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Newsline - August 28, 2001




FSB BEHIND MOSCOW APARTMENT BLASTS IN 1999, NEW BOOK SAYS

In a new book, "The FSB Blows Up Russia," former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Aleksandr Litvinenko and historian Yurii Felshtinskii say that terrorist explosions in Moscow apartment blocks in September 1999 were orchestrated by the FSB, according to excerpts of the book published by "Novaya gazeta" on 27 August. The authors report that the FSB is now "a secret syndicate that controls organized crime and orchestrates paid killings of journalists, businessmen, and politicians." The newspaper said it cannot vouch for the claims of the book, especially since Litvinenko left Russia last year and has asked for political asylum in Britain. But the paper did call on the Duma to investigate the allegations contained in the book. The same day, Interfax reported, several Duma deputies challenged the veracity of the book and said its authors and publishers are likely to be sued. VY

KREMLIN DEVELOPS PLAN TO EASE YELTSINITES FROM POWER

According to an article in "Inostranets" on 21 August, President Vladimir Putin plans to respond to the Appeal of the 43 published by "Sovetskaya Rossiya" on 14 August that called for the removal of all those connected with former President Boris Yeltsin from positions of power by transforming the presidential administration where many Yeltsin people are concentrated into a research and analysis center and making the State Council staff the real center of power. PG

COMMUNIST PARTY SAID SEEKING TO BECOME 'WARM AND FUZZY'

According to an article in "Vek," No. 33, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) is shifting tactics in response to President Putin's approach and "becoming more like the renewed communist organizations in Eastern Europe." The weekly said that "the Communists are now attempting to become warm and fuzzy, using an image in domestic politics that had previously been reserved for foreign consumption." In addition, the weekly suggested that the party has a good chance to gain power first in the regions and then be in a position to put pressure on the Kremlin, if not take power itself. PG

CHEREPKOV PLANS TO FORM PARTY FOR SMALL BUSINESS

Duma deputy and former Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov on 27 August told Interfax that he intends to create a new Russian political party to defend the interests of small businesses. He said that the founding congress of the Party of Freedom and Democracy will take place on 7 October. And he said that he hopes to attract members both from other parties and from those who have been too apathetic to participate in the political process. PG

NEW PARTY SEEKS TO COMBINE COMMUNISM, MONARCHISM

Aleksandr Orlov, the leader of the Russian nationalist organization "White World," plans to form a United People's Party with an ideology combining the principles of communism and monarchism, RTR television reported on 27 August. Orlov, the television station said, plans to use the party to fight against liberalism and globalization. He is modeling his group on the Russian emigre Young Russia movement founded by Aleksandr Kasym-Bek in the 1920s in Paris. VY

EDUCATION MINISTRY SAYS REFORM DOCUMENT READY

Education Minister Vladimir Filippov said on 27 August that his working group has prepared "a single, consolidated" document on educational reform that he hopes will be approved by the president, Interfax reported. President Putin for his part said that he is consulting experts in advance of a State Council meeting later this week that will consider the reforms. The discussion around the reforms have produced poll results that show that a majority of Russians are opposed to a 12-year school system and which reveal that many Russians are being forced sometimes illegally to provide money for the needs of state schools, the news agency said. PG

PUTIN GREETS MOLDOVA ON INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY

President Putin on 27 August sent a message to Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Moldova's independence, Interfax reported. Putin said that "time has shown how closely intertwined are the paths of development of Russia and Moldova." And he added that he is convinced that "such a partnership will bring positive fruits in the sphere of bilateral relations and make more effective our joint efforts in the framework of the CIS in the international arena." PG

PUTIN SAYS UN SERVES AS FOUNDATION OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

President Putin on 27 August used the occasion of accepting credentials from new ambassadors from eight countries to reaffirm his belief that the United Nations forms the foundation of the system of international relations in today's world, Russian agencies reported. PG

LUKIN SAYS NATO OPERATION IN MACEDONIA OF 'DOUBTFUL' LEGAL STANDING

Duma deputy speaker and Yabloko leader Vladimir Lukin on 27 August said during an interview on Ekho Moskvy radio that the NATO operation in Macedonia is of "doubtful" legitimacy under the terms of international law. He said NATO is acting neither at the invitation of the host government nor in self-defense, the two bases for such intervention in the absence of international sanction by the United Nations Security Council. PG

RUSSIAN MEDIA CRITICIZE U.S. AMBASSADOR

Russian media on 27 August sharply criticized the failure of newly arrived U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow to show up for the credentials presentation ceremony with President Putin, polit.ru reported. Russian media outlets said that Vershbow thought it was more important to go on vacation. But gazeta.ru suggested the same day that Vershbow's no-show at the ceremony is "a way for Washington to put Putin in his place." VY

MOSCOW WANTS MORE TIME TO PHASE OUT PLUTONIUM REACTORS

Despite an agreement with the United States to phase out its two functioning plutonium-producing reactors by 2002 and 2003, the Russian government announced on 27 August that it lacks the resources to shut them down that soon, and will keep them in operation until the end of 2005 and 2006 respectively, RIA-Novosti reported. The Atomic Energy Ministry will seek to amend the bilateral accord with the U.S., the news service said. VY

MOSCOW PLANS TO REBUILD FISHING PLANT ON SPITZBERGEN

Yevgenii Nazdratenko, the chairman of the State Fisheries Committee, told Interfax on 27 August that Moscow intends to rebuild its fish processing plant on the Spitzbergen archipelago. PG

JORDANIAN KING VISITS TULA DEFENSE ENTERPRISES

King Abdullah II on 27 August visited Russian defense enterprises in Tula, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 August. Jordan currently purchases some $300 million in weapons from the United States every year, and Russia hopes to participate in this market in the future, the newspaper said. VY

CHINESE, RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS PARTICIPATE IN JOINT EXERCISES

Russian and Chinese border guards are participating in joint training exercises near the Blagoveshchensk border-control point, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 27 August. Meanwhile, the news agency reported that Russian guards captured 10 Chinese citizens who had tried to illegally cross the Russian border over the past weekend. PG

MOSCOW TO AID ONLY REGIONS THAT HAVE HARMONIZED THEIR LAWS

According to an article in "Kommersant-Daily" on 25 August, the Russian government in its effort to help poorer regions develop will provide assistance only to those regions that have fully harmonized their legislation with central law. That will give Moscow increased leverage to demand that harmonization be completed soon. PG

KREMLIN MAY CREATE EIGHTH FEDERAL DISTRICT IN NORTH CAUCASUS

According to an article in "Obshchaya gazeta," No. 34, the Kremlin is considering carving out an eighth federal district from the Southern federal district. The new district, should it be created, would include all the ethnic republics in the North Caucasus, the paper said. According to "Argumenty i fakty" on 22 August, many in Moscow are increasingly dissatisfied by the inability of the presidential envoys in the federal districts to control the outcome of gubernatorial elections. PG

