Accessibility links

Newsline - October 10, 2001




RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS MOSCOW FULLY BACKS U.S. EFFORTS IN AFGHANISTAN

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on 9 October told his visiting British counterpart Geoff Hoon that Moscow fully backs the U.S. strikes in Afghanistan, will not deploy its own forces on the ground, and believes that it would be a mistake to install the Northern Alliance as the government of the entire country, Russian and Western agencies reported. (Despite Ivanov's statement about no Russian troops in Afghanistan, TV-6 reported the previous day that there are "hundreds" of Russian military advisers now working in country with the Northern Alliance.) Ivanov added that the struggle against terrorism will require more than force. He welcomed the antiterrorist coalition that has come into existence in recent weeks. Hoon for his part responded that he does not see any reason why Russia might not eventually qualify for membership in NATO. Meanwhile, however, Marshal Igor Sergeev, a security adviser to President Putin, said on 9 October that the U.S. strikes in Afghanistan must avoid hitting civilians, Russian and Western agencies reported. "If innocent people suffer, then the terrorists will gather still more support," he said. PG/VY

RUSSIANS AT ALL LEVELS DIVIDED ON THE CAMPAIGN

As the Duma prepared for a full-scale debate on 10 October concerning the antiterrorist effort, most politicians restated the positions they took earlier, ranging from deep pessimism to a belief that the war will allow Russia to gain support for its actions in Chechnya. The media took an increasingly long-term view on 9 October, with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" suggesting that the antiterrorist coalition is so diverse that it may soon break down, while other papers including "Izvestiya," "Kommersant-Daily," and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" warned that the conflict may spread into Central Asia or even make Russia itself into a target. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov in "Trud," and longtime political observer Fedor Burlatskii in "Parlamentskaya gazeta" warned against allowing the struggle against terrorism to become a "war of civilizations" between the West and Islam. A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church on 9 October called on the U.S. to minimize the risk its attacks have for civilians in Afghanistan, while a Novosibirsk mullah sharply criticized American operations against that country, Interfax reported. A poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax the same day found that 42.4 percent of Muscovites support U.S. actions in Afghanistan while 49.4 percent oppose them. PG

RUSHAILO SAYS MOSCOW MAY PLAY LARGER ROLE IN ANTITERRORIST COALITION

Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo said on 9 October that Moscow may play a larger role in the antiterrorist coalition in the future depending on "the degree and quality of understanding" it receives from other countries, RIA-Novosti reported. One form that might take is the formation of a "global antiterrorist front," while another could be the formation of a single antiterrorist system of Russia and the countries of Central Asia, he said. Speaking at an emergency session of the CIS Security Council secretaries in Dushanbe, Rushailo said that any new form of participation should be "codified" in special accords with the United States and should be limited in time to the life of the antiterrorist coalition. Meanwhile, Duma deputy speaker Lyubov Sliska (Unity) told the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Ottawa on 9 October that new international legislation is needed to fight terrorism effectively, ITAR-TASS reported. VY/PG

RUSSIA TAKING ADDITIONAL SECURITY PRECAUTIONS AT IRANIAN REACTOR SITE

Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev told ITAR-TASS on 9 October that the 1,000 Russian workers at the nuclear power plant construction site at Bushehr in Iran are taking extra security precautions in connection with the U.S. actions in Afghanistan, but he stressed that there are no plans to stop the construction at present. "We will have to recall the specialists and ask Iran to delay the contract only if the hostilities broaden and endanger human lives," Rumyantsev said. PG

FORMER RUSSIAN COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN WARNS AGAINST GROUND OPERATIONS

General Valentin Varennikov, who served as Soviet Ground Forces Commander and chief Soviet military adviser in Afghanistan, said on 8 October that the United States must be very cautious in becoming involved in on-the-ground operations in Afghanistan, pravda.ru reported. He said that the U.S. can more readily achieve "a sort of victory" by starving the Taliban financially and politically. By depriving them of weapons and ammunition, Varennikov said, Washington will be able to force the Taliban to make concessions, but the U.S. should not expect to achieve more than that. VY

PAVLOVSKII SAYS SOCIAL GROUPS MUST ABSTAIN FROM PROTESTS IN FACE OF TERRORIST THREAT

In a wide-ranging press conference in Moscow on 9 October, Kremlin media adviser and head of the Fund for Effective Policy Gleb Pavlovskii said that Russian society and the Russian state must consolidate to confront the changed conditions in the world following the 11 September terrorist attacks on the U.S., and that social groups must refrain from engaging in the kind of protest actions they have used in the past, Interfax reported. He also suggested that the antiterrorist coalition will lead to the formation of new alliances internationally. PG

PUTIN CALLS FOR END OF SPECULATIONS ON LAND ISSUE

President Putin told a 9 October meeting in Orenburg of the presidium of the State Council that Russia must improve its agricultural sector by encouraging more investment and better management of land use, Russian agencies reported. He also said that the state needs to combat the shadow economy in agriculture because thefts are making it difficult to build a state grain reserve even at a time of bumper crops. At the same time, he called for an end to "speculations" about the Duma-approved Land Code, which he pointed out "does not have any effect on agricultural land." He said the best solution of the land question would be to allow normal market relations but that Russia is not ready for the buying and selling of agricultural land. He suggested that officials should consider certain zoning regulations that might allow the transfer of title without giving owners the right to do whatever they wanted with land. PG/VY

'BETWEEN THE HEAVENS AND US' IS ONLY PUTIN

In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 9 October, Aleksei Levinson, a sociologist at the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), said that President Putin so overshadows all other political and social figures in Russia now that there are almost no individuals who could serve as leaders of an independent civil society. This is a remarkable shift, Levinson said, from conditions in 1999 when numerous leaders enjoyed significant rates of identification and trust and thus could serve as catalysts for the promotion of civil society institutions. PG

FATHERLAND HAS NO PLANS TO FORM PARTY ON ITS OWN

Vyacheslav Volodin, the leader of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) faction in the Duma and a member of the general council of Unity and Fatherland, on 9 October said that the Fatherland group will not transform itself into a party on its own but rather join with Unity in forming a single party later this year, Interfax-Moscow reported. He said that there is no need for the group to waste money forming a party because Fatherland and Unity are now so close together in their positions on all issues. PG

MOSCOW WELCOMES IMPROVING RUSSIA-U.S. TIES

The Foreign Ministry on 8 October issued a statement welcoming improved ties between Russia and the United States, Interfax reported. The ministry said "it would like to hope that the new level of partnership will be transformed into a closer and more effective relationship of the two countries on a wide circle of important issues." The next day, Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov said that Moscow is preparing for the gradual creation of new frameworks for strategic partnership with the United States, Russian agencies reported. PG

BORODIN AGAIN REMAINS SILENT UNDER QUESTIONING

Former Kremlin property manager and Russia-Belarus Union State Secretary Pavel Borodin on 9 September was again subjected to questioning by a Swiss court in Geneva. As has been the case during his earlier appearances in that court, he refused to answer any of what his aides described as "useless questions." PG

GORBACHEV NAMED TO HEAD RUSSIAN-GERMAN DIALOGUE

President Putin on 9 October named former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to serve as the Russian co-chairman of the Petersburg Dialogue between Russia and Germany, ITAR-TASS reported. Gorbachev said that he has "already received powers" to lead the group. PG

YASTRZHEMBSKII DISMISSES CHECHEN PRESIDENT'S INTERVIEW...

