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Newsline - November 6, 2001




RUSSIA, U.S. SAID BUILDING UP AIR BASE IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN

RBK reported on 5 November that the U.S. with Russian help has been improving an airstrip near Sherkat in a region of Afghanistan controlled by the Northern Alliance. The base can now handle not only fighters but also heavy transport aircraft, the news service said. VY

RUSSIAN MUSLIM LEADER SAYS RAMADAN BOMBING HALT WOULD BE 'THEATRICAL'

Sheikh Nafigulla Ashir, the supreme mufti of the Asian region of Russia, told Interfax on 5 November that the country's approximately 20 million Muslims are divided on the question of the American bombing of Afghanistan. He said that many are opposed to that effort and to Russia's involvement in it, but suggested that any bombing halt during Ramadan would be "a theatrical move rather than a serious political action." PG

SECURITY AT RUSSIAN NUCLEAR FACILITIES QUESTIONED

An article in "Versiya," No. 41, by environmental activists said there are significant security shortfalls at Russia's nuclear facilities, including a lack of checkpoints around many of them and the absence of equipment needed to detect thefts. As a result, the authors said, it is uncertain how many attempts to penetrate these facilities have been made and how many were in fact successful. PG

DUMA DEPUTY SAYS PAKISTAN'S THINKING ABOUT MOVING NUKES TO CHINA 'LOGICAL'

ITAR-TASS reported on 5 November that the government of Pakistan is considering the possibility of shifting its nuclear arsenal to China if the U.S. makes any moves to put that arsenal under its control. The discussions reportedly were prompted by media reports that the U.S. is concerned that Pakistani nuclear weapons may fall into the hands of Islamist extremists. Dmitrii Rogozin, the chairman of the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, told Ekho Moskvy radio the same day that, from Islamabad's perspective, China is the best play to store these weapons. VY

RUSSIAN SCHOLARS CALL FOR RENEWED SMALLPOX INOCULATIONS

A group of senior Russian medical scholars on 5 November called for the renewal of inoculations for smallpox in the face of a possible terrorist use of this biological weapon, Interfax reported. They also called for the development of a system of antibacteriological defense through the development of vaccines against the approximately 100 of the most dangerous bacteriological strains. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS AGREEMENT ON INFORMATION SECURITY

A source in the Foreign Ministry told Interfax that Russia, like all other countries, is vulnerable to attacks on its electronic communications infrastructure. He called on all countries to support a Russian proposal at the United Nations to provide a common defense of information systems against terrorism, asserting that this initiative in no way "is directed at limiting the free flow of information." PG

KULIKOV WANTS COUNTERTERRORIST BODY TO BE BASED ON INTERPOL

Anatolii Kulikov, the chairman of the Duma subcommittee on combating terrorism, said in an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 3 November that the international community should create a new organization subordinate to Interpol to combat international terrorism. PG

PUTIN CALLS FOR COMBATING EXTREMISM

President Vladimir Putin told senior law enforcement officials on 5 November to work harder to prevent extremist actions and to punish those who engage in them, Russian and Western agencies reported. He said that "negative instances of an extremist character are continuing." Meanwhile, the 30 October pogrom in which 300 young people attacked people from the Caucasus and Central Asia in Moscow claimed its third victim, Karam Dzhanmamaedov, 37, of Tajikistan, Interfax-Moscow reported. Police identified one of the instigators of the pogrom as Valerii Rusakov, 17, from the suburbs of the Russian capital, who goes by the nickname "Fascist." Meanwhile, in a move that may further anger Russian extremists, the Interior Ministry announced that illegal migrants with steady work in Russia could regularize their situation, "Izvestiya" reported on 5 November. PG

ABDULATIPOV DECRIES RISE OF ISLAMOPHOBIA

Ramazan Abdulatipov, the head of the Council of the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia, said in an interview published in "Trud" on 3 November that there has been a dangerous rise in Islamophobia in the course of the antiterrorist campaign. That increase, Abdulatipov said, is particularly threatening in Russia because there is no policy protecting the gains Muslims have made over the last decade, and because little or nothing is being done to prevent the multiplication of various non-Islamic religious sects which have emerged like poisonous "mushrooms" in many regions. PG

REPORT U.S. RECRUITING RUSSIAN AFGHANISTAN VETERANS DENIED

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 3 November said that reports by "Zavtra" and other media outlets that the United States is recruiting Russian veterans of the war in Afghanistan to fight there against the Taliban are not true. Despite this denial, media outlets continued to publish such reports, the most recent being "Izvestiya" on 5 November. PG

PUTIN DIRECTS GOVERNMENT TO FOCUS ON IMPACT OF OIL PRICE DECLINES

President Putin directed the government on 5 November to consider the impact of declining oil prices on the Russian budget and economy and to take "corresponding" decisions, Interfax reported. He said Russia must not be in the position of simply responding to events. Meanwhile, officials and experts disagreed as to the impact of declining prices on Russia. Some believe that impact is already being felt, others think it is far off, and a third category argue that lower prices will actually help Russia, Russian news outlets reported the same day. PG

PUTIN SAYS GRU TO PLAY EVEN LARGER ROLE IN THE FUTURE

President Putin on 5 November visited Russian military intelligence headquarters (GRU) and said the agency will grow "many times" in the future, Russian news agencies reported. Putin said the GRU has already played a major role in the war in Chechnya. VY

SHVYDKOI SAYS CULTURE NEEDS EFFECTIVE MANAGERS

Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi said in an interview published in "Ogonek" on 5 November that Russia's cultural institutions need effective managers and not just accomplished artists in order to flourish. He said that frequently people "who administer art begin to identify with [their] own productions," and consequently their calls for the defense of culture are in fact nothing more than a defense of their own status. PG

FEDERAL INSURANCE AGENCY TO BE SET UP FOR AGRO-INDUSTRIAL SECTOR

The Russian government is setting up a special federal agency for state insurance of the agro-industrial sector, Interfax reported on 5 November. The agency, to be funded from the federal budget, is to be operational in three months. PG

STEPASHIN SAYS POWER, PROPERTY MERGED IN RUSSIA

That "the problem of the merger of power and property does exist in Russia has been proved vividly by the results of the latest audits" conducted by the Audit Chamber, that body's chairman, Sergei Stepashin, told NTV on 4 November, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. Stepashin said that the situation in the Railways Ministry is "a good example of the fact that the system of managing big economic entities is absolutely wrong" because "one and the same person cannot be both a customer and a contractor at the same time." PG

