Accessibility links

Newsline - October 9, 2001




PUTIN BACKS U.S., U.K. STRIKES AGAINST TALIBAN, BIN LADEN

In a speech carried by Russia's national channels on 8 October, President Vladimir Putin said Russia welcomes and supports the launch of the U.S.-led military operation against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Putin said that the terrorists had seriously miscalculated and did not expect "such consolidation of the international community in the face of a common enemy." He added that he is confident that the United States is doing everything it can to minimize civilian casualties. Putin said that Moscow plans to increase its cooperation with "our European and American partners" in fighting terrorism and providing humanitarian assistance. The Russian president also said that the U.S. had the right to respond because of the horrific losses the terrorists inflicted in New York and Washington D.C. on 11 September, which he said were "twice the number the Russian Federation has lost during all ground operations against terrorists in Chechnya since 1999." Putin's remarks were preceded the day before by a Foreign Ministry statement in support of the American strikes. "It is time for decisive action" against the evil of terrorism, the statement said, adding that "terrorists wherever they are -- in Afghanistan, Chechnya, the Middle East, or the Balkans -- should know that they will be brought to justice," ITAR-TASS reported. VY/PG

BUSH TELEPHONES RUSSIAN PRESIDENT BEFORE STRIKE, BLAIR PRAISES PUTIN'S RESOLVE

Russian news services reported on 7 October that U.S. President George W. Bush telephoned President Putin prior to the launch of military attacks on Afghan targets. Putin reportedly immediately ordered the Russian intelligence services on alert and called for enhanced security at Western embassies in Moscow and at other communications and transportation hubs. The Russian authorities announced on 8 October that Moscow has opened three air corridors for U.S. humanitarian flights, but that the U.S. has not yet requested use of them, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, two days earlier, British Prime Minister Tony Blair briefly visited Moscow, where he said that the fight against terrorism has "become possible because of Putin's leadership and will," "Trud" reported on 6 October. VY/PG

RUSSIA BEGINS HUMANITARIAN FLIGHTS FOR NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN

Russian authorities on 5 October sent another humanitarian flight carrying 34 tons of food, clothing, and tents for people in northern Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported. The agency said this was the fifth such flight in the last week and that two more aid flights are scheduled for the coming days. On 8 October, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said that the Russian government may allocate additional funds for Afghanistan relief, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

RUSSIA TO PROVIDE U.S. WITH INTELLIGENCE ON BIN LADEN, SEEKS U.S. INFORMATION ON CHECHNYA

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov and U.S. FBI chief Robert Mueller discussed sharing intelligence information on 4 October, Russian and Western agencies reported the following day. Gryzlov said that Moscow will provide the FBI with information about bin Laden, and he asked that the U.S. assist Moscow in locating 63 Chechen "rebels" Moscow is currently seeking on international arrest warrants. Meanwhile, Russian security officials told ITAR-TASS on 5 October that they have learned that bin Laden's close confidants have decided that bin Laden would not be safe in Chechnya were he to leave Afghanistan. And Russian officials announced on 7 October that they have successfully launched a Raduga-1 military satellite into orbit to improve Russia's satellite monitoring system, Interfax reported. PG

MOSCOW EVACUATES RUSSIANS FROM PAKISTAN

Foreign Minister spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko told ITAR-TASS on 6 October that the families of Russian diplomats and other officials are being evacuated from Pakistan because of the crisis. PG

MOSCOW SUPPORTS UN ANTITERRORIST EFFORTS

The Foreign Ministry on 6 October released a statement saying that Moscow supports the efforts of the UN General Assembly and Security Council to create an international antiterrorist system, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement said that discussions at the United Nations have "helped consolidate the international antiterrorist coalition." Meanwhile, the same day, the Russian agency reported that an antiterrorist committee has begun to function within the UN Security Council. PG

KUDRIN SAYS MOSCOW WILL WORK TO BLOCK FUNDING OF TERRORISTS

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kudrin told his opposite numbers from the G-7 countries on 7 October that Russia will actively participate in cutting off financial flows that support international terrorism, even though Russia remains on the blacklist of countries that have not done enough to counter money laundering, ITAR-TASS reported. He also said that Russia is becoming "an island of stability" in an economically troubled world and that Russia will have no reason to renegotiate repayments on its loans unless the price of oil plunges or the worldwide recession lasts too long, the news service reported. PG

RUSSIA CAN NOW SUPPLY NORTHERN ALLIANCE VIA IRAN

"Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie" No. 40 reported that the military-technical accord signed in Moscow last week by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and his Iranian colleague Ali Shamkhani will enable Russia to supply the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance via the Caspian Sea and Iran in addition to existing supply routes through Tajikistan. VY

MOSCOW WARNS OF 'TERRORISM INTERNATIONAL'

Speaking at a Venice conference on Balkan problems on 7 October, Vladimir Chizhov, a special representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that "Russia has repeatedly warned its partners that Terrorism International has become a reality," ITAR-TASS reported. Chizhov added that this new threat is "acting on the Philippines, in Indonesia, Afghanistan, the Caucasus and the Balkans," and he noted that "the recent reports about contacts between bin Laden and Albanian extremists do not surprise Moscow." PG

RUSSIAN POLITICIANS VARY IN REACTION TO ATTACKS

Konstantin Kosachev, the deputy chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, said on 7 October that Moscow's "passive" backing of the U.S.-led antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan is exactly right, but warned that an extended conflict there could threaten Russian interests, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Duma deputy speaker and Union of Rightist Forces leader Irina Khakamada said on 8 October that Moscow's backing for the U.S. effort could make Russia a target for terrorists, Reuters reported. Duma deputy speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said on Ekho Moskvy the same day that there will be an enormous influx of refugees into Russia as a result of attacks, which he said mark "the start of the Third World War." PG

PUTIN SAYS ANTITERRORIST DRIVE SHOULD NOT AFFECT CHECHEN CIVILIANS

President Putin on 5 October told teachers at a meeting in the Kremlin that Russian actions against Chechen militants must be "appropriate and not affect the civilian population," Interfax reported. One of the teachers taking part in the session said that Putin agreed with her that it is wrong for the media to speak of "Chechen terrorists" because "bandits have no nationality." PG

MOSCOW URGES ISRAELIS, PALESTINIANS NOT TO BE PROVOKED

Deputy Foreign Minister Vasilii Sredin told Hairi Oridi, the Palestinian envoy in Moscow, on 5 October that Moscow hopes Palestinians and Israelis will do their utmost not to be provoked into more violence, Interfax reported. PG

IS BIN LADEN'S MONEY IN THE RUSSIAN OIL INDUSTRY?

Writing in "Novaya gazeta," No. 72, Mikhail Krugov suggests that one or another Russian oil magnate may be nothing more than "a puppet of Osama bin Laden," and that Russian officials need to explore the possibility that bin Laden has put money into this sector of the Russian economy. If the government fails to do so, Krugov said, it risks finding itself "on the lists of states that sponsor international terrorism." PG

MOSCOW'S FAILURE TO CRACK DOWN ON ISLAMIST GROUPS IN RUSSIA CRITICIZED

An article in "Izvestiya" on 5 October said that Islamist organizations like the World Islamic Call Society have been able to function openly in Russia for several years but that "the authorities don't seem to care about that." PG

RUSSIA'S PLAN TO IMPORT NUCLEAR WASTES MAY ATTRACT TERRORISTS

Russia's Ecodefense Group argues that plans to import spent nuclear fuel for permanent storage could have the effect of attracting terrorist interest because the authorities have not solved various security problems involved in the transport and storage of such materials, "Inostranets" reported on 2 October. Meanwhile, "Vremya novostei" on 4 October reported that some in Moscow are concerned that instability in Pakistan could allow terrorists to seize nuclear weapons there. PG

RUSSIANS SEE TIES WITH U.S. IMPROVING

According to polls conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 5 October, 42 percent of Russians at the end of September believed that there had been recent improvements in ties between Moscow and Washington, up from 12 percent who said the same thing in a similar poll conducted in May 2001. PG

ENVIRONMENTAL THREATS SAID REQUIRING INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE

Writing in "Obshchaya gazeta," No. 40, Dmitrii Furman argued that Islamic terrorism is not the only threat to the world order that requires an international response. He suggested that disasters like the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, the "Kursk" sinking, and oil spills also will force the countries of the world to cooperate if they are to avoid "an apocalypse." PG