Presidential assistant Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 9 October said that statements by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov published this week in "Kommersant-Vlast" change nothing, Interfax reported. Yastrzhembskii said that the only thing subject to discussion between Russian officials and Chechen separatists are the terms of the voluntary surrender of arms by the latter. Yastrzhembskii added that there have not been any recent contacts between Russian officials and Maskhadov's people. He dismissed Maskhadov's suggestion that he could play a positive role in reining in more extreme militants. PG

...AS RUSSIANS REMAIN DIVIDED ON CHECHEN FIGHTING

Some 46.5 percent of Russians now support Moscow's approach in Chechnya while 41.1 percent oppose the continuation of the war in its current form, according to a ROMIR-Gallup International poll reported by Interfax on 9 October. The poll showed a shift over the last three months toward more support for continuing the fighting, which analysts at the polling agency suggested reflect the impact of the events of 11 September. PG

MOSCOW PRESSES KYIV TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR DOWNING PLANE

Aviation Marshal Yevgenii Shaposhnikov, the head of the Russian-Ukrainian commission investigating the 4 October crash of a Tu-154 in the Black Sea, said on 9 October that his group has found evidence that the plane was downed by an S-200 missile launched by the Ukrainian military, RTR television reported. Meanwhile, RIA-Novosti reported the same day that Moscow officials hope that Kyiv will "make the difficult but only correct decision and accept responsibility for the downing of the plane." VY

FAR EAST MILITARY DISTRICT ORGANIZES TWO FIRE-FIGHTING UNITS

In response to the spread of wildfires in the Far East, the military district there has organized two fire-fighting operational groups to assist local officials in combating them, Interfax-Eurasia reported. These units, under the command of senior officers, will go into action alongside the more than 500 soldiers already in the field fighting fires. PG

MOSCOW PREPARED TO INCREASE OIL EXPORTS TO KEEP PRICES STABLE

Energy Minister Igor Yusufov said on 9 October that should there be shortfalls, Russia is prepared to increase its export of oil in order to keep international oil prices stable, Interfax-AFI reported. Yusufov said that such shortfalls could occur as a result of attacks on Afghanistan or other parts of the international antiterrorist campaign. PG

HARD-CURRENCY DEPOSITS INCREASE MORE RAPIDLY THAN RUBLE ONES

Individual bank accounts in hard currency increased 33.8 percent during the first seven months of 2001, while accounts in rubles increased only 22.7 percent, Interfax-AFI reported on 7 October. PG

ORT MOST POPULAR STATION IN MOSCOW, TV-6 IN SECOND PLACE

According to a survey conducted by Gallup-Media for the period 1-7 October and reported by Interfax on 9 September, 21.7 percent of viewers in the Russian capital watched ORT while 17.1 percent viewed TV-6. RTR, NTV, and TV Center trailed with 15 percent, 14.7 percent, and 6.4 percent respectively. Also on that date, "The Moscow Times" carried an article by Aleksei Pankin, the editor of the media magazine "Sreda," decrying the lack of domestic and Western anger about recent moves against TV-6 even though they had the same intent as the earlier Gazprom-Media takeover of NTV. "On this occasion," Pankin said, "I did not hear so much as a peep in support of the journalists from the United States, the Council of Europe, or from our own home-grown champions of glasnost and freedom of speech." PG

PRINT MEDIA ASK PUTIN TO CONTINUE TAX EXEMPTION

The editors in chief of Russia's leading newspapers and magazines have sent a letter to President Putin calling on him to avert the collapse of the Russian media that would occur if the media loses its concessions on VAT, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 October. (The same day, Deputy Media Minister Vladimir Grigorev said that the removal of these tax benefits could lead to a decline in publishing after 1 January 2002 of up to 40 percent, Interfax reported.) The editors said that such a collapse would represent a threat to Russia's emerging civil society. PG

SALVATION ARMY TO APPEAL DENIAL OF REGISTRATION

The Moscow office of the Salvation Army told Interfax on 9 October that it intends to appeal the decision of a Moscow court denying it registration and hence the right to operate in the Russian capital. PG

MOSCOW HELSINKI GROUP RELEASES HUMAN RIGHTS SURVEY

On 9 October, Ludmila Alekseeva, the president of the Moscow Helsinki Group, announced the release of the third annual survey of human rights conditions in the regions and republics of the Russian Federation, Interfax reported. For the first time, the study, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development, covers all 89 subjects of the federation. Alekseeva told RFE/RL that the process of collecting data for the project has helped to create a countrywide network of human rights activists, and that this network is now in a position to put more pressure on the authorities to correct human rights abuses. PG

MOSCOW TO SPEND $1 PER HEAD IN 2002 CENSUS

Vladimir Sokolin, the head of the State Statistics Committee, announced on 9 October that the census scheduled for 9-16 October 2002 will receive an additional 900 million rubles ($31 million) from the budget, Interfax reported. He said Russia will spend a total of $1 for each person enumerated compared to the $15 per person that the British spent on their last census and the $32 that the U.S. spent. PG

'KURSK' MAY FINALLY YIELD ITS SECRETS

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said on 9 October that officials have determined that the cause of the "Kursk" accident was a torpedo explosion, but he added that "so far we cannot understand why the torpedo exploded," Russian and Western agencies reported. He said that engineers and scientists will examine the "Kursk" once it reaches land, and he reiterated that there is no risk of radiation during this operation. The "Kursk" is still being towed from where it sank to Roslyakovo on the Kola Peninsula, a last journey scheduled to take four days in all. Meanwhile, a poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax the same day showed that 66.1 percent of Muscovites back the raising of the submarine. VY/PG

THREE OF FOUR CRIMES NOW BEING SOLVED

Russian police solved 72 percent of the 2,270,492 crimes committed during the first three quarters of 2001, Interfax reported on 9 October. PG

TWO-THIRDS OF FAKE MEDICINES BEING SOLD IN RUSSIA ARE OF DOMESTIC MANUFACTURE

Deputy Health Minister Anton Katlinskii said on 9 October that 67 percent of fake medicines being sold in Russia are manufactured inside the country, with 2 percent coming from the other CIS countries, and 31 percent from other foreign states, Interfax reported. He said that the Health Ministry has formed an interagency committee to combat the problem of fake and often dangerous medications. PG

3,400 FAMILIES IN MOSCOW HAVE BEEN ON WAITING LIST FOR HOUSING SINCE 1983

Nikolai Fedoseev, the chief of the Moscow city housing policy administration, said on 9 October that 190,462 families in the Russian capital are on waiting lists for housing, Interfax-Moscow reported. Fedoseev added that 3,400 of these families have been on a waiting list since 1983. PG

