Accessibility links

Newsline - October 18, 2001




PUTIN REITERATES MOSCOW'S SUPPORT FOR U.S. ANTITERROR EFFORT

At a ceremony during which he accepted the credentials of new U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Alexander Vershbow, President Vladimir Putin said on 17 October that Russia remains firmly behind the American antiterrorist effort, Russian and Western agencies reported. He said that the recent "ordeals that befell the American people have only increased understanding and trust between our two countries." PG

DUMA BACKS PUTIN ON ANTITERROR EFFORT

By a vote of 268 for and 101 against, the Duma on 17 October adopted a resolution backing President Putin's support for the international antiterrorist campaign and saying that "the forms of the participation in the corresponding international efforts must be defined starting from the national interests of the Russian Federation," Russian agencies reported. The Duma also approved on first reading a bill that would allow pensioners to earn income and still receive their pensions, approved on first reading amendments to the Criminal Code, ratified the CIS Collective Security Treaty of May 1992, and discussed again the possible import of spent nuclear fuel into Russia, the agencies reported. PG

OFFICIALS SEEK TO CALM RUSSIANS OVER ANTHRAX REPORTS

Russian medical and postal officials issued statements on 17 October saying that Russians have no reason to be panicked about an anthrax outbreak, Russian and Western agencies reported. Nonetheless, many Russians are worried, the Moscow press noted, especially after four more envelopes containing suspicious powder were reported in the last 24 hours. Several Duma members demanded that the authorities protect the legislature against a possible anthrax attack, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Justice Ministry officials said that anyone who engages in a copycat terrorist crime will be severely punished, and customs officials said they are increasing their inspections of goods coming into the country, Russian agencies reported. PG

MOSCOW SPEEDS UP ASSISTANCE TO AFGHANISTAN'S NORTHERN ALLIANCE

A Defense Ministry spokesman said on 17 October that Russia is speeding up arms deliveries to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan and will deliver some $45 million worth of military assistance by the end of 2001, Interfax reported. Among the weaponry being delivered are tanks, armored personnel carriers, and trucks. VY

NIKOLAEV WARNS OF 5 MILLION REFUGEES FROM AFGHANISTAN

Andrei Nikolaev, the chairman of the Duma Defense Committee, said on 17 October that up to 5 million refugees might flee from Afghanistan into Central Asia and Russia to escape the antiterrorist strikes, Interfax reported. In addition to their sheer numbers, Nikolaev said, they would pose a threat because of the drugs they will bring with them to support themselves and their families and the guns they will have and may use against the populations of the CIS states. PG

RUSSIAN EXPERT DOUBTS IRAQ BEHIND BIOTERRORIST ATTACKS

Vladimir Isaev, the deputy director of the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, told Interfax on 17 October that it is unlikely that Baghdad was behind the recent outbreaks of anthrax in the U.S. and elsewhere. He said Iraq's involvement in such efforts would run counter to Baghdad's interests in pressuring the UN to lift sanctions against that country. PG

RUSSIAN SECURITY AGENCIES EXPECT TERRORISM TO PEAK IN ONE TO TWO YEARS

Analysts at the Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB) have concluded that Islamic-based terrorism against foreign targets will reach its peak in 2002 and 2003, and that Russia will be among the targets, "Vremya MN" reported on 16 October. To cope with that challenge, the analysts told the paper, Russia will have to improve the legislative and organizational tools of the state. VY

APPLICANTS FOR RUSSIAN VISAS TO BE ASKED ABOUT TERRORIST TIES

Vladimir Kotenen, an official of the Foreign Ministry's Consular Service, said on 17 October that Russian consuls abroad and especially in countries neighboring Afghanistan have been directed to show "heightened vigilance" in the processing of visa applications and to ask those applying about their possible involvement with extremist or terrorist organizations, Interfax reported. PG

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS FEEL ITS 'BETTER' TO HAVE U.S. IN UZBEKISTAN THAN TO HAVE SHAMIL BASAEV IN MOSCOW

In an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 17 October, Vladimir Lutsenko, the former leader of a KGB unit charged with the struggle against terrorism and currently president of the Association of Nongovernmental Security Structures, said that it is now customary in Moscow to say that "it is better to have the Americans in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan than to have [Chechen militant leader Shamil] Basaev in Moscow." PG

FORMER INTELLIGENCE CHIEF WARNS AGAINST ALLIANCE WITH U.S.

Leonid Shebarshin, the former KGB resident in Pakistan, Iran and India, and former head of Moscow's foreign intelligence service, said in an interview published in "Vremya MN" on 17 October that there are at present no direct threats to Russia that would justify it subordinating itself to an alliance with the United States. "We should care only about defending our national interests," Shebarshin said. He added that up to now, the U.S. has failed to provide proof that Osama bin Laden was behind the recent terrorist attacks. VY

RUSSIA, EU TO COORDINATE ANTITERRORIST EFFORTS

Oleg Chernov, the deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, told Interfax on 17 October that Russia and the European Union agreed during their recent summit meeting to expand their cooperation in the fight against terrorism. He said that this cooperation will include bringing national legislations into line with each other, assisting in the fight against money laundering, and the development of a precise and mutually acceptable definition of terrorism. PG

'IZVESTIYA' TELLS HOW RUSSIAN MEDIA HAVE MADE MISTAKES ON AFGHAN DEVELOPMENTS

An article in "Izvestiya" on 17 October described the ways in which the Russian media have repeated rumors and analyses based on rumors and thus failed to report developments in Afghanistan accurately. The paper noted that reports that concluded from the fact that people in Kandahar had heard helicopters that the U.S. had already introduced ground forces proved to be wrong, as the aircraft in question were AC-130 gunship airplanes. PG

PUTIN REORGANIZES HIS CABINET...

President Putin on 17 October abolished the Ministry for Federation Affairs, Nationalities, and Migration Policies, transferring responsibility for migration to the Interior Ministry, Russian agencies reported. Putin also fired Industry and Science Minister Aleksandr Dondukov and asked Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov to fill that role as well. Moscow commentators suggested that the first move shows that there is no longer any threat to the integrity of Russia, strana.ru reported the same day. Dondukov's sacking, the website suggested, points to greater presidential attention to the needs of science. VY

...ANNOUNCES CLOSURE OF SPY CENTER IN CUBA, BASE IN VIETNAM...

