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Newsline - September 10, 2001




PUTIN SAYS ERA OF 'MEETING DEMOCRACY' OVER

Speaking in Kislovodsk on 7 September, President Vladimir Putin said that "the time of meeting democracy of the beginning of the 1990s is over. On its basis," he added, "much good was done, but now it is necessary to move toward the constructive development of the state," Russian agencies reported. Putin also said that he believes that the government should work to support the survival of languages spoken by relatively small groups of people. PG

PUTIN READY TO TALK WITH CHECHENS -- IF THEY SURRENDER WEAPONS AND GIVE UP DRIVE FOR INDEPENDENCE

Responding to repeated proposals by Boris Nemtsov, the leader of Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), which called for the launching of negotiations on ending the war in Chechnya, President Putin on 7 September said that he agrees that "talks are always better than the use of force," Russian and Western agencies reported. But, he added that Moscow will talk with "anyone" if they agree that the Russian Constitution applies in Chechnya just as it does elsewhere, and if the "rebel formations" unconditionally and immediately disarm themselves and surrender to the federal authorities those "especially notorious rebels whose arms are stained up to their elbows with the blood of Russian people." If Nemtsov or anyone else can "guarantee" those conditions, Putin said, then "let them do it" within a month. But if they cannot, the Russian president added, "let them stop hustling and bustling on the country's political scene and give up their Duma deputy mandates." Nemtsov's proposals have drawn nearly universal criticism, and some in his own party have suggested that he has been misunderstood. Only Grigorii Yavlinsky's Yabloko party backed Nemtsov's call for negotiations. Putin's one- month time frame may be significant: on 8 September, Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, the commander of the North Caucasus Military District, said in Moscow that the Russian government plans to reduce its forces in Chechnya in two months, Interfax reported. PG

PUTIN SAYS BETTER-OFF REGIONS MUST HELP POORER ONES

Addressing a meeting in Kislovodsk on 7 September of the heads of federal subjects, President Putin said that Russia's better-off regions must help those that are not doing as well, Russian agencies reported. Putin acknowledged that "this policy draws criticism from the so-called donor regions," who will be paying more to Moscow than they get back. But he said that regional differences in income are typically independent of the actions of regional leaders, and that those regions doing better should help those doing less well. PG

PUTIN SAID TO PROMISE TO LOOK INTO DENIAL OF TRANSIT VISA TO DALAI LAMA

A spokesman for Kalmykian President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said that President Putin has promised to look into the reasons why the Foreign Ministry denied a transit visa to the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, Ekho Moskvy reported on 8 September. Ilyumzhinov reportedly raised that issue with the Russian leader, and Putin said he will seek to "resolve the issue positively." VY

'VEK' PRAISES PUTIN FOR REAL REFORM BUT CALLS FOR MORE DEMOCRACY

According to an article in "Vek," No. 35, President Putin has carried out genuine reforms rather than engaging in the "planned catastrophe" style of the Bolsheviks or former Russian President Boris Yeltsin's neoradicals. But up to now, the weekly said, Putin has pursued change on the basis of his own bureaucratic instinct rather than from any understanding of the needs of a democratic society. And in the future, it added, his call for an efficient state can be justified only if the president supplements it with a call for "efficient democracy." VY

ONLY ONE RUSSIAN IN SIX REMEMBERS ANY SPECIFIC PUTIN STATEMENT

According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported in "Izvestiya" on 7 September, only 17 percent of Russians can say that any of President Putin's statements or actions "have stuck in their memories." Residents of Moscow are less likely to remember the president's moves than others -- only 10 percent said they can do so. The article was significantly titled "Careless citizens." PG

KASYANOV SAYS 54 FIRMS TO BE PRIVATIZED BEFORE END OF YEAR

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 8 September signed a decree listing by name 54 companies that the Russian government will sell either in whole or in part to private buyers before the end of 2001, Interfax reported. They include regional aviation and river transport companies, the news agency said. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY WANTS LEGALIZATION OF SOFT DRUGS

Duma deputy speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky told an international conference in Saratov on 6 September on fighting illegal drug use that American intelligence services are to blame for the rise of drug use in Russia, "Izvestiya" reported the following day. The best way to combat the plague, Zhirinovsky said, is to legalize soft drugs as the Netherlands has done. PG

PRIMAKOV WANTS KREMLIN CORRUPTION CASES TO BE FULLY INVESTIGATED

Yevgenii Primakov, the former leader of the Duma Fatherland-All Russia faction, said on 7 September that he believes that the major corruption investigations launched when he was prime minister in 1999 will be carried forward, RTR television reported. Without the completion of these investigations, Primakov said, Russia cannot move forward. He added that President Putin is the man to do it and that Putin is rapidly distancing himself from some of those who helped make him president. Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the same day said that corruption has "grown into a threat to Russia's national interests," but that it cannot be effectively fought until the government creates an adequate legal basis for doing so. The following day, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" commented that "almost every CIS member country has former high-ranking officials on trial for corruption." VY/PG

FATF KEEPS RUSSIA ON MONEY-LAUNDERING BLACKLIST BUT DOES NOT IMPOSE SANCTIONS

The G-7's Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on 7 September did not drop Russia from the "blacklist" of countries that have failed to do enough to combat money laundering, but in recognition of Russia's recent adoption of a law on money laundering, the FATF did not impose any sanctions on Russia, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

RUSSIAN EXPERTS SAY WORLD ECONOMIC SLUMP WILL NOT HURT RUSSIA MUCH

A group of economic experts surveyed by Interfax-AFI on 7 September said that a world economic crisis is now possible, but that they do not believe that it would have a major impact on Russia. PG

PRUSAK SAYS FEDERATION COUNCIL SHOULD 'VOLUNTARILY' DISBAND

Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak said on 7 September that the upper house of the parliament should "voluntarily" leave the political scene to enable the State Council to assume its powers, regions.ru reported. Prusak said the Federation Council is inefficient. To make such a transition, he continued, Putin should expand the State Council to include elected officials as well as presidential appointees and serve as the councils' head. VY

NEW DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR STRATEGIC PLANNING

President Putin on 6 September created the post of deputy foreign minister for strategic planning and named to it Ambassador Aleksei Meshkov, who had been the head of the policy planning department, Russian agencies reported on 7 September. Meshkov's post becomes the 13th deputy foreign minister. Talking to the press after his appointment, Meshkov said that "I am not [world chess champion] Gary Kasparov for whom 13 is a lucky number. But the main thing is that there must be fewer black cats around." PG

GORBACHEV HOPES FOR RE-ELECTION OF LUKASHENKA

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said on 9 September that he "supports" Alyaksandr Lukashenka for the presidency of Belarus, Interfax reported on 9 September. "This is a talented man devoted to Belarus and Russia," Gorbachev said. Gorbachev was speaking at a book presentation gathering to officially release a book about him by his former press secretary, Andrei Grachev. The same day however, three people picketed the Belarusian Embassy in Moscow to protest "against the dictatorship of A. Lukashenka," the news service reported. President Putin for his part on 7 September refused to be drawn into a discussion of whether he wanted Lukashenka to win, but the Russian president said that "we hold dear" Lukashenka's commitment to the Russia-Belarus Union, ITAR- TASS reported. PG

UZBEKS TO HAVE SPECIAL BAZAAR IN MOSCOW

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov promised his Uzbek hosts in Tashkent on 8 September that he will open a special Uzbek bazaar in Moscow, Interfax- Moscow reported. Luzhkov said that his visit went well but acknowledged that he had lost a tennis match to Uzbek President Islam Karimov. Luzhkov noted that it was "not a political or diplomatic loss." PG

