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Newsline - August 29, 2001




PUTIN SAYS RUSSIA SHOULD NOT COPY WEST IN EDUCATION

At a 28 August meeting of the State Council devoted to the reform of education, President Vladimir Putin said that education must become "an object of state attention," adding that Moscow should not mechanically copy Western models, "even the most progressive," Interfax reported. Instead, he said "one should not forget the Soviet system of education was quite efficient." Patriarch Aleksii II echoed Putin, noting that the authorities must continue to do everything possible to keep educational opportunities open for all Russians. A day earlier, Putin told a group of educational experts that he would like to see the creation of a single council on education among the heads of states of the member countries of the CIS. Meanwhile, Moscow State University Rector Viktor Sadovnichii told Interfax on 28 August that Russia faces an increasing problem with truancy with millions of children not attending school and no one being held responsible for that fact. PG/VY

FINANCE MINISTRY SAYS INFLATION IN 2001 TO BE UNDER 17 PERCENT

First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Ulyukaev said in Moscow on 28 August that inflation in 2001 will not exceed 17 percent, Interfax-AFI reported. He said that even though this figure is above the 12 percent forecast, it is lower than the figure in 2000 and pointed to future declines. PG

GOVERNMENT PLANS TO REVISE MEDIA LAW AGAIN

The Communications and Information Ministry told Interfax on 28 August that the Russian government plans to submit to the Duma before the end of 2001 amendments to legislation governing telecommunications in Russia. The amendments will be intended to bring Russian law into line with that of the European Community and to ensure universal access for Russian citizens to telecommunications channels. PG

NTV EDITOR SAYS RELATIONS WITH STATE 'FAR FROM IDEAL'

Tatiana Mitkova, the chief editor of NTV, told Interfax on 28 August that relations between her station and the Russian government are far from ideal although she said that the change in leadership at the station earlier this year meant that NTV "had ceased to be in a position of open confrontation" with the state. Meanwhile, the same day, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that NTV is becoming "a headache" for Gazprom, which acquired it. The gas giant needs the money it has invested in the station elsewhere but is in no position to sell it. PG

GOVERNMENT ASKS DUMA TO TEMPORARILY BAN HUMAN CLONING

The cabinet has asked the Duma to approve legislation that would temporarily ban the cloning of human embryos, AP reported on 28 August. Officials did not say for how long the law would ban such experiments, but Ekho Moskvy radio reported the same day that the government is asking for a five-year suspension. PG

EURASIAN PARTY WANTS BELGOROD, KURSK OBLAST TO BE COMBINED

"Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 28 August that the Eurasian Party of Russia has proposed beginning the territorial redivision of the Russian Federation by merging the Belgorod and Kursk oblasts. PG

BEREZOVSKY-BACKED FOUNDATION TO PROVIDE LEGAL AID TO DRAFTEES

Embattled and self-exiled Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky has provided $1 million to the International Foundation for Civil Liberties, a group he set up in Russia in December 2000, to provide legal assistance to draftee soldiers, AP reported on 28 August. Meanwhile, the same day, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported that Berezovsky is supposed to have provided secret information to the American government about the Russian leadership, something that makes his future in Russian politics even more problematic. PG

MOSCOW WELCOMES RUSSIAN-ABKHAZ DIALOGUE

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said on 28 August that Moscow welcomes the statement of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze concerning his willingness to solve the Abkhaz crisis through peaceful negotiations, ITAR-TASS reported. The spokesman said that "Russia will continue helping the parties to seek mutual understanding in disputed problems." PG

BUSH PREPARING RANCH FOR PUTIN VISIT

U.S. President George W. Bush told journalists on 28 August that he hopes his Russian counterpart Putin will enjoy visiting Bush's ranch in Texas in November, ITAR-TASS reported. He told reporters that he is working this summer on clearing a view of the canyons so Putin can "appreciate the beauty of the landscape." Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry the same day rejected as false Moscow media reports on 27 August that Moscow is displeased by the fact that newly appointed U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow has not presented his credentials, Interfax reported. Ministry officials said that they were informed long in advance that Vershbow would be on vacation and that there is no political meaning to his absence as some media outlets have suggested. PG

PUTIN SAID SEEKING TO MAKE NATO ALLIANCE 'ABSURD'

An article in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 28 August said that President Putin's talk about possible Russian membership in NATO is intended to convert that alliance into something "absurd." The paper suggested that the inclusion of the Baltic countries in the near future and Ukraine later on is now likely and that Russia has to do something to render their membership meaningless. The paper added that Putin's effort to retain the ABM Treaty is linked to his plan to restore Russia as a great power internationally: Russia is economically irrelevant now, the paper said, but its nuclear potential puts it in the same class as the United States. VY

MOSCOW VIEWS CYPRUS AS ITS GATE TO THE EU

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met with his visiting Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Cassoulides to discuss economic ties between the two and especially investment questions, Interfax reported. But the BBC pointed out that the talks are really part of a Russian effort not only to preserve Cyprus as an offshore zone for Russian capital but also as its gate to the European Union, which Cyprus is likely to join soon. VY

PUTIN, JORDANIAN KING FIND COMMON GROUND

President Putin said on 28 August that he was very pleased with his talks with visiting Jordanian King Abdullah II, Russian and Western agencies reported. He said that bilateral ties between the two countries will continue to increase and that the two governments will work together to promote Iraq's reentry into the international system and peace in the Middle East. PG

MOSCOW PLANS TO RAISE STATUS OF RUSSIAN SPEAKERS IN ESTONIA, LATVIA AT UN MEETING

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ordzhonikidze, who will lead the Russian delegation to the upcoming United Nations conference on racism to be held in Durban, South Africa, told ITAR-TASS on 28 August that he will raise the question about the treatment of Russian speakers in Estonia and Latvia at that meeting. PG

MOSCOW PLANS TO TRY TO HOLD RUSSIAN POPULATION IN SIBERIA, FAR EAST

A concept paper for state policy on the development of Siberia and the Far East calls for Moscow to work to overcome current problems there by seeking to "hold" the Russian population there and promote its growth, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. A State Council working group under the chairmanship of Nikolai Volkov, the governor of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, prepared the paper. VY

CHINESE READY TO INVEST IN RUSSIAN FAR EAST

Businessmen from the Chinese city of Dalian on 28 August visited Vladivostok and said that they are ready to invest in a business center, piers, and marine-processing facilities in the Russian Far East, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

COMMUNISTS TO PROTEST DROPPING OF THEIR CANDIDATE IN ROSTOV OBLAST

Communist Party (KPRF) Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov told Interfax on 28 August that his party will protest what he called the violation of election laws that led officials in Rostov Oblast to refuse to register KPRF oblast party Secretary Leonid Ivanchenko as a candidate in the gubernatorial elections there. PG

COSSACKS OPPOSE ARMENIAN CELEBRATION IN KRASNODAR KRAI

The Krymsk Raion Cossack Society has issued a statement opposing plans by the Krasnodar Krai Armenian community to celebrate the 1,700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity on the same day that Krymsk marks its town day, the Noyan Tapan agency reported on 28 August, citing a report in "Yerkramas," the newspaper of Armenians of southern Russia. The news service reported that this is the third time that Armenian efforts to commemorate that anniversary this year have exacerbated interethnic tensions in Krasnodar Krai. PG

