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Newsline - August 20, 2001




PUTIN, YELTSIN ABSENT FROM COUP ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATIONS

Neither President Vladimir Putin nor his predecessor Boris Yeltsin took part in the small-scale official demonstrations on 19 August to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the failed coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Russian and Western agencies reported. (Putin did, however, congratulate Russia's air force on its professional holiday on the same day.) Several hundred people gathered at the Russian White House, which was the center of the showdown between Yeltsin and the coup leaders a decade ago, but the number quickly declined to approximately 100 by evening. Additional events were planned over the next three days, Interfax reported on 17 August. PG

MEMOIR SAYS GORBACHEV SHOCKED BY COUP LEADERS' BETRAYAL

Andrei Grachev, the former adviser and press secretary of Soviet President Gorbachev, says in a memoir to be published in September that Gorbachev was personally shocked and shaken by the betrayal by the coup leaders, Interfax reported on 18 August. Moreover, Grachev writes, Gorbachev found it difficult to believe that those he had appointed and trusted had turned against him. Meanwhile, Pavel Grachev, who was involved in the coup, provided in an interview published in "Vremya" on 17 August an extensive description of the consultations among the coup leaders. PG

POLITICIANS, ANALYSTS REMAIN DIVIDED ON COUP...

Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky on 17 August said that the coup leaders should be honored rather than criticized for their efforts to save the Soviet Union, Interfax reported. Vladimir Pekhtin, the leader of the Unity faction in the Duma, said the same day that the August 1991 revolution is continuing, Interfax reported. Also on 17 August, Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov said that democratic forces succeeded in preventing the coup leaders from plunging the country into chaos. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky said that the coup destroyed communism but did not lead to the creation of a stable democracy, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that the coup was the work of Western special services. Opinions also varied as to whether Gorbachev could have come back and remained in power: Sergei Markov, the director of the Institute of Political Research, told Interfax that Gorbachev could have done so if he had turned to the people, but that he failed to recognize that fact. But Sergei Karaganov, the leader of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, told the news service on 18 August that any effort by Gorbachev to try to retain power would have led to a Yugoslav-style violent conflict. In an article in "Obshchaya gazeta" on 16 August, political analyst Dmitrii Furman suggested that the 10 years since the coup contain many parallels with the 10 years after the 1917 revolution. A decade after the collapse, Furman wrote, 2001 "is a year of conformism, when every administrator and official with any standing pledges allegiance to the president and his policies... What next? Sooner or later, 1937 should follow. It will not be all that terrible [everything is milder and more subtle the second time around]." PG

...AS DOES THE RUSSIAN POPULATION

A poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 18 August suggested that 28 percent of Russians recall being opposed to the coup leaders in August 1991, while 14 percent said they supported the coup effort. Some 31 percent said that during the putsch, they remained unable to decide which side they were on. The same poll found that today 14 percent of Russians believe that the coup leaders were right, while 24 percent think they were wrong. Approximately half of the sample was unable to name a single member of the coup leadership. Twenty-seven percent said that if the coup had succeeded, they would live the same way they do now, 20 percent believe that their lives would have changed for the better, and 17 percent say that their lives would have taken a turn for the worse. PG

PUTIN'S OFFICE DENIES REPORTS THAT 'KURSK' OPERATION IS BEHIND SCHEDULE

The Russian presidential information office told Interfax on 17 August that reports about delays in the raising of the sunken "Kursk" submarine as a result of equipment problems are untrue. Officials involved in the operation said that bad weather has slowed some of their work but that they remain on schedule. On 18 August, officials reported that divers had successfully drilled another four holes in the shell of the "Kursk." PG

NEW BOOK ON PUTIN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN RELEASED

On 17 August, General Nikolai Tarakanov presented his new book "Perelom" on Putin's campaign for the Russian presidency, Interfax reported. The book describes Putin's meetings "with workers, toilers of agriculture, teachers and doctors, the creative intelligentsia, with scholars, and with students," Tarakanov said. It has more than 400 pages and has been issued in a modest initial print run of 1,000 copies. PG

KUDRIN SAYS RUSSIAN DEFAULT NOW IMPOSSIBLE

In an interview carried on Ekho Moskvy radio on 17 August, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said that default by Russia is now impossible. He also said that he does not believe that inflation will exceed 18 percent during 2001, and predicted that Russia will be able to meet its international debt obligations regardless of any change in the price of oil or dollar exchange rates. Kudrin's optimism about Russia's economic condition was echoed by economists and other experts who met in Moscow on 17 August to mark the third anniversary of the August 1998 Russian default, Russian agencies reported. PG

ACCOUNTING CHANGES TO REDUCE NUMBER OF POOR, INCREASE NUMBER OF CRIMES

According to an article in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 17 August, the government's proposed rules for including the market value of produce from private plots in calculating personal incomes will cut the number of those persons officially designated as poor by nearly 50 percent. Meanwhile, Deputy Interior Minister Ivan Golubev warned that improved reporting on crime will probably give the impression that the number of crimes has risen, "Izvestiya" reported the same day. PG

SPS NEWSPAPER LAUNCHED

On 17 August, the SPS launched its newspaper "Pravoe delo" with an initial print run of 30,000 copies, Interfax reported. "All 16 pages of the issue were devoted to the 10th anniversary of the victory over the coup plotters in August 1991," its chief editor, Aleksei Kara-Murza, told the news service. He added that almost half of this issue is devoted to events outside Moscow during the coup attempt. The newspaper is to be a weekly and there are plans to increase its print run to 50,000. PG

PUTIN URGES SHARON TO INCREASE PEACE EFFORTS

President Putin in a telephone conversation on 17 August with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called on him to seek a quick settlement with the Palestinians, Interfax reported. Putin said that the two sides must resume talks. PG

