Accessibility links

Newsline - October 3, 2001




PUTIN SEEKS EXPANDED RUSSIAN TIES WITH EU, NATO...

President Vladimir Putin said in Brussels on 2 October that Russia wants to see a common security space created in Europe and is ready for qualitative changes in Moscow's ties with NATO and other European structures, Russian and Western agencies reported. He said Russia supports the antiterrorist efforts of Central Asian countries, and that any attack on terrorists should avoid killing innocent civilians. Meanwhile, however, Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev said the same day that if the U.S. knows where Osama bin Laden is, Washington should not delay in launching an attack on his headquarters, AP reported. He also said Moscow is ready to cooperate with those in Chechnya who want peace. PG

...LOBBIES FOR RUSSIAN BUSINESS

As he has on other international visits, President Putin while in Brussels on 2 October told Belgian parliamentarians and business people that Russia is a good place to invest, RIA-Novosti reported. He said that in general "our economy looks quite good and I know that the international Moody's rating company is about to raise our rating." At the same time, Putin said that he will not agree to any special conditions for Russia's entrance into the World Trade Organization. VY/PG

'IZVESTIYA' CARRIES U.S. AMBASSADOR'S LETTER

"Izvestiya" on 2 October published a letter from U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow in which he expressed Washington's gratitude for Russian expressions of sympathy and support following the 11 September terrorist attacks and stressed that the war against terrorism is an international one. PG

MOSCOW WILL NOT SUPPORT ANY ATTACKS ON IRAQ

Aleksandr Shein, the Russian ambassador to Iraq, said on 2 October that if Western countries attack Iraq as part of their "acts of revenge" for the 11 September terrorist attacks on the U.S., then Russia will react in a "sharply negative" way, Interfax reported. PG

KVASHNIN NOW SPEAKS NOT JUST FOR RUSSIA BUT ALSO FOR CIS

General Anatolii Kvashnin, the chief of the Russian General Staff, said on 2 October that no special forces from Commonwealth of Independent States countries will take part in any military actions on the territory of Afghanistan, polit.ru noted. The website pointed out that until recently, Russian military officials spoke only about what Russian forces will or will not do. Now they openly talk about CIS forces as a unit. VY

DUMA DEPUTY SAYS U.S. MAKING 'STRATEGIC ERROR'...

Duma deputy (Fatherland-All Russia) Sergei Kovalev, who used to be the director of the FSB and now is the deputy chairman of the Duma Security Committee, said on 2 October that the U.S. intention to attack terrorist bases in Afghanistan on its own represents "the crudest strategic error," Interfax reported. Whether President George W. Bush is aware of this or not, Kovalev continued, the U.S. is "in fact following the plans of the terrorists who want to set up a conflict between two worlds." Kovalev also said that the attacks will be ineffective. PG

...AS ZHIRINOVSKY WANTS RUSSIA TO REMAIN NEUTRAL

Duma deputy speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said on 2 October that Russia can best survive the current terrorist and counterterrorist campaigns "by remaining neutral," Interfax reported. With regard to Afghanistan, he drew a parallel with Chechnya in 1994 when the opposition wanted to remove Djokhar Dudaev with the help of "our tanks." He said that if the Northern Alliance were to succeed in reaching Kabul, it would quickly lose out again to the Taliban. He also used the opportunity to speak out against Russian membership in NATO, which he argued would limit Moscow's freedom of action. PG

RUSSIAN EXPERT SAYS TERRORIST ATTACKS IN U.S. A 'DIVERSION'

Gennadii Zakharov, the former chief of the special assignments center of the presidential security service, told Interfax on 2 October that "the tragedy in the U.S. is not a terrorist act but a typical diversion, because no demands were advanced and no one took responsibility for it." He suggested at a Moscow press conference that "the goal of the organizers of this action [is] to draw the entire world into a war new in form and content at the center of which of course stands economics, the struggle for the construction of a new world order." PG

ALEKSII CALLS FOR AVOIDING CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II said on 2 October that it is impermissible "to describe the acts of terrorism and other tragic developments as the beginning of a global confrontation between Christians and Muslims," ITAR-TASS reported. He further expressed the hope that "manifestations of xenophobia, of interethnic and interreligious strife will never cloud our own relations." He noted that "there are good people and bad people in every nation. No one should divide nations into good and bad, or impose upon people the ideology of national supremacy." PG

QUESTIONS FORMULATION OF AGRARIAN REFERENDUM PROPOSAL

Aleksandr Veshnyakov, the chairman of the Central Election Commission (TsIK), on 2 October called into question the legal correctness of the questions the Agrarian Party of Russia intends to put forward as subjects for an all-Russian referendum on the buying and selling of land, Interfax reported. He suggested that some of the questions the party seeks a vote on are at variance with the Russian Constitution. PG

KREMLIN WANTS TO CREATE LOYAL CENTER-RIGHT COALITION

"Versiya," No. 39, reported that the Kremlin appears to be behind the creation of a new political force called "For Civil Society," which is being led by presidential media adviser Gleb Pavlovskii, as part of its effort to create a completely loyal center-right coalition. Such a grouping, the journal said, will have the effect of pushing the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and its informal ideologist Anatolii Chubais to the extreme right of the political spectrum and thus marginalize both it and him. VY

KHAKAMADA DENIES SPS PLANS TO OPPOSE YABLOKO

Duma deputy speaker and SPS leader Irina Khakamada on 2 October denied reports that her party plans to oppose the Yabloko party, Interfax reported. She said that "on the contrary, we are ready for unification with Yabloko." PG

PARTY LAW HAS NOT REDUCED BUT INCREASED NUMBER OF PARTIES

According to an article in "Vremya MN" on 2 October, the law on political parties adopted this year has not led to a reduction in the number of parties, but rather to ever more groups transforming themselves into political organizations. PG

LUZHKOV BACKS PUTIN ON STRENGTHENING STATE

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 2 October said that he supports the efforts of President Putin to strengthen state power and ensure the unity of the country, Interfax-Moscow reported. PG

BORODIN SAYS ONLY 'TWO NATIONALITIES' IN POST-USSR

In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 2 October, former Kremlin property manager and current Russia-Belarus Union State Secretary Pavel Borodin said that the peoples of the former Soviet space effectively "continue to live in one country, even though it has been called different things." And he added that in this space there are "only two nationalities -- the orderly and the disorderly." PG

KUDRIN'S INVITATION TO FULL PARTICIPATION IN G-7 SESSION SEEN CONFIRMING MOSCOW'S EXPANDED WORLD ROLE

"Izvestiya" on 1 October suggested that the invitation extended to Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin to take part in all aspects of the next G-8 finance ministers meeting means that from now on Russia will be a full participant in helping to come up with a new version of the international system. The paper added that the U.S. now divides the world into a civilized part and the "barbarians," and it noted that Russia must soon decide whether it will be one of the former or one of the latter. VY

MOSCOW, TEHRAN AGREE TO EXPAND MILITARY-TECHNICAL COOPERATION

Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani on 2 October met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Ivanov in Moscow, and the two signed a new military-technical cooperation agreement, ITAR-TASS reported. They agreed that both countries have long experience in fighting terrorism, and suggested that they will expand cooperation between their respective country's security agencies. Shamkhani thanked Russia for canceling the Chernomyrdin-Gore memorandum that restricted Russian sales of advanced arms to Tehran. Tehran seeks to buy air-defense systems, Su-30 fighters, K-50 and K-52 helicopters, and T-90 tanks, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 October. During Shamkhani's visit, Moscow also agreed to help Tehran fortify its eastern border with Afghanistan. PG/VY