RUSSIAN-CHECHEN PEOPLE'S MILITIA HELPS MAINTAIN ORDER IN ROSTOV OBLAST

Interfax-Eurasia reported on 28 August that Russians and Chechens in two districts of Rostov Oblast have formed a people's militia to help maintain order there and to minimize interethnic conflicts. Police officials said that the percentage of Chechens in the population there had always been high but that conflicts that have arisen have generally been personal rather than ethnic. PG

STAVROPOL MUSLIMS WANT INDEPENDENT MUFTIATE

The imams of the Neftekumsk and Sovetskii raions of Stavropol Krai have asked the Central Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Russian and the European Portion of the Commonwealth of Independent States to set up a special muftiate for Muslims living in Stavropol Krai, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 August. At present, Muslims there are under a joint muftiate of the Stavropol Krai and the Karachaevo-Cherkessia Republic. The imams noted in their appeal that various imams interpret the Koran differently and that some in Stavropol have propagandized religious and political extremism and encouraged young men to fight against Russia in Chechnya. PG

MILITARY EXERCISE SCENARIO HAS NATO, MUSLIMS AS ENEMY

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 28 August, the Combat Brotherhood 2001 exercise taking place near Astrakhan consists of conflicts between "Northland," which includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan; "Westland," which includes the U.S. and NATO; and "Southland," which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajik guerillas. The paper described the scenario for the maneuvers as "a quixotic mix of anachronisms from the Cold War and elements of a brave new world." But at least, the paper added, the new post-Soviet maneuvers are "fairly realistic" in that they posit Russia's need to defend itself rather than the Soviet plan to march across Western Europe to the English Channel. PG

DEFENSE MINISTRY SAID SELLING BLOOD DONATED FOR SOLDIERS

Blood collected by "Komsomolskaya pravda" for soldiers wounded in Chechnya has been diverted and sold by Defense Ministry officials, that newspaper reported on 28 August. One hospital director reportedly made 1 million rubles ($35,000) from such sales, the paper said. VY

MILITARY PROSECUTORS FORMALLY PROTEST 'SOFT' SENTENCE OF DIPLOMAT CONVICTED OF SPYING

The Office of the Main Military Prosecutor has formally appealed the sentence imposed on former diplomat Valentin Moiseev for spying for South Korea, RIA-Novosti reported on 28 August. Moiseev was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison on 14 August. The military prosecutors want him to be sentenced to 12 years in prison. VY

RUSSIA TO REPROCESS NUCLEAR FUEL FROM 21 SUBMARINES IN 2001

Officials at the Atomic Energy Ministry told Interfax on 28 August that Russia plans to convert nuclear fuel from 21 atomic submarines so that it can be used for other purposes or safely stored in permanent locations. They said that the total cost of this operation will be 1.2 billion rubles ($400 million) this year. PG

INTERIOR MINISTRY WANTS TO PROVIDE EARLY WARNING ON INVESTMENT PARTNERS

Aleksei Orlov, the head of the Interior Ministry's Main Administration for the Struggle with Economic Crimes, said in Moscow on 28 August that his agency hopes to provide early warning to investors about whether or not those they are doing business with are reliable or not, Interfax reported. He said that such a service would save the government money and increase investor confidence and hence the level of investments. (Meanwhile, Interfax reported on 27 August that the Russian government has identified 365 joint stock companies for full or partial privatization over the next 12 months.) In other comments, Orlov said that his agency has registered 254,393 economic crimes this year, the news service reported. PG

INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS TO OVERSEE RESTITUTION EFFORTS

The Russian government has followed the Soviet-era practice and staffed its Committee for the Restitution of Cultural Artifacts Displaced During World War II with officials drawn from the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the Interior Ministry, NTV reported on 28 August. VY

MOSCOW SUSPENDS EXPORT OF PRECIOUS METALS

Andrei Belov, the head of the State Assay Chamber, told Prime-TASS on 28 August that his agency has suspended the export of precious metals until the Finance Ministry adopts state inspection procedures. In June 2001, President Putin called for liberalizing such sales and the Finance Ministry has not yet devised the new rules, Belov said. VY

RESOURCES MINISTRY SCRUTINIZES ITS LICENSEES

The Natural Resources Ministry has compiled "a blacklist" of several hundred firms that operate under its licensing that are violating the conditions of those licenses, Prime-TASS reported on 28 August. A special interagency group from the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Interior Ministry, and the Economic Development and Trade Ministry are reviewing the list and deciding which licenses will be withdrawn. VY

RUSSIA HOPES TO USE ARCTIC SHIPPING ROUTE TO CARRY NUCLEAR WASTES

An article in "Izvestiya" on 27 August said that Russia's Northern Sea Route may be used for transporting spent nuclear fuel between Europe and Asia. But environmentalists are concerned about possible damage to the environment. Thomas B. Evans, a former U.S. congressman, told AP in Moscow the same day that Russian companies and especially oil companies have paid little attention to the Arctic's fragile environment and continue to pollute the region. PG

POLL FINDS JOURNALISTS FREQUENTLY INCLUDE ADVERTISING IN STORIES

A survey of 400 journalists across Russia conducted by the Moscow Institute of Sociology and reported by "The St. Petersburg Times" on 28 August found that 67 percent said they had inserted hidden advertising into stories more than once. Fewer than 10 percent of the journalists thought that Russian mass media are strong enough to compel the authorities to respond to queries. Journalists in rural areas are especially at risk of legal action if they report on things officials don't want covered, the survey found. But one editor said, "journalists are also often to blame [for this situation]. They themselves have destroyed their image as defenders of liberties." PG

PRINT MEDIA MAKES SLIGHT REBOUND AFTER COLLAPSE OF THE '90S

The total print runs of newspaper and magazines increased approximately 10 percent in 2000, Interfax reported on 28 August. That represented a small rebound from declines in print runs over the preceding decade of almost five times for newspapers and more than seven times for journals. As a result of these declines, the news service reported, the number of copies of such publications per person in Russia is lower than in any European country: For each Russian each year, there are now only 48 copies of a newspaper and only three copies of a journal. As a result, officials at the Media Ministry said that more rather than fewer subsidies for media outlets are needed. PG

BRITISH VETERANS IN MURMANSK TO MARK 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF WORLD WAR II CONVOYS

A group of British World War II veterans who participated in the first convoy to Murmansk 60 years ago arrived in that northern Russian city to take part in commemorations of their contribution to the war effort, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. PG

INTERIOR MINISTRY WANTS POLICE PAY HIKE USING MONEY SEIZED FROM CRIMINALS

Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasiliev wants the Kremlin and the government to approve the use of funds seized from criminals to increase the pay of police, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 27 August. Vasiliev said that "the money circulating in the underworld is mostly used for bribes to police and other law-enforcement agencies" and thus his proposal will only "legalize" that source of money for the police. PG

BULLFIGHT BACKERS CONTINUE PREPARATIONS

Saying that they have not yet been officially informed of any ban and noting that they have already spent $1.5 million preparing for Russia's first bullfight, organizers of that controversial event said on 28 August that they are proceeding with plans to stage a bullfight in Moscow on 8-9 September, Interfax reported. PG