SELEZNEV WANTS DUMA TO ALLOW GOLOVLEV TO BE ARRESTED

Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev on 5 November said that the parliament should meet the request of the prosecutors and remove all of Union of Right Forces (SPS) deputy Vladimir Golovlev's immunity so he can be arrested, Russian agencies reported. The Duma failed by 13 votes to give prosecutors this right on 31 October, but on 2 November voted overwhelmingly to lift Golovlev's immunity provided he is not arrested. PG

ZYUGANOV ASKS KASYANOV TO SUPPORT LIGHT INDUSTRY

Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov met on 5 November with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to ask for both protectionist measures and direct subsidies for the country's light industries, Interfax reported. Zyuganov said the government must change course and that "it is necessary to take extreme measures, otherwise it will be too late." PG

YAVLINSKY SAYS TALKS BETWEEN GOVERNMENT, RIGHTS GROUPS UNLIKELY TO BE SUCCESSFUL

Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky doubts that the dialogue being promoted by the Kremlin between the federal government and human rights groups will be successful, Interfax reported on 3 November. He said that the human rights groups need support, but are so diverse as to make any single approach to them impossible. Moreover, Yavlinsky added, the two sides are in a very different position: The government may make concessions, but "when human rights activists make a compromise with the powers, yielding to its [sic] demands and counting on the outcome of negotiations, they become political," which is wrong. Meanwhile, on 5 November, Ludmila Alekseeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, told Interfax that she and other human rights groups look more favorably on the Civic Forum meetings, because the government has indicated that it is not simply interested in "giving legitimacy to some kind of central committee" but actually in talking to various groups. PG

PEKHTIN SAYS MOSCOW CITY ELECTION COOPERATION 'MODEL' OF NEW POLITICAL APPROACH

Vladimir Pekhtin, the leader of the Unity faction in the Duma said on 5 November that the pre-Moscow city Duma election accord among Unity, Fatherland, the SPS, and Yabloko is "the first example of the political tactics of the new party," Interfax reported. "We must win power in order to be called the ruling party, and are beginning to do this," Pekhtin said. PG

JUSTICE MINISTRY SEEKS TO BAN NATIONAL BOLSHEVIK PARTY

The Justice Ministry on 5 November asked the Supreme Court to overturn a Moscow region court decision on 27 September and ban the activity of the National Bolshevik Party, Interfax reported. Party leaders said that they have not yet received any official notification of this action. PG

DEFENSE MINISTER REPORTS PROGRESS IN TALKS WITH U.S. ON MISSILE DEFENSE

Sergei Ivanov said on 5 November that Moscow and Washington have made progress in their talks on missile defense, ITAR-TASS reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 3 November predicted that the two countries are likely to reach a compromise in which Washington would cut the number of nuclear warheads as Moscow wants while Moscow would agree to a limited missile defense system as the U.S. wants. Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov continued discussions on this issue with visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Bolton the same day, Interfax reported. PG

PUTIN GREETS MONGOLIA ON 80TH ANNIVERSARY OF DIPLOMATIC TIES WITH MOSCOW

President Putin sent greetings to the Mongolian government on 5 November on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Mongolia and the Soviet Union, Interfax reported. The same day, Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev met with Mongolian officials in Irkutsk to discuss expanding bilateral trade, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

PUTIN, KUCHMA DISCUSS ANTITERRORIST EFFORT

President Putin spoke by telephone with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma on 5 November, Russian agencies reported. The two discussed the antiterrorist effort in Afghanistan, the resolution of the Transdniester dispute, and upcoming bilateral and CIS meetings. PG

RUSHAILO NOTES 'POSITIVE' SHIFT IN WESTERN REACTION TO CHECHNYA

Speaking in Warsaw on 5 November, Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo said officials in Moscow "positively assess" the changes in the position of political and government officials in the West concerning Chechnya, Interfax reported. He repeated his argument that "in the struggle with terrorism there cannot be double standards." Rushailo also said relations between Russia and Poland have recently risen to "a qualitatively new level" and that "we will devote all our efforts so that they will become still more important." PG

MOSCOW CALLS ON PALESTINIANS TO ACT AGAINST TERRORISM

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko condemned the attack on a bus in Jerusalem and called on the Palestinian authorities on 5 November to take decisive action against terrorists in their midst, Interfax reported. He said that "passivity and vacillation concerning the punishment of criminals cannot be justified by any arguments." PG

LOSYUKOV SEES EMERGENCE OF RUSSIA-INDIA-CHINA GROUP

Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov told Interfax on 5 November that he believes that the common approaches of Russia, India, and China to many political questions make the emergence of a political mechanism among them possible, but that "to speak about such a triangle now and about its construction as a political form would be unrealistic." He said discussions about that possible alignment are still best conducted among academics rather than among policymakers whose words would have direct political consequences. PG

FAR EAST PREDICTED TO ATTRACT MOST INVESTMENT IN NEXT THREE YEARS

Experts at the Economic Development and Trade Ministry predicted on 5 November that the greatest growth in investment over the next three years will take place in the Russian Far East, where investments are projected to rise by 94 percent, Interfax reported. Investments in the Central federal district where Moscow is located are projected to increase by 15 percent over the same period. PG

PRICES RISE SLIGHTLY IN OCTOBER

The State Statistics Committee reported on 5 November that prices in Russia as a whole increased 1.1 percent in October, up from 0.6 percent in September, to total an inflation rate of 15.2 percent for the first 10 months of 2001, Interfax reported. Inflation rates varied widely among Russia's regions: five regions had inflation increases of more than 2 percent in October, while the city of Moscow had a rate of only 0.8 percent. PG

INVESTIGATORS SAY LITTLE CHANCE OF FINDING MORE BODIES IN 'KURSK'

Vladimir Mulov, the military prosecutor of the Northern Fleet, told Interfax-Northwest on 5 November that the chances of finding any additional bodies in the salvaged "Kursk" submarine are "minimal." So far 56 bodies of the 118 sailors known to have been aboard have been recovered, and 49 of the 56 recovered have been identified. Meanwhile, officials were assembling in Roslyakovo for a formal farewell ceremony for the submarine scheduled for 6 November, the news service said. PG

