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Newsline - October 19, 2001




PUTIN IN SHANGHAI FOR APEC SUMMIT, TALKS ON ANTITERROR COALITION

President Vladimir Putin arrived in Shanghai on 18 October to take part in the Asia-Pacific Cooperation summit and to hold meetings with U.S. President George W. Bush and other world leaders of the antiterrorist coalition, ITAR-TASS reported. Prior to his arrival, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell agreed to conduct additional meetings of the Russian-American consultative group on Afghanistan, Interfax reported. The Russian delegation to the APEC summit visited parts of Shanghai where Russian emigres lived in the 1920s and 1930s, ITAR-TASS reported. The news agency said that the last Russian survivor from that era died there in 1999 at the age of 96. PG

RUSSIA WANTS NORTHERN ALLIANCE TO PLAY KEY ROLE IN POST-TALIBAN AFGHANISTAN

According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 October, the Russian government is increasingly inclined to support the Northern Alliance and its leader Burhanuddin Rabbani as the core of a post-Taliban Afghan government, and increasingly opposes the idea, supported by the U.S. and Pakistan, of forming a coalition government including some moderate elements from the Taliban. The paper said that Moscow will insist that ethnic Tajiks play a key role in any future Afghan government. VY

RUSSIANS SUPPORT ANTITERRORIST UNION WITH U.S., DIVIDE ON U.S. EFFORT IN AFGHANISTAN

According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 18 October, 71 percent of Russians approve the idea of a close union between Russia and the United States for the fight against international terrorism. But Russians are divided on the current American military campaign in Afghanistan: 40 percent approve of U.S. actions, while 42 percent disapprove. PG

UNITY PARTY HAS TIES WITH AFGHAN VETS ASSOCIATION

The Russian Union of Veterans of Afghanistan (RSVA) will gather in Cheboksary on 19 October for their sixth annual congress, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to the agency, the chairman of the board of the union is Frants Klintsevich, deputy head of the pro-Kremlin Unity party's faction in the Duma. Other members of note are Moscow Oblast Governor Boris Gromov, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed, Ulyanovsk Oblast Governor Vladimir Shamanov, Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev, and Airborne Troop Commander Georgii Shpak, according to the agency. JAC

AFGHAN WAR VETERANS OPPOSE RUSSIAN PARTICIPATION IN NEW AFGHANISTAN FIGHTING

The RSVA has prepared a statement to be approved at its congress on 19 October saying that Russian soldiers should not take part in any fighting in Afghanistan, and that the Taliban must not be included in any postwar settlement government, Interfax reported on 18 October. PG

OFFICIALS SEEK TO CALM RUSSIANS OVER ANTHRAX SCARE...

Numerous Russian officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko and First Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishchenko, argued on 18 October that there is no cause for panic in Russia over the anthrax reports in the United States, Russian agencies reported. But more cases of white powder were reported in Russian cities, and Russian postal officials and the presidential administration announced that they are stepping up security for the handling of mail, Interfax reported. PG/VY

...AS HEALTH MINISTRY DENIES ANTHRAX STRAINS IN U.S. OF RUSSIAN ORIGIN

Yurii Fedorov, the chief of the department of emergency situations at the Health Ministry, told Interfax on 18 October that there is no chance that the strains of anthrax that have been found in the U.S. are of Russian origin. Meanwhile, in an article published in "The Moscow Times" the same day, defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said that Russia has some rare strains of anthrax and "the world's best complex anthrax vaccine," which it refused to make available to the U.S. when asked by Washington to do so during the Desert Storm operation in 1991. PG

KASYANOV CALLS FOR IMPROVING FISHING INDUSTRY

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 18 October said that the fishing industry must be improved quickly because it is currently one of the most weakly developed sectors of the country's economy, Interfax reported. "All the sectors of the economy are growing by seven-mile-long steps, but the fishing branch is at the very end of the tail," Kasyanov said. Yevgenii Nazdratenko, the chairman of the State Fishing Committee, asked that the government provide his organization 1.5 billion rubles ($52 million) to subsidize loans for the development of the industry he is responsible for, the news agency said. PG

GOVERNMENT TO SPEND $35 MILLION TO HELP SOLDIERS RE-ENTER THE ECONOMY

Prime Minister Kasyanov signed a directive on 18 October calling for spending up to 1.1 billion rubles ($35 million) over the next four years to help military personnel whose positions are eliminated re-enter the workforce, Interfax reported. The government plans to cut the size of the military significantly over that period, but Duma deputy and former Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said the same day that the Russian armed forces should be maintained at a level of 1.2-1.3 million uniformed personnel in order to meet all the challenges Moscow faces, the news agency said. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" reported on 18 October that the Nizhnii Novgorod experiment with alternative service is proving effective, and that the number of those seeking to evade military service countrywide has fallen by two-thirds over the last year. PG

DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS INTERIOR MINISTRY SHOULD NOT CONTROL ALL MIGRATION ISSUES

Deputy Prime Minister Matvienko said on 18 October that the Interior Ministry should not take over all the programs connected with migration that were previously the responsibility of the Ministry of Federation Affairs, Nationalities, and Migration Policies that was abolished on 17 October, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2001). She said that some of the functions, such as those involving labor flows, should be put under the competence of the Labor Ministry, but added that the government has not yet discussed her views on the issue. Meanwhile, in an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 October, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev said that the authorities must tighten control over migration in a responsible way. "We are a country of extremes," Tuleev said. "Ten years ago, we sat behind an 'iron curtain' through which not even a mouse could pass, while today we are a passageway for the entire world." PG

GOVERNMENT TIGHTENS RULE ON INVESTMENTS BY STATE ENTERPRISES IN FOREIGN COMPANIES

The Russian government issued a directive on 18 October requiring federal government-owned unitary enterprises to report more precisely on any investments they have or make in foreign firms, Interfax reported. PG

GOVERNMENT SETS UP FINANCIAL MONITORING COMMITTEE

"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 October that the Russian government is preparing to set up the financial monitoring committee that is to identify and prevent money-laundering schemes. The newspaper said that the presidential administration has had the necessary document in hand since 7 September, but that Putin has not yet signed it, although he may do so this week. PG

GOVERNMENT TO HAVE COMPATRIOTS PROGRAM IN PLACE THIS YEAR

Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said in an interview published in "Vek" on 18 October that the government will have in place before the end of this year a program of measures to provide assistance to ethnic Russians living outside of Russia. PG

RUSSIANS SAY DISPUTES BETWEEN DUMA AND CABINET HELP COUNTRY

According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 18 October, 51 percent of Russians believe that the political struggle between the parliament and the government is entirely normal and works to Russia's advantage, while 31 percent believe it is harmful. PG

FEDERATION COUNCIL MEMBER SEES NO LEGAL OR POLITICAL BASIS FOR UNITING ABKHAZIA WITH RUSSIA

Vadim Gustov, the chairman of the CIS affairs in the Federation Council, told Interfax on 18 October that he does not see any basis for including Abkhazia in the Russian Federation as some Abkhaz officials have suggested. He said, "any attempts to change existing borders will lead to the beginning of a civil war." Moving to include Abkhazia within Russia would open the question of the status of Karabakh and also that of the Kurds, Gustov said. Meanwhile, Mikhail Margelov, the deputy head of the Federation Council's International Relations Committee, said that there is no reason to discuss the Abkhaz request to become "an associated member" of the Russian Federation because such a status does not exist in the Russian Constitution, RTR reported on 18 October. PG/VY

DUMA BACKS PRESIDENTIAL CITIZENSHIP BILL

The Duma on 18 October voted 273 to 117 on first reading in favor of a Kremlin-backed citizenship bill that will increase the residency requirement from three to five years and add some additional restrictions, RTR television reported. But before showing its support for this measure, the Duma defeated a Communist-offered citizenship bill that would have extended Russian citizenship to the self-proclaimed republics of Abkhazia, Transdniester, and South Ossetia. VY

...RESTRICTS ADVERTISING ON RADIO AND TELEVISION...