YASTRZHEMBSKII CLAIMS SOME OF 11 SEPTEMBER TERRORISTS TRAINED IN CHECHNYA

Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii alleged on 2 October that some of those who took part in the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States had trained in Chechnya, Russian and Western agencies reported. He said that the terrorists had conducted "dress rehearsals" for the U.S. attacks and that in their wake U.S. and Russian security services are working more closely than ever before. He also said that Chechens have trained at camps in Afghanistan organized by bin Laden. At the same time, he rejected suggestions that the Council of Europe might arrange talks between Russian authorities and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. PG

KALAMANOV DISMISSES HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT ON CHECHNYA

Vladimir Kalamanov, the special representative of the Russian President for the observance of human rights in Chechnya, on 2 October called "baseless" charges by the New York-based Human Rights Watch that Russian forces continue to violate human rights norms in Chechnya, Interfax reported. He said that the group is simply recycling old charges. PG

PAPER SUGGESTS KREMLIN WANTS CHECHEN WAR TO CONTINUE

Writing in "Novaya gazeta," no. 71, Anna Politkovskaya said that Russian security agencies have failed to make distinctions among and exploit the differences between various Chechen groups as any normal security agency would if it wanted to solve the conflict. She said that Moscow should be helping Chechens with a European orientation, such as Chechen President Maskhadov and field commander Ruslan Gelaev, defeat those such as field commanders Shamil Basaev and Khattab who are fundamentalists, but that this is not happening because the security services have too many ties to the latter and "the Kremlin is determined to preserve the controllable, smoldering conflict in the Caucasus as the regime's major political reserve." PG

PSKOV DIVISION PREPARES TO LEAVE FOR CHECHNYA

The Pskov 76th Paratroop Division has completed the training of some of its units for their dispatch to Chechnya, Interfax Northwest reported on 2 October. Officers of the division refused to say how many soldiers would be sent to spend six months in the North Caucasus. PG

EVENKIA HAS 'MOST LIBERAL' REGIONAL PRESS LAW

"Izvestiya" reported on 2 October that the legislative assembly in Evenk Autonomous Okrug has adopted the most liberal media law of any subject of the federation. The law calls for punishing officials who violate the rights of journalists and provides special benefits for media outlets. PG

EURONEWS GOES ON THE AIR IN MOSCOW

The Media Ministry announced on 2 October that Euronews broadcasts have begun in the city of Moscow and Moscow Oblast, Interfax reported. Oleg Dobrodeev, the chief of Russia's State Radio and Television Committee, said that the beginning of these Russian-language broadcasts marks "a real step in the integration of Russia into the European information space." PG

HARVEST RISES TO 82 MILLION TONS

Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev on 2 October told ITAR-TASS that Russia's harvest this year amounts to 82 million tons, 19 million more than in 2000. The figure will increase further, he said, because harvesting is still going on in the Urals and Siberia. PG

'KURSK' NOW EXPECTED TO BE RAISED ON 4 OCTOBER

Officials overseeing the operation to raise the sunken "Kursk" submarine said on 2 October that they expect it to be on the surface by 4 October, Russian and Western agencies reported. Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said that the work is difficult and slow, but that "we have nonetheless decided to go ahead." PG

CHUBAIS SAYS NO ENERGY CRISIS THIS WINTER

Unified Energy Systems (UES) President Anatolii Chubais said on 2 October that there will not be an energy crisis in Russia this winter, Interfax reported. He said that his company's reserves of coal and oil as of 1 October were at the highest levels of the last five years. He noted that the UES now has "good relations" with Gazprom head Aleksei Miller. Meanwhile, officials at the Energy Ministry said that Russia's electric power system is experiencing serious difficulties, the news agency reported the same day. PG

GREF SAYS VOLKSWAGEN TO OPEN PLANT IN RUSSIA

In an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 1 October, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said that Volkswagen AG will begin the construction of a car assembly plant in Russia early next year. The plant will be located near Moscow or St. Petersburg. PG

LOCAL OIL COMPANIES CHARGED WITH PRICE COLLUSION

Antimonopoly officials in Stavropol have charged local oil companies, including the branches of national firms, with price fixing and fined them 100,000 rubles ($3,000), "Izvestiya" reported on 2 October. PG

JUSTICE MINISTER CALLS FOR MORE PRISON GUARDS

In an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 2 October, Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said that the lack of enough prison guards was the cause of the recent escapes from the Butyrka prison. He said that the shortage of guards is so great that prison officials recently "had been forced to hire women" even though "this is not women's work." Meanwhile, Interior Ministry officials announced the arrest of the deputy chief of the Butyrka prison and two sergeants on suspicion of helping the prisoners flee, Interfax reported. PG

COMBATING CORRUPTION REQUIRES RAISING POLICE SALARIES

Vladimir Zubrin, the deputy prosecutor-general in the Northwest federal district, said on 2 October that success in the fight against corruption within law enforcement agencies will depend on increasing police wages, because "people sometimes commit such crimes out of a sense of hopelessness," Interfax reported. PG

RUSSIA NOW SECOND IN MURDERS PER CAPITA

General Vladimir Gordienko, the chief of the Main Criminal Investigation Administration, said on 2 October that Russia currently occupies second place in the number of murders per 100,000 population, Interfax reported. Only South Africa has a higher rate. Russia is gaining on South Africa, he continued, because the number of murders committed so far this year is 10 percent higher than the number committed during the same period a year ago. Meanwhile, Interior Ministry officials suggested that they are close to solving several high-profile murder cases, including those of Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova and television journalist Vladislav Listev, the news agency said. PG

CONFERENCE ON NUREMBERG TRIALS OPENS IN MOSCOW

An international conference devoted to the 55th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials opened in Moscow on 2 October, Russian agencies reported. Participants stressed that the principles developed at the Nuremberg trials have not lost their importance for today's world. Aleksandr Sukharev, the former prosecutor-general of the USSR and the head of the conference organizing committee, told Interfax that in dealing with the events of 11 September, "jurists in this new extreme situation must stand on a firm legal basis and not go beyond the framework of the norms of international law." PG

MORE RUSSIANS BLAME YELTSIN THAN SUPREME SOVIET FOR 1993 CRISIS

According to a poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 2 October, 31 percent of Russians blame then-President Boris Yeltsin for the conflict with the Russian Supreme Soviet in October 1993 while 16 percent blame the leaders of that legislative body. Only one Russian in four believes that Yeltsin's use of armed force against the parliament at that time was justified, while 47.4 percent say that his use of force was not justified. PG

WORKERS AT CHELYABINSK NUCLEAR POWER PLANT USE DRUGS

"Rossiya" reported on 2 October that among the country's millions of drug users are workers at the Chelyabinsk nuclear power plant. The paper said that if current trends continue, there will be 5 million users of illegal drugs by early 2003 and 38 million by 2005. The paper said that the National Anticorruption Committee plans to present its counternarcotics program to the Duma on 19 October. PG

