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Newsline - September 11, 2001




PUTIN GREETS LUKASHENKA VICTORY IN BELARUS

Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 10 September to congratulate him on his impressive victory in the presidential elections in Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin said that the vote confirms the immutability of the course of the two countries on deepening relations. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev also welcomed Lukashenka's victory, saying that "this is a man who thinks about the people and the country," Interfax reported the same day. Most Russian political figures reacted the same way. The exception was the Yabloko party, whose leaders suggested that Lukashenka's victory would not strengthen bilateral ties, Interfax reported. PG

PUTIN HAS NOT CHANGED HIS POSITION ON CHECHNYA, YASTRZHEMBSKII SAYS

Presidential adviser Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on ORT on 10 September that President Putin has not changed his position on Chechnya or on negotiations as a way to end the conflict. PG

PUTIN, BUSH DISCUSS STRATEGIC AGENDA

U.S. President George W. Bush telephoned President Putin on 10 September to discuss strategic issues, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin told Bush that he is pleased with progress in talks at all levels, and the two leaders agreed to continue their dialogue at the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next month in Shanghai and at a bilateral summit meeting in the United States in November. VY

PUTIN PROMISES TO HAVE STATE COUNCIL FOCUS ON SMALL BUSINESS

President Putin told senior members of the cabinet on 10 September that he plans to have the State Council address the problems of small- and mid-sized business at one of its upcoming meetings, Interfax reported. PG

KASYANOV PLEDGES TIGHT ECONOMIC POLICIES

Speaking to a group of international investors in Moscow on 10 September, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that his cabinet will continue to pursue tight economic policies, work to improve the investment climate and adopt a single plan for reforming the banking system, and make debt repayment a priority, Russian agencies reported. He also said that the current favorable economic conditions will allow Moscow to make all its debt payments in 2002 and to raise the funds needed to meet its peak debt repayments of $19 billion in 2003. The same day, Kasyanov signed a decree endorsing the federal program for the integration of science and higher education, Interfax reported. VY/PG

KASYANOV TO CHAIR NAVY COLLEGIUM

Prime Minister Kasyanov announced on 10 September that he will chair the newly created Navy Collegium of which Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, Transportation Minister Sergei Frank, Energy Minister Igor Yusupov, and Navy commander Vladimir Kuroedov will also be members, Russian agencies reported. The new agency is to oversee broad issues of the development of Russia's naval operations and strategy. VY

BUDGET CALLS FOR INCREASING DEFENSE SPENDING BY A THIRD

According to an article in "Nezavismoe voennoe obozrenie," No. 33, the government's draft budget calls for ruble spending on defense to increase by a third, but the weekly military review notes that, as a percentage of GDP, spending on defense is falling. The review also notes that the government is unlikely to be able to keep its promises to double the salaries of soldiers and officers, but it points out that any final judgment on that and other points is difficult because most of the budget involving the military is still classified. PG

MOSCOW URGED TO CREATE FEDERAL AGENCY FOR RUSSIANS ABROAD

Participants in the Second Pacific Ocean Forum of Russian Compatriots, held in Vladivostok last week, on 10 September urged the Russian government to create a special federal agency for the affairs of Russians living abroad, Interfax-Eurasia reported. PG

STROEV AGAINST PARALLEL EXISTENCE OF FEDERATION COUNCIL, STATE COUNCIL

Yegor Stroev, the speaker of the Federation Council, said in Moscow on 10 September that he does not believe it is useful or desirable for both the Federation Council and the State Council to coexist as parallel institutions, Interfax reported. "That is a violation of the system of power," he said. But he noted that for the State Council to take on all the functions of the Federation Council would require a change in the constitution, which he said he opposes. PG

UNITY, FATHERLAND-ALL RUSSIA DELAY CONGRESS

At a 10 September coordination meeting, the leaders of Unity and Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) agreed to delay the convening of their consolidation congress from November until December 2001, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

UNITY LEADER SUPPORTS 'COMMON SENSE' CENSORSHIP

Vladimir Pekhtin, the leader of the pro-Kremlin Unity faction in the Duma, said that "only censorship of textbooks can save children," and that he supports "common sense censorship and parental responsibility" in the preparation of such materials, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 8 September. PG

FATHERLAND-ALL RUSSIA WILL SUPPORT PUTIN

In an interview published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 10 September, Vyacheslav Volodin, the new leader of the OVR faction in the Duma, said that his colleagues in that group will support the programs of President Putin. PG

RUSSIANS VIEW COMMUNISTS AS COMMUNISTS

Despite suggestions by President Putin and others that today's Russian communists are in fact social democrats, a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 September found that most Russians view the communists of today as being like the communists of the past, with 45 percent of the sample saying they support them and 35 percent saying they oppose them on this basis. PG

DUMA DEPUTIES RETURN TO WORK IN CONSTITUENCIES

Duma deputies, who have been on vacation since mid-July, are to work in their constituencies this week and then take part in the opening ceremony of the fall session of the parliament on 19 September, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 September. Meanwhile, Peoples' Deputy leader in the Duma Gennadii Raikov told Interfax the same day that there are unlikely to be any changes in the committee structure of the parliament in the near future. PG

PUTIN DISCUSSES MACEDONIA WITH FRANCE'S CHIRAC

President Putin and French President Jacques Chirac on 10 September had a telephone discussion on the Macedonian situation, Russian and Western agencies reported. Putin stressed that Russia insists on stability, territorial integrity, and inviolability of borders in the Balkans. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ivanov said that Moscow does not plan to send any troops to take part in the NATO operation in Macedonia, Interfax reported the same day. VY/PG

KASYANOV, CHINESE PREMIER SIGN ENERGY ACCORD

Prime Minister Kasyanov and his Chinese counterpart Zhu Rongji have signed an agreement calling for the construction of a 2400-kilometer oil pipeline from the Russian city of Angarsk to the Chinese city of Datsin, RIA-Novosti and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 September. The Chinese government also designated Gazprom as its major foreign gas supplier after British Petroleum withdrew from most Chinese deals, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov told the news service. Zhu said that Beijing would like to see bilateral trade increase, but at the same time he called for greater controls over "gray" trade along the border that neither government is currently able to tax. VY

KOREAN EXTENSION OF TRANS-SIBERIAN PLANNED

A Russian Railways Ministry spokesman said on 10 September that ministry experts have now defined the path for the extension of the Trans-Siberian railway to link up with North Korean lines, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that eventually Moscow hopes that the rail lines of the two Koreas will be joined together. VY

90 TONS OF RADIOACTIVE WASTE BURIED IN MOSCOW EACH YEAR

According to a report in "Megapolis-Kontinent" on 7 September, up to 90 tons of radioactive waste are buried inside the city limits of the Russian capital each year. Officials noted that the city must clean up some 80 sites each year as excavation of new buildings uncovers old and previously unmarked nuclear waste sites. PG

SCOTTISH SOCCER TEAM DOES NOT WANT TO PLAY IN NORTH CAUCASUS

The Scottish Football Association is insisting that a UEFA Cup match scheduled to take place in Daghestan on 13 September between Scotland's Glasgow Rangers and Anzi Makhachkala be moved because of fears that the Russian authorities will not be able to provide adequate security, Russian and international agencies reported on 8 September. PG

