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Newsline - August 15, 2001




NONGOVERNMENTAL BROADCASTERS PONDER PUTIN DECREE...

In interviews with "Kommersant-Daily" and "Vedomosti" published on 14 August, TV-6 Executive Director Pavel Korchagin expressed bewilderment over President Vladimir Putin's decree re-establishing state control over broadcasting's technical base (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2001) He told "Vedomosti" that he does not understand how nongovernmental broadcasters will be affected by the decision. But he suggested to "Kommersant-Daily" that "It doesn't matter what this structure is called or in what form it will exist. As before, all the [broadcasting] towers will be located in the hands of the government." JAC

...AS THEIR FUTURE LOOKS UNCERTAIN

Korchagin also said that TV-6 recently lost its right to transmit material from the Khankala military base in Chechnya. "Formally this was because we were late paying for the service," he explained, adding that "ORT, by the way, has a decent-sized debt for services for its connections." He concluded that he does "not see how there could be a system, in which [broadcasters] will be equal under all conditions." The same day, RFE/RL media analyst Anna Kachkaeva told "The Moscow Times" that the decree appears to mean "that all private broadcasters that have had contracts with the private transmission companies set up by regional state-owned transmission centers will have to renegotiate their contracts." She concluded, "at the moment, it looks a little like nationalization." JAC

RUSSIAN NEWSPAPERS GIVE RUMSFELD VISIT A THUMBS DOWN...

A number of Russian newspapers on 14 August offered a mostly negative assessment of U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's recent visit to Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2001). According to "Vremya novostei," the U.S. presented Russia with an "ultimatum." The daily reported that, for the first time in the years of high-level arms talks, "a high-ranking American official has told a Russian leader to his face that the U.S. intends to quit the ABM Treaty, which the Moscow continues to consider the 'cornerstone of strategic stability.'" In its coverage, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" featured a subhead declaring the talks "a waste of time," while "Vremya MN" concluded that the negotiations yielded no results, as both sides again simply exchanged information and arguments. JAC

...BUT SUGGEST MOSCOW IS OPEN TO REVISING SYSTEM OF TREATIES

However, "Vremya MN" went on to suggest that a comment from Anatolii Mazurkevich, head of the department for international military cooperation at the Defense Ministry, indicates that the Kremlin has altered its position slightly -- and now believes that "something more" needs to be added to the existing treaties on strategic stability between the two countries. Mazurkevich said that while Russia agrees with the U.S. position on the necessity of amendments and addenda to the existing system of international accords, Moscow accepts such a necessity only on the "condition of preserving the ABM Treaty." JAC

VLADIMIR PUTIN, FREQUENT FLYER

"Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 14 August that during his 19 months in office, Russian President Putin has completed 40 foreign trips and spent 77 days abroad. In 2001, Putin has so far managed to visit 11 countries. The daily also compares Putin's first months in office with those of his predecessor Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin took 21 foreign trips during his first 18 months in office compared with Putin's 40. The daily draws another contrast with the amount of time spent abroad by current U.S. President George W. Bush, who has gone on nine foreign trips during his first six months. At that point, Putin had already logged 12 trips. According to the daily, Putin's top destinations appear to be CIS states, which suggests that area remains a top priority in Moscow's foreign policy. JAC

TOP KREMLIN OFFICIAL TRAVELS TO CUBA

President Putin has sent his congratulations to Cuban leader Fidel Castro on his 75th birthday on 14 August, Russian agencies reported. According to Interfax, presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin personally handed the message to Castro on Putin's behalf. ITAR-TASS reported on 15 August that the meeting between Voloshin and Castro lasted more than six hours and touched on a broad range of bilateral and multilateral issues. JAC

PULIKOVSKII COMPARES KIM JONG-IL WITH PETER THE GREAT

Presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district Konstantin Pulikovskii told Interfax on 14 August that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is "more progressive than the people around him" and is "really trying to open up North Korea to world society...as Peter the Great did for Russia." Pulikovskii continued, "he is trying to open a window to the world for his country, and Russia is the first step." Pulikovskii accompanied Kim Jong-Il during a large segment of his train trip across Russia. JAC

FORMER DIPLOMAT CONVICTED AGAIN OF SPYING FOR SOUTH KOREA

A Moscow city court on 14 August found former Russian diplomat Valentin Moiseev guilty of espionage and sentenced him to 4 1/2 years in prison, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The previous day, state prosecutor Vladimir Titov had asked the court to sentence Moiseev to 12 years in prison, because such a sentence would be "the minimal punishment set for such crime," RTR reported. Moiseev was previously sentenced to 12 years in prison in 1999, but in 2000 the Supreme Court annulled the verdict and ordered the second trial, leaving Moiseev in custody. Moiseev is now eligible to be released in less than 1 1/2 years since his time in pretrial detention counts toward his sentence, ITAR-TASS reported. One of Moiseev's attorneys, Kseniya Kostromina, told the bureau that Moiseev plans to appeal the verdict. JAC/VY

WEEKLY PREDICTS SOCIAL UNREST WILL RESULT FROM CABINET'S ECONOMIC REFORMS

"Novaya gazeta" No. 56 argues that the government headed by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has taken a number of decisions over the past 15 months that increase the likelihood of social upheaval in Russia. The first of these decisions was one calling for a reduction in state subsidies for housing and public utilities. According to the weekly, "at least 30 million Russian citizens simply cannot afford to pay in full for their housing and utilities." Likewise, the cabinet's approval of the restructuring plan for Unified Energy Systems could lead to "the unrestrained growth of electricity rates, and power cuts to residential areas, schools, hospitals, and other vital facilities." Kasyanov also approved measures proposed by the Railways Ministry that will result in a hike in passenger rail fares of 2 1/2 to three times countrywide. The weekly concludes that blackouts, skyrocketing rail fares, heating disruptions, and evictions will lead to "mass demonstrations in the regions." JAC

