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Newsline - September 20, 2001




PUTIN CALLS FOR COOPERATION TO COUNTER TERRORISM

President Vladimir Putin said on 19 September that the most important task before the world now is to "work out approaches and real mechanisms of cooperation" for combating terrorism, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that his contacts with Russia's major partners -- the United States, the EU countries, and China -- have increased significantly following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Putin added that "we feel that there is considerable interest in Russia's opinion." PG

FOREIGN MINISTER REPORTS PROGRESS IN WASHINGTON...

Speaking in Washington on 19 September, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov conveyed to the American people Putin's message that "We are with you. We share wholly and fully your pain. We support you." Later, Ivanov said his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was productive and advanced the cooperation that President Putin said in his message that he seeks. PG

...SAYS EACH CIS COUNTRY CAN DECIDE WHETHER OTHERS CAN USE ITS BASES

Also on 19 September, Foreign Minister Ivanov said that every member country of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) has the right to decide for itself whether to allow third countries or alliances to make use of the military bases on its territory, Interfax reported. Ivanov's comments come after reports appeared in the Moscow press on 18 September that the Russian government would exercise a veto over possible NATO or American use of bases in Central Asia. Also on 19 September, Ivanov spoke by telephone with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, and the two condemned terrorism and called for "purposeful measures" against it, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, in Moscow, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met with First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, Russian and Western news agencies reported. PG

EX-DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS ACTS OF REVENGE MUST ONLY BE AGAINST REAL TERRORISTS

Igor Sergeev, a former Russian defense minister and current assistant to the president on questions of strategic stability, told Interfax on 19 September that any "acts of revenge" for the terrorist attacks must be directed "exclusively against concrete terrorists and terrorist organizations. Otherwise, they will be impermissible," he said. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov suggested the same day that terrorism is a disease that cannot be "cured" but can only be "excised." Gryzlov also said that his ministry has investigated several Russian banks suspected of financing terrorism in Chechnya but did not find enough evidence to bring criminal proceedings, pravda.ru reported on 19 September. Meanwhile, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and veterans of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on 19 September warned against any ground campaign there, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG/VY

DUMA CALLS FOR STRUGGLE AGAINST TERRORISM

After a brief debate on 19 September, the Duma unanimously passed a resolution condemning terrorism and recognizing the right of the U.S. to take retaliatory measures, Russian and Western agencies reported. Deputies specified that the U.S. response must be "strictly proportional," and they urged President Putin to push the creation of an international antiterrorism center. The adoption of a resolution on global terrorism provoked a very sharp exchange between those like Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov, who believe Moscow should cooperate with the U.S. in the fight against terrorism, and those like Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who want Moscow to align itself with Afghanistan and the Muslim world. Many deputies, including from the pro-Kremlin Unity faction, said that Russia should not take part in any action planned and led by another country. VY

RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE SAYS ITS DATA SUGGEST BIN LADEN BEHIND U.S. ATTACKS

Sources in the Russian intelligence services told Interfax on 19 September that Moscow has some evidence that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks in New York and Washington. The same day, Russian border guards told the news service that they believe that bin Laden is still located in southern Afghanistan near Kandahar. Meanwhile, Leonid Shebarshin, the former head of Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), said in an interview published in "Argumenty i fakty" on 19 September that a hitherto unknown terrorist group may have been behind the attacks in New York and Washington. Shebarshin also said that the success of the terrorists represents a major intelligence failure not only by the U.S. special services but by Russia's as well. PG/VY

MOSCOW PUSHES CHECHENS-AS-TERRORISTS LINE

Russian security services on 19 September said that they have information showing that one of the terrorists now in the U.S. had taken part in the Chechen war and they again claimed that the Chechen militants are linked to Arab money sources that are also tied to bin Laden, Russian agencies reported. The Russian military newspaper "Krasnaya zvezda" the same day argued that "only now [in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the U.S.] it seems, the West is coming to believe Russia concerning what and against whom it is fighting in Chechnya." Meanwhile, a pro-independence Chechen website Kavkaz-Tsentr on 18 September said that it appears that Russia may demand and the West accept that Moscow will participate in the antiterrorism effort led by the U.S. only if Washington stops criticizing Russia's actions in Chechnya. PG

MOSCOW BEGINS TO TAKE A LONGER-TERM VIEW

After the initial shock, the Russian government has begun to take a longer-term view on the possible impact of a U.S.-led campaign against terrorism. "Izvestiya" on 19 September said that Moscow must make some key decisions on how to act and how much to cooperate with Washington. The paper warned there could be real dangers if the U.S. drags Russia into a war, especially in Afghanistan, veterans of that campaign insisted. But "Kommersant-Daily" the same day said that there would be dangers involved if Moscow does not work with Washington. Some of those negative consequences could be economic, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" suggested, if the U.S. is able to talk down the price of oil. "Kommersant-Daily" and "Parlamentskaya gazeta" warned that the counterterrorism campaign will only increase the role of the state in the economy. But the Russian media did carry one voice of optimism on 19 September. Russia's leading astrologer Tamara Globa said she is certain that the current period of tensions will not result in the third world war, Interfax reported. PG/VY

ZHIRINOVSKY APPEALS TO MUSLIM WORLD

Duma deputy speaker and LDPR leader Zhirinovsky on 19 September issued an appeal to the Muslim world calling on Arabs, Iranians and Afghans to align with Russia, Interfax reported. He suggested that such an alliance would be able to stand up to "the chief aggressor on planet Earth -- the United States and Western Christianity, which for the last 50 years have unleashed wars in which millions of people and in the first instance Muslims have died." Zhirinovsky offered himself as the Muslims' chief advocate in the Russian capital. "For 10 years," he said, "I have been the only politician in Russia and indeed in the whole world who has openly supported Saddam Hussein, Muammar Ghadaffi, and the leadership of Iran, and who demanded the recognition of the Taliban government in Afghanistan. And I have attempted through my work to help all the Muslim countries of the planet." PG

RUSSIAN SCULPTOR OFFERS TO DESIGN MONUMENT AT SITE OF WORLD TRADE CENTER TRAGEDY

Zurab Tsereteli, the president of the Russian Academy of Arts, said on 19 September that he has already designed a monumental sculpture to be erected at the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attack, Interfax-Moscow reported. Tsereteli, whose sculptures are to be found around the world, said he has already made this offer in messages to U.S. President George W. Bush and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. PG

RUSSIAN PAPER RECALLS THAT NAZIS PLANNED KAMIKAZE ATTACKS ON SKYSCRAPERS

"Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 19 September noted that the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center on 11 September were guilty of intellectual plagiarism because in fact the idea of using kamikaze pilots to attack such buildings was first developed by Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels. He planned to attack the Empire State Building and even began putting together a group of agents to carry out such an attack. VY

