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Newsline - August 13, 2001




ONE YEAR LATER, CAUSE OF 'KURSK' SUBMARINE TRAGEDY REMAINS A MYSTERY...

Families of the 118 crew members killed on the "Kursk" submarine when it sank last year gathered in Vidyaevo on 12 August to mark the first anniversary of the tragedy, Russian agencies reported. Speaking at a ceremony at the town in Murmansk Oblast, Russian navy commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov said that the "No. 1 task at present is to establish the true cause of the 'Kursk' tragedy." According to "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 11 August, the government commission investigating the accident is considering three possible causes -- a collision with a mine or underwater object, or the explosion of one of the ship's torpedoes. According to ROMIR poll conducted among 1,500 respondents, 28.7 percent believe the submarine collided with another submarine, while 13.2 percent believe it was hit accidentally by another Russian warship, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 August. Forty-five percent believe that the cause has been established but withheld from the public. JAC

...AS BEREZOVSKY ANNOUNCES GRANT FOR CHILDREN OF CREW MEMBERS

According to "Kommersant-Daily" the same day, each crew member's family was paid 720,000 rubles ($25,000) by the government and also received payment of 60,000-80,000 rubles from a military insurance company. On 10 August, the Fund for Civil Liberties, which was founded by Boris Berezovsky, announced that it will be giving $10,500 to each of the 11 children of dead crew members who reached the age of 16 by 1 August, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. JAC

GOVERNMENT SEEKS DRAMATIC HIKE IN DEFENSE SPENDING...

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin announced on 10 August that the government has finalized its draft of the 2002 budget, and the basic goals of the document are three-fold -- the continuation of liberal economic reforms, the reduction of the state subsidies to the economy, and the reduction of taxes, RIA-Novosti reported. Regarding specific budget expenditures, Kudrin stressed that some 60 billion rubles ($2 billion) will be allocated for a hike in government employees' salaries. Defense expenditures will be raised to 16 billion rubles compared to 4.5 billion rubles this year, the minister said. Nevertheless, the projected budget surplus will be 128.1 billion, or 1.2 percent of projected GDP. The budget is based on a projected annual inflation rate of 12-13 percent, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 11 August. VY/JAC

...AND REDUCTION OF DEBT BURDEN

Anton Siluanov, the head of the Finance Ministry's macroeconomic department, announced on 10 August that by the end of 2002 Russia's state indebtedness (both external and domestic) will total 48.2 percent of GDP, or $158.5 billion, RosBiznesKonsalting reported. According to Siluanov, the 2002 budget was designed to reduce the state's debt burden, boost Russia's international debt rating, and increase its attractiveness to investors. The budget is based on projections of an average price for oil of $22 a barrel, an exchange rate of 31.5 rubles per dollar, and GDP growth in 2002 of 4.3 percent to 10.6 trillion rubles ($365.5 billion). If the assumptions incorporated into the budget for 2002 prove correct, then the volume of capital flight will drop from $10 billion in 2001 to $4.3 billion in 2004 and direct investment will grow from $4.4 billion in 2001 to $7 billion in 2004, according to Siluanov. VY

RUMSFELD, IVANOV FOLLOW UP ON PUTIN-BUSH TALKS

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Moscow on 12 August for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Ivanov on revising the U.S.-Russian strategic relationship, ORT reported. The 13 August talks were to be held in the framework, previously agreed upon by U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-7 summit in Genoa, that links defensive and offensive weapons systems. Ivanov said on 10 August that Russia's entry into NATO is "unrealistic or very unlikely." He added, however, that bearing in mind "the threats to international security that we are facing in the Middle East, Balkans, and the southern borders of our country," cooperation between NATO and Russia should and must be developed, Interfax reported. VY

CHINA ASKED RUSSIA FOR HELP IN PERSECUTING FALUN GONG

The Chinese government has asked Moscow to suspend the activities of Russian followers of the Chinese religious sect Falun Gong, which has been banned by Beijing, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 August. The Chinese government also requested that the Russian government prevent Falun Gong's members from holding a planned press conference in Moscow. In a letter handed over by the Chinese military attache in Moscow to the Russian Interior Ministry, the Chinese side expressed its appreciation for that ministry's efforts to combat "religious sects of extremist nature." VY

IS MVD'S REORGANIZATION A BAD SIGN FOR FORMER MINISTER RUSHAILO?

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov's decision to disband the regional administrations for combating organized crime (RUBOP) may mark the beginning of the end of the career (CORRECT?) of his predecessor and current Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo, "Novye izvestiya" suggested on 10 August. RUBOP was not only a favorite brainchild of Rushailo but it was also a channel that allowed him to make some "not so subtle deals involving the distribution and redistribution of property." Gryzlov's public statement about the role RUBOP has played suggests the agency did more to organize crime than to combat it, the newspaper concluded. VY

MINORITY SHAREHOLDERS WIN SOME, LOSE SOME?

The Russian government published changes to its company law on 9 August that analysts say will protect minority investors from losing influence when a company issues new shares, "The Moscow Times" reported on 10 August. The amendment will come into effect on 1 January 2002 and will give shareholders the right to purchase enough shares in any new issue to maintain the proportional size of their stakes in a given company, according to the daily. According to the website polit.ru the same day, a number of shareholding societies are trying to quickly complete their reorganizations before the law comes into effect. The website also concluded that while the new law allows minority shareholders to defend their stakes, it reduces their "opportunities to administer their property, control the company, or affect the course of its activities." JAC

GOVERNMENT PLANS RADICAL RESTRUCTURING OF RUSSIAN AIRLINES...