PERSONAL COMPUTER SALES SURGE IN RUSSIA

Sales of personal computers surged in Russia during the second quarter of 2001, rising by 38.3 percent compared with the same period last year with total sales worth $465 million, "The Moscow Times" reported on 14 August, citing a survey by research company Gartner Dataquest. An analyst with the firm told the daily that home computer sales rose almost 60 percent but still accounted for only 8 percent of all purchases. Contributing to the PC sales boom were purchases by the Russian government, which is among other things funding a project to bring computers into rural schools. A competing research firm, IDC, disputed Gartner Dataquest's analysis and argued that the growth in computers sales was only 5.7 percent higher in the second quarter compared with the second quarter of 2000, according to the daily. JAC

PUTIN SAYS RUSSIAN AIRCRAFT COMPANIES WANT TO COOPERATE...

Speaking at the opening of the MAKS-2001 air show in Moscow Oblast on 14 August, President Putin said that Russia is ready both to compete and to cooperate on the international aircraft market. He also noted that a record high number of countries and companies are taking part in the fair: 34 countries and 512 companies. JAC

...AS LARGE AIRLINES SHOW INTEREST IN NEW U.S.-RUSSIAN AIRCRAFT

Sukhoi aircraft company CEO Mikhail Pogosyan said on 13 August that the joint venture between his corporation and Boeing and Ilyushin has created a new fleet of regional jets, consisting of 55-seat, 75-seat, and 95-seat airplanes with a flight range of 3,500 to 6,000 kilometers. He said that those aircraft will be ready for flight testing by 2004. He added that as many as a dozen air companies have already shown their interest in the new planes. For example, "Aeroflot" said it is ready to buy 30 new airplanes. VY

PUTIN DISTRIBUTES MONIES FROM RESERVE FUND

President Putin signed an order on 14 August setting aside more than 2.7 million rubles ($92,000) from the presidential reserve fund for restoration of the old Kremlin in the city of Novgorod, ITAR-TASS reported. In addition, Putin allocated 226,000 rubles for the administration of Primorskii Krai to finance repair work following that region's severe storm (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2001). According to the agency, 200 million rubles were allocated from the federal budget in 2001. It also reported that money from the fund is primarily used to assist hospitals and children's' homes, particularly in areas with difficult socioeconomic or environmental conditions. JAC

RATING FOR COMMUNIST CANDIDATE IN IRKUTSK RISES

Irkutsk Governor Boris Govorin, who will compete in the second round of gubernatorial elections on 19 August, has announced that he is raising the wages of government workers, the website polit.ru reported on 14 August. The website noted that Govorin is taking this "populist step" to bolster his support among his electorate as the rating for his competitor, Communist deputy Sergei Levchenko, has noticeably risen (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2001). According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 August, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov arrived in Irkutsk on 14 August to lend his support to Levchenko. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 August that Levchenko is also being supported by the local branch of Yabloko. JAC

OLIGARCH/GOVERNORS BRING THE GOOD LIFE TO RUSSIAN REGIONS

"Vedomosti" reported on 14 August that based on its reporting in Chukotka and Taimyr Autonomous Okrugs, the new governors in both regions have accomplished big changes aimed at improving the quality of life of the electorate. Both Chukotka Governor Roman Abramovich and Taimyr Governor Aleksandr Khloponin have started construction of movie theaters and other similar establishments in their respective capitals. Khloponin has sponsored construction of a public bathhouse, while Abramovich is constructing a world class fitness club. Both have also made moves to make their regions independent in terms of their energy supplies. One big difference between them, according to the daily, is that Abramovich, the former head of Sibneft, finances local programs out of his own pocket, spending some $20 million over the last seven months, while Khloponin is relying on more traditional means such as trying to retain in the region as much of the tax revenue it collects as possible. Khloponin is the former head of Norilsk Nickel. JAC

CHOLERA CRISIS EASES IN KAZAN

As of 14 August, the last five patients who had been hospitalized for cholera were about to be checked out, ITAR-TASS reported. The main source of the disease, a small lake in the micro-raion of Azino, has been "liquidated," according to the agency, and medical officials have not discovered any victims of the disease in the last few days. Viktor Morozov, the chief sanitary doctor of Tatarstan, told the agency that it is possible to wipe out the disease before the start of the new school year on 1 September. JAC

OMSK HEALTH OFFICIALS IMPOSE BORDER CHECKS WITH KAZAKHSTAN

Local health officials in Omsk Oblast are taking measures to prevent the spread of bubonic plague from neighboring Kazakhstan into the oblast, RIA-Novosti reported on 13 August. Health officials are examining all persons who arrive in the area from Kazakhstan, where two people have reportedly been infected with the disease. JAC

RUSSIAN MILITARY DENIES CHECHENS HAVE RECAPTURED SOUTHERN VILLAGE

Russian Airborne Forces Commander Colonel General Georgii Shpak on 14 August denied Chechen claims to have retaken the village of Benoi-Yurt in Vedeno Raion, Russian agencies reported. Shpak said Chechens had attacked the local military commandant's office but been driven back. "Kommersant-Daily" on 14 August quoted the Chechen website www.kavkaz.org as claiming that hundreds of Russian troops were killed over a period of several days in the battle for Benoi-Yurt which, the paper said, was masterminded by field commander Shamil Basaev. LF