AMERICAN SPORTS JOURNALISTS HUNT BEARS IN UDMURTIA

Three American journalists, Ted Hatwil of "Sports Afield," Lee Hoots of "Guns and Ammo," and Brice Towsley of "North American Hunter," used new Russian weapons to hunt and kill three bears in Udmurtia, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. The three said that coming to Russia to meet "one-on-one" with Russia's brown bear was a dream come true. PG

A WEBSITE FOR THOSE SENTENCED TO PRISON IN RUSSIA

Grigorii Pasko, a journalist who spent 18 months in prison on an espionage conviction before being released in 1999, has created a website http://www.ypka.org to provide information for those interested in Russian prisons and especially for those who are being sent there, "The Moscow Times" reported on 28 August. It provides a guide to tattoos among prisoners, advice on how to act in prison, and a dictionary of some 500 words of prison slang. PG

RUSSIAN SECURITY COUNCIL SEEKS RAPID RETURN OF CHECHEN REFUGEES

The Russian Security Council held a conference in Moscow on 28 August to discuss how to promote the most rapid return of the estimated 149,000 Chechens who are now living in refugee camps in Ingushetia, Interfax reported. Vladimir Yelagin, the minister for Chechen affairs, said the authorities want to provide protection to those who return as well as opportunities for them to work or to receive unemployment benefits. Deputy Security Council Secretary Valentin Sobolev said that Moscow is becoming increasingly concerned about the status of the refugees because "winter is approaching and these people must not live a third year in tents." PG

MOSCOW PAPER SAYS YASTRZHEMBSKII HAS CREATED 'ANOTHER PROPAGANDA MESS' WITH KHATTAB FILM

"Kommersant-Daily" on 28 August said that Kremlin media adviser Sergei Yastrzhembskii has made "another propaganda mess" with his claims that a film he distributed showing Chechen opposition figure Khattab meeting with other field commanders is evidence of Russian success. In fact, the paper said, such films -- including ones identical to this one -- have long been widely available in Chechnya, and Russian journalists have seen them. Presenting such films as Yastrzhembskii did, the paper continued, only undercuts the Kremlin's claims about successes in Chechnya. PG

DAGHESTANI AUTHORITIES DIVIDED ON HOLDING RADUEV TRIAL

Anvar Magomedov, the chairman of the Supreme Court of Daghestan, said on 28 August that the trial of Salman Raduev -- who is accused of leading the attack on Kizlar in January 1996 -- will most likely take place in Kaspissk, near Makhachkala, Interfax reported. But Mukhu Aliev, the head of the Daghestani parliament, said that Moscow had not made "the wisest decision" by deciding on a trial in his republic. Raduev, Aliyev said, is accused of so many crimes that he could be tried virtually anywhere in the Russian Federation. PG

TENSION INCREASES BETWEEN INGUSHETIA, NORTH OSSETIA

Efforts by North Ossetian officials, including beatings, to block the return of 10 Ingush families to their original homes in Ir in the disputed Prigorodnii Raion of North Ossetia sparked a demonstration in Ingushetia on 28 August and led Ingushetian President Akhmet Malsagov to declare that the authorities in North Ossetia are pursuing an anti-Ingush policy, the news service said. Russian officials on the scene were reportedly attempting to calm the situation. PG




U.S. OFFICIAL SAYS TIES WITH ARMENIA EXCELLENT

Elizabeth Jones, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, told Armenian officials in Yerevan on 28 August that relations between the U.S. and Armenia are "excellent," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The Mediamax news agency, however, said that she appeared to rule out any direct participation in peace talks by Stepanakert, something Armenia has pushed. At the same time, that agency said, she indicated that the Armenian-Turkish "reconciliation commission" is a purely private initiative with which Washington has nothing to do. PG

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS LAW REQUIRING PROPERTY DECLARATIONS BY OFFICIALS

President Robert Kocharian has signed into law legislation requiring senior government officials to file declarations about their property holdings and incomes, Noyan Tapan reported on 28 August. The measure is intended to help the government fight corruption in the bureaucracy. PG

INVALIDS FROM KARABAKH WAR DEMAND TO RECEIVE THEIR PENSIONS

A group of former soldiers who became invalids in the Karabakh war demonstrated in front of the government building in Yerevan on 27 August to demand that the authorities pay their pensions, Arminfo reported. Some of them have not received their monthly pensions of 16,000 drams ($29) for three months. PG

ARMENIA, LEBANON SIGN MILITARY-TECHNICAL AGREEMENT

Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian met with his Lebanese counterpart Halil Hrawi in Beirut on 28 August and signed a bilateral military and military-technical cooperation agreement, Interfax reported. PG

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT, IRANIAN DIPLOMAT DISCUSS CASPIAN STATUS

President Heidar Aliyev on 28 August received Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani to discuss the legal status of the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijani TV reported. The two outlined the disagreements existing between their two countries but called for the intensification of negotiations rather than any future use of force to resolve them. PG

ITERA CHIEF PROMISES TO SUPPLY MORE GAS TO AZERBAIJAN

Igor Makarav, the head of the Itera gas distribution company, told President Aliyev on 28 August that his company will supply approximately 3 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Azerbaijan this year and 4 billion in 2002, Turan reported. PG

INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL REPRESENTATIVES VISIT AZERBAIJANI REFUGEE CAMPS

Officials from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, UNICEF, and the UN Development Program on 27 August visited Azerbaijani refugee camps as part of their effort to evaluate the refugee situation in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan's ANS TV reported. The financial institutions are considering approving a large credit to Baku to alleviate the conditions of the refugees. PG

MOVES ON THE AZERBAIJANI MEDIA FRONT

An Azerbaijani court on 28 August ruled that a government paper insulted the editor of the opposition paper "Yeni Musavat" and must apologize and pay a fine, "Yeni Musavat" reported. Meanwhile, Ali Hasanov, the chief of the public political division of the presidential administration, told Turan the same day that Azerbaijanis plan to improve legislation in the media area and establish a public television channel in 2002. PG

PEOPLES' FRONT PARTY LEADER AZERBAIJANIZES HIS NAME

Ali Karimov, the head of the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Peoples' Front Party, said that in the future he will use the Azerbaijani rather than the Russian ending of his name and become Ali Karimli, "Yeni Musavat" reported on 28 August. PG

GEORGIAN SPEAKER WARNS THAT COUNTRY IS ON BRINK OF CATASTROPHE

Parliamentary Chairman Zurab Zhvania said in an open letter to President Eduard Shevardnadze that the country is on the brink of catastrophe, Caucasus Press reported on 28 August. Shevardnadze for his part said that he shares the concerns expressed by Zhvania, but Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Vakhtang Tcheulishvili said that the open letter is an attempt at blackmailing Shevardnadze into making concessions to the parliament, Caucasus Press reported the same day. PG

U.S. SUPPORTS WITHDRAWAL OF RUSSIAN BASES FROM ABKHAZIA

Jones, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, said in Tbilisi on 27 August that Washington supports the withdrawal of Russian bases from the breakaway Abkhaz republic, Caucasus Press reported. On the same day, President Shevardnadze said he will make a two-day visit to the U.S. at the end of September. PG

