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Newsline - August 27, 2001




GOVERNMENT FORWARDS DRAFT 2002 BUDGET TO DUMA

The Russian government on 26 August forwarded to the Duma its draft 2002 budget, Russian and Western agencies reported. The draft calls for revenues of 1.99 trillion rubles ($68.4 billion) and spending of 1.87 trillion rubles. It is based on the assumption that Russia's GDP will increase 4.3 percent and inflation will decline to 10-13 percent. It also calls for increasing defense spending from $7.8 billion to $9.8 billion and for creating an emergency financial reserve fund. PG

RUSSIAN ECONOMY GROWS IN FIRST SEVEN MONTHS OF 2001

Officials at the Economic Development and Trade Ministry said on 24 August that the Russian economy grew 5.5 percent in the first seven months of 2001, compared to a rate of 8.8 percent during the same period in 2000, the ministry's website reported. Both exports and imports grew, but imports jumped $5.1 billion during the period to $29.1 billion during the first seven months of 2001 while exports grew only $3.5 billion to a total of $61.5 billion. Meanwhile, "Vremya MN" the same day noted that from 1989 to 2000, the size of Russia's GDP fell by nearly half and that Russia's share of the world's GDP slipped between 1993 and 1998 from 3 percent to 1.7 percent. PG

RUSSIANS SAVING MORE BUT HAVE FEWER DOLLARS

Gennadii Melikyan, the deputy chairman of Sberbank, said in an interview published in "Trud" on 24 August that Russians are now saving approximately 4 percent of their incomes, up from 1.1 percent in 1998. But because the purchasing power of the dollar has fallen, Russians now hold fewer dollars than they did in the past. If a year ago, he said, it was estimated that Russians held $25 billion in U.S. dollars, today, Russians are thought to hold only $15-17 billion. PG

SECRET POLL SAID TO SHOW PUTIN'S SUPPORT EBBING AMONG MILITARY

According to an article in "Zavtra," No. 34, Russian authorities have conducted a secret poll among Russian military personnel which shows that "[Russian President Vladimir] Putin is rapidly losing influence within the military. These days, only 52 percent of the officers support his policies, and less than 30 percent approve of his actions in the military sphere." The article explained this decline by Putin's failure to live up to his promises to provide more support for military personnel and military programs and by the growing pessimism among officers that they are in a position to counter challenges to the country. PG

MOSCOW PRIMARILY CONCERNED WITH ECONOMIC INTERESTS IN CIS

According to an article in "Vremya Novostei" on 24 August, the Russian government is prepared to allow its CIS partners "a lot of political leeway as long as Russia's economic interests are not threatened." The article suggests that Moscow doesn't "ask for much really. Neither rebuilding the Soviet Union, nor surrendering anyone's sovereignty. Just don't stand in the way of free-market competition -- where ambitious Russian businesses will get the upper hand anyway in the newly independent states. They will defeat the locals, because they have more money to throw around, and they will defeat the foreigners because foreigners don't understand our rules." PG

PUTIN, KUCHMA AGREE KYIV WILL ACCELERATE PAYMENT OF GAS DEBT

President Putin on 24 August met briefly with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma, and the two agreed that Kyiv will move more rapidly to pay its debt for Russian gas, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 August. The newspaper reported that Ukraine, under pressure from Gazprom, will pay all of its $1.34 billion debt in cash rather than by barter as the Ukrainians had hoped. Moreover, Kyiv has agreed to reduce the redemption of its gas debt from 10 years to an unspecified shorter term. VY

ALMOST HALF OF RUSSIANS WANT MOSCOW TO SEEK RETURN OF CRIMEA

According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 25 August, 47 percent of Russians want the Russian government to do whatever it takes to secure the return of the Crimea to Russian control. Thirty-seven percent more would like to see Russian sovereignty restored on Crimea, but only if that could be achieved without a worsening of Russian-Ukrainian relations. PG

KAZAKHSTAN SUSPENDS JOINT MILITARY EXERCISES AFTER RUSSIAN MISSILE GOES OFF COURSE

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 24 August confirmed that Astana has officially suspended joint military activities with Russia pending the outcome of an investigation into why a Russian surface-to-air missile landed in Kazakhstan last week. The Kazakhstan government asked Moscow to stop testing missiles near its national borders. Meanwhile, the news service reported, Belarusian officials denied that the rocket that went off course had been produced by their defense industry. VY

PUTIN REPEATS SKEPTICISM ABOUT NATO MISSION IN MACEDONIA

Following a meeting with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski in Kyiv on 24 August, President Putin said that the use of force by any side in Macedonia would be problematic and fraught with difficulties, Interfax reported. At the same time, he said that Macedonian problems cannot be resolved unless terrorism is suppressed and the legitimate grievances of all peoples, including the Albanians, are addressed. PG

IVANOV SAYS NO PROGRESS IN U.S. TALKS

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 24 August that his meeting with U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton had not led to any significant progress on the issue of the fate of the 1972 ABM Treaty or U.S. plans to withdraw from that accord, Russian and Western agencies reported. At the same time, Ivanov did not directly criticize President George W. Bush's assertion on 23 August that Washington will exercise its right to unilaterally withdraw from the 1972 agreement. Moreover, Ivanov stressed that "we did not expect a breakthrough" but said that "eventually an understanding will be reached." VY

NATO OFFICE IN MOSCOW MAY BEGIN NORMAL OPERATIONS NEXT MONTH

The NATO Information Office that was formally opened in Moscow in February might, after many delays, finally begin functioning "no earlier than the second half of September," Interfax reported. PG

JORDANIAN KING ARRIVES IN MOSCOW

King Abdullah II arrived in Moscow on 26 August for a three-day visit during which he will visit Tula and St. Petersburg and discuss with President Putin developments in the Middle East and possible arms purchases by Amman, RIA-Novosti reported. Another issue the king reportedly plans to raise involves Russian participation in the construction of water purification systems for Jordan. VY

MOSCOW URGES ISRAEL TO SHOW RESTRAINT

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 24 August released a statement urging Israel to show restraint in responding to attacks lest, through "a disproportionate use of force,...innocent people suffer." At the same time, the statement said, "decisive steps must be taken to prevent criminal acts by extremists." PG

MOSCOW READIES ARMS ACCORD WITH IRAN

Mikhail Dmitriev, the chairman of Russia's foreign arms trade agency, told Interfax on 24 August that Russia will soon be ready to sign a framework weapons trade accord with Iran. He said that "Iran is a traditional partner of Russia in all spheres, including in military technology" and noted that Iran has a large amount of aging weaponry that needs updating. PG

RUSSIA TO SELL MORE HELICOPTERS TO COLOMBIA

Russia's arms exporting corporation Rosoboroneksport on 24 August said that it has signed an accord with Colombia to sell that South American country six additional helicopters, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia sold 10 such helicopters in 1997, but Russian officials stressed that those sales have not "upset the existing balance of forces in the region." PG

SHANGHAI FORUM SECURITY EXPERTS DISCUSS CREATION OF ANTITERRORIST CENTER

Representatives from the security agencies of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan met in Bishkek on 24 August to discuss the practical implementation of the agreement among those countries to create a combined antiterrorist center in Dushanbe, gazetaSNG.ru reported. The officials reportedly plan to extend their discussions to include the creation of a common front against "extremism and separatism," the website added. VY