ARMENIAN OPPOSITION FORMATION CAMPAIGNS FOR PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION

The National Accord Front (AHCh) created in March (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 13, 30 March 2001) has collected 20,000 signatures of the 1 million it hopes to amass in a bid to force the resignation of President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 14 August. Vartan Khachatrian, who is a member of the AHCh political council, said the movement hope to collect the remaining 980,000 signatures by the end of September. At the same time, the AHCh has had far greater success in mobilizing opposition to plans by the Armentel telecommunications monopoly to introduce per-minute billing for telephone calls. Khachatrian also told RFE/RL that the AHCh is conducting talks with the opposition Hanrapetutiun party headed by former Prime Minister Aram Sargsian, the People's Party of Armenia, and the National Unity Party on forming a broad opposition alliance. LF

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SEEKS TO EXPEDITE GAS EXPORT DEAL WITH AZERBAIJAN

Irakli Menagharishvili met in Baku on 14 August with his Azerbaijani counterpart Vilayat Quliev and with a senior official from Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR in an attempt to finalize the terms of the agreement on exports via Georgia of natural gas from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz field, Caucasus Press reported. That agreement is to be signed during a visit to Baku by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze originally scheduled for 27 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 10 August 2001). No new date has yet been set for that visit. LF

GEORGIA, U.S. EXPRESS CONCERN AT CASPIAN TENSIONS

During their talks in Baku on 14 August, Menagharishvili told Quliev that the Georgian leadership is worried by the escalation of tensions in the Caspian between Azerbaijan and Iran, ITAR-TASS reported. He proposed that Baku and Tbilisi "mobilize their economic cooperation efforts in order to counterbalance those forces" that have no interest in preserving stability in the region. Also on 14 August, U.S. State Department spokesman Philp Reeker condemned as "provocative" the recent incursions of Iranian aircraft into Azerbaijani airspace. Such actions are "counterproductive to efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution of Caspian boundary disputes," Reeker added. He said the Caspian littoral states should embark on negotiations to resolve such border disputes. LF

UN ENVOY MEDIATES ABKHAZ-GEORGIAN AGREEMENT ON HOSTAGE EXCHANGE

At a meeting in western Georgia on 14 August chaired by UN special envoy Dieter Boden, Abkhaz and Georgian government and security officials signed an agreement pledging to secure the release of all persons held hostage in the Abkhaz conflict zone, Caucasus Press and AP reported. They also agreed to crack down on the illicit activities of both Abkhaz and Georgian criminal groups operating in the region, and appealed for the support of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in that effort. The commander of the Russian peacekeeping force, Major General Nikolai Sidorichev, met the previous day with police officials from western Georgia's Zugdidi and Abkhazia's Gali raions to discuss measures to counter the activities of criminal groups. LF

TRIAL OPENS IN ABSENTIA OF FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER

The trial in absentia of former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin began in Kazakhstan's Supreme Court in Astana on 15 August, AFP reported. Kazhegeldin is accused of abuse of his official position, extortion, bribe-taking, tax evasion, and illegal possession of weapons. He denies those charges, which he says are politically motivated. LF

SUSPECTED CHOLERA CASES IN WESTERN KAZAKHSTAN

A woman believed to be suffering from cholera has been hospitalized in the city of Atyrau in western Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 115 August. So far this year there has been one reported death in Kazakhstan from that disease (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2001). LF

CHARGES AGAINST KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST DROPPED

The Osh Oblast department of Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service announced on 14 August that it has terminated the case against human rights activist Noomanjan Arkabaev, who was arrested in late June on charges of having called for the overthrow of President Askar Akaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 19 July 2001). A National Security Service official told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that he cannot prove Arkabaev's guilt. LF

KYRGYZ OFFICIAL CLARIFIES WORLD BANK POSITION ON DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY

Presidential administration official Kubat Kanimetov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 14 August that while the World Bank may finance some infrastructure-related and agricultural projects within the framework of the 10-year Complex Development Framework program, it will not finance the entire program. Kanimetov had suggested the previous day that the bank might not provide any funding for the project (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2001). LF

UZBEK COURT SENTENCES SIX FOR 'TERRORISM'

A regional court in Uzbekistan's Ferghana valley passed sentence on 14 August on six men charged with terrorism, including the murder of police and government officials, AP and Interfax reported. Two men identified as leaders of a group that recruited young men to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan were sentenced to 18 years imprisonment, while four others received sentences ranging from nine to 12 years. LF




BELARUSIAN TELEVISION CASTS DOUBT ON OPPOSITION'S ACCORD TO FIELD HANCHARYK AGAINST LUKASHENKA

Belarusian Television on 14 August suggested that, despite the signing of an agreement of presidential hopefuls Uladzimir Hancharyk and Syamyon Domash (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2001), Belarus's democratic opposition has no single candidate to challenge President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the 9 September elections. According to the network, Domash signed the agreement to withdraw from the presidential race in favor of Hancharyk under pressure from U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Michael Kozak. The network said Domash is still pondering whether he should withdraw. A commentator for the main newscast "Panarama" added that "the formal signing of the agreement [on fielding Hancharyk] has saved Mr. Kozak from inevitable diplomatic defeat. Otherwise the opinion of the [U.S.] State Department about the role of the American diplomatic mission in Belarus would have been reduced to extremely negative assessments." JM

BELARUSIAN NGO TO CONDUCT ALTERNATE VOTE COUNT AT 500 POLLING STATIONS

Belarus's Independent Monitoring group on 14 August said it is planning to conduct a "parallel" vote count in the 9 September presidential elections at some 500 voting constituencies throughout Belarus, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Ales Byalatski, an Independent Monitoring coordinator, announced that there will be some 15,000 monitors prepared by Belarusian NGOs to watch over the 9 September ballot. According to Byalatski, Independent Monitoring will be able to provide results of the ballot -- with an error margin not exceeding 2 percent -- in the early morning of 10 September. Commenting on the recent wave of police and KGB raids on offices of Belarusian NGOs and the confiscations of computers, Byalatski said: "These efforts are futile. It will be possible to sum up results from 500 constituencies even with the help of calculators. And it is impossible to confiscate all calculators from [our] monitors." JM