BAGHDAD APOLOGIZES FOR ANTI-RUSSIAN ARTICLE BY SADDAM'S SON

The Iraqi Embassy in Moscow handed over to the Russian Foreign Ministry a formal apology for the publication of an article in Baghdad's "Babel" newspaper by Saddam Hussein's son Udey questioning the prospects for Iraqi-Russian relations, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 August. The Iraqi note said that the article does not represent the views of the Iraqi government. VY

PUTIN GREETS JIANG ON 75TH BIRTHDAY

President Putin on 17 August telephoned Chinese leader Jiang Zemin to congratulate him on his 75th birthday, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

KIM JONG-IL FINALLY LEAVES RUSSIA

After 24 days, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il departed from Russia the way he arrived -- by train, Russian agencies reported on 18 August. On his way home, he barred Japanese reporters from covering his visit to Khabarovsk, Strana.ru reported on 17 August. Meanwhile, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported the same day that anger at the special treatment given to Kim's armored train prompted unknown perpetrators to throw a stone through a window of his train and place a cement post across the tracks in its path. The paper concluded that "on Wednesday, Kim Jong-Il celebrated North Korean independence day aboard his train. He sang Russian songs and treated Russian officials to his favorite dishes, thus marking the end of a four-week visit that has brought so much misfortune to our country." PG

MOSCOW OPPOSES PHYSICAL DEMARCATION OF BORDER WITH UKRAINE

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on 17 August that Moscow believes that there need not be any physical demarcation of the border between Russia and Ukraine now that the two sides have agreed on the border on maps, RIA-Novosti reported on 17 August. The spokesman said that Moscow believes that the border should help "unite rather than divide" the two countries, and that in any case nothing should be done until there is a formal bilateral treaty on the shared border. VY

SUPREME COURT ORDERS BYKOV TO BE TRIED

The Russian Supreme Court on 17 August overruled the Krasnoyarsk Krai Legislative Assembly and directed that Anatolii Bykov, the former head of the Krasnoyarsk aluminum factory and a member of the krai's legislature, stand trial, Interfax reported. Bykov's lawyers complained that this decision effectively strips all regional parliamentarians of the immunity they believe they possess as a result of their membership in regional legislatures, the Russian news service said. PG

SVERDLOVSK, CHELYABINSK POWER-SHARING TREATIES TO BE CANCELLED?

Petr Latyshev, the presidential envoy to the Urals Federal District, has said that power-sharing treaties between Moscow and two oblasts in his district, Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk, must be cancelled, "Vek" No. 32 reported. Latyshev said that both treaties fail to correspond to the Russian Federal Constitution. But Chelyabinsk Governor Petr Sumin said that he will defend the treaty between Moscow and his oblast "to the very end," "Vek" reported. Latyshev also said that 47 additional agreements between political units within his district and Moscow should be cancelled as well. VY

CHELYABINSK GOVERNOR POINTS TO NUCLEAR WASTE THREAT

Chelyabinsk Governor Sumin has sent a letter to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov complaining that buried nuclear waste in his area will pose a severe health risk in the future if emergency measures are not adopted, AP reported on 17 August. Deputy Governor Gennadii Podtesov told AP by telephone that water in contaminated lakes is only 30 centimeters below the top of dams and that if nothing is done, the radioactive wastes will flow into rivers and ultimately into the Arctic Ocean, "creating an international outcry." PG

RUNOFF GUBERNATORIAL VOTE HELD IN IRKUTSK

Incumbent Irkutsk Governor Boris Govorin, who won 45 percent of the vote in the first round of the gubernatorial ballot three weeks ago, faced Duma deputy Sergei Levchenko, who won 24 percent at that time, in a runoff election for governor in Irkutsk on 19 August, ITAR-TASS reported. A winner will be declared this time if he receives more votes than his opponent plus those voting against both candidates. Prior to the vote, a local court ruled in favor of Govorin on his complaint against a local newspaper for slander, and an oblast court rejected a challenge to Govorin's registration as a candidate, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 18 August. PG

COULD YAKUTIA PROVE BORODIN'S SALVATION?

An article in "Novye izvestiya" on 17 August speculated that Pavel Borodin, the current Russia-Belarus Union state secretary and former Kremlin property manager still under investigation in Switzerland, may run for the presidency of Yakutia (Sakha). Such a post could distance him from his current problems, the paper suggested, but he can only run "if Putin does not object." PG

ST. PETERSBURG-KALININGRAD-KIEL FERRY BEGINS OPERATION

A roll-on/roll-off vehicle ferry between St. Petersburg and Kiel with a stop in Kaliningrad began service on 18 August, Interfax reported. Transportation Minister Vladimir Yakunin said at the opening ceremony that the line will help support Kaliningrad's population and maintain the territorial integrity of Russia. The line is run by the joint Russian-German-Finnish venture TransRussiaExpress and is expected to carry between 300 and 400 containers a month. Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Ivanov expressed concern the same day that only two of the 28 provisions of the Kaliningrad free economic zone are being implemented, the news service reported. PG

ARSON SUSPECTED IN SYNAGOGUE FIRE

The Federation of Jewish Communities on 17 August said that a fire that destroyed the synagogue in Ryazan the previous day was started deliberately, AP reported. The federation said that local fire fighters have confirmed that conclusion. It also denounced the fire as "a reprehensible act of anti-Semitism." Meanwhile, Jewish leaders in Moscow and Kazan have sharply criticized officials in Tatarstan for failing to provide assistance in the rebuilding of a Jewish school in Kazan that was destroyed by fire on 13 July. Mikhail Skoblenok, the head of the Kazan Jewish community, said that the reason that the city officials have not helped is that they do not want a Jewish school in the predominantly Muslim region. PG

AMMUNITION WASHED AWAY BY FLOOD IN FAR EAST

Some 10,000 antiaircraft shells have been washed away as a result of heavy rains in the Russian Far East, "Izvestiya" reported on 17 August. Spokesmen for the Pacific Fleet said that "the shells are not dangerous either to people or to the environment," but as the paper noted "we can only rely on the assurances of the military." PG

AGING MILITARY AIRCRAFT FLEET DECRIED...