PAPER URGES PUTIN TO USE HIS POPULARITY TO TAKE CONTROL OF STATE

An article in "Profil," No. 34, suggests that President Putin should use his popularity to begin to take control of the state machinery so he can move the country in the directions he intends. But the weekly noted that he faces many obstacles: the resistance of the bureaucracy itself, promises that he appears to have made to his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, and the need to maintain popularity while taking over the state structures. PG

MOSCOW URGES IAEA TO FOCUS ON ENGINEERING FOR SAFETY

Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev said in Vienna on 19 September that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should devote more attention to nuclear power engineering in order to create "technological barriers that can prevent the spread of nuclear weapons," ITAR-TASS reported. He said that at present, such engineering advances are receiving less attention from the IAEA than are nuclear safety and nuclear nonproliferation. PG

MOSCOW WELCOMES PALESTINIAN, ISRAELI MOVES

The Foreign Ministry on 19 September said in a statement that it welcomes as "a serious and positive step" a statement by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat denouncing the use of force against civilians, ITAR-TASS reported. The ministry also welcomed "the immediate positive response of the Israeli government" to Arafat's message to the Israeli people in opposition to violence against civilians, and it expressed the hope that these moves will help promote peace in the region. PG

GOVERNMENT OPPOSES CUTTING OFF HEAT AND POWER BECAUSE OF DEBTS

Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said on 19 September that the Russian government does not support the practice of some power companies of turning off heat and electricity to consumers who have not paid all their bills, ITAR-TASS reported. He told the Duma that debt issues should be treated on a case-by-case basis and that past debts should be reduced according to an agreed-upon schedule as long as current bills are being paid. PG

JUSTICE MINISTRY OPENS WEBSITE ON POLITICAL PARTIES

As required by the political parties law, the Justice Ministry has opened a website on Russia's political parties, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 September. The site http://party.scli.ru is still "under construction" with only two of its four categories having any content, the paper said. PG

EFFORT TO BLOCK VOTE ON LAND CODE FAILS

A motion offered by Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin to put off the third reading of the draft Land Code attracted only 149 supporters, far fewer than the 226 deputies the action required for success, Interfax reported. As a result, the Duma will take up the draft Land Code for the third and final time on 20 September. Most observers predicted that the Kremlin-backed measure will pass and thus open the way to private buying and selling of some land. PG

FATHERLAND LEADERSHIP APPROVES DOCUMENTS FOR CONGRESS

The political council of the Fatherland movement on 19 September approved drafts of a manifesto, program and rules for the constituent party congress scheduled for 13 October, Interfax-Moscow reported. PG

PEOPLES' DEPUTY GROUP WANTS TO RESTORE DEATH PENALTY

The Peoples' Deputy group in the Duma issued a statement on 19 September saying that its members will seek to restore the death penalty in Russia, Interfax reported. The statement said that ending the moratorium on the death penalty "is a cruel requirement of society," pointing to the terrorist attacks in the United States as an example of the sort of serious crime that should be punished by the death penalty. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" reported the same day that the Interior Ministry is working on legislation that will make some radical Islamic groups illegal in Russia. PG

WORLD BANK POINTS TO RUSSIA, EASTERN EUROPE AS HAVING HIGHEST GROWTH POTENTIAL IN WORLD

Michael Carter, the director of the World Bank responsible for the Baltic countries and Poland and formerly responsible for Russia, said on 19 September that Eastern Europe and Russia have the greatest potential for economic growth of any regions in the world, Interfax-AFI/BNS reported. PG

TOTAL STATE DEBT INCREASED BY $1.9 BILLION SINCE 2000

The Finance Ministry on 19 September said that Russia's state debt has increased by 54.85 billion rubles ($1.9 billion) since the start of 2001, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Zolotukhin said that Moscow hopes to reach agreement on all debts of the former Soviet Union by the middle of 2002, Interfax-AFI reported the same day. And "Vremya MN" reported on 19 September that Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin has said that Russia will sell some of its gold reserves to pay debts in 2002. PG

MUSCOVITES SEEK TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM INFLATION BY BUYING PROPERTY

According to a poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 19 September, the most popular form of saving by residents of the Russian capital is through the purchase of property. Twenty-eight percent of residents identify buying a residence or land as the best investment. Others choose to purchase foreign currency (19.6 percent), put money in banks (7.2 percent), or buy jewelry or other valuables (3.8 percent). Only 2 percent purchase stocks and bonds, the survey found. PG

FOREIGN TRADE PLAYS LARGER ROLE THAN FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN RUSSIAN FAR EAST

Pavel Minakir, the director of the Institute for Economic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Far Eastern Branch, told an investment forum in Khabarovsk on 19 September that foreign trade is having a greater impact on the economy of Russia's Far East than are foreign investments, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, he said, attracting additional investments to the region remains an important task. PG

REIMAN SAYS RUSSIA'S ENTRANCE INTO WTO MUST NOT BE PUT OFF

After saying on 18 September that joining the World Trade Organization would bring more harm than good to Russia's communications sector, Communications Minister Leonid Reiman said on 19 September that even so there should be no delay in Russia's entrance into the WTO, Interfax reported. He called for the development of new legislation to make Russia's communications companies more competitive abroad. PG

NONFERROUS METAL EXPORTS FALL, AS DOES DIAMOND PRODUCTION

The value of nonferrous metal exports by Russia fell by 20 percent during the first eight months of 2001 compared with the same period in 2000, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Russia's diamond production this year will be about 20 percent lower than it was a year earlier, the news service said. In both cases, industry officials cited falling demand as the primary cause. PG

SECURITIES COMMISSION OFFERS CORPORATE GOVERNANCE CODE

The Federal Securities Commission on 18 September presented a draft corporate governance code intended to bring Russian business into compliance with international standards, Reuters reported. The commission will now seek government approval for the code by the end of this year and then publish it no later than early 2002. PG

OFFICIALS OF HUMAN RIGHTS OMBUDSMAN CRITICIZE DRAFT CRIMINAL CODE

Members of the experts commission of the presidential ombudsman for human rights said on 19 September that the draft criminal code the government has prepared has many shortcomings in terms of protecting the constitutional rights of citizens, Interfax reported. Indeed, one of the experts, jurist Sergei Pashin, said that one could say that the draft bears "a repressive character." The experts offered 154 recommended changes in the draft. PG

IS MOSCOW A HAVEN FOR WAHHABIS?