DUMA MAY CONSIDER ANTIREFERENDUM BILL

"Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 5 October that the Duma will soon take up a bill that would "make referenda almost impossible." The paper said that the new measure would require that a proposed referendum be approved by both houses of parliament, which it said would preclude holding almost all votes on public issues. At present, those seeking to hold a referendum need only to file a question and then collect 2 million signatures on petitions for a popular vote to take place. PG

MAJORITY OF RUSSIANS DO NOT IDENTIFY WITH A POLITICAL PARTY

According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by "Versty" on 2 October, more than 60 percent of Russians do not identify with any political party and those that do could not give more than the most general reasons for their attachments. The poll found that 19 percent of Russians support parties of the left, 9 percent support those of the right, and 11 percent support those of the center. PG

RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY PRAISED AS 'BRILLIANT'

An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 October said that "possibly for the first time over the past decade," Moscow is managing to achieve results in foreign policy "comparable to those of the United States." Even more, the paper added, "Russia has captured the initiative from the West, having submitted several unexpected proposals over the past weeks." The turnabout, the paper said, is so complete that the question inevitably arises as to whether there is now some "secret adviser" on foreign policy working with President Putin and his team. PG

PUTIN DOUBTS UKRAINIAN VERSION OF PLANE CRASH

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on RTR television on 6 October that neither he nor President Putin are convinced by Kyiv's claims that the Russian airliner that crashed in the Black Sea on 4 October was not hit accidentally by a Ukrainian missile. Ivanov said that Moscow has asked for additional information from Ukraine, as well as assistance from Israel and the United States, and is launching its own probe into the crash. Meanwhile, the Prosecutor-General's Office said that it is investigating the incident under the "terrorism" article of the Russian Criminal Code, RIA-Novosti reported. VY

PATRIARCH AGAIN CRITICIZES VATICAN

At a press conference on 5 October, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II said that "the religious expansion of the Vatican in former Soviet republics does not give grounds to the Moscow Patriarchate to hope for improvement of relations with the Roman Catholic Church," ITAR-TASS reported. Aleksii was especially critical of Pope John Paul II's failure to consult with him before traveling to Ukraine and Kazakhstan. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS EXPANDED COOPERATION WITH OPEC

In announcing on 5 October that Russia will take part in the 7 October meeting of OPEC with nonmembers, Energy Minister Igor Yusufov said that Russia supports OPEC's efforts to keep oil prices stable and "strongly declares itself in favor of a mutually profitable dialogue" with the cartel, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

SWEDISH KING ARRIVES IN MOSCOW

Carl XVI Gustaf, the King of Sweden, arrived in Moscow on 8 October, Russian and Western news services reported. He was met at the airport by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and then went directly to the Kremlin to meet with President Putin. Putin said after their meeting that he expects the visit to be profitable for both countries because the king is accompanied by a large number of business people. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS EXTRADITION OF RUSSIAN FROM CYPRUS

Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Sabir Kekhlerov received Cypriot Prosecutor-General Alecos Markides on 5 October to discuss Moscow's request for the extradition of V. Meshanov on charges of embezzling up to $50 million from the Russian state budget, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

MOSCOW AGAIN RAISES ETHNIC ISSUE IN ESTONIA, LATVIA

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told visiting OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus on 5 October that Moscow remains concerned about the treatment of ethnic Russians in Estonia and Latvia, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, on 4 October, an article in "Vremya novostei" noted that Latvia's decision to allow NATO ships carrying nuclear weapons to visit its ports may cause Moscow to "change its mind" and to deploy tactical nuclear missiles in Kaliningrad. PG

LEBED WANTS TO GIVE AWARDS TO CHECHEN MILITANTS

Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed wants to present state decorations not only to Russian soldiers but also to pro-independence Chechen fighters, "Versty" reported on 2 October. Lebed's statement to that effect was carried on local television. The governor argued that awards should be given out impartially because "Chechnya is part of the Russian state." PG

'KURSK' FINALLY RAISED TO THE SURFACE

The "Kursk" nuclear submarine that sank in August 2000 was raised to the surface on 8 October, Russian and Western news services reported. No radiation leakages were monitored. As weather again worsened, officials worked to secure the damaged hull of the submarine to the Dutch "Giant-4" pontoon to prepare to tow it to the shore of the Kola Peninsula. RIA-Novosti reported. Spokesmen for the operation said that towing the pontoon and its cargo to shore will take 36 hours. Meanwhile, the officials said, they have increased security around Roslyakovo where the submarine will be examined. VY

GERASHCHENKO SAYS INFLATION IN 2001 TO BE 'SLIGHTLY UNDER' 17 PERCENT

Central Bank of Russia Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko told ITAR-TASS on 6 October that inflation in Russia can be "even slightly under" 17 percent for 2001, assuming that the government can prevent "any changes" in housing costs. He added that he does not believe that anything "special" will happen on the currency markets. But he pointed to one possible threat: If the world recession proves deeper than now predicted, then international demand for Russian oil and gas could decline precipitously. PG

S&P RAISES RATINGS OF TWO RUSSIAN CAPITALS

The international rating agency Standard and Poor's has changed the outlook for the B ratings it has given to the city governments of Moscow and St. Petersburg from stable to positive, Interfax reported on 5 October. That rating means, the news agency explained, that these cities are currently capable of meeting their financial obligations but are vulnerable to unfavorable business conditions. PG

DESERTION AN INCREASING PROBLEM FOR RUSSIAN MILITARY

According to an article in "Novye izvestiya" on 5 October, the Russian military faces a rising tide of deserters, many of whom are now prepared to hide out for years and to use violence against those seeking to arrest them. The paper noted that the Defense Ministry does not release information on the numbers involved, but said that independent groups like the Soldiers' Mothers Committee estimate that some 30,000 soldiers have escaped from military units over the last several years. Efforts by the army to round up those who desert have not worked nor have amnesties offered as in April 1998 to deserters who turn themselves in voluntarily, the paper said. PG

ONE RUSSIAN IN FOUR 'SERIOUSLY CONCERNED' ABOUT ETHNIC PROBLEMS

According to poll results reported by "Novoye vremya" on 30 September, 24 percent of Russians are "seriously concerned" about relations among ethnic groups in Russia. Twenty-two percent more are somewhat concerned, while 38 percent say they are not concerned. At the same time, 62 percent think that relations among ethnic groups in Russia are "bad" or "fairly bad." The poll also found that 86 percent of the sample believe that their ethnicity gives them neither advantages nor disadvantages. PG

150,000 AIDS CASES PREDICTED BY 2006

Vadim Pokrovskii, the director of the Federal Research Center for AIDS Prevention, said on 5 October that approximately 150,000 Russians now infected with the HIV virus are likely to develop AIDS within the next five years, Interfax reported. He also said that official statistics understate the problem and that he believes there are now 1 million Russians infected with HIV. PG

FRAIL YELTSIN WATCHES TENNIS TOURNAMENT

Former President Boris Yeltsin, looking frail, was among the spectators at the Kremlin Cup tennis championship on 7 October, Reuters reported. Also in attendance was Prime Minister Kasyanov and presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii. Yevgenii Kafelnikov, who won the tournament for the fifth straight time, gave his prize of $137,000 to the families of the 76 people who died in the plane crash over the Black Sea. Meanwhile, the same day, President Putin marked his 49th birthday with a day full of work and no public ceremonies, the news agency said. PG

RUSSIAN TEAM QUALIFIES FOR WORLD CUP

For the first time since 1994, Russia's soccer team on 6 October has qualified for the 2002 World Cup finals, Russian and Western agencies reported. It did so by defeating Switzerland 4-0 on 6 October. PG

TATAR OFFICIALS SEE U.S. STRIKES AS INEFFECTIVE...