ALASKAN COMPANIES VISIT SAKHALIN

A delegation representing major building companies from the U.S. state of Alaska is in Sakhalin to discuss participation in tenders for the construction of oil and gas infrastructure, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 September. PG

BANK HOPES RUSSIANS WILL BUY GOVERNMENT BONDS

Vneshekonombank spokesman Andrei Remnev said that his bank is working with the government to liberalize regulations governing the purchase of Russian Eurobonds, Prime-TASS reported on September 10. Existing regulations do not allow Russian citizens to purchase most of these issues, but once those regulations are changed, he said, Russian citizens will be allowed to purchase some if not all types of Russian government bonds. VY

NATURAL RESOURCES MINISTRY PULLS LICENSE ON VAL GAMBURTSEV FIELD

The Russian Natural Resources Ministry has cancelled the license of the North Oil company to explore the Val Gamburtsev field in the Nenetsk Autonomous Okrug, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 September. The ministry said it took this step because the company had failed to pay the required social contributions to the local budget. But North Oil board Chairman and former Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov said that the ministry is simply carrying out the orders of the oligarchs whose companies, LUKoil, Yukos, Sibneft, and Rosneft lost out in the original bidding for access to the field. VY

KREMLIN DOES NOT TRUST ORTHODOX CHURCH LEADERSHIP

Maksim Meyer, the head of the presidential administration's internal policy department, has told the Keston News Service that the Kremlin does not trust the Orthodox Church hierarchy, believing it to be "dishonest" and involved in "intrigues," KNS reported on 7 September. Meyer said that religious issues rarely come to the attention of President Putin himself. But he said that the presidential administration does not see a suitable candidate to replace current Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II or to have reached a proper understanding of Islam. Meanwhile, on 10 September, the patriarch said in St. Petersburg that the church and state have a great deal of common work to do to achieve the spiritual and social renewal of the country, Interfax reported. PG

ORTHODOX CHURCH IN NO HURRY TO CANONIZE FATHER MEN

Speaking on 10 September at an international conference in Moscow on the 11th anniversary of the murder, still unsolved, of Russian Orthodox priest Father Aleksandr Men, Metropolitan Yuvenalii of Krutitsk and Kolomna said the church recognizes Father Men's contribution to Russian Christianity's revival at the end of the Soviet period, but that it has not yet received any of the information it would need to declare him a saint, Interfax reported. PG

BUDDHISTS URGE PUTIN TO SUPPORT VISIT BY DALAI LAMA

The All-Russian Council of Buddhist Organizations has invited the Dalai Lama to visit Russia in 2002, and at the same time has asked President Putin to help facilitate the visit, Interfax reported on 10 September. The council itself was organized at a meeting held in Moscow on 7-9 September. PG

MOSCOW HAS REHABILITATED MORE THAN 630,000 REPRESSED UNDER SOVIETS

The Prosecutor-General's Office released information on 10 September showing that since October 1991 the Russian government has rehabilitated 631,017 individuals who were politically repressed during the Soviet era, Interfax reported. The prosecutors said they will continue to examine cases, but they indicated that they do not have any exact figures on the number of people repressed in the Soviet Union between 1920 and 1940. PG

AMERICANS TOP LIST OF WORLD-CLASS BRAINWASHERS

An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 September cites a study published by the U.S. journal "Vanity Fair" concerning the 50 business leaders who have the most influence on public attitudes around the world. The Russian daily said noted that the top three of those who "have been washing the brains of the world" are Americans: Steve Case of AOL, Bill Gates of Microsoft, and Sumner Redstone of Viacom. PG

ORT TOPS TV RATINGS IN ALL CATEGORIES

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 September reported that ORT television now leads the other four countrywide channels in all rating categories. The survey was conducted by Gallup Media. PG

MEDIA MOST SHAREHOLDERS VOTE TO LIQUIDATE COMPANY

A meeting of the shareholders of Media-MOST on 10 September voted to liquidate the company as the courts have ordered, Russian and Western agencies reported. Company spokesman Dmitrii Ostalskii said that the company does "not consider the court decision fair, but that as law-abiding citizens, the shareholders carried it out." PG

ALFRED KOCH STARS IN 'GREED'

Alfred Koch, the head of Gazprom-Media, took on a new role on 9 September when he hosted NTV's new game show "Greed," "Vedomosti" reported the following day. After defeating media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky, the paper said, Koch did not know what to do next and has apparently decided to try his hand as a showman. VY

PLAYBOY'S RUSSIAN PUBLISHER ACCUSED OF ILLEGAL TACTICS

Norasco Publishing, which issues "The Russian Journal," announced on 10 September that it has filed a complaint with Russian antimonopoly authorities against the Dutch-run Independent Media company that publishes Russian versions of "Playboy," "Cosmopolitan," and a variety of other Russian- and English-language print publications, AP reported. Norasco said Independent Media has used illegal tactics to monopolize the market, and that Norasco may file suit in American or European antitrust groups. Yelena Miashnikova, the director of Independent Media, said there is "no substance" to the complaint. PG

MOSCOW COMPLAINS WEST OVERLY CURIOUS ABOUT RUSSIAN MILITARY EXERCISE

General Anatolii Kornukov, the commander of the Russian air force, told ITAR-TASS on 10 September that "the intelligence services of the United States, Canada, and Norway are showing increased interest" in an exercise being conducted by Russia's 37th air force. He noted that the U.S. has dispatched special intelligence planes to help Canada and Norway track Russian strategic bombers taking part in the military exercises. VY

DEFENSE MINISTRY ANNOUNCES NEW ANTITANK MISSILE

A Defense Ministry spokesman on 10 September announced the successful development of a new supersonic, antitank missile "Vikhr" that is capable of piercing up to 1,000 millimeters of armor and can also be used against airplanes up to 10 kilometers away, Russian agencies reported. VY

RUSSIA BEGINS PRODUCTION OF VERY SMART BOMBS

Officials at the State Research and Production Enterprise "Region" told ITAR-TASS on 10 September that Russia has begun to manufacture the KAB-500Kr smart bomb, which is "without parallel in the world." The new bombs use television homing devices with a correlational target data-processing algorithm to land precisely on target, the officials said. Meanwhile, Russian aircraft designers said they are involved in plans for the construction of a hypersonic flying vehicle capable of cruising at altitudes of 40-60 kilometers and at speeds of more than 6,000 kilometers per hour, the news service reported the same day. PG

RUSSIAN CANDY LOVERS GET THEIR OWN HOLIDAY

"Vremya MN" reported on 8 September that lovers of sweets and chocolate have decided to organize their own holiday in opposition to the one already celebrated by the country's beer drinkers. PG

SOCIOLOGIST SAYS RUSSIANS BECOMING HAPPIER, MORE CONFIDENT

Sociologist Boris Dubin said in an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 September that Russians are becoming happier and more confident, not so much because of specific changes in their own lives but because they now feel that there is someone in charge in the government. PG

