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Newsline - August 14, 2001




CENTRAL GOVERNMENT RETAKES CONTROL OVER BROADCASTING'S TECHNICAL BASE...

As expected (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2001), Russian President Vladimir Putin signed on 13 August a decree reestablishing federal government control over all of the Russia's broadcasting and relay stations for television and radio signals by consolidating them under the management of a single government corporation, ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti reported. According to the text of the decree as published on the website strana.ru, the newly created corporation, Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Network (RTRS), will assume control over the federal signal distribution center in Moscow as well its regional subdivisions located in subjects of the Russian Federation. The decree also empowers the government to cancel any agreements or deals that would result in the "illegal estrangement of technical means and objects from federal ownership." VY

...AS LESIN SAYS FATE OF NTV TO BE DECIDED IN SEPTEMBER...

The main lobbyist for the decree, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, explained his support for it on 13 August by saying that at present "nobody but the state can [adequately] finance the electronic mass media," ITAR-TASS reported. Lesin added that the question of issuing shares in the new company will only arise one or two years after the broadcasting market has stabilized. According to Lesin, the RTRS will pay for transmitting the signals of ORT and RTR and state-run radios "Mayak" and "Rossiya." Whether the NTV channel will be included in this number will become clear at the beginning of September, when "there will be one more document issued concerning the electronic media." VY/JAC

...AND EBRD IS ALLEGEDLY DISPLEASED WITH NEW MONOPOLY

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 11 August speculated that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has reduced the initial sum of its loan planned for restoration of the Ostankino television tower from $40 million to $17 million so that it can pressure "the Russian government with its demands to separate the main center for radio and TV broadcasting from the All-Russian State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK). The paper claimed without reference to sourcing that the bank wants to "eliminate the state monopoly on TV and radio broadcasting." According to the daily, Igor Yakovenko, the general secretary of the Union of Journalists, believes that the EBRD should provide funding for the creation of a competitive technical foundation for Russian TV and broadcasting. JAC

ANALYST ARGUES BEREZOVSKY TRYING TO PUT PRESSURE ON GOVERNMENT THROUGH MEDIA OUTLETS

In an article in "Vek" No. 31, political analyst Aleksei Bogaturov comments on the recent changes that have taken place in media outlets owned or controlled by Boris Berezovsky. Bogaturov argues that the old technique of putting pressure on the government through kompromat placed in the media is less effective than it once was. Nevertheless, Berezovsky, according to Bogaturov, is trying to restore this old mode of "political lobbying" through the establishment of "a seamless media network that incorporates TV-6 news broadcasts and the front pages of 'Nezavisimaya gazeta' and 'Kommersant-Daily.'" According to Bogaturov, while these publications once emphasized their closeness to the government, the new media empire, which includes TV-6, stresses its opposition to the government. Bogaturov concludes that Berezovsky is aiming to construct nothing less than "the informational-intellectual nucleus for the consolidation of all dissent in Russia." And Bogaturov asks: "What counterplan will the Kremlin set in place?" JAC

RUMSFELD, IVANOV, PUTIN BEGIN LONG, SLOW PROCESS

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrapped up talks in Moscow with President Putin and his Russian counterpart Sergei Ivanov by telling journalists that Russia and the U.S. should work to achieve greater trust in the military sphere, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Rumsfeld drew attention to the "vigorous start of the talks" on strategic stability, but noted that the process does not promise to be quick. On the positive side, Rumsfeld remarked that over the past 25 years, Washington has worked out with Moscow a sophisticated system of agreements that the U.S. does not have with any other country. In his comments on the talks, Putin declared that he is still waiting for more specific U.S. proposals on "what armaments will be cut, how big the cuts will be, how long they will take." Ivanov said that Russia expressed its "firm and unequivocal support" for preserving the ABM Treaty. However, he added that "of course, we understand that we are living in a post-Cold War world and are prepared to agree with our American colleagues that the current system of agreements on strategic stability needs to be adjusted." VY

PUTIN CALLS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES TO BE INVOLVED IN PRIVATIZATION...

President Putin met with State Property Minister Farit Gazizullin on 13 August to discuss the state's privatization program planned for 2002, Russian agencies reported. According to Interfax, Putin called for creating opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses, even those with small starting capital, to participate in the program. Putin and Gazizullin also discussed the law on privatization that was passed in its first reading by the State Duma. JAC

...AS MOSCOW OFFICIAL CALLS FOR CREATION OF MINISTRY TO ASSIST SMALL BUSINESSES

On 10 August, Yevgenii Yegorov, the director of the department for the support of small businesses in the Moscow city government, suggested that a new federal ministry should be created to assist small entrepreneurs. According to Yegorov's department, more than 700,000 small businesses are registered in Moscow and no less than one-fourth of the small businesses nationwide are based in that city, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11 August. JAC

PUTIN SAYS THE PEOPLE SHOULD CHOOSE BETWEEN STALINGRAD OR VOLGOGRAD

President Putin has said that his attitude toward the proposal by Volgograd Oblast Governor Nikolai Maksyuta to restore the old name Stalingrad to the city of Volgograd is simple: he will accept the "opinion of the people," the website pravda.ru reported on 13 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2001). Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said he considers Maksyuta's proposal a "very good initiative and restoration of historical justice." However, the governor of neighboring Saratov Oblast, Dmitrii Ayatskov, said that it would be more sensible just to return to the city's original name of Tsaritsyn. Unity deputy Frants Klintsevich told "Vek" No. 31 that while renaming the city Stalingrad could be thought of a "great present" for many WWII veterans, he personally would rather give them the money that would be spent changing the city's name. VY/JAC

