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Newsline - August 16, 2001




RUSSIA REMEMBERS THE 1991 COUP...

Taking part in a recent roundtable on the events of the attempted coup on August 19, 1991, political allies of former President Boris Yeltsin, such as former speaker of the Supreme Soviet Ruslan Khasbulatov, former Prime Minister Ivan Silaev, former Press Minister Mikhail Poltaranin, former State Secretary Gennadii Burbulis, and others expressed their regrets about the disintegration of the Soviet Union that followed the coup, "Moskovskie novosti" No. 33 reported. Meanwhile, in a recent poll conducted by VTsIOM, 10 percent of respondents described the 1991 events as a "democratic revolution, while 43 percent evaluated them as a "power struggle." Only 20 percent of respondents thought that the plotters were defeated as result of the "people's resistance," while in 1991, 57 percent of respondents in a similar poll thought so. An even smaller number (9 percent) now believe that putsch leaders lost because of the decisive actions of Yeltsin and the Russian leadership at the time, while in 1991, 55 percent of the respondents shared that opinion. VY

...AS LEFT OPPOSITION FIGURES CALL ON PUTIN TO THROW OFF YELTSIN'S YOKE...

A group of 43 Communist and left-wing opposition leaders published a letter in "Sovetskaya Rossiya" on 14 August appealing to Russian President Vladimir Putin and "patriotic elements of the ruling elite" to stop the next phase of liberal economic reforms and "rid themselves of the deadly heritage of Yeltsinism." The letter was printed on the 10th anniversary of the publication of the similar "Letter to the People" that appeared prior to the August 1991 coup. Like that first letter, the new appeal was signed by Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Aleksandr Prokhanov, the publisher of the radical anti-Western weekly "Zavtra." VY

...AND ASK 'CHEKISTS' TO TAKE OVER REINS OF POWER

The authors of the new letter write that they have no "illusions about the abilities or internal motivation of Vladimir Putin," but they are still asking him "to free himself from Yeltsin's entourage, which is hated by the people." The authors also ask the "chekists" and "patriotic men in the power agencies" to take over management of the state from "dilettantes" such as Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin. VY

RUSSIAN EXPERT HAS SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT MISSILE DEFENSE

One of the leading Russian designers of strategic missiles, Yurii Sizov, told ITAR-TASS on 15 August that the missile defense system elaborated by U.S. cannot guarantee the national security of a country, but it can still be an important element of a system of control for global stability. Sizov suggested that the U.S. should redefine its proposal as a "global defense system" with the participation of Russia and the other major powers. According to Sizov, such a system could serve two basic functions: to act as a shield against missile attack and as a protective shield against falling asteroids. VY

DEFENSE MINISTER DENIES CLOSURE OF RUSSIAN SPY CENTER IN CUBA...

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov refused on 15 August to confirm media reports that the process of dismantling the Russian electronic espionage center in Lurdes, Cuba, has begun, RIA-Novosti reported. According to articles in "Izvestiya" on 14 August and "Versiya" No. 33, Russia began withdrawing the center's personnel after it failed to come to an agreement with Cuba about who will finance it. The center is run jointly by the Third Directorate of the Federal Agency for Government Communication and Information (FAPSI) and the Sixth Directorate of Russian Military Intelligence (GRU), and employs about 1,000 personnel at a cost of about $300 million a year. VY

...FOLLOWING VOLOSHIN VISIT

Over the last decade, the center, which was designed to intercept American electronic communications, began to lose its intelligence-gathering significance as the U.S. started to use more advanced ciphering systems and technology to help prevent eavesdropping. In addition, Lurdes continued to be a political obstacle between Moscow and Washington as the U.S. Congress adopted legislation last year banning any loans to Russia until Lurdes is dismantled. Also on 15 August, presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin wrapped up his visit to Cuba following a six-hour meeting with Cuban leader Fidel Castro (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2001). VY

KUDRIN PROMISES TO GET MORE MONEY FROM RUSSIA'S DEBTORS

Russia intends to intensify its efforts to collect unpaid debts from other countries, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kudrin told "Vremya MN," on 14 August. According to Kudrin, Russia is owed $100-150 billion depending on how the debt is calculated. The biggest Russian debtors are Cuba, Vietnam, Mongolia, India, Algeria, and Iraq. Kudrin noted that those countries are mostly poor, so expected repayment of their debts will realistically not exceed more than 10 percent of the total, but about $1.5-2 billion a year could ease Russia's "2003 problem," when it will face having to repay $19.5 billion of its own debts. VY

RUSSIAN DEFENSE INDUSTRY PINS GREAT HOPES ON AVIATION SECTOR

Speaking at Moscow's MAKS-2001 air show on 15 August, Deputy Prime Minister Klebanov said that the Russian aviation industry is producing about 30 percent of all defense-sector production and is responsible for 60 percent of Russia's weapon exports, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, Rosoboroneksport General Director Andrei Belyaninov reported that for the first half of 2000 his agency exported weapons worth $2.8 billion. Belyaninov also noted that the portfolio of prospective contracts for his agency is at a record high, having reached $13 billion. VY

MORE SNAGS REPORTED IN PREPARATION FOR WINTER...