FOREIGN MINISTRY SETS UP EIGHT MORE OFFICES IN RUSSIA'S REGIONS

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 27 August signed a decree creating representational offices of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Vladikavkaz, Mineralnie Vody, Blagovceshchensk, Astrakhan, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii, Novosibirsk, Orenburg, and Rostov-na-Donu, Interfax reported. The offices are to assist the regions in their ties with foreign firms and governments and ensure that Russia's foreign policy is consistent across the country. PG

VOLGA FEDERAL DISTRICT OFFICIALS PROMOTE PASSPORTS WITHOUT NATIONAL INSERTS

Nikolai Novikov, the head of the legal department of the Volga federal district, told strana.ru on 27 August that Russian citizens have the right to have passports that do not include national inserts if they so choose. If local officials try to insist that citizens carry inserts such as those that have been developed for Bashkortostan and Tatarstan, then those citizens have the right to turn to law-enforcement bodies to defend their rights, Novikov said. PG

RUSSIAN GERMANS SEEK FULL REHABILITATION

Vladimir Bauer, the head of the Congress of Russian Germans, opened a congress of that organization in Moscow on 27 August on the 60th anniversary of Stalin's deportation of Russian Germans to Siberia and Kazakhstan, Russian news agencies reported. Bauer announced that the congress has decided to decorate President Putin with its highest award, the Catherine the Great medal, and he said that Russian Germans seek full rehabilitation. But Aleksandr Blokhin, the federation affairs minister, told the group that the government does not see any need to provide "separate rehabilitation" of the Germans since it has already rehabilitated "all repressed peoples." He also said that Moscow does not plan to give German Russians any territorial autonomy but rather national cultural autonomy. And he said that such cultural autonomy is the most appropriate form of administration for groups like those in the North Caucasus that do not form a majority on any particular territory. Meanwhile, Duma deputy speaker and LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky told the group that the failure to restore German territorial autonomy inside Russia is "a grave mistake." VY/PG

TATARSTAN FORCED TO RESTORE STATE CONTROL OF BREAD PRICES

Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said on 24 August that his government will again take control over bread prices, Efir-Inform reported. The agency noted that bread prices have doubled since the Tatarstan cabinet deregulated them in June 2001. PG

ETHNIC CONFLICTS INCREASE IN RUSSIAN ARMY

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 August, "ethnic conflicts [among soldiers] are a time bomb for the Russian military." The paper noted that "mono-ethnic" units are being formed and that they often seek to gain advantage for their nationalities. Moreover, the paper said, soldiers frequently refuse to serve in combat against their co-ethnics. And it sharply criticized officers for failing to have adequate psychological training and discipline to deal with the situation. The paper said that polls taken within the military show that 20 percent of all soldiers have joined ethnic cliques and that a third have joined regional ones. Moreover, the polls showed, 30 percent of the soldiers polled said they "disliked" soldiers of specific ethnic groups. PG

SECURITY INCREASED AT BALTIC FLEET BASES IN KALININGRAD

The military council of the Baltic Fleet has increased security at its bases in Kaliningrad in the wake of an attack that killed two guards, Interfax and BNS reported on 27 August. PG

LUZHKOV BANS BULLFIGHT IN MOSCOW

Bowing to pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church and animal rights activists, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 27 August cancelled a planned bullfight in the Russian capital, Interfax reported. Organizers of the bullfight who had already arranged for a stadium and the necessary bulls said they will sue. Meanwhile, burladero.com reported on 25 August that Armenia will hold bullfights in Yerevan on 7, 8, and 9 September. PG

WITNESSES UNDERCUT CHARGES AT KHOLODOV MURDER TRIAL

Expert witnesses on 28 August told the trial of officers accused of killing journalist Dmitrii Kholodov in 1994 that the explosive device used in that case did not contain materials from military stores, Interfax reported. That assertion undercuts charges against defendant Colonel Pavel Popovskikh and five of his colleagues who stand accused of plotting to kill Kholodov because of the journalist's writings about corruption in the military. VY

BORODIN AGAIN REMAINS SILENT IN SWITZERLAND

Pavel Borodin, the former Kremlin property manager and current Russia-Belarus Union state secretary, again refused to answer questions put to him by Swiss investigators at his latest interrogation on 27 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Borodin in the past has said he is not guilty of anything and therefore has nothing to say. His lawyers insisted that his latest summons to Switzerland was "neither necessary nor useful." PG

EMERGENCY SITUATIONS DETACHMENT TRAINS WITH FSB'S VYMPEL GROUP

The special detachment of the Emergency Situations Ministry and the Vympel special forces group of the Federal Security Service (FSB) are conducting joint training exercises, Interfax reported on 27 August. The training that will take place during the course of this week is the latest example of the increasing role of the FSB in other force ministries. PG

LUKOIL, ROSOBORONEKSPORT TO ASSIST EACH OTHER

Andrei Belyaninov, the head of the Russian arms-exporting corporation Rosoboroneksport, said in an interview published in "Profil," No. 34, that LUKoil has signed an agreement with his company to help promote Russian arms sales in areas where the oil giant already has an established market presence. LUKoil will do so, Belyaninov said, by paying Rosoboroneksport for the weapons and then seeking concessions in the oil sector of the national governments involved. VY

LUKOIL SAYS IT PLANS TO INVEST $1 BILLION IN BELARUS

LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov said on 27 August that his company is prepared to invest up to $1 billion to modernize refineries in Belarus, Interfax reported. Given the timing of this statement made in Minsk, Alekperov may have been trying to boost the presidential campaign of Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka. VY

RUSSIA LACKS PORTS NEEDED FOR LARGE GRAIN EXPORTS

"Vedomosti" on 27 August noted that Russia today, unlike the Russian Empire and Soviet Union in the past, lacks the ports to handle the export of any sizeable amount of grain. This year, the paper said, Russia will have ample grain available for exports but is likely to be constrained by the size of the ports it controls. VY

GOVERNMENT SEEKS DE-DOLLARIZATION OF RUSSIAN ECONOMY

Russian financial institutions with the encouragement of the government are seeking to slowly move away from reliance on the dollar in domestic transactions, "Izvestiya" reported on 27 August. Ever more loans, the paper said, are denominated in rubles, with repayments being in dollars, a process that removes dollars from circulation. Over time, the paper said, Russian institutions and individual citizens will shift their orientation away from the dollar. VY

DEPUTY CULTURE MINISTER TO SUPERVISE ALL RUSSIAN ART

Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi said on 27 August that the first deputy minister of culture who heads Russian cinematography will also be responsible for supervising all Russian art, Interfax reported. PG

WINDOWS BROKEN AT JEHOVAH'S WITNESS OFFICE IN MOSCOW

Unknown persons broke the windows in the offices of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization's offices in Moscow sometime on the night of 26-27 August, Interfax reported on 27 August. PG

10 MILLION RUSSIANS NOW USE DRUGS

According to an article in "Versty," No. 94, the number of drug users in Russia by unofficial estimates may be as high as 10 million, a dramatic increase from a decade ago and something that makes Russia an increasingly attractive market for drugs instead of the transshipment zone it had been earlier. PG