Deputy Transportation Minister Boris Novoseltsev has stated that according to an eight-year government program for the "Modernization of Russia's Transportation Systems," the number of airlines in Russia will be reduced from 300 to 100 by 2005, "Finansovaya Rossiya" reported on 10 August. The program also provides incentives for airlines to buy the latest models of domestic aircraft. To finance the program, the ministry plans to invest about $1 billion from its own funds as well as credits from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. VY

...AND PLANS TO CONNECT RURAL ROADS WITH MAIN HIGHWAYS

Speaking to reporters in Moscow on 10 August, Novoseltsev also stated that under the ministry's modernization program, much attention will be paid to rural roads. According to Novoseltsev, currently some 36,000 rural towns have practically no connection with highways, and under the program it is planned that paved roads will be extended to a third of such settlements. JAC

VOLGOGRAD CONTEMPLATES NAME CHANGE BACK TO STALINGRAD

Volgograd Oblast Governor Nikolai Maksyuta announced on 10 August that the city of Volgograd may return to its former name of Stalingrad in 2003 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad, Russian agencies reported. Maksyuta claimed that he is receiving "a lot of letters from people asking him to rename the city for the 60th anniversary." According to Maksyuta, the oblast's Legislative Assembly is likely to adopt a decision to hold a referendum on the name change. Volgograd started out as Tsaritsyn in 1589, and became Staliningrad in April 1925 in honor of the defense of that city in 1919 by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. In 1961, its named changed to Volgograd. "Kommersant-Daily" suggested on 11 August that Maksyuta may succeed in his quest if he receives support from President Putin, whose grandfather served in Stalin's entourage and who has already shown his predilection for reviving Soviet traditions. JAC/VY

AGRICULTURE MINISTRY OPTIMISTIC AGAIN ABOUT THIS YEAR'S GRAIN HARVEST

Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev announced on 11 August that Russia will harvest 72-75 million tons of grain in 2001, a 10-15 percent increase over last year's harvest of 65.4 million tons, ITAR-TASS reported. Gordeev's comments are more optimistic than a projection last month in which he said that this year's harvest would be no worse than last year's (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2001). Meanwhile, the State Statistics Committee reported the same day that farmers nationwide had threshed 26.2 million tons of grain as of 1 August, a 72.6 percent increase from the same period last year. About one-fourth of the grain harvest has been collected, and the yield exceeds last year's by 1.6 times. JAC

POLICE INTERFERENCE ALLEGED DURING LEAD-UP TO IRKUTSK ELECTION

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov has sent a telegram to Russian President Putin, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, Interior Minister Gryzlov, and Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov complaining about a raid conducted by local police in Irkutsk on the campaign office of gubernatorial candidate Sergei Levchenko on 9 August, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11 August. Levchenko, a Communist deputy in the State Duma, will compete against incumbent Irkutsk Oblast Governor Boris Govorin in gubernatorial elections on 19 August. According to Zyuganov, local police, acting on orders of Govorin, seized documents from Levchenko's office. According to Levchenko, the policemen seized 40,000 copies of the newspaper, "President-2," because they say it contained libelous materials about Governor Govorin. Govorin has frequently complained about media coverage during the campaign despite the fact that most observers believe the bulk of local media is controlled by the governor. JAC

GORBACHEV AND HIS PARTY GIVE PUTIN AN EARLY ENDORSEMENT

Former president of the Soviet Union and leader of newly created United Social Democratic party of Russia, Mikhail Gorbachev, has announced that his party will back President Putin during the next presidential election, "Vremya novostei" reported on 11 August. According to Gorbachev, Putin's policies reflect the general interests of social democrats despite some mistakes. Gorbachev added that his party was founded as an alternative to the Communist Party, and that Putin told him in a personal conversation about "his sympathy toward social democrats." VY

RUSSIAN, GERMAN OFFICIALS AGREE TO RESTORE TRAIN TRAFFIC BETWEEN KALININGRAD AND BERLIN

A delegation of German politicians and businessmen visiting Kaliningrad met with a Russian Foreign Ministry official in that city on 11 August and signed a agreement to restore rail traffic between Kaliningrad and Berlin, Interfax-Northwest reported on 11 August. Rail traffic between the two cities opened in August 1991 but was suspended last summer by Poland, which claimed that the trains were bringing large amounts of contraband into Poland. JAC

RUSSIAN FILM DIRECTOR DIES

Stanislav Rostotskii died at the age of 79 on 11 August, Russian agencies reported. Rostotskii directed a number of films starting in the late 1950s. Among the best known are the "Dawns Here are Quiet," "We'll Survive Until Monday," "On Seven Winds," and "From the Life of Fyodor Kuzkin." JAC

RUSSIANS READ LESS THAN THOUGHT...

In a broadcast on 10 August, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau continued its look at recent research on the Russian way of life conducted by the All Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2001). The sociologists' research found that the popularly held notion that Russia is the country with the highest rate of reading among its population is false. VTsIOM concluded on the basis of a recent survey of 2,000 respondents that one in three Russians reads practically no books, and one in 10 reads no newspapers. Newspapers are most popular in Moscow, Siberia, and the Far East; they are the least popular in the North Caucasus region. Books are most popular in the Northwest and least popular in the Volga region. JAC

...AND DRINK ACCORDING TO INCOME, AGE

On the topic of drinking, 8 percent of respondents said that they never drink, while 28 percent could not remember the last time they had a drink. Natalya Kim, director of VTsIOM press center, told the bureau that the center concluded that half of the adult population drinks at least once a week. Younger and wealthier adults also drink more than their poorer and older counterparts. Seventy percent of the student respondents had had a drink either the day of the survey or the previous day. In terms of using profane language or swear words, one in two men and one in four women do so on a daily basis, according to the center. JAC

RUSSIAN, CHECHEN LEADERS DISCUSS ECONOMIC RECONSTRUCTION

Vladimir Yelagin, the Russian minister responsible for coordinating economic reconstruction in Chechnya, told journalists in Moscow on 10 August that the Russian governmental commission responsible for Chechen economic and social issues has approved a draft program for 2002 that allocates 4.5 billion rubles ($153.47 million) for that purpose, the same as was allocated this year. But a meeting later the same day, members of that commission, which is chaired by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, failed to reach agreement with Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov on how to circumvent restrictions on the release of funds that are preventing reconstruction. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 11 August, during the first six months of 2001 the Finance Ministry released only 17 percent of the total sum earmarked for Chechnya. Also on 10 August, President Putin criticized Yelagin for the delay in rebuilding housing in Chechnya and creating jobs there, which is preventing displaced persons from returning to Chechnya from Ingushetia. LF

