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Newsline - October 30, 2001




FSB, CIA BELIEVE NEO-NAZIS, NOT BIN LADEN BEHIND ANTHRAX SCARE

According to an article in "Izvestiya" on 29 October, experts at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) are now inclined to believe that the recent spate of anthrax-laden powders in letters was the work of neo-Nazis rather than that of the terrorist network of Osama bin Laden. PG

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS DIVIDED ON ANTHRAX THREAT

Academician Beniyamin Cherkasskii told Interfax on 29 October that he does not see any threat of an outbreak of anthrax in Russia, but the same day "Izvestiya" reported that "the threat of bioterrorism is completely real." Meanwhile, Russian epidemiologists did not find any anthrax in the powder sent to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and there were no further reports in the central Russian press on 29 October of more unidentified powder. PG

U.S. BACKS TASHKENT, RUSSIA DUSHANBE IN CENTRAL ASIA

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 27 October, the United States and Russia are expanding their competition in Central Asia during the antiterrorist campaign with Washington backing Uzbekistan and Moscow supporting Tajikistan. PG

WEST SEEN SHIFTING ANTITERRORIST BURDEN ONTO RUSSIA

Writing in "Trud" on 27 October, Vyacheslav Nikonov, the president of the Politika Foundation, argued that Russia must proceed cautiously in its cooperation with the United States in the antiterrorist campaign because Washington "obviously intends to shift the burden of the antiterrorism operation onto Russia." At the same time, an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the same day that President Vladimir Putin has been vindicated by the current antiterrorist effort since the world now sees that the growth of Islamist organizations takes place most readily where governments are weakest. PG

TALIBAN THREATEN RUSSIA

The Taliban press agency Afghan Islam Press carried a message from Amir Khan Muttaki accusing Russia of conspiring with the Afghan opposition with the goal of dismembering Afghanistan, Interfax-Asia reported on 29 October. "Russia ought to draw the lesson from the past war," the Taliban spokesman said. "Its result was the splitting up of the Soviet Union itself. If Russia interferes this time, it will be divided up into a still greater number of parts." PG

ZYUGANOV SAYS THAT ISLAMISTS WILL BRING DOWN PUTIN'S GOVERNMENT

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov has told his party comrades that the Islamist movements will succeed where the communists have failed and bring down the current regime in Russia, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 October. VY

GENERAL STAFF PREPARES FOR SERVICE IN AFGHANISTAN

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 27 October that the Russian General Staff is actively preparing plans for possible Russian military action in Afghanistan even though its officers do not believe that such action is likely in the light of statements by President Putin and other senior officials. Meanwhile, an article in "Novye izvestiya" the same day reported that soldiers and officers may never see the pay increases Putin has promised because of problems with the military budget. PG

PUTIN CALLS FOR RAPID IMPLEMENTATION OF COURT REFORM...

President Putin said on 29 October that "it is time" to make the decision to reform the country's legal system, Russian agencies reported. He said, "about 10 million people go through the legal system each year, and tens of millions more must deal with the activities of related services, departments, and ministries." PG

...TELLS ENVOYS TO MONITOR HEATING AND ELECTRICITY

President Putin on 29 October told his envoys to the federal districts that they should monitor heating and electricity in their areas so that there will not be any problems like those that plagued some areas last winter, Interfax reported. Putin also directed the cabinet to introduce amendments that will create a mechanism to ensure that all budgeted programs will be carried out, the news service said. PG

PUTIN WELCOMES MACEDONIAN ANTITERRORIST EFFORT

President Putin on 29 October told visiting Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski that Moscow fully backs Macedonia's efforts to fight terrorism, Russian agencies reported. The same day, the defense ministers of the two countries signed a protocol on military-technical cooperation. PG

CABINET PREPARES FOR THIRD READING OF BUDGET

The cabinet submitted on 29 October to the Duma materials in support of the 2002 draft budget and also some amendments to its original submission as the parliament prepares for hearings in advance of the third reading on the budget, Interfax reported. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov directed his ministers to ensure that their accounts all balance in their budget submissions. PG

KUDRIN SAYS DRAFT PROGRAM ON STATE DEBT READY

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said on 29 October that his ministry has prepared a draft concept for the administration of the state debt, Interfax reported. Kudrin also said that the total tax burden in Russia was reduced by 2 percent in 2001 and will be cut another 1.5-2 percent in 2002. Meanwhile, Prime Minster Kasyanov said the government is ready to work with Russian and foreign investors to expand investment in Russia, the news service said. PG

WIDESPREAD CORRUPTION REGISTERED IN USE OF IMF LOANS

A probe into the way in which Russian officials handled loans from the International Monetary Fund found widespread corruption, "Novaya gazeta" reported on 29 October. The paper noted that much of the corruption involved a small, 53-person office called the Federal Center of Project Financing that does not have any rules for keeping track of how the loans, all of which passed through its hands, were distributed. The paper noted that this center gained the status of an open-share holding company when the current chief of the Audit Chamber, Sergei Stepashin, was prime minister. VY

KLEBANOV SAYS RUSSIA PLANS TO DEVELOP NEW WEAPONS SYSTEMS

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said in an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 29 October that Russia plans to modernize its military equipment and that 42 percent of this year's state orders to the defense sector are for research and development of such systems. He said Russia expects to increase its arms sales abroad, but is unlikely to reach the level of the United States in the near future. PG

IS ATTACK ON SHOIGU PART OF AN ANTI-YELTSIN OFFENSIVE?

"Vedomosti" on 26 October suggested that the political pressure being applied on Emergency Situations Minister and Unity leader Sergei Shoigu appears to be part of a general offensive by President Putin's St. Petersburg group against the remaining members of former President Boris Yeltsin's entourage. Putin's entourage would like to see Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov take Shoigu's place. VY

RAILWAYS MINISTER HAS BEEN FORCED OUT

Polit.ru reported on 29 October that Nikolai Aksenenko has been sent on "a very long vacation from which he will never return to his office." Aksenenko refused to act on the signals the Kremlin sent him last week that Putin's entourage wants him to resign, but by going on vacation, the website suggested, Aksenenko has now accepted the inevitable. The site added that it appears the Kremlin's "exhausting and chaotic operations" against Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky taught the Putin team a lesson in how to act and send another influential bureaucrat into retirement quickly and almost smoothly. VY

COMMUNISTS EXPECT 'PROVOCATIONS' ON 7 NOVEMBER

The Communist Party (KPRF) on 29 October released a statement saying that it expects the pro-Kremlin group Walking Together to stage "a provocation" against the planned parade on the 7 November anniversary holiday marking the 1917 revolution, Interfax reported. The statement suggested that members of the pro-Putin youth group will carry brooms and trash containers and march at the end of the Communist parade to symbolize Walking Together's intention to clean up after 70 years of Communist power. Meanwhile, the youth branch of Yabloko together with the Anti-Fascist Youth Action staged a protest against what its leaders termed "the dangerous tendency of the rebirth of the traditions of the Komsomol in the form of the organization Walking Together," Interfax reported. These comments came in response to the first All-Russia Congress of Associations of Union of Youth Organizations, which is taking place in Moscow on 29-31 October. PG