In an interview published in "Krasnaya zvezda" on 18 August, General Anatolii Kornukov, the commander in chief of the air force, said that his "No. 1 headache" is the aging of the fleet under his command. Because of funding problems, he said, the number of planes in the Russian air force has fallen from several thousand a decade ago to only a few hundred now. In the last 10 years, he said, his fleet has not acquired a single new ground assault aircraft and only 5 percent of the planes under his command can be described as modern. The fuel situation is even worse, he said: of the 115 military airfields, some 49 currently have no fuel for aircraft. He said that the air force's main hope for survival is in money that might be earned by selling used aircraft, renting out airfields, and providing commercial transport. PG

...AS CIVILIAN AIRCRAFT GROUNDED FOR SAFETY REASONS

Viktor Osipov, the senior civil aviation official in Siberia, said that more than 20 civilian aircraft and 80 members of flight crews have been banned from further service because of safety defects, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 August. He said that many of the aircraft are not airworthy, and that a large number of the crews have filed false reports about training they never received. But there was one bright spot on the Russian aviation horizon. Aviastar announced that it is resuming the assembly of airplanes this year after a six-year hiatus, ITAR-TASS said the same day. PG

RUSSIAN COURT TO HEAR FIRST MONEY-LAUNDERING CASE

The Interior Ministry has completed its investigation into two multimillion-dollar transactions by Moscow's Expobank involving money laundering and has handed them over to the courts, "Vedomosti" reported on 17 August. The paper noted that this is the first time that cases involving money laundering will be heard in a Russian court in accordance with international regulations. VY

DEMAND FALLS FOR RUSSIAN NONFERROUS METALS

Russian officials told Interfax on 17 August that Russia sold $3.15 billion of nonferrous metals in the first seven months of 2001, a figure that was 22 percent lower than in the same period a year earlier. The officials said that the decline in exports reflects a decline in international demand. PG

BEREZOVSKY'S INTERNET OPERATOR DENIED ENTRANCE TO RUSSIA

Federal border guards refused last week to allow Demyan Kudryavtsev to enter Russia at Moscow's Sheremetevo airport and forced him to fly back to France, NTV.ru reported on 17 August. The border guards gave no reason for their action, but Kudryavtsev serves as the coordinator of Internet operations for exiled Russian magnate Boris Berezovsky, and NTV.ru suggested that Kudryavtsev was kept out of the country because of that connection. VY

'VYMPEL' SPECIAL FORCES UNIT MARKS 20TH ANNIVERSARY

Veterans of the elite special forces unit "Vympel" appeared on ORT and RTR television on 18 August as part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the hitherto super secret group. Vladimir Kozlov, the head of the Federal Security Service's Department for the Protection of Constitutional Order, noted during the broadcasts that the group was created by the Soviet KGB in 1981 to destroy vital foreign government institutions in the event of a third world war. "Vympel" officers have taken part in secret combat operations in Nicaragua, Cuba, Mozambique, Angola, Vietnam, and Laos, the broadcasts reported. More recently, Kozlov added, "Vympel" officers have served in Chechnya. VY

MORE RUSSIANS DYING FROM ALCOHOLISM...

During the first five months of 2001, 16,853 Russians died from alcohol poisoning, 4,000 more than during the same period in 2000, Interfax reported on 17 August, citing the State Statistics Committee. First Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishchenko noted that the entire Soviet Union suffered fewer combat deaths during a decade of war in Afghanistan than Russia lost from alcohol poisonings from January to May of this year. He also noted that much of the alcohol being consumed is of poor quality, with as much as 50 percent of total production being illegal and thus unregulated. Onishchenko added that there are now 2 million officially registered alcoholics in Russia, 56,000 of them are under the age of 14. PG

...AND MORE ARE SUBJECT TO DANGEROUS INFECTIONS AS WELL

First Deputy Health Minister Onishchenko on 17 August noted that the number of cases of typhus in Russia increased 2.5 percent during the first half of 2001 as compared to the same period in 2000, Interfax reported. He said that the number of those infected increased most dramatically in Daghestan (2.1 times) and in Omsk (3.8 percent). Onishchenko noted that the number of cases of botulism poisoning has also increased. PG

U.S. ADOPTIONS SEEN SAVING RUSSIAN CHILDREN

Galina Turkova, the chairman of the Khabarovsk Krai union of women, told Interfax-Eurasia on 17 August that Americans who have adopted mentally and physically handicapped children from Khabarovsk are helping to save these young people, something she said that the Russian authorities lack the resources to do. Khabarovsk officials have visited the children in the U.S. and reported back that all of them are receiving qualified medical and psychological assistance and that there is no reason to worry about their fate. PG

RUSSIAN FOREST FIRES DRIVING WILDLIFE INTO KAZAKHSTAN

An unusually large number of foreign fires this year in Siberia and the Russian Far East has forced a variety of wild animals to migrate south to Kazakhstan in search of safety, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 18 August. PG

CHECHNYA RESUMES NEWSPAPER PUBLICATION

A mobile printing shop that was delivered to the Russian military base at Khankala in Grozny last week printed on 20 August the first issue of a new Chechen daily newspaper, "Vozrozhdenie" (Rebirth), ITAR-TASS reported. Until now all 11 Chechen newspapers, including the pro-Moscow government daily "Vesti Republiki," had been published in neighboring North Ossetia or Daghestan, which is not only more costly but meant the news they contained was less up to date. LF




ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES TO COOPERATE IN BID TO IMPEACH PRESIDENT

Leading members of four Armenian opposition parties, including the Communist Party of Armenia, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 18 August that there are "good chances" that they will align with other opposition groups to seek to impeach President Robert Kocharian. But they added that it is too early to speak of an antipresidential coalition. Some newspapers have reported that former President Levon Ter-Petrossian is seeking to engineer the creation of such a coalition. People's Party of Armenia Chairman Stepan Demirchian said his party is cooperating with other opposition parties, including Hanrapetutiun, which is headed by former Prime Minister Aram Sargsian, and the National Unity Party. Sargsian for his part said he is holding talks with pro-Russian National Accord Front head Ashot Manucharian and with the "Officers' Honor" group that comprises some 200 members. LF

TELEPHONE CONNECTIONS TO ARMENIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT CUT

Armenia's telecommunications monopoly ArmenTel on 16 August cut telephone lines to Armenia's Medzamor nuclear power in retaliation for the plant's unpaid 12 million dram ($21,000) phone bill, according to Arminfo on 16 August. One line to the office of the plant's director remains in operation, AP reported on 17 August. LF

ARMENIAN MEDIA ASK PARLIAMENT TO EXPEDITE DEBATE ON DRAFT AMENDMENTS TO MEDIA LAW

Some 20 independent Armenian media outlets on 15 August addressed an open letter to parliament Chairman Armen Khachatrian expressing concern at the legislature's failure to schedule a debate on draft amendments to Armenia's media law, Noyan Tapan reported. They noted that the Council of Europe has called for amendments in the existing law, which was passed in October 2000. In January, the Constitutional Court deemed some of its provisions anticonstitutional and several media outlets temporarily suspended broadcasting to protest it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 2001). LF

AZERBAIJAN, IRAN CLOSER TO RESOLVING DIFFERENCES...

The 16 August telephone conversation between Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and his Azerbaijani counterpart Vilayat Quliev succeeded in resolving "some differences" arising from the recent clash of interests between the two countries over the division of their respective sectors of the Caspian, AP reported on 17 August, quoting IRNA. In response to a request by Quliev, Kharrazi agreed that his deputy Ali Ahani will travel to Baku later this month to discuss that issue. Also on 17 August, Interfax reported that Azerbaijan's National Security Minister Namig Abbasov will visit Iran before the end of this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2001). LF

...OR PERHAPS NOT?

On 19 August Kharrazi expressed concern over the announcement the previous day that a squadron of 10 Turkish military aircraft will participate in a military parade in Baku on 23-25 August, Turan reported. That parade will coincide with an official visit to Baku by Turkish Army Chief of General Staff General Hussein Kivrikoglu. Kharrazi stressed the need to prevent what he termed the "militarization" of the Caspian Sea. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT SAYS HE WILL RUN FOR THIRD TERM...

Speaking at a 19 August ceremony to mark National Border Guards Day, President Heidar Aliyev said he will contest the next presidential election in 2003, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. A leading member of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party announced 10 days earlier that the party will propose Aliyev as its candidate in 2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2001). Azerbaijan's Constitution does not at present allow for one individual to serve more than two consecutive presidential terms. Aliyev was first elected to that post in 1993 and re-elected in 1998. LF

...AMNESTIES PRISONERS

On 17 August, Aliyev signed a decree granting an amnesty to 95 prisoners, Turan reported. They include seven Karabakh war invalids sentenced last month for clashes with police during a hunger strike earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2001), 10 people convicted for their role in disturbances in the town of Gyanja in the fall of 1994, and 39 people sentenced for their role in the standoff between army troops and Interior Ministry OPON forces in March 1995. Former National Security Minister Nariman Imranov, who was serving a life sentence for abetting the escape in late 1994 of four prisoners from a National Security Ministry jail, had his sentence reduced to 15 years imprisonment. LF

POLICE STATION ATTACKED, MONUMENT DESTROYED IN NORTHERN AZERBAIJAN

A group of armed men attacked and seriously wounded five policemen in the town of Zakatala, in northern Azerbaijan, early on 19 August, Turan reported. Police have named six suspects in that shooting attack and an earlier one on 30 July. The six are also believed to be responsible for planting a bomb that on 17 August totally destroyed a monument in a neighboring village to Sheikh Shamil, who led the 19th century resistance to Russian expansionism in Daghestan. LF

U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY POSTPONES GEORGIA VISIT

A visit to Georgia by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld scheduled for 24-25 September has been postponed until November, ITAR-TASS and Prime News reported on 18 August. LF

POLICE CHIEF IN GEORGIAN CAPITAL RESIGNS

Soso Alavidze, who has served as Tbilisi police chief since 1997, has submitted his resignation, Caucasus Press reported on 20 August. Alavidze was one of several senior officials whom Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili on 8 August publicly accused of corruption. Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze has named one of his deputies, Major General Kakha Bakuradze, to succeed Alavidze. LF

PROSECUTOR FAILS TO PROVE CHARGES OF TAX EVASION AGAINST FORMER PREMIER...

On the third day of the trial in absentia of former Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, the prosecution failed to substantiate charges of tax evasion, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Employees of Halyqtyq Bank confirmed that in 1997 Kazhegeldin received some $100,000 in royalties paid into an account with the bank, but added that, counter to the prosecution's claim, Kazhegeldin belatedly paid the $23,000 tax due on that sum. Kazhegeldin's lawyer Aleksandr Tabarin asked the prosecution to strike the charge of tax evasion from the indictment. After tax officials summoned to give evidence failed to appear to testify, consideration of the tax evasion charge was postponed until 22 August. LF

...WHO AGAIN SAYS TRIAL UNFAIR

In a statement released in London and other Western capitals on 17 August, Kazhegeldin again said that he is innocent of the charges against him, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Kazhegeldin expressed his willingness to appear before "any impartial court abroad," but said he doubts whether he would ever receive a fair trial in Kazakhstan as long as Nursultan Nazarbaev remains president. He suggested that Nazarbaev himself should face trial in connection with allegations that he received multimillion-dollar bribes from Western oil companies. LF