KAZAKH PRESIDENT DECRIES SOVIET NUCLEAR TESTING IN HIS REPUBLIC

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 28 August denounced the continuing impact of Soviet nuclear testing at the Semipalatinsk test range in Kazakhstan, Russian and Western news agencies reported. "Kazakhstan was the only country in the world where an inhumane totalitarian regime carried out experiments without regard for the ecology or health of the population, even though these problems were known about," Nazarbaev said while presenting his book about the problem, "The Epicenter of the World," to an audience that included former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. At the same time, Nazarbaev indicated that he "does not rule out" the possibility that low and medium radioactive materials might eventually be imported into Kazakhstan for permanent storage. PG

KAZAKHSTAN PROSECUTORS DEMAND 12-YEAR SENTENCE FOR FORMER PRIME MINISTER

Prosecutors in Astana on 28 August said that former Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin should be sentenced to 12 years imprisonment with confiscation of property for his crimes against the people of Kazakhstan, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Kazhegeldin is being tried in absentia. PG

KAZAKHSTAN TO CREATE NAVAL DETACHMENT TO DEFEND ITS OIL PLATFORMS

The Kazakhstan Defense Ministry on 28 August announced that it will soon form a navy detachment to defend its oil platforms in the Caspian Sea, Kazakh Commercial TV reported. PG

POSSIBILITY OF DUAL KYRGYZ-RUSSIAN CITIZENSHIP QUESTIONED

Zeina Kurmanov, the head of the rightist coalition in the Kyrgyz parliament, said on 28 August that there is inadequate legal foundation for dual citizenship between Kyrgyzstan and Russia and that the country's Constitutional Court is not likely to approve the introduction of such citizenship anytime soon, Interfax reported. PG

TAJIKISTAN'S UPPER HOUSE APPROVES AMNESTY

The upper chamber of the Tajikistan parliament on 28 August approved the amnesty law passed by the lower house a week ago, Asia-Plus reported. Almost 12,000 prisoners will be released, and another 7,000 will see their sentences reduced under the provisions of the new law. PG

TURKMEN PRESIDENT PUTS OFF CASPIAN SUMMIT

Saparmurat Niyazov on 27 August said that a summit of Caspian Sea countries originally planned for late October in Ashgabat will now take place in November or December, Interfax reported the following day. PG

TURKMENISTAN URGES FOLLOWING TURKISH MODEL IN EDUCATION

President Niyazov on 28 August told the leaders of his country's higher educational institutions that the country's educational system must be "radically" transformed, Interfax reported. He said that it should copy the work of Turkish organizations that have opened 19 schools in the republic in the last decade. PG

THOUSANDS OF UZBEKS SAID READY TO FLEE ARAL SEA AREA

Iranian radio from Mashhad on 28 August said that thousands of families residing in Uzbekistan's Karakalpak Autonomous Oblast are preparing to move into Kazakhstan because of water and health problems arising from the drying out of the Aral Sea. PG




U.S. DOUBTS BELARUSIAN ELECTION CAN BE FAIR

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on 28 August said, "the Lukashenka regime regularly obstructs and impedes the electoral process," which raises doubts about whether the 9 September presidential ballot will be free and fair. Boucher listed steps the Belarusian authorities should take to ensure a fair election: "First of all, to ensure access by all parties to the state-run media on an equitable basis. Second, to allow meaningful participation by all parties in electoral commissions at the national and local levels. Third, to end the harassment of nongovernmental organizations engaged in election-related civic education. And fourth, to allow effective election monitoring at all polling places by domestic and international observers for the full five days of polling and during the vote count." JM

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE ADDRESSES MINSK ON INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY...

In a special message devoted to the 10th anniversary of Belarus's independence (25 August), Colin Powell declared that the U.S. is prepared to resume productive bilateral relations with Belarus if the Belarusian authorities allow free, fair, and democratic elections; respect civil society and human rights; and restore the rule of law, Belapan reported on 28 August. "Regrettably, since 1996 the Belarusian regime has chosen to abandon the transition to democracy and the rule of law... The regime's policies have prevented the United States and other OSCE participating states from being able to develop bilateral relations fruitfully and normally," Powell added. He appealed to Minsk to adhere to its international commitments and to bring its electoral process into conformity with OSCE standards. Powell said a failure to take these steps "in a timely, consequential, and serious way" will "condemn the current regime to remain the lone outlaw in Europe." JM

...BUT IS MET WITH REBUFF

Speaking on Belarusian Television on 28 August, Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou said Powell's message constitutes a "crude interference in Belarus's domestic affairs." Khvastou added that Belarus meets OSCE conditions for holding democratic elections. "But now the American side is trying to put forward to us its special conditions. We will not fulfill them," Khvastou said. Khvastou accused Washington of rendering political support to "people who are not able to come to power on their own." JM

BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES CONFISCATE INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER ISSUE

Authorities have confiscated 40,000 copies of a special issue of the independent newspaper "Rabochy" and are preventing the printing house from printing further copies, Belapan reported on 28 August. Prosecutors accused the newspaper of slander in connection with an article regarding alleged financial and economic offenses of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his administration that was to appear in the newspaper's special issue. "The authorities are acting not only from fear that people will know the truth but because they are losing certainty that Lukashenka can honestly win the elections," "Rabochy" Editor in Chief Viktar Ivashkevich told AP. JM

MINSK REFUTES VIDEOTAPE ON ALLEGED KILLING OF HANCHAR, KRASOUSKI

Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau on 28 August said the controversial videotape publicized the previous day alleging that opposition activist Viktar Hanchar and his friend Anatol Krasouski were killed by a special police unit and buried near Byahoml (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2001, and End Note below) is a fabrication intended to smear the authorities in the run-up to the presidential elections, Belarusian media reported. Navumau and a group of sappers and journalists inspected the alleged burial site and declared that there are no sign of bodies. Scientist Radzim Haretski has recognized the KGB officer making the allegation on the tape as Henadz Uhlyanitsa, his son in law. Uhlyanitsa's identity was also confirmed by his wife. According to Haretski, Uhlyanitsa disappeared after leaving for work on 26 August. JM

HAYDUKEVICH SAYS HANCHARYK IS CANDIDATE OF NOMENKLATURA

Belarusian Liberal Democratic Party leader Syarhey Haydukevich, a candidate in the upcoming presidential election, said in his second prerecorded campaign spot on Belarusian Television on 28 August that Uladzimir Hancharyk, a candidate of the broad democratic opposition, was fielded "not by the opposition nor communists, but by party nomenklatura." According to Haydukevich, the former top nomenklatura, which lost its political clout in the Lukashenka era, hopes to return to power in Belarus by promoting Hancharyk as a single candidate of the anti-Lukashenka opposition. Immediately after Haydukevich's spot, Belarusian Television aired an interview with Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Russian Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), who appealed to Belarusians to vote for Lukashenka. JM