Three hundred and thirty-one Duma deputies voted on 18 October on second reading in favor of amendments to the current advertising law that severely restricts the amount of advertising that can be carried on radio and television programs, RIA-Novosti reported. The bill prohibits all advertising on children's programs, religious broadcasts, and during movies. It also bans the use of running advertisements during movies. Vladimir Yevstafiev said that the legislation represents "a serious economic blow" to the Russian media. VY

...AND IMPOSES NEW RESTRICTIONS ON HANDLING OF IMPORTED NUCLEAR WASTE

The Duma also approved on 18 October on second reading a bill that would impose significant restrictions on the import of nuclear waste by requiring that importers observe strict ecological protection standards, ITAR-TASS reported. It also prohibits the permanent storage of nuclear materials in bodies of water or outer space. Deputies also approved on second and third reading a measure increasing the penalties for illegal use of trademarks, found the work of the Audit Chamber in 2000 to have been satisfactory, and asked it to conduct an audit at the Foreign Ministry. VY/PG

YAVLINSKY PRAISES PUTIN'S FOREIGN POLICY COURSE

In an interview published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 18 October, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky praised the current foreign policy course of Russian President Putin. He said that he supports all the steps the president has taken since 11 September. At the same time, Yavlinsky said he disagrees with much of Putin's domestic approach, including the president's policies on Chechnya, importing nuclear wastes, manipulation of elections, control of the media, and refusal to investigate the "Kursk" accident. PG

SPS SELECTS HEAD OF EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

The federal political council of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) on 18 October selected Eldar Yanbukhtin, 38, as chairman of the executive committee of the party, Interfax reported. Prior to the collapse of the USSR, Yanbukhtin worked at Gosbank and in the financial planning administration of Gosteleradio. In 1989, he went into private business and created the Kontakt-Media advertising agency, which he headed until recently. PG

NEW DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER FOR MIDDLE EAST NAMED

On 18 October, President Putin replaced Vasilii Sredin with Aleksandr Saltanov as deputy foreign minister responsible for the Middle East and Afghanistan, Interfax reported. Prior to that appointment, Saltanov was director of the Foreign Ministry's Middle East and North Africa Department. PG

U.S. EMBASSY IN MOSCOW TO RESUME ISSUING VISAS ON 22 OCTOBER

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow plans to resume issuing entry visas for Russians on 22 October, ITAR-TASS reported. The consular section was shut down last week in order to improve security and safety at the facility. PG

EBRD TO HELP FUND PUTIN'S TRANSPORT CORRIDORS

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said on 18 October that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will provide Russia with a loan of 800 million euros ($719 million) to develop the North-South and East-West transportation corridors being lobbied by President Putin, RBK reported. Beginning in 2003, he said, the EBRD plans to invest 1 billion euros ($910 million) in Russian transportation systems every year. VY

CLOSURE OF SPY CENTER IN CUBA DRAWS MIXED REACTIONS

The Cuban government on 18 October expressed its "complete" opposition to the Russian decision to close its electronic listening post at Lourdes, arguing that it will put Cuba's national security "in jeopardy," RIA-Novosti reported. In Moscow, communist and nationalist Duma deputies expressed equal outrage, ITAR-TASS reported. But the Russian Foreign Ministry downplayed the Cuban objections and said that Moscow hopes there will be no adverse consequences for Cuban-Russian relations. The ministry added that Moscow expects the U.S. to respond to Russia's move by closing its listening posts in countries neighboring Russia. VY

PUTIN GREETS Aliyev ON 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF AZERBAIJAN'S INDEPENDENCE

President Putin on 18 October sent a message to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev on the occasion of Azerbaijan's 10th anniversary of independence, noting that Russian-Azerbaijani relations are gaining momentum and that "there is no doubt that the multisided interrelationship between Russia and Azerbaijan will be developed in a thoroughgoing way in the future for the good of our peoples and in the interests of strengthening the Commonwealth of Independent States." PG

CHECHEN DOCTOR SAYS WEST IGNORES RUSSIAN BRUTALITY

Khassan Baiev, a Chechen doctor who has treated victims on both sides of the lines in Chechnya, said in an interview published in "The Independent" on 18 October that the West has failed to pay attention to Russian brutality in Chechnya. The same day, U.S. Secretary of State Powell told journalists that during the upcoming talks in Shanghai Washington will press Moscow to seek a political settlement in Chechnya, AFP reported. PG

KRYASHCHENE SAY THEY'RE A SEPARATE NATIONALITY

According to a report in "Kommersant-Daily" on 18 October, the Kryashchene, or "baptized" Tatars, consider themselves to be a distinct ethnic group separate from the Tatars and want to be counted as such in the next Russian census. They were listed as a separate group in the 1926 Soviet census but have been subsumed into the Tatar nation in subsequent enumerations. Tatar intellectuals have complained that Moscow is supporting this demand in order to reduce the number of Tatars, the second largest nationality in Russia after the ethnic Russians. PG

TRANSPARENCY SAYS RUSSIA HAS 'A PERVERSE SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE'

In its annual survey of global corruption, Transparency International said that "corruption is not just a collection of criminal activities in Russia; it is a perverse system of governance," "The Moscow Times" reported on 18 October. The organization ranked Russia as the 81st most corrupt country of the 91 states included in this year's survey. It ranks just below Pakistan and just above Tanzania, the survey reported. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS REVISION OF U.S.-RUSSIAN ACCORD ON STEEL EXPORTS

Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Maksim Medvedkov said on 16 October that the bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Russia that sets voluntary limits on the export of Russian steel to the United States must be reviewed because it contradicts the norms of the World Trade Organization, Interfax reported. Medvedkov invoked the rules of the WTO on this point even though Russia is not yet a member of that organization. PG

0.5 PERCENT INFLATION IN FIRST 15 DAYS OF OCTOBER

Consumer prices increased by 0.5 percent during the first 15 days of October, the State Statistics Committee told Interfax on 18 October. The committee predicted that inflation for the month of October will total 1.1-1.2 percent. Meanwhile, a group of economists predicted in an article published by "Vedomosti" on 18 October that inflation is likely to begin to rise again between now and the end of the year. PG

RUSSIA SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHES TWO ICBMS FROM SUBMARINE

A spokesman for the Russian navy said that a Russian submarine has successfully launched two ICBMs from the White Sea to targets in Kamchatka in the Russian Far East 7,000 kilometers away, Interfax reported. PG

NEWLY PROFITABLE AEROFLOT SEEKS TO IMPROVE IMAGE, SECURITY

Lev Koshlyakov, the deputy general director of Aeroflot, said on 18 October that the airline will end 2001 with a profit, Interfax reported. He said that Aeroflot is currently studying ways of improving its image with travelers and is also increasing spending on the security of its flights. PG

FROM THE COURT PAGE OF 'MOSKOVSKII KOMSOMOLETS'

The wedding has taken place quietly in Moscow within the past few weeks of Tatyana, younger daughter of Boris Nikolaevich Yeltsin and Naina Yeltsina, and former presidential administration head Valentin Yumashev, according to "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 19 October. Earlier rumors of the impending nuptials were denied by spokesmen for both bride and groom, and even the bride's father was not informed until the last moment. The honeymoon venue has not been disclosed. Yumashev's daughter Polina from his first marriage married SibAl president Oleg Deripaska last year. LF

DEMAND FOR FOREIGN CARS UP 2.5 TIMES IN YEAR

Russians purchased 31,111 foreign cars during the first nine months of 2001 compared to only 12,942 during the same period in 2000, "Vremya novostei" reported on 18 October. Domestic Russian car production rose by 3.4 percent from the first eight months of 2000 to the same period in 2001, the paper said. PG

HEALTH MINISTER BLAMES DRUG USE ON INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM, WEAKNESS OF STATE

Health Minister Yurii Shevchenko told the Duma on 17 October that "international terrorism" in the form of the Chechen war and weakness of the Russian state has made Russians uncertain about the future and thus contributed to the rise of drug use in the country, "Izvestiya" reported the following day. PG

STUDY FINDS FAR FEWER STREET CHILDREN IN MOSCOW THAN EXPECTED

A recent sociological study established that there are approximately 28,000 unsupervised street children in the Russian capital and not the million or more that some media outlets have claimed, "Vremya MN" reported on 18 October. PG