MOSCOW TAKES CREDIT FOR DURBAN OUTCOME

The Foreign Ministry released a statement on 8 September saying that the Russian delegation to the UN Conference Against Racism, Discrimination, and Xenophobia made a contribution to ensuring that the meeting was constructive, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

MOSCOW WILL NOT USE FOREIGN AID TO FINANCE JUDICIAL REFORM

Dmitrii Kozak, the deputy chief of President Putin's staff, said in Strasbourg on 7 September that Moscow will not use any foreign assistance to finance the reform of its judicial system, ITAR-TASS reported the following day. Kozak also told the Council of Europe experts that Russia will maintain its moratorium on the death penalty "despite the brutal crimes committed on its territory." PG

RUSSIAN-AMERICAN RELATIONS SAID TO STAGNATE

In an interview published in "Vek," No. 35, Duma International Relations Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin said that Russian-American relations have entered a period of "stagnation." Meanwhile, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 7 September that rumors continue to circulate that President Putin will not in fact go to the U.S. in November for a summit meeting. But U.S. officials said the same day that five U.S. engineering and management firms have been awarded a $5 billion contract to help dismantle Russian nuclear and conventional arms, Reuters reported. PG

BERLIN TO HELP SUPPORT ETHNIC GERMANS IN RUSSIA

Johann Welt, the representative of the German government for settlers' affairs, said in Yekaterinburg on 7 September that Berlin will provide financial and other support for ethnic German communities in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

ARAFAT TO VISIT MOSCOW THIS YEAR

Following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 7 September, Mahmoud Abbas, a senior aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, said that Arafat will visit Moscow before the end of 2001, Western agencies reported. PG

JAPAN ARRESTS RUSSIAN CAPTAIN FOR DRUG SMUGGLING

Russian customs officials said on 7 September that on 1 September Japanese police arrested the captain of a Russian ship for allegedly carrying Iranian opium to Japan, AP reported. Meanwhile, on 8 September, the Japanese coast guard rescued 29 crew members from a Russian fishing vessel before it sank, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. PG

RUSSIA, CHINA REACH BROAD AGREEMENT

Prime Minister Kasyanov signed seven accords with his visiting Chinese counterpart Zhu Rongji in St. Petersburg on 8 September concerning cooperation in a wide variety of areas, RIA-Novosti reported. Among the most important are commitments to explore construction of a gas pipeline between the two countries and a Chinese agreement to buy five new Tu-204 passenger aircraft with an option to buy 10 more. That will increase the Russian share of the Chinese aircraft market to 10 percent and reduce Chinese purchases of U.S. Boeing planes. VY

BUTYRKA ESCAPEES STILL AT LARGE

The three men sentenced to life in prison who escaped from Moscow's Butyrka prison on 5 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 September 2001) remained at large as of 8 September, Russian agencies reported. This was despite the use of lie detectors, dogs, and the setting up of a reward for any information about their whereabouts. Meanwhile, their escape focussed attention on the problems of Russian prisons. "Izvestiya" reported on 7 September that jailbreaks have become increasingly common and are likely to become more so. And the paper asked several people in its "theme of the day" feature whether they would turn in someone who had fled from prison. All responded with a variation of "it would depend." Meanwhile, Interfax reported the same day that it will devote more than 14 billion rubles ($340 million) over the next five years to improve the country's places of incarceration. PG

2,000 DEFENSE ENTERPRISES TO BE COMBINED INTO 50 MAJOR STRUCTURES

Aleksandr Dondukov, the Industry, Science and Technology Minister, said on 7 September that the government plans to consolidate approximately 2,000 often unprofitable defense firms into 50 major and viable industrial structures, Interfax reported. PG

30,000 RUSSIAN SOLDIERS SAID BEATEN EACH YEAR

According to estimates by the Soldiers' Mothers' Committee, approximately 30,000 Russian soldiers are beaten by their officers or fellow soldiers every year, Interfax reported on 9 September. Officials of the committee said that in the past year alone, 15,000 soldiers and their parents have appealed to the committee for assistance. PG

FORMER 'NEZAVISIMAYA' EDITOR SAYS BEREZOVSKY PEOPLE WANT TO KILL HIM

Vitalii Tretyakov, the founder and former chief editor of "Nezavisimaya gazeta" said that associates of embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky have threatened his "physical liquidation" if Tretyakov does not give up his rights to the paper, "Vremya novostei" reported on 8 September. But the deputy director of Berezovsky's LogoVAZ groups, Yulii Dubov, denied that charge and said he spoke with Tretyakov about protecting the former editor's interests after Tretyakov left the paper, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day. Dubov suggested that Tretyakov is "inventing" threats in order to generate sympathy for his position. VY

NEW BOARD ELECTED AT ORT

A general shareholders meeting of Russian ORT television on 8 September elected a new 11-person board, including President Putin's personal press secretary Aleksei Gromov, Deputy Property Minister Aleksandr Braverman, First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii, and North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov, ITAR-TASS reported. Among the nongovernmental representatives are filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov, Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovskii, and publisher Vitalii Tretyakov. VY

SARATOV RESIDENTS SAY AUTHORITIES BEHIND FALSE REPORTS IN MEDIA

A poll conducted in Saratov Oblast this summer found that 30 percent of respondents now trust local media, up from 10-12 percent three years ago, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 7 September. But four out of 10 said that local officials currently engage in feeding false information to the media. PG

MORE THAN 30,000 RUSSIAN ENTERPRISES IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS

Industry, Science and Technology Minister Dondukov said on 8 September that more than 30,000 Russian enterprises are in one stage or another of bankruptcy proceedings, and that the government is creating a special fund to deal with the problem, RIA-Novosti reported. The fund will be supervised by the federal government, he said, but its budget will largely be supplied from private sources. VY

SUCCESS OF NEW FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY QUESTIONED

"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 September that the Kremlin decree making the newly created Committee on Financial Monitoring at the Finance Ministry the sole agency to keep track of money laundering is unlikely to achieve the government's aims. That is because, the paper said, the new agency will only collect information and not have any law- enforcement powers. VY

RUSSIA TO RESUME EXPORT OF PRECIOUS METALS AFTER BUREAUCRATIC TUSSLE

Leonid Tolpezhnikov, the chief of the Precious Metals Department of the Finance Ministry, announced on 8 September that Russia will resume the export of precious metals now that the government has overcome internal disagreements, Fininvest reported. But no comparable agreement has been reached on the export of gemstones. VY

ANNIVERSARY OF LENINGRAD BLOCKADE MARKED

Russians who survived the 900-day Nazi blockade of Leningrad during World War II on 8 September marked the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the siege, AP reported. Meanwhile, Unity leader and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu opened a festival in St. Petersburg the same day to encourage young Russians to learn more about and be proud of their country's past. PG

RUSSIA'S MUSLIMS MORE DEVOUT THAN ITS ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS, POLL SUGGESTS

According to a poll conducted by the ROMIR agency and reported by "Izvestiya" on 8 September, 73.6 percent of the Russian population identifies itself as Orthodox Christian while 4 percent say they are Muslims, and less than 2 percent identify with other creeds. But if almost half of all the Christians do not go to church regularly or believe in the basic provisions of their faith, three quarters of Russian Muslims believe in Allah and other features of Islam, the poll suggested. PG