SECRET CITY'S EXISTENCE KEPT TOO SECRET

Residents of the formerly closed military city of Sergiev Posad-15 organized a protest meeting demanding that federal authorities set up an administrative affiliation linking their town with an oblast, the website lenta.ru reported on 13 August. The population of the city is composed mostly from the families of officers of a unit of the Strategic Missile Forces that was disbanded in 1998. The city lies within the territorial boundaries of Vladimir Oblast, but for reasons of secrecy, the Defense Ministry kept it affiliated with Moscow Oblast. After the Defense Ministry ceased its supervision of the city, it terminated the town's connection with Moscow Oblast. But the Interior Ministry did not list it as being in Vladimir Oblast either. As the result, the local residents cannot apply for even routine documents such as identification certificates, marriage certificates, and drivers licenses. VY

IS MVD AT ODDS WITH DEFENSE MINISTRY ON DRAFTEES?

The newly appointed chief of the Moscow's Interior Ministry directorate, Vladimir Pronin, has proposed that rather than being drafted into the army, young Muscovites should instead serve in the ranks of the city police, "Izvestiya" reported on 13 August. Pronin added that his proposal is dictated by the "catastrophic shortage" of young cadres for his agency. "Izvestiya" noted that Pronin's offer might not prove too appealing to young Muscovites, since after serving in the police on a contract basis, they would still be eligible to be drafted for compulsory military service. VY

DEADLY FLOWS THE DON

An "ecological catastrophe" has occurred in Rostov-na-Donu, NTV reported on 12 August. The small Mertvyi Donets River that flows into the larger Don River is clogged with dead fish, and workers from the State Water Inspectorate have concluded that the water has become dangerous for human organisms and declared swimming and consumption of water from the river forbidden. At least 12 different types of fish were killed. According to the inspectorate, city utilities are at fault for dumping waste directly into the river. Public utility officials blame worn out pipes, which periodically burst all over the city, particularly in such hot weather. JAC

SIX RUSSIAN COMPANIES MAKE LIST OF GLOBAL WEAPON PRODUCERS

According to the U.S. magazine, "Defense News" No. 32, a half-dozen Russian defense companies are represented on its list of the 100 leading global weapon producers. The Russian group is headed by Rosvooruzhenie, which ranks 13th with revenues of $3.09 billion; Sukhoi in 35th place with $900 million; Severnaya verf in 52nd place with $532 million; Antei in 62nd place with $350 million; MiG in 88th place with 100 million; and Tula Rifles Works in 90th place with $90 million. VY

CORRECTION:

"RFE/RL Newsline" of 13 August cited an incorrect ITAR-TASS report which stated that the draft 2002 federal budget would raise defense spending from 4.5 billion rubles this year to 16 billion rubles in 2002. In fact, 218.9 billion rubles ($7.5 billion) were earmarked for defense spending in the 2001 budget. The new draft budget raises the amount of money spent on military reforms, such as compensation for dismissed officers, from 4.5 billion rubles to 16 billion rubles.

MORE UNIVERSITY STUDENTS PAYING FEES

The number of students in Russia's higher educational system increased by 16.4 percent over the past year, while enrollment in technical colleges jumped by almost 10 percent, "Ekonomika i Zhizn" No. 31 reported. According to the publication, the number of students increased despite the fact that state spending on education and professional training in Russia is among the lowest in the CIS because fee-based education has become more widespread. During the 2000-2001 school year, about 29-33 percent of students in Russia's higher educational institutions were paying fees. According to "Izvestiya" on 13 August, some 50,000 below-college age children across Russia will attend private schools this school year. Meanwhile, a court in Novosibirsk Oblast sentenced a professor at the Novosibirsk Technical College to four years in prison for taking bribes from students wanting good grades, the website lenta.ru reported on 13 August. The website suggested that the professor was done in by her greediness; she simply asked for too much money. JAC

UNITY PITCHES IN ON RESTORATION OF LENSK...

The Central Executive Committee of the Unity party is sending six five-ton containers of school supplies for a local school in the city of Lensk, which was mostly destroyed during floods last May, Interfax reported on 13 August. Earlier, President Putin set a deadline of 25 September for all restoration work in Sakha (Yakutia) following severe flooding. JAC

...AS REBUILDING OF CITY HITS SOME SNAGS

However, some hitches have occurred during reconstruction. Vasilii Vlasov, the chairman of the republic's government, told journalists on 10 August that some 250 families in Lensk have received certificates to buy housing elsewhere but that the families have no plans to leave the city, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11 August. Vlasov also commented that the situation in the city of Lensk is "extremely tense." The city has not yet confirmed a register of which buildings should be torn down. And only a week ago the republic authorities determined the number of residents of the city, which they are putting at 27,000. However, city authorities insist that there are 37,000 residents. JAC

SOME SERVICES RESTORED IN PRIMORSKII KRAI FOLLOWING STORM...