RADICAL LEFTISTS HOLD UNIFICATION CONGRESS

Two hundred and twenty delegates from 56 regions of the Russian Federation met in the Lenin Hills district of Moscow on 27 October in a unification congress of the radical leftist Russian Communist Workers Party and the Revolutionary Party of Communists, Interfax reported the following day. The co-chairmen of the new RKRP-RPH party are Viktor Tyulkin and Anatolii Kryuchkov. The new party program specifies that, "without revolutionary actions of the workers and their allies, the toilers will not be able to take power into their own hands." The unified party claims a membership of "not less than 10,000." PG

PRUSAK SAYS REGIONS, NOT OLIGARCHS SHOULD NOMINATE PRESIDENT

Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak told Interfax on 29 October that the current system of electing a president in Russia should be changed. He said that the current system recalls that of Communist times in that a few oligarchs choose a candidate and ask the people to vote. Instead, Prusak suggested, representatives of the regions should get together, choose a candidate, and offer that nominee to the people for a vote. PG

MARKOV DENIES STATE WANTS TOTAL CONTROL OVER CIVIL SOCIETY

Sergei Markov, the coordinator of the Civic Forum, said in an interview published in "Trud" on 27 October that "it is naive to think" that the Russian government wants to put everything and everyone under total control. Markov said that what the government wants to see are "self-organizing" structures in society, not mechanisms created from above. PG

ANTIGLOBALIST PROTESTS FAIL TO MATERIALIZE AT DAVOS MEETING IN MOSCOW

The "massive demonstrations of antiglobalist activists" that the FSB has predicted over the last 10 days failed to materialize when only a few dozen people appeared on 29 October in quiet pickets at the site of the Davos World Economic Forum meeting in Moscow, RTR reported. Meanwhile, a group of Russian businessmen participating in the forum announced the formation of a public council to press for Russian entry into the World Trade Organization, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 October. VY

INFLATION STILL GREATEST FEAR AMONG RUSSIANS

According to a poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 29 October, 64 percent of Russians are most concerned about rising prices. In second place among their concerns is poverty and the declining standard of living among the majority of the population (59 percent). Only 7 percent said that the growth of nationalism and a worsening of international relations is their greatest concern, and fewer than 1 percent said that their greatest concern is the limitation on human rights and democratic freedoms in Russia. PG

CUBAN PAPER CALLS PUTIN'S RUSSIA 'A BRANCH OF IMPERIALISM'

Havana's Granma agency has carried two editorials attacking the foreign policy of Russian President Putin and his decision to close the Russian intelligence facility at Lourdes, "Izvestiya" reported on 29 October. Granma said Putin is transforming Russia into "a branch of imperialism." Meanwhile, Ekho Moskvy on 28 October described Putin's decision about Lourdes as "Yankee-Si, Cuba-No." VY

RUSSIA REACHES ACCORD ON THIS YEAR'S HAJJ

Russia has been allocated 20,000 places for this year's hajj, although it is unlikely to use all of these slots, "Izvestiya" reported on 27 October. (The Saudi authorities provide one hajj slot for every 1,000 Muslims in a country's population, and this suggests that Riyadh believes that there are 20 million Muslims in Russia now.) Last year, approximately 4,000 Russian Muslims made the pilgrimage to Mecca. This year, the paper said, security arrangements will be tighter. PG

INFLATION PROJECTED AT 18 PERCENT FOR 2001

The Economic Development and Trade Ministry said in a statement on 29 October that inflation will total 18 percent in 2001 in Russia, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kasyanov said that GDP growth for 2001 will total 5.5 percent, with real incomes increasing 6 percent, the news service said. PG

KLEBANOV SAYS 'KURSK' EXPLOSIONS MADE SAVING THE CREW IMPOSSIBLE

Deputy Prime Minister Klebanov said on 29 October that the explosion of one torpedo in the "Kursk" submarine set off others and made it impossible to rescue any of the crew, Russian and Western news agencies reported. At the same time, he said, it remains unclear what caused the initial explosion, with existing evidence pointing both toward and against some outside impact. Meanwhile, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said that the submariners had lost the chance to evacuate themselves with the help of a special salvage camera when it was destroyed by what he called "a powerful hit" from the outside. Officials continued on 29 October to evacuate the bodies of the sailors and began to remove some of the missiles, news agencies reported. VY

RUSSIA, CHINA RADIOS TO EXCHANGE PROGRAMS

The Voice of Russia radio and International Radio of China on 29 October signed an agreement calling for the exchange of entertainment and news programming on a regular basis, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

MOSCOW OBLAST LOSING POPULATION

Moscow Oblast had a population of 6.4 million people on 1 January 2001, 28,7000 less than a year earlier, Interfax reported on 28 October. The decline reflects a low number of births, a growth in mortality rates, and no change in life expectancy. PG

RUSSIAN LAWS SAID INADEQUATE TO DEAL WITH NEO-NAZI DANGER

"Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 27 October carried an article saying that neither existing laws nor draft legislation on political extremism is sufficient to deal with the neo-Nazi skinhead threat in Russia. The fines these laws impose are too small to be taken seriously, the paper said, and as a result the extremists are likely to continue to flaunt their ugly views in public. PG

RUSSIA'S 'NEW POOR' SKIMP ON FOOD, WATCH COLOR TV

According to an article in "Novoye vremya," No. 43, a "new class" has emerged in Russia -- "people who save on food not to mention the fact that purchasing manufactured goods are out of the question, but who have apartments and housing property that cannot be sold now due to their decrepitude." But despite these difficulties, the weekly continued, the new poor "watches the beautiful life in Mexico on a color television set." PG

RUSSIA BEGINS MANUFACTURING DIGITAL TELEVISIONS

The Russian Control Systems Agency told ITAR-TASS on 29 October that Russia is now manufacturing digital television equipment, including adapters for some of the 85 million older television sets now in use in that country. The agency also said that domestically produced televisions have now reclaimed nearly one quarter of the television market in Russia. PG

SMALL BUSINESSES STILL LAG BEHIND BIG ONES

The State Statistics Committee released a study conducted in 2000 of 673,000 small businesses in Russia, "Finansovaya Rossiya" reported on 25 October. Although they number almost two-thirds of all businesses, they employ only 10.2 percent of the workforce, have 2 percent of the capital assets, and 4.6 percent of the total investments. Moreover, one in five of the small businesses is on the brink of bankruptcy. PG

NEWLY MINTED LIEUTENANTS DON'T WANT TO SERVE

An article in "Chelyabinskii rabochii" on 3 October said that graduates from universities in the southern Urals who signed contracts earlier to serve in the military are trying to avoid doing so. The paper said that "this is natural because nobody wants to defend the Fatherland for a miserable salary," adding that the local military commissariat plans to file charges against the men involved. PG

ANOTHER EFFORT TO MEMORIALIZE ADMIRAL KOLCHAK

"Izvestiya" reported on 29 October that historians and other activists plan to erect a plague at the Naval Corps in November in honor of White Movement leader Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak. An earlier effort in May provoked a strongly negative reaction among many in St. Petersburg because of Kolchak's image as a leading anti-Bolshevik, but the supporters of his historical memory are trying again. PG

ALCOHOLIC BEAR FINALLY SOBERS UP

A Russian brown bear who drank regularly for the last 3 1/2 years has been cured of his alcohol habit, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 29 October. Now, he drinks milk again, his handlers told the newspaper. PG

STROEV POLLS MORE THAN 90 PERCENT OF VOTE...

