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Newsline - September 7, 2001




PUTIN MAKES UNEXPECTED TRIP TO NORTH CAUCASUS

President Vladimir Putin on 6 September flew to Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria in the northern Caucasus, to deliver a speech on education and social policy and to meet with the local population, Russian agencies reported. Putin praised the republic's leaders for preserving interethnic and interconfessional peace, said that everyone in Russia should have the right to select his or her place of residence, and suggested that educational institutions should focus their activities on preparing people for the workplace. He laid flowers at a monument marking the 400th anniversary of the inclusion of Kabarda in the Russian Empire. And he said that he will make more such trips to Russia's regions, because "one cannot have a clear idea of what is going on in the regions without visiting them." PG

PUTIN APPROVES CABINET PLAN FOR TIES WITH CO-ETHNICS ABROAD

President Putin on 6 September gave his approval to the government plan for expanding ties with ethnic Russians abroad, Interfax reported. The plan calls for expanding efforts to protect ethnic Russians living outside Russia and organizing a variety of meetings and publications to link them to Russia. PG

PUTIN SENDS MORE MONEY TO NUCLEAR FUEL PRODUCER

President Putin has signed a decree providing more money to the state nuclear fuel producing monopoly TVEL, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 September. The additional money is to come not from the budget but rather from transfers from other federal enterprises, the paper said. Putin is seeking to increase TVEL's capitalization, the paper added, in order to increase the market value of the company's shares and thus allow the state to sell some of these shares for the buyout of other enterprises in the nuclear industry that are not yet under complete state control. VY

PUTIN SAID TO BACK STAGED LIBERALIZATION IN TRADE OF GAZPROM SHARES

Dmitrii Medvedev, the first deputy chief of the presidential administration, said on 6 September that President Putin favors the gradual and staged transition to the freeing of the market in Gazprom shares, Russian agencies reported. Meanwhile, the same day, Putin greeted the workers of LUKoil on the 10th anniversary of the formation of that enterprise, Interfax reported. PG

IVANOV SURVEYS RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY IN NEW BOOK

On 6 September, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov presented his new book, "The New Russian Diplomacy: Ten Years of the Country's Foreign Policy," Russian agencies reported. The book's various chapters survey the course of Russian relations with various countries and organizations around the world. Among Ivanov's observations are that the U.S. and Russia bear a particular responsibility for maintaining the peace, that Russia has a historical role to play in the Middle East, that China is a major priority, and that Russia is focusing its primary attention on the countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States. PG

CABINET FOCUSES ON PROBLEMS OF CITY GOVERNMENTS

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and his cabinet on 6 September focused on the problems of municipalities, Russian agencies reported. Kasyanov said that Moscow intends to focus more on the relationship between the central government and the cities now that it has regularized ties between Moscow and the regions. Meanwhile, he acknowledged the same day that the directives of President Putin to help the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad are not being fulfilled in a timely fashion and directed that assistance to that area be increased, Interfax reported. PG

BEREZOVSKY SAID TRYING TO BREAK INTO ST. PETERSBURG POLITICS

According to "Versiya," No. 33, embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky is seeking to destabilize the political situation in St. Petersburg and gain advantage there. He is using his media holdings to attack officials there, and if he succeeds in the northern capital, the magazine said, he will then turn his "attack" on Moscow. PG

AGRARIANS STEP UP PLANS TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON LAND SALES

Mikhail Lapshin, the head of the Agrarian Party of Russia, has announced that his party will begin collecting signatures to hold a referendum on the buying and selling of land, "Vremya MN" reported on 6 September. Lapshin said that not less than 60 percent of Russians are ready to take part in such a referendum. He said that many Russians are concerned about possible purchases by foreigners and the displacement of those who have historically worked the land. PG

ST. PETERSBURG RESIDENTS VIEW BALTS AS 'ENEMIES'

A poll conducted by the Institute of Sociology and reported by "The St. Petersburg Times" on 4 September found that 20 percent of the residents of the northern capital view Estonia and Lithuania as enemies of Russia, and that 25 percent have that opinion of Latvia. Outside the city, in Leningrad Oblast, the poll found, those figures were even higher. PG

STROEV THROWS HIS SUPPORT BEHIND LUKASHENKA

Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev told RIA-Novosti on 6 September that he backs the re-election of Alyaksandr Lukashenka as Belarusian president because Lukashenka seeks to integrate his country with Russia. Stroev said Lukashenka's victory will benefit Russia and provide a model for Moscow because it is Lukashenka's personal energy rather than any other natural sources that is keeping the Belarusian economy going. Meanwhile, a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Fund and reported by Interfax on 6 September found that only 11 percent believe that any other candidate can defeat Lukashenka in the vote. VY/PG

LUZHKOV OFFERS TO BUY CRUISER FROM UKRAINE

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and his administration have proposed to Prime Minister Kasyanov that the city help purchase the cruiser "Admiral Lobov" to help develop the Black Sea Fleet, Ekho Moskvy reported on 6 September. Such a ship, Luzhkov said, will enable Russia to project power into the Adriatic and beyond. Meanwhile, Luzhkov issued an order the same day to remove what he called "superfluous" advertising in the center of the city, Russian agencies reported. Such a move, he said, not only will make the city a more attractive place but also reduce maintenance costs. In another move, officials in the Russian capital said that they are considering relocating Moscow's railroad terminals to the outskirts of the city by 2020, Interfax reported. VY

MOSCOW SEES NO QUICK ACCORD WITH U.S. ON MISSILE DEFENSE

In an interview carried by "The Washington Post" on 6 September, Oleg Chernov, the deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, said that Russia does not think it will be possible to reach a bilateral agreement on missile defense before the November 2001 meeting of Presidents Putin and George Bush. PG

MOSCOW AGREES ON NEED FOR INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS IN MACEDONIA

Foreign Minister Ivanov told visiting U.S. and OSCE delegations on 6 September that Moscow agrees with the need to place international observers in Macedonia after the mandate of NATO forces there expires, RIA-Novosti reported. Ivanov said that Russia believes that the territorial integrity of Macedonia must be preserved and that the international community must do what it can to promote interethnic harmony and stability. VY

MOSCOW PREPARED TO EXPAND COOPERATION WITH COLOMBIA

Foreign Minister Ivanov said on 6 September after meeting with his visiting Colombian counterpart Guillermo Fernandez de Soto that Moscow is pleased by Bogota's support of Russia's position on the need to preserve the 1972 ABM Treaty, and will seek to increase its trade and other ties with that South American country. Such ties, Ivanov continued, will inevitably gain momentum after President Putin's visit to Bogota "in the near future." VY

UDPK MARKS 80TH ANNIVERSARY

Diplomats and Russian officials this week took part in celebrations to mark the 80th anniversary of the Foreign Ministry Administration for Servicing the Diplomatic Corps (UDPK), "Izvestiya" reported on 6 September. The head of that agency, Aleksandr Zinovyev, noted that his group, which provides support for the diplomatic missions in Moscow, has some 15,000 employees. Historically, many of them were members of the Soviet secret services. PG