RUSSIAN POLICEMAN SAYS NO RUSSIAN MAFIA OUTSIDE RUSSIA

In an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 25 August, Vladimir Gordienko, the chief of the Interior Ministry's Criminal Investigation Department, said that "there is no 'Russian mafia' abroad. This is a myth that has political roots." He noted that Russians commit crimes abroad just as foreigners commit crimes in Russia, but he said that it is wrong to speak of an international division of the Russian mafia because there is no place where Russian criminals control some sphere of criminal economic activities abroad. PG

MOSCOW HOPES FOR DEBT RELIEF FOR CONTRIBUTION TO WORLD'S FRESH AIR AND WATER SUPPLIES

Mukhamed Tsykanov, the deputy economic development and trade minister, said on 24 August that Moscow will propose that the Paris Club of foreign creditors write off some of Russia's debts because "we are supplying oxygen to the whole of Europe and have in Lake Baikal the world's largest reservoir of fresh water," Interfax and "Moskovskie novosti" reported on 24 August. He noted that international creditors have already made similar concessions to other countries and thus should be willing to do so in Russia's case as well. VY

MOSCOW FORGIVES MOST OF ZAMBIA'S DEBT TO RUSSIA

Zambian officials said on 25 August that Russia has written off 80 percent of Zambia's debts contracted with the former Soviet Union and has rescheduled the remaining $138.3 million for payment over 33 years, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

IS RUSSIA GOING TO LOSE ITS FAR EAST?

In an article in "The Russia Journal" of 24-30 August, political commentator Andrei Piontkovskii noted that market forces and demographic shortfalls could lead to a situation in which "Russia will withdraw from the Far East and then Siberia, first de facto, then de jure." He noted that some Russian officials are paying attention to this possibility but that so are Americans, at least some of whom do not want to see China gain at Russia's expense, especially given Beijing's growing global clout. PG

FOUNDER OF ST. PETERSBURG BUSINESS CENTER MURDERED

Sergei Zlobin, the founder of the North-West Business Center, was murdered on 24 August, Interfax Northwest reported. Police have no suspects and have not decided whether it was a personal or business matter, the news service said. PG

PATRIARCH AWARDS GAZPROM HEAD

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II on 25 August presented Gazprom President Aleksei Miller with a special award for his contribution to the "preservation of the spiritual and cultural values of the Russian people," Interfax-ANI reported. Gazprom has contributed to the construction of several churches, the news service noted. PG

SOCCER RIOT IN MOSCOW

More than 100 largely drunken fans were detained by police after they went on a rampage following a soccer match between the Spartak and Dinamo teams in Moscow, Interfax-Moscow reported on 25 August. This happened even though police dispatched more than 3,000 officers to the stadium before the riot took place. PG

MOSCOW CONSIDERS INTRODUCING ACUPUNCTURE

Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko said in Beijing on 25 August that the second session of the Russian-Chinese joint commission on educational, cultural, health, and sports cooperation has been successful, ITAR-TASS reported. She said that the Russian government will oversee the opening of Chinese medical centers in Russia if it can somehow exclude "the charlatans and careless doctors from China who discredit real Chinese specialists." PG

INTERIOR MINISTRY ASKS PARAPSYCHOLOGISTS TO HELP FIGHT CRIME

Interior Ministry officials have concluded that Russian law enforcement does not have sufficient resources to defeat crime by normal means, "Vek," No. 33, reported. As a result, the ministry has asked specialists in parapsychology and extrasensory techniques to help out, Interior Ministry Colonel Aleksei Skrypnikov told the journal. He said that so far the results from this effort have been uneven: Occasionally, paranormal specialists are 100 percent correct, but sometimes they are totally wrong. One crime the parapyschologists might now be called upon to solve concerns the theft of the national flag of Tunisia from its embassy in Moscow on 24 August, ITAR-TASS reported. VY/PG

TAX POLICE WILL CEASE TO BE A FORCE STRUCTURE

In an interview published in "Rossiiskie vesti" on 24 August, Mikhail Fradkov, the director of the Federal Tax Police Service, said that his officers will cease to be a force structure and become a civil administration in the near future. PG

BORODIN AGAIN CALLED TO SWITZERLAND FOR TESTIMONY

Pavel Borodin, a former Kremlin property manager and current Russia-Belarus Union state secretary, has been summoned for a fifth time for interrogation by Swiss prosecutors, Interfax reported on 24 August. He is to be questioned on 27, 29, and 30 August, his lawyers said. They had requested a delay so as to allow him to participate in a meeting of the union's state council of ministers on 29 August, but the Swiss prosecutors rejected that request. PG

GROUND FORCES PLACED IN CHARGE OF PEACEKEEPING

General Anatolii Kvashnin, the chief of the Russian General Staff, has transferred responsibility for the peacekeeping forces from the airborne troops to the ground forces, "Izvestiya" reported on 24 August. But the paper noted that the ground forces will require "urgent measures" in order to be in a position to "rise to the occasion." PG

CHANGES AT THE TOP OF MILITARY INTELLIGENCE

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has replaced six of the 12 directorate heads in the GRU (Military Intelligence) with officers from the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) where he served earlier, the APN website reported on 23 August. The website suggested that the logical next step will be the retirement of GRU head Valentin Korabelnikov, who is a holdover from the Yeltsin period. VY

COAL INDUSTRY SAID PULLING OUT OF STAGNATION

Energy Minister Igor Yusupov on 26 August said on the occasion of Miners' Day that the coal industry "is pulling out of the state of stagnation and starting to play an increasingly greater role in the country's fuel and energy complex and the economy as a whole," ITAR-TASS reported. He noted that coal production and productivity are both up, while the number of miners has declined by 60 percent over the last seven years and the number of fatal accidents has fallen by 50 percent over the same period. PG

MOSCOW TO RESUME FINANCIAL ROLE IN EDUCATION

Lyubov Kesina, a member of the State Council Working group on educational reform, told RIA-Novosti on 24 August that her group plans to insist that the state resume its dominant role in financing education "as required by the constitution." She said that the reforms will include the modernization of instruction at all levels, the revision of curricula throughout the system, and the introduction of universal education and graduation examinations at all levels. VY

RUSSIAN SCHOOLCHILDREN SAID POORLY FED, OVERWORKED

Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishchenko said in an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 24 August that Russian schoolchildren are suffering because they do not have adequate food and are overworked in school. He said that only 20 of the country's governors have fulfilled their obligations to provide food for students and that as a result of these shortfalls only 10 percent of all students leave school healthy. Onishchenko also called for going to a six-day school week in order to shorten the school day. PG

OSTANKINO TV TOWER TO BE WORLD'S TALLEST AFTER RECONSTRUCTION

Vladimir Kurochkin, the deputy general director of Russian state television, told Interfax on 24 August that reconstruction of the Ostankino television tower will increase its height to the point where it will be the world's tallest structure of its kind, Interfax reported. VY

TROTSKY MUSEUM IN MEXICO REFURBISHED

Interfax-America reported on 24 August that the Trotsky Museum in Mexico City has been refurbished on the occasion of the 61st anniversary of the murder of Vladimir Lenin's comrade in arms Lev Trotsky by "Stalinist special services." PG

KADYROV SAYS ITS TIME TO 'STOP' COUNTERTERRORIST OPERATION IN CHECHNYA

In an interview published in "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 24 August, Akhmad Kadyrov, the Kremlin-appointed head of the Chechen government, said that "the counterterrorist operation has gone on for too long, and it is time to stop it." He said that Moscow is not ready to accept his calls for setting up a strong Chechen interior ministry headed by a Chechen and has not been successful in neutralizing the guerilla leadership and infrastructure. He said that the counterterrorist operation could be ended now but that "unfortunately, certain forces in the federal government support what is happening in Chechnya." Indeed, he said, "the whole script has been prepared in Moscow," asserting that Chechen leader Djokhar Dudaev was not in fact killed in 1996. (Dudaev's widow has denied that claim, Interfax reported the same day.) PG