BULLFIGHT SUPPORTERS DEMONSTRATE IN MOSCOW

Some 50 people, mostly teenagers, demonstrated at Moscow's Olympic sports complex on 7 September to protest the decision by Moscow Mayor Luzhkov to ban bullfighting in the Russian capital, Interfax-Moscow reported. They carried signs including one directed to the Russian Orthodox Church which read: "Church, defend Russians, not bulls." Meanwhile, the same day, private traders held a meeting to demand the retirement of Moscow Oblast Governor Boris Gromov because of his order that traders use cash registers in their operation, the news service said. PG

TRASH THREATENS RUSSIA'S WELL-BEING

Maria Karymova, the press secretary of the Russian Ecological Union, told Interfax on 8 September that trash thrown out by individual Russians and by Russian firms threatens the health and well- being of the country's population, especially because most Russian landfills are located so close to population centers. PG

5 MILLION CELL PHONE USERS IN RUSSIA

Yurii Pavlenko, the first deputy communications minister, told Interfax on 7 September that there are now 5 million cell phone users in Russia, twice the number of 18 months ago. He predicted that 45-48 million Russians will use cell phones by 2010. PG

FIRST REAL SCHOOL BUSES APPEAR IN RUSSIA

Something Russians have known "chiefly from Hollywood films" -- the American- style school bus -- has made its first appearance in Russia in Yaroslavl Oblast, "Izvestiya" reported on 7 September. Up to now and in most places, the paper noted, children have traveled to school in ordinary buses rather than had vehicles specially designed for them. PG

LARGEST LENIN BEING RESTORED

Officials in Ulan-Ude on 7 September told Interfax-Eurasia that they are working to restore the seven-meter bronze head of Vladimir Lenin that has graced their city for many years. The officials said it is the largest Lenin head in existence. PG

FAR EAST FORUM DISCUSSES CHINESE THREAT...

Ethnic Russians living outside Russia as well as Russian citizens attending a forum on the Russian Far East in Vladivostok have called on the State Duma to declare the region a "high-risk" territory, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September. Participants in the forum declared that the region's demographic problems are particularly pressing as more than 600,000 people have left the region and the death rate is double that of the birth rate, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. According to the daily, demographic pressure from China is being felt all the more strongly, since around 150 million people live in that country's northeast provinces compared with just 6 million Russians on the Far Eastern territory. Currently there are several dozens of thousands of Chinese immigrants in the Far East, but "obviously the Chinese will become more and more numerous." The daily continued, "Therefore in the distant future, Russia without any war can lose its eastern regions." JAC

...AS SKINHEADS ATTACK CHINESE STUDENTS IN OREL

Following reports of other attacks on foreign students at other regional universities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 2001), "Obshchaya gazeta" No. 36 reported that no less than eight of 33 Chinese students sent to study at Orel State University have decided to go home following racially motivated attacks. A leader of the Chinese students told the weekly of two attacks against the students within one week, one by men in white and red masks outside the students' dormitory. Viktor Livtsov, head of the oblast's committee for youth affairs, believes that local skinheads who deal "aggressively" with outsiders are behind the attacks. JAC

IRKUTSK GOVERNOR MAKES INAUGURATION EXCLUSIVE EVENT

An inauguration was held on 7 September for newly re-elected Irkutsk Governor Boris Govorin, amidst reports that his political opponents and members of press were banned from the ceremony. According to the website polit.ru, a deputy chairman of Irkutsk Oblast's legislature along with other local deputies who have been critical of Govorin were not allowed to attend the inauguration. At the same time, journalists from leading media outlets such as RIA-Novosti, ITAR-TASS, RTR Television, and several newspapers who have also been critical of Govorin, were denied accreditation to cover the ceremony. Deputy Governor Tatyana Ryutina reported that too many people had wanted to attend the ceremony. Meanwhile, a correspondent for "Nezavisimaya gazeta," who did attend the event, reported that in attendance were leaders from neighboring regions such as Chita, Buryatia, Tuva as well as Oleg Sysuev of the Congress of Municipal Organizations, Soviet cosmonaut Aleksandr Polishchuk, and head of the Federation Council's apparatus Vladimir Nikitov. JAC

CHUVASH LEGISLATORS TRY AGAIN WITH FEDERATION COUNCIL REP

Legislators in the Chuvash Republic have again nominated Yamalstroi President Vyacheslav Borovik to be their representative to the Federation Council, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 7 September. Borovik was previously nominated last June but that nomination was successfully challenged in a local court, which ruled that the deputies had violated the legal procedure for nominated representatives to the upper legislative chamber. JAC

STUDENTS RESPOND TO CALL FOR BLOOD

Responding to low supplies of blood in area hospitals, health officials in Samara Oblast have raised the price paid to blood donors for 100 grams of blood from 8 rubles to 30 rubles ($1), "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 8 September. And with the rate hike, the blood deficit has vanished and now lines of donors are forming at the office where blood is donated. According to the daily, students, who also receive a certificate freeing them from two days of classes, were the first to react to the price hike. JAC




ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES DEMAND PRESIDENT'S IMPEACHMENT...

As anticipated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2001), on 7 September the leaders of the People's Party of Armenia, Hanrapetutiun, and the National Accord Front issued a joint statement calling for the impeachment of President Robert Kocharian, whom they accuse of violating the Armenian Constitution, condoning terrorism, and precipitating the country into a deep political, moral, psychological, and socioeconomic crisis, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The statement also repeated earlier allegations that Kocharian sought to sabotage the investigation into the October 1999 parliament shootings in order to prevent the identity of the organizers from becoming known. The joint statement was read by Artashes Geghamian, a leading member of the AHCh, at Hanrapetutiun's first congress in Yerevan at which one of the party's leaders, former Yerevan Mayor Albert Bazeyan, declared that "the removal of the Kocharian regime and the formation of a legitimate government is the main precondition for the development of our country." Bazeyan stressed, however, that Kocharian's ouster must be accomplished "by constitutional means." LF

...CONVINCING HIM TO SEEK RE-ELECTION

Visiting a Yerevan factory on 8 September, Kocharian announced that the opposition statement released the previous day had served to demolish his earlier doubts over whether to seek re-election in 2003, and that he has made up his mind to do so, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian criticized the opposition's challenge as "filled with malice," adding that "people with so much malice endanger the country by seeking [to come to] power." LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT OUTLINES PRIORITIES

During an Internet forum on 7 September moderated by the Russian electronic daily gazeta.sng, Kocharian listed as his top priority creating "an economically strong Armenia," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But he acknowledged that it will not be possible to achieve that objective without large-scale foreign investment, according to Noyan Tapan. Kocharian claimed that the economic climate has improved markedly over the past two to three years, although he admitted that many people have not yet experienced an improvement in their living conditions. Kocharian stressed the importance for all three South Caucasus states of ending ongoing conflicts. He also said Armenia supports any steps aimed at establishing civilized and good-neighborly relations with Turkey, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

AZERBAIJAN, RUSSIA TO SIGN AGREEMENT ON CONTROVERSIAL RADAR FACILITY

During talks in Moscow on 7 September, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and his visiting Azerbaijani counterpart Colonel General Safar Abiev succeeded in narrowing outstanding differences over the terms and duration for which Russia's radar facility at Gabala in Azerbaijan will continue to operate, Russian agencies reported. The two sides will sign an agreement formalizing those conditions during President Heidar Aliev's upcoming visit to Moscow, which is planned for late November. Ivanov told journalists that it does not make sense to extend the lease for Gabala only for a period of three to five years, as Baku has proposed, according to AP. Russia wants the lease extended for 20 to 25 years. Ivanov also said a joint Azerbaijani- Russian commission has evaluated, and is inclined to reject, allegations that the radar station poses a serious ecological hazard. Ivanov also told journalists after his meeting with Abiev that Russia is ready to help modernize Azerbaijan's Soviet-era military hardware and to train Azerbaijani servicemen "on easy terms." Abiev for his part said agreement was reached on cooperation between the two countries' air defense systems, Turan reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI SECURITY MINISTER ENDS VISIT TO IRAN