The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade reported on 15 August that as of the beginning of August, 95 percent of the funds allocated for deliveries of goods to the Far Northern territories under the 2001 federal budget had been disbursed, ITAR-TASS reported. In some regions, 100 percent of funds have been transferred while in others, such as the Sakhalin and Kamchatka oblasts, have received only 51.8 percent and 29.2 percent of their total annual funding respectively. Meanwhile, First Deputy Railways Minister Aleksandr Tselko told reporters on 15 August that at the current pace that coal is being shipped, certain regions, such as the Far East, will not ready for winter by 1 October, Russian agencies reported. According to Tselko, there is enough coal and cargo space to increase shipments, but energy companies have not been able to unload coal deliveries in a timely fashion because of worn out equipment. JAC

...AS ENERGY MINISTRY POISED TO ACT AS MEDIATOR BETWEEN EES, CONSUMERS

Following a press conference by Energy Minister Igor Yusufov on 14 August, "Vremya MN" reported the next day that the ministry plans to become a third party in negotiations between consumers and the electricity monopoly, Unified Energy Systems (EES). According to the daily, in the future the ministry may act as a brake on EES's policy of turning off energy supplies to nonpaying customers. Yusufov told reporters that energy supplies can be cut off to consumers only in the event of an unsuccessful result to three-sided negotiations between the customer, EES, and the ministry. JAC

CHEREPKOV REVEALS PLANS FOR NEW POLITICAL PARTY

State Duma (People's Deputy) Viktor Cherepkov told reporters in Vladivostok on 15 August that he intends to launch a new nationwide political party, the goal of which will be to unite "all progressive forces into a single strike force," Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to Cherepkov, the need for a new party has arisen because of the lack of a civil society in Russia capable of influencing the authorities. He added that the real power is in the hands of the oligarchs and the country is ruled by presidential administration head Voloshin and his team, while Putin is only a "decorative president." Last June, Cherepkov was disqualified from running in the second round of gubernatorial elections in Primorskii Krai (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2001). JAC

DUMA COMBINES SOVIET CREST WITH RUSSIAN COAT OF ARMS...

The Soviet crest will remain on the facade of the State Duma's Moscow headquarters, while the new Russian coat of arms will be set along side it, deputy chief of the Duma's staff, Anatolii Popov, told Russian news agencies on 15 August. According to Popov, that decision was made despite protests by liberal parliamentarians, because the Soviet symbol "is a part of the building's [original] architectural design and has historical value." VY

...AS OFFICE SHORTAGE DRAWS DEPUTIES CLOSER TOGETHER?

While the question of who gets what apartment has always vexed Duma deputies, members of the third convocation of the Duma are faced with an equally troubling problem: that of insufficient office space, "Vremya novostei" reported on 15 August. Part of the problem, according to the daily, is that under Duma regulations all faction leaders and their deputies as well as all of the Duma's deputy speakers as well as committee chairs are entitled to two offices -- one for themselves and one for their staff, and in the third Duma, the number of committees greatly increased. The Duma's apparatus is trying to solve the problem, but a solution will be implemented only "gradually" and according to the queue, the daily reported. The first in line is apparently the deputy head of Unity's faction Frants Klintsevich who will receive in the fall two new offices that have vacated by the Duma's press service. JAC

IS GAZPROM DRAGGING ITS FEET OVER EKHO MOSKVY SALE?

Former Economy Minister Yevgenii Yasin told RIA-Novosti on 15 August that Gazprom has not yet given its permission for the sale of a 9.5 percent stake in Ekho Moskvy. Gazprom-Media agreed last month to sell the stake to Yasin, who hosts a program on the station (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2001). According to Yasin, an inquiry regarding the shares was sent by Gazprom-Media to Gazprom on 2 August, but no answer has yet been received. According to the website polit.ru, Gazprom-Media press secretary Aelita Yefimova said that Gazprom-Media's request is still being reviewed. Yasin said that after he is sold the stake, he will transfer it to the workers' collective of the station. JAC

GAZPROM TO SINK $1 BILLION INTO BARENTS SEA DEPOSIT

A Gazprom spokesman announced on 15 August that Gazprom will invest about $1 billion together with its German partner, Wintershal AG, in the exploration of the Prirazlomnoye oil deposit in the Arctic area of the Barents Sea, RIA-Novosti reported. According to the spokesman, the company will explore an offshore deposit that has an estimated 16 million tons of oil at depths of 2,300-2,500 meters below sea level. Once developed, the oil would be delivered to Murmansk --about 900 kilometers away -- and from there it would be shipped via icebreaking tankers to the European market. VY

HALF OF RUSSIAN SCHOOLS NOT EQUIPPED WITH COMPUTERS...

Education Minister Vladimir Filippov told reporters on 15 August that as Russia's 20 million school children head off for school in the fall, many schools are not outfitted with physics or chemistry equipment, and 50 percent of schools still do not have a single computer, ITAR-TASS reported. Filippov also noted that wages for school teachers will be doubled between November and December. JAC

...AS REGIONAL LEADERS TO ASK FOR BIG HIKE IN EDUCATIONAL FUNDING

The State Council will take up the topic of education at its session on 29 August, and "Vremya MN" reported on 15 August that the council's working group on educational reform will recommend that Russia spend 4.5 percent of GDP on education rather than the 3 percent that it spends today. It also will suggest that financing of education should be increased by 25 percent a year in the federal budget, and no less than 10 percent a year in regional budgets. JAC

TUVA CELEBRATES ITS 80TH BIRTHDAY

Residents of the Tuva Republic completed on 15 August a three-day celebration of the 80th anniversary of the founding of the republic, ITAR-TASS reported. Unity leader and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, who was born in Tuva, along with Olympic wrestler Aleksandr Karelin attended the celebration. Guests were greeted in a white presidential yurt specially constructed for the occasion on Kyzyl's main square, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 14 August. After periods of being under Chinese and Mongol rule, Tuva came under Russian "protection" in 1914, according to the daily. The Tuvan government was independent until 1944, when it became part of the RSFSR as an autonomous oblast. After the Soviet Union fell apart, Tuva remained until recently the only federation subject with the constitutional right to leave the Russian Federation, and in the event of political or governmental crises, it had the right to follow local law. JAC




DATE SET FOR PUTIN'S ARMENIA VISIT

Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to Yerevan for an official visit on 14-16 September, Interfax reported on 15 August, quoting the Armenian Foreign Ministry press service. An official at the Russian Embassy in Yerevan told the agency that economic ties will top the agenda in Putin's talks with the Armenian leadership. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT TAKES ISSUE WITH WORLD BANK ASSESSMENT