The administration of Vladivostok announced on 13 August that electricity has been restored to almost all consumers, but normal water supplies will not be turned back on before 17 August, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Torrential rains on 7-8 August killed 11 people in Primorskii Krai and knocked out electricity and water to residents of Vladivostok and other cities. Traffic resumed on the Trans-Siberian railway on 10 August, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

...AS FELLOW CITIZENS EXTEND A HAND DURING CRISIS

Commentator Russell Working noted in "The Moscow Times" on 13 August that the recent storm brought "out a spirit of enterprise in Primore's rugged citizenry," making it "impossible to be pessimistic about the region's economic future." For example, in one village where about 500 cars were trapped, a local hotel jacked up its rates four times higher than normal, and several brave bus drivers trekked to where the drivers were trapped and offer a ride for 500 rubles -- about 10 times the normal rate. JAC

CHECHEN FIGHTERS CAPTURE STRATEGIC VILLAGE

Chechen fighters have taken control of the town of Benoi-Yurt, southeast of Grozny, which commands the main road leading south from the capital to Vedeno, thereby isolating the Russian force in Vedeno, AP and "The Moscow Times" reported on 13 and 14 August. Russian helicopters and artillery bombarded the village on 13 August in a bid to dislodge the Chechens. AP quoted Chechen field commander Abu-Valid as saying that fighting is underway in several other villages in southern Chechnya. LF




ARMENIA, RUSSIA STAGE JOINT MANEUVERS

Armenian army troops and Russian forces from the Russian military base in northern Armenia held three days of joint exercises from 7-10 August, Noyan Tapan reported. The maneuvers involved some 1,000 Armenian servicemen, over half of them officers. A second round of exercises was planned for 13-18 August. Armenian Chief of Army General Staff Lieutenant General Mikael Harutiunian expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the first round of maneuvers, which an Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman told AFP are intended "to see how smoothly our staff could cooperate in conducting defense operations." LF

AZERBAIJAN WARNS IT MAY SHOOT DOWN INTRUDING AIRCRAFT

General Ravil Rzaev, the commander of Azerbaijan's air force, told journalists in Baku on 13 August that the country's air defense forces will shoot down Iranian and other foreign aircraft that violate Azerbaijan's airspace "if the life of our citizens is endangered," Turan and Interfax reported. He said the air force is on war alert. Iranian aircraft have penetrated Azerbaijani airspace almost daily over the past week. Also on 13 August, opposition Musavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar argued that the Azerbaijani government should "either suppress Iran's aggression" or lodge a formal complaint with international organizations. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CONDEMNS SLUR ON TOP ISLAMIC CLERIC

President Heidar Aliyev on 13 August condemned as "a blow to the nation's morals" an article recently published in the independent newspaper "Etimad" that contains an unflattering allusion to Azerbaijan's senior Islamic clergyman, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allakhshukur Pashazade, Turan and Interfax reported. Aliyev called for sanctions to be imposed on the paper. According to RFE/RL's Baku bureau, the article in question, entitled "Isa Gambar and the Two Armenians," claimed that Armenian journalists were unable to elicit any response from Gambar to their questions, even when they asked "Is Pashazade an Armenian?" The Spiritual Board of Muslims of the Caucasus, which Pashazade heads, has brought a libel suit against the paper's editor, Etibar Mansaroglu, whom other newspaper editors have urged to apologize to Pashazade. Pashazade himself last week rejected a call by Muslims in Daghestan to kill Mansaroglu for having insulted him. He said such disputes should be solved "in a civilized way." LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION ALARMED BY RISE IN PEACETIME DEATHS OF CONSCRIPTS

An article published on 13 August in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" and circulated by Groong expresses concern at what the party perceives as a sharp rise in fatalities among army conscripts, especially during their first few days in the ranks. The article quotes Musavat first deputy Chairman Vurgun Ayyub as claiming that the government systematically hushes up any criticism of the armed forces. Also on 13 August, Turan reported the most recent such death, of a conscript who had just returned from leave for which he had been constrained to pay 300,000 manats ($64). The agency cited unconfirmed estimates that at least 10 conscripts inducted into the armed forces this spring have died. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS PROPOSED ANTICORRUPTION BILL...

Having affirmed repeatedly in recent years that "we must destroy corruption before corruption destroys Georgia," President Eduard Shevardnadze on 13 August gave a negative assessment to the draft bill unveiled last week by Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2001) that would require government officials to prove that they acquired assets legally. Describing the draft bill as encroaching on the presumption of innocence, Shevardnadze argued that if passed, it could trigger numerous court cases against senior officials by persons simply aiming to discredit them, according to Prime News, as circulated by Groong. He added that he sees no reason for a redistribution of private property, adding that the concept of "taking away from the rich and giving to the poor" is inapplicable, according to Interfax. LF

...AS OPPOSITION POLITICIAN ESTIMATES FINANCIAL DAMAGE

A total of $8 billion has been embezzled in Georgia over the past decade, of which some $6 billion has been transferred to foreign bank accounts, according to Liberal Economy Party Chairman Beso Djugheli, as quoted by the daily "Akhali taoba" on 14 August. Djugheli said Saakashvili's draft bill is "uncivilized," but that there is no other way to return illegally acquired capital to the state. "If the law enables us to regain at least half of that sum, we will consider it a great achievement," Djugheli said. LF

FORMER GEORGIAN ARMY COMMANDER SENTENCED TO SIX YEARS FOR JAILBREAK

A Tbilisi court on 13 August sentenced Colonel Loti Kobalia, who served as commander of the Georgian army under President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, to an additional six years in prison for his attempt last fall (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000) to escape from the Tbilisi jail where he is serving a 20-year sentence for treason, murder, and other serious crimes, Caucasus Press reported. LF

KAZAKH PREMIER SLAMS TOP BRASS OVER AMMUNITION DEPOT BLAZE

Qasymzhomart Toqaev told journalists in Kyzyl-Orda Oblast on 13 August that the thousands of artillery shells that exploded during a blaze at an ammunition storage area in Qaraghandy Oblast last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2001) should have been dismantled "long ago." He said the Qazakhmys copper giant had offered to purchase the copper casings of the shells, and blamed unnamed senior military commanders for failing to pursue that option. The shells had been stored at the Qaraghandy depot for over a decade, having been brought there from Armenia in 1989 and from Afghanistan following the Soviet military withdrawal from that country. LF

WORLD BANK TO SCALE DOWN LENDING TO KYRGYZSTAN?