ILLARIONOV SEES NO PROBLEM WITH FOREIGN DEBT

Andrei Illarionov, economic adviser to President Putin, said in an interview published in "Profil" on 5 November that he does not see any problems "from the economic point of view" with the servicing of Russia's external debts "even if there is a decline in the price of oil to $10-$12 a barrel and even if all the oil in Russia runs out and the country is forced to import it." Illarionov also repeated his oft-spoken opposition to foreign borrowing, arguing that such loans hurt the economy more than they help it. PG

CHUBAIS SAYS PRICE RISES NECESSARY TO ATTRACT INVESTMENT

Unified Energy Systems President Anatolii Chubais said in an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 5 November that prices for electricity must be increased gradually over a long time period in order to attract investments into the power sector. If current low prices are maintained, Chubais said, there will not be any stimulus for the growth of supplies of energy. PG

2002 CENSUS TO EMPLOY 388,000

Officials at the State Statistics Committee told Interfax on 4 November that the 9-16 October 2002 Russian census will employ 388,000 census takers who will be paid 1,095 rubles ($34) a month for their work. PG

MONEY EARNED FROM DECOMMISSIONING WEAPONS TO HELP SOLDIERS

The government has given an order to use money raised from the decommissioning of weapons to meet the social needs of soldiers and officers, Interfax reported on 5 November. PG

CANCER RATES, INFECTIOUS DISEASES INCREASE

Valerii Chissov, the director of the Moscow Oncology Research Institute, told Interfax on 5 November that the incidence of cancer in Russia has increased from 1,150 per 100,000 in 1991 to 1,500 in 2000. He blamed this increase on increased smoking by women and a narrower choice of treatments. He noted that ever fewer people are turning to doctors at the early stages of the disease when they are more likely to be cured. Meanwhile, public health officials the same day noted that there has been a significant increase in serious viral respiratory illnesses this year, the news service said. PG

ASSOCIATION OF HELP HOTLINE GROUPS MEETS

More than 200 people who work at some 200 help hotlines in 68 Russian cities met for a conference in Moscow over the weekend, "Izvestiya" reported on 5 November. PG

MOSCOW CITY PLANS FOR 7 NOVEMBER MARCHES

The Moscow city government announced on 5 November that it has given permission to four different groups to stage marches on the anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution on 7 November, Interfax-Moscow reported. These include a column of supporters of the Labor Russia movement, another of the Left radicals, a third of the Communist Party and allied groups, and a fourth of the pro-Kremlin Walking Together movement. PG

VLASOV WAS CAPTURED BY SOVIET ARMY OFFICER, NOT SMERSH

"Vremya novostei" reported on 5 November that it was a Soviet army officer who captured General Andrei Vlasov at the end of World War II and not officers of the Soviet counterintelligence organization Smersh as Soviet officials always claimed. VY

CHUKOVSKII VERSUS POKEMON AMONG THE YOUNG

Young Russians can today choose between the stories of author Kornei Chukovskii and the video games involving Pokemon, "Vremya MN" reported on 3 November. The latter choice may negatively affect the reading skills of young people, the paper said. PG

TATAR MUFTI URGES END TO AIR STRIKES AGAINST AFGHANISTAN BY RAMADAN

Following a meeting with Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, the chairman of Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board, Gusman Khazrat Iskhakov, told reporters in Kazan he is deeply concerned the prospect that the Afghan conflict will spread rather than conclude by 16 November, when Ramadan begins, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 5 November. Gusman Khazrat said Afghanistan is a poor country ruined by two decades of war, adding that its residents have nothing but their homeland and will defend it. He said terrorist acts in the United States have raised interest in Islam around the world, but, "We must show that Islam is a religion of peace and love." Gusman Khazrat said preparations for a forthcoming congress of Tatarstan's Muslims were also discussed at his meeting with Shaimiev. JAC

PROSECUTOR FILES PROTEST IN SAKHA ELECTION CONTROVERSY

The federal prosecutor assigned to the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), Nikolai Polyatinskii, filed a protest with the Russian Supreme Court on 5 November in connection with the decision of the republic's election commission to register incumbent Sakha President Mikhail Nikolaev as a candidate in 23 December presidential elections, Interfax-Eurasia reported. The same day, the press service of the Central Election Commission said that the commission is satisfied with Polyatinskii's action. Nikolaev will be seeking his third term (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 October 2001). JAC

BATTLE FOR UDMURT TELEVISION ENDS?

All-Russian State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) in Moscow has named Vera Kadyrova as its new director for its Udmurtia branch, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 5 November. Kadyrova was presented to station workers in Izhevsk on 2 November by the head of Udmurt's government, Yurii Pitkevich. Kadyrova is a former commercial director of the station. The station had been embroiled in controversy since the beginning of October when VGTRK named a new person to head the company, but the old director with the support of the Udmurt legislature refused to relinquish his position. VGTRK responded by suspending broadcasts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2001). According to the agency, a compromise of sorts was reached under which Sergei Nikitin, a Muscovite, served as director only until Izhevsk mayoral elections on 21 October, after which Kadyrova was named as the new director. JAC

HEADQUARTERS OF CHECHEN JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ATTACKED

A group of some 15 Chechen gunmen opened fire on the building of the Chechen Justice Department in Grozny during the night of 4-5 November, damaging computers and other equipment and wounding one employee, Interfax reported. Justice Department head, General Bek Baskhanov, said he believes the attackers intended to seize records kept in the building. LF




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT POSTPONES PLANNED VISIT TO IRAN

President Robert Kocharian's state visit to Iran, which was scheduled to begin on 10 November, has been postponed until mid-December as Iranian President Mohammad Khatami will be in New York at that time, Noyan Tapan on 5 November quoted Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Dziunik Aghadjanian as telling the daily "Azg." LF

ARMENIA APPROVES INCREASE IN PENSIONS

The Armenian government has approved a 15 percent increase in pensions beginning in 2002, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 2 November. In September, the government rejected calls by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation -- Dashnaktsutiun to raise pensions immediately (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2001). LF

ARMENIAN ACADEMICIANS APPEAL FOR KARABAKH ARMY CHIEF'S RELEASE

Ten Armenian academicians including former presidential candidate Lenser Aghalovian have appealed to the presidents of Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) to release former Karabakh Defense Army commander Lieutenant General Samvel Babayan from jail in light of increasingly frequent Azerbaijani threats to begin a new war, Noyan Tapan reported on 1 November. Babayan was sentenced in February to 14 years imprisonment on charges, which he denies, of masterminding the failed attempt to assassinate Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasian in March 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 2001). LF