AVERAGE AGE OF FIRST USE OF ILLEGAL DRUGS FALLING

Deputy Health Minister Yevgenii Detkov said that the average age of first experimentation with illegal drugs is falling, with more and more children taking drugs for the first time before the age of 13, "Megapolis-Kontinent" reported on 7 September. Detkov added that at present, Russia has only 5,000 doctors who specialize in treating drug addiction. PG

A MEASURE OF DEMOGRAPHIC DECLINE

According to an article in "Vremya MN" on 8 September, one measure of Russia's demographic problems is that "a Russian boy born today according to the calculations of specialists will live just as long as would have lived an American boy born in 1931." PG

BUTYRKA ESCAPEES STILL AT LARGE

The three prisoners who escaped from Moscow's Butyrka prison on 5 September remained at large on 10 September, Russian agencies reported. Interior Ministry officials said that the men will be "destroyed" if they show any resistance when they are encountered, Interfax reported. But Vadim Mikhailov, one of the leaders of the Moscow "diggers" who explore underground passageways in the Russian capital, told the news service that the three may still be in the basement of Butyrka and that a thorough search of that facility will take a month. PG

METAL THIEF CAUGHT WITH 5 TONS OF ALUMINUM

Officials in Irkutsk have arrested a 33-year-old homeless man after he stole 5.5 tons of aluminum from the Bratsk plant there, ITAR-TASS reported. The man collected the metal over time and sold it to a metal-collecting station. One local police official said that the police "always catch thieves with hundreds of kilograms of stolen metal. But in this case, it's the amount -- five tons -- that is surprising." PG

FROM SUBS TO KEGS

The Miass engineering plant, which in the past manufactured submarine-launched missiles, now plans to produce equipment for the beer-brewing industry, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 September. The firm will have an annual production capacity of 100,000 beer kegs a year and will thus become Russia's largest producer of beer kegs. PG

VOLOSHIN BEGINS TOUR OF FEDERAL DISTRICTS...

Presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin arrived in St. Petersburg on 10 September to begin the first in a series of trips to the capitals of federal districts, ITAR-TASS reported. The purpose of the trips is to study the situation in the districts and to conduct an exchange of positive experiences. On 11 September, Voloshin will meet with presidential envoy to the Northwestern federal district Viktor Cherkesov. At the beginning of the year, President Putin signed a decree calling on the presidential envoys to the seven federal districts to coordinate their activities with Voloshin more closely (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 January 2001). JAC

...AS ZHIRINOVSKY LOOKS FOR NEW PARTY MEMBERS

Also on 10 September, Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky began a several city tour of Russia to examine the registration of candidates for the LDPR's rolls, the website strana.ru reported. At his first stop in Voronezh, the local LDPR leader announced that 500 new members had been registered; however, a check revealed that the actual number of new members was five times less. Zhirinovsky advised local LDPR members to work harder and not busy themselves with forgeries. Zhirinovsky will meet with Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chub on 11 September. JAC

IS PRIMORE POISED FOR ANOTHER CRISIS THIS WINTER?

Following reports of delays in stockpiling energy supplies for the upcoming winter in certain regions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2001), the chief federal inspector's office for Primorskii Krai announced on 10 September that it has discovered serious violations of a "technical and organizational character" in that region's preparation for winter, Russian agencies reported. According to the inspector's office, purchases of fuel and repair of equipment is going according to plan, but no agreement has been reached between the leaders of energy enterprises and administrative heads. Meanwhile, on 8 September, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said the situation in the krai remains "tense," although preparation for this winter are going better than in the last two years. Shoigu also said that preparations for winter in Kamchatka Oblast remain problematic. JAC

HOLD THE PICKLE

In a bid to win a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, a company in Nizhnii Novgorod built on 8 September Russia's largest sandwich, Interfax reported on 10 September. The sandwich was 16.97 meters long, and contained around 100 kilograms of mayonnaise and 100 kilograms of bread. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 10 September, the sandwich, which took some three hours to prepare, was consumed by around 2000 people over the course of several hours. JAC

NEPHEW OF PRO-MOSCOW CHECHEN LEADER MURDERED

Lecha Kadyrov, a 28-year-old nephew of Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, and three of his friends were killed on 10 September when unknown assailants opened fire on his car with a grenade launcher and flamethrower, Russian agencies reported. Several other close relatives of Kadyrov have been killed since his appointment in June 2000; another nephew died earlier this summer fighting on the side of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. LF

KAZANTSEV DRAFTS FIVE-YEAR PLAN FOR NORTH CAUCASUS

Presidential envoy to the Southern Russia federal district Viktor Kazantsev has prepared a five-year economic development plan for the North Caucasus, "Vremya novostei" reported on 10 September. The plan is intended to improve living standards in the region by 250 percent and triple budget revenues, thereby expediting the integration of the region into the Russian Federation. The plan will cost an estimated 154 billion rubles ($5.1 billion), of which Kazantsev hopes the federal budget will provide 24.5 billion rubles and investors 60 billion. LF

FSB SAYS CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS PLAN TO MEET IN BAKU

Caucasus Press on 11 September quoted unnamed Russian Federal Security Servce (FSB) officials as claiming that Chechen President Maskhadov and prominent field commanders including Shamil Basaev and Ruslan Gelaev plan to convene in Baku in mid-September in order to discuss preparations for embarking on peace talks with Moscow. LF




EXPLOSION KILLS ARMENIAN PREMIER'S ADVISER

Gagik Poghossian, an adviser to Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, was killed in Yerevan early on 11 September by a hand grenade attached to the front door of his apartment, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Poghossian served from May to October 2000 as minister for tax returns, and in July 2001 was appointed head of Markarian's oversight committee. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION POSTPONES LAUNCH OF CAMPAIGN TO IMPEACH PRESIDENT

The three opposition parties that issued a statement in Yerevan on 7 September demanding the impeachment of President Robert Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2001), on 10 September decided to postpone beginning the collection of deputies' signatures in support of that demand, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Hanrapetutiun leader and former Prime Minister Aram Sargsian said his party, together with the People's Party of Armenia and the National Accord Front, is still working on the text of the draft demand listing alleged violations of the constitution by Kocharian. Those alleged violations include the sacking in May 2000 of Defense Minister Vaghashak Harutiunian. LF

PACE HEAD BEGINS VISIT TO ARMENIA

Addressing the Armenian parliament on 10 September on the first day of a two-day visit to Yerevan, Lord Russell Johnston urged the removal of the death penalty from Armenia's penal code in line with commitments the country made in January 2001 at the time of its acceptance into full membership of the Council of Europe, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He acknowledged that many in Armenia believe that the perpetrators of the October 1999 parliament shootings should be executed, but said the abolition of the death penalty "is a measure that needs to be taken for the benefit of society as a whole." He also called for a reform of the Armenian prison system. Johnston gave an overall positive assessment of the "steady progress" he said Armenia is making toward full compliance with its commitments to the Council of Europe. He also told Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian that PACE was mistaken in its pronouncement last week that elections to local government bodies in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 September 2001) could undermine attempts to resolve the Karabakh conflict, according to an Armenian Foreign Ministry statement. LF

GEORGIAN MINISTER REQUESTS INVESTIGATION INTO CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS AGAINST HIM...