As expected, Orel Oblast Governor Yegor Stroev easily won re-election to his post for a third term in elections held on 28 October. According to preliminary results the next day, Stroev attracted 91.7 percent of the vote. The selection "against all candidates" was second with 3.8 percent of the vote compared to 1.6 percent for the next closest contender, Vladimir Zyabkin, a professor at Orel State University. More than 70 percent of eligible voters participated in the election. Although 90 percent is quite a high figure for most gubernatorial elections, it is still less than the more than 97 percent that Stroev polled during his last race in 1997. JAC

...AS ISSUE OF HIS REPLACEMENT AT FEDERATION COUNCIL MOVES TO FOREFRONT

Meanwhile, an unidentified Kremlin source told ITAR-TASS on 29 October that it is hardly likely that special legislation will be prepared so that Stroev, the current Federation Council chairman, will be able to hold onto that position under the new rules for forming the upper legislative chamber. Among those candidates rumored to be under consideration as a replacement for Stroev are former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 12 September 2001 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2001). However, Shaimiev would have to resign as president. JAC

SAKHA SUPREME COURT DELAYS DECISION...

The Supreme Court of the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic decided on 29 October to postpone until 1 November consideration of whether Sakha President Mikhail Nikolaev has a right to run for a third term in office, Interfax-Eurasia reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2001). Meanwhile, back in Moscow, a working group of the Central Election Commission decided the same day that Nikolaev has no right to run for a third term, and that a final decision on the issue would be taken up in a full session of the commission on 30 October, the website polit.ru reported. JAC

...AS ANOTHER DIAMOND COMPANY REP JOINS PRESIDENTIAL RACE

Should Nikolaev be excluded from the race, 10 additional candidates have already been registered to run, including the head of the ALROSA diamond-production company, Vyacheslav Shtyrov, and ALROSA-Sakha head Mikhail Sannikov, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

SITUATION NORMAL IN VLADIVOSTOK: NO HEAT

Although outdoor temperatures have started to dip to zero degrees Celsius, Vladivostok's chief heating supplier, Dalenergo, has so far not turned on heat to a large number of residences in the krai, RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent reported on 29 October. Dalenergo maintains that the city's administration has not signed an agreement to restructure an outstanding debt of 28 million rubles ($943,400). In addition, all of the city's electric transport, such as the trams and trolleybuses, have been stopped, and thousands of citizens had to walk to work in the morning in freezing temperatures. Meanwhile, by order of the mayor, OMON troops continue to guard an electricity substation in Partizansk to prevent electricity to that city from being turned off (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2001). Last week, presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district Konstantin Pulikovskii said the energy crisis that Primorskii Krai experienced last winter will not be repeated, Interfax reported on 26 October. JAC

CENTRAL REGION PICKS NEW REPRESENTATIVE FOR FEDERATION COUNCIL

Deputies in Ulyanovsk Oblast's legislature confirmed Valerii Sychev on 29 October as their representative to the Federation Council, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Sychev was most recently chief federal inspector to the oblast for the Volga federal district. According to the agency, Aleksandr Kalita, former head of the administration for educational work and culture at the Defense Ministry's Main Directorate for Educational Work, is Ulyanovsk's other representative in the upper legislative chamber. JAC

KREMLIN AIDE VISITS CHECHNYA

Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii flew to Grozny on 29 October where he participated in a meeting of Russian military commanders that focused on media coverage of the fighting in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Yastrzhembskii criticized the reluctance of the Defense Ministry and other security bodies to share information between themselves. Yastrzhembskii also said that Russian troops will not be withdrawn from Chechnya, and that one army division and one Interior Ministry brigade will be stationed there permanently. Yastrzhembskii also repeated that the anticipated talks between President Aslan Maskhadov's representative, Akhmed Zakaev, and the presidential envoy to the Southern federal district, Viktor Kazantsev, will focus exclusively on the terms under which Maskhadov's fighters will disarm, and not on Chechnya's political status. Also on 29 October, Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov denied that Maskhadov's representatives have contacted him to propose peace talks, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

CHECHENS RALLY TO DEMAND RELEASE OF DETAINEES

Some 1,000 Chechens congregated outside the main Chechen administration building in Gudermes on 29 October to demand the release of an unknown number of residents of surrounding villages detained by Russian troops during a security operation last week, AP reported. LF

NEWLY APPOINTED CHECHEN OFFICIAL ESCAPES AMBUSH

Yan Sergunin, whom Kadyrov appointed on 18 October to head the newly formed administration staff (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 36, 29 October 2001), escaped uninjured on 29 October when unknown gunmen opened fire on his car on the outskirts of Argun, Interfax reported. LF




ARMENIAN PREMIER RETURNS TO WORK

Andranik Markarian returned to Yerevan on 28 October from Paris, where he underwent medical treatment last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 25 October 2001), and met on 29 October with World Bank resident representative Oweis Saadat, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Armenian TV, as cited by Groong. A government spokeswoman described Markarian's condition as "good." LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CLAIMS GROWING SUPPORT FOR PRESIDENT'S IMPEACHMENT

Some 600,000 people have already signed a petition drafted by Armenia's three main opposition parties calling for the impeachment of President Robert Kocharian, National Unity Party Chairman Artashes Geghamian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 29 October. The opposition accuses the president of corruption, issuing decrees that were unconstitutional, and obstructing the investigation into the October 1999 parliament shootings. But Geghamian declined to specify how many of the 131 parliament deputies are prepared to back a call for the president's impeachment. The constitution stipulates that the support of at least 44 deputies is necessary for a debate on impeachment to take place. LF

ARMENIAN ANTHRAX SCARE PROVES A HOAX

The letter with white powder received on 19 October by the Armenian Ministry of Culture, Youth Affairs, and Sport (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2001) did not contain anthrax or any other life-threatening substance, Noyan Tapan reported on 29 October, quoting the Armenian Health Ministry. LF

OSCE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY CHAIRMAN PROPOSES TASK FORCE FOR NAGORNO-KARABAKH

Meeting in Yerevan on 26 October with Armenian parliament Chairman Armen Khachatrian, Adrian Severin proposed that the OSCE create a working group that would try to promote a political atmosphere conducive to reaching a settlement of the Karabakh conflict, Noyan Tapan reported. He stressed that such a body would not duplicate the work of the OSCE Minsk Group. Severin held talks the following day with President Kocharian and with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, then traveled on 28 October to Stepanakert where he told the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic that the attitude of the international community toward the enclave will depend largely on the success of their efforts to build a free and democratic society, ITAR-TASS and Prime News reported. Upon his return to Yerevan, Severin told journalists on 29 October that both Armenia and Azerbaijan should refrain from bellicose statements that hinder a negotiated solution to the conflict. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT BLAMES IRAN FOR POSTPONEMENT OF HIS VISIT