Also on 17 October, Putin announced that by the end of the year Russia will close its electronic espionage center in Lourdes, Cuba, which is jointly operated by the Federal Agency for Government Communication and Information (FAPSI) and the Sixth Directorate of Russian Military Intelligence (GRU), Russian news agencies reported. He said those closures are part of an effort to respond to the changing security environment and to save money. Closing the Cuban site will save Moscow some $300 million a year, Russian news services said, sufficient funds to allow the military to launch 20 spy satellites. Putin also announced that Russia will close its naval base at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam in 2002, two years before its lease there runs out. That measure too will save the Russian government significant sums, Russian news agencies added. VY

...AND CALLS FOR ADDITIONAL SPENDING ON DEFENSE

Putin also said on 17 October that the military budget must be significantly expanded both to modernize weapons and improve pay, and thus allow Russian security forces to respond adequately to the challenge of global terrorism, Interfax reported. He indicated that military reforms will have to be revised to ensure that the security and defense agencies will be in a position to do more with less, and that those who remain in the smaller but more effective services will receive greater pay and benefits. VY

INGUSH PRESIDENT CONCERNED BY ABOLITION OF NATIONALITIES MINISTRY

Ruslan Aushev immediately criticized President Putin's decision to abolish the Ministry for Federation Affairs, Nationalities, and Migration Policies, which was responsible for providing assistance to displaced persons, AP reported on 17 October. Aushev said his republic still shelters an estimated 150,000 people who fled Chechnya during the past two years of fighting and are in desperate need of adequate housing and food. LF

LINGUIST SAYS NON-RUSSIAN LANGUAGES THREATEN STATE

Irina Khaleeva, the head of the Moscow Language University and the Russian rapporteur on language problems at the Council of Europe, said in an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 16 October that the increased status of non-Russian languages within the Russian Federation in general, and especially of the Tatar and Bashkir languages in their titular republics, threaten to destroy Russia just as nationalism earlier destroyed the Soviet Union. She said that Russia must protect itself by making the Russian language the state language of the country. VY

SPS SAYS GOVERNMENT INCREASINGLY LIBERAL IN ECONOMICS, INCREASINGLY REPRESSIVE ON CIVIL LIBERTIES

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 October, the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) is using a rating system to measure how liberal or illiberal the Russian government it. To date, the SPS has found the Russian government to be ever more liberal on economic issues but increasingly repressive on civil liberties issues. Meanwhile, according to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 October, big businesses are working behind the scenes to prevent any changes in the leadership and status of Russia's existing trade union groups. PG

'BUSINESS RUSSIA' GROUP ORGANIZES, GAINS PUTIN'S SUPPORT

At the inaugural congress of the Business Russia group on 17 October, participants pledged to promote the interests of small- and medium-sized businesses, Russian news agencies reported. The day before President Putin received six representatives of the group at the Kremlin and told them that he supports their undertaking, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 October. VY

EVANS SAYS U.S. FINDS RUSSIA A RELIABLE PARTNER

U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans on 17 October said at the conclusion of his visit to Moscow that Washington finds Russia to be "a reliable partner," that the U.S. backs Russian entry into the World Trade Organization and will likely be designating Russia a country with a market economy within a year, and that trade and investment between the two countries will increase in the future, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY PREDICTS U.S. WILL DISINTEGRATE IN 10-15 YEARS

Duma deputy speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said on 17 October that in 10-15 years, the United States will disintegrate, Interfax reported. He said that Washington's Afghanistan operation is a last-ditch effort to save the American economy. PG

MOSCOW DECRIES ASSASSINATION OF ISRAELI TOURISM MINISTER

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 17 October condemning the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi as "a provocation against peace in the region," Interfax reported. "Despite this incident," the statement said, "it is necessary to do everything possible to prevent a new round of confrontation which will benefit only extremists and the opponents of reconciliation." PG

PUTIN PLEASED WITH IRANIAN TIES AS MOSCOW OFFERS TEHRAN PLANS FOR NEW NUCLEAR REACTOR

President Putin said on 17 October that Russia is pleased with the development of bilateral ties with Iran, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, Russian officials presented the Iranian government with a feasibility study for the construction of another nuclear reactor in Iran, Russian and Western agencies reported the same day. PG

RUSSIA HOPES TO SELL MILITARY EQUIPMENT TO SOUTH KOREA

Russia has opened an exhibit of its military equipment in Seoul in the hopes of attracting South Korean interest in purchasing some of it, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 October. Such sales would help Moscow to pay off its $1.8 billion Soviet-era debt to the South Korean government. VY

INFORMATION POLICY COUNCIL CREATED FOR RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION STATE

Pavel Borodin, the Russia-Belarus Union state secretary, is setting up a council on information policy for that union, his press secretary Ivan Makushok told Interfax on 17 October. The group -- which Borodin himself will head -- includes the leaders of the most important mass media outlets in the two countries. PG

MOSCOW POLICE NOW UNDER CONTROL OF FEDERAL AUTHORITIES

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has signed a directive putting the city's municipal police under the control of the federal Interior Ministry, Interfax reported. Until now the city has controlled them, and many Muscovites viewed that control as a symbol of self-government and autonomy. But Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, with the support of President Putin, has insisted that he will not tolerate any police formation that is not controlled by his agency. VY

KOKH INTERESTED IN PURCHASING GAZPROM MEDIA PROPERTIES

Alfred Kokh, who resigned earlier this week as general director of Gazprom-Media, said in an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 17 October that he is ready to purchase some of the media properties held by Gazprom. (Gazprom for its part said it would define the terms of sale of its media properties by mid-January 2002, Interfax reported the same day.) Meanwhile, on 16 October, embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky said that he wants to purchase LUKoil's shares in TV-6, Interfax reported. And on 17 October, the Television News Service sued TV-6 for $5 million, a move Berezovsky said violates earlier agreements, Interfax reported. PG

TRADITIONAL RUSSIAN ISLAM SAID UNDER THREAT

On 17 October, "Izvestiya" featured a series of articles on the state of Islam inside the Russian Federation and on Islam's impact on Russian domestic and foreign policies. One of the articles warned that "the Islam which traditionally exited in Russia undoubtedly is under threat" from both "the processes of the post-Soviet rebirth" of that religion and the negative impact of foreign "'well-wishers.'" Several Muslim leaders said they are confident they can prevent the radicalization of their congregations, while others, including Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev, said that Islam rightly understood cannot pose any threat to Russia or other societies. PG

PARENTS' SOVIET EXPERIENCES SAID HAVING LITTLE IMPACT ON YOUTH

Yurii Levada, the director of the polling firm VTsIOM, said in an interview published in "Trud" on 17 October that the kind of transmission of experiences from one generation to another that exists in most countries has been disrupted in Russia, and that young people are thus detached from the political experiences of their parents who grew up during the Soviet era. For that reason, young people today are more ready to take responsibility for their own lives, but they are also far less political than the older generation. PG

MOSCOW CITY POLICE WANT CURFEW, DRINKING RESTRICTIONS FOR YOUTH

Yurii Lapshin, who heads the Moscow city Interior Ministry unit responsible for youth crime, said on 17 October that he would like to see restrictions introduced on beer drinking by minors and also a curfew that would keep them off the streets late at night, Interfax-Moscow reported. He asked rhetorically, "What is a youth going to be doing on the street at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning? He'll only be committing crimes." PG

108 MUSCOVITES UP TO NOW HAVE DIED FROM AIDS

The Moscow city center for the prevention and struggle against AIDS issued a press release on 17 October saying that 108 residents of the Russian capital have died from AIDS up to now, Interfax-Moscow reported. As of 1 October, there were 15,648 cases of HIV infection in that city. PG

COMPUTER CRIMES MORE THAN DOUBLE IN MOSCOW OVER ONE YEAR

Moscow Interior Ministry officials said that the number of crimes involving illegal access to computer information has more than doubled in the past year, Interfax reported. They added that telephone piracy and other electronic crimes have shown similar increases. PG

END OF TAX BREAKS SEEN CUTTING NEWSPAPER PRINT RUNS BY 40 PERCENT

Deputy Media Minister Vladimir Grigorev said in an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 17 October that the elimination of existing tax breaks for newspapers and magazines will lead to higher prices and a decline in the print runs of those publications of 40 percent. He said that as a result, not only would many people no longer read newspapers, but local governments would probably again subsidize and hence control the local press. Igor Yakovenko, the general secretary of the Union of Journalists, made the same points in an interview published in "Vremya novostei" on 17 October. PG