ELECTION HEAD APPEALS TO CHUBAIS NOT TO PULL PLUG ON REGIONS MID-CAMPAIGN

TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov has asked UES head Chubais to ensure that electricity is not turned off in regions that are conducting elections or are in the middle of campaigns, Russian agencies reported on 2 October. UES and its subsidiaries have been turning off electricity to enterprises -- and sometimes entire towns -- that have not paid their electricity bill. Veshnyakov sent the request to Chubais in Amur Oblast, where Chubais is currently on a business trip. On 7 October, a by-election to the State Duma will be held in that oblast for the seat vacated by the recently elected governor, Leonid Korotkov. Veshnyakov told reporters in Moscow on 2 October that neither Chubais nor UES has reacted to a similar letter he sent in September. JAC

ONE REGION FOUND TO HAVE LEGAL POWER-SHARING AGREEMENT

Of the 16 regions located in the Siberian federal district, only Buryatia has a power-sharing treaty with the federal center that does not violate the Federal Constitution, first deputy presidential envoy to the Siberian federal district Anatolii Shcherbinin announced on 2 October. Shcherbinin was speaking at a joint session of the council of the federal district with the interregional economic association, Siberian Accord, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to Shcherbinin, seven regions in the district have prepared proposals about ending their agreements, while Omsk Oblast has already canceled its treaty. Last June, President Putin signed a decree establishing a commission to review the various power-sharing agreements negotiated between regions and Moscow (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 27 June and 1 August 2001). JAC

FAR EASTERN LEGISLATORS TO PUSH FOR GREATER ECONOMIC SELF-DETERMINATION

State Duma deputies from the Far East and Trans-Baikal region have prepared a draft law on the Russian Far East, "Vremya novostei" reported on 2 October. According to the daily, the authors of the bill, one of which is Duma deputy (Unity) Yevgenii Galichanin, believe that federal legislation currently limits the investment potential of the Far East region. The bill would divide the region into several economic zones, the leaders of which would have more independence in terms of economic decision-making. For example, quotas for marine bio-resources would be established according to agreements with federation subjects. In addition, regions would have the right to reduce the tax revenues they send to Moscow, if a stabilization fund for the socioeconomic development of the region is not fully funded by the center. Commenting on the bill, Galichanin said, "We are not talking about sovereignty, we are talking about the necessity of keeping the [Far East] territory within Russia. The world map has already changed, and it is impossible not to notice this." JAC

YUKOS LOOKS TO MEDIA TO INFLUENCE LOCAL POLITICS

Commentator Aleksei Pankin reported in "The Moscow Times" 2 October that YUKOS is negotiating with Arkadii Mayov, the head of Tomsk's TV-2, to purchase a controlling share in the television station. TV-2 is one of the most well respected independent television stations in Siberia. When asked by TV-2 journalists recently why he is interested in purchasing a "small Tomsk television station," YUKOS head Mikhail Khodorkovskii replied that YUKOS contributes 70 percent of the Tomsk region's budget revenues. "We want to be able to influence the situation in the region," Khodorkovskii replied, "I don't like the fact that the communists are strengthening their position." However, Khodorkovskii pledged that YUKOS doesn't intend to interfere with the station's line and is investing in order "to allow the development of a station whose position we like." JAC

RUSSIAN, CHECHEN OFFICIALS CLARIFY POSITIONS ON TALKS

In an interview published on 2 October in "Moskovkie novosti" and summarized by Interfax the same day, the presidential envoy to the Southern federal district, Viktor Kazantsev, said that President Putin's call last week for Chechen fighters to surrender their arms did not constitute an offer of talks on any issue other than the terms on which they will comply with that demand. If the Chechens again raise the issue of a treaty defining relations between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic Ichkeria, Kazantsev said, "no dialogue will be possible." He did not exclude the possibility of meeting with Chechen President Maskhadov to discuss terms for a Chechen surrender. But "Kommersant-Daily" on 29 September quoted Maskhadov as saying "We will lay down our arms after we receive security guarantees. I do not yet see such guarantees." Maskhadov's spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev for his part told the same paper "we will never surrender our arms before the start of negotiations." Dpa reported on 2 October that Kazantsev is in telephone contact with Maskhadov's representative Akhmed Zakaev, and that security guarantees figure among the issues under discussion, together with the date and venue for a possible meeting. LF




RUSSIAN ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF MEETS WITH ARMENIAN PRESIDENT, DEFENSE MINISTER

Arriving in Yerevan on 2 October on a two-day visit, Russian army Chief of General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin said Moscow has no objections to Armenia's allowing the U.S. to overfly its territory during preparations for possible air strikes against terrorist bases in Afghanistan, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kvashnin met later with Armenian President Robert Kocharian to discuss military-technical cooperation, the Russian military base in Armenia, and measures to counter international terrorism, ITAR-TASS reported. He also met with Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian to review the implementation of the schedule for joint military activity. LF

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS ENDORSE INCUMBENT FOR 2003 ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL POLL

Rouben Mirzakhanian, the leader of the Ramkavar-Azatakan Party of Armenia (HRAK), announced in Yerevan on 2 October that his party will back the candidacy of incumbent President Kocharian in the 2003 presidential poll, according to Armenian National Television, as cited by Groong. Kocharian announced last month that he plans to seek a second term (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2001). LF

SHARP FALL IN FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN ARMENIA

Foreign investment in the Armenian economy during the first seven months of 2001 totaled $62.5 million, which is 41.9 percent less than during the corresponding period last year, Noyan Tapan reported on 3 October. LF

ARRESTED AZERBAIJANI DEMONSTRATORS DENIED MEDICAL HELP

Police in Nakhichevan have refused to allow doctors to tend to persons who were injured by police during an antigovernment demonstration on 29 September, Turan reported on 2 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2001). Nor will they allow family members to bring them medications. Nineteen people arrested during the protest remain in detention; two of them suffer from diabetes. LF

RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL AIDE RULES OUT ATTACK ON GEORGIAN TERRITORY...

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 2 October, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii denied that Russia is planning to launch a strike on Georgia's Pankisi gorge where Russian officials believe several hundred Chechen fighters may be ensconced, Interfax reported. But he did not rule out the possibility, suggested on 19 September by Georgian Border Guard Commander Lieutenant General Valeri Chkheidze, that Russian and Georgian forces could mount a joint action against Chechen fighters in Pankisi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2001). But during talks in Moscow last week, Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze ruled out any such joint action in Pankisi, affirming that Georgia can control the situation there without outside help (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2001). LF

...BUT INSISTS ON EXTRADITION OF DETAINED MILITANTS

Yastrzhembskii also said on 2 October that Moscow expects Tbilisi to hand over 13 North Caucasians detained in June after crossing the Georgian border illegally, Interfax reported. He said the men are wanted on suspicion of involvement in terrorist attacks in several Russian cities. Georgian officials had earlier refused to hand over the men on the grounds that their identities had not been established (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 19 September 2001). But on 2 October Interfax quoted an unidentified Georgian source as saying that the Georgian Prosecutor's Office will probably agree within the next few days to hand the 13 over. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT VISITS GERMANY

Visiting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev met with Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin on 2 October to discuss bilateral relations and also the situation in Central Asia and the rising tension in Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. During talks on 1 October with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Nazarbaev argued that the UN should play an "important role" in efforts to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, according to the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung." Nazarbaev and Fischer agreed that the international reaction to the terror attacks in the U.S. must not precipitate a war either between civilizations or between religions. Nazarbaev expressed appreciation on 2 October of the fact that "Germany does not equate terrorism with Islam." Nazarbaev and Fischer also discussed trade and economic cooperation and the situation of the remaining ethnic Germans in Kazakhstan. LF

KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYZSTAN DEPORT TAJIKS

Interior Ministry officials told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service on 2 October that in a concerted effort to prevent Afghan refugees from entering the country, since 21 September over 1,000 illegal immigrants, primarily from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, have been intercepted and deported. Many of the Tajiks did not have valid travel documents; most of the Kyrgyz were engaged in trade or small-scale commerce (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 September 2001). In Bishkek, Deputy Interior Minister Omurbek Egemberdiev told RFE/RL on 2 September that over the last week police detained and expelled more than 300 foreign nationals who did not have adequate documentation. Most of those were Tajiks, but they also included some Afghans. The Bishkek office of the UNHCR on 2 October estimated the number of refugees from Afghanistan currently in Kyrgyzstan at about 1,500, of whom only half are officially registered. LF

TURKEY DELIVERS MILITARY-TECHNICAL AID TO KYRGYZSTAN

Turkey delivered a planeload of $300,000-worth of military-technical aid, including uniforms, night-vision instruments and infrared sights for sniper rifles, to Kyrgyzstan on 2 October, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau and Interfax reported. Turkey has supplied Kyrgyzstan with military equipment worth $1 million annually for the last three years. LF

EBRD TO PROVIDE LOAN FOR MODERNIZATION OF TAJIK TELECOMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM

The board of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) approved last month a $13 million loan to Tajikistan to modernize the telecommunications networks in Dushanbe, Khujand, and Qurghon Teppa, Interfax reported on 2 October, quoting an EBRD press release. Fewer than four out of 10 Tajiks have a telephone, Asia Plus-Blitz on 3 October quoted EBRD telecommunications specialist Izzet Guney as saying. LF

UZBEKISTAN RAISES PRICES FOR BREAD, GASOLINE, PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Uzbekistan increased the price of gasoline and public transport on 1 October by 16 percent and between 20-60 percent respectively, Interfax reported the following day. The price hikes were second in three months; prices rose by 35 percent and 25 percent on 1 August. Bread prices were also raised on 1 October by an average of 20 percent. LF




YOUTH GROUP PROTESTS SALE OF MINSK PLANT TO RUSSIAN SYNDICATE

Some 30 activists of the Youth Front on 2 October staged a picket outside the Minsk Automobile Factory (MAZ), protesting the alleged sale of the plant to Russia's Siberian Aluminum industrial group, Belapan reported. According to unconfirmed reports in Belarusian independent media, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska discussed the purchase of a controlling stake in MAZ with the Belarusian government last month. RFE/RL's Belarusian Service quoted MAZ Deputy Director Eduard Padalyak as saying that a Belarusian-Russian commission is currently preparing a plan for the sale of MAZ. "Lukashenka must somehow pay for his 'elegant' election victory... [Today's protest] is a sign of our national resistance. If Russian capital buys our enterprises, we can forget about Belarus's economic independence," Youth Front activist Alyaksey Shein said. Plainclothes policemen arrested a dozen picketers, including Youth Front leader Pavel Sevyarynets. JM

BELARUS'S LOWER HOUSE LEGISLATORS UNHAPPY WITH THEIR SPEAKER...

The Chamber of Representatives, which opened its session on 2 October, is not satisfied with the performance of its speaker, Vadzim Papou, Belapan reported. Deputy Anatol Krasutski accused Papou of passivity regarding "the creation of appropriate conditions for the work and life of deputies [as well as] the enhancement of the parliament's authority." Krasutski demanded that Papou report at a sitting behind closed doors on what measures he has taken to improve the situation of the lower chamber. Krasutski's proposal was supported by 94 deputies of the 110-strong Chamber of Representatives. JM

...WHILE UPPER HOUSE SPEAKER WANTS ALL BILLS TRANSLATED INTO BELARUSIAN

Alyaksandr Vaytovich, the chairman of the 64-seat Council of the Republic, in his speech to the upper chamber on 2 October proposed that the Belarusian legislature have all bills written in the two state languages -- Belarusian and Russian. "Belarusian and Russian have the status of state languages in the Republic of Belarus, but in practice, almost all acts are in Russian only," Belapan quoted Vaytovich as saying. "In other bilingual countries, bills are passed in two state languages. It is time for us to introduce this practice," he added. JM

KYIV EXPECTS TO SETTLE RUSSIAN GAS DEBT PROBLEM THIS WEEK

Foreign Ministry spokesman Serhiy Borodenkov on 2 October said he expects that all controversial issues in Ukrainian-Russian relations, including Ukraine's debt for Russian gas, will be resolved during Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov's visit to Kyiv on 4-5 October, Interfax reported. Borodenkov added that Kasyanov and Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh agreed last week that Russia will restructure Ukraine's gas debt over a period of 12 years. Kinakh said on Ukrainian Radio on 1 October that the only remaining problem is the level of interest rates -- Kyiv wants them to be 3-4 percent, while Moscow insists on 10 percent. JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS OPPOSED TO OPENING AIRSPACE TO U.S.

Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko on 2 October demanded an urgent discussion in the parliament of the decree issued by the Ukrainian president on opening an air corridor for U.S. military transport planes, UNIAN reported. Symonenko said the opening of Ukraine's airspace to the U.S. "is an adventurous step in relation to the nation." According to Symonenko, after the approval of this decision Kyiv became responsible for a possible beginning of a new world war and for possible significant human losses not only in Afghanistan, but also in Ukraine. Symonenko suggested that this decision was adopted "for a miserable sop" from the International Monetary Fund. "The Communists are worried about Ukraine's actual participation in the U.S. military campaign because the Communists believe that the U.S. is a country of terrorists itself," Symonenko noted. JM

UKRAINIAN NATIONALISTS DISRUPT COURT HEARING OF MASS DISORDER CASE

Some 200 supporters of the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO) picketed a Kyiv court on 2 October, demanding the release of 16 UNA-UNSO activists who were to be tried for organizing mass disorders during an opposition rally in front of the presidential administration building on 9 March, STB television reported. The police blocked the entrance to the court but eventually allowed journalists and relatives of the arrested to enter the courtroom, which turned out to be too small for such a crowd. The judge announced a break in the hearing after failing to persuade the crowd to leave the room. The UNA-UNSO insists that the arrested activists, who include UNA-UNSO leader Andriy Shkil, are political prisoners. "I don't believe that we were imprisoned just for two broken fingers," Shkil told STB from a courtroom cage where the arrested were held. JM

EBRD PRESIDENT CALLS ESTONIA MOST SUCCESSFUL EU ASPIRANT

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) President Jean Lemierre told Prime Minister Mart Laar in Tallinn on 2 October that Estonia is the most successful country seeking membership into the European Union, BNS reported. He said that the EBRD is willing to grant longer-term guarantees to Estonian banks if the situation in the global economy deteriorates. Lemierre visited the headquarters of Eesti Energia and inquired about the planned projects for an underwater power cable between Estonia and Finland and the company's possible merger with Latvia's Latvenergo. He also noted that the EBRD is willing to provide credit for the renovation of Narva Elektrijaamad (Narva Power Plants) if its expected purchaser, the U.S. company NRG Energy, and Eesti Energia encounter difficulties in obtaining needed loans. Lemierre also met with Finance Minister Siim Kallas and Tallinn Mayor Tonis Palts. SG