Namig Abbasov returned to Baku on 8 September after meeting in Tehran on 6 September with Iranian President Mohammad Khattami, Turan reported. Khattami affirmed his conviction that "with understanding and mutual respect," it will prove possible to resolve all contentious issues between the five Caspian littoral states without infringing on their legitimate interests. He also expressed satisfaction over the visit, scheduled for 17 September, of President Aliev. An Azerbaijani delegation made up of several government ministers and oil and transport sector officials arrived in Tehran on 8 September to prepare for that visit, during which a total of 10 agreements are to be signed, according to ITAR- TASS. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN OFFERS TO RESIGN

Following the failure of the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) parliament faction to elicit support for an open letter to President Eduard Shevardnadze calling for more effective measures to counter corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 2001), parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania offered to resign if 100 of the total 235 parliament deputies sign a statement calling on him to do so, Caucasus Press reported on 7 September. Both opposition and SMK deputies rejected that proposal (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 31, 10 September 2001). LF

FORMER GEORGIAN COMMUNIST PARTY BOSS FORMS NEW POLITICAL ALLIANCE

Djumber Patiashvili, who in 1985 succeeded Shevardnadze as first secretary of the Communist Party of Georgia and ran unsuccessfully against him in the presidential elections of 1995 and 2000, has joined forces with Aleksandre Chachia, who in 1999 headed a political party intended to revive the west Georgian region of Mingrelia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 13, 31 March 1999), to form the Unity alliance, Caucasus Press reported. Patiashvili was elected chairman at the movement's founding congress in Tbilisi on 7 September. He told journalists its objectives are restoring Georgia's territorial integrity and promoting social equality. LF

OSCE TO EXPAND MONITORING OF GEORGIA'S BORDERS WITH NORTH CAUCASUS

The OSCE has agreed "in principle" to a request by the Georgian government to deploy observers on Georgia's borders with Daghestan and Ingushetia, in addition to those who since early last year have been posted along Georgia's border with Chechnya, but the technical issues involved have not yet been resolved, AP quoted Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze as telling journalists in Tbilisi on 7 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 2001). Also on 7 September, new accommodation for the OSCE monitors on the Georgian-Chechen border was opened in the village of Shatili. LF

AUDIT CHAMBER DETAILS FINANCIAL MISMANAGEMENT IN GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY

Following an audit of the Georgian Defense Ministry's financial transactions during the first six months of this year, the press service of Georgia's Audit Chamber said on 7 September that the ministry currently owes some 42.7 million laris ($20.6 million), including 17.3 million laris in wage arrears, Caucasus Press reported. Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze told a parliament committee on 6 September that the armed forces need a minimum of 71 million laris ($34.3 million) in funding for 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2001). Parliament deputy Koba Amirkhanishvili said the same day he will resign his mandate if the Finance Ministry does not accede to that demand, "Akhali taoba" reported on 7 September. LF

GEORGIA REGISTERS 5 PERCENT GDP GROWTH

Georgia's GDP increased by 5.4 percent during the first six months of 2001 compared with the corresponding period for last year, Caucasus Press reported on 7 September, but industrial output during the period January-July 2001 fell by 2.6 percent compared with 2000. LF

OSCE QUERIES LEGALITY OF SENTENCE ON FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER

The OSCE office in Kazakhstan issued a statement in Almaty on 7 September expressing doubt that the jail sentence handed down the previous day to former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin conforms to international standards of justice, Russian agencies reported. Kazhegeldin was sentenced in absentia to 10 years imprisonment on charges of abuse of office, tax evasion, taking bribes, and illegal possession of weapons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2001). The OSCE noted that trying a defendant in absentia may violate the principle of equality before the law, and that "there are certain doubts" that the presumption of innocence was fully observed during the trial. LF

IMPRISONED FORMER KYRGYZ OFFICIAL TAKES LEGAL ACTION AGAINST PRESIDENT

Former Kyrgyz Vice President and opposition Ar- Namys Party leader Feliks Kulov has brought a lawsuit against President Askar Akaev and is demanding that the president publish an apology for branding him as a person who "disappointed him" and "who loved power too much," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 8 September. That characterization appears in Akaev's book "The Memorable Decade," which was formally launched on 24 August. Kulov was sentenced in January to seven years imprisonment on charges of abuse of power while serving as national security minister in 1997- 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001). LF

NEW HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT FOUNDED IN KYRGYZSTAN

Representatives of the Asaba, Ata-Meken, Erkindik, Kairan-El and Communist parties, together with several NGOs, attended a meeting in Bishkek on 8 September to mark the foundation of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Recently released Erkindik party leader Topchubek TurgunAliyev was elected chairman of the commission. LF

MINISTER'S ASSASSINATION, BOMB BLAST CAST PALL OVER TAJIK INDEPENDENCE CELEBRATIONS

Tajikistan's Minister of Culture Abdurahim Rahimov was shot dead outside his home in Dushanbe early on 8 September by a lone gunman who then escaped. It was the third such killing of a senior government official so far this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April and 18 July 2001). Law-enforcement officials described the shooting as "a terrorist act," while President Imomali Rakhmonov condemned the unknown perpetrators as "enemies of the Tajik people." On 9 September a young man was killed when a homemade bomb he was carrying exploded some 500-1,000 meters away from a stadium in Dushanbe where Rakhmonov and other senior officials were attending festivities to mark the 10th anniversary of Tajikistan's independence. LF

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CUTS SHORT VISIT TO TAJIKISTAN

Kamal Kharrazi left Dushanbe prematurely after a 3 1/2 hour meeting and dinner with Rakhmonov on 7 September, saying that unspecified "important matters" required his presence in Tehran, AP reported the following day. Kharrazi was to have met on 8 September with his Tajik counterpart Talbak Nazarov and to have taken part in the independence day celebrations the following day. During his 7 September meeting with Rakhmonov, the two men discussed bilateral relations and the situation in Afghanistan. LF




ELECTION COMMISSION SAYS LUKASHENKA WON LANDSLIDE VICTORY...

Central Election Commission head Lidziya Yarmoshyna on 10 September said Alyaksandr Lukashenka was overwhelmingly re- elected for a second term in the 9 September presidential ballot, Belapan reported. According to preliminary results that do not include data from polling stations abroad, Lukashenka won 75.62 percent of the vote. Unified opposition candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk obtained 15.39 percent of the vote and Liberal Democratic Party leader Syarhey Haydukevich 2.48 percent. Some 6.15 million Belarusians took part in the ballot (83.85 percent of eligible voters). Yarmoshyna said the ballot was conducted "irreproachably." "This was a brilliant, elegant, persuasive victory," Lukashenka commented just one hour after the closure of polling stations, when no official election results had yet been released. JM

...WHILE HANCHARYK CLAIMS BALLOT WAS FALSIFIED

Some four hours after the completion of the presidential ballot on 9 September, Hancharyk said the vote was conducted with gross violations of the election legislation and its results were falsified by the authorities. Hancharyk was speaking to some 2,000 opposition activists who gathered under heavy rain at a Minsk square to express their support for him. Hancharyk claimed that, according to an independent count, Lukashenka won 46 percent of the vote while he took 40 percent. "We appeal to the international community to support our just demand to hold a second round of elections," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service quoted Hancharyk as saying. JM