Timur Akulov, the head of Tatarstan's presidential foreign affairs department, said on 8 October that "more efficient measures could be taken in order to find and annihilate bin Laden" than the U.S.-led military campaign against the ruling Taliban that began on 7 October, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The same day, the press center of Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board issued a statement saying that while "terrorist acts against innocent people cannot be justified," the aim of defeating terrorists is not likely to be achieved in the manner that the U.S. has selected. The statement continued that although it is said that Islam is not an enemy in this war, it is a Muslim population that will suffer. The statement added that there is a real danger that the current military campaign might become a world war against Islam. JAC

...AS URALS ENVOY CALLS FOR EXTRA SECURITY MEASURES

Presidential envoy to the Urals federal district Petr Latyshev on 7 October asked leaders of military and law enforcement structures in his district to take extra security measures in light of U.S.-British airstrikes against Afghanistan, regions.ru reported on 8 October. According to the website, Latyshev, a former Interior Ministry official, called on all power structures in his district to ensure that enterprises and communication networks continue to work normally. The Urals federal district is made up of the Kurgan, Sverdlovsk, Tyumen, and Chelyabinsk Oblasts, and the Khanty-Mansii and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrugs. JAC

TOP ELECTION OFFICIAL NIXES THIRD TERM FOR SAKHA HEAD

Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told Interfax on 8 October that Sakha Republic (Yakutia) President Mikhail Nikolaev does not have the legal opportunity to run in 23 December presidential elections. Veshnyakov said that, after analyzing the republic's presidential election laws, he has concluded that they do not correspond to federal legislation. Nikolaev had earlier expressed his desire to seek a third term (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2001). JAC

COSMODROME DIRECTOR HEADED FOR DUMA

By-elections for a vacant seat in the State Duma held on 8 October in Amur Oblast were declared valid as the turnout narrowly exceeded the minimum requirement of 25 percent of registered voters, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 8 October. The race was won by the head of the Svobodnyi cosmodrome, Aleksandr Vinidiktov, with 27.47 percent of the vote, compared with 27.3 percent for the head of the oblast administration, Dmitrii Novikov. Almost 13 percent of voters voted against all candidates. The Duma seat was left vacant when Leonid Korotkov was elected governor of the oblast last April. JAC

BATTLE OVER TELEVISION STATION FLARES UP IN UDMURTIA

Deputies in Udmurtia's legislative assembly decided on 8 October to send an appeal to the Prosecutor-General's Office, asking it to look into the conflict that is occurring at Udmurtia's Television, an affiliate of the All-Russian State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK), Interfax-Eurasia reported. On the evening of 6 October, all broadcasts from the Udmurtia television company were stopped because of a management dispute at the station, RFE/RL's Russian service reported. VGTRK opted not to renew the contract of the current director of the company, Aleksandr Ushakov, and appointed in his place First Deputy Director Roza Gorbushina. However, Ushakov has refused to relinquish his position and he is being supported by Udmurtian legislators. VGTRK head Oleg Dobrodeev has said that he believes the leadership of the republic wants to gain control over the company because of the impending 21 October mayoral elections in Izhevsk. JAC

CHECHENS LAUNCH ATTACK ON DISTRICT CENTER

Up to 100 Chechen fighters attacked the town of Achkhoi-Martan, 40 kilometers southwest of Grozny, late on 7 October, killing at least four members of the pro-Moscow Chechen police force, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. They retreated after a two-hour exchange of fire. LF

'MOP-UP' OPERATION ENDS

Russian troops have completed a 10-day "mop-up" operation to round up suspected Chechen fighters in the villages of Starye and Novye Atagi and Chiri-Yurt, Interfax reported on 7 October. Chechen police claim at least 10 suspects were detained during that sweep and quantities of weapons and equipment for manufacturing bombs was confiscated. On 5 October, following reports that the Russian forces were engaging in violent reprisals against civilians and that the population of the villages were short of food and water (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001), Chechnya's military prosecutor, Sergei Kizyun, told Interfax that civilian and military prosecutors were monitoring the Russian troops' actions, and that no complaints from the civilian population had been received. On 7 October, the deputy administrator in Starye Atagi, Ruslan Djumev, was shot dead by unknown gunmen who forced their way into his home. LF

NEW RUSSIAN TROOP COMMANDER APPOINTED IN CHECHNYA

Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, the deputy commander of the North Caucasus Military District, has for the second time replaced Colonel General Valerii Baranov as commander in chief of the joint Russian forces in Chechnya, Interfax reported on 5 October. Moltenskoi succeeded Baranov in that post in May, only to be dismissed in early August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 17 May and 3 August, 2001). LF




ARMENIA, GEORGIA, KYRGYZSTAN, TAJIKISTAN HAIL STRIKES AGAINST AFGHANISTAN

In a statement released on 8 October, the Armenian Foreign Ministry expressed its support for the previous day's airstrikes against targets in Afghanistan, describing them as a necessary measure to combat the threat of international terrorism, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The statement also reaffirmed Armenia's commitment to the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition. In Georgia, President Eduard Shevardnadze expressed support for the strikes during his traditional Monday radio interview, Prime News reported. In Bishkek, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Muratbek ImanAliyev told journalists the country's leadership backs the ongoing "large-scale international antiterrorist action," but stressed that such actions must not be regarded as a war against either Islam or the Afghan people, ITAR-TASS reported. The Tajik Foreign Ministry likewise issued a statement supporting the strikes, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, RFE/RL's bureau in Ashgabat reported on 8 October that Turkmen state media failed to broadcast any mention of the previous day's international strikes against Afghanistan. LF

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT POSTPONES PLANNED VISIT TO ARMENIA

In the wake of the first international airstrikes on targets in Afghanistan, Romanian President Ion Iliescu on 8 October postponed a planned two-day official visit to Armenia scheduled to begin that day, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Armenian presidential press service quoted President Robert Kocharian as describing Iliescu's decision as understandable." The visit will be rescheduled when the international situation permits, according to Noyan Tapan. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT 'IMMUNE' TO IMPEACHMENT THREAT...

President Kocharian on 8 October shrugged off the campaign by three opposition parties to collect signatures in support of his impeachment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2001), Noyan Tapan reported. He characterized that campaign as a reflection of Armenia's present political culture, adding that such attempts to make the president a scapegoat are likely to continue until that culture develops, regardless of whether he or someone else holds that office. LF

...EXPRESSES REGRET FOR CAFE DEATH

Also on 8 October, President Kocharian expressed his regret over the 25 September incident in which an Armenian from Georgia was beaten to death, apparently by members of Kocharian's presidential guard, after yelling insults at Kocharian in a popular Yerevan cafe, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September and 2 October 2001). Kocharian referred to the incident as "a fight that resulted in a person's death," and vowed that if anyone is found guilty of that death, that person will be punished. He stressed that no member of the presidential guard has ever "been involved in any scandals." But at the same time he acknowledged that "I am very sorry. This should not have happened." LF

ARMENIAN EX-DISSIDENT REMANDED FOR ARMS POSSESSION

An Armenian court on 5 October prolonged the pretrial detention of Azat Arshakian, who was arrested on 14 September after a cache of arms was discovered in the Yerevan headquarters of an NGO he heads, even though his defense counsel argued that Arshakian's continued detention cannot be justified, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 September 2001). LF

POPE ANNOUNCES PLANS TO VISIT AZERBAIJAN

Pope John Paul II has written to Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev to inform him of his wish to visit Baku next year, Turan reported on 5 October. LF

NINE KILLED AS UN HELICOPTER SHOT DOWN IN GEORGIA

Five UN observers, three Ukrainian crewmembers, and a local interpreter died early on 8 October when a UN helicopter was shot down while patrolling the Kodori gorge in eastern Abkhazia. A spokeswoman for the UN Observer Force confirmed initial Abkhaz reports that the helicopter was hit by a missile, "The Washington Post" reported. Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Gela Bezhaushvili said the helicopter was overflying the Georgian-controlled upper reaches of the gorge to search for armed groups, Caucasus Press reported. But the Georgian government press service said the helicopter was shot down over territory controlled by the Abkhaz. Prime News on 8 October claimed the helicopter crashed near the village of Amtkel, which is close to Giorgievskoe, the scene of last week's fighting between Abkhaz troops and a combined force of Chechens and Georgian guerrillas. The UN Security Council condemned the incident and called for those responsible to be brought to justice, AP reported. In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming the incident on Georgia's policy of "appeasement and tolerance" toward Chechen fighters operating on its territory, Interfax reported. Groups of UN observers have been seized by unknown armed men and held hostage on three separate occasions in October 1999 and June and December 2000. LF

FIGHTING RESUMES IN ABKHAZIA

Fighting resumed late on 7 October and is reportedly continuing in the Kodori gorge between Abkhaz forces and what Abkhaz officials say is a combined force of Georgian guerrillas and Chechens, Caucasus Press reported. No details of casualties have been divulged. Abkhazia has declared a partial mobilization. Also late on 7 October, unidentified aircraft bombarded Georgian villages in the upper reaches of the Kodori gorge, Caucasus Press reported, quoting the Georgian State Border Security Agency, whose commander departed on 9 October on a working visit to Germany. Two senior Abkhaz military officials were killed on 6 October during fighting near the village of Amtkel in the Kodori gorge, Georgian agencies reported. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY COLLAPSES

The Majoritarian -- Georgia's Regions faction, which has 21 deputies, formally withdrew on 8 October from the parliament majority bloc, Caucasus Press reported. That move leaves the majority with less than the minimum 118 deputies it must legally number. Over the past two weeks, up to 50 deputies quit the Union of Citizens of Georgia faction, the second component of the majority faction, but some of those grouped into two new factions that have pledged to remain within the majority (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 33, 8 October 2001). LF