HIGHER DEFICIT FOR LATVIA'S 2002 BUDGET FORECAST

The Finance Ministry on 2 October amended Latvia's draft budget for 2002 and forecast that the budget deficit will rise from the previously envisioned 1.73 percent of GDP to 2.14 percent of GDP, LETA reported. Finance Ministry Deputy State Secretary Inguna Sudraba said the amended budget version includes the 3 percent cut in income tax for all enterprises that the People's Party demanded as a condition for supporting the draft budget. The cabinet has not yet reached a final agreement on the budget, as they are still ironing out differences on five issues -- budget revenues, expenditures, deficit, negotiations with municipalities, and lowering corporate income tax. SG

NEW LITHUANIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER APPOINTED

President Valdas Adamkus appointed New Union (Social Liberals) parliament deputy Jeronimas Kraujelis as agriculture minister on 2 October, ELTA reported. Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas had nominated the 63-year-old chairman of the parliament's Rural Affairs Committee the previous week to replace Kestutis Kristinaitis, who resigned on 20 September. Adamkus hesitated to approve Kraujelis, repeating his previously expressed position that it is inappropriate for a minister to also be a parliament deputy. The president finally agreed to the choice after further talks this week with the premier and parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas. Kraujelis worked for many years in the Agriculture Ministry, eventually rising to the post of deputy agriculture minister in 1989-1991. He later was the director and president of the National Association of Agricultural Companies. The parliament was to hold a special session on 3 October in order for Kraujelis to take his oath of office. SG

POLISH GOVERNMENT TO SELL STAKE IN OIL CONCERN TO HUNGARIAN COMPANY

Treasury Minister Aldona Kamela-Sowinska announced on 2 October that the outgoing government of Jerzy Buzek has decided to give the Hungarian oil and gas giant MOL exclusive negotiating rights for the purchase of a 17.6 percent stake in Poland's PKN Orlen oil concern, PAP reported. Kamela-Sowinska added that the government also wants MOL to sell an equivalent stake to PKN Orlen, setting up a cross-holding. She declined to give details of the settlement. Meanwhile, the Democratic Left Alliance and the radical Self-Defense farmers union jointly appealed to Buzek's cabinet the same day to refrain from making any strategic decisions and to leave such decisions to a new government. JM

PRESIDENT SUGGESTS GREATER POLISH MILITARY PRESENCE IN BALKANS...

President Aleksander Kwasniewski met with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson in Brussels on 2 October. Responding to a question from Polish Television about whether NATO has any particular expectations of Poland in the struggle against terrorism, Kwasniewski said: "I think that the most realistic thing will be to increase our presence in the Balkans so that certain units can be freed up and can take part in direct actions on the territory that will be designated. We spoke of this with Secretary-General Robertson, and it seems to me that from the Polish point of view, this solution is the most realistic one." JM

...URGES CLOSER EU TIES TO FIGHT TERRORISM

Speaking the same day at the academic opening of the College of Europe in Brugge, Belgium, Kwasniewski called on the European Union not to close its external borders as part of additional antiterrorist measures but rather to seek closer ties with Eastern Europe. "The challenge we all have been facing at the moment is another argument in favor of ever further integrating and enlarging both the European Union and NATO. The accession process must be seen as a catalyst and not a possible threat to further EU development," AP quoted Kwasniewski as saying. JM

U.S. PRESIDENT CONGRATULATES POLISH LEFT LEADER ON ELECTION VICTORY

George W. Bush has congratulated Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) leader Leszek Miller on his victory in the 23 September parliamentary elections, PAP reported on 3 October. Speaking in his own name and on behalf of the American people, Bush wrote in a letter that the U.S. is ready to cooperate with Miller and support U.S. investments in Poland as well as bilateral trade. Bush also said the United States is ready to support Poland's efforts to join the European Union. JM

PREMIER ANNOUNCES CZECH REPUBLIC'S READINESS TO PARTICIPATE IN ANTITERRORIST ACTION...

Milos Zeman, in a special televised broadcast on 2 October, announced that the Czech Republic "is ready to provide effective aid to its allies" in the struggle against terrorism and will do so "in deeds, not only in words." He said the Czech Republic is offering field hospitals, antichemical units, and its 6th Brigade of special units to participate in action, CTK reported. Zeman said he is aware that the decision will "provoke opposition among certain parts of the public," primarily "right-wing extremists who consider [Osama] bin Laden their hero," and "left-wing extremists, who are sorry for the civilian victims of terrorism but say negotiations should be conducted" with the terrorists. Zeman said it "is not possible to negotiate with terrorists," and it is "necessary to fight not only them, but also their protectors." He said history shows that responding to aggression early results in fewer victims than responding later. MS

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS U.S. 'FOR NOW' HAS NOT ASKED FOR CONCRETE AID

Speaking on Czech television after Zeman, Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said the United States has "for now" not asked for any concrete aid from either the Czech Republic or from NATO, CTK reported. Tvrdik said Zeman's earlier announcement (see above) is "decisive" and reflects the government's "serious decision to fight international terrorism." Tvrdik added that the response the United States and NATO give to the Czech offer is a "matter of long-term," and that only U.S. and British troops will take part in the first stage of a possible military retaliation. He also said Czech aid "does not necessarily have to be of military character." Regarding the 6th Brigade of special units, Tvrdik said it is "the best unit the Czech army has" and that it regularly participates in joint exercises with British soldiers. Its members are trained for close combat and are specialists in antiterrorist and reconnaissance operations. MS

PROSECUTION LIKELY FOR VERBAL SUPPORT OF TERRORISM IN CZECH REPUBLIC

Regional officials of the Prosecutor-General's Office, meeting in Brno on 2 October, agreed that expressing verbal support for terrorism can be prosecuted, CTK reported. They said the "line between freedom of speech and crime" should be carefully weighed, and that it is necessary to differentiate between "constructive criticism of the U.S." and "endorsing attacks on it." No concrete case was discussed, but CTK reported that Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures has recently referred to the case of far-right National Social Bloc leader Jan Kopal, who has been charged with "support of a movement aiming at suppressing the rights and freedom of citizens" after stating that the U.S. "deserved" the terrorist attacks on 11 September. MS

CZECHS GET BETTER BARGAIN IN EU NEGOTIATIONS ON FREE MOVEMENT OF LABOR

The Czech Republic has succeeded in getting better conditions from the EU on the free movement of labor than did Hungary and Slovakia earlier this year, CTK reported on 2 October. The agency said EU officials agreed that Prague be allowed to restrict access to foreign workers for as long as any EU state -- whether current or new -- applies restrictions to their own markets. The only exceptions are to be Cyprus and Malta. The general EU position remains unchanged, inasmuch as it provides for a two-year transition period, which can be extended up to five or seven years. The transition period is not binding for those EU countries that do not wish to implement it, such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Ireland. MS

CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY INTRODUCES BILL ON DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

The opposition Four Party Coalition on 2 October submitted in the Chamber of Deputies a draft law on direct presidential elections, CTK reported. The constitutional amendment would require approval by at least two-thirds of deputies and two-thirds of senators. The Four Party Coalition also wants to restrict the immunity of members of the parliament and of Constitutional Court judges to the duration of their tenure. MS

SLOVAK DEFENSE COUNCIL ORDERS AUDIT OF EMERGENCY STRUCTURES

The State Defense Council on 2 October reviewed security measures introduced after the 11 September terrorist attacks on the U.S. and ordered a thorough audit of emergency organizations in order to eliminate any weaknesses, CTK reported. The meeting was attended by President Rudolf Schuster and Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda. International news agencies reported the same day that security around the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava has been stepped up. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT APPROVES BILL ON LOCAL AUTHORITIES

