, stated that he intends to raise the problem of Russia's "brain drain" with President Putin at their next meeting, which is scheduled for early fall. According to Volskii, "More than 130,000 of our intellectuals -- specialists in the areas of high technology, mathematics and programming -- already work in the U.S." And according to Volskii, Germany is ready to accept 50,000 specialists from Russia. Volskii added that at Russian scientific establishments today practically the only people left are old. "What happens when they leave, how will science in our country move forward?" he asked (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2001). Volskii suggested that Russia cooperate more closely with the Russian diaspora abroad. JAC

YEVGENII PRIMAKOV REVIEWS HIS CAREER

In an interview with "Argumenty i fakty" published on 8 August, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov said that he was never a career officer of the KGB, but often used the agency's communication channels and was at times under its protection, such as while executing special missions for the Politburo. Primakov offered as one example of such missions his contacts with the Iraqi Kurdish leadership from the 1960s through the 1980s. Primakov also said that he never considered the KGB's last chairman, Vadim Bakatin -- who told the United States that secret listening devices were planted in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow-- to be "a traitor." "Bakatin is friend of mine and everything he did was under the direction and with the consent of Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev," Primakov said. VY

MOSCOW OBLAST SEEKS TO BAN LIMONOV'S PARTY

The main administration of the Justice Ministry for Moscow Oblast has filed a suit in the oblast court to stop the activities of Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party (NPB), ITAR-TASS reported on 9 August. The party was registered in the oblast four years ago, but has not been registered at the national level. According to the agency, several members of the NPB have been detained in a number of regions for trying to buy large quantities of automatic weapons, ammunition, and explosive materials. JAC

KIRIENKO MAN LEAVES NIZHNII GOVERNMENT

On the same day as his inauguration as governor of Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, Gennadii Khodyrev accepted the resignation of the prime minister of the oblast government, Sergei Obozov, Russian agencies reported on 8 August. Obozov, who had assumed that post only last April, is returning to his former position as federal inspector for Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, a position that is overseen by presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko. Kirienko was believed to have orchestrated Obozov's original appointment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 2001). Meanwhile, Khodyrev retained the rest of the government intact, and according to the website polit.ru on 9 August, he will propose to the oblast's Duma that the posts of governor and prime minister be merged. JAC

FSB FINDS MORE 'SPIES' IN KRASNOYARSK

An FSB spokesman in Krasnoyarsk announced on 9 August that the FSB directorate has opened a criminal case against a group of Russian citizens on suspicion of state treason "in the form of revealing state secrets to a foreign state," RIA-Novosti reported. The spokesman refused to give details of the case but said that parallels can be drawn with the case of local scientist Valentin Danilov, who was arrested in February for espionage for China (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 2001). The spokesman added that Danilov is accused of transferring materials on the impact the sun has on the functioning of satellites to Chinese intelligence services. This information reportedly helped China save enormous amounts of money in developing its space program. However, Danilov's lawyer, Yelena Yevmenova, said that in his contacts with the Chinese, her client used only materials from open sources. VY

POORER RESIDENTS OF EXCLAVE LOOK EAST RATHER THAN WEST

The information department of VGTRK concluded recently that the number of residents in Kaliningrad Oblast who support formal separation from the Russian Federation is growing, "Izvestiya" reported on 8 August. However, a number of locally based pollsters disagreed with VGTRK's findings. The Moscow-based sociologists argue that separation is supported only by small pockets of the population, i.e., liberal intellectuals, students who have traveled abroad, some business people who sense greater potential for profits, and a group labeled only as "ambitious idlers." However, local analysts argue that no critical mass supporting separation exists, and the poorer members of the region's population, in particular, want to remain part of Russia. JAC

RUSSIA, IRAN END TALKS ON CASPIAN CRISIS...

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani told journalists in Moscow on 9 August after two days of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi that Iran will not after all be excluded from the Caspian summit proposed last week by Russian President Putin, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2001). He said Tehran is aware of the plan to hold a summit of all five littoral states in Turkmenistan this fall, but has not yet received an invitation to attend. In what appears to be a shift in Tehran's official position, Ahani said Iran still considers that the optimum approach to dividing the Caspian is to employ the condominium principle, but failing that, each littoral state could have a 25-kilometer coastal zone for sovereign use. Iran had earlier insisted that the Caspian be divided into five equal-sized zones, which would have augmented Iran's sector which currently constitutes only 14 percent of the sea. Ahani said deputy foreign ministers of the five littoral states will hold a "working meeting" in Astana next month. LF