RIGHTS ACTIVISTS CRITICIZE JANITORIAL COMPETITION AT PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL

Demonstrators chanting "psychiatry kills" staged a protest at Moscow's Alekseev (formerly Kashchenko) psychiatric hospital where Moscow authorities were staging a competition among the janitors of the Russian capital, Interfax-Moscow reported. The demonstrators assembled at the hospital after city officials ignored a protest letter they sent to Mayor Luzhkov a week ago. PG

NATIONALIST JOURNAL SAYS CRITICISM OF RUSSIAN ACTIONS IN CHECHNYA IS 'TREASON'

According to an article in "Zavtra," No. 34, "condemning the federal forces for their actions during operations in Chechnya amounts to treason" because in Chechnya "there are no 'civilians.'" Meanwhile, Russian officials and Chechen militants disputed whether the latter had regained control of Vedeno and another nearby village, Interfax reported on 27 August. PG

TATARSTAN OFFICIALS SAY GUDERMES BECOMING A TATAR TOWN

More than 1,000 people from Tatarstan are currently serving in Chechnya with some 200 in Gudermes alone, converting that North Caucasus city into "a Tatar town," said Tatarstan Deputy Interior Minister Rafil Nugumanov, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 27 August. Meanwhile, the mothers of Tatarstan soldiers serving in Chechnya told republic television that their sons and daughters should not be sent to the North Caucasus and that the Chechens should be allowed to decide for themselves how they will live. PG




ARMENIA REJECTS COUNCIL OF EUROPE VIEW ON KARABAKH ELECTIONS

The Armenian Foreign Ministry on 27 August said that Yerevan does not agree with the view expressed by the Council of Europe that local elections in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic are illegitimate and will undermine the peace process, Interfax reported. The ministry said that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh will be exercising their "legal right in correspondence with international standards" when they go to the polls on 5 September. PG

ARMENIA, YUGOSLAVIA SIGN MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COOPERATION ACCORD

Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian on 27 August met with Yugoslav officials in Belgrade and signed a cooperation calling for expanded military-industrial cooperation, Noyan Tapan reported. PG

U.S. WILL BACK AZERBAIJAN IN THE EVENT OF CONFLICT WITH IRAN

Visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones said in Baku on 27 August that the United States remains concerned about "provocative" Iranian incidents in the Caspian region and that Washington would render political support to Baku should a conflict arise between Azerbaijan and Iran, Turan reported. Meanwhile, the news service reported the same day, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asegi said that Jones's statements were themselves a provocation intended to "strain Tehran-Baku relations" She made her remarks after meeting with President Heidar Aliyev and also with members of the Azerbaijani political opposition. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani Space TV the same day reported that Baku officials had explained the closure of a street near the U.S. Embassy in the Azerbaijani capital by suggesting that there was a foreign terrorist threat against it. PG

BAKU PAPER SUGGESTS ARMENIA MAY WORK WITH IRAN AGAINST AZERBAIJAN

According to an article in "Ekho" on 25 August, "any escalation in either the Caspian or Karabakh disputes" could trigger a "domino effect," with Armenia seeking to work with Iran against Azerbaijan. If Azerbaijan gets locked in a conflict with Iran, Armenia may take advantage of that by taking some action in Karabakh, while if the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resumes, Iran may play a spoiler role, the paper said. PG

NEW AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST LEAGUE ESTABLISHED

"Yeni Azerbaycan" on 25 August reported that a group of journalists have set up the League of Independent Journalists to deal with the problems faced by the country's independent media. League Chairman Xalid Niyazi said that "the trouble with existing unions of journalists is that they have politicized their activities and become offshoots of the opposition." PG

MORE PARTICIPANTS OF 1995 COUP ATTEMPT REPORTED UNDER ARREST

"Yeni Musavat" reported on 25 August that officials of the National Security Ministry have begun the mass arrest of people in Calilabad believed to have been involved with the 1995 coup against the Baku authorities. Reportedly those in detention have been arrested not for their direct involvement in the coup but rather for their current ties with the Xatai district prosecutor, Mahir Cavadov, who did participate in the coup and now lives in Iranian exile. PG

SHEVARDNADZE PLEDGES PEACE, UNIFICATION OF GEORGIA

In his weekly radio interview broadcast on Georgian State Radio on 27 August, President Eduard Shevardnadze said that he has worked closely with Anri Djergenia, the prime minister of the Abkhaz separatist government, to calm the recent flare-up in relations between Tbilisi and Abkhazia. (Djergenia expressed his admiration for Shevardnadze's role, Interfax reported the same day. But Prime News reported that Abkhaz leaders were skeptical about the Georgian leader's intentions and peace proposal.) Shevardnadze added that "the conflict in Abkhazia is a permanent time bomb not only for Georgia but also for the Abkhaz people, other neighboring peoples, and I would say Russia as well." He said he will soon issue a program for peace and is prepared to meet with the Abkhaz leadership to overcome the divisions in Georgia because his "supreme objective" is to restore Georgia's "territorial integrity." PG

SHEVARDNADZE SAYS HIGHER TARIFFS FOR AZERBAIJANI OIL AND GAS 'DESIRABLE'

In response to a World Bank letter (see RFE/RL Newsline, 27 August 2001), President Shevardnadze said that higher tariffs for Azerbaijani oil and gas transiting Georgia are "desirable," Turan news agency reported. He said that the accord between the two countries will specify that Georgia is not only a transit but also a consumer country. PG

KHOROG CONFERENCE DISCUSSES WATER, ENERGY PROBLEMS IN CENTRAL ASIA

An international conference on water and energy problems ended its sessions in Khorog in eastern Tajikistan on 26 August after three days of discussion, Tajik Radio reported on 27 August. Experts from across Central Asia as well as Russia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan took part in discussions about coping with the increasingly severe water shortages in the region. PG

U.S. TRAINS CENTRAL ASIANS TO COMBAT WEAPONS SMUGGLING

Eighty Central Asian border guards and customs officers are undergoing training in Texas to learn how to detect components of weapons of mass destruction that might be smuggled through their territories, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 27 August. PG

KAZAKHSTAN TO SELL URANIUM TO CHINA

The Kazakhstan national atomic energy company plans to begin selling uranium to China, Kazakh commercial TV reported on 27 August. The two countries plan to set up a joint venture to process uranium in southern Kazakhstan "in the near future," the television channel said. PG

KAZAKH POLICE CLAIM SUCCESS IN FIGHTING ORGANIZED CRIME

"Kazakhstanskaya pravda" on 24 August reported that Kazakhstan's Interior Ministry has successfully eliminated 86 organized crime groups as well as 21 bandit formations over the last few months. Moreover, the paper said, the ministry has compiled an exemplary record in bringing to trial those responsible for organized criminal activities, including contract killings. Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry announced that it has approved the right of courts to conduct trials when defendants are being held far from the courtroom, Interfax-Central Asia reported on 27 August. PG