CHECHEN CIVILIANS PROTEST ARREST

A group of some 40 people blocked the Grozny-Gudermes railway at Argun for several hours on 10 August to demand the release of a neighbor detained by Russian troops one week earlier, Interfax and AP reported. They were persuaded to disperse after "long talks" with Grozny officials and prosecutors. LF




VETERAN ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY CALLS FOR REFERENDUM ON ALTERNATIVE DRAFT CONSTITUTION

Shavarsh Kocharian, the leader of the National Democratic Party (AZhK), which is a splinter group of the National Democratic Union, on 11 August argued that alternative constitutions drafted by his party and by the Communist Party of Armenia should be put to a nationwide referendum together with the constitutional amendments drafted by President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July and "End Note," 31 July 2001). Under the AZhK draft constitution, Armenia would be a parliamentary republic with a stronger legislature and executive and a largely ceremonial presidency. Shavarsh Kocharian argued that the existing constitution was adopted by means of a falsified referendum in 1995, and that amending it would be tantamount to endorsing that "fraud." LF

AZERBAIJANI NEWSPAPER FORCED TO STOP PUBLICATION

The independent weekly "Impuls" has been forced to close after official publishing houses refused to print it, Caucasus Press and Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 11 August. The paper's owner, Hangusein Aliev, had refused to comply with a presidential decree requiring that as of 1 August all official documentation and newspapers appear in the Latin script (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2001). LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION PLANS TO WORK MORE CLOSELY

Meeting in Tbilisi on 10 August, leaders of parliamentary parties and factions and extraparliamentary opposition parties agreed that next month they will officially unveil a coordinating council on which each party will have two or three representatives, Caucasus Press and Prime News reported. The council will not have a chairman, and will take decisions by consensus. The decision to coordinate opposition activities was triggered by the Georgian parliament's adoption of laws on elections and local government that they consider undemocratic (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 29, 10 August 2001). But parliament deputy speaker Vakhtang Rcheulishvili said the opposition will boycott the local elections scheduled for this fall only as a last resort. LF

SPANISH DIPLOMAT MEETS WITH GEORGIAN MINISTERS TO DISCUSS FATE OF HOSTAGES

Spain's consul general in the Russian Federation, Erminio Morales, met with senior Georgian officials in Tbilisi on 10-11 August to discuss the Georgian police's efforts to date to locate and free two Spanish businessmen abducted in eastern Georgia last November, Caucasus Press reported. On 6 August, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that the two men are still alive, but that conditions "are not yet ripe" to secure their release. The kidnappers are rumored to have originally demanded a ransom of $5 million, but to have reduced their demand to $500,000. LF

WILL BALCEROWICZ STAY ON AS ECONOMIC ADVISER TO GEORGIAN LEADERSHIP?

Polish National Bank Governor Leszek Balcerowicz, who for the past year has served as economic adviser to President Shevardnadze, said following talks with Shevardnadze in Tbilisi on 11 August that there are signs of economic growth in Georgia this year, and the budget shortfall is no longer growing. In order to support those positive trends, he advised expediting privatization, creating favorable tax conditions to boost small businesses, and stepping up measures to counter smuggling, which he termed one of the major obstacles to the growth of legal business. Balcerowicz declined to comment on numerous Georgian press predictions that he is disillusioned by the Georgian government's refusal to implement recommendations he has made over the past year and intends to quit as Shevardnadze's adviser. Presidential administration official Temur Basilia told Caucasus Press that Georgia is negotiating with the U.S. to secure funding for Balcerowicz and his staff. Balcerowicz agreed last summer to serve for one year as Shevardnadze's adviser, for which he was reportedly paid $1 million by the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2000 and 11 April 2001). LF

NEW DATE SET FOR INAUGURATION OF KAZAKHSTAN OIL EXPORT PIPELINE

The first Kazakh crude exported via the Caspian Pipeline Consortium's pipeline will be loaded into a tanker in Novorossiisk on 2 September, Caucasus Press reported. That ceremony had been scheduled for 6 August but was postponed due to failure by the members of the consortium, which include Chevron and other foreign oil companies and the governments of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Oman, to reach agreement on the terms for its use (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July and 1 August 2001). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S DEFENSE MINISTER ASSESSES DAMAGE FROM ARMS DEPOT BLAZE

Lieutenant General Sat Toqpaqbaev told journalists in Almaty on 10 August that the fire that devastated an arms depot in Qaraghandy Oblast has not affected the country's defensive capability, Interfax reported. Thousands of artillery shells and other ammunition were destroyed in the blaze, which began on 8 August. No casualties were reported, but 600 personnel at the depot were evacuated together with the population of neighboring villages. LF

KYRGYZ PREMIER SAYS ANTICORRUPTION MEASURES INEFFECTIVE

Addressing a cabinet session in Bishkek on 11 August, Kurmanbek Bakiev described efforts by law-enforcement bodies to counter corruption, smuggling and economic crime "as a total disaster," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Bakiev attributed that failure to the fact that most criminal groups have protectors within the law-enforcement bodies, and estimated financial losses from smuggling at approximately 1.5 billion soms ($31 million) annually. He claimed that the Interior and Justice Ministries arrest and imprison persons "who have stolen one chicken," while failing to apprehend "well-known criminals who robbed the country of $25 million," Interfax reported. LF

TAJIK WARLORD KILLED

Tajik army and Interior Ministry forces finally ran to earth and killed field commander Rakhmon Sanginov on the eastern outskirts of Dushanbe early on 10 August. They had been searching for him since June, and had repeatedly claimed that his men had been "neutralized" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 16, and 23 July 2001). Tajik officials say no more than 10-12 of his supporters remain at large. LF