MINSK SAW NO REASON TO EXPEL ZYUGANOV, ZHIRINOVSKY OVER ELECTION CAMPAIGN

A correspondent from RFE/RL's Belarusian Service spoke on 28 August with Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou about the recent deportation of U.S. citizen Robert Fielding, who was charged with meddling in Belarus's internal affairs by openly campaigning for unified opposition candidate Hancharyk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2001). The correspondent asked the minister why Minsk failed to expel Russian Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and the LDPR's Zhirinovsky, who openly campaigned for Lukashenka during their recent trips to Belarus. Khvastou said Fielding meddled in Belarus's domestic affairs, while Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky did not. JM

UKRAINE'S KYIV-PECHERSK LAVRA MARKS 950TH ANNIVERSARY

Delegations from 14 Orthodox churches around the world took part in official celebrations on 28 August of the 950th anniversary of the founding of Ukraine's central monastery, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, Interfax reported. The celebrations were marred by disputes within the Ukrainian Orthodoxy, which remains divided into three parts: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Ukrainian Church. Only the first of these churches is recognized by world Orthodox dioceses as canonical. Representatives from the two other churches were not invited to a solemn liturgy in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, which is under the jurisdiction of the pro-Moscow branch of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. JM

UKRAINIAN TV CAMERAMAN BEATEN, HOSPITALIZED

Unidentified attackers on 27 August beat Oleksiy Movsesyan, a cameraman of the independent Efir-1 television in Luhansk, into unconsciousness, after which he was hospitalized, Interfax reported on 28 August. Police reportedly arrested several participants in the scuffle. Efir-1 Director Tetyana Kozhanovska suggested that Movsesyan could have been beaten for Efir-1's regular critical reporting on activities of the Luhansk City Council and Luhansk Mayor Volodymyr Landyk. Last week the station showed Landyk physically assaulting Movsesyan as he shot tape of City Council discussions. Movsesyan later complained to police about the attack. JM

ESTONIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS TRANSFERRED TO ELECTORAL COLLEGE

The parliament failed to elect a president in two rounds of voting on 28 August, thus shifting the responsibility to an electoral college, which will meet on 21 September, ETA reported. In the second round, Center Union candidate Peeter Kreitzberg received 36 votes, and Pro Patria Union candidate Peeter Tulviste took 35, while 19 ballots were left blank. In the third round the same two candidates received 33 votes each with 24 blank ballots. Kreitzberg, who received 40 votes in the first round the previous day, saw his support decrease because the People's Union decided not to back him after the Center Party did not agree to back People's Union's candidate Arnold Ruutel in the electoral college. The electoral college, which is made up of 101 parliament deputies and 266 local government representatives, will have two polls to elect a president. If no candidate receives the required majority in the first vote, a second vote will be held the same day between the two candidates who received the most votes in the first round. If no candidate is backed by the majority of the electoral college members taking part in the vote, the election of the president will shift back to the parliament. SG

CHIEF PROSECUTOR CALLS FOR LAW GOVERNING POLITICAL LOBBYING IN LATVIA

In an interview with Latvian Radio on 28 August, Prosecutor-General Janis Maizitis asserted that laws should be passed governing political lobbying, BNS reported. He noted that such lobbying indeed exists, and that it should be "regulated by the law so that the public can reckon with it and follow these processes openly." Maizitis pointed out that the existing law relating to party funds is "declarative and does not provide for any real liability if black cashboxes" or unregistered funding is established. In a televised debate about the influence of private business on politics, businessman Viesturs Koziols, who was an unsuccessful candidate of Latvia's Way in the Riga city elections, said that all the political parties in Latvia have received secret contributions from companies or other backers. SG

PRESIDENT CALLS FOR TRANSPARENT PRIVATIZATION OF LITHUANIAN GAS

Valdas Adamkus told BNS on 28 August that the privatization of Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas) should be competitive and transparent. He expressed support for the agreement by 12 Lithuanian political parties in June that provided for a strategic Western investor to purchase 34 percent of the company, and for a separate gas supplier to buy a 25 percent share. Adamkus asserted that the unsuccessful long-term negotiations that took place between Mazeikiai Oil and Russia's LUKoil should not be repeated with Lithuanian Gas. He added that it is clearly unacceptable for Russia's Gazprom, the most likely supplier to win the tender, to be given a 51 percent stake, which the Russian gas giant is reportedly seeking. The most likely Western investor is Germany's Ruhrgas, which already has investments in the gas companies of Latvia and Estonia as well as a 5 percent share of Gazprom. Ruhrgas and Gazprom control the Latvian gas company Latvijas Gaze and manage the large underground gas storage facilities near Riga, which Lithuanian Gas also uses. SG

POLISH FINANCE MINISTER FIRED OVER BUDGET CRISIS

Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek on 28 August sacked Finance Minister Jaroslaw Bauc, saying he failed to inform the cabinet in time that public finances are in bad shape, Polish media reported. Buzek appointed Halina Wasilewska-Trenkner to head the Finance Ministry. Wasilewska-Trenkner said she will present reworked spending plans for 2002 by 30 September. She made clear, however, that she accepts the predictions of Bauc and an independent panel of government-appointed experts concerning next year's projected shortfall in revenue and promised to keep spending tight. Bauc formerly announced that Poland's budget gap in 2002 may amount to some $85 billion zlotys ($20 billion). JM

POLAND BUYS EIGHT SPANISH TRANSPORT PLANES

Defense Minister Bronislaw Komorowski on 28 August signed a contract with Alberto Fernandez from Spain's CASA military plane manufacturer, on the purchase of eight C-295 transporter planes for $211 million, Polish media reported. Under the contract, CASA also agreed to buy a 51 percent stake in state-owned aerospace company PZL Okecie in Warsaw, which makes parts for small aircraft and could be turned into a service center for the new planes. Praising the deal, Komorowski said, " Everyone else moves their troops by plane, and only we send ours about by train." JM

CZECH PREMIER SAYS ROMANY EXODUS CANNOT BE STOPPED IMMEDIATELY

Milos Zeman on 28 August told journalists that it is "naive" to believe that Roma will "immediately stop their exodus" from the Czech Republic due to the renewed British controls at Prague's Ruzyne airport, CTK reported. He said the exodus will stop only after the successful implementation of the government's envisaged measures to integrate Roma into Czech society, and "not in a month or one year." "The Guardian" on 28 August reported that it has information that if the Prague airport operation is considered a success, similar controls may be introduced in the Balkan countries. The British Home Office told CTK in reaction that Ruzyne airport is the only place where immigration officials are carrying out preliminary screenings of passengers bound to the UK and that it is "for now not known" whether the controls will be extended elsewhere. MS

U.S. SENATOR BACKS NATO EXPANSION DURING PRAGUE VISIT

Former presidential candidate Senator John McCain on 28 August met in Prague with President Vaclav Havel and agreed with him that NATO must expand at its 2002 summit in the Czech capital, CTK and AP reported. "I believe the Baltic States should be included" in the expansion, McCain said, adding that these "are small countries, but politically, economically, and militarily they will be well-qualified for membership." McCain also said no country should be excluded from consideration as long as it meets criteria for membership. He said he believes Russia will "understand" and "come to terms" with the enlargement, as it did with the earlier expansion. MS