An article in "The Moscow Times" on 19 September notes that many young Muslims in the Russian capital are turning toward Islamic fundamentalism, with one of their leaders saying that "like the Bolsheviks in Switzerland a century ago, Wahhabis find haven in Moscow today." There are an estimated 20 million Muslims in Russia, of whom 1 million are in Moscow, and most of the young are turning toward fundamentalism. But this shift may mean that the Muslim countries to Moscow's south will become fundamentalist in the future, something that could significantly complicate Russian security, the paper said. PG

ORTHODOX CHURCH OPPOSED TO MANDATORY RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION BUT WANTS THEOLOGY TAUGHT IN UNIVERSITIES

Metropolitan Kirill, the head of the Foreign Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate, said on 19 September that the Russian Orthodox Church is opposed to mandatory religious instruction in Russia's schools but wants to see theology available as a subject of study in the country's universities, Interfax reported. PG

NUCLEAR SUBS BEING CONVERTED INTO CARGO VESSELS

Officials at the Rubin design bureau told Interfax on 19 September that they are converting decommissioned nuclear submarines into commercial cargo vessels. PG

RUSSIAN MEDIA COVERAGE OF CENTRAL ASIA SAID INADEQUATE

An extensive survey of Moscow press articles on the countries of Central Asia conducted by four Russian scholars who specialize in following the media found that the coverage of events in that region is inadequate and distorted, according to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 September. PG

SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO OVERTURN TOBIN CONVICTION

The Russian Supreme Court on 19 September refused to overturn the conviction of U.S. exchange student John Tobin for drug possession, Russian and Western agencies reported. Tobin has already been released after serving half of his 12-month sentence and has returned to the United States. PG

FURTHER POPULATION DECLINE PREDICTED

The State Statistics Committee on 19 September projected that the population of Russia will decline another 7.2 percent by 2016 and amount in that year to 134.4 million people, Interfax reported. The committee said that the number of births remains low, the number of deaths unchanged, and immigration no longer compensates for the decline caused by the excess number of deaths over births. The committee's experts expressed concern that HIV infections may become an ever more serious threat to the country's demographic situation. More than 26,000 Russians are officially registered as HIV carriers, and they are located throughout the country, in 82 of the 89 subjects of the federation. PG

ANOTHER TERRORIST ACT THAT 'CHANGED HISTORY'

An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" discussed the assassination in Kyiv 90 years ago this week of Russian Prime Minister Petr Stolypin, a man whose reputation has undergone several fundamental reassessments since his death. The paper suggested that Stolypin's assassination recalled Karl Marx's observation that "violence is the midwife of history," and noted that what was true a century ago, remains true today. PG

SIBERIAN LEADER SEES DOMESTIC POLITICAL ANGLE TO BUSH'S ACTIONS...

In an interview with "Vremya novostei" on 19 September, Krasnoyarsk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Lebed, a veteran of the Soviet Union's war in Afghanistan, warned the U.S. against any military engagement with that country. "Of course, it is possible to level Kabul, leaving only a hole in the ground, but only the simple Afghan people will suffer," he said. "I am profoundly convinced that Osama Bin Laden and his closest circle long ago hid themselves underground below the cities." Lebed added that "today [U.S. President] Bush's rating is 91 percent. What is this based on? His promise to punish the criminals... It is for this that nine out of 10 Americans have voted." JAC

...URALS UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS SPREAD PRAISE OF TERRORIST ATTACKS

Denis Vederko, a 27-year-old philosophy professor at Magnitogorsk State University, has been detained in Sverdlovsk Oblast for distributing pamphlets in support of the terrorist attacks on the U.S., Interfax-Eurasia reported on 19 September. According to the agency, Vederko is an activist with the local branch of the National Bolshevik Party, which is led by Eduard Limonov. Other members of the party's branch including another professor from the local industrial college were also detained by police for distributing the leaflets, which bore slogans such as "Terror -- the weapon of heroes" and "For Belgrade." JAC

ULTRANATIONALIST GROUP THREATENS TO DISRUPT ROSTOV ELECTIONS

Presidential envoy to the Southern federal district Viktor Kazantsev said on 19 September that he will put an end to any provocations intended to disrupt 23 September gubernatorial elections in Rostov Oblast, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to Kazantsev, rumors are circulating that members of Russian National Unity are preparing a boycott of the election as well as "various other provocations." Also on 19 September, State Duma deputies failed to pass a measure calling for an investigation into how elections are being conducted in the oblast. According to ITAR-TASS, the measure was introduced in connection with the rejection of registration for local Communist leader Leonid Ivanchenko (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 September 2001). JAC

VLADIVOSTOK CITY DUMA FACES ANOTHER CRISIS

After an almost three-year absence due to failure of successive elections, Vladivostok's City Duma is now facing a new threat to its existence, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 19 September. City Duma Chairman Boris Danchin told reporters in Vladivostok that city and district election commissions are attempting to challenge the legality of the 27 May election of several city Duma deputies, including his own. On 17 September, the city election commission canceled the election of one deputy, Tatyana Balula, after a third recount. According to Danchin, if the elections of two more deputies are annulled, then the Duma will cease to have a quorum and will have to be disbanded once more. Danchin alleges that the city election commission is acting "on the orders of the Vladivostok administration" so that the mayor can have complete control of the city once again. JAC

FAR EAST POLICEMEN CONVICTED IN TORTURE CASE STILL ON THE JOB

ITAR-TASS reported on 19 September that six of the eight Vladivostok policemen recently convicted of torturing detainees have not been fired from the police ranks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2001). Five of the policemen are on the staff of the Frunze Raion criminal investigation department, while one has moved to the department for combating narcotics. JAC

FAR NORTHERN RESIDENTS TRANSFERRED TO WARMER CLIMATE

One hundred fifty residents of Chukotka have been transferred to Voronezh Oblast to live, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 September. The residents came from villages where living conditions are difficult due to a lack of developed infrastructure and jobs. According to the agency, some 1,200 people will be moved from the Far Northern territory of Chukotka in 2001. In addition to Voronezh, Chukotka residents will also be moved to the Tula, Leningrad, and Kursk oblasts, according to Region-stroi Executive Director Vladimir Smetana. JAC




ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR U.S. RETALIATION

The Armenian government "cannot fail to support" U.S. military action against states suspected of harboring the masterminds behind last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Serzh Sarkisian told journalists in Yerevan on 19 September, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But he declined to specify what concrete forms Armenia's support for retaliatory strikes might take. LF

AZERBAIJANI OIL WORKERS PROTEST DISCRIMINATION

Foreign oil companies operating in Azerbaijan discriminate against Azerbaijani employees by paying them substantially less than they pay Western staff, Turan quoted the chairwoman of the Committee for the Rights of Oil Industry Workers, Mirvari Gakhrimanly, as saying at a seminar in Baku on 19 September. She claimed that British specialists are paid $8,000-$10,000 per month and those from the Near East $5,000-$6,000 per month, while Azerbaijanis receive only $600-$1,200. She added that Azerbaijani employees of foreign oil companies are not permitted to join trade unions, and consequently there is no official body to represent their interests. LF

