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Newsline - August 31, 2001




RUSSIANS EVENLY SPLIT ON TRUST IN GOVERNMENT

According to a poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 30 August, 45.3 percent of Russians do not trust their government but 45.1 percent do. PG

RUSSIAN INVESTMENTS ABROAD FALL AS THEY RISE AT HOME

Investments by Russian enterprises and organizations in foreign countries fell from $7.66 billion in the first six months of 2000 to $6.48 billion in the same period of 2001, the State Statistics Committee told Interfax on 30 August. Meanwhile, the committee said, foreign investments in Russia rose to $6.68 billion in the first half of 2001, 39.9 percent more than in the same period a year earlier. PG

PENSIONS, BANK DEPOSITS GROW

On 30 August, Russian officials announced that the average pension in Russia is now 1,020 rubles ($34) a month, a 20.3 percent increase in real terms over one year ago, Interfax reported. Bank deposits grew by 21.8 percent in the first half of 2001 compared to a year earlier, with ruble-denominated savings rising to 875.9 billion rubles as of 1 August, the news service said. Meanwhile, officials said that Russians are spending a declining percentage of their incomes on purchasing hard currency, with 6.1 percent of income used in that way in the first seven months of 2001 compared to 6.7 percent in the same period in 2000. And officials announced that the federal budget surplus for the first half of 2000 was 133.3 billion. PG

PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR NEW HISTORY TEXTBOOKS...

Mikhail Kasyanov said on 30 August that his government is unhappy with the current contemporary Russian history textbooks now being used in schools and has directed the preparation of new ones before the 2002-2003 school year, Interfax reported. He said that the books now in use address conflicts and corruption, but ignore the significant accomplishments of recent times, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Institute of Russian History Director Andrei Sakharov said the same day that the government will also reduce the number of texts available and allow only approved textbooks to be used in schools. In a related move, the Enlightenment Publishing House announced that it is developing plans to issue electronic textbooks that can be distributed and modified more easily, the news service reported. VY

...SAYS CENSUS PREPARATION BEHIND SCHEDULE

Premier Kasyanov on 30 August said that preparatory work for the Russian census scheduled for October 2002 is behind schedule, Interfax reported. Kasyanov said that officials must step up the pace. At a government meeting, the cabinet approved a draft law on the census to be presented to the Duma in September. PG

SHOIGU PROMISES RECONSTRUCTION OF FLOOD-DAMAGED AREA BY OCTOBER

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu on 30 August told President Vladimir Putin and Premier Kasyanov that the reconstruction of flood-damaged areas in the Far East will be completed by 1 October, Russian agencies reported. Both Putin and Kasyanov expressed the hope that Shoigu and his team will be able to complete that task. PG

SELEZNEV WANTS MORE COMPENSATION FOR FAMILIES OF SOLDIERS KILLED IN CHECHNYA

Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev told Interfax on 30 August that he believes it is necessary to raise the amount of compensation being given to the relatives of those soldiers who have been killed in Chechnya, Interfax-Northwest reported. PG

RUSSIA OPPOSES IMMEDIATE DEMILITARIZATION OF CASPIAN

Viktor Kaluzhnii, the deputy foreign minister and presidential representative for Caspian issues, told Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev on 30 August that Moscow does not support Aliev's recent proposal to demilitarize the Caspian in the immediate future, RIA-Novosti reported. VY

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS MORE TALKS WITH U.S. NEEDED ON MISSILE DEFENSE

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on 30 August that consultations between Moscow and Washington on national missile defense and the fate of the 1972 ABM Treaty are especially "useful" because the two sides remain so far apart, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

MOSCOW DENOUNCES U.S. AIRSTRIKES AGAINST IRAQ

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 30 August criticizing American and British air strikes against Iraq and saying that "respect for Iraq's sovereignty and integrity in relations with [Iraq]" is essential for resolving tensions in the region, Russian and Western agencies reported. The statement said that American and British attempts to justify their actions are "unconvincing." Meanwhile, Rosoboroneksport head Andrei Belianinov said in an interview published in "Profil," No. 31, that Russia is increasingly reaching accords with other CIS countries so they don't compete when trying to sell weapons to other countries. PG

RUSSIANS PROTEST AT U.S. EMBASSY OVER ARREST OF PROGRAMMER

Approximately a dozen Russian demonstrators assembled outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to protest the arrest and upcoming trial of Russian programmer Dmitrii Sklyarov, Interfax reported. Sklyarov has been charged with violating intellectual property rights by providing computer users with programs that allow them to break into Adobe's eBook site without paying. PG

SHARON HOPES MORE RUSSIAN JEWS WILL EMIGRATE TO ISRAEL

In an interview on 30 August with Russian journalists prior to his 4 September arrival in Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that he hopes that by 2020 another million Jews will emigrate from Russia and the other CIS countries and come to Israel, Interfax reported. He noted that approximately 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union now live in Israel. PG

MOSCOW PLANS TO DISCUSS ARMS, NUCLEAR DEALS WITH IRAN

Officials at the Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax on 30 August that Iranian defense officials will visit Moscow in early September to discuss agreements about arms sales and nuclear power deals. PG

MOSCOW WARNS OF TALIBAN THREAT

A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry sharply criticized Afghanistan's Taliban on 20 August, saying that the Taliban has made international terrorist leader Osama bin Laden its defense minister. The spokesman warned that this move represents a threat to the countries of Central Asia, Russian agencies reported. PG

RUSSIA, MONGOLIA EXPAND MILITARY COOPERATION

Officers from the Siberian Military District on 29-30 August visited Mongolia to discuss expanding military cooperation between the two countries, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

CHINA WILL RENT LAND IN RUSSIA IF IT CAN'T PURCHASE IT

Chinese embassy officials met with Tatarstan officials on 29 August to express their interest in purchasing land in that republic for Chinese to farm, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. When told they cannot purchase land there, the Chinese said that they are willing to rent land, since that is possible. PG