NAZARBAEV SAYS HIS PRIORITIES ARE ATTRACTING INVESTMENT, IMPROVING DEFENSE

At a meeting with his ministers on 27 August, President Nursultan Nazarbaev said that his priority tasks for 2002 are to increase foreign investment in Kazakhstan and strengthen the country's defense capabilities, Interfax-Central Asia reported. PG

NAZARBAEV DEDICATES STATUE TO KAZAKH STRUGGLE AGAINST DJUNGARS

President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 27 August dedicated a statue to the struggle of the Kazakh people against the Djungarian attacks in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, Interfax-Central Asia reported. "A people must know their history," Nazarbaev said. They must know that "there is strength in unity, in trusting one another, in the equality of all peoples who live in the country." PG

KYRGYZSTAN'S AKAEV CALLS FOR FIGHTING EXTREMISM BY IMPROVING PEOPLE'S LIVES

In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 27 August, President Askar Akaev said the best way to fight extremism is to increase the standard of living of the population. He said that poverty is first and foremost a political problem in current conditions and that it must be fought. The same day, however, Akaev's officers arrested six supporters of the religious party "Khizbut Takhrir," Interfax reported. PG

TAJIK MEN AVOID SERVICE, DESERT WHEN DRAFTED

Tajik radio on 27 August said that young Tajik men increasingly avoid military service by going abroad to look for work and that those who are drafted frequently desert. PG

TURKMEN PRESIDENT GETS ANOTHER AWARD

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov on 27 August was presented with the Tolstoy Gold Medal of the International Association of Children's Funds for his work in reducing the number of orphans and providing support for parents, Interfax reported. PG

UZBEKISTAN MARKS NAVAYI ANNIVERSARY

President Islam Karimov on 27 August led Uzbeks in marking the 560th anniversary of the birth of Mirali Shir Navayi, whom the Uzbeks identify as the founder of their national literature, Interfax reported. Karimov has said in recent days that Navoi ranks with Russia's Aleksandr Pushkin and should be at least as well known. PG




BELARUSIAN POLICE UNIT ACCUSED OF KILLING TWO OPPOSITION FIGURES...

A number of Belarusian and Russian media outlets on 27 August received a videotape on which two men accuse the Interior Ministry's special task force (SOBR) of killing opposition leader Viktar Hanchar and his friend Anatol Krasouski in September 1999. One of the men identified himself as Henadz Uhlyanitsa, a KGB officer from Minsk, while the other named himself as Andrey Zharnasek. The two men said Hanchar and Krasouski were kidnapped and subsequently killed by people from the SOBR unit, which is located near Byahoml (northern Belarus). The men added that Hanchar and Krasouski were buried along with their jeep near the site of the SOBR deployment. The alleged burial place was shown on the videotape. The videotaped allegations follow last week's statements by former prison warden Aleh Alkayeu that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka sanctioned and covered up the murders of opposition figures (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 28 August 2001). JM

...WHILE KGB SAYS CHARGES ARE FABRICATED

KGB spokesman Fyodar Kotau said on Belarusian Television the same day that the videotape featuring Uhlyanitsa and Zharnasek is a fabrication intended to compromise the Belarusian authorities. Kotau admitted that an officer named Uhlyanitsa works in the Belarusian KGB, but added that he is not able to affirm unambiguously that the man calling himself Uhlyanitsa on the videotape is the KGB officer bearing the same name. Belapan reported on 28 August that Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau and a group of sappers have gone to inspect the alleged burial place of Hanchar and Krasouski. JM

LUKASHENKA, SHEYMAN, SIVAKOU LINKED TO DISAPPEARANCES OF OPPOSITION FIGURES

Former Agriculture Minister Vasil Lyavonau and former KGB Deputy Chairman Valery Kez briefed journalists in Minsk on 27 August on their conversations earlier this year with then-KGB Chairman Uladzimir Matskevich and then-Prosecutor-General Aleh Bazhelka, Belapan reported. According to Lyavonau and Kez, Matskevich and Bazhelka traced a death squad responsible for many murders in Belarus, arrested its commander Dzmitry Paulyukevich, and requested that President Lukashenka sanction the arrest of then-Security Council Secretary Viktar Sheyman and then-Interior Minister Yury Sivakou as supervisors and instigators of the death squad. Lukashenka reportedly refused the request, fired Matskevich and Bazhelka, and hindered the investigation into the disappearances of Yury Zakharanka and Hanchar. "You have driven me into exhaustion. I cannot sleep at night, swallow handfuls of pills. But you dig and dig for evidence against me. Stop searching for Zakharanka and Hanchar. Do you want the opposition to carry caskets with their bodies in Minsk?" Lukashenka reportedly told Bazhelka. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATE CAUTIONED OVER CAMPAIGN VIOLATIONS

The Central Election Commission has warned Uladzimir Hancharyk against violating Belarus's election law in his ongoing presidential campaign, Belapan reported on 27 August. As examples of his violations, the commission cited pro-Hancharyk leaflets lacking publisher data and posted in "unauthorized" places or distributed on behalf of the "For a New Belarus!" movement, an organization that lacks official registration with the Justice Ministry. The commission also said such pro-Hancharyk newspapers as "Nasha svaboda," "Rabochy," "Belaruskaya maladzyozhnaya," and "Den" are distributed free of charge, which the commission regards as an attempt to bribe voters. The commission said Hancharyk will not be given an official warning this time but promised to do so if the violations persist. Two official warnings are enough for removing Hancharyk from the race. JM

MEDIA MONITORS SAY LUKASHENKA DOMINATES STATE TV, RADIO ELECTION COVERAGE

Media monitors from Belarus's Novak Sociological Laboratory, who are monitoring the presidential campaign coverage in Belarusian media under the supervision of experts from the European Institute for the Media, told journalists on 27 August that 81 percent of the election broadcasts on Belarusian Television are devoted to President Lukashenka and only 19 percent to other presidential candidates. An analysis of state radio broadcasts from 23 July to 23 August found that 95 percent of the total election coverage was devoted to the incumbent president. JM

POLLS SAY HANCHARYK IS AHEAD OF LUKASHENKA IN MINSK...

In a poll conducted by the Belapan news agency among 500 Minsk residents from 23-26 August, 38 percent of respondents said they will vote for opposition candidate Hancharyk in the 9 September presidential ballot, 32 percent declared their support to President Lukashenka, and 8 percent pledged to back Syarhey Haydukevich. Of those polled, 12 percent said they are against all three candidates, while 10 percent could not decide on their electoral preferences. JM

...BUT LAGS BEHIND INCUMBENT NATIONALLY

In a poll conducted by the Minsk-based Independent Institute for Social, Economic and Political Studies in August among 1,500 Belarusians throughout the country, 47 percent of respondents said they will vote for Lukashenka in the presidential election, Belapan reported on 24 August. Support for Syamyon Domash, a candidate who withdrew in favor of Hancharyk, was 12 percent. Hancharyk was backed by 11 percent of respondents, and Haydukevich by 4 percent. JM