AZERBAIJANI POLICE DISPERSE JOURNALISTS' PROTEST

Police in Baku on 19 September used violence to break up a protest outside the Supreme Court by journalists of the newspaper "Ulus," which supports exiled former parliament speaker Rasul Guliev, Turan reported. At least three journalists were injured, one of them seriously. The journalists had sought to present a petition to the court on behalf of the editor and deputy editor of the paper, who were arrested on 13 July on charges of having insulted and resorted to physical violence eight days earlier against a former journalist with the paper. That journalist, Aybeniz Ilgar, had accused the two editors of assaulting her after she submitted her resignation following an unsanctioned two-month absence from work. LF

GEORGIA PROPOSES RUSSIA, OSCE INSPECT ALLEGED CHECHEN BASE SITE

Following the Russian Foreign Ministry's 18 September statement accusing Georgia of failing to prevent Chechen "terrorists" from using its territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2001), Georgian Border Guards commander Lieutenant General Valeri Chkheidze proposed on 19 September that Russian troops together with the OSCE should inspect Georgia's Pankisi gorge, where Russian media claim that Chechen militants are hiding out, to determine whether any Chechen fighters are based there, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Chkheidze said that if the Russian allegations prove true, Georgia will participate in joint military activities with Russia against the Chechen interlopers. LF

GEORGIA CALLS ON RUSSIA TO RENEW BASES TALKS

On 19 September the Georgian Foreign Ministry formally proposed to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov to set a date for the resumption of talks on the future of Russia's military bases in Georgia, Prime News and Interfax-AVN reported on 19 September. The most recent talks on that issue took place in Moscow in early August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2001). At that time, it was stated that the following round of talks would be held in October, but Interfax on 19 September quoted Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze as stating that Georgia wants them brought forward to before the end of this month. LF

GEORGIAN JUSTICE MINISTER RESIGNS

Mikhail Saakashvili announced late on 19 September his resignation from the post of justice minister to which he was appointed in October 2000, Caucasus Press reported. In a live interview on the independent TV station Rustavi-2, Saakashvili explained that he considers it "immoral" to remain a member of a government that takes no steps to eradicate corruption and has failed to fulfill the preelection promises made by the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia. A draft bill proposed by Saakashvili that would have required government officials to reveal the source of their wealth was widely criticized by senior officials last month (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 30, 16 August 2001 and No. 31, 10 September 2001). Saakashvili also said that he plans to participate in the upcoming by-election in the Tbilisi district of Vake. That was the seat that Saakashvili vacated after his appointment as justice minister last year. LF

GEORGIAN GUERRILLA LEADER ACCUSES EXILED ABKHAZ AUTHORITIES

Forest Brothers guerrilla organization head Dato Shengelaia on 19 September accused unnamed senior members of the Abkhaz government in exile, which is composed of the Georgian members of the Abkhaz government who fled during the war of 1992-1993, of masterminding the 2 September attack on his home in Zugdidi in which his wife's parents were killed, Caucasus Press reported. Shengelaia initially blamed the Abkhaz for the shootings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2001). He said on 19 September that he himself was the intended victim of the killings, and that he knows the identity of those responsible. LF

DATE SET FOR ABKHAZ PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba on 19 September scheduled parliamentary elections for 24 November, according to Prime News, as cited by Groong. LF

TURKISH DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS KAZAKHSTAN

Visiting Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu discussed bilateral military cooperation with his Kazakh counterpart Lieutenant General Sat Toqpaqbaev in Almaty on 19 September, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Cakmakoglu announced that Turkey will give the Kazakh armed forces some 30 military vehicles and other military-technical aid worth some $800,000 in 2001. That aid is the first installment of some $10 million that Ankara has pledged over the next decade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2001). LF

CENTRAL ASIAN STATES CLARIFY POSITION ON U.S. RETALIATORY STRIKES

Officials from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, all of which have expressed their support in principle for a U.S. counterstrike against Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, on 19 September distanced themselves from Western media reports that their governments have already either offered, or acceded to U.S. requests, to make their military facilities available to the U.S. for that purpose. Kazakhstan's National Security Committee chairman Marat Tazhin told Interfax that the U.S. has not yet addressed such a request to Kazakhstan. The Turkmen Foreign Ministry issued a similar statement saying no such request has been received, ITAR-TASS reported. It added that Turkmenistan's response to any such request would be dictated by its neutral status. Meeting in Tashkent on 19 September with visiting Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo, Uzbek President Islam Karimov affirmed that "Uzbekistan has not yet given any commitments and not held any talks with the United States on providing its airspace and military bases for strikes on Afghanistan," AP reported. LF

RUSSIA, TAJIKISTAN DISCUSS 'COORDINATED' RESPONSE TO TERRORISM

Following his talks in Tashkent, Rushailo flew to Dushanbe on 19 September for consultations with President Imomali Rakhmonov on the situation in Afghanistan and Central Asia as a whole, Russian agencies reported. In comments to journalists following those talks, Rushailo described Tajikistan as being "in the forefront" of the struggle against international terrorism. He said he and Rakhmonov discussed coordinating measures to combat terrorism, including blocking financial support for terrorist groups, but did not agree on any concrete steps. Asked whether Moscow is ready to cooperate with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, Rushailo said that said Russia "undoubtedly" wants to prevent the Taliban taking control of the entire territory of Afghanistan, and that the Northern Alliance is the sole power preventing the Taliban from doing so, Interfax reported. "We are carefully studying" the situation within the Northern Alliance following the 14 September death of its military commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, Rushailo added. LF

UZBEKISTAN REAFFIRMS APPROVAL FOR STRIKES AGAINST AFGHANISTAN

During his talks with Rushailo on 19 September, President Karimov said that if an investigation proves that the 11 September terrorist attacks were prepared on the territory of Afghanistan, then "there must be retaliation," ITAR-TASS reported. He characterized Afghanistan as one of the locations where terrorists from all over the world are trained. At the same time, he called for "new methods of fighting" terrorism, primarily by blocking channels of financial support to those who engage in it. In a telephone conversation later on 19 September with U.S. President George W. Bush, the two presidents agreed on the need to intensify efforts to counter the "global phenomenon" of terrorism and to eliminate its roots and sources of financial support. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT OFFICIALLY ENTERS SECOND TERM...

Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 20 September officially entered his second presidential term, swearing allegiance to Belarus's people and constitution in a solemn ceremony in the Palace of the Republic in Minsk, Belapan reported. Lukashenka's inauguration was attended by Russian Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev and foreign diplomats accredited in Belarus. U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Michael Kozak was not present. JM

...PROMOTES DEFENSE MINISTER, KGB CHIEF

The previous day, Lukashenka promoted Defense Minister Leanid Maltsau to the rank of colonel general, Belapan reported. KGB chief Leanid Yeryn, Emergency Situations Minister Valery Astapau, and Security Council State Secretary Henadz Nyavyhlas were raised to lieutenant generals. According to an official announcement, the Belarusian president promoted these officers in appreciation of their successes in the Nyoman-2001 military exercises that were held shortly before the 9 September presidential ballot. JM

BELARUS PARDONS ALLEGED GERMAN SPY

President Lukashenka has pardoned German citizen Christopher Lez, who was sentenced in July to seven years in prison after being found guilty of espionage (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2001), Reuters reported on 20 September. The agency quoted Belarusian KGB spokesman Fyodar Kotau as saying that Italian citizen Angelo Antonio Piu, who was convicted last week on espionage charges and sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison, and Iryna Ushak, a Belarusian woman convicted of treason, may also receive pardons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2001). JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT TO BACKTRACK ON DEATH PENALTY ABOLITION

The parliament on 19 September decided to review during the current session the process and outcome of the vote on the abolition of the death penalty in Ukraine, Ukrainian television reported. First deputy speaker Viktor Medvedchuk said there is documented evidence indicating that vote was falsified. On 22 February 2000, the parliament voted in favor of abolishing the death penalty in order to conform with Ukraine's obligations to the Council of Europe. Some deputies began to question the legality of the vote in July 2000. JM

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT SUBMITS 2002 BUDGET TO PARLIAMENT

Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov on 19 September presented to the parliament a draft 2002 budget approved by the government earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2001), Ukrainian media reported. JM

OUR UKRAINE BLOC EMERGES IN PARLIAMENT

The parliamentary caucuses of the Ukrainian Popular Rukh, the Popular Rukh of Ukraine, the Reforms and Order Party, and Reforms-Congress on 19 September announced the creation of the Our Ukraine group in the Ukrainian parliament to represent the Our Ukraine election coalition headed by former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, UNIAN reported. JM

CRIMEAN LEGISLATURE APPROVES MINISTERS FOR NEW CABINET

Crimea's Supreme Council has approved 16 out of 28 members of the autonomous republic's Council of Ministers headed by Valeriy Horbatov, UNIAN reported on 19 September. Seven out of the 16 ministers are members of the Communist Party of Ukraine; two represent the Union Party; one represents the United Social Democratic Party; and the others are independents. JM

UKRAINE TO RETURN BACH ARCHIVE TO GERMANY

The Ukrainian government has decided to return to Germany a vast archive containing works by Johann Sebastian Bach and other German composers and long considered lost in World War II, dpa and AP reported on 19 September. Soviet troops looted the archive from the Berlin Choral Academy in 1945. The archive, which contains nearly 5,120 documents, remained virtually untouched in Kyiv until Christoph Wolff, a Harvard music professor, found it in June 1999 and alerted Ukraine to its historic significance. JM

ESTONIA TO INCREASE DEFENSE SPENDING TO 2 PERCENT OF GDP

Defense Ministry Deputy Chancellor Margus Kolga announced on 19 September that the Annual National Program (ANP) for membership in NATO, which the government approved the previous day, commits Estonia to increase defense spending to 2.04 billion kroons ($121 million) or 2 percent of the GDP in 2002, BNS reported. The funds will be given to the Defense Ministry (1.64 billion kroons) and Interior Ministry (400 million kroons). The Defense Ministry intends to focus its efforts on the development of military infrastructure, with its priorities being the construction of a new barracks in Tapa, a new central artillery range, and a new headquarters for the General Staff. The ANP has emphasized improving communication and air surveillance, and the purchases of antiaircraft and antitank weapons. The Interior Ministry will spend 200 million kroons each on the purchase of sea surveillance radars and the development of military-style units. SG

LITHUANIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER RESIGNS

Kestutis Kristinaitis submitted a letter of resignation to Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas on 19 September, ELTA reported. His decision is not surprising as farmers organizations had been calling for his ouster, the Peasant and New Democracy faction in the parliament had begun collecting signatures for a no-confidence motion against him, and some members of the Social Democratic Party had expressed dissatisfaction with his work. Kristinaitis had been nominated to the post by the New Union (Social Liberals), whose leader, parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas, declared that he did not see any serious reason why the minister should resign. Paulauskas admitted, however, that Kristinaitis's methods of dealing with people was unacceptable to many farmers. The New Union has recommended that the parliament's Rural Affairs Committee Chairman Jeronimas Kraujelis replace Kristinaitis. SG

POLISH OPPOSITION LEADER BACKS NATO STANCE ON ANTITERRORIST ACTION

Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) leader Leszek Miller, who is expected to lead Poland's new government following the 23 September parliamentary election, told Polish Radio on 19 September that he would unwaveringly sign a decision to send Polish troops to Afghanistan in a possible NATO-U.S. operation against terrorists. Commenting on the possibility of retaliatory terrorist attacks on Poland, Miller said: "Poland may be affected by such attacks whether we will get involved or not because we are in NATO. If the terrorist centers make a decision to attack NATO countries, then Poland will be on this list." JM

...MEETS WITH CZECH PREMIER

Czech Premier Milos Zeman on 19 September took part in an election campaign rally held by Miller in Katowice, southern Poland, Polish and Czech media reported. Speaking to journalists following the rally, Zeman said he hopes that cooperation within the Visegrad Group will assume "new dynamism" under the rule of a new government headed by Miller. Zeman added that the former right-wing Czech government had frozen cooperation within the Visegrad Group framework. JM

PUBLIC TELEVISION COUNCIL SHORTLISTS CANDIDATES FOR DIRECTOR'S POST

The parliament-appointed Czech Television Council on 19 September selected 30 of the 44 candidates seeking to head the public broadcaster for consideration in a second round of review, CTK reported. The council also eased unspecified conditions in the application process, reportedly after discovering that the terms had been met by only two of the candidates. Most candidates exceeded the maximum allowable space for outlining their individual plans for Czech Television, CTK reported. Most of those weeded out of the process failed to submit screening certificates testifying to their not being listed in an archive of collaborators with the communist-era secret police, or StB. The naming of a new director, which was necessitated after the public broadcaster was crippled by a protest against political influence at the station in December and January, should take place in October. AH