MINSK SENDS INVITATION TO OSCE ELECTION OBSERVERS

The Belarusian government has finally sent an official invitation to the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to take part in monitoring the upcoming presidential elections in the country, Belapan reported on 15 August. Some commentators have viewed Minsk's delay in extending such an invitation as retaliation by the Lukashenka regime against the OSCE, which failed to recognize Belarus's legislative elections last year as democratic and fair. But many Belarusian opposition activists have pointed to the fact that by postponing the invitation, the regime prevented the OSCE from monitoring earlier stages of the election campaign in which the authorities repeatedly diverged from democratic election standards (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 14 August 2001). JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VETOES ELECTION BILL FOR THE FOURTH TIME

Leonid Kuchma has again vetoed an election bill stipulating that 115 members of the 450-seat parliament are to be chosen in single-mandate constituencies, while the remainder are to be elected from lists fielded by political parties. It marked the fourth unsuccessful attempt by the parliament this year to change the current election law, which calls for electing 225 deputies in single-mandate constituencies and another 225 deputies from nationwide party lists. JM

KYIV REPORTS 10.5 PERCENT ECONOMIC GROWTH

Governmental chief adviser Valeriy Lytvytskyy on 14 August said Ukraine's GDP increased by 10.5 percent in January-July, compared to the same period last year, Interfax reported. Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh said the same day that agricultural output grew 26 percent in the first seven months of 2001 compared to the same period last year. Kinakh added that the real incomes of Ukrainians grew 8.5 percent and wages increased by 16.7 percent in January-July 2001. JM

UKRAINE SIMPLIFIES VISA RULES FOR FOREIGNERS OF UKRAINIAN ORIGIN

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has introduced new visa rules allowing ethnic Ukrainians who live abroad to obtain five-year, multiple-entry visas instead of one-entry visas valid for six months, Ukrainian media reported on 14 August. Ukrainian Television added that the participants in the third global forum of Ukrainians, which will be held in Kiev on 18 August, will get their visas free of charge. JM

KUCHMA'S FORMER BODYGUARD DECLARES READINESS TO COOPERATE IN PROBING UKRAINIAN CORRUPTION IN U.S., RUSSIA

Former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko, who last year publicized secret audio recordings from Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's office, told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 14 August that he is ready to cooperate with Russian and U.S. authorities in revealing corruption on the part of Ukrainian officials in these countries. Melnychenko said his recordings testify that President Kuchma is guilty of violating Russian and U.S. laws as well as of committing other offenses "that are punishable in the world." JM

UKRAINIAN DOCTORS INVESTIGATED FOR STEALING HUMAN BODY ORGANS

Several doctors from the Lviv Regional Clinical Hospital are suspected of trading in healthy body organs, which they allegedly removed from the bodies of living road-accident victims. ICTV Television reported on 14 August that the physicians removed undamaged organs of victims of road accidents and then stated that death resulted from the injuries received. In addition, the station reported that no less than 10 people were released from the hospital after treatment without one kidney. Some of those people have agreed to testify against the doctors. Prosecutors opened an investigation into the alleged crimes but none of the suspects have been arrested. JM

BRS WILL PAY FOR ESTONIAN RAILWAYS ON ITS OWN

Baltic Rail Service (BRS), a consortium of American, British, and Estonian firms, which signed an agreement in April to purchase 66 percent of Estonian Railways (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2001), confirmed on 14 August that it will pay the 1 billion kroons ($57 million) purchasing price by the due date of 31 August, ETA reported. Its earlier plans to finance part of the purchase with loans from an international syndicate of banks fell apart in July after the State Audit Office declared that the agreement was invalid and asked that a criminal case be launched against the state officials who had concluded the deal. However, Chief State Prosecutor Raivo Sepp announced on 14 August that there were no grounds for criminal charges to be filed, as the privatization had been concluded in accordance with parliamentary and governmental decisions. SG

MOODY'S UPGRADES RATING FOR LATVIA'S PAREX BANK

The international rating agency Moody's upgraded the long-term deposit rating of Latvia's largest bank, Parex Bank, from Ba2 to Ba1, BNS reported on 14 August. It said that the upgrade reflects the bank's success in strengthening its corporate governance, its improving financial figures, as well as its sound asset quality. Moody's noted, however, that around 76 percent of the bank's deposits belong to non-Latvian residents. The fact that the outflow of deposits during the Russian crisis of 1998 was limited is evidence that the bank went through a major "stress-test" relatively unscathed. Moody's retained the bank's financial strength rating at D and the short-term deposit rating of "Not Prime." SG

GERMAN FINANCE MINISTER ADVISES LITHUANIA TO CONTINUE REFORMS

During his 14 August visit to Vilnius, Hans Eichel praised Lithuania's economic progress in recent years, but urged it to continue reforms in order to avoid the shocks that East Germany experienced during its integration into a united Germany, ELTA reported. He predicted that the repegging of the national currency, the litas, from the U.S. dollar to the euro will not cause any problems, but saw greater difficulties in reducing the state budget deficit and suggested reforms to attract increased investments from private capital. Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas requested German support in obtaining greater EU funding for the shutdown of the nuclear power plant in Ignalina, but noted that this aid should not be included in the general financing program for Lithuania. Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite said that German experience and technical assistance would be useful in finding ways to procure the funds needed to obtain EU cofinancing of some projects. President Valdas Adamkus thanked Eichel for Germany's support in seeking EU membership and stressed that Lithuania will benefit from German experience in improving the state administration. SG