OSCE CONDEMNS BELARUS'S BALLOT AS UNFAIR

"Unfortunately, Belarus's presidential elections did not meet international standards for free, democratic elections," AP quoted Kimmo Kiljunen, vice president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and coordinator of the OSCE's monitoring mission in Belarus, as saying on 10 September. "Maybe the election process was somewhat free but clearly it was not fair," Kiljunen added. The OSCE issued a statement condemning the election campaign. "There were fundamental flaws in the electoral process, some of which are specific to the political situation in Belarus," the statement said. The OSCE added that the Belarusian authorities did everything possible to block the opposition, including ruling by decree, failing to ensure the independence of the election administration, failing to properly control early voting, and creating a campaign environment that was seriously detrimental to the opposition. The statement noted that the authorities launched a campaign of intimidation against opposition activists, domestic observers, and independent media, and a smear campaign against international observers. JM

RUSSIAN ELECTION OFFICIAL DUBIOUS OVER BELARUS'S EARLY VOTING

Aleksandr Veshnyakov, head of Russia's Central Election Commission, told journalists in Minsk on 9 September that early voting is intended for those voters who are not able to cast their votes on election day, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. "If this provision is being perverted, one has questions as a minimum," Veshnyakov said. According to him, it is possible to understand and accept early voting turnout at a level of 3-5 percent. "When [early voting] turnout is significantly higher, it is difficult to explain it," Veshnyakov noted. Belarus's election authorities said more than 14 percent of voters voted in the presidential ballot ahead of 9 September. JM

UKRAINE'S TWO RUKHS JOIN YUSHCHENKO'S OUR UKRAINE

The Popular Rukh of Ukraine led by Hennadiy Udovenko and the Ukrainian Popular Rukh of Yuriy Kostenko on 8 September declared their accession to the Our Ukraine election bloc led by former Premier Viktor Yushchenko, Interfax reported. In addition, Udovenko and Kostenko pledged to make efforts to reunite their Rukhs into one organization. Speaking at a joint conference of the two Rukhs, Yushchenko announced that Our Ukraine's core will consist of "five to seven parties," but failed to name them. JM

EU TO DELIVER TOUGH MESSAGE TO UKRAINE

Senior EU officials, including foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, will meet President Leonid Kuchma and members of the Ukrainian government in the Crimean resort of Yalta on 11 September. "If President Kuchma is serious about Ukraine's European choice and putting the Gongadze affair and other scandals behind him, he must clarify relations between the state and the media and ensure safety for foreign investors," Reuters quoted EU official Timo Summa as saying on 7 September. Summa said the EU is also worried about the lack of independence among Ukraine's judiciary, and pledged that Brussels will closely monitor the country's parliamentary elections next spring. JM

PRO PATRIA UNION LEAVES TARTU RULING COALITION

The Pro Patria Union left the ruling coalition in the Tartu City Council on 7 September, ETA reported. The decision was prompted by the elections in the council the previous day of Tartu's four delegates to the electoral college that is to meet on 21 September to elect Estonia's president. Pro Patria had expected that one of its deputies would be elected to the college, but the Tartu council elected three delegates from the Reform Party and one from the Tartu 2000-plus faction. The current chairman of the Tartu City Council, Pro Patria presidential candidate Peeter Tulviste, is expected to resign as council chairman. SG

CANADIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS LATVIA

John Manley's talks with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga in Riga on 7 September focused on Latvia's membership in the European Union and NATO, BNS reported. She thanked him for the support Canada provided her country after reestablishing independence, including around $1.8 million for establishing Latvia's Translations and Terminology Center, which makes translations of EU legislation and other documents. The two officials also agreed that economic ties between their countries should be increased. Manley told Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins that he does not think that the U.S. will agree to give up backing NATO membership for the Baltic states in exchange for Russia's support for its envisioned missile defense system. Berzins mentioned that Latvia wishes to have good-neighborly relations with Russia, and also urged Canada to sign a visa- free agreement with Latvia. Manley also met with parliament Chairman Janis Straume and the parliament's Latvian-Canadian cooperation commission. SG

LITHUANIA NOT TO SEEK TRANSITION PERIOD FOR DIESEL FUEL EXCISE HIKES

Chief EU negotiator Petras Austrevicius announced on 7 September that Lithuania has changed its position in its European Union membership talks and is no longer seeking a transition period for raising the excise tax on diesel fuel up to EU levels, BNS reported. Diesel prices in Lithuania are now lower than in other EU candidate countries. The excise tax, currently 560 litas ($140) per ton, will be raised to 720 litas per ton early next year, and to the EU required level of 1,003 litas per ton in 2004. The government decided, however, to compensate the tax increase to the most affected population groups, namely farmers and fishermen. Lithuania will retain its position of seeking a transition period until 2009 for raising the excise tax on tobacco up to the EU's required levels. SG

HUNGARY, SLOVAKIA INTERESTED IN POLAND'S SCANDINAVIAN GAS DEALS

Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban and Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda told their Polish counterpart Jerzy Buzek on 7 September that they are interested in Poland's efforts to become less dependent on Russia's supplies of natural gas, AP reported. Buzek informed his counterparts at a Poland-East economic forum in Krynica, southern Poland, that Poland could supply their countries with Scandinavian gas after signing recent agreements with Norway and Denmark. Poland signed a deal with Denmark in July to build and operate a gas pipeline from Denmark's Zealand to Poland's Baltic coast, and an accord with Norway last week for gas supplies to begin in 2008 (see RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July and 4 September 2001). "We thank the Polish government for allowing our experts to examine the agreements, and perhaps we will take advantage of them," the agency quoted Orban as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER SEES POLAND AS PARTICIPANT IN OIL TRANSPORT CONSORTIUM

Speaking to journalists at a Poland-East economic forum in Krynica on 8 September, Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh said Ukraine regards Poland as a potential participant in an international consortium to implement the project for constructing and exploiting a Eurasian oil transport corridor, UNIAN reported. Kinakh noted that a group of experts from Ukraine, Poland, the U.S., and well-known oil- extracting and oil-refining companies is to prepare a feasibility study for setting up such a consortium. Kinakh added that he and Buzek discussed "very serious strategic issues and came to understanding on all of them," including the implementation of the Eurasian oil transport corridor project and the use of Ukraine's main oil pipelines. JM

POLL SAYS POLISH LEFTIST COALITION TO DOMINATE PARLIAMENT

The OBOP polling center found in a poll conducted on 4 September among 1,508 respondents that 52 percent of people willing to take part in the 23 September general elections will vote for the coalition of the Democratic Left Alliance and the Labor Union (SLD-UP), PAP reported on 7 September. According to the poll, 14 percent of voters will vote for the Civic Platform, 9 percent for the Polish Peasant Party, 8 percent for the Solidarity Electoral Action of the Right, and 8 percent for the Law and Justice. Such a distribution of votes would give the SLD-UP bloc 271 seats in the 460-strong Sejm. JM

CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS ELECT SPIDLA AS CANDIDATE FOR PREMIER

The Central Executive Committee of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) on 8 September unanimously elected party Chairman Vladimir Spidla as the CSSD candidate for premiership in the June 2002 parliamentary elections, CTK reported. The committee also appointed Karel Kobes, CSSD deputy chairman for economic affairs, as the party's election manager. Spidla told journalists after his election that the CSSD wants parents of every newborn baby to receive a 50,000 crown ($1,300) grant, and to increase child support paid to parents aged 25 to 29 to one-third of the average salary. MS

MAIN CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY WILL NOT SUPPORT 2002 DRAFT BUDGET