TEN REGIONAL LEADERS WANT PUTIN TO CONTROL LICENSES FOR EXPLOITATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES

"Vedomosti" reported on 30 August that 10 regional leaders -- including the heads of the Orel, Voronezh, Belgorod, Bryansk, Kostroma, Kursk, Lipetsk, Tambov, and Tula oblasts and the president of Karachaevo-Cherkessia Republic -- have sent a message to President Putin proposing that he, rather than the governors, have the exclusive right to issue licenses for the exploitation of natural resources. The paper suggested that the proposal is a ploy to prevent the Natural Resources Ministry from gaining too much power. PG

TATARSTAN'S PRESIDENT PROUD OF HIS REPUBLIC'S PROGRESS

Speaking on the 11th anniversary of Tatarstan's declaration of sovereignty on 29 August, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said that he is "proud of what has been achieved in the first decade" and looks forward to more progress in the future, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. Shaimiev said that before 1991, "Tatarstan had no right to make any decisions," and that its ability to govern itself will again increase after President Putin completes his current efforts to strengthen the central government. PG

REJECTED ROSTOV CANDIDATE SUES CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION

Leonid Ivanchenko, the chairman of the Rostov Oblast Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, on 30 August said he is suing the Central Election Commission because local election officials refused to register him as a candidate for the governorship of Rostov Oblast, Russian agencies reported. Meanwhile, the "Chicago Tribune" reported on 29 August that communists now control more than half of the governor's offices in Russia. Vladimir Lapyrin, the editor of a Nizhnii Novgorod newspaper, told the Chicago paper that this does not represent a threat to President Putin because the communists are schooled to be obedient to the top man, but it may threaten market and democratic reforms. PG

KHABAROVSK GOVERNOR OPPOSES BRIDGE TO SAKHALIN...

Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev said on 30 August that he is categorically against the construction of a bridge from the Russian mainland to Sakhalin Island, Russian agencies reported. He said that the idea, which is backed by President Putin as part of his East-West corridor project, reminds him of a Stalinist-era gigantist effort. He said that such a bridge might help Moscow politically, but it would hurt the Far East economically to a devastating effect. Ishaev noted that his region is already suffering: Over the last decade, he said, the population of the Russian Far East has declined by 11 percent, more than five times the decline in the country as a whole, Interfax-Eurasia reported. VY/PG

...AND COMES OUT AGAINST STATE COUNCIL AS SUBSTITUTE FOR FEDERATION COUNCIL

Ishaev also said on 30 August that he does not believe that the State Council can ever serve as a replacement for the parliament's Federation Council, Interfax-Eurasia reported. The Federation Council, he said, "took decisions at the level of the country as a whole, while the State Council is only an advisory body." He said he plans to hold his seat in the Federation Council as long as possible. PG

YAKOVLEV SAYS MILITARY, FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS BLOCKING SETTLEMENT IN CHECHNYA

Aleksandr Yakovlev, the head of the Presidential Rehabilitation Commission, said on 30 August that a settlement in Chechnya is being blocked by the opposition of "certain [Russian] military men and foreign interference," Interfax reported. Meanwhile, the Russian media was filled the same day with varying interpretations of the Khasavyurt accord that ended the first Chechen war on 31 August 1996. Most commentators said the accord was only intended to give both sides breathing space before resuming the conflict, but some indicated that it is a model of how the current fighting might eventually have to be solved. PG

EMERGENCY SERVICES MINISTRY TO LOOK FOR RADIATION SOURCE IN SEA OF OKHOTSK

The special service of the Emergency Situations Ministry announced on 30 August that it will seek to find and recover an electric generator containing nuclear materials that was lost by Russia in the Sea of Okhotsk in 1997, Interfax reported. PG

FOREIGN FIRM UNDERSTATES PRICE OF NUCLEAR WASTES TO AVOID DUTIES

"Tribuna" reported on 30 August that a West European firm deliberately understated the true value of nuclear wastes it sent to Russia in order to avoid duties. That scam cost the Russian budget almost $1 million, the paper said. PG

MOSCOW SAID DELIBERATELY UNDERSTATING SIZE OF ARMY

Writing in "The Moscow Times" on 30 August, military analyst Pavel Felgengauer said that Russian officials have been "deliberately lying about the strength of their armed forces." Consequently, even if the current round of "cuts" goes through, there will be 1 million soldiers rather than the level of 800,000 that has been announced. Felgengauer expressed doubt that even the modest cuts that have been proposed will ever be imposed. Instead, he said, the military chiefs have been doing everything they can "to maintain the old forces until 'the bad years' pass, the empire is restored to its former glory, and the country is flush with money." PG

RUSSIAN ARMY GETS NEW CHIEF STRATEGIST

President Putin has appointed Lieutenant General Aleksandr Rushnin to head the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff, Russian news agencies reported on 30 August. Traditionally, that directorate has served as the brains of the General Staff and its head has been viewed as the military's chief strategist. Rushnin's predecessor, Yurii Baluevskii, was recently promoted to be first deputy chief of the General Staff and is focusing on U.S.-Russian strategic stability talks. Rushnin, "Vremya MN" reported the same day, is known for his "alarmist" views. Last year at a Moscow conference, the paper said, Rushnin said that the beginning of the 21st century increasingly reminds him of the end of 1939, but with the United States now playing the role that Germany played earlier. VY

NATO COUNTRIES SAID WATCHING 'KURSK' OPERATION

Officials of Russia's Northern Fleet said on 30 August that NATO planes are flying over the site where the operation to rescue the "Kursk" submarine that sank in August 2000 is going on, Interfax-Northwest reported. PG

FSB LOOKING INTO FINANCE MINISTRY ACTIVITIES

The Federal Security Service (FSB) is investigating the Finance Ministry to see whether its officials are manipulating the market in Russian foreign obligations for their own profits, "Vedomosti" reported on 30 August. The FSB began the investigation following a leak of information about supposed government plans to offer to buy out the debts of creditors, a rumor that led the rating of the debts to rise. VY

MOSCOW TO CHARGE FOR ALL FISHING QUOTAS IN THE FUTURE

The interagency commission that oversees auctions of fishing quotas announced on 30 August that Moscow will charge for all the quotas it puts up for bidding in the future, Interfax reported. That will represent a major change. In 2001, the commission did not charge anything for 70 percent of the quotas it distributed. PG