Speaking at a textile factory in Yerevan on 15 August, Armenian President Robert Kocharian questioned the accuracy of a recent World Bank assessment that despite economic growth, poverty remains high in Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian argued that wages have increased this year as a result of a 20 percent surge in exports. He also predicted that the ongoing privatization process, which he said should be speeded up, will help create new jobs. He rejected criticism of the conduct and outcome of the privatization in 1998 of Armenian Telekom and the Yerevan Brandy Factory. LF

AVIATION OFFICIAL VISITS ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN

European Civil Aviation Conference President Alfredo Roma is currently holding talks with Armenian and Azerbaijani officials on the conditions under which Armenia would be prepared to lift its veto on Azerbaijani membership of that body, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 15 August. Azerbaijan and Turkey for their part are blocking Armenia's membership in the European Council of Transport Ministers. Roma told journalists in Yerevan that "in principle" the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaderships are prepared to lift those vetoes. Roma said he also discussed in both Armenia and Azerbaijan the possibility of opening Nagorno-Karabakh's airspace to civilian air traffic. It has been closed to civilian flights since 1994. Further talks on that issue will take place in Paris in October. LF

AZERBAIJANI COURT ORDERS CLOSURE OF NEWSPAPER THAT INSULTED ISLAMIC CLERIC

A Baku district court on 15 August ordered the closure of the newspaper "Etimad" for publishing an article deemed to be insulting to Azerbaijan's senior Muslim cleric, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allakhshukur Pashazade, Turan reported. The Muslim Religious Board of the Caucasus, which Pashazade heads, has also brought a criminal case for slander and libel against the paper's editor, Etibar Mansuroglu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2001). LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION ESTIMATES ANNUAL OIL LOSSES...

Up to 1.5 million tons of oil are illegally exported from Azerbaijan via Iran every year, Azerbaijan National Independence Party Chairman Etibar Mamedov told journalists in Baku on 15 August, according to Turan. Mamedov said that he based that claim on "foreign diplomatic sources," and that the involvement of Iran in those exports is the primary reason why the Azerbaijani leadership has not reacted more strongly to Iran's claims on Azerbaijan's sector of the Caspian Sea. He also said those clandestine exports are one of the reasons for the IMF's suspension of credits to Azerbaijan. Total oil production by Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR was 9.01 million metric tons in 2000 and 3.7 million tons in the first six months of 2001. Of that latter amount, 1 million tons of oil and oil products was legally exported. LF

...AS STATE OIL COMPANY ORDERED TO FEED DISPLACED PERSONS

President Heidar Aliyev has issued a decree ordering SOCAR to transfer 906 million manats ($190,000) every month to the bank account of the State Committee for Refugees and Displaced Persons in order to provide food for the inmates of displaced persons camps, Turan reported on 15 August. LF

AZERBAIJANI DEFENSE OFFICIAL SAYS STATISTICS ON PEACETIME FATALITIES 'STATE SECRET'

In response to allegations that the number of noncombat deaths among army conscripts has risen dramatically (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2001), Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Ramiz Melikov told a press conference on 15 August that his ministry has accurate records of the number of such deaths, but will not make those records public as they constitute a state secret, Turan reported. Melikov also rejected as "an exaggeration" claims that bribery is widespread within the military. LF

IRAN REJECTS U.S. COMMENTS ON ITS DISPUTE WITH AZERBAIJAN

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi on 15 August rejected as "unrealistic" and "provocative" a statement the previous day by U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker condemning the recent repeated incursions of Iranian aircraft into Azerbaijan's airspace, Reuters' Tehran correspondent reported. "Any intervention by foreign states not located in the area in the affairs of the Caspian region cannot only impede a solution to the Caspian problem but also complicate it," Asefi said. He also denied Azerbaijani claims that Iran has violated its airspace, saying that, as in the past, Iran continues to conduct air patrols over its own sector of the Caspian, according to IRNA, as quoted by the Caspian News Agency. LF

AZERBAIJANI-GEORGIAN GAS EXPORT DEAL 'READY FOR SIGNING'

Following talks in Baku on 15 August with President Aliev, visiting Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili said that the signing of the planned agreement on the export via Georgia of Azerbaijan's natural gas can take place "at any time suitable" for Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Turan reported. The signing was originally scheduled for last month but delayed at the last minute, reportedly because of disagreements over transport tariffs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 10 August 2001). LF

GEORGIAN TAX MINISTER RESIGNS TO PROTEST DRAFT BUDGET FOR 2002

Mikhail Machavariani announced his resignation at a government session on 15 August, arguing that the version of the budget for 2002 presented by Economy, Industry, and Trade Minister Vano Chkhartishvili is unrealistic, Caucasus Press reported. Chkhartishvili's draft sets incomes some 100 million laris ($48.3 million), or 10 percent, higher than does an alternative draft prepared by the Finance Ministry. Machavariani expressed his support for the Finance Ministry's version, while President Shevardnadze endorsed Chkhartishvili's estimates. Chkhartishvili had told journalists on 14 August that his draft is realistic provided that the Tax Ministry fulfills its obligations. Shevardnadze has not yet accepted Machavariani's resignation. The president has ordered the creation of a special committee, to be headed by Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili, to improve budget revenues, Caucasus Press reported on 16 August. LF

TBILISI MAYOR WANTS GEORGIAN PRESIDENT TO SERVE THIRD TERM

Tbilisi Mayor Vano Zodelava again argued on 15 August, as he had done last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 2000) that the Georgian Constitution should be amended to permit President Shevardnadze to seek a third consecutive term in the presidential polls due in 2005, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze said last week he does not intend to run again in 2005, arguing that the constitution would have to be amended to permit him to do so, and that frequent amendments would undermine popular confidence in the country's basic law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2001). LF

