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Newsline - August 17, 2001




PUTIN TAKES A HOLIDAY

Russian President Vladimir Putin began his vacation in Karelia on 16 August by visiting the Valaam Monastery at the invitation of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II, ORT reported. Putin will spend the rest of his vacation, which will last until 23 August, at the Shuiskaya Chupa residence near Petrozavodsk. VY

'SALE OF THE CENTURY' TO BE REHELD...

The Property Relations Ministry confirmed on 16 August that Svyazinvest is not included in the list of companies that will be privatized by the government next year, Interfax reported. The sale of a 25 percent stake minus two shares in the company had been under consideration, but was recently dropped from the government's plan due to the lack of a consensus approving its sale, according to the agency. The government's draft privatization program will be discussed in a cabinet session on 21 August. Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 August that it has obtained a copy of the list of enterprises up for sale. It claimed that about 500 enterprises are listed, suggesting that a "sell-off unmatched in Russia since the end of the voucher privatization saga" is in the offing. JAC

...AS PRICES OF STAKES ARE QUESTIONED

According to the daily, dozens of defense, nuclear energy, aviation, and fuel enterprises as well as almost all Russian film companies are slated for sale. Commenting on the draft program, State Duma Budget Committee Deputy Chairman (Yabloko) Mikhail Zadornov said that he thinks the total price of the stakes to be privatized -- some 18 billion rubles ($614 million) -- is severely undervalued, Interfax reported. Zadornov predicted fierce debates in the Duma about the package, in which "everyone will agree that the price of the entire package is clearly undervalued and must be tripled." JAC

PUBLIC OPINION EXPERT EXPLAINS ATTITUDES TOWARD 1991 PUTSCH

Writing in "Obshchaya gazeta" No. 33, Yurii Levada, the director of the polling agency VTsIOM, said that most Russians do not celebrate the failure of the pro-communist coup of August 1991, because in their opinion there were two conspiracies to stage a coup in Russia at that time (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2001). The first, unsuccessful plot was organized by older members of the nomenklatura, who were antagonistic to reform. The second conspiracy was the successful one orchestrated by Boris Yeltsin and his "democratic" entourage. The two plots had two things in common, according to Levada: They were coups d'etat rather than revolutions, and they were more destructive than creative. Levada added that this attitude toward the August events explains why most Russians looking to the past see themselves more as witnesses than as persons who were involved in a historical process. VY

GORBACHEV REGRETS THAT HE DID NOT SEND YELTSIN TO A 'BANANA REPUBLIC'...

In an interview with "La Stampa" on 16 August about the August 1991 coup, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev admitted that he made mistakes by delaying reform of the Communist Party and postponing transformation of the Soviet Union. In his words, his other mistake was that he "did not send the then-leader of democrats, Boris Yeltsin, to a banana republic as an ambassador." Gorbachev noted that once Yeltsin became Russia's president, he failed to expand and preserve the democratic achievements of "perestroika." Gorbachev also added that he ended his personal relationship with Yeltsin in December 1991, when Yeltsin demanded that he vacate his Kremlin office in one day. VY

...AND REAFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR PUTIN...

In a separate interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 16 August, Gorbachev said that he has far warmer feelings toward Putin and supports "his strategy." "I like the caution with which Putin is moving on socioeconomic reforms," Gorbachev stated. He also said he does not share the view that under Putin, "the [Russian] people got their fear back... People have nothing to fear, but the nomenklatura has angst from having lost its [place at the] feeding trough," he concluded. VY

...WHILE FORMER KGB CHIEF'S LOATHING FOR GORBACHEV RISES

Meanwhile, in an interview with "Vek" No. 32, former KGB head Vladimir Kryuchkov said he trusts Putin and believes that "by his sober policy he will return to Russia her former might." On the other hand, Kryuchkov said his attitude toward Gorbachev is deteriorating every year. He said does not think the State Committee on the State of Emergency's actions constituted an attempt at a "coup," adding that he believes that the people who foiled the effort were the ones who really "committed a crime." VY

ECONOMISTS CONSIDER LEGACY OF AUGUST 1998 DEFAULT

Deputy head of the government staff Aleksei Volin told Interfax on 16 August that Russia's financial crisis of August 17, 1998 marked the beginning of the end of a "speculative economy based on quick super-profits." However, Volin noted, the results of the default and devaluation wound up being favorable for Russia, because "a sick and, to a large extent, virtual economy was replaced by a real and pragmatic economy based on living within one's means instead of borrowing." And Mikhail Delyagin, the director of the Institute of Globalization, told the agency the same day that "the merit of the August crisis was that it set Russian businesses in motion." VY

MORE CHANGES IN STORE FOR STATE MEDIA POLICY...

President Putin met with Media Minister Mikhail Lesin and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin on 15 August, and according to a presidential press release, the three men discussed questions relating to the "future development of state strategy supporting the formation of the electronic and print media," "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. The daily also reported without reference to sourcing that the Media Ministry is preparing a new package of documents concerning state policy regarding the mass media that will be released in September. JAC

...AS QUESTIONS ARE RAISED ABOUT THE FUTURE OF TV-6

"Argumenty i Fakty" No. 33 reported that, according to a source identified only as being close to the presidential administration, TV-6 will be shut down in the future if it criticizes the presidential administration too much. "Financial irregularities" would be the pretext, according to the weekly. The weekly also reported that concerns about such a crackdown are what prompted Boris Berezovsky to give his 75 percent stake in the company to TV-6 General Director Yevgenii Kiselev. That way, if anything happens to the network, Berezovsky can claim that he is "an innocent victim of actions against free speech." JAC

NEWSPAPER SAYS 'KURSK' OPERATION COULD BE DELAYED BY ALMOST A YEAR

Unexpected technical difficulties are causing a revision of the schedule for raising the "Kursk" submarine off the floor of the Barents Sea, "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 16 August. According to the daily, unidentified members of the crew working on raising the submarine say that a giant saw that is supposed to cut destroyed compartments away from the rest of the submarine is not working. Norwegian television journalists also spoke with British divers working on the operation who said that the Russian divers they have been working with are poorly trained. They also said that they have been informed that the operation will be postponed until next May because work that was scheduled to be completed before fall will not be finished. JAC