Members of a World Bank delegation that visited Bishkek last week hinted that the bank may go back on a pledge to help finance the Complex Development Program for 2001-2010, Kyrgyz presidential administration official Kubat Kanimetov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 13 August. That program was drafted between 1999-2001 with input from the World Bank. Kanimetov said the Kyrgyz economy and national currency are now stable and the country no longer needs foreign economic aid. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT WANTS GREATER ROLE FOR SMALL BUSINESS

Meeting in Dushanbe on 11 August with Tajik businessmen (the first such meeting in the past 10 years), President Imomali Rakhmonov reminded them of their duty to pay taxes on time, and urged them to create new jobs in the industrial, agricultural, and service sectors in order to help reduce poverty and increase the general standard of living, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 13 August. But an article published on 3 August in the Tajik newspaper "Vremya i dengi" noted that Tajik businessmen are confused and concerned at the recent implementation of changes in the charging of VAT that they fear may hamper both imports and exports. Businessmen also complain of inadequate state support and protection, and of bureaucratic obstacles. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT LASHES OUT AT AZERBAIJANI COUNTERPART...

In a statement released on 13 August by the Turkmen Foreign Ministry, Saparmurat Niyazov reproached the Azerbaijani leadership for "irresponsible" actions he claimed are intended "to drive a wedge" between the Caspian littoral states, Turan reported. "Unilateral proposals that have not been agreed with partners and which are dictated by short-term priorities and sometimes by private ambitions...do not facilitate achieving a reasonable compromise," the statement said. LF

...TELEPHONES WITH PUTIN

Also on 13 August, Niyazov discussed with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Azerbaijan's strained relations with both Turkmenistan and Iran, and bilateral cooperation, especially in the export of Turkmen natural gas, Russian agencies reported. LF




BELARUSIAN DEMOCRATS TEAM UP AGAINST LUKASHENKA BEHIND HANCHARYK...

Presidential hopeful Uladzimir Hancharyk on 13 August signed an agreement with a number of democratic organizations and politicians as well as with another presidential hopeful, Syamyon Domash, on conducting a single campaign against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the 9 September presidential elections, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Under the agreement, Domash is to withdraw from the presidential race in favor of Hancharyk following their registration by the Central Election Commission. A number of politicians who unsuccessfully sought to register as presidential candidates will merge their campaign staffs with that of Hancharyk to support his presidential bid. Domash is to become the head of a political council on Hancharyk's staff and will be offered the post of prime minister if Hancharyk wins the election. Hancharyk pledged to restore democracy in Belarus, implement market reforms, and organize democratic parliamentary elections in the event of his victory. JM

...SEE THEIR CONCORD AS MOMENTOUS ACT

"Today we made one more step...toward building a new, democratic Belarus," Hancharyk commented after the signing ceremony. "The main thing is that we have a [single] candidate...whom we should lead to victory," Domash said. "For the first time -- at least in the post-Soviet area -- people with different ideological positions and [different] platforms were able to unite while abandoning their own [political] ambitions," United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka noted. "We did not want to push off any political force that could campaign against Lukashenka. There were quarrels, [different] approaches, and discussions, but I think we agreed on an ideal version [of the agreement]," former Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir said, in answer the question as to why the dispute preceding the signing of the agreement was so tense and prolonged. JM

BELARUS'S CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION REGISTERS FOUR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

The Central Election Commission on 14 August registered four candidates for the 9 September presidential ballot: incumbent President Lukashenka, Trade Union Federation leader Hancharyk, former Hrodna Oblast Governor Domash, and Liberal Democratic Party leader Syarhey Haydukevich, the Charter-97 website reported. "At last a choice has appeared for the Belarusian people," Hancharyk commented after the registration. "The presidential elections in the Republic of Belarus will not follow foreign cribs," Lukashenka said during the registration ceremony. JM

UKRAINE'S PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SAYS PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTY ORDERED TWO KILLINGS

Mykhaylo Potebenko told journalists in Kyiv on 13 August that his office has gathered sufficient evidence to prosecute a current parliamentary deputy for ordering the killings of parliamentary deputy Yevhen Scherban in 1996 and of former National Bank Governor Vadym Hetman in 1998, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported. Potebenko did not disclose the name of the suspected deputy, saying only that the Prosecutor-General's Office will present the details of the case to the parliament in a special message. Potebenko added that those who carried out the contract killings are already dead. JM

UKRAINE OFFERS BETTER GAS DEBT PAYOFF TERMS TO TURKMENISTAN

Ukraine on 13 August offered Turkmenistan improved terms for the repayment of a $280 million debt for Turkmen gas supplies, dpa reported. Last week Ashgabat rejected Kyiv's offer to reschedule Ukraine's debt to Turkmenistan on the same terms that the Paris Club agreed to in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2001). JM

LIBERAL INTERNATIONAL NOT TO ADMIT ESTONIA'S CENTER PARTY

Secretary-general of Liberal International Jan Weijers told a press conference in Tallinn on 13 August that his organization will not accept Estonia's Center Party as a member, BNS reported. Weijers noted that, although the party has applied for membership more than once, "There are problems with Center Party Chairman Edgar Savisaar, whose activity does not always conform to liberal principles." Estonia's Reform Party and Coalition Party are among the 88 political parties throughout the world belonging to Liberal International. Reform Party Secretary for Foreign Relations Kristiina Ojuland had told Weijers that the Center Party is not a liberal party and actually opposes a liberal world view. Savisaar, however, declared that his party observes the principles of Liberal International and that Estonia's recognized liberal parties have distorted the liberal world view by making it equivalent to "extreme predatory capitalism -- on the principle that the smaller the role of the state the better." SG