PRAGUE CONSIDERS APPEAL AGAINST TELEVISION ARBITRATION RULING

Czech Prime Minister Zeman said his country may lodge an appeal against a Stockholm arbitration court's ruling that the Czech state had violated the terms of a Czech-Dutch investment protection treaty, CTK reported on 19 September. Zeman was speaking while on a visit to Katowice, Poland, where he was campaigning for the Democratic Left Party ahead of Polish elections on 23 September. The court found the government culpable in failing to adequately protect an investment by Central European Media Enterprises, or CME, into Czech TV Nova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2001). It is not clear from media reports whether or not the arbitration court's decision can be appealed under international law, while compensation is expected to be determined in the next round. AH

EU COMMISSIONER ADVISES AUSTRIA TO GIVE UP RESISTANCE TO BELEAGUERED CZECH NUCLEAR PLANT

The EU's commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, told a group of Upper Austrian politicians they should abandon their demand for the closure of Temelin nuclear power plant across the border in the Czech Republic, CTK reported on 19 September. He said efforts should instead be focused on ensuring the highest possible safety standards, an approach that was decided upon under the Melk agreement between the two countries' premiers in December 2000. Meanwhile, the Temelin plant was shut down on 20 September due to problems related to a turbogenerator, CTK reported. It was the second interruption in recent days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2001), although technicians said they expected to restart the plant later on 20 September. AH

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER CAUTIONS THAT EMBARGOES COULD COST HIS COUNTRY 'BILLIONS'

Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik told journalists on 19 September that an embargo on trade with countries suspected of supporting terrorism and "problematic" companies could cost the country billions of crowns, CTK reported. A number of the countries accused of supporting terrorists, including Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, and Syria, had extensive contacts with the communist regime of the former Czechoslovakia. But CTK noted that present figures indicate "minimal" trade between the Czech Republic and a majority of those countries, aside from Syria and Iran. AH

CZECHS LOOKING AT WAYS TO CURB 'SPEECH AND BEHAVIOR' THAT ENCOURAGES TERRORISM

A government spokesman said the Justice and Interior ministries have been charged with reviewing Czech law to determine whether legislative steps should be taken to prohibit expressions of support for terrorist activities, dpa reported on 19 September. Those ministries will "see what the state can do against this kind of speech and behavior," the agency quoted spokesman Libor Roucek as saying. Reports have emerged of incidents the government believes indicate anti-American sentiment or support for the 11 September terrorist attacks against New York and Washington. Police are also seeking to charge the chairman of the extreme right-wing National Social Bloc, Jan Kopal, after he told a crowd that the U.S. "deserved" the attacks that took thousands of lives. AH

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT ENDORSES OMBUDSMAN POST...

The government on 19 September approved a bill on the establishment of an ombudsman's office as of January next year, CTK reported. Deputy Premier Pal Csaky said he expects the parliament to pass the bill by the end of November. Under the bill, the ombudsman is to be controlled by the parliament and be completely independent of executive power bodies. JM

...AND JOINT CZECH-POLISH-SLOVAK BRIGADE

The government also approved the planned creation of a joint military brigade with the Czech Republic and Poland, CTK reported, quoting Slovak Defense Minister Josef Stank. Each of the three countries will designate a battalion to the joint unit. The brigade, which is to be operational by the end of 2004, will have its command center in Topolcany, western Slovakia. JM

STATUS LAW COULD BE DAMAGING TO HUNGARY'S REPUTATION

On 20 September, the chairman of the Hungarian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, proposed accelerating talks with neighboring countries regarding the Hungarian Status Law, which he says has damaged Hungary's international reputation, Hungarian media reported. The legislation, which could go into effect on 1 January 2002, makes ethnic Hungarians eligible for some forms of Hungarian state assistance regardless of citizenship. Free Democrat Szent-Ivanyi said an executive supplement to the law should be completed by 30 October, the reports added. AH

HUNGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER WINS COURT RULING OVER TESTIMONY

The Hungarian Supreme Court ruled on 19 September that a Smallholders' Party parliamentary deputy, Laszlo Pallag, must pay compensation to Interior Minister Sandor Pinter in connection with divulging the latter's testimony to a closed-door committee meeting in parliament, Hungarian media reported. The court ruled that Pallag had no right to tell a press conference that the minister's testimony revealed collaboration with an oil mafia and millions of forints in payments from criminals during his tenure as national police chief. Pallag did not substantiate his statements, the court added. AH




U.S. ENVOY SLAMS MACEDONIAN MANIPULATION OF TERROR TRAGEDY...

James Pardew, the U.S. special envoy in Macedonia, told Reuters in Skopje on 20 September that the Macedonian authorities have sought political gain from the terrorist tragedy in the U.S. by trying to place the ethnic Albanian guerrillas on the same footing with the terrorists who attacked the U.S. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2001 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 September 2001). Pardew said: "Comparisons between what happened in Macedonia and the events in the United States last week are completely false. I am informing the government that we object to the use of the tragedy for local political advantage or to attempt to delay or disrupt the peace process ongoing in Macedonia." PM

...SAYS THAT U.S. POLICY IS UNCHANGED

Pardew also told Reuters in Skopje on 20 September that "there have been public statements [in Macedonia] about the U.S. reevaluating its position in Macedonia based on what happened in New York, and we see that as an attempt to delay or disrupt the peace process by redefining the situation here... I am advising Macedonian leaders that there is no change to U.S. policy toward Macedonia based on the tragic events last week. I am telling them that we stand completely behind the framework peace agreement and its 45-day timetable for implementation." Pardew stressed that "the international community will not forgive any people in Macedonia who seek to delay, distort, or disrupt parliamentary endorsement of the framework agreement or who seek to return to the hills to threaten violence." PM

MACEDONIA OFFICIALLY ASKS NATO FOR NEW MISSION

NATO spokesman Mark Laity said in Skopje on 19 September that the Atlantic alliance has received an official request from the Macedonian authorities to provide a small, lightly armed force to protect unarmed monitors after Operation Essential Harvest ends on 26 September, RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2001). Laity added that the Macedonians are "prepared to support a light NATO presence in the country after Operation Essential Harvest, to provide additional contributions to the security of monitors. And they've asked whether NATO would accept such a mission. It's now being discussed in the North Atlantic Council... We assume [the force] will be very small because this is a specific, limited mission. But the exact size and composition of that force needs to be discussed between the government of Macedonia and within NATO itself, because these are our forces." But AP reported on 20 September that the UNHCR wants a larger force that can assist the return of refugees and displaced persons. PM.