MORE THAN 520,000 REPRESSION VICTIMS REHABILITATED IN LAST DECADE

Officials in the Prosecutor-General's Office said on 17 October that more than 520,000 citizens of the Soviet Union who were subjected to political repression have been rehabilitated since the adoption on 18 October 1991 of the law calling for their cases to be reexamined, Interfax reported. The prosecutors said that they have examined more than 530,000 cases involving almost 740,000 people. They noted that they have rehabilitated 8,910 participants in the 1920 Kronshtadt revolt against Soviet power. PG

BULLS BROUGHT IN FOR FIGHTS TO GO TO NATURE PRESERVE

Moscow city officials said on 17 October that the bulls originally brought to the Russian capital for bullfights, which were subsequently banned by Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, will be transferred to a nature preserve, where they will not be in any danger, Interfax-Moscow reported. PG

METAL THIEVES TAKE DOWN ANTENNAS IN MOSCOW

Moscow police reported on 17 October that a gang has been stealing antennas from the rooftops of apartment blocks in the city, apparently in order to sell the metal for scrap, Interfax-Moscow reported. PG

RUSSIAN REGIONS CLOSING TRANSPORT LINKS WITH CENTRAL ASIA

In the wake of U.S.-led airstrikes against Afghanistan, the weekly train from Dushanbe to Astrakhan failed to arrive last month, leaving almost 2,000 passengers, most of them from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan stranded, RFE/RL's Astrakhan correspondent reported on 13 October. The Astrakhan Oblast administration provided food for the women, children, and pensioners, and eventually managed to negotiate with the railway authorities a special train to return native Tajiks to Tajikistan. Finally, on 8 October, the train left and is expected to make its return trip empty. But the deputy head of Tajik Railways, Djabor Khasanov, told Interfax on 17 October that Dushanbe will ask at the upcoming meeting in Sochi of CIS and Baltic railway ministers for rail communication between Dushanbe and Moscow to be resumed. According to an earlier report by the correspondent, the route to Astrakhan was the only entry point for trains from Dushanbe. Meanwhile, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 15 October that the leadership of the West-Siberian railway and West-Siberian regional administration of the Federal Aviation Service have decided to reduce the number of flights and trains from Central Asia and the Middle East (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 18 October 2001). JAC/LF

KREMLIN SEEN AS HAVING PLANS FOR SAKHA'S DIAMONDS

"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 October that Vyacheslav Shtyrov, the president of the diamond-production company ALROSA, plans to run in December presidential elections in the republic of Sakha (Yakutia). According to the daily, Shtyrov will become the favorite in the race, should the current President Mikhail Nikolaev continue to prove unable to register as a candidate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2001). The daily also reported that according to an unnamed Kremlin source, the presidential administration considers Shtyrov to be a worthy candidate. The analytical website strana.ru suggested on 17 October that the Kremlin will try to accomplish at least two things with Shtyrov's election: transform ALROSA into a federal company and take back certain privileges that Sakha won during the era of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, such as the right to sell some of its diamonds independently. JAC

KUZBASS REGION'S SOLDIERS FOUND LACKING

Almost one half of the young men called up to serve in the Russian Army in Kemerovo Oblast have been declared unfit, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 17 October. Of the region's 23,000 recruits more than 10,0000 are unsuitable for military service because of health problems, the oblast's military commissar Nikolai Zakharov told reporters. In addition, more than 8,700 recruits received a waiver from service to either continue their schoolwork or because of family circumstances. Nevertheless, Zakharov expressed confidence that the goal of 3,800 new recruits from Kemerovo will be fulfilled. JAC

SMALL BUSINESSES ORGANIZE AGAINST TAX HIKE IN CENTRAL RUSSIA

Small business proprietors picketed on 17 July the building that houses Saratov Oblast's legislative assembly, RFE/RL's Saratov correspondent reported. The businessmen are protesting a recent decision by legislators that would increase their tax bill seven times. The decision followed the adoption of a federal law repealing a tax regulation that had been on the books for two years. In order not to lose income for the local budget, deputies introduced a unified tax on imputed income for all entrepreneurs and increased its rate by 7-8 times. The picket was organized by the Entrepreneurs' Association of Saratov Oblast. At a hearing the previous week organized by the SPS, activists argued that the tax would lead to "massive destruction of the small firms and an increase in social tension." JAC

CANDIDATE TRIES TO BRIBE VOTERS WITH FREE TEA

The election commission for the Jewish Autonomous Oblast decided on 17 October to cancel the registration of local businessman Andrei Shabanov as a candidate for the oblast's legislative assembly because he failed to report the expenses he incurred from hosting a tea party in one village, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 17 October. The election is scheduled for 28 October. JAC




ARMENIA CALLS ON TURKEY TO COOPERATE IN PRESERVING CULTURAL MONUMENTS

In his 16 October address to the 31st session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian called on Turkey to cooperate with Yerevan in the conservation of Armenian cultural monuments now on Turkish territory, including the ancient Armenian capital Ani, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

AZERBAIJAN REJECTS DIRECT TALKS WITH KARABAKH LEADERSHIP

Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev has told journalists that Baku does not recognize Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, as a party to the Karabakh conflict, and therefore will not agree to direct talks with him "at this stage of the negotiating process," Interfax reported on 17 October. Quliev added that Azerbaijan will continue to negotiate with Armenia, which "triggered" the conflict by making territorial claims on Azerbaijan and which supports Nagorno-Karabakh. Ghukasian told a group of visiting Azerbaijani journalists earlier this month that he is ready to travel to Baku for direct talks with Azerbaijani officials on resolving the conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2001). On 15 October, Armenia reported, and Azerbaijan denied, that Azerbaijani forces fired on an Armenian military post for over an hour during the night of 13-14 October, according to Arminfo and ANS-TV as cited by Groong. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT REAFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR ANTITERRORISM COALITION...

Speaking at a 17 October ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of Azerbaijan's declaration of independence, President Heidar Aliyev said that Azerbaijan is currently part of the antiterrorism coalition and "will contribute to the prevention of terrorism," but added that "the international community in its turn must put an end to terrorism against Azerbaijan," Turan reported. On 16 October, two more U.S. Hercules military aircraft were spotted coming in to land at Baku's Bina airport, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2001). LF

...PARDONS THREE JAILED JOURNALISTS

Following criticism from the OSCE (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2001) and a 16 October letter from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, on 17 October President Aliyev signed a decree pardoning Elmar Huseinov, founder of the now closed newspaper "Bakinskii bulvard," "Milletin Sesi" editor Shahbaz Huduoglu, and Baku Printing Press Director Shahlar Mamedov, all of whom were recently jailed for between six and 18 months on charges of insulting the honor and dignity of senior officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 24 September 2001). LF

RUSSIA DENIES VIOLATING GEORGIAN AIRSPACE

Russian air force commander General Anatolii Kornukov denied on 17 October that the two Su-25 fighters that overflew Georgian airspace early that day were Russian, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2001). Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said the intrusion was "intolerable" and "contrary to the principles of interstate relations," AP reported. The Georgian Defense Ministry released a statement the same day reaffirming Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze's 9 October warning that any aircraft that violate Georgia's airspace will be shot down (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2001). An unspecified number of additional Georgian army troops were dispatched to Mestia in northwest Georgia on 17 October to reinforce the Georgian border guards on the Georgian-Russian border, Caucasus Press reported. LF