PRISONERS AT BUTYRKA UNHAPPY WITH TIGHTER CONTROLS

Deputy Justice Minister Yurii Kalinin told Interfax on 18 October that inmates at Moscow's Butyrka prison are unhappy with the recently tightened security and appear set to stage a riot of some kind. He and new Butyrka chief Vladimir Stupin said they are taking steps to make such an action impossible. PG

FIRST RUSSIAN MATRYOSHKA MUSEUM OPENS IN MOSCOW

The first-ever Russian museum devoted to the matryoshka wooden dolls known all over the world opened in Moscow on 18 October on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the production of the first of these nesting dolls, Interfax reported. PG

'KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA' JOURNALIST NAMED 'MISS PRESS-2001'

"Izvestiya" reported on 18 October that Anna Yerosheva, a journalist at "Komsomolskaya pravda," has been selected as Miss Press-2001. A journalist from "Izvestiya" finished second in the competition, the paper said. PG

PUTIN DECLARES SAKHA RESTORATION WORK A JOB WELL DONE

President Putin traveled to the city of Lensk in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) on 18 October to view efforts to restore that city following devastating floods last spring. According to ITAR-TASS, Putin visited in particular the part of Lensk that was restored by the diamond production company ALROSA, whose head is planning to run for the presidency of Sakha (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 October 2001). According to Interfax, during his visit Putin declared the restoration of Lensk complete. Putin acknowledged that "many conflicts and arguments arose between people during the [restoration] work," but "this is not the important thing" (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 September 2001). Putin noted that "a large amount of work had been done, and done well, in an unprecedentedly short time." JAC

AGRARIAN LEADER TURNS FROM NATIONAL TO LOCAL POLITICS

Agrarian Party leader and State Duma deputy (Fatherland-All Russia) Mikhail Lapshin has decided to compete as a candidate in the 16 December presidential elections in the Altai Republic, RIA-Novosti reported on 16 October. According to the agency, Lapshin confided that leading the republic would require "working slavishly day and night, not as in the Duma." Lapshin's own political fortunes and those of his party are considered to have waned with the announcement of a new agrarian movement to be formed under Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Fatherland party (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 1 October 2001). JAC

RADIO, TV GO OFF THE AIR AGAIN IN PRIMORE

All national radio and television channels in Primorskii Krai went off the air on 18 October because the local electricity supplier, Dalenergo, cut power to the krai's radio and broadcasting center, NTV reported. According to NTV, the center owes Dalenergo more than 73 million rubles ($2.47 million). The center is in turn owed money by the national channels; for example, ORT owes some 27 million rubles, according to Interfax-Eurasia. Valerii Klimov, director of the center, told NTV that this is the third time this year that the center's electricity has been cut off. According to polit.ru, local commercial channels, which rebroadcast TV-Tsentr and TV-6, are still on the air. And, in some towns Chinese television programs can be picked up. Meanwhile, Primorskii Krai Governor Sergei Darkin has sent letters to Media Minister Mikhail Lesin and All-Russia Television and Radio Company head Oleg Dobrodeev asking them to intervene. JAC

TATAR OFFICIAL SEEKS COMPROMISE IN DISPUTE OVER SCRIPT?

At a commission meeting of Tatarstan's legislature on 18 October, leading republican politicians expressed their concern about State Duma deputies' and federal government officials' recent interest in the transition from Cyrillic to Latin script of the Tatar alphabet, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 September 2001). Meeting participants suggested that Moscow's interest has made the issue political rather than a linguistic one that should be solved by Tatars. At the same time, Deputy Prime Minister Zilya Valeeva said during the meeting that "the main purpose of the law [on the transition to Latin script] was to protect tradition and assist in the [cohesion] of the Tatar nation." She added that it is necessary to amend the law and sign an agreement with the federal Education Ministry allowing Tatar schools in Russian regions to switch to Latin Tatar. Valeeva emphasized that "it is essential to obtain the approval of Tatars living outside Tatarstan for the switchover -- otherwise it would split the nation, which will lose a common system for graphically depicting the language." JAC




ARMENIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT TO RESUME OPERATIONS

Following the receipt of a new consignment of nuclear fuel from Russia, Armenia's Medzamor nuclear power plant, which provides over 40 percent of the country's electric power, will resume operations next month, Energy Minister Karen Galustian told journalists in Yerevan on 18 October, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The plant's only functioning reactor was stopped in July for maintenance and refueling, but its reactivation was delayed due to disputes with Russia over the schedule for payment for past and future deliveries of nuclear fuel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2001). Galustian also downplayed threats by the Gazprom subsidiary ITERA to cut gas supplies to Armenia, saying that Yerevan's outstanding $7.2 million cash debt for previous gas deliveries will be cleared by the end of this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2001). LF

ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR SAYS NO GROUNDS FOR CORRUPTION CHARGES AGAINST FORMER MAYOR

Speaking in Giumri on 17 October, Armenian President Robert Kocharian claimed that in 2000 the Yerevan municipal authorities underreported revenues from the sale and rent of municipal land and pocketed the difference. Kocharian said revenues from such sales last year were given at 5 million drams ($9,100) compared with 800 million during the first nine months of 2001. He implicitly accused Albert Bazeyan, who resigned in January as Yerevan mayor and is currently one of the leaders of the opposition Hanrapetutiun party, of financial wrongdoing. But on 18 October, Gevorg Danielian, a senior official at the Prosecutor-General's Office, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that while criminal proceedings were launched last year against some municipal officials, there are "no real grounds" for accusing Bazeyan of malpractice. Bazeyan for his part convened a press conference on 18 October at which he said it is Kocharian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian who promote the growth of corruption in Armenia, according to Arminfo, as cited by Groong. He also says the presidential administration and the government had forced him to give land to companies controlled by the powerful Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, according to the newspapers "Aravot" and "Haykakan zhamanak" on 19 October. LF

GEORGIA REGISTERS ANOTHER VIOLATION OF ITS AIRSPACE

Four Su-25 fighter aircraft entered Georgian airspace from Kabardino-Balkaria during the afternoon of 18 October, overflew the Kodori gorge, and then returned to Russia, AP and Interfax reported on 18 October, quoting a Georgian Defense Ministry spokeswoman. Six more Su-25s flew the same route shortly afterward. Russian air force press service spokesman Aleksandr Drobyshevskii denied later the same day that any Russian aircraft carried out flights either in the North Caucasus or over the Transcaucasus that day. The Georgian Foreign Ministry on 18 October summoned Russian Ambassador to Georgia Vladimir Gudev to present him with a Note protesting the ongoing violations of Georgian airspace by aircraft presumed to be Russian. The Georgian Defense Ministry also claimed on 18 October to have shot down two helicopters in recent days, one of which landed in Abkhaz-controlled and the second in Georgian-controlled territory. But Abkhaz Deputy Defense Minister Garri Kupalba denied on 18 October that Abkhazia has lost any helicopters, ITAR-TASS reported. On 19 October, the Georgian Defense Ministry said it has intercepted radio communications between Russian peacekeepers deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia that prove they have received orders to shoot down all aircraft heading toward Sukhum. It seems, however, unlikely that a CIS peacekeeping force whose mandate is protect a resumption of ground hostilities would be equipped with antiaircraft guns. LF

UN OFFICIALS VISIT ABKHAZIA

Joachim Hutter, who heads the UN department in charge of peacekeeping operations, arrived in Sukhum on 17 October and held talks with the prime minister and foreign minister of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, Anri Djergenia and Sergei Shamba, Caucasus Press reported the following day. Djergenia assured Hutter that the Abkhaz authorities are well disposed toward the UN presence and positively assess the role of the UN Observer Force. Hutter told journalists that the ongoing fighting in the Kodori valley must be stopped, and that the UN wants to see the negotiating process between Tbilisi and Sukhum resumed. LF

ABKHAZ FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS TROOPS MAY STRIKE AT 'TERRORISTS' ON GEORGIAN TERRITORY

Abkhaz Foreign Minister Shamba said on 18 October that Abkhaz forces reserve the right to launch preemptive strikes at "terrorists" before they enter Abkhaz territory, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. At the same time, he stressed that any such attack should not be construed as "aggression against Georgia." Abkhaz Premier Djergenia likewise said Abkhazia has information that a further group of "Chechen and Arab" terrorists from Georgia's Pankisi gorge is to be infiltrated into Abkhazia, and that the Abkhaz armed forces will if necessary act to intercept them before they cross into Abkhaz territory. But the Georgian Foreign Ministry said Djergenia's statement was intended "to undermine the budding dialogue between Russia and Georgia," while President Shevardnadze said such strikes could prove "rather risky" for the Abkhaz, Caucasus Press reported. LF