GOLD RESERVES FALL AS BANK INTERVENES IN CURRENCY MARKETS

The gold reserves of the Central Bank of Russia fell by $600 million in the week of 17-24 August as the bankers used gold to purchase foreign currency in order to regulate the currency and exchange markets, Interfax reported on 30 August. PG

ALFEROV WANTS MOSCOW TO COPY PETER THE GREAT'S EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

Zhorez Alferov, a Nobel Prize winner for physics, said in an interview published in "Novaya gazeta" on 30 August that he has asked President Putin to copy the educational reforms of Peter the Great and adopt a three-tiered school system including gymnasiums, universities, and academies. If such a reform were to be implemented, Alferov said, it would ensure that the best -- and not simply the wealthiest -- students would succeed. In other comments, he suggested that the government should follow Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin's example and sell gold to support science. VY

MEDIA UNION EXPECTS TO GAIN REGISTRATION THIS YEAR

Aleksandr Lyubimov, the president of Mediasoyuz, said on 30 August that his organization already enjoys de facto registration with the government and will have de jure registration before the end of 2001, Interfax reported. PG

THICK JOURNALS LARGELY IGNORE THE 1991 COUP ATTEMPT

According to an article in "Izvestiya" on 30 August, only one of the four Russian "thick" journals devoted much attention to the 10th anniversary of the August 1991 failed coup. That lone journal was "Zvezda." All the others, the paper said, ignored the anniversary despite their reputations of being social-political as well as literary journals. PG

KADYROV CRITICIZES RUSSIAN FORCES FOR ABUSING CHECHENS

At a Moscow news conference on 30 August, Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, the head of the Moscow-backed administration in Chechnya, said that Russian forces abused people in their recent sweeps through villages. While conducting such sweeps, Kadyrov said, Russian troops "take away things they like from the people and hit those who look askance," Russian and Western agencies reported. He said that such actions "incite the people against the authorities." He also asked rhetorically: "Why it has taken so long with 80,000 or 90,000 soldiers [that the Russian forces have] and all their hardware, including satellites which can see everything from space" to capture or destroy the leaders of the Chechen militants? Kadyrov suggested that the main task of his administration now is to secure the return of displaced persons, but that this will only be possible when the authorities are able to ensure their safety, something "no one can guarantee them today." Kadyrov also sharply criticized the position of Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev as being "pro-Maskhadov" because Aushev has called for negotiations with the Chechen president. PG

GANTEMIROV SAYS CHECHNYA NEEDS AN INTERIM CONSTITUTION

Bislan Gantemirov, the chief federal inspector in the Southern federal district, said in an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 August that Chechnya requires a coordinating center for all Russian forces there and an interim constitution as the republic moves from war to peace. In other comments, he suggested that the anti-Moscow forces lack the strength to inflict serious harm on Russian forces, but that the Chechen militants become more active whenever there is an international meeting in an effort to show that they are still strong. PG

INGUSH-NORTH OSSETIAN TENSIONS CONTINUE

Ingush leaders sent an appeal to President Putin asking him "to take measures" to end what they call the arbitrary rule of the North Ossetian authorities who are continuing to block the return of Ingush refugees to their home districts, the Ingush government website reported on 30 August. Meanwhile, the North Ossetian militia went on heightened alert the same day to deal with what it said are the intentions of Chechen militants to commit terrorists acts there. PG

DAGHESTAN ASKS MOSCOW FOR HELP ON OVERCOMING FLOOD DAMAGE

Daghestan's first deputy minister of Daghestan's Emergency Situations Ministry, Tazhitdin Batyrbiev, told Interfax on 30 August that his government has requested Moscow's assistance in rebuilding homes, factories, and public facilities destroyed by heavy rains over the past four months. PG

KABARDINO-BALKARIA MARKS 80TH ANNIVERSARY OF STATEHOOD

The leaders and people of Kabardino-Balkaria on 30 August marked the 80th anniversary of their statehood and the 444th anniversary of their union with Russia, Interfax reported. PG




ARMENIA FAILS TO REACH ACCORD WITH MOSCOW ON NUCLEAR FUEL

Armenian Energy Minister Karen Galustian on 30 August spent his 10th day in talks with Russian authorities concerning Armenia's interest in purchasing nuclear fuel from Russia, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. He said that Russian officials are demanding that Armenia provide a specific timetable for paying the $9 million it will owe once the fuel is delivered. PG

BULLFIGHT TO TAKE PLACE IN ARMENIAN CAPITAL

Despite the objections of the Armenian Church, West European animal rights groups, and Brigitte Bardot, Yerevan Mayor Robert Nazarian said on 30 August that bullfights scheduled for his city on 7-9 September will go ahead as planned, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. In addition, organizers of the bullfights said that they are now considering the possibility of opening a matador school in Armenia. PG

LACK OF WATER FORCES ARMENIANS TO LEAVE VILLAGE

Officials in Tavush told Noyan Tapan on 30 August that the lack of potable water combined with fears about possible Azerbaijani attacks is forcing the exodus of residents of their village, which is located near the Azerbaijani border. PG

KALUZHNII SAYS CASPIAN TALKS TO TAKE PLACE ON SCHEDULE

Speaking in Baku on 30 August, Viktor Kaluzhnii, the Russian deputy foreign minister and presidential representative for Caspian issues, said that a summit meeting on the status of the Caspian Sea will take place this fall despite a statement by Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov that the meeting will be delayed, Turan reported. PG

AZERBAIJAN SAYS IT HAS ARRESTED ACTIVISTS WORKING TO PROMOTE AN ISLAMIST STATE

Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry has detained several activists and is looking for others who are part of the Hizb ut-Tahrir Party that has been active in Uzbekistan and elsewhere in Central Asia and seeks to set up a pan-national Islamic state, "Azerbaycan" reported on 30 August. The same day the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Azerbaijan is becoming a hotbed of Islamist activism, Interfax reported (see End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline" 24 August 2001. PG

BOOK SALES IN AZERBAIJAN DROP MORE THAN 90 PERCENT IN PAST TWO YEARS

According to Baku's "Express," book sales in Azerbaijan have dropped by 42 times over the last two years alone. Moreover, the paper said, the average person in the country spends only 500 manats ($0.11) on books each year. PG