MOSCOW STILL SPENDING MORE ON WAR IN CHECHNYA THAN ON RECONSTRUCTION

An analysis prepared by the WPS agency on 24 August noted that the Russian government has allocated 4.5 billion rubles ($150 million) for the restoration of Chechnya but that military experts estimate that "the money allowances of servicemen" alone in Chechnya currently cost more than 8 billion rubles a year. PG

NO CONFIRMATION OF WOUNDING OF BASAEV

Sources in the Russian security services told Interfax on 24 August that "there is still no confirmed information "that Chechen commander Shamil Basaev was in fact wounded on 21 August as Russian forces claimed at that time. Meanwhile, the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office announced the same day that it has completed work on the case against Chechen commander Salman Raduev, who led the August 1996 attack on the Daghestani village of Kizlyar, and has sent the case to the courts, the Russian news agency reported. And Russian officials said on 26 August that two of the three people killed in a marketplace bombing in Gudermes the day before had been involved in the bombing itself, NTV and RTR reported. PG

THREE FRENCH CITIZENS DETAINED IN NORTH OSSETIA

Officials of the Russian Federal Border Service and the North Ossetia Interior Ministry on 24 August detained three French citizens in the Alagirskii district of the republic, Interfax reported the following day. The news service said that it is unclear how the three had gotten to North Ossetia and that their lack of Russian language skills meant that local officials had not been able to query them effectively. PG




ARMENIAN MOUNTAINEERS TO CLIMB MOUNT ARARAT

Two Armenians are taking part in climbing Mount Ararat at the invitation of the Federation of Mountaineering of Turkey, Noyan Tapan reported on 24 August. PG

YEREVAN PAPER CRITICIZES KARABAKH'S EFFORTS AT ENERGY INDEPENDENCE

An article in "Aravot" on 25 August sharply criticized the efforts of the authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh to achieve energy independence instead of working to integrate that unrecognized republic into the Armenian power network. PG

KARABAKH REACTS TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE PROPOSALS

The Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized government of Karabakh on 24 August welcomed an officer from the Council of Europe to assist in the peace process in the region, Mediamax reported. But the same day, the ministry condemned the council for saying that local elections in Karabakh were illegitimate, the agency said. Visiting U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff also criticized the Council of Europe's statement about the "illegitimacy" of voters in Karabakh, Mediamax reported the same day. PG

Aliyev SAYS BAKU WANTS TALKS BUT IS READY TO FIGHT

President Heidar Aliyev on 25 August said that Baku remains committed to a peaceful solution of the conflict over Karabakh but that the country's military must be ready to restore the country's territorial integrity "at any cost," Azerbaijani and Western news agencies reported. The same day, Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiev said that "the transformation of Armenia into an uncontrolled weapons warehouse, the unsolved Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, and the presence of an enormous number of refugees creates the threat of renewed fighting in the region," the agencies reported. PG

Aliyev POSTPONES VISIT TO U.S.

Officials told "Bilik Dunyasi" on 24 August that the visit of President Aliyev to the United States planned for the end of September has been postponed indefinitely. But the Sharg news agency the same day cited a presidential spokesman as denying that Aliyev is ill. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani officials blocked the road near the U.S. embassy in Baku for security reasons, ANS television reported on 24 August. PG

500,000 WATCH TURKISH FLIGHTS IN AZERBAIJANI CAPITAL

A half million people on 24 August watched demonstration flights by Turkish F-5 jets over Baku, the Turan news agency reported. Visiting Turkish Chief of Staff General Huseyn Kivrikoglu said that strengthening military ties between Ankara and Baku is an important task, the news agency said the next day. Meanwhile, Baku's "Zerkalo" newspaper on 25 August suggested that the Turkish air show represented a "warning" to Azerbaijan's enemies. Indeed, the paper said, President Aliev's planned visit to Iran would not be possible "were it not for the flights of the Turkish jets here." PG

IRAN WANTS BAKU TO REIN IN GROUP PROMOTING TIES WITH SOUTHERN AZERBAIJAN

The Baku newspaper "525 gazet" reported on 25 August that Iranian officials are demanding that Baku clamp down on the activities of the United Azerbaijan Association that seeks to promote the reunification of southern Azerbaijan in Iran with Azerbaijan. PG

BAKU SAYS ATTACKS IN NORTH 'CRIMINAL NOT ETHNIC'

In response to suggestions in Moscow and by the Azerbaijani Home group representing ethnic minorities in Azerbaijan that tensions in the north reflect a new round of ethnic assertiveness by Avars ("Nezavisimaya gazeta," Interfax and ANS on 24 August), the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry issued a statement the same day saying that there is no ethnic background to the tension, ANS television reported. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani media outlets, including "525 gazet" and "Zerkalo," accused Armenia, Russia, and Iran of fostering ethnic separatism in Azerbaijan. PG

SWISSAIR TO END FLIGHTS TO AZERBAIJAN

Citing a lack of business and unprofitability, Swissair announced on 24 August that it will end its Zurich-Baku route at the end of October, the Sharg news agency reported. PG

UFOS SAID TO HAVE 'RESEARCH BASES' IN CASPIAN

Fuad Zasimov, an official at the Azerbaijani National Aerospace Agency, said that unidentified flying objects have become "more active" over the Caspian Sea in recent weeks because the UFOs have set up "research bases in the Caspian," "525 gazet" reported on 25 August. PG

WORLD BANK TELLS GEORGIA TO RENEGOTIATE TRANSIT FEES

The World Bank has sent a letter to Tbilisi directing the Georgian government to renegotiate its oil transit fee schedule with Azerbaijan to get more revenue or face the loss of bank assistance, "The New York Times" reported on 26 August. Talks have reopened, the newspaper reported, but it did not specify whether any progress has been made. PG

GEORGIA WON'T SIGN SOME CIS DOCUMENTS

Georgian Foreign Ministry officials told Caucasus Press on 24 August that Tbilisi will not sign several of the documents prepared for the CIS ministerial meeting in Moscow on 5 September. Among the documents that Georgia won't sign, the official said, are several involving political regulation of the actions of member countries. PG

GEORGIA SAYS RUSSIAN STATEMENTS ON ABKHAZIA A PROVOCATION

Georgian officials said on 24 August that Russian and Abkhaz suggestions that Georgia plans to ally itself with Chechen militants to attack Abkhazia are false and is intended to provide a pretext for Moscow to maintain or expand its military presence in the breakaway republic, Caucasus Press reported. The Georgian statement came after both Abkhaz and Russian forces in Abkhazia went on alert. President Eduard Shevardnadze returned from his vacation early in order to deal with the crisis, the news agency said. PG

CPC SUSPENDS SENDING OIL VIA TENGIZ-NOVOROSSIISK PIPELINE

The Caspian Pipeline Consortium on 24 August suspended pumping oil into the Tengiz-Novorossiisk pipeline, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Officials blamed the suspension on problems at the Atyrau pumping station. PG

KAZAKHSTAN OPPOSITION PICKETS U.S. EMBASSY

Members of the political opposition in Kazakhstan picketed the U.S. embassy in Almaty on 24 August to demand that Washington defend the opposition and democracy in that Central Asian country, Kazakh Commercial TV reported. The station added that some of the demonstrators had been paid to take part and left angry when they did not get their money. PG