MOODY'S RAISES RUSSIAN EUROBOND RATING

The international rating agency Moody's on 6 September raised Russia's Eurobond rating from B3 to B2 and changed its projections for Russian ratings from "stable" to "positive," Interfax-AFI reported. Meanwhile, officials at the Economic Development and Trade Ministry told Interfax the same day that Russia currently is losing up to $2 billion a year because of discrimination against its imports of various kinds. PG

PIRACY PROMPTS JAPANESE INTERNET PROVIDER TO END OPERATIONS IN RUSSIA

Nifty, Japan's largest Internet service provider, told RIA-Novosti on 6 September that it has ended its operations in 26 Russian cities because of the enormous losses it has sustained as a result of the unauthorized use of its services through illegal connections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2001). The company's spokesman added that Nifty will not resume its operations in Russia until the government succeeds in preventing such piracy. VY

RUSSIA HAS STRATEGIC AND TOURIST INTERESTS IN ANTARCTIC

Russian polar explorer Andrei Kapitsa told the BBC on 6 September that Moscow has strategic interests in the Antarctic because its Mirnii station serves as part of Russia's strategic early warning system, and because many in Moscow believe that other countries will seek to claim parts of Antarctica in order to be able to extract the natural resources there. Meanwhile, "Rossiya" reported the same day that the Russian government also hopes to promote tourism to the region and to make money in the process. Last year alone, the paper said, some 30,000 tourists visited Antarctica. VY

TATARSTAN JOURNALISTS CALL FOR KEEPING TAX BREAKS FOR MEDIA

Interfax-Eurasia reported on 6 September that the leadership of the Union of Journalists of Tatarstan and the editors of nine major papers and journals there have sent a letter to the republic's government urging that it work to preserve the tax breaks media outlets now receive. If these breaks are taken away, the authors of the appeal said, prices for newspapers and journals will rise by 60-70 percent, fewer people will buy them, and some of the outlets will cease to exist. PG

TATAR ACTIVISTS CALL FOR RESISTING MOSCOW'S PRESSURE...

In an interview published in "Vostochnii ekspress" on 31 August, analyst Talgat Bareev said that the ideal of independent statehood is a fundamental component of Tatar political thought. He called on Tatars in general and Tatar officials in particular to resist Russian pressure to subordinate themselves to Moscow's will. Meanwhile, the republic's Watan Party said in a proclamation published in "Shehre Qazan" on 5 September that the Kremlin is seeking to divide the Tatar intelligentsia to regain control of Tatarstan. The same day, the Tatar Public Center in Chally called on all the national movements in Tatarstan to unite in order to defend the republic against Russian power, Kazan media reported. The center also called on Russian media to report "objectively" about developments in non-Russian regions. PG

...AS BASHKIR SCHOLAR WANTS REFERENDUM ON BASHKORTOSTAN INDEPENDENCE

Marat Kulsharipov, a founder of the Bashkir nationalist movement and dean of the history faculty at Bashkir State University, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 5 September that "the time has come to protect Bashkortostan's independence and legislation" by holding a referendum on declaring independence. He said he believes that a majority of the population would support such a proposition. PG

POLL SHOWS RUSSIANS APPROVE OF COMMUNIST GUBERNATORIAL VICTORIES

A poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 6 September showed that 42 percent of Russians are positively inclined to the recent gubernatorial victories by communists in Nizhnii Novgorod and Tula, 32 percent have a neutral view of these events, and only 16 percent are negatively inclined. The survey found that Russians give the following reasons for these attitudes: nostalgia for the past, disappointment in democracy, proper behavior by communists during campaigns, and attractive candidates. PG

POLICE ROUND UP PRO-CHECHEN INDEPENDENCE DEMONSTRATORS IN MOSCOW

On 6 September, the 10th anniversary of what Chechens consider their independence day, Moscow police rounded up about 10 people who were demonstrating without official permission in Lubyanka Square, Interfax reported. The demonstrators carried signs demanding the recognition of Chechnya's independence by Russia. PG

BUTYRKA ESCAPEES STILL AT LARGE

The three inmates who escaped from Moscow's Butyrka prison on 5 September remain at large, Russian and Western agencies reported the following day. Police officials launched a countrywide search and said that the three may be headed toward Ukraine or Moldova, Interfax reported. The officials speculated that the three, who they said are not armed, may have had help from jailers or alternatively may have escaped because of the inability of the overstretched guard staff to keep track of all prisoners. PG

TUBERCULOSIS EPIDEMIC HITS ST. PETERSBURG JAILS

The percentage of people infected with tuberculosis in the jails of St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast is now 60 times more than among the population at large, Interfax Northwest reported on 6 September. PG

ANTI-SEMITES MORE ACTIVE AS ANTI-SEMITISM RECEDES

According to an article in "Vremya MN" on 6 September, Russian anti-Semites have become more active over the last few months, desecrating Jewish cemeteries and burning synagogues, even though popular anti-Semitism is in decline. PG

RATS ARRIVE IN KOMSOMOLSK-NA-AMURE IN DROVES

Officials in the Khabarovsk Krai city of Komsomolsk-na-Amure told Interfax on 6 September that the number of rats entering the city has reached unprecedented proportions. They noted that the rats are so numerous that they are not afraid of people, routinely appear in the daytime, and even show up in postal boxes. PG

DEFENSE MINISTRY CALLS FOR MODERNIZING RUSSIAN TANKS

General Sergei Maev, the head of the Defense Ministry's directorate responsible for tanks, said on 6 September that his agency is launching a program to modernize Russia's T-72 tanks to bring them up to the level of the T-90, NTV reported. Maev said that at present, only one in every five Russian tanks meets modern specifications. Modernizing existing tanks, he added, is much more rational and inexpensive than replacing them. VY

MOSCOW STEPS UP FIGHT AGAINST ILLEGAL DRUGS

Nikolai Solovev, Russian Security deputy secretary, said in Saratov on 6 September that Russian border guards have seized almost a ton of heroin on the Tajik-Afghan border this year, RIA-Novosti reported. Solovev was speaking to an international conference on combating illicit drugs. He also said that funds raised from the sale of illegal drugs increasingly go to finance "bandit formations." Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Primorskii Krai said that his agency has cooperated with Japanese special services to disrupt drug trafficking between Vladivostok and the Japanese island of Hokkaido, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Japanese officials have confiscated 19 kilograms of drugs that came from Russia and arrested five drug dealers, the spokesman said. VY

RUSSIA TO EXPORT 5 MILLION TONS OF GRAIN IN 2001

Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev said on 6 September that Russia has already exported more than 1 million tons of grain in 2001 and expects to export another 4 million tons by the end of the year, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

PAVLOVSKII SAYS PEOPLE'S ASSEMBLY TO END NEED FOR NGO HELP FROM ABROAD

Gleb Pavlovskii, the Kremlin media adviser who has assumed the leadership of the program to form a People's Assembly embracing the nongovernmental organization sector in Russia, told RBK on 6 September that the creation of this body will eliminate any need for foreign assistance to NGOs such as that now being provided by George Soros and the Ford Foundation. VY