THREE AZERBAIJANI SERVICEMEN INJURED BY LAND MINE

An Azerbaijani army officer accompanying the three OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen as they crossed the Line of Contact between Azerbaijani and Karabakh Armenian forces northeast of the NKR on 5 November was severely injured when he stepped on a land mine, AP and Mediamax reported. Two other soldiers received minor injuries. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADER DEMANDS NEW KARABAKH PEACE PROPOSALS BE MADE PUBLIC

Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar told a session of the conservative Democratic Congress in Baku on 5 November that the Azerbaijani government should make public the revised proposals for resolving the Karabakh conflict discussed during a meeting the previous day between the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2001). LF

THREE AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTIES SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT

The leaders of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party, the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, and the Taraggi (Progress) Party signed an agreement in Baku on 5 November formalizing their intention to nominate a single candidate for the presidential elections due in 2003 and a single joint list of candidates for the next parliamentary ballot the following year, Turan reported. They also pledged not to engage in propaganda directed against each other. The agreement must be endorsed by the three parties' respective steering committees. LF

MILITARY CORRUPTION WHISTLE-BLOWER SENTENCED IN AZERBAIJAN

Former naval Captain Djanmirza Mirzoev, who has been subject to repeated harassment in recent years for his efforts to publicize corruption within the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, was sentenced on 5 November to eight years imprisonment on charges of arranging the murder in 1993 of Rear Admiral Eduard Huseinov, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 34, 26 August 1999 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2001). The court rejected all evidence presented by Mirzoev during the trial. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT NAMES NEW MEDIATOR FOR ABKHAZIA

Eduard Shevardnadze announced on 5 November during his traditional Monday radio interview that he has chosen Aslan Abashidze, who was re-elected unopposed on 4 November as chairman of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Adjaria, as his personal representative in talks on resolving the conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Caucasus Press reported. That role was previously played by the minister for special assignments, Malkhaz Kakabadze. Abashidze told the independent TV station Rustavi-2 on 5 November that he believes the Abkhaz conflict could have been resolved long ago. Abashidze offered to mediate between Tbilisi and Sukhum last month during the fighting in the Kodori gorge between Abkhaz army troops and an invading force reportedly composed of Chechen fighters and Georgian guerillas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2001). LF

WORLD BANK, IMF HOPE FOR 'MORE EFFECTIVE' GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT

In a statement released on 6 November, the permanent World Bank representative in Tbilisi said that organization hopes the current political crisis in Georgia will culminate in the appointment of "a more effective and united" government, Caucasus Press reported. The statement said discussions on some issues will be postponed. The IMF's office in Tbilisi issued a similar statement the same day saying the planned visit to Tbilisi by an IMF delegation has been postponed until a new government is in place. Over the past week the Georgian lari has fallen in value from 2.08 to 2.10 to the U.S. dollar, the lowest rate ever. LF

SOUTH KOREAN TYCOON IMPLICATES KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT IN BRIBE TAKING

South Korean businessman Choi Soon-Young told a court in Seoul last month that he ordered a subordinate to give a $10 million bribe to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev in 1996 in the hope of facilitating business ventures in Kazakhstan, AP reported on 5 November. Senior Kazakh officials have repeatedly denied as untrue U.S. press reports last year claiming that Nazarbaev and other Kazakh leaders accepted millions of dollars in bribes. LF

KYRGYZ ENERGY SECTOR WORKERS STRIKE

Some 100 employees at the repair shop of the Bishkek power and heating plant began a strike on 5 November to demand payment of back wages totaling 7.35 million soms (approximately $155,000), RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF

TAJIK DEFENSE OFFICIAL DENIES U.S. GIVEN PERMISSION TO USE AIRFIELDS

Tajik armed forces chief of staff Ramil Nadirov denied on 5 November that during talks in Dushanbe two days earlier Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reached agreement on allowing the U.S. to use three air bases in Tajikistan to launch military operations against Afghanistan, Reuters and Interfax reported. Two U.S. newspapers reported on 4 November that such an agreement was being negotiated, and that the Tajik leadership had given permission for U.S. experts to examine the airfields in question to assess their suitability (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2001). Speaking in Washington on 5 November, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed that a U.S. team is in Tajikistan for that purpose, and that similar teams are vetting facilities in other Central Asian states he did not name, Reuters reported. LF




PRINTERS REFUSE TO PRINT BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT WEEKLY

Brestskaya Drukarnya, the only printing house in Brest, southwestern Belarus, has refused to print the private weekly "Brestskii kurer," Belapan reported on 5 November. The refusal resulted from a clause in the contract between the two that allows the printing house to refuse printing if the weekly violates the press law. In September, "Brestskii kurer" received an official warning for publishing an appeal by the regional election headquarters of opposition presidential candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk. The appeal was signed by leaders of several unregistered parties, which provided the pretext for issuing the warning. Brestskaya Drukarnya Director Pyotr Kalenikau said the printing of the weekly can be resumed only once written permission is given by the regional authorities. JM

BELARUSIAN PROSECUTORS NOT EMPOWERED TO CONTROL GOVERNMENT?

The Prosecutor-General's Office has rejected a complaint by the For the Salvation of the Kurapaty Memorial group about the reconstruction of the Minsk beltway in the area of Kurapaty, the burial ground of tens of thousands of victims of the Stalin-era NKVD, Belapan reported on 5 November. The group believes the government violated the law by deciding to conduct the reconstruction work at Kurapaty, which is on the state register of historical memorials. The Prosecutor-General's Office said it is not empowered "to supervise resolutions and other legislative acts of the government." JM

UKRAINIAN TV NAMES SUM OF AIR CRASH COMPENSATION

ICTV television on 5 November reported that Ukraine will pay $1,500 per victim to the families of Israeli victims of the 4 November downing of a Russian Tu-154 airliner by a stray Ukrainian missile. The network added that the families of each Russian victim of the air tragedy will get $2,000 from an insurance company plus an unspecified compensation sum from Ukraine. JM

EU COMPLETES CHORNOBYL INFORMATION PROJECT

Officials of the EU's TACIS program on 5 November said they have completed a $1.2 million project aimed at informing the public in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia about the consequences of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster, AP reported. The TACIS project included a collection of scientific information about the catastrophe's aftermath, which was then distributed with the inclusion of new statistics and recommendations on how to survive in affected areas. The information is published in books, booklets, videotapes, and compact discs distributed to government institutions, lawmakers, and various regional organizations. "We cannot clean food products from radiation with CDs, but we can learn from them that 90 percent of all products in Ukraine are clean and that people don't need to do something special about them," one of the program's participants said. JM