RUSSIA PROTESTS CANADA'S SEIZURE OF SHIP'S CAPTAIN, CREW

Russia's Transportation Ministry has sent a letter to Canadian authorities asking that the norms of international law be applied to the case of the seized Russian-owned tanker "Virgo," the website polit.ru reported on 16 August. The ministry also requested that Russia be allowed to take part in investigating the incident in which the "Virgo" is alleged to be involved, according to ITAR-TASS. The "Virgo" is suspected of hitting a U.S. fishing trawler on 5 August, causing it to sink and killing three of its crewmembers. On 15 August, acting on a U.S. arrest warrant, Canadian authorities arrested the captain of the "Virgo" and two of his crewmembers on charges of involuntary manslaughter. The Foreign Ministry on 15 August also protested the arrest, calling it "illegal." JAC

IS THE ARMY UNHAPPY WITH PUTIN?

The initial euphoria of the Russian officer corps toward President Putin has subtly begun to be replaced by embarrassment and even dissatisfaction, "Vek" No. 32 concluded. Part of the reason, according to the publication, is that the hike in officers' salaries that Putin promised would take effect by January 1, 2002, has been shifted to mid-2003. And the increase in wages for the military rank and file has likewise been postponed from 2003 to 2004. In addition, officers are increasingly resorting to legal proceedings to ensure that their payments are disbursed since paychecks are being issued with more frequent delays. So far this year the Defense Ministry has already paid out 150 million rubles ($5.1 million) as a result of such lawsuits. VY

MVD TAKES A CRITICAL LOOK AT ITS CAMPAIGN AGAINST ORGANIZED CRIME

The head of the Interior Ministry's (MVD) Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime, Aleksandr Ovchinnikov, said on 16 August that every officer from the Regional Units for Combating Organized Crime (RUBOP) recently disbanded by Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, will be subjected to security checks by the ministry's Internal Security Services, strana.ru reported on 16 August. Ovchinnikov said that the MVD's new leadership will take very seriously citizens' complaints that RUBOP units often served as "protective networks" for the underworld. "Those who are found guilty of this practice will be punished very harshly," he remarked. Finally, Ovchinnikov said that the functions of disbanded regional units will be transferred to the operative-detective bureaus to be organized at the MVD's Main Directorate offices in the seven federal districts. VY

LOCAL COURT FINDS IN INCUMBENT GOVERNOR'S FAVOR ON EVE OF ELECTIONS

In the lead-up to the 19 August second round gubernatorial elections, a raion court in Irkutsk ruled on 15 August in favor of Irkutsk Governor Boris Govorin in his suit against local Communists and ordered them to pay 100,000 rubles ($3,400) in moral damages, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. The court found that Govorin had been defamed by materials published in the newspaper, "President-2." The newspaper was recently seized by local police in a raid on the campaign headquarters of Govorin's competitor in the race, Communist deputy Sergei Levchenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2001). In an interview on government Radio Mayak on 15 August, Govorin was asked such hard-hitting questions as how he "would evaluate the results of his last four years in office and what Irkutsk residents may expect from the future." JAC

ANOTHER REGIONAL LEGISLATURE POISED TO EXTEND TERMS IN OFFICE

Smolensk Oblast's Legislative Assembly recently approved in two readings a law that would increase from four to five years the terms in office of local legislators, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 August. The law also would also postpone the next gubernatorial election from December of this year to 2 June 2002. The deputies justify the change by saying that longer terms in office for them will ensure political stability during the lead-up to gubernatorial elections. However, the daily suggests that the move is more likely intended to extend the deputies' "political lives for a minimum of five months," and will probably damage the chances for re-election of incumbent Governor Aleksandr Prokhorov. Prokhorov is in the midst of a corruption scandal that will only deepen as investigators from the Federal Security Service, Interior Ministry, and Tax Police combine forces. JAC

NIZHNII NGOS CALL FOR DISTRICT-LEVEL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

The heads of four nongovernmental human rights organizations, the Committee for Soldiers' Mothers, the ecological center Dront, the Nizhnii Novgorod Society for Human Rights, and the Committee Against Torture, announced on 16 August that they have appealed to the presidential envoy to the Volga federal district, Sergei Kirienko, to form a human rights commission at the federal okrug level, RFE/RL's Nizhnii Novgorod correspondent reported. The activists suggested that the commission should work with the participation of representatives from NGOs. JAC

LAW-ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS EXPOSE CRIMINAL SYNDICATE IN KALININGRAD

Kaliningrad Oblast's Prosecutor-General's Office has opened a criminal case against a mafia-style syndicate that used the local special economic zone for conducting multimillion dollar trafficking in cigarettes across international borders, Radio Mayak reported on 16 August. The members of the syndicate imported 20-ton loads of cigarettes from the U.S. and Britain without paying taxes. Then the cigarettes were exported to Poland and Estonia for sale. The head of the ring was a first deputy of the ex-governor of the Kaliningrad Oblast. VY

TOURISTS REVEAL NAKED TRUTH DOWN UNDER

Police in St. Petersburg arrested on 15 August five naked men and two half-naked women, all of whom were citizens of Australia or New Zealand, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 August. The group was detained taking photographs of themselves in a state of undress against the background of the Isaakievskii Cathedral and Mariinskii Palace in the center of the city. The group of tourists had arrived in the city only several hours earlier but had visited a number of the city's drinking establishments. JAC

RUSSIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE CLAIMS TO HAVE THWARTED COUPS IN TWO NORTH CAUCASUS REPUBLICS

In a statement issued on 16 August, coinciding with Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov's arrival in the North Caucasus, his office claimed that the investigations into bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk in the late summer of 1999 and into car bomb explosions in Mineralnye Vody, Yessentuki, and Karachaevo-Cherkessia during the spring of 2001 led to the arrest of 11 Islamic extremists who had planned to overthrow the leaderships of the North Caucasus republics of Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachaevo-Cherkessia with the aim of establishing an Islamic state in the North Caucasus, Russian agencies reported. But "Izvestiya" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 August quoted senior security officials in both republics as saying they have no idea what the statement refers to. LF