WITNESSES IMPLICATE FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER

The prosecution on 15 August summoned the first six of a total of 75 witnesses in the trial of former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Kazhegeldin, who left Kazakhstan in 1999, is charged with demanding bribes from enterprise directors; granting unwarranted tax breaks; and signing, without consulting other cabinet members, government ordinances on the privatization of large state-owned companies, including a thermal power station in Ekibastuz, northern Kazakhstan, according to Interfax. Kazhegeldin denies all the charges against him, which he says are politically motivated. LF

UIGHURS ON TRIAL IN KYRGYZSTAN

The trial opened in Bishkek on 15 August of four Uighurs, two from China, one from Uzbekistan, and one from Turkey, accused of the murder last year in Bishkek of an Uighur businessman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March 2000) and other crimes, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The four men are also accused of planning to establish a branch in Kyrgyzstan of the Eastern Turkestan Liberation Front, which aims to establish an independent Uighur state. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER

President Imomali Rakhmonov has named First Deputy Foreign Minister Erkin Rahmatulloev as his foreign policy adviser, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 15 August. Rahmatulloev was born in 1953 and graduated as an Arabist from Tajik State University, after which he served at the Soviet Embassy in Cairo before joining the staff of the Tajik SSR Council of Ministers in 1980. He was named first deputy foreign minister in 1992. Rahmatulloev succeeds Karim Yuldashev, who was gunned down at his home last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2001). LF

TAJIKISTAN APPEALS FOR HELP TO COUNTER RAT MENACE

The Tajik Health Ministry has appealed to the World Health Organization for assistance in eradicating an influx of rats in Dushanbe that threatens to spread plague, rabies, and brucellosis, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 15 August. Rats have also disabled computer systems at banks and at Dushanbe airport on more than one occasion by gnawing through cables. Asia Plus-Blitz quoted a staff member of the city's disease prevention center as explaining that funding cuts in recent years have forced his agency to cut back on rodent eradication programs. The virtual breakdown of the city's garbage collection service has compounded the problem. LF




WASHINGTON FEARS BELARUS'S ELECTIONS WON'T BE FAIR

Elizabeth Jones, the U.S. State Department assistant secretary on European affairs, has said the U.S. sees a "number of troubling signs" that next month's presidential election in Belarus will be neither free nor fair, Belapan reported on 15 August. Jones told the agency that Belarusian NGOs conducting nonpartisan election-related activities have been attacked in recent weeks by police and U.S. government-owned equipment has been seized. She also pointed out that there is growing pressure on the independent media in Belarus, while the government is free to decide whether or not to allow the opposition access to the state media on equal terms. "To establish a framework for fair regulation of elections, the Belarusian authorities need to ensure that the opposition enjoys representation from the local level on up through the Central Election Commission," Jones noted, adding that the Belarusian opposition is not even marginally represented on the central and territorial election commissions. JM

BELARUSIAN POLICE DETAIN 20 PROTESTERS IN MAHILEU

Police in Mahileu, eastern Belarus, on 15 August dispersed some 200 participants in "The Chain of Concerned People" protest, which demanded the truth regarding the fate of disappeared persons in the country, Belapan reported. Police officers detained 20 people and charged several of them with littering public places, throwing cigarette butts on the street, and staging an unauthorized picket. One adolescent participant was beaten up by police officers and subsequently denied a medical examination intended to confirm the beating. JM

BELARUSIAN YOUTH FACE TWO YEARS IN PRISON FOR MOCKING LUKASHENKA

The Prosecutor's Office in the town of Shklou, Mahileu Oblast, has opened a criminal case against five members of the local branch of the unregistered youth movement Zubr on charges of defaming the president, Belapan reported on 15 August. Dzmitryy Shalashkou, Mikhail Kisyalyou, Dzyanis Senakosau, Alyaksandr Paulovich, and Mikhail Patupchyk are accused of having paraded on 14 August through the Haradzets state farm, which was once managed by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, dressed as four white-coated doctors in pursuit of a mustachioed Lukashenka look-alike. The alleged Lukashenka impersonator kept stopping passersby to ask "Do you know me? I'm your old boss. I'm back!" The fake doctors then approached the passersby and asked "Have you seen our patient? He has escaped from a mental hospital!" If found guilty, the five face up to two years in prison. JM

LUKASHENKA IS THE POOREST PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL ACCORDING TO HIS DECLARATION

In a declaration of his income and property submitted to the Central Election Commission, Lukashenka said he earns some $2,640 yearly. The president also admitted to owning a village house. He did not declare possession of a motor vehicle or summer dacha. This declaration makes the incumbent president the poorest presidential candidate among the four registered for the 9 September ballot. Uladzimir Hancharyk, the single candidate of the democratic opposition, declared that his yearly income is equal to some $3,700. Lukashenka's family members live on even scantier means that the president: his son Viktar and his family make $767 a year, while Lukashenka's mother lives on a yearly pension equal to $186. The Moscow-based "Komsomolskaya pravda" commented that Lukashenka's wife, who chose to remain in her native town throughout the entire term of Lukashenka's presidency, has "unexpectedly high" earnings in comparison with other members of the family -- some $516 a year. JM

UKRAINE'S GRAIN CROP EXCEEDS 35 MILLION TONS

The Agricultural Policy Ministry told Interfax on 15 August that Ukrainian farmers have already harvested 35.1 million tons of grain from 95 percent of Ukraine's grain-producing areas. The government's grain yield target for 2001 was 35 million tons. Deputy Agricultural Policy Minister Roman Shmidt told journalists the previous day that Ukraine intends to export some 5-7 million tons of grain this year, mainly to EU countries. JM