PRESIDENT DENIES GEORGIA MAY SOON QUIT CIS

During his traditional Monday radio interview, President Eduard Shevardnadze denied on 8 October that during his lecture at Harvard University five days earlier he said that Georgia may soon quit the CIS, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2001). He said that section of his address was "misunderstood." LF

GEORGIA EXTRADITES DETAINED MILITANTS TO RUSSIA

On 6 October Georgian officials extradited to Russia 13 militants detained in June after illegally crossing into Georgia from the North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Georgia refused for weeks to hand over the men on the grounds that their identity had not been established (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 19 September 2001). Russian officials claimed that the detainees were responsible for bomb attacks in 1999 and 2000 on towns in southern Russia. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ENDS U.S. VISIT

President Shevardnadze returned to Georgia on 6 October after an official visit to Washington during which he met with U.S. President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and also with World Bank President James Wolfensohn (see "End Note" below). His talks with Bush focused on Chechnya and the need for a political solution to the conflict, the situation in Abkhazia, and U.S. assistance to Georgia in guarding its borders, according to U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. Shevardnadze assured Wolfowitz that he will make available all means at Georgia's disposal, including its airspace and airports, for use in an international military strike against terrorism, Reuters reported on 5 October. Georgia had initially only offered the use of its airspace (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2001). LF

KAZAKHSTAN UPS SECURITY IN WAKE OF STRIKES ON AFGHANISTAN

Kazakh security bodies reacted on 8 October to the U.S.-British airstrikes against targets in Afghanistan by increasing security on the country's frontiers and at foreign embassies and the Tengizchevroil-owned oilfield and refinery, Interfax reported. Security Council Secretary Altynbek Sarsenbaev traveled early on 8 October to Kazakhstan's southern border with Uzbekistan, which has been reinforced. LF

KYRGYZ, RUSSIAN LEGISLATORS PROPOSE JOINT MILITARY BASE

Participants at a meeting of the Kyrgyz-Russian interparliamentary commission decided in Bishkek on 5 October to propose to both governments the creation within the parameters of the CIS Collective Security Treaty of a joint military base in southern Kyrgyzstan, Russian agencies reported. Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev, who headed the Russian delegation, said such a base is in Kyrgyzstan's interests. LF

KYRGYZ OFFICIAL DENIES PLANS TO SUPPLY ARMS TO NORTHERN ALLIANCE

Kyrgyz Defense Ministry spokesman Merbek Koilubaev told Interfax on 6 October that there is no truth to media reports that the United States has asked the Kyrgyz government to sell quantities of Soviet-made weapons to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. The previous day, Deputy Prime Minister Arzymat Sulaimankulov had similarly denied reports that the U.S. plans to purchase Kyrgyz-produced ammunition for use in military operations in Afghanistan. LF

TAJIKISTAN OFFERS USE OF AIRSPACE, AIRPORTS

Echoing a statement made to journalists in Dushanbe on 8 October by Japanese envoy Muneo Suzuki after talks with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, the Tajik government said in a statement later the same day that "the Republic of Tajikistan has declared its readiness to open its airspace to the U.S. air force and, should it prove necessary, its airports for carrying out measures against terrorism," Reuters and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. But a Tajik Defense Ministry spokesman told Reuters the same day that no Tajik troops will participate in any kind of international action in other countries. "The military is only for the country's defense," he said. Rakhmonov had placed the country's armed forces on high alert on 7 October following the U.S.-British strikes against Afghanistan. LF

TAJIK ISLAMIC PARTY LEADER REJECTS CALL FOR JIHAD

Islamic Renaissance Party leader Said Abdullo Nuri told a news conference in Dushanbe on 8 October that his party will ignore calls by Saudi terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden for a jihad, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, Nuri expressed neither approval nor condemnation of the U.S.-led antiterrorist strikes against targets in Afghanistan, but said such measures should ideally be conducted under the auspices of the United Nations. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT SAYS KAZAKH INITIATIVE PREMATURE

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov gave a lukewarm reception to the proposal by his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbaev, contained in a letter delivered on 4 October by Kazakhstan's ambassador to Ashgabat (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001), to convene a Central Asian summit to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and Central Asia, Interfax reported on 5 October. Niyazov said the proposal deserves "serious consideration," but that summit should not be held as soon as early November, the date proposed by Nazarbaev. LF

U.S. TO ALLOCATE $1 MILLION FOR TURKMEN POLICE

The U.S. government will provide Turkmenistan with $1 million to train police officers to combat organized crime and the illegal drug trade, Interfax reported on 8 October, quoting the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat. LF

UZBEKISTAN PLACES ONE AIR BASE AT U.S. DISPOSAL...

Following talks in Tashkent on 5 October with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Uzbek President Islam Karimov announced that Uzbekistan will allow the United States the use of one of its military airfields from which to conduct search-and-rescue missions and air shipments of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. He said the two countries will also exchange intelligence information, but he stressed that "we are against using the territory of Uzbekistan for ground operations and we are against carrying out any bombing of Afghanistan from our territory," RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. Nor, Karimov said, will Uzbek forces participate in any strikes against Afghanistan, Interfax reported. Karimov added that Uzbekistan does not want to be "used or manipulated," and that it needs "guarantees that tomorrow we shall not be left alone to confront these monstrous terrorist forces." LF

...INCREASES SECURITY

Uzbekistan placed its armed forces at the highest stage of alertness on 8 October following threats by the Taliban to declare a jihad on Tashkent for having made an air base available to the U.S., Interfax reported. Border guards deployed on Uzbekistan's frontier with Afghanistan were likewise placed on high alert. But National Security Council Secretary Mirakbar Rakhmankulov denied that large numbers of troops are being sent to the southern border. LF




MINSK SILENT ON U.S. STRIKES IN AFGHANISTAN

Belarus has not issued any official statement on the beginning of the U.S. antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 8 October. "[Belarusian President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka has now found himself in a difficult, ambiguous situation. He has always striven to present America as an enemy that is threatening Belarus. So it is difficult for him to abandon this line immediately. The ambiguity and absurdity of his policies is now obvious," opposition political expert Alyaksey Karol told RFE/RL, adding that Lukashenka is baffled by Russia's support for the U.S. antiterrorist strikes. Meanwhile, Syarhey Kastsyan, head of the Commission for International Affairs in the Chamber of Representatives, commented that the United States has launched a "fascist aggression" that he said will embroil the entire globe in a "bloody slaughter." JM

KYIV BACKS U.S. ANTITERRORIST STRIKES IN AFGHANISTAN...

President Leonid Kuchma on 8 October said Ukraine supports "politically, diplomatically, and morally" the U.S. revenge strikes against terrorists in Afghanistan, Interfax reported. Kuchma did not rule out that Ukraine's special services may render intelligence assistance to the United States, but stressed that Ukrainian troops will not take part in warfare in Afghanistan. Kuchma added that Ukraine may resume arms supplies to Uzbekistan, which is reportedly facing an attack from Afghanistan's Taliban. The same day, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry issued a statement backing the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan as a response to the barbaric terrorists acts of 11 September. JM

...AS COMMUNISTS, SOCIALISTS OPPOSE IT

The Communist Party of Ukraine on 8 October condemned the U.S. antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan as an action aimed at unleashing a new world war, Interfax reported. The Communists want the parliament to pass a resolution confirming Ukraine's neutral, non-bloc status as well as to revoke Kyiv's decision allowing U.S. military cargo planes to use Ukrainian airspace. The Socialist Party of Ukraine called on the United States to limit its operation in Afghanistan to strikes targeted on terrorist bases, adding that "an escalation of the military operation will not resolve all problems." JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST ADMINISTRATIVE REGULATION OF LANGUAGE PROBLEM

Speaking to a congress of Ukraine's education sector employees in Kyiv on 8 October, President Kuchma warned against administrative and forced methods in expanding the sphere of use of the Ukrainian language. Kuchma noted that given Ukraine's "significant Russophone population," such methods can only increase opposition to Ukrainianization and polarize society. "We should understand such lessons now when the [parliamentary] elections are nearing. Rival political forces, striving for sympathies of the electorate, are stepping up speculation on the language problem. Political stability in Ukraine will to a high degree depend on our ability to ensure the natural course of the language education process," Ukrainian Radio quoted Kuchma as saying. JM