PONTIC GREEKS APPEAL TO GREEK GOVERNMENT TO CONDEMN GEORGIA'S 'COMPLICITY IN TERRORISM'

An NGO representing Abkhazia's estimated 2,000 Pontic Greeks has appealed to Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis to condemn the Georgian government's "complicity with international terrorism" and to call on the Georgian government to observe the UN-mediated cease-fire agreement it has signed, Caucasus Press reported on 19 October. The appeal further expressed concern that two coast guard vessels that the Greek government recently presented to the Georgian Border Guard service may soon be used to launch an invasion of Abkhazia. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT WANTS MINISTERS TO ANSWER FOR BUDGET SHORTFALL

The Georgian parliament met in emergency session on 17 and 18 October to discuss Finance Minister Zurab Nogaideli's proposal to slash budget revenues and spending in 2001 by 164.6 million laris ($79.1 million) in order to meet conditions for further loans from the IMF, Caucasus Press reported. Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili on 17 October disclaimed any responsibility for the budget shortfall, telling deputies it was they who approved the original revenue and spending targets. On 18 October, deputies demanded that all government ministers appear before parliament to explain the situation, thereby prompting an acrimonious exchange between Economy, Industry, and Trade Minister Vano Chkhartishvili and the chairman of the parliament Committee for Economic Policy and Reform, Vano Merabishvili, each of whom accused the other of inefficiency and incompetence. Deputies then adopted by 151 votes a resolution condemning the government's failure to implement the 2001 budget and calling on President Shevardnadze to consider firing those ministers directly responsible. On 19 October, parliament suspended further debate on the planned budget cuts until Shevardnadze responds to that demand. LF

CANDIDATE CLAIMS PREPARATIONS IN PROGRESS TO FALSIFY GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT BY-ELECTION...

National Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia accused the authorities on 18 October of preparing to falsify the outcome of the 21 October by-election in Tbilisi's Vake district, in which she is one of 15 candidates, Caucasus Press reported. She claimed that false electoral rolls are being prepared in which up to 65 people are listed as residing in the same apartment. LF

...AS GEORGIAN AUDIT CHAMBER CALCULATES HER MAIN RIVAL'S EXPENDITURES

Meanwhile, the Georgian Control Commission has conducted a preliminary audit of the Justice Ministry, the findings of which may be used to discredit former Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili, who is widely expected to defeat Sarishvili-Chanturia and the remaining 13 candidates in the Vake by-election. The audit has registered several instances of what it termed unwarranted expenditure of budget funds, Caucasus Pres reported. For example, the ministry paid 8,000 laris to finance the expenses of journalists who accompanied Saakashvili on an official visit to Sofia. LF

KAZAKH PREMIER WARNS ECONOMY VULNERABLE TO FALL IN RAW MATERIAL PRICES...

Addressing a joint session of both chambers of parliament on 18 October, Qasymzhomart Toqaev warned that events since the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States have destabilized world markets for raw materials and may lead to a significant short-term decline in demand for Kazakhstan's main exports, Interfax reported. But he expressed confidence that GDP will grow by not less than 10 percent this year to $23 billion, and that inflation will remain under 9 percent. LF

...RAISES POSSIBILITY OF STORING NUCLEAR WASTE...

Echoing a proposal made three months ago by Mukhtar Djakhishev, whom Toqaev dismissed as head of Kazatomprom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July and 15 October 2001), Toqaev told parliament deputies that Kazakhstan could import and bury low- and medium-radiation nuclear waste, Interfax reported. But he added that no decision on doing so has yet been made. Toqaev also said that it is still premature to proceed with implementation of a proposal to build a nuclear power station near Balkhash in central Kazakhstan. LF

...SAYS KAZAKHS WILL BE REPATRIATED FROM PAKISTAN

Toqaev also told the Mazhilis -- the lower parliament chamber -- on 18 October that the Kazakh government has made arrangements to airlift some 1,000 Kazakhs from Pakistan to Kazakhstan, but that the operation has been delayed by the U.S.-led military strikes on Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. He also said that Kazakhstan is ready to dispatch humanitarian aid in the form of wheat and rice to Afghanistan. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT'S SON-IN-LAW ACCUSES OBLAST GOVERNOR OVER MEDIA OWNERSHIP ALLEGATIONS

Rakhat Aliyev, the husband of President Nursultan Nazarbaev's daughter Dariga, told journalists on 17 October on his return from an official visit to the United States that he believes Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, governor of Pavlodar Oblast in northern Kazakhstan, is behind the allegations spread last week by parliament deputy Tolen Toqtasynov, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Toqtasynov addressed an open letter to Nazarbaev advising the latter to "rein in" Aliyev who, Toqtasynov claimed, abuses his official position as deputy chairman of the National Security Committee. Toqtasynov also claimed that Aliyev and his wife control most of Kazakhstan's print and electronic media outlets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 12, and 15 October 2001). LF

KYRGYZSTAN NOW WITHOUT UZBEK GAS

Uzbekistan has already halted all deliveries of gas to Kyrgyzstan, and the country is subsisting on previously stored gas, Aleksandr Eropunov, the deputy director-general of the state-run Kyrgyzgas, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 18 October. No public announcement of a cutoff in gas supplies has yet been made. On 17 October, a Chu Oblast administration official told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that several industrial enterprises in the oblast stopped functioning on 13 October due to the cutoff in gas supplies. LF

KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES BLOCK ATTEMPTS BY OPPOSITION PARTIES TO UNITE

The Kyrgyz authorities are doing all in their power to prevent the founding congress of the People's Patriotic Movement, which was to have taken place on 20 October, Erkindik (Liberty) party Chairman Topchubek TurgunAliyev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 18 October. The movement is to unite the opposition Ar-Namys, Ata-Meken, Erkindik, People's, and Republican parties, but the organizers are unable to find premises to hold the congress. LF

TOP RUSSIAN GENERAL DISCUSSES AFGHANISTAN WITH TAJIK LEADERSHIP

Russian army Chief of General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin flew to Dushanbe on 17 October and met the following day with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev, and the commanders of the Russian 201st motorized division based in Tajikistan to discuss the military situation in Afghanistan and how to prevent fighting there from spilling over into Central Asia, Reuters and Russian agencies reported. Kvashnin also met separately with Northern Alliance military commander Muhammad Fahimkhan and Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullo to discuss Russian military aid to the Northern Alliance. LF

U.S. REAFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINE

Speaking at an international conference in Ashgabat on Caspian oil and gas, U.S. envoy for Caspian issues Steve Mann, a former ambassador to Turkmenistan, reaffirmed Washington's support for multiple pipelines to export Caspian hydrocarbons, including the proposed Trans-Caspian pipeline to export Turkmen gas to Turkey, Interfax reported. He advised the Turkmen leadership to reconsider its earlier objections to that project and seek support for it among private investors. Turkmenistan earlier rejected Azerbaijan's demand to use half the pipeline's throughput capacity to export its own gas. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT EMPOWERS HIMSELF TO APPOINT ACADEMY OF SCIENCES HEAD...