AZERBAIJANI SAYS QABALA RADAR CAUSING FEWER PROBLEMS THAN HAD BEEN THOUGHT

Huseyn Bagirov, the Azerbaijani Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, told Turan on 30 August that preliminary investigations have shown that the impact of Russia's Qabala radar site on the population and environment is not as high as many had imagined. At the same time, he said it is too early to draw any final conclusions. PG

AZERBAIJANI MEDIA SHARPLY CRITICIZE CHANGES IN MINSK GROUP, BUT GOVERNMENT MORE UPBEAT

"Zerkalo" and ANS television on 29 August sharply criticized the turnover of representatives to the OSCE Minsk Group from the co-chair countries and said that the diplomats involved are only trying to advance their careers rather than bring peace to the Caucasus. But an official from the Office of the President told MPA on 30 August that the arrival of a new American co-chair of the Minsk Group may "give impetus to the talks" between Baku and Yerevan about Nagorno-Karabakh. PG

AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA DIFFER OVER OIL TARIFFS

Ilham Aliev, the first deputy president of SOCAR oil company and the son of President Heidar Aliev, said on 30 August that Baku does not want to increase the tariffs it will pay Georgia for the transit of oil, but that it understands the pressure Georgia is under from the World Bank to get more and will seek a negotiated settlement, Turan reported. At the same time, Ilham Aliyev said that "the World Bank should not interfere in the relations of the two friendly states." Meanwhile, "Zerkalo" on 28 August highlighted another irritant in relations between the two countries: It said that Tbilisi has adopted policies that are likely to result in the closing of Azerbaijani-language schools in Georgia. PG

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN CALLS FOR INSTITUTIONAL CHANGES

Parliament Chairman Zurab Zhvania told deputies on 30 August that corruption has undercut public trust in both the executive and legislative branches and that institutional changes and not just ministerial shifts are needed to recover that trust and make progress possible, Georgian TV reported. In other comments, he said that President Eduard Shevardnadze and the country have to make a serious decision about the kind of country they want and that the ruling party may split over this choice between reform and the continuation of current policies. Meanwhile, the parliamentary majority has decided to send yet another letter to the president, Caucasus Press reported. PG

GEORGIA ANGRY AT MOSCOW FOR NOT INFORMING ABOUT MOVEMENT OF RUSSIAN TROOPS IN ADJARIA

The Georgian Foreign Ministry has prepared a protest note concerning Russia's failure to inform Tbilisi about the movement of Russian troops in and around Adjaria, Caucasus Press reported on 29 August. Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador to Georgia Vladimir Gudev said he is surprised by the Georgian reaction and urged them not to impute political meaning to a tactical relocation. PG

KAZAKHSTAN PUTS 'IN QUESTION' CIS EXERCISES THERE

Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov on 29 August told Kazakh Commercial TV that still unanswered questions about why and how a Russian S-300 air-defense missile fell in Kazakhstan have put "in question" the possibility of allowing the CIS to hold military exercises in his country. PG

SPANISH KING IN KAZAKHSTAN ON PRIVATE VISIT

King Juan Carlos I of Spain is in Almaty on a private visit at the personal invitation of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 30 August. PG

TAJIKISTAN SEES RUSSIAN FORCES AS GUARANTOR OF INVESTMENTS THERE

In an interview published in Moscow's "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 August, Tajikistan's Ambassador to Russia Ramazan Mirzoev said that his government considers the presence of Russian troops in his country as a guarantor of foreign and domestic investments. PG

7,000 DRUG ADDICTS NOW IN TAJIKISTAN, MOST ON HEROIN

Tajik TV reported on 30 August that there are now 7,000 drug addicts registered in Tajikistan. Four thousand of them live in Dushanbe and more than 70 percent of the total are addicted to heroin, the television channel said. PG

RESETTLEMENT OF PEOPLE FROM EAST TO CENTRAL TURKMENISTAN STARTS

The Turkmen State News Service on 27 August reported that the first group of residents from the eastern Turkmen region of Lebap near the Uzbek border have been moved to the central Akhal region. The service said that the relocation program was initiated by President Niyazov. PG

UZBEK PARLIAMENT RATIFIES BORDER ACCORDS, GUUAM, SHANGHAI AGREEMENTS

At its session on 29 August, the Uzbek parliament passed a series of laws and ratified border agreements with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan; a GUUAM consular accord; and the Shanghai convention against terrorism, separatism, and extremism, Interfax-Central Asia reported. PG




LUKASHENKA INSPECTS MILITARY EXERCISES, DECRIES U.S. 'INFORMATION PRESSURE'

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who turned 47 on 30 August, spent his birthday inspecting and watching over Belarus's largest military exercises in the post-Soviet era, which are being held in Hrodna Oblast. "The exercise scenario has been made maximally close to the real scenario of hostilities. The present war, as Yugoslavia's experience shows, is a blitzkrieg operation with a serious information effort to prepare international opinion," Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka specified to Belarusian commanders from which direction they may expect hostile information inflows. "Today we have elements of information pressure on Belarus, beginning with these minor statements by Radio Liberty, and so on, up to political statements like [U.S.] Secretary of State [Colin] Powell's message [on Belarus's 10th anniversary of independence]," the Belarusian president noted. JM

U.S. EMBASSY IN BELARUS PROTESTS EXPULSION OF U.S. CITIZEN

In a statement posted on its website on 30 August, the U.S. Embassy in Belarus said it "strongly protested" last week's deportation of U.S. citizen Robert Fielding (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2001). The statement said Fielding was detained on 25 August for alleged hotel registration violations, subjected to a 10-hour interrogation by law-enforcement authorities accompanied by television cameras, and finally put on a train to Poland without being allowed to collect his belongings. "During this entire interrogation process, he was denied the right to legal counsel, forced to sign a statement, and subjected to being filmed by the state-controlled Belarusian National Television," the embassy said. JM