OUR UKRAINE BLOC TO BE FORMALIZED

Former Premier Viktor Yushchenko on 6 October announced that the Our Ukraine election bloc he proposed in July will be formalized in the near future, Interfax reported. According to Yushchenko, Our Ukraine will consists of some 20 political parties and 30-40 civic groups and movements. On 8 October, five political parties -- the Popular Rukh of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Popular Rukh, the Reforms and Order Party, the Liberal Party, and the Christian Popular Union -- initialized a formal accord on the creation of Our Ukraine. Meanwhile, Agrarian Party leader Mykhaylo Hladiy said the same day that talks are being conducted on forging an election coalition of Our Ukraine with the For a United Ukraine bloc. For a United Ukraine consists of four pro-presidential groups: the Popular Democratic Party, the Party of Regions, the Agrarian Party, and the Labor Ukraine Party. JM

ESTONIA'S NEW PRESIDENT TAKES OFFICE

Arnold Ruutel took his oath of office as president in front of parliament on 8 October, BNS reported. In his inauguration speech, he said that the new president has three priorities: restoring positive population growth, equal opportunities in education, and reducing unemployment. Ruutel stressed that he will seek to develop good and friendly relations with Russia, noting that an important step in improving relations would be the signing of the border agreement that was initialed in 1996, but which has not yet been signed due to Russia's reluctance. The president also asserted: "Estonia unconditionally supports the fight against terrorism, but no nationality or major world religion can be regarded as terrorist." In his last move as president, Lennart Meri submitted a draft law with two proposals: the direct election of the president by popular vote and the establishment of a Constitutional Court to settle arguments between the president, the cabinet, and the parliament on constitutional interpretations. SG

LATVIA'S PEOPLE'S PARTY MAKES NEW CLAIMS ON BUDGET

The conference of the People's Party in Riga on 6 October decided to support the position of its board and parliament deputies concerning the 2002 budget, LETA reported. They called for amending the law "On State Pensions" so that pensioners who have worked for 30 or more years receive pensions of at least 45 lats ($72) per month, while those who have worked fewer years receive at least 30 lats per month. Parliament deputy Janis Lagzdins stressed that increasing small pensions is very important because there are tens of thousands of pensioners whose pensions are under 20 lats per month. The conference backed retaining the early retirement option until 2005 and lifting restrictions on working pensioners so they can receive pensions of up to 90 lats per month. It also demanded that the corporate income tax should be cut over three years from 25 to 15 percent. SG

DIFFERENT INFLATION RATES IN BALTIC STATES

The Estonian Statistics Office announced on 5 October that the CPI increased by 0.1 percent in September compared to August, and 5.7 percent compared to September 2000, BNS reported. In September, costs of goods remained unchanged as prices of foodstuffs declined by 0.4 percent while those of manufactured goods rose by 0.4 percent. The costs of services rose by 0.2 percent. The Latvian Central Statistics Office announced on 8 October that the CPI in September rose by 0.6 percent compared to August, and 3.6 compared to September 2000. The price of goods rose by 0.8 percent and of services by 0.3 percent. Lithuania's CPI fell by 0.2 percent in September, but increased by 2.1 percent compared to July 2000. The price of foodstuffs and nonalcoholic beverages decreased by 0.4 percent, and hotel and restaurant services decreased by 0.7 percent. Communication costs decreased by 1.8 percent, but clothing and footwear prices increased by 1.4 percent. SG

POLAND'S POSTCOMMUNISTS, AGRARIANS TO CREATE MAJORITY GOVERNMENT

The councils of the postcommunist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) on 6 October formally approved the formation of an SLD-PSL coalition cabinet that will have 258 votes in the 460-seat parliament, Polish media reported. Before voting 74 to 22 in favor of a ruling coalition, the PSL held a stormy nine-hour debate. The PSL politicians who opposed the coalition fear that voters may blame the PSL for austerity measures the future cabinet is expected to introduce, and that the party risks losing support among farmers to the benefit of the militant Self-Defense farmers union. A coalition agreement was signed on 9 October, while on 10 October Prime Minister designate Leszek Miller is expected to present candidates for cabinet ministers. It is known that the posts of deputy prime ministers will go to PSL leader Jaroslaw Kalinowski and Marek Pol, the head of the Labor Union, an SLD election bloc partner. JM

POLAND TO HOST REGIONAL ANTITERRORIST SUMMIT

Presidential security adviser Marek Siwiec told journalists on 8 October that next month Poland will host an antiterrorist summit with the participation of CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEan countries. Siwiec added that both U.S. President George W. Bush and the NATO candidate countries that met last week in Bulgaria backed the summit idea as a regional response to the 11 September terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Siwiec said the goal of the summit will be to work out a plan of cooperation among government agencies in order to "create a different climate in the region for a crackdown on terrorism," AP reported. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT EXPRESSES 'ABSOLUTE SUPPORT' FOR RETALIATORY ACTION IN AFGHANISTAN...

President Vaclav Havel on 7 October said the retaliatory action launched on that day by the U.S. against terrorists in Afghanistan has his "absolute support," CTK reported. Havel said that there are times when "our freedoms require certain sacrifices. If people want to enjoy their freedom and civilization values, they must be ready to defend them, even with arms." Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus also expressed support of the action. Zeman reiterated that the Czech Republic's support is "not only moral and political, but also military." Klaus said that although the use of force "is always a sad thing," it is "obvious that this is a case when force is required." MS

...CONVEYS SALUTE TO CENTRAL ASIAN COUNTRIES VIA RFE/RL

On 8 October, President Havel paid a visit to RFE/RL headquarters in Prague. He said he wanted to express his appreciation of RFE/RL's continuing broadcasts and to especially convey via RFE/RL greetings to listeners in Central Asian countries that "in today's difficult situation, show solidarity" with the struggle against terrorism. Havel said displaying solidarity is important and added that if it were not for the "solidarity, support and publicity" RFE/RL displayed toward him in his dissident days, he would have spent more time in communist prisons. MS

CZECH REPUBLIC OFFERS TRANSPORT PLANE TO AID ANTITERRORIST ACTION

Premier Zeman on 8 October said the Czech Republic has offered a Tu-154 transport plane to assist in the military action underway against international terrorism, CTK reported. He said the U.S. has "shown interest" in the plane and that it might use it to transport personnel this week. Deputy Chief of Staff Vladimir Palan later told CTK that the plane would fly outside the conflict zone, transporting people and cargo between Europe and the United States. Zeman also said "it cannot be ruled out" that the Czech Republic will participate in the antiterrorist action in other ways as well. He mentioned as a possible example "the transfer of our forces to the Balkans," if requested to do so. MS

PREMIER SAYS NEED OF SUPERSONIC FIGHTERS INCREASES AFTER TERRORIST ATTACK

Premier Zeman on 6 October told the daily "Pravo" that in the wake of the terrorist attack on the U.S. the argument in favor of purchasing supersonic fighters for the Czech air force is becoming stronger, CTK reported. He said supersonic fighters can be an effective tool in the struggle against international terrorism. MS

CZECH RULING PARTY TENDS TO BACK DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

Ladislav Svoboda, the chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) parliamentary group in the Senate, said on 5 October that the CSSD is "positively leaning" toward the idea of direct presidential elections, CTK reported. A draft law on direct elections was submitted on 2 October in the Chamber of Deputies by the Four Party Coalition. MS

SLOVAKIA SAYS IT SUPPORTS ANTITERRORIST RETALIATORY ACTION

President Rudolf Schuster on 7 October said his country "fully supports" the U.S. military action against Afghanistan launched in retaliation for the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States, CTK reported. Schuster added: "Within our possibilities, we are ready to participate in achieving the diplomatic, economic, as well as military aims" of the antiterrorist action. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said his cabinet "unconditionally supports" the action and, "within possibilities, is ready to cooperate in whatever manner the U.S. or NATO will request." Dzurinda told journalists in Bratislava: "We are not a NATO member, but behave as if we already were in the alliance." Schuster said that "no direct threat" to Slovakia has emerged from the action, but added that "all precautionary measures" have been taken. On 8 October, Schuster called for increasing the safety of the border with Ukraine in the face of an expected rise in the number "of real and alleged refugees." MS

SLOVAK DEFENSE MINISTRY UNDERGOES REORGANIZATION

Defense Minister Jozef Stank on 5 October told journalists that his ministry has undergone a "large reorganization" and staff reduction, CTK reported. He said the reorganization began in October and is still continuing. Stank said the Defense Ministry currently has 850 employees, 418 less than in early 2001. The ministry is also increasing the ratio of civilian employees vs. career soldiers, and at the end of its reorganization three-quarters of the employees will be civilian. MS