RIGA CITY COUNCIL REQUESTS THAT MOSCOW CITY OFFICIAL BE ADMITTED TO LATVIA

The Riga City Council asked the Interior and Foreign Ministries to grant a visa to Aleksandr Perelygin, an adviser to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov who was declared persona non grata by Latvia last November, BNS reported on 13 August. Perelygin is alleged to have masterminded an anti-Latvia campaign in 1998, and was refused visas to both Latvia and Estonia last year. Perelygin is among 17 Moscow City Council and Russia's Duma members of a delegation headed by Moscow deputy mayor Vladimir Shantsev that plans to attend the celebrations of Riga's 800th anniversary, which will take place from 17-20 August. Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars said that Luzhkov has appointed Perelygin to head the working group for cooperation between Moscow and Riga, which is expected to sign a cooperation agreement on 18 or 19 August. SG

HEAD OF LITHUANIA'S LAND FORCES APPOINTED

President Valdas Adamkus on 13 August appointed Colonel Valdas Tutkus, Lithuania's military envoy to NATO and the Western European Union since 1999, to head the country's ground forces, BNS reported. The post of commander of ground forces was created by a law on the organization of the country's national defense system adopted in 1998, but had remained unfilled. He is the deputy commander of the military and, in the event of hostilities, is in charge of military operations. Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius proposed two candidates for the post: Defense Headquarters head Colonel Antanas Jurgaitis and Tutkus. After a second meeting with the two candidates also attended by Linkevicius and armed forces commander Brigadier General Jonas Kronkaitis, Adamkus announced that he was appointing the 40-year old Tutkus, who speaks Russian, English, French, and Italian. He studied at the Tashkent School of Infantry Commanders, Moscow's M. Frunze Military Academy, and the NATO Defense College in Rome. Adamkus later the same day also announced the promotion of the 66-year old Kronkaitis to the rank of major general. SG

POLISH OPPOSITION WANTS DETAILS OF 2001 BUDGET COLLAPSE, 2002 BUDGET FORECASTS

Leszek Miller, the leader of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), has called on the government to present figures concerning the predicted execution of the budget for 2001 and forecasts for the budget in 2002 at the next sitting of the parliament, PAP reported on 13 August. Miller added that the SLD also wants an assessment of the reasons for the collapse of the 2001 budget as well as a list of proposals and drafts of vital legislation. Last month the parliament approved a revised 2001 budget that increases the deficit by 8.6 billion zlotys ($2 billion). Government leaks to the media put the size of next year's budget deficit as high as 80 billion zlotys, or some 10 percent of Poland's GDP. JM

POLAND'S STRAW POLL SHOWS UNEXPECTED SUPPORT FOR RADICAL FARMERS

In a straw poll organized by the Election Research Center (OBW) in Bystrzyca Klodzka in southwestern Poland on 12 August, the opposition Democratic Left Alliance was backed by 33.44 percent of voters, the radical farmers' trade union Self-Defense by 15.96 percent, and the Polish Peasant Party by 11.25 percent, PAP reported. Turnout was 21 percent. The mock elections showed unexpected support for Andrzej Lepper's Self-Defense which, according to surveys by different polling agencies, is below the 5 percent support threshold required to win parliamentary representation. OBW head Marcin Palade on 14 August called off a similar poll planned in Klodzko (southwestern Poland) for 25 and 26 August, saying his decision was caused by the events that took place during the mock elections in Bystrzyca Klodzka. According to rumors reported in the Polish media, members of two election committees bought votes in Bystrzyca Klodzka by offering them free alcohol and providing them with rides to the polling stations. JM

CZECH PRIVATIZATION PLANS HAMPERED BY TEMELIN

Czech plans to privatize the state-owned CEZ utility, which owns the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant, suffered a setback on 13 August, after the German E.On, Europe's second-largest power company, said it would not bid for CEZ if Temelin is included in the deal, AP reported. E.On has recently bowed to public pressure in Germany and said it will stop buying power from CEZ and is negotiating an exit from the existing supply contract. Also on 13 August, Otto Gumpinger, the chairman of the Austrian-German Anti-Atomic Committee, said Germany supports the Austrian refusal to close the energy chapter with the Czech Republic in EU accession negotiations because of the Czech refusal to shut the plant down. MS

POLL SHOWS OPPOSITION TO TEMELIN GROWING IN CZECH REPUBLIC...

More than two Czechs in three (69 percent) support the Temelin nuclear power plant, but the proportion of opponents to the plant is growing, CTK and international agencies reported on 13 August, citing a poll conducted by the CVVM institute. While the proportion of supporters of the controversial plant has only slightly dropped from 71 percent in October 2000, that of the opponents significantly increased from 16 to 22 percent. MS

...AS IS OPPOSITION TO EU

According to a public opinion poll conducted by the STEM-TNS-Factum polling agency, the percentage of supporters of EU accession has declined among Czechs from 48 to 40 percent since October 2000, CTK reported. Twenty-two percent responded that they would vote against EU accession in a referendum -- 7 percent more than last October. Opposition to EU accession prevails among those aged 60 and above, those with an elementary education, and among supporters of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia. President Vaclav Havel said that he considers the results of the poll to be "alarming," but added that he believes a majority of Czechs would still vote for EU accession in a referendum because "there is no alternative." MS