PRINCE CHARLES BEGINS FIVE-DAY TOUR OF BALTIC STATES

Britain's Prince Charles began a five-day official visit to the Baltic States in Tallinn on 5 November by meeting Prime Minister Mart Laar, ETA reported. President Arnold Ruutel held a dinner in his honor in the evening. In an article in "The Daily Telegraph," Prince Charles called the Baltic states "thriving parliamentary democracies, determined to join the main Western institutions," and said that "My visit will help to symbolize Britain's wholehearted support of their preparations for doing this." He is scheduled to unveil a plaque at the British Embassy on 6 November marking the 10th anniversary of restored diplomatic relations between the U.K. and Estonia and to visit Tartu before traveling to Lithuania in the evening. SG

ITALIAN SENATE DEFENSE COMMISSION CHAIRMAN VISITS LATVIA

Domenico Contestabile discussed with parliament Chairman Janis Straume mutual relations between their countries as well as Latvia's efforts to join NATO and its relations with Belarus and Russia on 5 November in Riga, LETA reported. Straume stressed that Latvia hopes to be invited to join NATO in Prague next fall, while Contestabile reaffirmed his country's favorable position to NATO expansion. Contestabile also informed Straume and parliament Defense and Interior Affairs Committee Chairman Dzintars Kudums about his recent trip to Belarus, where he found the Belarusians to be more tolerant toward NATO expansion. Kudums noted that in Moscow he recently found officials more willing to conduct dialogue, but unfortunately received only indirect replies to several specific proposals, such as the adjustment of Latvia's eastern border. SG

SHAREHOLDERS APPROVE REORGANIZATION PLAN FOR LITHUANIAN ENERGY

The general shareholders meeting of the state-owned utility Lithuanian Energy on 5 November approved the decision to reorganize the company by splitting it into five separate economic entities, ELTA reported. Lithuanian Energy would remain responsible only for the transmission of energy, while its other functions would be given to two newly formed electricity distribution companies, Western Distribution System and Eastern Distribution System, as well as to two power-generating facilities in Elektrenai and Mazeikiai. The meeting also voted to cut the utility's authorized capital of 1.81 billion litas ($452.5 million) by 40.4 million litas by separating five noncore business units, mostly construction companies and a hotel. Preliminary data released that day indicated that the utility had a profit of 83 million litas in the first nine months of the year. SG

POLAND HOSTS ANTITERRORIST SUMMIT

"What afflicted the American nation could afflict any nation... We would like to show our solidarity in this fight against evil," Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said in Warsaw on 6 November during his opening remarks to an East European summit intended to consolidate regional support for the U.S.-led global campaign against terrorism. The antiterrorist conference is being attended by leaders from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia, as well as officials representing the United States, Russia, Turkey, Belarus, the United Nations, NATO, the EU, and the OSCE. Kwasniewski said the summit will debate tightening controls on the movement of people, information, and finances to make it harder for terrorists to use the region to penetrate into Western Europe and the United States, Reuters reported. JM

POLISH MINISTERS TO REVIEW ANTITERRORIST MEASURES

Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 5 November said that in line with a UN resolution last month, the government has asked the ministers of Internal Affairs, Finance, Economy, and Justice to review the existing antiterrorist measures in legislation and to submit reports by the end of November on how to make Poland more secure against terrorism, Polish media reported. Cimoszewicz also told journalists that nobody has asked Poland to send soldiers to participate in antiterrorist operations in Afghanistan. Cimoszewicz made this statement following a report in the 5 November "The Wall Street Journal" that said Poland is to send troops to Afghanistan. JM

POLISH DEPUTY SPEAKER CALLS FOR 'WAR' AGAINST HYPERMARKETS

On 5 November, Sejm deputy speaker Andrzej Lepper called on small shop owners "to wage a war" against mostly foreign-owned hypermarkets and supermarkets, PAP reported. Lepper was speaking to a rally of some 2,000 people protesting plans to build a new hypermarket in Kalisz, central Poland. The protesters claimed that when built, the new hypermarket will cost 800 jobs and eliminate some 140 shops from the region's market. Lepper spoke against tax privileges for foreign capital and pledged to propose legislation that will make foreign investors leave Poland. JM

CZECH PREMIER SAYS CONFLICT WITH TERRORISTS WILL BE LONG

Milos Zeman told an audience at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, on 5 November that the current conflict with international terrorists will be long and that politicians will have to stand up against voices that will begin calling for an end to the attacks and for talks with the terrorists, CTK reported. Zeman said the Czechs have a long and bitter experience with "the policy of appeasement and we know that negotiations with terrorists lead nowhere." Answering questions from the public on the "Respekt" affair, Zeman said journalists do not have more rights than other citizens and if they accuse anyone of corruption, the accused should be able to defend themselves. Earlier on 5 November, Zeman held talks in Silicon Valley with potential investors. He said afterward that due to its highly qualified workforce, the Czech Republic could profit from the world economic recession, as international companies are closing down operations where labor costs are high and moving them to places where they can find both skills and cheaper labor. MS

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER SPEAKS OUT ON ZEMAN'S DISCLOSURE...

Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik told CTK on 5 November that the United States did not see "a major problem" in the way Premier Zeman chose to inform the public about the deployment of the Czech antichemical unit for the Operation Enduring Freedom campaign, but added that Washington has asked Prague "not to provide more information." Tvrdik the same day said Prague's Ruzyne airport could sometime in the future host the base of NATO transport forces. He said NATO is "looking for countries ready to host on their territory 16 large-capacity planes, as well as refueling planes." Tvrdik said the choice of Ruzyne airport could boost the Czech economy and encourage further investment. MS

...SAYS CZECH PLANE IS 'UNRELIABLE'

Tvrdik told a meeting of army commanders on 5 November that the Czech-made L-159 subsonic fighter has proved to be "unreliable and prone to breakdown," CTK and dpa reported. Tvrdik also said building those fighters has failed to save the troubled Aero Vodochody aircraft manufacturer, as had been hoped. He said, "The experience of flying the plane has shown it to be...more dangerous to its users than to a potential enemy." Tvrdik later told journalists that technical troubles with the recently delivered L-159s have been linked to five serious incidents since April, including two mishaps in October that forced pilots into emergency landings. He said the problems with the plane will delay air force training plans, place a heavy burden on the military budget, and "damage morale" in the army. Aero Vodochody President and chairman of the board Antonin Jakubse declined to comment, claiming he has no information on exactly what Tvrdik said. MS