Meeting on 27 October with Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Akhad Gazai, Heidar Aliyev blamed Tehran for the most recent delay in his official visit to Iran, Turan reported. Originally planned for late 1999, that visit was to have taken place on 17-19 September, but was reportedly postponed at the last minute by mutual consent following a telephone conversation between Aliyev and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Khatami to allow for further work on the draft documents to be signed during the visit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 September 2001). Aliyev on 27 October said the postponement was due to the Iranian side's "unwillingness" to sign an agreement on friendship and cooperation and a joint statement by the two presidents, the texts of which Baku had submitted in advance. On 16 September, Tehran rejected the draft agreement and proposed a significantly different joint statement. Aliyev said he will not travel to Tehran until the texts of both documents are agreed upon. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT HOPES FOR MEETING WITH RUSSIAN COUNTERPART

Georgian parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania briefed parliament deputies on 29 October on his visit last week to Moscow, where he discussed bilateral relations with Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev and other senior Russian officials. Zhvania and Seleznev agreed that the current state of bilateral relations is deplorable and should be improved in line with what they termed the centuries-old tradition of friendship between the Russian and Georgian peoples. One of the issues touched upon was Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's desire to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 29 October that he has not yet received a response to that request, noting that he cannot force Putin to agree to such a meeting, Caucasus Press reported. Meanwhile, on 24 October, the Georgian newspaper "Alia" quoted Irakli Pagava, chairman of the parliament subcommittee on CIS affairs, as saying that Moscow has amended the proposed draft of a new framework agreement on friendship and cooperation between Georgia and Russia, removing from the title the word "friendship." LF

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES RESUMPTION OF GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS

In a 15-page report to the UN Security Council released on 29 October, Secretary-General Kofi Annan termed the shooting down on 8 October of a helicopter chartered by the UN Observer Mission in Georgia "an outrage" that underscores the failure by both Abkhazia and Georgia to take appropriate measures to protect UN personnel, Reuters reported. Annan noted that the situation in Abkhazia has deteriorated over the past two months, largely as a result of the fighting in the Kodori gorge between Georgian armed irregulars and Chechen fighters and Abkhaz forces. He criticized the Georgian authorities for failing to restrain the activities of the Georgian guerrilla force. Annan called on the Abkhaz and Georgian leaderships to resume talks on Abkhazia's political status, noting that their failure to do so could jeopardize the entire peace process. LF

RUSSIA DENIES RESPONSIBILITY FOR GEORGIAN BOMBING RAID

The Georgian Foreign Ministry summoned Russian Ambassador to Georgia Vladimir Gudev on 29 October to protest the bombing the previous day of villages in the Georgian sector of the Kodori gorge, for which Tbilisi has blamed Russia, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2001). Also on 29 October, the Russian Defense Ministry and the North Caucasus Military District both denied that Russian warplanes had flown airstrikes over Georgian territory the previous day, Russian agencies reported. LF

KAZAKH CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION REJECTS OSCE CRITICISM

In a statement released on 29 October, Kazakhstan's Central Election Commission rejected as based on a superficial examination of relevant documentation the criticism expressed by the Kazakhstan Office of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the 20 October elections of regional administrators in Kazakhstan's 14 oblasts, Interfax reported. The OSCE concluded in its report on that ballot that the voting procedures were flawed and that the vote did not meet international standards. The OSCE similarly criticized as neither free nor fair the presidential and parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan in 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September and 12 October 1999). LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION MARKS JAILED LEADER'S BIRTHDAY

Some 40 supporters of jailed Ar-Namys party chairman and former Vice President Feliks Kulov congregated in Bishkek on 29 October and held a protest march to demand Kulov's release from prison, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kulov was sentenced in January to seven years imprisonment on charges of abuse of his official position (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001). LF

FIVE ISLAMISTS SENTENCED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN

A district court in Kyrgyzstan's southern Djalalabad Oblast on 29 October handed down jail terms ranging from three to 17 years on five members of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir party, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The party calls for the nonviolent overthrow of the existing Central Asian leaderships and the establishment of a Central Asian caliphate. A police official in Djalalabad told RFE/RL on 13 October that 67 Hizb ut-Tahrir activists have been arrested in the oblast since the beginning of 2001, of whom 43 were sentenced to prison terms on charges of inciting religious hatred. LF

TAJIK ECONOMIC UPSWING CONTINUES

Industrial production in Tajikistan grew by 16 percent during the first nine months of 2001 compared with the same period the previous year, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 30 October, quoting Economy and Trade Ministry spokesman Ghafur Rasulov. Agricultural output over the same time period increased by 13.1 percent year-on-year despite the ongoing severe drought. GDP for the first nine months of the year totaled 1.648 billion somonis ($687 million). Last year's GDP amounted to 1.8 billion somonis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2001). LF

UZBEKISTAN AMENDS CRIMINAL CODE

Uzbekistan has amended its Criminal Code to narrow the range of crimes that are punishable by the death penalty from eight to four, including first-degree murder and terrorism; reduce prison terms; and increase the number of offenses punishable by fines rather than prison sentences, presidential administration official Nuridindjon Ismoilov told Interfax on 29 October. LF




BELARUS WANTS TO EXPAND RELATIONS WITH NORTH OSSETIA

On 29 October in Minsk, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with Aleksandr Dzasokhov, the president of the Russian Federation's Republic of North Ossetia, Belarusian media reported. Lukashenka urged Dzasokhov to expand bilateral economic relations, saying that, through cooperation with North Ossetia, Belarus would also like to establish trade and economic ties with other Caucasian republics, including Ingushetia and Chechnya. JM

BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES SUGGEST ANOTHER 'SOCIOPOLITICAL DIALOGUE'

Presidential adviser Syarhey Posakhau said on 29 October that a dialogue among Belarus's sociopolitical forces is not only possible, but also necessary, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Posakhau was apparently responding to a recent proposal by the Belarusian opposition to begin talks with international mediation on democratizing public life in the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 25 October 2001). Posakhau said the dialogue should involve "all social strata and political groups" in Belarus, adding that the authorities rule out the "financial or technical" participation of foreign organizations in it. Posakhau also stressed that the dialogue should proceed from Belarus's "existing realities," including the recognition of Lukashenka as a legitimate president. In 2000, the Belarusian authorities orchestrated a "sociopolitical dialogue" of some 100 organizations. The dialogue, in which the opposition refused to participate, has failed to produce any significant results. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER PLEDGES TO HELP FIGHT TERRORISM

Anatoliy Kinakh said on 29 October that Ukraine is ready to assist foreign states, including Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, in fighting terrorism, Inter television reported. Kinakh made this statement at the JFK airport in New York upon his arrival for a three-day visit to the United States. Kinakh noted that he plans to discuss limitations in bilateral trade with U.S. officials. Kinakh spent the first day of his visit in New York meeting with New York City and New York state officials, U.S. businessmen, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In addition, he visited the World Trade Center site and attended a service in a Ukrainian church. JM

UKRAINIAN STOCK MARKET OFFICIAL STABBED, SHOT TO DEATH

Oleksiy Romashko, a member of the State Commission for Securities and the Stock Market, was stabbed to death on 29 October as he left his house in Kyiv, Interfax reported. Deputy Prosecutor-General Yuriy Haysynskyy confirmed that Romashko was stabbed twice with a knife and added that he was also shot in the head after the stabbing. JM