PREPARATIONS FOR AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO BAKU DISCUSSED

During a 16 August telephone conversation, Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev and his Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharrazi discussed preparations for Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's planned visit to Tehran, Turan reported. That visit, which was originally planned for September1999 but has been repeatedly postponed, is now reportedly scheduled for mid-September. (It was reported last month that Aliyev would make an unofficial visit to the U.S. around 20-21 September.) Quliev and Kharrazi also agreed that all five Caspian littoral states should adopt a "common approach" to agreeing on a legal definition of the Caspian Sea. LF

AZERBAIJAN RESPONDS TO TURKMEN CASPIAN NOTE

Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry on 16 August responded to a 27 July note from its Turkmen counterpart that protested what it termed Azerbaijan's continued "illegal" exploitation of the Azeri and Chirag Caspian oilfields of which Ashgabat claims ownership, Turan and Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2001). The Azerbaijani response accused Ashgabat of seeking to avoid a constructive discussion of how to delineate the two countries' respective sectors of the Caspian. It again dismisses the Turkmen claims as "groundless," adding that they aggravate the already complicated situation in the Caspian. No such claims can be made until all five littoral states agree on the median line, the Baku statement said. It said Turkmen appeals to Azerbaijan to suspend exploitation of its own natural resources constitute "pressure on a sovereign state." LF

AZERBAIJAN'S STATE OIL COMPANY HEAD DENIES CLANDESTINE EXPORTS VIA IRAN

Speaking on 16 August on the independent Azerbaijani TV channel ANS-TV, Natik Aliev, the president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, rejected as "slander and an absolute lie" allegations made the previous day by opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party Chairman Etibar Mamedov that 1.5 million tons of Azerbaijani oil has been illegally exported via Iran, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2001). Aliyev said no Azerbaijani oil has been exported via Iran since 1993. He said that over the past four years SOCAR has exported 2.97 million tons through the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline, bringing $412 million to the state budget, and an additional 1.52 million tons via the Baku-Supsa pipeline. Aliyev threatened to sue Mamedov for slander, prompting Mamedov to comment that the SOCAR official should then sue President Aliyev as well. Mamedov recalled that it was President Aliyev who first divulged, during a government meeting in December 1999, that large quantities of oil were being exported illegally. LF

IMPRISONED FORMER AZERBAIJANI MINISTER DECLARES HUNGER STRIKE

Iskender Hamidov, who served as interior minister under the Azerbaijani Popular Front government in the early 1990s, on 14 August began a hunger strike in jail to demand that Baku comply with its commitment to the Council of Europe to review the cases of all political prisoners, Turan reported. Hamidov, who before his arrest headed the nationalist Boz Gurd Party, was sentenced in September 1995 to 14 years imprisonment on charges of embezzlement of state property and abusing his official position. He considers himself a political prisoner. LF

FORMER GEORGIAN FINANCE MINISTER SENTENCED FOR ATTEMPT TO ASSASSINATE PRESIDENT

Guram Absandze, who served as finance minister under former Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was sentenced on 17 August to 17 years in prison on charges of involvement in the failed attempt to assassinate President Eduard Shevardnadze in February 1998, Caucasus Press reported. Two of Shevardnadze's bodyguards died in that attack. Absandze was arrested in Smolensk in March 1998 and extradited to Tbilisi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March 1998). Seven other men were sentenced on the same charges to prison terms ranging from five to 20 years, and four more received suspended sentences. LF

GEORGIA WANTS INTERNATIONAL MONITORS FOR RUSSIAN WITHDRAWAL FROM GUDAUTA...

The Georgian Foreign Ministry in a statement released on 16 August rejected as inadequate Russian proposals on the withdrawal from the Russian military base in Gudauta, Abkhazia, of the remaining personnel and weaponry there, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Tbilisi has specifically rejected a Russian suggestion that the UN Observer Mission in Georgia monitor the withdrawal of the last Russian armaments, and is insisting that OSCE observers monitor that process. The bilateral agreement signed by Russia and Georgia in November 1999 under which Russia pledged to close the Gudauta base makes no mention of or provision for international monitoring of the Russian withdrawal. Speaking in Moscow on 16 August, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who heads the Russian delegation for talks on the Russian withdrawal, told Caucasus Press that Moscow is simultaneously conducting talks with both the Georgian and the Abkhaz leadership on the stationing of a contingent from the CIS peacekeeping force in Georgia at Gudauta to protect that facility after the Russian withdrawal is completed. LF

...AS DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS AKHALKALAKI CLOSURE WILL BE FINAL

Also on 16 August, Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze said that a second Russian military base, at Akhalkalaki in southern Georgia, will almost certainly be "liquidated" after Russia withdraws its troops from there, Interfax and Prime News reported. Tevzadze said that neither Turkey nor Armenia poses a military threat to Georgia, and therefore there is no further need to maintain the Akhalkalaki base. Some 2,000 ethnic Armenian residents of Akhalkalaki are currently employed at the Russian base and fear for their livelihood should it close. Alternative employment in the mountainous and barren region is minimal. LF

GEORGIA VETOES OPENING OF RUSSIAN CONSULATE IN BATUMI

The Georgian Foreign Ministry has rejected a proposal by the leadership of the Adjar Autonomous Republic that a Russian consulate be opened in the republic's capital, Batumi, to enable residents of Adjaria to apply for visas to Russia there instead of having to travel to Tbilisi to do so, Adjaria's official representative in Tbilisi, Hamlet Chipashvili, told journalists in the Georgian capital on 16 August. "The Russian Embassy liked the idea, but the Georgian Foreign Ministry turned it down," Chipashvili said. LF

GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA EXCHANGE HOSTAGES

Four Abkhaz shepherds and four Georgian foresters were released in western Georgia on 16 August under a UN-mediated agreement concluded two days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2001), AP reported. Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze said at the time that agreement was signed that it would allow for the release of 12 Georgian and seven Abkhaz hostages. Abkhaz security chief Raul Khazhimba said on 16 August the remaining hostages will be released "soon." He told Apsny-Press that at the 14 August meeting his agency furnished the Georgian side with the names of members of Georgian guerrilla groups that have recently infiltrated Abkhazia. LF

TRIAL OF FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER CONTINUES...