Vladimir Tlusty, deputy chairman of the main opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) parliamentary group in the Chamber of Deputies, on 7 September said the ODS will not support "in the first reading" in the chamber the draft budget submitted by the government, because the draft "relies on unrealistic revenue figures," CTK reported. The ODS and the CSSD are partners under the so-called opposition agreement, and Tlusty said that by submitting an "unrealistic budget," the CSSD has violated the terms of the addendum to that agreement, which stipulates that the budget deficit must annually drop to meet the requirements of the Maastrich criteria by 2003. Tlusty said the government has included in the deficit the 40 billion crown ($1.04 billion) losses of Konsolidacni banka, and instead of the 10 billion crown deficit agreed upon with the ODS, the budget now provides for a deficit of 52.2 billion crowns. MS

ODS REJECTS HAVEL'S STATEMENT ON BENES DECREES

ODS shadow Foreign Minister Jan Zahradil on 7 September said it is "impossible" for the Czech parliament to "ever apologize" for the deportation of the Sudeten Germans under the 1945 Benes decrees, CTK reported. He was responding to a statement made by President Vaclav Havel in Vienna last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2001). Zahradil said that to do so would be tantamount to acknowledgement of the "collective responsibility of the Czech nation" for the deportations, and the nation as a whole must not "shoulder the responsibility for individual excesses committed during the deportations." MS

AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR CALLS ON PRODI TO ORGANIZE TEMELIN CONFERENCE

Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel on 7 September wrote to European Commission Chairman Romano Prodi that an international conference to examine ways to compensate the Czech Republic in the event that it does not put the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant into operation must be called to comply with last week's resolution by the European Parliament, CTK reported. An identical letter was also sent to Czech Premier Milos Zeman. But a group of experts established by the EU Commission on 7 September stated that Temelin will be safe after upgrading, CTK reported, citing the daily "Kroner Zeitung." MS

CZECH ROMANY ASYLUM SEEKERS AT POLAR CIRCLE...

Seventeen Czech Roma, including a number of children, are waiting for the outcome of their asylum request in the northern Norwegian town of Vadso, CTK reported on 8 September, citing "Mlada fronta Dnes." They arrived in Norway in August. Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Gry Haaheim said the number of Czech Roma seeking asylum in her country has increased since the beginning of August, when British officials introduced checks on flights bound for the U.K. at Prague's Ruzyne airport. She said most asylum applicants are likely to be sent back. MS

...AS ERRC PREPARES TO SUE CZECH REPUBLIC, U.K.

The London- based Europa Roma Rights Center (ERRC) is examining the possibility of suing the Czech Republic and the U.K. at the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg in connection with the checks introduced at Ruzyne, CTK reported on 7 September. ERRC Executive Director Dimitrina Petrova said the checks may violate the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Protection. Petrova said the checks at the airport infringe on the prohibition of "actual discrimination," even if they do not infringe on the prohibition of "intended discrimination." MS

FIRST JOINT SLOVAK-CZECH MILITARY EXERCISES BEGINS

A joint military exercise aimed at testing coordination in peacekeeping actions of Slovak and Czech military forces began on 9 September in Lest, central Slovakia, CTK reported. This is the first time since the 1993 partition that the two countries have held a joint military exercise. MS

NEW WAVE OF SLOVAK ASYLUM SEEKERS HITS SWEDEN

Over 100 asylum seekers from Slovakia have arrived in Sweden in the last three weeks, CTK reported on 7 September, citing Swedish Immigration Office official Inge Lagerstroem. Lagerstroem said a large number of the applicants, but not all of them, were Roma, and that none of them have been granted refugee status. MS

SLOVAK ROMANY PARLIAMENT REPLACES CHAIRMAN

The Romany Parliament on 8 September dismissed Ladislav Fizik as its chairman, replacing him with Milan Scuka, CTK reported. Forty-seven out of 81 present representatives voted in favor of the motion. Scuka told journalists after the special session of the Romany Parliament that the main reason for Fizik's dismissal was his failure to forward a list of Romany candidates to Slovak parliament speaker Jozef Migas ahead of the 12 December elections for the autonomous regional parliaments. Fizik did not attend the gathering, alleging he "fears for his life." MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER SLAMS IDEA OF JOINT EU ACCESSION

Viktor Orban on 8 September said at the third congress of Central and East European center-right parties in Tallinn, Estonia, that Hungary opposes the accession of EU candidate countries in groups, or all of them simultaneously. Orban also dismissed the need for another "Nice-like" conference or reform of the EU's common agricultural policy before admission, Hungarian media reported. In other news, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi on 7 September told Reuters that Hungarian farmers should get the same subsidies as current EU farmers once the country joins the union. Martonyi also warned that asylum seekers who now pass through Hungary on their way to the West may decide to stay in the country after Hungary joins the EU. "This will no doubt improve the situation for EU countries like Austria, Italy, and Germany," he said, adding that "the EU public opinion should be aware of this benefit." MSZ

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS, CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS BEGIN COOPERATION TALKS

Independent Smallholders' Party Chairman Jozsef Torgyan on 7 September started election cooperation talks with Christian Democrat Chairman Tivadar Bartok, Hungarian media reported. Bartok said it is possible that talks could end successfully before the end of the month. Smallholder circles, however, say that is unlikely considering the number of lawsuits currently underway against the Christian Democrats' present leadership. Bartok has already discussed election cooperation with the breakaway Democratic Federation of Independent Smallholders opposed to Torgyan. MSZ

HUNGARIAN OFFICIALS DISCUSS STATUS LAW IN ROMANIA

Csaba Ory, Hungary's political state secretary of labor issues at the Prime Minister's Office, on 7 September told Mediafax that Romania's concerns over Hungary's Status Law are "of political, rather than a technical character." Ory and Tibor Szabo, chairman of the Office for Hungarian Minorities Abroad, last week had a series of meeting in Bucharest with Romanian government officials, and discussed the implementation of Hungary's Status Law. Ory said during the meetings that Hungary is working on a document describing the methods of implementing the Status Law, and assured the Romanian side of Hungary's readiness to include Romanian suggestions into the text. MS




EU BACKS NEW PLAN FOR MACEDONIA...

Meeting in Genval, Belgium, on 9 September, EU foreign ministers endorsed a proposal by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to provide an armed Western presence to protect OSCE monitors after the end of NATO's Operation Essential Harvest on 26 September, RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2001). The force could be NATO-led but would include Russian, Ukrainian, and other non-NATO forces. Fischer stressed that "we must avoid a vacuum" after NATO's arms-collection program is completed. His French counterpart Hubert Vedrine said that "we cannot purely and simply leave" after Operation Essential Harvest. Fischer noted that Macedonia faces three potential threats: a security vacuum, the rise of "a silent coalition of extremists on both sides," and an ethnic division of the small republic, Deutsche Welle reported. The ministers agreed that the mission would be part of a larger program that includes economic assistance. PM

...BUT NOT ON ITS FORM

The EU foreign ministers meeting in Genval on 9 September agreed on Fischer's recommendations but did not endorse any specific operational plan, "The Independent" reported. Vedrine noted that the proposed EU security and defense "arrangements" are not "quite ready yet," and that consequently "it is more sensible, easier, and more practical to act in a NATO framework." Some EU countries -- notably Finland, Sweden, and Ireland -- feel that such a mission should also have a UN mandate, but others -- such as the U.K. -- argue that a UN-sponsored arrangement would "give a lot of people the opportunity to make mischief," meaning primarily Moscow and Beijing. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski want a UN mandate for any new force, such as the former UNPREDEP had. On 10 September, Reuters quoted unnamed Macedonian government "sources" as saying that the government would probably yield to outside pressure and accept a long-term, foreign military presence. An international donors conference is slated for 15 October. Ethnic Albanian guerrillas insist that they trust only NATO. PM