Georgian Economy, Industry, and Trade Minister Vano Chkhartishvili has appealed to the prosecutor-general and the Anticorruption Council to launch a formal investigation into repeated allegations that he is engaged in corruption, Caucasus Press reported on 10 September, citing the daily "Akhali taoba." Chkhartishvili is rumored to be the richest minister in Georgia; local residents recently threatened to burn down a five-story mansion he is having built in the village of Ureki. LF

...AS POLL SHOWS GEORGIANS DO NOT BELIEVE PRESIDENT'S ANTICORRUPTION RHETORIC

A poll of 600 people conducted by Nea Intermedia and summarized by "Akhali versia" on 11 September revealed that 88.8 percent do not believe that President Eduard Shevardnadze is serious in repeatedly pledging to crack down on corruption. Just over half (50.8 percent) believe that the reason for Shevardnadze's imputed reluctance to take serious measures against corruption is that he himself is guilty of such practices, while 31.5 percent believe members of Shevardnadze's family are guilty of corruption. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT EXPLAINS RATIONALE FOR HIS VISIT TO ADJARIA

In his traditional Monday radio interview, President Shevardnadze stressed that his 8 September stopover in Batumi while returning from a state visit to Romania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2001) was not occasioned by the rising tensions between the central Georgian government and Adjar leader Aslan Abashidze, Caspian News Agency reported. While in Adjaria, Shevardnadze together with Abashidze and former Turkish President Suleiman Demirel attended a ceremony to mark the opening of the first section of a new highway linking Batumi and the Black Sea town of Kobuleti, which is part of the "New Silk Road" transport network. A Turkish construction company is implementing the project, which will take 18 months to complete. LF

KYRGYZSTAN CLAIMS PROGRESS IN DELIMITATION OF BORDER WITH UZBEKISTAN

Talks in Tashkent on 5-8 September on the delimitation of the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border made some headway, the head of the Kyrgyz delegation, Salamat Alamanov, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 10 September. He said 290 kilometers of the 700-kilometer border between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan's Djalalabad Oblast have been delimitated. The total length of the two countries' shared border is 1,300 kilometers. LF

TAJIK, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS DISCUSS SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN

In a telephone conversation on 10 September, Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in both Tajikistan and Afghanistan in light of the "increasing terrorist activity" in both countries, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 10 September, Tajikistan's envoy to the UN, Rashid Alimov, predicted that even if reports of the death of Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud are confirmed, his demise is unlikely to change the situation in Afghanistan "overnight," according to AP. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11 September that Massoud was transported to Dushanbe for treatment by Russian medical personnel after the 9 September attempt on his life. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT FINISHES WORK ON NATIONAL 'SPIRITUAL CODE'

Saparmurat Niyazov has completed the Rukhname, the "spiritual constitution" for the Turkmen people on which he has been working for the past three years, and the text was sent to a publisher on 10 September, Interfax reported quoting a member of the presidential staff. Calling for the compilation of such a volume in 1998, Niyazov said it should serve as a comprehensive code of moral conduct based on Turkmen national tradition. LF

MOSCOW MAYOR ASSESSES POTENTIAL FOR COOPERATION WITH TAJIKISTAN...

Visiting Dushanbe on 8-9 September to participate in the celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of Tajikistan's independence, Yurii Luzhkov met with Tajik President Rakhmonov, Dushanbe Mayor Makhmudsaid Ubaidulloev, and Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov to discuss possible areas of cooperation between the city of Moscow and Tajikistan, Caspian News Agency reported on 10 September. Agreement was reached that engineers from Moscow will advise on the condition of Dushanbe's water mains and sewage system, and the city's housing department will make available equipment worth 17.7 million rubles ($590,000). LF

...AND UZBEKISTAN

Earlier last week, Luzhkov met in Tashkent with Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Tashkent Mayor Kazim Tuliaganov, Caspian News Agency reported on 10 September. Luzhkov expressed regret that the trade turnover between Uzbekistan and Moscow is so low -- $113 million, as compared with $3 billion between Moscow and Belarus. He attributed that discrepancy to Uzbekistan's continued failure to make its currency fully convertible. He expressed interest in imports of cotton and tobacco from Uzbekistan, in return for which Moscow is ready to provide Uzbekistan with high-technology and consumer goods. LF




U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SLAMS LUKASHENKA'S ELECTION VICTORY AS 'MEANINGLESS'

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker on 10 September said no part of Belarus's presidential election process was transparent or fair. "[Alyaksandr] Lukashenka has merely used a facade of elections to engineer a meaningless victory for himself," Reeker noted. "The United States concurs with the OSCE's findings that the electoral process was not democratic. Elections that are neither free nor fair, cannot be internationally recognized," Reeker stressed. And he added: "Belarusian authorities have demonstrated a clear disregard for both democracy and human rights during this election by avoiding transparency in all stages and engaging in a campaign of intimidation." Reeker also said the U.S. will consult with other nations in the OSCE on what steps to take to restore democracy in Belarus. JM

EU'S SOLANA WORRIED ABOUT BELARUS'S ELECTION RESULT

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on 10 September expressed concern about the landslide reelection of Belarusian President Lukashenka. "There are clear question marks as to the validity of the electoral process," Solana said in a statement, noting that the opposition lacked equal access to the media. Solana voiced satisfaction that the opposition managed to rally around a single presidential candidate, and pledged that the EU will continue to support the development of civil society and grassroots democracy in Belarus. Five members of the European Parliament who visited Minsk on 9 September issued a statement decrying the lack of a free and open election campaign in Belarus. But they also urged the EU to avoid isolating Belarus further, saying that isolation "is not conducive to strengthening democratic development." JM

CIS ELECTION MONITORS SAY BELARUSIAN ELECTION WAS FAIR

A CIS monitoring mission of Belarus's presidential ballot said in a statement on 10 September that the election was "free and open, and in compliance with all universal democratic institutions," Belapan reported. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR NEW PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Some 2,000 opposition activists held a rally in Minsk on 10 September, denouncing the 9 September vote as rigged and calling for a fresh presidential election, Belapan reported. Opposition presidential candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk told the rally that he has filed a complaint about electoral fraud with the Central Election Commission. Meanwhile, President Lukashenka said the same day that the opposition is "worthless." According to Lukashenka, his opponents should have been flexible and somehow maneuvered when they saw that he was winning the election by "a constitutional majority." Instead, Lukashenka argued, the opposition tried to pursue a "Yugoslav scenario" devised by "certain organizations" in order to push him for a second election round. JM

LUKASHENKA TO FIND ANOTHER JOB FOR OSCE MISSION HEAD IN BELARUS?