UKRAINIAN TRADE UNION CONFEDERATION JOINS OPPOSITION

The Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine on 27 August decided to join the antipresidential National Salvation Forum, an electoral bloc of the democratic opposition led by former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, UNIAN reported. The confederation's leader, Mykhaylo Volynets, recently appealed to Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko, Interior Minister Yuriy Smirnov, and legislator Hryhoriy Omelchenko to immediately investigate the shadowing of him and his family. Volynets said he and his son have been shadowed since May. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS OFFICIALS FOR EUROPEAN INTEGRATION

Leonid Kuchma has appointed Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Rohovyy as Ukraine's authorized representative for European integration and Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Chalyy as state secretary of the Foreign Ministry in charge of European integration. Last week Kuchma issued an edict renaming the Economy Ministry as the Ministry of Economy and European Integration Issues. JM

NO ONE ELECTED IN FIRST ROUND OF ESTONIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

Although all 101 deputies of the parliament attended the parliament session on 27 August, only 91 cast ballots, ETA reported. Center Union candidate Peeter Kreitzberg received 40 votes, Moderates candidate Andres Tarand received 38, and 13 ballots were left blank. A candidate needed 68 votes to win. A second and third round of voting will take place on 28 August. The opposition parties, the Center Union and People's Union, are expected to continue to support Kreitzberg in the second ballot, while Pro Patria Union candidate Peeter Tulviste will replace Tarand. If no candidate is victorious, an electoral college made up of 101 parliament deputies and 266 local government representatives will be convened on 21 September. The other party in the ruling coalition, the Reform Party, decided to follow the recommendation of its board that the electoral college should determine the winner and thus did not nominate its candidate, Toomas Savi, in the parliament. A candidate needs only to receive a majority and not two-thirds of the votes in the electoral college to be elected. SG

DANISH FOREIGN MINISTER PLEDGES CONTINUED SUPPORT FOR LATVIA

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Denmark and Latvia, Mogens Lykketoft visited Riga on 27 August and reaffirmed Denmark's support for Latvia's membership in the European Union and NATO, LETA reported. He told Prime Minister Andris Berzins that greater investment by Danish businessmen into Latvia could be achieved by adjusting the business environment and fighting corruption. Lykketoft assured his Latvian counterpart Indulis Berzins that in the second half of 2002, when Denmark will hold the presidency of the EU, it will do everything in its power to prepare Latvia for EU membership. The foreign ministers also agreed that Latvia must develop and maintain a constructive relationship with Russia. Parliament Deputy Chairman Rihards Piks noted that there is greater support among Latvia's residents for NATO than the EU because they link state security with integration into NATO and have received too little public information about the benefits EU membership would provide. SG

LITHUANIAN ENERGY BOARD APPROVES RESTRUCTURING PLAN

The board of Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy) on 27 August approved a draft restructuring plan that would split the power utility, 86 percent of which is owned by the state, into five separate economic entities, ELTA reported. The project, drafted by a consortium led by CIBC World Markets, foresees Lithuanian Energy remaining responsible only for the transmission of energy, while its other functions would be given to two newly formed electricity distribution companies, Western Distribution System and Eastern Distribution System, as well as to two power generating facilities in Elektrenai and Mazeikiai. The newly formed companies should begin operation on 31 December 2001, with the distribution companies scheduled for privatization next year and the power plants subsequently. The plan still has to be accepted by the government and the shareholders of the company while the parliament must approve a document distributing the capital and liabilities of Lithuanian Energy among the five companies. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT, BISHOPS CALL FOR BROAD PARTICIPATION IN ELECTIONS

Aleksander Kwasniewski on 27 August appealed for broad voter participation in the 23 September general elections, PAP reported. "Today we have pluralism and people can vote for whomever they please. The most important thing, however, is that they cast their votes. This is crucial for Poland's democracy," Kwasniewski said. The same day, an appeal urging Poles to take part in the 23 September ballot came from Polish Roman Catholic bishops. The bishops wrote that the Roman Catholic Church does not point to any specific political force but encourages the choice of people and parties who are guided by the principles of Christian ethics, defend human life from conception until natural death, and care for large families. JM

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER REJECTS POSSIBLE COMPENSATION CLAIMS BY EXPELLED GERMANS

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski has rejected possible compensation claims by Germans expelled after World War II that could be presented after Poland joins the EU, PAP reported on 26 August, quoting Bartoszewski's interview with the 26 August issue of the Berlin-based "Welt am Sonntag." Bartoszewski told the newspaper that there should be a certain limit set for making claims. "Why shouldn't we start from 1772 when Prussia attacked Poland... These claims are groundless. Most of the people who claim compensations were not expelled but are children and grandchildren of the expelled," Bartoszewski argued. JM

CZECH HELSINKI COMMITTEE OPPOSED TO U.K.'S RESUMPTION OF CHECKS

Czech Helsinki Committee Deputy Director Pavel Bilek said on 28 August that the committee is opposed to the resumption of controls by U.K. immigration authorities at Prague's Ruzyne airport, although the British authorities have agreed that the committee can monitor the checks, CTK reported. Bilek said the Czech government should insist that the controls be carried out only for a limited period of time and "for the last time." He said the measure is "not normal, and, from the point of view of respect of human rights, problematic." International Romany Union President Emil Scuka told CTK that the checks will not significantly reduce the number of Roma applying for asylum in the U.K. "The Roma will use different airports, in other countries," he said, adding that "Britain will have to change its asylum laws." Freedom Union deputy Monika Horakova, the only Rom in the Chamber of Deputies, said she will ask that the chamber debate the issue in September. CTK said no one was turned back at Ruzyne on the first day of the renewed checks. MS

FINE IMPOSED ON 'MEIN KAMPF' SELLER REDUCED

A court of justice in Prague on 27 August reduced the fine imposed on Vit Varak for selling Adolf Hitler's infamous "Mein Kampf" on the Internet from 100,000 ($2,668) to 60,000 crowns, CTK reported. Varak, who faces a year in prison if he fails to pay the fine, was found guilty of "supporting a movement aimed at repressing the rights and freedoms of others." He told the court that he "only wanted to make a profit" and had sold 20 copies of the book before it was banned in June at three times its shop price. Also on 27 August, police in Plzen filed charges of "supporting a movement aimed at suppressing the rights and freedoms of others" against 3 members of a skinhead group who attended a rock concert in Plzen on 25 August. The concert was stopped by the police when participants began chanting Nazi leader Rudolf Hess's name. Over 20 participants were detained, but the other young men and women were released. MS

ALL IS NOT WELL IN CZECH FOUR PARTY COALITION

Christian Democratic Party leader Cyril Svoboda on 27 August said that his party and the Freedom Union have agreed that only their members will head lists of the Four Party Coalition in the June 2002 parliamentary elections, CTK reported. Svoboda said that the two parties have divided among themselves the leaderships of the Four Party Coalition's regional branches. Democratic Union Chairman Ratibor Majzlik said in reaction that he is "surprised" that Svoboda made the statement without a prior agreement having been reached on the matter -- "never mind signed." Michael Zantovsky of the Civic Democratic Alliance refused to comment on Svoboda's statement and said, "Our agreement is and remains that the Four Party Coalition will run together in the elections and win them together." MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT MEETS SMK LEADERSHIP