Kazakhstan's Supreme Court continued on 16 August questioning witnesses concerning the alleged illegal privatization in 1996 by former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin of the Ekibastuz thermal power station, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Aleksandr Tabarin, whom the court appointed as Kazhegeldin's defense lawyer, told RFE/RL's Astana correspondent that he does not think Kazhegeldin can be held criminally responsible for signing the documents authorizing the sale of that facility as he was not the only person aware of the sale. Tabarin said that if the court rules that Kazhegeldin committed a crime in doing so, then many of the witnesses who testified about the sale share his guilt. LF

...AS KAZAKH POLITICAL PARTIES OFFER DIVERGING ASSESSMENTS

Alash Party Chairman Zhaqsybai Bazylbaev said in a statement released in Almaty on 16 August that all the 75 witnesses for the prosecution, most of them present and former of government officials, should also be in the dock, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Azamat Party Chairman Petr Svojk for his part told a press conference in Almaty the same day that he believes Kazhegeldin deserves to be put on trial as "one of the founding fathers of corruption" in Kazakhstan, but that the trial proceedings are "judicially absurd," Interfax reported. Svojk argued that Kazhegeldin, who has lived abroad since 1999 and is being tried in absentia, should have "a normal, independent and just trial" to ensure that "the fight against corruption in Kazakhstan "does not degenerate into a farce." LF

KAZAKH MINISTER SAYS TALKS ON WTO MEMBERSHIP 'DIFFICULT'

Economy and Trade Minister Zhaqsybek Kulekeev admitted in Washington on 16 August that ongoing talks on Kazakhstan's accession to the World Trade Organization are "proceeding in a tense atmosphere," ITAR-TASS reported. He said that, like the EU, the U.S. "is pursuing quite a hard line with regard to proposals for every commodity position," and insists that Astana lower the tariffs it is demanding to bring them into line with those now applied within the WTO. Kulekeev also told ITAR-TASS that Kazakhstan intends to reduce borrowing from the IMF, the World Bank, and other international lenders. He noted that Kazakh legislation permits such borrowing only in order to liquidate a budget deficit, and that the budget has been balanced for the past two years. Kazakhstan has repaid its loans from the IMF but still owes a total of $3.7 billion to the World Bank and other organizations and foreign governments. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SAYS HE WILL NOT SEEK ANOTHER TERM

Askar Akaev, who was elected president in 1991, 1995, and again last year, announced on 16 August that he will not run for a further term in 2005, Reuters reported, quoting a presidential press service spokeswoman. She added that Akaev wants to dispel rumors that he will try to prolong his term in office by holding a referendum to amend the constitution and remove limits on the number of presidential terms one individual may serve. Akaev said he will spend the remaining four years of his term preparing a suitable successor, but did not disclose whom he has chosen. LF

TAJIK PREMIER CONCERNED THAT FALLING COTTON PRICES WILL JEOPARDIZE BUDGET FULFILLMENT

Speaking at a government session on 15 August, Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov noted that although budget revenue targets for the first seven months of this year were met, there was a serious revenue shortfall during the first 10 days of August due to a fall in the price of cotton -- one of Tajikistan's major exports -- on world markets, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 16 August. In those conditions. Oqilov warned, it is imperative that major taxpayers such as the Tajik Aluminum Plant and the national railway pay their taxes in full and on time. LF




BELARUS QUESTIONS OSCE ELECTION MONITORS' IMPARTIALITY

In a statement made public on 16 August, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry criticized the OSCE for being "not independent in its decision making," Belarusian media reported. The statement notes that although the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) refused to undertake a full-scale monitoring of the parliamentary election in Belarus in 2000, "the OSCE did not hesitate to make a dubious conclusion not to recognize the election's results." Foreign Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushka told journalists that "the government of the Republic of Belarus expresses its doubt over the objectivity of the OSCE's ODIHR position during the current presidential elections," Belarusian Television reported. Meanwhile, monitors from the Warsaw-based ODIHR -- to whom Minsk extended an official invitation on 15 August -- have been unsuccessfully trying to obtain entry visas to Belarus at the Belarusian Embassy in Warsaw. JM

BELARUSIAN JUSTICE MINISTRY SAYS OPPOSITION ELECTION DEAL UNCONSTITUTIONAL...

The Justice Ministry has said the signing of the agreement on the mutual obligations of single democratic presidential hopeful Uladzimir Hancharyk and the broad opposition coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2001) was unconstitutional, Belarusian Television reported on 16 August. In particular, the ministry stressed that Hancharyk's pledge to organize democratic parliamentary elections under a mixed majority-proportional system totally contradicts the Belarusian Constitution. The ministry also pointed out that the accord has no legal power since it was signed by representatives of unregistered organizations, including For a New Belarus, Regional Belarus, and Charter-97. JM

...WARNS INDEPENDENT OBSERVERS AGAINST EXIT POLLS

In another statement released the same day, the ministry said the initiative of the Independent Monitoring group to count votes in parallel to election commissions in the 9 September presidential ballot (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2001) is illegal and will be treated as an administrative offence, Belarusian Television reported. The ministry recalled that under the electoral code an observer has no right to conduct a survey among citizens who have come to the polls or who have cast their votes. The ministry warned that those violating this stipulation will be punished with fines up to 10 minimum monthly wages or up to two month's corrective labor with a deduction of 20 percent of earnings. JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER TRIED FOR EMBEZZLEMENT IN GERMANY