ABKHAZ OFFICIALS CLAIM TO HAVE DESTROYED, EXPELLED MOST INFILTRATORS

Abkhaz military and security officials said on 17 October that up to 50 Chechen and Georgian fighters were killed near the Amtkhel mountain, some six kilometers from the Abkhaz Russian border, in a battle earlier that day with Abkhaz troops in which the Abkhaz side also deployed military aircraft, Caucasus Press reported. On 18 October, Abkhaz Deputy Defense Minister said Abkhazia now fully controls the lower reaches of the Kodori gorge, Caucasus Press reported. He said casualties on the Abkhaz side since fighting began amount to 16 killed and some 20 wounded, while approximately 60 of the intruders have been killed. But Interfax on 17 October quoted Abkhaz Defense Minister Vladimir Mikanba as admitting that small groups of fighters may have escaped detection. He said one such group of three fighters were surrounded and killed on the morning of 17 October near the village of Ilori in Ochamchire Raion, which is close to the Black Sea coast and some 25 kilometers south of the Kodori gorge. LF

ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT APPEALS TO OSCE

The Abkhaz parliament has appealed to the OSCE to help mediate a solution to the Abkhaz conflict, Russian agencies reported on 17 October. The appeal also requested that the OSCE "make an unbiased assessment of the actions of the Georgian leadership," rather than accept without question Georgian accusations that the Abkhaz engaged in ethnic cleansing of the majority Georgian population of the republic. The statement reaffirmed Abkhazia's commitment to a peaceful solution of the conflict. Meanwhile OSCE Chairman in Office Mircea Geoana released a statement on 17 October expressing concern over the escalation of hostilities and calling on all sides "to refrain from further military action, respect the cease-fire, and engage in meaningful negotiations." LF

ABKHAZ PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS POSTPONED

Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba announced on Abkhaz television that the parliamentary elections scheduled for 24 November have been postponed due to the ongoing fighting, Caucasus Press reported on 17 October. LF

ITERA THREATENS TO HALVE GAS SUPPLIES TO GEORGIA

The Gazprom subsidiary ITERA threatened on 17 October to cut gas supplies to Georgia by 50 percent as of 20 October unless Tbilisi promptly pays back all its outstanding debts, Reuters and Interfax reported. The Georgian distributor Gruzgas owes ITERA a total of $82 million dating back to 1996, of which more than $20 million was for 2000 and $5.8 million for 2001. LF

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS GEORGIA

On the second leg of his tour of the South Caucasus, Anatoliy Zlenko held talks in Tbilisi on 17 October with his Georgian counterpart Irakli Menagharishvili, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. They focused on bilateral relations, global and regional security, and cooperation including between GUUAM member states. Particular attention was focused on the situation in Abkhazia: Zlenko again affirmed Kyiv's support for Georgia's territorial integrity and reiterated that Ukraine would be willing to provide peacekeepers to serve in Abkhazia under a UN mandate. But Abkhaz presidential aide Astamur Tania said in Sukhum the same day that the Abkhaz leadership opposes Ukraine's involvement in any peacekeeping operation," Interfax reported. He said Ukraine "has a nonconstructive position" regarding how to resolve the conflict. LF

GEORGIAN CRIMINAL KINGPIN KILLED BY OUTHOUSE MINE

Vephkhia Margoshvili, who was widely suspected of involvement in abductions and drug trafficking through Georgia's Pankisi gorge, was killed by a mine that exploded in his outhouse on the morning of 17 October, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze left Tbilisi for Pankisi the same day to investigate the killing. Georgian press commentaries on 18 October focused on a possible connection between Margoshvili's murder and that of journalist Giorgi Sanaya in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2001). Shortly before Sanaya's death, Margoshvili gave Georgian parliament Human Rights Committee Chair Elene Tevdoradze a video cassette with incriminating material which he asked her to pass to Sanaya. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER REPORTS ON DEFENSE SPENDING, ARMS TRADE

Speaking at a press conference in Astana on 17 October, Deputy Defense Minister Zhannat Ertlesova said that Kazakhstan's 2002 budget allocates more than 33.7 billion tenges ($227.7 million) for her ministry, of which 20.5 billion is to be spent on defense and 1.5 billion on personnel training, Interfax reported. This year's budget allocated 30.9 billion tenges for defense, an 87 percent increase over the previous year. She admitted unspecified financial violations within the ministry in the areas of budget planning and control, but ruled out any connection between those violations and the recent fires at two arms depots (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 14 August and 7 September 2001). She also said that in 2002 Kazakhstan hopes to earn 2 billion tenges from arms sales, which is double the average for the past four years. LF

TAJIK DEFENSE MINISTER DENIES U.S. PARATROOPERS LANDED IN AFGHANISTAN

Tajikistan's Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev denied on 17 October that U.S. paratroopers have landed near Kandahar, Interfax reported. He said doing so in territory controlled by the Taliban would be "suicidal." Also on 17 October, Tajikistan's Security Ministry increased surveillance of the Dushanbe water supply system and other vital facilities, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. LF

U.S. AMBASSADOR THANKS UZBEKISTAN'S MUSLIMS FOR SUPPORTING ANTITERRORISM CAMPAIGN

Meeting with staff members of the Muslim Spiritual Board of Uzbekistan, U.S. Ambassador John Herbst thanked Uzbekistan's Muslim community for their support of the U.S.-led antiterrorist strikes against neighboring Afghanistan, Interfax reported on 17 October. LF




RESIDENTS WANT MINSK BELTWAY TO DETOUR STALIN-ERA MASSACRE SITE

A rally of residents of Minsk's Zyalyony Luh-6 suburb on 17 October decided to seek a meeting with the state authorities over the reconstruction of the Minsk beltway, which threatens to damage the neighboring Kurapaty site where the Stalin-era NKVD executed tens of thousands of "enemies of the people" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2001), Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Some 500 people from the suburb signed a petition asking the authorities to build a four-kilometer beltway section bypassing Kurapaty. JM

UKRAINIAN MILITARY OFFICIALS SUSPENDED OVER PLANE CRASH

Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk on 17 October suspended Air-Defense Forces chief Volodymyr Tkachov and his deputy Volodymyr Dyakov over the crash of a Russian Tu-154 airliner believed to have been hit by a Ukrainian missile, Ukrainian media reported. A Defense Ministry spokesman said both officials were suspended "for the sake of unbiased investigation" into the crash. The Prosecutor-General's Office has launched a probe into the crash. Another investigation is being conducted by a Ukrainian government commission. Although top Ukrainian officials offered apologies for the tragedy, Kyiv has not yet officially accepted the findings of a Russian commission that concluded the plane with 78 aboard was downed by an S-200 missile apparently fired by Ukraine. JM