Rudolf Schuster on 27 August said after a meeting with the leadership of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) that he believes the SMK will not leave the ruling coalition, even if its conditions are not "met to the last dot," CTK reported. He said any party that leaves the coalition at this time would be making a "gross mistake" and would "pay dearly" for it in next year's elections. The SMK leadership said it disagrees with Schuster on this point. Schuster praised the SMK's performance in the cabinet, saying that it was the party that "made the fewest mistakes" since it joined the coalition in 1998. He also said the SMK is only demanding that the government fulfill promises it has made. But he added that it is dangerous "to play the game of deadlines." The SMK decided on 25 August that it will leave the coalition by 30 September if the parliament does not approve legislation meeting its demands relating to the Local Administration Law by that time. MS

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER IN SEOUL

Visiting Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan and his South Korean counterpart Han Sung-su on 27 August signed in Seoul agreements on avoiding double taxation and the prevention of tax evasion, CTK reported. Kukan said his country would welcome an increase in South Korean investments. MS

XENOPHOBIC FLYERS IN EASTERN SLOVAK TOWN

Xenophobic flyers targeting "Gypsies, Jews, Vietnamese, Albanians, and other trash" were distributed to mailboxes in the eastern Slovak town of Roznava, CTK reported on 27 August, citing a police spokeswoman in Kosice. The flyers were also put on car windshields and in one instance on the window of a shop owned by Vietnamese. The text ended with the words "Sieg Heil!" Police are conducting an investigation. MS

HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIAL SUES ONLINE PUBLICATION

Defense Ministry State Secretary Janos Homoki on 27 August initiated criminal proceedings against Telnet Hungary, the company that produces the online newspaper "Stop!" Hungarian media reported. Earlier this month "Stop!" reported that the National Security Office learned of a corruption case regarding the procurement of fighter jets for the armed forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2001). The report did not name any suspect by name, but suggested that the "senior Defense Ministry official indirectly implicated" in the corruption case was Homoki. Homoki demanded that "Stop!" publish a correction to its report, but the news site has refused to do so. The parliament's National Security Office has launched an investigation into the alleged corruption case. MSZ




NATO COLLECTS 'BIG STUFF' IN MACEDONIA

British Major Alexander Dick said at Otlja, just west of Kumanovo, on 27 August that guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK) surrendered an impressive array of weapons on the first day of Operation Essential Harvest, Reuters reported. He added: "It's been a very good operation today and we hope it will continue like this... We have gathered in a good number of weapons today, but more importantly some big stuff. It's pleasing to see that some of it is in very good condition, practically new." Dick noted that the haul included about 300 assault rifles -- including Kalashnikovs in good condition -- 50 antipersonnel mines, 20 antitank mines, 60 to 80 light machine guns, an antitank weapon, 10 to 15 rocket launchers, and 10 to 20 mortar bombs. PM

MIXED SIGNALS FROM MACEDONIAN AUTHORITIES OVER COLLINS' DEATH

In a statement in Skopje on 27 August, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski condemned the killing of British sapper Ian Collins by a gang of youths (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2001), Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. Trajkovski stressed that such violent incidents only help those who want to attain their political goals through violence. He later told British Prime Minister Tony Blair that there will be a full investigation, "The Independent" reported. Macedonian government spokesman Antonio Milosovski, however, criticized NATO for not informing the Macedonian authorities quickly of the killing, "Monitor" reported. He added that NATO hampered the police investigation by moving Collins' vehicle before police arrived. Milosovski said that it is "too early" to catch the killers. Observers note that in most cases of violence, the authorities are quick to blame and hunt for "Albanian terrorists" without much of a prior investigation. It is not clear why the security forces, whose supporters feel are capable of crushing an armed insurgency, cannot identify and catch a group of teenagers. PM

WITNESS SAYS MACEDONIAN TEENAGERS KILLED BRITISH SOLDIER

"The Daily Telegraph" on 28 August quoted a local teenager with a Slavic name as saying that he saw the killing and that "a group of Macedonian teenagers" had been throwing stones at passing vehicles. A NATO spokesman said that the youths surrounded Collins' Land Rover "in a threatening manner" after hitting it. "The Independent" reported that a Macedonian policeman was 500 meters from the scene of the attack. It is not clear why he did not intervene and arrest the youths. The same daily quoted Macedonian Television as identifying the youths as ethnic Macedonians. PM

BRITISH SOLDIER'S DEATH THE RESULT OF MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT 'HATE CAMPAIGN'?

The "Daily Telegraph" reported from Skopje on 28 August that "the death of sapper Ian Collins after a mob attack in the suburbs of Skopje follows a venomous anti-Western campaign orchestrated by hard-line ministers in the Macedonian government." The daily specifically mentions Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski in this respect (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 June and 24 August 2001). One Macedonian special forces vehicle has "NATO Killers" painted on it. Some individual local people told the British reporter that "NATO has done a lot of evil things here" and "we've seen what they've done in Kosovo and Bosnia. They helped the Albanians and Bosnian Muslims and banished the Serbs. They're playing the same game here." "The Independent" quoted an unnamed off-duty Macedonian army captain as saying, "If I saw NATO soldiers here now, I would kill all of them myself." PM

SAPPER'S DEATH PART OF ORGANIZED ANTI-WESTERN MACEDONIAN VIOLENCE

British Major Neil Peckham told RFE/RL in a telephone interview from Skopje on 27 August that Collins' death fits into an emerging pattern of violence. "There are indications that it is part of a pattern against NATO vehicles that has been building up over the past few weeks... There have been other instances of NATO vehicles, i.e., green [colored] military vehicles, being targeted by unknown individuals, the dropping of projectiles off road bridges, and throwing projectiles at the vehicles as well." Peckham added that "the [NATO] military police are in close coordination with the Macedonia police, and the investigation is ongoing." Security precautions for NATO personnel have been stepped up. PM

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SERVICES PLAYING A ROLE IN MACEDONIAN POLICIES?

In a discussion of the number of weapons that the Macedonian government wants NATO to collect from the UCK, Milosovski mentioned that the government's estimate was drawn up by "officials in the Macedonian secret service...[and] corresponds to the investigations made by other international organizations and secret services," Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 27 August. He did not specify which foreign "secret services" he had in mind, or what role they might play in shaping the attitudes and policies of the Macedonian government (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 July and 14 August 2001). PM

LONDON DAILY: MACEDONIAN MINISTER TOOK PART IN ATROCITY

"The Daily Telegraph" reported on 26 August that its journalists have seen a film made by Macedonian Television showing Interior Minister Boskovski present during "the worst alleged atrocity in the six-month conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels." The incident took place in Ljuboten following the killing by a land mine of eight Macedonian soldiers nearby (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 13 August 2001). PM

U.S. WANTS MACEDONIA TO INVESTIGATE COLLINS' DEATH

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington on 27 August: "We extend our condolences to the family of the British soldier and to the family of those killed in the explosion [near Tetovo]. We expect Macedonian authorities to conduct full investigations... We condemn the violence over the weekend, particularly in this circumstance [of the start of Essential Harvest]. Macedonia needs calm in order to proceed with disarmament and with the political action that's necessary" to implement the comprehensive settlement, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2001). PM