...AS TURKEY CALLS FOR DIALOGUE TO DEFUSE IT

In a statement released on 9 August, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Husein Dirioz called on Azerbaijan and Iran to resolve their differences over the Caspian through peaceful dialogue, noting that neither the use nor the threat of force is compatible with the fundamental principles of international law, Turan reported. Ankara has a fundamental interest in the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via its territory. LF

NEMTSOV AGAIN CALLS FOR CHECHEN PEACE TALKS

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 9 August, Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov again said that the Russian leadership should immediately embark on peace talks with Chechen representatives, Turan and RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. He proposed that the Chechen people should hold elections to choose who should represent which Chechen clan at those talks, and that President Aslan Maskhadov should not be excluded as a negotiating partner. Nemtsov said Russia should be represented by someone in whom President Putin has absolute trust, possibly FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev or Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, but not by Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov. But also on 9 August, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii rejected as "a bluff and wishful thinking" claims made by Maskhadov in an interview with a Slovak newspaper that representatives of the Russian leadership have repeatedly tried to contact him about holding peace talks, Interfax reported. LF

RUSSIA CLAIMS TO HAVE DESTROYED FIELD COMMANDER'S MAIN BASE

Russian warplanes on 9 August succeeded in destroying the main camp near Vedeno south of Grozny of Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev, "Izvestiya" reported on 10 August, quoting ITAR-TASS. An unspecified number of Chechen fighters were reportedly killed in the raid. No mention was made of Basaev's whereabouts, nor is it clear whether he was in the camp at the time. LF




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT REAFFIRMS READINESS TO CONTINUE KARABAKH TALKS

Robert Kocharian told journalists on 9 August during a visit to Yerevan State University that although his talks last week in Sochi with his Azerbaijani counterpart Aliyev were "difficult," he is nonetheless ready to continue negotiations on resolving the Karabakh conflict, Caucasus Press and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. No date has been set for the next round of talks between the two presidents. LF

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT CREATES FUND TO IMPROVE PRISON CONDITIONS

The Armenian government announced on 9 August the creation of a special fund to finance improvements in conditions in the country's jails prior to their transfer from the Interior and National Security Ministries to the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That transfer, which was one of two conditions on which Armenia was admitted in January 2001 to full membership of the Council of Europe, is scheduled to take place in October-November 2001. LF

RULING PARTY TO PROPOSE AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT FOR THIRD TERM

Ali Akhmedov, the executive secretary of the Yeni Azerbaycan party, has announced that his party will nominate incumbent President Heidar Aliyev as its candidate for the presidential poll due in October 2003, Turan reported on 9 August, citing the independent "525-ji gazeti." Azerbaijan's Constitution does not at present allow for one individual to serve more than two consecutive presidential terms. Aliyev was first elected to that post in 1993 and re-elected in 1998. LF

AZERBAIJAN REJECTS MOST RECENT TURKMEN STATEMENT

Unnamed officials from Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR on 9 August denied that any structure named Geygel exists in the vicinity of the Kyapaz Caspian oilfield of which both Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan claim ownership, Turan reported. Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Yelly Gurbanmuradov had accused SOCAR the previous day of preparing to begin exploitation of that deposit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2001). He argued that since the field in question is only 100 kilometers from the coast of Turkmenistan and 210 kilometers from the Azerbaijani shore of the Caspian there can be "no doubt" that it belongs to Turkmenistan. LF

AZERBAIJAN HOLDS MILITARY MANEUVERS...

Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev presided over the first-ever joint maneuvers by units of Azerbaijan's army and navy on 8-9 August, Turan and Interfax reported. No details of those maneuvers were released. LF

...AS IRAN AGAIN VIOLATES AZERBAIJANI AIRSPACE

Two Iranian military aircraft entered Azerbaijani airspace during the afternoons of 8 and 9 August, Turan reported. Similar incursions took place on 6 and 7 August. Neither the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry nor the Defense Ministry has issued a statement on those overflights. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY PROTESTS ASSAULT ON ITS MEMBERS

The opposition Musavat Party issued a statement on 9 August condemning the assault earlier that day in the town of Khudat on a group of its members headed by party deputy Chairman Rauf Arifoglu, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2001). The statement noted that local police failed to step in to halt the assault, and arrested two Musavat Party members. It demanded the release of those two persons and the arrest of those responsible for the violence. LF