LIMONOV NOW CHARGED WITH TERRORISM

The Justice Ministry has lodged the additional charges of engaging in terrorism and participation in an illegal armed formation against National Bolshevik Party leader and writer Eduard Limonov, Ekho Moskvy reported on 6 September. Limonov was arrested by the FSB in April 2000 for illegal possession of weapons. "Kommersant-Daily" reported, also on 6 September, that there are now more members of Limonov's party in jail than those of any other political group. VY

NEW TARIFF BOARD WON'T CONTROL COMMUNICATIONS CHARGES

German Gref, the minister for economic development and trade, said that the newly created Unified Tariff Board will control charges for all natural monopolies, except for those in telecommunications, "Vremya novostei" reported on 6 September. Gref said that Communications Minister Leonid Reiman, who has the ear of President Putin, has succeeded in getting his sector excluded from oversight by the new board. VY

MOSCOW OFFICIAL WORRIED BY FAKE MEDICATIONS

Deputy Health Minister Anton Katlinskii said on 6 September that Moscow is increasingly worried by fake drugs, most of which are imported, Interfax reported. He said that such fake medications often harm those who take them. PG

ONE RUSSIAN IN THREE DOES NOT READ BOOKS

According to a survey conducted by VTsIOM and reported by "Kommersant-Daily" on 5 September, Russians spend a smaller percentage of their free time reading books than do Americans and that one Russian in three now does not read any books at all. A decade ago, strana.ru reported the same day, only one Russian in six did not read books. "Kommersant-Daily" noted that for the last decade, the total print runs of books have fallen by 75 percent and of newspapers almost 70 percent. PG

105TH BIRTHDAY OF CHAPAEV'S SIDEKICK MARKED

People in the village of Koreneevka in Saratov Oblast this week marked the 105th anniversary of the birth of Petr Isaev, who served as an aide to Russian Civil War commander Comrade Vasilii Chapaev and as the inspiration for many Soviet-era jokes about the two, "Izvestiya" reported on 6 September. Residents of the village said that for them, Isaev is very real. They also noted that none of his family over the last century ever succeeded in rising from poverty. PG

SOVIET OFFICIALS STOLE EROTICA FROM CLOSED COLLECTION IN LENIN LIBRARY

The "International Herald Tribune" on 6 September reported on the unveiling of the Russian State Library's Soviet-era collection of erotica. The supervisor of this section of the library, Marina Chestnykh, told the paper that "sex didn't exist in the Soviet Union," and consequently the collection was closed to all but the most senior party officials. She said that they liked to visit the collection and sometimes carried away a postcard or two. "It was theft, of course," Chestnykh said. "But how could a librarian stop them? They were party officials." PG

ROSTOV ELECTION OFFICIALS TOLD TO RECONSIDER DECISION...

The Central Election Commission (TsVK) has ordered the election commission of Rostov Oblast to conduct an investigation without delay into that body's rejection of the candidacy of Leonid Ivanchenko, head of the oblast's Communist Party, in upcoming gubernatorial elections, the website strana.ru reported on 6 September. Ivanchenko declared earlier that he will contest the oblast's decision in court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 2001). According to ITAR-TASS, TsVK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told reporters that Ivanchenko has a chance of being reinstated as a candidate. The previous day the oblast election commission rejected the candidacy of another potential contender, local entrepreneur Valentin Chistyakov, and "Novye izvestiya" declared the next day that incumbent Rostov Governor Vladimir Chub will be effectively unchallenged in the 23 September race. JAC

...AS COMMUNISTS CALL FOR BOYCOTT

Only one other candidate has managed to register -- deputy head of the Zimovnikovskii Raion administration Petr Voloshin -- and local analysts believe that only Ivanchenko would have provided any real competition. According to "Izvestiya" last month, polling data showed equal support for both Chub and Ivanchenko. Meanwhile, on 6 September, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that his party will boycott the race if the oblast commission's decision banning Ivanchenko is not overturned, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

STRUGGLE OVER LOCAL TV STATION CONTINUES

Journalists at the television company TVK in Lipetsk have refused to vacate the station's premises for a second day in a row, RFE/RL's Lipetsk correspondent reported on 6 September. Earlier, the federal Media Ministry stopped broadcasts from the television station for a 10-day period (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2001). The conflict has arisen because of a struggle among shareholders for a controlling stake in the company. TVK journalists are demanding that the former director of the station Aleksandr Lykov be reinstated. They also believe that the struggle over control of the station is linked with upcoming gubernatorial elections. JAC

UNITY BRANCH IN SIBERIA TO CREATE YOUNG PIONEER PROGRAM

Unity party officials in Altai Krai plan to create a Unity organization that children can join, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 6 September citing local Unity press secretary Dimitrii Fedyaev. According to Fedyaev, the idea was raised by youthful residents of Barnaul who are too young to join Young Unity. Unity's Barnaul branch has 253 people. JAC

OIL-REGION GOVERNOR SPEAKS OUT FOR RETAINING RIGHTS TO ISSUE LICENSES

Tyumen Oblast Governor Sergei Sobyanin told Interfax on 6 September that he does not support a recent appeal of 10 regional leaders to President Putin, asking him to take over control of issuing licenses for the exploitation of natural resources (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 2001). Sobyanin said that the leaders who made the suggestion cannot be familiar with the constitution, arguing that regional leaders do not currently have the legal right to grant such licenses independently. "Such decisions are taken only jointly by the regions and the federal government," he said; neither level can currently make the decision independently. He added that this system of dual controls yield more objective results, and that the federal Natural Resources Ministry frequently makes decisions not on behalf of the government but based on the interests of oil companies. JAC

GOVERNOR TELLS LOCAL FARMERS NOT TO LEND A HELPING HAND

Omsk Governor Leonid Polezhaev has ordered officials in his region to restrict the movement of agricultural equipment, particularly combines, to neighboring regions, the website polit.ru reported on 6 September. Polezhaev harshly criticized the head of one raion who allowed farmers there to help their fellow farmers in Novosibirsk Oblast collect a record harvest. JAC




ARMENIAN MINISTER SAYS INCREASED PHONE CHARGES ILLEGAL

The increased per-minute telephone charges introduced by the Greek-owned Armenian telecommunications monopoly ArmenTel have not been approved by the Armenian government and therefore have no legal force, Armenian Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian said in Yerevan on 6 September, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Manukian said the Armenian leadership may take legal action against ArmenTel for violating the terms of its operating license if it tries to enforce the new charges. The Greek telecommunications giant OTE insists that under the terms of the 1998 deal whereby it acquired ArmenTel it is entitled to increase tariffs unilaterally. Justice Minister David Harutiunian said on 6 September that the dispute is likely to be referred to the international adjudication court. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES MULL NEW ALLIANCE

Members of the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), Hanrapetutiun, and the National Accord Front (AHCh) told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 6 September that the leaders of the three parties are holding talks on the text of a planned joint declaration calling for the resignation of President Robert Kocharian. Artashes Geghamian, one of the leaders of the AHCh and an outspoken critic of Kocharian, is believed to be pushing for a formal alliance between the three parties. Talks a year ago between Geghamian and HZhK Chairman Stepan Demirchian on forming an opposition alliance proved inconclusive. LF