JAILED KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER RELEASED

President Askar Akaev on 20 August issued a decree granting "clemency" to imprisoned opposition Erkindik party leader Topchubek Turgunaliev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Senior Kyrgyz security officials announced Turgunaliev's release at a special press conference in Bishkek. Akaev's decision was reportedly motivated by appeals from TurgunAliyev and his wife, and by Turgunaliev's "advanced age" and deteriorating health (TurgunAliyev is 60; Akaev, 56). TurgunAliyev was sentenced in September 2000 to 16 years imprisonment on charges, which he denies, of masterminding a plot to assassinate Akaev. The Bishkek City Court reduced that sentence in November 2000 to six years imprisonment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September and 27 November 2000). LF




BELARUSIAN FINANCIAL POLICE CONFISCATE 400,000 COPIES OF INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER

The State Committee of Financial Investigations on 17 August confiscated 400,000 copies of a special issue of the independent newspaper "Nasha svaboda" from the private printing house Magic in Minsk, Belapan reported. The committee said the issue was seized because the printing house had failed to prepare relevant financial documents. The "Nasha svaboda" special issue included materials about Uladzimir Hancharyk, the single democratic challenger to incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the 9 September presidential ballot. JM

NO LIVE BROADCASTS FOR LUKASHENKA'S RIVALS

The Central Election Commission on 17 August confirmed its previous decision that television and radio broadcasts of presidential candidates' campaign speeches should be prerecorded, Belapan reported. The commission was responding to a request by Lukashenka's challengers -- Hancharyk, Syamyon Domash, and Syarhey Haydukevich -- that they be given the right to present their election platforms live on television and radio. The three candidates fear that their prerecorded election broadcasts may be aired in a censured or distorted form. JM

BELARUSIAN DEMOCRATS HOLD CONGRESS

Some 900 delegates took part in the Fifth Congress of Democratic Forces in Minsk on 18 August, Belapan reported. The forum expressed support for Trade Union Federation leader Hancharyk in his bid to defeat Lukashenka in the 9 September presidential election. Domash, who has pledged to withdraw from the presidential race in favor of Hancharyk, told the congress that Hancharyk is a "realistic alternative" to Lukashenka. JM

THIRTY-SIX UKRAINIAN MINERS KILLED IN METHANE EXPLOSION

A methane explosion killed at least 36 miners in the Zasyadko coal mine in Donetsk on 19 August, Ukrainian and world media reported. At least 10 miners are still missing, and 39 were hospitalized with severe burns. Rescue teams halted their search for survivors due to a fierce fire at the accident site, 1,300 meters underground. In May 1999, a methane explosion in the Zasyadko mine killed 50 miners. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT HECKLED AT DIASPORA FORUM

Leonid Kuchma on 18 August addressed the Third World Forum of Ukrainians in Kyiv, which was attended by 300 delegates from the Ukrainian diaspora, 300 delegates from Ukrainian regions, and some 2,500 guests. Dozens of forum participants booed and shouted "Shame!" and "Kuchma, go away!" after the president said he has nothing to do with the disappearance and death of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, AP reported. The audience again hissed Kuchma after he began speaking of economic improvements in the country. Kuchma received generous applause after he said Ukrainian should be the country's only official language. Kuchma is rather unpopular with Ukrainians living in Canada, Great Britain, and the United States. JM

UKRAINE'S ODESA-BRODY OIL PIPELINE COMPLETED

President Kuchma on 19 August symbolically welded the last connection of the Odesa-Brody pipeline that Ukraine hopes to turn into a major supply route for Caspian oil to European markets. The 667-kilometer pipeline will allow the transportation of 12 million tons of oil annually. Kuchma praised the pipeline's completion as a "great present" for Ukraine's 10th anniversary of independence, which will be celebrated this week. "There is no shorter, more convenient, or cheaper way to transport oil in the region," AP quoted Kuchma as saying. He called for the creation of an international consortium to exploit the Odesa-Brody pipeline. JM

THREE UKRAINIAN PARTIES TO UNITE

The leaders of the Party of Regions, the Popular Democratic Party, and the Labor Ukraine Party -- Mykola Azarov, Valeriy Pustovoytenko, and Serhiy Tyhypko, respectively -- said in a joint statement that they want to unite their organizations in "one powerful party," Ukrainian media reported on 17 August. The statement said the party leaders are confident that the new party "can become the gravitation center for all democratic forces in society." The three leaders also believe that "the new party will become a reliable platform for national unification and will promote further strengthening of freedom and democracy in Ukraine." JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL TO CHARGE EX-PREMIER WITH TWO CONTRACT KILLINGS

Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko told the 18 August "Zerkalo nedeli" that he will ask the parliament to agree on instigating criminal proceedings against former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko for ordering the killings of parliamentary deputy Yevhen Scherban in 1996 and of former National Bank Governor Vadym Hetman in 1998. Last week, Potebenko disclosed that a current parliamentary deputy is responsible for those two murders. Lazarenko, who was elected to the Ukrainian parliament in 1998, is now in a U.S. prison on charges of money laundering. He is expected to testify in U.S. federal court in September. JM

EXHIBITION OF PETER I STATUE ANGERS LATVIAN RIGHT

Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars approved the transfer of a statue of Peter I that has been undergoing restoration to the territory of the Riga Port Administration on 17 August to allow a delegation from St. Petersburg attending the celebrations of Riga's 800th anniversary to give their opinion of the monument, LETA reported. Deputies from Latvia's Way and the People's Party condemned the action, and the board of the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK, which is in a coalition with Bojars' Social Democratic Workers' Party in Riga, was to hold an emergency meeting on 20 August to evaluate the situation. SG