UKRAINIAN SOCIALIST LEADER CALLS FOR BROAD ELECTION BLOC

Socialist Party head Oleksandr Moroz has called for a broad election coalition in order to win next year's parliamentary election and introduce sweeping political changes in Ukraine. Moroz said the goal of the coalition will be to amend the Ukrainian Constitution to pass some presidential powers to the parliament. "More and more people in Ukraine understand that it is necessary to change the system of power, make it subordinate to society and make authorities' decisions clear and transparent," AP quoted from Moroz's statement. Interfax reported that Moroz addressed his appeal to both Rukh organizations, the Sobor Party, the Reforms and Congress Party, the Fatherland Party, the Communist Party, and the For Ukraine group. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT QUERIES TOP OFFICIALS ABOUT MELNYCHENKO'S TAPES

The parliament on 17 October questioned the head of the Council of National Security and Defense, the Security Service chief, and the prosecutor-general about their reactions to a recent request made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko, who made secret audio recordings in President Leonid Kuchma's office in 2000, Interfax reported. Last week, Melnychenko asked Ukraine's leadership to confirm that his recordings contain state secrets in order to prevent those secrets from being leaked. Melnychenko explained that he has received an official demand from the U.S. Justice Department to hand over all the recordings he made in Kuchma's office. Melnychenko asked Kuchma and top Ukrainian officials to meet him and listen to the tapes together to determine what material is confidential. Melnychenko alleges that his recordings contain not only state secrets of Ukraine, but also of Russia, Great Britain, Germany, Israel, Spain, Turkey, and some other countries. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES NEW PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION BILL

The parliament on 18 October voted by 234 to 123 to adopt a new version of the parliamentary election bill that was vetoed by President Kuchma earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001), Interfax reported. Following Kuchma's suggestion, the deputies shortened the election campaign to 90 days. They insisted, however, on the provision that territorial election commissions obligatorily include members of the parties that won no less than 4 percent of the vote in the previous parliamentary ballot. As to all other parties, the bill stipulates that their representation in those commissions should be determined by a draw. The bill abolishes the requirement to collect signatures in support of parties seeking to register their candidates. Instead, a party is to pay a security deposit equal to some $48,000 in order to qualify for elections. JM

TURKEY FULLY SUPPORTS NATO MEMBERSHIP FOR ESTONIA

Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem told his visiting Estonian counterpart Toomas Hendrik Ilves in Ankara on 17 October that his country supports the entry of Estonia into NATO as soon as possible, ETA reported. Cem noted that NATO membership should not be dependent on the interests of any third country. The ministers noted that current bilateral relations are very good, but that trade should be increased. Cem said that Turkey can learn from Estonia's experience in attracting foreign investment. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu also spoke with Ilves about the need to continue the various projects through which their states give support to Georgia and Azerbaijan. Ilves delivered a lecture, focusing on security issues, at Bilkent University and was to inaugurate an honorary consulate in Istanbul on 18 October, BNS reported. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT VISITS HUNGARY

Accompanied by several ministers and a delegation of 16 businessmen, Vaira Vike-Freiberga began an official three-day visit to Hungary on 16 October. During an official luncheon in her honor the next day, Vike-Freiberga thanked her Hungarian counterpart Ferenc Madl for supporting her country's entry into NATO and expressed the hope that both countries will join the European Union in 2004, BNS reported. The presidents participated in the signings of a cooperation program on education and science for 2002-2005 by the countries' education ministers and of an agreement for readmission of illegal immigrants, which although the two countries do not have any common borders are required by EU directives. In a meeting with Premier Viktor Orban, she mentioned the economy, defense, and education as areas where cooperation between their states should be closer. Orban noted that Hungary plans to establish an embassy in Riga in 2003. SG

LITHUANIA'S DEFENSE BUDGET FOR 2002 IN LINE WITH NATO STANDARDS

The Defense Ministry announced on 17 October that the expenditures for defense in the 2002 budget were drafted taking into account the principles used by NATO countries, ELTA reported. The state will spend a maximum of 50 percent of total defense expenses for personnel, 22 percent for purchases of equipment and weapons, and around 14 percent for the training and education of servicemen. Complying with the agreement signed by all political parties in the spring (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2001), defense expenses in 2002 account for 2 percent of GDP, or about 1 billion litas ($250 million). Defense expenditures this year are 923 million litas, or 1.95 percent of GDP. The Defense Ministry will spend more than two-thirds of the 2002 defense expenses (813 million litas), with other institutions spending 190.5 million litas. SG

POLISH YOUNG LEFTISTS PROTEST WAR IN AFGHANISTAN

Some 100 people from the Anti-War Accord demonstrated in front of the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw on 17 October against the war in Afghanistan, PAP reported. The Anti-War Accord was set up by the Polish Socialist Party Youth Organization, the Labor Union Youth Federation, and the Working Democracy group. "Millions cannot answer for the atrocity of a handful of people," the agency quoted one demonstrator as saying. "This is a scandal. These people [demonstrators] are coming out on the side of the murderers, this should be banned," a passerby commented. A poll conducted by OBOP from 12-15 October among 1,020 adult Poles found that 61 percent of them support the antiterrorist action in Afghanistan, while 30 percent oppose it. Fifty-nine percent believe Poland should join in the attacks if the U.S. requests support from NATO countries. JM

POLISH OFFICIALS DENY THAT U.S. REQUESTED MILITARY AID

Defense Minister Bronislaw Komorowski on 17 October denied that the U.S. has requested that Warsaw send its special task force GROM to Afghanistan. "Rzeczpospolita" wrote on 15 October that, following the U.S. request, a decision to this effect was made at a meeting of President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, Prime Minister designate Leszek Miller, and Defense Minister designate Jerzy Szmajdzinski. Polish military experts believe that GROM (group of operational-mobile reaction -- the acronym means "thunder" in Polish), Poland's elite and top-secret military unit, is sufficiently prepared to cooperate with U.S. and British commandos in Afghanistan. The "Rzeczpospolita" allegation was also denied by Premier Buzek and presidential security adviser Marek Siwiec. JM

POLISH GOVERNMENT DECLASSIFIES COMMUNIST-ERA ARCHIVES

Maciej Musial, the head of the prime minister's office, told journalists in Warsaw on 17 October that the government declassified a large quantity of top-secret documents dating from 1945-1989 of the former Office of the Council of Ministers, PAP reported. Copies of the declassified documents will be transferred to the Institute of National Remembrance, the State Archives, and major Polish universities. In particular, the documents include dramatic reports on cruel crimes committed by Red Army soldiers deployed in Poland. JM

PARLIAMENTARY RADIO TO START IN POLAND ON 19 OCTOBER

A new Radio Parliament station will start broadcasting on 19 October, when the newly elected Sejm is to convene for its first sitting, Polish Radio reported on 17 October. On 198 kilohertz long-wave frequency, Radio Parliament will air full transmissions of debates of both houses of the parliament, reports on parliamentary committees' work, as well as interviews with parliamentarians and discussions about current legislative work. Radio Parliament will broadcast 10 hours daily on days when the Sejm and the Senate hold sessions. Henryk Walczak, the public Polish Radio's parliamentary reporter and commentator, was appointed the director of Radio Parliament. JM

POLAND, ROMANIA CREATE JOINT PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY COUNCIL

Marek Siwiec and Ion Talpes, top security advisers to the Polish and Romanian presidents respectively, announced the creation of a joint advisory presidential council in Warsaw on 17 October, PAP reported. Siwiec said the Polish-Romanian council was set up following the example of the already existing Polish-Ukrainian, Polish-Lithuanian, and Polish-Turkish councils. JM