IRANIAN OFFICIAL VISITS TURKMENISTAN

Following his talks on the Caspian Sea in Moscow on 8-9 August, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani flew to Ashgabat where he met on 10 August with Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov, Deputy Premier Yelly Gurbanmuradov, and President Saparmurat Niyazov, IRNA, Reuters and Russian agencies reported. Ahani said that the positions of Iran and Turkmenistan regarding the Caspian "are close," and that both countries oppose any unilateral measures to exploit and develop the sea's hydrocarbon resources before all five littoral states reach agreement on the sea's status, Reuters reported. Ahani also said that Iranian President Mohammad Khatami will visit Turkmenistan later this year, but failed to specify a date, or whether Khatami will attend the summit of littoral states that Niyazov has proposed convening in Ashgabat in October. The two sides also discussed plans to export Turkmen gas to Armenia via Iran. LF




U.S. CRITICIZES MINSK FOR NOT INVITING OSCE ELECTION OBSERVERS

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on 10 August warned Minsk that relations with Washington cannot improve unless the Belarusian authorities take steps to ensure that the 9 September presidential elections are free and fair, Reuters reported. Boucher criticized Minsk for not inviting OSCE monitors for the ballot. "The United States decries the delay in issuing the invitation for OSCE election observers. The delay...is obstructing an effective international observation of the election," Boucher said. He added that observers should have been invited to Belarus on 1 August to begin their work. JM

BELARUSIAN LAW ENFORCERS CLAMP DOWN ON NGOS IN HRODNA, HOMEL

Police officers on 10 August conducted a search without a warrant of the office of the Hrodna-based organization Ratusha headed by presidential hopeful Syamyon Domash, seizing all computers and other office equipment, Belapan reported. The same day, KGB officers searched an apartment in Homel that houses a youth organization named Hart and seized all of the organization's documents and computers. Two days earlier, police officers searched the office of the Homel-based organization Grazhdanskaya Initsiativa headed by Domash's presidential campaign manager in the Homel region. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT MEETS TATARSTAN'S SHAIMIEV

During his vacation in Crimea, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has met with Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev and discussed cooperation between Ukrainian regions and Tatarstan, Interfax reported on 12 August, quoting the Ukrainian president's press service. Kuchma and Shaimiev are reportedly interested in ensuring the steady operation of the joint company Ukrtatnafta. Ukrtatnafta was created in 1994 to incorporate the oil refinery in Kremenchuk, Poltava Oblast. The Ukrtatnafta management has repeatedly complained that the Tatar cofounders of the company fail to meet their obligations, in particular those regarding supplies of Tatar oil to the refinery. JM

UKRAINE'S REPUBLICAN PARTY WANTS COMMUNIST PARTY BANNED

The Ukrainian Republican Party (URP) has asked the Justice Ministry to ban the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU), Interfax reported on 12 August. URP leader Levko Lukyanenko told journalists that the KPU should be banned under Ukraine's law on political parties, which prohibits political activities oriented toward the liquidation of Ukraine's independence, propaganda of violence, and encroachment on human rights and freedoms. According to Lukyanenko, the KPU program's provision calling for the restoration of a "union of fraternal peoples" is tantamount to a postulate to liquidate Ukraine's independence, while the KPU's Marxist-Leninist ideology implies such political measures as a violent overturn of the government and encroachment on human rights and freedoms. JM

ESTONIAN ARMY CHIEF SACKS SIX PEACEKEEPERS OVER PALDISKI INCIDENT

Defense forces commander Rear Admiral Tarmo Kouts on 10 August discharged six soldiers who were involved in a conflict with local residents in Paldiski, BNS reported. Twelve other soldiers were reprimanded and nine were demoted. On the night of 23-24 July some 30 off-duty soldiers training at the Peace Operations Center, angered that local youths had robbed their colleagues in Paldiski, stopped and beat up several residents who were not able to speak Estonian well enough. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a strongly worded statement on 31 July calling the actions of the soldiers racist and indicative of Estonia's nationalistic policy toward non-Estonians. Recognizing the need to improve relations with the local population, the Peace Operations Center will launch a long-term cooperation program in Paldiski including participation in the city's social and education programs. SG

LATVIAN LAW ON BROADCASTING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGES PROTESTED

Bizness & Baltija media group owner Vladimir Gurov has submitted an appeal to the Constitutional Court against the Radio and Television Law provision that limits the use of languages other than Latvian to 25 percent of total daily broadcasting time, BNS reported on 10 August. He claims that the law contradicts the constitution's articles on human rights, freedom of speech, and ethnic minorities' right to preserve and develop their language and culture, as well as the European Convention of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms and the Covenant on Civic and Political Rights. Ojars Rubenis, the chairman of the National Radio and Television Council, asserted that Latvia's audio/visual laws were approved by the European Union and that the European Commission did not object to the restrictions on the use of foreign languages. Constitutional Court acting Chairman Romans Apsitis said that the court panel will review Gurov's claim in the next few weeks and will decide whether a case should be opened. SG

LITHUANIA HAS LOWEST HIV RATE IN REGION

According to the Lithuanian AIDS Center, there are 316 HIV-positive persons -- 266 men and 50 women -- registered in the country, BNS reported on 11 August. Most of the HIV-positive persons reside in Klaipeda (142) and Vilnius (104). They contracted the disease by sharing needles when using intravenous drugs (197) and during unsafe sex (102). Lithuania's HIV rate of 6.8 per 100,000 people is significantly lower than the rates recorded last year of 33.08 per 100,000 in Latvia, 26.1 in Estonia, 350.1 in the Kaliningrad region, 16.95 in Poland, 26.79 in Belarus, 19.89 in Russia, and 45.72 in Ukraine. SG