U.S. CONGRESS ADVISERS OPTIMISTIC ON LITHUANIA'S NATO PROSPECTS

Visiting U.S. House of Representatives and Senate advisers during talks with Lithuanian parliament deputies on 17 August stated that there is practically no opposition in Congress to Lithuania's membership in NATO, BNS reported. Philip Petersen, the head of the U.S. Potomac Fund that organized the visit of the advisers to Vilnius, said one or all three of the Baltic states should be admitted into the alliance. Speaking about possible obstacles to Lithuania's joining the Atlantic alliance, delegation members mentioned possible changes in Lithuania's political climate and the meeting of commitments, especially those relating to defense spending. SG

POLISH OPPOSITION CALLS FOR PROBE INTO 'WASTING' OF PUBLIC-MONEY

The opposition coalition of the Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union (SLD-UP) has requested that the justice minister investigate cases of "wasting public funds" and what it called the growing and unjustified "affluence" of Solidarity Electoral Action-affiliated officials, PAP reported on 17 August. The coalition cited "financial irregularities at the Polish State Railways that led to a loss of 1 billion zlotys" ($235 million), "many million frauds" at the KGHM Polska Miedz SA copper combine, and the "financing of typically commercial undertakings such as that of TV Plus by state-owned companies." Government Undersecretary Andrzej Urbanski commented later the same day that the SLD-UP charges are a "grotesque concoction" and a "horrible case of public manipulation." JM

POLISH STEELWORKERS CONTINUE HUNGER STRIKE OVER REDUNDANCIES

On 18 August, 12 workers of the Huta Baildon metallurgical works in Katowice entered the 27th day of a hunger strike in defense of their jobs, PAP reported. Six protesters were hospitalized earlier. Two-thirds of the nearly 1,000-strong workforce at Huta Katowice have already received notices of redundancy. The management has not found any investor interested in maintaining the production of the steelworks. JM

CZECH NUCLEAR POWER PLANT MALFUNCTIONS AGAIN

The controversial Temelin nuclear power plant malfunctioned again during testing on 19 August and technicians had to shut the plant down for several hours, CTK and international agencies reported. A spokesman for Temelin told Reuters that the problem had been traced to the plant's automatic regulators, which will be tested and readjusted, and that the malfunction was "not related to nuclear safety." The spokesman, Milan Nebesar, was cited by AP as saying that "the turbine control system received data beyond the allowed limits and automatically shut down the entire plant." He also said that the turbine control system where the problem occurred is situated outside the nuclear section of the plant. A dpa report on 20 August said the latest glitch at Temelin is likely to "cast a shadow" over German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's visit later this week to the Czech Republic. Schroeder and Czech Premier Milos Zeman will tour on 21 and 24 August Czech spas along their common border. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT SAYS MACEDONIA MISSION SHOWS CZECHS ARE RELIABLE NATO PARTNERS

Vaclav Havel on 17 August sent a telegram to the Czech contingent participating in NATO's Essential Harvest operation in Macedonia, CTK reported. In the telegram, Havel said the NATO allies view the Czech Republic as a "reliable and full-fledged partner" and that is why Czech paratroopers were entrusted with "the prestigious task" of protecting the operation's headquarters. Some 120 Czech paratroopers arrived in Macedonia on 17 and 18 August. MS

CZECH MINISTER SAYS BILL FOR ACCESS TO STB FILES MUST BE AMENDED

Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky on 17 August told journalists that the new bill recently approved by the Senate that declassified the files of the communist secret police, is "problematic" and must be amended to avoid infringements of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, to which Prague is a party, CTK reported. Rychetsky said the charter stipulates that people must be protected from "unjustified interference in their privacy" and from unjustified gathering of data and making that information public. He said the existing lustration law does not allow the data gathered by the former StB to be disclosed without the affected person's consent, while the Senate's new bill would allow access to the files to all and materials gathered from those files to be made public. Rychetsky said it is "perfectly normal" for people on whom files were kept to be allowed access to those documents and praised the Senate's bill for also allowing access to former Czechoslovak citizens on whom files were kept. MS

ONE IN FOUR CZECHS NOSTALGIC ABOUT COMMUNISM

Some 24 percent of Czechs are of the opinion that the communist system was better than the current system, according to a poll conducted by STEM in June, CTK reported on 17 August. Fifty-five percent believe the present system is better and 21 percent are of the opinion that there is no difference between the two systems. On 18 August, the Office for the Documentation and Investigation of Communist Crimes said a total of 295 people were deported from Czechoslovakia to Soviet camps and prisons between 1945 and 1954. Many of them were Russian immigrants who fled from the Bolshevik regime between 1918 and 1920 and had taken up Czechoslovak citizenship. MS

CZECH POLICE BREAK UP EXTREMIST GROUPS' CONCERT

Police interrupted a concert held by extremist groups in Zizelnice, northern Bohemia, on 19 August, CTK reported, citing police spokeswoman Ludmila Svetlakova. She said that during the concert "expressions of racial hatred were uttered" and that at the request of the Zizelnice mayor a special police squad "entered the hall and ended the concert," which was attended by some 190 skinheads. Eleven of them were detained on suspicion of "supporting and promoting a movement suppressing the rights and freedoms of citizens." Two skinheads and two policemen suffered light injuries. MS

SLOVAKIA CALLS REGIONAL ELECTIONS FOR DECEMBER

Parliamentary speaker Jozef Migas on 17 August announced that he has set 1 December as the date for elections to the newly created "regional self-government" entities, CTK and international agencies reported. Migas said that his decision makes the demands of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) "irrelevant." The SMK, which wanted a regional self-government to be formed by localities in which ethnic Hungarians hold a majority in southern Hungary, is threatening to leave the ruling coalition. Migas's Party of Democratic Left is one of the coalition members that opposes the SMK's demands. MS