POLAND'S JARUZELSKI DENIES RESPONSIBILITY FOR 1970 MASSACRE

General Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland's last communist leader, on 18 October denied that he ordered troops to shoot at workers during the 1970 protests (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 17 October 2001), dpa and AP reported. "During the tragic events of December 1970, I did not violate the constitution, I did not issue an order to use firearms, I did not commit any crime," Jaruzelski stated in the Warsaw District Court, reading from his 80-page typed opening testimony. "The indictment is groundless. It includes crucial gaps, mistakes, and manipulations," Jaruzelski said. According to him, his case has "political roots" and is being reported by the media in a "tendentious way." JM

'SUSPICIOUS PACKAGE' DELIVERED TO CZECH CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES

police spokeswoman Eva Brozova on 17 October told CTK that a "suspicious package" was delivered the same day to the Chamber of Deputies. The incident did not disturb the chamber's session and the package suspected of containing anthrax spores was removed. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT SAYS DEFENSE OF FREEDOM MUST NOT SILENCE CRITICS

Speaking at the closing meeting of Forum 2000 on 17 October, President Vaclav Havel said that it is "the duty of all people of good will to defend freedom, human life, human dignity, and justice among peoples and nations" and that "in extreme cases" such values must be defended by force. But defense of human freedom, he said, "cannot be a pretext for silencing critical voices," CTK reported. Participants adopted a declaration calling on wealthy countries to share their riches with third world countries and for "more global fairness," AP reported. "The promise of universal well-being and prosperity, which lies at the heart of the modern age, has turned out to be an illusion," the declaration said. "It would be useful to assert a global ethical minimum reflecting mankind's fundamental moral principles that must be respected." MS

CZECH RIGHTIST PARTIES WANT TO SET UP OFFICE IN CHARGE OF COMMUNIST POLICE FILES

A group of deputies from the Civic Democratic Party and the Freedom Union on 17 October submitted in the Chamber of Deputies a draft bill on setting up an office that would be in charge of all of the files of the communist secret police, the StB, CTK reported. The model is that of the "Gauck Office," which is in charge of the Stasi files in the former German Democratic Republic. Vaclav Krasa of the Freedom Union said the intention is to have all the files transferred to the new Institute for the Documentation of the Totalitarian Regime. The move follows a proposal in the Senate to open up StB files and allow free access to anyone. Krasa said the two draft bills should be debated simultaneously in the two chambers of the parliament. He said the proposed institute would also process the files and would publish case studies on the way the communist regime and its security apparatus operated. Members of the institute are to be elected by the Chamber of Deputies from among candidates proposed by the country's president and the Senate, Krasa said. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER RECEIVES SUSPICIOUS 'ANTHRAX ENVELOPE'

One day after a letter suspected of containing anthrax spores was received by the premier's office, a similar letter was received on 17 October in the office of parliamentary speaker Jozef Migas, CTK reported. The letter had been sent from Croatia. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told journalists that the cabinet is working on a draft law on the coordination of ministerial activities pertaining to the protection of the population against biological weapons. An e-mailed death threat to President Rudolf Schuster was received at the presidential office in Bratislava. The sender said the president, his wife, and his children will all be shot by 1 December because Schuster had dared win the presidential elections over "a Slovak that is a thousand times better than you are, [who is the true] leader of the Slovak nation, Vladimir Meciar." MS

SLOVAK WORKERS MARCH IN PROTEST

Some 5,000 workers from all over Slovakia marched in Bratislava on 17 October in protest against the government's wage policies and rising unemployment, AP reported. Some demonstrators shouted, "We want communism back!" Trade union leaders addressed the protesters and demanded that the government keep its promises to fight low wages and unemployment, which has reached nearly 20 percent. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said the march was merely an attempt by trade union leaders to boost their own popularity. MS

HUNGARY TO REVIEW NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY

Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi and representatives of the six parliamentary parties on 17 October agreed on the need to draft a new national security strategy, Hungarian media reported. Martonyi said the new strategy would allow the cabinet to act on its own in emergency situations, which he said is necessary in view of NATO's suggestion that Hungary change its constitutional requirement on the matter. Hungary is the only country within the Atlantic alliance that requires a two-thirds majority vote in parliament to approve sending armed units abroad. Martonyi explained that since 11 September the world has changed, and Hungarian security policy must take that into account. MSZ

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT MOVES TO HEAD OFF ANTHRAX PANIC

Moving to avert a public panic over anthrax, Interior Minister Sandor Pinter announced on 17 October that an information center will be set up within two days to receive reports of suspicious looking parcels suspected of containing the bacteria. Pinter described reports on the presence of anthrax in Hungary as false alarms, and said that the suspicious parcels investigated thus far were found to contain chalk and mortar powder. Cabinet spokesman Gabor Borokai asked the media to exercise caution in their reports to prevent a public panic, Hungarian dailies reported. MSZ




TOP INTERNATIONAL REPRESENTATIVES ARRIVE IN MACEDONIA TO PUSH FORWARD PEACE PLAN...

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and OSCE Chairman Mircea Geoana arrived in Skopje on 18 October to try and break the deadlock that has brought the implementation of the Ohrid peace plan to a halt, Western news agencies reported. "There could easily be in this country a return to violence unless everything that was agreed on is implemented," Robertson said after landing in the capital. Geoana told reporters at the airport that progress in the political process is a precondition for the OSCE to continue building up its monitoring mission in Macedonia. The three are expected to meet with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski and leaders of ethnic Albanian and Macedonian parties to pressure them to approve the constitutional reforms to improve the rights of the ethnic Albanian minority as agreed in the Western-backed 13 August plan. DW

...STALLED DESPITE PRESIDENT'S THREATS TO WITHDRAW

Following a meeting with the leaders of the four largest parties in parliament that failed to come to any agreement, Trajkovski threatened to withdraw from the peace process and not submit any of the reform package to parliament for debate, AP and Reuters reported on 17 October. Ethnic Albanian deputies have boycotted parliament to protest Trajkovski's decision not to submit all 15 of the amendments at one time. "We will not take part in any parliamentary session if the constitutional changes are not presented in a package," said a senior official of the Party for Democratic Prosperity. Ethnic Albanian parties fear that Trajkovski will submit some key amendments with alterations, in particular one that states that Macedonia is made up of Macedonians and minorities, not the more neutral phrasing of Macedonia as a nation of its citizens as agreed in the Ohrid peace agreement. DW

MACEDONIAN POLICE MOVE TO REBEL AREAS POSTPONED, SCALED DOWN

A plan to begin moving Macedonian security forces into rebel-held territory accompanied by international monitors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2001), has been postponed to next week and reduced from eight villages to five, AFP and Reuters reported on 18 October. Craig Jennes, head of the OSCE mission in Macedonia, said that Western envoys agreed to go ahead with the plan "because of the positive political signal it sends. But we shall be hesitant about participation in the future if the political process remains stalled," he said. DW

SERBIAN WORKERS STRIKE, THREATEN BLOCKADES

More than 5,000 strikers blocked central Belgrade and 10,000 others in eight cities around Serbia chanted antigovernment slogans as strikes to protest the government's Labor Code continued, AP reported on 17 October. Union leaders have called for a one-hour blockade of Belgrade's main roads for 19 October and are demanding the resignation of Serbian Labor Minister Dragan Milovanovic. The Socialist Party of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic backed the strikers, saying the law "jeopardizes elementary rights of workers," while "giving too much power to employers and owners." DW