CZECH REPUBLIC'S KLAUS RENEWS CRITICISM OF EU

Civic Democratic Party and Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus on 28 August again displayed his well-known "skepticism" toward the EU and the organization's enlargement while speaking at a symposium in Alsbach, Austria, CTK reported. Klaus said that Western Europe is enjoying "a sort of nirvana of comfortable life and economic affluence" and is disregarding the reality of "evidently losing its position in world markets." The EU economy is shrinking and the euro is weak, he said, but the union is not only unwilling to renounce its welfare policies but is in fact trying to expand them. What Europe needs, Klaus said, is "a radical portion of liberalism and privatization," as well as to eliminate "all forms of subsidies and nonmarket mechanisms," along with its "increasing protectionism." He said EU expansion will be expensive for all those involved, both old and new members. He predicted that tensions caused by a contradiction between expectations and reality will first appear in the political rather than in the economic sphere. He said the vulnerability of CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEan markets is higher than that of their Western counterparts because those countries are strongly dependent on exports to Western Europe. MS

EU OFFICIAL WARNS SLOVAKS AGAINST EARLY ELECTIONS

Jan Marinus Wiersma, the EU rapporteur for Slovakia, on 28 August warned Mikulas Dzurinda's governing coalition that early elections would negatively impact Slovakia's accession of the EU, CTK reported. Wiersma was quoted by Slovak television as saying that the elections would take three months to prepare and three more months would be needed to form a new coalition, during which period Slovakia would lose precious time for advancing in the negotiations. In reference to the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) threats to leave the coalition by 30 September, Wiersma said that "under the circumstances, it is not wise to exert pressure" and added that he is "not enthusiastic" about the SMK's "constantly setting ultimatums." MS

SCHUSTER FORCED TO CLIMB DOWN FROM 'SUMMIT AT PEAK'

President Rudolf Schuster on 28 August called off a summit planned for the next month at the top of Slovakia's highest mountain, CTK and Reuters reported. The 12 current heads of state and two former presidents were invited by Schuster to climb the 2,655-meter Gerlach peak, but out of the nine who accepted the invitation originally, four later bowed out citing busy political agendas at home. Schuster's office said that an additional reason for canceling the planned summit is the Slovak media's "negative reaction." The media lambasted Schuster for the idea, saying he had little business climbing steep, rocky mountains at his age (67) and his poor state of health. MS

BISHOPS 1, FTACNIK 0 IN SLOVAK YOGA PROJECT

Education Minister Milan Ftacnik on 28 August canceled a project to introduce optional yoga classes in Slovak schools, CTK reported. The project had met with the opposition of the leaders of Slovak Christian churches. Ftacnik announced the project's cancellation after meeting Roman Catholic and Protestant bishops who told him they were worried that the courses would amount to a "manipulation of the minds of the young." Ftacnik, who has been practicing yoga for several years, said he will set up a commission to prepare a new project, but that it is "premature" to say when the new project could be introduced. He denied he suffered "a personal defeat," or that he "capitulated," saying the bishops did not oppose yoga as such, but only the authors of the project and their connection to gurus. Roman Catholic Bishops Conference Chairman Frantisek Tondra said the commission will prepare a project for relaxation exercises by pupils, but "the word 'yoga' must definitely be excluded." Evangelical Church Bishop Ivan Osusky said yoga is "not an exercise system, but one that, under the cover of an exercise, brings a foreign ideology and religion into a Christian environment" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2001). MS

HUNGARIAN COALITION PARTIES VOTE TO END HUNGARIAN MIG INQUIRY

Coalition party members in the parliament's National Security Committee, supported by deputies from the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party, on 28 August decided to close an inquiry into alleged corruption regarding the plan to upgrade Hungary's MiG-29 jet fighters (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 24 and 27 August 2001). They argued that secret service leaders who appeared before the committee were unanimous in denying rumors about corruption. Committee Chairman Gyorgy Keleti, a member of the opposition Socialist Party, said he found it "strange" that the pro-governing majority considers the committee's earlier decision to ask Prime Minister Viktor Orban for further information "irrelevant." In other news, Orban said the National Security Committee will decide next week on U.S., Swedish, Turkish, and Belgian offers to lease fighter jets to Hungary. MSZ

WITNESS COMPLAINS ABOUT HUNGARIAN DUNAFERR COMPANY'S CONTRACTS

An ad hoc committee of opposition Socialist and Free Democrat parliamentary members that was set up to investigate the contracts under which a company owned by the prime minister's father, Gyozo Orban, supplies dolomite to the state-owned steel factory Dunaferr, on 28 August heard the first witness, Janos Zarandok. Zarandok, the head of the Meszko and Dolomit (M&D) company, a competitor of the company owned by Gyozo Orban, accused the premier's father of using political pressure to acquire markets. Zarandok said his exclusive contract with Dunaferr was canceled last year and Orban's company was granted a contract to supply dolomite to Dunaferr without a tender. The Dunaferr management denied all the allegations, and said that Gyozo Orban's company supplied dolomite 10 percent cheaper than M&D did. In related developments, at the proposal of the major coalition party FIDESZ, a parliamentary committee will be formed to investigate Dunaferr's management contracts during the previous Socialist-Free Democrat cabinet of Gyula Horn. MSZ




WEAPONS COLLECTION ENTERS THIRD DAY IN MACEDONIA

NATO officials said near Gostivar that weapons collection is proceeding "very well" and that the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK) "are compliant," BBC Television reported on 29 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2001). Guerrillas lined up to hand in weapons and uniforms near Tetovo the previous day. The UCK issued demobilization papers to its fighters, "The Independent" reported. One commander, known as Xhaxhi, warned, however, that the guerrillas will rearm if NATO leaves. It is not clear whether he spoke for other commanders or only for himself. Many ethnic Albanians fear that Macedonian security forces and paramilitaries will launch revenge killings when Operation Essential Harvest ends (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2001). NATO stresses that its main aim is to promote mutual self-confidence between Macedonians and Albanians so that the political settlement can work. PM

ROBERTSON ARRIVES IN MACEDONIA

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson arrived in Skopje on 29 August to assess the progress of Operation Essential Harvest, dpa reported. He will meet with President Boris Trajkovski, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski, Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, and parliament speaker Stojan Andov. The legislature is scheduled to begin discussing the comprehensive political settlement on 31 August. Georgievski, Boskovski, and Andov have publicly stated their reservations about the agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2001). PM

MACEDONIANS RETURN TO LESOK FOR ASSUMPTION DAY

Several hundred ethnic Macedonians attended an Orthodox Assumption Day celebration in Lesok on 28 August, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. British paratroopers looked on, as did UCK fighters in the hills above. The celebration took place amid the ruins of a church, which was largely destroyed recently under unexplained circumstances (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2001 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 August 2001). Many of the Macedonians who attended the celebration said, however, that they do not feel safe enough to return permanently to their homes in Lesok, from which the UCK drove them in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2001). Elsewhere, UNHCR officials in Skopje warned displaced persons against returning to their homes in rural areas before the security situation sufficiently improves. PM

NATO DETAINS ALBANIANS ON KOSOVA-MACEDONIA BORDER

In what is becoming almost a daily occurrence, KFOR troops stopped and arrested 32 ethnic Albanians entering Kosova from Macedonia, AP reported from Prishtina on 29 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 28 August 2001). A KFOR spokesman said that unidentified persons fired on U.S. troops in the same area in a separate incident. The troops had responded to a call of "NATO, NATO help!" from unidentified persons in a forest. The gunmen then "fled the scene." PM