SLOVAKIA'S SLOTA RETURNS TO TOP SLOT

In Zilina on 6 October, supporters of former Slovak National Party (SNS) leader Jan Slota on 6 October formed a rival political party called the Real Slovak National Party (PSNS), CTK reported. Slota was replaced as head of the SNS by Anna Malikova in 1999 and was recently expelled from that party along with other SNS deputies. Slota said he "would take issue with the opinion that we are a new political party" and that he would "rather say we have resumed the activity of the oldest political party in Slovakia." He added that he does not want to collaborate with any other formation and that the PSNS's principles are Christian and national. The PSNS also opposes NATO accession and "the sellout of the national economy." He added that "NATO actually creates terrorists, like CIA-trained Arab Osama bin Laden and the [Albanian] UCK." MS

SLOVAK, ROMANIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKERS OPPOSE HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW

Slovak parliamentary speaker Jozef Migas and Romanian Chamber of Deputies Chairman Valer Dorneanu said after a meeting in Bratislava on 8 October that they both consider the Status Law approved by the Hungarian parliament earlier this year to be "discriminatory" and an obstacle to collaboration between countries in the region, MTI reported. Dorneanu also said that the law was "infringing on the spirit of the Hungarian-Romanian basic treaty," TASR reported. He added that his meeting with Migas "must not be viewed as aimed at forging a coalition against the Status Law." Migas said that "in the interest of Visegrad countries' stability, it would be best if Hungary would renounce the implementation of the law." He said the law amounts to "interference in the internal affairs and an infringement of the freedom of states with a Hungarian minority." MS

HUNGARY PREPARES FOR POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES OF U.S. STRIKES

Cabinet Spokesman Gabor Borokai told "Nepszabadsag" on 7 October that no special measures need to be taken in Hungary, as the country is not directly involved in the U.S.-led military operation against Afghanistan. Armed forces Chief of Staff Lajos Fodor said that no foreign aircraft have used Hungary's airspace to take part in the strikes thus far. He said all airports are under increased protection and the air force has been placed on alert. The National Security Cabinet decided to increase security around the U.S. and British embassies, and to open a 2,000-person refugee detention center in Kalocsa, southern Hungary, that would be able to receive a large number of Afghan refugees. Health Minister Istvan Mikola told reporters on 8 October that "although there is no need for the public to panic," the ministry has begun preparations to counter a potential biological attack. MSZ

HUNGARIAN POLICE SEARCH MIEP PAPER'S EDITORIAL OFFICE

Police detectives on 5 October searched the editorial office of "Ebreszto," a newspaper published by a branch of the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), in Budapest's 16th district. The search was part of an ongoing investigation regarding an allegedly anti-Semitic article published recently in the newspaper by MIEP Deputy Chairman Lorant Hegedus Jr. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2001). The Prosecutor's Office has also questioned the newspaper's editor on suspicion of incitement against a community. Hegedus himself may be questioned by authorities if his parliamentary immunity is lifted, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS THREATEN TO EXPEL 'TRAITORS'

The leadership of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) passed a resolution stipulating that FKGP deputies who vote in a "traitorous manner" for Attila Bank, the reform Smallholders' candidate for deputy speaker of parliament, must return their party membership cards, Hungarian media reported on 6 October. Bank was nominated to the post by deputies who are opposing the leadership of FKGP Chairman Jozsef Torgyan. MSZ




MACEDONIAN PEACE PROCESS BLOCKED AS ETHNIC ALBANIANS BOYCOTT PARLIAMENTARY TALKS

Parliament Chairman Stojan Andov postponed the 9 October session after ethnic Albanian parties refused to debate key constitutional changes, dpa reported. The ethnic Albanian parties object to the submission to parliament by President Boris Trajkovski of just six of the 15 constitutional amendments that are to be debated. Zamir Dika, the spokesman for the Albanian Democratic Party, said, "We will not take part in the committee stage or the parliamentary session until we have all the amendments." Ethnic Albanian parties hold 25 of the parliament's 120 seats. The package of amendments was passed in a first round of voting, and will need to be approved by two-thirds of legislators in the final vote. Meanwhile, a source in Trajkovski's cabinet said on 8 October that the president has submitted an amnesty proposal to his government, dpa reported. Many Macedonians oppose the issuing of a blanket amnesty for ethnic Albanian rebels, though it is a part of the Ohrid peace agreement signed in August that ended fighting. Former rebel leader Ali Ahmeti said an amnesty is of "great importance." PB

EU PUTS PRESSURE ON MACEDONIA TO PASS PEACE PROVISIONS

The EU urged Macedonia to quickly adopt constitutional reforms designed to give broader rights to ethnic Albanians or face worsened relations and no financial aid from the union, Reuters reported. The EU's 15 foreign ministers appealed in a statement on 8 October for the Macedonian parliament "to approve, without delay, all the constitutional and legislative measures" of the peace plan as it was signed on 13 August in Ohrid. Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, said in Luxembourg the same day that "the process is going more slowly than we would like it to go. We hope very much that...in two weeks the whole process [of ratification] will be completed." The ministers warned that failure to implement the framework agreement would "compromise" relations between Macedonia and the EU. PB

DELAY IN POLICE DEPLOYMENT ANGERS MACEDONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER

Ljube Boskovski said on 6 October that the postponement of the redeployment of security forces to rebel-held areas of Macedonia was due to "crude blackmail" by the West, AFP reported. Boskovski, speaking on Macedonian radio, said President Trajkovski had called off the redeployment the previous day under pressure from U.S. envoy to Macedonia James Pardew. Boskovski said Pardew "demanded unacceptable conditions, but the head of state accepted them." The redeployment was conducted in six villages near Gostivar before being postponed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001). Ethnic Albanian leaders and Western officials have said an amnesty must first be granted to former ethnic Albanian rebels before Macedonian police move into rebel-held areas. PB

ALBANIANS WITH EXPLOSIVES ARRESTED IN SKOPJE

Macedonian police said they arrested two Albanian nationals in possession of explosives on 6 October in Skopje, AP reported. Police spokesman Viktor Sutarov said the two were questioned during a police patrol and detained after 200 grams of TNT were found in their car. PB

BOSNIAN CROAT PARTY RE-ELECTS LEADER...

The nationalist Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the main Bosnian Croat party, overwhelmingly re-elected leader Ante Jelavic despite international efforts to strip him of power and influence, Western news agencies reported on 6 October. The vote could signal the continuing influence of hard-liners within the HDZ. The national party congress also asked for equal status for all three main ethnic groups in Bosnia and equal weight to their entities within the state, AP reported. "The question of Croat inequality in Bosnia finally must be solved," Jelavic told delegates. Jelavic ran unopposed at the gathering, which took place in the southern Bosnian town of Mostar, and said he was ready to resume dialogue with the international community, agencies reported. AH

...SPARKING DISCOURAGING WORDS FROM WOULD-BE PARTNERS

The leader of the main party in the ruling moderate coalition, Zlatko Lagumdzia of the Social Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina, responded on 8 October to Jelavic's re-election by saying his party would not accept the HDZ chairman as a partner in discussions. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Wolfgang Petritsch, the international community's high representative in Bosnia, expressed disappointment with Jelavic's reappointment, saying it is "not a forward-looking exercise," according to Reuters. He added that the HDZ cannot return to dialogue with people who had been officially removed from office. Petritsch removed Jelavic from a three-member interethnic presidency in March for undermining Bosnia's constitutional order (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 6 March, and 24 April 2001). AH

BOSNIA DETAINS MAN WHO ALLEGEDLY SPOKE WITH 'SENIOR MILITARY AIDE' TO BIN LADEN

Authorities in Bosnia detained a man they say had at least one telephone conversation with a senior aide to accused terrorist Osama bin Laden, AP reported on 8 October. Interior Minister Muhamed Besic of the Muslim-Croat federation identified the man as Bensayah Belkacem, alias Mejd, and said telephone logs provided by foreign intelligence services indicate he had spoken with Abu Maid, a "senior military aide" to bin Laden, AP said. The two men discussed the procurement of foreign passports, Besic said, without elaborating on the source of the information. The minister told reporters the suspect had two sets of identification documents, identifying him either as Yemeni or Algerian. Balkacem was detained in Zenica, a former stronghold of radical Islamic fighters in the country's war of independence located 40 kilometers northwest of Sarajevo. AH