KAZAKHSTAN TO PAY WATER DEBTS TO KYRGYZSTAN

Kazakhstan has pledged to pay in 2002 its water debt to Kyrgyzstan by supplying 400,000 tons of coal worth $12 million and power engineering equipment worth $5.8 million, Kabar reported on 24 August. PG

KYRGYZSTAN'S AKAEV SAYS DEMOCRACY ABOUT RESPONSIBILITY

At a news conference on 24 August, Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev said that there has been too much inappropriate criticism of the status of democracy in his country. Democracy, he said, "requires a balance between freedom and responsibility," something many forget. "It is disheartening that international organizations sometimes take the opinions of irreconcilable opponents and certain discontented people at face value and form an image of our country on this basis. It has become almost fashionable for people who have got into trouble with the law due to fraud or criminal cases to go abroad, proclaim themselves as 'political exiles' or 'prisoners of conscience,' receive support and live like heroes." PG

KYRGYZSTAN ANTIGOVERNMENT LEADER SAYS NO OPPOSITION EXISTS

Erkin Topchubek, the recently amnestied leader of the oppositionist party, told Kyrgyz-Press on 24 August that "there has never been an opposition in Kyrgyzstan nor is there one now." He said his definition of an opposition is people who oppose the government and are prepared to use unconstitutional measures. PG

CONSULAR OFFICE OPENS AT KYRGYZ-CHINESE BORDER

Kyrgyzstan's Foreign Ministry has opened an office at a Chinese border checkpoint where people can obtain visas, Kyrgyz radio reported on 25 August. PG

TURKMEN LEADER PROPOSES ARAL SEA CONFERENCE

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in a telephone conversation with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov proposed holding a Central Asian summit on the state of the Aral Sea sometime during the first two months of 2002, Turkmen TV reported on 24 August.

UZBEKISTAN WON'T RETURN TO COLLECTIVE SECURITY TREATY

President Islam Karimov said on 24 August that Tashkent will not return to the CIS Collective Security Treaty, the Caspian News Agency reported. In other comments the same day, Karimov said that the liberalization of the country's judicial system will continue, Interfax-Central Asia reported. PG

KYRGYZSTAN'S PRIME MINISTER SAYS CORRUPTION INCREASING

In an interview published in "Slovo Kyrgyzstana" on 21 August, Kurmanbek Baikiev gave a generally upbeat assessment of his country's economy but said that corruption "is assuming increasingly dangerous dimensions." PG




BELARUSIAN JUSTICE MINISTRY WARNS AGAINST INDEPENDENT VOTE COUNT

The Justice Ministry on 24 August said "a parallel vote count is a sort of control over the activities of election commissions and the expression of voters' will, which is banned by the Constitution and the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus," Belapan reported. The ministry added that its statement was prompted by press reports about the opposition's intention to conduct a "parallel vote tabulation" by independent observers of the 9 September presidential ballot. The ministry warned that the electoral code bars observers from polling voters before and after voting. In addition, the ministry noted that Belarusian legislation has no such term as "independent observer" and advised the media not to use it. JM

BELARUS LAUNCHES LARGEST POST-SOVIET MILITARY MANEUVERS

Belarus on 26 August began its largest military exercise of the post-Soviet period, fielding some 9,000 troops as well as 1,600 military vehicles, heavy weaponry, aircraft, and armor, Belapan reported. The exercise, code-named "Nyoman-2001," will last until 3 September and involve the troops in mock combat in a military conflict between two imaginary states. The exercise is seen by some independent Belarusian commentators as a show of strength by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka ahead of the 6 September presidential ballot. JM

MINSK EXPELS U.S. CITIZEN FOR ALLEGEDLY SEEKING TO OUST LUKASHENKA

Belarus has expelled U.S. citizen Robert Fielding for allegedly conspiring with the opposition to overthrow President Lukashenka in the upcoming presidential election, AP and Reuters reported on 26 August, quoting Belarusian Television. The Belarusian KGB accused Fielding, an official with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, of meddling in Belarus's internal affairs by openly campaigning for unified opposition candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk and making statements that the current Belarusian leadership is not recognized by the international community. Fielding was detained on 25 August at a hotel in Hrodna (northwestern Belarus) and reportedly put on a train heading for Poland. JM

UKRAINE HOLDS MILITARY PARADE ON INDEPENDENCE DAY

Some 6,000 troops on 24 August marched along Kyiv's Khreshchatyk Street in a four-hour parade to mark Ukraine's Independence Day. There were also 300 pieces of military equipment involved in the parade, including new Ukrainian-made T-84 tanks, rocket launchers, and aircraft. The parade was observed from a rostrum by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma as well as by his Russian and Macedonian counterparts Vladimir Putin and Boris Trajkovski. Interfax reported that Putin and Trajkovski showed particular interest in the helicopters and other military aircraft that flew some 300 meters over their heads. JM

U.S. DECLARES SUPPORT FOR DEMOCRATIC, MARKET-ORIENTED UKRAINE

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Elizabeth Jones said in Kyiv on 24 August that support for a democratic and market-oriented Ukraine underlies U.S. policies toward Kyiv, Interfax reported. Jones said that one of the most important of Ukraine's challenges is to lay foundations for a market economy, including the adoption of tax and land codes as well as laws to protect intellectual property rights. Jones also stressed the need for Ukraine to pass a new election law and ensure freedom of speech. JM

U.S. AMBASSADOR SAYS WASHINGTON NOT TO INTRODUCE TRADE SANCTIONS AGAINST KYIV

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual on 24 August said the U.S. will not introduce the trade sanctions against Ukraine over video piracy as recently reported by Ukrainian Deputy Economy Minister Andriy Honcharuk, Ukrainian Television reported. According to Pascual, Washington is displeased with the way Kyiv is combating video piracy, but that the U.S. government has decided to wait on the measure. Pascual noted that if legislators adopt tough copyright laws in September, there will be no sanctions and terms for Ukrainian imports into the U.S. will merely be amended slightly. "The U.S. might introduce a duty of up to 3 percent on some types of Ukrainian products. However, this will not take place today, and Ukraine's losses will stand at some $20 million in this case. At the moment, there are more important issues than trade sanctions," Pascual said. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SPEAKS IN FAVOR OF PRIORITIZING COAL INDUSTRY...

Meeting with representatives of mining regions on 25 August, President Kuchma called for decreasing the consumption of natural gas to the benefit of coal. "It is not good when Ukraine is consuming imported fuel," UNIAN quoted Kuchma as saying. Kuchma recalled that Ukraine's domestic gas and oil extraction covers only about 33 percent of the domestic demand of those energy resources, while the extraction of coal provides over 80 percent of the domestic need for coal. Kuchma added that Ukraine has coal deposits that can be developed for centuries. JM

...ANNOUNCES QUICK SOLUTION OF JOURNALIST'S MURDER

Kuchma told journalists on 25 August that the investigation into the murder of television journalist Ihor Aleksandrov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001) is nearing completion and that those who killed Aleksandrov as well as those who ordered the killing are known. Meanwhile, Deputy Prosecutor-General Serhiy Vynohradov said the same day that one suspect in the Aleksandrov case has been arrested. Vynohradov did not name the suspect or the possible motives behind the crime. JM