UKRAINIAN TELEVISION QUESTIONS OFFICIAL VERSION OF JOURNALIST'S DEATH

Ukrainian Television on 28 October broadcast a 25-minute film questioning the official version of the death of journalist Ihor Aleksandrov in Slavyansk, Luhansk Oblast, in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 2001). Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko has announced that Aleksandrov was mistakenly killed by a homeless man who intended to kill Aleksandrov's lawyer. Two former police officers said in the film that Aleksandrov was killed by a group responsible for a number of contract killings in the Luhansk region in recent years. JM

OSCE MISSION TO ESTONIA MAY END THIS YEAR

In an interview in the daily "Postimees" on 29 October, OSCE mission in Estonia head Doris Hertrampf said that the mission's mandate is extended every two months and may end on 31 December 2001. The aim of the mission, which was established in 1992 and has offices in Tallinn, Kohtla-Jarve, and Narva, is to promote integration and mutual understanding between ethnic communities. She noted that Estonia has harmonized with European norms its laws on citizenship, aliens, and language, as well as legal acts associated with education and language examinations. One problem that has not been solved is the Estonian-language requirement for candidates to parliament and local governments. Hertrampf welcomed the recent raising of this issue in the parliament, noting that "these language requirements are not in conformity with the UN principles, which define political and civil rights," but she stressed that no one is challenging Estonia's right to have a monolingual parliament. SG

DUTCH PREMIER NAMES LATVIA AMONG MOST REALISTIC NATO CANDIDATES

Wim Kok began a tour of the Baltic states on 29 October in Riga with talks with his Latvian counterpart Andris Berzins, LETA reported. The premiers discussed the global situation, bilateral relations, and NATO and EU enlargement. Kok told a press conference that the increased cooperation between the United States and Russia following the 11 September terrorist attacks suggests that NATO enlargement will take place without a "heavy exchange of words" between Russia and NATO. He mentioned Latvia as one of the most realistic candidates for NATO membership, but said it is still too early to speak about the likely outcome of the alliance's 2002 summit in Prague. Wok also met with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and parliament Chairman Janis Straume before departing for Vilnius in the evening. SG

COUNCIL OF EUROPE SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS LITHUANIA

Walter Schwimmer told a press conference in Vilnius on 29 October that Lithuania has prepared well for taking over the leadership for six months of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, starting on 8 November, BNS reported. He had separate meetings with Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis, parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas, President Valdas Adamkus, and Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas. Among the most important issues that the council will deliberate during Lithuania's leadership are whether to accept Bosnia-Herzegovina as a member state; setting conditions for Yugoslavia's entry; and whether to return observer status in the council to Belarus, which was suspended in 1997. The last issue will be deliberated by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly's Political Affairs Committee in Vilnius on 19-20 November. Lithuania will hand over the chairmanship of the council to Luxembourg at the 110th session of the Committee of Ministers in Vilnius on 15-16 May 2002. SG

COURT ACQUITS FORMER POLISH RIOT POLICE OF 1981 MASSACRE CHARGES

The District Court in Katowice on 30 October acquitted 22 former riot policemen charged with killing nine and injuring 25 miners on 16 December 1981 during the martial-law crackdown on the Solidarity movement, PAP reported. The prosecution demanded 15-year prison sentences for two commanders and up to 10 years for the remaining former officers. The defendants testified that they fired only warning shots over the heads of the miners. Chief Judge Aleksandra Rotkiel said evidence failed to provide "indisputable proof" of the charges in the indictment. The verdict was followed by shouts of "Shame!" and "So who was shooting?" from observers in the courtroom. The trial lasted for two years and was the second attempt at exacting justice for the 1981 bloodshed. The defendants were acquitted of the same charges in 1997 after a 4 1/2-year trial, but an appeals court found procedural mistakes and ordered a retrial. JM

POLAND TO PAY BRAZIL $2.46 BILLION IN DEBT

Poland will repay Brazil $2.46 billion in debts due for payment in 2009, PAP reported on 29 October, quoting the Bloomberg news agency. The debts date back to the 1970s, when Brazil lent money to Polish importers to boost its exports to Poland. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT REMAINS HOSPITALIZED

Vaclav Havel remains hospitalized for bronchitis after medical tests indicated that his condition has not improved, AP reported on 29 October, citing Havel's personal physician. Havel was hospitalized on 22 October after his chronic bronchitis worsened due to a viral infection. Doctors allowed the president to leave the hospital briefly on 28 October to deliver a speech. MS

IPI CONDEMNS CZECH PREMIER OVER 'RESPEKT' AFFAIR...

The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) wrote to Milos Zeman on 29 October, condemning the envisaged multiple lawsuits against the weekly "Respekt," CTK reported. It said the organization "considers the incarceration of journalists as a serious infringement of basic human rights and regards restrictions on journalists as a gross violation of the right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights." The organization urged Zeman "to ensure that journalists reporting on events in the Czech Republic are allowed to carry out their profession without further harassment." MS

...WHILE ZEMAN STAYS AWAY FROM STATE EVENT TO AVOID SHAKING HANDS WITH FIRST LADY

Premier Zeman did not attend the traditional ceremony of 28 October commemorating the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918 and said his actions were due to President Havel's wife, Dagmar Havlova, CTK reported. "No matter what I think about Mrs. Havlova, I respect her as first lady and would not want to put her in the awkward position of having to shake my hand," Zeman said. Last year, Havlova said she would never shake the hand of the premier again as a result of Zeman's dispute with President Havel over the appointment of National Bank Governor Zdenek Tuma. MS

CZECH PREMIER SAYS BRITISH-SWEDISH CONSORTIUM MET ALL CONDITIONS FOR TENDER

Zeman told journalists after a meeting of the cabinet on 29 October that BAE Systems, which produces the JAS-39 Gripen supersonic fighters, met all of the conditions stipulated in the tender launched by the Czech government for the purchase of new military jets, CTK reported. He said the cabinet has charged the ministers of defense, finance, foreign affairs, and trade and industry to submit a draft for a final decision on the tender by 30 November. Zeman said the tender might be discussed during his one-week visit to the United States, which is scheduled to begin on 5 November, but noted that the U.S. Boeing company has withdrawn from the tender. MS

RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN INMATES STRIKE IN CZECH REPUBLIC

A hunger strike declared by imprisoned Russians and Ukrainians on 26 October continues, although some strikers have since ended their protest, CTK reported on 29 October. Prison Authority spokeswoman Jana Trtikova said 111 inmates remain on strike in protest against alleged breaches of their rights and harsh conditions in Czech prisons. MS

CZECH REPUBLIC AGAIN POSTPONES VISA REQUIREMENT FOR ROMANIANS

The Czech Republic has once again decided to postpone the introduction of visa requirements for Romanian citizens, Romanian radio reported. The radio said the decision was taken after a meeting in Madrid over the weekend between Czech Premier Zeman and Romanian President Ion Iliescu and following a telephone conversation between the two countries' foreign ministers, Jan Kavan and Mircea Geoana. The requirement is now to take effect as of 1 January 2002. Government spokesman Libor Roucek said in Prague that the EU will decide in December whether to lift visa requirements for Romanians and Prague will take that decision into consideration, but added that the number of asylum seekers from Romania will be the determining factor for imposing the visa or not, CTK reported. MS

SLOVAK JUSTICE MINISTRY WANTS STB FILES DECLASSIFIED

The Justice Ministry wants to declassify some 50,000 files from the archives of the former communist secret police (StB), CTK reported on 28 October, citing Markiza television. The ministry said the files could be declassified by early 2002 if the government and the parliament agree to do so. MS