GERMAN CHANCELLOR IN POLAND

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on 14 August visited the Polish port of Szczecin, where he met with President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, and inspected the Szczecin-based International North-East Military Corps, which includes NATO troops from Germany, Denmark, and Poland, Polish media reported. Schroeder and Kwasniewski spoke in favor of an "open door policy" by NATO. They noted that after the parliamentary elections in Poland, new and dynamic negotiations should take place with regard to Poland's accession to the EU. Schroeder also discussed with Kwasniewski and Buzek the problem of German payments to Poland's Nazi-era slave laborers. The Polish organization distributing payments has complained that the German compensation fund cheated them when exchanging German marks into Polish zlotys. Schroeder said the German government will help find a solution to the controversy, but added that it has no means to support such a compromise financially. JM

AUSTRIAN LEADERS CRITICIZE RESUMPTION OF TEMELIN TESTS

Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel and Vice Chancellor Suzanne Riess-Passer, in interviews with CTK on 14 August, criticized the resumption of tests at the controversial Czech Temelin nuclear power plant. Schuessel said he "regrets" that the tests were resumed before the international experts' commission could complete its assessment of the plant's safety and its environmental impact. He also said that it is "natural" that the safety of all energy-generating facilities be discussed before the energy chapter is closed in Czech negotiations with the EU. "I have always said we will not close the energy chapter until all issues are clarified," he said. Riess-Passer, who heads the far-right Freedom Party, said "nuclear safety is a question for all of Europe. He who wants to join a community must observe the rules of the game." MS

SLOVAK MINISTERS ADMIT LOBBYING FOR TV STATION IN CZECH REPUBLIC

Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan and Culture Minister Milan Knazko admit that they have tried to lobby on behalf of the private Slovak radio channel Twist to obtain a license in the Czech Republic, CTK reported on 14 August. Both ministers said they have done so in the interest of promoting Slovak culture in the neighboring country. The bid was rejected by the Czech Radio and Television Broadcasting Council. The council's chairman, Martin Muchka, said two Czech ministers had also intervened on behalf of Twist and that this had been "counterproductive" for the Slovak radio station. CTK names the two Czech ministers as Foreign Minister Jan Kavan -- who denies having done so -- and Culture Minster Pavel Dostal. MS

WESTERN DIPLOMATS WORRIED ABOUT SMK DEPARTURE FROM SLOVAK COALITION

Several Western diplomats have expressed concern over the possibility that the Slovak Coalition Party (SMK) will leave Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet, Deputy Premier Maria Kadlecikova said on 14 August. Kadlecikova spoke after she met with U.S. Charge d'affaires Douglas Hengel, AP reported. She said Hengel told her the SMK's departure from the coalition could harm Slovakia's international image and added that the same opinion was conveyed to her by other diplomats in Bratislava. She also said Hengel is not conveying his country's official position, but rather is volunteering "the opinion of a very strong friend of Slovakia." Kadlecikova said she has told Dzurinda about the messages and added that "there must be a way for them to decide to remain in the cabinet." The SMK intends to leave the government over the coalition's refusal to accept the setting up of a separate Hungarian majoritarian region in southern Slovakia and deals that were made with nationalist parties in the parliament on the matter. MS

HUNGARY HONORS 'H-BOMB FATHER'

Culture Ministry State Secretary Attila Vahegyi presented U.S. physicist Edward Teller with the Corvin Chain award on 14 August in San Francisco, Hungarian media and Reuters reported. Teller is the first person to have received the award since it was reestablished. From 1930 to 1943, the Corvin Chain was granted to artists and scientists in Hungary, which the Jewish Teller was forced to flee. The 93-year-old Teller, who has been nicknamed the "father of the hydrogen bomb," received the award for his academic and research work but was advised by doctors not to travel to Budapest due to poor health. Five other people will be presented with the Corvin Chain in Budapest on 24 August, as part of the celebrations of the Hungarian Millennium. At a ceremony held within the Millennium events, President Ferenc Madl on 14 August promoted several senior army officers to the rank of general. Tamas Perenyei, who is in his 30s and who was promoted from colonel to the rank of major general, became Hungary's youngest general. MS




NATO AMBASSADORS DISCUSS MACEDONIAN MISSION

NATO's 19 ambassadors making up the North Atlantic Council began discussions in Brussels on 15 August regarding the planned arms-collection mission to Macedonia, known as Operation Essential Harvest, dpa reported. Some 3,500 soldiers will participate in the program, which is expected to last about 30 days. The Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Turkey, the U.K., and the U.S. will take part, "The New York Times" reported. The council meeting is expected to end with a proposal to launch the operation by a specific date, AP reported. The proposal will then be sent to member countries. If none objects, the measure is considered approved. NATO's preconditions for involvement are that a political agreement be in place, that NATO have a legal basis for intervening, that the guerrillas agree to disarm, and that a cease-fire be effective. PM

CONDITIONS MET FOR NATO ROLE IN MACEDONIA

Quoting unnamed Macedonian government sources, "The New York Times" reported on 15 August that NATO has secured the signature of National Liberation Army (UCK) leader Ali Ahmeti on an agreement to disarm. On behalf of the government and without publicity, President Boris Trajkovski offered the rebels an amnesty. The "deal" appears to be that the president and government promise to secure the necessary parliamentary approval for the amnesty, while the UCK agrees to begin disarming before the legislature votes. Dpa reported that NATO envoy Peter Feith and Ahmeti signed the disarmament agreement in Sipkovica near Tetovo. The UCK agreed to surrender all weapons and ammunition, as well as insignias and emblems from their uniforms. The guerrillas will also accept orders from NATO. Ahmeti promised that the UCK will not hinder the movement of Macedonian forces once NATO leaves. The OSCE and EU will monitor developments on the ground. PM

BRITAIN TO TAKE LEADING ROLE IN MACEDONIAN MISSION

Unnamed British defense sources told Reuters in London on 15 August that the U.K. will provide up to 1,800 of the soldiers for Essential Harvest. The troops could be ready to depart as early as 16 August. PM