Ukrainian legislator Viktor Zherdytskyy, the former head of Kyiv's Gradobank, went on trial in Hildesheim (Germany) on 16 August for embezzling German compensation money intended for Ukrainian victims of the Nazis, AP reported. Zherdytskyy is accused of diverting 4 million German marks ($1.9 million) in 1995 by transferring the money from Germany to a company he founded in London instead of to a Ukrainian reconciliation fund meant to benefit Nazi victims. Hildesheim court spokesman Jan-Michael Seidel said prosecutors cannot charge Zherdytskyy in connection with another alleged embezzlement of 82 million German marks because the statue of limitations has expired. Zherdytskyy was arrested in Hanover last October when he attempted to withdraw $50,000 from one of his accounts. JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTORS CHARGE FORMER BANKER WITH INFLICTING LOSSES ON BANK

Kyiv prosecutors have charged Viktor Kravets, the former head of the Ukrayina bank board, with committing illegal actions that resulted in losses of 1.23 million hryvni ($228,000) to the bank, Ukrainian Television reported on 16 August. They also confiscated 160 individual credit files from the Ukrayina bank, which went into liquidation last month. Ukrainian media reported earlier that in 1997-2000 the bank issued virtually nonrepayable credits totaling 330 million hryvni to a number of commercial structures. JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SAYS KILLING OF JOURNALIST ALEKSANDROV NOT POLITICALLY MOTIVATED

Mykhaylo Potebenko on 16 August said there was no high-level political motivation behind last month's killing of Ihor Aleksandrov, the director of a regional television company in Slavyansk, eastern Ukraine, AP reported. Potebenko added that the attack on Aleksandrov was apparently prompted by local dissatisfaction with his journalistic activities. Potebenko visited Slavyansk with Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov and Security Service Deputy Chief Yuriy Vandin after President Leonid Kuchma criticized the investigation of the Aleksandrov case as inefficient and ordered top law-enforcement officials to take over the probe. "We are sure there will be a positive result [in the investigation], but I cannot say it will be tomorrow," the agency quoted Potebenko as saying. JM

GERMAN FINANCE MINISTER SAYS ESTONIAN MONETARY SYSTEM OK FOR MERGING WITH EURO

Hans Eichel told his Estonian counterpart Siim Kallas in Tallinn on 16 August that the Estonian monetary system is already qualified for accession to the euro zone and no changes are needed during the compulsory two-year transition period for all candidate countries, BNS reported. Estonia will be able to join the European monetary system immediately once it officially meets the Maastricht criteria. Eichel said that Estonia has the potential to catch up with the economic level of such EU states as Portugal and Ireland. While expressing the hope that Germany will increase investments in Estonia, Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves also discussed ways to develop bilateral relations and EU-membership related issues such as taxation, tax-free trade, common agricultural policy, and free movement of labor. Eichel also met with Prime Minister Mart Laar and Bank of Estonia President Vahur Kraft. SG

RUSSIA PROMISES RETALIATION AFTER LATVIA REFUSES VISA FOR MOSCOW OFFICIAL

Ignoring a request by the Riga City Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2001), the Latvian Foreign Ministry announced that it will not grant a visa to Moscow mayoral adviser Aleksandr Perelygin that would have allowed him to attend the celebrations of Riga's 800th anniversary as part of a Moscow city delegation. In response, the delegation officially canceled the visit, during which the two cities had planned to sign a cooperation agreement, and urged Latvian officials to reconsider their decision. Russian Foreign Ministry press department Deputy Director Boris Malahov on 16 August called the visa rejection a "purposeful unfriendly gesture" that damages cooperation projects between the two capitals, BNS reported. He said that Latvia "had shown obvious contempt for the Moscow city's official delegation" and "reciprocal steps will be taken." The Latvian Embassy in Moscow said that it hopes Latvian-Russian relations will not be harmed as a whole by the incident and emphasized that Latvian institutions are merely applying the decision made last November not to grant Perelygin a visa for one year because of his alleged role in orchestrating anti-Latvian activities in 1998. SG

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT EXPRESSES CONCERN AT BALTIC SEA POLLUTION

At the symposium of the Stockholm International Water Institute on 16 August, Valdas Adamkus delivered a report about the differences in water policy between Western and transition-economy countries, ELTA reported. He voiced concern that the Baltic Sea is among the most heavily polluted seas and called on states along its borders to fight for its purification and protection. Adamkus said that this task will be more difficult than the work he did in the U.S. Great Lakes because the Baltic Sea is surrounded by nine states with varying priorities and vastly different levels of social and economic development. Adamkus also held talks with Swedish Trade Minister Leif Pagrotsky, who noted that Sweden has allocated 1 billion Swedish kronas ($100 million) for Baltic projects since 1991 and is ready to contribute more. The two officials agreed that some of the future funds should go for environmental projects for which Sweden is awaiting proposals regarding their most efficient use and on the implementation of specific projects. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT URGES AUSTERITY MEASURES OVER BUDGET CRISIS

President Aleksander Kwasniewski has urged the government to agree on austerity measures proposed this week by Finance Minister Jaroslaw Bauc to deal with the increasing budget gap (see RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2001), Polish media reported. "We have a crisis of public finances. Measures that will clean up the situation are necessary, and that means savings, that means more discipline, and that means giving up on many plans," Kwasniewski told Radio Zet on 16 August. Premier Jerzy Buzek told Polish Television later the same day that public finances are currently not in crisis but admitted that there is a threat of such a crisis. JM

POLISH FUND HEAD SACKED OVER NAZI SLAVE LABOR PAYMENTS ROW

Premier Jerzy Buzek on 16 August fired Bartosz Jalowiecki, the head of the Polish-German Reconciliation Fund handling 920 million euros ($840 million) in compensation payments to former Polish slave laborers of Nazi Germany, Polish media reported. Jalowiecki previously accused the German side of exchanging the compensation funds at an "unacceptable" rate that deprived former Polish slave laborers of some $12 million. A government team investigating the exchange deal concluded last week that both the Polish-German Reconciliation Foundation and its sister body in Germany were responsible for the mismanaged exchange. Buzek replaced Jalowiecki with Lower Silesia Province Governor Witold Krochmal. JM

CZECH REPUBLIC'S TEMELIN DOING ALL RIGHT AFTER ALL?