VERHEUGEN WANTS CZECH ENERGY CHAPTER TO BE CLOSED BY END 2001

Guenter Verheugen, the EU's commissioner in charge of enlargement, told CTK on 5 November that he wants the Czech-Austrian negotiations on Temelin to end soon and that the "energy chapter" in the negotiations with the Czech Republic should be closed by the end of the year. He said he would discuss in detail the "Melk process" with Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan on 6 November. Verheugen also said transition periods should not be viewed in candidate countries as an attestation to the existence of "second-class membership" in the EU. "I recommend that people...study carefully how many transition periods are in force for current member states and then ask themselves whether these states can be considered second-class" members. MS

CZECH PUBLISHER OF 'MEIN KAMPF' SENTENCED AGAIN

A court in Prague on 5 November upheld the three-year suspended sentence handed down in December 2000 by a lower court to Michal Zitko, the Czech publisher of a translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," CTK and AP reported. Zitko was also to pay a 2 million crown ($54,000) fine. He again appealed against the court's decision. MS

NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN BRATISLAVA

Lord George Robertson said in Bratislava on 5 November that "Slovakia is on the right path [to NATO accession]" due to military reforms "but also to the reforms aimed at building and reinforcing democratic mechanisms and legal practices," RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. He said Slovakia's record and that of the other candidates for membership will be examined "right up until November of next year," when NATO members will make their decision on further expansion at their Prague summit. Robertson has started a tour of all nine candidate countries. He advised Slovaks to cast their ballots in the 2002 parliamentary elections "with eyes wide open," hinting that their decision will also influence that of NATO. Robertson also said neither Russia nor any other country will be able to veto NATO's expansion, and added that he believes "Russia recognizes that." MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT RECEIVED BY POPE

President Rudolf Schuster, during his official three-day visit to Italy, was received on 5 November by Pope John Paul II and told TASR that the two discussed efforts under way to beatify two bishops from Slovakia -- Jan Vojtassak and Michal Buzalka. Schuster also said that he and Vatican State Secretary Angelo Sodano discussed changes in the pending treaty between Slovakia and the Vatican, particularly the issue of church financing by the state. MS

HUNGARY OUTLINES ROLE IN U.S.-LED COALITION

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's senior adviser for security and defense policy affairs, Jeno Poda, told "Magyar Hirlap" on 5 November that although Hungary is providing landing rights, the use of its airspace, and intelligence data to the United States, the government has not offered any troops to the U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan. Responding to a report in the 5 November edition of "The Wall Street Journal Europe," which said Hungary has offered to assist the U.S.-led campaign, Poda said Budapest shares its intelligence information with its allies regardless of whether or not it directly takes part in military operations. MSZ

HEATED DEBATE IN HUNGARY OVER REVOLUTION ANNIVERSARY INCIDENT

On 5 November, opposition Free Democrat (SZDSZ) parliamentary member Imre Mecs and Justice Minister Ibolya David engaged in a sharp dispute in parliament over disturbances at the 4 November commemoration of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2001). Mecs, who was sentenced to death for his part in the uprising, described the persons who shouted obscene words during the ceremony as a "mob" and as "extremists." He also objected to the fact that the disturbance occurred in the presence of President Ferenc Madl, Premier Orban, and parliamentary speaker Janos Ader, but that none of them dissociated themselves from the persons disrupting the event. Mecs claimed that during the past half year the Orban government has been "the silent partner of the far-right," which it has used in a "low-down way" to retain its power. David responded by saying it was pitiful to see the contradiction at the ceremony between Mecs's personal fate and the public's current assessment of his party. She said it is not Mecs, but rather the SZDSZ's coalition policy with the Socialists that was being condemned by the shouting. David recalled that the SZDSZ was the most anticommunist party before it entered into coalition with the Socialists in 1994. MSZ

HUNGARIAN EXTREMISTS CONTENT WITH ORBAN'S REMARKS

Hungarian Justice and Life Party Deputy Chairman Zoltan Fenyvessy on 5 November described as "extremely diplomatic" Orban's comments to the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2001). Asked whether he rules out a coalition with the far-right after the elections, Orban reportedly said he "did not and would not rule out anything." Fenyvessy said Orban was observing the political golden of rule "never say never," Hungarian media reported. MSZ




NATIONALISTS TRYING TO HOLD UP MACEDONIAN REFORMS?

Reuters reported from Skopje on 5 November that nationalist legislators are threatening to hold up passage of constitutional amendments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2001). Hard-line Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski has repeated charges that ethnic Albanian guerrillas killed 12 Macedonians and dumped their bodies in a mass grave in what Reuters describes as an effort to derail the peace process. The news agency cites international monitors as saying that there is no evidence to back up Boskovski's charges. It also cites an unnamed European diplomat as calling Boskovski's call for an investigation by The Hague a "nonstarter." The diplomat said: "First of all, the tribunal doesn't dig in winter months and winter's arriving. Two, the tribunal only digs based on evidence of a war crime and there is none here, yet." Meanwhile, ethnic Albanian deputies are preparing yet another revision of the preamble to the constitution that will clearly differentiate the Albanians from the other minorities, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 October 2001) PM

SERBIAN LEADER HAILS 'RETURN TO KOSOVO'

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is Belgrade's point man for Kosova, signed a cooperation agreement with Hans Haekkerup, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, in Belgrade on 6 November, the BBC's Serbian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 November 2001). Covic stressed that the agreement prohibits the Kosova parliament, which will be elected on 17 November, from declaring independence. He added that "Yugoslavia has returned to Kosovo." But in Gracanica, most leaders of Kosova's Serbian minority called for a boycott of the vote on the grounds that there is not sufficient security for Serbs and that the document undermines links between Kosova and Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2001). Among those opposing the boycott were veteran Serbian leader Oliver Ivanovic, Bishop Artemije, and Serbian National Council (SNV) representatives from Leposaviq. In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said that "everyone who's committed to multiethnic Kosovo will consider this a wise and prudent move by Belgrade," AP reported. PM