President Lukashenka on 10 September publicly wondered aloud as to what the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group and its head Hans Georg Wieck will do in Belarus following the presidential ballot. "The parliamentary election passed [in November 2000]. Everybody waited for the presidential election. That is over, too. The results are known. Now tell me: what is there left for the Advisory and Monitoring Group to do here?" Belapan quoted Lukashenka as saying. Lukashenka, who last week threatened to kick Wieck out of the country following the election, on 10 September offered to find a different use for Wieck's abilities in Belarus. JM

UKRAINIAN, EU LEADERS MEET IN YALTA

Opening a Ukraine-EU summit in Yalta on 11 September, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said he is certain that "Ukraine-EU relations will gain even more momentum" during Belgium's current presidency, AP reported. Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, in turn, urged Kyiv to stick to democracy, stressing that Ukraine's parliamentary elections next year should dispel "all doubts" about political freedoms and rights in Ukraine. Verhofstadt also called on the Ukrainian government to proceed with economic, political, and administrative reforms, as well as to fight corruption and create more transparent economic structures to attract foreign investors. Apart from the Belgian premier, the summit is being attended by EU foreign and policy chief Solana, EU Commission President Romano Prodi, and Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel. JM

GONGADZE'S MOTHER SEEKS TO INDICT UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT FOR ABDUCTION, MURDER

Lesya Gongadze has appealed to Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko to officially charge President Kuchma, presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn, and former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko with the abduction and killing of her son, independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Interfax reported on 11 September. Lesya Gongadze reminded Potebenko that although the Prosecutor-General's Office has had "enough time and possibilities" to disprove the allegations of former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko that Kuchma, Lytvyn, and Kravchenko are implicated in the killing of the journalist, it has thus far failed to do so. JM

CALL FOR DIRECT ELECTION OF ESTONIAN PRESIDENT

President Lennart Meri at the first fall session of the Estonian parliament declared on 10 September his firm support for the direct election of the president by the people, but did not use his right as president to propose an amendment to the constitution, ETA reported. He said that he hopes that the president will be elected in this manner in 2006, as it would "give the people more immediate mechanisms for ruling the country." Meri, added however, that "direct elections of the president should be accompanied by a legal mechanism to balance the competence of the president and other constitutional institutions." Such mechanisms would provide an opportunity to create a new system of legal supervision that could solve the ongoing competence debate between the government, parliament, and president. SG

FORMER LATVIAN PRESIDENT TO JOIN NEW PARTY

Guntis Ulmanis, who served two terms as president but was forbidden by the Latvian Constitution to enter a third consecutive term, announced on 10 September that he will work with Bank of Latvia President Einars Repse to form a new center-right political party, BNS reported. On 6 September, Ulmanis withdrew from the Latvian Farmers' Union of which he had been the honorary chairman and the probable No. 1 candidate in the parliamentary elections in the fall of 2002. Repse, who officially announced his intention to form the new party last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2001), is still working as Central Bank president and thus is unable to engage in political activity. Ulmanis noted that "the parties from the right-wing spectrum do not have enough will and strength to shape Latvia's politics," but such action might be carried out by the new party, which should hold its founding congress in a month or two. SG

DIFFERENT INFLATION RATES IN BALTIC STATES

The Lithuanian Statistics Office announced on 10 September that the consumer price index (CPI) in August increased by 0.6 percent compared to July and by 2.4 percent compared to August 2000, BNS reported. The rise was primarily caused by a 22.1 percent rise in communications services costs. There was a 0.7 percent increase in housing, water, electricity, and gas prices, but gasoline prices fell by 2.8 percent, clothing and footwear prices by 1.1 percent, and food products and nonalcoholic beverages by 0.3 percent. In Estonia, the CPI in August remained unchanged compared to July as falling prices for fuel and vegetables were offset by rising meat prices, but rose by 6.1 percent compared to August 2000. In Latvia, the CPI in August decreased by 0.7 percent compared to July, but was 3.0 percent higher than in August 2000. In August, prices for goods fell 0.9 percent, while prices for services increased 0.2 percent. The greatest factor was the decline of 14.4 percent in prices of fruits and vegetables. Without those prices factored in the CPI would have increased by 0.1 percent compared to July. SG

POLISH OPPOSITION WANTS OUTRIGHT MAJORITY IN PARLIAMENT

Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) leader Leszek Miller on 10 September said the SLD will remain in opposition if its election bloc (jointly with the Labor Union) fails to win 50 percent of votes in the 23 September general elections, PAP reported. "There must be a strong government to bring Poland out of this crisis," Miller said on local radio in Kielce, southern Poland. He added that currently he does not see any party that could form a coalition government with the SLD after the election. JM

POLISH PREMIER HOSPITALIZED

Government spokesman Krzysztof Luft said Jerzy Buzek was hospitalized on 11 September for medical tests, Reuters reported. "It's nothing serious -- he is just indisposed," Luft told the agency. Buzek spent a night in a hospital to undergo tests last October after complaining of exhaustion from overwork. JM

CZECH JUNIOR PARTY PUTS ANOTHER NAIL IN BUDGET BILL'S COFFIN

The junior opposition Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) dealt a further blow to government efforts to pass a 2002 budget on 10 September, when the party leadership urged deputies in the lower house to reject the ruling Social Democrats' budget bill, CTK reported. The cabinet is not expected to propose a budget until late September, but already faces parliamentary opposition from the KDU-CSL and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) of former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, which signaled its objections last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2001). Neither of the two remaining parties in the lower house, the Communists nor the Freedom Union, has said which way its deputies will vote. The Social Democrats' minority government rules thanks to an "opposition agreement" with the ODS, but faces national elections in May of 2002. AH

DUTCH PLEDGE TO OPEN LABOR MARKET TO CZECHS

The Czech Republic's chief negotiator on EU accession, Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Telicka, said Dutch officials have vowed not to impose restrictions on labor movement between the countries once the Czechs join the EU, CTK reported on 10 September. The Netherlands will grant Czechs the same conditions as those enjoyed by the citizens of current EU members, Telicka said he was told by his Dutch counterpart, Dirk Benschop. Led by neighboring Austria and Germany, some other EU member states have lobbied for a transition period on workforce migration once new members are accepted. The Netherlands is the fourth EU country to indicate it would waive the restrictions idea, following similar statements from Sweden, Denmark, and Ireland. AH

FEARS OF ECONOMIC MIGRATION FUEL CZECH-YUGOSLAV VISA REGIME

Fears of increased economic migration by Yugoslav citizens prevent Czech-Yugoslav visa requirements from being dropped, Yugoslavia's ambassador to the Czech Republic, Aleksandar Ilic, told the BBC in a radio interview on 10 September, according to CTK. Such refugees would likely use the Czech Republic as a springboard into Germany and Western Europe, he added. Czech tourists can travel to Yugoslavia without visas only from 1 July to 30 September of this year. AH

CZECH PRIME MINISTER'S REMARKS COMPLICATE POLICE EFFORTS

Investigators working to build a case against exiled businessman Viktor Kozeny say Prime Minister Milos Zeman made their job harder when he told the weekly "Ekonom" last week that an international warrant is being prepared against the former Czech citizen, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 11 September. Police are likely to issue a warrant relating to multimillion-dollar fraud charges at the end of September, the daily added. Reports of the pending charges have filled the front pages of Czech papers since Zeman made the remarks, and the situation has been complicated by misquotes asserting that an international warrant has already been filed. Kozeny and his Harvard Funds are suspected of bilking tens of thousands of Czechs of their earnings from privatization through mismanagement and fraud. Police are investigating some 10 people in connection with the case, an investigator told CTK on 10 September. AH