SLOVAK ROM RECOVERING AFTER BRAIN SURGERY

Milan Daniel, who was badly beaten by skinheads in the west Slovak town of Holic on 13 August, underwent brain surgery in a Bratislava hospital and his condition is "stable," CTK reported on 17 August. The doctors said he may suffer memory loss. On 18 August, about 300 Slovak and Czech skinheads gathered at the Prievidza cemetery in central Slovakia to commemorate one of their members who was killed by a Rom five years ago. Leaflets were distributed calling for an "end to racial discrimination against white citizens." Participants, some wearing T-shirts with swastikas and other Nazi symbols, sang nationalist songs, CTK reported. MS

HUNGARIAN PROSECUTORS STOP PROBE AGAINST MIEP DEPUTY CHAIRMAN

Prosecutors on 17 August announced that they have halted a probe into alleged anti-Semitic remarks by Hungarian Justice and Life Deputy Chairman Laszlo Bognar, saying "no offense was committed," AFP reported. Last month, in reaction to the purchase of the Ferencvaros soccer club by Fotex Rt -- a company owned by Jewish businessmen -- Bognar said that "Ferencvaros was sacrificed to a group of dirty, greedy, unscrupulous businessmen without morals, who have nothing to do with Ferencvaros or the Hungarian people" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 31 July 2001). Six Jewish organizations have filed lawsuits against Bognar, accusing him of "incitement against a community" by uttering anti-Semitic remarks. MS




MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN GUERRILLAS PROMISE TO DISARM

Ali Ahmeti, the political spokesman of the National Liberation Army (UCK), told a 19 August press conference at the guerrillas' headquarters in Sipkovica that the UCK will cooperate with NATO and hand over their weapons, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2001). Ahmeti added: "We guarantee the safety of NATO troops... We remember the past [in Macedonia] as something bitter, but we are going to create conditions for two communities to live in peace. We think that the war is over. We're talking about democracy." "The Guardian" noted that Ahmeti "masterminded a campaign that overwhelmed Macedonians in battle and in diplomacy." "The Times" added that the "UCK press conference contrasted sharply with the Macedonian strategy that has consisted of little more than shelling villages while complaining about the lack of Western support." "The Guardian" noted that the backdrop to the press conference consisted of the flags of Albania, the EU, NATO, and the U.S., but not of Macedonia. PM

NATO COMMANDER ARRIVES IN MACEDONIA

U.S. General James Ralston, NATO's commander in chief, arrived in Macedonia on 20 August to assess the stability of the cease-fire, which has generally held except for some isolated firefights. An unnamed Western diplomat told Reuters: "Ralston's primary interest will be the durability of the cease-fire because the political elements of peace are already in place. The state of the truce will be his judgment call. We feel that last night's truce violations [in the volatile Tetovo region] were regrettable but will not be decisive, that they would not stop deployment" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 August 2001). Elsewhere, NATO spokesman Major Barry Johnson said that the 400-strong NATO advance party is ready to carry out its tasks, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2001). PM

MACEDONIAN RED CROSS LOOKS AT CIVILIAN DISPLACEMENT

Officials of the Macedonian Red Cross said in Skopje on 18 August that some 115,000 Macedonian citizens have been displaced by the current conflict, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Only 62,000 of them have received the status of displaced persons officially. Most were ethnic Macedonians from the Tetovo region. PM

GOVERNMENT CRISIS IN SERBIA...

On 17 August, members of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) quit the cabinet of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic of the Democratic Party (DS), RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The next day, Dragan Veselinov, the deputy prime minister and the head of the Vojvodina Coalition, said that unnamed members of Kostunica's staff are responsible for that move. Veselinov added that the DSS's decision to leave the cabinet could start the breakup of the already fragile Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition, an 18-party grouping that replaced the government of former President Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia in October 2000. Veselinov stressed that it would be a tragedy if the DSS and the pro-Milosevic parties toppled Djindjic's government. PM

...AS CONFIDENCE VOTES LOOM

On 19 August, Dragan Marsicanin, the speaker of the parliament and vice president of the DSS, said that his party will call for a vote of confidence by the DOS steering committee in Djindjic and his cabinet, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Former Health Minister Obren Joksimovic of the DSS said that he hopes that his party will call for a vote of confidence by the parliament in the government, adding that he "prays to God" that the government will then fall on the first ballot. "Politika" reported on 20 August, however, that the DOS will have a legislative majority even if the DSS leaves the coalition. "Danas" suggested that the most likely outcome will be either new elections or a cabinet shakeup. The government crisis follows recent insinuations by Djindjic and some persons close to him that there could be a link between Kostunica's office and the recent murder of security official Momir Gavrilovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2001). Djindjic has also called for those close to Kostunica to prove their repeated charges that the government is corrupt or keep silent. PM

SERBIAN CASH RESERVES UP

Mladjan Dinkic, who heads the Yugoslav National Bank, said on 19 August that the bank's hard-currency reserves stand at $930 million, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He noted that the reserves were only $360 million when DOS ousted Milosevic. Dinkic said that it should be clear by the end of September which banks "will remain and which will be closed." He also noted that a 1,000 dinar bank note will be introduced before the end of the year. PM

CROATIA TO SEEK EXTRADITION OF SERB FROM GERMANY

The Croatian government will ask the German authorities to extradite Mile Grbic, an ethnic Serb from Croatia, dpa reported from Zagreb on 18 August. Police arrested Grbic in Celle in 2000, acting on an international arrest warrant issued by Croatia. He is wanted there for allegedly being part of a group that massacred Croatian civilians in 1991. PM

ALBANIAN PLEDGES ANTICRIME MEASURES

Prime Minister Ilir Meta told a meeting of police chiefs in Vlora that his government will take additional steps to combat smuggling and organized crime, dpa reported on 18 August. Measures will include improved training for police and government prosecutors, tougher punishment for criminals, and setting up an Office Against Organized Crime to coordinate efforts in various parts of the country. He stressed that eliminating organized crime is essential for Albania's stability and its reputation in the eyes of its neighbors, especially Italy. Meta noted that the flow of illegal migrants from Albania to Italy is only one-fifth of what it was one year ago. PM