ETHNIC ALBANIANS SENTENCED IN KOSOVA FOR RUNNING ARMS TO MACEDONIA

A court in the southeastern town of Gnjilane convicted 10 ethnic Albanians of illegal weapons possession and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from two to 4 1/2 years, AP and Reuters reported. The 10 were the first to face trial of up to 900 suspects detained by KFOR peacekeepers between June and August attempting to take arms from Kosova to Macedonia to support ethnic Albanian rebels there. Many were later released and it is not clear how many remain in custody. The panel of judges was made up of two international judges and one local judge. DW

SERBIAN, ALBANIAN LEADERS MEET FOR FIRST TIME SINCE KOSOVA WAR

Marking the first meeting between the sides since the 1999 war, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic met in a roundtable with leaders of Kosova's main ethnic Albanian parties to discuss provincial elections set for 17 November, AP reported on 17 October. The meeting, organized by the U.S.-based Project on Ethnic Relations, focused on participation in the elections by the Serbian minority. In attendance were moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova and former Kosova Liberation Army leaders Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj. Although officials at the meeting were upbeat, others, speaking privately, said Haradinaj refused to meet with Covic while Thaci mostly argued with him. DW

BRITISH MISSIONS IN BOSNIA SHUT DOWN FOR SECURITY REASONS...

The British government has closed its embassies, consulates, and government agencies in Bosnia amid security concerns that also shut down U.S. facilities in the country on 17 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2001), dpa reported. Bosnian Prime Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija confirmed the closures, adding that security measures were increased at the locations. Meanwhile, the Bosnian Party of Democratic Action (SDA) strongly condemned what officials have labeled "credible threats" against the U.S. and British presence in the country, according to the Onasa news agency's. Citizens there "support the presence of the international community since it is necessary and is in the [interest] of peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina," an SDA statement said. AH

...AS BOSNIAN MUSLIM GROUPS CONDEMN ANTI-TALIBAN ATTACKS

Senior members of Bosnia's Muslim community have condemned U.S.-led operations against Afghanistan's Taliban regime, dpa reported on 17 October. A statement issued by the most senior of local clerics, Mustafa Ceric, said the community "raise[s] our voice against revenge resulting in innocent Afghan civilians becoming victims," the agency said. The United States and Britain were called on by Ceric to limit their retaliation to determining responsibility and punishing the real criminals, dpa reported. The Bosnian Muslims have repeatedly condemned the 11 September terrorist attacks against the United States, dpa said. AH

BOSNIAN SERB LEADER REJECTS UNITED BOSNIA AND TALK OF A SINGLE ARMY...

Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said the Republika Srpska would not be phased out and dismissed the idea of a united Bosnia-Herzegovina in statements carried by the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA and other media on 16 October. "Bosnia-Herzegovina is no longer a subject of interest to the world," he said, adding that "the Republika Srpska is a concept which cannot be denied." Ivanic said "nothing" could come of any initiative to form a single army in Bosnia-Herzegovina, labeling such moves unconstitutional, SRNA said. Ivenic said NATO sought better coordination of the country's armies, not a single army, and added that the Council of Europe did not mention a single merged army. The report said Ivanic said it is "in the interests of the Serbs from Republika Srpska to take over their part of Bosnia-Herzegovina and in that way prevent any possible manipulation with Bosnia-Herzegovina." AH

...AND SAYS REPUBLIKA SRPSKA DOESN'T KNOW WHEREABOUTS OF KARADZIC, MLADIC

Ivanic also insisted that the Republika Srpska has no information on the whereabouts of Radovan Karadzic or Ratko Mladic, SRNA reported on 16 October, citing local media. Ivanic said that efforts to encourage authorities of Republika Srpska to hunt down the two wartime leaders, both accused of war crimes, was simply an attempt by the international community to avoid responsibility for their fates. Ivanic added that, "If the Republika Srpska were to show willingness for cooperation, judicial bodies of the Republika Srpska could hold trials against Serbs accused of war crimes," according to the agency. AH

BOSNIAN ASSEMBLY TO HOLD 'NO-CONFIDENCE' VOTE ON DEPUTY MINISTER

The speaker of the House of Peoples, Sejfudin Tokic, has launched proceedings that could lead to the ouster of the deputy minister of foreign trade and economic relations, Jadranko Prlic, local media reported on 17 October. A plenary session of the legislature will discuss the initiative on 23 October, according to the Onasa website. The move comes after an audit reportedly showed overspending, misleading figures on revenues and spending, failure to pay employee contributions in the diplomatic-consular network, and sloppy bookkeeping, the reports said. AH

NEW BOSNIAN MUSLIM POLITICAL LEADER OUTLINES KEY POLICIES

Speaking on public radio on 17 October, the new leader of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) outlined the course that one of the country's strongest political parties will pursue under his leadership. Sulejman Tihic reiterated that delegates "defined our position as that of a center-oriented people's party," with priorites that include "general civilized values regarding rights and liberties, the economy, social policy, issues of war veterans and martyrs' families, and others." He stressed that the party now seeks to speak for the interests of non-Muslims as well. When asked about efforts to form a "Bosniak [Muslim] nation," the SDA leader said, "the number of those who support this initiative is growing by the day." He added that, "If any initiative is belated, then perhaps it is a case of 'better late than never.'" Tihic also pledged to "try to improve our relations with the international community" and criticized the ruling Alliance for Change for allowing a deterioration in relations with Croatia and a "staffing purge" when they came to power. AH

ALBANIAN TROOPS DEPART FOR PEACEKEEPING MISSION IN BOSNIA

A contingent of Albanian soldiers left Rinas Airport on 17 October to join the Stabilization Force-led peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, ATA reported, citing a Defense Ministry spokeswoman. The company, including 70 officers and soldiers from what the agency describes as an "Armed Forces Commando" unit, will join German peacekeepers under the SFOR banner. After a month of training, the Albanian troops will back up the German mission in Bosnia, the agency said. AH

ROMANIA CONSIDERS APPEALING TO HAGUE TRIBUNAL OVER CONFLICT WITH UKRAINE

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 17 October that he has asked the Foreign Affairs Ministry to examine the possibility of appealing to the International Court of Justice in The Hague over Ukraine's drilling for oil in the Black Sea near Serpents Island, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase told a forum of Romanian-language journalists from around the world that the 1997 basic treaty with Ukraine was negotiated "in haste" because Romania's then-governing coalition believed it would advance the country's chances to be admitted to NATO at the Madrid summit. Not enough attention has been paid to the vague stipulations in the treaty on the demarcation of the border between the two countries on the Black Sea's continental shelf, Nastase said. He said this has made it possible for Ukraine to start drilling in 2000, despite the fact that negotiations on the continental shelf have yet to be concluded. MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SEES IMPROVED CHANCES FOR NATO, EU ACCESSION

Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said in an interview on 17 October with the German daily "Suddeutsche Zeitung" that Romania is likely to benefit from the latest developments in world politics, Mediafax reported. Geoana said that the strategic importance of Southeastern Europe is growing in view of its proximity to crisis regions such as the Near and the Middle East. He said this will encourage NATO and the EU to expand and to extend financial assistance to countries in the Balkans. Geoana said Romania's chances of becoming a NATO member at the 2002 Prague summit are also improving due to Russia's new pro-Western orientation, and that Romania and Bulgaria are likely to join the EU in 2006. MS