ROMANIAN OFFICIAL TO MONITOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO CZECH REPUBLIC

Romania is sending a police official to the Czech Republic to monitor the movement of Romanian citizens in the country who are illegally or unjustifiably requesting asylum, Romanian Embassy first deputy Marian Radu told CTK on 10 September. The official, who is expected to arrive in Prague on 12 September, will cooperate with Czech police and the Interior Ministry, Radu said. The move comes in response to a decision by the Czech government to temporarily introduce visa requirements for Romanian citizens beginning on 1 November due to a growing number of Romanian asylum seekers. Czech Labor Minister Vladimir Spidla said he expects an early solution that would clear the way to visa-free relations in the near future. AH

SENIOR EU COMMISSIONER BACKS CZECHS, WILL NOT PUSH FOR TEMELIN CONFERENCE

The European Commission's Guenter Verheugen on 10 September delivered a blow to calls from the European Parliament for the EC to hold an international conference on scrapping the Czech Republic's newly constructed Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK reported. Verheugen, the EU's commissioner for enlargement, said that the Czech Republic's rejection of the European Parliament's call for the conference makes such considerations pointless. He also stressed that the EC is taking parliamentarians' stand seriously, adding that he will brief his fellow commissioners on the Temelin issue before they respond to the European Parliament. Verheugen said new talks should be held as soon as possible between the Czechs and Austrians, who have been the most vocal opponents of the neighboring power plant. AH

SLOVAK PREMIER REPORTS TO EU ON FUND MISUSE

Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda on 10 September sent a letter to EU Enlargement Commissioner Verheugen informing him of the investigation into the suspected misuse of EU aid funds by government official Roland Toth, CTK reported. Deputy Premier for European Integration Maria Kadlecikova said on Slovak Television the same day that the suspicion of favoritism in the case of the funds' distribution has been partly confirmed. This spring, the EU briefly suspended its financial aid to Slovakia over suspicion of aid mismanagement. Toth was fired by then-Deputy Premier for European Integration Pavol Hamzik, who subsequently was replaced by Kadlecikova. JM

SLOVAK PRESIDENT PAYS HOMAGE TO HOLOCAUST VICTIMS

President Rudolf Schuster, speaking at a ceremony in Kremnicka, central Slovakia, on 9 September, said that "the genocide of the Jewish people during World War II must be constantly remembered, because many people have started to underestimate" its extent and its lessons, CTK reported. Schuster called for work among young people to explain the Holocaust and said punishment for Holocaust denial and for racial or religion offenses must be stiffened. He said Slovak legislation on those offenses is "weak." MS

HUNGARY OPTS FOR GRIPEN FIGHTERS

Hungary's National Security Cabinet on 10 September decided to lease 14 Swedish/British-made JAS-39 Gripen fighter jets to replace the country's old MiG-29 fighters, Defense Minister Janos Szabo told Hungarian media. The decision came as a surprise, as several members of the cabinet and the Defense Ministry had earlier expressed their preferences for U.S.-built F-16 fighters. For economic reasons, the security cabinet decided to lease only 14 fighters, not 24 as originally planned, for 12 years. The overall cost of the lease, therefore, will be some 130-140 billion forints ($460-$500 million), as against the estimated 220-230 billion forints. The jets are up to five years old, their onboard weaponry will be purchased from the U.S., and they will be made compatible with NATO standards by British Aerospace. Hungary will be the first NATO country to adopt Gripens, "Napi Gazdasag" reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION READY TO FORM ELECTORAL ALLIANCE

Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) Chairman Laszlo Kovacs on 10 September said his party is prepared to discuss within a few weeks second-round electoral cooperation with the opposition Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ). Kovacs said it would be expedient for the two parties to withdraw their candidates before the second round of elections in 2002 in constituencies where the other party fared better. SZDSZ Chairman Gabor Kuncze expressed similar views last week, adding that the two parties have independently set themselves the same electoral goal, namely to unseat the present government, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

HUNGARY, ROMANIA DISCUSS STATUS LAW

The Romania-Hungarian minority joint committee on 10 September met in Budapest for the first time in two years, and discussed among other things the implementation of Hungary's Status Law. The media was not informed about the results of the meeting. Romanian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Cristian Diaconescu earlier told Radio Bucharest that his country continues to expect Hungary to propose solutions to problems and Romanian concerns regarding the Status Law. Diaconescu said Romania also wants to discuss the representation of ethnic minorities in the Hungarian parliament. MSZ




U.S. WARY OF NATO ROLE IN MACEDONIA

State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said in Washington on 10 September that the U.S. is not sure that any future armed Western presence in Macedonia should be sponsored by NATO, Reuters reported. "At this point, we're not convinced it has to be a NATO-led mission, and we'll continue to discuss that with our partners, our allies, and, of course, with our friends, the Macedonian government," Reeker added. He did not explicitly rule out a NATO mandate to protect unarmed OSCE monitors, but noted: "We do believe that an EU security mission is appropriate to help the security for those monitors" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 10 September 2001). Reeker concluded: "We encourage the European Union to continue to review this situation and take the lead in assembling a follow-on mission if requested by the government of Macedonia after Task Force Harvest completes its work on September 26." PM

U.S., NATO IRKED AT EU FOR NOT CONSULTING OVER MACEDONIA

Officials of the U.S. and of the Atlantic alliance are unhappy that EU foreign ministers recently announced a call for a new force for Macedonia without consulting either Washington or NATO, Reuters reported from Brussels on 11 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2001). The U.S. and the alliance both want to avoid an open-ended commitment in Macedonia or allowing Russia or China to play a "spoiler role." An unidentified NATO diplomat told the news agency that "the Americans have always been allergic to the idea of a European caucus precooking NATO decisions and presenting the United States with a set position." In his latest book, "Does America Need a Foreign Policy?", former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger writes that inflexible EU negotiating stances, worked out without any consultation with Washington, pose a major problem in trans-Atlantic relations. PM

NATO WARNS MACEDONIA OVER PARAMILITARIES

NATO envoy Peter Feith has written to senior Macedonian officials warning about the destabilizing effect of ethnic Macedonian paramilitaries, AP reported from Skopje on 11 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2001). Feith called on the authorities to remove "all illegal armed groups operating in the crisis area," including a unit called Lions, which is reportedly active near Tetovo. NATO spokesman Mark Laity said the armed bands "could be an inhibiting factor on the success of the weapons-collection process." PM

RUSSIA SEEKS UN MANDATE FOR MACEDONIA

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Macedonian Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Gaber in Moscow on 10 September that "We understand the threat that the actions of extremist forces pose for stability in Macedonia," Interfax reported. If Skopje wants more support from the international community, "this support must be provided through a corresponding mandate of the UN Security Council," Ivanov said. This mandate should "clearly state, above all, respect for Macedonia's sovereignty and territorial integrity" and should "clearly define the responsibility of the forces that would carry out this or that mission at the Macedonian leadership's request" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 10 September 2001 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 July 2001). Britain maintains that no UN mandate is necessary if the Macedonian government chooses to invite a foreign force into the country. PM