ESTONIA EXPANDS LOCAL RAILROAD PASSENGER TRANSPORT

The Transport and Communications Ministry concluded a passenger transport agreement with Edelaraudtee, the company that handles passenger transport on Estonian Railways, on 24 August that will result in more trains being added to routes that were almost closed down for half a year, ETA reported. Edelaraudtee's board chairman, Henn Ruubel, said that according to the agreement additional passenger trains will be added on the Tallinn-Tartu, Tartu-Valga, Tartu-Elva, Tartu-Orava, and Tallinn-Jahvi routes. Earlier plans to replace some of these money-losing routes with buses were met with strong protests. The parliament raised financial support to Edelaraudtee to 148.3 million kroons this year, and foresees expenditures of 159.3 million kroons in 2002, and 140 million kroons in 2003 before ending state support for passenger trains in 2004. SG

RUSSIA IGNORES LATVIA'S REQUEST FOR CONSULAR BRANCH IN KALININGRAD

The Latvian Foreign Ministry announced on 25 August that it has still not yet received a reply from the Russian government about its March request to open a Latvian Consulate in Kaliningrad, LETA reported. In addition to its embassy in Moscow, Latvia also has a general consulate in St. Petersburg and a consulate in Pskov. Although Latvia has repeatedly asked Russia to respond to its request, it has not received any explanations about the matter. Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins also raised the issue during talks on 15 August with Russian Ambassador to Latvia Igor Studennikov. The Latvian Transportation Ministry has promised to provide part of the required funds for the operation of the consulate as it would benefit the handling of transit cargos. The Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry supports the opening of the consulate in order to promote tourism, while the Economy Ministry expects that it would result in greater economic and trade contacts with Kaliningrad. SG

WORLD LITVAKS CONGRESS OPENS IN VILNIUS

Three hundred participants from 12 countries, including Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, and the United States, gathered in the Vilnius City Hall on 24 August for the opening of the first congress of World Litvaks, Jews who consider themselves of Lithuanian origin, ELTA reported. Chairman of the Jewish community in Lithuania Simonas Alperavicius described the purpose of congress as being to maintain contacts among Litvaks and help them retain ties with the land of their ancestors, as well as to deal with restitution, the prosecution of war criminals, and the conservation of cultural heritage. President Valdas Adamkus told the congress that the "present-day generation of Lithuanian nationals both waits for and meets you and your children not as guests but as fellow nationals and people with the same historical experience." He noted that the Holocaust is not forgotten in Lithuania as an international commission was established several years ago to assess the crimes of Nazi and Soviet occupations. Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas is scheduled to speak at the closing of the congress on 30 August. SG

POLISH PARLIAMENT TIGHTENS SCREWS ON CRIME

The Sejm on 24 August amended the penal code by raising penalties for some grave crimes, Polish media reported. In particular, the penalty for producers and distributors of pornography involving children under the age of 15 was raised from a maximum five to 10 years in prison. The maximum sentence for rape was increased from 10 to 15 years in prison. The previous minimum 12-year sentence for convicted murderers was increased to 20 years in prison. The Sejm's vote came in the midst of the 23 September parliamentary election campaign, in which cracking down on crime is a hot issue. Premier Jerzy Buzek announced that the government will seek the toughening of some penalties in the Senate, which is to consider the Sejm's amendments. JM

GERMAN CHANCELLOR MAKES SECOND CZECH VISIT IN ONE WEEK

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder for the second time in one week visited Czech towns along the two countries' border and held talks with Prime Minister Milos Zeman, CTK and AP reported. This time the two politicians jointly visited the spa resort of Frantiskovy Lazne and Cheb -- once heavily populated by Sudeten Germans -- where they were both made honorary citizens. Schroeder reiterated unconditional German support for the Czech Republic's efforts to join the European Union. The process of EU enlargement again figured on the agenda, and Zeman said after the talks that if a transition period must be imposed on the free movement of labor, Prague will seek to have it reduced to no longer than two years (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2001). MS

CZECHS, AUSTRIANS SIGN AGREEMENT ON WORKFORCE

Deputy Premier Vladimir Spidla and Austrian Economy Minister Martin Bartenstein on 24 August signed in Vienna an agreement allowing employment of both countries' citizens in border areas and an exchange of employees who want to improve their language skills, CTK reported. The agreement will come into effect in 2002. Austria has a similar agreement with Hungary, with the quota for Hungarian workers in border areas allowed to work in Austria set at 1,200 in 2001. Bartenstein said a similar quota is likely to apply to the Czech Republic. The commuting workers return to their country every evening. MS

BRITISH CHECKS RENEWED AT PRAGUE AIRPORT

British immigration officials on 27 August renewed at Prague's Ruzyne airport the checking of passengers of flights bound to U.K. destinations, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 August 2001). MS

NEW ANTI-ROMA FENCE TO GO UP IN CZECH REPUBLIC

The local authorities in Sokolov, western Bohemia, have decided to set up a fence around a local cinema whose walls they claim have been repeatedly vandalized by Romany children, CTK reported on 24 August, citing the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes." A local town councilor joked that the decision was taken instead of one that would have "built a water moat with sharks" around the cinema. In 1998, local authorities in Usti nad Labem erected a fence on one of the town's streets with the alleged purpose of defending inhabitants from the noise and vandalism of Roma on the other side of the street. The fence was eventually dismantled after Czech and international protests. The authorities in Sokolov also decided to sell town council-owned flats where Roma live to a local developer, saying they can no longer cope with rent defaults. The Romany tenants said they intend to stage a protest and Jan Jarab, the government's commissioner on human rights, said he will send a representative to Sokolov to assess the situation. MS

FORMER NAZI COMMANDER WAS COMMUNIST CZECHOSLOVAK SECRET POLICE AGENT

Recently discovered archive documents reveal that the last Nazi military commander in Prague, the late General Rudolf Toussaint, collaborated with the communist secret police 10 years after his surrender, CTK reported on 24 August, citing the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes." Toussaint surrendered to U.S. forces in Plzen in May 1945 and was handed over to Czechoslovak authorities, who sentenced him to life imprisonment in 1948. In 1955, he signed an agreement to cooperate with the StB, which wanted him sent to West Germany, but the Central Committee of the Communist Party refused to allow his release until 1961. Until then, Toussaint provided the secret police with information on West German politicians and generals whom he had personally known during the war in exchange for food and cigarettes. It is unclear whether Toussaint provided information after he moved to West Germany. He was deleted from the list of informers in 1964, when he was 74. MS

BSE RETURNS TO CZECH REPUBLIC

A second case of BSE (mad cow disease) was registered in the Czech Republic last week, AP reported on 24 August. Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl said the case was registered at a private farm near Zadar nad Sazavou, some 140 kilometers southeast of Prague. Veterinary authorities said that the 59-head herd has been quarantined and four other beef cattle will be killed and tested for the disease. The first case of BSE in the Czech Republic was reported in early June. MS

ETHNIC HUNGARIANS DELAY PULLOUT FROM SLOVAK COALITION...