Otto Gumpinger, the chairman of the Austrian-Czech Anti-Atomic Committee and a parliamentary deputy representing the Austrian People's Party, on 16 August withdrew a statement issued one day earlier that the turbine at the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant continues to vibrate, CTK reported. The plant recently resumed testing after having been shut down in May because of strong vibrations in its turbine and other problems. The Austrian news agency APA quoted him as saying that "the information [received] from the Czech Republic was wrong" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2001). Also on 16 August, Upper Austria Governor Josef Puehringer said he has received a letter from Guenter Verheugen, the EU commissioner in charge of enlargement, that criticizes the Austrian campaign against Temelin as "politically inappropriate as an instrument in international relations." In his letter, Verheugen said he continues to support the implementation of the agreement reached in Melk between the two countries' premiers in December 2000, under which the plant's environmental impact must be assessed. Verheugen also wrote that the EU has "no authority to ban Temelin." MS

CZECH TROOPS HEADING TO MACEDONIA

One hundred and twenty Czech soldiers are on their way to Macedonia in order to participate in NATO's Essential Harvest operation there, CTK reported on 16 August. Presidential spokesman Martin Krafl said President Vaclav Havel welcomes the NATO decision to send troops to Macedonia, while Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil said that "We believe that the peace keeping mission, together with diplomatic talks, are the right instrument to solve the situation in the Balkans." MS

CZECH COMMUNISTS OPPOSE DECLASSIFICATION OF STB FILES

Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) Deputy Chairman Miroslav Ransdorf on 16 August said the law approved by the Senate last week on the declassification of the files of the former communist secret police (StB) "shows that the Czech right-wing parties intend to divide people and create uncertainty," CTK reported. Ransdorf said the KSCM is in favor of declassifying the files "but gradually, after some decades have passed." He said the British practice of declassifying government files after 30 years and those particularly sensitive after 50 years should also be adopted in the Czech Republic. MS

PROMINENT SLOVAKS CALL ON SMK TO REMAIN IN RULING COALITION...

Prominent public figures in Slovakia, including political analysts, scientists, and actors, signed an appeal calling on the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) to renounce its threat to leave the ruling coalition, AP reported. The appeal was handed to the SMK leadership on 16 August and stated that although the signatories understand the reasons for why the SMK wants to withdraw from the coalition, the move would create problems for the country as a whole and would leave the cabinet without a majority in the parliament, thus making the approval of new legislation difficult. The SMK intends to withdraw from the coalition over the cabinet's refusal to approve the setting up of a separate Hungarian majoritarian region in southern Slovakia and over deals made with nationalist parties in the parliament when the legislature approved the Local Public Administration Law in July. MS

...WHILE HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL DECLINES TO EXPRESS AN OPINION

Hungarian Foreign Ministry Political State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth, said during his visit to Slovakia on 16 August that it is "up to the SMK" to decide whether to leave the coalition or not, Hungarian media reported the next day. Nemeth added that while Hungarian-Slovak relations and the SMK's role in the government "are linked on many points," they are "still not fully identical." He said he trusts the SMK will "make a decision that will not lead to the loss of support" for Premier Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet in the parliament. MS

HUNGARIAN MINISTER DENIES HAVING INFORMATION ON BRIBE ATTEMPTS

Secret Services Minister Istvan Demeter, speaking on television on 16 August, denied that the National Security Office has any information confirming the allegations of bribing attempts related to the modernization of Hungary's MiG fighter planes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2001). Demeter said that the allegations, first published on the website "Stop!", are false and demanded that a correction be issued. "Stop!" Editor in Chief David Trencsani has refused to do so, and added that his informer does not work for the National Security Office, Hungarian media reported. Demeter said Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky must be "held responsible" for alleging that former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Peter Tufo had told the cabinet about the bribe attempt 18 months ago. On 17 August, the daily "Magyar Nemzet" reported that a Defense Ministry official received over 45 million forints (some $160,300) in slush funds in exchange for a letter of intent supporting the offer of a German-Russian consortium to modernize the MiGs, and added that Premier Viktor Orban had no knowledge of the affair. MS




MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN GUERRILLAS GIVE REASSURANCES

Ali Ahmeti, the political leader of the National Liberation Army (UCK), told Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service on 16 August that he sees no problem in coordinating the timing of the guerrilla's disarmament with the enacting of reforms by parliament, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 August 2001). He noted that both the UCK and the government have signed agreements pledging to do their respective parts. Ahmeti also stressed that the UCK will cooperate fully with NATO's disarmament team "as friends" and that the guerrillas have no reason to hide weapons "that could pose a threat to the civilian population after the war." He said that his people know nothing about a purported Albanian Liberation Army, adding that the UCK is trying to get to determine whether such an organization actually exists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2001). PM

MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN GUERRILLAS TO FORM PARTY ON THE MODEL OF SINN FEIN?

Perhaps the most interesting parts of Ahmeti's interview with Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service on 16 August, however, were his references to the upcoming election campaign. He suggested that the fight for Albanian rights has moved from the battlefield into the parliament. He noted that he does not know if the parliamentary struggle will be led by "us or our colleagues...in politics and the parliament." There has been speculation for some weeks that the UCK might set up a political wing to contest the 27 January 2002 elections, just as the Irish Republican Army (IRA) has used Sinn Fein. PM

GERMAN CHANCELLOR SEEKS TO ENSURE PARTICIPATION IN MACEDONIA

Most of Germany's political parties are divided as to whether to participate in NATO's Operation Essential Harvest in Macedonia, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 17 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2001). Reasons range from anti-interventionist, ideological arguments on the Left, to concern on the Right as to whether the cash-strapped German military is up to the task. Speaking in Jena, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder stressed that Germany must fulfill its obligations to its NATO partners. "We will have a decision from NATO [on the mission], and then we have to ensure that Germany, an important member in the alliance, fulfils its obligations... I assume that the [Social Democratic parliamentary] deputies who have spoken out against a deployment will rethink their decision once the details of the operation have been finalized," Reuters reported. PM