SERBIAN COALITION TO STAY TOGETHER -- WITH PROBLEMS UNRESOLVED

Leaders of the 18-member governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) agreed in Belgrade on 28 August to remain a coalition, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. They failed to resolve the mutual recriminations arising from what has become known as the Gavrilovic affair (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 30 August 2001). Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said that his Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) will work with DOS but not participate in the Serbian cabinet. He added that "tonight's long discussion was encouraging because it pointed at corruption and crime as phenomena which shake many societies in transition and particularly ours." Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic warned that "spreading slander and uncorroborated claims undermines the country's credibility, makes it difficult to attract foreign investment, and slows down the country's economic recovery," Reuters reported. PM

U.S. AGREES TO LIFT SERBIAN ARMS EMBARGO

The U.S. has joined France and Russia in calling for an end to the UN arms embargo against Belgrade, "The Washington Post" reported on 29 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2001). Critics charge that lifting the embargo will deny the international community needed leverage to encourage Serbia to cooperate with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal. PM

MONTENEGRIN FOREIGN MINISTER: YUGOSLAV EMBASSIES DO NOT SPEAK FOR PODGORICA

Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac said in Podgorica on 27 August that he and Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic have failed to resolve differences between their two ministries regarding Montenegro's diplomatic representation abroad, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that Yugoslav diplomatic missions abroad were set up and staffed without the approval of Podgorica, which does not recognize the federal government as legitimately elected. Lukovac stressed that Yugoslav ambassadors abroad have no right to speak in Montenegro's name. Montenegro previously established its own "offices" in several foreign countries and former Yugoslav republics. PM

MONTENEGRIN MURDER MYSTERY ABOUT TO BE SOLVED?

The Montenegrin Interior Ministry said on 28 August that it has determined the identity of five persons from Kosova involved in a recent violent incident near Plav, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2001). The ministry made its investigations in cooperation with the international police force in Kosova. The ministry added that "greed" was the likely motive for the attack on several log-cutters, which left one of them dead and another injured. PM

CROATIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECT SURRENDERS

Ivan Orlovic, a former policeman, surrendered to police in Bjelovar on 28 August, AP reported. His lawyer said that he learned through the media that he was sought for war crimes stemming from the killing of seven Serbs in 1991. He will plead innocent to the charges. Luka Markesic, Zdenko Radic, and Zoran Maras were arrested in conjunction with the same incident the previous week. PM

BOSNIAN SERB LEADER CALLS FOR CLARIFICATION OF RESPONSIBILITIES

Zivko Radisic, the Serbian representative on the joint presidency, said in Banja Luka on 28 August that it is necessary to more clearly define the responsibilities of the two entities, the central administration, and the international community, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He warned that there is an unacceptable tendency to strengthen the center at the expense of the entities. PM

NEW POLITICAL PARTY TO BE SET UP IN TRANSYLVANIA

Sabin Gherman, a university lecturer that has long promoted decentralization and devolution of the "national state's" centralized power, on 28 August announced in Oradea that a new political party promoting those goals will be set up "by the end of this year," Romanian radio reported the next day. The new formation is to be called Pro-Transylvania and Gherman said three members of the parliament representing Bihor County are ready to join him in promoting those goals, though he refused to name the three. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 24 August warned against "federalist trends" in Romania and specifically mentioned among those promoting this "danger" Gherman and his book "Luxurious Motherland." Gherman said in reaction on 28 August that Nastase "understands nothing" from the books and is "driven by apprehensions to lose his electorate." On 28 August, the parliamentary commission supervising the activities of the Romanian Information Service (SRI) requested that the SRI provide it with information on "revisionist" and "federalization tendencies" and commission Chairman Ioan Stan said the law on SRI activities must be amended to allow it to deal with "new threats to national security, such as the danger of federalization and other revisionist aspects," Mediafax reported. MS

ROMANIA'S HUNGARIAN ETHNIC PARTY RENEWS DEMAND TO ABOLISH 'NATIONAL STATE'

Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), on 28 August said his party has never accepted Romania's definition as a "national state" in Article 1 of the constitution and within the pending debates on amending the basic document the UDMR will demand that this article be modified, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Marko emphasized that the UDMR is not opposed to Romania's designation in the same article as a "unitary state," which by implication rules out federalization. MS

ROMANIA'S NASTASE, MEDGYESSY DISAGREE ON STATUS LAW

Peter Medgyessy, the Hungarian Socialist Party's candidate for premiership, on 28 August disagreed in Bucharest with Premier Nastase over the significance of Hungary's Status Law, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Medgyessy said that although his party has some misgivings over the formulation of some of the law's articles, it has supported it in the parliament because the law's main purpose is to allow "members of the Magyar communities" in neighboring countries to "feel at home" where they live and "safeguard their national identity." He said this applies to Romania as well and assured Nastase that, himself being born in Romania, Medgyessy is particularly interested in promoting ties between the two countries and that Romanian culture "is close to my heart." Nastase said in reaction that Hungarian politicians "display little understanding for Romanian sensitivities" and again mentioned the recently restored monument to Trianon. Medgyessy also met with Democratic Party leader Traian Basescu and with Marko. MS

PRM WANTS REFERENDUM ON ROMANIAN RESTITUTION LAW...

The Greater Romania Party (PRM) on 28 August announced it is demanding that President Ion Iliescu call a plebiscite on the restitution of real estate, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. PRM deputy Daniela Buruiana-Aprodu, a deputy chairwoman of the parliamentary commission overseeing the activity of the SRI, also managed to have the commission approve a resolution demanding that the SRI investigate to what extent property restitution "affects the country's national security." MS

...AND WANTS TO ABOLISH COMMISSION STUDYING SECURITATE ARCHIVES

Buruiana-Aprodu also said the PRM wants the law that established the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) to be abolished "within three years at most" and that other members of the commission overseeing SRI activities share her opinion. She accused unnamed CNSAS members of having leaked to the media secret information from the archives "during trips abroad" and said new legislation establishing sanctions for such information leaks must be passed. According to Romanian Radio, relations between CNSAS members and the commission have "deteriorated as of late" and commission Chairman Ioan Stan is backing the envisaged sanctions. MS

MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST LEADER CALLS FOR LEGALIZING STATIONING OF RUSSIAN TROOPS IN TRANSDNIESTER

Party of Moldovan Communists parliamentary group leader Victor Stepanciuc on 28 August called for negotiations on the status of the Russian contingent in the Transdniester, Romanian Radio reported. Stepaniuc said that although Moldova has previously called for the withdrawal of the Russian troops in line with OSCE decisions, "it would not be a mistake" to negotiate their status and make possible their continued stationing there. He said that "Russia has important strategic interests in Moldova" and Moldova "is a small country that can benefit from negotiations with its more powerful neighbors." MS