PRESIDENTIAL PARTY CLAIMS VICTORY IN KARABAKH LOCAL ELECTIONS

Candidates representing the Democratic Artsakh Union (ZhAM) that supports Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, were elected to head local government bodies in at least 140 of the unrecognized enclave's 223 towns and villages in the 5 September elections, ZhAM Chairman Ashot Gulian told a correspondent for RFE/RL's Armenian Service in Stepanakert on 6 September. ZhAM candidate Hamik Avanesian was elected mayor of Stepanakert with some 53 percent of the vote; his closest rival, Maksim Mirzoyan of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun (HHD), polled 20 percent. The HHD won control of some 20 communities, mostly in the southern district of Hadrut, and endorsed independent candidates elected in a dozen other villages. Voter turnout was estimated at 60 percent. LF

AZERBAIJANIS PROTEST KARABAKH ARMENIAN DELEGATION'S BAKU VISIT

The leaders of the opposition Musavat, Azerbaijan National Independence, and Azerbaijan Popular Front parties on 6 September cancelled a scheduled meeting with 11 members of the Karabakh NGO Helsinki Initiative-92 who arrived in Baku on 4 September, Turan reported. They were reportedly incensed by a statement made on his arrival in Baku by Karen Ohandjanian, the head of Helsinki Initiative-92, that Nagorno-Karabakh is an independent state. On 5 September, members of Azerbaijan's Organization for the Liberation of Karabakh staged a protest against the Armenians' presence in Baku outside the Azerbaijan NGO Helsinki Civil Assembly, which co-organized the Armenians' visit. Azerbaijani presidential administration official Ali Hasanov was quoted by Azerbaijan's Space TV on 6 September as expressing approval of the protests. It is not clear whether he was one of two presidential administration officials who met with the visiting Armenians on 6 September. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CONDEMNS NEWSPAPER'S CLOSURE

The opposition Adalet and Musavat parties have issued statements condemning as politically motivated and a violation of the principle of freedom of the press the ruling earlier this week by a Baku district court that the independent newspaper "Bakinskii bulvard" must cease publication, Turan reported on 6 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2001). Also on 6 September, two Baku district courts warned publishing houses and distribution networks not to print or distribute any further copies of "Bakinskii bulvard." LF

PARLIAMENT APPROVES CANDIDATE FOR NEW GEORGIAN TAX MINISTER

The Georgian parliament's Committee for Taxes and Incomes on 6 September approved Levan Dzneladze, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's proposed candidate for the post of Tax Incomes Minister, Caucasus Press reported. Dzneladze is a 38-year-old trained economist who previously served as deputy finance minister and minister for state property management. He does not belong to any political party. Dzneladze replaces Mikhail Machavariani, who resigned last month to protest what he termed the "unrealistic" revenue targets set in the 2002 budget drafted by the Economy, Industry and Trade Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2001). Machavariani has been appointed parliamentary secretary to parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania, Caucasus Press reported on 6 September. LF

GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DEMANDS MORE FUNDING

Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze told a 6 September session of the Georgian parliament's Committee for Defense and Security on 6 September that his ministry needs a minimum of 71 million laris ($34.3 million) in funding for 2002, Caucasus Press reported. "If we try to economize on military reform today, tomorrow we shall need additional expenditures to enhance the combat ability of the armed forces," Tevzadze argued. Shevardnadze said after a recent meeting with both Tevzadze and Finance Minister Zurab Nogaideli that the Defense Ministry will receive not less than 44 million laris in funding next year, but Nogaideli warned that it will not be possible to allocate more than 36 million. Tevzadze launched a last-minute bid for increased budget funding last fall during the protracted deliberations on the 2001 budget, but without success (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 47, 8 December 2000). LF

GEORGIAN RULING PARTY TO CONTEND ADJAR POLL

The Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) will nominate a rival candidate to run against incumbent Aslan Abashidze for the post of chairman of the Supreme Council of the Adjar Republic, Georgian parliament's Committee for Economic Policy and Reforms Chairman Vano Merabishvili told journalists on 6 September, according to Caucasus Press. A member of the SMK's Adjar organization had said that the party would not field a candidate in the 4 November ballot (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2001). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PREMIER SAYS CPC PROBLEMS RESOLVED

The disagreements over transport tariffs that have delayed the official launch of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium export pipeline from Tengiz to Novorossiisk have been resolved at a special meeting of consortium shareholders, Qasymzhomart Toqaev told journalists in Astana on 6 September, Interfax reported. Toqaev did not specify a date for the ceremony, but his deputy Vladimir Shkolnik told Interfax on 29 August that it would take place no later than 25 September. The 1,580-kilometer pipeline has already been filled with 1 million tons of oil. LF

ADB REVIEWS JOINT PROJECTS IN KAZAKHSTAN

Toqaev met in Astana on 6 September with a team of experts from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) who are reviewing the progress of joint projects in Kazakhstan that the bank is cofinancing, Interfax reported. Those projects include reconstruction of the Almaty-Bishkek highway, which is being jointly funded by the ADB, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Kazakh government. The ADB has made loans totaling about $460 million to Kazakhstan over the past decade and plans to lend a further $120 million annually over the next three years. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT INAUGURATES NEW CASPIAN FERRY SERVICE

Nursultan Nazarbaev attended a ceremony in the port of Aqtau on 6 September to mark the beginning of ferry services linking Kazakhstan with the ports of Olia (Russia), Baku (Azerbaijan), and Nowshahr (Iran), Interfax reported. He stressed the importance of those transport links for Kazakhstan's role as a transit country. The new ferry lines are part of the TRACECA transport network intended to link Central Asia and Europe via the Caucasus. LF

ANOTHER AMMUNITION DEPOT FIRE REPORTED IN KAZAKHSTAN

An ammunition store at a military test site near Almaty was destroyed by fire during the night of 6-7 September, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting a spokesman for Kazakhstan's Agency for Emergency Situations. No one was injured in the blaze, the cause of which has not yet been established. A major blaze destroyed a huge munitions depot in Kazakhstan's northern Qaraghandy Oblast last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 21 August 2001). LF

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS UZBEKISTAN

Continuing his tour of Central Asian capitals, Kamal Kharrazi arrived in Tashkent on 6 September where he discussed with his Uzbek counterpart Abdulaziz Komilov bilateral relations and regional security, Caspian News Agency and Interfax reported. The two men focussed particular attention on the threat posed by illegal drug trafficking, and called on the international community to consider new initiatives to end the civil war in Afghanistan, given that sanctions against the Taliban have not yielded the desired result. They suggested that the members of the so-called Six-Plus-Two group, to which both countries belong together with China, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, and the U.S., should cooperate more closely in any new Afghan initiative. Kharrazi also met later on 6 September with President Islam Karimov, but no details of their talks were made public, according to AP. LF




LUKASHENKA THREATENS TO STOP OPPOSITION'S 'MOTION' AFTER BALLOT

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 6 September said the opposition "is not capable of doing almost anything," Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka was commenting on the opposition's announced intention to gather on Minsk's square immediately following the closure of polling stations on 9 September and to wait there for the announcement of election results. "They should know that any violation of the law, any motion on their part will be stopped in a moment and without delay," Lukashenka added. JM

MINSK IS SURE OF INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION OF PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT

Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou on 6 September said he is sure that the international community will recognize the results of the 9 September presidential elections. "I [even] do not assume that the West may not recognize the election. This is impossible today," Khvastou added. He accused the U.S. of financing the opposition and the West in general of using diplomatic channels to apply "direct pressure on [Belarusian] government structures" in connection with the upcoming ballot. Khvastou confirmed that the revelations published in "Sovetskaya Belorussiya" on 6 August about Western spymasters' operation "White Stork" to overthrow Lukashenka are true (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2001). Khvastou also said he doubts the impartiality of OSCE election observers in Belarus. JM

BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT MONITORS WARN ABOUT MASS ELECTION FALSIFICATION

Mechyslau Hryb told journalists on 6 September that the authorities are preparing mass falsifications of the presidential election, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Hryb is a coordinator of the Independent Monitoring group that is fielding some 12,000 volunteers to watch over the ballot. According to Hryb, the authorities want to urge and/or pressure some 50 percent of voters into voting ahead of 9 September and subsequently to replace their ballots with new ones, falsified in favor of Lukashenka. Quoting a "reliable source," Hryb said all raion administration heads have already been provided with blank voting ballots for this purpose (see End Note). JM

RHYTHMIC GYMNASTS SKIP INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT TO CAST VOTES FOR LUKASHENKA

Belarus's rhythmic gymnastics team in a statement released on 5 September said its members will not go to an international tournament in Bulgaria in order to be able to cast their votes on 9 September. "The Belarusian national rhythmic gymnastics team has no trouble deciding for whom to vote on 9 September -- only for our President Alyaksandr Lukashenka," the statement read. The rhythmic gymnastics team is known to be one of Lukashenka's favorite sport teams. In 1995, he had a special training center built for "my reedy girls" as he calls them. The "reedy girls" failed to explain why they cannot vote early and then perform in Bulgaria. JM

WORLD WATCHES BELARUS WITH PITY AND SCORN

In connection with the 9 September presidential election in Belarus, many international periodicals on 7 September carried reports and comments on the situation in the country. Below are the titles of some publications: "The Economist" -- "A Rotten State"; "The Wall Street Journal Europe" -- "Elections' in Europe's Last Dictatorship"; "The Moscow Times" -- "Lukashenko's Rival Had No Chance"; the "Financial Times" -- "A Sorry State"; "The Guardian" -- "Reign of Terror in a Soviet Time Warp"; "Frankfurter Allgemaine Zeitung" -- "Dankbar, ueberhaupt waehlen zu duerfen (Grateful For Being Allowed To Vote at All)"; "Neue Zuercher Zeitung" -- "Alexander Lukaschenko laesst sich waehlen (Alyaksandr Lukashenka Has Himself Elected)"; "Die Welt" -- "Lukaschenko: 'Mir ist es egal, ob jemand die Wahl anerkennt (Lukashenka: 'I don't care whether anybody recognizes the ballot or not')." JM

IMF MISSION TO RECOMMEND LOAN RESUMPTION TO UKRAINE

An IMF mission in Kyiv decided on 6 September to recommend that a loan installment be made this year to Ukraine, AP reported. Mission head Julian Berengaut, the deputy director of the IMF's Second European Department, said Ukraine has fulfilled all the necessary conditions for the payment, including timely drafting of a satisfactory budget for 2002 (see RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2001). If the IMF restarts lending, Ukraine can receive $375 million this year and a further $580 million in 2002. JM

TWO UKRAINIAN NATIONALISTS STAGE BLOODY PROTEST OVER ARREST OF COLLEAGUES

Two men from Ukraine's radical nationalist Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO) on 6 September slashed their stomachs and attempted to stick posters to Kyiv's independence monument with their blood, Reuters reported. The men were protesting against the continued detention of their 16 brothers-in-arms, including UNA-UNSO leader Andriy Shkil. Police arrested them on 9 April during a violent antipresidential protest. The two 6 September protesters were detained and transported to a hospital. Police said their wounds are not life threatening. JM

AMBASSADOR DENIES ALLEGATION OF TURKISH CLAIMS TO CRIMEA

In a letter published in the "Krymskiye izvestiya" on 6 September, the Turkish ambassador to Ukraine, Alp Karaosmanoglu, said he is surprised at pronouncements made by the Crimean parliamentary speaker Leonid Hrach that Turkey allegedly has claims on Ukrainian territory, Interfax reported. The ambassador recalled that Turkey was among the first countries to recognize Ukraine's sovereignty in 1992. In July, "Krymskiye izvestiya" published Hrach's public speech in which he said that "Turkey has long ago begun making maps on which Crimea is tinged with Turkish national colors." Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader Mustafa Dzhemilev commented that Hrach has repeatedly made anti-Turkish and anti-Tatar statements and warned that Crimean Tatars want to unite the peninsula with Turkey. According to Dzhemilev, Hrach, who is also the leader of Crimea's Communist Party, is playing on pro-Russian and anti-Tatar sentiments on the peninsula in order to garner as many votes as possible in next year's parliamentary elections. JM

THREE INTERNATIONAL BANKS TO GIVE LOAN FOR ESTONIAN POWER PLANTS

Societe Generale Investment Banking, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, and KBC Bank N.W. signed a mandate contract on 7 September in Tallinn with Eesti Energia (Estonian Energy) and NRG Energy to provide a 285 million euro ($252 million) loan for the renovation of Narva Elektrijaamad (Narva Power Plants), ETA reported. The term of the loan is 14 years. NRG Energy also plans to invest $70.5 million of its own funds into the project. The bulk of the loan will be spent on the renovation of two power blocks in the Eesti and Balti power plants in which old steam boilers will be replaced by new circulating fluid bed (CFB) boilers. SG

BANK OF LATVIA PRESIDENT URGED TO RESIGN

Kristiana Libane, the head of the ruling coalition's Latvia's Way faction in the parliament called on Einars Repse to resign as bank president on 6 September because he is involved in the formation of a new political party, LETA reported. Repse, who has headed the bank since September 1991, agreed that the large amount of work and the political neutrality of the Central Bank make it impossible for him to hold the two positions at the same time. The Central Bank spokesman, however, said that Repse's resignation will not come in the next few days or weeks but could take months, as he must complete work he started at the bank and ensure continuity. Leaders of the opposition parties, however, are insisting that Repse resign from the bank immediately. People's Party Chairman Andris Skele also said that Repse should have resigned immediately after making the decision to return to politics and asserted that the next Bank of Latvia president should not be a political figure. SG

AUSTRIAN VICE CHANCELLOR VISITS LITHUANIA

Susanne Riess-Passer discussed European Union enlargement matters with Deputy Foreign Minister Rytis Martikonis on 6 September in Vilnius, ELTA reported. She noted that Austria is particularly concerned with the possible expansion because it borders directly with four candidate countries. Austria thus is supporting a seven-year transition period for the free movement of labor from newly admitted candidate countries. Riess-Passer told Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite about the interest of leading Austrian banks in the privatization of the state-owned Agricultural Bank and the need for Lithuania to set a date for the closing of the second reactor at the nuclear power plant in Ignalina. The previous day, Riess-Passer assured Interior Minister Jonas Bernatonis that Austria is ready to assist Lithuania by providing information on its reforms in public administration and advice on the control of external state borders. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST RICH-POOR DIVISION IN EUROPE