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has decreed that the president of the National Academy of Sciences is to be appointed by the president of Belarus, Belapan reported on 18 October. The members of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences must also be approved by the president of the republic. Prior to the decree, the president of the National Academy of Sciences was elected by the general gathering of academicians and approved by the president of the state. "This decree testifies to the strengthening of the totalitarian character of our state," the Belarusian Helsinki Committee commented. JM

...AND APPOINTS HIS FORMER AIDE

On 19 October, Lukashenka appointed former Presidential Administration head Mikhail Myasnikovich as the president of Belarus's Academy of Sciences. Lukashenka also named Uladzislau Astapenka as health minister and Yahor Rybakou as the head of the State Broadcasting Company. JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS DISRUPT PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE OF LAND CODE

Parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch on 18 October was forced to close a parliamentary sitting earlier than planned after Communist deputies blocked the parliamentary rostrum and began singing the Internationale, STB television reported. The parliamentary agenda provided for discussion of a Land Code in the second reading, but the Communist caucus objected to that, saying that the code has not yet been approved in the first reading, Interfax reported. According to STB Television, the conflict started around a clause allowing land sales, which are opposed by the Communist Party. JM

UKRAINE REPORTS SOME 30,000 ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS DETAINED ANNUALLY

Ukraine's police and Border Troops on 18 October reported that the number of illegal immigrants detained annually in the country is 25,000-30,000, Ukrainian Television reported. The previous day, police, the Border Troops, and the customs service launched a joint operation in a bid to stem the flow of illegal immigrants transiting the country. According to the network, the task is extremely difficult, as Ukraine has no accords with bordering countries on mutual extradition of illegal migrants. Moreover, the police do not know what to do with illegal immigrants after they have been detained for 10 days; according to current legislation, they must be released after that time. JM

UKRAINIAN ROAD POLICE OFFICERS TO BE SACKED FOR SMUGGLING ILLEGAL ALIENS

The Interior Ministry is going to dismiss several regional heads of the traffic police and 20 of their subordinates for assisting illegal immigrants trying to enter the country, New Channel television reported on 18 October. In a recent operation, policemen dressed like immigrants traveled across Ukraine and offered bribes to road police for information about the safest way of reaching the country's western border. A total of 20 road police were caught red-handed accepting bribes from fake immigrants. The interior minister ordered the firing of the bribe-takers as well as the heads of the road police in the regions where the bribes were accepted. JM

ESTONIAN PREMIER ENCOURAGED BY CHENEY'S SUPPORT

In an interview in "Postimees" on 18 October, Mart Laar said he was pleased with the meeting he had at the White House the previous day with U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney, BNS reported. Defense Minister Juri Luik and Estonian Ambassador to Washington Sven Jurgenson also attended the meeting. Laar noted that Cheney thanked him for Estonia's support in the fight against terrorism and assured him that the attacks in New York and Washington on 11 September have not changed America's political priorities and that NATO expansion will proceed with no third-party interference. He mentioned that Cheney's meeting with the Estonian officials was a clear indication that Estonia is being treated as an equal partner. Laar also held talks with Senator John McCain during which the privatization of Narva Power Plants by an American company was briefly discussed. SG

LATVIAN SHIPPING COMPANY TAKES OVER FIRST OF THREE NEW TANKERS

Andris Klavins, the president of the state-owned Latvian Shipping Company (LASCO), and P.N. Tsakos, the owner of the Greek company Tsakos Shipping and Trade, signed documents in Riga on 18 October completing LASCO's purchase of the Panamax-class tanker renamed "Riga," LETA reported. The 70,000-ton tanker, which was launched earlier this year and cost $41.6 million, is currently in Japan's Kawasaki port to which a crew of 22 has already been sent. LASCO was able to make the purchase after receiving a $30 million loan from Germany's Hamburgische Landesbank earlier this month. The company plans to obtain similar loans from Latvijas Unibanka/SEB and Nedship Bank to purchase the tankers "Zemgale" and "Latgale" by 15 November. SG

LITHUANIAN DRAFT 2002 BUDGET SUBMITTED TO PARLIAMENT

Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite presented the draft 2002 budget to the parliament on 18 October, ELTA reported. It foresees revenues of 8.72 billion litas ($2.18 billion) and expenditures of 9.86 billion litas. She noted that for the first time the budget includes all funds of the former Road Fund and revenues of all public institutions from services, and is the first Lithuanian budget with a tax system in line with EU norms. The revenues are based on predictions that the country's GDP will grow by 5 percent and the number of employed workers will increase from 1.05 million in 2001 to 1.12 million in 2004, with the average monthly gross wage increasing from 1,034 to 1,148 litas over that time. The budget foresees expenditures of 4 and 6.23 percent of expected GDP for health and education, respectively. President Valdas Adamkus told Grybauskaite the previous day that he will not sign such a budget since it contradicts earlier passed laws that set expenditures for these fields at 5 and 6.69 percent of GDP. SG

POLAND'S NEW PARLIAMENT INAUGURATES TERM WITH GOVERNMENT HANDOVER

The newly elected Sejm convened on 19 October for the first time to inaugurate a new left-wing government formed by the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Labor Union in coalition with the Peasant Party. Premier Jerzy Buzek tendered the resignation of his Solidarity-rooted cabinet, saying it "is paying a political price for the reforms it has made," AP reported. Buzek acknowledged that his cabinet made mistakes, but said he believes that most of the necessary reforms were completed. In his address to the parliament, President Aleksander Kwasniewski said the new cabinet is facing "the biggest and most difficult challenges since 1989," when the country shed communist rule. Kwasniewski was expected to swear in the new cabinet headed by SLD leader Leszek Miller later on 19 October. JM

ANTITANK WEAPON DISCOVERED NEAR PRAGUE AIRPORT

Prague international airport workers discovered on 18 October a antitank weapon about a kilometer from the airport's runway, AP and CTK reported. The weapon was discovered during a routine check of the fields near the Ruzyne airport. Police spokeswoman Ivana Zelenakova told CTK that the missile was functional and is now being inspected by experts to determine its origin. In related news, Czech police chief Jiri Kolar told the BBC on 18 October that there are indications that Muhammad Atta, the suspected suicide terrorist who died in the 11 September attacks on the U.S., had probably spent a day or two in the Czech Republic under a false name, CTK reported. Until now Czech officials have admitted only that Atta spent a day in transit in the Czech Republic in the summer of 2001. Kolar said Atta had also unsuccessfully tried to enter the Czech Republic prior to last summer, but did not have a visa and was turned down. MS

CZECH CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES RETURNS DRAFT BUDGET TO CABINET

The Chamber of Deputies on 18 October voted 122 to 72, with two abstentions, to return the 2002 draft budget to the government for revision, CTK and AP reported. The bill was constructed around a deficit of 52.2 billion crowns ($1.41 billion), planned revenues of 700 billion crowns and expenditures of 752.2 billion. The opposition argued that the draft overestimates revenues and uses much of the planned but uncertain privatization revenues to cover current spending. The deputies decided in a separate vote to ask the government to submit a new draft within 20 days. Opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus said after the vote that he does not rule out ODS support for the budget if the cabinet takes into account the chamber's recommendations. He added that the minority Social Democratic Government should negotiate the new proposals with the ODS before submitting them to the parliament. MS

CZECH SENATE APPROVES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AHEAD OF EU ACCESSION

The Senate on 18 October approved an amendment to the Czech Constitution that would make it possible to transfer some of the prerogatives of the Czech Republic to international organizations such as the EU, on the basis of an international agreement, CTK reported. The agreement must first be approved in a referendum or ratified by the parliament with a majority of three-fifths of present senators and at least 120 out of 200 deputies. Fifty-four out of the 56 senators present voted in favor of the amendment and no one opposed it. Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky said that on the basis of the new legislation, every international agreement ratified by the Czech Republic will automatically become part of Czech law and will take precedence over it in the event of discrepancies between legislation. MS

AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR SAYS NO CLOSURE OF ENERGY CHAPTER UNTIL TEMELIN CONCERNS ARE SOLVED

Wolfgang Schuessel said on 18 October in Vienna that Austria will not agree to closing the energy chapter in EU negotiations with the Czech Republic before Prague agrees to "plausibly solve" all points mentioned in a resolution of the Austrian parliament on Temelin, CTK reported. Schuessel said that "threats will not improve Temelin safety, but if we do nothing about it, that will not improve safety either." He said that "continuation of the dialogue" is the only possibility for the successful resolution of the dispute. Schuessel said that the energy chapter in negotiations with the EU is "just an instrument" to advance safety measures, and that its importance has been often overestimated. For Austria, he said, the main objective is to ensure that Temelin meets European safety standards. MS