CZECH OPPOSITION SENATORS LODGE COMPLAINT WITH CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

A group of 23 senators representing the Four Party Coalition on 13 August lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court against the method used in the election of the Czech Television Council by the Chamber of Deputies, CTK reported. The senators say the chamber must abrogate that part of the procedure that allows it to set up a committee to select candidates from among those proposed by political parties, professional organizations, and nongovernmental organizations. They say the committee infringes upon the right of citizens to participate in the selection of the council's members on an equal basis with political parties. The chamber elected the council using this method last May, following the crisis at Czech Television in December 2000-January 2001. Some of those selected by the committee were, however, eventually replaced following public protest. MS

CZECH ROMA WANT OWN PARLIAMENT

Romany Civic Initiative (ROI) Chairman Stefan Licartovsky on 13 August told CTK that his organization intends to propose the setting up of a Romany parliament, following the example of similar parliaments that have been set up in Hungary, Bulgaria, and Slovakia. Licartovsky said that the country's Romany minority would elect regional representatives to the parliament, which would then be in a better position to represent Romany interests vis-a-vis the government. Licartovsky criticized Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky for having alleged that the Munich-based European Center for Romanies is behind the recent exodus of Czech Roma to the U.K. He denied the allegation and said such statements are "fomenting xenophobic moods." Rychetsky on 13 August partially retracted the allegation. He told Czech Radio that his statement was based on "British suspicions" for which "no evidence has been produced." (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2001). MS

SLOVAK REGION HEAVILY DAMAGED BY FLOODS

A spokesman for the Presov regional authority on 13 August told CTK that this year's floods affected 222 localities in the region and that the damages caused by the floods were three to four times higher than those suffered as a result of the 1998 floods. The spokesman said estimates run as high as 1 billion crowns (about $20.8 million), and do not include damage suffered by farmers, or to roads, electricity, and gas distribution networks and other infrastructure. MS

HUNGARIAN COALITION PARTIES ABORT SPECIAL PARLIAMENTARY SESSION

Members of coalition parties and the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party on 13 August refused to vote for the agenda of the parliament's special session that was convened at the initiative of the opposition Socialist Party and the Alliance of Free Democrats. The two parties wanted to set up parliamentary committees to investigate Prime Minister Viktor Orban's involvement in the "Szabadi case" and the Orban family's involvement in highway construction (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2001). FIDESZ parliamentary group leader Jozsef Szajer said his party would not take part in the voting because the opposition was only interested in "whipping up a political scandal." The session was thus aborted because of a lack of a quorum. Socialist Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said the coalition's blocking of proceedings and of setting up the investigative committees suggested that the government "had things it wants covered up and kept quiet." MSZ

HUNGARIAN WORKERS' PARTY WANTS STATUE FOR KADAR

Hungarian Workers' Party Chairman Gyula Thurmer on 13 August announced that his party will begin to collect signatures on Hungary's national holiday on 20 August for a petition to erect a statue of former Communist Party Secretary and head of state Janos Kadar. Thurmer said Kadar was Hungary's most popular and successful 20th-century politician, and that he hopes the petition will put pressure on the government and the Budapest City Council to erect a statue in his memory. The Workers' Party has already sent two letters to Orban and Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky asking for their support for the initiative, but both politicians have declined to back it. MSZ




NATO GETS READY FOR MACEDONIA

NATO military experts are slated to arrive in Skopje on 14 August to finalize a plan for disarming ethnic Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK), RFE/RL reported. The Atlantic alliance is preparing to deploy a 3,500-man force to Macedonia on a 30-day mission called Essential Harvest to collect and destroy the weapons. Most rebel leaders say they will respect the agreement, even though they were not included in the talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2001 and "End Note" below). It remains to be seen whether they will indeed disarm, and, if they do, whether 30 days will be sufficient to complete the task. Critics charge that Essential Harvest will prove to be the start of a much longer and complicated mission, which is unlikely to win the backing of many NATO member states. In Crawford, Texas, U.S. President George W. Bush said that the insurgents "need to lay down their arms so we can implement the deal." PM

MACEDONIAN CEASE-FIRE PROVING EVASIVE?

Government forces and the UCK clashed near Tetovo, Kumanovo, and near the border with Kosova hours after the deal was signed on 13 August, RFE/RL reported. A lasting cease-fire and an agreement by the rebels to disarm are the main preconditions for deployment of the NATO troops. Under Western diplomatic pressure, the government recently declared a unilateral cease-fire (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2001). NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said in Skopje on 13 August there are hopes of brokering a sustainable cease-fire "in the next few days." He stressed that a sustainable cease-fire must be in place before NATO troops can be sent. He declined to estimate when the deployment could begin. After returning from Skopje to Brussels, he briefed NATO ambassadors to make sure that they have the information they need to make a decision on deployment and to contact their respective governments. PM

UN WELCOMES MACEDONIAN PACT

In a statement issued in New York on 13 August, the UN Security Council welcomed the signing of a peace agreement by Macedonia's political parties and urged that it be carried out immediately, RFE/RL reported. The council endorsed the Macedonian government's efforts to resolve the dispute with its ethnic Albanian minority. The UN body also urged ethnic Albanian leaders to publicly renounce violence and condemned the actions of what it called "extremist groups." The statement called on all parties to respect the cease-fire to allow the framework agreement to take hold. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a separate statement, said he hopes the agreement will prove to be the basis for a stable political settlement and restore calm. He said the use of violence by any party to seek further political gains or undermine the agreement is unacceptable. PM