UKRAINE, RUSSIA TO DESIGN NEW VERSION OF MILITARY TRANSPORT AIRCRAFT

Dmytro Kyva, the first deputy designer-general of the Kiev-based Antonov aircraft scientific and technical concern, has said that the Antonov concern and the Chkalov aircraft manufacturing plant in Novosibirsk (Russia) have decided to begin designing a version of the An-38 aircraft for carrying airborne troops, UNIAN reported on 15 August, quoting the Defense-Express agency. The new An-38 version is intended to deliver people and cargo both by landing and parachuting. Its payload will be three tons, or 22 paratroopers. The agency added that currently there are three potential buyers of this new plane but did not disclose names. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said after talks with Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleh Dubyna in Moscow on 15 August that the two countries intend to pool efforts to market the jointly developed An-70 transport plane internationally, Interfax reported. JM

ESTONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER ORDERS EXTRA CONTROL OVER POLICE

Tarmo Loodus signed a decree on 15 August establishing greater supervision of police officers, BNS reported. It grants officials of the Police Board and the Interior Ministry the right to conduct unannounced raids on police institutions to evaluate their performance. The previous day a Tallinn police officer had been found drunk on duty at 8 a.m. and seven officers were fined for arriving late to work. More supervision will be placed on constables, who often maintain rather weak links with police precincts. More attention will also be paid to the use of police vehicles, as drunk police officers have recently been involved in three road accidents, one of which claimed the life of a young man. SG

FINANCE MINISTER PRAISES PROGRESS IN CURBING CONTRABAND

After a meeting of the Contraband Prevention Center's Supervisory Council, Gundars Berzins told reporters on 15 August that funds spent to help stop contraband have paid off excellently, LETA reported. He mentioned as an example the discovery of contraband tobacco among imported radio engineering equipment. In addition, the Financial Police in the first half of the year opened as many cases as in all of last year. Berzins declared, however, that the work of the customs service has been unsatisfactory and warned Customs Headquarters Director Aivars Karstins and his deputy Aivars Gulbis that they might be fired if the performance of the service does not improve. He mentioned that the Agriculture Ministry requested an analysis of poultry, butter, cheese, and cottage cheese transiting to Russia and Belarus in June, but thus far has only received formal replies and no effective actions on the part of customs officials. Berzins also expressed regret that "regular thunderbolts [are] striking video cameras at the Terehova border-crossing point on the Latvian-Russian border, requiring weeks of repair." SG

UNEMPLOYMENT RISES IN LITHUANIA

An unemployment survey conducted in line with EU norms by the Statistics Department indicated worse results in May than the rates previously announced by the Lithuanian Labor Exchange, ELTA and BNS reported on 14 August. The survey revealed that the unemployment level in May was 16.6 percent -- 1.1 percent higher than in May 2000 -- with the number of unemployed persons increasing from 280,100 to 284,000. The Labor Exchange had reported that the May unemployment rate was 12.3 percent, an increase of 1.2 percent compared to same period last year. The Statistics Department survey is broader since it was based on a survey of 7,300 persons above the age of 15 and included not only persons registering as unemployed at labor offices, but also those who had applied to private employment agencies. The unemployment rate for men (19.3 percent) was higher than for women (13.9 percent). SG

POLISH GOVERNMENT MULLS AUSTERITY MEASURES FOR 2002

Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Steinhoff told journalists on 15 August that the government intends to invite opposition activists to jointly discuss spending cuts in the 2002 budget, PAP reported. Earlier this week the Finance Ministry made public budget guidelines for 2002, which provide for a 1.7-2.9 percent increase in GDP, average yearly inflation of 4.8-5.4 percent, and a budget deficit equal to 4.5 percent of GDP. Following a 15 August government sitting, Steinhoff said the chances that the cabinet will approve these budget projections are "close to nil." Government leaks to the media put the estimated size of next year's budget deficit as high as 80 billion zlotys ($19 billion), or some 10 percent of Poland's GDP. To diminish the budget gap, the cabinet is reportedly considering freezing pensions and public-sector salaries, increasing excise taxes, and levying a temporary surcharge on imports. JM

MURDERER OF PRO-SOLIDARITY PRIEST RELEASED FROM POLISH PRISON

Grzegorz Piotrowski, a 51-year-old communist-era security service officer, was released from prison in Opole on 16 August, AP reported. Piotrowski served 15 years in prison for leading the abduction and killing of the popular pro-Solidarity priest Jerzy Popieluszko in 1984. Piotrowski was sentenced to 25 years in prison but his term was reduced under the former communist regime. "Because both the convict and his wife categorically refused any contact with the media and because we acknowledge his right to privacy as a free man, we released him [without prior announcement] at 5:20 a.m.," a prison spokesman told the agency. JM

CZECH NUCLEAR PLANT RUNS INTO TROUBLE AGAIN

The controversial Temelin nuclear power plant, which restarted tests on 12 August, experienced new problems on 15 August and a spokesman for the plant said further turbine tuning is necessary, dpa reported. The plant had been shut down in May because of strong vibrations in its turbine and other problems. MS

CZECH FORCED LABORERS FOR NAZIS FACE DOCUMENTATION PROBLEM

A spokeswoman for the Skoda Plzen engineering works on 15 August said that the company faces problems with providing documentation demanded by German authorities for the approval of compensation to Czechs who worked as forced laborers for the company during the Nazi occupation. Ladislava Nohovcova told CTK that the building where the Germans had kept the records on forced laborers was bombed in an air strike on 25 April 1945 and burned down completely. Nohovcova said some records are available for workers who were employed by the company after World War II, but "only in few cases did the records register their having worked as forced laborers during the war." Some 74,000 people worked for Nazi-managed arms manufacturer in 1942-43. A total of 423 million German marks have been earmarked for Czech victims of forced labor. MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT APPROVES JOINT PEACEKEEPING BATTALION