NATO COMMANDER IN MACEDONIA CAUTIOUS

Danish General Gunnar Lange told a news conference in Skopje on 15 August that plans to start Essential Harvest are contingent on implementation of the cease-fire, Reuters reported. He said that he will be monitoring the situation "over the next few days." Lange added: "The conditions on the ground must also be right before any deployment can occur. The cease-fire must be respected. Our soldiers will not come here to enforce a peace." Elsewhere, the Macedonian Defense Ministry reported some fighting between its forces and the UCK in and near Tetovo during the night of 14-15 August. PM

BUSH HAILS MACEDONIAN AGREEMENT

President George W. Bush said in a statement at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado on 14 August that Macedonian "President Trajkovski and I agree that [the UCK's] tactics are despicable and their methods undemocratic. The time has come for these armed groups to turn over their weapons to NATO and disband," AP reported. Bush, who had just spoken to Trajkovski by telephone, added: "The settlement promises to strengthen democracy and avert civil war, while protecting Macedonia's territorial integrity and political unity. A political settlement has been signed, and we now need to ensure the peace and put Macedonia back on the road to Europe. The United States offers its strong support to President Trajkovski and to the democratic government of Macedonia as they move forward to achieve this goal." PM

KFOR ARRESTS 16 HEADING FOR MACEDONIA

Polish and Ukrainian KFOR troops detained 16 UCK fighters heading for the Macedonian border and confiscated their weapons on 13 August, KFOR said in a press release from Camp Bondsteel the next day. Among the confiscated items were seven antipersonnel mines, four antitank mines, 13 60-millimeter mortar rounds, two rocket-propelled grenades, 300 blocks of dynamite, and approximately 100 pounds of medical supplies. PM

KOSOVA PROTECTION CORPS REJECTS CHARGES FROM MACEDONIA

In a statement in Prishtina on 13 August, the civilian Kosova Protection Corps (TMK) denied recent charges by some Macedonian politicians that several hundred TMK members have taken an active role in the fighting in Macedonia, Kosova Live news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2001). A TMK spokesman noted that Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and other, unnamed politicians have long sought to blame others for their own inability to manage their own affairs. PM

SERBIAN GOVERNING COALITION TO LOOK INTO MYSTERIOUS MURDER

A majority of the parties represented in the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition agreed in Belgrade on 14 August that the group's steering committee, or presidency, should meet soon to discuss the recent murder of security man Momir Gavrilovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 14 August 2001). Some political leaders and other observers have suggested that there could be a link between Gavrilovic's death and the office of President Vojislav Kostunica. The murder took place just hours after Gavrilovic met with members of Kostunica's staff to present evidence of links between some members of the DOS government and the criminal underworld. "Nedeljni telegraf" wrote on 15 August that the effect of the murder on Serbian politics will be "like an earthquake." PM

MONTENEGRIN LEADER DENIES SMUGGLING CHARGES

In a letter to the "Financial Times," of 15 August, President Milo Djukanovic denied recent reports in that daily that Montenegro has become a haven for cigarette smugglers. One of his advisers wrote the daily to object its reports that Djukanovic personally has protected criminals or profited from smuggling (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2001). PM

CROATIAN FIRES UNDER CONTROL

Dpa reported from Zagreb on 15 August that the fires raging from Split and Sibenik to Dubrovnik are now under control (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2001). PM

CROATIAN POLICE FIND SLAVONIAN ARMS CACHE

Police found a large hoard of arms and ammunition buried near a house owned by a Serb in Erdut, eastern Slavonia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 14 August. The illegal cache is believed to have been buried there 10 years ago during the Serbian rebellion. PM

BOSNIAN AIRLINE TO END CONTROVERSIAL FLIGHTS

Air Bosna has agreed to stop direct flights between Istanbul and Tuzla, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 14 August. The flights were reportedly used by many Turkish citizens for illegal entry into Western Europe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2001). Air Bosna had justified the flights on the grounds that Tuzla is "an attractive tourist destination." Its main attraction, however, seems to have been that immigration authorities do not have an office at Tuzla airport. PM

ROMANIAN ROYAL CASTLE RESTITUTION TO BE SUBMITTED TO PLEBISCITE?

Public Administration Minister Octav Cozmanca on 14 August said he is "surprised" that former King Michael's lawyers are demanding the restitution of the Peles castle in Sinaia under the provisions of Law No. 10 approved by the parliament earlier this year, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He said the stipulations of this law might not apply to the castle, which was nationalized under special legislation passed by the communist parliament in 1948, and the restitution of the castle may therefore require special legislation. Cozmanca said the government will debate the request on 16 August and may decide to submit the special legislation to the parliament, adding that the bill might be submitted to a special referendum at a later date. He also said the state invested large sums in refurbishing the castle and that the yearly expenses for maintaining it as a museum amount to 30 billion lei (some $1 million). MS

ROMANIAN MINISTER HINTS AT PRESIDENTIAL PARDON FOR COZMA

Cozmanca also said miners' leader Miron Cozma's sentencing to 18 years in prison in 1999 was "a political act." He said the sentence was "exaggerated" and had been changed from three to 18 years in prison "within two weeks" of an appeal by the prosecutor general, thus indicating that the punishment was due to "inadmissible interference of politics in the realm of the judiciary." Cozmanca said neither the government nor the ruling Social Democratic Party will interfere in the presidential decision on whether to pardon Cozma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2001). MS