MACEDONIAN AGREEMENT OFF TO ROCKY START

The Macedonian authorities staged the 13 August signing ceremony in Skopje in a low-key setting and did not provide the glitzy media event that Western envoys had hoped for, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2001). Following the signing, Arben Xhaferi, who heads the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), held a press conference in Albanian to emphasize that Albanian is now an official language of Macedonia. He said that everyone must now "get used to that fact." When a translation was provided only into English and not into Macedonian, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski walked out. President Boris Trajkovski said that he would like to forget the incident as soon as possible. PM

WESTERN LEADERS WARN ALL SIDES IN MACEDONIA

Speaking in Skopje on 13 August, EU security policy chief Javier Solana said: "To the leaders, with all due respect, with all my respect, I would like to tell them that we may sign an infinite number of agreements. If there is no leadership to move the agreements into practice, nothing [will be] done," RFE/RL reported. U.S. envoy James Pardew echoed his remarks, saying: "Now its up to the leaders and the parliament to do the right thing for their people and implement fully this agreement." In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said: "All sides must fully support the cease-fire and fully observe the cease-fire. To that extent we utterly condemn the recent attacks by extremists. There is absolutely no justification and no excuse for this type of action by the armed extremists of Macedonia. We urge the government forces to act with restraint... At the request of the Macedonian government, NATO is preparing to assist with the voluntary disarmament of ethnic Albanian insurgents." PM

'SOUR GRAPES' FROM SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER

Zoran Djindjic told Austrian Television on 13 August that the lesson of the settlement in Macedonia is that "violence pays," the BBC's Serbian Service reported. He added that the Albanians have received a generous deal, and that now the "only oppressed group in Europe" are the Serbs of Kosova. PM

FIRST ORGANIZED RETURN OF SERBS TO KOSOVA

The UNHCR said in Belgrade on 13 August that KFOR troops have escorted a convoy of 54 Serbs to their home village of Osojane in northwestern Kosova as a "test case," Reuters reported. UNHCR representative Eric Morris said: "The challenge now is not only for the international community but for all communities in Kosovo to make this return safe and sustainable." PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT'S OFFICE DENIES LINK TO MURDER

President Vojislav Kostunica's office sent documents to the public prosecutor in Belgrade on 13 August regarding talks between murdered security officer Momir Gavrilovic and Kostunica's staff shortly before Gavrilovic's death, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2001). Kostunica's office said that it is "difficult to believe" that there was a link between those talks and the killing of Gavrilovic. PM

SUMMER FIRES AFFECT CROATIA, MONTENEGRO

Authorities in southern Dalmatia declared a state of emergency on 13 August after fires backed by strong winds destroyed hundreds of acres of pine, underbrush, vineyards, and olive groves, AP reported from Zagreb. Residents of a village near Sibenik were urged to leave their homes as a precautionary measure. Four suspected arsonists were arrested in the Dubrovnik area. Firemen have been battling a fire near Knin for nearly two weeks. In the Montenegrin resort of Budva, several hotels were evacuated as fires blazed nearby. There were no casualties, "Danas" reported. The Podgorica daily "Vijesti" noted that General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who heads the army General Staff, and Admiral Radomir Grujic, who commands the navy, inspected the region. PM

INFIGHTING CONTINUES AMONG ROMANIAN PEASANTISTS

Meeting ahead of its extraordinary congress that was to open on 14 August, the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic's (PNTCD) National Steering Committee on 13 August rejected the appeal of former PNTCD Secretary-General Calin Catalin Chirita and former PNTCD First Deputy Chairman Vasile Lupu against their exclusion from the PNTCD. The committee validated all disciplinary decisions adopted by the party after 7 July, and implicitly the exclusion of former PNTCD Chairman Andrei Marga from the party. Marga was expelled from the PNTCD by the party's local Cluj branch on 25 July. The committee also approved changes to the party's statutes and leadership structure. Also on 13 August, in a letter addressed to the organizers of the rival PNTCD extraordinary congress scheduled for 17-19 August, Marga called for setting up a new "party of reformers," which should be "a formation of clean and responsible people," as well as "an efficient party of overt modernization and Europeanization." MS

MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS OPPOSITION'S APPEAL

The Constitutional Court rejected an appeal by the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) against the recently approved border treaty with Ukraine, Infotag reported on 13 August. The PPCD said the treaty is unconstitutional because it infringes on the provision for the indivisibility of Moldovan territory. It said that by agreeing to yield to Ukraine an eight-kilometer section of the Odessa-Reni highway that passes through Moldovan territory in exchange for a 430-meter coastal strip on River Danube, the government "betrayed the interests of the state and the people." The court ruled that the government has not yet published the text of the treaty in the official newspaper "Monitorul oficial," having only published the law on border adjustments. It said the appeal against the treaty cannot be heeded until the treaty is fully published in the newspaper. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT WILL SEEK RE-ELECTION 'REGARDLESS' OF RULING COALITION SUPPORT...