POLISH PARLIAMENT APPROVES TWO FLOOD-RELATED BILLS

The Sejm on 10 August and the Senate on 11 August unanimously approved two government-proposed bills on the reduction of damages caused by the recent floods, PAP reported. The first bill allows for the deduction of losses caused by the floods from income taxes and provides for state-sponsored supplies of medicines for flood victims. The bill also stipulates that farmers who lost crops will be provided with grain from the state reserve. Under the second bill, victims will not have to apply for construction permits to repair buildings damaged by the floods. JM

CZECH REPUBLIC RESUMES TEMELIN TESTING

Tests at the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant were resumed on 12 August, international agencies reported. Officials said the reactor will operate at 55 percent of its capacity in the next month, following some 184 planned new tests. The plant was shut down on 3 May due to leaking conduits and strong vibrations in its turbine. Upper Austrian Governor Josef Puehringer called the restart a "provocation" and Peter Westenhaler, the secretary general of the right-wing Freedom Party, said the move showed that his party's call for an anti-Temelin referendum was justified. A spokeswoman for the Social Democratic Party called the decision to restart the reactor an "affront and irresponsible." MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT OBJECTS TO FULL DECLASSIFICATION OF STB FILES

Interior Minister Stanislav Gross on 10 August said the government fears the bill recently approved by the Senate on the full declassification of the files of the communist secret police is a "superficial law" that could "harm the country's security," CTK reported. Gross explained that he has in mind "intelligence, not counterintelligence activities" of the former StB and that his own Social Democratic Party wants a law based on the German "Gauck Commission" model, in which only those with "proper personal reasons" would be allowed access to the files. Under the current law, which was approved in 1996, only the Office for Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of Communism has full access to the files and those on whom StB files were kept have access to their personal files. The bill passed by the Senate on 9 August extends access to all those aged over 18, regardless of whether files were kept on them or not. MS

SUIT LAUNCHED AGAINST CZECH COMMUNIST ADVOCATE...

The Prosecutor-General's Office in Sumperk, northern Moravia, on 10 August ordered an investigation launched against David Pecha on the grounds that he supports a movement aimed at repressing the rights and freedoms of other citizens, CTK reported. In an interview with the magazine "Pochoden" (Torch), Pecha praised communism and called for a return to that system by force. If found guilty, he faces a sentence of up to eight years in prison. MS

...AS RIGHTIST EXTREMISTS PROTEST AGAINST 'DISCRIMINATION...'

Some 40 right-wing extremists on 12 August protested in Prague against police intervention during a concert organized by skinheads on 3 August and attempted to hand a letter of protest to the Interior Ministry, CTK reported. There was no ministry official to take the letter, which was read out to journalists. The demonstration was organized by the far-right National Social Bloc. In the letter, the demonstrators accused Interior Minister Gross of implementing the policies of "pseudo-humanist groups." Police detained one of the participants, who wore a shirt with Nazi symbols, and a police spokeswoman said he will be prosecuted for supporting a movement aimed at repressing the rights and freedoms of citizens, an offense for which he has been prosecuted several times in the past. The letter accused Gross of hindering free speech and said skinheads are being fired from jobs because of their opinions. The demonstrators also said they intend to launch "various forms of civic disobedience." MS

...AND ATTACK GAY CLUB IN LIBEREC

A gay club in Liberec, northern Bohemia, was attacked by skinheads on 11 August, CTK reported. Two assailants were detained and charged with disturbing the peace. Jan Jarab, the government commissioner for human rights, on 11 August said his predecessor in that office, Petr Uhl, had proposed to the cabinet a program for the re-education of young extremists as far back as December 1999, but the program has not been implemented. MS

CZECH DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS FOREIGN CENTER AIDS ROMANY EXODUS

Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky on 12 August said on Prima TV that an investigation has been launched into allegations that the Munich-based European Center of Romanies is behind the recent exodus to the U.K. by Czech Roma, CTK reported. Rychetsky said Czech and British secret services are conducting an investigation. Romany Regional Representative Board spokesman Ondrej Gina told Prima that he has "no information about any organization, either abroad or in our country, that would organize the exodus of Roma." On 10 August, Rychetsky met with Romany representatives to discuss ways of improving their situation. MS

SLOVAKIA'S RULING COALITION FACES COLLAPSE

Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) Chairman Bela Bugar on 10 August said his party's Steering Committee has voted unanimously to leave the ruling coalition and that its National Council will meet on 25 August to make its final decision, Slovak and Hungarian media reported. Bugar added that he is confident that if the SMK leaves the coalition, the cabinet headed by Mikulas Dzurinda will not seek support from the nationalist parties represented in the parliament, as this would tarnish Slovakia's image and slow down its Euro-Atlantic integration plans. The SMK leadership wants to leave the coalition in protest against the Local Public Administration Law adopted by the parliament last month, which failed to set up a region with an ethnic Hungarian majority in southern Slovakia. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT SAFE AFTER AMAZON SHIP RESCUE

President Rudolf Schuster and his family escaped unhurt after being rescued from a burning boat near the Amazon jungle port of Manaus on 11 August, TASR reported. Schuster and his family are vacationing in Brazil, retracing the steps of the president's father, who traveled through the rain forest from 1927 and 1928 while making a film. Schuster's son told TASR that the boat's engine caught fire a few minutes before it was due to dock at Manaus. Earlier in the trip Schuster was hospitalized for food poisoning. MS

SLOVAKIA LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION INTO ALLEGED SIEMENS BRIBERY ATTEMPT

The Prosecutor-General's Office on 10 August launched an investigation into the alleged attempt by an employee of Siemens Business Systems to bribe the chairman of the tender to supply the Slovak state treasury with an information system, AP reported. According to media allegations, the employee offered the tender's chairman a bribe of 1.5 million crowns ($31,250). The contract is worth about 1 billion crowns and the other main competitor in the tender is Hewlett-Packard. A Siemens spokesman told AP that the company would not comment on media allegations and that he "does not even have the authority to deny them." But in a statement issued later the same day, Siemens said any corruption would be "in conflict with the company's rules and values." MS