RFE/RL TO LAUNCH MACEDONIAN BROADCASTS

RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine announced on 27 August in Washington that RFE/RL will begin broadcasting in Macedonian on 1 September. RFE/RL's programs in Serbian and Albanian already have a significant audience in Macedonia. But by adding broadcasts in Macedonian, he continued, RFE/RL hopes to provide all of Macedonia's linguistic communities a balanced view of local, regional, and international events -- something currently lacking in Macedonia's media landscape. "RFE/RL's experience elsewhere shows that such broadcasts can play an important role in promoting stability and democracy," Dine said. He added that he is confident that the new Macedonian broadcasts will have the same effect. The three daily 15-minute news programs will be broadcast in Macedonia on the Kanal 77 network of 19 FM stations. The Macedonian-language programs will be created by members of RFE/RL's South Slavic broadcast service, with both ethnic Albanian and Macedonian stringers reporting from locations throughout Macedonia. MZ

KFOR DETAINS MORE GUERRILLAS FROM MACEDONIA

NATO-led peacekeepers arrested 35 suspected UCK fighters as they entered Kosova from Macedonia, bringing the number detained in the course of a 48-hour period to 200, AP reported from Prishtina on 28 August (see RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2001). PM

PRO-BELGRADE PARTY SAYS ALBANIANS TRYING TO SPLIT MONTENEGRO

Dragan Koprivica of the pro-Belgrade Socialist People's Party (SNP) said in Podgorica on 27 August that a recent violent robbery at Plav near the Kosova border by persons who did not speak Serbo-Croat shows that "Montenegro is unstable. Mentors from Kosovo and Albania have instructed local Albanians to push for an independent Montenegro," dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2001). But Igor Luksic, a spokesman of President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) said, "Koprivica is in the twilight zone." Gazim Hajdinaga, an ethnic Albanian political leader and the government's minister for minorities, stressed that the "Albanians will push for their goals only in legal institutions." PM

YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS COUNTRY 'SEMI-MAFIOSO STATE'

Speaking at Alpbach, Austria, on 27 August, Goran Svilanovic said that Serbia has "to go through what is usually called a transition process. Being foreign minister but not a career diplomat, I tend to call it a semi-mafioso state... The real issue is whether we are going to reach within a year or two the point of stable political institutions and an integrated economy, or if we shall end up in the muck of crime and corruption. That is the basic challenge for all of us," Reuters reported. He added that "the real challenge for the country is organized crime." Svilanovic said that there are three interconnected structures in Serbia: the old regime of President Slobodan Milosevic, the new authorities, and organized crime. He added that "the three are so much interconnected that sometimes you do not know who you are talking to." PM

BRITISH DAILY ALERTS SERBIAN AUTHORITIES TO PRESENCE OF WAR CRIMINAL

"The Guardian" reported on 27 August that Serbian authorities have "agreed to act" after its journalists found Misko Nisavic running a driving school in Kragujevac. Nisavic is wanted by both Belgrade and The Hague for his role in the massacre of 49 ethnic Albanian civilians in March 1999 in Suhareka, Kosova. PM

REPORT: SERBIAN MEDIA STILL FAR FROM FREE

The Serbian NGO ANEM said in a report on 27 August that the media are threatened by the "conscious determination of the new people now wielding political power in the country to retain certain mechanisms formerly used...by the Milosevic regime to exert pressure on the media." PM

IMF CHIEF NEGOTIATOR JOINS TALKS IN ROMANIA

Neven Mates, the chief IMF negotiator for Romania, on 27 August joined the parleys with Romanian authorities on the envisaged 2002 budget, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Finance Minister Mihai Tanasescu said he believes a "letter of intent" can be agreed upon by the end of the week and the IMF's executive board will be able to approve a new standby agreement in September. The negotiations are now concentrating on the government's wage policy and on its privatization program. MS

ROMANIAN COURT SLAPS PNTCD CIORBEA WING

The Bucharest Municipal Tribunal on 27 August ruled that the 2 June merger of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and the National Alliance Christian Democratic (ANCD) is null and void and refused to strike the ANCD from the list of existing parties, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The court based its decision on the fact that Victor Ciorbea, the former leader of the ANCD, signed the request to register the merger both in the name of that party and in the name of the PNTCD, of which he was elected chairman following Andrei Marga's resignation from that post on 6 July. The decision can be appealed within five days. If it remains in force, it would have far-reaching implications, because all of the decisions taken by the Ciorbea wing of the PNTCD after 6 July -- including the expulsion from the party of some formerly prominent leaders -- would also be nullified. Ciorbea told journalists that the court's decision was due to "political pressure on the judiciary," while Calin Catalin Chirita, the secretary-general of the Marga-Lupu-Chirita wing of the PNTCD, said the decision "puts an end to all the illegalities committed by Victor Ciorbea." MS

ROMANIAN SENATE APPROVES EXTENDING TERM OF PROPERTY RESTITUTION DEMANDS

The Senate approved a governmental ordinance on 27 August that extends by three months the deadline for submission of demands for the restitution of real estate seized by the former communist regime. The new deadline is 14 November. Greater Romania Party (PRM) Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor spoke against extending the deadline, saying that not only the ordinance, but the restitution law as a whole "must be destroyed before it destroys us as a country." The Chamber of Deputies must vote on the deadline's extension. MS

SALE OF RACIALIST BOOK BANNED IN ROMANIA?

AFP reported on 27 August that the sale of the chauvinist book "The Nationalist" by PRM deputy Vlad Hogea has been banned, but there is no confirmation of this decision from Romanian sources (see End Note). The agency cited Iasi prefect Corneliu Rusu-Banu as saying, "So long as I am prefect, I will not allow such a book to be sold in the bookshops of Iasi." Earlier, PRM Senator and Deputy Chairman Gheorghe Buzatu, who published the book at an institute he heads in Iasi, said the launching of a second run of the book has been postponed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23, 24, and 27 August 2001). MS

MOLDOVA MARKS INDEPENDENCE DAY IN GLOOMY MOOD

Moldova marked the 10th anniversary of its independence on 27 August with a military parade in Chisinau, but in his message to the nation President Vladimir Voronin said there is not much that Moldovans can cheer about, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau and international agencies reported. Voronin said that Moldova's achievements since its declaration of independence are "an illusion" and "there are few reasons to celebrate." He said real independence "requires above all the well-being of citizens" and the identification of citizens with their state. He said it is "no secret" that in recent years not only national minorities such as Ukrainians, Russians, Gagauz, or Bulgarians have felt "aliens in their own state," but so have Moldovans themselves. He said the "primary task" of the government is to "regain our motherland," as "no state can be fully sovereign if a large part of its population lives under the rule of some self-proclaimed independent authority." He also said the authorities must offer society "a realistic and long-term development program" that leaves "room for all citizens," and to intensify efforts to eradicate corruption and poverty. MS