The cabinet on 15 August approved the formation of a joint peacekeeping battalion with Czech forces, CTK reported. Slovakia is to contribute 100 soldiers to the 494-strong battalion, which is to begin operating in Kosova in March 2002. The parliament must approve the decision. Defense Minister Jozef Stank said the formation of the battalion will facilitate Slovakia's quest to join NATO. Stank and Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on 15 August told journalists that Slovakia will not send any peacekeeping troops to Macedonia, since only NATO countries will participate in that operation. MS

NEW RACIAL INCIDENT IN SLOVAKIA

Marches have been staged by Roma since 14 August in Holic, western Slovakia, in protest against a racial incident on 10 August, when skinheads attacked and injured a young Rom, CTK reported. The Rom suffered serious injuries but his life is not in danger. The protesters say the police "do nothing" to hinder such incidents, which the police deny. On 15 March, skinheads in cars circled some 120 Roma protesters and police had to deploy all local forces and request reinforcements from other districts. Police said the attack on the young Rom is being investigated and that "racial motives are not being ruled out." But the local Romany community says it does not trust the police and that it will continue demonstrations until Holic's police chief is dismissed. MS

HUNGARY CROWNS 1,000 YEARS OF CHRISTIANITY

As part of the celebrations marking 1,000 years of statehood and since the adoption of Christianity, the Holy Crown of King St. Stephen was transferred for one day on 15 August from the parliament building in Budapest to the royal seat of Esztergom, Reuters and AP reported. The solemn procession by boat on the River Danube was followed by Assumption Day Mass at Esztergom Cathedral delivered by Cardinal Laszlo Paskai, with Prime Minister Viktor Orban and President Ferenc Madl in attendance. King Stephen was born in Esztergom. The crown was later carried back to Budapest by boat and accompanied by Madl, parliament speaker Janos Ader, and other dignitaries. Religious and state-sponsored events marking the Hungarian Millennium will run through 20 March, when the mummified hand of St. Stephen will be carried in procession. MS

CORRUPTION ALLEGATION STIR CONTROVERSY IN BUDAPEST

Former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Peter Tufo is denying claims made by Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky that Tufo told Prime Minister Viktor Orban of corruption relating to the modernization of Soviet-made MiGs by a German-Russian consortium and that Orban failed to act on the information, Hungarian media reported. Demszky on 15 August said Tufo told him about the affair on two separate occasions. Tufo told MTI that he would not publicly comment on his private talks with either Demszky or Orban, but added that he did not forward any documents related to the affair to Orban. Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth said that Demszky is attempting to capitalize on the issue in an effort to boost his chances in upcoming elections. Nemeth charged that Demszky is adding a "new dimension" to his smear campaign against Orban and the government. MS




NATO 'VANGUARD MISSION' TO MACEDONIA

NATO ambassadors agreed in Brussels on 15 August to send an initial force of 400 British troops to Macedonia to begin preparations for Operation Essential Harvest, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2001). Fifteen NATO experts arrived in Macedonia the previous day to determine whether the cease-fire is holding, as generally appears to be the case. The soldiers of the vanguard mission are expected to begin arriving late on 17 August. PM

POLITICAL PREPARATIONS UNDERWAY IN MACEDONIA

President Boris Trajkovski sent a proposal to the parliament on 15 August to enact the constitutional changes set down in the recent political agreement, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Parliament speaker Stojan Andov, whose Liberal Party has three seats in the 116-member legislature, said that a session to discuss the proposal will take place on 31 August. Trajkovski said that the amnesty for fighters from the National Liberation Army (UCK) will be limited to individuals who did not commit atrocities and who surrender their arms. UCK officials said that they will dissolve their formations and disarm within 45 days. For its part, the government agreed to NATO deployment to carry out Essential Harvest. PM

HOW WILL WEAPONS BE COLLECTED IN MACEDONIA?

Speaking at a press conference in Skopje on 15 August, NATO representative Danish General Gunnar Lange said: "In order to collect the weapons, we [will] deploy a cordon around this weapon collection site, and then, it is our intention to move in with a column to this weapon collection site, collect the arms, extract [them], and deploy to an area where the ammunition can be destroyed and the arms can be collected for further destruction in a third country," RFE/RL reported. Essential Harvest is expected to involve some 3,500 troops. PM

U.S. TO PROVIDE LOGISTICAL SUPPORT IN MACEDONIA

State Department spokesman Philip Reeker told a press conference in Washington on 15 August: "We've talked before, of course, about U.S. participation [in Essential Harvest] in terms of providing command and control and communications, and medical and logistical support, drawn largely from our forces in Kosovo and already deployed in Macedonia in support of the Kosovo force. And while we haven't determined yet exactly how many U.S. personnel would be involved, the number is expected to be [around] a few hundred... It's very important that that cease-fire hold [as a precondition for deployment]. Obviously that's a crucial element in bringing in the NATO deployment as an element in this whole process," RFE/RL reported. PM

WHO WANTS WHAT IN MACEDONIAN MISSION?

The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 16 August that several of the countries participating in Essential Harvest have motives for doing so that go beyond promoting peace and security in the Balkans. Britain, which knows the dangers of such a mission from Northern Ireland, wants quick, effective, and decisive action in order to convince the U.S. to take on a greater role. It is noted in London that some of the Albanian guerrillas have said that they will surrender their weapons only to the Americans. Washington, the daily continues, wants to give its allies a chance to show what they can do in managing Europe's affairs by themselves. The Bush administration is nonetheless aware that the credibility of NATO is involved in the mission and will do its part. France wants to play a leading role in order to "limit the influence of the British and the Americans in the Balkans." German units will likely be placed under French command, but it is not clear precisely how the cash-strapped German military will participate. PM

NO ROLE FOR RUSSIA IN MACEDONIA

The Russian authorities are skeptical of the proposed mission to Macedonia and will not participate, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 16 August. Moscow believes that the root of the problem is in Kosova, and that there is no point in collecting guns in Macedonia when the neighboring province is awash with weapons. PM