CZECH, SLOVAK DEFENSE MINISTER SIGN AGREEMENT ON JOINT UNIT FOR KFOR

Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik and his Slovak counterpart Jozef Stank on 18 October signed in Prague an agreement for setting up a joint military unit to serve in the KFOR mission in Kosova, TASR reported. Stank said after the ceremony that the agreement could advance Slovakia's quest to join NATO and is "further proof" of the two armies' ability to participate in peacekeeping missions in the Balkans. Tvrdik said that "from the military point of view, Slovakia is already a NATO member." The unit has 100 Slovak and 400 Czech soldiers and will serve with a contingent under British command. Tvrdik extended an invitation to Slovakia to also join a Czech unit serving in the KFOR German-U.S. contingent. Stank welcomed the offer and said it will be discussed by the Slovak General Staff. Stank also met President Vaclav Havel, Chamber of Deputies Chairman Klaus, and Foreign Minister Jan Kavan. MS

SLOVAK, HUNGARIAN PRESIDENTS DISAGREE ON STATUS LAW

President Rudolf Schuster told visiting Hungarian President Ferenc Madl on 18 October that Budapest should reconsider the controversial Status Law, TASR and CTK reported. Schuster said the law creates a situation in which "a minority is granted advantages over the ethnic majority" in countries that neighbor Hungary. Madl replied that the law is mainly aimed at devising an instrument that helps ethnic Hungarians preserve their identity and culture and "feel well in the countries where they live." Madl also said Slovakia and other states have their own legislation promoting ties with kinfolk living elsewhere, and added that the Status Law is in line with European legislation. Madl said Slovak and Romanian objections to the law are due to "misinterpretation" and called for negotiations on the matter. Schuster said negotiations should have been conducted before, rather than after the approval of the law by the Hungarian parliament. Madl also met with Premier Mikulas Dzurinda and parliamentary speaker Jozef Migas. MS

SLOVAKIA SUPPORTS MACEDONIAN TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY

Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan told his visiting counterpart Ilinka Mitreva on 18 October that Bratislava supports Macedonia's efforts to preserve the country's territorial integrity, CTK reported. "We consider any idea of federalization to be destabilizing not only for Macedonia, but for the Balkans as a whole," Kukan said. Mitreva said her country had been attacked by "terrorists and extremists" and that the Macedonian legislature is currently debating constitutional changes aimed at protecting the civic and national rights of ethnic minorities. Mitreva also met with President Schuster. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER PROUD OF GOVERNMENT RECORD

Viktor Orban said in a 90-minute report read in the parliament on 18 October that during its three-year tenure the government he heads has succeeded in giving the nation "a sense of unity and cohesion," even if this sense is not reflected in the debates in parliament, Hungarian media reported. Orban quoted opinion polls showing that 82 percent support the government's policy on the Status Law, 80 percent back the child-support system, 76 percent are in favor of the government-initiated minimum wages, and 75 percent support the student-loan program. Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said in response that corruption under the Orban cabinet has risen to unprecedented levels. He also claimed that the ruling coalition ignores the rule of law and has failed to meet pledges to cut taxes and reform the tax system. Gabor Kuncze, chairman of the Free Democratic Party, said the parliament is no longer carrying out the function of supervising the cabinet and the operation of tax authorities and of police have become over-politicized. MS

NO ANTHRAX DETECTED IN HUNGARY

Laboratory tests conducted by the State Medical Service have not detected anthrax bacteria in any of the 16 suspicious items examined thus far, National State Medical Service Officer Katalin Lun told the media on 18 October. A total of 87 items have been taken for testing, she said. Fourteen people have been hospitalized at Budapest's Szent Laszlo hospital for medical observation and will be allowed to return home once the tests are concluded, Lun said, adding that in 2000 only three anthrax cases were registered in Hungary. In related news, a spokesman for the Vas County border guards told the daily "Vilaggazdasag" on 18 October that all Afghan nationals being screened by the immigration authorities will be sent to the Szombathely camp, which is the largest and best equipped of the country's eight such installations for illegal immigrants and refugees. MS




MACEDONIAN LEGISLATORS REACH COMPROMISE UNDER WESTERN PRESSURE...

After marathon talks with Macedonian and ethnic Albanian representatives, Western envoys received pledges from both to compromise and begin approving constitutional reforms as agreed in the Ohrid peace plan, Western news agencies reported on 18 October. Speaking to reporters, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said: "We have charted our way ahead. The clear obligation is on the government and the parliament to deliver on their side of the bargain." EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was more specific, telling a press conference, "Macedonian political leaders agreed to continue debating constitutional amendments on Monday [22 October] and to have all of the amendments submitted by Friday [26 October]." Ethnic Albanian parties had been boycotting parliamentary debates to protest Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski submitting only some of the 15 amendments already agreed in the 13 August peace agreement. DW

...THOUGH TO WHAT EXTENT REMAINS TO BE SEEN

Despite the reported compromise, it remains unclear whether both sides have retreated from demands that could still cripple any progress. Parliament speaker Stojan Andov has said he will not allow a ratification vote on the reforms until 12 Macedonians held by ethnic Albanian rebels are released, although there is no evidence they are being held, Reuters reported on 19 October. Also, pro-government Macedonian media said Trajkovski assented to presenting the 15 constitutional amendments as one bundle -- as the ethnic Albanian parties demanded -- only if Albanians accept a preamble with "the Macedonian people" mentioned ahead of other ethnic communities. Another question was whether an amnesty for rebel fighters declared by Trajkovski and supported by the government has any force until approved by the parliament, as required by law. DW

YUGOSLAVIA TO GIVE ARMS TO MACEDONIA

At a meeting in Belgrade on 18 October, the Macedonian and Yugoslavian defense ministers, Slobodan Krapovic and Vlado Buckovski, announced that Yugoslavia's army intends to deliver to Macedonia surplus weaponry and other military hardware, AP and dpa reported. The two ministers also said their two countries will cooperate in the global and regional fight against "terrorists." Both countries have labeled ethnic Albanian separatists and rebels on their territory "terrorists" in the past. DW

RETIRED YUGOSLAV GENERAL WILL GO TO HAGUE IF ABLE

The lawyer for retired Lieutenant General Pavle Strugar, named in an indictment by the UN war crimes tribunal for the shelling of Dubrovnik, Croatia in 1991 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001), said Strugar still intends to turn himself in, and will do so by 21 October if doctors declare him fit to travel, AP and Reuters reported. Strugar, 68, has been hospitalized for the last 20 days with kidney problems, but his lawyer said he still "insists to go" to The Hague "as soon as possible" to prove his innocence before the tribunal. DW

EXPLOSION, FIRE IN KOSOVA PARTIES' OFFICES RULED ACCIDENT

UN officials announced on 18 October that the fire and explosion that destroyed the offices of the two biggest parties in Kosova in the town of Suva Reka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2001) were the result of faulty electrical wiring and not a grenade attack, AP and Reuters reported. "The explosion was caused by the buildup of heat inside the structure, which blew out the windows," said UN police spokesman Derek Chappell. "The incident has been classified as an accident." DW

TWO ARRESTED IN BOSNIA OVER PHONE THREATS THAT SHUT DOWN EMBASSIES

Bosnian police said they have arrested two people suspected of making threatening calls that prompted the closure of U.S. and British diplomatic missions there, AP reported on 19 October, citing the daily "Dnevni Avaz" newspaper. The Bosnian Interior Ministry issued a statement saying the two were not immediately charged, but had been detained on 17 October and handed over to an investigative judge with authority over terrorism cases, the report said. The daily reported that the two were Algerians, one with a Bosnian passport, AP reported. While the U.S. and British facilities remained closed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2001), the World Bank also shut its offices in Bosnia-Herzegovina on 18 October, citing security reasons, according to a report by Serbian news agency Beta. AH

GERMAN CHANCELLOR OFFERS SUPPORT TO BOSNIA'S WESTERN INTEGRATION

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said after a meeting with a senior Bosnian leader that his country wants to politically and economically support Bosnia's efforts to join the Council of Europe, ddp reported on 18 October. Schroeder said increased ties with the West will lead to "gains in prosperity" for Bosnia, and added that German investment could contribute to this. Speaking during a visit to Berlin, Bosnian Council of Ministers Chairman Zlatko Lagumdzija said Germany's support in securing peace in Bosnia and increasing German investment are a "point of orientation" on his country's path toward Europe. ddp reported. "Neither the United States nor [Germany] can forget the Balkans now," Schroeder said. AH