MORE TATAR OFFICIALS CRITICIZE U.S. AIRSTRIKES

In an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 9 October, Mukhammat Sabirov concluded that the "Texas cowboy didn't have enough wisdom" to refrain from U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan, referring to U.S. President George W. Bush (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2001). He added that the "U.S. will flex its muscles, but quite possibly it will have to pay for this war adventure. No matter how precise the weapons are, civilian losses are inevitable, and this will cause a storm of fury among Muslim people, thus beginning a conflict on a global scale." The previous day, Rashit Yagafarov, leader of the Kazan branch of the moderate nationalist group Tatar Public Center, told reporters that he considers the current U.S. military action in Afghanistan "an assault on the Muslim people of that country, which can be interpreted by Muslims in our republic as an assault on them," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. JAC

RYAZAN JOURNALIST SUBJECT OF ATTEMPTED MURDER

Unknown assailants attempted to kill the chief editor of the "Novaya gazeta" Ryazan bureau, Aleksei Frolov, together with his family, on 2 October, "Novaya gazeta" reported on 8 October. According to weekly, unknown assassins sprayed poisonous gas into the keyhole of the front door of Frolov's apartment. However, Frolov, his pregnant wife, his mother, and friends who were visiting managed to escape before being completely overcome by the fumes. According to the weekly, the motive for the attack is not yet known, but "the Ryazan edition of 'Novaya gazeta' is one of the most uncompromising publications in the region." The weekly also noted that the attack on Frolov differed from the usual pattern of attacks on journalists because it occurred inside rather than outside his home. JAC

FAR NORTH ELECTION FAILS DUE TO LACK OF INTEREST

As expected, by-elections held in Arkhangelsk on 7 October for a State Duma seat were declared invalid because of insufficient voter turnout, Interfax Northwest reported on 8 October. Earlier, election officials told RFE/RL that they feared the election would fail to attract the necessary 25 percent of registered voters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001), and turnout totaled only 22.14 percent. Tatiana Rumyantseva, the deputy head of the Arkhangelsk Oblast administration, attracted the largest share of votes -- some 50.86 percent compared with 11.96 percent for the category "against all candidates," the second most popular selection. According to the agency, the next election will not be held for another two years. JAC

ELECTRICITY MONOPOLY, GOVERNOR HEAD FOR SHOWDOWN IN NIZHNII

Around 500,000 people, as well as dozens of schools and hospitals, are without heat in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, despite the official beginning of the heating season two weeks ago, RFE/RL's Nizhnii Novgorod correspondent reported on 9 October. According to instructions from the leadership of Unified Energy Systems (EES), heating will not be supplied until after a special order is given. Meanwhile, temperatures outside are approaching zero degrees Celsius and dip even lower at night. In the morning there is ice on the sidewalks. EES is demanding the payment of all debts owed to it; however, Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Gennadii Khodyrev has declared that he is ready to introduce a state of emergency in the oblast and have the heat turned on with the help of military and police officials. Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Yurii Lebedev has appealed to the local prosecutor to initiate criminal proceedings against the electricity provider. JAC




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT REFUSES TO STRIP ABSENT DEPUTY OF MANDATE

In a secret ballot on 10 October, only 36 of the 131 deputies voted in favor of depriving former Interior Minister and Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradeghian of his deputy mandate, Noyan Tapan reported. Twenty voted against doing so, 14 abstained, and a further 22 did not participate in the ballot. Siradeghian fled Armenia in April 2000 after deputies voted to strip him of his parliamentary immunity to allow him to be taken into custody for the duration of his trial on charges of having commissioned several political murders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 2000). His present whereabouts are unknown. LF

KARABAKH LEADERSHIP CALLS FOR DIRECT TALKS WITH AZERBAIJAN

Meeting in Stepanakert on 8 October with a group of visiting Azerbaijani journalists, Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, called on the leadership of Azerbaijan to hold direct talks with the Karabakh leadership on resolving the conflict, Turan reported. To date, Baku has consistently rejected such talks, claiming that the conflict is between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Asked if he would be prepared to travel to Baku for such talks, Ghukasian said that "could be possible." But he added that the OSCE Minsk Group should continue its efforts to mediate a solution to the conflict, according to Noyan Tapan. Ghukasian also flatly rejected Azerbaijani media reports that the Karabakh leadership is engaged in drug trafficking. LF

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE TELEPHONES AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT

Colin Powell on 9 October telephoned Azerbaijan's president, Heidar Aliev, to discuss the international situation in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States, Turan reported. Powell thanked Aliyev for his expressions of solidarity and support for the U.S.-led campaign against international terrorism. Unlike neighboring Armenia and Georgia, Azerbaijan has not offered the use of its airspace for that purpose. LF

AZERBAIJANI OIL OFFICIAL SAYS TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINE WILL NOT BE BUILT

Natik Aliev, the president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, had told a Baku newspaper that the proposed Trans-Caspian pipeline to export gas from Turkmenistan via the South Caucasus will not be built, according to Interfax on 8 October. Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, and Turkey signed a letter of intent on that project in Istanbul in November 1999, but Azerbaijan subsequently pegged its consent to implement the project to Ashgabat's willingness to place half the planned pipeline's throughput capacity at its disposal to export gas from Azerbaijan's offshore Shah Deniz field. Turkmenistan rejected that condition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 1999 and 6 March 2000). LF

AZERBAIJANI CONGRESS ENDS IN MOSCOW

Some 300 delegates from various Russian cities attended the first congress of Azerbaijanis resident in the Russian Federation, which took place in Moscow on 4-5 October, Caucasus Press and Turan reported. The congress was intended to prepare for the first world congress of Azerbaijanis, which is to take place in Baku on 9-10 November 2001. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev both sent telegrams of greetings to the participants. Azerbaijani businessman Fizuli Mamedov, aka Frank Alcapone, who had planned to convene an alternative world congress of Azerbaijanis in Moscow, was arrested in that city earlier this summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2001) and remains in Russian custody. LF

GEORGIAN OFFICIALS CONDEMN BOMBING OF KODORI...

The Georgian Foreign Minister on 9 October issued a statement characterizing the bombing of the Georgian villages of Lata, Chkhalta, Omarishari, and Sakeni in the upper reaches of the Kodori gorge early that day as an encroachment on Georgia's sovereignty and a "large-scale provocation" staged by unidentified forces wishing to prevent a peaceful solution of the Abkhaz conflict. Georgian border guards said the bombing raid, which took place between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. local time, and which did not cause any casualties, was carried out by planes and helicopters without identification markings that entered Georgian airspace from Russia and left in the same direction, Prime News and Interfax reported. Deputy Border Guard Commander Lieutenant General David Gulua said that this suggests that the planes were Russian, as "it is unlikely that planes of some other state could have appeared in Georgia's airspace from Russia." President Eduard Shevardnadze said that while Georgia had overlooked the 1999 bombing by Russian helicopters of the Georgian village of Shatili (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November and 22 December 1999), this time its response will be "severe." Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze said any aircraft that violates Georgian airspace will be shot down. He said that the Abkhaz armed forces have several planes of the type used in the bombing, implying that they may have been responsible, ITAR-TASS reported. "Forest Brothers" Georgian guerrilla formation leader David Shengelaia accused Russia outright of being behind the bombing raid, Prime News reported. LF