BELARUSIAN AMBASSADOR SAYS LUKASHENKA HAS ADVANTAGES OVER HIS RIVALS

Belarusian Ambassador to the U.S. Valery Tsapkala on 30 August acknowledged in Washington that President Lukashenka "has more levers of influence" than his opponents Uladzimir Hancharyk and Syarhey Haydukevich in the presidential race, AP reported. "You can't say these elections are entirely fair," Tsapkala told journalists. He noted that Lukashenka, as the incumbent, logically receives more attention from the media than his opponents. He added that this situation is not unique to Belarus. JM

BELARUSIAN KGB LOOKS FOR ITS OFFICER

The KGB has launched an official search for its officer Henadz Uhlyanitsa, who has been considered missing since 27 August, Belapan reported on 30 August, quoting KGB spokesman Fyodar Kotau. Uhlyanitsa was last seen hours before the release of a videotape on which a man claiming to be him alleged government involvement in the disappearance of Belarusian opposition politician Viktar Hanchar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2001). The KGB refused to recognize the man on the tape as Uhlyanitsa. Kotau said he doubts that Uhlyanitsa disappeared voluntarily and is inclined to think that "something wrong has happened" to him. Meanwhile, the opposition Youth Front has suggested that the videotape released by Uhlyanitsa may be a provocation to discredit all previous revelations about the complicity of top officials in the disappearances of opposition figures in Belarus. JM

YOUTH OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS DELIVER BIRTHDAY PRESENTS TO LUKASHENKA

Activists of several opposition youth organizations, in an attempt to ridicule the Belarusian ruler, delivered nasty presents to President Lukashenka's office in Minsk on 30 August, on his 47th birthday, Belapan reported. The presents included a 1-meter Statue of Liberty with a Lukashenka-style moustache; a rust-covered toilet pan; a bus ticket from Minsk to Shklou (Lukashenka's hometown); and boiled eggs each bearing the inscription "normal egg" (Lukashenka once promised to supply the nation with "normal eggs" during an egg supply crisis). Security guards at the entrance did not let the youths in and refused to take the presents, except for the "normal eggs." JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS GOVERNMENT OVER 2002 BUDGET DRAFT

Leonid Kuchma told Anatoliy Kinakh's cabinet on 30 August that he does not share the government's optimism in the making of a draft budget for 2002, Interfax and UNIAN reported. Kuchma stressed that all budget projections should be made while taking into account new tax rates in 2002. The president criticized the government for making 2002 budget assumptions on the basis of old tax rates as well as for its reluctance to pursue tax reform. "How can we ensure competitiveness for Ukrainian goods on the Russian market if the income tax on citizens in Ukraine is two or three times higher than in Russia?" Kuchma asked the cabinet. JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SAYS TV JOURNALIST KILLED BY MISTAKE

Mykhaylo Potebenko on 30 August said that telejournalist Ihor Aleksandrov was killed by mistake, STB Television reported. Potebenko said that Aleksandrov was mistaken for a lawyer, who had an office in the same building and who was the intended victim. Potebenko added that the attackers were told only to beat the lawyer but "they overdid the job." According to the prosecutor-general, "the [arrested] murderer is already giving testimony." Aleksandrov's son has recently cast doubt on the efficiency of the official investigation into the death of his father (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2001). JM

FITCH IBCA UPGRADES ESTONIA'S CREDIT RATING

The Bank of Estonia announced on 30 August that the international credit rating agency Fitch IBCA has upgraded Estonia's long-term foreign currency rating from BBB+ to A-, ETA reported. The short-term foreign currency rating was raised from F2 to F1, and the long-term local currency rating from A to A+. Bank of Estonia Vice President Andres Sutt said that the upgrading of the ratings is remarkable because it occurred at a time when global economic perspectives are under question and transition economies are insecure. Fitch noted that Estonia has an efficient, mostly foreign-owned banking system, extensive foreign investments, consistent economic policy, and is progressing rapidly in its EU accession talks. Estonia's economy grew by 6.9 percent last year, accompanied by a solid rise in exports, and the state debt is only 5.4 percent of GDP. The country's disadvantages include its small economy, high current account deficit, high unemployment rates, and inequality between the country's regions, as well as environmental damages and strained relations with Russia. SG

DENMARK PROMISES LATVIA NO RESTRICTIONS ON FREE LABOR MOVEMENT

Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins announced on 30 August that he has received a letter from his Danish counterpart Poul Nyrup Rasmussen about the decision of the Danish government not to impose any restrictions on the free movement of labor from EU candidate countries after they are formally admitted to the union, BNS reported. In the letter, Rasmussen praised the progress made in the EU membership negotiations and the decision of the EU Gothenburg Summit, confirming the goal to complete negotiations by 2002 with those candidate countries that are sufficiently prepared. Latvia's chief negotiator with the EU, Andris Kesteris, noted that Sweden, Ireland, and the Netherlands had earlier also decided not to impose any restrictions on the movement of labor from new EU member countries. SG

LITHUANIA HOPES TO JOIN EU DURING DANISH PRESIDENCY

President Valdas Adamkus told visiting Danish Foreign Minister Mogens Lykketoft in Vilnius on 30 August that Lithuania would like to end its EU membership negotiations in the second half of next year when Denmark is heading the organization, BNS reported. Adamkus declared that would be symbolic since Denmark has been among the greatest supporters of Lithuania's membership in the EU and is the largest foreign investor in the country. The previous day, Lykketoft began his visit to Vilnius to mark the 10th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries with talks and a joint press conference with his Lithuanian counterpart Antanas Valionis. He informed Prime Minister Algridas Brazauskas that Denmark will contribute $2.4 million for decommissioning the nuclear power plant at Ignalina and $24 million for restructuring Lithuania's energy sector in the next two years. Lykketoft also held talks with parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas. SG

POLAND'S BUDGET CUTS TO ENTAIL SUSPENSION OF EU-RELATED LAWS

The European Integration Committee (KIE) has decided to suspend the implementation of three EU-related laws from the 28 proposed by the Finance Ministry in an effort to shave budget spending, PAP reported on 30 August. The KIE also decided to reduce the costs of implementation of other EU-related laws. JM

POLISH OPPOSITION LEADER DECLARES READINESS TO COMPROMISE ON EU TALKS

Democratic Left Alliance leader Leszek Miller told the German daily "Handelsblatt" on 30 August that in the event of an SLD election victory on 23 September, the SLD government will be ready to compromise with the EU on contentious positions in Poland's EU membership negotiations, including the purchase of land by foreigners and the free movement of labor. According to Miller, it would be catastrophic for Poland if the country were to fail to be included in the first group of states admitted to the EU. Miller said it is still unknown whether there will be any second round of EU enlargement, adding that the enthusiasm of Western states for enlargement has been falling. JM

CZECHS TO POSTPONE VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR ROMANIANS?