SLOVAK HOMOSEXUALS PROTEST DISCRIMINATION

Several dozens Slovak gays and lesbians on 10 August marched in Bratislava in protest against discrimination, CTK reported. Ivan Pozgai of the Inakost (Diversity) organization said the protest is aimed against the lack of "a political will to respect the contemporary democratic values of equality of the minorities [and against] the arrogance of those who abuse political tools to manipulate public opinion." While debating a new law on civil service in early July, the parliament refused to ban discrimination of homosexuals in the workplace. MS

HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIAL DENIES CORRUPTION IN MIG AFFAIR

Defense Ministry State Secretary Janos Homoki on 10 August protested that last week an article published on the Internet site "Stop!" linked his name to alleged corruption involving a German-Russian bid to modernize Hungary's MiG-29 military aircraft. Returning from his holidays, Homoki said there is no doubt that Smallholders loyal to party Chairman Jozsef Torgyan are behind the smear campaign. Homoki said he has never taken bribes from anyone, and pointed out that neither he nor Defense Minister Janos Szabo were in any decision-making capacity regarding the possible modernization of MiG fighters. Meanwhile, the Prosecutor-General's Office announced that a private individual has filed an official complaint alleging corruption, and the office will decide within three days whether to begin an investigation, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL ATTENDS UNVEILING OF TRIANON MONUMENT

Istvan Simicsko, the political state secretary overseeing security services at the prime minister's office, on 12 August attended the unveiling of a monument in Nagykanizsa commemorating the Trianon Peace Treaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2001). In his speech, Simicsko said that "remembering Trianon is not about nostalgia or past illusions of revisionism, but about looking to a brighter and better future for all Hungarians," Hungarian media reported. MSZ




NATO'S SECRETARY-GENERAL OPTIMISTIC ON MACEDONIAN POLITICAL SETTLEMENT

After arriving at Skopje airport on 13 August for the expected signing of a broad political agreement, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said: "This is a very proud day for this country and for the parties in the grand coalition government, because they have established an agreement, which is historic, and I believe will mark the entry of Macedonia into modern, mainstream Europe," RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2001). He added that "so much has to be done to make the cease-fire durable, to get the disarmament, to bring the NATO troops here, and that is what we will be discussing today. But nobody should underestimate the success that is involved in this political agreement. It is a huge step forward for Macedonia and a major step by this country in joining the European family of nations." PM

TEMPESTUOUS WEEKEND IN MACEDONIA

Fighting raged in several parts of Macedonia over the 11-12 August weekend, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Focal points included the Radusa and Ljuboten-Ljubanci areas near Skopje, as well as the Tetovo area. Observers suggested that both sides were trying to take or consolidate territory in the run-up to the expected signing of the political agreement on 13 August. Government forces also sought revenge for the recent deaths of eight soldiers near Ljuboten. Ethnic Albanian political leader Arben Xhaferi said that the military "indiscriminately bombed" civilians in a "wild campaign," AP reported. Under heavy pressure from Western diplomats, the government announced a cease-fire late on 12 August. PM

MACEDONIAN AUTHORITIES BLAME NATO FOR THEIR PROBLEMS

On 11 August, Macedonian government spokesman Antonio Milosovski told the BBC in Skopje that NATO has allowed some 500 armed members of Kosova's Civilian Protection Corps (TMK) to enter Macedonia and launch the latest round of fighting. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski wrote UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, saying that it is a "crying shame" that NATO and the UN "allow armed aggression" from Kosova against Macedonia, AP reported. NATO spokesman Howard Rhodes called the charges "unfounded." KFOR said in a statement at Camp Bondsteel on 13 August that its troops arrested 17 men trying to enter Macedonia illegally the previous day. PM

WHAT FUTURE FOR MACEDONIAN POLITICAL SETTLEMENT?

Stojan Andov, the Liberal speaker of the parliament, said in Skopje that he will not back the agreement, the "International Herald Tribune" reported on 13 August. Milosovski told dpa on 12 August that he doubts that the agreement will pass the legislature. Most guerrilla commanders interviewed by Western news agencies over the weekend said they will abide by the agreement provided government forces do likewise, but considerable doubt remains. Observers add that the attitude of the two main Albanian and two main Macedonian political parties is also in question, because elections are due in early 2002 at the latest. Few politicians, even among the signatories to the agreement, are likely to want to be associated in voters' minds with a document regarded as unfair or unworkable. PM

ETHNIC ALBANIAN LEADER: RUSSIA MUST STOP ARMING SKOPJE

Interfax reported from Moscow on 10 August that Imer Imeri, who heads the Party of Democratic Prosperity, told "Vremya novostei" that disarmament of the UCK "will not become a reality before an agreement on this is backed by international guarantees and Macedonia does not receive any more military supplies from Ukraine, Russia, and the entire Slavic world," Imeri said. He stressed that "we are for a unitary state with [one] sovereignty and [one set of] borders. What we want is a better legal and political status for the Albanians in the framework of a unitary Macedonian state." PM

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: UCK TORTURED MACEDONIANS

The Washington-based NGO Human Rights Watch said in a statement on 11 August that ethnic Albanian guerrillas tortured five road workers whom they recently captured, the "International Herald Tribune" reported. The statement added that the incident represents "an increasing pattern of illegal detentions and kidnappings" by the UCK. PM

RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES IN MACEDONIA EXPRESS CONCERN OVER SITUATION

In a joint declaration, the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Islamic Community, the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, and the Jewish Community expressed their concern over the current situation in Macedonia, the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 11 August. The communities deplore the deaths of young people regardless of their religious affiliation, and express their sympathy with the relatives of the victims. The statement also says that the communities are alarmed at the constant threat to and destruction of religious buildings such as churches, monasteries, and mosques. This is the first joint declaration of the religious communities regarding the current conflict. Earlier this year, the Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Islamic Religious Community accused each other of warmongering and fomenting religious hatred (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2001, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 August 2001). UB