...FOR WHICH RUSSIA DENIES RESPONSIBILITY

Colonel Aleksandr Drobyshevskii, chief of the Russian air force's press service, categorically denied on 9 October that Russian aircraft were responsible for the bombing of the Kodori gorge, Prime News and Interfax reported. "Air force planes have not flown sorties to the area where the bombing was carried out," he said. LF

ABKHAZ VILLAGES ALSO BOMBED

At least one, and possibly as many as five, people were killed when aircraft bombed several villages in Abkhazia's Gulripsh raion on 9 October, Interfax reported. Abkhaz Security Minister Raul Khazhimba and Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba both blamed Georgia for the bombing, which they said was undertaken to provide support for the band of Chechen fighters and Georgian guerrillas currently on Abkhaz territory. Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili dismissed the Abkhaz accusations as "a provocation," and said it can be documented that no aircraft belonging to the Georgian armed forces undertook any flights at the time of the bombing raids, Interfax reported. LF

CONTRADICTORY REPORTS OF MILITARY SITUATION IN ABKHAZIA

Abkhaz official and Georgian guerrilla leader Shengelaia have offered contradictory reports of the military situation in Abkhazia. Shengelaia on 9 October claimed that the Georgian/North Caucasus force has advanced westward down the Kodori gorge and occupied the village of Machara, six kilometers from Sukhum. He added that the Georgian guerrillas' ranks have swelled to the point that they are now capable of taking the Abkhaz capital, but at the same time he criticized the Georgian leadership for failing to support the guerrilla movement. On 10 October, however, Foreign Minister Shamba and Abkhaz Deputy Defense Minister Harri Kupalba said that a group of between 200-500 Chechen and Georgian fighters has been surrounded near the Sugar Loaf mountain in the Kodori gorge, 45 kilometers from Sukhum, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Kupalba said that the intruders have lost 10 men killed in fighting with Abkhaz troops, and that they were given an ultimatum to surrender by midday local time on 10 October. LF

ABKHAZIA CAUTIOUS OVER REQUESTING RUSSIAN HELP

Foreign Minister Shamba told Interfax on 9 October that he does not exclude the possibility of asking Russia for military assistance to repel the Georgian/Chechen fighters, but that no such request has yet been made. He said Cossacks and the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus "have offered to send volunteers to combat the 'terrorists.'" But he added, "We have turned down these proposals as we realize that this would be a step toward drawing Russia into military activities in Abkhazia." The Abkhaz parliament did, however, issue an appeal on 9 October to the Russian State Duma "to demand that Georgia comply with its commitments to avoid violence and to return to [the search for] a political settlement" of the conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS CRITICIZE GEORGIAN POLICY...

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in Moscow on 9 October "it is becoming obvious that either the Georgian leaders do not control the situation on their own territory or they manipulate the terrorists in order to further their own aims," ITAR-TASS reported. Konstantin Kosachev, deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma International Affairs Committee, commented to ITAR-TASS that "it seems beneficial to someone in Tbilisi to reanimate the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict." He added that "an international scandal will start" if incontrovertible evidence emerges that the Georgians facilitated the transport of the Chechen fighters across Georgia to the Kodori gorge. Meanwhile, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said the same day that the Russian leadership is increasingly concerned by the situation in Abkhazia, Interfax reported. PG/LF

...SAY RUSSIAN BASE IN ABKHAZIA SHOULD NOT BE CLOSED

Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov said on 9 October that Russian troops should remain in Abkhazia, as they constitute "the only guarantee of peace" there, Caucasus Press reported. Moscow and Tbilisi are negotiating the terms for the closure of the Gudauta military base, which Russia was to have vacated by 30 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2001). But Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili said the same day that the Gudauta base is an obstacle to improved Russian-Georgian relations and should be closed, Interfax and Prime News reported. He said Tbilisi has information that the Russian troops at the base are supplying the Abkhaz with modern weapons. LF

SPANISH DIPLOMATS URGE GEORGIA TO LOCATE, FREE ABDUCTED BUSINESSMEN

Spanish Ambassador to Russia Jose Luis Trespodevaga and the Spanish Consul to Russia Herminio Morales on 9 October ended a five-day visit to Tbilisi during which they met with Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze to discuss the Georgian authorities' lack of progress in locating and securing the release of two Spanish businessmen taken hostage in eastern Georgia last November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2000). On 3 October, Georgian media reported that the kidnappers had threatened to kill the two men unless a ransom of $250,000 was paid within three days. Trespodevaga told journalists on 7 October that specific measures to secure the men's release have been agreed upon, but did not divulge details. LF

KYRGYZ, UZBEK OFFICIALS DISCUSS BORDER TENSIONS

A delegation from Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken Oblast met on 6 October at the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border with representatives from the Ferghana Oblast in neighboring Uzbekistan whom they persuaded to remove two additional border checkpoints set up several days earlier, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The Kyrgyz side had responded by creating new checkpoints of its own around the Uzbek exclave of Sokh, which will also be dismantled. LF

TAJIKISTAN SAYS IT WILL NOT HOST U.S. TROOPS...

Speaking to journalists in Dushanbe on 9 October, Tajik Security Council Secretary Amirqul Azimov qualified Tajikistan's position on assistance to the U.S.-led anti-terrorist effort, Reuters reported. On 8 October, the Tajik government said in a statement 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" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2001). But Azimov explained that while U.S. specialists engaged in overseeing the distribution of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan will be allowed to enter Tajikistan, "American land troops have not transited...and will not transit Tajikistan en route for Afghanistan." He said that possibility has not even been discussed with the United States. Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo similarly said on 9 October that "for the time being, Tajikistan will not participate in military operations," RFE/RL's Dushanbe bureau reported. LF

...BUT MAY GIVE AID TO NORTHERN ALLIANCE

Tajik Security Council Secretary Azimov told journalists in Dushanbe on 10 October that Tajikistan may provide "support" for the Northern Alliance if asked to do so, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. "Tajikistan has always come out for the stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan. If we want our participation in the operation against terrorism to be effective, it is necessary to provide support for the Northern Alliance," Azimov said. He did not explain what that support might involve. Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani is expected to arrive in Dushanbe later on 10 October to meet with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. LF

CIS COLLECTIVE SECURITY TREATY SIGNATORIES DRAFT ANTITERRORISM MEASURES

Senior security officials from the six signatory states of the CIS Collective Security Treaty (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Russia) met in emergency session in Dushanbe on 8-9 October to discuss how to respond to the increased tensions in Central Asia resulting from the U.S.-led bombing of Afghanistan on 7 October. According to Turan on 8 October, senior Azerbaijani presidential administration officials Ramiz Mekhtiev and Novruz Mamedov also attended that meeting, as did a representative from Georgia. Meeting on 9 October with the participants, Tajik President Rakhmonov expressed confidence that coordinated measures by Russia and the Central Asian states will succeed in halting the escalation of tensions in Afghanistan, Interfax reported. Russian Security Council Secretary Rushailo said that no concentration of Taliban forces has yet been registered on the Tajik-Afghan border. But a group of Russian State Duma deputies who toured that border the same day characterized the situation there as "very tense," ITAR-TASS reported. LF