The National Council of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) on 25 August decided to delay by one month its departure from the ruling coalition, giving coalition partners an opportunity to amend legislation and meet SMK demands, CTK and international agencies reported. The SMK said the parliament must pass by 30 September a law devolving central powers to the self-governing regions. But observers emphasize that the crisis stems from the SMK's opposition to the creation of eight rather than 12 self-managing regions. The party is particularly angry that the country's division of local administrations that was approved by the parliament hinders ethnic Hungarians from having 20 percent of one of the region's population, which would have entitled them to use their native language in contacts with authorities and have Hungarian-language schools. SMK Chairman Bela Bugar said after the council's meetings that "the SMK is offering its coalition partners the last chance to carry out reforms...preparing Slovakia for admission to NATO and EU accession." He said that "the SMK does not want to leave the government, but is being pushed out of it by parties that collaborate with those who almost ruined the country before 1998." MS

...TO DZURINDA'S SATISFACTION

Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said in reaction that the SMK decision is a "compromise solution" and that he thinks it is realistic for the parliament to pass the laws demanded by the SMK by the end of September, CTK reported. He also noted that the SMK has not formulated its demands "in ethnic terms." Dzurinda said he expects both the SMK and the other coalition partners to "return to the negotiation table" and to "quickly and with responsibility decide on the completion of the reform." MS

VISEGRAD COUNTRIES DISCUSS COOPERATION, NATO EXPANSION

The premiers of the Visegrad Four countries -- Viktor Orban of Hungary, Zeman of the Czech Republic, Buzek of Poland, and Dzurinda of Slovakia -- on 25 August met in the Hungarian town of Tihany and said they will support the admission of Baltic States to NATO in the next round of expansion, provided that Slovakia and Slovenia can also join the alliance at the same time. The four prime ministers also decided to make infrastructure development a top priority in their countries' cooperation, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN COMMITTEE FINDS NO EVIDENCE IN MIG CORRUPTION

Defense Minister Janos Szabo and other politicians and secret service leaders on 24 August told the parliament's National Security Committee that they are unaware of any corruption related to the upgrading of Hungary's MiG-29 fighters, a plan which has since been abandoned. The committee decided, however, to request information from Prime Minister Orban on why the government decided in July 2000 to withdraw the Defense Ministry's letter of intent on the upgrading of MiGs. In other news, the Defense Ministry on 24 August denied reports that Israel has offered to lease F-16 fighter jets to Hungary (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 24 August 2001). MSZ

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS' GROUPS MERGE

The Democratic Federation of Independent Smallholders led by Defense Minister Janos Szabo on 25 August merged with the Smallholder Federation, headed by Sandor Cseh. Zsolt Lanyi and the so-called Reform Smallholders were not included in the merged alliance of groups opposed to Independent Smallholders' Party Chairman Jozsef Torgyan, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Commenting on the merging of the two groups, Lanyi said that "the main thing is to bring about unity among anti-Torgyan forces." In other news, former members of the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), who agree with MIEP's platform but reject the leadership of Istvan Csurka, on 25 August held the first rally of their newly formed party, the National People's Party. Chairman Lukacs Szabo said the new party's top priorities are the restoration of respect for the law, fair taxation and representation, and the interests of the poor. MSZ




BRITISH SOLDIER KILLED IN MACEDONIA

Ian Collins, a young sapper, was killed near Skopje on 26 August when what AP described as "marauding youths" threw a concrete block at his armored vehicle, causing fatal head injuries. The identity of the youths is not clear. British commander Brigadier Barney White-Spunner said that "this regrettable incident will not affect the resolve of Task Force Harvest to complete the mission." The news agency noted that "Macedonians largely blame NATO for the country's six-month ethnic Albanian insurgency, accusing the alliance of failing to choke off weapons and supplies coming from Kosovo." It added that "though ethnic Albanians generally welcome the deployment, ethnic Macedonians have been suspicious and sometimes hostile to the presence of foreign troops." In one of several apparently isolated violent incidents over the weekend, an explosion destroyed a Macedonian-owned motel near Tetovo, killing two Macedonians. It is not clear who was responsible for the blast. PM

NATO STARTS OPERATION ESSENTIAL HARVEST

NATO began collecting weapons from the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK) near Kumanovo on 27 August at one of a series of movable collection points, dpa reported from Skopje. Danish General Gunnar Lange, who commands the 4,500-strong NATO force in Macedonia, said that "there are no guarantees [of success] and the path will not be easy and the alternative is clear. The alternative is war," AP reported. The alliance has agreed with the UCK on a figure for weapons to be collected but did not announce it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2001). NATO spokesman Major Barry Johnson called the list of weapons, which is believed to be over 3,000 items, "credible," Reuters reported on 26 August. An unnamed senior NATO officer noted that the list includes mortars, Kalashnikovs, and antitank weapons. Johnson added that the Macedonian government has not formally objected. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski called the figure "laughable and humiliating." Elections are due in January 2002, and Georgievski's party has been slipping badly in the polls (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 24 August 2001). PM

POLITICAL ISSUES CLOUD MACEDONIAN MISSION

AP reported from Skopje on 26 August that unnamed Western observers describe the dispute between Georgievski and NATO over numbers as "an attempt by hard-liners within the government to obstruct the peace deal." The parliament is scheduled to discuss the peace agreement on 31 August. NATO is anxious to establish a "momentum to ease suspicions on both sides" by that date, Reuters reported. PM

GUERRILLAS WANT MACEDONIAN PARAMILITARIES DISARMED

The UCK is worried that Macedonian security forces and paramilitaries will seek revenge on ethnic Albanians unless NATO maintains a military presence once Essential Harvest is completed, Reuters reported from Skopje on 26 August. The UCK humiliated the Macedonian forces, which could not contain, let alone defeat, the guerrillas. One UCK commander told Kosova Live news agency on 23 August that Macedonian paramilitaries should be expected to disarm along with the UCK (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2001). Stevo Pendarovski, an aide to President Boris Trajkovski, said in Skopje that the government wants the security forces to return as soon as possible to regions previously occupied by the UCK, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 27 August. PM

NATO CONTINUES TO CATCH GUERRILLAS IN KOSOVA

KFOR troops in the U.S. sector detained 96 suspected guerrillas in Kosova on 26 August as they crossed the border from Macedonia, AP reported. NATO troops detained a similar group of 29 ethnic Albanians the previous day. PM

ALBANIA CALLS ON KOSOVAR MERCHANTS TO USE ALBANIAN INFRASTRUCTURE

Gezim Podgorica, who heads the Albanian government office in Prishtina, told Kosova Live on 23 August that Kosovar merchants should use Albanian ports and Tirana airport because the Macedonian authorities have still not reopened the border to Kosova. The diplomat stressed that road security has improved in Albania, adding that violent incidents take place on the roads linking Montenegro and Kosova but are not always reported in the media. RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on one such armed robbery on 24 August. PM

BELGRADE LEADERS CALL ON KOSOVA SERBS TO REGISTER FOR ELECTIONS

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, and Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 26 August that Kosova Serbs should register for the 17 November general elections in the province, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The three men said that it is in "state interest" that Serbs register in order to show how many of them there are. Covic outlined his views at length in "Danas" of 27 August. Some observers have suggested that Kosova's dwindling Serbian population -- perhaps about 7 percent of the total -- will find its position there untenable in the long run, much as French colonists did in Algeria after independence. It is unclear whether Belgrade is trying to prevent that from happening, or whether it is seeking to use the Serbs there as part of some broader deal involving the redrawing of regional borders. PM

SERBIAN LEADERS TO DISCUSS DIFFERENCES

Kostunica has called a meeting of the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) for 28 August, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 27 August. The purpose of the meeting is to work out differences arising from the Gavrilovic affair, which have severely strained relations within the coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2001). Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said in Belgrade on 24 August that Kostunica will prove to be the biggest loser in the imbroglio of mutual recriminations between him and Djindjic's government. Cedomir Jovanovic, who heads the DOS faction in the Serbian parliament, said that he does not trust the version of events in the Gavrilovic affair given by Kostunica's staff, "Danas" reported on 27 August. PM