NATO ADVANCE PARTY BEGINS TO ARRIVE IN MACEDONIA

Some 50 members of the British 16th Air Assault Brigade were expected in Skopje on 17 August as the first contingent of 400 U.K. troops who will arrive by 19 August, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2001). These advance units will make preparations for the eventual deployment of 3,500 troops in Essential Harvest. Meanwhile in Prague, Radio Svobodna Evropa reported that the first 16 Czech paratroopers out of a total contingent of 120 were due in Macedonia later the same day. In Macedonia itself, some minor violations of the cease-fire were reported overnight, but some veteran Balkan-watchers suggest that these are likely to cease or diminish once NATO forces are on the ground. PM

U.S. TO FUND MACEDONIAN PEACE CAMPAIGN

"The Washington Post" reported on 17 August that the U.S. government plans to finance a $250,000 media blitz in Macedonia to promote the recent peace agreement. The radio, television, and press campaign will be coordinated with the office of President Boris Trajkovski, Reuters reported. The campaign may also use direct mailings to individual households from both major ethnic communities. PM

YUGOSLAV ARMY MOVES TO KOSOVA BORDER

In keeping with an agreement with KFOR, Serbian forces will complete their occupation of the former security zone in the Presevo region on 17 August, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. This move will bring Serbian forces to the border of Kosova. Observers suggest that most political leaders in Belgrade privately realize that Serbia has lost Kosova, but that it wants to have as much influence as possible in determining the province's future. The ethnic Albanian majority in Kosova wants to talk with Serbia only about independence. German expert Stefan Troebst told Deutsche Welle that there will be no stability in the region until the final political status of Kosova is clarified. PM

SERBIAN GOVERNMENT DEMANDS THAT MURDER CASE BE CLEARED UP

The Serbian government demanded in a statement on 16 August that the murder of security official Momir Gavrilovic be cleared up fully and without delay, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2001). The statement also called for unspecified concrete steps to be taken if the investigation into the case reveals criminal links to the government. Suspicion centers on the office of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica. PM

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT SAYS POLL REVEALS OPPOSITION TO ROYAL RESTITUTION DEMAND

A poll conducted by the INSOMAR institute at the request of the government shows that 61.6 percent of Romanians oppose King Michael's demand that the royal castle in Sinaia be restituted to the former monarch, a cabinet press release stated on 17 August. Furthermore, 54.4 percent oppose the restitution of the other properties claimed by Michael. Nearly one-third of those polled (30.5 percent) are in favor of a referendum on the claim, while 30.2 percent believe a decision by the government would be sufficient and 29.2 percent want the parliament to decide on the matter. The cabinet on 17 August debated King Michael's request but no decision was made. The cabinet heard a "comparative report" on similar royal restitution claims in Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Russia, and Yugoslavia. On 17 August, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said that an envoy for King Michel has indicated that the former monarch is "open to negotiations" on the claim. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER WANTS 'ARMISTICE' WITH OPPOSITION PARTIES

Premier Nastase on 17 August said he will propose to the opposition parties a "political armistice" to last until after the 2002 Prague NATO summit, Romanian Radio reported. Nastase said the "armistice" is warranted in light of the importance of the jointly agreed goal of joining NATO and making the necessary preparations for accession. Nastase also said that he will propose a new "social pact" to trade unions and announced that pensions will be increased by up to 4.1 percent as of 1 September, in order to match the inflation rate. On 16 August, Nastase told the cabinet that economic performance in the first seven months of the government's tenure was "satisfactory, in general," but that imports have grown to a point where they "seriously affect the foreign trade balance." The cabinet decided to dismiss Industry and Resource State Secretary Ilie Balanescu, as well as the ministry's director general and the director general of the Vulcan mines, saying they failed to observe safety regulations. Fourteen miners lost their lives as a result of an accident at Vulcan on 7 August. MS

POWELL SAYS ROMANIA HAS MADE PROGRESS, BUT 'MUCH TO BE DONE' ON NATO ACCESSION

Nastase on 17 August presented to the cabinet a letter he and Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana recently received from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Romanian radio reported. In the letter Powell lauded Romania's progress on the road to NATO accession, but added that "much is yet to be done" to achieve Romania's integration into the organization. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER ON GAGAUZ AUTONOMY

Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev on 16 August said that the Moldovan government is not opposed to the autonomy of the Gagauz-Yeri region and intends to "do away with all inconsistencies still existing in Moldovan legislation, including the constitution," that might be interpreted as infringing on the region's autonomous status, Infotag reported. Tarlev added that "certain forces" in Gagauz-Yeri want to "complicate the relationship between Chisinau and Comrat." The premier cited an invitation he recently received to attend the celebrations of "the 11th anniversary of the Gagauz Republic" as an example of the existence of such forces. That self-styled "republic" ceased to exist in 1994, when the region agreed to accept an autonomous status within Moldova. "How can anyone celebrate the 11th anniversary [of the Gagauz Republic], when Moldova itself is preparing to mark only the 10th anniversary of its own independence?" he asked. MS

MOLDOVA TO SET UP JOINT BORDER POSTS WITH UKRAINE AT TRANSDNIESTER GATES?