ROMANIAN PEASANTISTS ELECT CIORBEA AS CHAIRMAN

An extraordinary congress of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 14 August elected Victor Ciorbea as the new party chairman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Of the 439 delegates who cast ballots, 431 backed Ciorbea and eight votes were nullified. Constantin Dudu Ionescu was elected PNTCD secretary-general. The new leadership team also includes 13 party vice chairmen: Serban Bubenek, Ion Caramitru, Gheorghe Ciuhandu, Cornelia Coroianu, Alexandru Herlea, Dorin Mihai, Teodor Morariu, Ioan Muresan, Remus Opris, Irinel Popescu, Nicolae Noica, Radu Sarbu, and Gheorghe Valceanu. PNTCD Honorary Chairman Ion Diaconescu told participants the gathering was "the only [legitimate] congress of the true PNTCD." The rival PNTCD wing headed by former PNTCD Chairman Andrei Marga, former First Deputy Chairman Vasile Lupu, and former PNTCD Secretary General Calin Catalin Chirita will hold its own "PNTCD extraordinary congress" on 17-19 August. MS

ROMANIANS FEEL 'MARGINALIZED' IN COVASNA, HARGHITA COUNTIES

Ethnic Romanians living in Harghita and Covasna counties, which have ethnic Hungarian majorities, complained during debates at Izvorul Muresului Summer University that all Romanian governments in the last 10 years have neglected their problems and that they feel "marginalized" and "discriminated against" by the Hungarian majority, Romanian Radio reported. The Izvorul Muresului Summer University, which closed after two days of debates, is largely a response to the Balvanyos Summer University, where Hungarians from Romania, Hungary, and other countries gather every year. Participants said an attempt should be made to hold the two gatherings jointly and transform them into "a real and honest forum of interethnic communication." Participants from Serbia and Bulgaria complained about discrimination, saying that Belgrade and Sofia refuse to recognize them as "Romanians," considering them "Vlachs" (an indigenous rural people speaking a Romance language) instead. Moldovan Popular Party Christian Democratic leader Iurie Rosca complained about the policies of "de-Romanianization" underway in Moldova. MS

TRANSDNIESTER TO ISSUE INTERNAL PASSPORTS...

Valerii Litskay, the "foreign minister" of the separatist government, on 14 August said that the breakaway region plans to issue internal passports, dpa reported, citing Infotag. Litskay said the Transdniester "government" has run out of blank passports that it received from the former Soviet Union, but Russia has since destroyed the printing plates and "we have no choice but to issue our own passports." Litskay said tension with Chisinau makes issuing Moldovan passports to residents of the breakaway region "difficult." He said Transdniester residents will still be able to use their old foreign passports, such as Moldovan, Ukrainian, or Russian, for travel abroad and the new "Transdniester passport" will be used as an internal document for identification. MS

...REJECTS VORONIN'S PROPOSAL ON UNIFICATION OF ARMIES

Transdniester Supreme Soviet deputy speaker Vladimir Atamanyuk on 14 August said that Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin's recent proposal that Moldova and the separatist region unify their armies is "not well thought through," Infotag reported. Atamanyuk told journalists in Tiraspol that "the world has not yet known a single instance when two states, having many unresolved problems, would begin unifying their armies. This amounts to placing the cart before the horse." On Voronin's proposal that the two armies be reduced by 30 percent, Atamanyuk said "each state has the army it is able to maintain." He accused Chisinau of falsifying figures on the strength of its military forces and said Moldovan forces are numerically "at least six times" what is claimed. MS

MOLDOVAN ECONOMY MINISTER SAYS MACROECONOMIC STABILIZATION ACHIEVED

Economy Minister Andrei Cucu on 14 August told journalists that the government headed by Vasile Tarlev succeeded in achieving macroeconomic stabilization in the first half of 2001, Infotag reported. According to figures presented by Cucu, GDP grew by 4 percent compared with the same period last year, budget revenues are up by 13 percent, and industrial output increased by 12 percent. Cucu said that agricultural output also rose by 15 percent, while foreign trade increased by 22 percent to $690.6 million. Cucu also said that the agreement recently concluded with the IMF will allow external financing to be resumed by the end of 2001. Moldova expects a $12 million tranche from a loan agreed upon earlier with the IMF, $20 million from the World Bank for budget stabilization, and a $10 million loan from the Dutch government, he said. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER IN BULGARIA...

Adrian Nastase, on a one-day visit to Bulgaria on 14 August, met in the mountain resort of Borovets with his Bulgarian counterpart Simeon Saxecoburggotski, BTA, AP, and Mediafax reported. The talks concentrated on the two countries' quests to join the EU and NATO, which were defined by the premiers as "joint priorities." They agreed to assist each other in achieving these goals and to pursue them "in tandem." The two premiers also agreed to work jointly for the stabilization of the Balkans. Saxecoburggotski and Nastase said after the talks that a joint commission of experts will propose solutions to the problems on which they still differ, such as the closure of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant or the restitution to Bulgaria of the building where a Bulgarian high school operated in Bucharest before World War II. Nastase was also received by President Petar Stoyanov. After the meeting, Nastase said Bucharest will back Sofia's quest for a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council as well as Bulgaria's efforts to take over the OSCE chairmanship in 2004. MS

...AS BULGARIAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES LINK WITH ROMANIA ON JOINING EU, NATO

The opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) criticized the government for agreeing to coordinate "in tandem" with Romania efforts to join Euro-Atlantic structures, BTA Mediafax reported. The SDS said the formula "contravenes Bulgarian interests" and the previous SDS-led government's policies, which stipulated that accession to the EU and NATO is to be judged by each candidate's independent merits and performance. The SDS said that policy had taken Bulgaria off the list of countries whose citizens cannot travel visa-free to the EU, whereas Romania remains on that list. MS




IN KALMYKIA, THE KHAN IS STILL GUARDING HIS YURT


By Jorunn Brandvoll

Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, can probably claim to be the only city in Russia that has a statue of Ostap Bender, the hero from the classic Soviet novel "Twelve Chairs," and even a street is named after him. Ostap Bender's passion is to play chess, and it is also the passion of the president of Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is also the president of the International Chess Federation. However, what people sometimes forget is that Bender first and foremost is fond of cheating people, and many would claim that this is another trait Kirsan and Ostap have in common. No one has forgotten that Ilyumzhinov promised everyone $100 if he won the first presidential elections in 1993, or how he had promised to turn the republic into a second Kuwait where everyone would be able to afford mobile phones within 10 years. Eight years after he was elected, the republic is among the poorest subjects of the Russian Federation, and the lack of a proper network makes using a mobile phone difficult. And no one has seen the $100 that was promised.