BOSNIANS, CROATS TRY TO ALLEVIATE BORDER TENSIONS

The Bosnian and Croatian foreign ministers have agreed to work to prevent the politicization of tensions around the two countries' border at Bosanska Kostajnica, Onasa website reported on 18 October. Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija and his Croatian counterpart Tonino Picula spoke by telephone amid growing concerns as the Republika Srpska installed temporary police facilities at a border crossing there. The prime minister of the Republika Srpska, Mladen Ivanic, said on 17 October that he ordered the move two days earlier. Croatia's ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Josip Vrbosic, delivered a note to Bosnia's deputy minister of foreign affairs on 18 October saying that he considers the deployment unacceptable. Border authorities and representatives of the international community held an emergency meeting in Mostar to discuss the issue, Onasa reported. A separate commission will be established to embark on a fact-finding mission to Bosanska Kostajnica, but will not be granted the authority to decide on any possible adjustments to the borders, the website said. Radio reports on 18 October said the town was "peaceful, [but] with a police presence." AH

CROATIAN GOVERNMENT AGREES TELCO SALE TO DEUTSCHE TELEKOM

The Croatian government concluded talks aimed at selling Deutsche Telekom a majority stake in the Croatian national telecom, Croatian Telecom, dpa reported on 18 October. Prime Minister Ivica Racan said a contract has been signed for 500 million euros for a 16 percent stake that will increase the Germans' share to 51 percent, the agency reported. Racan called the sell-off the biggest privatization job his government has faced since taking over 1-1/2 years ago, adding that he hopes the deal will bolster foreign investors' confidence in the Croatian economy. AH

CROATIAN WAR VETERANS PROTEST CURBING OF THEIR RIGHTS

Some 200 veterans of Croatia's 1991 war pushed back a police cordon and approached the entrance to the Croatian parliament on 18 October to protest a new bill that will curtail their rights, AP reported. Deputies inside were debating a bill aimed at further reforms to the economy that would reduce veterans' pensions and annul certain privileges. Marinko Liovic, head of the largest veterans' group HVIDRA, which organized the protest, called on parliamentarians to boycott the debate, AP said. The protest ended without violence about two hours after it began, Hina reported. An antigovernment rally is scheduled for 20 October on Zagreb's main square. The ruling five-party coalition released a statement questioning the aims of the organizers, suggesting they are "hiding behind the Croatian people" and some war veterans' associations. AH

ALBANIAN OPPOSITION SETS DEMANDS FOR A RETURN TO PARLIAMENT

The five parties to the Our Union for Victory coalition in Albania outlined conditions for their return to parliament on 18 October, ATA reported. The opposition grouping, whose 46 deputies have refused to participate in the Albanian Assembly citing election irregularities during balloting on 24 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2001), demanded that "arrogated" mandates be surrendered and new voting be held in constituency 60, the agency said. The conditions emerged from a meeting between the leaders of the five Our Union parties. Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha said the coalition is "determined to join parliament," ATA reported. AH

RUSSIAN POWER INDUSTRY DELEGATION HEADED FOR ALBANIA

Russian national utility Unified Energy Systems will send a group of delegates to Tirana on 23 October to explore issues like power supplies, upgrades at Albanian plants, future hydroelectric projects, and possible equity stakes within the industry, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 October. The agency cited Albanian Ambassador to Russia Shaqir Vukaj, who added that "Albania is waiting for Russian partners." AH

ALBANIAN LAWMAKERS CLOSE 2000 BUDGET

The Albanian Assembly on 18 October approved the closing figures of the state's budget for 2000, confirming a 50 billion lek ($368 million) deficit on revenues of 131 billion lek and expenditures of 181 billion lek, ATA reported. Finance Minister Anastas Angjeli said the main objectives of the financial and economic program were fulfilled, consolidating some of the macroeconomic stability of the previous two years, the agency added. He said the country's economic and fiscal situation is "completely stable and in line with government projections set in accordance...with the IMF." Angjeli said the country has been experiencing "sustainable economic growth rates at the level of 7 percent to 8 percent for the past two years." AH

ILIESCU PRESIDES OVER ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT MEETING

President Ion Iliescu chaired on 18 October a meeting of the Romanian cabinet that discussed the international situation in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States and ways to promote Romania's NATO candidacy, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu told the cabinet that regardless of the current international crisis, Romania's foreign policy priorities remain NATO and EU integration. He said Bucharest's foreign policy initiatives must take into account the generalized climate of insecurity produced by the recent developments in Afghanistan and the Middle East, as well as the possibility of a global economic recession. The president said that in this new situation, foreign policy strategies may have to undergo alteration, priorities other than NATO and EU membership might have to be reoriented, and Romania's economic efficiency and internal stability must be ensured. MS

ROMANIAN POLITICIAN SAYS EU COMMISSION REPORT VINDICATES BUCHAREST ON STATUS LAW

A report submitted on 18 October to the Council of Europe's Commission on Democracy and Law by and large vindicates the Bucharest position on the Hungarian Status Law, according to National Liberal Party Chairman Valeriu Stoica, who is a member of that commission, which is also known as the Venice Commission. The report was prepared by the Sub-Commission on Minority Rights, which is subordinate to the Venice Commission, and compared legislation on ties with minorities living beyond their own country's borders in Hungary, Slovakia, Italy, Austria, and Romania. Stoica said on Romanian radio that the report concluded that no legislation can be implemented beyond the borders of the state that legislated it unless it has the consent of the foreign country. He said this means that the Status Law can only be applied on Hungarian territory. A second conclusion, he said, is that rights granted to national minorities must not lead to the discrimination of ethnic majorities. The sub-commission's conclusions and recommendations are to be discussed on 19 October by the Venice Commission's plenum in the presence of the Hungarian and Romanian foreign ministers, Janos Martonyi and Mircea Geoana. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER ORDERS CORRUPTION INQUEST OF BUCHAREST MUNICIPAL COUNCIL

Adrian Nastase on 18 October ordered an investigation into allegations that members of his own Party of Social Democracy (PSD) sitting on the Bucharest Municipal Council are guilty of corruption, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu, who is also chairman of the Democratic Party, earlier on 18 October said the Bucharest Municipal Council is "the nest of powerful corruption" and "traffic of influence." He said some 80 percent of municipal public funds paid to companies working for the municipality end up in the pockets of municipal councilors who are the real bosses of those companies. Basescu threatened to make public the names of those councilors, saying they are PSD members, and called on Premier Nastase to demand that they resign their positions. MS

ROMANIAN COLUMNIST STRIKES CHORD IN U.S.

An editorial published on 24 September by Cornel Nistorescu, the managing editor of the daily "Evenimentul zilei," has turned Nistorescu into one of the most popular figures in the United States, AP reported on 18 October. The editorial has circulated in e-mails all over the U.S. and Nistorescu has since been flooded with messages of sympathy and emotional gratitude from Americans. Titled "Ode to America," the editorial pondered what could have brought together so many movie stars, popular singers, and other VIPs as those who gathered on 22 September in New York for a telethon for the victims of the 11 September attack. Nistorescu wrote: "The Americans' spirit of solidarity had transformed them into a choir. Actually, choir is not the [right] word. What you could hear was the heavy artillery of the American soul. What can unite the Americans in such a way? Their land? Their tumultuous history? Their economic power? Money? I tried for hours to find an answer...but reached only one conclusion: Only freedom can work such miracles." Romanian television on 18 October said that "The New York Times" has purchased the distribution rights in the U.S. for Nistorescu's editorial. MS

UKRAINIAN PREMIER IN MOLDOVA

Visiting Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh said on 18 October after talks with President Vladimir Voronin that his country backs Moldovan efforts to increase border security, and eliminate illegal immigration and illicit trafficking of arms and drugs. Kinakh was evasive in answering a question on whether Ukraine will allow the setting up on its territory of joint border checks with Moldova, saying that the matter "depends on international regulations, on democratic principles and on coordination between the sides," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Voronin, speaking before Kinakh, claimed that a "full understanding" has been reached on all issues discussed and that "proceedings are now being examined to make possible joint custom checks at the border." Kinakh also met with Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev and described their discussions as "constructive and fruitful." MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT GRANTS PRESIDENT RIGHT TO REVOKE CITIZENSHIP