SUSPECT ARRESTED IN GEORGIAN JOURNALIST'S MURDER

A man taken into custody by Georgian police late on 8 August on swindling charges is also being considered as a suspect in the 26 July murder of TV journalist Giorgi Sanaya, Caucasus Press reported on 10 August. LF

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CANCELS LATVIA VISIT OVER GAS TALKS IMPASSE

Irakli Menagharishvili has cancelled a visit to Latvia scheduled for 15-17 August in order to continue work on the texts of agreements on the export via Georgia of natural gas from Azerbaijan's offshore Shah-Deniz field, Caucasus Press reported on 10 August. Those agreements were originally slated for signing on 27 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2001). Caucasus Press cited unidentified "reliable sources" as saying that Georgia is hoping for $92 million annually in transit fees for that gas, while Azerbaijan is prepared to offer only $52 million. It is not clear whether Georgian-Azerbaijani relations are also strained as a result of Georgia's commitment to repair and modernize a total of 46 Turkmen military aircraft in lieu of payment of its outstanding bills for Turkmen natural gas in cash. LF

KYRGYZ PUBLIC DELEGATION RETURNS FROM CHINESE BORDER

A 13-member delegation from the public committee for Kyrgyz-Chinese border questions returned to Bishkek on 9 August after a trip to inspect the region Kyrgyzstan cedes to China under 1999 amendments to a border agreement signed by Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev and Chinese leader Jiang Zemin in 1996, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2001). Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan leader Tursunbek Akunov told RFE/RL that the delegation ascertained that the 87,000 hectares of land in question are rocky and mountainous terrain rather than arable or pasture land. But parliamentary commission Chairman Ismail Isakov noted that the disputed area contains several glaciers, and ceding it would entail the loss of some Kyrgyz water resources. LF

IMPRISONED OPPOSITION KYRGYZ POLITICIAN'S PROPERTY CONFISCATED

Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service has issued orders to confiscate all property belonging to imprisoned former Vice President Feliks Kulov, a member of that agency told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 9 August. Kulov was sentenced on 22 January to seven years in prison on charges of abuse of power. New charges of embezzling a total of $635,000 were brought against him last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January and 18 July 2001). LF

KYRGYZSTAN, RUSSIA DISCUSS MILITARY COOPERATION

Visiting Kyrgyz Defense Minister Esen Topoev and his Russian counterpart Sergei Ivanov met in Moscow on 9 August to discuss military and military-technical cooperation, Interfax reported. They also assessed the situation in Central Asia and reviewed joint measures to counter the threat of terrorism. LF

UZBEKISTAN TAKES PREVENTIVE MEASURES AGAINST CHOLERA

Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov has chaired a special government session to discuss and organize measures to prevent the spread of cholera to Uzbekistan from "neighboring countries," Interfax reported on 9 August. Those measures include strict control over supplies of drinking water. Sanitation inspectors at border crossings will be alerted to the need for special vigilance. Two cases of cholera have recently been reported in southern Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2001). LF




OPPOSITION GROUP PROTESTS IN FRONT OF BELARUSIAN TELEVISION

Some 40 people, mostly members of the United Civic Party, formed a "chain of concerned people" outside the Belarusian Television and Radio building in Minsk on 9 August to protest the way it reports on the disappearances of opposition figures, Belapan reported. "This is our response to the position taken by Belarusian Television," said party leader Anatol Lyabedzka. "They have spilled an enormous amount of mud on our colleagues Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar and their families," he added, referring to the opposition figures who disappeared in 1999. Lyabedzka cited allegations made by Belarusian Television that the United Civic Party helps people obtain asylum in the West for money, and that the figures who disappeared must have been smuggled to the West in this way. Lyabedzka said his party would file a lawsuit against reporters who have made such allegations. DW

TYMOSHENKO'S HUSBAND RELEASED FROM JAIL

Oleksandr Tymoshenko, the husband of former Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister and current opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko, was released from jail on 9 August after a court ruled he could not be held while awaiting trial any longer, Reuters reported. The former director of the Ukrainian Unified Energy Systems gas monopoly was arrested in August 2000 on charges of embezzling $800,000 from the state and smuggling Russian gas. Prosecutors had intended to hold Tymoshenko until February, and Deputy Prosecutor-General Mykola Obikhod said the Prosecutor-General's Office will appeal the decision. Yuliya Tymoshenko is currently facing charges in both Ukraine and Russia for fraud and bribery from 1995-1997, when she headed the gas monopoly. She says the charges are part of a smear campaign led by President Leonid Kuchma to discredit her ahead of March parliamentary elections. DW

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTORS TO BRING CASE VS. EX-PREMIER TO COURT.