The parliament on 2 October approved a government-drafted bill on expanding the prerogatives of local authorities in health care and local planning, CTK reported. The bill is part of a series of reforms of the civil service. On 20 September the parliament approved a law on devolving powers to regions. MS

EU-FINANCED FLATS HANDED TO SLOVAK ROMA

The first 88 flats that were built in Presov, eastern Slovakia, with the help of the EU were handed over to primarily Romany families on 2 October, CTK reported. The ceremony was attended by European Commission Ambassador Walter Rochel, Construction and Regional Development Minister Istvan Harna, and Klara Orgovanova, the government commissioner for Romany affairs. Rochel said the decision of the Presov local council to build flats for the Romany families is a "major step" in Slovakia's fulfillment of EU demands for solving Romany issues. MS

HUNGARY PREPARED TO FULFILL OBLIGATIONS UNDER NATO CHARTER

Hungary finds convincing the evidence presented by U.S. regarding the perpetrators of the recent terrorist attacks, Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi announced on 2 October. Martonyi said that once the NATO Council found the facts to be unequivocal, the attacks were considered to have been committed against all NATO member states. "We are prepared to fulfill the obligations set out in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Charter, in harmony with the September 12 decision taken by the NATO council," he said. In other news, NATO will finance four previously approved major security investment projects in Hungary, including the upgrading of staff and management systems, information technology equipment, radar, and military airports. The upgrades will be completed by 31 December 2007, at a total cost of 65 billion forints ($220 million), Hungarian media reported. MSZ

HUNGARY TO CRACK DOWN ON MONEY LAUNDERING

The Hungarian government agreed to take a series of measures to combat money laundering, including abolishing anonymous bank accounts, reducing the number of exchange offices, and tightening procedures for transactions over 2 million forints ($7,000), Finance Minister Mihaly Varga said on 2 October, Hungarian media reported. In the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States and in view of the need to trace terrorists' funds, the cabinet will ask parliament to approve these measures as soon as possible, Varga said. MSZ

HACKERS BREAK INTO HUNGARIAN NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICE WEBSITE

Hungary's National Security Office has acknowledged that its website was temporarily disabled on 2 October by hackers who posted messages blasting both the United States and Hungary, Hungarian media reported. The hackers condemned U.S. multinational corporations, the bombing of Hiroshima, and U.S. sanctions against some Arab countries. The hackers also left a message on the website that read "Bin Laden 1, Bush 0," and questioned why the world should be upset when a "few thousand" people died in the U.S. while Arabs died "by the millions in the desert." The messages were removed from the website a few hours after they were posted, and the office's secret database remained secure. MSZ




AID CONFERENCE FOR MACEDONIA IN JEOPARDY

Francis Leotard, the EU's special envoy to Macedonia, said in Skopje on 2 October that a donors conference for Macedonia scheduled for this month may not take place because of the Macedonian parliament's delays in passing key provisions of the peace plan, AFP reported. Leotard, referring to the fact that the country's new constitution has not been discussed and that a package of reforms granting ethnic Albanians broader rights has not been passed, said "no vote, no money." He added that "Macedonia is no longer the priority today, and the risk of international isolation exists." The donors conference is scheduled for 15 October. Under the Ohrid agreement signed in August, the new constitution was to have been adopted by 27 September. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and EU Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Chris Patten are due in Skopje on 4 October for talks with Macedonian politicians. An unnamed NATO diplomat told Reuters that nationalist Macedonian leaders have become "cocky" since the ethnic Albanian rebels disarmed last week and said the politicians may advocate a return to fighting rather than make the legislative changes that were agreed to in the peace plan. PB

MACEDONIA WANTS CROATIAN SUPPORT FOR ANTITERRORIST ALLIANCE

Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva said during a visit to Zagreb on 3 October that she is seeking Croatia's support in joining a regional "antiterror alliance," dpa reported. Mitreva said after talks with her Croatian counterpart Tonino Picula that the alliance would be a part of the global antiterrorist coalition being put together by the United States. She gave no further details on the purpose of the regional grouping. Mitreva also met with Croatian Premier Ivica Racan, who stressed Zagreb's support for the territorial integrity of Macedonia. Racan added that "Our vital interest is peace and stability in the region." PB

HAGUE TRIBUNAL INDICTS FORMER YUGOSLAV NAVY CHIEF FOR SHELLING OF DUBROVNIK

The former chief of the Yugoslav navy, along with three other former commanders, have been indicted by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague for civilian deaths in the 1991 shelling of the Croatian port of Dubrovnik, Reuters reported on 2 October. Milan Zec, 58, who retired as head of the navy in January, was indicted along with former navy commander Miodrag Jokic and former Yugoslav army officers Pavle Strugar and Vladimir Kovacevic. The indictment had been under seal since February, but was made public at the request of chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte. Del Ponte blasted Yugoslav, Serbian, and Montenegrin authorities, who "have had at least seven months to carry out the arrest and transfer of the four accused. In view of the Yugoslav authorities' failure to comply with these obligations, there is no reason to keep this indictment under seal any longer." DW

KOSOVA ELECTION CAMPAIGN KICKED OFF WITH CALLS FOR PEACE

The head of Kosova's international administration, Hans Haekkerup, kicked off the campaign for the first province-wide elections since the UN took control with calls for a violence-free campaign, AP reported on 2 October. "Democracy and violence don't go together," he said. The 17 November elections are to elect a 120-seat parliament, with 10 seats reserved for Serbs, and 10 seats reserved for other minorities. Ibrahim Rugova, who heads the ethnic Albanian Democratic League of Kosova, said he hopes the elections will be peaceful and "all ethnic groups will participate." He added, "A lot will be done to make sure there is full freedom of movement for the Serbs, both in the enclaves and other places." DW

KOSOVAR LEADER EXPRESSES HOPE THAT ELECTIONS WILL LEAD TO INDEPENDENCE

Kosovar Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova said on 2 October in Oslo that he hopes the November parliamentary elections will lead to independence for the southern Serbian province, AP reported. Rugova, the head of the Democratic League of Kosova, said that "the position of the people of Kosova is for independence as soon as possible as a means to calm down the region." He added following talks with Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorbjoern Jagland that he hopes the elections will be peaceful and that "all ethnic groups will participate." PB

BOSNIAN SERB PARLIAMENT APPROVES WAR CRIMES TRANSFER LAW

The Bosnian Serb legislature on 2 October passed a long-delayed law to allow for the arrest and transfer of suspects to The Hague-based UN war crimes tribunal, Reuters and other agencies reported. The legislation is seen as removing another obstacle to the capture and extradition of the tribunal's two most wanted fugitives, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, Ratko Mladic, Reuters added. "Now that the Republika Srpska has passed this law, which we have always asserted was unnecessary, we would like to see concrete signs of cooperation," Reuters quoted a tribunal spokesman as saying. Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said the parliament showed maturity in passing the law, which has been under discussion for months, but he sidestepped a question on whether Mladic and Karadzic would now be apprehended, Reuters reported. Milorad Dodik, a former prime minister and current chairman of the Party of Independent Social Democrats, said his party did not support the legislation because it aims to "shift political responsibility" for cooperation with The Hague "from the government to other institutions," according to SRNA news agency. AH