NATO BEGINS LAST PHASE OF MACEDONIAN WEAPONS COLLECTION

Essential Harvest entered its final phase in Macedonia on 20 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2001). In Skopje, the parliament is scheduled to continue its debate on a controversial proposal for a referendum on proposed constitutional amendments. Speaking in Brussels on 19 September, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said: "Two months would be needed to organize a referendum, and this would put us in a difficult situation... We are working to ensure this does not happen," Reuters reported. PM

MYSTERY EXPLOSIONS IN MACEDONIA

The Interior Ministry said on 19 September that it has established full control on the Skopje-Tetovo-Gostivar highway, much of which passes through ethnic Albanian areas, dpa reported from Skopje on 20 September. Police have established several checkpoints along the road. During the night of 19-20 September, explosions damaged the Albanian-owned Seven Brothers gasoline station, which is just off the highway. Property was damaged but no injuries were reported. Police allowed traffic back on the road after they removed some unspecified explosives placed under the highway. The police named no suspects in the gas station incident or in the placing of the additional explosive devices. In related news, police spokesman Vasko Sutarov told AP that all police units in the tense areas of Zilce and Ratae have been replaced by the army (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2001). PM

BOSNIA: NO LINKS TO TERRORISTS

The Foreign Ministry said in Sarajevo on 19 September that Interpol wants information regarding 19 unspecified citizens of Islamic countries in conjunction with the terrorist attacks on the U.S., dpa reported. The ministry stressed that the relevant Bosnian institutions have determined that there is no link between Bosnia and the attacks. The ministry noted that only 420 individuals of Arab or Turkish origin were granted Bosnian citizenship during the 1992-1995 war. Elsewhere, the Bosnian branch of Interpol noted that there are no terrorist training camps in Bosnia and that Osama bin Laden does not have Bosnian citizenship, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In related news, the BBC's Serbian Service on 20 September quoted Yugoslav Defense Minister Slobodan Krapovic as saying that he knows of no activities by bin Laden anywhere in the former Yugoslavia. PM

ALBANIA PLEDGES FRESH EFFORTS AGAINST TERRORISM

In Rome on 19 September, Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero said that Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta has promised to fight all the harder against terrorism, corruption, and organized crime as part of Albania's campaign for integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, AP reported. PM

SERBIAN COALITION WANTS MORE TALKS ON KOSOVA ELECTIONS

Leaders of the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition met in Belgrade on 19 September to discuss whether to urge Kosova Serbs to participate in the 17 November elections but reached no decision, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2001). Instead, the coalition asked Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is responsible for south Serbian and Kosovar affairs, to continue talks with representatives of the international community about the conditions under which the Serbs might take part. Belgrade wants the international community to ensure security for returning refugees and existing Serbian enclaves in Kosova before giving its blessing to the elections. Some of the province's Serbian minority fear that they must take part in the vote or risk further political isolation and loss of influence in Kosova's affairs. PM

SERBIAN MINISTER: UN SAYS NO INDEPENDENCE FOR KOSOVA

Covic told "Vesti" of 20 September that on his recent visit to the Security Council in New York, he received unspecified "guarantees" that Kosova will not become independent after the elections. He stressed that the idea that independence is a realistic possibility in the near future represents the "wishful thinking" of an unspecified "pro-Albanian media campaign." He believes that an unspecified Serbian role will be restored in the province through the "internationalization" of the Kosova question and after a "transitional" period of foreign administration. Covic called "interesting" the proposal by local Serbs to form a "Serbian Defense Corps." The minister argued that there is a link between the violence in New York and "that which goes on every day" in Kosova and Macedonia, and that both forms of violence must be equally opposed. He did not specify how he plans to deal with the 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority, which wants nothing more to do with Serbia. It is not clear if his statements reflect his actual beliefs, or if he made them out of Serbian internal political considerations. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER OPTIMISTIC ON KOSOVA

In Belgrade on 19 September, Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said that he believes that a Serbian "presence" will be restored in Kosova through unspecified institutions and cooperation with the UN civilian administration, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He noted that the Albanians' road to Europe goes through Serbia. PM

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CROATIA: NO ISOLATIONISM

Lawrence Rossin said in Zagreb on 19 September that Washington has no intention of withdrawing from its commitments in Southeastern Europe or elsewhere following the attacks on the U.S., RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 September 2001). PM

CROATS SEE ROLE IN ANTITERROR COALITION

On 20 September, "Jutarnji list" summarized the views of several politically prominent Croats on their country's prospective role in the antiterror coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2001). Former General Anton Tus noted that the coalition will bring Croatia closer to NATO. Former Foreign Minister Mate Granic said that each country must now stand up and be counted. Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic told Ambassador Rossin that "we are all soldiers in the fight against terrorism," "Novi List" reported. The Rijeka daily, however, also published two critical commentaries, one suggesting that Croatia would do better to concentrate on social problems and the other arguing that the country should not become a cog in machine run by others. PM

CROATIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES SOCIAL CUTS

The parliament began discussions on 20 September on the government's proposed legal changes that will lead to a cut in social programs, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), which was in power from 1990 until the beginning of 2000, opposes the changes as antisocial and detrimental to the overall standard of living. The government argues that it must drastically reduce expenditures and accuses the HDZ of hunting for issues with which to win votes. The government also introduced proposals to reduce the rights and privileges of veterans of the 1991-1995 war of independence. The government says that the HDZ unfairly favored this group at the expense of the taxpayer because the veterans were generally loyal to that party. Some veterans' leaders maintain that the cuts are part of a program of revenge by former communists against their conservative political enemies. In related news, the new rector of Zagreb University, Tomislav Ivancic, said that he opposes tuition fees lest "only the rich be able to study," "Jutarnji list" reported. PM

ROMANIA TO FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM AS A 'NATO ALLY'

The Romanian parliament on 19 September approved President Ion Iliescu's request to act as a "NATO ally" in the fight against terrorism, Romanian media reported. Romania is to offer NATO full access to any Romanian airspace, land, and waterways that could be needed to support military responses to the terrorist attacks on the United States. Serbian minority representative deputy Slawomir Gozdenovici abstained from the voting, citing the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia as his reason not to support NATO in this campaign. Ruling Social-Democratic Party (PSD) parliamentary group leader Viorel Hrebenciuc said joining the U.S. and NATO in their fight against terrorism is in the long-term strategic interest of Romania. In 1999 the PSD was critical of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. In related news, a Gallup opinion poll published by "Adevarul" on 20 September and conducted in the wake of the attacks on the U.S., shows that 52 percent of Romanians oppose their country's participation in retaliatory action. ZsM

TRADE UNION FEDERATION DENOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH GOVERNMENT

The Cartel Alfa trade union federation on 18 September announced that it is unilaterally ending a February agreement with the government and employers, Mediafax reported. Trade union leaders said the government failed to fulfill several points in the agreement, such as modifying the public pension system and promoting the creation of new jobs. Labor and Social Solidarity Minister Marian Sirbu denied the charges, arguing that the government has fulfilled all its obligations. The "social pact" had stipulated that the unions would not undertake labor action, in exchange for the government's pledge to raise living standards. ZsM