Deputy Prosecutor-General Obikhod announced that prosecutors have completed preparing their case against former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko on embezzlement charges, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 August. Obikhod said the case, involving allegations that Lazarenko accepted $120 million in bribes and embezzled $20 million, will be sent to court in the nearest future. Lazarenko, currently in a federal prison outside San Francisco, also faces charges of conspiracy in the U.S. and money laundering in Switzerland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001). DW

DEPUTIES IN ESTONIAN CITY SEEK EQUAL STATUS FOR RUSSIAN LANGUAGE

Four deputies on the Narva City Council have made a proposal to permit the use of the Russian language in the city as an official language of public administration, BNS reported on 9 August. Noting that 86 percent of Narva's population speak Russian as their native language, they cite Article 52 of the constitution, which states that in localities where the language of the majority of the residents is not Estonian, local governments may use the language of the majority of the permanent residents as an internal working language. Population Minister Katrin Saks, however, commented that she had not heard of any problems related to speaking Russian in Narva, but had personally experienced difficulty in being understood in Estonian there. Therefore, she said, the Estonian government must first ensure the fulfillment of the language law requirement that officials be fluent in Estonian at the required level before it can approve the Narva proposal. The Narva City Council chairman sent a proposal similar to that of the four deputies to the Estonian government in 1995, but never received a response. SG

UN COMMITTEE SAYS LATVIAN LEFTIST'S HUMAN RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED

Tatyana Zhdanoka, one of the leaders of the left-wing alliance For Equal Rights, announced on 9 August that the UN Human Rights Committee on 25 July had found illegal the decision by a Latvian election committee in 1997 to remove Antonina Ignatane, a Latvian citizen, from the list of candidates in municipal elections because she was not fluent in Latvian, BNS reported. The UN committee ruled that the Latvian municipal election law provision requiring candidates to obtain from the State Language Board a Latvian language proficiency certificate, runs contradictory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It stated that Latvia is obligated to provide Ignatane with an effective remedy and to take steps to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future. Zhdanoka said that the UN committee's decisions are only recommendations, but that countries usually try to abide by them. SG

LITHUANIAN ELECTRICITY EXPORT DEALS DISCUSSED

Andrei Rappoport, the first vice chairman of the board of Russia's Unified Energy Systems, assured Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas in Vilnius on 9 August that the agreement signed in Minsk in April for the sale and export of 5 billion kilowatt-hours (kwh) of Lithuanian electricity to Belarus will be fulfilled, BNS reported. Brazauskas, however, expressed doubts about the deal, as electricity exports to Belarus were only 50 million kwh in June and 75 million kwh in July. Rappoport and Lithuanian Energy officials agreed that the export of electricity from Lithuania to Kaliningrad and Poland will begin on 1 September. Lithuania has not exported electricity to Kaliningrad for over a decade with the exception of one month in 1998, but will export 2 billion kwh a year to the Russian exclave according to the agreement. Electricity exports to Poland will be renewed after a break of 18 months. SG

POLISH, LITHUANIAN BOURSES SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT

Representatives of the Warsaw Stock Exchange on 9 August agreed to closer cooperation with their counterparts from the Lithuanian National Stock Exchange, dpa reported. The deal should foster convergence and eventual cross-border securities trading in "an era of globalization and international alliances," the bourses were quoted as saying in a joint statement. The Lithuanian bourse has aggressively pursued a strategic alliance with Warsaw since scrapping plans to join the Nordic stock-exchange alliance NOREX in May. AH

MINISTER URGES POLISH STATE COMPANIES TO STAY OUT OF POLITICS

Treasury Minister Aldona Kamela-Sowinska warned in a letter to state enterprises that her ministry will not tolerate direct or indirect support for political parties or their candidates, PAP reported on 9 August. With less than two months remaining before national elections, Kamela-Sowinska said spending by state enterprises to promote any political party is illegal and will be treated as an activity "to the detriment of the Treasury as well as the companies." AH

POLISH STEELWORKERS RENEW PUBLIC PRESSURE

More than 2,500 workers staged a demonstration in the southern Polish city of Katowice on 10 August in one of the largest demonstrations in that country's heavy industry sector since the 1980s, dpa reported. Protesters aim to rally public support over the threatened closure of the bankrupt Huta Baildon steelworks, and marched to the district administrative office to demand that their jobs be saved, according to dpa. The new effort follows a recent rally by some 700 workers and continuing hunger strikes by a dozen Huta Baildon steelworkers demanding job guarantees or adequate welfare benefits. AH