The Foreign Ministry on 30 August said it "does not know yet" whether the government's decision to introduce visa requirements for Romanian citizens will be applied beginning 1 October, CTK reported, citing ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil. Pospisil said his ministry "realizes" that the decision is "somewhat [swimming] against the stream" of the EU, which is currently examining whether to abolish visa restrictions for Romanians. Prime Minister Milos Zeman the same day expressed confidence that the visa requirement will be lifted once the Romanian government "takes concrete measures to prevent illegal migration." Zeman said that in the past there were similar problems with Bulgarian nationals, but Sofia has taken the necessary steps and today "the Czech Republic has no problems with illegal Bulgarian migrants." Romanian Radio reported that Zeman made the declaration following a telephone conversation with his Romanian counterpart Adrian Nastase (see Romanian item, Southeastern Europe). MS

CZECH ROMA TO UNIFY EFFORTS AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

Leaders of five Czech Romany organizations on 30 August told journalists that they have agreed to unify their efforts against discrimination and racism, and to seek solutions to the issues that cause Czech Roma to leave the country. The Civic Romany Initiative (ROI), the Romany League, the Matice romska (Romany cradle), the League for Human Rights, and the Kladno-based Association of Roma leaders said they will inform all other Romany organizations of their proposals and seek their consent for them. ROI Chairman Stefan Licartovsky said "this means that the [Czech] Roma again have one community." He added that individual Romany organizations will appoint their chairmen to the joint leadership, which can then "negotiate with the government as a legitimate representative body." Licartovsky said agreement has been reached among the five leaders on a joint strategy, which seeks solutions for Romany problems at the level of local and regional governments. Licartovsky said particular emphasis will be put on building new apartments, "although those do not necessarily have to be exclusively for Roma." MS

SLOVAK JUSTICE MINISTER APPROVES EXTRADITION OF SUSPECTED REAL-IRA MEMBERS

Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky on 30 August approved the extradition to the U.K. of three men suspected of being members of the Real IRA, CTK and AP reported. The three were apprehended last month in Piestany after they allegedly tried to purchase weapons from undercover British secret service agents posing as Iraqi arms sellers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2001). MS

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER IN VIETNAM

Eduard Kukan met in Hanoi with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Dy Nien on 30 August to discuss bilateral trade relations, CTK reported. Kukan praised Vietnam for having paid back its debt to Slovakia, which, he said, "makes it a reliable trade partner." The two ministers agreed that there are still many untapped opportunities for business cooperation between the two countries. Nien said his government's efforts to attract foreign investment opens up possibilities for Slovak businessmen. MS

SLOVAK COURT SENTENCES ASSAILANTS OF ROMANY WOMAN

A court in Zilina, northwestern Slovakia, on 30 August handed down prison terms for three men, after finding them guilty of "trespassing," but not of a racially motivated murder of a Romany woman, AP reported. The woman died of injuries she sustained after being struck on the head with a baseball bat. Her children were also injured in the attack. The chief perpetrator in the crime was sentenced a few months ago to seven years in prison. MS

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT WILL STUDY HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW

Following talks with Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi in Budapest on 30 August, European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Elmar Brok proposed that Hungary's Status Law be examined by the European Parliament together with laws of identical nature passed in other countries. Brok said such a law is not unique among EU member states or candidate countries, and referred to a German law that grants ethnic Germans living outside the country the right to a German passport. He said the European Parliament is likely to make a decision about the law before the end of the year, Hungarian media reported. "I am confident that if we compare Hungary's Status Law to similar laws in other countries, at the end of the day we will not have a major problem," Brok concluded. MSZ

HUNGARIAN JEWISH LODGE COMPLAINS ABOUT PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S DECISION

Budapest's B'nai Brith Jewish lodge filed a complaint with the Prosecutor-General's Office on 30 August, challenging the office's decision not to investigate remarks made by Laszlo Bognar, Hungarian media reported. Bognar, the deputy chairman of the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party, had made the remarks in regard to the sale of the Ferencvaros soccer club to Jewish businessmen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July and 20 August 2001). The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Religious Communities and Budaors Mayor Tamas Wittinghof have filed similar complaints. Last month, six Jewish organizations launched lawsuits against Bognar, accusing him of "incitement against a community" by uttering anti-Semitic remarks, but Prosecutor-General Peter Polt said that after consulting relevant legislation and constitutional stipulations, his office concluded that launching an investigation would be unwarranted. MSZ




MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT'S DEBATE DELAYED

Following NATO's successful completion of the first stage of Operation Essential Harvest, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said in a statement in Skopje that parliament is scheduled to begin debating the political settlement package on 31 August, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2001, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 and 21 August 2001). Some 100 hard-liners opposed to the agreement scuffled with legislators outside the parliament building, charging that the settlement amounts to a "sellout of the Macedonian nation." BBC Television reported that the debate has been "delayed" because of the protests. Demonstrators carried signs reading -- among other things -- "Russia, Help Us," "NATO and USA -- Leave Macedonia Within 48 Hours," and "We Demand the Resignation of the Whole Government." PM

MACEDONIAN NATIONALIST PARTY TO BACK SETTLEMENT?