ETHNIC HUNGARIAN PARTY IN ROMANIA EVASIVE OVER ROLE IN STATUS LAW IMPLEMENTATION

Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko told journalists on 17 October that the UDMR "has the expertise and the infrastructure" needed for issuing Magyar ID cards in line with the provisions of the Hungarian Status Law, but added that his party will under no circumstances become involved in issuing these cards, Mediafax reported. Marko said the UDMR could "make recommendations" to authorities in Hungary on who is entitled to carry the ID card. The Romanian authorities have several times warned that issuing ID cards on Romanian territory is unconstitutional, but Marko said the cards will be issued in Hungary. Marko also said the UDMR wants the Education Ministry to "offer explanations" about a search that is under way in Hungarian-language schools in Romania for textbooks printed in Hungary. He said the Covasna County local authorities have launched controls "reminiscent of the Securitate methods of before 1989." MS

ROMANIAN ROMANY ORGANIZATION TO SUE PIATRA-NEAMT MAYOR

The Framework Romany Convention announced on 17 October that it will begin legal proceedings against Piatra-Neamt Mayor Ion Rotaru over his plans to move the Roma in his town to a specially designated area, Mediafax reported. The organization praised President Ion Iliescu and Premier Nastase for their public opposition to the plan. Also on 17 October, Hunedoara County Prefect Aurelian Seraficeanu told journalists he is opposed to Deva Mayor Mircia Muntean's plans to move the Roma to the outskirts of the town, and will launch judicial proceedings against the mayor if he goes ahead with it. Muntean said the plan has no discriminatory motivation, claiming that concentrating the Roma in a single place will make it "easier to identify them for the purpose of extending social aid" to that population. He said that in light of Romany opposition, he will offer the apartments intended for the Roma to "ethnic Hungarians or Germans." MS

MOLDOVAN, ROMANIAN INTERIOR MINISTERS SIGN AGREEMENT IN CHISINAU...

Visiting Romanian Interior Minster Ioan Rus and his Moldovan counterpart Vasile Draganel signed in Chisinau on 17 October a three-year agreement on securing borders, combating organized crime, the transborder trafficking of arms and drugs, as well as illegal immigration and trafficking of women. The two ministries are to exchange information on a permanent basis in the struggle against these crimes, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS

...BUT NO AGREEMENT IN SIGHT OVER MOLDOVA'S 'ANTI-ROMANIAN CAMPAIGN'

Rus also met with Premier Vasile Tarlev and told him Bucharest wants the Moldovan government to "clarify" its position over the anti-Romanian declarations made in Strasbourg by Justice Minister Ion Morei. Tarlev told journalists the same day that he "regrets" Premier Nastase "missed an opportunity" to meet in Chisinau with Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh and solve the "serious problems" Bucharest has in its relations with Kyiv. Asked to comment on the Romanian government's demands, Tarlev replied that they are "unacceptable." No foreign official is entitled to demand the dismissal of a Moldovan cabinet member, he said, "just as Moldova cannot demand the reshuffle of the cabinet in Bucharest." MS

TRANSDNIESTER SEPARATISTS BLOCK HIGHWAY AGAIN TO PROTEST MOLDOVAN BLOCKADE

On 17 October, picketers claiming to represent members of Transdniester trade unions again blocked the Chisinau-Odessa highway near the border with Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported. The demonstrators allowed vehicles with Russian, Ukrainian, and Transdniester license plates to pass through, but would not allow passage to cars with Moldovan plates. The press service of the Transdniester separatists told ITAR-TASS that the protest "was staged in response to the economic blockade enforced by the Moldovan leadership, and has a warning character." MS

ANTHRAX SCARE REACHES BULGARIA

A working meeting at the Interior Ministry was held on 17 October to discuss ways of coping with the many reports announcing the discovery of "white powder" in different places in Bulgaria, BTA reported. The Sofia post office earlier on 17 October handed over to the National Security Service a small parcel posted abroad, which contained white powder. A similarly looking substance found in the parking space of the Sofia Hilton was tested and found not to be anthrax. Areas in Sofia were sealed off in the morning hours after public phone booths had been dusted and had to be disinfected. An envelope labeled "Anthrax" was found in the vicinity of a cemetery in Kiustendil and police detained a man who confessed to the prank. A similar "practical joke" was played by a worker in Lukovit on a fellow-worker. The Interior Ministry announced that pranksters will be charged under an article in the Criminal Code. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS ATTACK STOYANOV

Five out of the six pairs of candidates for the presidential and vice-presidential post on 16 October participated in the first televised debate ahead of the 11 November elections, BTA reported on the next day. President Petar Stoyanov and his running mate Nelly Kutskova did not take part in the debate because Stoyanov objects to a provision in the law that makes a distinction between candidates according to who nominated them. All participants concentrated on attacking Stoyanov's record and in particular his alleged insufficient involvement in the struggle against corruption and his "subordination" to the Union of Democratic Forces. Stoyanov said in reaction that "Bulgaria cannot be ruled with hatred and negativism." MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY POURS COLD WATER ON DEFENSE MINISTER'S STATEMENT

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Elena Poptodorova on 17 October said a possible mission for Bulgarian troops in Macedonia would require a special invitation from NATO, and coordination with the authorities in Skopje as well as the approval of the Bulgarian parliament, BTA reported. Poptodorova was reacting to a statement by Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov in Berlin that the possible participation of Bulgarian troops in the ongoing peacekeeping effort in Macedonia had been raised during meetings Svinarov held with German Defense Ministry officials. BTA reported from Skopje later on 17 October that the Macedonian Defense Ministry said in a statement that troops from neighboring countries should not become involved in efforts to solve the Macedonian crisis, regardless of whether they are NATO candidates or not. MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER THANKS RUSSIA FOR UN SUPPORT

Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi on 17 October thanked Russia for its support of Bulgaria in securing a nonpermanent representative seat on the UN Security Council, ITAR-TASS reported the same day from Sofia. Pasi signed with Russian Ambassador Vladimir Titov an intergovernmental program of cooperation in culture, education, and science for 2001-2003. Pasi said that a telephone conversation he had with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov in early October changed Moscow's position on Bulgaria's candidacy for the Security Council seat and said Russia's changed position had a "considerable impact" on the outcome of the vote. MS

BULGARIA HOPES FOR OUT-OF-COURT SETTLEMENT OVER BALKAN AIRLINES

Transport and Communications Minister Plamen Petrov told journalists on 17 October that the government is ready to reach an out-of-court settlement with the Israeli Zeevi group, which owns a majority 75 percent stake in the debt-ridden Bulgarian national carrier Balkan Airlines, Reuters reported. The airline was grounded in February and a Sofia court launched insolvency procedure against Balkan Airlines in March. An administrator appointed by the court approved the resumption of some flights and is seeking an investor. Petrov said the Zeevi group has sought contacts with the cabinet and "hard and complex negotiations are under way." He said if these problems are solved, there is a good chance that a foreign investor will want to take over Balkan airlines, but added that for the sake of the negotiations' success "it would be good not to put the matters on front pages." MS




There is no End Note today.





XS
SM
MD
LG