The parliament approved on 18 October the final reading of a law granting the country's president the right to revoke Moldovan citizenship from persons who acquired it illegally, Infotag reported. To this purpose, it amended previous legislation that allowed the head of state to do so only after a court of law's decision. Yurii Stoikov, chairman of the parliament's National Security Committee, explained that "in many cases, violation of the law was obvious and the president could not act for as long as one to two years, having to wait for a verdict of the court." He said the number of such violations has increased in the last years. The opposition Braghis Alliance and Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) voted against the law, saying it violates the presumption of innocence principle. MS

MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION PARTIES OPPOSE GAGAUZ-YERI 'FEDERALIZATION DRIVE'

Deputies representing the Braghis Alliance and the PPCD in the parliament said on 18 October that the "federalization drive" launched by the leadership of the Gagauz-Yeri Autonomous Republic is inadmissible and infringes on the Moldovan basic document, Infotag reported. Last week, the Gagauz-Yeri leadership submitted proposals for constitutional amendments providing for granting the autonomous region the status of "equal-right member" in a would-be Moldovan Federal Republic. The Gagauz authorities are also demanding that the region have its own quota of seats in the parliament in Chisinau and representatives in all central structures of the government. They also want the right to manage their own budget. Deputy Stefan Secareanu of the PPCD said the draft submitted by Gagauz-Yeri is "a provocation designed by Tiraspol with the participation of Russia." Former Premier Dumitru Braghis said any proposal must respect Moldova's constitutional framework, but added that he does not rule out that "the idea of federalization might be used some day as a basis for discussions." MS

BULGARIA SAYS 'NO EXPLICIT REQUEST' RECEIVED FOR MACEDONIA TROOPS DEPLOYMENT

Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi on 18 October said Bulgaria has received "no explicit request" to deploy its troops in Macedonia, BTA reported. Pasi said that NATO troops are in that neighboring country "only because its government has requested their presence." He added that "if the international community, meaning NATO, the UN Security Council, or the government of Macedonia, makes such a request, we shall carefully consider it." MS

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT BILL ON PRIVATIZATION, POST-PRIVATIZATION CONTROL

The cabinet approved at its 18 October meeting a draft bill on privatization and another draft-bill on post-privatization control, BTA reported. Privatization will continue to be carried out by the Privatization Agency, but a new agency will be set up to control post-privatization processes and the way purchasers meet their commitments. Both agencies will have boards consisting of an executive director and two deputy directors, who will all be appointed by the government. In addition, the Privatization Agency will continue to have a seven-member supervisory board, which is to approve privatization contracts. MS

DUKE OF YORK OPENS NEW BRITISH EMBASSY IN SOFIA

The Duke of York, Prince Andrew, inaugurated the new building of the United Kingdom Embassy in Sofia, BTA reported on 18 October. He later met with Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, who is a distant relative. MS




WESTERN SUPPORT FOR BALTIC MEMBERSHIP IN NATO INCREASES


By Taras Kuzio

Some Western commentators have expressed concern that Russia's inclusion within the international coalition against terrorism will lead to it demanding concessions from the U.S. in areas such as NATO enlargement. These fears seem to be increasingly unwarranted as the range of Western countries that have voiced their support for the inclusion of the Baltic states continues to grow. There are even indications that Russian President Vladimir Putin may be withdrawing his "red line" to the CIS, which would no longer include the Baltic states within its sphere of influence.

The Baltic states have always feared that NATO enlargement might ignore them because of Russian objections, and they therefore devised the idea of a "big bang" second round of NATO enlargement at the May 2000 meeting in Vilnius of nine aspirant members of NATO in the presence of NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson. At that meeting, the representatives of the three Baltic states drafted a position statement that argued that at the summit scheduled for November 2002 in Prague NATO should invite all nine aspirant states to join at the same time and not individually.

The Baltic republics initially looked to the U.S., Scandinavian countries, and Central European NATO members Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary as their main supporters in their bid for NATO membership. On recent visits to the Baltic states, Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski and Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski both came out strongly in favor of Baltic membership. These views were also expressed by Hungarian Defense Minister Janos Szabo to the Hungarian parliament earlier this month.

Scandinavia has been at the forefront of promoting the Baltic states within NATO. Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik said that, "For Norway, based as we are up in the high north, it is important for us that there is a northern dimension in the NATO enlargement process." He added, "We are working inside NATO in favor of Lithuania and the other Baltic states' aspirations for membership." At a Helsinki summit in August, Foreign Ministers from Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, and Finland expressed their firm support for the Balts to be included within NATO.

Support within NATO has expanded beyond the Central Europe and Scandinavia. Then-Turkish President Suleyman Demirel told his visiting Estonian counterpart as early as October 1998 that he rejected any Russian veto over NATO enlargement and therefore, "I have supported Estonia's wish to become a full member of NATO."

Germany and France initially expressed Russophile views that argued against Baltic membership. Former German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe opposed NATO enlargement into the Baltic states, while the then-Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, backed enlargement. German officials reiterated that Russian "consent" would be required for further NATO enlargement, a statement in clear contradiction of NATO's "open door" policy. The German position has gradually evolved into cautious support, and France too now officially supports Baltic membership in NATO.

Ultimately, it will be the United States, the dominant country within NATO, that will have the decisive say in whether the Balts are asked to join next year. Writing in the fall issue of "The National Interest," James Kurth points out that President Bush's foreign policy speech in Warsaw in June had the Balts in mind when he reaffirmed NATO's open door to new members. Canadian Foreign Minister John Manley also ruled out the U.S. abandoning support for Baltic membership of NATO in exchange for Russian concessions on missile defense.

U.S. House of Representatives and Senate advisers told their Lithuanian hosts this year that there is practically no opposition in Congress to Lithuania's membership in NATO. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell advised his Baltic counterparts last month that the United States remains committed to their "full integration into the Trans-Atlantic community," and that the U.S. will continue to assist them in this endeavor through the U.S.-Baltic Charter (U.S.-B C) and the U.S.-Baltic Partnership Commission (U.S.-B PC) established in January 1998 on the basis of the August 1996 Baltic Action Plan.

The U.S.-B Charter is a political document that reaffirms U.S. support for the independence and integration of the Baltic states into the EU and NATO. One key provision envisages consultations in the event that the territorial integrity, independence, or security of one or all of the Baltic states is threatened. The U.S.-B Charter clearly entailed U.S. support for Baltic accession to NATO in any future round of enlargement and the continuation of NATO's open door policy. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton recently told the new Estonian Ambassador to the United States, Sven Jurgenson, that, "the United States welcomes and supports Estonia's aspiration to NATO membership."

The U.S.-B PC has assisted the Balts with their Membership Action Plans (MAP) in preparation for full membership. NATO Deputy Secretary-General Klaus-Peter Kleiber called Estonia's 2001 MAP for joining NATO a realistic, well considered, and constructive document. Latvia's MAP for 2001 was implemented 123 percent by August (in comparison to 88 percent in 2000). All three Baltic states have promised to increase their defense spending next year to 2 percent of GDP, the NATO average.

Multilateral and bilateral cooperation between NATO, individual NATO members and PfP (Partner) countries and the three Baltic states has been extensive in six key areas that contribute toward implementing their MAPs. These have included improving the combat efficiency of their security forces; encouraging them to raise their defense budgets to 2 percent of GDP; funding by the U.S. and Norway of a regional airspace surveillance control center (Baltnet) based at Karmelava, Lithuania; the creation of a Baltic naval squadron Baltron funded by Denmark and based in Estonia; a joint Baltic Defense College (Baltdefcol) that opened in Tartu, Estonia, in 1999 with support from Sweden; assistance in establishing a Lithuanian-Polish battalion; and the development of a joint Baltic battalion (Baltbat) with assistance from the U.K. and the supply of surplus armaments and military equipment.

Despite fears that the U.S. would make concessions to Russia in its campaign against terrorism in the area of NATO enlargement this does not seem to be occurring. Western support for Baltic membership in NATO, which was thought to be unrealistic in the 1990s, has growing support among the majority of NATO members and even among neutral countries.

Taras Kuzio is a research associate at the Centre for International and Security Studies, York University.


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