Gjorgji Trendafilov, a spokesman for the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, said in Skopje on 31 August that his party will support the package, AP reported. International attention centers on the 47-strong group of legislators from the VMRO, whose support of the Ohrid agreement is lukewarm at best (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 August 2001). The measure requires 80 out of 120 votes to pass. PM

CONCERN IN BRUSSELS OVER MACEDONIAN 'VACUUM'

An unnamed NATO official told Reuters on 30 August that Macedonia will need some sort of international presence once Operation Essential Harvest is completed, Reuters reported. He noted that "there's a sense [in NATO] there will be a vacuum after the 30 days, and it must be filled. Other international organizations will have to move in to provide observers, monitors, [and] incentives" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2001). The OSCE and EU are two such organizations that might play a role. PM

MACEDONIAN MINISTER: NOT OUR PROBLEM

Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva said in Vienna on 30 August that the conflict in Macedonia is imported from Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. She added that unnamed "Kosovar Albanian politicians" and "foreign mercenaries" are behind the National Liberation Army (UCK). Mitreva told the OSCE that it should increase the size of its monitoring force in Macedonia following Operation Essential Harvest lest a vacuum emerge. PM

SERBS REGISTER TO VOTE IN KOSOVA

Some 43,000 Serbs have signed up to cast their ballots in the 17 November general elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Prishtina on 30 August. A spokeswoman for the UN civilian administration said that a recent surge of interest by Serbs in registering follows an appeal by the top Belgrade leadership for them to do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2001). PM

WORLD BANK WARNS BOSNIA

Christian Poortman, the World Bank country director for Bosnia and regional coordinator for southeastern Europe, said in Sarajevo on 30 August that "the situation could become quite difficult if decisive action is not taken now. The pace of economic change needs to be accelerated... We cannot at this stage see a moment anytime soon that the Bosnian economy will propel itself forward," AP reported. He noted that the country remains dependent on foreign assistance and that promised economic and banking reforms remain dead letters. Poortman added that priority must be given to making Bosnia a single economic unit and creating a favorable climate for investment. He warned that assistance could dry up unless substantial progress is made by mid-2002. PM

CROATIAN NATIONALISTS PROTEST BOSNIAN MOSQUE RECONSTRUCTION

Several hundred ethnic Croatian veterans of the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina demonstrated in Stolac on 31 August against the reconstruction of the Careva Dzamija, a mosque built in 1519 and destroyed in 1993, AP reported. SFOR troops and police maintained order at the ceremony and the protest. The demonstrators also demanded an end to legal measures against Herzegovinian leaders who tried to set up autonomous Croatian political structures earlier in 2001. Some 500 Muslims recently moved back to the area, which is Croat-dominated. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER: STRENGTHEN COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE

Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 30 August that his government will continue to cooperate with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal and might extradite more suspects, Reuters reported. He criticized the appearance of indicted war criminal Colonel Veselin Sljivancanin at a book presentation in Vrbas. Djindjic and Vojvodina leader Nenad Canak said that Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who heads the General Staff, have damaged Serbia's image by not dealing with the Sljivancanin case and by not making reforms in the military. "Danas" wrote on 31 August that there is strong opposition in the military to the extradition of the colonel, whom some want to promote. Pavkovic and his civilian superiors have held up the promotion, the daily added. PM

MONTENEGRO SLAMS BELGRADE'S LATEST PLAN

The Yugoslav federal government, which is not recognized as legitimate by the Montenegrin authorities, has completed drafting its latest plan to restructure the federation with an eye to making it a looser arrangement, Reuters reported on 30 August. Speaking in Podgorica, Miodrag Vukovic, a spokesman for President Milo Djukanovic, said that over "the past few months, this completely illegitimate structure [i.e., the federal government] has been trying to determine a way to redefine relations between Serbia and Montenegro without asking either Serbia or Montenegro" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 August 2001). PM

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT RESPONDS TO CZECH VISA REQUIREMENTS

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 30 August said that the government "regrets" that the Czech Republic has been forced to introduce visa requirements for Romanians due to "the behavior of a limited number of citizens who harmed the interests of their fellow-countrymen," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase said his cabinet will take immediate measures to rectify this situation and the government later approved an emergency ordinance that went into effect immediately. The ordinance establishes punishments of between three months and two years in prison for citizens who illegally cross foreign borders and of between two and seven years for those involved in migrant-smuggling rings. The ordinance also makes possible confiscation of property and denial of passports for those found guilty. Interior Minister Ioan Rus announced that his ministry will send liaison officers to Prague to assist Czech authorities in identifying illegal Romanian migrants (see Czech item, CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE). MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT PRAISED BY PACE RAPPORTEUR

The European Parliament's rapporteur for Romania, Baroness Emma Nicholson, on 30 August praised measures adopted by Romania to secure its borders and said that in her pending report she will recommend that visa requirements for Romanian citizens traveling to the EU be lifted. She said Romania has "fulfilled to the letter" the conditions imposed by the EU for lifting the visa requirement. Earlier, the government announced that it had signed a contract with a German company for printing new passports that will be difficult to forge. Baroness Nicholson also praised Romania's economic performance, saying privatization is being intensified, inflation is dropping, and productivity is increasing. She and Premier Nastase announced after meeting that they will head a new foundation to deal with the problem of homeless children and that prominent EU officials such as Guenter Verheugen will be invited to join the foundation's board. MS

RESITA WORKERS RENEW PROTESTS IN ROMANIA

Workers at the Resita steel-producer CSR blocked a major highway to Caransebes on 30 August, and demanded the payment of wage arrears, the resumption of the plant's activity, and a meeting with Privatization Minister Ovidiu Musatescu, AP reported. The workers had renewed their protests two days earlier, demanding that the government advance 60 billion lei ($2 million) to make possible the resumption of production at the plant. The four-month-old conflict reignited after a court appointed in July an independent administrator to rule the plant, which owes some 650 billion lei in unpaid bills to state companies and in taxes. Under the court's decision, the U.S.-based company Noble Ventures, which owns 95 percent of the plant's shares, is not allowed to make any administrative or managerial decisions. Following its placement under independent administration, the workers have received unemployment benefits. Musatescu has agreed to meet with Resita trade union leaders on 31 August. MS

ROMANIA TO PENALIZE SEXUAL HARASSMENT?