MINSK DECLARES SUPPORT FOR FIGHTING TERRORISM

Commenting on the U.S. antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan, Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushka on 9 October said Belarus has always consistently supported an uncompromising battle against international terrorism and will do so in the future. "We think terrorism is an evil that must be rooted out. Under certain conditions the use of force in fighting terrorism is inevitable," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service quoted Latushka as saying. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT NOTES 'COMMON LANGUAGE' IN RELATIONS WITH GERMANY

Helmut Frick, Germany's new ambassador to Minsk, presented his credentials to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 9 October. "It has turned out that we have never had particular problems with the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany. We have always found a common language," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying at the ceremony. JM

OPPOSITION LEADER URGES FOR CONTROL OF BELARUSIAN-RUSSIAN BORDER

Vintsuk Vyachorka, leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, has said Belarus should urgently reestablish all border controls and customs procedures along its border with Russia because of the ongoing antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan, Belapan reported on 9 October. According to Vyachorka, Belarus should in this way take preventive measures against an expected inflow of refugees from Afghanistan as well as from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. "Now that Belarus actually does not control its border with Russia, we are risking to be swept by this wave [of refugees], which would inevitably bring problems of poverty, disease, drug addiction, crime, and terrorism to each Belarusian town," Vyachorka said. JM

BELARUSIAN TRADE UNIONS SAY WAGE ARREARS AT 'CRITICAL' LEVEL

Belarus's Federation of Trade Unions on 9 October warned the government that wage arrears have reached a "critical" level, amounting to $33.4 billion Belarusian rubles ($22.5 million) by October, or to 7.5 percent of the country's monthly wage fund, Belapan reported. The federation blames the situation on the 9 September presidential election, saying that before that date the authorities strived to pay wages at any cost and many state-owned enterprises have gone into debt. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT READY TO ACCEPT ANY CONCLUSION IN PLANE CRASH PROBE

Leonid Kuchma promised on 10 October to accept any conclusion in the ongoing investigation into the crash on 4 October of a Russian passenger plane that was allegedly shot down by a Ukrainian missile, AP reported. Ukrainian officials have thus far denied that missile-firing exercises in Crimea are responsible for the crash. However, Ukraine's stance appears to be shifting after former Russian air force commander Yevgenii Shaposhnikov, a member of the investigation team, said on 9 October that small metal balls found in the bodies of those killed and in fragments of the plane's sheet metal resemble the S-200 missile payload. JM

CRIMEAN TATAR LEADER BACKS U.S. ACTION IN AFGHANISTAN

Crimean Tatar Mejlis head Mustafa Dzhemilev on 9 October said the U.S. military action in Afghanistan is an appropriate reaction to the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States. "The U.S. is not aiming at enslaving the Afghan people as was the case during the Soviet occupation. On the contrary, Afghanistan is being freed from bandits in the Afghan leadership," STB Television quoted Dzhemilev as saying. The station said Taliban threats to start a war with Uzbekistan may cause a wave of emigration of Crimean Tatars from Uzbekistan. It is estimated that some 300,000 Tatars resettled from Crimea by the Stalin regime are still living in Uzbekistan. JM

U.S. PLANES USE UKRAINIAN AIR CORRIDOR

Interfax reported on 10 October that U.S. military cargo planes have already taken advantage of Kyiv's permission to use Ukrainian airspace in connection with the U.S. operation in Afghanistan. Kyiv also agreed that U.S. planes may land in emergency situations at selected Ukrainian airfields. JM

BALTIC, NORDIC ENERGY COMPANIES SIGN MEMORANDUM ON ESTLINK PROJECT

Seven mostly state-owned energy companies signed a memorandum of understanding on the implementation of the Estlink project in Tallinn on 9 October, BNS reported. The project -- in which Estonia's Eesti Energia, Latvia's Latvenergo, Finland's Pohjolan Voima Oy, Helsingin Energia, and TXU Nordic Energy Oy, Sweden's Graninge AB, and Norway's Statkraft SF are involved -- foresees the laying of an electric power cable between Estonia and Finland, joining the energy power systems of the Baltic states and Scandinavia. In order to oversee and maintain the power cable, the firms plan to establish next spring a company in which each of the seven companies will have equal shares. The laying of the planned 315-megawatt underwater power cable, which is expected to cost about 100 million euros ($90 million), should be completed in 2004. SG

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT SECRETARY-GENERAL DISCUSSES EU EXPANSION IN LATVIA

Latvian parliament Deputy Chairman Rihards Piks told Julian Priestley in Riga on 9 October that a positive attitude toward Latvia's accession to the EU is building and the number of EU supporters in rural areas is also growing, LETA reported. Piks noted that all political forces in the parliament unanimously support EU membership and that its European Affairs Committee could play an important role in the integration process. Both officials agreed that informing the public about processes within the EU is vital not only for the candidate states but also for EU members. Priestley announced a plan to open European Parliament (EP) information centers in the capitals of the candidate countries once they complete their pre-accession talks. The centers will provide information about EP plans and decisions and the course of their implementation. The officials also discussed the upcoming EP elections in 2004, with Priestley mentioning that the EP wants to develop before the end of the year a uniform election system for its next elections that would resolve any contradictions with national laws. SG

LITHUANIA TO IMPOSE ENTRY VISAS FOR KALININGRAD IN 2003

On 9 October, the Government European Integration Commission (VEIK) endorsed the Schengen draft action plan, which must be in force before Lithuania can join the European Union, ELTA reported. The plan will require citizens of Belarus and Ukraine, including train passengers and truck drivers, who are traveling to Kaliningrad Oblast through Lithuania to obtain visas beginning on 1 January 2003. Kaliningrad residents will need visas for any travel to or through Lithuania beginning on 1 July 2003. However, Lithuania plans to issue long-term and low-cost visas to Kaliningrad residents, who would otherwise be isolated from the rest of Russia. VEIK also expressed the opinion that Lithuania should ask the EU to lengthen by two years (until 1 January 2010) the transition period for building up the required 90-day oil stocks, which will cost some $125 million. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT VETOES TOUGHER PENAL CODE

Aleksander Kwasniewski on 9 October vetoed the amended Penal Code that raised penalties for some grave crimes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2001), Polish media reported. Kwasniewski said that both he and legal experts found many amendments to be misconceived as well as incompatible with the Polish Constitution and European laws. Former Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski, who had advocated tighter screws on crime while a member of Jerzy Buzek's cabinet, called Kwasniewski's veto "a green light for the criminal world," PAP reported. "I am convinced that in penal establishments this day will be one for celebrations and happiness -- just as was apparently the case after my dismissal," Kaczynski added. Kaczynski's party, Law and Justice, won 44 parliamentary seats, campaigning for a crackdown on crime and the return of the death penalty. JM

POLISH COALITION PARTNERS OUTLINE KEY TASKS

In a policy accord signed on 9 October, the Democratic Left Alliance, the Labor Union, and the Polish Peasant Party pledged that their future coalition government will implement a "difficult and bold rescue plan" to deal with "the catastrophic condition of the state, the ruin of the public finances, and the disorganization of the fundamental spheres of the activity of the state," PAP reported. The coalition partners said their key tasks include lowering unemployment, making access to education easier, strengthening the economy, downsizing government bureaucracy, increasing the profitability of agricultural production, and completing EU membership negotiations. JM