WALESA'S FORMER PARTY WON'T PARTICIPATE IN POLISH PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

The Christian Democracy of the Third Republic of Poland, the party founded by former President Lech Walesa, issued a statement on 9 August that it will not participate in the 23 September parliamentary elections, PAP reported. The party council said that "the situation has become unclear for our voters" in light of new alliances on the political right in a crowded Polish political landscape. AH

CZECH SENATE APPROVES ELECTORAL AMENDMENT...

By a vote of 39 for, 20 against, and 14 abstentions, the Senate on 9 August approved an amendment to the election law making absentee ballots possible, CTK reported. This part of the bill was proposed by the opposition Four Party Coalition, but the Senate did not support the coalition's proposal that the 5 percent electoral hurdle apply to all lists running in elections. Under the amendment approved by the house, an alliance of two parties would need 7 percent, one of three formations would need 9 percent, and alliances of four or more parties would need 11 percent to gain parliamentary representation. The bill also stipulates that the calculation of electoral returns be made using the d'Hondt method. CTK said the bill as passed by the Senate has little chance of being approved by the Chamber of Deputies. MS

...APPROVES DECLASSIFYING STB FILES

The Senate on 9 August approved a law declassifying all of the files of the StB, the communist secret police, CTK and AP reported. The bill was proposed by the opposition Civic Democratic Party and was supported by 57 senators. Four senators voted against and 12 abstained. The bill must now be approved by the Chamber of Deputies. It stipulates that the list of agents who worked for the StB will be made public and access to all StB files will be permitted. MS

AUSTRIA STOPS TEMELIN OPPONENTS FROM RENEWING BORDER BLOCKADES

The Austrian authorities on 9 August refused permission to opponents of the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant to renew blockades of border-crossing points, CTK reported, citing the Austrian APA agency. The opponents of the plant intended to block the Gmuend/Ceske Velenice crossing point on 10 August, in protest against the Czech authorities' intention to relaunch tests at Temelin in the following days. Earlier, the Czech Foreign Ministry sent a note to the government in Vienna, expressing its concern over the intention to renew the blockades and the hope that the Austrian authorities would act against them. MS

CZECH ORGANIZATION LAUNCHES ANTIRACIAL CAMPAIGN...

A media campaign against racial prejudice and xenophobia was launched on 9 August by the Czech League of Ethnic Minorities, CTK reported. The campaign will last two months and aims at reaching people through television and radio spots, as well as leaflets. The campaign's motto is: "We live together with you here. Why do you mind?" The spots feature a black man proposing marriage to a Czech girl, a Romany woman who donates blood to save another woman's life, and a Vietnamese who moves next door to a Czech. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the British Embassy in Prague on 9 August said that due to a "translation mistake" the public had been misled to believe screening at Prague's airport by British immigration authorities had ended on the morning of 9 August, while in fact it ended only at midnight that day. MS

...AS YOUNG CZECHS CHARGED WITH RACIST OFFENSES

Police in Zlin, central Moravia, on 9 August brought charges against four young people who chanted Nazi slogans in a restaurant in the town of Slavicin last May, CTK reported. If found guilty, they face a sentence of up to three years for "support of a movement aimed at suppressing the rights and freedoms of other people" and for breaching the peace. Milan Rudny, who heads a local police squad dealing with extremism among youth, said the four had been investigated in the past on the same suspicion but this time police were able to find them "with the help of people willing to report illegal behavior and to testify." MS

SLOVAK COURT SAYS IRISH SUSPECTS CAN BE EXTRADITED

A Bratislava court on 9 August ruled that the three alleged members of the Real IRA, a splinter group of the Irish Republican Army, can be extradited, AP and Reuters reported. The court left the decision on whether to do so to the Justice Ministry. A spokeswoman for the ministry said Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky will make the decision after he returns from vacation next week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2001). MS.