Aleksander Kwasniewski on 6 September said that although the division into spheres of influence on the European continent has disappeared, Europe is still facing the threat of a division into a rich section and a poor section, PAP reported. Kwasniewski was addressing a Poland-East economic forum in Krynica (southern Poland), which is being attended by the presidents of Moldova, Lithuania, and Slovakia, as well as representatives from Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Estonia. "[The threat] particularly applies to countries which after a period of transformations are strenuously trying to close the distance between them and the Western world. To prevent this, we need greater mobilization, greater solidarity, and greater collaboration," Kwasniewski said. JM

CZECH, AUSTRIAN PRESIDENTS DISCUSS TEMELIN, BENES DECREES IN VIENNA

Visiting Czech President Vaclav Havel and his Austrian counterpart Thomas Klestil on 6 September discussed in Vienna differences between the two countries on the Temelin nuclear power plant and the Benes decrees, CTK reported. Klestil reiterated Austrian concerns over the safety of Temelin and said the plant is "a test case for the EU." He added that the Czech Republic "should not be blackmailed" by an Austrian threat to veto its EU accession. Havel said the issue ought to be discussed by experts and should not "be used by populist politicians who display provincialism" on either side of the border. "If Temelin is put into operation, it should be safe and not raise anyone's fears," he said, adding that the "Europeanization" of the dispute is welcome and the European Parliament's reference to Temelin in its 5 September resolution "should be taken seriously and thought about." On the Benes decrees, Havel said that the deportation of the Sudeten Germans in 1945 was "an act of inequity and revenge." He said that the decrees "have already been morally condemned," but removing them from Czech legislation is a "difficult and complicated legal question." Klestil said that the suffering must be "acknowledged as a wrong and rectified." MS

EUROPEAN COMMISSION DISAGREES WITH EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ON TEMELIN

European Commission spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori on 6 September rejected the suggestion included in the European Parliament's resolution on holding an international conference of experts to examine the feasibility and costs of the "zero option" on Temelin, CTK reported. Filori said that "the only basis" for negotiations on Temelin "is the Melk process" agreed upon by the two countries' premiers. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIA DEVELOPING 'IMPERIALIST RHETORIC'

In an article published on 6 September in the Belgian daily "La libre Belgique," Havel wrote that Russia suffers from a lack of self-confidence and is trying to compensate for it by developing "a new imperialistic rhetoric and an ostentatious nationalism," CTK repeated. He said that Russia either "fails to comprehend or is unable to face" the new world situation, which has completely changed following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and NATO's subsequent setting of new goals for itself. He said it is "absurd" for Russia, which is a large and strong country, to be "scared of three small democratic neighbors" such as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and fear their "joining a regional organization that is not under its control." Havel said it is necessary to talk "openly" to Moscow. "Unlike many Western politicians, who hypocritically try to calm Russia down by speaking of peace and friendship, I think friendship with Russia would be better advanced by approaching that country as an equal and telling it the truth, no matter how unpleasant that may be," Havel wrote. MS

CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER OUTLINES ELECTORAL STRATEGY

Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus on 6 September told the daily "Lidove noviny" that the main theme of his party's 2002 electoral campaign will be the struggle "against populism and demagogy," CTK reported. Klaus added that another important issue in the election will be EU accession. "The EU is finally being taken seriously both by candidate states and by its members," he said, adding that the organization is "two-faced." On one hand, he explained, "it is part of the positive process of globalization and liberalization, of the free movement of people, goods, and currencies"; but at the same time, the EU "is a bureaucratic monster that regulates and conducts" life in the member states and "nobody sees that as clearly as the ODS does." Klaus expressed his regret at the election of Vladimir Spidla as chairman of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), saying the CSSD is thereby "taking a sharp turn to the left" and playing "the false social card" that "we hoped had died with the death of communism." MS

CZECH DRIVERS END PROTEST

The Association of Small Cars Importers and the Association of Driving Schools on 6 September decided to end their blockade in Prague, after meeting Transportation Ministry officials including Minister Jaromir Schling and members of the parliament. Klaus, acting as parliamentary chairman, earlier announced the setting up of a "discussion group" of representatives of the ministry and the protesters. The group is to examine changes in the legislation that prompted the protests. The resolution of the conflict was mediated by Senate Chairman Petr Pithart, but not before the protesters had blocked one of Prague's main bridges in the morning hours, causing renewed traffic chaos (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2001). MS

CZECH INSURANCE COMPANY RESUSCITATES JEWISH CEMETERY DISPUTE

The Ceska pojistovna insurance company is demanding 127 million crowns ($3.3 million) in compensation for losses incurred in the dispute over the former Jewish cemetery discovered at the company's building site in central Prague, CTK reported on 7 September, citing the daily "Lidove noviny." The government agreed to compensate Ceska pojistovna with 45 million crowns, but the company now says losses were higher by 82 million due to delays in construction. The 13th-century cemetery, abandoned after 1478, was dug up in 1998 during construction of an underground garage beneath the company's building. The company had originally planned to move the remains and build over them, but following protests by Orthodox Jews from the Czech Republic and abroad who said moving the graves would violate Jewish tradition, the company decided to encase the skeletal remains to preserve them within the construction site. In September 2000, the remains were, nonetheless, reburied in another Prague Jewish cemetery. MS

SLOVAK DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS PURCHASE OF FIGHTER PLANES STILL UNDECIDED

Defense Minister Jozef Stank on 6 September told CTK that although the government is determined to purchase new fighter planes for the air force, it has not yet decided which type of plane to purchase or how to finance the transaction. Stank said that it has "become clear" that the original intention to purchase between 54 and 72 fighters is not feasible, and Slovakia is more likely to purchase 18 planes over a period of several years, with five planes being purchased every year. Stank said a decision on whether to purchase subsonic or supersonic fighters will be made by a Defense Ministry team and submitted to the National Defense Council and the cabinet. Only after that decision is approved can a tender for the purchase be announced, he said. MS

SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ALLOWS DUAL PARTY MEMBERSHIP

The Constitutional Court on 6 September heeded an appeal of 33 deputies headed by Interior Minister Ivan Simko against a law on political parties that bans membership in more than one political formation, CTK reported. The law was approved by the parliament with the support of the opposition and the junior coalition Party of the Democratic Left. It was mainly aimed at making members of the then-major Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) declare their membership in the new Slovak Democratic and Christian Union established by Premier Mikulas Dzurinda after the 1998 elections. Meanwhile, the SDK has disintegrated into its five "mother-party" components, but the court ruled that the constitution grants the freedom of citizens to associate in political parties and does not limit the use of that right to membership in a single formation. MS

MECIAR 'ENVIES' CZECH OPPOSITION AGREEMENT

Former Premier Vladimir Meciar, in an interview with the Czech daily "Lidove noviny" on 7 September, said he "envies" the Czech Republic's so-called "opposition agreement" between the CSSD and the ODS. Meciar also said his relations with Klaus, who was Czech premier when the two former federation members decided on their "Velvet Divorce," are very good and added that he "does not have any particular personal liking" for Czech Premier Milos Zeman. Meciar described his relations with President Havel as "tense," saying their opinions "differ on a number of issues," and that Havel has "interfered in internal Slovak political affairs, which he should not have done." Meciar also said that he "does not regret" the partition of the two countries, among other things because that move "ended the suspicion about who pays for whom." MS