SLOVENIAN MINISTER SLAMS 'CAMPAIGN' AGAINST NATO MEMBERSHIP

The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 20 August that Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel has criticized those of his countrymen whose frustration with delays in Slovenia's admission to NATO has led them to question the need for membership in the alliance. Rupel said in Ljubljana recently that NATO membership is essential if Slovenia is to break with its communist past. Discontent with NATO has grown in some circles in Slovenian politics recently following remarks by NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson that the country is not ready for membership. The article added that the U.S. ambassador-designate has raised eyebrows by saying that Slovenia's admission to NATO may be linked to the restitution of property taken from U.S. citizens of Slovenian origin by the communists after World War II. PM

ROMANIA PROTESTS STATEMENT BY HUNGARIAN AMBASSADOR TO SOFIA

The Foreign Ministry on 18 August said a statement made by Hungarian Ambassador to Bulgaria Bela Kolojzni was "surprising" and "contrary to diplomatic practice," and he instructed the Romanian Embassy in Budapest to demand "clarifications" from the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, Mediafax reported. Kolojzni last week said on private Bulgarian Darik Radio that Hungary advises Bulgaria to renounce its decision to work "in tandem" with Romania in efforts to gain accession to NATO and the EU. That decision was made during the 14 August visit to Sofia by Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2001). Kolojzni said that Hungary's success in accession into NATO was due to its having "marched alone" on the road to accession and that the same policy is being pursued by Budapest in its efforts to join the EU. The Romanian Foreign Ministry also said Kolojzni's statement "contradicts earlier declarations by Hungarian officials of support for Romanian and Bulgarian efforts for integration in Euro-Atlantic structures." MS

ROMANIAN CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES SPEAKER HINTS THAT UDMR MIGHT BE OUTLAWED

Chamber of Deputies Speaker Valer Dorneanu on 19 August said that if the existing legislation on political parties is amended, "it is not to be ruled out that parties established on ethnic criteria" will no longer be allowed to function, Romanian Radio reported. Dorneanu said the existence of ethnic parties is "an anomaly" because national minorities "enjoy the right of preservation of their own cultural, linguistic, and ethnic identity" and "cannot demand, in addition, the right to a [separate] political identity." MS

ROMANIAN DISSIDENT PEASANTISTS ENVISAGE NEW PARTY

The extraordinary congress of the dissident wing in the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 18 August elected Vasile Lupu as chairman of the PNTCD and declared all decisions taken by Victor Ciorbea's wing of the party as null and void, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Calin Catalin Chirita was elected the dissident wing's secretary-general. The congress also decided to set up an "initiative committee" whose task will be to set up "within three months" a new political formation, which is to be named the Party of Christian Democracy. Former PNTCD Chairman Andrei Marga was appointed chairman of the initiative committee. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN PRIVATIZATION OFFICIAL RELEASED FROM DETENTION

Alin Giurgiu, the former executive director of the State Privatization Fund (FPS), was released from detention on 18 August, AP reported. Giurgiu, a prominent PNTCD member, was detained more than three months ago. Prosecutors revoked his arrest warrant after it was established that Giurgiu suffers from skin cancer. He was detained in connection with suspicions of having facilitated the privatization of a soft-drink company that allegedly defrauded the state of 31 billion lei ($2.2 million). Two other former FPS officials remain in detention under the same suspicion. MS

TRANSDNIESTER PROTESTS RUSSIAN MILITARY SCRAPPING

The "Foreign Ministry" in Tiraspol on 17 August released a statement protesting against the continued destruction of Russian military equipment and against the planned new Russian-Moldovan basic treaty, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. According to a report by Flux, the Tiraspol authorities announced they will launch legal procedures against people who participated in the destruction of the Russian equipment and that those who are "guilty" have been detained. Prosecutor-General Viktor Zakharov said legal action has not been launched against the commander of the Russian contingent, General Yevgenii Yevnevich, "personally." Yevnevich said that the operations will continue in line with OSCE decisions. An OSCE spokesman cited by ITAR-TASS said experts from Russia, the OSCE, and the Transdniester have agreed on the scrapping and that studies are now underway to review technology used in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and that Russian ammunition scrapping technology has already been reviewed. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER OUTLINES REFORMS

In a televised address on 19 August, Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski outlined his government's reform program, Reuters and AP reported. He said taxes for the upper-income brackets will be reduced to encourage investments and a zero-profit tax on reinvestment will be enacted from the beginning of 2002. As of 1 October, minimum wages in the public sector will rise by 17 percent, while child-support benefits will be doubled in 2002. A state fund will be set up on 1 October 2001 to boost small private businesses through low-interest loans in poor regions where unemployment is high. Charges for electricity and heating will be raised by up to 10 percent as of 1 October this year to compensate for rising energy prices globally and for an artificial price freeze imposed by the previous government in 1999. Simeon said Bulgaria at present enjoys a good international image "and we have to make the best of it" by showing "more solidarity with those who are economically weak and more optimism for the future of Bulgaria." MS

MACEDONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BULGARIA

Visiting Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva on 18 August said the agreement signed last week was "a good basis" to end the conflict in her country, but warned the Albanian rebels that "if they continue to pose a threat to security of the country, the Macedonian forces will defend that security," AP reported. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi urged the international community to make larger investments in infrastructure in the Balkans in order to stabilize peace in the region. "Lasting peace depends on the region's prosperity," Pasi told journalists after talks with Mitreva. President Petar Stoyanov gave assurances to Mitreva that Bulgaria is prepared to extend aid to Macedonia. MS




There is no End Note today.





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