CZECH REPUBLIC, RUSSIA, AGREE ON RESTRUCTURING MOSCOW'S DEBT

Visiting Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman agreed on 9 October to a deal that settles the bulk of Russia's standing debt to its former communist ally, international agencies deported. The deal was signed in Prague and covers $2.5 billion, or more than two-thirds of the total amount owed by Moscow, Finance Ministry spokeswoman Jana Vargova said. She did not mention if and how Russia will pay the remaining $1.1 billion. Czech media reported that the $2.5 billion debt will be handled by Falkon Capital, and Reuters reported that the Czechs agreed to sell the debt to that company for $547 million. In exchange, the company is to receive from Russia a return on its investment in the form of revenues from the sale of Russian-generated electricity over the next 20 years. Falkon Capital has come under criticism in the Czech media for alleged links to organized crime, but Vargova said these are just "media allegations." MS

CZECH PREMIER SAYS RUSSIAN MEMBERSHIP IN NATO CANNOT BE REJECTED 'A PRIORI'

Premier Zeman said on 9 October that if Russia is interested in becoming a NATO member, the idea cannot be rejected a priori, CTK reported. Zeman said that the world has changed following the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States and that NATO is not an organization directed against a particular state but one which, in the current situation, sees the struggle against terrorism as a priority. "I would like express appreciation for the effort that the Russian Federation makes in the long-term fight against international terrorism," Zeman said, adding that it is "necessary to think about where the nests of terrorist Osama bin Laden spread, and not only in connection with Afghanistan, but also to other places like Albania and Chechnya." The two premiers signed seven agreements, including one on military cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. The agency said that Russia will participate in the modernization of Czech armed forces and will supply spare parts to the Czech army. MS

RUSSIAN PREMIER SEES NO NEED FOR NATO ENLARGEMENT

After a meeting with Czech Senate Chairman Petr Pithart, Kasyanov said his country fails to see the objective of further NATO enlargement under the present circumstances, in which everyone realizes that the main threat to security is international terrorism. "If NATO is not aimed against Russia, why should it then be further enlarged?" he asked. Pithart said the Czech senators who participated in the meeting did not agree with Kasyanov's drawing a parallel between the Chechen and the Afghan situation. Kasyanov also met with President Vaclav Havel, who offered an invitation to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to visit Prague, and with Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus. MS

SLOVAKIA GETS CONTRADICTORY MARKS ON EU MEMBERSHIP EFFORT

Guenter Verheugen, the EU's commissioner in charge of enlargement, on 9 October expressed concern over developments in Slovakia insofar as its political stability is concerned, CTK reported. In contrast, Slovakia was praised the same day by German and French politicians. Visiting Slovak President Rudolf Schuster was told by his German counterpart Johannes Rau and by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer that Slovakia has made important progress toward EU and NATO membership and that Germany supports that quest. And in Paris, visiting Slovak Deputy Premier Maria Kadlecikova, who is in charge of EU integration, was told by French European Affairs Minister Pierre Moscovici that Bratislava is one of the most serious candidates for EU admission. MS

SLOVAK POLICE DROP PROSECUTION AGAINST MECIAR...

Slovak police on 9 October decided to accept the opinion of the Prosecutor-General's Office and dropped a charge against former Premier Vladimir Meciar that he illegally distributed bonuses to members of his cabinet between 1995 and 1998, CTK reported. The charges were filed in December 2000. The office said that although the bonuses were illegal, the decision was made by the cabinet as a whole, and it is "impossible to prosecute an entire government." MS

...ARE CHARGED WITH TORTURING AND KILLING ROM

Seven members of the Slovak police were charged on 9 October with having tortured and cruelly treated Karol Sendrei in July, resulting in the Rom's death, CTK and AP reported. If convicted, they face up to 15 years in prison. The incident took place in the small town of Revuca, some 200 kilometers northeast of Bratislava. MS

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ASSESSES MINORITY SITUATION IN HUNGARY

After hearing a report by representatives of Roma, ethnic Germans, and disabled people on the state of minorities in Hungary, the European Parliament (EP) on 10 October passed a resolution urging appropriate parliamentary representation for national minorities and the improvement of minorities' education in their native languages. In addition, a report issued by the legal department of the EP concluded that Hungary's Status Law does not violate the associate agreement signed by Hungary with the EU. The report was outlined to the media at a session of the EU-Hungary parliamentary committee in Brussels. Jozsef Szajer, the Hungarian co-chairman of the committee, said the Status Law does not contain any elements that other countries, including present EU members, have not already incorporated into their own laws, "Nepszabadsag" reported. MSZ




MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT ADOPTS AMNESTY FOR ETHNIC ALBANIAN FIGHTERS...

The government adopted a proposal by President Boris Trajkovski on 9 October to grant an amnesty to members of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) who have surrendered their arms to NATO, news agencies reported. Trajkovski said the amnesty will open the way for a "process of reintegration" of the fighters, though it does not cover those who may have committed war crimes, and would "allow the return of Macedonian forces to areas that have been temporarily under the control" of the UCK during the seven months of fighting. He did not mention the 11 UCK commanders, including political leader Ali Ahmeti and military chief Gezim Ostreni, for whom the government has issued arrest warrants. DW

...WHICH FAILS TO SATISFY ETHNIC ALBANIAN PARTIES, INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS

The government decision was made without the participation of the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD), which walked out of the meeting in protest, AFP reported. "We think that only a law can serve as the basis for an amnesty," said PPD Justice Minister Idzet Memeti. "A declaration is not enough to establish a legal basis for this amnesty." Deputy Prime Minister Dzevet Nasufi, of the Democratic Party of Albanians (PDSH) -- which did approve the government's decision -- said the amnesty represents a "political will" and will have to be followed up with a parliamentary bill. PPD deputy Naser Zyberi told dpa, "The Macedonian legal system does not allow political acts to replace laws and an amnesty is a legal issue." EU envoy Francois Leotard said that the return of troops should not proceed until parliament adopts constitutional amendments aimed at improving the rights of the ethnic Albanian minority, as envisaged under the Ohrid peace agreement. "We have imposed two conditions, and we are maintaining them," he said. "As long as the parliamentary debate has no positive outcome, there will be no return" of Macedonian forces to former conflict areas. DW

BOSKOVSKI TO GET THE AXE?