The Senate's Judicial Commission recommended on 30 August that the offense of sexual harassment be introduced in the new version of the Penal Code. The offense would carry a sentence of between three months and one year in prison, or a fine, Mediafax reported. MS

RUSSIAN DUMA OFFICIAL IS CANDID ON MOLDOVAN INTENTIONS

In an interview with the Russian publication "Tribuna" on 30 August, Boris Pastukhov, the deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma's commission on settling the Transdniester conflict, said that the members of the commission "want Moldova to remain in the Russian sphere of influence and the relations between the two countries must reflect Russian interests" in the region, Flux reported. Without specifying whether this is his personal position or the official position of the Russian government, Pastukhov said that Moscow cannot agree with Chisinau's stand that Moldova must be a "unitary state" and also ruled out a confederation between Moldova and the Transdniester. He said the two sides must form a "joint state" and the relations between its two components should be agreed on "at a later stage." Pastukhov also said he is opposed to the withdrawal of Russian military equipment from the breakaway region, calling it "a serious diplomatic mistake." He said continued Russian military presence in the Transdniester is "necessary, because it constitutes the only mode of ensuring stability in that region" and because of "the tension in the Balkans." MS

BULGARIAN, ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET

Visiting Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu met in Plodviv on 30 August with his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolai Svinarov to discuss bilateral military cooperation between their countries and measures aimed at furthering that cooperation in light of the successful experience of the Multinational Peace Force Southeastern Europe (MPFSE), BTA and Romanian media reported. On 31 August, Romania will take over the chair of the MPFSE Defense Ministers Committee. MS

BULGARIAN INVESTIGATORS REVEAL DETAILS ON FRENCH BRIBERY SCANDAL

Special Investigation Service (SIS) spokesman Ivan Ranchev told journalists in Sofia on 30 August that an investigation conducted at the request of French police has established that illegal visas were provided by the French Consulate in Sofia in exchange for bribes, BTA and AP reported. Visa requirements for Bulgarian citizens traveling to the EU were abolished in April 2001 but the investigation was begun in March that year after French police arrested three Bulgarian prostitutes who held business visas. Ranchev said that some 400 illegal visas were provided daily for bribes of between 500 and 1,000 leva ($227 to $454). Bulgarian investigators managed to identify some 250 people who benefited from the deal. He said French Consul Rudi Demenage was recalled on 1 March and confessed to his participation in the scheme. Former French Ambassador to Bulgaria Dominique Chassard, who ended his mission on 23 August, denied any involvement or knowledge of the deal in a letter to BTA. MS




FAMILIES OF 'KURSK' VICTIMS QUESTION RAISING OF SUB (PART 1)


By Francesca Mereu

The following is Part 1 of a two-part series.

When the "Kursk" submarine sank in the Barents Sea on 12 August 2000, killing all 118 crew members on board, Russian President Vladimir Putin was on holiday at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Only belatedly -- and it appeared to the Russian media and public only reluctantly -- did he fly on 22 August 2000 to the "Kursk's" base in Murmansk to offer condolences to the families.

The slow response was widely criticized by the media, who said it was evidence that Putin was unfeeling and out of touch with Russian citizens.

Putin, reacting to the criticism, promised to raise the sub to find out what caused it to sink and to give the dead crewmen inside a decent burial.

In November of that year, a preliminary salvage operation was begun and 12 bodies were recovered. Now, a more advanced operation involving the Dutch company Mammoet is underway. Divers are cutting holes in the hull so the sub -- except for the severely damaged front section -- can be lifted to the surface by cables next month. Salvage teams say they also hope to recover the bodies of at least one-third of the crew.

The effort is not without its critics. Many point to the high cost of the operation -- an estimated $70 million -- and the risks to the divers involved. The "Kursk" still houses live torpedoes, cruise missiles, and a nuclear reactor. While experts say the risk of an explosion is small, no one knows for sure.

Critics also say that -- even if more bodies are recovered -- the process of salvaging the sub will only prolong the tragedy for the families' victims.

Svetlana Baigarina from St. Petersburg is the wife of Captain Murat Baigarin, one of the victims. She said the salvage effort only means more stress. Not only will relatives have to identify bodies, they are also concerned for the safety of the divers.

"[When] we understood that for our men nothing would have changed [if they were brought to the surface], we didn't want any of the divers to die," Baigarina said. "Most of the families signed a letter -- [and we sent it to the government] -- to stop the raising [operation]. But in November, [the operation] was started anyway."

But Baigarina concedes that having her husband's body recovered would provide closure.

"There is a tradition that when a sailor dies, he should be left to the sea," Baigarina said. "But on the other hand, I'd like to have a grave where I can go and visit [my husband]."

Roman Kolesnikov is the chairman of the St. Petersburg Foundation for Relatives of the "Kursk." His son, Lieutenant Captain Dmitrii Kolesnikov, went down with the "Kursk" and was one of the 12 bodies recovered last November.

"[The endless debates about the 'Kursk' salvage operation] made the families so tired that now they say they don't know what to do. They don't say they are against [raising the 'Kursk']; they say they simply don't know whether it should be raised or not," Kolesnikov said.

But Nadezhda Tylik from the southern city of Anape sees the issue differently. She lost her son Sergei in the tragedy and says that after a year, she is glad to see authorities finally making good on their promise to raise the "Kursk."

"It was what [the families] demanded one year ago from Putin. [Authorities] are doing what they promised us," Tylik said. "At the time, Putin said that the submarine would be raised."

The cause of the accident remains a mystery. Most people now believe that a torpedo exploded in the front of the ship, sending it to the bottom of the sea.

Officials have said that they expect to recover just one-third of the crew because when the accident occurred most of the sailors were probably in the front of the sub, which will remain on the sea floor.

Captain Igor Kurdin, the head of the St. Petersburg Submariners Club, said his organization is working with families to prepare them for the likelihood that their relatives may never be found.

He said that in cases where the bodies of victims cannot be found, the Russian Orthodox Church has approved a unique alternative.

"[The families] should be ready for the fact that inside the coffin there will be a capsule -- made from the metal of the submarine -- full of seawater," Kurdin said.

Navy officials have said that if weather conditions are good, the salvage operation could be finished sometime next month. The "Kursk" then will be towed into the port of Roslyakovo, in the Murmansk region, for inspection and dismantling.

For the time being, the victims' families are waiting and are ready to fly to Roslyakovo to identify the bodies.


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