EXHUMATION BEGINS AT MASS GRAVE NEAR CANCARI

Forensic experts have begun exhuming a mass grave near the eastern Bosnian village of Cancari that may contain the bodies of hundreds of Muslims killed toward the end of Bosnia's 1992-95 war, AP reported on 2 October. A member of the Muslim Commission for Missing Persons, Murat Hurtic, noted that the location is just a few kilometers from the town of Srebrenica, the site of what is believed to be the worst massacre in Europe since World War II. Meanwhile, the remains of more than 240 Bosnian Muslims were exhumed in September from a mass grave in nearby Kamensko, dpa reported the same day. The Bosnian State Commission on Missing Persons described Kamensko as a secondary mass grave, meaning the bodies were reburied there after having originally been buried at another site. According to documents and other material evidence found at the Kamensko site, the victims were executed in the summer of 1995, when Bosnian Serb troops entered the Moslem enclave of Srebrenica and massacred up to 8,000 Bosnian Moslem men. AH

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY ASKS BOSNIANS TO PROBE HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATIONS

International civil and military organizations have asked Bosnian authorities to provide documentation on humanitarian groups active in the country and on staff members of those organizations as part of the ongoing fight against terrorism, Hina reported on 2 October. There are suspicions that some members of those groups' staffs are linked to terrorist organizations, the agency added. AH

INTERPOL SEEKS WARTIME ASSASSIN

Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for the man convicted of the 1994 assassination of police chief Josip Reihl-Kir and two of his associates, an event that helped spark war between the country's Serbs and Croats, AP reported on 2 October. Ante Gudelj was convicted in absentia to 20 years in prison for killing the three men, who were on a mediating mission in eastern Croatia at the time. Gudelj was extradited from Germany in 1996 but released under a Croatian Supreme Court decision invoking a newly adopted amnesty law pardoning most criminal activities during the war. The Supreme Court revoked Gudelj's amnesty in March 2001, after reviewing an appeal by Reihl-Kir's widow, the agency added. Police suspect that Gudelj is currently in Australia, where he has acquired citizenship, AP reported. AH

CROATIAN REPRESENTATIVE TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE SIGNS THREE CONVENTIONS

Zagreb's permanent representative to the Council of Europe, Neven Madey, on 2 October signed three conventions on behalf of his country, Hina reported. The documents include a civil law convention against corruption, a 1992 European convention on film production, and a European convention on the protection of archaeological heritage also dating from 1992, according to the country's Foreign Ministry. AH

HEALTH OF SLOVENIAN PREMIER IN QUESTION

Janez Drnovsek has undergone medical tests that indicate he may have lung cancer, AP reported on 2 October, citing the premier's website. Drnovsek, 50, had a cancerous kidney removed in 1999 and has been in poor health since then. Drnovsek, Slovenia's prime minister for nearly the entire time since 1992, is extremely popular and is thought to be a prime candidate for president next year. PB

U.S. AMBASSADOR SAYS NO EVIDENCE OF TERRORIST BASES IN ALBANIA

U.S. Ambassador to Albania Joseph Limprecht said there is no evidence of terrorist training camps in northern Albania despite reports alleging the existence of such camps that have been trickling in "for some months," ATA reported on 2 October. The ambassador said the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Tirana "tried to find them but they have not found any," the agency reported. Limprecht said that if the Albanian government feels an investigation is necessary, it is within its right to demand such a probe, ATA reported. AH

ALBANIA PREPARING TO PRIVATIZE OIL SECTOR IN FIRST HALF OF 2002

Citing unidentified sources within the industry, ATA reported that Albanian petroleum companies will "prepare for privatization" in the first half of next year. Efforts will include the evaluation of assets of the public companies Albpetrol and Armo in the first six months of 2002, in order to take concrete steps for the privatization of the public companies, the agency reported. The news agency said that "official sources of the controlling associations of petroleum companies" provided the information. AH

PRIME MINISTER SAYS ROMANIA 'NOT YET READY' TO FACE EU COMPETITIVE PRESSURE

While introducing Romania's medium-term plan for preparing for EU accession, Adrian Nastase said on 2 October the country is not yet "prepared to face the competitive pressures of the EU free market," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase said, "It is pointless to play with illusions," and added that the government's plan is based on a "realistic radiography of the state of the Romanian economy." He said the plan's main objectives are "to stabilize the economy and to reduce the gap between Romania and mid-developed EU countries." MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER IN ROMANIA

Visiting Hungarian parliamentary speaker Janos Ader on 2 October discussed with Chamber of Deputies Chairman Valer Dorneanu and Premier Nastase the Hungarian Status Law, and each side reiterated positions that have been rejected by the other, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Dorneanu complained that the law infringes on Romanian sovereignty and that it is discriminatory, while Ader said the law is in line with EU legislation. Nastase and Ader were said to have "exchanged opinions" on the law's opportunity and necessity. They also discussed bilateral economic relations, and Ader said Hungary is backing Romania's efforts to join NATO and the EU. He also met with Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko. MS

ROMANIAN CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES REJECTS STATE-FINANCED HUNGARIAN UNIVERSITY DRAFTS

The Chamber of Deputies on 2 October rejected two separate drafts by UDMR deputies providing for the setting up of a Hungarian-language university financed from the state budget, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. UDMR Chairman Marko said he "regrets" the decision, but that the move was "not unexpected," as the UDMR agreement with the ruling Social Democratic Party makes no provision for such a measure. Marko added that the agreement runs out at the end of the year and the UDMR will then have to weigh "its achievements, but also its failures." He said that the launching of the private Sapientia Hungarian-language university on 4 October "is proof that a state-financed university will also come one day." The 4 October event will be attended by Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban, who will be visiting with Oradea "privately." The Romanian Guard and Security Service said it will "take the necessary measures" for Orban's protection despite the visit's private character. MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY CRITICIZES COJA LETTER

The Foreign Ministry on 2 October said it is "unequivocally rejecting" the letter sent by extreme nationalist politician Ion Coja, who protested the appointment of Michael Guest as U.S. Ambassador to Romania, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2001). The ministry said Coja's letter was a display of "intolerance" and an infringement on the "right of every individual to private life, regardless of sex, ethnicity or social origin." It said the attitude displayed by Coja was "nonrepresentative, irrelevant, and in contradiction with the traditional welcoming Romanian attitude to foreign guests." MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS TALKS WITH SMIRNOV 'POINTLESS'

President Vladimir Voronin, speaking on Moldovan television on 2 October, said it is "pointless" to try to negotiate with separatist leader Igor Smirnov, as he is serving the interests of "the local mafia, which does not want the conflict solved," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Voronin said he hopes the next "presidential" elections in Transdniester will signal a needed change. He also said the separatist leadership has responded with "two pages of remarks" to a short paragraph proposed by Moldova as a formulation for granting a special status to Transdniester. Voronin also accused Tiraspol of meddling in relations between Chisinau and the Gagauz-Yeri Autonomous Republic. He said he intends to respect the promise made to Gagauz leaders to bring Moldovan legislation in line with the region's special status, but added that things "cannot be solved in just a few months." Voronin confirmed the intention to go back to the former administrative territorial structure, saying the changes introduced in 1999 by the former government had not been well thought out and merely aimed at reintroducing the structures that had existed under the Romanian administration. MS

RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOLDOVA

Visiting Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov met on 2 October with Voronin to discuss bilateral relations and the conflict in Transdniester, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Trubnikov said Russia will stand by its pledge to withdraw its forces from Transdniester by the end of 2002. He also expressed Moscow's concern over the impasse in negotiations between Chisinau and Tiraspol and advised that "there is no alternative" to renewing those negotiations. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER'S PARTY ENDORSES STOYANOV FOR PRESIDENT

The ruling National Movement Simeon II decided on 2 October to endorse incumbent President Petar Stoyanov for a second term in the presidential elections scheduled for 11 November, international agencies reported. Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski made the announcement in Stoyanov's presence. The premier said the decision "guarantees national unity" and "shows consistency in the foreign policy priorities of achieving EU and NATO membership." Stoyanov, who is running as an independent, has already been endorsed by the opposition Union of Democratic Forces. The minor coalition partner Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) refused to back Stoyanov. DPS Chairman Ahmed Dogan said that "Bulgaria needs a new president." MS

EU OFFICIAL VISITS BULGARIA

Eneko Landaburu, the head of the EU Commission's Enlargement Directorate, on 2 October met in Sofia with Premier Saxecoburggotski and parliamentary speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov, during which they discussed Bulgaria's progress in accession talks, BTA reported. He said he is "intrigued" by the cabinet's ideas pertaining to economic reforms and that "a lot of effort" will be needed to reform the judiciary and public administration. Landaburu said he thinks it is "realistic" that Bulgaria could open for negotiation all of the remaining chapters in the acquis communautaire during the Belgian EU presidency, which expires in 2001. Landaburu also said that during accession talks, Bulgaria must not merely change or harmonize legislation with that of the EU, but also create new structures to implement that legislation. He said he advises Bulgaria not to rush, as this may compromise the process and meet with public resistance. MS

BULGARIA EXPECTS HIGH PRIVATIZATION REVENUES

Economy Minister Nikolai Vasiliev on 2 October said he expects at least $600 million in proceeds from privatization next year, BTA reported. He said this figure includes the revenues from the sale of Bulgaria's Telecommunications Company and from the Bulgartabac tobacco holding. Vasilev said that by the end of 2002, Bulgaria will complete the privatization process, keeping in state hands only the Kozlodui nuclear power plant, the Air Traffic Control Authority, railway infrastructure, and a few other companies. MS




BUREAUCRACY CREATES OBSTACLES TO EMIGRATION OF RUSSIANS FROM KAZAKHSTAN


By Nonna Chernyakova and Russell Working

When Valentina Nikitina came to the gates of the Russian Embassy in Almaty seeking citizenship, she was hoping to quickly fill out the forms necessary to immigrate to the Russian Federation, where she has relatives in Altai Krai. But others waiting told her that there are more than 2,000 people on the list, and it will take up to four years before she can pack her bags for Russia.

Nikitina's family is among the 5 million ethic Russians who make up a third of Kazakhstan's population. They are typical of the 20 million Russians living throughout the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Cut off from their ancestral homeland by the breakup of the Soviet Union a decade ago, many now want to emigrate. But although the Kremlin says these potential immigrants would help offset Russia's shrinking population, officials have entangled would-be migrants in a thicket of red tape and worn down their resolve with endless delays. Yet those tactics run contrary to the wishes of applicants and the stated goals of the federal government. And those wishing to immigrate to Russia suffer from unemployment, poverty, and sometimes overt discrimination. For generations, Russia has been gripped by a growing demographic crisis. The Soviet Union lost an estimated 20 million lives in World War II. Tens of millions perished in Stalin's gulag camps. More recently, the falling standard of living, a high abortion rate and an increasing number of one-child families has left the Russian Federation with a population that is falling by some 2,500 people per day. Russian officials say they are trying to reverse that trend. Aleksander Blokhin, the minister for federation affairs, nationalities, and migration, said in July that President Vladimir Putin has approved a plan to attract ethnic Russians from neighboring countries. Blokhin said some 4 million ethnic Russians in the former Soviet republics are now seeking to immigrate, and perhaps as many as 20 million could be encouraged to do so in the future. But Blokhin appeared to be unaware that many would-be immigrants are discouraged by Russian officialdom itself. In Almaty, applicants must line up outside for months in the hot sun or subzero cold before they are even allowed to enter the embassy with their papers. Many feel the Russian Embassy in Kazakhstan has ignored Blokhin's ministry's plan. In August, no citizenships were granted, applicants complained.

Individual predicaments sometimes read like parodies of Russian bureaucracy. Flyora Azhnakina, 56, became a Russian citizen in 1995, but officials forgot to put a stamp in her son's birth certificate. The boy has turned 14, and now she can't take him to Russia. "Now they say he should become a Kazakh citizen first, when he turns 16, and then change it to Russian citizenship," she complained. "So we'll have to sit here for four years." Even Russian citizens have trouble helping relatives stranded abroad. Galina Saratovtseva, a Moscow resident, came to Almaty to help her only remaining relative obtain Russian citizenship. Her uncle, 82-year-old Ivan Shevchenko, is a World War II veteran and an invalid who has lived in Kazakhstan since 1948. She has spent four months gathering his papers. "I want to take him with me because here in Kazakhstan nobody cares about war veterans," Saratovtseva said. "All the benefits they had before have been cancelled. My uncle fell down in the market and broke his legs, and for three weeks he couldn't get medical help. Only his neighbors came and helped him." The Russian Embassy wasn't much help, either. The law states that citizenship might be granted for special merits, "but they told me that being a war veteran is not a special merit," Saratovtseva said. Vyacheslav, a 28-year-old driver who asked that his last name not be used, decided to leave Kazakhstan because all his relatives have already left for Moscow and he doesn't think life will improve for Russians in Kazakhstan. "I've got the impression that this year, more Russians have left than in the last five years," he said. "All because there are no jobs." Tsarist troops first conquered Kazakhstan in the early 1700s, and by 1959 Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorussians made up over half the population. The emigration of Russians started in earnest in 1993, soon after the fall of the Soviet Union, and reached its peak the next year, when 300,000 Russians left. In 1998-99, about 250,000 left each year, officials say. The Russian Migration Service estimates that 2 million Russian have left Kazakhstan, though the real numbers may be higher. One of the most pressing reasons for the mass emigration of Russians from Kazakhstan is the status of the Russian language, applicants say. While Kazakh is preserved as the state language, there is no law granting Russian any official status. While most Kazakhs also speak Russian, the list of government professions and positions for which Kazakh is required grows every year. Since the start of 2000, the government has required that all office work be conducted in Kazakh.

Another obstacle for Russian workers in Kazakhstan is the rebirth of conservative Islam there, particularly for Russian women, according to ethnographer V.A. Tishkov. In his report, "Russians in Central Asia and Kazakhstan," published in the Moscow journal "Studies on Applied and Urgent Ethnology," Tishkov suggests that "Strengthening the Muslim traditions in some Central Asian countries...will hamper the activity of Russian teachers and artistic intelligentsia... The spread of Islam might reflect on the population's attitude toward women's labor. Russian women who live in other ethnic environments are the most vulnerable." Tishkov added that in Kazakhstan, the situation is better for Russians where Muslim traditions are weakest, as in cities such as Almaty. Nevertheless, thousands of Russians are desperate and want to leave Kazakhstan, where they lived comfortably for decades. "I worked as an engineer in a refrigerator plant," said Nikitina. "Now I can't find a cleaning lady's job. I am still young; I can work. But here we live like beggars." Nonna Chernyakova and Russell Working are freelance journalists based in Vladivostok.


XS
SM
MD
LG