SLOVAK DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS 'ROMA ARE NOT SLOVAKIA'

On 29 October, Pal Csaky told journalists at a Bratislava conference on Roma in Central Europe that Slovak Roma do not represent Slovakia as a whole, "just as Harlem is not representative of the U.S. or of New York," CTK reported. Csaky, who is in charge of minority problems in the cabinet, said the problems of Romany communities from eastern Slovakia who live in unsuitable conditions will be solved "step-by-step," but it will take years to do so. To believe otherwise, Csaky said, "would be an idealist expectation similar to believing that India could catch up with Germany in 10 years." MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SURGEON FACES CHARGES

Presidential aide Jan Bilek said on 29 October that Dr. Frantisek Fabian, who performed surgery on President Rudolf Schuster in June 2000 to treat a perforated colon, faces charges of negligence, AP and CTK reported. Schuster had to be flown to Austria after his condition deteriorated following the surgery. He subsequently underwent emergency surgery in an Innsbruck clinic. Bilek said Schuster has not filed charges, but an investigation into his treatment was launched by the Health Ministry after the surgery. If convicted, Fabian could face up to five years in prison. Schuster has said in the past that he may consider pardoning the surgeon, but that he cannot do so until court proceedings end. MS

OSCE COMMISSIONER CRITICIZES HUNGARY'S STATUS LAW

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus criticized Hungary's Status Law on 29 October, describing it as a potential source of conflict, Hungarian media and AFP reported. Without mentioning Hungary by name, Ekeus warned states against taking unilateral measures regarding ethnic minorities, saying that this "could lead to tensions and friction, even violent conflict." The protection of ethnic minorities is the duty of the country in which the minorities live, he added. Meanwhile, Giorgio Malinverni, a member of the Council of Europe's Venice Commission that recently examined the Status Law, said in Strasbourg that Hungarian legislation on minorities can be applied only within Hungary's borders and that such legislation should affect only education and culture. Malinverni said the commission does not agree with Budapest's intention of extending social security to ethnic Hungarians abroad. MSZ

HUNGARY DENIES ROMANIAN ACCUSATIONS OF SEEKING TRANSYLVANIA'S FEDERALIZATION

Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath on 29 October denied accusations by Romanian Interior Minister Ioan Rus that Budapest is seeking "cosovereignty" over Transylvania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2001), AFP reported. Horvath said Rus's statement that "Hungary wants to control Transylvania economically and to federalize it," shows that Romania has poorly interpreted the evolution of economic developments in Central Europe. Horvath said that Hungary opened its borders to Western investors 10 years ago and Romania should do the same to accelerate its integration into Europe. He added that "foreign investments in Transylvania could be the first sign of a similar process [elsewhere in Romania]." Horvath said he considers the remarks of "certain Romanian politicians" to be intended for domestic consumption. MS

HUNGARY'S EXTREMIST LEADER EXPECTS POWER AFTER NEXT ELECTIONS

Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) Chairman Istvan Csurka said on 29 October that the major coalition party FIDESZ and MIEP are "only a hair's breadth away" from obtaining a two-thirds parliamentary majority in next year's elections, after which, he said, "there will be hell to pay." Csurka said that with such a majority in parliament, the Media Act will be abolished "with one stroke" and a new one enacted, and privatization issues will be reviewed. He said the MIEP wants a "social market economy," in which the privileged positions of the upper one-tenth of society and its thin stratum of bankers are eliminated, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. MSZ




AUSTRIAN MINISTER CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL INVOLVEMENT IN BALKANS

Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in Luxembourg on 29 October that the EU and the rest of the international community must not neglect the Balkans at a time of crisis elsewhere in the world, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. She warned that unnamed Balkan "political extremists" are hoping that the foreigners will neglect that region and provide the extremists with the golden opportunity they have been waiting for (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 September 2001). She added that the Serbs of Kosova will be able to enjoy their full constitutional rights there only if they take part in the 17 November general elections (see below). PM

WHAT FUTURE FOR EU'S BALKAN STABILITY PACT?

In Luxembourg on 29 October, EU foreign ministers discussed the future form of the Balkan Stability Pact once Bodo Hombach, who currently heads the project, leaves, the "Financial Times" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2001). Germany, Austria, and Greece want the pact left as it is, while Britain wants it brought closer to EU foreign affairs Commissioner Chris Patten's commission, even though much of its money is American. Some people want the pact's scope expanded to include smuggling and drugs, while others want it wound up. It currently serves as a clearinghouse for development and stabilization projects. Possible candidates to succeed Hombach include Austria's Erhard Busek, who has long sought such a position, the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" reported. Former Italian Foreign Minister Gianni De Michaelis would like the job, but many regard him as unsuited following his recent prison term on corruption charges. France wants the post but is unlikely to get it because the new EU envoy for Macedonia is French. German opposition politician Volker Ruehe has also been suggested, but it is not clear if he is interested. PM

CROATIA SIGNS MILESTONE AGREEMENT WITH EU

Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan signed a cooperation and association agreement with Patten in Luxembourg on 29 October, AP reported. Racan said that the pact "represents a milestone on the road to Europe." Patten noted that "this agreement shows that their country is moving forward at an impressive pace." Racan said in Zagreb that the government will now prepare to formally apply for EU membership, although one should not "idealize" the EU. He added: "No one says that it's going to be easy and that we will see positive results already tomorrow. But we must be aware that the only alternative to the united Europe is isolation and decline." PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT VISITS ISRAEL

In what international media widely describe as a landmark visit, Stipe Mesic arrived in Israel on 28 October for two days of sightseeing, followed by an official program that was to begin with a meeting with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on 30 October, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Mesic is scheduled to meet the following day with President Moshe Katsav. The visit marks a success for the Croatian leadership that took office in early 2000, following the death of President Franjo Tudjman the previous December. Tudjman was widely regarded as anti-Semitic, and the Israeli authorities generally shunned his diplomatic overtures. Some Israeli firms have, however, received contracts from the Croatian military over the years. PM

SKINHEADS SMASH UP CLUB IN CROATIAN CAPITAL

Some 80 right-wing extremists demolished the interior of a dance club in Zagreb where the owner had shown a documentary film about Milko Djurovski, who played soccer for Belgrade's Red Star club, dpa reported on 30 October. PM

PUTIN STRESSES NORMALIZATION IN MACEDONIA...