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES MINISTER'S FATE

The parliament is scheduled on 11 September to debate a request by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski to sack ethnic Albanian Justice Minister Hixhet Mehmeti, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2001). Mehmeti has said that his Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) will leave the shaky coalition government if he is removed. Referring to parliamentary delays in discussing constitutional reform, NATO spokesman Mark Laity said: "We have a high degree of confidence that [parliament speaker Stojan] Andov and the government are aware of the need to move ahead as fast as possible. We have a high degree of confidence they will reconcile the needs of democracy with their own government policy. But that is their task, and we would not presume to tell them what to do." Meanwhile, dpa reported that 100 ethnic Albanians will begin police training on 17 September as part of the reforms aimed at giving Albanians a greater role in running the country. PM

NATO ARRESTS 20 IN KOSOVA

Peacekeepers have arrested 20 unarmed ethnic Albanians crossing illegally from Macedonia into Kosova in recent days, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 10 September. PM

ALBANIA TO DESTROY 1.6 MILLION MINES

The Albanian authorities have begun to destroy and recycle 1.6 million land mines in a program sponsored by Canada under the auspices of NATO's Partnership for Peace Program, AP reported from Tirana on 10 September. The work is taking place in an explosives factory at Mjekes near Elbasan. Many mines were stockpiled by the regime of the communist dictator Enver Hoxha, but mines and other ordinance dating as far back as World War I have been found in various parts of the country. PM

MONTENEGRIN, YUGOSLAV PRESIDENTS TO MEET

President Milo Djukanovic will host his Yugoslav counterpart Vojislav Kostunica on 11 September in Podgorica, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The two bitter rivals will discuss the future of the Serbian-Montenegrin federation. Montenegro does not recognize the legitimacy of the Yugoslav government, which, Podgorica argues, was elected under legislation enacted by former President Slobodan Milosevic without the approval and to the deliberate detriment of the Montenegrin government. PM

UN LIFTS SERBIAN ARMS EMBARGO

The Security Council voted unanimously on 10 September to end the arms embargo against Yugoslavia, which was the last major sanction still in place against Belgrade, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The U.S. submitted the resolution, which had been strongly supported by France, Russia, and China. French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte, who is the current council chair, said that the vote "reveals the good relations, the constructive cooperation, and the trust which exist now between the democratic authorities in Belgrade and the international community. The development of the dialogue between Yugoslavia and the international community is positive for the search of peace, stability, and reconciliation in Southeast Europe," Reuters reported. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said after the vote: "I think it is a very positive development and I applaud the council for taking prompt action." Russia's deputy ambassador to the UN, Gennadii Gatilov, told ITAR-TASS that the lifting of the embargo "reflects the real situation," and "does not apply to the Albanian terrorists in Kosovo." PM

YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER GREETS UN VOTE

Goran Svilanovic said in Belgrade on 10 September after the vote to lift the embargo: "This means not only that there are no more sanctions, but also that we can think about the role of the military-industrial complex in our country's economy. There should be no great expectations in that area, but it is important to know that we no longer have a limitation we've had so far," Reuters reported. PM

HAGUE TRIBUNAL HEARS OF BOSNIAN VICTIMS BURNED ALIVE

Prosecutors at The Hague-based war crimes tribunal opened the trials of five Bosnian Serbs and two Croats on 10 September, Reuters reported. The judges heard how Bosnian Serb Mitar Vasiljevic, a waiter who belonged to the paramilitary White Eagles, systematically murdered Muslims in Visegrad in 1992. In one incident, Vasiljevic and his friends burned alive 65 women, children, and old men by sealing them in a room in a house and setting it alight. "There was a small baby among them. She had yet to see her third day on this earth," said prosecutor Dermot Groome. Vasiljevic shone a light on those trying to escape so that his colleagues could kill them. The prosecutor noted that Vasiljevic is no leader of war criminals, but "is one who by his own hands committed an act that is perhaps one of the single most horrific and egregious affronts to humanity in the war -- to the most innocent of victims." The Croats are Mladen Naletilic "Tuta" and Vinko Martinovic "Stela," who committed crimes in ethnic cleansing campaigns against Muslims in 1993. PM

BOSNIAN WORKERS LAUNCH HUNGER STRIKE

Some 600 workers at the Polihem chemical plant in Tuzla began a hunger strike after power was shut off to Polihem because of unpaid bills, AP reported on 11 September. PM

RESITA WORKERS CONTINUE PROTESTS IN ROMANIA

Workers at the Resita steel-producer CSR blocked a major intersection within the city on 10 September, demanding the resumption of the plant's activities and the payment of wage arrears, Romanian media reported. According to the "Adevarul" daily, police were ready to intervene, but Caras-Severin County Prefect Pavel Balan canceled the intervention in the last moment. The protesters asked to meet Premier Adrian Nastase to present their requests. They also announced that as of 11 September, 50 workers would begin a hunger strike. Nastase said in Bucharest that the protesters should understand that by blocking the streets they will isolate the city and scare away potential investors. He added that his counselor Eugen Dijmarescu has gone to the U.S. to discuss CSR's situation with the majority stakeholder Noble Ventures. (See also RFE/RL's "Newsline," 31 August 2001) ZsM

NASTASE POINTS OUT ROMANIA AS MODEL FOR INTERETHNIC RELATIONS

Romanian Premier Nastase on 10 September said his country is a model for interethnic relations, Mediafax reported. He said his government tries to solve ethnic issues by taking into account the specific realities of Romanian society. Nastase spoke at the opening of an OSCE conference being held in Bucharest on the struggle against discrimination of Roma. Nastase said problems related to Roma need to be solved with "coherent social, civic, economic, and political inclusion policies." Referring to the strategy recently adopted by the government for improving the situation of Roma, the premier said the strategy's success also depends on the civil society and Roma community leaders and members. ZsM

MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION LEADER ACQUITTED OF CHARGES

The Chisinau Tribunal on 10 September acquitted opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic Chairman Iurie Rosca of all charges, Flux reported. The court thus overruled a Chisinau district court decision that found Rosca guilty of hitting a woman in the print shop that publishes his party's newspaper. That court stopped Rosca's prosecution for procedural reasons. In July, the parliament controlled by the Party of Moldovan Communists lifted Rosca's parliamentary immunity to allow prosecution. ZsM

SMIRNOV ACCUSES VORONIN OF DICTATORIAL POLICIES

In an interview with TVC TV, Transdniester separatist leader Igor Smirnov on 10 September accused Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin of "promoting a dictatorial and pressure policy against the Transdniester region," Flux reported. He reiterated his earlier protest against the change of Moldovan customs seals, saying Voronin had thus breached "all documents" signed by Chisinau and Tiraspol leaders. Smirnov also said that after releasing Ilie Ilascu, a gesture made, in his words, "in order to remove all obstacles to the negotiation process," Voronin did not apologize for the "prejudices caused" during the 1992 conflict. ZsM