HUNGARIAN SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT CALLS SPECIAL SESSION

Parliamentary Speaker Janos Ader on 9 August called for an extraordinary session of the parliament to be held on 13 August in order to decide on the opposition's demand to set up two special investigative committees, Hungarian media reported. The Socialist Party and the Alliance of Free Democrats asked in July that two special commissions investigate Prime Minister Viktor Orban's role in abuses ascribed to former Agriculture Ministry State Secretary Bela Szabadi and examine the circumstances under which mines owned by Orban's father were allegedly involved in securing participation in highway constructions. The coalition parties, as well as the Hungarian Justice and Life Party, said they will not attend the parliament's special session, which is likely to lack a quorum as a result. Orban said earlier that the opposition's initiative is a politically inspired attack on him, but he acknowledged that "the prime minister is morally, if not legally, responsible for everything that happens concerning the government." MSZ




FIGHTING NORTH OF MACEDONIAN CAPITAL...

At least seven Macedonian soldiers were killed and five wounded on 10 August when their truck stuck a land mine near the villages of Ljubanci and Ljuboten north of Skopje, AP reported. An unnamed Defense Ministry spokesman said that the mine had been freshly planted by "Albanian terrorists." Fighting ensued in Ljuboten between government forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas. Local residents said that the government forces brought in helicopter gunships and "leveled" one house. In Ohrid, U.S. envoy James Pardew condemned the violence and called on the guerrillas to respect the cease-fire. PM

...AND ELSEWHERE JEOPARDIZES PEACE

In what "The Guardian" called "a serious escalation of the fighting," government Sukhoi Su-25 aircraft bombed areas near the villages of Tearce and Neprosteno in the Tetovo area on 9 August. Unnamed "witnesses" told the daily that the aircraft also bombed other unspecified areas near the frontier with Kosova. In Tetovo itself, one policeman was killed and eight civilians injured, three of whom were children. Hospital Director Rahim Thaci said that the government forces had engaged in "intense shelling." In Rastan near Veles, an 11-year-old ethnic Albanian boy was killed in a drive-by shooting. His father told "The New York Times" of 10 August: "I think we're going to move out of here." In Skopje, Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski called on his countrymen to avoid civil war, adding that the government will seek "one more chance for peace," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

EU ENVOY EXPECTS MACEDONIAN PEACE AGREEMENT WILL BE SIGNED

Francois Leotard told a French radio station on 10 August that he expects the leaders of Macedonia's four main political parties to sign the peace agreement on 13 August as scheduled, dpa reported from Paris (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2001). "I cannot imagine for one moment that they will return to the path of military confrontation instead of signing. This would be a very serious attack on the international reputation" of the party leaders, who have already initialed the document. Leotard stressed that it is nonetheless important to be "extremely prudent" over the course of Macedonian developments, "because we have often been disappointed" in the past. PM

MACEDONIAN CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF DISMISSED

At a special meeting of the National Security Council following the attack on an army convoy in which 10 soldiers were killed on 8 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August), Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski sacked Chief of General Staff General Pande Petrovski, the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" reported on 10 August. Until a successor is named, the current deputy chief, General Metodija Stamboliski, will be in charge. Citing unnamed army sources, the newspaper speculates that the dismissal is due to some unspecified disagreement between Trajkovski and Petrovski (see also "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 August 2001). Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported that Liberal parliament speaker Stojan Andov called for Social Democratic Defense Minister Buckovski to resign and be replaced Social Democratic party leader Branko Crvenkovski. Crvenkovski strongly rejected the suggestion. UB/PM

BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMES SUSPECT ARRESTED?

Bosnian Serb authorities told AP in Banja Luka on 10 August that NATO peacekeepers arrested Colonel Vidoje Blagojevic, an officer in the Bosnian Serb army's engineering corps, when he arrived for a meeting about mine removal. Deputy Interior Minister Zeljko Janjetovic told Reuters: "Colonel Vidoje Blagojevic was arrested this morning in the Banja Luka public security area zone." The British peacekeepers had a "sealed indictment" from The Hague for the arrest of Blagojevic, who commanded troops in Bratunac near Srebrenica during the 1992-1995 war. But Captain Andrew Coxhead, an SFOR spokesman, said: "We are unaware of any arrests." PM

RENEWED CONCERN OVER ILLEGAL MIGRATION VIA BOSNIA

A UN spokesman said in Sarajevo on 9 August that the world organization is concerned that "Turkish citizens" are using Bosnia as spring-board from which to enter Western Europe illegally, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The statement follows the detention of 54 Turkish citizens by Bosnian border guards in the Velika Kladusa area, near the Croatian border. Part of the problem is that Air Bosna has recently begun flying from Istanbul directly to Tuzla, where the border police do not have an office at the airport. PM