After meeting with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski in Moscow on 29 October, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that changes for the better are taking place in Macedonia "with the assistance of Moscow and the international community. The disarmament of rebels and other actions aimed at normalization in the Balkans are positive factors," Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2001). PM

...WHILE IVANOV SLAMS 'TERRORISM'

Speaking in Moscow on 29 October, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov repeated his support for Macedonian hard-liners by equating the Albanian guerrillas with "terrorists" and blaming the region's problems on Albanians, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 July and 28 September 2001). He said that "the international community should render all necessary assistance to the Macedonian administration in its efforts to counteract international terrorism... The threat to the region comes from Kosovo, the extremists who are trying to destabilize the Balkan situation." He added that "there is a need for joint coordinated efforts to prevent the further strengthening of extremist forces in the Balkans" as part of "antiterrorist" efforts. PM

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT HAILS RUSSIAN STANCE ON SKOPJE'S NATO MEMBERSHIP

Trajkovski said in Moscow on 29 October that he is pleased with "Russia's constructive position on Macedonia's Euro-Atlantic plans," Interfax reported. He added that he hopes that Russia's own position on NATO expansion will meet with greater understanding abroad. Trajkovski argued that Macedonia's plans to join NATO "determine the country's strategic role in the world arena. But this does not mean that Macedonia will be closed to Russia. On the contrary, we expect Russia to increase its presence in the region jointly with the U.S. and the European Union. The position of Macedonia and Russia on the basic problems of regional security are consistent and have very much in common." Trajkovski noted that Russia is "Macedonia's strategic economic partner, above all in developing its energy and water supply systems." PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT INVOKES 'MESSAGE' OF NJEGOS

Milo Djukanovic told a conference in Podgorica on 29 October that Montenegrins today should heed the message of their great leaders of the past and recognize that no people can be free unless it has its own state, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The international conference is dedicated to the life and work of 19th-century Montenegrin ruler and writer Petar II Petrovic Njegos. But in Luxembourg, EU Commissioner Patten stressed that the EU wants Montenegro to remain within Yugoslavia. PM

SPLITS AMONG SERBS OF KOSOVA

The local branch of the Serbian National Council in Mitrovica passed a resolution of no-confidence in its chairman, Oliver Ivanovic, on 29 October, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The resolution accused him of "political arrogance" and a lack of principles. PM

KOSOVAR LEADER URGES SERBS TO VOTE

Kosovar political leader and former guerrilla chief Hashim Thaci told Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service on 30 October that the Serbs of Kosova should take part in the 17 November general elections. He cautioned them against being "manipulated" by the politicians in Belgrade. Thaci said the Serbs should join in Kosova's political life and forget ideas about setting up their own enclaves, which would only face isolation. PM

BOSNIAN POLICE MONITORING 17 ON SUSPICION OF TERRORISM

Tomislav Limov, the Bosnian federation's deputy interior minister, said in Sarajevo on 29 October that police are monitoring 17 individuals suspected of possible involvement in terrorist activities, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2001). None are native Bosnians, but some have obtained Bosnian citizenship. PM

SERBIAN MINISTER DENIES DEL PONTE CHARGE

Yugoslav Justice Minister Savo Markovic said in Belgrade on 29 October that Hague chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte is wrong when she says that his government is not cooperating with the tribunal, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2001). He said: "We are cooperating, perhaps this cooperation could be better, but we are cooperating." He said that no government could give the tribunal some of the files she asked for because they contained "things directly connected with the defense of the country." PM

SERBIAN EX-STRONGMAN LIKENS TRIBUNAL TO 'RETARDED CHILD'

Continuing to manage his own defense and refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the tribunal, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic dismissed all charges against him, Reuters reported from The Hague on 30 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2001). He said: "Please go and read out the judgments you are instructed to read and don't make me listen for hours on end to texts which are at the intellectual level of a seven-year-old child, or rather -- let me correct myself -- a retarded seven-year-old child." He said that the tribunal is NATO's instrument of "terrorism" against the Serbs, adding that "I would never commit suicide because I must struggle here to topple this tribunal and this farce of a trial and the masterminds who are using it against the people who are fighting for freedom in the world." Both of Milosevic's parents committed suicide. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER IN CANADA

On his way to Washington, Adrian Nastase met in Ottawa on 29 October with his Canadian counterpart Jean Chretien, Romanian radio reported the next day. The discussions focused on Romania's quest to become a NATO member, Canada's participation in the construction of a second nuclear reactor at the Cernavoda nuclear power plant, and in the future construction of a third reactor. The talks also addressed possible Canadian investment in infrastructure and telecommunications projects in Romania. Nastase said after the meeting that Canada fully supports Romania's efforts to join NATO, and that the Canadian premier will soon initiate in the parliament changes in legislation that currently prohibits the export of nuclear technology on environmental protection grounds. MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT 'TAKES NOTE' OF HUNGARIAN REJECTION OF NASTASE'S PROPOSALS

In a press release issued on 29 October, the government said it has "taken note" of Hungary's rejection of Premier Nastase's proposal that Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania party cards be used for registering in Hungary those eligible for Hungarian minority ID cards for Status Law purposes, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The government said Romania is "dissatisfied" with Hungary's continued insistence on maintaining legislation "granting socioeconomic rights on the basis of ethnic criteria," emphasizing that this contravenes the recommendations of the Venice Commission. It said Romania continues to believe that the Status Law must be amended, failing which "it is necessary to suspend its implementation until the consent of neighboring states is obtained and until conditions are created for amending it. " MS

ROMANIAN, HUNGARIAN JUSTICE MINISTERS CLASH OVER STATUS LAW...

Visiting Hungarian Justice Minister Ibolya David and her Romanian counterpart Rodica Stanoiu met on 29 October in Cluj to discuss judicial cooperation between their countries, but the encounter ended with both sides expressing disagreement over the Status Law, Romanian radio reported. David said she was "surprised" by the recent statement made by Interior Minister Ioan Rus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2001), and said a country that is badly in need of foreign investment should abstain from making "war declarations" against those willing to invest. Stanoiu said the "Social Democratic Program for Transylvania" presented by Rus is an initiative of the local Social Democratic Party branch, and not part of the government's program. She added, however, that the initiative is "grounded in a specific [Transylvanian] reality, with which the initiative's authors are well acquainted." MS

...AND MAVERICK CLUJ MAYOR COMES UP WITH OWN 'SOLUTION'

Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar held a press conference on 29 October to show journalists samples of a "Romanian ID Card," similar to those the Hungarian authorities intend to distribute to members of Magyar minorities in neighboring countries, Mediafax reported. He said the ID cards will be distributed by the Cluj mayoralty to members of the Hungarian minority in that town "to help them remember they are Romanian citizens." Funar said that, just as the Hungarian government envisages, his "Romanian IDs" will be issued "with the help of nongovernmental organizations," but will also bear the constitutional article stipulating that all Romanian citizens must respect the constitutional and legal provisions of the country in which they live. MS

ROMANIAN INTERIOR MINSTER TO SUBSTITUTE FOR NASTASE IN BRASOV

Interior Minister Rus will travel to Brasov to discuss with the trade unions at the Roman truckmaker their complaints addressed to Premier Nastase, Mediafax reported on 29 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2001). Nastase delegated Rus to visit the plant due to his absence from the country. A government press release said solutions proposed by participants in the meeting "must take into consideration separating those activities that can be rendered efficient from those that face no such prospect in the short- and medium-term." Nastase also directed officials from the Privatization Authority to meet with management of the Roman truckmaker as well as the trade unions there. MS

MOLDOVAN POLITICIAN SAYS SON-IN-LAW IS VICTIM OF 'PROVOCATION'

Dumitru Diacov, the chairman of the extraparliamentary Democratic Party and former speaker of the parliament, said on 29 October that the accusations against Mahmud Ahmad Hammud, whose citizenship has been revoked by President Vladimir Voronin, are "a provocation of the Intelligence and Security Service," Romanian radio reported. Diacov said Hammud should be allowed to contest Voronin's decision before a court of law. He also said the aim of the "provocation" is to "indirectly discredit the Democratic Party." Hammud, who is married to Diacov's daughter, is suspected of being a leading figure in the Hizballah terrorist movement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2001). MS