ALBANIA HAILS MACEDONIAN DEVELOPMENTS

Speaking in Tirana on 15 August, Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said that his government backs the Macedonian political agreement and peace process, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Tirana supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Macedonia, as well as the development of a democratic and multiethnic society there, he added. Tirana condemns any attempt to destabilize Macedonia. PM

SERBIA TO WORK WITH HAGUE -- NEXT YEAR

Yugoslav Justice Minister Savo Markovic said in Belgrade on 15 August that he expects the long-awaited law on cooperating with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal to be ready "by the end of the year," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He noted that Belgrade is obliged to work with the tribunal because its work is sanctioned by the UN. Markovic stressed, however, that cooperation must be regulated by law. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER: TIME FOR TRUTH IN MURDER CASE

Zoran Djindjic told "Blic" on 16 August that the governing coalition is "finished" unless the facts surrounding the recent murder of state security officer Momir Gavrilovic are brought to light (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 15 August 2001). Attention centers on possible links between the office of President Vojislav Kostunica and criminal elements close to the former regime of President Slobodan Milosevic. "Vesti" noted that Rade Markovic, who was Milosevic's secret police chief, visited Kostunica in his office a total of 22 times between October 2000 and Markovic's arrest in February 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February and 3 April 2001). Social Democratic leader Vuk Obradovic and some other members of the governing coalition, however, argue that it will be counterproductive for democracy in Serbia for politicians to deal with the murder. Obradovic wants unspecified "investigative bodies" to handle the case. Some other observers argue that the Gavrilovic case must not be allowed to jeopardize the unity of the coalition. PM

BOSNIAN SERB TURNS HIMSELF IN TO HAGUE

Dragan Jokic, a colonel in the army of the Republika Srpska, became the first Bosnian Serb military figure to voluntarily go to The Hague to face war crimes charges, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 15 August. Jovic was indicted on charges stemming from the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. He surrendered to the authorities in Banja Luka, from where he was transferred to the Netherlands. In related news, the tribunal is seeking to obtain the written minutes of meetings of the Bosnian presidency from 1990 to 1993, the broadcast added. PM

ECONOMIC SPLIT BETWEEN BOSNIAN ENTITIES WIDENS

Industrial production grew by 14.6 percent in the Muslim-Croat federation during the first six months of 2001 but fell in the Republika Srpska by 9.3 percent, "Avaz" reported on 16 August. During June, the average monthly income in the Republika Srpska was one-third less than that in the federation: 304 marks against 440 marks. A family of four in the Republika Srpska needs 401 marks per month to survive, while the corresponding figure in the federation is 431 marks. (Bosnia's currency, the convertible mark, is the German mark. The exchange rate on 15 August was approximately DM 2.14 to $1.00.) PM

NASTASE VOICES SUSPICION OF WESTERN INTENTIONS TOWARD ROMANIA

Speaking in Campia Turzii at a ceremony where a bust of Prince Michael the Brave was unveiled on 15 August, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said Romanians must learn from the prince (who briefly unified the three Romanian principalities in 1601) in order to display solidarity and defend their own interests, Mediafax reported. "After the fall of communism, Romania found itself in a region that became the testing ground for remolding the spheres of influence and for gaining new markets. We must understand that not all those who volunteer advice to us wish our success." He warned that "if we do not display solidarity, we risk that others will teach us what Romanian history is." Romania, the premier said, always had to "fight for its national interests, and those did not always coincide with the interests of the Western powers. In today's world, which witnesses a confrontation of political and economic interests, Romania is duty-bound to defend its own national values." MS

ROMANIAN POLL SHOWS RULING PARTY'S POPULARITY DROPPING

According to a public opinion poll conduced by the Center for the Study of Public Opinion (CSOP) between 30 July and 5 August, the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) is still leading in preferences, but its overall popularity continues to decline, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. If elections were held now, the PSD would be backed by 51.5 percent. The figures for April, May, and June were 55.3, 52.6, and 52.2, respectively. The same trend shows that the popularity of the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM) is growing: from 12.4 percent in April to 12.9 percent in May; 13.4 percent in June; and 14.6 percent today. Third place in June went to the Democratic Party (10.7 percent), followed by the National Liberal Party (PNL) with 8.7, and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) with 6.9 percent. President Ion Iliescu is leading among trusted politicians (54 percent), followed by Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu (53.3), Premier Nastase (52.1), PNL National Council Chairman and former Premier Theodor Stolojan (32.4), and PRM Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor (23.5 percent). MS

HUNGARIAN MINORITY LEADER DISSATISFIED WITH IMPLEMENTATION OF ROMANIAN LAW

UDMR Chairman Bela Marko on 15 August told journalists that his formation is "dissatisfied" with the implementation of the Local Public Administration Law, Mediafax reported. Marko said that several months have passed since the law was approved by the parliament, but bilingual street signs have been posted in less than half of localities whose minority population makes up 20 percent or more of the inhabitants. With the exception of Harghita and Covasna counties, where ethnic Hungarians hold a majority, bilingual signs are "only rarely" posted and the UDMR "is losing patience," Marko said. He also said that the UDMR wants the pending revision of the constitution to be "profound" and "not a mere formality." MS

ROMANIAN BOOK TO SHOW 'TRUE FACE' OF EXTREMIST LEADER

A group of Romanian journalists have produced a volume entitled "The Anthology of Shame," Cornel Nistorescu, editor in chief of the daily "Evenimentul zilei," told journalists on 15 August, AP reported. The anthology includes poems PRM leader Tudor wrote in praise of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena, "venomous stories" written by Tudor about other writers while he was serving the communist regime, as well as Tudor's attacks on his political rivals after the fall of communism. Nistorescu said the book was published in order to show Romanians -- 33 percent of whom supported the PRM leader's presidential candidacy in 2000 -- Tudor's "real face." MS

ROMANIA SUBSIDIZING MOLDOVAN PASSPORTS

Romanian Ambassador to Moldova Adrian Balanescu on 15 August told journalists in Chisinau that experts from the Romanian and Moldovan foreign ministries have finalized the agreement under which Bucharest will grant Moldova $1 million to subsidize passports which are now obligatory for Moldovan citizens entering Romania, Romanian Radio and AFP reported. The regulations for crossing the border between the two countries were changed on 1 July in response to EU orders to step up security along the border, and Moldovan citizens will no longer be able to cross into Romania by showing ID cards. Since the measure took effect, the number of Moldovans traveling to Romania has dropped significantly, largely because the cost of a passport exceeds the average monthly salary in Moldova. The subsidy will enable students and those residing in border towns to acquire the necessary papers for a quarter of the normal price. MS

CRACKS IN THE BULGARIAN RULING COALITION?