ROMANIAN PREMIER ON RELATIONS WITH MOLDOVA

Adrian Nastase said relations with Moldova are still "special," but have changed somewhat due to the results of the parliamentary elections in February that brought the Moldovan Communists to power, Flux reported on 19 September. Nastase also said a Romanian-Moldovan basic treaty is not on either side's agenda. The premier conditioned his visit to Chisinau in October on progress in implementing several "economic projects." He recently criticized the Moldovan government for canceling announced tenders Romania was interested in regarding electricity networks in Moldova. ZsM

BULGARIAN MINISTER PREPARES FOR DEATH SENTENCES IN LIBYAN TRIAL

Justice Minister Anton Stankov said in Sofia that the government is expecting "heavy sentences," including possibly the death penalty, when a verdict in the case of six Bulgarian medics charged with intentionally infecting nearly 400 children with HIV is delivered by a Libyan court on 22 September, Reuters reported on 20 September. Stankov, who heads a government commission set up to help the Bulgarians, said "if there are convictions, we will appeal." The medics' Libyan lawyer, Osman Byzanti, said a decision on an appeal could take anywhere from one month to one year. Two nurses among the six have alleged they confessed to the charges under duress -- after being tortured in prison -- and have since retracted their confessions. Seif Islam Ghadaffi, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Ghadaffi, has observed parts of the trial and is thought by the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry to have an interest in the case. PB

BULGARIA SETS DATE FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

The Bulgarian parliament decided to hold the country's presidential election on 11 November, Reuters reported on 20 September. The only announced candidate is incumbent Petar Stoyanov, who is running for reelection as an independent. Most observers think that Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, the most popular politician in the country, will nominate a candidate who would immediately be a strong contender for the post. PB




Russian Politicians Reposition Themselves in Wake of Attack On U.S.


By Julie A. Corwin

Although Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref promised that the terrorist attacks on the U.S. would have no effect on the Russian economy and Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo said that no changes -- even in Russia's foreign policy -- should be expected, don't believe them.

President Vladimir Putin was among the first foreign leaders to extend his condolences to the American people, and the reverberations of the event rippled just as quickly through the Moscow political scene in a multitude of different directions, affecting not just Russian national security policy but also domestic economic and political policies.

The list of policies that may now undergo review is a long one. Even before the attacks, it was already clear that the draft 2002 budget's basic parameters would face challenges from the State Duma. But now, advocates for higher defense and security spending have new ammunition. And those groups supporting a greater Russian activism internationally have found an impetus for a new push. The military campaign in Chechnya may intensify, as Union of Rightist Forces Duma (SPS) faction leader Boris Nemtsov has abruptly abandoned his quest for a negotiated peace in Chechnya.

With regard to next year's budget, Duma Defense Committee Chairman (People's Deputy) Andrei Nikolaev announced on 17 September that his committee will insist on increased expenditures for defense spending. While this was likely to happen anyway -- Nikolaev pleaded for higher defense spending last year -- he will now have more allies in his quest. On 18 September, Duma deputy speaker (Unity) Lyubov Sliska also called for higher defense spending, and Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev spoke in favor of increasing funds for combating terrorism. Russian intelligence services can also more convincingly make their own cases for greater resources in light of the failure of their U.S. counterparts to predict or prevent the attacks. As Aleksandr Zdanovich, the head of the Assistance Programs Directorate of the Federal Security Service, noted on 13 September, "There is an old axiom, you know: truly professional secret services prevent crimes, and all the others investigate them after the fact." The implicit argument is that intelligence is not something worth skimping on.

The oil price spike following the attacks may also benefit those seeking higher defense expenditures. In addition, many analysts believe that the opening of a U.S. bombing campaign would likely return prices to the high levels recorded last week. But even without the aid of higher crude prices, the Duma's Budget Committee was already prepared to argue with the government over the draft budget's key parameters. Committee experts believe that Russian GDP in 2002 will be 400 billion rubles higher than the cabinet's figures indicate -- that is, 11 trillion rubles versus 10.6 trillion. So as has been done in the past, the government may be able "find" additional money for defense by redoing its calculations. Another potential source of cash may be money set aside for education and court reforms. Although deemed high priority, these reforms are multiyear projects, which cabinet ministers, faced with what seem like more immediate pressing problems, may decide to postpone one more year.

A more general consequence of the events of 11 September may be the heightened awareness among Russian policymakers and public of the tight linkage between the fortunes of the Russian economy and that of the U.S. "Izvestiya" noted on 15 September that "the crash of the dollar could practically destroy our financial system." While this is probably an overstatement, it is a fact that Russian Central Bank head Viktor Gerashchenko along with other economic policymakers across Russia spent a considerable amount of time on 11 and 12 September talking up the dollar.

In the sphere of foreign policy, Russian policymakers adopted a kind of "told you so" stance toward the 11 September events, calling attention to President Putin's previous calls for world states to unite against terrorism. Likewise, opponents of the U.S. plans to develop a missile defense system emphasized the wisdom of their opposition to that plan, since the system would not have been able to prevent the attack on the World Trade Center. At the same time, other Russian policymakers saw new opportunities for Russia resulting from the U.S.'s inevitable reconcentration of its resources on combating terrorism. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky suggested that Russia can now act as a gendarme for Europe.

The United States's new focus on terrorism is also expected to give the Kremlin more latitude in resolving the conflict in Chechnya. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov declared on 13 September that he hopes the world will now understand what Russia has been up against in Chechnya. And news reports in Russian media have trumpeted alleged links between Chechen military commanders Shamil Basaev and Khattab and international terrorist Osama bin Laden. Sensing a shift in the public's mood, SPS leader Nemtsov revised his recent position calling for negotiations with Chechen leaders, telling "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 13 September that in light of the terrorist attacks, talks with Chechens are now "impossible." Nemtsov explained that he "never advocated negotiations with [Chechen President Aslan] Maskhadov or with terrorists... They should be destroyed -- that's the long and short of it... But once all of the ringleaders have been taken out, we may talk to representatives of the Chechen people. Waging a war on a whole people is impossible," he said.

And echoing concerns expressed about the U.S., political scientist Yelena Shestopal argued in an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 13 September that an intensified battle against terrorism in Russia may lead to "some restrictions on civil rights and liberties." She noted that Russia's executive branch will have to take the lead in the battle since "the problem of terrorism is not solved by laws." Such a prediction should provide little comfort to those observers who had already noted a tension between the Putin administration's rhetorical emphasis on establishing a rule of law state and its efforts to centralize decision making, squash independent media, and selectively enforce laws aimed at the Kremlin's political opponents.


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