U.S. WARNS OF XENOPHOBIA, ANTI-AMERICANISM IN MACEDONIA

On 10 August, "hundreds" of ethnic Macedonians demonstrated outside the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, throwing rocks at the building, the "International Herald Tribune" reported. The State Department said in a statement the next day that xenophobia and anti-American sentiment are on the rise in Macedonia. The statement called on U.S. citizens in Macedonian to leave the country. PM

U.S. SLAMS BALKAN DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN

Speaking in Skopje on 12 August, U.S. envoy James Pardew said: "The political settlement is the best hope for peace in Macedonia, and we are here to show the support of the United States for the political settlement and for peace in this country." On 10 August the U.S. Office Prishtina said in a statement: "We are very concerned that the media in Macedonia, Kosovo, and elsewhere in Europe are conveying false reports on U.S. support for the so-called National Liberation Army in Macedonia. Spreading misinformation makes it harder to restore a climate in which Macedonia's parties can implement the agreement initialed on 8 August. In particular, we are concerned about patently false information reported in the 'Sunday Times' and 'Der Spiegel' that has been repeated in local media without verification or substantiation. Irresponsible and inflammatory reports undermine the genuine efforts of the international community to support a peaceful solution... There can be no military solution. All parties need to respect the agreement reached at Ohrid" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 July 2001). PM

MYSTERIOUS 'ALBANIAN ARMY' PART OF DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN?

The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 13 August discusses what is known about the "Albanian National Army" (AKSH), which has featured in some media reports from Serbia and Macedonia in recent weeks. It is allegedly fighting for a greater Albania, which is what Belgrade has long claimed is the goal of its ethnic Albanian opponents. No mainstream ethnic Albanian party in the Balkans endorses such a platform, however. The Frankfurt daily concludes that the reports about the existence of the AKSH are not conclusive, and that the organization might be a militant splinter group, if it exists at all. The article notes that the political and security situation in the Balkans -- including Macedonia -- will remain unstable until the political status of Kosova is settled. All of the parties of the ethnic Albanian majority there favor independence (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 December 2000, and 23 February 2001). PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER: 'FIRST CLASS SCANDAL' OVER MURDER OF SECURITY OFFICER

Zoran Djindjic said that the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) is in its deepest crisis yet following the murder on 3 August of Momir Gavrilovic, a state security officer, "Danas" reported on 13 August. It has recently come to light that, hours before his death, Gavrilovic met with members of President Vojislav Kostunica's staff and showed them evidence linking unnamed top state officials to the underworld. The Podgorica daily "Vijesti" reported on a commentary of RFE/RL's South Slavic Service, suggesting that Gavrilovic was aware that Kostunica's allies in the Montenegrin Socialist People's Party and the army high command could be linked to criminal elements close to the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic. PM

BOSNIAN DEFENSE MINISTER REBUKES SUBORDINATES

Federal Defense Minister Mijo Anic has repudiated the statements of some of his Muslim subordinates, who criticized the recent arrest of two former Muslim generals and one ex-colonel and their deportation to The Hague, "Avaz" reported on 13 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2001). Anic, an ethnic Croat, said that the men did not consult with him or his staff before making a public statement in defense of the three indicted war criminals. PM

ONE MORE BOSNIAN MUSLIM KINGPIN TO THE HAGUE?

Federal police arrested Muslim warlord Ramiz Delalic, otherwise known as Celo, at Jablanicko Jezero on criminal charges of striking a policeman, for which he has already been sentenced, "Avaz" reported on 13 August. The Sarajevo daily added that Celo could also wind up in The Hague in the near future. He was one of several military figures during the 1992-1995 war who became as famous for their links to the underworld as for their battlefield exploits. PM

ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS POSTPONE DECISION ON PRIME MINISTER

The governing Socialists will select their candidate for prime minister on 20 August instead of 13 August as originally planned, Reuters reported from Tirana on 12 August (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 July 2001). The move comes after party leader Fatos Nano was slightly injured in a car accident in southern Albanian over the weekend. He is recuperating well after minor surgery in Athens. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WON'T COMMENT ON PARDON REQUEST BY MINERS' LEADER...

President Ion Iliescu on 12 August said he has received a request for a presidential pardon from miners' leader Miron Cozma and has passed it on to the Superior Council of Magistrates, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu said that he "has an opinion" on the request but will not make it public. He added that his presidential prerogatives stipulate that he can "approve or reject" the proposals of the council. In reaction, Greater Romania Party First Deputy Chairman Corneliu Ciontu, whose formation has also requested that Cozma be pardoned, said on 13 August that Iliescu may consult with the council or with the justice minister, but "the ultimate decision is his." MS

...OR ON FORMER KING'S RESTITUTION DEMAND

Iliescu also refused to comment on the request submitted by former king Michael's lawyers that the Peles castle in Sinaia and other properties be restituted to the former monarch, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. But Public Administration Minister Octav Cozmanca told Romanian Radio on 13 August that Michael is "ill-advised" by his lawyers and the demands "are exaggerated." Cozmanca said the Peles castle was not part of the monarch's private property but "belonged to the royal estates," which were "never private property" and "became state property" once the monarchy was abolished in 1947. MS

NEW MOLDOVAN BASIC TREATY WITH RUSSIA FINALIZED

Russian and Moldovan experts recently finalized in Moscow the text of the new basic treaty between the two countries, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 10 August. Among other things, the treaty condemns "separatism" and the sides pledge to refrain from aiding "separatists" or any infringement on each other's "sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity." Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin agreed at the recent CIS summit in Sochi that the treaty will be signed in September or October and will be ratified by the two parliaments by the end of 2001. Deputy separatist leader Alexandr Karaman criticized the document, calling it "a concession by Moscow to Chisinau." The treaty also stipulates that the Russian language plays an "important role" in Moldova. Chisinau pledges to "ensure the necessary conditions for Russian-language instruction" in schools, while Moscow pledges to "create the necessary conditions for Moldovan-language instruction in the Russian Federation." MS