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN BEGINS IN TRANSDNIESTER

The campaign for the 9 December presidential election started on 10 September in the breakaway Transdniester region, Flux reported. Due to a new presidential system established last year, Tiraspol leader Smirnov will run for a third term as "president." ZsM

BULGARIA TO REQUIRE VISAS FOR RUSSIANS, UKRAINIANS, GEORGIANS

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said it will introduce a visa regime for all visitors from Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia beginning on 1 October, Reuters reported on 11 September. The ministry said in a statement that the visas are in line with an agreement Sofia made with the EU. The union lifted visa requirements for Bulgarians in April on the condition that the Balkan country tighten its borders to the East and curb illegal immigration. The statement added that discussions with the three affected countries will take place to find ways of easing visa restrictions for businessmen and tourists. PB

CROATIAN PRESIDENT IMPRESSED BY BULGARIA'S STRIDES TOWARD EUROPE

Stipe Mesic said in Sofia on 11 September that relations between the two countries have a promising future, BTA reported. Mesic, in Bulgaria for a meeting of the Partners in Transition Conference, said after meeting with Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov that Croatia "follows Bulgaria's achievements with interest...[as] the country has made remarkable progress on the track to Europe." Stoyanov said that along with striving for membership in NATO and the EU, the two countries have "another common goal: to prove that there are countries in the Balkans which have rejected historical prejudice and are resolved to carry through with economic reforms and democratic changes." Mesic, who will also meet with Bulgarian Premier Simeon Saxecoburggotski, announced that Croatian Premier Ivica Racan will visit Bulgaria later this year to work toward an agreement on trade liberalization. PB

IS BULGARIA'S ETHNIC TURKISH PARTY AGAINST STOYANOV'S CANDIDACY?

Bulgarian newspapers are increasingly reporting on possible candidates for the upcoming presidential election in which President Stoyanov is the only confirmed major candidate. The daily "Novinar" reported on 11 September that the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) will not support Stoyanov's candidacy and will instead back a candidate nominated by the party of Premier Saxecoburggotski, the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV). "Novinar" has reported -- citing advisers to the prime minister -- that this candidate will be Constitutional Court Chairman Hristo Danov. The daily "Demokratsiya," which is the paper of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces, says the DPS will support Danov's candidacy only if DPS deputy Emel Etem is nominated as vice president. The daily "24 Chasa" reports that the NDSV will nominate Constitutional Court Judge Georgi Markov instead of Danov. PB




SHOULD LUKASHENKA BE REGARDED AS A LEGITIMATE PRESIDENT?


By Jan Maksymiuk

Belarus's Central Election Commission announced on 10 September that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka overwhelmingly won his reelection the previous day, garnering no less than 75 percent of the vote. His rival, unified opposition candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk, obtained a mere 15 percent.

In a statement issued the same day, the OSCE said Belarus's electoral process had "fundamental flaws." Europe's election watchdog noted that the 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 also said the authorities launched a campaign of intimidation against opposition activists, domestic observers, and independent media, and a smear campaign against international observers.

The U.S. State Department was far harsher in its assessment of Belarus's ballot, stressing that "Lukashenka has merely used a facade of elections to engineer a meaningless victory for himself." The U.S. State Department said the election cannot be internationally recognized. Washington pledged to consult with the OSCE on what steps to take to restore democracy in Belarus.

How many people really voted for Lukashenka will most likely remain a mystery. The authorities and election officials prevented independent monitors from tabulating precinct-by-precinct votes and offering an independent picture of the vote. At the same time, the use on a mass scale of a controversial early voting procedure has spawned widespread suspicions that the authorities may have resorted to mass falsifications during those five days of practically unmonitored early voting.

Gerard Stoudman, head of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, told RFE/RL on 10 September that he has no evidence of manipulations of the election figures in Belarus. Stoudman, who led the OSCE's monitoring effort in the Belarusian ballot, added that in such a heavily Sovietized country as Belarus it is easy for the authorities to ensure a favorable election outcome without resorting to outright falsification of the figures.

The OSCE's final assessment of Belarus's presidential ballot is still to come, but it is already evident that the organization as a whole as well as each state participating in it will soon face a difficult question -- what to do about Lukashenka? Is he a legitimate president or not? Should European states resume political contacts with his regime or isolate it even further?

"A policy of isolation has never worked. It is clear that if this country [Belarus] feels like a fortress under siege, like Iraq, Yugoslavia under Milosevic, Cuba, etc., there will be no changes for the next 15 years," Stoudman told Reuters. It is likely that in time more and more European politicians will express their support for Stoudman's argument.

Does that argument in favor of not isolating Lukashenka mean that the effort, led primarily by the U.S., to support the anti-Lukashenka opposition and establish some mechanisms and structures of civil society in Belarus has suffered a failure? Not necessarily so. "The most important result of this election is the development of democratically and politically competent institutions in civil society," OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group head Hans Georg Wieck believes. Of course, it is primarily up to the Belarusian opposition to show that it can prove equal to further challenges and to maintain its unity that was so painstakingly achieved shortly before the presidential election. But it is also obvious that Belarus's nascent democratic groups need further moral and financial support from the West in order to overcome their frustration in the wake of Lukashenka's election triumph.

This week, "Christian Science Monitor" revealed that Washington spent $24 million in 2000 to support NGOs and opposition groups in Belarus, and is going to spend no less this year. Although such sums may seem pretty fat in the country where National Bank reserves do not exceed $200 million, they are in no way commensurate with the money that is spent to counter any democratization processes in Belarus and to keep the Lukashenka regime afloat.

According to opposition estimates, supporting Belarus's antiquated economy -- which also means keeping the Lukashenka regime relatively popular among wider strata of the Belarusian population -- costs Russia no less than $1 billion annually. Russia supports Lukashenka by offering his regime cheap oil and gas, regular debt relief, and access to taxes on products heading for Russia. Russia is also the principal market for Belarusian producers who could have faced immense difficulties in finding buyers elsewhere.

Lukashenka's reelection -- on which Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the Belarusian leader immediately after the preliminary election results were released by Minsk -- is presenting a troublesome dilemma for the Kremlin too. There has recently been an increasing number of voices from Russian politicians and political experts asserting that Moscow's support for Lukashenka costs Russia too much and is detrimental to Russian interests in the long run. Russia is apparently gradually becoming aware that it may be possible to maintain Belarus in the Russian sphere of influence without having the "last dictator in Europe" installed in Minsk.

In his independence-day greeting to Lukashenka in July, Putin spoke about Belarus's commitment to freedom and democracy as a necessary precondition for unification with Russia. While unification with Russia may not necessarily be the Belarusian opposition's primary goal, Moscow's tougher course toward Belarus's autocratic leader would obviously be welcome by all anti-Lukashenka groups. The presidential ballot in Belarus clearly testified that Moscow's political and economic leverage in that country remains a major factor that must be taken into account by all political players. Hancharyk and other opposition politicians have made an attempt at currying Moscow's favors in the presidential campaign. This time they failed, but 9 September 2001 in no way means the end of politics in Belarus.


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