Osman Otkai, the deputy chairman of the ethnic Turkish Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS), resigned on 15 August, BTA reported. In an interview with RFE/RL, Otkai criticized the functioning of the coalition with the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV), of which the DPS is a junior partner. He said the DPS is not being consulted on major decisions of the government, but added that "pulling out of the coalition is simply out of the question for the DPS." The daily "Trud" cited Otkai as saying that following the formation of the coalition, "the DPS took over the political responsibility for the governance of the country, while the NDSV's responsibility is only at the personal level," that is, at the level of Premier Simeon Saxecoburggotski, BTA reported. Earlier on 15 August, Otkai suggested that responsibility rests with DPS leader Ahmed Dogan, saying "someone is being too credulous in this situation" and "too easily offered...his confidence." But Dogan is cited by "Trud" as saying that there are "no problems" between his party and the NDSV. "Novinar" hinted that Otkai's resignation was engineered by Dogan who, the daily said, has "given Saxecoburggotski a lesson in Balkan temperament." MS

BULGARIA NOT ASKED TO SEND PEACEKEEPERS TO MACEDONIA -- FOR NOW

Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov on 15 August said that "for now" Bulgaria has not been asked to send peacekeepers to Macedonia and that if such a request is made "normal procedure" will be followed, BTA reported. Svinarov said that the parliament would have to approve the dispatch of troops if a decision to do so is made and that he believes that in such a case members of the Bulgarian "special operation forces" will be dispatched. Svinarov also said that Sofia has received no information on which countries will be asked to contribute troops and "we have not been asked [to allow] passage" of troops through Bulgarian territory. MS




ALBANIAN ECONOMY SLOWS DOWN


By Fabian Schmidt

Albania's inflation reached 5.6 percent in July, according to figures published by the Institute for Statistics in Tirana, "Albanian Daily News" reported last week. Inflation has grown continuously since 1999, when the year ended with zero inflation, thanks primarily to international aid deliveries Albania received during and after the Kosova war. In 2000, however, inflation reached 4.6 percent. For 2001, the Central Bank had expected an inflation rate of between 2 and 4 percent.

Central Bank Governor Shkelqim Cani said that the bank will try to keep to that target figure. He added that the increase in inflation is due largely to an unexpected surge in the money supply, which he expects to be only temporary. Cani said the amount of money held outside banks has grown by 18 percent since July 2000. Albania is largely a cash economy, with many small- and medium-size entrepreneurs not even using bank accounts. Bank deposits grew by only 14.7 percent since July 2000.

According to Cani, Albania is on course to meet its target of 7.3 percent GDP growth this year, just slightly less than last year's rate of 7.8 percent. Unemployment fell to 13.3 percent, compared to 17.07 percent at the end of 1999. About 2,000 people found new jobs in June, bringing the total number of unemployed to about 190,000. In December 2000, there were approximately 215,085 people unemployed.

It remains unclear, however, what impact recent emigration has had on the reduction of unemployment. Officials from the Labor Ministry said that the still-high level of unemployment is largely due to the closure of inefficient state enterprises and cuts in the work force in privatized companies.

The government spent about $48.6 million over the past year on programs creating about 70,000 jobs, and has pledged to create another 10,000 jobs by the end of 2001. Cani warned, however, that the conflict in neighboring Macedonia and severe power shortages pose a threat to growth. Some foreign investors in the leather and textile industries have recently closed down their operations, saying that repeated power cuts are adversely affecting their production.

On 8 August, the Albanian Electricity Company KESH announced that Tirana will have blackouts of six hours per day according to the new power cuts schedule for the capital and the rest of the country, "Albanian Daily News" reported. Tirana will be the most privileged city compared to other towns that will get power cuts of up to 10 hours a day. Citizens and companies in Tirana pay an average of 85 percent of their electricity bills, which is very high by Albanian standards. The capital consumes one-third of the country's electricity.

Meanwhile, the former chief of Albania's National Energy Committee, Bujar Nepravishta, told "Tema" that "the decrease in electricity use is one of the conditions [for assistance] imposed by international financial organizations." He stressed, however, that the main reason for the current energy crisis is the poor condition of the power grid, which loses up to 55 percent of the electricity in the transmission process. Nepravishta added that "for the year 1999, electricity production amounted to 5.39 terawatt hours (twh). From that amount we lost 3.08 twh. We have the same situation this year, which is going to create the preconditions for another crisis."

Albania is largely dependent on hydroelectric power, but Nepravishta added: "I don't think that the lack of rain is the reason for our crisis... The lack of rain only makes an already existing crisis more evident." Water levels in Lake Fierza, which provides water for the country's largest power plant, have fallen this summer to their lowest point in a decade.

KESH Director Dritan Prifti said in July that Albania imported 900 million kilowatt hours (kwh) during the first half of 2001 and plans to import the same amount in the second half. Prifti added that the construction of a new $50 million high-voltage interconnection line linking Elbasan with Podgorica in Montenegro will help Albania increase its importing capacity.


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