U.S. SENATOR SAYS CONGRESS MAJORITY SUPPORTS BULGARIA'S NATO MEMBERSHIP

Visiting U.S. Senator John McCain on 27 August said in Sofia that a majority in the U.S. Congress backs Bulgaria's accession to NATO and that the Atlantic alliance must expand to "create an inviolable zone of stability and democracy," BTA reported. McCain said he considers Bulgaria's chances of joining NATO to be "very good, although a lot more must be done" by the country to promote that goal. McCain met with Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski and was decorated by President Petar Stoyanov with the Order of the Balkan Range in recognition for his contributions to the development and promotion of Bulgarian-U.S. relations. MS

BULGARIAN HELSINKI COMMITTEE CRITICIZES PRISON CONDITIONS

Helsinki Committee Chairman Krassimir Kanev told journalists on 27 August that the conditions in Bulgarian prisons are deteriorating, BTA reported. Kanev said that while penitentiary administration staff members have recently received pay raises of 50 percent, less money is being provided for the maintenance of prisons and the budget allocated to food for prisoners has dropped by 29 percent. Money for the repair of prisons has been halved and there are reports of countrywide corruption among prison wards, he said. Kanev also said prison authorities monitor inmate correspondence routinely, rather than for valid reasons and in exceptional cases alone, as stated by the law. MS




ROMANIAN AUTHORITIES LAUNCH PROBE INTO CONTROVERSIAL BOOK


By Eugen Tomiuc

The Romanian Prosecutor-General's Office on 22 August launched a probe into the publishing of a book that many believe contains texts inciting anti-Semitism and racial hatred. The inquiry follows protests from leaders of the Jewish, Romany, and Hungarian minority communities, which appear to be the main targets of the book.

The federation of Romania's Jewish communities issued a statement the same day that said the book amounts to a "grave incitement to interethnic and racial hatred" and violates the Romanian Constitution's ban on anti-Semitic and racist material. The statement urges authorities to take action in line with Romanian law -- which provides penalties of up to five years in prison -- for those found guilty of distributing Nazi or anti-Semitic propaganda.

The controversial book is "The Nationalist," written by Vlad Hogea, a 24-year-old deputy of the ultranationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM). It contains a collection of essays, most of which were originally published in magazines run by PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor -- a communist poet turned ultranationalist who lost the presidential election to Ion Iliescu in December of last year, and whose picture is featured on the book's cover. Other "essays" included in the volume were originally published in the local version of the tabloid "Atac la persoana" (Attack on Persons) in the northeast town of Iasi. The former owner of that tabloid is a known anti-Semite who has represented the PRM in parliament since the 2000 elections.

"The Nationalist" has yet to hit the shelves, but some 1,000 copies have already been printed ahead of its official launching on 25 August, and excerpts have appeared in the Romanian media.

Bucharest dailies are reporting that "The Nationalist" contains such chapter titles as "These Jews Who Rule Us" and "White-Romanian-Christian-Nationalist." It also reportedly includes the phrase "whoever fights the Jews, fights the devil," which Hogea says is borrowed from Julius Streicher, a prominent Nazi official executed for war crimes in 1946.

The book has alarmed Romania's small Jewish community, which now numbers some 12,000 and which saw an estimated half of its pre-World War II population of 800,000 deported or killed under the rule of pro-Nazi dictator Ion Antonescu.

But Hogea maintains that, despite quoting a notorious figure like Streicher, he is not himself an anti-Semite. He told RFE/RL that even though he is a nationalist, he is not biased against any minority group.

"I am Romanian, and I am a nationalist. I accept my condition, and I am proud of it. But I am not an anti-Semite, because I cannot be against a community -- be it a racial, ethnic, or religious community," he said.

Hogea, whose PRM party holds one-fourth of the seats in Romania's parliament, introduced a bill in May providing for wider social integration of Romania's almost 2 million Roma. The party quietly withdrew the bill from parliament several weeks later.

But Hogea's book lashes out against the very people he said he had wanted to help with his bill. In the book, according to the published excerpts, he calls the Roma "a black tide that poisons the ocean" and warns that "unless we stand up against this wave of dirt which is gradually covering us, we risk becoming a minority in our own country."

Prominent minority leaders in Romania say racial hatred is not uncommon at high levels of Romanian officialdom.

"There is a certain amount of racism and xenophobia at a high level, within very important state institutions," said deputy Nicolae Paun, who represents the Roma in parliament. "Such reactions, whether in the media or in racist books such as this, will not help Romania in its competition for integration in the civilized world, in the Euro-Atlantic structures."

Paun's accusations are tied to the fact that the controversial book has appeared under the auspices of a research institute affiliated with the Romanian Academy. The academy recently issued a statement denying it approved the book's publication.

But the academy has been at least indirectly involved. The research institute, located in Iasi, is led by Gheorghe Buzatu, a controversial historian who is also a PRM senator and deputy speaker of Romania's Senate, the upper chamber of parliament. Corneliu Ciocanu -- a former far-right leader -- is also among its researchers. Buzatu, who is also a top PRM aide, has personally endorsed both the book and its author, whom he calls "an exceptional young man."

Both Hogea and the PRM leadership deny any connection between the book and the party's official position. But ethnic minority leaders say the volume is, in fact, a party manifesto.

Over the last decade, the PRM has frequently targeted the country's 1.7 million Hungarians. Prominent members of Romania's ethnic Hungarian party, the UDMR -- an ally of the ruling Social Democrats since early 2001 -- are now demanding that the government condemn both Hogea's book and his party.

UDMR Senator Peter Eckstein Kovacs tells RFE/RL that the Romanian leadership must stand firm against xenophobia and extremism.

"The [political] majority, and above all the [governing] Social Democrat Party, must express very clearly their position regarding this book and the xenophobic and anti-Semitic ideas it contains. It must be publicly acknowledged that this is the position of a party which should not exist in the political life of a democratic country."

But author Hogea said the inquiry launched by the authorities is a violation of his constitutional right to free speech. He accuses the government of trying to destroy him and said he will appeal to international organizations for support.

"I will contact all enlightened nationalists in the civilized world who can help me protect my right to free speech, and I will launch a very strong campaign on the Internet," Hogea said. "I will translate excerpts from my book into English, and I will popularize them internationally. I will appeal to Western institutions."

Hogea's case is not the first of its kind in Romania. Another inquiry is under way after the Supreme Court earlier this year asked prosecutors to investigate the availability of Nazi and other anti-Semitic propaganda -- including Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" -- at an international book fair in Bucharest.

And recently, PRM leader Tudor publicly apologized on behalf of one of his party colleagues who had published a book containing two jokes about the Holocaust. The book was withdrawn from publication, but not before some 20,000 copies had been sold.

Tudor has so far remained silent on the controversy surrounding "The Nationalist." But one of his more notorious publications, the magazine "Greater Romania," recently launched a violent attack against the Jewish community, saying its protests over Hogea's book are an attempt to stifle free speech in Romania.

Eugen Tomiuc is an RFE/RL correspondent.


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