According to the daily "Dnevnik," the Macedonian government under Western pressure has sacked Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, who is regarded as a hard-liner hampering the peace process, dpa reported on 10 October. The Skopje daily named the head of the secret police, Dragi Grozdanovski, as Boskovski's most likely replacement. DW

ETHNIC ALBANIAN CADETS, U.S. INSTRUCTORS STOP MACEDONIAN POLICE TRAINING

Ethnic Albanian police cadets and their U.S. instructors left their training camp and suspended the U.S.-sponsored program on 8 October, ethnic Albanian Deputy Interior Minister Refet Elmazi told dpa on 9 October. "They said they want the Macedonian police reservists to leave the camp before they resume training," he said. "They will not return as long as the reservists are there." Elmazi said U.S. envoy James Pardew had raised similar concerns with President Trajkovski. DW

SERBIAN MINERS STILL NOT BACK TO WORK

Despite coming to an agreement with the Serbian government, miners at the Kolubara mine had still not returned to work on the morning of 10 October as agreed, Radio B92 reported. Trade union leader Zdravko Vucetic said that work may get underway in the second shift "once the workers' assembly meets, when the workers give their approval, if they give their approval." Vucetic is the only negotiator yet to sign the agreement. Serbian Energy Minister Goran Novakovic claimed salaries have not been increased, but outstanding bonuses and debts are to be repaid. "No one gave in." he said, adding, "I think that the most important issue, the one that we argued most about, is the restructuring of Kolubara." DW

BOSNIAN SERBS ACCUSED OF USING TERRORIST THREAT TO DISCREDIT MUSLIMS

A UN spokesman has urged Bosnian Serbs to stop using the terrorist attacks on the United States in a disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting Bosnian Muslims, AP reported on 9 October. Stefo Lehmann, a UN spokesman in Bosnia, was quoted as saying recent police statements in the eastern town of Zvornik appear to be "a continuation of a campaign to misinform and even alarm residents." Bosnian Serb police in Zvornik claimed they found apparently falsified documents with the words "Nufus Cuzdani" near a garbage bin, and believed they may have come from a suspicious Islamic group. However, Lehmann said that rather than the name of any "suspect" group, the phrase means "identification cards" in Turkish. Bosnian Serb media and hard-liners have also suggested that Osama bin Laden fought on the Muslim side during the Bosnian war, accusing former President Alija Izetbegovic and former Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic of collaborating with the Saudi-born terrorist. Izetbegovic told Bosnian television on 9 October that such accusations are "a transparent and farcical lie." AH

BOSNIAN EXPERTS TO HELP IDENTIFY VICTIMS IN U.S.

A Bosnia-based team of experts in DNA analysis will travel to the United States to help identify the remains of victims found in the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York, western agencies reported on 9 October. The group of one American and two Bosnians, members of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) for former Yugoslavia, have experience with a method used to trace thousands of dead in the Balkan wars of the past decade and will depart for the U.S. within days, Reuters reported. The ICMP last year launched a program combining older identification methods with state-of-the-art DNA tests and recently developed software that could improve the pace and quality of the identification process. The ICMP received "an excellent progress report in August this year from some of the world's leading DNA and forensic experts," a representative said. AH

UN SAYS BOSNIAN REFUGEES RETURNING HOME IN GREATER NUMBERS

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees registered a year-on-year jump of nearly 70 percent in the number of Bosnian refugees returning to their homes in the first eight months of 2001, AP reported on 9 October. More than 50,000 have returned to areas not dominated by their own ethnic group, the agency quoted UNHCR spokeswoman Aida Feraget as saying in Sarajevo. Some 30,236 people have returned to the Muslim-Croat federation and another 17,899 to the Serb republic, while 2,314 individuals returned to Brcko, the northern district run by the central government, the UNHCR said. The figures indicate that more than half of the nearly 1.5 million refugees the war produced are registered as having returned in the past six years, AP said. AH

NEW BOSNIAN POLITICAL PARTY FOUNDED

The Party of Democratic Development (SDR) held its founding session in Bijeljina on 9 October, electing its leadership as well as its executive and other major committees, SRNA reported. Radovan Simic was elected party chairman and Momir Grahovac his deputy, the agency reported, citing a party statement. The fledgling party also elected a 21-member executive committee and an assembly of 65 members, SRNA said. AH

REPARATIONS NO LONGER DIVIDE CROATIA, ITALY...

The presidents of Italy and Croatia agreed that a longstanding dispute over Croatian nonpayment of reparations no longer hinders "excellent" bilateral ties, AP reported on 9 October during a Zagreb visit by Italian President Carlo Ciampi. Croatian President Stipe Mesic joined Ciampi in stressing that accords reached in the past are valid and should be implemented. After World War II, thousands of Italians fled Istria and other regions, leaving property for which Yugoslavia eventually agreed to pay reparations. Croatia's share of that legacy following its 1991 independence from Yugoslavia is estimated at $35 million. Croatian media have indicated that the government is prepared to pay those reparations. Ciampi, during a two-day stopover in Croatia, praised that country's stability despite tensions over government efforts to extradite war crimes suspects. He also said Italy supports Croatia's bid to join the EU and NATO, while noting that the country's EU membership is not right around the corner. AH

...WHILE PRESIDENTS SAY MINORITIES SHOULD BE 'BRIDGES' BETWEEN COUNTRIES

Meanwhile presidents Mesic and Ciampi said minorities should be bridges between two countries as loyal citizens of the states in which they reside, AP reported on 9 October. Croatian President Mesic meanwhile reiterated his country's support for democracy and respect for human rights. In April 2001, Rome criticized Croatia's restriction on the use of the Italian language in the northern Adriatic region of Istria, where a large Italian minority lives, AP reported. AH

CROATIA REPORTEDLY TO BUY U.S. AIR-DEFENSE SYSTEM

The weekly "Nacional" reports on 10 October that Croatia intends to buy a U.S. air-defense system to help bring its armed forces up to NATO standards, dpa reported on 9 October. The report asserts that Zagreb will buy a Hawk-Amram defense system, which includes radar and surface-to-air missiles, to replace Soviet-era equipment inherited from the former Yugoslav army. Croatia has been a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace since May, dpa reported. AH

CROATIAN COUNTY COURT DROPS WAR CRIMES CHARGES AGAINST LOCAL SERBS

A county court in the eastern Croatian town of Osijek has dropped war crimes charges against two local Serbs, citing a lack of evidence, dpa and HINA reported on 10 October. Desimir Lancanin and Zeljko Lozanovic had been on trial for genocide and ethnic cleansing since 20 September. Their case was separated from that of another 23 local Serbs in eastern Croatia who were accused of genocide during the occupation of the country's eastern counties between 1991 and 1997, dpa reported. AH

ROMANIA CONSIDERS ITSELF 'AT WAR WITH INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM'

Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu said on 9 October that, due to "the measures taken by Romania," the country may also be considered to be at war against international terrorism, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He said this war imposes "a change of strategy" on all the countries participating in it and that he foresees "a growth in the importance of intelligence services, communication services, and other elements required by this informational war." Also on 9 October, Defense Ministry State Secretary George Maior, speaking at a briefing of journalists in Bucharest, said that "not only transportation or refueling planes" of the U.S. Air Force "might have overflown Romanian territory" in the last days. Mediafax said this is a hint that fighter planes have also done so. MS

ROMANIA TRIES TO RECRUIT YUGOSLAVIA IN STRUGGLE AGAINST HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 9 October told his visiting Yugoslav counterpart Dragisa Pesic in Bucharest that it is "important" for countries neighboring Hungary to coordinate policies and, "if necessary, consider joint action" on the controversial Hungarian Status Law, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Pesic, who is paying a three-day visit to Romania, was to meet on 10 October with President Ion Iliescu and Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana. On 9 October, Nastase and Pesic agreed to improve bilateral economic relations, and the Yugoslav premier expressed satisfaction at Romania's continuing respect of his country's territorial integrity in its position on the peaceful solution of the conflict in Kosova. Pesic and Nastase also discussed problems related to ethnic minorities on each other's territory and Nastase expressed "confidence" that the dispute over the Vlach minority in Yugoslavia, whose Romanian links the Yugoslavs refuse to acknowledge, will be solved "very soon." MS