REWARD POSTED IN SERBIAN MYSTERY MURDERS

Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic has offered a reward of about $140,000 for crucial information regarding a series of unexplained murders of prominent persons between 1996 and 2001, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 24 August. The murdered men are Slavko Curuvija, Milan Pantic, Radovan Stojcic, Zoran Todorovic, Momir Gavrilovic, and Pavle Bulatovic. The reward also applies to the disappearance one year ago of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic. PM

HAGUE PROSECUTOR WANTS LIFE SENTENCE FOR SERBIAN WAR CRIMINAL

Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor at The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, told a Dutch newspaper on 25 August that she wants the prison sentence for former Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic extended from 46 years to life, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2001). She said she made her decision after talking to widows and other relatives of the 8,000 Muslim males believed to have been massacred at or near Srebrenica in 1995 by troops under Krstic's command. Krstic's lawyers are planning to appeal his conviction for genocide. In related news, the tribunal warned Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on 24 August that he could lose "all privileges" in jail if he continues to violate prison rules, AP reported. He recently gave a telephone interview to a U.S. television station in contravention of the regulations. PM

SLOVENIA TO SEEK BILATERAL MIGRATION AGREEMENTS

Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel told Reuters in Alpbach, Austria, on 27 August that his Alpine republic will seek bilateral deals with neighboring states on the migration of labor if it is admitted to the EU and that Brussels insists on a transition period for new members. He stressed that his government does not think that restrictions are "right." He added: "We shall continue pressing for a better solution, but in the end probably we shall resort to bilateral arrangements with the countries that we have the strongest interest in -- Italy, Austria, and Germany." He pointed out that "we are treated as a rich country [by Brussels] as far as property issues are concerned. When it comes to our workers, we are treated as a poor country." Rupel warned that continued delays in Slovenia's acceptance into the EU could lead to a growth of Euro-skepticism there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2001). PM

PREMIER SAYS ROMANIA IS INTENSIFYING NATO ACCESSION PREPARATIONS

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 24 August said Romania is intensifying preparations aimed at ensuring its accession to NATO at the 2002 Prague summit and an interministerial committee has been set up to coordinate those efforts. Also on 24 August, Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu published the evaluation report on Romania's preparations for NATO membership and revealed that the report was written by Bruce Jackson, co-chairman of the U.S. NATO Enlargement Committee. Basescu also rejected government claims that the report is old and outdated, indicating that it was written in June. On 25 August, Jackson told Mediafax that the report sought to outline the "three main priorities" that each candidate country should fulfill and to emphasize that "moral values are just as important as fulfilling military criteria." He said he "does not want to comment on aspects of Romanian internal affairs." Defense Minister Ioan Morcea Pascu said Jackson's reaction indicates that he acknowledges the progress made by Romania and does not wish the report to be perceived as criticism of the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2001). MS

...RENEWS CRITICISM OF STATUS LAW, WORRIED ABOUT HUNGARIAN 'CRYPTO-REVISIONISM'...

Premier Nastase on 24 August also said that the Hungarian Status Law will make it difficult for Romanians to decide during next March's 2002 census whether their affiliation to Hungarian nationality should not be listed under "occupation" rather than under "nationality" in view of the material advantages the law grants to Magyars. Nastase warned again that Romanian Roma might seek Magyar ID cards in order to be able to travel to that country and work in Hungary, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He also expressed concern over "emerging Hungarian crypto-revisionism," pointing out that a monument to Trianon has recently been restored in Nagykanizsa, Hungary, and emphasizing that the monument was a "symbol of Hungarian irredentism" before World War II. MS

...WARNS AGAINST' FEDERALIST TRENDS' IN TRANSYLVANIA

Addressing a forum of young Social Democratic Party members on 25 August, Nastase warned that "federalist trends" are becoming "dangerously prominent" in Transylvanian publications and private TV channels, according to a government press release. The premier emphasized that he is not talking only about such trends among the Hungarian minority there, but also among the Romanian ethnic majority, some of whose spokesmen emphasize "local specificity" and the need to decentralize the state along those specific traits. Nastase said the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia owes much to similar trends and that the Romanian authorities are determined not to allow the "national and unitary" state disintegrate. Regarding the Hungarian minority in Transylvania, the premier said: "We display maximum tolerance toward minorities, but must also defend our national interests. We ensure conditions for teaching in mother tongues, but we must also create conditions for all citizens to learn Romanian, and these conditions are not respected everywhere." MS

PRM EATS LIBERTARIAN SOUP AND KEEPS ANTI-SEMITIC CAKE

Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor on 24 August told journalists his party "distances itself" from the publication of PRM Deputy Vlad Hogea's book "The Nationalist," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Tudor said he had not been informed about the venomously chauvinistic book prior to its publication and had not authorized the reproduction of his own photo on the book's back cover. At the same time, Tudor said his party will "not sacrifice the young deputy -- as some people have summoned us to do -- because we live in a free country, where the right to free expression is guaranteed by the law." Tudor also said that he "failed to comprehend" the "disproportionate reactions" to the book's publication voiced by the Federation of Romanian Jewish Communities and by Public Information Minister Vasile Dancu. Tudor said he will "personally" ask the Prosecutor-General's Office to launch procedures against them for "attempting to restore the most hideous form of Stalinist terror -- which is censorship." MS

FORMER ROMANIAN KING ON FUTURE OF PELES CASTLE

A lawyer representing former King Michael on 24 August said the former monarch wishes to have his ownership of the Peles castle in Sinaia lawfully acknowledged by the authorities, but does not intend to administer the castle himself, Mediafax reported. The lawyer said Michael wants the castle to continue being a museum administered by the state authorities, with profits from visitors going toward management of the museum. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER SAYS NO OBLIGATORY RUSSIAN CLASSES IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS

Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev on 25 August said on Moldovan Radio that no obligatory Russian-language classes will be introduced in primary schools, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Tarlev said Russian will be taught in schools "just like any other foreign language, such as English, French, German, and Turkish." He said he has discussed the situation with Education Minister Ilie Vancea but failed to specify whether that ministry's order to introduce obligatory Russian-language classes has been canceled. On 24 August, Romanian Premier Nastase said his country is "worried" about the reintroduction of Russian-language classes, which might lead Moldovan children to "see the world through Moscow's windows." Nastase also said the step "arouses doubts in Romania and Europe about how seriously Chisinau takes its commitments to European institutions." MS

FORMER ROMANIAN KING CRITICIZES MOLDOVAN INDEPENDENCE

In an interview with the Chisinau edition of the Romanian daily "Jurnalul National," former King Michael on 24 August said that "Bessarabia cannot and must not be independent of Romania." The interview was published on the eve of celebrations of Moldova's 10th anniversary of independence on 27 August. Michael said that historically, Bessarabia "has never been an autonomous land," except "in the minds of Russian diversionists." The Russians, he added, "have self-appointed themselves as saviors of peoples, liberators, and defenders of nations and of oppressed minorities" both when they strove to achieve domination "in the name of Orthodoxy" and when they sought to spread communism. The Soviet Union maintained the peoples of its empire "under a state of absolute barbarity" and that situation "survives and will continue to last as long as the institutions created by it have not been abolished." The former monarch said post-communist Romania's decision to recognize Moldovan independence was a "non-Romanian act" and the country's leaders at the time missed an opportunity to bring about reunification when "no one in the world would have dared challenge it." MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS COUNTRY HAS 'MANY TANDEMS'