SLOVAKIA COMMEMORATES 'JEWISH CODE'

A series of commemorative events began on 6 September in Banska Bystrica, central Slovakia, marking 60 years since the passing of the so-called "Jewish Code," which eventually led to the deportation and the extermination of most of Slovakia's 70,000 Jews, CTK reported. The code was made up of 270 anti-Jewish laws, decrees, and edicts. MS

TORGYAN SLAMS FIDESZ-HUNGARIAN DEMOCRATIC FORUM PACT

Independent Smallholders' Party Chairman Jozsef Torgyan on 6 September said the recently concluded electoral agreement between FIDESZ and the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) is an attempt "designed to ensure the political survival of MDF's top leaders, while sacrificing that party on the altar of FIDESZ." Torgyan said he expects to get support from MDF sympathizers who, he said, "are committed to the nation." He welcomed as "good news" that FIDESZ and MDF will have candidates against him in the Mateszalka constituency in next year's elections, saying, "somebody has to lose." MSZ

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION CALLS MIEP ARTICLE 'FASCIST'

Free Democratic Party Deputy Gabor Fodor on 6 September said an article written by extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) Deputy Chairman Lorant Hegedus Jr. is "fascist." The article, published in a MIEP magazine in Budapest's 16th district, said that a Christian Hungarian state would have deflected the devastation by the Tatars and Turks, as well as the Habsburg rule, if "a hoard of vagabonds from Galicia had not entered the country as a result of the 1867 compromise [with the Habsburgs]." In an obvious reference to Jews, Hegedus called on Hungarians to "exclude them, otherwise they will do the same with you." Fodor said Prime Minister Viktor Orban encourages such manifestations by not condemning them outright. Magda Kovacs Kosa, the Socialist chairwoman of the parliament's Human Rights Committee, labeled the article "hate speech and fascist," and said its publication "should not go unpunished." MSZ

HUNGARY SAYS TALKS WITH ROMANIA MUST BE FURTHER DELAYED

Hungarian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Gabor Horvath on 6 September said a Hungarian-Romanian bilateral meeting at the level of foreign ministers, which had been scheduled to discuss the implementation of Hungary's Status Law, needs to be further delayed until October. The meeting was originally to take place this week, but Romania asked that it be postponed to late September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2001). Horvath said that at the end of September Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi will be participating in the UN plenary session in New York. He added that a committee of experts from the two countries will meet on 10 September in Budapest to discuss minority issues, including Hungary's Status Law. MSZ




NATO RESUMES ARMS COLLECTION IN MACEDONIA

Macedonian parliament speaker Stojan Andov announced in the legislature on 6 September that "a total of 112 deputies voted [on a measure to approve a Western-backed political settlement]. Ninety-one voted for, 19 voted against, two abstained. I declare that the decision to begin [work on] amending the constitution of the Republic of Macedonia has been passed," RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2001). Top officials of NATO, the EU, the U.S., France, and Germany publicly welcomed the vote. Guerrilla leader Commander Qeka told Reuters: "We were waiting for the vote and finally it has been achieved. This makes us 80 percent sure that the war is about to end, and we're willing to continue our cooperation." The next day, NATO officials said that the next stage in weapons collection of Operation Essential Harvest has begun. Ali Ahmeti, the political leader of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK), said that his guerrillas have released all Macedonian hostages they had been holding, dpa reported. An official of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told the German news agency, however, that the ICRC is still looking for information about 14 missing Macedonians. PM

BOSNIAN SERB LEADER RETURNS TO BELGRADE

Former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic arrived in Belgrade from The Hague on 6 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2001). She will remain until her trial in The Hague begins, which will be in February 2002 at the earliest. Upon arriving in the Serbian capital, she thanked the authorities there for facilitating her transfer. Justice Minister Vladan Batic, who was instrumental in obtaining her release, said that her arrival demonstrates that cooperation between Belgrade and The Hague works to the advantage of both sides. He said that an additional sign of the two-way cooperation will be the transfer to Belgrade from The Hague of documents dealing with financial and other crimes of the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic. PM

DUBIOUS COURT APPOINTMENTS IN YUGOSLAVIA

Both houses of the Yugoslav parliament voted on 6 September to approve President Vojislav Kostunica's two Serbian and two Montenegrin candidates to the Federal Constitutional Court, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, whose government regards the federal authorities as not legitimate, did not approve the Montenegrin nominees. PM

VOTING REGISTRATION DEADLINE EXTENDED FOR SERBS IN KOSOVA

The UN civilian administration in Kosova has extended the deadline for Serbs to register to vote in the 17 November general election by two weeks to 22 September, Reuters reported from Prishtina on 6 September. OSCE representative Daan Everts said that the recent increase in the number of Serbs registering to vote has been "quite spectacular" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 2001). He added that "if this [rate of registration] continues, in 14 days we will have most of the eligible Kosovo Serb voters inside Kosovo registered." In Berlin, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic discussed the situation in Kosova and southern Serbia with Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Covic said that the loss of mutual trust between local Serbs and Albanians is the greatest obstacle to ensuring a good turnout of Serbian voters. PM

SLOVENIA CALLS ON CROATIA TO SIGN AGREEMENT

Speaking in Ljubljana on 6 September, Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek called on the Croatian authorities to approve and sign the border agreement he negotiated with his Croatian counterpart Ivica Racan in July, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 August 2001). Drnovsek stressed: "We have to warn that failure to sign the border agreement by Croatia would most likely cause a serious worsening of our relations... If the border agreement is not signed, we cannot be certain that our parliament will ratify the agreement on the Krsko [nuclear power] plant," which is in Slovenia but was built with Croatian and Slovenian money in communist times. He made his remarks after the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Croatian parliament postponed a discussion of the agreement that had been scheduled for that same day. PM

CROATIA OBTAINS WARRANT FOR WAR CRIMES SUSPECT

At Croatia's request, Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for Croatian General Ante Gotovina, who is wanted by The Hague for war crimes, dpa reported on 6 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2001). PM

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT IN ROMANIA

Visiting Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and his Romanian counterpart Ion Iliescu on 6 September agreed to reopen a ferry link between the Romanian port of Constanta and the Georgian port of Batumi, both on the Black Sea, Romanian media and international agencies reported. The route was closed in 1998 due to a lack of trade. Shevardnadze said the decision reflected the two countries' effort to reestablish the "Silk Road" between China and European countries. He also expressed the hope that in its capacity of rotating chair of the OSCE, Romania will help "solve territorial disputes" and promote efforts to evacuate "foreign bases" from Georgian territory. An accord for the mutual recognition of university degrees was also signed and the two presidents agreed to set up a joint commission to promote trade relations. Shevardnadze was to meet Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and the two chairmen of the Romanian parliamentary chambers on 7 September. Romania also announced it has decided to send aid to children in Abkhazia. MS

ROMANIA, IMF AGREE ON 'LETTER OF INTENTION'

The International Monetary Fund delegation headed by Neven Mates, the fund's chief negotiator for Romania, has agreed with the government on the formulation of a "letter of intent" designed to make possible an accord on a new $400 million standby loan, Mediafax reported on 7 September. The terms of the agreement are to be discussed by the IMF board at a meeting in late October or early November. Mates said the agreement will cover a period of 18 months. MS

ROMANIAN PARTIES ENVISAGE MERGING

National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Valeriu Stoica and Alliance for Romania (APR) Chairman Teodor Melescanu on 7 September decided to merge their formations, Mediafax reported. The merger is to be finalized by June 2002. The two leaders said in a press release that the merged formation, whose name is yet to be decided, will promote "the principles of modern, European liberalism." Melescanu, whose formation failed to gain parliamentary representation in November 2000, said that the merger stems from "the necessity of creating an alternative to the current ruling party" and from the fact that "the PNL and the APR share the same electorate." Earlier this week, Stoica called for parleys on creating a viable alternative to the ruling Social Democratic Party and mentioned as possible PNL partners in a merged formation the APR, the Democratic Party, and the extraparliamentary Union of Rightist Forces. MS.