ROMANIAN LAWMAKERS PROHIBIT DISCRIMINATION, BUT NOT AGAINST NATIONAL MINORITIES

The Chamber of Deputies on 9 October approved a governmental ordinance prohibiting discrimination, but eliminated from the law the prohibition of discrimination against national minorities. Romanian radio reported that the deputies representing the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania announced they will challenge the law in the Constitutional Court. Also on 9 October, the Senate's Commission on Human Rights rejected a draft law submitted by the Greater Romania Party that would have abolished the National Commission on the Study of Securitate Archives. MS

MOLDOVAN WRITERS PROTEST JUSTICE MINISTER'S DECLARATIONS

The Writers' Union on 9 October protested the anti-Romanian tone of the declarations made last week in Strasbourg by Justice Minister Ion Morei, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The union described Morei's statement made in front of the International Court of Human Rights as "provocative, anti-Romanian, and aimed at tensioning relations between the two countries." The union also said that the authorities' refusal to register the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church amounts to "a clear infringement of internationally accepted standards," and that the Bessarabian Church can "in no way be presented as a an exemplification of Romanian expansionism." MS

TRANSDNIESTER SAYS IT WILL HELP ABKHAZIA

The "Foreign Ministry" of the separatists in Tiraspol on 9 October issued a statement expressing "concern over the aggression of Georgian and Chechen gangs against Abkhazia," which, it said, has resulted in the death of people (see Part 1). It said this "aggression" is "a direct threat to the regional security system that came about as a result of Russian peacekeeping operation," ITAR-TASS reported. It said the people in Transdniester express "solidarity with, and support for, the fraternal Abkhazian people, who are repulsing the aggression of international terrorism," and added that Tiraspol "has started consultations" with Abkhazia on "joint measures against the aggression." MS

BULGARIAN POLLSTER SAYS STOYANOV MIGHT WIN IN FIRST ROUND

The Alpha research polling institute said incumbent President Petar Stoyanov might win in the first round of elections scheduled for 11 November if the turnout is 60 percent or more, BTA reported on 9 October. Stoyanov and his vice presidential candidate, Neli Kutskova, are backed by 39 percent of those polled; in second place is the Coalition for Bulgaria ticket made up by Georgi Parvanov and Angel Marin; and Bogomil Bonev and Atanas Zhelezchev, the Civil Party's presidential and vice presidential candidates, are backed by 6 percent. MS




A NEWLY CONFIDENT PUTIN


By Julie A. Corwin

Last summer, when Vladimir Putin took a number of stands that were at odds with public opinion, such as opposing the death penalty, some commentators suggested that Putin, as a leader, was becoming "less shy" (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly, 23 July 2001). However, those positions were considerably less risky than President Putin's recent enthusiastic support for the U.S.-led coalition to end international terrorism. With his suggestion that Russia may drop its opposition to further NATO expansion and his support for the United States' stationing some of its troops in CIS countries, Putin is taking a stand at odds not only with public opinion but also elements within his own military and foreign policy establishments. With his recent actions, Putin has become not just "less shy," but possibly even quite bold.

But viewed in the context of his last 17 months in office, Putin's departure from previous policies can simply be seen as good tactics, because they further a goal Putin and his administration have consistently pursued -- greater integration into Europe and international economic structures. And, it was a risk that the Kremlin could well afford. Vladimir Putin has given Russian voters exactly what they wanted: Politics in Russia has become boring. One by one, the domestic political institutions that once presented opposition for Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, are gradually being tamed or co-opted -- leaving him more leeway to take risks in the international arena.

It is now difficult to imagine how the State Duma -- the legislative organ that once gave Yeltsin so much trouble -- could be more obedient. The 2002 budget passed through its first reading in record time, and the government is so confident of its strength that it is now considering proposing legislation on one of the most divisive issues in Russian politics, the buying and selling of agricultural land (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 1 October 2001). The Federation Council, which was once composed of regional leaders who were at least occasionally unruly, is now being taken over by full-time legislative "professionals." They will be based in Moscow and are widely expected to be loyal to Moscow. Already, more than 100 senators have signed up for the pro-Kremlin "Federation" group. The Kremlin is also reportedly even playing a role in the selection of these representatives.

The media, which had also once given not only former President Yeltsin but also President Putin a hard time, have been tamed. NTV is now a softer version of its once combative self, and its old stalwarts are finding that their smaller, lower profile refuge at TV-6 is now under attack (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2001). Ekho Moskvy, one of the few voices of opposition on the radio airwaves, continues to operate in limbo, as Gazprom delays a decision on its fate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2001). Even the print media, although less influential in terms of their impact on mass public opinion, are quieter. The Boris Berezovsky-financed publications, such as "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Kommersant-Daily," and "Novye Izvestiya," continue to criticize the Kremlin, but they are probably a less effective tool in influencing elite opinion. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" is being dumbed down as the number of its analytical supplements has been reduced, and the process promises to continue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2001). "Kommersant-Daily" and "Novye Izvestiya," meanwhile, now pursue their own political agenda with the subtlety of a jackhammer.

Precisely the opposite process is taking place with the country's oligarchs, who appear to have become smarter and to have adopted a lower profile. Having witnessed the Prosecutor-General's Office's relentless pursuit of Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinsky and of Berezovsky, Russia's oligarchs no longer challenge the Kremlin head-on. Instead, they continue to carve up and consolidate their own spheres of influence both on a regional and economic sector basis, but more quietly. Even the Central Bank, while never that rebellious, is now likely to become even less so. Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko has confirmed that he is retiring, and Vladimir Kogan, head of Promstroibank and a close Putin ally, is widely touted to replace him (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 16 April 2001). With the gathering of NGOs in Moscow next month for the Kremlin-sponsored Civic Forum, the presidential administration is aiming to co-opt a last set of players that has insisted on retaining their independence, as they lead the state-sponsored process of building a civil society.

The Putin administration has captured Moscow, freeing it to advance onwards to Brussels. And if the results of last week's EU summit are any guide, more advances may be expected. Russian and EU officials agreed to set up a joint panel to draw up a concept for a common economic space, as well as a new working group to monitor Russian-EU security issues on a monthly basis. In addition, according to "Izvestiya" on 4 October, the two sides issued a joint communique that is "fairly neutral on the Chechnya problem." Around the same time, U.S. Ambassador to Russian Alexander Vershbow stated publicly that Chechen rebels receive "enormous help from abroad," and argued that they should be convinced "to break these international ties" to "create more favorable conditions for the achievement of a peaceful agreement" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2001). Such immediate rewards for Russia's cooperative attitude may quiet any domestic critics, since Putin can argue that by dropping opposition to things that might have taken place anyway, such as the stationing of U.S. troops in Uzbekistan, Russia had everything to gain and little to lose.


XS
SM
MD
LG