MONTENEGRO AND THE CIGARETTE TRADE

The "Financial Times" writes on 10 August that its journalists have been looking into the links between the politically and economically powerful in Montenegro and the illicit cigarette business. The daily notes that "what began as an attempt to circumvent a United Nations trade embargo on Yugoslavia [during the 1991-1995 conflict] has mushroomed into an international business spreading from the Balkans into Italy and other European Union states. Control over the trade has also spread, but Montenegro retains its central role." Many important individuals are involved. "Since 1992, Montenegro has become one gigantic marketplace for smuggled cigarettes," says Guenther Herrmann, a German government customs investigator. He puts the EU's losses in revenue from smuggling from Montenegro at $3.4 billion over the past two years alone. PM

FORMER ROMANIAN MONARCH DEMANDS RESTITUTION OF ROYAL CASTLE

A lawyer representing former King Michael on 9 August filed with a court of justice the demand that the Peles castle in Sinaia and adjacent grounds and buildings, as well as several houses in the neighboring Prahova valley, be restituted to their former owner. Lawyer Adrian Vasiliu told RFE/RL on 10 August that Michael does not intend to take possession of the castle and will "donate it to the Romanian people." But the former monarch wants "justice to first take its course." Vasiliu also said the act under which the castle had been turned into state property following Michael's enforced abdication of the throne in December 1947 was illegal. He said the building was not part of the royal estates, having been personally inherited by Michael according to the testament left by King Ferdinand. Ferdinand had inherited it from King Carol I, who financed the castle's building from his own assets, the lawyer said. Government spokesman Claudiu Lucaciu said the cabinet will discuss Michael's request next week, after it receives the opinions of "legal experts and historians." MS

IMF PRAISES MOLDOVA'S ECONOMIC PROGRESS

A delegation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on 8 August, at the end of a two-week visit to Moldova, that an agreement has been reached for renewing lending to Chisinau, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The agreement must yet be approved by the fund's board, which will review an addendum to the earlier agreement with Moldova. The addendum stipulates measures that must be implemented by the Moldovan government in the upcoming months. IMF mission chief to Moldova Richard Haas said that the team of experts that visited Chisinau was satisfied with the "moderate growth" in GDP, low inflation levels, and increasing export volumes. Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev said the IMF pledged to support Moldova's request for a restructuring of its international debts and for the cancellation of some $172 million of that debt. Tarlev, cited by AFP, said this will "significantly lower pressure on the budget and be beneficial to Moldova's social development." MS

FORMER MOLDOVAN PREMIER TO BECOME FOREIGN MINISTER?

Premier Tarlev on 9 August confirmed that former Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis is among the candidates for the post of foreign minister, which became vacant after Nicolae Cernomaz's dismissal from that position on 27 July. Tarlev said a decision on Cernomaz's successor will be made after President Vladimir Voronin, who is vacationing in the Czech Republic, returns to Moldova at the end of the month. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER DENIES LINKS WITH NATIONALIST GROUP

The governmental press office on 9 August denied that Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski is in any way linked with an organization calling itself "Bulgarian Human Rights in Macedonia," BTA reported. The Greek newspaper "Ethnos" earlier reported that the organization, which claims to be pursuing its activity "with the consent and sponsorship of His Majesty Simeon II," is demanding that Greece acknowledge a "genocide of Bulgarians" in the Greek-ruled Macedonia province and a revision of the Greek-Bulgarian border. Government spokeswoman Tsvetelina Ouzouvna said that the premier "does not know such an organization," adding: "We have reasons to believe that his name and authority are being misused." Ouzouvna also said that the premier believes the good neighborly relations with Greece "cannot possibly be affected by such statements," as Simeon Saxecoburggotski "has repeatedly emphasized his interest in promoting Bulgarian-Greek relations." MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT, FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSS MACEDONIAN DEVELOPMENTS

President Petar Stoyanov and Foreign Minster Solomon Pasi on 9 August discussed the latest developments in neighboring Macedonia, BTA reported. The presidential office said Stoyanov on the same day sent a telegram to his Macedonian counterpart Boris Trajkovski, strongly condemning the killing of 10 Macedonian soldiers by Albanian guerrillas on 8 August. MS




NEW RIFT IN MACEDONIAN LEADERSHIP?


By Ulrich Buechsenschuetz

Macedonia's government of "national unity" has displayed its lack of unity before. During the three months of its existence, there have been a number of occasions when members of the government have accused each other of various blunders when struggling to cope with the threat posed by the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK).