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Elena Poptodorova said that Bulgaria "insists on being judged according to its own performance and to stick to its own path of accession to Euro-Atlantic structures," the daily "Dnevnik," cited by Mediafax, reported on 24 August. Popotodorova spoke after opposition Union of Democratic Forces Deputy Chairman Dimitar Abadzhiev again criticized the alleged agreement with Romania to gain accession to those structures "in tandem." Popotodorova said Bulgaria has "many tandems" with other neighbors as well -- such as with Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey, as well as with the U.S. -- and that all of them are designed to promote Bulgarian national interests without infringing on the country's independent path to accession to NATO and the EU. Romanian Premier Nastase, reacting to the "clarifications" of the Hungarian ambassador to Bulgaria's statement advising Sofia against a "tandem" with Romania, said on 24 August that the Romanian proposals "might have unwarrantedly disturbed [Hungarian] plans for other tandems" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15, 20, 21, 22, and 23 August 2001). MS

BULGARIAN CHIEF NEGOTIATOR SAYS REFORMS WILL SPEED EU ACCESSION

In an interview with Reuters on 24 August, Bulgaria's chief negotiator with the EU, Meglena Kuneva, said the reforms planned by the Bulgarian cabinet will speed her country's accession to the EU. She said Bulgaria hopes to complete negotiations by 2004 and become a full EU member by 2007. Kuneva said Bulgaria has already developed a good legal framework for a market economy, but lacks investments to stimulate the capital and land markets. The parliament has yet to pass legislation allowing foreigners to purchase land in Bulgaria. Kuneva also said Bulgaria needs to develop its energy strategy before opening talks on that chapter of the acquis communautaire, adding that such talks will involve "tough negotiations" regarding the Kozloduy nuclear power plant. Sofia has bowed to EU pressure and agreed to decommission the plant's oldest reactors by 2003, but has yet to negotiate the fate of other reactors at Kozloduy. MS

JORDANIAN KING IN BULGARIA

Visiting Jordanian King Abdullah II on 25 August met with President Petar Stoyanov and officials from the two countries signed agreements to improve cooperation on culture, education, health, and air travel, international agencies reported. Stoyanov and his guest also discussed bilateral relations and the situation in the Middle East. Stoyanov told journalists that he also brought up with the guest the trial of six Bulgarians in Libya, expressing hope that the pending sentence will be "just." On 26 August, Abdullah II met with Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski in Plodviv and inspected a military base there. MS




MACEDONIAN DISAPPOINTMENTS AND FEARS


By Ulrich Buechsenschuetz

Shortly after the leaders of the major ethnic Albanian and Macedonian parties signed a political agreement to end the six-month crisis, the Macedonian part of the tiny Balkan country's population remains highly skeptical about what the outcome of the crisis means for it.

As previous opinion polls already showed, perceptions of the current situation and future prospects differ widely between the two major ethnic groups (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 7 August 2001). On 20 August, the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" published an opinion poll on the popularity of the political parties as well as the respondents' expectations for the future of the Balkan republic. The poll was conducted between 17 and 20 July, before the peace agreement was signed on 13 August.

According to this poll, the main political parties of the two largest ethnic groups have lost much of the confidence of their potential voters. All political parties dropped in support compared to precrisis levels. The Internal Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and President Boris Trajkovski, as well as the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) of Branko Crvenkovski, fell dramatically in the voters' eyes. According to the poll, the VMRO-DPMNE would win only 7.4 percent of the votes in new parliamentary elections, while the SDSM would take 17 percent. Among the ethnic Albanian parties, the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) would have 5.1 percent of the ballots, while 6.7 percent of the voters would opt for the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH).

In comparison with previous opinion polls, the latest poll shows that the four parties represented in the current government have lost up to one-half of their voters. A poll conducted before the outbreak of violence in Macedonian put the SDSM at 32 to 34 percent, the VMRO-DPMNE at 11 to 13 percent, the PDSH at 10 percent, and the PPD at a mere 5.7 percent. The relatively small losses of the PPD may be due to the party leadership's somewhat radical stance during the negotiations. It may also be that the party's support is already reduced to its absolute core constituency and that it cannot lose much more support without disappearing as a political force altogether.

What should concern the politicians most is the fact that about one-third of the electorate say they do not plan to vote at all. Among the Macedonians 31.6 percent would boycott elections, while 14.3 percent of the Albanians, 16.7 percent of the Serbs, and 50 percent of the Turks would do likewise. The latest figure is especially revealing, as it shows that the Turkish minority, whose leadership backed the Macedonian side during the conflict, is very unhappy. Their disappointment presumably stems from the fact that, of all the minorities in Macedonia, only the Albanians will benefit from the agreement.

The researchers also asked those interviewed for their opinion of the Albanian demands for a more decentralized state administration. The results were probably predictable on the basis of press commentaries in recent weeks: some two-thirds of the Macedonian respondents said that decentralization will eventually lead to the federalization of Macedonia.

Federalization is something most Macedonians fear, as it would -- in their view -- undermine the territorial integrity of their country. Two-thirds of the Albanian respondents, on the other hand, do not think that decentralization would lead to federalization. And they presumably do not fear federalization, either.

The fall in each party's popularity in the poll, together with the high percentage of Macedonians in particular who will not vote, also reflects a general discontent with the country's political leadership. Recent newspaper editorials mirror the electorate's disappointment with the work of the politicians. Among the editorials in Macedonian-language media under review in this article, there was not a single positive one about the peace agreement.

In a number of commentaries, the peace deal is compared to earlier Balkan peace treaties. Zarko Jordanovski of the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" compared the Ohrid agreement to the 1995 Dayton peace agreement (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 23 August 2001).

Trajan Petrovski in "Utrinski vesnik" of 17 August draws parallels between the Ohrid agreement and The Treaty of Bucharest 1913, when the geographic region of Macedonia was divided among Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia at the end of the Second Balkan War. In his view, the provisions of the peace agreement signed on 13 August are the first step toward a new partition of Macedonia, the losers in which are the Macedonians.

Mirka Velinovska of the weekly "Zum magazin" on 17 August went so far as to compare the Ohrid agreement with the Munich agreement of 1938, when Britain and France sought to appease Hitler by offering him parts of Czechoslovakia under the pretext of protecting the German minority.

Other, less emotional editorials concentrated on the problems that might arise from the amnesty that was promised to the guerilla fighters of the National Liberation Army (UCK). Obviously, for most Macedonians it is hard to accept that -- under the terms of the peace agreement -- the number of ethnic Albanians in the police force is to be increased drastically, and that among the 1,000 new policemen there might be amnestied former members of the UCK.

Mirjana Najcevska argued in "Utrinski vesnik" on 21 August on the basis of the Macedonian penal code and on general legal principles that anybody who has committed crimes should not be allowed to become a policeman. While not stating so explicitly, it is clear that she opposes the amnesty.

In an article by Zoran Markozanov for "Zum magazin" of 17 August, penal law Professor Gjorgji Marjanovic sees the amnesty from a practical standpoint. "After the amnesty, the terrorist will have the same rights as any honest citizen of Macedonia... This means that even [the political leader of the UCK, Ali] Ahmeti could become a minister, and those who have killed [people] can become policemen." Marjanovic is of the opinion that such a situation can be avoided only by not granting amnesty to the leaders of the UCK. But he adds: "I believe that Ahmeti will not accept this, and that our government will not decide to take such a step."

Whether the Macedonian population's fears and disappointments will result in a call for new leaders remains to be seen. Journalists have already begun to outline the abilities any future leader(s) should have. Mirka Velinovska of "Zum magazin" wants people who are "honest, uncompromising, wise, and ready to take risks," while Saso Colakovski of "Utrinski vesnik" wants "a leader, who tells the blunt truth, as painful as it might be."


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