President Petar Stoyanov said on 13 August in Razgrad, northern Bulgaria, that he is determined to seek a second term in office regardless of whether the parties that make up the ruling coalition endorse his candidacy or not, BTA reported. So far, only the opposition Union of Democratic Forces has said it will endorse Stoyanov, who will run as an independent in the ballot scheduled for autumn 2001. Stoyanov described as "electoral folklore" media reports that the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) will endorse him in the elections. Although invited, neither politicians from the NDSV nor the Movement for Rights and Freedoms attended Stoyanov's electoral rally. MS

...PRAISES MACEDONIAN AGREEMENT

Stoyanov on 13 August told BTA that the agreement signed the same day in Skopje between the conflicting parties is "a very important step toward achieving a lasting peace." But he added that this was "just the first step," which must be followed not only by approval of the agreement by Macedonia's parliament, but above all by "the restoration of the old spirit of coexistence" in that country. Stoyanov said this necessitates efforts "not only on the part of Macedonian society, its citizens and political parties, but also on the part of both Macedonia's neighbors and the international community." MS

BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER OPPOSED TO FULL ACCESS TO COMMUNIST SECRET POLICE FILES

Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov said on 12 August during a talk show on Bulgarian Radio that he is opposed to "full access" to the files of the former communist secret police by the commission that has been set up to research and analyze the archives of the Bulgarian State Security organization, BTA reported. Petkanov said that although the parliament established in 1994 that the archives are not a state secret, the terms and conditions for access have not yet been regulated. He said the commission "wants to have too many powers, which the law does not entitle it to." The commission's deputy chairman, Evgenii Dimitrov, replied in a fax to BTA that the commission wants access to the Interior Ministry's files in order to research such chapters in the secret police activities as the labor camps set up during the 1946-1958 enforced collectivization, supervision of the creative intelligentsia, the anti-Turkish minority campaigns, and other aspects. MS

BULGARIAN AGRICULTURE MINSTER SAYS FOREST FIRE CAUSED EXTENSIVE DAMAGES

Agriculture Minister Medmed Dikme on 13 August said wildfires in southern Bulgaria have destroyed some 13,200 hectares of forest over the last couple of days, BTA reported. The fires are threatening to spread across the border into neighboring Greece, AFP reported on 12 August. MS




MACEDONIA: A TIME FOR TRUTH


By Patrick Moore

Macedonia faces tough challenges in the weeks and months ahead. It must simultaneously implement sweeping constitutional reforms, work for an end to the insurgency, and experience a national election campaign.

No one is under any illusions that the political settlement signed on 13 August will provide an instant end to the young country's problems. An illustration of the difficulties came at a press conference right after the signing, when Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski walked out to protest Albanian political leader Arben Xhaferi's speaking in Albanian -- now an official language -- without a Macedonian translation.

But the leaders of the two main ethnic Macedonian parties and the two largest ethnic Albanian parties have put their signatures on the agreement hammered out in Ohrid the previous week. The mainstream political leaders have thereby accepted responsibility for implementing it.

This means that the Macedonians accept an improvement in the legal status of the Albanian language, an increase in the role of the Albanian minority in the police force, and an extension of the Albanians' rights to higher education in their mother tongue and to the use of their national symbols. It means that the Albanians, having obtained more rights, accept that Macedonia is their state, and that the Macedonians believe the "constitutional question" is settled.

Whether this indeed proves to be the case depends first and foremost on ending the insurgency. The immediate issue is setting up and maintaining an effective cease-fire. The main obstacle to this is the presence of rough-and-ready elements in both major ethnic groups who have had a taste of the power that comes from guns and may be reluctant to go back to quieter pursuits. They may also be tempted to expand the territorial boundaries that they have set up in the recent fighting.

Most observers have suggested that the Macedonian military and police will be able to control the Macedonian paramilitaries. But it is not clear if that will always be the case when the "paramilitaries" -- who intimidate or brutalize local Albanians -- are also members of the armed or security forces.

On the other side, perhaps the biggest question is whether Xhaferi of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) and Imer Imeri of the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) can ensure that the various commanders of the National Liberation Army (UCK) will observe a pact that they did not help negotiate directly. A further problem is the possible presence of rogue armed Albanian elements. But it is difficult to imagine shadowy guerrilla bands posing a threat for long if the mainstream political leaders and UCK commanders pool their efforts to make the political settlement work.

A more serious, if long-term, military issue will be the temptation for political and military leaders on either side to try to turn the much-awaited NATO presence to their own advantage. The Atlantic alliance maintains that its role will be to collect and destroy the UCK's weapons once a cease-fire is in place, and that Operation Essential Harvest will last about 30 days. But is it too far-fetched to imagine that elements on the Macedonian side may try to involve NATO in dealing with real or imagined violations of the cease-fire by the UCK? And might some individuals or groups on the Albanian side come to view NATO as a shield, "protecting" the territories the UCK has recently taken and ethnically cleansed?

This leads to the third main set of problems facing Macedonia, namely political ones in the run-up to legislative elections that will take place in early 2002 at the latest. Several observers have suggested that the campaign has already begun and point to the frequent posturing and militant rhetoric by Georgievski of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) as the best example. Indeed, Georgievski seems to be seeking to win as much of the Macedonian vote as possible by playing on voters' fears more than on their hopes.

Branko Crvenkovski's Social Democrats (SDSM) have taken a more moderate approach to winning Macedonian votes. They may also be counting on making themselves attractive as coalition partners to the Albanian parties and to the international community as the "more reasonable" element among the Macedonians.

The electoral contest will bring to the fore a number of problems that have bedeviled the political scene in recent months. One is the question of leadership and the tendency of some politicians to engage in inflammatory rhetoric rather than take a more statesman-like approach.

A second matter is the unmistakable degree of hatred present on both sides of the ethnic divide. Will political leaders try to channel voters' energies into more constructive directions, or will vote-hunters try to capitalize on fears and hatreds?

One thing, at any rate, is clear: the leaders of the four main parties have committed themselves in writing to making the settlement work. If the agreement proves to be just one more "Balkan scrap of paper," blame will lie not only with the men with the guns or the bigots in the cafes.


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