Tarlev also said that Moldova has "initiated parleys" with Ukraine in order to set up joint Moldovan-Ukrainian border posts, Moldpres reported. He said that an "earlier understanding" reached with the Ukrainian authorities stipulates that 12 such joint border posts will be set up. The Moldovan-Ukrainian frontier is fact on territory controlled by the separatists in Tiraspol. MS

PROTESTS IN TIRASPOL AGAINST DECOMMISSIONING OF RUSSIAN ARMAMENT

Organizations representing pro-Russian and anti-Moldovan views protested in Tiraspol on 17 August against the decommissioning of the Russian military arsenal in the region, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The protesters say the armament "belongs to the Transdniester people." The decommissioning began on 3 July, in line with the decisions of the OSCE at the Istanbul summit in November 1999. MS

BULGARIA WELCOMES MACEDONIAN AGREEMENT

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Elena Poptodorova on 16 August told journalists in Sofia that "Bulgaria supports the peace accord" in Macedonia "but its implementation needs effective guarantees," Reuters reported. Poptodorova said sealing off the border between Kosova and Macedonia to stop military supplies and closely monitoring the disarmament of the Albanian rebels are crucial to the deal's successful implementation. Also on 17 August, Yordan Boshkov, the chairman of the Macedonian parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission, said in Sofia that "Macedonia needs further military aid and will probably get it from many countries, including Bulgaria," AP reported. Boshkov's Bulgarian counterpart Stanimir Ilchev said that "Bulgaria will not abstain from direct or indirect involvement in all possible measures and initiatives aimed at solving the crisis in Macedonia." MS

BULGARIA DENIES IVANIC PAID OFFICIAL VISIT

Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi on 16 August denied that Mladen Ivanic, the prime minister of Republika Srpska in Bosnia, paid an official visit to Bulgaria earlier this week, BTA reported. The daily "Standart News" reported on 16 August that Ivanic visited Bulgaria on 13 August. Pasi said he had only transited Bulgaria by car and had not met with any cabinet members. Deputy Foreign Minister Meglena Kuneva told "Standard News" that she was to meet Ivanic in the evening of 13 August, but the meeting was "postponed" because Ivanic was "delayed at the border" and had not arrived in time. MS




ANNIVERSARY OF FAILED COUP CONTAINS MANY IRONIES


By Kathleen Knox

On 20 August 1991, Russian journalist Yevgeniya Albats was sitting in the offices of the "Moskovskie Novosti" ("Moscow News") newspaper, faxing reports on the events unfolding in Moscow to other newspapers around the world.

The day before, the group of hard-line conspirators -- including Vice President Gennadii Yanayev and KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov -- had formed a state emergency committee in a bid to seize power and also had attempted to shut down all independent newspapers.

"The three of us reporters were sitting in the newspaper office and writing leaflets and sending information to newspapers around the globe," Albats said. "We were stunned that we were allowed to do this. It was still the Soviet Union and international faxes worked. People from the United States were able to reach us. No soldiers or KGB guys came into the 'Moskovskie Novosti' office, even though we were calling the offices of all coup leaders. During this night, it became clear that something went wrong for those who tried to conduct the coup."

By the next evening, the coup had failed, faced down by an opposition centered around Boris Yeltsin, then the president of Russia. The fate of the Soviet Union had been sealed. Within months, Communist Party rule had ended, the Soviet Union had disintegrated, and Mikhail Gorbachev had resigned as the last Soviet leader.

For Albats, those three days in August were the best of her life. "That was a great time, when we had a lot of hopes, and I believe we had all the reasons to expect the country to turn into a normal, civilized, lawful, democratic country," she said.

What followed instead was disillusionment for many. Economic reforms swept away personal savings, and powerful business tycoons -- known as the "oligarchs" -- bought up large chunks of industry and exerted influence over government policy.

According to Albats, many in Russia believe today that the current administration of President Vladimir Putin is a kind of vindication of the failed coup.

"Many of those who came to power now, [Putin's] colleagues from the KGB, see the current situation as their victory," Albats said. "They openly say in conversation that they got back into power, that they have gained back what they lost 10 years ago."

This is certainly the spin that the surviving -- and amnestied -- plotters are giving on the event 10 years later. At a news conference last month, co-conspirator and former Soviet Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov said that Putin's administration is carrying on the work the plotters tried to start 10 years ago -- that is, restore control over the country. Putin hosted one of the plotters -- his former boss at the KGB, Kryuchkov -- at the Kremlin for his inauguration in May last year.

Archie Brown is a professor of politics at Oxford University and the author of several books on Russian politics. Brown agrees that the goal of the 1991 plotters still finds some sympathizers within Russia's current leadership.

"I'm sure there are a number of people there now who sympathized with the putschists of 1991," Brown said. "Putin has invited Kryuchkov to the Kremlin. Putin's position is that these people's hearts were in the right place, and he sympathized with their aim of trying to maintain the union, but that they went about it the wrong way."

If Putin -- the chosen successor of Yeltsin, who faced down the coup conspirators -- really is the true heir to the plotters, it would be just one of many ironies of the failed putsch.

Brown said it is also ironic that the conspirators accused Soviet leader Gorbachev of indecisiveness, when it was clear from their first disastrous public appearance that they lacked direction and did not know exactly what to do.

Another irony is that, in the end, the putsch attempt achieved the opposite of what its organizers had aimed to do. The failed putsch accelerated the demise of the Soviet Union that they had hoped to maintain.

Andrei Ryabov is a scholar in residence at the Carnegie Moscow Center. He said the current Russian administration and a large section of the Russian establishment today has a split attitude about the coup.

"Of course, they understand that without the events of August 1991, the victory of the new political order in Russia, the creation of a market economy, would be pushed back for a long time, at the very least. So they recognize the positive influence of these events," Ryabov said. "But on the other hand, for many of them it represents the collapse of the state, and right now this idea is being put forward by a large section of the political elite. From this point of view, this weakening of the state as an institution can't really command sympathy with these people, so the attitude is a dual one."

Ryabov expects Putin to highlight both the good and bad consequences of the failed putsch if he makes an appearance marking the anniversary.

"On the one hand, he will undoubtedly recognize the great significance of these events for the development of Russia along the path of democracy and a market economy," Ryabov predicted. "But on the other hand, he'll probably say a certain anarchy arose then as a result of the wrong choice of economic reforms, and that this has had a negative impact on the economy in the last 10 years, on social relations, and on the weakening of the state, and that he, as the new president, is now working to rid the country of these negative effects."

The ambivalent nature of the Russian administration's attitude toward the failed coup is matched by the feelings of many ordinary Russians. If no one is in a celebratory mood during the anniversary, it won't be much of a surprise, Brown said. After all, the Soviet Union disintegrated a few months after the coup, and many Russians still regret that.


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