MOLDOVA CONTINUES LIQUIDATION OF CHECKPOINTS IN BUFFER ZONE

Moldova on 10 August unilaterally withdrew its custom officials from checkpoints at two bridges crossing the Dniester River in the demilitarized zone between the conflicting sides, dpa reported, citing Infotag. The move follows Voronin's decision last month to reduce the number of such checkpoints from 15 to five and is the second such implementation of the presidential decision. Transdniester official Oleg Gudimo was quoted by dpa as saying that the move could "increase tensions in the region" and will require Tiraspol -- which regards the checkpoints as representing its "border-crossing points" -- to set up more checkpoints of its own to replace those removed by Chisinau. MS

MOLDOVAN COURT HALTS PROSECUTION OF OPPOSITION LEADER

A court of justice in Chisinau on 10 August stopped the prosecution of Popular Party Christian Democratic leader Iurie Rosca on grounds that the plaintiff failed to file her complaint within the time limits specified by the law, Infotag reported. Rosca was charged with hitting a woman in the print shop that publishes his party's newspaper and the parliament last month lifted his parliamentary immunity to allow the prosecution. Rosca said in reaction that the entire affair had been staged by the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists in order to discredit him, and added that he will appeal the court's decision, which says the offense had been committed. MS

BULGARIA NAMES NEW CHIEF EU NEGOTIATOR

Meglena Kuneva, a deputy representing the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) in the parliament, on 10 August was appointed the new Bulgarian chief negotiator with the EU, AFP reported. She replaces Vladimir Kisiov, who resigned from that position last month in protest against the "ambiguous" economic platform of the NDSV. Kuneva was also appointed a deputy foreign minister. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR 'INTERNATIONAL MOBILIZATION' ON MACEDONIA...

President Petar Stoyanov on 10 August said it is "time to mobilize all international resources, especially those from countries bordering Macedonia and those of international organizations, to avoid escalation of the tension" in that country, AFP reported. Stoyanov spoke on national television after meeting U.S. envoy Pardew. Earlier on 10 August Stoyanov said in Varna that "Bulgaria's national interests are fully identical with the interests of the Macedonian citizens and with the expectations of the international community," BTA reported. Stoyanov on 12 August discussed the Macedonian situation with Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov, Chief of Staff Miho Mihov, and National Intelligence Service Chief Dimo Giaurov. MS

...AND MACEDONIAN AMBASSADOR TO SOFIA EXPECTS 'FULL-SCALE CONTRIBUTION TO CONFLICT SETTLEMENT'

Macedonian Ambassador to Sofia Ljubisa Georgievski on 10 August told Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi that his country "expects from Bulgaria a full-scale contribution to the settlement of the crisis in Macedonia," and expressed his conviction that the Bulgarian authorities will remain committed to their position that any breach of peace in Macedonia "is tantamount to a breach of peace in Bulgaria proper," BTA reported. Georgievski said Macedonia does not seek military assistance from Bulgaria, because a "military solution is ruled out in the present context" of the conflict. Pasi said the "only possible settlement is a peaceful one, guaranteed by NATO forces, once agreement is reached." MS




WASHINGTON ASSESSES THE SITUATION IN CENTRAL ASIA


By Ariel Cohen

Like other Western countries, the United States is becoming increasingly concerned about the oppression of political opposition in Central Asia. Last month, the U.S. Congress held a series of hearings on this development, an indication of just how worrisome this issue is to Washington.

Both the experts who testified and the members of Congress who participated noted that the Central Asian regimes suffer from a lack of legitimacy. Some of them tend to rely upon their traditional links with Moscow as a form of "life insurance" against what they define as the Islamic threat. Throughout the region, economic reforms are sputtering, and living standards are abysmally low. These conditions provide fertile ground for Islamic radical groups, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).

The hearings highlighted the fact that many Russians believe that they must either fight the Islamists in the deserts of Central Asia or face them in Northern Kazakhstan and the Volga-Ural basin. At the same time, the flood of drugs and weapons across the Tajik-Afghan border poses a corrupting challenge to the Russian expeditionary force in Tajikistan.

Since the collapse of the USSR, the sessions showed, four of the five Central Asian states have been ruled by members of the Soviet-era nomenklatura, who have sought to recast themselves as nationalists. They have failed systematically to implement democracy and market reforms and are now mired in corruption, lack of transparency, and criminality.

Central Asia's resource-rich countries, such as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, with their huge oil and natural gas deposits, have glaring inequities in the distribution of wealth. In both countries, only the president, his family, and a few political allies and cronies benefit from the energy riches, while the majority of the population suffers from low incomes, social underdevelopment, disease, and environmental pollution.

As a result of the drought that has affected Central Asia over the past two summers, much of the rural population in Tajikistan is threatened with starvation. The population of both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan is turning to drug trafficking and other illicit activities; while the high level of unemployment among young males is likely to contribute to the growth of militant Islamic movements, as numerous precedents, from Algeria to North Caucasus have already demonstrated.

The hearings concluded that the insecurity of the region's authoritarian regimes is a major reason for the sometimes brutal silencing of political opposition. However, harassing or closing down independent media outlets, banning secular political parties and movements such as Erk and Birlik in Uzbekistan, or jailing opposition party leaders on fabricated charges --as in the case of former Kyrgyz Vice President and Ar-Namys Party Chairman Felix Kulov, and of Erkindik party Chairman Topchubek TurgunAliyev -- is in the minds of the participants of these hearings a sure way to incur criticism abroad and fan the flames of dissent at home.

The existence of political Islam in Central Asia is undeniable, according to the speakers at these hearings. But they noted that it is important for all concerned to carefully distinguish between militant Islamic radicals; moderate Islamic activists, clerics, and politicians; and secular, Westernized human rights activists. By persecuting the two latter categories, the ruling regimes tend to isolate themselves and increase the possibilities of social upheavals that could result in their overthrow in the future. Ariel Cohen is a research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Heritage Foundation in Washington and the author of "Russian Imperialism: Development and Crisis," 1998.


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