ETHNIC ALBANIAN KOSOVAR LEADER STRESSES INDEPENDENCE

Hashim Thaci, a former guerrilla commander and now head of the Democratic Party of Kosova, said in Prishtina on 5 November that his party welcomes the participation of local Serbs in the election, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He stressed, however, that their participation must not be used as an excuse to continue Kosova's legal ties to Serbia. Thaci argued that the new parliament must carry out the "will of the people," which is for Kosova to become independent. PM

SERBIAN DELEGATION TO MEET BUSH

Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and a top economic delegation will meet with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington on 6 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2001). The Serbs will also meet with Secretary of State Colin Powell. PM

SERBIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS INCONCLUSIVE

Preliminary returns from 15 out of 18 districts suggest that no one party or coalition was the overall winner, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 6 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2001). The governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition took 23 percent of the vote, while President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) was just behind with 22.1 percent. One party or coalition will be able to govern alone in three of the districts, but broader coalition governments will be necessary in the remaining 15. PM

YUGOSLAVIA ENDS DEATH PENALTY

As part of a package of reforms aimed at meeting admission requirements for the Council of Europe, the lower house of the Yugoslav parliament voted on 5 November to abolish capital punishment, AP reported. The maximum sentence for the most serious crimes -- such as multiple or particularly grisly premeditated murders -- will be 40 years imprisonment. PM

CROATIAN-YUGOSLAV TALKS IN POLAND

Croatian President Stipe Mesic and Yugoslav Prime Minister Dragisa Pesic discussed a number of outstanding questions between their two countries on the sidelines of the international antiterror conference in Warsaw on 6 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Subjects included the fate of missing persons, the return of cultural properties taken by Serbian forces from Croatia, and the return of members of Croatia's ethnic Serb minority to their homes. They also discussed increasing economic cooperation. PM

CROATIA OPENS UP SECRET POLICE FILES

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Zinka Bardic told dpa in Zagreb on 6 November that citizens may now examine 650 files compiled by the SZUP, former President Franjo Tudjman's secret police. Other files were destroyed by the nationalist authorities before they left office at the start of 2000. Bardic added that of the 650 files, "120 contain information on journalists whose phones were tapped by Tudjman's secret police in the 1990s." Rules for viewing files from both the communist period and Tudjman era are much more restrictive than those in Germany for individuals who want to read their Stasi files. PM

PETRITSCH GIVES 'LAST WARNING' TO BOSNIAN SERBS

Wolfgang Petritsch, the international community's high representative in Bosnia, told leaders of Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) that "patience is running out" with the obstructionist tactics of that party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2001). Referring to the need to enable Muslims and Croats to return to their homes in Bosnian Serb territory and for the Republika Srpska to cooperate with The Hague, Petritsch said: "Nothing has been implemented. This has to change rapidly, because the window of opportunity for the SDS is closing very rapidly." Petritsch stressed that his message is a "last warning." PM

ROMANIAN OFFICIAL CRITICIZES 'THE GUARDIAN' ARTICLE ON ROMA SITUATION

On 5 November, Ivan Gheorghe, the head of the Romanian National Office for Romany Affairs, criticized an article published in "The Guardian" two days earlier on the Romany situation in Romania, Mediafax reported. An official governmental communique released by Gheorghe said the daily had "generalized" the particular Piatra-Neamt case to Romania as a whole (see RFE/RL "Newsline," 11, 15, and 17 October 2001). He said the Piatra-Neamt situation has been "analyzed" by representatives of the government, local administration, and organizations representing the Roma and that an agreement has been reached on ways to solve the situation "in line with the principles of nondiscrimination encoded in Romanian and international legislation." MS

BUCHAREST TRIBUNAL OVERTURNS VERDICT IN MUTLER VS. TOEKES CASE

A Bucharest tribunal on 5 November heeded the appeal of AP journalist Alison Mutler, who was sentenced on 23 March to pay a large fine for having allegedly libeled Reformed Bishop Laszlo Toekes, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Mutler was sued by Toekes after she wrote that he served as an agent of the former communist secret police. Toekes admits to being forced to sign a pledge to collaborate, but claims he never made good on that pledge and was subsequently persecuted by the Securitate. The tribunal's decision is final. MS

ROMANIAN SENATORS CRITICIZE PREMIER OVER PLEDGE TO REMOVE ANTONESCU STATUES

Greater Romania Party (PRM) Senator Gheorghe Buzatu, who is also chairman of the Marshal Antonescu Foundation, on 5 November told the plenum that Nazi-allied Antonescu "does not deserve to be executed for the second time," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Buzatu was responding to the pledge made by Premier Adrian Nastase during his U.S. visit to enact legislation forbidding commemorations of war criminals and to remove all existing Antonescu statues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2001). Buzatu said politicians should deal with current problems and "leave historical personalities to the expertise of historians." The PRM deputy chairman said Antonescu was sentenced to death in 1946 on Soviet orders and that research conducted since 1989 has produced "overwhelming evidence" in his favor. This, he added, has triggered "a vehement reaction on the part of Jewish circles from Romania and abroad." Former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's court poet, Senator Adrian Paunescu, a member of Nastase's party, called for a retrial of the marshal and for organizing a seminar of international historians on Antonescu's 1946 sentencing. The Holocaust, Paunescu said, "is reality, but not a part of Romanian history." Like Buzatu, Paunescu ended by saying "do not shoot the dead for the second time." MS

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER INKS BASIC TREATY IN CHISINAU

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and his Moldovan counterpart Nicolae Dudau initialed the new basic treaty between the two states in Chisinau on 5 November, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The first basic treaty, signed in 1990, was never ratified by the Russian State Duma on grounds that it included no provisions for safeguarding the interests of Transdniester. The new treaty considers Russia as a mediator in the negotiations under way with Tiraspol, and backs a search for a solution to the conflict that safeguards Moldova's territorial integrity. Ivanov told journalists that once a settlement is reached, Moscow will "assume commitments as a guarantor of the special status of Transdniester." He said the treaty is "a landmark" that "defines the main objectives and parameters of our strategic cooperation for years to come." Dudau said the treaty is "in line with European standards" and reflects "our choice of a strategic partner in the East." The two ministers expressed the hope that the treaty will be signed by presidents Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Voronin during Voronin's 19-20 November visit to Moscow, after which the two parliaments are to expected to ratify it. Ivanov was also received by President Voronin, with whom he discussed bilateral relations and "international issues on which Russia and Moldova are interacting," ITAR-TASS reported. MS

ANDRONIC ELECTED DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF MOLDOVAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY

Nicolae Andronic, who last month left the Party of Revival and Accord led by former President Mircea Snegur, was elected on 3 November as a deputy chairman of the Moldovan Democratic Party, Infotag reported on 5 November. The Democratic Party's National Board now includes several other newcomers apart from Andronic. Among them are former Party of Progressive Forces Chairman Nicolae Chirilciuc and former Interior Minister Victor Catan. MS

TRANSDNIESTER CANDIDATE PROMISES 'NO SURRENDER TO MOLDOVA'

Transdniester "presidential" candidate Tom Zenovich said in Moscow on 5 November that "nobody intends to surrender to Moldova" if he wins the ballot scheduled for 9 December, Flux reported. He added that nonetheless "the dialogue between Chisinau and Tiraspol must be renewed to avoid new bloodshed." Zenovich also said "there is a good chance" that Moldova will accede to the Russia-Belarus Union, but added that it is "premature" to discuss whether the tripartite union should be a federation or a confederation of states. Flux also reported that the Central Electoral Commission has registered the candidacy of Aleksandr Radchenko, the leader of the "Vlasti narodu" (People's Power) movement. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES TRADE CORRUPTION RECRIMINATIONS

President Petar Stoyanov and former Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev exchanged accusations of corruption during a televised debate aired on the private bTV channel on 5 November, BTA reported. While Bonev reiterated allegations that Petar Stoyanov's brother Emil is involved in illicit deals and uses his influence on the president, Stoyanov showed viewers part of a classified National Security Service (NSS) report dated December 1999 that said "a group enjoying the protection of highly placed politicians and senior members of the state administration has managed, through Bogomil Bonev, to take over a key office in the country's government." The report said that, as interior minister, Bonev established control over lucrative economic areas and took advantage of the situation. Bonev dismissed the report as having been written on the orders of Stoyanov and former Premier Ivan Kostov. MS




PRESIDENT PUTIN AND HIS CRITICS


By Julie A. Corwin

While Russian President Vladimir Putin's embrace of the U.S.-led fight against terrorism is little more than a month old, rumblings of dissent among the Russian policy-making elite are already being reported in the Moscow-based press. The lightning rod for criticism, however, has not been Putin's acceptance of the stationing of U.S. troops in Uzbekistan but the announcement on 17 October that Russia is giving up its electronic espionage center in Lourdes, Cuba, and its naval base in Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. The basic thrust of the criticism has been that Putin is giving up too much in exchange for the possibility -- rather than the certainty -- of similar concessions from the United States.

According to "Novoye vremya," No. 43, many military, diplomatic, and high-level officials in parliament have expressed open dissatisfaction with the decision on bases. For example, State Duma Defense Committee Chairman (People's Deputy) Andrei Nikolaev threatened to emphasize the issue of the base closures during legislators' next working meeting with the chief of the armed forces General Staff, Anatolii Kvashnin. According to Nikolaev, closing the bases should be postponed at least another five to 10 years so the "quality intelligence" gathered in Lourdes can be replaced by some other means. In an interview with "Vremya novostei" on 19 October, General Yurii Drozdov, a veteran KGB officer who once supervised the elite Vimpel special forces, also criticized the decision to give up the bases, saying that "new satellites will not replace the information which we received [at Lourdes]... It seems to me that the president was informed imprecisely and incorrectly when he made this decision." And, in an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 October, Viktor Ilyukhin, the head of the Movement to Support the Army and a State Duma deputy in the Communist faction, alleged that "not all the military, including the highest levels, agreed with [the decision] to liquidate our military bases in Vietnam and Cuba." Ilyukhin charged that Putin has embarked on a similar path of his predecessors, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. According to Ilyukhin, those leaders "gave everything up [to the U.S.] without receiving any kind of guarantees in return."

Of course, Ilyukhin, as a hard-line leftist, is not the kind of politician whose support Putin would ever rely on. Nikolaev, on the other hand, as a member of People's Deputy, is already supposed to be playing on the Kremlin's team. But the best proof that Putin may be a touch out of step with the mainstream Moscow political thinking is the hearty endorsement he has received from Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky. Yavlinsky has said that not only he approves of "all the steps that the president has taken since 11 September," but also that he has the impression that "Putin himself sometimes turns out to be far more progressive than his entire team." Even Aleksandr Budberg, a commentator with liberal political leanings who writes for "Moskovskii komsomolets," now concludes that Putin "has managed to introduce more cardinal changes than one could even imagine -- more than those in the preceding administration even thought possible." Earlier, Budberg criticized Putin for his slavish devotion to opinion polls, Budberg defends Putin against the impression that the withdrawal from Lourdes and Cam Ranh Bay is linked to the shift to a pro-U.S. point of view by arguing that the decision was made five or six months ago. And it is true that "Novye izvestiya" reported last August -- well before the 11 September terrorist attacks -- that despite the absence of a formal announcement the bases appeared to be set for closure.

In an interview with "Vremya novostei" on 19 October, Andrei Ryabov of the Carnegie Moscow Center likened Putin's current situation to the one facing Gorbachev in the late 1980s. According to Ryabov -- now as was the case then -- there is a breach between the president and the political elite. According to Ryabov, "The split is somewhat reminiscent of the late Gorbachev era when the president was moving toward a new way of thinking, while the former elite clung to the old Soviet views." In an article in "Vek," No. 42, Ryabov suggested that Putin can reach a compromise with those who do not like his new foreign policy but he will likely have to make "serious concessions on domestic policy" in exchange for "freedom of movement in foreign policy decision-making."

Writing in the "Russian Journal" on 25 October, Dmitrii Pinsker, formerly of "Segodnya," reached a similar conclusion, suggesting that a shift in terms of domestic policy has already taken place with the recent announcement by the Prosecutor-General's Office of new measures against Boris Berezovsky and Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko. Pinsker notes that while Putin "is doing all he can on the foreign-policy front to prove he is committed to Western values...on the home front the Kremlin doesn't want to give up playing by rules more suited to authoritarian regimes." Meanwhile, as Putin prepares to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush in the U.S. this month, the impression that he is under pressure at home may help him to win concessions from the U.S. on missile defense and an exemption from criticism of any of his "authoritarian" actions at home. Whether there is actual pressure on Putin -- as opposed to just grumbling among the Moscow-based political elite -- will remain to be seen. In the meantime, Putin appears to be mobilizing against such a prospect by cleansing the cabinet of officials who are less than loyal.


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