EUROPEAN COURT SETS DEADLINE FOR MOLDOVAN PROPOSALS OVER CHURCH CONFLICT SETTLEMENT

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on 28 August set 1 September as the deadline for the submission by the Moldovan government of its proposals for settling the conflict with the Bessarabian Orthodox Church, Infotag reported. The Bessarabian Church, which is subordinate to the Bucharest Patriarchate, filed a complaint to the court following repeated refusals by consecutive Moldovan governments to register the church. The cabinet headed by Vasile Tarlev said it is ready to settle the conflict and requested that the court postpone the examination of the complaint. MS

MACEDONIA POLICIES TURNED INTO BULGARIAN POLITICAL STRIFE

Socialist Party (BSP) leader Georgi Parvanov on 28 August met with Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, briefing him on his recent visit to Macedonia at the invitation of the Macedonian Social Democratic Alliance Chairman Branco Crvenkovski, BTA reported. Parvanov told journalists after the meeting that NATO Operation Essential Harvest in Macedonia is "a vital step" toward a peaceful solution but "no guarantee for it." He said more actions are needed in support of the Macedonian government, "including from Bulgaria," and that such support should come primarily in the form of economic support and of "a firmer moral and political support." Parvanov added that this support must be different from that extended by the previous government, which allegedly has used the Macedonian issue for electoral purposes. He also said that "the idea of sending Bulgarian troops to Macedonia should not even be considered." Reacting to his statements, the Union of Democratic Forces said Parvanov has become the "mouthpiece" of "anti-Bulgarian and anti-NATO circles in Macedonia." MS

BULGARIA TO UPGRADE MIGS

General Dimitar Georgiev, the commander of the Air Defense Corps of the Bulgarian air force, on 28 August told journalists that Bulgaria cannot at this stage afford to purchase either new or refurbished U.S.-made F-16 fighters, because it does not have the necessary funds, BTA and AP reported. The previous government said it was considering replacing Bulgaria's fleet of 21 MiG-29s with F-16s that would fulfill NATO requirements. Georgiev said that even refurbished U.S. fighters would necessitate large investments in "new navigation and auxiliary equipment." He said Bulgaria will for now upgrade 4 to 6 MiG 29s. He also said the air force cannot support the costs of 180 flight hours per pilot required by NATO standards and that only those pilots selected for participation in joint exercises with NATO will get that training. MS




BELARUSIAN PRISON OFFICIAL CONFIRMS DEATH SQUAD ALLEGATIONS


By Jan Maksymiuk

In an interview with the Minsk-based independent "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" on 22 August, Aleh Alkayeu, the warden of Minsk's death-row prison, confirmed allegations that top Belarusian officials and an elite police unit (SOBR) were involved in the killing of opposition figures Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar as well as Hanchar's friend, businessman Anatol Krasouski, in 1999.

Public opinion in Belarus obtained information about the fate of Zakharanka, Hanchar, and Krasouski in June 2001, when former Belarusian investigators Dzmitry Petrushkevich and Aleh Sluchak fled to the U.S. and subsequently disclosed some details of the investigation in which they were involved.

According to Petrushkevich and Sluchak, Zakharanka, Hanchar, Krasouski, and ORT cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski were killed by SOBR people who were organized into a "death squad" under the command of Interior Ministry officer Dzmitry Paulyuchenka, following orders from Security Council Secretary Viktar Sheyman and Interior Minister Yury Sivakou. The death squad allegedly tested its killing method on criminals before moving on to political murders. According to the two former investigators, the death squad killed some 30 people in total.

Petrushkevich and Sluchak also disclosed that prosecutors and KGB investigators discovered the existence of the death squad during the investigation of the Zavadski case and arrested Paulyuchenka. Former Prosecutor-General Aleh Bazhelka made an attempt to find Zavadski's body -- which was allegedly buried in the Northern Cemetery in Minsk -- but was prevented from doing so by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. In a surprising security shake-up in November 2000, Lukashenka sacked Bazhelka and replaced him with Sheyman. The Belarusian president also fired KGB Chairman Uladzimir Matskevich and appointed Leanid Yeryn to lead Belarus's secret police. Sheyman ordered Paulyuchenka's release from jail.

According to suppositions voiced in some Russian and Belarusian media, Lukashenka paid for Matskevich's silence by financing his treatment abroad and appointing him Belarusian ambassador to Yugoslavia. The current whereabouts of Bazhelka are not known -- there have been rumors reported by Belarusian independent media that Bazhelka is in Russia awaiting the outcome of Belarus's presidential election.

Last month, Uladzimir Hancharyk -- the head of the Trade Union Federation and one of the contestants in Belarus's presidential race -- made public documents confirming the complicity of Sheyman and Sivakou in the killing of Zakharanka, Hanchar, and Krasouski. Hancharyk presented a photocopy of a report written by the former chief of the police department for criminal investigation, Mikalay Lapatsik, to Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau. Lapatsik said in the report that Sheyman ordered SOBR to kill Zakharanka, Hanchar, and Krasouski. The three were allegedly killed by shots from a pistol used for executions in SIZO-1, Minsk's death-row prison. The documents mention Aleh Alkayeu, who gave the weapon to those officers following orders from his superiors.

Alkayeu, who is currently in Germany, said in an interview with "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" on 22 August and confirmed in another interview with "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on 24 August that the documents revealed by Hancharyk are authentic. Alkayeu confirmed that he gave the weapon used for executions on two occasions to people from the Interior Ministry -- on 30 April 1999 (the pistol was returned on 14 May, while Zakharanka disappeared on 7 May), and on 16 September (the pistol was returned on 18 September, while Hanchar and Krasouski disappeared on 16 September in the evening). Alkayeu said that on both occasions the receipt and return of the pistol were noted in a special book and countersigned, adding that he is in the possession of that book.

Alkayeu was responsible for carrying out the death sentences at SIZO-1. During his service term, the death penalty was invoked 130 times and always with the same pistol, a PB-9 with a silencer, which was fired into the back of prisoners' heads. Alkayeu was present at all 130 executions.

Alkayeu said, however, that one time he was ordered to break the execution routine by allowing an outsider -- SOBR commander Paulyuchenka -- to be present at an execution of five convicts.

"On that day five people were executed," Alkayeu told "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta." "[Paulyuchenka] was present at the execution of each of them. At one moment, he asked the executioner why the man shoots in the head instead of in the heart. 'If you shot in the heart -- [Paulyuchenka] says -- there would be less blood.' This question struck me: a man who has never killed anybody cannot know how to shoot better and how much blood is let from where... In connection with this, I want to emphasize: the pistol with which the death penalty is carried out in SIZO is intended only for shooting people and only at point-blank range."

Why should Paulyuchenka and his alleged death squad use the very same pistol meant for executions? Alkayeu offered two explanations to "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta": "[This pistol] was necessary to impart a ritual of execution to a killing. In order to relieve some of the burden of responsibility from people performing this act: here you have a special weapon -- this is not a killing, this is a sentence to be carried out. Possibly, there even was a verdict. A false one. Sivakou likes various rituals," Alkayeu said.

Alkayeu also said this method for killing political opponents of the regime might have been invented to dump the blame on him.

Alkayeu noted that should Lukashenka lose the 9 September election, dozens of people who are now intimidated and afraid would promptly agree to testify, and the mystery of the disappearances of opposition figures in Belarus would be solved "within a week."


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