HAGUE COURT REJECTS BOSNIAN SERB LEADER'S PROVISIONAL RELEASE REQUEST

Judges at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague have denied a request for provisional release by ex-Bosnian Serb leader Momcilo Krajisnik, Reuters reported on 8 October. Krajisnik, who has been in UN detention since his arrest in April 2000, is facing charges including genocide and crimes against humanity for his role as a senior leader during the 1992-95 conflict in Bosnia. He has twice been denied temporary release. The tribunal has said it wants to begin his trial in February 2002, Reuters reported. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic, and Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle have all issued statements supporting Krajisnik's request for provisional release, the agency added. AH

UN TRIBUNAL CONFIRMS NEW CROATIA INDICTMENT AGAINST MILOSEVIC

The UN war crimes tribunal said on 9 October that it has confirmed a new indictment against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for forcibly removing non-Serb populations from Croatia in 1991-92, Reuters reported. The new indictment does not include the tribunal's gravest charge -- genocide -- but UN chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has said a forthcoming Bosnia indictment will charge the former strongman with that crime, the agency added. Prosecutors indicated in September that the Croatia indictment had been signed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2001), but now the agency reports that a judge has approved it and the full text has been released. AH

HUMAN RIGHTS CONFERENCE OPENS ON CROATIAN COAST

An international conference on human rights and democratization opened on 8 October in Dubrovnik under the auspices of the Croatian government, the UN's Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the European Commission, dpa reported. The event has drawn officials from 45 European states and eight former Soviet republics in Central Asia and the Caucasus, the agency added. The conference is aimed at establishing priorities in the UN's plans for advancing human rights on national and regional levels, dpa reported. AH

DALAI LAMA TO GO AHEAD WITH CROATIA VISIT

The Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama will go ahead with a scheduled visit to Croatia on 21 October despite initial security concerns following terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September, HINA reported on 7 October. The agency was quoting a Croatian official in charge of preparing for the visit. Reports on 5 October said the Dalai Lama had canceled a European tour, but Czech President Vaclav Havel reportedly persuaded him to rethink the decision. AH

IZETBEGOVIC VOWS TO STEP DOWN AS PARTY LEADER

A Sarajevo daily reported on 9 October that Alija Izetbegovic, the chairman of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Party of Democratic Action, plans to step down as leader at an upcoming party congress, local media reported. The move could create a power vacuum, according to "Sarajevo Oslobodjenje," which added that the most serious candidates to succeed the longtime leader are SDA Deputy Chairman Sulejman Tihic, Amor Masovic, and Adnan Terzic. A source quoted by the daily said Izetbegovic made the decision to step down recently due to his age. Izetbegovic will be 81 by the time his current term expires. AH

SERB LEADER SAYS REFUGEES' RETURN TO CROATIA HALTED BY POOR SECURITY

The chairman of the Independent Democratic Serb Party in Croatia, Vojislav Stanimirovic, warned on 9 October that the return of ethnic Serb refugees to Croatia has effectively stopped because of poor security, SRNA reported. He cited a lack of access to returnees' homes because they had been taken over by Croats and due to frequent mine explosions in certain areas that appear to be directed against the original owners. Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic, who was taking part in the same television program, said his country's leadership is doing what it can to secure the return of Serb property. However, Granic criticized representatives of the Serb community in Croatia for "asking the international community to solve their problems," SRNA reported. AH

SERBS MARK ANNIVERSARY OF MILOSEVIC OUSTER WITH WARNINGS FOR NEW GOVERNMENT

Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Yugoslav parliament on 5 October, one year after protests led to the downfall of President Slobodan Milosevic, to celebrate but also warn the new government that their patience with the slow pace of reforms is wearing thin, AP and Reuters reported. A group from the town of Cacak, which played a key role in the protests by driving bulldozers and tractors in the streets, came with a truck carrying a bulldozer and a sign reading: "We've seen enough of you!" "We came to celebrate," said Cacak Mayor Velimir Ilic. "But we also came to give the new authorities a warning." DW

AGREEMENT NEAR IN SERB MINERS' STRIKE?

Negotiations were due to resume at the Kolubara mine where miners have been on strike since 3 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2001), Radio B92 reported on 9 October. Serbian Energy Minister Goran Novakovic said that the sides came "very close" to breaking the deadlock during five hours of talks the night before, and he was optimistic of reaching an agreement by midday. Trade union leader Zdravko Vucetic said that miners are demanding a 17 percent pay raise, 2 percent higher than the government's latest offer. "This is not blackmail," he said, "this a request for work to be paid for." Miners at Kostolac, who had joined the strike initiated at Kolubara, returned to work on 8 October after their demands were met. DW

PRO-INDEPENDENCE MONTENEGRIN PARTIES UNABLE TO AGREE ON REFERENDUM

President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) failed at a working group session on 8 October to reach agreement with the Liberal Alliance on the question to be put forward in a referendum on independence from Yugoslavia, SRNA reported the same day. The parties also failed to agree on the majority needed for such a referendum to be valid, though they did agree on allowing only citizens of Montenegro to vote, not all nationals. Liberal Alliance leader Miodrag Zivkovic said his party will withdraw its support of the Victory for Montenegro coalition led by the DPS if the working group does not support his party's demands. DW

ALBANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY RE-ELECTS ITS CHAIRMAN

The Legality Movement Party (PLL) re-elected its chairman, Ekrem Spahia, giving him 176 of 273 votes against two opposing candidates, ATA reported on 8 October. PLL delegates left open for discussion the issue of party deputies' participation in parliament, but the party was expected to continue to support the position of its Our Union for Victory coalition partners. The Our Union for Victory coalition claims general elections have been manipulated and has called for a legislative boycott (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2001). AH

ALBANIA PROCLAIMS SUPPORT FOR U.S.-LED STRIKES IN AFGHANISTAN

The government of this predominantly Muslim country has expressed its support for the U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan, dpa reported on 8 October, following news of airstrikes the previous day. Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta called the action the best way to restore peace and justice, adding that the attacks will "soon yield results to the benefit of the whole [of] mankind and the Afghan people themselves," dpa reported. He also stressed his country's place within the "U.S.-led world coalition in the struggle against terrorism," the agency said. AH

U.S. PLANES OVERFLY ROMANIAN AIRSPACE

President Ion Iliescu on 8 October told journalists that U.S. transport and refueling aircraft overflew Romanian airspace on their way "to Afghanistan and other places in the Middle East," RFE/RL' s Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu made the announcement following a meeting of the Supreme Council on National Security, which was called after the beginning of the strikes in Afghanistan. The council said Romania's decision to "act as a de facto member of NATO is firm" and that it supports "without reservations" the U.S. and NATO actions against international terrorism. Foreign Minister Mircea Genoa said the same day that the United States has yet to request Romania's direct involvement in military actions. The interministerial committee set up to coordinate activity in connection with the current situation met on 7 October and said forces have been placed on alert. Security was also enhanced around the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest. MS

ROMANIA INVESTIGATING SUSPECTS FOR LINKS TO TERRORIST STRIKES

Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) Director Radu Timofte said on 5 October that Romania is investigating several foreigners suspected of involvement in the preparation of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Timofte said that Romania has been notified about the suspicion by foreign intelligence services and that "the investigation is continuing." He refused to give other details, but said that the SRI has recommended to the Interior Ministry the expulsion of several "persons suspected of links with terrorist organizations." MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES 2002 DRAFT BUDGET

The cabinet on 8 October approved the draft budget for 2002 and said it will submit the draft to the parliament on 10 October, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The budget projects a 5 percent growth rate, an annual inflation rate of 22 percent, a deficit of 3 percent of GDP, and an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent. MS

CONFLICT BETWEEN BUCHAREST AND CHISINAU SHOWS NO SIGN OF LETTING OFF...