ROMANIAN SENATE APPROVES ENDING CRIMINALIZATION OF SAME-SEX RELATIONS

The Senate on 6 September voted 83 to 32 in favor of approving a government ordinance that abolished Article 200 from the Penal Code, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2001). The Senate thus heeded repeated criticism by the Council of Europe for its failure to decriminalize same-sex relations. The Greater Romania Party (PRM) voted against the amendment and PRM Senator Aron Belascu called it "a fatal error" and "a brutal [European] interference in Romanian legislation," which also attested to "the government's kowtowing to the Occident." MS

TRANSDNIESTER FREES DETAINED MOLDOVAN OFFICER

The separatists' authorities have released Major Iurie Cheibas from detention, Flux reported on 6 September. Cheibas, a member of the Moldovan military observers on the Joint Control Commission, was detained in Tiraspol on 2 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2001). The Tiraspol authorities said they decided to liberate Cheibas "for humanitarian reasons" and "in order to avoid further tensioning the conflict" with Chisinau. The Moldovan authorities said the detention was "groundless" and that the information Cheibas collected in Tiraspol "cannot be considered secret." MS

ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH IN BULGARIA

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, arriving in Bulgaria on 6 September, said he "brings a message of love for the people" and added that he is "optimistic about the good prospects of prosperity for Bulgaria," BTA reported. Bartholomew II later met in Plodviv with Bulgarian Patriarch Maxim. He is attending the "Byzantine Cultural Heritage and the Balkans" conference there. MS




LUKASHENKA WANTS WIDE-MARGIN VICTORY


By Jan Maksymiuk

Speaking to a conference of executive officials from all of Belarus at the end of July, incumbent Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka boasted that he would be re-elected on 9 September with 90 percent of the vote. But his confidence in voters' support seemed to somewhat decline three weeks later.

Reacting to the opposition-publicized allegations that top state officials and he himself may be implicated in the abduction and the killing of prominent opposition figures in Belarus, Lukashenka told journalists that those charges have only inflated his popularity rating from 45 percent to 65 percent. He did not specify the opinion survey in which such a result was obtained, but subsequently mentioned the same figure -- 65 percent -- on several public occasions. That was a sufficiently clear indication to his administration that he would not mind obtaining such an election result. So far, Lukashenka has usually gotten what he wanted -- if not from voters, then from those who count the votes. Many developments in Belarus's current election campaign indicate that this time, too, Lukashenka will get what he wants.

According to the Minsk-based Independent Institute of Socioeconomic Studies, which conducts regular and comprehensive public opinion polls in Belarus, Lukashenka's popularity rating over the past two years oscillated between 33 percent (the worst result in Lukashenka's presidential career, October 2000) and 47 percent (August 2001). Some Belarusian commentators have speculated that Lukashenka could win his re-election -- even if by an unimpressive margin -- in a free and fair ballot, especially in view of the fact that his rivals lack even a fraction of his political charisma and are hardly known to, let alone trusted by, most of the electorate. In this way, those commentators argued, Lukashenka could legitimize his rule and break his self-imposed isolation in the international arena. But Lukashenka decided not to take any risks in the presidential election -- this week he publicly announced that he does not care about any international recognition of the imminent ballot.

OSCE monitors in Belarus are now very busy registering an avalanche of violations of election procedure by the authorities, including an unprecedented clampdown on the independent media and NGOs. The OSCE has taken great pains to prepare some 15,000 voluntary election observers in Belarus, despite Lukashenka's decree imposing draconian state control on foreign aid to Belarusian NGOs. Those observers -- branded by Lukashenka as the fifth column on the Western payroll -- were trained to register the regime's attempts at rigging the vote, even if they are powerless to intervene to prevent them. The Lukashenka-orchestrated constitutional referendum in 1996 and legislative election in 2000 have doubtless provided a lot of suitable material for OSCE election experts to analyze. It seems, however, that this time they will be confronted with an election technique that might have been overlooked or underestimated by them in 1996 and 2000, because it played a minor role on those past occasions. That technique is early voting.

Under Belarus's election law, any voter can cast a vote five days ahead of the election date without giving any formal reasons for doing so. Reports by Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service this week suggest that the Belarusian authorities have launched a widescale but officially unadvertised campaign to urge and/or pressure voters to go to the polls early. During these five days of early voting, it is virtually impossible to ensure efficient monitoring of Belarus's 6,753 polling stations even by 15,000 observers, while the possibilities for the authorities and election officials to secretly replace cast ballots with falsified ones are practically unlimited.

Independent observers want to tabulate official ballot results from 500 constituencies and thus announce preliminary nationwide results just hours after the polling stations are closed. The Central Election Commission only feebly objected to such an unofficial vote count. But it did object vehemently to exit polls by independent observers on 9 September, adding that police officers will prevent any such attempts. The point is that exit polls provide an estimate of real voting preferences, while the tabulation of official results from selected constituencies says only what was found in the ballot boxes when they were opened by election commissions.

Quoting a "reliable source," Communist Party leader Syarhey Kalyakin -- a member of the campaign staff of unified opposition candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk -- said on 6 September that two days earlier all raion administration heads were provided with 20,000 blank voting ballots each in order to rig the election results on their territories in favor of Lukashenka. According to Kalyakin, the authorities want as many as 40 percent of voters to cast their votes early. In particular, Kalyakin divulged that the administration plans to replace a total of 560,000 ballots in Minsk Oblast in order to achieve 78 percent support for Lukashenka in that region. Kalyakin's revelations have yet to be independently confirmed, but their existence testifies to the fact that the opposition is well aware that such a falsification technique may be easily applied on a mass scale.

It can, of course, be argued that this gloomy scenario for the "expression of people's will" on 9 September in Belarus may not necessarily take place. For example, there will be no need to "correct" the vote, because people will overwhelmingly vote for the incumbent president on their own. The problem is, however, that Belarus's current regime has taken every measure to undermine public confidence, both at home and abroad, in any result that may come out of ballot boxes handled by Lukashenka's people. And this also means that Lukashenka's election showing on 9 September -- be it 65, 78, or 90 percent -- will be no less questionable than the campaign practices he has exercised so far.


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