PUTIN, CHIRAC DISCUSS MACEDONIA

Quoting a Kremlin statement, Reuters reported from Moscow on 10 September that French President Jacques Chirac and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed Macedonia in a telephone conversation. It is not clear which man initiated the contact. PM

MACEDONIAN ALBANIANS RETURN HOME

Some 8,000 ethnic Albanians from Macedonia have returned to that country from Kosova in recent days at the Blace border crossing alone, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 9 September. PM

MOLOTOV COCKTAIL BLASTS SERBIAN POLITICIAN'S CAR

Unidentified persons destroyed the car of Slobodan Vuksanovic, vice president of the Movement for Democratic Serbia (PDS), with a Molotov cocktail in Belgrade on 7 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The DPS is part of the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition. Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said the next day that Vuksanovic had recently received telephone threats urging him to stop working with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica. Mihajlovic stressed that the attack on the car of Vuksanovic, who was elsewhere at the time, is part of an ongoing campaign aimed at intimidating the public, and must be stopped. Vuksanovic is a rival of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. PM

SERBIAN AUTHORITIES FIND ANOTHER MASS GRAVE

Serbian police said in a statement on 9 September that they have found "26 unidentified bodies and body parts near Lake Perucac, not far from the town of Uzice," AP reported from Belgrade. The bodies are believed to be those of Kosova Albanians dumped in the lake from a freezer truck in 1999. An unidentified police official told the news agency that "after locals noticed floating corpses in April 1999, the bodies...were removed from the lake and transferred to a mass grave." This is but the latest in a series of grisly discoveries by the Serbian police since the ouster of former President Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001). PM

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT APPROVES NEW CABINET

Rexhep Meidani formally approved the 22-member government of Prime Minister Ilir Meta in Tirana on 7 September, AP reported. The new cabinet includes four carryovers from the previous one including Interior Minister Ilir Gjoni, and Finance Minister Anastas Angjeli. Arta Dade becomes Albania's first woman foreign minister. Former Prime Minister Pandeli Majko received the defense portfolio. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER EXPOUNDS ON AGREEMENT WITH IMF

Adrian Nastase and Neven Mates, chief IMF negotiator for Romania, on 7 September told journalists that the agreement included in the "letter of intent" agreed upon earlier that day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2001) provides for accelerating the privatization program, reining in salaries in the public sector, and adjusting electricity prices, AFP reported. The agreement foresees a 22 percent annual inflation rate, 5 percent economic growth, a 6 percent deficit in the current account, and a 3 percent budget deficit. Meanwhile, a study released on 7 September by the Romanian Center for Economic Policy said that 31 percent of Romania's GDP in 2000 was produced by underground economic activity. A study conducted by the UN Development Program in July estimated Romania's underground economy at between 20 and 30 percent of GDP. MS

ROMANIA ENDS COMMEMORATION OF UNIFYING PRINCE

President Ion Iliescu, former King Michael, former President Emil Constantinescu, as well as Premier Nastase and other officials participated on 8 September in Targoviste in a ceremony to unveil an equestrian statue of Prince Michael the Brave, who briefly unified the three Romanian principalities in 1601, Romanian radio reported. The ceremony marked the ending of a series of events honoring Prince Michael on the 400th anniversary of his assassination. Iliescu said in his speech that "no one should underestimate the virtues of the Romanian people...whose historic destiny has not ended." Former King Michael called for unity among Romanians in the service of their country. MS

ROMANIAN OFFICIAL SAYS ROYAL RESTITUTION CLAIM IS 'NO PRIORITY'

n Among the officials who attended the ceremony in Targoviste was Serban Mihailescu, secretary of the government, who told journalists that the restitution of the Peles castle to the former king "is not a priority for the government" and that the cabinet has no intention to conduct "special negotiations" with the former monarch on the castle's restitution. Mihailescu added that a special governmental office will be set up to deal with "unforeseen problems" relating to restitution claims. He said some of the property whose restitution is now demanded "has been mortgaged." MS

OSCE CONFERENCE ON ROMA DISCRIMINATION OPENS IN BUCHAREST

An international conference held under OSCE auspices on the struggle against discrimination of Roma opened in Bucharest on 10 September, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The four-day conference is being attended by some 300 participants, including nongovernmental organizations working with Roma and representatives of the community. Speaking in his capacity as OSCE rotating chairman, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana on 9 September said the OSCE intends to "take a series of concrete measures" to improve the Roma's situation and added that solutions "necessitate an overall European approach, beyond national efforts." MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER SIGNALS CHANGE IN POLICY ON MOLDOVA

Nastase on 7 September reiterated his "dismay" at Moldova's cancellation of a tender for the sale of two Moldovan electricity companies on the grounds that one of them is heavily indebted to Ukrainian electricity suppliers and its shares may have to be taken over by the Ukrainian utility, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase said that he "wonders" whether Romania should use similar methods to ensure the payment of the $32 million Moldova owes Romania for electricity supplies. The Romanian premier said Romania has provided $3.5 million for various projects in Moldova, but does not know "where the money goes." Nastase said that from now on, priority in relations with Moldova should be on the economic aspects and particularly in bilateral collaboration between border-adjacent counties. MS

MOLDOVAN NEGOTIATORS IN KYIV RETURN EMPTY-HANDED

After four days of negotiations in Kyiv on the customs checkpoints established by Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on Ukrainian territory, the Moldovan delegation headed by First Deputy Premier Dimitrii Todoroglo on 7 September returned home without having succeeded to obtain the accord of the authorities in Kyiv, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Ukrainian side is insisting that representatives of the separatists take part in the negotiations. A new round of parleys will be held on 11 September, also in Ukraine. Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev earlier said that Kyiv had agreed to the joint customs posts but later ordered its customs officers to detain the Moldovan customs officials if they step on Ukrainian territory. Separatist leader Igor Smirnov on 7 September met with the Ukrainian and Russian ambassadors to Moldova as well as with the OSCE head of mission William Hill, and reiterated that Chisinau is setting up an "economic blockade" of the Transdniester by having withdrawn permission from Tiraspol to use the Moldovan customs seals. MS

MOLDOVAN MAJOR DISMISSED FROM JCC

The joint Control Commission on 7 September dismissed Major Iurie Cheibas from the staff of the commission's military observers, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Cheibas was detained on 2 September by the authorities in Tiraspol for having allegedly engaged in spying activities during the celebrations of the separatists' 11th independence anniversary. He was freed last week on "humanitarian grounds." The commission's Russian commander of the observer force said that an investigation revealed that Cheibas had left his post without the knowledge of his superiors and without their permission. Cheibas will continue to serve in the Moldovan military forces. MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER OPTIMISTIC ON NATO, EU MEMBERSHIP

Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi, in an interview with Reuters on 7 September, said he believes "NATO would not make the mistake of leaving the Balkans out of its future expansion." Pasi said that "Bulgaria is fully prepared for NATO membership. It acted as a de facto NATO ally during the Kosovo crisis and ever since it has acted as a functioning member of the alliance." Pasi also said that Bulgaria "has a strong intention of completing EU talks in 2004 and joining as a full member in 2006." Gaining NATO membership, he added, would bolster Bulgaria's EU accession bid. Pasi acknowledged that "Bulgaria has the image of a laggard," but said this image "has to be overcome" and that it would be "fair to recognize" that the country has "made significant progress in the past few years." He also said that it would be more "cost-effective" for the West to "invest in building infrastructure in the Balkans, rather than having to sustain numerous peacekeeping operations" as a result of ethnic conflicts that arise due to "fragmentation, bad infrastructure, and poverty." MS

ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH SUPPORTS EFFORTS TO MEND BULGARIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH CONFLICT

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew II on 8 September joined Patriarch Maxim in saying mass in Sofia's Sveta Nedelya (St. Dominique) cathedral and said afterward that he strongly supports the Bulgarian patriarch's efforts to mend the rift in the country's Orthodox Church, AP reported. The dispute began a decade ago, when dissenting clergymen demanded that Maxim step down, accusing him of having cooperated with the communist regime. Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski attended the mass and consulted with both patriarchs after the service. AP said Saxecoburggotski's presence signals a turnaround in the government's policy toward Maxim. Former Premier Ivan Kostov was at odds with Maxim, silently supported his opponents, and refused to attend masses served by him or by prelates under his jurisdiction. MS

BULGARIAN MUSLIM LEADER PRAISES COUNTRY'S TOLERANCE

Chief Mufti Selim Mehmed, the spiritual leader of Bulgaria's Muslim community on 8 September, praised that Balkan country for its ethnic and religious tolerance amid a conflict-ridden region, AP reported. Mehmed told journalists that "against the background of everything happening in the Balkans, we, in Bulgaria, have succeeded in building a model for ethnic and religious tolerance and peace." He also said that "in contrast to other countries, Muslims in Bulgaria are widely open to the Eastern Orthodox community." At the same time, Mehmed urged the government to speed up restitution of Muslim community property. MS

STATUE HONORING FORMER COMMUNIST LEADER REERECTED IN BULGARIA

Some 3,000 people on 7 September attended a ceremony for the unveiling of a statue of Bulgaria's communist leader Todor Zhivkov on what would have been his 90th birthday, AP reported. The statue was reerected on its former site in Zhivkov's birthplace in Pravets, some 60 kilometers northeast of Sofia. The monument had been dismantled at Zhivkov's own orders, after Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev embarked on the perestroika course. MS




CZECH REPUBLIC MOVES TO ABOLISH CONSCRIPTION, JOINS EUROPEAN TREND


By Jeremy Bransten

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain a decade ago, countries across Europe have reduced the size of their armed forces from 10 percent to as much as 50 percent.

Most military strategists no longer see the need for large standing armies that are capable of repelling a massive land invasion. Instead, the emphasis has shifted to having smaller, more mobile units that can be rapidly deployed in crisis situations.

The Czech Republic recently became the first former Communist state in Europe to attempt to reform its armed forces along these lines when the cabinet approved a bill that will lead to a smaller, all-professional army in six years.

For Dan Smith, a retired U.S. army colonel and currently head of research at the Washington-based Center for Defense Information, this shift makes perfect sense.

"Peace-keeping operations, peace enforcement, humanitarian relief, the evacuation of citizens caught in areas of crises, these are missions far different from the old linear style of warfare," Smith said. "So, the premium is really on being adaptable, being able to think on one's feet and to recognize situations as they start to evolve. And again, a well-trained professional force, I think, is better- suited to these kinds of missions."

British-based military analyst Charles Heyman edits Jane's World Armies, a biannual survey of global armed forces. He points to another advantage of having professional soldiers versus conscripts.

"If you want to involve yourself in out-of-area operations and you want to put troops into Macedonia or Kosovo or somewhere like that, then you need volunteers and probably, the best people are professionals as opposed to conscripts," Heyman said.

The new military thinking coincides with a growing reluctance among young people in Europe to serve in the military. Each year, more and more draft-age young men opt for alternative civilian service. In Spain, to cite one example, fully three quarters of those eligible for military duty now choose this option.

These factors prompted Spain to announce the abolishing of conscription less than two months ago. The country's last draftees will be released from duty by the end of the year. France is to follow the same course and end conscription by November 2001. Italy will abandon its draft by the end of 2005. France's northern neighbors Belgium and the Netherlands ended compulsory service in 1992 and 1996 respectively. They in turn followed Britain's lead, which abolished conscription back in 1962. The world's leading military superpower, the United States, ended its call-up in 1973.

The Czechs, it seems, have joined a well-established trend. In Western Europe, only Germany has stayed on the sidelines of the conscription debate, continuing to see the call-up as an important element of its inclusive, democratic ethos.

Among the former Warsaw Pact states, the Czechs -- who are now fully fledged NATO members -- are the first to announce a definitive end to conscription.

But Timothy Edmunds, a military expert at King's College in London, is not sure the Czech reform is the right course to follow.

Edmunds said that NATO has been trying to sell a "one- size-fits-all" model of military reform to Central and Eastern European countries. And the post-Communist states, driven by a desire to join the alliance, have been eager to be seen to comply.

"NATO, or the West in general, has a very particular model of what modern armed forces should look like and they are all-volunteer, they are professional, they are flexible, they are expeditionary and so on. And they've promoted this model very, very strongly in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE," Edmunds said. "Now, I would argue that actually, in doing so, they've not really considered the drivers and implications of change in the Central and East European region and that they've not necessarily got to grips with the facts that perhaps Central European security and defense demands are quite different to those pressures facing the UK or the United States."

Although experts generally agree that in the long run having an all-professional military ends up being cheaper than a conscript army, the switch-over is costly.

Edmunds said budget-conscious Central and East European states cannot meet those costs. Instead, in their attempt to meet NATO's criteria, the Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, Baltic states and others have created hybrid militaries, consisting of a few professional elite units that are sent on prestige peace-keeping missions abroad, while the bulk of the military, made up of conscripts, suffers from under-funding. Edmunds said the Czechs' announcement that they will fully switch over to the Western, all-professional model is to a large extent driven by politics rather than military or budget considerations.

"Military reform has been driven by foreign policy rather than by defense policy, so to an extent you see all the military reform budget go into elite cadres that fulfill this NATO idea of what a military should look like, almost as a sort of down-payment on NATO accession and I would argue to the detriment of the ability of the military to provide a national defense role," Edmunds said.

In both Eastern and Western Europe, Edmunds said there has been too little fundamental debate about what role a country's military should perform in the post-Cold-War era. The post-Communist states of CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE, because of budget constraints, may have to choose between training only rapid reaction professional units, that could be farmed out to NATO for specific missions but could not assure full territorial defense, or maintaining a standing conscript army capable only of territorial defense. They will likely not be able to afford the luxury of both.

Edmunds said the rapid reaction model could work, but it would require a major rethink by the alliance, whose generals, while promoting the rapid reaction model, remain wary of forsaking territorial armies.

"There is beginning to be a discussion in NATO about appropriate military reform and in doing so, role specialization among the Central and East Europeans. So rather than trying to provide a traditional national army that does everything, because of shrinking defense budgets and so on, [the idea is] to try to provide a military structure and a set of military institutions that can fulfill particular roles within NATO very well and particular alliance roles very well. But I think there's still a great deal of discomfort, both within the military itself and within NATO about the idea of giving up traditional military roles."

Charles Heyman, of Jane's World Armies, notes that all countries moving to smaller all-professional forces must bear in mind that in times of crisis, it is essential to be able to call on reserves.

"The Czechs always have to remember that you have to have the ability to expand your army, overnight, in a crisis, in an emergency," Heyman said.

In earlier days, the major crisis never came, but both sides were theoretically prepared for it. Now, small-time emergencies seem to crop up with increasing frequency but they are less predictable. And national interests have become murkier to define -- a tough brief for any military planner. Jeremy Bransten is an RFE/RL correspondent.


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