Presidential adviser Victor Doras on 7 October said that President Vladimir Voronin and Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev will "offer explanations" for the speech delivered in Strasbourg by Justice Minister Ion Morei "only if and when an official request to do so arrives" from Bucharest, Mediafax reported. Voronin was apparently responding to a statement by Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase, who said on 5 October that the Moldovan Justice Minister's speech at the European Court of Human Rights was "an exemplification of duplicity" characteristic of Chisinau-government policies toward Romania. Nastase said that "as long as a clear reaction [to the speech] is not issued" by the government in Chisinau, relations will remain "at their present state of being reexamined." Nastase offered one more example of "duplicity policies": in the discussions on the pending basic treaty, he said, Moldova is demanding that the document be written in the two countries' respective languages, that is to say Romanian and "Moldovan." On 6 October, Voronin demanded that Moldovan state radio and television stop referring to the language in which they broadcast as "Romanian." MS

...WHILE VORONIN WRITES TO STRASBOURG COURT

The presidential office in Chisinau on 7 October released the text of a letter sent by Voronin to the court on 21 September, in which he wrote that the conflict between the Moldovan Metropolitan Church and the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church is "a political, not a religious conflict," and that "the fate of the church in Moldova has been decided in Bucharest, without any prior consultation with Moldovan officials or church leaders." MS

MOLDOVA READY TO RENDER ASSISTANCE TO ANTITERRORIST COALITION

The Moldovan Supreme Security Council chaired by President Voronin on 6 October issued a declaration saying it is prepared to render "whatever assistance is necessary" to the coalition of states fighting international terrorism, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The council said Moldova is willing to allow overflights of its territory and fueling at Moldovan airports. It also said Moldova will be conducting a firm, consistent policy to curb international terrorism, and will establish relations of cooperation with the coalition states. MS

RUSSIAN PREMIER REACHES AGREEMENT IN MOLDOVA ON GAS DELIVERY PRICES

Visiting Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov on 6 October told journalists in Chisinau that he has reached in principle an understanding with his Moldovan counterpart Tarlev on prices for Russian gas deliveries in 2002, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement is to be officially concluded by an intergovernmental commission by 1 December. Moldova is to pay $60 up front for every 1,000 cubic meters and an additional $20 in installments to be paid over the next three years. Kasyanov said he has agreed that Moldova should liquidate its $800 million debt on gas deliveries over a period of 10 years. MS

MAJOR RIFT IN MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION PARTY

A group in the leadership of the Party of Revival and Reconciliation (PRAM) headed by former PRAM Deputy Chairman Nicolae Andronic has left the party and joined the joined the Democratic Party headed by Dumitru Diacov, Infotag reported on 8 October. Andronic accused PRAM Chairman and former President Mircea Snegur of resisting reforming the party and "seeking to remain its eternal leader." Snegur rejected the accusations. Also on 8 October, a new political party calling itself the Alliance for Independent Moldova was formed in Chisinau and elected Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urechean as its leader. The party was set up by mayors and municipal councilors and says it opposes the government's intentions to revise the current local administrative division and conduct early local elections. MS

BULGARIA READY TO ASSIST ANTITERROR FIGHT

In a statement released on 6 October, before the U.S. air strikes against terrorists in Afghanistan were launched, the government in Sofia said it was "ready to participate in the implementation of corresponding measures included in [NATO's 4 October] decision, whenever necessary and according to national capability and current legal stipulations," Reuters reported. MS

BULGARIA ARRESTS MAN WITH SUB-MACHINEGUN AT SUMMIT

Bulgarian Interior Ministry sources on 6 October said a man carrying a sub-machinegun was arrested one day earlier and that he had posed a threat to the lives of some presidents attending the NATO candidate countries' summit that day, Reuters reported (see RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001). The man put up a struggle and an Interior Ministry sergeant suffered a hand injury. No details were given, apart from the fact that the man had a Scorpion sub-machine gun, 40 bullets, and a silencer. "The lives of four presidents participating in the summit were threatened," Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Boiko Borisov said on Bulgarian radio. MS

BULGARIA CHOSEN OVER BELARUS TO SECURITY COUNCIL SEAT

Bulgaria has been elected to a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council, receiving almost twice as many votes as Belarus, an RFE/RL correspondent in New York reported on 8 October. Bulgaria received 120 votes in the ballot, while Belarus, which contested the same Eastern European region-representing seat, received 52 votes. Bulgaria will succeed Ukraine at the beginning of next year. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR NATIONAL CONSENSUS AHEAD OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski on 6 October urged the country's politicians to overlook narrow party interests and focus on national interests, AP and Reuters reported. Saxecoburggotski said his National Movement Simeon II has decided to back incumbent President Petar Stoyanov in the 11 November presidential elections "for the good of the country's unity." He said the decision amounts to an appeal to the opposition United Democratic Forces and "all other democratic forces" to prove, in turn, that they are ready to sacrifice party and personal interests for the sake of promoting national interests. Speaking on Bulgarian television, Saxecoburggotski said Stoyanov is helping to unite the nation and promotes the goal of Euro-Atlantic integration, and that the president shares with the cabinet the goal of fighting corruption and poverty. MS




SHEVARDNADZE NAVIGATES SHIFTING SANDS


By Richard Giragosian

On 5 October, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze ended a four-day official visit to the U.S. that received little media attention amid the daily developments in the U.S. effort to forge a new international coalition to wage a multifaceted campaign against terrorism. Meeting with President George W. Bush in the White House, Shevardnadze must have sensed a profound change in Washington since his last visit there in July 1997. He was challenged to reestablish Georgia's place on Washington's foreign policy agenda, no easy task given the geopolitical shift in the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks. These "shifting sands" of geopolitical priorities have virtually marginalized Georgia and have abruptly reduced U.S.-Georgian relations to the shadows of Washington's newly blossoming partnership with Moscow.

The Georgian president must also be aware of the ironic contrast of having visited the previous Bush White House as then-Soviet foreign minister, when he was treated with the respect due the representative of a superpower. That visit cemented a close personal relationship with then-President George Bush and former Secretary of States James Baker. The contrast with his most recent visit to Washington as the president of a troubled and struggling Georgia is only matched by the contrast of the sudden downgrading of his country's strategic place in U.S. foreign policy. But in many ways, the Shevardnadze of the Soviet period was facing the same difficulties as the Shevardnadze of today -- as a senior leader struggling to maintain control in the face of a weakening and fragmenting state.

While much of the analysis of the new Russian role in the U.S.-led war on terrorism has been focused on the situation in Chechnya, the implications for Georgia are just as pronounced. Seeing an opportunity to use the antiterrorism campaign as a convenient justification, Moscow may suspend the withdrawal of its military forces from its remaining bases in Georgia, despite the agreements concluded in November 1999. Russian frustration with Georgian reluctance or inability to take action against Chechen fighters operating from bases on Georgian territory will also most likely be overcome by an intensification of pressure on Tbilisi to accede to a greater Russian presence.

While in the United States, President Shevardnadze seemed to accept that there is little he can do to change this new reality. In a weak counter to his country's increasing geopolitical isolation, he was forced to limit his agenda to a proposal for a United Nations global summit on terrorism. The Georgian leader was able, however, to remind Washington that his country still holds some strategic assets that cannot be obscured by these shifting sands. Specifically, the strategic value of Georgia as a transit state, demonstrated by the recent agreement on natural gas transport with Azerbaijan, remains firm. The key test is whether Georgia, which is increasingly showing symptoms of regressing to the status of a "rogue state," can nonetheless function effectively in the long term as a transit state.

An important longer-term goal for Georgia is securing U.S. support for its desire to join NATO. Full membership in NATO, in contrast to Georgia's currently limited participation in the alliance's Partnership for Peace program, offers an effective means to counter Russian pressure and strengthen its management of internal conflicts. The security of NATO membership also holds promise for reversing the decade-long deterioration in nation-building and central authority. Georgia's candidacy is enhanced by its ongoing military modernization and reform effort, aimed at meeting NATO military standards. But the most serious obstacle to NATO membership is external, as Georgia would have to overcome a Russian preference for maintaining its bases in Georgia. And this is where U.S. support would be crucial.

One major challenge now facing Shevardnadze that even Washington can do little to help is corruption. The shadow economy is officially estimated to account for 30 percent of GDP, but some observers believe the true figure is closer to 70 percent. The ramifications of Georgian corruption are more than just economic, having contributed to significant political and social tension. The resignation last month of Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili to protest the government's lack of commitment to cracking down on corruption is only the latest sign of its politically destabilizing effects. More broadly, such endemic corruption has also contributed to the weakening of state power and authority.

In addition, corruption remains the catalyst for the political changes under way in Georgia. The president's main rivals and opponents have utilized the corruption issue to subtly force Shevardnadze into political retreat. His inability, or even unwillingness, to aggressively combat corruption has led to a marked loss in support from Shevardnadze's one-time personal power base, the dominant parliamentary Union of Georgian Citizens bloc, which in turn may have been the catalyst for Shevardnadze's recent resignation as its chairman.

Unlike in neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgia will be open to a new leader in the next presidential election, as Shevardnadze has made it clear that he will not seek to amend the Georgian Constitution to enable himself to run for a third term.

Instead, he must now give serious thought to his own political legacy. But it remains to be seen what kind of Georgian state he will be able to bequeath his successor. And insofar as that question holds repercussions for all states in the region, it will once again return Georgia to the U.S. foreign policy agenda, even if too late to benefit Shevardnadze.

Richard Giragosian is a Washington-based regional analyst and publisher of the monthly newsletter "TransCaucasus: A Chronology." (giragosi@email.msn.com)


XS
SM
MD
LG