SAXECOBURGGOTSKI'S POPULARITY PLUNGING

After his first 100 days in office, the popularity of Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski has fallen sharply, AFP reported on 30 October. The former monarch, who has a popular-support rating of 60 percent according to polls conducted by Alpha Research and NCIOM, is still popular but considerably less so than when he took office, when he measured 80 percent support. AFP said this drop is due to the cabinet's having to face the "hard reality" that it will be unable to fulfill many of its electoral promises. Bulgaria has been forced by the IMF to reduce its economic growth forecasts for 2002 from 4.5 to 4 percent, and to scrap a number of more radical plans to boost the country's economy. The fund has recommended more prudent fiscal policies. Electricity and heating prices went up 10 percent as of 1 October, and welfare benefits have been scrapped for all but the poorest households. Promises to boost pensions have not been met, and beginning in 2002 a 20 percent VAT will be introduced for medical and legal fees. MS

BULGARIAN POLL PREDICTS PARVANOV MAY NOT MAKE IT TO RUNOFF

A public opinion poll conducted by the MBMD polling institute shows President Petar Stoyanov leading the field ahead of the 11 November elections with 38 percent support, while former Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev has 11 percent, BTA reported. Socialist Party leader Georgi Parvanov is only slightly ahead of Bonev, with support of 13 percent. In an interview with the daily "Trud," Bonev said that if he wins the presidential race, he will be "president of a republic, not of a monarchy." MS




RUSSIA CONTINUES TO HOLD UP BORDER DEMARCATION WITH UKRAINE


By Taras Kuzio

Four and a half years after Ukraine and Russia signed a treaty in Kyiv and 2 1/2 years after both houses of the Russian parliament ratified that treaty, the border question continues to bedevil both countries. While Russia agrees to the delimitation on maps of the former Soviet internal administrative frontier between itself and Ukraine, 97 percent of which is done, it continues its decade-long opposition to its demarcation.

Ukraine and Russia continue to hold opposing views as to how the border should be defined. The Ukrainian side believes that the border should be the same as any other international border where delimitation on maps is followed by physical demarcation by natural objects or signs arranged at regular intervals. Such an arrangement would be very different to that which continues to exist on Ukraine's Western border, where Kyiv inherited Soviet-style watchtowers and barbed wire.

Russia, in contrast, continues to insist that borders within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) should be divided into "internal" and "external" ones. CIS "internal" frontiers are in effect the same as those that existed in the USSR, except that they may be now delimited on maps for greater clarity. "External" frontiers represent former Soviet external borders.

These opposing views on borders reflect different understandings of nation-building and identity within Russia and Ukraine. Since the Declaration of Sovereignty in July 1990, nation-building in Ukraine has always been understood to consider borders -- wherever they might be -- as integral to a country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and as a national symbol. Ukraine has therefore not signed the majority of border agreements adopted by CIS structures.

Russia has always remained confused as to whether it is building a nation-state, which would lead to Moscow having similar views on borders to Ukraine, or whether it understands the CIS to be the successor to the USSR so that the CIS, like the USSR, would have no need for demarcated borders between "fraternal" republics. Such a view is accepted by Russophile states within the CIS, such as Belarus and Kazakhstan. This view of borders within the CIS follows from Russia's view of the CIS as a "Near Abroad," whose members enjoy greater sovereignty than they did as soviet socialist republics, but less independence than the states of the "Far Abroad."

The Ukrainian position became confused itself on July 17 when Oleksandr Kupchyshyn, the director of the Treaty and Legal Department of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, stated that demarcation would not be necessary because this would violate the "historic traditions of living together and coexistence of our countries and nations." This sounded suspiciously similar to that of the Russian Foreign Ministry position outlined exactly a month later that rejected demarcation because the Russian-Ukrainian border "should be one of friendship, accord, and communication, uniting rather than separating our two nations."

The Ukrainian media reported that Kupchyshyn was officially reprimanded for his statement. Support for demarcation into a fully fledged international border with Russia was again restated as the official view by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko and State Secretary Yuriy Serheyev. Serheyev, the president's representative in the Foreign Ministry, confirmed that Ukraine's approach to borders remains delimitation through protocols and separate agreements on maps, followed by demarcation with special signs or boundary posts, and finally, agreeing to a border regime. Explaining this position to Russia, Serheyev said it "coincides with our constitution," conforms to the "national will," and "fully corresponds to the standards of international law."

In a recent opinion poll among foreign policy elites by the Center for Peace, Conversion, and Foreign Policy of Ukraine (CPCFPU), a Kyiv-based think tank with close links to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, 87.5 percent supported a demarcated border with Russia, and 53.1 percent believed the lack of demarcation prevents Ukraine from integration into Europe. Meanwhile, 59.4 percent felt the lack of demarcation forced Ukraine's Western neighbors to introduce visas on Ukrainians, and another 56.3 percent thought it contributes to illegal migration, organized crime, and contraband.

Ukraine placed border troops on its 2,292-kilometer Russian border in January 1993, and eight years on its status still continues to differ from that on Ukraine's Western (former Soviet) borders. Although delimitation on land will be completed this year, Russia's position on the Sea of Azov, the Kerch Strait, and the Black Sea are again influenced by national identity considerations. Non-Russian former Soviet republics, such as Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan, view the Sea of Azov, Kerch Strait, and Caspian Sea as international waterways that should be delimited into country sectors with exclusive economic zones. Russia (backed by Iran in the Caspian) disagrees, with the Soviet legacy continuing to influence its attitude that they should remain "internal seas" as in the USSR.

Besides national identity, the CPCFPU points to three strategic motives for Russia's rejection of border demarcation. Firstly, the continuation of Soviet internal administrative frontiers in the form of "internal" CIS borders would allow Russia to continue to exert influence and apply pressure on other CIS states. Secondly, a nondemarcated border would prolong the confusion surrounding energy deliveries to Ukraine as until now Russia has refused Ukrainian requests to sell gas at the border where meters would be installed so it would be clear as to exactly how much Ukraine imports. Thirdly, Russia has always had irrational fears that Ukraine will slip away from its sphere of influence by integrating with the EU and NATO (it was not a coincidence that the May 1997 treaty was signed only two months prior to the Madrid NATO summit). Unresolved borders would prevent Ukraine's integration westward as the resolution of border questions is a prerequisite for membership in the EU and NATO. The CPCFPU therefore argues that accepting Russia's position (as Kupchyshyn briefly did) would, "cast doubts on the realization of Ukraine's European choice."

The Russian-Ukrainian border has even more importance for European security in the wake of the international concern over terrorism following the 11 September terrorist acts on the United States. Ninety percent of illegal migrants and two-thirds of contraband, including narcotics and weapons, enter Ukraine from Russia. A demarcated border with Russia has therefore importance not only for Ukraine, but for a soon-to-be expanded EU. Support for the demarcation of Ukraine's eastern border and improving security on it came during a June meeting between Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh and the EU's Security Chief, Xavier Solana, who has promised EU funds for improving security on the Russian-Ukrainian border. Obviously though, funds can only be provided if the border is demarcated, and to date Russia shows no sign of softening its opposition to doing so.

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


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