The people of Kalmykia were reminded of the broken promises this summer when a documentary on ORT on 29 May put the spotlight on the Kalmyk president -- just one of a series of portraits of erratic republican presidents that has been presented on ORT recently. Never before had a central TV station drawn such a critical picture of the Kalmyk president. On the day the program was aired, the most important regime newspaper, "Izvestiya Kalmykii," printed a denouncement of the program, and many feared that the authorities would shut off ORT temporarily to prevent people from watching, as they have done on previous occasions. Nevertheless, the program was aired, and while most ordinary citizens of Kalmykia were likely not shocked by the facts documented by Yelena Masiuk in the program, the documentary prompted State Duma deputies in Moscow to raise questions about Ilyumzhinov's personality cult.

Three weeks later, the federal Audit Commission concluded its search for irregularities in the use of budget funds in Kalmykia between 1998 and 2000. They found that 315.6 million rubles ($10.6 million) from republican and federal budgets and from nonbudget funds had been spent illegally on other purposes, including 57.7 million on the soccer club Uralan. Other millions were spent on the preparations for the World Chess Olympiad in Elista in 1998. The sum spent on the soccer club was 2.5 times more than what the republic spent on education during that period. At the same time, the republic is a net recipient of federal transfers. Furthermore, it allows companies that are registered in the so-called offshore zone in Kalmykia tax reductions that combined are 2.8 times larger than the income of the republic's budget. Nobody knows quite where all the money these 5,400 companies pay to be registered in Kalmykia ends up, according to the website strana.ru on 22 June.

However, it is unlikely that the ORT documentary and the Audit Commission investigation signal the end of Ilyumzhinov's presidency. Around the same time that the program was aired and the Audit Commission's results were publicized, the Russian State Duma passed a law stipulating that Kalmykia was one of 10 regions whose leaders would be allowed to run for a third or even fourth term in office. New elections are coming up next year.

Meanwhile, the republican elite seems as united as before, and one can still sense the fear among the common people in Elista of speaking out against the regime. From time to time some people go out on Elista's main square to protest against harsh living conditions, but such demonstrations are normally swiftly suppressed by the police. On 4 July, three women were badly beaten up by police after they attempted to stage a hunger strike on the main square. Too many have lost their livelihoods for criticizing the regime, and the loss of one's job is a serious threat in a region where unemployment is high. A high school director was dismissed after she let her pupils go to school on the president's birthday, which is a holiday in the republic.

The only people openly criticizing the regime is a small group of opposition politicians -- about 50 of them in the entire republic -- who mainly represent Yabloko, the Communist Party, and the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS). The 1998 murder of Larisa Yudina, the editor of the opposition newspaper "Sovetskaya Kalmykia segodnya," seems to have brought about a slight improvement in the conditions for the opposition, since it generated a lot of negative publicity about the methods used by the Ilyumzhinov regime to curb the opposition. Since 1997, the opposition has challenged in court a large number of republican laws that violate federal laws. With additional pressure from federal officials, more than 70 such laws have been abolished thus far.

However, life in opposition is still not easy. So far the opposition does not have formal representation in the republican parliament. The last elections in Kalmykia were conducted last February, for the city council of Elista. The opposition candidate for the mayor of Elista, Vladimir Kolesnik, was prevented from registering for the election, but eight other opposition candidates participated in the elections for the city council. Only two were elected, Ivan Ryzhkov from Yabloko and Natalya Manzhikova from the SPS, but shortly thereafter the authorities found an excuse to annul the results of the election in Ryzhkov's district. Since then, the opposition has tried to prove through a series of court proceedings against the city authorities that the apparatus of the incumbent mayor of Elista, Radii Burulov, resorted to serious election fraud to prevent opposition candidates from winning in four of the districts. The proceedings have not yet been concluded. While earlier this year the republican prosecutor and Supreme Court showed a certain amount of independence by declaring some republican decrees unconstitutional, this time they have again proved to be on the side of republic and local authorities.

Press freedoms have also not improved much in Kalmykia. The newspaper, "Sovetskaya Kalmykia segodnya," is still printed outside the republic, in Stavropol, and is sold on the street in the republic without government permission, as is the Communist newspaper "Leninskii put."

As next year's presidential elections draw closer, repression is likely to increase again. The attempt to set fire to an apartment owned by Yabloko member and "Sovetskaya Kalmykia segodnya" journalist Svetlana Ilinskaya on 25 July may be one harbinger of things to come. In the upcoming elections, the opposition is putting its resources behind Kolesnik, who like all other alternative candidates was prevented from participating in the last presidential elections in 1995, but who proved to have quite strong popular support both in the subsequent republican parliament elections in 1998 and the State Duma elections in 1998. However, thus far the most serious competitor to the incumbent president seems to be Aleksandra Burataeva, the former TV news anchorwoman. She will have the advantage of representing Unity. However, a new person in the presidency of the republic may not bring residents a respite from corruption and repression: Many in the republic think that even if Ilyumzhinov is not granted the opportunity to run for a third term, he will nevertheless succeed in finding a loyal replacement to "guard his yurt" in his absence. Jorunn Brandvoll is a graduate student at the University of Oslo and a graduate scholar at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.


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