There have open clashes between hard-line Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Movement-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) on the one hand, and Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) on the other. There have also been disagreements between VMRO leader and Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and Boskovski on one side, and President Boris Trajkovski -- of the same party -- on the other.

These disagreements derived mainly from different approaches as to how to deal with the crisis. While the hard-liners Georgievski and Boskovski prefer a military solution, Trajkovski and Buckovski advocate a peaceful one.

The ethnic Albanian political parties in the current cabinet did not become involved in these conflicts within the government. Despite immense pressure from the UCK, which limits their room to maneuver, the Albanian "bloc" has even profited from the strife within the Macedonian "bloc," as media describe the ethnic divide in the government.

"Mister Butch" and "Mister Bosh" -- as former Interior and Foreign Minister Ljubomir Frckovski has called Buckovski and Boskovski, respectively, in newspaper comments -- overcame their public differences when it became clear that their feud was weakening the government.

After some weeks without any major disagreements in the government (or did the media simply come to ignore the feuding?), a new rift opened -- just at the moment when the peace talks seemed to be drawing to a close.

On 6 August, Trajkovski scheduled a meeting of the National Security Council. After that session, both the president and the defense minister denied that there were any differences between them. The next day, the media speculated about the reasons for the meeting. Some of the media reported that Trajkovski had called the Security Council gathering because his order to the army to open up an important road between Tetovo and the border to Kosova had not been obeyed.

The road runs from Tetovo to the border checkpoint at Jazince and lies in a demilitarized zone, which was set up recently in order to help facilitate the peace talks. In a statement on 6 August, the Defense Ministry denied that Trajkovski had given it any orders to open up the road. The ministry also denied the allegation that neither the Defense Ministry nor the General Staff had worked out a plan to defend the town of Tetovo, which has been at the center of tensions for months.

While Trajkovski and Buckovski declared after the council session that there are no differences between them, the Skopje daily "Nova Makedonija" had already launched a fierce attack on Buckovski. In a front-page article, the newspaper -- which is close to the VMRO-DPMNE -- stated that there is a deep rift between president and defense minister.

The article claimed that Buckovski called Trajkovski on the phone, saying: "Who are you to issue such orders. If you issue another such order, I will have you arrested and brought to [the Skopje jail] Idrizovo." Buckovski, "Nova Makedonija" says, works together with the [ethnic Albanian] "terrorist mafia groups." How else could one explain that the Defense Ministry several times ignored the [VMRO-DPMNE-run] Interior Ministry's call for support in its fight against the UCK?

All this, according to "Nova Makedonija," is part of a "petty game of the SDSM, in which the whole state loses. The VMRO-DPMNE has publicly stated repeatedly that the Social Democrats are courting the Albanian political bloc and, in any event, are interested in signing a [peace] agreement in order to have early elections and form a coalition with the Albanian parties."

In a comment for the same newspaper, Dimitar Kjurkciev accused Branko Crvenkovski, the leader of the SDSM, of having never given up his role as an opposition leader, even after his party joined the government in May. First, Crvenkovski had pressed for the formation of the "national unity government" and then he encouraged labor unrest at a most inconvenient time. Crvenkovski had also constantly hindered the government from taking decisive military action against the ethnic Albanian rebels of the UCK, Kjurkciev added.

It seems that the VMRO-DPMNE leadership is looking for a scapegoat. By blaming the SDSM for allegedly cooperating with the Albanian parties (and the West), Georgievski and his hard-line followers want to show the electorate that if an unpopular peace agreement is signed, it is not their doing.

Crvenkovski and his SDSM, on the other hand, are in a comfortable position. Whatever the outcome of the peace talks may be, the SDSM will be among the winners. The party gained the confidence of the West as a cooperative partner in the negotiations, and they presented themselves as a possible partner for a future coalition with the ethnic Albanian political parties. Months of belligerent rhetoric have eliminated this option for the VMRO-DPMNE. That means that early elections would inevitably lead to the political defeat of Georgievski's nationalist and conservative party.

And perhaps most importantly for some of that party's faithful, a political defeat would also mean that the VMRO-DPMNE would lose the economic advantages that it built up during its years in power.

It is hard to assess what would be more painful for the party members: the loss of power or the loss of the "gravy train." And it is also hard to assess whether the SDSM will change its behavior once it has defeated its main Macedonian rival. As a Western diplomat put it, the SDSM leadership is as greedy as the VMRO-DPMNE leadership, but they are more skilled in concealing that fact.


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